UK virus toll nears 100,000 as vaccination drive accelerates; Spain’s virus surge hits mental health of front-line workers; China pushes fringe theories on pandemic origins

“Spain virus surge hits mental health of frontline workers”


From Associated Press


Media  – Britain is expanding a coronavirus vaccination program that has seen more than 6 million people get the first of two doses — even as the country’s death toll in the pandemic approaches 100,000.


Three-quarters of the U.K.’s over-80s and nursing home residents have received a vaccine shot. Health officials aim to give first shots to 15 million people, including everyone over 70, by Feb. 15.


Britain’s vaccination campaign is a rare success in a country with Europe’s worst confirmed coronavirus outbreak, Jill Lawless reports from London. The U.K. has recorded the fifth highest deaths in the world.


Spain Mental Health: The relentless rise in infections and hospitalizations in Spain following the holiday season is once again straining hospitals and increasingly threatening the mental health of workers. For nearly a year now, doctors and nurses have been fighting the pandemic with little time to rest. A study released last week found that nearly half of health care workers in Spain were at high risk of suffering from mental health disorders after the peak in April. One doctor says society must take care of its medical staff so they can care for those who most need help, Renata Brito reports from Barcelona.


Lebanon’s Hospitals: They are on the brink: Unable to keep up with coronavirus patients, they have run out of beds, oxygen tanks, ventilators and medical staff. At the Rafik Hariri Hospital in the capital, Beirut, the country’s main facility dealing with COVID-19, doctors and nurses say they are exhausted. The country’s economic crisis and burnout has caused many of their colleagues to leave. Many have caught the virus, forcing them to take sick leave and leaving fewer colleagues to work overtime to carry the burden. To every bed that frees up after a death, three or four patients are waiting in the emergency room waiting to take their place, Faye Abuelgasim reports.


China Disinformation: Beijing is trying to spread doubt about the effectiveness of Western vaccines and the origin of the coronavirus as a World Health Organization-selected team of scientists are in Wuhan, the city where the pandemic first broke out. Controls imposed on information about the disease by the ruling Communist Party have prompted questions about what the scientists are allowed to see. Meanwhile, as vaccines roll out worldwide, Beijing appears to be trying to blunt the impact of reports China’s are less effective, Huizhong Zu reports.


China Left Behind: One year after Wuhan’s lockdown, the Chinese city has long since sprung back to life. But one dissident remains bunkered in his 14th-floor apartment, afraid that the virus will return and China’s communist government will again try to conceal the truth. Zhu Tao’s early fears of the virus were vindicated when the outbreak spun out of control. But now that the situation is back to something close to normal in Wuhan, Zhu finds himself at odds with his neighbors and the government. Pockets of like-minded people still dot China. But under the watchful gaze of state cameras and censors, there is little room to organize or connect, Dake Kang reports from Wuhan.


Mexico Leader Stricken: President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he has tested positive for COVID-19, making the announcement as his country registers the highest levels of infections and deaths to date. López Obrador, who has been criticized for his handling of Mexico’s pandemic and for not setting an example of prevention in public, said that his symptoms are mild and he is under medical treatment, Christopher Sherman reports.


Israel Spike: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel will be closing its international airport to nearly all flights as the government races to bring a raging outbreak under control. The entry of highly contagious variants of the coronavirus, coupled with poor enforcement of safety rules in ultra-Orthodox communities, has contributed to one of the world’s highest rates of infections. It also has threatened to undercut its highly successful campaign to vaccinate its population, Josef Federman reports from Jerusalem.


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