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COVID deaths passed five million and international travel kicks in

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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is again calling for vaccine equity and continued vigilance against the coronavirus as global COVID-19 deaths exceeded 5 million. Mr Guterres issued a statement saying the milestone is a reminder that leaders are failing much of the world.

While wealthy countries are delivering third doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, only about five per cent of people in Africa are fully vaccinated. There are still more deaths, overcrowded hospitals and exhausted health workers, and the risk of new variants spreading and claiming more lives. 

Mr Guterres says at the same time, other dangerous threats continue to allow COVID-19 to thrive: misinformation, vaccine hoarding, vaccine nationalism, and lack of global solidarity.

Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison at the COP-26 summit in Glasgow was more optimistic.

"There is cause for optimism, as we gather here. 18 months ago, the world was staring into the abyss of a one in 100-year pandemic. The vaccines we would need had not only not been invented, but there had never been a vaccine for a coronavirus. But here we are - billions vaccinated and the world is reclaiming what COVID has taken from us." 

Israel is reclaiming its tourist industry by allowing vaccinated foreign visitors to arrive, easinmg its international border restrictions significantly for the first time in 18 months. Only foreigners who've had a second or third COVID-19 vaccine dose within the last six months are allowed in the country, with some exceptions, such as for humanitarian or medical needs. The entry rules also apply to visitors wanting to visit the West Bank as Israel controls all the border crossings.

In New York City, thousands of workers were put on unpaid leave for refusing to comply with a COVID-19 vaccine mandate that took effect on Monday.

Mayor Bill de Blasio says thousands of city firefighters have called in sick in an apparent protest over the requirement.

"Nine thousand city employees in leave without pay status at this moment out of a workforce of almost 400,000, so that's less than 6% of the entire workforce. Now again, every one of those 9,000 is welcome to come back, get vaccinated. We've got about 12,000 who have applied for religious or medical exemption. That will be worked on over the coming days and they'll get their answer: either they get the exemption, or they don't, and then they should act accordingly. If they don't get the exemption, come back to work. If they do, then they do."

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SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at https://www.sbs.com.au/language/coronavirus

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