Coronavirus digest: EU expects 100 million vaccines per month from April | News | DW | 08.03.2021
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Coronavirus digest: EU expects 100 million vaccines per month from April

The European Union is expecting a massive influx of vaccines starting next month. Germany is relaxing some movement restrictions. DW has the latest.

Teachers in the Czech Republic get vaccinated

The EU has been criticized for what has widely been considered a slow vaccine rollout

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that she expects many more vaccines to arrive in the EU in April.

"From April onwards, the quantities could double again according to the manufacturers' plans, also because further vaccines are about to be approved," von der Leyen said in an interview published Monday with German newspapers Stuttgarter Zeitung and Stuttgarter Nachrichten.

The EU chief said she expects "an average of around 100 million doses per month in the second quarter, a total of 300 million by the end of June."

According to the reports, the boost in deliveries means 20 million doses could be administered in Germany every month. That would demand significantly improved vaccination capacities. Germany has administered about 7.3 million doses since vaccinations began at the end of December.

The EU and von der Leyen have faced criticism over the slow rollout of vaccination campaigns across the bloc.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is expected to recommend approval of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday.

DW has an overview of other major COVID developments around the world.

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Europe

Germany will ease some restrictions starting on Monday, but which ones are taken down will depend on infection numbers and the state.

Retailers which have been closed since December will be allowed to reopen so long as incidence rates allow. Similar conditions apply to museums and galleries.

Up to ten adults can take part in contact-less sports if the incidence rate is under 50. If it is between 50 and 100 new infections per 100,000 people per week, five people from two households can play sports. Children up to 14 years old can play sports outside in groups up to 20. In Berlin, that age limit is down to 12.

Germany's Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported 5,011 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours on Monday morning, with 34 deaths.

Bavarian State Premier Markus Söder warned of rising infection figures, saying that the "third wave is rolling in." He also suggested an adjustment to the vaccination strategy, which would involve giving vaccine priority to commuters or highly mobile people, in order to reduce infection rates in hotspots. This month in particular, availability will be very limited, but that will soon change, he said.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz criticized riots at recent demonstrations against virus-related measures in Vienna. He said a "hooligan mentality" and anti-Semitism were unacceptable, referring to Nazi salutes shouted at the protests.

Members of Kurz's conservative Austrian People's Party (ÖVP) also sharply attacked the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) for their role in the  movement. According to police, around 20,000 people took to the streets in Vienna on Saturday. More than 3,000 charges were filed for disregarding the minimum distance and other hygiene regulations. Forty-two participants were also arrested, according to police.

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Italy heightened movement restrictions in several regions due to increasing COVID-19 cases. Schools and restaurants in affected areas in the southern region of Campania will be forced to close as the region is now considered to be among the most afflicted in the countrz. Other regions, such as the Veneto region in the north, were placed in the second worst level. A nighttime curfew from 10 pm (2100 GMT) continues throughout the country.

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Finland will enter a three-week shutdown on Tuesday after parliament approved a proposal to temporarily close cafes, bars and restaurants in a bid to stem a rise in cases. 

"The restrictions aim to minimize people-to-people contacts in order to reduce the number of infections and keep the epidemic under control," Prime Minister Sanna Marin told parliament. The shutdown will apply in areas where the virus is considered to be in either an acceleration or community transmission phase. 

The country of 5.5 million has recorded over 62,000 cases and more than 770 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

The Dutch governmentplans to introduce a smartphone-based passport for people who have been vaccinated against the virus or tested negative in order to allow them greater freedoms. The app would allow users to travel, eat at restaurants or go to concerts and other events, for example. 

The app would only show whether someone was immune, but it would not be possible to see whether they had tested negative or received the vaccine. The government does not want to make the vaccination compulsory, even indirectly, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge told broadcaster NOS on Monday.

Thousands of women marched through the Ukrainian capital Kyiv on International Women's Day to draw attention to domestic violence, which has spiked amid virus-related restrictions. 

"The purpose of the march is to draw public attention to how the situation of women has deteriorated, especially during the pandemic,'' said Daria Mizina, an Amnesty International Ukraine activist. Protesters also demanded Ukraine's ratification of the Istanbul Convention, a Council of Europe measure to combat violence against women.

During the pandemic, cases of domestic violence in Ukraine increased by almost one half. Over the past year, police received 174,386 reports of domestic violence.

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Oceania

New Zealand will obtain additional Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to protect the entire country's population.  The government signed an agreement to buy an extra 8.5 million doses, to go along with their current 1.5 million doses, which will be enough to fully vaccinate 5 million people. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the vaccines will come in the second half of the year.

Middle East

Israel has officially started COVID-19 vaccinations for Palestinians who have a work permit for Israel and the West Bank settlements.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma tested positive for Covid-19 after experiencing mild symptoms, the presidency said on Monday.

"They are in good health and their condition is stable," an official statement said, adding that the couple will quarantine for up to three weeks. Assad is 55 and his wife 45. Their positive results came more than a week after Syria started vaccinating frontline health workers using jabs delivered from an unidentified "friendly state."

Asia

Vietnam began its vaccination program on Monday, giving the first shots to healthcare workers. Security forces, diplomats, teachers and adults at least 65 years old will also be first in line for the shots.

Monday's shots were part of the first batch of AstraZeneca vaccines that arrived last month. Vietnam said last month that it would acquire 150 million doses via direct purchase and the COVAX program.

Malaysia's daily coronavirus case numbers have fallen to the lowest this year to 1,500.

It's good news for the country's health authorities that were reporting the most new daily cases in Asia in early 2021

The case drop came as businesses in the country's crucial palm oil sector warn of huge financial losses caused by pandemic restrictions.

Starting next month, Thailand will reduce its mandatory quarantine for travelers who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, its health ministry said.

Vaccinated travelers to the Southeast Asian country will only have to stay in quarantine for seven rather than 14 days.

kbd, jsi/dj (dpa, Reuters, AP, AFP)

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