Saudi Arabia will impose a three-year travel ban on citizens travelling to countries on the kingdom’s ‘red list’ in efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus and its new variants, state news agency SPA stated on Tuesday. It cited an unnamed interior ministry official as saying that some Saudi citizens, who in May were allowed to travel abroad without prior permission from authorities for the first time since March 2020, had violated these travel regulations. “Anyone who is proven to be involved will be subject to legal accountability and heavy penalties upon their return, and will be banned from travelling for three years,” said the official. Saudi Arabia has banned travel to a number of countries, including Afghanistan, Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Lebanon, Pakistan, South Africa, Turkey, Vietnam, and the United Arab Emirates.
On Wednesday, India reported 43,654 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, while 640 people died due to coronavirus, as per Union health ministry data. India’s number of active cases now stands at 3,99,436. The top five states which registered the maximum number of cases are Kerala with 22,129 cases, followed by Maharashtra with 6,258 cases, Mizoram with 1,845 cases, Tamil Nadu with 1,767 cases, and Odisha with 1,629 cases. More than 77% of the new cases were reported from these five states, with Kerala alone accounting for 50.69% of new infections.
While the overall number of cases in Bengaluru Urban continue to decline, areas on the outskirts of the city are seeing higher infection rates. Over the last 10 days, wards like Begur (96 cases), Horamavu (83), Varthur (72), Bellandur (67) and Hoodi (63) have accounted for the highest number of cases in the city. Experts point fingers at large apartment complexes and a floating population of migrant workers. Meanwhile, areas in the city center are witnessing the lowest number of cases.
Kerala had to halt vaccination as many of its districts, including Thiruvananthapuram, are running dry of vaccines, state Health Minister Veena George had stated yesterday. “We have zero vaccine stocks now. It seems there won’t be vaccination drive in the state for next few days,” she said. Thiruvanathapuram, Kollam, Pathanamthitta, and Alappuzha do not have any Covishield vaccine doses. Fresh vaccine batches are not expected to reach Kerala before July 29. Assuring that the rate of vaccination in the state is beyond 100%, the minister said, “There is zero wastage… We request the Center to give us more vaccines”.
As of Monday, a new financing mechanism initiated by the World Bank will allow developing countries to buy COVID-19 vaccine doses collectively from the Covax facility. Covax was set up to ensure that 92 developing territories would be able to access coronavirus vaccines to fight the pandemic, with the cost covered by donors. Under the World Bank financing arrangement, up to 430 million additional doses, or enough doses to fully vaccinate 250 million people, would be available for delivery from late 2021 to mid-2022 for these 92 countries.
Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said at the meeting of the BJP’s parliamentary party that the government was likely to start vaccinating children next month, according to sources. Experts say this will be a huge step towards reducing infection rates and breaking the chain of transmission. It will also encourage parents to start sending their young ones back to school. Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin and Zydus Cadila’s candidate are in the process of testing vaccines for children. The results of the Covaxin trials are expected to be ready by September, AIIMS chief Dr. Randeep Guleria has said.
The global COVID-19 caseload has topped 194 million, while deaths have surged to more than 4.15 million and vaccinations soared to over 3.84 billion, according to Johns Hopkins University. In its latest update on Monday morning, the University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed that the current global cases, death toll and the total number of doses administered stood at 194,092,488, 4,158,316 and 3,841,936,983, respectively. According to the CSSE USA continues to be the worst-hit country, with the world’s highest number of cases and deaths at 34,443,064 and 610,891, respectively.
Deputy Chief Minister CN Ashwath Narayan announced that both private and public institutions across Karnataka will be set to reopen from Monday. “All higher education institutions, including under-graduate and post-graduate, engineering and polytechnic colleges across the state will reopen on Monday to resume classes as per the guidelines to ensure Covid appropriate behaviour,” Narayan said in a statement here. A committee of health experts consulted on the decision, and ruled that students who have taken at least one dose of the vaccine will be allowed back on campus.
As infections are on the decline, most experts predict one of two likely scenarios for the predicted third wave of COVID-19. “First, the virus continues to infect people slowly until herd immunity is attained, and second, a new, more infectious variant leads to an increase in cases till everyone has immunity. But it seems the third wave won’t be as severe as the second,” said Dr. Jugal Kishore, head of the Community Medicine department at Safdarjung Hospital. A large number of Indians have achieved immunity either through previous infection or through vaccination, however it is important for citizens to continue to strictly follow COVID-19 protocol.
Last week, the World Health Organization said a second stage of the international probe into COVID-19’s origins should include thorough audits of Chinese labs, amid increasing pressure from the U.S. for an investigation into a biotech lab in Wuhan. China on Thursday was less than pleased to hear the proposal. China’s Vice Health Minister Zeng Yixin told reporters Thursday that he was “extremely surprised” by the plan, which he said showed “disrespect for common sense and arrogance towards science”.