China is experiencing its biggest surge in COVID-19 cases in more than five months. Cases in the Hebei province near Beijing rose to 51 on Thursday. Authorities have imposed travel restrictions to curb the spread to other parts of the country.
Officials in Shijiazhuang, Hebei’s capital, have started mass testing drives and banned public gatherings to avoid the virus spreading further. Chinese state television reported the city has now banned passengers from entering its main railway station.
Mainland China reported 63 new cases on Thursday, compared to 32 from a day earlier. This is the largest spike the country has seen since July.
The Japanese government has declared a month-long emergency in the greater Tokyo area, hoping to control the surge in infections. The region houses around a quarter of Japan’s total population, and accounts for a large number of cases.
Restaurants and bars are being asked to stop serving alcohol at 7 p.m. and shut down by 8 p.m. in the area. Residents will be asked to minimize non-essential outings and are being urged to work from home, in order to reduce commute traffic by 70%.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia was on track to administer vaccines in February this year, as the country has accelerated its inoculation program from March.
Australian authorities are expected to approve Pfizer’s vaccine by the end of January. “We are now in a position where believe we will be able to commence vaccinations in mid-to-late February,” Morrison told reporters.
Brazil’s Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello said the country was ready to begin the vaccination process this month itself. He said President Jair Bolsonaro had signed executive orders to speed up the inoculation.
The Brazilian government has been in talks with Pfizer to ease the purchasing of vaccines as well.
Canada’s Quebec province has announced a curfew to address the rising infections and hospitalizations. A night curfew of 8 pm to 5 am will be imposed. Non-essential businesses have also been asked to remain closed till February 8, which is when the curfew would be lifted. However, schools are expected to reopen as expected.
Canada is also expected to start vaccinating its federal inmates. The process will start with 600 elderly and medically vulnerable inmates.
Some doctors’ practices in England will receive the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine starting this Thursday, said Britain’s National Health Service (NHS).
“We are aiming to offer vaccinations to the majority of care home residents by the end of January and all 13 million people in the top four priority cohorts by mid-February,” said health minister Matt Hancock.
About 1.3 million people in the UK have already received one shot of either AstraZeneca or Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.
Israel, which is experiencing a big rise in infections, has decided to tighten a pre-existing lockdown in hopes of containing the virus.
Schools and businesses will be closed and public gatherings will be restricted. Public transportation is also to be limited for a two-week period beginning at midnight Thursday night. The restrictions will be enforced by police forces.
Morocco has approved the vaccine jointly developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. India’s Serum Institute is under contract with AstraZeneca to produce the vaccine.
Last month, the government announced it had ordered 65 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from China’s Sinopharm and AstraZeneca. Morocco’s immunization program plans to vaccinate 80% of the population in various stages. The country has currently imposed a curfew to control the rise in cases.
tg/rt (dpa, AP, Reuters)
Coronavirus digest: China reports biggest case surge in 5 months The British Journal Editors and Wire Services/ Deutsche Welle.