San Marino on Tuesday received a first batch of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccines, government officials said, allowing the tiny state landlocked inside Italy to start its immunisation campaign.
First inoculations are expected to begin as soon as this week on a voluntary basis with priority given to health workers and people over the age of 75.
“We cannot rule out that some people will decide not to use the opportunity”, the health minister Roberto Ciavatta told Reuters. “But we wanted to give them the option”.
The deal was on top of the accord the 24-square-mile enclave managed to seal last month with Italy and the European Commission, granting it access to some of the shots the EU has secured for its member states.
But complex and lengthy bureaucratic procedures and widespread shortages of the shots delayed the process.
“We are still waiting for some authorisations from the pharmaceuticals companies involved to unblock the process,” Ciavatta said. “We are confident we will seen a breakthrough soon”.
In the meantime, San Marino - which recorded around 3,400 coronavirus cases and some 70 Covid-19 related deaths - announced last week the agreement with Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, which markets Sputnik V abroad.
The 15,000 doses of Sputnik V could immunise just under a quarter of San Marino’s 34,000 population, as the vaccine is administered to each person in two doses, with the booster shot given 21 days after the first.
The terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but officials involved in the negotiations said San Marino had secured the shots for nearly 130,000 euros.
Israel will impose a night-time curfew for three nights from Thursday evening to curb the spread of the coronavirus during the Jewish holiday of Purim, the government said.
The curfew, from 8:30pm to 5am daily, will be in force from Thursday night until Sunday morning, a joint statement from the prime minister’s office and the health ministry said.
Gatherings will be limited to a maximum of 10 people in closed spaces and 20 people in open spaces, the statement added.
Sometimes dubbed the “fun” Jewish holiday, Purim typically includes costumes and boisterous public celebrations marking a story dating from fourth-century Persia that saw Jews defeat a murderous plot against them. For many it also involves services in synagogues and shared meals.
The holiday will be celebrated Thursday night and Friday.
Last year, gatherings for Purim were banned, but many ultra-Orthodox defied the restrictions, which authorities said contributed to the spread of the virus.
Israel has officially recorded more than 757,000 coronavirus cases and over 5,600 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
The government has begun gradually easing restrictions in place since December, when it imposed its third lockdown.
Israel has administered the two recommended shots of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to more than three million people, roughly a third of its population.
Argentina expects to receive 904,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine developed by Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinopharm on Thursday, the government said on Tuesday.
The delivery is part of a purchase of 1 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine, which will be added to the 1.22 million doses the country has already received of the Sputnik V vaccine from Russia. Argentina has also received 580,000 doses of the Covishield vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.
“Aerolineas Argentinas flight AR1050 departed for Beijing to bring 904,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine to the country. It is estimated that the flight will arrive at Ezeiza International Airport [on the outskirts of Buenos Aires] on Thursday,” the Argentine government said in a news release.
In the country of roughly 45 million people, 2.08 million cases of Covid-19 have been registered, 51,510 of them fatal, according to official data.
Brazil reported a further 62,715 cases of Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, and another 1,386 deaths, the health ministry said on Tuesday. The country has now registered 10,257,875 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 248,529, according to ministry data, in the world’s third worst outbreak outside the United States and India and its second-deadliest.
Suriname launched a coronavirus vaccination campaign on Tuesday with a small batch of donated doses, as the nation seeks a steady supply of inoculations.
The country, which has a population of about 600,000, has reported 8,869 cases of Covid-19 and 168 deaths. It hopes to bring in 400,000 doses by the end of the year.
It began its inoculation effort with 1,000 doses provided by Barbados and is expecting to receive a donation of 50,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine from India as early as this week, the public health minister Amar Ramadhin said.
“We look forward to negotiating with the Indian government because we know there are more vaccines on their way,” said Ramadhin, a physician who was himself vaccinated in a televised broadcast. “We will use the power of negotiation and friendship between India and Suriname.” About a quarter of Suriname’s population is of Indian descent.
Suriname made a $750,000 down payment in 2020 to the World Health Organization-backed vaccine distribution network, Covax, with the hope of receiving up to 20,000 Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines in early February.
That delivery was delayed and Suriname is now expected to receive doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in the first quarter.
It also hopes to receive 10,000 doses through an agreement between the African Medical Supplies Platform, a nonprofit initiative of the African Union, and the Caribbean Community, a regional cooperation organisation.
The vaccinations will first focus on about 1,500 healthcare workers, followed by 2,000 residents of retirement homes. Indigenous people are also a priority.
Air travel is limited to returnees and those with urgent travel needs. Weekend lockdowns remain in place, although schools opened their doors last week for the first time in 2021.
French ICU patients with Covid at 12-week high
The number of patients treated in intensive care units for Covid-19 in France has reached a 12-week peak of 3,435, as regional officials urge for a ban on public gatherings and consider a partial weekend lockdown.
Unlike some of its European neighbours, France has resisted a new national lockdown to control more contagious variants, hoping a curfew in place since 15 December can contain the pandemic.
The country ended its second national lockdown, which ran from 30 October to 15 December. But one of the conditions for the switch from lockdown to a national curfew was that the ICU figures remained between 2,500 and 3,000.
France reported 20,064 new Covid-19 cases, up from the previous Tuesday’s 19,590. The seven-day moving average of cases remained above 20,000 for the third day in a row, at 20,109, the highest since 20,466 on 5 February.
The northern port city of Dunkirk is urging the government to impose a ban on all public gatherings there until 15 March as a “last chance” move to halt a surge in Covid-19 infections.
Dunkirk’s mayor Patrice Vergriete did not advocate a partial weekend lockdown such as in the Mediterranean city of Nice, but added he would not oppose it if the government imposed such a measure.
The health minister Olivier Veran will head to Dunkirk on Wednesday.
The total cumulative number of cases in France rose to 3.63 million, the sixth highest in the world. The number of people who have died from Covid-19 infections rose by 431 to 85,044 - the seventh highest death toll globally - versus a seven-day moving average of 319, a more than one-and-a half month low.
The former Czech president Vaclav Klaus, who has recently made a splash by publicly defying government restrictions to stem the Covid-19 spread, has contracted the disease, his spokesman said Tuesday.
“He wasn’t feeling well and he tested positive for Covid this afternoon,” Petr Macinka, spokesman for the Vaclav Klaus Institute think tank, told AFP.
“He underwent a scan and left for treatment at home,” he added.
The Czech Republic currently has the highest per capita infection rate in the world and is second after neighbouring Slovakia for deaths, according to an AFP tally.
A former liberal economist and staunchly eurosceptic Czech prime minister, Klaus served as president in 2003-2013 after succeeding the late Vaclav Havel.
During his term, Klaus became known for being the last politician in the EU to sign the bloc’s crucial Lisbon Treaty.
Since the pandemic began, the 79-year-old has repeatedly appeared in public without the mandatory face mask, and in January he was handed a fine worth 10,000 crowns (387 euros, $470) for that.
In the same month, he delivered a speech at a rally against the restrictions, saying the government should know that “we have had enough of restrictions and instructions harming our lives”.
He also stood up against Covid vaccination, prompting a response from his successor Miloš Zeman, a veteran left-winger and Klaus’s former political foe.
“Get the vaccine, Vaclav, or you run the risk of catching Covid at your age,” Zeman urged Klaus in a newspaper interview in January.
A growing number of the Polish population is opposed to getting a Covid vaccine, according to an opinion poll published on Tuesday, despite government warnings about a rising third wave of infections.
The survey conducted by pollsters CBOS this month found 33% of Poles do not want to get vaccinated, against 55% who said they were in favour.
In a previous poll in January, the proportion had been 30% against getting a vaccine and 56% in favour.
Less than half the respondents aged under 45 want to be vaccinated, according to the latest poll of 1,179 people conducted from 1-11 February.
Coronavirus infection numbers have been rising in Poland and the government warned last week that it expects the trend to continue because of new variants, although it has so far not said it will reverse the recent easing of restrictions.
So far this year, the government has re-opened non-essential shops as well as museums, cinemas, theatres and swimming pools.
“The third wave of the pandemic is already in Poland and it is no longer a question of whether this will happen or not but what the scale will be,” the health minister Adam Niedzielski said on Friday.
The health ministry on Tuesday reported 6,310 new infections and 247 deaths - up from 5,178 infections and 196 deaths on the same day last week.
Michal Dworczyk, the top government official in charge of Poland’s vaccination drive, announced on Twitter on Monday that he himself has tested positive for Covid-19 and urged people to get vaccinated.