World passes three billion vaccines in race to contain COVID

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The highly infectious strain of the Delta coronavirus has caught many nations off guard, with Russia reporting its highest daily death toll to date, Australia shutting down city after city, and fears grow about major sporting events like Euro 2020 and the Olympics.

FILE: A photo taken by the Dubai government media office on December 23, 2020, shows a health worker administering a dose of coronavirus vaccine to a nurse at a medical center in the Emirate of Dubai. Photo: AFP

PARIS – More than three billion COVID-19 vaccines have been administered worldwide, according to an AFP tally on Tuesday, as countries rush to contain the virulent Delta variant that is fueling epidemics around the world.

The highly contagious strain of coronavirus has caught many nations off guard, with Russia reporting its highest daily death toll to date, Australia shutting down city after city and fears grow about major sporting events like Euro 2020 and the Olympics.

At least 3.9 million people have died from COVID-19, and while some wealthy countries succeed in bringing down infections through strong vaccination campaigns, others, where vaccines are not as readily available, have difficulty.

According to the tally, high-income countries as defined by the World Bank administered an average of 79 doses per 100 population, with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Israel leading the way.

In low-income countries, the figure is only one shot per 100 people.

On Tuesday, foreign ministers from the Group of 20 major economies stressed the need for greater global cooperation in the face of the pandemic.

“Multilateral cooperation will be the key to our collective ability to stop this global health crisis,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told ministers in the former Italian city of Matera.

Western leaders have pledged to donate a billion doses to the poorest countries, but have been widely criticized for being too slow to help.

THEY ARE JUST IRRESPONSIBLE

Reluctance to immunize also played a role in the slow adoption rate.

In Russia, which on Tuesday recorded its highest death toll per day since the start of the pandemic, authorities have introduced compulsory injections for certain groups of citizens to counter skepticism.

The country has reported 652 coronavirus deaths in the past 24 hours, with a record daily death toll – 119 – in St. Petersburg, which is set to host a Euro 2020 quarterfinal on Friday.

Meanwhile, Australian public anger is growing at the slow pace of vaccinations in a country that has largely succeeded in eliminating local transmission and leading an almost normal life.

The Delta variant has pushed Sydney, Perth, Darwin and Brisbane into lockdown, meaning a total of more than 10 million Australians must stay at home.

But so far, less than five percent of adults have reportedly received both doses of the vaccine.

Brisbane resident Nicola Hungerford, 57, said she expected the lockdowns to continue “until the government steps up” on the vaccine rollout.

“It’s mind-boggling and they are just irresponsible. It shows how little respect they have for people,” she told AFP.

HUMAN TRAGEDIES
The transmission speed of the Delta variant has fueled concerns about current or upcoming sporting events.

Germany on Tuesday urged the UK government to reduce the number of fans allowed into Wembley Stadium for the final matches of Euro 2020.

“I think it is irresponsible that tens of thousands of people congregate in the immediate vicinity” in countries where the Delta variant is spreading, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told Germany. Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper.

UEFA and UK officials have said some 45,000 fans will be allowed to watch an England-Germany match on Tuesday afternoon, equivalent to 50% of capacity.

Attendance will be increased to 75%, or more than 60,000 fans, for the semi-finals and the final at Wembley, in what will be the largest crowd at a sporting event in Britain since the start of the pandemic .

The Delta variant was first identified in India, which suffered a vicious wave of coronavirus that overwhelmed hospitals and crematoriums at its peak in April and May.

Now, bodies hastily buried along the banks of the Ganges by families who could not afford funeral pyres have started to reappear as floods dislodge them, a reminder of the untold human tragedies caused by the virus.

“It was really sad to see poor people bury their loved ones in an unworthy manner, but the rising waters made the situation worse,” Sonu Chandel, a boatman, told AFP.

“There is always the fear of (a body) hitting the oar or (my boat) running over a corpse as the water level rises.”

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