British health officials are reactivating emergency hospitals that were built at the start of the pandemic as the country struggles to cope with the spread of a more infectious variant of the coronavirus.
A spokeswoman for Britain’s National Health Service said health workers are preparing to reopen London’s Nightingale hospitals should the need arise, according to the Reuters news agency. The temporary Nightingale hospitals were set up by the military in locations around the city and have remained on standby after receiving little use during the first wave of the coronavirus.
On Friday, Britain recorded 53,285 new cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. That is down slightly from the previous day’s record of 55,892, but it is the fourth day in a row that new infections have surpassed 50,000. That is about double the daily number only a few weeks ago.
British health officials say the spike in new cases is the result of the new variant of the coronavirus, first identified in England, which is more contagious.
The new strain has led to renewed lockdowns in Britain, as well as global travel restrictions on travelers from Britain.
The New York Times reported Friday that 33 countries have now detected the new coronavirus variant and more than 40 countries have barred travelers arriving from Britain.
Turkey became the latest country on Friday to ban Britons from entering the country after detecting 15 cases of the new coronavirus variant. Turkey said all of the new cases were recent arrivals from Britain.
The Philippines said it would prohibit the entry of foreign travelers from the United States after the new coronavirus variant was detected in Florida. Officials said the ban would last until January 15.
Florida is the third U.S. state to detect the new coronavirus variant after Colorado and California.
Meanwhile in France, the government announced Friday that it would impose an earlier curfew in 15 regions of the country.
France has the highest COVID-19 case count in Western Europe with more than 2.6 million, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
Ireland said Friday that it had under-reported coronavirus cases in recent days by more than 9,000, as its reporting system came under strain. The country reported a daily record of 1,754 confirmed cases Friday.
Italy reported 462 new virus deaths Friday. The country has the highest coronavirus death toll in Europe at more than 74,600, according to Johns Hopkins University.
In China, two major airports in the country’s northeast are requiring departing passengers to show a negative test result before they can board their planes.
The new procedures at airports in Shenyang and Dalian come as the country seeks to halt a small but persistent outbreak of COVID-19 cases north of the capital, Beijing. On Friday, China reported 19 new virus cases, including 10 that were brought from outside the country.
In the United States, coronavirus infections topped 20 million on Friday while deaths surpassed 346,000, according to Johns Hopkins data. The country has nearly a quarter of the world’s total COVID-19 cases, which is more than 83.8 million.
India has 10.2 million cases and more than 148,000 deaths, Johns Hopkins reported, while Brazil has 7.6 million infections with nearly 195,000 deaths.
The World Health Organization on Thursday approved the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for emergency use, a move aimed at helping the developing world gain access to the vaccine sooner.
However, the super-cold temperature the vaccine must be kept at — minus 70 degrees Celsius — makes shipping and storing it a challenge for developing countries.
COVAX, a global effort backed by the WHO to buy and distribute vaccines to poorer countries, has commitments for 2 billion doses of vaccine so far and is in talks with Pfizer-BioNTech to buy some of its vaccine, which is 95% effective after two doses.
Another COVID-19 vaccine, this one developed by a Chinese drugmaker, on Thursday became the first to be granted official approval by China’s government.
China’s National Medical Products Administration announced the conditional approval of a vaccine developed by Beijing Biological Products Institute, a subsidiary of state-owned Sinopharm. The regulatory agency granted the approval a day after Sinopharm said the vaccine had an efficacy rate of 79.3% against the coronavirus in a final large-scale clinical trial.
However, outside experts have questioned Sinopharm’s claims because it has not provided necessary data for it to be independently verified.
The Sinopharm vaccine joins other potential coronavirus vaccines to receive approval from governments around the world.
Britain’s medical regulatory agency announced Wednesday that it had granted emergency authorization of a coronavirus vaccine developed jointly by British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca and Oxford University.
Late-stage clinical trials of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine revealed it to be 70% effective against COVID-19. The vaccine had a 62% efficacy rate for participants given a full two doses, but tests of a smaller subgroup revealed it to be 90% effective when given a half-dose followed by a full dose weeks later.
Source: Voice of America