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A look at COVID-19 reopening plans across the country – OrilliaMatters

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As COVID-19 vaccination rates increase and case numbers drop across the country, the provinces and territories have begun releasing the reopening plans for businesses, events and recreational facilities.

Most of the plans are based on each jurisdiction reaching vaccination targets at certain dates, while also keeping the number of cases and hospitalizations down. 

Here’s a look at what reopening plans look like across the country:

Newfoundland and Labrador:

The province’s reopening plan begins with a transition period during which some health restrictions, like limits on gatherings, will loosen. 

Requirements for testing and self-isolation lifted entirely for fully vaccinated Canadian travellers on Canada Day, while those requirements will ease over the next few months for travellers with just one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

If case counts, hospitalization and vaccination targets are met, the province expects to reopen dance floors as early as Aug. 15, and lift capacity restrictions on businesses, restaurants and lounges while maintaining physical distancing between tables.

As early as Sept. 15, mask requirements for indoor public spaces will be reviewed.

Nova Scotia:

Nova Scotia has further reduced COVID-19 public health orders after entering the fourth phase of its reopening.

Under the new rules, retail stores can operate at full capacity, churches and other venues can operate at half capacity or with a maximum of 150 people, and up to 50 people can attend outdoor family gatherings.

Capacity limits for dance classes, music lessons and indoor play spaces have also been lifted.

Organized sports practices, games, league play, competitions and recreation programs can involve up to 25 people indoors and 50 people outdoors without physical distancing.

Day camps can operate with 30 campers per group plus staff and volunteers, following the day camp guidelines. In addition, professional and amateur arts and culture rehearsals and performances can involve up to 25 people indoors and 50 outdoors without physical distancing.

Meanwhile, fully vaccinated residents of long-term care homes can now have visitors in their rooms and visit their family’s homes, including for overnight stays.

New Brunswick:

The province is lifting all public health orders next Friday. That means by midnight on July 30, all limits on gatherings will be lifted, including in theatres, restaurants and stores. The mask mandate will also be allowed to expire. 

New Brunswick had earlier moved into the second phase of its reopening plan, which opened travel without the need to isolate to all of Nova Scotia after earlier opening to P.E.I. and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Travellers from elsewhere in Canada who’ve had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine can enter the province without the need to isolate, while those who haven’t had a shot must still isolate and produce a negative test before being released from quarantine.

Restaurants, gyms and salons can also operate at full capacity at the moment as long as customer contact lists are kept.

Prince Edward Island: 

Prince Edward Island has dropped its requirement that non-medical masks be worn in public indoor spaces.

Chief public health officer Dr. Heather Morrison says masks are still encouraged to reduce the spread of COVID-19, and businesses are free to adopt stricter rules.

Officials say those who serve the public, such as in restaurants, retail stores and hair salons, should continue to wear a mask.

All health-care facilities will continue to require masks until 80 per cent of eligible P.E.I. residents are fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the province has allowed personal gatherings to increase so that up to 20 people can get together indoors and outdoors. Restaurants are allowed to have tables of up to 20. Special occasion events like backyard weddings and anniversary parties of up to 50 people hosted by individuals are permitted with a reviewed operational plan.

Organized gatherings hosted by a business or other organization are permitted with groups of up to 200 people outdoors or 100 people indoors.

On Sept. 12, the province expects physical distancing measures to be eased, as well as allowing personal and organized gatherings to go ahead without limits. 

Quebec: 

Quebec’s government has removed capacity restrictions in retail stores across the province and reduced the two-metre physical distancing health order to one metre.

Quebecers from separate households are now required to keep a one-metre distance from one another indoors and outdoors instead of two metres. 

The previous two-metre distance now applies only at places characterized by physical activity or singing.

Outdoor events are limited to a maximum of 5,000 people, while Indoor events are capped at 3,500 spectators.

Fans and those attending theatres or other performance venues must keep at least one empty seat between each other, and wearing a mask in public spaces remains mandatory.

All of Quebec is now at the lowest green alert level under the province’s COVID-19 response plan as public health restrictions continue to ease.

Last month, the province permitted gyms and restaurant dining rooms to reopen. Supervised outdoor sports and recreation are also allowed in groups of up to 25 people.

Quebec ended its nightly curfew on May 28, and also lifted travel bans between regions.

Ontario:

Ontario has moved to the third step of its reopening plan, allowing for more indoor activities including restaurant dining and gym use, while larger crowds are permitted for outdoor activities. 

Masking and physical distancing rules, however, remain in place.

Social gatherings are limited to 25 people indoors and 100 people outdoors. Religious services and other ceremonies are allowed indoors with larger groups of people who are physically distanced.

Nightclubs and similar establishments are open to 25 per cent capacity. Crowd limits have expanded for retail stores and salons, which can offer services that require masks to be removed.

Spectators are permitted at sporting events, concert venues, cinemas and theatres, with larger limits on crowds for outdoor events. 

Museums, galleries, aquariums, zoos, bingo halls and amusement parks are also open with larger crowd limits on outdoor attractions. 

Manitoba:

Manitoba is loosening restrictions and allowing extra freedoms for people who have received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine as it moves into the second phase of its reopening plan.

Indoor gatherings are now allowed for up to five people, on top of those who live in a household, and 25 people in indoor public spaces. Outdoor gatherings are expanded to 25 people on private property and 150 in public spaces. 

Restaurants and bars are allowed up to 50 per cent capacity and opening hours are extended until midnight. Retail stores can run at 50 per cent capacity or 500 people, whichever is lower. Fitness centres can open at 50 per cent capacity, but masks are still required.

Outdoor weddings and funerals can have up to 150 people and indoor events now have a limit of 25. Faith-based gatherings can expand to half capacity or 150 people indoors.

Businesses, such as casinos, museums and movie theatres, can open at 50 per cent capacity but only fully vaccinated Manitobans can take part. An upcoming Blue Bombers CFL game will also be open fully to fans who are double-vaccinated.

Saskatchewan:

Saskatchewan has removed all public health orders — including the province-wide mandatory masking order, as well as capacity limits on events and gathering sizes.

Premier Scott Moe says the province decided to go ahead with full implementation of Step 3 of its Reopening Roadmap because more than 70 per cent of residents over the age of 18 and 69 per cent of those over 12 have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Despite the lifting of the health orders, Regina and Saskatoon say they will still keep up extra cleaning in municipal facilities.

Alberta: 

All remaining COVID-19 restrictions were lifted on July 1.

There are no longer limits on weddings, funerals or bans on indoor social gatherings. In addition, there are no more limits on gyms, sports or fitness activities, no more capacity limits at restaurants, in retail stores or in places of worship.

Anyone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 will still be required to self-isolate and protective measures at continuing care centres may remain.

The overall requirement for masks in public indoor spaces has ended, but masks may still be required in taxis, on public transit and on ride shares.

Some remaining COVID-19 health restrictions in continuing-care centres have also been eased.

The province says it is no longer limiting the number of visitors, since vaccination rates are rising and there have been few cases in care homes.

Visitors, however, still need to be screened for COVID-19 symptoms or known exposure, and masks are still required in common areas.

The province recommends people wear a mask at all times when visiting a care home if they have not been fully vaccinated, including children under 12.

Limits on dining and recreation activities have been eliminated, and residents are not required to be screened if they are re-entering the building or go into quarantine if they have gone off site.

British Columbia:

The province took the next step in its reopening plan on Canada Day when most COVID-19 restrictions were removed and outdoor gatherings of up to 5,000 people got the go ahead.

Restaurants and pubs no longer have limits on the number of diners, but people are still not allowed to mingle with those at other tables. Masks are no longer mandatory and recreational travel outside the province can resume.

Casinos and nightclubs are open for the first time in 16 months, but some barriers remain in place and socializing between tables is not allowed.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says some businesses may want people to continue wearing masks for now, and everyone should comply with those requirements or face the potential of fines.

Meanwhile, visitors to long-term care homes will soon be allowed to see loved ones without COVID-19 restrictions. Unscheduled visits resumed July 19, but staff will be required to report whether they have been immunized.

All COVID-19 restrictions are expected to be removed on Labour Day. 

Nunavut:

Public health orders affecting what is allowed to open vary by community.

Restrictions in Iqaluit were eased on July 2. Travel restrictions in and out of Iqaluit have been lifted. A household can now have up to 10 people in their home and up to 50 people can gather outdoors.

Theatres and restaurants can also open at 25 per cent capacity or 25 people, whichever is less.

Meanwhile in Kinngait and Rankin Inlet, outdoor gatherings are limited to 100 people and those indoors are restricted to a household plus 15 people. Restaurants and bars are allowed to open for regular business at 50 per cent capacity, and there must be a two metre distance between tables, with no more than six people seated or around each table.

Northwest Territories:

Up to 25 people are allowed in a business that is following an approved COVID-19 plan. Households can have up to 10 people with a maximum of five guests from another household.

Non-essential travel outside the territory is not recommended, and leisure travel into the territory is not permitted.

The territory is no longer requiring masks to be worn in public places in Yellowknife and three other communities.

Chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola says it’s still a good idea to wear a mask indoors when there is a crowd, poor ventilation, or shouting or singing.

Yukon:

Yukon has expanded the rules for gatherings, allowing up to 200 people to get together, as long as masks are worn indoors and other health protocols are followed. 

Fully vaccinated people can have personal gatherings of up to 20 people indoors and 50 outdoors, but the unvaccinated are encouraged to stick with their “safe six” because they are at significantly higher risk. 

Bars and restaurants are allowed to operate at full capacity with restrictions.  

The government says starting Aug. 4, people returning to the territory will not be required to self-isolate and masks in indoor public places will not be required.

Bars and restaurants will also be allowed to return to full capacity without the need for physical distancing.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 24, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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Goodbye Pfizer, hello Comirnaty: top COVID-19 vaccines renamed in Canada – KitchenerToday.com

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It’s pronounced koh-MIHR’-nuh-tee. Never heard of it? Well, get used to it. It’s what Canada will be calling the Pfizer vaccine from now on, at least officially.

Health Canada has approved new monikers for Pfizer, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines and announced the change on social media today.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has now been dubbed Comirnaty, which the company says represents a combination of the terms COVID-19, mRNA, community, and immunity.

The Moderna vaccine will go by SpikeVax and the AstraZeneca vaccine will be named Vaxzevria.

Pfizer and Moderna say the change marks the full approval of the vaccines by Health Canada, which were previously approved under an interim order that was set to expire today.

During the interim order, the vaccines didn’t go by their brand names, but now that new and more long-term data has been submitted and approved they will go by their permanent name.

“Health Canada’s approval of COMIRNATY for individuals ages 12 and older affirms the vaccine’s safety and efficacy shown in longer term data submitted to Health Canada — and hopefully that licensure may improve vaccine confidence among Canadians,” Pfizer spokesperson Christina Antoniou wrote in a statement.

It’s the first time SpikeVax, until now known as the Moderna vaccine, has been fully approved anywhere in the world, Stéphane Bancel, the company’s CEO, said in a press release Thursday.

Health Canada points out the vaccines themselves are not changing — only the names are.

Although the name change has been approved, Canada will still receive vials labelled Pfizier-BioNTech for the next several months.

The FDA approved new names in the United States earlier this summer, and the vaccines have been going by their brand names in the EU since the spring.

Story by Laura Osman, The Canadian Press

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How concerning is the latest COVID-19 Mu variant in B.C.? – News 1130

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VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A new strain of the COVID-19 virus is now in the province, and it is leading to questions around potential risk.

The B.1.621 — or Mu — variant was first discovered in Colombia in January and has been found in more than 40 people in B.C. since June. The World Health Organization has now classified the strain as a “Variant of Interest.”

The case numbers are minimal compared to the highly transmissive Delta variant, which has exploded across the country, leading to more COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

Related Video:

In B.C. alone, nearly all the new cases of COVID-19 are linked to the Delta variant.

Still, there was a time when the impact of that strain was not known, prompting many to worry that the new Mu variant could be just as dangerous as Delta.

Sally Otto, a UBC zoology professor and modelling researcher, says right now, that’s not the case and there is no need to panic.

“Mu hasn’t actually been rising in frequency, it’s been kind of hovering under about two per cent frequency, relative to what we saw with Delta, which was once it got established, [there was] really rapid exponential growth,” Otto said.

“That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention to it, we absolutely should keep an eye on it. But it’s not taking off. Right now, Delta is the main player, the main variant that is the most transmissible and the most worrisome in this country,” Otto said.

Dr. Birinder Narang, co-founder of This is Our Shot campaign, agrees. “It is not showing a significant impact in B.C., we need to watch,” he wrote on social media.

The bigger concern than the variant itself, Otto says, is how slow Canada is at sharing data from mapping virus sequences to discover variants of interest present in the population.

A new report found Canada among the worst for sharing data on genome sequencing.

Canada takes three months to present collected data to the global database, compared to the United Kingdom which is able to do it in just two weeks.

Related Article:

The data is then studied by public health officials, scientists, and other experts around the world to examine what variants are present, and how fast they are spreading.

“There could absolutely be more variants. Now to be honest, Canada doesn’t have as much cases as there are globally so the chances are the variant of concern is going to arise somewhere else. But if a variant of concern arises in Canada, we can’t tell.”

She says the delay in information impacts making real-time decisions on public policy surrounding the virus.

“We can’t tell within Canada if there are subtypes of the Delta that are spreading faster than others, and that’s something we need to know,” she said about the mutations and which ones to pay attention to.

Otto says the disconnect of information sharing is even happening in Canada between provinces and territories.

“Here in British Columbia we are sequencing almost every single case of COVID to try and identify what exactly the genetic changes are inside the genome of the virus. But unfortunately that is not then being shared globally, and it’s not even being shared across Canada. And that means that scientists like me who aren’t inside the public health office, we can’t use our skills to look for the changes that are happening in these genomes,” she said, adding the last time B.C. updated their data was two months ago.

Despite fears, the BC Centre of Disease Control says the current vaccines protect against all variants of concern, including Delta, and because variants spread more easily, it is even more important for the majority of the population to be vaccinated.

“This helps protect people who cannot get vaccinated, including children under 12,” the BCCDC explained.

With files from Nikitha Martin

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Latest: Some French health care workers suspended, no shot – North Shore News

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WASHINGTON — The Occupational Safety and Health Administration doesn’t often make many headlines. Now the Labor Department agency has been tossed into the national debate over federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates.

President Joe Biden directed OSHA to write a rule forcing employers with at least 100 workers to require staff get vaccinated or produce weekly test results showing they are virus-free.

When Congress created OSHA 50 years ago to police workplace safety, 38 workers were dying on the job every day. Now that figure is closer to 15 — even though the American workforce has more than doubled. OSHA writes rules designed to protect workers from dangers such as toxic chemicals, rickety scaffolding and cave-ins at construction sites.

“The hazard in this case is the infectious worker,” says epidemiologist David Michaels, OSHA director in the Obama administration. “This rule will tell employers: You have to take steps to make sure potentially infectious workers don’t come into the workplace.”

The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 650,000 Americans.

The rule will take effect in 29 states where OSHA has jurisdiction, according to a primer by the law firm Fisher Phillips. Other states such as California and North Carolina, with their own federally approved workplace safety agencies, will have up to 30 days to adopt equivalent measures.

“Most employers in my view should greet this with relief,” says Celine McNicholas, former special counsel at the National Labor Relations Board. “This gives them a roadmap of exactly what they need to do.”

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MORE ON THE PANDEMIC:

— Small agency, big job: Biden tasks OSHA with vaccine mandate

— EXPLAINER: What are current COVID-19 guidelines for schools?

— World leaders must be vaccinated to speak at U.N. General Assembly meeting

— Long weekend holiday turns into 9-week lockdown for AP Vietnam reporter

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— See AP coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

ROME — Italian workers in both the public and private sectors must provide a health pass to access the workplace starting on Oct. 15.

That’s under a decree passed Thursday by Premier Mario Draghi’s broad-based coalition government. The Green Pass measures require proof of vaccination, a negative result on a recent rapid test or recovered from COVID-19 in the last six months.

Unions and right-wing parties are urging employers to provide free coronavirus tests to workers. Slovenia and Greece adopted similar measures this week.

Italy’s measures underscore the government’s determination that the nation won’t face another lockdown even as the numbers of new cases increase, mostly among the non-vaccinated.

The Green Pass requirement covers 14 million private sector workers and 3.4 million in state-supported jobs. Until now, only medical personnel needed to be vaccinated, while the Green Pass mandate was in place only for school employees.

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LONDON — The Scottish government has asked for military help to relieve long waits for ambulances and treatment.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense says it received a request and “we are working hard to identify where we can most effectively assist.”

Pressure on Scottish authorities grew after a 65-year-old Glasgow man died while waiting 40 hours for an ambulance. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon apologized “unreservedly to anyone that has suffered or is suffering unacceptably long waits.”

She says challenges to the emergency services were “mirrored in health services across the U.K. and indeed many parts of the world because of the realities of COVID.”

The military has been called in several times during the pandemic to bolster civilian health authorities. Scotland registered the highest per capital coronavirus rates in the U.K. in recent weeks, though the number of cases has started to level off.

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BEIJING — Chinese health officials say more than 1 billion people have been fully vaccinated in the world’s most populous country.

That represents 72% of its 1.4 billion people. A National Health Commission spokesperson says 2.16 billion doses have been administered and 1.01 billion people have been fully vaccinated.

The announcement comes as China faces a new outbreak of the delta variant in the southeastern province of Fujian, where 200 cases have been confirmed in the past six days.

Authorities have locked down affected neighborhoods, closed schools and entertainment venues and restricted travel out of Fujian in an effort to keep the virus from spreading.

China has largely stopped the spread by imposing restrictions and mass testing whenever new cases are found. It also limits entry to the country and requires people who arrive to quarantine in a hotel for at least two weeks.

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NEW YORK — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says he reached out to U.N. Secretary General António Guterres two weeks ago, letting him know the city’s vaccination requirements will apply to world leaders at next week’s General Assembly meeting.

The mayor says he understands the U.N. has its own rules and jurisdiction but it was important to have “continuity” of the city’s vaccination rules to protect the progress made against the coronavirus. He says Guterres has been cooperative and understanding.

De Blaiso also responded to objections from Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia about the requirement, saying, “If the Russian ambassador is against it, I’m for it.”

“I have no words for Vladimir Putin and everything else that’s come out of Russia but they’ve invalidated themselves in so many ways, including trying to disrupt our elections,” he said during a news conference.

Among Nebenzia’s objections is the city rule that only World Health Organization-approved vaccines will be accepted, which doesn’t include Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.

Participants must show proof of vaccination to gain entry. The city will offer free, walk-in vaccinations — Johnson & Johnson’s single shot — and testing outside the U.N. during the meeting. It’s not immediately clear how the vaccination requirement will be enforced, but it will be up to the U.N.

Some 104 heads of state and government and 23 cabinet ministers plan to deliver speeches in person from the Assembly hall. Leaders of other nations will speak by video.

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TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas schools are experiencing a growing number of coronavirus outbreaks, and school-aged children are getting infected more frequently than any age group.

The state Department of Health and Environment’s latest data shows 63 active coronavirus clusters in schools across the state on Wednesday. Those clusters were responsible for 408 cases and one hospitalization.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the number of active clusters is up from 31 with 179 cases last week. Also, 34 of this week’s reported clusters are new.

The state’s data shows 450 new cases per 100,000 children ages 5 to 17 the week of Sept. 5.

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PARIS — About 3,000 French health care workers were suspended for not meeting this week’s deadline to get mandatory coronavirus vaccinations, the health minister said Thursday.

Most of those suspended work in support positions and were not medical staff, Health Minister Olivier Veran told RTL radio. The number suspended was lower than projected ahead of the Wednesday deadline.

A few dozen of France’s 2.7 million health care workers have quit their jobs because of the vaccine mandate, he says.

France ordered all health care workers to get vaccinated or be suspended without pay. Most French people support the measure. However, it prompted weeks of protests by a vocal minority against the vaccine mandate.

___

BOISE, Idaho — Idaho’s public health leaders have expanded health care rationing statewide amid a massive increase in the number of coronavirus patients requiring hospitalization.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare made the announcement Thursday. St. Luke’s Health System, Idaho’s largest hospital network, asked state health leaders to allow “crisis standards of care” on Wednesday because the increase in COVID-19 patients who are unvaccinated has exhausted the state’s medical resources.

Crisis standards of care means that scarce resources, such as ICU beds, will be allotted to those patients most likely to survive. Kootenai Health in the city of Coeur d’Alene was the first hospital in the state to officially enter crisis standards of care last week.

Idaho is among the least vaccinated U.S. states, with only about 40% of its residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Only Wyoming and West Virginia have lower vaccination rates.

More than 1,300 new coronavirus cases were reported to the state on Wednesday, according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. The mostly rural state ranks 12th in the U.S. for cases per capita.

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MADRID — Spanish health authorities have approved an additional dose of a COVID-19 vaccine for residents of nursing homes and increased the availability for people with suppressed immune systems.

The new policy includes cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Spain had only previously authorized an additional dose for people with organ transplants and certain groups with suppressed immune systems.

Spain has fully vaccinated 75% of its population, with rates at 98% among those 70 years and up.

Of the 85,000 Spaniards who have lost their lives to the coronavirus, more than 20,500 were residing in nursing homes. An additional 10,500 deaths in nursing homes are suspected from COVID-19 due to symptoms, but people weren’t tested in time to confirm the cause.

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LONDON — Britain is giving coronavirus booster shots to people over age 50 and those 16 to 49 with underlying medical conditions.

The National Health Service says the first shots were administered Thursday to health care workers.

That means more than 30 million people are due to be given a booster at least six months after their second dose of vaccine. More than 81% of British adults have received two doses.

The decision to offer booster shots is not recommended by the World Health Organization, which has asked wealthy nations to delay giving them until every country has vaccinated at least 40% of their people. So far, only a few wealthy countries have recommended the use of boosters.

___

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe officials have told all government employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or they won’t be allowed to come to work.

It wasn’t clear what would happen to those who refused to be vaccinated. State-owned newspaper The Herald reported the government would adopt a policy where unvaccinated workers wouldn’t be paid.

The government is Zimbabwe’s biggest employer and has about 500,000 workers.

Zimbabwe is one of the leading African countries in terms of vaccinations. More than 12% of the southern African nation’s 15 million people are fully vaccinated. That compares to just 3.6% of people across the continent, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Zimbabwe has received more than 11 million doses, mainly the Chinese Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines. The southern African nation announced last month it was opening COVID-19 vaccinations to children ages 14 to 17.

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MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin says dozens of his staff have been infected with the coronavirus and he’ll continue his self-isolation because of the outbreak.

The Kremlin announced this week he was self-isolating after someone in his inner circle was infected. Putin tested negative for the coronavirus. He was previously fully vaccinated with Russia’s Sputnik V.

Putin said Thursday the infections were extensive and “now we have to observe the self-isolation regime for several days.” He was speaking by video link to a summit of the Russia-led Collective Treaty Security Organization.

Russia was the first country to roll out a coronavirus vaccine, but less than 30% of the country is fully vaccinated. The national coronavirus task force says there’s been about 7.2 million cases in the country of 145 million and 195,835 confirmed deaths.

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BRUSSELS — The European Union says it will fund its new heath preparedness and rapid response agency to the tune of 30 billion euros ($35 billion) over the next six years.

The Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority was officially launched Thursday. The aim of HERA is to make sure the EU will be ready when the next crisis strikes.

The 27-nation bloc lagged the U.S. and Britain in vaccination rates because of distribution issues before regrouping and meeting its goal of having 70% of EU adults vaccinated this summer.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who first announced plans for such a medical response agency last year, said this week that the overall total until 2027 could reach 50 billion euros ($59 billion) by 2027.

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LONDON — The World Health Organization’s Africa director says COVID-19 cases across the continent dropped 30% last week, but says it’s hardly reassuring given the dire shortage of vaccines.

WHO’s Dr. Matshidiso Moeti says only 3.6% of Africa’s population have been fully immunized, noting export bans and the hoarding of vaccines by rich countries has resulted in “a chokehold” on vaccine supplies to Africa. “As long as wealthy countries lock COVAX and the African Union out of the market, Africa will miss its vaccination goals,” Moeti said, referring to the U.N.-backed effort to share vaccines with other countries.

She says even if all planned vaccine shipments by COVAX and others arrive on the continent by the end of the year, Africa will still be at least 500 million doses short of African leaders’ initial target of vaccinating 60% of the population by the end of the year.

Dr Ayoade Olatunbosun-Alakija, Chair of the African Vaccine Delivery Alliance, says some countries donated vaccines that were set to expire within about six weeks, making it difficult for African countries to immunize people before the doses expired.

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The Associated Press





















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