Coronavirus has claimed the lives of more than 3.8M people and infected over 178M globally. Here are the latest Covid-related developments for June 18:

A Palestinian health worker prepares a vaccine against the coronavirus disease after the delivery of doses from Israel, in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, February 3, 2021.
A Palestinian health worker prepares a vaccine against the coronavirus disease after the delivery of doses from Israel, in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, February 3, 2021. (Reuters)

Friday, June 18

Palestinians call off 1M dose vaccine exchange with Israel

The Palestinian Authority has called off an agreement whereby Israel would transfer one million doses of coronavirus vaccines to it in exchange for a similar number later this year, hours after the deal was announced on Friday. 

The Palestinians said the doses, which Israel began shipping to the occupied West Bank, are too close to expiring and do not meet their standards. 

In announcing the agreement, Israel had said the vaccines "will expire soon" without specifying the date. 

Palestinian officials had come under heavy criticism on social media after the agreement was announced, with many accusing them of accepting subpar vaccines and suggesting they might not be effective.

Africa Covid trajectory is 'very concerning', WHO official says 

The trend of virus cases in Africa is very concerning, a senior World Health Organization official said.

Absolute numbers do not make Africa look in bad shape, said Mike Ryan, the WHO's top emergency expert, adding that in the last week it had recorded just over 5 percent of global cases and 2.2 percent of deaths.

But given the level of under diagnosis, he told a news conference: "It's a trajectory that is very, very concerning." 

Turkey reports over 5,000 cases

Turkey has reported 5,575 new coronavirus cases, including 497 symptomatic patients, over the last 24 hours. 

The country's overall case tally is over 5.35 million, while the nationwide death toll has reached 49,071 with 59 new fatalities. 

More horses die as Bangladesh tourist town reels from Covid closures

Animal activists in Bangladesh have warned of a growing crisis among horses used for tourism during the country's coronavirus lockdown, after owners said that five more had died of starvation in a popular resort town.

Twenty-one horses that used to carry tourists along Cox's Bazar beach in southeastern Bangladesh died in one month, their owners said, after a lockdown imposed from April 14 saw visitors to the scenic spot dry up.

US administers 300M vaccine jabs in 150 days

The United States has administered 300 million Covid-19 vaccinations in 150 days, a White House official said ahead of President Joe Biden's scheduled update on his administration's vaccination program. 

Italy reports 35 coronavirus deaths 1,147 new cases 

Italy reported 35 coronavirus-related deaths against 37 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 1,147 from 1,325.

Italy has registered 127,225 deaths linked to Covid-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the eight-highest in the world. The country has reported 4.25 million cases to date.

Brazil to hit 500K deaths, 2nd highest globally

The official Covid-19 death toll in Brazil is about to hit 500,000, the second highest in the world behind the United States.

Official data showed some 2,000 deaths per day in Brazil in the past week, representing one-fifth the global total. Only 11 percent of Brazil’s population is fully vaccinated.

Brazil’s Senate is investigating how the toll got so high, focusing on why President Jair Bolsonaro’s far-right government ignored opportunities to buy vaccines for months while it relentlessly pushed hydroxychloroquine. 

UK reports 10,476 new virus cases, 11 more deaths

Britain reported 10,476 new cases of Covid-19 and 11 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, official data showed.

The figures showed 42.5 million people had received their first vaccine dose and 30.9 million had received both shots. 

Canada extends US travel restrictions through July 21

Canada said it will extend restrictions that bar non-essential travel at US land borders until at least July 21.

Reuters reported this week the United States is expected to issue a new extension of restrictions at the Canadian and Mexican borders that are set to expire June 21.

Niger reopens land borders as Covid 'under control'

The West African state of Niger said it had reopened land borders that had been closed since March 2020 to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Road crossings on the the landlocked state's borders were reopened on Thursday after Covid trends showed "the situation is still under control," the government said.

Niger, one of the world's poorest countries, took drastic measures to stop the spread of coronavirus after the first cases emerged in March 2020. 

Delta Covid variant becoming globally dominant: WHO

The World Health Organization's chief scientist said that the Delta variant of Covid-19, first identified in India, is becoming the globally dominant variant of the disease.

"The Delta variant is well on its way to becoming the dominant variant globally because of its increased transmissibility," WHO's Soumya Swaminathan told a news conference.

AstraZeneca says EU loses legal bid for more vaccine supplies by end-June

AstraZeneca said the European Union had lost a legal case against the pharmaceutical firm over the supply of vaccines as a court in Brussels rejected an EU request for more deliveries by the end of June.

The Anglo-Swedish firm committed in a contract to do its best to deliver to the 27-nation bloc 300 million doses by the end of June, but production problems led the pharmaceutical company to revise down its target to 100 million vaccines.

Netherlands set to ditch face masks if social distancing allows - RTL

Social distancing rules in the Netherlands are set to be eased next week, allowing people to leave off their face masks on many occasions and for bigger groups to meet, broadcaster RTL reported, citing government sources.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is set to announce the further easing of measures to fight the coronavirus pandemic at a televised news conference at 1900 local time (1700 GMT).

As of June 26, face masks will no longer be required if people can keep a distance of at least 1.5 metres (5 ft) between them, RTL said, limiting the requirement to wear one to public transport and airports.

Thailand scraps plan for 16-week dose gap on AstraZeneca vaccine

Thailand has abandoned its plan for a 16-week gap between doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine and will opt for a shorter interval of 10 to 12 weeks instead, a senior health official said.

The government, which plans to use the AstraZeneca vaccine for most of its inoculations, had sought to reach more people faster by stretching the gap to 16 weeks, beyond the 12 weeks maximum approved by the European Medicines Agency.

Germany removes France, Greece, parts of Spain from Covid risk list

Germany has removed popular summer holiday destinations France, Greece, Switzerland and parts of Spain from its list of coronavirus risk areas, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases said.

This means that people entering Germany from these regions will no longer be required to quarantine for ten days.

Belgium, the southern part of Denmark, Estonia, Jordan, Lithuania, three provinces in the Netherlands, Norway, the Palestinian Territories, several regions in Slovenia and St. Lucia were also removed from the risk list. 

Italy imposes quarantine on UK visitors, opens door to USA, Canada, Japan and EU

Italy has introduced a mandatory five-day quarantine for visitors from Britain, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said, as concerns grow over increasing cases of a highly contagious coronavirus variant.

At the same time, Italy is lifting curbs on travellers from the United States, Canada, Japan and other European Union states if they had a Covid-19 green pass, the minister wrote on Facebook. 

S Korea pledges $200M to international vaccine effort

South Korea has pledged to donate a total of $200 million to the COVAX programme that is supplying coronavirus vaccines for lower-income countries, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) said.

COVAX, backed by GAVI and the World Health Organization (WHO), aims to secure 2 billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021.

Austria to provide a million vaccine doses to Western Balkans

Austria will provide a million doses of coronavirus vaccine to the countries of the Western Balkans in addition to the doses it is funnelling towards the region on behalf of the European Union, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said.

Kurz made the announcement at a news conference after a summit with his counterparts from the countries of the former Yugoslavia that are not European Union member states. An envoy from Albania also attended. 

Medical adviser: 'No fans' safest for Olympics

The top medical adviser to the Japanese government says the safest way to hold the Tokyo Olympics is without any fans.

Dr. Shigeru Omi issued his suggestions in a report to the government and organisers. Fans from abroad have already been banned. Organisers are to announce early next week if some local fans should be allowed.

Singapore sees first day rush for Sinovac vaccine

Offering Sinovac Biotech Covid-19 vaccines to the public in Singapore for the first time on, several private clinics reported overwhelming demand for the Chinese-made shot, despite already available rival vaccines having far higher efficacy.

Singapore has vaccinated almost half its 5.7 million population with at least one dose of the vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

Spain to scrap mandatory outdoor masks from June 26

Spain will lift a blanket obligation to wear masks outdoors from June 26, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said.

"This weekend will be the last one with masks," Sanchez said in an event in Barcelona.

He said the cabinet will meet on June 24 to approve the end of the obligation to wear masks from June 26. 

Kremlin says nihilism, low vaccination rate behind fresh virus surge

The Kremlin blamed a fresh surge in virus infections on nihilism among the population, Russia's low vaccination rate and virus mutations, as Moscow reported a record number of infections.

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said a mass inoculation campaign had clearly not been as effective as desired and said that Putin was closely monitoring the situation.

Norway can take next reopening step, Norway PM tells daily VG

Norway is ready to take the next step in the reopening of the country after restrictions were put in place to contain the spread of the coronavirus, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg told daily VG.

Solberg is due to address the issue at a news conference scheduled at 1100 GMT. 

Moscow extends restrictions, closes Euro 2020 fan zones

The Russian capital Moscow will extend Covid-19 restrictions imposed this week until June 29, mayor Sergei Sobyanin said, after a surge in daily cases.

The measures include bans on public events with more than 1,000 people, shutting cafes and restaurants at night, and closing football fan zones set up for the European Championship, Sobyanin said on his blog.

The mayor said this week Moscow was facing a new, more aggressive and infectious virus variant.

Russia on Friday reported 17,262 new virus cases, including a record 9,056 in Moscow, pushing the national infection tally to 5,281,309 since the pandemic began.

The government coronavirus task force confirmed 453 virus-related deaths in the past 24 hours, taking the death toll to 128,445. 

The state statistics agency, which keeps separate figures, has said that Russia recorded around 270,000 deaths related to the virus from April 2020 to April 2021.

Indonesia reports 12,990 new infections, 290 deaths

Indonesia has reported 12,990 new coronavirus infections, its highest since late January, taking its overall cases to 1,963,266,

It also reported 290 new deaths, the most in a day since April 4, bringing the total fatalities to 54,043.

Israel-Palestine to exchange vaccine doses

COGAT, the Israeli military body that coordinates civilian affairs in the occupied territories, said it had coordinated the delivery of the first 100,000 doses to the occupied West Bank.

The Palestinians portrayed the agreement differently, saying Pfizer had suggested the transfer as a way of speeding up its delivery of 4 million doses that the PA had already paid for in an agreement reached directly with the drug company.

“This is not an agreement with Israel, but with the Pfizer company,” Palestinian Health Minister Mai Alkaila said, according to the official Wafa news agency.

Copa America cases rises to 65

CONMEBOL says cases of people with the virus at the Copa America in Brazil have risen to 65.

Nineteen people are on the 10 tournament teams, and 46 are staffers and officials, the South American soccer body said on Thursday. There have been 5,458 tests so far.

The total number of known infections was up from 53 on Wednesday.

Brazil stepped in late as an emergency host despite the country having the second highest number of recorded deaths from the virus in the world, more than 493,000.

India should brace for third wave by Oct – health experts

A third wave of infections is likely to hit India by October, and although it will be better controlled than the latest outbreak the pandemic will remain a public health threat for at least another year, according to a Reuters poll of medical experts.

The June 3-17 snap survey of 40 healthcare specialists, doctors, scientists, virologists, epidemiologists and professors from around the world showed a significant pickup in vaccinations will likely provide some cover to a fresh outbreak.

India reported 62,480 new infections over the past 24 hours, according to a government statement. 

Taiwan reports 187 cases

 Taiwan has reported 187 new domestic infections, up from the previous day's figure of 175.

Sydney reinstates masks to contain Delta variant

Australia's New South Wales (NSW) has reverted to making the wearing of masks mandatory on public transport in Sydney, as a cluster of the highly-infectious virus Delta variant expanded to a fourth person.

Authorities said all planned outdoor events with good safety plans can proceed in the country's largest city.

The latest cluster, the first in the state in more than a month, was traced back to a driver who occasionally used to transport overseas airline crew.

Japan Inc joins vaccination push as Olympics loom

Japanese corporate giants are joining the nation's vaccination effort ahead of the Olympic Games as the government struggles to meet its inoculation targets amid fears of a resurgence of infections.

Thousands of corporations from Toyota Motor Corp to telecom and investing outfit SoftBank Group Corp are setting up clinics in a massive private-sector vaccination drive which will begin in earnest on Monday.

The campaign, launched with the government's backing, takes added urgency with the start of the Tokyo Olympics just over a month away and fears that the influx of visitors could cause a resurgence in infections.

South Korea to mix-and-match vaccine doses for 760,000 people

Some 760,000 South Koreans who have received a first dose of AstraZeneca Plc's vaccine will be offered Pfizer Inc's vaccine as a second shot due to shipment delays by global vaccine sharing scheme COVAX, the government said.

Several countries, including Canada and Spain, have already approved such dose-mixing mainly due to concerns about rare and potentially fatal blood clots linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Delta variant to become dominant in Germany latest in autumn

The more infectious Delta virus variant will become dominant in Germany in Autumn at the latest, the country's top public health official said, urging the public both to continue wearing masks indoors and get vaccinated.

"The Delta variant makes up about 6 percent of infections, but it share is growing," Lothar Wieler, head of Germany's Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases said, referring to the variant first identified in India.

"It is not a question of if Delta will become dominant but a question of when," he added.

On Friday, the number of confirmed virus cases in Germany increased by 1,076 to 3,720,031, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed. 

The reported death toll rose by 91 to 90,270, the tally showed.

Brazil registers 74,042 cases, 2,311 deaths

Brazil has reported 74,042 new cases in the past 24 hours, and 2,311 deaths, the Health Ministry said.

The South American country has now registered 17,702,630 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 496,004, according to ministry data, in the world's third worst outbreak outside the United States and India and its second deadliest. 

Turkey breaks world’s inoculation record in last 24 hours

Turkey has administered over 1.58 million shots of vaccines in the last 24 hours, the country’s health minister announced.

“Today, the 1.5 millionth dose of vaccine was administered at 09.43 pm (local). Our vaccination squads delivered 82,232 vaccine doses in two hours and 17 minutes,” Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter. It’s the highest number of vaccinations in the world, according to the number of daily vaccinations per one million people, Koca said.

Over 38.85 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been administered in Turkey since it launched a mass vaccination campaign in mid-January.

More than 24.7 million people have received their first doses, while over 14.15 million have been fully vaccinated, a Health Ministry count showed.

The ministry also confirmed 5,904 new coronavirus cases, including 509 symptomatic patients, across the country in the last 24 hours.

Turkey's overall case tally is now over 5.35 million, while the nationwide death toll has reached 49,012 with 62 new fatalities.

Jabs in 4 Russian regions now mandatory for some

Authorities in four Russian regions have made coronavirus vaccines mandatory this week for workers in retail, education and other service sectors, part of an effort to boost the country's low immunisation rates as infections continue to soar.

Moscow, where infection tallies spiked sharply this month, first announced the requirement on Wednesday, and the surrounding Moscow region, the Siberian region of Kemerovo and the Far East region of Sakhalin promptly followed.

Officials in the four regions ordered businesses and institutions involved in retail, education, health care, public transportation, beauty, entertainment and other industries that serve a large number of people to ensure that at least 60% of their staff are fully vaccinated.

In Moscow, the Moscow region and Kemerovo, officials set a mid-August deadline for the threshold to be reached.

Sakhalin authorities did not set a deadline but said that individuals who refuse to get vaccinated without a valid medical reason would be suspended from work until they got their shots.

England invites all adults to get their vaccines

The health service in England will open up vaccinations to everyone aged over 18, a big step towards the government's target of giving every adult who wants a vaccine a first shot in the next month.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday pushed back the full re-opening of England from lockdown until July 19 because of a rise in cases, but also accelerated his vaccination plans, pledging to give every adult a first dose by the same date.

"Offering all adults a jab less than 200 days after the programme launched is one of our country’s greatest collective achievements, saving over 14,000 lives so far," he said, referring to Public Health England estimates of the impact of the vaccine rollout.

Britain has given a first dose of vaccine to more than 42 million people, almost 80% of adults, while well over a half have received both shots

Source: TRTWorld and agencies