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By Chayut Setboonsarng and Panarat Thepgumpanat
BANGKOK (Reuters) – Travel agencies in Thailand are selling coronavirus “vaccine tours” to the United States, as some wealthy Thais grow impatient awaiting mass inoculations that are still a month away amid the country’s biggest outbreak so far.
The tours reflect global differences in vaccinations, with the United States and Britain making swift immunisation gains, but many lower income nations – and increasingly their well-off citizens – are still working to secure doses.
Bangkok tour operator, Unithai Trip, has packages from 75,000 baht to 200,000 baht ($2,400 to $6,400) for trips to San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York, with prices dependent on the time gap between doses.
“Johnson & Johnson is one jab, but 90% of inquires want Pfizer,” which needs about 20 days between the first and second doses, the agency’s owner, Rachphol Yamsaeng, told Reuters.
He said a group was tentatively scheduled to leave next week.
My Journey Travel is offering a 10-day trip to San Francisco for a Johnson & Johnson shot and said it has received hundreds of calls in three days.
The vaccine tours could be a boon for Thailand’s tourism agencies after travel collapsed during the pandemic.
“All tour agencies are suffering now,” said Rachapol, whose agency is also offering similar trips to Serbia. “Whatever we can do, we have to try to do it.”
A spokesman at the U.S. embassy in Bangkok declined to immediately comment, but the U.S. State Department’s website lists medical tourism as a valid reason to visit.
The United States is not the only destination offered to Thais. Another agency, Udachi, advertised a 23-day “VACCation in Russia” to receive the Sputnik V vaccine for up to 210,000 baht ($6,700).
Thailand’s main vaccination drive is set to begin in June with locally-produced AstraZeneca shots.
Its latest outbreak has accounted for more than half of its total 74,900 infections and 318 fatalities.
Thailand’s tourism ministry warned on Wednesday that customers should carefully examine vaccination packages after the foreign ministry said U.S. regulations may vary by state.
(Reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat and Chayut Setboonsarng; Editing by Martin Petty)
Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.
The hospital system says numbers are trending in the right direction. Case counts and hospitalizations are down again this week. Dr. Christine Nefcy is the Munson Healthcare Chief Medical Officer. She says, “We are doing much better than we had been the last few weeks… we’re happy to be heading in that right direction.”
Meanwhile local health departments say they’re taking vaccine clinics on the road – spreading out to more satellite locations, like township halls, businesses, even local festivals. District Health Department #10 Medical Director Dr. Jennifer Morse says, “We’re happy to partner with any area festivals, or area events, or after church. Anything really where people might want to have vaccinations offered.” She adds, “We are ready to travel to wherever people are ready to get vaccinated.”
And last week the Benzie-Leelanau Health Department held vaccine clinics in Suttons Bay at a grocery store and a brewing company.
Grand Traverse Co. Health Dept. Health Officer Wendy Hirschenberger says they’re ready to work with local businesses interested in hosting clinics. “Partnering with several businesses, larger industry, places like that where we can bring the vaccine to them, maybe during their work hours and that makes it more convenient for right after they get off their shift.”
Grand Traverse County is also launching a “Homebound Hotline”. For those who aren’t able to leave their home to get to a clinic, healthcare workers can bring the vaccine to you. That number is (231) 995-6084.
Dr. Nefcy says the vaccination rate for Munson Healthcare staff is “still hovering at about 67.8%.” While that falls short of the overall goal of 70% to reach herd immunity, Dr. Nefcy says they’re planning Johnson & Johnson clinics, because some employees have expressed interest in the one-shot alternative. “Our healthcare workers are an absolute reflection of the community around us. Our rates are at 67.8%. There’s a wide variability though in who’s getting vaccinated. Our frontline employees that have been taking care of these COVID patients have a much higher vaccine rate than some of our other employees that may have been protected from seeing what’s going on from a COVID-19 perspective. Our physicians, our rate is in the high 80’s. We have some hospitals that 100% of their physicians are immunized.”
‘Don’t book foreign summer holidays yet’, says Liz Truss
Most of Europe and the US should move onto the UK’s “green list” next month, according to ministers.
The government is expected to announce a green list of destinations – from where arrivals into England will not have to quarantine as of 17 May – shortly, and then review this list every three weeks.
While the public await the official list, the UK has amended its travel advice to show a list of low-risk nations ahead of the expected return to non-essential travel in mid-May.
Meanwhile, epidemiologist Professor Neil Ferguson has said he feels “fairly optimistic” there will be a return to “something which feels a lot more normal by the summer”.
The expert from Imperial College London, who advises the government, also said the UK data on deaths and cases was “very encouraging” and it was unlikely the NHS would be overwhelmed after an expected rise in Covid cases in late summer.
But Professor Stephen Reicher, another expert, has warned the public to take Boris Johnson’s comments suggesting social distancing could be scrapped in summer with a “pinch of salt”.
There is no evidence that Covid-19 vaccines are affected by drinking alcohol after having had the jab, a UK regulator has said.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) was responding to reports on social media that people ought to avoid drinking for up to two weeks following a vaccine.
In January, advisers to Drinkaware, an alcohol education charity which is funded by the alcohol industry, said there was some evidence drinking, particularly heavy drinking, may interfere with the body’s ability to build an immune response to some vaccines.
There is no information on this in patient information leaflets from the NHS or the vaccine manufacturers however that would suggest a link of this kind.
A spokeswoman for the MHRA said: “There is currently no evidence that drinking alcohol interferes with the efficacy of the Covid-19 vaccines.
“We would advise anyone concerned about this to talk to their healthcare professional,” PA reported.
Eleanor Sly4 May 2021 12:08
Eight Asiatic lions have tested positive for Covid-19 at a zoo in Hyderabad, India, in the first such case reported in the country.
The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, India’s largest organisation for research and development, tweeted that one of its life science institutions in Hyderabad, The Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), would carry out “detailed investigation of the samples for genome sequencing to find out if the strain came from human beings or not.”
Veterinarians at the Nehru Zoological Park reportedly noticed the lions showing Covid-like symptoms in the last week of April.
Vishwam Sankaran has more:
Eleanor Sly4 May 2021 11:58
Most of Europe and the US should move onto the UK’s “green list” next month, according to government ministers.
This “big bang” reopening for travel is due in large part to the UK’s successful rollout of the vaccination programme, which has seen one in four Britons receive both doses of the vaccine at the time of writing.
After the initial green list of countries – from where arrivals into England will not have to quarantine as of 17 May – is announced, the list will be reviewed every three weeks.
Zoe Tidman4 May 2021 11:39
Amid lots of talk about travel and the UK’s “green list” of destinations, the EU is proposing that travel restrictions are eased on their end.
But the new proposals can be implemented, modified or ignored by member countries.
Simon Calder takes a look at the key questions and answers:
Zoe Tidman4 May 2021 11:25
Around 85 per cent who test positive for Covid-19 are continuing to follow the rules for self-isolating, a new survey has suggested.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) findings – based on responses collected from adults in England between 12-16 April – found 15 per cent of people reported at least one activity during self-isolation that broke the rules, such as leaving home or having visitors for a reason not permitted under legislation.
Additional reporting by Press Association
Zoe Tidman4 May 2021 11:10
A government adviser has predicted this summer will feel “a lot more normal” – if not “completely normal”.
On that note, here is a reminder of restrictions that will remain in place by the end of this month, and those that will have been lifted if all goes to plan:
Zoe Tidman4 May 2021 10:54
Professor Stephen Reicher said people will need to be careful in future, but not in a way that limits daily life.
The government scientific adviser said: “Even after restrictions go, it makes sense to have sensible and cautious precautions; not in a way that limit our everyday lives, not in a way that stops us seeing people or hugging people, but just realising, for instance, that on the whole, we are safer outside, don’t sit too close to people, open the windows.”
He added: “So we need to be sensible about this, we need to be cautious about this, and in that way I think we’re much more likely to get to a space where our lives are much more back to normal, much more tolerable, where we can meet and hug our loved ones, but don’t just hug anybody.”
Zoe Tidman4 May 2021 10:21
Here is Portugal’s tourism minister explaining the EU’s plans to restart tourism.
“The rules will be pretty much the same all over Europe,” she said.
Zoe Tidman4 May 2021 10:13
In more travel news, a British tour operator has persuaded Iceland’s prime minister to permit UK holidaymakers to be admitted on production of an NHS vaccination card.
Simon Calder, our travel correspondent, reports:
Zoe Tidman4 May 2021 10:11
Portugal’s secretary of state for tourism, Rita Marques, said the country is “taking the lead” at the European Council in negotiations aimed at opening up the European Union to UK holidaymakers.
She told BBC Breakfast: “We are really pushing hard to open up to third countries like the UK.
“I’m not going to tell you how important is the British market to Portugal. I just want to tell you that the British market is really important to all Europe, and in that sense we are ready to welcome you when you are ready to come.”
Zoe Tidman4 May 2021 10:00
A severe shortage of medical oxygen in India has left people gasping for their final breaths in their hospital beds, a sign of government futility in its fight against a crushing wave of coronavirus infections.
The latest tragic consequence came on Sunday night, when at least 12 people hospitalized with Covid-19 died in Chamarajanagar, southwestern India, because of a lack of oxygen, according to the regional authorities. Hospital officials were left desperately dialing senior government functionaries and made calls to neighboring officials for help. Videos from the hospital showed relatives of sick patients using towels to fan their loved ones in an attempt to save them.
Many countries, including Mexico, Nigeria, Egypt and Jordan, have faced oxygen shortages that have led to deadly accidents and driven up virus deaths. The World Health Organization estimated earlier this year that 500,000 people were in need of oxygen supply every day, but that number is likely to be much higher with the outbreak in India.
The Indian authorities have said that the country has enough liquid oxygen to meet medical needs and that it is rapidly expanding its supply. But production facilities are concentrated in eastern India, far from the worst outbreaks in New Delhi and in western areas of the country, requiring several days of travel by road.
Ritu Priya, a professor at the Center of Social Medicine and Community Health at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, called the oxygen shortage a failure of governance. “We were not able to channelize oxygen distribution over the past year when that is what we should have been doing,” Dr. Priya said.
“We are living from oxygen cylinder to oxygen cylinder,” she said.
On Sunday, the New Delhi High Court said that it would start punishing government officials for failing to deliver oxygen after hospitals in the capital successfully sought an injunction, The Associated Press reported.
It was the latest verdict against Indian leaders: Voters in crucial state elections dealt Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party a blow by electing an opposition party in West Bengal, one of India’s most populous states and a stronghold of opposition to Mr. Modi, India’s most powerful prime minister in decades.
The Supreme Court also weighed in on Sunday, urging the central and state governments to consider another lockdown to gain control of the virus and to create an emergency stockpile of oxygen, according to the Indian news media.
Critics have blasted Mr. Modi’s handling of the crisis. A sudden, harsh lockdown imposed early in the pandemic sent millions of laborers scrambling back to their home villages and disrupted the economy. When cases dropped, Mr. Modi’s government failed to heed warnings of a potential resurgence from scientists, and its Covid-19 task force did not meet for months. Mr. Modi declared a premature victory over Covid in late January during what proved to be a mere lull in infections.
Now, cremation grounds are working day and night, burning thousands of bodies. The country is rife with the more lethal and transmissible B.1.1.7 variant of the coronavirus, first found in Britain, as well as a local variant, B.1.617. Experts are worried that the unchecked outbreak will spawn more dangerous variants of the coronavirus.
On Saturday, India reported nearly 3,700 deaths, its highest daily toll, with 3,417 deaths on Sunday, according to a New York Times database. It also logged 392,488 new cases Saturday and 368,060 on Sunday. These are tallies that no other country has ever seen, and experts say the real toll is far higher.
Indian officials announced over the weekend that the army had opened its hospitals to civilians and that the first batch of the Russian vaccine, Sputnik V, had arrived, a boost to India’s flagging inoculation campaign.
Over the weekend, aid from a half-dozen countries arrived at airports across India; it included 157 ventilators from the United Arab Emirates, 500 oxygen cylinders from Taiwan and 1,000 vials of the medicine Remdesivir from Belgium.
On Sunday, the United States delivered the third of six aid shipments to New Delhi, including 1,000 oxygen cylinders. Britain donated more than 400 oxygen concentrators, and France sent eight oxygen generators, each of which can serve 250 hospitalized patients.
Britain and France announced plans to donate more, and the United States has pledged $100 million worth of supplies, which will include 15 million N95 masks and one million rapid diagnostic tests. Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff, said on Sunday that the Biden administration had sent the raw materials to produce 20 million vaccine doses, and he said the United States might lift patents on vaccines to boost global production.
Vaccines are badly needed in India, where shortages forced several states on Saturday to delay expanding access to everyone aged 18 and over. While it is a global power in vaccine production, India didn’t purchase enough doses to protect itself: Less than 2 percent of its 940 million adults have been fully vaccinated.
New York City’s subway will return to 24-hour service on May 17 more than a year after closing overnight during the pandemic, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Monday.
The restoration of subway hours are the latest sign of New York’s recovery as more people have gotten vaccinated and city life has slowly begun to pick up. On Monday, some city government workers also began retuning to their offices.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the city’s subway system, initially shut down subway service from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. on May 6 last year as subway ridership plummeted in part as commuters avoided public transit and worked from home. M.T.A. crews were dispatched to deep clean and disinfect the subways during the closings.
But as recently as February, the M.T.A shortened the overnight subway closings to 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. and signaled that they soon planned to resume 24-hour service. M.T.A. officials said Monday that they planned to continue deep cleaning and disinfecting during subway operating hours. Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledged what scientists have been saying for months: The risk of catching the coronavirus from surfaces is low.
Subway ridership has started to rebound in recent months to more than 2 million daily trips last month, though that number is still less than half of the peak subway ridership before the pandemic.
Mr. Cuomo announced the return of subways hours as part of the state’s broader efforts to increase economic activities, including lifting pandemic restrictions on restaurants and bars.
To prevent a new wave of infections in Australia, about 8,000 Australia citizens and residents are banned from returning home from India as of Monday.
The travel ban is believed to represent the first time Australia has made it a criminal offense for its own citizens and permanent residents to enter the country.
“I never expected this to happen,” said Drisya Dilin, an Australian hospital administrator whose 5-year-old daughter has been in India for over a year because of strict border policies, despite many attempts to bring her home.
Much of the world has decided to cut off travel to and from India as it grapples with an uncontrolled outbreak that is killing thousands of people every day. But Australia, a continent with a strong preference for hard borders, has pushed isolation to a new extreme. No other democratic nation has issued a similar ban on all arrivals. Britain, Germany and the United States, for example, have restricted travel from India, but have exempted citizens and permanent residents, many of whom are rushing home.
Australia’s decision — announced quietly late Friday night by officials who said it was necessary to keep the country safe — has built into a medical and moral crisis.
Indian-Australians are outraged. Human rights groups have condemned the move as unnecessarily harsh and a violation of citizenship principles. Other critics have suggested that the policy was motivated by racism or, at the very least, a cultural double standard.
“It’s criminalizing the situation when intense empathy is required,” said Sheba Nandkeolyar, a marketing executive and national chair of Women in Business for Australia India Business Council. “It’s a very tough situation.”
Australia’s latest move fits a pattern. The island has maintained some of the strictest border measures in the world since the pandemic began. No one can leave the country without official government permission. Coming home, even from a country with declining infection rates, often seems to require government connections, celebrity status or luck, along with $30,000 for a one-way plane ticket.
There are about 35,000 Australians overseas who have been unable to make the journey either because they have been unable to obtain seats on repatriation flights or because they have been unable to afford the tickets.
In the case of India, Australia’s already opaque, unequal and selective policy — based in part on how many people can be moved through for 14-day hotel quarantine — has become absolute. It means keeping thousands of Australians in a place where coronavirus case numbers have skyrocketed; where hospitals have run out of beds, ventilators and medical oxygen; and where crematories are burning day and night amid a deluge of bodies.
Australian officials said the new restrictions, with penalties of up to five years in prison and nearly 60,000 Australian dollars ($46,300) in fines, would keep its hotel quarantine system from being overwhelmed.
The European Union will recommend that its member states open borders to travelers who have been fully vaccinated, it said on Monday, clearing the way for the countries to welcome more visitors.
Member states are set later this week to debate the proposal, which was issued by the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm. Visitors who have received a vaccine approved by the European Union’s drug agency would be allowed to travel freely, and individual countries could still impose tougher requirements on visitors, the proposal said.
The Commission said that if certain member states were prepared to let in visitors who had tested negative, they should do the same for vaccinated ones. Unvaccinated travelers could still be permitted, but countries could require tests or quarantines.
Yet the return of tourism, which the European Commission’s president, Ursula von der Leyen, spoke about last Sunday, would be a much-needed boon for countries, particularly those in southern Europe whose economies rely heavily on tourism but have been crippled by shutdowns.
The announcement comes more than a year after the first bans on nonessential travel from most countries to the bloc came into effect.
A handful of countries with low virus caseloads, including Australia, New Zealand and South Korea, have been exempt from the ban. The Commission said on Monday that it would expand that list by allowing in visitors — regardless of vaccination status — from countries with virus rates higher than the current limit (though still lower than the European Union average).
If member states accept the proposal, they would also be able activate an “emergency brake” mechanism to suspend all travel from outside of the bloc, the Commission said, to avoid the spread of coronavirus variants.
Countries including Greece, Spain and France have already said they will open for visitors who can show proof of a vaccination or a negative test.
Under the new proposal, visitors would be able to enter the European Union if they received the last recommended dose of an authorized vaccine at least 14 days before arrival.
Travelers would have to prove their status under a vaccination certificate program issued by the national authorities of the country they wished to travel to, according to the Commission. But until that program was in place, governments could also accept certificates from countries outside the bloc, impose quarantines or require a proof of a negative test.
Early in the pandemic, when vaccines were still just a glimmer on the horizon, the term “herd immunity” came to signify the endgame: the point when enough Americans would be protected from the virus that we could be rid of it.
Now, more than half of adults in the United States have been vaccinated with at least one dose. But rates are slipping, and there is widespread consensus among public health experts that herd immunity is not attainable — not in the foreseeable future, perhaps not ever.
Instead, they are coming to the conclusion that the virus will most likely become a manageable threat that will continue to circulate in the United States for years, still causing hospitalizations and deaths but in much smaller numbers.
How much smaller depends in part on how much of the nation, and the world, becomes vaccinated and how the coronavirus evolves.
The American drugmaker Moderna announced on Monday that it would supply up to 500 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine to Covax, the international vaccine-sharing initiative that aims to distribute vaccines to poor and middle-income countries that have been unable to secure deals on their own.
Under the agreement, which was negotiated by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the first 34 million doses will be delivered by the end of the year, and the rest through 2022.
The deal covers 92 middle- and low-income countries, Moderna said. It added that the doses would be offered at the company’s “lowest-tiered price” but did not say what that was.
The deal comes as countries in Europe have pledged donations to Covax to address urgent supply shortages, in particular with AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured in India, which has curtailed exports as it faces an unprecedented surge of infections.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director of the World Health Organization, which backs Covax, said on Monday that the initiative urgently needed 20 million doses for the second quarter of 2021.
Sweden announced that it would donate a million AstraZeneca doses to Covax to address shortages, and France made an initial pledge of 500,000 last month.
Although Covax was created to resolve the inequities created by a free market where the richest can buy the most, it has delivered only 49 million doses to dozens of countries, according to Gavi’s website. Health advocates have questioned its transparency and accountability, and developed countries have been accused of cutting lines and monopolizing vaccine doses.
In other news from around the world:
In Britain, a group of cross-party lawmakers urged the government on Monday to discourage all leisure travel abroad to prevent the importation of new variants into Britain and to reduce the risk of a new wave of infections. The warning comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to reopen international travel this month, with many in Britain hoping that they can travel across Europe and beyond for summer vacation.
In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte appeared to receive his first dose of the Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine on Monday, according to a livestream shared on Facebook by a Filipino lawmaker and Filipino news outlets. “I feel good,” Mr. Duterte said in the video, adding that he had been expecting to receive the China-backed vaccine for a long time. The vaccine has not been approved by the World Health Organization for emergency use yet, and Sinopharm has not applied for approval by the Philippine drug regulator. But Mr. Duterte received it under a permit that granted access to 10,000 doses for his security group, according to Rappler, a Manila-based news website.
In Greece, outdoor restaurant service resumed on Monday after a six-month hiatus, a much-anticipated reopening after people began filling city squares and beaches as temperatures rose. Greece has gradually lifted restrictions in recent weeks, including ending quarantine requirements for visitors from dozens of countries. The authorities plan to reopen the tourism sector on May 15, when domestic travel restrictions are also set to lift.
France began easing lockdown restrictions on Monday, reopening middle and high schools and lifting a ban on domestic travel. Outdoor dining at cafes and restaurants is scheduled to reopen later this month, and a 7 p.m. nightly curfew is expected to be pushed back to 9 p.m.
The European Union’s drug regulator announced that it had begun evaluating clinical-trial data to extend the authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to children ages 12 to 15, the first vaccine to be assessed for pediatric use in the bloc. The European Medicines Agency said the review would be accelerated, and it expects a decision in June.
In Germany, the Munich Oktoberfest will be canceled for a second year in a row, the authorities in the Bavaria region said on Monday. The lawmakers cited difficulties in enforcing mask or distance rules. The last time the event ran, in September and October 2019, it attracted 6.3 million people.
The coronavirus surge that is lashing India, where countless funeral pyres cloud the night skies, is more than just a humanitarian disaster: Experts say uncontrolled outbreaks like India’s also threaten to prolong the pandemic by allowing more dangerous virus variants to mutate, spread and possibly evade vaccines.
The United States will begin restricting travel from India later this week, but similar limitations on air travel from China that President Trump imposed in the early days of the pandemic proved to be ineffectual.
“We can ban all the flights we want but there is literally zero way we can keep these highly contagious variants out of our country,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.
As the coronavirus spreads among human hosts, it invariably mutates, creating opportunities for new variants that can be more transmissible or even more deadly. One highly contagious variant, known as B.1.1.7, crushed Britain earlier this year and is already well entrenched in the United States and Europe.
Recent estimates suggest that B.1.1.7 is about 60 percent more contagious and 67 percent more deadly than the original form of the virus. Another worrisome variant, P.1, is wreaking havoc across South America.
On Friday, India recorded 401,993 new cases in a single day, a world record, though experts say its true numbers are far higher than what’s being reported. Peru, Brazil and other countries across South America are also experiencing devastating waves.
Virologists are unsure what is driving India’s second wave. Some have pointed to a homegrown variant called B.1.617, but researchers outside of India say the limited data suggests that B.1.1.7 may be to blame.
With 44 percent of adults having received at least one dose, the United States has made great strides vaccinating its citizens, though experts say the country is far from reaching so-called herd immunity, when the virus can’t spread easily because it can’t find enough hosts. Vaccine hesitancy remains a formidable threat to reaching that threshold.
In much of the world, however, vaccines are still hard to come by, especially in poorer countries. In India, less than 2 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated. “If we want to put this pandemic behind us, we can’t let the virus run wild in other parts of the world,” Dr. Jha said.
Preliminary evidence suggests that the vaccines are effective against the variants, although slightly less so against some.
“For now, the vaccines remain effective, but there is a trend toward less effectiveness,” said Dr. Céline Gounder, an infectious disease physician and epidemiologist at Bellevue Hospital in New York.
Vaccine makers say they are poised to develop booster shots that would tackle especially troublesome variants, but such a fix would be of little help to poorer nations already struggling to obtain the existing vaccines. Experts say the best way to head off the emergence of dangerous variants is to tamp down new infections and immunize most of humanity as quickly as possible.
Dr. Michael Diamond, a viral immunologist at Washington University in St. Louis, said that the longer the coronavirus circulates, the more time it has to mutate, which could eventually threaten vaccinated people; the only way to break the cycle is to ensure countries like India get enough vaccines.
“In order to stop this pandemic, we have to vaccinate the whole world,” Dr. Diamond said. “There will be new waves of infection over and over again unless we vaccinate at a global scale.”
Denmark will not use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the Danish Health Authority announced on Monday, saying in a statement that the country could make adequate progress using other vaccines and did not need to run the risk of a rare, dangerous blood clotting condition that may be linked to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
The country has halted administering the AstraZeneca vaccine for similar reasons, after two people died of blood clots after being given that vaccine.
Denmark had been planning to use the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine before reports emerged about a possible link to the clotting condition, which seems to mainly affect younger women. Dropping the vaccine from its plans will set back the country’s timetable for vaccinating adults under 40 by about a month, Danish officials said,
The United States temporarily suspended using the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but the Food and Drug Administration announced on Friday that it would be made available again, with a warning about the possible clotting risk added to its label.
The European Medicines Agency, the regulatory body for the European Union, has also endorsed use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine with an added warning.
The Danish Health Authority, however, said it had independently investigated the vaccine and decided against using it.
“Taking the present situation in Denmark into account, what we are currently losing in our effort to prevent severe illness from Covid-19 cannot outweigh the risk of causing possible side effects in the form of severe blood clots in those we vaccinate,” the authority said in a statement.
“One should also bear in mind that, going forward, we will first and foremost be vaccinating younger and healthy people,” Helene Probst, the deputy director general of the authority, said in the statement.
Christina Anderson contributed reporting.
Public fury over Nepal’s growing wave of coronavirus infections has been rising in the country, with many people blaming travelers from India and several other virus-stricken countries as well as government ineptitude in handling the pandemic and large political rallies.
In response, Nepal halted all domestic flights on Sunday and announced that it would suspend international flights starting Wednesday.
As India’s crisis has worsened over recent weeks, people from several Indian states thronged to Nepal via land and air routes. Some were Nepali migrant workers returning home; others aimed to travel onward to third countries.
Last week, Nepal responded by banning third-country travel via Nepal and imposing two-week lockdowns in several cities, closing schools, colleges, factories, nightclubs and theaters. Public gatherings are also banned.
But those moves have so far done little to quell infections, which are spiking in Nepal’s densely populated cities, including Kathmandu, the capital, and metropolitan areas bordering India to the southwest.
The number of infections reported in Nepal has escalated rapidly since mid-April, from a seven-day average of new daily cases of less than 100 to more than 4,500 as of Saturday. On Sunday, Nepal reported 7,211 new cases.
Three cabinet members have been hospitalized with the virus, and the government is scrambling to arrange for oxygen imports and hospital beds.
Health experts have attributed the country’s second wave in part to the unchecked flow of Nepali migrant workers from India and in part to large political rallies organized by the ruling Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist and Leninist) and other opposition parties that aimed to show strength during the pandemic.
This is the second time Nepal has suspended international flights in response to the pandemic. In April 2020, it halted international flights for more than five months.
According to accounts in Nepali news outlets, chartered cargo flights will continue to fly.
Naomi Harris plans to drive to Buffalo next week from her home in Toronto to get the second dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. At home, her second appointment was set for July 1, but she thought that as a caregiver for someone with cancer, that was too long to wait.
Canada’s slow vaccine rollout has left some people waiting four months between doses. While at least 33 percent of Canadians have received one shot, just three percent are fully vaccinated.
New daily cases reached a seven-day average over 8,700 in mid-April, according to a New York Times database, levels not seen since a winter surge. Ontario has been among the hardest hit, reporting 3,700 new cases on Sunday.
Ms. Harris, 47, said she had to be “very pushy” for her mother to get vaccinated in a shorter time than expected. After her mother received a first dose in early March, her second dose was scheduled for June 30, according to Ms. Harris, “which was insane because my mom has cancer and is over 80,” she said.
Eventually, their province of Ontario changed the rules for people with certain types of cancer and Ms. Harris’s mother received her second dose in early April. Ms. Harris is eligible for her shot in Buffalo as a dual Canadian and American citizen who is enrolled in a graduate program in Buffalo remotely. “I can’t take the risk of getting my mom sick,” Ms. Harris said.
As supply increases, officials have said, the wait between two inoculations is expected to shorten, and some initiatives are trying to shrink the gap.
Zain Manji, who runs the company Lazer from Toronto, created a text system with a friend that allows people to find vaccination sites near them. Since its start on April 30, at least 50,000 people have used it.
“I think there’s been a lot of confusion around who is eligible, which locations are vaccinating people, what vaccines that they’re offering,” Mr. Manji said. “People are eager to get it and want to get it as fast as they can,” he added about the vaccine.
The vaccines are coming at a crucial time: Amid a third wave, the worst-affected provinces are reporting case numbers per capita that rival those of India — although figures in India are likely to be underestimated.
In Quebec, a curfew, limits on gatherings, and takeout-only dining have helped to quell cases. Jean-Sébastien Guay, 27, of Montreal had his first shot on Sunday. “It hasn’t been perfect,” he said, but officials communicated consistently. “They all work pretty hard to make it work.”
Peter Hotez, a vaccine expert at Baylor College of Medicine, has been pushing for the Biden administration to offer help to Canada. “This is not a time to hold back,” Dr. Hotez said in a telephone interview. After writing on Twitter that the government should ship more Pfizer doses to Canada, he was met with emotional stories from Canadians.
Adding insult to injury for some Canadians is the possibility of their country opening travel to vaccinated American tourists. “It’s frustrating for me to sit here and watch my friends in the United States going to restaurants, carrying on as if life is normal,” said Ms. Harris, who said she had been in a quasi-lockdown since November.
“In the rest of the world, life is not normal.”
With India’s health care system overwhelmed by the country’s unprecedented Covid-19 surge, desperate relatives and friends of the infected have resorted to sending S.O.S. messages on social media.
Many of those calls are being answered.
More than 400,000 new coronavirus cases and thousands of deaths are being reported each day. Some people need medical oxygen, which is nearly impossible to find in Delhi, the capital. Others are hunting for medicine that is expensive on the black market, or for rare ventilators.
The pleas are reaching tech-savvy engineers, lawyers, employees of nongovernmental organizations, politicians, doctors and even tuk-tuk drivers, who have mobilized online to help the sick, some of them hundreds of miles away. They have formed grass-roots networks that are stepping in where state and national governments have failed.
India’s loose online aid networks rely on tools and techniques commonly used in marketing and other forms of messaging on social media. Families tag people with large followings or specialized skills who might be able to amplify their messages, while volunteer organizers use keywords to filter the flood of requests.
About 3,000 clubgoers were rammed up against each other inside a warehouse in Liverpool, England, on Friday night, waving their hands to techno music.
It was an attempt to see how reopening might work. Other trial events in Liverpool have included a concert for 5,000 fans in a circus tent and a business conference.
People had to show a proof of a negative test before they could enter the club on Friday. “This is the first dance,” Nick Evans, a 28-year-old legal adviser, shouted above the music. “And it could be the last dance, so I’m going to enjoy it,” he added.
In February, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that because of high vaccinations, he hoped to remove all restrictions on social life in England on June 21.
Some academics criticized the nights as “human guinea-pig experiments,” but Iain Buchan of the University of Liverpool, the scientist leading the trials, insisted Covid-19 rates in Britain were so low that the chances of an outbreak were slim.
In a bid to improve their customer service at vaccination centers, officials in Mexico City have cued up entertainment performances for those waiting for their shots.
Now people can watch operatic performances; large, bare-chested Lucha Libre wrestlers doing the limbo; and men performing tricks with a surprising number of soccer balls. They can join a yoga session, with women in white shirts leading the crowd.
The goal is to make the process as appealing as possible, a woman leading a song and dance performance said on a recent Wednesday.
“Put those little hands in the air!” she shouted to the older people in her care.
The effort is important given the alarming resurgence of the virus in Latin America and the sputtering vaccination efforts in many of its countries. Concerns have been compounded by the rapid spread of a virus variant first discovered in Brazil.
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As Covid-19 vaccines continue to become more accessible, you, and many people that you know, might slowly start to feel comfortable going out again. It’s only natural to be a little stir-crazy at this point and feel the urge to get out and travel, especially since more business and restaurants are opening up.
But it’s best to take a pause, be smart, and keep certain safety essentials on-hand when going back out in public (one of those things should still always be a face mask, officials say.) It’s a critical time, as cases surge throughout the country, and the CDC is urging everyone to take certain precautions—even if your immunity now has a boost.
So first things first: here’s what you can do when you’ve been fully vaccinated. Based on what we know about Covid-19 vaccines, CDC guidelines state that you can gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask and visit unvaccinated people from one other household (emphasis on the “one”) without masks. If you’ve been exposed, you won’t have to stay away from others or get tested (unless you have symptoms) either. But you still have to take certain steps to protect yourself and others.
Say you have to go out somewhere public with heavy crowds, like a grocery store; or despite warnings against domestic and international travel, you still might have to take a flight for any number of reasons. Even if you finally feel comfortable enough to visit a local restaurant in person or hop on a plane, you still have to follow the basics. Here’s what you need to know, including tips on what should still be bringing with you when you leave the house.
The CDC recently published a guide on recommendations for fully vaccinated people. But what’s considered “fully vaccinated” anyways? The guide states “people are considered fully vaccinated for Covid-19 less than two weeks after they have received the second dose in a two-dose series (Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), or less than two weeks after they have received a single-dose vaccine (Johnson and Johnson (J&J)/Janssen).” If that sounds like you, then you should still be:
Sounds pretty much like what we’ve been doing all year, right? Even if you’re a pro by now at masking up and sanitizing as often as possible, the biggest challenge is knowing what you still have to take with you when you go out in public, or when you do have to do some long-distance traveling. Should you still keep sanitizer on hand? Or antibacterial wipes?
Don’t just toss your phone, wallet, and keys in your bag. Here are the necessary items to still keep prepared and protected against Covid-19 when you get back out there.
While a single cloth face masks can keep you shielded on a walk, or quick trip to the grocery store, if you’re going to be out for a longer period of time, your mask should have a removable filter. The CDC also now strongly suggests people double-mask to increase protection. Any face covering can help reduce the spread of Covid-19, but we recommend doubling up with a disposable mask underneath a reusable, washable face covering.
What about N95 vs. KN95 masks? You can certainly chose either, but double-masking was found to be just as effective at preventing the spread of airborne particles. If you go for a medical-grade mask, chose one without a valve (that just pushes air out at other people), and has a tight fit. Increase the fit of any mask with a good mask extender or FDA-approved tape to seal the edges.
One of our favorite reusable masks is this ProSport mask from BlueBear. It stands out from other masks because it includes a built-in slot for a filter, adding extra protection. It’s super gentle on the skin and won’t chafe, thanks to the soft and hypoallergenic fabric. The contoured shape fits more naturally over the face, and the adjustable straps help the mask stay put even during your longest days out. Get a 10-pack of replacement filters for $8.50 here.
The CDC recommends “protective eyewear” such as safety glasses during periods “where splashes and sprays are anticipated” or where “prolonged face-to-face or close contact with a potentially infectious patient is unavoidable.”‘ Even Dr. Fauci urged Americans to wear safety goggles with their virus-protection wardrobes last July.
While some pairs go more heavy-duty on protection (and might fit right in to a science lab), others are more practical, and can accommodate prescription lenses. We like this pair from Zenni, which features anti-scratch, impact-resistant lenses, and a superhydrophobic (read: water-repellant) anti-reflective coating. The adjustable nose pads make this an easy-to-wear protective style for every face shape. With a unique, retro silhouette, you don’t have to compromise style for protection.
Washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and drying them off thoroughly is the best way to not transmit bacteria from your hands, according to the CDC. You should ideally wash them before and after you use the restroom, eat, or touch your face or mask.
But if you’re out and about and can’t get to any soap and water, hand sanitizer is another effective option. It’s convenient too, as long as you pick a sanitizer that’s made with at least 60% alcohol, and make to rub it in until it evaporates completely.
If you’re looking for a safe and effective formula, we like this plant-based “cleansing mist” from Purophy. This sanitizer works double duty, and can also disinfect surfaces. The mist is formulated with 70% alcohol— exceeding CDC recommendations by 10%. It also contains all-natural aloe vera to help soothe sensitive skin. Each bottle is 60ml, and you can stock up with this special six-pack, which includes three spray bottles and three mini refill bottles.
You’d be surprised how dirty your phone can get, especially while out-and-about—the average smartphone has 17,032 germs on its surface. One of the easiest ways to clean your phone is with a good, portable UV smartphone sanitizer. That being said, while blasting your phone with UV light may reduce your exposure to bacteria containing Covid-19, but you should still take other precautions to limit your exposure.
That’s why we like the Invisible Shield UV Sanitizer from ZAGG, which can kill 99.9% of common surface bacteria on your phone in just five minutes. It’s great for disinfecting your keys, earbuds, wallet, sunglasses and other small accessories too. The Invisible Shield UV Sanitizer is 9.45 inches long, 5.75 inches wide, and 1.57 inches deep, which is small enough that you easily carry it in a backpack. This is also one of the best UV sanitizers for under $100, so it’s a budget-friendly pick too.
This may not be something you have on-hand regularly, but here’s why you should: several business have switched over during the pandemic to contactless payments like Apple Pay and Paypal, and certain restaurants will only allow you to order ahead on an app, or use your smartphone to view the menu. A small power bank will keep your smartphone battery fully charged and ready, no matter where you are.
For quickly powering up your phone while you’re out and about, or in an emergency, we like Anker’s PowerCore Fusion. The 5,000mAh battery can fully recharge an iPhone 12 Pro once, and its ultra-fast USB-C power can charge it from zero to 50% in about 30 minutes. The PowerCore Fusion also has a USB-A port, so you can charge two devices at the same time. While it may not have the highest battery capacity, the PowerCore Fusion is super convenient, with a power plug built right in.
While everyone from airport security to your local barbershop might check your temperature at the door, it’s handy to have a digital thermometer so you can check yourself before you go anywhere you know will be crowded, or where socially distancing is less than possible.
For expert precision and speed, we recommend the iHealth No-Touch Forehead Thermometer, which uses an infrared sensor to get a temperature read in just one second. Instead of a loud beeping sound, the device vibrates once the reading is done.
Whether you’re in a well-lit area or a dark spot, visibility isn’t an issue, since you can easily see the numbers on the LED display. The weather outside won’t affect the temperature results, since the sensors take things like distance and environmental factors into account for the most accurate reading possible.
It’s harder to catch Covid-19 from surfaces, so you don’t need to go crazy wiping down every surface you touch. But you should be regularly cleaning things that you touch regularly, like your phone, sunglasses, keys, and wallet. Once you set something down on a dirty, high-touch surface and pick it back up, you’re bringing that bacteria with you. That’s why it’s always good to carry a mini travel-pack of antibacterial wipes with you.
SONO Healthcare’s travel safe wipes are FDA-approved, and are good to use on most surfaces too, from wood to bathroom counters and even furniture upholstery. That makes it great around the house or office, to wipe down appliances, bathroom fixtures and high-touch surfaces like doorknobs and light switches too. The company says the wipes are effective at killing 99.9% of most common germs, including SARS-Cov-2 (which causes COVID-19). This three-pack gives you 20 disposable sanitizing wipes per pack.
All 50 states plan to open vaccine eligibility to everyone 16 and older, and several states have already done that, including Alaska, Mississippi and Georgia. According to President Joe Biden, 90% of all adult Americans will be eligible for vaccination by April 19.
While the supply of vaccine is increasing over time, demand still outstrips what’s available in many places, especially densely populated areas. People in big cities have likened the attempt to get a vaccination appointment to trying to get tickets online to a concert of a really popular band. (Remember those days?)
Here are tips to help you get fully vaccinated — and get your life back to something more normal than it probably has been for more than a year.
You almost always will need an appointment, and a good starting point for making one is your state or county health department. This CNN article has links to all states’ health department websites, along with phone numbers and email addresses to contact if you have questions.
Another good place to start is with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 vaccine finder, or by using its portal to link to your state or territory’s health department.
Pharmacies that are vaccinating have their own scheduling websites, too. The CVS site, for example, will tell you where vaccine is available. So if it’s not available in your city our county at the time you’re trying to make an appointment, it may be in a neighboring area.
Availability quickly changes, so if you find an available slot, book it before someone else does. Be sure to cancel your appointment if you can’t keep it, though, so someone else will be able to get that slot.
Pharmacies are also offering vaccine that’s left over at the end of the day, because people didn’t show up for their appointments, to adults who want them. A pharmacist at a Walmart in the Atlanta area said recently that all its employees were vaccinated, largely thanks to leftover doses, and it is now offering them to others who are there at the right time at the end of the day. A Kroger pharmacy in the area said it is keeping a list of people who want to be called when there is leftover vaccine.
Social media may be helpful. Facebook, which owns Instagram and WhatsApp, recently rolled out a number of tools to help people get vaccinated, including its Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information Center.
And of course you can use social media sites to crowd-source information. Look on Facebook for private groups in your area that are dedicated to finding vaccines and getting vaccinated. Some people have reported that their neighbors on the Nextdoor app helped them find vaccination appointments.
If you are able to travel, slots are almost always more available in rural areas when they are hard to find in a city. In Georgia, for example, it may be difficult to get an appointment in the Atlanta area, but appointments are plentiful for the next few days down in the rural south of the state.
In announcing a federal program to ship vaccine doses directly to pharmacies in addition to US states and territories, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said pharmacies are “readily accessible in most communities, with most Americans living within five miles of a pharmacy.”
Some rural areas, though, may not have a pharmacy close by, and residents may need to look for mobile vaccination clinics in their area. The recently passed American Rescue Plan includes a national vaccination program that will fund mobile units for hard-to-reach areas.
The key is to be patient, flexible and determined. You will get an appointment, sooner or later.
So, now you have an appointment. You are so close to getting that first or, better yet, your final dose.
But what if there’s a really long line of people once you get there? To keep from going crazy with boredom, be sure to take a phone, tablet or laptop with you.
Other ideas include documenting your vaccine experience, or planning how you’ll use your freedom once you are fully inoculated.
When’s the last time you were in a crowd this size? Maybe you can use the opportunity to make a new friend.
You will find a long list of other ideas in this article.
Got your vaccinations? Congratulations! Go hug a grandchild. Hug a vaccinated friend. Invite friends over who are fully vaccinated and visit without masks. Visit with others in their homes, as long as they are not considered to be especially vulnerable if they were to contract COVID-19.
If you’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19, you can skip quarantine once you’re fully vaccinated.
If you are one of the many who had COVID-19 and still suffer from symptoms, some so-called long haulers are reporting that their symptoms eased or even disappeared after they were vaccinated.
As some have said, getting immunized is a psychological game-changer: You may feel like a weight has been lifted.
And who isn’t yearning to travel again? Some destinations are opening for those who have been vaccinated.
Just remember, it takes two weeks after your last shot to be fully immunized.
And don’t throw away your mask just yet. You still need to protect those around you who have not yet been vaccinated. Although some studies indicate that immunized people don’t spread the virus, it is still not certain.
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TAMPA, Fla. — When it comes to COVID vaccines and travel, airlines experts say vaccines are making a difference.
“We’re grateful, we are happy to have our passengers back,” said Paul Hartshorn Jr. with the Association of Professional Flight Attendants and American Airlines.
Hartshorn has been a flight attendant himself for more than 20 years.
Around Thanksgiving, airlines were seeing thousands of early retirements, involuntary furloughs, and personal leaves for flight attendants.
“We’re seeing a rebound of customer demand as more people become vaccinated, more people are looking to travel. I think there’s tremendous pent up demand out there for travel,” he said.
It’s a good sign.
Hartshorn says constant lobbying in Washington has made a difference as well.
They were able to extend the Payroll Support Program under the CARES Act, along with securing a 3rd extension to protect them through September.
“Currently we now in the May month, we have all of our flight attendants back to active status, the ones that were furloughed involuntarily, we are calling back some that are out on leave voluntarily,” Hartshorn said.
Here at home in Tampa, things are also looking up.
“What we’re seeing right is between 50,000 to 60,000 passengers a day. That’s about 30 to 40 percent less than what we typically see this time of year pre-Covid. However, it is way up from what we saw a year ago when we saw about a 90 percent loss in business,” said Emily Nipps with Tampa International Airport.
The push for international travel is also increasing across the board.
Caribbean-Mexico travel is rebounding close to 2019 levels.
“Some of the countries abroad are also opening up to vaccinated travelers. So that’s kind of changing the way people think of travel,” Nipps said.
“We want to get through the rest of this safely so we can come out on the other side and kick up the international flights and get back to where we should be,” said Hartshorn.
With the increase in travelers, TPA has also opened up almost all of their shops and restaurants.
They’re looking to hire in a big way to get those positions filled.