20:37 GMT05 March 2021
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    As the number of cases throughout the world is nearing 100 million, the United States now accounts for a quarter of all cases registered worldwide.

    The total number of infections in the United States has crossed the 25 million mark, according to Johns Hopkins University.

    There are at present 25,124,064 total coronavirus cases and 419,204 fatalities registered in the country.

    The global case count falls slightly short of 100 million and is presently 99,177,542 while some 2,129,134 people have perished from the disease since the beginning of the pandemic.

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    • 03:34

      Pfizer Vaccine Deliveries to Greece Resume - Health Official

      Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine supplies to Greece have resumed and Athens hopes there will be no more disruptions, the Health Ministry’s Secretary General for Primary Health Care said.

      "Deliveries have been restored," Marios Themistokleous said at a Monday briefing on the Greek government's vaccination program.

      Pfizer said earlier this month that it was delaying vaccine shipments for three to four weeks because of work to increase capacity at its Belgian processing plant.

      According to Themistokleous, Greece received 100,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Monday and expects another 815,000 doses by the end of February, and 1,415,000 doses by the end of March.

      Themistokleous said that Greece is also expecting AstraZeneca vaccine deliveries (410,000 doses by the end of February, and another 330,000 by the end of March), as well as vaccine supplies from Moderna (20,000 doses by the end of January; 115,000 by the end of February, and 105,000 by the end of March).

      The health official said that the rate of vaccination is increasing in Greece with the average of the last few days exceeding 16,000 vaccinations per day.

    • 02:29

      Respirators Not to Be Mandatory in Czech Republic

      Respirators of the FFP2 type will not become mandatory for wearing in the Czech Republic, as Prime Minister Andrej Babis announced last week, Health Minister Jan Blatny said after a cabinet meeting.

      Last week, Babis announced that the government intended, following the example of Austria and Germany, to make it mandatory to wear respirators as part of an emergency regime over the COVID-19 infection threat.

      Babis' statement resulted in demand for respirators hugely rising.

      "Wearing respirators in stores and on public transport will not be mandatory. But this is our strong recommendation," Blatny said.

    • 02:27

      Japanese Government Likely to Extend COVID-19 State of Emergency in 11 Prefectures, Reports Say

      The Japanese government is mulling extending the coronavirus state of emergency introduced this month in 11 prefectures, the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reports.

      According to government sources cited by the newspaper, the state of emergency is unlikely to be lifted on February 7 as planned, and could be prolonged for an additional month.

      "Lifting the state of emergency just to introduce it again makes no sense," one government source told Yomiuri Shimbun.

      On Monday, Japan's minister in charge of the coronavirus response Yasutoshi Nishimura said as cited by the newspaper that the drop in the daily coronavirus case count in Japan does not indicate that the state of emergency would soon be lifted.

      On Monday, Tokyo reported less than 700 new COVID-19 cases for the first time in almost a month.

      A coronavirus state of emergency was introduced in 11 Japanese prefectures (Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Tochigi, Aichi, Gifu, Osaka, Kyoto, Fukuoka, and Hyogo) at the start of January.

    • 00:08

      Austrian Health Ministry Expects First Deliveries of AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine Feb 7

      Austrian Health Minister Rudolf Anschober expects the first deliveries of the AstraZeneca vaccine against the novel coronavirus disease to the country on 7 February, the ministry said in a statement.

      The AstraZeneca vaccine is expected to be registered in the European Union on 29 January.

      According to the Austrian ministry, on 7 February, a total of 63,354 doses of the vaccine are to be delivered to Austria, on 17 February - 97,763 and at the end of the month - 182,430.

      In total, 343,547 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine should arrive in Austria in February, it said.

    • 23:35

      German Woman Who Has Gone Through COVID-19 Gets Infected With New Strain

      A resident of Hanover (the federal state of Lower Saxony in the northwest of Germany) who has gone through a coronavirus infection has become infected with COVID-19 again - this time with the "UK" strain, the city said in a statement.

      Both cases of infection occurred within six weeks. The question who exactly infected the woman with the mutated virus remains open, but the authorities said the chain of infections had nearly stopped.

      Persons who contacted the infected woman have been locked down.

      On December 14, 2020, the UK announced that a new coronavirus strain had been detected in the country, with the new variant being 70 percent more transmissible. After the news emerged, many countries suspended travel to and from the UK.

    • 23:15

      AstraZeneca Vaccine Likely to Get EU Approval Only For Those Younger Than 65 - Reports

      German officials say the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine will not get EU approval for use among older adults, the Bild newspaper reports.

      The newspaper said on Monday that the German government expected the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to give the green light for AstraZeneca vaccinations only among those younger than 65.

      Meanwhile the Handelsblatt newspaper reported that the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine for those over 65 is only 8 percent. However, a company representative told Express that "reports that the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine efficacy is as low as eight percent in adults over 65 years are completely incorrect."

      European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides said on Monday that the EU was asking AstraZeneca to deliver all the pre-paid doses and provide a report on the company's activities following its recent decision to delay the supply of the vaccine to the EU.

      The EU has an agreement with AstraZeneca for up to 400 million doses of its vaccine, which was developed in conjunction with the University of Oxford.

    • 22:06

      Biden Says US Will Be 'Well on Our Way' to Herd Immunity From Coronavirus by Summer

      US President Joe Biden said during a press conference that the United States will be well on its way to herd immunity from the novel coronavirus by this summer.

      "I feel confident that by summer we're going to be well on our way heading toward herd immunity," Biden said on Monday.

      Biden said the US public should be able to have more access to coronavirus vaccines by the summer.

      In addition, Biden said that in the next three weeks, the United States should be able to administer one million vaccine doses per day.

      The United States has reported more than 25 million positive cases and more than 420,000 coronavirus-related deaths as of Monday afternoon, according to Johns Hopkins University.

    • 21:36

      Biden Promises 1Mln Vaccinations Daily in 3 Weeks

      US President Joe Biden told reporters that in three weeks the country will be able to perform one million of vaccinations a day with a potential of reaching 1.5 million.

      "I am quite confident that we will be in a position within the next three weeks or so to be vaccinating people at the range of a million a day and an excess of that," Biden said at a press briefing.

      The president clarified that he was referring to the number of daily inoculations since vaccines approved in the United States require two shots per person with an interval of a couple of weeks.

      "I think we may be able to get to... 1.5 million a day rather than 1 million a day. But we have to meet that goal of a million a day," Biden said.

    • 20:20

      White House to Resume Regular COVID-19 Press Briefings - Spokesperson

      The US administration will hold press briefings on its coronavirus response three times a week starting this Wednesday, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday

      "I wanted to briefly preview the first of our public health briefings which will begin this Wednesday and will be done regularly for the foreseeable future. These will be science-led briefings featuring our public health officials and members of our COVID-19 response team. These briefings will typically happen three times a week," Psaki said during her daily briefing.

      She added that briefings will provide "key updates on the virus and our government response."

      Psaki hailed new events as "a reflection of our commitment of being transparent and honest with the public about the pandemic and the work the whole of government team is doing every day.

    • 20:19

      All Countries Struggling With COVID-19 Vaccine Supply, Distribution - WHO’s Ryan

      All countries are having issues with the supply and distribution of vaccines against COVID-19, the executive director of the World Health Organization's Health Emergencies Programme, Mike Ryan, said on Monday.

      "All countries are struggling with the issue of getting vaccine and then deciding the scheduling and whether they go for giving one dose to everybody and then trying to delay the second dose a little. All countries are trying to do this pretty demanding arithmetic for what is the best combination," Ryan said at a press briefing.

      Several drugmakers, including Pfizer and AstraZeneca, have recently run into production difficulties and had to reduce deliveries of the vaccine. In particular, countries in Europe and North America were most affected by the delays.

    • 20:18

      WHO Expects World's COVID-19 Case Total to Surge Past 100Mln This Week - Director-General

      The WHO expects the world's COVID-19 case total to surge past 100 million this week, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Monday.

      "One year ago today, fewer than 1,500 cases of COVID-19 had been reported to WHO, including just 20 cases outside China. This week, we expect to reach 100 million reported cases," Tedros said at the WHO press briefing.

      The WHO chief added that people should continue to adhere to precautionary measures to impede the spread of the coronavirus until the majority of the global population was vaccinated.

      "There is so much all we can do to navigate our way out of this pandemic while we all wait our turn to be vaccinated: physical distancing, avoiding crowds, masks, hands hygiene, ventilation and more. You might be sick of hearing it. You might be sick of doing it, but this virus is not sick of us," Tedros said.

      According to the WHO, the global number of COVID-19 infections reached 98,794,942, with the cumulative death toll rising to 2,124,193. The United States still has the highest case count in the world, with 24,775,208, including 414,083 fatalities.

    • 20:16

      EU Wants Full Transparency Regarding Export of Vaccines From Its Territory - Commissioner

      The European Union wants pharmaceutical companies that produce vaccines against COVID-19 on its territory to provide full information regarding the export of the vaccines to the third countries, and intends to oblige the manufacturers to notify the bloc in advance on their plans to export vaccines, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides said on Monday.

      "We want clarity on transactions and full transparency concerning the export of vaccines from the EU. In the future, all companies producing vaccines against COVID-19 in the EU will have to provide early notification whenever they want to export vaccines to third countries. Humanitarian deliveries are, of course, not affected by this," Kyriakides said in a press statement.

      The commissioner added that the EU would take all measures necessary to protect the rights of its citizens.

      "The European Union will take any action required to protect its citizens and their rights," Kyriakides said.

      On Friday, Kyriakides said that UK pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca announced delays in the delivery of vaccines against COVID-19 to the EU. The bloc has an agreement with AstraZeneca for up to 400 million doses of its vaccine, which was developed in conjunction with the University of Oxford. Earlier in the day, Kyriakides demanded AstraZeneca deliver all the pre-paid doses against the coronavirus and provide a report on its activities.

    • 20:15

      Biden to Regularly Receive Briefings by COVID-19 Task Force Team - White House

      US President Joe Biden will be regularly briefed by the task force on COVID-19, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday.

      "He will be briefed regularly, I suspect far more regularly that the past president was briefed on Covid and the developments," Psaki said. "I wouldn’t expect he attends every task force meeting, no, but he expects and requests regular briefings from the team and I expect he’ll get them."

      Earlier, at the first day of the Davos Agenda virtual event, US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci said the lack of cooperation both at the federal and local levels, as well as the divisiveness in the society, have seriously undermined the US efforts to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.

      When asked to describe possible faults of the US approach, Fauci said that there has been a considerable amount of politically mixed motivated messaging about what needed to be done from the top level.

      The United States has the highest case count in the world, with over 25 million COVID-19 cases, including more than 419,600 fatalities.

      Shortly after his inauguration, Biden signed a number of decrees, reversing some key policies of former President Donald Trump, aimed to battle the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the country. One of the key documents signed by the newly-elected leader was the US rejoining of the World Health Organization and supporting the COVAX Facility, a global vaccine initiative. The move was hailed by the WHO and many other counties.

    • 19:29

      California Ends Stay-at-Home Orders Amid Drop in COVID-19 Hospitalizations - Health Dept.

      California has ended the stay-at-home orders for all three of its COVID-19 hotspot regions after experiencing a decline in intensive care unit (ICU) hospitalizations, the state Department of Public Health said in a notice on Monday.

      "Officials with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) today ended the Regional Stay at Home Order, lifting the order for all regions statewide, including the three regions that had still been under the order - San Joaquin Valley, Bay Area and Southern California," the notice said. "Four-week ICU capacity projections for these three regions are above 15 percent, the threshold that allows regions to exit the order."

      The region that includes California’s capital Sacramento had exited the order on January 12 while North California, which had been under close watch, never entered the order.

      The Department of Public Health said the decision is an encouraging sign in California’s battle against COVID-19, but warned that the pandemic is far from over.

      "It is still critical that Californians continue to wear masks when they leave their homes, maintain physical distance of at least six feet, wash their hands frequently, avoid gatherings and mixing with other households, follow all state and local health department guidance and get the vaccine when it's their turn," the notice said.

      California, with an estimated population of 40 million, has reported 3.2 million positive cases and 37,118 coronavorus-related deaths.

    • 18:27

      Biden Keeps Travel Restrictions on EU, UK, Ireland, Brazil, South Africa, White House Says

      US President Joe Biden will sign a proclamation later in the day to keep travel restrictions for Europe and Brazil in place while adding South Africa to the list over COVID-19 concerns, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters on Monday.

      "Today, the President will sign a presidential proclamation to reduce the spread of COVID-19 through travel, especially as we see faster spreading variants emerging across the world," Psaki said. "President Biden has decided to maintain the restrictions previously in place for the European Shenzhen area, the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland and Brazil... And in light of the contagious variant B1351, South Africa has been added to the restricted list."

    • 17:47

      Russia Lifts Travel Restrictions for Citizens of Finland, Vietnam, India, Qatar

    • 17:11

      UN Rights Experts Deplore Sri-Lanka’s Cremation of Dead Bodies Suspected of COVID-19

      Sri Lanka’s policy to cremate anyone who dies from COVID-19 discriminates against the beliefs of the minority Muslim population, a group of UN experts from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said in a statement on Monday.

      "The imposition of cremation as the only option for handling the bodies confirmed or suspected of COVID-19 amounts to a human rights violation," the statement said. "We deplore the implementation of such public health decisions based on discrimination, aggressive nationalism and ethnocentrism amounting to the persecution of Muslims and other minorities in the country."

      As of January 21, Sri Lanka recorded 274 COVID-19-related deaths, a significant number of them being Muslims, according to the experts. All of the bodies were cremated according to the national guidelines.

      The experts explained that the decision to make cremation mandatory followed in alleged expert advice that burials could contaminate ground drinking water. However, the World Health Organization has stated there is no evidence to suggest that cremation prevents the spread of the COVID-19 disease.

      "While we must be alert to the serious public health challenges posed by the pandemic, COVID-19 measures must respect and protect the dignity of the dead," the experts said, warning that such hostility against the religious minorities only exacerbates existing intolerance.

      Such compulsory cremation also risks deterring the poor and most vulnerable from accessing public healthcare, which in turn, impacts the public measures to contain the pandemic, the experts said.

      The Sri Lanka government should stop the forced cremation of COVID-19 bodies, combat disinformation, stigmatization of Muslims and ensure accountability for cremations that were carried out by error, the experts added.

    • 16:23

      Moderna Says COVID-19 Vaccine Has Neutralizing Impact on UK, South African Virus Strains

      Moderna announced on Monday that its COVID-19 vaccine has demonstrated a neutralizing impact on UK and South African variants of the coronavirus.

      “Results from in vitro neutralization studies of sera from individuals vaccinated with Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine (are) showing activity against emerging strains of SARS-CoV-2,” Moderna said. “Vaccination with the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine produced neutralizing titers against all key emerging variants tested, including B.1.1.7 and B.1.351, first identified in the UK and Republic of South Africa, respectively.”

      British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the B.1.1.7 variant of the coronavirus, initially reported to be 50-70 percent more contagious, has also been discovered to also be 30 percent deadlier.

      The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned that the B.1.1.7 could become a dominant strain in the United States by March. With respect to the B.1.351, the has CDC warned that this variant contained a set of additional mutations that may affect its ability to be recognized by antibodies.

      Moderna said aside from its own studies, a December 3 letter to the editor published in The New England Journal of Medicine reported that participants in the Phase 1 study of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine retained high levels of neutralizing antibodies through 119 days after the first vaccination dose and 90 days after the second dose.

      On December 18, the US Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine a week after it extended an authorization for Pfizer-BionNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine.

    • 15:44

      Putin, Mexican President Discuss Sputnik V Vaccine Deliveries

      MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Mexican counterpart, Manuel Lopez Obrador, discussed by phone the organization of deliveries of Russian vaccine Sputnik V to Mexico, as well as the training of Mexican doctors in Russia, the Kremlin said in a statement on Monday.

      "The issues of countering the spread of coronavirus infection and ensuring epidemic security were substantively discussed. The issues of organizing the deliveries of Russian vaccine Sputnik V to Mexico, as well as the training of Mexican medical specialists in Russia, were discussed," the statement says.

      In addition, both sides noted the constructive and mutually beneficial nature of Russian-Mexican relations, which are successfully developing in various directions.

      Putin also wished a speedy and complete recovery to his Mexican counterpart, who was diagnosed with the coronavirus.

    • 15:36

      India Prepares to Join Other Countries in Approving Russian COVID Vaccine

      Empty vials of the Sputnik V (Gam-COVID-Vac) vaccine are pictured at the San Martin hospital, in La Plata, on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, Argentina January 18, 2021

      India to Register Russia’s Sputnik V Vaccine Within Next Few Weeks, Indian Ambassador Says

      MOSCOW (Sputnik) - India plans to register the Russian vaccine against COVID-19, Sputnik V, after completion of phase three clinical trials within the next few weeks, Indian Ambassador to Moscow Venkatesh Varma said on Monday.
      Read more
    • 15:11

      Lack of Cooperation at Federal, Local Levels Weakened US Efforts to Battle COVID-19, Fauci Says

      The lack of cooperation both at the federal and local levels, as well as the divisiveness in the society, have seriously undermined the US efforts to battle the COVID-189 pandemic, Anthony Fauci, Director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during the first day of the Davos Agenda virtual event.

      When asked to describe possible faults of the US approach, Fauci said that there has been a considerable amount of politically mixed motivated messaging about what needed to be done from the top level.

      "Another thing that is going on intensively in the United States and makes it extremely problematic to adequately address the public health crisis is when you are in the middle of a profound degree of divisiveness in the country. When public health issues become politically charged, like wearing a mask or not becomes a political statement, it is deeply destructive to any unified public health message," Fauci said.

      The United States has the highest case count in the world, with over 25 million COVID-19 cases, including more than 418,000 fatalities.

      "The other thing is the federalist approach where you have 50 states and territories, and each is given a degree of flexibility of doing things their own way, and the federal government does not want to tell the states what to do. So, we had a situation where the states were sort of left on their own, so we had an inconsistent response from one state to the other. … But the virus is the same. … We needed to have a good cooperation between the federal government and the individual locals which we did not have," Fauci said.

      Shortly after his inauguration, President Joe Biden signed a number of decrees, reversing some key policies of former President Donald Trump, aimed to battle the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in the country. One of the key documents signed by the newly-elected leader was the US rejoining of the World Health Organization and supporting the COVAX Facility, a global vaccine initiative.. The move was hailed by the WHO and many other counties.

    • 15:06

      China’s Xi Confident Humanity Will Defeat COVID-19 Pandemic

      There is no doubt that humanity will overcome the COVID-19 pandemic and come out "even stronger" after this global health crisis, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Monday during a virtual Davos World Economic Forum 2021.

      According to Xi, the world made some successes in the fight against the pandemic, but the recent rise in the infection rate worldwide "reminds us that we need to continue to fight."

      "However, we remain convinced that winter cannot stop the arrival of spring ... There is no doubt that humanity will defeat the virus and emerge stronger from this disaster," Xi said.

      The Davos forum started on Monday and will be held through Friday. The participants plan to discuss the transformation of industries, technology development, global cooperation and climate change, among other issues.

    • 14:48

      Thailand to Launch COVID-19 Vaccination Program on February 14, Health Official Says

      Thailand plans to start its COVID-19 vaccination campaign on February 14, Tawee Chotpitayasunondh, an expert at the National Communicable Disease Committee, said on Monday.

      "February 14 is the planned date," Chotpitayasunondh told the Khaosod newspaper, adding that the authorities want to "administer the vaccines as soon as they arrive" even though a lot of factors need "to be considered."

      The official added that health workers would receive vaccine shots first, while some doses would be administrated to some government officials to promote the vaccination campaign.

      To date, Thailand has registered over 13,000 COVID-19 cases and 75 related deaths.

      Earlier in January, Thailand authorized the emergency use of the vaccine developed by UK company AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford and expects the first 50,000 doses to arrive in early February. Overall, the Southeast Asian country has ordered over 60 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

    • 14:43

      Moroccan Gov't Begins Distribution of COVID-19 Vaccine Batches Across Country, Reports Say

      Morocco on Monday began the distribution campaign of COVID-19 vaccine doses to the country's regions, the MAP news agency reported, citing sources on the vaccine storage premises in the city of Casablanca.

      According to the media outlet, the trucks departed from the storage premises to the regions in the morning, carrying the shipments of the vaccine candidate developed by the UK AstraZeneca pharmaceutical firm and manufactured in India.

      Morocco has secured a total of 66 million doses of the vaccines against the coronavirus, having received the first 2 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Friday and expecting the first shipments of China's SinoPharm vaccine to arrive on Wednesday.

      Once the vaccination campaign is launched, the North African nation, which has a population of 37 million, expects to inoculate up to 33 million people, prioritizing medical and education staff, security services, public authorities and the most vulnerable population groups, including the elderly.

      The government has repeatedly extended the nationwide state of health emergency ever since the first COVID-19 cases in the country. The restrictions include, in particular, a ban on gatherings and a recently introduced night curfew. The latest extension of the measures is due to expire on February 10.

      To date, Morocco has confirmed 466,289 COVID-19 infections and 8,150 related deaths.

    • 13:30

      Head of Emergency Sector of Serbia Dies From Coronavirus, Reports Say

      Head of Sector for Emergency Management in the Ministry of Interior of Serbia Predrag Maric has died from the coronavirus, the national broadcaster, RTS, reported on Monday.

      On 28 December, Maric was diagnosed with COVID-19, and his condition worsened in January.

      According to several media reports, the official was intubated in recent days.

      Martic, 56 years old, had worked in the Ministry of Interior of Serbia since 1990.

    • 13:29

      EU Urgently Needs to Reduce Travel-Related Spread of COVID-19, Commissioner Says

      European Union member states should work urgently to reduce the spread of COVID-19 as a result of cross-border travel, Didier Reynders, the European commissioner for justice, said on Monday.

      "There is currently a very high number of new infections across many member states and there is an urgent need to reduce the risk of travel-related infections to lessen the burden on overstretched health care systems," Reynders told a European Commission press briefing.

      The European commissioner for justice said that the bloc was also looking for member states to apply consistent measures aimed at slowing the spread of the disease.

      "First, the commission proposes that all non-essential travel to and from high-risk areas is strongly discouraged. In this context, we also invite member states to ensure consistency between the measures they take regarding cross-border travel and travel within their territory," Reynders said.

      Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, announced late last week that the bloc was planning to introduce a new "dark red" label for COVID-19 hotspots across the bloc. Individuals traveling from these areas may be required to complete a coronavirus disease test before departure and undergo a period of self-isolation upon arrival, von der Leyen said.

      According to data published by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, more than 2.1 million cases of COVID-19 were registered in countries of the European Union and the European Economic Area from 4-17 January.

    • 13:06

      Woman Aged 92 Dies in England Days After Receiving COVID-19 Vaccine, Reports Say

      Workers dig graves at a cemetery, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in London, Britain, January 11, 2021

      Woman Aged 92 Dies in England Days After Receiving COVID-19 Vaccine, Reports Say

      MOSCOW (Sputnik) - A 92-year-old woman from the North Tyneside nursing home in North East England has died after receiving her first dose of a vaccine against the coronavirus, the UK media reported on Monday.
      Read more
    • 13:04

      France's Pasteur Institute Halts Development of Its COVID-19 Vaccine Due to Inefficiency

      France's private research Pasteur Institute on Monday announced its decision to stop one of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate project, after it failed to yield expected results during the clinical trials.

      "Following the interim results from phase I clinical trial, the Pasteur Institute is halting the development of one of its vaccine candidates, the one based on the measles vaccine virus," the foundation said in a statement.

      It specified that phase one of the clinical trials of the suspended vaccine project was initiated in August, showing that the candidate was "well-tolerated" after it was first administered to humans, but the immune responses of the latter fell short of expectation.

      The institute will carry on with its scientific engagement in the fight against the pandemic by further development of two other vaccine candidates against the coronavirus "at the end of the preclinical phase" the statement said.

      The Pasteur Institute, founded in 1887 and based in Paris, specialises in biology, infections diseases, and vaccines studies.

    • 12:32

      UK Prime Minister Refuses to Set Timetable for School Reopening

      UK Prime Minister refused on Monday to say when schools will reopen in England, amid growing pressure from lawmakers from the ruling Conservative Party to have children back to classes before the end of February.

      “I understand why people want to get a timetable from me today, what I can tell you is we'll tell you, tell parents, tell teachers as much as we can as soon as we can,” Johnson told reporters during a visit to COVID-19 mass vaccination site in north London.

      Conservative lawmaker Robert Halfon, who chairs the parliamentary Education Committee, wrote on Monday on Twitter that he had asked the Speaker of the House of Commons to summon a government minister to get clarity on the issue, and urged the government to draw a “route map” to get children learning again at school.

      Pressed by the reporters, Johnson repeatedly refused to give a clear answer and only conceded that schools will be a priority when the government assesses the potential of relaxing some of the current lockdown restrictions by mid-February.

      “Schools obviously will be a priority but I don't think anybody would want to see the restrictions lifted so quickly whilst the rate of infection is still very high, so as to lead to another great spread of an infection," he said.

      The prime minister stressed that any decision on both reopening schools and easing restrictions will take into account the rate of infection and the success of the COVID-19 vaccination program.

      “Don't forget this country has made huge progress in reducing infection, I don't think people want to see another big surge in infection,” Johnson said.

      As of Sunday, the UK had recorded over 3,6 million COVID-19 positive cases and 97,939 deaths, with official data also showing that 6,3 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines have been handed so far.

    • 12:15

      Moderna Delaying Deliveries of COVID-19 Vaccine to Poland

      US pharmaceutical company Moderna is delaying the deliveries of its coronavirus vaccine to Poland, Michal Dworczyk, the head of the chancellery to the Polish prime minister responsible for vaccination issues, said on Monday.

      "Unfortunately, we have received the information this morning that the delivery of the Moderna vaccine, which was scheduled for tomorrow, has been canceled. It has been rescheduled for the next weekend at the earliest," Dworczyk said at a press conference.

      The official did not specify the reason for the delay.

      US pharma company Pfizer previously decreased the volume of vaccine deliveries to a number of countries, including to Poland, citing a reconstruction of a production facility in Belgium.

      At the same time, Dworczyk made assurances that all Poles who had received the first dose of the vaccine will get the second dose on time, as the authorities use only half of the delivered vaccine doses leaving another half for making second shots in case of problems with new deliveries.

      Poland kicked off its vaccination campaign in late December, prioritising medical staff, the elderly, law enforcement officers, and other groups at high risk. Poland has already administered more than 600,000 vaccines against the coronavirus.

    • 11:48

      Putin Says Stabilising COVID-19 Situation in Russia Allows Gradual Lifting of Restrictions

      The situation with the coronavirus is stabilising is Russia, paving way for gradual lifting of the previously imposed restrictions, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday.

      "The epidemiological situation in the country is gradually stabilising in general. I listened to relevant reports just this morning: the number of those who have recovered is already higher than the number of those who have contracted the disease. The number of infected people is decreasing. It [the daily increase] has fallen below 20,000 ... It allows gradually lifting the restrictions and resuming a normal regime of studies," Putin said at a meeting with Russian students.

    • 11:45

      European Commission Asks AstraZeneca to Explain Delays in COVID-19 Vaccine Deliveries

      The European Commission asks AstraZeneca to explain the delays in coronavirus vaccine deliveries, commission spokesmen said on Monday, assuring that the goal to have 70 percent of the EU population inoculated by the summer remains unchanged.

      "Following AstraZeneca's announcement that there would be a shortfall of its deliveries, Commissioner [Stella] Kyriakides sent a letter yesterday to the company to request further clarifications. In this letter, the commissioner stresses the importance of deliveries in line with the schedules laid down in the agreement and reiterates that the scale-up of the production capacity has to happen concurrently with the conduct of clinical trials to ensure the availability of vaccines as quickly as possible," spokesman Stefan de Keersmaecker said at a briefing.

      The European Commission expects the company to "find solutions and to exploit all possible flexibility to deliver swift," spokesman Eric Mamer added.

      "Of course, we are not changing the [vaccination] objectives," Mamer went on to say, stressing that the vaccination schedule will remain unchanged.

    • 11:22

      Germany Expects Approval of AstraZeneca Vaccine on Friday, Health Minister Says

    • 10:49

      World's Richest Recoup COVID-19 Losses in 9 Months as Billions Face Poverty, Charity Says

      The world's richest 1,000 individuals recouped all of their losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in nine months as billions of low-income households face a decade of hardship, one of the world's most prominent charities said Monday.

      In a new report published to coincide with the opening day of the World Economic Forum's Davos Agenda, Oxfam said that the ongoing pandemic could potentially raise inequality levels in almost every country in the world.

      "We stand to witness the greatest rise in inequality since records began. The deep divide between the rich and poor is proving as deadly as the virus," Gabriela Bucher, executive director at Oxfam International, said in a press release accompanying the report.

      The world's ten richest men have seen their personal fortunes increase by approximately $500 billion since the start of the pandemic, Oxfam said.

      Additionally, women are overrepresented in lower-paid precarious jobs that have been hit the hardest by the ongoing pandemic, the charity said, noting that women comprise 70 percent of the global health and social care workforce, which is at greater risk of contracting COVID-19.

      The Organisiation for Economic Co-operation and Development has also warned that the ongoing coronavirus disease pandemic will result in rising levels of inequality and increased unemployment for years to come.

    • 10:31

      UK PM Johnson Reportedly Looking at Relaxing Some COVID-19 Restrictions Before Mid February

    • 10:06

      UK Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer Self-Isolating

    • 10:03

      Biden's $1.9Trln COVID-19 Plan Faces 1st Bipartisan Setback, Reports Say

      The Joe Biden administration has suffered a setback in its first complex pandemic talks with a bipartisan group of senators, who questioned its proposed $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan for offering stimulus payments to high-income Americans, Politico reported, citing sources.

      According to the news outlet, a group of senators expressed their opposition to the plan providing $1,400 direct payments to Americans in a call with White House officials on Sunday. Still, it was a civilized discussion that demonstrated the administration’s resolve to seek a consensus, a departure from the Donald Trump era’s approach, according to the newspaper.

      In the 75-minute call, the 16 senators backed greater spending on vaccine distribution but some doubted direct stimulus payments to families making $300,000, pushing for more targeted relief measures to prioritize those in need.

      The senators also sought more information on how the White House came up with its $1.9 trillion figure for the relief plan.

      Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who co-leads the bipartisan group, said that it would need to reconvene to coordinate a response to the Biden proposal. According to Politico, many Republicans believe that an immediate large package is difficult to pass, after the Congress approved a $900 billion coronavirus rescue plan in December.

    • 09:16

      Iran to Receive First Shipment of COVID-19 Vaccines From COVAX Soon, Reports Say

      Iran is soon expected to receive its first batch of foreign vaccines against the coronavirus from the World Health Organization-led COVID-19 vaccine procurement and distribution initiative, the COVAX Facility, the state-run IRNA news agency reported on Monday, citing an official.

      According to Mostafa Ghaneie, the head of the country's Scientific Committee of Coronavirus Combat and Prevention Headquarters, the COVAX vaccines will be delivered to Iran in the next few weeks.

      The news agency added, citing the official, that high-risk groups, including healthcare workers and the elderly, will be the first to receive the vaccine.

      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, Covo-Iran, 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.

    • 09:15

      South Korea Planning to Vaccinate 70% of Population by September, Reports Say

      South Korea, which has yet to launch nationwide coronavirus vaccination, intends to have 70 percent of population immunized by September, the Yonhap news agency reported on Monday, citing the nation's disease control agency.

      The country is set to begin the rollout in February, with a view to achieving herd immunity by November. Along with the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine and those provided via the COVAX Facility, South Korea will receive vaccines from Johnson & Johnson, Janssen, Moderna, and Pfizer/BioNTech.

      Frontline health workers and care home staff will get the shots in the first quarter of the year, followed by the other medical personnel and those aged 65 and older in the second quarter. Those suffering from chronic diseases and adults aged between 19 and 64 will be immunised in the third quarter.

    • 09:06

      Dutch PM Rutte Condemns 'Criminal' Riots Against Curfew Imposed to Curb Spread of COVID-19

      Outgoing Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Monday slammed the recent violent protests seen across the Netherlands against a new evening curfew aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus disease.

      During a media briefing that was streamed by Dutch broadcaster NOS, Rutte said that the protests had nothing to do with the "struggle for freedom" and accused the demonstrators of carrying out acts of "criminal violence."

      "This is unacceptable," the prime minister said during the media appearance, noting that law enforcement officers acted "adequately."

      Violent protests broke out across the Netherlands on Sunday against new restrictions that order residents to remain in their homes from 21:00 to 04:30 [20:00 to 03:30 GMT], the country's first curfew since World War II.

      Dutch police said as many as 190 arrests were made during a demonstration in the country's capital, Amsterdam, and violence also broke out at a protest in Eindhoven. Law enforcement officers also issued fines to 3,600 people for violating the curfew after it came into force on Saturday night, police said.

      The Dutch government introduced a nationwide lockdown on December 15, which has recently been extended to February 9, to curb a surge in new COVID-19 cases.

      On Sunday, 4,924 new positive tests for the coronavirus disease were registered in the Netherlands, taking the country's case total past 948,000.

    • 08:08

      Russia Registers 19,290 COVID-19 Cases Over Past 24 Hours

      Russia registered 19,290 COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, down from 21,127 the day before, taking the tally to 3,738,690, the coronavirus response centre said on Monday.

      "Over the past day, 19,290 coronavirus cases were confirmed across 84 Russian regions, including 1,985 cases (10.3 percent) that were detected actively, with people showing no clinical symptoms," the centre said, adding that the cumulative case count has now reached 3,738,690, with the rate of increase at 0.52 percent.

      Moscow confirmed 2,382 new coronavirus cases over the given period, down from 3,069 the day before. The Russian capital was followed by St. Petersburg with 2,116 cases, down from 2,929 the day before, and the Moscow Region with 1,163 new cases, down from 1,134 on Sunday.

      No new cases were registered in the Chukotka Autonomous Region.

      The response centre reported 456 coronavirus fatalities, down from 491 the day before, raising the country's death toll to 69,918.

      Total recoveries count 3,150,763 after 19,003 people were discharged from hospitals over the past day, down from 22,445 the day before.

    • 07:47

      French Gov't Made No Decision Yet on Third Lockdown

      "Nothing has yet been decided. There are scenarios (on the table) but no decision yet," French European Affairs minister Clement Beaune said on Monday.

    • 05:34

      India Sends Note to Foreign Embassies Offering Home-Grown COVID-19 Vaccine, Source Reveals

      The Indian Ministry of External Affairs has promoted domestic COVID-19 vaccines to foreign diplomats and their families by sending official notes to embassies and other missions, a diplomatic source told Sputnik on Monday.

      Throughout last week, India sent free-of-charge batches of a domestically-produced vaccine to several neighbouring countries, including Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh and Nepal.

      "Indian Ministry of External Affairs has sent an official note to all the embassies and missions in India offering COVID-19 vaccine to the diplomats and their families," the source said.

      There are two domestically-produced coronavirus vaccines authorised for emergency use in India at the moment. One is Covaxin, developed by Indian biotechnology firm Bharat Biotech, and the other one is Covieshield, developed by the Serum Institute of India jointly with UK pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford.

    • 04:59

      On Verge of Collapse? As COVID-19 Keeps Claiming Its Toll, Israeli Hospitals Struggle to Stay Afloat

      Doctor Guy Choshen, director of the COVID-19 ward in Ichilov Hospital, speaks to a patient inside the ward, in Tel Aviv, Israel January 10, 2021

      On Verge of Collapse? As COVID-19 Keeps Claiming Its Toll, Israeli Hospitals Struggle to Stay Afloat

      Although Israel's health care system is considered one of the best in the world, professionals are complaining that the most recent wave of the pandemic has created an unprecedented situation that is putting a strain on the country's hospitals and staff.
      Read more
    • 04:55

      CDC Has No Exact Estimates of COVID-19 Vaccine Supply in US, New Chief Says

      FILE PHOTO: Boxes containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are prepared to be shipped at the McKesson distribution center in Olive Branch, Mississippi, U.S. December 20, 2020

      CDC Has No Exact Estimates of COVID-19 Vaccine Supply in US, New Chief Says

      MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has no exact estimates of the coronavirus vaccine supply in the US, the new CDC director, Rochelle Walensky, said.
      Read more
    • 04:38

      Germany Reports 6,729 New Cases, 217 New Fatalities, Robert Koch Institute Says

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