Covid-19 has infected more than 242M people and killed over 4.9M globally. Here are the virus-related developments for October 20:

A woman passes a coronavirus test center in Duisburg, Germany, Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021.
A woman passes a coronavirus test center in Duisburg, Germany, Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. (AP)

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Germany records highest daily cases since May

Germany has reported more than 17,000 coronavirus cases for the first time since May, raising concerns about a winter surge in Covid-19 cases.

The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) confirmed 17,015 more coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, up from 6,771 registered on Tuesday.

The 7-day average of new cases has increased by 22 percent compared to last week.

Authorities confirmed 92 more fatali ties and 711 new cases of hospitalization.

The institute has warned that new infections and hospitalisations are likely to increase in the coming weeks if the vaccination rate does not improve in the country.

Singapore reports highest single-day deaths from Covid-19

Singapore's health ministry has recorded 18 new deaths due to Covid-19, the highest since the beginning of the pandemic, while it reported 3,862 cases of the disease.

A recent spike in infections after the relaxation of some restrictions has prompted Singapore to pause further reopening. The city-state extended its social curbs on Wednesday to contain the spread of Covid-19 for around a month in order to ease the pressure on the healthcare system.

More than 80 percent of Singapore's population has been vaccinated against the virus. 

UK reports almost 50,000 new cases, 179 deaths

Britain has reported 49,139 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday and 179 more deaths within 28 days of a positive test, official data showed.

The number of new cases has been rising rapidly, with infections in the last seven days up 17percent compared to the week before.

41 percent of Latin America and Caribbean residents vaccinated

Forty-one percent of people across Latin America and the Caribbean have now been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday.

Still, PAHO Director Carissa Etienne said in a news conference that the coverage has not been evenly distributed across all countries in the region, and called for public health measures to be maintained and prioritised.

Gates Foundation to spend $120M on access for Covid-19 pill

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation says it will spend $120 million to boost access to generic versions of drugmaker Merck’s antiviral Covid-19 pill for lower income countries, if the drug gets approved by regulators.

The private foundation said in a statement released Wednesday it hasn’t determined how it will allocate the money, but will use the funds to “support the range of activities required to develop and manufacture generic versions” of the drug, molnupiravir. 

Merck has licensed its technology with generic drug manufacturers in India. Under the agreement, the company said it will provide licenses to manufacturers to supply the drug to India and more than 100 other lower and middle income countries.

It's unclear how much of the generic drug could be available for use. 

The Gates Foundation says its funding is also intended to help ready regulatory, delivery and other pathways in order to make the pill more accessible, if it becomes available. 

The Food and Drug Administration hasn't authorised the pill, and its outside experts are expected to meet on November 30 to scrutinize the drug. If cleared by regulators, the drug will be the first pill available to treat Covid-19. 

Kuwait lifts restrictions for vaccinated people, says PM

Kuwait has lifted all Covid-19 restrictions for vaccinated people, its prime minister, Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, told a news conference on Wednesday.

He did not give further details during the televised event.

Kuwait airport will resume operating at full capacity from October 24, the cabinet spokesman told the same news conference.

The Gulf country has been witnessing a gradual return to normal life as daily cases of coronavirus have steadily declined.

The latest easing includes perm itting the holding of conferences, weddings and other social events, provided that attendance is limited to those who have been vaccinated.

Wearing masks remains mandatory in public places.

Risks still too high to ease Covid rules - Swiss government

The Swiss government will not ease its remaining pandemic-related restrictions on public life for the time being, it said on Wednesday, citing unacceptably high risks of another wave of infections.

The state now requires people to show Covid-status certificates to enter bars, restaurants and other indoor spaces and events, in a move to relieve pressure on hospitals.

The government discussed the possibility of lifting the certificate requirement in certain cases, but decided against this.

"With schools reopening after th e autumn break, the cooler season ahead, stagnating case numbers, the highly contagious Delta variant and a relatively low level of immunisation, it concluded that the risks are still too high for easing restrictions at present," it said.

"To prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed by another wave of infections, it intends to maintain the current certificate requirement for the time being and reassess the situation in mid-November."

Switzerland and tiny neighbour Liechtenstein have recorded nearly 860,000 infections and more than 10,800 deaths from Covid-19 since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Around 62.5 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.

Virus: Morocco suspending UK, Germany, Netherlands flights

Morocco is suspending until further notice all flights to and from the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands amid rising coronavirus infections in those countries. The new restriction will come into force just before midnight Wednesday, the North African kingdom's airports authority said. 

In a tweet, national carrier Royal Air Maroc said the move was due to “the pandemic situation.” It did not provide further detail.

Morocco's Health Ministry warned Monday of the threat of a new virus surge, stressing “the need to avoid possible a relapse of serious and critical cases and Covid-19-related deaths, which have occurred in several European countries.”

