The European Union began rolling out vaccines on Saturday, despite the block’s countries being forced back into lockdown by a new strain of the virus believed to be more contagious and continues to spread from the UK.
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.
Hours before the first doses of vaccine arrived in France, the Paris Ministry of Health confirmed late Friday that it had discovered its first case of the new variant in a citizen returned from the UK.
Several countries have reported cases of the new strain causing jitter from already overloaded health services.
The streets of Sydney on Saturday showed little sign of the usual Boxing Day sales frenzy as residents largely obeyed the Prime Minister’s request to stay home in the face of a new cluster of viruses.
“Even when we walked in there were fewer than ten people there,” shopper Lia Gunawan told The Sydney Morning Herald after queuing up to sell.
Even as some European nations contemplate a return to strict restrictions after Christmas, China’s communist leadership issued a statement praising the “extraordinary fame” of handling the virus that emerged in the country’s Hubei province last year , the state news agency Xinhua reported.
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.
The first French case of the new variant of coronavirus was found in a UK resident who arrived from London on December 19, the French Ministry of Health said.
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.
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.
However, cases of the new variant were still reported worldwide: Japan confirmed five infections in passengers from Great Britain on Friday, while cases were also reported in Denmark, Lebanon, Germany, Australia and the Netherlands.
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.
The closure of the UK-France border for 48 hours resulted in a bottleneck of up to 10,000 trucks in south-east England, with drivers stranded for days during the holiday season.
However, the head of the port operator of Calais told AFP that the “situation should be completely resolved soon” after the port remained open specifically over Christmas.
Some countries that have eased the Christmas restrictions slightly have reintroduced them – for example in Austria a curfew will be imposed from Saturday to January 24th.
Millions in the UK have been hit by tightening restrictions – the most stringent measures now affect more than 40 percent of the UK population, according to the BBC – including closing all non-essential businesses and restricting social contacts.
New lockdowns also started in Scotland and Northern Ireland on Saturday, and Wales also imposed restrictions after relaxing them over Christmas.
According to an AFP balance sheet on Friday, more than 25 million infections have been registered in Europe.
Vaccinations in all 27 countries in the European Union will begin on Sunday after regulators approved the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine on December 21.
During the global launch of vaccines, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned on Friday:
The Pope’s Christmas message also referred to the issue, with a plea 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.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and published from a syndicated feed.)