Covid-19 has infected more than 230M people and killed over 4.7M. Here are virus-related developments for September 22:

"To beat the pandemic here we need to beat it everywhere," US President Biden says. (Reuters)

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

US to donate 500M more Covid-19 vaccine doses to other countries

The United States has promised to buy 500 million more Covid-19 vaccine doses to donate to other countries as it comes under increasing pressure to share its supply with the rest of the world.

The White House is hosting a four-hour virtual summit aimed at boosting global vaccination rates and the administration of President Joe Biden wants to show it is leading by example.

"To beat the pandemic here we need to beat it everywhere," Biden said, kicking off the summit, which includes leaders from Canada, Indonesia, South Africa and Britain, as well as World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

"This is an all-hands-on-deck crisis," he said of the pandemic that has raged since early 2020, killing at least 4,913,000 people. 

The additional vaccines will bring US donations to the rest of the world to more than 1.1 billion doses, far short of the 5 billion to 6 billion doses global health experts say is needed by poorer countries.

The vaccines from Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE will be made in the United States and shipped to low and lower-middle-income countries starting in January, a senior administration official said ahead of the announcement.

Russia to resume flights with Denmark, S Africa from Oct 5

Russia will resume passenger flights with Denmark, South Africa, New Zealand, Peru and Djibouti from October 5, the government has said.

Russia imposed wide-ranging travel restrictions at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, many of which remain in force. 

Turkey has administered 106.5M vaccine jabs to date

Turkey has administered some 106.5 million coronavirus vaccine jabs since the country launched an immunisation drive in January, according to official figures released.

More than 53 million people have gotten their first doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, while over 42.7 million are fully vaccinated, the Health Ministry said.

The data showed that 85.32% of the country's adult population has received at least one dose of a two-shot vaccine.

Turkey has also given third booster shots to over 9.93 million people.

Separately, the ministry reported 28,168 new coronavirus cases, while as many as 242 more people lost their fight against the disease in the last 24 hours.

As many as 351,655 tests for the virus were done over the past day.

Olympic flame lighting in Greece without spectators again

The coronavirus pandemic will again keep spectators away from another Olympic flame lighting ceremony scheduled for next month, the Greek Olympic Committee has announced.

The flame for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing is scheduled to be lit with a traditional ceremony at Ancient Olympia on October 18 and will be handed to the Beijing organisers at another ceremony on October 19 at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens.

Italy reports 67 deaths, 3,970 new cases

Italy has reported 67 coronavirus-related deaths, the same number as the day before, the Health Ministry has said, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 3,970 from 3,377.

Italy has registered 130,488 deaths linked to Covid-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the ninth-highest in the world. The country has reported 4.65 million cases to date.

Patients in hospital with Covid-19 - not including those in intensive care - stood at 3,796 on Wednesday, down from 3,937 a day earlier.

There were 40 new admissions to intensive care units, up from 38 on Tuesday. The total number of intensive care patients edged down to 513 from a previous 516.

Some 292,872 tests for Covid-19 were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 330,275, the health ministry said. 

UK reports 34,460 more cases, 166 further deaths

Britain has recorded 34,460 new Covid-19 cases and a further 166 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test, government data has shown.

That compared with 31,564 new cases and 203 deaths a day earlier.

Ukraine plans mandatory Covid-19 shots for some jobs

Ukraine is planning compulsory coronavirus vaccinations for some jobs including teachers and employees of state institutions and local governments, Health Minister Oleh Lyashko has said.

The new requirements would be introduced after a final decision by the ministry in coming days.

"We propose to start the introduction of mandatory preventive vaccinations against acute respiratory disease Covid-19," Lyashko said during a televised government meeting.

Ukraine is tightening lockdown restrictions from Thursday after a sharp rise in the number of infections.

It has imposed a nationwide "yellow" code which restricts mass events and limits occupancy rates at gyms, cinemas and other venues.

Schools, universities, and companies with fully vaccinated staff are allowed to work without restrictions.

Ukraine, with 41 million people, is lagging behind European neighbours with vaccinations - only 5.2 million people have received two shots so far.

The country has reported 2.4 million infections and 55,161 coronavirus-related deaths since the start of the pandemic. 

Moscow cases rise again: officials

Moscow is seeing a new increase in coronavirus cases, the mayor's office has announced, as Russian authorities struggle to convince a vaccine-sceptic population to get inoculated.

According to the latest official figures, Russia has recorded more than seven million cases and 200,625 deaths, the highest death toll in Europe.

"Over the past few days, we've registered an increase in coronavirus cases in Moscow," deputy Moscow mayor Anastasia Rakova told reporters.

Compared to last week, the number of cases has grown 24 percent, while the number of hospitalisations has increased 15 percent, Rakova said.

Germany to end quarantine pay for those without vaccinations

Germany will stop paying compensation to unvaccinated workers who are forced into quarantine by coronavirus measures as it is unfair to ask taxpayers to subsidise those who refuse to get inoculated, Health Minister Jens Spahn has said.

The rules, which will be implemented by the governments of Germany's 16 federal states, will take effect by October 11 at the latest, Spahn said, confirming the details of a draft document seen earlier by Reuters.

The rules will affect people who test positive for the virus and those returning from trips to countries designated "high risk" for Covid-19, which now include Britain, Turkey and parts of France, among others.

UK and South Korea agree vaccine swap deal

Britain and South Korea have agreed to swap over 1 million vaccine doses with each other, with the UK sending a first batch of Pfizer shots in the coming weeks and Korea returning the same volume by the end of the year.

Britain said it would send Pfizer doses which it does not immediately need, so they can be used more quickly in South Korea.

"By working closely with our friends in South Korea, this vaccine swap will maximise their rollout speed without having an impact on the UK's vaccine programme," health minister Sajid Javid said in a statement.

Russia reports 19,706 new cases 

Russia has recorded 817 additional Covid-19 fatalities and 19,706 new cases in the past 24 hours, official data showed. 

Brazil health minister tests positive

Brazil's health minister has tested positive in New York after President Jair Bolsonaro spoke at the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.

Brazil's government said in a statement that Marcelo Queiroga was in good health and would remain in isolation in the United States.

Earlier on Tuesday, Bolsonaro spoke at the General Assembly, flouting the requirement for all attendees to be vaccinated against the virus.

Also on Tuesday, Queiroga shook hands with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson as part of a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the General Assembly.

Other members of Brazil’s government in New York tested negative for the virus, the statement said.

Ill last year with Covid-19, the disease that can be caused by the coronavirus, Bolsonaro has said several times over the last week that he remains unvaccinated.

He said getting a shot is a personal, medical decision.

Queiroga got his first shot of coronavirus vaccine in January.

He was photographed side by side with Bolsonaro on several occasions this week.

Tuesday morning he tweeted a picture with first lady Michele Bolsonaro.

Queiroga had breakfast Monday with several employees of investment funds in New York.

Almost 40 million Russians fully vaccinated against report

Almost 40 million people in Russia have been fully vaccinated, the TASS news agency quoted Anna Popova, the head of the consumer watchdog Rospotrebnadzor, as saying.

Authorities in Russia, which has a population of 146 million, have said they are aiming for 80 percent of the population to have immunity by November.

India to target children for vaccine from October

All Indian children aged 12 or older will become eligible for vaccinations from next month, when drug maker Cadila Healthcare launches its ZyCoV-D product, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters.

The world's first DNA-based vaccine, ZyCoV-D won emergency authorisation from Indian regulators last month. From October, the company, better known as Zydus Cadila, will produce 10 million doses a month.

The health ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The sources sought anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to media.

The vaccine is the only one approved for children in India, which has given a total of 825.9 million doses to adults among its population of nearly 1.4 billion.

India recorded 26,964 new Covid-19 cases and 383 more deaths over the last 24 hour. 

UAE eases face mask rules as Expo nears

The United Arab Emirates cut the number of places where face masks must be worn as it gears up to open the Expo 2020 world fairext month and as official case numbers fall.

The UAE had required masks in all public places and among members of different households in private vehicles.
While adhering to a two-metre distancing rule, masks can now be removed when doing exercise in public places, on beaches and at poolsides, in hair salons and in medical centres when being treated.
The change follows a steady decrease in reported daily cases since early July, the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority said in a statement carried by state news agency WAM.

