The German government has warned of suspected attempts to disrupt the coronavirus vaccination campaign by foreign intelligence groups as well as conspiracy theorists, according to a media report.
“Several suspected attempts to spy on German vaccine manufacturers have already become known,” newspapers of the Funke media group quoted the Interior Ministry as saying. The statement was in response to a Green party inquiry.
The ministry added that the danger of cyberattacks was “classified as high.”
The report said facilities for research, production, and approval of vaccines are considered potential targets for espionage and sabotage by foreign intelligence services.
The ministry also warned of possible disruptive action by conspiracy ideologues. Former TV chef turned conspiracy theorist Attila Hildmann, for instance, wrote on his Telegram channel: “the syringes in vaccination centers resemble the bombs of the Dresden bombing,” and told his followers that protests are pointless and that they must instead take targeted action “against injustice.”
Green party politician Irene Mihalic said the recent storming of the US Capitol in Washington showed “how quickly absurd conspiracy narratives can turn into violence.”
AstraZeneca’s planned reduction in COVID-19 vaccine deliveries to the European Union has sparked anger and frustration across the bloc.
Peter Liese, a German MEP, and coordinator of the European Parliament’s Committee on Public Health told DW the pharmaceutical firm’s actions go against its contract with the bloc.
“I’m really angry with this company. I think the last word is not yet spoken,” he said, noting that the UK’s vaccine supply will continue as planned but that deliveries to the bloc are expected to be curbed by 60%.
“This is completely unacceptable. We have a contract. The European Commission has a contract and they should fulfill [it].
Liese, who is also a medical doctor, said that he believes the company will likely change course. “I expect a change of the planning in the next hours, over the weekend, and we will get the vaccine in February. We will get millions of doses. I know a lot of people are fighting for this now,” he said.
European regulators are due to decide by the end of January on approving the AstraZeneca-Oxford University coronavirus vaccine.
Portugal saw a record daily number of coronavirus deaths and new infections on Saturday, a day before its presidential elections. With 274 new deaths in the past 24 hours, the country’s total death toll topped 10,000, the national health authority said.
It also recorded 15,333 new cases, the highest in the country of 10 million people since the beginning of the pandemic.
The Portuguese presidential vote comes 10 days after the country announced its second national lockdown. However, observers fear abstentions could be as high as 70% given voters’ health concerns.
Spain’s top military commander was forced to resign after he and other high-ranking officers jumped the queue to receive COVID vaccinations, sparking public anger.
Defense Minister Margarita Robles has accepted the resignation of Chief of Staff Gen. Miguel Angel Villarroya.
The general “never intended to take advantage of unjustifiable privileges which damaged the image of the Armed Forces and put in doubt the honor of the general,” the Defense Ministry said. It added that Villaroya “took decisions which he thought to be correct” but which “damaged the public image of the Armed Forces.”
The general’s resignation came after El Confidencial, an online publication, reported that Villarroya and other top brass had violated national protocols for Spain’s vaccination strategy.
Norway on Saturday announced its strictest restrictions since last March after a case of the British coronavirus variant was found in a retirement home.
“In some places, we are going even further than in March,” Health Minister Bent Hoie told a press conference, adding that it will make “daily life difficult for many.”
All indoor and outdoor public events, apart from burials, have been canceled. Restaurants will be limited to takeaway services and only essential shops can remain open. Municipalities will be allowed to close primary schools and switch secondary schools to remote learning.
Sweden plans to introduce a ban on entry from Norway due to the spread of the new UK variant, the country’s health authority said Saturday. Earlier in the day, authorities recommended that travelers from Norway self-isolate for at least a week and test for COVID-19 upon arrival.
Brazil began distributing the 2 million ready-to-use AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines a day after they arrived from India following a major diplomatic effort.
Until now, Brazil’s widely criticized vaccine rollout has depended on a shot developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd in partnership with Sao Paulo’s Butantan Institute.
The government also has a deal with AstraZeneca to locally produce up to 100 million doses, but the delivery of the active ingredient needed to manufacture them has been plagued by delays from China.
Meanwhile, support for President Jair Bolsonaro has fallen sharply, a Datafolha poll shows, amid a brutal second wave and a lack of vaccines. With more than 216,000 fatalities, Brazil has the world’s second-deadliest coronavirus outbreak.
New Zealand reported its first coronavirus case outside a quarantine facility in more than two months.
So far, there was no evidence that the virus was spreading in the community.
The case was a 56-year-old woman who recently returned from Europe, Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said on Sunday.
The woman spent 14 days in quarantine and twice tested negative before being returning home on January 13. She later developed symptoms and tested positive.
“We are working on the assumption that this is a positive case and it is a more transmissible variant,” Bloomfield said. “We are casting the net wide to ensure we contain any potential community transmission.”
adi/nm (KNA, AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)
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