Covid-19 has infected more than 329.4M people and killed over 5.5M worldwide. Here are some of the latest coronavirus-related developments:

Moderna's experimental flu shot, targeting four major strains, is based on the same m RNA method used in its Covid-19 jabs.
Moderna's experimental flu shot, targeting four major strains, is based on the same m RNA method used in its Covid-19 jabs. (AP)

Monday, January 17, 2022

Moderna: Covid-flu joint booster jab possible late 2023

Moderna aims to roll out a combined Covid-flu-RSV booster vaccine in late 2023, the US pharmaceutical firm has said, hoping a joint jab would encourage people to get an annual shot.

The single vaccine for Covid-19, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus — a common virus that causes the cold, but can be more serious for infants and elderly people — could appear on the market before 2024.

"Best-case scenario will be the fall of '23," Moderna chief executive Stephane Bancel told a virtual World Economic Forum roundtable session.

Canadian health authority OKs Pfizer pill

Canada's health authority has approved Pfizer's anti-Covid pill, Paxlovid, for adults at high risk of progressing to serious disease.

The oral treatment was approved after an "expedited review," Health Canada said in a statement on its website, adding that it would continue to monitor its safety and effectiveness.

"No drug, including PAXLOVID TM, is a substitute for vaccination," the statement added.

Bulgaria tightens arrival conditions as infections rise

Bulgaria has said it would require travellers from neighbouring North Macedonia, Serbia and Turkiye as well as Israel to have a negative PCR  test prior to entry along with a valid certificate.

The measures announced by the Health Ministry, aimed at limiting the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant, already apply to all European Union member states except for Bulgaria's northern neighbour Romania.

Israel cuts virus isolation to five days

Israel's Health Ministry has said it would shorten the mandatory isolation period for those who test positive to five days from seven days, following an initial cut last week, provided they are asymptomatic.

Until last week, the isolation period was 10 days.

The latest decision, which takes effect on Wednesday, brings Israel in line with recommendations in the United States.

Mexico president says he's beaten Covid for second time

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has said that he  recovered from a second bout of Covid-19, as he resumed his public activities.

Lopez Obrador said that he was no longer infected and his symptoms had been milder — and his recovery quicker — than with his first infection last year.

Poland in fifth wave of pandemic

Poland is in the fifth wave of the pandemic, the health minister has said, adding that he expected the country to report over 20,000 daily cases on Tuesday and a peak of 60,000 in mid-February.

"In today's results, which we will report in full tomorrow, there is a risk that the barrier of 20,000 infections will be broken," Adam Niedzielski told a news conference.

Russia's daily virus cases double as Omicron spreads

Russian authorities have reported a sharp spike in new cases, apparently driven by the rapid spread of the Omicron variant health officials warned about last week.

The country's state task force registered 30,726 new infections over the last 24 hours, which is twice as many as 15,830 just a week ago and the highest daily tally since early December. 

The task force has also reported 670 deaths.

Pfizer CEO: virus will continue to circulate for many years

The chief executive of Pfizer has told French TV station BFM TV that the virus will continue to circulate for many years to come, but that this current wave should be the last to have to lead to restrictions.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla also told BFM TV that the Covid vaccine was "safe and efficient" for children. 

China's cases hit highest in nearly two years

The number of cases in China has reached its highest level since March 2020, as Beijing races to smother outbreaks just three weeks before hosting the Winter Olympics.

China, where the virus first emerged in late 2019, has stuck to a strict policy of targeting zero Covid cases even as the rest of the world has reopened.

But its approach has come under sustained pressure in recent weeks with multiple clusters across the country just as the Games are about to get under way in Beijing.

Paris fashion gets physical despite Omicron

The city may still be deep in the throes of the Omicron surge and adapting to the latest Covid restrictions, but Paris Fashion Week will nevertheless launch.

The industry is determined to get back on the catwalks after nearly two years during which most brands were forced to retreat online.

Despite the complications caused by the pandemic, the fashion community is stepping out regardless. Most fashion houses are returning to live shows as the menswear week kicks off, followed immediately by haute couture shows.

India's main cities record sharp fall in infections 

India's capital Delhi and financial hub Mumbai have reported a big fall in infections in the past two days and most of those who contracted the virus have recovered at home, authorities said.

Mumbai's daily new infections fell below 10,000 for the first time since early this month, after touching an all-time high of 20,971 on Jan. 7. It reported 7,895 infections late on Sunday, Mumbai's municipal corporation said.

Delhi's cases have fallen consistently since hitting a peak of 28,867 on January 13 and is expected to be fewer than 15,000 on Monday, for the first time since early January, the city government's health minister told reporters.

Tokyo regions to seek further measures to counter virus surge

The governors of Tokyo and surrounding prefectures have agreed to request further measures from the central government, including shorter opening hours for bars and restaurants, to help counter rising infections.

The highly infectious Omicron variant is driving a resurgence in coronavirus cases, which are hovering near record levels, after new infections exceeded 25,000 nationwide in the past two days.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told an online meeting of governors that the occupancy rate of hospital beds for Covid-19 patients was estimated to have reached 20 percent, a key threshold for requesting additional steps.

Ecuador declares red alert as cases surge 

Ecuador has declared a red alert in most of the country following a ten-fold increase in cases.

The red alert applies to 193 of the South American country's 221 cantons, including major population hubs such as Quito and Guayaquil.

Schools have also been shut until January 21.

Daily cases rose from an average of 4,000 in the week around Christmas to more than 42,000 in the second week of January, Deputy health minister Jose Ruales told reporters.

The record number of average daily cases up to the end of 2021 was just over 13,000 from April 25 to May 1 last year, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

UK plans to scrap self-isolation law

The United Kingdom is drawing up plans under which people will not be legally bound to self-isolate after catching Covid-19, The Telegraph reported.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants to permanently revoke emergency coronavirus laws as Britain's Covid-19 cases continue to fall, the report said, adding official guidance would remain but would not result in fines or legal punishment if ignored.

The plans will be worked up over the coming weeks, with an announcement expected as early as the spring, the report said.

Australia flags 'significant concern' over antigen tests prices

Australia's competition regulator has said it had "significant concerns" about reports of price gouging of rapid antigen tests and sought information from suppliers, retailers and pharmacy chains about rising costs.

Australia is facing a shortage of at-home rapid antigen test kits after authorities urged asymptomatic close contacts to bypass government-funded testing hubs, where high volumes delayed results, and take their own tests.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the shortages of at-home antigen tests were "not unique" to the country as authorities deal with a runaway Omicron outbreak that has driven up hospitalisation rates and strain testing systems.

"The rapid antigen tests are in short supply all around the world. This is not something that is unique to Australia going through it," Morrison told radio station 2GB on Monday. "It's part of dealing with Omicron. Omicron has disrupted everything."

France approves vaccine pass

France’s parliament has given a final approval to a contentious vaccine pass bill aimed at restricting the movement of unvaccinated people in public places as part of the government’s latest efforts to tackle Covid-19.
Lawmakers in the lower house of parliament voted 215-58 with seven abstentions.

The Macron government will still not be able to implement the law with immediate effect as opposition lawmakers are set to approach the country’s highest constitutional authority, the Constitutional Council, for final validation. 

Brazil registers new 24,943 cases

Brazil had 24,934 new cases of the novel coronavirus reported in the past 24 hours and 74 deaths from Covid-19, the Health Ministry has said.

The South American country has now registered 23,000,657 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 621,045, according to ministry data.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies