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General elections underway in Chile amid Covid-19 pandemic

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Santiago, Nov 22 Presidential, parliamentary, and regional elections began in Chile with high attendance at the polls amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The elections are taking place in a particularly polarized environment, and the elected President will govern the country hit by high inflation, the pandemic, and social unrest as it continues the process of writing a new constitution, Xinhua news agency reported.

President Sebastian Pinera called on citizens to vote “with conviction, knowing that we are living in difficult times, but with unity we will overcome them and move forward.”

The Presidential candidate from the left-leaning Approve Dignity electoral coalition, Gabriel Boric, voted in the southern city of Punta Arenas on Sunday, saying, “I am very happy of what we represent as the generation of the process of change and transformation that is coming, with the certainty and gradualness that is necessary.”

The candidate from the right-leaning Republican Party, Jose Antonio Kast, voted in the community of Paine in the Santiago Metropolitan Region, where he announced, “The main thing is that many people show up to vote freely.”

The president of the Electoral Service of Chile, Andres Tagle, called on voters to inform themselves using official sources so as not to spread fake news “that can cause terrible damage to the exercise of our democracy.”

Minister of Health, Enrique Paris said that despite the increase in Covid-19 cases since September, the indicators have stabilised in the last two weeks, and Chile has registered a positivity rate of 3.2 per cent this week, compared to 3.4 per cent last week.

Chile has registered a total of 1,743,137 Covid-19 infections and 38,117 deaths from the disease so far.

Disclaimer: This post has been auto-published from an agency feed without any modifications to the text and has not been reviewed by an editor

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Saudi Arabia to ease Covid curbs for travellers from all countries | World News

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The ministry added the travellers would need to quarantine for three days.

The order comes amid concerns over new strain of the coronavirus.(REUTERS)
The order comes amid concerns over new strain of the coronavirus.(REUTERS)

Updated on Nov 28, 2021 09:16 AM IST

Saudi Arabia will allow direct entry to travellers from all countries who have received one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine starting next Saturday, its interior ministry said on Saturday.

The ministry added the travellers would need to quarantine for three days.

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COVID variant spreads to more countries as world on alert

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The new potentially more contagious omicron variant of the coronavirus popped up in more European countries on Saturday, just days after being identified in South Africa, leaving governments around the world scrambling to stop the spread.

The UK on Saturday tightened its rules on mask-wearing and on testing of international arrivals after finding two cases.

New cases were confirmed Saturday in Germany and Italy, with Belgium, Israel and Hong Kong also reporting that the variant has been found in travelers.

In the US, Dr Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious diseases expert, said he would not be surprised if the omicron variant was already in the United States, too.

“We have not detected it yet, but when you have a virus that is showing this degree of transmissibility … it almost invariably is ultimately going to go essentially all over,” Fauci said on NBC television.

Because of fears that the new variant has the potential to be more resistant to the protection offered by vaccines, there are growing concerns around the world that the pandemic and associated lockdown restrictions will persist for far longer than hoped.

Nearly two years since the start of the pandemic that has claimed more than 5 million lives around the world, countries are on high alert. Many have already imposed travel restrictions on flights from southern Africa as they seek to buy time to assess whether the omicron variant is more transmissible than the current dominant delta variant.

In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was necessary to take “targeted and precautionary measures” after two people tested positive for the new variant in England.

“Right now this is the responsible course of action to slow down the seeding and the spread of this new variant and to maximize our defenses,” he told a news conference.

Among the measures announced, Johnson said anyone arriving in England must take a PCR test for COVID-19 on the second day after their arrival and self-isolate until they provide a negative test. And if someone tests positive for the omicron variant, then he said their close contacts will have to self-isolate for 10 days regardless of their vaccination status – currently close contacts are exempt from quarantine rules if they are fully vaccinated.

He also said mask-wearing in shops and on public transport will be required and said the independent group of scientists that advises the British government on the rollout of coronavirus vaccines has been asked to accelerate the vaccination program.

This could involve widening the booster program to younger age groups, reducing the time period between a second dose and a booster and allowing older children to get a second dose.

“From today we’re going to boost the booster campaign,” he said.

Britain’s Department of Health said the two cases found in the UK were linked and involved travel from southern Africa. One of the two new cases was in the southeastern English town of Brentwood, while the other was in the central city of Nottingham.

The two confirmed cases are self-isolating with their households while contact tracing and targeted testing takes place.

The British government also added four more countries – Angola, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia – onto the country’s travel red list from Sunday. Six others – Botswana, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland), Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe – were added Friday. That means anyone permitted to arrive from those destinations will have to quarantine.

Many countries have slapped restrictions on various southern African countries over the past couple of days, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, the European Union, Iran, Japan, New Zealand, Thailand and the United States, in response to warnings over the transmissibility of the new variant. This goes against the advice of the World Health Organization, which has warned against any overreaction before the variant was thoroughly studied.

Despite the banning of flights, there are mounting concerns that the variant has already been widely seeded around the world.

Italy and Germany were the latest to report confirmed cases of the omicron variant.

An Italian who had traveled to Mozambique on business landed in Rome on Nov. 11 and returned to his home near Naples. He and five family members, including two school-age children, have since tested positive, the Italian news agency LaPresse said. All are isolating in the Naples suburb of Caserta in good condition with light symptoms.

The variant was confirmed by Sacco hospital in Milan, and Italy’s National Health Institute said the man had received two doses of the vaccine. Italy’s health ministry is urging all regions to increase its tracing of the virus and sequencing to detect cases of the new variant first identified in South Africa.

In Germany, the Max von Pettenkofer Institute, a Munich-based microbiology center, said the omicron variant was confirmed in two travelers who arrived on a flight from South Africa on Nov. 24. The head of the institute, Oliver Keppler, said that genome sequencing has yet to be completed, but it is “proven without doubt that it is this variant,” German news agency dpa reported.

The Dutch public health institute said the omicron variant was “probably found in a number of the tested persons” who were isolated after arriving Friday in Amsterdam on two flights from South Africa. The institute said in a statement that further sequencing analysis is underway to determine for sure that it is the new variant. The results were expected Sunday. A total of 61 people were tested.

Israel said it detected the new strain in a traveler who had returned from Malawi and was tracing 800 travelers who returned recently from southern African countries. And Australia said early Sunday its scientists were working to determine whether two people who tested positive for COVID after arriving from southern Africa are infected with the omicron variant.

The variant’s swift spread among young people in South Africa has alarmed health professionals even though there was no immediate indication whether the variant causes more severe disease.

A number of pharmaceutical firms, including

, Moderna, Novavax and Pfizer, said they have plans in place to adapt their vaccines in light of the emergence of omicron. Pfizer and its partner BioNTech said they expect to be able to tweak their vaccine in around 100 days.

Professor Andrew Pollard, the director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, which developed the AstraZeneca vaccine, expressed cautious optimism that existing vaccines could be effective at preventing serious disease from the omicron variant, noting that most of the mutations appear to be in similar regions as those in other variants.

“At least from a speculative point of view we have some optimism that the vaccine should still work against a new variant for serious disease, but really we need to wait several weeks to have that confirmed,” he told BBC radio.

Some experts said the variant’s emergence illustrated how rich countries’ hoarding of vaccines threatens to prolong the pandemic.

Fewer than 6% of people in Africa have been fully immunized against COVID-19, and millions of health workers and vulnerable populations have yet to receive a single dose. Those conditions can speed up spread of the virus, offering more opportunities for it to evolve into a dangerous variant.

“One of the key factors to emergence of variants may well be low vaccination rates in parts of the world, and the WHO warning that none of us is safe until all of us are safe and should be heeded,” said Peter Openshaw, a professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke Saturday with his South African counterpart, Naledi Pandor, and they stressed the importance of working together to help African nations vaccinate their populations, the State Department said in a statement.

It said Blinken praised South Africa’s scientists for quickly identifying the omicron variant and the government for its transparency in sharing this information, “which should serve as a model for the world.”

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South Africans who tested Covid positive in India infected with Delta variant, says official

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Representational image | Waldo Swiegers | Bloomberg


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Bengaluru: The two South African nationals who tested positive for COVID-19 were found to be infected with the delta variant, an official said.

Both the South African nationals were infected with the delta variant, the Bengaluru Rural district official said requesting anonymity.

He further said the duo was tested positive on November 11 and November 20 debunking the fear of any possible spread of the new COVID-19 variant ‘Omicron’, which has become a new cause of worry globally.

According to him, from November 1 to 26, 94 people had come from South Africa, out of them two were tested positive for regular Covid-19.

The official also said the two infected persons have been quarantined, are being monitored by the authorities and their samples have been sent for further tests to ascertain the variant.

The new potentially more contagious B.1.1.529 variant was first reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) from South Africa on November 24, and has also been identified in Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong, Israel and the UK.

Amid fear of Omicron variant of COVID-19, Karnataka has decided to intensify screening of international passengers at airports and make RT-PCR test report compulsory for those arriving from Kerala and Maharashtra, an official statement said.

“The Chief Minister has instructed the officials to go on an aggressive campaign to trace those who have not taken the second dose of the vaccine and cover them at the earliest,” the statement read.

It was also decided to impose a temporary ban on cultural programmes in schools and colleges, make second dose of vaccination compulsory for those working in government offices, malls, hotels, cinema halls, zoos, swimming pools and libraries.

The slew of decisions taken by the government include strict vigil in the areas bordering Kerala and Maharashtra, the RT-PCR negative report compulsory for those entering the state from Kerala and Maharashtra, compulsory RT-PCR test again for students from Kerala who arrived in the last 16 days and students in hostels who have got negative RT-PCR test report would have to get the test done again on the seventh day after the first report.

The government also instructed to conduct more intense testing for students in medical and nursing colleges and intensify screening of international travellers at airports.

It also decided not to let in people who test positive for COVID-19 and they will be sent to hospitals for treatment.

The state has also decided to give booster dose of the vaccine to prevent the third wave of COVID-19.

“We have urged the union government to allow the state to administer the booster dose, especially for frontline workers. We may get the go ahead from the Centre in a week,” Revenue Minister R Ashoka was quoted as saying in the statement.


Also read: Concerns rise about India’s cricket tour of South Africa amid Omicron variant spread


 

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