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Global report: South Africa bans sale of alcohol to combat corona virus

Global report: South Africa bans sale of alcohol to combat corona virus
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Germany says infectious variant has been present since November; Spain establishes Covid vaccine registry

 

In India, six cases of a more infectious variant of the coronavirus have been found in people entering the country from the United Kingdom, while South Africa imposed a ban on alcohol sales and ordered the closure of all bars as it battles a resurgence of the virus, including another new variant.

 

All six infected people in India are in isolation and their fellow travellers are being tracked down, the health ministry said.

 

India suspended all flights from Britain until the end of the month because of concerns about the contagious variant, but about 33,000 passengers had flown in since late November before the ban was enforced, the ministry said. Civil aviation authorities said the ban would likely remain in effect into the new year.

 

In Germany, health officials said the new variant sweeping across the U.K. has been present since November after it was detected in a patient who died in the north of the country.

Researchers were “able to sequence the variant of the B1.1.7 virus in a person infected in November of this year,” according to Lower Saxony’s health ministry. This is the same variant responsible for a large proportion of the infections detected in southern England,” it said.

The variant was found in an elderly patient with a health history who has since died. His wife was also infected but survived.

The couple became infected with the virus after their daughter returned from a trip to the United Kingdom in mid-November, where she “in all likelihood” contracted the new variant, the statement said.

Germany had previously reported only one case of the new strain, in a woman who flew in from London on Thursday. Britain sounded the alarm this month about the variant, which authorities say is significantly more contagious.

In a nationwide address Monday, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa announced an alcohol ban and the closure of all beaches and public swimming pools in infection hotspots that include Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and several coastal areas.

South Africa is also extending its nighttime curfew by four hours, requiring all residents to be at home from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., the president said.

“Reckless behavior due to alcohol intoxication has contributed to increased transmission. Alcohol-related accidents and violence are straining our hospital emergency rooms,” Ramaphosa said.

He said the tightened restrictions were necessary because of a surge in infections that has brought the total number of confirmed viral cases in South Africa to more than 1 million.

Like the United Kingdom, South Africa is battling a variant of Covid-19 that medical experts believe is more infectious than the original. The variant has become prevalent in many parts of the country, experts said.

The South African Medical Association, which represents nurses and other health care workers as well as doctors, warned Monday that the health care system is on the verge of being overwhelmed as the number of Covid-19 patients and people needing urgent care due to alcohol-related incidents increases. Many holiday celebrations involve high alcohol consumption, which in turn leads to an increased number of trauma cases.

As European Union countries began rolling out Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine, which was approved by the bloc’s regulators last week, Spain’s health minister said he is setting up a registry of people who refuse to be vaccinated and will share it with other member countries. The vaccine will not be mandatory in Spain, but Health Minister Salvador Illa told Spanish television the best way to defeat the virus is to “vaccinate us all – the more the better.”

A former senior health official has called the Netherlands’ vaccination strategy “embarrassing,” saying the nation is waiting until Jan. 8 to begin administering the shots.

Roel Coutinho, a respected former director of the Center for Infectious Disease Control at the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, told the Dutch Nieuwsuur daytime news show Monday night: “Every week counts.”

Delaying the start of the vaccination program means that “health care congestion will continue for a long time. That means it’s not just affecting people who have COVID, but others because they can’t be admitted or surgeries have to be postponed.”

The first batch of vaccines produced by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have already arrived in the Netherlands, but will not be administered until Jan. 8. The government said it is still busy with preparations, including preparing IT systems to register all vaccinations and training staff.

South Korea said Tuesday it will sign a contract with Moderna to provide Covid-19 vaccines to 20 million people, Yonhap news agency reported, citing the presidential office. The nation reported 40 deaths Tuesday, a daily record.

This comes a day after officials promised to speed up efforts to launch a public coronavirus vaccination program as the country discovered its first cases of the viral variant linked to the rapid rise in infections in Britain.

Thailand warned that more intensive measures may be needed to stop the worst outbreak yet and urged the public to work together to contain the spread, which has seen cases in most regions of the country.

Thailand has imposed tighter control measures in some areas, including entertainment establishments that will be re-inspected in seven days.

Health authorities confirmed 155 new cases Tuesday as new clusters emerged following a large outbreak detected 12 days ago at a seafood market near Bangkok, mainly among migrant workers from Myanmar.

 

South Africa marks a new record high in Covid 19 infections on last day of 2020

South Africa has registered 18,000 positive coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, setting a new record on the last day of 2020.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize made the announcement Thursday, saying, “For the first time in the history of the pandemic in South Africa, we have reached the 18,000 mark for new daily cases and have reached a cumulative total of 1,057,161 cases.”

More than 55,000 Covid-19 tests have been conducted in the last 24 hours and 2020 is coming to a close with a total of 28,469 Covid-19-related deaths.

Mkhize announced that of those fatalities, 436 were public health workers. Coincidentally, this was also the exact number of Covid-19 deaths reported nationwide that day.

As the country experiences a second wave of Covid-19 infections, Mkhize said all provinces have reported an increase in the number of public health workers infected with the virus.

“The biggest increase has come from this province, KwaZulu-Natal, with 687 new cases,” he said.

Breaking down the numbers, he said that of the more than 1 million Covid 19 cases registered to date, 43,124 were among health workers who were bravely fighting the frontline battle.

Mkhize spoke at King Edward Hospital in Durban, where a memorial ceremony was held for the thousands who have lost their battle with Covid-19 since it first broke out in South Africa in March.

 

A candlelight ceremony was held in their honor.

“We are here to remember our mothers, our fathers, our sisters, our brothers, our friends, our colleagues and our loved ones who were so cruelly taken from us by Covid-19,” Mkhize said.

 

He was joined by KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala and provincial Health Minister Nomagugu Simelane Zulu.

“As we light the candle, let it glow warmly with hope, love and compassion for our fellow South Africans, for a successful 2021 and a future where we can look back and say that we defeated Covid-19 together because we were there together,” Mkhize said.

“Let’s honor those who succumbed to Covid-19 by getting better at protecting each other,” he added.

Similar events are being held elsewhere in the country.

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