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World Coronavirus Dispatch: A pandemic of human rights abuses, says UN head

New strains upended Europe's open-border policy, cloud Iran's vaccination drive, Why Americans may still need to wear face masks in 2022, and other pandemic-related news across the globe

Coronavirus | Coronavirus Vaccine | Coronavirus Tests

Akash Podishetty  |  Hyderabad 

Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres
Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres. Photo: Reuters

Fauci says Americans could still need to wear face masks in 2022

America's highly regarded infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci has warned that US citizens might still need to wear masks a year from now. However, he predicted the US would return to a significant degree of normality by fall. “I want it to keep going down to a baseline that’s so low there is virtually no threat,” Fauci said at a CNN programme, referring to the number of cases nationally that would make him comfortable enough to stop recommending universal masking. “If you combine getting most of the people in the country vaccinated with getting the level of virus in the community very, very low, then I believe you’re going to be able to say, for the most part, we don’t necessarily have to wear masks.” Read here

Let's look at the global statistics

Global infections: 111,373,620

Global deaths: 2,466,444

Nations with most cases: US (28,134,143), India (11,005,850), Brazil (10,168,174), United Kingdom (4,127,574), Russia (4,117,992).

Source: John Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center

Variants deliver fresh blow to Europe’s open borders

The pandemic has totally upended the European Union's fundamental idea of open borders. As new variants spread, more and more countries are closing their borders and restricting public movement. Germany and Belgium announced border curbs in view of the new strains and rising cases. The European Union sees free movement as a fundamental pillar of the continent’s deepening integration, but after a decade in which first terrorism and then the migration crisis tested that commitment, countries’ easy resort to border controls is placing it under new pressure. Read here

Geopolitics cloud Iran’s vaccination drive

Iran's vaccination programme is being questioned by many local experts and scientists even as it is pressing ahead with the incoulation for frontline and health workers. It is giving medical staff Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, which has an efficacy of about 91 per cent in preventing the disease. Iran refused to buy vaccines from Western nations including US and UK. Rather, it is relying on countries like India, China, Russia and WHO-led Covax initiative to get more shots and meet the domestic demand. With one of the highest death count in the middle-east region, the country's vaccine strategy has been met with severe backlash from experts and the public in general. To counter the narrative, Iran is also ramping up efforts to make home-grown vaccines. Read here

A pandemic of abuses, says UN head

United Nations (UN) chief Antonio Guterres expressed concern over the global crackdown on freedom and the rolling back of decades of progress in human rights, by using virus as a pretext. "The world is facing a pandemic of abuses," he said, adding that authoritarian regimes had imposed drastic curbs on rights and freedoms. "Abuses had thrived because poverty, discrimination, the destruction of our natural environment and other human rights failures have created enormous fragilities in our societies”, he added. A recent report by Human Rights Watch found that at least 83 countries had used Covid-19 as a justification to attack free speech. Read here

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First Published: Mon, February 22 2021. 13:54 IST