Uganda Ends COVID Curfew, and Nightlife Reopens

Uganda on Monday lifted its two-year COVID-19 curfew, allowing bars and nightspots to re-open. Excited revelers celebrated the end of one of the world’s longest lockdowns. A reveler who only identified herself as Peace said she has been drinking every night of the lockdown.  Uganda imposed the nighttime curfew in March 2020 in a bid to limit the spread of the coronavirus, which has led to about 3,500 deaths in the country.  Every night, businesses had to shut down at 7, and no cars were allowed on the streets.  Peace tells VOA that during the lockdown, she ventured into bars owned by government employees that continued to operate in secret but charged high prices for beer.  Excited, she said she is happy she can now drink at her favorite local bar.  “But I’m glad that they opened,” Peace said. “I can manage to go out. I can freely move with a boda. Or I can drive. Like here, three beers at ten thousand. So, if I move out with fifty thousand, I can spend the whole night.”  The government lifted the curfew on Monday, but some restrictions remain.Anyone wandering into a bar or restaurant must wear a mask and show their COVID vaccination card. Fred Enanga, the Uganda Police spokesperson, cautioned the public to adhere to the health and safety protocols if they do not want to return to curfew.  “Therefore, it is important that all proprietors and managers in night life and the night economy carefully manage the reopening of their …

FDA Limits Use of Regeneron, Lilly COVID-19 Antibody Treatments 

The U.S. health regulator on Monday revised the emergency use authorizations for COVID-19 antibody treatments from Regeneron and Eli Lilly to limit their use, as the drugs are unlikely to work against the omicron variant.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said the treatments are currently not cleared for use in any U.S. states or territories but may be authorized in certain regions if they work against potential new variants.  The agency highlighted other therapies that are expected to be effective against omicron, including a rival antibody drug from GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology as well as recently authorized antiviral pills from Pfizer and Merck & Co.  The U.S. government in December had paused distribution of Regeneron and Lilly’s treatments and said the halt would continue until new data emerges on their efficacy against omicron.  The highly contagious new variant was estimated to account for more than 99% of cases in the United States as of Jan. 15.  GSK and Vir Biotech are boosting production of their drug sotrovimab to help meet soaring demand in the United States. The FDA has also expanded its approval for the use of Gilead Sciences’ antiviral COVID-19 drug remdesivir to treat non-hospitalized patients aged 12 years and above.  The Washington Post earlier in the day reported that the FDA was expected to revise authorizations for Regeneron and Lilly’s treatments.  A Regeneron spokesperson had said the regulator would provide any potential communication on the topic.  Lilly had no immediate comment but pointed to its statement from …

WHO Chief: World Will Live with COVID for Foreseeable Future

The head of the World Health Organization warned Monday that COVID-19 will be around for the foreseeable future, and everyone will have to learn to live with it. The WHO chief issued the warning at the opening of the agency’s weeklong executive board meeting. Two years ago, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a public health emergency of international concern. Then there were fewer than 100 cases and no deaths reported outside China. Those numbers now stand at nearly 350 million cases and more than 5.5 million deaths. WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it is hard to know when the pandemic will end. However, while the coronavirus is circulating, he said it will continue to mutate in unpredictable and dangerous ways.  “It is dangerous to assume that omicron will be the last variant, or that we are in the endgame. On the contrary, globally the conditions are ideal for more variants to emerge,” he said. Tedros said countries must learn to manage this deadly disease and use the knowledge gained to prepare for future pandemics. To change the course of the pandemic, he said the conditions driving it must change. He said the acute phase of the pandemic can be ended this year if countries use all the strategies and tools available to combat COVID-19. He adds this will work only if all countries, rich and poor alike, have equitable access to vaccines, treatments, and other tools. “Vaccines alone are not the golden ticket out of this pandemic. But …

US Anti-Vaccine Activists to Rally at Lincoln Memorial

 Anti-vaccine activists are set to rally Sunday in Washington at the Lincoln Memorial.The anti-vaccine argument has taken hold among various American groups, including politicians, school officials, professional athletes and health care workers. Public health officials say about 20% of U.S. adults are unvaccinated. COVID vaccine passport protests were held in several European capitals Saturday. Thousands of people turned out in Stockholm to demonstrate against the vaccine passes needed to go to indoor sites where there are 50 or more people. Protesters took to the streets of Paris to demonstrate against the new COVID pass set to go into effect Monday that will curtail the activities of the unvaccinated, restricting their ability to travel and go to entertainment sites, including bars, movie theaters and sports events. Demonstrators in Helsinki protested the vaccination passes that can be required to enter restaurants and other events. The protesters in Finland’s capital also demonstrated against the Finnish government’s move giving local and regional authorities the ability to enact wide-ranging measures to combat the omicron variant, according to The Associated Press. Meanwhile, in the U.S. state of Virginia, a woman has been charged with a misdemeanor after threatening to bring guns to her children’s school because of a school board’s continued school mask mandate. Amelia King said Thursday at a school board meeting, “My children will not come to school on Monday with a mask on, all right? . . . That’s not happening, and I will bring every single gun loaded and ready . . …

Comoros Loses Both Goalkeepers as COVID Sweeps Through Squad

Comoros, the surprise package of the Africa Cup of Nations, is struggling to put a team together for their last-16 game against host nation Cameroon after 12 players and management tested positive for COVID-19, their federation announced Saturday. The 12 positive tests include both of the Coelacanths’ fit goalkeepers, with the third goalkeeper, Salim Ben Boina already injured. Comoros is due to face Cameroon on Monday. “The Coelacanths affected by COVID … include coach Amir Abdou, our only two goalkeepers, Moyadh Ousseini and Ali Ahamada,” the federation tweeted two days before a historic match for the Comoros who qualified for the last 16 in their first appearance at the tournament. In a video posted on the account, general manager El Hadad Hamidi also named five outfield players who have tested positive: midfielders Nakibou Aboubakari, Yacine Bourhane, striker Mohamed M’Changama and defenders Kassim Abdallah and Alexis Souahy. With no goalkeepers currently available for the game, the Comoros are in serious trouble. Confederation of African Football rules for the tournament dictate that teams must play games as long as at least 11 players test negative for the coronavirus. If no goalkeeper is available, an outfield player must stand in. “We are trying to do everything in our power to find alternative solutions” but “without the coach, without major players and especially without our only two goalkeepers who remained, the situation is quite complicated,” admitted Hamidi. The Comoros, representing a tiny island nation off the southeast coast of Africa, snatched their qualification to …

New Zealand PM Ardern Cancels Her Wedding Amid New Omicron Limits

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has canceled her wedding as the nation imposes new restrictions to slow the community spread of the COVID-19 omicron variant, she told reporters. New Zealand will impose mask rules and limit gathering from midnight on Sunday after a cluster of nine cases of the omicron variant showed community transmission from the North to South islands after a wedding. A family traveled by plane from the North Island capital of Auckland to a wedding in the South Island attended by 100 people. The family and a flight attendant tested positive. New Zealand would move to a red setting under its COVID-19 protection framework, with more mask wearing, and a cap of 100 customers indoors in hospitality settings and events such as weddings, or 25 people if venues are not using vaccine passes, Ardern said. “My wedding will not be going ahead,” she told reporters, adding she was sorry for anyone caught up in a similar scenario. Asked by reporters how she felt about her wedding cancellation, Ardern replied: “Such is life.” She added, “I am no different to, dare I say it, thousands of other New Zealanders who have had much more devastating impacts felt by the pandemic, the most gutting of which is the inability to be with a loved one sometimes when they are gravely ill. That will far, far outstrip any sadness I experience.”  …

Uzbeks Perplexed as US Veterans Link Illnesses to Air Base

Residents living near Karshi-Khanabad harbor have fond memories of the American soldiers who served at the Uzbek air base widely known as K2 between 2001 and 2005, describing the period as one of their happiest times. But for many of the Americans, lingering affection for the residents is outweighed by persistent debilitating ailments that they attribute to toxic and radioactive waste at the base.  “The American period was a wonderful time,” said Oysaot Toparova, a resident now in her late 70s who served for many years as a politician in the adjacent village of Khanabad. “U.S. military visiting our schools, meeting the community, we loved it. I think Uzbekistan and the U.S. got the best out of that cooperation.”  Mark Jackson, board chairman of the Stronghold Freedom Foundation,  which represents retired and active American military personnel, also describes “wonderful memories of Uzbekistan.” He says he interacted with locals daily, went to homes, enjoyed tea and meals, and traveled across the country. He is still fascinated with its history and culture.  But, he told VOA, his time at K2 has left him with another legacy, one of relentless illness and pain that he blames on environmental hazards left over from the Soviet era in Uzbekistan, a connection he has found frustratingly difficult to substantiate.  “I cannot provide you with hard facts,” he said in an interview. “The facts I have are my body and the tombstones. We were ignored for 20 years until we made enough noise to force Washington to …

India Reports More Than 300,000 Daily COVID Cases

India’s health ministry reported 337,704 new COVID-19 cases Saturday. Public health officials have warned that India’s tallies are likely undercounted. Ireland lifts most of its COVID restrictions Saturday, as the country prepares to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in March, for the first time in two years. Irish Prime Minister Michael Martin said, “Spring is coming, and I don’t know if I have ever looked forward to” a St. Patrick’s Day celebration “as much as this one.” A face mask mandate, however, currently remains in effect. Anti-vaccine activists are set to rally Sunday in Washington at the Lincoln Memorial. The anti-vaccine propaganda has taken hold among various American groups, including politicians, school officials, professional athletes and health care workers. Public health officials say about 20% of U.S. adults are unvaccinated. Meanwhile, former Polish President Lech Walesa has announced that he has contracted COVID-19, even though he has been fully vaccinated. “After this lesson, I will not part ways with a mask,” he posted on Facebook. The omicron variant in Japan has resulted in a record-high COVID case count in the capital. On Saturday, Tokyo reported 11,227 new daily infections, the highest daily total in four consecutive days. Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported early Saturday that it has recorded 346.5 million global COVID cases and 5.6 million global COVID deaths. Almost 10 billion vaccines have been administered worldwide.          …