Reuters reports a top US official has said between 100 and 200 national guard deployed to the Biden inauguration have tested positive to Covid-19.
The Australian state of Victoria has recorded no new locally-acquired cases of Covid-19 for the 17th day in a row, and only three among returned travellers.
Australia yesterday marked seven of the last eight days with no new cases of Covid-19 in the community, with focus continuing to be on cases arising in travellers in hotel quarantine, particularly among the cohort who came to Melbourne for the Australian Open.
At a national cabinet meeting of the prime minister and state and territory leaders, no decision was made to increase the number of returned travellers allowed into Australia each week, however Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she intended to present a formal plan to the prime minister to use regional mining camps to boost capacity in hotel quarantine.
In one decision to come from the meeting, returned travellers who test positive to the mutant strain of Covid-19 originating in the United Kingdom will have to isolate for 14 days after their diagnosis.
The federal government has flagged potential support for the ailing tourism sector given the likelihood that international travellers will not be allowed into Australia this year.
The minister responsible for tourism, Dan Tehan, told Hlcarpenter.com Australia discussions were underway with the sector about targeted financial support once the jobkeeper support comes to an end at the end of March.
The first case of the South African coronavirus variant was identified in Portugal on Friday, health institute Ricardo Jorge told Lusa news agency, as the country struggles to contain a crippling surge in cases partially blamed on the rapid spread of the British variant.
“We are undergoing due process to rapidly test and interrupt this potential chain of transmission,” the Ricardo Jorge Institute told Lusa. It did not say where in Portugal the strain had been detected.
The country registered a record 234 coronavirus deaths and 13,987 cases on Friday, and is currently reporting the highest seven-day rolling average of new cases and deaths per million worldwide.
A summary of today's developments
- France registered a further 23,292 new confirmed Covid-19 cases and 649 more deaths from the virus in the last 24 hours, according to data from the country’s health ministry on Friday. France’s overall Covid-19 death toll stands at 72,647 - the seventh highest in the world.
- After AstraZeneca confirmed initial deliveries to the EU of the Covid-19 vaccine it is developing with Oxford University would fall short of the targeted volumes because of a glitch in production (see 4.58pm), Austria has warned that any delay would be unacceptable.
- Germany has detected its first case of a newly discovered Brazilian coronavirus variant, feared to be particularly infectious, regional health officials in the state of Hesse have said, AFP reports.
- BioNTech is to supply 50 millionm specialty needles at no profit to countries struggling to extract a sixth dose from vials of its COVIDCovid-19 vaccine as Europe’s immunisation drive is held back by a temporary supply shortfall.
- Thousands of Hong Kongers will be ordered to stay in their homes for the city’s first coronavirus lockdown, local media have reported, as authorities battle an outbreak in one of its poorest and most densely packed districts (see 11.28am)
- The European Ombudsman is investigating the secrecy with which the European Union’s executive is handling Covid-19 vaccine supply contracts (see 3.02pm)
- The European commission will seek clarification from Pfizer over whether there will be fresh delays in delivering Covid vaccines to EU countries next week, a spokesman for the EU executive said (see 12.09).
- Epidemiologists in Greece are poised to recommend that junior and high schools reopen as the country’s coronavirus case load continues to drop (see 1.14pm).
- Hungary has signed a deal to buy 2m doses of Russia’s Sputnik V Covid vaccine, the first EU country to do so (see 12.48pm)
- Portugal has reported 234 Covid-19 deaths, a record for the fifth day in a row. The country of 10 million people has reported 9,920 fatalities since the start of the pandemic.
- The International Olympic Committee president, Thomas Bach, has said the Olympic Games will go ahead in July despite a state of emergency being declared in Tokyo because of increasing Covid-19 cases.
- Spain’s defence ministry is launching an internal inquiry to find out if senior military personnel dodged coronavirus vaccine protocols by receiving a jab before their turn.
- Morocco received 2m doses of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, making it the first African country to get a large enough shipment to roll out a nationwide immunisation programme.
- Dubai is keeping restrictions loose to preserve its reputation as a centre for trade, transport and tourism despite rising case numbers.
Brazil has registered 56,552 new cases of coronavirus and 1,096 new deaths, the health ministry said, Reuters reports.
The country has recorded more than 8.75 million cases and more than 215,000 deaths.
Imams across Britain are helping a drive to dispel coronavirus disinformation, using Friday sermons and their influential standing within Muslim communities to argue that Covid-19 vaccines are safe.
Qari Asim, chairman of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board which is leading a campaign to reassure its faithful, is among those publically advocating that the inoculations are compatible with Islamic practices.
We are confident that the two vaccines that have been used in the UK, Oxford AstraZeneca and Pfizer, are permissible from an Islamic perspective,” he told AFP.
The hesitancy, the anxiety (and) concern is driven by misinformation, conspiracy theories, fake news and rumours.”
Mali has chosen to use the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in its plan to initially immunise 4.2 million people, targeting medical staff, the elderly and those with comorbidities, the country’s minister of health said.
Health minister Fanta Siby said the vaccines, which unlike some others do not need to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures, would arrive at the end of March, Reuters reports.
AstraZeneca told European Union officials it would cut deliveries of its Covid-19 vaccine to the bloc by 60%to 31m doses in the first quarter of the year due to production problems, a senior official told Reuters.
The company was expected to deliver to the 27 EU countries about 80m doses by the end of March, the official who was involved in the talks said.
The company had also agreed to deliver more than 80m doses in the second quarter, but on Friday was not able to indicate delivery targets for the April-June period due to the production issues, the official said.
The company said the cut was due to production problems at a vaccine factory in Belgium run by its partner Novasep, the official said.
AstraZeneca confirmed the drop in deliveries without giving specific details on the magnitude of the shortfall.
“Initial volumes will be lower than originally anticipated due to reduced yields at a manufacturing site within our European supply chain,” a spokesman said.
A variant of coronavirus already accounts for about half of new infections in the Brazilian Amazonian city of Manaus, a researcher warned, Reuters reports.
It comes as Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa recommended the approval of a second emergency use request of China’s CoronaVac vaccine, which would allow for the use of 4.8m doses that were partly manufactured in Brazil.
Brazil has already approved a first emergency request for the use of Sinovac’s CoronaVac to cover 6m doses that were imported from China.
A team led by immunologist Ester Sabino collected genomic data from Covid-19 tests in Manaus that indicated 42% of the confirmed cases were infected by the new variant, which has mutations similar to the British and South African variants.
That was the frequency that appeared in our December data. We are finishing January now and it is increasing,” said Sabino, a University of Sao Paulo professor.
She said it was quite likely the new Brazilian variant is more transmissible than the current dominant strain, although it has not been proven definitively, because it has mutations shown to have that effect in other variants.
Severe allergic reactions to Moderna Inc’s coronavirus vaccine appear to be quite rare, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said, after over 4 million people had received their first dose, Reuters reports.
Based on the data, the CDC said anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction, occurred at a rate of 2.5 cases per 1mshots administered.
The agency cautioned that the risk of anaphylaxis was difficult to compare to non Covid-19 vaccines because it is still so early in the vaccination program.
As of 10 January, there were 10 cases of anaphylaxis reported among 4.04 million people who received their first doses of Moderna’s two-shot vaccine, according to the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The CDC said the characteristics of severe allergic reactions to Moderna’s vaccine were similar to those reported with the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer Inc and partner BioNTech SE.
Earlier this month, the CDC reported severe allergic reactions to the Pfizer/BioNTech shot occurred at a rate of 11.1 per 1 million vaccinations.
France death toll surpasses 72,000
France registered a further 23,292 new confirmed Covid-19 cases and 649 more deaths from the virus in the last 24 hours, according to data from the country’s health ministry on Friday.
France’s overall Covid-19 death toll stands at 72,647 - the seventh highest in the world.
Belgium is banning all leisure travel abroad for its citizens as of next week and until March in an effort to contain the spread of Covid-19, AP reports.
Prime minister Alexander De Croo said that “when people travel, the virus travels with them.”
He said visitors from Britain, South Africa and South America will have to quarantine for ten days to make sure they don’t bring dangerous variants into Belgium.
The move came one day after the 27 European Union leaders said that borders within the bloc needed to remain open to assure essential transport and movement of workers, but left it up to member states to take other measures they deemed necessary.
In Belgium only essential business, family and humanitarian travel will still be allowed from next week until March.
Public outrage is growing in Spain as cases of politicians and well-connected opportunists jumping the queue in the coronavirus vaccination campaign come to light, even as delivery delays have forced some regions to stop new inoculations, AP reports.
Spain’s defence ministry has been the latest governmental department to launch an internal inquiry to find out if the military top brass dodged coronavirus vaccine protocols by receiving a jab before their turn.
El Confidencial Digital, a news website, first reported that chief of staff, Gen Miguel Ángel Villarroya and several other high-ranking officers in Spain’s armed forces had recently received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
In Spain, top government and other officials have not been granted preferential access to the vaccine — unlike other European countries where they were among the first to get the jab, to encourage members of the public to follow suit.
Nursing home residents and staff, as well as first-line health workers, are currently receiving jabs as priority groups in the national vaccination plan. The rollout is suffering delays due to a shortage of deliveries by Pfizer/BioNTech, currently the main supplier of vaccines.
Having administered over 86% of the 1.1m vaccine doses received, several regions have halted new vaccinations until fresh supplies arrive.
The Finnish government has said it would put in place stricter regulations for entering the country, due to new, more contagious variants of the coronavirus spreading within its borders.
Finland, which has been among the least affected countries in Europe by Covid, has so far found 86 people carrying the new variants. In the country of 5.5 million people, there have been 632 deaths related to Covid. Some experts believe that the low death rate could be down to relatively high levels of vitamin D sufficiency.
Austria hits out at AstraZeneca vaccine delivery delay
After AstraZeneca confirmed initial deliveries to the EU of the Covid-19 vaccine it is developing with Oxford University would fall short of the targeted volumes because of a glitch in production (see 4.58pm), Austria has warned that any delay would be unacceptable.
Austrian health minister Rudolf Anschober warned the drugmaker that any delay would be “absolutely unacceptable”, though he stopped short of confirming reports in Austrian media that the company had told the country it could only supply 600,000 vaccine doses in the first quarter rather than the 2 million originally planned, Reuters reports.
“Agreed delivery amounts must be stuck to,” Anschober said in a statement. Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Monday that he and his counterparts from Denmark and Greece would pressure the European Medicines Agency to rapidly approve AstraZeneca’s vaccine. The Baltic states and the Czech Republic have joined that effort.
The EU has struck a deal to purchase at least 300 million doses from AstraZeneca, with an option for an additional 100 million, part of the company’s global commitments to supply more than 3 billion doses.
The delay hampers a European immunisation campaign that has already been blighted by a temporary shortfall in the supply chain of vaccine developers Pfizer and BioNTech, who are modifying a site in Belgium to boost output.
A decision on the EU’s regulatory approval of the compound has been expected for the end of January, Reuters reports. It comes as the European commission seeks clarification from Pfizer over whether there will be fresh delays in delivering Covid vaccines to EU countries next week (see 12.09pm).