Covid-19 has infected more than 441M people and killed nearly 6M worldwide. Here are some of the latest coronavirus-related developments:

Moderna vaccine for younger children will be a half-dose of what is given to older teens and adults.
Moderna vaccine for younger children will be a half-dose of what is given to older teens and adults. (AP)

Thursday, March 3, 2022

EU greenlights Moderna, Pfizer for young kids

The European Medicines Agency has authorised Moderna's vaccine for children aged six to 11, in addition to recommending booster shots of Pfizer's vaccine for those aged 12 and over.

At a press briefing on Thursday, the EU regulator's vaccines chief Dr Marco Cavaleri said the Moderna vaccine for younger children will be a half-dose of what is given to older teens and adults.

He said research showed young children had an immune response comparable to that seen in older populations “as measured by the level of neutralising antibodies” against the virus.

Moreover, he emphasised that he was not concerned over recent data from New York state on a decline of protection from the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine in children aged 5 to 11.

Türkiye reports over 49,400 new cases

Türkiye has reported 49,424 new cases, 188 deaths and 66,873 recoveries, which were recorded by the Health Ministry over the past day and some 398,242 virus tests were done.

To counter the spread of the virus, Türkiye has administered over 145.87 million doses of vaccines since it launched an immunisation drive in January 2021.

France to lift vaccine pass as health situation improves

France will this month end most restrictions and scrap its vaccine pass for eating out or attending cultural events.

The Prime Minister Jean Castex said in a statement that from March 14, the vaccine pass – proving that someone has been triple vaccinated against Covid-19 – will no longer be needed.

After the surge in cases caused by the Omicron variant, the health situation has improved over the last weeks with less pressure on hospitals, Castex said.

A similar pass will, however, be needed to go to a hospital or a retirement home in order to protect the most vulnerable, Castex added.

Masks will from March 14 only be required on public transport, meaning that their use will no longer be required in the workplace or at school, he said.

Sweden sees clear drop in cases despite scrapped curbs 

Infection cases in Sweden have been falling sharply, even as nearly all pandemic-related curbs were lifted less than a month ago. 

"There are no indications that the opening increased spread so we asses that it was relevant and correct," Health Agency Director General Karin Tegmark Wisell told a news conference on Thursday.

The number of patients requiring intensive care was 53 on Thursday, down 24 from last week, while the total number requiring care fell to 1,300 from about 1,600.

Japan to ease border rules, extend control measures

Japan is set to loosen border controls to allow more people to enter the country, especially students, while extending infection control measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus in several areas, including Tokyo.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will raise the number of people who can enter Japan to 7,000 a day from 5,000 at present, while students will be exempted from the daily intake and considered in a separate category, media reports said.

The move will extend an easing of the country's strict border measures earlier this week that opened the doors to more students and foreign workers amid criticism from business leaders and educators.

WHO sees little impact on vaccine supplies to Africa

The World Health Organization said it does not expect immediate impact on vaccine supply to Africa due to the fighting in Ukraine, and that Russia's Sputnik Covid-19 vaccines were a minimal component of imports to the continent.

"In the short term, there will be very little impact on the vaccine supply overall in the region," Richard Mihigo, the programme area manager for WHO Africa, told an online news conference. 

South Korean PM tests positive as infections surge

South Korean Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum tested positive for the coronavirus, his office said, as daily infections hit unprecedented levels this week, driven by the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant. 

Kim has steered anti-virus efforts, holding regular meetings with officials and experts, and visiting medical and educational facilities to check quarantine work and promote vaccination. 

"He was coughing a bit this morning but is now only having mild cold symptoms," an official at his office told Reuters news agency.

Hong Kong transport operators, supermarket cut services

Hong Kong's subway operator, bus and ferry companies, and one of its biggest supermarket chains, are cutting back services due to a worsening Covid-19 outbreak that has seen daily infections explode this year.

Authorities reported a new daily record of 56,827 new infections and 144 deaths in the Chinese self-governing city, an exponential rise from around 100 in early February and a clean three-month streak of zero cases at the end of 2021.

The surge in cases and mixed messaging from government officials have triggered an exodus of people from the global financial hub, where authorities are clinging to a "dynamic zero" policy that seeks to eradicate all outbreaks.

Moscow drops QR codes, other Covid-19 restrictions

Russian capital Moscow will no longer require locals to use QR codes to prove they are vaccinated or immune to Covid-19 and is dropping all restrictions at entertainment and sport venues, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said.

The situation in the city is gradually normalising with fewer infections and hospitalisations reported, Sobyanin wrote on his blog.

Lifting of Covid curbs boosts German private sector in Feb - PMI

Activity in Germany's services sector grew further in February as the country began loosening the Covid containment measures that had pressured its economy in late 2021, although the Ukraine crisis casts uncertainty over the March outlook, a survey showed.

IHS Markit's final Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for services rose to 55.8 in February from 52.2 in January thanks to higher demand. However, the final reading was lower than a preliminary "flash" estimate of 56.6.

The composite PMI index, which covers both the services and manufacturing sectors, rose to 55.6 from 53.8 in January, the highest since last August but lower than a flash figure of 56.2.

Brazil's death toll reaches 650,000

Brazil has reported 370 Covid-19 deaths in the last 24 hours, reaching a total death toll of 650,000, the Health Ministry said.

The South American country also reported 30,995 new coronavirus cases, totaling 28,842,160 cases since the pandemic began, according to ministry data.

Mexico reports over 300 fatalities

Mexico reported 304 more fatalities from Covid-19, bringing the total death toll since the pandemic began to 318,835, according to Health Ministry data.

WHO recommends pills to patients at risk of hospitalisation

The World Health Organization has recommended an anti-Covid pill be taken by sufferers who have mild symptoms but are at high risk of hospitalisation, such as older people or the unvaccinated.

The pill, called molnupiravir and developed by US pharmaceutical Merck, is taken as soon as possible after Covid-19 symptoms develop and then for the following five days.

A WHO group of experts said in the British Medical Journal that people with weak immune systems or chronic disease were also recommended to take the pill if they had non-severe Covid.

Covid curbs linked to 750,000 fewer dengue fever cases in 2020

Covid-19-related restrictions on people's movements and interactions may be linked to a sharp decline in cases of mosquito-borne dengue fever in 2020, offering new insight into how it might be controlled, according to a study.

The study in the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal found nearly 750,000 fewer cases of dengue than were expected occurred globally in 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic began.

Dengue is not transmitted human to human, but only by the Aedes mosquito, which bites during the day. However, scientists had previously thought that most transmission happened in and around homes, rather than elsewhere.

The World Health Organisation says the global incidence of dengue is growing dramatically and estimates around half of the world's population is at risk of contracting dengue. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies