Coronavirus, challenges far from over - GulfToday

Coronavirus, challenges far from over


The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a headache for the international community.

The world is trying to push through a cure for the coronavirus, in the form of vaccines, but the shadow of death just won’t go away.

China, which the West thinks was where the virus originated, has also been under a cloud over its efficacy of vaccines, but a stamp of approval from the World Health Organisation has come as a silver lining.

Two Chinese coronavirus jabs are safe and effective, WHO experts said on Wednesday after reviewing partial data, providing a potential boost to countries from Australia to Europe struggling to roll out vaccines fast enough.

Fewer than 600 million jabs have been given out across the world, three months after vaccination programmes began in earnest in Western countries and leaders hailed the drugs as the only safe way out of punishing lockdowns.

Globally, the virus has killed more than 2.8 million people since it emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.

The terrible cycle of restrictions and infections is not over in China, where a city on the Myanmar border faces lockdown – the first such move in months. All residents in the city of Ruili will be tested for the virus and everyone will have to observe “home quarantine” for a week after six cases were detected, say officials.

Trump had said last year that it was a “disgrace” that Beijing had limited the spread of the virus at home but allowed it to reach the rest of the world. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, a consistent critic of China, has repeatedly cast doubts on the CoronaVac vaccine being developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd.

The Covid crisis has pushed health systems to the brink, brought huge challenges for policymakers and battered the global economy virtually out of shape.

But Britain released economic data suggesting it had bounced back stronger than expected in the second half of last year. Overall output expanded by 16.9 per cent in the third quarter, stronger than the 16.1 per cent predicted.

Vaccine specialists at the World Health Organisation did not issue any advice on how to use China’s jabs, saying they would wait until a decision had been taken on whether to grant them emergency licences.

Another vaccine maker, Pfizer-BioNTech, was pushing ahead with its plans to ramp up production and rollout – saying on Wednesday new data from the US showed its jab was 100 per cent effective on 12 to 15-year-olds.

The firm said it wanted to start vaccinating youngsters in the US before the start of the next school year.

The US has already rolled out almost 150 million vaccines doses, far more than any other country. But it has also suffered more than 550,000 deaths, the highest death toll in the world.

India reported over 100,000 new Covid infections in 24 hours, the highest increase since September, with Maharashtra a major contributor. The South Asian country, which has the world’s third-highest number of cases after the US and Brazil, has reported almost 12.5 million infections and more than 164,000 deaths so far.

India has recorded more than 483,000 cases in the last seven days – an increase of 37 per cent compared to the previous week, according to an AFP database.

Large parts of Europe are battling high infection rates, with most of the continent still living under lockdowns or other restrictions. French President Emmanuel Macron, who has repeatedly vowed not to reintroduce a national lockdown, is under increasing pressure. He is expected to announce tougher measures.

Australia, largely free of Covid infections, still faces a huge challenge to get jabs into arms, especially since some countries have started blocking exports to what they regard as a low-risk region.

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