Sun, 24 Jan 2021

Britain's Johnson Asks Lawmakers to Back a Tougher Lockdown

Voice of America
29 Nov 2020, 16:05 GMT+10

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is asking lawmakers to support new, tiered restrictions to keep the nation's hospitals from becoming overwhelmed before a vaccine for the coronavirus can be approved and distributed.

The new measures would put 99% of the country under the two highest restriction levels when the current rules end Tuesday. The new restrictions would last about a month.

An increasing number of members of Johnson's own Conservative Party are opposed. And on Saturday, London police broke up anti-lockdown, anti-vaccine protests, arresting more than 150 people in the process.

The government hopes that a vaccine, the first doses of which could be in British hospitals by December 7, and mass testing could end the need for restrictions. Britain has suffered the worst COVID-19 outbreak in Europe, with more than 57,000 virus-related deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. COVID-19 is the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Parliament is to vote on Johnson's new restrictions Tuesday.

In the U.S., President-elect Joe Biden added three members to his COVID-19 advisory board.

Qualifications

Biden added Jane Hopkins, Jill Jim and David Michaels to "strengthen the board's work and help ensure that our COVID-19 planning will address inequities in health outcomes and the workforce," he said.

Hopkins is a registered nurse specializing in mental health and also serves on Washington state's COVID-19 task force.

Jim is a member of the Navajo Nation and the executive director of its Department of Health. She has focused on preventing chronic diseases and addressing health care and health disparities among American Indians/Alaska Natives.

Michaels is an epidemiologist and professor of environmental and occupational health at the Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University.

Beginning Monday, California's Los Angeles County, the nation's most populous, will be under a three-week, stay-at-home order.

The county had said previously that it would issue the restrictive order when new COVID-19 cases reached an average of 4,500 per day over a five-day period.

On Friday, the five-day average was 4,751.

The order prohibits gatherings, public or private, of people who do not live in the same household.

Stores deemed essential will be allowed to remain open, operating at 50% capacity. Other retail stores will remain open but will be able to operate at just 20% capacity during the holiday shopping season.

Erratic results

U.S. health officials say the numbers of new COVID-19 cases may appear erratic in the coming days, a result of fewer tests being administered during the Thanksgiving holiday and the reduced schedules of tests sites.

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health officials reported 3,143 new cases Saturday - down because of limited testing Thursday and Friday.

Although reports of new cases may seem lower than usual because of the holiday, the numbers, experts say, would not give an accurate account of where the U.S. is in fighting the virus. On Friday, the U.S. surpassed the 13 million mark in number of coronavirus cases, more than anyplace else in the world, according to Johns Hopkins.

Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and a George Washington University professor, told The Associated Press, "I just hope that people don't misinterpret the numbers and think that there wasn't a major surge as a result of Thanksgiving, and then end up making Christmas and Hanukkah and other travel plans."

The number of COVID-19 patients being treated in hospitals across the United States reached 90,000 Friday after nearly doubling in the last month, according to the Reuters news agency. The hospitalizations followed weeks of rising infection rates in the United States and have increased worries that recent Thanksgiving gatherings would lead to even more infections and hospitalizations.

Health care workers' deaths

The British newspaper The Guardian said its partner, Kaiser Health News, had conducted a review of hundreds of U.S. health care workers' deaths that went unreported to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), even though reports of such deaths are required. The deaths that could have been workplace COVID-related were not reported to authorities in the early days of the pandemic, the report said.

"Work-safety advocates say OSHA investigations into staff deaths can help officials pinpoint problems before they endanger other employees as well as patients or residents," the newspaper said.

WHO also announced that it was sending a team of 10 scientists to Wuhan, China, to investigate how COVID-19 jumped from animals to humans.

"We need to start where we found the first cases - and that is in Wuhan, in China - and then we need to follow the evidence after that wherever that leads," said Dr. Mike Ryan, head of the WHO emergencies program.

The team includes renowned virus hunters, public health specialists and experts in animal health from Britain, the United States, Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, Japan, Qatar, Germany, Vietnam and Russia.

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