A medic stands next to an ambulance at the Royal London Hospital, amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak, in London, Britain.(REUTERS)
A medic stands next to an ambulance at the Royal London Hospital, amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak, in London, Britain.(REUTERS)

‘Hard miles’: Pandemic haunts new year as virus growth outpaces vaccines

While Britain rolled out a second vaccine this week and some US states are starting to give the second round of shots, access to inoculations globally is sharply unequal. The supply isn’t remotely close to meeting the epic demand needed to vanquish a foe that has already killed over 1.85 million people.
By Associated Press | Posted by Arpan Rai | London
UPDATED ON JAN 06, 2021 09:31 AM IST

Despite growing vaccine access, January is looking grim around the globe as the coronavirus resurges and reshapes itself from Britain to Japan to California, filling hospitals and threatening livelihoods anew as governments lock down businesses and race to find solutions.

England headed back into lockdown. Mexico City’s hospitals hold more virus patients than ever. Germany reported one of its highest daily death tolls to date Tuesday. South Africa and Brazil are struggling to find space for the dead. Even pandemic success story Thailand is fighting an unexpected wave of infections.

And as doctors face or brace for rising numbers of Covid-19 patients after end-of-year holiday gatherings, more and more countries are reporting cases of a new, more contagious variant that has already swept across Britain.

January is going to be “a tough one,” said Dr. Margaret Harris, a spokeswoman for the World Health Organization. “This idea that seems to be ‘Ah, we’re all sick of it. We want to look at something else. Oh, this doesn’t apply to me’ ... that’s got to go away. It really is all hands on deck.”

While Britain rolled out a second vaccine this week and some US states are starting to give the second round of shots, access to inoculations globally is sharply unequal. The supply isn’t remotely close to meeting the epic demand needed to vanquish a foe that has already killed over 1.85 million people.

“We are in a race to prevent infections, bring cases down, protect health systems and save lives while rolling out two highly effective and safe vaccines to high-risk populations,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “This is not easy. These are the hard miles.”

England is facing a third national lockdown that will last at least six weeks, as authorities struggle to stem a surge in Covid-19 infections and relieve hospitals, where some patients are left waiting in ambulances in a parking lot for access to overcrowded wards.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s tough new stay-at-home order for England took effect at midnight. It will shut schools, restaurants and all nonessential stores and won’t be reviewed until at least mid-February. Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon imposed a lockdown that began Tuesday.

The two leaders said the restrictions are needed to protect the National Health Service amid the emergence of the new variant that has sent daily infections, hospitalizations and deaths soaring.

The NHS “is going through probably the toughest time in living memory,″ said Siva Anandaciva, chief analyst of the King’s Fund think tank.

Elsewhere in Europe, Italy and Germany extended their Christmastime lockdowns, Spain is restricting travel, and Denmark lowered the number of people who can gather in public from 10 to five. France is likely to announce tougher measures Thursday, and Ukraine is closing schools and restaurants starting Friday.

In Latin America, some warn the worst is yet to come.

“The boost we are experiencing here in Brazil is much more serious than what was happening months ago,” said Domingos Alves, an adjunct professor at the University of Sao Paulo.

Brazil’s number of patients in intensive care reached its highest level since August, just as the nation reopened shops and offices after the end-of-year holidays — and the vast country still hasn’t approved or received any vaccines. Some Brazilian hospitals reinstalled refrigerated containers outside to hold the corpses of Covid-19 victims.

Mexico’s capital has more virus patients than at any point in the pandemic and is flying in doctors from less hard-hit states. Its beach resorts are readying for more cases after thousands of US and European tourists visited over the holidays.

“Probably in the third week of January, we are going to see the system stressed more, that there will be more ambulatory cases and cases requiring hospitalization,” said Dr. Mauricio Rodriguez of Mexico’s National Autonomous University. He blamed the rise on fatigue with social distancing, mixed messages from public figures and Mexicans lowering their guard during the holidays.

Zimbabwe reintroduced a curfew, banned public gatherings and indefinitely suspended the opening of schools. In South Africa, which is seeing yet another fast-spreading variant of the virus and is the continent’s hardest-hit nation, authorities re-imposed a curfew, banned liquor sales and closed most beaches.

South Africa’s undertakers are struggling to cope with the rise in deaths, National Funeral Practitioners Association of SA President Muzi Hlengwa told state broadcaster SABC.

“It is something that you have never seen before. ... We have run out of coffins, we have run out of space at the mortuary,” he said. “We normally have cremations during the day, but now we have cremations even at night.”

The pandemic is even reaching countries that seemed to have the virus under control.

Thailand is facing a surge that has infected thousands in the past few weeks, blamed on complacency and poor planning. The government is locking down large parts of the country, including the capital, Bangkok, and considering tougher measures.

Japan is getting ready to declare a state of emergency this week, beefing up border controls and speeding up vaccine approval after a surge of cases around New Year’s Eve.

And holiday worries aren’t over now that 2021 has arrived.

Pope Francis abandoned an annual ritual of baptizing babies in the Sistine Chapel tied to Wednesday’s Epiphany holiday. Orthodox Christian countries like Russia and Greece could face more infections after they celebrate Christmas on Thursday. And China is closing schools early ahead of next month’s Lunar New Year holiday, telling migrant workers not to go home and tourists to avoid Beijing.

Vaccinations are getting off to a slow start in many places. In the U.S., where over 350,000 people have died, some states are struggling to secure enough shots and organize vaccinations. The Netherlands has come under heavy criticism for being the last European Union nation to start inoculations, which it will do Wednesday. Australia isn’t planning to do so until March. And most poorer countries are even further behind.

Opposition politician Geert Wilders called the Dutch government “the village idiot of Europe.”

Yet India offers a glimmer of hope. Its infection rate is down significantly from a September peak, and the country is kicking off one of the largest inoculation programs in the world, aiming at vaccinating 300 million people by August.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
HHS has drastically cut its capacity due to the coronavirus pandemic. Nearly all of the department’s 7,100 beds for immigrant children are full.(AFP Photo. Representative image)
HHS has drastically cut its capacity due to the coronavirus pandemic. Nearly all of the department’s 7,100 beds for immigrant children are full.(AFP Photo. Representative image)

Amid surge, US tries to expedite release of migrant children

AP
PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 03:00 AM IST
US Health and Human Services on Wednesday authorized operators of long-term facilities to pay for some of the children’s flights and transportation to the homes of their sponsors.
Close
"In the end, Iran needs to understand that what’s important is to de-escalate and accept the offer of diplomacy that’s on the table, including from the United States,” German foreign minister Heiko Maas said.(AFP Photo)
"In the end, Iran needs to understand that what’s important is to de-escalate and accept the offer of diplomacy that’s on the table, including from the United States,” German foreign minister Heiko Maas said.(AFP Photo)

Germany urges Iran to accept diplomacy in nuclear dispute

AP
PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 12:12 AM IST
Iran this week effectively set a deadline to lift those sanctions within three months, after which it said it would erase surveillance footage of its nuclear facilities
Close
The B117 variant last week became dominant in Denmark, accounting for nearly two-thirds of all new infections, up from less than 5% at the beginning of the year.(Reuters Photo. Representative image)
The B117 variant last week became dominant in Denmark, accounting for nearly two-thirds of all new infections, up from less than 5% at the beginning of the year.(Reuters Photo. Representative image)

Hospitalisation risk 64% higher with UK Covid-19 variant: Report

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 12:08 AM IST
Out of 2,155 people infected with the variant codenamed B117 in the institute's study, 128 were hospitalised, a rate 64% higher than people infected with other variants, the country's Serum Institute said.
Close
DeJoy, a supporter of former President Donald Trump appointed to head the Postal Service last year, suspended operational changes in August after heavy criticism over postal delays.(Bloomberg)
DeJoy, a supporter of former President Donald Trump appointed to head the Postal Service last year, suspended operational changes in August after heavy criticism over postal delays.(Bloomberg)

Congress weighs reforms to troubled US Postal Service over finance woes

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 11:38 PM IST
"Our dire financial trajectory, operational and network misalignment to mail trends, outdated pricing, infrastructure underinvestment, inadequate people engagement, and an insufficient growth strategy – all demand immediate action," Postmaster General Louis DeJoy told lawmakers.
Close
Officials said the EU was working with the IATA, the OECD and the World Health Organization.(AFP)
Officials said the EU was working with the IATA, the OECD and the World Health Organization.(AFP)

EU mulls vaccination passports to resurrect tourism after Covid-19

Reuters, Brussels
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 11:12 PM IST
However, France and Germany appear more reluctant, as officials there say it could create de facto vaccination obligation.
Close
Vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached and syringes with the logo of US pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson. (AFP)
Vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached and syringes with the logo of US pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson. (AFP)

J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine closes in on FDA’s nod

By Yashwant Raj
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 11:06 PM IST
According to papers submitted by Johnson & Johnson to the FDA seeking emergency use go-ahead, the vaccine has demonstrated an overall efficacy level of 66% - 72% in the United States and 57% in South Africa, a country that is dealing with a highly contagious strain of the coronavirus.
Close
Fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi. (HT File)
Fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi. (HT File)

PNB scam case: UK judge to rule on Nirav Modi extradition case on Thursday

Posted by Prashasti Singh | PTI
UPDATED ON FEB 24, 2021 11:01 PM IST
The 49-year-old is expected to appear via videolink from Wandsworth Prison in south-west London at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, where District Judge Samuel Goozee is set to hand down his judgment on whether the jeweller has a case to answer before the Indian courts.
Close
William Burns, nominee for Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director, is sworn into his Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.(REUTERS)
William Burns, nominee for Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director, is sworn into his Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.(REUTERS)

CIA nominee pledges to provide 'unvarnished' intelligence

PTI, Washington
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 10:48 PM IST
William Burns said the president "wants the agency to give it to him straight, and I plan to do just that and to defend those who do the same."
Close
Rescue divers conduct search operations for victims of a capsized boat in Lake Mariout, 20 kilometres west of Egypt's second city of Alexandria on February 23, 2021.(AFP)
Rescue divers conduct search operations for victims of a capsized boat in Lake Mariout, 20 kilometres west of Egypt's second city of Alexandria on February 23, 2021.(AFP)

UN says 41 Europe-bound migrants fleeing Libya drown in Mediterranean

AP
UPDATED ON FEB 24, 2021 10:09 PM IST
  • The UN migration and refugee agencies said in a joint statement that the dead were among at least 120 migrants on a dinghy that left Libya on February 18.
Close
At its last plenary in October 2020, FATF concluded that Pakistan had fully complied with 21 of 27 points in the action plan but warned the country that it could not be given “forever” to address outstanding issues. (FILE PHOTO).
At its last plenary in October 2020, FATF concluded that Pakistan had fully complied with 21 of 27 points in the action plan but warned the country that it could not be given “forever” to address outstanding issues. (FILE PHOTO).

FATF to take a call on Pakistan's efforts to counter terror financing tomorrow

PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 10:06 PM IST
  • FATF’s latest plenary is also being held at a time when the US has been irked by the Pakistan Supreme Court’s acquittal of terrorist Omar Saeed Sheikh, the principal accused in the 2002 murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl.
Close
Screengrab from “confessional” video of former Taliban spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan.(YouTube)
Screengrab from “confessional” video of former Taliban spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan.(YouTube)

Pakistan military personnel punished over escape of Taliban figure: Spokesperson

Reuters, Rawalpindi
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 09:40 PM IST
Liaqat Ali, the former public face of the militant Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), escaped last year three years after he handed himself in to the military.
Close
Asylum seekers sit inside a tent at a migrant encampment in Matamoros, Mexico.(REUTERS)
Asylum seekers sit inside a tent at a migrant encampment in Matamoros, Mexico.(REUTERS)

US to admit asylum seekers from hard-hit camp at Texas border

Reuters, Washington
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 09:11 PM IST
The camp, across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Texas, is home to hundreds of migrants, most from Central America, hoping to be granted refuge across the border.
Close
Zollfahndungsamt Hamburg shows a detail of cocaine after German authorities seized more than 16 tonnes of cocaine in the northern port city of Hamburg, Germany.(REUTERS)
Zollfahndungsamt Hamburg shows a detail of cocaine after German authorities seized more than 16 tonnes of cocaine in the northern port city of Hamburg, Germany.(REUTERS)

Over 23 tonnes of cocaine seized in Europe's biggest haul

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 09:04 PM IST
The two shipments together represented a street value of roughly $730 million, the Dutch prosecutors said.
Close
A 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry report said the prisoners are facing torture, rape, forced labour, starvation and other inhumane treatment.(AP)
A 2014 UN Commission of Inquiry report said the prisoners are facing torture, rape, forced labour, starvation and other inhumane treatment.(AP)

North Korea enslaving political prisoners to fund weapons programme: Report

Reuters
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 08:54 PM IST
According to the report, Pyongyang had been operating a "pyramid fraud-like" scheme to force those held in prison camps to produce quotas of coal and other goods for export.
Close
The sun sets over the skyscrapers of the City of London financial district, amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak in London, Britain.(Reuters)
The sun sets over the skyscrapers of the City of London financial district, amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak in London, Britain.(Reuters)

Number of women on UK corporate boards rises 50% in 5 years

AP
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 08:43 PM IST
The number of women on the boards of directors of Britain’s 350 top publicly traded firms has jumped by more than 50% since 2015, meaning that 34.3% of all board seats are now held by women, an independent panel said in a report published Wednesday.
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP