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The Covid-19 outbreak had a major impact on almost every aspect of our daily lives. Travel and social restrictions have kept people at home for the past two years. Online shopping and grocery deliveries have become increasingly integrated into our lives. There is one area that has not been sufficiently analyzed yet, but it is of great importance for a large part of society.

We are talking about education.

Image source: Pexels

NOT EVERYTHING WAS SO BAD

Surveys showed that most interviewees enjoyed the flexibility of the remote format. They could decide for themselves when they wanted to study, as many students now began recording lessons. They also no longer had to travel all the way to classrooms, which was a significant time saver.

Another plus was that they were now forced to get to know about certain software and tools. This knowledge is important overall and makes them more competitive in the 21st century. Video conferencing software and all the tools associated with interactive classrooms were very popular and used daily. Their use will expand in the nearer future.

However, it was increasingly influential to have your own computer and a stable Internet connection. This involved investment. The total number of households that had access grew during the pandemic.

CHALLENGES OF ONLINE CLASSROOMS

Still, a number of them faced challenges. For example, they had to find a suitable location for classes. In some countries, this even involved school or university policies. That students or schoolchildren needed, above all, a space to themselves in order to learn. However, this did not correspond to the reality of many low-income families around the world. Young people also find it difficult to concentrate and stare at screens for hours.

Less social contact and interaction on campus led to rising stress levels and a decline in motivation. Let us not forget that going to university is not just about seminars and lectures, but also about personal development and making contacts.

THE EDTECH MARKET

However, digital tools for teaching have emerged as one of the winners of this crisis. In the US alone, there has been a 90% increase. The e-learning market is expected to grow to over $1 trillion by 2027.

One of the most popular tools has been Education Cloud Technology. The current demand will almost double its value to $947 billion by 2026. The Software as a Service segment will play a prominent role. These are externally hosted, subscription-based applications that can be accessed over the Internet no matter where you are.

Besides the Cloud technology Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning influenced the way of educating. Ever more people subscribed to learning platforms, for software skills or even languages. Hereby it was necessary to tailor the learning process to the individual and its time and effort.

This market still has room for expansion to meet the needs of customers. Not only regarding universities and teachers but also to individuals. Undoubtedly, further investments will pay off.

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Image source Public Domain Pictures

Australia is now reopening its borders tot the rest of the world for the first time in nearly two years, bringing joyful family reunions and a boost to tourism.

Australia imposed some of the world’s strictest travel bans after shutting itself off in March 2020 due to coronavirus pandemic.

Australians and some others were allowed to return from late last year, but most foreigners have had to wait.

On February 21, there were tearful reunions at Sydney Airport as hundreds of people began arriving on flights.

Double-vaccinated visitors do not need to quarantine, but unvaccinated travellers must do so in a hotel for up to 14 days at their own expense.

Novak Djokovic Set to Be Deported from Australia After Loosing Visa Battle

More than 50 international flights were due to land on February 21. Travellers can enter all states except Western Australia, which remains closed until March 3 and will require three jabs.

“What wonderful, wonderful news for our tourism industry and the 660,000 people employed in it,” said Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan

Australia had about 9.5 million overseas visitors in 2019.

Dan Tehan said he hoped for a strong rebound in the tourism sector, which has been hit by domestic travel bans too.

Australia’s strict measures drew criticism for separating families and stifling businesses, but they were also credited with preventing many deaths before vaccines were available.

Australia has had about 4,900 Covid deaths.

Tennis star Novak Djokovic is set to be deported from Australia after losing a last-ditch court bid to stay in the country.

Judges rejected the Serbian’s challenge to the government’s decision to cancel his visa on “health and good order” grounds.

The world number one’s hopes of defending his Australian Open title and winning a record 21st Grand Slam in Melbourne are over.

Novak Djokovic, 34, said he was “extremely disappointed” but accepted the ruling.

He said in a statement: “I will co-operate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country.”

It was not immediately clear when he would leave.

Novak Djokovic’s supporters fell silent outside the courtroom as the decision was announced.

Australian PM Scott Morrison welcomed “the decision to keep our borders strong and keep Australians safe”.

“Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected,” he said.

Novak Djokovic launched the case after Immigration Minister Alex Hawke used his ministerial powers to cancel the unvaccinated player’s visa, arguing that his presence in the country risked fanning anti-vaccine sentiment.

It was the second time Novak Djokovic’s visa had been revoked, after a first cancelation over not following Covid entry rules was overturned by a different judge.

Image source Reuters

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Novak Djokovic’s Australia Visa Revoked for Second Time

Novak Djokovic’s Australia Entry Delayed over Visa Issue

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During January 16 court hearing before a three-judge panel, Novak Djokovic’s defense unsuccessfully argued that the grounds given by the government were “invalid and illogical”.

Chief Justice James Allsop said the federal court’s ruling was based on the lawfulness and legality of the minister’s decision, not on the “merits or wisdom of that decision”.

Full reasoning for the ruling will be made public in the coming days, he said.

Deportation orders usually include a three-year ban on returning to Australia, though this can be waived in certain circumstances.

The January 16 decision marks the end of a 10-day saga over Novak Djokovic’s Australian visa.

There has been much public anger in Australia over the player’s attempt to enter the country unvaccinated. The federal government has repeatedly said people must comply with the strict laws in place to deal with the pandemic, and that no-one is “above the law”.

Novak Djokovic was originally granted a medical exemption to enter Australia by two different independent health panels – one commissioned by Tennis Australia, the other by the state government of Victoria – after testing positive for coronavirus in mid-December.

However, the Australian Border Force detained him on January 5 for not meeting federal coronavirus requirements.

A judge later overturned that decision, but the government stepped in on January 14 to revoke the visa again, saying doing so was in the public interest.

Although Novak Djokovic is not vaccinated against Covid-19, he has not actively promoted anti-vax disinformation. However, Australian anti-vaxxers have been using the hashtag #IStandWithDjokovic on social media.

Australian opposition politician Kristina Keneally accused the government of a “litany of failures” in dealing with Djokovic’s visa application, as she questioned why the tennis player was granted a visa to begin with.

The government “mishandled Novak Djokovic’s case, undermined Australia’s border security settings, and provided a lightning rod for the anti-vaccination movement”, she argued.

In his statement on January 16, Novak Djokovic said he was “uncomfortable” with the focus placed on him because of the visa row.

“I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love,” he said.

Italy’s Salvatore Caruso, who is ranked 150th in the world, will now replace Novak Djokovic in his match against Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic on January 17.

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Australia has canceled Novak Djokovic’s visa for a second time in a row over the tennis star’s right to remain in the country unvaccinated.

The decision on “health and good order” grounds means the 34-year-old Serbian could be deported and get a three-year visa ban.

However, Novak Djokovic can still launch another legal challenge to remain in Australia.

The men’s tennis No 1 was scheduled to play in the Australian Open, which begins on January 17.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said in a statement: “Today I exercised my power… to cancel the visa held by Mr. Novak Djokovic on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so.”

PM Scott Morrison said that the decision followed “careful consideration.”

Alluding to the heavy criticism his government has faced for allowing the unvaccinated player into Australia, the prime minister said: “Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected.”

Novak Djokovic will meet immigration officials in Melbourne on January 15, and will be allowed to stay in his current accommodation on January 14 – some Australian media had speculated that he may be moved to an immigration detention hotel.

The nine-time Australian Open winner was hoping to defend his title next week, which if he won, would make him the most successful male tennis player in history with a record 21 Grand Slam titles.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

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For the moment, Novak Djokovic remains in the Australian Open draw and is due to face fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic early next week. If he is deported, however, his slot will most likely go to Russian player Andrey Rublev.

Novak Djokovic’s visa was first revoked shortly after his arrival in Melbourne on January 6, after Australian border Force officials said he had “failed to provide appropriate evidence” to receive a vaccine exemption.

The palyer’s initial announcement that he was coming to play in the Open prompted a backlash from some Australians, who have lived under long and strict Covid lockdowns, because it was unclear if he could meet Australia’s strict entry rules. Melbourne in particular was hard bit by lockdowns, enduring 262 days under heavy restrictions last year.

Novak Djokovic was detained for hours at the airport’s immigration control when he first arrived, and then spent days at an immigration hotel. Days later his visa was reinstated by a judge, who ordered his release, ruling that border officials ignored correct procedure when he arrived.

However, on January 14, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke cancelled Djokovic’s visa under separate powers in Australia’s Migration Act.

The act allows the minister to deport anyone he deems a potential risk to “the health, safety or good order of the Australian community”.

However, Novak Djokovic can still appeal this.

It comes after Djokovic addressed allegations that his agent had accidentally made a false declaration on his travel form.

Novak Djokovic also admitted meeting a journalist and having a photoshoot after testing positive for Covid-19.

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Image by Annette Persinger from Pixabay

As 2021 comes to a close, we’ve all had to deal with a multitude of changes within our communities. Ever since March of 2020, people around the globe have had to navigate local regulations, nationwide mandates, and wave after wave of COVID-19 case spikes. But while certain parts of our lives saw little growth, others saw a surge in popularity.

For example, the home gym equipment space reported record earnings during the onset of the pandemic and for the entire year of 2020. And this was mirrored all throughout the home health space.

But one recreational activity that saw a huge spike in popularity was fishing. Reasonably so, many people who were stuck at home for months on end were dying to get out of the house. And fishing offers this opportunity in wide-open spaces.

Here, we’ll explore why fishing has seen a continuous uptick in popularity over the last couple of years.

Getting Outside

Across the nation during the month of March, just about every federal, state, and local park, golf courses, and the like were all taped off, locked up, or shut down entirely due to fear of COVID-19 spreading. And many states and local communities kept these outdoor areas closed for a considerable amount of time.

But one thing that local community leaders couldn’t do was close down open spaces, public lands, or our favorite fishing holes.

While some bodies of water were restricted during the shutdown, many remained open. And this is where outdoor enthusiasts and people from all walks of life found sanctuary.

Fishing became a great way to get out of the house and deal with the shutdown and mandated quarantines. And with great sites like tailoredtackle.com, you could order fishing tackle from home and keep from going bonkers in the house for days on end.

Grocery Prices

Not only is fishing a sport and a pastime, but it’s also a great way to provide food for the family. And with recent hikes in prices in grocery stores across the country, fishing is a perfect alternative to buying costly groceries.

For example, the price of beef alone is up between 16 and 17 percent by some calculations in 2021. And the price of fish and shellfish has risen up over 18 percent. This means that you’re getting less for more money, and nobody wants to spend extra money during hard economic times.

The price of a fishing license ranges from 5 to 20 dollars on average, depending on what state you live in. And with this very affordable price, you can go out and fish every single day and have a meal ready at the end of your trip. But only if you have solid fishing skills.

Relaxation

With all of the undue stress the pandemic has caused around the world, you’ve probably noticed that many people are on edge, and far more people have reported issues with anxiety and depression in the last couple of years.

The stress that COVID-19 has caused doesn’t help matters when a recovery is underway. As such, finding a stress-free activity has been a goal of many people across the country and the world.

Fishing offers one the ability to get out in the natural world and release stress. And there are many scientific studies that can back up this claim.

For example, moving water causes a release of negative ions. And being around moving water with this ion discharge has been shown to create a sense of calm within the human body. Additionally, you’re also out in the sunshine getting plenty of Vitamin D and breathing in large amounts of fresh air.

Arguably, fishing is everything the doctor ordered to help reduce stress.

As we all continue dealing with COVID-19, it’s only through being creative and finding new ways to cope that we’ll be able to move forward with our lives and with our sanity. And fishing has proven to be one of these activities.

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Flag Day is celebrated on June 14 each year to honor the United States flag and to commemorate the flag’s adoption

The US is reopening its borders on November 8 to fully vaccinated visitors, ending a 20-month entry ban.

The ban was imposed by former President Donald Trump due to Covid-19.

It has affected non-US citizens from over 30 countries, including the UK and EU states, separating families and stalling tourism.

Airlines are expecting a flood of visitors as the restrictions are lifted for those who are fully vaccinated, and undergo testing and contact tracing.

In an effort to stop the spread of coronavirus, US borders were initially closed to travelers from China in early 2020. The restrictions were then extended to other countries.

The rules barred entry to most non-US citizens who had been in the UK and a number of other European countries, as well as China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil.

Under the new rules, foreign travelers will need to show proof of vaccination before flying, get a negative Covid-19 test result within three days of traveling, and hand over their contact information. They will not have to quarantine.

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The US land borders with neighbors Canada and Mexico will also reopen for the fully vaccinated.

Thousands of migrants have arrived in areas along Mexico’s border with the US, hoping to take advantage of the newly-relaxed rules.

In southern Mexico, a new caravan of thousands of mainly Central American migrants – many of them children – has crossed from Chiapas to Oaxaca state, with the ultimate aim of reaching the border and being accepted into the US.

The Migrant Alliance Group, a Mexico-based advocacy group, has warned that false information is being spread about the new rules in some communities – with many asylum seekers assuming that they will now receive more favorable treatment from border officials.

Businesses in cities along the border with Mexico are hoping for a boost after struggling under America’s Covid-induced restrictions.

United Airlines says it expects a 50% rise in international inbound passengers, while Delta’s chief executive Ed Bastian warned travelers to expect queues.

The EU recommended allowing American travelers into the bloc in June, while visitors from the US have been able to travel to the UK since July 28.

Image source: Merck

Molnupiravir, an experimental drug for severe Covid developed by Merck, cuts the risk of hospitalization or death by about half, interim clinical trial results suggest.

The tablet was given twice a day to patients recently diagnosed with the disease.

Merck said its results were so positive that outside monitors had asked to stop the trial early.

The drug-maker said it would apply for emergency use authorization for the drug in the US in the next two weeks.

Dr Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said the results were “very good news”, but urged caution until theFood and Drug Administration (FDA) had reviewed the data.

If authorized by regulators, molnupiravir would be the first oral antiviral medication for Covid-19.

Molnupiravir, which was originally developed to treat influenza, is designed to introduce errors into the genetic code of the virus, preventing it from spreading in the body.

An analysis of 775 patients in the study found:

  • 7.3% of those given molnupiravir were hospitalized
  • that compares with 14.1% of patients who were given a placebo or dummy pill
  • there were no deaths in the molnupiravir group, but eight patients who were given a placebo in the trial later died of Covid

The data was published in a press release and has not yet been peer-reviewed.

Unlike most Covid vaccines, which target the spike protein on the outside of the virus, the treatment works by targeting an enzyme the virus uses to make copies of itself.

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Merck said that should make it equally effective against new variants of the virus as it evolves in the future.

Trial results suggest molnupiravir needs to be taken early after symptoms develop to have an effect. An earlier study in patients who had already been hospitalized with severe Covid was halted after disappointing results.

Merck is the first company to report trial results of a pill to treat Covid, but other companies are working on similar treatments. Its US rival Pfizer has recently started late-stage trials of two different antiviral tablets, while Swiss company Roche is working on a similar medication.

The company has said it expects to produce 10 million courses of molnupiravir by the end of 2021. The US government has already agreed to buy $1.2 billion worth of the drug if it receives approval from the regulatory body, the FDA.

Merck said it is in ongoing discussion with other countries and has also agreed licensing deals with a number of generic manufacturers to supply the treatment to low and middle-income countries.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Pfizer-BioNTech’s two-dose Covid-19 vaccine has become the first to receive full approval from the FDA.

The vaccine had initially been given emergency use authorization. Its two shots, three weeks apart, are now fully approved for those aged 16 and older.

The approval is expected to set off more vaccine mandates by employers and organizations across the US.

It comes amid lingering vaccine hesitancy among many Americans.

In a statement, the FDA said its review for approval included data from approximately 44,000 people. The vaccine, which will now be marketed as Comirnaty, was found to be 91% effective in preventing Covid disease.

Acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock said that the public “can be very confident” the vaccine meets high safety, effectiveness and manufacturing quality standards.

Pfizer vaccine still has emergency use authorization for children aged 12 to 15.

The vaccine is being provided at no cost to Americans.

The FDA initially gave Pfizer temporary authorization – a clearance given if the agency determines the benefits of a product outweigh potential risks during a public health emergency.

This full approval is essentially permanent. The licensing process requires companies to provide the FDA with information on how and where the product is made, as well as other clinical testing data.

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Critics had been calling on the FDA to speed up this approval process as the US struggled with dropping vaccination rates earlier this year. The spread of the contagious Delta variant has already given some hard-hit regions a bump in vaccination rates in recent weeks.

While the agency took steps to increase staff and resources, it had previously said it would take six months to get the required data.

The approval ultimately came less than four months after Pfizer-BioNTech filed for licensing in early May – the fastest vaccine approval in the FDA’s more than 100 year history.

Polling data released at the end of June by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that about 30% of unvaccinated American results said they would be more likely to get a vaccine if it received full FDA approval. The number rises to nearly 50% among Americans taking a “wait and see” approach to vaccines.

In a TV address on August 23, President Joe Biden spoke directly to the “millions” of Americans he said were waiting for full and final FDA approval.

“The moment you’ve been waiting for is here,” he said.

“It’s time for you to go get your vaccination. Get it today.”

Additionally, President Biden called on private sector companies and nonprofits to require employees to get vaccinated or “face strict requirements”.

Companies, healthcare systems, universities and other organizations are now expected to announce vaccine requirements as the country embarks on a return to normalcy. The US military has also said the vaccine will become mandatory for 1.3 million active-duty troops upon FDA approval.

To date, more than 92 million vaccinated Americans – more than half of the total – have received the Pfizer vaccine.

China has rejected the next stage of a WHO plan to investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

The World Health Organization wants to audit laboratories in the area the virus was first identified.

Zeng Yixin, China’s deputy health minister, said this showed “disrespect for common sense and arrogance toward science”.

WHO experts said it was very unlikely the virus escaped from a Chinese lab, but the theory has endured.

Investigators were able to visit Wuhan – the city where the virus was first detected in December 2019 – in January 2021.

However, earlier this month WHO chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus outlined the terms of the inquiry’s next phase. This included looking at certain science research institutions.

He has now called on China to be more co-operative about the early stages of the outbreak.

Dr. Tedros urged China to “be transparent, to be open and co-operate” with investigators and provide raw patient data that had not been shared during the first probe.

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Speaking at a press conference on July 22, Zeng Yixin said he was extremely surprised by the WHO proposal because it focused on alleged violations of China’s laboratory protocols.

He said it was “impossible” for China to accept the terms, adding that the country had submitted its own origins-tracing recommendations.

“We hope the WHO would seriously review the considerations and suggestions made by Chinese experts and truly treat the origin tracing of the Covid-19 virus as a scientific matter, and get rid of political interference,” Reuters quoted Zeng Yixin as saying.

Yuan Zhiming, director of the National Biosafety Laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, also appeared at the press conference. He said the virus was of natural origin and maintained no virus leak or staff infections had occurred at the facility since it opened in 2018.

More than 4 million people have died worldwide since the start of the pandemic and the WHO has faced growing international pressure to further investigate the origins of the virus.

Morgan Stanley has reported an 87 percent jump in profits to $1.65 billion in Q3 2014

Morgan Stanley’s staff and clients will be barred from entering the investment bank’s New York offices if they are not fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

According to a person familiar with the matter, unvaccinated employees will need to work remotely.

The policy comes into effect next month, in a move aimed to allow the lifting of other Covid-related rules.

Last week, the Wall Street giant’s chief executive called on workers to return to the office.

An internal memo said: “Starting July 12 all employees, contingent workforce, clients and visitors will be required to attest to being fully vaccinated to access Morgan Stanley buildings in New York City and Westchester.”

The move will allow the company to remove restrictions in offices on face coverings and social distancing.

The policy currently operates on an honor system, but the bank may later decide to require proof of vaccination status.

Morgan Stanley had already implemented so-called “vaccine-only” workspaces in some departments, including institutional securities and wealth management.

Earlier this month, Morgan Stanley chief executive James Gorman said: “If you can go into a restaurant in New York City, you can come into the office.”

Speaking at a conference, James Gorman said he would be “very disappointed” if US-based workers had not returned by September.

It came as a number of banks are taking a tough position on home-working.

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Jamie Dimon, the boss of America’s biggest bank JP Morgan, recently said he wanted US staff back in the office from July.

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs bankers were instructed to report their vaccine status ahead of returning to their desks earlier this month.

In December, the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency, gave the go-ahead for companies to bar unvaccinated staff from workplaces, subject to exceptions for religious and medical reasons.

Barclays’ chief executive Jes Staley, said in February that working from home was “not sustainable”. At a virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum, he said: “It will increasingly be a challenge to maintain the culture and collaboration that these large financial institutions seek to have and should have.”

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With 2020 now over, people are ready to put the isolation factors associated with the COVID-19 pandemic behind them. For many, the first order of business is travel! Currently, the demand for travel in the U.S. is high. However, the industry has changed since the 2020 interim year of lockdown and this in turn is influencing traveler habits. Here’s what we can expect to see.

Travel is Booming

Once vaccination options were announced, people immediately began to think about summer travel. During the first week of March 2021, Airbnb and VRBO saw a surge in bookings that even exceeded pre-pandemic levels. Other travel companies, such as airlines, hotels and online travel platforms, were also the busiest they’d been since before the pandemic.

This trend hasn’t stopped, and industry experts are projecting summer travel could thrive. A Tripadvisor survey in April found more than half of Americans planned to travel, but 97% planned domestic travel. Travel agencies report that business is shaping up to exceed expectations. Rising airline prices, typical annual gas increases, and even difficulty securing rental cars (at higher than normal prices) are additional signs of increased travel.

Accommodation Preferences

For the most part, hotels are projected to make a big comeback as travelers become more comfortable and ready to explore beyond their backyards, but vacation rentals are still the accommodation of choice due to people preferring to avoid crowds and shared spaces. People have generally gotten used to enjoying certain aspects of social distancing and this may not change as things get back to normal.

Families especially like to avoid the cramped conditions of a hotel room, where the kids have to be taken everywhere to eat and to be entertained. They have long found that rental accommodations with their own kitchens and a washer/dryer, and loaded with in-house entertainments and attractions are the way to keep the whole family happy and actually let Mom get some rest. Others are catching on to this, and Gatlinburg cabins are booming this year, as nearby Great Smoky Mountains National Park, already America’s most visited national park, sees record-breaking numbers of visitors.

New Travel Trends

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted the way people live and this is undoubtedly overlapping with their travel preferences. Workcations have now become a thing, as many employers embrace work from home – having learned during the pandemic that productivity didn’t drop just because people were out of the office. As a result, up to 80% of employers plan to allow remote work at least part of the time.

Workers have grasped the options for workcation travel, such as working for an extended period of time at a beachfront rental, or spending a week or two in a cabin by a mountainside lake, or even moving to another city and exploring how the locals live for a month or two. The possibilities are endless as people discover new ways to tick off their bucket-list places without using up valuable vacation time.

Pod Travel happens when people plan secluded trips with others they trust, to minimize risks associated with group travel. Travel pods are groups consisting of two or more unrelated households, multigenerational groups, extended families, solo travelers, and friend groups.

The idea is that everyone agrees to specific health protocols before and during the trip, even including a rapid test before meeting up to assure self and others of a clean bill of health. On the trip, participants stay contained within their pod to reduce exposure to other travelers. Travelers going pod-style often rent large homes, or charter boats, reserve small hotels, arrange tours designed for large private groups, or go camping.

Staying near family has renewed interest from people largely separated from their loved ones during the pandemic. Family visits are increasingly popular and the next few years will likely be spent catching up with family. Travelers are likely to stay with family or reserve a nearby rental home where they can socialize more privately. Multi-generational living has already been on the rise in America, and the same may be true for vacationing.

Health and Budget-Conscious

Going forward, travelers are likely to be more focused on safety and budget. Increased vigilance about health protocols and being budget-minded are likely to be dominating factors for travel planning even after this initial travel rush (aka revenge travel) is over.

The COVID-19 pandemic was an eye-opener and people will be more conscious of sanitary practices and promoting good health. Consumers are also less likely to take anything for granted – a travel opportunity today may not be there tomorrow, as the pandemic showed us. On the other hand, many have noticed how much money they didn’t spend in 2020 and are likely to be less impulsive and, instead, be driven by price.

Consumer Expectations

Consumer expectations are also evolving, and the industry is changing to suit. Companies associated with travel have been making goodwill gestures to try and lure people back. Hotel chains charging resort and parking fees are now lifting them, while airlines are offering more promotions and easier ticket changes.

Cleanliness is now a high value: accommodations, rental cars and airlines are promoting deep cleaning protocols. Businesses are discouraging people from traveling while sick. And the industry as a whole is offering more flexible refund policies and better customer service across the board.

From the traveler’s point of view, touchless and digital experiences enhance just about any aspect of travel, because people like the ease and control they have from their phones. The pandemic brought to the fore many desires for improvement that travelers had long held. Now, as the travel industry embraces its returning wave of travelers, we could see many improvements that make the nuts and bolts of travel easier and more fun.

China’s Sinovac Covid vaccine has been approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) for emergency use.

Sinovac is the second Chinese vaccine to receive the green light from the WHO, after Sinopharm.

The WHO approval opens the door for the vaccine to be used in the Covax program, which aims to ensure fair access to vaccines.

Sinovac, which has already been used in several countries, has been recommended for over 18s, with a second dose two to four weeks later.

The emergency approval means the Chinese vaccine “meets international standards for safety, efficacy and manufacturing”, the WHO said.

Studies showed that Sinovac prevented symptomatic disease in more than half of those vaccinated and prevented severe symptoms and hospitalization in 100% of those studied, it added.

It is hoped that the decision to list the Chinese vaccine for emergency use will give a boost to the Covax initiative, which has been struggling with supply problems.

“The world desperately needs multiple Covid-19 vaccines to address the huge access inequity across the globe,” said Mariangela Simao, the WHO’s assistant director general for access to health products.

“We urge manufacturers to participate in the Covax facility, share their know-how and data and contribute to bringing the pandemic under control,” she said.

As well as China, Sinovac is already being administered in countries including Chile, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Thailand and Turkey.

Sinovac says it has supplied more than 600 million doses at home and abroad as of the end of May. It says more than 430 million doses have been administered.

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One of Sinovac’s main advantages is that it can be stored in a standard refrigerator at 2-8 degrees Celsius. This means Sinovac is a lot more useful to developing countries which might not be able to store large amounts of vaccine at low temperatures.

The emergency approval came as the heads of the WHO, the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank appealed for a $50 billion investment fund to help end the pandemic.

In a joint statement they said the world had reached a perilous point, and that inequalities in access to vaccines risked prolonging the pandemic, and many more deaths.

They have called for the money to be invested in areas including vaccine production, oxygen supplies, and Covid-19 treatments, ensuring they are distributed fairly.

They also called on wealthy countries to donate vaccine doses immediately to developing nations.

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Americans are advised to avoid 80% of countries worldwide because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a note to the media about the US state department’s updated travel guidance, it said the pandemic continued to “pose unprecedented risks to travelers”.

The current US “Do Not Travel” advisory covers 34 out of 200 countries.

Covid-19 has now claimed more than three million lives worldwide – more than half a million of them in the US.

The WHO warned the world was “approaching the highest rate of infection” so far, despite the global rollout of vaccination programs.

The state department said its decision to update its travel advisories was to bring it more in line with those from the CDC and “does not imply a reassessment of the current health situation in a given country”.

However, it said the move would “result in a significant increase in the number of countries at Level 4: Do Not Travel, to approximately 80% of countries worldwide”. Anyone planning to travel to a country in the remaining 20% is advised to reconsider before proceeding.

The state department has not revealed which countries will be added to Level 4 – the highest of its four risk levels. Guidance will be issued individually for each country in the next few days.

Currently, only three places in the world are assessed at the lowest tier – Level 1, which advises “Exercise normal precautions”. They are Macau, Taiwan and New Zealand.

Even Antarctica is at Level 2 – “Exercise increased caution”, an extra warning to exercise caution because of the risk of terrorism.

The UK is at Level 3: “Reconsider travel”.

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The CDC currently recommends all Americans refrain from travelling domestically until they have been fully vaccinated and warns that international travel “poses additional risks” even for those vaccinated.

In addition, all air passengers coming to the US, including US citizens, must have a negative Covid test result or documentation of recovery from the virus before they board a flight.

While more than 860 million doses of coronavirus vaccine have been administered in 165 countries worldwide, many countries are still struggling to contain the virus.

Brazil has recorded the third-highest number of cases and, at 368,749, the second-highest number of deaths in the world.

Canada has also reported a recent rise in cases and Papua New Guinea has been highlighted as a cause for concern.

While some countries – such as Israel and the UK – have secured and delivered doses to a large proportion of their population, many more countries are still waiting for their first shipments to arrive.

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According to Johns Hopkins University, the number of people who have died worldwide in the Covid-19 pandemic has surpassed three million.

The milestone comes the day after WHO chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned the world was “approaching the highest rate of infection” so far.

India – experiencing a second wave – recorded more than 230,000 new cases on April 17 alone.

Almost 140 million cases have been recorded since the pandemic began.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned on April 16 that “cases and deaths are continuing to increase at worrying rates”.

He added that “globally, the number of new cases per week has nearly doubled over the past two months”.

The US, India and Brazil – the countries with the most recorded infections – have accounted for more than a million deaths between them, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Last week saw an average of 12,000 deaths a day reported around the world, according to AFP.

However, official figures worldwide may not fully reflect the true number in many countries.

Up until a few weeks ago, India appeared to have the pandemic relatively under control. Cases had been below 20,000 a day for much of January and February – a low figure in a country of more than a 1.3 billion people.

But then infections began to rise rapidly: April 17 saw a record set for the third day in a row, with more than 234,000 cases reported.

Hospitals are running low on beds and oxygen. Sick people are being turned away, and some families are turning to the black market to get the drugs they need.

The capital Delhi has gone into lockdown over the weekend, with restrictions put in place in several other states, as officials try to stem the tide.

Brazil – which has recorded the third highest number of cases and, at 368,749, the second highest number of deaths – is still struggling to control the outbreak.

On April 16, the health ministry announced more than 85,000 new cases over the previous 24 hours and 3,305 deaths.

Canada has also reported a recent rise, registering more cases per million than the US over the last week – the first time this has happened since the pandemic began.

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Papua New Guinea has also been highlighted as a cause for concern. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, noted “the potential for a much larger epidemic” in the Pacific nation following a sharp increase in cases.

He added that Papua New Guinea – which has received 140,000 vaccine doses through Australia and the Covax scheme – is a “perfect example of why vaccine equity is so important”.

More than 860 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been administered, in 165 countries worldwide.

However, the WHO chief told UN officials on April 16: “Vaccine equity is the challenge of our time – and we are failing.”

Some countries have secured and delivered doses to a large proportion of their population.

Those with high vaccinations rates, such as the UK and Israel, have seen their numbers of new infections drop sharply.

While Israel has distributed 119 doses per 100 people, just 2.81 doses per 100 have been given in the Palestinian territories, recent data from Our World in Data at Oxford University showed.

However, many more countries are still waiting for their first shipments to arrive.

That is leading to warnings about growing “vaccine inequity”.

Dr. Tedros pointed out that in high-income countries, one in four people have received a vaccine, compared with only one in 400 in poorer countries.

The WHO is working on a global scheme, Covax, to get rich countries to share their vaccine with lower income countries. Covax plans to deliver about two billion vaccine doses globally by the end of the year, but many vaccines require two doses per person.

Image source: indiatvnews.com

India has become the “fastest country in the world” to administer more than 100 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, amid a deadly second wave of infections.

The country achieved the feat in 85 days, whereas the US took 89 days and China 102 days, the Indian health ministry said.

However, India reported a record daily increase of over 150,000 cases – and more than 800 new deaths – on April 11.

There are reports the vast vaccination drive itself is struggling.

This week, half a dozen states reported a shortage of doses even as the federal government insisted that it had 40 million doses in stock and that the “allegations” of vaccine scarcity were “utterly baseless”.

The inoculation drive aims to cover 250 million people by July, but experts say the pace needs to pick up further to meet the target.

Everyone aged over 45 is now eligible for immunization at vaccination centers and hospitals. Most doses have so far been given to frontline workers and the over-60s.

The third phase – which began on April 1 – opened amid a sharp uptick in Covid-19 cases. India has been reporting an average of more than 90,000 cases every day since then.

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On April 4, India became the second country after the US to report 100,000 new cases in a single day. More than half of those were confirmed in Maharashtra, which has India’s largest city Mumbai as its capital.

The country’s caseload had dropped sharply by the time it began vaccinating people early this year. It was adding under 15,000 infections daily. But cases began to spike again in March, largely driven by poor test-and-trace and lax safety protocols.

Experts say India’s second wave is being fuelled by people being less cautious – and mixed messaging by the government.

Since the pandemic began, India has confirmed more than 12 million cases and over 167,000 deaths. It’s the third-highest number of Covid-19 infections in the world after the US and Brazil.

India launched its vaccination program on January 16, but it was limited to healthcare workers and frontline staff – a sanitation worker became the first Indian to receive the vaccine.

From March 1, the eligibility criteria was expanded to include people over 60 and those aged between 45 and 59 with other illnesses.

The third phase included everyone above the age of 45.

India’s drugs regulator has given the green light to two vaccines – one developed by AstraZeneca with Oxford University (Covishield) and one by Indian firm Bharat Biotech (Covaxin). Several other candidates are at different stages of trials.

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Image source: Wikimedia Commons

North Korea has announced it will skip the Tokyo Olympics this year, saying the decision is to protect its athletes from Covid-19.

Pyongyang’s decision puts an end to South Korea’s hopes of using the Games to engage with the North amid stalled cross-border talks.

In 2018, North and South Korea entered a joint team at the Winter Olympics which led to a series of historic summits.

North Korea says it has no cases of the virus but experts say this is unlikely.

The announcement makes North Korea the first major country to skip the delayed 2020 Games because of the pandemic. The event is due to begin on 23 July.

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This will be the first time North Korea has missed a Summer Olympics since 1988, when it boycotted the Seoul Games during the Cold War.

According to a report by the state-run site Sports in the DPRK, the decision was made at an Olympic committee meeting on March 25.

North Korea has taken stringent measures against the coronavirus since it broke out last year.

It shut its borders in late January and later quarantined hundreds of foreigners in its capital.

Since early 2020, trains and wagons have been forbidden to enter or leave North Korea, with most international passenger flights stopped as well.

There were hopes from South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in that the Games could be a catalyst for progress between both Koreas.

That had been the case in 2018, when North Korea sent 22 athletes to the Winter Olympics in South Korea, along with government officials, journalists and a 230-member cheering group.

Among the contingent was North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong – a move which helped it initiate diplomacy with South Korea and the US.

The talks that followed led to a series of historic, high-profile meetings between Kim Jong-un and former President Donald Trump.

There were hopes for improved relations after the meetings, but nothing materialized and the atmosphere has since deteriorated.

Meanwhile, in Japan, an Olympic preparatory event was canceled after Covid infections broke out at a training camp for the Japanese water polo team – with seven people testing positive for the virus.

It follows the announcement that the Osaka leg of the Olympic torch relay will be canceled after infections in the city hit record highs.

There have been growing concerns in Japan that more infectious strains of the virus could be driving a potential fourth Covid-19 wave in the country.

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Image source France24

France has imposed a third national lockdown as the country battles a surge in cases of Covid-19 that threatens to overwhelm its hospitals.

All schools and non-essential shops will shut for four weeks, and a curfew will be in place from 19:00 to 06:00.

On April 2, the number of seriously ill Covid-19 patients in ICU increased by 145 – the biggest jump in five months.

President Emmanuel Macron has promised more hospital beds for Covid patients.

France is currently battling a peak of about 5,000 Covid patients in ICUs. On April 2, the country recorded 46,677 new cases and 304 deaths.

As well as the restrictions that came into force on April 3, from April 6 people will also need a valid reason to travel more than 6 miles from their homes.

President Macron had hoped to keep France’s coronavirus cases under control without having to impose another lockdown.

However, France has struggled with an EU-wide delay in the vaccine rollout, as well as several new strains of the virus.

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In Germany, President Frank-Walter Steinmeier called on people to play their part and get vaccinated.

Speaking in a TV address to the nation on April 3, he said Germany was in the middle of a third wave and that it faced more restrictions.

The German also admitted that mistakes had been made – specifically in testing and in the vaccine rollout – and talked about there being a “crisis of trust” in the state.

Last month, German officials announced that the country would be placed in a strict Easter lockdown – only to reverse the decision just days later.

Chancellor Angela Merkel called the plan for a lockdown from April 1 to 5 a “mistake”, and said she took “ultimate responsibility” for the U-turn.

Italy also entered a strict three-day lockdown on April 3 in order to try to prevent a surge in Covid-19 cases over the Easter weekend.

All regions are now in the “red zone” – the highest tier of restrictions – as the country records about 20,000 new cases a day.

Non-essential movement is banned, but people are allowed to have an Easter meal in their homes with two others. Churches are also open, but worshippers are being told to attend services within their regions.

On April 4, for the second year, Pope Francis will deliver his Easter message to an empty St Peter’s Square.

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Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Germany’s vaccine committee (Stiko) has advised giving the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine only to people aged 60 + because of a risk of rare blood clots.

The German drugs regulator found 31 cases of a type of rare blood clot among the nearly 2.7 million people who had received the vaccine in Germany.

Canada earlier suspended use of the AstraZeneca jab in people under 55.

AstraZeneca said international regulators had found the benefits of its vaccine outweighed risks significantly.

The company said it was continuing to analyze its database to understand “whether these very rare cases of blood clots associated with thrombocytopenia occur any more commonly than would be expected naturally in a population of millions of people”.

“We will continue to work with German authorities to address any questions they may have,” AstraZeneca added.

The EU and UK medicine regulators both backed the vaccine after previous cautionary suspensions in Europe this month.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the UK Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency stressed that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine continued to outweigh the risk of side effects.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine is one of the most widely used coronavirus vaccines in the West, and is meant to be supplied on a not-for-profit basis to the developing world.

The EU’s rollout of its vaccination program has been dogged by delays because of delivery and production problems, and Germany is among several states now fearing a third wave of infections.

On March 30, Italy’s PM Mario Draghi and his wife, who are both 73, received their first doses of AstraZeneca in a display of confidence in the vaccine.

Ahead of the Stiko announcement, the German cities of Berlin and Munich, and the region of Brandenburg, halted use of the vaccine in people below the age of 60.

“After several consultations, Stiko, with the help of external experts, decided by a majority to recommend the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine only for persons aged 60 years and older on the basis of available data on the occurrence of rare but very severe thromboembolic side effects,” the committee said, as quoted by Reuters.

“Regarding the question of administering the second vaccine dose to younger persons who have already received a first dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, Stiko will issue a supplementary recommendation by the end of April.”

Germany was one of the European states which briefly suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine earlier this month pending an EMA review into the possible link to blood clots.

When the EMA declared the vaccine “safe and effective”, Germany and others resumed its use but investigations continued.

The German medicines regulator, the Paul Ehrlich Institute, has found 31 cases of cerebral sinus vein thrombosis (CSVT) among people who received AstraZeneca in Germany.

Almost all the cases are reportedly in younger and middle-aged women.

France already limits use of AstraZeneca to those aged over 55.

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Image source: Wikimedia Commons

AstraZeneca has announced it downgraded the efficacy result of its coronavirus vaccine trial in the United States after health officials questioned the results.

The company adjusted the efficacy rate of its vaccine against Covid-19 symptoms from 79% to 76%, but said the trial results confirm it “is highly effective in adults”.

US health officials had been concerned the trial was using outdated data.

AstraZeneca said it now looked forward to getting US regulatory approval.

The US trials of the AstraZeneca jab had involved more than 32,000 volunteers, mostly in America, but also in Chile and Peru.

In the results announced on March 22, the company said the vaccine was found to be 79% effective at stopping symptomatic Covid-19 disease and was 100% effective at preventing people from falling seriously ill.

On March 23, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said it had been informed by data and safety officials monitoring the trial that information may have been used that provided an “incomplete view of the efficacy data”.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s Chief Medical Advisor, then warned reporters the company would “likely come out with a modified statement”.

AstraZeneca’s revised results now put the vaccine’s overall efficacy at 76% instead of 79%. Among the over 65s, its efficacy rose from 80% to 85% and against severe disease it remains 100% effective.

On March 25, Mene Pangalos, an executive vice president at AstraZeneca, said: “We look forward to filing our regulatory submission for Emergency Use Authorization in the US and preparing for the rollout of millions of doses across America.”

The US had ordered 300 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine when it emerged as a frontrunner in the global race to immunize people against Covid-19.

However, delays and controversies have seen three other vaccines beat it to a US rollout.

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Image by tammon from Pixabay

The city of Miami has declared a state of emergency over concerns large crowds gathering for spring break pose a coronavirus risk.

A 20:00-06:00 curfew has been announced in Miami Beach and will remain in effect for at least 72 hours.

Traffic restrictions are in place during the curfew, while businesses in the busy South Beach area must close.

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said thousands of tourists had brought “chaos and disorder” to the city.

Mayor Gelber told CNN: “It feels like a rock concert, wall-to-wall people over blocks and blocks.

“If you’re coming here to go crazy, go somewhere else.”

Spring break is a holiday period for schools and universities that attracts thousands of students to Florida and other warm weather destinations around the country.

Officials warned tourists to “vacation responsibly or be arrested” prior to the holiday period, and a county-wide midnight coronavirus curfew was already in place due to the pandemic.

However, the Miami Beach area was thronged with revelers over the weekend, and many did not appear to be wearing masks or socially distancing.

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One city official described South Beach, which includes the world famous Ocean Drive, as being “overwhelmed” by crowds over the weekend.

“You couldn’t see pavement and you couldn’t see grass,” city manager Raul Aguila said.

He added that the emergency measures were “necessary not only to protect our residents but our visitors, including our spring breakers who we want to keep safe”.

On March 21, Miami Beach police told CNN they had arrested at least a dozen people after the curfew had come into force.

https://platform.twitter.com/embed/Tweet.html?creatorScreenName=BBCWorld&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1373448655189942273&lang=en-gb&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.bbc.com%2Fnews%2Fworld-us-canada-56476904&siteScreenName=BBCWorld&theme=light&widgetsVersion=e1ffbdb%3A1614796141937&width=550px Until the measures are lifted, police will prevent pedestrians or vehicles entering the South Beach area’s main party strips.

Raul Aguila told the Miami Herald that he has recommended keeping the emergency measures in place until April 12.

However, the emergency orders will expire on March 23 unless they are extended by local authorities.

Florida continues to be a coronavirus hotspot in the US. The state has recorded nearly two million of the country’s 29 million infections since the pandemic began.

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According to new reports, Donald Trump’s main residence, Mar-a-Lago, has been partially closed after some staff members tested positive for Covid-19.

The Florida resort has served as President Trump’s official residence since he left office in January.

The club said in a statement that the Beach Club and a la carte dining room were closed, but did not specify how many people had tested positive.

Donald Trump had coronavirus last October, and was vaccinated in January.

At the time of his diagnosis, he was hospitalized for several days and treated with the low-dose steroid treatment dexamethasone.

His wife Melania Trump and son Barron also tested positive for the virus, as did several White House officials close to the then-president.

In an email to members obtained by the Washington Post, Mar-a-Lago said it was following “all appropriate response measures” and its banquet and event services would remain open.

In January, images surfaced from a New Year’s Eve party at Mar-a-Lago that showed a number of guests not wearing masks. The resort was handed a formal warning by Palm Beach County which said the event had violated coronavirus regulations.

The New York Times reports that the club is planning to host events during the RNC spring retreat next month.

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Image source France24

France and Poland have re-imposed partial lockdowns as both countries battle a sharp rise in Covid-19 infections in recent weeks.

In France, some 21 million people in 16 areas, including Paris, are affected as the country fears a third wave.

In Poland, non-essential shops, hotels, cultural and sporting facilities are now closed for three weeks.

Poland has the highest new daily rates of Covid-19 cases since November 2020.

Covid-19 cases are also rising exponentially in Germany, with Chancellor Angela Merkel warning it is likely that the country will now need to apply an “emergency brake” and re-impose lockdown measures.

The vaccine rollout across the EU has been hindered by delayed deliveries, as well as the suspension in several countries of the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, over fears of possible side effects.

In France, the partial lockdown took effect from midnight on March 19.

Trains leaving Paris for parts of the country where lockdown restrictions do not apply, such as Brittany and Lyon, were reportedly fully booked hours before the measures were due to come into effect.

Traffic jams were reported on several roads leaving the capital.

The new restrictions are not as strict as the previous lockdown, with people allowed to exercise outdoors.

Non-essential businesses are shut, but schools remain open, along with hairdressers if they follow a “particular sanitary protocol”.

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France has reported more than 4.2 million infections since the start of the outbreak, with nearly 92,000 Covid-related deaths, according to the data compiled by Johns Hopkins University in the US.

In Poland, the three-week lockdown began on March 20.

Polish health officials earlier warned the nationwide restrictions were necessary because of a rampant British variant of Covid-19 in the country. The variant now makes up more than 60% of infections.

Poland has had more than two million confirmed infections, and nearly 49,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Germany said on March 19 it was now classifying neighboring Poland as high risk. This means that from March 21 anyone crossing the border from Poland must provide a negative coronavirus test.

Despite assurances from the European medicines regulator that the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and effective, some countries remain reluctant to resume their campaigns using the jab.

Germany, Italy, France, Spain and the Netherlands are among the countries that have restarted their AstraZeneca vaccination campaigns.

Health authorities in France have recommended that the AstraZeneca vaccine be offered only to people aged 55 and over.

Finland’s health authority has announced a pause in its use of the vaccine that will last at least a week. That move, which follows two reports of blood clots in patients who had received the jab in the country, was said to be a precautionary measure.

Meanwhile, Sweden, Denmark and Norway said on March 19 that they needed more time to determine whether they should resume AstraZeneca inoculations.

On March 20, Denmark said that two members of hospital staff in Copenhagen had developed blood clots after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has reviewed the AstraZeneca vaccine over fears of a link to blood clots and found it was not associated with a higher risk of clots.

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Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Denmark has temporarily suspended use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine as a precaution, after reports of a small number of blood clots and one death.

According to the Danish health authority, it was too early to say whether there was a link to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Austria earlier stopped using a batch of the drug, prompting the EU medicines agency (EMA) to say there was no indication the vaccine caused blood clots.

AstraZeneca says its safety has been studied extensively in clinical trials.

A spokesperson said: “Patient Safety is the highest priority for AstraZeneca.

“Regulators have clear and stringent efficacy and safety standards for the approval of any new medicine, and that includes Covid-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca.”

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Peer-reviewed data confirmed it had been “generally well tolerated”, the statement added.

Denmark’s decision came days after Austria suspended use of a particular batch of the drug because a woman died 10 days after taking it. Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Luxemburg have also stopped using the batch.

Danish authorities said they were pausing use of the vaccine for 14 days in what Health Minister Magnus Heunicke called a “precautionary measure”.

Although no link had been established, he said “we must respond in a timely and careful manner” until a conclusion was reached.

The decision to put the vaccine on hold in Denmark and Austria is a setback for a European vaccination campaign that has stuttered into life, partly due to delays in delivery of the AstraZeneca drug.

The Danish authority said it was not an easy decision as it was during the biggest and most important rollout in the country’s history.

The EMA said its safety committee was reviewing the Austrian case, but made clear that “there is currently no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions, which are not listed as side effects with this vaccine”.

The number of “thromboembolic events in vaccinated people is no higher than that seen in the general population”, it added.

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Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Italy has blocked the export of an Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine shipment to Australia.

The decision affects 250,000 doses of the vaccine produced at an AstraZeneca facility in Italy.

Italy is the first EU country to use the bloc’s new regulations allowing exports to be stopped if the company providing the vaccines has failed to meet its obligations to the EU.

Australia said losing “one shipment” would not badly affect its rollout.

However, it has asked the European Commission, which reportedly backs Italy’s move, to review the decision.

AstraZeneca is on track to provide only 40% of the agreed supply to member states in the first quarter of the year. The company has cited production problems for the shortfall.

In January, then Italian PM Giuseppe Conte described delays in vaccine supplies by both AstraZeneca and Pfizer as “unacceptable” and accused the companies of violating their contracts.

The EU has been widely criticized for the slow pace of its vaccination program.

Under the EU vaccine scheme, which was established in June 2020, the bloc has negotiated the purchase of vaccines on behalf of member states.

There has been no official comment on the Italian move by the EU or AstraZeneca.

Australia began its vaccination program last week using the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. It was due to start inoculations with the AstraZeneca vaccine on March 5.

Italy approached the European Commission last week to say that it was its intention to block the shipment.

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In a statement on March 4, the foreign ministry explained the move, saying it had received the request for authorization on February 24.

It said that previous requests had been given the green light as they included limited numbers of samples for scientific research, but the latest one – being much larger, for more than 250,000 doses – was rejected.

It explained the move by saying that Australia was not on a list of “vulnerable” countries, that there was a permanent shortage of vaccines in the EU and Italy, and that the number of doses was high compared with the amount given to Italy and to the EU as a whole.

Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt said: “Australia has raised the issue with the European Commission through multiple channels, and in particular we have asked the European Commission to review this decision.”

Australia had already received a shipment of 300,000 doses and planned to begin local production next month.