12:06 GMT18 January 2021
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    The coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan in eastern China in late December, with initial reports linking the first cases to a local wet market.

    A team of scientists led by the World Health Organisation has arrived in Wuhan, China which was the original epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in late 2019.

    The team, which will be quarantined for two weeks, will be investigating the origins of the pathogen in the city for nearly a month.

    After patients with pneumonia-like symptoms were registered in Wuhan in December 2019, a new coronavirus was identified to be the cause of the disease, which later became known as COVID-19. The virus triggered the global pandemic that has infected over 90 million people and killed more than 1.9 million.

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    • 01:55

      Mexico Registers Record 16,468 New COVID-19 Cases Over Past 24 Hours – Health Ministry

      MEXICO CITY (Sputnik) – Mexico has registered 16,468 new COVID-19 cases within the past 24 hours marking the largest daily increase since the start of the outbreak, the national Ministry of Health said.

      The total number of coronavirus cases has reached 1,588,369, the ministry said on late Thursday.

      The death toll has risen by 999 to 137,916 people within the same period of time.

      The World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic on March 11. To date, more than 93 million people have been infected with the coronavirus worldwide, with over 1.99 million fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins University.

      Mexico comes fourth in terms of the deceased people, following the United States, Brazil and India.

    • 01:36

      Worldwide Number of COVID-19 Cases Surpasses 93 Million – Johns Hopkins University

      The worldwide number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has surpassed 93 million, Johns Hopkins University says.

      The exact number of the coronavirus cases stood at 93,018,040 as of 01:20 GMT on Friday. More than 1.99 million people have died of the disease, the university added.

      The World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic on March 11. The biggest number of cases so far have been registered in the United States, India and Brazil.

    • 01:35

      Chilean Deputy Minister Calls Russia’s Sputnik V Attractive Vaccine

      SANTIAGO (Sputnik) – The vaccines against the coronavirus developed by world's leading laboratories, including Russia’s Gamaleya research institute, are attractive for Chile, International Economic Relations Undersecretary Rodrigo Yanez told Sputnik.

      “Chile has enough doses of coronavirus vaccines for its people for the near future but it is obvious that the vaccines, developed by prestigious laboratories such as the Gamaleya research institute, look very attractive,” Yanez said on late Thursday.

      The official stressed that the country was initiating an exchange of information about Sputnik V with the Russian research institute.

      “Having obtained this information, we will be able to further discuss the opportunity of deliveries and the price,” Yanez said.

      Chile has already received the first batch of the vaccine against the coronavirus developed by Pfizer.

      The World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic on March 11. To date, more than 93 million people have been infected with the coronavirus worldwide, with over 1.99 million fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins University.

      Chile has confirmed more than 650,000 coronavirus cases so far, with over 17,000 fatalities.

    • 23:04

      Bolivia to Receive First Doses of Russia's Sputnik V Vaccine From January 25-31 – Official

      MONTEVIDEO (Sputnik) – Bolivia will receive the first batch of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine against the coronavirus from January 25-31, Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade and Integration Benjamin Blanco Ferri told Sputnik.

      “We have agreed that 6,000 doses will be delivered in late January … That will happen between January 25 and January 31, Russia said,” the official said on late Thursday.

      He added that 3,000 doctors would be vaccinated with the doses of the Sputnik V vaccine that would be delivered this month.

    • 21:04

      Trudeau Downplays Idea of Introducing COVID-19 Vaccine Passports in Canada

      TORONTO (Sputnik) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau downplayed the idea of introducing COVID-19 vaccine passports during a speech at the Reuters Next virtual conference on Thursday.

      "I’m worried about creating knock-on, undesirable effects in our community. I think the indications that the vast majority of Canadians are looking to get vaccinated will get us to a good place without having to take more extreme measures that could have real divisive impacts on community and country," Trudeau said.

      Some Canadian officials, including Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliot, have mused about introducing vaccine passports, however, experts have suggested that talk of such measures is premature. Recent polls have revealed that support for mandatory vaccination is low.

      Trudeau also addressed calls to publicly receive a coronavirus vaccine in order to shore up support for immunization efforts. He said he might take vaccine publicly earlier than anticipated if vaccine hesitancy among residents grows. Trudeau has vowed to receive the vaccine in accordance with the vaccination schedule produced by public health officials.

    • 20:33

      France Registers 200-300 New Cases of Mutant Coronavirus Strain Linked to UK Per Day

      PARIS (Sputnik) - France registers between 200 and 300 new cases of mutant coronavirus infection per day, French Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Thursday.

      London informed the World Health Organization in December of a mutated variant of SARS-CoV-2, which is reported to be 70 percent more transmissible than other coronavirus strains. Although many states shut their borders and suspended travel with the United Kingdom, this has not prevented the strain from infiltrating dozens of countries.

      "There are from one to one and a half cases of the new strain for every 100 detected cases of coronavirus in France. From 200 to 300 cases are recorded daily," Veran said at a press conference.

      Though the new variant of the virus is considered to be more infectious, it does not lead to an even greater number of severe cases of the disease, the minister added.

      Prime Minister Jean Castex, in turn, said that the average number of new infections per day in the country amounted to 16,000, noting that the holidays did not lead to a new surge.

      Since the outbreak of the pandemic last year, France has recorded more than 2.8 million cases of the coronavirus, including over 68,000 related fatalities.

    • 20:20

      Nearly 3 in 4 Americans Fear US Failing to Win ‘War Against COVID-19’ - Poll

      WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - Nearly three quarters of US adults worry that the battle against the coronavirus is either stalemated or headed toward defeat, a Rasmussen Reports poll said on Thursday.

      “Only 28% of American Adults say America is winning the war against COVID-19. Fifty-three percent (53%) say the US is not winning against the coronavirus and 19% are not sure," a press release summarizing the poll said.

      As with nearly every poll, partisanship colors the results, with 46 percent of Republicans saying the US is winning while 65 percent of Democrats worry the nation is not, the release added.

      Health experts are optimistic that two approved COVID-19 vaccines have the potential to halt the pandemic, however, they now admit progress vaccinating the nation’s adult population has been disappointingly slow.

      The Centers for Disease Control reported on Thursday that 11 million Americans had received the first of two vaccine doses needed to confer an immunity in contrast to predictions by US health officials that up to 50 million people could be inoculated by the end of January.

    • 19:46

      Caracas, Russia's RDIF Agree to Produce Sputnik V Vaccine in Venezuela - Vice President

      MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Venezuela and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) have signed an agreement to produce the Sputnik V vaccine in the country, Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said on Thursday.

      "Following the instructions of President Nicholas Maduro, we held a video conference with the head [Kirill Dmitriev] and deputy head [Alexander Zhuravlev] of the RDIF on the supply and production of the Sputnik V vaccine in Venezuela in the first quarter of 2021," the vice president said on Twitter.

    • 19:35

      French Drug Regulator Reports 6 Cases of Pfizer Vaccine Causing Serious Side Effects

      MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The French medicine safety agency has recorded six cases of serious side effects, mostly an allergic reaction, caused by the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against the coronavirus, according to a press release out Thursday.

      "Six serious side effects with a favorable outcome were observed in France with regard to the Comirnaty vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech during the third week of vaccination: 4 cases of allergic reactions and 2 cases of tachycardia," ANSM, France's national security agency, said.

      The agency also said a patient in an elderly care home died on Wednesday after being administered the vaccine. No immediate signs of an allergic reaction were observed prior to the death, which together with the patient’s medical history led to the conclusion that it was not vaccine-related.

      Thirty other patients suffered non-serious side effects. The agency said it was following reports of the vaccine leading to facial paralysis in patients in other countries but added that such cases are extremely rare.

      The first weekly report on side effects in France will be published next week. From then on, reviews will be published weekly.

    • 18:32

      France to Extend Nightly Curfew From Saturday, Castex Says

      France will extend the nightly curfew by two hours and toughen border controls in a bid to slow down the spread of the new coronavirus, Prime Minister Jean Castex said Thursday.

      The nationwide curfew was announced in December. All but the worst-hit departments had the cut-off time set at 8 p.m., while eastern regions start their curfews at 6 p.m. All finish at 6 a.m.

      "Across the entire territory curfews will start at 6 p.m. from Saturday," Castex told a news conference, adding that restrictions will stay in place for at least 15 days.

      The prime minister said that 15 departments that were the first to go into 6 p.m. curfews on December 2 were reporting two or three times fewer new cases than the rest of the country.

      He said border controls would be tightened starting Monday. All air travelers coming to France from outside the European Union will have to present a negative COVID-19 test result before boarding the plane, self-isolate for 7 days and then retest.

    • 17:52

      Merkel Mulls ‘Mega-Lockdown’ as German Virus Deaths Surge, Reports Say

      German Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to discuss a complete national shutdown with regional governors next week, media said on Thursday.

      New restrictions — dubbed a "mega-lockdown" by the Bild daily — may include a complete halt to local and long-distance public transport and significantly limit reasonable excuses for leaving home.

      Several states have reportedly insisted on making remote work a new normal and mandating the wear of respirators rated FFP2, which filter out more particles than cloth coverings.

      Nothing has been agreed yet, but the new rules would stay in place until the end of February, if adopted. The existing restrictions were set for review on January 25. That date will reportedly be pushed forward to Wednesday.

      Merkel hopes that the lockdown will slow down the spread of the UK-linked mutated strain that was found to be up to 70 percent more transmissible.

      Germany saw virus-related daily deaths hit a record high of 1,244 on Thursday, taking the toll to 43,881. The country is on the way to pass the 2 million cases mark this week, after adding 25,164 cases in the past day.

    • 17:01

      Turkey Expects 25-30Mln Doses of Chinese Vaccine Against COVID-19, President Says

      Turkey is expecting to receive about 25-30 million doses of China's SinoVac vaccine, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday after he got vaccinated.

      Turkey received the first batch of the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine, including three million doses, in late December.

      "If political leaders and lawmakers are vaccinated, it will be a great encouragement for all citizens. Another 25-30 million doses of the vaccine will arrive from China. We are also negotiating with Germany, and we are developing vaccines ourselves," Erdogan told reporters.

      The president added that he would receive the second shot in 28 days.

      On Wednesday, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca gave a start to the vaccination campaign live, as he was vaccinated against COVID-19 with CoronaVac, developed by Chinese company SinoVac. Over 260,000 health workers have already been vaccinated.

    • 16:59

      Italy Extends Interregional Travel Ban Until 15 February, Health Ministry Says

      Italy extends restrictions on movement between the country's regions until February 15, the health ministry said Thursday.

      The Italian Council of Ministers held a meeting late on Wednesday, adopting a decree which extends the state of emergency, introduced in January last year, until April 30.

      According to the ministry, the decree also extends the ban on movement between the country's districts and autonomous regions without confirmed necessity, such as work or health-related issues as well as exceptional circumstances.

      The document also continues to divide the Italian regions into three categories, depending on the COVID-19 situation: red, orange and yellow, adding another one, white, for areas with the least severe level of restrictions.

      Italy has confirmed more than 2.3 million coronavirus cases so far, with over 80,000 fatalities.

    • 16:57

      Professional British Tennis Player Murray Tests Positive for COVID-19, Reports Say

      British professional tennis player from Scotland, Andy Murray, has tested positive for COVID-19, media reported on Thursday.

      According to the Sky News broadcaster, the 33-year-old, who is former world number one, tested positive for the coronavirus just weeks before his game in the Australian Open.

      Murray is in good condition despite and is on self-isolation.

      The tennis tournament is set to begin on February 8, and Murray is hoping to still take part in it at a later date, since the players are due to arrive in Australia within the next 24 hours, to complete a two-week quarantine period.

      However, a statement from the Australia Open organizers, said that Murray would not be unable to join the official charter flights arriving in Australia in the next few days.

      Murray is the tennis star and the three-time Grand Slam tournament winner, including two at Wimbledon, and the five-time runner-up in Melbourne. In January, 2019 Murray has a hip surgery but made a comeback after nine months.

    • 16:25

      About 140,000 People Already Vaccinated Against COVID-19 in Moscow, Mayor Says

      About 140,000 Russian citizens living in Moscow have already been vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on Thursday, adding that a record number of people have made appointments to receive the vaccine over the past two days.

      "As of now, some 140,000 people have already been vaccinated, and you know, for the last two days, we have broken all records for appointments [for the vaccination]," Sobyanin said live on the Rossiya 24 channel.

      According to the mayor, about 22,000-24,000 people want to receive injections, and the number is nearly twice as higher as it was two days ago.

      The Russian capital has been progressively opening vaccination to the most vulnerable groups since early December. Earlier this week, Moscow opened coronavirus vaccination to scientists, IT and hospitality industry workers.

    • 16:19

      Serbian President Believes Country Able to Vaccinate 80% of Population Against COVID-19

      President Alexander Vucic expressed belief on Thursday that Serbia would be able to deliver COVID-19 vaccines to 80 percent of the population.

      Serbia launched its national vaccination on December 24, when the country received the first batch of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines. Six days later, Serbia obtained 2,400 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. High-ranking Serbian officials have publicly received shots in a campaign to raise public trust for the vaccines.

      "I expect that the state will be able to vaccinate 80 percent of the nation, and over 90 percent will express a desire to get a vaccine," Vucic told reporters.

      On Thursday, a call center that receives applications for the vaccination started operating. Previously, those wishing to receive a shot had to apply via a special form on the government website. Vucic said that over 17,000 people had signed up for the vaccination via the call center in less than two hours.

      Overall, the country has secured eight million vaccine doses.

    • 16:18

      Yemen to Receive First Batch of COVID-19 Vaccine in April or May, Health Ministry Says

      Yemen expects to receive an initial batch of COVID-19 vaccines no earlier than in April or May, while the brand of the vaccine in question remains open, Dr. Ali Al-Walidi, the undersecretary of the Ministry of Public Health and Population for primary healthcare and spokesperson of the Supreme National Emergency Committee, said on Thursday.

      "The date of the arrival of the vaccines has not been defined, but it is expected in April or May. However, all measures have been undertaken by the government, including technical measures with regards to which vaccine would be suitable for our country depending on the circumstances of the country and the available vaccines that have been certified by the WHO, and until now there is no initial choice of a vaccine, a suitable vaccine will be chosen in terms of temperature and other logistical considerations," Dr. Al-Walidi said.

      Provided via the COVAX platform in coordination with GAVI and a number of UN agencies, the initial batch of vaccines will cover 20 percent of the country's population, and will be earmarked for health care workers, the elderly, and the chronically ill, with additional batches of vaccines to be ordered at a later stage.

      "The government is undertaking extensive efforts in the direction of providing the necessary quantity of vaccines, and we have undertaken all necessary measures with regards to other vaccines with health-care sector partners, all of which shall come into place," Al-Walidi added.

      The official added that the country's vaccination program will be carried out on a nationwide level to include Houthi-controlled territories, while its implementation will be undertaken by a dedicated task force formed by the Yemeni Ministry of Health and Population with technical assistance from the WHO and in coordination with the international vaccine alliance GAVI and with the support of the Saudi King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Aid.

    • 16:17

      US Congressman Espaillat Says Contracted COVID-19, 4th Lawmaker Since Capitol Riot

      US Congressman Adriano Espaillat said on Thursday that he has contracted the novel coronavirus, making him the fourth lawmaker to be infected after the riot at the Capitol last week that forced numerous people to huddle together.

      "I am following guidance from my physician and quarantining at home after having tested positive for COVID-19," Espaillat said via Twitter.

      Espaillat explained the infection occurred despite him receiving the two doses of the novel coronavirus vaccine.

      "I received the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine last week and understand the effects take time. I have continued to be tested regularly, wear my mask and follow the recommended guidelines."

      Three other lawmakers reported earlier they tested positive for the novel coronavirus since the January 6 riot at the US Capitol by a group of supporters of incumbent President Donald Trump. Many elected representatives, some without masks, entered into cloistered secure rooms during the riot.

      Adriano Espaillat is a member of the Democratic party and represents New York's 13th congressional district.

    • 15:31

      Turkey’s Erdogan Gets Vaccinated Against Coronavirus

      Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was vaccinated against the new coronavirus on Thursday.

      Erdogan announced the news on Telegram.

       

      Earlier, the spokesman of his AK Party said that Erdogan would be vaccinated "after the meeting of the AKP executive committee".

      Health Minister Fahrettin Koca kicked off the nationwide vaccine rollout on Wednesday by getting a shot of China's SinoVac vaccine. Over 240,000 health workers have already been vaccinated.

      Koca said 50 million vaccine doses would be imported by the end of February, with an additional batch of 4.5 million Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine doses due to arrive by April.

    • 15:02

      WHO is Interested in International Certification of Sputnik V

      WHO Ready to Speed Up International Certification of Russia's Sputnik V Vaccine, Official Says

      MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The international certification of the Russian vaccine against the coronavirus, Sputnik V, is at the stage of WHO approval and the organisation is ready to help in speeding up this process, technical officer for immunisation at WHO Regional Office for Europe, Oleg Benes, said at a briefing with Russian-language media.
      Read more
    • 13:46

      Austria’s Coronavirus Cases Surge as Nation Enters New Phase of Pandemic

      Austria saw daily coronavirus cases spike at 3,510 on Thursday, a day after the health minister warned the Alpine nation about hard times ahead.

      The spike is well below the record 9,262 seen in mid-November but it is a marked rise from Wednesday’s figures 1,917 new cases.

      The overall number of people who tested positive is 389,260. A further 53 patients died in the previous 24-hour period, taking the death toll to 6,921.

      Health Minister Rudolf Anschober said on Wednesday that the country was entering the most difficult phase of the pandemic, associated with a faster-spreading mutation first found in the UK.

      Austria went into a third lockdown on 26 December and rolled out the COVID-19 vaccine the following day, in an effort to stop the virus from spreading.

    • 13:44

      UNHCR: Jordan Becomes One of World's First Nations to Vaccinate Refugees

      The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on Thursday praised Jordan for becoming one of the world's first countries to vaccinate refugees from COVID-19 and for including them in the vaccination campaign.

      Jordan launched its campaign on Wednesday, which prioritises the elderly and health workers. The country is using vaccines developed by Pfizer and China’s Sinopharm.

      "Once again Jordan has shown exemplary leadership and solidarity in hosting refugees. The country has included refugees in every aspect of the public health response to the pandemic, including the national vaccination campaign, proving how it should be done if we are to keep everyone safe", UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said, as quoted by the UNHCR in a press release.

      Grandi also called on other countries to follow suit and include refugees in their vaccination campaigns.

      An Iraqi refugee who lives in the city of Irbid became the first UNHCR-registered refugee to receive a vaccine shot in Jordan.

      The UNHCR has been calling for the equitable inclusion of refugees, stateless persons and internally displaced people in the World Health Organisation's vaccine distribution mechanism COVAX.

      According to Jordan’s national vaccination plan, all residents of the country, including asylum seekers and refugees, are entitled to receive the COVID-19 vaccine free of charge.

      To date, Jordan confirmed over 310,000 COVID-19 cases, including over 293,000 recoveries and more than 4,000 deaths. Moreover, nearly 2,000 refugees who reside in camps in Jordan tested positive for the virus since the start of the pandemic.

    • 13:43

      Sixteen New Strains of COVID-19 Found in Kenya From June-October, Reports Says

      The scientists from the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) discovered 16 new strains of the coronavirus spread throughout the country from June-October, the Daily Nation newspaper reported on Thursday, specifying that the mutations differed from those discovered earlier in the United Kingdom and South Africa.

      Together with those found in the country in March of 2020, the total number of mutations circulating in Kenya reached 20, the media outlet added.

      The researchers stressed that among the 20 strains discovered in Kenya only one was unique and had not been detected in other countries.

      Charles Agoti, a chief researcher of the KEMRI, said that a high number of mutant COVID-19 strains discovered in Kenya did not pose a significant threat since the mutations of COVID-19 had little impact on its nature.

      "If you take the number of infections confirmed in Kenya and look at their genetic make-up, you will find that a huge number have two to three changes that don't alter the overall behaviour of the virus", Agoti said as quoted by the media.

      Several new COVID-19 strains have been reported across the globe over recent weeks. In mid-December, the UK government reported that a new variant of the disease, which is believed to be up to 70 percent more transmissible, was discovered in southeast England. Other variants have been discovered in South Africa and Brazil. According to the recent scientific research papers, however, the current COVID-19 vaccines demonstrated high efficacy against the new mutant strains.

    • 13:30

      No Solid Evidence New South African COVID-19 Variant Impacts Vaccine Efficacy, Researcher Says

      There is "no conclusive evidence" that a new COVID-19 variant discovered in South Africa will lower the efficacy of already-developed vaccines against the disease, Francisca Mutapi, a professor at the UK's University of Edinburgh and deputy director of the Tackling Infections to Benefit Africa (TIBA) partnership, said on Thursday.

      One mutation of the new variant, termed E484K, has stoked fears among some researchers that the new strain may avoid detection by antibodies and render vaccines less effective.

      Speaking at a World Health Organisation (WHO) African Region press briefing, Mutapi said that there was no conclusive evidence to suggest the new strain will impact vaccine efficacy.

      "One of the mutations, the E484K mutation also in the spike protein, has been suggested to impair recognition of the virus by antibodies, but again there's been no conclusive evidence that this may affect vaccine efficacy", Mutapi said.

      Roughly 20 countries across the world have confirmed cases of the South African COVID-19 variant, the TIBA deputy director added. Many nations have imposed travel restrictions on the African country as part of efforts to control the global spread of the new strain.

      Scientists in South Africa, where more than 1.25 million cases of COVID-19 have been registered since the start of the pandemic, believe the new variant to be more transmissible than earlier strains.

    • 13:03

      Philippines Purchases Total of 17Mln COVID-19 Vaccines From AstraZeneca, Reports Say

      The Philippines authorities with the participation of private companies have signed an agreement to acquire a total of 17 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, media reported Thursday.

      On Thursday, the Philippine government along with the country's local government units (LGUs) signed an agreement with AstraZeneca to secure additional doses of coronavirus vaccine. In November, the Philippines government purchased the first batch of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, consisting of 2.6 million doses.

      According to CNN Philippines, about 300 companies and 39 LGUs teamed up to purchase the second batch of around 14.4 million doses.

      In an earlier media briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that some of the doses were expected to be delivered around July.

      The Philippines Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is still reviewing AstraZeneca’s application for the emergency use of its vaccines in the country, according to the news broadcaster.

      Meanwhile, the Philippines FDA approved the use of the Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

      Earlier in January, the Philippines National Task Force said that the country was planning to acquire 148 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine with the aim to inoculate at least half of its over 100 million population this year.

    • 13:02

      Venezuelans Say Immunisation Against COVID-19 Best Option Available

      As The Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine against the coronavirus disease is about to arrive in Venezuela amid wariness over vaccination by some of its citizens, the majority of those interviewed by Sputnik saw it as the best option on the table.

      On Wednesday, the country's government approved the emergency use of the vaccine.

      "I am afraid of the fast development of this vaccine, but I also think that there are technological advances that allow scientists to work better. Of course, I will be vaccinated, but I would think twice before vaccinating my children or my father as he is over 80 years old", 42-year old Miguel Gutierrez told Sputnik.

      David Perez, aged 36, said he would get vaccinated despite some reservations.

      "I have seen everything on social networks, that it is a chip that they will put into us or it is a poison, that there are people who have died. The truth is that I do not know but despite this, I would like to get vaccinated because it would make me feel safer, I am already tired of thinking that I can always get infected. I have been passing a year like this and with travel restrictions, if we get vaccinated, I think it will come to an end", Perez stated.

      Some, however, are taking their chances without receiving the vaccine.

      "It is not important for me the origin of the vaccine, I am not going to be vaccinated, all of this is created to control, I believe that God will keep me healthy and if He wants me to be infected with COVID-19, that is fine, but I am not going to receive this vaccine", Magalis Fuentes, 60 years old, said.

      Sputnik V, developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, was registered by the Russian Health Ministry on 11 August, becoming the first registered vaccine against COVID-19 in the world.

      In October 2020, Venezuela received Sputnik V as part of Phase 3 clinical trials. In December, the Latin American country signed an agreement with Russia on the vaccine's delivery to start mass vaccination.

    • 12:51

      UK Delays Mandatory Negative COVID-19 Test for International Travellers Until Monday

      UK minister for Transport Grant Shapps announced on Thursday that the negative COVID-19 test result all travellers will be required to present before departing from England will come into force on Monday, three day later than initially planned, to give passengers time to prepare.

      On 8 January, the UK's Department for Transport said that from 15 January, all travellers, including UK citizens, arriving in England from all international destinations would have to present a negative COVID-19 test taken up to 72 hours prior to departure.

      Passengers who fail to comply with the new regulation on pre-departure testing will be subject to a £500 ($677) fine upon their arrival in England by boat, plane or train.

      Those traveling from countries not included in the government’s safe travel corridor list must also isolate for 10 days regardless of their test result.

      The announcement of the delay prompted criticism from Twitter users who think the new regulation must be enforced on Friday as it was previously planned.

      “Do it now for goodness sake. The death toll is climbing too rapidly, cases are rising yet you lot clearly dont care”, wrote a user, with another warning that “thousands” of people will rush to get into the UK before the new deadline.

    • 12:40

      Nicaragua Has Enough Funds to Vaccinate Over Half of Nation for COVID-19, Vice President Says

      Nicaragua has received funds necessary to purchase 7.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, which will be enough to immunise 3,727,000 citizens, or 55% of Nicaragua's population, Vice President Rosario Murillo said.

      "With financing received through different mechanisms for the vaccine purchase we would be able to immunise 3,732,000 people, that is 55 percent of the population at the first moment, but we want to reach the full coverage", Nicaraguan Vice President Rosario Murillo said during a television appearance on Wednesday.

      The vice president added that Nicaragua would acquire 7.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines worth up to $90 million from four different pharmaceutical companies.

      "We purpose four vaccines for the further purchase: Sputnik V, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Bharat Biotech", Murillo said.

      In early December, Nicaraguan Finance Minister Ivan Acosta said that the country signed credit agreements with the Central American Bank for Economic Integration and the Inter-American Development Bank to obtain $107 million to purchase COVID-19 vaccines.

    • 11:17

      Pope Francis and Ex-Pope Benedict XVI Receive First Dose of Vaccine

      Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI have received their first doses of COVID-19 vaccines under the immunisation campaign in the Vatican, Holy See spokesman Matteo Bruni told reporters on Thursday.

      The Vatican launched its vaccination campaign on Wednesday. According to prior media reports, Pope Francis was administered the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine the same day, in a gesture that is sure to encourage believers to take the vaccine.

      "I can confirm that as part of the vaccination program of the Vatican City State, as of today, the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine has been administered to Pope Francis and to the Pope Emeritus [Benedict XVI]", Bruni said.

      The vaccination campaign in the Vatican prioritises health care and public safety staff, those often in contact with the public, and the elderly. Pope Francis is 84 years old and Benedict XVI is aged 93.

    • 10:28

      Two Russian Biathletes Test Positive for COVID-19

    • 10:09

      French Data Privacy Agency Urges Police to Stop Using Drones to Track Lockdown Compliance

      The French National Commission on Information Technology and Freedoms (CNIL) on Thursday called on the Interior Ministry to abandon its practice of flying drones to monitor compliance with the lockdown measures.

      The regulator explained that under the so-called Data Protection Act law enforcement agencies cannot use drones equipped with cameras allowing to identify persons for "whatever objectives are pursued."

      "It, therefore, asks the Ministry to cease all drone flights until a regulatory framework authorises such processing of personal data or until a technical system preventing any identification of persons is implemented", the watchdog said in a statement.

      According to the statement, the CNIL has issued a call to order against the ministry, stressing that the organisation is not authorised to declare fines against the state.

      The issue of controversial drone utilisation raised eyebrows in March 2020 when the interior ministry and the Paris police department confirmed to CNIL that they used the devices to monitor compliance with coronavirus measures. Later in the summer, the watchdog initiated a sanction procedure against the ministry, accusing it of violating the Data Protection Act.

    • 10:06

      Scottish Tennis Player Andy Murray Tests Positive for COVID-19, Reports Say

    • 10:00

      WHO to Discuss Potential Vaccination Passports for Travellers, European Bureau Says

      The World Health Organisation's (WHO) Emergency Committee for COVID-19 will discuss potential vaccination certificates for travellers, technical officer for vaccine management at the European bureau of WHO Oleg Benes said Thursday.

      According to Benes, these passports may be discussed within the next 24 hours.

    • 09:59

      Russia May Have Combined Vaccine Against COVID-19, Flu by 2022 End

      Russia may have a combined vaccine against the coronavirus and flu already by the end of the next year, as the Gamaleya research institute has already perfected the technology for such vaccines creation, Alexander Gintsburg, the head of the institute, told Sputnik on Thursday.

      The technology for developing similar vaccines has already been worked out and is currently being adapted for use against different strains of flu and the coronavirus, the microbiologist explained.

      "We are currently testing it on the strains that we have, and then we will also test it on the latest strains ... We will start clinical trials in the beginning of the next year", Gintsburg added.

    • 09:46

      No New Adverse Effect Recorded in Volunteers Engaged in Sputnik V Vaccine Trials, Developer Says

      Experts continue monitoring the health condition of volunteers engaged in post-registration trials of Russia's coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V, and no new adverse reactions have been registered so far, the head of the Gamaleya research institute that developed the vaccine told Sputnik on Thursday.

      The post-registration clinical trials started on 7 September.

      "Monitoring continues, there are no new undesirable reactions, everything is fine", Alexander Gintsburg said.

    • 09:10

      Indonesia Registers Record Daily Rise in New Cases With 11,557 Infections

    • 08:48

      Italy’s Council of Ministers Toughens Anti-COVID Measures With New Decree After 15 January

      Italy has adopted a new decree with additional measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 that will enter into force after 15 January, the government said Thursday.

      The meeting of the council of ministers took place late on Wednesday.

      "The council of ministers, under the proposal of the President of the Council Giuseppe Conte and Health Minister Roberto Speranza, has approved a decree law that introduces new urgent measures for the containment of COVID-19", the press release issued by the government said.

      The new directive extends the country-wide state of emergency imposed earlier until 30 April while reaffirming the ban on any inter-regional movement until 15 February.

      The decree also keeps in effect from 16 January until 5 March the slew of restrictions that have already been in place during the festive period in Italy. These include a curfew from 10 p.m. (21:00 GMT) until 5 a.m. and a ban on any movements between the municipalities (communes) in red and orange zones. In places designated as yellow zones, moving between the communes is allowed within the same region.

      The “colour” of each region is determined by local authorities based on the number of reported infections.

    • 08:40

      Russia Registers 24,763 COVID-19 Cases Over Past 24 Hours

      Russia registered 24,763 COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, up from 22,850 the day before, taking the tally to 3,495,816, the coronavirus response centre said on Thursday.

      "Over the past day, 24,763 coronavirus cases were confirmed across 85 Russian regions, including 3,426 cases (13.8 percent) that were detected actively, with people showing no clinical symptoms", the centre said, adding that the cumulative case count has now reached 3,495,816, with the rate of increase at 0.7 percent.

      Moscow confirmed 5,893 new coronavirus cases over the given period, up from 4,320 the day before. The Russian capital was followed by St. Petersburg with 3,041 cases, up from 3,003 the day before, and the Moscow Region with 1,263 new cases, up from 1,189 the day before.

      The response centre reported 570 coronavirus fatalities, up from 566 the day before, raising the country's death toll to 63,940.

      Total recoveries count 2,882,044 after 27,956 people were discharged from hospitals over the past day, down from 28,658 the day before.

      According to the national public health watchdog, Rospotrebnadzor, over 95 million tests to detect COVID-19 have been conducted in Russia since the beginning of the pandemic, and 611,704 suspected carriers remain under medical monitoring.

    • 08:28

      Researchers Discover New COVID-19 Strain in US State of Ohio

      Researchers at the Ohio State University in the United States have discovered a new strain of COVID-19 similar to a new highly infectious variant identified in the United Kingdom.

      "Scientists at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Centre and College of Medicine have discovered a new variant of SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The new variant carries a mutation identical to the UK strain, but it likely arose in a virus strain already present in the United States", the university said in a press release published late on Wednesday.

      The new variant has so far only been identified in one patient in Ohio, the university said.

      Additionally, researchers are examining the evolution of a US strain of COVID-19 that has been identified in a growing number of new cases in the state capital, Columbus, the university said.

      "The evolving strain with the three new mutations has become the dominant virus in Columbus during a three week period in late December 2020 and January", the press release read.

      Several new COVID-19 strains have been reported across the globe over recent weeks. In mid-December, the UK government reported that a new variant of the disease, which is believed to be up to 70 percent more transmissible, was discovered in southeast England.

      Other variants have been discovered in South Africa and Brazil, raising fears over vaccine efficacy.

    • 08:11

      WHO Says Two Experts Heading to Wuhan Tested Positive for COVID-19 During Transit

      The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Thursday that two experts from its international team, who were due to go to China's Wuhan to study the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, tested positive for IgM antibodies and are currently being retested in Singapore.

       

      Earlier in the day, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources familiar with the situation, that China denied entry to two WHO experts, as they tested positive during transit.

    • 06:46

      Philippines' Regulator Approves Emergency Use of Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine

      The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the Philippines has approved the emergency use of COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech pharmaceutical companies, FDA Director General Enrique Domingo said on Thursday.

      "After a thorough review of the currently available data by medical and regulatory experts, the FDA is granting Emergency Use Authorisation to Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. The interim data from the ongoing phase 3 trial shows that the vaccine has an efficacy of 95% in the study population and at least 92% among all racial groups", Domingo said.

      According to the FDA, the decision to approve the emergency use of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was based on the available data, suggesting that the benefits of the vaccine use outweigh potential risks.

      "Evaluation was based on current available data. The assessment ensured that the benefits outweigh the known and potential risks of the product", the regulator said.

      The FDA director added that, though the vaccine was used by over five million people and few recipients had severe allergic reactions after the inoculation, the vaccination should be carried out by health care professionals who could respond to possible side effects.

      "The roll out of the vaccine and use in more than 5 million people worldwide has identified severe allergic reaction in a few individuals. Therefore, the vaccinations must be done by health professionals trained to recognize and manage adverse reactions and they should have resources at hand to adequately respond", Domingo said.

      On January 6, Carlito Galvez Jr, the chief implementer of the Philippines' COVID-19 National Task Force, said that the country planned to purchase 148 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines produced by different pharmaceutical companies, including Russia's Sputnik V vaccine developed by the Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology. On January 9, the FDA said that it received a license request for the emergency use of Sputnik V vaccine.

      According to Johns Hopkins University, the Philippines has confirmed 491,258 COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. On Wednesday, the country registered 1,522 new COVID-19 infections over the past 24 hours.

    • 06:45

      Australia's Queensland Mulls Using Mining Camps for Quarantine of Int'l Travellers

      The Australian state of Queensland is considering using mining camps as quarantine sites for international travellers as the region looks to contain the spread of a new SARS-CoV-2 variant first identified in the United Kingdom, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said on Thursday.

      "We are going to look at all options and one of those options is to look at some of the mining camps that we have in Queensland", Palaszczuk said at a media briefing.

      The Queensland premier said that she would raise the idea at a meeting with the federal government in the coming days.

      "I think this is a rational option and if we are dealing with a strain which is up to 70 percent more infectious, I think we need to be really serious about it", Palaszczuk remarked, adding that she was hoping to stop placing international travelers in hotel quarantine following an outbreak of the new UK strain at the Hotel Grand Chancellor in the city of Brisbane on Wednesday.

      Under current guidance, international travelers arriving in Australia must spend 14 days in self-isolation at a designated quarantine facility.

      Australia's Department of Health has confirmed more than 28,600 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, and 16 new positive tests were added to the country's case total on Wednesday.

    • 06:43

      Vaccination to be Performed at 81 Locations in Delhi on Saturday

      Around 100 people will be vaccinated at each of these locations per day. Vaccination will be done four days a week - Monday, Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday, according to Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal.

    • 05:55

      Medical Experts in India Fear Black Marketing of COVID-19 Vaccine, Urge People to be Patient

      With India set to start its vaccination drive against COVID-19 on Saturday, medical experts have raised concerns over the black marketing of the jab.

      Speaking to Sputnik, medical experts highlighted that people's impatience and the high demand and short supply of COVID-19 vaccine doses will prompt scam artists to sell sham shots.

      "The doses being black marketed might take the lives of people using COVID-19 vaccines as there would be no record of the product being genuine."

      They have even urged people to be patient and wait their turn, as the production of the vaccine is in full swing.

    • 05:51

      Indian Officers Perform Coconut Breaking Tradition Before Taking Vaccine Deliveries - Videos

      It is a tradition in India to break a coconut before starting anything new, as it is considered a big event. Prayers and rituals were performed, along with the traditional breaking of coconuts, as vehicles containing Covishield vaccine doses were received in various centres in different cities throughout India; Twitter is abuzz with visuals.

      One netizen tweeted a video of the highest-ranking medical officer in the town of Amethi in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh performing prayers before receiving a consignment of vaccines.

      Meanwhile, in the Indian state of Gujarat, the state chief’s second-in-command Nitinbhai Patel performed the coconut-breaking ritual.

      Similar scenes were witnessed throughout India, as vaccine consignment reached their destinations. In the northern Indian state of Rajasthan, a priest was ready with a prayer plate to perform the tradition.

    • 05:48

      Video of WHO-Led Scientific Team Arriving in Wuhan Shared Online

    • 04:49

      Indian Government to Hold Covid-19 Vaccine Makers Liable for Any Complications, Unlike in US

      Indian vaccine-makers will be held liable for any complications that arise from the administration of their jabs. The Indian government has not accepted their demand that they be indemnified against mishaps.

      Several days ago, the CEO the of Serum Institute of India (SII), Adar Poonawalla, had urged the government to pas a law to shield the firms making vaccines. According to him, this would help companies focus on developing and manufacturing the vaccines rather than having to address legal issues during the ongoing pandemic.

      On 12 Jan, SII sent the first batches of India's first vaccine, Covishield, to Delhi and 12 other cities. The nationwide inoculation drive in India against COVID-19 begins on 16 January. SII has rolled out 5.65 million doses of Covishield.

      Meanwhile, media reports suggest that the US federal government has granted companies like Pfizer and Moderna immunity from liability if something unintentionally goes wrong with their vaccines.

    • 04:33

      Number of COVID-19 Cases in India Rises by 16,946 to Over 10.5Mln – Health Ministry

      India has confirmed 16,946 new cases of the coronavirus over the past 24 hours, with the total number of those infected having reached 10,512,093, the country's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said on Thursday.

      The death toll from the disease has reached 151,727 people, with 198 new fatalities being recorded over the past day. More than 10.1 million people have recovered in India since the start of the outbreak.

      India comes second in terms of the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, following the United States, with more than 23 million COVID-19 patients.

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