Eastern Europe imposes restrictions amid new Covid-19 wave

Covid-19 has infected more than 244M people and killed over 4.9M globally. Here are the virus-related developments for October 25:

Tougher restrictions came into force in Romania as Eastern Europe has become a Covid-19 hotspot due to high vaccine scepticism (AP)

Eastern Europe imposes fresh curbs amid new wave

Authorities around the world have been sounding the alarm as infections surge, with governments in regions where vaccine uptake has been low forced to toughen up restrictions in a bid to stop the virus raging out of control.

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Tougher restrictions came into force in Romania and the Czech Republic, while in Slovakia stricter rules were expanded to more regions. In Bulgaria, police will start imposing fines on people who break restrictions from Monday.

In Romania, the government reintroduced a night curfew and made health passes mandatory for entry to most public venues, while school children were sent on vacation for two weeks.

China to start vaccinating children to age 3 as cases spread

Children as young as 3 will start receiving vaccines in China, where 76 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated and authorities are maintaining a zero-tolerance policy toward outbreaks.

Local city and provincial level governments in at least five provinces issued notices in recent days announcing that children ages 3-11 will be required to get their vaccinations.

Russia marks another record number of daily cases

The Russian government’s coronavirus task force has tallied 37,930 new confirmed cases in 24 hours, the highest number since the start of the pandemic.

The task force also reported 1,069 more deaths in the same period, slightly fewer than a record of 1,075 reached over the weekend.

President Vladimir Putin ordered Russians not to go to work between October 30 and November 7, when the country will observe an extended holiday.

Moderna says its vaccine protective, safe in young children

US pharmaceutical giant Moderna has reported a “robust neutralising antibody response” to its vaccine in children aged 6-11, and said that it will submit the trial data to global regulators soon.

“We are encouraged by the immunogenicity and safety profile of mRNA-1273 in children aged 6 to under 12 years and are pleased that the study met its primary immunogenicity endpoints,” chief executive Stephane Bancel said in a statement.

EU regulator starts real-time review of Merck’s pill

The EU’s medicines watchdog has started a review of an oral Covid-19 medication from the US pharmaceutical firm Merck, raising hopes for an easy-to-administer treatment to reduce serious or deadly cases.

The move, which could eventually lead to authorisation on the European market, comes two weeks after Merck applied for emergency use in the US of the anti-coronavirus drug.

Estonia tightens virus certificate criteria as cases rise

People in Estonia no longer can use negative test results to obtain the coronavirus certificates needed to attend sporting events, movie showings, indoor public meetings and other events.

Only proof of vaccination or having recovered from the virus are accepted as the basis for obtaining a certificate.

Authorities said the rule, along with another requiring masks in indoor public places, will remain in place until January 10.

South Korea plots course to scrapping curbs by early 2022

South Korea has unveiled a three-phase strategy to get back to normal with all limits on gatherings and distancing gone by February, after it achieved a goal of vaccinating 70 percent of its people on the weekend.

The scheme begins next Monday and is due to run until February 20, by when all distancing curbs will be scrapped except for mask-wearing mandates, a government health panel said.

Tokyo government eases some virus restrictions

Restaurants in Tokyo no longer face alcohol bans or restricted business hours as the city’s new cases have plummeted from a mid-August peak of nearly 6,000.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told NTV that people should still be careful, especially while entering the colder season, and should practice basic thorough measures until the end of November.

Red Cross urges action for Papua New Guinea as Covid overwhelms health system

Concerted international action is needed to support Papua New Guinea as a surge in Covid-19 cases overwhelms the Pacific country’s health system, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said on Monday.

Coronavirus cases in the island nation of 9 million have been surging in recent weeks, with 385 new cases recorded on Thursday, according to the latest available government data.

There have been 26,731 officially confirmed cases and 329 deaths in the country 150 km (90 miles) north of Australia.

Less than 1 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data figures, although the government anticipated months ago that it would have enough shots by now for everyone who wanted to be vaccinated.

New Zealand reports second-highest daily cases in pandemic

New Zealand has reported 109 new locally acquired coronavirus cases, the bulk of them in its largest city, Auckland, as the country saw its second-worst day of daily infections since the pandemic began.

Once the poster child for stamping out Covid-19, New Zealand has been unable to beat an outbreak of Delta variant of Covid-19 centred in Auckland, despite the city remaining under a strict lockdown for more than two months.

The country over the weekend also reported the first community case of the virus in its South Island in nearly a year, a cause for further headache, though health officials said the risks of a further spread from the case remained low.

The spike in cases has forced Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to abandon her elimination strategy and switch to living with the virus, and health officials have warned of an uptick in cases until vaccinations ramp up.

Australia looks to roll out booster shots soon as curbs ease

Australian officials plan to roll out Covid-19 booster shots soon to prevent a resurgence of cases, as residents in the two largest cities of Sydney and Melbourne begin to enjoy more freedoms after months-long curbs.

Australia has ditched its Covid-zero strategy in favour of suppressing the coronavirus, after largely stamping out infections for most of this year, and is now aiming to live with the virus through higher vaccinations.

Officials are gradually shifting their focus to booster shots as double-dose vaccinations levels in Australia’s adult population nears 75 percent. Almost 87 percent of people above 16 have received their first dose since the national rollout began in February.

“We think what is going to happen is that a booster shot will be made available from six months from your second dose,” Lieutenant General John Frewen, head of the vaccination task force, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp on Monday.

Indonesia to gradually reopen regions with high vaccination rates

Indonesia will gradually reopen parts of the country where COVID-19 vaccination rates are above 70 percent, its President Joko Widodo told a Southeast Asian business forum on Monday.

Jokowi, as the president is known, also said Southeast Asia should start loosening travel restrictions, including vaccinated lanes for inoculated arrivals with negative Covid-19 tests.

He said it was important the region reforms to prepare for future health crises.

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