The employees of the Belgian UZ Leuven hospital pack a delivery of the coronavirus vaccine in a freezer

The European Union kicked off a vaccine rollout on Saturday despite the block’s countries being forced back into lockdown by a new, contagious virus strain that has spread from the UK to France and Spain and even Japan.

The pandemic has claimed more than 1.7 million lives and is still widespread in much of the world. However, the recent launch of vaccination campaigns has raised hopes that 2021 could take a break.

The first doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine arrived in Italy, Spain and France on Saturday morning and were able to be distributed to elderly care facilities and hospital staff.

“We will get our freedom back, we will be able to hug again,” said Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio when he asked the Italians to get the shot.

Vaccinations in all 27 countries of the European Union will begin on Sunday after regulators approved the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine on December 21.

Several countries including France, Spain, Japan, Denmark, Lebanon, Germany, Australia, and the Netherlands have reported cases of the new strain causing jitter from already overloaded health services.

A total of more than 25 million infections have been registered in Europe, according to an AFP tally on Friday, and Russia said on Saturday it had exceeded three million.

The UK itself recorded 70,000 coronavirus deaths on Friday and is facing rising infections from the new strain.

Number of Covid-19 cases reported in European countries since the pandemic began

Number of Covid-19 cases reported in European countries since the pandemic began

Six million people in the south and east were locked as of Saturday, the equivalent of 24 million people nationwide.

December 26th also brought with it a third national lockdown in Austria, during which all non-essential shops were closed – but the ski stations were still open.

The lockdown and curfew should last until January 24th.

New variant

The first French case of the new variant of coronavirus was found in a UK-based citizen who arrived from London on December 19, the French Ministry of Health said late Friday.

You are asymptomatic and self-isolating at home in Tours, central France, and contact tracing has been carried out for the health professionals who treated him.

In Spain, four cases were confirmed in Madrid on Saturday.

Patients are “not seriously ill,” said Madrid regional government deputy chief of health Antonio Zapatero, adding that “there is no cause for concern”.

Even after the border crossings through France were reopened, thousands of trucks were secured on motorways in southern England on Christmas Day

Thousands of trucks were secured on motorways in southern England on Christmas Day, even after France reopened the border crossings it closed due to the new strain of the virus

The new strain of the virus, which experts believe is more contagious, caused more than 50 countries, including the United Kingdom, where it first appeared, to impose travel restrictions.

The bottlenecks of thousands of trucks in southern England eased on Saturday after France lifted a 48-hour entry ban for drivers with a negative coronavirus test and opened its port in Calais on Christmas Day.

South Africa has found a similar mutation in some infected people, but on Friday denied British claims that its strain was more contagious or dangerous than the one from the UK.

“Extremely Extraordinary Fame”

In Asia, the Chinese communist leadership issued a statement praising the “extraordinary fame” of handling the virus that emerged in the country’s Hubei province last year, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Tokyo reported a record 949 new daily cases, with the total for Japan recently topping 3,000 per day.

Thailand has also seen a new outbreak related to a fish market near Bangkok that has infected nearly 1,500 people.

In Australia, there was little sign of the usual Boxing Day sales frenzy on the streets of Sydney on Saturday.

Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov claimed without evidence that licorice could cure Covid-19

Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov claimed without evidence that licorice could cure Covid-19

Residents largely followed the prime minister’s request to stay at home in the face of a new virus cluster.

“Even when we walked in, there were less than 10 people there,” shopper Lia Gunawan told The Sydney Morning Herald after queuing for the sale.

All over the world, people are being urged to respect social distancing guidelines as the World Health Organization urged people not to “waste” the “great, heartbreaking sacrifices” that people have made to save lives.

“Vaccines offer the world a way out of this tragedy. But it will be some time before the whole world is vaccinated,” warned WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Friday.

“Vaccines for All”

In his traditional Christmas message on Friday in the Vatican, Pope Francis pleaded for “vaccines for all”.

“I urge everyone, heads of state, corporations, international organizations to encourage cooperation, not competition, to find a solution for everyone … especially the most vulnerable and neediest in all regions of the planet.” Said Pope Francis.

In authoritarian post-Soviet Turkmenistan, where the government claims it has not detected any coronavirus cases, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov claimed that licorice root could cure Covid-19.

Without citing scientific evidence, former dentist Berdymukhamedov claimed that “licorice prevents the coronavirus from developing”.

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© 2020 AFP

Quote: EU prepares vaccine rollout as new virus strains spread (2020, December 26th), accessed on December 26th, 2020 from virus.html

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