Connect with us

Living

In Athens, rare snow blankets Acropolis, halts vaccinations

Published

on

In Athens, rare snow blankets Acropolis, halts vaccinations

ATHENS, Greece — Heavy snowfall blanketed the Acropolis and other ancient monuments in Athens, caused power cuts and halted COVID-19 vaccinations in the Greek capital on Tuesday as the weather brought many services across the country to a standstill.

Greek media reported that three deaths in separate parts of the country were linked with the bad weather. State ERT TV said two elderly men with breathing problems died after their mechanical respiratory aids stopped working due to power cuts, and a farmer on the island of Crete was found dead in a snow-covered area near his sheepfold.

While western Europe got some respite from winter weather, temperatures plunged in the southeast of the continent and storms also battered Turkey.

The snow, an unusual sight in the Greek capital of more than 3 million residents, also stopped most public transport services. Hundreds of toppled trees downed power cables, causing blackouts in several suburbs, while one area on the city’s northern fringes was declared in a state of emergency for the next month. Some of the affected suburbs were also left without water.

Snow is common in Greece’s mountains and in the north of the country, but much rarer in the capital. Some Athenians emerged cautiously outside, snapping photos on balconies and in the streets.

The snow arrived as Athens and several other parts of Greece remain in lockdown to curb coronavirus infections. Schools and most stores are closed, and residents must stay indoors during a nightly curfew.

Some children skipped online classes Tuesday to play in the snow. Adults also went out to play, with some digging out skis to use on the capital’s hilly slopes. One man skied along Pnyx hill in central Athens, near the Acropolis.

Norwegian Ambassador Frode Overland Andersen tweeted a video of himself skiing down a hill in the suburb of Filothei with his teenage daughter.

“Challenge accepted,” he wrote, after a friend in Oslo challenged him to prove it really was possible to ski in Athens.

“It was the best day at my home office during the lockdown so far,” the ambassador told The Associated Press. “Sadly, my skis took a rather hard beating, so I will be waxing and prepping for next season.”

Outside the parliament building, orange snowplows cleared streets of ice and snow, while presidential guards, dressed in traditional pleated kilts and pompom-tipped shoes, were given heavy woolen overcoats.

The cold snap, which has already caused snowstorms around much of Europe, kept temperatures hovering around freezing in Athens on Tuesday but was expected to lift abruptly with highs of 14 degrees Celsius (57 degrees Fahrenheit) expected on Thursday.

In neighboring Turkey, heavy snow and blizzards forced the closure of a highway in northwest Turkey. Around 600 vehicles were stranded on a nine-kilometer (six-mile) stretch of the snow-covered road, and another 800 other vehicles were stranded elsewhere, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

Sections of Greece’s main north-south highway were also closed until early Wednesday, leaving about 300 lorry drivers stranded at a highway access point outside Thessaloniki, in northern Greece. Most ferry services to the islands were canceled, while flights from regional airports to Athens were disrupted.

Greek Fire Service spokesman Vassilis Vathrakoyiannis said the service had received hundreds of calls for assistance in greater Athens.

“The calls mainly concerned downed trees and transporting people stuck in their vehicles to a safe place, but also to transport kidney dialysis patients to receive treatment,” he told state TV.

“Vaccinations have been postponed, but we have helped transport doctors and medical staff where they are needed, and we helped power technicians get to damaged electricity pylons in areas where access was difficult,” Vathrakoyiannis said.

Power and water cuts were also reported in central Greece. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis met with emergency response leaders to assist residents in blacked-out areas and villages cut off by the snow.

“We obviously recommend great care be taken in all movement, all unnecessary movement should be avoided,” Mitsotakis said after the meeting, adding that authorities were doing everything they could to keep the roads open and to restore power to areas without electricity.

“I think we will all show patience as we deal with a phenomenon that is truly unprecedented,” he added.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Living

Vaccine passports not for the jetset, says WHO

Published

on

By

Vaccine passports not for the jetset, says WHO

No need to pull your suitcase and neck pillow from storage just yet.

In light of hype and rumor surrounding the so-called “vaccine passport,” the World Health Organization has issued a statement warning transportation officials that such clearances would not guarantee travelers are immune from spreading COVID-19 in one way or another.

