Covid-19 has infected more than 259M people and killed over 5.1M worldwide. Here are the latest developments in the global coronavirus crisis:

There has been a 37 percent reduction in new infections in Central America.
There has been a 37 percent reduction in new infections in Central America. (AP)

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Covid-19 cases surge 23 percent in Americas

New cases have jumped 23 percent in the Americas in the last week, mostly in North America where both the United States and Canada are reporting increasing infection rates, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said, warning that the region might be facing a relapse as in Europe.

Canada's Yukon and Northwest territories saw a two- to three-fold increase in new infections over the last week, it said.

In Central America, by contrast, there has been a 37 percent reduction in new infections.

In South America, nearly every country except Brazil, Suriname and Venezuela is reporting increasing incidence. The biggest jumps were in Ecuador and Paraguay, PAHO said.

Cases surged 400 percent in Bolivia's Santa Cruz department after recent strikes and protests prevented people from accessing Covid-19 vaccination and testing sites, the health agency said.

Over 1,000 anti-vaccine protesters rally in Ukraine capital

More than 1,000 anti-vaccine demonstrators have rallied in the Ukrainian capital to denounce coronavirus restrictions, in the second such protest this month.

The protesters, many of them members of radical nationalist groups, gathered outside the parliament building and marched across downtown Kiev carrying placards reading “Down with anti-constitutional bans!” and “The pandemic of lies!"

The Ukrainian government has required teachers, doctors, government employees and other groups of workers to be fully vaccinated by December 1. 

It has also begun to require proof of vaccination or negative Covid-19 test results for travel on planes, trains and long-distance buses.

Portugal sees jump in new cases, eyes restrictions

Portugal has reported its highest number of new daily Covid-19 infections since July amid a surge in cases across Europe, though hospitalisations are rising more slowly in the country where 86 percent of people are vaccinated.

The Portuguese government is due to announce on Thursday what new pandemic restrictions it is introducing, seven weeks after scrapping almost all of them because of the high vaccination rate and perceived lower threat from the coronavirus.

The General Directorate for Health officially reported 3,773 new cases, with 681 in hospitals, 105 in intensive care units and 17 deaths.

Italy introduces fresh restrictions on anti-vaccine holdouts

Italy has tightened the screws on people still unwilling to take an anti-Covid jab, sharply restricting access to an array of services and making vaccines mandatory for a wider group of public sector workers.

A government decree said all those still unvaccinated will not be able to access cinemas, discos, restaurants, theatres and sports events from December 15, while anyone using public transport will have to be vaccinated or have a negative test as of December 6.

These measures will run until January. 

Italy also makes booster jab for health workers mandatory from December 15.

Slovakia approves 2-week nationwide lockdown

Slovakia's government has approved a two-week national lockdown amid a record surge of coronavirus infections.

Prime Minister Eduard Heger said the measures that take effect Friday will target all, both unvaccinated and vaccinated.

Under the lockdown, people can leave their homes only for some specific reasons. These include buying essential goods, traveling to work and school or to get vaccinated.

German govt to spend $1.12 billion on health workers

Germany's incoming government will invest 1.12 billion dollar in bonuses for healthcare workers on the frontlines of the pandemic, incoming chancellor Olaf Scholz said.

"The caregivers in hospitals and homes who are facing particular demands will be granted a bonus payment," Scholz said, presenting the new government's policy roadmap. The coalition "agreed to earmark $1.12 billion for this care bonus".

France reports 1,483 people in intensive care units

France has reported 32,591 new cases and 1,483 people in intensive care units. 

The number of covid deaths rose to 91,793 people.

UK reports 149 deaths 

Britain reported 43,676 further cases and 149 more deaths within 28 days of a positive test, according to official data.

That compares with 42,484 cases and 165 deaths reported a day earlier.

Putin urges Russia to get covid jabs, no mandatory vaccines

Russian President Vladimir Putin made another appeal to sceptical Russians to vaccinate themselves but remained opposed to mandatory vaccinations.

Putin also said he took part in trials of a nasal covid vaccine and that he had experienced no problems after receiving a booster jab last week. 

Despite his repeated pleas, only around 37 percent of Russians are fully vaccinated. The country has in recent weeks seen more than 1,000 deaths a day. 

Europe could see another 700,000 deaths from Covid-19 by spring: WHO

The World Health Organizations Europe director, Dr. Hans Kluge, has warned that without urgent measures taken soon, Europe could see another 700,000 deaths from Covid-19 by the spring.

WHO said that cases jumped by 11 percent in Europe in the last week, the only region in the world where the virus has continued to increase since mid-October.

In its weekly assessment of the pandemic, the UN health agency said cases and deaths globally have risen by about 6 percent , with about 3.6 million new infections and 51,00 new deaths reported in the previous week.

Slovakia's cases rise by record, government preps lockdown

Slovakia has reported its highest daily rise in new cases, just ahead of a government meeting likely to agree a short-term lockdown to quell the world's fastest surge in infections.

Slovakia, a country of 5.5 million, has the highest per-capita infection rise in the world, according to figures from Our World in Data, as Europe becomes an epicentre of the pandemic again.

Neighbouring Austria has already locked down its population this week, for at least 10 days, to become the first to re-impose such restrictions, and Slovakia was looking at taking a similar step on Wednesday when the government meets.

Singapore, Malaysia to open land border for vaccinated 

Singapore and Malaysia will next week launch a quarantine-free travel lane at their land border crossing, one of the world's busiest, for vaccinated people, the two countries said.

The plan, effective November 29, expands an already announced move to start a travel lane for flights between Changi Airport and Kuala Lumpur International Airport from next week.

South Africa delays vaccine deliveries as inoculations slow

South Africa has asked Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer to delay delivery of vaccines because it now has too much stock, Health Ministry officials said, as vaccine hesitancy slows an inoculation campaign.

About 35 percent of South Africans are fully vaccinated, higher than in most other African nations, but half the government's year-end target.

Germany’s daily infections hit all-time high

Daily cases in Germany have hit a new record of 66,884, the highest single-day increase since the beginning of the pandemic.

Virus-related fatalities are also on the rise, with 335 further deaths over the last 24 hours, according to official data.

The Robert Koch Institute has confirmed 685,100 active cases, marking a new high in the current fourth wave of the pandemic.

Sweden says it will extend boosters to all adults

Sweden will begin gradually rolling out vaccine booster shots to all adult Swedes following the surge in cases elsewhere in Europe, government and health officials said.

Sweden's health agency said booster shots should be offered six months after the second shot, with a further rollout to risk groups and people aged 50 or above the priority before a gradual extension to all Swedes aged 18 or older.

South Korea records more than 4,000 new infections

South Korea has reported a new daily record of 4,116 new cases, as the country battles to contain a spike in serious cases requiring hospitalisation, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

South Korea this month switched to a "living with Covid-19" plan aimed at lifting rigid distancing rules and ultimately reopening after reaching vaccination goals last month.

Looking at the metropolitan Seoul area alone, the situation is critical enough to impose an emergency plan at any time, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum told a coronavirus response meeting.

New Zealand to reopen to foreign travellers from April 30

New Zealand will keep its borders closed to most international travellers for a further five months, the government has said, outlining a cautious easing of border curbs that have been in place since Covid-19 hit in March 2020.

Fully vaccinated international travellers will be allowed to enter the country from April 30, 2022 onwards, with the re-opening staged over time, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told a news conference.

Hundreds die in Mexico, Brazil

Mexico has confirmed 326 new coronavirus deaths, according to health ministry data, bringing the overall death toll to 292,850. 

Brazil registered 284 new deaths and 10,312 additional confirmed cases of the coronavirus, according to data released by the Health Ministry.

In total, Brazil has reported 613,066 deaths due to Covid-19.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies