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VACCINE

NEW: Spain suspends use of AstraZeneca vaccine

Spain is suspending the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for at least a fortnight, the health minister said Monday, the latest European country to do so over blood clot fears.

NEW: Spain suspends use of AstraZeneca vaccine
A health worker holds a bottle of the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19 during a mass vaccination campaign by SUMMA 112 (Medical Emergency Services of Madrid) at the Wanda Metropolitan stadium in Madrid on February 25, 2021. Photo: Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP

“We have decided to temporarily suspend (use of the AstraZeneca vaccine) as a precaution for at least the next two weeks,” Health Minister Carolina Darias told reporters, following similar moves by France, Germany and Italy.

The European Medicines Agency has said it believes the British-Swedish vaccine is safe to use but will hold a special meeting on Thursday to decide on “further actions” over the jab.

READ MORE: Which European countries have suspended AstraZeneca vaccines?

Countries should continue using AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine, the World Health Organization said on Monday, after many governments halted rollouts because of blood clot fears.

“We do not want people to panic and we would, for the time being, recommend that countries continue vaccinating with AstraZeneca,” WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan told a press briefing.

Her comments came as a growing list of nations suspended use of the vaccine, pointing to cases of blood clots in people who had received the shot, which was jointly developed with the University of Oxford.

Swaminathan stressed that no causal link had been established between the vaccine and clotting.

“So far, we do not find an association between these events and the vaccine,” she said, pointing out that some blood clot incidents among the general population were to be expected.

When looking at those who had received the jab, the incidence is “in fact, less than what you would expect in the general population at the same time”, she said.

The UN health agency said its vaccine safety experts were looking at the AstraZeneca data.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”

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