Hundreds of people demonstrated in Australia’s second largest city on Tuesday to protest against government-imposed coronavirus restrictions on the construction industry.
Officials announced that construction sites in Melbourne would be closed for two weeks, amid concerns that the movement of workers was contributing to the spread of COVID-19.
Construction workers are also now required to receive at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine before being allowed to return to work.
The state of Victoria, where Melbourne is located, reported 603 new cases on Tuesday, the highest number of infections in a single day this year.
In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Tuesday that fines for breaking coronavirus protocols would increase in November.
The change would change the fine for anyone knowingly failing to comply with a COVID-19 order from approximately $2,800 to $8,400. Those breaking the ban could also face up to six months in prison.
Businesses that violate coronavirus restrictions could face fines of up to $10,500.
“Our success is really based on the fact that people at large have been obedient,” Ardern said at a news conference. “However, there has been one strange person who has broken the rules and put others at risk.”
Meanwhile, Jay Inslee, governor of the western US state of Washington, is asking the federal government for help in dealing with the strain on hospitals because the delta variant causes a large number of infections.
Inslee sent a letter Monday to White House pandemic coordinator Jeffrey Ziants, saying hospitals in his state were at or above capacity and that he was requesting military personnel to help staff hospitals.
“Once the Delta version hit Washington state, the COVID-19 hospitalizations began,” Inslee said. “From mid-July to late August, we saw the number of hospitalizations doubling every two weeks. Hospitals have ramped up to increase staff beds and stretch staff and canceled most non-essential procedures, but still exceed capacity across the state. “
The number of new daily infections and hospitalizations in Washington is at or near its highest level during the pandemic.
Washington health officials reported that 69% of people 12 years of age and older in the state have been fully vaccinated.
This is higher than the national figure, with 64% of the population age 12 and older being fully vaccinated, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech said on Monday that low-dose shots of their two-dose COVID-19 vaccine are safe and effective for children ages 5 to 11.
The US company and its German partner BioNTech said the tests showed the vaccine was well tolerated and strong, eliciting neutralizing antibody responses at the low dose levels required in young children.
Pfizer said it plans to soon seek authorization to use the vaccine in young patients in the United States, Britain and the European Union, a move that could expand the scope of the vaccination effort. About 28 million American kids fall into that age range, and millions of adults still refuse to get the jab.
Pfizer said it studied low doses in trials involving more than 2,200 kindergartners and elementary school students — a third of the strength of the adult dosage. Two-thirds of the children were given the vaccine, and the remaining third were given saltwater shots. The company said the vaccinated children developed antibody levels that were similar to those demonstrated by adolescents and young adults.
Now with students back in school and the Delta version spreading across the United States, many parents are worried for government health officials to approve the vaccine for their young children.
Compared to older people, children have a lower risk of serious illness or death from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, but more than 5 million children in the United States tested positive for COVID-19 and at least 460 children died, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
American vaccine maker Moderna is also studying shots of it in young children. Both Pfizer and Moderna are conducting studies using the vaccine in infants under 6 months of age, with results expected later this year.
On Monday, deaths from COVID-19 in the United States reached 675,975, surpassing the 1918 Spanish flu deaths.
(Some information for this report has been sourced from The Associated Press and Reuters.)