India starts sending COVID-19 vaccine to cities

India began shipping COVID-19 vaccines to various cities on Tuesday, four days before the start of the national vaccination campaign.

The first batch of vaccines manufactured by the Serum Institute of India left the city of Pune on Tuesday. The drug left the company’s facilities in temperature-controlled trucks to the city’s airport, where it was loaded onto private planes for distribution throughout the country.

Starting Saturday, India will begin the massive task of inoculating an estimated 30 million doctors, nurses and other front-line workers. The campaign will then focus on vaccinating around 270 million people who are either over 50 years old or have a disease that increases the risk of dying from COVID-19.

The first shipments contain the Covishield vaccine, produced by the Serum Institute and developed by the University of Oxford and the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.

India’s drug regulator also gave the green light to the emergency use of a vaccine developed in the country, Covaxin, from Bharat Biotech. Medical groups and others expressed concern about the drug’s approval with little evidence of its effectiveness. It is not yet clear when and where Covaxin will be distributed.

India is the second country in the world most affected by the coronavirus by number of infections, behind the United States. Since the beginning of the pandemic, it has confirmed more than 10.4 million cases and more than 150,000 deaths.

On the other hand, in China quarantines were extended and a major political conference was delayed in a province near Beijing that records the most serious recent outbreak of COVID-19.

The authorities ordered residents of Gu’an City, just south of Beijing, to stay home for seven days starting Tuesday. Hebei also delayed meetings of the provincial People’s Congress and its advisory body, which usually take place in February.

The Hebei Province Health Commission on Tuesday reported 40 new cases, of which all but one were in the provincial capital, Shijiazhuang, where transportation has been suspended and its citizens are confined to their homes.

The small island nation of Micronesia, in the Pacific Ocean, confirmed its first case of coronavirus after the positive of a member of the crew of a ship that arrived at port.

In a speech to the country, President David Panuelo said that many people learned of the “alarming news” and pointed out that the case has been contained at the border.

Micronesia, with 100,000 inhabitants, was among the few nations in the world that had escaped the pandemic.

New Zealand will require travelers from most countries in the world to submit a negative coronavirus test performed within 72 hours of travel.

The rule will apply from Friday to travelers from the United States and Great Britain, while for most countries it will start later. Australia and some Pacific nations were exempted. In addition to the test, visitors will have to spend two weeks in quarantine at the border.

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