Covid-19 has infected more than 240M people and killed over 4.8M globally. Here are the major virus-related developments for October 14:

A man receives Pfizer vaccine jab from a healthcare worker during the inaugural vaccination weekend drive in Katlehong, east of Johannesburg, South Africa Friday, Oct 1, 2021.
A man receives Pfizer vaccine jab from a healthcare worker during the inaugural vaccination weekend drive in Katlehong, east of Johannesburg, South Africa Friday, Oct 1, 2021. (AP)

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Africa detecting just 1 in 7 COVID-19 cases, says WHO study

Only one in seven Covid-19 infections in Africa are being detected, meaning the continent's estimated infection level may be 59 million people, according to a new study by the World Health Organization.

“With limited testing, we’re still flying blind in far too many communities in Africa,” said Matshidiso Moeti, regional director for the WHO in Africa in a press briefing on Thursday. 

To get more accurate numbers of infections and to better curb transmission, the UN plans to increase rapid diagnostic testing in eight African countries with the goal of testing 7 million people in the next year.

The initiative is a “radically” new approach that shifts from passive to active surveillance by working with communities, said Moeti. The rapid tests are affordable, reliable and easy to use and will provide results within 15 minutes, she said. An additional 360,000 cases are expected to be detected by using the tests, with approximately 75 percent of them being asymptomatic or mild, she said.

The initiative will be based on what is called a ring strategy that has been used to eradicate smallpox and was implemented during Ebola outbreaks. 

Italy reports 40 deaths, 2,668 new cases

Italy has reported 40 coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday, up from 37 the previous day, the Health Ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 2,668 from 2,772 .

Italy has registered 131,461 deaths linked to Covid-19 since the outbreak in February last year. It has the second highest toll in Europe behind Britain and the ninth highest in the world. The country has reported 4.71 million cases to date.

Patients in hospital with Covid-19 — not including those in intensive care — stood at 2,479 on Thursday, down from 2,552 a day earlier.

There were 22 new admissions to intensive care units, increasing from 19 on Wednesday. The total number of patients in intensive care with Covid-19 fell to 359 from a previous 367.

Some 324,614 tests for Covid-19 were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 278,945, the Health Ministry said.

UK records 45,066 new cases and 157 deaths 

Britain has reported 45,066 new Covid-19 cases and 157 more deaths within 28 days of a positive test, official data showed.

The figures compared to 42,776 cases and 136 deaths reported on Wednesday. 

Tuberculosis deaths rise for 1st time in years, due to Covid-19

The number of people killed by tuberculosis has risen for the first time in more than a decade, largely because fewer people got tested and treated as resources were diverted to fight the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization said.

In its yearly report on TB released on Thursday, the UN health agency said 1.5 million people worldwide died of the bacterial disease last year, a slight rise from the 1.4 million deaths in 2019. Evidence of the ancient disease has been found in Egyptian mummies and it's believed to have killed more people in history than any other infectious illness; TB routinely kills more people every year than AIDS and malaria.

The WHO also said far fewer people were newly diagnosed with TB in 2020; 5.8 million versus 7.1 million in 2019. The agency also estimates that about 4 million people suffer from TB but have yet to be diagnosed, a rise from 2.9 million people the previous year. 

The disease is caused by a bacterium that often infects the lungs and is highly transmissible when those sickened by it cough or sneeze. About one quarter of the world’s population has a latent TB infection, meaning they carry the bacterium, but haven’t become ill and can’t transmit it.

Belgium reports record daily infections in 5 months

Belgium this week has recorded the highest single-day coronavirus cases in five months, public broadcaster RTBF reported.

The country of 11 million has been experiencing a rise in Covid-19 infections, the outlet said, citing the latest data published by the research center Sciensano.

On a seven-day average, 2,114 new cases were registered this week, which is 12 percent more than last week’s average of 1,900 daily cases.

On Monday, a record number of 3,872 coronavirus cases were detected, which is the highest number since May 3.

The rise in cases is particularly high, exceeding 40 percent compared to a week before in the region of Flanders.

Approximately 44,500 people are tested for Covid-19 every day in Belgium.

Currently, 779 people are treated in hospitals because of the virus, but it is feared to rise soon following the surge in infections.

FDA advisers weigh case for Covid-19 vaccine booster shots

Israeli health officials have said that booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine improved severe disease protection in people aged 40 and older, in presentations made to US scientists discussing a booster dose of Moderna's vaccine.

The data was reported at a meeting of outside advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration who are expected to vote on the need for booster shots of the Moderna Inc vaccine later on Thursday. The FDA typically follows the advice of its experts but is not bound to do so.

If the FDA signs off on Moderna's boosters, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will make specific recommendations on who should get the shots.

"What we're seeing is a break in the epidemic curve in Israel," said Dr Sharon Alroy-Preis, director of public health services at the Ministry of Health in Israel.

She said the booster vaccination program, which now includes 50 percent of the population among all age groups, is starting to reduce infections even among the unvaccinated populations in Israel.

Israel, which has been closely monitoring vaccines in its population, said in a slide presentation that administering a booster dose led to greater protection against confirmed infection in those aged 16 and above.

Russia reports record infections, deaths

Russia has reported a pandemic high for both new coronavirus infections and fatalities over 24 hours, with the country's vaccination drive at a snail's pace and few restrictions in place.

Officials registered 31,299 new infections and 986 deaths from Covid-19 over 24 hours, bringing Russia's total fatalities to 220,315 – the highest toll in Europe.

The surging outbreak has come with just 31 percent of Russians fully inoculated, according to the Gogov website, which tallies Covid-19 data from the regions.

Russia to lift ban on flights to Thailand, Norway, other countries

Russia will lift its Covid-19 ban on flights to countries including Tunisia, Thailand, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Iran, Slovenia, and Oman from November 9, the government coronavirus task force said.

The government stopped normal commercial flights abroad when the pandemic struck last year, but it has since been gradually relaxing the restrictions. The flight bans dealt a heavy blow to Russia's airlines. 

Tiny Pacific nation beats the world with 99 percent vaccination, says Red Cross

The tiny Pacific nation of Palau has the world's highest percentage of people vaccinated against Covid-19, the Red Cross said, urging the country's laggard neighbours to follow its example and step up inoculation efforts.

Fully 99 percent of Palau's population over 12 has had both shots of vaccine for the new coronavirus, the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) said, citing government figures which also show that this amounts to 16,152 people.

That puts Palau, an archipelago of 500 islands in the western Pacific Ocean, in the "top spot", the IFRC said in a statement, ahead of countries like Portugal which was named one of the world's most vaccinated countries when 80 percent of its 10 million people were fully immunised last month. 

Australia's Victoria confirms record 2,297 virus cases

The state of Victoria in Australia has reported over 2,297 Covid-19 cases, the highest daily number of cases since the pandemic began.

According to the Victorian Government Department of Health, there are 20,505 active cases in the state, of which 706 are hospitalised.

The total number of confirmed cases in Victoria since the beginning of the pandemic is 59,710. With 11 new related fatalities, the overall death toll has risen to 945.

As many as 87.6 percent of Victorians aged 16 and over have now had at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and 62 percent are fully vaccinated. 

Bali reopens to foreign travelers as Covid-19 surge subsides

The Indonesian resort island of Bali has reopened for international travelers to visit its shops and white-sand beaches for the first time in more than a year – if they're vaccinated, test negative, hail from certain countries, quarantine and heed restrictions in public.

However, foreign visitors may be slow to arrive. No international flights to Bali were scheduled on the first day of the reopening and a tourism official forecast travel would pick up in November.

Bali’s airport will welcome new foreign arrivals from 19 countries that meet World Health Organization’s criteria such as having their Covid-19 cases under control, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, the government minister who leads the Covid-19 response in Java and Bali, said in a statement late Wednesday.

Hungary will receive technology to produce Sputnik V vaccine

Hungary will receive technology this year to produce Russia's Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine at a Hungarian plant currently under construction, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said in Moscow.

Besides Russia's Sputnik, Hungary plans to produce China's Sinopharm's vaccine in the planned $193 million vaccine plant.

Hungary's daily virus cases rise above 1,000 for first time during fourth wave of pandemic

Hungary has reported 1,141 new Covid-19 infections, with the number rising above 1,000 for the first time during the fourth wave of the pandemic, the government said.

The virus has infected 831,866 people in the country of 10 million so far and killed 30,341. Nearly 5.7 million people have been fully vaccinated in Hungary and 948,000 people have already received a third, booster shot as well. 

Britain's says it Covid-19 situation is stable 

Britain's defences against Covid-19 are working and the pandemic situation is currently stable, health minister Sajid Javid said.

"Overall things feel quite stable at this point. The numbers are a bit up, a bit down over the last few weeks," he told Times Radio.

"Our primary defences against this virus are working."

Britain reported 42,776 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, the highest number since mid-July, and 136 more deaths within 28 days of a positive test, official data showed. 

Suicides among Japanese children at record high

Child suicides in Japan are the highest they have been in more than four decades, local media have reported, citing the country's Education Ministry.

As the Covid-19 pandemic prompted school closings and disrupted classrooms last year, 415 children from elementary to high school age were recorded as having taken their own lives, according to the education ministry's survey.

The number is up by nearly 100 from last year, the highest since record-keeping began in 1974, the Asahi newspaper reported on Thursday.

Suicide has a long history in Japan as a way of avoiding perceived shame or dishonour, and its suicide rate has long topped the Group of Seven nations, but a national effort brought numbers down by roughly 40 percent over 15 years, including 10 straight years of decline from 2009.

The Education Ministry said a record high of more than 196,127 school children were absent for 30 days or more, media reported.

The results showed that changes in school and household environments due to the pandemic have had a huge impact on children's behaviour, NHK quoted an education ministry official as saying.

Australia employment falls 138,000 in Sept amid lockdowns

Australian employment fell sharply for a second month in September as coronavirus lockdowns forced businesses to lay off workers and slash hours, while the jobless rate was held down by another drop in the number of people looking for work.

Thursday's data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showed employment fell by 138,000 in September, compared to median forecasts of a drop of 137,500.

The unemployment rate edged up to 4.6 percent, from 4.5 percent when analysts had expected a rise to 4.8 percent. The rate has been badly distorted by lockdowns which prevent people from looking for work and being counted as unemployed.

Australia cancels men's and women's Opens due to Covid

Australia has cancelled its men's and women's Open tournaments in a hammer blow for the struggling domestic game as Covid-19 and travel restrictions continue to bite.

Organisers had planned a late-January, early-February window for the men's Australian Open in Sydney after its original November schedule proved untenable.

But Golf Australia boss James Sutherland said enduring travel curbs and the country's mandatory 14-day quarantine had left organisers with no choice but to cancel the flagship event for a second year in a row.

"The international element means shifting quarantine and travel restrictions wreak havoc on planning and, with our marquee players living abroad, the challenge is even greater," Sutherland said in a statement on Thursday.

"The pressure and risk on host venues and organisers is also high - these are small businesses who have already faced huge disruption due to the pandemic."

Covid cases in Australia's Victoria hit record daily high

Covid-19 infections in Australia's Victoria hit a pandemic record on Thursday as Melbourne, the state capital looks to exit its lockdown next week, several days ahead of plan, helped by a faster-than-expected vaccine uptake.

The surge in daily cases comes as Victoria nears the 70 percent threshold for double-dose vaccinations among eligible adults, when authorities have promised to end a months-long lockdown, against the original October 26 forecast.

Victoria logged 2,297 new cases on Thursday, the highest number of any state or territory in the country since the pandemic began. Eleven new deaths were recorded.

Most new cases were detected in Melbourne, with the city now clearly at the centre of the country's Delta outbreak.

J&J shot gets better boost from Moderna or Pfizer in NIH study

People who got Johnson & Johnson Inc’s Covid-19 vaccine as a first shot had a stronger immune response when boosted with vaccines from Pfizer Inc /BioNTech SE or Moderna Inc, a study run by the National Institutes of Health showed on Wednesday.

The study, which is preliminary and hasn't been peer-reviewed, is the latest challenge to J&J's efforts to use its Covid-19 vaccine as a booster in the United States.

The study, which included more than 450 adults who received initial shots from Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson, showed that "mixing and matching" booster shots of different types is safe in adults. Moderna's and Pfizer's vaccines are based on messenger RNA while J&J's uses viral vector technology.

It comes as an advisory group to the US Food and Drug Administration is preparing to meet later this week to discuss the merits of a booster shot for Moderna and J&J vaccines.

FDA officials on Wednesday said J&J's regulatory submission for its planned booster raised red flags including small sample sizes and data based on tests that had not been validated.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies