Covid-19 has infected more than 428M people and killed over 5.9M worldwide. Here are some of the latest coronavirus-related developments:

The Caribbean registered 2.2 million new cases last week, down 28 percent compared with the previous week.
The Caribbean registered 2.2 million new cases last week, down 28 percent compared with the previous week. (AP)

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Caribbean falling behind in fight against Covid, PAHO warns

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has warned that the Caribbean was falling behind in its effort to fight Covid-19 as only 63 percent of its eligible population was vaccinated and large regional discrepancies persist.

Out of 13 countries and territories in the Americas that have not yet reached the World Health Organization's (WHO) goal of 40 percent coverage, 10 are in the Caribbean, PAHO Director Carissa Etienne said.

The region registered 2.2 million new cases last week, down 28 percent compared with the previous week.

Italy will exit Covid state of emergency on March 31

The Italian government will end the Covid-19 state of emergency on March 31, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has said, promising a gradual return to normal after more than two years of the health crisis.

"We will continue to closely monitor the pandemic situation, ready to intervene in case of an outbreak.

But our goal is to reopen fully, as soon as possible," Draghi said in a speech in the art city of Florence.

The country has reported 49,040 Covid-19 related cases, against 60,029 the day before, the health ministry said, while the number of deaths fell to 252 from 322.

Türkiye logs 86,600 infections, 268 fatalities

Türkiye has reported 86,600 new coronavirus cases and 268 deaths, according to data shared by the Health Ministry.

Türkiye's Health Minister Fahrettin Koca on Twitter said the pandemic has evolved from being an infectious disease threatening the entire society to targeting certain risk groups.

"We must focus on these risk groups in the fight (against the virus)," Koca added.

UK records 39,656 cases, 164 deaths

Britain has reported 39,656 new Covid-19 cases and 164 more deaths within 28 days of a positive test, official data showed.

The figures compared to 41,130 cases and 205 deaths reported the day before.

Slovakia to lift most restrictions over the coming month

Slovakia will lift most Covid-19 restrictions over the next month, beginning with loosening measures for the unvaccinated before cancelling crowd limits in a later phase, according to plans approved by the government.

The first phase of the loosening will begin on February 26, material on the government's website showed. A second phase will follow on March 26 to end limits on crowds and opening hours.

Hundreds protest curbs in Bulgaria's capital

Several hundred people opposing Covid-19 mandates have staged a protest rally in Bulgaria's capital.

The demonstrators waved national flags and banners of the nationalist Revival party, which organised the protest. They also chanted “Resignation” and ”Freedom,” calling on the government to step down over its “failure to handle the health crisis."

A heavy police presence was in place and the protest in downtown Sofia remained peaceful.

The protesters rejected a government-sponsored plan for a gradual removal of Covid-19 related restrictions, demanding instead that the mandatory wearing of face masks and the use of health passes be abolished immediately.

WHO works to spread vaccine technology to more nations

The World Health Organization has said it would establish a global biomanufacturing training hub in South Korea to serve poorer countries wishing to produce their own vaccines, insulin and cancer treatments.

That hub's role is to help provide manufacturers in countries in Africa and beyond with the knowhow to make mRNA vaccines, like those used against Covid-19, at scale and according to international standards.

The new hub in South Korea meanwhile will accommodate trainees from middle- and low-income countries around the world that may have struggled to access vaccines and treatments mainly produced until now in wealthy countries, WHO said in a statement.

Iceland to lift all curbs

Iceland will this week join the list of countries that have lifted all their restrictions against Covid-19, despite still recording high numbers of cases, the government has announced.

The decision, which comes into force on Thursday night, follows the government's timetable for the gradual lifting of measures against the virus and covers both domestic measures and border controls.

"We are returning to normal life but the virus is still with us," Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir told reporters after a government meeting.

Vaccine supply for global programme outstrips demand

The global project to share Covid-19 vaccines is struggling to place more than 300 million doses in the latest sign the problem with vaccinating the world is now more about demand than supply.

Last year, wealthy nations snapped most of the available shots to inoculate their own citizens first, meaning less than a third of people in low-income countries have been vaccinated so far compared with more than 70 percent in richer nations.

As supply and donations have ramped up, however, poorer nations are facing hurdles such as gaps in cold-chain shortage, vaccine hesitancy and a lack of money to support distribution networks, public health officials said.

Cases hit record high in Hong Kong

Hong Kong has reported a record 8,674 new infections, as the city prepares for compulsory testing of its residents after authorities extended the toughest social restrictions imposed since the pandemic began.

With the city's testing, treatment and isolation capacity already stretched to the maximum, University of Hong Kong researchers predicted new infections could peak at 180,000 a day next month.

Health authorities reported 24 deaths compared with Tuesday's 32, as they step up measures, with assistance from their mainland counterparts, to contain the outbreak.

South Korea approves Pfizer's vaccine for ages 5-11

South Korea approved Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11, expanding the country's immunisation programme in the face of a massive Omicron outbreak that is driving up hospitalisations and deaths.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported a record 171,452 new virus cases, nearly a 40-fold increase from levels in mid-January when Omicron first emerged as the country’s dominant strain. 

The 99 new deaths were the highest daily tally since December 31, when the country was grappling with a delta-driven surge that buckled hospital systems.

World should send 60M vaccines to DPRK, UN investigator says

The international community should form a strategy to provide North Korea with at least 60 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to head off humanitarian disaster, an independent UN human rights investigator said.

The vaccines could be a way to persuade the country to ease lockdowns that have left some of its 26 million people on the verge of starvation, Tomas Ojea Quintana, UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, told a briefing in Seoul.

North Korea is not known to have imported any Covid-19 vaccines, and the COVAX global Covid-19 vaccine-sharing programme has scaled back the number of doses allocated for the country.

Moderna Covid shots to be available for Spanish citizens in China

A limited number of Moderna vaccine shots will be made available to Spanish citizens in China.

The Moderna doses will be used as a booster for those aged 18 and older who have completed primary vaccination with shots approved by the European Medicines Agency or Chinese vaccines, and there should be at least six months between the booster and the second dose.

China has yet to approve of any foreign Covid-19 vaccines.

The vaccination is expected to take place in the first week of March and the doses will only be supplied in the city of Beijing.

Poland will remove most Covid curbs

Poland will remove most Covid-19 restrictions from March 1, while keeping the obligation to wear face masks in enclosed public spaces, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said.

While face masks will remain compulsory in public spaces including shops and transportation, limits on the number of people visiting stores, restaurants and cultural venues will be removed.

Russia records 785 deaths

Russia has reported 785 more deaths and 137,642 further cases from Covid-19 in the past 24 hours.

Mexico, Brazil report hundreds of new fatalities

Mexico has registered 18,309 new confirmed cases and 706 more deaths from Covid-19, according to Health Ministry data, bringing the country's overall number of confirmed cases to 5,436,566 and the death toll to 316,492.

Meanwhile, Brazil has reported 105,776 new cases of the novel coronavirus and 816 deaths from Covid-19, the Health Ministry said.

The South American country has now registered 28,351,327 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 645,420, according to ministry data.

South Korea breaks another daily case count record

South Korea has reported 171,452 new coronavirus cases, another daily record and a sharp increase from 99,573 a day before, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said.

Singapore reaches new daily record for cases

Singapore has reported a record 26,032 Covid-19 infections and said it may take a few weeks before the current transmission wave peaks and subsides.

"While the number of patients needing oxygen supplementation and intensive care unit (ICU) care is not high, there is a surge in demand for hospital beds, mostly for patients with underlying chronic illnesses to recover," the Health Ministry said in a statement.

It reiterated that people with mild or no symptoms who had tested positive should consider self-recovery at home to reduce the pressure on healthcare workers.

About 91 percent of Singapore's 5.5 million population have been fully vaccinated, with a further 66 percent receiving a booster jab.

Vaccine shots unlikely to prompt rare inflammation in kids

Covid-19 vaccines are unlikely to trigger a rare inflammatory condition linked to coronavirus infection in children, according to an analysis of US government data.

The condition, formally known as a multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, involves fever plus symptoms affecting at least two organs and often includes stomach pain, skin rash or bloodshot eyes. It's a rare complication in kids who have had Covid-19, and very rarely affects adults. The condition often leads to hospitalization, but most patients recover.

Since February 2020, more than 6,800 cases have been reported in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

As part of Covid-19 vaccine safety monitoring, the CDC and US Food and Drug Administration added the condition to a list of several potential adverse events of special interest. 

A few cases reported in people with no detectable evidence of coronavirus infection prompted researchers at the CDC and elsewhere to undertake the new analysis, which was published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies