Health passports, booster vaccines and massive tests: the strategies of China, France and the United States to stop the Delta variant

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The coronavirus is making a strong comeback in the world due to the spread of Delta variant, amid stagnant vaccination rates in many countries. While Argentina registered 90 positive cases and develops palliative strategies to delay community circulation, there are other countries that have been facing this variant for several weeks.

Nations that had lifted restrictions had to turn back. Even Wuhan, the Chinese city where the pandemic emerged in December 2019, is facing a new outbreak for which the authorities decided test its 11 million inhabitants.

The Delta variant, first detected in India in October 2020, is characterized by being much more contagious than the original and is on its way to becoming the dominant in the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported yesterday that the Delta variant or B.1.617.2 has already been detected in at least 132 countries and it is considered one of the four most worrisome mutations, along with Alpha that originated in the United Kingdom, Beta (South Africa) and Gamma (Brazil).

China confines again after one year

It had been more than a year since COVID-19 had disappeared from the streets of Wuhan when three cases of the Delta variant were confirmed on Monday. The news alerted the Chinese government that it believed the worst of the pandemic had passed.

The outbreak, which reached dozens of cities in at least 14 provinces, would have originated among the Nanjing airport workers . The response from the Xi Jinping government was as forceful as the first time: they confined entire cities, they cut train lines and are doing million tests to fight the biggest coronavirus outbreak in months.

The authorities admitted that among the infected people there are many who had been vaccinated, what generates fears about the efficacy of Chinese vaccines, the only ones available in the Asian giant.

Australia, with strong restrictions on mobility due to the Delta variant

In Australia millions of people are also restricted in movement and on Monday the troops took to the streets of the largest city in the country, Sydney, entering its sixth week of a long lockdown until the end of the month.

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City authorities are fighting to stop the spread of the delta variant, with more than 3,600 cases registered since mid-June, and trying to ensure that residents comply with the lockdown.

With around the 15% of the 25 million of Australians fully vaccinated, authorities continue to bet on lockdowns to curb the virus.

Explosion of infections in the United States and rebound in vaccination

The virus spreads even in places where vaccination programs were successful, such as in the United States, where there is a new wave that triggered hospitalizations at levels not seen since last year.

The country reached the president’s goal on Monday, a month late Joe Biden to manage at least one dose to 70% of adults. The campaign that had started at full speed stalled when it ran into million anti-vaccines and skeptical youth in the conservative southern and midwest states.

“These cases are concentrated in communities with the lowest vaccination rates,” Jeff Zients, White House coordinator for the pandemic, told reporters. “One in three cases throughout the country has been registered in Florida y Texas in the last week, “he added.

This delay caused the average number of daily cases to skyrocket to over 70,000. However, states in the United States that lagged behind in their vaccination rates are catching up, according to the latest data. For example, in the last two weeks of July, the administration of vaccines increased 100% in Missouri, where infections had increased by 560% in a month, according to ABC News.

On Sunday, the White House announced that 8,000,000 doses were administered in one day, which means a 24% increase in two weeks. In an attempt to boost vaccinations, the Joe Biden government announced days ago that federal employees will have to be vaccinated or undergo weekly tests, among other measures. In addition, states, cities and companies offer monetary incentives to get vaccinated, like Georgia, which will give a $ 1,000 bonus to school employees who are fully vaccinated.

Chinstraps in San Francisco and health pass in New York

In addition, more states and cities reestablished chinstrap mandatory for vaccinated and unvaccinated in closed public spaces, like San Francisco. The North Carolina governor has ordered all state employees to wear face masks indoors if they are not fully vaccinated. The state of Minnesota also said that masks should be worn in the closed spaces of its universities.

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Meanwhile, the mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, announced that it will require a proof of vaccination against covid-19 for anyone who wants to eat inside a restaurant, enter a concert hall or a gym, among other things.

“If you are vaccinated (…) you have the key, you can open the door. But if he is not vaccinated, unfortunately he will not be able to participate in many things, “said De Blasio. The health pass, called “Key to NYC” (“Key to New York”), will be released on August 16, followed by a one-month transition period. “It is time for people to see vaccination as something literally necessary to have a full and healthy life,” said the mayor.

The mayor of Denver, the largest city in the state of Colorado, announced yesterday that the vaccination will be required for police, firefighters and some public employees, as well as school teachers and workers in nursing homes, hospitals and jails.

Health passport in France

De Blasio thus followed the path taken by the government of Emmanuel Macron in France to boost the number of people inoculated. The president ordered last week that the health passport, which serves as proof of the complete vaccination or negative test of covid-19, be mandatory for the French who want to enter sites such as restaurants, cinemas or clubs. The measure was later extended to long distance transport, such as trains or airplanes.

The measure caused a rebound in the vaccination campaign and in two weeks about four million people were vaccinated, so nearly 60% of the population is now partially or fully immunized, Macron tweeted. The move generated massive protests, with 160,000 people on the streets, which Macron called “selfish” and “irresponsible.”

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Booster dose in Israel, Germany and Uruguay

Faced with the delta variant, other countries are beginning to study the possibility of applying booster shots.

Israel has already started applying a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine to those over 60 years in the middle of a worrying outbreak. On Monday, there were 3,818 new infections, that is, almost double than a week ago, in the country that was considered a model for the effectiveness of its vaccination campaign.

Israel had lifted many of the restrictions on public gatherings in June, but the cases multiplied and face masks are once again mandatory in closed public spaces. In addition, the government of Naftali Bennett tightened restrictions for those who return from abroad and it prohibited travel to countries considered to be of maximum risk, including Spain, Argentina, Mexico or Brazil.

55% of the nine million inhabitants have the complete vaccination schedule, but about a million refuse the injections.

Germany indicated on Monday that it would begin offering third doses to the elderly and risk groups as well as those who have not received the injection with messenger RNA technology as of September 1. The decision was prompted by concerns about “a reduced or rapidly declining immune response” among some people, such as the immunosuppressed or the elderly.

Healthcare professionals dealing with these groups will also be invited to get this additional injection. “The booster vaccinations will be done with one of the two messenger RNA vaccines (Pfizer or Modern) ”, Informed the ministry, according to which this decision is“ in the interest of preventive health care ”.

The booster shot will be given “usually at least six months ”later of the first complete vaccination.

The same decision had been made by Uruguay for those who received the Chinese Coronavac vaccine. Sweden it also plans to offer a booster dose of the vaccine to “a large part of the population” in 2022although it could start with vulnerable populations later this year.

“Our assessment is that virus cannot be eradicated and that, therefore, vaccination efforts must be long-term and focus on reducing serious diseases and mortality, ”said the Swedish chief epidemiologist. Anders Tegnell.

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