Yearender 2021: Vaccine drive, virus resurgence, Omicron & lockdown 2.0

In 2021 as the vaccines were rolled out across the world, the COVID-19 surge continued unabated as large portions of the world continued to remain unvaccinated.

China battles virus 2 years after first reported case

Nearly two years after China reported the first coronavirus case back in December 31 2019, residents in Xi'an are enduring a near-total city closure to curb a tiny outbreak as China presses on with its zero-Covid strategy ahead of the Winter Olympics.

The city transformed as all 13 million residents were ordered to stay home: streets emptied, people formed long lines at COVID-19 testing stations, and officials cordoned-off apartment compounds as the historic former capital -- a popular destination for international tourists prior to the pandemic was swiftly sealed off after more than 200 COVID-19 cases were detected this month.

In China, even a single COVID-19 case can prompt stay-at-home orders and strict travel bans.

(Photograph:AFP)

Pandemic rages amid vaccination

In 2021 as the vaccines were rolled out across the world, the COVID-19 surge continued unabated as large portions of the world continued to remain unvaccinated. The Omicron variant detected in South Africa last month compounded matters bringing back memories of early 2020 when the world began the lockdown process.

Germany witnessed a surge in cases for the past few months even as inoculation continued at rapid pace.

Amid the surge, Germany's leaders limited private New Year's parties to 10 people and banned spectators from football games to stem Omicron's spread stopping short of imposing new coronavirus curbs before Christmas.

From December 28, Germany will close nightclubs and dance venues.

(Photograph:AFP)

Anti-lockdown protests

December this year brought a sense of deja vu across the world as a new, heavily mutated COVID-19 variant spread across the globe shutting borders, renewing curbs, and sparking fears for the fight against the nearly two-year-old coronavirus pandemic.

The Netherlands went into a new lockdown on Sunday for the Christmas holiday period in an attempt to stop the fifth wave of COVID-19 and the strong progress of the Omicron variant.

The Netherlands was hit by the worst violence in decades as anti-lockdown protests erupted. Five people were shot when police opened fire in Rotterdam, and riots spread around the country for the next three days last month.

In total, 173 people were arrested and at least 12 people injured nationwide.

Amid the virus surge with Omicron becoming the dominant strain, the World Health Organization warned Europe could witness 2.2 million deaths this winter if current trends continue.

(Photograph:AFP)

Virus in Asia

Indonesia in Asia was hit with a new wave of the virus as Japan witnessed a surge over the summer even amid the Olympic Games. India was also hit by a devastating second wave in April and May as several cities imposed lockdowns.

The Japanese government imposed a state of emergency in capital Tokyo and other areas to combat the virus even as athletes across the world competed.

The coronavirus pandemic shuttered almost all the resorts and restaurants across Indonesia hitting the country's economy as hospitals gripped with surging cases.

According to the UN, the coronavirus pandemic will cost the global tourism sector $2.0 trillion in lost revenue in 2021 with countries like Indonesia which depend heavily on tourism facing the brunt of the pandemic.

 

(Photograph:AFP)

Russia hit with new wave, struggles to vaccinate citizens

The COVID-19 pandemic continued to rage around the world including Africa. Russia experienced a surge in cases despite the Sputnik V vaccine which was approved by Russian authorities in August last year.

Russian authorities have faced a vaccine-sceptic population that has seen just 42 per cent of Russians fully inoculated. Sputnik V has still not been approved by the WHO.

This month Russia registered its first two cases of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus in its nationals returning from South Africa. The country has reported more than 9.8 million infections and 282,462 deaths from the virus -- the highest toll in Europe.

Russia's statistics agency, which counts COVID-19 deaths based on a broader definition, says fatalities passed 520,000 by the end of October.    

(Photograph:AFP)

Covid loses ability to infect within 20 minutes of being airborne

The study, which is yet to be peer-reviewed, is the first of its kind to simulate how exactly coronavirus travels in the air after it has been exhaled,

(Photograph:AFP)

Borders shut as Omicron arrives

The world was hit with new curbs at the end of the year as the Omicron variant led to shutting of borders, renewing curbs, and sparking fears for the fight against the nearly two-year-old coronavirus pandemic.

The strain has cast doubt on global efforts to battle the pandemic because of fears that it is highly infectious, forcing countries to reimpose measures many had hoped were a thing of the past.

Israel announced some of the strictest curbs, closing the borders to all foreigners. The arrival of the new variant comes just a month after Australia lifted a ban on travelling overseas without permission.

Scientists in South Africa said detected the new B.1.1.529 variant with at least 10 mutations, compared with three for Beta or two for Delta sending shockwaves across the world as UK and the EU quickly closed their international borders to southern African countries.

South Africa had complained it was being unfairly hit with "draconian" air travel bans for having first detected the strain, which the World Health Organization considers a "variant of concern".

(Photograph:AFP)

Curbs, protests and Omicron

However, the lockdown led to protests on the streets in across Europe and Australia last month as anger mounted over fresh COVID-19 restrictions imposed against a resurgent pandemic.

Dutch police faced a second night of rioting -- this time in The Hague -- after violence in the port city of Rotterdam.

Several thousand protesters angry at the latest measures gathered in Amsterdam. Another thousand marched through the southern city of Breda near the Belgian border, carrying banners with slogans such as "No Lockdown".

Organisers said they opposed Prime Minister Mark Rutte's plans to exclude the unvaccinated from bars and restaurants.

In Austria, around 40,000 came out to protest in central Vienna near the Chancellery, responding to a call from the far-right FPO party.

In Australia, around 10,000 marched in Sydney and there were also protests in other major cities against vaccine mandates applied to certain occupations. 

(Photograph:AFP)

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