The World Health Organization (WHO) is worried about the spread of the coronavirus in Afghanistan as the upheaval caused by the Taliban advance and seizure of power has slowed vaccinations, a spokesperson said on Tuesday.
“As the situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate rapidly, WHO is extremely concerned over the unfolding safety and humanitarian needs in the country, including risk of disease outbreaks and rise in COVID-19 transmission,” Tarik Jasarevic told a UN briefing.
WHO mobile health teams have been on hold in the capital for the past 24 hours due to the insecurity and the unpredictable situation, he said. Chaos at Kabul airport, where thousands of people have been seeking to flee the Taliban, was slowing deliveries of medical supplies, worsening existing shortages.
Jasarevic said the WHO, like other UN agencies, was committed to remain in the country.
-From Reuters, last updated at 8:30 a.m. ET
What’s happening across Canada
What’s happening around the world
As of early Tuesday afternoon, more than 208.1 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to a coronavirus tracker published by Johns Hopkins University. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.3 million.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern put New Zealand under strict lockdown after the country’s first case in six months was reported in the largest city of Auckland.
Japan, meanwhile, extended its state of emergency in Tokyo and other regions and announced new measures covering seven more prefectures to counter a spike in COVID-19 cases threatening the medical system. The current state of emergency, the fifth of the pandemic so far, was due to expire on Aug. 31 but will now last until Sept. 12. Tokyo announced 4,377 new cases on Tuesday, after a record 5,773 on Friday.
In the Middle East, Israel said more than one million people over age 50 have received a third dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Israel began offering the boosters to its older population two weeks ago, becoming the first country in the world using a Western vaccine to do so.
In the Americas, several U.S. states are dealing with an uptick of COVID-19 hospitalizations, including Alabama, where intensive care units are near capacity amid the state’s surge in COVID-19 cases.
The head of the Alabama Hospital Association said the state has 1,562 intensive care unit beds and 1,560 patients needing intensive care Monday. Dr. Don Williamson says that “this is the greatest demand on the ICU system we’ve ever had.” Williamson said COVID-19 patients accounted for 48 per cent of Alabama’s ICU patients Monday. He said the overwhelming majority of them are unvaccinated.
Alabama has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases fuelled by the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus and the state’s low vaccination rate. Infections and hospitalization numbers are quickly approaching what they were at the winter peak of the pandemic.
In Africa, health officials in South Africa on Monday reported 7,983 new cases of COVID-19 and 299 additional deaths.
In Europe, the poorest region in mainland France has dramatically improved its COVID-19 vaccination rate. That’s notably thanks to walk-in pop-up centres aimed at reaching people where they live and work. The multicultural, working-class region of Seine-Saint-Denis, north of Paris, initially struggled spreading the word on vaccines. The region had France’s highest rise in mortality when the coronavirus first hit but now its vaccination rates are above the national average.
Many residents are immigrants who don’t speak French or lack access to regular medical care. More than a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line.
-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 12:45 p.m. ET
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