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‘Message of hope’: Europe launches COVID vaccination campaign | Coronavirus pandemic News

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Health care workers, the elderly and leading politicians got some of the first shots across the bloc to reassure the public that the vaccinations are safe.

Europe has launched an enormous COVID vaccination drive, with elderly patients and medics lining up to take the first shots in hopes of seeing off the pandemic that has crippled economies and claimed more than 1.7 million lives worldwide.

The region of 450 million people has secured contracts with a range of suppliers for more than two billion vaccine doses and has set a goal for all adults to be inoculated during 2021.

“It didn’t hurt at all,” said Mihaela Anghel, a nurse at the Matei Bals Institute in Bucharest who was the first person to get the vaccine in Romania.

“Open your eyes and take the vaccine.”

In Rome, Italy, five doctors and nurses wearing white scrubs sat in a semi-circle at the Spallanzani infectious diseases hospital to receive their doses.

“The message is one of hope, trust and an invitation to share this choice,” said one of the recipients, Dr Maria Rosaria Capobianchi, who heads the virology laboratory at Spallanzani and was part of the team that isolated the virus in early February.

“There is no reason to be concerned.”

Domenico Arcuri, extraordinary commissioner for the epidemic, said it was significant that Italy’s first vaccine doses were administered at Spallanzani, where a Chinese couple visiting from Wuhan tested positive in January and became Italy’s first confirmed cases.

World War II veteran Emilie Repikova receives a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at Military University Hospital  in Prague [David W Cerny/Reuters]

The numbers vaccinated in the initial days with the Pfizer-BioNTech jab are largely symbolic and it will be months before enough people are considered protected to envisage a return to normal from the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the first cases of a new virus variant that has been spreading rapidly around London and southern England have now been detected in France and Spain.

The new variant has caused European countries, the United States and China to put new restrictions on travel for people from Britain.

Germany’s BioNTech has said it is confident that its coronavirus vaccine works against the new UK variant, but added that further studies are needed to be completely certain.



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Thousands displaced after Tropical Cyclone Eloise hits Mozambique | Weather News

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Nearly 7,000 people forced from their homes and more than 130,000 hectares of crops destroyed by torrential downpours and floods.

Heavy rains and flooding have forced thousands to flee their homes in Mozambique after Tropical Cyclone Eloise brought wind gusts of up to 150 kilometres per hour (kph).

Eloise struck Mozambique’s Sofala coastal province on Saturday morning before weakening and heading inland to dump rain on Zimbabwe, eSwatini – formerly known as Swaziland – and South Africa.

On Sunday, Mozambique’s National Institute for Disaster Risk Management and Reduction (INGD) said investigations had shown Eloise had displaced 6,859 people. The region’s Buzi district had been particularly hard hit with severe winds.

“Families are in urgent need of essential supplies like food, water, blankets and shelter,” Marcia Penicela, project manager at ActionAid Mozambique, said on Sunday.

“With high floodwaters and power lines down in Buzi, the challenge will now be reaching people most in need,” she added.

Eloise ruined 136,755 hectares of crops, destroyed nine schools and damaged about 17 other schools and 11 hospitals, according to INGD.

It had completely destroyed 1,069 houses, partially destroyed 3,343 and flooded another 1,500, the agency said.

After weakening and being downgraded to a tropical storm, Eloise moved on from Zimbabwe to dump heavy rain on some areas of South Africa’s Limpopo, Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal provinces, authorities there said.

“So far the highest amount that we’ve recorded is somewhere between 115-128 mm of rainfall in Limpopo, especially in the northeast,” Puseletso Mofokeng, a senior forecaster at the South African Weather Service, told Reuters news agency.

Floods had hit the lowveld of Limpopo and Mpumalanga, and winds had blown the roofs of houses and knocked down trees, blocking roads, he said.

Certain parts of the affected provinces were likely to see another 100mm of rain tonight and more expected rain on Monday, Mofokeng said.

Heavy rains were also recorded in eastern and southeastern parts of Zimbabwe on Saturday, filling most dams and flooding some rivers. At least three people were swept away when they tried to cross flooded rivers in eastern Zimbabwe, authorities said.



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