Coronavirus pandemic has killed over 4.1 million people and infected over 193 million globally. Here are the coronavirus-related developments for July 23:

In this April 20, 2021 file photo Moderna vials sit on a table before they are loaded into syringes at a mobile Covid-19 vaccination clinic in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
In this April 20, 2021 file photo Moderna vials sit on a table before they are loaded into syringes at a mobile Covid-19 vaccination clinic in Bridgeport, Connecticut. (AFP)

Friday, July 23:

EU approves Moderna Covid jabs for those aged 12 to 17

The European Medicines Agency has authorised Moderna’s vaccine for children aged 12 to 17, the first time the shot has been authorised for people under 18.

In a decision, the EU drug regulator said research in more than 3,700 children aged 12 to 17 showed that the Moderna vaccine, already given the OK for adults across Europe, produced a comparable antibody response.

Until now, the vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech has been the only option for children as young as 12 in North America and Europe.

The US Food and Drug Administration is currently considering whether to extend the use of the Moderna vaccine to the same age group.

South Africa's vaccination drive regains pace after unrest

South Africa's vaccination campaign is regaining momentum after being disrupted earlier this month by a week of riots sparked by the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma, the country's acting health minister said.

At least 120 pharmacies, including 71 that were vaccination sites, were damaged and closed during the unrest in the KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces, acting Health Minister Mamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said. 

South Africa is battling a resurgence of infections. 

The country reported 14,858 new infections and 433 deaths, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Vaccination rates dropped as a result of the unrest, but have picked up pace. 

South Africa gave shots to more than 220,000 people per day this week and aims to increase the number to 300,000 jabs each weekday next week.

Germany toughens rules for travel from Spain, Netherlands

Germany is listing Spain and the Netherlands as “high-incidence areas,” meaning that most people arriving from those countries who aren’t fully vaccinated will have to go into quarantine from next week.

The national disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, said that the change will take effect on Tuesday.

Tanzania says to start vaccine rollout soon

Tanzania's government said it is gearing up to rollout vaccinations soon, in a shift from the policies of the country's former Covid-sceptic leader.

Tanzania's late leader John Magufuli had downplayed the risks of the virus and shunned masks in favour of the healing power of prayer, even as neighbouring countries shut their borders and imposed curfews and lockdowns.

But since Magufuli's death in March, his successor Samia Suluhu Hassan has taken a different approach, creating an expert taskforce to advise her government about how to best proceed with managing the pandemic.

Health Minister Dorothy Gwajima said that the number of cases had increased to 858 since the start of the third wave, with 176 recorded on Thursday alone.

She also said that 29 people have died, but did not give a timeframe.

Turkey has administered over 65M vaccine shots

Turkey has administered more than 65 million doses of vaccines since it launched a mass vaccination campaign in January, according to figures released.

According to the Health Ministry, over 39.27 million people have received their first dose, while more than 22 million are fully vaccinated.

To date, over 63.26 percent of the adult population has received at least one vaccine dose.

The ministry also confirmed 11,094 new infections and 60 virus deaths in the last 24 hours, while as many as 5,215 more patients recovered.

Over 3.79B vaccine shots administered worldwide

The count of vaccine shots administered across the world topped 3.79 billion, according to Oxford University's website

China, where the outbreak first emerged in late 2019, ranks first globally, with more than 1.51 billion vaccine jabs delivered within the country, according to the available data, followed by India with nearly 423.4 million jabs.

The US has delivered over 339.7 million shots, followed by Brazil with over 130 million.

The vaccination campaigns in Germany (88.4 million), the UK (83.2 million) and Japan (73.9 million) also continue apace.

UK reports 36,389 more cases

UK reported 36,389 more cases and 64 more deaths within 28 days of a positive test, according to official data.

US orders 200M more Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses

The United States will purchase 200 million more vaccine doses from Pfizer-BioNTech and has an option to buy additional doses to address virus variants, the companies announced.

The additional 200 million doses are expected to be delivered from October 2021 through April 2022, bringing the total supplied by the companies to the US government to 500 million.

Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony starts under virus cloud

The opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics began in a nearly empty stadium after a year-long pandemic postponement and a build-up marred by scandal and controversy.

A video showing athletes training at home during the pandemic started the show, with pink fireworks bursting into the air after a countdown.

The ceremony in the 68,000-capacity stadium is taking place before just a few hundred officials and dignitaries, including Japan's Emperor Naruhito, French President Emmanuel Macron and US First Lady Jill Biden.

Real Madrid striker Benzema tests positive

Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema has tested positive, the Spanish club announced without providing further details.

"Real Madrid announce that our player Karim Benzema has tested positive for Covid-19," the club said in a one-line statement.

Delta variant spreading fast in Germany, says disease control agency

The highly contagious Delta variant now makes up an estimated 84 percent of new cases in Germany, the country’s disease control agency reported.

The Delta made up less than 2 percent of new infections in early May, but it has spread rapidly across the country, outcompeting other versions of the coronavirus in a short time, according to the Robert Koch Institute.

Malaysia reports record 15,573 new cases

Malaysia reported 15,573 new cases, the highest daily jump since the pandemic began.

Health Director-General Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the fresh cases raised the nationwide count to 980,491.

Virus on the rise in Sweden as Delta outbreaks dominate

Cases have increased in Sweden's main cities with the more contagious Delta having emerged as the dominant variant in the country, health authorities said, though it added infection levels nationally remained low.

"The number of cases nationally of Covid-19 continues to be at a low level, but an increase is seen in all metropolitan regions," the authority said in a statement, adding that 75 percent of Sweden's adult population had now received at least one dose of vaccine.

Spacing Pfizer shots boosts antibody levels in long-term study

A longer gap between doses of Pfizer's vaccine leads to higher overall antibody levels than a shorter gap, a British study found, but antibody levels are not sustained for long after the first dose.

The authors emphasised that either dosing schedule produced a strong antibody and T-cell response in the study of 503 healthcare workers.

"For the longer dosing interval ... neutralising antibody levels against the Delta variant were poorly induced after a single dose, and not maintained during the interval before the second dose," the authors of the study, which is being led by the University of Oxford, said.

Vietnam sees record 7,307 new infections

Vietnam's daily infections hit a record of 7,307 cases as the country battles its worst outbreak so far, the country's health ministry said.

Vietnam has reported 81,678 cases in total, most of which were detected during the latest outbreak, which began in late April.

Croatia tightens controls on Adriatic coast to safeguard tourist season

Croatia has decided to tighten controls against the spread of the virus along its Adriatic coast in an effort to safeguard its economically vital summer tourist season, Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic said.

"Any public gathering of more than 50 people will be forbidden from next week," Davor Bozinovic, who is also head of the national civil protection directorate, told a news conference in the capital Zagreb.

Australia tightens Sydney lockdown in 'national emergency' 

Australia's New South Wales state on  reported its biggest daily rise in new cases this year, prompting a tighter lockdown in Sydney in what state officials called a "national emergency" that has already derailed a broad economic rebound.

State Premier Gladys Berejiklian also raised the likelihood that stay-home orders for the country's biggest city would be extended beyond the current end-date of July 30.

"There is no doubt that the numbers are not going in the direction we were hoping they would at this stage," Berejiklian said as she announced 136 new cases in New South Wales.

NZ suspends travel bubble with Australia

Following Australia declaring an emergency due to an outbreak in Sydney, the New Zealand's government has suspended all quarantine-free travel from Australia for eight weeks due to the emergency in NSW.

New Zealand had already closed the "travel bubble" with three states – New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia - but has now extended the closure to the entire nation.

South Korea extends distancing rules

South Korea says it’ll extend the toughest distancing rules imposed on the greater Seoul area for another two weeks, as it’s battling its worst coronavirus outbreak.

South Korea reported 1,630 new virus cases, marking a 17th straight day its daily caseload is above 1,000. About 70 percent of the recent cases have been detected in the Seoul area, where about half of South Korea’s 52 million people reside.

Japan PM asks Pfizer to ensure supplies

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga met with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla to reportedly ensure vaccines promised by this fall are delivered, as Japan faces growing concerns about a supply shortage.

During their nearly one-hour breakfast meeting, Suga is said to have explained Japan's current resurgence of infections and the status of the staggering inoculations, with younger generations still largely unvaccinated.  

Suga asked Bourla for a stable shipment of the vaccine, and stressed that vaccines are a "trump card" of the anti-virus measures in restoring social and economic activities, according to officials familiar with the talks.  

Australia's Lorna Jane activewear fined $4M for misleading claims

Athleisure clothing chain Lorna Jane Pty Ltd was fined A$5 million ($3.7 million) by an Australian court after claiming its garments could prevent infection, which a judge labelled as "exploitative, predatory and potentially dangerous".

The company with 134 stores across Australia, New Zealand, the United States and Singapore was sued by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) last year after saying its LJ Shield Activewear range "eliminated", "stopped the spread" and "protected wearers" against the virus.

India reports 35,342 new virus cases in last 24 hours

India reported 35,342 new cases, the federal health ministry said.

The country's tally of infections now stands at 31.26 million, health ministry data showed.

Philippines to bar travel from Malaysia, Thailand

The Philippines will ban travellers coming from Malaysia and Thailand, as well as tighten restrictions in the Manila area, in a bid to prevent the spread of the contagious Delta variant, the presidential spokesperson said.

The travel restriction will take effect from Sunday and run to the end of July, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a national address.

"This action is undertaken to prevent the further spread and community transmission of variants in the Philippines," Roque said.

Taiwan to ease virus restrictions as cases drop

Taiwan will ease its virus restrictions from next week though some will remain in place, the government said, with rapidly falling case numbers giving authorities confidence to further lower the alert level.

Taiwan implemented restrictions on gatherings, including closing entertainment venues and limiting restaurants to take-out service, in mid-May following a spike in domestic cases after months of no or few cases apart from imported ones.

While some of those curbs were eased this month, the so-called level 3 alert has been in force and is due to end on July 26.

Premier Su Tseng-chang said the alert would be lowered to level 2 from Tuesday.

Three more Olympic athletes test positive 

Olympics organisers said that three more competitors at the Tokyo Games, including one resident of the athletes' village, had tested positive.

Olympics-related cases rose by 19, organisers said, bringing the total number of disclosed cases to 106. 

South Korea vows to shut down labour rally as violation of virus restrictions

The South Korean government warned the country's main labour federation to cancel a planned rally in defiance of a ban on large public gatherings as it fought to contain a surge in cases and extended toughest restrictions across the country.

More than 800 members of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU) are expected to hold a rally in Wonju, a rural city about 100 km (62 miles) east of Seoul, calling for wage hikes and better welfare. The rally would be in violation of restrictions already in place in many parts of the country.

Germany's confirmed coronavirus cases rise by 2,089 - RKI

The number of confirmed cases in Germany increased by 2,089 to 3,752,592, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed. 

The reported death toll rose by 34 to 91,492, the tally showed. 

Australia's drug regulator approves Pfizer vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds

Australia's drug regulator has approved Pfizer's vaccine for use with 12 to 15-year-olds, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said, as the country fights an outbreak of the Delta variant in three states.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration has thoroughly assessed the domestic and international evidence before extending its approval for the Pfizer vaccine to be administered to this age group, Hunt said in a statement.

Up until now, the Pfizer vaccine had only been approved for use in Australia for people aged 16 years and over.

Tunisian medics struggle to tackle virus 

In Tunisia's Mediterranean resort of Sousse, exhausted medics struggle to stem surging coronavirus deaths, desperately monitoring oxygen supplies beside patients' beds, while on the beach tourists relax in the sun.

Tunisia has been overwhelmed by cases, including nearly 18,000 people who have died in a country of around 12 million.

Hospitals have faced acute shortages of oxygen, staff and intensive care beds, and less than a tenth of the population are fully vaccinated.

Spain to donate 7.5 million vaccine doses

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has said the country this week will begin to donate 7.5 million vaccine doses, primarily to Latin America.

Speaking in an interview from Los Angeles with CNN en Espanol, Sanchez said the vaccines would be distributed through the COVAX vaccine-sharing programme throughout the rest of the year. 

He added that his government has asked Cuba to launch reforms to help its people.

China reports 48 new cases vs 50 a day earlier

China has reported 48 new cases in the mainland on July 22, down from 50 cases a day earlier, the country's national health authority said.

Local infections accounted for 12 of the new cases, unchanged from a day earlier, the National Health Commission said in a statement. All of the local cases were reported in the eastern province of Jiangsu, it added.

The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, rose to 35 from 18 cases a day earlier.

The total accumulated number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in mainland China now stands at 92,462, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,636.

Mexico posts 16,244 new cases; highest daily rise since January

Mexico's health ministry has reported 16,244 new confirmed cases in the country, its highest daily jump since the end of January, and 419 more fatalities.

Those figures swelled the country's tallies to 2,709,739 infections and 237,626 deaths.

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

Brazil sees 49,757 new cases, 1,412 deaths

Brazil has registered 49,757 new cases and 1,412 additional deaths in the last 24 hours, the Health Ministry said on Thursday.

UK to launch daily tests in food sector to tackle 'pingdemic'

Daily contact testing will be rolled out to workplaces in Britain's food sector so staff who have been 'pinged' by the virus app can keep working if they test negative rather than isolating, the government has said.

Supermarkets have said some products are in short supply and petrol stations have been forced to close after the official health app told hundreds of thousands of workers to isolate following contact with someone with the virus.

British newspapers carried front-page pictures of empty shelves in supermarkets and declared a "pingdemic".

The government said priority testing sites had been identified for urgent implementation this week, including the largest supermarket distribution centres, and up to 500 sites would start next week.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said throughout the pandemic, workers in the food and drink sector had done everything they could to keep the country's shelves stacked and fridges full.

Windies, Australia ODI postponed at last minute due to virus

A positive test has resulted in the last-minute postponement of the scheduled second One-Day International between the West Indies and Australia at Kensington Oval on Thursday, officials announced.

"The second ODI between West Indies and Australia has been postponed due a positive Covid-19 test result from a non-playing member of the West Indies team," said a Cricket West Indies statement.

"This decision was taken after the toss at Kensington Oval once the result was known due to protocols.

"All members of both teams and match officials will be retested today.

A decision on when the match will replayed will be made at a later date once the test results are known."

Thursday's postponement not only jeopardises the remaining two ODIs of this tour but also Australia's tour to Bangladesh which was only confirmed on Thursday and for which the squad was supposed to depart following the scheduled final match on Saturday, also at Kensington Oval.

Pakistan are also due to tour the Caribbean for five Twenty20 Internationals as well as two Test matches.

Gang arrested for 'selling' ICU beds in Peru

Nine people, including public hospital staff, have been arrested in Peru accused of "selling" intensive care beds to desperate virus patients for thousands of dollars apiece, police and prosecutors have said.

The nine, which also included the directors of a patient care NGO, were arrested Wednesday and appeared in court the following day.

Prosecutor Reynaldo Abia told reporters an investigation was opened after a complaint from a woman who had an infected family member and paid for a bed for them.

The gang allegedly asked her for 82,000 soles (some $20,500) to bump her loved one up on the waiting list for an intensive care bed at the Guillermo Almenara hospital in Lima.

Peru was very hard hit by the coronavirus epidemic which earlier this year saw its hospitals under extreme pressure, and oxygen supplies running low.

In April, the country had a record 15,547 virus patients in hospital at one point, down to about 7,000 today.

With some two million infections and nearly 200,000 deaths, Peru is the country in the world with the highest virus mortality rate.

"It is abominable that someone could trade in ICU beds.

I believe the punishment should be drastic," said Health Minister Oscar Ugarte.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies