Scientists at the WHO said that mass vaccinations would not bring about herd immunity to COVID-19 this year, even as one leading producer boosted its production forecast.
Infection numbers are surging around the world, especially in Europe, where nations have been forced to ramp up virus restrictions even as vaccines are rolled out.
WHO Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan on Monday said that it would take time to produce and give enough shots to halt the spread of the virus, which has infected more than 90 million people worldwide, with deaths approaching 2 million.
“We are not going to achieve any levels of population immunity or herd immunity in 2021,” she said, stressing the need to maintain physical distancing, hand-washing and mask-wearing.
Experts are also concerned about the rapid spread of new variants of the virus, such as the one first detected in the UK, which is feared to be significantly more transmissible.
England on Monday opened seven mass vaccination sites to fight a surge fueled by that variant, which is threatening to overwhelm hospitals.
However, Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty told the BBC that “the next few weeks are going to be the worst weeks of this pandemic in terms of numbers into the NHS [National Health Service].”
Portugal was facing a new lockdown because of a spike in cases and deaths, as Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa tested positive for the virus.
The 72-year-old was asymptomatic and isolating in the presidential palace in Lisbon, his office said.
Slovakia was preparing to start a new round of mass testing, Slovakian Prime Minister Igor Matovic said late on Monday, following a first nationwide screening in November last year.
“From next weekend at the latest, we will run a mass test every week until we get the situation under control. There is no other way,” said Matovic, who tested positive last month after an EU summit.
German company BioNTech, which partnered with Pfizer to produce the first vaccine approved in the West, said it could produce millions more doses than originally expected this year, boosting the production forecast from 1.3 billion to 2 billion.
The announcement was a boost to countries struggling to deliver the shots, but the company also warned that COVID-19 will “likely become an endemic disease,” with vaccines needed to fight new variants and a “naturally waning immune response.”
Officials in Russia said they would trial a one-dose version of country’s Sputnik V vaccine as part of efforts to provide a stopgap solution for badly hit countries.
India, with the world’s second-highest number of infections, is set to begin giving shots to its 1.3 billion people from Saturday in a colossal and complex undertaking.
US president-elect Joe Biden, who has pledged to devote all available resources to fight the pandemic, received his second vaccine dose on Monday.
There have been surges in Asia as well, where many nations avoided the high death tolls and infection rates seen in Europe and the US in the early months of the pandemic.
On the Chinese microblogging platform Sina Weibo, enthusiastic slackers share their tips: Fill up a thermos with whiskey, do planks or stretches in the work pantry at regular intervals, drink liters of water to prompt lots of trips to the toilet on work time, and, once there, spend time on social media or playing games on your phone. “Not working hard is everyone’s basic right,” one commenter wrote. “With or without legal protection, everyone has the right to not work hard.” Young Chinese people are pushing back against an engrained culture of overwork, and embracing a philosophy of laziness known as “touching
‘STUNNED’: With help from an official at the US Department of Justice, Donald Trump reportedly planned to oust the acting attorney general in a bid to overturn the election Former US president Donald Trump was at his Florida resort on Saturday, beginning post-presidency life while US President Joe Biden settled into the White House, but in Washington and beyond, the chaos of the 45th president’s final days in office continued to throw out damaging aftershocks. In yet another earth-shaking report, the New York Times said that Trump plotted with an official at the US Department of Justice to fire the acting attorney general, then force Georgia Republicans to overturn his defeat in that state. Meanwhile, former acting US secretary of defense Christopher Miller made an extraordinary admission, telling Vanity Fair that
Boeing set a target of designing and certifying its jetliners to fly on 100 percent sustainable fuels by 2030, amid rising pressure on planemakers to take climate change seriously. Regulators allow a 50-50 blend of sustainable and conventional fuels, and Boeing on Friday said it would work with authorities to raise the limit. Rival Airbus is considering another tack: a futuristic lineup of hydrogen-powered aircraft that would reach the skies by 2035. The aircraft manufacturers face growing public clamor to cut emissions in the aviation industry, which added more than 1 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere in 2019, according to
Mongolian Prime Minister Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh on Thursday resigned following a protest over a hospital’s treatment of a new mother who tested positive for COVID-19. Khurelsukh, whose Mongolian People’s Party holds a strong majority in the parliament known as the State Great Khural, stepped down after accusing Mongolian President Khaltmaagiin Battulga of the Democratic Party of orchestrating a political crisis. A small protest broke out in the capital, Ulan Bator, on Wednesday after TV footage appeared of a woman who had just given birth being escorted in slippers and a thin robe from the maternity ward to a special wing for COVID-19 patients