Border restrictions were being tightened around the world yesterday in the face of an unrelenting COVID-19 threat, after a weekend in which anger at social distancing rules bubbled over into fiery clashes in the Netherlands.
The US was set to join France, Israel and Sweden in pulling up the drawbridge to certain arrivals, with special concern about new strains of the pathogen that originated in the UK and South Africa.
“When I arrive in a country, the idea is not to contaminate it,” Antoine, an 18-year-old Belgian, told reporters at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport after new rules on tests for EU arrivals came into force.
“It’s up to us to show that we are civic-minded,” Spaniard Claudio Barraza said.
The stipulations came as Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador became the latest public figure to test positive for the disease, and New Zealand reported its first community case for more than two months.
In Washington, US President Joe Biden was yesterday to reimpose a ban on most non-US citizens who have been in Brazil, Ireland, the UK and much of Europe, as well as adding South Africa to the list, a senior White House official said.
Since it emerged in late 2019, COVID-19 has killed more than 2.1 million people, with more than 99 million cases registered, according to Johns Hopkins University.
On Sunday, France started demanding a negative polymerase chain reaction test for arrivals by sea and air from EU neighbors.
Sweden said it would prohibit entry from Norway for three weeks, after cases of the more infectious British strain were detected in Oslo.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the country was “closing the skies hermetically, except for rare exceptions” to both arrivals and departures for a week.
Protests against a COVID-19 curfew in the Netherlands degenerated into clashes with police and looting in cities across the country on Sunday, a day after a COVID-19 testing center was set on fire in the northern village of Urk.
Police used water cannon and dogs in Amsterdam, public television NOS reported, after hundreds gathered to protest the 9pm to 4:30am curfew, set to last until Feb. 10.
In New Zealand, officials confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in the community for more than two months, in a 56-year-old woman who recently returned from Europe.
Scientists say the only way out of the pandemic is large-scale vaccinations, but the rollout has stuttered in many places.
Egypt began its program, with a doctor and a nurse getting the Chinese-made Sinopharm jab.
In India, about one-third of people are not turning up for vaccine appointments, with fear of side effects high after reports of a few cases of severe reactions spread widely through social media and messaging services.
Australia’s medical regulator formally approved the Pfizer vaccine, with the first doses expected to be administered late next month, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said yesterday.
On the long-term economic effects of the pandemic, anti-poverty group Oxfam said the emergency was aggravating inequality.
“The 1,000 richest people on the planet recouped their COVID-19 losses within just nine months, but it could take more than a decade for the world’s poorest to recover,” the group said.
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