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Tuesday, February 16, 2021, 19:13
Virus: Encouraging vaccine data emerges from UK, Israel
By Agencies
Tuesday, February 16, 2021, 19:13 By Agencies

Medical workers prepare syringes with doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine at the Welcome Centre in Ilford, east London, Feb 5, 2021. (FRANK AUGSTEIN / AP)

GENEVA / SAO PAULO / BRUSSELS / ROME / BELGRADE / BISSAU / HARARE / BOGOTA / PRAGUE / PARIS / ALGIERS / TUNIS / SANTIAGO / MALABO / LISBON / MEXICO CITY / TIRANA / QUITO / ADDIS ABABA / COPENHAGEN / STOCKHOLM / RABAT / LUSAKA / VILNIUS / MOSCOW / JOHANNESBURG - Early evidence is emerging from countries including Israel and the United Kingdom on the effectiveness of their COVID-19 vaccination drives.

Israel’s Clalit health service provider found a 94 percent drop in symptomatic cases among vaccinated individuals, according to results released earlier this week from the largest study to date done in the country. It compared 600,000 people over the age of 16 who had received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to a group with similar characteristics who weren’t vaccinated.

In the UK, which has delivered one of the most successful immunization programs in the world, Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi told Times Radio on Tuesday that early data is “really encouraging.”

“The Oxford team had some early data that was really encouraging on transmission that has to be peer reviewed, and we’re waiting for our own data as well,” he said. When it comes to reopening the economy, “we have to be data-driven, rather than just date-driven.”

WHO

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday said that the number of weekly reported cases of COVID-19 has fallen by almost half so far this year.

The figure has declined from more than 5 million cases in the week starting Jan 4 to 2.6 million cases in the week starting Feb 8, Tedros said at a virtual press conference.

"This shows that simple public health measures work, even in the presence of variants," the WHO chief said.

According to him, the number of reported cases globally has now declined for the fifth consecutive week, and last week saw the lowest number of reported weekly cases since October 2020.

The WHO cleared AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine for emergency use, validating two versions of the vaccine, produced with SK Bioscience Co of South Korea and the Serum Institute of India

"What matters now is how we respond to this trend. The fire is not out, but we have reduced its size. If we stop fighting it on any front, it will come roaring back," he said.

Tedros said the world now has all the pieces in place for the rapid distribution of vaccines, but countries still need to scale-up production and make efforts on vaccine equity.

ALSO READ: New WTO chief vows to promote free flow of vaccines, reform

On the same day, the WHO cleared AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine for emergency use, adding its official approval to a shot that’s expected to speed up inoculations in developing countries.

The WHO validated two versions of the vaccine, produced with SK Bioscience Co of South Korea and the Serum Institute of India.

The listing by the UN health agency comes days after a WHO panel provided interim recommendations on the vaccine, saying two doses with an interval of around 8 to 12 weeks should be given to all adults, and can be used in countries with the South African variant of the coronavirus as well.

Global tally

Coronavirus cases worldwide exceeded 109.1 million while the global death toll topped 2.4 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Africa tally

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases recorded on the African continent reached 3,750,266 as of Monday, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said, adding that the death toll stood at 98,480.

South Africa

South Africa plans to share the 1 million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses it received from the Serum Institute of India with other African countries via the African Union (AU), a senior health official said on Tuesday.

The country paused the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine this month, after preliminary trial data showed it offered minimal protection against mild to moderate illness from the country’s dominant coronavirus variant.

It plans to start inoculating healthcare workers with Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine as soon as this week in a research study. About 80,000 doses of J&J’s vaccine, which come from stock made for clinical trials, are expected to arrive from Belgium on Tuesday, according to Business Day. 

“The doses are going to be shared with countries on the continent, ... via the AU,” Anban Pillay, deputy director-general at the Department of Health, told Reuters.

He added that South Africa would look to recover money spent on the vaccine doses but was still finalising how to do that.

Pillay said a report in Indian newspaper The Economic Times that South Africa had asked the Serum Institute to take back the 1 million doses that arrived at the start of the month was not true.

Also on Tuesday, South Africa’s health ministry said the manufacturers of Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine had submitted documentation to local medicines regulator SAHPRA for registration.

It added that scientists were conducting detailed analyses on the vaccine, following concerns about the effects of its Ad5 component on communities with a high prevalence of HIV.

Poland

The seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases in Poland is on the rise for the first time since mid-November, Health Minister Adam Niedzielski tweeted on Tuesday.

“The trend reversal is becoming a fact,” he wrote, the day after the country reported 5,178 new cases. TV footage showed crowds partying on the streets of the mountain resort Zakopane over the weekend when ski slopes and hotels partially reopened for a two-week trial period.

A medical staff prepares and processes PCR and antibody tests of people suspected of being infected with the novel coronavirus, at the laboratory of the Karolinska Hospital in Solna near Stockholm, Sweden, on Dec 7, 2020. (JONATHAN NACKSTRAND / AFP)

Sweden

More than 200 children have been diagnosed with long-term COVID-19 symptoms in Stockholm, statistics by Swedish Television (SVT) showed Monday.

The Astrid Lindgren's Children's Hospital in the Swedish capital has lately seen a surge in children seeking medical care for prolonged symptoms of COVID-19, SVT reported.

Fatigue, a sore throat, headaches and nausea are among the most common symptoms. Concentration problems and memory gaps have also been reported.

The average age is 11-13 and in some cases, the symptoms are debilitating, said Malin Ryd Linder, chief physician at the clinic specialized in long-term disease in children.

"Some go to school, while some are completely bedridden," she told SVT News.

While the latest statistics showed 214 children have been diagnosed in the capital, the severity of the problem is unknown as there are no figures for the rest of the country.

Having noticed that long-term COVID-19 symptoms are a widespread problem, the Swedish government has decided that there is a need for further research.

"It is not currently known what these remaining symptoms are due to or how they should be treated," the government said last week, when presenting plans to fund research into the issue with 50 million SEK (US$6 million).

Ireland

Ireland reported its first day without COVID-19 deaths in nearly two months, amid what officials called “very considerable progress” suppressing the virus. There were 821 new cases Monday, with no deaths, the first day without fatalities since Dec 21.

The virus is “going in the right direction, but we’re not there yet,” Deputy Chief Medical Officer Ronan Glynn told reporters in Dublin.

France

France reported 4,376 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Monday, up slightly from last Monday’s 4,317 and compared with 16,547 on Sunday.

France typically registers a low number of new cases the day after the weekend, but the week-on-week increase remained below 4 percent for the fourth day in a row and is now back to levels last seen at the start of the year.

The total case count is now up to 3.47 million, and the health ministry reported an additional 412 deaths on Monday, taking the toll to 82,226.

The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 rose by 77 to 26,522, while the number of people in intensive care with the virus rose by 72 to a new 2021 high of 3,381.

The ministry also reported that the number of people vaccinated against the disease rose by 112,596 to 3.01 million, including more than 720,000 second injections.

French vaccination chief Alain Fischer said the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson should be approved in Europe soon and could be rolled out in France’s vaccination campaign by April.

READ MORE: Virus: UK PM to appeal to G7 leaders for vaccine cooperation

Brazil

The Brazilian city of Araraquara on Monday became the first in Sao Paulo state to decree a total lockdown after registering 12 locally-originated cases of the Amazon variant of COVID-19, the government reported.

The 15-day lockdown aims to prevent further transmission of the P1 variant detected in individuals who have not traveled to the Amazon area, Edinho Silva, the mayor, told reporters.

Under the order, non-essential activities are banned and the movement of people through the city will be limited, with checkpoints in place. Supermarkets can operate until 8:00 pm while all other authorized essential activities must close by 7:00 pm.  

Brazil recorded 528 additional COVID-19 deaths and 32,197 new coronavirus cases, the health ministry said on Monday.

Brazil has suffered nearly 9.9 million cases and close to 240,000 deaths since the outbreak began, according to data from the ministry.

Russia

Russia registered 13,233 COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, the lowest daily increase since Oct. 10, the country's COVID-19 response center said Tuesday.

The new cases took the overall caseload to 4,099,323. 

Meanwhile, deaths rose by 459 to 80,979, the center said.

Moscow, Russia's worst-hit region, reported 1,409 new cases, down from 1,818 the previous day, taking the city's total to 959,405.

Greece

Greece is suspending COVID-19 vaccinations for Tuesday in Athens and its surrounding Attica region given bad weather conditions, the country’s health ministry said. 

The area, which accounts for just under half of the Greek population of 11 million, has seen unusual heavy snowfall overnight including in central Athens. Citizens will be notified of rescheduled appointments, the ministry said.

People over the age of 60 wait to get the AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19 as Mexico begins vaccinating its elderly population for the new coronavirus in the outlying Milpa Alta borough of Mexico City, on Feb 15, 2021. (REBECCA BLACKWELL / AP)

Mexico

Mexico on Monday began the task of vaccinating millions of senior citizens against the coronavirus, with dozens of Mexicans over 60 years old waiting in line for hours because of delays in administering shots.

Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum apologized for the delays. Some sites did not receive the vaccine until three hours after lines began forming at 8 am, the mayor said. By mid-afternoon, the city had given shots to 10,565 people.

Sheinbaum told reporters the government was working to speed up registrations and provide more chairs to people waiting, after complaints that some had nowhere to sit.

A 67-year-old woman was the only person to suffer an allergic reaction to the vaccine; she was now in stable condition in hospital, Sheinbaum said. Another person fainted while in line and was given a wheelchair, she added.

Mexico’s health ministry on Monday reported 450 additional deaths from coronavirus in the country, bringing the overall toll to 174,657. 

EU

The European Union (EU) will this week kick off a new program to study mutations in the coronavirus, in a bid to prepare for the next generation of vaccines that might be needed, the European Commission’s president told Les Echos.

The program, dubbed “HERA incubator,” will bring together health authorities and laboratories and have its own funding, Ursula von der Leyen said in an interview with the French financial newspaper. It will be launched on Wednesday.

In another development, the EU is holding talks with Moderna on buying more COVID-19 vaccine and AstraZeneca, with which talks have stalled, has suggested delivering doses of its own vaccine made outside Europe to make up for supply cuts, two EU sources said.

The EU is negotiating a new supply deal with Moderna that could nearly double the volume of vaccine doses from the US biotech firm, two senior EU officials involved in the talks told Reuters.

Under the deal being negotiated, the EU would secure 150 million additional doses from Moderna, on top of 160 million that have already been booked and have started being rolled out last month.

One of the two officials said some of the doses under the new deal could be delivered by June.

The EU is also close to finalizing talks with Novavax for 200 million doses, one of the officials said, confirming a Reuters report from last week.

Meanwhile, the EU and AstraZeneca are now holding weekly meetings to find ways to boost production quickly, the two sources said.

UK

Britain will provide COVID-19 vaccine certificates for its residents if they are required by other countries, although it is not planning to introduce them for use at home, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said on Tuesday.

Zahawi's remarks came after Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed on Monday ministers were in talks with overseas counterparts on the issue.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday he would plot a cautious but irreversible path out of the COVID-19 lockdown this week after the vaccination of 15 million vulnerable people.

Johnson said he would do everything he could to ensure that schools reopened on March 8.

Johnson, due to set the path out of lockdown on Feb 22, said rates of infection were still high and too many people were still dying.

READ MORE: UK PM mulls easing lockdown as vaccination milestone hit

Meanwhile, Johnson said that world powers should clinch a global treaty on pandemics to ensure proper transparency.

Speaking later from Downing Street, Johnson said there was not yet enough data about how vaccines were affecting the spread of COVID-19, though data from Israel, currently the world leader on vaccination, was promising.

The government’s chief medical adviser, Chris Whitty, said that there were several variants which appeared to slightly reduce the effectiveness of currently available vaccines.

Separately, Zahawi said the UK will look at making excess doses of coronavirus vaccinations available to other nations after it has vaccinated its adult population.

The government on Monday reported 9,765 new cases and 230 deaths, bringing the cumulative tally to 4,047,843 and the toll to 117,396, according to official figures.

Italy

Italy reported 258 coronavirus-related deaths on Monday against 221 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 7,351 from 11,068 the day before.

Italy has registered 93,835 deaths linked to COVID-19 and 2.73 million cases to date.

Patients in hospital with COVID-19 - not including those in intensive care - stood at 18,515 on Monday, while the total number of intensive care patients rose marginally to 2,089 from a previous 2,085.

Italian health ministry adviser Walter Ricciardi over the weekend called for a new lockdown, citing the rise in virus cases linked to new strains. 

The government of incoming Prime Minister Mario Draghi was forced to make a last-minute U-turn on the planned opening of ski lifts on Monday throughout the country, ruling that they will remain closed until at least March 5.

An access to the ski lift area in Bardonecchia, northern Italy, is deserted on Feb 15, 2021, after the Italian government on Feb 14 abruptly delayed opening Italy's beloved ski season because a coronavirus variant was detected in a good portion of recently infected persons in the country. (MARCO ALPOZZI / LAPRESSE VIA AP)

Serbia

Hundreds of people held a minute’s silence in front of Serbia’s government building on Monday to pay their respects to doctors and nurses killed by COVID-19 and to demand more is done to protect health workers.

Of the 4,245 people who have died in Serbia from COVID-19, around 2.5 percent or 105 were doctors, according to official figures.

Guinea-Bissau

Guinea-Bissau's High Commission of fighting against COVID-19 announced on Monday that the country has detected the two coronavirus variants that were first discovered in the United Kingdom and South Africa.

"We hereby to [sic] inform you that we have registered 26 cases of the British-identified coronavirus variant, and one case of the South African-identified variant, among 40 samples sent to a laboratory certified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in The Gambia," announced Aldajie Balde, a member of the High Commission.

So far, Guinea-Bissau has reported 2,924 positive cases, including 2,464 recoveries and 46 deaths.

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Monday extended the six-week nationwide lockdown by a further two weeks, citing the need to further reduce COVID-19 cases and deaths.

At the same time, the president extended business operating hours from seven to nine and a half hours per day, and shortened a nighttime curfew from 12 hours to nine and a half hours. He also increased the capacity of staff working in governmental entities from 10 percent to 25 percent.

Mnangagwa said schools will remain closed for the duration of the lockdown, and maintained a ban on social gatherings as well as inter-city and inter-provincial travel.

Colombia

Colombia will begin COVID-19 vaccinations on Wednesday following the arrival of the country’s first vaccines, from Pfizer Inc, President Ivan Duque said in his nightly broadcast on Monday.

The first vaccinations will take place in the cities of Sincelejo and Monteria, capitals of Colombia’s Sucre and Cordoba provinces respectively, Health Minister Fernando Ruiz said during the broadcast.

Vaccinations will begin on Thursday in capital city Bogota, as well as other large cities.

The goal is to vaccinate 1 million Colombians in the first 30 days and Monday’s shipment is the first of a block of 1.65 million which will arrive over the next three weeks. The country has the capacity to conduct up to 100,000 vaccinations per day, the health ministry added.

Frontline healthcare workers will be the first to be vaccinated, followed by those over 80 years old.

Colombia has recorded just under 2.2 million cases of coronavirus and 57,786 deaths.

A teacher welcomes preschool students back to school on their first day back to in-person class amid the COVID-19 pandemic in Bogota, Colombia, Feb 15, 2021. (FERNANDO VERGARA / AP)

Czech Republic

The Czech government plans to reopen schools for more students from March 1 with regular testing for coronavirus infections, which remain at high levels, ministers said on Monday.

In-class tuition is at the moment open only for children in the two lowest grades of elementary schools, along with kindergartens.

Education Minister Robert Plaga said the return would start with final years of primary and secondary schools and be followed by other grades, hand in hand with the government’s ability to secure enough suitable rapid-result antigen tests.

The plan for school reopening comes as hospitals in several regions creak under the inflow of COVID-19 patients, which is in part due to the spread of the more infectious British variant of the virus.

The country of 10.7 million has reported 18,250 coronavirus deaths since the star to the pandemic, and daily cases were the second-highest in Europe after Portugal in the past two weeks according to data from EU’s disease control agency ECDC.

Germany

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 3,856 to 2,342,843, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Tuesday. The reported death toll rose by 528 to 65,604, the tally showed.

Germany said on Monday its decision to impose border controls with the Czech Republic and Austria is a temporary measure of last resort and it defended a lockdown extension against business demands for a roadmap to reopening.

Germany installed frontier checks on Sunday, drawing protest from Austria and concerns about supply-chain disruptions that could damage the country’s export-oriented manufacturing sector.

“We have a situation in which we had to take all the necessary steps to prevent the virus variants...spreading as quickly in Germany as they are doing unfortunately in neighbouring countries,” Steffen Seibert, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief spokesman, said at a news conference.

German police at the Czech and Austrian frontiers have been allowing in only truck drivers, German citizens and cross-border commuters in possession of negative COVID-19 test certificates.

Many German manufacturers, especially carmakers, rely on parts produced in eastern Europe and there have been fears that strict controls could crimp production.

Algeria

Algeria on Monday reported 183 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of cases in the North African country to 110,894.

The death toll rose to 2,943 after four more fatalities were added, the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

Another 169 new recoveries were reported, bringing the total number of recoveries to 76,228, the ministry added.

Tunisia

The Tunisian health ministry on Monday reported 305 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number of infections to 223,549.

Deaths went up by 31 to 7,575, the ministry said in a statement.

The number patients in hospitals stood at 1,449, including 316 in intensive care units, while the total number of recoveries reached 183,530, the ministry said.

US

The United States recorded 65,336 new COVID-19 infections on Sunday, the lowest daily number since Oct 25, before a holiday surge sent case numbers soaring, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University (JHU) and Bloomberg.

So far, the US has reported over 27.6 million confirmed cases and more than 486,000 deaths, according to a tally by JHU.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo acknowledged on Monday that his office should not have withheld data on COVID-19 nursing home deaths from state lawmakers, the public and press - falling short of an apology a senior aide made to lawmakers last week.

More than 15,000 people have died in New York state’s nursing homes and long term care facilities from COVID-19, but as recently as last month, the state reported only 8,500 deaths.

Chile

Almost 2 million people have been vaccinated against COVID-19 in Chile, the health ministry said on Monday in a statement.

Since the vaccination campaign began on Dec 24, a total of 1,922,691 people have been inoculated, including 1,072,670 over the age of 69.

Health Minister Enrique Paris said at a press conference that COVID-19 infections have declined by 15 percent in the last two weeks, leaving only 9.2 percent of the country's residents in lockdown.

The minister reported 3,333 new COVID-19 cases and 83 deaths in the past day, bringing the country's totals to 779,541 confirmed cases and 19,624 deaths. 

Equatorial Guinea

Equatorial Guinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo on Monday received his first dose of Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccine, according to the official website of the ruling Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE).

Last Wednesday, a batch of Sinopharm vaccines donated by China arrived in Malabo, capital of Equatorial Guinea. It was the first batch of vaccine aid provided by the Chinese government to African countries, according to a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Portugal

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa received on Monday the first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Lusa news agency.

Health Minister Marta Temido also confirmed that she had been vaccinated.

"To date, 533,070 inoculations have been made, of which 333,000 correspond to first doses and 200,000 to the second," Temido said at a press conference.

Temido said that Portugal has so far received 694,800 vaccine doses, adding that the Pfizer-BioNTech consortium has sent an additional 104,130 doses on Monday.

"We now expect more vaccines in the first quarter than we had eight days ago. I recall that we estimated 1.9 million, and today we are already estimating 2.5 million out of 4.4 million doses contracted for the first quarter," she said, adding that Portugal intends to vaccinate 70 percent of the population by the end of the summer.

Nigeria

The Nigerian government plans to inoculate about 109 million Nigerians who will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination in two years, a senior health official has said.

Speaking at the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 media briefing in Abuja on Monday, Faisal Shuaib, head of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, said the agency remains in anticipation of COVID-19 vaccines from the COVAX facility and the African Union.

"After excluding those that are under 18 years old, we plan to vaccinate approximately 109 million Nigerians that will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccination in two years," he said.

People who have priority for COVID-19 vaccination include frontline healthcare workers, those who work in high-risk areas such as point of entry workers, rapid response teams, contact tracing teams, and COVID-19 vaccination teams, Shuaib added.

Nigerian officials were recently quoted by local media as saying the country expected to relieve first doses of coronavirus vaccines by the end of February. 

Denmark

Danish authorities on Monday predicted that the entire country could be vaccinated against COVID-19 before the start of this summer due to a substantial increase in the projected number of vaccine doses deliveries.

All adult Danes can be vaccinated by June 27, a week earlier than previous estimates, because Pfizer can deliver more doses than expected, the nation’s Health Authority said. 

A total of 167,506 Danes have so far received both shots and have been vaccinated, according to the authorities.

About 4 percent of the population has received a first jab and just under 3 percent have received both shots.

Austria

Austria won’t reopen restaurants, bars, and cafes before the Easter holiday as new mutations from the UK and South Africa render the situation “volatile,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said.

Decisions about easing will be made in two weeks at the earliest, he said.

Peru

Hundreds of Peruvians abused positions of authority to get vaccinated in secret with the Sinopharm vaccine, President Francisco Sagasti said.

A total of 487 people took courtesy doses of China’s COVID-19 vaccine months before it became available to the public, Sagasti said in a national address. These included former head of state Martin Vizcarra, who apologized in a video posted on his Facebook page, and Health Minister Mazzetti, who quit over the weekend.

“Those who have been involved in these totally improper and inappropriate acts will not have a place in my government,” Sagasti said in an interview late on Sunday with América Televisión.

Peru’s Attorney General Zoraida Ávalos has opened a preliminary investigation against Vizcarra and those responsible for handling the doses, a spokesman told reporters.

Argentina

Argentina's health ministry said Monday 91 COVID-19 deaths were registered in the past 24 hours, raising the death toll to 50,327.

According to the ministry, 3,259 new COVID-19 infections were reported, bringing the nationwide count to 2,029,057.

Ecuador

Ecuador registered 478 fresh COVID-19 nfections and 34 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the cumulative caseload to 267,701 and the death toll to 10,633, the health ministry reported on Monday.

The capital Quito, the most populated city, remains the epicenter of the pandemic in the country with a total of 86,626 infections, according to statistics released by the ministry.

Albania

Albanian Minister of Education, Sports and Youth Evis Kushi said on Monday that she has tested positive for COVID-19 and is currently quarantined at home.

Kushi wrote on her Facebook account that she will continue to work from home and called on citizens to respect anti-coronavirus measures in order to prevent the spread of the virus.

The announcement came on the same day the health ministry reported 775 fresh infections, pushing the tally to 93,850.

Twelve more deaths were recorded, lifting the toll to 1,567.

Morocco

Morocco's COVID-19 tally rose to 478,595 on Monday as 121 new cases were registered during the past 24 hours.

According to a statement issued by the health ministry, the death toll reached 8,491 as 14 additional fatalities were recorded.

The total number of recoveries increased by 697 to 459,549, the ministry said, adding that there were 467 people in intensive care units.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia registered 733 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking the tally to 147,825, the Ministry of Health said Monday.

The death toll reached 2,209 after 15 more deaths were reported, while the total recoveries rose by 204 to 128,946.

Zambia

Zambia's COVID-19 death toll rose to 959 after eight additional fatalities were reported on Monday, the health ministry said.

According to the ministry, 501 of the total deaths were caused by COVID-19 while 458 were COVID-19 related. 

Meanwhile, the country detected 811 new cases, pushing the tally to 70,248, the ministry said.

The number of active cases stood at 6,027, while the total recoveries reached 63,262.

Lithuania

Lithuania expects to start mass vaccination against COVID-19 as early as this spring if vaccine producers can guarantee a stable supply, according to an updated vaccination plan by the health ministry on Monday.

All residents over 65 years old will be vaccinated in the first quarter if stable vaccine deliveries are ensured, according to the plan.

AstraZeneca's vaccine will be used to inoculate those aged 18 and older with an interval of 12 weeks between the first and second dose, according to the plan.

Earlier this year, President Gitanas Nauseda had said that he expected the country to get enough vaccine doses to inoculate 70 percent of its population during the first half of 2021.

So far, Lithuania has registered 190,937 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 3,080 deaths, according to the Department of Statistics.

Bayer

German drugmaker Bayer said on Monday it aims to deliver the first doses of CureVac’s COVID-19 vaccine from its factory in Wuppertal in Germany in the fourth quarter.

“We are very confident that we will even be able to deliver the first vaccines before the end of the year, if all goes well,” Chief Executive Werner Baumann said during a visit to the plant by the premier of North Rhine-Westphalia Armin Laschet.

Head of pharma Stefan Oelrich said the company expects to start production in the fourth quarter.

German biotech company CureVac, which began late-stage testing of the vaccine in December and expects to announce interim results this quarter, signed up Bayer to help produce its shot earlier this month. 


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