Covid-19 has infected more than 409M people and killed over 5.8M worldwide. Here are some of the latest coronavirus-related developments:
Saturday, February 12, 2022
Paris police fire tear gas at protest convoy
Paris police have fired tear gas and issued hundreds of fines to break up a convoy of vehicles that attempted to block traffic in a protest over Covid restrictions and rising living costs.
Inspired by the truckers that shut down the Canadian capital Ottawa, thousands of demonstrators from across France made their way to Paris in a self-proclaimed "freedom convoy" of cars, trucks and vans.
The police, which had banned the protest, moved quickly to try to clear the cars at entry points to the city, handing out 283 fines for participation in an unauthorised protest.
But over 100 vehicles managed to converge on the famous Champs-Elysees avenue, where police used teargas to disperse protesters in scenes reminiscent of the "yellow vest" anti-government riots of 2018-2019.
The demonstrators oppose the Covid vaccine pass required to access many public venues but some also took aim at rising energy and food prices, issues which ignited the "yellow vest" protests that shook France in late 2018 and early 2019.
Canada-style convoy blocks Netherlands' The Hague
A convoy of vehicles from across the Netherlands brought The Hague's city centre to a standstill, protesting against coronavirus restrictions.
Inspired by Canadian truckers who congested the capital Ottawa, several hundred vehicles blocked access to the Binnehof, seat of the Dutch government, according to an estimate by public television.
The protesters started to arrive in the early morning in trucks, cars, tractors and even caravans, and many seemed determined to stay on even after a police warning on Twitter to move by 3:30 pm (1430 GMT).
The convoy will "continue to roll until fundamental and long-lasting change is enacted", the organisers said in a statement, demanding the end to all Covid restrictions across the country.
Police contact UK PM over lockdown parties
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has received a questionnaire from London’s Metropolitan Police as part of the investigation into parties in Downing Street during Covid lockdowns, his office said.
If he is found to have broken his government’s own Covid rules, the embattled prime minister could be fined and will face even more pressure to stand down from fellow lawmakers already furious at his proximity to the “partygate” affair.
A growing number of lawmakers from his own party are calling for his ouster, and even former leaders have lined up to warn him against attempting to cling to power if he is found to have broken rules.
Iceland's PM tests positive
Iceland's Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir has tested positive for Covid-19 after contracting the virus from a family member, she announced on Facebook on Saturday.
"My youngest son tested positive for Covid-19 on February 1. Since then, another member of our household has also contracted the virus, so it was no great surprise when I tested positive last night", she wrote in a post.
Jakobsdottir, 46, will isolate at home for at least five days, in line with recommendations in Iceland.
Türkiye registers 86,193 new infections
Türkiye has reported 86,193 infections, 272 related deaths, and 73,526 recoveries over the past day, according to new Health Ministry data.
As many as 448,347 virus tests were also done across the country.
To counter the spread of the virus, Türkiye has administered over 143.94 million doses of vaccines since it launched an immunisation drive in January 2021.
Over 57.56 million people have received a first jab, while more than 52.61 million are fully vaccinated. Third booster shots have also been given to more than 26.15 million people.
Britain reports 46,025 new cases, 167 deaths
Britain has reported 46,025 new Covid-19 cases and 167 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, according to government data.
The number of cases in the last seven days has fallen 30.1 percent compared with the previous seven days, while deaths have fallen 26.2 percent.
Hong Kong reports record cases, seeks China support
Hong Kong has reported a record 1,514 new cases, as officials struggle to contain an expanding outbreak despite the most stringent restrictions yet.
New infections were up from Friday's 1,325, and another 1,500 or so came out positive in preliminary tests which may be added to the count in the near future. Three people died.
Hong Kong's chief secretary John Lee, Health Secretary Sophia Chan and Security Chief Chris Tang were in neighbouring Shenzhen on Saturday, to discuss support measures with Chinese officials.
Thousands protest vaccine mandates in Australian capital
Thousands of protesters have marched through Australia's capital to the parliament building to decry vaccine mandates, the latest in a string of rallies against pandemic restrictions around the world.
Demonstrators packed Canberra's streets before massing outside the parliament, some waving the red Australian ensign flag associated with "sovereign citizens" who believe national laws do not apply to them.
Police estimated there were up to 10,000 protesters. They were "generally well behaved", a police spokesman said.
Norway ends most pandemic curbs
Norway has scrapped nearly all its remaining lockdown measures as high levels of infections are unlikely to jeopardise health services, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said.
Norwegians will no longer need to stay at least one metre apart nor wear face masks in crowded settings. The removal of these measures mean nightclubs and other affected entertainment venues can resume full business.
Japan mulls easing pandemic border controls amid criticism
Japan has been considering easing its stringent border controls amid growing criticism that the measures are hurting the country's economy and international profile.
“I plan to look into easing the border controls,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters Saturday.
Kishida did not provide a timeline or other details and said he will make a decision based on a scientific assessment of the Omicron variant, infection levels in and outside Japan and quarantine measures in other countries.
Japan has banned most foreign entrants including students and business travellers.
US puts brakes on Covid shots for kids under 5
Covid-19 vaccinations for children under five years old have hit another months-long delay as US regulators abruptly put the brakes on their efforts to speed review of the shots that Pfizer is testing for youngsters.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), worried about the Omicron variant's toll on kids, had taken the extraordinary step of urging Pfizer to apply for OK of the extra-low dose vaccine before it's clear if tots will need two shots or three. The agency's plan could have allowed vaccinations to begin within weeks.
But Friday, the FDA reversed course and said it had become clear the agency needed to wait for data on how well a third shot works for the youngest age group.
Pfizer has said that it expected the data by early April.
South Korea registers record high 54,941 cases
South Korea reported a daily record high of 54,941 new coronavirus cases for Friday, bringing its total infections to 1,294,205 with 7,045 deaths among its 52 million people, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said on Saturday.
Pfizer, Moderna boosters' efficacy drop by 4th month - study
The efficacy of third doses of the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines wanes substantially by the fourth month after administration, a new study by the US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.
Though it's now well documented that vaccine efficacy goes down after two doses, relatively little has been published on the duration of protection after a booster.
The new study was based on more than 241,204 visits to the emergency department or an urgent care clinic, and 93,408 hospitalisations, which are more serious, among adults with Covid-19–like illness during August 26, 2021–January 22, 2022.
According to the study, vaccine efficacy against hospitalisation was 91 percent in the first two months, but fell to 78 percent by the fourth month after a third dose.
China 'conditionally' allows Pfizer pill - regulator
China has said it had given "conditional" approval for Pfizer's Covid-19 drug Paxlovid to treat adults with mild to moderate illness and a high risk of developing severe disease.
The National Medical Products Administration said further research on the drug needed to be undertaken and submitted to the regulator.