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Monday, March 08, 2021, 22:55
Hungary's death rate turns critical as vaccination beats EU
By Agencies
Monday, March 08, 2021, 22:55 By Agencies

Military police officers stand outside a supermarket as its manager closes the store during an operation in the Lapa neighborhood, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on March 6, 2021. Commercial activities and the movement of people are restricted for a week through a decree in an effort to contain the COVID-19 pandemic in Rio de Janeiro. (ANDRE COELHO / AFP)

MOSCOW / PARIS / ADDIS ABABA / LONDON / MEXICO CITY / NORWAY / VIENNA / SAO PAULO / ALGIERS / RABAT / QUITO / HAVANA / BERLIN / ROME / KAMPALA / SANTIAGO / BOGOTA / WARSAW - Hungary’s coronavirus mortality rate has risen to one of the world’s worst, forcing Prime Minister Viktor Orban to severely tighten a lockdown even as the country is among the European Union leaders in COVID -19 vaccinations.

Schools and nearly all retail outlets closed on Monday, denting optimism over the nation having jumped to second place in vaccinations per capita in the EU, behind tiny Malta. With more than 1 million jabs, Hungary has administered 13.2 doses per 100 people, compared with the trading bloc’s average of 9.1.

And at home, Hungarians are facing the yearlong pandemic’s highest daily infections over the weekend, with reports of hospitals struggling to keep up with the influx of coronavirus patients. The surge was seemingly a surprise for the government, which recently had been discussing easing previous curbs.

Hungary has the third-highest COVID -19 fatality rate in the world after Mexico and Peru and is in fourth place in deaths per capita after the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom and Italy, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Brazil

Brazil's COVID-19 tally rose to 11,019,344 COVID-19 Sunday amid a second wave of the outbreak of the disease, the Brazilian Ministry of Health said.

The death toll reached 265,411 after 1,086 additional deaths were logged in the last 24 hours, a record figure for a Sunday, the ministry said.

The country's hospital network has been on the edge of collapse due to the second wave caused by the P1 variant, which is more contagious and deadly than the original strain.

The states of Mato Grosso, Santa Catarina, Parana, and Rio Grande do Sul have reported 100 percent capacity in intensive care units with lines of patients waiting for beds. The governments of those states have requested other states to accept and treat their patients.

The state of Sao Paulo, the most populous in the country, said local hospitals were at 80 percent occupancy, and that a field hospital would be opened in the state capital.

Africa tally

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases recorded in Africa reached 3,958,121 as of Sunday evening, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said.

The death toll stood at 105,561 while the total number of recoveries stood at 3,536,160, according to the Africa CDC.

African countries are facing several challenges as they are in need of vaccines, Africa CDC Director John Nkengasong said on Sunday.

He added that "our population has begun to face what is called pandemic fatigue. We have been doing this for one year and people are getting tired."

ALSO READ: WHO warns of 'mass trauma' caused by COVID-19 pandemic

A ground crew member transports COVID-19 vaccines from COVAX at Bole international airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 7, 2021. (MICHAEL TEWELDE / XINHUA)

Algeria

Algeria on Sunday reported 130 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number of infections in the North African country to 123,234.

The death toll rose to 3,013 after three more fatalities were added, the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

Meanwhile, another 118 patients have recovered from the disease, bringing the total number of recoveries in the country to 79,124, according to the statement.

Austria

Austria stopped shots from one batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine after two incidents involving women who received shots from that batch. 

One 49-year-old woman died from a severe coagulation dysfunction, and one 35 year-old woman developed a pulmonary embolism but is now recovering. A pulmonary embolism is an acute lung disease caused by a dislodged blood clot.

The Austrian Federal Office for Safety in Health Care said on its website that “there is no evidence of a causal relationship” with the vaccination, and that “thrombotic events in particular are not among the known or typical side effects of the vaccine in question.”

An AstraZeneca spokesman said: “There have been no confirmed serious adverse events associated with the vaccine,” adding that all batches are subject to strict and rigorous quality controls.

AstraZeneca also said it was in contact with Austrian authorities and would fully support the investigation.

Belarus 


Belarus reported 930 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, taking its total to 296,441, according to the country's health ministry.

There have been 713 new recoveries in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 287,197, the ministry added.

So far, 2,047 people have died of the disease in the country, including nine over the past 24 hours, it said.

As of Monday, 5,017,026 tests for the virus have been conducted across Belarus, including 9,872 over the past 24 hours, according to official figures. 

Chile

Chile reported 5,280 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, bringing the cumulative caseload to 855,785, the Ministry of Health reported.

It was the third consecutive day that the country posted more than 5,000 fresh infections in a day.

The ministry also reported 69 more deaths, taking the death toll to 21,077.  

There were 28,557 active cases in the country, according to the ministry.

Colombia

Colombia registered 3,411 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, pushing the country’s infection tally to 2,276,656, the Ministry of Health and Social Protection said on Sunday.

The country reported 91 more deaths, raising the death toll to 60,503, the ministry said.

The Colombian government said 296,240 doses of vaccines have been administered nationwide in the first stage of the National Vaccination Plan. 

The government plans to vaccinate more than 35 million Colombians against COVID-19 in 2021.

Cuba

The Cuban Ministry of Public Health reported four more COVID-19 deaths and 858 new cases on Sunday.

The figures took the totals to 55,693 confirmed cases and 348 deaths, said Francisco Duran, national director of hygiene and epidemiology at the ministry.

The total number of recoveries went up by 890 to 50,779, Duran said, adding that there were 28 patients are in critical condition and 41 in serious condition.

Cyprus

Cyprus said it will let in Britons who have had two COVID-19 jabs from May, opening the door to a wave of older UK holidaymakers as it targets an early return in the tourist traffic on which its economy relies.

Under the arrangement, which follows a Cypriot deal with Israel last month, visiting Brits must have had a second dose of a European Medicines Agency-approved vaccine at least seven days before traveling.

Cyprus will require no negative COVID-19 test and there’ll be no quarantine for those who have been fully vaccinated, though sample testing could be carried out and people must comply with health protocols such as mask wearing and social distancing. Actual entry dates will be subject to travel advice issued by the British government, Savvas Perdios, Cyprus’s tourism minister, told the state news agency.

Danmark

Bavarian Nordic is ready to start human testing of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate, following strong pre-clinical results, the Danish pharmaceutical company said in an announcement on Monday.

"We are pleased to report strong pre-clinical results for ABNCoV2, which support further development," Bavarian Nordic CEO Paul Chaplin said.

According to the company, the latest vaccine candidate was shown to be effective against both COVID-19 and subsequent problems with the disease during trials.

The next step, a human study at Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands, will be divided into Phase 1 and 2 with 42 healthy adults participating.

If the first two phases prove the vaccine's effectiveness, a Phase 3 study will subsequently be carried out.

Ecuador

Ecuador has registered 1,560 new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 294,503, the Ministry of Public Health reported on Sunday.

The ministry also said 12 more deaths were reported, raising the toll to 11,258.

According to official figures, the majority of the new cases were posted in the provinces of Manabi, Guayas, and Pichincha, where the capital city of Quito is located.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia logged 1,109 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the tally to 166,138, the Ministry of Health said on Sunday.

Nine newly reported deaths took the death toll to 2,429, the ministry said.

The total number of recoveries went up by 715 more recoveries registered, the total recoveries rose to 138,500, it added.

The latest figures from the Africa CDC showed that Ethiopia's COVID-19 cases accounted for about 4 percent of the total number of confirmed cases recorded on the African continent.

EU

A senior European Medicines Agency (EMA) official urged European Union (EU) members on Sunday to refrain from granting national approvals for Russia's Sputnik V vaccine while the agency reviews its safety and effectiveness.

“We need documents that we can review. We also don’t at the moment have data...about vaccinated people. It is unknown. That’s why I would urgently advise against giving a national emergency authorization,” EMA managing board head Christa Wirthumer-Hoche told a talk show on Austrian broadcaster ORF.

Meanwhile, Wirthumer-Hoche said EMA’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) would hold an extraordinary meeting on March 11 to review Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine for use in the EU.

In another development, EU member states have received only about a third of the quarterly target for COVID-19 vaccines produced by Moderna, according to a delivery schedule published by a Hungarian official on Facebook.

The bloc is slated to receive 10 million of the shots in the January-March period, with deliveries set to accelerate later in the year, the data show.

Gergely Gulyas, the cabinet minister to Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Hungary’s government, published the schedule in defense of a decision to opt out of additional purchases.

France

The president of France's Haute Autorite de Sante (HAS) health regulator, Dominique Le Guludec, said on Monday that France could approve Johnson & Johnson's (J&J) COVID-19 vaccine by by Friday or Saturday this week, once it got approval from the European Union's EMA drug regulator.

Thousands of people across France flocked to vaccination centers on Sunday as the government stepped up inoculations against the coronavirus to ease the load on hospitals and stave off further restrictions.

“It’s a race against time,” Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly told reporters visiting one of four military hospitals opened on Sunday for vaccinations.

Some 220,000 people were vaccinated on Saturday, more than twice as many as last week. So far, about 3.77 million people of France’s 67 million population have received a first jab.

People gather on the banks of the Canal Saint Martin during warm weather in Paris, France, on March 7, 2021 amid the coronavirus pandemic. (LEWIS JOLY / AP)

France reported 21,825 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases on Sunday, down from 23,306 on Saturday, and pushing the cumulative tally to 3,904,233.

The health ministry also reported 130 additional COVID-19 deaths, taking the overall toll to 88,574. The number of people in intensive care rose by 54 to 3,743.

The health ministry has asked regional health agencies and hospitals to enter “crisis organization” to prepare for a possible surge in coronavirus cases as a result of highly contagious variants, Le Journal Du Dimanche reported. 

“This crisis organisation must be implemented in each region, regardless of the level of hospital stress and must be operational from Thursday Feb. 18,” the DGS health authority said in a memo cited by the newspaper on Sunday.

ALSO READ: UK expands vaccine program as more age groups offered shot

Germany

Germany will drastically speed up its vaccination campaign in the next few weeks with as many as 10 million weekly inoculations from the end of March, according to Finance Minister Olaf Scholz.

In April, May and June, vaccination centers and doctors will have to handle millions of doses every week, Scholz said in an interview with ZDF television on Sunday night. “And I have seen to it that this will be well prepared for.”

Germany has so far given 8.8 shots per 100 people, according to the Bloomberg vaccine tracker. That compares with more than 27 doses in the US and almost 35 in the UK. 

The country used a total of 7.33 million doses since inoculations started ten weeks ago, according to the tracker.

In a move that will likely aid the rollout effort, Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine is expected to be accepted at the European level this week, European Union internal markets chief Thierry Breton said on France 2 television. He said that the EU would double its monthly vaccine production and would see output of 90 million to 100 million doses a month by the end of March.

“This month we will have even fewer vaccines, which means we have to supplement priorities and add flexibility,” Bavaria’s Prime Minister Markus Soeder told ARD television on Monday. 

Germany’s sluggish vaccination pace has contributed to the need for a longer lockdown, with Merkel last week extending most curbs to March 28.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 5,011 to 2,505,193, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Monday. The reported death toll rose by 34 to 71,934.

Greece

Greece plans to lift COVID-19 restrictions in the retail sector and open schools before the end of March and begin to re-open the tourism sector in May ahead of the vital summer season, a government spokeswoman said on Monday.

The decision hinges on epidemiological data, Aristotelia Peloni told reporters.

In the mid-term, as vaccinations progress, the government plans to allow outdoor dining in April and to restart tourism, which accounts for about a fifth of Greece’s economic output and employs one in five people.

Greece, which has suffered 6,758 COVID deaths, was recently forced to extend a lockdown in the wider Athens region to March 16 due to a resurgence in infections but Peloni said there were signs of hope ahead.

Guinea

Guinea received a first batch of 20,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine on Sunday, Russian officials in the West African country said. More doses are expected soon, according to statement on the Russian embassy’s Facebook page.

Guinea became the first country in Africa to start inoculating on Dec 31 when it began administering Sputnik V doses as part of a clinical trial.

Italy

Italy reported 207 coronavirus-related deaths on Sunday against 307 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 20,765 from 23,641 the day before.

To date, Italy has registered 99,785 deaths linked to COVID-19 since its outbreak began in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the seventh-highest in the world. The country has reported 3.07 million cases to date.

Patients in hospital with COVID-19 - not including those in intensive care - stood at 21,144 on Sunday, up from 20,701 a day earlier.

The Italian health ministry will extend next week the use of Astrazeneca's COVID-19 vaccine to people over the age of 65 and expects to inoculate half of the country's 60 million population by end-June, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said in an interview with state-owned television RAI on Sunday.

Speranza also said that Italy is open to work with Russian authorities “to reinforce production” of the Sputnik V vaccine, once the European Medicines Agency determines that the vaccine is “safe and sure.” He added: “I’m not interested in the nationality of the scientists who worked on it.”

Morocco

Morocco's COVID-19 tally rose to 486,223 on Sunday after 249 new cases were registered, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Health.

The death toll reached 8,682 after six more deaths were logged, according to the statement. 

The total number of recoveries went up by 321 to 472,240, while there are 372 people in intensive care units, according to the statement.

Mexico

Mexico's health ministry on Sunday reported 2,734 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country and 247 additional fatalities, bringing the total tally to 2,128,600 infections and 190,604 deaths.

Health officials have said the real number of infected people and deaths in Mexico is likely significantly higher than the official count because of a lack of wide-scale testing.

North Macedonia

The Republic of North Macedonia has approved Russia’s Sputnik V shot for emergency use against the coronavirus, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) said on Sunday.

The move comes on the same day the first batch of 3,000 doses of the Sputnik V arrived in North Macedonia, Health Minister Venko Filipce said via a Facebook post.

A total of 200,000 doses of vaccines have been ordered, according to Filipce.

North Macedonia's ministry reported 333 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, taking the tally to 107,163, along with 94,729 recoveries and 3,195 fatalities.

Norway

Norway will likely need stronger restrictions to combat the latest resurgence in coronavirus infections, Minister Erna Solberg said in a televised speech on Sunday.

"Ahead of us is another hill to climb, probably with tighter national measures before we can ease and then lift the restrictions," Solberg said.

She did not outline which additional measures could be needed to curb the COVID-19 outbreak however.

As of March 4, the nation of 5.4 million had vaccinated close to 377,600 people with a first dose, and nearly 200,700 had also received a second dose, according to data from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

Poland

Poland could this week see up to 20,000 new coronavirus cases a day, the health ministry said on Monday, as it grapples with its third wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

A ministry spokesman told the private radio station Radio Plus that Poles should expect restrictions during the Easter holidays.

Russia

Russia on Monday reported 10,253 new coronavirus cases in the previous 24 hours, including 1,421 in Moscow, taking the national case tally to 4,333,029 since the pandemic began.

The government's coronavirus taskforce said 379 more people had died, bringing the official death toll to 89,473.

Tens of millions of doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine could be produced a month in Europe, Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive officer of the state-run Russian Direct Investment Fund which backed its development, told Italian Rai3 television Sunday.

“There are many Italian regions which are enthusiastic about having Sputnik, they would also want to produce it,” said Dmitriev, who is in charge of Sputnik’s international roll-out. “We have a partnership in Germany, we’re talking to several French companies.” Production in Italy could start in June, he added.

Boxes of Russia's Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccines are seen at a warehouse of Hungaropharma, a Hungarian pharmaceutical wholesale company, in Budapest, Hungary, March 4, 2021, after a shipment of 280,000 doses of the vaccine arrived in Hungary. (ZOLTAN MATHE / MTI VIA AP)

Uganda

Uganda on Sunday received a second batch of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, consisting of 100,000 doses, from India.

On Friday, Uganda received the initial batch of 864,000 doses through the COVAX Facility.

According to the Ministry of Health, the country's vaccination program will be officially launched on Monday and rolled out countrywide on Wednesday.

The ministry said the vaccines will be used to vaccinate persons that provide essential services and are high risk of exposure, including elderly people, health workers, teachers and soldiers.

Uganda requires at least 45 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to vaccinate the 45 million people in the country and extra doses to cater to the refugee population, according to the ministry.

China has donated some 300,000 doses of Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccines to Uganda, and the ministry is working on technical processes for receiving it.

UK

Millions of English children and teenagers headed back to school on Monday for the first time in two months, having endured their second extended stretch of home learning because of a strict national lockdown to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Another 5,177 people in Britain have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the cumulative caseload to 4,218,520, according to official figures released Sunday.

Owing to processing issues for deaths in England, the death toll will be updated later, according to an official statement published on the government website.

More than 22.2 million people in Britain have been given the first jab of the coronavirus vaccine, according to the latest official data.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has confirmed that two-fifths of Britain's entire adult population of have now been vaccinated and the government is "on course" to offering a first vaccine dose to all adults by the end of July.

US

High school students in the United States should be able to receive COVID-19 vaccinations by the autumn, with younger students likely to be cleared for vaccinations in early 2022, top US infectious disease official Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Sunday.

Fauci said he expected the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue relaxed guidelines for people who have already been vaccinated within “the next couple of days,” but urged continued vigilance on mitigation measures for the over 80 percent of Americans still awaiting shots.

Fauci also warned that US cases remain “very high” and a rush to lift virus-related restrictions risks triggering another surge.

“Plateauing at a level of 60,000-70,000 new cases per day is not an acceptable level,” Fauci said. “That is really very high.”

The US has so far reported 28.9 million confirmed cases and more than 524,000 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

The country has administered 90,351,750 doses of COVID-19 vaccines as of Sunday morning and distributed 116,363,405 doses, the CDC said.


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