US says arrivals will need negative Covid-19 test

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Washington (AFP)

The United States announced on Tuesday that all air travelers entering the country will need a negative Covid-19 test before departure, as concerns grow over more contagious variants of the coronavirus.

The policy goes into effect on January 26 and extends an existing measure targeting Britain, where the strain known as B117 has been linked to a drastic increase in cases.

Ireland, which now has the highest infection rate in the world, also announced on Tuesday it was expanding to all arrival screening measures that previously only applied to travelers from the UK and South Africa.

“Testing doesn’t eliminate all risk, but when combined with a period of stay at home and daily precautions like wearing masks and social distancing, it can make travel safer,” said Robert Redfield, director of the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The United States remains the worst affected country, with an estimated 380,000 – or one-fifth – of the nearly two million deaths worldwide, while it represents just 4% of the world’s population.

Also on Tuesday, Democratic members of Congress expressed fury at the actions of some of their fellow Republicans who refused to wear masks as lawmakers took cover from a crowd that ransacked the Capitol last week.

“I am now in strict isolation, worried that I risked my wife’s health and angry at the selfishness and arrogance of the anti-masks,” said Brad Schneider, the third Democratic representative to test positive.

– Third vaccine in the EU –

Across the Canadian border, the most populous province of Ontario has ordered residents to stay home, as projections have shown the number of cases could soon explode and overwhelm hospitals.

But there has been positive news in the European Union, which on Tuesday kicked off the approval process for its third vaccine.

The 27-nation bloc has pledged a “fast-track schedule” after confirming that pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca had sought approval for the coup it had developed with the University of Oxford.

The European Medicines Agency said a decision would still not be taken until Jan. 29.

But the European Commission announced on Tuesday that it had concluded exploratory talks with the Franco-Austrian biotechnology laboratory Valneva for the possible purchase of up to 60 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine.

Switzerland has approved the Moderna vaccine, having already been the first country in continental Europe to start using the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

However, even with mass vaccinations, scientists at the World Health Organization have warned that coverage will still not be broad enough for population-level immunity this year.

Malaysia declared a state of emergency on Tuesday amid growing fears that its healthcare system was about to be overwhelmed, after China and Japan took action against localized clusters.

The Netherlands became the latest European country to tighten virus controls, extending their restrictions until February 9, including the closure of schools and non-essential stores, and a ban on people with more than two people at home. they.

“I don’t think I’m going to surprise you tonight, the lockdown is extended for three weeks,” Prime Minister Mark Rutte said at a televised press conference on the curbs.

Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, 72, meanwhile tested negative for the coronavirus after a positive test that saw him cancel all public engagements, his office said on Tuesday, two weeks before an election that ‘he should win.

China on Tuesday added a city of five million people to a growing lockdown area near Beijing, as WHO experts arrive in the central city of Wuhan to probe the origins of the disease.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday asked China for the release of a citizen journalist jailed for reporting from Wuhan, accusing Beijing of seeking to cover up the Covid-19 pandemic.

– Call from Eastern Europe –

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, under pressure for failing to secure Western-made vaccines, on Tuesday called on the European Union to help procure vaccines against the coronavirus.

Zelensky’s appeal came a day after Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama accused the EU of leaving the Balkan region behind in its vaccinations.

Malawi lost two senior government officials to the virus on Tuesday, Transport Minister Sidik Mia and Local Government Minister Lingson Belekanyama.

South Africa on Monday restricted movement across its land borders and extended recently imposed restrictions on coronaviruses, as it grappled with an increase in cases fueled by a new strain of the virus.

– Hide the threat to wildlife –

Sports fans can expect England to start a trial cricket match in Sri Lanka on Thursday, 10 months after their tour was canceled.

But elsewhere in the sporting world, jagged schedules and crisis meetings were still the order of the day.

Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics have dismissed speculation that this summer’s event was about to be canceled, with polls showing public support was waning.

Formula 1 on Tuesday announced a major reshuffle to next season’s racing, moving the season-opening Australian Grand Prix from March to November and postponing the China race indefinitely.

And the NBA and its players union updated Covid-19 health and safety protocols on Tuesday following the increase in player cases and game postponements.

Environmentalists have warned of the long-term impacts of the pandemic.

fraises-ia / ft

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