- This daily news round-up brings you a selection of the latest news and updates on the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, as well as tips and tools to help you stay informed and protected.
- Top news stories: US issues new travel warnings as infection rates surge in Europe; Pfizer reports its vaccine provides strong and long-term protection for adolescents; Expert panel calls for billions in new funding for the World Health Organization.
1. How COVID-19 is affecting the globe
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 have passed 258.3 million globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of confirmed deaths has now passed 5.16 million. More than 7.74 billion vaccination doses have been administered globally, according to Our World in Data.
Pfizer says its COVID-19 vaccine provided strong long-term protection against the virus in a late-stage study conducted among adolescents aged 12 to 15 years. A two-dose series of the vaccine was 100% effective against COVID-19, measured from between seven days to more than four months after the second dose, the company said.
Israel began rolling out Pfizer/BioNtech COVID-19 vaccinations for 5- to 11-year-olds on Monday, hoping to beat down a recent rise in coronavirus infections. A fourth wave of infections that hit Israel in June began subsiding in September but infection rates are increasing once again.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia banned unvaccinated people from hotels, pubs, hairdressers and most public events from Monday after COVID-19 cases filled hospitals’ intensive care wards, with most of the seriously ill patients not inoculated.
India reported 7,579 new coronavirus infections on Tuesday, the smallest rise in one-and-a-half-years despite huge festival gatherings in recent weeks, thanks to rising vaccinations and antibodies from prior infections. The country of 1.35 billion celebrated Durga Puja in October and Diwali this month, during which millions of people shopped, travelled and met family.
French health authorities reported 5,266 daily new COVID-19 infections on Monday, pushing the seven-day moving average of new cases to an almost three-month high. The average – which overcomes daily reporting irregularities – rose to 18,479, a level unseen since 27 August.
2. US issues ‘Do Not Travel’ COVID-19 warning for Germany, Denmark
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the State Department on Monday advised against travel to Germany and Denmark because of a rising number of COVID-19 cases in those countries.
The CDC elevated its travel recommendation to “Level Four: Very High” for the two European countries, telling Americans they should avoid travel there, while the State Department issued parallel “Do Not Travel” advisories for both countries.
The CDC currently lists about 75 destinations worldwide at Level Four, with many European countries on the list including Austria, Britain, Belgium, Greece, Norway, Switzerland, Romania, Ireland and the Czech Republic.
Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel told leaders of her conservative party that measures being taken to stop the spread of the coronavirus in Europe’s biggest economy were insufficient and that stronger action needed to be taken.
Case numbers in Germany have been soaring, especially among the elderly whose first two shots of COVID-19 vaccine were at the start of the year, and among children who are not eligible for inoculation.
Earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) said European countries must work harder to prevent the coronavirus spreading further as deaths and new cases surge.
Current transmission rates in 53 European countries are of “grave concern” and new cases are nearing record levels, exacerbated by the more transmissible Delta variant of the virus, the WHO’s Hans Kluge warned. “We must change our tactics, from reacting to surges of COVID-19, to preventing them from happening in the first place,” he said.
3. World must bolster WHO and agree pandemic treaty, expert panel says
The World Health Organization (WHO) must be strengthened with more funding and greater ability to investigate pandemics through a new treaty, an independent panel has said, ahead of a conference of health ministers next week.
Efforts to end the COVID-19 pandemic have been uneven and fragmented, marked by limited access to vaccines in low-income countries while the “healthy and wealthy” in rich countries get boosters, the high-level experts said in their latest review.
The panel co-chairs, former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark and former Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, reiterated a call for urgent reforms. These included new financing of at least $10 billion a year for pandemic preparedness, and negotiations on a global pandemic treaty.
In May, the panel evaluated how the WHO and member countries had handled the pandemic, and said a new global response system should be set up to ensure that no future virus can cause a pandemic as devastating.
“There is progress, but it is not fast or cohesive enough to bring this pandemic to an end across the globe in the near term, or to prevent another,” the panel said in the report.
More than 257 million people have been reported to be infected by the SARS-CoV2 coronavirus and 5.4 million have died since the first cases were identified in central China in December 2019, according to a Reuters tally.
“Strengthening the authority and independence of the WHO and developing new legal instruments are pivotal to the package of reforms required,” the panel said.
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