India’s dramatic fall in virus cases leaves experts stumped; South African health care workers eager for first J&J vaccines; WHO authorizes AstraZeneca’s shot 

“VIDEO: South Africa medics hope vaccine will stop variant”


From The Associated Press


Media  – When the pandemic gripped India, there were fears it would sink the fragile health system of the world’s second-most populous country.


Infections and deaths were soaring in a country where social distancing was not easily practiced and unsustainable lockdowns impoverished millions.


But infections began to plummet, and now the country is reporting only about 11,000 new cases a day, compared to a peak of nearly 100,000.


The reasons for the decline are unclear. Experts have suggested some areas of the country may have reached herd immunity or Indians may have some pre-existing immunity. Krutika Pathi and Aniruddha Ghosal have this story from New Delhi.


The government has also credited mask-wearing for reducing the spread of the virus. Determining what’s behind the drop in infections could help authorities control the virus in the country, which has reported nearly 11 million cases and over 155,000 deaths. While the caseload is the second worst in the world after the U.S., the reported death toll is less than that suffered by America, Brazil or Mexico.


South Africa Vaccines: Health care workers at the Ndlovu Care Group in a rural part of the country, from where Andrew Meldrum reports, are among those eagerly awaiting the first jabs of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is being rolled out to them starting this week. South Africa’s inoculation campaign has been disrupted by a last-minute change. Officials have decided to use the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, even though it is not approved for general use anywhere in the world, after a small study raised questions about how effective the AstraZeneca vaccine is against the variant found in South Africa.


“So many people, I test them and within days they have passed away,” says one South African nurse. “I want protection.” Many people are eager to be vaccinated in the nation, which has seen nearly 1.5 million confirmed cases and more than 47,000 deaths.


WHO AstraZeneca: The World Health Organization has granted an emergency authorization to the vaccine made by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. The move should allow the U.N. health agency’s partners to ship millions of doses to countries as part of a U.N.-backed program to tame the pandemic. It is the second vaccine green-lighted by WHO after the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was approved in December. The AstraZeneca vaccine has been licensed in over 50 nations but some African health experts worry it may be less effective against a virus variant first seen in South Africa, Maria Cheng reports.


France’s Youth in Despair: The long lines of young people waiting for food aid that stretch through Paris neighborhoods several times a week are a dramatic symbol of the toll the pandemic has taken on France’s youth. The economic fallout has weighed particularly heavily on young people in France — and their woes have been compounded by disruptions to their studies and social interactions. Nearly a quarter of young people in the nation can’t find work, and many university students now rely on food aid. A hotline devoted to students has seen a surge in calls, and young people have streamed into psychiatric wards. As President Emmanuel Macron acknowledged, “it’s hard to be 20” in coronavirus times. Sylvie Corbet reports.


More from Around the World: 

  • Britain’s newly established quarantine hotels have received their first guests as the government tries to prevent new variants derailing its fast-moving vaccination drive. Under the new rules, people arriving in England from 33 high-risk countries must stay in designated hotel rooms for 10 days at their own expense.
  • The World Health Organization says coronavirus case numbers are stabilizing in parts of the Middle East. But the organization says the situation remains critical with more than a dozen countries reporting cases of new variants.
  • New Zealand has reported no new virus cases in the community for a second straight day. That raises hopes that a three-day lockdown in Auckland, the nation’s first in six months, will be lifted Wednesday.

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