Covid-19 has infected more than 187 million people and killed more than 4 million. Here are the latest coronavirus-related developments for July 12:

Residents of Oworonshoki Slum wait for food to be distributed by the Lagos Food Bank Initiative in Lagos, Nigeria, on July 10, 2021.
Residents of Oworonshoki Slum wait for food to be distributed by the Lagos Food Bank Initiative in Lagos, Nigeria, on July 10, 2021. (AP)

Monday, July 12:

World hunger, malnutrition soared last year mostly due to pandemic

World hunger and malnutrition levels worsened dramatically last year, with most of the increase likely due to the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a multi-agency United Nations (UN) report.

After remaining virtually unchanged for five years, the number of undernourished people rose to around 768 million last year — equivalent to 10 percent of the world's population and an increase of around 118 million versus 2019, the report said.

Authored by UN agencies including the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), the report is the first comprehensive assessment of food insecurity and nutrition since the pandemic emerged.

"Unfortunately, the pandemic continues to expose weaknesses in our food systems, which threaten lives and livelihoods. No region of the world has been spared," the UN agencies said in a joint statement.

The 2021 edition of "The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World" estimated that on current trends, the UN sustainable development goal of zero hunger by 2030 will be missed by a margin of nearly 660 million people.

That number is 30 million higher than in a scenario where the pandemic had not occurred.

"Our worst fears are coming true. Reversing such high levels of chronic hunger will take years if not decades," said WFP chief economist Arif Husain.

Desperate Myanmar residents queue for oxygen as cases surge

Myanmar's military has authorities pledged to ramp up oxygen supplies to help treat Covid-19 patients, as photographs on social media showed long queues of residents in Myanmar's biggest city Yangon trying to refill oxygen cylinders.

Army spokesman Zaw Min Tun told a news conference military authorities were preparing 14 locations for Covid-19 treatment in military hospitals across Myanmar.

He said oxygen plants would be operated at full capacity, while confirming media reports that sales to the public by some private providers had been restricted.

Chinese drugmakers agree to supply over half a billion vaccines to COVAX

The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) has said it had signed two advance purchase agreements with Chinese drugmakers Sinopharm and Sinovac to provide up to 550 million Covid-19 vaccines to the COVAX programme.

The new deals include up to 170 million doses of the Sinopharm shot and up to 380 million shots of the Sinovac vaccine, through to the middle of 2022, the statement said. 

Sinovac confirmed the agreement in a statement.

Vietnam sees record 2,367 new infections

Vietnam has reported another new record in daily coronavirus infections, with 2,367 cases, its Health Ministry said.

The country has reported over 32,000 cases overall, with 123 deaths.

In first, Thailand to mix Sinovac, AstraZeneca vaccine doses

Thailand will use AstraZeneca Plc's Covid-19 vaccine as a second dose for those who received Sinovac's shot as their first dose in a bid to increase protection, it said.

The move is the first publicly announced mix-and-match of a Chinese vaccine and a Western-developed shot, as a new preliminary Thai study raised doubts about the longer-term protection of the two-dose course Sinovac vaccine.

"This is to improve protection against the Delta variant and build a high level of immunity against the disease," Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul told reporters, adding that the second dose of AstraZeneca would come three or four weeks after the first Sinovac shot.

China administered total of 1.3B vaccine does by July 11

China administered around 8.32 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine on July 11, taking the total to 1.382 billion doses, data from the National Health Commission has showed.

India medical body says no to reopening tourism 

Opening India's tourist destinations and allowing pilgrimage travel could act as Covid-19 "super spreaders" of a third wave of infections, the country's top medical body has warned.

The Indian Medical Association, India's top doctors' body, appealed to state governments and citizens to not lower their guard against Covid-19, saying a third wave was inevitable.

"Tourist bonanza, pilgrimage travel, religious fervour are all needed, but can wait for few more months," the IMA said, adding that opening up for these rituals and enabling unvaccinated people to go to these mass gatherings are "potential super spreaders for the Covid third wave."

Indonesia reports highest daily rise in infections

Indonesia has reported a record daily high in coronavirus infections with 40,427 cases, data from the country's Covid-19 task force showed.

It also reported 891 additional Covid-19 deaths, taking the total to 67,355. Indonesia has reported more than 2.5 million cases overall. 

Russia reports 25,140 new cases, 710 deaths

Russia has reported 25,140 new Covid-19 cases, including 5,403 in Moscow, taking the official national tally since the pandemic began to 5,808,473.

The government coronavirus task force said 710 people had died of coronavirus-linked causes in the past 24 hours, pushing the national death toll to 143,712.

The federal statistics agency has kept a separate count and has said Russia recorded around 290,000 deaths related to Covid-19 from April 2020 to May 2021.

Moderna to supply 20M doses of vaccine to Argentina

Moderna Inc has said that it had signed a supply agreement with the government of Argentina for 20 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine or its updated variant booster vaccine candidate.

The company said delivery was expected to begin in the first quarter of 2022.

Sweden to ease pandemic curbs despite worries over mounting Delta cases

Sweden's government has said it will move ahead with a planned easing of pandemic restrictions this week but warned that new variants of the virus demanded vigilance as it urged people to adhere to social distancing recommendations.

Some restrictions have already been loosened and the country is set to remove limits on the number of passengers on long-distance transport such as trains and the number of shoppers allowed in stores on July 15.

Tokyo declares Covid state of emergency ahead of Olympics

Olympic host city Tokyo has entered a fresh state of emergency on Monday, less than two weeks before the Games begin amid worries whether the measures can stem a rise in virus cases.

Organisers last week announced that spectators would be banned from nearly all venues, all but depriving of Japan of hopes for Games with public spectacle.

Spectators from abroad had been banned months ago, and officials are now asking residents to watch on TV.

The Games, postponed from last year because of the pandemic, run from July 23 to August 8, while the state of emergency, the capital's fourth, lasts until August 22, shortly before the Paralympics begin.

Four tourists kicked out of Bali for violating virus rules

Indonesia has ordered four foreign tourists to leave the resort island of Bali after violating health protocols as the country endures a devastating wave of virus illnesses and deaths.

A Russian who tested positive upon her arrival in Bali last Thursday was recaptured that night after she escaped mandatory isolation at an appointed hotel, said Jamaruli Manihuruk, who heads the Bali regional office for the Justice and Human Rights Ministry.

She has been placed in an isolation facility in Bali’s capital, Denpasar, and will be deported as soon as she recovered from the virus, Manihuruk said.

Three others were accused of defying mask mandates in public after being found unmasked in a raid last Thursday in the Kuta tourist area to enforce health protocols and prevent more infections, he said.

The travellers from the US, Ireland and Russia were placed in a detention room at the immigration office while waiting for their flights to their countries later Monday.

Indonesia has been hit hard by the spread of the delta variant.

Overall, the Southeast Asia country has reported more than 2.5 million infections and nearly 67,000 fatalities since the pandemic began.

Delta outbreak worsens in Australia despite lockdowns

The prospect of an extended lockdown in Sydney has loomed as Australian health officials reported yet another record daily rise in cases for the year, fuelled by the highly infectious Delta variant.

New South Wales state reported 112 new locally transmitted cases, almost all of them in Sydney, despite the country's biggest city entering its third week of lockdown.

Case numbers have been at record levels for at least three days.

There was, however, a glimmer of light as the number of newly-infected people who were out in the community while infectious dropped to 34 from 45 on Sunday.

State Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the progress of that figure in coming days would determine whether Sydney's lockdown, due to end on Friday, would be extended.

South Korea reinforce tough curbs in Seoul

South Korea has reported 1,100 new cases for July 11, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said on Monday, as the country's toughest curbs take effect in Seoul in an attempt to quell its worst-ever outbreak.

The number was the highest ever recorded on a Sunday, KDCA data showed, though below three consecutive days of peaks leading up to 1,378 on Friday.

The new wave of infections have so far brought fewer serious cases and deaths than earlier rounds, with many older and more vulnerable South Koreans now vaccinated against the virus.

The latest outbreak brings South Korea's total cases to date to 169,146, with 2,044 deaths, well below numbers seen in many other industrialised countries.

Thai beauty pageant investigated after cluster

Thai beauty queens who took part in a pageant last month could face criminal charges for not wearing masks, police warned Sunday, after a cluster of 22 infections emerged from the event.

Thirteen contestants and nine others associated with the Miss Grand Samut Sakhon pageant, which was held at a Bangkok venue late June, have tested positive for the virus, officers said.

Thailand is grappling with a deadly third wave of infections with 9,539 new cases announced Saturday and 86 deaths.

Pfizer and US to discuss vaccine booster shots

Pfizer has said it plans to meet with top US health officials Monday to discuss the drugmaker’s request for federal authorisation of a third dose of its vaccine as President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser acknowledged that "it is entirely conceivable, maybe likely” that booster shots will be needed.

The company said it was scheduled to have the meeting with the FDA and other officials Monday, days after Pfizer asserted that booster shots would be needed within 12 months.

Pfizer’s Dr. Mikael Dolsten said last week that early data from the company’s booster study suggests people’s antibody levels jump five to 10-fold after a third dose, compared to their second dose months earlier, evidence it believes supports the need for a booster.

Indonesia halts plan to sell vaccines to public amid criticism

An Indonesian pharmaceutical firm has postponed a plan to sell vaccines directly to the public, amid criticism by health experts that such commercial schemes could bypass vulnerable groups in a country that promised free shots to all.

The uproar came as cases and deaths from the virus have hit record highs, pushing the healthcare system close to breaking point in parts of densely populated Java island.

State-owned pharmaceutical company Kimia Farma said on Monday it had decided to put the scheme to sell the Sinopharm vaccine on hold to allow more time to explain it to the public.

The company previously said the scheme, which planned to offer the vaccine at pharmacies for $60.53 for two doses, would help "accelerate herd immunity".

But health experts have said the priority should be for free vaccines going to all vulnerable groups to avoid the risk of inequity.

Taiwanese tech companies announce vaccine donation

Two Taiwanese high-tech companies have announced a donation of 10 million doses of vaccines made by Germany’s BioNTech to the island’s government, which faces political obstacles in fighting the pandemic.

Taiwan's health minister suggested in February that Beijing might have blocked an earlier purchase of the BioNTech vaccine by the island democracy, which the mainland's ruling Communist Party has never controlled but claims as part of its territory. 

A Chinese company, Fosun Pharma, owns BioNTech distribution rights for Greater China, which Beijing says includes Taiwan.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. and Hon Hai Precision Electronics said they would buy the vaccine through Fosun Pharma. TSMC said doses would be shipped from a factory in Germany directly to Taiwan’s anti-disease agency.

Taiwan has largely contained the pandemic with strict quarantines but has struggled to obtain vaccines for its 14 million people.

Fauci: Too soon to say if Americans may need vaccine booster

The US government's top infectious diseases expert has said that “it is entirely conceivable, maybe likely” that Americans will need a booster dose of the vaccine in the coming months, but it is too soon for the government to recommend another shot.

Dr Anthony Fauci, who is President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration did the right thing last week by pushing back against drugmaker Pfizer’s assertion about a booster within 12 months. 

Hours after Pfizer's statement Thursday that it would seek authorisation for a third dose, the two agencies said they did not view the booster shots as necessary “at this time.”

Fauci said clinical studies and laboratory data have yet to fully bear out the need for a booster to the current two-shot Pfizer and Moderna vaccines or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson regimen.

South Africa extends restrictions for another 14 days

South Africa has extended tight rules for another 14 days, maintaining restrictions that include a ban on gatherings, a curfew from 9 pm to 4 am and a prohibition on the sale of alcohol.

The country, the worst-hit on the African continent in terms of recorded cases and deaths, is in the grip of a third wave of infections driven by the more infectious Delta coronavirus variant.

"Our health system countrywide remains under pressure," President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a televised address to the nation.

Early this month South Africa recorded a new record of over 26,000 daily cases, stretching hospitals to breaking point.

Brazil registers nearly 600 deaths

Brazil registered 595 deaths on Sunday and 20,937 additional cases, according to data released by the nation's Health Ministry.

The South American country has now registered 533,488 total deaths and 19,089,940 total confirmed cases.

Mexico reports 62 more deaths

Mexico's health ministry has reported 3,779 new confirmed cases in the country and 62 more fatalities, bringing its total to 2,590,500 infections and 234,969 deaths.

Pakistan encourages citizens over 50 to get vaccinated 

Pakistan’s planning minister is encouraging the country’s 27 million citizens who are over 50 to get vaccinated.

Asad Umar also heads the national body tasked to control the pandemic. 

He said people over 50 are vulnerable to serious health effects.

Umar in a tweet Sunday said that 5.6 million people, or 20.6% of those in Pakistan in that age group, have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

The federal body recorded a slight hike in the positivity rate. It’s asking residents to wear masks and maintain social distance at public places.

Authorities report 27 additional death and 1,980 more cases of the virus in a single day. That brings the country’s tally of deaths to 22582 and number of total confirmed cases to 973,284.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies