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DOH, DFA mull travel ban on India

April 26, 2021 Lee Ann P. Ducusin 331 views

Due to new COVID variant

AN official of the Department of Health (DOH) yesterday disclosed that the DOH and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) are discussing the possibility of imposing a temporary ban on travelers from India over a new coronavirus variant detected there.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said they are discussing if there is cause to recommend, to the IATF, imposing a travel ban over the new variant from India which was first detected in October last year.

“Pinag-uusapan na po namin ngayon with DFA so that we can recommend to IATF if ever we will find that cause para po talagang i-ban muna temporarily just for us to prevent further spread of the disease here in the country. Up until now we can say that we still have not detected it here although we are still looking at our records, baka meron tayong nakita before,” she said.

The variant has been described as a “double mutant” that experts have blamed for a spike in COVID-19 cases in India.

In the Philippines, 659 B.1.1.7 (United Kingdom) variant cases, 695 B.1.351 (South Africa) variant cases, 2 P.1 (Brazil) variant cases, and 148 cases of the P.3 variant first detected in Central Visayas have been recorded so far.

India’s capital New Delhi extended its lockdown Sunday and Western nations pledged help as the country’s coronavirus crisis grew, while the death toll from a fire that ravaged an Iraqi COVID-19 hospital rose to 82.

The creaking health facilities in poorer countries were a reminder of the dangers a day after the number of vaccines administered globally surpassed the one billion mark.

COVID-19 has now killed more than three million people worldwide since emerging in China in December 2019.

India has driven increases in global case numbers in recent days, recording 349,691 fresh infections and 2,767 deaths Sunday — the highest since the start of the pandemic.

Worst hit in the country of 1.3 billion people was the capital New Delhi, with reports of overwhelmed hospitals, severe oxygen and medicine shortages and patients’ families pleading for help on social media.

“He was gasping for air, we removed his face mask and he was crying and saying ‘save me, please save me’,” Mohan Sharma, 17, said of his father, who died in a queue outside a hospital.

“But I could do nothing. I just watched him die.”

A weeklong lockdown in the megacity of 20 million, set to last until Monday, was extended by one week.

On Sunday, Twitter confirmed it had withheld dozens of tweets critical of the unfolding crisis at the request of the Indian government.

The United States and Britain expressed concern over the surge in infections and said it would swiftly send help to India.

The European Union and its biggest economy Germany said the same, and the bloc was coordinating medicine and oxygen supplies.

“Alarmed by the epidemiological situation in India. We are ready to support,” European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said on Twitter.

– Baghdad blaze –

The fire at Baghdad’s Ibn al-Khatib hospital started with an explosion caused by “a fault in the storage of oxygen cylinders”, medical sources told AFP.

At least 82 people died in the disaster, with 110 wounded. The Iraqi Human Rights Commission said 28 of the victims were patients who had to be taken off ventilators to escape the flames.

The blaze spread quickly across multiple floors in the middle of the night, as dozens of relatives were at the bedsides of the 30 patients in the hospital’s intensive care unit, a medical source said.

“The hospital had no fire protection system, and false ceilings allowed the flames to spread to highly flammable products,” Iraq’s civil defense arm said.

Many “victims died because they had to be moved and were taken off ventilators, while the others were suffocated by the smoke,” it added.

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi suspended Health Minister Hassan al-Tamimi amid angry calls on social media for him to be sacked.

– Unique Oscars –

With the pandemic still raging, governments around the world are placing their hopes on vaccines.

Worldwide, the number of vaccine doses administered has doubled in less than a month.

At least 1.01 billion doses have been administered in 207 countries and territories, according to an AFP tally.

Nevertheless, while most poor countries have also started to vaccinate — mainly thanks to the Covax scheme for global access to COVID-19 jabs — inoculation is still largely a privilege of high-income countries. Home to 16 percent of the world’s population, they have administered 47 percent of vaccine doses.

By contrast, low-income countries account for just 0.2 percent of shots so far.

In the US, regulators ended a pause on Johnson & Johnson vaccines after determining the benefits outweighed the rare blood clotting risk.

In Europe, Belgium said Saturday it would authorize the J&J shot for all adults, having already received 36,000 doses and expecting a total of 1.4 million between April and June.

The European Union as a whole said it would have enough vaccines to immunize 70 percent of its adult population by the end of July.

But despite the optimism, the threat of the virus remains ever-present, particularly with new variants developing.

The death of fashion designer Alber Elbaz aged 59 after a battle with COVID-19 provided another high-profile example of the deadliness of the virus.

Elbaz was known for his playful designs that transformed the storied French house Lanvin into an industry darling before his shock ouster in 2015.

A number of countries have suspended flights with India, and Greece became the latest European country to confirm it had detected a case of the Indian COVID variant.

In the Americas, April became Brazil’s deadliest month since the start of the pandemic with 67,977 deaths so far.

A limited glimpse of pre-pandemic life will however be on display in the United States on Sunday with a unique Oscars ceremony reuniting Hollywood’s A-listers for the first time in more than a year.

The usual high-wattage glamour will be more subdued though, with a severely reduced guest list and organizers promising only a “teeny-tiny red carpet.” With AFP

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