Europe begins to roll out Covid vaccines amid fears of a new strain of virus


A man is sitting in a chair as he receives a vaccination against Slovakia.


Part of EU countries will start vaccinating their most vulnerable groups on Sunday as a supposedly more contagious variant of the coronavirus has spread internationally, and WHO warned that the current pandemic would not be the last.

The first doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine arrived in EU countries including Italy, Spain and France on Saturday and were ready for distribution to retirement homes and caregivers.

The approval and launch of vaccines has raised hopes that 2021 could take a break from the pandemic that has killed more than 1.7 million people since it hit China late last year.

In a video message ahead of the first International Epidemic Preparation Day on Sunday, World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was time to learn the lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“History tells us this won’t be the last pandemic and epidemics are a fact of life,” Tedros said.

“All efforts to improve human health are doomed unless they address the critical human-animal interface and the existential threat of climate change that is making our earth less habitable,” he added.

101-year-old woman vaccinated

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

However, some countries started on Saturday: a 101-year-old woman in a nursing home was the first person to be vaccinated in Germany, and the first shocks were also distributed in Hungary and Slovakia.

The three EU countries have joined China, Russia and Great Britain, Canada, the USA, Switzerland, Serbia, Singapore and Saudi Arabia, which have also started their vaccination campaigns.

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

However, polls show that only 57 percent of Italians intend to get the sting, while scientists estimate that herd immunity can only be achieved when 75 to 80 percent have it.

The virus flare-up continues to force nations to tighten restrictions. Austria begins a third national lockdown on Saturday, and millions of people are awakening to stricter restrictions in the UK.

France’s Health Minister Olivier Veran would not rule out a third lockdown if authorities decide to contain infections.

New variant

Jitters also stayed over a new strain that has surfaced in the UK and reached several other European countries such as France and Sweden as well as Japan.


According to the deputy chief of health for the Madrid regional government, Antonio Zapatero, four cases were confirmed in Madrid on Saturday despite the fact that the patients were not seriously ill. He said, “There is no need to worry.”

Canada reported Saturday that it discovered two cases of variant in the province of Ontario – a couple who had not recently traveled or had contact with other high-risk individuals.

The new strain, which experts believe is more contagious, caused more than 50 countries to impose travel restrictions on the UK.

In Asia, China’s communist leadership issued a statement praising the “extraordinary fame” of handling the virus, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The Japanese capital, Tokyo, reported a record 949 new cases per day, while in Thailand, a new outbreak related to a fish market near Bangkok infected nearly 1,500 people.

In Australia, there was little sign of the usual rush for Boxing Day sales in Sydney. Residents largely complied with the prime minister’s request to stay home in the face of a new virus cluster.

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

The great Australian golfer Greg Norman became the newest name to be known for the quarantine. On Saturday he said he had isolated himself at home after spending Christmas Day in the hospital with Covid-19 symptoms.

Licorice healing claim

All over the world, people were still being asked to respect social distancing guidelines.

Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset stated on Saturday that his country had placed the emphasis on personal responsibility.

But he admitted that this hadn’t worked, and that the government had relaxed restrictions too much, resulting in some of the most violent infection rates in Europe during the second wave of the pandemic.

In authoritarian post-Soviet Turkmenistan, where no coronavirus cases have been detected according to the government, 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”.

(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)


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