Canada Extends Shelf Life Of AstraZeneca Jab By One Month

Files: Miguel MEDINA / AFP

 

Canadian health authorities announced Saturday they were pushing back the expiration date on nearly 50,000 doses of AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine by one month.

Health Canada said in a statement its approval to extend the shelf life of two lots of vaccine from May 31 to July 1 was supported by “scientific evidence.”

“This change will ensure that provinces and territories are able to use up their existing inventory and provide Canadians access to much needed doses of the vaccine,” the agency said.

A spokesperson for Health Canada said that as of May 22, there were about 49,000 doses of AstraZeneca in the country with an expiration date of May 31. CBC reported that most were in Ontario province.

Canadian health authorities had previously approved a six-month shelf life for AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine.

READ ALSO: France Threatens To Pull Troops Out Of Mali

But they said they received information from the company on May 27 including “product stability and mathematical modelling data” that showed the two lots could be safely and effectively used for an extra month.

Several provinces announced this month their decision to suspend use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for people receiving their first shot, due to rare instances of blood clots.

But Canadians who had received a first AstraZeneca dose were able to get their scheduled second dose.

Just over 55 percent of Canada’s 38 million people have received one dose of Covid-19 vaccine, and 5 percent have received two doses.

In addition to AstraZeneca, vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are approved for use in Canada.

AFP

Taiwan Blames China For Latest WHO Meeting Snub

A community park, closed due to social distancing measures following a spike in Covid-19 coronavirus cases, is seen in Taipei’s Wenshan district on May 22, 2021. (Photo by Sam Yeh / AFP)

 

Taiwan hit out at China on Monday over its continued exclusion from a crucial annual gathering of World Health Organization members this week focused on averting the next pandemic catastrophe.

On the first day of the 74th World Health Assembly (WHA), the UN health agency’s 194 member states decided once again not to even discuss whether or not Taiwan should be allowed to participate.

This year’s assembly will arguably be one of the most important in the WHO’s history amid calls to revamp the organisation and the entire global approach to health in the wake of the

But Taiwan — which had one of the world’s best pandemic responses — remains locked out for the fifth consecutive year.

That is because China, which views the self-governed democracy as part of its own territory and has vowed to one day seize it, has waged an increasingly assertive campaign to keep Taipei isolated on the world stage.

Taiwan continued to plead Monday for access to the assembly, with foreign minister Joseph Wu urging the WHO to “maintain a professional and neutral stance, reject China’s political interference” and allow Taiwan’s participation.

But the WHO’s main decision-making body decided against even discussing the matter.

More than a dozen mainly small island states had proposed including discussion of whether or not to invite Taiwan to participate as an observer on the WHA agenda.

But a committee advised against doing so and the countries agreed to follow it without a vote.

– ‘Politicising’ –

Several Taiwan supporters spoke up, with a representative from Nauru warning that “Taiwan’s exclusion contradicts the fundamental principles and objectives” of WHO.

“The political pressure… from one country should not legitimise the continued exclusion of Taiwan.”

Chen Xu, China’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, meanwhile slammed attempts to include Taiwan, and called on countries “to stop politicising health issues and using the Taiwan issue to interfere in China’s internal affairs.”

Beijing’s block on Taipei attending the WHA as an observer began after the 2016 election of Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, who has refused to acknowledge the island is part of “one China”.

But the coronavirus pandemic crystallised support for Taiwan’s 23 million inhabitants, especially in the early days of the crisis when it defeated its own outbreak and then began supplying protection equipment around the world.

Taiwan has been hailed as an example in combating the pandemic although clusters in recent weeks have seen infections more than triple to 4,917 cases.

The island has recorded 29 deaths so far.

Health minister Chen Shih-chung said the recent “escalation” of cases showed Taiwan “cannot remain on the sidelines and there should not be a gap in global disease prevention”.

“The WHO should serve the health and welfare of all humanity and not capitulate to the political interests of a certain member,” Chen said in a statement.

International support for Taiwan has been stronger this year, including a communique issued by G7 foreign ministers that backed Taiwan’s “meaningful participation in WHO and the WHA”.

In a separate announcement on Monday, Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Centre (CECC) blamed “external forces” for a flood of online disinformation during the latest cluster such as hospitals dumping bodies in rivers and mass cremations.

