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Variant's spread clamps new lockdown on Moscow

by Compiled Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports | June 23, 2021 at 3:45 a.m.

MOSCOW -- The mayor of Moscow announced new pandemic restrictions Tuesday, saying the situation in the capital where the delta variant of the virus is spreading remains "very difficult."

The country's state coronavirus task force reported 6,555 new covid-19 cases Tuesday in Moscow and 16,715 new infections across Russia, both tallies twice as high as a month ago.

"The decisions that we're making are difficult, unpopular, but necessary for saving people's lives," Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said in an online statement, adding that more than 14,000 people severely ill with covid-19 remain in the city's hospitals.

He has attributed the infection spike to the delta variant that first appeared in India.

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Sobyanin banned all entertainment and sports events at which more than 500 people are present starting Tuesday.

And starting Monday, all restaurants, cafes and bars in Moscow will only allow in customers who have been vaccinated against covid-19, recovered from the virus within the past six months or can provide a negative coronavirus test carried out in the previous 72 hours.

To prove their credentials, customers will need to obtain a QR code at one of several government websites.

Coronavirus infections surged in the Russian capital two weeks ago, prompting the city authorities to order mandatory vaccinations for workers in retail, education and other service sectors. Russians have widely avoided vaccination, and less than 13% of the population has received at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine.

Sobyanin said Tuesday that with mandatory vaccinations in place, the number of Muscovites who have received at least one shot has exceeded 2 million -- or just under 16% of the city's 12.7-million population.

CORNWALL SPIKES

Separately, coronavirus cases are rising in Cornwall, England -- but the prime minister's office said the Group of Seven summit held in the British town earlier this month is not to blame.

The seven-day case rate in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has soared from 4.9 per 100,000 people in early June to 130.6 per 100,000 people on June 16, the Guardian reported. Rates of infections are particularly high in Carbis Bay, where the summit was held, and several nearby areas where delegates to the gathering of world leaders stayed.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesperson on Monday denied any direct causation between the G-7 summit and the rise in coronavirus infection rates.

"We are confident that there were no cases of transmission to the local residents," the unidentified spokesperson told the Guardian. "All attendees were tested, everyone involved in the G-7 work were also tested during their work on the summit."

"We always said, following the move to Step Three, that we will see cases rising across the country," the spokesperson continued. "That is what we're seeing playing out."

Last month, Johnson's government began relaxing restrictions on many businesses and activities in what it classed as "Step Three" of a four-step reopening process.

Some health experts have suggested that the surge in Cornwall cases has been driven by infections among students, as well as increased travel among young people during the summer break from school. Young people ages 15 to 24 have predominantly fallen sick this round.

But Andrew George, a former member of Parliament with the Liberal Democrats party and now a Cornwall councilor, told British media that the government needed to release its risk assessment for the summit.

VACCINES RUNNING LOW

Meanwhile, a string of nations across Africa, Asia and other regions have run out of covid-19 vaccines or are on the brink of doing so, months after receiving first shipments from a global program meant to equitably distribute the life-saving shots.

A World Health Organization adviser said Monday that of 80 lower-income countries that have received vaccines through the Covax program, about 40 are either out of vaccines or on the verge.

"Well over half of countries have run out of stock and are calling for additional vaccine," the adviser, Bruce Aylward, told reporters. "But in reality it's probably much higher."

Seven countries in Africa, including Ivory Coast, Gambia and Kenya, have used all of their Covax stocks, according to the WHO, while others in Asia, Latin America and beyond are at risk of exhausting their supplies. In response, many are slowing or halting vaccine programs while they await new shipments or look for alternate sources.

Covax was set up last year to ensure equitable access to vaccines around the globe. Its goal is to deliver 1.8 billion doses to more than 90 lower-income economies by early 2022. So far, it has shipped only 88 million -- about as many as the number of doses already administered in the U.S. states of California, Texas and New York.

The program is heavily reliant on AstraZeneca's two-dose vaccine, but has been hamstrung by delays in shipments from a key manufacturer of those shots, the Serum Institute of India, after the country halted exports to tackle a devastating outbreak at home.

Information for this article was contributed by Miriam Berger of The Washington Post; by James Paton and Corinne Gretler of Bloomberg News (WPNS); and by staff members of The Associated Press.

Print Headline: Variant's spread clamps new lockdown on Moscow

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