The Czech Republic on Thursday announced a stricter lockdown in three districts from east to west where coronavirus infections have soared and hospitals are struggling to cope.
The order means a ban on movement from and into the eastern district of Trutnov on the border with Poland and the western districts of Cheb and Sokolov on the border with Germany, the health minister Jan Blatny said.
The restrictions will take effect on Friday, Blatny said, but they depend on an extension of a national state of emergency beyond Sunday, which the minority government may be unable to secure in a parliamentary vote expected later in the day.
The three districts are home to around 300,000 people, and infection rates there were at 1,091-1,183 per 100,000 in the past week, according to ministry data.
“These are areas where the number of infections is three to four times higher than elsewhere,” Blatny told reporters. “We have decided to limit free movement in these regions beyond the national measures, and, apart from exceptions, to ban people who live here to leave and people who do not live here to enter.”
There will be exceptions for people who can prove they are on the way to work and children who attend school elsewhere, he said.
The country of 10.7 million has suffered one of Europe’s worst coronavirus flare-ups with daily cases around 9,000 in recent days. It has reported 17,772 deaths overall.
Hospitals in the affected regions have been forced to transfer patients to less stretched areas of the country.
Police will be enforcing the ban, which includes mountain areas where many Czech have second homes, Blatny said.
CNA is reporting three community cases among 12 new Covid-19 infections in Singapore.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) said the remaining nine infections were imported and had been placed on stay-home notice upon arrival in Singapore. No new infections were reported in foreign worker dormitories.
“With increased interactions over the Chinese New Year period, there will be higher transmission risks in the community. It is important that everyone remain vigilant and adhere to the safe management measures,” said MOH.
The number of visitors per household per day is limited to eight people, with the authorities encouraging everyone to connect digitally instead of going on physical visits.
Ukraine has banned the use of Russia’s Sputnik V on its territory, saying no vaccine could be distributed that was produced by an “aggressor state”.
The move comes as the EU considers approving the Russian drug, after a peer reviewed study in the Lancet found it was 91.6 percent effective. Member state Hungary has already broken with the bloc to greenlight the vaccine.
Kiev, which remains at loggerheads with Moscow over the 2014 annexation of Crimea and Russian support for rebels in separatist territories, has repeatedly said it would block Sputnik V. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has insisted Ukraine would deal “only with the leading manufacturers of vaccines”.
But reports have already emerged of Russia supplying Sputnik V to rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine as Kiev struggled to secure vaccines from other sources.
Heathrow Airport, Britain’s busiest, saw passenger numbers plunge by 89% in January compared to the same month last year – with cargo volume falling by 21% – as the aviation industry suffers in Britain’s latest lockdown and from tighter border controls.
“We need to see the flight plan for the safe restart of international travel as part of the prime minister’s roadmap on 22 February,” Heathrow’s chief executive John Holland-Kaye said on Thursday, Reuters is reporting.
A passenger pushing luggage through the Arrival Hall of Terminal 5 at London’s Heathrow Airport in January. Photograph: Kirsty O’Connor/PA
Some local authorities across Britain are sending out roving teams of doctors are bringing Covid-19 vaccine shots to the homeless, Reuters is reporting.
In a pandemic, homeless people face being more forgotten than they already are. But not by doctors like Dr. Anil Mehta, who is on a mission to bring the coronavirus vaccine to those hardest to reach and often most at risk of getting sick in eastLondon.
Mehta, a general practitioner, and his small team of doctors and nurses have been showing up at homeless centres in his local area, a Covid-19 hotspot, offering a free jab to dozens who might otherwise get left behind in Britain’s mass vaccination drive, reports Reuters.
“They will get missed if we don’t find them proactively,” Mehta said. “They really don’t have anything going for them, in terms of medical care. Finding them is absolutely essential to what we need to achieve in our boroughs.”
The homeless are not listed among the British government’s highest priority groups for the vaccine rollout — which currently include people over 70, nursing home residents, front-line medical staff and social care workers, as well as the clinically vulnerable.
In the outer reaches of northeast London, which has seen some of England’s worst infection rates, Mehta and his mobile vaccination team have been busy working outside of their clinic. They gave a vaccine jab to over 200 homeless people and social care workers at two community centres last week, and plan to reach another 70 next week.
Mehta is happy with the progress so far. “These are very hard-to-reach groups — they could be in different places, here today and going to central London the next day,” he said. “We are effectively chasing them.”
The British government is doing “everything we can” to ensure the public can get a summer holiday this year but could not provide certainty on whether or not to book breaks now, health minister Matt Hancock said.
“I do understand the yearning for certainty, but certainty is hard in a pandemic. We are doing everything we can to make sure people can have that holiday in the summer,” Hancock, who said he had booked a vacation in southwest England, told Sky News.
“The question people are asking understandably, is they are asking for certainty over what the situation will be like in terms of international travel and in terms of going on holiday at home this summer and … what we’ve all been saying is we’ll do everything we can to make sure people can have a holiday.”
While many hope the Year of the Ox starting on February 12 will herald times of plenty, a herd of wild cows in Hong Kong is on the verge of starvation after their pasture was destroyed by a stampede of campers escaping Covid-19 restrictions.
- Volunteers have resorted to cutting fresh grass and shipping it to the island, also called Tap Mun, to stop the herd from starving to death
- A surge in visitors has trampled herd’s food source, creating an ecological disaster and leaving cows to eat rubbish they leave behind
Volunteers taking photos of cattle on the remote Tap Mun (Grass Island) in northeast Hong Kong as the animals struggle to find enough food thanks to a sudden influx of day-trippers and campers in a city where international travel has been all by stamped out by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Photograph: Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images
Once grassy pastures that nurtured the feral cows have been reduced to barren dirt by the feet of hordes of hikers and campers. Volunteers have resorted to cutting fresh grass and shipping it to Tap Mun to stop the herd from starving.
The animals have made their home for generations alongside a few dozen fishing families on the island in northeast Hong Kong off Sai Kung.
Until the coronavirus struck last year, a largely manageable number of hikers and campers made their way to the island.But with overseas travel no longer possible for most Hongkongers, a huge influx of visitors has arrived as residents look for ways to escape the confines of Social distancing in one of the world’s most densely populated cities.
Covid-19: China’s ‘zero corona’ policy frustrates Japanese in Beijing during Lunar New Year celebrations, reports the South China Morning Post.
With the Lunar New Year holiday coming, China’s drastic “zero corona” policy has baffled Japanese workers in Beijing, most of whom have been forced to stay in the capital for more than a year.
One day before the 40-day Spring Festival travel season – dubbed the world’s biggest human migration period – began on January 28, the Beijing government abruptly announced more stringent steps to restrict the movement of people to prevent the intrusion of the novel coronavirus.
“I had planned to make a temporary return to Japan during the Lunar New Year holiday to meet my family and had booked a flight, but I eventually postponed,” said a Japanese male worker at the Beijing office of Sony Corp.
“I have not met my baby who was born last year in Japan. I hope that the situation will get better as soon as possible,” he said ahead of the seven-day holiday that kicks off on today.
Many Japanese workers in Beijing live alone because their family members, who evacuated from China amid the outbreak in early 2020, have been stranded at home in Japan since the Chinese government limited the entry of foreigners last year.
Good morning, Amelia Hill here bringing you the thought-provoking news that the director of the Covid-19 Genomics UK consortium, Sharon Peacock, has just told the BBC that the coronavirus variant first found in the British region of Kent is likely to sweep around the world and the battle with the virus is going to go on for at least a decade.
The Kent variant has “swept the country” and “it’s going to sweep the world, in all probability,” the head of the UK’s genetic surveillance programme said, told the BBC.
“Once we get on top of [the virus] or it mutates itself out of being virulent – causing disease – then we can stop worrying about it. But I think, looking in the future, we’re going to be doing this for years. We’re still going to be doing this 10 years down the line, in my view.”
The Philippines is set to receive 600,000 doses this month of Sinovac Biotech’s vaccine donated by China, a portion of which will be used to inoculate military personnel, a senior government official said on Thursday.
Reuters reports that presidential spokesman Harry Roque told a regular news conference the 23 February arrival of the vaccines is certain, but they would not be administered without the approval of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
So far, only shots developed by AstraZeneca and the vaccine of Pfizer and BioNTech have been approved for emergency use in the country.
Roque said regulators have allowed “compassionate use” of 10,000 doses of a vaccine developed by China’s Sinopharm for President Rodrigo Duterte’s security detail.
Roque said 100,000 of the 600,000 Sinovac doses will be given to soldiers and the rest for medical workers.
The Philippines aims to start its mass vaccination programme using 117,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine secured through the COVAX international vaccine-sharing facility, which are also due to be delivered this month.
The country has also negotiated supply agreements with Moderna, Gamaleya, Janssen, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Sinovac, Novavax for 148m doses of coronavirus vaccines, the bulk of which are is expected to arrive in the second and third quarters of this year.