BEIRUT – Lebanese authorities tightened a nationwide lockdown Monday, including an 11-day, 24-hour curfew, amid a dramatic surge in coronavirus infections and growing criticism of uncoordinated policies many blame for the spread of the virus.
News of the restrictions to be implemented starting Thursday morning sparked panicked grocery buying as people lined up outside of supermarkets to stock up, raising fears the crowds could further spread the virus.
Lebanon had only just announced a nationwide lockdown last week. But many, including the health minister and officials on a government committee, considered it to be too lenient because it exempted many sectors, such as florists, plant nurseries and factories. Hospitals, meanwhile, were running out of beds amid rapidly multiplying COVID-19 cases.
UK opens 7 mass vaccination sites
The U.K. opened seven mass vaccination centers Monday as it moved into the most perilous moment of the COVID-19 pandemic, with exhausted medical staff reeling under the pressure of packed hospitals and increasing admissions.
The government is trying to vaccinate some 15 million people by Feb. 15 – but Britain's National Health Service is struggling to treat those who are ill now.
“I think everybody accepts that this is the most dangerous time we've really had in terms of numbers into the NHS,” England's chief medical officer, Dr. Chris Whitty, told the BBC.
Fever tents set up in South Africa
South Africa is struggling to cope with a spike in COVID-19 cases that has already overwhelmed many hospitals, as people returning from widespread holiday travel have spread the country's more infectious coronavirus variant.
Of particular concern is Gauteng province, the country's most populous, which includes the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria. Authorities say it is already seeing a spike in new infections after people traveled to coastal areas, where the variant is dominant.
Already the Steve Biko Academic Hospital in the Pretoria area has reached capacity and has erected “fever tents” outside the main building to house people who are awaiting admission to the COVID-19 wards.
India's fast-tracked shot raises doubts
As the director of a large hospital in the Indian state that has seen the country's most coronavirus cases, Dr. S.P. Kalantri had been waiting for the day a vaccine would be approved and bring protection not only to his community but also himself.
But now he has his doubts about getting the shots after India took a regulatory shortcut to approve a vaccine by Indian drugmaker Bharat Biotech before late clinical trials showed it was effective in preventing illness from coronavirus infections.
“I'd rather wait and watch,” said Kalantri, who runs a hospital in Maharashtra state's Wardha district. He's not alone. Several groups and unions representing scientists and doctors have also expressed their concerns over scant evidence of the effectiveness of the vaccine.
China visit set for WHO officials
Experts from the World Health Organization are due to arrive in China this week for a long-anticipated investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, the government said Monday.
The experts will arrive on Thursday and meet with Chinese counterparts, the National Health Commission said in a one-sentence statement that gave no other details.
It wasn't immediately clear whether the experts will travel to the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first detected in late 2019.
Zimbabwe bans corpse tradition
Zimbabwe, battling a spike in new COVID-19 cases, has banned families from transporting their dead relatives between cities, as part of new measures to stop traditional funeral rites that are believed to be increasing the spread of the disease.
The announcement stops the custom where families take the dead to their areas of birth for ceremonies and burial. Police have also banned public viewing of bodies and the tradition of having a corpse stay overnight in the family's home before burial.
“Police will only clear body movements for burial straight from a funeral parlor/hospital mortuary to the burial site,” police spokesman Paul Nyathi said Monday in the state-run Herald newspaper.