China's first local Covid case since February had been vaccinated – state media

The hospital worker had received two doses of an unspecified vaccine, the Health Times says, as Europe resumes AstraZeneca jabs

China’s first local coronavirus case since February was a staff worker at a hospital who had received two shots of a vaccine between end-January and early February, state media has reported.

The patient, identified by her surname Liu, had been working in the quarantine area of a hospital in Xian city since 4 March, and was mainly responsible for collecting samples from quarantined people for coronavirus testing, the Health Times reported on Saturday.

The Health Times is listed as a newspaper published under The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party.

China had reported the case on Thursday, making it the country’s first locally transmitted case since 14 February.

The Health Times, citing a joint expert group of Shaanxi province where Xian city is located, said Liu was infected after being accidentally exposed while in the hospital’s quarantine area.

The publication quoted Zeng Guang, former chief epidemiologist of China’s disease control and prevention centre, as saying that the protection rate of the vaccine is “not 100%”, and that it is “relatively safe rather than “absolutely safe”, but the public should not doubt domestic vaccines due to this case.

“The efficacy rate of domestic vaccines in preventing severe cases in China is more than 90%, and the overall protection rate is more than 70%,” said Zeng, adding that coronavirus treatment hospitals are high-risk areas where vaccinated medical staff cannot rule out the possibility of infection.

China has developed its own vaccines but Zeng did not specify which vaccine Liu had received.

Thirty-three staff working in the quarantine area with Liu had negative nucleic acid test results, and have undergone centralised medical isolation and observation.

The news from China came as several European countries resumed vaccinating citizens with the AstraZeneca treatment following an all-clear from European Union regulators and the World Health Organization.

Worries that AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine may cause blood clots had seen countries pause its use recently.

But after the European Medicines Agency said it was “safe and effective”, Germany and Italy announced they were using the jab again as of Friday.

France, where one-third of the population entered a new partial lockdown on Saturday, also brought it back into use on Friday. But just hours later, the national health regulator recommended its use only for over-55s, given the reported blood clots were only seen in younger people.

World Health Organization vaccine safety experts said “available data do not suggest any overall increase in clotting conditions” among vaccinated people.

The Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and Indonesia were also ending their suspensions, while Ireland’s advisory committee is recommending following suit.

Seeking to reassure their populations, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his French counterpart Jean Castex received their first AstraZeneca dose on Friday.

A third of France’s population has entered a new partial lockdown along with Poland and parts of Ukraine as European countries scrambled to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Amid increasing concerns that the continent is facing a full-blown third wave of the virus driven by new variants, Parisians packed trains leaving the French capital and crammed into shops ahead of the new restrictions coming into force, which will apply to Paris and several other regions for a month.

The mayor of Yerres, just outside Paris, told AFP he had told businesses there to remain open, defying the “totally incomprehensible” restrictions.

“Why would we catch Covid more in a shoe store than a bookshop?” he asked. Bookshops are considered essential under the new measures, and later Friday the government added florists, chocolate shops and cobblers to the list.

Poland begins a new three-week lockdown on Saturday, with shops, hotels, cultural and sporting facilities closed.

Ukraine, which has seen the third biggest rise in new cases in the world this week according to figures compiled by Agence France-Presse, will also impose some restrictions on movements from SAturday. Cases have risen 55% to an average of 11,200 per day this week. Bangladesh saw the highest rise with 92% more new cases this week, while Moldova was third with 78%.

Other European countries such as Italy and Spain have opted for curfews rather than a lockdown in a bid to reduce the rate of transmission.

Belgium and Switzerland, where cases are also soaring, also put off lifting restrictions on Friday.

“I literally did not feel a thing. It was very good, very quick,” Johnson said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi also committed to get the AstraZeneca vaccine soon.

– ‘We’re not scared’ –

While political leaders were enthusiastic, some members of the public remain reluctant.

“I’m a bit anxious of course, but what can you do? We have to do this,” said 42-year-old teacher Valentina at a vaccine centre at Rome’s Termini station.

In Spain, 22-year-old medical student Florentino Quinteiro said he wasn’t worried after receiving an AstraZeneca dose last month.

“The population isn’t always familiar with the situation, but we’re not scared,” he said of his colleagues.

“In pharmacology there’s always a trade-off between benefit and risk,” he added.

Denmark, Norway and Sweden are yet to bring the jab back into use, pending further review, while Finland said Friday it would pause for at least a week “until there is more information”.

However, use and production of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine has been ramping up, with the Philippines becoming the latest country to give it the green light Friday, and Indian drugmaker Stelis Biopharma signing on to produce 200 million doses.

Germany said it would order the Sputnik vaccine if the EU authorises its use.

-The United States marked a major milestone in its inoculation drive on Friday, administering its 100 millionth vaccine dose to meet President Joe Biden’s goal weeks ahead of schedule.

“We did it in about 60 days,” he said. “We’re not stopping now.”

With infection rates falling, there are hopes that the world’s worst-hit country, which has seen more than 540,000 deaths, is headed for a powerful rebound.

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