FDA assembly places Biden’s plan to fight virus in danger

An important part of the president Joe BidenCovid-19’s plan to fight Covid-19 is in jeopardy as a Food and Drug Administration vaccine advisory committee meets on Friday to debate and vote Pfizer and BioNTech‘s application to offer booster shots to the general public.

The vote by the Agency’s Advisory Committee on Vaccines and Related Biological Products – scheduled for about 2:30 p.m. ET – comes as some scientists, including at least two to the FDA, say they are not entirely convinced that every American who has received the Pfizer vaccine is currently in need of additional doses.

In documents released prior to the advisory committee meeting, FDA scientists have refused to take a stand on whether to support third shots, saying US regulators have not independently reviewed or verified all available data to support use of boosters. They also appeared to be skeptical of some of the data provided, including frequently quoted effectiveness figures from Israelwhere researchers have published observational studies showing that the Pfizer vaccine’s effectiveness against infections has waned over time.

It sets the stage for a tense meeting on Friday as the Biden government has announced that it will offer booster injections to the public as early as next week pending FDA approval. The move is part of the administration wider plan to counter a higher number of Covid cases in the USA, which is fueled by the rapidly spreading Delta variant.

The country’s leading health authorities, including CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock and White House Senior Medical Advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, approved Biden’s booster plan back in August. While the FDA has not always followed its committee’s advice, it often does. The agency surprised investors and the public earlier this year when it abandoned the recommendation of its independent panel of external experts to approve Biogen’s Alzheimer’s drug.

If the committee doesn’t pass a positive vote, it could force the Biden administration to postpone its plan and potentially restrict third shots to certain groups of Americans, including disease, said Lawrence Gostin, director of the World Health Organization’s Collaborating Center on National and International Global Health Law.

The FDA group could give Biden’s booster plan a “cool reception,” Gostin said. “While there is good evidence that vaccine immunity may decline, two doses of mRNA hold up robust by preventing serious illness, hospitalization and death.”

The vote puts the committee in an “uncomfortable position” as the government has already announced that it would start distributing boosters in the week of September 20, said Dr. Bruce Farber, chief of infectious diseases at Northwell Health.

“I’m sure they will disagree at all on what they said because we already know they are not unanimous,” he said.

Scientists and other health experts had already expressed their criticism Biden’s move to boost all Americans 16 and older when senior health officials outlined the plan last month. The scientists and other experts said the data cited by federal health officials are not compelling and characterize government pressure on boosters as premature.

In the outlines of the plans for launch Distribute booster next week, administrative officials cited three CDC studies showing that vaccines protection against Covid has waned over several months. The government’s plan is for people to receive or a third dose of Pfizer Modern Vaccination eight months after the second vaccination. Biden has since said that scientists are considering whether to postpone the third shot up by three months. US health officials said they needed more data Johnson & Johnsons Vaccine before they can recommend boosters of these shots.

Pfizer and Moderna each have theirs too own analyzes The incidence of breakthrough Covid cases – which occur in fully vaccinated people – was less common in clinical trial participants who were recently vaccinated, suggesting that the protection of Covid vaccines wears off over time. In separate documents released Wednesday, Pfizer said an observational study in Israel showed that a third dose of the Covid vaccine restored infection protection to 95% six months after a second shot.

Still, some scientists argue that booster vaccinations are not currently required for the general public.

A leading group of scientists published a paper Monday in the medical journal The Lancet, which said that available data shows that vaccination protection against serious illnesses remains in place even as efficacy against minor illness wears off over time. The authors, including two outgoing senior FDA officials and several World Health Organization scientists, said the widespread distribution of booster syringes to the general public is “not appropriate” at this time.

There is currently no consensus in the biomedical community on boosters for the general public, said Harvard Medical School immunologist Dan Barouch. “There are high-level experts who fall on different sides of the debate.”

Dr. Arturo Casadevall, Chair of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, supports boosters for the general public.

He said a third shot would boost immunity and reduce the chance of breakthrough infections, including the variant strains. “With all vaccines, immunity degrades over time, and Covid-19 vaccines are no different.”

Yale School of Medicine immunologist Akiko Iwasaki contradicts the widespread distribution of boosters in the United States.

Still, she said, booster shots are currently needed for some more vulnerable people as breakthrough cases lead to serious illness and hospitalizations.

