WHO warns of Omicron ‘tidal wave’ in Eastern Europe

The WHO’s European office has called for increased vaccination efforts in Eastern Europe, warning that the “tidal wave” of Omicron was heading east.

World Health Organization regional director Hans Kluge noted that in the past two weeks, Covid-19 cases have more than doubled in six countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Russia and Ukraine.

“As expected, the Omicron wave is moving eastward. Ten Eastern Member States have now detected this variant,” Dr Kluge said.

The WHO European region comprises 53 countries, including several in Central Asia.

Dr Kluge said vaccination was still relatively slow in some parts of the region.

Less than 40% of over-60s have completed their round of Covid-19 vaccines in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

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He added that in Bulgaria, Georgia and North Macedonia, less than 40% of healthcare workers had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

“I call on governments, health authorities and relevant partners to take a close look at the local reasons influencing the decline in demand and acceptance of vaccines, and to design tailored interventions to increase vaccination rates by urgently, based on context-specific evidence,” Dr Kluge said.

He pointed out that in the face of a “tidal wave from Omicron”, and “with Delta still flowing wide to the east”, it was “not the time to lift the measures which we know are contributing reduce the spread of Covid-19”.

These measures include avoiding crowded places, wearing masks indoors, improving ventilation and using rapid tests to identify cases at an early stage, Dr Kluge added.

Hong Kong chief rules out Chinese-style lockdown as virus spreads

The Hong Kong leader has said she will not impose a strict lockdown on mainland China as the city faces its worst wave of coronavirus yet, even though she has vowed not to go through life with it. Covid-19.

The comments came as hospitals began to buckle under the pressure of rising infections with at least two medical facilities placing patients in beds outside their entrances.

No place in the world has managed to return to zero Covid cases after such an outbreak, except mainland China, which has imposed city-wide lockdowns and massive stay-at-home orders even when a handful of cases are detected.

Hong Kong chief executive Carrie Lam ruled out that approach.

“We have no plan to impose a full and wholesale lockdown,” she told reporters.

People line up for Covid-19 tests in Hong Kong’s Yuen Long district

But she also rejected calls from some public health experts and business figures to shift to a mitigation strategy saying zero-Covid remained her administration’s goal.

“We have to keep fighting this anti-epidemic battle. Surrendering to the virus is not an option,” Lam said.

Authorities will continue to use smaller-scale district lockdowns, with testing of all residents of housing blocks where cases are detected, she added.

For more than two years, Hong Kong has followed China’s strategy, tracking down zero cases of the virus with largely closed borders, lengthy quarantines, contact tracing and strict social distancing laws.

But the new wave fueled by the highly transmissible variant of the Omicron virus has strained the city’s capacity for testing, quarantine and treatment, and is testing politics like never before.

More than 2,000 new daily infections were reported on Monday, and the figure has topped 1,000 for much of the past week.

Local researchers have warned that new daily cases could top 28,000 a day by March.

Philippines now at ‘low risk’ of coronavirus: government

The Philippines is now at “low risk” from the coronavirus pandemic as more people get vaccinated and hospital admissions decline, the president’s spokesman Rodrigo Duterte has said.

Last week, the country reopened to foreign tourists for the first time in two years, although some health restrictions remain as campaigning for the May 9 election begins, with political rallies seen as potential superspreader events.

“The National Capital Region and the entire Philippines now has a low-risk classification” in terms of case growth, prevalence and health system capacity, Duterte’s spokesman told reporters. , Karlo Nograles.

After outbreaks of the highly transmissible Omicron and Delta strains of the virus that led to government-imposed mobility restrictions, hospital bed occupancy rates fell to around 30%.

A young boy receives a Covid-19 vaccine in the suburbs of Manila

Cases have averaged about 3,600 a day over the past week, with the number of fully vaccinated people climbing to about 56% of the population, health officials said.

After long shutdowns that have ravaged the economy and put millions out of work, the government now plans to lift all restrictions, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told reporters without giving a timeframe.

“When that happens, all restrictions will be lifted and everything will be under self-regulation,” she added.

The virus has infected more than 3.6 million people and killed more than 55,000, according to government data.

Papua New Guinea will reopen its borders closed by the Covid

Papua New Guinea will reopen to vaccinated travelers from tomorrow, ending two years of strict border closures that have virtually isolated the Melanesian nation from its neighbours.

The country’s pandemic controller, David Manning, said he had repealed rules requiring approval to enter the country and mandatory quarantine.

The rules had hampered production at some of the country’s biggest copper and gold mines and sparked diplomatic rows, including with India and China, accused of bending the rules to bring citizens into the country.

Some national restrictions will remain, including mandatory mask-wearing in markets, shops, public transport and places of worship, as well as a limit of 100 people for gatherings.

But religious and cultural gatherings that are vital to the lives of many Papua New Guineans are exempt.

These measures mark a new phase of the pandemic for a country that has often struggled to cope with high numbers of cases.

Papua New Guinea has officially registered 37,390 Covid cases in a country of nine million people.

But testing and tracing is minimal, and the real number is believed to be in the millions.

Hospitals were repeatedly overwhelmed, a large sports center had to be turned into a field hospital and mass burials were approved.

Beds for makeshift Covid-19 patients in PNG in October

About 4% of the population has been vaccinated.

Prime Minister James Marape recently returned from Beijing after a positive Covid-19 diagnosis derailed plans for face-to-face meetings with Chinese leaders.

Mongolia reopens borders to vaccinated travelers

Mongolia has reopened its borders to fully vaccinated international travelers, state media reported, reversing coronavirus restrictions that had kept the country isolated for two years.

The country has implemented some of the strictest anti-Covid measures in the world since the start of the pandemic, largely closing its borders and imposing several closures.

The brakes hit its economy as businesses closed, exports plunged and hundreds of thousands of people faced precarious jobs.

Mongolia’s cabinet has approved a resolution downgrading pandemic “preparedness” from orange to yellow, lifting all restrictions on business operations, the official Montsame news agency reported yesterday.

The move means the country of three million “fully opens its borders to international travel,” Prime Minister Luvsannamsrai Oyun-Erdene said, according to Montsame.

Stating that Mongolia was open to fully pampered tourists and investors, he reportedly said the government would “strive to create the necessary conditions to ensure the safety…of all those who come to the country for business and tourism purposes. “.

Health workers vaccinate herders in Mongolia’s Dundgobi province

Mr Oyun-Erdene’s predecessor resigned last year amid protests and public anger over the treatment of a coronavirus-positive woman and her newborn baby.

She had been transferred to a center for disease control in hospital pajamas and plastic slippers despite temperatures of minus 25 degrees Celsius.

An aggressive Covid vaccination campaign has since helped turn the tide, with 92% of Mongolian adults now fully vaccinated and more than half in targeted groups given a booster, according to Montsame.

Mongolia has recorded 885,000 coronavirus cases and more than 2,000 deaths during the pandemic, according to data from the World Health Organization.

The reopening of the border follows the easing of restrictions last month under orange and yellow preparedness levels.

Official advisories on wearing face masks, social distancing and hand sanitizing remain in place

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