The coronavirus has killed over 2.5 million people and infected more than 113 million globally. Here are the virus-related developments for February 26:

In this file photo taken on September 23, 2019, the United Nations flag is seen is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall in New York City.
In this file photo taken on September 23, 2019, the United Nations flag is seen is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall in New York City. (AFP)

Friday, February 26, 2021

Greece extends lockdown to more areas

Greece has extended lockdown restrictions to more areas of the country as the Covid-19 pandemic showed no signs of waning exactly one year after its first coronavirus infection was detected, health authorities said.

From Saturday, the islands of Lefkada, Syros and Samos, the towns of Arta and Amphilochia in western Greece, the wider area around Corinth in the Peloponnese and Heraklion on the island of Crete will all be in lockdown.

This means that schools, hair salons and non-essential retail shops must close.

Turkey reports 9,205 new Covid-19 cases 

Turkey has reported 9,205 new Covid-19 cases and 74 more deaths in the past 24 hours. 

The new cases bring the total to 2,683,971 confirmed cases and 28,432 deaths.

An additional 10,282 patients have recovered while 1,195 are critically ill.

UN adopts resolution urging equitable access to vaccines

The UN Security Council has given unanimous approval to a resolution calling for improved access to Covid-19 vaccines in conflict-hit or impoverished countries, diplomats said.

It was the second resolution on the pandemic passed by the council since it began a year ago.

In a rare gesture, it was co-sponsored by all 15 members of the council, diplomats said.

France's Nice goes under weekend lockdown

French authorities have ordered a local weekend lockdown starting on the evening in the French Riviera city of Nice and the surrounding coastal area to try to curb the spread of the virus.

Nice reported this week a rate of almost 800 virus infections per 100,000 people, nearly four times the national average.

The measure comes in addition to a national 6 pm to 6 am curfew. The northern port of Dunkirk is under similar restrictions. In both places, numbers of infections have spiked and hospitals are overwhelmed, with some patients being transferred to other French regions.

Maui to increase first-dose virus vaccination appointments

Maui Health has announced plans to increase the number of first-dose coronavirus vaccination appointments, while Kauai has widened the availability of vaccine doses.

The Maui News reports that the nonprofit health care organisation for Maui and Lanai says it will raise the number of weekly vaccines to 3,000 beginning next week and 4,000 the following week.

Maui Health spokeswoman Tracy Dallarda says the organization is nearing completion of the final 1,000 of 5,000 appointments that were rescheduled after clinics closed in January because of vaccine shortages. Additionally, Kauai County has opened its vaccine distribution to residents aged 75 and over.

J&J says 2 people had severe allergic reactions after virus shot

A Johnson & Johnson scientist has said that the company has received preliminary reports of two cases of severe allergic reactions, including one case of anaphylaxis, in people who had received the company's Covid-19 vaccine.

Dr. Macaya Douoguih, head of clinical development and medical affairs at J&J unit Janssen Pharmaceuticals, said the case of anaphylaxis was observed in an ongoing trial of healthcare workers in South Africa.

There had not been any previously reported cases of anaphylaxis, Douoguih said. She was speaking to a panel of expert advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration which will vote later on whether to recommend authorization of the vaccine. 

Nigeria expects first 4 million vaccine doses from COVAX next week

Nigeria is expecting its first 4 million doses of vaccines next week from the global COVAX vaccine programme for poor and middle-income countries, the head of the World Health Organization mission in Nigeria said.

Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulombo, WHO representative in Nigeria, told a briefing by video link that Nigeria was expecting 14 million doses in total. 

Argentine lab strikes deal to produce Russia's Sputnik V vaccine

An Argentine laboratory has struck a deal to help produce Russia's vaccine Sputnik V, according to a company statement shared by the country's government, helping boost the local firm's share price.

Laboratorios Richmond has signed a memorandum of understanding with Russia's RDIF sovereign wealth fund to be able to manufacture the vaccine, which has so far been the main drug used in Argentina's fledgeling inoculation program.

Argentina was one of the first countries in the region to sign an agreement with Russia to buy Sputnik V and has already received 1.22 million doses from the Russian Gamaleya Institute.

US CDC says trend of decline in cases may be stalling

The head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that a recent decline in Covid-19 cases may be stalling, a development she described as concerning while urging that restrictions to fight the virus remain in place.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky told reporters the CDC was watching the concerning data closely.

The White House also urged companies to join efforts to help fight the pandemic by requiring mask wearing by employees and educating customers.

Italy reports 253 deaths, 20,499 new cases

Italy has reported 253 coronavirus-related deaths against 308 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 20,499 from 19,886 the day before.

Some 325,404 tests for the virus were carried out in the past day, compared with 443,704 previously, the ministry said.

Italy has registered 97,227 deaths linked to the virus since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the seventh-highest in the world. The country has reported 2.9 million cases to date.

Ecuador health minister resigns after criticism of vaccine plan

Ecuadorean health minister Juan Carlos Zevallos has tendered his resignation following accusations of irregularities in a pilot program for coronavirus vaccination that the government has been carrying out since January.

Zevallos is under an investigation by state prosecutors for mishandling the vaccine roll out after he participated in an inoculation effort at a nursing home where his mother lives.

His resignation follows scandals in Latin American countries including Peru and Argentina over nepotism and favouritism in the distribution of coronavirus vaccines.

UK reports 8,523 new cases, 345 deaths

Britain has reported 8,523 new cases of Covid-19 and 345 new deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test.

The number of cases fell from 9,985 on Thursday, while deaths were marginally higher than Thursday's 323.

The number of people who have received their first dose of Covid-19 vaccine rose to 19,177,555 from 18,691,835. 

Belgium puts virus easing on hold as hospital admissions spike

Belgium has put on hold an expected relaxation of coronavirus restrictions after hospital admissions of people infected with the virus spiked.

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said new virus cases, which had stabilised for three months, were now rising again. This was likely due to a spread of the more infectious variant that was first identified in Britain and now accounts for about half of all cases.

"We have not taken the decisions (on lifting restrictions) we had envisaged taking," De Croo told a news conference, saying that he and fellow ministers had decided to review the situation in a week.

New hospital admissions rose to 200 on Thursday, a sharp increase on the daily average of about 125 of the past weeks.

Spain to give just one vaccine dose to under 55-year olds

Spain will give a single vaccine dose to under 55-year-olds who have already been infected with the virus, the Health Ministry announced in the latest update of its national inoculation strategy.

"The duration of protective immunity to the virus after natural infection is unknown but studies show that administering a single dose to these individuals boosts protective immunity," the strategy update read.

France announced a similar policy earlier this month while Italian politicians are debating whether to follow that path.

Political foes clash over Moldova registration of Russian vaccine

Moldova's medical agency has said it had approved Russia's Sputnik V vaccine against Covid-19, despite President Maia Sandu saying it could not be registered until the World Health Organisation had done so.

Sandu denied statements by her predecessor Igor Dodon and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which markets the vaccine abroad, that Moldova had become the 38th country, including Russia, to register the shot.

"Moldova will only use a vaccine that has undergone WHO registration procedure," Sandu told reporters.

"Deliveries of the vaccine to Moldova will start very soon," Dodon wrote earlier on his Telegram channel.

Finland closes sport venues in Helsinki region 

Recreational venues in Finland's capital region will be closed for two weeks, the Regional State Administrative Agency said, to curb a rise in coronavirus infections in Helsinki and eight surrounding municipalities.

The authority ordered public and private gyms, indoor sports venues, saunas and swimming pools as well as other recreational areas to close from March 1.

The closures are in addition to a three-week partial lockdown starting on March 8 announced by the government on Thursday.

The restrictions on recreation affect around 1.4 million of the country's 5.5 million inhabitants. There are exceptions for venues that cater to fewer than ten people and for activities for children aged 12 and under.

Philippines' Duterte signs indemnity bill for vaccine rollout

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has signed into law a bill that gives indemnity to vaccine makers if their Covid-19 shots cause adverse side-effects, days before the country starts its lagging inoculation programme.

Despite having one of the highest number of coronavirus infections in Asia, the Philippines will be the last Southeast Asian nation to receive its initial set of vaccines.

In a statement, the presidential office said the law would fast-track the purchase and administration of vaccines.

It covers the creation of a $10.26 million (500 million pesos) indemnity fund to cover compensation for potential serious adverse effects stemming from the doses' emergency use.

German restaurants should be able to offer outdoor dining around Easter - minister

German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier has said he is confident that restaurants could be allowed to partially open soon so that outdoor catering on terraces and in beer gardens would be possible around the Easter weekend in early April. 

Canada approves AstraZeneca's vaccine

Canada's drug regulator has approved AstraZeneca's vaccine, the third inoculation to get a green light.

The vaccine was approved under Canada's interim order system, which allows for accelerated approvals similar to the US Food and Drug Administration's emergency use authorisations. 

British Covid-19 variant becomes dominant in Belgium

The more contagious British variant of the coronavirus is now the dominant strain in Belgium, authorities said, as they explained why infection numbers have again started to rise.

"Last week, we estimate that 53 percent of infections were caused by the UK variant, against 38 percent a week earlier," a spokesman for the government's coronavirus response, Steven Van Gucht, told a news conference.

The UK variant, technically identified as B.1.1.7, is considered a "variant of concern" because of its high infectivity – though it has not been shown to be more dangerous in terms of deaths or intensive hospitalisation than earlier forms of the coronavirus.

UK to prioritise next stage of vaccines by age, not job

Police and teachers will not jump to the head of the queue in the second phase of Britain's Covid-19 vaccination rollout, with people instead prioritised by age, officials advising the government said, describing this as the best way to keep up the pace of immunisations.

Britain's vaccine programme has been among the fastest in the world, meeting a government target to offer a first dose of vaccination to 15 million high-risk people by mid-February.

Some frontline workers such as police and teachers had been calling for prioritisation on the basis of their jobs, but Professor Wei Shen Lim, Covid-19 chairman for the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said such an approach could complicate the rollout.

Portugal PM says hopes EU vaccine passport will be in place by summer

Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa has said that he hoped a vaccine passport, allowing people to travel freely if they can prove they have been vaccinated, will be in place by the summer.

"We are defendants of a measure on European scale, and it is with this objective that we work as presidents with the European Commission. The hope we all have is that by the summer it will be possible for this document to exist," he said, speaking after a meeting with European leaders.

Portugal holds the EU's rotating presidency.

US government buys at least 100,000 doses of Lilly's Covid-19 antibody therapy

Drugmaker Eli Lilly and Co has said the US government has agreed to buy at least 100,000 doses of its newly authorized dual antibody Covid-19 cocktail for $210 million, with doses to be delivered through March-end. 

Take 'fantastic' AstraZeneca vaccine, top officials tell Germans

Germany's health minister and top public health official strongly urged Germans to take AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine if offered it, seeking to offer reassurance after some essential workers refused the shot.

Health authorities in some European countries - including Germany - are facing resistance to the vaccine after side-effects led hospital staff and other front-line workers to call in sick, putting extra strain on already-stretched services. Germany has also recommended that the AstraZeneca vaccine be given only to people aged 18 to 64.

German officials have expressed growing disquiet over the quantities of the AstraZeneca vaccine being left untaken by nervous Germans.

EU regulator endorses Regeneron antibody cocktail to treat Covid-19

Europe's medicines regulator has said that an antibody drug combination developed by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals can be used to treat Covid-19 patients who do not require oxygen support and are at high risk of progressing to severe illness.

The recommendation can now be used for guidance in individual European nations on the possible use of the combination of casirivimab and imdevimab before a marketing authorisation is issued, the European Medicines Agency said.

Indonesia permits private virus vaccination scheme

Indonesia has authorised one of the world's first private vaccination schemes to run alongside its national programme so that companies can buy state-procured vaccines to inoculate their staff in Southeast Asia's biggest country.

The initiative, approved by a government regulation, has drawn criticism from some health experts who warn it could worsen inequity.

J&J vaccine set to get EU nod in early March - Bloomberg News

The European Union's medicines regulator is expected to recommend drugmaker Johnson & Johnson's vaccine on March 11, Bloomberg News reported, a move that could give the region its fourth coronavirus vaccine.

The US drugmaker said earlier this month it had submitted a conditional marketing application for its vaccine with the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

Last week, the regulator said it could issue an opinion by mid-March on whether to approve J&J's vaccine under a speedy review.

South Korea kicks off Covid-19 vaccination campaign

South Korea launched its Covid-19 inoculation campaign, with shots to be administered in some 200 nursing homes, in an effort that officials call the first step in returning the country to more normal life.

The first doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine began to be given at 9 am (0000 GMT) to nursing home workers and some patients at facilities across the country of about 52 million.

By 6 pm local time (0900 GMT), 16,813 people had received their first doses, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

On Saturday, authorities plan to start giving the first of 117,000 doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE supplied through COVAX, an international Covid-19 vaccine-sharing programme, to about 55,000 healthcare workers in coronavirus treatment facilities.

Japan to end state of emergency for 6 prefectures this month

The Japanese government has said it would end a state of emergency in six prefectures at the end of this month, a week earlier than scheduled, as new coronavirus cases decline.

Tokyo and three other prefectures would remain under the restrictions until early March, it added.

Japan had placed 11 of its 47 prefectures under a state of emergency in January as a third wave of the virus pandemic swept the nation. One of those prefectures, Tochigi, has already emerged early from the restrictions.

Ivory Coast to be second country to receive vaccines from COVAX scheme

Ivory Coast was due to receive a shipment of virus vaccines from the sharing facility COVAX, becoming the second country to benefit from a programme meant to ensure fairer distribution amid a global scramble.

A plane carrying 504,000 doses was expected to touch down in the commercial capital Abidjan from 10:00am local time, according to the GAVI vaccines alliance, the World Health Organization and other partners in the scheme.

By the end of this year, COVAX plans to deliver nearly 2 billion doses to over 90 low and middle-income countries, hoping to even a playing field that has seen wealthier nations vaccinate millions while comparatively few have received shots in poorer parts of the world.

Democrats to pass a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package

Democrats are ready to pass a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package through the House.

That win is expected despite a setback on Thursday that means a minimum wage boost is unlikely to be in the final version that reaches President Joe Biden.

A near party-line vote seemed certain on the relief measure in the House. It represents Biden’s first crack at his initial legislative goal of acting decisively against the pandemic.

In the year since the coronavirus has taken hold, it has stalled much of the economy, reshaped daily lives and killed half a million Americans.

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II urges people to get vaccine

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II is encouraging people to be vaccinated against Covid-19, saying the shot is quick, harmless and will help protect others against the disease.

In a video call with the officials responsible for rolling out the vaccine, the 94-year-old monarch compared the effort that’s gone into Britain’s national vaccination campaign to the way people worked together during World War II.

Poland to raise upper age limit for AstraZeneca vaccine to 69

The Polish health ministry will raise the upper age limit for people being given the AstraZeneca vaccine to 69, from 65 previously, a spokesman said.

"Today the health minister's vaccination team recommended extending (the age limit) ... within an hour there will be a announcement from the health minister," Wojciech Andrusiewicz told a news conference.

Deadly medical oxygen scarcity hits Africa, Latin America

A deadly crisis over the supply of medical oxygen for virus patients has struck nations in Africa and Latin America, where warnings went unheeded at the start of the pandemic and doctors say the shortage has led to unnecessary deaths.

It takes about 12 weeks to install a hospital oxygen plant and even less time to convert industrial oxygen manufacturing systems into a medical-grade network. 

But in Brazil and Nigeria, as well as in less-populous nations, decisions to fully address inadequate supplies only started being made last month, after hospitals were overwhelmed and patients started to die.

Paris city hall suggests 3-week lockdown

The Paris city hall suggested a three week lockdown to quell rising virus cases in the French capital but faced swift accusations that such a move was a political stunt with little effect.

France has so far avoided a third lockdown to battle the virus but, with case numbers starting to rise, the government of President Emmanuel Macron is beginning to impose restrictions on a local basis.

Mayors do not have the power to impose lockdowns which must be approved by the government but Paris deputy mayor Emmanuel Gregoire said a three week measure would give "hope of everything reopening again" including cafes and cultural establishments.

Russia reports 11,086 cases

Russia reported 11,086 new cases, including 1,336 in Moscow, pushing the national case tally to 4,223,186 since the pandemic began.

The coronavirus taskforce said that 428 people had died in the last 24 hours, taking the official death toll to 85,304. 

Hungary mulls tightening of lockdown measures – PM Orban

Hungary could consider tightening some lockdown restrictions as infections are expected to rise "drastically" in the next two weeks, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told state radio.

Orban also said all the 2.5 million to 2.6 million Hungarians who have registered for vaccinations so far would receive at least one dose by Easter, in early April.

Orban said he hoped to get vaccinated with a shot developed by China's Sinopharm early next week.

"We need to radically limit travels outside Europe," Orban said, including business travel.

Israel says it has vaccinated 50 percent of its population

Israel has administered at least one vaccine dose to 50 percent of its 9.3 million population, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said.

Israel counts East Jerusalem Palestinians, who have been included in the vaccine campaign that began on December 19, as part of its population. Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip are not part of the Israeli campaign.

Edelstein said 35 percent of Israel's population had received both doses of the Pfizer Inc. vaccine, putting them on course to receive a so-called "Green Pass" with access to leisure sites that the country has been gradually reopening. 

Vietnam approves Russia's Sputnik V vaccine

 Vietnam has approved Russia's Sputnik V vaccine against the virus, the Interfax news agency reported on Friday, citing the Vietnamese government. 

Hong Kong kicks off vaccinations with Sinovac jab

Hong Kong began administering its first vaccines to the public, kicking off its program that will eventually offer free vaccinations to all 7.5 million residents.

People age 60 and older and health care workers are among the some 2.4 million people currently prioritised to receive vaccines at community centres and outpatient clinics across Hong Kong. The government said registrations for the first two weeks of the program are full.

2 US Navy warships in Mideast affected by virus

Two US Navy warships operating in the Mideast have been affected by the virus, authorities said, with one already at port in Bahrain and another heading to port now.

A dozen troops aboard the USS San Diego, an amphibious transport dock, tested positive for the virus, said Cmdr. Rebecca Rebarich, a spokeswoman for the Bahrain-based 5th Fleet. The ship is at port in Bahrain.

As Somalia's cases surge, a variant is suspected

A resurgence of virus cases is hitting Somalia hard, straining one of the world’s most fragile health systems, while officials await test results to show whether a more infectious variant of the virus is spreading.

In the lone isolation centre in the capital, Mogadishu, 50 people have died in the past two and a half weeks, Martini hospital deputy director Sadaq Adan Hussein told The Associated Press during a visit. Sixty other patients admitted during the period have recovered.

“We believe this second wave is the new variant of the virus,” he said.

Papua New Guinea sees jump in cases

Papua New Guinea reported its largest daily jump in virus cases since the pandemic began, with infections spreading to remote regions with poor health infrastructure.

A total of 89 new cases were detected, according to the country's coronavirus task force, taking the total to 1,228.

"This is the highest number of cases reported in a single day since the beginning of the pandemic," said spokesman Dominic Kakas.

Germany reports 9,997 cases

The number of confirmed virus cases in Germany increased by 9,997 to 2,424,684, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed. The reported death toll rose by 394 to 69,519, the tally showed.

Global virus deaths surge past 2.5M

Global deaths from the virus has surged past 2.5 million.

According to Worldometer, 2,519,328 people have now died from the coronavirus.

The US accounts for the most deaths, with over half a million, and Brazil with over a quarter million.

The US and the EU both hailed progress in turning around its troubled vaccine rollout.

President Joe Biden declared the US rollout is now "weeks ahead of schedule" as he celebrated 50 million vaccines administered since he took office on January 20, but he warned Americans to keep masking up.

The EU announced it expected to vaccinate 70 percent of adults by the end of the summer, after months of problems and friction.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said fully vaccinating just under three-quarters of adults by late summer was a "goal that we're confident with."

Japan to end state of emergency for 6 prefectures this month – media

The Japanese government will end a state of emergency in all but Tokyo and three neighbouring prefectures at the end of this month, a week earlier than scheduled, public broadcaster NHK reported on Friday.

Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Aichi, Gifu and Fukuoka prefectures will all see their emergency virus measures lifted, NHK said.

The government had placed 11 of Japan's 47 prefectures under a state of emergency in January as a third wave of the pandemic swept the nation. One of those prefectures, Tochigi, had already emerged early from the government-designated emergency state.

US expert panel to vote on Johnson & Johnson vaccine

A US panel of independent experts was set to vote on whether to recommend emergency approval of Johnson & Johnson's single-shot Covid-19 vaccine, potentially paving the way for at least three million doses to ship next week.

The committee's 22 members, who were convened by the Food and Drug Administration and include leading scientists as well consumer and industry representatives, will hold a daylong virtual meeting to decide if the known benefits of the drug outweigh its risks.

It is an exercise in transparency without parallel among other advanced countries, giving the public access to the nitty gritty details of the scientific debate.

G20 finance chiefs to talk virus recovery, aid to poor countries

G20 finance ministers and central bankers will gather for a video conference led by Italy, hoping to align plans for relaunching the global economy after the pandemic and to limit harm to the worst-off nations shut out of the race for vaccines.

Beginning at 12:30 pm local time (1130 GMT), the meeting is the first in post for US President Joe Biden's new Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, expected to be far less confrontational than Donald Trump's representatives at past gatherings.

"With the new American administration, it will certainly be easier to reach a deal" for increased aid to poorer nations, international economy professor Lucia Tajoli of Milan's Polytechnic business school said.

Colombia extends health state of emergency

Colombia will extend its health state of emergency to curb the spread of virus by three months, President Ivan Duque said, adding that the country is in talks to buy additional doses of virus vaccines produced by China's Sinovac Biotech.

Colombia earlier announced agreements with a raft of pharmaceutical companies – including Sinovac – as well as the World Health Organization-backed COVAX mechanism to secure 61.5 million vaccine doses, enough to inoculate some 32.5 million people.

However, the country is in talks to buy additional doses from Sinovac, Duque said in his nightly television broadcast.

Virus bill must drop minimum wage hike, arbiter decides

The Senate parliamentarian dealt a potentially lethal blow Thursday to Democrats’ drive to hike the minimum wage, deciding that the cherished progressive goal must fall from a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill the party is trying to speed through Congress, Senate Democratic aides said.

The finding by Elizabeth MacDonough, the chamber’s nonpartisan arbiter of its rules, means Democrats face an overwhelmingly uphill battle to boost the minimum wage this year because of solid Republican opposition. Their proposal would raise the federal minimum gradually to $15 hourly by 2025, well above the $7.25 floor in place since 2009.

Australia's Victoria says curbs to return to pre-Christmas settings

Australia's Victoria state will start easing virus restrictions from Friday night, after authorities deemed new locally acquired cases detected for the first time in a week in the state will not pose any public health risk.

Victoria, Australia's second-most populous state, reported two new cases in people placed in quarantine after they were identified as close contacts of existing cases.

"They have been in hotel isolation because of their household circumstances, they had sought to isolate away from other family members they pose no risk to public health more broadly," state Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters.

South Korea kicks off vaccination drive

South Korea has launched its inoculation campaign by administering AstraZeneca's vaccines to nursing home workers and patients across the country.

Authorities will on Saturday begin administering 117,000 doses of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine to around 55,000 healthcare workers in coronavirus treatment facilities.

Brazils signs vaccine deal with Indian company

On the same day Brazil reached the grim milestone of 250,000 deaths, the country signed a deal with Indian pharmaceutical company Bharat Biotech for the purchase of 20 million doses of the Covaxin vaccine, which is yet to be approved by local regulators.

The administration of President Jair Bolsonaro said the first 8 million Covaxin shots, which will be made by Brazilian company Precisa Medicamentos, will arrive in March. A second batch of another 8 million doses is expected for April and in May, another 4 million doses will be available.

So far Brazil has vaccinated less than 4 percent of its population of 210 million people, with some cities stopping immunisation campaigns last week due to shortages.

UK says virus disparities improved for some minority groups

Some ethnic minority groups in Britain were relatively less badly affected in the second wave of Covid-19 cases than they were in the first, a government report into the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on minorities has said.

The quarterly report has previously found that the increased risk to ethnic minorities is largely driven by factors such as living circumstances and profession.

Disparities have improved for some ethnic groups including Black Africans, Black Caribbean, Chinese and Indians, the latest report found, highlighting that ethnicity or genetics are not in themselves inherent risk factors.

New Sinovac vaccine batch arrives in Chile

A new batch of more than 1.9 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine has arrived in Chile.

President Sebastian Pinera and the Health and Science Ministers receive d the third shipment of Chinese vaccines at the airport in the capital, Santiago.

Pinera said Chile had received already "4.3 million vaccines that have allowed us to vaccinate more than 3.1 million people."

The first shipment arrived on 28 January with nearly 2 million, and the second on 31 January, with 2 million more doses.

Pandemic likely made 2020 'another devastating year' for forests

The rate of destruction of the world's tropical forests is likely to have gathered pace last year, green groups have warned, as the pandemic weakened environmental regulations, cut funding for protection work and forced city migrants back to rural areas.

In 2019, tropical rainforests disappeared at a rate of one football pitch every six seconds, according to monitoring service Global Forest Watch (GFW), despite more awareness of the key role of carbon-storing forests in slowing climate change.

The tracking platform, which uses satellite imagery and is run by the US-based think-tank World Resources Institute (WRI), is due to release its deforestation numbers for 2020 – when the pandemic struck – in the next three months.

Biden marks 50M vaccine doses in first five weeks in office

Days after marking a solemn milestone in the pandemic, President Joe Biden has been celebrating the pace of his efforts to end it.

On Thursday, Biden marked the administration of the 50 millionth dose of vaccine since his swearing-in. The moment came days after the nation reached the devastating milestone of 500,000 deaths and ahead of a meeting with the nation's governors on plans to speed the distribution even further.

“The more people get vaccinated, the faster we’re going to beat this pandemic,” Biden said at the White House ceremony, noting that his administration is on course to exceed his promise to deliver 100 million shots in his first 100 days in office.

Ecuador signs agreement with Sinovac for 2 million vaccines

The Ecuadorian government has said it negotiated the purchase of 2 million doses of vaccines with Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac, which would allow authorities to start a mass inoculation process in the coming weeks.

The Andean country began a pilot phase of vaccinations in January with doses of the Pfizer vaccine for medical personnel and elderly people in nursing homes, but has had delays in acquiring more doses.

"One million will arrive in March and the other [shipment] in April," Health Minister Juan Carlos Zevallos told reporters.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies