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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

AIDS Agency Chief Says 1 Out Of 100 Persons Positive In Kaduna

The Executive Secretary of Kaduna State Aids Control Agency (KADSACA), Dr Isa Baka has said a survey had revealed that one out of 100 people is positive to the AIDS disease in the state.

Baka disclosed this speaking shortly after a walk in commemoration of the World AIDS Day, on Thursday in Kaduna.

The theme of the year’s’ World AIDS Day is “Equalise to End AIDS: Equal Access to Treatment and Prevention Services’’.

He said the present statistics was a remarkable development against previous survey which gave 11 of every 100 people in the state.

Baka added that the AIDS prevalence in Kaduna, which is at 1.1, being a survey carried out by the state government itself, was later done at the national level, where that of Kaduna was confirmed as very accurate.

“At the national level, the prevalence of the virus (AIDS) was at 1.4 (four people out of 100 test positive), while that of Kaduna is confirmed to be 1.1, was in determination of the state government and KADSACA’s efforts to ensure minimal prevalence of the virus,” he said.

He said as part of efforts to continue reducing the prevalence of AIDS in the state, government initiated programmes across the 23 LGAs.

He said one of the UNICEF anchored programmes, which is the ‘Adolescent and Youths Living With HIV and AIDS’ programme, was present and effective in at least, 18 LGAs and 24 sites in the state.

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Health

Malawi Commences Large Scale Malaria Vaccination- First In The World

Malawi has commenced large-scale vaccination of children against malaria.

This is the first large-scale malaria vaccination campaign since the World Health Organisation (WHO) endorsed the widespread use of the RTS,S/AS01 (RTS,S) malaria vaccine in October 2021.

The endorsement followed a two-year vaccination programme, which involved more than 800,000 children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi.

Recommended for children from five months of age to around 18 months, the vaccine  has an efficacy of 39 percent.

The first phase of the vaccination in Malawi is expected to cover 11 of the country’s 28 districts.

In a tweet on Tuesday, the WHO in Malawi said the expansion of access to the malaria vaccine will enable more children at risk of malaria to benefit from an additional prevention tool.

“Malawi has expanded access to the first malaria vaccine! The expansion of the RTS,S Malaria vaccine, into the 11 districts that participated in the malaria vaccine implementation program (MVIP) has been launched today. The vaccine offers a glimmer hope for Malawi,” WHO wrote.

Michael Kayange, Malawi’s national malaria control programme manager, told the BBC’s Focus on Africa that although the vaccine has low efficacy, “in malaria control, there is no single intervention that does it all”.

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Health

Nigeria Yet To Attain 70% Covid-19 Vaccination Coverage- NPHCDA

The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) has disclosed that Nigeria is yet to achieve 70 percent coverage for COVID-19 vaccination.

Faisal Shuaib, executive director of NPHCDA, said on Tuesday that as of November 25, a total of 56,790,371 eligible persons targeted for COVID-19 vaccination are fully vaccinated while 12,492,646 are partially vaccinated in 36 states and the FCT.

“We are 21.6 million eligible persons away from reaching its target of fully vaccinating 70 percent of its eligible population by December 2022,” he said.

“But 62 percent of the country’s eligible population is at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19.

“The country has fully vaccinated half of the total population eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.

“We have also fully vaccinated an additional over 25 percent of its eligible population, in the last 110 days of SCALES 3.0 implementation.”

The executive director said 13.2 percent of fully vaccinated persons in the country have received the COVID-19 booster dose for additional protection against the virus.

He commended the COVID-19 strategy group for achieving 50 percent vaccination coverage in the country and promised that the momentum would be sustained.

Shuaib said he has also directed the team to intensify efforts toward the attainment of herd immunity.

“Until this is achieved, the strategy group will continue to develop strategies that will help the country achieve health security,” he said.

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