New Delhi: The Covid-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc around the world, with the current count at 428,265,887 cases and 5,925,242 deaths.
Hong Kong makes testing mandatory for all its citizens. Residents will have to undergo three rounds of Covid-19 tests starting from mid-March. The UK government has lost up to £16 billion due to fraud and error in Covid loans schemes. Uganda has proposed a new law to impose fines or jail those who refuse Covid-19 vaccine. The Spanish embassy in Beijing receives Moderna booster doses, but China won’t record them.
Hong Kong makes testing mandatory for all its citizens
In an attempt to curb the rising spread of the micron variant of Covid-19, the Hong Kong government Wednesday made coronavirus testing mandatory for all its 7.5 million citizens, BBC reported.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam said the city residents would have to undergo three rounds of Covid-19 tests starting mid-March.
The surge of Covid cases, fuelled by the Omicron variant, has hampered Hong Kong’s attempt to adhere to China’s “zero Covid” policy as the city’s hospitals and quarantine facilities have been overburdened with rising number of patients.
“The coming one to three months are crucial in fighting the pandemic. This quickly worsening epidemic has far exceeded the Hong Kong government’s ability to tackle it”, Lam told the media Wednesday.
According to a research done by the University of Hong Kong (HKU) on “Modelling HK’s fifth wave of Omicron”, the city’s total Covid deaths could peak to 3,200 by mid-May, with infections rising at 180,000 a day, far higher than earlier forecasts.
Hong Kong has reported 66,574 Covid-19 cases and 336 deaths.
UK lost up to £16 billion due to fraud, error in Covid loans schemes
Frauds and errors in schemes related to Covid-19 may have cost the United Kingdom government £16 billion, reported The Guardian.
Describing the losses as “unacceptable”, a letter from the public accounts committee issued Wednesday said the Treasury should present the estimates of fraud and error losses across the individual schemes and how much it intends to recover by the end of 2022.
In order to financially support people and companies during the pandemic induced lockdown, the UK administration guaranteed or gave out loans worth £129 billion. However, the speed of the schemes gave rise to a series of large-scale frauds across several parts of the system.
The coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS) for furloughed workers is estimated to have suffered the largest fraud and error losses of £5.3bn, followed by the bounce back loan scheme (BBLS) for small companies, where £4.9bn is estimated to have been lost.
Calling the loans fraud “a pattern of repeated failings by the government”, Dame Meg Hillier, the Labour MP who chairs the public accounts committee, said, “Lack of preparedness and planning, combined with weaknesses in existing systems across government, have led to an unacceptable level of mistakes, waste, loss and openings for fraudsters which will all end up robbing current and future taxpayers of billions of pounds”.
The United Kingdom has registered 18,695,449 Covid-19 infections and 160,815 fatalities.
Uganda to impose fines on those refusing Covid vaccine
A Ugandan who refuses to be vaccinated against Covid should either pay a fine of 4 million Ugandan shillings ($1,139) or spend 6 months in prison if a new proposed law, currently being reviewed, gets approval from the members in Parliament, reported Al Jazeera.
Despite beginning the inoculation drive nearly a year ago, only a third of the country’s population has been vaccinated with about 16 million jabs being administered to a population of 45 million.
The compulsory vaccination move by the government seeks to change the widespread reluctance resulting in low coverage.
“The bill has a section on vaccination and immunisation as a public health measure to protect the vulnerable. When we introduce new vaccines, we need to get a mass of people so we create mass immunity. It is important that whoever is supposed to be vaccinated, is vaccinated,” Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng said Wednesday.
Uganda has reported 163,071 Coronavirus cases and 3,580 deaths.
Spanish embassy in Beijing gets Moderna booster but China won’t record them
The Spanish embassy in Beijing has received Covid-19 vaccines supplied by US firm Moderna Tuesday but with China yet to approve any vaccines developed by foreign drug makers, the embassy, on its website, said the vaccines were to be administered only as booster doses, reported The South China Morning Post.
However, getting the US-made Moderna vaccine as a booster would still not qualify as proof of vaccination in China’s Covid health code app required for travel and entering premises.
“Since this is a complex process, and we still do not know the number of people who will request this dose, nor how many [doses] will finally be available, requests will be dealt with in strict order of request until all doses have been used,” the embassy said on its website.
The Spanish embassy, however, said that the Moderna mRNA vaccine would be given to adults who had received, at least six months earlier, two doses of Chinese vaccines or those approved in the European Union, including jabs made by Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax.
Beijing has only administered vaccines developed by Chinese firms Sinopharm and Sinovac in the country and have also exported them to other countries like Brazil, Chile and Indonesia.
China has reported 108,194 Covid-19 cases and 4,636 deaths.
What else we’re reading:
The C.D.C. Isn’t Publishing Large Portions of the Covid Data It Collects: The New York Times