New Delhi: The number of coronavirus cases continues to increase in many parts of the world — Europe has registered a 50 per cent jump in cases in the last month. The world has so far recorded over 24,94,57,260 cases and 50,47,608 deaths.
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom has approved an oral pill for Covid-19, China and Africa continue to be on the vigil for different reasons, and the state of Western Australia has come up with a plan for re-opening.
UK approves oral pill for Covid
The UK’s vaccine regulator, Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, has approved the first oral pill to treat coronavirus, BBC reports. The oral medicine, a tablet called Molnupiravir, is supposed to be given twice a day to patients recently diagnosed with Covid.
The regulator stated that the tablet had been authorised for people with mild to moderate Covid symptoms, and at least one comorbidity such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease or old age.
Molnupiravir was developed by US drug companies Merck, Sharp and Dohme (MSD) and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. The United Kingdom has purchased 4.8 lakh courses.
UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid called the oral pill for Covid a ‘game changer’. In a statement, he said, “Today is a historic day for our country, as the UK is now the first country in the world to approve an antiviral that can be taken at home for Covid.”
The UK has recorded 92,08,219 Covid cases and 1,41,395 deaths.
Covid curbs tightened in China ahead of Winter Olympics
With the Winter Olympics scheduled to take place in Beijing in February 2022, China has gone on high alert at its international ports, in order to reduce the risk of fresh cases of Covid-19.
The National Immigration Administration said last week that it would urge citizens not to go abroad for non-urgent work, Reuters reports.
Authorities are maintaining a strict vigil on the restrictions on the movement of people who are involved in the Winter Olympics in and out of China.
Beijing is also scheduled to host a major gathering of top members of the Communist Party next week, due to which authorities have further tightened Covid curbs in the capital city.
China has recorded 97,605 Covid cases and 4,636 deaths.
Africa CDC wants more rapid tests
To try and slow down the next Covid wave, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) appealed to the continent’s countries to increase the use of rapid antigen tests (RAT) and take advantage of any lulls in the pandemic.
According to Bloomberg Quint, John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa CDC, said, “We are at a trough in the number of infections, so I am appealing for the continent to scale up testing and to scale up vaccinations… If we vaccinate now intensely, we can blunt the next wave and if we test now we can find hotspots before it flares back up.”
Nkengasong further said that in the coming weeks, the body will launch a vast and extensive testing campaign using RT-PCR or rapid antigen tests, and wants these tests to be available to two lakh people in the next six months.
He even urged South Africa, which recently concluded elections, to start the process. “You just say, okay, elections were conducted and people were probably not respecting basic public health measures, let’s just increase the amount of testing. If you do that using the rapid antigen tests, you’ll find the hotspots very early,” Nkengasong said.
The Africa CDC Director further asserted, “Each time we offer the virus a chance to spread, it will spread. Now we have the tools of antigen tests and vaccines, let’s use them.”
The whole African continent has recorded 85,93,186 Covid cases and 2,19,613 deaths.
Western Australia comes up with a re-opening plan
Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan announced a plan to re-open its borders only when 90 per cent of its population over the age of 12 is be fully vaccinated against Covid, ABC News reports.
McGowan said the target was likely to be achieved by late January 2022 or early February. He further said that domestic and international flights would re-open after an 80 per cent double dose vaccination rate was reached. He said this target was expected to be achieved by December.
“This puts us in the best possible position to transition with minimal impact on our health, our economy, and our way of life… We have done so well. We do not want to fall at the last hurdle,” he said.
Before his announcement, the state of Western Australia was the only state or territory without a clear re-opening plan, ABC News reported.
Western Australia has recorded 1,112 Covid cases and 9 deaths.
What else are we reading
U.S. Sets Jan. 4 Vaccination Deadline for Big Private Employers, The New York Times
(Edited by Paramita Ghosh)