Coronavirus has claimed the lives of more than 3.8M people and infected over 179M globally. Here are the latest Covid-related developments for June 23:

ECDC estimates that the Delta variant is 40 to 60 percent more contagious than the Alpha variant, first discovered in the UK.
ECDC estimates that the Delta variant is 40 to 60 percent more contagious than the Alpha variant, first discovered in the UK. (Reuters Archive)

Wednesday, June 23

Delta variant to account for 90% of new EU Covid cases – agency

The Delta variant, identified for the first time in India, could account for 90 percent of new Covid cases in the European Union in the coming months, the bloc's disease control agency has said.

"It is very likely that the Delta variant will circulate extensively during the summer, particularly among younger individuals that are not targeted for vaccination," Andrea Ammon, director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), said in a statement.

"The Delta variant is more transmissible than other circulating variants and we estimate that by the end of August it will represent 90 percent" of new cases in the EU, she added.

The ECDC estimates that the Delta variant (B.1.617.2), is 40 to 60 percent more contagious than the Alpha variant (Β.1.1.7), first discovered in the UK, which is currently the predominant variant of the novel coronavirus circulating in the EU.

The agency said that "70 percent of new SARS-CoV-2 infections are projected to be due to this variant in the EU/EEA by early August and 90 percent of infections by the end of August".

Chilean scientists repurpose CO2 monitors to stop Covid spread indoors

Chilean researchers have repurposed a carbon dioxide detector model to warn of the risk of contracting Covid-19 in enclosed spaces.

The prototype measures air pollution which, in a room with people, would include the coronavirus if anyone was infected since it is known to circulate via exhaled vapor.

The device, which is not yet for sale, uploads data to the cloud and issues an audio alert if ventilation is insufficient that could result in Covid-19 transmissions.

The monitor, developed by the University of Chile's Center for Mathematical Modeling and Center of Excellence in Astrophysics and Technologies Related, is already being tested in university campuses in the South American country.

"If you are in a place that does not have combustion, the only source of CO2 is people," Ricardo Finger, an electrical engineer at the University of Chile, said in an interview.

"But if you measure the amounts of CO2 in the air, you can estimate how much air one person is breathing that has already been breathed by another."

Ukraine registers first cases of Delta variant

Ukraine has registered its first two cases of the more infectious Delta variant of the coronavirus, senior security official Oleksiy Danilov was quoted as saying on Wednesday.

Danilov, secretary of Ukraine's security and defence council, told TSN television news service the variant was detected in a mother and her daughter who recently returned from Russia.

The Delta variant of the Covid-19 virus was first discovered in India and is considered by experts to be more contagious than other variants.

Ukraine's Health Minister said earlier on Wednesday the government was considering strengthening border controls on travellers from the United Kingdom, India, Russia and Portugal in a bid to prevent the spread of the Delta variant.

WHO identifies issues at Russian vaccine plant

The World Health Organization has said it uncovered problems at a Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine production site that Moscow insisted had been resolved.

WHO approval has been sought for the Sputnik V jab created by Russia's Gamaleya research institute, which is already being used in 40 countries.

The UN health agency inspected four Sputnik V manufacturing sites.

On Wednesday, it released a summary report of its preliminary findings, detailing six issues found during its May 31 to June 4 visit to the Pharmstandard Ufa Vitamin Plant in Ufa, southern Russia.

The inspectors had concerns with the data integrity and testing results from monitoring during manufacturing and quality control, and with the monitoring and control of aseptic operation and filling.

The inspection identified issues with the traceability and identification of vaccine batches.

There were also concerns over the filling lines, sterility assurance, sterile filtration validation and the risks of cross-contamination.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there were "some shortcomings identified by the inspection group, and from what we know, they were taken into account and all that needed to be changed was changed.

India tops the 30 million mark in Covid-19 cases

India has surpassed the 30 million mark in Covid-19 cases, registering 50,848 additional infections during the past 24 hours, according to the latest data released by the Ministry of Health.

The death toll in India now stands at 390,660 with 1,358 more deaths registered over the past day, showed the data.

The Indian government had earlier announced that around 22 cases of the Delta Plus variant were found in the country.

The Delta Plus variant has been formed due to a mutation of the Delta strain or B.1.617.2 variant, which was first found in India and was believed to be the reason for the deadly second wave in the country.

Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan in a media conference said: “22 cases of Delta Plus variant have been found in Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh in the country. It has been kept in Variant of interest category.”

Taiwan to extend curbs, reports 104 new domestic cases

Taiwan will extend its virus curbs until July 12, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said, as he reported 104 new domestic infections, up from 78 a day earlier.

Russian deaths hit fresh four-month peak

Russia has reported 548 virus-related deaths, the most confirmed in a single day since February, amid a surge in new cases that authorities have blamed on the new Delta variant.

The government coronavirus taskforce confirmed 17,594 new cases in the last 24 hours, including 6,534 in Moscow, taking the national case total to 5,368,513 since the pandemic began.

More than 150 Texas hospital staff fired or quit over vaccine ruling

More than 150 employees at the Houston Methodist hospital in Texas have been fired or resigned after failing to comply with orders to get a virus vaccination to continue working there, a hospital spokeswoman said.

Officials Houston Methodist told its staff they needed to have received a virus vaccination by June 7 or be suspended for two weeks.

Hospital spokeswoman Gale Smith told AFP that 153 employees "either resigned in the two-week suspension period or were terminated today.

New Zealand on edge after virus-infected Australian visits

After enjoying nearly four months without any community transmission of the virus, New Zealanders are on edge after health authorities said an infectious traveler from Australia had visited over the weekend.

New Zealand has taken a zero-tolerance approach to the pandemic and continues to pursue an elimination strategy.

The country's response has been among the most effective in the world and the isolated nation of 5 million people has recorded just 26 virus deaths. But its vaccination campaign has been far slower than in most developed countries, with just 13 percent of the population having gotten their first dose.

Germany's cases rise by 1,016 – RKI

The number of confirmed virus cases in Germany has increased by 1,016 to 3,723,798, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 51 to 90,523, the tally showed. 

Sydney residents banned from leaving city as virus cluster grows

Sydney resident have largely banned from leaving the city as Australian authorities rushed to stop a growing outbreak of the highly contagious Delta virus variant from spreading to other regions.

More than 30 people have been diagnosed with the virus since the cluster emerged in the city's Bondi Beach area last week, the latest in a string of flare-ups that highlight Australia's difficulty in extinguishing outbreaks.

New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced new restrictions that will apply for the next week, including the immediate ban on non-essential travel out of Sydney and limits on social gatherings.

China's virus-hit Shenzhen suspends direct flights to Beijing

Direct flights from the southern city of Shenzhen to Beijing have been suspended until at least July 1, booking apps showed, ahead of celebrations for the Chinese Communist Party's founding in the capital on that date.

China's most populous province Guangdong is battling a virus outbreak, with 170 confirmed local cases between May 21 and June 21. No new confirmed local cases were reported for June 22.

Of the cases, eight were recorded in Shenzhen, while 146 were reported in the provincial capital Guangzhou, though direct flights were still av

Chile weighing issue of third booster dose

Chile is studying the possibility of issuing a third, booster dose of vaccines, its president said, as the country seeks to beat back the latest wave of infections amid questions about how effective the widely used Sinovac vaccine is against more transmissible virus variants.

President Sebastian Pinera said health experts were examining "many scientific studies" to determine if a third dose would be necessary as he launched the rollout of vaccines among teenagers in Chile.

"As a government we are attentive to today's problems but also must anticipate and prepare to face the problems of tomorrow," he added.

Chile has relied heavily on the shot developed by China's Sinovac to roll out one of the world's fastest vaccination campaigns, administering 16.8 million doses, along with 3.9 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and smaller amounts of inoculations from Cansino Biologics and AstraZeneca.

So far, 78% of Chile's target population has received at least one dose, and 61% are fully vaccinated.

Mexico's death toll rises to over 231,000

Mexico's health ministry reported 4,233 new confirmed cases of in the country and 261 more fatalities, bringing the total figures to 2,482,784 infections and 231,505 deaths.

