Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Friday

The latest:

Romanian doctors sent an open letter Wednesday titled “a cry of despair” as the country’s overwhelmed and deteriorated health-care system copes with a record-setting surge of coronavirus infections and deaths.

The College of Physicians of Bucharest, a non-governmental organization representing doctors in Romania’s capital, said in a letter addressed to Romanians that the medical system has “reached the limit” and that low vaccination rates reveal a “failure of trust” between doctors and the population.

“We are desperate because every day we lose hundreds of patients who die in Romanian hospitals,” the letter reads. “We are desperate, because, unfortunately, we have heard too many times: ‘I can’t breathe … I’m not vaccinated.'”

Romania, a country of 19 million people, is the European Union member nation with the population second-least vaccinated against COVID-19. Just 34 per cent of its adults are fully inoculated, compared to an EU average of 74 per cent.

On Tuesday, Romania reported daily pandemic records of nearly 17,000 new confirmed cases and 442 deaths. Data from health authorities indicates that more than 90 per cent of coronavirus patients who died last week were unvaccinated against COVID-19.

“Every day we witness tragedies: dying patients, suffering families, doctors who have reached the end of their powers,” the letter from Bucharest’s doctors reads.

Help from EU

The pressure on hospitals prompted Romanian officials last week to suspend non-emergency medical procedures for 30 days and to ask the EU for help.

Janez Lenarcic, the EU commissioner for crisis management, said last week that the EU would send 250 oxygen concentrators to Romania, which on Tuesday received 5,200 doses of monoclonal antibodies from Italy. Several dozen COVID-19 patients will also be sent to intensive care units in Hungary this week.

-From The Associated Press, last updated at 6:30 a.m. ET

What’s happening in Canada

WATCH | Help ‘from away’: N.L. sends health-care workers to Fort McMurray, Alta.

Help ‘from away’: N.L. sends health-care workers to Fort McMurray, Alta.

The overwhelmed hospital in Fort McMurray, Alta., has received a little help ‘from away,’ in the form of health-care workers from Newfoundland and Labrador. Many see it as a touching sign of the close ties between the two regions. 2:02

What’s happening around the world

A health worker gives a woman a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic organized by city police and the municipal corporation in Ahmedabad, India, earlier this month. Officials provided one free litre of cooking oil to people getting vaccinated. (Sam Panthaky/AFP/Getty Images)

As of early Friday afternoon, more than 239.7 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.8 million.

In the Asia-Pacific region, India reopened to fully vaccinated foreign tourists travelling on chartered flights on Friday in the latest easing of its coronavirus restrictions as infection numbers decline. Foreign tourists on regular flights will be able to enter India starting Nov. 15.

It is the first time India has allowed foreign tourists to enter the country since March 2020 when it imposed its first nationwide coronavirus lockdown. It is unclear whether arriving tourists will have to quarantine but they must be fully vaccinated and test negative for the virus within 72 hours of their flight.

In the Middle East, more than 20.6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in the United Arab Emirates. The country, which currently offers vaccines to people aged 16 and up, has approved the Sinopharm vaccine, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and the Sputnik V vaccine.

In Africa, South Africa will start vaccinating children between the ages of 12 and 17 next week using the Pfizer vaccine, the health minister said.

Zimbabwe, meanwhile, will bar unvaccinated government workers from reporting for duty from Monday as part of efforts to fight COVID-19, an official circular showed.

In the Americas, U.S. health advisers said Thursday that some Americans who received Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine should get a half-dose booster to bolster protection against the virus. The panel of advisers to the Food and Drug Administration voted unanimously to recommend a booster shot for seniors, adults with other health problems, jobs or living situations that put them at increased risk for COVID-19.

As for the dose, initial Moderna vaccination consists of two 100-microgram shots. But Moderna says a single 50-microgram shot should be enough for a booster.The FDA will use its advisers’ recommendations in making final decisions for boosters from both companies. Assuming a positive decision, there’s still another hurdle: Next week, a panel convened by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will offer more specifics on who should get one.

WATCH | Italian workers must now provide proof of vaccination, negative test before shift

Italians giving green light to green pass system

Workers across Italy must now provide proof they are fully vaccinated, or supply a negative COVID-19 test result before starting their shift. According to the CBC’s Megan Williams, despite some small protests, Italians are largely in favour of the measure.(Credit: Associated Press Photo/Andrew Medichini) 1:59

In Europe, COVID-19 health passes became mandatory for all workers in Italy, with the measure being applied mostly peacefully across the country despite some scattered protests.

In France, COVID-19 tests are no longer free for unvaccinated adults unless they are prescribed by a doctor. While tests remain free for vaccinated adults and all children under 18, adults who have not gotten their shots will have to pay €22-€45 (roughly $31-$65 Cdn) to get tested as of Friday.

The government introduced the change as a complement to the COVID-19 passes that have been required in France since the summer. To get a pass, people need to show proof of vaccination, a recent negative test or recent recovery from the virus.

-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 12:15 p.m. ET

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