Covid-19 wrap: Global vaccine group urges solidarity, Sweden admits failures, Austria opens borders

Keeping you up to date on the latest novel coronavirus (Covid-19) news from around the world.

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Global vaccine group urges virus solidarity ahead of summit

Paris – The head of the global vaccine alliance has warned "nobody is safe unless everybody is safe" from the new coronavirus, urging international solidarity ahead of a fundraising summit as the pandemic threatens to trigger a resurgence of preventable diseases.

Scientists are racing to identify and test possible vaccines for Covid-19 as nations grapple with the economic and societal consequences of the virus lockdowns.

Seth Berkley of Gavi, the vaccine alliance, said the international community must ensure all countries will have access to any potential vaccines, regardless of their wealth.

"This is a global problem that needs a global solution and we have to all work together," he said.

He spoke ahead of a virtual summit hosted by Britain on Thursday, where Gavi hopes to raise at least $7.4 billion to continue vaccination programmes against diseases like measles, polio and typhoid that have been severely disrupted by the pandemic.

 - AFP

Sweden admits virus response could have been better

Stockholm – Sweden's top epidemiologist said on Wednesday there was room for improvement in the country's controversial softer approach to curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

But Anders Tegnell, the public face of Sweden's virus response, defended the decision not to impose the strict lockdowns seen in other countries.

"If we were to encounter the same disease with everything we know about it today, I think we would end up doing something in between what Sweden and the rest of the world has done," Tegnell told Swedish Radio.

Sweden has so far reported 38 589 confirmed cases and 4 468 deaths, a toll far greater than neighbouring countries and described by Tegnell as "absolutely" too high.

He stressed however that he was still unsure which added measures would have made a difference.

"It would be good to know more precisely what you should shut down to better prevent a spread of the infection," he said.

 - AFP

WHO points to 'slow decline' in Russia virus cases

Moscow – The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Wednesday the number of coronavirus cases was slowly declining in Russia as the Kremlin prepared to stage a vote to change the constitution.

"We are seeing a good, albeit slow, decline" in the number of infections in Russia including the capital Moscow, WHO Russia representative Melita Vujnovic told reporters. "We are hoping that the epidemic will continue to decline further."

This week President Vladimir Putin said a delayed vote on constitutional reforms allowing him to potentially stay in power beyond 2024 would be held on 1 July.

He ordered officials to pay "special attention" to safety issues in organising the vote, but stressed that the country had passed the peak of contagion.

 - AFP

Venezuela's Maduro and Guaido agree to cooperate in virus fight

Caracas – The government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and opposition leader Juan Guaido have reached an agreement to cooperate to raise funds for the fight against the coronavirus, they said on Tuesday.

With help from the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), the two sides will coordinate efforts to seek financial resources to combat the pandemic, according to the agreement read on state television by Communications Minister Jorge Rodriquez.

Earlier, Guaido's communications team also said that a "technical cooperation plan to deal with the humanitarian coronavirus crisis" had been signed.

The agreement, signed on Monday in Caracas, establishes "priority" measures for dealing with the pandemic, including detection of active Covid-19 cases, epidemiological monitoring and timely treatment of those infected.

The two sides have so far not confirmed an estimate for the plan and precise details.

 - AFP

Austria to scrap controls at all land borders except Italy

Vienna – Austria announced on Wednesday that the entry checks at its land borders introduced because of the coronavirus pandemic would all be scrapped from Thursday, except those at the frontier with Italy.

"As of tomorrow there will be no more checks in order to enter Austria," Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg told a press conference, but added that restrictions on the border with Italy would remain in force for now.

The controls on the Italian border will be evaluated again next week, he said, adding that Vienna was considering the possibility of allowing entry from Italian regions where infection figures are low.

Austria said last month it would open its borders with all countries, except for Italy and Slovenia, in the middle of June.

 - AFP

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