International update: EU warns of ‘dangerous’ Covid products as global cases pass 114.7 million

3 March 2021 (Last Updated March 3rd, 2021 09:02)

3 March

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 2.54 million with a figure of 2,549,457 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have passed 114.7 million world wide.

EU: About 9% of dangerous products flagged by consumer protection alerts last year were Covid-related, mostly low-quality masks, the European Commission said in a press release. Other product warnings were for disinfectants with toxic chemicals, such as methanol or UV sanitizers that exposed users to strong radiation.

US: US Covid-19 infections have passed 28,719,000. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 516,608 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

President Joe Biden said he hopes the U.S. would be back to normal “by this time next year” but said he’d been cautioned not to provide a specific date “because we don’t know for sure.”

Turkey: Turkey added a further 11,837 new coronavirus cases to its tally on Tuesday, health ministry data showed – the country’s highest daily figure since 7 January.

Tunisia: Tunisia has detected its first cases of the more transmissible variant of the coronavirus first discovered in the UK, the country’s health ministry said on Tuesday in a statement reported by Reuters.

Greece: Officials have announced plans to expand the public health system’s capacity to admit Covid-19 patients following an emergency meeting chaired by prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

Ireland: Ireland reported the fewest new cases since December, in a latest sign that the virus there is easing. There were 359 newly confirmed cases, the health ministry said. That’s the least since Dec. 15. The drop is welcome, deputy chief medical officer Ronan Glynn said, although he warned it may be attributable to a so-called “weekend effect.” The country also reported 14 more deaths.

UK: “We have no information to suggest the variant has spread further,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons. He said a search has narrowed to 379 households in the south of England as the government tries to find the unidentified individual who tested positive for the variant. “We’ve identified the batch of home tests in question,” he said.

Netherlands: The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases rose for a third consecutive week in the Netherlands, though the tally remains below peak levels. In the week ended 2 March, 31,984 people with Covid-19 were confirmed, up from 29,977, health agency RIVM said. The number of fatalities fell.

Mexico: Mexico reported a daily rise of 437 Covid-19 deaths, bringing the total to 186,152, according to data released by the Health Ministry. The country has administered 2,526,863 doses of vaccine against the coronavirus, and 583,896 people have received a second dose. US President Joe Biden and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador discussed the response to the pandemic, migration and climate change in a video meeting on Monday.

Vaccine news

EU: The European Medicines Agency’s human medicines committee is expected to give its recommendation for the vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen on 11 March EMA said in a tweet. The panel has an extraordinary meeting scheduled for that day, aiming to conclude the evaluation.

Venezuela: Venezuela has received 500,000 doses of China’s Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine President Nicolas Maduro said, as well as protective material for healthcare workers.

Nigeria: Nigeria’s first Covid-19 vaccines, Oxford/AstraZeneca shots from the international Covax scheme, landed in the capital city Abuja today, Reuters reports.

France: The uptake of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine in France stood at 24% as of 28 February, a health ministry official said on Tuesday, well below the country’s target of between 80 and 85%.

Spain: Spain will buy 17m more doses of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine as part of a new deal negotiated by the European Union, government spokeswoman Maria Jesus Montero said on Tuesday.

US: American pharmaceutical Merck & Co Inc will help manufacture Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot Covid-19 vaccine in an agreement due to be announced on Tuesday by President Joe Biden, a White House official said on Tuesday.

Biden also called for state and local governments to prioritize teachers for vaccinations, as he pushes for schools to reopen safely with full-time classroom instruction.

US states will see a boost in Covid-19 vaccine shipments next week, on top of an initial burst of the recently authorized Johnson & Johnson vaccine. President Joe Biden’s administration will allocate 15.2 million doses next week for shipment to states, up from 14.5 million allocated this week, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday after the administration held its regular call with governors. The government also announced that 2.8 million J&J shots were sent to states, marking the first time they’ve shown how they’ll divide an initial tranche of the newly authorized shot. The U.S. received a stockpile of 3.9 million J&J doses. Psaki’s statement suggests the remainder, about 1.1 million, will be sent to pharmacies and community health centers.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is on track to hit 5 million fully vaccinated by June. “We can do it as long as we get that supply,” he said.

Denmark: Denmark may become a joint owner of a coronavirus vaccine facility in Israel as a way to dramatically ratchet up capacity. Joint ownership of such a plant would help Denmark to “significantly” up its game and inoculate people repeatedly over several years, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said.

Serbia: Serbia donated 5,000 does of the AstraZeneca vaccine to neighboring Bosnia-Herzegovina, a rare show of solidarity in a region where ethnic tensions continue to snarl relations three decades after the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia.

Angola: Angola will begin administering vaccines on Tuesday, after the government took delivery of 624,000 doses of AstraZeneca inoculations under the Covax initiative. A broader rollout is planned from 6 March, Health Minister Silvia Lutucuta told reporters in the capital, Luanda.

Malaysia: Malaysia agreed to provide conditional approval for the use of Covid-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca and Sinovac during disasters, Health Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah said in a statement on Tuesday.

Lockdown updates

Italy: Italy’s government on Tuesday ordered the closure of all schools in areas hardest hit by Covid-19 and extended curbs already in place on businesses and movement until after Easter amid worries over the highly contagious UK variant.

Germany: German chancellor Angela Merkel wants to begin relaxing coronavirus restrictions from next week, a draft document seen by AFP shows, hoping that reinforced numbers of rapid antigen tests and vaccines will allow the country to unlock.

US: Texas Governor Greg Abbott lifted the mask mandate and other anti-pandemic restrictions amid declining hospitalizations and infection rates in the second-largest US state. Effective 10 March, all businesses will be allowed to open at 100% of capacity, Abbott said during a media briefing in Lubbock on Tuesday. His executive order allows county judges to reinstate anti-virus rules should hospitalizations surge. Abbott’s anti-pandemic measures have drawn the ire of his conservative electoral base, which saw them as government overreach, and may have wounded any presidential aspirations. He received 0% of the vote in a presidential straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference this past weekend.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed said indoor dining, movie theaters and gyms can reopen on a limited basis after California moved the region to a less-restrictive tier.

Scotland: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed that more school children will return to full-time education from 15 March, including all those attending primary school, and aims to have all pupils back at school after the Easter holidays.

Japan: Tokyo plans to ask the national government to extend the coronavirus state of emergency that is due to expire this weekend, according to the Nikkei. The state of emergency was lifted toward the end of February in Japan’s western regions. Although numbers in Tokyo have fallen from the record levels in early January that led to the emergency being declared, the pace of decline in cases has slowed in recent days in Tokyo and some surrounding areas. The city is looking at an extension of around two weeks, the Nikkei said.

Netherlands: Bar owners are among businesses calling for less-strict lockdown rules. Two establishments in Amsterdam and the city of Breda in the south of the country briefly reopened outdoor seating areas on Tuesday in protest, defying nationwide rules, according to local media reports.