Many places in China to suspend religious gatherings
Many places in China plan to suspend religious gatherings during the upcoming Spring Festival holidays to control the coronavirus outbreak, the Global Times newspaper reported on Tuesday.
Authorities of Ninghai county, Ningbo of East China’s Zhejiang Province will temporarily close all religious venues and suspend all religious activities from 6 February, the newspaper reported.
Apart from Ninghai, Beijing, Chengdu of Southwest China’s Sichuan Province, and many other places across China have also ordered the suspension of all religious venues, according to the newspaper.
The Global Times is published by the ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily newspaper.
EU steps up guidance on non-essential travel from outside bloc
The European Union toughened its restrictions on visitors from outside the bloc on Monday, with travellers only allowed to enter freely from countries with very low numbers of cases and almost none of the more virulent variants.
Ambassadors for the bloc agreed the new measure for travel from non-EU countries, including Britain, at a meeting in Brussels, an EU diplomat told Reuters. Its copy outlined the following EU guidelines on non-essential travel:
EU countries are encouraged to grant access without restrictions, such as mandatory quarantines, only under strict criteria.
The visitor would have to come from a country with no more than 25 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people over 14 days, an infection rate lower than in all EU countries.
Travel curbs should also rapidly be reintroduced for countries where a high incidence of more infectious coronavirus variants is detected, the text says.
The agreement serves as a guideline for member states, which can make their own final decision on their specific border policies. Some EU countries, such as Germany, have imposed tougher restrictions, while Belgium has banned non-essential travel into or out of the country until March.
Last Thursday, the bloc excluded Japan from its list of countries able to visit the bloc without restrictions. The exemptions now include seven countries – Australia, China, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand, although China’s inclusion is dependent on China allowing in EU visitors.
First Covid vaccines arrive in South Africa
The South African president Cyril Ramaphosa hailed the arrival of the first doses of Covid-19 vaccine on Monday as a chance to “turn the tide” on a disease that has devastated the country.
Once testing of the batches is completed, the first shots will be given to health workers, who have been stretched during a second wave of infections and have been critical of the government for not securing supplies sooner.
Ramaphosa and other top officials were at the OR Tambo international airport to receive the 1 million shots of the AstraZeneca vaccine, produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII).
“The arrival of these vaccines contains the promise that we can turn the tide on this disease that has caused so much devastation and hardship in our country and across the world,” Ramaphosa said in an address to the nation.
South Africa has recorded the most Covid-19 infections and deaths on the African continent, at more than 1.4 million cases and over 44,000 deaths to date.
Since late last year, it has battled a more contagious virus variant called 501Y.V2 that has also been detected in countries in Europe, the Americas and Asia.
Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic with me, Helen Sullivan.
As always, I can be found on Twitter @helenrsullivan.
The first vaccine doses have arrived in South African, where president Cyril Ramaphosa hailed their arrival on Monday as a chance to “turn the tide” on a disease that has devastated the country.
Meanwhile the European Union tightened its rules for visitors from outside the bloc, specifying that they would only be allowed in freely from countries with very few coronavirus cases and almost none of the more transmissible variants.
Here are the other key recent developments:
- Denmark, which has been under a tough lockdown since December, will reopen schools for the youngest children from next week.
- South African nurses have called on the government to ensure rural healthcare workers are able to access Covid-19 vaccines as the hard-hit country received its first batch of doses.
- The UK has reported a further 18,607 lab-confirmed coronavirus cases – the lowest daily total of new cases since 15 December, when 18,450 cases were recorded.
- Women made up nearly all of Italy’s job losses in the month of December, when the country’s unemployment level rose to 9.0% from 8.8% in November, national statistics bureau ISTAT said on Monday.
- Austria has announced it will relax its coronavirus lockdown from Monday next week, moving to a nighttime curfew and allowing non-essential shops and schools reopen while toughening border restrictions.
- Greece reported 543 new coronavirus cases on Monday, with almost half found in the Attica region.
- Germany’s military will send more than 20 doctors and nurses to Portugal, where hospitals are close to being overwhelmed as the country reports the world’s biggest seven-day rolling average of new daily cases per capita.
- Palestinians will receive an initial batch of 50,000 coronavirus vaccines by mid-February, when inoculations will begin in the West Bank and Gaza, their prime minister has announced.
- The variant of the coronavirus first discovered in the UK now represents half of infections in the Netherlands, according to the Dutch health minister Hugo de Jonge.