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Italy halts vaccine shipment to Australia as Europe ‘scrambles to save shots”

5 March

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 2,569,000 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have passed 115 million world wide.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 28.8 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 520,356 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

More than a dozen US states reported increases in hospitalizations for the coronavirus, threatening to reverse a national trend that’s pushed in-patient numbers to the lowest level since the fall. US hospitals were treating 49,519 patients as of Thursday, data from the Department of Health and Human Services show.

Vaccine news

Italy: Italy halted a shipment of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine due for Australia. It came after the EU introduced new rules governing the shipment of vaccines outside the bloc, although this is the first intervention of its kind. Meanwhile, Italy and Germany will both administer just a single coronavirus vaccine dose to people who have been infected with the virus up to six months beforehand, amid a scramble to save shots.

Australia: Health minister Greg Hunt, downplayed the impact of Italy blocking supplies of AstraZeneca vaccines even as the nation starts its rollout. The company had a “deep, broad, global supply chain,” Hunt said. Australia began its rollout of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine about two weeks ago. It’s set to start domestic production of the AstraZeneca product, targeting 1 million doses a week from late March.

France: France has criticised a push by Austria and Denmark to coordinate with Israel on developing new Covid-19 jabs, as EU unity frays even further over its troubled vaccine rollout

Russia: Russia expects several EU countries to approve the use of its Sputnik V vaccine this month and Moscow could provide vaccines for 50 million Europeans starting from June if the shot wins EU-wide approval, Russia’s RDIF fund said.

US: New York City has received 16,300 Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses, its first delivery of the one-shot vaccine, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. The city will use the J&J shots to begin vaccinating home-bound seniors, the mayor said in a Thursday briefing. De Blasio said when he becomes eligible to get the vaccine, he hopes to get the J&J shot. The city surpassed 2 million vaccinations this week and the city’s health commissioner has said vaccines may be available to all residents by late April.

Cuba: Cuba has begun late-stage trials of its most advanced experimental Covid-19 vaccine, edging closer to a potential home-grown inoculation campaign after shunning foreign jabs.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong has seen vaccination rates in the city decline for two straight days, in a sign the government may face difficulties keeping up the momentum of the inoculation program. The city administered vaccines to 10,300 people on Thursday, 12% lower than Wednesday’s rate, which itself was a 10% drop from the previous day. Tuesday’s total of 13,000 was the largest number of vaccinations since Hong Kong began giving shots to the public at the end of February.

Taiwan: The National Health Research Institutes will apply to build a second plant to expand vaccine production capacity, Taipei-based Apple Daily reported, citing Health Minister Chen Shih-chung. The government expects mass production of Taiwan’s Covid vaccines to start in July, the newspaper said.

Indonesia: Indonesia holds phase-3 trial for China vaccine. A trial on the Covid-19 vaccine produced by China’s Anhui Zhifei Longkema Biological Pharmaceutical will enroll as many as 4,000 participants in Bandung and Jakarta, CNN Indonesia reports. Approval for an emergency use of the vaccine is expected in September, CNN reports.

Canada: The Canadian minister in charge of vaccines said it’s “highly likely” the government will be able to move up its target date of September for inoculating every citizen who wants a Covid-19 shot. Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Thursday in an interview that more people could get their jabs at a faster pace as the delivery of doses ramps up.

Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe has become the first African country to authorize the use of India’s only homegrown coronavirus vaccine, which the developers this week said showed strong efficacy. The first batch of Covaxin, which was co-developed by Hyderabad-based Bharat Biotech International Ltd. and the Indian Council of Medical Research, is due to arrive shortly, the Indian Embassy in the southern African nation said on its Twitter account.

Lockdown updates

Italy: Almost one year after Milan became the first European region to enter into a hard lockdown, the Italian financial capital is again facing major restrictions. All schools will be closed until 14March and no person will be able to leave town if not for business and health reasons. Milan citizens won’t be allowed to reach their holiday houses, with bars and restaurants remaining closed while shops can stay open.

France: France plans to tighten restrictions and accelerate vaccinations in parts of the country as the government continues to shy away from a third nationwide lockdown on hopes that improvement is just weeks away. The Pas-de-Calais department on the northern coast of France will be put under a weekend lockdown as of Saturday, French Prime Minister Jean Castex said at a weekly news conference. “A lockdown, even limited to the weekend, is a heavy measure,” he said.

Kuwait: Kuwait has imposed a partial curfew as daily cases jumped to the highest on record. The curfew comes into force from 7 March for a month, the Council of Ministers said in a statement. The Gulf nation reported 1,716 new cases on Thursday, taking the total to 196,497 with 1,105 deaths.

Brazil: Brazil’s second biggest city of Rio de Janeiro will be the latest to adopt new Covid restrictions from tomorrow, including a night curfew, in a bid to stall a second wave of the virus

UK: In the UK more than four in 10 over-80s in England may have met with someone outside of their support bubble within three weeks of receiving the first jab, an official survey suggested.

Japan: The Tokyo Metropolitan Government aims to bring daily coronavirus infections down to a 7-day average of about 140 before lifting the state of emergency in the capital, Nikkei reports, citing an unidentified person. Infections by that measure are about 269 now and the government is also aiming to lower hospitalized patients to about 1,000 from the current 1,519.

New Zealand: Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, will exit a seven-day lockdown this weekend after a small community outbreak of Covid-19 was contained, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said. Auckland’s alert level will drop to 2 from 3 at 6 am local time Sunday, allowing schools and businesses to reopen, Ardern said after a cabinet meeting Friday in Wellington. The remainder of New Zealand will move to level 1, meaning people no longer have to observe social distancing or limit the size of gatherings.

US: Southern New Hampshire University has agreed to pay $1.25 million to resolve a class action in federal court by students demanding refunds after the school canceled in-person classes last spring because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The deal appears to be among the first to be reached in a sea of hundreds of lawsuits filed by students against colleges and universities in federal court after Covid-19 disrupted in-person curricula last year.

Economy updates

US: California Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order extending authorization for local governments to halt evictions for commercial renters impacted by the Covid -19 pandemic through June 30, 2021, according to a statement. The order extends protections against price gouging for emergency and medical supplies amid the ongoing response to the pandemic.

China: China has set a conservative economic growth target of above 6% for the year, well below what economists forecast, and outlined ongoing fiscal support with prudent monetary policy. The government will narrow the budget deficit to 3.2% of gross domestic product this year from 3.6% in 2020, Premier Li Keqiang said Friday at the opening of the National People’s Congress.

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