EU braces for Astra verdict, UK spat escalates: Virus Update

EU braces for Astra verdict, UK spat escalates: Virus Update

New York governor Andrew Cuomo is vaccinated at a church in the Harlem section of New York City amid the coronavirus disease pandemic, New York, on Wednesday. (Seth Wenig/Pool via Reuters)
New York governor Andrew Cuomo is vaccinated at a church in the Harlem section of New York City amid the coronavirus disease pandemic, New York, on Wednesday. (Seth Wenig/Pool via Reuters)

The European Union is bracing for a decision by its health regulator on whether AstraZeneca Covid-19 shot is safe to use, as the bloc escalates a dispute with the UK over vaccine supplies.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen threatened to withhold vaccine exports to the UK, which said it may have to slow the pace of inoculations because of a shortage of doses.

Walt Disney Co plans to reopen Disneyland on April 30, while in Japan the government recommended lifting Tokyo’s state of emergency next week.

Brazil surpassed 90,000 new cases in one day, while India topped 35,000 for the first time since early January. With immigration curbed by border closures, Australia’s population fell for the first time since World War I.

Bali may reopen in June

Foreign tourists may be able to visit the Indonesian island of Bali again as soon as June under a travel corridor programme to help revive the economy, Tourism Minister Sandiaga Uno said.

The arrangement will be offered to countries that are deemed successful in their vaccination programmes, are able to contain the spread of the coronavirus and could offer reciprocal benefits, Mr Uno said in a statement.

Ubud, Sanur and Nusa Dua are major holiday spots in Bali included in a pilot project to begin receiving foreign travelers in mid-June or July, under strict health protocols, said Mr Uno. As many as 2 million Bali residents will have to be vaccinated before the pilot can start.

German minister wants militart help

German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer wants the armed forces to operate 24-hour vaccination centers to help speed the roll-out of Covid-19 shots.

“We have been preparing to provide more support for vaccinating the population since November 2020 with other members of the Bundeswehr,” Kramp-Karrenbauer told WirtschaftsWoche, adding that the armed forces has the capacity to run 28 such centres.

“If enough vaccine is available in the federal states, we can administer up to 20,000 doses per day throughout Germany,” she said.

Australia population falls

Australia recorded the first quarterly drop in its population since World War I as more people departed the nation than arrived in the three months through September.

International border restrictions to stem the spread of Covid-19 resulted in the population falling by 4,200 overall, with 55,400 people departing Australia and 20,600 arriving from overseas in the three months. Australia shut its international borders last March.

Taiwan mulls travel bubble

Taiwan is studying setting up a “travel bubble” with Singapore, Taipei-based United Daily News reported, citing Health Minister Chen Shih-chung.

Chen said Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center hasn’t received an official proposal from Singapore yet.

Earlier Taiwan said it had agreed an arrangement with the Pacific archipelago nation of Palau, under which group tourists could travel between the two provided they test negative for the virus before departure and haven’t tested positive within three months.

India’s new cases rise

India’s Health Ministry reported 35,871 new cases as the nation’s infection count continues to rise. The total was the highest since the first week of January. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday urged an increase in testing and tracing to curb the rise in infections.

UK, EU escalate dispute over vaccine supplies

The dispute between the UK and European Union over coronavirus vaccines deepened as the government in London said it would have to slow down its inoculation program because of a cut in supplies.

The UK is preparing to prioritise giving second doses to the most-vulnerable people due to the expected four-week reduction in supply from March 29.

The UK’s National Health Service blamed the looming short-term reduction of doses on a drop in “inbound vaccines,” adding to tension with Brussels over shipments. The EU has threatened to block exports to its former member state.

EC President Ursula von der Leyen said EU leaders should consider additional measures to secure vaccine supplies when they meet next week, including the potential use of emergency legal powers that would allow them to effectively seize control of production and distribution.

Japan recommends easing Tokyo curbs

Japan’s government will recommend that the Tokyo area emergency be lifted on March 21, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said at a virus panel meeting on Thursday.

Nishimura, who is in charge of coronavirus response in Japan, said the country will strengthen the monitoring of variants of the virus and is preparing to start inspections in the Tokyo region this week.

The government will continue to call on restaurants and bars to close early and companies to further promote remote working, NHK reported.

Brazil surpasses 90,000 cases in record day

Brazil registered more than 90,000 Covid-19 cases for the first time, a second straight day of record numbers as the country fights against a health system collapse.

The occupancy rate of ICUs at public hospitals is above 80%, a threshold considered critical, in almost all states. In 19 of 27 state capitals, more than 90% of beds are occupied.

US studying oral, nasal vaccine delivery

Anthony S. Fauci told a House panel Wednesday that the National Institutes of Health is funding research to make it easier to administer vaccines that could eliminate the need for shots, allowing children and other patients who are afraid of needles to be inoculated via a nasal spray or an oral version.

Almost half of UK adults have had first dose

Almost half of all adults in the UK have had a coronavirus vaccine, the Department of Health said as the number of first doses administered crossed 25 million.

The government said it is on track to offer a first vaccine to everyone over 50 by April 15 and to all adults by the end of July. Prime Minister Boris Johnson told parliament he would soon have the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot.

Disneyland to reopen April 30

Walt Disney plans to reopen its two California theme parks on April 30, more than a year after it shut them down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, which closed their gates on March 14 last year, are among the last of the company’s properties to welcome back customers. While Disney’s Paris resort is still shuttered, the four theme parks in Florida have been open since July.

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