Published: 10:20, October 29, 2020 | Updated: 13:11, June 5, 2023
WHO eyes vaccine insurance coverage for poor nations
By Agencies

General view during a press conference of the World Health Organization (WHO) amid the COVID-19 outbreak, on July 3, 2020 at the WHO headquarters in Geneva. (FABRICE COFFRINI / POOL / AFP)

BERLIN / PARIS / BOGOTA / BUENOS AIRES / BRUSSELS / LONDON / SAO PAULO / MEXICO CITY / DUBLIN / ALGIERS / PRAGUE / ROME / MADRID / ZURICH / NEW YORK / SANTIAGO / OTTAWA / TIRANA / RABAT / NAIROBI / ADDIS ABABA / WASHINGTON / MOSCOW / WARSAW / TUNIS - A vaccine scheme co-led by the World Health Organization is setting up a compensation fund for people in poor nations who might suffer any side-effects from COVID-19 vaccines, aiming to allay fears that could hamper a global rollout of shots and prolong the pandemic.

The scheme is being set up by the promoters of the COVAX vaccine facility, which is co-led by the WHO and GAVI, a vaccine alliance.

Coronavirus cases worldwide surpassed 44.4 million while the global death toll exceeded 1.17 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.


Life for many Americans may not return to normal until the end of 2021 or into 2022, Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the nation's top infectious expert, said Wednesday.

Speaking during a webinar hosted by the University of Melbourne, Fauci pointed out that the worsening situation was caused in particular by the "divisiveness" of different US states in following health recommendations, such as mask wearing. 

In a commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Fauci said wearing masks was critical to avoid crippling shutdowns as a vaccine won’t be available until at least January. 

Separately on Wednesday, US Assistant Secretary of Health Brett Giroir said Wednesday the nation was at a "critical point" and warned of local governments' "draconian measures" if the public do not take safety precautions against the virus seriously.

ALSO READ: Record US flu shots on the way for winter

The US has so far reported over 8.85 million confirmed cases and more than 227,000 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

The nation reported over 74,000 new cases on Tuesday and nearly 1,000 deaths. More than 44,000 patients were in hospitals Tuesday, the highest number since Aug 15 and up 40 percent in October. 

New York coronavirus cases topped 500,000, while hospitalizations in neighboring New Jersey exceeded 1,000 for the first time since July. 

A screen shows European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaking via videoconference, in a press room at EU headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, on Oct 28, 2020. (VIRGINIA MAYO / POOL / AP)


The European Commission proposed new tax and trade measures on Wednesday to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in the European Union (EU) and avoid shortages of goods and medical gear, saying the new rise in infections on the continent was “alarming”.

The European Commission urged EU governments to share more data on outbreaks in their countries, and called for more coordination on testing strategies

To avoid risks of new shortages of medical equipment, the commission said it had launched joint procurement for gear needed to inoculate people, such as syringes and disinfectants. It also extended until April a temporary suspension of customs duties and sales tax on the import of medical equipment. 

EU countries could also exempt COVID-19 testing kits and vaccines from sales tax, the commission said.

Meanwhile, governments should coordinate their testing strategies and make greater use of rapid antigen tests, said the commission. 

ALSO READ: WHO: No magic solutions to halt virus

Brussels called for coordinated rules on quarantines and said that states should have common testing requirements for incoming travelers.

On vaccines, Von der Leyen said the delivery of potential vaccines to EU countries could begin in earnest in April

It urged governments to share more data on outbreaks in their countries and on the situation in their healthcare settings. All national applications that allow the operators to trace people exposed to the virus should also be made interoperable across the EU, the commission said.

On vaccines, Von der Leyen said the delivery of potential vaccines to EU countries could begin in earnest in April, and vaccination strategies should give priority to the most vulnerable.

On Thursday, EU leaders will hold a videoconference, with an aim to make progress on common testing and vaccination strategies, officials said.

The late-afternoon e-meeting is the first of a planned series of videoconferences leaders will dedicate in the coming weeks to the health crisis, with one official saying two more may take place before an EU summit scheduled for mid-December.

Africa tally

The number of confirmed cases in the African continent has reached 1,748,335, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said on Thursday.

The continental disease control and prevention agency said in a statement that the death toll related to the pandemic now stood at 42,151 as of Thursday afternoon.

A total of 1,430,558 people infected with COVID-19 have recovered across the continent, the Africa CDC said.

The most affected African countries in terms of the number of positive cases include South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Ethiopia and Nigeria.

The Southern Africa region is the most COVID-19 affected region both in terms of the number of confirmed positive cases as well as the number of deaths.

The Northern Africa region is the second most COVID-19-affected African region, according to the Africa CDC.

South Africa currently has the most COVID-19 cases, which hit 719,714. The country also has the highest number of deaths related to COVID-19, at 19,111.

Morocco came next with 207,718 confirmed cases and 3,506 deaths, followed by Egypt with 107,030 confirmed cases and 6,234 deaths, the Africa CDC said.


Tunisia on Thursday banned travel between the country's regions, suspended schools and public gatherings and extended a curfew, as it tried to contain a rapid surge of COVID-19 cases with hospitals nearly full.

After successfully containing the coronavirus in the spring and summer, Tunisia is now experiencing a very rapid spread of the virus with more than 55,000 cases and intensive care units full in some regions.

As well as banning internal travel in most cases, the new rules include a suspension of schools until Nov 8, a two-week suspension of universities and a ban on protests and public gatherings of more than four people.

Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi has said Tunisia cannot afford a second lockdown with the government already fighting the central bank over a projected deficit double what it had originally foreseen.


President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that Russia's vaccines were effective and that the country hoped to start mass vaccinations by the end of the year.

Russia is currently testing its main experimental vaccine, known as Sputnik V, on 40,000 people in Moscow and outside of the trial has already begun vaccinating frontline workers, but only in small numbers.

Earlier estimates by Russian officials of how many doses Russia could produce this year have been cut back, from 30 million to just over 2 million, with trade and industry minister Denis Manturov recently citing challenges in scaling up production of the vaccine.

 “There is one question right now and that’s providing for the industrial production (of the vaccine) in the necessary volumes,” Putin said, speaking by video link to an investor forum in Russia.

“There are certain problems with this, related to the availability, or lack, of the necessary equipment,” he said. “Hard materials, that are needed for the roll-out of mass production.”

Moscow aims to produce 300,000 doses of the vaccine this month, Manturov has said, followed by 800,000 in November, and 1.5 million in December, reaching significantly higher volumes in early 2021.

Putin also referenced a rival vaccine, produced by British drugmaker AstraZeneca with Oxford University, that uses a chimpanzee adenovirus as a vector, rather than a human adenovirus vector.

“We know that many European countries have already signed contract for deliveries of the vaccine from Britain,” Putin said.

“Unfortunately, our colleagues there have seen some setbacks, they are making their vaccine on the basis of the monkey adenovirus,” Putin said.

Russia's daily tally of coronavirus cases surged to a record high of 17,717 on Thursday, including 4,906 in Moscow, taking the national tally to 1,581,693 since the pandemic began.

Authorities also reported a record high of 366 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 27,301.


Poland's total number of confirmed coronavirus infections has tripled in less than a month, exceeding 300,000, the health ministry said on Thursday, as it announced a new daily record of 20,156 new cases.

The ministry also said that as of Thursday, COVID-19 patients occupied 14,631 hospital beds and were using 1,203 ventilators, compared with 13,931 and 1,150 respectively a day earlier.

Finance Minister Tadeusz Koscinski told public Radio 1 he hopes Poland won’t introduce a full lockdown from Monday, but Friday’s data on fresh cases will be key.

Local lockdowns, or closing of specific areas, will probably be “unavoidable,” Koscinski said, adding that he couldn’t rule out further “short-term” restrictions in some industries.

READ MORE: WHO says Europe needs 'serious acceleration' in COVID-19 fight

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic reported 12,977 new coronavirus cases for Oct. 28, health ministry data showed on Thursday.

Total cases rose to 297,013 while deaths climbed by 128 to 2,675. 


Chancellor Angela Merkel defended her decision to once again severely limit movement in Germany, saying the country is in a “dramatic situation” as the rapid spread of the coronavirus stretches health-care services to their limit.

Authorities are no longer able to track infections back to their source and that leads to an exponential growth in infections, which must be stopped, Merkel told lawmakers in the German parliament on Thursday.

Germany on Thursday reported a record 16,774 new COVID-19 cases, pushing the total caseload to 481,013, according to the Robert Koch Institute

Merkel also said preparations for vaccinations in Germany are underway and the government is working on ethical guidelines on who vaccines should be available for.

Her remarks came hours after data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) showed 16,774 new COVID-19 cases were recorded, the highest daily tally seen in the country, pushing the total caseload to 481,013. Deaths rose by 89 to 10,272, the RKI said.

Merkel on Wednesday said Germany will impose an emergency monthlong lockdown that includes the closure of restaurants, gyms and theaters.

Effective from Nov 2, private gatherings will be limited to 10 people from a maximum of two households. Restaurants, bars, theatres, cinemas, pools and gyms will be shut and concerts canceled.

Professional sports events will be allowed to be held only without spectators. People will be asked not to travel for private, non-essential reasons, and overnight stays in hotels will be available only for necessary business trips.

Schools and daycare centers will remain open, as will shops, so long as they stick to social distancing and hygiene rules. 

The government sought to ease pressure by making available up to 10 billion euros (US$11.7 billion) in aid for companies affected by the measures, including reimbursing as much as 75 percent of lost sales in November.

In this image grab made from video provided by TFI, French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a national address from Paris, France, on Oct 28, 2020. (PHOTO / TFI VIA AP)


French Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Thursday that he could not rule out a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, one day after President Emmanuel Macron announced that the country will go back into a nationwide lockdown starting this week. 

Macron said in a televised address to the nation that the lockdown measures, which will be in place until Dec 1, might be eased once infections fell back to about 5,000 per day from around 40,000 per day at present.

Professor Jean-François Delfraissy, a government scentific adviser, warned Thursday the measures might have to be extended as the number of infections might not fall to 5,000 per day by then.

READ MORE: Europe sharpens restrictions to regain grip on pandemic

Under the new measures, people will have to stay in their homes except to buy essential goods, seek medical attention, or use their daily one-hour allocation of exercise. Anyone leaving their home will have to carry a special document justifying being outside, which can be checked by police, Macron said.

Restaurants, cafes and shops not selling essential goods will have to close down for at least the next two weeks, Macron said.

France on Wednesday registered 244 additional deaths, taking the toll to 35,785, and 36,437 new cases were also logged, pushing the tally to 1,235,132, according to data shown on French television during a speech by French President Emmanuel Macron.


Spain will set aside 1.01 billion euros (US$1.19 billion) for coronavirus vaccines next year, the government said on Wednesday at a presentation of the 2021 budget bill.

Spain's coronavirus tally rose by 19,765 cases, slightly more than recorded the previous day, bringing the total to 1,136,503 infections since the onset of the pandemic, health ministry data showed Wednesday. The death toll increased by 168 to 35,466.

Due to the worsening epidemiological situation, movement in Andalusia, Castile-La-Mancha, Castile and Leon, and Murcia regions have been restricted.

Murcia will close borders for 14 days, while Andalusia, Castile and Leon as well as Castile-La-Mancha will close theirs until Nov 9.


Italy’s new coronavirus cases jumped 14 percent Wednesday to a record 24,991 as hospitalizations climbed to the highest since early May.

There were 205 additional fatalities linked to COVID-19, while hospitalized patients rose by 1,151 to 16,517. 

A total 37,905 people have now died in Italy from COVID-19, the second highest tally in Europe after Britain, while 589,766 infections have been registered to date.

The northern region of Lombardy, which includes Italy's financial capital Milan, remains by far the worst-impacted as the second wave hits. The region reported 7,558 new cases on Wednesday. 


Colombia will extend a so-called selective quarantine until the end of November, President Ivan Duque said in a nightly address on Wednesday.

