Published: 00:05, February 24, 2021 | Updated: 00:48, June 5, 2023
UNICEF starts shipping syringes for COVAX vaccine rollout
By Agencies

A bottle containing the Oxford / AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is seen at the Al-Abbas Islamic Centre, which has been converted into a temporary vaccination centre in Birmingham, central England on Jan 21, 2021. (DARREN STAPLES / AFP)

BRUSSELS / GENEVA / WASHINGTON / PARIS / WARSAW / LONDON / RIO DE JANEIRO / ROME / ALGIERS / TUNIS / RABAT / MADRID / QUITO / SANTIAGO / MEXICO CITY / PRAGUE / BUENOS AIRES / HAVANA / ADDIS ABABA / CAIRO / MOSCOW / KIEV -The UN children’s fund UNICEF said on Tuesday it had sent an initial 100,000 syringes for COVID-19 vaccines to the Maldives in preparation for first deliveries of Pfizer and AstraZeneca shots under the COVAX vaccine-sharing plan.

The syringes, as well as 1,000 safety boxes for vaccine storage, are expected to arrive in the Maldives on Tuesday, UNICEF said. Other recipient countries in the first wave of shipments include Ivory Coast and Sao Tome and Principe.

Tuesday’s shipment will be followed in the next few weeks by deliveries of some 14.5 million 0.5 millilitre (ml) and 0.3 ml syringes to more than 30 countries, UNICEF said in a statement.

The COVAX facility - co-led by the World Health Organization, the GAVI vaccine alliance and others - earlier this month allocated around 330 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines for poorer countries. It aims to deliver these and millions more in the first half of 2021.


Senegal began its coronavirus vaccination campaign on Tuesday with 200,000 doses that it purchased from China’s Sinopharm, which it received last week.

The first shots were given to government ministers and health workers at the health ministry in the capital, Dakar.

The West African country is one of the first in the region to start vaccinating its population against COVID-19. It has so far recorded 33,242 cases and 832 deaths from the disease.


AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 antibody cocktail has proved effective against variants of the virus in early testing, a potentially key development for vulnerable populations unable to receive vaccines.

The combination of monoclonal antibodies taken from COVID-19 convalescent patients held up against new strains first identified in the UK and South Africa in extensive laboratory testing, Mark Esser, the firm’s head of microbial sciences, said in an interview. The news is particularly helpful as the company grapples with slower trial recruitment in light of the success of vaccines.

While vaccines can protect the general population from disease, not everyone’s immune system can respond adequately. High-risk people such as cancer patients may need drugs like monoclonal antibodies that can neutralize the virus and mimic the necessary immune response to avoid infection. AstraZeneca is running five advanced-stage trials of its antibodies, looking at both prevention and treatment.

Although vaccine output can be scaled up more easily, it’s only possible to produce several million doses of the monoclonal antibodies annually, according to Esser. This means demand for the drugs could considerably outstrip supply if they’re shown to work.

Global tally

Coronavirus cases worldwide surpassed 111.7 million while the global death toll topped 2.47 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Africa tally

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases recorded on the African continent reached 3,830,631 as of Monday evening, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said.

According to the agency's Africa COVID-19 dashboard, the number of deaths stood at 101,350.

A healthcare worker holds the hand of a deceased COVID-19 patient while talking on the phone with the patient's family member, at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills section of Los Angeles, Jan 9, 2021. (JAE C. HONG / AP)


Over half a million people have died of coronavirus in the United States, as the country races to vaccinate its most vulnerable residents before new variants of the deadly disease become widespread.

The US has also reported 28.1 million confirmed cases, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

In a proclamation honoring the dead, President Joe Biden ordered the US flag to be flown at half-staff on public buildings and grounds until sunset on Friday.

That’s more Americans who’ve died in one year in this pandemic than in World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War combined. That’s more lives lost to this virus than any other nation on earth.

Joe Biden, 

US president

Biden, in remarks before a candle-lighting ceremony at the White House honoring the Americans who died of the virus, called the loss a “heartbreaking” milestone.

“That’s more Americans who’ve died in one year in this pandemic than in World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War combined,” he said. “That’s more lives lost to this virus than any other nation on earth.”

With numbers that made the appalling toll early in the pandemic pale by comparison, deaths recorded between December and February accounted for 46 percent of all US COVID-19 fatalities, even as vaccines finally became available and a monumental effort to inoculate the American public got started.

Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said political divisiveness contributed significantly to the “stunning” US COVID-19 toll.

Despite the grim milestone, the virus appears to have loosened its grip as COVID-19 cases in US fell for the sixth consecutive week. 

However, COVID-19 spread among dozens of students and teachers in a Georgia school district in December and January, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Meanwhile, about 15 percent of the US population has received at least one vaccine dose so far and more than 63 million doses have been administered, according to the CDC.

Drugmakers won’t have to perform giant efficacy trials for new vaccines or booster shots developed to combat new variants of the coronavirus, the US Food and Drug Administration said.

Pfizer Inc expects to deliver more than 13 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine per week to the US by the middle of March, more than doubling its shipments from early February, a top Pfizer executive said in prepared testimony ahead of a Tuesday congressional hearing.

In a separate development, the US House of Representatives Budget Committee on Monday approved legislation with US$1.9 trillion in new coronavirus relief, advancing a top priority of Biden toward a full House vote on passage expected later this week.

ALSO READ: UN chief calls for global vaccination plan

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi signed an executive order Monday allowing schools that meet certain criteria to resume in-person classes starting March 1. 

In a press conference, Pierluisi said schools would have to be certified by the Health Department, guarantee social distancing and operate at no more than 50 percent capacity in order to reopen. The education secretary will announce which of the island’s schools are eligible to reopen Thursday.

A healthcare worker receives a Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at a hospital in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, South Africa, Feb 17, 2021. (NARDUS ENGELBRECHT / AP)


The World Health Organization (WHO) and its partners have agreed to launch a program for claims of serious side effects among people in 92 poorer countries due to COVID-19 vaccination, the WHO said Monday in a statement.

"This is the first and only global vaccine injury compensation mechanism" operating on an international scale, according to the statement.

The program, dubbed "No-Fault Compensation", will offer eligible individuals "a fast, fair, robust and transparent process to receive compensation for rare but serious adverse events associated with COVAX-distributed vaccines until June 30 2022," according to the statement.

"By providing a no-fault lump-sum compensation in full and final settlement of any claims, the COVAX program aims to significantly reduce the need for recourse to the law courts, a potentially lengthy and costly process," reads the statement.

By providing a mechanism to settle serious adverse events, the compensation program could help those who might have such effects, and help manufacturers to roll out vaccines to countries faster, said Seth Berkley, CEO of the Vaccine Alliance Gavi, in the statement.

The program will be operated by ESIS, a subsidiary of the Zurich-based multinational insurance company Chubb Limited, the WHO said, adding that the compensation mechanism is to be funded by Gavi through a "levy charged on all doses of COVID-19 vaccines distributed through the COVAX Facility".

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised the agreement, saying that this agreement offers further protection and confidence in the life-saving power of vaccines.


The number of new cases, deaths and incidence rate of the coronavirus continued to fall in Spain, according to the Ministry of Health on Monday.

Official data showed 20,849 new cases were logged in the 72-hour period between 2 pm (1300 GMT) on Friday and 2 pm on Monday, bringing the country's tally to 3,153,971.

It was a significant decline from the 30,251 new cases the ministry reported on Feb 15, which means the number of new cases has now fallen for four straight weekends.

The weekend also saw 535 deaths logged over the 72-hour period, taking the toll to 67,636. The toll was also down from seven days ago, when 702 people lost their lives.

Meanwhile, the virus incidence rate over the past 14-day period fell from 416 cases per 100,000 inhabitants a week ago to 252.19 cases Monday.

Fernando Simon, director of the Coordination Center for Health Alerts and Emergencies of the Ministry of Health, said the data "obviously shows a downward tendency in the past weeks, but we still have a high incidence of the virus and that means we cannot relax control measures."

Monday also saw Spain pass the 3 million mark for the number of vaccine doses administered in the country. 


French Labor Minister Elisabeth Borne said on Tuesday it was paramount that companies boost remote working to avoid having to resort to a new lockdown to fight the spread of COVID-19.

“In recent days (COVID) data are not good. We all want to avoid a new lockdown and working from home is a good answer,” Borne told Europe 1 radio.

The number of people being treated in intensive care units in France for COVID-19 reached 3,407 on Monday, exceeding 3,400 for the first time since Dec 3, while the average increase in new cases reached a 17-day peak.

The figures were published after the Alpes-Maritimes region, around Nice in the South of France announced a partial lockdown over the next two weekends in the coastal area between Menton and Theoule to fight a surge in infections.

Over the weekend, French Health Minister Olivier Veran said the nationwide trend in infections had worsened in recent days.

Health authorities reported 4,646 new cases, bringing the total number of infections to 3.61 million. 

The toll rose by 333 to 84,613, the seventh-highest death toll globally, while the number in hospital with the virus went up by 367 to 25,831. 


The European Commission on Tuesday said travel and border curbs set up by six EU nations to combat COVID-19 variants were too tight, as it sought to push through a coordinated approach to managing the movement of goods and people within the bloc.

The EU executive said it had given Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary and Sweden 10 days to justify restrictions, which Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said had “gone too far”.

Germany, having introduced checks on its frontiers with the Czech Republic and Austria, was in talks with France on averting similar measures in the Moselle region that straddles the Franco-German border.

The French part of the region, which also stretches into Luxembourg, has experienced a surge in a more easily transmissable coronavirus variant.

With long lines of trucks having formed on the Czech-German frontier this month, the bloc’s Europe ministers on Tuesday discussed health, border and travel issues via videolink.

Reynders said the 27 states needed to “go back to a coordinated approach to all the measures taken in relations with the free movement of people and goods.”

A European Commission spokesman said that the bloc risked “fragmentation and disruptions to free movement and to supply chains - something we have witnessed again the past weeks.”

In a patchwork response to the threatened spread of more contagious coronavirus mutations, nine EU countries have reinstated border controls in what is normally the bloc’s zone of free travel.

The Commission is however focusing on the six with additional restrictions on movement including a complete ban on non-essential trips in and out of the country in the case of Belgium.

Europe’s drugs regulator said on Tuesday it is evaluating the use of remdesivir in COVID-19 patients who do not need oxygen support, after developer Gilead Sciences submitted an application to extend the medicine’s use.


Michal Dworczyk, chief of the Chancellery of the Prime Minister of Poland, has tested positive for COVID-19, the Polish government confirmed on Monday.

"Due to a positive test result for COVID-19, I'll be working remotely," Dworczyk wrote on Twitter. "We need to keep to the sanitary rules and get vaccinated."

Government spokesman Piotr Muller told the national news agency PAP that Morawiecki was not required to go into self-isolation, "thanks to the implementation of safety measures within the Chancellery."

Poland on Monday reported 3,890 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total to 1,642,658 infections. More than 42,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the country. 

Over 2.7 million citizens have so far received at least one vaccine dose since inoculations began at the end of December.


UK Finance Minister Rishi Sunak is set to spend billions of pounds in extra support for the economy over the next four months, as pandemic curbs pushed unemployment to its highest level in almost five years.

The chancellor of the exchequer will set out the details in his March 3 budget after Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined a timeline for reopening the UK economy that keeps some businesses closed until at least June 21.

Britain is preparing for a revaccination program against COVID-19, likely to run later this year and consist of a single booster dose, the government said in its plan to end coronavirus restrictions.

More than 17.7 million people in Britain have been given the first jab of the coronavirus vaccine, according to the latest official figures released on Monday.

England’s coronavirus vaccine campaign is significantly reducing cases of COVID-19, with a drop of around 70 percent in infections among healthcare workers who have had a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, British health officials said.

Data analyzed by Public Health England (PHE) showed the Pfizer provided high levels of protection against infection and symptomatic disease from a single dose, and that hospitalization and death from COVID-19 will be reduced by more 75 percent in elderly people who have had a first dose.

Britain on Monday reported 10,641 new coronavirus cases and 178 more deaths, bringing the tally to 4,126,150 and the toll to 120,757, according to the latest official data.


Slovakia’s foreign minister called on EU partners on Monday to send an advance vaccine shipment to the central European country which he said was in a “tragic” coronavirus situation with record numbers of cases.

The country of 5.5 million has suffered about 100 deaths per day recently, the highest in the world relative to population on a one-week basis and ahead of neighboring Czech Republic, according to data tracker

Slovakia had 3,672 patients in hospital with confirmed coronavirus as of Sunday.

Slovakia has asked through the EU’s emergency mechanism for the help of 10 doctors and 25 nurses from abroad.

The country has reported 6,577 deaths from coronavirus. It had vaccinated 272,341 people with at least one dose as of Sunday, according to government data, slightly ahead of the European Union average.


The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 3,883 to 2,394,811, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Tuesday.

The reported death toll rose by 415 to 68,318, the tally showed. 

The German government is reworking its strategy to vaccinate the nation against COVID-19 as its campaign, which has faltered due to a lack of supply, also faces public resistance to the shot from AstraZeneca.

As schools and kindergartens start to reopen from a lockdown imposed in November, federal and state health ministers on Monday reworked vaccination rules so that teachers will now get priority access to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Health Minister Jens Spahn has also requested that the AstraZeneca shot be given to the police force and army, after some health and other frontline workers baulked at receiving it.

Germany has administered 5 million vaccine doses so far, or around six for every 100 residents. Most are of the Pfizer vaccine, which was developed by Germany’s BioNTech, have been given so far to the elderly and infirm.

Of the 1.5 million AstraZeneca shots due to have been delivered by the end of last week, only 187,000 have been used so far, according to figures from the health ministry and Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases.

Pupils wearing face masks attend a lesson at the 'Russee' elementary school in Kiel, northern Germany, on Feb 22, 2021, as elementary schools and kindergartens in more than than half of Germany's 16 states reopened after two months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic. (GREGOR FISCHER / DPA VIA AP)


The Brazilian states of Sao Paulo and Bahia on Monday decided to strengthen mobility restrictions on residents to reduce COVID-19 infection rates and the pressure on the hospital system as the country's total cases surpassed 247,000.

Brazil recorded 26,986 new cases in the past 24 hours, along with 639 deaths from COVID-19, the health ministry reported on the same day.

The country has registered more than 10 million cases while the official death toll has risen to 247,143, according to ministry data.

A lockdown went into effect in Araraquara city in central Sao Paulo state, where 12 local cases of the virus variant detected in the northwestern state of Amazonas were reported, while Sao Bernardo do Campo, a major industrial center in Sao Paulo, ordered a night curfew.

In Bahia, a night curfew was put into force along with other restrictions, including suspending classes in the state. In addition, all beaches and clubs were closed in Bahia's capital Salvador to avoid crowds.

Brazil will begin the production of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine in the first half of 2021, a state-run biological sciences institution said Monday.

Meanwhile, the country will receive a second batch of 2 million shots of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine from India on Tuesday, biomedical institute Fiocruz said on Monday.


Denmark may be able to reopen some stores as well as elementary schools for older children after the current virus restrictions are set to end next week, Health Minister Magnus Heunicke told broadcaster DR.

The government will present its final decision at a press conference on Wednesday, but based on calculations from an expert group, lower contamination numbers may allow some regions to ease restrictions even more, Heunicke said.

The number of daily virus cases has stabilized at 400 to 500 in February, down from about 4,000 when Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen introduced a partial lockdown on Dec 16.


Drug developer Novavax Inc said on Monday it has completed enrolling 30,000 volunteers in a late-stage study of its COVID-19 vaccine in the United States and Mexico.

The company said it has enrolled volunteers aged 18 and above across the United States and Mexico as part of the trial, which is being sponsored by the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).

The company said 20 percent or 6,000 of the trial participants were Latino, 13 percent or 3,900 were Black, and another 3,900 were 65 years of age and older. Last year, the company had expected to enroll at least 15 percent Black or African Americans.


French healthcare company Sanofi will provide COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing support to US peer Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi said on Monday.

Once authorized, Sanofi will provide Johnson & Johnson access to the established infrastructure and expertise of its vaccine manufacturing plant in Marcy l’Etoile, France, to formulate and fill vials of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen COVID-19 vaccine candidate in 2021 at a rate of approximately 12 million doses per month.

READ MORE: Sanofi, GSK restart trials on COVID-19 vaccine after delay


The Italian government on Monday extended a ban on non-essential travel between the country’s 20 regions until March 27 as it looks to slow the spread of highly contagious coronavirus variants.

In its first decisions on COVID-19, Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s new cabinet also extended restrictions on visiting family and friends, with no more than two adults allowed into another person’s home at the same time.

No visits are allowed in so-called red zones, where the tightest restrictions are in place. At present, no region is classified as “red” but some provinces, towns and villages have been designated as such.

The decision came as 9,630 new cases were registered on Monday, bringing the tally to 2.81 million, according to the health ministry data.

The number of active infections dropped by 992 to 387,903, while recoveries grew by 10,335 to a total of 2,334,968. 

Meanwhile, another 274 deaths were reported, bringing the toll to 95,992.


Russia on Tuesday reported 11,823 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, including 1,198 in Moscow, taking the national tally to 4,189,153 since the pandemic began.

The government coronavirus taskforce also reported 417 deaths in the last 24 hours, pushing the official death toll to 84,047. 


The first batch of COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Ukraine, a local television quoted Kyiv’s Boryspil airport press service as saying on Tuesday.

Ukrainian Health Minister Maksym Stepanov said this weekend the batch amounted to 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.


Egypt received 300,000 doses of a coronavirus vaccine developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) in the early hours of Tuesday, the health ministry said in a statement.

The new batch from China was the second shipment of the Sinopharm vaccine to Egypt. The country received its first 50,000-dose shipment in December.

Egypt began vaccinating frontline medical staff against COVID-19 on Jan 24 using the Chinese vaccine.

Egypt will open an online registration process next week for other groups eligible for vaccination, such as the elderly and patients with chronic diseases, Mostafa Ghoneima, a health minister assistant, told Reuters. Vaccination of these groups will start with the arrival of more shipments of vaccines, he said.

As of Monday, Egypt had confirmed 178,774 coronavirus cases, including 10,404 deaths. However, health officials say the real number is likely far higher because of the relatively low rate of coronavirus testing and the exclusion of private test results.


Algeria on Monday reported 177 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number of infections in the North African country to 112,094.

The death toll rose to 2,964 after three more fatalities were added, the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

Meanwhile, another 149 patients have recovered from the disease, bringing the total number of recoveries to 77,285, the ministry said.


The Tunisian health ministry on Monday reported 575 fresh COVID-19 cases, pushing the tally to 228,937.

Deaths rose by 18 to 7,811, the ministry said in a statement.

The number of COVID-19 patients in hospitals stood at 1,231, including 278 in intensive care units, while the total number of recoveries stood at 189,358, the ministry said.


Morocco's COVID-19 tally rose to 481,263 on Monday after 108 new cases were registered during the past 24 hours.

According to a statement by the Ministry of Health, the death toll mounted to 8,559 as five more deaths were logged.

The total number of recoveries increased to 465,297 after 633 new ones were added, the ministry said, adding that there were 423 people in intensive care units.

A woman receives a shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Feb 22, 2021, as the capital begins to vaccinate people over the age of 80 for the coronavirus. (NATACHA PISARENKO / AP)


Argentina registered 5,417 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, bringing the tally to 2,069,751, the health ministry said.

The ministry also reported 163 more deaths, taking the death toll to 51,359.

 A total of 1,872,213 patients have recovered from the disease while 146,179 cases remained active, it said.

In the capital Buenos Aires, a vaccination campaign against COVID-19 began on Monday for adults over 80 years old and those living in nursing homes, as inoculations for health workers continued.

On the same day, Argentina’s government released the names of dozens of officials and allies who secretly got vaccinated in an apparent violation of the country’s guidelines, attempting to contain a growing political scandal.

According to government protocols, the 763,000 essential workers at hospitals are first in line for vaccines, followed by adults 70 years or older and seniors living in geriatric facilities. Through last week, Argentina had only administered 634,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. The government issued a clarification Monday that people with “strategic functions” qualify for vaccinations.


Mexican health authorities on Monday began vaccinating adults aged 60 and over with a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac, after a shipment of doses arrived on Saturday.

Authorities on Sunday announced that Ecatepec, a city in central State of Mexico that lies on the outskirts of the capital Mexico City, would receive the first batch of the vaccines as the country's second-most populous municipality has COVID-19 mortality rates that were above the national average.

The start of the vaccination is "a very important day" for Ecatepec, where more than 4,000 people have died from COVID-19, Mayor Fernando Vilchis said.

Mexico on Monday registered 429 additional fatalities due to the coronavirus, bringing the total in the country to 180,536 deaths.

According to health ministry data, Mexico also registered 2,252 new cases for a total of 2,043,632 cases.


Ecuador on Monday registerd 295 new cases of COVID-19 infection in the past 24 hours, bringing its total caseload to 274,968.

According to the Ministry of Public Health, the death toll rose by 11 to 10,807. There were another 4,740 deaths that were likely caused by the disease but have yet to be verified.

The capital Quito, located in the Pichincha province, is the epicenter of the pandemic in Ecuador with 89,251 confirmed cases.

Over the weekend, more than 3,000 people attended an Andean music concert in the indigenous community of Peguche, in Otavalo, north Imbabura province, despite a temporary ban on large public gatherings.


Chile surpassed 800,000 cases of COVID-19 infection on Monday after registering 3,547 fresh infections in the last 24 hours.

The cumulative tally now stands at 803,009, the Ministry of Health said.

Another 84 deaths were recorded in the past 24 hours, lifting the toll to 20,126, according to the ministry.

Minister of Health Enrique Paris said at a press conference that the country topped 9 million PCR COVID-19 tests two days ago, positioning it as a "leader in Latin America."

"Practically one out of every two residents in the country has taken the test," he said.

Paris also said a total of 2,869,036 people in Chile have been vaccinated in the country.


Ethiopia registered 735 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, pushing the tally to 153,541 as of Monday evening, the Ministry of Health said.

Fourteen more deaths were reported, raising the death toll to 2,293, according to the ministry.

It added that 347 new recoveries were logged during the same period, taking the total recoveries to 131,713.

A resident shows his identification card to a police officer who is limiting access to a neighborhood as a way to curb the spread of COVID-19, as nurses stand behind, in Havana, Cuba, Feb 22, 2021. (RAMON ESPINOSA / AP)


Cuba on Monday reported 838 new COVID-19 infections and four additional deaths, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 45,361 and the toll to 300, said the Ministry of Public Health.

A total of 40,037 patients have recovered from the disease while 4,968 cases remained active, according to the ministry.

The capital Havana remained the epicenter of the pandemic in the Caribbean country, followed by the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba and the western province of Mayabeque. 


The government of Malawi on Monday reopened schools after a five-week suspension due to a resurgence in the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Lazarus Chakwera announced the ropening of schools following a 7 percent decrease in the positivity rate, from 22 percent to 15 percent in the past two weeks.

In his weekly update on COVID-19 on Sunday, Chakwera said the reopening of schools included all public and private schools across the country.

The government has also recruited over 3,200 new primary school teachers to meet the demand that has come with social distancing, as classes are being split into two or more.

However, teachers across the country started a sit-in on Monday, demanding protective gear and risk allowances for teaching amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Malawi has reported 30,942 confirmed cases and 1,021 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.


A new batch of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines has arrived in Slovenia, the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) said on Monday.

The latest shipment comprised 22,230 doses, of which 2,200 will be used for second jabs and the rest for the first. All residents aged 80 or more and have opted for vaccination are expected to be vaccinated by the end of this week, according to the NIJZ.

The institute expects a batch containing 8,400 doses of Moderna's vaccine to arrive on Thursday. An additional batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine is expected on Friday. 

So far, 94,304 persons, or 4.5 percent of the population, have received the first dose of COVID-19 vaccine in Slovenia, NIJZ data showed, whereas 49,918 have received both jabs.

Slovenia on Monday reported 247 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking the tally to 185,013, according to NIJZ.


Bulgaria confirmed 1,925 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the country's total to 238,591, the health ministry reported on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 death toll rose by 79 to 9,933, and a total of 777 people recovered from the disease during the same period, raising the country's total recoveries to 201,029, the ministry said.

It added that 3,933 patients are currently hospitalized, the highest figure since Jan. 13, with 334 in intensive care.

The ministry said that 11,709 doses of coronavirus vaccines were administered in Bulgaria in the past 24 hours, taking the total number to 131,069.