13:38 GMT23 April 2021
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    Global COVID-19 Cases Spike to Highest Level Post-Lockdown (323)
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    The global death toll from the coronavirus infection has topped 2.569 million; over 115.5 million cases of the infection have been detected, according to Baltimore, Maryland's Johns Hopkins University, which tracks and compiles data from national and local authorities, the media and other sources.

    The US is still the most affected country in the world, with more than 28 million registered coronavirus infections and a death toll surpassing 520,000. It is followed by Brazil (over 10.7 million cases, 260,000 deaths), while India ranks third in terms of the number of people infected (11.1 million cases, 157,000 fatalities) and Mexico has the third-highest death toll (2.1 million cases and 188,000 deaths).

    Europe saw the number of new coronavirus infections rise by 9 percent to above one million last week, ending a six-week decline in new infections, Hans Henri Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe, said.

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    • 01:32

      Venezuela to Start COVID-19 Vaccination With China's Sinopharm Drug on Monday, Maduro Says

      BUENOS AIRES (Sputnik) – Venezuela will launch the massive vaccination with China's Sinopharm drug on March 8, President Nicolas Maduro said.

      On Monday, Venezuela authorized the emergency use of the Sinopharm vaccine, which became the second one allowed in the Latin American nation following Russia's Sputnik V.

      "On Monday, the vaccination with the Chinese drug will start, so we will use two vaccines: Sputnik V and the Chinese one," Maduro said on late Friday.

    • 20:08

      Ontario to Lift Stay-at-Home Orders in Toronto but City to Remain in Lockdown

      TORONTO (Sputnik) - The Canadian province of Ontario is lifting the existing COVID-19-induced stay-at-home order for the city of Toronto, a neighboring region and remote northern region as of March 8, the provincial government said on Friday.

      However, Toronto and the neighboring Peel Region will remain in the "grey" zone of public health measures, meaning that the city and its neighbor remain in lockdown.

      "Based on a general improvement in trends of key indicators, North Bay Parry Sound District will be returning to the Framework at the Red-Control level. Toronto Public Health and Peel Public Health are also making progress, but as their case rates still remain high, they will return to the Framework at the Grey-Lockdown level," Ontario’s government said in a statement.

      While the decision was met with lukewarm approval by the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB), the advocacy group said the announcement does not go far enough.

      "Monday… will mark the first day ALL Ontario retailers will be allowed to reopen since late November. It also marks the end of Ontario's shameful 'big box' preference policy," CFIB President and CEO Dan Kelly said in a statement. "But far too many businesses remain entirely closed. As of Mar. 8, Toronto hair and nail salons will have been closed for over 200 days, gyms for over 270 and indoor dining for 280. They still have no timeframe to serve a single customer indoors."

    • 19:52

      Trudeau Says Actively Monitoring Vaccine Shipment Blocked by Italy

      TORONTO (Sputnik) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday said he is actively monitoring the situation in Europe where a novel coronavirus vaccine shipment destined for Australia was blocked by Italy.

      On Thursday, Italy, in coordination with the European Union, has held up a shipment of 250,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine bound for Australia following a spat with the manufacturer over delayed deliveries to the bloc.

      “It is obviously a situation we are following very closely,” Trudeau said during a press briefing in response to a question about the blocked shipment.

      However, the Prime Minister stressed that he has received assurances from top EU brass, including European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, that deliveries to Canada would not be affected.

      Trudeau emphasized that in the coming weeks Canada would receive Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna deliveries – producers not currently experiencing production and distribution issues. Canada is not expecting AstraZeneca vaccine doses from European manufacturing facilities in the coming months, Trudeau added.

    • 19:25

      New Spike in COVID-19 Cases Expected Due to Strain Resistant to Vaccines, Fauci Says

      White House Chief Medical Adviser on Covid-19 Dr. Anthony Fauci listens as US President Joe Biden (out of frame) speaks about the 50 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine shot administered in the US during an event commemorating the milestone in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, DC, February 25, 2021.

      Fauci Warns of 4th Spike in COVID-19 Infections With New Variants Resistant to Vaccines

      WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - A pause in the recent decline in new coronavirus cases following the worse spike of the year-old pandemic leaves the United States in danger of yet another surge, possibly with deadlier mutations , National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases Director Anthony Fauci said Friday.
      Read more
    • 19:06

      Trudeau Says Pfizer Moving Up Delivery Vaccine Schedule to Canada

      TORONTO (Sputnik) - US drugmaker Pfizer is moving up its novel coronavirus vaccine delivery schedule to Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday.

      “Pfizer has informed us that we are able to move up the delivery of three and a half million doses from the summer into the next couple of months,” Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa.

      Pfizer will deliver an additional 1.5 million doses before the end of March, Trudeau said, which will bring Canada’s vaccine delivery total for the first quarter to eight million doses, up from an anticipated six million.

    • 17:53

      Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan Rejects Johnson&Johnson Vaccine, Says Pfizer, Moderna 'Better'

      Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan has turned down 6,200 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which last week were approved for emergency authorisation by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), The Hill reported. 

      Speaking during a press conference on Thursday, Duggan said that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are better and he wants Detroit residents to "get the best."

       

    • 17:11

      Italy's INMI, Russia's Gamaleya Institute Discuss Vaccine Cooperation, Authorities Say

      Italy's Lazzaro Spallanzani National Institute for Infectious Diseases (INMI) has discussed scientific cooperation in the development and use of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine with the Gamaleya Epidemiology and Microbiology Centre, the coronavirus response centre of the country's Lazio province said on Friday.

      Among the participants in the discussion, which was held online, were the heads of both institutions, the Gamaleya Institute's Alexander Gintsburg and the INMI's Francesco Vaia, as well as Lazio's top health official Alessio D'Amato and a representative of the Russian Direct Investment Fund. During the meeting, they presented new data and discussed aspects of development and clinical use of the Sputnik V vaccine and new monoclonal antibodies.

      "Both institutes shared the opinion about the necessity of establishing stable scientific cooperation aimed at development and clinical assessment of new vaccination strategies and treatment [of COVID-19]. The two institutes will soon sign a memorandum on mutual understanding," the province said in a statement.

      Earlier in the day, D'Amato mentioned asking the Italian government to consider producing the Russian vaccine in the country or authorize its use in order to be ready when it is approved by the European Medicines Agency.

      The Italian authorities have set an objective to vaccinate at least 70 percent of the population and achieve herd immunity by early autumn.

      Since the beginning of the vaccination campaign, 5 million doses have been administered in Italy and over 1.5 million people have received both shots.

    • 16:52

      EU to Keep Blocking Vaccine Exports Until Manufacturers Honor Contracts, Rome Says

      The European Union will keep holding up vaccines from leaving the bloc until manufacturers deliver on their contractual obligations to Europe, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Friday.

      On Thursday, Italy confirmed blocking a shipment of 250,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine to Australia amid the continued spat with the Anglo-Swedish concern over delayed vaccine deliveries to the bloc. According to Rome, it acted in coordination with Brussels and in accordance with new EU regulations allowing exports to be stopped if a vaccine manufacturer has failed to meet its obligations to the bloc.

      "Pharmaceutical companies are being late with the supplies that they have guaranteed to the EU. The delays are unacceptable … As long as there are such delays, it is right for EU nations to block supplies to countries that are not vulnerable," Di Maio said at a joint presser with his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, in Rome.

      The minister reiterated solidarity with "all countries that are experiencing difficulties."

      "But Italy and Europe must demand compliance with contracts and deadlines for vaccine deliveries," he argued.

      The top Italian diplomat stressed that the move was "not a hostile act against Australia," as Rome "just invoked a European regulation in coordination with European authorities."

      Canberra has already urged the European Commission to revise the decision.

    • 16:51

      WHO to Release Report on SARS-CoV-2 Origins in Week of 14-15 March, Head of Wuhan Mission Says

      An expert team from the World Health Organization (WHO) that conducted a recent visit to the Chinese city of Wuhan to research the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 is planning to release its summary and final reports in the week beginning March 14-15, Peter Ben Embarek, the mission's lead investigator, said Friday.

      "We decided to go for publishing initially both reports at the same time, both the summary report and the full report because they follow each other, it makes sense to issue them at the same time. The current timing is the week of March 14-15," Ben Embarek told a WHO press briefing.

      Mike Ryan, the executive director of the WHO's Health Emergencies Programme, added that there had been no plans to publish an interim report.

    • 16:42

      Hungary Temporarily Halts Vaccinations With AstraZeneca Due to Technical Issues, Reports Say

      The Hungarian authorities have temporarily suspended the national COVID-19 immunization with AstraZeneca vaccine due to technical problems, the Hungary Today newspaper reported on Friday.

      Prime Minister Viktor Orban, was reported by the media outlet as saying that there were technical glitches, including cases of citizens, who have already been vaccinated, being called again for inoculation. As a result, the program had to be temporarily halted "for a review."

      Hungarians were supposed to be notified about their vaccination details through SMS, however, there were issues reported.

      The secretary of state leading the COVID-19 vaccination task force, Istvan Gyorgy, confirmed the suspension of the weekend’s mass vaccination with AstraZeneca over the database’s synchronization problems.

      The vaccines approved for use in Hungary include Russia's Sputnik V, one by China's Sinopharm and another developed jointly by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, in addition to the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines approved at the common EU level.

      According to the official statistics, 862,953 Hungarians have so far received their first doses, and 279,727 have been fully inoculated.

    • 16:20

      WHO: COVAX Facility Delivers Over 20 Mln COVID Vaccine Doses to 20 Countries

      The COVAX Facility, the global COVID-19 vaccine distribution initiative, has delivered more than 20 million vaccine doses to a total of 20 countries, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Friday.

      "In total, COVAX has delivered more than 20 million doses of vaccines to 20 countries. In the next week, COVAX will deliver 14.4 million doses to a further 31 countries. That brings the total number of countries to 51," Tedros said at a WHO press briefing.

    • 16:20

      Latvia is EU Outlier in Number of People Inoculated Against COVID-19, Reports Say

      Less than three percent of Latvia’s adult population have so far received the first shots of a coronavirus vaccine, making it the country with the lowest number of inoculated people in the European Union, the Delfi internet portal reported, citing the data by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

      According to the reports, only 2.9 percent of adults in Latvia got the first dose – this is the lowest number in the EU and the European Economic Area (EEA). Speaking about other Baltic states, in Estonia, 4.1 percent of adults got the first inoculation, in Lithuania – 7.1 percent. The highest European figures are in Malta where 12.6 percent of adults were vaccinated with the first dose.

      The average number of adults in the EU/the EEA who got the first inoculation is 6.4 percent, with just 3 percent of them having already received the second dose.

    • 16:13

      UNICEF: DRC Receives Over 1.7Mln Coronavirus Vaccines Via United Nations COVAX Initiative

      The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) received more than 1.7 million doses of coronavirus vaccine through the United Nations' COVAX initiative, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said it in a press release on Friday.

      "More than 1.7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have arrived in Kinshasa, the capital of the DRC," the release said.

      The vaccines will be distributed based on World Health Organization’s guidelines that prioritize vaccination of 20 percent of the population, comprised of health workers, people over 55 years of age and individuals with serious health conditions.

      This first vaccines shipment will target four provinces most affected by the pandemic - Kinshasa, North Kivu, Central Kongo and Haut-Katanga. A plan for the distribution of vaccines for the rest of the country is now being finalized.

      UNICEF said it supports the logistics of the operation and is also tasked with ensuring the security of the vaccine cold chain storage.

      Health authorities decided to use the Astra Zeneca vaccine because it meets the DRC’s existing storage conditions between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius.

    • 16:12

      US Optimism That COVID-19 Crisis is Easing Hits Record 60% High, Poll Shows

      Adults in the United States have grown increasingly hopeful that the coronavirus pandemic is getting better, a view now held by a record 60 percent, a Gallup poll revealed on Friday.

      “This record-high optimism likely reflects the steep decline in new COVID-19 cases in the US in late January and early February,” a press release explaining the poll said.

      For the first time in Gallup's trend, a majority of Americans (60 percent) perceive the coronavirus situation in the US as getting better, while 26 percent say it is staying the same and 14 percent believe it is getting worse, the release said.

      Gallup polling on the pandemic during the past year shows a strong relationship between changes in coronavirus infection rates and Americans' assessment of the situation, the release added.

      The impact of vaccinations against the coronavirus, however, is less clear. Pessimism actually increased in December when US government gave emergency use approval to the first coronavirus vaccine, according to the release.

    • 16:08

      Over 82 Mln COVID Vaccine Shots Administered in US, White House Says

    • 15:59

      Health Canada Approves Johnson & Johnson Coronavirus Vaccine

      Canada's health regulatory agency announced on Friday that it has approved the coronavirus vaccine produced by the Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals.

      “Today, Health Canada authorized the COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Janssen Inc.,” the regulators said in a statement. “Health Canada received an application from Janssen Inc. for authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine on November 30, 2020. After a thorough, independent review of the evidence, the Department has determined that the vaccine meets Canada’s stringent safety, efficacy and quality requirements.”

      The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is the fourth standalone vaccine to be approved by Health Canada and the first one-shot inoculation; the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were authorized in mid-December, while AstraZeneca’s vaccine received regulatory approval last Friday.

      Health Canada placed numerous terms and conditions on the vaccine by requiring that manufacturers continue to provide rolling data concerning its safety, efficacy and quality.

      The vaccine is authorized for use in individuals over the age of 18 and can be stored in temperatures between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius for at least three months, the statement said.

    • 15:37

      Sputnik V Takes Over Pfizer in Terms of Granted Regulatory Approvals

      A shipment of doses of the Sputnik V (Gam-COVID-Vac) vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

      Russia's Sputnik V Rises to 2nd Place in Terms of Countries' Approvals

      MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Russian vaccine Sputnik V took over Pfizer to rise to second place among coronavirus vaccines in terms of the number of countries' approvals, the vaccine's Twitter said.
      Read more
    • 15:34

      RDIF in Contact With Austrian Partners on Sputnik V Vaccine, Russian Embassy Says

      The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) is in close contact with partners in Austria on the use of Russia’s coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V, and the date for a new round of talks will be coordinated soon, the embassy in Vienna said.

      On Thursday, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said that it had started a rolling review to test the Russian vaccine for compliance with EU standards for effectiveness, safety and quality. Two EU countries - Hungary and Slovakia - earlier approved Sputnik V, without waiting for an EMA authorization.

      "The RDIF is in close contact with its partners from Austria on Sputnik V. Dates for further negotiations will be set in the near future," embassy spokesman Lev Terekhov said.

      According to the diplomat, the latest negotiations in Vienna were held in a constructive atmosphere, and the sides discussed the potential use of Sputnik V in Austria.

    • 15:33

      'Me First' Approach to Vaccination Hinders Global Economic Recovery, WHO Chief Says

      The global community has to step up equal vaccine distribution efforts as "me-first" approach staggers economic recovery, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, said on Friday.

      "Of the 225m vaccine doses that have been administered so far, the vast majority have been in a handful of rich and vaccine-producing countries... A me-first approach might serve short-term political interests, but it is self-defeating and will lead to a protracted recovery, with trade and travel continuing to suffer," the WHO chief said in and interview to the Guardian.

      Ghebreyesus stressed that given the chance, the virus would mutate and spread outside the countries still waiting for vaccines, potentially undermining the efficacy of vaccines everywhere and bringing the world to "square one."

      According to the WHO director general, the global community should take a multipronged approach, including dose sharing, technology transfer, voluntary licensing, waiving intellectual property rights and introducing flexible trade and drug registration regulations.

      "Sharing doses, boosting manufacturing by removing barriers and ensuring that we use data effectively to target left-behind communities is key to ending this crisis," Ghebreyesus was quoted as saying.

      To tackle the issue of unequal access to vaccines, WHO called in January upon all countries to work together to ensure vaccination of medical workers and elderly people in all countries within 100 days of the year.

      So far the most effective mechanism for ensuring equitable access to the vaccine has been the WHO-backed COVAX project, heavily supported by the G7 countries. Over the past ten days, several countries — Ghana, Ivory Coast and Colombia — have already received first shipments of the vaccine through the program. More countries expect deliveries in the upcoming months.

    • 15:32

      Up to 25% of Poland's Population Developed Antibodies Against COVID-19, Health Minister Says

      About 25 percent of Polish citizens have antibodies against the coronavirus disease, Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said on Friday.

      "We now have a situation when a part of the society is already vaccinated, and studies show that 20-25 percent of the society have antibodies," Niedzielski said at a press conference in Warsaw.

      At the same time, the official promised bold decisions regarding lifting coronavirus-related constrictions

      Since the beginning of Poland's vaccination campaign, almost 3.8 million people have received one vaccine jab and more than 1.3 million received both.

    • 15:31

      Rome Plans to Give AstraZeneca Vaccine to People Over 65, Italian Health Minister Says

      Health Minister Roberto Speranza said during a meeting with regional authorities on Friday that the Italian government has requested extending the use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine to cover people over 65 years old, the Ansa news agency reported on Friday, citing sources.

      Currently, the country gives the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to those aged under 65.

      The minister also mentioned that Italy would also surpass an important threshold of five-million administered vaccines on Friday and proposed setting up a kind of vaccine solidarity fund by allocating 1-2 percent of the doses to the areas where the disease is spreading especially fast, in part because of new strains of the virus.

      The Italian authorities have set an objective to vaccinate at least 70 percent of the population and achieve herd immunity by early autumn. The country has been ratcheting up its vaccination campaign, with over 120,000 people getting vaccine shots daily, which still falls short of meeting the lofty goal.

    • 15:30

      Violation of Cambodia's New Anti-COVID Law Prescribes Jail Sentence, Reports Say

      Violators of the new Cambodian law to combat the spread of COVID-19 and other dangerous infections, which was passed by the National Assembly (the lower house of parliament) on Friday, may face big fines and imprisonment, media reported.

      According to Khmer Times, the law, which is yet to be approved by the Cambodian upper house of parliament, provides for sentences of up to three years for violation of mandatory quarantine, and up to 20 years for the organized deliberate spread of infection as part of a group.

      "The new draft law is a clear testament to the Royal Government’s concerted efforts and responsible attention to the lives and well-being of its people, and we strongly hope that after the law comes into force in the near future, all citizens will actively join force with a sense of responsibility to uphold the common interests of our nation," the president of the National Assembly, Heng Samrin said as quoted by the media outlet.

      The media outlet notes that the adoption of the law was triggered by the events of February 20, when four people, who were placed under mandatory quarantine at the Sokha Hotel in the capital of Phnom Penh after arriving from abroad, bribed the guards and went into the city. They reportedly visited several apartment buildings and attended a number of parties.

      Persons infected with COVID-19 were among those, who violated the quarantine and after their walk, a new cluster of 425 infections erupted in the city.

      Cambodia has so far confirmed a total of 932 cases of COVID-19, while 489 patients have recovered. No coronavirus-related fatalities were registered in the country.

    • 13:53

      Japan's Prime Minister Announces 2-Week Extension of COVID Emergency State in Tokyo Area

      Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced on Friday the extension of the state of emergency over the coronavirus pandemic in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area until 21 March.

      Earlier in the day, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported that the government had decided to prolong the coronavirus-related state of emergency in the capital area.

      "[The measure] necessary to protect lives and livelihoods," Suga said during a meeting of the government's COVID-19 task force, as cited by the Kyodo news agency.

      The prime minister called this two-week extension a "crucial period" to prevent a resurgence in the number of infections.

      The state of emergency in the sprawling capital region, the last region still under the order since early January, was set to expire this Sunday. However, despite a downward trend in the number of new COVID-19 cases, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike on Tuesday expressed concerns about the lifting, arguing that the pace at which the number of new infections is falling may not be fast enough to lift the emergency for the area.

      On Thursday, Suga proposed extending the emergency for 14 days but said that the final decision would be made after the consultations with virologists and governors of Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba and Saitama prefectures, composing the greater metropolitan area.

    • 13:21

      Near 3% Get 2 Shots of COVID-19 Vaccine in Germany, Robert Koch Institute Says

      Around 3 percent of the German population have received 2 inoculations of a COVID-19 vaccine, while about 5 percent have received at least one shot, professor Lothar H. Wieler, the head of the Robert Koch Institute, said on Friday.

      "I am very happy that around 5% people in Germany got the first inoculation, near 3% - two inoculations", Wieler said at the briefing in Berlin.

      According to Wieler, the country has been facing another increase of infected people at the age of fewer than 80 years for 2 weeks. At the same time, there is the growing spread of new COVID-19 mutations such as the British variant.

      The professor called on German citizens to seize each opportunity for vaccination, adding that all COVID-19 vaccines, certified by the EU, are safe and efficient.

      Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 2.4 million people have been infected with the new coronavirus, and more than 71,000 have died.

    • 13:02

      Sweden Registers 4,831 New COVID-19 Cases

    • 12:56

      Pakistan Approves China’s Sinopharm Vaccine for Those Over 60 years Old, Reports Say

      Pakistan’s Drug Regulatory Authority (DRAP) has approved the use of China's Sinopharm vaccine for the inoculation of people in over 60 years age group, the Dawn newspaper reports.

      The representative of the Ministry National Health Services Sajid Shah said that all those medical workers who are over 60 years old and registered with National Immunisation Management System can be inoculated in vaccination centers after getting permission from DRAP.

      Pakistan launched the vaccination against COVID-19 in early February, two days after receiving 500,000 vaccine doses from China. According to Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the country expects to get another 500,000 Chinese vaccine doses soon.

      Along with Sinopharm vaccine based on the inactivated virus with 79,3% efficacy, Pakistan approved the use of British AstraZeneca vaccine and Russian Sputnik V.

    • 12:38

      France Could Block Vaccine Shipments, Similar to Italy, French Health Minister Says

    • 12:26

      UN Says COVID-19 Response in Myanmar Must Remain Priority as Crisis Escalates

       The 1 February power grab by the military in Myanmar has resulted in the COVID-19 vaccination program being at risk, UN regional spokesman in Bangkok David Swanson said, adding that the pandemic response must remain the priority.

      "The first vaccines arrived in Myanmar only last week and the response to COVID-19 must remain a priority in the coming days, weeks and months," Swanson said, adding that the situation was worrying.

      According to the UN official, the nationwide immunization campaign in Myanmar is "in jeopardy," despite having developed a robust vaccination program and having already vaccinated 105,000 health workers as of 31 January.

      "Without adequate testing, public compliance and goodwill for isolation, access to acute clinical care, and continued immunizations, the implications for COVID-19 spread, morbidity, and mortality are substantial," Swanson noted.

      He explained that the UN had more than 2,500 personnel in Myanmar, both international and national, providing crucial development and humanitarian support to the people of Myanmar.

      Myanmar’s official COVID-19 death toll currently stands at 3,200, with more than 142,000 having contracted the virus.

    • 10:54

      Japan Extends COVID-19 State of Emergency in Tokyo Area Until 21 March, Reports Say

      Japan's government has extended the coronavirus-related state of emergency in the Tokyo Metropolitan Area for another two weeks, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported on Friday.

      The COVID-19 state of emergency in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba has been in place since January 8 and was due to expire this Sunday.

      On Thursday, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga proposed extending the emergency for 14 days but said that the final decision would be made after the consultations with local health authorities. While noting that the coronavirus environment in the capital area was almost good enough to lift the emergency, Suga said that several critical items, such as the tight availability of hospital beds, necessitated a slight extension.

      The Tokyo Metropolitan Area reported 301 new COVID-19 cases on Friday. This is consistent with the dynamics of the past two weeks where the daily increase in cases did not exceed 350. A record low of 121 new cases was confirmed this past Monday.

    • 10:28

      Medical Worker Death Toll Due to COVID-19 Tops 17,000 Worldwide

       Vaccination efforts should be sped up significantly to protect frontline medical workers, as the heavy death toll has reached 17,000, human rights watchdog and international NGOs reported on Friday.

      "For one health worker to die from COVID-19 every 30 minutes is both a tragedy and an injustice. Health workers all over the world have put their lives on the line to try and keep people safe from COVID-19, yet far too many have been left unprotected and paid the ultimate price," Steve Cockburn, head of economic and social justice at Amnesty International, said.

      According to the report, global inequalities in vaccine access continue to widen as over half of all doses have been currently administered in the top ten richest countries, covering less than ten percent of the world’s population. Frontline medical workers often bear the brunt of the pandemic with inadequate support, unsafe working conditions and insufficient personal protection equipment, posing severe risks to their health.

      "While highly exposed health workers have been prioritized for vaccination in most countries’ national allocation plans, the global inequalities in vaccine access mean that not a single health worker has received a vaccine in over 100 countries," the report stated.

      Under these circumstances, organizations have urged governments to prioritize safer working conditions and access to vaccines for frontline health workers, including those professions that are often ignored by such efforts — cleaners, community health workers, social care workers and other auxiliary staff.

      "Urgent action must be taken to close the huge global inequalities in vaccine access, so a community health worker in Peru is protected as much as a doctor in the UK," Cockburn said.

      The neglect of health care workers has been a pressuring issue in many countries during the pandemic. In the US, an estimated 1,576 nursing home staff have died so far from COVID-19. In the UK, over 490 social care workers died from coronavirus last year, with the death rate of those in the profession being around three times higher than those in the general working population.

    • 10:27

      New Zealand To Ease COVID-19 Restrictions in Auckland, Reports Say

      New Zealand's prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said on Friday that the authorities would ease COVID-19 restrictions set in Auckland that were caused by one case of infection there, the New Zealand Herald reports.

      According to the newspaper, Auckland - the largest city of New Zealand - will go to Level 2 on Sunday, while the rest of the country will be moved to Level 1, as per the government’s decision.

      Last Saturday, Ardern had stated that Auckland was put to Level 3 for 7 days, while the rest were moved to Level 2, which closes schools and offices and limits public gatherings to up to 100 people.

      According to New Zealand’s health authorities, the country registered more than 2,300 COVID-19 cases, 2,295 people were cured and 26 died.

    • 09:53

      Moldova Becomes 1st European Country to Get Free COVID-19 Vaccines via COVAX Facility

      Moldova has become the first European country to receive coronavirus vaccine doses free of charge through the international COVAX facility launched by the World Health Organization (WHO), President Maia Sandu said on Friday.

      The first 14,400 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in the country late on Thursday.

      "Moldova is the first European nation to receive #COVID19vaccines via the #COVAX initiative - the first 14,400 doses arrived last night," Sandu wrote on Twitter.

      The leader also thanked all parties supporting the shot-sharing initiative, including EU nations, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, as well as the WHO and the UN International Children's Emergency Fund.

      Moldova rolled out its mass vaccination campaign earlier this week. Apart from doses obtained via COVAX, the country is expected to receive some 200,000 doses from Romania as part of humanitarian aid, as well as from Lithuania.

    • 09:52

      Seoul Announces Plan to Review Measures Against COVID-19, Reports Say

      South Korea announced plans to review measures undertaken against COVID-19 if the spread slows down, the South Korean health authorities said on Friday, as the Yonhap News Agency reports.

      New four-tier social distancing rules will be implemented depending on the weekly average number of registered cases per 100,000 people. The revamped system will change five-tier restrictions that met huge criticism as they banned small businesses. The four-tier rules will allow merchants, such as coffee shops and movie theaters, to do their business "under their voluntary containment efforts"

      However, entertainment facilities with a high risk of virus contamination will have to suspend their activities in case of imposing the highest level of rules.

      Seoul has extended the current distancing rules until 14 March. The area of Greater Seoul now is under Level 2, the highest according to the five-tier system.

    • 09:33

      Estonian President Inoculated With AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine

      Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid on Friday received the first shot of the coronavirus vaccine developed by the UK-Swedish firm, AstraZeneca.

      "I was vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine, but that is not important - all vaccines that have been allowed on our market are safe possible side effects are nothing compared to the health issues that infection can cause. I feel good and wish to thank the medical staff who conducted the vaccination," Kaljulaid said on Facebook, as quoted by the ERR online portal of Estonian Public Broadcasting.

      According to the media outlet, Kaljulaid received the vaccine in the light of a planned visit to Afghanistan in April where a vaccination certificate is required.

      The president also addressed the nation in Russian and called on all Estonians to receive a vaccine, adding that "AstraZeneca is the vaccine that most closely resembles the Sputnik V vaccine."

      Kaljulaid noted that all those vaccinated should continue wearing masks and observe social distancing measures since none of the vaccines guarantee 100-percent protection from the infection.

    • 08:04

      South Korea Approves Pfizer's COVID-19 Vaccine

      The South Korean Ministry of Food and Drug Safety on Friday approved the vaccine for the novel coronavirus developed by US pharmaceutical company Pfizer.

      In February, Pfizer applied for the use of its vaccine in South Korea. Following three separate independent evaluations on the vaccine's efficacy and safety, the ministry approved the its two full-dose regimen for people aged over 16.

      According to the Yonhap news agency, despite the formal approval, it is unclear whether youths are eligible to receive the vaccine, since this age group has not been yet included in the government's vaccination plans.

      The first phase of South Korea's vaccination campaign began on February. The country uses the AstraZeneca vaccine for health care staff and patients in nursing homes. The majority of the population aged between 18 and 65 years old will start receiving a vaccine in the third quarter of 2021, as the authorities hope to reach herd immunity by November.

    • 08:04

      Kuwait Imposes Night Curfew, Extends Entry Ban Over Fresh COVID-19 Outbreak

      Kuwait has introduced a nationwide night curfew for a period of one month starting Sunday and extended an entry ban for non-citizens until further notice, as the number of COVID-19 infections soared again recently, the official KUNA news agency reported.

      The curfew will be in place from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. local time (from 14:00 to 02:00 GMT) as of March 7 until April 8, Foreign Minister and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohamad Al-Sabah said in a statement following a Thursday cabinet session, according to KUNA.

      The country's National Guard and police personnel will monitor compliance with the COVID-19-related restrictions, the minister added.

      During the curfew period, people are prohibited from visiting restaurants and cafes, except for receiving their orders through delivery services or from inside their cars. In addition, all parks, as well as seating places in public areas, will be closed.

      The Kuwaiti government has called upon all citizens and foreign residents to abide by precautionary measures and health recommendations in an attempt to tackle the spread of the coronavirus.

    • 08:04

      Russia Registers 11,024 COVID-19 Cases in Past 24 Hours

      Russia registered 11,024 COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, down from 11,385 the day before, taking the overall tally to 4,301,159, the coronavirus response centre said on Friday.

      "Over the past day, 11,024 coronavirus cases were confirmed across 85 regions, including 1,322 cases (12 percent) that were detected actively, with people showing no clinical symptoms," the centre said, adding that the cumulative case count has now reached 4,301,159, with the rate of increase at 0.26 percent.

      Moscow confirmed 1,757 new coronavirus cases over the given period, down from 2,150 the day before. The Russian capital was followed by St. Petersburg with 983 new cases, down from 986 the day before, and the Moscow Region with 750 new cases, up from 693 on Thursday.

      The response centre reported 462 COVID-19 fatalities, down from 475 the day before, raising the country's death toll to 88,285.

      Total recoveries increased by 15,464 over the given period, down from 16,123 the day before, and reached 3,885,321.

    • 07:49

      Around 6% of French COVID-19 Cases Are Brazilian/South African Variants, French Health Minister Says

    • 05:47

      China Spent Over $61.7Bln on Fight Against COVID-19 Last Year

      China spent more than 400 billion yuan ($61.7 billion) on measures countering the coronavirus pandemic last year, a government report on the execution of the budget for 2020 said on Friday.

      "We strengthened oversight on the allocation and use of funds, while anti-epidemic expenditures from finance authorities at all levels exceeded 400 billion yuan, providing related work with firm support," the report said.

      Additionally, the report said that COVID-19 patients received free medical treatment, while frontline medical staff and epidemic prevention workers were granted temporary work subsidies. The government also reduced or waived the taxes and fees for key enterprises involved in producing epidemic prevention and control supplies.

      "At the same time, we vigorously supported the development of the public health system, the major epidemic containment and treatment system, and the emergency supply system in order to raise our capacity to handle major public health emergencies and ramp up the production of emergency supplies," the report read.

    • 05:45

      Russia Completes Phase 2 Trials of Sputnik Light Single-Dose Coronavirus Vaccine

      In this handout photo released by Russian Direct Investment Fund, a view shows a fridge with packages of Russian Sputnik-Light one-dose vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) developed by the Gamaleya Scientific Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology during clinical trials, in Moscow, Russia.

      Russia Completes Phase 2 Trials of Sputnik Light Single-Dose Coronavirus Vaccine

      Earlier, an application for the emergency use authorisation of Sputnik Light, the single-dose version of the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, had been filed in Russia and several other countries.
      Read more
    • 05:24

      Vietnam to Start COVID-19 Vaccination on Monday

    • 05:04

      Number of COVID-19 Cases in India Rises by 16,838 Over Past 24 Hours

      India has confirmed 16,838 new cases of the coronavirus over the past 24 hours, with the total number of those infected having reached 11,173,761, the country's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said on Friday.

      The death toll from the disease has reached 157,548 people, with 113 new fatalities being recorded over the past day. More than 10.83 million people have recovered in India since the start of the outbreak.

      A day earlier, the country registered 17,407 new COVID-19 cases and 113 deaths.

    • 04:25

      Germany Registers 10,580 New COVID-19 Cases

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