A woman over 60 years old receives her booster dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19 at Discovery vaccination site in Sandton, Johannesburg on Dec 15, 2021. (LUCA SOLA / AFP)
FRANKFURT / OTTAWA / WASHINGTON / TUNIS / LOS ANGELES – The World Bank has approved a loan of 454.4 million euros ($474.4 million) to help South Africa fund COVID-19 vaccine purchases, the bank and South Africa's National Treasury said in a statement.
As of Monday, just over 50 percent of South Africa's adult population of around 40 million people had received at least one vaccine dose
South Africa has recorded the most coronavirus cases and deaths on the African continent, with over 3.9 million confirmed cases and more than 101,000 deaths. It initially struggled to secure vaccines due to limited supplies and protracted negotiations, but it is now well-supplied with doses.
"This project will retroactively finance the procurement of 47 million COVID-19 vaccine doses by the GoSA (Government of South Africa)," the statement said.
The loan is part of government efforts to cut debt-service costs by using cheaper funding sources in its response to the pandemic, Ismail Momoniat, acting director-general of the Treasury said.
As of Monday, just over 50 percent of South Africa's adult population of around 40 million people had received at least one vaccine dose. In recent months the vaccination campaign has slowed, despite efforts to boost takeup.
Passenger queue at a COVID-19 test station at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany, Aug 3, 2020. (MICHAEL PROBST / AP)
Two newer Omicron lineages, BA.4 and BA.5, are spreading more quickly than other coronavirus variants in Europe, which could lead to more hospitalizations and deaths as they become dominant, the EU's disease prevention agency said on Monday.
BA.4 and BA.5 do not appear to carry a higher risk of severe disease than other versions of Omicron, but an increase in case numbers from higher transmission rates alone risks leading to an increase in hospitalizations and death, accoridng to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control
Most EU countries have so far detected low proportions of the two sublineages, but in countries where the proportion has risen – such as Portugal, where BA.5 accounted for 87 percent of cases by May 30 – there have been surges in overall cases, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said on Monday.
The two sublineages were added to the World Health Organization's monitoring list in March and have also been designated as variants of concern by the ECDC.
BA.4 and BA.5 do not appear to carry a higher risk of severe disease than other versions of Omicron, but an increase in case numbers from higher transmission rates alone risks leading to an increase in hospitalizations and deaths, the ECDC said.
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"The growth advantage reported for BA.4 and BA.5 suggest that these variants will become dominant," the EU body said in a statement on its website.
In the United States, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last week BA.4 and BA.5 were estimated to make up 5.4 percent and 7.6 percent, respectively, of coronavirus cases nationally as of June 4.
The Canadian government on Tuesday will announce an end to COVID-19 vaccine mandates for domestic travel on planes and trains and outgoing international travel, CBC News reported on Monday, citing unidentified sources familiar with the matter.
The government, which has faced criticism over ongoing pandemic restrictions, may bring back the vaccine mandate if a new variant of the virus is discovered, the report added.
Canada's federal COVID-19 curbs have included barring unvaccinated people from travelling on airplanes and vaccine mandates for federal civil servants.
Last week the country suspended random COVID-19 testing at all its airports for the rest of June to ease long waiting times that travellers have been facing.
Tunisia and the World Bank signed Monday an additional financing agreement worth $23.8 million to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic, said the Tunisian Ministry of Economy and Planning.
The second round of additional financing will further strengthen clinical, emergency and surgical care capacity in the country, the ministry said in a statement.
A child receives a dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine at an event launching school vaccinations in Los Angeles, California on Nov 5, 2021. (FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP)
About 88,000 child COVID-19 cases were reported across the United States in the week ending June 9, according to a report released on Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association.
Over 13.5 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic in the country, and nearly 395,000 of these cases have been added in the past four weeks, according to the report.
About 5.6 million child COVID-19 cases have been added in 2022, said the report.