Covid-19 has infected more than 189.3 million people and killed more than 4 million. Here are the latest coronavirus-related developments for July 15:

Staff members stand at Hubei Provincial Hospital of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine, where members of the WHO team tasked with investigating the origins of the coronavirus are visiting, in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, January 29, 2021.
Staff members stand at Hubei Provincial Hospital of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine, where members of the WHO team tasked with investigating the origins of the coronavirus are visiting, in Wuhan, Hubei province, China, January 29, 2021. (Reuters)

Thursday, July 15:

WHO experts warn of 'strong likelihood of more dangerous variants'

The World Health Organization's emergency committee has warned that new concerning variants of Covid-19 were expected to spread around the world, making it even harder to halt the pandemic.

"The pandemic is nowhere near finished," the committee said in a statement, highlighting "the strong likelihood for the emergence and global spread of new and possibly more dangerous variants of concern that may be even more challenging to control".

WHO panel advises against Covid-19 vaccination proof for travel

The WHO's Emergency Committee has maintained its stance that proof of Covid-19 vaccination should not be required for international travel, amid a growing debate on blocking the entry of travellers if they are unvaccinated.

The independent experts said that vaccinations should not be the only condition to permit international travel, given limited global access and inequitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.

The experts had previously said that requiring proof of vaccination deepens inequities and promotes unequal freedom of movement.

Poorer countries with less access to vaccinations could face exclusion if such measures are put into place, some health experts have said.

Top Nigerian university sends students home over virus fears

One of Nigeria's largest universities has sent residential students home and said it would suspend physical attendance of lectures as fears grow over a new wave of coronavirus in Africa's most populous nation.

Nigeria has not been as hard-hit by the pandemic as other parts of Africa, recording around 169,000 cases and 2,125 deaths in a population of some 200 million.

But the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control said it had detected the more contagious Delta variant of the virus, putting officials nationwide on alert.

The University of Lagos (UNILAG) reported a surge in the number of Covid diagnoses at its medical centre in the sprawling city of over 20 million inhabitants.

US surgeon general warns over Covid-19 misinformation

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy has raised the alarm over a growing wave of misinformation about Covid-19 and related vaccines that threatens efforts to quell the pandemic and save lives, urging technology companies and others to act.

In his first advisory as the nation's top doctor under President Joe Biden, Murthy called on tech companies to tweak their algorithms to further demote false information and share more data with researchers and the government to help teachers, healthcare workers and the media fight misinformation.

"Health misinformation is a serious threat to public health. It can cause confusion, sow mistrust, harm people’s health, and undermine public health efforts. Limiting the spread of health misinformation is a moral and civic imperative," he said in the advisory, first reported by National Public Radio.

False information can lead to hesitancy to get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, leading to preventable deaths, Murthy said, noting misinformation can affect other health conditions and is a worldwide problem.

"American lives are at risk," he said in a separate statement.

WHO's Tedros to set out follow-up study into Covid-19 origins - director Ryan

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus will share proposals for a phase 2 study into the origins of the coronavirus with member states on Friday, its emergency director Mike Ryan has said.

"We look forward to working with our Chinese counterparts on that process and the director general will outline measures to member states" on Friday, Ryan told a news conference in Geneva on Thursday.

Earlier, Tedros told reporters that investigations into the origins of Covid-19 in China were being hampered by the lack of raw data on the first days of its spread there.

Vietnam reports record 3,416 new infections 

Vietnam has reported 3,416 Covid-19 infections, a new record daily increase.

Most of the cases were in Ho Chi Minh City, the country's business hub. 

China must cooperate better with Covid origin probe: WHO

China must cooperate better in the probe into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, the first cases of which were seen in Wuhan in December 2019, the head of WHO has said.

"We hope there will be better cooperation to get to the bottom of what happened," Tedros told a regular press briefing in Geneva, calling in particular for access to raw data which so far has been inadequate.

Thai AstraZeneca vaccine production falls short of target

Production of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine at a factory in Thailand has fallen short of its target, likely delaying the country's plan to acquire a total of 61 million doses until next May, a government official has said.

The projected supply shortfall will complicate plans to inoculate at least 70 percent of the country’s 69 million people this year as Thailand battles record-high daily increases in Covid-19 cases and deaths. Cases have risen with the spread of the more contagious delta variant of the virus.

Bangladesh to vaccinate Rohingya refugees

Bangladesh is to start giving coronavirus vaccinations to some of the 850,000 Rohingya refugees who fled across the border from Myanmar, officials have said.

With infections rising across the country, refugee commissioner Shah Rezwan Hayat said about 48,000 Rohingya aged over 55 would start receiving jabs from next month with help from the WHO.

Mass exodus in Dhaka as virus lockdown lifted for festival

Hundreds of thousands of people have fled the Bangladesh capital in every available car, train and bus after authorities lifted a coronavirus lockdown despite soaring infections and deaths.

The government has allowed an eight-day respite after two weeks of lockdown which has seen troops patrolling the streets to keep people in their homes.

With the nation about to celebrate the Eid al Adha Muslim festival, thousands of buses returned to highways, ferries left the capital for coastal ports and trains started rolling.

Malaysia to stop using Sinovac vaccine after supply ends – minister

Malaysia's Health Ministry has said the country will stop administering the Covid-19 vaccine produced by China's Sinovac once its supplies end, as it has a sufficient number of other vaccines for its programme.

Malaysia's inoculation drive will be largely anchored by the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA vaccine moving forward, Health Minister Adham Baba told a news conference with other top ministry officials.

The Southeast Asian country has secured about 45 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, enough to cover 70 percent of the population, compared to 16 million doses of Sinovac's shot, the officials said.

Greece sees surge of international arrivals in June

Air traffic in Greece picked up strongly in June after the government eased coronavirus-related travel restrictions in May before the start of the key summer tourist season, civil aviation authority data has shown.

International arrivals jumped more than 13-fold in June to 1,181,771 from just 87,481 a year earlier, during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the data.

Greece, where about a fifth of economic output comes from tourism, suffered its most severe slump on record in 2020 as the coronavirus drastically curbed international travel, with arrivals down 75 percent from the previous year.

This year, as vaccination campaigns in Greece and many other countries have picked up, the government is expecting a 50 percent rise from the levels seen in 2019 when the country welcomed a record of more than 30 million tourists.

Overall traffic at Greek airports was still down 2.8 percent for the first six months of the year, the figures showed. 

Covid-19 deaths in Africa surge 43% week-on-week, WHO says

Africa recorded a 43 percent jump in Covid-19 deaths last week as infections and hospital admissions have risen and countries face shortages of oxygen and intensive-care beds, the WHO has said.

The continent's case fatality rate – the proportion of deaths among confirmed cases – stands at 2.6 percent against the global average of 2.2 percent, WHO Africa said in its weekly briefing.

"Africa's third wave continues its destructive pathway, pushing past yet another grim milestone as the continent's case count tops six million," Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, told the briefing.

The surge in infections, which is partly driven by the presence of the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus in 21 African countries, is leaving a "brutal cost in lives lost" in its trail, she said.

Myanmar funeral services overwhelmed as toll mounts

Hundreds more bodies than usual are being taken for funerals every day in junta-ruled Myanmar as a new wave of Covid-19 sweeps through the country, services transporting the bodies and arranging ceremonies have said.

The accounts from different parts of Myanmar point to the daily death tolls being higher than those given by the Health Ministry, which hit a record 145 fatalities on Wednesday.

Reuters was unable to reach either the Health Ministry or a junta spokesperson for further comment on the figures.

The number of funerals at the Yay Way cemetery in Myanmar's biggest city, Yangon, was around 200 per day over the past week, well over double the number that would normally be expected, funeral services said.

There were similar increases at two other cemeteries in the city with 400 to 500 people being cremated there per day, they said.

Russia says no immediate plans to recognise foreign jabs

The Kremlin has said that Moscow had no immediate plans to allow foreign coronavirus vaccines into Russia, despite the country's sluggish vaccination rates and rising death toll in a third wave of the pandemic.

Russia – whose Sputnik V vaccine is not recognised by the EU – is not currently discussing the "mutual recognition" of vaccines with Brussels, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said.

US sends half million Covid vaccines to Jordan

Half a million Covid-19 vaccines began shipping from the United States to Jordan in the latest stage of a global US effort to overcome the pandemic, officials have said.

A senior White House official told AFP, "500,000 doses of Pfizer will begin to be shipped to Jordan from the United States. These doses arrive in Jordan on Saturday."

According to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, the doses are being sent in a direct arrangement with Jordan, rather than through the international Covax program.

"We are proud to be able to deliver these safe and effective vaccines to the people of Jordan," the official told AFP.

UK supermarkets ask shoppers to keep wearing masks

Britain's biggest supermarket groups will encourage staff and customers to keep wearing face coverings from Monday despite new rules making it a matter of personal choice.

The government is removing most pandemic restrictions from July 19 in England, saying a rapid rollout of Covid-19 vaccines has largely broken the link between infections and serious illness or death.

Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda and Aldi all said they would prefer staff and customers to keep wearing masks.

The groups – who are among Britain's biggest private sector employers – said they would keep other safety measures in place, including limits on the number of people in stores, protective screens at checkouts and regular cleaning.

Saudi Arabia arrests 122 over forgery of coronavirus reports

Saudi Arabia has announced the arrest of 122 people accused of falsifying health reports related to the coronavirus.

"After expanding the search and investigation procedures, 122 people were proved to be involved, and all of them confessed to the charges brought against them,” the kingdom's Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority said in a statement.

Charges of bribery and participation in forgery were brought against nine employees of the Ministry of Health, 92 patients who managed to change their health conditions, and 21 mediators who coordinated the issue for cash.

Delta strain forces Spain’s Catalonia to restore curfew

Barcelona and the surrounding northeast corner of Spain is shutting down once again to stem an unchecked wave of the Delta variant of the coronavirus that is running wild among the unvaccinated young.

Regional authorities on Thursday were waiting for a judge to give the legal go-ahead for their request to restore a nightly curfew, their latest effort to ratchet up restrictions and discourage social gatherings where the virus spreads.

The curfew order would affect those towns with a population over 5,000 which surpass the rate of 400 infections per 100, 000 inhabitants over 14 days.

PM Johnson turns to economy, saying worst of Covid over

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the worst of the coronavirus pandemic would be behind us if the country is careful, meaning that the economy could recover "like a coiled spring".

"With every day that goes by we build higher the wall of vaccine-acquired immunity ... And with every day that goes by our economy is slowly and cautiously picking itself up off the floor, businesses are opening their doors," he said in a speech in central England.

"There is every prospect that this country is poised to recover like a coiled spring."

Athlete tests positive for in Tokyo quarantine

An Olympic athlete under a 14-day quarantine period has tested positive for the new coronavirus in Tokyo, the organising committees' website reported.

The public broadcaster NHK said the athlete had not yet relocated to the athletes' village.

The Tokyo 2020 committee did not disclose any details about the athlete. 

Indonesia approves Pfizer vaccine for emergency use

Indonesia’s Food and Drug Agency has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use in the Southeast Asian nation, the head of the agency said. 

Agency head Penny Lukito said the vaccine would be given to Indonesians aged 12 years and above.

Russia reports record daily deaths for third day running

Russia has reported 791 coronavirus-related deaths, the most in a single day since the pandemic began and the third day in a row it has set that record.

Russia is in the grip of a surge in cases that authorities have blamed on the contagious Delta variant and the slow rate of vaccinations. The coronavirus task force confirmed 25,293 new cases in the last 24 hours.

Malaysia sees record 13,215 new cases

Malaysia has reported 13,215 new cases, a record for a third straight day.

Health authorities have reported 880,782 cases in total in Malaysia. 

Australia's Victoria state to go into five-day lockdown

Australia's second most populous state Victoria will enter a five-day lockdown to combat an outbreak, Premier Daniel Andrews said.

"You only get one chance to go hard and go fast. If you wait, if you hesitate, if you doubt, then you will always be looking back wishing you had done more earlier," Andrews told a televised news conference.

The state had recorded 18 new infections since an outbreak of the highly-contagious Delta variant began in recent days, Andrews added.

South Korea sends team to tackle virus on anti-piracy ship

South Korea is sending a medical team to the Middle East to tackle a coronavirus outbreak on one of its ships on anti-piracy patrol while at home, new daily infections are hovering around record levels with 1,600 reported.

South Korea was for months a coronavirus success story as it kept outbreaks under control with testing, tracing and social distancing but the Delta variant has been fuelling a new wave of persistent infections in recent weeks.

The outbreak on the South Korean destroyer with some 300 service members on board operating in the Gulf of Aden is another headache for the administration of President Moon Jae-in.

Moon has ordered medical experts with emergency equipment to fly to the region to contain the outbreak and get patients out if they have to, said presidential spokeswoman Park Kyung-mee.

The Yonhap news agency, citing the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said six service members had tested positive for the coronavirus, while some 80 had developed some symptoms.

Pakistan reports highest daily cases since May 30

Pakistan on Thursday reported over 2,500 new cases, the highest single-day toll since May 30 as the Delta variant is spreading across the country, according to official data.

During past 24 hours, the country registered 2,545 new cases, bringing the total caseload to 981,392, the Health Ministry count showed.

On May 29, Pakistan recorded 2,697 cases which slowly declined to 663 on June 21.

However, the virus has again spiked since July 6.

The daily fatalities also raised as the country reported 47 more deaths, the highest daily tally since June 15, raising the total number to 22,689.

India reports 41,806 new infections in the last 24 hours

India has reported 41,806 new cases in the last 24 hours, health ministry data showed, with deaths rising by 581.

Haiti receives first 500,000 doses of vaccines - UNICEF

Haiti has received its first 500,000 doses of vaccines, donated by the US government through the COVAX mechanism, the UNICEF regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean said in a statement.

Haiti was the only country in the Americas without a single dose of vaccines before the arrival of this batch, the statement said. 

Indonesia warns cases may rise further, hopes won't top 60,000

Senior Indonesian minister Luhut Pandjaitan has warned that cases may continue to rise in the country, but said authorities hoped that daily infections would not top 60,000.

In a streamed news conference, Luhut also said that vaccine efficacy was weaker against the Delta variant of the virus that accounted for most infections on Java island, but urged people to get inoculated to help prevent serious illness and death.

Indonesia on Wednesday reported a record 54,000 infections, up more than tenfold on the number of cases at the start of June, despite new containment measures.

Germany's confirmed cases rise by 1,642 - RKI

The number of confirmed cases in Germany has increased by 1,642 to 3,740,325, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed. 

The reported death toll rose by 32 to 91,319, the tally showed.

Argentina logs 100,000 virus deaths as Delta variant looms

Argentina has reported more than 100,000 deaths from Covid-19 since the pandemic began, a heavy blow to a country that intermittently imposed some of the most severe lockdowns in the world, only to see erratic compliance by many people.

Some 614 people died from the disease in the past 24 hours, bringing the total death toll to 100,250, the Health Ministry said.

“I feel bad, it’s not what we thought would happen. ... This is a hard, very hard statistic,” said Luis Camera, a doctor who specialises in gerontology and is an adviser on the pandemic to the government of President Alberto Fernandez.

Brazil sees 1,556 new fatalities in one day

Brazil has registered 1,556 Covid-19 deaths and 57,736 additional cases, according to data released by the nation's Health Ministry.

The South American country has now registered a total of 537,394 coronavirus deaths and 19,209,729 total confirmed cases. 

Mexico posts 12,116 new cases, 230 more deaths

Mexico's health ministry has reported 12,116 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 230 more fatalities, bringing its total figures to 2,616,827 infections and 235,507 deaths.

US physician arrested for selling fake vaccine cards

A naturopathic physician in Northern California has been arrested and charged after federal prosecutors said she sold fake Covid-19 immunisation treatments and fraudulent vaccination cards that made it seem like customers received Moderna vaccines.

Juli A. Mazi, 41, of Napa, was charged with one count of wire fraud and one count of false statements related to health care matters, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement Wednesday.

The case is the first federal criminal fraud prosecution related to homeoprophylaxis immunisations and fraudulent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Covid-19 vaccination cards, the department said.

In Athens, thousands rally against vaccinations

More than 5,000 anti-vaccine protesters, some of them waving Greek flags and wooden crosses, rallied in Athens to oppose Greece's coronavirus vaccinations programme.

Shouting "take your vaccines and get out of here!" and calling on Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to resign, the protesters gathered outside parliament under heavy police presence.

Wednesday's protest was the biggest show of opposition to the inoculation drive. A recent poll by Pulse for Skai TV found most Greeks said they would get the vaccine, and the majority were in favour of the mandatory vaccination for some segments of the population.

About 41 percent of Greeks are fully vaccinated.

DRC reports vaccine shortage

Health officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo have said they had run out of AstraZeneca vaccines, but also reported the numbers of new infections and deaths from Covid-19 were beginning to drop.

Health minister Jean-Jacques Mbungani told AFP that there were no more doses of the AstraZeneca jab in the country since three shipments received on March 2 reached their expiration dates in June and on July 11.

"We haven't yet reached the peak, but we are seeing a drop in the number of cases and also a drop in fatalities linked to Covid-19, which is encouraging," said the minister added.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies