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German COVID-19 Infection Rate At New High As Vaccinations Slow

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Germany’s coronavirus infection rate climbed to its highest recorded level yet on Monday as what officials have called a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” gathers pace.

The national disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, said the country has seen 201.1 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days. That was above the previous record of 197.6 from Dec. 22 last year. While it’s still a lower rate than in several other European countries, it has set alarm bells ringing.

The seven-day infection rate has long ceased to be the only policy yardstick in Germany, with new hospital admissions now an important factor. Those are currently at just under 4 per 100,000 residents over a week — compared with a peak of about 15.5 last Christmas — but officials say hospitals are filling up in badly affected areas.

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The disease control center said Monday that 15,513 new COVID-19 cases were reported over the past 24 hours — down from a record 37,120 on Friday, but figures are typically lower after the weekend. Another 33 deaths were recorded, bringing Germany’s total to 96,558.

Germany has struggled to find ways to pep up its much-slowed vaccination campaign. At least 67% of the population of 83 million is fully vaccinated, according to official figures, which authorities say isn’t enough. Unlike some other European countries, it has balked at making vaccinations mandatory for any professional group.

As at many times during the pandemic, Germany has a patchwork of regional rules. Most places restrict access to many indoor facilities and events to people who have been vaccinated, have recovered or been tested — with the latter now being excluded in some areas. Those rules are often enforced laxly.

Rules on whether schoolchildren must wear masks in class vary from state to state.

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Free rapid tests for all were scrapped nearly a month ago in an effort to incentivize more people to get vaccinated. There are now widespread calls for them to be reintroduced. And officials now advocate booster vaccinations for everyone who got their initial shots six months ago or more.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: China To Start Vaccinating Children To Age 3 As Cases Spread

Germany currently has a caretaker national government after its election in September. The parties that are expected to form the next government plan to bring legislation to parliament this week that would allow an “epidemic situation of national scope,” in place since March 2020, to expire at the end of the month but provide a new legal framework for coronavirus measures.

There has been criticism of that decision. But Katrin Goering-Eckardt, the parliamentary leader of one of those parties, the Greens, told ARD television that “we need to create measures now that can’t be questioned by courts.”

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She argued that, with two-thirds of residents vaccinated, the current rules weren’t legally waterproof.

Schools and other facilities can be closed if necessary, but “with so many people vaccinated, we won’t be able legally to do a complete lockdown for those who are vaccinated,” Goering-Eckardt said.

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World AIDS Day: How AIDS Killed 460,000 People In Africa

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The World Health Organisation, WHO, has disclosed that a total of 460,000 people were killed by AIDS.

This is as the world celebrate this year’s World AIDS Day

This means that a shocking 1,300 people died every day in Africa despite free access to effective treatment in the region.

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The world health body also noted that two out of every three new HIV infections occurred in the African Region, corresponding to almost 2,500 new HIV infections every day.

WHO, however, noted that despite the challenges, Africa has made significant progress against HIV in the past decade, reducing new infections by 43 per cent and nearly halving AIDS-related deaths?

Disclosing these in a message to mark the 2021 World AIDS Day with the theme: “End inequalities: End AIDS. End pandemic”, was WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti.

Moeti said: “In the region, 86 per cent of people living with HIV know their status, and 76 per cent are receiving antiretroviral therapy.

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READ ALSO: Edo: Tension As Gunmen Kidnap DPO, Demand N50million

“We also salute Botswana, which is on the home stretch to eliminating mother-to-child HIV transmission in what is a truly remarkable public health success.

“Only 16 countries have been certified for eliminating mother-to-child HIV transmission, none of which had as large an epidemic.

“It’s taken more than two decades of hard work by leaders, health workers and communities, illustrating what is possible when the health and welfare of mothers and children are prioritised.”

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Moeti explained that the region cannot meet the 2030 target as it fell short of the expected 75 per cent reduction in new HIV infections and 81 per cent reduction in AIDS-related deaths by 2020.

“Despite the very high percentages of people living with HIV who know their status, and treatment rates, new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths are not decreasing concomitantly,” Moeti stated.

She noted that it was critical for Africa to reach those who are fuelling the epidemic, address the persistent inequities in the provision of quality care and interventions.

“For instance, in West and Central Africa last year, key populations and their sexual partners accounted for 72 per cent of new adult HIV infections.

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“Yet punitive laws, policies, hostile social and cultural environments, and stigma and discrimination, including in the health sector, prevent them from accessing services,” she noted.

Moeti stated that in Sub-Saharan Africa, young women are twice as likely to be living with HIV than men.

“For adolescents aged 15 to19 years, three in every five new infections are among girls who don’t have access to comprehensive sexuality education, who face sexual and gender-based violence and live with harmful gender norms.

“They also have less access to a school than their male peers.”

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She said with COVID-19, people living with HIV appeared to be at elevated risk for virus-related illness and death.

“Nearly 70 per cent live in the WHO African Region, where only 4.5 per cent of people are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

“As efforts to tackle COVID-19 continue gathering force, and the world prepares itself against future pandemics, we risk repeating many of the same mistakes that have kept us from ending AIDS.

“Addressing inequality is critical to ending both AIDS and COVID-19 and preventing future pandemics – potentially saving millions of lives, and safeguarding our society.

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“We must ensure that everyone, everywhere, has equal access to HIV prevention, testing, treatment, and care, including COVID-19 vaccinations and services.

“This World AIDS Day, I urge governments to prioritize investment in health funding for community-led, human rights-based, gender transformative responses.

READ ALSO: Community Rises To End Gender Based Violence

“We must boost our essential health workforce, and secure equitable access to life-saving medicines and health technologies.

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“Global solidarity and shared responsibility are critical components of the kind of rights-based approach we need if we are to end HIV/AIDS and COVID-19.

“As we remember those who have lost their lives to AIDS this year, we also acknowledge the terrible death toll the coronavirus pandemic has taken and continues to take.

“Going forward, we cannot afford to lose focus on the urgent need to end the inequities that drive AIDS and other epidemics around the world.

“It has been 40 years since the first HIV cases were reported. Yet, in Africa and globally, it remains a major public health concern,” she added.

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JUST IN: NCDC Confirms First Case Of Omicron Variant In Nigeria

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The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, on Wednesday confirmed the first case of Omicron variant in Nigeria.

The Centre said in line with the routine travel test required of all international travellers and Genomic sequencing at the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) through Its National Reference Laboratory (NRL), Abuja–confirmed Nigeria’s first case of the Omicron variant, also known as the B.1.1.529 lineage.

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UK Govt Announces Fresh Guidelines As New COVID-19 Emerges

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UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has announced new measures following the discovery of a new variant of coronavirus.

Two cases of Omicron, a highly infectious strand of the virus, have been recorded in the UK.

According to Johnson, all travellers into the UK will have to undergo a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test by the end of the second day of their arrival.

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Travellers must self-isolate until they receive a negative test result.

“All contacts of suspected Omicron cases must self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of their vaccination status. They will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace.

“Face coverings will become compulsory on public transport and in shops – not including hospitality.

“The JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) will consider giving boosters to a wider age group, as well as reducing the gap between the second dose and booster,” the new rule stated.

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READ ALSO: Traditional Stool: Protests Rock Osun Community

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has described Omicron as a “variant of concern”, calling on global leaders to take action to contain its spread.

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