Covid-19 has infected more than 356M people and killed over 5.6M worldwide. Here are some of the latest coronavirus-related developments:

The biotechnology company said that clinical studies are being conducted to evaluate the safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity of an Omicron-based vaccine.
The biotechnology company said that clinical studies are being conducted to evaluate the safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity of an Omicron-based vaccine. (AFP)

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Pfizer-BioNTech starts clinical studies on Omicron jab

BioNTech, founded by Turkish immigrants to Germany, and its US partner Pfizer have announced the start of clinical studies "to evaluate safety, tolerability and immunogenicity of an Omicron-based vaccine candidate."

In a statement, the two companies said the study will be carried out on "healthy adults, 18 through 55 years of age."

The study will have "three cohorts examining different regimens of the current Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine or an Omicron-based vaccine." 

The statement also noted the study is part of "ongoing efforts to address Omicron and determine the potential need for variant-based vaccines."

China to donate 50M vaccine doses to Central Asia

China has said it will donate 50 million more vaccine doses to Central Asia, according to the state-run Global Times newspaper.

Chinese President Xi Jinping was addressing a virtual summit marking the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and five Central Asian countries.

Xi told his counterparts from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan that Beijing will enhance joint vaccine production with the five nations, besides engaging in “tech transfer of vaccines and drugs.”

Russia cuts isolation despite soaring infections

Russia has shortened the required isolation period for those who come in contact with Covid-19 patients from 14 days to seven.

The move comes as an unprecedented surge of infections, driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant, rips through the vast country. 

Those who test positive are still required to isolate for 14 days, with a mandatory test on day 10 or 11. 

Russia confirmed a record 67,809 new infections and 681 more deaths, pushing the total infection count to 11.24 million and death toll to 327,448.

US withdraws vaccine rule for large employers

The Department of Labor has said it will withdraw its vaccine-and-testing requirement for large US employers after the US Supreme Court blocked the rule, ending a bid to increase vaccination rates.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said in the federal register that while it was withdrawing the emergency temporary standard, the rule would remain as a proposal for a permanent requirement.

EU seeks to streamline cross-border travel

The European Union is seeking to streamline the sometimes chaotic travel between its member states during the pandemic by relying more clearly on a person's vaccine or infection status rather than where a traveller came from.

The EU's 27 ministers agreed on such a recommendation to avoid the endless second-guessing on planning trips to and from European areas where the virus might run rampant or not.

Italy reports over 186,700 daily cases

Italy has reported 186,740 further cases, against 77,696 the day before, while the number of deaths rose to 468 from 352.

Italy has registered 144,343 deaths since its outbreak emerged in February 2020, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the ninth highest in the world. 

The country has reported 10.2 million cases to date.

Latin American countries report new cases, fatalities

Countries across Latin America have reported new Covid-19 infections and fatalities, according to official data announced.

At least 259 people in Brazil lost their lives over the last 24 hours, raising the virus-related death toll to 623,309, the country’s Health Ministry data showed.

With 83,340 more people testing positive, the total number of cases topped 24.1 million.

According to the Health Ministry, Mexico’s Covid-19 case tally surged by 17,938, while fatalities increased by 118 over the past day.

The country of some 126 million people has so far recorded more than 4.68 million cases, 303,301 deaths, and over 3.76 million recoveries.

Colombia’s Health Ministry reported 237 more fatalities from the virus over the past 24 hours, raising the country’s death toll to 132,477.

Israel mulls offering 4th vaccine dose to all adults

Experts at Israel's Health Ministry have recommended offering a fourth vaccine dose to all adults, on condition that at least five months have passed since they got the third or since they recovered from the illness, the ministry said.

Japan's new infections top 60,000 for first time

Japan's daily count of new infections surpassed 60,000 for the first time on Tuesday, broadcaster FNN said.

The government is poised to expand infection control measures to try to contain the spread of the Omicron variant. 

Covid outbreak on ship threatens Tonga aid efforts

A virus outbreak on an Australian warship threatened to disrupt Tonga eruption aid efforts, as survivors of the deadly volcanic blast described how they fled with only the clothes on their backs.

The January 15 eruption generated huge tsunami waves and blanketed the Pacific kingdom in toxic ash when it obliterated an uninhabited island with explosive forces more powerful than a nuclear bomb.

Australia has led international relief efforts, rushing to get water and humanitarian supplies to the nation of 100,000.

Britain says thousands more needed for trial of Merck pill

Britain has said it needed to recruit 6,000 more people onto a trial of Merck's Covid-19 antiviral pill molnupiravir to inform how the drug can be rolled out more widely.

Britain's MHRA medicine regulator approved the pill, made by Merck and Ridgeback Therapeutics, in November, and the government launched a national study to establish the best way to use the drug.

The Health Ministry said that while 4,500 trial participants had signed up, thousands more were needed to gather the data needed.

South Korea exceeds 8,000 daily cases for the first time

South Korea has reported 8,571 new coronavirus cases, with the daily count exceeding 8,000 for the first time, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported.

Brazil reports more Covid cases and deaths

Brazil had 83,340 new cases of the novel coronavirus reported in the past 24 hours, and 259 deaths from Covid-19, the Health Ministry said.

The South American country has now registered 24,127,595 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 623,356, according to ministry data. 

US warns against travel to 15 more countries

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and State Department has advised against travel to 15 countries and territories, citing a rising number of Covid-19 cases.

The CDC elevated its travel recommendation to "Level Four: Very High" for Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Fiji, Jamaica, Guadalupe, Kuwait, Mongolia, Niger, Peru, Romania, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Martin, Tunisia and United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The CDC now recommends against travel to about 115 countries and territories worldwide or more than half of all destinations.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies