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Covid-19 pandemic: Israel eases mask rules, UK studies if vaccines cover Indian variant

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 around the world, with the latest count being more than 14,20,15,863 cases and over 30,32,994 deaths.

We highlight some of the important stories from around the world. With more than 50 per cent of its population inoculated with the second vaccine dose, Israel has relaxed mask wearing protocols. Meanwhile, France has imposed travel restrictions for several countries and Bali is hoping to welcome back tourists by July.

Israel eases mask rules, reopens schools

With over 53 per cent of its 9.3 million citizens having been inoculated with the two shots of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, Israel Sunday lifted the public mask mandate and decided to reopen schools, reports Times of Israel.

However, Israel’s coronavirus czar Professor Nachman Ash said it is not enough as the country still has not reached its immunity. He also expressed concerns about a new “Indian variant” found in the country.

“We need to reach about 75 per cent [of the population] having been vaccinated and/or recovered to reach herd immunity, but we are seeing low morbidity data,” explained Ash.

The Health Ministry Friday had said that it had detected the new Indian strain among seven unvaccinated travellers who returned to Israel from abroad.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also told citizens to stay vigilant and that the Covid-19  pandemic isn’t over yet. Netanyahu said, “We are leading the world right now when it comes to emerging from the coronavirus, but we have still not finished with the coronavirus. It can return,” the paper quoted him saying.

Also read: Past Covid infection doesn’t guarantee immunity even in young, vaccination must: Study in Lancet

France imposes travel restrictions amid variant surge

In an attempt to curb the transmission of virus variants detected in several countries, the French government decided to restrict the entrance of people coming from Brazil, Argentina, Chile and South Africa. Those, who will be allowed to enter the country, will be quarantined for 10-days, the government announced on Saturday.

“These are the countries that are most dangerous,” Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s foreign minister, told France 3 television Sunday. Almost all flights between France and Brazil will remain suspended.

Prime Minister Jean Castex said that the international travel restrictions were necessary because of the “uncontrolled spread of the virus in certain countries,” especially those first identified in Brazil and South Africa that appear to be more resistant to some current Covid-19 vaccines.

According to the French government, France added 29,344 new Covid cases Sunday, taking the country’s tally to 52,89,500 and deaths to 1,00,733 with 140 people succumbing to the disease in a span of 24 hours.

Indian variant being investigated in UK

Scientists in the United Kingdom are studying whether the new Indian Covid-19 variant spreads more easily and evades vaccines, reports BBC. However, a top scientist has said there is not yet enough data to classify it as a “variant of concern”.

“Some Covid cases found in the UK were not linked to travel. Their origin is now being investigated,” said Dr Susan Hopkins of Public Health England. It is also too soon to decide if India should be put on the government’s travel ‘red list’,” Dr Hopkins added.

More than 70 cases with such variants have been identified in England and Scotland.

The UK Sunday reported 1,882 new coronavirus cases and 10 deaths. The country now has over 4.3 million Covid-19 infections while 1,27,270 people have died so far. Meanwhile, more than 32.8 million people in the country have received their first shot of a Covid-19 vaccine, while more than 9.9 million people have had their second dose.

Also read: How volunteers have made social media the national Covid ‘helpline’ for beds, oxygen, plasma

Indonesia to reopen Bali, other islands to foreign tourists by end of July

Indonesia will reopen Bali, Bintan and Batam islands to foreign tourists from China, Singapore and India, among others, by the end of July, reports South China Morning Post.

The government is planning to ramp up vaccination exercises in those regions before the end of July to contain the virus spread.

Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno said the government is also in discussion with Singapore, China, South Korea, India, the Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates for a potential deal on travel bubbles that will allow their nationals to visit Indonesia’s so-called “green zones”, or sites that have curbed Covid-19 infections and vaccinated a significant portion of their local population.

Ukraine and Poland had also submitted requests to Indonesia, guaranteeing a set number of tourists that could travel to the Southeast Asian nation on charter flights, Uno said.

Indonesia had reported 16,04,348 Covid cases and 43,424 deaths as of Sunday.

What else we are reading:

Fauci Expects Decision on Johnson & Johnson Vaccine This Week: NYT 

New Zealand travel bubble opens: The Guardian

Also read: Real vaccine crisis isn’t about AstraZeneca or J&J. It’s about distribution


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