Despite Planning, Australian Open Players Test Positive | Voice of America

The Australian Open will go ahead as planned, despite the discovery of three coronavirus cases that have put 47 players into quarantine for two weeks, the tennis tournament’s director, Craig Tiley, said Saturday.

Australia’s international borders are closed, but there are exceptions.

For the international tennis tournament, players and their coaches flew into the country on 17 charter flights from seven nations. All of the estimated 1,200 players, coaches, staff members and officials were required to receive negative coronavirus tests before boarding their planes, which were kept at 25% capacity.

However, two positive cases were detected on a flight from Los Angeles and a third case was found on a flight from Abu Dhabi. Sylvain Bruneau, who coaches Canadian star Bianca Andreescu, said he tested positive after arriving from Abu Dhabi, but the rest of his team has tested negative.

Since the pandemic began, Australia has recorded nearly 29,000 cases and just more than 900 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Research Center. Just over 800 of those cases occurred in Victoria state during a second wave of the virus. Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, is where the Australian Open is played.

Tournament organizers had hoped that charter flights, early arrivals and frequent testing would allow the Open to be played without a hitch.

A health worker receives COVID-19 vaccine at a hospital in Kolkata, India, Jan. 16, 2021. India started inoculating health workers Saturday in what is likely the world’s largest COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

Also Saturday, India began its COVID-19 vaccine campaign. Frontline workers were slated to receive the first inoculations.

The campaign began after Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered a nationally televised speech. India, with 10.5 million cases, is second only to the U.S. in case numbers. It has suffered 152,000 deaths, behind the U.S. and Brazil, according to Johns Hopkins.

“We are launching the world’s biggest vaccination drive, and it shows the world our capability,” Modi said.

2 million mark

COVID-19 deaths worldwide exceeded 2 million Friday, according to Johns Hopkins, a year after the coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan, China.

“Behind this terrible number are names and faces, the smile that will now only be a memory, the seat forever empty at the dinner table, the room that echoes with the silence of a loved one,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters Friday.

FILE – U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres talks with reporters in Berlin, Germany, Dec. 17, 2020.

Guterres also said the death toll “has been made worse by the absence of a global coordinated effort” and added that “science has succeeded, but solidarity has failed.”

The United States remains at the top of the COVID case list with the most cases and deaths. Johns Hopkins reported more than 23 million COVID-19 cases in the U.S., with a death toll rapidly approaching 400,000.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that a newly detected and highly contagious variant of the coronavirus might become the dominant strain in the U.S. by March.

The variant, first detected in Britain, threatens to exacerbate the coronavirus crisis in the U.S., where daily infection and hospitalization records are commonplace.

The CDC said the variant apparently does not cause more severe illness but is more contagious than the current dominant strain.

Oregon case

Later Friday, the Oregon Health Authority reported that an individual with “no known travel history” had tested positive for the British variant.

“As we learn more about this case and the individual who tested positive for this strain, OHA continues to promote effective public health measures, including wearing masks, maintaining 6 feet of physical distance, staying home, washing your hands and avoiding gatherings and travel,” the agency said in a statement.

Also Friday, some U.S. governors accused the Trump administration of deceiving states about the amount of COVID-19 vaccine they could expect to receive. Government officials said states were misguided in their expectations of vaccine amounts.

FILE – Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar speaks during a news conference on COVID-19 vaccine distribution, Jan. 12, 2021, in Washington.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told NBC News on Friday that the U.S. did not have a reserve stockpile of COVID vaccines as many had believed. However, he said he was confident that there would be enough vaccine produced to provide a second dose for people.

As of Friday, the U.S. government said it had distributed over 31 million doses of the vaccine. The CDC said about 12.3 million doses had been administered.

Earlier on Friday, Pfizer announced there would be a temporary impact on shipments of its vaccine to European countries in late January to early February caused by changes to its manufacturing processes to boost output.

The health ministers of six EU countries — Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia — said the Pfizer situation was “unacceptable.”

“Not only does it impact the planned vaccination schedules, it also decreases the credibility of the vaccination process,” they said in a letter to the EU Commission about the vaccine delays.

In Brazil, the country’s air force flew emergency oxygen supplies Friday to the jungle state of Amazonas, which is facing a surge in the virus. Health authorities in the state said oxygen supplies had run out at some hospitals because of the high numbers of patients.

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