Covid-19 has infected more than 388M people and killed over 5.7M worldwide. Here are some of the latest coronavirus-related developments:

Austria's upper house of parliament passed the bill on Thursday by a large margin. It was officially published after being signed into law by President Alexander Van der Bellen and Chancellor Karl Nehammer, meaning it will take effect the next day.
Austria's upper house of parliament passed the bill on Thursday by a large margin. It was officially published after being signed into law by President Alexander Van der Bellen and Chancellor Karl Nehammer, meaning it will take effect the next day. (Reuters)

Friday, February 4, 2022

Austrian Covid vaccine mandate comes into force

An Austrian law making it compulsory for adults to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, the European Union's first such sweeping Covid-19 vaccine mandate, was promulgated and will go intoforce on Saturday.

Austria's upper house of parliament passed the bill on Thursday by a large margin. It was officially published after being signed into law by President Alexander Van der Bellen and Chancellor Karl Nehammer, meaning it will take effect the next day.

Roughly 69 percent of Austria's population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, one of the lowest rates in western Europe, which the conservative-led government says justifies the measure and its fines 

WHO: Approval of vaccine made in South Africa could take 3 years

The mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccine produced at the World Health Organization-backed vaccine hub in South Africa could take up to three years to get approval if companies do not share their technology and data, a WHO official said.

The WHO-backed tech transfer hub in South Africa was set up in June to give poorer nations the know-how to produce Covid-19 vaccines, after market leaders of the mRNA Covid vaccine, Pfizer , BioNTech and Moderna, declined a WHO request to share their technology and expertise.

German team confirms two positive cases at Beijing Olympics

Germany's three-time Olympic nordic combined champion Eric Frenzel and his team-mate Terence Weber were confirmed as having tested positive for Covid at the Beijing Winter Olympics.

The German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) confirmed the cases shortly before the opening ceremony in the Chinese capital.

Weber and Frenzel were among six athletes who tested positive for the coronavirus after part of the German team landed at Beijing airport on Thursday.

Greece to drop testing for European vaccine holders

Greece will no longer require travellers with European vaccine passports to undergo Covid-19 tests before entering the country, from next week, the health minister said.

"As of Monday, those with active European (vaccination) certificates will enter without obligatory testing," Health Minister Thanos Plevris said in a televised statement.

Greece has followed several other EU countries in relaxing pandemic restrictions as it aims for a 4.5-percent spurt of economic growth this year.

Turkiye reports over 111,000 new cases

The Health Ministry confirmed 111,157 new Covid-19 infections, 248 related deaths, and 83,536 recoveries over the past day.

As many as 468,152 virus tests were done during this period.

To counter the spread of the virus, the country has administered over 142,73 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines since it launched an immunisation drive in January last year.

India records over 500K deaths, experts fear more

India's official death toll from Covid-19 has passed 500,000, although many experts believe the real figure is likely much higher.

The daily update from the country's federal health ministry showed the number of fatalities reaching 500,055, up 1,072 in the previous 24 hours.

Total infections stood at 41.9 million, according to the statistics, second only to the United States.

The country, which has the fourth-highest tally of deaths globally, recorded 400,000 deaths by July last year after the devastating outbreak from the Delta variant.

UK scientists look to repurpose existing antiviral drugs 

British researchers want to repurpose existing antiviral therapies to treat Covid-19, the University of Oxford said, in an attempt to sidestep lengthy development processes through readily available drugs.

Scientists will initially screen 138 drugs with known antiviral activity against the SARS-CoV-2 virus to study and identify potent combinations, the university said in a statement.

The most effective combinations discovered through the project will be presented to British authorities, including the Antiviral Task Force and UK-CTAP, so they can be added to clinical trials, Oxford said.

Indonesia records over 32,200 cases

Indonesia has recorded 32,211 cases, the highest daily number in nearly six months, as the Omicron variant continued to drive up infections, data from the country’s Covid-19 task force showed. 

The Southeast Asian country has recorded about 4.4 million cases since the start of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the resort island of Bali is reopening to foreign travellers from all countries, with direct international flights resuming for the first time in two years.

But mandatory quarantine remains in place for all visitors.

Spain to scrap mandatory outdoor masks 

Spain will end the mandatory use of face masks outdoors on February 8, ending a measure reimposed in late December to tackle a surge in Omicron cases.

The measure will be approved at Tuesday's cabinet meeting, Health Minister Carolina Darias told Cadena Ser radio.

Spain first imposed obligatory mask-wearing outdoors in May 2020, but lifted it in June last year, although wearing a face covering was still required for indoor public spaces.

Russia reports a record number of daily cases

Russia has reported a record daily number of cases as the Omicron variant continued to spread, authorities said.

New daily cases jumped to 168,201, from 155,768 a day earlier.

The government coronavirus task force also reported 682 deaths in the last 24 hours.

Japan's serious cases climb to four-month high

Japan serious cases has crossed 1,000 for the first time in four months, data showed, as the Omicron variant fuelled record infections and burdened the medical system.

Seriously ill patients climbed by 131 to 1,042 cases from the day before, the health ministry said, the highest since September when the Delta variant drove a fifth wave of cases.

Most regions are now under infection control measures to try to blunt the spread of Omicron that has exploded among a population where less than 5 percent have received vaccine booster shots.

Brazil reports over 1,000 new deaths

Brazil has reported 1,041 new Covid-19 deaths and 298,408 new cases of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, breaking the country's previous record for daily infections, according to data released by the Health Ministry.

The South American country has now registered 26,091,520 confirmed cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 630,001, according to the data.

South Korea reports daily increase of Covid cases

South Korea reported a record daily increase of 27,443 new Covid-19 cases as the country faces a wave of Omicron variant infections, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said.

The KDCA also reported 24 new deaths linked to the virus.

Canada PM says military response to protest not an option

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said a military response to the ongoing Ottawa protest against Covid-19 measures is “not in the cards right now.'' 

Ottawa police Chief Peter Sloly said this week that all options are on the table, including calling in the military, to end the ongoing demonstration that was being called an "occupation" by some on the city council. 

Thousands of protesters railing against vaccine mandates and other Covid-19 restrictions descended on the capital last weekend, deliberately blocking traffic around Parliament Hill. 

Mexico's death toll rises by nearly 650

Mexico has registered 648 new coronavirus deaths, according to Health Ministry data, bringing the overall death toll in the country to 308,141.

New Zealand regulators grant provisional approval of Novavax

New Zealand medicines regulator has granted provisional approval for Novavax Covid-19 vaccine. 

Novavax Inc said on Thursday it has received provisional approval for its Covid-19 vaccine, Nuvaxovid, for individuals 18 years of age and older.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies