New COVID-19 Rules Spark France Vaccination Rush And Online Backlash

In this file photo taken on August 26, 2020 French President Emmanuel Macron, wearing a face mask, looks on as he waits for Senegal's President to arrive for their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris. Ludovic Marin / AFP
In this file photo taken on August 26, 2020 French President Emmanuel Macron, wearing a face mask, looks on as he waits for Senegal’s President to arrive for their meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris. Ludovic Marin / AFP

 

A record number of French people booked appointments for Covid-19 jabs after President Emmanuel Macron announced restrictions on the unvaccinated, including mandatory tests to enter restaurants.

The head of the main website to book vaccination appointments said traffic was at an all-time high following Macron’s televised speech on Monday night.

“We recorded 20,000 appointments per minute, an absolute record since the start of the campaign, and it’s continued during the night and into this morning,” Doctolib boss Stanislas Niox-Chateau told BFMTV.

A total of 926,000 people had booked a jab on the site, with 65 percent of them under 35, he added.

Macron announced that from August anyone wanting to go out to eat or drink, take a long-distance train or visit a shopping centre would need to show a “health pass”, which means either proof of vaccination or a negative test.

The pass will also be needed to attend a festival, a theatre show or a cinema screening as part of the government’s strategy to tackle the surging number of new cases linked to the Delta variant.

Free Covid tests will end in September “to encourage vaccination instead of taking many tests”, Macron added in the speech watched by 22 million people.

The head of state also announced mandatory vaccinations for healthcare staff, retirement home workers and others working with vulnerable people from September, in line with similar moves in Greece, Italy and Britain.

– Objections –

The measures sparked fierce criticism by some on social media, with the French word for dictatorship — #Dictature — trending on Twitter amid accusations the government has introduced mandatory vaccination by stealth.

Some objected on the grounds that the health pass infringed on the personal liberty to choose to get vaccinated or not, while anti-vaxxers pushed conspiracy theories about the links between the government and pharmaceutical companies.

A tweet from Macron from December 2020 in which he said “the vaccine will not be obligatory” was also shared.

READ ALSO: Thailand Defends COVID-19 Vaccine ‘Mix-And-Match’ After WHO Warning

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen criticised the government for making vaccinations mandatory for healthcare staff, who will not be paid after September 15 if they are not jabbed.

“We applauded them at 8pm, considered them our daily heroes, always there despite their low salaries and difficult working conditions,” she wrote on Twitter. “Now they’re being made to feel guilty and threatened with not being paid, with indecent brutality.”

Jocelyn Bouyssy, the head of the CGR Cinemas group, told Franceinfo radio that he was “very angry” about the health pass which would be difficult to implement and dissuade people from going out to watch a film.

“We’re like lambs being led to the slaughter,” he said.

Health Minister Olivier Veran insisted that the health pass was “not a punishment, it’s not blackmail”.

“You can carry on working without being vaccinated, taking your children to school without being vaccinated,” he told RMC radio.

He said the choice was between accepting the new measures, which primarily affect the unvaccinated, or heading for a fourth lockdown, which would hit the whole country.

“We want to avoid a lockdown at all costs,” he said.

The number of new cases has been rising sharply in France to more than 4,000 in recent days because of the more infectious Delta variant.

Around 35.5 million people — just over half of France’s population — have received at least one vaccine dose so far, but the rate of injections has slowed in recent weeks.

At the start of the pandemic, France had some of the highest levels of vaccine scepticism in the developed world.

AFP

COVID-19: Death Toll In US Surpasses 600,000 – Johns Hopkins

In this file photo taken on May 21, 2020 Worker move a coffin with the body of a COVID-19 victim out of a refrigerated container.
Ernesto BENAVIDES / AFP

 

The death toll in the US from the Covid-19 pandemic on Tuesday surpassed 600,000 according to figures from Johns Hopkins University, with President Joe Biden mourning the latest “sad milestone” and urging Americans to press on with vaccinations.

The United States has racked up by far the largest death toll of the pandemic, ahead of Brazil and India.

“There’s still too many lives being lost,” Biden said, noting that the daily number of dead has dropped sharply since the peak of the pandemic but that the continuing loss of life was still “a real tragedy.”

“My heart goes out to all those who have lost a loved one,” Biden said, speaking on Monday in Brussels as the tally ticked close to 600,000.

“We have more work to do to beat this virus. And now’s not the time to let our guard down. Please get vaccinated as soon as possible.”

The massive vaccination campaign has been pushed by US health authorities since the authorization of the first vaccines in December, and peaked in April, with up to more than four million shots a day.

But the pace has slowed rapidly since then, and unvaccinated people still remain vulnerable to the disease.

Just over 52 percent of the US population, or 174 million people, have already received at least one dose of one of the three vaccines authorized in the country, according to health officials.

Biden has set a goal of 70 percent of adults to have received at least one shot by the national holiday of July 4, but the program may fall short of that goal.

World Bank Approves $3bn For Vaccines In Africa

A laboratory technician holds a Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines at the Bidafarma wholesale distribution cooperative in Santa Fe, on the outskirts of near Granada, on January 21, 2021. JORGE GUERRERO / AFP
A laboratory technician holds a Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines at the Bidafarma wholesale distribution cooperative in Santa Fe, on the outskirts of near Granada, on January 21, 2021.
JORGE GUERRERO / AFP

 

The World Bank has approved three billion dollars to cover vaccination in 32 countries around the world, which includes 15 nations in Africa.

In a statement made at the G7 leaders’ summit in the United Kingdom, the World Bank’s President, David Malpass, said the multilateral finance institution is partnering with the African Union to deploy vaccines for 400 million Africans.

Malpass mentioned that the World Bank Group has committed over 125 billion dollars since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, to combat the economic, health as well as social impacts of the pandemic, which is the fastest and largest crisis response in its history.

Read Also: Nigeria’s Inflation Rate To Rise To 5th Highest In Sub-Saharan Africa By End Of 2021 – World Bank

He also explained that the funding is helping more than 100 countries strengthen pandemic preparedness, protect the poor and jobs, and jump-start a climate-friendly recovery.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian Government says the unpredictability of vaccine supply as a result of global shortage remains a huge challenge.

The Minister of Health, Doctor Osagie Ehanire, disclosed this last week during the weekly presidential media chat, saying the country is looking to get a donation of the COVID-19 vaccine from the Covax facility and other countries that no longer have a need for their oxford AstraZeneca vaccine.

He hopes that the donation will be gotten in August 2021 at the earliest.

Speaking further the health minister said the local production of the COVID-19 vaccine is not yet feasible owing to the high cost of conducting clinical trials that runs into millions of dollars.

India Suffers Vaccine Shortages As Virus Surges

People walk past a banner announcing the temporary closure of the vaccination centre due to a shortage of vaccine supplies, at Fortis hospital in Mumbai on April 8, 2021, amidst the rising Covid-19 coronavirus cases. PHOTO: AFP

 

Vaccination centres in parts of India turned people away on Thursday and large parts of the country reportedly ran low on doses, just as infections rose at their fastest rate since the pandemic began.

A second wave has hit India with a vengeance in recent weeks, with a record 126,000 new infections in the past 24 hours, more than 10 times rates seen in February. About 1.8 million fresh cases have been reported since March 1.

The government is desperate to avoid a new lockdown but several regions have tightened curbs, with the current epicentre Maharashtra set to enter a weekend shutdown. Tamil Nadu on Thursday was the latest state to announce restrictions.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted after receiving his second shot on Thursday that vaccines are “among the few ways we have to defeat the virus”. He urged others to follow his lead by getting vaccinated.

But the world’s biggest vaccination programme is reportedly experiencing problems having administered 87 million shots so far in a population of 1.3 billion people.

According to the Times of India, 10 states that are collectively home to more than 700 million people have stocks for only three or four more days including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal.

In Maharashtra, which includes megacity Mumbai, the state health minister warned on Wednesday that supplies would run out in three days unless replenished.

“We are having to tell people that since vaccine supplies have not arrived, they should go home,” Rajesh Tope told reporters.

 

– ‘Very worried’ –

Major vaccination centres in Mumbai were running out of doses Thursday, with the huge Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital stopping inoculations altogether.

At a government-run vaccination centre in the Mumbai neighbourhood of Dharavi, India’s largest slum, long queues formed.

Afrin Sultana Khan, in charge of the facility, warned it would only be able to vaccinate another 440 people — its daily average — before shutting shop.

“Obviously we are very worried,” the doctor told AFP.

Retiree Rajesh Kumar, 68, awaiting his second dose at one of Mumbai’s top private hospitals, told AFP his appointment was cancelled at the last minute.

“Any sensible government would have rushed vaccines to Maharashtra by now,” he said.

A city official in IT hub Bangalore told AFP is set to run out of vaccines this weekend with a shipment of one million doses five days late.

Sources in Andhra Pradesh state told AFP has doses for only three more days. Two districts have already run out and vaccination centres were turning people away. No new supplies are expected for a week.

 

– ‘Utterly baseless’ –

However, federal health minister Harsh Vardhan said late Wednesday that many states were trying to “distract attention from their failures and spread panic among the people”.

Allegations of shortages in Maharashtra were “utterly baseless”, he said.

“Vaccine supplies are being monitored on a real-time basis, and state governments are being apprised regularly about it.”

Ajay Ghai, a senior health official in Uttar Pradesh, said “vaccine supplies are happening on a rolling basis and so is the replenishment. There is no shortage at all.”

The head of India’s Serum Institute, the world’s largest vaccine maker by volume, said on Tuesday that production capacity was “very stressed”.

Poorer countries, as well as some rich nations, have relied heavily on Serum for supplies of the AstraZeneca vaccine but last month New Delhi put the brakes on exports to prioritise domestic needs.

“Perhaps shortages and possibility of future shortages are being amplified for political reasons, but it is undeniable that we don’t have as many doses as we would ideally want to,” public health expert Oommen C. Kurian at the Observer Research Foundation told AFP.

“It is not an India problem; it is a world problem.”

AFP

COVID-19: Biden Confident US Will Reach 100m Vaccines Target This Week

File photo: Nurse Eunice Lee prepares to give an injection of the Covid-19 vaccine to a health care worker at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood, California on December 16, 2020. (Photo by Brian van der Brug / POOL / AFP)

 

President Joe Biden said Thursday that his goal of getting 100 million coronavirus vaccine doses administered in his first 100 days in office will be met by Friday, far in advance of the original target.

“I’m proud to announce that tomorrow, 58 days into my administration, we will have met my goal of administering 100 million shots to our fellow Americans,” he said in a White House speech.

When Biden came into office on January 20, the program to stop the coronavirus pandemic through national vaccination was only just getting going.

Biden initially said he wanted 100 million doses administered within 100 days but after easily reaching that target he said he would announce a new benchmark next week.

“Eight weeks ago, only eight percent of seniors — those most vulnerable to Covid-19 — had received a vaccination. Today, 65 percent of people aged 65 or older have received at least one shot,” he said.

“That’s key, because this is the population that represents 80 percent of the well over 500,000 Covid-19 deaths that have occurred in America.”

Despite initial skepticism about the goal of getting out a million vaccines a day, health workers are now injecting between two and three million shots daily.

The accelerating vaccine rollout is dovetailing with falling infection rates, leading to optimism that the world’s biggest economy is headed for a powerful rebound.

However, with Europe in the grip of a new surge in Covid-19 cases and vaccine programs stumbling there, US health officials continue to sound warnings.

File photo: President Joe Biden (L) receives a COVID-19 Vaccination from nurse practitioner Tabe Masa at ChristianaCare Christiana Hospital on December 21, 2020 in Newark, Delaware. Joshua Roberts/Getty Images/AFP

 

“This is a time for optimism but it’s not a time for relaxation,” Biden cautioned.

“Now’s not the time to let down our guard. In the last week, we’ve seen increases in the number of cases in several states. Scientists have made clear that things may get worse as new variants of this virus spread.”

– Vaccines for US neighbors –
Americans need to take their opportunity to get vaccinated when it becomes available, he said, addressing the large sectors of society that are so far resisting.

Former president Donald Trump only this week called directly on his supporters, who form one of the biggest groups of vaccine opponents, to embrace the shots, saying “it’s a great vaccine, it’s a safe vaccine.”

But with vaccine production churning out in the United States, the Biden administration says it is now on the point of being able to send surplus of the AstraZeneca version to neighboring Mexico and Canada.

Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, said that 2.5 million doses were being lined up for Mexico and 1.5 million for Canada. A total of seven million doses are stockpiled.

However, Psaki was vague on the timing.

“We are assessing how we can loan doses,” she said. “It’s not fully finalized yet. It’s what we’re working towards, to Canada and Mexico.”

“Our first priority remains vaccinating the US population,” she said, adding however that “the reality is the pandemic knows no borders.”

AFP

Netanyahu Eyes Vaccine Win As Israel Heads For Fourth Vote

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a visit to the COVID-19 vaccination facility in Jerusalem on January 6, 2021. (Photo by Marc Israel SELLEM / POOL / AFP)

 

When Israel this month holds its fourth election in less than two years, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will hope goodwill from a world-beating Covid vaccination campaign can finally secure him an elusive majority government.

The last time Israelis went to the polls just a year ago, they delivered a result that had already become familiar: neither the right-wing Netanyahu nor his centrist challenger Benny Gantz had enough support for a parliamentary majority.

The world, and Israeli politics, have since been upended by the pandemic. Just weeks after the last election, Israel entered the first of three coronavirus lockdowns.

In May, Netanyahu, Israel’s longest serving premier, and Gantz formed a unity government, declaring that the public health threat required political stability.

But their coalition, which had been set to last three years, collapsed in December when Netanyahu’s refusal to approve a 2021 budget forced new elections, to be held on March 23.

Netanyahu, a wily political veteran, is now hoping he can sneak over the line thanks to the inoculation drive.

The 71-year-old also hopes for a boost from having clinched historic normalisation deals with four Arab states — the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan — agreements he claims mark a new era in the Middle East.

But despite Netanyahu’s apparent successes, polls point to another indecisive result, with the premier so far lacking a clear path to form a government.

– ‘Vaccine nation’ –

Israel, a country of about nine million people, has given the two recommended jabs of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to around four million residents, an inoculation pace envied by many nations.

Netanyahu has been happy to take the credit for boldly reaching out early to drug-makers with approved vaccines.

“Do you know how many presidents and prime ministers call Pfizer and Moderna? They don’t answer. But when it’s me, they take the call,” he said days ago.

“I convinced them that Israel would be a model country to roll out the vaccine: who else will do that? Definitely not (Yair) Lapid, (Naftali) Bennett and Gideon (Saar),” he proclaimed, referring to his main election challengers.

Israel secured a large vaccine stock from Pfizer because its highly digitised medical system enabled it to offer the company fast, precious data on the product’s impact.

Netanyahu has repeatedly visited vaccination centres and adopted the phrase “Vaccine Nation”, a play on the “Start-up Nation” tag Israel acquired because of its burgeoning high-tech sector.

But some voters also blame Netanyahu for the painful lockdowns.

His political allies, ultra-Orthodox Jews, have flouted restrictions — often with a muted police response — fuelling transmission while many other citizens were following the rules.

– Right-wing pitch –

As the vaccine edges Israel out of the pandemic, its political landscape is shifting.

Gantz’s supporters punished him for entering a Netanyahu-led government and his fractured Blue and White party may not even get enough votes to qualify for parliament.

Netanyahu’s former partner, Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid party, has emerged as his main challenger, polls show.

And a former prominent member of Netanyahu’s Likud, Gideon Saar, has formed his own party to run against the premier.

Seeking to make up any lost ground, Netanyahu has tried to appeal to Arab voters, despite having disparaged them in past campaigns and backing a 2018 law that downgraded Arabic’s status as an official language.

For all that has changed since the last election, a single question for voters has again dominated this year’s campaign: are you for Netanyahu or against him?

The electorate is “divided between those who want Netanyahu to continue to another term in office and those who hope to see him finally head home”, the head of the Israel Democracy Institute think-tank, Yohanan Plesner, told AFP.

Seeking to shore up his right-wing support in the campaign’s final days, Netanyahu on Sunday visited Kfar Etzion, a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank.

Settlers, who live in communities widely regarded as illegal under international law, are also being courted by Netanyahu’s right-wing rivals, Saar and Bennett.

Netanyahu recalled visiting Kfar Etzion in its early days, some 50 years ago, and lauded the “wonderful pioneering activity” of his audience.

He warned voters that straying from Likud would be a “terrible mistake” that could produce a left-wing government.

“Vote Likud,” he told them. “We will create a strong, stable, right wing government.”

AFP

Guinea Launches Ebola Vaccination Campaign

(FILES) This file photo taken on June 28, 2014 shows a member of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) putting on protective gear at the isolation ward of the Donka Hospital in Conakry, where people infected with the Ebola virus are being treated. (Photo by CELLOU BINANI / AFP)

 

Guinea launched an Ebola vaccination campaign on Tuesday after a fresh outbreak of the deadly disease struck the country this month, with officials hoping to eradicate the virus in six weeks.

The country reported new Ebola cases on February 13 — the first in West Africa since a 2013-2016 epidemic that left more than 11,300 dead in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The latest outbreak emerged near the town of Gouecke, in the forested Nzerekore region in Guinea’s southeast, and has already killed five people.

No new cases have however been confirmed for a week.

Ebola causes severe fever and, in the worst cases, unstoppable bleeding.

It is transmitted through close contact with bodily fluids, and people who live with or care for patients are most at risk.

Health workers began to administer Ebola vaccines in Gouecke on Tuesday, after over 11,000 doses arrived in Guinea the previous day.

Guinea’s Health Minister Remy Lamah, as well as Georges Ki-Zerbo, the World Health Organization representative in the country, travelled to the town for the start of the rollout.

The WHO plans to send about another 8,000 doses to Guinea, the UN health agency said in a statement on Tuesday.

Health Minister Lamah told AFP: “I think that in six weeks, we can be done with this disease.”

During a ceremony outside a health centre in Gouecke, local government officials received jabs before a crowd of several dozen people. An imam and preacher also encouraged people to get immunised.

Lamah, who hails from the region, said he had spent the day trying to persuade local leaders to overcome their resistance to the vaccine.

– Contact tracing –
Ki-Zerbo said the jabs would be administered mainly to those who had been in contact with people known to be infected, followed potentially by a second circle of people to break the chain of transmission.

The vaccination campaign also began in Dubreka on the outskirts of the capital Conakry, said Dr Halimatou Keita, who works in a hospital there.

On Wednesday, the rollout will continue in Nzerekore, located around 40 kilometres from Gouecke.

A total of 385 people have been identified as contacts linked to the initial case and that person’s relatives, said Bouna Yattassaye, deputy director of the National Agency for Health Security.

The vast majority of them are being monitored and will be among the first to be vaccinated.

Meanwhile in central Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo has also seen a new Ebola outbreak.

Officials said Sunday that four people had died while warning that people were resisting measures to contain the highly contagious disease.

 

Spain’s Chief Of Defence Staff Resigns For Getting COVID-19 Vaccine Before Allowed

Spain’s Chief of the Defence staff, General Miguel Angel Villarroya, resigns.

 

Spain’s chief of the defence staff resigned on Saturday, the armed forces said, after a row over him getting the coronavirus vaccination despite not being on a priority list.

General Miguel Angel Villarroya’s resignation came as a scandal brews over Spanish military and political officials getting early vaccinations supposedly reserved for health workers and people in retirement homes.

“In order to preserve the image of the armed forces, General Villarroya today presented his resignation request to the defence minister,” the armed forces said in a statement.

The 63-year-old general was quoted as saying he had “never intended to take advantage of unjustifiable privileges”.

His resignation was accepted by Defence Minister Margarita Robles, a source told AFP.

His departure came just a day after the interior ministry sacked a lieutenant-colonel who served as a staff liaison to the civil guard, because an internal report found he had received the shot without being a priority.

The report accuses several other defence staff members of improperly receiving the vaccine, and Robles has warned more resignations could follow.

Politicians have also resigned over receiving the vaccine out of turn, including Manuel Villegas, health advisor for the southeast Murcia region.

But Javier Guerreron, health advisor to the Spanish north African enclave of Ceuta, refused to resign, saying he had not violated any protocol.

“I didn’t want to be vaccinated,” he said, adding that he “doesn’t like vaccines”.

Spain has been hard-hit by the pandemic, having recorded 55,441 deaths from nearly 2.5 million cases so far.

COVID-19: Brazil Starts Vaccination Campaign Two Days Early

In this file photo taken on December 8, 2020 a member of staff draws the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine out of a phial at the Southmead Hospital, Briston. Graeme Robertson / AFP / POOL

 

Authorities in Brazil, hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic, will roll out a nationwide vaccination campaign Monday, two days earlier than announced.

The accelerated push comes amid a surge in Covid-19 cases and mounting impatience in states including Sao Paulo, which has already launched its own inoculation drive.

Brazil’s Anvisa regulatory agency on Sunday approved the Chinese CoronaVac jab as well as AstraZeneca and Oxford University’s Covishield.

A devastating second wave of coronavirus has been killing more than 1,000 people a day in the vast South American nation. Overall, nearly 210,000 people have died there.

Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria attended a ceremony Sunday shortly after the Anvisa announcement, where Monica Calazans, a 54-year-old nurse, became the first person to receive a Covid-19 jab in Brazil.

– Millions of doses shipped –

“After hearing from the governors, we came to the conclusion that today we will distribute the vaccines to the states,” and they “can begin to vaccinate” immediately, Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello said Monday.

He made the announcement after meeting state leaders at Guarulhos airport in Sao Paulo, from where 4.5 million doses of China’s CoronaVac vaccine will be sent nationwide.

Health workers, people older than 75, residents of old age homes and indigenous populations will be the first to be vaccinated. Both the CoronaVac and the Covishield require two doses.

READ ALSO: Biden Pushes For Unity Two Days Before Taking Over Crisis-Laden White House

Rio de Janeiro, the hardest-hit state in the country, is expected to start doling out jabs from 5:00 pm local time (2000 GMT) in an area near the Christ the Redeemer statue that dominates the city.

Northern Amazonas state, which has been battling record deaths and burials as hospitals run out of beds and life-saving oxygen, should receive its first batch of vaccines late Monday and will start inoculating people on Tuesday morning, the government said.

Pazuello had initially said the government would start distributing vaccines to all 27 states on Monday for a national inoculation campaign to start Wednesday.

While many countries have already started vaccination drives, including some among its neighbors, Brazil, with its population of some 213 million, has lagged behind.

And CoronaVac has been dragged into a political standoff between far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who has repeatedly tried to discredit it, and Sao Paulo Governor Doria, a defender.

Bolsonaro, who has downplayed the virus and railed against lockdowns, face masks and other “hysteria,” has come under renewed fire for his handling of the epidemic.

Sao Paulo already has six million doses of the CoronaVac vaccine, which a Brazilian trial had found to be 50 percent effective in preventing coronavirus infection, and the health ministry announced this month it had signed a deal with the local Butantan Institute in Sao Paulo, a major vaccine maker, to produce 100 million more.

Last week, Bolsonaro announced a commercial plane would be sent to India to collect two million doses of Covishield, produced there by the Serum Institute.

England Opens Mass Vaccination Sites As COVID-19 Spike Fears Spread

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to patients and staff at a mass vaccination centre at Ashton Gate stadium in Bristol, southwest England on January 11, 2021. (Photo by Eddie MULHOLLAND / POOL / AFP)

 

Seven mass coronavirus vaccination sites opened across England on Monday as the government raced to dose millions of people while a new strain of the disease runs rampant across the country.

The sites include football stadiums and a horse racing course, and are located in cities including Bristol, London, Newcastle and Manchester.

They are to vaccinate thousands per week and several more sites are expected to follow, according to the National Health Service (NHS) in England.

“I feel very relieved,” said Moira Edwards, 88, after receiving her first vaccination at Epsom Downs Racecourse, south of London, which is more famous for the Derby.

“I feel this is the way back. I can’t understand anybody not wanting to have it,” she added.

The mainly elderly recipients of the jab, some of whom used walkers, sticks or were pushed in wheelchairs to get to the centre, were given “I’ve had my Covid vaccination” stickers.

READ ALSO: Cyprus Leader Ready To Attend UN Meet On Ending Deadlock

Hospitals and pharmacies are set to begin offering the vaccine later this week, with the government hoping to have doses available for 12 million of England’s 56 million population by mid-February.

A further three million are being targeted by the same date in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Priority is being given to the elderly, care home residents and workers, the clinically extremely vulnerable, and health and social care staff.

Some 2.4 million people have already been vaccinated across the UK since the roll-out began of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab on December 8, according to vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi.

Britain has since approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Moderna jabs. The government has drafted in logistics experts from the army to help in the inoculation drive.

– ‘Worst weeks’ –

Britain is grappling with its worst outbreak of the disease since it hit the country early last year.

The record case rates and daily death toll are being blamed on a new, more transmissible strain, which has piled pressure on the NHS, leading to warnings of shortages of critical care beds.

The state-run NHS risks being overwhelmed and the country is in its third lockdown until at least mid-February, with predictions the restrictions could last even longer.

In Northern Ireland, health chiefs said the province’s hospitals were under intense pressure, and two health trusts had to draft in off-duty staff to alleviate pressure due the spike in cases.

“The next few weeks are going to be the worst weeks of this pandemic in terms of numbers into the NHS,” England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty told BBC television on Monday.

“What we need to do, before the vaccines have had their effect… is we need to really double down” on observing lockdown measures, he added.

Britain on Saturday said it had recorded over three million coronavirus cases since the pandemic began last year.

On Friday, it reported a record 1,325 deaths over a 24-hour period of people who tested positive for the virus, with fears that the fatalities could remain consistently high for weeks.

The full death toll now stands at more than 80,000, the highest in Europe.

At Leatherhead, near Epsom, bodies were being stored in a temporary 1,400-capacity mortuary because there was no space at local hospitals.

The local council said 170 bodies, more than half of which had been Covid fatalities, were being held at the makeshift facility, but the county would be in “real difficulty” if numbers rose further.

Zahawi urged the public to follow the lockdown rules, which include school closures, that some have criticised for not being strict enough.

“In supermarkets, we need to make sure people actually wear masks and follow the one-way system rule,” he told Sky News.

“We don’t want to go any tougher because this is a pretty tough lockdown, but what we need is people to behave as if they’ve got the virus so we can bring this virus under control whilst we vaccinate.”

Celebrity Vaccinations Cause Outrage In Poland

Frank Augstein / POOL / AFP

 

A hospital in Warsaw is under fire for giving out Covid-19 vaccine shots to celebrities and politicians, causing public outrage and sparking a government investigation that began on Monday.

Poland, which like much of Europe began its vaccination campaign on December 27, is currently only supposed to be vaccinating medical workers under a government plan.

But the Medical University of Warsaw hospital last week said it had also vaccinated 18 cultural figures who are intended to serve as ambassadors for the vaccination campaign.

The hospital said it had given out a total of 450 shots, including 300 for its own staff members and 132 for their families and patients.

The list of patients included some politicians.

Among the celebrities were actress Maria Seweryn, who is 45, singer Michal Bajor, 63, and Edward Miszczak, a 65-year-old TV journalist.

The unusual vaccinations first came to light when Leszek Miller, an MEP and former prime minister and regular patient at the hospital, tweeted a picture of a medical record showing he had received the vaccine on December 30.

READ ALSO: EU Defends Its Slow COVID-19 Vaccine Roll-Out

Some local politicians in other parts of Poland, including members of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, have also been heavily criticised for receiving the vaccine out of turn.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki told PAP news agency on Saturday that “observing the rules of the vaccination sequence is an expression of respect for the rules of social solidarity”.

“There is no justification for breaking the rules,” he said, calling it “a real scandal”.

Government spokesman Piotr Muller on Monday said a government investigation had begun adding: “I hope that there will be punishment as early as today for all the guilty parties.”

Sanctions could include financial penalties and disciplinary proceedings, he said.

Poland is due to begin vaccinating seniors, teachers and members of the armed forces later this month. Only after that will the vaccine become available to the rest of the population of 38 million people.

Michal Dworczyk, the government official in charge of vaccinations, said on Monday that just over 50,000 people had been vaccinated in Poland so far and he expected 2.9 million to be vaccinated in the first three months of 2021.

Singapore Begins COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign

A health worker takes a nasal swab test sample from an essential worker to detect the COVID-19 novel coronavirus before the workers return to work in Singapore on June 10, 2020. Roslan RAHMAN / AFP.

 

Singapore began a coronavirus vaccination campaign Wednesday with a nurse receiving the first jab, making it among the first Asian nations to roll out inoculations.

The city-state, which has suffered a mild outbreak, became the first country in Asia to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine earlier this month, and its programme kicked off with healthcare workers.

Nurse Sarah Lim, 46, whose work includes screening suspected Covid-19 patients, was the first to be immunised, the health ministry said.

“I feel grateful and thankful for being the first to be vaccinated,” the nurse from the national centre for infectious diseases was cited as saying by the Straits Times newspaper.

More than 30 staff from the centre are receiving the first dose of the two-shot vaccine Wednesday, and will get the second next month.

After healthcare workers, the city-state will vaccinate the elderly, and then the rest of the population.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Five Things To Know About Landmark UK Vaccine

The government expects to have enough vaccines for all 5.7 million people in the city by the third quarter of 2021, with the voluntary vaccine free for all Singaporeans and long-term residents.

Other countries that have started immunisations include Britain, EU nations, and the United States, although most Asian nations are yet to begin.

In China, where the virus emerged, at least one million people have already received jabs after vaccine candidates were approved for emergency use, although they have so far been limited to priority groups such as state employees.

The inoculations are yet to receive official approval.

Vaccinations have been given in limited numbers in other parts of the region, including to members of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s security team, and to US troops stationed in South Korea.

Singapore has recorded about 58,000 infections, mostly among low-paid migrant workers living in crowded dormitories, and just 29 deaths.