Image of the ultrastructural morphology of the novel coronavirus 2019 (2019-nCoV). Image credit: CDC
The head of the EU’s Disease Control Agency warned on Friday that the novel coronavirus could last indefinitely, even if global infections slowed by almost half in the last month and vaccine adoption gained momentum in parts of the world.
In an interview with AFP, ECDC chief Andrea Ammon urged European countries in particular not to protect themselves from a virus that “appears to be very well adapted to humans” and may require experts to optimize vaccines over time as is the case with seasonal flu.
“So we should be prepared to keep it with us,” said Ammon, director of the Stockholm-based European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
After the recent harsh wave of a pandemic that began in China more than a year ago, glimmers of hope flickered when a specialized AFP database showed the rate of new COVID-19 infections slowed 44.5 percent worldwide over the past month .
Globally, more than 107 million people are already infected and almost 2.4 million have died of COVID-19.
In the UK, a sharp drop in infections and the acceleration in vaccinations have led some members of the ruling Conservative Party to urge that the home rules be lifted in early March.
Much of the country re-entered lockdown in early January to contain a more transmissible variant of COVID-19, first identified in the UK.
The UK government was cautious nonetheless, a catchphrase that has been reproduced elsewhere, including in Italy, Portugal and Australia.
Italy extended a domestic travel ban until February 25 and tightened restrictions in four regions amid growing concerns over the spread of more infectious variants of coronavirus.
Portugal extended border controls with Spain until March 1st.
And Australia has sentenced more than six million people in Melbourne and the surrounding area to a five-day coronavirus emergency lockdown.
“It’s tough. It’s going to be a tough couple of days for everyone,” said tennis star Serena Williams, responding to the lockdown news shortly after her last win at the Australian Open.
While the game continues under the restrictions, fans are no longer allowed and players must limit themselves to bio-safe “bubbles”.
The toll on sports, entertainment and business continued to be massive.
The Tokyo Olympics are slated to open in July after several delays.
But game organizers are already grappling with public concerns about holding the big international event this summer.
Record decline for the UK economy
The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, called on the 27 EU member states to accelerate the ratification of an important part of the bloc’s € 750 billion plan in order to recover from the effects of the pandemic.
The UK, which has left the EU and has the highest number of virus deaths in Europe after a heavily criticized initial response to the pandemic, reported the economy contracted 9.9 percent over the past year.
Treasury Secretary Rishi Sunak admitted the impact would be “a major shock” and warned, “We should expect the economy to deteriorate before it improves.”
London, meanwhile, urged the G7 – Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States – to take joint action to tackle the global consequences of the pandemic.
Hungary has since said it will be the first EU country to use the Russian Sputnik V vaccine.
The country split from the EU last month when it became the first bloc member to approve Sputnik V and give two million doses over three months, enough to vaccinate a million people.
Russia registered Sputnik V in August, months ahead of Western competitors but before major clinical trials began, which made some experts suspicious.
However, recent results, published in the Lancet Journal, found that the vaccine was 91.6 percent effective against COVID-19.
Some EU heads of state and government seem to embrace the idea of using Sputnik V as the bloc is grappling with supply shortages for the three vaccines it has approved.
Plans to vaccinate all Americans
The European Medicines Agency has so far approved vaccines for the block that were developed by the US-German company Pfizer-BioNTech, the US-American company Moderna and the British-Swedish company AstraZeneca at Oxford University.
The EMA announced on Friday that it had started an “ongoing review” of a vaccine from the German manufacturer CureVac, the first step towards possible approval.
Non-EU Bosnia started vaccinating with the Sputnik V-shock on Friday, but only medical staff will be vaccinated for now.
In the United States – the hardest-hit country in the world, with more than 470,000 deaths – Joe Biden announced plans to vaccinate nearly all American citizens by the end of July.
On Thursday, the US president announced that agreements had been made for 100 million more Moderna and 100 million more Pfizer vaccines.
With the recent vaccine purchases, the US is on track to “have enough supplies for 300 million Americans by the end of July,” said Biden, which means enough vaccinations for everyone eligible.
Brazil’s hard-hit drive to vaccinate its population has stalled this week as a shortage of doses forced authorities to slow or stop vaccination in several key areas.
However, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the introduction of COVID-19 vaccines in Canada in March will be back on track to make up for recent delays.
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© 2021 AFP
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