US-Europe flights reopen; South Africa registers 205 new cases

US-Europe flights reopen; South Africa registers 205 new cases
A man receives a Covid-19 vaccine at the Alberton Civic Centre, Gauteng, on 26 October 2021. (Photo: Gallo Images / Papi Morake)

South Africa registered 205 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 2,923,956. A further 13 Covid-19-related deaths were reported, taking total official deaths to 89,332. A total of 23,151,823 people have been vaccinated.

Flights for fully vaccinated travellers from Europe to the US begin on Monday, though the lucrative market will be very different from the one before the pandemic. The US is lifting entry restrictions for more than 30 countries, including China, Brazil and India.

Europe, meantime, is confronting its new wave of infection. France is to consider spending an extra €2-billion to bolster the hospital system. Italy plans to vaccinate children in December.

In the UK, a return to lockdown restrictions is still under consideration, The Guardian reported. 

New antiviral treatments under development for Covid-19 show promise, but vaccination remains the surest way to end the pandemic, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said. 

Key developments

Biden adviser defends mandate’s legality

President Joe Biden’s requirement for employees at companies with more than 100 workers to get Covid-19 vaccinations or regular testing is on solid legal ground, presidential adviser Cedric Richmond said.

“We’re very confident we’re on statutory and legal grounds,” Richmond said on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday. 

A federal appeals court in New Orleans temporarily halted the mandate’s nationwide roll-out on Friday and gave the Biden administration until Monday to respond. Republican state attorney-generals and companies have been challenging the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s rule, which sets a 4 January deadline.

US-Europe flights reopen on Monday  

Flights for fully vaccinated travellers from Europe to the US begin on Monday, though the lucrative market will be very different from the one before the pandemic. 

Demand compared with before the pandemic will be lower. The corporate road warriors who were once the North Atlantic’s lifeblood are still largely grounded as firms avoid unnecessary travel, putting the onus on attracting leisure passengers.

And the US is letting in Europeans just as virus infections surge again across the continent. On Friday, German cases rose by a record for a second day as a fourth wave of the pandemic hit the region.

The US is lifting entry restrictions for more than 30 countries, including China, Brazil and India.

Murthy says Covid pills can’t replace vaccines 

New treatments under development for Covid-19 show promise, but vaccination remains the surest way to end the pandemic, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said. 

“There is a 100% effective strategy to avoid hospitalisation and death, and that’s not getting Covid in the first place,” Murthy said on ABC’s This Week. “A therapeutic, a pill is not a substitute for getting vaccinated.”

Pfizer and Merck have presented data showing their new antiviral drugs can significantly reduce the risk of serious infection. Both must go before US regulators for approval. 

German parties plan legislation to fight Covid 

The German parties currently in talks to form the next government under Social Democrat Olaf Scholz will introduce draft legislation in the lower house of Parliament on Monday to address the country’s surge in new infections.

The SPD, Green party and the Free Democrats will propose a bill for an “appropriate and decisive” measure to fight the country’s fourth wave, FDP parliamentary whip Marco Buschmann tweeted on Sunday.

The incidence in Germany spiked again, rising to 191.5 cases per 100,000 people, with 23,543 new infections and 37 fatalities, according to the Robert Koch Institute.

France proposes more spending on hospitals 

French Budget Minister Olivier Dussopt and Health Minister Olivier Veran will present the budget to the Senate on Monday, Dussopt said in a radio interview. 

If the current increase in Covid cases causes a short-term hospital crisis, the government will act further, Dussopt said. “Each time it’s been necessary to respond to the crisis, we’ve released emergency funds, and if it’s necessary, we’ll do it again,” he said.

Italy to start immunising children 

Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza says that if hospitalisations remain under control, the country won’t face any additional restrictions during the Christmas holidays. Italy is working to persuade the roughly 12% of the population that opposes the vaccine to get a shot, the minister said.

UK still considering lockdowns 

Professor Anne Johnson, president of the Academy of Medical Sciences, told LBC radio that she understood a “Plan B” for lowdown restrictions is still on the cards, according to The Guardian.

“If we want to avoid any restrictions in the future, or indeed reduce the damage, we need to think about all the things that we can do, which include not just vaccinating, which is very important, but also going to isolate when we’re sick, get tested,” The Guardian quoted her as saying. “All these things we can continue to do, and all those things are going to reduce the risk of having to go to plan B.”

US donates more Pfizer doses to Vietnam 

Vietnam’s health ministry said the US has donated 2.5 million additional doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine. That brings the total doses sent from the US to Vietnam to more than 14.6 million, according to a statement on the ministry’s website.

German infections spike 

Germany’s nationwide seven-day incidence climbed, with the Robert Koch Institute saying on Sunday the number of new infections per 100,000 inhabitants reached 191.5, according to The Guardian. The previous day, the incidence was 183.7, and a week ago it was 149.4. Last month, it was 62.6.

UK plans to bring back tests, quarantine 

Officials are divided over how soon to implement the measures and are discussing a grace period that would allow people to travel without quarantine if they had sought a booster six months after their second jab, but had not yet been offered an appointment.

The news came as Health Secretary Sajid Javid said almost 10 million people have now received their booster jab, but encouraged people to urge their elderly relatives to come forward.

UK to roll out antiviral pill this month 

Britain will start to roll out Merck’s molnupiravir Covid-19 antiviral pill through a drug trial later this month, Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser at the UK Health Security Agency said on Sunday, according to Reuters.

Last week Britain became the first country in the world to approve the potentially game-changing Covid-19 antiviral pill, jointly developed by US-based Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.

Anti-vaccination protests in Australia 

Hundreds of people protested against mandatory vaccinations in western Sydney and other areas of Australia’s New South Wales state on Sunday, the Sydney Morning Herald reported, as a further easing of virus-related restrictions is set to ease on Monday for the fully inoculated.

The demonstration was proceeding peacefully, police said, according to the newspaper, which added that people held anti-vaccine placards with slogans such as, “Your Body, Your Choice”.

China reports 50 more local cases 

China reported 50 additional local Covid infections, as authorities said strict curbs would remain in place to disrupt the spread of transmission.

Twenty-one cases were recorded in Hebei province, which is in close proximity to Beijing, the National Health Commission said. The infections come as Chinese authorities ring-fenced the capital ahead of February’s Winter Olympics. 

The outbreak is fuelled by the Delta variant and has now reached 20 out of 31 mainland provinces, the broadest virus spread in China since the pathogen first emerged in Wuhan. 

US passes vaccine milestone as pace picks up 

The US crossed the milestone of 70% of people 18 and older fully vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Almost 11 months after the first shots were given in the US, the pace of vaccination has been rising after a steep drop starting in April. Booster doses, now approved for all three vaccines given in the US, accounted for about 904,000 of the 1.5 million doses recorded on Saturday, according to a tweet from Cyrus Shahpar, the White House’s Covid-19 data director. DM 

– With assistance from Linus Chua, Dong Cao, Phil Serafino, Patrick Donahue and Tommaso Ebhardt.


"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

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