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The pandemic is far from over

Monitoring Desk

Most countries are reporting more and more new COVID-19 cases every day, and data for the global picture shows that the pandemic is far from over. DW’s weekly statistics update.

What’s the current global trend? 

The goal for all countries is to make it to the blue part of the chart and stay there. Countries and territories in this section have reported no new cases for four weeks in a row.  

Currently, that is the case for six out of 188 countries and territories.

Data visualization: COVID-19 global new case numbers trend - calendar week 2, 2021
Please note: The number of newly reported cases highly depends on a country’s ability to conduct tests and its strategy for administering tests. Additionally, some countries have been criticized for not accurately reporting case numbers.

How has the COVID-19 trend evolved over the past weeks?

The situation has deteriorated: 106 countries have reported more cases in the past two weeks, compared to the previous 14 days.

Data visualization: COVID-19 global new case numbers trend - until calendar week 2, 2021

What is the current COVID-19 trend in my country? 

Based on the newly reported case numbers — which can reflect local outbreaks as well as countrywide spread — in the past 28 days, countries and territories classify as follows:

Data visualization: COVID-19 global new case numbers trend - map calendar week 2, 2021

More than twice as many new cases:

  • Asia: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia
  • Africa: Burundi, Cape Verde, Chad, Comoros, Cote dIvoire, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Zambia, Zimbabwe
  • Americas: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Cuba, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Europe: Ireland, Portugal
  • Oceania: Papua New Guinea

More new cases:

  • Asia: Afghanistan, Bahrain, China, Cyprus, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Maldives, Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam
  • Africa: Benin, Botswana, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eswatini, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Libya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa, Togo, Tunisia
  • Americas: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, United States of America, Uruguay, Venezuela
  • Europe: Albania, Andorra, Czech Republic, France, Iceland, Italy, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, United Kingdom
  • Oceania: Fiji, New Zealand

About the same number of new cases (no change or plus/minus two percent):  

  • Asia: Iran, Kazakhstan
  • Africa: Angola, Burkina Faso
  • Americas: Nicaragua
  • Europe: Austria, Kosovo, Sweden

Fewer new cases:

  • Asia: Armenia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Georgia, India, Iraq, Jordan, South Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Timor Leste, Turkey, Palestinian territories, Yemen
  • Africa: Algeria, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Namibia, Niger, Somalia
  • Americas: Bahamas, Belize, Peru, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago
  • Europe: Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Moldova, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Switzerland, Ukraine
  • Oceania: Australia

Less than half as many new cases:

  • Asia:  Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan
  • Africa: Central African Republic, Congo, South Sudan, Uganda
  • Americas: Grenada
  • Europe: Liechtenstein

Zero new cases:

  • Asia: Laos  
  • Europe: Vatican
  • Oceania: Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu

Courtesy: DW

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Orthodox Church undermines Greece’s COVID pandemic measures

Monitoring Desk

Clerics in Greece have repeatedly flouted measures to slow coronavirus transmission. The church wields extraordinary power in officially secular Greece.

On Wednesday, the Holy Synod of the Greek Orthodox Church filed a complaint with the National Council for Radio and Television accusing three TV stations of “sullying religion.” The broadcasters had criticized Orthodox clergy for rebelling against government measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus during the celebration of Epiphany on January 6. The church — which wields exceptional power, though Greece is officially a secular state — is not usually criticized in the broadcast media. In an attempt to turn the tables, the church’s top leaders appear to be trying to change the topic of the conversation to whether the broadcasters committed “blasphemy.”

On January 6, Greek Orthodox Churches were opened to worshippers, despite the government’s official ban on such gatherings. “We showed disobedience,” said Metropolitan Athenagoras, the spokesperson of the Holy Synod, “and the government showed tolerance.”

Bishops remain divided as to how far they should take that disobedience. On Epiphany, for example, most churches adhered to at least some measures to slow the transmission of the coronavirus. Some, however, deliberately ignored protections because, as clergy have said, faith would protect worshippers from being infected during Mass. As a result, worshippers took their Holy Communion from the same spoon and all of them kissed the priest’s hand.

Orthodox Church divided

Because the second wave of the coronavirus has proved much more lethal in Greece than the first had, there is dispute within the church about how to properly administer religious services during the pandemic. “Modernists” are pitted against “Traditionalists,” “Rationalists” against “Visionaries.” Concurrent to the debates about to pandemic is the power struggle over who will succeed Archbishop Hieronymos — who is old and frail and in November was hospitalized with COVID-19.

Officials have sought to find a way to carry on ancient religious rituals and offer moral support while also protecting the health of worshippers. But there are others who seek to push on as the church has always conducted itself. “God’s laws overrule human laws,” Metropolitan Mektarios of Korfu has repeatedly said.

On January 6, a priest in Kalamata interrupted a service because some of the participants refused to wear masks. “Play objector in your home — not here,” he said. “Those who do not wear a mask should leave. Respect your fellow human beings and the law.” The scene, which was filmed, went viral on social media platforms. Most online commentators seemed to agree with the priest’s approach. 

Metropolitan Seraphim of Kythira, on the other hand, has spread a conspiracy theory. “Vaccines are a product of abortions,” he said recently. “This product that comes from killed embryos will be injected into our bodies. … They want to create a ‘metahuman,’ a mutated man, a man who will be like a robot.”

Seraphim does not call the shots in the Greek Orthodox Church. In a declaration this week, the Holy Synod deferred to science and announced that the vaccines being used in Greece did not require the use of embryonic cell cultures for their production. 

“The Holy Synod reiterates that the choice of vaccination is not a theological or ecclesiastical issue,” the church announced in a formal statement. “It is mainly a medical-scientific issue, as well as a free personal choice of each person in communication with his doctor, and does not constitute a fall from the right faith and life.”

In December, Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agios Vlasios became one of the first people to receive one of the vaccines in Greece. The occasion was filmed, and he said people would enjoy higher life expectancy thanks to the vaccine. 

Overall, most Greek Orthodox bishops seem to be aware of the risks posed by the pandemic. They have been meeting online and trying to protect themselves — not least because there have been many cases of COVID-19 among clerics, some of which have proved fatal.

Courtesy: DW

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Germany reaches 1 million vaccine doses

Monitoring Desk

The number was reached as officials consider tougher measures. Brazil’s air force delivered oxygen supplies to the jungle state of Amazonas. Follow DW for the latest.

Germany has delivered more than 1 million first-round doses of COVID-19 vaccines, as new infections and deaths continues to increase. Despite the new figure, critics have said that the country’s rollout of the vaccine has been too slow. 

Health Minister Jens Spahn has said he expects that everyone in Germany will have been offered the vaccine by summer. 

“Some things could have been done faster,” he said. “Of course, there are hiccups in the biggest vaccination campaign in history.” However, he said, “we will be rewarded for our patience.”Volume 90%

Here’s a roundup of the other major developments around the world.

Global

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has urged the world to mark the “heart-wrenching milestone” of 2 million deaths from COVID-19 by acting with far greater solidarity to ensure that vaccines are available and affordable in all countries.

The secretary-general said in a video message posted Friday that governments have a responsibility to protect their people, “but ‘vaccine nationalism’ is self-defeating and will delay a global recovery.”

Guterres reminded the world’s wealthiest economies of what he said was a special responsibility to support the World Health Organization’s COVAX program to buy and deliver vaccines for the world’s poorest people.

He also urged rich nations to share excess doses of vaccines, noting that “some countries are pursuing side deals, even procuring beyond need.”

China has built a 1,500-room hospital for COVID-19 patients in just five days after a spike of infections was reported in a city south of Beijing.

The hospital is the first of six with a total of 6,500 rooms being built in Nangong in Hebei province, the Xinhua News Agency said Saturday.

The temporary facilities are due to be completed within the next week.

Health authorities have placed more than 28 million people in the northeast into lockdown as they battle a new wave of the coronavirus in Nangong and the Hebei provincial capital of Shijiazhuang.

Cambodia will receive one million doses of China’s coronavirus vaccine, thanks to a donation from Beijing, the kingdom’s strongman premier Hun Sen said late Friday.

“Friend China is helping us with one million doses,” he said in a Facebook audio message, adding that the doses made by the firm Sinovac will vaccinate 500,000 people.

The first people to get the jab would include frontline health workers, teachers, soldiers, the premier’s bodyguards, and officials around the king, he said.

Beijing has also offered to help another nation in the region, with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi promising this week to provide 300,000 doses to Myanmar.

Europe

Germany’s BioNTech has promised a speedy return to vaccine deliveries across Europe after its partner Pfizer announced weeks of production delays.

“Starting the week of Jan. 25, we will return to the original schedule for deliveries,” BioNTech said Friday.

The firm said once the original commitment to European countries had been fulfilled in mid-February, deliveries would be ramped up.

“We will be able to deliver the full committed volume of vaccine doses in the first quarter and significantly more in the second quarter,” the firm said in a statement.

Germany’s health ministry said Friday that Pfizer would reduce deliveries for three to four weeks due to essential maintenance work that would help boost production at the Pfizer plant in Puurs, Belgium

In addition, plans for a new BioNTech production facility at Marburg, in the state of Hesse, got the green light from German authorities on Friday.

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 18,678 to 2,019,636, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Saturday. The reported death toll rose by 980 to 45,974, the tally showed.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and the nation’s 16 state premiers are to hold their latest round of lockdown talks on Tuesday, almost a week sooner than originally planned, government spokesman Steffen Seibert announced Friday.

The current lockdown, which includes sweeping closures of businesses and tough restrictions on socializing and travel, is currently set to expire at the end of the month, although it is broadly expected to be extended and even intensified.

In Spain, parliamentary elections in the restive region of Catalonia have been postponed by more than three months due to the pandemic.

The decree to postpone the vote was approved at a cabinet meeting on Friday, the regional government in Barcelona announced.

The vote considered key due to the still-smoldering conflict over the region’s wish for independence from Spain.

Denmark found its first case of the highly contagious coronavirus variant originally found in South Africa. The country also saw a rise in the number of infections with the highly transmissible B117 variant first identified in Britain, health authorities said.

The Nordic nation extended a lockdown for three weeks on Wednesday in an effort to curb the spread of the new UK variant, which authorities expect to be the dominant one by mid-February.

France began observing a 12-hour curfew, from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. The curfew was brought forward two hours, from its original timeframe of 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Additionally, from Monday, anyone traveling to France from outside the European Union will have to show a negative test result and self-isolate for a week upon arrival. 

Around 10,000 people rallied in Vienna, Austria, to protest coronavirus restrictions, and called on the government to resign, Austrian police said. The Alpine country is currently in its third lockdown since March, with non-essential shops, concert halls and theaters, sports centers and schools closed. 

Protesters held banners saying “You’re the disease. We’re the cure,” and waved Austrian flags while flouting mask requirements and social distancing rules. 

Britain has given almost 3.6 million people a first dose of the vaccine so far, according to government statistics. The country, one of the hardest-hit in Europe, is aiming to have given first doses of the vaccine to 15 million people in high-risk categories by mid-February. 

Portugal’s Finance Minister Joao Leao tested positive for the virus, a day after he took part in an in-person meeting in Lisbon with top EU officials including EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen. Leao, 46, has so far shown no symptoms and will continue to work from home during a period of self-isolation, a statement from his ministry said. 

Americas

Brazil on Friday sent emergency oxygen supplies to the northern state of Amazonas devastated by a resurgent coronavirus pandemic.

The Air Force flew cylinders with 9,300 kilos of oxygen from Sao Paulo state with another cargo expected shortly afterward.

According to local media reports, families of seriously ill patients have been trying to buy oxygen tanks on the black market, due to a massive shortage at hospitals.

Desperate relatives, protesting outside hospitals in the state capital of Manaus, said patients had been taken off ventilators as oxygen ran out.

COVID-19 patients have been transferred to other regions of Brazil due to local hospitals being overwhelmed, officials said.

US state governors have accused the Trump administration of deceiving them about the amount of COVID-19 vaccine they can expect to receive.

Several states have complained about shortages, which prompted at least one large New York healthcare system to cancel a slew of appointments.

Oregon’s Governor Kate Brown said her plans to expand the vaccine rollout were now in disarray because of “deception on a national scale” by the administration.

Just 10.6 million Americans have received a shot, far short of the 20 million vaccinations the White House had promised to administer by the end of 2020.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar had said on Tuesday that the administration would release millions of doses it had been holding in reserve for booster shots in order to help spur the sluggish rollout.

Courtesy: DW

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525 virus deaths reported in California every day

Monitoring Desk

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — More Californians than ever are dying from the coronavirus — a knee-bucking 525 every day — and with the number expected to keep climbing state officials said Friday they are sending more refrigerated trailers to act as makeshift morgues for overwhelmed county coroner’s offices.

There are now 98 of the trailers to help county coroners store bodies “with respect and dignity,” Office of Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci said. In Los Angeles County, where on average a person dies every 6 minutes, temporary storage facilities have been set up in the parking lot adjacent to the coroner’s office.

The Office of Emergency Services is using state hospitalization data to anticipate how many people may die in coming weeks. The state analyzes multiple models to try to predict hospitalizations and deaths. The “ensemble” projection that combines all the models is estimating another 10,000 people will die in the next three weeks.

It could be at least two weeks before the state knows the full extent of the virus’ damage during the holiday season when many people ignored pleas to stay home and not gather with friends and extended family. On average, about 12% of everyone who tests positive ends up hospitalized, so if there’s a surge of new cases it will further overwhelm hospitals. And more people ultimately will die.

Ghilarducci said the state has activated its “mass fatality management plan” to try and avoid large backups in morgues.

“It is important to know that there is a plan, it is underway, and it is active today,” Ghilarducci said. “We will continue to work at that with each of our 58 counties to ensure that all of these folks are taken care of in the most respectful manner.”

The grim forecast stood in contrast to an upbeat news conference held Friday by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Gov. Gavin Newsom at Dodger Stadium, which is being converted into a vaccination center capable of administering 12,000 doses per day.

California has received more than 3.5 million doses of the vaccine and has administered just over 1 million doses. Newsom said the state was on pace to exceed his goal of giving out roughly 1.5 million doses by Friday.

Newsom tried to shine a light on encouraging trends: Hospitalizations, intensive care unit admissions and positivity rates — the percentage of people tested who have the virus — have all declined over the past seven days.

The numbers were enough for the Newsom administration earlier this week to lift the stay-at-home order for the 13-county Sacramento region, which includes the state’s capital city and Lake Tahoe, a popular winter tourist destination.

The move allows hair and nail salons and other businesses to reopen and for restaurants to resume outdoor dining and provides a slight increase to the number of customers inside retail outlets.

“We’re starting to see light at the end of the tunnel, not just the light that the vaccines provide,” Newsom said.

California — the nation’s most populous state with nearly 40 million residents — has averaged more than 41,000 new coronavirus cases each day for the past two weeks, dwarfing earlier outbreaks. While California has the second-highest number of deaths in the country, the state ranks 39th in the number of deaths per capita at 81.8.

Courtesy: AP News

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“Pharmacy deserts” could become vaccine deserts

NEW YORK (Axios): Millions of Americans who live in “pharmacy deserts” could have extra trouble accessing coronavirus vaccines quickly, according to a new analysis by GoodRx.

Why it matters: Places without nearby pharmacies, or with a large population-to-pharmacy ratio, may need to rely on mass vaccination sites or other measures to avoid falling behind.

The big picture: Pharmacies will play a huge role in the vaccine rollout, especially as shots become more available to the general population.

But if people have to drive far to get a shot, or if pharmacies can’t keep up with local demand, that could leave millions of Americans vulnerable to the virus for longer than people in better-served areas.

“Pharmacy deserts in turn create ‘vaccine deserts’ — where the rate of vaccination is slower simply because there aren’t enough vaccination appointments available due to limited pharmacy capacity,” the GoodRx analysis says.

“The rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine may take even longer without additional resources like mass vaccination sites,” it says.

By the numbers: The incoming Biden administration has set a goal of vaccinating 100 million people in 100 days, or about 16% of the unvaccinated U.S. population, per GoodRx.

But “nearly half of all counties would have a slower local vaccination rate, generating further healthcare access inequities in areas that are already more likely to be under-resourced in the fight against COVID-19,” the analysis concludes.

177 counties don’t have any pharmacies at all, leaving 635,000 people forced between foregoing a vaccine or potentially driving long distances to get one.

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Health experts answer your questions about COVID-19 vaccines

NEW YORK (Reuters): An unprecedented COVID-19 vaccine campaign is underway with tens of millions now inoculated in the U.S. and around the world. Dozens of vaccine candidates are still in the pipeline, bringing hope for an end to a global pandemic.

As part of our #AskReuters Twitter chat series, Reuters invited a group of healthcare experts to discuss what you should know before getting your shot.

Below are edited highlights.

How do the various vaccines reduce the risk of COVID-19 and its complications? How long will they provide immunity?

“COVID-19 vaccines reduce complications by inducing the immune system to generate antibodies and T-cells that stop the virus from causing damage. The duration of immunity isn’t known, but I suspect longer than one year.”

— Amesh Adalja, senior scholar at The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security

Are COVID-19 vaccines safe and effective for people with serious diseases, such as cancer?

“Everyone with questions about whether the vaccine is right for them should be talking to their healthcare provider. Generally, the vaccines have been shown to be very safe, and we know that COVID is not, especially for people at high risk.”

— Heather Pierce, JD, MPH, senior director and regulatory counsel at Association of American Medical Colleges

What are the expected side effects of a COVID-19 vaccination?

“Side effects include pain at injection site, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, swollen lymph nodes in the injection arm, nausea and vomiting and fever. When I got the first dose of the Moderna vaccine, I felt like I got punched in the shoulder for about 24 hours.”

— Dr. Joseph Petrosino, director of molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine

Will emerging coronavirus variants, such as those first seen in the U.K. and South Africa, affect vaccine efficacy?

“While the current vaccines look to protect against new variants, one consequence is that the more rapid spread of these variants necessitates faster vaccine roll out to limit the extent of subsequent waves of infection in spring and summer of 2021.”

— Josh Schiffer, professor at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

When do you estimate the United States will achieve herd immunity? What about globally?

“There are big problems for global herd immunity — even if the U.S. reaches wide coverage, because of vaccines being hoarded by rich countries, much of the world won’t. Seventy countries will only be able to vaccinate one in 10 people this year. Without change this means a continuing pandemic.”

— Matthew Kavanagh, assistant professor of global health and visiting professor of Law at Georgetown University; director of global health policy & politics initiative at O’Neill Institute

Can you discuss the importance of vaccine access, particularly in lower-income countries?

“COVID-19 vaccine access for everyone across the globe is critically important. It is our moral and ethical responsibility to make sure that this happens. As many have stated throughout this pandemic, we are not safe until the entire world is safe.”

— Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, infectious disease researcher

What do we know about the vaccine’s effects on pregnancy and reproductive health?

“Several agencies recommend vaccines should not be withheld from pregnant or lactating individuals who otherwise meet criteria for vaccination. Talk to your provider if you have any questions or concerns. As a breastfeeding mom, I got vaccinated.”

— Dr. Syra Madad, senior director, special pathogens at New York City Health & Hospitals

What gives you hope now?

“I actually cried when I saw the Pfizer vaccine data. This has been a hard year for all of us, but knowing that this disease is preventable and will be prevented took a weight off my shoulders.”

— Joshua Wolf, infectious disease physician at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

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Africa to see 1st vaccine doses from COVAX in March, says WHO

NAIROBI (AP): Africa should see the first COVID-19 vaccine doses in March from the global COVAX effort aimed at helping lower-income countries obtain the shots, the World Health Organization’s Africa chief said Thursday, as deaths on the continent are rapidly rising.

Matshidiso Moeti told reporters that a larger rollout of the millions of doses from COVAX is expected by June — the second major vaccine announcement this week for the African continent of 1.3 billion people as infections surge for a second time. The African Union chair on Wednesday said 270 million doses have been secured from Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca via the Serum Institute of India.

Some 600 million doses are expected to come from COVAX. Doses expected to be allocated to countries based on population size and the severity of the outbreak, with health workers considered highest priority after thousands have been infected. The African continent is now recording about 30,000 new virus cases per day overall compared to 18,000 during the first surge months ago.

“Unfortunately, our deaths are increasing very rapidly,” Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director John Nkengasong said in a separate briefing.

He said confirmed deaths from COVID-19 have jumped 21% over the past week in Africa, with more than 5,400 reported. The continent has more than 3.1 million confirmed virus cases, including more than 75,000 deaths, as a second wave of infections is “hitting very, very hard.”

The case fatality rate in Africa is now 2.4%, above the global rate of 2.2%. Some 20 African countries have case fatality rates above the global average, including Sudan at 6%, Egypt at 5.5%, Mali at 3.9%, Congo at 3.1% and South Africa at 2.8%.

South Africa is one of the world’s hardest-hit countries as a highly infectious variant of the virus now dominates the number of new cases and hospitals struggle. The country has more than 1.2 million cases including 35,000 deaths.

Genomic sequencing has now found that new variant in three other countries: Botswana, Gambia and Zambia, the WHO Africa chief said.

“The importance of a robust genomics surveillance system cannot be overemphasized,” she added.

The Africa CDC director said “the sheer increase in the number of cases means we run into short supplies of oxygen,” and he is meeting with the World Health Organization and other partners on Friday on how to increase the supply to Africa, where medical oxygen is not widely available.

Nkengasong stressed the importance of getting COVID-19 vaccines to Africa: “We have to do it quick. Economies are down. People are dying.”

Since vaccine doses from the COVAX effort are expected to cover just 20% of the population in Africa, officials have pushed on multiple fronts to secure many more doses to meet the goal of vaccinating the 60% needed to achieve herd immunity against the virus.

The vaccinations “will require a very massive historic campaign” of a kind that the continent has never seen, Nkengasong said.

Already there are concerns about how African countries can roll out vaccines that require super-cold storage given the continent has some of the world’s worst infrastructure.

Nkengasong said African governments are being advised to obtain deep freezers to start the vaccinations at hospitals in their major cities, then to “engage the community, push them, drag them to where vaccination points are.”

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A day to remember: London nursing home greets virus vaccine

LONDON (AP): In 1948, John Peake won a silver medal at the Olympic Games in London. In 2021, also in London, he struck what many would consider gold, receiving his first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

Amid growing concerns over rising COVID outbreaks at nursing homes in Britain, the 96-year-old was one of the 45 residents at Wimbledon Beaumont Care Community in southwest London to receive the vaccine Wednesday developed by the University of Oxford and British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.

“I’m glad to have it and I appreciate the fact that it has come to this place early,” he told The Associated Press after receiving his jab.

Peake was the youngest member of the 1948 British field hockey team that lost 4-0 to India in the final at Wembley Stadium in the first Olympics after World War II.

“I think I’m lucky to have lasted as long as I have,” he said.

Yet Peake, who is one of the oldest surviving Olympians, was not even the oldest to get the shot at the nursing home. That honor went to 102-year-old Joan Potts, who though in a wheelchair and clearly fragile, still had eyes that expressed wonder in the world.

Britain in many ways is leading the vaccination drive around the world. It was the first country to approve and use the vaccine designed by U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech. It was the first to approve the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. It has also approved a third, by Moderna, but that is not expected to arrive until the spring.

Already, around 2.5 million people in Britain have received their first jabs. To get vaccine shots to as many people as quickly as possible, Britain is taking a different path than other nations. Instead of giving people their second vaccine shot within three or four weeks, they will get it within 12 weeks.

The first groups in line are those 80 and over, health care workers, nursing home residents and their caregivers. The British government had aimed for all nursing home residents to have their first jab by the end of the month but doctors are now being urged to go faster, given a recent rise in new infections in nursing homes.

Dr. Jane Allen, who has looked after Wimbledon residents for nearly four decades, was on hand to deliver the jabs.

“I’m certainly glad it’s arrived at last, because perhaps it gives the residents a bit more freedom, they’ve had a very difficult year,” said Allen, who along with her partners were in a rush to vaccinate the nearly 200 nursing home residents over a single day.

Two paramedics arrived with a shiny red bag containing the treasured vaccine doses. Allen visored up and, assisted by nurse Fernando Castillo, ran through the necessary questions: Are you feeling well? What about any allergies? Do you want to take this vaccine against the coronavirus?

As they waited to get their shots, the residents offered glimpses into their personalities and pasts, displaying empathy, humor and resilience.

For some it was a big relief, including gregarious 86-year-old Gwen Nurse, who has just “felt very lonely” over these long months of the pandemic.

“I’m an old lady and it doesn’t matter so much about me, but it does about younger people,” she said.

For others, it was a more prosaic affair.

“I’ve been jabbed many times,” said Ian Hurley, 80, a former policeman who helped create the Crimestoppers phone line and never misses a chance to show off his edgy sense of humor.

“Whatever the case is, I might just walk out of here and cross the road and get run over,” he said.

Some, like Hurley, just rolled up their sleeve and got on with it. For others, it was a more laborious process, requiring reassurance from the doctor. Retired executive secretary Pamela Rahman, 84, was dressed up in her Sunday best, only to find that she was not wearing the easiest clothing for a vaccine shot.

Getting a vaccine shot doesn’t mean that the nursing home residents can go about their lives as they previously did. For starters, it takes 21 days for a measure of immunity to emerge. But it does help lift the fear that they could contract the virus blamed for the deaths of some 85,000 people in the U.K., the vast majority of them over 65.

And how should one end such a memorable day? With a party, of course.

“Our care home was always full of laughter and joy,” said Gayane Selimyan, general manager of the nursing home owned by Barchester Healthcare. “We are very happy and excited and we are going to have a vaccination party today to celebrate.”

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Chinese COVID-19 vaccine approved in Turkey

Monitoring Desk

Following analysis of doses recently delivered to Turkey, drug body approves CoronaVac jab for emergency use.

Turkey’s official drug and medical equipment body approved a Chinese vaccine on Wednesday for emergency use against the novel coronavirus.

Following evaluations of the doses, the Turkish Medicines and Medical Devices Agency (TITCK) announced that it had authorized the vaccine known as CoronaVac which was developed by Beijing-based company SinoVac.

“While evaluating the scientific data, samples that were delivered to our country have been examined in our institution’s laboratories over 14 days,” the TITCK said in a statement, adding that the vaccine would swiftly be delivered to the public.

Courtesy: Yeni Safak

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Coronavirus cases surging in China as WHO researchers visit

Monitoring Desk

BEIJING — China is seeing a new surge in coronavirus cases in its frozen northeast, and has reported its first death attributed to COVID-19 in months.

Officials said Thursday that Heilongjiang province in the region traditionally known as Manchuria recorded 43 new virus cases, most of them centered on the city of Suihua. The northern province of Hebei just outside Beijing has seen China’s most serious recent outbreak and reported 81 more cases.

The new death raises the official toll for the pandemic to 4,635.

The relatively low figure is shown as evidence to the effectiveness of China’s strict health measures, but has also raised questions about the tight hold the government maintains on all information related to the outbreak.


BEIJING (AP) — China is seeing a new surge in coronavirus cases in its frozen northeast as a World Health Organization team arrived to investigate the origins of the pandemic.

China on Thursday also reported its first new death attributed to COVID-19 in months, raising the toll to 4,635 among 87,844 cases. China’s relatively low case figures are a testimony to the effectiveness of strict containment, tracing and quarantine measures, but have also raised questions about the tight hold the government maintains on all information related to the outbreak.

The National Health Commission said Heilongjiang province in the region traditionally known as Manchuria recorded 43 new cases, most of them centered on the city of Suihua outside the provincial capital of Harbin. The northern province of Hebei just outside Beijing, which has seen China’s most serious recent outbreak, recorded another 81 cases, marking the second straight day China’s total number of local infections has risen into triple digits. Another 14 cases were brought from outside the country.

China has put more than 20 million people under varying degrees of lockdown in Hebei, Beijing and other areas in hopes of stemming infections ahead of next month’s Lunar New Year holiday. The government has cut travel links to and from several cities, urged people to stay put for the holiday, postponed important political gatherings and plans to let schools out a week early to reduce the chances of infection.

Also Thursday, a 10-member WHO team arrived in the central city of Wuhan where the virus was first detected in late 2019. The visit was approved by President Xi Jinping’s government after months of diplomatic wrangling that prompted an unusual public complaint by the head of the WHO.

State broadcaster CGTN said the team will be quarantined for two weeks and will undergo testing for the virus.

Scientists suspect the virus that has killed 1.9 million people since late 2019 jumped to humans from bats or other animals, most likely in China’s southwest.

The WHO team includes virus and other experts from the United States, Australia, Germany, Japan, Britain, Russia, the Netherlands, Qatar and Vietnam.

Courtesy: AP News