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UK speeds vaccine push to offer all adults shot by July 31





Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a coronavirus press conference at 10 Downing Street in London on Jan 22, 2021. (LEON NEAL / AP)

DAKAR / BUENOS AIRES / SANTIAGO – The UK will significantly accelerate its COVID-19 vaccination program, offering shots to all adults by the end of July and everyone over 50 by mid-April as the government beefs up efforts to contain one of the world’s worst outbreaks of the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will set out the new targets on Monday when he reveals his “roadmap” to easing lockdowns. It is the first time the government has given a firm target for offering all adults their initial dose, having previously said it hoped to do so by autumn. The previous goal set for over-50s was the end of May. Health Secretary Matt Hancock told Sky TV Sunday the UK had enough supply to meet the new targets.

So far, more than 17 million people have been inoculated, around 30 percent of the adult population, making Britain a world leader in COVID vaccinations. The success of the program contrasts with the government’s failure to contain the initial outbreak and spread of COVID-19. The UK now has Europe’s highest death toll with more than 120,000 victims of the pandemic.

The UK is now more than a month into its third national lockdown with schools closed and most businesses shuttered. With the economy suffering its worst recession in more than 300 years and cases and deaths falling rapidly, the prime minister is under growing pressure to lift lockdown curbs. Johnson, who was hospitalized with Covid-19 in April of last year, insists he will proceed with caution to make sure the current lockdown is the country’s last.

Cases surged to record levels in the UK early this year as an easing of social distancing during the holiday period coincided with the spread of the highly-infectious UK variant. The latest lockdown, coupled with the vaccine program, has reversed that trend. Health authorities reported 10,406 new cases on Saturday, down from the peak week in January when cases averaged almost 60,000 a day.

Brazil 

Brazil registered 1,212 deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, raising the death toll to 245,977, the Ministry of Health said Saturday.

The ministry also reported 57,472 more cases, bringing the national count to 10,139,148.

The state of Sao Paulo, the most populous in the country, is the hardest hit by the pandemic, with a total of 57,743 deaths and 1,971,423 cases.

Brazil ranks the third in the world in COVID-19 cases, after the United States and India, and second in deaths behind the United States.

So far, the South American country has vaccinated more than 5.75 million people against COVID-19, or 2.72 percent of the population. 

Brazil’s cases ticked up this week after a month in decline, a signal that the nation’s second wave has not receded, Health Ministry data show. Another 57,472 cases were reported on Saturday, for a total of 10.1 million, the most after the US and India.

Deaths fell slightly this week, though they remain at levels seen during a peak last summer. Another 1,212 deaths were reported Saturday, for a total of 245,977, the world’s second-highest toll.

Russia 

Russia has registered its third COVID-19 vaccine CoviVac, following Sputnik V and EpiVacCorona, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin announced on Saturday.

An industrial production line of the CoviVac vaccine will be launched soon and the first 120,000 doses will enter the domestic market in mid-March, Mishustin said at a government meeting on the circulation of vaccines.

“We are constantly increasing the pace of vaccine production. More than 10 million doses of Sputnik V and about 80,000 doses of EpiVacCorona have already been produced,” he said.

More than 4,000 vaccination points have been opened across the country, and mobile points have been organized in remote areas, with special transport taking people there, he added.

Colombia

Colombian President Ivan Duque on Saturday welcomed the arrival of the first batch of vaccines from Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac, which will be “deployed throughout the national territory.”

The president said that the vaccines will be sent to several remote regions of the country, especially to the border departments in the Amazon, to fight the variant of COVID-19 known as P.1.

Chinese Ambassador to Colombia Lan Hu, who was also present to welcome the arrival of the shipment, said the fight against the pandemic “has been the priority” of bilateral relations since last year and that the arrival of the vaccines represents an opportunity to help the country return to normality.

Global vaccines reach 202m

More than 202 million vaccine doses have been administered around the world, according to data compiled by the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker, just over two months after the first shots went into arms.

Vaccinations are underway in at least 88 countries, including nations in Africa, Asia, Europe and North and South America. While the doses given so far are only a fraction of what will be needed to cover the globe, about 6.35 million doses a day are being administered.

Senegal

Senegalese government on Saturday began to distribute the first doses of Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine to its regions across the country for the imminent vaccination campaign, Senegalese Health Minister Abdoulaye Diouf Sarr announced at the launching ceremony.

“The vaccines will leave Dakar today and within four days, will be available throughout the country to effectively support our plan to operationalize the COVID-19 vaccination,” said Senegalese Minister of Health and Social Action.

According to him, his ministry will set up a national committee of control and monitoring of all vaccination operations Monday, which will be followed by the launch of the national COVID-19 vaccination campaign throughout Senegal Tuesday.

Hungary 

Hungary on Saturday registered 2,995 new COVID-19 cases in a 24-hour span, raising the national total to 400,111, according to official data.

In the past 24 hours, 107 people have died from the disease, taking the toll to 14,252 in the country, while 304,680 have recovered. Currently, 4,147 patients are being treated in hospitals, including 351 on ventilators, figures from the government’s coronavirus information website showed.

As of Saturday, 427,309 people had received at least the first shot of a vaccine, while 172,739 had two jabs, according to the website.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban has urged his compatriots to get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, warning that the country was on the cusp of a third wave of the epidemic.

Chile

Chile’s Health Ministry on Saturday reported 3,893 new COVID-19 infections and 77 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of infections to 795,845 and nationwide death toll to 19,974.

It is the third consecutive day when the country reported more than 3,000 cases in a single day.

The ministry said that 2,827,091 people had been vaccinated against COVID-19 via a mass vaccination program that began on Feb 3.

Of the people who have been inoculated, 1,711,810 are aged over 65, said Chilean Deputy Health Minister Paula Daza.

A large part of the vaccines used in the country were provided by Chinese pharma company Sinovac. Both Chilean President Sebastian Pinera and Health Minister Enrique Paris were vaccinated with shots from Sinovac. 

Africa

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on the African continent reached 3,810,896 as of Saturday evening, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).

The agency’s COVID-19 dashboard showed that the number of COVID-19-inflicted deaths in Africa has reached 100,707.

A total of 3,363,089 people infected with COVID-19 have so far recovered across the continent, it said.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia registered 841 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking the nationwide tally to 151,857 as of Saturday evening, the country’s Ministry of Health said.

The country’s death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic has reached 2,271 after 12 new deaths were reported.

The ministry said 675 more recoveries were logged during the same period, taking the national count to 131,241.

Ethiopia, Africa’s second-most populous nation, has so far reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the East Africa region.

According to the latest figures from the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ethiopia’s COVID-19 cases account for about 4 percent of the African continent’s total confirmed COVID-19 cases.

The Ethiopian government has been urging the public to implement COVID-19 precautionary measures to contain the spread of the virus.

Ecuador

Ecuador registered 1,821 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, for a total of 273,097 infections, the Ministry of Public Health reported on Saturday.

The ministry added that another 37 deaths were reported in the last 24 hours, for a total 10,775. This is in addition to another 4,738 deaths that were likely caused by the disease.

The province of Pichincha continues to be the epicenter of the virus in the country, with the majority concentrated in the capital city of Quito, which has registered 88,694 total cases.

Cuba

The Cuban Ministry of Public Health reported on Saturday four deaths and 937 new cases of COVID-19, as the country faces a sharp increase in infections.

“The deceased now number 291 and the infected 43,484 since the novel coronavirus arrived in the country in March of last year,” said Francisco Duran, the national director of hygiene and epidemiology at the ministry.

The official said that among the new cases, 895 occurred through community transmission while 42 were imported from the United States, Russia, Mexico, Germany, Spain and Jamaica.

The highest number of new cases was registered in Havana.

Duran also said that 4,947 Cubans are currently hospitalized, “fewer than yesterday, but still a very high number.”

Albania

Albania’s Health Ministry on Saturday reported over 1,100 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours.

According to the ministry, a total of 3,975 tests were carried out in the last 24 hours, of which 1,153 were positive for the virus, taking the total tally of coronavirus cases in the country to 99,062.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus-related death toll in the country rose by 17 in the 24-hour span to 1,653, and the recoveries increased by 928 to 62,533.

On Saturday, vaccination started in central Albania city of Elbasan. Minister of Health and Social Protection Ogerta Manastirliu, who was paying a visit to the regional hospital in Elbasan, said 80 doctors and nurses will receive the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine on the first day.

Tunisia

Tunisian Health Ministry on Saturday reported 903 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number of infections in the country to 227,643.

The death toll from the virus rose by 36 to 7,755, the ministry said in a statement.

The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients reached 1,266, including 285 in intensive care units, while the total number of recoveries reached 188,317, it added.

A total of 949,940 lab tests have been carried out in Tunisia so far, said the ministry. 

Algeria

Algeria on Saturday reported 164 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total number of cases in the North African country to 111,764.

The death toll from the virus in Algeria rose to 2,958 after four new fatalities were added, said the Algerian Ministry of Health in a statement.

Meanwhile, 143 more patients recovered from the disease, bringing the total number of recoveries in the country to 77,000, the statement added.

Morocco

Morocco registered 444 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, taking the tally of confirmed cases in the North African country since March 2 to 480,948, the health ministry said in a statement.

The total number of recoveries from COVID-19 in Morocco increased to 464,043 after 772 new ones were added.

The death toll rose to 8,548 with eight new fatalities during the last 24 hours, while 423 people are in intensive care units.

Meanwhile, 2,447,716 people have been vaccinated so far against COVID-19 in the country.

Canada

Canada’s vaccine efforts are ramping up after a slow start caused by shipment delays and that no vaccine is manufactured in Canada. Health authorities have given 1.4 million doses in the country of 38 million people as of Feb. 19, according to the government. There are now 32,241 active Covid cases, out of almost 850,000 who have been infected since the start of the pandemic.

Mexica

Mexican Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell, known as the nation’s coronavirus czar, has tested positive for Covid-19, according to a tweet.

Lopez-Gatell says he’s dealing with mild symptoms that began Friday, and he plans to continue working from home for now.

Lopez-Gatell speaks regularly at press conferences on Covid developments, including Mexico’s vaccine strategy, and oversaw President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s recent recovery from the virus.

Mexico received the first 200,000 doses on Saturday of the Coronavac vaccine made by China’s Sinovac, according to a Foreign Ministry tweet.

Argentine

Argentine President Alberto Fernandez fired his health minister in an attempt to defuse a scandal over government allies having received preferential access to Covid-19 vaccinations.

Gines Gonzalez Garcia resigned Friday at Fernandez’s request after reporter Horacio Verbitsky told a radio station that he’d received a vaccine at the Health Ministry following a personal request to the minister. Local newspaper Clarin reported that other government allies had also received vaccines ahead of schedule.

Italy

Italy reported 14,931 new cases on Saturday, compared with 15,479 on Friday. Daily deaths were 251 compared with 353 the day before. Alessio D’Amato, counselor for health for the region that includes Rome, said in a statement that AstraZeneca has announced a cut in vaccine deliveries to the region of about 9,000 doses.

Germany 

A rival shot developed by CureVac NV will take longer and may get the green light in April or May, Spahn said during a virtual discussion on Germany’s vaccination program.

Spahn added that Germany would have no problem using the Russian Sputnik V vaccine as long as data and testing conformed with EU standards.

US

The US added more than 108,000 cases on Friday, a count inflated by some 27,000 cases reported by Iowa health officials after the state adjusted its counting method. The daily average over the preceding two weeks was about 85,000. US cases passed the 28 million mark this week.

US Covid hospitalizations fell to 9.5% of beds on Feb. 17, the least since Nov. 8, according to the Department of Health & Human Services. Hospital beds occupied by Covid-19 patients totaled 65,682.

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