Covid-19 has infected more than 435M people and killed over 5.9M worldwide. Here are some of the latest coronavirus-related developments:

Masks will still have to be worn in public, but will no longer be required during sport or exercise under the new rules.
Masks will still have to be worn in public, but will no longer be required during sport or exercise under the new rules. (Reuters Archive)

Sunday, February 27, 2022

Philippines lifts most Covid-19 restrictions in capital

The Philippines will lift most Covid-19 restrictions in the capital Manila next month, President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesperson said, after a sharp drop in infections and a rising number of people vaccinated.

It comes weeks after the country reopened its borders to foreign tourists for the first time in two years and as campaigning for the May 9 national elections cranks up.

Businesses, government agencies and public transport will be allowed to operate at full capacity when the metropolis of 13 million people is placed on the lowest alert level on March 1, said Duterte spokesperson Karlo Nograles, which he previously described as the "new normal".

Masks will still have to be worn in public, but will no longer be required during sport or exercise under the new rules, which also apply to another 38 areas of the country.

Temperature checks for entering establishments will not be necessary and contact tracing efforts all but scrapped.

The virus has infected more than 3.6 million people and killed more than 56,000, according to government data.

Türkiye reports nearly 50,000 new cases

Türkiye has reported 49,792 new coronavirus cases.

According to the Health Ministry, 206 deaths and 69,845 recoveries were recorded over the past day, while 394,263 virus tests were done.

To counter the spread of the virus, Türkiye has administered over 145.5 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines since it launched an immunisation drive in January 2021.

Nearly half of Biden's 500M free Covid tests still unclaimed

Nearly half of the 500 million free Covid-19 tests the Biden administration recently made available to the public still have not been claimed as virus cases plummet and people feel less urgency to test.

Wild demand swings have been a subplot in the pandemic, from vaccines to hand sanitizer, along with tests. On the first day of the White House test giveaway in January, Covidtests.gov received over 45 million orders. Now officials say fewer than 100,000 orders a day are coming in for the packages of four free rapid tests per household, delivered by the US Postal Service.

Still, the White House sees the program as a step toward a deeper, yet more elastic, testing infrastructure that will accommodate demand surges and remain on standby when cases wane. “We totally intend to sustain this market," Dr Tom Inglesby, testing adviser to the Covid-19 response team, told The Associated Press. 

"We know the market is volatile and will come up and down with surges in variants.”

Testing will become more important with mask requirements now easing, say some independent experts. “If infection control is still our priority, testing is central,” said Dr Leana Wen, a former Baltimore health commissioner and commentator on the pandemic. 

“Four tests per household for one family will only last you one time. There should be enough tests for families to test twice a week.”

Inglesby maintains that the pieces are falling into place to accommodate that.

Hong Kong reaches record 26,026 daily Covid cases

Hong Kong has reported a record 26,026 daily infections and 83 deaths, as an outbreak of the highly transmissible Omicron variant overwhelms healthcare facilities and proves hard to control.

While most major cities seek to live with the virus, Hong Kong has imposed its harshest rules yet, following the mainland with a "dynamic zero-Covid" strategy aiming to eradicate the disease.

This proved largely successful until the Omicron spike overwhelmed the city's tracking and isolation processes.

The outbreak has inundated its public health system, triggering a raft of measures including the construction of more isolation and treatment units.

UAE ends face masks outdoors mandate

The United Arab Emirates, the Middle East tourism and commercial hub, has ended a requirement to wear face masks outdoors and obligatory quarantine for contact cases.

Fully-vaccinated passengers arriving in the country including capital Abu Dhabi will no longer require PCR tests, said the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority in updated guidance that went into effect on Saturday.

Daily cases in the country have fallen to some 600 from close to 3,000 in January.

Brazil's tourism sector excepts full recovery

Experts predict a full recovery for Brazil's tourism sector only in 2023.

They say the drop in foreign tourists has been partially offset by more Brazilians travelling domestically, themselves wary of flying overseas.

The country has been hit hard by the pandemic, with nearly 650,000 deaths – second only to the United States. The numbers have improved with more than 70 percent of the population now fully vaccinated.

Covid-19 comes back to haunt Hong Kong

For two years, Hong Kong successfully insulated most of its residents from Covid-19 and often went months without a single locally spread case. Then the Omicron variant showed up.

Only about 30 percent of Hong Kong residents over the age of 80 and around 58 percent of those in their 70s are fully vaccinated, lagging younger populations by a large margin. This is despite the fact that vaccines have been widely available in Hong Kong since early 2021.

The city has reported about 150 deaths in the past three days, many among the unvaccinated elderly.

Health authorities said that the vaccine reluctance among the elderly is an unfortunate side-effect of Hong Kong’s success in warding off the virus for months.

China sees surge in pandemic

China has reported 239 new confirmed cases on February 26, the country's national health authority said, down from 249 a day earlier.

Of the new cases, 112 were locally transmitted, the National Health Commission said, up from 93 a day earlier.

Most of the new local cases were reported by regions including Guangdong, Inner Mongolia and Guangxi, while the capital Beijing reported two.

The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, stood at 100, compared with 118 a day earlier.

There were no new deaths, leaving the death toll at 4,636. As of February 26, mainland China had confirmed 109,092 cases.

Brazil's death toll tops 750

Brazil has reported 753 new deaths and 73,808 new cases in the last 24 hours, the Health Ministry said, with a few states now yet filing daily data.

Nearly 650,000 people have died from the virus in Brazil, with more 28.7 million recorded cases, Health Ministry data show. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies