Displaying items by tag: pandemic
This time last year, the UK was slowly taking its first small steps into what would become the second wave of Covid-19. That led to tighter local restrictions and, ultimately, lockdowns across all the nations, which didn't start to unravel until late spring 2021. Case numbers right now are over 30 times higher than at the same point last year and showing signs of climbing again. We can pray to the Lord, our refuge and stronghold, to direct the health and well-being of our nation. As the media reports an increase in case numbers, may all who are fearful and anxious be at peace and free from worry. Pray for God to give people wise judgment as they increasingly gather with less social distancing and mask-wearing. Pray for medical staff and hospital workers who have been stressed and exhausted over the past 18 months, asking God to renew their strength as they contemplate future challenges from flu and Covid.
Minister for health Stephen Donnelly said that the government will continue to lift Covid-19 restrictions ‘as quickly as possible’. There would still be public health advice for situations where infection rates are higher. When asked if he thought that all restrictions on indoor capacity limits would be lifted before Christmas, he said, ‘Yes, I do. The road to freedom lies ahead, but things may still get worse before they get better. What we want to do is to provide real certainty for people. It’s been a brutal year and a half’, he added. The government is currently working on a roadmap on the lifting of all restrictions, which will be published next week.
Taiwan is administering its domestically developed Covid-19 vaccine, amid criticism that its approval was rushed. The Medigen vaccine had not completed phase three trials when it was granted emergency approval by regulators. Medigen said there were no major safety concerns, and antibodies created were no worse than AstraZeneca's vaccine. It is expected to complete the final round of trials being held in Paraguay later this year. Taiwan's vaccination efforts have been hampered by delivery delays and hesitancy amongst its population. President Tsai Ing-wen led the way in receiving the Medigen jab on 23 August. The objections have mainly come from the opposite political party, the Kuomintang, who say it is unsafe. More than 700,000 people have already signed up for the vaccine, which requires two doses 28 days apart. Less than 5% of Taiwan's population is fully vaccinated: around 40% have received just one dose.
In April the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) warned the department of health that consumers could be ripped off by the fast-growing Covid PCR testing industry and that the competitions watchdog had not done enough. The Government said it was provided with general market analysis from the CMA on potential implications for the PCR testing market, and that advice informed government approaches on private provider lists. There has been a summer of complaints from travellers who mention tests listed on the government's list of providers that don't exist at the price advertised, and poor service. At the start of August, the health secretary asked the competitions watchdog to investigate ‘excessive’ pricing and ‘exploitative practices’ among Covid test firms. In a letter to the CMA, Sajid Javid said it was time for a ‘rapid high-level’ review to protect consumers. The travel industry also demands action to remove the barriers to passenger recovery.
On 17 August Peru’s Covid cumulative death toll rose to 197,487. Peru has the world’s highest number of Covid deaths per capita. Poverty, high levels of informal labour, and intergenerational housing have contributed to the high rate of transmission. The secondary impact of the pandemic is children losing their primary and secondary caregivers. Children orphaned by the death of one or both parents or bereft of other caregivers are often more vulnerable to poverty, abuse, institutionalisation, and harmful mental health impacts. Psychosocial support and trauma counselling is a prominent need. As children in Peru and around the world confront death in a unique way, may their perspective and grieving process be shaped by a Godly perspective and the Father’s heart.
India has ramped up its coronavirus vaccine production and approved Johnson & Johnson's single-dose vaccine for emergency use amid warnings of a third wave. The vaccine, with 85% efficacy, will be introduced through a supply agreement with homegrown vaccine maker Biological E. It is still unclear when the vaccine will be available. Daily case counts have fallen from 400,000, but they still average up to 40,000, and experts have warned that a third wave of infections is inevitable. Johnson & Johnson's jab is the second foreign vaccine to be granted emergency use authorisation under a new policy not requiring manufacturers to conduct local clinical trials if the vaccine is approved by WHO. In June the Moderna vaccine was given Indian approval, but the company is locked in a legal tussle, and no one has yet been given Immunisation.
The number of children eligible for free school meals in England has risen since the start of the pandemic. The holidays have begun, and over one in five pupils are eligible. Unlike last summer, the Government is not directly funding vouchers or food packages this year. Free school meals have traditionally been provided only in term time. But many councils have decided to create their own meal schemes during the holiday - not trusting parents with cash payments. These programmes will cover four hours a day, four days a week, but nothing for the other three days. They will be offered free to all children eligible for free school meals. Other children may still get places, but not for free. Pray for children who may have missed out on direct payments turning up at school hungry and with no money or food.
President Pedro Castillo is a radical left outsider who no one, including himself, expected to win the election. He ran a chaotic campaign, contradicting himself and delaying weeks to organise a policy team. Many who voted for the village schoolteacher and union leader question whether he is ready for the challenges of leading Peru out of a crisis. But on 28 July he was sworn in as president and will serve a society on its knees due to the pandemic, political instability, endemic corruption, and a bitter election campaign that divided Peruvians. ‘Even after being elected, Castillo remains an unknown,’ said a political scientist.
Iceland said photographs of empty shelves in supermarkets, signs of panic buying, were isolated incidents. While there were ‘some availability issues’, they said their supply chains are resilient. M&S and other businesses said growing numbers of staff have been ‘pinged’ by the NHS Covid-19 app and they must self-isolate for 10 days. Businesses want people who have been double-vaccinated or have daily tests to be able to return to work. The British Retail Consortium said shops were facing increasing pressure as they try to keep shelves stocked with rising numbers of staff self-isolating. It said ministers needed to ‘act fast’ and allow fully-vaccinated retail workers or those who had tested negative for Covid to go to work. The Road Haulage Association said a shortage of 100,000 HGV drivers is disrupting supply chains as workers return to Europe following Brexit.
From 19 July England’s church congregations can be free from face masks and allowed to sing. Congregational singing and other in-person interaction is important for Christians. May churches be gracious and wise as they use their freedoms as scientists warn ‘lifting of almost all restrictions is a mistake as not enough people have been vaccinated’. Prof Robert West said government predictions of 100,000 cases a day over the summer are optimistic: ‘We could be seeing even double that.' The test and trace system remains the only way the Government can contain the virus to an acceptable level. So the message on how closely people should follow the advice to isolate if ‘pinged’ by the app is crucial. Although it's not a legal requirement to do so, any suggestion that ‘it's up to you, optional, or a judgment call’ risks undermining the Government's entire approach. Pray for everyone to navigate wisely the tricky issue of keeping everyone safe as they use their new freedoms.