Covid-19 has infected more than 353M people and killed over 5.6M worldwide. Here are some of the latest coronavirus-related developments:

Tourism and travel firms that have been hammered by pandemic restrictions welcomed the move, which makes the UK one of the most open countries in the world for international travel.
Tourism and travel firms that have been hammered by pandemic restrictions welcomed the move, which makes the UK one of the most open countries in the world for international travel. (AFP)

Monday, January 24, 2022

UK to lift travel test requirements for the vaccinated

The UK government has said it will scrap compulsory tests for fully jabbed arrivals and quarantine for unvaccinated travellers, in what it called "a new phase" in its pandemic strategy.

Currently, fully vaccinated arrivals are required to take a lateral flow test within two days, while those not jabbed must self-isolate for 10 days and take several tests before and after travel.

Meanwhile, Britain reported 88,447 new cases and 56 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, according to government data.

Kenya, Mauritania get nearly 2M vaccine doses from US

Kenya and Mauritania have received nearly two million new doses of vaccines from the United States in the latest push against the Omicron variant sweeping the world, a US official told AFP News Agency.

Kenya, which has a population of nearly 54 million, got 1,368,900 Pfizer doses, while Mauritania, with 4.65 million people, was sent 100,620 Pfizer doses and 504,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Egypt approves Merck pill, says to be produced locally

Egypt has approved Merck & Co's pill Molnupiravir for emergency use, the country's drug authority said, adding that the pill would be locally produced.

The drug will initially be manufactured by five local companies, to be joined later by several other firms, the Egyptian Drug Authority said in a statement. 

Italy reports over 77,600 cases

Italy has reported 77,696 new cases, against 138,860 the day before, the Health Ministry said, while the number of deaths rose to 352 from 227 .

Italy has registered 143,875 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 million cases to date.

Chile to purchase 2 million Moderna vaccine doses

Chile, which already boasts one of the world's highest vaccination rates, has agreed to purchase 2 million vaccine doses from Moderna Inc, Chilean interim health minister Maria Teresa Valenzuela said.

Chile has been hailed as a model for its response to the pandemic, relying mainly on vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech , Sinovac and AstraZeneca for its inoculation program.

Japan to widen curbs amid Omicron surge

Japan is set to double the number of regions subject to restrictions such as shortened restaurant opening hours in order to rein in a record surge in cases.

The central government has received requests for the so-called quasi-emergency measures from another 18 prefectures, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters.

The measures allow regional governors to order curbs on mobility and business, such as making restaurants and bars close early and restricting alcohol sales.

Turkiye reports over 67,000 daily cases

Turkiye has reported more than 67,000 cases, according to the Health Ministry.

The ministry registered 67,023 new infections, 156 deaths, and 78,362 recoveries over the past day. Also, 401,636 virus tests were conducted in the last 24 hours.

To stem the spread of the virus, the country has also administered more than 140.93 million doses of vaccines since it launched an immunisation drive in January 2021.

WHO chief says world at 'critical juncture' in Covid pandemic

The head of the World Health Organization has urged countries to work together to bring the acute phase of the pandemic to an end, saying that they now have all the tools available to do so.

"The Covid-19 pandemic is now entering its third year and we are at a critical juncture," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a press conference alongside Germany's development minister Svenja Schulze. 

"We must work together to bring the acute phase of this pandemic to an end. We cannot let it continue to drag on, lurching between panic and neglect."

German leaders confer on virus as Omicron infections soar

Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Germany's 16 state governors will confer to chart the country's way forward in the pandemic, and are expected to prioritise the use of PCR tests for those most at risk as the Omicron variant fuels a steep rise in infections.

Germany has seen a string of new infection records over the past two weeks as Omicron kicks in.

The national disease control centre said 840.3 new cases per 100,000 residents have been recorded over the past week, and 63,393 cases over the past 24 hours. The health minister has said he expect s the numbers to peak in mid-February.

On January 7, Scholz and the governors agreed to toughen requirements for entry to restaurants and bars, and decided to shorten quarantine and self-isolation periods.

China lifts Xi'an lockdown

One of China's longest lockdowns has ended with authorities announcing the lifting of most restrictions in the northern city of Xi'an.

The historic city's 13 million residents had been confined to their homes since December 22 after the discovery of a Covid-19 cluster that grew to more than 2,100 cases — China's largest outbreak in months.

With the Winter Olympics beginning next week, Chinese authorities have been scrambling to eradicate flare-ups in several major cities, most recently Beijing, where more than 40 cases have been recorded since mid-January.

Russia reports record daily cases

Russia has reported a new record number of cases confirmed in the past 24 hours as the Omicron variant of the virus spread across the country, the government coronavirus task force said.

Daily new cases jumped to 65,109, from 63,205 a day earlier. The task force also reported 655 deaths.

Brazil sees 135,080 new cases

Brazil has recorded 135,080 new cases and 296 deaths in the last 24 hours, the Health Ministry said, as the Omicron variant rampaged across the country.

More than 24 million cases of the virus have been recorded since the virus arrived, with 623,097 total deaths, Health Ministry data showed. 

Anti-vaxxer invoke Holocaust, Nuremberg Trials in Washington vaccine mandate rally

Waving signs denouncing President Joe Biden and calling for "freedom," several thousand people have demonstrated in Washington DC against what some described as the "tyranny" of Covid-19 vaccine mandates in the United States.

Speaker after speaker – including notorious anti-vaxxer Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who compared vaccine mandates to the Holocaust –– took to the microphone in front of the white marble Lincoln Memorial to decry the rules.

Another speaker Del Matthew Bigtree invoked Nuremberg Trials of Nazi Germany to threaten doctors and media.

Like other Covid restrictions aimed at reining in a disease that has infected more than 70 million people in the United States, killed more than 865,000 and brought much of daily life around the globe to a stuttering halt for two years and counting, vaccine mandates have become a deeply polarising political issue.

The mRNA vaccines, given to millions of people around the world in the past year, have been proven safe and effective, as well as being hailed as potential gamechangers in modern medicine.

There were also many anti-Biden posters and a few flags bearing the name of his predecessor Donald Trump – under whom the vaccines were developed and who has taken credit for them.

Bangladesh reports more cases amid Omicron surge

Bangladesh has continued to register an increasing number of Covid-19 cases as nearly 11,000 new infections were reported.

The South Asian country of 165 million population registered 10,906 more coronavirus cases and 14 deaths in the last 24 hours, according to the Directorate General of Health Services.

Bangladesh has so far recorded 1.69 million cases and over 28,200 fatalities, according to official data.

Rich countries' access to foreign nurses raises ethical concerns

The Omicron-fuelled wave of Covid-19 infections has led wealthy countries to intensify their recruitment of nurses from poorer parts of the world, worsening dire staffing shortages in overstretched workforces there, the International Council of Nurses said.

Sickness, burnout and staff departures amid surging Omicron cases have driven absentee rates to levels not yet seen during the two-year pandemic, said Howard Catton, CEO of the Geneva-based group that represents 27 million nurses and 130 national organisations.

To plug the gap, Western countries have responded by hiring army personnel as well as volunteers and retirees but many have also stepped up international recruitment as part of a trend that is worsening health inequity, he continued.

Israel says fourth shot raises illness resistance

A fourth dose of Covid-19 vaccine given to people over 60 in Israel made them three times more resistant to serious illness than thrice-vaccinated people in the same age group, Israel's Health Ministry has said.

The ministry also said the fourth dose, or second booster, doubled resistance against infection compared with those in the age group who received only three shots of the vaccine. Israel began offering a fourth dose of the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine to people over 60 earlier this month.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies