Syringes filled with doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site in Naha, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan, on Saturday, June 12, 2021. (PHOTO / BLOOMBERG)
GENEVA / WASHINGTON / NAIROBI / OSLO / BRUSSELS / BUENOS AIRES / OTTAWA / SANTIAGO / RIO DE JANEIRO / LONDON / PARIS / HARARE / ACCRA / BERLIN / MEXICO CITY / BRASILIA / MILAN / HAVANA / RABAT / MOSCOW / DAKAR - Burundi will allow the World Bank to arrange for COVID-19 vaccines to be delivered in the country, leaving Eritrea as the sole nation on the continent resisting the shots.
“Anyone who wants will be vaccinated,” Health Minister Thaddée Ndikumana said late Wednesday, without disclosing details of the arrangement with the World Bank.
The small east Africa nation has registered only 6,715 cases and nine deaths, according to the World Health Organization. Infections have increased in the north near the border with Rwanda, according to its health authorities.
Other than Horn of Africa nation Eritrea, Tanzania was the other vaccine denier but changed its policy after President Samia Hassan came to power. The nation received a US donation of 1.01 million Johnson & Johnson doses this week, months after other African nations started inoculating their populations.
England's decision to keep quarantine measures for travelers coming from France and not for those coming from other European Union countries is discriminatory and not based on science, a French minister said on Thursday.
England said on Thursday it would allow fully vaccinated visitors from the EU and United States to arrive without needing to quarantine from next week, but that it would review rules for travelers from France only at the end of next week.
"It's excessive, and it's frankly incomprehensible on health grounds ... It's not based on science and discriminatory towards the French," French Europe Minister Clement Beaune said on LCI TV. He said France was not planning tit-for-tat measures "for now".
Meanwhile, a new French law extending the use of the health pass to a wider range of public places will enter into force on Aug 9 to help the country battle with the fourth COVID-19 wave, the French government's spokesperson Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday.
Under the law, only people who have completed their vaccination, tested negative or recently recovered from COVID-19 will be allowed to enter restaurants and cafes, and go to shopping centers, gyms and even hospitals except for emergencies.
To date, 50.5 percent of the French population, or 34 million people, have been fully vaccinated.
Coronavirus cases worldwide exceeded 195.86 million while the global death toll topped 4.18 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The global number of new COVID-19 cases is on the increase, with 3.8 million fresh infections confirmed in the week between July 19 and July 25, and a "sharp" jump has been reported in the number of deaths, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday.
In the past week, the number of new cases globally rose 8 percent compared with the previous week, which was largely attributed to substantial increases in the Americas and the Western Pacific Regions, the WHO said in its weekly update report.
With over 69,000, the number of COVID-19 deaths reported during the period increased by 21 percent week-on-week. Most of the newly reported deaths were posted in the Americas and South-East Asia Regions, the WHO said.
The impact of COVID-19 in Africa has been relatively less severe in recent days, as the Delta variant has not yet been detected in many countries in the continent, it said.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa reached 6,543,882 as of Wednesday afternoon, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said.
The death toll stood at 166,234 while the number of recoveries reached 5,761,284, the Africa CDC said.
COVID-19 continues to inflict a devastating toll on the Americas, with Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador and Paraguay among the countries with the world's highest weekly death rates, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the WHO's regional arm, said on Wednesday.
Cases have more than doubled in the United States over the past week, mainly among unvaccinated people, PAHO Director Carissa Etienne said in a briefing.
Cuba is seeing higher infection and death rates than at any other point in the pandemic there, she said, adding that more than 7,000 minors and nearly 400 pregnant women have tested positive in the last week.
Over the last week there were more than 1.26 million COVID-19 cases and nearly 29,000 deaths reported in the Americas.
Infection hotspots have been reported in Argentine provinces bordering Bolivia and Chile, and in Colombia's Amazon region.
So far, only 16.6 percent of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, as countries in the regions have yet to access the vaccines needed to keep their people safe, she said.
US biopharmaceutical company Pfizer said Wednesday a third dose of its COVID-19 vaccine can "strongly" boost protection against the Delta variant.
Antibody levels against the Delta variant in people aged 18 to 55 who receive a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are greater than five-fold than following a second dose, according to data posted at the company's teleconference.
Among those aged 65 to 85, the data suggest that antibody levels against the Delta variant after receiving a third dose are greater than 11-fold than following a second dose.
Pfizer anticipates applying for emergency use authorization for a third dose of its vaccine as soon as next month, Mikael Dolsten, who leads worldwide research, development and medical for Pfizer, was quoted by CNN as saying at the teleconference.
Tanzaian President Samia Suluhu Hassan receives a COVID-19 shot in Dodoma, Tanzania, July 28 2021. (DOMASA SYLIVESTER / AP)
Tanzania's President Samia Suluhu Hassan received her COVID-19 vaccine in public on Wednesday, in the most decisive signal yet of a break from the policies of her late predecessor who repeatedly dismissed the threat of the pandemic.
"We will make sure our country has enough vaccines for those who are willing to be vaccinated," Hassan told a launch ceremony, before taking her jab in front of the cameras.
Tanzania placed an order for more doses from the African Union's vaccines acquisition platform (AVATT) on Tuesday, Hassan said, without giving details about quantities.
During the launch of the Tanzanian campaign in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam, Health Minister Dorothy Gwajima promised to roll out a comprehensive public education campaign to counter vaccine misinformation.
Norway postponed for a second time on Wednesday a planned final step in the reopening of its economy from pandemic lockdown, due to the continued spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19, the government said.
"A new assessment will be made in mid-August," Health Minister Bent Hoeie said at a news conference.
Measures that will be kept in place to halt the spread of COVID-19 include bars and restaurants being limited to table service and limits of 20 people on gatherings in private homes.
About 80 percent of adults in Norway have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 41 percent of adults are fully vaccinated, according to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.
The European Union (EU) has signed a contract with GlaxoSmithKline for the supply of up to 220,000 treatments of its investigational monoclonal antibody therapy sotrovimab against COVID-19, it said on Wednesday.
The drug, which is developed together with US firm Vir Biotechnology, can be used for the treatment of high-risk coronavirus patients with mild symptoms who do not require supplemental oxygen, according to the Commission.
GSK confirmed the deal in a statement on Wednesday, saying it represented "a crucial step forward for treating cases of COVID-19" in Europe.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Wednesday that 66.6 percent of US counties had transmission rates of COVID-19 high enough to warrant indoor masking and should immediately resume the policy.
The transmission rate was up from 63.4 percent as of Tuesday. In total, 49.9 percent of US counties have high COVID-19 community transmission rates and 16.7 percent have substantial rates, the CDC said.
Substantial transmission means at least 50 new cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days, while high transmission is more than 100 cases per 100,000 people over the last week.
Texas, the second-most populous US, on Wednesday logged more than 10,000 in daily new virus cases for the first time in almost six months.
New daily hospital admissions in the US are at their highest level since late April, according to the CDC.
Hospitals in states where sases are once again surging are beginning to feel the strain in their emergency departments and intensive care units.
State health officials in Mississippi have told hospitals there to delay many elective surgeries beginning next week and are forming a central command to help search for ICU beds. Hospitals in Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana and Missouri are also stretched, and staff are particularly exhausted more than a year into the pandemic.
Numerous US federal agencies on Wednesday mandated masks at federal buildings in COVID-19 hot spots in line with instructions issued by the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), according to an OMB email seen by Reuters.
The White House said masks are required indoors in federal buildings for all employees and visitors, whether or not vaccinated, in those areas.
In another development, the Food and Drug Administration said it agreed with Johnson & Johnson that its vaccine's shelf life can be extended to 6 months from 4.5 months when stored at 2-8°c.
Dyadic International Inc., a US biotechnology company, has joined the race to produce COVID-19 vaccines in Africa, the least-vaccinated continent.
The Jupiter, Florida-based company on Tuesday announced a technology transfer and licensing deal with South Africa’s Rubic Consortium, a newly formed group that includes, Mathews Phosa, a former treasurer-general of the country’s ruling African National Congress.
In October or November, Dyadic may begin an early-stage trial for the company’s coronavirus vaccine candidate after applying to the local health regulator for approval, said Shabir Madhi, a vaccinologist at Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand, which is partnering Rubic. Dyadic’s technology may later be used to develop other vaccines and treatments, he said.
Argentina Wednesday reported 15,883 new COVID-19 cases and 471 more deaths in the past day, raising its caseload to 4,891,810 and the pandemic death toll to 104,822.
Minister of Health Carla Vizzotti said Argentina was "within the 20 (countries) that received the most vaccines" against the disease, and health policies helped to keep the new Delta variant at bay.
The South American country has administered nearly 31 million vaccines since Dec 29, with close to 24.5 million people receiving a single dose and more than 6.5 million receiving both doses.
Canada reported 738 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the tally to 1,428,683 cases, including 26,570 deaths, according to CTV.
The country's seven-day moving average of 557 new cases daily during July 21-27 indicated an increase of 36 percent over the previous week, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).
British Columbia province said it would reimpose a local mask mandate, as well as other public health measures due to a COVID-19 outbreak in Central Okanagan.
Alberta province is expected to lift much of its remaining COVID-19 restrictions in the coming days even as COVID-19 continues to infect unvaccinated Albertans. Quarantine for close contacts will shift from being mandatory to recommended from Thursday, and the province is also scaling back contact tracing.
As of Wednesday, 58,142,938 vaccine doses have been administered in Canada. A total of 70.6 percent of Canadians have received one shot while 57 percent have been fully vaccinated.
Chile has fully vaccinated 79.41 percent of its target population, or 12,070,653 people, against COVID-19, Health Minister Enrique Paris said on Wednesday.
According to the government, the mass vaccination program aims to fully inoculate 15,200,840 people, or 80 percent of Chile's total population, with the objective of achieving herd immunity.
This week, adolescents between 12 and 17 years old with comorbidities will begin receiving the vaccine, according to the official calendar.
Chile reported on Wednesday 828 new COVID-19 infections and 25 more deaths in the last 24 hours, taking the total to 1,611,917 cases and 35,176 deaths, according to the Ministry of Health.
Brazil registered 1,344 additional COVID-19 deaths in the past 24 hours, raising its pandemic toll to 553,179, the health ministry said on Wednesday.
The total caseload rose to 19,797,086 as 48,013 new cases were reported.
As of Tuesday, 136 million people in Brazil have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine while 38.7 million have been fully vaccinated.
Britain has reported another 27,734 coronavirus cases in the latest 24-hour period, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 5,770,928, according to official figures released Wednesday.
The country also recorded another 91 coronavirus-related deaths. The total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain now stands at 129,430. These figures only include the deaths of people who died within 28 days of their first positive test.
The UK will donate 817,000 vaccine doses to Kenya to support its vaccination program, the British High Commission in Nairobi said in an emailed statement.
Half of the Oxford-AstraZeneca doses are through a bilateral donation and the other half via the COVAX sharing facility.
The consignment will be shipped to Kenya “in the coming days”.
Zimbabwe's fight against the coronavirus pandemic received a major boost as the country took delivery of another batch of Sinopharm vaccines from China on Wednesday.
An additional shipment of the vaccines is also expected on Thursday.
The development came on the same day the Zimbabwe Medicines Control Authority approved the emergency use of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine.
More than 1.5 million people in Zimbabwe has received their first shot, and nearly 700,000 have received their second dose.
Zimbabwe has so far recorded 101,711 cases and 3,280 deaths.
Ghana's Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) has approved two more COVID-19 vaccines for importation and vaccination in the country, according to a release issued on Wednesday.
The FDA has approved Moderna’s Spikevax vaccine and the Pfizer-BioNTech shot for use in vaccination to protect Ghanaians against the pandemic, bringing the number of approved vaccines in Ghana to five, according to the release.
All travelers arriving in Germany will be required from this weekend to demonstrate immunity from COVID-19 either from a vaccine or previous infection, or present a negative test result, government sources reported.
The plan reflects growing concern among Germany’s regional and national leaders that rising caseloads in tourist destinations could help fuel a fourth wave when Germans come home from holiday.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 3,520 to 3,769,608, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Thursday.
The reported death toll rose by 10 to 91,702, the tally showed.
Mexico's health ministry on Wednesday recorded 19,028 newly confirmed coronavirus cases and 537 fatalities, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 2,790,874 and the reported death toll to 239,616.
Italy reported 15 coronavirus-related deaths on Wednesday against 24 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 5,696 from 4,522.
Italy has registered 128,010 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 4.33 million cases to date.
Patients in hospital with COVID-19 - not including those in intensive care - stood at 1,685 on Wednesday, up from 1,611 a day earlier.
There were nine new admissions to intensive care units, down from 16 on Tuesday. The total number of intensive care patients fell to 183 from a previous 189.
In this June 23, 2021 file photo, a nurse fills a syringe with a dose of the Cuban Abdala COVID-19 vaccine in Havana, Cuba. (RAMON ESPINOSA / AP)
Iran will next week become the first country outside of Cuba to start producing one of the Communist-run island's homegrown COVID-19 vaccines on an industrial scale, Cuban state-run media reported on Wednesday.
Preliminary Cuban data from late-phase clinical trials suggest Soberana 2 and its other most advanced COVID-19 vaccine Abdala are among the world's most efficient, with more than 90 percent efficacy, although critics say they will remain skeptical until it publishes the figures in international, peer-reviewed journals.
Iran and Cuba will produce millions of doses of Soberana 2 in the Middle Eastern country under the name PastuCovac, Finlay Institute chief Vicente Vérez Bencomo said during a visit to Tehran this week, according to Cuban state-run media on Wednesday.
Mexico, Vietnam, Argentina and Jamaica are among the countries that have expressed an interest in producing or buying its COVID-19 vaccines.
Cuba reported on Wednesday a new daily record of COVID-19 cases after registering 9,323 infections in one day, taking the tally to 358,378.
The toll rose by 68 to 2,560.
Morocco on Wednesday reported 9,428 new COVID-19 cases, the biggest single day increase, taking the number of infections in the country to 597,876.
The number of recoveries from COVID-19 increased by 1,766 to 550,882 while the toll went up by 27 to 9,665, the health ministry said in a statement.
A total of 12,971,479 people have received their first COVID-19 shot while 10,015,447 have gotten two doses.
South African President Cyril Ramaphosa will promote vaccines after a survey found more than half of the country’s population say they are unlikely to get immunized against COVID-19.
Ramaphosa will visit two vaccine sites in Gauteng province on Thursday, the presidency said in a statement on its website. Vaccines are a safe and effective defense against serious illness, hospitalization and death, it said in the statement.
About 54 percent of South Africans say they are unlikely to get a vaccine and almost half say they believe prayer provides more protection than the shots, according to an Afrobarometer survey of 1,600 South Africans.
The study highlights a hurdle for the government’s drive to inoculate two thirds of its 60 million people in a bid to curb infections.
Russia reported 799 coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday, an all-time high it has reached three times in the last month amid a surge in cases blamed on the infectious Delta variant.
The coronavirus task force also confirmed 23,270 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, including 3,356 in Moscow. Russia has reported a total of 6,218,502 cases since the pandemic began.
Nearly 150 Senegalese have died this month as a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps through the capital Dakar, leaving its hospitals nearly overrun.
Senegal, which until this month had recorded fewer than 44,000 cases and 1,166 deaths, has registered more than 15,000 cases and 139 deaths since the start of July, according to health ministry figures.
After comfortably weathering the first two waves of the virus, health services were now stretched dangerously thin, said Dr Khardiata Diallo, head of infectious disease at Fann hospital in Dakar.
"Patients, particularly young ones, are arriving in respiratory distress," Diallo said, her voice cracking with exhaustion. "We've never had this number of cases, deaths and severe cases. Frankly, this third wave threatens to drown us."
Many infections outside clinics were going undiagnosed, while post mortems were not routine, she said. "The situation is much more serious. What we see here is only the tip of the iceberg."
In Dakar, the current epicenter of the epidemic in Senegal, every bed with supplemental oxygen for patients in severe respiratory distress was taken, she said.
Senegal has administered fewer than 1 million doses to a population of around 16 million people, according to government data.
AstraZeneca Plc won’t seek a US license for its COVID-19 vaccine until the autumn at the earliest, according to its chief executive officer, falling further behind rivals that secured emergency authorizations for their shots.
The company plans to file an application to the US Food and Drug Administration in the next two to three months, CEO Pascal Soriot said in a Bloomberg TV interview Thursday. Astra hopes to get approval “relatively quickly,” he added.
With three COVID-19 vaccines already approved in the US. “There’s no emergency need anymore,” Soriot said. “Right now our focus is to produce vaccine for the low- and- middle-income countries.”
The company said it has supplied about 1 billion doses to more than 170 countries. Sales of the vaccine totaled almost US$1.2 billion for the first half of this year.
Meanwhiel, Ruud Dobber, executive vice-president of the BioPharmaceuticals business, said AstraZeneca hoped to settle a legal dispute with the European Union over COVID-19 vaccine deliveries in the coming weeks.
Burundi will allow the World Bank to arrange for COVID-19 vaccines to be delivered in the country, leaving Eritrea as the sole nation on the continent resisting the shots.
“Anyone who wants will be vaccinated,” Health Minister Thaddée Ndikumana said late Wednesday, without disclosing details of the arrangement with the World Bank.
The small east Africa nation has registered only 6,715 cases and nine deaths, according to the WHO. Infections have increased in the north near the border with Rwanda, according to its health authorities.
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