New York shuts down bars as virus surges; WHO warns of vaccine distrust

Cuomo says schools could move to online teaching after weekend; head of health body’s immunization department warns misinformation could hamper vaccine’s effectiveness

People wait on line outside a City MD Urgent Care clinic, a designated COVID-19 testing center, Nov. 13, 2020, in New York (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)
People wait on line outside a City MD Urgent Care clinic, a designated COVID-19 testing center, Nov. 13, 2020, in New York (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

NEW YORK — New York raced to cut off a second wave of coronavirus infections and a top WHO expert warned growing public distrust risked rendering even the most effective treatments useless against the pandemic.

Bars and clubs in the Big Apple, the epicenter of the US’s spring outbreak, were ordered to close at 10 p.m. on Friday and state Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned schools could move to online only teaching as early as Monday.

Infections are surging throughout America and Europe, with governments forced to take more drastic action despite fears about the devastation inflicted on their economies.

The disease has claimed almost 1.3 million lives worldwide and infected close to 53 million since it first emerged in China in December.

An employee sets up umbrellas at an outdoor area at a bar in Manhattan on November 13, 2020 in New York City (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)

Even with a vaccine expected to receive approval soon, the head of the WHO’s immunization department warned that misinformation and mistrust coloring people’s acceptance of scientific advances could hamper its effectiveness.

“We are not going to be successful as a world in controlling the pandemic with the use of vaccines as one of the tools unless people are willing to get vaccinated,” Kate O’Brien told AFP.

Kate O’Brien, head of the World Health Organisation’s immunization depart, May 23, 2020 (Screen grab/YouTube)

Lebanon entered a new two-week lockdown on Saturday after reported infections crossed the 100,000 mark, with hospitals in the crises-wracked country almost at capacity.

Virus restrictions forced Hong Kong’s traditionally boisterous and colorful annual gay pride parade online Saturday.

Across India meanwhile, millions ignored social distancing advice and gathered to pray at temples or go shopping for the Diwali, the festival of light.

‘No lockdown’: Trump

In his first public address since being declared the loser of the November 3 election, US President Donald Trump on Friday touted medical breakthroughs that happened under his watch but said he remained firmly against new lockdowns.

US President Donald Trump listens during an event on Operation Warp Speed in the Rose Garden of the White House, Nov. 13, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

He predicted a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, which the companies have said is 90 percent effective in trials so far, would receive emergency approval “extremely soon.”

The United States, the country hardest hit by COVID-19, meanwhile saw 188,858 more cases and 1,596 more deaths Friday, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.

“Thanksgiving will undoubtedly lead to a massive new explosion of cases if people don’t take it seriously,” said Michael Mina, a Harvard epidemiologist.

But Trump, who has long opposed measures that stall the economy, said his position remained unchanged.

A patient is transported outside of Tisch Hospital in New York on November 13, 2020 (Kena Betancur / AFP)

New antivirus measures came into force in Ukraine Saturday, with all non-essential businesses ordered to stay closed for the weekend.

Officials in Kiev pulled back from a nationwide lockdown, admitting the country’s already-battered economy could not stand it.

Even the partial restrictions have sparked protests in Kiev, as populations across the world grow ever wearier of restrictions on daily life.

In an Ifop survey in France, 60 percent of respondents admitted to flouting the country’s latest lockdown rules at least once by making up a false excuse to go out or meeting up with family and friends.

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