CORONAVIRUS GLOBAL UPDATE
Europe debates new curbs; South Africa registers 1,275 new cases
South Africa registered 1,275 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 2,950,035. A further 22 Covid-19-related deaths were reported, taking total official deaths to 89,657. A total of 25,002,232 people have been vaccinated.
Europe, the pandemic’s epicentre once more, is debating new measures to curb Covid-19’s resurgence to try to avert blunt, unpopular restrictions like curfews and lockdowns.
Germany may consider vaccine mandates for some groups, according to Olaf Scholz, the country’s next chancellor. Italy may announce rules for unvaccinated people. France will speed up its vaccination campaign, and Denmark is seeking to make masks mandatory for people using public transportation.
About 92% of US government employees have had at least one Covid-19 shot following President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for the federal workforce, according to data released on Wednesday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was feeling “fine” after taking two different boosters.
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Trinidad and Tobago faces worst spike
Trinidad and Tobago is experiencing its worst spike in Covid-19 cases, and at least five of its hospitals are at over 80% capacity, as case numbers rise across much of the Caribbean, the Pan-American Health Organization (Paho) said. Trinidad and Tobago is just one of several Caribbean countries struggling with an uptick in infections, Paho said.
While Central America saw a 37% reduction in new infections over the last week, in South America every country except Brazil, Suriname and Venezuela reported increased Covid rates, with the largest jumps occurring in Ecuador and Paraguay.
“These trends are telling,” Paho Director Carissa Etienne said during a weekly press event. “Even though Covid cases have dropped significantly over the last few months, Covid transmission is still active across our region, so every time we lower our guard, the virus gains momentum.”
Pfizer says worker stole vaccine secrets
Pfizer alleged a “soon-to-be-former employee” uploaded thousands of files including documents with trade secrets regarding the company’s Covid-19 vaccine.
Chun Xiao (Sherry) Li allegedly uploaded more than 12,000 files including “scores” of documents with confidential information, according to a complaint filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of California. The documents pertained to a broad range of topics including analysis of vaccine studies, operational goals, and development plans for new drugs.
Pfizer said in the complaint it believed Li was going to Xencor and that she provided a “decoy” laptop when confronted about downloads.
Biden mandate yields 92% vaccine rate among state workers
About 92% of federal government employees have had at least one Covid-19 shot, according to data released by the administration following President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for the workforce.
An agency-by-agency breakdown of compliance rates on Wednesday showed a range of outcomes. Across the government, 92% of the estimated 3.5 million federal workers have at least one dose. About 4.5% – more than 157,000 people – either have requested or been granted exemptions from the mandate, the report also found.
The Agency for International Development has the highest vaccination rate, with 97.8% of its workforce receiving at least one shot, while the Department of Agriculture has the lowest, with 86.1%.
Denmark proposes new curbs
Denmark’s government proposes to make face masks mandatory for people using public transportation in the country’s latest effort to halt the recent rise in Covid-19 cases.
The country, which has one of the world’s highest vaccination rates with almost 90% of its adult population having received at least one jab, has introduced new restrictions to cope with the peak in confirmed cases.
On Wednesday, Denmark had its most daily new cases since December 2020, when the government introduced a winter lockdown of the economy. Two weeks ago, the country reintroduced a so-called corona passport, which means people have to prove vaccination, a negative test or immunity through previous contamination when attending public events. State workers will also have to present the passport to show up physically for work.
The government will need to get backing from a majority in Parliament.
Oslo mulls over new restrictions
Oslo is recommending that face masks be used again in shops and public transport after a rise in infections in the Norwegian capital. A balance needs to be found between an open society and measures to limit infection, Governing Mayor Raymond Johansen told a meeting of the city council on Wednesday.
Germany’s Scholz may mandate shots for some
Olaf Scholz, who will succeed Angela Merkel as chancellor, said his coalition government would consider vaccine mandates for people who work with vulnerable groups. Scholz said his government, which is expected to be sworn in in early December, will do everything to fight the pandemic.
Merkel asked members of the new coalition to impose a two-week lockdown but officials refused, according to a report by the newspaper Bild.
The number of infections in the country rose to a record 66,884, and the seven-day incidence rate per 100,000 people climbed above 400 for the first time, according to the latest data from the RKI public-health institute.
Putin ‘feeling fine’ after taking two boosters
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was feeling “fine” after taking an experimental nasal Covid vaccine booster earlier this week.
The nasal version is still in clinical tests and hasn’t been approved by regulators. Putin (69) also received an injected booster of the locally developed Sputnik Light a day earlier.
Switzerland first to give Covax vaccine priority
Switzerland has become the first and only country so far to swap places in the vaccine supply queue with the global distribution programme known as Covax, expediting the delivery of a small number of Moderna doses to lower-income nations.
Covax will get access to 1 million doses of the Moderna vaccine that were originally headed to Switzerland before the end of the year, according to a statement from the vaccine alliance Gavi. Switzerland will then take Covax’s spot and receive the doses later in 2022.
The government decided to hold off on tightening federal virus measures but it urged people to wear masks, keep their distance, air indoor spaces and get tested. The country votes on November 28 on whether the mandatory use of Covid certificates for access to indoor spaces and events should be maintained.
France to bolster pandemic measures
France plans to reinforce measures to contain the virus, including wearing masks, social distancing and the use of health passes, and speed up its vaccination campaign in an effort to avoid the need for further restrictions such as curfews and lockdowns, according to government spokesman Gabriel Attal.
EU awaits vaccine data to unveil travel rules
The European Union delayed unveiling a proposal to update its Covid travel guidelines as it waits for guidance from the bloc’s public-health agency on the efficacy of different vaccines.
The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, may present the proposal later this week or early next week, depending on when it receives data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, according to officials familiar with the plans.
The proposal is likely to recommend that nations impose travel restrictions based on whether individuals have been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid, rather than the current system that judges where people are travelling from, said the officials who asked not to be identified because the preparations are private.
Cyprus adopts new curbs in vaccine push
Cyprus announced new restrictions, including a ban starting on December 15 preventing the non-vaccinated from entering venues such as theatres, cinemas, nightclubs and restaurants.
The country’s health pass, which allows vaccinated people access, will also cease to be valid for those who haven’t received a booster shot within seven months of completing the initial vaccination schedule.
Starting next week, all adults who aren’t vaccinated will need PCR tests conducted within 72 hours or rapid tests within 48 hours to enter indoor spaces. DM
– With assistance from Ainsley Thomson, Chris Kay, Dong Lyu, Max Zimmerman, Iain Rogers, Love Liman, Angelina Rascouet, Karen Leigh, Chiara Albanese, Lenka Ponikelska, Michelle Fay Cortez, Paul Tugwell, John Follain, James Regan, James Paton, Gregory L. White, Claudia Maedler, Katharina Rosskopf, Stephen Treloar, Marton Eder, Morten Buttler and Jim Wyss.
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