By B Izzak & Agencies
KUWAIT: The health ministry yesterday reported 12 more cases of the COVID-19 Omicron variant in people arriving from several European countries, as a committee overseeing health conditions called for strictly imposing coronavirus precautionary measures. Health Ministry Spokesman Dr Abdullah Al-Sanad said the new cases have been isolated, adding the ministry has taken all necessary precautionary measures and launched an investigation into the cases.
Dr Sanad stressed the need to implement home quarantine for all passengers arriving in Kuwait and strictly implementing health measures and other preventive procedures. He called on public to complete their vaccinations including the third booster dose, avoid unsafe gatherings, observe safe distances and continue sanitizing hands. He also advised the public to take seasonal winter vaccinations.
Kuwait last week reported the first case of Omicron in a European man who arrived from an African nation that has reported cases of the Omicron variant. Dr Sanad also stressed that people should defer travel plans unless necessary. The Cabinet on Monday re-imposed home quarantine on all passengers arriving in the country for a period of 10 days, which can be cut to just three days if the passengers test negative for COVID.
The Cabinet also decided that people who have taken the second vaccine nine months ago or earlier won’t be considered as immune and therefore must take the third dose. The decision is effective from Jan 2. Meanwhile, a government committee overseeing the implementation of health measures yesterday called for strictly applying health conditions, saying they have not been implemented strictly recently, which has led to a steady rise in the number of new coronavirus cases.
The committee decided to send field teams to malls and markets to ensure health measures are being implemented. The committee will notify owners of malls not to allow unvaccinated people to enter, and violators will be cautioned, then fined. Other conditions include wearing facemasks properly and maintaining distancing. After reporting fewer than 40 new coronavirus cases for two months, the health ministry has reported more than 50 cases daily in the past five days, with 90 cases reported on Tuesday.
Elsewhere, France started vaccinating children over five and China plunged a city into a strict lockdown yesterday as governments scramble to contain fresh virus surges driven by the Omicron variant. The UK meanwhile approved Pfizer’s jab for children aged five and up, while the World Health Organization warned that getting booster shots did not mean tossing aside safety measures at end-of-year celebrations.
France yesterday opened vaccinations to children aged between five and 11, as it warned daily infections rates could hit 100,000 by year end up from a weekly average of 54,000 daily cases. The UK is also seeing an alarming rise in new cases and yesterday approved Pfizer’s Covid jab for kids aged five to 11. The country clocked another daily new cases record – 106,122 – as it announced it would buy millions of COVID pills, and also cut the isolation period for infected people from 10 to seven days with negative tests.
The government signed deals to acquire 4.25 million courses of Pfizer’s ritonavir and US rival Merck/MSD’s molnupiravir antiviral drugs, which have raised hope for an easy at-home treatment. Finland also revealed plans to expand its vaccination program to children aged between five and 12, a day after announcing bars must close at 9:00 pm on Christmas Eve to fight record Covid infection levels.
But in China, only 52 new reported infections were enough for authorities to impose a stringent lockdown on more than 13 million people in the northern city of Xi’an. From midnight on Thursday, residents must stay at home except to buy necessities once every two days or in emergencies. Travel to and from Xi’an is heavily monitored by health authorities and non-essential businesses will close.
The move comes as China pursues its rigorous zero-COVID policy before next year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing and is reminiscent of the world’s first pandemic lockdown in the central city of Wuhan in Jan 2020. The all-too-familiar restrictions threatened festivities across the world, even as governments speedily rolled out booster campaigns.
But WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that third doses did not translate into a carte blanche for celebrations – and could exacerbate vaccine inequity. “No country can boost its way out of the pandemic,” he said yesterday. “Blanket booster programs are likely to prolong the COVID-19 pandemic, rather than ending it, by diverting supply to countries that already have high levels of vaccination coverage, giving the virus more opportunity to spread and mutate.”
As some poorer countries struggle to get initial vaccine campaigns off the ground, the Zionist entity said citizens over the age of 60 and medical teams would be eligible for a fourth COVID vaccine shot. “The world will follow in our footsteps,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tweeted.
Across Africa, countries are lagging behind Western nations in getting populations inoculated as the continent faces fresh surges of its own. But in Nigeria, around a million AstraZeneca Covid doses donated by developed countries were destroyed yesterday after they had expired.
“When these vaccines were offered to us, we knew that they had a short shelf-life,” said Faisal Shuaib of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency. “But we were living in an environment where the supply of COVID-19 vaccines was very scarce,” he added, blaming rich countries for hoarding the jabs and donating them only when they had almost expired.