Coronavirus Morning News Brief – Dec. 21: EU to Require Booster Shots for Vaccine Passports to Remain Valid

European Officials Make Arrests in Fake Vaccine Passport Cases

By Jonathan Spira on 21 December 2021
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Lyric Theatre in New York City, home of the currently shuttered “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”

The European Union said it would limit the ability for people to travel freely within the bloc unless they had received a third or booster shot or had been fully vaccinated within the previous nine-month period. 

The policy, which goes into effect on February 1, 2022, will add an expiration date to vaccine passports, which display the holders’ vaccination status.  Member nations can put into place additional entry restrictions, such as requiring a negative coronavirus test or quarantine period.

Officials in Europe continue to unearth fake Covid vaccine passports.  Authorities in France said that they had detected over 180,000 fake ones since the pass sanitaire was introduced over the summer.  Over in Italy, police in Palermo said they had arrested the leader of an anti-vaccine movement and a nurse for accepting payments for faux vaccinations.

New York State officials announced plans to offer residents of the state at-home PCR tests at no charge.  The test kits would be sent to New Yorkers overnight and would contain a postpaid return label.  The user would self-swab at home and submit the swab.  Test results would be available within 48 hours.

The New York City Police Department announced a stricter masking policy for police officers.  Members of the department are now required to have face masks on at all times, covering both nose and mouth, when outdoors as well as when indoors at the precinct.

The surge continues to roil Broadway.  The opening of “Skeleton Crew” at Manhattan Theatre Club was postponed into the middle of January after members of the company tested positive for the virus.

In addition, after cancelling performances through December 21 due to an outbreak of Covid among cast members, producers of “Jagged Little Pill” announced that the show would not reopen “In light of the extreme uncertainty ahead of us this winter.”

Meanwhile, several blockbuster shows including “Aladdin,” “Hamilton,” and “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” will remain closed through the foreseeable future due to outbreaks of the coronavirus amongst their companies.

In the sports world, the National Hockey League said it would put its season on pause starting Wednesday, two days before its planned Christmas break.  The league said it would resume matches on December 27.

Finally, kickboxing champion Frederic Sinistra, who was also a Covid denier who refused to be vaccinated, died at his home in Belgium several weeks after discharging himself from his hospital’s intensive care unit.  In a video posted on Facebook at the end of November, he was again dismissive of Covid and said that a “little virus” was not going to stop him.

Now here are the daily statistics for Tuesday, December 21.

As of Tuesday morning, the world has recorded 275.9 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.7 million new cases, and almost 5.4 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 247.7million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.8 million.

The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in the United States over the past 14 days is 143,164, a 20% increase.  The average daily death toll over the same period is 1,299, an increase of 3% over the same period.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Tuesday, recorded 52 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 828,836. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, almost 34.8 million, and a reported death toll of 478,007.  Finally, Brazil has recorded the second highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 617,905, and has over 22.2 million cases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Tuesday, 249.3 million people in the United States – or 72.9% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 61.5%, or 204 million people, are now fully vaccinated, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 496.2 million. Breaking this down further, 85.1% of the population over the age of 18 – or 219.9 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 72.5% of the same group – or 187.1 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 32.4% of that population, or 60.6 million people, has already received a booster shot.

The CDC also reported that the omicron variant comprised 73% of recent Covid cases in the United States.  In many parts of the country, the new variant makes up 90% of all cases, it said.   Meanwhile, New York state reported on Monday a record number of Covid-19 infections for the fourth consecutive day

Some 57% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, an increase that is largely unchanged from the prior day, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 8.78 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis.

Meanwhile, only 8.1% 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 65% 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.

Anna Breuer contributed to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)


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