Proof of immunization would be a moot requirement, as there are still more “critical unknowns regarding the efficacy of vaccination in reducing transmission,” WHO asserted.

“WHO also recommends that people who are vaccinated should not be exempt from complying with other travel risk-reduction measures,” they wrote in a Feb. 5 statement about the proposed digital passports that show a person has been vaccinated.

They also discouraged the possibility that cautious international travelers might put a squeeze on already scarce coronavirus vaccine doses, putting disadvantaged groups at a continued risk of exposure — and extend their period of lockdown isolation.

“Individuals who do not have access to an authorized COVID-19 vaccine would be unfairly impeded in their freedom of movement if proof of vaccination status became a condition for entry to or exit from a country,” WHO wrote. “National authorities should choose public health interventions that least infringe on individual freedom of movement.”

The US, UK and other European leaders have publicly mulled safe travel programs and strategies that would pave the way for a travel industry rehab, allowing greater mobility between countries in the wake of a pandemic which has seen over 2.5 million lives lost globally since last winter. In addition to international travel, the license might potentially allow for access to bars and restaurants.

Public health experts outside of WHO’s ranks have also criticized the proposition.

“I can see that they might be useful in the longer term, but I have several concerns about them being considered at this point in time when I think the scientific evidence doesn’t support them. And there are lots of ethical concerns about them that I think are legitimate,” said Dr. Deepti Gurdasani, clinical epidemiologist at Queen Mary University of London, according to a CNBC report on Thursday.

“We know very little about the effectiveness of vaccines in preventing infection or even asymptomatic disease against several variants circulating in different countries,” Dr. Gurdasani added.

The statements come at a time when scientists are learning more than ever about the enigmatic disease, including a study reported on Wednesday which revealed that the coronavirus can survive on fabric, including cotton and polyester blends, for up to three days — removed only with scorching hot water and detergent.

Continue Reading

Living

Arizona woman returns 1950s Purple Heart to man’s family after finding it at thrift store

Published

on

By

Arizona woman returns 1950s Purple Heart to man’s family after finding it at thrift store

A family has been reunited with their father’s Purple Heart more than three decades after he died, thanks to a bit of sleuthing.

Teresa Ferrin discovered the Purple Heart — along with several other military awards — at a thrift shop in Phoenix, Arizona, where she volunteers once a week. 

Ferrin explained to Fox News that her job involves pricing the donated items before displaying them on the shop’s floor. But about two weeks ago, someone dropped off the military awards, making sure to point out the Purple Heart among the collection. 

She inspected the medal and found a name on the back. That’s when she decided to track down the owner. 

“I just felt it needed to go to the family, and I was going to try to find the family,” Ferrin told Fox News.

At first, Ferrin she had trouble reading the name, but she eventually deciphered it: Erik Karl Blauberg. Blauberg was a veteran of the Korean War, where he received the Purple Heart, a medal presented to service members who have been wounded or killed in the line of duty. 

After doing some research online and making a few phone calls, Ferrin learned that Blauberg had been living in Apache Junction, Arizona, when he died in 1988 at the age of 58. 

Ferrin was later able to get in touch with a few of Blauberg’s eight children, including Lisa Walker, who lives in Florida.

Walker told Ferrin that Blauberg had left her family when she was young, leaving her mother to care for all eight children on her own. 

“They were estranged from him,” Ferrin explained to Fox News. “They knew who he was, they talked to him occasionally, but they didn’t really know him very well.” 

By the time Blauberg died, he didn’t leave anything to his children. So when Ferrin sent the military awards — and the Purple Heart — to the family, Walker described the gesture as “bittersweet.”

“This is one of the only things that we have [of his],” Walker told Fox News. “I’m very grateful to Teresa.

Walker said she and her siblings were also surprised to find out about their father’s military awards.

“We didn’t even know he had a Purple Heart,” Walker said. “I knew — and my brothers knew — that he had medals, but we didn’t know he had a Purple Heart, so that was very shocking.”

Ultimately, Walker said she’s thankful Ferrin was able to track her and her family down. “I can’t believe someone went above and beyond like Teresa did, and didn’t give up to find us,” Walker said.

