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Monday, November 23, 2020, 22:50
UNICEF to ship 2b COVID-19 vaccines to poor nations in 2021
By Agencies
Monday, November 23, 2020, 22:50 By Agencies

A view of Romerberg Square in Frankfurt, Germany, on Nov 22, 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic. (MICHAEL PROBST / AP)

MEXICO CITY / LONDON / FRANKFURT / MADRID / PARIS / ROME / BELGRADE / BUENOS AIRES / BUCHAREST / SANTIAGO / OTTAWA / ADDIS ABABA / HARARE / MOSCOW / KIEV / TBILISI / BARCELONA / BUDAPEST - Nearly 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines will be shipped and flown to developing countries next year in a "mammoth operation", the UN children's agency UNICEF said on Monday, as world leaders vowed to ensure the fair distribution of vaccines.

UNICEF said it was working with over 350 airlines and freight companies to deliver vaccines and 1 billion syringes to poor countries such as Burundi, Afghanistan and Yemen as part of COVAX, a global COVID-19 vaccine allocation plan with the World Health Organization (WHO).

"We need all hands on deck as we get ready to deliver COVID-19 vaccine doses, syringes and more personal protective equipment to protect frontline workers around the globe," said Etleva Kadilli, director of UNICEF's Supply Division, in a statement.

UNICEF's role with COVAX stems from its status as the largest single vaccine buyer in the world.

It said it procures more than 2 billion doses of vaccines annually for routine immunisation and outbreak response on behalf of nearly 100 countries.

Global tally

Coronavirus cases worldwide has surpassed 58.7 million while the global death toll exceeded 1.38 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Africa toll

The COVID-19 death toll in Africa has reached 49,412, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said on Sunday.

The total number of confirmed cases reported across the continent has risen to 2,057,001 as of Sunday afternoon, it added.


Argentina has recorded 100 additional COVID-19 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 37,002, the Health Ministry said Sunday.

Another 4,184 new cases were also registered, taking the tally to 1,370,366, according to the ministry.

A total of 1,195,492 people had recovered from the disease so far.


Brazil's health ministry said on Sunday it will sign non-binding letters of intent to purchase coronavirus vaccines from four companies and Russia's sovereign wealth fund, adding that any purchase will depend on the approval of the nation's regulators.

According to the ministry, officials met last week with representatives of Pfizer Inc, India's Bharat Biotech, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, Moderna Inc and Janssen, a unit of Johnson & Johnson.

The Brazilian government has contracts in place to guarantee access to 142,900,000 coronavirus vaccine doses, enough to immunize at least a third of Brazil's population, officials said in a statement

The government has contracts in place to guarantee access to 142,900,000 coronavirus vaccine doses, enough to immunize at least a third of Brazil's population, officials said in a statement.

READ MORE: G20 says it will strive for fair global access to virus vaccine

Brazil registered 18,615 new cases and 194 additional deaths over the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry said Sunday.

South America's largest country has now registered 6,071,401 confirmed cases and 169,183 deaths in total.

The Sunday figures were somewhat lower than totals presented in previous days. The Health Ministry warned, however, that "some problems" related to the government's information technology systems could lead to delays in updating coronavirus data.


Canada continued to see a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases on Sunday with the country's total caseload surpassing 330,000.

As of Sunday evening, Canada had reported 330,503 confirmed cases and 11,455 deaths, according to CTV.

The country posted 5,000 news cases on Saturday, setting a new daily record.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam on Sunday urged Canadians to make a plan for safer holidays amid the virus spike.

Tam's appeal came after Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick reported record daily COVID-19 tallies.

A man walks past a shop selling face masks in Toronto, Canada, on Nov 22, 2020. (ZOU ZHENG / XINHUA)


Chilean President Sebastian Pinera on Sunday unveiled the first phase of the government's plan to reopen borders to foreigners, with the entry of passengers into Santiago's international airport slated to begin on Monday.

Both Chileans and foreigners who enter the country must undergo a 14-day surveillance period in which they must report their location and health status to health authorities every day.

The announcement came on the same day the Ministry of Health reported 1,497 new cases and 39 more deaths, bringing the total caseload to 540,640 and the death toll to 15,069.

The ministry said the country had carried out over 5 million tests to detect the virus. Minister of Health Enrique Paris pointed out that 30 percent of new cases were detected thanks to the government's active search strategy.


The number of new daily coronavirus infections in France rose by 13,157 to 2.14 million on Sunday, and the number of deaths by 215, health ministry data showed.

The cumulative death toll stood at 48,732.

Mink infected with coronavirus have been found at a farm in the Eure-et-Loire region of western France, and 1,000 mink at the farm will be culled, the French agriculture ministry said earlier on Sunday.

"A second farm is unscathed. Tests are still under way in the last two farms, with results expected during the week," the ministry said.


Georgia reported 3,958 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, bringing its total to 108,690.
A total of 2,157 of the 3,958 new cases were confirmed in the capital city of Tbilisi, the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health said.


Germany’s regional leaders are proposing that a partial COVID-19 lockdown that was due to run until the end of November be extended until at least Dec 20. 

The measures would be rolled over for periods of two weeks if contagion rates remain above the government’s target level, according to a briefing paper drawn up by the officials and published in German media.

“The numbers have slowed, but they are still too high,” Manuela Schwesig, the premier of the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, said Monday in an interview with Deutschlandfunk radio. 

Many of Germany's 16 federal states are in favor of extending a partial and make family gatherings over Christmas possible, Schwesig said.

The 16 state premiers will hold further talks on Monday before final decisions are made in consultation with Chancellor Angela Merkel and the federal government on Wednesday. 

The plan would ban the sale of fireworks for New Year’s Eve and further restrict the number of people allowed in private gatherings.

Coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 10,864 to 929,133 while the death toll rose by 90 to 14,112, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Monday. 

Meanwhile, Germany could start administering shots of COVID-19 vaccines as soon as next month, Health Minister Jens Spahn was quoted as saying.

Spahn said that he had asked Germany's federal states to have their vaccination centers ready by mid-December and that this was going well.


Hungary's government on Monday limited retail store visits in an effort to separate elderly shoppers and contain the coronavirus pandemic in the most vulnerable over-65 age group.

“This government decree serves the protection of the elderly,” Prime Minister Viktor Orban said in a Facebook video.

“The pandemic’s statistics clearly show that the most endangered age group is that of our parents and grandparents. Let’s take care of them.”

As of Monday, 3,891 Hungarians have died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and 177,952 people have been infected since the start of the pandemic in the country of 10 million people.

On weekdays, only people over the age of 65 may enter shops between 9 am and 11 am and at the weekend that time is set from 8-10 in the morning. The elderly may go shopping at any time.


Italy has registered 28,337 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, the health ministry said on Sunday, down from 34,767 the day before.

The ministry also reported 562 COVID 19-related deaths, down from 692 on Saturday and 699 on Friday.

In total, Italy has recorded 49,823 fatalities and 1.409 million cases.

The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 stood at 34,279 on Sunday, a rise of 216 from the day before, while the number of patients in intensive care rose by 43 to 3,801.

The northern region of Lombardy, centred on Italy's financial capital Milan, remained the hardest hit area on Sunday, reporting 5,094 new cases.

The southern region of Campania, which has only about 60 percent of Lombardy's population, chalked up the second highest number of new cases, at 3,217.

This Nov 22, 2020 photo shows an empty Galleria Umberto as shops in the mall are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. In Naples, Italy. (ALBERTO LINGRIA / XINHUA)


Mexico's health ministry reported 9,187 additional cases of the novel coronavirus on Sunday, only the third time it has recorded more than 9,000 new infections in a single day.

The total number of cases rose to 1,041,875, while 303 more deaths brought the toll to 101,676.

Mexico broke records in October with a daily jump of 28,115 cases, a figure officials said incorporated cases dating back months due to a new methodology.

Its prior record, last August, reached 9,556 new infections.


Morocco reported on Sunday 3,979 new COVID-19 cases, taking the tally to 324,941.

The number of recoveries increased by 3,746 to 270,457, while the death toll rose by 60 to 5,316, the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

A total of 996 patients were in intensive care, according to the ministry.


Poland registered 15,002 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, the lowest daily increase in a month, taking the total number of infections to 876,333, the Health Ministry said on Twitter.


Romania on Sunday reported 131 more COVID-19-related deaths, bringing the country's toll to 10,047.

The cumulative number of confirmed cases rose by 5,837 to 418,645, according to the Strategic Communication Group (GCS), the country's official COVID-19 communication task force.

There were 13,492 hospitalized, of whom 1,174 were in intensive care.

With a total of 58,405 cases, the capital Bucharest is currently the administrative district with the highest number of infections, while Sibiu county in central Romania has the highest infection rate of 8.62 per thousand inhabitants.


Russia reported a record 25,173 new coronavirus infections on Monday as the Kremlin said it was up to regional authorities to decide what measures needed to be imposed in their regions to curb its spread.

Russian authorities have said they will not impose nationwide lockdowns as they did earlier in the pandemic, stressing the importance of hygiene and targeted measures in certain regions instead.

Asked why only the Siberian region of Buryatia had imposed major COVID-19 restrictions, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said regional governors were the ones who decided what measures were required in their respective regions.

"Everything depends on the number of hospital beds, on (material) reserves, on the number of medical staff, doctors, hospital occupancy rates and the rate at which patients are recovering," he told reporters on a conference call. "This is why each governor makes decisions based on the situation in their territory."

The country's coronavirus taskforce on Monday reported 361 COVID-19-related deaths in the last 24 hours, taking the official death toll to 36,540. The country has recorded a total of 2,114,502 confirmed cases.


Hundreds of mourners in Serbia, including the president, gathered on Sunday for the funeral of the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church, who died aged 90 after contracting COVID-19.

Only Irinej's relatives, clergy and dignitaries, including President Aleksandar Vucic and Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of Bosnia's Presidency, were allowed inside the St. Sava church. Other mourners watched funeral rites on big screens outside.

Most members of the clergy performing funeral rites in the church were without masks, as well as some people outside. However, many of faithful who gathered outside wore masks and tried to maintain a distance from each other.

Serbia, which has a population of around seven million, has so far reported 116,125 COVID-19 cases and 1,168 deaths.


Bustling waiters and the smell of coffee returned to Barcelona’s pavements on Monday as bars and restaurants in the Spanish region of Catalonia reopened in a phased easing of coronavirus restrictions.

Catalonia was the first Spanish region to fully close bars and restaurants amid the second COVID-19 wave in mid-October, and is the first to put them back to work as the contagion ebbed.

A nighttime curfew remains in place, and tough restrictions continue in the rest of the country as well as most of Europe.

The region also reopened theaters, cinemas, musical halls and outdoor sports facilities with a 50 percent maximum occupancy.

Spain, which has more than 1.55 million COVID-19 cases - western Europe’s second highest tally after France - and 42,619 dead - imposed a six-month state of emergency in late October, giving regions legal backing to impose curfews and restrict travel.

New infections measured over the past 14 days have fallen to 419 per 100,000 people as of Friday from 530 in the first week of November. In Catalonia, that rate has dropped to around 390.


Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Lofven used a rare Sunday night address to warn of the growing threat the coronavirus poses, amid fears the strategy used so far may not be enough to fight an increasingly deadly pandemic.

Lofven, the third prime minister in Sweden’s history to deliver such a national address, declared that “too many people have been careless about following the recommendations” that health authorities say are key if the virus is to be reined in.

Sweden famously avoided a lockdown, relying instead on voluntary measures. But with a death rate considerably higher than elsewhere in the Nordic region, and intensive care beds rapidly filling up, authorities in the country are now recalibrating their approach.

People pass a social distancing sign in Cardiff, where restrictions across Wales have been relaxed following a two-week "firebreak" lockdown. On Nov 22, 2020. (BEN BIRCHALL / PA VIA AP)


Britain will seek to start administering a COVID-19 vaccine before Christmas with the bulk of the rollout at the start of the new year, with life getting back to normal after Easter, Health Minister Matt Hancock said on Monday.

"We hope to be able to start vaccinating next month," Hancock told BBC TV after AstraZeneca announced its vaccine could be up to 90 percent effective.

Speaking to Sky News separately, Hancock said the government was looking at reducing the time people have to self-isolate if they come into contact with someone with COVID-19 from the current 14 days through the use of a new testing regime.

"We're piloting a process, using these new tests that we have, to allow people to take a test every single day instead of having to isolate for that period so that it picks-up if you're positive even before you have symptoms," he said.

The United Kingdom recorded 18,662 new coronavirus infections on Sunday and 398 deaths within 28 days of a positive test for the virus, according to official data. The number of fatalities included 141 that were omitted from the total on Saturday due to a processing error, the government said.

The government said it was working with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to ease COVID-19 restrictions over Christmas to allow families to get together.

ALSO READ: Virus: WHO fears 3rd wave, calls Europe response 'incomplete'

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will announce a massive increase in community virus testing on Monday as part of a plan to reintroduce tiered restrictions in place of the England-wide lockdown that ends on Dec 2.

Britain could give regulatory approval to Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine this week, even before the United States authorizes it, the Telegraph also reported.


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has tested negative for the novel coronavirus after previously contracting it and spending time in a government hospital, he said in a statement on Monday.

“I finally have a negative coronavirus test result,” Zelenskiy said. “One way or another, I’m already at work today. The day will be busy, but I am very happy to dive into the work as usual.” 

ALSO READ: EU says no change to uses of remdesivir after WHO guidance


Vaccinations against COVID-19 in the United States will “hopefully” start in less than three weeks, according to the head of the federal government’s program to accelerate a vaccine, with healthcare workers and others recommended for the nation’s first inoculations likely getting shots within a day or two of regulatory consent.

So I would expect, maybe on day two after approval on the 11th or 12th of December, hopefully the first people will be immunized across the United States.

Dr Moncef Slaoui, Chief scientific adviser for "Operation Warp Speed", US

Dr Moncef Slaoui, chief scientific adviser for “Operation Warp Speed”, said the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would likely grant approval in mid-December for distribution of the vaccine produced by Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech, launching the largest inoculation campaign in US history.

“So I would expect, maybe on day two after approval on the 11th or 12th of December, hopefully the first people will be immunized across the United States,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program.

Some 70 percent of the US population of 330 million would need to be inoculated to achieve “herd” immunity from the virus, a goal the country could achieve by May, according to Slaoui.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Sunday reported 12,028,081 confirmed infections in total, an increase of 184,591 cases from its previous count, and said that the number of deaths had risen by 1,476 to 255,076.

Vehicles line up at a COVID-19 drive-thru testing center at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, the United States, on Nov 22, 2020. (DAVID SANTIAGO / MIAMI HERALD VIA AP)

The US is adding almost 110,000 more cases every day compared with the same period a month ago, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. Fatalities have doubled over that period, as the virus spread across the nation.

COVID-19 hospitalizations accelerated in the US, with coronavirus cases now accounting for almost a quarter of patients in South Dakota and New Mexico, government data show.

New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa and Kansas recorded the biggest increases in COVID-19 hospitalizations.

Nevada will cut capacity at casinos and other public venues starting Tuesday to lower the spread of coronavirus infection, according to Governor Steve Sisolak.

Meanwhile, the Greater Los Angeles area has ordered restaurants, breweries and bars will once again limit their businesses to just pick-up and delivery. The new curbs will start at 10 pm Wednesday.


The Zimbabwean government on Sunday rolled out a nationwide community-based COVID-19 testing study, which will help in drawing up tailor-made measures to tackle the spread of COVID-19 in different communities.

Individuals in more than 7,000 households will be screened for the coronavirus in all 54 districts under the National Sero-Prevalence Survey for COVID-19, which will run up to Dec 30.

"The tests will inform the authorities of the extent to which the COVID-19 has spread, including the high and low transmission areas as well as coming up with the necessary interventions required for each area," Nicholas Midzi, director of the National Institute of Health Research, said.

Meanwhile, Chief Coordinator for the National Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic in the Office of the President and Cabinet Agnes Mahomva said a recent government survey had shown that most communities were no longer adhering to standard preventative guidelines.

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