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March 12, 2021

International update: EMA gives AstraZeneca vaccine the all clear – Australia continues with roll out

By Paul Dennis

12 March

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed the grim tally of 2.6 million with a figure of 2,631,694 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have passed 118.6 million world wide.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 29.25 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 530,821 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

President Joe Biden offered Americans a glimpse of hope that life would begin to return to normal this summer as he marked a year of US shutdowns and death, ordering a further acceleration of efforts to end the pandemic. In his first prime-time address to the country since his inauguration, the president directed states to make all US adults eligible for vaccinations by 1 May, and he said his administration would reach his goal of 100 million shots in his first 100 days in office by his 60th day as president.

Vaccine news

Europe: AstraZeneca Plc will deliver less than half the planned number of Covid-19 vaccines to the European Union in the second quarter after attempts to tap the company’s global supply chain were unsuccessful. The pharmaceutical giant will deliver about 76 million out of a planned 180 million doses to the bloc in the three-month period through June.

Meanwhile, more than 11.5 million Covid vaccine doses that have been delivered to European Union countries have not yet been used, official figures showed. The number of shots sent by manufacturers now totals 54.2 million, compared to 46 million a week previously. The data covers the week to 7 March. According to the ECDC, 8.2% of adults have received one shot of vaccine, a rise from 6.5% over the week, with 3.7% being fully vaccinated, up from 3.1%.

Europe’s medicines regulator (EMA) said there appeared to be no higher risk of blood clots in those vaccinated against Covid-19, after Denmark, Norway and Iceland suspended use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab and another five European countries withdrew a batch.

Slovakia: Slovakia’s health minister announced his resignation in an attempt to defuse a political crisis over the government’s mishandling of the pandemic and a row over the purchase of vaccines from Russia.

Israel: Pfizer and BioNTech said that real-world data from Israel suggests that their vaccine is 94% effective in preventing asymptomatic infections, meaning the vaccine could significantly reduce transmission.

Russia: Russia is ramping up overseas output of its Covid-19 vaccine, pledging to supply shots to almost one in ten people on the planet this year even as it’s produced only a tiny fraction of that so far.

Australia: Australia won’t pause the rollout of AstraZeneca Plc’s Covid-19 vaccine, even as some European countries temporarily suspend use of the shots while possible blood clots are investigated. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday that health authorities had not raised any concerns about the vaccine and would continue to monitor developments overseas. Officials spoke with the European Medicines Agency overnight, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported.

Thailand: Thailand’s Health Ministry said that the nation would temporarily halt the use of AstraZeneca Plc vaccines until there’s more clarity from the investigations of possible blood clots. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha and some of his cabinet members who were scheduled to get their AstraZeneca shots on Friday, have postponed their appointments after suspensions of the vaccine in some European countries, including in Denmark, Italy and Norway.

China: China has entered into an agreement with the International Olympics Committee to pay for vaccines for athletes in the games in Tokyo and Beijing.

Lockdown updates

Portugal: Portugal’s government announced it would start to gradually ease its strict rules from next week, nearly two months into a lockdown imposed in mid-January to tackle what was then the world’s worst coronavirus surge. And controls on the country’s land border with neighbouring Spain will remain in place until Easter.

France: The Covid-19 situation in greater Paris is “especially worrying” and the government will take extra restrictive measures there if the pandemic continues at its current pace, France’s health minister said on Thursday. While new infections are not growing exponentially, the numbers taken into intensive care have reached a new three and a half months high nationally, close to 4,000 as France faces more dangerous variants.

France is to ease some Covid restrictions on international travel outside Europe, the foreign ministry said. Travellers to or from Australia, South Korea, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Britain and Singapore will no longer have to need a compelling reason to travel.

Brazil: The governor of Brazil’s most populous state, São Paulo, declared a two-week emergency shutdown as the South American country’s coronavirus outbreak continues to spiral out of control.

Poland: The Polish capital, Warsaw, will be among cities facing tougher restrictions from Monday, the country’s health minister said, as several central European nations face surges in infections.

Hong Kong: Concern spread among Hong Kong’s business and expatriate community as a coronavirus outbreak linked to a gym widened and hundreds of people were taken to government centers for lengthy stays in quarantine. While the cluster is smaller than previous flareups such as one linked to dance halls in November, it has engulfed a tightly-knit world of mostly Western expatriates who work for global financial institutions and whose children attend international schools with annual fees of HK$250,000 ($32,000) or more.

South Korea will extend social distancing rules, including bans on gatherings of five or more people, for another two weeks as daily virus cases still hover around 300-400, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said in a meeting on Friday.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says Auckland will move to alert level 1 at midday Friday, meaning social distancing requirements will be lifted. The outbreak in the city has been contained and it has been 14 days since the last exposure event, Ardern said at a news conference Friday.

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