Pope Francis says the decision to get the COVID vaccine is a matter of ethics.“It is an ethical choice because you are gambling with your health, with your life, but you are also gambling with the lives of others,” Francis said in an interview with Italian television station Canale 5.Vatican City is set to begin its a vaccine campaign this week, and Francis said he has already “booked” an appointment.A new coronavirus variant has been found in Japan in travelers from Brazil.  Takaji Wakita, head of Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Diseases, said Sunday the newly discovered variant is different from the ones that have been identified in Britain and South Africa, but the three variants share a common mutation. Cuba is experiencing a coronavirus surge, according to Francisco Duran, head of epidemiology at the Ministry of Public Health. Officials attribute the spread to the recent holiday celebrations that can often include relatives from abroad who live in hard-hit coronavirus countries.  Cuba’s Health Ministry said Saturday there were 365 new cases in the previous 24-hour period.  Cuba has more than 14,000 COVID-19 infections, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.    Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported early Sunday that there are 89.6 million global COVID cases. The U.S. has the most cases with more than 22 million, followed by India with more than 10 million and Brazil with over 8 million.Vietnamese will find it difficult, if not impossible, to return home this year for Lunar New Year celebrations because the Southeast Asian country is imposing strict travel restrictions. The stringent regulations are being imposed in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus.In China, the initial round of mass testing for the coronavirus in Shijiazhuang was completed in three days after authorities locked down the city of 11 million Wednesday, after just 39 new cases of the virus surfaced, the city’s mayor said Saturday.Mayor Ma Yujun said at a news conference that a second round of testing will begin soon in the capital of the industrial Hebei province, which was sealed off as travel restrictions were imposed in the rest of the region of 76 million people that encircles Beijing.On Tuesday, Hebei authorities put the province into “wartime mode,” enabling authorities to launch a collaborative campaign involving contact tracing and distribution of medical supplies.The aggressive approach taken by Chinese authorities is being adopted in other parts of the Asia-Pacific region, in sharp contrast to the more deliberate virus containment efforts under way in the U.S. and Europe.Israel’s Health Ministry said Saturday four people tested positive for the novel coronavirus strain first detected in South Africa. The British variant had already been reported in the country.Health experts say both strains are potentially more infectious than other variants.Persistently high caseloads forced Israel to tighten lockdown measures Friday after imposing a nationwide lockdown last month.Under Israel’s national vaccination program, 70% of its population older than 60 have received their first dose of a vaccine. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Thursday he reached an agreement with Pfizer-BioNTech to provide enough vaccine to have all citizens older than 16 vaccinated by the end of March.


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