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Tuesday, October 27, 2020, 22:58
Russia begins making second COVID-19 vaccine as cases spike
By Agencies
Tuesday, October 27, 2020, 22:58 By Agencies

A man wearing a face mask to protect against the coronavirus disease walks past a monument to Russian poet Alexander Pushkin in central Moscow on October 26, 2020. (YURI KADOBNOV / AFP)

ZAGREB / OSLO / BUDAPEST / VIENNA / MAPUTO / SKOPJE / TIRANA / OTTAWA / WASHINGTON / LONDON / MEXICO CITY / PRAGUE / SANTIAGO / RIO DE JANEIRO / TUNIS / COPENHAGEN / VALLETTA / MADRID / PARIS / ROME / PRAGUE / BERLIN / BOGOTA / LIMA / KIEV / SOFIA / MOSCOW / BRUSSELS - Russia has begun production of a second COVID-19 vaccine as the Kremlin rushes to develop a shield against the pandemic.

Output of the vaccine, developed by former biological weapons lab Vector State Virology and Biotechnology Center in Novosibirsk, will ramp up by the end of the year, Anna Popova, the head of Russia’s public-health watchdog, said at a conference Tuesday, according to state-run RIA Novosti.

President Vladimir Putin announced the approval of Vector’s vaccine earlier this month, following a similar trajectory of the Sputnik V inoculation in August, which he claimed was the first to be registered in the world. Both were tested on a limited number of people before receiving provisional registration that will allow for widespread use as they undergo Phase 3 trials to prove they are safe and effective.

President Vladimir Putin announced the approval of Vector’s vaccine earlier this month, following a similar trajectory of the Sputnik V inoculation in August, which he claimed was the first to be registered in the world

The authorities are hoping the experimental vaccines will stem the tide of the pandemic while minimizing the economic fallout that a lockdown would entail.

Russia, with the fourth-most COVID-19 cases globally, is balking at reinstating restrictions to combat a second wave even as the number of new cases and deaths is at a record.

Also on Tuesday, Russian authorities ordered people across the country to wear face masks in some public places and asked regional authorities to consider shutting bars and restaurants overnight after a surge in coronavirus cases.

The consumer health watchdog told regional authorities to make masks mandatory in parking lots, elevators, taxis and public transport. Some cities, including the capital Moscow, have already made masks mandatory on public transport.

It also suggested they close bars and restaurants between 11 pm and 6 am (2000 GMT to 0300 GMT). The RIA news agency had earlier reported this as an order, not a recommendation.

Russia recorded 16,550 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, including 4,312 in Moscow, pushing the national tally to 1,547,774. The death toll rose by 320 to 26,589.

Global tally

Coronavirus cases worldwide surpassed 43.5 million while the global death toll topped 1.15 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Africa tally

As of Monday morning, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases recorded across Africa reached 1,710,695 while the death toll hit 41,161, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said.

Pfizer vaccine

Pfizer Inc indicated that a large, late-stage trial of its experimental coronavirus vaccine hadn’t yet reached a key milestone that will help researchers determine how well it protects people from COVID-19.

In a presentation included with its third-quarter earnings results Tuesday, the drugmaker said the data-monitoring board of scientists overseeing the trial hadn’t yet conducted an interim efficacy analysis. 

That means fewer than 32 cases of COVID-19 have occurred among the trial’s participants. The first of four efficacy analyses is scheduled to be conducted when the trial achieves that threshold.

Pfizer has enrolled more than 42,000 patients in its COVID-19 vaccine trial. Almost 36,000 have received their second dose as of Oct 26, the company said Tuesday.

As one of the front-runners in the race for a coronavirus vaccine, Pfizer had said it could have initial efficacy results as soon as this month. Some analysts had wondered whether an interim analysis might already have been conducted and not reported, perhaps because it hadn’t shown conclusive results.

Pfizer is developing the vaccine with German partner BioNTech SE.

Oxford vaccine

A COVID-19 experimental vaccine, developed by the University of Oxford, produces an immune response in both young and old adults, raising hopes of a path out of the gloom and economic destruction wrought by the novel coronavirus.

British drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc, which is helping to manufacture the vaccine, said on Monday the vaccine also triggers lower adverse responses among the elderly.

“It is encouraging to see immunogenicity responses were similar between older and younger adults and that reactogenicity was lower in older adults, where the COVID-19 disease severity is higher,” an AstraZeneca spokesman said.

“The results further build the body of evidence for the safety and immunogenicity of AZD1222,” the spokesman said, referring to the technical name of the vaccine.


European Commission Vice-President for promoting the European Way of Life Margaritis Schinas has tested positive for COVID-19 and is self-isolating.

"I have just learned that my regular scheduled COVID19 test ...came back positive. I am now self-isolating as required," Schinas said on Twitter.


Prime Minister Ludovic Orban said that a full lockdown isn’t being considered for now, though major hospitals are struggling to cope with an almost record number of people being admitted to intensive-care units.

Romania reported a daily record of 104 fatalities on Tuesday. Restrictions imposed last week in the capital Bucharest and the most-affected towns and counties have yet to significantly contain the spread of the virus.


Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called on Tuesday for an end to mass protests over abortion rights, saying those attending were disregarding “massive risks” from the resurgent coronavirus pandemic.

Five days of nationwide protests have followed a ruling by the Constitutional Tribunal last week that amounts to a near-total ban on abortion in the predominantly Catholic nation.

Once the decision goes into effect, pregnancy termination will only be legal in Poland in the case of incest, rape or a threat to the mother’s health. The court said abortion due to foetal abnormalities, the only other case for legal termination in Poland until now, was unconstitutional.

“These outbursts we are seeing in the streets should absolutely not be taking place. We will oppose any acts of aggression decisively,” Morawiecki said.

The protests have taken place across the country in defiance of restrictions imposed to curb mounting COVID-19 cases. On Tuesday, Poland hit a new record of 16,300 reported new infections.


Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, who is being treated for the novel coronavirus at home after testing positive, called on Bulgarians to observe anti-viral measures and keep safe as daily infections and deaths hit a record on Tuesday.

Borissov, 61, said in a posting on Facebook there was no change in his health and he was still feeling a general malaise but that did not prevent him from carrying out his duties as prime minister from home.

Bulgaria's daily COVID-19 infections and deaths both hit record highs, reaching 2,243 and 42, respectively, the health ministry reported on Tuesday.

The figures took the tally to 40,132 and the death toll to 1,136, the ministry said.


The number of COVID-19 infections in Colombia rose to 1,025,052 after 9,167 new cases were registered in the last 24 hours, health authorities said Monday.

Another 194 deaths were also registered, raising the death toll to 30,348, the authorities said, adding that 924,044 people have so far recovered from the disease.


Spain's cumulative tally of coronavirus cases rose by 52,188 over the weekend, bringing the total to 1,098,320, health ministry data showed on Monday.

The overall death toll from the virus jumped by 279 to 35,031, the data showed.


France should get ready for "difficult decisions" on new measures to tackle the resurgence of COVID-19 cases, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Tuesday ahead of a cabinet meeting to discuss the pandemic.

French authorities are looking at options for still tighter measures to fight COVID-19, which has kept spreading despite some of the strictest restrictions in Europe, according to three sources familiar with the government's thinking.

French hospitals registered 1,307 new coronavirus patients on Monday in the highest one-day increase since April 2, which saw 1,607 new patients, as the health system comes under increasing stress from a runaway infection rate.

French health ministry data showed that France now has a total of 17,784 coronavirus patients in its hospitals.

The ministry also reported 26,771 new infections in past 24 hours, from 52,010 on Sunday. On Monday, the tally usually drops sharply because of reporting lags over the weekend. The death toll went up by 257 to 35,018. 

ALSO READ: France reports record 50,000 daily COVID-19 cases

The number of people in intensive care units rose by 186 to 2,770.

Commuters wearing face masks walk on a train platform at the main train station in Frankfurt, Germany, Oct 27, 2020. (MICHAEL PROBST / AP)


German Chancellor Angela Merkel aims to close restaurants and ban big events, partially shutting down Europe’s largest economy to curb the rapid spread of the coronavirus.

Merkel intends to propose the tougher national restrictions to the country’s 16 state premiers at a meeting on Wednesday, according to German media reports. 

The number of infections is rising exponentially and Germany will likely have 20,000 new daily cases at the end of the week, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said on Tuesday.

The country's infection tally increased by 11,409 to 449,275 while the death toll rose by 42 to 10,098, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed Tuesday.

The country's governing party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), has postponed its general party convention scheduled for early December due to rising COVID-19 infections across the country, Paul Ziemiak, secretary-general of the CDU announced on Monday.


Trick or treating during Halloween is banned in the areas of England in the highest level of COVID-19 lockdown, a junior minister in Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government said on Tuesday.

The United Kingdom announced wider coronavirus restrictions on Monday which will take the number of people under England's highest category of alert to nearly 8 million, as the government battles a sharp rise in cases.

The UK announced wider curbs which will put nearly 8 million people in England under the highest alert tier, as the government battles a sharp rise in infections

From 0001 GMT on Tuesday, Warrington in northwest England will be classified as the highest Tier 3 alert level, the UK's health ministry said. 

Local authorities in Nottingham in central England and three nearby towns said they would have similar restrictions from Thursday, the first areas outside northern England to do this.

A total of 20,890 fresh infections and 102 deaths were recorded on Monday, official data showed.

More than 50 of Johnson’s own Conservative members of Parliament (MPs) have demanded a clear route out of lockdown for parts of northern Britain. 

In a letter to the prime minister, the MPs - all from northern England, north Wales and the Scottish borders - warned that his pandemic strategy of targeting local areas with restrictions is disproportionately damaging the economies of northern regions of the country and deepening the divide between the north and the wealthier south.

READ MORE: WHO says Europe needs 'serious acceleration' in COVID-19 fight

In this undated May 2020 file photo provided by Eli Lilly, a researcher tests possible COVID-19 antibodies in a laboratory in Indianapolis, the United States. (DAVID MORRISON / ELI LILLY VIA AP)

Eli Lilly's US trial to end

Eli Lilly & Co said a US-run clinical trial of its experimental antibody therapy will end after data suggested the treatment is unlikely to help hospitalized patients recover from advanced disease.

Researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) who initially halted the trial due to a safety concern, however, didn’t find that the treatment caused any harm, which may bode well for a regulatory review of the antibody’s use in a different setting.

While the decision to end the NIH-sponsored trial means Lilly’s antibody treatment may not work for the most extreme cases, other trials are ongoing to determine whether it helps patients earlier in the disease’s course. Notably, the finding that there wasn’t a safety issue in the hospital trial could remove a potential roadblock to emergency authorization that Lilly is seeking for using the antibody in patients outside of the hospital.


Argentina reported 11,712 new COVID-19 cases as the nation’s total rose to more than 1.1 million.

Argentina, the second-worst affected country in South America, reported 406 additional fatalities as the death toll reached 29,301.


Peru's government has earmarked 90 billion Peruvian soles (about US$26 billion) as part of an economic recovery plan to overcome the impact of COVID-19, President Martin Vizcarra said Monday.

The plan includes a financial aid for 2.8 million poor households and 800,000 informal workers.

According to the National Institute of Statistics and Informatics, a total of 6,720,000 Peruvians lost their jobs in the second quarter of the year due to lockdown measures imposed to control the spread of the virus.

Peru has so far registered 890,574 COVID-19 cases with 34,197 deaths, according to the Ministry of Health.  


Mexico's health ministry reported on Monday 4,166 additional cases of the novel coronavirus and 247 more deaths in the country, bringing the official number of cases to 895,326 and the death toll to 89,171.

On Sunday, the ministry said the true death toll from COVID-19 may be around 50,000 higher.

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic reported 10,273 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, pushing the country's tally to 268,370, according to health ministry data.

The country has shown Europe's fastest infection rates over the past two weeks, according to European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) data, with 1,324 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in that time.

The Health Ministry reported 164 additional deaths on Tuesday, including 75 on Monday and revisions to previous days. The total death toll is 2,365 and has roughly doubled since Oct 13.

The government ordered a 9 pm curfew and will limit retail sales on Sundays as part of tighter measures to curb the virus' spread, ministers said on Monday.

Health Minister Roman Prymula said already announced measures - closing bars, restaurants, most retail and schools - had failed to bring the infection rate down. He warned that the country was "getting closer to levels which threaten the capacity of the Czech healthcare system".

The government's curfew will be in place Oct 28-Nov 3 and will last until 5 am each day. Exemptions include travel for work or family visits.


Brazil registered 15,726 new cases of coronavirus and 263 new COVID-19 deaths, the health ministry said on Monday.

Brazil has registered 5,409,854 cases while the official death toll has risen to 157,397 according to ministry data.

Earlier on Monday, President Jair Bolsonaro said it would be easier and cheaper to invest in a cure for COVID-19 rather than a vaccine, in a clear sign the president is increasingly positioning himself against inoculation programs.

Bolsonaro, who caught and recovered from COVID-19 in July, has repeatedly downplayed the gravity of the virus and continues to promote the anti-malarial chloroquine as a cure despite mounting evidence it doesn't work.


Chile's COVID-19 positivity rate has dipped below 4 percent for the first time since the nation's first infection was detected March 3, Minister of Health Enrique Paris said on Monday.

The rate of people testing positive for the virus registered 3.98 percent as the results of 37,832 tests were analyzed, Paris said at a press conference.

In the past 24 hours, tests detected 1,505 new cases, bringing the total caseload to date to 503,598, including 479,877 recoveries.

In the same period, 59 more patients have died, raising the death toll to 14,003.

READ MORE: COVID-19 cases surpass one million in Colombia


A Tunisian health official said on Monday that the rapid increase in COVID-19 cases across Tunisia will lead to saturation of beds in public hospitals by the end of October, Tunis Afrique Presse (TAP) reported.

Habib Ghedira, a member of Tunisia's committee to tackle the coronavirus situation, said the committee will present new proposals to control the upward trend of infections.

The proposals could involve compulsory lockdown for people aged 65 and over and reduction of trips between cities and governorates, Ghedira noted. 

Ghedira's remarks came as the health ministry announced in a statement that 3,034 new infectionswere reported during Oct 23-24, raising the tally to 52,399.

The death toll rose by 58 to 877, according to the statement.

This photo shows few people walking on Piazza Navona in Rome, Italy, Oct 26, 2020. (CHENG TINGTING / XINHUA)


Italy's main medicines regulator gave the go-ahead on Tuesday for human clinical trials on raloxifene, a generic osteoporosis drug that researchers hope may also help reduce COVID-19 symptoms and make patients less infectious.

"It (Raloxifene) inhibits virus replication, thus preventing the worsening of patients with mild symptoms, and also decreases infectivity, limiting the viral load," said Marco Allegretti, head of research at Dompé Farmaceutici.

The trial will involve 450 patients in the initial phase, where they will be given a seven-day treatment of raloxifene capsules in a randomized sample and 174 more people may be added in the final stage. Enrolment will last 12 weeks.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is finalizing a new relief package worth about 5 billion euros (US$6 billion) to help sectors hardest hit by the latest virus restrictions amid growing protests over the measures in cities including Milan and Turin. 

The number of new coronavirus infections in Italy posted a decline for the second time in 13 days amid new virus restrictions. The Ministry of Health reported on Monday 17,012 new cases, a dramatic drop from the record high 21,273 recorded on Sunday. Another 141 deaths were also posted.


Denmark saw 1,056 new daily COVID-19 infections, the highest daily count ever, according to the Statens Serum Institut (SSI) on Monday.

According to the SSI, the number of hospital inpatients on Monday also reached a new high, increasing by 18 to 145. It was the highest daily increase since May 15.

The death toll rose by six to 708. In total, the country has confirmed 41,412 COVID-19 cases, according to the daily updated data from SSI.

New restriction measures took effect on Monday, including a ban on the sale of alcohol after 10 pm and a limit on social gatherings to 10 people.


Bars in Malta will have to remain shut from Thursday and the maximum number of people allowed to meet in public spaces will be reduced from 10 to six, the government announced on Monday.

In a statement, the Health Ministry said that the new measures will remain in force until Dec 1.

Snack bars and kiosks will be allowed to serve customers but will not be allowed to sell alcoholic drinks and will have to remain shut between 11 pm and 5 am. The fine for breaking the social distancing rules will be increased from 100 euros to 200 euros.

Malta has so far reported 5,578 confirmed cases and 53 deaths. Currently, the country has 1,895 active cases. 


Slovakia may be able to avoid harsher anti-coronavirus measures as a result of its plans for nationwide testing scheduled to start this weekend, Prime Minister Igor Matovic said on Monday.

Authorities conducted pilot testing in four badly hit regions over the weekend with more than 90 percent of people participating, producing an infection rate just below 4 percent of those tested.

The country will conduct wide-ranging testing over the next two weekends.

As of Monday, the country of 5.5 million had reported 45,155 cases while 165 people had died.


Coronavirus cases in the United States surpassed 8.7 million while the death toll topped 225,000 on Monday, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. 

California, the state with the most cases, surpassed 900,000 infections after adding 2,981 fresh cases for a total of 901,010, according to state health data.

Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, “painted a pretty stark picture” of the dangers associated with rising cases in the Midwest during a weekend visit to Minnesota, Governor Tim Walz told reporters.

Missouri, Kentucky, Utah, and South Dakota will be the next states to get “surge” virus testing sites.

Officials set up federal testing sites last week in North Carolina and Wisconsin and are ready to deploy eight more sites once they get states’ approvals, Brett Giroir, an assistant health secretary leading the administration’s testing efforts, told reporters Monday. He encouraged states to use rapid antigen tests to test those may not yet show symptoms.

A medical worker in full protective gear takes COVID-19 swab samples for testing at a drive-thru testing site in El Paso, Texas, Oct 26, 2020. (BRIANA SANCHEZ / THE EL PASO TIMES VIA AP)

Meanwhile, authorities in El Paso in the US state of Texas have imposed a curfew to curb the spike in infections while the state is converting a convention center to a field hospital and erecting tents outside an El Paso medical center.

On virus aid, House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi is hopeful that congressional Democrats and the Trump administration can reach agreement on a coronavirus relief bill before the Nov 3 elections, her spokesman said on Monday, adding that major issues still must be ironed out.


The Canadian House of Commons is to investigate the Liberal government's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic after members of parliament (MPs) from the opposition passed a motion for the investigation on Monday.

The motion by the Conservative Party is designed for a parliamentary probe of the government's handling of the pandemic, including some of its sensitive contracts with suppliers for coronavirus vaccine candidates and protective gear.

Canada has so far reported 222,973 confirmed cases and 10,026 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

A dog in Canada's Niagara area tested positive for COVID-19, CTV reported on Monday.


Ukraine may develop its COVID-19 vaccine in a year and is preparing to start clinical trials of the vaccine, Ukrainian Health Minister Maxym Stepanov said on Monday.

According to Stepanov, Ukrainian and American companies, as well as scientists from the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, are taking part in the development of the vaccine.

Ukraine has reported 348,924 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 6,464 deaths as of Monday, according to the health ministry.


Albania is ready to open another hospital to treat COVID-19 patients as the country is facing an increasing number of new cases, Minister of Health and Social Protection Ogerta Manastirliu said on Monday.

Manastirliu made the statement while she accompanied Prime Minister Edi Rama to inspect the premises of the COVID-3 hospital.

"Considering the trend in increasing new cases, we think of opening COVID-3 hospital within a week, while we also have COVID-4 hospital with about 100 beds ready. Doctors and nurses are ready to start at any moment that will be necessary," she added.

On Monday, health authorities reported 288 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the national tally to 19,445, along with 10,705 recoveries and 480 fatalities.  


Mozambique's Minister of Health Armindo Tiago announced he has fully recovered from the COVID-19 infection and was back to work on Monday.

The minister has been in isolation at home since Oct 13, when he announced he had tested positive for COVID-19.


Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Monday that a second lockdown might be the "ultimate measure" to contain the sharp rise in coronavirus infections.

He emphasized that the Alpine country was facing an "extreme challenge" with the "exponential growth" of infections. The key is to prevent the intensive care units from being overwhelmed, he added.

Austria reported 2,456 new infections in the past 24 hours, more than double of the figures from a week ago, according to data published by the Interior Ministry.

So far, a total of 83,267 confirmed cases have been reported in Austria, along with 992 deaths.

North Macedonia 

Health authorities in North Macedonia are increasing capacities in all hospitals in major cities as a new wave of COVID-19 hit the country, Minister of Health Venko Filipce said on Monday.

Speaking at a press conference, Filipce noted that a lack of medical staff remains the main problem in some cities.

Filipce said authorities will boost testing, adding that should the number of infections continue growing, an agreement will be signed with private hospitals for citizens to be tested at a cheaper price.

The health ministry reported 247 new cases in the last 24 hours, bringing the overall tally to 27,199, along with 18,948 recoveries and 934 fatalities. 


Hungary, the European Union country with the second-highest coronavirus death rate after the Czech Republic, reported a daily record 63 deaths for Monday, almost a third more than the previous high.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban has shied away from following some EU peers in approving tougher measures to try to bring the pandemic under control, including imposing curfews and switching schooling to distance learning.

Orban has said his priority is to keep the economy running after the second-biggest economic contraction in the EU’s eastern wing in the second quarter.


Norway will impose tougher measures to combat the coronavirus following a recent rise in infections, including stricter rules on private gatherings, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on Monday.

The government also said it would stop exceptions to quarantine rules that foreign workers coming to work in Norway enjoyed until now.

From Oct 31, all foreign workers arriving in the Nordic country from EU countries that are experiencing a high number of COVID-19 cases must undergo a ten-day quarantine.

Indoor public gatherings will now be limited to 50 people, reversing an earlier decision to allow up to 200 people, while the maximum number permitted to meet in a private setting will be cut from 20 to a household receiving no more than five guests.

Norway has so far reported 18,342 confirmed cases and 279 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.


Croatia has intensified efforts to fight the coronavirus after exceeding 2,000 daily cases over the weekend, ordering the use of masks outdoors and recommending work from home wherever possible.

On Monday, Croatia, a nation of about 4 million people, reported 828 infections, down from Sunday's daily record of 2,421 new cases. Typically, the number of reported cases falls on Mondays, as a result of less testing over the weekend.

From this week, Croats will have to wear face masks outdoors whenever it is not possible to maintain the required physical distance.

Public gatherings are limited to no more than 50, with up to 30 people allowed to attend weddings or funerals and up to 15 at family gatherings. Companies have been urged to organize work from home wherever possible.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

The number of active COVID-19 cases in Bosnia and Herzegovina rose nearly 70 percent to 13,950 on Monday, with its total cases reaching 41,596 in the country of about 3.3 million.

From Monday, masks will be obligatory outdoors at all times in Bosnia's autonomous Bosniak-Croat Federation, where all non-urgent medical treatments will be suspended for the next two weeks and all health institutions obliged to allocate 30 percent of their capacity for COVID-19 patients.

In the Serb Republic, the country's other region, primary and secondary schools were ordered on Monday to switch to online classes for a week.

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