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CDC: Africa not ‘walking away’ from AstraZeneca virus shot











A nurse injects a dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine to a tourist resort employee at the north of Port Louis, Mauritius, Feb 10, 2021. (SUMEET MUDHOO / L’EXPRESS MAURICE VIA AP)

BUENOS AIRES / MILAN / LONDON / TEGUCIGALPA / MEXICO CITY / BERLIN / GENEVA / LISBON / PARIS / ADDIS ABABA / BOGOTA / BRASILIA / WASHINGTON / MALAMBO / BELGRADE / STOCKHOLM / RABAT / SANTIAGO / HAVANA / NAIROBI / MOSCOW – The African Union (AU) will not be “walking away” from AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine but will target its use in countries that have not reported cases of the variant dominant in South Africa, the head of its disease control body said on Thursday.

“For now our strategy is not to throw away our 100 million doses, but rather target countries that as we indicated have not reported cases of that specific variant,” John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said, adding that only six countries other than South Africa had reported that the variant was circulating.

The Africa CDC would be doing its own evaluations of the AstraZeneca vaccine across multiple countries, said Director John Nkengasong

The six countries are Botswana, Comoros, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique and Zambia, although there are concerns it has spread to other places like eSwatini and Tanzania.

Nkengasong said that plans to distribute 7 million AstraZeneca doses in Africa funded by South African telecoms firm MTN Group would move ahead. 

He said the Africa CDC would be doing its own evaluations of the AstraZeneca vaccine across multiple countries.

Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization Africa director, said the WHO was briefing African countries on a recommendation by its SAGE panel of experts to use the AstraZeneca vaccine, even in countries where the 501Y.V2 variant may reduce its efficacy.

She said interactions with countries neighboring South Africa were “particularly intense” after eSwatini said on Tuesday that it would not use the AstraZeneca shots.

The AU Commission on Wednesday emphasized a double burden on health systems across Africa due to a new Ebola outbreak and the raging COVID-19 pandemic.

The AU said in a statement the pandemic “alone has placed a heavy toll on countries and has already overstretched health systems globally”.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases recorded in Africa reached 3,694,023 as of Wednesday evening, the Africa CDC said, adding that the death toll stood at 96,299.

WHO on AstraZeneca shot

The World Health Organization (WHO) decided on Wednesday that potential benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University outweigh known and potential risks, amid concerns over its efficacy against the coronavirus variant found in South Africa.

The WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) panel said the two-dose AstraZeneca vaccine efficacy tended to be higher when the interval between doses was within the four to 12 weeks range.

The WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) panel said the two-dose AstraZeneca vaccine efficacy tended to be higher when the interval between doses was within the four to 12 weeks range

It also added that although preliminary analyses based on a small sample size in South Africa indicate a marked reduction in vaccine effectiveness against mild and moderate disease, it did not allow a specific assessment of vaccine efficacy against severe COVID-19. As indirect evidence is compatible with protection against severe COVID-19, the situation remains to be demonstrated in ongoing clinical trials and post-implementation evaluations.

In view of this, WHO currently recommends the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine even if the variants are present in a country. Countries should conduct a benefit-risk assessment according to the local epidemiological situation, including the extent of circulating virus variants.

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“We have made a recommendation that even if there is a reduction in the possibility of this vaccine having a full impact in its protection capacity, especially against severe disease, there is no reason not to recommend its use even in countries that have circulation of the variant,” said SAGE chair Alejandro Cravioto at a briefing.

Meanwhile, SAGE cautioned that as there are currently no efficacy or safety data for children or adolescents below the age of 18 years, vaccination of individuals below 18 years of age is not recommended until such data are available.

South Africa said recently that the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the country would be temporarily put on hold until more “clinically efficacy information” of the vaccine against new COVID-19 variant becomes available. The decision came after a study showed that the AstraZeneca vaccine was less effective against the new variant found in South Africa.  

Europe outbreaks

The decline in overall cases conceals increasing numbers of outbreaks and community spread involving variants of concern, according to Hans Kluge, the WHO’s regional director for Europe.

The strain first identified in South Africa late last year has now been identified in 19 countries, and most of those are linked to travel. While community transmission in Europe is not yet widespread, the variant has been increasingly linked to outbreaks in communities, Kluge said.

According to Kluge, the suppression of transmission of all variants at the current juncture required “measured decision-making” as a prerequisite to the effectiveness of any vaccine.

He pointed out that vaccinations currently accounted for just a small part of the European response against the virus, referring to 29 out of the 37 countries currently vaccinating in the region having just completed their immunization series and vaccinated 7.8 million people, equivalent to only 1.5 percent of the population.

Addressing the disparity in vaccine distribution in the region, Kluge noted the divide between rich and poor countries, warning that “unfair access to vaccines” had the potential to “backfire”.

Kluge said that WHO, together with the European Union, would launch a 40-million euro program to ensure effective deployment of COVID-19 vaccines in six countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova.

Global tally

Coronavirus cases worldwide exceeded 107.3 million cases while the global death toll topped 2.35 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Kenya

Kenya is going ahead with its plan to inoculate its citizens against COVID-19 using AstraZeneca’s vaccine, a senior health ministry official said on Thursday, dismissing concerns over its efficacy.

Kenya expects to receive 24 million doses of the vaccine beginning this month, said Mercy Mwangangi, the chief administrative secretary at the ministry.

“We are going to continue with AstraZeneca because we are doing our own sequencing and we are comfortable to move forward with it,” she told Reuters.

AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine is not perfect, but will have a big impact on the pandemic, its chief executive predicted on Thursday, as the drugmaker pledged to double supplies to more than 200 million doses per month by April.

AstraZeneca said it expected much-anticipated data from the US trial of the vaccine before the end of March, and that it was confident the shot offered relatively good protection against severe disease and death for the South African variant. Its disappointing results were against milder cases.

Merck

Merck & Co. said on Wednesday it was in talks with governments and companies to potentially help with manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines that have been already authorized.

“Beyond our own candidates, we are actively involved in discussions with governments, public health agencies, and other industry colleagues to identify the areas of pandemic response where we can play a role, including potential support for production of authorized vaccines,” a company spokesman said.

He, however, didn’t divulge any details of companies or public agencies the company was in touch with.

The drugmaker said it also planned to focus on the accelerated scale up of production of its investigational therapeutic candidates, MK-4482 and MK-7110, which it now calls molnupiravir.

Teva

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd is in talks with COVID-19 vaccine makers about helping to produce and distribute shots as demand rises for immunizations.

The generic drug giant is offering to dedicate its manufacturing capacity in the US, Europe and beyond to aid with mass-immunization efforts geared at combating the pandemic, Chief Executive Officer Kare Schultz said Wednesday.

Argentina

Argentina topped two million COVID-19 infections on Wednesday, health officials said, as the country scrambles to ramp up a vaccination program in a race against time to tame the virus ahead of the fast-approaching southern hemisphere autumn.

The Ministry of Health reported 7,739 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, bringing the total number of infections to 2,001,034, and 49,674 deaths.

Argentina implemented a strict lockdown in March that lasted for months, with dwindling effect and increasing frustration. Restrictions have since been eased, but a Reuters tally of data shows that daily infections more than doubled following the year-end holidays and during the austral summer.

Countries in the Americas recorded nearly half of all new COVID-19 cases worldwide over the past week, and deaths continue to rise in the region, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday.

Argentina has thus far received 820,000 doses of Russia´s Sputnik V vaccine, which requires two shots. The deliveries, however, have fallen far short of the government´s promised of 5 million doses by the end of January.

President Alberto Fernández talked this month with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, asking him to help guarantee a fresh supply of the vaccine.

Health workers queue at a vaccination centre mounted at the basketball court of Argentine club River Plate, bellow the grandstand of the Monumental stadium, in Buenos Aires, to receive a dose of the Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19, on Feb 2, 2020. (JUAN MABROMATA / AFP)

Germany 

Germany plans to impose restrictions on travel from Austria and the Czech Republic over concerns about aggressive mutations of the coronavirus, potentially disrupting cross-country commuters and commerce. 

The German states of Bavaria and Saxony have asked the federal government to establish border controls with the neighboring countries, Bavarian Premier Markus Soeder said on Thursday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Thursday that virus mutations will gain the upper hand in Germany sooner or later, threatening to destroy progress made in containing the pandemic.

The warning came a day after Merkel and 16 federal state leaders decided to extend Germany’s lockdown for three more weeks.

According to the decision paper published following a video conference, the restrictions tackling the spread of the virus, which are due on Feb 14, will extend to March 7.

More restrictive measures will be relaxed only when the seven-day incidence rate is stable at 35, which means that 35 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the decision paper. When the figure is reached, businesses, museums and galleries are able to reopen.

After peaking at close to 200 before Christmas, the incidence rate was at 64.2 on Thursday, according to Germany’s federal disease control agency Robert Koch Institute (RKI).

Although the number of daily new infections is dropping from over 30,000 to less than 10,000 right now, Merkel and other officials are worried about the highly infectious virus variants.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 10,237 to 2,310,233, data from RKI showed on Thursday. The reported death toll rose by 666 to 63,635, the tally showed.

Honduras

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez on Wednesday asked the World Health Organization (WHO) to make the Central American nation a priority in deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines, citing the devastating effects of two hurricanes.

Honduras, which was already experiencing high poverty levels, faces about US$1.9 billion in damages from hurricanes Eta and Iota, a United Nations economic commission for the region estimated, although the government said the impact was far greater.

“We want to make Honduras an example of how we can stand up from natural disasters and the pandemic,” Hernandez said in statement issued after a virtual meeting with WHO officials.

Hernandez urged the WHO to prioritize the country in its distribution of vaccines through the COVAX scheme, an international program that aims to secure fair access to COVID-19 vaccines for poor countries.

Honduras has reported 156,606 official cases of COVID-19 in the country, as well as 3,789 deaths.

So far, the government has secured 1.4 million AstraZeneca vaccines for 700,000 people, according to the health ministry. It also sent letters of intent to Chinese and Russian laboratories.

Honduras is set to receive AstraZeneca vaccines for 1.9 million people through the COVAX scheme, with the first batch scheduled to arrive at the end of February.

Hernandez has called the back-to-back hurricanes the worst disaster to ever hit Honduras.

More than four million people have been affected by Eta and Iota, with 2.5 million people in need, an evaluation late last year found. Then, some 92,000 people were still in shelters and 62,000 houses were affected.

Italy

Italy reported 336 coronavirus-related deaths on Wednesday against 422 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 12,956 from 10,630 the day before.

Some 310,994 tests for COVID-19 were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 274,263, the health ministry said.

Italy has registered 92,338 deaths linked to COVID-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the sixth-highest in the world. The country has reported 2.67 million cases to date.

Patients in hospital with COVID-19 – not including those in intensive care – stood at 19,280 on Wednesday, down from 19,512 a day earlier.

There were 155 new admissions to intensive care units, up from 146 on Tuesday. The total number of intensive care patients fell to 2,128 from a previous 2,143.

When Italy’s second wave of the epidemic was accelerating quickly in the first half of November, hospital admissions were rising by about 1,000 per day, while intensive care occupancy was increasing by about 100 per day. 

Mexico

Mexican Deputy Foreign Minister Martha Delgado said on Thursday that 2 million doses of China’s CanSino COVID-19 vaccine had arrived in Mexico.

Mexico has approved emergency use of the CanSino and Sinovac vaccines as the country’s campaign to inoculate people against the coronavirus has slowed.

Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell confirmed use of both Chinese vaccines at a press conference Wednesday night.

Mexico’s health ministry on Wednesday reported 11,138 new coronavirus cases and 1,328 more fatalities from COVID-19, bringing the overall total to 1,957,889 cases and 169,760 deaths.

UK

More than 40 percent of Britons are struggling financially or suffering poor health, a sharp increase from last year driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority said on Thursday.

The FCA said there are now 27.7 million adults in Britain affected by low financial resilience, poor health or other recent negative life events, up from 24 million in February 2020, a month before the country went into its first lockdown to fight the pandemic. Britain’s total population is 67 million.

Having just one of the characteristics puts a consumer at greater risk of harm, the FCA said in the latest findings of its regular Financial Lives survey.

The survey contacted 16,000 people between August 2019 and February 2020, with a follow up survey of 22,000 people in October last year.

Consumers with too much debt to manage or low levels of savings or erratic earnings rose from 10.7 million to 14.2 million during 2020, the FCA said.

Over 13 million people are expected to struggle to make ends meet, with many saying they are expected to take on more debt, cut back on essentials, or use a food bank, it said.

“The pain is not being shared equally with a higher than average proportion of younger and BAME adults becoming vulnerable since March,” said Nisha Arora, the FCA’s director of consumer and retail policy.

“It is likely the picture will have got worse since we conducted the survey,” she said.

Meanwhile, the uptake of the coronavirus jab has been better than expected at over 90 percent compared to an assumption that 75 percent would have the vaccine, Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Thursday.

The coronavirus variant first found in the British region of Kent is likely to sweep around the world and the battle with the virus is going to go on for at least a decade, the head of the UK’s genetic surveillance program said.

“Once we get on top of [the virus] or it mutates itself out of being virulent – causing disease – then we can stop worrying about it. But I think, looking in the future, we’re going to be doing this for years. We’re still going to be doing this 10 years down the line, in my view,” Sharon Peacock, director of the COVID-19 Genomics UK consortium, told the BBC.

Britain recorded a rise in the number of new daily COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, although there was a decrease in the reported death toll.

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There were 13,013 people who tested positive for the virus in the latest daily total, up from 12,364 on Tuesday.

The number of new deaths within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test fell to 1,001 from 1,052 on Tuesday. The government also said 13.058 million people had received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine up to Tuesday.

Hospitals in England treated almost 102,000 people battling the virus last month, representing a third of all patients who have needed such care since the pandemic began, NHS England said. Hospitals are still treating about 1,000 more patients with covid than they were at the peak of the first wave.

Serbia

One of Europe’s fastest coronavirus-vaccination programs is helping Serbia navigate the pandemic without further cuts in interest rates.

The central bank – the first in Europe to lower borrowing costs when COVID-19 struck last year – kept its benchmark rate at a record-low 1 percent on Thursday, as predicted by all 19 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg.

“Coordinated measures of monetary and fiscal policies continue to have a favorable impact on financing terms for the economy and citizens,” the central bank said as it announced its decision.

Among the first to deploy shots from China and Russia alongside those made by Western drug makers, Serbia boasts the continent’s highest level of inoculation per capita bar the UK and Malta. That, coupled with a fresh US$3 billion stimulus plan that includes cash handouts for businesses and households, should be sufficient to guide the economy through the latest COVID19 disruption.

A new relief package that’s expected soon should enable Serbia’s economic activity to return to pre-pandemic levels already in the second quarter, the central bank said.

France

France reported 25,387 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, up from 19,348 on Tuesday but slightly lower than last Wednesday’s 26,362 as average daily increases continued slowing.

The health ministry also reported 296 additional coronavirus deaths in hospitals, from 436 on Tuesday, bringing the cumulative death toll to 80,443. Total cases now stand at 3.38 million.

The closely watched tally of daily new cases has been falling gradually and the seven-day moving average of new cases fell by another 139 to 19,209, with the average now below 20,000 for the fifth day in a row after remaining above 20,000 for two weeks end January-early February.

In a further good sign, hospital numbers fell for the second day in a row, with 27,461 people in hospital with the disease, down by 216. The number of people in intensive care with COVID-19 fell by 23 to 3,319.

EU

The European Union (EU) could sign a coronavirus vaccine supply deal with US manufacturer Novavax this week or next, two EU officials involved in the talks with the firm said.

“Talks with Novavax have intensified and we aim to agree the contract this week or next,” one EU official said.

Novavax said negotiations were ongoing. A spokesman for the EU Commission declined to comment on the talks, but added that the EU was willing to expand its portfolio of COVID-19 vaccines.

The deal, if it goes ahead, would be the seventh sealed by the EU with vaccine makers for COVID-19 shots. 

Europe’s medicines regulator said on Wednesday it has so far not received any application seeking approval for the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine developed by Russia’s Gamaleya institute.

However, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said the vaccine’s developers have expressed an interest that their vaccine be considered for a real-time review in Europe.

In another development, the European Commission will support Poland’s intention to provide Ukraine with an additional batch of 1.2 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine, the Ukrainian government said on Wednesday.

Commission Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis said the EU was ready to help Ukraine with delivery of the batch, the government said in a statement.

Colombia

Colombia registered 6,443 new COVID-19 cases during the past 24 hours, taking the national count to 2,173,347, the Ministry of Health and Social Protection said Wednesday.

The death toll rose by 226 to 56,733.

Brazil

Brazil recorded 59,602 additional confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, along with 1,330 deaths from COVID-19, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday.

Brazil has registered nearly 9.7 million cases of the virus since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 234,850, according to ministry data.

Portugal

The first two cases of the new Brazilian variant of the coronavirus were detected in Portugal on Wednesday, broadcaster SIC reported, two weeks after all flights to and from the South American nation were suspended.

SIC reported that both cases of the Brazilian variant were detected in the Lisbon area and had already been reported to health authorities by Unilabs, a private diagnostics provider performing most coronavirus tests in Portugal.

The country’s public health research institute Ricardo Jorge will analyse Unilab’s samples, SIC reported. Unilabs was not immediately available for comment.

Portugal has so far reported more than 14,700 deaths and nearly 775,000 confirmed cases. 

Equatorial Guinea

A batch of China-donated Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccines arrived in Malabo, capital of Equatorial Guinea, on Wednesday.

It is the first batch of vaccine aid provided by the Chinese government to African countries, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Tuesday.

The Chinese aid is the fruit of the excellent relations between the two countries, said Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue, vice-president of Equatorial Guinea, who received the Chinese vaccines at the airport.

US

The daily number of new coronavirus cases in the United States was under 100,000 for a third consecutive day on Tuesday, the first time that’s happened since the week of Nov 2, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University (JHU) and Bloomberg. 

On Jan 5, the US posted a record 405,982 new infections after a holiday season.

To date, the US has recorded 27.2 million cases with more than 471,000 related deaths , according to a tally by JHU. 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently conducted experiments to improve the fit of masks amid COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting that combining cloth mask and medical procedure mask could reduce a wearer’s exposure to virus by over 90 percent.

As of Feb 1, 14 US states and the District of Columbia had universal masking mandates, according to the CDC. Mask wearing has also been mandated by executive order for US federal property as well as on domestic and international transportation conveyances.

In another development, White House coronavirus adviser Andy Slavitt said the CDC plans to issue new guidelines for schools reopening on Friday.

Serbia

A second shipment of Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine arrived from China at the Belgrade Airport on Wednesday night.

The batch, containing 500,000 doses, was welcomed by Prime Minister Ana Brnabic and Chinese Ambassador to Serbia Chen Bo.

Official data show that so far around 600,000 people were vaccinated in Serbia, most of whom received Sinopharm’s vaccines, including state officials, policemen, soldiers, doctors, and teachers.

Cuba

Cuba registered on Wednesday 858 new COVID-19 infections and five deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the tall hot 34,922 cases with 249 deaths, the Ministry of Public Health said.

Francisco Duran, the ministry’s national director of hygiene and epidemiology, highlighted in his daily report the common risk factors of most of the deceased, including high blood pressure and diabetes.

“With these statistics, the pressure on hospitals is reduced, but we cannot get complacent,” he warned.

At a meeting between Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel and Cuban scientists this week on COVID-19 projections, Raul Guinovart, dean of the School of Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Havana, held a similar view.

“The models estimate a growth in cases and, therefore, severe, critical and deceased patients will continue to be reported. However, there will also be a growth in the number of recovered patients (…) and the tendency is for the incidence of the disease to decline,” he told local press.

Algeria

Algeria on Wednesday reported 223 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of infections in the North African country to 109,782.

The death toll from the virus rose to 2,926 after two more fatalities were added, the Ministry of Health said in a statement.c

Tunisia

Tunisia’s health ministry on Wednesday reported 1,086 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number of infections in the country to 219,650.

The death toll from the virus rose by 46 to 7,378, the ministry said in a statement.

Chile

The Chilean Ministry of Health reported on Wednesday 2,399 new COVID-19 cases and 21 more deaths, bringing the total caseload to 760,576 infections and the death toll to 19,105.

In its daily report, the ministry said there were 20,239 active cases while a total of 720,852 patients have recovered.

People sit on benches marked with tapes to practice social distancing at a shopping mall in Stockholm, Sweden, on Feb 10, 2021. (WEI XUECHAO / XINHUA)

Sweden

Sweden will stick to its recommendation to not give AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine to people older than 65, ignoring guidance from the World Health Organization, state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell said.

“If you only have that vaccine in a country, you should of course use it for people over 65,” Tegnell told reporters on Thursday. 

“In Sweden, we have the luxury that we have several vaccines, therefore we think it is reasonable right now that we do as we thought we would have to do: direct the vaccine to different groups.”

The number of Sweden’s confirmed coronavirus cases exceeded 600,000 on Wednesday, the country’s Public Health Agency said, as the country continues to battle new COVID-19 strains.

The agency reported 4,070 new infections in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases to 600,244.  

Another 138 deaths were also reported, pushing the death toll  to 12,326.

Mozambique

The Manhica Health Research Center in Mozambique (CISM) announced on Wednesday that it will start a survey to assess the efficacy of the Bacillus of Calmette and Guerin (BCG) tuberculosis vaccine against COVID-19.

According to the scientific director of CISM, Francisco Saute, research on the BCG vaccine will start this month, and it has already been ordered in Europe, and the international committee is awaiting authorization of bioethics.

“Research on this vaccine will take 18 months for the final results of its effectiveness,” said Saute.

Croatia

Croatia has confirmed the first cases of the new coronavirus variant initially identified in the UK, the health ministry announced on Wednesday.

The variant, known as B.1.1.7, was found in the sample of a 50-year-old man and 3-year-old child in Croatian capital Zagreb, and a 34-year-old man from the eastern part of the country. Since Jan 20, 61 samples had been sequenced to detect the new variant.

The Croatian Institute of Public Health on Wednesday counted another 577 COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, pushing the tally to over 236,000 since the pandemic started in the country on Feb 25, 2020.

Russia

Russia registered 15,038 new COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours, taking the nationwide count to 4,027,748, the official monitoring and response center said on Thursday.

Deaths from the virus rose by 553 to 78,687, the center said. 

Moscow recorded another 2,040 cases, bringing its tally to 950,517.

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Thursday said life can only return to normalcy once the majority of the population has been inoculated against COVID-19.

Mnangagwa expressed gratitude to China and Russia for donating vaccines to Zimbabwe.

The donation of 200,000 doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine is expected to arrive in Zimbabwe by Feb 15, while the first batch of the 600,000 vaccine doses Zimbabwe has purchased from China is expected to arrive early next month.

The southern African country of 16 million people has also purchased an unspecified amount of Russia’s Sputnik vaccine, while India has also donated vaccines to the country.

A total of US$100 million has been set aside to procure COVID-19 vaccines. The country has already finalized a vaccine deployment strategy that would see at least 9 million people, or about 60 percent of the population, being inoculated.

Zimbabwe has so far reported 34,864 confirmed cases and 1,364 deaths, the majority of which had been recorded since the beginning of this year.  

Ghana

An increasing number of people in Ghana are wearing face masks as COVID-19 infections rise, according to a research by the Ghana Health Service.

Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, director-general of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), said earlier in the week that the number of people wearin face masks in public increased to 46 percent in January from 36 percent in the previous month.

As of Thursday, Ghana has reported 73,003 confirmed cases, including 65,583 recoveries and 482 deaths.  

Ireland

Ireland’s government is likely to maintain most of the current virus restrictions until early April at least, in an effort to prevent the spread of variants, Prime Minister Micheal Martin told RTE Radio. 

While the government will prioritize reopening schools and construction, the bulk of the lockdown that has been in place since Christmas will be retained, he said. Travelers arriving from more countries may be required to quarantine on arriving in Ireland, Martin said.

Slovenia

The government of Slovenia said it will allow shops and services to reopen on Monday after a drop in the number of new covid infections and hospitalizations. 

A regional travel ban will also end and schools, universities and gyms will also reopen next week.

Reference