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Sunday, February 14, 2021, 18:02
Virus: UK PM to appeal to G7 leaders for vaccine cooperation
By Agencies
Sunday, February 14, 2021, 18:02 By Agencies

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson looks at a pipette before him during a briefing by a molecular biologist at the QuantuMDx Biotechnology company in Newcastle, England, on Feb 13, 2021. (IAN FORSYTH / POOL VIA AP)

BRASILIA / MEXICO CITY / PARIS / ROME / LONDON / CARACAS / WASHINGTON / ADDIS ABABA / BERLIN / OTTAWA / BUENOS AIRES / LA PAZ / SANTIAGO / QUITO / HAVANA / LISBON / ACCRA / ALGIERS / TIRANA / RABAT / JOHANNESBURG / KAMPALA - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will host a virtual meeting of G7 leaders next week to call for action to ensure equal global distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, and to prevent future pandemics, his office said on Saturday.

The meeting of the leaders from the Group of Seven rich nations on Friday is the first since April last year, and will be Joe Biden’s first major multilateral engagement as US president, Downing Street said.

Pandemic preparedness will be a major priority for the UK presidency of the G7 and the Johnson government will be pushing a plan to build a global network of research hubs, boost vaccine manufacturing capacity and come up with early warning systems for new health threats, his office said in a statement.

Johnson will call for the G7 to work on a global approach to pandemics, such as designing an early warning system, which would bring to an end “the nationalist and divisive politics that marred the initial response to coronavirus”, his office said.

“The solutions to the challenges we face – from the colossal mission to get vaccines to every single country, to the fight to reverse the damage done to our ecosystems and lead a sustainable recovery from coronavirus – lie in the discussions we have with our friends and partners around the world,” Johnson will tell the leaders.

EU

The European Union (EU) will fast track approvals of coronavirus vaccines adapted to combat mutations, the bloc’s Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said in a newspaper interview on Sunday.

“We have now decided that a vaccine that has been improved by the manufacturer on the basis of the previous vaccine to combat new mutations no longer has to go through the entire approval process,” she told Bavaria’s Augsburger Allgemeine.

“So it will be faster to have suitable vaccines available without compromising on safety.”

While vaccinations in the first quarter of 2021 have started slowly, the second quarter would see a pick-up and by the end of September the EU expects to have received sufficient doses from licenced producers to cover over 70 percent of its population, Kyriakides said.

She also reiterated the European Commission's view that closing borders was not an effective weapon against infections.

Germany will enforce entry bans on travellers from the Czech Republic and Austria’s Tyrol region from Sunday to prevent the spread of new variants.

UK

The coronavirus variant first discovered in the United Kingdom is likely “associated with an increased risk of hospitalization and death,” British government scientists concluded.

In January, as the variant known as B.1.1.7 raised increasing alarms, the same group of scientists said the variant appeared to cause more severe disease and that “more data will accrue in the coming weeks.” 

In the follow-up paper, the scientists raised cautions about the limitations of further studies from around the UK. But they concluded “it is likely” the variant increases the chances of hospitalization and death, even if “the absolute risk of death per infection remains low”.

Britain will begin giving COVID-19 shots to those aged 65 and over on Monday as it closes in on its target to offer vaccines to 15 million people in priority groups including the elderly and frontline healthcare workers.

Britain will begin giving COVID-19 shots to those aged 65 and over on Monday as it closes in on its target to offer vaccines to 15 million people in priority groups, including the elderly and frontline healthcare workers.

According to the latest official figures, 14.56 million people have received a shot, allowing health officials to expand the programme to those aged 65 to 69, and to other clinically vulnerable people.

ALSO READ: Oxford to test vaccine response among children for first time

The British government reported 13,308 new COVID-19 cases and another 621 related deaths, bringing the cumulative caseload to 4,027,106 with 116,908 deaths, according to official figures released Saturday.

Earlier in the day, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was "optimistic" ahead of his announcement, expected on Feb 22, about a "roadmap" for easing England's lockdown. Johnson said his plan would prioritize the reopening of schools from March 8, followed by non-essential retail and then hospitality venues.

A health worker prepares a syringe for COVID-19 vaccination at a drive-thru inoculation center at Batchwood Hall in St Albans, north of London, on Feb 8, 2021. (DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)

Global tally

Coronavirus cases worldwide exceeded 108.5 million while the global death toll topped 2.39 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Africa tally

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases recorded on the African continent reached 3,729,019 as of Saturday, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said, adding that the death toll stood at 97,832.

South Africa

South Africa will reopen 20 land border crossings to allow normal travel, lifting restrictions implemented last month to control rising coronavirus infections, the Home Affairs Ministry said on Saturday.

The ministry said land border points, including those with Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Botswana, would reopen after being closed on Jan 11.

“The active and orderly management of people through our borders is an important part of the country’s overall risk adjusted approach to control the spread of COVID-19,” said Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.

Motsoaledi will visit the at Lebombo Border Post, one of the four busiest land ports, on the border of Mozambique on Monday to monitor the processing of travellers.

South Africa has recorded the highest number of coronavirus infections and deaths on the African continent, with more than 1.4 million cases and over 47,000 deaths.

Uganda

Uganda's Ministry of Health said late Saturday that the country's COVID-19 tally has surpassed the 40,000 mark after 40 new cases were recorded in the past 24 hours.

According to the ministry, the total number of confirmed cases now stand at 40,019. 

The country has so far registered 328 COVID-19 deaths.

Germany

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 6,114 to 2,334,561, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Sunday. 

The reported death toll rose by 218 to 64,960, the tally showed. 

Brazil

Brazil reported a fourth straight week of falling cases, though infections remain as high as the peak of last summer’s surge, according to health ministry data. 

Brazil recorded 44,299 additional confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, along with 1,043 more deaths from COVID-19, the ministry said on Saturday.

Brazil has registered more than 9.8 million cases of the virus since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 238,532, according to ministry data.

People go out shopping after authorities changed the health alert from red to orange amid the coronavirus pandemic. In Mexico City, on Feb 13. 2021. (MARCO UGARTE / AP)

Mexico 

Mexico's health ministry on Saturday reported 9,741 newly confirmed coronavirus cases in the country and 1,214 more fatalities, bringing its total to 1,988,695 infections and 173,771 deaths.

Italy

Italy reported 311 coronavirus-related deaths on Saturday against 316 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections dipped to 13,532 from 13,908 reported on Friday.

Italy has registered 93,356 deaths linked to COVID-19 , the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the sixth-highest in the world. The country has reported 2.71 million cases to date.

Patients in hospital with COVID-19 - not including those in intensive care - stood at 18,500 on Saturday, down from 18,736 a day earlier.

There were 118 new admissions to intensive care units, down from 153 on Friday. The total number of intensive care patients fell to 2,062 from a previous 2,095.

France

France reported 21,231 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases on Saturday, slightly up from 20,701 on Friday, bringing the cumulative tally to 3,448,617, the sixth-highest in the world.

The number of people in France who have died from COVID-19 infections rose by 199 to 81,647 - the seventh-highest death toll globally.

There were 10,037 new patients hospitalized with the disease over the last seven days and 1,795 new admissions to intensive care units (ICUs) over the period, the Health Ministry said.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told BFM television on Saturday the French population was at the end its patience and that a new lockdown could only be “the very last options when all others have been tried”.

Arnaud Fontanet, a member of the scientific council that advises the government on COVID-19 policy, told Europe 1 radio separately that he feared the UK variant could account for the majority of the cases in March.

In the Moselle region, in eastern France, where variant cases have surged, the prefecture ruled out at least for now closing the schools or implementing a local lockdown that had been requested by some local officials.

France has the fastest pace of immunization against COVID-19 among the four most populous EU countries, according to the latest snapshot by Bloomberg’s vaccination data tracker.

France stepped up its vaccination pace this week, putting it on track to cover 75 percent of the population with a two-dose vaccine in an estimated two-and-a-half years. 

US

The coronavirus outbreak in the United States continued to ease as the average daily increase dropped about 20 percent from the week before. 

The US added 99,575 new cases Friday, a daily decrease amid a continuing trend of rapidly falling infections, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. That brings to 101,980 the average daily increase from the previous seven days, a 22 percent drop from the seven days before. Daily increases regularly neared 300,000 around the New Year.

Another 5,476 deaths were reported, though that number is skewed because Ohio has been adding some 4,000 newly discovered fatalities. Ohio alone added 2,559 deaths on Friday. Still, the national drop in deaths is accelerating, with average daily fatalities from the previous seven days falling 14 percent compared with the week before.

As of Sunday 10:24 am (Beijing time), the US has reported 27.57 million cases and over 484,000 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Nearly 1,000 infection cases of coronavirus variants have been reported in a total of 44 US states, according to the latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC said it had administered over 50 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the country as of Saturday morning and delivered about 69.9 million doses.

Poland

A strain of the coronavirus discovered in mink on a farm in northern Poland can be transmitted to humans and vice versa, the agriculture ministry said on Saturday.

COVID-19 was found in mink in Kartuzy county late last month, in what agriculture officials said was the first such case in Poland, raising fears of costly culls in an industry that counts over 350 farms in the country.

“Data obtained from the chief sanitary inspectorate and last year’s experiences in Denmark and the Netherlands clearly indicate that also in Poland, this virus can spread from mink to humans and vice versa,” the ministry said in a statement.

Following the discovery of COVID-19 at the farm in Kartuzy county, Polish authorities said all mink there would be culled. 

Poland reported 6,586 new cases and another 284 deaths on Saturday.

Total cases increased to 1,583,621, while the death toll rose to 40,709. The country of 38 million administered more than 2 million vaccine doses so far, including 624,907 second doses.

Sanofi

A COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed by Sanofi and US group Translate Bio “will not be ready this year,” the French drugmaker’s chief executive told Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper.

Clinical trials of this vaccine, which will be based on a technology known as mRNA - on which lean approved vaccines of Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna -, are expected to start this quarter.

In December last year, Sanofi had said it was targeting “earliest potential approval” of the shot in the second half of 2021, following positive preclinical data.

“This vaccine will not be ready this year, but it could be of use at a later stage all the more if the fight against variants was to continue,” Paul Hudson was quoted as saying.

Workers unload a shipment of the Russian Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine at the Simon Bolivar International Airport in Maiquetia, Venezuela, Feb 13, 2021. (MATIAS DELACROIX / AP)

Venezuela 

Venezuela received the first 100,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine on Saturday, Vice-President Delcy Rodriguez said on state television.

Rodriguez said US sanctions on Venezuela have prevented the purchase of more vaccines. 

READ MORE: Venezuela seeks US$300m fund for vaccines, Maduro says

This first batch will be used on “the most vulnerable sectors, the health workers,” Rodriguez said. The Sputnik shipment is a symbol of friendship and cooperation between Russia and Venezuela, said Russian ambassador Sergey Melik-Bagdasarov.

In addition to Sputnik V, the Pan American Health Organization’s chief of mission said last week that between 1.4 million and 2.4 million doses of the AstraZeneca Plc vaccine had been reserved for Venezuela. At US$10 per dose, those vaccines would cost between US$140 million and US$240 million.

Authorities on Friday reported 132,259 coronavirus cases in the country and 1,267 deaths, but medical unions and opponents have said the figure is likely higher.

The government has authorized a relaxation of the national quarantine for two weeks for the next Carnival holiday.

Switzerland

The Swiss government’s goal to distribute vaccines to everyone who wants one by summer is unlikely to be met, the head of Switzerland’s Association of Cantonal Doctor’s said, newspaper Tages Anzeiger reported.

“It could actually be autumn,” said Rudolf Hauri, Zug cantonal doctor and president of the Association of Cantonal Doctors, on Friday evening in an interview with a Swiss Public Radio program, Tages Anzeiger reported.

Hauri cited delivery bottlenecks and slow vaccine approvals for the delay, the newspaper reported.

Russia

Russia reported 14,185 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, including 1,559 in Moscow, taking the national infection tally to 4,071,883 since the pandemic began.

Authorities said 430 people had died of the disease in the last 24 hours, pushing the official death toll to 80,126. 

Canada

Canada has reported a total of 823,048 COVID-19 cases and 21,213 deaths as of Saturday afternoon, according to CTV.

Ontario confirmed 1,300 new COVID-19 cases and 19 more deaths, while Quebec reported 1,049 new cases and an additional 33 deaths.

There were 36,944 active cases across the country, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada on Saturday.

The latest national-level data show a continued downward trend in daily case counts, with a 7-day average of 3,347 new cases daily (Feb 5-11)," said the agency.

Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said in a statement that nine provinces had reported cases involving coronavirus variants as of Friday.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia has registered 756 new COVID-19 cases over the last 24 hours, taking the tally to 145,704, the country's Ministry of Health said Saturday.

The death toll from COVID-19 reached 2,181 on Saturday evening after four more deaths were reported, the ministry said.

Meanwhile, 155 more recoveries were logged, taking the number of recoveries to 128,019, it added.

Colombia

Colombia logged 4,947 new COVID-19 cases during the past 24 hours, taking the national count to 2,190,116, the Ministry of Health and Social Protection said Saturday.

The ministry said that 229 more deaths were reported, bringing the death toll to 57,425.

Argentina

Argentina registered 6,057 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, bringing the tally to 2,021,553, the health ministry said.

The ministry also reported 159 more deaths from the disease, taking the death toll to 50,188.

A total of 1,820,965 patients have recovered so far while 150,400 cases remained active, it said.

Bolivia

The Bolivian government announced on Saturday that the country is close to overcoming a second wave of the novel coronavirus, with cases decreasing in several departments after restrictive measures were put in place, including a ban on flights from Europe.

"We are in a sharp de-escalation process in several departments, and therefore we are on the verge of overcoming the second wave. If we maintain biosecurity measures, the second outbreak will pass without the application of any quarantine," said Minister of Health Jeyson Auza.

According to the Ministry of Health, Bolivia has registered 235,098 cases of COVID-19, including 1,244 new cases in the last 24 hours, and a total of 11,107 deaths.

Bolivia reported the start of a second COVID-19 wave on Jan 9, prompting the government to order a series of preventive health measures and boosting hospital capacity.

Caporales dancers, who usually parade through the streets as part of Carnival celebrations, perform for a virtual presentation in Oruro, Bolivia, Feb 13, 2021. (JUAN KARITA / AP)

Chile

A total of 1,817,266 people in Chile have been vaccinated against COVID-19 since the nation's mass vaccination campaign began on Feb 3, the Ministry of Health reported Saturday.

Minister of Health Enrique Paris said that starting Monday, workers in school and preschool education will be included in the inoculation drive.

Also on Saturday, the ministry reported on 3,920 new cases and 98 deaths, bringing the cumulative caseload to 772,395 and the death toll to 19,443. 

Cuba

The Cuban Ministry of Public Health reported on Saturday four more deaths related to COVID-19 and 888 new cases, as the country continues to battle a severe outbreak.

According to the ministry, the death toll has risen to 261 and the total number of cases climbed to 37,483.

Francisco Duran, the ministry's national director of hygiene and epidemiology, said that of 866 f the new cases were from community transmission and 22 were imported from the United States, Russia, Brazil, Panama, Spain, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Bolivia and France.

In Cuba's hospitals, 37 patients are reported to be in critical condition. 

Ecuador

Ecuador has registered 2,010 new COVID-19 cases and 47 additional deaths, the Ministry of Public Health reported on Saturday.

The new figures took the infection tally to 265,527 with 10,550 deaths, the ministry said. 

There were another 4,719 deaths that were likely caused by COVID-19 but have not yet been confirmed, it added.

On Saturday, the country began a four-day holiday to celebrate Carnival, a celebration that usually sees a high level of mobility and tourism, with health authorities urging people to continue to follow health protocols to avoid the spread of COVID-19 infection.

Portugal

Portugal on Saturday extended a suspension of flights to and from Brazil and the UK to March 1, with only humanitarian and repatriation flights allowed, the interior ministry said in a statement.

Portugal had suspended flights to and from Brazil for a two-week period at the end of January, and had halted them for the UK from the Jan 21 to try to prevent the spread of COVID-19 variants.

Meanwhile, Portugal started vaccinating the country's security forces on Saturday, with around 20,000 people scheduled to be inoculated over the next three weeks.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa said that "all those over 80 and over 50 years old who have a risk disease" have been vaccinated, as well as "health personnel, considered a priority to face the pandemic".

Algeria

Algeria on Saturday reported 210 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of cases in the North African country to 110,513.

The death toll rose to 2,935 after three more fatalities were added, the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

Morocco

Morocco registered 479 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, taking the tally to 478,135, the health ministry said in a statement.

The total number of recoveries increased by 548 to 458,504, while the death toll rose to 8,460 as 10 additional fatalities were registered during the last 24 hours.

So far, a total of 1,388,539 people have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Albania

Albania's health ministry reported on Saturday 1,152 new coronavirus cases, bringing the tally of COVID-19 cases in the country to 91,987.

Twelve more deaths were also reported, lifting the toll to 1,543, according to the ministry.

Ghana

The number of active COVID-19 cases in Ghana increased to 7,509 as of Saturday morning as 790 new cases were confirmed, said the Ghana Health Service (GHS).

The new cases took the overall tally to 74,347 with 66,333 recoveries, according to the GHS. 

Meanwhile, 23 more COVID-19 patients have died of the disease, bringing the death toll to 505, the GHS said.

The West African country expects to receive its first consignment of COVID-19 vaccines in March.


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