Virus deaths in US topping 1,900 a day

Virus deaths in the US have climbed to an average of more than 1,900 a day for the first time since early March, with experts saying the virus is preying largely on a distinct group: 71 million unvaccinated Americans.

The increasingly lethal turn has filled hospitals, complicated the start of the school year, delayed the return to offices and demoralised healthcare workers.

“It is devastating," said Dr. Dena Hubbard, a pediatrician in the Kansas City, Missouri, area who has cared for babies delivered prematurely by cesarean section in a last-ditch effort to save their mothers, some of whom died.

For health workers, the deaths, combined with misinformation and disbelief about the virus, have been "heart-wrenching, soul-crushing."

Twenty-two people died in one week alone at CoxHealth hospitals in the Springfield-Branson area, a level almost as high as that of all of Chicago. 

West Virginia has had more deaths in the first three weeks of September, 340, than in the previous three months combined. 

Georgia is averaging 125 dead per day, more than California or other more populous states.

The nation was stunned back in December when it was witnessing 3,000 deaths a day. But that was when almost no one was vaccinated.

Now, nearly 64% of the US population has received at least one dose. And yet, average deaths per day have climbed 40% over the past two weeks, from 1,387 to 1,947, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Health experts say the vast majority of the hospitalised and dead were not vaccinated.

US to donate an additional 500M vaccines

The US plans to donate an additional 500 million Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to nations around the world, lifting the total the country is sharing to more than 1 billion doses, according to a source familiar with the plans.

President Joe Biden is hosting a virtual summit on Wednesday and is likely to announce the new pledge then.

Earlier on Tuesday, Biden told United Nations General Assembly that the US had put more than $15 billion toward the global response in order to fund more than 160 million vaccines in other countries.

The US had already purchased 500 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and donated them through the global vaccine-sharing platform COVAX.

Vaccines had already landed in 100 countries, Biden said, adding he would announce additional commitments on Wednesday at a US-hosted global Covid-19 summit.

The United States is pushing global leaders to endorse its targets for ending the pandemic, including ensuring 70% of the world's population is vaccinated by the 2022, according to a draft US document viewed by Reuters.

J&J reports positive booster shot 

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is more effective when given as a two-dose regime, according to new data released by the company.

A second shot given 56 days after the first provided 75 percent protection against symptomatic patients in a global clinical trial, with that level rising to 94 percent in the United States.

The reason behind this difference was not clear from the company's press release, but it could be linked to fewer variants in the US when the data accrued.

It was 94 percent effective in preventing severe or critical symptoms at least 14 day s post final vaccination in America, but there were relatively few cases to judge from.

When a second shot was given two months after the first, antibody levels rose to four to six times higher than observed after the single dose.

Overall, the data is positive news for the almost 15 million Americans who received one dose of the J&J vaccine but have been left in the dark about if and when they might need a booster.

Experts eye travel testing to contain virus in Hawaii

Hawaii officials are facing pressure to increase testing for travellers as the islands weather a record surge and federal guidelines change to require negative virus tests from both vaccinated and unvaccinated people coming to the US.

State leaders have resisted implementation of a two-test policy for arriving travelers, despite evidence that more testing would help reduce the spread of disease, especially in an isolated destination like Hawaii.

Earlier this summer, the state removed all testing requirements for vaccinated people.

And even with a single pre-flight test for unvaccinated travelers, experts say infected passengers can easily slip through the cracks.

Iran to buy 2M Pfizer-BioNTech doses

Iran is considering the purchase of two million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, as the country continues to battle the Middle East's deadliest outbreak.

"A contract is being drawn up with the Iranian foreign exchange office for the import within one to two months of two million doses of the Pfizer vaccine produced in Belgium," said senior health official Mohammad-Reza Shanehsaz.

"At present, six vaccines, Sputnik, AstraZeneca, Sinopharm, Bharat, Pfizer produced in Belgium and Johnson & Johnson produced in Germany, have been given the green light," he said, quoted by Fars news agency.

The authorities have also approved for emergency use two domestically produced vaccines, including COViran Barekat, which is in short supply.

The country has so far received more than 60 million vaccine doses, including from China, according to media reports.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies