Californians savor the sunshine as COVID-19 restrictions are eased

A family set up at a beach looking out towards the San Diego skyline on Tuesday. (AP)
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Updated 20 May 2020

Californians savor the sunshine as COVID-19 restrictions are eased

  • Californian residents tell Arab News they are relieved to be able to get outside again
  • But businesses still struggling to get back up and running

LOS ANGELES: The beaches have reopened in California, as the state enters phase two of Governor Gavin Newsom’s four-phase plan to transition out of the COVID-19 “stay at home” order. 

But the seaside is nowhere near as busy as it once was, as many people are choosing to remain indoors. 

Californian residents told Arab News they were relieved to be able to get outside again but were conscious of maintaining social distancing measures.

 

 

“We are really good about staying 6 feet apart,” said beachgoer Clarie Pignataro, referencing the common social distancing tactic. “As long as other people respect that, yeah I think it’s really nice to be outside. We’re in California. That’s why we live here.”

Social distancing restrictions are still in place across the state of 39.5 million people.

In Los Angeles County, the seaside has opened for running, biking and swimming, but stationary activities like sunbathing are not allowed. Similarly, many recreation hotspots, such as the famous Santa Monica Pier, remain closed.

Many, such as cyclist Julio Buendia, spoke in favor of the safety measures. 

“Having these restrictions makes me feel a little bit safer,” he said. “As long as people are wearing their masks, at least staying six feet away, I think California’s done a really good job of flattening the curve.”

Nonessential retail stores are gradually reopening. But with foot traffic down and store owners shifting focus to delivery, curb-side pickup and online shopping, it’s a slow process.

However some small businesses, such as farmer’s market vendors, have been able to make the transition and keep their customers.

“I think it’s a good thing that things are starting to open slowly,” said farmer market patron, Cedric Bruaksprejean. 

“It has to be good for the economy, for the city, for the people, for the community. A little less stress as far as staying in the house so much. It gets you a little breath of fresh air.”

As California takes its first steps away from the uncertain times of the pandemic, the question remains: what is the new normal going to look like and how long will it take to get there? 

“I definitely don’t think things will be back to normal in the next two or three months, said Buendia. “But I think there definitely is some flexibility for people to be able to at least go out and at least if they’re safe be able to enjoy the sunshine here.”


UK vaccine frontrunner could be available in first half of 2021

Updated 26 min 48 sec ago

UK vaccine frontrunner could be available in first half of 2021

  • Human trials of the vaccine will expand to hundreds more people in the “coming weeks.”

LONDON: A leading British scientist has said a Covid-19 vaccine could be rolled out across the country as early as the first half of next year.

Professor Robin Shattock leads the team working on Imperial College London’s vaccine, one of the UK’s two most promising research programs. He told Sky News: “We anticipate if everything goes really well, that we'll get an answer as to whether it works by early next year.

“Assuming that the funding is there to purchase that vaccine, we could have that vaccine rolled out across the UK in the first half of next year.”

Shattock also warned that there was “no certainty” that any of the vaccines currently being developed would work, but said the risk of that is “very, very low.”

Imperial College London is now conducting human trials of their vaccine, with 15 volunteers having received it so far. Shattock said this will be ramped up in the “coming weeks” to include another 200 to 300 patients.

“I think we're very lucky in the UK that we have two very strong candidates, the one from Imperial, the one from Oxford, and so we’re pretty well placed, but there's still not a certainty that either of those two will work,” he said.

Oxford University is also developing a vaccination for Covid-19, in partnership with British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.

While Shattock said he hopes Imperial College London’s vaccine will be available for the whole of the UK in the first half of next year, it is unclear how long it would take for it to be available outside of the country.

The UK, European Union and the US have all invested huge sums into vaccine development, and struck deals with pharmaceutical companies worth hundreds of millions of dollars each to ensure first-in-line access to successful vaccinations.

However, international organizations such as the UN, International Red Crescent and Red Cross, and Doctors Without Borders have raised concerns that the world’s poorest countries will be unable to access vaccinations and effective Covid-19 treatments due to rich countries outspending them.