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By Neil Jerome Morales

MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines will let thousands of its healthcare workers, mostly nurses, take up jobs in Britain and Germany if the two countries agree to donate much-needed coronavirus vaccines, a senior official said on Tuesday.

The Philippines, which has among Asia's highest number of coronavirus cases, has relaxed a ban on deploying its healthcare workers overseas, but still limits the number of medical professionals leaving the country to 5,000 a year.

Alice Visperas, director of the labour ministry's international affairs bureau, said the Philippines was open to lifting the cap in exchange for vaccines from Britain and Germany, which it would use to inoculate outbound workers and hundreds of thousands of Filipino repatriates.

Nurses are among the millions of Filipinos who work overseas, providing in excess of $30 billion a year in remittances vital to the country's economy.

"We are considering the request to lift the deployment cap, subject to agreement," Visperas told Reuters.

Britain is grappling with the world's sixth-highest coronavirus death toll and one of the worst economic hits from the pandemic, while Germany has the 10th most infections globally.

While the two countries have inoculated a combined 23 million people, the Philippines has yet to start its campaign to immunise 70 million adults, or two-thirds of its 108 million people. It expects to receive its first batch of vaccines this week, donated by China.

The Philippines wants to secure 148 million doses of vaccines altogether.

The British embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment while calls to Germany's mission went unanswered.

In 2019, almost 17,000 Filipino nurses signed overseas work contracts, government data showed.

While Filipino nurses have fought to lift the deployment ban to escape poor working conditions and low pay at home, the workers-for-vaccine plan has not gone down well with some medical workers.

"We are disgusted on how nurses and healthcare workers are being treated by the government as commodities or export products," Jocelyn Andamo, secretary general of the Filipino Nurses United, told Reuters.

(Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Martin Petty)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.

Tags: diseases, infectious diseases, vaccines, coronavirus, United Kingdom, Europe, Germany, Philippines

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the Moselle in the sights of Berlin

Germany has decided to classify from Monday evening the French department of Moselle in a maximum risk zone due to the circulation of Covid-19 variants, which will result in a tightening of border controls, reports France Bleu Lorraine radio station. This measure, which also applies to Austrian Tyrol and the Czech Republic, could lead to the closure of the border for the 16,000 French workers who travel to Germany every day if they do not present a negative PCR test of less than 24 hours.

A “unilateral” and “brutal” decision

The president of the Grand-Est region, Jean Rottner, confirmed Sunday on France Info that Berlin had informed Paris of its intention, while specifying that intense negotiations were continuing to find a solution for border workers. Lamenting a decision “unilateral” and “brutal”, the former emergency doctor notably expressed the wish that alternative solutions to the PCR test be accepted by the authorities in Berlin, such as antigen tests or saliva tests which are not currently validated in Germany.

“We do not want to find ourselves in the situation of the Czech Republic and Austria whose borders have been physically closed,” said Jean Rottner.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced Thursday that Moselle, one of the 20 departments under surveillance, had 60% of cases of the South African variant, which is more contagious and potentially more resistant to vaccines, a figure that worries Paris as in Berlin.

Border controls with Vienna and Prague

Germany justified on February 15 its decision to impose controls at its borders with the Czech Republic and Austria and defended an extension of confinement in the face of companies demanding a roadmap for the lifting of health measures. Imposed on February 14, these controls were presented as unavoidable due to the increased incidence rate in the Czech Republic and Tyrol Austrian. They have sparked protests in Austria, which is concerned that possible supply chain disruptions are hurting its manufacturing industry.

“We were forced to take all necessary measures to prevent variants of the virus (…) from spreading as quickly in Germany as they unfortunately do in neighboring countries,” said at a press conference Steffen Seibert, spokesperson for Chancellor Angela Merkel. “A return to normal is in everyone’s interest,” he added.

Austria, which ruled these border controls of “disproportionate” and D’“unacceptable”, summoned the German Ambassador to the Foreign Ministry in Vienna to discuss the situation. German automakers fear checks could hamper assembly of automobiles from parts imported from Eastern Europe, but BMW, Volkswagen and Audi said on Monday they had not been affected so far. Pressure from businesses to reopen the economy is growing on the government, however.

No deadline

In mid-February, the German Land of Bavaria did not set any deadline for the new checks imposed on people arriving from the Czech Republic and the Tyrol Austria, which entered into force on February 14 to try to prevent the spread of variants of the coronavirus, said its minister-president, Markus Söder. He ruled at a press conference in Schirnding, on the Czech border, that the border regions concerned had not taken the appropriate decisions to contain the epidemic. “The measures will remain in force as long as necessary”, he said. “The entry regime will be very strict.”

Bavaria allows heavy truck drivers, German nationals and border workers to enter its territory on the condition that they can present a negative coronavirus test or undergo a negative test. In all other cases, entry into Bavaria is impossible. These measures had been presented as inevitable due to the increasing incidence rate in the Czech Republic and the Tyrol Austrian.

The Covid-19 is once again gaining ground in France

France has recorded 186 new deaths linked to the coronavirus in the space of 24 hours, according to data communicated on Saturday by Public Health France, which reports a total toll of 86,332 deaths caused in the country by the epidemic. . The number of new contaminations in 24 hours amounted to 23,996, against 25,207 on Friday. The coronavirus is gaining ground again in France in particular due to the presence of variants of the virus.

The cities of Nice and Dunkirk, particularly affected by the Covid-19 epidemic, have been subject to containment since 6:00 p.m. Friday evening. Until Monday at 6 a.m., travel not justified by an exceptional reason is prohibited. The two metropolises will be confined again next weekend at the same times, from March 5 to 8. Twenty departments, including Paris, are under reinforced surveillance due to a worrying epidemiological and hospital situation, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced Thursday, who met on Saturday morning with the prefects concerned.

In Germany, the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus contamination climbed to 2,442,336, 7,890 more cases than the day before, according to data reported Sunday by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases. The institute also reports 157 additional deaths, bringing the total to 70,045 deaths since the start of the epidemic in the country.

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