Covid-19 has infected more than 422M people and killed over 5.8M worldwide. Here are some of the latest coronavirus-related developments:

A worker from Chicago Family Health Center prepares a booster shot for the coronavirus disease at a McDonald's.
A worker from Chicago Family Health Center prepares a booster shot for the coronavirus disease at a McDonald's. (Reuters)

Saturday, February 19, 2022 

US FDA considers approving a second booster shot

US health regulators are looking at authorising a potential fourth dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in the fall, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources familiar with the matter.

The Food and Drug Administration has been reviewing data to authorise a second booster dose of the messenger RNA vaccines from Pfizer Inc and partner BioNTech SE and vaccines from Moderna Inc, the report added.

The FDA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The agency last month cut the interval to get a booster dose of vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech as well as from Moderna, in a bid to provide better protection sooner against the Omicron variant. 

The planning is still in early stages, and authorisation would depend on determinations as to whether the second booster should be authorised for all adults or particular age groups, and whether it should target the Omicron variant or be formulated differently, the report said.

Police close in to dislodge Canada capital protesters

Police have pushed into downtown Ottawa in a bid to dislodge several hundred dug-in protesters and big rigs that have choked the Canadian capital for weeks, after a night marked by clashes and more than 100 arrests.

There were tense scenes outside Parliament, with multiple protesters hurling gas canisters at police, who hardened their positions in a determined push to bring the weeks-long protest to an end.

New arrivals slipped past security barricades to join the remaining demonstrators, as police moved in.

"We told you to leave," Ottawa police tweeted to the demonstrators.

"We gave you time to leave. We were slow and methodical, yet you were assaultive and aggressive with officers and the horses. Based on your behaviour, we are responding by including helmets and batons for our safety."

Inside Parliament, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau convened a crisis response group, as lawmakers resumed debating the government's use of emergency powers for the first time in 50 years. 

Italy reports 50,534 cases, 252 deaths

Italy has reported 50,534 cases, against 53,662 the day before, the health ministry said, while the number of deaths fell to 252 from 314.

Italy has registered 152,848 deaths linked to Covid-19 since its outbreak emerged in February 2020, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the eighth highest in the world. The country has reported 12.4 million cases to date. 

Patients in hospital with Covid-19 - not including those in intensive care - stood at 13,387 on Saturday, down from 13, 948 a day earlier.

There were 76 new admissions to intensive care units, up from 52 on Friday. The total number of intensive care patients fell to 953 from 987.

Some 492,045 tests for the virus were carried out in the past day, compared with 510,283 the day before, the health ministry said.

UK reports 34,377 cases, 128 deaths

Britain has reported 34,377 new cases and a further 128 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, government figures showed, taking total deaths on this measure since the start of the pandemic to 160,507.

The number of cases over the past week was 24.6 percent lower than the week before, while the number of deaths over the past week was 22.5 percent lower, as the tide of cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant at the start of the year continues to ebb.

Türkiye reports 80,454 cases

Türkiye has reported 80,454 new coronavirus cases.

According to a chart shared by the Health Ministry, 278 people lost their lives and 96,664 others recovered from the disease over the past day.

Also, as many as 462,252 virus tests were done nationwide in the past 24 hours.

Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced on Twitter that the country has begun distributing an antiviral medication with the active ingredient Molnupiravir to patients in the risk group.

Meanwhile, Koca also announced that he had recovered from Covid-19.

On Twitter, Mevlut Cavusoglu also thanked those who had sent him get-well wishes and prayed for his recovery.

Cavusoglu had announced on Wednesday that he tested positive for the virus. 

Hong Kong records more than 6,000 new cases in virus surge

Hong Kong has reported 15 deaths and more than 6,000 confirmed cases for a second day in a surge the Chinese territory’s leader says is overwhelming hospitals.

Also, the government announced plans to have construction crews from mainland China build isolation units with 10,000 beds after crowding at hospitals forced patients to wait outdoors in the winter cold.

There were 6,063 confirmed cases in the previous 24 hours, raising the territory's total to 46,763. That was down slightly from Thursday’s 6,116 but one of Hong Kong’s highest daily totals.

Australia reports 43 deaths before extended border reopening

Australia has recorded 43 deaths, as it readies to welcome international tourists on Monday for the first time in nearly two years.

The country, which shut its borders in March of 2020, has been gradually reopening since November, allowing first Australians to travel, then international students and workers, and now leisure travellers.

Once a champion of a zero-Covid strategy, the country has moved to live with the virus in the community, chiefly through high vaccination rates that have resulted in less severe cases and fewer hospitalisations.

China enables boosters of different technologies 

China has been giving booster vaccines using technologies different from the initial injections, in an effort to improve immunisation strategies amid concerns that its most-used jabs appeared to be weaker against variants such as Omicron.

Experts are watching whether combined Chinese doses would lead to higher effectiveness.

Adults injected with a vaccine developed by Sinopharm or Sinovac at least six months earlier can now receive their booster doses with vaccines using different technologies, produced by CanSino Biologics (CanSinoBIO) or a unit of Chongqing Zhifei Biological Products.

Beijing 2022 Olympics Organiser reports zero new cases

The organizers of the Beijing Olympics have said no new positive tests were reported in the Olympic bubble.

Since January 23, 265 people have tested positive on arrival at the airport and another 171 have tested positive in the Olympic bubble, for a total of 436 positive cases.

The bubble allows Olympics participants to skip quarantine when they arrive in China, but it means their movements have been severely restricted. 

Everyone is tested daily for the virus, and anyone who tests positive is quickly isolated to prevent the virus from spreading.

US extends national emergency due to pandemic risk

US President Joe Biden has said the country's national emergency declared in March 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic will be extended beyond March 1 due to the ongoing risk to public health posed by the coronavirus.

Biden said the deaths of more than 900,000 Americans from Covid-19 emphasised the need to respond to the pandemic with "the full capacity" of the federal government.

Former President Donald Trump had declared a national emergency almost two years ago to free up $50 billion in federal aid.

"There remains a need to continue this national emergency," Biden said in a letter on Friday to the speaker of the House of Representatives and the president of the Senate.

The emergency would have been automatically terminated unless, within 90 days prior to the anniversary date of its declaration, the president sent a notice to Congress stating it is to continue beyond the anniversary date.

Mexico registers 457 more mortalities

Mexico's Health Ministry reported 457 more fatalities from Covid-19 and 21,449 additional cases, bringing the country's overall death toll to 315,055 and total infections to 5,387,854 since the start of the pandemic.

Cases in Brazil top 120K

Brazil has had 121,027 new cases of the novel coronavirus reported in the past 24 hours, and 1,127 deaths from Covid-19, the health ministry has said.

The South American country has now registered 28,058,862 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 643,029, according to ministry data.

Source: AFP