Covid-19 has infected more than 260M people and killed over 5.1M. Here are the latest developments in the global coronavirus crisis:

The variant has a very high number of mutations and is causing a resurgence of infections.
The variant has a very high number of mutations and is causing a resurgence of infections. (Themba Hadebe / AFP)

Thursday, November 25, 2021

South Africa detects new Covid-19 variant

South African scientists have detected a new Covid-19 variant in small numbers and are working to understand its potential implications, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said.

The NICD said in a statement that 22 cases of variant B.1.1.529 had been recorded following genomic sequencing.

"Although the data are limited, our experts are working overtime with all the established surveillance systems to understand the new variant and what the potential implications could be," the statement quoted the NICD's Professor Adrian Puren as saying.

"Unfortunately we have detected a new variant which is a reason for concern in South Africa," virologist Tulio de Oliveira told a hastily-called news conference.

The variant "has a very high number of mutations" and is "causing a resurgence of infections," he said.

WHO: Just 1 in 4 African health workers jabbed

Only a quarter of health workers in Africa are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, the World Health Organization said, warning that majority of the continent's frontline medical workforce were inadequately protected.

"The majority of Africa's health workers are still missing out on vaccines and remain dangerously exposed to severe Covid-19 infection," WHO's Africa director Matshidiso Moeti said after revealing just 27 percent of health workers on the continent were jabbed.

"It is important to have high vaccine coverage among health workers not only for their own protection but also for their patients and to ensure health care systems keep operating during a time of extreme need," the WHO said.

Only one country in Africa had the necessary number of health workers – 10.9 per 1,000 population – while 16 countries had fewer than one per 1,000, according to the WHO.

Turkey's domestically developed vaccine seeks emergency approval

Turkey's domestically developed Covid-19 vaccine Turkovac has applied for emergency use approval, the country's health minister said.

Speaking during the parliament's Planning and Budget Commission meeting, Fahrettin Koca said the vaccine has been submitted to the Turkish Medicines and Medical Devices Agency.

The inactive vaccine, co-developed by the Turkish Health Ministry, Health Institutes of Turkey, and Erciyes University, completed Phase 1 and 2 trials in Turkey, and Phase 3 studies are also nearing completion.

Slovakia enters partial lockdown

The streets of the Slovak capital Bratislava were deserted as a new partial lockdown came into effect in the country where new cases are soaring.

Slovakia, which is battling one of the world's highest Covid-19 infection rates, announced new measures on Wednesday, which include closing non-essential shops.

People have been asked to stay home for much of the day and are allowed outside only between the hours of 1:00 am to 5:00 am for the next two weeks.

During the day they can only leave the house for essential reasons, including to work or visit essential shops. Schools will also remain open.

France to open Covid booster jabs to all adults

French Health Minister Olivier Veran has said that Covid-19 booster shots would be made available to all adults from this weekend to counter a new wave of infections.

He added that from January 15, people aged over 18 would need to show proof of a top-up vaccine dose to maintain a valid Covid pass, which is required to enter restaurants, bars, gyms and other public venues.

EU drug regulator approves first shot for 5-11 year olds

The European Union drug regulator has approved the use of Pfizer-BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine for children between the ages of five and 11, opening the way for them to be given a first shot as the region battles surging infections.

The vaccine, which is called Comirnaty, will be given in two doses of 10 micrograms three weeks apart as an injection in the upper arm, the European Medicines Agency recommended.

Adult doses contain 30 micrograms.

EU recommends 9-month limit on Covid-19 vaccine validity for travel

The European Union will propose a nine-month time limit on Covid-19 vaccine validity for travel into the bloc and will also suggest prioritising vaccinated travellers.

The EU will also recommend countries reopen from January 10 to all those who have used vaccines approved by the World Health Organization, a Bloomberg report said, citing documents. 

Dutch hospitals postpone chemotherapy due to Covid surge

Some Dutch hospitals have halted chemotherapy treatments and organ transplants to free up intensive care beds for a surging number of Covid-19 patients.

The Dutch Hospital Association for Critical Care said it had asked Health Minister Hugo de Jonge to escalate the national Covid-19 plan to a stage under which regular care requiring an overnight stay would be cancelled.

The number of coronavirus patients in hospital has hit levels not seen since early May, and experts have warned that hospitals will reach full capacity in little more than a week if the virus is not contained.

Several Covid-19 patients were transferred to German hospitals this week.

The Netherlands has recorded more than 2.5 million cases and over 19,000 deaths since the pandemic started.

Cathay Pacific to cut flights as Hong Kong covid rules bite

Cathay Pacific will slash passenger flights into Hong Kong next month as the city's strict travel curbs continue to keep international travellers away at a time when rivals are seeing their prospects improve.

Hong Kong has maintained some of the world's harshest quarantine measures and travel restrictions during the pandemic, which has kept infections low but ensured a business hub that dubs itself "Asia's World City" has been cut off internationally for the past 20 months.

The government has tied the city's fortunes to China's strict coronavirus strategy and said normalisation of travel with the mainland must come before any reopening to the rest of the world.

On Thursday Cathay announced it was "cancelling a number of flights to Hong Kong" for December blaming "operational and travel restrictions that remain in place".

As the peak holiday season approaches, the airline will convert around one-third of flights bound for Hong Kong to handle cargo, the South China Morning Post reported citing company sources. 

Outbound flights would remain untouched for now, with about 620 scheduled in December, the paper added.

Like most international carriers, Cathay has been hammered by the coronavirus pandemic wiping out much international travel.

Slovakia enters lockdown as cases surge

Slovakia's government has approved a two-week national lockdown amid a record surge of coronavirus infections.

Prime Minister Eduard Heger said the measures that take effect Thursday will target all, both unvaccinated and vaccinated.

Under the lockdown, people can leave their homes only for some specific reasons. 

These include buying essential goods in the nearest stores to their homes, traveling to work and school or to get vaccinated, tested for coronavirus or for medical treatment.

Unvaccinated people will be required to get tested to go to work if they have not recovered from Covid-19.

If working from home is not possible, people will need to have a document from their employers about where their workplace is with details on their working hours.

Walking a dog is allowed within 500 meters (yards) from people's homes.

Overall, Slovakia has registered 631,738 virus cases with 14,056 deaths.

Germany's Covid-19 death toll crosses 100,000

More than 100,000 people have died of Covid-19 in Germany since the start of the pandemic, the Robert Koch Institute, a public health agency, has announced.

Europe's largest economy is battling a fresh surge in virus cases, and recorded 351 fatalities in the past 24 hours, bringing the total death toll to 100,119, according to RKI's figures.

Cases are surging across Europe and the head of the EU's public health agency has warned that the coronavirus situation will deteriorate in European Union in the next two months unless the bloc introduces new measures and raises the vaccination rate. 

According to the latest modeling scenarios from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), the spread of the delta variant will impose a high burden on European societies unless governments introduce stricter public health measures and increase vaccination of the total population.

The incoming German government has said it will invest $1.12 billion in bonuses for healthcare workers on the frontlines of the pandemic.

Mexico, Brazil report hundreds of new deaths

Mexico confirmed 336 coronavirus deaths, according to the government data, bringing the overall death toll to 293,186.

Brazil registered 273 new deaths and 12,930 additional confirmed cases of the coronavirus, according to data by the Health Ministry.

In total, Brazil has reported 613,339 deaths due to Covid-19, the second-highest in the world behind only the United States.

France to announce booster shots for all adults – reports

France is expected to announce that booster shots will be made available to all adults as well as stricter rules on wearing face masks and more stringent health pass checks to curb a new wave of infections, French media reported.

Health Minister Olivier Veran is due to hold a press conference at midday on Thursday.

President Emmanuel Macron's government on Wednesday said it would focus on tougher social distancing rules and a faster booster shot programme and that it wanted to avoid the lockdowns being imposed once more by some other European countries.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies