Members of the public receive a dose of a COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine inside a temporary vaccination center set up a the Emirates Stadium, home to Arsenal football club, in north London on June 25, 2021. (DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)
ADDIS ABABA / LISBON / BRUSSELS / LONDON / WASHINGTON / MEXICO CITY / SANTIAGO / ATHENS / RIO DE JANEIRO / MADRID / JOHANNESBURG / SANTO DOMINGO / BUENOS AIRES / TUNIS / QUITO / HAVANA / BELGRADE / HELSINKI / BERLIN / PRAGUE / MOSCOW / DUBLIN / PARIS / PRAGUE - The UK is finding young people more reluctant to take COVID-19 vaccines than adults, potentially complicating the next stage in the fight against the disease.
Some 14 percent of 16-to-17 year olds were hesitant to get vaccinated in the month to June 20, the Office for National Statistics said Friday. That’s 10 points higher than the rate for adults. It was the first time the ONS looked at the younger population in its monthly research on vaccine hesitancy.
The figures indicate the difficulty the government faces as it weighs when to immunize children, one of the measures health officials say is necessary to fully protect society from the virus. It’s becoming a nightmare for schools, with 5.1% of students absent due to COVID-19 in the last week.
The UK government is considering mandatory testing instead of self-isolation to reduce the impact on education and parents who have to support sick children.
Britain has reported 50,824 new cases of the highly transmissible Delta coronavirus variant in the latest week, Public Health England (PHE) said on Friday.
PHE said the new total cases of Delta had risen to 161,981, a 46 percent increase from last week.
Johnson said Thursday he was confident Britons fully vaccinated against COVID-19 would be able to travel abroad this year.
He said the government would provide more details of its plans "in the course of July, in the course of the next few days".
Business Minister Kwasi Kwarteng said the government was in talks with EU countries to ensure British travelers who have had two vaccine doses do not face restrictions.
Separately on Thursday, PHE said two doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine gives an estimated 94 percent protection against death from the disease in people over 65. PHE said the majority of the data was derived from a period when the Alpha variant, first detected in England, was still dominant and did not provide a specific estimate of protection from death that the vaccine offered against the now more widespread Delta variant.
Slovakia will launch a lottery with weekly prizes of up to 2 million euros (US$2.37 million) for vaccinated people and offer bonuses to those who convince others to get COVID-19 shots to boost interest under a plan approved by parliament on Friday.
Slovakia, a country of 5.5 million, has fully vaccinated 28.7 percent of the population, lagging the EU average of 32.9 percent, according to the Our World in Data website.
Data from the country’s vaccination registration process shows a declining number of people waiting for a first shot as well as a decline in daily vaccinations from a May peak.
The proposal by the biggest ruling party, Ordinary People (OLANO), offers people the opportunity to take part in the lottery once after each shot.
Separately, each Slovak who convinces another to get inoculated will receive between 30 and 90 euros when that person gets fully vaccinated, with the bonus amount rising with the age of the vaccinated person.
The Slovak government will from July 9 require unvaccinated people to quarantine upon arrival from anywhere abroad, with exemptions for people commuting for work and children aged 12 to 18, who have until August 9 to get vaccinated.
The Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus now represents around a third of COVID-19 cases in France, said French Health Minister Olivier Veran on Friday.
Veran’s latest estimate on the highly transmissible Delta variant, first found in India, compared to an earlier estimate he made on June 29, when said it represented around 20 percent of French cases.
“There is a real risk that the epidemic will pick up again this summer in France,” said Veran, as he urged as many French people as possible to get the COVID vaccine jab, while on a visit to a health centre in France.
Coronavirus cases worldwide exceeded 182.76 million while the global death toll topped 3.95 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Two elderly women walk a dog as they look at the sea from an esplanade along La Concha beach in San Sebastian, Spain, on May 9, 2021. (ANDER GILLENEA / AFP)
If you think you have COVID-19, it might be best to stay away from your pets, says the author of a Dutch study that found a surprising number of dogs and cats may be getting infected.
"About one out of five pets will catch the disease from their owners," said Dr Els Broens of Utrecht University in the Netherlands, although there are no known cases of the disease spreading from pets to humans.
"Luckily, the animals do not get very ill from it."
In Broens' study, presented this week in a paper at the European Congress of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, 156 dogs and 154 cats from 196 households were tested in homes where humans were known to have had a coronavirus infection.
About 17 percent of the animals, 31 cats and 23 dogs, had antibodies for COVID-19, suggesting they had been infected.
In addition, six cats and seven dogs, or 4.2 percent of the animals, had an active infection as shown by a PCR test.
Later testing showed those animals recovered quickly and did not pass it on to other pets in the same household, Broens said.
The European Commission said on Friday it is looking at ways to agree a coordinated approach to accepting the Indian version of AstraZeneca's (AZN.L) shot, Covishield, across the European Union but will need some time.
The Commission reiterated that the jab, which has been given to millions of Britons, is not yet approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) or recognised under the EU's new vaccine passport scheme to travel freely within the bloc from July 1.
On Thursday, Europe's drug regulator said the COVID-19 vaccines approved in the European Union (EU) offered protection against all coronavirus variants, including Delta, but called for active monitoring by vaccine manufacturers to stay alert.
"Emerging data from real-world evidence are showing that two doses of vaccines are protective against the Delta variant, and data from the laboratories are showing that the antibodies from the vaccines are able to neutralize the Delta variant too, so this is reassuring news," said Marco Cavaleri, European Medicines Agency's (EMA) head of vaccine strategy, during a press briefing.
The EMA is also studying whether the double dose of the vaccine was enough to protect or whether a booster dose was required, according to Cavaleri.
Currently, the EU has four COVID-19 vaccines authorized: those from Pfizer and BioNTech, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.
Also on Thursday, the EU's Digital COVID Certificate officially came into force, allowing EU citizens and residents to have their pass issued and verified across the bloc. The certificate will facilitate travel, helping to exempt holders from restrictions such as quarantine.
READ MORE: World Bank to boost COVID-19 vaccine funding to US$20b
A night-time curfew will be imposed in several Portuguese municipalities, including the capital Lisbon and the city of Porto, as authorities scramble to bring under control a surge in COVID-19 infections, the government said on Thursday.
The 11 pm to 5 am curfew, which starts on Friday, will be in place in 45 high-risk municipalities, including tourist magnet Albufeira in the sunny southern Algarve region.
Cases in Portugal, which faced its toughest battle against the coronavirus in January, jumped by 2,449 on Thursday, the biggest increase since mid-February. Daily coronavirus deaths, in single digits, remain well below February levels, however.
People living in Lisbon's metropolitan area, where most new cases are concentrated, must still present a negative coronavirus test or a vaccination certificate to leave or enter the region at the weekend.
Across the 45 municipalities where the night-time curfew will be implemented, remote work is compulsory whenever possible, restaurants and cafes must close at 10.30 pm and weddings may go ahead only under capacity rules.
In 19 of the 45 municipalities, including Lisbon and Albufeira where the risk of contagion is "very high," restaurants, cafes and non-food shops must close at 3:30 pm over the weekend.
In total, Portugal, which has fully vaccinated around 31 percent of its population, has recorded 882,006 cases and 17,101 deaths since the pandemic began.
The White House on Thursday said it would send out special teams to hot spots around the United States to combat the highly contagious Delta variant amid rising case counts in parts of the country where vaccination rates remain low.
The “hyper-transmissible” Delta variant is likely to become the dominant one in the US, underscoring the importance of further expanding vaccination, said Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Delta accounts for almost 50 percent of newly recorded infections in parts of the US, she said.
“The Delta variant is predicted to be the second-most prevalent variant in the United States and I expect that in the coming weeks it will eclipse the alpha variant,” Walensky said in a briefing.
About 1,000 US counties have vaccination coverage of less than 30 percent, primarily in the Southeast and Midwest, and rates of the disease are increasing in those locations, she said. Those areas “are our most vulnerable,” Walensky said.
The speedy US vaccination campaign has dramatically reduced COVID-19 cases among residents. The peak seven-day-average of more than 250,000 cases per day in January fell to around 11,000 in mid-June.
But daily cases have since leveled out and in the past week rose about 10 percent to about 12,500, driven by case increases in the Midwest and Southeast where vaccination rates are low and where the Delta variant is spreading.
White House COVID-19 senior adviser Jeffrey Zients told reporters that "surge response" teams would be ready to speed additional testing supplies and therapeutics to communities that were experiencing increases in COVID-19 cases.
Britons who have had two COVID-19 vaccinations should soon be able to travel to Germany without going into quarantine on arrival, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Friday.
“I assume that in the foreseeable future those who have been vaccinated twice will be able to travel again without going into quarantine,” she told a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 649 to 3,729,682, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Friday.
The reported death toll rose by 69 to 91,007 the tally showed.
Germany's STIKO vaccination commission said on Thursday that UK studies show that two vaccines doses seem to provide as much protection against the Delta variant as against other variants.
In addition, it said, subject to further feedback, people who have had a first dose of AstraZeneca's vaccine are recommended to get an mRNA vaccine as a second dose with at least a four-week gap between.
Hungary will no longer require people to wear masks indoors as part of the further relaxation of virus curbs, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said.
The country is on track to exceed on Friday the 5.5 million mark, or about 56 percent of the population, for the number of people who have received at least one COVID-19 dose, triggering the easing of rules, he said in a state radio interview.
Russia reported 679 COVID-19 deaths on Friday, the most confirmed in a single day since the pandemic began, amid a surge in cases that authorities blame on the Delta variant.
The official toll now stands at 136,565.
The government coronavirus taskforce also confirmed 23,218 new infections in the last 24 hours, including 6,893 in Moscow, pushing the national caseload to 5,561,360.
The Russian capital, the epicenter of the outbreak throughout the pandemic, is racing to repurpose hospitals to treat an influx of patients, Anastasiya Rakova, the city's deputy mayor, said.
"(But) we'll do everything possible not to declare a lockdown," Russian news agencies quoted Rakova as saying.
Around 2.6 million people in Moscow have had at least the first component of a vaccine out of a population of more than 12.5 million, Rakova was cited as saying.
Ireland will give 18- to 34-year-olds the option of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine one to two months earlier than scheduled in a bid to slow the spread of the Delta variant and resume a delayed reopening of the economy.
Ireland had planned to resume indoor drinking and eating in bars and restaurants from Monday but announced a slowdown of the easing of restrictions this week due to concerns about the Delta variant, which now accounts for around 70 percent of new cases.
Almost 45 percent of Ireland's 3.7 million adult population have been fully vaccinated and 65 percent have received their first of two doses.
Ireland's lifting of restrictions on giving the AstraZeneca and J&J vaccines to younger people means those aged 18 to 34 can choose to receive one of those shots from Monday, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said.
Donnelly told parliament that Ireland should receive 205,000 to 210,000 J&J shots and at least 100,000 AstraZeneca vaccines that can be given to that age group this month.
A health worker collects a nasal swab from a woman for COVID-19 testing at the Fourways Life Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa, on June 28, 2021. (EMMANUEL CROSET / AFP)
Coronavirus cases in Africa are rising so quickly that the continent will soon face its worst week since the start of the pandemic, with the more infectious Delta variant becoming more widespread.
World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti warned on Thursday that the third wave hitting the continent was "like nothing we've seen before".
Almost 202,000 new cases of the illness were reported in the past week, and infections are doubling every three weeks, Moeti said in an online briefing. More than 5.4 million cases have been reported on the continent, with 141,000 deaths, she said.
The United States will begin shipping the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines it has donated to Africa from this weekend, a special envoy of the African Union said on the same day.
Strive Masiyiwa said at a weekly online briefing of the Africa Centres for Disease Control (Africa CDC) that the donations consisted largely of Pfizer doses and a few Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccines.
African countries have acquired around 65 million COVID-19 vaccines so far, the Africa CDC said.
The continent is lagging behind in vaccinating its population, with just 1 percent fully inoculated, Africa CDC Director John Nkengasong said during the same meeting.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa reached 5,551,886 as of Friday noon, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said.
The Africa CDC, the specialized healthcare agency of the 55-member African Union, said the death toll from the pandemic stands at 143,779 while 4,841,460 patients across the continent have recovered from the disease.
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The coronavirus has killed six fully vaccinated people in the Seychelles, which is suffering heightened COVID-19 infections despite inoculating a greater proportion of its people than any other nation.
Of those, five had taken Covishield, a version of the AstraZeneca Plc vaccine made in India, and one had been given Sinopharm, Jude Gedeon, the island nation’s public health commissioner said at a press conference on Thursday. Covishield has mainly been reserved for people over 60 in the Seychelles.
The rise in infections, which surged at the beginning of May and has remained at elevated levels ever since, is likely due to the arrival of the highly-transmissible delta variant, which was first identified in India, Gedeon said.
“It looks like delta came in Seychelles in May which explain the surge at the beginning of May,” Gedeon said. “We presume that the majority of cases we got in May was from that variant.”
Authorities at the Sierra Leone's National COVID-19 Emergency Response Center (NaCOVERC) revealed Thursday that the country is currently battling with a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.
NaCOVERC Spokesman Solomon Jamiru said 1,428 positive cases were registered in June, and about 26 percent of the infections across the country were recorded within a month.
Sierra Leone has reported 5,575 confirmed COVID-19 cases since it recorded its first COVID-19 case in March last year.
The country has so far recorded 100 COVID-19-related deaths, of whic, 21 were registered in June alone, the spokesman added.
ALSO READ: Germany catches up with US in vaccination drive
Brazil registered 2,029 more deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 520,095, the health ministry said Thursday.
A total of 65,163 new infections were detected, raising the total caseload to 18,622,304, the ministry said.
More than 99.8 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered nationwide, and over 26.1 million people have received two jabs, it added.
Chile will lift lockdowns in 17 communes across the country starting next Monday, Undersecretary of Healthcare Networks Alberto Dougnac announced Thursday.
During a press conference, the official said that the communes will advance to phase 2, where quarantines will only apply on weekends.
Of the 17, seven belong to the Santiago Metropolitan Region, including Maipu, the second most populated commune in Chile.
Dougnac reported that in the last 24 hours, 2,677 new COVID-19 infections were registered, bringing the tally to 1,558,557.
Another 43 newly reported deaths took the death toll to 32,588.
Greece will start vaccinating teenagers once it gets the go-ahead from medical experts and will require vaccination certificates or negative tests from everyone heading to its islands from Monday, authorities said.
A small rise in infections last week and concerns over the more contagious Delta variant prompted the government to impose stricter rules to cover the islands.
"June has been an exceptional month. Cases dropped by 75 percent," Vana Papaevangelou, a member of the committee of infectious disease experts advising the government, said at a briefing. But the drop had halted lately, probably due to the Delta variant or a loosening of health rules.
Deputy Civil Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias said curbs to contain any surges of the pandemic would be localized.
Greece has reported 423,185 cases and 12,710 related deaths so far. About 44 percent of Greeks aged over 18 have been vaccinated.
Mexico's health ministry on Thursday reported 6,081 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country and 201 more fatalities, bringing its total to 2,525,350 infections and 233,248 deaths.
Spain reported 12,345 new coronavirus infections and eight deaths on Thursday, with health ministry data showing daily increases this week at their highest levels since mid-April, in part due to the more contagious Delta variant.
The figures took the cumulative total of COVID-19 cases in Spain to 3,821,305 while the death toll reached 80,883.
The infection rate measured over the past 14 days rose to 134 cases per 100,000 people from 117 on Wednesday, accelerating a rise that began in mid-June after the rate hit its lowest level since August, of about 90 cases per 100,000.
A record 747,589 people were vaccinated on Thursday, leaving nearly 38 percent of the population fully inoculated.
The South African Medical Association threatened on Thursday to take the government to court because scores of new junior doctors cannot find placements despite staff shortages during the COVID-19 pandemic.
SAMA said it was "scandalous" that, during a third wave of infections, 228 medical interns who graduated in March and April were waiting for the government to place them at public hospitals to complete their training.
South Africa is now registering more than 16,000 new COVID-19 infections a day, largely because of the more infectious Delta variant, and only about 5 percent of the population have received at least one vaccine dose.
Underscoring the strain public hospitals are under, patients in Johannesburg, the main commercial hub at the center of South Africa's latest wave of infections, were on Thursday spilling over into a makeshift COVID-19 ward set up by a Muslim charity.
Dominican health authorities will on Thursday begin distributing a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine in an effort to protect against more contagious new variants of the coronavirus.
The additional dose will be voluntary and will first be made available to medical professions, health officials said. The campaign will then move to older adults and those with health conditions that make them vulnerable to severe COVID-19.
"The potential benefit far outweighs the possible collateral effects of a booster dose," said Health Minister Daniel Rivera in a news conference on Wednesday.
People who received the AstraZeneca vaccine will get the third dose 12 weeks after their second shot. Those who received Sinovac Biotech's vaccine can get a third shot one month after their second dose.
The Dominican Republic has so far reported 3,822 deaths from COVID-19 with a 1.18 percent fatality rate, one of the lowest in the region.
Just under half of the country's 10.5 million people have received at least one vaccine dose, according to government data. The country has distributed COVID-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech and Sinovac.
Argentina on Thursday reported 21,177 new cases of COVID-19 and 469 more deaths in the past 24 hours, taking the tally to 4,491,551 and the toll to 94,772.
According to the health ministry's daily pandemic report, the intensive care unit occupancy rate was at 66.3 percent nationwide.
The ministry said it has called on researchers from the provinces of Buenos Aires, San Luis and Cordoba, and from the capital city Buenos Aires, to begin a study on the efficacy, immunogenicity and safety of combined use of different COVID-19 vaccines.
Argentina has administered 21,195,091 doses of vaccines since December.
This March 6, 2021 file photo shows vials of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine at a pharmacy in Denver, the United States. (DAVID SALUBOWSKI / AP)
Johnson & Johnson said late Thursday that its single-shot COVID-19 vaccine showed strong promise against the Delta variant and other emerging strains and also provided durable protection against the infection more broadly.
Data showed that the durability of immune response for recipients of its vaccine lasted at least eight months, the healthcare company said, adding that its vaccine was 85 percent effective and could also help prevent hospitalization and death.
"Current data for the eight months studied so far shows that the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine generates a strong neutralizing antibody response that does not wane; rather, we observe an improvement over time," Mathai Mammen, head of research & development at J&J's drugs business, said in the statement.
Recipients of the vaccine produced strong neutralizing antibodies against all variants including the Delta, the US-based company said.
J&J has submitted data as a preprint to the website bioRxiv ahead of peer review.
Tunisia's health ministry on Thursday reported 6,776 new COVID-19 cases, raising the tally in the North African country to 426,879.
The death toll rose by 106 to 15,065 while the total number of recoveries reached 356,321, the ministry said in a statement.
A total of 1,844,651 people have received one dose of a vaccine, while 553,795 haved received both shots, according to the latest figures published by the ministry.
Ecuador reported on Thursday 1,034 new COVID-19 infections and 33 more deaths in the past 24 hours, taking the cumulative tally to 459,538 and the death toll to 15,933 the Ministry of Public Health said.
In its daily report, the ministry also reported another 5,672 deaths considered to be COVID-19 related but not verified.
The province of Pichincha led the nation in new cases with 380 fresh infections, of which 334 of them were posted in the capital Quito.
Public and private employees began a gradual return to in-person work with health protocols in place on Thursday.
Cuba reported on Thursday 2,952 new COVID-19 cases and 18 more deaths, bringing the total figures to 193,945 cases and 1,302 deaths.
In his daily report, Francisco Duran, the director of hygiene and epidemiology of the Public Health Ministry, said that 16,557 cases were in the active stage, the highest number in the last 15 months.
The province of Matanzas reported another 415 infections in the last 24 hours, as it continues to be the epicenter of the pandemic, with an incidence rate of 701.9 per 100,000 inhabitants.
The Delta strain of the coronavirus has been confirmed in Serbia, the health ministry said in a press release on Thursday.
"The Delta variant of the coronavirus was discovered in Serbia in two citizens of our country, who recently returned from abroad," reads the press release.
The ministry said both patients are young and have not been vaccinated.
Serbia confirmed another 81 new cases in the past 24 hours, while no additional deaths were reported.
Nearly 50 percent of the country's adults have been fully immunized, according to official data.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases surged in Finland over the past week, largely due to Euro 2020 football fans returning from St. Petersburg, Russia, said the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (STM) on Thursday.
A total of 947 newly confirmed cases were diagnosed in Finland between June 21 and June 27, which is over 400 cases more than in the previous week, said the STM in a release, adding that the recent surge was largely due to infections found among football fans returning home, according to the ministry.
In the past week, about 50 percent of all new cases were of foreign origin, and over 40 percent of the cases are directly associated with the Euro 2020 matches in St. Petersburg, the ministry noted.
According to the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), as of Thursday afternoon, Finland has confirmed 95,964 COVID-19 cases and 973 deaths. So far, 59 percent of the country's population have already received at least the first vaccine dose.
Czechs will be required to undergo a COVID-19 test when they return from summer holidays abroad if they are not fully vaccinated, Health Minister Adam Vojtech said on Thursday.
The step is the government's first to try to contain the more infectious Delta coronavirus variant which has now hit the Czech Republic.
Under the new measures, people will need to have a test when they return from holidays abroad - with the exception of those who are fully vaccinated or who have recovered from COVID-19 within 180 days - and employers must refuse to allow workers back without a negative test.
The country has administered 8.24 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, and 3.28 million people have been fully vaccinated.
Vojtech also said on Thursday the government had downgraded travel bans to about 18 countries with the highest risks of infection, including Russia and Brazil, to strong recommendations against travel after legal consultations.
A report from Oxford University saying that a longer gap between doses of AstraZeneca vaccines still provides protection is “very reassuring” for supply-strapped countries, World Health Organization chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said on Friday.
Joachim Hombach, head of the WHO’s expert panel, said it was “great news” on spaced dosing for the vaccine, which would add flexibility to dosing schedules.
The Oxford study released this week found that the second dose can be delayed up to 45 weeks and still lead to an enhanced immune response.
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