Dr Melissa Oyarzun gets vaccinated for COVID-19 at the Posta Central Hospital in Santiago, Chile, on Thursday. AP
Three Latin American countries launched mass immunisation programmes on Thursday as fears grew in Europe over a variant coronavirus strain that is believed to be far more contagious than the original version.
Frontline medical staff in Mexico and Chile were among the first to receive their vaccines while Costa Rica began its own immunisation programme, with President Carlos Alvarado hailing what “may be the beginning of the end of this pandemic.”
But global optimism was tempered as China and Brazil joined more than 50 governments restricting flights from Britain or air traffic in both directions, after the highly infectious new coronavirus strain first appeared there.
Health worker Maria Ramírez is the first to get vaccinated for COVID-19 in Mexico City. AP
Thousands of trucks remained stranded at a major British port as France sent 10,000 kits to test drivers before allowing them to cross the Channel.
Despite the new strain that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said was “up to 70 per cent more transmissible” than the original coronavirus, Britain said rail and sea links with France would remain open over Christmas.
More than 600,000 people in the United Kingdom have received the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine since inoculations began in the country earlier this month, the British government said.
“The government has today published figures which show the number of people who have received the vaccine between 8 December and 20 December in the UK is 616,933,” the Department of Health and Social Care said in a statement
Mexico televised the start of its mass immunisation programme after it received its first 3,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from Belgium.
A health worker receives the first injection with a dose of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine in Santiago. Reuters
“It’s the best gift I could receive in 2020,” 59-year-old Mexican nurse Maria Irene Ramirez said as she received the injection at a hospital in the capital. Mexico has registered more than 120,000 COVID-19 deaths — the world’s fourth highest toll after the United States, Brazil and India.
In Chile, 46-year-old nursing assistant Zulema Riquelme was the first person shown receiving the jab in the presence of President Sebastian Pinera.
“I’m very excited and nervous,” she said, hours after the first 10,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrived by plane.
Elizabeth Castillo, a wheelchair-bound, 91-year-old nursing home resident, was the first person in Costa Rica to be vaccinated. “I am very grateful to God, because I have asked so much of him. My life is very important to me, so take advantage of every moment,” she said.
Argentina, meanwhile, received the first 300,000 doses of Russia’s controversial Sputnik V vaccine on Thursday on a special flight from Moscow. The country is the first in Latin America to approve the Russian vaccine. Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez has vowed to receive the first Sputnik V shot to prove it is reliable after criticism that it was registered before the start of large-scale clinical trials.
A woman receives the COVID-19 vaccine in Ankara. AFP
Some Russians took to social media on Friday to voice frustration after 300,000 doses of the country’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine were supplied to Argentina, arguing that more shots should be made available at home.
Though the vaccine is readily available in Moscow, relatively small batches have so far been delivered to many Russian regions as part of a mass inoculation programme, with several reporting receiving 2,000 doses or less so far.
The United States will require airline passengers from Britain to get a negative COVID-19 test before their flight, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced late on Thursday.
The US is the latest country to announce new travel restrictions because of a new variant of the coronavirus that is spreading in Britain and elsewhere.
Airline passengers from the United Kingdom will need to get negative COVID-19 tests within three days of their trip and provide the results to the airline, the CDC said in a statement. The agency said the order will be signed Friday and go into effect on Monday. If a passenger chooses not to take a test, the airline must deny boarding to the passenger,” the CDC said in its statement.
Fears over the new strain and surging coronavirus infections in general across Europe have severely dampened the mood over the holiday season.
In a recent survey, people who said social distancing and COVID-safety guidelines violated their personal freedoms responded more positively to these ideas when they felt a loved one might be at risk of severe illness.
"Since vaccination requirements vary by country and some require second doses, it is important to visit a travel clinic at least one month prior to travel," said Dr Alia Mohammad Al Dallal.
Oman, with more than 128,000 recorded cases, 1,491 of them fatal, is to launch its vaccination campaign on Sunday.
According to sources, a person with a valid Dubai visa can book an appointment with DHA’s accredited facilities using the toll free number 800342. Authorities said that the Medical Record Number (MRN) is must for booking an appointment.
The Ministry called on the companies practicing such activities to enhance their awareness and knowledge on the risks of money laundering and keep pace with the government's efforts in this regard.
Five institutions in Dubai have come together to propagate kidney health with March having been observed globally as the “National Kidney Month” and March 11 (Thursday) as “World Kidney Day.”
The Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department (IACAD) announced on Tuesday that all annual Ramadan tent permits in the Emirate of Dubai will be cancelled this year in compliance with government precautionary and preventive measures to stem the spread of COVID-19.