German lawmakers approved new measures Thursday to rein in record coronavirus infections after the head of Germany’s disease control agency warned the country could face a “really terrible Christmas.”
The measures passed in the Bundestag with votes from the centre-left Social Democrats, the environmentalist Greens and the pro-business Free Democrats. The three parties are currently negotiating to form a new government.
The legislation includes requirements for employees to prove they are vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or have tested negative for the virus in order to access communal workplaces. They still need to be approved by Germany’s upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat.
Outgoing chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right Christian Democrats had wanted to extend existing rules that served as the basis for numerous national and state-wide restrictions. Due to expire this month, the rules were criticized for marginalizing parliament despite its central role in the German political system.
Potential for a ‘terrible Christmas’
Germany’s disease control agency, the Robert Koch Institute, reported 65,371 new daily cases, shattering the previous 24-hour record and continuing an upward trend that experts have warned about for weeks.
“We are currently heading toward a serious emergency,” institute director Lothar Wieler said during an online debate late Wednesday. “We are going to have a really terrible Christmas if we don’t take countermeasures now.”
Wieler said Germany needs to increase its COVID-19 vaccination rate, which now stands at 67.7 per cent, to significantly above 75 per cent.
The eastern state of Saxony, which at 57.6 per cent has the country’s lowest immunization rate, is poised to impose a limited lockdown in response to soaring case numbers.
Gov. Michael Kretschmer said the state government would decide on a “hard and clear wave-breaker” Friday lasting two to three weeks.
Official figures show Saxony had more than 761 newly confirmed cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the past week, the highest infection rate in Germany.
Germany’s independent vaccine advisory panel said Thursday that it recommends booster shots for all people over 18. But it said people who are over 70, at risk for other reasons or who haven’t received any vaccine yet should be prioritized.
Wieler warned that hospitals across Germany are struggling to find beds for COVID-19 patients and those with other illnesses.
Germany is far from the only country in Europe dealing with increasing caseloads and worry over health systems.
Officials in Slovakia, for instance, announced they will impose stricter measures for people who have not been vaccinated against coronavirus amid a surge in infections and hospital admissions that is stretching the health system, on Thursday.
“It is a lockdown for the unvaccinated,” Prime Minister Eduard Heger told a news conference.
The Czech government also approved new coronavirus restrictions that specifically target unvaccinated people amid a record surge of infections.
Health Minister Adam Vojtech said that most unvaccinated people will no longer be allowed to show negative coronavirus test results in order to attend public events, go to bars and restaurants, visit hairdressers, museums and use hotels.
Only people who are vaccinated and those who have recovered from COVID-19 will remain eligible. There are exceptions for teenagers aged 12 to 18, people whose medical condition doesn’t allow vaccination and people who have received one shot of a vaccine.
Vojtech said the goal of the measures that will come into force on Monday is to motivate people to get vaccinated.
-From The Associated Press, last updated at 9:30 a.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
What’s happening around the world
As of early Thursday morning, more than 255.1 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 5.1 million.
In Europe, coronavirus deaths in Russia have hit record highs for the second straight day. Russia’s state coronavirus task force reported Thursday that 1,251 people died of COVID-19 since the day before. The previous record of 1,247 deaths was recorded Wednesday.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Japan’s new stimulus package will include record spending of about $488 billion US due to huge payouts to cushion COVID-19’s economic blow, the Nikkei newspaper reported.
South Korea reported its biggest daily jump in coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic as hundreds of thousands of masked students flocked to schools on Thursday for the country’s highly competitive college entrance exam amid growing concerns about the delta-driven spread.
About 509,000 students were taking the one-day exam at 1,395 sites across the nation, including hospitals and shelters.
The annual exam is crucial in the education-obsessed country, where careers, social standings and even marriage prospects greatly depend on which university a person attends.
Students were required to have their temperatures taken before entering classrooms, and those with fevers were sent to separate testing areas. The Education Ministry said that 68 infected students and 105 others in self-quarantine took the hours-long test in isolation.
In the Americas, the U.S. government will pay drugmaker Pfizer $5.29 billion for 10 million courses of its potential COVID-19 treatment if regulators approve it. Pfizer asked U.S. regulators on Tuesday to authorize the experimental pill, which has been shown to significantly cut the rate of hospitalizations and deaths among people with coronavirus infections.
The pharmaceutical giant reported earlier this month that its pill cut hospitalizations and deaths by 89 per cent among high-risk adults who had early symptoms of COVID-19. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is already reviewing a competing pill from Merck and will hold a public meeting on it later this month.
Brazil registered 11,977 new coronavirus cases and 373 COVID-19 deaths in the last 24 hours, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday.
In Africa, Nigeria’s economy grew just over four per cent in the third quarter, the statistics office said, lifted by higher oil prices, as the country targets mass vaccination from this month.
In the Middle East, Iran on Wednesday reported 6,251 new cases of COVID-19 and 125 additional deaths.
-From Reuters, The Associated Press and CBC News, last updated at 7:50 a.m. ET
Designer Virgil Abloh remembered at Fashion Awards
Designers and celebrities paid tribute to Virgil Abloh at the Fashion Awards in London on Monday, where the late Louis Vuitton and Off-White creative force was honoured as a leader of change within the industry.
Abloh, the American-born son of Ghanaian immigrants, who became fashion’s highest-profile Black designer, died on Sunday https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/louis-vuitton-designer-virgil-abloh-dies-2021-11-28 following a two-year battle with a rare form of cancer.
The 41-year-old, who also worked as a DJ and visual artist, had been menswear artistic director at luxury label Louis Vuitton since March 2018.
“Genius, disruptor … (he) will be missed tremendously by all,” veteran designer Tommy Hilfiger said on the red carpet. “He inspired designers as well as the public.”
Designer and television personality Tan France called Abloh “incredible and a visionary … (who) has done the most beautiful work.”
Abloh, who founded label Off-White, was known for mixing streetwear with high-end suits and gowns while at Vuitton. His influences included graffiti art and hip hop.
“Everyone here is going to be talking about Virgil, everyone here has been impacted by his brilliance,” actor Gabrielle Union said.
At the awards, where Abloh’s photo was projected on stage, the designer was among 15 individuals and brands named leaders of change for their actions in the past year helping the environment, people and creativity.
Others on the list included Balenciaga designer Demna Gvasalia, Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele, and Kim Jones, artistic director for Fendi womenswear and couture as well as menswear designer at Dior. Jones was also named designer of the year at the awards.
Michele also won the trailblazer award, while Hilfiger received the outstanding achievement award.
“I’m absolutely grateful, appreciative, humbled by it, but happy to be here and happy to still keep the business rolling,” Hilfiger, 70, said.
Demi Moore, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Dua Lipa were among the celebrity guests attending the event, a fundraiser for British Fashion Council charities.
(Reporting by Hanna Rantala and Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Karishma Singh)
Bank of Canada to work with Indigenous groups on reconciliation
The Bank of Canada will work with Indigenous groups to understand the wounds caused by decades of discrimination and determine how reconciliation can create a more inclusive and prosperous economy for all, Governor Tiff Macklem said on Monday.
Macklem, opening a symposium on Indigenous economies, said Canadians could work to correct some of the consequences of those “ugly periods.”
Ottawa forcibly removed thousands of Indigenous children from their communities and put them in residential schools in an effort to strip them of their language and culture, a practice that continues to scar families and individuals.
“The Bank of Canada will be working with a broad spectrum of Indigenous groups to set out what reconciliation means for what we do,” Macklem said.
“Together, we’ll define what reconciliation means for the work of the Bank of Canada — toward a more inclusive and prosperous economy for everyone,” he said.
Canada‘s Truth and Reconciliation Commission called the residential school system “cultural genocide” in 2015, as it set out 94 “calls to action” to try to restore Canada‘s relationship with its Indigenous people, including economic reconciliation.
“We can’t go back and change what’s happened. But we can try to correct some of the consequences,” said Macklem, adding that it is the central bank’s job to create conditions for opportunity for all Canadians.
“Taking concrete steps toward economic reconciliation is our responsibility too. And it’s incumbent upon us to take the time to do this well,” said Macklem.
(Reporting by Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Editing by Dan Grebler)
Canada’s Trans Mountain still ‘days away’ from restarting pipeline
Canada‘s Trans Mountain said on Monday it was “still days away” from restarting the key oil pipeline at a reduced capacity as heavy rains continue to impede restoration efforts.
The pipeline, owned by the Canadian government, ships 300,000 barrels a day of crude and refined products from Alberta to the Pacific Coast. It was temporarily shut down as heavy rains and flooding caused widespread disruption in parts of British Columbia.
The operator said assessments of the impacts from the latest storm are being undertaken with a focus on the Coldwater and Coquihalla regions.
Work was interrupted at some sites on Sunday due to high water accumulation or lack of access, the company added.
The company on Friday had said it was working toward restarting the oil pipeline at a reduced capacity this week.
(Reporting by Rithika Krishna in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel and Krishna Chandra Eluri)
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