In this undated photo, boxes of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccines in a cold store of Movianto in Netherlands. (PHOTO / BLOOMBERG)
MOSCOW / ADDIS ABABA / TUNIS / AMSTERDAM / PRAGUE / LONDON / WASHINGTON / COPENHAGEN / RABAT / HAVANA / QUITO / SANTIAGO / MEXICO CITY / BRASILIA / MADRID / ATHENS / MILAN / BERLIN / BUENOS AIRES / TRIPOLI / BRUSSELS - Weekly cases in the Netherlands fell almost 50 percent, while hospital admissions rose to 538, the highest since mid-June, the national health service reported. There were 37,343 cases in the week ending July 27, down from 69,731. The government on Monday said a ban on multiday events such as music festivals will be extended until at least Sept 1.
The Netherlands on Monday said it would ease COVID-19 restrictions to allow travel to all European Union countries, including several that had been off limits to Dutch vacationers due to high infection rates.
At the same time, authorities said they would extend a ban on multiple-day festivals, which were deemed too risky.
The European Union (EU) has achieved its target to protect 70 percent of adults with at least one vaccination by July, according to a statement by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
According to her, 57 percent of adults are fully vaccinated.
Projections showed that the EU would reach its goal of fully vaccinating at least 70 percent of the adult population by the end of the summer, EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said
The EU's vaccine campaign got off to a slow start relative to the likes of Britain and the United States due to delays in deliveries of vaccine doses, notably those of AstraZeneca, against which it launched legal proceedings.
However, after a sharp ramp-up in supplies from the second quarter, particularly of the Pfizer-BionTech vaccine, von der Leyen said the EU was now among the world leaders.
"The catch-up process has been very successful - but we need to keep up the effort," she said.
"The Delta variant is very dangerous. I therefore call on everyone - who has the opportunity - to be vaccinated. For their own health and to protect others," she continued.
Ninety-eight percent of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 in Belgium have not been vaccinated, Yves Van Laethem, the Belgian government's interfederal COVID-19 spokesperson, was quoted by the Belgian press as saying on Tuesday.
"This reinforces the notion that the vaccine is extremely protective," he said.
Belgian microbiologist Emmanuel Andre also said on Twitter: "While people who are not or not completely vaccinated now represent less than 50 percent of the adult population in Brussels, this same group represents more than 95 percent of people hospitalized with COVID-19. The vaccines are working."
In the week of July 17-23, an average of 1,472 new COVID-19 infections were recorded per day in Belgium, a ten percent increase from the previous week, the Sciensano Institute of Public Health said on Tuesday.
These new figures indicate that the number of new infections in Belgium has stabilized after a sharp increase in the beginning of July.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Tuesday that one of his sons recently had the coronavirus, but that Lopez Obrador wasn’t infected because he was vaccinated with the AstraZenaca vaccine.
Mexico's health ministry on Monday recorded 5,920 newly confirmed coronavirus cases and 171 fatalities, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 2,754,438 and the reported death toll to 238,595.
Coronavirus cases worldwide 194.72 million exceeded while the global death toll topped 4.16 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Global food crisis
The world must ensure access to food supplies as forcefully as it moved to ensure access to vaccines, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said at the opening of the United Nations Food Systems Pre-Summit in Rome.
"The health crisis (COVID-19) has led to a food crisis," he said, citing data showing malnutrition in all its forms has become the leading cause of ill health and death in the world.
The UN's first ever Food Systems Summit will take place in September, with the aim of delivering progress on the body's 2030 sustainable development goals (SDGs).
After remaining virtually unchanged for five years, world hunger and malnutrition rose last year by around 118 million people to 768 million, with most of the increase likely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a major UN report.
Russia has given the green light for clinical trials combining a British shot from AstraZeneca Plc and Oxford University with Russia's Sputnik V vaccine to go ahead, according to Russia's state drug register.
The health ministry's ethical committee had in May suspended the approval process for the clinical trials, and requested additional information.
According to the state drug register, five Russian clinics will hold trials that are set to finish in early March, 2022.
Russia on Tuesday reported 23,032 new COVID-19 cases, including 2,623 in Moscow, bringing the tally to 6,172,812.
The government task force also confirmed 779 coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours.
The Czech government has approved plans to donate up to 2.39 million COVID-19 vaccines to countries in the Balkans, Africa and Asia by the end of 2021, a government official said on Monday.
"We will only be safe from coronavirus if we provide vaccines for the whole world," Milena Hrdinkova, state secretary for European affairs, said on her Twitter account.
The Czech Republic, an EU member of 10.7 million people, has administered almost 10 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines since the end of December, with 4.6 million people fully vaccinated, according to data from the health ministry.
