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COVID-19 Around the World

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1  Finland suspends Moderna

Finland has joined other Nordic countries in suspending or discouraging the use of Moderna‘s COVID-19 vaccine in certain age groups because of an increased risk of heart inflammation, a rare side effect associated with the shot.

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare said Thursday that authorities won’t give the shot to males under age 30. They will be offered the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine instead. The government agency said it found that young men and boys were at a slightly higher risk of developing myocarditis.

The move by Finland followed similar decisions by three neighbouring countries on Wednesday. Sweden suspended the use of Moderna for people under 30, Denmark said those under 18 won’t be offered the Swiss-made vaccine, and Norway urged those under 30 to get the Pfizer vaccine instead.


2  Singapore expands quarantine-free travel

Singapore is opening its borders to more countries for quarantine-free travel as the city-state seeks to rebuild its status as an international aviation hub, and prepares to reach a “new normal” to live with COVID-19.

From October 19 fully vaccinated people from eight countries, including the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Denmark, will be able to enter the island without quarantining if they pass their COVID-19 tests.

The government announced measures to help locals adjust to the strategy of living with the virus, such as allowing most infected people to recover at home. Singapore’s travel program for fully vaccinated people began in September with Germany and Brunei, and will include South Korea from next month.

3  Called to allow vaccine use in aged five to 11

Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE have asked US regulators to authorise emergency use of their COVID-19 vaccine for children ages five to 11, a group for whom no shot is currently allowed. 

The US Food and Drug Administration has set a date of 26 October for its panel of outside advisers to meet and discuss the application, making it possible for children in this age group – numbering around 28 million – to begin receiving the two-dose Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine shortly afterward.

“With new cases in children in the US continuing to be at a high level, this submission is an important step in our ongoing effort against COVID19,” Pfizer wrote on Twitter.

The vaccine already has won US emergency use authorisation in teens ages 12 to 15 and is fully approved by regulators for people ages 16 and up.


4  Redress world COVID vaccine imbalance

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has called for $8bn in funds to ensure that COVID-19 vaccinations can be fairly distributed across the world and give all countries a way out of a pandemic that has killed more than five million people.

Speaking at an event with the World Health Organization (WHO) to launch a new global vaccination strategy, Guterres said on Thursday the inequitable distribution of jabs was dangerous because it could give rise to new variants and lead to more deaths.

The UN secretary-general urged G20 leaders who are due to meet later this month to deliver on their “desire to get the world vaccinated”.


5  New Zealand braces for rising Covid cases 

New Zealand is bracing for increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases after recording 94 new infections over the weekend, while pandemic modellers say that if the government stays its current course new cases will quickly top 100 a day.

“We are on the exponential growth curve,” an epidemiologist and public health professor, Michael Baker, said. “If you look at the trend, it’s clearly going up in Auckland, and it’s not just the total cases but also the unexplained cases, which suggests transmission in the community is increasing.”

Baker said that if the government kept its current restrictions, or loosened them further by reopening schools, as announced last week, “there’s only one way it can go and that’s up”.


6  Getting flu with Covid doubles risk of death

People who catch flu and Covid at the same time this winter are twice as likely to die than those who only have coronavirus, according to the UK Health Security Agency chief executive, Dr Jenny Harries.

The former deputy chief medical officer for England warned that the UK faces an “uncertain” winter – with both flu and Covid-19 circulating for the first time – and urged people to take up both the coronavirus and flu jabs if eligible.

Asked how worried the public should be about flu this winter, she told Sky’s Trevor Phillips On Sunday: “We should be worried about flu each winter. I think people still don’t realise it can be a fatal disease.


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1. NZ reaches single day vaccination target 

New Zealand’s Super Saturday is a hit, with record vaccinations and a lower number of daily COVID-19 cases. Saturday had been dubbed Super Saturday by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, with a series of community events and aimed at upping NZ’s lagging vaccination rates.

With more than half the population – including greater Auckland, Northland and much of the Waikato – in a form of lockdown, broadcasters also screened a nationwide telethon – or “vaxathon”.

The event was publicised using the tagline “Let’s get back to doing what we love”. Ms Ardern’s ambitious goal was to get 100,000 Kiwis – or two per cent of the population – vaccinated in a single day.


2. Under-vaccinated Russia records 1,000 new deaths

Russia on Saturday recorded 1,000 deaths over 24 hours for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, with the country’s jab drive at a standstill and few restrictions in place.

The surge comes with just 32 per cent of Russians fully inoculated, according to official statistics published for the first time Saturday. A lack of tough restrictions has allowed the virus to spread unchecked, though a number of regions have re-introduced QR codes for access to public places.

The Kremlin has avoided re-introducing major measures despite calling the vaccination rate “unacceptably” low, and saying authorities have to ensure “the economy continues working”. It also said Russia’s medical system was not “overwhelmed” and prepared to take in the rising number of patients. Authorities have blamed Russians for the growing outbreak.


3. Bali welcomes back foreign travelers

The Indonesian resort island of Bali welcomed international travelers to its shops and white-sand beaches for the first time in more than a year Thursday — if they’re vaccinated, test negative, hail from certain countries, quarantine and heed restrictions in public.

Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport will welcome new foreign arrivals from 19 countries that met World Health Organization’s criteria such as having their COVID-19 cases under control, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, the government minister who leads the COVID-19 response in Java and Bali, said in a statement late Wednesday.

He said all international flight passengers must have proof they’ve been vaccinated two times, test negative for the coronavirus upon arrival in Bali and undergo a 5-day quarantine at designated hotels at their own expense. They’ll also have to follow stringent rules at hotels, in restaurants and on beaches.


4. Malaysian unvaccinated life will become difficult

Authorities in Malaysia will “continue to make life difficult” for those who refuse to be vaccinated against Covid-19, the country’s health minister, Khairy Jamaluddin, has said.

Jamaluddin was quoted by the Star, an English-language Malaysian news website, as saying that restrictions would not apply to those who cannot be administered Covid vaccines for health reasons.

“But if you don’t vaccinate yourself by choice, we will continue to make life difficult for you,” said Khairy. “You cannot dine in at restaurants, you cannot go into shopping centres.” A new national testing strategy, to be unveiled next week, will mandate weekly tests for unvaccinated people, he said.


5. US vaccination campaign for younger children

US health officials are setting the stage for a national Covid-19 vaccination campaign for younger children, inviting state officials to order doses before the shots are authorised.

Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine is currently being given to people as young as 12 in the US. Over the next three weeks, federal officials plan to discuss making smaller-dose versions available to the nation’s 28 million children between the ages of five and 11.

That would end a 10-month wait for many families who are anxiously awaiting the approval of vaccines for younger children. To help states and cities prepare, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week sent out a seven-page document with guidance on how to set up expanded vaccination programs.


6. Psychosis cases soar in England

Cases of psychosis have soared over the past two years in England as an increasing number of people experience hallucinations and delusional thinking amid the stresses of the Covid-19 pandemic.

There was a 75% increase in the number of people referred to mental health services for their first suspected episode of psychosis between April 2019 and April 2021, NHS data shows.

The charity is urging the government to invest more in early intervention for psychosis to prevent further deterioration in people’s mental health from which it could take them years to recover.

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1. Global COVID-19 deaths hit 5M 

Worldwide deaths related to COVID-19 surpassed 5 million on Friday, according to a Reuters tally, with unvaccinated people particularly exposed to the virulent Delta strain. The variant has exposed the wide disparities in vaccination rates between rich and poor nations, and the upshot of vaccine hesitancy in some western nations.

More than half of all global deaths reported on a seven-day average were in the United States, Russia, Brazil, Mexico and India. While it took just over a year for the COVID-19 death toll to hit 2.5 million, the next 2.5 million deaths were recorded in just under eight months, according to a Reuters analysis.

2. New Zealand widens lockdown

New Zealand’s Delta Covid variant outbreak has spread beyond Auckland, prompting the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, to put additional regions into a snap lockdown.

There were 32 new coronavirus cases on Sunday in the country’s largest city, which has been in lockdown since mid-August, and two cases in the Waikato region, some 147km (91 miles) south of Auckland. Ardern announced on Sunday that parts of the region will go into a five-day lockdown.

She added that the government will decide on Monday whether Auckland’s 1.7 million residents will remain sealed off from the rest of New Zealand.

3. South Africa jabs 2,000 children

South Africa on Friday started vaccinating some children and adolescents as part of the global Phase 3 clinical trials of China’s Sinovac Biotech COVID-19 vaccine for children aged between 6 months and 17 years.

The global study will enroll 2,000 participants in South Africa and 12,000 others will be taking part in Kenya, the Philippines, Chile and Malaysia.

The first children in South Africa were inoculated at the Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University in the capital Pretoria to kick off the trials and others will get shots at 6 different sites across the country, the Sinovac company said in a statement Friday.

4. Anger over UK quarantine rules

News that fully vaccinated travelers from India and many African countries will face mandatory quarantine in the UK, despite a relaxation of the country’s inbound travel rules, has caused an outcry and accusations of discrimination.

The UK’s revised travel advisory will take effect on October 4 and visitors from its list of “high risk” countries — including India, more than 20 African countries and most Latin American nations — will still have to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days despite being fully vaccinated.

According to the new travel guidelines, passengers from the US, EU, and 18 other territories who have received full doses of UK-approved vaccines, including formulations of approved vaccines such as the Indian-made AstraZeneca shot branded Covishield, will not have to quarantine when they arrive in the UK.

No African country was included in the UK’s green-listed countries. However, nearly half of 54 countries on the UK’s high-risk list, also known as the “red list” — comprising predominantly developing nations — are from Africa.


5. 3 Swiss Guards who refused vaccination return to Switzerland

Three Vatican Swiss Guards who have refused to be vaccinated against COVID-19 upon Holy See orders have voluntarily left the storied corps to return to Switzerland, a Swiss Guard official said Sunday.

“Three members of the Guard have chosen not to adhere to that request, voluntarily leaving the corps,″ Breitenmoser said in a statement. Three other guardsmen are temporarily suspended from duty while they await vaccination, he said.

The prime duty of the all-male corps, with its colorful uniforms and plumed helmets, is to protect the pontiff. The members stand guard during papal ceremonies as well as at the various entrances of the tiny, independent walled city state near Rome’s Tiber River. During the pandemic, the guardsmen on duty don protective surgical masks.

6. Russia lost public trust on local-made vaccines

A former chief of staff to President Vladimir Putin, the mayor is one of the rare voices in Russia these days calling people out for not doing their civic duty and getting vaccinated against COVID-19. 

Unlike many countries that have struggled to get enough vaccine doses for all age groups, Russia’s problem is less about supply and more about trust.   

Non-Russian vaccines have not been approved in the country, and Russia’s much-hyped Sputnik V vaccine, developed by the state-sponsored Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, is viewed with hesitancy by many Russians.

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