These severe cases “mostly occur in older people and older adults such as 65 years of age and older,” she said. “I think it really makes sense now to give it to the seniors.”

Taipei closes leisure venues as virus outbreak spreads

Issued on: 14/05/2021 – 12:42Modified: 14/05/2021 – 12:40

Taipei (AFP)

Taiwan’s capital announced a permanent closure of entertainment venues on Friday after more local coronavirus infections broke out.

The self-governing island has been hailed as a world leader in containing the Covid-19 pandemic. Only 1,290 confirmed cases, 12 deaths, and minimal social distancing were required once the first outbreak was suppressed.

But an outbreak, first noted among pilots, has spread across the community, forcing restrictions to be reinstated in a location that has so far weathered the pandemic unscathed.

The decision of the Taipei City Government will apply to bars, dance clubs, karaoke lounges, nightclubs, saunas and internet cafes as well as hostess clubs and teahouses from Saturday.

Municipal facilities like libraries and sports centers will also be closed.

The move came after Taiwan reported 29 locally transmitted Covid-19 cases on Friday – a daily high – including 16 cases linked to a cluster that involved hostess teahouses in the city.

The source of seven of the local infections was still pending, health officials said.

“The outbreak continues to grow, so we need to improve pandemic prevention measures,” Mayor Ko Wen-je told reporters.

“But we urge residents not to panic … We had effectively kept the pandemic under control over the past year, but we may have become too relaxed. We need to be vigilant again and we can still bring it under control.”

Taiwan raised the coronavirus alert and banned large gatherings earlier this week after the final cluster spread in Taipei and other cities.

In the north of Taoyuan, where there was a group of employees from an airline and an airport hotel, the city government has also decided to close the entertainment facilities from Saturday to June 8th.

A similar cluster, centered around a hospital, resulted in large Lantern Festival events being suspended during the lunar new year in February. This outbreak was quickly brought under control.

Last year, Taiwan had 253 days with no local infections.

Abbott CEO says it has a workforce of ‘virus hunters’ on new Covid variants

An Abbott Labs employee receives the BinaxNOW Covid-19 antigen rapid test at her workplace.

Abbott Labs

Abbott Labs A team of “virus hunters” are working with health officials around the world to monitor Covid-19 variants as some mutant strains show the ability to evade detection, CEO Robert Ford said during an interview published Tuesday at It was broadcast as part of the CNBC Healthy Returns event.

“They’re always on the lookout for new viruses, and in this case we’ve put a team together to monitor all possible mutations,” he said of the coalition pandemic defense. “It can’t be just a US thing, you have to work with all the countries, all the universities, all the different collection points, then I think this is the way to go.”

The Food and Drug Administration alerted clinical staff in January that new variants can lead to false negative Covid-19 test results. The agency identified three tests, none of which were performed by Abbott, and which may be less accurate because the part of the SARS-CoV-2 gene sequence that the tests were looking for was mutated in some variants.

Ford also made it clear that with the rate at which Covid-19 is mutating, there is no time to be wasted. Scientists need to “chase these mutations,” he said.

In the meantime, scientists are developing a new generation of tests that will look for parts of the virus that are less likely to mutate and give false negative results.

Antigen tests, such as those used in Abbott’s popular Binaxnow Covid-19 tests, target proteins in the virus that are less likely to mutate over time.

Iowa Gov. Reynolds rejects $95M in virus testing cash – WIZM 92.3FM 1410AM

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) – Kim Reynolds, governor of Iowa, said she turned down $ 95 million in federal funds for coronavirus testing in schools because she didn’t think funding was necessary.

The Republican governor announced her decision on a Fox News show Thursday night, criticizing President Joe Biden’s administration for offering the money to expand the tests.

“I think he thinks COVID has just started,” Reynolds said on the show televised from a forum with fellow Republican governors in Florida. I just returned $ 95 million for sending another $ 95 million to the state of Iowa to get our children back into the classroom through surveillance tests. And I said we’ve been in the classroom since August. Here is your $ 95 million back. “

Kelly Garcia, director of the Iowa Department of Human Services, later confirmed that Iowa had declined the funding.

The Republican Party of Iowa praised Reynolds’ decision, saying the Biden administration had failed in its efforts to get students back into personal classrooms, but “Governor Reynolds struggled against the teachers unions and was successful.”

Democratic state accountant Rob Sand questioned the rejection of federal funds that would have supported school testing and funded jobs in Iowa.

“It is time for the governor to stop making policy with Iowan’s health and tax money,” Sand said in a statement. Iowans will continue to pay taxes while other states benefit from it. “

Packed parks, lurking virus? Worries mount as Italy reopens | Your Cash

MILAN (AP) – Italy’s gradual reopening on Monday after six months of rotating virus locks is not satisfying anyone: too cautious for some, too hasty for others.

It’s too late to eat too much outdoors for Italy’s restaurant owners, whose survival has been threatened by more than a year of recurring closings. The country’s ongoing 10pm curfew is dampening the theater’s reopening and is seen as poor public relations for Italy’s main tourism industry, which is hoping overseas visitors can finally return in the second summer of the pandemic. The government has also faced strong pressure to reopen from Italy’s right-wing parties.

However, the country’s tired virologists and medical workers fear that even the provisional reopening planned by Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government will invite a jack-of-all-trades who risks a new virus surge before the current one is really suppressed.

“Unfortunately, as I have had to repeat many times: the virus does not negotiate. In addition, the virus has managed to adapt, become more aggressive and widespread, ”said Professor Massimo Galli from Sacco Hospital in Milan.

In a preview of what many fear, Italians crowded the streets, squares and parks of cities from Rome to Turin, Milan to Naples on Sunday – a day before virus restrictions were eased – as the warmer weather made an unusually cold one Spring pushed aside.

The Italian Interior Ministry recognized the risks and on Sunday directed law enforcement officers to ensure social distancing and the wearing of masks are enforced so that the easing of restrictions does not lead to a new virus spike.

Italy has the second deadliest pandemic in Europe after the UK with over 119,000 confirmed deaths. And experts say the number is low because more Italians suspected of having COVID-19 died in the spring of 2020 before they could be tested.

By Monday, 15 of Italy’s 21 regions and autonomous provinces will have the lowest coronavirus restrictions. For the first time since autumn, interregional travel is allowed. The number of people who can visit friends and family at the same time doubles from two to four. In restaurants and bars, people can dine al fresco. Contact sports can be resumed outdoors.

However, plans to fully reopen Italian high schools in the last six weeks of the school year ran into inadequate public transport and had to be reduced to at least 70% of personal school attendance for the upper grades.

Four southern regions – Basilicata, Calabria, Apulia and Sicily – as well as tiny Aosta on the French border in the north continue to be subject to stronger second-tier virus restrictions.

The Italian island of Sardinia – the only region completely free of restrictions this winter – was plunged into the red zone in mid-April after the all-clear signal led to a surge in new infections. Sardinia has become a cautionary story quoted by Italian virologists.

The reopening will take place even if the intensive care units in Italy remain above the alarm threshold of 30%. Italy’s vaccination campaign is also still far from its target of 500,000 shots a day and is only now trying to protect people between the ages of 70 and 79. The World Health Organization says people over 65 caused the vast majority of COVID-19 deaths in Europe.

“There are two words that should guide us in the next few days,” said Health Minister Roberto Speranza on Sunday. Trust, because the measures worked, and be careful. We have to take it step by step, take it step by step and evaluate the development day by day. “

———

Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage below https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed in any way without permission.

Ted Nugent, who as soon as dismissed COVID-19, sickened by virus | Leisure




FILE – Ted Nugent performs live at Rams Head Live in Baltimore on August 16, 2013. Nugent announced that he was in agony following a positive coronavirus test – months after he said the virus was “not a true pandemic”. “I thought I was dying,” said Nugent in a Facebook live video posted on Monday.




FILE – Ted Nugent performs live at Rams Head Live in Baltimore on August 16, 2013. Nugent announced that he was in agony following a positive coronavirus test – months after he said the virus was “not a true pandemic”. “I thought I was dying,” said Nugent in a Facebook live video posted on Monday.

From the Associated Press

Rocker Ted Nugent reveals he was in agony after testing positive for coronavirus – months after saying the virus was “not a real pandemic”.

“I thought I was dying,” said Nugent in a Facebook live video posted on Monday. “I’ve literally barely been able to crawl out of bed the last few days,” adding, “So I officially tested positive for COVID-19 today.”

In the video filmed on his Michigan ranch, the “Cat Scratch Fever” singer repeatedly uses racial slurs to relate to COVID-19 and reiterates his previous stance that he would not get the vaccine because he falsely claims that “nobody knows what’s inside it.”

Nugent, a supporter of ex-President Donald Trump, previously described the pandemic as a fraud and railed against public health restrictions. He has reiterated a narrative, propelled by conservative media and disputed by health experts, that the official number of deaths from the coronavirus is inflated.

A poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs in late March found that 36% of Republicans said they were unlikely or definitely not to be vaccinated, compared with 12% of Democrats. The seven-day national average of cases remains at over 60,000 new infections per day.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed in any way without permission.

Guests tiptoe by the tulips in Dutch virus take a look at | Leisure




In the world-famous Keukenhof garden in Lisse, Netherlands, Friday, April 9, 2021, there are far fewer visitors than usual. After a month after the dreary month of lockdown, there are glimmers of hope in spring for a relaxation of coronavirus restrictions in a Dutch flower garden and other public venues. Keukenhof, nestled in the pancake fields between Amsterdam and The Hague, opened its doors on Friday to a happy 5,000 people who were only admitted if they could prove on a smartphone app that they had just tested negative for COVID-19.




In the world-famous Keukenhof garden in Lisse, Netherlands, Friday, April 9, 2021, there are far fewer visitors than usual. After a month after the dreary month of lockdown, there are glimmers of hope in spring for a relaxation of coronavirus restrictions in a Dutch flower garden and other public venues. Keukenhof, nestled in the pancake fields between Amsterdam and The Hague, opened its doors on Friday to a happy 5,000 people who were only admitted if they could prove on a smartphone app that they had just tested negative for COVID-19.




Visitors tiptoe through the tulips in the Dutch virus test

In the world-famous Keukenhof garden in Lisse, Netherlands, Friday, April 9, 2021, there are far fewer visitors than usual. After a month after the dreary month of lockdown, there are glimmers of hope in spring for a relaxation of coronavirus restrictions in a Dutch flower garden and other public venues. Keukenhof, nestled in the pancake fields between Amsterdam and The Hague, opened its doors on Friday to a happy 5,000 people who were only admitted if they could prove on a smartphone app that they had just tested negative for COVID-19.




Visitors tiptoe through the tulips in the Dutch virus test

In the world-famous Keukenhof garden in Lisse, Netherlands, Friday, April 9, 2021, there are far fewer visitors than usual. After a month after the dreary month of lockdown, there are glimmers of hope in spring for a relaxation of coronavirus restrictions in a Dutch flower garden and other public venues. Keukenhof, nestled in the pancake fields between Amsterdam and The Hague, opened its doors on Friday to a happy 5,000 people who were only admitted if they could prove on a smartphone app that they had just tested negative for COVID-19.




Visitors tiptoe through the tulips in the Dutch virus test

In the world-famous Keukenhof garden in Lisse, Netherlands, Friday, April 9, 2021, there are far fewer visitors than usual. After a month after the dreary month of lockdown, there are glimmers of hope in spring for a relaxation of coronavirus restrictions in a Dutch flower garden and other public venues. Keukenhof, nestled in the pancake fields between Amsterdam and The Hague, opened its doors on Friday to a happy 5,000 people who were only admitted if they could prove on a smartphone app that they had just tested negative for COVID-19.




Visitors tiptoe through the tulips in the Dutch virus test

In the world-famous Keukenhof garden in Lisse, Netherlands, Friday, April 9, 2021, there are far fewer visitors than usual. After a month after the dreary month of lockdown, there are glimmers of hope in spring for a relaxation of coronavirus restrictions in a Dutch flower garden and other public venues. Keukenhof, nestled in the pancake fields between Amsterdam and The Hague, opened its doors on Friday to a happy 5,000 people who were only admitted if they could prove on a smartphone app that they had just tested negative for COVID-19.




Visitors tiptoe through the tulips in the Dutch virus test

Two women take photos because there are far fewer visitors than usual in the world-famous Keukenhof garden in Lisse, the Netherlands, on Friday, April 9, 2021. Finally, after a month after the dreary month of lockdown, shots of hope emerge in the spring of easing coronavirus restrictions in a Dutch flower garden and other public facilities. Keukenhof, nestled in the pancake fields between Amsterdam and The Hague, opened its doors on Friday to a happy 5,000 people who were only admitted if they could prove on a smartphone app that they had just tested negative for COVID-19.




Visitors tiptoe through the tulips in the Dutch virus test

A couple with face masks took their photos in the world-famous Keukenhof garden in Lisse, the Netherlands, on Friday, April 9th, 2021. After a month after the dreary month of lockdown, there are glimmers of hope in spring for a relaxation of coronavirus restrictions in a Dutch flower garden and other public venues. Keukenhof, nestled in the pancake fields between Amsterdam and The Hague, opened its doors on Friday to a happy 5,000 people who were only admitted if they could prove on a smartphone app that they had just tested negative for COVID-19.

From MIKE CORDER Associated Press

LISSE, Netherlands (AP) – After the bleak winter months of a coronavirus lockdown, spring hopes erupted on Friday as restrictions were eased at a Dutch flower garden and other public facilities.

As part of a government-approved pilot project, the world-famous Keukenhof Gardens opened its gates to let a few thousand people tiptoe through the 7 million tulips, hyacinths, daffodils and myriad other flowers carefully tipped by a small army of people manicured lawns were planted by gardeners.

A maximum of 5,000 visitors were allowed to enter the garden in the middle of the pancake fields between Amsterdam and The Hague if they could prove that they had just tested negative for COVID-19.

Minke Kleinen, who visited downtown Arnhem with her friend Ilse van Egten, said it felt like her “first legal day”. The friends took quick tests before leaving and received their negative results by email as they drove.

“It feels strange that we can stand next to each other,” said Van Egten and hugged the little ones briefly. “It is nice!”

Keukenhof lost an entire season to the pandemic last year when the first deadly wave of infections swept across the Netherlands. The planned opening on March 20 this year never took place due to the country’s strict virus lockdown.

With virus charges low, Californians desirous to return to occasions | Leisure




FILE – In this file photo dated October 5, 2019, fans are seen from a general view of the Chase Center during the second half of a pre-season NBA basketball game between the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers in San Francisco. Professional hockey and basketball teams rarely bring fans back to the arena after California approved the return of live performances in April. However, theaters and music venues appear to be more cautious given capacity and safety concerns. The San Francisco Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers said on social media that they are working with local health officials to welcome fans but couldn’t provide any further details.




FILE – In this file photo dated October 5, 2019, fans walk outside the Chase Center prior to a preseason NBA basketball game between the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers in San Francisco. Professional hockey and basketball teams rarely bring fans back to the arena after California approved the return of live performances in April. However, theaters and music venues appear to be more cautious given capacity and safety concerns. The San Francisco Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers said on social media that they are working with local health officials to welcome fans but couldn’t provide any further details.

By JANIE HAR and AMY TAXIN Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Emily Redenbach had to watch her beloved Los Angeles Kings ice hockey team play on television last year without the camaraderie of other season ticket holders who have become her friends.

“It’s not the same, but that’s the best I can do with hockey,” said Redenbach, 35.

But starting April 15, Redenbach and other loyal sports fans may be able to return to a big arena to cheer on their team after California lifted its ban on live indoor events. The Kings, as well as the San Francisco Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers have announced that they are working with health officials to welcome fans back.

The return of live events and performances, as well as larger private indoor gatherings, is coming as health officials warn of the possibility of another surge, but offering residents a touch of normalcy after more than a year of fluctuating restrictions. More than 58,000 people have died from the virus in California, and cases caused by new variants of the virus have increased in several states.

Gavin Newsom’s administration believes reopening is safe given the low case rates and the increasing pace of vaccination. The California workers dosed nearly 20 million doses on Monday.

The guidelines passed by the California Department of Health allow more paying viewers indoors if they show a vaccination certificate or a recent negative COVID-19 test. State officials will also only allow vaccinated areas where people do not have to maintain social distance, but instead have to wear masks.

With virus charges low, Californians wanting to return to occasions | Leisure




FILE – In this file photo dated October 5, 2019, fans are seen from a general view of the Chase Center during the second half of a pre-season NBA basketball game between the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers in San Francisco. Professional hockey and basketball teams rarely bring fans back to the arena after California approved the return of live performances in April. However, theaters and music venues appear to be more cautious given capacity and safety concerns. The San Francisco Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers said on social media that they are working with local health officials to welcome fans but couldn’t provide any further details.




