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Thursday, August 20, 2020, 22:40
Russia to begin vaccine trials on 40,000 people next week
By Agencies
Thursday, August 20, 2020, 22:40 By Agencies

In this file photo dated, Aug 7, 2020, a medical worker performs a COVID-19 test at a test centre at Vnukovo airport outside Moscow, Russia. The World Health Organization’s Europe office senior emergency official Catherine Smallwood, said Aug 20, 2020, the agency had begun “direct discussions” with Russia to try obtaining more information about the experimental COVID-19 vaccine the country recently approved. (PAVEL GOLOVKIN / AP)

BRASILIA / RIO DE JANEIRO / MADRID / HAVANA / BOGOTA / MEXICO CITY / MADRID / PARIS - Mass testing of Russia’s first potential COVID-19 vaccine to get domestic regulatory approval will involve more than 40,000 people and will be overseen by a foreign research body when it starts next week, backers of the project said on Thursday.

These were the first details on the shape and size of the upcoming late-stage trial of the vaccine given by its developers, who are aiming to allay concerns among some scientists about the lack of data provided by Russia so far.

The vaccine, called “Sputnik V” in homage to the world’s first satellite launched by the Soviet Union, has been hailed as safe and effective by Russian authorities and scientists following two months of small-scale human trials, the results of which have not been made public yet.

A director at Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, which developed the vaccine, said 40,000 people would be involved in the mass testing at more than 45 medical centres around Russia.

Russia's death toll from the novel coronavirus passed 16,000 on Thursday, as the country reported 110 more deaths in the past 24 hours.

The country's coronavirus crisis response centre registered 4,785 new cases, bringing its nationwide tally of infections to 942,106, the world's fourth highest caseload.

The death toll now stands at 16,099.


The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Europe Hans Kluge on Thursday called on young people to "spread fun, not the virus" as the number of COVID-19 infections steadily rise in the region by 26,000 daily.

Referencing a recent global study among those aged 15 to 24, Kluge pointed out during a press conference here that cases of COVID-19 have increased from a rate of 4.5 percent in that age group at the end of February to 15 percent in mid-July.

The director's message comes as a second wave of infections gathers pace after the lull in infections during May and June.

Further concern over the safety of the young was the announcement that the WHO European Regional Office would be convening a virtual meeting for all 53 European countries on the re-opening of schools and COVID-19 on Aug. 31 "where concrete actions will be discussed to ensure children receive proper education in safe settings."

Global tally

Coronavirus cases worldwide on Thursday surpassed 22.4 million while the global death toll topped 788,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Africa tally

The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) on Wednesday urged African governments to rapidly scale up surveillance, testing, contact tracing and care for people with COVID-19 amid rapid spread of the virus across the continent.

The Africa CDC made the urgent call in its latest Public Health and Social Measure Implementation in Africa report, which analyzed major trends in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in Africa during the past week.

Much of the recent decline in new cases and increase in new deaths can be attributed to South Africa, where data indicates the epidemic may be peaking in provinces hit earliest by COVID-19.

Africa CDC's Public Health and Social Measure Implementation in Africa report

According to the report, the number of new cases decreased by 23 percent during the past week when compared to the previous week, while newly reported deaths increased by 10 percent in the same timeframe, consistent with the lag in mortality typically seen with COVID-19.

"Much of the recent decline in new cases and increase in new deaths can be attributed to South Africa, where data indicates the epidemic may be peaking in provinces hit earliest by COVID-19," the report reads.

The Africa CDC stressed in the report that the number of tests performed per positive case has remained low, at around 6 tests per case, indicating cases are "likely going undetected".

It noted that tests per case has remained stable or decreasing over the past month - indicating the decrease in new cases may be due to actual epidemiologic trends, not simply poor testing.

The report came as the Africa CDC reported that the continent has reported 1,136,246 confirmed cases and 26,289 deaths as of Wednesday.

Acts of violence linked to COVID-19

More than 600 cases of violence, harassment or stigmatization in relation to cases of COVID-19 have been recorded by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) during the first six months of the pandemic.

Some 611 violent acts took place from February to July across more than 40 countries, the ICRC said on Tuesday, adding that the real number of incidents is likely much higher. More than 20 percent of incidents were physical assaults, while 15 percent were verbal assaults or threats and another 15 percent constituted fear-based discrimination, it said.

"This crisis has put health care workers in harm's way at a time when they are needed the most," the head of ICRC's Health Care in Danger initiative, Maciej Polkowski, said in a statement.

"These attacks have a devastating impact on access to and provision of health care when many health systems are overwhelmed," Polkowski added.

Attacks against medical staff, patients and medical infrastructure were driven by fear of infection, grief related to death, and anger at being unable to perform burial rituals, among other reasons, the ICRC said. Incidents were recorded in countries including Afghanistan, the Philippines, and Colombia, the ICRC added.


The European Commission and German biotech firm CureVac said on Thursday they had concluded a first round of talks for the supply of at least 225 million doses of a potential COVID-19 vaccine to EU states.

The European Union’s executive arm is also in talks with Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi for their vaccines under development, and agreed last week an advanced purchase deal with AstraZeneca for at least 300 million doses of the shot it is developing with Oxford University.

The EU will now begin negotiating a contract with CureVac, which could be the company’s first bilateral supply deal, aimed at securing the vaccine for all 27 EU member states should the shot prove safe and effective.

CureVac said on Thursday the talks included an option to supply 180 million additional doses.

Babysitters push children in strollers at the Lagoa neighbourhood in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Aug 19, 2020 amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. (MAURO PIMENTEL / AFP)


The spread of the novel coronavirus in Brazil could be about to slow, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday, amid reports that the transmission rate has fallen below the key level and early signs of a gradual decline in the weekly totals of cases and fatalities.

The cautious optimism comes despite figures again showing a steady rise in the number of confirmed cases and death toll in the last 24 hours, cementing Brazil's status as the world's second biggest COVID-19 hot spot after the United States.

A study by Imperial College London showed that for the first time since April, Brazil this week registered a transmission rate below 1, according to Brazilian media reports

According to ministry data, Brazil has seen a drop in the number of new confirmed COVID-19 cases to 304,684 last week from a peak of 319,653 in the week ending July 25. The weekly death toll has fallen to 6,755 from a peak of 7,677 in the last week of July.

A study by Imperial College London, meanwhile, showed that for the first time since April, Brazil this week registered a transmission rate below 1, according to Brazilian media reports.

Arnaldo Medeiros, secretary of Health Surveillance, stressed that the apparent slowdown is no reason to ease up on preventive measures such as wearing masks and social distancing.

Later on Wednesday, official ministry figures showed 49,298 new cases and 1,212 additional deaths from COVID-19 were registered in the past 24 hours.

Brazil has now registered a total of 3,456,652 cases while the official death toll stood at 111,100, according to ministry data.

Meanwhile, President Jair Bolsonaro on Wednesday enacted a law to exempt schools from having to meet a minimum number of school days amid the pandemic, making this academic year more flexible.


Armenia on Thursday reported 263 new COVID-19 cases, bringing its total to 42,319, according to the National Center for Disease Control.

Data from the center showed that 250 more patients have recovered in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of recoveries to 35,476.

Meanwhile, three people died during the period, raising the death toll to 836. 


Plasma treatment of COVID-19 patients has started in Albanian hospitals, Minister of Health and Social Protection Ogerta Manastirliu announced Wednesday on social media.

"In cooperation with the University of Pavia (Italy), we have started and are finalizing this process and we are ready to build up the plasma bank. All measures have been taken to guarantee the quality and safety for the application of this therapy" in two hospitals, she said.

Manastirliu called on citizens who have recovered from the coronavirus to donate blood and save lives.

The Albanian health authorities reported 158 new cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 7,812, with 3,928 recoveries and 234 fatalities. 


Belarus reported 128 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, taking its tally to 69,801, according to the Halth Ministry.

Another 308 people had recovered in the past 24 hours, bringing the number of recoveries to 67,647, the ministry added.

Five additional fatalities were reported, raising the death toll to 622, it said.


Chile on Wednesday reported that the country has tallied a total of 390,037 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 10,578 deaths.

According to the Health Ministry, 1,233 new cases and 32 more deaths were recorded in the past 24 hours.

So far, some 364,285 people have recovered from the disease, while there were currently 15,174 active cases.

Chile's top football division will resume competition on Aug 29 after a five-month pause because of the pandemic, President Sebastian Pinera said on Wednesday.


Coronavirus cases in Colombia surpassed 500,000 on Wednesday as deaths from the virus approach 16,000 and the country nears the end of five months of lockdown.

The Andean country has 502,178 confirmed cases of the virus according to the health ministry, with 15,979 reported deaths. The number of active cases stands at 158,893.

Intensive care units in Bogota are at about 82 percent capacity, according to local health authorities. The capital is home to more than a third of Colombia's cases.


Cuba kicks off clinical trials next week of a potential coronavirus vaccine called "Soberana 01" ("Sovereign 01") developed by its state-run Finlay Institute, with results due in February, state-run media said on Wednesday.

The potential coronovirus vaccine will be delivered in two injections during the trials that will involve 676 people aged between 19 and 80 years and conclude on Jan 11.

ALSO READ: Pope warns rich countries against virus vaccine nationalism

The Communist-run island prides itself on its biopharmaceutical industry, which is also an important hard currency earner and already produces several vaccines. Authorities say their treatments for the new coronavirus have already helped it reduce mortality in sufferers.

Kirill Dmitriev, head of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, told Cuban state news agency Prensa Latina that Cuba could even be one of the places it could choose to produce the vaccine from November onwards.

The country of 11 million inhabitants has registered just a handful of deaths in the last few months, bringing the total to 88 deaths for 3,482 confirmed cases since the start of its outbreak in March.

Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic on Wednesday reported the country has recorded a total of 88,127 cases of COVID-19 and 1,501 deaths from the disease.

In the previous 24 hours, 1,004 fresh infections and 12 additional deaths were registered, the Ministry of Public Health said. It added that the number of recoveries stood at 56,760.


Ecuador's Ministry of Public Health on Wednesday reported that the country has reported a total of 104,475 COVID-19 cases and 6,146 deaths so far.

In the previous 24 hours, tests detected 1,534 new cases while 41 more patients died.

The actual death toll could be closer to 10,000, as another 3,596 deaths were suspected of being caused by COVID-19 but have not been verified.

To date, 73,616 patients have recovered from the disease.


Egypt will require all people entering the country to present Polymerase Chain Reaction test results for the new coronavirus on arrival from Sept 1, the prime minister said in a televised address on Wednesday.

Egypt will also allow Friday prayers to resume in mosques from Aug 28 under strict health and safety protocols to be issued by the Ministry of Endowments, Mostafa Madbouly added.

Egypt confirmed on Wednesday 161 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the tally to 96,914, said the Health Ministry.

Deaths rose by 13 to 5,197 while recoveries increased by 991 to 62,553, spokesman for the ministry Khaled Megahed said in a statement.


Ethiopia's confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 34,058 after 1,336 new cases were confirmed on Wednesday, the Ministry of Health said.

The ministry said 28 more people died, raising the death toll to 600, while recoveries rose by 370 to 13,308.

People wearing face masks cross the boulevard Saint Germain in Paris, France, Aug 19, 2020. (MICHEL EULER / AP)


French President Emmanuel Macron ruled out bringing the nation to a halt as Europe struggles with a resurgence of the coronavirus that threatens its tentative recovery.

France on Wednesday reported 3,776 new infections, the largest daily increase in three months. 

