The head of the EU’s disease control
agency warned Friday that the novel coronavirus could last indefinitely even
as global infections slowed by nearly half in the last month and vaccine
rollouts gathered pace in parts of the world.
In an interview with AFP, ECDC chief Andrea Ammon urged European countries
in particular not to drop their guard against a virus that “seems very well
adapted to humans” and may require experts to tweak vaccines over time, as is
the case with the seasonal flu.
“So we should be prepared that it will remain with us,” according to
Ammon, head of the Stockholm-based European Centre for Disease Prevention and
After the latest harsh wave of a pandemic that started in China more than
a year ago, glimmers of hope flickered as an AFP database showed the rate of
new Covid-19 infections has slowed by 44.5 percent worldwide over the past
More than 107 million people have been infected worldwide and nearly 2.4
million have died from Covid-19.
But disease experts warned that vaccines won’t end the pandemic unless all
countries receive doses in a fast and fair manner.
Writing in an open letter published in the Lancet medical journal, the
authors said with vaccine stockpiling in wealthier countries, “it could be
years before the coronavirus is brought under control at a global level.”
The warning came as US vaccine maker Moderna said it was seeking clearance
with regulators around the world to put 50 percent more coronavirus vaccine
into each of its vials as a way to quickly boost current supply levels.
In Britain, a marked drop in infections and accelerating vaccinations have
prompted some within the governing Conservative Party to push for stay-at-
home rules to be lifted in early March.
Much of the country re-entered lockdown in early January to curb a more
transmissible Covid-19 variant first identified in the UK.
The British government nonetheless voiced caution, a watchword echoed
elsewhere, including Italy, Portugal and Australia.
– ‘It’s rough’ –
In Australia, more than six million people in Melbourne and its
surrounding area were under an emergency five-day coronavirus lockdown.
“It’s rough. It’s going to be a rough few days for everyone,” said tennis
star Serena Williams, reacting to the lockdown moments after her latest
victory at the Australian Open.
While play will continue under the restrictions, fans will no longer be
permitted and players must restrict themselves to biosecure “bubbles”.
The toll on sports, entertainment and economies continued to be massive.
The Tokyo Olympic Games are due to open in July after multiple delays.
But the games organisers are already battling public misgivings about
holding the huge international event this summer.
– Record drop for UK economy –
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen urged the 27 EU member
countries to accelerate ratification of a key part of the bloc’s 750-billion-
euro ($900-billion) plan to recover from the impact of the pandemic.
The UK — which has left the EU and has Europe’s highest virus death toll
after a heavily criticised initial response to the pandemic — reported that
the economy shrank a record 9.9 percent last year.
Finance minister Rishi Sunak admitted the impact would be a “serious
shock” and warned: “We should expect the economy to get worse before it gets
Hungary meanwhile said it will become the first EU nation to start using
Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.
The country broke ranks with the EU last month by becoming the first bloc
member to approve Sputnik V, ordering two million doses to be delivered over
three months, enough to vaccinate one million people.
Russia registered Sputnik V in August, months ahead of Western competitors
but before the start of large-scale clinical trials, which left some experts
However, recent results published in The Lancet found that the vaccine is
91.6 percent effective against Covid-19.
Some EU leaders seem to be warming to the idea of deploying Sputnik V as
the bloc struggles with supply shortfalls for the three vaccines it has
– Plans to vaccinate all Americans –
The European Medicines Agency has so far approved vaccines for the bloc
developed by US-German firm Pfizer-BioNTech, US firm Moderna and British-
Swedish firm AstraZeneca with Oxford University.
The EMA said Friday it had started a “rolling review” of a vaccine from
German manufacturer CureVac, the first step towards possible authorisation.
In the United States — the world’s hardest-hit country with more than
480,000 deaths — health authorities on Friday urged schools to reopen safely
and as soon as possible, offering a detailed plan for limiting the spread of
The strategy emphasizes universal masking, handwashing, disinfection and
contact tracing. While recommending vaccination for teachers and staff, it
stops short of saying it is necessary — a divisive issue among teachers’
The push comes as the United States is in the midst of an aggressive mass
vaccination campaign, with a goal of inoculating nearly all Americans by the
end of July.
Hard-hit Brazil’s drive to vaccinate its population has stumbled this week
as a lack of doses forced authorities to slow or halt immunisation in several
But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada’s Covid-19 vaccines rollout
will be back on track in March with stepped up deliveries of doses to make up
for recent delays.
Source: AFP (Stockholm)