Japan caught off-guard by scant testing; closes borders
Japan missed opportunities to coordinate coronavirus testing and secure hospital beds in the months before the latest wave of infections, health officials, doctors and experts say, missteps that hampered its response as winter set in.
More than a dozen doctors, experts and health officials told Reuters authorities were slow to expand testing and said officials still lack real-time data on testing numbers. That raises questions about Japan’s grasp of its own testing capabilities, just months before the planned Olympics.
Japan will also suspend exemptions allowing foreign athletes to train in the country ahead of the Summer Olympics, Kyodo News reported, as it closes its borders to contain a surge in COVID-19 cases 6 months before the Games.
China’s outbreak grows
China reported the highest number of daily COVID-19 cases in more than 10 months, official data showed on Friday, January 15, due to a severe outbreak in the northeast that has put more than 28 million people under lockdown.
Fearing more infections, lost profits and possible lockdowns, China’s local governments and factories are offering incentives to persuade workers not to go home for the Lunar New Year holiday in February.
Officials have expressed concern that the outbreak in Hebei province has been largely in rural areas, where medical infrastructure is weaker and control measures harder to enforce. Feng Zijian, deputy director of the China Center for Disease Control, warned that the Hebei outbreak had been spreading faster than previous ones.
China rolls out vaccine to developing nations
China is stealing a march on Western drugmakers in the COVID-19 vaccine race in developing nations, with Indonesia and Turkey rolling out huge campaigns with a Chinese shot this week, Brazil to follow soon, and even EU member Hungary signing up.
Scientists in some Western countries say China has been too slow to publish trial data. Public reports about how well its vaccines work have been inconsistent, which the Chinese firms attribute to variations in methodology.
Still, countries with hundreds of millions of people desperate for a vaccine think China’s shots are good enough.
US teachers grapple with patchy COVID-19 vaccine rollout
Across the United States, many teachers are not eligible to receive the vaccine. The lack of a federal blueprint for mass inoculation has left individual states to decide who gets the shots and when.
It is yet another example of the unevenness that has characterized the national effort to tackle the pandemic. Many of the 50 million public school students in the United States are still taking classes online, almost a year after the virus shut down schools nationwide.
While teachers in some states wait to be vaccinated, some of them say they are being pressed to return to the classroom during a surge in COVID-19 infections. – Rappler.com