COVID-19 vaccines offer hope as world leaders plan for future

PARIS (AFP) – France is expected to loosen its coronavirus restrictions soon as the boss of a major airline said proof of vaccination will likely become the only way people can fly in a post-pandemic world.

Hopes over COVID-19 vaccines have given a boost to virus-weary citizens across the globe, but the disease remains rampant and world leaders are urging people to be patient.

French President Emmanuel Macron will address the country – currently under lockdown – to announce a reworking of the rules following a drop in nationwide infections.

Macron’s televised speech comes a day after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said thanks to a major vaccine breakthrough, “the escape route is in sight” from the coronavirus crisis.

Johnson said that although the “scientific cavalry” was arriving, he warned “Christmas cannot be normal and there’s a long road to spring”.

The world is still engulfed in the unprecedented health crisis which has shattered economies, infected almost 58.9 million people and left nearly 1.4 million dead. AstraZeneca and Oxford University on Monday said their drug had proved on average 70 per cent effective at stopping the virus after trying it on 23,000 people, days after tests of two other drugs suggested they were more than 90 per cent effective.

While World Health Organisation director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus hailed the latest batch of results as light at the end of the “long dark tunnel”, he cautioned the world had to ensure drugs were distributed fairly.

“Every government rightly wants to do everything it can to protect its people,” Tedros said.

“But there is now a real risk that the poorest and most vulnerable will be trampled in the stampede for vaccines.”

Australia’s Qantas announced that international travellers will need to be vaccinated against Covid-19 to fly, becoming the first airline to suggest such rules could become common across the industry.

CEO Alan Joyce said the Australian flag carrier would implement the measure once a vaccine was made available to the public.