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VACCINE

German factory races to churn out Covid-19 syringes

The battle against Covid-19 has delivered not just a vaccine at record speed but also a spike in demand for the billions of syringes needed to administer it.

German factory races to churn out Covid-19 syringes
Photo: DPA

One German factory is already busily churning out the little plastic tubes and is confident global needs can be met.

“There won't be a shortage of syringes, even if we are facing a big challenge,” said Otto-Philipp Braun, co-director of Almo, Germany's leading syringe manufacturer.

At the company's production site in the central German town of Bad Arolsen, the loud hum of machinery fills the hall.

Employees man the assembly lines, wearing masks, hair nets and occasionally ear plugs.

They churn out disposable syringes 24 hours a day, seven days a week, destined for use in Germany and more than 140 other countries around the world.

One machine moulds high-quality plastic granules into thin, one-millilitre syringes, while another spits out the pistons that fit snugly inside the cylinder and are needed to push out the vaccine.

The plastic piston is green, matching the logo of German parent company B.Braun, a giant in the medical devices industry and still owned by the Braun family.

A total of 64 syringes with pistons are assembled every 13 seconds.

Every year, Almo churns out more than two billion syringes of various kinds.

The needles that can be added to the injection devices are produced by a B.Braun subsidiary in Malaysia.

The company intends to spend 30 million euros on an additional assembly line, partly to cope with increased demand for the Covid-19 jabs.

The first orders have already rolled in from Germany's BioNTech, whose vaccine developed with US giant Pfizer is already being administered in some countries, and from  CureVac, another German company whose vaccine candidate is in final stage trials.

“We can produce 270 million syringes of one millilitre next year, and if necessary an extra 200 million from 2022,” Braun told AFP.

Taking into account larger-size syringes that are also used for vaccine injections, Almo has orders for some 500 million units for 2020 and 2021.

Its main rival, US behemoth Becton, Dickinson and Company (BD), earlier this week said it had received orders for more than a billion injection devices globally as part of Covid-19 inoculation efforts.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Travel in Europe: UK to scrap all Covid travel rules

The UK is set to scrap all Covid-19 travel restrictions in what the government described as a "landmark moment".

Travel in Europe: UK to scrap all Covid travel rules

Testing is no longer required for vaccinated travellers, but the UK government has announced that it will scrap all Covid-19 travel rules on Friday, March 18th.

“As one of the first major economies to remove all its remaining Covid-19 travel restrictions, this is a landmark moment for passengers and the travel and aviation sector,” said the Government in a press release. 

From 4am on March 18th:

  • Passengers going to the UK will no longer be required to fill out a Passenger Locator Form before travel;
  • Passengers who are not vaccinated will not be required to take a pre-departure Covid test, or a Day 2 test following arrival. Fully vaccinated travellers are already exempt from having to do this;
  • Hotel quarantine for travellers coming from ‘red list’ countries, of which there are currently none, will also be scrapped by the end of the month. 

“We will continue monitoring and tracking potential new variants, and keep a reserve of measures which can be rapidly deployed if needed to keep us safe,” said UK Health Minister Sajid Javid. 

The UK has lifted all Covid-related rules including mask rules and mandatory self-isolation if you test positive for Covid.

Some European countries still have Covid restrictions in place for unvaccinated people coming from the UK. 

Until March 18th

Until the new rules come into effect, all travellers are required to fill out a passenger locator form. 

Unvaccinated travellers are also required to take pre-departure test and a test on or before Day 2 following their arrival. 

The UK border officers will recognise proof of vaccination provided with an EU Covid Certificate.

For the UK “fully vaccinated” means 14 days after your final dose of a EMA/FDA or Swiss approved vaccine (Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson). 

After a period of confusion, the UK government says that it will accept mixed doses administered in the EU (eg one dose of AstraZeneca and one of Pfizer).

However people who have only had a single dose after previously recovering from Covid – which is standard practice in some European countries – are not accepted as vaccinated by the UK.

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