New Delhi: The detection of the new Coronavirus variant, Omicron, has again led to an intensification of apprehension regarding the spread of Covid in the world. The total number of Covid cases reported from across the world till Monday stood at 266,200,412, with 5,273,249 deaths.
International travel, which had slowly started picking up after being severely impacted by the pandemic, has again suffered a slowdown owing to Omicron, with many countries putting in stricter scrutiny and restrictions on tourist inflow. A diplomat from South Africa, where the variant was first detected, has termed Australia’s ban on entry of travellers from nine southern African countries as discriminatory. Meanwhile, the decline in the number of Chinese travellers to destinations across the world during the pandemic has hurt global tourism.
And the World Health Organization (WHO) has appealed to China and India to share patents for Covid vaccines.
ThePrint brings you some important global stories on the pandemic.
Decline in number of Chinese travellers hurts global tourism
The cancellation of travel plans by many Chinese, even before the discovery of Omicron, has hugely impacted the global tourism industry, with many nations losing their biggest spenders. In 2019, Chinese travellers had spent roughly $260 billion, more than people from all other countries.
According to a report in The New York Times, the reduction in the number of Chinese tourists will have a deeper impact on countries in North and Southeast Asia, including Indonesia, Vietnam and South Korea.
The disappearance of Chinese tourists has also dealt “a devastating blow” to tourism destinations like Rome, where several tourism agencies have even resorted to teaching their workers basic Mandarin to cater to Chinese tourists.
China has reported a total of 99,203 Covid-19 cases and 4,636 fatalities.
South African envoy calls travel ban by Australia ‘discriminatory’
A senior South African diplomat has called a ban imposed by Australia on travellers coming from nine southern African countries “discriminatory”. Calling for the ban to be overturned, the diplomat claimed that many Omicron cases are being detected in other continents and not just in parts of Africa, reported The Guardian.
During an interview to ABC Radio Monday, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, South Africa’s high commissioner to Australia, said, “We believe it is discrimination, because the only difference is these countries [on the travel ban list] are on the African continent. The ban is unfair, there is no evidence the ban works, the World Health Organization confirms that”.
According to WHO, the Omicron variant of Covid-19 was first detected in South Africa and was declared a variant of concern on 24 November.
As yet, Australia has reported 18 cases of Omicron, according to The Guardian report. While 15 of the been detected in New South Wales, two have been identified in the Australian Capital Territory and one in the country’s Northern Territory.
Australia has reported a total of 219,124 Covid cases and 2,056 deaths.
Jordanian court sentences health officials for oxygen deaths
A Jordanian court has sentenced five senior health officials to three years in jail for the deaths of 10 Covid-19 patients during an oxygen outage in a big state hospital, reported Al Jazeera.
Those sentenced include Abdel Razak al-Khashman, the former director of the government hospital in Al-Salt, a town located in the north of the country’s capital, and four senior healthcare workers under him.
The incident took place in March this year and ignited protests, with people holding the government responsible for the gross negligence in the state health system during a spike in Covid-19 infections. Hours after the incident, Health Minister Nathir Obeidat resigned and even issued a public apology, while Prime Minister Bisher Al-Khasawneh said his government took full responsibility for the incident.
Jordan has reported 975,956 Covid-19 cases and 11,761 deaths.
WHO appeals China, India to share vaccine patents
The World Health Organization has appealed to China and India to share Covid-19 vaccine patents, to increase supplies and ensure equitable access for developing countries, the South China Morning Post reported Monday.
WHO had contacted Chinese vaccine makers Sinopharm and Sinovac and asked them if they would be willing to share their technologies and patents via the Covid-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP), a WHO platform for sharing data, technology and intellectual property for Covid-19 treatments, tests and vaccines.
But unlike Indian drug maker Bharat Biotech, which had offered to share its technology on C-TAP with the WHO now negotiating a licensing agreement with it, the Chinese firms have explained their desire to stick to bilateral agreements with individual countries.
According to the South China Morning Post report, as yet only 7.3 per cent of the population in Africa is fully vaccinated, against 60 per cent in the United States and close to 80 per cent in China.
Despite WHO’s repeated calls to help solve the problem of vaccine inequity, the problem persists, with developing countries such as South Africa being among the most vulnerable population in the world.
South Africa has registered 3,031,694 Covid-19 cases and 89,966 deaths.
What else are we reading:
U.S. Plans to Fast-Track Revamped Covid-19 Vaccines: The Wall Street Journal