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WHO tasks African countries to ramp up COVID-19 vaccination

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By Gistflash News

July 22, 2021

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called on African countries to ramp up COVID-19 vaccination as the squeeze on vaccine shipments eases.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, made the call on Thursday during an online news briefing on COVID-19 in Africa.

She said the new case numbers in Africa fell by 1.7 per cent to nearly 282,000 in the week ending July 18.

She said the continent experienced an unbroken nine-week surge, excluding data from South Africa, which accounted for 37 per cent of these cases.

She added that the current peak was 80 per cent higher than Africa’s previous peak, excluding data from South Africa.

She explained that without the data from South Africa, cases rose in Africa by 18 per cent to over 182 000 in the week ending on July 18.

“Around 60 million doses are set to arrive in the coming weeks from the United States of America, Team Europe, the United Kingdom, purchased doses, and other partners through the COVAX facility.

“Over half a billion doses are expected through COVAX alone this year,” Moeti said.

She said no one should be under any illusion that Africa’s third wave was over.

“This small step forward offers hope and inspiration but must not mask the big picture for Africa. Many countries are still at peak risk and Africa’s third wave surged up faster and higher than ever before.

“The Eid celebrations which we marked this week may also result in a rise in cases. We must all double down on prevention measures to build on these fragile gains,” she said.

Meoti stated further that 21 African countries had seen cases rise by over 20 per cent for at least two weeks running, which was an increase of three countries over the previous week and the highly transmissible Delta variant had been found in 26 African countries.

According to her, the Alpha variant is in 38 countries and Beta is in 35, and that South Africa’s gains remain uncertain as protests have disrupted the country’s response, including disease surveillance and testing.

She said mass gatherings in the country could also trigger another rise in cases.

“A massive influx of doses means that Africa must go all out and speed up the vaccine rollout by five to six times if we are to get all these doses into arms and fully vaccinate the most vulnerable 10 per cent of all Africans by the end of September.

“Nearly 70 per cent of African countries will not reach the 10 per cent vaccination target for all countries by the end of September at the current pace.

“Around 3.5 million to four million doses are administered weekly on the continent, but to meet the September target this must rise to 21 million doses at the very least each week,” she said.

Moeti said Just 20 million Africans, or 1.5 per cent of the continent’s population, had been fully vaccinated so far and just 1.7 per cent of the 3.7 billion doses given globally had been administered in Africa.

She said high-income countries had administered 62 times more doses per person than low-income countries.

According to her, the World Bank estimates that in addition to the 9.5 billion dollars needed to buy enough vaccines to ensure adequate protection from COVID-19, another three billion dollars is required to fund operations.

“To increase uptake, countries must scale up operations, investments on operational costs, and address vaccine confidence.

“Countries need sufficient vaccine sites and health care workers, sufficient vaccine storage, and adequate transport and logistics for distribution,” Moeti said.

She said to boost the uptake of vaccines, African countries must address the fear of side effects, which were major drivers of people’s reluctance to get vaccinated.

NAN

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Sudan stresses importance of reaching binding agreement on Nile Dam

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By Gistflash News

July 29, 2021

Sudan’s Irrigation and Water Resources Minister Yasir Abbas, on Wednesday reiterated the importance of reaching a tripartite binding agreement regarding the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).

Abbas underscored the importance of reaching the agreement at a news conference in the capital, Khartoum.

“Sudan will benefit from the GERD in terms of generating electricity and reducing silt and floods, but only on the condition that there is a binding tripartite agreement,” the minister said.

He called for a different negotiating method, saying “Sudan is not ready to enter into talks with Ethiopia in the same previous way because it means buying time.

“An agreement on exchange of information with Ethiopia regarding the GERD must be set, so that Sudan’s Al-Rusaires Dam can be operated safely.”

On July 19, the Ethiopian government announced that it had completed the second filling of the GERD and that it planned to start electricity production from the dam within months.

Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia have been in talks for years over the technical and legal issues related to the filling and operation of the GERD.

Sudan proposed a mediation quartet of the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and the African Union regarding the GERD issue, while Ethiopia rejected this proposal.

Ethiopia, which started building the GERD in 2011, expects to produce more than 6,000 megawatts of electricity from the dam project, while Egypt and Sudan, downstream Nile Basin countries that rely on the river for its freshwater, are concerned that the dam might affect their share of the water resources.

Xinhua/NAN

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England to open borders to vaccinated U.S., EU citizens soon – Reports

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By Gistflash News

July 28, 2021

England is expected to open its borders to allow U.S. and European Union (EU) travellers who are fully vaccinated against the Coronavirus (COVID-19) to enter without the need to quarantine, according to reports.

The plans, which would be a boost to the aviation and tourism sectors, were expected to be discussed by ministers on Wednesday, The Guardian and The Times reported.

The Guardian added that conversations were also expected between Whitehall officials and the devolved administrations on whether the change would apply to England only, or all four nations of the UK.

The changes were expected as soon as next week, while countries outside the EU and U.S. could be allowed inbound quarantine-free travel at a later date, The Times added.

It comes after aviation firms claimed a trial has demonstrated the UK can safely exempt fully vaccinated U.S. and EU visitors from self-isolation.

In the Heathrow Airport, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic said their 10-day pilot scheme proved the vaccination status of travellers can be efficiently and accurately checked away from the border.

Around 250 fully vaccinated passengers on selected flights from New York, Los Angeles, Jamaica and Athens earlier this month presented their credentials using paper or digital formats before boarding the plane.

Some 99 per cent of their documents was verified as authentic, with just two passengers’ credentials rejected.

In one case there was a discrepancy between the name on the vaccine card and the name on the passport, while another involved someone who had been fully vaccinated less than 14 days before travel.

The Department for Transport has committed to a formal review of its rules for arriving travellers before Sunday.

Since July 19, people arriving in the UK from amber list locations, such as the U.S., have had to have received both doses of a vaccine in the UK to avoid the requirement to self-isolate for 10 days.

The rules excluded those who had been inoculated elsewhere in the world.

BA chief executive Sean Doyle said the trial provides “the evidence the Government needs’’ to allow fully vaccinated visitors from low-risk countries to enter the UK without self-isolating.

He went on: “The UK needs to safely reopen its borders as soon as possible to ensure loved ones can reunite, business can thrive and global Britain is able to take advantage of the UK’s world-leading vaccination programme.’’

His counterpart at Virgin Atlantic, Shai Weiss, warned that continuing the UK’s “overly cautious approach’’ towards international travel would harm the economic recovery from the virus crisis and put half a million jobs at risk.

He claimed the trial shows airlines would ensure easing of the amber rules was implemented smoothly at pace.

Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye said: “The vaccine has been a miracle of science, and these trials have shown that we can allow fully vaccinated passengers from the EU and U.S. to visit the UK without quarantine.

“There is now no reason to delay with rolling out the solution from July 31.’’

NAN

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70% of adults in EU have received at least one vaccine

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By Gistflash News

July 27, 2021

Seventy per cent of adults in the European Union(EU) had been jabbed at least once against COVID-19, the European Commission announced on Tuesday.

“These figures put Europe among the world leaders,’’ European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement.

About 57 per cent of adults had been fully vaccinated, she said.

Numbers differ widely across the bloc, however.

In Romania, for example, only just above 30 per cent of the adult population had been jabbed once.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control had said.

Denmark, by contrast, had fully inoculated 60 per cent, and almost 84 per cent of the population had received one shot so far.

In spite of improved vaccination rates in the EU, von der Leyen urged the countries and citizens not to let their guard down against the virus.

“The Delta variant is very dangerous,’’ she said, calling on everyone who had the opportunity to get vaccinated.

In recent weeks, the spread of the Delta variant more contagious than previous variants has led to a surge of infections in countries around the globe.

dpa/NAN

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