Britain says it has hit its target of giving at least one dose of vaccine to everyone over 50 and others in groups at highest risk from the coronavirus by mid-April. The government says everyone in those groups has been offered a jab and about 95 of eligible people have received a shot.
More than 32 million people over 60 of adults have had a first shot and almost 15 of people in the UK have had both doses. On Tuesday, the vaccination drive was expanded to people aged 45-49, the start of the second phase of the inoculation campaign.
Britain has had Europe’s worst coronavirus outbreak with more than 1,27,000 confirmed deaths. But rapid vaccination and a nationwide lockdown have sharply decreased infections and deaths. Health authorities are also concerned about new variants that are more resistant to the vaccines. They are calling for everyone living in two boroughs in south London to get tested after 44 cases of a strain first identified in South Africa were confirmed there.
Austria’s health minister resigns, cites being overworked
Austria’s health minister announced his resignation on Tuesday, saying that he couldn’t continue in the gruelling job of helping lead the country’s coronavirus response because of persistent personal health problems caused by overwork.
Rudolf Anschober, 60, had been health minister since January last year, when his Green party became the junior partner in a governing coalition under conservative Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. The soft-spoken minister has been one of the main faces of Austria’s coronavirus response, which has gathered mixed reviews.
Anschober, who suffered a burnout nine years ago, said he had suffered two episodes of sudden fatigue in the past month, as well as high blood pressure and tinnitus. He said he had “clearly overworked” and hadn’t felt “completely fit” for several weeks. This wasn’t a burnout, he added, but doctors advised him to take a break.
“In the most serious health crisis for decades, the republic needs a health minister who is 100% fit,” Anschober said. “I am not at the moment, and I won’t be in the coming weeks if I don’t pull the emergency brake. This pandemic takes no breaks and so a health minister can’t take a break either,” he added.
“On the whole, I think we have done good work,” Anschober said. “In a pandemic, no one is free of mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. … We were in uncharted territory. My impression is that it isn’t 15 months, more like 15 years,” he said of his time in office.
Germany: Companies to offer one Covid-19 test a week for employees at workplace
The German government says companies will need to offer all employees who aren’t working from home at least one coronavirus test each week. The requirement approved by the Cabinet on Tuesday is part of the government’s efforts to drive down persistently high rates of infection in recent weeks’
The government also wants the parliament to pass a bill that would shift more powers to set pandemic restrictions in regions with high numbers of cases from state to federal authorities.
Over 1 lakh people inoculated in Denmark in one day
Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said 1,04,824 people were vaccinated in one day, as Denmark Monday tested its system ahead of a June rollout where 4,00,000 will be vaccinated per day. “The result is now being evaluated so we are ready for continued effective rollout”, Heunicke wrote on Twitter Tuesday.
Stephanie Lose, head of the Danish Regions, an interest organization for Denmark’s five regions running health care across the country of nearly 6 million, noted that there were some local problems to be solved including access parking logistics and some minor IT issues. In addition queues occurred in several places because many showed up too early.
WHO calls for suspending sale of live animals in food markets
The UN health agency is calling on countries to suspend the sale of live animals captured from the wild in food markets as an emergency measure, saying wild animals are a leading source of emerging infectious diseases like the coronavirus.
The World Health Organisation issued new guidance on Tuesday saying that animals – particularly wild animals – are the source of more than 70 per cent of all emerging infectious diseases in humans, many of which are caused by novel viruses.
The coronavirus’ origins more than a year ago have been the source of intense speculation, much of it centered around the likelihood that it was carried by bats and passed to humans through an intermediary species, sold as food or medicine in traditional Chinese wet markets. The pandemic first appeared in the city of Wuhan China.
Pak’s president appeals for adhering to Covid norms after highest single day tally
Pakistan’s President Arif Alvi appealed for people to adhere to social distancing rules, after Islamabad reported one of its highest single-day totals of COVID-19 fatalities in recent months. Alvi also said on Twitter that he has recovered from his own case of COVID-19 but was still feeling weakness. He urged people to continue adhering to social distancing rules after authorities said most people were still not wearing face masks at public places.
Alvis’ appeal Tuesday came hours after Pakistan reported 118 deaths from the virus in the past 24 hours – the highest in recent months. Pakistan has largely relied on donated or imported Chinese vaccines which are only being offered to health workers and older people.
Pakistan hopes it will receive 15 million COVID-19 vaccine doses through the UN-backed COVAX program by next month, when authorities plan to register all citizens for vaccination.
52 armies and groups suspected of sexual violence, says UN chief
The COVID-19 pandemic led to a spike in gender-based violence last year and combatants continued to use sexual violence “as a cruel tactic of war” and political repression in a number of countries, the UN chief said in a report circulated on Monday.
The report focused on 18 countries where the U.N. said it has obtained verified information. It lists 52 parties “credibly suspected” of responsibility “for patterns of rape or other forms of sexual violence” in conflicts on the agenda of the U.N. Security Council. Over 70% of the listed parties “are persistent perpetrators,” it said.
The majority of those on the U.N. blacklist are “non-state actors” – opposition, rebel or terrorist groups linked to Islamic State or al-Qaida extremist groups. National military or police forces on the list, including Myanmar’s military and border guard, are barred from participating in UN peace operations until they adopt time-bound commitments to cease violations.
The “blacklist” also includes government and police forces in Congo and South Sudan; government forces and intelligence services in Syria; armed forces and rapid support forces in Sudan; and army and police in Somali and forces in its Puntland region.
Australia decides against buying J&J vaccine
The Australian government has decided against buying the singledose Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine to accelerate its immunization program. Health Minister Greg Hunt said Tuesday that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is similar to the AstraZeneca product which Australia already contracted to buy.
Australia had planned to rely on Australian-manufactured AstraZeneca with the goal of delivering at least one dose of vaccine to all eligible adults among a population of 26 million by October. But the government announced last week that the Pfizer vaccine is now the preferred option for people under 50 because of a potential blood clotting risk from AstraZeneca.
Australia has doubled its Pfizer order to 40 million doses. Australia had acquired 37 doses of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines by Monday and had injected 12 million doses.
Schools in Ontario to shut down, move online
All schools in Canada’s most populous province will be shut down and move to online learning because of a record number of coronavirus infections fueled by more contagious virus variants. Ontario Premier Doug Ford said his government is moving schools to online only after the April break this week.
Schools in Canada’s largest city of Toronto were already shut since last Wednesday. Now it will be province-wide.
Ontario is now seeing more than 4000 new infections a day in recent days and record intensive care numbers. March break was previously moved this week in April.
3 patients die in Bucharest following ventilator failure in mobile ICU
Authorities in Romania’s capital said three COVID-19 patients died at a mobile intensive care unit after ventilators failed. Five more patients from the same mobile ICU in Bucharest’s Victor Babes hospital were transferred to other hospitals to receive care.
An investigation has been opened as to why the ventilators failed.
US to pause J&J vaccine after recipients develop blood clots
The US is recommending a “pause” in administration of the single-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to investigate reports of potentially dangerous blood clots. In a joint statement Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration said they were investigating clots in six women that occurred in the days after vaccination.
The clots were observed along with reduced platelet counts, making the usual treatment for blood clots, the blood thinner heparin, potentially “dangerous.” More than 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been administered in the U.S., the vast majority with no or mild side effects.
The announcement hit US stock markets immediately, with Dow futures falling almost 200 points just over two hours before the opening bell. Shares of Johnson & Johnson dropped almost 3 per cent.
U.S. federal distribution channels, including mass vaccination sites, will pause the use of the J&J shot, and states and other providers are expected to follow. The other two authorised vaccines, from Moderna and Pfizer, are not affected by the pause. CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet Wednesday to discuss the cases and the FDA has also launched an investigation into the cause of the clots and low platelet counts.
The move from the U.S. regulators comes less than a week after Europe’s drug regulator said it was reviewing rare blood clots in four people in the United States who received the shot.
Uptick in cases in Iran amid fourth wave
Iran on Tuesday reported a record 24,760 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, as the worst-hit country in the Middle East faced a fourth coronavirus wave. Authorities have blamed the latest surge on millions travelling across the country for Iranian New Year last month and taking part in family gatherings in defiance of health precautions promoted by the government.
Health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari told state TV on Tuesday that 24,760 new daily cases were identified, taking the total to 2,118,212 cases. The daily death toll rose to 291, the highest since December 9, to bring the total to 65,055. Lari said 295 counties have been classified as very high-risk “red” zones, and 99 as high-risk “orange” areas, while 45 counties were rated “yellow” and just 9 as low-risk “blue” zones.
On Saturday, Tehran imposed a 10-day lockdown across most of the country. The lockdown affected 23 of the country’s 31 provinces. Non-essential businesses, schools, theatres and sports facilities have been forced to shut and gatherings are banned during the holy fasting month of Ramadan that begins on Wednesday in Iran.