Duque asked local authorities and citizens to exercise greater control in staying away from crowds to avoid outbreaks like those that are occurring in European countries.

So far, Colombia has reported more than 1 million infections, including 30,753 deaths.


Argentina's COVID-19 fatalities rose above 30,000 on Wednesday, another grim milestone for a country once considered a role model in Latin America for countering the pandemic, but which is now battling one of the world's highest daily death tolls.

Argentina has seen confirmed coronavirus cases soar to 1.13 million with 30,071 deaths, according to the latest official data.

Intensive care units in the country are at 64.4 percent capacity with some provincial hospitals straining.


The British government will do everything it can to avoid putting the country into a second national lockdown and believes it can control the virus with tough local measures, Housing Minister Robert Jenrick said on Thursday.

The UK has recorded a further 24,701 new COVID-19 cases and 310 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, government data showed on Wednesday.

READ MORE: UK says COVID-19 vaccine roll out could start before Christmas

The spread of the coronavirus continues to increase across all parts of England with cases doubling every nine days and an estimated 960,000 people are carrying the virus on any one day, according to a new study by Imperial College, putting pressure on the government to introduce more drastic lockdown restrictions. 

The infection rate is rising in all age groups with the highest spread of the disease in the northwest of England and Yorkshire and the Humber region, Imperial found. The researchers calculated the "R" rate standing at 1.6, indicating the epidemic is growing.


Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc said on Wednesday its coronavirus antibody cocktail - the experimental treatment that US President Donald Trump received - significantly reduced medical visits in a trial of nearly 800 patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19.

Regeneron said patients given the treatment, REGN-COV2, made around 57 percent fewer COVID-19 related medical visits than those given a placebo over a 29 day period.

The drop was around 72 percent in patients with one or more risk factors such as being over age 50, obesity, cardiovascular, metabolic, lung, liver or kidney disease, or an immunocompromised status.


Brazil has recorded 510 additional COVID-19 deaths, and 28,629 new cases of coronavirus, the health ministry said on Wednesday.

Brazil has recorded 5,468,270 confirmed cases, along with a total of 158,456 deaths, according to official data.

The state of Sao Paulo, the most industrialized and populous in Brazil with 46 million inhabitants, is worst hit by the pandemic with 1,103,582 infections and 39,007 deaths.

Social distancing in Brazil is expected to return to pre-pandemic levels in mid-December, which will help reduce unemployment next year and extend the economic recovery already underway, a senior Economy Ministry official said.


Greece reported 1,547 new coronavirus cases Wednesday, the highest daily increase since the beginning of the pandemic and a second straight record day, bringing the tally to 34,229.

The country recorded 10 more deaths in the past 24 hours, taking the death toll to 603. 


Switzerland on Wednesday ordered dance clubs closed and added new mask requirements while leaving the nation largely open for business as it tries to contain surging COVID-19 cases without resorting to a stricter, economy-crippling lockdown.

The government in Bern ordered in-person college classes halted from Monday, placed new limits on sporting and leisure activities, and ordered masks worn in packed offices, secondary schools and even outdoors if people cannot keep their distance.

Public gatherings will be limited to 50 people or less, and sporting and cultural activities with more than 15 people will be banned.

Bars and restaurants must close at 11 pm, while private family gatherings will be capped at 10 people.

The measures take effect Oct 29, with no end date set.

Switzerland saw new infections soar to 8,616 on Wednesday, roughly 0.1 percent of the population in a single day. The country plans to deploy up to 80,000 COVID-19 tests daily to expand screening capacity stretched by rising cases.


Portugal reported on Wednesday the biggest daily increase in confirmed virus cases since the start of the outbreak. 

There were 3,960 new cases in a day, more than Saturday’s previous record of 3,669, taking the tally to 128,392. 

The number of patients in intensive-care units rose by nine to 262, approaching the peak of 271 from April.

The government will hold an extraordinary cabinet meeting Saturday to define measures to control the pandemic. It has already announced limits on travel between municipalities from Oct 30-Nov 3.


Mexico's health ministry reported on Wednesday 5,595 additional cases of the novel coronavirus and 495 more deaths in the country, bringing the tally to 906,863 and the death toll to 90,309. 


Ireland reported the lowest number of COVID-19 cases for almost three weeks on Wednesday, with the seven-day average falling for the seventh consecutive day after the country introduced some of the tightest restrictions in Europe.

Ireland reported 675 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, the lowest daily number since Oct 9, while the seven-day average fell to 866 from 1,176 a week ago, its data showed.

The Health Ministry also reported six additional deaths linked to COVID-19.


Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune has been transferred to Germany for medical checks, state media reported on Wednesday, days after senior aides tested positive for COVID-19 and he went into hospital.

He said on Saturday he was self isolating after senior government aides had fallen sick and on Tuesday state media said he had been admitted to a specialized treatment unit in an army hospital, without saying if he had COVID-19.


Slovakia's government has extended the country's partial lockdown until Nov 8, adding people with negative tests for coronavirus to the list of exceptions, Prime Minister Igor Matovic said on Wednesday.

Authorities are planning to carry out a countrywide test for the coronavirus this weekend in an attempt to curb the recent surge in infections.

"Those who will participate in the countrywide testing and they will have a certificate for passing the test, they will be able to live relatively freely from Monday," Matovic said.

As of Tuesday, there were 48,943 coronavirus cases recorded in the country of 5.5 million, up by 2,887 in the past 24 hours.


Chilean Health Minister Enrique Paris said Wednesday that the country has seen less than 100 critical cases of the novel coronavirus in the last 12 days.

Out of the 745 patients admitted to intensive care units (ICU) over that period, only 79 were considered critical, he said.

According to the Latin American Center for Economic and Social Policies at Chile's Pontifical Catholic University, 13 regions in Chile have less than 80 percent of their ICU beds occupied.

The southern Magallanes region, the country's hardest hit, continues to see a decline in cases per 100,000 inhabitants, but still has Chile's highest infection rates.

Nationwide, 1,004 new infections and six more deaths were registered in the past 24 hours, bringing the tally to 505,530 and the death toll to 14,032.


Canada has recorded a total of 224,889 COVID-19 cases and 10,026 deaths as of Wednesday afternoon, according to CTV.

The latest data showed there were a daily average of 2,743 new cases registered in the country, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

Provincial and territorial data showed that an average of 1,095 people with COVID-19 were being treated in Canadian hospitals each day during the most past seven days, including 228 of whom were being treated in intensive care units, said Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam. During the same period, there was an average of 30 deaths reported daily.

On Wednesday, Ontario reported 834 new cases and five more deaths while Quebec confirmed 929 additional cases and 17 more deaths. 


The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Albania surpassed 20,000 on Wednesday, as health authorities reported 311 fresh infections in the last 24 hours, a record single-day spike.

Albania has recorded a total of 20,040 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began in March.

In the past 24 hours, six more deaths were registered, raising the death toll to 493.


Morocco reported on Wednesday 3,985 new COVID-19 cases, taking the country's tally to 207,718.

The number of recoveries increased by 2,885 to 171,591 while the death toll rose by 61 to 3,506, the Ministry of Health said in a statement.


With 5,924 COVID-19 patients currently in hospital, Belgium has surpassed its previous peak from April 6. A record 743 people were admitted to hospital Wednesday, following a revised 690 on Tuesday.

There are now 993 patients in intensive care, but that’s more than 20 percent below the peak of the first wave. 

Belgium also reported more than 100 deaths for a second straight day.

The country has so far reported 368,337 confirmed cases and 11,170 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.


Kenya’s Ministry of Education said Wednesday 33 teachers and 17 students have tested positive for COVID-19 since the the country resumed in-person learning a fortnight ago.

Belio Kipsang, principal secretary in the ministry, said 35 schools across the country had reported COVID-19 cases while ruling out the possibility of closing those schools.

On Wednesday, a total of 1,018 new cases were reported, taking the nation’s tally to 51,851. The death toll rose by 16 to 950, according to the Ministry of Health.

President Uhuru Kenyatta will convene a special session with national and county government officials on Nov 4 to discuss the spike in infections and fatalities.