The director general of the World Health Organization warned Monday that the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over.
“As the experience with this pandemic shows, no country can let down its guard. Complacency can be as dangerous as the virus itself. We must continue to be vigilant,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, speaking from Rome to a Southeast Asia regional WHO meeting in Nepal.
The WHO chief said there had been several recommendations aimed at providing a better response to combat the pandemic. However, the most effective step and what he said could make “the biggest difference” in the future is to find solution for all countries equitably.
“A treaty or other international agreement on pandemic preparedness and response, which will provide a much-needed foundation for global cooperation, setting the rules of the game for a more coherent and coordinated response to future epidemics and pandemics,” he said. “I don’t need to tell you that the distribution of vaccines has been terribly unfair. We’re all disappointed by the injustice.”
Tedros has recently been asking countries to prioritize vaccination distribution to countries where only 1% or 2% of the population has been inoculated.
“We must never again allow a pandemic on this scale,” he added in his remarks in Nepal. “We must never again allow an injustice on this scale.”
Australia recorded three new COVID-19 deaths in its most populous state of New South Wales and nearly 1,500 new cases of the coronavirus disease on Sunday.
Speaking to reporters in Sydney, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the peak of ongoing outbreak was expected “in the next couple of weeks.”
Regarding the vaccination efforts, Berejiklian said 40% of the adult population in her state had received both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The Australian state of Victoria recorded at least 180 new locally contracted cases of the coronavirus on Sunday. Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said the majority of people hospitalized with COVID-19 were not vaccinated. Andrews urged people to take the vaccine.
Israel announced on Sunday that it would open its borders to tourists even as it battles high rates of infection from the coronavirus.
Israel was one of the fastest nations to vaccinate its population and welcomed a limited number of vaccinated tourists in May. Plans to expand the program stalled as case numbers began to rise. The country is now facing one of the highest infection rates in the world because of the highly infectious delta variant.
Israel’s Tourism Ministry said it would begin welcoming tour groups from some countries starting September 19, provided that tourists are vaccinated and pass a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test. Officials said tourists would be required to stay in their hotel rooms until their tests for COVID-19 come back negative, a process they say should not take more than 24 hours.
In Japan, the Nikkei newspaper reported on Sunday that the government plans to issue COVID-19 vaccination certificates online.
The report said the certificates for people vaccinated from around mid-December are intended for overseas travel rather than domestic use.
In Brazil, federal health regulator Anvisa has placed a 90-day suspension on the use of more than 12 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine because they were made in a plant that had not been authorized by it.
Several cities in Brazil have begun providing vaccine booster shots, even though most citizens have yet to receive their second shots. The booster shots were prompted by concerns that older Brazilians have about the efficacy of the Sinovac vaccine, the Associated Press reported.
France, Israel, China and Chile are among those countries giving boosters to some of their older citizens, while a U.S. plan to start delivering booster shots for most Americans by September 20 is facing complications that could delay third doses for those who received the Moderna vaccine, Biden administration officials said on Friday.
Bahrain announced on Sunday that it would begin giving booster shots of the Russian-made Sputnik vaccine to any of its citizens over the age of 18 who received their second dose more than six months ago.
Japan and South Korea are planning booster shots in the fourth quarter of this year. Malaysia is also considering boosters, but Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said those who have yet to receive their first shot are being prioritized.
Thailand began giving booster shots this week, but only for health and front-line workers.
Russia, Hungary and Serbia also are giving boosters, although there has been a lack of demand in those countries for the initial shots amid abundant supplies.
According to the AP, France’s worst coronavirus outbreak is unfolding 12 time zones away from Paris, devastating Tahiti and other idyllic islands of French Polynesia.
Regional health officials said the South Pacific archipelagos lack enough oxygen, ICU beds and morgue space, and that the vaccination rate of 32.2% is just half the national average.
With more than 2,800 COVID cases per 100,000 inhabitants, the region now holds France’s record for the highest infection rate. The majority of the region's 463 documented COVID-19 deaths have taken place in the past 30 days.
The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center said early Monday that it had recorded 220.7 million global COVID-19 infections and 4.6 million deaths. The center said over 5.4 billion vaccines have been administered.
Some information for this report came from the Associated Press and Reuters.