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Russia resorts to Covid restrictions as vaccine hesitancy drives record deaths

Russia

Russia resorts to Covid restrictions as vaccine hesitancy drives record deaths

Russia and Ukraine are enforcing new coronavirus restrictions at the regional level and pleading with their citizens to get vaccinated, in a sign that both countries have failed to get to grips with rampant outbreaks driven by low vaccination rates.

The restrictions are a grudging effort that authorities say will save lives, as both countries search for an answer to vaccine hesitancy. About 30% of Russians and just 16% of Ukrainians have been fully vaccinated.

Amid a “worst-case scenario” surge of cases, authorities in Moscow shut down non-essential services for 11 days on Thursday, two days before the start of a week-long nationwide paid holiday announced by President Vladimir Putin last weekend. Schools and many offices have been closed in the capital, and restaurants told to offer a takeaway service only.

The Russian army announced plans to set up a coronavirus hospital in the Moscow region. The “specialised hospital” would be staffed by “brigades of doctors and nurses,” the Ministry of Defence said in a statement quoted by state media.

The latest wave of infections in Russia has put the Kremlin in a difficult position. It has had to admit to a failure at the national level at halting the spread of the virus but also wants to distance itself from new lockdown measures, which are extremely unpopular among ordinary Russians.

Records are being broken on an almost daily basis in Russia and Ukraine. On Thursday, Russia reported new one-day highs of 1,159 deaths and 40,000 infections. Ukraine reported a record 734 coronavirus-related deaths on Tuesday, and 576 deaths on Wednesday.

Officials in Ukraine say some people who are required to get vaccinated, such as teachers, have sought to avoid the jab by buying fake vaccination certificates. Kyiv’s local government said it would require residents to present vaccine certificates to use restaurants, gyms, and public transport.

The health minister, Viktor Lyashko, has called a surge in hospital admissions “rampant”. “I call on all of you to get your vaccine,” he said during a briefing on Wednesday. “We can and must stop these sad statistics.”

Under pressure on Thursday, the Kremlin spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, denied there were plans for compulsory vaccinations in Russia and also denied reports that the Kremlin would relaunch its fledgling pro-vaccination media campaign. Just over 30% of Russians have received two doses of one of Russia’s domestically produced vaccines, according to government data, and according to polls nearly half of the population has ruled out getting jabbed. The Kremlin’s initial target was 60% fully vaccinated by the end of summer.

“Until we attain our goal and achieve the public immunity threshold, we will deem all our efforts to be insufficient,” Peskov said during a telephone briefing with journalists. “These conditions are very simple: an unvaccinated person may die, an unvaccinated person will find one’s life uncomfortable. Harsh conditions are dictated by the circumstances.”

Enforcement of the new lockdowns has largely fallen to regional officials, who have taken on the unpopular task of temporarily closing local businesses or reintroducing the use of unpopular QR codes that were described last year as a “cybergulag.”

“The situation in Moscow is developing according to the worst-case scenario,” the Moscow mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, wrote on his blog as he announced the anti-coronavirus restrictions last week. Advising Muscovites to go to the park or spend a few days at a country house, he wrote: “Let’s relax a bit and we’ll help to save the lives and health of many people. And then the city can get back to normal life.”

Past restrictions have been criticised by Moscow’s small business owners who have lost revenue from customers while seeing little financial support from the government.

Locals in Moscow flocked to bars and restaurants on Wednesday evening before closures took place, while others planned to travel to resorts to avoid staying in Moscow during the impromptu holiday. Cities around Russia, including St Petersburg and Sochi, have braced themselves for an influx of Muscovites hoping to avoid the restrictions. Areas of Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014, have set up checkpoints for vaccination certificates or negative PCR tests.

Under the guidelines, schools in Moscow will be closed, restaurants and cafes will be limited to providing takeout orders, offices will be largely restricted and most in-person government services will be suspended.

Putin this week also confirmed a decision to ban restaurants and bars nationwide from staying open between the hours of 11pm and 7am.

Earlier this week, the head of the Russian laboratory that developed the Sputnik V vaccine said most Russians who claimed they had been vaccinated and then fell ill had bought fake vaccine certificates to avoid getting the jab. “People spend money, and then they get sick and die for their own money,” said Alexander Gintsburg, the head of the Gamaleya centre. “They deceive themselves.”

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Health

Group hails IG as mother accused Hospital of stealing Placenta

The Inspector General of Police, (IG) Kayode Egbetokun has received praises for the prompt arrest of suspects accused of stealing the placenta of a new born baby in privated hospital located in Kwara State. The suspects were taken from Ilofa to Ilorin, the Kwara State capital on Thursday.
In a statement signed by NHRC’s official, Mr Taiwo Adeleye said the arrest of the suspects was an important step towards securing justice for the families of Mr Rotimi Williams whose wife accused health officials at a private hospital of stealing the placenta of her new born baby.
The Nigerian Human Rights Community, (NHRC),a coalition of 130 civil society groups spread across Nigeria on Thursday expressed delight at the arrest of the suspects by the police.
The group said it was aware of plots by some powerful individuals to clog the wheel of justice but was delighted that the IG has brought hope to the despairing family. It called for full investigation that would lead to the arrest and prosecution of all culprits.
Few days ago, Mrs Williams accused the management of Cottage hospital, Ilofa, Kwara State of failing to account for the placenta of her new born baby. In complaints lodged with the NHRC, Mrs Williams said a nurse, Mrs Alabi took the delivery, one nurse Adeloye cleaned up the baby while one Mrs Toyin, a ward attendant claimed she mistakenly threw away the placenta.
“In Nigerian agelong tradition, the placenta is linked to the spiritual and physical wellbeing of a new born baby. There is a customary and agelong way of burying placenta of which every medical staff is aware.The disappearance of a baby’s placenta is a source of eternal trauma for the parents and a prelude to impugn the future of the child based on timeless tradition and beliefs,” the NHRC said.
The Coalition said the placenta could be stolen for rituals, adding that stealing a placenta is like killing the child or using the child for ritual by other means The group said it would follow-up the case “day and night” to ensure justice is done. The NHRC said Mrs Toyin brought out the mother’s bags from the labour room but failed to take the placenta along.
The rights group said one Mrs Ayoni Awolusi in the course of the delivery, claimed she was to be on duty but was absent. The medical personnel expected to be on dury was Dr. Ajibola. NHRC said Mrs Williams put to bed around 7pm on Sunday May 12 but discovered the missing placenta very early on Monday 13th, May.
The group called on the IG to intensify the probe and ensure every one connected with the gory episode is brought to justice

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AstraZeneca withdraws COVID-19 vaccines from market as demand reduces

Anglo-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca on Wednesday said it was withdrawing Covid vaccine Vaxzevria, one of the first produced in the deadly pandemic, citing “commercial reasons” following a slump in demand.

“As multiple, variant Covid-19 vaccines have since been developed there is a surplus of available updated vaccines. This has led to a decline in demand for Vaxzevria, which is no longer being manufactured or supplied,” an AstraZeneca spokesperson added in a statement.

“We will now work with regulators and our partners to align on a clear path forward to conclude this chapter and significant contribution to the Covid-19 pandemic.”

AstraZeneca rapidly developed the successful Covid-19 jab during the coronavirus pandemic which erupted in the first half of 2020.

Vaxzevria, developed alongside Oxford University, was at first offered at cost but Astra decided in late 2021 to sell it for profit.

But the world pivoted towards mRNA vaccines, particularly the one produced by US drugs giant Pfizer and German peer BioNTech, after rare blood-clot problems with Astra’s jab increased public hesitancy about taking it.

Sales collapsed further as global Covid restrictions were fully lifted worldwide and the world emerged from the global health crisis.

The AstraZeneca spokesperson said the group had begun the process from taking it off the market in the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMA) region.

The company will work with other regulators globally to start market authorisation withdrawals for the Vaxzevria “where no future commercial demand for the vaccine is expected”.

The spokesperson said that, according to independent estimates, “over 6.5 million lives were saved in the first year of use alone” and more than three billion doses were supplied globally.

“We are incredibly proud of the role Vaxzevria played in ending the global pandemic,” the spokesperson said.

“Our efforts have been recognised by governments around the world and are widely regarded as being a critical component of ending the global pandemic. ”

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Health

NMA lauds Police for arresting fake doctor in Lagos

The Nigerian Medical Association, NMA, has commended the Nigerian Police Force for arresting an alleged fake medical doctor.

In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria on Tuesday in Lagos, Dr Benjamin Olowojebutu, Chairman, NMA Lagos, said the arrest will strengthen the association’s fight against quackery in the medical profession.

Olowojebutu explained that medical quackery was a dangerous practice that posed a threat to the well-being of citizens and the delivery of quality healthcare in the state, and country.

“The arrest is a welcome development for the health sector; we would expose these quacks and ensure that Lagos does not suffer further morbidity and mortality from their nefarious activities.

“We are glad that our work on anti-quackery has started yielding progress as we are determined to weed out quacks from the medical profession,” he said.

The chairman pledged that NMA Lagos, with the support of the Ministry of Health, Health Monitoring and Accreditation Agency, HEFAMAA, and police, would eradicate quacks from the state.

According to him, the association would hold an anti-quackery summit soon, after which it would present a white paper to the Lagos State Government on anti-quackery.

Olowojebutu warned hospitals to refrain from employing staff whose certificates and licences had not been verified by the MDCN to safeguard the health of the populace.

The 37-year-old medical practitioner with suspected forged certificates was arrested by police at Skylink Medical Centre, Elepe-Ikorodu.

The police said they arrested the suspect, who claimed to be the managing director of the health facility, based on intelligence gathered by the command through members of the Elepe community concerning the activities of the suspect.

The police recovered two suspected forged certificates of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State and the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, MDCN, after searching for the facility.

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