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Swiss again deploy 2,500 military personnel to help cope with COVID-19

Switzerland will deploy up to 2,500 military personnel to help regional authorities cope with the coronavirus pandemic, the government said on Tuesday, again tapping the armed forces to support the health care system as COVID-19 cases soar.
Switzerland and tiny neighbor Liechtenstein have reported more than 1 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and nearly 11,300 deaths from the disease since the pandemic broke out last year.
Read the latest updates in our dedicated coronavirus section.

Cases have been rising again, straining some hospitals as the government tries to keep the economy open amid what it calls a “critical” situation.

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Last week, it tightened rules on wearing masks and producing a certificate to prove a person is vaccinated or has recovered from the virus.
Switzerland, which used the military twice last year to help out, will let cantons request help to care for or transport patients and to support vaccinations if their civil defense, fire department and private-sector resources are inadequate.
The government said it would will ask parliament to approve the measure, that will run until March 31.
Nearly 79 percent of hospital intensive care units are now occupied, of which COVID patients account for just over 30 percent.
Only 66 percent of the Swiss population — or three out of four people aged 12 or older — is fully vaccinated despite repeated public campaigns to encourage holdouts to get jabbed.

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Health

North Korea’s fever cases under 200,000 for second day amid silence on aid offer

North Korea's daily fever cases stayed below 200,000 for a second day in a row, state media said on Monday, as Pyongyang remained silent on South Korean and US offers to help fight its first confirmed COVID-19 outbreak.

The COVID wave, declared on May 12, has fuelled concerns over a lack of vaccines, inadequate medical infrastructure and a potential food crisis in the country of 25 million.

US President Joe Biden said on Saturday that Washington had offered COVID-19 vaccines to China and North Korea, but “got no response.”

North Korea reported 167,650 new patients suffering from fever on Monday and one more death. More than 2.33 million of the 2.81 million cumulative cases reported since late April had recovered as of Sunday evening, the North's state news agency KCNA said. The official death toll stands at 68.

For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.

While staying silent on the offer for help, North Korea has boasted of a “favorable turn” in the country's virus situation.

“The crisis and responsibility awareness is further enhanced in every region, sector, workplace and post across the country to maintain the favorable turn in the epidemic prevention work and all inroads of the epidemic are checked through the strict execution of regional and unit lockdown and blockade measures,” the KCNA said.

Such COVID-19 restrictions may be playing a role in North Korea's lack of response, a senior US administration official said Sunday.

Apparently deprived of testing supplies, North Korea has not confirmed the total number of people testing positive for the coronavirus. Instead, health authorities report the number with fever symptoms, making it difficult to assess the scale of the COVID wave, experts have said.

Authorities have distributed food and medicine across the country, with military medics deployed to help distribute drugs and conduct exams.

KCNA said pharmaceutical factories “are speeding up the production,” but did not elaborate which medicines were being produced.

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Beijing city reports 63 new local COVID-19 cases over 24 hours

Beijing reported 63 new domestically transmitted COVID-19 infections during the 24 hours to 3 p.m. (0700 GMT) on Saturday, a disease control official at the Chinese capital said.

Of the infections, 56 were found in controlled areas and seven during community screening tests, Liu Xiaofeng, deputy director at Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control, told a news briefing.

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The city has recorded 1,399 COVID infections since April 22, Liu said.

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Biden says US has offered N.Korea COVID-19 vaccines but ‘got no response’

US President Joe Biden said Saturday that America had offered North Korea COVID-19 vaccines but “got no response” despite a spiraling epidemic in the isolated country.

“We've offered vaccines, not only to North Korea but to China as well and we're prepared to do that immediately," he said at a press conference in Seoul.

For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.

“We've got no response,” he added.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

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