Covid-19 has infected more than 407M people and killed over 5.8M worldwide. Here are some of the latest coronavirus-related developments:

Last week the WHO's Africa office said the continent must boost its vaccination rate
Last week the WHO's Africa office said the continent must boost its vaccination rate "six times" to reach the 70 percent target. (Reuters)

Friday, February 11, 2022

WHO: Pandemic's 'acute phase' could end by midyear

The head of the World Health Organization has said that the acute phase of the pandemic could end this year, if around 70 percent of the world gets vaccinated.

"Our expectation is that the acute phase of this pandemic will end this year, of course with one condition, the 70 percent vaccination (target is achieved) by mid this year around June, July," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told reporters in South Africa.

"If that is to be done, the acute phase can really end, and that is what we are expecting. It's in our hands. It's not a matter of chance. It's a matter of choice."

"We expect this vaccine to be more suited to the contexts in which it will be used, with fewer storage constraints and at a lower price," said the WHO boss.

Germany considers easing some restrictions

German authorities will begin discussions next week on easing some of the coronavirus restrictions, Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced. 

Delivering a speech at the Federal Council (Bundesrat), Scholz said the government’s strict anti-coronavirus measures have been effective so far, and prevented hospitals from being overwhelmed.

“The scientific forecasts show us that the peak of the wave is in sight,” he said, referring to the recent studies of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), which expects numbers to peak in two weeks and begin to decline afterwards.

"This gives us an opportunity to look at the first opening steps at our planned meeting with the federal states next week,” Scholz said, adding that further openings could be possible in the spring, depending on the pandemic conditions.

On Friday, health authorities reported 240,172 new infections, 1,759 hospitalisations and 226 coronavirus-related deaths across the country.

Italy reports 67,152 cases, 334 deaths

 Italy has reported 67,152 Covid-19 related cases, against 75,861 the day before, the Health Ministry said, while the number of deaths increased to 334 from 325.

Italy has registered 150,555 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 11.99 million cases to date.

Patients in hospital with Covid — not including those in intensive care — stood at 16,824 on Friday, down from 17,354 a day earlier.

There were 100 new admissions to intensive care units, up from 83 on Thursday. The total number of intensive care patients fell to 1,265 from a previous 1,322.

Some 663,786 tests for Covid-19 were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 683,715, the Health Ministry said.

New York City set to fire 3,000 staff for defying vaccine mandate

New York City was poised to sack roughly 3,000 municipal workers for failing to meet a deadline to get vaccinated against Covid-19. 

The expected dismissals come amid growing discontent in North America against coronavirus restrictions and as states unilaterally lift mask mandates.

New York requires all city employees, including police, firefighters and teachers, to receive at least one dose of a vaccine under orders passed by former mayor Bill de Blasio last year.

"We're not firing them. People are quitting," his successor, Eric Adams, said on Thursday.

"We said it, if you're hired, if you get this job, you have to be vaccinated. If you are not following the rules, you are making that decision," he added. 

Covid-19 death toll in Japan tops 20,000

Amid the Omicron-driven sixth wave of the pandemic in the country, Japan’s death toll due to the coronavirus since December 2019 has surpassed 20,000 on Friday.

Data assessment by Tokyo-based Kyodo News showed the virus has caused more than 20,000 deaths since the pandemic began around two years ago.

Japan has reported 3.6 million coronavirus cases so far.

Of the total 47 provinces, Japan imposed enhanced restrictions in 36 provinces to halt the spread of the virus.

The capital Tokyo is the worst hit which reported 18,660 virus cases on Friday, with over 10,000 daily cases since January 25. 

Türkiye registers 95,065 new cases 

Türkiye has reported 95,065 new coronavirus cases, according to Health Ministry data. 

The ministry confirmed 253 related deaths, and 85,758 recoveries over the past day. As many as 458,142 virus tests were also done across the country.

To counter the spread of the virus, Türkiye has administered over 143.84 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines since it launched an immunisation drive in January 2021.

Over 57.55 million people have received a first jab, while more than 52.60 million are fully vaccinated. Third booster shots have also been given to more than 26.09 million people. 

Belgium to ease measures as infections decline

Belgium will ease a slew of virus measures from next week, with restaurants and bars allowed to open for full hours and children under 12 no longer forced to use face masks, as authorities anticipate a further decline in infections.

The government announced that the nation of 11 million will go from code red, the toughest for virus measures, to code orange as of February 19.

“We can start easing several measures. There will be no closing time in bars and restaurants anymore and no more limits on how many people can sit together at a table,” said Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.

Beyond the full expansion of bar and restaurant opening hours, that means that customers will no longer have to wear masks. Nightclubs and dancing venues will also be allowed to reopen.

Outside activities, including concerts, will be able to operate under far more relaxed measures again. 

UK scraps testing requirements for vaccinated travellers

Vaccinated travellers can enter Britain without taking any tests starting on Friday, after the government scrapped one of the final restrictions imposed over the past two years.

British residents and visitors who have had at least two doses of an approved vaccine now only need to fill out a passenger locator form before traveling to the UK. 

Unvaccinated people still have to take tests both before and after arriving but no longer need to self-isolate until they get a negative result.

Russia's daily case tally tops 200,000 for first time

Russia's daily cases have exceeded 200,000 for the first time since the pandemic began as the Omicron variant continued to spread, authorities said.

New cases jumped to 203,949, from 197,076 a day earlier. The government coronavirus task force also reported 722 deaths in the last 24 hours. 

Hong Kong extends ban on flights from eight countries

Hong Kong has extended a ban on incoming flights from eight countries, including the United States and Britain, and imposed one on Nepal until March 4, with the government citing concerns over a growing virus outbreak.

The other countries are Australia, Canada, France, India, Pakistan and Philippines.

Flights to Hong Kong are down 90 percent and hardly any are allowed to transit as the financial hub isolates itself from the world in the hope it can contain an outbreak, even though new infections are overwhelmingly local transmissions.

German court rejects petitions against targeted vaccine mandate

Germany's top court has rejected emergency petitions filed against a targeted vaccine mandate obliging hospital staff to get vaccinated

Compulsory vaccination for staff in hospitals and care facilities is due to come into force in Germany on March 15. Numerous people who will be affected had filed the emergency petitions with the constitutional court in Karlsruhe.

Germany's current coronavirus wave is expected to peak around mid-February, the health minister said last month.

Australia reports over 2M new cases in 40 days 

Australia has reported over 2 million cases in 40 days after the Omicron variant hit the country in November last year, the country’s Health Ministry said.

According to the ministry’s data released on Thursday, so far the country has registered over 2.48 million cases with 4,479 deaths.

Out of these infections and fatalities, over 2.09 million cases and 2,240 deaths have been recorded since January 1, which showed how quickly the new variant spread across the country.

New Zealand Covid-19 protest grows after police draw back

Protester numbers outside New Zealand's parliament have swelled as police scaled back efforts to clear anti-vaccine demonstrators involved in violent clashes a day earlier.

A festive mood prevailed at a makeshift tent settlement inhabitants have dubbed "Camp Freedom", with music and dancing as police looked on from behind barricades.

It was a stark contrast to the fiery scenes on Thursday, when a phalanx of officers attempted to evict the protesters, arresting 122 people and using pepper spray to quell scuffles.

Brazil logs more than 160,000 cases, 900 deaths

Brazil has reported 164,066 new cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, and 943 deaths from Covid-19, the Health Ministry said.

The South American country has now registered 27,119,500 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 636,017, according to ministry data. 

Mexico reports more than 900 deaths

Mexico reported 927 confirmed Covid-19 deaths, according to Health Ministry data, bringing the overall death toll to 311,554.

The country has reported 5,226,269 cases of Covid-19 since the pandemic began.

UK should do more to 'recoup' billions of Covid fraud

Britain's government is failing to put enough effort into finding fraud in some of its Covid-19 support programmes as taxpayers face losing at least $5.43 billion to criminals and mistakes, a parliamentary report said.

The Public Accounts Committee, which scrutinises state spending, said the lenient approach will encourage future criminal activity because the government risks "rewarding the unscrupulous" and officials seen to be "soft on fraud".

After coronavirus shut much of the British economy in early 2020, the government provided hundreds of billions of pounds to businesses, hoping to keep them and their staff afloat. 

South Korea reports second day of more than 50,000 daily cases

South Korea's Disease Control and Prevention Agency has reported 53,926 new daily Covid-19 cases, the second straight day with more than 50,000 cases driven by the Omicron variant, with an increase of 49 deaths to a total of 7,012. 

US buys 600K doses of new antibody

Addressing diminished treatment options in the Omicron wave, the Biden administration has purchased enough of a yet-to-be approved antibody drug to treat 600,000 Covid-19 patients, officials said.

The new monoclonal antibody from pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly will be shipped out to states free of charge if the Food and Drug Administration approves the company's request for emergency use authorisation, said Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra. 

"We are going to try to be there to meet the demand," he added.

The government's move comes after the two leading monoclonal antibody treatments in the US turned out to be ineffective against the Omicron variant, which now accounts for nearly all Covid-19 cases in the country. 

Data indicate that the Lilly drug works against Omicron, including the new BA.2 mutation. 

Lilly said the contract for its new drug, bebtelovimab, is worth at least $720 million. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies