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India Covid: Booster shots start for priority groups as cases surge

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India has begun giving booster doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to priority groups amid a surge in infections.

Health and frontline workers and people above 60 years old with comorbidities are currently eligible to take the jab.

The drive began as India battles a spike in Covid cases fuelled by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Early studies from other countries have suggested that a booster vaccine may provide more protection against Omicron.

The highly transmissive Omicron variant was first discovered in South Africa in November.

Since then, several countries have expanded their booster programmes or shortened the gap between jabs to shore up protection against the variant.

In India, the booster shot – dubbed a “precaution dose” by Prime Minister Narendra Modi – will be the same vaccine that was given to a person for their first and second doses.

India has been mainly administering two locally-manufactured vaccines, Covishield and Covaxin, since its vaccination drive began in January 2021.

On Sunday, India reported more than 179,000 new infections for the past 24 hours, driven by a steep rise in cases in big cities such as the national capital Delhi and financial centre Mumbai.

On the same day, Mr Modi chaired a review meeting with top officials, and asked for “technical support” to be provided to states reporting more cases.

The government had begun administering vaccines to 15-18-year-olds last week – it has said that 31% of Indians in this age group have been given the first dose so far.

More than 91% adults have been partially vaccinated so far, while 66% have received both doses.

But experts say that still leaves millions of unvaccinated people – many with underlying health problems that could increase the severity of the infection – at risk.

The spread of Omicron has also increased worries – India has confirmed a total of 4,003 cases of Omicron, with Maharashtra state reporting the highest (1,126), followed by Rajasthan (529) and Delhi (513).

The country has so far recorded more than 35 million Covid cases and about 483,000 deaths from the virus.

Last year, a devastating second wave overwhelmed the country’s health system, leading to a shortage in oxygen, hospital beds and critical drugs.

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Woman

Emily in Paris Fans Think Kim Cattrall Will Make an Appearance in Season 3

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instyle– Fans are speculating a major pop-culture crossover in season 3 of Emily in Paris. After Kim Cattrall infamously turned down the chance to revive her Sex and the City character, Samantha Jones, for the rebootfans couldn’t help but wonder if Jones could make an appearance in the next season of the cult-favorite Netflix show.

If you’re watching And Just Like That … (and even if you’re not), you know that Cattrall’s character is supposedly off working her public relationships magic in London, England, just a quick trip from Emily (Lily Collins) and her booming marketing firm, Savoir.

RELATED: Everything You Need to Know About Emily in Paris Season 2

Fans noticed major parallels between the characters, from their location to their sex positivity to their career in communications. Plus, both series were created by big-time Hollywood producer Darren Star — with SATC costume designer Patricia Field now responsible for Emily’s kitschy, Parisian looks — making a collab that much more believable.

One Twitter user wrote, “Current theory: Samantha has supposedly moved overseas, hence her lack of presence in the new SATC TV series. Then she shows up by total surprise in a crossover episode of EMILY IN PARIS. I would watch Samantha try to tolerate Emily, 100 percent.”

Collins fueled the flames by teasing a possible season 3. The actress posted photographs from her Vogue Hong Kong cover featuring a jet-black shag haircut and dark makeup writing, “Season 3 pivot?? Who’s with me? …” Collins used the same caption when reposting a fan’s Tweet with the magazine images that read, “Emily in Berlin.”

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Australia

NSW COVID-19 hospitalisations pass 1,000 as cases continue to balloon across Australia

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sbs– New South Wales has recorded another 18,278 COVID-19 cases and two deaths as the state’s outbreak continues to surge.

Sunday’s case numbers are slightly lower than Saturday’s 22,577.

The state recorded two deaths from the virus, while 1,066 people are hospitalised, up from 901 on Saturday. There are 83 in intensive care.

At the peak of the Delta outbreak, on 21 September, there were 1,266 people hospitalised with infections, and 244 in intensive care.

Testing numbers to 8pm on the first day of 2022 were down to 90,019, a drop from 119,278 on New Year’s Eve.

The high case numbers come as Premier Dominic Perrottet continues to focus on hospitalisation and intensive care numbers rather than the daily case total.

Despite comprising about six per cent of the population, unvaccinated people make up the majority of those in intensive care, Health Minister Brad Hazzard says.

To ensure hospital systems can cope, asymptomatic health workers who are in isolation due to being a close contact of a positive case will be permitted to leave isolation in “exceptional circumstances”, NSW Health announced on Friday night.

Victoria posts 7,172 cases, extreme heat closes testing sites

The first day of 2022 hasn’t been kind to 7,172 Victorians, the state’s latest residents to contract COVID-19.

A further three virus-related deaths have also been recorded for 1 January.

However the number of Victorian coronavirus patients in hospital care remains relatively stable at 472, up 19 on Saturday’s figure and 48 beyond the seven-day average.

Of them, 52 are classified as active ICU cases and 22 are in need of ventilation.

Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton’s daily update said on Sunday community sampling had revealed 76 per cent of all samples collected over the Christmas period were the Omicron variant. Further testing to confirm this is being undertaken over the next week.

In total, Victoria is managing 31,461 active COVID-19 cases.

Health authorities says virus testers managed to process 48,252 results in the 24 hours to Saturday evening.

The state is 93 per cent fully vaccinated for everyone aged 12 and over.

Some 7,442 infections were reported on Saturday, another pandemic record. There were 51 actively infectious patients in intensive care and 21 ventilated.

Extreme heat caused the closure of eight of the state’s testing sites on Saturday.

Queensland records 3,587 new cases

Queensland has added 3,587 infections to its COVID-19 caseload as a new indoor mask mandate comes into effect across the state.

Some 16,688 Queenslanders now have the virus. However, hospital numbers remain low with 112 patients in care, five of them in ICUs and none requiring ventilation.

Health authorities say testers processed almost 34,000 results in the 24 hours to 7pm on Saturday.

Queensland is 86.60 per cent fully vaccinated for everyone 16 and over.

Chief Health Officer John Gerrard says despite a jump of more than 1,300 cases in a day, he’s not surprised. In part, the increase is related to a change in reporting protocols which saw case figures taken from a 12-hour window on Friday.

“This number is probably a bit smaller than we had expected,” he said in Brisbane on Sunday of the latest figures.

“It probably (also) relates to testing over the holiday period and so it will not be a surprise at all that in the next couple of days we see a significant increase in cases as more samples are tested and more people come forward.”

Dr Gerrard said what experts were now seeing with the virus was that it was “a vastly different disease” to that which was spreading in the community last year and prior to vaccination.

“With a degree of contagiousness of this virus, we are going to be seeing very large numbers of cases, even though the severity is clearly going to be less,” he said.

“We are going to see very large numbers of cases and a small proportion of a very large number (who fall ill) is still a large number.”

Masks were declared compulsory in “virtually all indoor spaces” in Queensland from 1am on Sunday.

Previously masks were only required indoors at supermarkets, shops, on public transport and ride share as well as airports and planes, cinemas and theatres in Queensland.

They now need to be worn at workplaces unless unsafe to do so, pubs, clubs and cafes unless when seated, indoor stadiums and sport arenas, libraries, hair dressers and nail salons, and medical centre waiting areas.

Queenslanders were also urged to return to work-from-home arrangements where possible.

SA hospitalisations ‘very much within capacity’

South Australia, meanwhile, recorded 2,298 COVID-19 cases on New Years Day from 21,140 tests.

The newest caseload is up from 2,108, while hospitalisations have also risen by 11.

There are currently 82 people in hospital, Premier Steven Marshall said on Sunday, a number which he said was “still very much within our current capacity”.

Seven people are in ICU.

“We see a lot of admissions but also a lot of people are leaving hospital on a daily basis after their conditions have stabilised,” Mr Marshall told reporters on Sunday.

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Arts

Hong Kong’s famous Tiananmen Square ‘Pillar of Shame’ statue removed from university

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cnn– For more than 20 years the “Pillar of Shame” sculpture stood as a memorial to the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, in which the Chinese military crushed protests led by college students in Beijing with deadly force.
Atop a podium in the University of Hong Kong’s (HKU) campus, the 26-foot-tall (8 meter) statue of contorted human torsos was one of the last iconic memorials to victims of the bloody crackdown remaining on Hong Kong soil.
But around midnight on Thursday, yellow construction barriers were erected around the statue and the sounds of cracking and demolition were heard as the sculpture was removed under the cover of darkness.
Images taken during the removal process show workers wrapping the statue in protective film and lifting it out of the campus on a crane in two distinct parts. The HKU Council, the university’s governing body, said in a statement the sculpture will be held in storage.
A witness said Thursday morning the site of the sculpture is now empty and students have been seen crying on campus following the removal. CNN agreed to not disclose the name of this witness because the person feared retribution from authorities.
That fear of retribution is common among those who speak out against authorities in Hong Kong since Beijing imposed the National Security Law on the city in 2020, punishing offenses such as subversion and secession with sentencesof up to life in prison.
The HKU Council said in a statement the removal “was based on external legal advice and risk assessment for the best interest of the university.”
The sculpture, which stood in the Haking Wong Building of the university, was part of a series of works by Danish artist Jens Galschiøt created in 1997 — the year Hong Kong was returned to China after more than 150 years of British rule. The sculpture includes the inscription: “The old cannot kill the young forever,” and was built to serve “as a warning and a reminder to people of a shameful event which must never reoccur,” according to the description on Galschiøt’s website.
Galschiøt called the statue’s removal “a very hard attack against the free word in the world.”
He told CNN that he hopes to bring the statue back to Denmark so he can reassemble it. His wish is to then bring it to Washington D.C., where he hopes to place it in front of the Chinese Embassy. There, it will serve as a message to Beijing that the massacre is remembered and spoken about, he said.
For three decades, Hong Kong has been the only place on Chinese-controlled soil where an annual mass vigil has been held to mark the events in and around Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.
The clampdown remains one of the most tightly censored topics in mainland China, with discussions of it scrubbed from mass media. Chinese authorities have not released an official death toll, but estimates range
from several hundred to thousands.
After the 1997 handover, the continuation of the vigil and similar memorials were seen as a litmus test for Hong Kong’s ongoing autonomy and democratic freedoms, as promised in its de facto constitution.
However, in the wake of national security law, scores of prominent pro-democracy politicians and activists have been jailed or fled the city, and numerous civil society groups have disbanded.
Attempts to commemorate the events of June 4 have also been adversely impacted.
The last two Tiananmen vigils have been banned by police, citing coronavirus restrictions. Prominent activists, including Joshua Wong and media tycoon Jimmy Lai, were later jailed for participating in an unauthorized public commemoration in 2020.
A Hong Kong museum dedicated to the victims of June 4 was forced to close earlier this year and moved its entire collection online citing “political oppression.”
And on Friday, two more Tiananmen Square crackdown memorials were also removed from Hong Kong campuses.
The Chinese University of Hong Kong took down a “Goddess of Democracy” statue, stating it never authorized the display in the first place. The original figure was built out of papier-mâché by student protesters at Tiananmen Square in May 1989. A bronze replica was created by China-born New Zealand artist Chen Weiming and brought to the CUHK campus in 2010.
Lingnan University similarly removed a relief by the same artist, saying it “may pose legal and safety risks to the University community.”
Following news that the HKU “Pillar of Shame” sculpture was being dismantled, the artist Galschiøt wrote on his Twitter account, “I’m totally shocked that Hong Kong University is currently destroying the pillar of shame. It is completely unreasonable and a self-immolation against private property in Hong Kong.”
“We encourage everyone to go out to Hong Kong University and document everything that happens with the sculpture,” he added in a statement.
In its statement, HKU Council said, “No party has ever obtained any approval from the University to display the statue on campus, and the University has the right to take appropriate actions to handle it at any time.”
It added the university “is also very concerned about the potential safety issues resulting from the fragile statue. Latest legal advice given to the University cautioned that the continued display of the statue would pose legal risks to the University based on the Crimes Ordinance enacted under the Hong Kong colonial government.”
Efforts to preserve the memory of the sculpture are already underway, with art-activist group Lady Liberty Hong Kong creating a 3-D model made using more than 900 photos.
“The idea is that everyone can print a copy it and place it wherever they want,” said Alex Lee, the founder of the group. “In the digital age, there’s no limitation of what you can do with virtual or physical objects — (the hope is) for everyone to try to preserve this symbol.”
According to Lee, the statue represented something of the fundamental difference between Hong Kong and mainland China. “It (the statue) symbolized that Hong Kong still has room for the freedom of speech and it really means that Hong Kong is still a different part from China,” said Lee. “But then I think right now, that last really small space is gone.”
On Sunday, Hong Kong’s first “China patriots only” legislative election witnessed a record low turnout, reflecting a steep decline in civic and political engagement following Beijing’s overhaul of the city’s electoral processes earlier this year.
Following the vote, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam traveled to Beijing and met with Chinese Leader Xi Jinping, who endorsed her administration and praised her for moving the city “from chaos to order,” according to a government statement of the meeting.
Calling the election — in which turnout was just 30.2% — a “success” Xi said the city had “made solid progress in promoting democratic development that suits Hong Kong’s reality.”
“The democratic right of Hong Kong compatriots has been shown,” Xi said.
A number of Hong Kong activists who fled abroad labeled the election — in which prospective candidates were first screened by the government — as a “sham,” a criticism echoed by many rights groups and international observers.
Top image: Workers remove part of the “Pillar of Shame” into a container at the University of Hong Kong on December 23, 2021.

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