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Tuesday, June 15, 2021, 10:41
World Bank, AU join hands to deploy shots for 400m Africans
By Agencies
Tuesday, June 15, 2021, 10:41 By Agencies

A health worker receives a dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya, on March 5, 2021. (SIMON MAINA / AFP)

MOSCOW / HARARE / BERLIN / LUSAKA / COPENHAGEN / LONDON / ROME / HAVANA / QUITO / UNITED NATIONS / WASHINGTON / SANTIAGO / BUENOS AIRES / WINDHOEK / SAO PAULO / ADDIS ABABA / PARIS / KAMPALA / BUJUMBURA / DUBLIN / KINSHASA - The World Bank (WB) and the African Union (AU)'s COVID-19 Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT) on Monday announced a decision to work together to deploy vaccines for 400 million Africans.

The announcement came after President of the World Bank, David Malpass, met with the AVATT to discuss ways to accelerate vaccine deployment to Africa, according to a joint statement by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).

The AVATT had previously secured up to 400 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson single-shot COVID-19 vaccine with the support of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank).

Under the AVATT structure, AU member states are allocated vaccines according to the size of their populations through a pooled procurement mechanism.

As of Monday evening, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa had reached 5,049,036, with 134,818 deaths and 4,524,651 recoveries, according to the Africa CDC.

With minimal access to COVID-19 vaccines across the continent, latest figures show that only around 0.6 percent of Africa's population have received a full vaccine regimen. 

Russia

Several Russian regions tightened coronavirus restrictions on Tuesday and said they were increasing hospital capacity for an influx of patients after a steep rise in COVID-19 cases.

The local government in the far eastern region of Primorye said two hospitals would open in coming days in the cities of Ussuriysk and Vladivostok, and that they had created hundreds of new beds since April to treat COVID-19 patients.

The region of Buryatia in eastern Siberia said it needed more intensive care beds after a rise in cases this month.

In Moscow, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said the number of seriously-ill patients hospitalized in the capital has risen by 70 percent over the last several days, according to Interfax.

Nationwide, Russia on Tuesday reported 14,185 new cases in the last 24 hours, including 6,805 in Moscow, bringing the tally to 5,236,593.

The government coronavirus task force also confirmed 379 coronavirus-related deaths, pushing the death toll to 127,180. 

The Kremlin said it was not satisfied by the slow rate of COVID-19 vaccinations in Russia and that it saw inoculations as the only way to beat the pandemic.

Congo

The Democratic Republic of Congo will limit public gatherings to 20 people and close nightclubs as the country grapples with a third wave of COVID-19, President Felix Tshisekedi said on Tuesday.

Congo has officially registered relatively few cases, but low vaccination rates have left the country vulnerable to more contagious strains, including the highly-infectious Delta variant.

"For several weeks we have seen a persistent rise in the number of people infected," Tshisekedi said in a televised address. "We need to react with speed, and above all, methodically."

Congo has registered more than 35,000 infections and 834 deaths, according to figures from the Africa Centre for Disease Control. 

Greenland

Greenland has canceled all flights and ship departures from its capital Nuuk after registering six cases of COVID-19, Greenlandic Sermitsiaq newspaper reported on Tuesday.

"We have a spread of infection in Nuuk and one infected in Ilulissat," the Greenland's chief medical officer Henrik Hansen told a press briefing according to Sermitsiaq.

Mexico

Mexico aims to gradually lift pandemic-induced restrictions on its shared border with the United States as it progresses in vaccinating the local population against COVID-19, Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Tuesday.

Ebrard was speaking at a regular news conference ahead of meetings with U.S. Homeland Security Chief Alejandro Mayorkas in which the reopening of the border is due to be discussed.

Booster shot for transplant patients

A vaccine booster shot could help beef up protection against COVID-19 for some organ transplant recipients, a group fearful their suppressed immune systems may leave them defenseless as pandemic restrictions end.

A third of organ recipients who had no antibodies after their second dose developed them after a third dose, according to a small study reported Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The researchers also found that participants with just a small rise in their antibodies after their two-dose regimens had higher levels after they got an added shot.

The results are suggestive only, coming from a 30-person observational study by Johns Hopkins University researchers. 

“It’s showing us that the immune systems of immunosuppressed patients can be activated,” said Dorry Segev, one of the researchers and a professor of surgery and epidemiology at the university.

Earlier studies from the Johns Hopkins researchers showed transplant recipients, who must suppress their immune system with drugs so their bodies don’t reject donated organs, are less likely to develop antibodies after two doses of a messenger RNA vaccine, the type made by Pfizer Inc. and its partner BioNTech SE and by Moderna Inc.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France, Tuesday, June 8, 2021. (JEAN-FRANCOIS BADIAS / POOL / AP)

EU

The European Union has passed the 300 million COVID-19 vaccinations threshold, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Tuesday.

“We have passed 300 million vaccinations in the EU. Every day, we get closer to our goal: to have enough doses delivered to vaccinate 70 percent of adults in the EU next month,” Von der Leyen wrote on her Twitter account.

As of Monday, 53.3 percent of the EU adults had received at least one dose, and 353 million doses had been delivered to the 27-state bloc.

"By now, almost a third of all adults in the EU are fully vaccinated," European Commission deputy chief spokesperson Dana Spinant said Monday.

The EU vaccine strategy is based on a portfolio of different types of vaccines. To date, five vaccines have been granted conditional marketing authorization by the European Medicines Agency. Up to 4.4 billion doses have been bought by EU member states through advanced purchase agreements.

Romania

Romania asked vaccine makers to delay the delivery of over 4 million doses that were scheduled for June because it has a surplus of shots after a decline in daily inoculations, according to Deputy hHealth Minister Andrei Baciu. 

The country was supposed to get about 7 million doses in June and will only get 2.6 million.

Norway

Norway will return to an interval of 12 weeks between first and second vaccine doses. 

The move comes after estimates for deliveries by Pfizer-BioNTech for the next three months were cut by about 100,000 doses a week to 200,000. 

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health is also considering mixing Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots as the first and second doses.

Burundi

Inbound international travelers arriving via a major airport in Burundi can choose whether to quarantine at a hotel or at home.

As of Monday, travelers entering the central African nation via the Melchior Ndadaye International Airport in Bujumbura will be tested for the coronavirus and then choose whether to quarantine at a hotel or at home for at least 72 hours, said Jean Baptiste Nzorironkankuze, permanent secretary at the Burundian health ministry.

The test results will be delivered by email within 24 hours, and those who test positive will be treated at a screening and treatment center near the city center, said Nzorironkankuze after a meeting of the national committee in charge of managing the COVID-19 pandemic.

he government also requires travelers to submit a negative test result within 72 hours before their departure.

The country has also reopened the border crossing in Mugina in the southern province of Makamba, and the Kobero border crossing in the northern province of Muyinga, both with Tanzania, on June 1, Nzorironkankuze said.

Burundi has so far recorded 5,013 cases with eight deaths.  

Namibia 

Namibia has suspended the National Assembly sitting for this week following a rise in the number of positive COVID-19 cases, an official said Tuesday.

Normal sessions of the house are expected to resume on June 22.

Namibia's Speaker of the National Assembly Peter Katjavivi tested positive for COVID-19 Monday evening, said authorities. 

The speaker is in good spirits and is under self-isolation, David Nahogandja, the parliament's spokesperson, announced Tuesday.

Namibia has been experiencing a spike in COVID-19 infections and deaths and the country's President Hage Geingob is expected to address the nation on COVID-19 national response measures later Tuesday.

Namibia on Monday recorded a daily record of 726 new cases and another 13 deaths, bringing the tally to count to 65,815 and the toll to 1,008, according to the country's health ministry.

Zambia

Zambia's COVID-19 bedding occupancy on Tuesday reached 100 percent with health authorities indicating that the situation was not sustainable.

"Experience from across the globe has shown that once COVID-19 hospitalizations reach 40 percent bed capacity, the health care workers and other systems become overwhelmed due to the unique demands COVID-19 patients demand,"  Kennedy Malama, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health in charge of Technical Services, said.

He said having 726 in-patients due to COVID-19 with 195 admissions in the last 24 hours was alarming for a small population and called for concerted efforts by all stakeholders to contain the situation. Isolation facilities have just started admitting people in critical condition, he said.

The country saw 28 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total deaths to 1,444, Malama said.

The tally rose by 2,690 to 115,824 while the total number of recoveries increased by 901 to 99,895.

Health authorities on Monday threatened to impose restrictions if the current rate of COVID-19 cases and deaths continue.

Ireland

Ireland will double the quarantine period for unvaccinated or partially vaccinated arrivals from Britain to 10 days but still plans to allow people to move more freely between the two countries from mid-July, Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said.

The change is due to the rapid spread of the more infectious Delta variant in Britain, which delayed plans to lift most remaining COVID-19 restrictions there by a month on Monday.

Ryan said he hoped the 10-day quarantine for unvaccinated or partially vaccinated arrivals from Britain would only be place until July 19.

He added that falling COVID-19 case numbers meant Ireland was still on track to loosen its economic COVID-19 restrictions from July 5 when pubs and restaurants are due to be allowed to serve customers indoors for the first time this year.

Uganda

Uganda’s military started producing medical oxygen to bridge supplies in hospitals facing rising cases of COVID-19.

National Enterprises Corp., a unit of the army, has begun output at its Luwero Industries Ltd. unit north of the capital, Kampala, army spokeswoman Flavia Byekwaso said by phone Tuesday, without providing further details.

Four oxygen plants at Mulago Hospital, Uganda’s main referral facility, produce 2,083 liters of oxygen per minute, compared with demand of as much as 70 liters per minute for each patient in critical condition, the Kampala-based Daily Monitor newspaper reported. Mulago has 195 COVID-19 patients in severe to critical condition, it said.

Health Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Ainebyoona declined to comment when asked for details about the supply and demand of medical oxygen in Uganda.

Diana Atwine, permanent secretary at the ministry, said in an interview with local media on Monday that there was a high demand of oxygen due to the surge in numbers of COVID-19 patients in High Dependency Units and Intensive Care Units (ICU) across the country.

Infections in the East African country have climbed 34 percent since May 31 to 63,099, with 434 having died since the disease was first detected in the country in March 2020.

Germany

Germany could surpass the threshold of administering at least one dose of vaccine to half of the population, according to Chancellery Minister Helge Braun.

“I have the feeling when I look at the statistics that today could be the day on which we surpass 50 percent of first shots in the German population,” Braun said at a medical forum in Berlin. “That’s a great success.”

The health ministry will likely update its data on Germany’s vaccination campaign to include Tuesday’s figures on Wednesday morning. Through Monday, 48.7 percent had received at least their first shot, and just under 27 percent were fully vaccinated.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 652 to 3,716,170, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Tuesday. The reported death toll rose by 93 to 89,937.

German pharmacies started issuing digital vaccination certificates for fully vaccinated people, the Federal Union of German Associations of Pharmacists (ABDA) announced on Monday.

Participating pharmacies could be found via an online platform. Within a few hours, the first 140,000 certificates were already issued by more than 13,000 pharmacies, around two-thirds of all pharmacies in Germany, according to the ABDA.

An illustration picture shows vials with COVID-19 Vaccine stickers attached and syringes, with the logo of the University of Oxford and its partner British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, on Nov 17, 2020. (JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)

AstraZeneca 

AstraZeneca Plc’s antibody cocktail was only 33 percent effective at preventing COVID-19 symptoms in people who had been exposed to the virus, failing a study that was key to the drugmaker’s pandemic push.

The trial of 1,121 adult volunteers looked at whether the long-acting antibody combination could protect people who had recently been in contact with the SARS-CoV-2 virus in places like care homes. The company said it’s running other studies of the medicine that could help clarify the findings.

The outcome is a blow to Astra for a drug that was hoped to be a bright spot in the company’s pandemic efforts following the mixed success of its vaccine with the University of Oxford. Other drugmakers such as GlaxoSmithKline Plc have had some success in getting similar therapies through clinical tests and approved for people who are at risk of severe disease or can’t get vaccinated.

The study, conducted in the US and UK, showed 23 volunteers who got the AZD7442 cocktail developed symptomatic COVID-19 following exposure to the disease, compared with 17 cases in the placebo group. Twice as many participants got the antibody, but the difference between the two groups wasn’t considered statistically significant. The cocktail was well tolerated by participants.

All the trial participants had been exposed to a person with COVID-19 in the past eight days. Further analysis showed the drug had some preventive effect.

Volunteers who became infected up to a week after taking the antibody were 51 percent less likely to develop symptoms, the company said. That climbed to 92 percent if the patient didn’t record infection until more than a week after the injection. All participants had a negative antibody test when dosed to exclude prior infection.

The results suggest the cocktail “may be useful in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in individuals not already infected,” said Myron Levin, the study’s lead researcher and a professor of medicine at the University of Colorado. “There is still a significant need for prevention and treatment options for certain populations.”

Global tally

Coronavirus cases worldwide surpassed 176.27 million while the global death toll topped 3.81 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Brazil

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Monday asked Pfizer Inc to bring forward planned delivery of COVID-19 vaccines, a government source said, aiming to speed up a slow national inoculation program.

The request is a turnaround for Bolsonaro who last year ignored offers of vaccines from Pfizer, according to testimony to a Senate commission investigating delays in vaccinating the country with the world's second-deadliest outbreak.

Bolsonaro, his chief of staff and ministers of health and foreign affairs, held a conference call with Pfizer Brasil Chief Executive Marta Diez and Pfizer Latin America Chief Executive Carlos Murillo, the president's office said on social media.

Bolsonaro asked the Pfizer executives if deliveries for later this year could be brought forward to June, from the fourth quarter, a government official with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

Almost half a million Brazilians have died from COVID-19, yet only 10.3 percent of the country's 210 million people have received a first vaccine dose, and just 25 percent have been fully vaccinated, mainly with vaccines developed by China's Sinovac Biotech Ltd and AstraZeneca Plc.

Brazil registered 827 more deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the nationwide tally to 488,228, the health ministry said Monday.

A total of 39,846 new infections were detected, raising the nationwide caseload to 17,452,612, the ministry said.

Chile

Chile has fully vaccinated 59.2 percent of its target population against the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning 9,005,224 people have received both of their vaccine shots, the Health Ministry said Monday.

According to the Health Ministry, some 11,438,522 people have received their first shot, or 76.6 percent of the target population.

When launching its vaccination campaign earlier this year, the government said it would aim to immunize 80 percent of the populace, or 15 million people, by mid-year to achieve herd immunity.

Chile has thus been placed "among the first three countries in the world in range of vaccination per inhabitant," Health Minister Enrique Paris told a press conference.

Urging vaccine skeptics to get inoculated, Paris said that more vaccines would arrive this week to reinforce the country's voluntary inoculation campaign.

Chile on Monday registered 6,234 new daily cases of COVID-19 and 97 more deaths in a day, raising the country's confirmed caseload to 1,482,663 and the pandemic death toll to 30,804

A handout photograph taken and released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on May 24, 2021, shows the Director General of the WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus delivering a speech during the 74th World Health Assembly, at the WHO headquarters, in Geneva. (CHRISTOPHER BLACK / WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION / AFP)

WHO

Rising COVID-19 cases in Africa are “especially concerning” because the region has the least amount of access to vaccines, diagnostics and oxygen, said World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Together with the spread of more transmissible variants this increases the continent’s mortality rate among critically ill COVID-19 patients, he told reporters in a briefing Monday.

“Right now the virus is moving faster than the global distribution of vaccines,” he said. Public health and social measures may need to be “more stringent and applied for longer” in areas where vaccination rates remain low, he said.

Only 2.8 percent of Africa’s population is inoculated, compared with a global average of 14.5 percent.

Ghebreyesus on Monday also welcomed the Group of Seven's weekend pledge of 870 million COVID-19 vaccine doses but said that many more were needed and quickly.

"This is a big help, but we need more, and we need them faster," Ghebreyesus told a WHO news conference on Monday. Some 10,000 people are still dying each day from the disease and critically ill patients in Africa had a higher mortality rate, he said.

Novavax 

American biotechnology company Novavax announced Monday its COVID-19 vaccine demonstrated 100 percent protection against moderate and severe disease, and 90.4 percent efficacy overall in a late-stage clinical trial.

The Phase 3 study enrolled 29,960 participants across 119 sites in the United States and Mexico to evaluate efficacy, safety and immunogenicity, with an emphasis on recruiting a representative population of communities and demographic groups most impacted by the disease.

The vaccine, NVX-CoV2373, was also reported 93 percent efficacy against predominantly circulating Variants of Concern and Variants of Interest defined by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Preliminary safety data from the trial showed the vaccine to be generally well-tolerated. Serious and severe adverse events were low in number and balanced between vaccine and placebo groups.

Zimbabwe 

Zimbabwe has banned all sporting activities as part of new COVID-19 restrictions aimed at curtailing the spread of COVID-19.

In a statement on Sunday, the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) advised sports associations that all sporting events have been suspended indefinitely.

Zimbabwe's Vice President and Health Minister Constantino Chiwenga on Saturday announced additional restrictive measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 following a surge of cases in recent weeks.

As of Sunday, Zimbabwe had recorded 39,959 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,632 deaths.

ALSO READ: Mexico says virus has affected a fourth of its population

United States

Fully vaccinated visitors to Walt Disney Co's US theme parks will not be required to wear face masks in most areas starting on Tuesday, the company said, as the country's COVID-19 cases continue to decline.

The new policy applies to guests at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California.

Disney will not require proof of immunization, the company said in a blog post. But it said it expects people who are not fully vaccinated to continue wearing masks at indoor locations, except when dining.

Masks will be required for all guests on transportation, including buses, monorails and the Disney Skyliner gondolas.

Physical distancing will no longer be required at Disneyland as California has dropped that mandate for theme parks.

Mark Lowcock, the UN Under-Secretray-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator and Head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), attends the Saudi-UAE-OCHA Humanitarian High-level Meeting held at KSreleif headquarters in Riyadh, on May 22, 2019. (FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP)

UN

Outgoing UN aid chief Mark Lowcock slammed the Group of Seven wealthy nations on Monday for failing to come up with a plan to vaccinate the world against COVID-19, describing the G7 pledge to provide 1 billion doses over the next year as a “small step.”

“These sporadic, small-scale, charitable handouts from rich countries to poor countries is not a serious plan and it will not bring the pandemic to an end,” Lowcock, who steps down on Friday, told Reuters. “The G7, essentially, completely failed to show the necessary urgency.”

The leaders of the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy and Canada met in Cornwall, England over the weekend and also agreed to work with the private sector, the Group of 20 industrialized nations and other countries to increase the vaccine contribution over months to come.

“They took a small step - at that very, very nice resort in Cornwall - but they shouldn’t kid themselves it’s more than a small step and they have still have a lot to do,” Lowcock said.

“What the world needed from the G7 was a plan to vaccinate the world. And what we got was a plan to vaccinate about 10 percent of the population of low and middle income countries, maybe by a year from now or the second half of next year,” he said.

“That is the deal of the century,” said Lowcock, adding that the G7 could also have done a lot more to provide vital supplies - such as oxygen ventilators, testing kits and protective equipment - to countries who are going to have to wait longer for vaccines.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday urged world leaders to act with more urgency, warning that if developing countries were not vaccinated quickly, the virus would continue to mutate and could become immune to inoculation.

Denmark

Denmark on Monday started to phase out the requirement to wear face masks in all public areas before lifting it entirely by Sept 1.

As from Monday, the wearing of face masks is mandatory on public transport only during rush hours. Customers in shops and supermarkets, and those visiting hairdressers or nail salons, are exempt from the face mask rule.

The relaxation came after a new agreement was reached by the political parties in the Danish Parliament on Thursday. Accompanying the agreement, the Danish Health Authority has published a new set of guidelines that detail where face masks are now required, specifically "where there exists a perceived increased risk of infection."

ALSO READ: IEA: Global oil demand to hit pre-virus level next year

Italy

Italians under the age of 60 who received a first dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, known as Vaxzevria, can be given a different vaccine when they get their second dose, Italy's medicine agency AIFA said on Monday.

Last week, Italy's government restricted the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine to people over the age of 60, after a teenager who had received the shot died from a rare form of blood clotting. read more

"Based on clinical studies published in the last few weeks, AIFA's scientific committee has decided to approve the vaccine mix," AIFA said in a statement, adding vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna could be administered to people who first got an AstraZeneca jab.

As of Monday, over half of Italy or about 40 million of the country's 60 million inhabitants are now in COVID-19 "white zone", meaning that most anti-COVID restrictions are lifted following a new ordinance issued by Health Minister Roberto Speranza.

The only remaining COVID-19 regulations are social distancing and mask wearing both indoors and outdoors.

In the ordinance issued on Saturday, the regions of Emilia-Romagna, Lazio (whose capital is Rome), Lombardy (whose capital is Milan), Piedmont, Puglia and the Autonomous Province di Trento could join Abruzzo, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Liguria, Molise, the island region of Sardinia, Umbria, and the northern Veneto region whose capital is Venice, in the white zone.

According to the latest weekly COVID-19 monitoring report issued on June 11 and data from the National Institute of Health (ISS), "the incidence (of viral transmission) continues to drop," from 36 cases per 100,000 inhabitants on May 24-30 to 26 cases between May 31 and June 6.

Cuba

Cuba's Public Health Ministry began to expand its emergency vaccination plan against COVID-19 on Monday from seven of Havana's municipalities to include other parts of the capital, local authorities confirmed.

The ministry is administering the Abdala vaccine, one of five Cuban vaccine candidates in different stages of development on the island.

Cuba registered 1,349 new COVID-19 infections and 11 more deaths in the last day, bringing the caseload to 159,057 and the death toll to 1,098, the Public Health Ministry said on Monday.

Of the total number of new cases, 1,306 were from community transmission, the ministry's director of hygiene and epidemiology Francisco Duran said during his daily report.

Ecuador

Ecuador reported on Monday 205 new COVID-19 cases and one more death in the last 24 hours, for a total of 439,139 cases and 15,484 deaths, the Ministry of Public Health said.

The coastal province of Guayas reported 52 new daily infections, the highest in the country, followed by Pichincha province, with 20, including 19 in the capital Quito, the epicenter of the pandemic.

Currently, 11 of Ecuador's 24 provinces are experiencing a high rate of infection, according to ministry statistics.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson attends a media briefing in Downing Street, London, Monday, June 14, 2021. (JONATHAN BUCKMASTER / POOL PHOTO VIA AP)

UK

Prime Minister Boris Johnson pushed back his plan to lift coronavirus restrictions by four weeks as a more infectious variant spreads rapidly across the UK and threatens to undermine the country’s effort to vaccinate its way out of the pandemic.

The government in London was forced to act after modeling showed hospital admissions could reach similar levels to the first wave of infections in spring 2020 - a peak of more than 3,000 a day - if Johnson stuck to his schedule to end social-distancing rules on June 21. In a televised briefing on Monday, he said there was no choice but to delay his plan until July 19.

The aim is to prevent a surge in hospitalizations and avoid adding thousands to what’s already Europe’s highest death toll by allowing more people to get their second vaccine dose. Johnson said he is “pretty confident” there won’t be another postponement, while some members of his governing Conservative Party hit out at the impact on the economy.

“The objective of this short delay is to use these valuable, crucial weeks to save thousands of lives - lives that would otherwise be lost, I’m afraid - by vaccinating millions more people as fast as we can,” he said.

While Britain gained global attention with its rapid vaccine rollout, the country is now emerging as the less enviable test case in Europe for dealing with the highly transmissible Delta variant first identified in India. The World Health Organization’s Europe director, Hans Kluge, warned last week that Delta was “poised to take hold” across the continent.

The issue for the UK is that its inoculation program lengthened the time between doses in an effort to get as many shots into as many people as quickly as possible. The new variant has changed the calculus after evidence emerged that two injections are required for protection. The government is now speeding up second shots.

Britain reported another 7,742 COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 4,573,419, according to official figures released Monday.

The country also recorded another three coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain to 127,907. These figures only include the deaths of people who died within 28 days of their first positive test.

Pfizer

COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer Inc and AstraZeneca Plc are highly effective after two doses at preventing hospitalization of those infected with the Delta variant, underscoring the urgency in getting people fully vaccinated.

The Pfizer and BioNTech SE shot is 96 percent effective against hospitalization after two doses, while the AstraZeneca and University of Oxford COVID-19 inoculation is 92 percent effective, according to an analysis announced Monday by Public Health England. Those results are comparable with the protection offered against the alpha variant, which first emerged in Britain, the data show.

Argentina

Argentina registered on Monday 21,292 new COVID-19 infections and 687 more deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 4,145,482 cases and 86,029 deaths.

According to a Ministry of Health report, 3,748,794 people have recovered from the virus, while 310,659 are in the active stage.

Meanwhile, Argentina has administered 16,547,151 doses of the vaccine against COVID-19, with 13,153,656 people receiving their first dose and 3,393,495 their second, according to the Public Vaccination Monitor.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia registered 159 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking the nationwide tally to 274,346 as of Monday evening, according to the country's Ministry of Health.

The ministry said eight new deaths and 443 more recoveries were reported, bringing the national counts to 4,250 and 251,107 respectively.

France

The Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus first found in India - which experts estimate to be more infectious than other variants - currently represents 2-4 percent of confirmed COVID-19 cases in France, said French health minister Olivier Veran on Tuesday.

Veran added this meant France was registering between 50-150 cases a day of the COVID-19 Delta variant, which highlighted the importance of sanitary protocol measures and vaccinations to keep the virus at bay.

"We are in the process of crushing the virus and crushing the pandemic, and we must in no way let the Indian variant get the upper hand so that it leads to another wave of the pandemic," Veran told reporters at a Paris vaccination centre.

On Monday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson delayed his plans to lift most remaining COVID-19 restrictions by a month, citing the dangers posted by the COVID Delta variant.

France's number of COVID-19 cases have steadily gone down over the last two months after the country eased its third, national lockdown. France has over 110,400 COVID-19 deaths, the ninth-highest COVID-19 death toll in the world.


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