South Africa starts weekend vaccinations in Gauteng

An official checks the tickets as another sprays disinfectant on commuters wearing face masks at the Pretoria Station as the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) resumes its operations in Pretoria on July 1, 2020. (PHOTO / AFP)

WASHINGTON / PARIS – South African authorities are giving vaccinations for the first time at the weekend in its economic hub, Gauteng.

The nation’s coronavirus inoculation program was disrupted by unrest last week in the southeastern province of KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng, the regional authority which includes Johannesburg. South Africa has been on virus alert level 4, its second-highest, since late June.

“We are taking this step to open these vaccination sites over the weekend to make sure as many people as possible are vaccinated,” Motalatale Modiba, the head of communications at the Gauteng Department of Health, said in a recorded statement.

Gauteng has been worst affected by the virus, with 805,478 cases recorded since the start of the pandemic. The national death toll from the illness stands at 66,676, with the total number of cases at 2.28 million by July 17.

US 

Even with half the US vaccinated, COVID-19 continues to kill people faster than guns, car crashes and influenza combined, according to a review of mortality data. 

The situation has improved dramatically since January, when COVID-19 deaths outpaced heart disease and cancer as the country’s top killer, according to a Bloomberg analysis. Still, for the month of June, coronavirus was responsible for 337 deaths a day. For comparison, the historic average deaths from gunshots, car crashes and complications from the flu add up to 306 a day. 

“The sad reality is that despite our progress, we’re still losing people to this virus,” Jeff Zients, the White House pandemic response coordinator, said at a press briefing last week. “Which is especially tragic given that, at this point, it is unnecessary and preventable. Virtually all COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in the United States are now occurring among unvaccinated individuals.” 

Data for the analysis were gathered from Johns Hopkins University, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Key indicators of COVID-19 transmission in the United States continue to surge amid slowdown of vaccination rates and rapid spread of variants.

The current 7-day average of daily new cases was 26,306, an increase of 69.3 percent compared with the previous 7-day average, which was 15,541, according to the latest weekly report of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

UK

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and finance minister Rishi Sunak will both self-isolate in line with national guidance, abandoning heavily criticised plans to take part in a pilot scheme that would have allowed them to continue working.

For about 1 million people across the UK COVID-19 didn’t just go away. Instead it lingered, causing exhaustion, shortness of breath, cognitive issues and other health problems.

With England preparing to lift virtually all restrictions even as infections are surging again, scientists are concerned that the numbers impacted by what has become known as “long COVID” will climb much higher.

In a bid to understand more, the UK’s National Institute for Health Research on Sunday announced about 20 million pounds (US$27.5 million) in funding for 15 studies analyzing the causes of long Covid and its physical and mental health impacts.

Britain’s rapid immunization campaign has fully vaccinated 53.2 percent of the UK population, according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker, prompting the government to declare that the link between infections and hospitalizations has been “weakened.” Prime Minister Boris Johnson says people must learn to live with coronavirus.

Mexico

Mexico's health ministry on Saturday reported 12,631 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country and 225 more fatalities, bringing the total to 2,654,699 infections and 236,240 deaths.

France

More than a hundred thousand people marched across France on Saturday to protest against President Emmanuel Macron's plans to force vaccination of health workers and require a COVID-19 free certificate to enter places such as restaurants and cinemas.

Macron this week announced sweeping measures to fight a rapid surge in coronavirus infections, which protesters say infringe the freedom of choice of those who do not want the vaccination.

The interior ministry said 137 marches took place across the country, gathering nearly 114,000 people, of which 18,000 were in Paris.

The measures had already prompted smaller demonstrations earlier this week, forcing police to use tear gas to disperse protesters.

Chile

Chile's number of daily COVID-19 cases dropped below 2,000, Health Minister Enrique Paris said Saturday.

The minister reported 1,874 new cases and 94 deaths in the last 24 hours, raising the total caseload to 1,598,481 and the national death toll to 34,403.

"The variation of new confirmed cases at the country level shows a decrease of 30 percent in the last 7 days and 42 percent in the last 14 days," he said.

Brazil

Brazil registered 868 more COVID-19 deaths in the past 24 hours, raising its national death toll to 541,266, the health ministry said Saturday.

As many as 34,339 new cases were detected, taking the total caseload to 19,342,448, the ministry said.

Brazil currently has the world's second-highest pandemic death toll after the United States, and the third-largest caseload, after the United States and India.

The South American country, which is experiencing a new wave of infections with hospitals overwhelmed by patients, has a mortality rate of about 257.6 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, said the ministry.

Peru

Cases of the Delta variant of COVID-19 in Peru have risen to 15 with the detection of three new cases in Lima, Minister of Health Oscar Ugarte reported on Saturday.

According to the minister, the new cases were detected in the center and north of the Peruvian capital and have no links with previous cases in the southern city of Arequipa.

"By the way they are appearing, some unrelated to others, it means that the virus is spreading not only in Lima or Arequipa, but in other regions," he warned.

Tunisia

 Tunisian Health Ministry on Saturday reported 7,524 COVID-19 cases, raising the tally in the North African country to 540,798.

The death toll from the virus rose by 140 to 17,354 in Tunisia, while the total number of recoveries reached 429,646, the ministry said in a statement.

The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients reached 4,915, including 659 in intensive care units, it said.

Zambia

The Zambian government on Saturday expressed happiness that the COVID-19 vaccination program in the country has been proceeding smoothly following initial hesitancy from members of the public to the program.

Kennedy Malama, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health in charge of Technical Services, said there was now an overwhelming response from the public who were rushing to be vaccinated.

According to him, the responses in all the provinces have been overwhelming, with some provinces like Lusaka depleting their allocations.

Morocco

Morocco on Saturday reported 2,853 new COVID-19 cases, taking the total tally in the North African country to 555,488.

The death toll rose by seven to 9,434, while 481 people were treated in the intensive care units, the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

The total number of recoveries from COVID-19 in Morocco hit 530,801 after 984 new ones were added, the statement said.

Meanwhile, 11,213,841 people have received the first vaccine shots against COVID-19 in the country, while 9,619,827 have received two doses.

Rwanda

The Rwandan Ministry of Health on Saturday launched mass testing on COVID-19 for free in Kigali, the national capital, to help the country determine the prevalence of the virus spread.

The two-day exercise to run through Sunday aims to test at least 15 percent of adult residents in each cell or about 106,000 sampled residents who were earlier informed through local leaders and health officials, Rwandan Minister of Health Daniel Ngamije briefed journalists at a testing site in Gasabo district.

Those found infected or with symptoms such as cough and high temperatures would be followed up with necessary treatment under home-based care, said Ngamije.