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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

WHO Demands Fresh Data from China amid Outbreak of Pneumonia in Children

The World Health Organization (WHO) is requesting more data from China amid an outbreak of pneumonia in children.

Dr Maria Van Kerkhove, a WHO epidemiologist, said the agency was ‘following up with China’ as hospitals across the country continue to be overwhelmed.

Face masks and social distancing are again being recommended in the country.

The country is said to be grappling with a spike in pneumonia, dubbed ‘white lung syndrome’ because of the way lung damage shows up on scans, among children that has been attributed to a rebound in respiratory illnesses rather than an entirely new virus.

 

 

China had one of the most brutal and longest lockdowns of any country in the world which the WHO says robbed children of vital immunity against seasonal illnesses. 

Dr Van Kerkhove told the conference today: ‘Yes, we are seeing an increase in respiratory infections around the world.

‘We’re in autumn and entering winter months, so we are expecting to see rises in respiratory infections regardless.

We are following up with China. They are seeing an increase due a number of different infections

We are following up with our clinical network and following up with clinicians in China.

‘In terms of acute respiratory infections, we are looking at the burden on healthcare systems and looking at the healthcare capacities of systems.’

It comes after Chinese Health Ministry spokesman Mi Feng urged people in the country to again consider wearing face masks and distancing.

Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, he said: ‘Efforts should be made to increase the opening of relevant clinics and treatment areas, extend service hours and increase the supply of medicines.

‘It is necessary to do a good job in epidemic prevention and control in key crowded places.

‘[This includes] in schools, childcare institutions and nursing homes, and to reduce the flow of people and visits.’

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Health

433 Foreign-Trained Doctors Fail MDCN Qualifying Exams

No fewer than 433 out of the 836 foreign-trained medical graduates who sat the qualifying examination organised by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) failed

The qualifying examination was held at the Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital between 22 and 23 November 2023.

The assessment for the foreign-trained medical graduates was in a Computer Based Test format with the graduates taking the examination in four different centres, namely:  BMG Institute of Information Technology; JAMB Professional Test Centre; Kano Cooperative CBT Centre and Treztech, all in Kano State.

The examination comprises a computer-based test, a picture-based test, and an objective structural clinical examination.

Findings showed that most of the medical and dental graduates performed poorly in the CBT.

A list of shortlisted candidates in Abuja showed that a total of 836 candidates with medical degrees from foreign universities were selected for the examination initially. However, only 403 candidates passed, according to the results obtained on Monday.

Every year, thousands of Nigerians aspiring to become medical doctors and dentists enrol in foreign universities, spend a fortune on tuition and accommodation fees, and dedicate between four and seven years to pursuing the Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery course.

Among the favourite destinations for Nigerians studying medicine are Ukraine, Sudan, Cyprus, Egypt, The Caribbean, Russia, Belarus, India, Hungary, Guyana, Niger Republic, and Benin Republic. But on completion of their studies abroad, to get a licence to practise in Nigeria, they are required to pass the MDCN assessment.

The MDCN is the body that regulates the practice of Medicine, Dentistry, and Alternative Medicine in the country to safeguard the nation’s health care system.

The MDCN conducts the assessment twice a year.

The examination tests the candidates’ ability to apply their basic medical sciences and clinical skills in a healthcare setting.

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Health

UK Confirms Never- Seen- Before Strain Of Swine Flu in Human

The UK’s first human case of swine flu strain H1N2, very similar to what has been circulating in pigs, has been detected, the UK Health Security Agency said on Monday.

Routine surveillance in general practitioner surgeries picked up the case after the person suffered a mild illness.

The UKHSA said it is now carrying out contact tracing to prevent further spread of the virus.

It is not known at this stage how transmissible the strain is or if there could be other cases in the UK.

It is also too early to say if the strain could have pandemic potential.

The UKHSA has notified the World Health Organisation of the latest case.

There have been about 50 reported human cases worldwide of the H1N2 virus since 2005, none of them related genetically to this strain.

The person involved is not known to have worked with pigs and has fully recovered.

The case was detected as part of routine national flu surveillance undertaken by UKHSA and the Royal College of GPs, which was in place even before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The patient was tested by their GP in North Yorkshire after experiencing respiratory symptoms.

The strain was identified via Polymerase Chain Reaction testing and genome sequencing.

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The UKHSA said people with respiratory symptoms should continue to follow the existing guidance, avoiding contact with other people while suffering symptoms and taking particular care around vulnerable people and the elderly.

It said it was “monitoring the situation closely and is taking steps to increase surveillance within existing programmes involving GP surgeries and hospitals in parts of North Yorkshire.

“To assist in the detection of cases and assessment of transmission, those people who are contacted and asked to do the test are encouraged to do so.’’

Meera Chand, incident director at the UKHSA, said, “It is thanks to routine flu surveillance and genome sequencing that we have been able to detect this virus.

“This is the first time we have detected this virus in humans in the UK, though it is very similar to viruses that have been detected in pigs.

“We are working rapidly to trace close contacts and reduce any potential spread.

“In accordance with established protocols, investigations are underway to learn how the individual acquired the infection and to assess whether there are any further associated cases.’’

Chief veterinary officer, Christine Middlemiss, said, “We know that some diseases of animals can be transferred to humans, which is why high standards of animal health, welfare and biosecurity are so important.

Based on early information, the UKHSA said the strain detected in the UK differs from recent human cases of H1N2 elsewhere in the world but is similar to viruses in UK pigs.

In 2009, there was a pandemic in humans caused by flu strain H1N1, commonly referred to as swine flu.

NAN

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