The government has said the real number of cases is likely significantly higher, and separate data published in March suggested the actual death toll is at least 60% above the confirmed figure

Almost 90,000 new daily cases reported in Brazil

Brazil recorded 87,822 new confirmed cases in the past 24 hours, along with 2,131 deaths, the Health Ministry said.

Brazil has registered more than 18 million cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 504,717, according to ministry data.

Biden urges shots for young adults as variant concern grows

The US government is stepping up efforts to get younger Americans vaccinated as the White House acknowledges it will miss two key vaccination benchmarks and as concern grows about the spread of a new variant that threatens to set the country back in the months ahead.

The delta variant, first identified in India, in the last two weeks has come to represent more than 20% of infections in the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday. That's double what it was when the CDC last reported on the variant’s prevalence .

“The delta variant is currently the greatest threat in the US to our attempt to eliminate COVID-19,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said at a White House briefing on the virus. “Good news: Our vaccines are effective against the delta variant.”

He added: “We have the tools. So let’s use them, and crush the outbreak.”

The White House on Tuesday acknowledged that President Joe Biden will fall short of reaching his goal of vaccinating 70% of all American adults with at least one shot by Independence Day. But it tried to paint an optimistic picture nonetheless by stressing that the nation had reached that threshold for those aged 30 and older and expects to meet it for those age 27 or older by the July 4 holiday.

WHO concerned about eased virus curbs around Euro 2020

The World Health Organization said it was concerned about the easing of restrictions by nations hosting Euro 2020 matches, noting that some were already seeing rising cases.

"WHO is concerned about easing of restrictions in some of the host countries," Robb Butler, an executive director at WHO's Regional Office for Europe, said in an emailed statement to AFP.

"A few of the stadiums hosting the tournament are now increasing the number of spectators allowed," Butler said.

The UN health agency did not single out any cities, but Britain announced Tuesday that more than 60,000 spectators will be allowed at the Wembley stadium in London for the semifinals and final of the tournament.

Originally, it was intended to limit the crowd to 40,000.

UEFA has also been in talks with the UK government to ease virus-related travel restrictions to allow up to 2,500 VIPs to attend the final on July 11.

In some "host cities, Covid-19 cases are already on the rise in the area where matches will be held," said Butler.

In areas where infection rates are on the rise, WHO Europe called on the cities concerned to act quickly.

Portugal fears a fourth wave from the Delta variant

Portugal fears a fourth wave may take hold with the highly contagious Delta variant now accounting for more than 60 percent of new cases in the capital.

Lisbon is among a dozen places that did not move into the final phase of easing the lockdown that much of the country has enjoyed.

Travel between the capital region and the rest of Portugal was banned from last weekend to try to halt the spread of the infection.

First identified in India, the Delta variant has become the predominant strain in the greater Lisbon area, according to the national health institute INSA.

"We are trying to delay its arrival in other regions of the country so that people can protect themselves more through vaccination," Health Minister Marta Temido said Monday.

More restrictions may be necessary, she added, at a time when many European countries are easing such curbs for summer.

"We have to assess it as we go along and we are asking for everyone's support, to avoid as much as possible measures which carry heavy social and economic consequences."

Poland tightens quarantine rules for travellers from Britain

Poland is introducing a mandatory seven-day quarantine for all travellers from Britain in a bid to curb the spread of the Delta variant, the health ministry said.

Britain is currently seeing a rise in cases due to the more contagious Delta variant, which was first identified in India.

"The decisions made on quarantine for travelers arriving from Great Britain are intended to reduce the risk of transmission of the Delta coronavirus variant fro m the endangered area," Health Minister Adam Niedzielski was quoted as saying by state news agency PAP.

"We must take care of our citizens and their security."

Health Ministry spokesman Wojciech Andrusiewicz said that as of Wednesday, travellers from Britain would be obliged to spend seven days in quarantine even if they had a negative test result before arrival. They would then be required to do a test after seven days.

The quarantine rules will not apply to travellers who have been fully vaccinated, Niedzielski said in a Tweet written in response to a question from a reporter.

The tighter rules had earlier been applied to travellers from Brazil, India and South Africa.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies