Report: 140,000 US children lose parents amid pandemic

In this file photo taken on Nov 2 , 2021, a child covers her face as she waits for her turn to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for kids. (JOSEPH PREZIOSO / AFP)

WASHINGTON / BERLIN / ATHENS / MOSCOW / LONDON / ZAGREB / PRAGUE / NEW YORK – More than 140,000 US children have lost a parent or caregiver during the COVID-19 crisis due to the coronavirus or pandemic-related causes, Business Insider reported Sunday, citing a new study.

The United States is the country hardest hit by the pandemic, with more than 47 million confirmed cases, and over 764,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University

It means that about one out of 500 American children have suffered from the misfortune, it said, adding that the situation will put extra psychological and financial pressure on those kids.

The data also reveals vast disparities by race and ethnicity, with the majority of the children, about 65 percent, being members of racial and ethnic minority groups, said the US financial news website.

The United States is the country hardest hit by the pandemic, with more than 47 million confirmed cases, and over 764,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

ALSO READ: Austria locks down unvaccinated as European virus cases surge

In this file photo taken on May 12, 2021, a  woman receives a jab of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine at a  vaccination center at the Wizink Center in Madrid. (GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP)

AstraZeneca

Two billion doses of the AstraZeneca-Oxford University COVID-19 vaccine have been supplied worldwide, the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker and its partner said on Tuesday, in just under a year since its first approval.

The shot, which is the biggest contributor to the COVAX vaccine sharing scheme backed by the World Health Organization, is being made in 15 countries for supply to more than 170 countries, London-listed AstraZeneca and Oxford University said in a joint statement.

AstraZeneca in June last year signed on India's Serum Institute, the world's biggest manufacturer of vaccines by volume, to help double the vaccine's manufacturing capacity to two billion doses.

The COVID-19 shot, sold under the brand names Vaxzevria and Covishield, has faced challenges around efficacy data, supplies and links to rare blood clots.

AstraZeneca last week said as the world learns to live with the coronavirus which causes COVID-19, it would begin to earn a modest profit from the shot after having made a commitment to sell it at cost during the pandemic.

The company's chief executive officer, Pascal Soriot, however, reassured that low-income countries would continue to receive vaccines on a non-profit basis.

EU

European Commission recognizes the COVID-19 certificates issued by Georgia, Moldova, New Zealand and Serbia. At the same time, the four countries agreed to accept the EU’s digital certificate for travel.

People wait in front of a vaccination center in the city of Munich, southern Germany, on Nov 15, 2021, amid a surge of infections during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. (CHRISTOF STACHE / AFP)

Germany

Germany registered yet another record rate of cases over the past week on Monday as more indoor gatherings due to cold weather and flatlining vaccination campaigns turn Europe once more into the pandemic epicenter.

This fourth infection wave is challenging a government in transition, with three parties negotiating to form the next cabinet after September's inconclusive election.

The center-left Social Democrats, Greens and pro-business FDP said on Monday they would add harsher measures to their draft law under consideration by the Bundestag (lower house of parliament) to deal with the outbreak.

So-called 3G rules requiring a negative COVID-19 test, or proof of recovery or vaccination should apply to public transport as well as workplaces, according to a policy document by the three parties.

It was unclear how they would be enforced.

The Bundestag is due to vote on Thursday on the draft law so it can come into effect before the expiration of Germany's state of emergency on Nov 25 which had provided the legal basis for previous pandemic measures.

In addition to nationwide rules, the new law aims to give Germany's 16 states a toolbox of options they can apply separately, given that the infection rate varies greatly across the country. Higher rates can be detected in regions with the lowest vaccination rates, namely eastern and southern Germany.

But the new draft law excludes measures like school lockdowns and curfews applied during earlier waves of the pandemic, sparking criticism from some policymakers that it diminishes risk perception and flexibility.

In this file photo taken on July 28, 2021,
an anti-vaccine demonstrator argues with a police officer during a protest against the COVID-19 vaccinations in front of the Greek parliament in Athens. (LOUISA GOULIAMAKI / AFP)

Greece

Greek public health sector workers protested in Athens over pay and conditions on Monday as hospitals struggled with a new surge in COVID-19 cases and authorities considered further restrictions.

The protesters said they were underpaid, overworked and understaffed. They called for more hirings, for the government to include them on a list of hazardous professions which receive hazard pay benefits, and for private doctors to be ordered to help.

A decision by the government to suspend unvaccinated health sector workers has increased staff shortages, they said. Greece made vaccinations mandatory for nursing home staff in July and for healthcare workers in September.

Hospitals, particularly in northern Greece, are scrambling to treat patients, as cases hit new record highs this month of more than 6,000 daily, and wards are running out of space.

Ireland

Ireland's hospital system is straining under the weight of surging COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and ICU admissions, said a public health official here on Monday.

Anne O'Connor, chief operations officer with the state agency Health Service Executive, told local media that hospitals are reaching full capacity, with only 94 beds available across the country.

There has been a 25-percent increase in hospital admissions in the last week, and intensive care unit admissions during the period went up 41 percent, said O'Connor in an interview with the Irish national radio and television broadcaster RTE.

People coming into hospital with COVID-19 are in a worse condition this time around, she said, adding that 81 out of the 117 COVID-19 patients currently being treated in ICUs require ventilation.

According to the HSE, there are only just over 200 ICU beds in the country's public hospital system.

Italy

As of Tuesday, passengers on high speed trains in Italy will be obliged to present green pass certification before boarding, meaning they are either vaccinated or have a negative COVID-19 test. Trains will stop in case travelers show symptoms of a COVID-19 infection.

Under the new travel rules approved by the Health Ministry on Monday, taxi travel will be limited to two passengers, unless they live in the same household.

Meanwhile, The Italian police identified 17 anti-vaccine and anti-green pass extremists affiliated with the “Enough of the Dictatorship” Telegram chat. The protesters are under investigation for instigation to commit crimes against doctors, journalists, scientists and government officials in the country, including Prime Minister Mario Draghi, authorities said.

ALSO READ: WHO warns vaccine alone won't end pandemic

In this file photo taken on Oct 22, 2021,
medical staff vaccinate citizens against COVID-19 at the vaccination point at the Zagreb Fair in Zagreb, Croatia. (DENIS LOVROVIC / AFP)

Russia

Already a favorite with summer holidaymakers, Croatia is now seeing a surge in visitors from Russia seeking COVID-19 shots.

The number of flights from Russia has increased in recent weeks and it's not unusual to hear Russian spoken at vaccination centers in the capital Zagreb. Foreigners, like locals, can get vaccines for free in Croatia.

"Just this month we've had about 1,000 Russians who received vaccines. So far we have had altogether 4,908 foreign citizens here, most of whom are Russians," said Neda Ferencic Vrban, who heads Zagreb's biggest vaccination center.

The Russian Express travel agency organizes vaccination trips to Croatia for Russians looking for a shot approved in the European Union.

The trip includes flight, accommodation, medical insurance and a transfer to the vaccination center. Prices start at $500.

In Russia, a QR code proving vaccinated status can only be given to people who have received Russia's Sputnik vaccine.

"We're allowed to enter Croatia with Sputnik. I'd like now to have a booster dose with Pfizer so I can travel to Europe without quarantine or tests," said Yuri from Moscow after taking a jab.

Most Russian visitors choose a weekend trip, but some also take in a visit to the coast or neighboring Slovenia.

"It has nothing to do with not trusting the Russian vaccine. Sometimes there is a need to travel to Europe, so we had the idea of getting vaccinated in Croatia," said Moscow resident Natalya Noks, now back at home after visiting Zagreb and Slovenia.

Russia confirmed 38,420 COVID-19 infections over the past 24 hours, taking the nationwide tally to 9,109,094, the official monitoring and response center said Monday.

The daily count has been under 40,000 for three consecutive days.

In the past 24 hours, the national death toll from the epidemic grew by 1,211 to 256,597 and the number of recoveries increased by 27,972 to 7,812,557.

The number of active cases thus increased to 1,039,940 and the mortality rate stood at about 2.82 percent, the center said.

Moscow, Russia's worst-hit region, reported 3,789 new cases over the past 24 hours, taking its total to 1,898,951.

In this file photo taken on June 7, 2021, a medic prepares a syringe with a dose of the Sputnik V vaccine against the COVID-19 in Bratislava, Slovakia. (VLADIMIR SIMICEK / AFP)

Slovakia

Hospitals in Slovakia, one of Europe's least-vaccinated nations, have been filling up with coronavirus patients, with the northeastern region of Presov reporting almost no spare intensive care beds, authorities and hospitals said on Monday.

President Zuzana Caputova has signed a law allowing the government to force unvaccinated people to test twice a week before attending work in the worst-affected regions and keep them out of restaurants and other services. The country of 5.5 million was not planning a national lockdown, however.

The Slovak Health Ministry said the Presov region had 96 percent of lung ventilator beds occupied and has had to send 35 seriously ill patients elsewhere over the past week.

In neighboring Kosice, the capital of the southeastern region, the main hospital said it was admitting 20-40 patients per day and had nearly 90 percent of beds full. There were only few high-flow oxygen and lung ventilators left.

The hospital said 80 percent of its patients were not vaccinated, and that it had only one fully vaccinated patient to date on lung ventilator.

Slovakia has reported more than 6,500 cases per day in the past week. The country's total death toll from the pandemic at 13,598.

UK

Britain on Monday registered 39,705 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 9,600,369, according to official figures released Monday.

The country also reported a further 47 coronavirus-related deaths. The total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain now stands at 142,945. The death toll only includes people who died within 28 days of their first positive test.

There are currently 8,678 patients in hospital with COVID-19.

In this file picture taken on Oct 6, 2021, an election committee member wearing a protective equipment as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 disease is pictured at a drive-in polling station for quarantined voters in Prague, ahead of the country's general election. (MICHAL CIZEK / AFP)

US

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised against travel to the Czech Republic, Hungary and Iceland because of a rising number of COVID-19 cases in those countries.

The CDC raised its travel recommendation to "Level Four: Very High" for the three countries, telling Americans they should avoid travel there.

The CDC separately lowered its COVID-19 travel advisory to "Level One: Low" for Japan, India, Pakistan, Liberia, Gambia and Mozambique.

Meanwhile, New York City encouraged health care providers to allow all adults to get the booster shot as the city grapples with a rise in virus cases.

People age 18 and over who received a Moderna or Pfizer dose at least six months ago or the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago are eligible for the booster, city Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi said.