As far as Ferrin was concerned, she said she couldn’t have done anything else, especially because her own father had also served in the military during the Korean War.

“I thought, if it was my father’s, I’d certainly want someone to return it to me,” Ferrin said. “I just felt the family needed to have that.”

Continue Reading

Living

Italy’s Lombardy again in virus crisis as Brescia sees surge

Published

on

By

Italy’s Lombardy again in virus crisis as Brescia sees surge

ROME — Italy’s northern Lombardy region, where Europe’s coronavirus outbreak erupted last year, asked the national government Thursday for more vaccines to help stem a surge of new COVID-19 cases that are taxing the health system in the province of Brescia.

The province’s fast-growing caseload is contributing to another upswing in reported cases nationwide: Italy added another 19,886 confirmed infections Thursday, its highest daily number since early January. Authorities reported another 308 virus-related deaths, bringing the country’s official toll in the pandemic to just under 97,000.

Brescia, with a population of around 1.2 million, has seen its daily cases go from the mid-100s at the start of February to 901 on Wednesday and 973 Thursday, due to clusters of infections traced to the British variant. Doctors say the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the main public hospital went from an average of around 200 to 300 recently.

“We can’t talk about a third wave from our point of view, just because the second one never really ended,” said Dr. Cristiano Perani, head of emergency room at Brescia’s civic hospital. “The increase was gradual, but had an acceleration in the last few weeks.”

Lombardy’s governor, Attilio Fontana, said he told Italy’s health minister Thursday that the region needed an “immediate delivery (of vaccines) in the territory where the virus is growing.”

Already, Lombardy — Italy’s most populous region — has imposed new lockdown measures in Brescia and revamped its vaccine strategy to redirect the jabs it has on hand to the province and nearby towns in neighboring Bergamo. The aim of the strategy is to inoculate as many people as possible as quickly as possible in the hardest-hit areas.

Guido Bertolaso, who is in charge of the vaccine campaign, said the region was going to bypass the 30% reserves that the national government recommends keeping on hand for second doses, and starting Thursday would begin vaccinating residents ages 60-79, well earlier than scheduled. Lombardy only recently began vaccinating people aged over 80, after prioritizing health care workers and residents of nursing homes.

The aim of the strategy, Bertolaso said, is to create a “health cordon” in the area with blanket vaccinations. The approach is based on studies from Britain and Israel — and even on Lombardy’s own data — that show declines in infection rates as more people are vaccinated with only one dose.

“This is war,” Bertolaso said.

Brescia’s deputy mayor, Laura Castelletti, said residents were willing to accept new lockdown measures — which include closing all schools and day-care centers — as long as the vaccination schedule accelerated.

“We are ready to make sacrifices if the vaccination campaign goes forward 24/7,” she said.

Brescia and Bergamo were two of the Italian provinces hardest hit during the first wave of the pandemic, which began this time last year and quickly turned Lombardy into the epicenter of the outbreak in Europe.

Lombardy as a whole still accounts for nearly a third of Italy’s 96,974 confirmed COVID-19 dead, and a fifth of its 2.87 million confirmed infections. Italy has the world’s sixth-highest confirmed death toll, and the second in Europe after Britain.

Italy’s vaccine campaign, which has administered 3.92 million doses, has been slowed by delays in deliveries from the three pharmaceutical companies supplying the European Union: Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the health ministry would redirect any vaccines to Lombardy, given previously established quotas which have already delivered the most doses there.

Italy’s virus czar, Domenico Arcuri, didn’t address Fontana’s request in a statement Thursday but boasted that inoculations showed “a comforting increase” this week, averaging around 100,000 a day nationally.

Nearly two months after Italy began its vaccination campaign on Dec. 27, the tiny Republic of San Marino administered its first doses Thursday. San Marino, a city state of about 33,800 people surrounded by Italy, had to buy Russian Sputnik V doses after delays in receiving allotted doses from Italy.

“This constitutes the most effective weapon we have to defeat this disease,” said Dr. Enrico Rossi, who was among the first inoculated. “It has been kind of a nightmare this year but we are hopeful that it will end.”

Continue Reading

Trending