Poland's daily Covid cases exceed 5,000

Poland reported over 5,000 daily cases for the first time since May on Wednesday, Health Ministry data showed.

The country of around 38 million people reported 5,559 new cases of the coronavirus and 75 deaths in the last 24 hours.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Poland has reported 2,950,616 cases and 76,254 deaths.

Russia health system buckles as deaths hit new record

Russia's healthcare system is operating under great strain, Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said on Wednesday, as the national death toll from Covid-19 hit a daily high for the second consecutive day.

Russia reported a record 1,028 coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours as well as 34,073 new infections, a surge in cases that has led authorities to press for stricter health restrictions.

Moscow's mayor announced four months of stay-home restrictions for unvaccinated over-60s on Tuesday and the Russian government proposed a week-long workplace shutdown to cope with fast-rising cases that the Kremlin has blamed on a slow vaccination campaign.

WHO: Europe only region with rise in Covid-19 last week

The World Health Organization said there was a 7 percent rise in new coronavirus cases across Europe last week, the only region in the world where cases increased.

The health agency said there were about 2.7 million new cases and more than 46,000 deaths last week, similar to the numbers reported the previous week. Britain, Russia and Turkey accounted for the most cases.

The biggest drop in cases was seen in Africa and the Western Pacific, where infections fell by about 18 percent and 16 percent, respectively.

The number of deaths in Africa also declined by about a quarter, despite the dire shortage of vaccines on the continent. Other regions including the Americas and the Middle East, reported similar numbers to the previous week, WHO said.

But for the third consecutive week, coronavirus cases have jumped in Europe, with about 1.3 million new cases. More than half of countries in the region reported a rise in their numbers, WHO said.

In the past week, Russia has repeatedly broken new daily records for cases and the number of infections in the U.K. has surged to levels not seen since mid-July.

Singapore extends curbs - health ministry

Singapore will extend its social curbs to contain the spread of Covid-19 for around a month in order to ease the pressure on the healthcare system, its health ministry said on Wednesday.

The city-state in late September reimposed curbs, restricting social interactions and dining out to two people, in order to slow virus transmission. 

However, daily cases have continued to rise and hit a record 3,994 on Tuesday.

Brazil president to face charge of 'intentional' crimes over Covid response

Brazil's senate committee will on Wednesday ask that President Jair Bolsonaro be charged with "intentional" crimes over his management of the pandemic that has left 600,000 of his compatriots dead.

Following six months of hearings, with emotional witness statements and chilling revelations about the use of ineffective medication on "human guinea pigs," the committee of inquiry will deliver its eagerly awaited report.

Renan Calheiros, the senator who is the lead author of the 1,200-page report, has already revealed that he has retained at least nine charges against the far-right president, including "quackery" and "crimes against humanity."

But he announced a last-minute withdrawal of "homicide" and "genocide" charges, after some infighting within the panel.

Australia hits its 70 percent Covid-19 vaccination target

Australia hit its target of full Covid-19 vaccination for 70 percent of its population 16 and older, a milestone set by the government for its plan to reopen the country.

According to Health Minister Greg Hunt, so far 33 million vaccines have been administered and 70 percent of Australians aged 16 and above have received both doses.

Travel restrictions between Sydney and Melbourne, Australia's largest cities, have eased as Victoria opened its borders to fully vaccinated residents from New South Wales amid a rapid rise in immunisation levels.

Tokyo aims to lift curbs on restaurants as cases fall – media

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government is aiming to ease restrictions on bars and restaurants next week as infections continue to decline, the Jiji news service said.

The easing will be announced as early as Thursday and would apply to businesses that are certified as following anti-infection measures, Jiji reported, citing informed sources.

Tokyo and much of Japan lifted Covid-19 emergency measures on October 1 that had been in place for almost six months. Even so, restaurants and bars in the capital have been asked to halt alcohol sales by 8 pm and close by 9 pm.

New daily cases in Tokyo dropped to 29 on Monday, the lowest since June last year. Infections have fallen dramatically from a wave of more than 5,000 a day in August that hammered the capital's medical infrastructure.

Mexico sees 446 new deaths

Mexico has reported 446 more deaths from Covid-19 in the country, bringing the overall death toll since the pandemic began to 284,923.

The government has previously said the numbers are likely significantly higher than those reported. 

Brazil reports over 2,459 new deaths

Brazil had over 115,515 new cases of the novel coronavirus reported in the past 24 hours and 2,459 deaths from Covid-19, the Health Ministry said.

The South American country has registered 21,664,879 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 603,855, according to ministry data. 

It is the world's third-worst outbreak outside the United States and India and its second-deadliest. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies