Russian regions consider extra virus curbs as deaths hit record

This file picture taken on Oct 20, 2021, shows medics wearing personal protective equipment standing in a corridor outside an intensive care unit for COVID-19 coronavirus patients in the Moscow Sklifosovsky emergency hospital in Moscow. (DIMITAR DILKOFF / AFP)

WASHINGTON / LONDON / ATHENS / MOSCOW – Several Russian regions said on Tuesday they could impose additional restrictions or extend a workplace shutdown to fight a surge in COVID-19 cases that has already prompted Moscow to re-impose a partial lockdown nationwide.

Russia reported 1,178 deaths related to COVID-19 on Tuesday, its highest daily death toll since the start of the pandemic, as well as 39,008 new infections.

President Vladimir Putin last month ordered a week-long nationwide workplace shutdown from Oct 30 that could be extended by regional authorities as they see fit. The Novgorod region has already announced it is prolonging the shutdown by a week.     

On Tuesday authorities in the Pskov region, which borders Estonia, Latvia and Belarus, said the QR code system used to access certain public facilities would remain in place during the New Year holidays.

"It's possible that the use of the QR codes will be expanded and applied to other economic sectors," TASS news agency quoted Mikhail Vedernikov, governor of the Pskov region, as saying.

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Authorities in three more regions – Komi, Amur and Ulyanovsk – said on Tuesday they could impose more restrictions if COVID-19 infection kept rising.

On Monday, Putin said Russia could need the army's help to build field hospitals for COVID-19 patients or provide support to civilian medical facilities.

The defense ministry released footage on Tuesday that showed military doctors treating COVID-19 patients at hospitals in Siberia's Khakassia region.

In this file photo taken on Sept 23, 2021, the US giant Amazon logo is pictured on the opening day of a new distribution center in Augny, near Metz, eastern France.

Amazon
Amazon.com said its vaccinated workers in the US will no longer have to wear masks beginning on Tuesday, unless required to do so by federal or local rules.

“Vaccines are universally available across the US and vaccination rates continues to rise, which enables the ability to return to our previous mask policy,” the company said in a notice to employees on Friday.

The online retailer, the second largest US employer after Walmart, in August ordered employees to resume masking up, regardless of vaccination status, as the delta variant spread.

Bulgaria

Bulgaria, the European Union’s least-vaccinated country, reported a record 310 daily COVID-19 deaths.

The Balkan country, where only about 21 percent of the population has had a COVID-19 jab, on Oct 21 limited most public leisure activities to those who are either vaccinated, have had COVID-19, or test negative.

Hospitalizations are still on the rise and officials have warned that hospitals will soon run out of capacity.

An man receives the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at a mobile COVID-19 vaccination team sets up by Health Ministry in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece on Oct 26, 2021.

Greece

Greece recorded 5,449 new coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours, authorities said on Monday, the highest single-day figure since the pandemic began early last year.

Another 52 people died from COVID-19 over the past day, taking the total to 15,990 among 747,595 COVID-19 cases.

Giannis Oikonomou, a spokesman for the government, said it was "pressing" to increase the number of vaccinations, which have been moving at a slower pace than authorities anticipated.

"We're not done with COVID-19 yet. As long as there are unvaccinated people, the virus finds a suitable ground to spread," Oikonomou told a regular news briefing on Monday.

"We mourn the loss of human lives due to non-vaccination, and this cannot, and should not, continue."

About 60.5 percent of Greeks are vaccinated against COVID-19, less than the European Union average of 64.7 percent, according to the latest available data.

Romania

Romania, a European nation suffering one of the worst death tolls per capita in the world over the past two weeks, transferred six critically ill patients to Germany on Monday, as its COVID-19 intensive-care unit wards were full, the country’s health ministry said in a statement on its website.

A total of 18 patients will be transferred to Germany by Wednesday. The nation is battling its worst virus outbreak since the pandemic started, with more than 1,800 severely ill patients occupying all available COVID-19 ICU beds in hospitals and field units for a few weeks already. The second-least vaccinated European Union nation asked for international assistance last month and received medical supplies and staff from the World Health Organization and several nations, including Hungary, Poland, Serbia and Moldova.

In this file photo taken on Aug 15, 2021, people queue to receive a dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccination center set up in a bus parked outside Premier League club Newcastle United's St James's Park football stadium in Newcastle, north east England.(LINDSEY PARNABY / AFP)

United Kingdom

Another 40,077 people in Britain have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 9,097,311, according to official figures released Monday.

The UK also reported a further 40 coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the total in Britain to 140,672. These figures only include people who died within 28 days of their first positive test.

Meanwhile, there are currently 9,065 patients in hospital with COVID-19.

The latest data comes as a new survey has suggested that between Sept 27 and Oct 2, only 78 percent of all individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 reported fully adhering to the rules of quarantine.

According to the Office for National Statistics, the level of adherence to self-isolation requirements was significantly lower than compliance earlier in the year.

Meanwhile, two producers of COVID-19 tests in Britain said on Tuesday they had pulled some of their tests from the market after a new review system came into force, which has not yet granted approval for their previously accepted products.

Avacta said under the new system suppliers of COVID-19 tests had to submit information regarding their products for desktop review if they wished to remain on sale in Britain. It said it had submitted its information ahead of the Sept 1 deadline and was still waiting for a response.

As a result it has suspended further sales of its AffiDX SARS-CoV-2 Lateral Flow Rapid Antigen Test in the UK. Its shares were trading down 8 percent in early morning deals on Tuesday.

France-based Novacyt said it had submitted 11 products for review before the deadline. Two have appeared on a temporary UK list that can continue to be sold, but it is waiting for an update on the additional nine products.

The two companies said only three products had been fully approved while a temporary list allows 48 tests, both PCR and antigen based, to remain on sale.

In this file photo taken on Sept 22, 2021, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is prepared for administration at a vaccination clinic for homeless people, hosted by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health and United Way in Los Angeles, California. (FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP)

United States

The United States is rolling out Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines for children aged 5 to 11 this week, but most of the 15 million shots being shipped initially are unlikely to be available before next week, the White House said on Monday.

Millions of doses specifically formulated for children of that age group will start arriving at distribution centers over the next few days, White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said, and the federal government has purchased enough supply for all eligible 28 million children.

The US Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized the Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE coronavirus vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 years, making it the first COVID-19 shot for young children in the United States.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still needs to advise on how the shot should be administered, which will be decided after a group of outside advisers discuss the plan on Tuesday.

Moderna Inc said on Sunday it would delay filing its request for an emergency use authorization for a half-strength 50-microgram dose of the vaccine for children ages 6 to 11.

Meanwhile, the odds of surviving a heart attack are significantly lower when a person also has COVID-19, even though such patients tend to be generally younger than typical heart patients, a new study found.

The researchers reviewed data on more than 80,000 people who had heart attacks in the United States in 2019 or 2020. Most of them – about 76,000 – had heart attacks at home or at work, or in some other community setting. In this group, 15.2 percent of those with COVID-19 later died in the hospital, compared to 11.2 percent of heart attack patients without COVID-19. Among the roughly 4,000 patients who were already hospitalized when the heart attack occurred, 78.5 percent of those with COVID-19 died, compared to 46.1 percent of those without COVID-19, according to a report published on Friday in JAMA.

Overall, the COVID-19 heart attack patients were more likely to have gone into cardiac arrest – when the heart stops beating – and less likely to undergo procedures to reopen clogged heart arteries, the researchers found. They said more research is needed to understand why a diagnosis of COVID-19 increases the risk for death in patients having heart attacks.

This file photo taken on May 12, 2021 shows a man receives the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at a temporary vaccination site at Grand Central Terminal train station in New York City. (ANGELA WEISS / AFP)

Besides, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the vast majority of municipal employees are complying with the city’s vaccine mandate, resulting in little disruption to services as the requirement kicked in.

De Blasio said Monday that 9,000 employees have been placed on unpaid leave for not receiving the shot and another 12,000 have asked for exemptions. That amounts to a small share of the more than 160,000 the city had said would be covered by the latest requirement.

Overall, de Blasio said 91 percent of the city’s workforce has been vaccinated.

The 12,000 workers who have asked for exemptions will continue working while being tested weekly as their claims are being judged.