A woman sits inside a cafe closed due to a spike in coronavirus cases in Samara, Russia on Oct 25, 2021. (YURI STRELETS / AP)
MADRID / TEGUCIGALPA / THE HAGUE / GABORONE / BERLIN / LONDON / VALLETTA / OTTAWA / SOFIA / KYIV / WASHINGTON / MOSCOW / BOGOTA - Russia on Tuesday reported 1,106 COVID-19 deaths in the past 24 hours, the highest figure since the start of the pandemic, amid a surge in new cases that has prompted authorities to reimpose partial lockdown measures.
The daily toll has hit new records in six of the past eight days. The state COVID-19 task force also reported 36,446 new infections, compared with 37,930 a day earlier.
Russia will go into a nationwide workplace shutdown in the first week of November, and the capital Moscow will reimpose a partial lockdown from Oct. 28, with only essential shops like pharmacies and supermarkets allowed to remain open.
Authorities have blamed the rising deaths and infections on slow vaccination rates. As an incentive, President Vladimir Putin has ordered that people who get injected should be given two paid days off work.
The logo of the African Union (AU) is seen at the entrance of the AU headquarters on March 13, 2019, in Addis Ababa. (LUDOVIC MARIN / POOL / AFP)
The African Union (AU) intends to buy up to 110 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna Inc in an arrangement brokered in part by the White House, which will defer delivery of some doses intended for the United States to facilitate the deal, officials told Reuters.
The AU's doses will be delivered over the coming months, with 15 million arriving before the end of 2021, 35 million in the first quarter of next year and up to 60 million in the second quarter.
"This is important as it allows us to increase the number of vaccines available immediately," AU coronavirus envoy Strive Masiyiwa said in an email. "We urge other vaccine producing countries to follow the lead of the (US government) and give us similar access to buy this and other vaccines."
Masiyiwa said the Moderna purchase represented the first time the 55-member AU had secured vaccines that were not fully produced in Africa.
The new shipments of vaccine are well below what Africa needs to vaccinate its 1.3 billion people, who have had far less access to the life-saving vaccines than more prosperous parts of the world. Getting access to Moderna vaccines adds diversity to the AU's vaccine supply with different storage requirements.
The Biden administration is deferring delivery of 33 million doses it had bought from Moderna to give the AU its "spot in line" to make a purchase, according to Natalie Quillian, the White House's deputy coordinator for COVID-19 response.
"This is the first step in our long-term partnership with the African Union," Moderna Chief Executive Stephane Bancel said in a statement, referring to a Memorandum of Understanding to make up to 110 million doses for the AU.
Last month, the AU accused COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers of denying African countries a fair chance to buy vaccines and urged manufacturing countries, in particular India, to lift export restrictions on vaccines and their components.
Botswana has now transited to the third phase of the National Vaccine Deployment Plan, which targets people between the ages of 18 and 29 from Monday.
"This means that anyone in Botswana aged 18 and above is officially allowed to visit any of our vaccination sites for COVID-19 vaccination as of today," announced Christopher Nyanga, spokesperson of the Ministry of Health and Wellness.
According to the Ministry, as at Oct 22, 764,254 adults in Botswana out of the total targeted 1,531,498 people, had received at least a first dose of COVID-19 vaccines.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was warned that a switch to stricter coronavirus Plan B rules would cause as much as 18 billion pounds ($24 billion) in damage to the economy, Politico reported, citing government documents it saw.
The Cabinet Office’s COVID-19 task force and the Treasury ministers have looked seriously at moving to Plan B, with an assumption that it would be in place through winter until the end of March 2022.
Another 36,567 people in Britain have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 8,809,774, according to official figures released Monday.
A protester burns a QR code during a rally against the mandatory COVID-19 health pass in front of the Council of Ministers in Sofia, Bulgaria on Oct 20, 2021. (NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV / AFP)
Bulgaria reported record numbers of daily coronavirus deaths and infections on Tuesday as a fourth wave of the disease is stretching the health system in the European Union's least vaccinated member state.
New infections in the previous 24 hours topped 5,863 while 243 people died of the virus, official data showed. The pandemic has killed 23,316 people in Bulgaria.
Faced with surging infections and frustrated by the slow take-up of vaccines, the Balkan country of 7 million people has made health passes mandatory for most indoor public venues.
The new restrictions have prompted protests and some political parties have accused the interim government of failing to manage the pandemic ahead of parliamentary elections on Nov 14.
Vaccinations have picked up since last Thursday, when authorities limited access to restaurants, cinemas and gyms, among other venues, to those who are vaccinated, have recovered from the virus or have a negative COVID-19 test.
Still, Bulgaria, where vaccine scepticism runs high amid entrenched mistrust of state authorities and contradictory messages from politicians and experts, has managed to fully inoculate only 24 percent of its adult population compared with an EU average of 74 percent.
Travelers wearing face masks walk through the arrivals hall at Toronto Pearson International Airport in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, on Sept 7, 2021, as Canada begins to allow entry for fully vaccinated foreigners who have had a full course of a Health Canada-approved COVID-19 vaccine. (ZOU ZHENG / XINHUA)
Canada reported 1,381 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, raising the cumulative total to 1,700,696 cases with 28,785 deaths, according to CTV.
Ontario, the most populous province with a population of 1.4 million in Canada, reported 326 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday. No new deaths were reported.
Monday's report brings the total number of lab-confirmed cases in Ontario to 597,841, including deaths and recoveries.
Ontario's rolling seven-day average now stands at 372, down from 416 at this point last week.
With 18,397 tests processed in the past 24 hours, the positivity rate in the province stands at about 1.6 percent.
Of the new cases reported Monday, 231 cases involved people who are either unvaccinated, partially vaccinated or their vaccination status is unknown. The remaining 95 infections involved people who are fully vaccinated.
Quebec, a second populous province with a population of 8.6 million, reported 324 new cases and five new deaths on Monday.
Colombia received a new batch of COVID-19 vaccines from China's biopharmaceutical firm Sinovac Biotech, the country's Ministry of Health and Social Protection announced on Monday.
The vaccines were supplied through the United Nations-backed COVAX vaccine distribution mechanism, the ministry said.
In Colombia, 45,879,607 doses of vaccines have been applied against COVID-19, according to official numbers.
This file photo dated April 20, 2021 shows an exterior view of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. (PETER DEJONG / FILE / AP)
European Medicines Agency (EMA)
The European Union's drug regulator on Monday said it has concluded in its review that Moderna's COVID-19 booster vaccine may be given to people aged 18 years and above, at least six months after the second dose.
It is the second COVID-19 booster vaccine to be approved in the EU.
"This follows data showing that a third dose of Spikevax given 6 to 8 months after the second dose led to a rise in antibody levels in adults whose antibody levels were waning," the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said.
Earlier this month, the EMA approved Pfizer-BioNTech's booster and recommended a third dose of a shot from either Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna for people with weakened immune systems. It left EU member states to decide if the wider population should receive a booster.
EMA on Monday said that the implementation of vaccination campaigns remains the prerogative of the advisory groups guiding the vaccination campaigns in each EU Member State.
Medical staff walks in front of a COVID-19 test station in Hemmelsdorf, northern Germany, on Oct 19, 2021. (MICHAEL PROBST / AP)
Germany's seven-day incidence rate has climbed to 110.1 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, from 74.4 a week ago, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) announced on Monday.
Daily COVID-19 infections in Germany also increased, as 6,573 new cases were registered within one day. This is around 2,500 more than a week ago, according to the RKI, the federal agency and research institute responsible for disease control and prevention.
Due to rising COVID-19 case numbers, it was recommended to wear a mask in everyday life, "even if you have been tested, vaccinated or recovered," the RKI said on Twitter on Monday.
More than 55.1 million people in Germany have been fully vaccinated as of Sunday, bringing the country's vaccination rate to 66.2 percent, according to the RKI. Among adolescents between 12 and 17 years, 40.1 percent have been fully vaccinated.
Social distancing rules in Malta will be lifted at seated events with no more than 300 fully-vaccinated and mask-wearing people, Health Minister Chris Fearne announced on Monday.
Speaking in parliament during a debate on the health budget for next year, Fearne said the new measure applies from Nov. 1 for restaurants, bars and other establishments as well as weddings and other events.
As from mid-November, the same rule will be extended to standing events too, he said.
This file photo taken on June 4, 2021 shows a vial of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at a pharmacy in Paris, France. (STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP)
Moderna Inc said on Monday its COVID-19 vaccine generated a strong immune response in children aged six to 11 years and that it plans to submit the data to global regulators soon.
Moderna said its two-dose vaccine generated virus-neutralizing antibodies in children and safety was comparable to what was previously seen in clinical trials of adolescents and adults. It cited interim data that has yet to be peer reviewed.
It was unclear when US regulators will weigh in on the shot. The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for adults over the age of 18 years and is waiting for a response to its June application for children aged 12 through 17.
Moderna said that in its trial of 4,753 participants, side effects were mostly mild to moderate in severity. The most common side effects were fatigue, headache, fever and injection site pain.
The company statement did not disclose any new information about cases of heart inflammation called myocarditis, a known side effect of mRNA vaccines.
The shots were 50 microgram doses, half the strength used in the primary vaccine series for adults and the same as the booster dose authorized for adults. It is higher than the 10 microgram dose Pfizer is planning for its vaccine in children.
Both the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines have been linked to myocarditis in young men.
Some studies have suggested the rate of incidence in recipients of the Moderna vaccine may be higher than in Pfizer recipients, perhaps because of the stronger dose of vaccine.
The Dutch government is considering new measures to reduce the increasing number of COVID-19 infections in the country, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said on Monday.
"It is just going too fast," De Jonge told national broadcaster NOS after a meeting with the cabinet. "We will have to face the fact that the figures are rising faster and earlier than expected."
The government relaxed the COVID-19 restrictive measures by the end of September. For example, the mandatory 1.5-meter social distancing rule was replaced with urgent advice to keep a distance. Infections have been rising again since then and hospitals have received more COVID-19 patients.
The National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) reported 5,331 new infections from Sunday to Monday, around 1,000 fewer than the day before. However, the numbers still rise rapidly in general, with the weekly average increasing to 5,272 per day.
The government will explain what measures will be taken to reduce the infections at a press conference on Nov 2. The press conference was previously scheduled for Nov 5, but experts advised the cabinet to intervene earlier.
Nicaraguans queue at a customs office in Guasaule, Honduras, on the border between the two countries, to be vaccinated against COVID-19 on Oct 25, 2021. (ORLANDO SIERRA / AFP)
Nicaragua / Honduras
Nearly 8,000 Nicaraguans received COVID-19 vaccines at two customs border crossings with neighboring Honduras in recent days, Honduran health authorities said on Monday, as supplies of the inoculations in Nicaragua have run low.
Promoting the vaccines for Nicaraguans, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez wrote in a post on Twitter that "the solidarity and brotherhood of Hondurans crosses borders." He added that up to 500 doses were being given out daily to Nicaraguans.
Honduran health authorities also pitched the cross-border assistance as a way to help beat back the risk of more infections at home.
"They don't have access to vaccines in Nicaragua and that becomes a risk for us due to the significant movement of people along the border," said Honduran regional health official Jose Maria Paguada.
The border vaccines doled out in Honduras' southwestern Choluteca department utilize donated inoculations made by Moderna and Pfizer, and will go through Nov 6 for first doses, with second doses to follow, Honduran officials said.
To date, Honduras has confirmed more than 370,000 coronavirus infections and nearly 10,200 deaths as a result of the highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the virus.
Spain on Monday reached the grim milestone of 5 million COVID-19 cases during the pandemic, as it reported 4,485 new infections and 54 deaths since Friday.
The total number of people who have now tested positive for COVID-19 is 5,002,217 according to Health Ministry data.
More than three quarters of the Spanish population has now been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and most restrictions on socializing have recently been dropped, although masks remain mandatory in enclosed spaces.
On Monday, the incidence rata over the past two weeks rose by two points to 46.3, edging back up after bottoming out earlier this month.
Ukraine registered a record daily high of 734 coronavirus-related deaths over the past 24 hours, the health ministry said on Tuesday.
The previous high of 614 deaths was on Oct 22.
The ministry's data showed 19,120 new infections were reported over the past 24 hours. Ukraine has reported a total of 2.8 million coronavirus cases and 64,936 deaths.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks to reporters at the UN headquarters in New York, on Oct 11, 2021. (PHOTO / XINHUA)
The Secretary-General of the United Nations has called for equal distribution of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide during a speech at the World Health Summit in Berlin.
"The triumph of the vaccines - developed and brought to market in record speed - is being undone by the tragedy of an unequal distribution. Three quarters of all vaccines have gone to high- and upper-middle-income countries. Vaccine nationalism and hoarding are putting us all at risk," Antonio Guterres said at the Summit, which opened on Sunday.
Health systems globally have been shattered by the COVID-19 pandemic, he said. "Our commitment to achieving health for all has never been more important."
The Biden administration issued new rules for travelers to the US on Monday requiring proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 in addition to a recent negative test for the virus.
People from countries with low supplies of vaccines who aren’t traveling on tourist visas, and those under 18, will be exempt from the vaccine requirement, senior administration officials said in a briefing for reporters.
US citizens and residents returning from abroad who aren’t vaccinated will have to obtain a negative COVID-19 test within a day of their flight, the officials said.
The new rules taking effect Nov 8 represent the biggest change to US travel policy since the start of the pandemic. The procedures replace a system that flatly barred most foreign nationals coming directly from major markets including Europe, India and Brazil.
Under the new system, vaccinated people who have had a negative test in the prior 72 hours will be able to board a flight to the US as long as they share contact tracing information. Unvaccinated foreigners will be generally barred from entry.
A notable exception is for people from a list of countries that are considered to have insufficient supplies of shots. If they aren’t traveling to the US on a tourist visa, they’ll be admitted with proof of a negative COVID-19 test within one day of their flights.
The officials said that about 50 countries are on the list.
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