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November 30, 2020

Fauci warns US to brace for ‘surge upon surge’


November 30, 2020

Prague: The Czech government said on Sunday it would reopen shops and restaurants, museum and galleries across the country on December 3 as the coronavirus spread keeps slowing down.

"The Czech Republic will move from tier 4 to tier 3 (of its five-tier restrictions system) and the day when this will happen is Thursday next week," Health Minister Jan Blatny told reporters.

The EU member of 10.7 million people led the European statistics of new Covid-19 infections and deaths for a month.

But the growth pace has recently started to slow down owing to restrictions introduced in mid-October, with daily increases hovering around 5,000 cases against 15,000 last month.

"We expect a further improvement next week," Blatny added. Shops selling non-essential goods, services such as hairdressers, restaurants and bars, galleries and museums will be open with restrictions, while theatres and cinemas will remain closed to spectators.

The move also raises the limit for gatherings to 50 people outdoors and ten people indoors and cancels an overnight curfew introduced last month.

The decision will not affect schools. Universities will remain closed, just like secondary schools with the exception of the final year.

Americans should brace for a "surge upon a surge" in the coronavirus as millions of travelers return home after the Thanksgiving holiday, US government scientist Anthony Fauci said on Sunday.

"There almost certainly is going to be an uptick because of what has happened with the travel," Fauci told CNN’s "State of the Union."

"We may see a surge upon a surge" in two or three weeks, he added. "We don’t want to frighten people, but that’s the reality."

This was an ominous trend, Fauci added, with the Christmas holidays and more year-end travel looming, he said.

The virus is blamed for more than 266,000 deaths in the US, the hardest-hit country in the world, with cooler weather bringing daily death figures nearing the worst levels of April.

Fauci’s comments came as US news media reported that first shipments of the Pfizer vaccine against Covid-19 -- one of the first to claim high effectiveness, along with a Moderna product -- had arrived in the United States from a Pfizer lab in Belgium. Pfizer was using charter flights to pre-position vaccine for quick distribution once it receives US approval -- expected as early as December 10 -- the Wall Street Journal and other media reported.

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, both said to be safe and perhaps 95 percent effective, have introduced a much-needed glimmer of hope after months of gloomy news.

"This puts the end to the pandemic. This is the way we get out of the pandemic. The light is at the end of the tunnel," Admiral Brett Giroir, the US official overseeing coronavirus testing, told CNN. But like Fauci he expressed grave concerns about the months immediately ahead.

"Our hospitalizations are peaking right now at about 95,000," Giroir said. "About 20 percent of all people in the hospital have Covid, so this is a really dangerous time."

Until large numbers of Americans have been vaccinated -- Giroir said half the eligible population might be by March -- much will depend on people taking the recommended precautions, including mask-wearing and distancing, he and Fauci said.

Giroir said it might take until the second or third quarter of next year for most Americans to be vaccinated, but that substantial benefits would accrue much sooner.

By first vaccinating those at highest risk, he said, "we can absolutely get 80 percent of the benefit of the vaccine by only immunising a few percent of the population."

In a related development, thousands of health workers marched in Madrid on Sunday in support of Spain’s public health system, sorely put to the test by the coronavirus.

With Spain one of the European countries hardest hit by the pandemic, some protesters waved placards bearing slogans such as "100 percent public health" and "no more rubbish contracts".

Organisers said roughly 10,000 people answered the call to demonstrate by the "Marea Blanca" (white tide) group, which is determined to put pressure on regional authorities they say are starving the system of sufficient investment. Nurse Lara Garcia told AFP TV she wanted to highlight a reliance on temporary workers as well as low wages.

"Forty, 45 percent of staff are temporary, the salaries are lower than in other autonomous regions," said Garcia, highlighting that people were leaving the profession in droves.

"The healthcare workers take care of the lives of other people for one month, three months... it’s unbearable."

Another nurse, Leonor Vallejo, 67, focused her ire on a new 1,000-bed hospital. "The new hospital is a total scam for Madrid and the Madrilenos," she said.