19:47 GMT05 March 2021
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    The coronavirus, which was declared a pandemic in March, has infected more than 98.1 million people worldwide, with over 2.1 million fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins University (JHU). In December, South Africa detected a new strain of the virus. It and the one found in the United Kingdom have since spread across the world.

    Portugal has detected the first case of the South African coronavirus variant, Ricardo Jorge health institute told Lusa news agency late on Friday.

    "We are undergoing due process to rapidly test and interrupt this potential chain of transmission," the institute was quoted as saying.

    The South African strain was detected in December, around the same time the UK informed the WHO of a mutated highly-transmissible coronavirus variant which has since spread to other nations despite efforts to suspend air traffic with Britain.

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    • 23:03

      UK Will Impose a 10-Day Quarantine for Travelers from High-Risk COVID-19 Nations, Report Says

    • 18:24

      Bangladesh to Launch Vaccination Campaign on January 27, Authorities Say

    • 17:46

      Italy’s Conte Vows Legal Action Against US, UK Vaccine Producers Over Delivery Delays

      Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced Saturday that he will leave no stone unturned in forcing coronavirus vaccine producers Pfizer and AstraZeneca to abide by their contractual obligations.

      Pfizer has announced a cut in supplies to the EU as it seeks to boost production in Europe. Conte said AstraZeneca was also preparing to reduce imports even as its vaccine was being considered for approval in the EU.

      "These delays in deliveries constitute serious contractual violations, causing enormous damage to Italy and other European countries … We will use all instruments and legal means, which we are already using in Pfizer/Biontech’s case, to get them to respect contractual commitments," he wrote on Facebook.

      Italy saw Pfizer vaccine deliveries drop by almost 30 percent last week and was told to expect a further 20 percent cut next week, forcing it to start rationing doses after weeks of speedy vaccination.

      Conte estimated that a potential 60 percent reduction in AztraZeneca’s supplies to the EU in the first quarter would mean that Italy would be short of 4.6 million of vaccine doses, forcing it to redraw its ambitious vaccination plan.

    • 17:18

      UK PM Urges Britons to Get Vaccinated Against Coronavirus

    • 16:28

      UK Medical Association Asks Authorities to Shorten Gap Between COVID-19 Vaccine Doses

      The British Medical Association asked the UK Health authorities to shorten the current 12-week gap between the first and second doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19, out of concern about the antidote’s level of protection, the chair of the doctors’ union, Chaand Nagpaul, confirmed on Saturday.

      "We wrote to the chief medical officer asking him to reconsider the decision in the UK, looking at guidance from the World Health Organisation, and taking stock of the fact that no other nation in the world other than the UK has adopted the 12-week delay," Nagpaul told Sky News broadcaster.

      On December, 2020, the UK became the first country in the world to approve and rollout the Pfizer vaccine, but in order to ensure more people get the first jab sooner, the UK's Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency opted to delay the second dose for up to 12 weeks instead of the 21-day gap recommended by the manufacturers.

      The World Health Organisation has recommended that the gap should be a maximum of 6 weeks.

      "A six-week delay compared to the original three weeks is still doubling the number of people who can be vaccinated," the BMA chair said.

      According to Nagpaul, their concern is about the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine alone because the manufacturer of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine gave its consent for a delay of up to three months between doses.

      UK housing minister Robert Jenrick claimed, however, that that the government was following experts’ advice when it made the decision to space the time between doses.

      "As a result of that we are ensuring millions more people can get the first jab and a high level of protection that that provides as quickly as possible," Jenrick said as quoted by Sky News.

      According to the government’s COVID-19 dashboard, a total of 5,383,103 doses of the coronavirus vaccines had been given in the UK between December 8 and January 21.

    • 15:59

      One Million People in France Vaccinated Against COVID, Prime Minister Says

      A total of one million French nationals have received a vaccine against COVID-19, French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced on Saturday.

      "One million French nationals have been vaccinated," Castex said on Twitter.

      The vaccination campaign in France was launched on December 27. Elderly people receive the vaccine at the first stage of the campaign. By late August, the authorities are planning to vaccinate 70 million people.

      Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, over 3 million have been infected with COVID-19 in France and over 72,000 people have died of the disease.

    • 14:27

      French Health Agency Recommends Spacing Out Vaccine Doses to Speed Up Rollout

      France's national health agency has recommended on Saturday administering the second shot of an anti-coronavirus vaccine six weeks after the first one, up from three weeks for Pfizer and four for Moderna.

      "In order to protect more people at risk of hospitalization or death, HAS recommends extending to 6 weeks the gap between doses of the RNA-messenger vaccine (vaccines by Pfizer and Moderna)," an advisory read.

      The health authority estimated that an additional 700,000 people could receive the first shot within a month. One shot generates an immune response, while two are needed for a full benefit.

      The US drugmaker Pfizer said earlier that longer-than-recommended timeframes had not been tested, but a rise in infection rates across Europe and the recent supply delays have led to calls for a speedier vaccination rollout.

    • 13:57

      Tunisia Reimposes Curfew Over COVID-19 Pandemic Until 14 February, Reports Say

      Tunisia decided to reintroduce a curfew to stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic until February 14, local media reported Saturday.

      Previously, the country had a curfew in place until January 15.

      According to the Mosaique FM radio station, the new curfew will be effective from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. (19:00-04:00 GMT) local time. The ban on gatherings will remain in effect, while movement between cities via public and personal vehicles will be prohibited as well. The authorities recommend to switch employees to remote work.

      According to the latest data from the Tunisian Ministry of Health, over 193,000 coronavirus cases were confirmed in the country, including 6,092 deaths.

    • 13:06

      US Registers Nearly 187,000 New COVID-19 Cases Over Past 24 Hours – JHU

      The United States has registered nearly 187,000 new coronavirus cases and over 3,600 coronavirus-related fatalities within the past 24 hours, according to Johns Hopkins University (JHU).

      According to the data, the total US case tally amounts to 24,822,874, with 414,117 deaths.

      Over the past several days the dynamics of incidence rate in the US remains generally unchanged with over 170,000 new cases reported daily.

      US authorities have begun vaccination campaigns across the country, however numerous side effects and dozens of vaccination-related deaths have already been reported.

      The university COVID-19 database shows that overall tally of more than 98.2 million confirmed cases across the globe, including 2,109,474 fatalities.

    • 12:37

      Rouhani Says Iran to Launch COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign Soon, State Media Says

      Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Saturday announced that the country will launch its COVID-19 vaccination campaign in the near future and said that the use of foreign-made vaccines will be necessary, the state-run IRNA news agency reported.

      According to Rouhani, the use of foreign vaccines is a necessity until locally-made ones become available.

      No further information about what vaccines may be used during the inoculation campaign was provided.

      Earlier in January, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared a ban on imports of COVID-19 vaccines from the United Kingdom and the United States. Meanwhile, Iranian officials have confirmed that Tehran held negotiations on the potential procurement of vaccines with Moscow, Beijing and New Delhi.

      Iran began the human trials of its first domestic coronavirus vaccine in late December and said that no side effects were detected so far.

      To date, Iran has confirmed over 1.3 million COVID-19 cases, including more than 57,000 related deaths and over 1.1 million recoveries.

    • 12:22

      UK Prime Minister's TV Spokeswoman Reportedly Self-Isolates Over Virus Fears

      UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokeswoman, Allegra Stratton, has self-quarantined after possibly coming in contact with a coronavirus patient, media said Saturday.

      The former journalist, who has been leading the government's televised press briefings, will skip work next week, according to the Guardian newspaper, although no other details were given.

      Stratton is the latest in the string of senior government officials forced into quarantine. Health minister Matt Hancock self-isolated on Tuesday after a contact tracing app pinged him over infection risk.

    • 12:11

      WHO Chief Thanks Indian PM for 'Continued Support' to Coronavirus Response

      Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), on Saturday thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his "continued support" to the global Covid-19 response.

    • 10:16

      Russia's RDIF Dismisses Claims Mexican Businessman Bought 2Mln Sputnik V Vaccine Doses

      Russian Gam-COVID-VAK (trademark Sputnik V) coronavirus vaccine

      Russia's RDIF Dismisses Claims Mexican Businessman Bought 2Mln Sputnik V Vaccine Doses

      MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which is behind the production and distribution of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine, on Saturday refuted claims by Mexican businessman Alejandro Cossio who said he had purchased two million doses of the vaccine alongside exclusive distribution rights for Mexico and Central America.
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    • 10:16

      Malaysia Reports 4,275 New Cases, 7 New Deaths

    • 09:45

      Russia's RDIF Reaches Agreement to Produce COVID-19 Vaccine Sputnik V in Turkey

      The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) inked an agreement with a leading Turkish pharmaceuticals developer to produce Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine in Turkey and started the transfer of manufacturing techniques, the RDIF told Sputnik on Saturday.

      "RDIF signed an agreement with a leading Turkish manufacturer of pharmaceuticals for the production of Sputnik V vaccine in Turkey and began the process of transferring manufacturing techniques. Interaction with the company is carried out as part of RDIF's activities to promote Sputnik V vaccine to foreign markets", the RDIF said.

      According to the fund, the potential production volume of Sputnik V in Turkey is millions of doses per year, and negotiations on the possible expansion of production in the future are also ongoing.

      "The vaccine will be supplied both to the domestic market in Turkey and to other countries", the RDIF said.

      The RDIF added that Turkish partners are showing great interest in the Russian vaccine, which has an efficacy rate of over 90 percent, for inoculating the country’s population, as well as for its production in order to further export it to third countries.

    • 09:26

      Russian Health Facilities to Receive 17Mln COVID-19 Vaccine Doses in Q1 of 2021

      Russian medical facilities will receive more than 17 million coronavirus vaccine doses in the first quarter of the year, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said Saturday.

      "During this week, we have drawn up a preliminary vaccination plan for the first quarter of 2021, taking into account what [number of vaccine doses] will be supplied to medical facilities for use. That is 17 million [doses], and we predict that if everything goes without a hitch then, we will be able to bring about 20 million of our citizens into the process", Golikova told the Rossiya 1 channel.

      The official also described the beginning of the country's vaccination campaign as "complicated days," and noted that thousands of active vaccination centers were set up across the country.

      "When the president [of Russia Vladimir Putin] ordered to switch from large-scale to mass vaccination ... Russia had approximately 1,300 vaccination centers, now there are already 2,250", Golikova added.

      The deputy prime minister went on to boast about 7.6 million vaccine doses that were already manufactured by Russia.

      "I can say that we have already manufactured 7.6 million vaccine doses and 2.1 million have been shipped to the country's regions", Golikova stated, adding that the vaccination capacities will increase, including for low-populated and far-flung settlements.

      Golikova then mentioned the possibility of permanent inclusion of COVID-19 vaccines into the immunization schedule.

      Earlier in the month, Putin urged the government to launch vaccination against the coronavirus for all Russian citizens, whereas it was previously open to the most at-risk groups.

    • 08:01

      Russia Registers 20,921 COVID-19 Cases Over Past 24 Hours

      Russia registered 20,921 COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, down from 21,513 the day before, taking the tally to 3,698,273, the coronavirus response centre said on Saturday.

      "Over the past day, 20,921 coronavirus cases were confirmed across 85 Russian regions, including 2,351 cases (11.2 percent) that were detected actively, with people showing no clinical symptoms", the centre said, adding that the cumulative case count has now reached 3,698,273, with the rate of increase at 0.57 percent.

      Moscow confirmed 2,668 new coronavirus cases over the given period, down from 3,037 the day before. The Russian capital was followed by St. Petersburg with 3,056 cases, down from 3,104 the day before, and the Moscow Region with 1,121 new cases, down from 1,142 on Friday.

      The response centre reported 559 coronavirus fatalities, down from 580 the day before, raising the country's death toll to 68,971.

      Total recoveries count 3,109,315 after 27,779 people were discharged from hospitals over the past day, up from 27,318 the day before.

    • 07:23

      Hong Kong Locks Down Nearly 10,000 People in Coronavirus-Hit District, Reports Say

      Hong Kong authorities on Saturday issued a two-day lockdown on some 10,000 residents of the densely populated Yau Tsim Mong district, seeking to stem a spike in COVID-19 transmissions, media reported.

      The order was announced at 4:00 a.m. on Saturday (20:00 GMT on Friday) catching residents by surprise, with many learning of the lockdown while heading out to work, South China Morning Post reported.

      About 150 housing blocks of the low-income Jordan neighbourhood, where many residents live in subdivided apartments, were cordoned off by police as health care and social workers were mobilized to begin a mass testing drive, according to the newspaper.

      COVID-19 cases began a steep climb over the course of the month, centered around the Kowloon district, with over 50 infections reported daily since mid-January. Over 700 people are currently hospitalised, with 34 in critical condition.

      Since the beginning of the pandemic, the special administrative region has registered just under 10,000 cases and 168 deaths.

    • 06:52

      Mexican Businessman Claims Purchasing 2Mln Doses of Sputnik V COVID-19 Vaccine

      A Mexican businessman from the eastern state of Veracruz has claimed to have acquired two million doses of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine against the coronavirus and exclusive distribution rights for it as the government allows private firms and regional authorities to buy vaccines authorised by the national regulator.

      On Friday, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador announced the authorisation of acquisition of approved vaccines by regional authorities and private companies.

      "I already have two million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine ... I welcome the decision of the president, I celebrate it, I think that it is very sensible on the president's part and we are waiting for the order to be issued and hoping for a simultaneous authorisation by the Mexican regulator Cofepris", businessman Alejandro Cossio told the Financiero newspaper, adding that the vaccine will be sold within the $36 to $41 price range, depending on who will use it and where.

      According to the Mural newspaper, Cossio claims to have exclusive distribution rights in Mexico, Central and Southern Americas.

      Meanwhile, a source in the country's health sector told Sputnik that Cossio's purchase claims were false and refuted his statements about distribution rights.

      Mexico launched its vaccination campaign earlier in the month, using the vaccine developed by pharmaceutical company Pfizer.

      A the same time, the country's authorities expect to receive the first 400,000 doses of Sputnik V next week, despite it not being approved for emergency use yet.

    • 06:40

      Pfizer Seeks to Decrease Coronavirus Vaccine Supply Due to 'Extra' Dose in Vials, Reports Say

      Pfizer is seeking to capitalise on the fact that the vials of their coronavirus vaccines contain enough for a sixth dose, one more than the originally intended five, by decreasing shipments and recalculating its volumes, the New York Times reported.

      According to the newspaper, Pfizer is set to retrospectively charge governments for the extra dose or count its contractual obligation fulfilled ahead of time.

      Earlier in the month, the pharmaceutical behemoth successfully lobbied the US Food and Drug Administration to change the wording of the government contract to say that vials contained "up to six doses" instead of five. Similar changes were pushed through on labels in the World Health Organisation and the EU’s European Medicines Agency.

      This may force the US federal government to decrease the vaccine supply to the state level based on the assumption that each vial has six doses.

      This change would mean Pfizer can claim it would produce up to two billion doses throughout 2021 instead of the originally outlined 1.3 billion doses. This would also mean US regulatory agencies can count that 120 million doses would have been administered by the end of March, well over the originally planned 100 million, the Times reported.

      Crucial to the situation is the fact that Pfizer sells its coronavirus vaccine by the dose and not by the vial.

      Health care workers, however, have complained that the extra dose requires a specialised syringe to extract.

      White House Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that the new administration may employ special powers to accelerate the production of the special syringes, known as low dead-volume syringes, and prioritise vaccine distribution to health care centres with guaranteed stockpiles.

    • 06:07

      Mexican President Discusses Migration, COVID-19 With Biden

      "We have talked with President Biden in a friendly and respectful manner. We discuss the issues related to migration, COVID-19 and cooperation for development and well-being. Everything points toward good relations for the benefit of our peoples and nations", the Mexican president tweeted.

    • 04:49

      Number of COVID-19 Cases in India Rises by 14,256 Over Past 24 Hours

      India has confirmed 14,256 new cases of the coronavirus over the past 24 hours, with the total number of those infected having reached 10,639,684, the country's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said on Saturday.

      The death toll from the disease has reached 153,184 people, with 152 new fatalities being recorded over the past day. More than 10.3 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 24.8 million COVID-19 patients.

    • 04:41

      Thailand Registers 198 New Cases, 1 New Fatality

    • 04:40

      Germany Reports 16,417 New Cases, 879 New Deaths

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