Coronavirus Morning News Brief – Jan. 17: France Places Tough Restrictions on the Unvaccinated, Austria and Greece Fine Them

‘Next Few Weeks Will Be Tough,’ Says U.S. Surgeon General

By Jonathan Spira on 17 January 2022
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Palace of Versailles, France

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued a warning Sunday, saying that “the next few weeks will be tough” in many parts of the country as cases fueled by the omicron variant continue to surge.  The country has seen an average of 800,000 new cases per day despite some areas, including New York, having already seen the number of infections plateau.

“The challenge is that not the entire country is moving at the same pace,” he said on the CNN news program “State of the Nation” on Sunday.

UNITED STATES

Apple said in an internal memorandum viewed by the Morning Brief that it will require corporate and store employees to submit proof of having received a Covid-19 booster shot once the employee is eligible for it.  The policy goes into effect on February 15, “A booster shot is now part of staying up to date with your Covid-19 vaccination to protect against severe disease,” the memorandum read.

The city of Paterson, New Jersey, has achieved a vaccination rate of 100%, Mayor Andrew Sayegh said.  This translates into over 117,000 adults 18 years of age or older who have had at least one dose of the vaccine.  Last May, the mayor faced substantial vaccine hesitance in the city and launched mobile vaccination units along with an outreach program and an army of community influencers that apparently made all the difference.

The CEO of vaccine maker Moderna said that a combined flu and Covid-19 booster shot could be available by the fall of next year. Speaking at the virtual Davos Agenda, Stéphane Bancel said the company’s goal was to have a single annual booster available to avoid “compliance issues” where individuals are wary of having to get multiple inoculations each winter.

GLOBAL

Austria’s vaccine mandate for its population will go into effect February 1 and individuals who refuse to be vaccinated will face fines of €600 ($684).  The fines won’t begin to be imposed until the middle of March, Austrian Bundeskanzler Karl Nehammer said in an interview with the state broadcaster ORF.  Starting on March 15, police officers will also check vaccination status during traffic controls, for example.  Individuals can be fined four times within a year, hence a total of €2,400.  The mandate will be in place until at least January 31, 2024.

Greece will fine people over the age of 60 who refuse to be inoculated against the coronavirus. The fine of €100 ($114.05) will be imposed in monthly intervals starting in mid-January, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told reporters, and the proceeds will go to the country’s healthcare system, which is showing signs of stress amidst a surge of Covid cases.

Police in Palermo, Italy, arrested a nurse who was giving faux vaccinations to anti-vaxxers so they could obtain a certificazione verde, the vaccine passport necessary to gain entry to restaurants, cafés, fitness centers, theaters, and public transport. Investigators at the Polizia di Stato used a hidden camera to film the nurse, a 58-year-old woman working at a vaccination center in the Sicilian capital.  The video shows her loading the syringe, then emptying it into tissue paper and then effectively injecting nothing into the patient.

France’s Assemblée nationale gave approval on Sunday to an expansion of the country’s pass sanitaire, or vaccine passport, which will require people to have such proof of vacation in order to enter restaurants, cafés, cinemas, fitness centers, long-distance trains, and other public places.  The action also means that professional athletes competing in the country will be required to be vaccinated against Covid.

Meanwhile, in Paris, the Préfecture de Police said that donning a face mask will be required in crowded outdoor areas.  The degree makes mask wearing obligatory where “the density of people does not guarantee, without the wearing of masks, the proper upholding of barrier measures,” the préfecture said in a written statement.

Even though the Netherlands just eased some of its measures relating to the omicron surge, thousands took to the streets in Amsterdam to protest the remaining measures. Non-essential shops, hair salons, and fitness centers were allowed to reopen, albeit with a limited number of patrons, while restaurants, bars, theaters, museums, and other public venues will remain closed.

SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT

China said Monday that it will not sell tickets for the Beijing Olympic Games, which are slated to start in three weeks, to the general public. Citing “the grim and complex situation of epidemic prevention and control,” the Beijing Winter Olympics Organizing Committee said the action was necessary “in order to protect the health and safety of Olympic personnel and spectators.”

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Monday, January 17.

As of Monday morning, the world has recorded 329.2 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 2 million new cases in the preceding 24 hour period, and almost 5.6 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 267.9 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 1.2 million.

Worldwide, the number of active cases as of Monday is 54,978,868.  Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 55,761,987, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 96,025, are listed as critical.  The percentage of cases considered critical was largely unchanged over the past 24 hours.

The United States reported 337,984 new cases on Monday for the previous day, compared with 818,418 on Sunday, 924,342 on Saturday, and 889,613 on Friday, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in the United States over the past 14 days is 801,903, a 98% increase, based on data from the Department of Health and Human Services, among other sources.  The average daily death toll over the same period is 1,964, an increase of 57% over the same period.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Monday, recorded 66.9 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 873,564. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, almost 37.4 million, and a reported death toll of 486,482.  Finally, Brazil has recorded the second highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 621,099, and has seen 23 million cases.

VACCINATION SPOTLIGHT

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Monday, 248.7 million people in the United States – or 74.9% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 62.9%, or 208.9 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 526.9 million. Breaking this down further, 86.9% of the population over the age of 18 – or 224.3million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 73.5% of the same group – or 189.9 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 41.3% of that population, or 78.4 million people, has already received a third, or booster, dose of vaccine.

Due to the Monday bank holiday, the agency has not updated its vaccination figures since Saturday evening.

Over 59.9% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Monday, a figure that is up 02  percentage point in the past 24 hours, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 9.68 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis.

Meanwhile, only 9.5% of people in low-income countries have received one dose, while in countries such as Canada, China, Denmark, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States, at least 75% of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine. In countries such as Ethiopia, Haiti, Syria, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda, for example, vaccination rates remain in the single digits, if not lower.

Figures from the World Health Organization show that well-off countries are vaccinating people at the rate of one person per second, while the majority of poor countries have yet to give a single dose to its citizens.

It is critical that the world do a better job of sharing vaccines with poorer nations.

Sharing vaccines is not merely a form of charity.  Rather, the equitable distribution of vaccines is in every country’s health and economic interest and no country will be able to move past the pandemic until other countries have recovered as well.

Paul Riegler contributed to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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