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Published: 11:31, July 17, 2021 | Updated: 18:29, July 17, 2021
France opens doors to vaccinated travellers, restricts others
By Agencies
Published:11:31, July 17, 2021 Updated:18:29, July 17, 2021 By Agencies

Visitors pose for a picture as they visit the Eiffel Tower in Paris, on July 16, 2021. (BERTRAND GUAY / AFP)

PARIS / BUENOS AIRES / RIO DE JANEIRO / SANTIAGO / ZAGREB / HAVANA / BUDAPEST / ATHENS / ROME / WINDHOEK / DAKAR / LONDON - France will reinforce restrictions on unvaccinated travellers from a series of countries to counter a rebound in COVID-19 infections, while opening its doors to those who have received all their shots, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Saturday.

The move comes as France faces a rapid surge in new coronavirus infections and President Emmanuel Macron tries to convince French citizens to accept vaccinations he says are the only way to stop the virus and put the country back on track.

From Sunday, July 18, non-vaccinated people coming from the United Kingdom, Spain, Portugal, Cyprus, the Netherlands and Greece will need to present a COVID-19 test dating from less than 24 hours before travel to enter France.

Currently tests can date from 48 hours for UK travellers and 72 hours for the other countries listed.

ALSO READ: African countries to receive US-donated virus vaccines 'in days'

Argentina

Argentina registered 17,261 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, raising the national count to 4,737,213, the country's health ministry said.

The ministry said 465 more deaths were reported, bringing the national death toll to 101,158.

Brazil

Brazil registered 1,456 more COVID-19 deaths in the past 24 hours, raising its national death toll to 540,398, the health ministry said Friday.

As many as 45,591 new cases were detected, taking the total caseload to 19,308,109, the ministry said.

Canada

Quebec, the Canadian province that suffered the most deaths from COVID-19, is resorting to cash and scholarships to boost its vaccination rates and weather the rise of variants.

After endorsing the idea of vaccine passports last week, the provincial government is going for a reward approach that has been used in the US and elsewhere. Authorities said Friday they’re launching a lottery for vaccinated residents next month with C$2 million (US$1.6 million) worth of prizes, including C$400,000 in scholarships for kids from 12 to 18. One or two jabs will be required, depending on the draw.

“We’re doing all this to avoid hospitalizations if cases start going up in the fall,” Health Minister Christian Dube said during a news conference.

Authorities are urging people to move up their second-dose appointment as the more contagious delta variant gains prevalence in Canada. They’re specifically targeting adults between 18 and 34, who have been less inclined than other groups to get the vaccine.

In Quebec, 44 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, behind the national average of 48 percent and Ontario’s 51 percent, according to data from CTV News.

The approach is reminiscent of incentives in the US, where vaccine perks have ranged from food and guns to cash. In Canada, Manitoba and Alberta, two provinces that battled a surge of infection in the spring, also adopted a lottery.

Canada reported 389 new cases of COVID-19 on Friday, bringing the cumulative total to 1,422,641, including 26,489 deaths, according to CTV.

People onboard a truck take pictures of vehicles painted as characters of the movie Cars, during winter vacations in Santiago on July 15, 2021, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (JAVIER TORRES / AFP)

Chile

All of Chile's regions showed a decline in COVID-19 cases in the last week, Health Minister Enrique Paris said on Friday.

In a statement, Paris said that in the last seven days, COVID-19 infections decreased by 30 percent.

Among the regions with the greatest decline were Magallanes (47.5 percent), O'Higgins (39 percent), Valparaiso (35 percent) and Los Lagos (34 percent).

The steady drop in the number of cases has been evident since the beginning of June, with less than 2,500 daily infections to date.

Croatia

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic on Friday called on citizens, including those without health insurance, to get vaccinated against COVID-19 free of charge.

"We have 46.8 percent of the total population vaccinated with one dose and 39 percent vaccinated with two doses, but that is still not enough," Plenkovic said at a session of the Croatian government.

Vaccination will also be provided to Croatian citizens who do not live in the country, primarily Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"They can come to Croatia and get vaccinated for free, and others can do the same because we have enough doses of vaccine," said the prime minister.

In the last 24 hours, 131 new cases of infection were recorded in Croatia, and one person died, according to the Croatian Institute of Public Health. There are currently 685 active cases, while 112 people are in hospital and 3,826 in self-isolation.

Cuba

Cuba reported on Friday 6,460 new COVID-19 infections and 65 more deaths in the last 24 hours, to total 269,546 cases and 1,791 deaths.

In his daily report, director of hygiene and epidemiology of the Ministry of Public Health Francisco Duran warned, "Let's not think that the young are not exposed to infection."

Health authorities called for the protection of children and adolescents in view of the growing number of infections in the pediatric age group and warned about the potential dangers for people over 60 years old.

The western province of Matanzas, which remains the epicenter of the pandemic on the island, recorded 1,888 new infections in the last day, followed by Havana with 763 and Ciego de Avila with 620.

Hungary

The Hungarian government is preparing to introduce a third COVID-19 vaccine from Aug. 1, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Friday.

"As a rule of thumb, the third vaccination can be given to any applicant, normally at least four months after the second vaccination," Orban explained in his weekly interview given to state radio MR1.

"However, there can be exceptions, depending on the individual's medical situation," Orban added.

Hungarians who might want to get the third vaccine will get them at the vaccination points where they have gotten the first two shots.

"For the third jab, there will be no vaccination schedule, so age or other preferences will not count in the order, you will just need to ask for a date," Orban said.

Orban also said that doctors will decide what type of vaccine the third vaccine should be.

Professionals should decide whether to recommend a different type of third vaccine than the one the person received on the previous two occasions, or to offer the same vaccine, according to him.

Vaccination will remain voluntary, except among healthcare workers.

Vaccinations for people between the ages of 12 and 15 are done at all educational institutions on Mondays and Tuesdays before the school year, which will start on Sept 1.

Anti-vaccine protesters hold a banner reads 'freedom, no segregation, to blackmail, to terrorism' as they take part in a rally in Thessaloniki on July 14, 2021 two days after the government announced mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for all health workers, including those working in retirement homes. (SAKIS MITROLIDIS / AFP)

Greece

Greek authorities have stepped up controls at the country's ports this week after a new spike in COVID-19 cases linked to the Delta variant was reported on some of the country's popular islands. 

During his visit to the port of Piraeus on Friday, Greek Minister of Maritime Affairs and Insular Policy Ioannis Plakiotakis urged people to get vaccinated and thereby win the war against the pandemic.

"Everything will depend on the course of the vaccination program. We urge people to get vaccinated," the minister told journalists.

Currently, the number of travelers boarding vessels across Greece equals about 60 percent of the flow registered in 2019, he said, stressing that the authorities' top priority is the safety of the visitors and the locals.

Italy

Italy's national COVID-19 reproduction number and incidence rate have both increased again in recent days, the latest monitoring survey published by the Health Ministry and the National Health Institute (ISS) showed on Friday.

The new figures suggest a trend reversal as the preceding weeks had been marked by declines in both indicators.

The COVID-19 incidence rate - the number of people testing positive over the total number of people who underwent a swab test in the period - grew to 19 cases per 100,000 people from 11 a week earlier.

The survey also showed that the number of infections was on the rise in 12 of the country's 20 regions in the past 14 days (ending on July 14).

The overall reproduction number (Rt) was 0.91 in the week of July 7-14 against 0.66 in the previous one.

Namibia

Namibia, whose COVID-19 inoculation programme was halted by a lack of vaccines, received a boost on Friday with the arrival of 250,000 Sinopharm doses bought from China.

Namibia has temporarily suspended delivering shots at major vaccination centres across the country after supplies ran low.

It is classified as an upper-middle-income country and had to pay to participate in the global vaccine distribution scheme COVAX. But it has only received 67,200 doses out of 108,000 allocated by the facility.

It has also received donations of 100,000 Sinopharm doses from China and 30,000 AstraZeneca doses from India.

Senegal

Senegal's President Macky Sall threatened on Friday to close the borders and re-impose a state of emergency after the country registered a new record number of daily COVID-19 cases for the third time in a week.

While Senegal has seen relatively few coronavirus cases and deaths so far, it does not have enough doses to vaccinate widely as it experiences a third wave of the virus.

The health ministry reported 738 new cases on Friday, more than the previous records of 733 on Wednesday and 529 on Sunday.

"I would like to say very clearly that if the numbers continue to rise, I will take all necessary measures including if it means returning to a state of emergency or closing the borders or banning movements," Sall said in a televised address.

There have been 49,008 infections and 1,209 coronavirus-related deaths reported in Senegal since the pandemic began.

READ MORE: Dutch PM apologizes for easing virus curbs too soon as cases soar

UK

The UK government reimposed quarantine rules on travelers returning to England from France because of concern at the number of COVID-19 infections there, drawing immediate anger from tourism bodies and airlines.

From Monday, anyone arriving from across the Channel will have to isolate at home for up to 10 days and complete two coronavirus tests even if they have two vaccinations, the UK Department of Health and Social Care said in a statement Friday.

The new system, dubbed “Amber Plus” to draw a distinction from the government’s Amber list of restricted countries, will apply to all English travelers currently in France. Spain and Italy - both major holiday destinations for Britons - remain on the Amber list.

The move adds a further level of complexity for English families trying to plot their way through the summer after the end of a torrid school year, and comes days before Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to lift most COVID-19 restrictions on Monday. The decision also delivers another setback to a tourism industry that was beginning to look to the future with guarded optimism.

“This decision adds yet more confusion to a travel system already complex enough,” said Tim Alderslade, chief executive officer of Airlines UK. “These random rule changes make it almost impossible for travelers and industry to plan ahead, and can only further undermine consumer trust at the very peak of the summer season."

Britain has recorded more than 50,000 new daily coronavirus cases, the highest number since mid-January, according to official data released Friday.

The country reported another 51,870 coronavirus cases in the latest 24-hour period, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 5,332,371, official figures showed.

The country also recorded another 49 coronavirus-related deaths. The total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain now stands at 128,642. These figures only include the deaths of people who died within 28 days of their first positive test.

A seated man wearing a face mask holds a sign pointing to a mobile vaccination clinic on July 16, 2021, along Crenshaw Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. (FREDERIC J BROWN / AFP)

US


President Joe Biden said Friday that social media networks are “killing people” by allowing the spread of misinformation about coronavirus vaccines.

“Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated,” Biden said after he was asked about his message for tech companies as he departed the White House on Friday. “And they’re killing people.”

Biden’s comments came shortly after the head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the US is seeing a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” in parts of the country where inoculation rates are low. Just four states accounted for 40 percent of COVID-19 cases in the past week, and the seven-day average of new infections is now up 70 percent from the previous week, with 26,300 new infections a day, US officials said.

Only 55 percent of Americans have received one dose of the vaccine, and the pace is falling despite White House efforts to encourage Americans to get the shot.

Earlier this week, administration officials called on social media networks to do more to purge posts carrying incorrect information about the pandemic, or discouraging readers from taking vaccines that can largely eliminate the risk of a deadly outcome from coronavirus.

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said his office had increased disinformation research and tracking within his office, and had proactively flagged problematic posts to Facebook Inc.

That revelation led to criticism from some conservatives, who argued the White House effort amounted to government censorship. Senator Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican, tweeted that the White House was “colluding” with the social media giant, while Senator Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican, suggested the White House was defining misinformation as “stories that make Joe Biden look bad.”

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