India restricts festivals over new Covid surge fears

by Tauqeer Abbas
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Shafaqna Pakistan: Indian authorities are restricting major religious festivals that start this week and attract huge crowds, warning that a new wave had already begun in the financial capital Mumbai.

State governments across the country of 1.3 billion people, which saw a devastating coronavirus surge in April-May, are clamping down on mass gatherings.

“The third wave is not coming, it is already here,” Mumbai’s mayor Kishori Pednekar told reporters on Tuesday.

“We can celebrate festivals later. Let us first prioritise the lives and health of our citizens,” added Uddhav Thackeray, the chief minister of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital.

He was speaking ahead of the 11-day Hindu Ganesh Chaturthi festival, which starts Friday.

The last wave overwhelmed India’s hospitals and was known to have killed more than 200,000 people.

It struck after one of the world’s biggest religious gatherings, the Kumbh Mela, which attracted some 25 million Hindu pilgrims.

South Korea concerned about eroding vigilance

South Korea has reported more than 2,000 new cases, approaching a one-day record set last month, as officials expressed concern about erosion in citizen vigilance amid prolonged pandemic restrictions.

The 2,050 cases reported on Wednesday was the sixth time the daily increase came over 2,000 in a span of a month, including a record 2,221 on August 11.

The capital Seoul and the nearby metropolitan area have had the country’s toughest social distancing rules short of a lockdown for nine consecutive weeks. The measures force nightclubs and churches to close and prohibit private social gatherings of three or more people after 6 pm unless the participants are fully vaccinated.

The Health Ministry said people’s exhaustion and frustration with virus restrictions are becoming an increasing challenge.

Highway traffic, credit card usage and other indicators of activity and movement are all rising, said Park Hyang, a senior ministry official, during a briefing.

There’s concern that transmissions would worsen during the Chuseok holidays, the Korean version of Thanksgiving that comes in two weeks.

China administered total of 2.11B doses of vaccines

China administered about 5.9 million doses of vaccines on September 7, bringing the total number of doses administered to 2.119 billion, data from the National Health Commission showed.

Czech Republic’s daily cases highest since May

The Czech Republic on Wednesday recorded 588 new cases of coronavirus, the highest daily tally since May 25, as government officials predict a continued rise in infections.

The country, which was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic in earlier waves, has seen low infection rates since the summer months. In the past two weeks, it has reported 25 cases per 100,000 people, compared with 137 in Germany, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

The rise in cases reported for Tuesday was still well below peaks in daily infections seen during the waves between October 2020 and March 2021 when they reached into the thousands, hitting a peak of above 17,000 at one point.

Australia’s NSW reports rise in cases; vaccinations accelerate

Three-quarters of people over the age of 16 in Australia’s New South Wales (NSW) have now had at least their first vaccination dose, the state reported on Wednesday, along with the first rise in new infections in three days.

Australia has locked down Sydney and Melbourne, its largest cities, after outbreaks from the highly infectious Delta variant in June ended months of little or no community transmission.

The country now aims to live with, rather than eliminate, the virus once it achieves broad vaccine coverage of about 70% of its adult population of 20.6 million, a goal it is expected to reach by early November based on current rates.

New South Wales reported 1,480 locally acquired cases, up from 1,220 a day earlier, while cases in neighbouring Victoria dipped to 221 from 246.

Nine new deaths were recorded but rising vaccination levels among the most vulnerable mean the mortality rate of the current outbreak is 0.41%, data shows, below previous outbreaks.

New Zealand marks downward trend in new cases

New Zealand reported a further fall in locally acquired cases on Wednesday, as the largely coronavirus-free nation looks to eradicate an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant.

New Zealand reported 15 new locally acquired cases, down from 21 a day earlier, on the first day of an easing of tough restrictions in all regions outside its largest city Auckland.

Daily infections hit a peak of 85 on August 29. All of the latest cases were in Auckland.

Officials earlier this week said schools, offices and businesses can reopen outside Auckland from Wednesday after near-zero cases in the rest of the country, but there will be a cap on gatherings and masks will remain mandatory in public venues.

Covid slows fight against HIV, TB, malaria

The Covid-19 pandemic had a “devastating” impact on the fight against HIV, tuberculosis and malaria in 2020, according to a report released by the Global Fund on Wednesday.

“For the first time in the history of the global fund, key programmatic results have gone backwards,” said Peter Sands, the Global Fund’s executive director.

Compared with 2019, the number of people reached with HIV prevention and treatment dropped by 11 percent last year, while HIV testing dropped by 22 percent, holding back new treatment in most countries.

The number of people treated for drug-resistant TB in the countries where the Global Fund invests dropped by “a staggering” 19 percent, with those on treatment for extensively drug-resistant TB registering an even bigger drop of 37 percent, it said.

The fund calculated that around 4.7 million people were treated for TB in 2020, around one million fewer than in 2019.

Interventions to combat malaria “appear to have been less badly affected by Covid-19 than the other two diseases,” the report found.

Source: Shafaqna English

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