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Health-care workers in New Zealand administered a record number of vaccine jabs Saturday as the nation held a festival aimed at getting more people inoculated against COVID-19.
Musicians, sports stars and celebrities pitched in for the “Vaxathon” event which was broadcast on television and online for eight hours straight. By late afternoon, more than 120,000 people had gotten shots, eclipsing the daily record of 93,000 set in August. The event stretched into the evening.
A throwback to TV fundraising “telethon” events that were popular from the 1970s through the 1990s, it comes as New Zealand faces its biggest threat since the pandemic began, with an outbreak of the delta variant spreading through the largest city of Auckland and beyond.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who chatted with motorists at a drive-through vaccination centre in Wellington, initially set a target of 100,000 jabs for the day but upped that to 150,000 after the first target was met.
She also set a target of 25,000 shots for Indigenous Maori, whose vaccination numbers have been lagging and who have been hit hard by the latest outbreak.
National carrier Air New Zealand converted a Boeing 787 Dreamliner plane into a vaccination clinic for the day, issuing people boarding passes on “Flight NZVAX.”
Singer Lorde beamed in from abroad, saying she couldn’t wait to come back home to play a concert and have everyone get sweaty and dance.
“I am the first person to admit that I find getting injections really icky, but ever since I was a kid, I have treated myself by going to the bakery after an injection, normally for a custard tart,” she said. “So you could do that.”
Quinn Tupaea, a professional rugby player, encouraged people to get vaccinated, in a video posted to Twitter by the national men’s rugby team.
Let’s go Aotearoa, it’s time to protect your whānau and community ? <a href=”https://t.co/OLni4euzJI”>pic.twitter.com/OLni4euzJI</a>
New Zealand has so far used only the Pfizer vaccine.
For much of the pandemic, New Zealanders have lived completely free from the virus after the government successfully eliminated each outbreak through strict lockdowns and contact tracing.
That zero-tolerance strategy failed for the first time after the outbreak of the more contagious delta variant began in August. Until then, New Zealand was slow to immunize its population. It since has been making up for lost ground.
Before the Vaxathon, about 72 per cent of New Zealanders had received at least one dose and 54 per cent were fully vaccinated. Among those aged 12 and over, the proportion was about 83 per cent and 62 per cent respectively.
What’s happening in Canada
- P.E.I. logs 3 new cases, including a child under 12 years of age.
What’s happening around the world
As of Saturday morning, more than 240.1 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.8 million.
Russia’s daily tolls of COVID-19 infections and deaths surged to new highs on Saturday, a quickly mounting figure that has put a severe strain on the country’s health-care system.
The country reported a record high 1,002 coronavirus deaths, marking the first time the number has passed the 1,000-mark since the beginning of the pandemic. It pushed the national death toll to 222,315.
New COVID-19 cases, confirmed in the past 24 hours, also hit record high at 33,208, the Russian coronavirus task force said, bringing the official total case tally to 7,958,384.
In the Americas, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said on Friday that she took her fight with the head of the city’s police officers union to court, arguing that his call for officers to ignore the order to report their COVID-19 vaccination status was illegal.
A judge on Friday evening granted the Illinois city’s request for a temporary injunction barring union chief John Catanzara from making any public comments that encourage the officers to disobey the mandate.
In the Asia-Pacific region, the Philippines has started vaccinating young people aged 12-17 against COVID-19, hoping it will enable schools to safely reopen.
In Africa, South Africa will start vaccinating children between the ages of 12 and 17 next week using the Pfizer vaccine, the health minister said.