13:58 GMT23 April 2021
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    To date, the coronavirus pandemic has claimed the lives of 2,593,073 people worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.

    The United States remains the hardest-hit country in the world, with almost 29 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic erupted.

    It is followed by India (over 11.2 million cases, more than 157,756 fatalities) and Brazil (more than 11 million cases, at least 265,411 deaths).

    The global case count, meanwhile, has surpassed 116 million. 

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    • 23:11

      Latvian Defense Minister Not to Object to Russia's Sputnik V Vaccine If Registered by EU

      RIGA (Sputnik) - Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks said he would not object to the purchase and use of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19 in the country if it was registered by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

      "If EMA registers a Russian vaccine and we need additional supplies, we will consider this issue in the government. As with any vaccines from other manufacturers. I will not object to the purchase if all standards and criteria are met and we need this vaccine," Pabriks told reporters.

    • 22:04

      US Aviation Industry Calls on Biden to Back COVID Health Credentials

      The US Chamber of Commerce, Airlines for America and and the US Travel Association on Monday urged the Biden administration to work with the industry in order to "quickly develop uniform, targeted federal guidance for temporary COVID-19 health credentials (CHC) covering both tests and vaccinations."

      "COVID-19 vaccines should not be a requirement for domestic or international travel", the groups said in a letter to the White House COVID-19 recovery coordinator Jeff Zients.

    • 21:33

      Germany Begins Easing Coronavirus Restrictions in Lesser Infected Regions

      BERLIN (Sputnik) - German states with low COVID-19 incidence started to scale down the restrictive measures on Monday, including the reopening of museums and non-essential shops, the regional authorities said.

      Last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, following consultations with heads of regions, that regions with COVID-19 incidence below 50 new cases per week per 100,000 population would be allowed to soften the restrictions beginning on Monday. The restrictions were introduced and consequently strengthened since last November.

      If, however, the incidence rates increase during the next three days, the authorities are bound to cancel the easing of restrictions. The decision will ultimately be up to the regional administrations.

      Despite the federal regime of restrictive measures set to remain in effect until March 28, a set of exemptions, including social contacts and the reopening of non-grocery stores, apply countrywide. In particular, gatherings of up to 10 people are allowed from Monday.

      The softening of restrictions also includes the reopening of cultural venues, such as galleries, museums, zoos and botanical gardens, which will still need to control the number of visitors. Such rules will begin to apply in Baden-Wurttemberg, Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia, Saarland, Saxony-Anhalt and Berlin starting Tuesday, since Monday is a holiday.

      Additionally, beauty studios and tattoo salons are allowed to resume in Berlin, Hamburg and other cities with similarly low incidence.

      The state of Thuringia, which has the country's highest COVID-19 incidence rate, has not yet introduced any exemptions.

    • 21:22

      Nigerian Coronavirus Strain Reportedly Detected in Germany For First Time

      MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Germany has registered the first case of the Nigerian coronavirus variant, B.1.525, the Bild newspaper reports.

      Besides Nigeria, cases of the new coronavirus strain have already been found in several European countries, including Slovenia, Italy, Denmark, as well as in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada. It was first discovered in December 2020.

      Bild reported on Monday citing the genetic diagnostics and rare disease company Centogene that the new variant was detected in a sample taken at the coronavirus testing center at the Berlin-Brandenburg Airport. According to Centogene, the infected individual was from the eastern German state of Saxony.

      According to Bild, the Nigerian strain is similar to the UK coronavirus variant, also known as B.1.1.7. At the same time, it also has links to the South African and Brazilian strains.

    • 18:47

      Blinken: Coronavirus Pandemic Disproportionately Impacting Women, Girls

      Women around the world have been disproportionately affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic and are facing increased employment and economic insecurity, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Monday.

      “The COVID-19 pandemic presented an unexpected challenge to the safety and prosperity of women and girls in the last year. From an increased risk of domestic abuse during stay-at-home orders to increased economic and employment insecurity, women and girls have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic”, Blinken said in a statement.

      The Secretary of State pointed out that gender equality and women empowerment continue to be one of the central pillars of the US foreign policy and national security.

      International Women’s Day was initially celebrated on 19 March 1911 in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland to make women’s voices heard about their quest for equality.  In 1913, the date was moved to 8 March. The United Nations started the tradition of celebrating Women’s Day in 1975 - a practice that continues today.

    • 18:46

      Psaki: White House Looking for Ways to Combat Russian 'Vaccines Disinformation'

      White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Monday reiterated allegations that Russia is behind a disinformation campaign to undermine trust in Western coronavirus vaccines and promised that the United States will fight it with every tool at its disposal.

      The Wall Street Journal claimed that there are four publications with reported links to Russian intelligence that are purportedly used to influence public opinion in the United States on issues such as coronavirus vaccines. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the allegations as "nonsense" and said that Russian special services have nothing to do with any criticism against vaccines.

      "We will fight with every tool we have this disinformation... We will look for ways to combat this information. We are aware of it, we are monitoring it, we taking steps to address", Psaki told reporters during a press briefing. "We will reiterate at every opportunity that these vaccines are safe. They have been approved by the FDA. We will of course have health and medical experts conveying that at every turn."

      Peskov recalled negative coverage initially given by the Western media to Sputnik V, the world’s first coronavirus vaccine developed by Russia.

      "If we treat every negative publication against the Sputnik V vaccine as a result of efforts by American special services, then we will go crazy because we see it every day, every hour and in every Anglo-Saxon media", he said.

      On Saturday, US top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said that data from Sputnik V "looked pretty good" to him.

    • 18:21

      Obesity Boosts Risk of COVID-19 Hospitalisation, Death, US Disease Control Agency Says

      Obese adults face a higher risk of being hospitalised or dying from COVID-19, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said in a report on Monday.

      “Among 148,494 US adults with COVID-19, a nonlinear relationship was found between body mass index (BMI) and COVID-19 severity, with lowest risks at BMIs near the threshold between healthy weight and overweight in most instances, then increasing with higher BMI. Overweight and obesity were risk factors for invasive mechanical ventilation. Obesity was a risk factor for hospitalisation and death, particularly among adults aged <65 years”, the report said.

      As compared with other US populations, Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black adults as well as persons from low-income households have higher prevalence of obesity and, as a result, are disproportionately affected by the condition, the report added.

      The implications of the findings include the necessity to provide proportional COVID-19 illness management as BMI increases, to promote vaccine prioritization and masking, and to ensure all populations access to nutrition and physical activities promoting healthy BMI, the report said.

      The United States continue to be the world leader in terms of both number of cases (over 29 million) and deaths (over 525,000), according to Johns Hopkins University.

    • 18:19

      US Has Fully Vaccinated 31Mln Americans Against COVID-19 Virus, CDC Director Says

      Some 31 million Americans have been fully inoculated against the novel coronavirus with the Moderna, Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson vaccines, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky said in a White House podcast on Monday.

      "As of today, 59 million people in the United States have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and approximately 31 million Americans. or 9.2 percent of the US population, is fully vaccinated, putting us on a strong path to eventually end this pandemic", Walensky said.

      US health authorities were also vaccinating more than 2 million Americans per day, the CDC director added.

      "The pandemic remains a very serious situation ... [but] we are starting to turn a corner", Walensky said.

      Nevertheless, more than 90 percent of the US population was still either unprotected or had yet to be fully vaccinated Walensky cautioned.

    • 18:09

      Curfew Measures in the Netherlands to Remain in Place Until 31 March, Prime Minister Says

    • 17:51

      EU Commissioner Says Russia to Need Help From Bloc in Sputnik V Vaccine Production

      Russia will likely need assistance from the European Union in the future in terms of production capacities for manufacturing its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, European Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton said on Monday.

      "Russia is having great difficulty manufacturing its vaccine and therefore will come to us to be able to ensure that our factories can manufacture it. Of course, we will certainly have to help the Russians, like others, but for the moment the priority lies in that our factories can turn on European vaccines", Breton told the France 2 broadcaster.

      The official specified that at the moment the bloc's industrial capacities were reserved for the production of vaccines from AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. The latter's vaccine is expected to be approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) later this week, the commissioner said.

      The EMA has recently announced starting a rolling review of the Russian vaccine to test its compliance with EU standards for effectiveness, safety and quality. In early February, the prestigious Lancet medical magazine published a study, confirming the vaccine efficacy at 91.6 percent.

      According to Breton, the European regulator's rolling review of Sputnik V will take several months before a verdict can be expected.

    • 17:32

      Fully Vaccinated Americans Can Meet Indoors Without Masks, New CDC Guidelines Show

      Fully vaccinated residents of the United States can now visit other fully vaccinated people indoors without having to wear masks or practice social distance under new guidelines, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky said in a White House podcast on Monday.

      "Fully vaccinated people can meet with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or [practicing] social distancing", Walensky said. "The pandemic remains a very serious situation."

      Walensky pointed out that some 69,000 new cases were still occurring per day across the United States in the most recent seven-day average.

      The activities were ruled safe for anyone who had received both doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines or the single shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, she said.

      Walensky noted that some 59 million Americans had now received at least one inoculation of the vaccine and 31 million people were totally covered with both doses. However, more than 90 percent of the US population was either unprotected or still had to be fully vaccinated, she said.

    • 17:03

      Number of Coronavirus Cases in US Surpasses 29Mln

      The number of people who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in the United States has surpassed 29 million, the Johns Hopkins University case tracker revealed on Monday.

      The total number of coronavirus cases has increased to 29,000,012, while the virus-related deaths stand at 525,136, the case tracker showed.

    • 16:45

      Yellen: US Worried About Economy's 'Permanent Scarring' From COVID-19 Crisis

      The US economy could end up permanently scarred by the coronavirus crisis, a predicament the Biden administration is trying to avoid with its $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Monday.

      “We're really concerned about scarring, permanent scarring from this crisis and it's focused us very heavily on doing everything we can to get back on track as quickly as we can”, Yellen said during a live-streamed International Women’s Day dialogue with IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva.

      The  COVID-19 relief bill, which passed the Senate on Saturday, is due to become law after being amended this week on the issue of minimum wage by he House of Representatives. The legislation aims to provide US states with Coronavirus vaccination programs; make financial grants for small businesses; aid school reopenings; pay unemployment benefits of $300 weekly and send out one-time checks of $1,400 to most Americans.

      The United States lost more than 21 million jobs between March and April, at the height of business lockdowns forced by the virus. At least 10 million of those jobs have not returned, with the US economy shrinking 3.5 percent in 2020 after a 2.2 percent growth in 2019.

      Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said earlier that he did not expect the United States to return anytime this year to maximum employment, which will be one the central bank’s criteria for raising interest rates. Under the Fed’s definition, maximum employment is achieved when the jobless rate is at 4.0 percent or lower. February’s US jobs report showed unemployment at 6.2 percent.

      Since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, the Fed has kept US interest rates at between zero and 0.25 percent and pledged not to raise them until it sees maximum employment and inflation consistently at above 2 percent per annum.

    • 16:35

      EMA Likens Prospect of Austria Approving Sputnik V Vaccine to 'Russian Roulette'

      Austria authorising Russian coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V before the European Medicines Agency (EMA) finishes its review would be tantamount to playing "Russian roulette," according to Christa Wirthumer-Hoche, the chairwoman of the EMA management board and an Austrian health regulator official.

      In early February, Hungary became the first EU country to approve the Russian vaccine. The country authorised Sputnik V based on data from trials in Russia and a comprehensive evaluation of the vaccine by Hungarian experts. On 1 March, Slovakia followed suit. Last week, a Russian Direct Investment Fund delegation met with Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in Vienna to discuss Sputnik V among other things.

      "Hungary has issued a national emergency use authorisation. In our case, this is not so easy. This would be possible if the government issued such a decree. But it is comparable to Russian roulette", Wirthumer-Hoche told the ORF broadcaster, when asked whether Austria could follow Hungary's lead.

      According to the EMA official, there is still not enough data on those inoculated with Sputnik V.

      She, however, did not rule out that the Russian vaccine will finally enter the EU market after the scrutiny ends.

    • 16:26

      Italy's Total COVID Fatalities Surpass 100,000 After Adding 318 New Deaths Over Past 24 Hours

      Italy has also registered 13,902 new cases, the country's Health Ministry reported.

    • 16:00

      RDIF, Adienne Pharma & Biotech Sign Deal to Produce Sputnik V Vaccine in Italy

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

      RDIF, Adienne Pharma & Biotech Sign Deal to Produce Sputnik V Vaccine in Italy

      MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The Russian Direct Investment Fund and Swiss-headquartered pharmaceutical company Adienne Pharma & Biotech have struck an agreement to produce Russia's COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V in Italy, the Russian-Italian Chamber of Commerce said on Monday.
      Read more
    • 15:58

      US Treasury Secretary: Economy Unlikely to Overheat During Recovery From Pandemic

      The US economy is unlikely to overheat during its recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and there are adequate tools to moderate its growth, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in an interview on Monday.

      “Well, I really don't think that that's going to happen”, Yellen told MSNBC when asked about the possibility of the economy getting “too hot” in an environment of spiking inflation and interest rates. “We don't expect undesirable levels of inflation.”

      US bond yields, benchmarked by the ten-year Treasury note hit pre-pandemic highs over the past month, pushing up the dollar as well. While the Federal Reserve itself has kept US interest rates at near zero since the coronavirus outbreak a year ago, the spike in yields has prompted investors to bet on the possibility of runaway inflation from a V-shaped economic recovery that characterizes quick and sustained rebound after a sharp decline.

      Yellen said the economy was instead experiencing a K-shaped recovery, where one segment began rebounding from the lockdowns-caused recession, while another continued declining.

      “We have a K-shaped recovery happening now”, she said. “The K-shaped recovery existed before COVID, but now it's worse.”

      Yellen disputed the notion that President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill, which passed the US Senate on Saturday and due to become law after some amendments by the House of Representatives, was too large for the economy to absorb without some overheating.

      “This is the package we need to revive our economy to where it was before the pandemic”, she said. “If it turns out to be inflationary, there are tools to deal with that and we'll monitor that closely.”

    • 15:12

      New York City Mayor: High Schools to Return to In-Class Studies on 22 March

      "We have all the pieces we need to bring high school back and bring it back strong, and of course bring it back safely", Mayor Bill de Blasio told a news conference.

    • 15:01

      Israel Starts COVID-19 Vaccination of Palestinian Workers

      Israel has begun vaccinating Palestinians working in the country and Jewish settlements in the West Bank, COGAT, the country's military agency coordinating government activities in the Palestinian territories, said on Monday.

      The Palestinians can get vaccinated against COVID-19 at medical centres located in border checkpoints, as well as in Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

      The health ministries of Palestine and Israel agreed in February that the latter would inoculate 100,000 Palestinian laborers working in the Jewish state and territories it controls.

      Israel started inoculating own population against the coronavirus back on 20 December. Over 4.8 million Israelis have since been vaccinated, and 3.5 million of them have received both doses.

    • 14:28

      Number of COVID-19 Cases in Romania Surpasses 830,000, Reports Suggest

      Romania has confirmed 2,880 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, which took the total number of cases in the country to 830,563, the national Agerpres news agency reported on Monday, citing the government's COVID-19 strategic contact group.

      Romania's latest official COVID-19 situation update stated 828,283 cases and 20,900 fatalities.

      According to the report, Romania's death toll from COVID-19 has now reached 20,963, and another 761,000 people have recovered from the infection.

      On 12 February, the Romanian government prolonged its coronavirus-related restrictions for at least another 30 days. Under the restrictions, wearing masks in public areas is mandatory, all schools are closed, gatherings are banned, and a nighttime curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. (21:00 - 03:00 GMT) is imposed.

    • 14:27

      Estonia May Impose Lockdown Amid Spike in COVID-19 Cases

      Estonia may introduce a lockdown as the number of new coronavirus cases in the country keeps increasing, likely due to the UK strain, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said Monday.

      According to the health authorities, the country already confirmed 136 cases of the UK strain.

      "I received information that the so-called UK strain of the COVID-19 virus is spreading more widely than it has been thought until now. It is more aggressive and infectious than others, which is likely to explain the rapid spread of the disease in Estonia. If this information, which we are verifying, is correct, then it means we will have to lock down the country for the time being", Kallas wrote on Facebook.

      According to the prime minister, the new lockdown may include closing all shops, safe for those selling food and necessities, as well as all catering facilities, with the exception of takeouts. All classes will be held remotely and all sporting activities are to be done alone.

      The situation with Estonia is getting worse as there have been 9,427 new cases detected last week, which is the largest weekly increase since the start of the pandemic. The country has confirmed a total of 76,183 cases, including 667 fatalities.

    • 14:26

      Finland Approves Closure of Restaurants for 3 Weeks as COVID-19 Situation Worsens, Reports Say

      The Finnish parliament on Monday passed the legislation allowing to close restaurants throughout most of its regions until the end of the month over the deteriorating COVID-19 situation in the country, the Yle news portal reported.

      According to the media outlet, President Sauli Niinisto will sign the law later on Monday.

      Restaurants, cafes, bars and nightclubs will be closed for three weeks in Finland's 15 regions except for North Savo, North Karelia, Kainuu and Central Ostrobothnia. They will, however, will be allowed to sell food for takeaway.

      On 1 March, the Finnish government declared a state of emergency amid the worsening coronavirus-related epidemiological situation and introduced a lockdown from March 8 to 28. In addition to the existing measures, schools will switch to distant learning.

      Finland has so far registered over 62,000 coronavirus cases and 767 deaths.

    • 14:25

      Only 5 Countries Lifted All COVID-Related Travel Limits for Foreigners

      Only five countries out of 217 destinations worldwide — Albania, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, North Macedonia and Tanzania — are fully open to foreigners, as they lifted all coronavirus-related travel restrictions, the latest report by the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) said on Monday.

      "All COVID-19 travel restrictions lifted ... [in] 5 destinations (2% of all destinations worldwide) Albania, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, North Macedonia and Tanzania", the report said.

      According to the UNWTO, 32 percent of all destinations, or 69 in total, remain closed for international tourism due to the coronavirus, with around just over half of them, 38 destinations, being shut for at least 40 weeks. Meanwhile, partial closure of borders is applied by 73 countries, or 34 percent of all destinations.

      "At present, the persistent serious epidemiological situation and in particular the emergence of different SARSCoV-2 variants of concern (VOCs) have reversed the trend and resulted in the tightening of travel restrictions, mostly directed at destinations in which these VOCs have been verified", the report added.

      Last year, the number of international tourist trips decreased by 74 percent — some 1 billion trips — over the onset of the coronavirus pandemic compared to the previous year. The crisis has threatened between 100 million and 120 million jobs in the industry.

    • 14:23

      Thailand to Cut COVID-19 Quarantine for Vaccinated Foreigners to 7 Days

      Thailand will shorten the mandatory quarantine for foreign citizens who are vaccinated against COVID-19 down to seven days starting April, the country's health ministry said on Monday.

      Earlier in the day, the country's committee on communicable diseases held a meeting chaired by Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul. Citing the fact that there are over 250 million vaccine doses administered across the globe and the vaccination continues, the meeting thought it right to decrease the duration of the quarantine upon arrival to Thailand for several categories of people. The new measure will enter force sometime in April.

      "For foreign citizens with a certificate of vaccination that took place no later than 14 days and no earlier than three months before arriving in Thailand ... to decrease the duration of the quarantine from 14 to 7 days", the ministry said in a statement, mentioning that those vaccinated will still require a negative COVID-19 test done within three days before the arrival, as well as the one done upon entering the country.

      For those without a vaccination certificate but with a negative COVID-19 test the quarantine will be decreased to ten days.

      The meeting also recommitted relevant authorities to consider lifting quarantine for people entering areas of the country where 70 percent of medics, volunteers, tourism workers and groups at risk are vaccinated, starting 1 October.

      The meeting's decision now has to be approved by a weekly meeting of the government coronavirus response center as well as the cabinet of ministers.

    • 14:22

      Three Percent of Germans Fully Vaccinated Against COVID-19

      Three percent of Germans have now received both shots of a coronavirus vaccine, the health ministry said on Monday.

      Germany launched COVID-19 immunization on 27 December.

      "On 7 March, 136,762 vaccinations were made in Germany. Thus, 2,484,408 people (3 percent of the population) are fully vaccinated", the ministry reported.

      Another 2.6 million Germans have received the first dose and are now waiting for the second one.

      Leaders of vaccination rollout are Berlin and Rhineland-Palatinate, where 3.5 percent of local residents have been inoculated. Lower Saxony is an outlier, with just 2.5 percent of people vaccinated.

    • 14:22

      Italian Health Ministry Approves Use of AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine for People Over 65

      The Italian Ministry of Health has issued a decree that lifts the age limit for AstraZaneca's coronavirus vaccine, approving its use in senior citizens aged 65 and older.

      The decision came as the country started to encounter delays and other issues with the deliveries of the vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna. These disruptions threatened the implementation Italy's national vaccination schedule.

      According to the ministry's decree, the vaccine may be administered to senior citizens unless they are considered "extremely vulnerable" and have serious health conditions.

      The vaccine was initially recommended for use only among people aged between 18 and 55, in line with the recommendation issued by the European Medicines Agency in late January, as data on the vaccine's impact on senior citizens was insufficient. In mid-February, Italy's national drug regulator Aifa raised the age limit to 65, given that the recipient does not have health issues.

      Italy wants to vaccinate at least 70 percent of its population to achieve herd immunity by the early autumn. So far, over 5.4 million doses have been administered in Italy, while some 1.65 million people have already received both shots.

    • 14:16

      Spanish Constitutional Court Bans Int'l Women's Day Rallies Over COVID-19

      The Spanish Constitutional Court has upheld the authorities' decision to prohibit all rallies related to the International Women's Day on Monday in Madrid and the surrounding areas due to the coronavirus pandemic.

      Madrid is the only region in Spain where the authorities decided last week to ban all 8 March demonstrations, as the Community of Madrid has the highest infection rates and a number of hospitalised people that is much higher than the national average. The organizers of rallies challenged the government's decree in the High Court of Justice of Madrid but lost the bid. Two largest Spanish trade unions turned to the Constitutional Court to appeal the verdict.

      "To refuse to suspend the verdict of the aforementioned court [the Madrid High Court], which the trade unions requested so as to hold a rally today in the Plaza de Cibeles square in Madrid", the court said.

      However, despite the ban, people are gathering in different parts of the capital region for demonstrations, with the organisers calling for a general action on Monday evening. They urge everyone to hang feminist symbols on balconies, windows and doors and go out on balconies at 8:00 p.m. local time (19:00 GMT).

    • 14:14

      Estonia Expects Over 52,000 Vaccine Doses This Week as COVID-19 Resurges

      Estonia is set to receive over 52,000 doses of Pfizer/BioNTech, AstraZeneca/Oxford and Moderna coronavirus vaccines this week, the department of health said on Monday amid COVID-19 resurgence.

      "This week, 14,040 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, 31,200 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and 7,200 doses of the Moderna vaccine will arrive in Estonia", the department said.

      The Baltic nation embarked on coronavirus vaccination on 27 December. As of Monday morning, 102,417 or 7.7 percent of the population have been inoculated against COVID-19, with 43,975 of them having already received both shots.

      Estonia is currently witnessing a resurgence in coronavirus cases. From 1-7 March, the country registered a total of 9,427 infections, marking the highest weekly figure since the onset of the pandemic.

      In total, the country has confirmed over 76,000 coronavirus cases, including 667 deaths.

    • 14:13

      Singapore Airlines Pilots IATA-Developed Travel Pass to Verify Passengers' COVID-19 Status

      Singapore Airlines, the flag carrier of the island city-state, will roll out the Travel Pass app developed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to verify the passengers' health status, the company said on Monday.

      The pilot version will be used on the London route from 15-28 March.

      "This marks the second phase of SIA’s digital health verification process trials, which is based on the IATA Travel Pass framework. Passengers with mobile phones running on Apple’s iOS operating system will be invited to download the IATA Travel Pass app, and create a digital ID comprising their profile photo and passport information", the airlines said in a press release.

      It added that passengers would then be able to book their COVID-19 tests at one of the participating clinics using the digital ID they created in the app.

      "They will be able to view their test results, as well as confirmation status to fly, directly on the app. IATA’s Timatic registry will provide the back-end information on the Covid-19 testing and entry requirements. ... By consolidating the verification of health credentials into a single app, participants can expect a faster and more seamless check-in process", the statement read.

      If deemed successful, the pilot version will be fully integrated into the airlines' digital health verification process in mid-2021.

    • 14:13

      Slovakia Records Highest Number of COVID Hospitalisations Since Outbreak

      A total of 4,056 COVID-19 patients are currently receiving treatment at hospitals in Slovakia, marking the highest number of hospitalisations in the country since the outbreak of the pandemic, the Ministry of Health said on Monday.

      "The largest number of hospitalised people during the pandemic is currently registered in the republic — 4,056 people, of which 361 are in intensive care units, and 379 are on artificial lung ventilation", the ministry said in a statement.

      The country, which is among the worst hit by the pandemic in the region, has been under a state of health emergency since October 2020. Last week, the authorities updated the list of COVID-19 restrictions, adding a curfew from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m (7:00 to 00:00 GMT), and the mandatory wearing of respirators in public places later this month.

      Over the past 24 hours, the number of coronavirus-related fatalities has increased by 85 to 7,921.

      In December, the government kicked off a mass vaccination campaign, using vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca, but later encountered delays and other issues with the shipments of the vaccines. On Sunday, France sent 15,000 AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine doses to Slovakia as a gift. Paris has also made efforts to persuade the EU to allocate 100,000 Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines to Bratislava.

      To date, Slovakia has vaccinated some 345,500 people with the first dose and administered second jabs to 179,400 people.

    • 14:12

      Afghanistan Receives 2nd Batch of COVID-19 Vaccine Doses Via COVAX Facility, Reports Say

      The second batch of the coronavirus vaccine doses has arrived in the Afghan capital of Kabul through the international COVAX shot-sharing initiative, media reported on Monday.

      The Central Asian country has received the first shipment via the COVAX facility in early February and it included 500,000 doses of the Covieshield vaccine — India's version of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine.

      According to the TOLOnews broadcaster, the shipment arrived in Kabul on Monday morning.

      Afghanistan launched its mass inoculation campaign against coronavirus in late February, administering the Covishield vaccine primarily to security forces, medical and media workers.

    • 14:04

      Lithuania Receives 12th Largest Batch of BioNTech COVID Vaccine Doses

      The 12th batch of coronavirus vaccine doses developed by Pfizer and BioNTech — the largest one so far — has arrived in Lithuania, the country's health ministry said on Monday.

      "The 12th and the largest batch of the coronavirus vaccine from the BioNTech/Pfizer developer arrived at the warehouse of the health ministry's emergency center on Monday. It includes 31,590 doses of the vaccine", the ministry said in a press release.

      To date, 210,000 people across the Baltic state, or 7.5 percent of the entire population, have received COVID-19 shots, the ministry said, adding that nearly one third of citizens over 80 years old already inoculated.

      Lithuania started its mass vaccination campaign along with other EU states in late December. Like many other countries, it has given priority to medical staffers working in COVID-19 wards, emergency departments and intensive care units.

    • 13:57

      US Records 40,000 New COVID-19 Cases Over Past 24 Hours

    • 12:10

      Syrian President Assad and His Wife Test Positive for Coronavirus

      MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Syrian President Bashar Assad and his wife Asma have contracted COVID-19, the presidential office said on Monday.

      "President Assad and Mrs. Asma Assad passed PCR test, the result showed infection with coronavirus," the office said in a statement, adding that the president and his wife are in stable condition.

    • 09:54

      Turkey Vaccinates Over 10Mn Citizens Against COVID-19, Health Ministry Confirms

      ANKARA (Sputnik) - The number of people vaccinated against the coronavirus disease in Turkey has exceeded 10 million, according to the country's health ministry data.

      Meanwhile, approximately 2.5 million people have received two vaccine jabs.

      Turkey began its vaccination drive in January, using China's СoronaVac vaccine. The vaccination will take place in four stages, with medics, teachers and senior citizens being the first in line.

    • 08:29

      Schools Reopen in England Amid Plan to Ease Lockdown Restrictions

    • 07:55

      New Daily COVID-19 Cases May Soon Top 20,000 in Poland, Health Ministry Spokesman Says

    • 06:39

      No Links Found Between Deaths and COVID-19 Vaccines in South Korea, Health Officials Say

    • 06:16

      South Korea, US Start Springtime Military Drills in Scaled-Back Mode Over COVID, Reports Suggest

      SEOUL (Sputnik) - South Korea and the United States have launched their regular spring military exercise in an abridged manner due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Yonhap news agency reported on Monday, citing the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS).

      According to the news agency, a "minimum level of troops" is involved in the 9-day computer-simulated Combined Command Post Training (CCPT), while outdoor drills will be excluded over coronavirus-related restrictions.

      "The training is to maintain our joint readiness posture and to support diplomatic efforts for the denuclearisation of and peace on the Korean Peninsula", the military was quoted as saying by Yonhap.

      The military added that the two countries had carried out outdoor drills throughout the year rather than intensively at specific periods of time, the news agency reported.

      South Korea and the United States normally hold two large-scale joint drills per year, in the spring and in the summer. Last year's spring CCPT was cancelled over the outbreak of the pandemic, and the summer drills were held in an adjusted manner.

    • 05:24

      Malaysia Expected to Increase Amount of Secured Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Doses to 32 Million, Report Says

    • 04:31

      Germany Records 5,011 New Cases, 34 New Fatalities

    • 04:28

      Vietnam to Start Vaccination Campaign Against COVID-19

      BANGKOK (Sputnik) - Vietnam launched its national vaccination campaign on Monday, using the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, the country's state news agency VNA reported.

      The vaccination started simultaneously in the capital city of Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and the northern province of Hai Duong, which currently has the largest number of cases, according to the news outlet. In Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, vaccination is taking place at the cities' tropical diseases hospitals, while in Hai Duong it is being carried out at two vaccination centres.

      The first ones to receive the vaccine are frontline medical workers, who are being inoculated by the Health Ministry. The defence and public security ministries also received doses to vaccinate officers and servicemen testing people for the disease or sending them into state quarantine.

      The country has received 117,600 doses of AstraZeneca for its first round of vaccinations. Hanoi plans to import 150 million doses throughout this year

      Since the beginning of the pandemic, Vietnam has confirmed a total of 2,501 cases, including 35 fatalities.

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