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World Health Organization

India’s Covid-19 Crisis Is Continuing To Grow Exponentially, WHO Issues Warning

India’s Covid-19 crisis has reached a new peak this week after it was reported this Tuesday that the nation hit a seven-day high for new cases. The World Health Organization, and many other experts in the industry, are worried about the virus’s variants, as those pose a more global concern. 

According to the nation’s health ministry, India’s daily coronavirus cases rose by 329,942 while deaths from the virus rose by 3,876. India’s total Covid-19 infections have now reached 22.99 million and total fatalities have hit 250,000. 

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India currently is the world’s leader in the highest number of new daily deaths from the disease. According to compiled data one in every three Covid-19 deaths reported around the world every day come from India. The seven-day average of new cases is currently at a record high of 390,995. 

The World Health Organization also claimed that the Covid-19 variant that was first identified in India last year is of global concern, as some preliminary studies show that it spreads more easily. 

“We are classifying the Covid-19 variant of concern at a global level. There is some available information to suggest increased transmissibility.” 

Nations all around the world have been sending India medical gear to help support them, but many of the hospitals in India don’t even have basic life-saving equipment which is essential for combating the virus. A government official claimed that eleven people died yesterday in a government hospital due to a delay in the arrival of a tanker carrying oxygen. 

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Even more concerning, government officials have warned doctors to look out for signs of “black fungus” in Covid-19 patients as many of the hospitals have reported a rise in cases of the rare infections that are almost always fatal. According to reportsthe disease, which can lead to blackening or discoloration over the nose, blurred or double vision, chest pain, breathing difficulties and coughing blood, is strongly linked to diabetes. And diabetes can in turn be exacerbated by steroids such as dexamethasone, used to treat severe COVID-19.”

Doctors in the country are also warning against the use of cow feces to help combat Covid-19, as many individuals believe it has healing properties despite there being no scientific evidence to back that up. 

“In the state of Gujarat in western India, some believers have been going to cow shelters once a week to cover their bodies in cow dung and urine in the hope it will boost their immunity against, or help them recover from, the coronavirus. There is no concrete scientific evidence that cow dung or urine work to boost immunity against COVID-19, it is based entirely on belief,” said Dr J.A. Jayalal, national president at the Indian Medical Association.

A growing number of states have been increasing their restrictions as more and more individuals have been calling on the government to impose another nationwide lockdown.

Nurse Holding Vaccine

India’s Covid-19 Crisis Is Causing An Increase In Vaccine Inequality Around The World

Countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America have been begging foreign governments for assistance in vaccine supply and distribution. Many of these countries haven’t even hit 1% in terms of people who are fully vaccinated. 

AstraZeneca Vaccine

European Union Sues AstraZeneca Over Vaccine Delivery Delays 

The European Union (EU) announced this week that it will be launching legal action against the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca after claims that it repeatedly under-delivered on its Covid-19 vaccine shipments throughout the continent. 

The 27 nations within the European Union have all reported a relatively slow rollout of vaccinations for citizens due to delays in delivery from AstraZeneca. The union claims that tens of millions of doses have fallen through, and the company has barely upheld their end of the contract with the EU to get every citizen vaccinated. 

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The EU initially ordered 300 million doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, with an optional 100 million doses, of which the union has gone without. 

AstraZeneca released a statement in which they claimed that they “regret” that the European Commission is choosing to take action against the company, but it would be strongly defending itself in a court setting. 

AstraZeneca and the EU in general have already been dealing with some major tensions as many citizens refused to get vaccinated, so that combined with the company’s own failures to deliver the agreed upon doses has led to a major feud between the government and pharmaceutical company. 

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Stefan De Keersmaecker, health spokesperson of the European Commission, was the one who initially announced that a lawsuit had been launched, arguing that “the terms of the EU-AstraZeneca contract had not been respected, and the company has not been in a position to come up with a reliable strategy to ensure timely delivery of doses.”

“We want to make sure that there is a speedy delivery of a sufficient number of doses that European citizens are entitled to, and which have been promised on the basis of the contract. All 27 countries support this legal action.”

AstraZeneca released their own statement this Monday: “Following an unprecedented year of scientific discovery, very complex negotiations, and manufacturing challenges, our company is about to deliver almost 50 million doses to European countries by the end of April, in line with our forecast.”

The company added that “AstraZeneca has fully complied with the Advance Purchase Agreement with the European Commission and will strongly defend itself in court. We believe any litigation is without merit and we welcome this opportunity to resolve this dispute as soon as possible.”

Wildfires

‘Out Of Control’ Fire Burning Through Cape Town’s Table Mountain National Park 

According to South African officials an “out of control” fire is currently burning through Cape Town’s Table Mountain National Park, and has already damaged a multitude of buildings. An evacuation of hikers has already been enforced for the park overall; which is also known as Cape Town’s most famous landmark. 

A spokesperson for the Cape Town Fire and Rescue Services spoke with the media late Sunday night to discuss how two firefighters had been injured and admitted to the hospital so far, and nine building structures were completely destroyed in the initial blaze. As of right now no further injuries or damages have been reported, but rescue workers are worried about containment efforts. 

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Jermaine Carelse, the spokesperson for Cape Town’s fire and rescue services, explained how 200 firefighters were dispatched to battle the fire, and they have been continuously working all night to combat the blaze. Four rescue helicopters have also been deployed to help with rescue operations. 

“The fire created its own wind that further increased the rate of spread. The excessive amount of smoke and related updrafts made it impossible for the aerial support to slow the rate of spread.”

According to a tweet from the South African National Parks Table Mountain National Park account, “the Rhodes Memorial Restaurant had burnt down and the fire had also spread to the veld above the University of Cape Town upper campus. Six buildings near Woolsack Drive, including the Mostert’s Mill and three structures at the University of Cape Town, were destroyed.”

Carelse also told the media that Mostert’s Mill, a historic windmill near the University of Cape Town which was built in 1796, was also badly damaged by the fire. 

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One woman in the park was interviewed after showing a video that depicted her trying to outrun the fire as plumes of smoke took up the background sky. Lisette Lombard, the individuals who took the video, said she was safe but her car had been “destroyed. Never have I experienced a fire that spread so unpredictably fast. I have so much respect for our firefighters.”

According to a statement from South Africa’s National Parks, a “vacated vagrant fire may have been responsible for the blaze. After the initial investigation, it is surmised that the origin of the fire is from a vacated vagrant fire. Due to the extreme Fire Danger Index for today, which is Red with temperatures of 36 degrees noted and an extremely low relative humidity of under 10%, the fire spread rapidly in the direction of Rhodes Memorial.”

Carelse explained that the fire has been greatly “fanned by wind, so it spread from the vicinity of Philip Kgosana Drive, which borders Table Mountain National Park, to Rhodes Memorial where it continued further towards University of Cape Town buildings.” 

Sources claim that the fire could take days to fully put out, and earlier on Sunday, the National Park’s Twitter account had requested that “onlookers refrain from entering the area and that all hikers within the Newlands and Rhodes Memorial area evacuate immediately.”

Immunity Coronavirus

Expert Claims Israel May Have Reached ‘Sort Of Herd Immunity’ From Covid-19

Eran Segal is a computational biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science who recently spoke with the local Israeli media about how Israel in general may have reached a “sort of herd immunity” after getting nearly 4.9 million residents fully vaccinated. This led to a 97% decrease in the amount of new Covid-19 cases appearing in the nation.

“It is possible that Israel has reached a sort of herd immunity and regardless, we have a wide safety net. I think that makes it possible to remove some of the restrictions immediately.”

Segal claimed that now that most Israelis are immunized, a multitude of economic sectors can begin reopening to assist the nation in its recovery post-pandemic. He also cited that since the gatherings over the Purim and Passover holidays did not lead to any direct spike in cases, the vaccines were proving to be more than effective.

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If Israel does actually achieve this goal, they will be the first country in the world to hit herd immunity. Last week, researchers at the University College London said that the United Kingdom would reach herd immunity by Friday; a claim that was immediately disputed.

Israel has already begun rolling back on a multitude of coronavirus restrictions within the recent months as more and more citizens received their vaccinations. Businesses were able to reopen, even venues and other gathering activities were able to occur more frequently has morbidity levels dropped exponentially with the country’s world-leading vaccination drive.

The Israeli Health Ministry is expected to lift outdoor mask mandates in public spaces later this month while some restrictions on gatherings and schools are still being enforced to protect younger generations.

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Israel is continuously limiting the number of people who can enter and/or exit the nation every day as well, as many experts are worried about the multitude of variants around the world that could potentially undermine the effectiveness of their vaccination program.

Government ministers this past week voted to further ease certain Covid-19 restrictions in schools; they removed the requirement that made fourth graders learn in much smaller class sizes. Ministers also ended the requirement that made all students present a health declarations signed by their parents to enter into a classroom. All universities and colleges are also now able to hold all tests in person.

Currently, Israeli residents are allowed to gather outdoors in crowds up to 100 and up to 20 for indoor gatherings. Cultural and even venues are allowed to host up to 750 people under the Green Pass Program. This program is designed to grant access to public venues exclusively for individuals who have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from the coronavirus.

As of this past Saturday there were 4,002 active Covid-19 cases throughout Israel; 221 of which were recently diagnosed last week. The Health Ministry claims that 268 individuals are in serious condition, but the death toll has remained at 6,292. According to the ministry over 5.3 million citizens are vaccinated with their first dose while 4.9 million are now fully immunized.

Syrigne of Covid Vaccine

China Looking For Foreign Vaccine Options After Admitting To Ineffective Vaccines

This weekend, the director of China’s health agency claimed that Covid-19 vaccines being produced by private and state-run groups are not very effective. This announcement comes after an Oregon congressman began pushing for more effective and compassionate vaccine property rights to be shared among the world to end the pandemic more quickly.

The Associated Press initially reported that the director of the China Centers for Disease Control, Gao Fu, claimed Chinese vaccines “don’t have a very high protection rate.” Sinovac is the privately-owned company that has been producing Covid vaccines in China. Sinopharm is a state-owned firm responsible for the same thing. International testing has revealed that the vaccines from both businesses are 50% effective in preventing moderate to severe Covid-19 symptoms.

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Despite the fact that Pfizer and Moderna have both tested to be 97% and 94% effective respectively, Gao Fu casted doubt on mRNA technology in general, so both vaccines weren’t even put under consideration. This weekend, however, Gao Fu claimed that China is considering other vaccine options now, as their goal is to vaccinate 40% of it’s population by June; for reference they currently have about 5% of their 1.4 billion population vaccinated.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have claimed that 35% of US residents have received at least one of their shots by now. Earl Blumenauer is the Oregon Congressman who also discussed how access to effective vaccines “is a key to global herd immunity from COVID.”

“None of us are safe, we’re only a plane ride away form being reinfected.”

Several lawmakers share Blumenauer’s viewpoints, and have even signed a request to the Biden Administration to temporarily lift intellectual property rights to the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson&Johnson vaccines. “The idea is for other countries to produce effective vaccines too.”

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“It’s in everyone’s interest to do this, we’ll only be safe when the whole world can be protected, but it’s hard when wealthy countries like the US bought up most of the initial supply of effective vaccines.”

“This risks further deepening of global inequities, sparking new tensions and divides, with really serious ramifications for stability and progress around the world. Letting Covid circulate in other countries will yield stronger variant strains, which may be resistant to current vaccines.”

Martha Newsome is the president of Medical Teams International, a Pacific Northwest-based organization that works to vaccinate people in poorer countries.

“It’s literally a human rights issue. I think sometimes we just think ‘I need to get my family vaccinated, I need to get my community vaccinated,’ but we will not get out of this pandemic isolation that we’re feeling until everyone is vaccinated.”

The pharmaceutical industry opposes sharing intellectual property rights, however, which Blumenaur claims is a “short-sighted, and frankly inhumane attitude to have when facing a global health crisis. If we don’t defeat this virus together, it’ll come back to bite us.”

Crown

Duke Of Edinburgh, Prince Phillip, Has Died At The Age Of 99

Lifelong companion to Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Phillip, has died this week, Buckingham Palace announced in a statement. He was 99-years-old. 

“It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle. Further announcements will be made in due course. The Royal Family joins with people around the world in mourning his loss,” the palace said in a statement. 

In mid-February the duke was admitted to the King Edward VII Hospital in London after feeling sick for a few days. The palace later confirmed he was being treated for an infection and would need heart surgery. 

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On March 1st Prince Phillip was transferred to St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, also located in London, where he received continuous treatment for his infection before undergoing heart surgery. After a successful surgery, the duke was discharged in min-March. 

Given the UK’s current Covid-19 restrictions, it’s unclear as to what any tribute plans will look like for the prince. The Queen will need to sign off on any plans before they’re confirmed and it’s unknown if those plans were even made yet. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke of the duke this week, claiming he’d “earned the affection of generations here in the United Kingdom, across the Commonwealth, and around the world.”

The Duke of Edinburgh was the longest-serving British consort. In 1947 he married who was then referred to as Princess Elizabeth in a wedding that helped ease a country’s stress from the damage done by World War II. 

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Throughout his seven decades of service, Philip was often accompanied by the Queen on royal engagements, but also conducted thousands of his own solo appearances. He supported a multitude of philanthropic endeavors and was associated with over 800 organizations. He also founded the Duke of Edinburgh Awards Scheme, which is a “youth development program that operated in more than 130 countries and territories around the world,” according to the website. 

The duke was originally born the Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark on the Greek island of Corfu in 1921. At just 18-months-old, his family left Greece when King Constantine was forced to abdicate after a military revolt. The family would later move to England in 1928. 

Philip became a decorated naval officer for his service during World War II, and when peace finally returned to Europe, he would go on to have one of the most public romances of the 20th century. 

Tributes for the duke have been appearing all throughout the world from Commonwealth nations, including India and Australia. According to CNN, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he had “distinguished career in the military and was at the forefront of many community service initiatives. May his soul rest in peace.” Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Philip “embodied a generation that we will never see again.”

Covid Virus

India Surpasses 100,000 New Covid-19 Cases In A Single Day 

India reported a record-breaking number of new Covid-19 cases this week, surpassing more than 100,000 cases in a single day; this makes India the second country after the United States to report more than 100,000 cases in a given day. 

Maharashtra is reported as the worst affected state, with hospitals being completely overrun by sick patients. The state is also known as India’s richest, and has reported more than 57,000 cases overnight. The country’s daily infection rates have been on the rise since February, and most experts credit that to the slew of new variants, along with the easing of multiple restrictions from authorities; many citizens have stopped wearing masks and distancing themselves from one another. 

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The nation counted 103,558 new infections in a single day, giving India a total of 12.6 million cases; the highest after both the US and Brazil. The death rate in India is one of the lowest in the world for its size, with a total of 165,101 deaths. 

Overall though, India has recorded the most number of infections in the past week anywhere in the world. Some epidemiologists blame this rise on new virus variants completely. “The new variant, or variants of concern, probably explains a lot of it, rather than a simplistic explanation of behavior,” said Rajib Dasgupta, head of the Centre of Social Medicine & Community Health in New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Subhash Salunke, a former WHO official who advises Maharashtra on its COVID-19 strategy, claimed that “India has found hundreds of cases of the virus variants first detected in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil. Cases in the state will continue to rise for a couple of weeks and the only way out is by vaccinating all adults. If we start doing this, by the end of April we will see a downward trend.” 

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India is the world’s biggest producer of vaccines, and has already injected more than 77 million doses into residents at home since they began distributing the vaccine back in January. The amount of Covid-19 vaccinations per capita occurring, however, is lower than a lot of other countries; including China which has a larger population and a larger amount of individuals vaccinated.

India is currently only vaccinating people over the age of 45, including all health and frontline workers who at this point are thought to be all vaccinated. Officials recently discussed increasing the amount of vaccinations being distributed and exported within the country. Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to the press about these efforts over the weekend as well. 

“It was highlighted that all the efforts are underway to secure adequate quantities of vaccines to meet the rising domestic requirements as well as to meet the genuine needs of other countries.”

Health ministers are also condemning the multiple election rallies that have been occurring throughout the nation that have gained crowds of tens of thousands of mask-less people. It’s reported that Maharashtra will begin closing its shopping malls, theaters, bars, restaurants, and places of worship this week and will work to impose a complete lockdown by the end of the week, especially in smaller cities.

Europe Facing Another Easter Full Of Covid Restrictions

Despite the rollout of multiple vaccines, European nations are about to endure another holiday weekend full of restrictions to combat the spreading of Covid-19 and its variants.

World with Mask

World Leaders Come Together And Call For Pandemic Treaty 

Global leaders have joined together to call for a new treaty that would aim to help the world prepare for future pandemics. The call to action comes with a warning as leaders are concerned with the rising vaccine nationalism that wealthier countries are expressing while they hoard the patents for Covid-19 vaccines. 

More than 20 national leaders wrote a piece that was published to several media outlets this week. The leaders included France’s Emmanuel Macron, Britain’s Boris Johnson and Germany’s Angela Merkel, all of which expressed that the idea of another pandemic isn’t a question of “if” but “when,” so the world needs to unite to be prepared. 

The overall message of the piece is calling for a greater sense of unity among world leaders as they battle future viruses. Countries need to avoid having nationalistic attitudes due to the fact that at the end of the day, we’re all struggling, people are dying and getting sick everywhere, so we have to come together and co-operate with each other. 

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“There will be other pandemics and other major health emergencies. No single government or multilateral agency can address this threat alone. The question is not if, but when.”

The warning comes as a multitude of countries continue to block the trading of vaccine supplies and patents from other lesser developed countries. The European Union and the UK have been in a battle over AstraZeneca’s contract to supply their shot due to the fact that some EU member states have expressed constantly that they oppose the trading bloc’s put in place with the vaccine. 

World Health Organization chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, had previously warned about the concept of “vaccine nationalism” and the type of damage it could do; including delaying the end to the pandemic itself. 

“We are committed to ensuring universal and equitable access to safe, efficacious and affordable vaccines, medicines and diagnostics for this and future pandemics. We believe that nations should work together towards a new international treaty for pandemic preparedness and response,” the leaders stated. 

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The leaders of the US, China, and Russia did not put their names on the piece; they’re also the main countries that are under fire for expressing vaccine nationalism since the first shot was approved. Tedros, however, claims that all WHO member states will be included in future discussions of an international pandemic treaty. 

“The open letter is being signed on an opt-in basis, but when the discussion on the pandemic treaty really begins all member states will be represented and included in those conversations,” Tedros explained. 

“There is quite significant support, not just through the op-ed but also through bilateral contact that we have with all of the nations across the world, including nations that did not sign this op-ed, but which are reacting quite positively to the idea,” President of the European Council, Charles Michel, said. 

Worldwide, there have been more than 127 million Covid-19 cases, and more than 2.7 million people have died. The articles calling for unity come after a multitude of surges appear throughout the world.