Coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 4.5 million people and infected nearly 220 million globally. Here are the coronavirus-related developments for September 3:

A woman shows her digital Covid-19 certificate at Naples Central Station, Italy, on September 1, 2021.
A woman shows her digital Covid-19 certificate at Naples Central Station, Italy, on September 1, 2021. (Reuters)

Friday, September 3, 2021

AstraZeneca reaches settlement with EU on Covid vaccine delivery

AstraZeneca and the European Commission have reached a settlement on the delivery of 200 million pending Covid-19 vaccine doses by the drugmaker, ending a row about shortages that had weighed on the company and the region's vaccination campaign.

The dispute plunged the European Union into crisis earlier this year as states, under pressure to speed up vaccinations, scrambled for shots. It also caused a public relations crisis for AstraZeneca, which is led by Frenchman Pascal Soriot.

Having reduced its initial reliance on the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker, Brussels said parts of the volumes committed under the deal would be transferred outside the EU to ease global vaccine inequality. The bloc's vaccine supplies now come mainly from Pfizer/BioNTech .

As part of Friday's settlement, AstraZeneca has committed to deliver 60 million doses of its vaccine, Vaxzevria, by the end of the third quarter this year, 75 million by the end of the fourth quarter and 65 million by the end of the first quarter of 2022.

When including deliveries already made, that schedule maps out the honouring of a 300 million dose bulk purchasing contract struck about a year ago between the company and the EU, after months of conflict over delays.

The European Commission launched legal action against AstraZeneca in April for not respecting that contract and for not having a "reliable" plan to ensure timely deliveries.

The EU's executive body said that under the new agreement, member states would be provided with regular delivery schedules and if there were any delayed doses, capped rebates would be applied.

Italy reports 58 deaths, 6,735 new cases

Italy has reported 58 coronavirus-related deaths, down from 62 the previous day, while the daily tally of new infections decreased to 6,735 from 6,761, the Health Ministry said.

A total of 129,410 deaths linked to Covid-19 have been registered in Italy since its outbreak emerged in February last year. That is the second-highest tally in Europe behind Britain and the ninth-highest globally. Italy has reported 4.59 million cases to date.

Patients in hospital with Covid-19 not including those in intensive care stood at 4,164 on Friday, down from 4,205 a day earlier.

There were 42 new admissions to intensive care units, decreasing from 49 on Thursday. The total number of intensive care patients edged up to 556 from a previous 555.

Some 296,394 tests for Covid-19 were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 293,067, the Health Ministry said.

UK advisers decide against vaccines for healthy 12- to 15-year-olds

Britain's vaccine advisers have said that they were not recommending the universal vaccination of 12- to15-year-olds against Covid-19, preferring to take a precautionary approach to assess the long-term impacts of rare heart inflammation.

There have been reports of heart inflammation, known as myocarditis, in young people following vaccination with Pfizer's shot, though the condition is usually mild.

Britain's Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said on Friday it was expanding the eligibility for Covid-19 vaccinations to more 12- to 15-year-olds with underlying health conditions than previously, but said the benefits of vaccination for healthy children were likely small.

EU reviewing cases of rare body inflammation after Covid shots

Europe's medicines regulator has said that it was reviewing cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome after inoculation with Covid-19 vaccines, following a report of a similar case with Pfizer/BioNTech's shot.

The European Medicines Agency's safety committee is also looking into cases of blood clots in the vein with Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine, the regulator said, adding that the issue was distinct from a rare side-effect identified earlier. 

UK reports 42,076 new cases, 121 deaths 

Britain has reported 42,076 new Covid-19 cases, a rise on Thursday's 38,154, and 121 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, down from 178 the previous day, according to government data.

Virus rules in Seoul extended another month

South Korea will extend restrictions in the greater capital area for at least another month as the nation grapples with its worst surge a few weeks before its biggest holiday of the year.

Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol acknowledged the prolonged virus restrictions were hurting livelihoods but said the pace of transmissions was too “dangerous” for officials to consider easing distancing measures.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported 1,709 new cases of virus infection, the 59th consecutive day of over 1,000. 

Only 3.8 percent of the population of more than 51 million is fully vaccinated.

The Level 4 rules enforced in Seoul and nearby metropolitan areas are the highest level short of a lockdown and prohibit private social gatherings of three or more people after 6 pm.

But Kwon said the limit will be raised to six people if at least four of them are fully vaccinated, providing some flexibility to address economic concerns and pandemic fatigue. All indoor dining at restaurants and cafes will be banned after 10 pm.

Officials also worry the outbreak would worsen during the Chuseok holidays, the Korean version of Thanksgiving, when millions usually travel across the country to meet relatives.

China administered total of 2.085 B doses of vaccines as of Sept 2

China has administered about 8.2 million doses of vaccines on September 2, bringing the total number of doses administered to 2.085 billion, data from the National Health Commission has shown. 

Vietnam's biggest city proposes Sept 15 economic restart after lockdown

Vietnam's coronavirus epicentre Ho Chi Minh City is proposing to resume its economic activities from Sept. 15 after a strict lockdown, in a shift from its "Zero-Covid-19" containment strategy, according to a draft proposal from the city.

The city of 9 million people is targeting the full vaccination of its citizens by the end of this year, according to the draft seen by Reuters, which has yet to be endorsed. 

India reports 45,352 new infections

India has reported 45,352 new cases in the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry said, with 366 deaths.

Total infections have now risen to 32.9 million and deaths to 439,895.

New cases plunge in New Zealand 

New Zealand has reported 28 new cases of Covid-19, a big drop compared to the last few days, as authorities said the country was breaking the chain of transmission of the highly infectious Delta variant of coronavirus.

Authorities said 27 new cases were in Auckland and one was in Wellington. Friday's numbers were lower than 49 new cases reported on Thursday and 75 the day before.

"While the fall is encouraging we are mindful these outbreaks can have a long tail...," Director of Public Health Dr Caroline McEnlay said in a news conference.

EU to return J&J vaccines made in Africa

The European Union has agreed to send millions of coronavirus vaccine doses made in South Africa back to the continent, an African Union envoy said.

South Africa's Aspen Pharmacare, which produces the Johnson & Johnson vaccine under a contract with the US pharma giant, will also stop sending doses to Europe, Strive Masiyiwa told reporters at an online briefing.

The announcement came with Africa struggling to immunise its people against Covid-19, partly because of a lack of supply and widespread vaccine hesitancy.

"All the vaccines produced at Aspen will stay in Africa and be distributed to Africa," the African Union's special Covid envoy said, adding that Aspen's arrangement to export the doses to Europe had been "suspended.”

"In addition the Europeans committed to give us 200 million doses before the end of December," Masiyiwa said at the briefing by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

At the same news conference, Africa CDC director John Nkengasong said that the number of people who have been fully immunised against coronavirus on the continent was about 2.93 percent.

'Mu' variant predominant in Colombia

A new coronavirus variant known as "Mu," identified first in Colombia in January, is now the country's predominant strain and behind its deadliest pandemic wave yet, a health official said.

The variant was responsible for Colombia's deadly third infection wave between April and June, health official Marcela Mercado told a local radio station.

During this period, with about 700 deaths per day, nearly two-thirds of tests from people who died came back positive for the Mu variant, she said.

"It is already in more than 43 countries and has shown high contagiousness," she added.

On Tuesday, the World Health Organization declared Mu, scientific name B.1.621, a "variant of interest."

Brazil's Bolsonaro signs law that could break vaccine patents

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has signed off on a law allowing for vaccine and medication patents to be broken in a public emergency, such as the Covid-19 pandemic.

But the right-wing leader vetoed the provisions that patent holders would need to transfer the knowledge and supply the raw materials needed to duplicate the vaccines and medications.

According to a statement from his office, those provisions were seen as being too difficult to implement and discouraging investment in researching new technologies.

Bolsonaro had previously criticised the law as potentially harming Brazil's commercial relationships.

Brazil reports 26,280 new cases

Brazil has recorded 26,280 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, along with 764 deaths from Covid-19, the Health Ministry said.

Brazil has registered more than 20 million cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 581,914, according to ministry data.

Mexico adds more than 18,000 new Covid-19 cases

Mexico has posted 18,138 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 as well as 993 more deaths, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 3,387,885 and the death toll to 261,496, according to health ministry data.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies