Covid-19 has infected more than 227M people and killed over 4.6M. Here are virus-related developments for September 16:

"Cases of coronavirus have been identified in my immediate environment, and this is not one, not two, but several tens of people," says Russian President Vladimir Putin. (AFP)

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Putin says dozens in inner circle infected

Russian President Vladimir Putin says dozens of his staff have been infected with the coronavirus and that he will continue his self-isolation because of the outbreak. 

The Kremlin announced earlier this week that he would self-isolate after someone in his inner circle was infected although Putin had tested negative for the virus and he's fully vaccinated with Sputnik V. 

But Putin said Thursday the infections were extensive.

"Cases of coronavirus have been identified in my immediate environment, and this is not one, not two, but several tens of people. Now we have to observe the self-isolation regime for several days," he said by video link to a summit of the Russia-led Collective Treaty Security Organization.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that those infected were "mainly those who take part in ensuring the work and activities of the head of state, his security."

None of the cases are severe, he said.

Tunisia announces reopening of border crossings with Libya

The Tunisian presidency has announced the reopening of border crossings with Libya as of Friday.

President Kais Saied stressed the necessity of "total compliance with health protocol" which he said will be “subject to review in light of the development of the health situation in the two countries.”

Border crossings have been closed since July 8 because of the outbreak of the Delta variant of the coronavirus in Libya.

The Libyan government announced the reopening of crossings and air traffic with Tunisia on August 17.

UK records 26,911 new cases, 158 deaths

Britain has reported 26,911 new Covid-19 cases and 158 more deaths within 28 days of a positive test, official data showed.

The figures compared to 30,597 cases and 201 deaths recorded on Wednesday. 

Turkey logs 28,118 new Covid-19 cases

Turkey has logged 28,118 new Covid-19 cases, declining slightly from a day earlier when the country registered its highest daily level since early May.

The number of cases on Wednesday was 28,224.

Turkey also recorded new 262 deaths from the coronavirus. 

Italy reports 67 new Covid-19 deaths

Italy has reported 67 coronavirus-related deaths against 73 the day before, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 5,117 from 4,830.

Italy has registered 130,167 deaths linked to Covid-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the eighth-highest in the world. 

The country has reported 4.62 million cases to date.

China fully vaccinates more than 1 billion people

China has fully vaccinated more than one billion people against the coronavirus, 71 percent of its population, official figures showed.

The country had mostly curbed the virus within its borders but is racing to get the vast majority of its population vaccinated as a new outbreak takes hold in the southeast.

"As of September 15, 2.16 billion vaccine doses have been administered nationwide," said National Health Commission spokesman Mi Feng at a press briefing.

Chinese health authorities said late last month that 890 million people in China had been fully vaccinated and two billion doses administered.

Hong Kong panel advises single dose of BioNTech shot for teens

A panel of health experts advising the Hong Kong government has recommended children aged 12-17 should get only one dose of BioNTech's vaccine after reports of heart inflammation as a side effect.

Professor Lau Yu-lung, who chairs the health committee advising the government on its vaccination programme, told public broadcaster RTHK the side effect was more prevalent than originally thought.

He said experts decided it was better for teenagers to get only one dose to "greatly reduce the chance of heart inflammation".

Hong Kong's low risk also means that one dose should offer sufficient protection, he said.

Russia's Putin says he will be in self-isolation "a few days"

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would have to spend "a few days" in self-isolation after dozens of people in his entourage fell ill, the TASS news agency reported.

Putin was speaking via a video link at a summit of a Russia-led security bloc being held in Tajikistan which he had initially planned to attend in person.

It was previously unclear how big the outbreak was and how long Putin would remain isolated.

"This is not just one person or two people, there are dozens of people," he said. "And now I have to remain in self-isolation for a few days."

Putin, 68, has had two shots of Sputnik V vaccine. He said this week he was now personally testing its efficiency.

The Kremlin said Putin was healthy. His spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said on Thursday the president's self-isolation could last at least a week and added that he was unaware of anyone being gravely ill in the Kremlin.

He said Putin was yet to decide whether he would attend a summit of the Group of 20 major economies at the end of next month in Rome.

Ukraine's daily deaths exceed 100 first time since June

The number of daily coronavirus-related deaths in Ukraine exceeded 100 over the past 24 hours for the first time since early June when the country reported 118 deaths, the health ministry data showed.

Ukraine reported 101 death on Sept. 16 while the number of new infections rose to 5,744 from 4,640 a day earlier.

The number of new cases has been growing over the past few weeks and the government has already announced that it will tighten lockdown restrictions in the near future.

Ukraine lifted lockdown restrictions as cases dropped over the summer but could impose a nationwide "yellow" code, which restricts mass events and limits the occupancy rates of gyms, cinemas, and other venues.

Ukraine, with a population of 41 million, has been among the European countries most affected by the pandemic, with around 2.33 million cases and 54,651 deaths as of Sept 16. 

India reports 30,570 new cases, 431 deaths

India has reported 30,570 new infections and 431 deaths in the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry said.

Total cases have now climbed to 33.35 million while deaths have risen to 443,928. 

Malaysia reopens resort island as vaccinations rise

Hundreds of holiday-makers flocked to Malaysia’s northern resort island of Langkawi as it reopened Thursday to fully vaccinated travelers.

Langkawi is the first holiday destination in the country to welcome visitors as part of a domestic tourism bubble. If successful, it could see other holiday destinations following suit in a bid to revive the economy. Malaysia has reported more than 2 million infections while deaths have surged above 21,000 despite a lockdown in June.

But vaccination has also picked up the pace, with three-quarters of the country’s adult population fully inoculated.

The government says a lockdown is no longer feasible and that Malaysians have to learn to live with the virus, which will soon be treated as endemic. Restrictions have been loosened recently and Langkawi was allowed to reopen with strict health protocols.

Slovenia police fire tear gas at virus protest rally

Slovenian police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse thousands protesting against toughened restrictions.

Police said around 8,000 people attended the demonstration, making it the biggest so far against health restrictions in the small Alpine country of two million.

"Police intervened to disperse the rally after protesters started throwing bottles, stones and fire crackers," a police statement said.

Private news website N1 reported some officers had been injured, and several protesters had been detained as smaller groups continued to clash with police in the centre of the capital Ljubljana.

The latest restrictions that came into force on Wednesday include a so-called "PCT" certificate as a condition to go to work or visit shops.

To obtain a certificate citizens will need to have either been vaccinated, tested or to have recovered from the virus.

They come as the number of those infected surges with only 45 percent of the population vaccinated.

Vaccine pass becomes mandatory in tourist hotspot Rio

Accessing Rio de Janeiro's tourist sites became conditional on presentation of a vaccine certificate, as authorities seek to encourage people to get their shots.

The requirement also applies for access to other public spaces such as cinemas, theaters, gyms, museums, sports stadiums and conference venues, but not restaurants, bars or shopping malls.

Foreign visitors are allowed to present an international health pass.

On Wednesday morning, the queue for the cable car to the top of the iconic Sugarloaf Mountain advanced without incident, with most visitors clutching paper or mobile phone app versions of their vaccine records.

The move, Rio mayor Eduardo Paes said, was "important for the city to be able to return to normal, for people to be able to frequent public places again."

Trinidad says Nicki Minaj's vaccine claim is fake news

Trinidad and Tobago Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh criticised as "false" the claim by American rapper Nicki Minaj that a person on the Caribbean island suffered swollen testicles after receiving a vaccine.

Trinidad-born Minaj sparked an international furor when she alleged on Twitter that her cousin in Trinidad refuses to get a vaccine because his friend become impotent after being vaccinated.

"His testicles became swollen. His friend was weeks away from getting married, now the girl called off the wedding," Minaj, who has 22.6 million Twitter followers, said on Monday.

The comments triggered an international backlash, with senior US and British virus officials condemning the claims.

Deyalsingh also denounced the statement by the Grammy-nominated artist as a waste of time.

"One of the reasons why we could not respond yesterday in real-time to Miss Minaj is that we had to check and make sure that what she was claiming was either true or false. Unfortunately, we wasted so much time yesterday running down this false claim," Deyalsingh said.

When asked about Minaj's tweets, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease expert, said there was a lot of misinformation on social media.

"I'm not blaming her for anything - but she should be thinking twice about propagating information that really has no basis as except a one-off anecdote, and that's not what science is all about."

Italy to make vaccine pass mandatory for workers

Italy is set to make its "Green Pass" mandatory for all workers from next month, becoming the first European country to do so as it tries to accelerate vaccinations and stamp out infections.

The pass, a digital or paper certificate showing someone has received at least one vaccine dose, tested negative or recently recovered from the virus, was originally conceived to ease travel among EU states.

But Italy was among a group of countries that also made it a requirement for people to access venues such as museums, gyms and indoor dining in restaurants.

It subsequently extended use of the pass for teachers and school staff, despite frictions over the issue in Prime Minister Mario Draghi's national unity coalition.

Regional Affairs Minister Mariastella Gelmini said the cabinet was ready to go still further when it met on Thursday.

"We are heading towards a mandatory Green Pass not only for public sector workers but also private sector ones," she told RAI radio. "The vaccine is the only weapon we have against COVID and we can only contain infection by vaccinating a great majority of the population."

Failure to have a Green Pass could result in workers being suspended and losing their pay. It wasn't immediately clear if it could be used as grounds for dismissal.

Vaccine, PCR test needed to enter Expo Dubai

Expo 2020 visitors will need to be fully vaccinated or provide a negative PCR test to enter, organisers confirmed two weeks before the mega event opens.

The six-month world fair, featuring exhibitions by 192 countries, is expected to attract more than 20 million international visitors when it opens on October 1 after a year's delay.

PCR tests will be free for ticket-holders with a "network" of testing centres available across the city, organisers said. The new rules apply to visitors aged 18 and over.

"By updating our vaccination and testing requirements, we are opening up a world of discovery and education for every visitor from every corner of the planet," Expo 2020 director-general Reem Al Hashimy said in a statement.

"This enhanced measure is responsible, agile and necessary as we prepare to open our doors to the world," she added.

Vaccines are mandatory for all Expo staff and employees of international participants, while the site will have mandatory masks, two-metre social distancing rules and sanitisation stations.

The United Arab Emirates has administered 19 million vaccination doses, with 80 percent of the population fully vaccinated.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies