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Two-thirds of global population join WHO virus vaccine scheme





This Jan 30, 2020 photo shows the headquarters of the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. (CHEN JUNXIA / XINHUA)

GENEVA / MEXICO CITY / LONDON / PARIS / BOGOTA / PRAGUE / MADRID – A total of 156 economies representing nearly two-thirds of the world’s population have joined the COVAX Facility, an international initiative co-led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners to ensure equitable global access to COVID-19 vaccines, the WHO said on Monday.

This includes 64 higher-income economies, which are self-financing in procuring COVID-19 vaccines once available, and 92 low- and middle-income economies eligible for support for the procurement of vaccines through the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) coordinated by the Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, a financing instrument aimed at supporting the procurement of vaccines for these countries.

COVAX aims to develop at least three safe and effective vaccines. Nine candidate vaccines are being supported by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), of which eight are in clinical trials

“This means that 156 economies, representing roughly 64 percent of the global population in total, are now either committed to or eligible for the COVAX Facility, with more to follow,” the WHO said in a statement.

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The COVAX Facility is part of COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi and the WHO, in partnership with developed and developing country vaccine manufacturers, UNICEF, the World Bank, civil society organizations and others.

The WHO said fully self-financing economies will now unlock vital funding and the security of demand needed to scale up manufacturing and secure the doses needed for the COVAX Facility.

Currently, CEPI is leading COVAX vaccine research and development work, which aims to develop at least three safe and effective vaccines. Nine candidate vaccines are being supported by CEPI, eight of which are in clinical trials. COVAX’s core aim is to have two billion vaccine doses available by the end of 2021.

The WHO said that the COVAX Facility will now start signing formal agreements with vaccine manufacturers and developers to secure the doses needed to end the acute phase of the pandemic by the end of 2021.

Argentina

Argentina reported on Monday a daily record of 429 deaths from COVID-19, lifting the country’s death toll to 13,482.

There were 8,782 new infections for a total of 640,147 cases, according to the government’s evening report.

Brazil

Brazil recorded 13,439 additional confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, as well as 377 deaths from the disease, the Health Ministry said on Monday.

The new figures brought Brazil’s total caseload to 4,558,068 and the death toll to to 137,272.

Colombia

Bogota, the Colombian capital, will lift most of the restrictions implemented to curb the spread of coronavirus, the mayor’s office said on Monday, though it warned that a new outbreak in the city of 8 million is inevitable.

While a selective quarantine remains in place nationally for September, authorities in Bogota will lift many restrictions from Tuesday, including rules dictating when people can shop or visit banks.

“If we maintain these bio-security rules, we can enjoy this new normality with more socializing, more activities and more work,” Bogota Mayor Claudia Lopez said in a video posted on Twitter, referring to the use of face masks and social distancing.

Colombia has reported over 765,000 cases of the novel coronavirus and confirmed 24,208 deaths from COVID-19.

Czech Republic

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis appealed to Czechs on Thursday to respect restrictions and face mask orders, saying the government aimed not to lock down the economy amid a spike in cases of new coronavirus infections.

In a televised speech, Babis admitted that relaxing measures over the summer led to the spike in cases, and urged citizens to adhere to the measures.

Babis made the appeal as the country has seen a surge in infections in recent weeks. As of Monday evening, the country has recorded 50,071 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 521 deaths.

France

France’s health authorities reported 5,298 new coronavirus cases on Monday, half of the number of new infections reported a day earlier, bringing the tally to 458,061.

The death toll rose by 53 to 31,338, the health ministry said. 

The rolling seven-day count of COVID-19 hospital admissions rose to 4,103 from 3,894 on Sunday, according to the latest French data, with intensive care admissions at 638 against 593 on Sunday.

Tighter restrictions will be imposed in the French city of Lyon from Tuesday to counter a sharp increase in new coronavirus cases and a surge in intensive care admissions, local authorities said.

Greece

Greece reported 453 fresh COVID-19 infections on Monday, a new daily high since the beginning of the pandemic in March, of which 184 of the cases are refugees that tested positive on the island of Lesvos. 

So far, more than 7,000 refugees have been tested and 243 were found positive.

The country’s total positive cases now stand at 15,595. The greater Athens area has the most cases at the moment and the government has taken further restrictive measures to contain the spread of the virus. It hasn’t excluded the possibility of a regional lockdown if things get worst.

Mexico

Mexico surpassed 700,000 confirmed coronavirus cases on Monday even as health authorities cited what they described as nearly two months of slowing infection rates.

On Monday, the Health Ministry reported 2,917 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the Latin American country, bringing the total to 700,580 with 73,697 fatalities.

Senior health authorities in Mexico like Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell, the public face of the government’s coronavirus strategy, have conceded that the real number of cases in the country is significantly higher that the official figures indicate.

Still, he argues that the outbreak in Mexico has shown signs of slowing over the past couple of months. “We now have eight consecutive weeks of a falling (caseload),” Lopez-Gatell told reporters at a regular briefing on Monday evening.

Spain

Spain has recorded 31,428 more coronavirus cases since Friday, bringing the total number of confirmed infections to 671,468, health ministry data showed on Monday.

The total number of COVID-19 fatalities has reached 30,663, the ministry also said, up from 30,495 on Friday.

Spain has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in western Europe and regional authorities have ordered a partial lockdown from Monday in some Madrid neighborhoods where cases are rising fast. The partial lockdown has sparked protests.

The Spanish capital accounts for roughly one third of the country’s COVID-19 cases.

UK

All pubs, bars, restaurants and other hospitality venues across the whole of England must start closing at 10 pm from Thursday as Prime Minister Boris Johnson tackles a second wave of COVID-19 infections.

The COVID-19 alert level in the UK has moved from Level 3 to Level 4, meaning that the virus is in general circulation and transmission is high or rising exponentially

Johnson, who will address both parliament and the nation on Tuesday, will also say the hospitality sector will be restricted by law to table service only, according to excerpts of his remarks provided by his Downing Street office on Monday.

Britain will face an exponentially growing death rate from COVID-19 within weeks unless urgent action is taken to halt a rapidly spreading second wave of the outbreak, the country’s senior medics warned on Monday.

READ MORE: Official: UK faces 50,000 cases a day by Oct if no action taken

The COVID-19 alert level has also moved from Level 3 to Level 4, the second highest level, after the data showed the number of cases was rising rapidly. Level 4 indicates that the virus is in general circulation and transmission is high or rising exponentially. 

The UK reported 4,368 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, taking the tally to 398,625, according to government data.

Northern Ireland said Monday it would extend existing restrictions in some localities on households mixing indoors across the whole of the province from Tuesday, while Wales slapped curbs on four more areas. Scotland said additional restrictions were almost certain to be imposed.

US

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday took down its guidance warning on possible airborne transmission of the novel coronavirus, saying that the draft recommendation was posted in error.

In the now-withdrawn guidance, which was posted on the agency’s website on Friday, the CDC had recommended that people use air purifiers to reduce airborne germs indoors to avoid the disease from spreading. 

Following the CDC’s move, the WHO said on Monday it has not changed its policy on aerosol transmission of the coronavirus.

Coronavirus cases in the US on Monday surpassed 6.83 million while deaths topped 199,800, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

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