Covid-19 wrap: US airlines stand by vaccine mandate, health pass divides Italy, Panama approves booster

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

FOLLOW LIVE | Covid-19 in SA: Cases rise by 592 as death toll hits 88 429

Coronavirus toll at 10:00 (GMT) Wednesday

Paris – The novel coronavirus has killed at least 4 861 478 people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 10:00 (GMT) on Wednesday.

At least 238 592 820 cases of coronavirus have been registered.

The vast majority have recovered, though some have continued to experience symptoms weeks or even months later.

The figures are based on daily reports provided by health authorities in each country.

They exclude revisions made by other statistical organisations, which show that the number of deaths is much higher.

The World Health Organisation estimates that the pandemic's overall toll could be two to three times higher than official records, due to the excess mortality that is directly and indirectly linked to Covid-19.

A large number of the less severe or asymptomatic cases also remain undetected, despite intensified testing in many countries.

On Tuesday, 8 218 new deaths and 451 476 new cases were recorded worldwide. Based on latest reports, the countries with the most new deaths were United States with 2 395 new deaths, followed by Russia with 984 and Mexico with 546.

The United States is the worst-affected country with 716 479 deaths from 44 570 588 cases.

 - AFP

Rebuffing Texas governor, American Airlines, Southwest stand by vaccine mandate

CHICAGO – Rebuffing the Texas governor, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines said on Tuesday they would comply with US President Joe Biden's executive order to require that their employees be vaccinated for Covid-19 by an 8 December deadline.

The two Texas-based carriers said the federal mandate superseded an order by Republican Governor Greg Abbott barring Covid-19 vaccine mandates by any entity, including private employers.

Southwest said it "would be expected to comply with the President's Order to remain compliant as a federal contractor". American said while it was reviewing Abbott's executive order, "this does not change anything" for the company.

Both carriers have asked US-based employees to submit proof of vaccination by 24 November.

Biden issued his mandate last month as his administration struggled to control the pandemic, which has killed more than 700 000 Americans. It covers all federal contractors.


Australian region makes vaccine mandatory for service workers

Sydney – Shop workers, tourist guides, and barbers are among dozens of groups who must get Covid-19 shots to work in Australia's Northern Territory, officials announced on Wednesday, unveiling one of the world's most far-reaching vaccine mandates.

Expressing concern at low coronavirus jab rates in some communities, the Territory's chief minister Michael Gunner announced "anyone serving the public at work will have to be vaccinated".

The vast Northern Territory stretches from tropical Darwin on the Timor Sea to the dusty Outback settlements of Alice Springs and Uluru – an area three times the size of Spain.

It is home to a large number of Aboriginal and other vulnerable remote communities.

Although more than 80% of the region's adult population has received at least one dose, Gunner said there were "patches of concern" and communities where people are hesitant or refusing the vaccine.

 - AFP

Italy divided as mandatory workplace Covid pass looms

ROME – Covid-19 health passes will be mandatory for all workers in Italy from Friday, a measure that some politicians, unions and businesses fear will cause shortages and disruptions rather than boost inoculations and output as the government hopes.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi's cabinet approved the rule – one of the world's strictest anti-Covid measures – in mid-September, making it obligatory from 15 October for all workers either to show proof of vaccination, a negative test or recent recovery from infection.

The government hoped the move would convince unvaccinated Italians to change their minds, but with over 80% of residents over the age of 12 already fully inoculated and infection rates low, that surge has not materialised.

The rightist League and Brothers of Italy parties and some unions say that, to address the risk of staff shortages, the validity of Covid tests should be extended from 48 to 72 hours, and they should be free for unvaccinated workers.


France to extend Covid-19 state of emergency until 31 July, govt says

PARIS – The French government will ask lawmakers to extend its pandemic state of emergency until 31 July next year to deal with the continuing coronavirus crisis, spokesperson Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday.

The state of emergency extension would mean that the government will keep the power to extend or reinstate restrictive measures such as the use of a health pass to gain access to venues such as restaurants, bars and cinemas.

The state of emergency and the requirement of a health pass are due to expire on 15 November.

"There is a non-negligible risk of an epidemic resurgence," Attal told reporters after a cabinet meeting. "We must stay vigilant until next summer."


Russia, EU to discuss terms for recognising Covid-19 vaccine certificates - Ifax

MOSCOW – Russia and the EU will discuss terms for the mutual recognition of Covid-19 vaccine certificates for their respective shots at talks, the Interfax news agency cited Russia's health ministry as saying on Wednesday.

The EU's ambassador to Moscow last week said Russia has repeatedly delayed inspections by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) necessary for the certification of its Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine in the European Union.


Panama approves Pfizer Covid-19 booster for high-risk people

PANAMA CITY – Panama has approved a booster dose of Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for high-risk people, including healthcare workers, bedridden patients, nursing home residents and people over 55, health officials said on Tuesday.

The Central American country has reported 469 440 Covid-19 infections since the start of the pandemic, and 7 275 deaths. More than 5.5 million vaccine doses have been administered since January, covering most of the eligible population.

"We have decided to begin the process of applying a booster shot to the population with the Pfizer vaccine, starting tomorrow in public and private hospitals," Health Minister Luis Sucre said.

The booster shot will be offered to people who received their second dose at least six months before and will target those at high risk of developing complications from the virus, he added.


Hungary to treat 50 Covid-19 patients from Romania, minister says

BUDAPEST – Hungary will help Romania treat 50 Covid-19 patients requiring intensive care, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said on Wednesday.

Szijjarto said the 50 people would be treated at two Hungarian hospitals and the countries would work out the logistics over the coming days.


New Zealand reports 55 new local Covid-19 cases

New Zealand on Wednesday reported 55 new locally acquired cases of Covid-19, the majority in the country's largest city of Auckland, up from 43 a day earlier.

New Zealand had been largely virus-free, excluding a small cluster of cases in February, until a Delta outbreak in mid-August forced officials to impose a lockdown in Auckland.

Officials are looking to end strict lockdown measures once 90% of the country's population over 12 is fully vaccinated. Some 2.49 million, or 59%, have had two doses so far.


Russia reports record daily Covid-19 death toll for second day running

MOSCOW – Russia reported a record daily rise in coronavirus-related deaths for the second day running on Wednesday, amid a surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths that has led the Kremlin to demand that authorities speed up the pace of vaccinations.

Russia's coronavirus task force reported 984 coronavirus-related deaths, the highest single-day toll since the start of the pandemic, as well as 28 717 new infections in the last 24 hours.


Ukraine reports second-highest daily Covid-19 related deaths since pandemic start

KYIV – Ukraine registered 471 coronavirus-related deaths over the past 24 hours, approaching the record daily toll of 481, which was reported on 7 April, health ministry data showed on Wednesday.

The number of new daily coronavirus infections in Ukraine, which has a population of 41 million, has also increased over the past several weeks.

Ukraine registered 16 309 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours. It reported a total of 2.59 million Covid-19 cases and 59 523 deaths since the start of the pandemic.


Mexico posts 546 more Covid-19 fatalities; death toll reaches 282 773

MEXICO CITY – Mexico's Health Ministry on Tuesday reported 546 more deaths due to Covid-19, bringing the country's overall number of fatalities to 282 773.


Brazil posts 185 new Covid-19 deaths, 7 359 new coronavirus cases

RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil registered 185 new Covid-19 deaths, and 7 359 additional coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, the country's Health Ministry said on Tuesday.


If you come across Covid-19 vaccination information that you do not trust, read Covid-19 vaccine myths debunked: Get the facts here. If you can't find the facts you're looking for, email us at the address mentioned in the article and we will verify the information with medical professionals.

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