Coronavirus digest: CDC recommends masks for US schools | News | DW | 16.05.2021
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Coronavirus digest: CDC recommends masks for US schools

Days after relaxing mask mandates for vaccinated adults, the US public health agency has recommended that all schools continue to use masks for the upcoming academic year. Follow DW for the latest.

Three women wearing masks

The CDC has recommended that US schools continue mask requirements for the coming academic year

The US public health agency said schools across the country should continue using masks for the 2020-2021 academic year, as it will take time to vaccinate all students.

In its latest guidance, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said all schools — kindergarten through grade 12 — "should implement and layer prevention strategies and should prioritize universal and correct use of masks and physical distancing."

The new guidelines come soon after the agency eased mask-wearing guidance for people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. It no longer recommends that fully vaccinated people wear masks outdoors in crowds, and in many indoor settings.

However, the CDC said that all people in school facilities and buses must wear masks at all times. A distance of six feet (1.8 meters) must be maintained between teachers and students. 

Earlier this week, the agency backed a plan to begin using the BioNTech-Pfizer COVID vaccine in adolescents aged 12-15

However, the World Health Organization has urged rich countries to consider donating COVID-19 vaccine shots to the COVAX distribution scheme, which supplies shots to poorer nations, before vaccinating children.

Watch video 12:30

Reporter - Vaccinating Against COVID-19 in Alaska

Europe

The pandemic will leave lasting wounds on society, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said at an ecumenical conference held in Frankfurt on Sunday.

"The social effects of the virus will not simply disappear with the last vaccination, the last measure," Steinmeier said.

Life would not simply go back to how it was before, he forewarned. "But meeting family and friends again, shaking each other's hands, hugging each other and holding church services as we know them — we are all looking forward to that," Steinmeier continued.

"We have fought bitterly about the virus and compulsory mask-wearing, about restrictions and easing, about child centers and schools, about vaccines and vaccination priorities."

Meanwhile, Germany's Standing Committee on Vaccination (STIKO) has warned that all residents who have been vaccinated against the virus may need to go through the inoculation process again next year. 

STIKO Chairman Thomas Mertens said the virus was here to stay, and that vaccinated people should prepare themselves for the fact that they may need to get a coronavirus booster shot. 

Germany recorded 8,500 new cases of the virus on Sunday, taking the country's total caseload to 3,593,434, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases. The reported death toll rose by 71 to 86,096.

The UK will take a call on easing virus restrictions next month, Health Minister Matt Hancock said on Sunday.

"We'll make a final decision for the step four, which is the biggest step on the roadmap, we'll make that final decision on the 14th of June," Hancock said. The last stage of relaxing restrictions has been scheduled for June 21, but there remain concerns over the spread of a variant first identified in India.

Hancock said he is confident that vaccines will provide protection against the variant. He also announced Sunday that over 20 million adults in the UK are now fully vaccinated with two doses of the coronavirus jab.

Portugal has eased entry restrictions for visitors from EU countries that have the virus relatively under control. Bloc members with a 14-day incidence of less than 500 will now be allowed into the country.

The relaxation also applies to Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Britain. 

However, everyone over the age of 2 must present a negative PCR coronavirus test — not older than 72 hours — at entry.

Greece has formally opened to visitors in a bid to help its flailing tourism industry in the leadup to summer. After months of virus-related restrictions, the country will also open up its museums, including the Acropolis, to tourists.

France registered 4,255 patients in the ICU on Sunday, a decrease by 16 from the day before. This marks the 13th day that the number of COVID patients in France needing ICU treatment has decreased.

After more than six months, Poland is set to allow outdoor dining again, but customers will only be allowed to occupy every second table. The relaxation was hailed by residents, who celebrated by visiting bars and restaurants overnight. 

Watch video 03:44

How will vaccination impact Germany's COVID-19 situation?

Asia-Pacific

India on Sunday reported more than 300,000 new infections and over 4,000 deaths amid rising concern over the spread of the coronavirus pandemic to rural areas.

Recent reports of large numbers of people falling ill in villages and bodies being dumped in the Ganges River indicates the disease has spread to India's rural hinterland, where 70% of its 1.3 billion people live.

On Friday, rains exposed the cloth coverings of bodies buried in shallow sand graves on a wide, flat riverbank in Prayagraj, a city in Uttar Pradesh state. The sheer numbers of people being washed up lies amid the backdrop of an overwhelming second wave of the pandemic.

Nearly 60% of the Japanese population are in favor of canceling the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, a survey conducted by Kyodo News showed on Sunday.

The survey indicated that 59.7% of those polled wanted to cancel the delayed Games entirely, due to get underway on July 23, while 25.2% said the event should be held without an audience, while 12.6% said it should go ahead but with a limited number of spectators.

Nevertheless, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Japanese organizers are pressing ahead with the Games and are expected to make a decision in June on how many spectators will be allowed to attend.

As Taiwan upgrades the coronavirus alert level in the capital Taipei and the surrounding areas, authorities have asked people to avoid panic buying of daily-use items like instant noodles and toilet paper. It reported 206 new domestic infections on Sunday.

"After more than a year of preparation, the country's anti-pandemic materials, civilian goods and raw materials are sufficient, and the stores are also operating as usual to replenish goods," President Tsai Ing-wen said.

Firefighters put out a massive fire at one of the largest hospitals in the Philippines early Sunday, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of patients. The fire at Manila's Philippine General Hospital, which is treating coronavirus patients, blazed for nearly five hours before being put out. 

According to hospital staff, the fire started in an operating room supply area. Several patients were moved to nearby hospitals.

Australia will start reopening to visitors from the rest of the world only towards the latter half of 2022, over two years after the country closed international borders. 

"All the way through we will be guided by the medical advice," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a televised address. "We will be guided by the economic advice."

Watch video 02:24

Growing public opposition to Tokyo Olympics

Indonesia has paused the distribution of a batch of AstraZeneca vaccines after a  22-year-old man died a day after inoculation. The government said it will run tests on the "CTMAV547" batch, consisting of 448,480 vaccine doses, that were delivered to the country last month, under the COVAX program. 

"After it is proven that it is sterile and does not contain toxins, the use of the vaccine will be resumed. The fastest we can get the results will be in two weeks," said Hindra Irawan Satari, the head of the vaccine monitoring committee. 

Middle East

Saudi Arabia said Sunday most vaccinated international travelers will not need to quarantine upon arrival in the country. Nationals from many countries, such as the US, UK and India, are still banned from entering the Middle Eastern country, however.

Previously, most travelers entering the country would need to quarantine for seven to 14 days, depending on where they are coming from.

Africa

Algeria announced Sunday it will reopen air and land borders on June 1. Coronavirus restrictions will still stay in place to prevent the spread of infection.

Algeria previously suspended all flights and closed its borders in March 2020. Domestic flights were permitted to resume in December.

Americas

The island nation of Trinidad and Tobago has declared a state of emergency to contain a spike in the number of coronavirus infections and related deaths. Authorities have also imposed a nighttime curfew.

Prime Minister Keith Rowley warned that the dual-island state was seeing a third wave of the virus. 

Leading US epidemiologist Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday that the pandemic "exposed the undeniable effects of racism" in American society. He said unacceptable health disparities have disportionately impacted African-American, Hispanic and Native American communities during the pandemic.

"COVID-19 has shone a bright light on our society's moral failings," Fauci said in webcast remarks during a virtual graduation ceremony for the Atlanta-based Emory University.

see, jsi, wd/nm (Reuters, dpa, AFP, AP)