Pandemic haunts new year as virus outpaces vaccination efforts; Balkans feel abandoned as vaccines roll out in Europe; Thailand scrambles to contain outbreak

Video Thailand Scrambles To Contain Virus, Get Vaccines.

  • Tokyo is reporting a daily record of 1,591 cases as the national government prepares to declare a state of emergency to cope with a surge.



The Associated Press


Media – January is going to be “a tough one…It really is all hands on deck.” That’s how the World Health Organization described the dire days and weeks ahead to the AP.


Despite growing vaccine access, the immediate future is looking grim around the globe as the virus resurges and reshapes itself in European hot spots like Britain and Germany, sparks new concerns in Japan and Thailand, and leaves hospitals in California desperate for more medical workers.


The virus is filling hospitals anew and shutting down livelihoods as governments race to find solutions like lockdowns to keep people apart, Danica Kirka in London and Angela Charlton in Paris report.


Mexico City’s hospitals now hold more virus patients than they ever have.  South Africa and Brazil are struggling to find space for the dead.  Even virus success story Thailand is fighting an unexpected wave of infections. Doctors are facing or bracing for rising numbers of COVID-19 patients after end-of-year holiday gatherings.


And more and more countries are reporting cases of a new, more contagious variant of the virus that has already rampaged across Britain, which recorded an alarming 60,000 new cases in one day for the first time.


England’s National Health Service is accustomed to tough winters — and caring for people on overcrowded wards sometimes means moving patients into the corridor. But this is different. Now some are lucky just to get medical help as they wait in an ambulance in the parking lot. Hospitals are staggering under the relentless force of the virus. 


Germany extended its lockdown until Jan. 31, tightening curbs on social contacts and limiting people’s movements in its worst-affected regions as it tries to reduce stubbornly high infection figures and rising deaths.


Balkans No Vaccines: When thousands of people in the European Union rolled up their sleeves to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, one corner of the continent felt isolated and abandoned: the Balkans. Most Balkan nations are still waiting for their first vaccines to arrive and have no firm timeline when massive inoculations could start. What is already clear is that Serbia, Bosnia, Albania, North Macedonia, Kosovo and Montenegro  — home to some 20 million people — are lagging far behind in the vaccine race. Sabina Niksic in Sarajevo and Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade report.




Thailand Worry: For much of 2020, the country had the coronavirus under control. After a strict nationwide lockdown in April and May, the number of new local infections dropped to zero. However, a new outbreak discovered in mid-December threatens to put Thailand back where it was in the toughest days of last year. The country’s COVID-19 coordinating center has warned that the number of new daily cases could rise to more than 10,000 later this month if the government does not do more to curtail the virus’s spread, Bill Bredsen reports from Bangkok.


Netanyahu’s Vaccine Lifeline: For media-obsessed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the coronavirus vaccine has arrived just in time. With an election in March, Netanyahu has placed his world-leading vaccination drive at the center of his reelection campaign. He has launched an aggressive media blitz portraying him as almost singlehandedly leading the country out of the pandemic. He appears to be betting that a successful vaccination effort can persuade voters to forget about his corruption trial and the economic damage caused by the virus crisis, Josef Federman reports from Jerusalem.

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