While officials did not name China, they said much of the disinformation going viral was written in the simplified Chinese used on the mainland, not the traditional characters used in Taiwan.

“Spreading disinformation is a very serious matter, it interferes with our country’s anti-pandemic measures and responses while causing unnecessary panic among the public,” CECC deputy chief Chen Tsung-yen said.

AFP

India Records Over 400,000 COVID-19 Cases In 24 Hours

A health worker wearing a personal protective equipment (PPE) suit attends a patient inside a banquet hall temporarily converted into a Covid-19 coronavirus ward in New Delhi on May 1, 2021. (Photo by Prakash SINGH / AFP)

 

 

India recorded on Saturday over 400,000 new COVID-19 cases in 24 hours for the first time, the first country to do so in the pandemic, official data showed.

According to the health ministry, 401,993 new infections were registered taking the total caseload to 19.1 million. There were 3,523 deaths, bringing the toll to 211,853.

 

A Covid-19 coronavirus patient waits to be admitted to a banquet hall temporarily converted into a Covid-19 coronavirus ward in New Delhi on May 1, 2021. (Photo by Prakash SINGH / AFP)

 

Many experts suspect that because of insufficient testing and inaccurate recording of cause of death, the real numbers are much higher.

Indian authorities lowered their guard in the early part of the year after infections fell below 10,000 per day, lifting restrictions on most activity.

 

A health worker wearing a personal protective equipment (PPE) suit attends a patient inside a banquet hall temporarily converted into a Covid-19 coronavirus ward in New Delhi on May 1, 2021. (Photo by Prakash SINGH / AFP)

 

Mass religious gatherings such as the Kumbh Mela, attracting millions of Hindu pilgrims, and political rallies were allowed to continue even when cases numbers began rising sharply in late March.

In April alone, India recorded around seven million new infections. On a per-capita basis however India’s caseload remains low compared to many other countries.

Nigeria Records No New COVID-19 Death, Nine More People Recover

A photo of beds at one of the isolation centres in Lagos. Photo: Twitter

 

No new person has died from complications related to coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said on Sunday.

In a late-night tweet, the NCDC which is responsible for the management of disease outbreaks in the country noted that the nation’s death toll from COVID-19 stood at 2,060.

As Nigeria steps up effort to administer the vaccines to people in various states, the country has continued to see low figures of new cases.

According to the health agency, 57 new cases were recorded in six states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

The highest number of fresh infections was reported in the FCT which had 20, followed by Lagos and Bayelsa where 19 and seven more cases were recorded.

READ ALSO: Two Soldiers, Several Boko Haram Fighters Killed In Borno Town – Army

Similarly, Kaduna confirmed four new cases, and the duo of Rivers and Osun reported three more infections while Jigawa had one.

 

As of 8:30am on Monday, Nigeria has a total of 163,793 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 154,107 discharged, following the recovery of additional nine people.

While the country has tested a total of 1,803,177 samples for COVID-19, 7,626 cases are still active.

As of Tuesday last week, a total of 964,387 eligible people have taken their first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Nigeria.

The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) which is spearheading the exercise noted that the figure was compiled from the system dashboard of the Electronic Management of Immunisation Data (EMID).

 

See the breakdown of COVID-19 figures in Nigeria, according to states below:

States AffectedNo. of Cases (Lab Confirmed)No. of Cases (on admission)No. DischargedNo. of Deaths
Lagos57,96954056,990439
FCT19,72347919,080164
Plateau9,03068,96757
Kaduna8,989328,89265
Rivers6,999436,855101
Oyo6,8382096,506123
Edo4,89394,699185
Ogun4,62114,57149
Kano3,930253,795110
Ondo3,2261,0832,08063
Kwara3,1202512,81455
Delta2,6178021,74471
Osun2,553352,46652
Nasarawa2,3781,99237313
Enugu2,2592571,97329
Katsina2,097142,04934
Gombe2,03441,98644
Ebonyi2,017201,96532
Anambra1,909641,82619
Akwa Ibom1,810901,70614
Abia1,683161,64522
Imo1,655261,59237
Bauchi1,54081,51517
Borno1,337991,20038
Benue1,18857559122
Adamawa1,05174527432
Niger930091317
Taraba9102486422
Bayelsa8782982326
Ekiti8681584211
Sokoto775174628
Jigawa5272648516
Kebbi4504239216
Cross River3851035718
Yobe365493079
Zamfara23452218
Kogi5032