Europe’s economies were decimated by the crisis in the second quarter and governments are desperate to foster a swift recovery without triggering a broad new wave of the disease. The uptick in cases in recent weeks has been blamed on social gatherings and travelers, but officials are reluctant to resort to the strict lockdowns imposed during the initial peak of the pandemic in March and April.

Governments across Europe are tightening restrictions to combat the spread. In France, masks must now be worn in busy outdoor areas of Paris and Marseilles. Toulouse will require general mask-wearing starting Aug 21, Agence France-Presse reported, the first large French city to do so.

The country’s response must be to “speed up vaccines, guarantee their access, and provide the best health response given what we know,” Macron told Paris Match, adding that, if necessary, authorities should resort to local “targeted” lockdowns. Testing, tracing, isolating the infected and broadening the wearing of masks when necessary are also key, he said.


Georgia confirmed nine new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, bringing the tally to 1,370.

Three of the nine new cases were imported, the National Centre for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC) said.

As of Thursday, 1,108 of the 1,370 patients have recovered while 17 others have died, the center said.


Germany recorded more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases for a third straight day, with the number of infections near Tuesday’s four-month high.

Cases increased by 1,586 in the 24 hours through Thursday morning, compared with a gain of 1,420 a day earlier and 1,693 on Tuesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. That brought the total to 229,706. There were eight fatalities, taking the death toll to 9,249.

"We cannot shut down the country, because the collateral damage of confinement is considerable,” Macron, who hosts German Chancellor Angela Merkel for talks later on Thursday, said in an interview with Paris Match magazine.


Ghana registered 101 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Sunday, bringing the country's caseload to 43,094, according to the latest government update.

Another 167 patients were discharged from hospitals, taking the total number of recoveries to 40,963, while eight more deaths were recorded to raise the death toll to 1,875.  


People will have to wear masks both indoors and outdoors on the island of Mykonos and in the northern region of Chalkidiki, the Greek government said. The authorities also decided to suspend any kind of events and prohibit gatherings of more than nine people in the two tourist areas.

The measures come after Greece reported 269 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, a record since the beginning of the pandemic.


Hungary is advising citizens to avoid holidaying abroad from the start of next month and is planning to tighten restrictions due to a rising number of coronavirus cases in Europe, Prime Minister Viktor Orban's chief of staff said on Wednesday.

Gergely Gulyas said the government wanted to ensure a safe start to the school year from Sept 1 and would decide on the steps to take next week.

Under current regulations, those returning from countries with higher infection rates need to self-quarantine for 14 days unless they produce two negative virus tests.

As of Wednesday, Hungary had reported 5,002 coronavirus cases, with 609 deaths.


Italy has also seen a pick up in new cases, albeit more contained than elsewhere. On Wednesday, the country reported 642 new infections, the biggest increase since May 23.

The government has closed nightclubs, banned dancing in public venues and made face masks compulsory from 6 pm to 6 am in all places.

Recent outbreaks have been traced back to parties in seaside resorts such as Porto Rotondo in Sardinia, as well as to people returning from vacations abroad.

The government could even move to isolate Sardinia, one of the country’s busiest summer vacation regions, after a rise in coronavirus cases linked to the island, Corriere della Sera reported Thursday, citing unnamed ministry officials.


Kenya's Ministry of Health announced Wednesday that the country's COVID-19 tally has surpassed 31,000.

Mercy Mwangangi, chief administrative secretary in the Ministry of Health, said 379 new cases were detected in the past 24 hours, bringing the tally to 31,015.

Recoveries rose by 244 to 17,612 while the death toll increased by 19 to 506, according to Mwangangi.

"More and more cases are among young people; there is a laxity among young people in protecting themselves. A 28-year-old is among those who passed on. We are all duty-bound to take care of each other but the duty is yours as a Kenyan," she said.


The National Center for Disease Control of Libya on Wednesday reported 489 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 9,068.

The center said in a statement that 34 more patients recovered and another seven others have died, bringing total recoveries to 1,003 and the death toll to 164.


Tourism-dependent Mauritius envisages reopening its borders from the end of next month, Le Defi Quotidien reported, citing an unidentified official.

The process will be phased with priority given to visitors from countries considered safe with regard to the pandemic. Ahead of the reopening, a laboratory will be set up at the airport to increase testing capacity, the Port Louis-based daily said.

Mauritius has so far reported 346 confirmed cases and 10 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.


Mexico's Health Ministry on Wednesday reported 5,792 newly confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and 707 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 537,031 cases and 58,481 deaths.

The updates came as Mexico told Moscow it would like to carry out phase 3 testing of Russia's coronavirus vaccine, as part of the Latin American country's intensifying efforts to secure early supplies of an effective medicine to control the pandemic.

After a meeting with Russia's ambassador to Mexico, Viktor Koronelli, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Twitter he had expressed interest in carrying out large scale human trials "to have the vaccine as soon as possible in Mexico."


Morocco reported 1,510 new COVID-19 cases and another 29 deaths on Wednesday, bringing the tally of infections to 46,313 and death toll to 743.

The total number of recoveries increased to 31,576 after 574 new such cases were added, said Mouad Mrabet, coordinator of the Moroccan Center for Public Health Operations at the Ministry of Health, in a press briefing.


Norway said on Wednesday it will impose a 10-day quarantine on all people arriving from Britain, Austria, Greece and Ireland from Aug. 22 due to rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in those countries.

Similar restrictions will also be imposed on those coming from the Danish capital Copenhagen, the Norwegian foreign ministry said in a statement.

Norway has reported 10,162 confirmed cases and 262 deaths so far, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Puerto Rico

Facing a spike in cases, Puerto Rico is clamping down again, closing beaches, bars, gyms, theaters and casinos through Sept 11 and putting strict new controls in place for other establishments.

Governor Wanda Vazquez announced the new rules, which will take effect Saturday, in a national address Wednesday night.

Under the regulations, all businesses except grocery stores, pharmacies and hospitals will be closed on Sundays, and all residents are being asked to stay home on Sundays unless it’s an emergency.

Shops and restaurants must enforce the use of masks and hand-washing, in addition to operating at capacities of 25 percent or less. Team sports are prohibited and all beaches will remain closed except to people engaged in individual exercise.

The US commonwealth of 3.2 million people took some of the strictest controls of any US jurisdiction early on in the pandemic, but has seen infections and deaths steadily rise at is has opened up its economy. The island has 27,934 confirmed and suspected cases of the coronavirus and 356 deaths, according to Health Department figures.

Medical workers wearing protective gear collect swab samples from passengers of a flight from Valencia during a COVID-19 test, at Rome's Ciampino airport, Italy, on Aug 19, 2020. (RICCARDO DE LUCA / AP)


Spain reported 3,715 new coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday, marking a new daily record since the country came out of a strict lockdown in late June.

Madrid bore the brunt of the increase, logging 1,535 fresh cases, followed by the Basque Country and Aragon regions, with around 470 new infections each.

Fourteen people died across Spain in the same period, down from 21 the previous day. In the past seven days, 131 people have died from the virus, the ministry said.

Cumulative cases, which include antibody tests on patients who may have already recovered, rose to 370,867.

Despite mandatory use of masks across the country, EU data show Spain has the highest total tally of cases in western Europe as well as the highest incidence of cases per 100,000 people in the past 14 days.

READ MORE: Europe clamps down on nightlife to regain grip on COVID spread


Deaths in Sweden's nursing homes during the COVID-19 epidemic could have been prevented if demands for reforms raised nearly a decade ago had been met, Minister for Health and Social Affairs Lena Hallengren said on Wednesday.

Responding to researchers' claims that a lack of resources and insecure employment terms within Sweden's elderly care system contributed to a failure in protecting the elderly, Hallengren told Radio Sweden that she agreed that the epidemic had revealed "major flaws" in the elderly care system.

Hallengren said more efforts will be made to raise the quality of care, including introducing measures such as offering permanent positions to those who currently rely highly on temporary contracts.

Hallengren's remarks came as figures from the Public Health Agency of Sweden showed that the country has recorded a total of 85,411 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of Wednesday, including 5,802 deaths.

The Gambia

The Gambian Health Ministry announced on Wednesday a daily record of 14 COVID-19 related deaths, taking the death toll to 77 since the outbreak of the pandemic in the country in March.

The ministry said that the death figure represents a case-fatality ratio of 3.4 percent, one of the highest in Africa.

Another 172 new cases were also reported, said the ministry, taking the total number of COVID-19 cases in the country to 2,288.

Recoveries rose by 20 to 435, according to the ministry.


Tunisia on Wednesday reported 113 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 2,427.

A total of 1,395 patients have recovered while 60 others have died so far, according to a statement released by the ministry of Health.

All passengers must present a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test to enter Tunisia, said Tunisia's acting Minister of Health Mohamed Habib Kechaou on Wednesday.

"No passenger will now be able to enter Tunisia without presenting a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test, regardless of the classification of countries according to the level of epidemic risk," said the minister.


The United Kingdom recorded 812 new positive cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, down from 1,089 on Tuesday and pushing the tally to 321,098, government figures showed.

A further 16 people died after testing positive for the coronavirus within 28 days.

The British government is set to drop Croatia from its quarantine-free list on Thursday, giving thousands of Britons just 30 hours to return to the UK to avoid having to self-isolate for 14 days, The Telegraph reported.

Transport Minister Grant Shapps will add the Balkan holiday hotspot to the UK's "red list" of nations after a sharp rise in coronavirus cases there, the newspaper said.

Croatia's exclusion will be announced by the UK government on Thursday afternoon, giving holidaymakers an expected deadline of early Saturday morning, the Telegraph said.


Ukraine registered 2,134 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, a new daily record for infections in the country, Health Minister Maksym Stepanov said on Thursday.

Stepanov said the new data surpassed the previous single-day record of 1,967 reported the previous day. 

"We have seen an increase of number of new infections throughout Ukraine, almost every day we have a new anti-record," Stepanov said at a televised briefing.

The minister said that 407 patients were admitted to hospitals and 40 died in the past 24 hours, also the highest daily tally.

He urged citizens to wear masks, keep distancing and follow other rules recommended by the ministry.

The total number of cases has reached 98,537, including 2,184 deaths.


US President Donald Trump on Wednesday touted the use of convalescent plasma as a treatment for COVID-19 and suggested a reported decision by regulators to put on hold an emergency authorization for its use could be politically motivated.

An emergency approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the use of blood plasma as a coronavirus treatment has been put on hold over concerns the data backing it was too weak, the New York Times reported on Wednesday.

"It could be a political decision," Trump said at a briefing. "You have a lot of people over there that don't want to rush things because they want to do it after November 3," he said, referring to the presidential election.

"I've heard numbers way over 50 percent success. And people are dying and we should have it approved if it's good and I'm hearing it's good. I heard from people at the FDA that it's good," he said.

Trump's remarks came as coronavirus cases in the US surpassed 5.5 million and deaths topped 172,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

American Indians and Alaska Natives have been hit harder by COVID-19 than the US white population and have been more likely to become infected by the coronavirus at a younger age, a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report showed on Wednesday.

The incidence of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 cases among people identified as American Indians or Alaska Natives was 3.5 times that of non-Hispanic whites, making them one of the racial and ethnic minority groups at highest risk, according to the study based on data from 23 US states from Jan 22 to July 3.

The researchers found that 12.9 percent of infections among American Indians or Alaska Natives were in people under age 18, compared to 4.3 percent among non-Hispanic whites.


Zambia's Vice-President Inonge Mutukwa on Wednesday tested positive for the coronavirus, the presidency said in a statement, which also said her condition was stable and she was in self isolation at home.

"The vice president has some mild symptoms that are being managed appropriately ... She is in high spirits and working virtually ..." the statement reads.

Zambia has so far reported 10,218 confirmed cases and 269 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

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