LONDON – Prime Minister Boris Johnson will take stock today on plans to ease covid-19 restrictions in England, amid speculation he would scrap rules that require people to wear masks in many places public.
Johnson is due to hold a press conference on the government’s current outlook for ‘Freedom Day’ – the plan to end remaining coronavirus restrictions on business and social interactions on July 19. A final decision will be announced on July 12 based on a series of tests, including vaccination rates and the risks posed by the new viral variants.
The UK government, which has implemented one of the longest shutdowns in the world, has lifted restrictions in a series of measures that began with the reopening of schools in March. The fourth and final step was delayed last month to allow time for more people to get vaccinated amid concerns over the rapid spread of the delta variant, first discovered in India.
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“Today we are going to explain how we can restore people’s freedoms when we reach stage four,” Johnson said in a statement ahead of his press conference. “But I must stress that the pandemic is not over and that cases will continue to increase over the coming weeks.”
Some doctors have expressed concern over the easing of restrictions as infection rates continue to rise. But there has been no equivalent increase in hospitalizations or deaths linked to covid-19, emboldening ministers who believe Britain must learn to live with the virus and that now is the time to end the remaining restrictions.
The number of new confirmed infections in the UK in the past seven days rose 67% from the previous week, but the 122 coronavirus-related deaths reported were two fewer than the week before.
Public health officials attribute the divergence in figures to the success of Britain’s vaccination program. Almost 86% of UK adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 63.4% are fully vaccinated.
In addition to the rules on wearing face masks, Johnson will present plans to relax the rules on social distancing and working from home, his office said. He will also discuss the government’s plans to certify people’s vaccination status or their recent covid-19 test results with what are commonly referred to as vaccine passports.
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In Luxembourg, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel was hospitalized on Sunday, a week after testing positive for covid-19.
The prime minister’s positive test came days after he attended a June 24-25 summit meeting with other European Union leaders in Brussels.
Bettel, 48, will remain in hospital as a precaution for 24 hours for tests and observation, the Luxembourg government said in a statement posted on its website.
Bettel received his first dose of the vaccine on May 6, he tweeted at the time. Local media reported that the Prime Minister received AstraZeneca’s photo.
Resurgence in South Africa
THE RESURGENCE OF SOUTH AFRICA
The resurgence of covid-19 in South Africa is seeing a record number of new cases every day, centered in Johannesburg and driven by the delta variant, health officials said on Sunday.
More than 26,000 new cases were reported on Saturday, up from 24,000 the day before, according to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, surpassing the largest number of new cases in previous waves and quickly bringing many hospitals to capacity. More than 13,800 covid-19 patients are currently in South African hospitals where some facilities are canceling elective surgeries to free up beds and health workers.
The official death toll in South Africa has exceeded 63,000, although statistics on excessive deaths suggest the actual number of deaths from the virus in the country could exceed 170,000.
The 2 million cases in South Africa represent more than 30% of the cases reported by the 54 African countries, according to the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
President Cyril Ramaphosa last week tightened restrictions in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus, including extending a nighttime curfew, banning the sale of alcohol, closing many schools and halting travel to destinations. and from Gauteng, the most populous province in the country which includes Johannesburg and the capital, Pretoria.
Dozens of coronavirus patients have died after a public hospital on the main island of Java, Indonesia, ran out of liquid oxygen amid a nationwide spike in covid-19 cases, a responsible for the hospital.
At least 33 patients with severe coronavirus infections died after the central supply of liquid medical oxygen was depleted on Saturday evening at the Dr Sardjito General Hospital in Yogyakarta City due to supplier delays over the weekend -end, said the spokesperson for Banu Hermawan Hospital.
The oxygen shortage at the city’s largest hospital is due to an increase in the number of patients arriving in deteriorating condition, Hermawan said.
At least 63 patients infected with the virus have died during treatment for covid-19 in hospital since Saturday – 33 of them during the period when the central supply of liquid oxygen was depleted – even though the hospital switched to using oxygen cylinders during the outage, he said. . Medical oxygen comes in liquid and compressed form.
“It was their deteriorating health that contributed the most to their deaths,” said Hermawan.
The hospital’s central oxygen supply was back on line at 4:45 a.m. Sunday, after 15 tons of liquid oxygen had been delivered.
Indonesia is grappling with an explosion of covid-19 cases that have strained its healthcare system.
Across Java, Indonesia’s most populous island, hospitals began erecting plastic tents in mid-June to serve as makeshift intensive care units, and patients waited days before to be admitted. Oxygen tanks have been deployed on the sidewalk for those lucky enough to receive them, while others have been told they will need to find their own supply.
Information for this article was provided by Danica Kirka, Andrew Meldrum and Slamet Riyadi of The Associated Press and Aiofe White of Bloomberg News (TNS).