Portugal Reopens Museums, Cafe Terraces And Schools

Technicians work at the esplanade of the Pena Palace in Sintra on March 31, 2021, days before the reopening of museums and monuments following coronavirus restrictions. Hard-hit Portugal has gradually eased a general lockdown launched two months

 

Portugal on Monday reopened museums, cafe terraces, and secondary schools nearly two months after tightening Covid-19 curbs following a wave of cases early this year.

There was an explosion of cases following Christmas and New Year festivities which led to overstretched hospitals and the government imposed a general lockdown in the middle of January and closed schools a week later.

There have been nearly 16,900 coronavirus deaths and 823,335 cases so far, according to an official tally on Sunday.

Primary schools reopened on March 15.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Millions Mark Easter As Pope Urges Jabs For Poor

Monday’s easing comes with some guidelines. Only four people will be able to sit together at a table in cafe terraces while museums can change their opening hours.

Group training sessions at gyms and sports venues remain banned.

“We are expecting very few visitors” due to the paucity of foreign tourists, Antonio Nunes Pereira, director of the Palace of Pena in Sintra, outside Lisbon, told AFP.

“We expect a return to normal next summer… when the vaccination process advances in Europe,” he said.

The museum is one of Portugal’s most visited sites and drew over two million visitors in 2019. Eighty-five percent of them were foreigners.

The government has launched mass Covid tests and started vaccinating teachers.

It plans to start reopening high schools, universities and auditoriums and concert halls later this month and restaurants in May.

The situation is being reviewed every two weeks and the government can tighten restrictions in municipalities with a high number of cases.

Portugal has suspended flights with Brazil and Britain to ward off the new variants that emerged in those countries and tightened controls on the land border with Spain.

AFP

Belgium Tightens Restrictions To Beat Third Virus Wave

File photo used to illustrate the story: Nurses push a patient on a stretcher into the ‘Clinique CHC MontLegia’ building, part of the relocation of the ‘Clinique Saint-Joseph’ hospital in Liege as the country battles against the Covid-19 outbreak. PHOTO: BRUNO FAHY /AFP

 

Belgium announced on Wednesday a renewed partial lockdown of four weeks, with schools closed and non-essential stores open to customers by appointment only.

The decision came as a potential third wave of the coronavirus was gaining momentum in the EU country of 11.5 million, with hospitalisations on the rise.

The pandemic “is a big lesson in humility for politicians, for everyone,” said Prime Minister Alexander De Croo in announcing the measures.

The measures will begin on Saturday and the intention remains to fully reopen the schools and ease the restrictions on April 19.

READ ALSO: Croatia PM Receives AstraZeneca Jab To Dismiss Fears

Businesses with close contact with customers — mainly hairdressers, tattoo parlours, and beauty shops — will be shut at least until that date.

In the new rules, the “outside bubble”, the maximum number of people with which you are allowed to be in public, will be reduced from 10 to four.

The school closure will begin a week ahead of a two-week Easter holiday, with the government trying to limit the impact on parents.

With Belgium already subject to a night curfew, a work-from-home edict and a general travel ban into and out of the country, the blame was put on the spread of the UK variant of the virus, which is more contagious and can have more severe effects.

AFP

Bayern Munich’s Pavard In Quarantine After Positive COVID-19 Test

Bayern Munich’s French defender Benjamin Pavard (2nd-L) celebrates his goal during the FIFA Club World Cup final football match between Germany’s Bayern Munich vs Mexico’s UANL Tigres at the Education City Stadium in the Qatari city of Ar-Rayyan on February 11, 2021. (Photo by Karim JAAFAR / AFP)

 

French defender Benjamin Pavard is in quarantine after becoming the latest Bayern Munich player to test positive for the coronavirus, the Bundesliga club announced Thursday.

“Benjamin Pavard has tested positive for the coronavirus and is in quarantine at home. He is doing fine,” said Bayern in a short statement, confirming media reports from Wednesday evening.

French World Cup winner Pavard, 24, is the fourth Bayern player to have contracted the virus, after Leon Goretzka, Javi Martinez and Thomas Mueller all tested positive in recent weeks.

Mueller’s positive test came on the eve of the Club World Cup Final in Qatar last week, forcing the veteran Germany striker to miss the game and return home separately from his team mates.

The positive test fuelled criticism in Germany of Bayern’s trip to Qatar, and sparked a minor war of words between Bayern coach Hansi Flick and social-democrat politician Karl Lauterbach.

Lauterbach, who is also a professor of epidemiology, accused professional football of “double standards” by holding tournaments in Qatar while normal citizens were in lockdown.

In comments he has since rowed back on, Flick countered that he had heard enough criticism from “so-called experts”.

The politician and the football coach are set to meet for clear-the-air talks on Thursday.

Both Pavard and Mueller will miss Bayern’s top-of-the-table clash away to Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.

South Africa Launches Coronavirus Vaccine Campaign

Specimens of premixed saline solution designed to mimic the a COVID-19 vaccine are seen on the top of a prototype of Cryo-Vacc, an ultra-cold biologic transport unit, in Dunkeld West, Johannesburg, on February 17, 2021. The unit uses a helium-based refrigerating technology, has been created to safely transport COVID-19 vaccines doses (6000 per unit) as well as other vaccines, especially in rural area of the Africa continent as it maintains the temperature inside (8 to -150 C) constant for three days without electricity. LUCA SOLA / AFP

 

 

President Cyril Ramaphosa was among the first to be inoculated Wednesday as South Africa launched its coronavirus vaccine campaign using Johnson & Johnson jabs, after the rollout was delayed.

South Africa earlier this month received a million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca formula but halted administering it over concerns it would not protect against a widespread variant.

A nurse who works in a maternity ward at a hospital in Khayelitsha township in Cape Town was the first to be immunised, hours after the first batch of 80,000 doses landed in the country late Tuesday.

She looked relaxed as she received the jab, which was broadcast on live television.

After five healthcare workers got their jabs, it was Ramaphosa’s turn.

Before taking off his jacket and rolling up his white shirt’s long sleeves for the injection, he asked the nurse who was administering the jab if there would be any side effects.

“This day represents a real milestone for us as South Africans that finally the vaccines are here and they are being administered,” he said as he left the hospital to go to parliament.

He was upbeat that the rollout will be “flawless”.

“This is a new era for us,” he said.

South Africa late Tuesday took delivery of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines at an event that was closed to the press, in contrast to the fanfare two weeks ago when it received the Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs.

The new vaccines, only recently approved by the national health authorities, were distributed to 32 vaccination centres overnight.

The stock is part of a consignment of nine million doses that South Africa secured from the American pharmaceutical giant.

The first doses will target healthcare workers as part of a study by the country’s medical research authority.

Another 420,000 doses will be delivered over the next four weeks.

The country — the worst affected by the virus in Africa — suspended its vaccine rollout after a study found the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab failed to prevent mild and moderate illness caused by a variant found in South Africa.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been proven to be 57 effective against the variant, identified as 501Y.V2.

South Africa has recorded nearly 1.5 million coronavirus infections, including more than 48,000 deaths.

It is emerging from a second wave of infections — fuelled by the new strain of the virus — and has seen the number of daily new cases drop from highs of 20,000 in early January to slightly over 1,000 this week.

Khayelitsha, a sprawling township and home to at least 400,000 people — became a hotspot during the first wave when it was identified as worst hit in the country.

Zanzibar’s Vice President Dies After Suffering COVID-19

In this file photo taken on October 27, 2020 Seif Sharif Hamad, the leader of the opposition, gives a press conference at The Alliance for Change and Transparency (ACT) head office in Stone Town, Zanzibar after being released. Zanzibar’s first vice president Seif Sharif Hamad, who led the island’s opposition for three decades, died on February 17, 2021, the president said, after he had been hospitalised for over three weeks with coronavirus. Patrick Meinhardt / AFP

 

Zanzibar’s first vice president, Seif Sharif Hamad, who led the island’s opposition for three decades, died Wednesday, the president said, after he had been hospitalised for over three weeks with coronavirus.

Tanzania and its semi-autonomous island Zanzibar have played down the threat of the virus, which President John Magufuli claims has been fended off by prayer.

However, Hamad’s ACT-Wazalendo party announced in January that the 77-year-old had been hospitalised with the virus, as part of rising evidence of a surge in cases in the country.

“Hamad died this morning at Muhimbili National Hospital in Dar es Salaam where he was hospitalised,” Zanzibar president Ali Hassan Mwinyi said in a short speech broadcast by state-run ZBC television.

“The nation has really lost a patriotic leader. I also declare seven days of mourning and the national flag will fly at half-mast.”

Magufuli also expressed his condolences in a message on Twitter.

Neither leader mentioned the cause of death.

Hamad was born on the island of Pemba, part of the Zanzibar archipelago.

He was a member of Tanzania’s sole ruling party, the CCM, and served as Chief Minister of Zanzibar until being expelled and imprisoned for two years from 1989 to 1991.

In 1992, when Tanzania adopted a multiparty system, Hamad formed the Civic United Front (CUF) party, the main opposition on Zanzibar.

He would go on to face off against CCM candidates in six elections on the volatile island — once a centre of the Arab slave trade — where sectarian and political tensions have always been more marked than on the mainland.

Hamad’s CUF was long seen as more aligned with the old Arab oligarchy, calling for independence from the mainland, however increasingly was supported by African Zanzibaris fed up with economic woes on the island, the International Crisis Group (ICG) said in a 2019 report.

Hamad alleged that every election was stolen from him, and many foreign observers have agreed. Zanzibar’s elections have often ended in bloodshed.

In 2020, Hamad quit the CUF and ran under the banner of the ACT-Wazalendo opposition party, in an election that saw a brutal crackdown on the islands.

Hamad was arrested twice during the election and his party spokesman Ismail Jussa mercilessly beaten by security forces.

The island teemed with soldiers, police and a militia linked to the ruling party known as “zombies” — clad in black with their faces covered by bandanas — who were feared for rounding up and beating civilians at random.

“We are ready to die for Zanzibar,” Hamad said at his final election rally.

In December, his party decided to join a unity government in a bid to “heal the nation”, and Hamad was named first vice president

Japan To Start COVID-19 Vaccines Despite Syringe Shortage

File photo: A nurse prepares to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Guy’s Hospital in London, on December 8, 2020. Frank Augstein / POOL / AFP

 

Japan will start coronavirus vaccinations next week, its prime minister said Wednesday, but it is scrambling to secure suitable syringes so doses won’t go to waste.

The country has reached deals with three major drug firms to buy enough vaccine doses for its population of 126 million.

But it has not yet announced a detailed roll-out plan for the jabs, less than six months before the pandemic-postponed Olympics begin.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is likely to become the first jab approved for use in Japan in the coming days, following domestic clinical trials required by the country’s health authorities.

“When we have confirmed the vaccine’s efficacy and safety, we will start vaccination by the middle of next week,” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said.

Japan is trying to secure enough special syringes that can extract the full six doses from each vial of Pfizer vaccine.

More commonly used syringes can only draw five doses — meaning the last one needs to be discarded.

The syringe problem could force the country to forgo enough Pfizer vaccine doses for up to 12 million people, local media estimated.

“At first, we will use the syringes that can draw six doses, but as we vaccinate many people, these will become scarce,” Health Minister Norihisa Tamura said on Tuesday.

READ ALSO: Prince Charles Receives First Dose Of COVID-19 Vaccine

“We are working hard to secure the syringes. We are asking medical equipment manufacturers to increase their production,” he told parliament.

Around 10,000 medical workers will be the first people vaccinated in Japan, with officials hoping to expand the rollout to the elderly from April.

Toshio Nakagawa, head of the Japan Medical Association, said that a lack of information about the vaccine campaign is causing confusion among medical workers.

But he said at a Wednesday press conference that medics are committed to the vaccination programme, which he called “the most enormous undertaking, at a scale we have never experienced before”.

The jabs “will let us be on the offensive, rather than just on defence”, he added.

