Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Thursday

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The director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention is raising the vaccination target he believes is needed to provide widespread protection against COVID-19 on the continent, citing the more infectious delta variant now present in 32 countries.

Africa CDC Director John Nkengasong told reporters Thursday that health officials once estimated at least 60 per cent of Africa’s population of 1.3 billion people needed to be vaccinated to achieve so-called herd immunity. Nkengasong says he now thinks the proportion should be “in excess of 70 per cent to 80 per cent.” Even at that level, he said, “are we going to get to herd immunity? I doubt that notion is relevant anymore.”

Africa is well short of its original vaccination target as health officials criticize richer countries for hoarding doses and rolling out booster shots while people in poorer nations are still awaiting vaccines. 

Only 2.5 per cent of Africa’s population is fully vaccinated now, and 93 million doses have been administered. The Africa CDC has estimated that perhaps just 30 per cent of Africa’s population can be vaccinated by the end of the year.

“Things will get more challenging before they get better,” Nkengasong said.

-From The Associated Press, last updated at 7:25 a.m. ET

What’s happening across Canada

WATCH | Waning immunity sparks debate about need for COVID-19 booster shots: 

Waning immunity sparks debate about need for COVID-19 booster shots

Recent studies show a drop in effectiveness for COVID-19 vaccines, but the lack of information about how severe breakthrough cases were has sparked a debate about whether booster shots are necessary. 2:03

What’s happening around the world

Ivan Fischer, founder of the Budapest’s Festival Orchestra, receives his third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as he conducts the orchestra during a free concert in Budapest, Hungary on Wednesday. (Laszlo Balogh/The Associated Press)

As of early Thursday morning, more than 213.9 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 tracking tool. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.4 million.

In Europe, a Hungarian orchestra conductor received a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot onstage during a free open-air concert in Budapest on Wednesday as part of an effort to encourage people to get vaccinated.

Workers at public hospitals in Greece were holding a five-hour work stoppage Thursday to protest a government decision making vaccination against COVID-19 mandatory for all health-care workers in the public and private sector. About 300 hospital workers rallied outside the health ministry in Athens to protest the measure, which goes into effect on Sept. 1. The government has made clear that no extension will be granted.

COVID-19 vaccines are freely available in Greece to anyone over the age of 12. Vaccination is not mandatory except for those in the health-care sector, but on Tuesday the government announced new testing requirements and restrictions on access to various venues for people who are unvaccinated.

In the Middle East, Iran’s health officials on Wednesday reported 665 additional deaths on Wednesday, a day after reporting a record high of 709 COVID-19 related deaths in 24 hours. 

In the Americas, top health officials in the U.S. state of New Mexico are warning that the state is about a week away from having to ration medical care as coronavirus infections continue to climb.

The state health secretary said Wednesday the state is tracking along with its worst-case projections when it comes to spread of the virus and hospitalizations for COVID-19. Dr. David Scarse said there was a 20 per cent increase in pandemic patients needing care in just the past day.

Scarse said that the result may be that “we’re going to have to choose who gets care and who doesn’t get care, and we don’t want to get to that point.” He said the biggest constraint right now is the shortage of health-care workers.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Moderna Inc said it has withheld supply of about 1.63 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine in Japan after a report of contamination of vials with particulate matter, which it suspects involves a production line in Spain.

New Zealand has reported 68 new community cases of the coronavirus, the largest daily increase since April of last year as an outbreak of the delta variant continues to grow. The government put the nation into a strict lockdown last week as it tries to stamp out the outbreak, which has grown to a total of 277 infections.

-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 7:50 a.m. ET

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