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New Delhi: The novel coronavirus pandemic continues to devastate countries across the world — the latest count being over 8.1 crore cases and more than 17 lakh deaths.

The European Union has launched its mass vaccination programme against Covid-19. Health authorities in Greater Sydney are on the lookout for the sources of five mystery cases. And prisons in Belarus are being engulfed by Covid-19.

ThePrint brings you the most important global stories on the coronavirus pandemic and why they matter.

EU launches mass Covid-19 vaccination as new variant spreads

The European Union officially launched its mass vaccination programme against Covid-19 Sunday, reports The Guardian.

The vaccine was administered in Spain, Italy, Malta, Germany, Hungary, Croatia, Slovakia and Greece over the weekend.

The report quotes 29-year-old nurse Claudio Alivernini, the first to be vaccinated in Italy, as saying, “It is with deep pride and a deep sense of responsibility that I got the vaccine today. A small gesture but a fundamental gesture for all of us.”

Meanwhile, 96-year-old Araceli Rosario Hidalgo, the first to be inoculated in Spain, said with a note of caution: “Let’s see if we can get rid of this virus”.

For 81-year-old Branka Aničić, the first Croatian to be vaccinated, the vaccine has been the harbinger of hope. “I’m happy I will now be able to see my great-grandchildren,” Aničić was quoted as saying.

The European Union, European Economic Area and the UK have reported 1,62,47,249 cases and 4,03,990 deaths.

South Africa passes one million infections as cases surge

The number of cases in South Africa has crossed the one million-mark days after authorities detected the presence of the new variant, reports BBC.

The new strain was detected by a network of scientists in the Eastern Cape province and “began to spread rapidly to other parts”.

“Some hospitals and medical centres have reported a huge rise in admissions, putting a heavy strain on resources,” the report further highlights.

The government is expected to announce tougher restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.

Virus besets Belarus prisons filled with president’s critics

There has been a spate of Covid-19 cases in the prisons of Belarus, reports the Associated Press.

The report highlights that these prisons are thronging with people who had protested against the country’s authoritarian president.

“Some of the protesters who contracted the coronavirus while incarcerated accuse authorities of neglecting or even encouraging infections,” it further notes.

The report quotes one of the incarcerated protesters, 35-year-old Kastus Lisetsky, who said, “Humid walls covered by parasites, the shocking lack of sanitary measures, shivering cold and a rusting bed — that was what I got in prison in Mogilev instead of medical assistance.”

Lisetsky and his three bandmates had contracted the virus.

The report also quotes Opposition candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya as saying, “In the centre of Europe, inmates are being deliberately infected with coronavirus.”

Belarus has reported 1,86,747 Covid cases and 1,385 deaths.

Mystery Covid cases emerge in Greater Sydney

Health authorities in Greater Sydney are on the lookout for the sources of five mystery cases, reports The Sydney Morning Herald.

“NSW (New South Wales) recorded seven local cases of COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8 pm on Boxing Day, six linked to the Avalon cluster, and one case under investigation,” the report details.

Several of the mystery cases were detected in the northern beaches.

The report quotes NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant who said, “We are at a critical stage in our response and unless we have those high testing rates, it does not give us adequate assurance that we are not missing undetected lines of transmission”.

Australia has reported 28,333 cases and 909 deaths so far.

Guanajuato goes red on Covid stoplight

Mexico’s Guanajuato became the fifth state “to turn red on the coronavirus stoplight map” following a rise in hospitalisations and mortalities, reports Mexico News Daily.

The restrictions will include closure of bars, cantinas, and a decrease in capacity at parks and places of business.

The report quotes Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell as saying, “The epidemic is accelerating and for that reason it is very important not to lose sight of the need to take preventive measures, regardless of the exhilaration produced by the arrival of the vaccine.”

Mexico has started the vaccination programmes against Covid-19 with nearly 3,000 people receiving it Thursday.

Mexico has reported 13,77,217 cases and 1,22,026 deaths.

What else we are reading:

The place hit hardest by the virus: The New York Times

Covid in besieged Gaza: ‘A blockade inside a blockade’: Al Jazeera

Also read: Trump, Macron, Madonna, Usain Bolt — Covid didn’t spare the most powerful & world famous


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