COVID-19: Vaccines roll out in India, Turkey; Britain suspends travel

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Jan. 16 (UPI) — India launched the world’s largest vaccination campaign to date Saturday with 300 million doses planned, as the world’s number of coronavirus deaths topped 2 million on Friday.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced 30 million healthcare workers would be first in line to receive the vaccine, which is administered within the next 10 days. Public safety and sanitary workers would be next in line.

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To start, the campaign will administer 11 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine developed at Oxford University, along with 5 million doses of Indian-developed Covaxin from Bharat Biotech. But Covaxin has is still in a trial stage and has not yet released data showing it works.

Neither of the planned vaccines requires cold storage like the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which speeds up the rollout in tropical Indian climates, where some locations lacking refrigeration.

“There is a sense of relief, big relief,” Rajesh Bhaskar, vaccine official the state of Punjab told The Washington Post. “We hope this will suppress the pandemic and eventually we will get rid of it.”

India’s coronavirus numbers have been dropping, with 16,946 new cases reported Friday, down from a high of 97,800 cases in September, according to the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 tracker website. India, with a population of 1.4 billion people, still has the second-highest number of active cases with 10.5 million.

In Turkey, 8,000 doses of the Chinese-developed Sinovac Biotech vaccine have been administered to healthcare workers, with 3 million more doses in the wings. No adverse reactions were observed, Aziz Aziz Ahmet Sürel, the chief physician at Ankara City Hospital, told Anadolu Agency.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was vaccinated Thursday to demonstrate the safety of the vaccine.

Turkey currently has 9,554 active cases, down from a spike of 33,200 cases reported in December, the Johns Hopkins tracker reports.

In Britain, where cases are rising, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new travel restrictions to limit the spread of a new, more contagious variant of the COVID-19 virus.

Beginning Monday, some international arrivals, including British and Irish nationals, will be required to take a pre-departure test and self-isolate immediately for 10 days upon arrival.

“We are operating in a completely new environment in our fight against COVID-19, with several worrying new strains of the virus emerging across the globe,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in a statement.

Worldwide, the number of COVID-19 cases rose to 93.97 million as of Friday, with 2.01 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.

The United States has the highest number of cases with 23.53 million as of Friday, followed by India and Brazil with 8.4 million cases. Russia was fourth with 3.5 million cases and Britain fifth with 3.3 million.