UK Pubs Urge Timeline To Reopen From Lockdown

The front page of the Evening Standard newspaper leads with the story that the government is contemplating making it compulsory that all visitors to the UK will have to quarantine in a hotel, after arriving here, outside Victoria train station in central London on January 25, 2021. (Photo by Hollie Adams / AFP)

 

Britain’s shuttered pubs urgently need the government to decide when they can reopen from coronavirus lockdown to help them survive, the British Beer and Pub Association said on Wednesday.

Pub beer sales slumped by 56 percent or £7.8 billion ($10.8 billion, 8.9 billion euros) last year on the deadly Covid-19 pandemic, which sparked a series of lockdowns, the industry body added in a statement.

“This is not sustainable for our sector. We cannot continue to hold out under these circumstances,” noted BBPA Chairman Philip Whitehead.

“We urge the government to provide clarity to our sector on when it can expect to fully reopen.”

Much of the UK re-entered lockdown in early January to curb a variant Covid-19 strain that was deemed more transmissible, with restrictions similar to initial curbs imposed in the second quarter of 2020 — when pub beer sales collapsed to almost zero.

However, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to outline plans for lifting widespread restrictions in England on February 22, as vaccinations gather pace.

READ ALSO: Prince Charles Receives First Dose Of COVID-19 Vaccine

The BBPA, which represents 20,000 drinking establishments across the UK, also published its own “recovery roadmap” on Tuesday which it said should be implemented after the vulnerable have been vaccinated.

“The roadmap states that post vaccination of the most vulnerable, pubs must reopen when non-essential retail and other parts of the hospitality sector reopen,” it said.

“It also says that mandatory trading restrictions — such as alcoholic drinks served only with a substantial meal, no mixed households and the 10 pm (2200 GMT) curfew — must be removed when pubs reopen in a timely way.”

Sales had collapsed in 2020 from the previous year, despite a third-quarter boost from lower taxation and the government’s temporary “Eat Out to Help Out” discount scheme.

“As a sector we have invested hundreds of millions in ensuring that we provide places for people to safely socialise in,” added Whitehead.

“When pubs reopened in July we did so safely and successfully to world leading standards.

“When pubs can reopen, the restrictions they face… must be removed. They simply destroy the ability to operate as viable businesses.”

German Govt Seeks To Extend Shutdown Until March 14

File Photo by John MACDOUGALL / AFP.

 

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government wants to extend strict pandemic curbs until March 14, according to a draft text seen by AFP on Wednesday, even as Germans grow increasingly weary of the shutdowns.

Coronavirus infection numbers have come down in Europe’s top economy after more than three months of shutdowns, but fears are growing over more contagious virus variants first detected in Britain and South Africa.

The new strains “are spreading especially quickly and require significant additional efforts”, the government said in a draft document that still needs to be approved by leaders of Germany’s 16 states.

Merkel and the state premiers are due to hold crunch talks later on Wednesday to decide the next steps in their pandemic response.

Under Germany’s federal system, regional states have significant decision-making powers and some have strayed from the government line in the past to loosen some restrictions.

The draft text stresses that schools and daycare centres should be “the first to gradually reopen”, but that it is for individual states to decide how and when.

READ ALSO: Prince Charles Receives First Dose Of COVID-19 Vaccine

Hairdressers could reopen on March 1, the document suggests, if they take the necessary hygiene precautions.

It also raises the prospect of museums, galleries and some services restarting once the virus incidence rate falls to 35 new cases per 100,000 residents over a seven-day period.

“We would gain nothing if we left lockdown prematurely,” Merkel told members of her CDU party on Tuesday, according to participants at the meeting.

Germany closed restaurants, hotels, culture and leisure centres in November, followed by schools and non-essential shops in December. The measures were later extended until February 14.

Since then, new Covid-19 cases have dropped considerably and the seven-day incidence rate has fallen below 75 for the first time since November.

But deaths remain troublingly high, and hospitals say they are still close to capacity.

Germany on Wednesday added another 8,072 coronavirus cases, bringing the total to just under 2,300,000 since the start of the pandemic last year.

Almost 63,000 people have died, according to Germany’s Robert Koch Institute for disease control.

Although a majority of Germans still back Merkel’s science-based management of the crisis, weariness is setting in after three long months of restrictions and amid a sluggish vaccine rollout.

A YouGov poll this week showed that just half of Germans wanted current measures to be maintained or tightened.