27 January

Global: The number of Covid infections has passed the grim milestone of 100 million worldwide in just over a year, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Global deaths attributed to Covid have passed 2.1 million. The official number of cases represents just a fraction of the real number of infections around the world. Many countries were late to implement systematic testing, and some continue to test only the most seriously ill.

 UK: Covid-19 deaths have now passed 100,000 in the UK – the first country in Europe to reach this shocking figure. Deaths in London, which is at the center of the current outbreak, are running at 84% above the five-year average amid concerns that a new strain of the virus is more fatal. There are 37,561 patients hospitalized with Covid-19 across the country.

US: Covid-19 cases are nearing 25.5 million, with more than 425,000 deaths, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

China: A relative of a coronavirus victim in China is demanding to meet a visiting World Health Organization team, saying it should speak to affected families who say their voices are being stifled by the Chinese government.

New Zealand: Two more returnees who stayed at the same New Zealand hotel at the same time as Sunday’s coronavirus case have tested positive after finishing their quarantine. The two people are asymptomatic and had already completed their managed isolation at Auckland’s Pullman hotel and returned two negative tests, the Department of Health said. It is yet to be confirmed if they are recent or historic infections and further testing is urgently being carried out.

Cuba: Cuba’s death toll from the coronavirus reached 200 on Tuesday, with authorities reporting nearly as many deaths so far in January as in the six previous months combined, due to an unprecedented acceleration in infections.

South Korea: South Korea reported 559 new cases in the last 24 hours, according to data from the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency’s website. That’s the biggest gain in almost two weeks. Health officials blamed the latest surge on cluster outbreaks at dormitory-style cram schools. Since Sunday, nearly 300 students and teachers at six schools operated by IM Mission have tested positive for the virus, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency. A school official apologized on the organization’s website for dismissing symptoms as signs of a cold and not acting more quickly.

Vaccine updates

Global: Most poor countries will not achieve mass Covid-19 immunisation until at least 2024 and some may never get there, according to a new forecast, which maps a starkly divided world over the next few years in which a handful of developed countries are fully vaccinated while others race to catch up.

EU: European Medicines Agency Executive Director Emer Cooke signalled Pfizer Inc. is gearing up to increase deliveries to EU countries of its Covid-19 vaccine developed with BioNTech SE with production at more sites. “With respect to the Pfizer vaccine, they have already submitted a protocol to include additional sites and we expect those to come through during February-March and to have an impact on supply at the start of the second quarter,” Cooke told a European Parliament committee on Tuesday.

US: President Biden vows to vaccinate 300m people in US by end of summer or early fall. The administration’s immediate plan is to accelerate vaccine distribution to deliver roughly 1.4m shots a day and 10m doses a week for the next three weeks, as part of the White House’s earlier-stated ambition to vaccinate 100 million people in 100 days.

Singapore: Singapore began giving seniors Covid-19 vaccinations on Wednesday under a pilot scheme in certain areas that will eventually be expanded more broadly in the city-state, the Straits Times reported.

China: China has administered 23 million coronavirus vaccine doses, Zeng Yixin, vice head of the country’s National Health Commission, said at a briefing.

Lockdown updates

EU: European Union governments plan to remove Japan from their list of countries whose residents should be allowed to visit the bloc during the current phase of the coronavirus pandemic, according to an EU official familiar with the matter. The removal of Japan as a result of increased virus cases in the country leaves just Australia, China, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand as approved places of departure.

UK: A hotel quarantine system targeted at arrivals from high-risk countries will be announced by the home secretary, Priti Patel, on Wednesday, after ministers met to sign off the more targeted approach.

Australia: Australia recorded a tenth straight day of no new local cases on Wednesday, allowing its most populous state of New South Wales to relax coronavirus restrictions after controlling a fast-spreading cluster.

Germany: The German government is discussing reducing to almost zero the number of flights into Germany in an effort to prevent more virulent mutant Covid variants gaining a foothold in Germany, the interior minister, Horst Seehofer, told Bild newspaper.

Peru: President Francisco Sagasti of Peru on Tuesday night announced a total lockdown of the capital and nine other regions following a significant increase in Covid cases, which he said had pushed hospitals close to collapse.

Netherlands: Three straight days of riots in Dutch cities gave way to calm on Tuesday, as protests over Covid-related lockdowns led to only minor incidents. In Maastricht in the south of the country, soccer fans marched in the streets just before curfew to show support for police.

Thailand: Thailand is set to further relax Covid-19 restrictions to allow parts of its economy to reopen after local infections in some regions eased. Schools in most provinces including the capital Bangkok may reopen from 1 February with some restrictions, while restaurants will be allowed to serve patrons until 11 pm, Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration spokesman Taweesilp Witsanuyotin said.

Philippines: Starting from February the Philippines will require all incoming passengers to be tested for Covid-19 on the fifth day of their 14-day mandatory quarantine. If they test negative, they can travel to other parts of the country, where they will have to finish their quarantine.

Japan: Japan is likely to extend its state of emergency set to expire 7 February, Kyodo reported, citing several unidentified people. An option being considered is to extend the emergency until the end of February.The country will probably know in the next few days whether its emergency declaration to contain the virus has been effective, the head of an advisory panel on the pandemic told a parliamentary committee Wednesday.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said his government will proceed with preparations for hosting the Olympics this summer with the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo organizers as questions are raised about holding the event during the pandemic. The government is examining specific measures to prevent the spread of the virus at the games, Suga told parliament.

Bulgaria: Bulgaria is gradually easing measures after it went into partial lockdown at the end of November, when it reached the EU’s highest coronavirus death rate. All schools will reopen in the next month, and movie theaters and gyms will reopen from 1 February with limited capacity, the health ministry said. Bars, restaurants and night clubs will remain closed until 1 March. All arrivals will need to present a negative PCR test result upon entering the country.