Arab News COVID-19 UAE News

UAE seeks closure of COVID-19 vaccination gap

The United Arab Emirates has called for continued commitment from the United Nations Security Council to close the stark COVID-19 vaccination gap around the world…reports Asian Lite News

Sarah bint Yousif Al Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Technology, delivered the UAE’s statement at a Council meeting on the implementation of two resolutions that call for international cooperation and a global ceasefire to more effectively fight COVID-19 and ensure equitable access to vaccines.

“The pandemic is far from over, and new waves coupled with new variants demonstrate that no one is safe until everyone is safe,” said Minister Al Amiri. “The fair and equitable distribution of vaccines is both a strategic investment and a moral obligation. This year represents perhaps the best opportunity in two years to improve vaccination in countries on the Council’s agenda.”

Minister Al Amiri highlighted four areas in which the Council can accelerate the implementation of Resolution 2565 (2021), which calls for international cooperation to facilitate equitable and affordable access to COVID-19 vaccines in conflict areas.

She called on the Council to underscore the security benefits of vaccination and support increased humanitarian access to enhance vaccination efforts.

Minister Al Amiri also called on the Council to encourage entities that operate under its mandate to include vaccination as part of the services they provide. She also called on the Council to ensure that global vaccination efforts include women’s leadership and gender accountability tools.

ALSO READ: UAE sees significant decline in Covid-19 cases

The UAE highlighted the state of vaccinations in countries on the Council’s agenda during its presidency for the month of March. In those countries, vaccination rates among eligible populations range from less than 1 percent to 49 percent. The combined average vaccination rate in countries on the Council’s agenda is less than 10 percent.

As part of her visit to the UN, Minister Al Amiri met with Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State for South and Central Asia, North Africa, UN and the Commonwealth, and the Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict.

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UNICEF launches campaign to boost Covid-19 vaccination in Africa

The UN children’s fund (UNICEF) has kicked off an eight-week campaign to help boost Covid-19 vaccinations across Africa…reports Asian Lite News

UNICEF on Wednesday said the first ever U-Report Challenge which comes a week after COVAX delivered its billionth dose in Rwanda, calls on all 13.3 million U-Reporters in Africa to help get vaccines to the unvaccinated, Xinhua news agency reported.

“Through improving access and confidence in Covid vaccines, the #GiveItAShot challenge aims to activate young people in motivating those eligible in their community to get vaccinated,” it said in a statement issued in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

U-Report is a messaging tool that empowers young people around the world to engage with and speak out on issues that matter to them.

The U-Report is currently active in 88 countries worldwide, with 19.3 million U-Reporters all over the world, and works with SMS, Facebook Messenger, Viber, Telegram, and WhatsApp.

According to UNICEF, Covid information and advocacy messages have been packaged and disseminated via SMS, Facebook Messenger and other communication channels.

UNICEF said the campaign dubbed “U-Report #GiveItAShot challenge” which will initially focus on six countries on the continent, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe, will be rolled-out for eight weeks.

ALSO READ: Covid cases in Africa drops for first time since 4th wave

It said weekly messages will be sent on U-Report to encourage young people to learn about Covid vaccines. They will be engaged in community actions (both online and offline).

It is estimated that about 10 per cent of the adult population on the African continent is vaccinated. The total number of confirmed Covid cases in Africa reached 10,609,112 as of Tuesday, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).

It said the death toll across the continent stands at 237,197 and 9,534,559 patients have recovered from the disease, so far.

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Rwanda achieves WHO Covid-19 vaccination target

Rwanda has achieved the World Health Organization’s (WHO) target of vaccinating 40 percent of its entire population by December 2021, the Ministry of Health said in a statement…reports Asian Lite News

According to the Ministry, as of December 24, a total of 7,556,466 of the targeted Rwandan population aged over 12, have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, while 5,313,421 were fully inoculated.

Rwanda achieves WHO Covid-19 vaccination target

“Vaccinating 40 per cent of our country’s total population before the end of 2021 is a great milestone. This is attributed to our country’s leadership, partnership, coordination and community engagement,” Daniel Ngamije, Rwandan Health Minister told Xinhua news agency on Sunday.

He added that the country has already achieved its Covid-19 vaccination target of covering 30 per cent of the total population with two doses by end of 2021.

According to him, the target is to vaccinate 70 per cent of the total population by December 2022.

The country’s total population is over 12.6 million, according to the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR).

The vaccination rate also exceeded the 30 percent target Rwanda had set to achieve by the end of this year, according to the ministry.

Last week, the government of Rwanda imposed restrictions for unvaccinated people in the country, excluding them from indoor restaurants, worship places, public transport in order to minimize the spread of coronavirus and encourage vaccine sceptics to get their jabs.

The measures were announced by the office of the Prime Minister last week and will be reviewed upon health assessment.

The country prohibited wedding-related receptions while traditional, civil and religious weddings should not exceed 40 persons.

Parties and any other kind of celebrations are prohibited.

The government also instructed business owners countrywide to ensure their employees are fully vaccinated.

ALSO READ: Global Covid caseload tops 279.9 mn

The Ministry of Health may temporarily close public or private premises with identified clusters of people infected with Covid-19, the statement warned.

The government urged all citizens and Rwandan residents to get fully vaccinated, and frequently tested.

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Two-dose vaccination must for entry to Oman

The Committee also reaffirmed that vaccination remains a condition to enter public and private establishments…reports Asian Lite News

Oman’s Supreme Committee, tasked with tackling developments resulting from the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, made a decision to apply two-dose vaccination as a prerequisite for entry of non-Omanis aged 18 and above to the Sultanate from all checkpoints.

Two-dose vaccination must for entry to Oman

It also decided to cancel the decision that bans entry of arrivals from certain countries listed previously, namely South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, and Mozambique.

The Committee also reaffirmed that vaccination remains a condition to enter public and private establishments, according to Oman News Agency (ONA).

ALSO READ: Abu Dhabi tightens Covid rules at social events

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Australian PM: Urges people to get booster vaccination

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has urged people to “stay calm and get boosted” amid surging coronavirus infections…reports Asian Lite News

Morrison on Wednesday met state and territory leaders to discuss the rapid spread of the Omicron variant in Australia, Xinhua news agency reported.

Following the meeting, he announced that one-quarter of the state-run vaccination hubs that closed after Australia got 80 per cent of its population fully vaccinated against Covid will reopen to encourage booster shot uptake.

Australian PM: Urges people to get booster vaccination

“Omicron, we all agree, presents another new challenge, but we have faced so many challenges already during the course of this pandemic,” Morrison told reporters.

“As the country moves past 80 per cent, then we did see the demand at state-based clinics decline. And as a result, some of those facilities were withdrawn.”

“They now need to be ramped up again.”

State and territory leaders have pushed for the interval between the second and third vaccine doses to be reduced from five months, but Morrison said the final decision would be made by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).

The national cabinet also agreed to reconsider testing requirements for interstate travel, with testing sites across the country swamped in the lead-up to the Christmas period, and to agree on a common definition of a “casual contact” of a positive case.

ALSO READ: No lockdown for Australia: Morrison

Australia on Wednesday reported a record of more than 5,700 new locally acquired COVID-19 infections and eight deaths.

The daily number of new cases kept rising in New South Wales to 3,763 on Wednesday, which is the highest number of daily COVID-19 infections recorded in the whole country.

The Australian Capital Territory also reported a record of 58 new infections.

COVID-19 News World

Vaccination status mandatory at all restaurants, gyms and entertainment venues in Chicago

As of Monday night, 4,008 coronavirus patients were in hospitals across Illinois, the most in a single day since December 30, 2020…reports Asian Lite News

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at a news conference on Tuesday that the third largest city in the US will require all restaurants, gyms and entertainment venues to check the vaccination status of patrons aged five and older.

The new rules will go into effect on January 3 and will affect restaurants, bars, fast food establishments, coffee shops, food tasting rooms, cafeterias, food courts, dining areas of grocery stores, breweries, wineries, distilleries, banquet halls, hotel ballrooms, and other facilities for physical exercise and recreation.

Vaccination status mandatory at all restaurants, gyms and entertainment venues in Chicago

Nevertheless, the new rules do not affect schools, day-care facilities, churches, airports and office buildings, Xinhua news agency reported.

Businesses do not have to check individuals for proof of vaccination if they’re entering to order and carry out food, deliver goods, or use the bathroom; the new rules also exempt some performing artists and professional athletes from the vaccine requirement. Individuals with religious exemptions are also exempt, but they will have to provide a negative Covid test, the Chicago Tribune reported on Tuesday.

Chicago is recording an average of 1,776 new Covid cases a day, the highest in about a year, and a 7.3 per cent positivity rate, both up from last week. Hospitalisations are averaging 62 a day, up 12 per cent from the prior week, while deaths are at 10 a day.

Across the state of Illinois, health officials on Tuesday reported 10,264 new confirmed and probable cases of Covid, raising the average number of new daily cases to 10,590 over the past week, up from 7,199 per day a week earlier and 4,057 a month ago.

As of Monday night, 4,008 coronavirus patients were in hospitals across Illinois, the most in a single day since December 30, 2020. Over the past week, the state has averaged 3,829 Covid patients per day, the highest level since early January.

ALSO READ: US nod for Pfizer’s Covid oral pill

Deaths due to Covid are also on the rise, with 63 reported Tuesday, bringing the average number of daily deaths to 51 over the past week. That is the highest level since early February. In all, Illinois recorded 27,291 coronavirus-related deaths since the pandemic began.

As of Tuesday, nearly 68 per cent of the state’s eligible population, those aged five and older, have been fully vaccinated, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Nationwide, the extremely contagious Omicron variant makes up more than 73 per cent of new Covid cases, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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‘Vaccinating world New Year’s top goal’

On UN’s target to vaccinate 40 per cent of the entire population by the end of 2021 and 70 per cent by the middle of 2022, the PGA said that the goal has not been achieved yet….reports Asian Lite News

Abdulla Shahid, President of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), has said that his first goal for the New Year is to vaccinate the world and achieve vaccine equity so that normalcy can return to the entire world at an earlier date.

“My top priority is going to be on vaccine. That is why I am convening this high-level meeting on January 13. That is why I want to make my New Year resolution on vaccine,” the UNGA President, or the PGA, told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York while responding to the question regarding his top priorities for the year ahead.

Shahid will host the high-level event ‘Towards Universal Vaccination: From Hope to Action’ in January 2022 when he hopes to bring all 193 UN member states together and adopt a resolution on the Covid-19 vaccine, Xinhua news agency reported.

“In my life, last several decades, I’ve had many New Year resolutions, but this time I’m choosing a more modest one — to vaccinate the world. I want everyone to join me,” he stressed.

The PGA expressed the confidence that “the international community has the capacity to do this. And it is so clear now that unless we can vaccinate the world, there is no way out of this.”

On UN’s target to vaccinate 40 per cent of the entire population by the end of 2021 and 70 per cent by the middle of 2022, the PGA said that the goal has not been achieved yet.

Australians require annual booster vaccines for foreseeable future

“When you look at countries in Africa where they have an average vaccination rate of maximum 5 or 6 per cent. Then we are unable to say with confidence that we are anywhere near to equity. So, for us, for the 193 member states at the UN, we should have this goal — one goal — to vaccinate the world,” he added.

“Unless we can vaccinate the world, economy recover is not coming, social and educational normalcy returning to normalcy is not going to happen. Any degree of certainty to the way of life that we have had in the past is not going to happen,” the PGA said.

Shahid warned that under the situation that new variants emerge one after another, “the new normal will be pushed again further and further into the unknown territories. This, we cannot afford, and that is why we need to get together for the effort, a united effort.”

ALSO READ: Afghanistan launches mass polio vax drive

COVID-19 World

Botswana achieves WHO Covid-19 vaccination target

Botswana has achieved the World Health Organisation (WHO) target of vaccinating 40 per cent of the entire population by December 2021, President Mokgweetsi Masisi said…reports Asian Lite News

Masisi made this announcement on Wednesday when addressing the nation about the southern African country’s latest response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Botswana achieves WHO Covid-19 vaccination target

He said that as of November 29, an estimated 1,053,361 people, or 75.7 per cent of the targeted Botswana citizens and residents aged over 18, have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, while 950,973, or 68.4 per cent, have been fully vaccinated, Xinhua news agency reported.

The country’s population is around 2.35 million.

ALSO READ: WHO slams blanket travel bans

The vaccination rate also exceeds the 64 per cent target Botswana had set to achieve by the end of this year, Masisi added, noting that it is a remarkable achievement given the vaccine delivery challenges for the African continent.

So far, Botswana has reported 195,068 Covid cases and 2,418 deaths.

Africa News COVID-19 World

Five African countries to hit fully vaccinated

Just five African countries, less than 10 per cent of the continent’s 54 nations, are projected to hit the year-end target of fully vaccinating 40 per cent of their population…reports Asian Lite News

Seychelles, Mauritius and Morocco have already met the goal that was set in May by the World Health Assembly, the world’s highest health policy-setting body, Xinhua news agency quoted the WHO’s regional office for Africa, based in the Congolese capital Brazzaville, as saying on Thursday.

The office added that Tunisia and Cape Verde will also hit the target.

Five African countries to hit fully vaccinated

Limited access to crucial commodities such as syringes may slow the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines in Africa, warned the WHO, noting that some countries, such as Kenya, Rwanda and South Africa, have experienced delays in receiving syringes.

“The looming threat of a vaccine commodities crisis hangs over the continent. Early next year Covid-19 vaccines will start pouring into Africa, but a scarcity of syringes could paralyze progress,” said Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa.

The COVAX Facility is working to address this threat by securing deals with syringe manufacturers, and through better planning to avoid deliveries outpacing the supply of syringes, Moeti said.

ALSO READ: India’s outreach to tiny Togo is part of a bigger plan in Africa

At the current pace, Africa still faces a 275 million shortfall of Covid-19 vaccines against the year-end target.

Africa has fully vaccinated 77 million people, just 6 per cent of its population, while over 70 per cent of high-income countries have already vaccinated more than 40 per cent of their people.

With nearly 8.5 million Covid-19 cases and more than 217,000 deaths recorded in Africa, 10 countries are still witnessing a resurgence, including Gabon, Congo-Brazzaville, Cameroon and Egypt with an upward trend or high plateau, according to the WHO.

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Abu Dhabi approves ‘blue schools’ initiative

Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee has approved the ‘blue schools’ initiative, which supports all Abu Dhabi schools to relax measures and return to normal operations based on vaccination rates…reports Asian Lite News

To be implemented from the second term of the current academic year, the ‘blue schools’ initiative recognises vaccination as the key path to recovery, re-emphasises transparency, and enhances the learning and social experience of students.

Schools will be tiered based on student vaccination rates. Higher vaccinated schools will be able to gradually relax measures, including reduced social distancing requirements, relaxed mask-wearing protocols, increased classroom and school transport capacity, and a return to extra-curricular activities, in-school events and field trips.

Abu Dhabi

The four tiers are ‘orange’ for schools with less than 50 percent of students vaccinated; ‘yellow’ for schools with 50-64 percent of students vaccinated; ‘green’ for schools with 65-84 percent of students vaccinated; and ‘blue’ for schools with 85 percent and above students vaccinated.

Free vaccines are available for children at various vaccination centres across Abu Dhabi, including the dedicated children’s vaccination centre at ADNEC. Pfizer-BioNTech is available for children aged 12 and over, and Sinopharm is available for children aged 3 and over.