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February 16, 2021

International update: Global Covid cases pass 109 million – WHO clears AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use

By Paul Dennis

16 February

Global: The global Covid death toll has reached 2,408,635 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have passed 109 million world wide.

Incoming World Trade Organization head Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has warned that “vaccine nationalism” will slow progress in ending the global pandemic.

US: Covid-19 infections have passed 27.6 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 486,321 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

The US recorded 65,336 new infections on Sunday, the lowest daily number since 25 October, before a holiday surge sent case numbers soaring, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg.

New Zealand: New Zealand reported no new community transmission cases of the Covid-19 virus, less than a week after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern placed the country’s largest city Auckland into a three-day lockdown and reimposed social distancing requirements for the rest of the country. It’s “too soon to speculate” whether Auckland lockdown will end tomorrow night but no new community cases is “encouraging,” Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins said in a news conference. Some 109 close contacts of three positive cases now identified, and more than 2000 casual contacts, authorities said. Genomic sequencing showed them to be the more virulent UK strain of the virus, the Ministry of Health said earlier this week.

UK: The UK reported 9,765 new cases of coronavirus, compared to a 7-day average of 13,200, the government said. The last time the UK reported fewer than 10,000 new cases was 2 October.

Vaccine news

Global: The World Health Organization cleared AstraZeneca Plc’s Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use, adding its official approval to a shot that’s expected to speed up inoculations in developing countries. The WHO validated two versions of the vaccine, produced with SK Bioscience Co. of South Korea and the Serum Institute of India. The formal approval follows a recommendation by the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization to allow the vaccine to be administered to all adults over 18. That guidance differs from the approach taken by some European Union countries that have restricted its use in the elderly, citing insufficient trial data.

Incoming World Trade Organization head Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has warned that “vaccine nationalism” will slow progress in ending the global pandemic.

EU: The European Union may secure an extra 150 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine produced by Moderna Inc. as the bloc seeks to accelerate inoculations, according to an EU official familiar with the matter. The deal being arranged by the European Commission would bring to 310 million the total number of vaccine doses from Moderna for EU countries.

Nigeria: Nigeria is evaluating four coronavirus vaccines for possible approval, including Russian, Indian and Chinese jabs, the health minister has said, according to AFP.

Colombia: Colombia’s first Covid-19 vaccines have arrived in the country, according to Reuters, with distribution due to begin in the next few days.

Peru: Hundreds of Peruvians abused positions of authority to get vaccinated in secret with the Sinopharm vaccine, President Francisco Sagasti said. A total of 487 people took courtesy doses of China’s Covid-19 vaccine months before it became available to the public, Sagasti said in a national address. These included former head of state Martin Vizcarra, who apologized in a video posted on his Facebook page, and Health Minister Mazzetti, who quit over the weekend. “We are indignant and with a feeling of deep pain, because these people who formed part of our transition government failed in their duty as public servants,” Sagasti said.

Israel: The Palestinian authority has accused Israel of blocking 2,000 vaccines set to be delivered to Gaza health workers in the blockaded coastal strip.

Malaysia: Malaysia has secured access to 66.7 million doses of Covid shots, enough to cover the entire population of the Southeast Asian country. The government also said it’s is in talks with Russia to manufacture the Sputnik V vaccines in Malaysia.

Australia: The Therapeutic Goods Administration granted provisional approval to AstraZeneca for its Covid-19 vaccine, making it the second vaccine to receive regulatory approval in Australia for the virus, the regulator says on its website. More than 142,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine arrived at Sydney airport, with the nation on track for the first and most vulnerable Australians to start receiving jabs from 22 February.

South Korea: Signed a contract to buy more Pfizer vaccines for 3 million people and Novavax vaccines for 20 million, according to a statement from Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency. Pfizer doses for 500,000 people will be imported within the first quarter, earlier than the planned timeline of the third quarter, with inoculations possibly starting from April.

Lockdown updates

UK: Prime Minister Boris Johnson is hoping to draw up plans to lift national pandemic restrictions on socializing, shopping and traveling to work, including possible target dates for when the curbs will be eased. “We want this lockdown to be the last,” he said at a news conference from 10 Downing Street on Monday. “We want progress to be cautious but irreversible.” Johnson has confirmed his priority will be to try to reopen schools from 8 March, but no decision has yet been made on whether all age groups will return to classrooms at the same time. He said he will unveil the earliest potential dates for removing restrictions from other sectors, “if we possibly can.”

Czech Republic: The Czech Republic’s government is to reopen schools from 1 March despite high levels of Covid infection.

Germany: Travel restrictions at Germany’s border with the Czech Republic risk severing automotive supply lines that could spark a wave of production stoppages, according to Germany’s VDA automaker association. BMW AG and Volkswagen AG operate plants in Bavaria and Saxony that depend on car parts particularly from Czech Republic. Traffic lines appeared at some border crossings, according to local media reports. From Sunday, only German citizens and residents in the country are allowed to enter Germany from the Czech Republic and Austria’s Tyrol region, two zones where more infectious variants of coronavirus are widespread. Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg cautioned Germany against “excessive” steps. On Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman left open the possibility of further border closures with neighboring countries as a last resort to combat the pandemic.

Austria: Austria won’t reopen restaurants, bars, and cafes before the Easter holiday as new mutations from the UK and South Africa render the situation “volatile,” Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said. Decisions about easing will be made in two weeks at the earliest, he said.

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