Fauci urges boosters; South Africa registers 687 new cases

A heath worker dilutes the J&J Covid-19 vaccine with saline solution at Charlotte Maxeke Hospital on 19 November 2021 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Luba Lesolle)
By Bloomberg
22 Nov 2021 0

South Africa registered 687 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 2,929,862. A further two Covid-19-related deaths were reported, taking total official deaths to 89,574. A total of 24,646,053 people have been vaccinated.

Anthony Fauci urged vaccinated adults to get booster shots now that health regulators have approved them for everyone 18 years and older, as US infections trend upward and the holidays near. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said he doesn’t expect disruptions to US holiday-season travel.

Protests against virus restrictions in Europe widened, amid a second night of violence in the Netherlands and clashes with the police in Brussels on Sunday. On Monday, a national lockdown goes into effect in Austria, which spurred large crowds to the streets of Vienna on Saturday.

A debate in Germany over whether to impose compulsory vaccinations against Covid-19 is picking up steam, after Austria last week became the first European country to do so. Expanding the UK’s vaccine booster programme is the key to a successful Christmas season without new restrictions, Health Minister Sajid Javid said.

Key developments 

French cases surge 

A fifth Covid-19 wave kicked off “at a blazing speed” even though France is better off than many other European countries thanks to early adoption of so-called health passes and high vaccination levels, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Europe 1 on Sunday. 

France reported 19,749 cases in the past 24 hours, up from 12,496 the previous Sunday. There were 15 new deaths, bringing the total number to 118,461. Authorities are already bolstering checks to make sure that health passes are checked at restaurants, cafes and other venues given that citizens had started “being relaxed” about the rules of late, Attal said. 

Attal also said that special police forces are being sent to Guadeloupe amid persisting protests against health passes in the French overseas territory. He called the violences of the past days “intolerable and unacceptable”. 

More calls for compulsory vaccination in Germany 

A debate in Germany over whether to impose compulsory vaccinations is picking up steam after Austria last week became the first European country to take the controversial step.

Schleswig-Holstein Premier Daniel Guenther said he’d be open to the measure if Germany can’t manage to escape the pandemic without it, according to an interview with Die Welt. Tilman Kuban, head of the youth wing of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc, wrote in the same newspaper that he’s in favor of “de facto” mandatory vaccinations. The country’s association of paediatricians also urged compulsory shots for all adults.

Other politicians have said they’re sceptical that the move would be possible. Members of the Social Democrats will discuss the option in an internal call with medical experts on Monday, Die Welt said.

No holiday travel disruptions in US 

US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said he doesn’t expect a vaccine requirement that includes airport security screeners to disrupt US holiday-season travel.

Many US federal employees, including Transportation Security Administration workers, face a Monday deadline to document full vaccination or apply for an exemption, though any discipline for workers who don’t comply isn’t immediate.

“The deadline tomorrow, that’s not a cliff,” Buttigieg said on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday. “People aren’t getting immediately pulled off their posts. It’s part of a process to make sure that everyone in the federal workforce is safe.”

Europe demonstrations widen 

Dutch police and protesters clashed for a second night, amid demonstrations against tightened virus restrictions in several European countries. At least five police officers were injured and 40 people arrested on Saturday night, the Associated Press reported. The police shot and injured at least two people in clashes on Friday night.   

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Belgium’s capital, Brussels, on Sunday to protest against new measures enacted to combat the  spread of Covid-19, including a health pass that allows vaccinated, tested or recently recovered individuals to enter bars, cafes and gyms in the country. Footage on Twitter showed two water cannons being used to dispel the protesters.

Austria was calm the day before the nation was set to go into its fourth lockdown. Tens of thousands protested on Saturday against the lockdown and a requirement that all Austrians must be vaccinated by February. 

Putin gets booster 

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he’d got his booster shot on Sunday. In televised comments, the Russian leader (69) said he received the locally developed Sputnik Light vaccine, which consists of the first injection of the Sputnik V two-shot inoculation. Putin received his first vaccination with Sputnik V in March.

Though Putin touted Sputnik as the first vaccine approved in the world, Russia has lagged in using it, with only about 40% of the population inoculated amid widespread popular scepticism. In September, Putin went into self-isolation for several weeks amid a Covid outbreak among his aides and staff that he blamed on them failing to get booster shots in time.

In his televised comments Sunday, Putin said he’d be willing to participate in clinical trials of a nasal-spray version of the vaccine that’s now under development.

Fauci urges boosters

Anthony Fauci urged vaccinated adults to get booster shots now that health regulators have approved them for everyone 18 years and older, as US infections trend upward and the holidays near.

President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser sought to clear up what has been criticised as confusing guidance around booster shots. On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded the approval for booster doses from Pfizer/BioNTec and Moderna for all adults, regardless of medical condition or possible elevated exposure to the virus.  

“There’s no ambiguity,” he said on ABC’s This Week. “We really hope that people go out there and utilise this very important tool.”

He said on CNN’s State of the Union that 60 million eligible Americans had not yet been vaccinated. Asked if a booster shot would be needed to be fully vaccinated, Fauci said experts would “let the data guide” any future recommendations.

Israel’s infection reproduction rate on the rise 

Israel’s Covid-19 infection reproduction rate rose to over one, the highest since early September, indicating the virus is spreading again.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett acknowledged the rise at the start of a Cabinet meeting. 

“Winter is starting and we are on the verge of what is shaping up to be a wave of child illness,” the premier said. Israel starts vaccinating children aged five to 11 this week. It opened its doors to fully vaccinated tourists earlier this month.

UK sees no need yet for ‘Plan B’ 

There’s no need yet for the UK to implement “Plan B” to clamp down on Covid infection levels, said Health Minister Sajid Javid. Javid said expanding the UK’s vaccine booster programme is the key to a successful Christmas season without new restrictions, speaking on Sky News’ Trevor Philips on Sunday.

Javid also confirmed a report in The Sunday Times that he had begun a review into possible racial bias in medical equipment, and how it may have slanted treatment for Covid. The move comes after research showing that oximeters, devices that measure oxygen levels in the blood, are less accurate on patients with darker skin. 

Swiss cantons delay boosters until January 

Many Swiss cantonal health services won’t be able to offer Covid booster shots to those under 65 until January, newspaper SonntagsZeitung reported, citing Gundekar Giebel, a spokesman for the cantonal health department in Bern.

The federal government had previously said it hoped to make booster shots available to those under 65 beginning in December.

Germany seven-day incidence rate increases 

Germany’s infections continued to climb, with the seven-day incidence rate increasing to 372.7 per 100,000 people compared with 362.2 the previous day. With intensive-care units all but filled in some regions, Europe’s largest economy faces its biggest test yet of the pandemic.

The country reported 42,727 new cases, compared with 63,924 the day before. Deaths rose by 75 to a total of 99,062.

Latest China outbreak continues to wane 

China reported 17 new confirmed Covid cases on Saturday, including four local infections, as its latest outbreak continues to wind down. Three were found in Liaoning’s Dalian and one in Yunnan. DM 

– With assistance from Andy Hoffman, Gwen Ackerman, Albertina Torsoli, Gregory L. White, John Ainger and Alexander Weber.


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