New Zealand’s customs agency fired nine of its workers after they refused to get vaccinated for Covid-19, it said in a statement.
“We regret that these individuals have had to leave employment and understand what a difficult situation this is for them,” customs official Jacinda Funnell said.
New Zealand has made it compulsory for all frontline border and quarantine workers to be vaccinated and provide proof of vaccination on entering a customs facility.
More than 95% of New Zealand’s frontline customs workers have had one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to the agency, with 85% having received two doses.
“Of the 5% staff who weren’t vaccinated, most of whom were unable to receive the vaccine, many have been successfully redeployed into alternative roles within Customs,” the statement read.
The statement added that options to redeploy the nine fired staff members “were very limited.”
Nearly 1.3 billion adults globally in 2020 said they would not get a Covid-19 vaccine if one were offered to them at no cost, according to a new Gallup poll released on Monday.
The poll, which surveyed more than 300,000 people across 117 countries last year, showed that 68% of adults worldwide would get a vaccine if one were offered to them for free. Some 29% of those polled said they would opt out of vaccination, and another 3% said they did not know.
That global average falls below the range required for a herd immunity to the novel coronavirus, which experts have estimated as falling between 70% and 85%.
Gallup’s World Poll in 2020 was the largest poll of its kind conducted last year, taking in the scope of how human life had changed during the historic pandemic year. However, based on its time frame, the poll could not have captured how attitudes toward the vaccine might have changed as shots were rolled out in the first few months of 2021.
Still, the poll offers a snapshot in time of how attitudes could be shifting, and where the drive to vaccinate may be the most difficult.
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India reported 368,147 new cases of Covid-19 on Monday, according to figures released by the country’s Health Ministry — the 12th straight day that more than 300,000 infections were confirmed.
Authorities have identified 19,925,604 cases of Covid-19 in India.
Another 3,417 Covid-19 related deaths were reported on Monday, the sixth day in a row that 3,000-plus fatalities were reported in a day. At least 218,959 people have died from Covid-19 in India.
As of Sunday evening local time, 156,816,031 vaccine doses had been administered, according to the Ministry of Health.
More than 28.6 million people have received their second dose, about 2.2% of the country’s population of 1.3 billion.
The Indian Supreme Court has directed the country’s central and state governments “to put on record the efforts taken to curb the spread of (coronavirus) and the measures that they plan on taking in the near future,” according to an order posted Sunday on the court’s website.
During a hearing on Friday, a three-judge bench of the court said they took note of the “unprecedented humanitarian crisis in the country” following the deadly surge of Covid-19 and asked the central government to consider using the healthcare workforce available with the country’s armed forces and paramilitary forces for the Covid-19 vaccination drive.
It warned government authorities that any clampdown on information on social media or harassment caused to “individuals seeking/delivering help on any platform will attract a coercive exercise of jurisdiction” by the court.
The court said it took “judicial notice of the fact that” several critical drugs such as Remdesivir are being sold by some “at significantly inflated prices or in fake form.”
It is a “condemnable attempt to exploit people’s misery and profit from their helplessness,” the court said, asking the government to clamp down on the practice by forming a special team.
This post has been updated to reflect the timeline of events.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday denied the country’s ban on arrivals from India is racist and played down the chance anyone caught breaking the rule will face prison time.
Starting Monday, no one — including Australian citizens — is allowed to enter the country if they have been in India for any of the 14 days prior to their arrival.
Anyone caught violating the rule could face a fine of up to $51,000 and five-year prison sentence.
Morrison told local media on Monday that “no one has been jailed” for such violations during the pandemic and vowed the government will use its powers “responsibly” to block arrivals from India.
While Australia has halted direct flights from certain countries through the pandemic, it is the first time the government has made it illegal for Australians to return home. Asked about allegations the travel ban on India was racist, Morrison said the decision had been taken “in the best health interests of Australia.”
Morrison said his government would review the decision this week, after initially stating the ban will run at least through May 15.
Around 9,000 Australians in India are registered with the government as wanting to return to Australia.
The United Kingdom will send 1,000 surplus ventilators to India to aid the fight against soaring Covid-19 infections in the country, according to a statement from the Prime Minister’s office.
“The UK will always be there for India in its time of need,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. “The terrible images we have seen in India in recent weeks are all the more powerful because of the close and enduring connection between the people of the UK and India.”
“I am deeply moved by the surge of support the British people have provided to the people of India and am pleased the UK Government has been able to play our part in providing life-saving assistance,” he said.
The UK had already pledged last week to send 200 ventilators, 495 oxygen concentrators, and three oxygen generation units to India.
Nepal will suspend domestic commercial flights at midnight on Monday and ban all commercial flights originating from India, Brazil and South Africa from midnight Wednesday until May 14, Health Minister Hridayesh Tripathi said Sunday.
As India continues to grapple with an unrelenting second wave of Covid-19, its neighbor Nepal is seeing its own surge in case numbers, prompting the Nepali government to seal the land border shared by the two countries.
The tiny South Asian nation on Sunday registered 7,137 new coronavirus infections — the highest single-day rise in infections since the pandemic began, according to the Nepal Health Ministry. Twenty-seven new virus-related deaths were also reported.
Nepal had seen case numbers begin to fall in February, with newly identified cases hovering between 50 to 100 each day. But infections began soaring in mid-April, about the same time India’s second wave began. New cases now number in the thousands each day, and health authorities have identified cases involving a variant of the coronavirus found in India.
Nepal has limited health care infrastructure and access to life-saving resources, raising fears it is ill-equipped to deal with a massive outbreak like the one ravaging India. On Thursday, Nepali authorities imposed a two-week lockdown in the capital, Kathmandu, in efforts to curb the spread of Covid-19.
This post has been updated to reflect the timeline of events.
A year ago, when the Covid-19 pandemic was still in its relative infancy, the head of the World Health Organization stressed that a global approach would be the only way out of the crisis.
“The way forward is solidarity: solidarity at the national level, and solidarity at the global level,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a media briefing in April 2020.
Fast-forward 12 months and the devastating scenes in India, where hospitals have been overwhelmed by a surge of Covid-19 cases and thousands are dying for lack of oxygen, suggest the warnings went unheeded.
India is not the only global Covid-19 hotspot. Turkey entered its first national lockdown Thursday, an unwelcome step prompted by infection rates which are now the highest in Europe.
Iran reported its highest daily Covid-19 death toll so far on Monday, with many towns and cities forced into partial lockdown to curb the spread of the virus. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said the country is suffering a fourth wave of infections.
The picture across much of South America is also gloomy. Brazil, with more than 14.7 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 400,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data, continues to have the highest daily rate of Covid-19 deaths per million in the world.
Some countries have offered help as hotspots emerge, for example flying in oxygen concentrators, ventilators and other medical supplies to India in recent days. But the coordinated global response urged by Tedros a year ago — and repeatedly since, by WHO and other global heath bodies — remains elusive.
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