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Tuesday, January 12, 2021, 23:05
Merkel: Germany may need strict curbs for '10 more weeks'
By Agencies
Tuesday, January 12, 2021, 23:05 By Agencies

A man wearing a face mask walks down a street near the market place in the nearly deserted old city of Meissen, Germany, Jan 11, 2021. (MARKUS SCHREIBER / AP)

NEW YORK /  PARIS / LONDON / MOSCOW / CAIRO / MEXICO CITY / ROME / SAO PAULO / TBILISI / LILONGWE / LUSAKA / MADRID / STOCKHOLM / TORONTO - Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that Germany faces hard lockdown measures into late March if authorities fail to contain a fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus.

During a video call Tuesday, the German leader said that a strain that surfaced in Britain could lead to a rapid increase in the country’s contagion rates and prompt a 10-week extension of virus curbs, according to a person on the call who asked not to be identified.

“If we don’t manage to stop this British virus, then we will have 10 times the number of cases by Easter. We need eight to 10 more weeks of tough measures,” Bild quoted Merkel as saying.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 12,802 to 1,933,826, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Tuesday. The reported death toll rose by 891 to 41,577, the tally showed.

As COVID-19 incidences and death rates remain on a high level in Germany, stricter contact restrictions would take effect nationwide as of Monday until at least the end of January, the government announced.

Some of Germany's federal states already introduced over the weekend stricter rules that Merkel and the minister-presidents agreed on last week.

Non-essential shops as well as bars, restaurants and leisure facilities remain closed. In addition, German citizens are only allowed to meet with one additional person who is not part of the household, according to the government.

For regions that exceed a 7-day incidence of 200 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants, the travel radius is restricted to 15 kilometers around the place of residence, unless a valid reason for travel can be provided.

Misinformation is undermining Germany’s vaccination campaign, Bavarian state premier Markus Soeder said on Tuesday. Not enough health workers in old age and care homes are willing to get the shot, and the government should consider making it obligatory for them, Soeder told ZDF television.

Global tally

Coronavirus cases worldwide exceeded 91 million while the global death toll topped 1.94 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

A pharmacist prepares a syringe of the Pfizer vaccine for COVID-19, Friday, Jan 8, 2021, at Queen Anne Healthcare, in Washington. (PHOTO / AP)


US Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman, a New Jersey Democrat and lung-cancer survivor, has tested positive for COVID-19. Watson Coleman, 75, of Ewing, believes she was exposed after sheltering with several maskless colleagues during last week’s storming of the US Capitol, according to a statement from her office.

She said she received a positive rapid test Monday and is awaiting the results of PCR testing.

Representative Pramila Jayapal also said she has tested positive for COVID-19, days after having shared a safe room with Republican colleagues who declined to wear masks in the same occasion.

“I just received a positive COVID-19 test result after being locked down in a secured room at the Capitol where several Republicans not only cruelly refused to wear a mask but recklessly mocked colleagues and staff who offered them one,” she wrote in Twitter post.

Trump administration officials on Tuesday plan to strongly encourage states to expand access to COVID-19 vaccinations to anyone older than 65, regardless of underlying conditions, and anyone 16 and older with a pre-existing condition, according to two US officials.

The planned announcement, first reported by Axios, come amid concerns the vaccine rollout has been slower than expected.

President-elect Joe Biden on Monday received the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, four weeks after he was administered the first shot on Dec 21.

Meanwhile, US Texas Governor Greg Abbott said that the state government was working hard to build large COVID-19 vaccination hubs in an effort to get Texans vaccinated as quickly as possible.

California’s virus hospitalizations are rising at a slower pace, offering a very cautious sign of optimism for the state’s deeply strained health-care system, Governor Gavin Newsom said Monday. 

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio reaffirmed his goal of doling out 1 million COVID-19 doses by the end of January. 


Immunity from Moderna Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine should last at least a year, the company said on Monday at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare conference.

The drugmaker said it was confident that the messenger RNA (mRNA) technology it used was well suited to deploy a vaccine based on the new variant of the coronavirus which has emerged in a handful of countries.

The company’s vaccine, mRNA-1273, uses synthetic mRNA to mimic the surface of the coronavirus and teach the immune system to recognize and neutralize it.

Moderna said in December it would run tests to confirm the vaccine's activity against any strain.

The company said on Monday it expects to deliver between 600 million doses and 1 billion does of its vaccine in 2021 and forecast vaccine-related sales of US$11.7 billion for the year, based on advance purchase agreements signed with governments.

“The team feels very comfortable with the track record we have now ... that we are on track to deliver at least 600 million doses,” Chief Executive Officer Stéphane Bancel said.


The European Commission said it aims to secure as many as 60 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from Valneva for EU countries as a whole. The planned deal - the commission’s eighth supply pact - would allow EU governments to buy an initial 30 million doses and include an option to purchase another 30 million.

Earlier, the chief negotiator of the EU supply accords with drug companies said deliveries of vaccines in the bloc will speed up appreciably as of April. The second quarter “is going to be the quarter with many doses,” Sandra Gallina told a European Parliament committee.

Also on Tuesday, the European Medicines Agency said its drugs advisory panel could issue an opinion on the AstraZeneca-Oxford shot by Jan 29, when it will meet to evaluate the application.

The quicker-than-usual time frame is possible because the agency was already looking at some data on the product under a process known as rolling review. The vaccine already has approval in the UK and has been in use there since Jan 4.


The World Health Organization (WHO) vowed on Monday to speed up rolling out safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines and their equitable allocation across the world.

"A year on, there have been almost 2 million deaths from COVID-19 and while we are hopeful about the safe and effective vaccines that are being rolled out, we want to see this sped up and vaccines allocated equitably in the coming weeks," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a virtual press briefing.

Tedros said he plans to call on all countries next week to fulfill their pledges to COVAX, an international initiative co-led by WHO and partners to ensure equitable global access to COVID-19 vaccines.

"I call for a collective commitment so that within the next 100 days, vaccination for health workers and those at high-risk in all countries are underway," he said.

In this July 27, 2020 file photo, a nurse prepares a shot that is part of a possible COVID-19 vaccine developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc, in Binghamton, New York, the United States. (HANS PENNINK / AP)


Britain removed the United Arab Emirates from its travel corridor list on Monday amid a surge in coronavirus cases in the Gulf nation.

Starting from 4am on Tuesday, people returning to the UK from the UAE will have to self-isolate for 10 days, Britain’s travel department said in a statement. “The decision has been made following a significant acceleration in the number of imported cases, along with the number of reported new cases over the past seven days, which have risen in the UAE by 52 percent.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday warned against "false complacency" as the country is seeking to speed up the coronavirus vaccine rollout.

"This is a very perilous moment because everybody can sense that the vaccine is coming in and they can see that the UK is vaccinating large numbers of those that need it most," he said during a visit to a vaccination center in Bristol, located in southwest England, about 193 km west of London.

The "most dangerous time" of the coronavirus pandemic in Britain has yet to come before vaccine rollout has an impact, Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty warned Monday.

The next few weeks will be "the worst" of the pandemic for the National Health Service (NHS), he told the BBC, urging the public to minimize all unnecessary contact with others.

"There's a very high chance that if you meet someone unnecessarily they will have COVID," he said, noting that any unnecessary contact could be a potential link in a chain of transmission that will lead to a vulnerable person.

Another 46,169 people in Britain have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the overall caseload to 3,118,518, according to official figures released Monday.

Another 529 have died within 28 days of a positive test, bringing the death toll to 81,960, the data showed.

British authorities have had to set up a temporary morgues in some areas after local hospital mortuaries ran out of space due to a surge in deaths.

UK hospitals, swamped with COVID-19 patients even as the country pushes to vaccinate 200,000 people a day, hold a cautionary tale for the rest of Europe.

READ MORE: Russia to try out 'Sputnik-Light' vaccine to make it go further


Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa tested negative for COVID-19 after a positive result late Monday. 

He will continue self-isolating as he awaits a new test, according to a statement on the presidency’s website. 

The presidency said in a statement posted on the website Monday night that Rebelo de Sousa had tested positive for COVID-19.

Rebelo de Sousa had "tested negative yesterday, and although today's antigen test is negative, it was now known, at 9:40 pm, that the PCR test was positive," according to the statement, referring to the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test.

The 72-year-old president, who is asymptomatic, has informed Portugal's parliament president, prime minister and minister of health, the presidency said in the the statement, adding that Rebelo de Sousa is working at the Belem Presidential Palace and will be in isolation at the residential area.

He canceled the entire agenda for the next few days, according to the statement.


Spain aims for all its nursing home residents to have received a first dose of vaccine against the coronavirus by the end of the week, Health Minister Salvador Illa said on Tuesday after a weekly cabinet meeting.

Since kicking off its vaccination campaign at the end of December, Spain has administered 406,091 doses of the double-dose Pfizer-BioNTech shot.

Spain's Ministry of Health said Monday that 61,422 new cases and 401 deaths from COVID-19 had been confirmed for the 72-hour period from 2 pm on last Friday until 2 pm on Monday.

The new cases mean that the incidence of cases of the coronavirus has risen sharply to 435.6 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. Spain has now confirmed a total of 2,111,782 cases and 52,275 deaths from the disease since the start of the pandemic.


Poland will extend coronavirus lockdown measures by nearly two weeks until the end of January to get a better grip on the pandemic as the country’s vaccination process begins in earnest.

Hotels, ski resorts, shopping malls, restaurants and bars will remain closed, Health Minister Adam Niedzielski told a news conference on Monday. Elementary and high schools will continue to teach online after winter break ends on Jan. 18, except for grades 1-3, which are set to return to classrooms.

Businesses have lodged their first class action against Poland’s state treasury over lockdown measures, newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza reported. The suit seeks to establish the state’s responsibility for losses incurred, without setting any specific compensation target. The suit alleges that restrictions on economic activity are illegal since authorities didn’t introduce the highest state of natural disaster.

ALSO  READ: Cuba to collaborate with Iran on coronavirus vaccine


Ireland's total confirmed cases of COVID-19 have topped 150,000, according to official statistics released here on Monday.

The Irish Department of Health on Monday reported another 4,929 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in one day, bringing the country's total number of such cases to 152,539.

Eight more COVID-19-related deaths were also reported in the country in the day, said the department in a statement, adding that the death toll from COVID-19 in Ireland now stands at 2,352.


Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin has asked the European Union (EU) to speed up the distribution of vaccines to member countries. Marin called for faster shipments of jointly procured vaccines in a letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the Finnish government said in a statement late on Monday.

This undated photo shows Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa at The 74th Session of The United Nations General Assembly in the headquarters of the United Nations. (PHOTO / BLOOMBERG)


In the past 24 hours, the COVID-19 death toll in Slovenia increased by 24 and reached 3,022, official figures showed on Monday.

The total number of confirmed cases rose by 426 to 139,713, the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) said.

On Sunday, 2,200 tests were performed -- 1,720 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and 480 antigen tests -- with 368 (21.4 percent) and 58 (12.1 percent), respectively, coming back positive.

The national COVID-19 tracker site Sledilnik shows that there are currently 24,320 active cases in Slovenia. A total of 1,205 patients are in hospital for COVID-19, 198 of them in intensive care.


Brazil on Monday said it registered 480 fatalities from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, raising the death toll to 203,580.

Some 25,822 new cases of the disease were detected in the same 24-hour period, bringing the country's total caseload to 8,131,612, said the Ministry of Health in its daily pandemic report.

Brazil has the world's second-highest COVID-19 death toll, ranking only second to the United States, and the third-largest outbreak, following the United States and India.


Colombian Foreign Minister Claudia Blum has tested positive for the coronavirus, she said on Monday in a message published on Twitter by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Blum said she was in good health and would be working from home.


Ecuadorian authorities on Monday confirmed the country's first case of the novel coronavirus variant first identified in the United Kingdom.

At a virtual press conference, Minister of Health Juan Carlos Zevallos said the case involved a 50-year-old Ecuadorian who arrived in the country on Dec. 12 from London, with a transfer in Madrid of Spain.

Upon arrival, the traveler presented a negative PCR test for the novel coronavirus disease, so "there was no way for us to be able to detect that he had the disease, except for his point of origin," said Zevallos.

The incident, he said, occurred before the UK informed the World Health Organization (WHO) that a new variant had been identified through genome sequencing.


Argentine Health Minister Gines Gonzalez Garcia on Monday urged the public to keep up preventive measures against COVID-19 to avoid straining the healthcare system.

While new therapies were coming to light, such as hyperimmune equine serum found to be safe and effective in treating moderate to severe cases, as well as vaccines, prevention was the best, said Gonzalez.

"Today we have equine serum, vaccines and many advances, but nothing beats individual behavior, and if we do not retake the idea of taking care of ourselves, this is going to get very complicated," he warned in a radio interview, according to state news agency Telam.


Chile announced on Monday that quarantine and restriction measures will be strengthened across the country due to the rise in cases of COVID-19 in recent weeks.

Chilean Minister of Health Enrique Paris told reporters the number of municipalities under quarantine will expand from 18 to 42 starting from Jan. 14.

He noted that in the last seven days, the number of new cases nationwide rose by 36 percent, a figure that was "very troubling above all, because we are seeing an increase in almost every region of the country."


Bolivian Minister of Public Works, Services and Housing, Edgar Montano, tested positive for COVID-19, becoming the third member in President Luis Arce's cabinet to catch the virus, the government said Monday.

Montano is in stable condition and isolated under medical supervision, according to the ministry.

Members of the NYPD stand in line to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in New York, Jan 11, 2020.  (PHOTO / BLOOMBERG)

South Africa

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said the government has secured millions more doses of coronavirus vaccines as he extended a ban on alcohol sales and restricted cross-border travel to curb the spread of the disease.

Most of the 20 million vaccine doses the government has secured will arrive in the first half of this year, the president said. He didn’t provide details of the additional supply deals, saying they would be revealed once negotiations are concluded.

Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson’s preliminary data from the South African arm of a phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial will be ready for submission to US regulators by Jan 21, according to the head of the country’s Medical Research Council.

The country will remain on virus alert level 3, Ramaphosa said Monday in a televised address. Twenty land-border posts will be closed to most travelers until Feb 15, public gatherings other than funerals won’t be allowed, and a nationwide curfew will be enforced from 9 pm to 5 am.


The Tunisian Ministry of Health reported 3,074 new infections by COVID-19 and 69 additional deaths during the past 24 hours.

In a press release, published on Monday night, the ministry said that the country has 162,350 COVID-19 cases so far, including 5,284 deaths.

In order to contain the rapid spread of coronavirus across the country, Tunisian President Kais Saied instructed his Foreign Minister Othman Jerandi to carry out the necessary consultations with his counterparts in other countries which have succeeded in manufacturing effective vaccine, reported Tunis Afrique Presse (TAP).


The Ethiopian Ministry of Health on Monday said the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the East African country rose to 128,616 after new 300 cases were reported.

The ministry said that the number of COVID-19 related deaths in the country reached 2,003 as of Monday evening, including nine new COVID-19 related deaths reported during the last 24-hour period.

The ministry further said that some 113,563 patients who tested positive for COVID-19 had recovered, including 189 in the last 24-hour period.

It also said that some 13,048 of the total reported COVID-19 cases were active cases, of which 201 of the patients were said to be in severe condition.


Algeria on Monday reported 225 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the total infections in the North Africa country to 102,369, said the Algerian Ministry of Health in a statement.

The death toll from the coronavirus in Algeria rose to 2,812 after five new fatalities were recorded.

Meanwhile, 191 more patients recovered from the disease and were discharged from hospitals, bringing the total number of recoveries in Algeria to 69,463.

Djamel Fourar, the spokesperson of the Algerian Scientific Committee monitoring the spread of COVID-19, said on Monday that Algeria will launch the vaccination in the whole country after getting the first batch of COVID-19 vaccines from Russia this week.


Morocco's COVID-19 tally rose to 452,988 on Monday as 456 new cases were registered during the past 24 hours.

According to a statement by the Ministry of Health, the death toll mounted to 7,767 as 24 COVID-19 patients died in the last 24 hours.

The total number of recoveries from COVID-19 in Morocco increased to 426,006 after 1,110 new ones were added, while 1,053 people are in intensive care units, the statement said.


The government of Burundi on Monday launched a second nationwide mass screening campaign of COVID-19, as the coronavirus cases have been increasing in recent days.

The 30-day campaign is taking place in the commercial capital Bujumbura and several provinces where cases have been reported.


Nigerian hospitals are running out of facilities to care for more serious cases of COVID-19 after a spike in infections over the past month, a government health official said.

“We are reaching a critical level where our hospital capacity will no longer be able to cope with more serious COVID-19 cases,” Nigeria Centre for Disease Control Director-General Chikwe Ihekweazu said in a tweet on Monday. “Health workers will be forced to make tough decisions.”

Although the number of infections in Africa has paled in comparison to other regions, the spike - mostly in South Africa where a new, more virulent strain of the virus was found - has raised fears the pathogen could be spreading more rapidly.


Russia confirmed 22,934 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking the country's total caseload to 3,448,203, the country's COVID-19 response center said in a statement Tuesday.

The number of deaths increased by 531 to 62,804.

Moscow, which remains to be hardest-hit, has logged a total of 867,215 cases, including 5,001 cases in the past 24 hours.

Meanwhile, the country reported 24,755 new recoveries in the past 24 hours, bringing the total recoveries to 2,825,430.


Georgia reported 1,857 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing its tally to 241,637.

Of the new cases, 754 were confirmed in the capital city of Tbilisi, said the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health.

As of Tuesday, 227,208 of the 241,637 patients have recovered while 2,820 others have died, said the center.


Greece is proposing the introduction of a common COVID-19 vaccination certificate for all EU member states. 

The document could help quickly reestablish freedom of movement among EU countries and beyond, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Tuesday in a letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

For countries such as Greece that depend on tourism, it’s imperative that the issue is resolved before the summer season, he said.


Austria said on Tuesday it has identified a new cluster of 17 COVID-19 cases, a mainly British group on a ski teacher training course, despite the country being on lockdown and having banned flights from Britain over fears of a new coronavirus variant.

The Alpine province of Tyrol, which suffered Austria’s worst outbreak to date at the ski resort of Ischgl, said the cluster in the town of Jochberg was suspected to be of the new, more infectious variant first pinpointed in Britain in September that has spread to dozens of countries including Austria.

The fact such a training course was allowed to happen despite lockdown restrictions, which include closing schools to all but daycare, stunned many Austrians.


Zambia's cabinet on Tuesday directed health authorities to ensure mandatory wearing of face masks by people in public in order to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

The cabinet said the health ministry, working with other ministries and other stakeholders should enforce preventive measures announced in June last year, including wearing of face masks in public in order to contain the pandemic.

The cabinet also called on owners of bars and nightclubs to observe the measures on restrictive operating hours and days which were still in place.


Two Malawian cabinet ministers have died after contracting COVID-19, government authorities announced.

Minister of Transport and Public Works Sidik Mia, and Minister of Local Government Lingson Berekanyama, died Tuesday morning after they were reported to have contracted COVID-19 last week.

COVID-19 has taken a toll in Malawi, where at least 50 people have died since Jan 1.

On Monday, the country recorded 452 new COVID-19 cases, the highest since the first cases were recorded in April 2020.

According to Monday's update, the overall toll stood at 235, while there were 2,744 active cases.

The government, through a special task force on COVID-19, has initiated newly gazetted laws on COVID-19 pandemic management following a rapid spread of the virus right after the festive season in the country.

Minister of Health Khumbize Chiponda expressed worry over the rising number of cases and deaths, which she said was putting pressure on health facilities in the country.

Among many measures, the Malawi government has started enforcing the mandatory wearing of masks in public and a reduced passenger capacity in mini buses.


Ontario is considering “next steps” to limit the spread of COVID-19, Premier Doug Ford said on Twitter on Monday, amid calls to put Canada’s most populous province under more stringent lockdown as the pandemic overwhelms its hospitals.

Ford is widely expected to announce further restrictions after Ontario health authorities release new case modeling on Tuesday, which the premier has previously described as “a wake up call to anyone who’s seen it.”

Ford said in a tweet on Sunday the province’s healthcare system was “on the brink of being overwhelmed.”

CBC reported the new measures could include cutting hours for essential businesses, curtailing construction activity and reducing gathering limits to five people, down from the current limit of 10 outdoors. But the province is unlikely to impose a curfew, CBC reported.

Last week Quebec, Canada’s worst-affected province from COVID-19, became the first in the country to introduce a curfew to limit the spread.


Sweden has registered 17,395 new coronavirus cases since Friday, taking the total above 500,000 cases since the start of the pandemic, as hospitals struggled to cope with a rampant second wave of the virus, Health Agency statistics showed on Tuesday.

The statistics showed that Dec 17 was the deadliest day since the start of the pandemic with 116 deaths, surpassing a previous peak of 115 daily deaths set in April.

More people are being treated for COVID-19 at hospitals in Sweden now than at any time during the pandemic. While Sweden still has around 20 percent spare capacity at intensive care units, there are worries the spread will accelerate again as people return to work and schools after the holidays.

“It’s quite obvious that the healthcare system is as strained now (as during the spring),” Chief Epidemiologist Anders Tegnell, the architect of an unorthodox pandemic strategy that has eschewed lockdowns, said at a news conference. “We are near the limit for what the healthcare system can handle.”

The country  registered 234 new deaths since Friday, taking the toll to 9,667. The deaths registered have occurred over several days and weeks with many from the Christmas period being registered with a significant delay.

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