Italy to Scrap Face Masks End of June

Published June 22nd, 2021 - 06:16 GMT
Face masks will no longer be compulsory outdoors in Italy.
A woman takes a selfie in front of Rome's landmark Colosseum on June 12, 2021 as six more of Italy's regions and autonomous provinces will be allowed to drop most remaining Covid-19 health measures from June 14 as the latest data showed infection rates remain low nationwide. Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP
Highlights
Coronavirus has claimed the lives of more than 3.8M people and infected over 179M globally. Here are the latest COVID-related developments for June 22:

Italy to scrap face masks from end of June

Face masks will no longer be compulsory in Italy, one of the countries in Europe worst hit by the virus, from June 28, the health ministry said.

The lifting of the mask requirement would come into effect in regions labelled "white" under Italy's classification system for how rapidly the virus is spreading, Health Minister Roberto Speranza wrote on Facebook.

This includes all Italian regions except the tiny Aosta Valley in the far northwest.

Speranza's announcement came on advice from Italy's Comitato Tecnico Scientifico (CTS) scientific advisory panel, which said people should still have masks at hand for events with higher risk of spreading the virus like large gatherings.

By June 28, experts predict all of Italy will be classified a "white" zone.

The country has recorded 127,291 deaths since the pandemic reached it in early 2020, with 4.25 million infections.

So far 30 percent of people over 12 have been vaccinated, or around 16 million out of a population of 60 million.

More than 46 million vaccine doses have been administered in Italy.

Companies boost vaccine rollout in Japan

Thousands of Japanese companies began distributing vaccines to workers and their families in an employer-led drive reaching more than 13 million people that aims to rev up the nation’s slow vaccine rollout.

About 3,500 companies have signed up for the free vaccines, and that number is growing. The companies must present a plan to inoculate at least 1,000 people per site. But they decide whom to include, such as families, affiliate companies and suppliers.

Universities are also eligible. Smaller companies can apply through organisations, such as the local merchant association, so ideally no one falls through the cracks, according to the health ministry.

Company applications for the vaccines are accepted through February 2022.

Japan is relying totally on imported vaccines for a campaign that started in February with medical professionals. Only about 6% of Japanese are fully vaccinated. Japan has had more than 14,000 deaths from the virus.

Vaccinations have been slowed by bungled reservation procedures, unclear distribution plans and shortages of medical staff to give shots.

Local governments and Japan’s self-defence forces are also leading the vaccination campaign, but the employer-led efforts are helping accelerate the pace.

US announces allocation plan for 55M vaccine doses

The administration of US President Joe Biden announced its plan for the next tranche of 55 million vaccine doses it plans to send to countries in need.

The donation will complete Washington's initial pledge of 80 million doses from its own vaccine supply, made ahead of a vow to buy 500 million doses of Pfizer's vaccine for low- and middle-income nations.

Forty-one million of the 55 million doses (75 percent) are being distributed through the Covax programme, with the remaining 14 million (25 percent) shared with recipients the US deems priorities.

The vaccines being shared with Covax include 14 million for Latin America and the Caribbean, approximately 16 million to Asia, and 10 million for Africa in coordination with the African Union.

The first tranche included the Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, but it was not immediately clear what the second tranche would comprise.

 

Philippines threatens those who refuse vaccines with jail

President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to jail people who refuse to be vaccinated as the Philippines battles one of Asia's worst outbreaks, with over 1.3 million cases and more than 23,000 deaths.

"You choose, vaccine or I will have you jailed," Duterte said in a televised address on Monday following reports of low turnouts at several vaccination sites in the capital Manila.

Duterte's remarks contradict those of his health officials who have said that while people are urged to receive the vaccine, it was voluntary.

"Don't get me wrong, there is a crisis in this country," Duterte said. "I'm just exasperated by Filipinos not heeding the government."

As of June 20, Philippine authorities had fully vaccinated 2.1 million people, making slow progress towards the government's target to immunise up to 70 million people this year in a country of 110 million.

Vaccine technology transfer centre to open in South Africa

The World Health Organization is in talks to create the first-ever technology transfer hub for vaccines in South Africa, a move to boost supply to the continent that's desperately in need of virus shots, the head of the UN agency announced.

The new consortium will include drugmakers Biovac and Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, a network of universities and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. 

They will develop training facilities for other vaccine makers to make shots that use a genetic code of the spike protein, known as mRNA vaccines.

This article has been adapted from its original source.


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