17 February

Global: The global Covid death toll has reached 2,419,696 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have passed 109.5 million world wide.

US: Covid-19 infections have passed 27.7 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 488,081 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

France: France has registered 586 new coronavirus deaths in the past 24 hours, a sharp fall from 724 last Tuesday while the seven-day moving average of deaths fell to 381, the first time the average was below 400 since late January.

Two French airlines, Air Caraibes and French Bee, will start a pilot study next month of the AOKpass mobile application used to verify travellers’ Covid-19 test results. The test will include flights from Paris to overseas territories such as Guadeloupe and Tahiti. AOKpass is currently used on Etihad flights connecting Abu Dhabi with Paris and Pakistan.

Iran: Iran recorded 8,011 new virus cases of over the last 24 hours, the highest since 12 December. The death toll reached a total of 59,117 with 89 more fatalities overnight, up from 83 a day earlier, the latest Health Ministry data showed.

Vaccine news

Global: Mexican foreign minister Marcelo Ebrard has said that his government is to present a complaint at the United Nations security council tomorrow about the unequal access to Covid vaccines globally, Reuters reports.

UK: A report from the Office for National Statistics showed people over age 80 – a high-priority group in the country’s vaccination drive – were the most likely to test positive for Covid antibodies in England. The analysis estimated that 40.9% of people in that bracket had antibodies during the four-week period ending 1 February, “most likely due to the high vaccination rate in this group.”

Israel: Study results earlier this week from Israel’s Clalit health service provider showing a 94% drop in symptomatic cases among the vaccinated. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has proposed spurring Israel’s sputtering vaccine drive by “outing” the uninoculated.

Romania: Romania reported significant declines in cases among the elderly and inside hospitals after most residents in nursing homes and medical workers were vaccinated. The hospital infection rate has dropped by 87% in recent weeks, according to Valeriu Gheorghita, the head of the vaccination task force.

EU: The EU is adding clauses to contracts with vaccine makers to allow the bloc to gain access to possible upgraded shots that may offer better protection against variants of the virus, sources have told Reuters.

Johnson & Johnson sought regulatory clearance for its Covid-19 vaccine in the European Union, on track to become the fourth shot approved in Europe and the first that can be given as a single dose. The European Medicines Agency said a decision could be possible by mid-March, capping a rolling review process that started on 1 December and has allowed EMA to examine the data on the vaccine as it emerged. A European Commission approval could follow immediately thereafter, President Ursula von der Leyen said in a tweet.

US: The US vaccine supply is increasing to 13.5 million doses per week, up from 11 million, and the number of shots distributed through pharmacies will double, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.

More than a quarter of a million New Yorkers signed up for coronavirus vaccines on Sunday as the state expanded eligibility to include people with comorbidities, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Tuesday. Nearly all state-run vaccination are now booked through 16 April. Approximately 10 million people are now eligible for the vaccine in New York, including essential and health-care workers, as well as those age 65 and older.

US public health advisers are weighing recommendations for extending the interval between the first and second doses of Covid-19 vaccines, a potential strategy for quickly getting protection to more people amid the spread of new variants. Health officials have rejected a dose-stretching policy adopted by the UK that allows up to 12 weeks between Covid shots. Most drugmakers have concurred, saying that policies should follow the protocols used in the shots’ testing, in which the intervals were set at three or four weeks.

Morocco: Morocco has received a second batch of 500,000 doses of China’s Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine, health ministry sources have told Reuters.

Hong Kong: A panel of experts recommended that Hong Kong approve a vaccine from Chinese developer Sinovac Biotech, saying the shot – CoronaVac – has an efficacy rate of 50%. The move came after the group last week postponed a decision on the shot, saying it needed more efficacy data.

South Africa: The manufacturers of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine have applied to register the shot for use with South Africa’s health products regulator, according to the country’s health ministry.

Lockdown updates

Scotland: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed that a phased return to school for younger pupils in Scotland will start from Monday. This will include children aged four to seven and secondary school pupils required to carry out practical assignments.

Norway: The Norwegian government will lift all the extra restrictions imposed on the capital region to stop the spread of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus on Thursday, the government has said.

Germany: Germany is to offer free Covid-19 antigen tests for all from March, the health minister, Jens Spahn, has said, as the country cautiously began allowing some children to return to schools.

Netherlands: Prime minister, Mark Rutte, has called on the country to respect a night-time curfew, saying it was still needed to fight the pandemic despite a court ruling earlier today that the measure lacked a legal basis.

Hong Kong: The Hong Kong government will allow venues including gyms, beauty parlors, cinemas and theme parks to reopen from Thursday while keeping public beaches and swimming pools closed.

Economy updates

Germany: Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government aims to establish a fund to help German companies threatened with collapse, part of an effort to defuse mounting tension over the sluggish reopening of the economy. After listening to the grievances of dozens of business lobbies on Tuesday, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said he would lay out a path for easing lockdown measures.