11:28 GMT15 April 2021
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    Global COVID-19 Cases Spike to Highest Level Post-Lockdown (321)

    The global death toll from the coronavirus infection has topped 2.859 million; over 131.7 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 nation amid the pandemic, with over 30.7 million infected, and a death toll of over 555,000. Next is Brazil (over 13 million cases, more than 332,000 deaths) and India (12.5 million cases, over 165,000 fatalities).

    A fourth wave of the coronavirus infection has started in the United States as new strains are becoming more prominent, epidemiologist Dr. Michael Osterholm, who served as a member of US President Joe Biden's COVID-19 transition advisory board, says.

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    • 03:39

      Number of New Global COVID-19 Cases Up 5%, Death Toll Rises by 11% in Week - WHO

      MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The number of new cases of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has risen by 5 percent, and the death toll has increased by 11 percent in the past week, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a weekly report.

      "Globally, new COVID-19 cases rose for a sixth consecutive week, with over 4 million new cases reported in the last week," the WHO said.

      "The number of new deaths also increased by 11% compared to last week, with over 71,000 new deaths reported. The largest increases in case incidence were observed in the South-East Asia (most notably in India) and the Western Pacific regions. All regions, except for the African Region, reported increases in the number of deaths, with the largest increase of 46% from the South-East Asia Region," it said.

      The global coronavirus case tally now tops 131.4 million, with more than 2.8 million deaths.

    • 21:44

      Coronavirus Antibody Protection From Moderna Vaccine Lasts at Least 6 Months - Report

      WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The immunity against the novel coronavirus produced by the Moderna vaccine remained active at least six months after the second dose, a report in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) said.

      “Antibodies that were elicited by mRNA-1273 [Moderna vaccine] persisted through six months after the second dose, as detected by three distinct serologic assays," a press release explaining the NEJM report said on Tuesday.

      The NEJM based its report on an examination of 33 healthy adult participants who received the Moderna shot in an early trial of the vaccine, the release said.

      Ongoing studies continue to monitor immune responses beyond 6 months as well as determining the effect of a booster dose to extend the duration and breadth of activity against emerging viral variants, the release added.

      Moderna has created a booster shot, now in clinical trials, in response to the mutated versions of the virus, even though current vaccines are believed effective against existing variants, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

      Pfizer, the maker of a similar two-dose vaccine also authorized by the FDA, recently announced that its immunity also lasted at least six months.

    • 21:17

      California to Fully Reopen By June 15 on Condition of Residents Vaccinating - Governor

      WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - California will fully reopen by June 15 if its residents continue to get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus and the rate of hospitalizations stays stable, Governor Gavin Newsom said on Tuesday.

      "We are announcing today that on June 15, we will be moving beyond the blueprint (of pandemic safety measures), if we continue the good work," Newsom said during a briefing.

      California’s five-week window for reopening was based on its encouraging pace of vaccinations and receding rate of hospitalization, Newsom said.

      "With more than 20 million vaccines administered across the state, it is time to turn the page on our tier system and begin looking to fully reopen California’s economy," Newsom said in a statement released earlier in the day.

      In the terms of hospitalization, there were just 2,005 people hospitalized with one new confirmed case of the virus in the past 24 hours, a 23 percent decrease from two weeks ago, state health statistics showed.

      Newsom, however, urged Californians to remain vigilant with respect to safety measures.

      "We can now begin planning for our lives post-pandemic but we will need to remain vigilant and continue the practices that got us here - wearing masks and getting vaccinated," the governor said, adding that the "light at the end of this tunnel has never been brighter".

    • 20:59

      Gaza to Close All Educational Institutions From Wednesday Over Surge in COVID - Official

      GAZA (Sputnik) - The Gaza Strip's authorities have decided to toughen coronavirus-related restrictions and close all educational institutions starting from April 7 due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, interior ministry spokesman Eyad al-Bozom said on Tuesday.

      "The interior ministry of the Gaza Strip decided today to close all educational institutions: schools, universities and kindergartens. The decision will come into effect tomorrow, on Wednesday, and will last until further notice," the official said.

      The official added that the movement of vehicles would be banned from 9:00 p.m. on Wednesday (18:00 GMT) until 6:00 a.m. on April 11. Government agencies will also suspend their operations during this period.

      The ministry also decided to extend previous restrictions, including a nighttime curfew, the closure of weekly markets, a ban on public events, including weddings and funerals.

      Last week, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas extended the year-long state of emergency for another month.

      The incidence of COVID-19 in the Palestinian territories — the West Bank and the Gaza Strip — still remains high, with the regions struggling to contain the spread of mutated variants of the coronavirus.

    • 20:49

      Chilean Parliament Approves Postponement of Regional Elections to May Amid Surge in COVID-19

      SANTIAGO (Sputnik) - Members of Chile's upper and lower houses of the parliament approved on Tuesday the postponement of regional elections in the country, initially slated for April, to May due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the parliament has announced.

      Chilean President Sebastian Pinera proposed to postpone the elections in late March over a spike in the daily number of COVID-19 cases across the Latin American country.

      "A mixed commission [including members of both houses] has approved a reform that postpones elections from April to May 15-16," the parliament said in a statement.

      This weekend, Chilean citizens were supposed to elect mayors, governors, as well as members of municipal councils.

      Chile has been experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases since late February. Over the past 24 hours, the country has registered 5,164 new infections, bringing the total toll to 1,037,780. Meanwhile, 23,734 patients have died since the outbreak, with 57 fatalities recorded over the past day.

    • 19:26

      US Recovery From COVID Rapid Enough to Reach Full Employment in 2022 - Yellen

      WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The United States expects economic recovery from the COVID-19 to be rapid enough to bring the country back to full employment by 2022, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Tuesday.

      "As we deal with the pandemic, we’re expecting rapid recovery and I’m hopeful we’ll be back to full employment next year," Yellen said during a discussion at the virtual Spring Meetings of the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund.

      Yellen’s comments came after a gain of 916,000 jobs in March cited by the Labor Department in the monthly US nonfarm payrolls report issued Friday. Economists polled by US media had expected a growth of only 660,000 jobs in March.

      Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said last month that while US recovery from the COVID-19 had been encouraging, the country still had a long way to go in reaching full employment, defined by a jobless rate of 4.0 percent or lower. In March, that rate was at 6.0 percent.

      The United States lost more than 21 million jobs between March and April 2020, at the height of business lockdowns forced by the coronavirus pandemic. The Labor Department says nearly 8.5 million of those jobs have yet to return.

      One particularly encouraging data was the non-manufacturing purchasing managers index for March, published by the Institute for Supply Management on Monday.

      The ISM non-manufacturing PMI surged to 63.7, beating economists’ target of 59. It was the best service sector performance since 1997, indicating the strength of the recovery from the COVID-19.

    • 18:43

      Russia Ready to Cooperate With WHO to Further Study COVID-19 Origins

      Russia is ready to cooperate with the World Health Organization (WHO) to further investigate the origins of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Tuesday as WHO experts presented the relevant report.

      The WHO released last week the full version of a report by an international expert group on its mission to Wuhan — the world's first COVID-19 hotspot. According to the authors, the outbreak was unlikely caused by a leak from a laboratory in Wuhan, while the virus was most likely transmitted to humans from bats through an intermediary animal.

      "It is important that the document outlines ways for further work and international cooperation to study the origins of COVID-19. We are talking about joint research in the field of environment, zoonoses, genetics and immunology. We will be ready to interact with partners in these areas," Zakharova said in a statement.

      The WHO team spent nearly a month in China from mid-January and probed several sites, including a wet market and a laboratory in the Wuhan Institute of Virology, for clues on the virus’ origins.

      Following the probe, Washington expressed concerns about whether China duly communicated raw data on the coronavirus to the WHO amid media reports that the organization's investigators were denied access to personalized data on more than a hundred early cases of COVID-19.

      Last week, the same concerns were voiced by WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The United States and 13 other nations have jointly expressed their concerns over the WHO report saying it was late in coming out and failed to include complete data and samples.

    • 18:43

      Trudeau Says Canada Facing ‘Very Serious’ Third Wave of COVID-19 Pandemic

      Canada is on the verge of a "third wave" of the coronavirus pandemic resulting from a surge in variant cases across the country, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday.

      “Around the world countries face a very serious third of this pandemic. Right now, so is Canada,” Trudeau told reporters.

      The new wave of the pandemic is reportedly being spurred by rising caseloads in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia.

      Ontario is in the early days of a third province-wide lockdown since the onset of the pandemic, with the province recording an average of more than 3,000 new daily cases over the past week. Experts estimate that variants - particularly the B.1.1.7 one first identified in the United Kingdom - now make up two-thirds of all new cases.

      In British Columbia, public health officials are sounding the alarm about the surge in cases of the P.1 variant that was first identified in Brazil. Since the beginning of April provincial health authorities have logged over 737 cases of the Brazilian variant.

      Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam expressed concern that the P.1 variant may reduce the efficacy of vaccines.

      Trudeau said that he will discuss the situation in Ontario with Premier Doug Ford later in the day, and the situation nationwide during a virtual roundtable with provincial premiers on Wednesday.

    • 17:34

      France Reports More Than 8,000 New COVID-19 Cases

    • 17:33

      UN Believes Coronavirus 'Vaccine Passport' Issue Should Be Depoliticised

      The debate concerning so-called "vaccine passports" has to be depoliticized while considering both positive and negative aspects of having such a document, United Nations spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said in a press briefing on Tuesday.

      "There's a lot of discussions going on. But the answer is not a simple one," Dujarric said when asked what the UN's position on vaccine passports was. "I think what is important though is to try to depoliticize the issue and look at the privacy, the health and obviously the economic benefits and come up with a solution that doesn't make the issues of inequity and lack of privacy even worse."

      The idea of introducing a vaccine certificate or negative test to exercise basic rights and freedoms such as travel or receiving services has raised major legal and ethical concerns. Opponents say vaccine passports infringe on basic individual rights, including to privacy, and represent a significant government overreach contrary to established democratic norms and practices.

      Dujarric pointed out that a vaccine passport could facilitate the much-needed resumption of travel and trade. However, he said, the concept of having such a passport brings about the privacy and inequity concerns that need to be examined.

      Last week, US State of Florida Governor Rick DeSantis signed an executive order that prohibited entities from requiring any kind of documents certifying coronavirus vaccination to obtain a service or be permitted to enter a place.

      In March, the World Health Organization advised against rolling out vaccination passports.

    • 17:30

      Rally Against COVID Restrictions Turns Violent in Rome

      Protesters (L) skirmish with anti-riot policemen as they take part in a demonstration of restaurant owners, entrepreneurs and small businesses owners on April 6, 2021 outside parliament on Piazza Montecitorio in Rome, to protest against closures and against Italy's Health minister, during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

      Italian Police Officer Injured as Protests Against COVID-19 Measures in Rome Turn Violent - Video

      ROME (Sputnik) - An Italian police officer on Tuesday sustained injuries and several people were detained during riots in downtown Rome, which started as a demonstration against the government-imposed COVID-19 restrictive measures, national media reported.
      Read more
    • 16:15

      Greek Health Official Urges Citizens Not to Cancel Vaccinations Over AstraZeneca Distrust

      Greek Deputy Health Minister Vassilis Kontozamanis called on citizens on Tuesday not to cancel their COVID-19 vaccination appointments because of concerns about side effects from the AstraZeneca vaccine.

      The appeal comes as a risk-assessment committee of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) is about to announce the results of its investigation into the possible link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and cases of severe blood clotting. The committee is expected to hold a press briefing to offer its conclusions within the next two days.

      "It is very important that our fellow citizens do not cancel their vaccination, because the vaccination program is delayed and this of course will have an impact on the pandemic," Kontozamanis said following a meeting with hospital governors in Thessaloniki, as quoted by Greek newspaper Kathimerini.

      The senior official stressed that Greece was closely following the direction given by the EMA, which has greenlighted the vaccine.

      "There is no cause for concern and whatever incidents have occurred, we must first connect them to the vaccine and make decisions accordingly," Kontozamanis added.

      Last month, a number of countries suspended the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine out of precaution following multiple reports of blood clotting after inoculation. Though the EU regulator's initial probe did not find any direct links between the vaccine and these severe complications, some countries restricted the vaccine's use to those under the age of 60, pending conclusive findings.

    • 15:45

      Strict Lockdown in Vienna Extended Until 18 April

      A strict lockdown in Vienna and two nearby Austrian regions has been extended until April 18, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Tuesday.

      "State governors of Vienna, Lower Austria and Burgenland have agreed in coordination with the federal government to extend the lockdown until April 18," Kurz told a news conference.

      Vienna Mayor Michael Ludwig told reporters that the situation in intensive care units (ICU) remained acute. Viennese hospitals continue to take in patients from other states who require specialized care.

      The decision to extend coronavirus curbs in the three eastern states was made unanimously, Ludwig said, adding that regional authorities would consider further restrictions if the number of ICU patients does not go down "drastically" by April 18.

    • 15:16

      WHO May Update Safety Assessment of AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine WIthin Two Days, Official Says

    • 14:00

      Oxfam Urges Rich Countries to Open Way to Cheaper Mass-Produced COVID-19 Vaccines

      LONDON (Sputnik) - The Oxfam charitable organisation on Tuesday urged rich countries to open the way to cheaper mass-produced COVID-19 vaccines, warning that failure to immunise the entire global population could cost the world around $9.2 trillion in economic losses.

      "Oxfam, with other members of the People's Vaccine Alliance, is calling for an end to 'vaccine apartheid' which is seeing rich nations vaccinate one person a second whilst many developing nations have yet to administer a single dose," the organisation said in a release.

      According to Oxfam, apart from tackling the "chronic global scarcity of vaccines," the world’s most developed economies should also agree to inject $650 billion more into the global economy to help developing countries cope with the already devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

      "Together, these two initiatives would go a long way towards providing the public health protection and economic stimulus that people and countries all over the world desperately need. Urgent action is needed as COVID-19 continues to spike, mutate and kill whilst continuing to wreak economic havoc", the statement added.

      Based on a study from the International Chamber of Commerce, Oxfam calculated that as a result of the current vaccine inequality the United States could lose up to $2,700 per person in household spending, the UK and France could face losses of up to $1,380 and $1,239, respectively, while Japan’s and Italy’s could amount to around $1,451 and $1,495.

      "The US, UK, Germany, France, Japan and Italy together could lose as much as $2.3 trillion in GDP this year unless they stop fighting on behalf of a handful of big drug companies to retain the intellectual property of the vaccine — despite this status quo plainly failing both them and everyone else," Anna Marriott, the public health manager for Oxfam, was quoted as saying.

      The confederation of 20 independent charitable organisations focusing on the alleviation of global poverty also called attention to the fact that these same rich countries are among those opposing recent calls made by India, South Africa and the World Trade Organization to break open the big pharma companies’ monopoly, adding that such move would help other manufacturers produce more and cheaper vaccines.

      "A People’s Vaccine is possible if WTO members waive these companies’ intellectual property, as India, South Africa and nearly 100 other countries are demanding, and the vaccine science and technology are shared through the WHO’s Coronavirus Technology Access Pool (C-Tap)," Marriot stressed.

      The Oxfam official also said that the virtual meeting of the world’s top 20 economies (G20) on Wednesday and the upcoming meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank this week would be a perfect moment for a breakthrough.

    • 13:51

      French Biotech Firm Valneva Says Results of Phase 1/2 Trials of COVID-19 Vaccine Positive

      Valneva, a French biotech company specializing in vaccines against infectious diseases, said on Tuesday that its candidate COVID-19 vaccine, VLA2001, has demonstrated strong enough efficacy in Phase 1/2 trials to begin a Phase 3 trial later this month.

      "Valneva SE ... today announced positive data for Part A of the Phase 1/2 clinical trial of its inactivated, adjuvant COVID-19 vaccine candidate, VLA2001. Based on this data, the Company plans to commence a Phase 3 clinical trial by the end of April 2021, subject to regulatory approval," the company said.

      The UK-funded trials involved 153 participants, aged from 18-55, who were given three different levels of dosing (low, medium, high), according to the statement. The regimen was two doses per participant three weeks apart.

      "VLA2001 was highly immunogenic with more than 90% of all study participants developing significant levels of antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus spike protein across all dose groups tested," the statement read.

      The rate of antibodies was 89.8 percent in the medium-dose group and 100 percent in the high-dose group, the company specified, adding that the high-dose regimen would therefore be taken into the Phase 3 trial.

      Cases of adverse events after the vaccination were generally "mild or moderate," and only two participants of the trials showed severe side effects, namely headache and fatigue.

      If approved by the UK regulator, the vaccine will be produced in Scotland, according to UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock, as quoted in the statement.

      Valneva expects to deliver the contracted 60,000 million doses to the UK government in the first quarter of 2022.

    • 13:36

      Australian Prime Minister Blames Supply Hold-ups for Slow Vaccine Rollout

      Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday blamed a slow pace of coronavirus vaccination on a disruption in supplies from overseas, after he was grilled about 2 million homemade doses being held up by testing.

      "The challenges Australia has had has been a supply problem. It is pure and simple. There was over 3 million doses from overseas that were contracted that never came," Morrison told reporters during a news conference.

      Only 854,983 vaccine shots have been administered in Australia by the end of March, down from the 4 million that the government promised in January. Morrison refused to speculate about a new target for April but said that batch testing by the Therapeutic Goods Administration of both homemade and imported vaccines was factored into the rollout schedule.

      "The fact that they actually have to get approved by the relevant authorities and do the batch testing is not a hold-up, it’s a necessary part of the process to guarantee Australian safety," he argued.

      The prime minister said he could not give reporters an average of vaccines that the Melbourne pharma company CSL produced every week. He said that the company had previously achieved the mark of 800,000 doses a week, and that "if we can do better than that, then we will."

    • 13:03

      Serbian President Gets Inoculated With COVID-19 Vaccine by China's Sinopharm

      Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic received a shot of the coronavirus vaccine by Chinese company Sinopharm on Tuesday, telling journalists after the inoculation that he felt well.

      Vucic traveled to a small town of Rudna Glava in the country's east to get vaccinated.

      "I feel great," the Serbian president told journalists outside the vaccination center after receiving the shot.

      Vucic repeatedly postponed his own vaccination and promised, in late March, that he would not get inoculated until at least one million Serbian citizens are secured both doses and the country receives a new supply of vaccines from China. On Monday, another 500,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine arrived in Serbia.

      According to Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic, 26 percent of the Serbian population received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 20 percent received both doses, as of Monday.

      Serbia has so far registered four COVID-19 vaccines — by Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca, as well as Russia's Sputnik V.

    • 12:43

      Johnson Pledges to Make International Travel Easier for UK Holidaymakers

      UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday that his government will try to make things easier for UK holidaymakers to travel abroad once current COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, hinting that cheaper coronavirus lateral flow tests could be used to cut down holiday costs.

      “I do think we want to make things as easy as we possibly can. We’re going to see what we can do to make things as flexible and affordable as possible,” Johnson told reporters during a visit to the AstraZeneca plant in the central English town of Macclesfield.

      The prime minister, who during a televised press conference on Monday had said that he was “hopeful” that the current ban on non-essential international travels could be lifted on 17 May as part of the stage 3 of the roadmap out of the lockdown, stressed on Tuesday that he is still confident about it, but warned that the government needs to be “prudent at this stage.”

      “I do want to see international travel start up again. [But] we have to be realistic, a lot of the destinations we want to go to at the moment are suffering a new wave of the illness, of COVID, as we know,” he added.

      Johnson also reacted to comments by EasyJet low-cost airline group chief Johan Lundgren, who warned earlier that if UK travellers were forced to pay for the more expensive PCR tests when returning from abroad only people who can afford it would be able to travel.

      “I don't think that is fair, I don't think it's right, and I don't think it is necessarily established from a medical and scientific point of view that is the right thing to do,” the businessman said.

      According to Johnson, the EasyJet boss was right to focus on this issue, but urged people to wait until May 17, when the government will be saying “as much as we can as soon as we can” about international travel.

    • 12:05

      New Tanzanian President Plans to Create Expert Team Marking Change in Coronavirus Policy

      Tanzania's new president, Samia Suluhu Hassan, announced on Tuesday intention to form a special team of experts to study COVID-19 issues and suggested remedies, marking a change in policy of late President John Magufuli, who had denied the existence of the coronavirus in the country.

      "I am moved to set a technical committee to review the coronavirus issue. To examine global remedies scientifically and thereafter advise the government professionally. It is unwise to mute, reject or accept without conducting technical research," Suluhu Hassan said as quoted by the Daily News national newspaper.

      Speaking after swearing in new and reshuffled permanent secretaries and deputies, she said that Tanzania cannot isolate itself amid the global struggle against the pandemic.

      "We will carry out technical research, form a technical team to give us the scope for the problem and what is being proposed globally. We want to know the efficacy of global remedies to the country. I am intending to take these measures on the covid," the president noted.

      Magufuli died on 17 March at the age of 61 in a hospital in Dar es Salam. Then-Vice President Suluhu Hassan, who subsequently became the first female president of the East African country, said that Magufuli died after a decade-long struggle with heart disease. However, the country's opposition and Western media claimed that Magufuli had suffered from the coronavirus. The authorities have denied the reports.

      Magufuli had consistently denied that there is COVID-19 in the country and encouraged citizens to pray and use herbal medicine as cure. Tanzania's health authorities also refused to purchase coronavirus vaccines.

    • 11:56

      Bollywood Actress Katrina Kaif Tests Positive for COVID-19

    • 11:16

      25 Million Spaniards Will Be Fully Vaccinated By 19 July, Spain's PM Sanchez Says

    • 11:05

      Up to 10,000 People to Be Vaccinated Weekly at Stade de France in Paris

      The vaccination center which opened at a national stadium in the northern suburb of Saint-Denis in the French capital on Tuesday can administer up to 10,000 COVID-19 vaccines per week, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said on Europe 1.

      "Starting today, a giant vaccination center is opening at the Stade de France, which will be open every day and vaccinate 10,000 people a week," Darmanin said.

      He added that the government has already opened 38  "vaccinodromes," or large-scale immunization centers, throughout France.

      In early February, President Emmanuel Macron pledged to make sure that all citizens willing to receive a COVID-19 vaccine would be able to do so by the end of summer.

      France's nationwide immunization campaign began in late December 2020. To date, over 9.3 million people have received the first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine, and more than 3.1 million citizens have received two.

    • 10:47

      Iran’s 1st Homegrown COVID-19 Vaccine to Be Ready Within 40 Days

      Iran’s first indigenous coronavirus vaccine is going to become available within 40 days, state media reported on Tuesday, citing Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi.

      The second vaccine with the monthly production capacity of eight to 10 million will be ready in the next 70 days, while third and fourth ones will come within 120 days, according to the IRNA news agency.

      Harirchi made the announcement during talks with Malaysian Deputy Foreign Minister Dato' Kamarudin Jaffar, noting that the two countries could cooperate on production of these shots.

      Iran is currently using Russian-made Sputnik V shots in its COVID-19 vaccination campaign. Later in the month, the country is planning to launch production of the Russian vaccine on its soil.

    • 10:17

      Watchdog Urges Cambodia to Enact Data Protection Law Over Alarming COVID-19 QR Code System

      A prominent human rights watchdog on Tuesday called on the Cambodian government to adopt a data protection law, as the country's "Stop COVID-19" virus contact tracing system based on the QR code raised privacy and rights concerns.

      In late February, Cambodia's Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications (MPTC), together with the Health Ministry, launched an electronic check-in program in a bid to contain and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the country. The authorities initially claimed that the QR code system was voluntary and it logged citizens' locations without violating user privacy, however, in early March, the MPTC said that the collected data was submitted to the government.

      "Cambodia should enact a data protection law that would regulate and protect the usage, collection, and retention of data in accordance with international standards for privacy and other rights," the Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement.

      The watchdog added that any contact tracing system, such as Cambodia’s "Stop COVID-19" initiative, should protect the right to privacy and be used strictly for responding to the pandemic.

      "Cambodia’s QR Code system is ripe for rights abuses because it lacks privacy protections for personal data," Phil Robertson, the HRW deputy Asia director, said as quoted in the statement.

      According to the watchdog, local businesses implement the tracing system out of fear of being deemed non-compliant with the government regulations under the recently passed law on measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

      Cambodia has so far registered over 2,750 cases of the coronavirus and 21 related deaths.

    • 09:59

      New York Greenlights COVID-19 Vaccinations for People Aged 16, Older

      New Yorkers aged 16 and older are eligible to get vaccinated against the coronavirus starting Tuesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

      "The vaccine is the weapon that will win the war, but only if we all take it, and starting April 6, all New Yorkers aged 16 and older will be able to get vaccinated," Cuomo said in a statement posted on his website.

      Last month, Alaska became the first US state to grant access to coronavirus vaccines for those aged 16 and over.

      In March, US President Joe Biden said he would instruct the authorities of all states to make all citizens eligible for vaccine doses by the end of April.

    • 09:45

      UK Labour Party Likely to Vote Against COVID-19 Vaccine Passports, Reports Say

      The UK Labour Party would likely vote against the so-called COVID-19 vaccine passports in the event the Conservative government table such proposal in Parliament, The Guardian newspaper reported on Tuesday.

      According to the news outlet, which cited senior anonymous sources from the party, Labour thinks the government has not clearly explained how the COVID-19 certificates would work and what their purpose and the cost to the UK taxpayer were.

      During a televised press conference on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that no decision has been made yet regarding the introduction of the vaccine passports, arguing that the government is still assessing some "complicated ethical and practical issues."

      Asked if he would put such proposal to a vote in Parliament, Johnson, who had early said a vaccine passport would be “discriminatory,” said that “if there’s something to put to Parliament, I’m sure we’ll be doing that.”

      The idea of introducing a vaccine certificate to prove that a person has had a coronavirus vaccine, a recent negative test result or have antibodies from an infection in order to be granted access to theaters and sports stadiums is being rejected by a large number of lawmakers, including 40 Conservatives, and civil rights groups.

      Labour lawmaker and shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth refused to say on Tuesday how his party would vote, but said that neither the ministers nor Johnson have been clear about their vaccine passport plans.

      “There's a lot of confusion out there. I just want ministers to be honest and straight with us and tell us exactly what their policy proposals are,” Ashworth told Sky News broadcaster, adding that the prime minister “wasn’t able to defend it or offer any convincing answer” at Monday’s press briefing.

      An Ipsos Moris poll released last week showed that the majority of the UK population supports introducing the vaccine certificates for certain activities like traveling abroad, and professions, despite recognizing ethical and legal concerns.

    • 09:38

      Japan's Health Minister Advises Caution as COVID-19 Cases Surge in Tokyo

      Japanese Health Minister Norihisa Tamura announced that residents, business operators and healthcare workers in the capital city of Tokyo should remain vigilant in the wake of a recent surge in COVID-19 infections, with the latest daily tally reaching 399 new cases, media reported on Tuesday.

      Japanese health authorities and officials have been expressing concerns about the beginning of the fourth wave of the pandemic since the lifting of the state of emergency in the end of February, calling this decision premature.

      On Monday, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga denied that Japan is facing the fourth wave.

      However, starting Monday stricter COVID-19 restrictions have been enforced in two regions in the west of Japan — Osaka and Hyogo — as well as a region in the north, Miyagi, The measures dictate that restaurants and bars in six major cities should close by 8 p.m. and will face a fine of up to 200,000 yen ($1,800) for noncompliance.

      Though the increase in daily cases in Tokyo is not as sharp as in the three hardest-hit prefectures, the current situation still warrants "extreme caution," the health minister was cited as saying by the Kyodo news agency.

      The number of infections in Tokyo has been going upward since mid-March.

    • 08:51

      Philippines Reports 9,373 New COVID-19 Cases

    • 08:22

      Russia Registers 8,328 COVID-19 Cases in Past 24 Hours

      Russia registered 8,328 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, down from 8,646 the day before, taking the overall tally to 4,597,868, the coronavirus response centre said on Tuesday.

      "Over the past day, 8,328 coronavirus cases were confirmed across 85 Russian regions, including 1,008 cases (12.1 percent) without clinical symptoms," the centre said.

      The rate of increase fell to 0.18 percent.

      Moscow confirmed 1,747 new coronavirus cases over the given period, down from 1,876 the day before. The Russian capital was followed by St. Petersburg with 702 new cases, down from 707 the day before, and the Moscow Region with 533 new cases, down from 593 on Monday.

      The response centre reported 389 COVID-19 fatalities, up from 343 the day before, raising the country's death toll to 101,106.

      Total recoveries increased by 8,902 over the given period, up from 7,052 the day before, and reached 4,220,035.

    • 08:22

      Georgian Prime Minister Confirms He Has Coronavirus

      Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili confirmed on Tuesday that he has coronavirus.

      "After undergoing a test, it is confirmed that I have coronavirus. I feel good, I am in self-isolation and I continue to work remotely," Garibashvili wrote on Facebook.

    • 08:06

      Red Cross Says CAR 'Really Falling Short' of Objective to Vaccinate Half of Population

      The Central African Republic risks failing to meet its objective to have 51 percent of adults vaccinated against COVID-19 unless it secures more shots, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) head of delegation in the country told Sputnik.

      In an interview with Sputnik last week, the spokesman for the opposition Union for Central African Renewal party's leader warned that CAR was lagging behind on its vaccinations for lack of a strategy despite sizable foreign donations.

      According to the ICRC’s Bruce Biber, the country has secured 700,000 vaccine doses. Some 375,000 of them are those delivered via the global procurement tool COVAX, while the others were obtained via bilateral mechanisms of support. Most of these vaccines will be AstraZeneca shots.

      "Just to remind you that the population is about 5 million. So it is still really falling short of the government’s objective to vaccinate at least 51% percent of the population. There is a real need for the country to receive many more vaccines to be able to reach this objective of 51%," Biber said in an interview.

      Like elsewhere, priority groups are going to be health workers, those over 60 and people with underlying diseases.

      Prisoners and detainees are yet another group that should not be left behind, the ICRC head of delegation continued.

      The Red Cross, he noted, will help the government vaccinate the prison population as part of its broader efforts to ensure that prisoners, including those captured during the years-long conflict with militias in the country, are treated humanely.

      The COVID-19 immunization at the same time should not hurdle vaccinations against other dangerous diseases circulating in the region, Biber warned.

      "There is a danger that everyone thinks only of covid-19. In this country there are other weaknesses, other illnesses that are very badly. So we all must make sure that the covid-19 [vaccination] is not done instead of these other vaccinations," he stated.

      So, the ICRC believes that a coronavirus vaccine should be promoted as part of a wider campaign to inoculate the population against all diseases threatening the region.

    • 06:41

      New Zealand, Australia Resume Quarantine-Free Travel From 19 April

      New Zealand and Australia will mutually restore quarantine-free travel from 19 April, albeit with a number of precautions to ensure safe reopening amid the pandemic, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday.

      "The Director-General of Health considers the risk of transmission of COVID-19 from Australia to New Zealand is low and that quarantine free travel is safe to commence. Our team’s success in managing COVID-19 and keeping it out over the past 12 months now opens up the opportunity to reconnect with loved ones and resume Trans-Tasman travel," Ardern said.

      The trips, however, will not be what they were before the pandemic, according to the prime minister.

      "People will need to plan for the possibility of having travel disrupted if there is an outbreak," she noted.

      In addition, to be eligible to join a quarantine-free flight, people must not have had a positive COVID-19 test result in 14 days prior to the trip.

      Such flights to New Zealand will also be free of passengers who have come from anywhere but Australia in the last 14 days.

    • 06:33

      Delhi Announces Curfew Between 10 PM and 5 AM to Tackle 2nd COVID-19 Wave

    • 05:53

      Colombia's Bogota Toughens Movement Restrictions to Curb 3rd COVID-19 Wave

      The Colombian capital of Bogota is introducing tough movement restrictions for the next two weeks as the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic puts intensive care units under severe strain, Mayor Claudia Lopez said.

      "Starting tomorrow [April 6] in Bogota, we have pico y sedula; at the end of the week — on Saturday, Sunday and Monday — we will all stay in our homes, a quarantine will be established, and leaving home is allowed only when absolutely necessary," Lopez said in a video address, published on Twitter late on Monday.

      Pico y cedula is a Colombian mobility restriction regime, in which citizens are allowed to visit shops, banks and government institutions either on even or odd days, based on the last digit of their ID card.

      According to the mayor, the Easter holidays increased the burden on intensive care units, seeing the number of admissions double to 114 per day.

      Tentatively, the new restrictions will be in place for two weeks until 19 April.

      Since the onset of the pandemic, Bogota has logged over 690,000 COVID-cases, including 14,500 deaths. In total, the country has confirmed more than 2.4 million infections and some 64,200 fatalities.

    • 05:07

      Japan Prime Minister Suga Receives Second Dose of COVID Vaccine Ahead of US Visit, Reports Say

      Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga received a second dose of a coronavirus vaccine ahead of his visit to the United States, NHK reported.

      Suga received the first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine in mid-March. Then the vaccination was covered by local media. After the injection, the prime minister told reporters that he not felt pain. The second shot was not covered in the media, information about it, as well as the fact that after the inoculation Suga felt good, was received by the TV channel from sources in the prime minister's office.

      The prime minister's vaccination is linked to his planned visit to the United States in April, during which the Japanese leader is expected to meet with US President Joe Biden for the first time.

    • 04:23

      Venezuelan Opposition Leader Guaido Says Recovering From COVID-19

      Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who earlier contracted the novel coronavirus disease, said his new test for COVID-19 was negative.

      "I want to inform you that the test for COVID-19 was negative, I am already recovering," the politician wrote on Twitter.

      In late March, Guaido said he had contracted coronavirus. The disease had a mild form.

    • 04:23

      Germany Registers 6,885 New COVID-19 Cases

    Live Updates: Germany Registers 6,885 New COVID-19 Cases
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