Today millions of children in European countries such as France and Poland returned to school — some with face masks — as the global COVID-19 total topped the 25.5 million mark.
The pandemic total rose to 25,579,140 cases, and 852,561 people have died from their infections, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.
School reopens in parts of Europe
Along with France and Poland, Russian children also returned to school with safeguards in place. President Vladimir Putin in a nationally televised address urged students to follow virus safety rules, Reuters reported. In Moscow, the country’s main hot spot, teachers must wear masks if they can’t keep a safe distance from children.
Meanwhile, recent COVID-19 developments have pushed some countries to shift their school reopening plans. Greece postponed its reopening by a week to September 14, due to a rise in cases, mainly in the capital Athens and island tourist destinations. A government spokesperson said the delay helps families returning to big cities spend time at home before children return to school. Mask use will be mandatory in Greek schools.
In a related development, countries in the World Health Organization (WHO) European region recently met to discuss schooling during the pandemic and issued a joint statement yesterday. They acknowledged that school closures can have a profound effect on children’s health and well-being and that vulnerable children, including those with health conditions and disabilities, carry the heaviest burden of the closures, which include challenges with distance learning.
The group agreed that there are ways to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread in school settings, but it’s realistic to have online learning plans in case temporary closures are needed. They also agreed to deliver a feasible and realistic framework for managing school reopening.
Japan joins COVAX, US takes a pass
Japan today said it would participate in the WHO’s COVAX Facility, a tool that pairs pooling the risk of supporting vaccine development with securing vaccine doses for countries equitably and at reasonable prices. Countries had until yesterday to confirm their intent to join.
It’s not clear if Japan will use COVAX to acquire vaccine doses, as it recently announced a plan to acquire 521 million doses from 5 different vaccines.
A number of developed countries are pursuing their own unilateral vaccine deals with companies, and the United States today signaled that it won’t join the WHO-led COVAX effort, the Washington Post reported.
Canada yesterday said it had reached an initial agreement with Novavax and Johnson & Johnson to buy doses of their candidate COVID-19 vaccines, according to Reuters. The country had previously announced similar agreements with Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca, securing at least 88 million doses with the option to order more.
Yesterday the European Commission announced that it joined COVAX with a $400 million contribution. The next COVAX deadline is September 18, when countries need to make financial commitments. The program has nine candidate vaccines its portfolio with a goal of delivering at least 2 billion doses by the end of 2021.
In other global COVID developments:
- In Ethiopia, a rapid rise in cases over the past few weeks is gravely concerning, the WHO’s African regional office said in its weekly outbreaks and health emergencies report The main hot spot is Addis Ababa, and since last half of August, the country has reported about 10,000 cases a week. A rising number of hospitalizations threatens to overload the country’s health system, already overburdened from juggling several other health threats. Other concerns include COVID-19 spread in refugee camps and backlogged lab testing results.
- Hong Kong today launched mass testing in an effort led by the mainland, but some activists are urging a boycott, casting the effort as a political charged move. Hong Kong recently battled a third wave of COVID-19 activity.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) today called on governments to work together urgently to reopen borders and reestablish global flights. In July, international air traffic was 91.9% below 2019 levels. It proposed a three-point plan to safety reopen borders, which includes developing COVID-19 testing measures to reduce the risk of imported cases.