Paris – Clashes broke out in the Netherlands yesterday as anti-curfew demonstrators protested against coronavirus restrictions, while France imposed new border controls with numerous countries under pressure to slow the spread of new variants.
France introduced a requirement for incoming travellers from EU neighbours to show a recent negative coronavirus test and Israel announced it would “close” its skies to almost all aircraft.
In the US, Johns Hopkins University said the country had topped 25 million cases, remaining the hardest-hit after almost 99 million infections and over 2.1 million deaths worldwide.
In the Netherlands, a Covid-19 testing centre was burned in one village, while police used tear gas against demonstrators in Eindhoven, where cars were burned and businesses looted, and deployed water cannon and dogs in central Amsterdam.
“The fire in a screening centre in Urk goes beyond all limits,” Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said.
The clashes came on the first day of a new 9pm to 4.30am curfew, the country’s first since World War II.
In Denmark, two men were arrested on Saturday night for burning an effigy of Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen at an anti-restriction protest, while thousands marched against virus measures in Spanish capital Madrid.
France imposed a requirement for a negative PCR test for arrivals by sea and air from European Union neighbours — a measure required for non-EU arrivals since mid-January.
The rule does not apply to those travelling by land, including thousands of cross-border workers.
Meanwhile Sweden said it would prohibit entry from neighbouring Norway for three weeks, after cases of the more transmissible strain that emerged in Britain were detected in Oslo.
Israel skies ‘closed’
A doctor and a nurse were the first yesterday to receive the Chinese-made Sinopharm jab in Egypt.
“All healthcare workers will receive it for free, it’s their right,” Health Minister Hala Zayed said, adding that more than 300 doctors had died of Covid-19 in Egypt.
Zayed said Cairo had inked deals to receive vaccine shipments from British, Chinese and Russian firms, for a total of around 100 million doses — enough for around half Egypt’s population.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the country was “closing the skies hermetically, except for rare exceptions” to both incoming and outgoing traffic for a week.
The decision came with the country in its third national coronavirus lockdown, initiated in late December and extended on Tuesday until the end of the month due to a surge in Covid-19 deaths.
Israel is well advanced in its vaccination drive, as more than 2.5 million of the nine-million-strong population have been vaccinated in just a month.
US tops 25 million cases
In the latest unwelcome milestone for the US, the country topped 25 million cases in a count from Johns Hopkins University, days after it booked 400,000 deaths.
Newly-installed President Joe Biden this week warned that the total toll could rise to 600,000 fatalities, but hopes to distribute 100 million vaccine doses within his first 100 days in office.
Vivek Murthy, Biden’s nominee for surgeon-general, told ABC News yesterday that 100 million doses in 100 days was “a floor, not a ceiling” and cautioned about new strains, calling them “very concerning”.
‘Worried about side effects’
Large countries like Brazil and India have faced vaccine struggles of their own, as organisational failings and public fears over side effects hobble progress.
Experts have warned that Brazil faces running out of vaccine doses as well as vital equipment like syringes, and that vaccine-sceptic President Jair Bolsonaro could be endangering supply chains with criticism of the China-made CoronaVac shot.
In India, around 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 the media and messaging services.
“I am very afraid. I hate needles and I am worried about side effects,” 17-year-old pharma student Khushi Dhingra said with tears in her eyes as she waited in line for the vaccine at Sharda Hospital in Greater Noida, near New Delhi.
European health authorities have said there is no evidence the vaccines were to blame in the deaths of small numbers of nursing home residents who died after receiving them.
New case in New Zealand
Germany said yesterday it had paid €400 million (RM1.97 billion) for 200,000 doses of the experimental antibody treatment used on former US President Donald Trump.
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 had recently returned from Europe.
And in Britain, Sky television said Kenneth Branagh would star as Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a TV drama about the country’s handling of the outbreak.
Set to air on Sky Atlantic next year, director Michael Winterbottom said the show would focus on “the efforts of scientists, doctors, care home workers and policy makers to protect us from the virus.” — AFP