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Published: 09:28, June 30, 2022 | Updated: 18:28, June 30, 2022
S. Korea authorizes Evusheld of AstraZeneca for the vulnerable
By Agencies
Published:09:28, June 30, 2022 Updated:18:28, June 30, 2022 By Agencies

A photo taken on Feb 8, 2022 shows a box of Evusheld, a drug for antibody therapy developed by pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca for the prevention of COVID-19 in immunocompromised patients at the AstraZeneca facility for biological medicines in Södertälje, south of Stockholm, Sweden. (JONATHAN NACKSTRAND / AFP)

DHAKA / HANOI / JAKARTA / SINGAPORE / YANGON / SYDNEY / SEOUL / KUALA LUMPUR / WELLINGTON / SEOUL  - South Korea on Thursday authorized AstraZeneca PLC's antibody-based therapy for preventing COVID-19 infection in people with a poor immune response, increasing its options as it works to ease the pandemic burden on the healthcare system.

The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety of South Korea granted emergency use authorization for 20,000 doses of Evusheld for individuals aged 12 years and older who have not been exposed to the coronavirus

The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety granted emergency use authorization for 20,000 doses of Evusheld for individuals aged 12 years and older who have not been exposed to the coronavirus.

Nearly 87 percent of South Korea's 52 million people are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while 65 percent have also had a booster, government data showed. However, individuals with compromised immune systems or those with a history of severe adverse reaction to vaccines may need alternative prevention options.

Evusheld could be used for people whose immune systems are unlikely to mount adequate responses to COVID-19 vaccination or for whom vaccination is not recommended, the ministry said.

AstraZeneca in March said Evusheld retained its neutralizing activity against the Omicron coronavirus variant in an independent study, and that it reduced the risk of symptomatic COVID-19 by 77 percent in trials. 

While vaccines rely on an intact immune system to develop targeted antibodies and infection-fighting cells, Evusheld contains laboratory-made antibodies designed to linger in the body for months to contain the virus in case of infection.

The British drugmaker's therapy has already been authorized in the United States and its use has been recommended by the European Medicines Agency.

Australia

The Australian state of Queensland eased several of its remaining COVID-19 restrictions on Thursday, despite the high community transmission of the virus.

Queensland health authorities reported 5,286 new cases in the daily update on Thursday, bringing the state's overall tally to 1,292,709.

Despite such high numbers, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk was quoted by the national broadcaster ABC as saying Queensland had remained strong so the restrictions have been eased in sensible stages.

"I once again pay tribute to the resilience of Queenslanders for the strength of response to this pandemic," Palaszczuk said.

Under the new guidelines, visitors to vulnerable groups such as residents of aged-care facilities, disability accommodation, and correctional facilities will no longer need to be vaccinated.

Likewise, staff in high-risk settings, such as childcare centers and schools and airports, will be able to remain unvaccinated, unless requested by their bosses to get the jabs.

Visitors entering Queensland from overseas will no longer need to complete a COVID-19 test on arrival and people at airports will be able to leave their masks off, although they will still have to wear them while on public transport.

Garment workers wait in a queue to receive a dose of the Moderna vaccine against the COVID-19 coronavirus in Konabari, Bangladesh about 40 km from Dhaka on Jul 18, 2021. (MUNIR UZ ZAMAN / AFP)

Bangladesh

Bangladesh has decided to start administering COVID-19 vaccines to children aged 5-12 amid a fresh surge in COVID-19 cases.

Bangladeshi Health and Family Welfare Minister Zahid Maleque made the announcement on Wednesday, saying the initiative will start next month.

"We'll start the vaccination program in the last week of July," he said at a news conference.

"We'll soon procure vaccines and syringes suitable for children," Maleque said.

In order to receive vaccination, children aged 5-12 will have to register using their birth certificate on the government's (Surokkha) app.

Bangladesh's Cabinet Division on Tuesday issued a circular with the six-point directives to contain the fresh outbreak of the pandemic.

In line with the directives, people must wear masks at all gatherings, shopping malls and restaurants under the "No mask, no service" policy.

Those who bear any symptoms are encouraged to get themselves tested for COVID-19.

The directives are aimed at limiting the fresh spread of the new wave of COVID-19 as Bangladesh is again seeing a surge in fresh cases after a respite of several months.

Bangladesh reported three fresh deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday, the highest number of daily deaths confirmed in about three months.

Meanwhile, the country reported over 2,000 COVID-19 cases for the third consecutive day with the daily test positivity rate jumping to 15.47 percent in the 24 hours till 8:00 am local time Tuesday.

Travelers are processed at the international arrivals hall at Ngurah Rai International Airport in Tuban near Denpasar on Indonesia's resort island of Bali on Feb 16, 2022, after a Singapore Airlines flight arrived following a nearly two-year break due to COVID-19. (SONNY TUMBELAKA / AFP)

Indonesia

Indonesia has seen an increase in the number of newly-confirmed COVID-19 infections in the past weeks after the emergence of the Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5 in the country.

The Southeast Asian nation initially detected its first cases of the two sublineages on June 10 with more than 1,000 daily cases having been recorded in the past two weeks.

On Wednesday, health authorities confirmed 2,149 new cases with more than 16,000 active cases in the past 24 hours. Active cases mean those people are still considered to be infectious.

Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin recently forecasted that peak cases of Omicron sublineages BA.4 and BA.5 in the country would take place in the second to the third week of July/.

He made the prediction after observing South Africa, which first spotted the emergence of the sublineages.

According to Sadikin, the expected peak of the two sub-variants in Indonesia could reach at least 17,400 daily new cases, about 30 percent of the peak daily cases of the primary Omicron variant in February.

BA.4 and BA.5 are more transmissible, but they do not cause higher rates of hospitalization and fatality. The death toll from the coronavirus in Indonesia rose by three to 156,728 on Wednesday, while 1,282 more people recovered during the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of recoveries to 5.91 million, according to the ministry's data.

Minister Sadikin also highlighted that the expected peak of BA.4 and BA.5 would not be likened to the Delta wave phenomenon that devastated Indonesia in July last year with the peak recorded at 51,952 daily cases.

The minister went on to say that the government has not made any changes in the travel rules following the emergence of the sub-variants. The COVID-19 booster shots are still required for domestic travelers.

The ministry, he said, continues to impose existing health protocol standards on the public, accelerate booster vaccinations and conduct its third national serological survey to find out the percentage of people with COVID-19 antibodies.

People wearing face masks walk through the Shibuya scramble crossing in Tokyo, Japan, Jan 21, 2021. (ZHANG XIAOYU / XINHUA)

Japan

The Tokyo metropolitan government will on Thursday raise its alert level for new coronavirus infections to the second-highest of four levels due to a sharp rise in cases, Fuji News Network reported.

The Japanese capital recorded 3,803 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, up 63 percent from the previous week.

Malaysia

Malaysia reported 2,605 new COVID-19 infections as of midnight Wednesday, bringing the national total to 4,563,188, according to the Health Ministry.

There are three new imported cases, with 2,602 cases being local transmissions, data released on the ministry's website showed.

Five new deaths have been reported, bringing the death toll to 35,763.

A woman receives a shot of China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine in Yangon, Myanmar, Aug 29, 2021. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

Myanmar

Myanmar confirmed six new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the tally in the country to 613,583, the country's Ministry of Health said on Wednesday.

The ministry said the death toll from COVID-19 in the country stood at 19,434 on Wednesday as no new deaths were reported.

New Zealand

New Zealand recorded 7,423 community cases of COVID-19 and 19 more deaths during the past 24 hours, the Ministry of Health said in a statement on Thursday.

In addition, 206 new cases of COVID-19 were detected at the New Zealand border.

Currently, 411 patients are being treated in hospitals due to COVID-19, including six in intensive care units or high dependency units.

New Zealand has reported 1,338,501 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic hit the country in early 2020.

A notice warning people not to gather in groups larger than five persons as part of restrictions to hald the spread of the coronavirus is displayed at Raffles Place financial business district in Singapore on Jan 4, 2022. (ROSLAN RAHMAN / AFP)

Singapore

Singapore reported 9,392 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the total tally to 1,434,563.

Of the new cases, 749 cases were detected through PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests and 8,643 through ART (antigen rapid test) tests, according to statistics released by the Ministry of Health.

Among the PCR cases, 714 were local transmissions and 35 were imported cases. Among the ART cases with mild symptoms and assessed to be of low risk, there were 8,075 local transmissions and 568 imported cases, respectively.

A total of 455 cases are currently warded in hospitals, with seven cases in intensive care units.

One death was reported from COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the total death toll to 1,411, the ministry said.

A man passes walks past a billboard on the coronavirus in Ho Chi Minh City on Dec 4, 2021. (NHAC NGUYEN / AFP)

Vietnam

Vietnam recorded 777 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, up by eight from Tuesday, according to its Ministry of Health.

The infections brought the total tally to 10,745,631 with 43,087 deaths. Nearly 231.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in the country, including over 205.4 million shots on people aged 18 and above, said the ministry.

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