COVID-19: WHO meeting on variants, their experts are investigating in China

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Wuhan | Experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) arrived in China on Thursday to investigate the origins of the pandemic while the agency’s emergency committee must look into new variants of the coronavirus.

• Read also: All developments in the COVID-19 pandemic

Like almost everywhere in the world, the resurgence of COVID-19 is also striking China, where the disease was first reported at the end of 2019 in Wuhan (center).

The country had largely controlled the epidemic, but on Thursday recorded its first death from the virus since last May, in Hebei province where several cities were recently subjected to containment after the appearance of outbreaks of contamination. Chinese health authorities have reported 138 new infections, the highest daily toll since March.

The new death comes as a team of 13 experts from the World Health Organization of different nationalities arrived in Wuhan on Thursday, greeted by staff in full suits.

It will be responsible for going back to the origins of COVID-19, as soon as the two-week quarantine to which the experts are subject has elapsed. Two members of the team are still in Singapore to retest COVID after testing positive, the WHO announced on Twitter.

The visit is ultra-sensitive for the Chinese power, which seeks to exclude any responsibility for the pandemic which has killed nearly 2 million people on the surface of the globen.

The WHO emergency committee, which normally meets every three months, was convened for Thursday two weeks in advance, to discuss in particular the variants of the coronavirus, one of the subjects which “require urgent debate And worry authorities around the world. Recommendations for WHO and member countries will be released after the meeting on Thursday, a statement said.

Particularly contagious, the British and South African variants of the coronavirus are swarming: the number of countries and territories where the variant initially spotted in Great Britain is found is 50, and it is 20 for the variant identified in South Africa , believes the WHO, according to whom this assessment is probably underestimated.

A third mutation, originating in the Brazilian Amazon and which Japan announced the discovery on Sunday, is being analyzed and could impact the immune response, indicates the WHO, which evokes “a worrying variant”.

New global wave

As in China, a new wave of contamination is hitting all over the world.

Still in Asia, Japan extended its state of emergency, already in place in Tokyo and its suburbs, to seven additional departments on Wednesday, including an evening closure of bars and restaurants.

Faced with the worst outbreak of cases and the worst toll in Europe with nearly 85,000 dead, the United Kingdom, re-confined due to the spread of a more contagious variant of the virus, recorded 1,564 deaths on Wednesday, the worst toll daily since the start of the pandemic.

On the continent, Portugal has resolved to a new general containment from Friday, while the virus is spreading there in an accelerated manner (more than 10,500 new cases on Wednesday) among its 10 million inhabitants.

Neighboring Spain (nearly 39,000 new cases Wednesday) is experiencing a situation of “extreme risk”, in the words of Carolina Darias, Minister of Territorial Policy.

While in Italy the government has announced its intention to extend the state of emergency until April 30, France is holding its breath: new measures will be unveiled on Thursday in the face of the increase in contamination (more than 23,000 on Wednesday) .

In Turkey, the vaccination campaign started on Thursday with the Chinese CoronaVac vaccine, administered to healthcare workers in different regions. In the Kartal Lutfi Kirdar hospital in Istanbul, the head doctor Recep Demirhan was the first caregiver in the establishment to be immunized. “Our citizens should not worry about vaccination. All vaccines available in Turkey are safe, ”he said.

Lebanon, for its part, begins the first day of a strict 11-day lockdown on Thursday, as some hospitals are starting to run out of beds.

Tunisia is also reconfigured for four days, from Thursday to Sunday, in the face of a “very dangerous” epidemiological situation, according to health authorities.

And in southern Africa, Mozambique announced on Wednesday a strengthening of health restriction measures.

Vaccine rush

The COVID-19 pandemic has killed at least 1,963,557 people worldwide since the end of December 2019, according to a report established by AFP on Wednesday.

The United States remains the most affected country in terms of both deaths (over 384,000) and cases (over 23 million). With three deaths per minute, the country on Tuesday recorded a new daily death record (4,470).

The United States announced Wednesday that it has reached the figure of 10 million people vaccinated, out of 28 million doses administered in total in 46 countries according to the WHO. But this is still insufficient to curb the epidemic.

In Cuba, also facing record contamination figures, Havana is closing its schools, bars and restaurants on Thursday and reducing its public transport to a minimum.

In Russia, President Vladimir Putin ordered to start as early as next week the vaccination against the coronavirus of all categories of the population, saying that the Sputnik-V vaccine designed by his country was the “best”.

As the epidemic spreads, governments are rushing to acquire and deliver vaccines as quickly as possible.

The United Kingdom wants to put in place “as soon as possible” a 24-hour vaccination. The goal is to vaccinate by mid-February the over 70 years and caregivers, or around 15 million people, to 2.4 million vaccinated today since December 8.

The African Union has obtained 270 million anti-Covid vaccines for the continent, which most countries do not have the means to finance the immunization of their population, announced Wednesday evening South Africa, which ensures the rotating presidency of the organization.

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