This week’s surprise reversal of mask-wearing guidance for those vaccinated against Covid-19 was a “foundational first step” towards returning the US to normal, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) insisted on Sunday, as the agency continued to draw criticism for the sudden and confusing advice.Dr Rochelle Walensky appeared on several Sunday talk shows to stress it was up to individuals whether to follow the guidance issued on Thursday.“This was not permission to shed masks for everybody, everywhere. This was really [a] science-driven individual assessment of your risk,” Walensky told NBC’s Meet the Press.“We are asking people to be honest with themselves. If they are vaccinated and they are not wearing a mask, they are safe. If they are not vaccinated and they are not wearing a mask, they are not safe.”A growing number of groups and health experts have questioned the new guidance, which reversed the CDC position that even those fully vaccinated should continue to wear masks indoors. As many as 20 states and several large businesses, including Walmart and Starbucks, immediately dropped mask mandates.The nation’s largest nurses union suggested on Saturday the advice was not based on science and said any relaxation of protective measures threatened the health of patients and caregivers.Others were critical of the timing of the new guidance given that emergency approval was given only this week for those aged 12 to 15 to receive the Pzifer-BioNTech vaccine. Children aged 11 and under will likely not be able to receive a vaccine for months.“We knew that there was going to be a time where we had the majority of Americans who wanted to be vaccinated and yet the children were not going to be eligible,” Walensky told CNN’s State of the Union.“This week we got news that we can vaccinate our 12 to 15 year olds. We hope by the fall, by the end of this year, we’ll have vaccine eligible at even younger ranges. We recognize the challenge of parents who can’t leave their kids at home to go shopping, those kids should continue to wear masks in those settings and to the best of their ability to keep a distance. Those recommendations have not changed.”She repeated her assertion that it was “individual guidance”.“I want to convey that we are not saying that everybody has to take off their mask if they’re vaccinated,” she said. “It’s been 16 months that we’ve been telling people to mask and this is going to be a slow process.“The other thing is that every community is not the same, not all communities have vaccination rates that are high. These decisions have to be made at the community level”.Dr Anthony Fauci, Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, told CBS’s Face the Nation the changed guidance was underpinned by “an accumulation of data”, including that the vaccines’ effectiveness had proved “even better than in the clinical trials”.Also, he said, “a number of papers have come out showing the vaccine protects even against the variants that are circulating, and we’re seeing that it is very unlikely that a vaccinated person, even if there’s a breakthrough infection, would transmit to someone else.”Fauci was referring to eight vaccinated members of the New York Yankees baseball team who tested positive but exhibited no symptoms.He did, however, appear to acknowledge the sudden switch of advice had been confusing. The CDC, Fauci said, will be “coming out very quickly with individual types of guidances, so people will say, ‘Well, what about the workplace? What about this, what about that?’“That’s going to be clarified pretty quickly I would imagine. Within just a couple of weeks you’re gonna start to see significant clarification of some of the actually understandable and reasonable questions that people are asking.”
Cinemas and entertainment venues are shutting down, and limits on public gatherings are tightened.
Taiwan reported 206 new local cases of Covid-19 on Sunday, breaking the previous day’s record high of 180.The outbreak, which began about three weeks ago among employees of the national airline and a connected quarantine hotel, has now produced about 85% of Taiwan’s total number of locally transmitted cases since the pandemic began.The sudden rise in cases in a country widely considered to have had one of the world’s leading pandemic responses has prompted partial lockdown measures in two cities including the capital, Taipei, and sent worried residents indoors, clearing usually busy shopping districts and temples.At a press briefing on Sunday, the central epidemic command centre (CECC) announced 207 new cases, one of which was an imported case. The patients were predominately older people but ranged in age from five to 80. There were 89 new cases in Taipei City, of which 58 were in the district of Wanhua, where a cluster of at least 100 cases so far has centred on hosted bars and teahouses connected to the sex work industry. Another 97 cases were in neighbouring New Taipei City. Dozens of cases have reportedly not yet been traced to a source.A day after ordering Taipei and New Taipei to move to level 3 of a four-tier alert system, the health minister, Chen Shih-chung, announced further measures including remote learning for some school years, and guidelines for hospitals to prioritise symptomatic Covid cases, saying dedicated beds were beginning to fill. He urged people to increase hygiene measures and avoid unnecessary travel and interactions outside home. “Personal responsibility is very important,” he said.People walk past a sign reading ‘Wear protective face mask, wash your hands and keep social distancing’ at a night market in Taipei. Photograph: Ann Wang/ReutersThe level 3 alert covers about 6.5 million of Taiwan’s 24 million people and limits gatherings and mandates public mask-wearing and the closure of some businesses and public venues. It allows eateries to stay open if they can ensure social distancing, but initial confusion about the rules left many businesses unsure if they had to close. People panic-shopped in droves on Saturday afternoon, crowding supermarkets.Despite Taiwan’s compliance and caution in relation to the pandemic, Chen suggested he had not implemented more stringent restrictions because residents might resist.Health experts said the rise in case numbers was probably partly a result of mass testing drives over the weekend. But the sharp jump from 29 new cases on Friday to triple figures over the weekend has prompted alarm among a population that has seen the virus wreak havoc overseas while their own lives have remained largely normal.Empty shelves in a store in Taipei. Photograph: Ann Wang/ReutersTaipei’s metro system reported a 60% drop in passengers on Saturday, with 1 million fewer rides than the previous week. The capital was devoid of crowds and traffic, and riverside eateries and pedestrian shopping districts were mostly empty.On Sunday in Wanhua, the centre of Taipei’s major cluster, shops were closed and trucks carrying decontamination teams drove the streets. A lone woman prayed at the usually crowded Longshan temple, while an adjacent park hosted just a fraction of the elderly residents who usually gather to chat, play board games or shelter from the sun under the bougainvillaea.The outbreak has also prompted a surge in vaccinations. On Saturday 32,000 people were give a dose, the highest daily number so far. With no community presence of the virus in Taiwan for so long, few people eligible for the several hundred thousand vaccines obtained had sought one out. In light of the outbreak, self-pay vaccines for the general public – launched to make use of the doses before they expired – were suspended. President Tsai Ing-wen announced that a domestically developed vaccine would be available by July, and orders of overseas vaccines are expected in coming months.The outbreak began in late April among airline staff from the domestic carrier China Airlines and the Novotel hotel at Taoyuan airport where they stayed. Infections then spread to families and households. Observers have noted the short quarantine period for airline staff, which was relaxed from five days to three in mid-April, amid allegations that infected individuals went out socialising. Sunday’s cases bring Taiwan’s total tally of Covid-19 cases to 1,682, of which 1,132 were imported.
Matt Hancock has defended the government’s delay of almost three weeks before putting India on its travel red list, a move only made after the cancellation of Boris Johnson’s planned visit to Delhi.His defence came as concern mounted over increased cases of the B.1.617.2 variant first detected in India, particularly in the north-west and parts of London, which could affect the future easing of lockdown restrictions.Hancock said the decision not to red list India was “based on the evidence” when asked if it was linked to the prime minister’s desire to boost trade negotiations during his planned April visit, as cases soared in India.The country was put on the red list, which requires hotel quarantine, for entering England 17 days after Pakistan and only after Johnson’s visit was cancelled.“When we put Pakistan on the red list at the start of April that’s because the proportion of people testing positive coming in from Pakistan was three times higher than the proportion coming from India, and it was only after we put India on the red list that this variant went under investigation, and then earlier this month it became a variant of concern,” Hancock told Sky News.He said it was “quite likely this will become the dominant variant” in the UK, because of its transmissibility. The Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI) was said to be “cautiously optimistic” that vaccines would work against the India variant of Covid-19.Government scientific advisers suggested that people should still avoid indoor socialising when rules are relaxed on Monday and Labour’s Yvette Cooper said the government should pause plans to allow international travel.Hancock reiterated that places with high case numbers linked to the variant, such as Bolton and Blackburn, could see local lockdowns put in place but said that was not a step the government wanted to take.“The approach we’re taking in Bolton and Blackburn is to absolutely pile in testing and vaccinations to try to get on top of this,” he said.Hancock told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show that five people who had received a single jab of a Covid vaccine have been hospitalised with the variant in Bolton, and one person who had received both. He said he was not aware of any deaths among people who had been vaccinated.Major new restrictions were due to be lifted on Monday, which will allow indoor socialising and overnight stays with other households for the first time, with advice against hugging also lifted.Hancock said he would hug his own parents but stay outdoors. “Of course there are people who have been yearning to have some physical contact – you should do that carefully. If you’ve had both jabs more than two weeks ago, that’s much safer,” he said.But Hancock stressed that the government was moving towards a “mantra” of personal responsibility. “We all have a personal responsibility, we all know now the sorts of things that are riskier but we’re able because the case numbers are so low to move away from some of the more restrictive interventions,” he said.Sir Mark Walport, a member of the government’s scientific advisory group for emergencies (Sage) told Sky’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday said that people should be cautious.“My personal judgment is that I will do things outside as far as possible,” he said. Asked if he would avoid indoor pubs, he said: “For the moment, yes.”“My advice is that just because you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean you should,” he said. “As far as possible socialise outside, maintain social distancing, if you’re going to hug, hug cautiously.”Walport said it was “a perilous moment … We have a variant that shows good evidence of being more transmissible and possibly significantly more transmissible … And the other thing that we do know is that this new variant from India is actually quite widely distributed across the country.”He said there was a chance that the Indian variant of the virus could cause substantial problems among “people that haven’t been vaccinated yet, people who are only partially protected because they’ve had one vaccination, and … in a small percentage of cases the vaccination for whatever reasons doesn’t work.”He said vaccines would largely protect people against severe infection and death but said a small fraction of a very large number of infections could lead to significant numbers of deaths and hospitalisations.Fellow Sage adviser Prof John Edmunds said the government should not rule out changes to the roadmap of easing restrictions if necessary. “I think we have to monitor this very carefully, I don’t think we should rule anything out. So if things look like they’re getting worse rapidly then I do think that action needs to be taken,” he said.Asked whether the situation could have been avoided had the border to India been closed more quickly, he said: “I don’t think it would have been avoided, it could have delayed things a little bit.”However, he said the UK was in “a much, much better place now than we were when the Kent variant first hit us back in November, December.”He said hospitals were now mostly empty of Covid patients and two-thirds of the adult population have been vaccinated. “It is a new threat – but we’re not in the same position as we were back in December,” he said.Yvette Cooper, who chairs the home affairs select committee, said the government should reverse its decision to allow foreign travel from Monday.“The government needs to slow down its plans. I don’t understand why it’s lifting some of its international travel restrictions tomorrow. I think they should be being much more cautious about that,” she told the Andrew Marr show.Prof Adam Finn, a member of the JCVI said the committee could look again at the recommendation that people under 40 should be offered non-AstraZeneca jabs if it means that it could speed up the rollout.
Children have been largely overlooked during the COVID-19 pandemic; thankfully the majority of them get mild or even no symptoms if they catch the virus. Much of the discussion around the role of children in the pandemic has been about how they may spread the virus.
However, over time there has been a growing body of evidence that suggests that a proportion of children may develop long COVID, whether or not they had any symptoms when they actually contracted the virus.
Long COVID in adults is defined as signs and symptoms that develop during or following an infection consistent with COVID-19, continue for more than 12 weeks and are not explained by an alternative diagnosis.
So far there is no medical definition of long COVID in children but support groups and researchers say there may be up to 100 symptoms, including fatigue, “brain fog”, muscle aches, pain, gastrointestinal problems, nausea, dizziness, seizures, hallucinations and testicular pain. The cause of these symptoms is poorly understood, although findings suggest an ongoing immune reaction, after the virus has cleared, plays a part.
A study in Italy looked at 129 children aged between six and 16 years, diagnosed with COVID‐19 between March and November 2020. Some 96 of them had symptoms of COVID-19 during the acute infection phase, while 33 had no symptoms at all but tested positive. The study found that 42.6 percent of the children still had symptoms more than 60 days post-infection. Symptoms like fatigue, muscle and joint pain, headache, insomnia, respiratory problems and palpitations were particularly frequent.
A similar case study was carried out in Sweden, focusing on a smaller group of five children aged from nine to 15. All five children had fatigue, dyspnoea (laboured breathing), heart palpitations or chest pain, and four had headaches, difficulties concentrating, muscle weakness, dizziness and sore throats six to eight months after the initial infection.
A recent report from the UK’s Office for National Statistics estimates that 12.9 per cent of UK children aged two to 11, and 14.5 per cent of children aged 12 to 16, still have symptoms five weeks after their initial infection with COVID-19. Almost 500,000 UK children have tested positive for COVID-19 since March 2020.
More research is needed but as the debate around vaccinating children against COVID-19 rages, it is important to acknowledge as part of that discussion the growing body of evidence that children appear to develop symptoms beyond the initial infection and these symptoms can be debilitating.
The lack of knowledge in this area is also a source of frustration for families who are presenting children to hospitals and GP surgeries with vague and varied symptoms and being turned away without adequate treatment and support. Campaigners are urging policymakers to invest in research in this area so that these children can be managed appropriately and return to normal life.
Until now, the focus has been on COVID-19 in adults. Perhaps now is the time to think about the long-term effects it can have on children. We urgently need research into both the effects the lockdown has had on children and also the long-term effects of the coronavirus on children. Both are vital to their future health.
Progress Report: COVID-19 vaccines for children
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has shown 100 percent efficacy against COVID-19 in 12-to-15-year-olds in the preliminary results of a phase 3 trial.
The phase 3 trial included 2,260 children in the US. A total of 18 cases of COVID-19 were observed in the placebo group whose members were given an alternative vaccine, while none were reported in the vaccinated group. The vaccine also elicited robust antibody responses and was well tolerated, with side effects consistent with those observed in participants aged 16 to 25.
After the success in its phase 2 trial, Pfizer applied for emergency authorisation for the vaccine in the US as well as other parts of the world, including Canada and Europe. According to the American medicines regulatory body, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) is a mechanism to facilitate the availability and use of medical countermeasures, including vaccines, during public health emergencies, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Under an EUA, the regulator may allow the use of unapproved medical products, or unapproved uses of approved medical products in an emergency to diagnose, treat, or prevent serious or life-threatening diseases or conditions when certain statutory criteria have been met, including that there are no adequate, approved, and available alternatives.
On May 10, the FDA authorised the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 12 to 15. Dr Janet Woodook, the agency’s acting commissioner, called the authorisation “a significant step in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic”. She added: “Parents and guardians can rest assured that the agency undertook a rigorous and thorough review of all available data, as we have with all of our COVID-19 vaccine emergency use authorizations”.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from March 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021, approximately 1.5 million COVID-19 cases in individuals aged 11 to 17 have been reported in the US.
“Having a vaccine authorised for a younger population is a critical step in continuing to lessen the immense public health burden caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Peter Marks, MD, PhD, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “With science guiding our evaluation and decision-making process, the FDA can assure the public and medical community that the available data meet our rigorous standards to support the emergency use of this vaccine in the adolescent population 12 years of age and older.”
Prior to the US giving the vaccine the green light, Canada also approved its use in children over the age of 12. Supriya Sharma, chief medical adviser to Health Canada, the government’s medical agency, told reporters on May 6 that the vaccine was “safe and effective” and would allow a return to “a more normal life” amid the pandemic. She added that the most common side effects for children are mild and temporary, like “a sore arm, chills or fever”.
Europe and the UK are yet to give their approval of the Pfizer vaccine in those aged 12 to 15, but most experts agree part of the solution to this global pandemic has to be vaccinating children.
[Muaz Kory/Al Jazeera]
Personal account: Online abuse for talking about vaccines
The last few months have been a huge test for me, as a doctor, on many levels. Working on the front line during a pandemic has been a challenge; seeing my patients get sick from COVID-19 in the numbers that they did was hard. Seeing some of them die from the virus was even more difficult and then following that up with conversations with their bereft loved ones only added to the heartbreak. I know many of my colleagues on the front line feel exhausted due to the toll the last year has taken on their mental health.
But then the COVID-19 vaccines were given the green light and a hugely successful vaccine programme was rolled out here in the UK, as well as in other countries. To encourage people to take up the vaccine, I was asked by the government to be part of vaccine advertising campaigns and, because I have mixed Pakistani and Indian heritage, much of my messaging was aimed at people from a South Asian background. I was also part of the campaign to encourage social distancing measures and testing, all of which I agreed to do because I had seen first-hand what the virus does to people.
In hindsight, I think I was naïve, because the thing I was not prepared for was the level of abuse I have sadly received online.
For encouraging the vaccine, I have been accused of being a “paid media shill” – something I had to look up because I had never heard that expression before. Essentially, it seemed that some people thought I was part of a larger organisation that operated in the shadows and had plans to inject the human race with a substance that would allow mind control!
I batted that one off as crazy. But then things became more personal, with people messaging me to tell me I would have “blood on my hands” when people died from the vaccine. Direct threats to my wellbeing were also made, and sinister letters started arriving at my surgery. I reported it to the social media sites, which did nothing. I also reported some of the direct threats to the police, who were more helpful.
However, it was not until I started reporting on research into the use of COVID-19 vaccines in children that the real abuse began.
I will be honest; I understand that the use of vaccines in children stirs up a lot of emotions for people. The majority of children get mild or no symptoms from COVID-19, so are we giving children the vaccine to protect others? Is that completely ethical?
On the flip side, a small number of children have died as a result of a coronavirus infection across the world, and, as I have reported earlier in this column, it would appear the risk of long COVID in children is real. Furthermore, to reach the level of herd immunity required in a population to reduce virus spread, vaccinating children makes sense.
I have been very careful about giving my personal opinion on this matter and have been guided by the evidence which suggests the vaccines are safe and effective in young people. When I went on UK television to simply report the findings of the Pfizer vaccine in children I was bombarded with abusive messages, which ranged from calling me a “child murderer” to some people calling me a “paedophile”. And this was simply for reporting on the study, not giving my opinion. Once again, I received messages that threatened my safety which had to be reported to the police.
I am only human; there is only so much abuse I can take before it takes a toll on my mental health. Some may say this is the price you pay for being on social media, and in some ways, they may be right – speaking to my NHS colleagues, I understand many have received abuse when sharing their stories about front-line work during the pandemic or for promoting vaccine uptake.
The easy answer is for the social media channels to police this kind of abuse more robustly, but they do not. So, it is for us to think long and hard before sending messages to people on social media, especially if they are negative ones. You may type it, send it and then forget about it, but believe me, the effect of it stays with the recipient for a long time.
[Muaz Kory/Al Jazeera]
And now, some good news: Woman gives birth to baby while in a coma from COVID-19
Marriam Ahmad was 29 weeks pregnant when she was admitted to hospital in Wales, UK, with symptoms of COVID-19. She had asthma and her condition deteriorated rapidly. Her breathing became more laboured. The doctors planned to perform an emergency caesarean section on Marriam while she was still conscious but, as her health became worse, she was told she would need to be put on a ventilator and into an induced coma and that she may not survive at all.
Marriam only had time to call her parents before being put on a ventilator. Marriam’s baby was born on January 18 at 8:27pm BST (19:27 GMT) while Marriam was unconscious. The baby was taken straight to neonatal intensive care. Thankfully, Marriam woke up the next day but was not able to remember a thing. She was not able to see her baby girl as they were both too unwell to be moved, but she did get to see pictures of her. Luckily, the baby, named Khadija, did not have any of the complications that can occur in pre-term babies and, after eight weeks in hospital, both mum and baby returned home.
“I am just so grateful – that she’s still alive, that I am still alive,” Marriam said of her experience.
Reader’s question: How can I prevent my child from catching COVID-19?
It is important to remember that the vast majority of children have few, if any, symptoms when they catch COVID-19. And, with mounting evidence that vaccines in adults reduce transmission rates across the board, the chances of your child getting sick from COVID-19 is small.
Saying that, it is important to stick to your local guidelines: handwashing and social distancing are still key, but experts are now focusing on another aspect of prevention: ventilation. We have learned over time that the most likely way the virus is spread is via airborne particles. These are small particles containing the virus that can linger in the air. So, if there is good airflow or ventilation then these are likely to be moved on before anyone can breathe them in. Static airflow means they stay in the air for hours, increasing the risk of spread.
So it is always worth ventilating indoor spaces and finding ways to improve your ventilation if you want to reduce the risk of spreading the virus to either adults or children.
Good morning. Caroline Davies in London here. Welcome to the coronavirus liveblog. I will be steering you through developments over the next few hours. You can contact me on email@example.com.
As England sees a significant easing of restrictions from Monday, UK prime minister Boris Johnson is under mounting pressure to reconsider the relaxation of Covid rules because of the threat posed by the India variant. His own advisers and independent health experts raised fears that it could lead to a surge in hospital admissions, especially among young adults, the Observer reports.
Meanwhile thousands of UK holidaymakers are preparing to head overseas with the ban on foreign leisure travel lifting in England and Wales on Monday.
Travel firms have reported a surge in demand for trips to Portugal, after the government put the country on its green list for travel, PA Media reports. That means returning travellers will not need to self-isolate on their return, and are only required to take one post-arrival test.
EasyJet has added 105,000 extra seats to its flights serving green-tier destinations, while Tui will use aircraft which normally operate long-haul routes to accommodate the surge of people booked to fly to Portugal. Only a dozen countries and territories are on the green list but most are either remote islands or do not currently allow UK tourists to enter.
The government is advising people not to make non-essential trips to locations on its amber list, which covers popular destinations such as Spain, France, Italy and Greece. But this guidance is expected to be ignored by some holidaymakers.
Teachers, pupils and parents in England have greeted the easing of coronavirus safety measures in schools from Monday with a mixture of relief and, in the light of concern over the Indian variant, dismay and confusion. The government has announced that students will no longer need to wear face coverings in schools. But some areas in the north of England are being advised to continue measures, following rising numbers of cases of the new variant, known as B.1.617.2.
In Germany, the number of confirmed cases increased by 8,500 to 3,593,434, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Sunday. The reported death toll rose by 71 to 86,096.
Australia is sticking to plans to start re-opening to the rest of the world only from the middle of next year, officials said on Sunday, resisting mounting pressure to end the closure of international borders. In March 2020, Australia closed its borders to non-nationals and non-residents and has since been allowing only limited international arrivals, mainly citizens returning from abroad, Reuters reports.
Taiwan reported 206 new domestic Covid-19 infections on Sunday, as the island grapples with an increase in community infections.
Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Anadolu Agency via Getty ImagesA hospital in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, is being charged under the country’s National Security Act for sounding the alarm over a lack of oxygen that resulted in Covid deaths. The hospital’s owner and manager says police have accused him of “false scaremongering”, after he stated publicly that four patients died on a single day when oxygen ran out.Related: Relief, reluctance and confusion: New Yorkers react to mask-free guidanceSince Covid-19 exploded in India, the prime minister, Narendra Modi, seems to be trying to the control the news more than the outbreak. On Wednesday, India recorded nearly 363,000 cases and 4,120 deaths, about 30% of worldwide deaths that day. But experts say India is vastly understating the true number. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, estimates at least 25,000 Indians are dying from Covid each day.The horror has been worsened by shortages of oxygen and hospital beds. Yet Modi and his government don’t want the public to get the true story.One big lesson from the Covid crisis: lying makes it worse.Vladimir Putin is busily denying the truth about Covid in Russia. Demographer Alexei Raksha, who worked at Russia’s official statistical agency, Rosstat, but says he was forced to leave last summer for telling the truth about Covid, claims daily data has been “smoothed, rounded, lowered” to look better. Like many experts, he uses excess mortality – the number of deaths during the pandemic over the typical number of deaths – as the best indicator.Trump wants the credit for developing the vaccine. Then he also gets the blame for so few of his voters taking itFrank Luntz“If Russia stops at 500,000 excess deaths, that will be a good scenario,” he calculates.Russia was first out of the gate with a vaccine but has fallen woefully behind on vaccinations. Recent polling puts the share of Russians who don’t want to be vaccinated at 60% to 70%. That’s because Putin and other officials have focused less on vaccinating the public than on claiming success in containing Covid.Story continuesThe US is suffering a similar problem – the legacy of another strongman, Donald Trump. Although more than half of US adults have received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, more than 40% of Republicans have consistently told pollsters they won’t get vaccinated. Their recalcitrance is threatening efforts to achieve “herd immunity” and prevent the virus’s spread.Like Modi and Putin, Trump minimized the seriousness of the pandemic and spread misinformation about it. Trump officials ordered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to downplay its severity. He declined to get vaccinated publicly and was noticeably absent from a public service announcement on vaccination that featured all other living former presidents.Trump allies in the media have conducted a scare campaign about the vaccines. In December, Fox News host Laura Ingraham posted a story on Facebook from the Daily Mail purporting to show evidence that Chinese communist party loyalists worked at pharmaceutical companies that developed the coronavirus vaccine.As recently as mid-April, Fox News host Tucker Carlson opined that if the vaccine were truly effective, there’d be no reason for people who received it to wear masks or avoid physical contact.“So maybe it doesn’t work,” he said, “and they’re simply not telling you that.”Why then should anyone be surprised at the reluctance of Trump Republicans to get vaccinated? A recent New York Times analysis showed vaccination rates to be lower in counties where a majority voted for Trump in 2020. States that voted more heavily for Trump are also states where lower percentages of the population have been vaccinated.The Republican pollster Frank Luntz says Trump bears responsibility for the hesitancy of GOP voters to be vaccinated.“He wants to get the credit for developing the vaccine,” Luntz said. “Then he also gets the blame for so few of his voters taking it.”Trump’s Republican party is coming to resemble other authoritarian regimes around the world in other respects as well – purging truth tellers and trucking in lies, misinformation and propaganda harmful to the public.Related: We are responding calmly to Indian Covid variant, insists UK health ministerThis week the GOP stripped Liz Cheney of her leadership position for telling the truth about the 2020 election. At last week’s congressional hearing about the 6 January attack on the Capitol, one Republican, Andrew Clyde, even denied it happened.“There was no insurrection,” he said. “To call it an insurrection is a bold-faced lie … you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit.”Biden says he plans to call a summit of democratic governments to contain the rise of authoritarianism around the world. I hope he talks about its rise in the US too – and the huge toll it’s already taken on Americans.
A year ago, the US economy tanked. Will it return to normal once the pandemic is over?
Japan’s platform for booking Covid-19 vaccinations has crashed in parts of the country because of a technical issue with US cloud computing vendor Salesforce, compounding frustration with the government’s handling of the pandemic.
On Wednesday, Salesforce experienced a global outage, described by chief technology officer Parker Harris as a “major disruption,” crippling Japan’s online booking platform for Covid-19 shots, which is using the US technology. The booking system crashed in a number of places around the country, including parts of Tokyo and the western city of Minoh. One frustrated Twitter user suggested the government make it possible to get vaccinated without having to register for an appointment online.Three hours after his first tweet, Harris posted that service were “significantly restored,” but added “we are still not out of impact.”
Also on rt.com
More people dying at home from Covid-19 in Japan as hospitals struggle to cope
Japan’s inoculation program against Covid-19 has faltered, with only 2.8% of its population having received a jab to date – far below other wealthy nations. Despite supply problems, the government still maintains the ambitious target of inoculating the country’s 36 million elderly people by July.The government has faced several technical challenges during the pandemic, including a Covid-19 warning app that, because of a bug, failed to pass on many notifications of suspected contact with people infected with the virus. On Tuesday, it was reported that Japan was seeing more people die at home from Covid-19 as hospitals operate at full capacity. Despite the virus and mounting internal opposition, the country is due to host the Olympic Games in July and August.If you like this story, share it with a friend!
RIO DE JANEIRO: Four months into a Covid-19 vaccination campaign marred by shortages and delays, hard-hit Brazil is still struggling to find enough doses, as political and diplomatic blunders prolong its pandemic nightmare. Around 33 million people — 15 percent of the population — have received at least one vaccine dose in Brazil, a proportion still too small to have a substantial impact on the virus’ spread. Targeted by a Senate inquiry over its handling of the pandemic, President Jair Bolsonaro’s government is facing criticism for failing to secure more vaccines, including its refusal of offers to purchase millions of doses and diplomatic tension with China that may be slowing the import of vaccine ingredients. “We don’t have enough doses right now to vaccinate as fast as we should,” said Margareth Dalcolmo, a pulmonologist and researcher at leading public health institute Fiocruz. “We ought to be vaccinating younger people already, especially given that younger demographic groups are currently driving transmission,” she told AFP. But first, Brazil still has to vaccinate 80 million people from high-priority groups, including the elderly, indigenous people and health workers. Vaccine doses meanwhile continue to arrive in a trickle — although the government maintains it will be able to vaccinate all adults by the end of the year. Brazil has lost more lives to Covid-19 than any country except the United States — more than 430,000 — and has one of the highest death tolls per capita in the world. Though the current wave has eased somewhat since April, the virus is still killing a staggeringly high number of people in the country — nearly 2,000 a day. Despite its huge size, the South American country is known for executing turbo-charged vaccination campaigns. In 2010, Brazil vaccinated more than 80 million people against H1N1 — the swine flu virus — in less than three months. “We need to be vaccinating two million people a day,” said Dalcolmo. As it stands, Brazil has rarely managed more than one million Covid-19 shots a day. “We’ve gotten better since the start of the year, but we’re still a long way from where we need to be,” said Joao Viola, president of the Brazilian Immunological Society’s scientific committee. Brazil started out using two vaccines, Oxford/AstraZeneca’s and Chinese-developed CoronaVac, both of which it has licenses to produce locally. The drive got a boost last month with the arrival of the Pfizer vaccine. But only about two million of the 100 million doses Brazil has ordered have been delivered so far. All three shots require two doses. Brazil could have secured more Pfizer doses faster, but Bolsonaro’s government refused an offer last August to purchase more than 70 million of them. The far-right president, who has persistently snubbed expert advice on handling the pandemic, joked that the vaccine could “turn you into an alligator” — only to change course months later and allow a deal with the US pharmaceutical giant. “Worldwide demand for vaccines is very high, so those who were slow to sign deals are receiving their orders later,” said Viola. Bolsonaro, whose government often has strained relations with China, also refused to purchase CoronaVac, calling it the vaccine from “that other country.” But a political opponent, Joao Doria, governor of Brazil’s most populous state, Sao Paulo, pursued a deal for CoronaVac anyway. The vaccine now accounts for more than 70 percent of the doses administered in Brazil. However, the public health center manufacturing it in Brazil, the Butantan Institute, announced Friday it would have to halt production because it had run out of the active ingredient, which has to be imported from China. Brazil is due to start producing the active ingredient for CoronaVac itself, but only in September. The Butantan Institute said “diplomatic problems” could prevent it from delivering new doses in June. Last week, Bolsonaro provoked China by saying it may have created the novel coronavirus in a lab to wage “germ warfare.” “There are 10,000 liters (of active ingredient for CoronaVac) ready, just waiting for the Chinese government to authorize shipment,” said Doria. “But every time someone here makes a disparaging remark about China, that clearly makes it more difficult.”