Africa

Covid-19 wrap: Infections surge in India, J&J to supply AU with 400m vaccine doses, UK measures ease


Keeping you up to date on
the latest novel coronavirus (Covid-19) news from around the world.

FOLLOW LIVE | Covid-19 in SA: Cases at 1 545 431 as death toll climbs by 15

Coronavirus
toll at 10:00 (GMT) Monday

Paris – The novel coronavirus has killed at least 2
784 276 people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019, according
to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 10:00 (GMT) on Monday.

At least 127 085 080 cases of coronavirus have been
registered.

The vast majority have recovered, though some have
continued to experience symptoms weeks or even months later.

These figures are based on daily tolls provided by
health authorities in each country and exclude later re-evaluations by
statistical organisations, as has happened in Russia, Spain and Britain.

On Sunday, 6 450 new deaths and 467 650 new cases
were recorded worldwide.

Based on latest reports, the countries with the
most new deaths were Brazil with 1 656, followed by the United States with 493
and Italy with 297.

The United States is the worst-affected country
with 549 335 deaths from 30 262 380 cases.

After the US, the hardest-hit countries are Brazil
with 312 206 deaths from 12 534 688 cases, Mexico with 201 623 deaths from 2 226
550 cases, India with 161 843 deaths from 12 039 644 cases, and the United
Kingdom with 126 592 deaths from 4 333 042 cases.

 – AFP


India suffers highest daily coronavirus infections
in five months

NEW DELHI – India reported the highest daily
increase in coronavirus cases in five months on Monday, with the second wave of
the disease driven by surging infections in the country’s richest state
Maharastra.

A total of 68 020 new coronavirus cases were
reported in the last 24 hours, the health ministry said. It was the highest
daily rise since 11 October, according to a Reuters tally.

India has been reporting a spike in cases – above
the 60 000 mark – for three consecutive days, though Monday’s rise was still
below September’s peak of more than 90 000 cases a day.

The total number of cases since the epidemic began
a year ago crossed the 12 million mark, making India the hardest hit country
outside the United States and Brazil.

Some experts believe the truer figure would be more
than 300 million due to insufficient testing, though that has improved.

Daily deaths rose by 291 on Monday and the virus
has so far killed 161 843 people in India.

 – REUTERS


WHO warns against widening gap in vaccine
distribution

Abu Dhabi – The World Health Organisation (WHO)
warned on Monday against a widening gap between numbers of coronavirus vaccines
in wealthy countries and those distributed to poorer nations through the global
Covax initiative.

“The gap between the number of vaccines
administered in rich countries, and the number of vaccines administered through
Covax is growing every single day,” UN health agency chief Tedros Adhanom
Ghebreyesus said.

“The unequitable distribution of vaccines is
not just a moral outrage, it’s also economically and epidemiologically
self-defeating,” Tedros added, during a virtual conference hosted by the
United Arab Emirates to address global immunisation.

“As long as the virus continues to circulate
anywhere, people will continue to die, trade and travel will continue to be
disrupted, and the economic recovery will be further delayed.”

It follows criticism by UN Secretary-General
Antonio Guterres of nations creating a “stockpile” of Covid-19
vaccines, calling on them to share to help end the pandemic.

Health officials have rolled out more than 510
million coronavirus vaccine doses around the world.

– AFP


J&J
agrees to supply African Union with up to 400 million Covid shots

Johnson & Johnson has agreed to supply up to
400 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine to the African Union (AU) from the
third quarter of 2021, the drugmaker said on Monday, as the continent struggles
to get shots into arms and tame infections.

J&J unit Janssen Pharmaceutica NV has entered
into a deal with the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) to deliver 220
million doses of its single-dose shot. AVAT could order an additional 180
million doses through 2022.

The deal comes after months of negotiations with
the AU, which announced a provisional agreement in January to buy 270 million
doses of vaccines from three drugmakers: J&J, AstraZeneca and
Pfizer-BioNTech.

The status of the talks with the other two
companies is not known.

AVAT said on Monday many countries out of the 55 AU
member states showed strong preference for J&J.

The supplies will help the continent reach its
target of vaccinating at least 750 million people, or 60% of the population, as
it tries to contain the spread of the virus which has killed almost 121 000
people and infected 4.18 million on the region.

 – REUTERS


UK’s
Johnson urges caution as some lockdown measures ease

LONDON – Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged Britons
to be cautious as a stay-at-home order and some other lockdown measures are
lifted in England, citing rising cases in other parts of Europe and the threat
posed by new variants of the virus.

The government will also set up a new Office for
Health Promotion to help tackle obesity, improve mental health and promote
exercise. Johnson himself said he was “too fat” when he became
gravely ill with Covid-19 last year.

From Monday, up to six people, or two households,
in England can meet outside whilst outdoor sporting facilities such as tennis
and basketball courts can be used with social contact limits in place.

Britain’s vaccination programme has been one of the
most successful in the world but there are concerns over supplies, high
infections rates in parts of Europe and the ongoing emergence of new
coronavirus variants.

“We must remain cautious, with cases rising
across Europe and new variants threatening our vaccine rollout,” Johnson
said.

“Despite today’s easements, everyone must
continue to stick to the rules, remember hands, face, space, and come forward
for a vaccine when called.”

 – REUTERS


Australia’s
Brisbane enters snap virus lockdown

Brisbane – More than two million people in Brisbane
entered a three-day lockdown on Monday after a cluster of coronavirus cases was
detected in Australia’s third-biggest city.

It is the second snap lockdown of the greater
Brisbane area this year, and comes after seven people tested positive for
Covid-19 – the first significant community outbreak in Australia in weeks.

“This is the UK strain. It is highly
infectious. We need to do this now to avoid a longer lockdown,” Queensland
state Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.

“We’ve seen what’s happened in other
countries. I don’t want to see that happen to Queensland, I don’t want to see
that happen to Australia.”

Australia has been relatively successful in curbing
the spread of Covid-19, with just over 29 000 cases and 909 deaths during the
pandemic to date.

However, the country’s vaccine rollout has been
sluggish, with just over 500 000 shots administered so far in a country of 25
million – falling far short of a government target to vaccinate four million by
the end of March.

 – AFP


Merkel
urges German states to stick to agreed shutdown rules

Berlin – Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday urged
Germany’s 16 federal states to honour measures agreed to curb Covid-19, with
cases spiralling as many regions stray from the national line.

“We need action in the federal states,”
Merkel said in an interview with the ARD broadcaster.

“We have to take the appropriate measures very
seriously. Some states are doing it, others are not yet doing it,” she
said.

At a tense meeting last week, Merkel and the
regional leaders had agreed to stick to shutdown measures including an
“emergency brake” to be applied in regions with high incidence rates
until 18 April.

But under Germany’s federal system, each state can
ultimately decide its own rules and some have continued with reopening steps,
despite fierce criticism.

“If we are creating the impression that we can
still open things – that is not the order of the day at the moment,” she
said.

 – AFP


Hong
Kong to reopen pools, beaches as Covid infections ease

Hong Kong will ease some coronavirus restrictions,
the government said on Monday, allowing swimming pools and beaches to open and
shortening the quarantine period for some international arrivals to 14 days from
21.

Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan told a
press briefing that local infections had come down considerably, giving the
administration room to relax some measures.

Beaches and swimming pools would reopen from 1 April,
while religious gatherings could resume with maximum capacity of 30%. Cinemas
and theme parks would be able to increase capacity to 75% from 50%.

“We want to keep containing the epidemic and
not undo the efforts we have made. We must continue to enforce stringent
measures,” she said.

Bars, karaoke parlours and bath houses would stay
closed.

 – REUTERS


South
Korea’s expert panel says J&J Covid-19 vaccine safe, effective for approval

SEOUL – A panel of South Korean advisers
recommended a coronavirus vaccine from Johnson & Johnson was safe and
effective, the food and drug safety ministry said on Monday, moving the
single-dose shot a step closer to receiving regulatory approval.

When granted a greenlight, the J&J vaccine will
be the third Covid-19 vaccine authorised in South Korea, following ones from
AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech, both of which require two doses.

South Korea has an agreement to get 6 million doses
of the J&J vaccine and has said it will be ready for inoculation from the
second quarter.

The final authorisation of the vaccine will be
decided after two more expert committees hold meetings.

The country has so far administered 793 966 first
doses of vaccines among medical workers and high-risk groups since the
beginning of its vaccination campaign in February.

 – REUTERS


China
administers 106.61 million Covid-19 vaccines as of 28 March

BEIJING – China carried out about 4.20 million vaccinations
against Covid-19 on 28 March, bringing the total number administered to 106.61
million, according to data released by the National Health Commission on
Monday.

 – REUTERS


Germany
calls for global funding for vaccine rollouts in poorest countries

GENEVA – Global funding and cooperation is crucial
if there is going to be fair access to Covid-19 vaccines for everyone,
Germany’s development minister said on Monday.

It was crucial to have an infrastructure that helps
to place vaccine campaigns in the poorest countries of the world, and Germany
will commit more strongly to this fight, Gerd Mueller said at a joint news
conference with WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

 – REUTERS


Chinese
firm to make 60 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik vaccine

Moscow – Russia has agreed a deal for more than 60
million doses of its Sputnik V vaccine to be produced in China from May, the
jab’s developer said on Monday.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which
has financed the development of the vaccine, said it and Shenzhen Yuanxing
Gene-tech Co “have agreed to cooperate on production of over 60 million
doses” of Sputnik in China.

The RDIF, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund that has
backed the development of the vaccine, said that the amount of the two-dose
vaccine would be enough to vaccinate some 30 million people, adding that
production would begin in May.

“Cooperation with Shenzhen Yuanxing Gene-tech
will enable us to produce Sputnik V in China, thus increasing the capacities to
provide additional amounts as we see rising demand for the Russian vaccine
globally,” CEO Kirill Dmitriev said in a statement.

 – AFP


Brazil
coronavirus cases top 12.5 million – health ministry

BRASILIA – Brazil recorded 1 656 deaths from Covid-19
in the past 24 hours and 44 326 additional confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus,
the Health Ministry said on Sunday, taking the total case count above 12.5
million.

Brazil’s official death toll now stands at 312 206,
according to ministry data.

 – REUTERS


Philippines
reports record daily rise of 10 016 coronavirus cases

MANILA
– The Philippines’ health ministry on Monday recorded 10 016 new coronavirus
infections, the country’s third record daily spike in cases over the past five
days.

In
a bulletin, the ministry said total confirmed cases had increased to 731 894,
while confirmed deaths reached 13 186, including 16 more casualties on Monday.

Most
of the new cases are in the congested capital region, a conglomeration of 16
cities home to at least 13 million people, which returned to stricter
restrictions on Monday. Hospitals’ intensive care and isolation bed capacity
have reached critical levels, government data showed.

 – REUTERS


Germany’s
confirmed coronavirus cases rise by 9 872 – RKI

BERLIN – The number of confirmed coronavirus cases
in Germany increased by 9 872 to 2 782 273, data from the Robert Koch Institute
(RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Monday.

The reported death toll rose by 43 to 75 913, the
tally showed.

 – REUTERS


Russia reports 8 711 new coronavirus cases, 293
deaths

MOSCOW – Russia reported 8 711 new coronavirus
cases on Monday, including 1 612 in Moscow, which pushed the national tally to
4 528 543 since the pandemic began.

The government coronavirus taskforce said that 293
deaths had been confirmed in the past 24 hours, taking its coronavirus death
toll to 98 033.

 – REUTERS


China reports 15 new Covid-19 cases vs 8 a day
earlier

BEIJING – China reported 15 new Covid-19 cases in
the mainland for 28 March, up from eight a day earlier, the country’s national health
authority said on Monday.

The National Health Commission, in a statement,
said all the new cases were imported infections originating from overseas.

The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China
does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to 18 from 19 a day earlier.

The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in
mainland China now stands at 90 182, while the death toll remains unchanged at
4 636.

 – REUTERS



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