A surge in new coronavirus cases related to the Delta variant is prompting health experts to discuss mitigation strategies such as updated guidance on wearing masks, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Monday.
Psaki began her daily news briefing with a virus progress report, saying there has been a significant rise in COVID-19 cases among unvaccinated Americans but that people who have been vaccinated are avoiding major illness.
She said there has been no sign as of yet that the Delta variant responsible for many new infections is having an impact on the US economy.
As many as 60 percent of COVID-19 cases in the US have gone unreported, and the coronavirus has infected nearly 1 in 5 Americans, according to a new model out of the University of Washington.
The model, which aims to mitigate biases in data capture, estimates that 65 million people, or 19.7 percent of US residents, had been infected as of March 7. The findings, which appear in Monday’s issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, indicate the US is unlikely to reach community level protection without continuing an ambitious vaccination campaign.
Meanwhile, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced Monday it will require the agency's frontline healthcare workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, making it the first federal agency to mandate compulsory inoculation.
In another development, the Department of Justice issued a memorandum saying federal law allows governments, universities and private businesses to require their employees to be vaccinated.
Separately, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) raised its travel advisory to "Level Four: Very High" for Spain, Portugal, Cuba, Cyprus and Kyrgyzstan because of a rising number of infections in those countries.
A nurse shows a vial of Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccine at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals in Harare, capital of Zimbabwe, July 8, 2021. (SHAUN JUSA / XINHUA)
African nations should build capacity to produce vaccines on the continent and work with pharmaceutical companies to ensure that the raw materials needed to produce the inoculations are available, according to World Trade Organization (WTO) Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
While a waiver on the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, or TRIPS, is seen as way a to improve the supply of COVID-19 vaccines to the world’s least inoculated continent, Okonjo-Iweala cautioned that only a handful of African countries have the capacity to produce the life-saving drugs.
“There a handful of countries - maybe Tunisia, Morocco to some extent, Senegal, South Africa - where we have some capacity; that’s why we are importing 99 percent of our vaccines,” Okonjo-Iweala said in a webinar hosted by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.
“If we get IP today, we won’t be able to do anything with it because we don’t have investment, we don’t have manufacturing capacity.”
As of Monday afternoon, Africa has reported 6,475,582 confirmed cases and 164,383 deaths, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said.
The risk of becoming infected with the Delta variant after receiving the first vaccine dose remains significant, Denmark's Statens Serum Institut (SSI) said in a press release on Monday.
An examination conducted by SSI, Denmark's infectious diseases detection agency, of the incidence of infections among those given only the first vaccine dose in the period between March 1 and July 13 revealed that 22 percent of all infections with the Delta variant occurred 14 days after the first vaccine dose was administered.
"So even though people have been vaccinated and have been given a corona passport, we still see a lot of Delta variant infections in this group," said Palle Valentiner-Branth, head of department at the SSI, in the press release.
In the past 24 hours, the SSI registered 772 new COVID-19 infections and one death across Denmark, bringing the total to 312,292 cases and 2,543 deaths.
Tunisia's health ministry on Monday reported 4,105 COVID-19 cases, raising the tally in the North African country to 573,394.
The death toll from the virus rose by 204 to 18,804 while the total number of recoveries reached 471,196, the ministry said in a statement.
A total of 2,619,884 people have been vaccinated, 938,407 of whom have received two doses, according to the latest figures published by the ministry.
Tunisia received on Monday a German donation of medical equipment to support Tunisia's fight against the pandemic, the Tunisian presidency annoucned in a statement.
"A German military plane arrived at Tunis-Carthage International Airport, loaded with medical beds, equipment, health supplies and COVID-19 rapid diagnostic tests, granted by Germany to support Tunisia's efforts to confront the pandemic," reads the statement.
Morocco announced on Monday 2,205 new COVID-19 cases, taking the caseload in the North African country to 581,477.
The total number of recoveries from COVID-19 increased to 546,426 after 2,823 new ones were added.
The death toll rose to 9,611 with 22 additional fatalities reported during the last 24 hours, while 734 people were in intensive care units.
A total of 12,061,160 people have received their first vaccine shots against COVID-19 while 9,864,912 have received two doses.
Cuba on Monday reported 8,184 new COVID-19 infections and 66 more deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 341,152 cases and 2,417 deaths.
The capital Havana saw most of the new cases with 1,527 fresh infections, followed by the provinces of Matanzas (1,264) and Ciego de Avila (704).
According to the health ministry's daily report, 18.7 percent of the new infections were in the pediatric age group, while 18.3 percent were people over 60 years old.
More than 2.4 million Cubans have received their third dose of one of the nationally-produced vaccines against COVID-19 as part of the island's national immunization campaign.
Ecuador has reported two new infections of the Delta variant, bringing the total number of such cases to 42, Public Health Minister Ximena Garzon said on Monday.
"To the 40 patients we had last week with the Delta variant, we add two, one who traveled to the United States and the other who is here (in Ecuador) and is under epidemiological monitoring," she told local media.
Residents wait to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in Guayaquil, Ecuador, July 22, 2021. (DOLORES OCHOA / AP)
Chile reported on Monday 1,185 new COVID-19 infections and 93 more deaths in the last 24 hours, taking the total to 1,610,345 cases and 35,119 deaths.
Undersecretary of Healthcare Networks Alberto Dougnac pointed out during a press conference that COVID-19 mortality and hospitalizations have shown a downward trend in recent weeks.
He also reported a positivity rate of 2.06 percent in the last day, reflecting a drop of more than 60 percent from last month, when it was 5.5 percent.
As of Monday, the entry and exit of nationals and foreign residents who are fully vaccinated will be allowed through the Santiago international airport.
Moderna Inc said it would expand an ongoing trial of its coronavirus vaccine in children under 12 years old to gather more safety data amid worries that messenger RNA shots may trigger rare heart side effects.
“The objective is to enroll a larger safety database which increases the likelihood of detecting rarer events,” a Moderna spokeswoman said in a statement.
Clinical trial timelines are regularly re-evaluated based on regulatory agency discussions and requests, she said, and Moderna expects to have data that would support authorization in late 2021 or early 2022. The Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company is discussing a proposal for a bigger trial with the US Food and Drug Administration, she said.
Brazil recorded 18,999 newly confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, along with 578 deaths from COVID-19, the health ministry said on Monday.
Brazil has registered more than 19.7 million cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 550,502, according to ministry data.
Brazilian health regulator Anvisa said it had canceled a clinical study for the Covaxin vaccine for COVID-19 developed by India's Bharat Biotech, amid allegations of irregularities in the government's efforts to buy millions of doses of the shot.
The number of new COVID-19 cases in Spain continued to increase on Monday, with the 14-day incidence rate reaching 700 infections per 100,000 inhabitants, but officials said the situation was improving in some of the hardest-hit areas.
The total number of cases in Spain reached 4.3 million amid the spread of the more contagious Delta variant, while deaths totalled 81,268, 47 more than in the last health ministry report released on Friday.
"It looks like we are starting to observe a deceleration in the incidence's rhythm of growth," Deputy Health Minister Silvia Calzon said at a news briefing, adding that more than 65 percent of new cases were among people below the age of 40 as Spain has prioritized vaccination by age groups.
Monday's incidence rate was the highest registered in Spain since Feb 5, according to an analysis of official data compiled by Europa Press news agency.
Greece said on Monday children aged 12-15 could be vaccinated against COVID-19 with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots, extending the inoculations of adolescents that was begun this month as infections continue to rise.
The head of Greece's vaccination committee, Maria Theodoridou, said including younger teenagers in the program would help protect vulnerable youngsters and relatives and prepare the way for a return to school in September.
A country of 11 million people, Greece has so far administered more than 10.2 million first shots. About 46.8 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, according to Marios Themistokleous, secretary-general in charge of vaccinations.
Greece reported 2,070 new COVID-19 infections and five deaths on Monday, bringing the total number of infections since the pandemic began to 477,975 and the death toll to 12,903.
Italy reported 22 coronavirus-related deaths on Monday against seven the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 3,117 from 4,743.
Italy has registered 127,971 deaths linked to COVID-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the eight-highest in the world. The country has reported 4.32 million cases to date.
Patients in hospital with COVID-19 - not including those in intensive care - stood at 1,512 on Monday, up from 1,392 a day earlier.
There were 11 new admissions to intensive care units, down from 16 on Sunday. The total number of intensive care patients increased to 182 from a previous 178.
Germany is preparing to tighten requirements for people entering the country by making travelers from any country provide a negative coronavirus test in an effort to curb a rapid rise in cases, the Funke media group reported on Tuesday.
The health ministry wants "an expansion of test requirements upon entry as quickly as possible", the Funke group newspapers cited a document as saying.
Until now, only air passengers and those entering from high-risk areas have to provide a negative coronavirus test unless they are fully vaccinated or have recovered.
In future, Health Minister Jens Spahn wants to make a test compulsory regardless of where travelers are coming from and the means of transport they use, said Funke. It was unclear whether the new testing requirements would also apply to fully vaccinated people.
"The coordination in the government on this is underway," a spokeswoman for the ministry explained.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 1,545 to 3,758,401, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Tuesday.
The reported death toll rose by 38 to 91,565, the tally showed.
Argentina registered 12,555 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, raising the tally to 4,859,170, the health ministry said.
Another 384 deaths were reported, taking the death toll to 104,105, the ministry said.
The number of patients in intensive care has reached 4,155, with a bed occupancy rate of 56.6 percent nationwide and 54.1 percent in Buenos Aires and its periphery.
So far, more than 30.13 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered, according to the ministry.
In a press release, the ministry announced it will include the Moderna vaccine in a study to determine the immunity and safety of a combination of different vaccine doses available in the country in the same inoculation scheme.
This photo shows pedestrians crossing Westminster Bridge in central London on July 26, 2021. (TOLGA AKMEN / AFP)
Britain’s government expanded a program of daily COVID-19 tests on Monday to reduce a wave of staff absence created by a high number of new cases and strict rules on self-isolation for people who might have been infected by them.
Last week this program was announced for 800 workplaces in the food industry, transport sector and some police, firefighters and border guards.
On Monday Britain’s health ministry said it would set up daily testing at a further 1,200 workplaces including military bases, prisons and pharmaceuticals factories, as well as for refuse workers, essential utilities and tax collectors.
A sustained fall in new coronavirus cases in the UK is being cautiously welcomed by scientists, though there’s no consensus on what’s behind it - or whether the current wave of infections has peaked.
On Monday, there were 24,950 newly reported cases, Britain's lowest daily total of new coronavirus cases since July 4 and the sixth day fresh infections fell.
There were 14 additional fatalities, bringing the total to 129,172 deaths within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test during the pandemic, the second-highest official total in Europe after Russia.
Given there’s still uncertainty over whether the trend will continue, the government is not yet celebrating, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman telling reporters Monday the PM “doesn’t think we are out of the woods yet”.
“We have to be very careful,” policing minister Kit Malthouse said on Sky News on Tuesday. “We’re waiting to see what happens over the next few days.”
The government will this week consider relaxing restrictions for travelers from the EU and the US, the Financial Times reported, citing an unidentified government official and an airport executive.
Officials are also looking at removing France from the newly created “amber plus” category, which requires travelers from the UK to quarantine after their return, the newspaper reported.
South Africa’s official COVID-19 death toll has exceeded 70,000, meaning that more than 10,000 people have died in the last month, the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) said.
Over the last 24 hours, 243 deaths from the disease were reported, bringing the total to 70,018, the NICD said in a statement on Monday.
South Africa’s actual number of deaths from the virus could exceed 200,000, according to excess death studies by the South African Medical Research Council, which tracks the number of deaths above the historical norm in weekly reports.
With more than 2.3 million recorded cases, South Africa has the highest number of recorded infections on the continent.
The Libyan government on Monday imposed a curfew due to increasing COVID-19 infections, as nationwide vaccinations continued.
The curfew will last for two weeks from 6 pm to 6 a.m.
Health Minister Ali Zanati on Sunday stressed the importance of the curfew, confirming that COVID-19 isolation centers in Western Libya are congested.
Libya has received more than 1 million vaccine doses and more shots are expected to arrive soon, according to the minister. More than 500,000 people in the country have been vaccinated nationwide so far.
According to the National Center for Disease Control, Libya has so far registered a total of 236,961 cases and 3,398 deaths.
US biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong is backing a COVID-19 vaccine candidate that he sees as having potential as a universal booster of other pandemic shots.
ImmunityBio Inc., of which the 68-year-old holds about 13 percent, is developing a vaccine called hAd5 that’s intended to specifically activate T-cells that scientists believe are a key part of the immune response against COVID-19. This quarter, the South African-born biotech tycoon will begin trials in the country, the scene of what he calls a COVID-19 “firestorm”.
Most vaccines work to elicit immune proteins called antibodies blocking the spike protein that the coronavirus uses to enter cells. San Diego-based ImmunityBio is trying to raise T-cells against both the spike and another viral protein, called the nucleocapsid, Soon-Shiong said. This could make it ideal for use as a booster for different types of vaccines, he said in an interview.
ImmunityBio’s South Africa Sisonke T-Cell Universal Boost trial will enroll some of the 485,000 health workers who have already received Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose shot. The results of vaccination with ImmunityBio’s shot will be compared with people who received only J&J’s, Soon-Shiong said. The company is also planning studies in the US.
The company is looking at four possible ways of giving its vaccine: single-dose injection, droplets placed under the tongue, a capsule and a nasal spray.
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