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Covid-19 pandemic — Hong Kong’s ‘vaccination bubble’ plan, robots battle virus in Rwanda

As the Covid-19 pandemic shows no signs of letting up, ThePrint highlights the most important stories on the crisis from across the globe.

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New Delhi: The Covid-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc in the world. The latest count being more than 13 crore cases and over 29.5 lakh deaths.

We highlight some of the important stories from around the world.

Hong Kong will extend social distancing rules by two weeks as it tries to find a way to incentivise people to take Covid shot. Meanwhile, health officials in the US are are finding that younger people who have not been vaccinated are helping drive a rise in Covid-19 cases in the country.

How Hong Kong is incentivising vaccinations

Hong Kong will extend social distancing rules by two weeks from Wednesday, with anti-epidemic rules to be relaxed only if more people get vaccinated.
Hong Kong is trying to find a way to incentivise people to take the Covid vaccine. According to a report in Asia Times, the country has announced a ‘vaccine bubble’ where restaurants will be allowed to have six people at one table and open till midnight 29 April onwards if all their staff get the first dose of Covid vaccine. In the second phase, restaurants can have 8 people at one table and banquets with up to 100 people if all their staff have got their second dose and a vaccination e-certificate shows their customers have got their first dose.

Restaurants will have ‘clean up zones’ for all vaccinated customers, while non-vaccinated customers can only sit upto four people a table.

Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Carrie Lam explained that  “vaccine bubble” scheme did not only provide incentives to the vaccinated people but also reminded non-vaccinated people that they would face consequences such as not being able to sit with more friends at restaurants, travel overseas, go to entertainment premises etc.

Recent rise in Covid cases in US driven by younger people

Health officials in the US are finding that younger people who have not been vaccinated are helping drive the rise in Covid-19 cases in the country. According to a Wall Street Journal report, five states — Michigan, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania and New Jersey account for close to 42 per cent of new Covid cases. In Michigan, adults aged 20-39 have the highest daily case rates.
According to the state data, Michigan reported over 300 reported Covid cases in schools early last week. One of the main reasons for the increase in Covid cases among youngsters is school sports. The state’s data shows cases and clusters have occurred in over 15 sport settings.

Also read: India to produce 850 million Sputnik doses annually, Russia’s RDIF says

Rwanda’s Covid-19 success story

Rwanda stands out internationally and not just in Africa, as a Covid-19 success story. The country has seen just over 300 deaths due to the virus, as reported by ABC News.

In December 2020, the total Covid-19 death toll was just over 100 deaths, however this spiked due to the holiday season.

Rwanda’s former health minister Agnes Binagwaho said, “The Western sense of democracy has totally failed, and COVID is the proof of that.”

Last year when the disease made an entry into everyone’s lives, every Rwandan who tested positive for Covid-19 was taken to a treatment centre for monitoring.

“That has helped to keep the number of deaths at the lowest levels,” explained Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, director general of the Rwanda Biomedical Centre.

Also part of Rwanda’s Covid protection plan has been the deployment of eight robots which have played an important role in controlling the virus and protecting health workers. The robots help check various vital signs of infected patients, serve them food and even clean hospitals.

Dr. Nsanzimana said, “We still have these robots at the airport checking temperature, and if people are wearing masks.” According to her, only two health workers have been infected with Covid-19 in Rwanda.

The country has reported just over 23,500 Covid-19 cases and registered 316 deaths.

Europe’s Covid death toll surpasses one million

On Monday, Europe crossed the grim mark of over 1 million Covid-19 deaths across its 52 countries.

Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead on Covid-19, said that this was a critical point of the pandemic. He further asserted, “This is not the situation we want to be in 16 months into a pandemic, when we have proven control measures.”

Meanwhile, Britain, which has the highest death toll, Monday allowed pubs and restaurants to serve people outside. The move was hugely welcomed by the hard-hit hospitality sector. Besides pubs and restaurants, even hairdressers, indoor gyms and swimming pools have been given the green light to resume operations.

Among Europe’s hardest-hit countries — Italy saw a series of anti-lockdown demonstrations as many people protested against weeks of restaurant closures.

What else we are reading:

Philippines: Duterte reappears in public after ill health rumours: Al Jazeera 

Surging Virus Has Michigan’s Democratic Governor at Loggerheads With Biden: The New York Times

Also read: India records 1,61,736 new coronavirus cases in last 24 hours, recovery rate drops to 89.51%


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