FILE – In this file photo dated October 5, 2019, fans walk outside the Chase Center prior to a preseason NBA basketball game between the Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers in San Francisco. Professional hockey and basketball teams rarely bring fans back to the arena after California approved the return of live performances in April. However, theaters and music venues appear to be more cautious given capacity and safety concerns. The San Francisco Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers said on social media that they are working with local health officials to welcome fans but couldn’t provide any further details.

By JANIE HAR and AMY TAXIN Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Emily Redenbach had to watch her beloved Los Angeles Kings ice hockey team play on television last year without the camaraderie of other season ticket holders who have become her friends.

“It’s not the same, but that’s the best I can do with hockey,” said Redenbach, 35.

But starting April 15, Redenbach and other loyal sports fans may be able to return to a big arena to cheer on their team after California lifted its ban on live indoor events. The Kings, as well as the San Francisco Golden State Warriors and the Los Angeles Lakers have announced that they are working with health officials to welcome fans back.

The return of live events and performances, as well as larger private indoor gatherings, is coming as health officials warn of the possibility of another surge, but offering residents a touch of normalcy after more than a year of fluctuating restrictions. More than 58,000 people have died from the virus in California, and cases caused by new variants of the virus have increased in several states.

Gavin Newsom’s administration believes reopening is safe given the low case rates and the increasing pace of vaccination. The California workers dosed nearly 20 million doses on Monday.

The guidelines passed by the California Department of Health allow more paying viewers indoors if they show a vaccination certificate or a recent negative COVID-19 test. State officials will also only allow vaccinated areas where people do not have to maintain social distance, but instead have to wear masks.

Tunisian physician performs violin to spice up virus sufferers’ morale | Leisure

SFAX, Tunisia (AP) – As Dr. Mohamed Salah Siala started working on the COVID-19 frontline in a Tunisian hospital in January, he never thought he could use his musical skills to fight the virus.

However, when the 25-year-old decided to get out and play his violin one day at Hedi Chaker Hospital in the town of Sfax, he was lauded for raising the morale of those infected with the virus who remained isolated and needed a smile.

The patient’s reaction was immediate – smiling, clapping, and some with their fists raised – and celebrating the impromptu “concert”. Some were surprised to discover that it was the doctor on the fiddle.

“Playing the music here helps the patient feel the pleasure and forget the pain,” said Rachid Arous patient, who is recovering from COVID-19. “It’s a wonderful thing.”

In his spare time outside of medical duties, Siala loves playing the violin and is a member of a group called the “Pepper Band”.

“My goal is to use music to treat corona patients (viruses) who are in poor mental health and suffer from loneliness – which is their first enemy,” Siala told The Associated Press on Saturday.

Siala now regularly plays in the hospital when he has time.

Siala’s music goes through the corridors with his violin, helping not only the patients but also the health workers. They have been under pressure in recent months as the number of virus-related hospitalizations increased at the beginning of the year.

However, there is more than the violin that brings hope to the North African country. Tunisia is showing signs that the virus is in decline. In the past few days, one of the lowest rates of new infections in several weeks has been recorded. According to the Ministry of Health, 725 new positive cases were detected in the population of nearly 12 million people on Thursday, while more than 4,100 new cases appeared in mid-January. Likewise, the death toll fell from a daily average of 70 to 35 – and the high of 103 deaths a month ago.

With the exception of the intensive care beds, which are still full, the oxygen beds are no longer as overcrowded as before, as many patients are cared for at home. 1,264 Tunisians are currently hospitalized – 287 of them in intensive care and 111 on ventilators.

The country is also expected to receive its first shipments of Pfizer BioNTech vaccines this month. These are part of a broader agreement with the global COVAX vaccination program for developing countries and the African CDC, which Tunisia hopes will bring in up to 7 million doses of vaccine in the coming months.

In the meantime, patients can count on Siala to bring hope and resilience with the movements of his bow.

“He plays almost every day to entertain us a little. I pray to God to protect him and I wish all of you that God protects you from this disease, ”said Brika Sdiri, clapping and smiling while listening to music. “I hope that I can leave this place in good health, that’s what I want.”

———

Bouazza Ben Bouazza contributed to this report from Tunis.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed in any way without permission.