Covid-19 has killed more than 4.3M people and infected over 206M globally. Here are all the coronavirus-related developments for August 13:

Vials with a sticker reading,
Vials with a sticker reading, "Covid-19 / Coronavirus vaccine / Injection only" and a medical syringe are seen in front of a displayed Johnson & Johnson logo in this illustration taken October 31, 2020. (Reuters)

Friday, August 13

CDC says authorisation of Covid-19 vaccine boosters not applicable to J&J shot

The authorisation of an extra Covid-19 vaccine dose for those with a compromised immune system does not apply to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at this time, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Data on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was insufficient at this time, the CDC said in slides presented at a meeting of its advisory panel.

Cuba says early data suggests homegrown vaccine protecting against Delta

Cuba, grappling with a dire Covid-19 outbreak fuelled by the Delta variant, said "only 21,000," or 0.8 percent of the 2.5 million people inoculated with its homegrown vaccines, had fallen ill with the disease so far.

Of those, 99 or 0.003 percent of those inoculated had died, in what state biopharmaceutical corporation BioCubaFarma said was an encouraging sign that the shots were working, including against Delta, in particular to prevent severe illness.

Turkey administers over 82.6M doses

Turkey has administered over 82.65 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines since it launched a mass vaccination campaign in January, according to official figures. 

The country continues its intensive vaccination campaign to curb the spread of the coronavirus, as everyone 16 and over is eligible for vaccine shots. 

According to the Health Ministry, over 43.71 million people have gotten their first doses, while more than 32.42 million are now fully vaccinated.

The ministry also confirmed 21,372 new infections and 157 coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours, while as many as 16,492 more patients recovered. 

Italy reports 45 coronavirus deaths, 7,409 new cases

Italy reported 45 coronavirus-related deaths against 30 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 7,409 from 7,270.

Italy has registered 128,379 deaths linked to the virus since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the eighth-highest in the world. The country has reported 4.43 million cases to date.

Patients in hospital with Covid-19 - not including those in intensive care - stood at 3,033, up from 2,975 a day earlier.

There were 35 new admissions to intensive care units, down from 37 on Thursday. The total number of intensive care patients increased to 369 from a previous 352.

Britain records 32,700 new virus cases, 100 deaths

Britain recorded 32,700 new virus cases and 100 deaths within 28 days of a positive test for the virus, according to government data.

That compares with 33,074 new cases and 94 deaths on Thursday.

The data also showed that 47.2 million people have had a first dose of a vaccine and 40.2 million have had two.

Japan races to vaccinate as coronavirus surges

The Tokyo Olympics have ended, but cases are still rising amid calls to limit gatherings.

Tokyo reported 5,773 new cases, surpassing the previous record of 5,042 set last week. Yet many people are ignoring government requests to avoid travel and are gathering at bars and restaurants even as the coronavirus spikes.

Cyprus eases virus vaccination for uninsured foreigners

Lekulutu Nsima considers himself a “lucky man" after receiving his first Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine shot against Covid-19 in Cyprus.

The 33-year-old asylum seeker said that in his native Congo, the government has only procured a handful of vaccine doses for one of Africa's most populous nations, and those are often reserved for the country's elites — the wealthy and politically connected.

Nsima was one of hundreds of foreign nationals who stood in line on Friday under Cyprus' searing midsummer sun at the capital's only walk-in vaccination centre geared toward vaccinating free of charge those who aren't covered under the country's General Healthcare System, or GHS.

Spain reports lowest virus cases 

Covid-19 cases in Spain have fallen to their lowest level in a month as the country faces a weekend spent largely indoors due to a heatwave.

The Health Ministry says Spain's 14-day incidence rate fell to 483 cases per 100,000 people, while 61.6 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Spanish health authorities have faced criticism for suggesting that unvaccinated care home workers should be reassigned to non-contact roles to prevent infections among residents. Care home representatives called the proposal unworkable.

Australia’s capital Canberra to remain in lockdown

Australia’s capital Canberra will remain locked down until there are no more Covid-19 infections in the city, a government leader said.

The Australian Capital Territory, which comprises Canberra and two villages, locked down for a week after a man tested positive on Thursday.

The tally of infections rose to six, with more than 1,800 people identified as close contacts of the original case since he became infectious, officials said.

Norway ends some virus restrictions, keeps others

Norway's government will end some restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic, it said, but stopped short of announcing a full reopening of the economy.

"We will open up where we can, and hold back where we must," Health Minister Bent Hoeie told a news conference. 

China reports smallest number of new local cases since July

China reported declining numbers of new locally transmitted Covid-19 cases for the third consecutive day, a tentative sign that the latest month-long outbreak may be waning.

The National Health Commission (NHC) reported 47 new locally transmitted confirmed cases on Thursday, the lowest since July 30.

Russia reports record-high 815 virus deaths

Russia reported a record-high 815 coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours and 22,277 new virus cases, including 2,529 in Moscow.

Russia's daily reported cases have gradually dipped from a peak in July that authorities blamed on the infectious Delta variant and a slow vaccination rate. 

Philippines records second-highest daily rise in cases

The Philippines' health ministry recorded 13,177 new coronavirus infections, the second-highest daily increase in cases since the start of the pandemic.

In a bulletin, the ministry said total confirmed infections in the Philippines had increased to 1.71 million, while deaths reached 29,838, after 299 more fatalities, the highest in four months. 

Vietnam to extend movement curbs in biggest city as virus toll rises

Vietnam's business hub Ho Chi Minh City will extend its coronavirus restrictions to the end of August, state media reported, as new infections and deaths rise further in the epicentre of the country's worst outbreak yet.

After successfully containing the virus up until late April, Vietnam has seen infections rise rapidly and has introduced movement restrictions across about a third of the country to try to curtail the spread.

Denmark removes last of its obligatory mask rules

Masks will no longer be required on Danish public transport, the government said, as the Nordic country lifted the last of its compulsory face-covering regulations.

"We are now in a situation... where a large part of the population has been vaccinated and we are returning to a more normal everyday life," transport minister Benny Engelbrecht said in a statement.

From Saturday, "We can say goodbye to masks on buses, trains and the metro," he added.

The change was originally scheduled for September 1.

Israel expands Covid vaccine booster campaign to over 50s, health workers

Israel lowered to 50 from 60 the minimum age of eligibility for a Covid-19 vaccine booster shot and will also offer them to health workers, hoping to stem a surge in Delta variant infections.

The director-general of Israel's health ministry, Nachman Ash, accepted a recommendation late Thursday by an expert advisory panel to expand third shot eligibility of the Pfizer -BioNTech vaccine.

Those eligible will be "people over 50, health care workers, people with severe risk factors for the coronavirus, prisoners and wardens," the health ministry said in a statement.

China rejects WHO's call for new probe into virus origins

China on Friday rejected the World Health Organization's calls for a renewed probe into the origins of the virus, saying it supported "scientific" over "political" efforts to find out how the virus started.

Pressure is once more mounting on Beijing to consider a fresh probe into the origins of a pandemic which has killed more than 4 million people and paralysed economies worldwide since it first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

A WHO team of international experts went to Wuhan in January 2021 to produce a first phase report, which was written in conjunction with their Chinese counterparts.

It failed to find a conclusive position on how the virus began.

On Thursday the WHO urged China to share raw data from the earliest cases to revive its probe into the origins of the disease.

China hit back, repeating its position that the initial investigation was enough and that calls for further data were motivated by politics instead of scientific inquiry.

"We oppose political tracing ... and abandoning the joint report" issued after the WHO expert team's Wuhan visit in January, vice foreign minister Ma Zhaoxu told reporters. "We support scientific tracing."

Thailand reports second day of record cases

Thailand has reported 23,418 new infections, a record increase for a second day in a row, bringing the total accumulated cases to 863,189, as the country deals with its biggest outbreak to date.

The Southeast Asian country also reported 184 new deaths, taking total fatalities to 7,126.

South Korea signs deal with Pfizer to buy 30M doses

South Korea has signed a deal with Pfizer Inc to buy 30 million doses of vaccine for use in 2022, Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) Director Jeong Eun-kyeong told a briefing.

Norway to speed up vaccination

Norway will get access to one million additional doses of vaccines in the coming weeks, allowing the country to speed up its immunisation programme, the government said.

"With this delivery, adults above the age of 18 will be able to complete their vaccination during the first two weeks of September," Prime Minister Erna Solberg said in a statement.

Peru study finds Sinopharm vaccine 50.4% effective against infections

A two-dose vaccine from China's Sinopharm was 50.4 percent effective in preventing infections in health workers in Peru when it was seeing a surge in cases fuelled by virus variants, and booster shots can be considered, a study found.

fThe involving Sinopharm's BBIBP-CorV vaccine, which looked at data from February through June at a time when Peru was fighting a brutal second-wave of infections fuelled by the Lambda and Gamma variants of the coronavirus, was conducted on nearly 400,000 frontline health workers in live conditions.

Most of the health workers received two doses of the vaccine.

US authorises boosters for those with weakened immune systems

The United States authorised an extra dose of vaccine for people with weakened immune systems, as the country struggles to thwart the Delta variant.

Emergency use authorisation for a third injection of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines was granted by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulator.

"The country has entered yet another wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the FDA is especially cognisant that immunocompromised people are particularly at risk for severe disease," said acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock in a statement.

Vietnam business hub Ho Chi Minh City to extend curbs

Vietnam's business hub Ho Chi Minh City, will extend its restrictions, according to the state-run Tuoi Tre newspaper, after the city's new daily infections failed to fall below its required threshold for lifting the measures.

The restrictions were due to expire in Ho Chi Minh City, the epicentre of Vietnam's current outbreak. 

Germany's virus cases rise by 5,578

The number of virus cases in Germany increased by 5,578 to 3,810,641, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

 The reported death toll rose by 19 to 91,853, the tally showed.

Argentina produces first local batch of Sputnik V

In the midst of a race against time to vaccinate its people while new variants spread, Argentina started distributing the first locally produced doses of the Russian Sputnik V.

More than one million doses manufactured by Laboratorios Richmond will be shipped from the centre.

Argentina was the first country in Latin America to approve the Russian vaccine in December 2020 and the first to start its local production.

More than six million people, most of them over 60 years old, were vaccinated with the first dose of Sputnik V, and are awaiting a second dose, which is manufactured differently than the first.

WHO urges China to share raw data on early Covid cases

The WHO has urged China to share raw data from the earliest Covid-19 cases to revive the pandemic origins probe, and release information to address the controversial lab leak theory.

The World Health Organization stressed it was "vitally important" to uncover the origins of the worst pandemic in a century, which has killed at least 4.3 million people and battered the global economy since the virus was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019.

In the face of pushback from Beijing, the UN health agency called for the provision of "all data and access required so that the next series of studies can be commenced as soon as possible".

After much delay, a WHO team of international experts went to Wuhan in January 2021 to produce a first phase report, which was written in conjunction with their Chinese counterparts.

Their March report drew no firm conclusions, instead ranking four hypotheses.

It said the virus jumping from bats to humans via an intermediate animal was the most probable scenario, while a leak from the Wuhan virology labs was "extremely unlikely".

However, the investigation faced criticism for lacking transparency and access, and for not evaluating the lab-leak theory more deeply, with the United States upping the pressure ever since.

US shipping more than 560,000 vaccines to Caribbean countries

The United States has started shipping nearly 569,000 Pfizer vaccine doses to member countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the US State Department said.

The shipments, part of a planned donation of 5.5 million doses to the 15-member grouping, would arrive at Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago on Thursday, and at Barbados on Friday, the department said in a statement.

The US government has said it would buy 500 million Pfizer coronavirus vaccines to distribute to 92 low and lower middle-income countries and the African Union

Mexico posts record number of daily confirmed cases

Mexico has posted a record 24,975 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infection, bringing the total number of cases to 3,045,571, according to health ministry data.

The figure is the highest daily total since the pandemic began, excluding statistical blips that heath authorities said were caused by one-off adjustments to back data.

Mexico also reported 608 new fatalities on Thursday, bringing the overall death toll to 246,811. 

Israel set to offer vaccine booster shots to under 60 year olds

Israeli Health Ministry experts have recommended dropping from 60 to 50 the minimum age of eligibility for a vaccine booster, hoping to curb a rise in Delta variant infections.

The advisory panel's move, which followed a call by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett to expand Israel's booster campaign, still has to be approved by the Health Ministry's director.

But at least two major health providers have already said they would begin on Friday to schedule appointments for people in the 50-59 age group to get a third dose of the Pfizer /BioNTech vaccine.

After a successful vaccination campaign launched in late 2020 in which around 60% of the population have received two shots of the Pfizer vaccine, new daily cases dropped from more than 10,000 in January to single digits in June.

But with the spread of the Delta variant across the globe, new infections jumped in Israel, reaching 5,946 on Monday, and serious illnesses have been increasing as well.

UK watchdog says to investigate testing firms

Britain's competition watchdog has said it will help the government take action against testing companies if it finds they are breaching consumer law, amid concerns about the price and reliability of PCR travel tests.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid wrote to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) on August 6 asking it to investigate the market for PCR tests to ensure that consumers did not face unnecessarily high costs or other poor provision.

The watchdog said in a statement it was exploring if individual PCR providers may be breaching their obligations under consumer law, and if there were structural problems in the market for PCR tests that could affect price or reliability.

It would also examine if there was any immediate action that the government could take in the meantime.

"We are also working closely with DHSC (Health Department) to get the data we need to identify the cause of any wider problems in the PCR testing market, and to ground our advice on what action may be needed," George Lusty, CMA Senior Director for Consumer Protection, said.

The United Kingdom operates a "traffic light" system for international travel, with low-risk countries rated green for quarantine-free travel, medium risk countries rated amber, and red countries requiring arrivals to spend 10 days in isolation in a hotel.

Brazil reports 39,982 new cases, 1,148 deaths

Brazil recorded 39,982 new confirmed cases in the past 24 hours, along with 1,148 deaths, the Health Ministry has said.

Brazil has registered more than 20 million cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 566,896, according to ministry data.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies