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Published: 11:03, October 27, 2021 | Updated: 18:12, October 27, 2021
Russia reports record COVID-19 daily death toll
By Agencies
Published:11:03, October 27, 2021 Updated:18:12, October 27, 2021 By Agencies

Employees of the Federal State Center for Special Risk Rescue Operations of Russia Emergency Situations prepare to disinfect Savyolovsky railway station in Moscow, Russia on Oct 26, 2021. (ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO / AP)

WASHINGTON / THE HAGUE / KIGALI / LOME / BRUSSELS / HARARE / MOSCOW / SOFIA - Russia on Wednesday reported 1,123 new COVID-19 deaths, its highest one-day toll of the pandemic amid a surge in cases that has forced officials to partially reimpose some lockdown measures.

The coronavirus task force also said it had recorded 36,582 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, including 5,789 in Moscow.

Meanwhile, Russia ordered regional leaders on Tuesday to step up their fight against COVID-19 as the daily death toll hit a record for the sixth time in eight days.

Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said infections were up by more than 10 percent in the past week and 268,500 people were receiving treatment in hospitals across the country's 85 regions.

Doctors report packed wards and a heavy strain on resources and staff, including junior doctors and medical students who have been brought in to help.

With Russia struggling to contain surging infections and deaths, and frustrated by low domestic take-up of the Sputnik V vaccine it has developed and sold around the world, the Kremlin has sought to pin responsibility on regional authorities to do more.

President Vladimir Putin has declared a nationwide workplace shutdown from Oct 30 to Nov 7 but encouraged regions to impose extra measures at their own discretion.

"The president has urged governors to use their powers more actively. Everything will depend on the situation in the particular region," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

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)

African Union

A senior official of the African Union Commission Tuesday urged European Union member countries against a policy of not accepting COVID-19 vaccine certificates from the continent.

Speaking at the opening of a meeting of foreign affairs ministers of the European Union and the African Union in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, Monique Nsanzabaganwa, the vice-chairperson of the African Union Commission indicated such a policy could affect vaccination campaigns.

Nsanzabaganwa noted important steps were achieved by "team Europe" in providing vaccines to the African continent through the COVAX facility and through bilateral initiatives.

"To support these vaccination efforts the recognition by our European counterparts of vaccines and vaccination certificates issued by member states authorities in conformity with Africa CDC recommendations is pertinent," the official said.

"This will allow our sister continents to be able to continue engaging productively particularly at the economic level," she added.

Belgium

As COVID-19 cases surge in Belgium, health certificates will now be mandatory for events of 200 people indoors and 400 outdoors, announced Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo on Tuesday in a press conference. 

The new rule will apply across the country, and masks will be made compulsory in indoor public spaces and shops, said the prime minister.

The new rules on the use of the COVID-19 safe ticket (CST) were decided by Belgium's Consultative Committee on Tuesday.

"Nobody can ignore the figures. In our country and other countries, you see an autumn wave after a plateau," he said.

According to data published on Tuesday by Sciensano, the Belgian institute for public health, the country saw a spike of 75 percent in infections and 56 percent in hospitalizations last week.

Vials of COVID-19 vaccine, produced by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, in cold storage at the COVID-19 vaccination center inside France's national velodrome in the Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines district of Paris, France, March 24, 2021. (PHOTO / BLOOMBERG)

BioNTech

BioNTech SE said it plans to start construction on its first start-to-finish vaccine plant in Africa in the middle of next year, aiming to build a manufacturing network that would eventually supply hundreds of millions of doses to the continent.

The German company said it’s developing the plans with the governments of Rwanda and Senegal, and initially the factory will have annual capacity of 50 million messenger RNA vaccine doses. 

The location hasn’t been decided yet, and the company didn’t announce a timeline for completion.

The news comes as Moderna Inc said Tuesday it agreed to sell as many as 110 million doses of its COVID-19 shot to the African Union following months of pressure, though most of the shipments won’t arrive until the second quarter of next year. 

The purchase was made possible by the US government giving up its place in the supply queue, African Union coronavirus envoy Strive Masiyiwa said at a briefing.

“This is a breakthrough for us,” Masiyiwa said. “None of the suppliers had vaccines for us for this year.”

The moves follow a coronavirus immunization rollout that has seen Africa lag far behind rich nations that rushed to sign abundant supply deals. 

Only 5 percent of Africa’s roughly 1.4 billion people are fully vaccinated, while the likes of the US and the UK start to distribute booster shots.

Moderna earlier this month said it would spend as much as $500 million to build a factory in Africa that could produce half a billion mRNA vaccine doses a year. 

Both the Moderna and BioNTech factories may be completed too late to have much impact on the COVID-19 pandemic. They could instead produce other mRNA vaccines once they’re approved. 

BioNTech is working on an mRNA vaccine for malaria, which kills hundreds of thousands of children in Africa each year.

Pfizer Inc and partner BioNTech announced a separate plan in July for a site in Cape Town, South Africa that would focus on the final stage of the manufacturing process.

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 on Oct 20, 2021. (NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV / AFP)

Bulgaria

Bulgaria's tally of coronavirus infections has risen by 6,813 in the past 24 hours, a record daily increase as the European Union's least vaccinated country grapples with a fourth wave of the pandemic, official data showed on Wednesday.

The virus has killed 124 people in the past 24 hours, according to the figures, bringing the total death toll to 23,440.

More than 7,300 people were in COVID-19 wards as hospitals across the Balkan country struggled to deal with the inflow of coronavirus patients amid a shortage of medical staff.

The interim government imposed a health pass entry to most indoor public venues in a bid to slow the spread of the more contagious Delta variant and spur vaccinations in the country, where only one in four adults has had at least one shot.

Vaccine take-ups have quadrupled since the pass was made mandatory last Thursday. More than 26,000 new doses were administered in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of vaccinated adults to 1.46 million people.

But many Bulgarians remain sceptical about the shots amid entrenched mistrust in state institutions, misinformation and contradictory messages by politicians and experts ahead of a third parliamentary election this year on Nov 14.

Vaccine opponents have held rallies against the health pass over the past days and a new national protest, organized by restaurants and hotel owners, is planned for Thursday.

Denmark

Denmark, which has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, has registered a rise in COVID-19 cases with several key indicators showing that the virus has accelerated in the past month.

The reproductive rate of the virus, known as the R rate, is now 1.2, up from 1 a week ago, which means the virus is spreading, Health Minister Magnus Heunicke tweeted on Tuesday.

Netherlands

The number of people who tested positive for COVID-19 in the Netherlands rose significantly over the last week, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) announced on Tuesday.

In the week from Oct 19 to Oct 26, a total of 38,733 positive test results were counted. This was an increase of 50 percent compared to the previous week. Reported figures increased in all regions and all age groups.

Of those aged 12 or over who tested positive for COVID-19 in the Netherlands in recent weeks, 52 percent had not been vaccinated, either partially or fully. Currently, 18.3 percent of Dutch people aged 12 or over are not vaccinated.

The number of new patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 rose to 584 in the past week, 34 percent more than the week before. A total of 110 new COVID-19 patients were admitted to intensive care, an increase of 31 percent on the previous week.

Switzerland

Switzerland’s drug regulator Swissmedic approved a third shot of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for people at high risk. 

“The latest study data indicate that an additional dose can increase the ability to form antibodies against the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, particularly in patients with a weakened immune system,” it said in a statement.

Togo

Togo received 702,000 doses of Chinese Sinovac vaccines on Tuesday through the COVAX facility, the Togolese Ministry of Health announced on Twitter on Tuesday.

The new batch of vaccines was received at the Gnassingbe Eyadema International Airport by the Togolese Minister of Health Moustafa Mijiyawa in the presence of the representatives of WHO and UNICEF in Togo.

"The 702,000 doses constitute the largest batch of vaccines received by the country though COVAX since March 2021, the start of vaccine supply in Togo. 

It brings the number of doses of Sinovac received directly through the COVAX initiative to 1,027,000," according to the ministry.

A view of the Food and Drug Administration's White Oak campus Dec 17, 2020, in Silver Spring, Maryland. (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP)

United States

Advisors to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday voted in favor of authorizing the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.

The decision came after a whole-day meeting of the FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, which was held to discuss whether, based on the totality of scientific evidence available, the benefits of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine outweigh its risks for use in children 5 to 11 years of age.

The vaccine would be administered to younger kids as a 2-dose series, 3 weeks apart, according to the FDA.

While children are far less likely than adults to get severely ill or die from COVID-19, data presented to the FDA advisors on Tuesday suggest that they can be as likely to catch and spread the disease.

Results from the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine clinical trials show the vaccine is safe and 90.7 percent effective against symptomatic COVID-19 in children ages 5 to 11.

The FDA will consider formal authorization of the vaccine based on its advisors' recommendation. If authorized, it would be the first COVID-19 vaccine for younger children.

Once the FDA makes its authorization, the vaccine advisory group of US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is set to meet on Nov 2 to 3 on recommendations for the use of the vaccine for younger kids.

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is to ramp up its vaccination campaign to attain herd immunity against the COVID-19 by year-end, the Zimbabwean government said on Tuesday.

A program of activities were compiled in consultation with all relevant stakeholders to accelerate the vaccination campaign, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said after a post-cabinet media briefing.

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