The coronavirus has killed over 2.54 million people and infected more than 114.7 million globally. Here are the virus-related developments for March 1:

Health worker stands in front of a woman who waits to receive a dose of the coronavirus vaccine in Bergamo, Italy, March 1, 2021.
Health worker stands in front of a woman who waits to receive a dose of the coronavirus vaccine in Bergamo, Italy, March 1, 2021. (Reuters)

Monday, March 1, 2021

Alaska reports 10 new cases of new Covid strain 

Scientists in Alaska have discovered 10 cases of a new coronavirus strain that researchers say is more contagious and potentially more effective at evading vaccines.

A report released by scientists assembled by the state to investigate new strains found that the B.1.429 variant first discovered in California was identified in Alaska in early January.

It has since been detected nine more times. Scientists and public health officials have expressed concerns about multiple new strains of the coronavirus, which they say could prolong the pandemic even as governments scale up vaccination efforts.

Uzbekistan approves Chinese-developed vaccine

Uzbekistan's government has approved a Covid-19 vaccine developed by China's Anhui Zhifei Longcom Biofarmaceutical for use in the Central Asian nation, the Uzbek Ministry of Innovation said.

Uzbekistan has taken part in stage III trials of the vaccine known as ZF2001. 

Over 60 percent of Russians don't want Sputnik V vaccine

Nearly two-thirds of Russians are not willing to receive Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, and about the same number believe the new coronavirus was created artificially as a biological weapon, an independent pollster said.

The Levada Center said a poll it conducted last month showed that 62 percent of people did not want to get Russia's domestically produced vaccine, and that the highest level of reluctance was identified among 18 to 24-year-olds.

Most respondents cited side effects – which can include fever and fatigue – as the main reason for not wanting to get vaccinated.

The poll, which sampled 1,601 people in 50 regions, also found that 64 percent of people thought the new coronavirus was created as a biological weapon.

EU to propose vaccine passports in March in time for summer

The European Commission will present a proposal in March on creating an EU-wide digital Covid-19 vaccination passport that may allow Europeans to travel more freely over the peak summer holiday period.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the coming legislative proposal in a speech to German conservative lawmakers, providing a few more details in subsequent tweets.

The “digital green pass” would provide proof that a person has been vaccinated, results of tests for those not yet vaccinated and information on recovery for people who have contracted Covid-19. 

“The aim is to gradually enable them to move safely in the European Union or abroad - for work or tourism,” Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a tweet. 

Israeli court limits use of spy agency to track virus cases

Israel's top court ruled the government must curb its use of the domestic spy agency to track coronavirus infections, saying "draconian" surveillance constituted a blow to democracy.

The government began using the Shin Bet's surveillance technologies in March 2020, when Covid-19 infections began to spike.

But the supreme court quickly blocked such practice, saying legislation was needed to authorise the programme.

Tracking was discontinued in June but the following month, amid another infection surge, parliament passed a law allowing the surveillance when "an epidemiological investigation cannot be completed otherwise."

Vaccine worth 1,032 shots wasted in Japan due to freezer malfunction

More than 1,000 shots of coronavirus vaccine went to waste in Japan after storage temperatures deviated from a required range due to a freezer malfunction, the Health Ministry said, the country's first such case of wasted vaccines.

Japan became the last member of the Group of Seven leading industrialised nations to begin its vaccination drive against Covid-19 on February 17.

It has so far received three shipments of vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech, comprising around 1.4 million shots.

Czechs start stricter lockdown to curb record Covid surge

The Czech Republic tightened lockdown measures, beefing up police presence to restrict movement throughout the country as the government battles the world's worst surge in Covid-19 infections.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis announced the stricter measures last week, saying hospitals were nearing collapse as a record number of patients were in serious condition.

Babis has faced criticism the measures do not go far enough as factories remain open. He is balancing this with public frustration over lockdowns that have had non-essential shops, restaurants and entertainment largely shut since October.

Ivory Coast launches first vaccination drive with Covax shots

Ivory Coast launched the world's first Covid-19 inoculation drive with doses imported from the Covax sharing facility, a milestone in the race to extend vaccine access to poorer countries.

Patrick Achi, the secretary general at the presidency, was the first to be vaccinated at a sports complex in the commercial capital Abidjan.

Onlookers cheered as a health worker in a white coat and pink scrubs delivered the injection.

Medical personnel, teachers and security forces members were also being vaccinated in the first phase of the campaign targeting 3 percent of the population.

Serb part of Bosnia gets Russian Sputnik V shots

A shipment of 20,000 Russian Sputnik V vaccines has arrived in the Serb-dominated part of Bosnia that has launched inoculation separately from the rest of the Balkan country.

This is the second shipment of the Russian vaccines to the Serb entity in Bosnia that has close relations with Moscow. The remaining part of Bosnia has been run by the country’s Bosniaks and Croats since the ethnic war during the 1990s.

Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Radovan Viskovic welcomed the shipment. He says Republika Srpska, which is the name for the Serb entity in Bosnia, has moved to acquire the Russian vaccines because of delays in the arrival of vaccines through the international Covax programme.

German expert urges longer lockdown to battle 3rd wave

Germany's top intensive care expert has urged the government to extend the country’s current lockdown for at least another three weeks amid growing fears over coronavirus mutations.

“Otherwise it would be very difficult or even impossible to control the third wave,” Gernot Marx, president of the Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine (DIVI), has told NTV news channel.

Germany has been under hard lockdown since November, and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is under growing pressure from business groups to ease restrictions this month.

Countries call on drug companies to share vaccine know-how 

In an industrial neighbourhood on the outskirts of Bangladesh’s largest city lies a factory with gleaming new equipment imported from Germany, its immaculate hallways lined with hermetically sealed rooms. It is operating at just a quarter of its capacity.

It is one of three factories that The Associated Press found on three continents whose owners say they could start producing hundreds of millions of Covid-19 vaccines on short notice if only they had the blueprints and technical know-how. But that knowledge belongs to the large pharmaceutical companies who produce the first three vaccines authorised by countries including Britain, the European Union and the US — Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca. The factories are all still awaiting responses.

US Senate Democrats drop minimum wage plan for $1.9T Covid-19 relief bill

US Democrats, anxious for Congress to pass President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill within the next two weeks, have resolved a potential sticking point for getting the sweeping legislation through the narrowly divided Senate.

The House of Representatives narrowly approved the bill to fight the pandemic and boost the economy early Saturday. The action now moves to the Senate, where Democrats do not expect much if any Republican help, even though polls indicate a majority of Americans — around 70 percent — favor the measure.

Over the weekend, top Democrats abandoned a controversial plan to use US tax policy as an incentive for businesses to more than double the minimum wage to $15 per hour, according to a source familiar with the negotiations. The proposal would have complicated Senate passage.

Tyson to offer vaccinations to thousands of Iowa meat plant workers

Tyson Foods Inc, the largest US meat processor, said it would offer Covid-19 vaccinations to thousands of its frontline workers at its Iowa meat processing plants this week.

Tyson, which has previously said it would offer vaccines at its facilities, expects many of the company’s 13,000 Iowa employees to be inoculated during vaccination events later this week.

Thousands of US meatpacking workers became infected with the coronavirus last year, with outbreaks of the disease temporarily shutting slaughterhouses in the spring and tightening supplies for consumers.

Up to six cases of Manaus variant detected in UK

Up to six cases of the variant of coronavirus first identified in the Brazilian city of Manaus have been detected in Britain, English health officials said.

Two of three cases found in England were from a household in the South Gloucestershire area which had a history of travel to Brazil and there was a third, currently unlinked case, Public Health England said.

"Although the risk to the wider community is considered low, as a precaution, PHE, working in collaboration with South Gloucestershire Council and NHS Test and Trace is taking swift and decisive action to deploy surge asymptomatic testing as well as increasing sequencing of positive samples from the area," it said. 

Third US vaccine by J&J available in 1-2 days, CEO says

Americans should be able to receive Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine within the next 24 to 48 hours, its chief executive said after US regulators approved the vaccine, making it the country’s third available one for the novel coronavirus.

The drugmaker was still on track to deliver 4 million vaccine doses this week, and 100 million doses by June, J&J CEO Alex Gorsky told NBC News’ Today program in an interview.

“Within the next 24 to 28 hours, Americans should start receiving shots in arms. They’re literally rolling out with the trucks as we speak,” he said.

Flowserve supplying pumps, valves for Pfizer vaccine production

Flowserve Corp, an American supplier of industrial machinery, said it was providing pumps, valves and seals to Pfizer Inc to support the production of its Covid-19 vaccine.

The company said it helped the drugmaker replace a mechanical mixer seal on its vaccine production line at a plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

The vaccine is one of the three authorised for emergency use in the United States along with Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

A Flowserve’s facility in Tennessee will supply Pfizer with more than 200 ball valves that can handle the cold temperature requirements needed to support the mass production of the vaccine, the company said.

Finland declares state of emergency as Covid-19 cases rise

The Finnish government has declared a state of emergency due to rising Covid-19 infections, a step that would allow the Nordic country to shutter restaurants and to impose other measures to blunt the pandemic.

The decision comes as new variants contribute to a sharp rise in infections in the country, which has already closed its borders. The state of emergency would also allow the government to further shut schools and limit movement between regions.

Several Finnish regions have seen a rapid rise in Covid-19 infections in the past two weeks, with outbreaks among skiers in Lapland and workers at shipping yards and construction sites.

Finland, among the European countries least affected by the virus so far, has recorded 58,064 cases and 742 deaths since the start of the pandemic with 210 people currently hospitalised.

Syria begins vaccinations with healthcare workers

Syria's Health Ministry has said it started administering Covid-19 vaccinations to frontline healthcare workers.

"For the second day in a row Covid-19 vaccinations are being given to frontline healthcare workers that are working within coronavirus isolation centres across governorates," a ministry statement said.

The statement did not make clear what type of vaccine Syria had acquired or the quantity.

Syria had recorded 15,588 coronavirus cases with 1,027 deaths up to Sunday.

Russia reports 11,571 new cases

Russia has reported 11,571 new cases in the last 24 hours, including 2,097 in Moscow, taking the national tally to 4,257,650.

The country also reported another 333 deaths, raising the official toll to 86,455.

Ghana president receives world's first free Covax jab

Ghana's President Nana Akufo-Addo has become the world's first recipient of a coronavirus vaccine from Covax, a global scheme to procure and distribute inoculations for free for poorer countries.

The first lady Rebecca Akufo-Addo also received a shot, one day before the rest of the 600,000 doses are deployed across the country.

The country's president warned last month that infection rates were skyrocketing and threatened to overwhelm Ghana's health system, part of a second wave of the virus across Africa that has been far more serious than the first.

Ghana's Parliament has suspended most of its activities for three weeks after at least 17 MPs and 151 staff members were infected with the coronavirus.

Ghana has reported 72,328 infections and 472 coronavirus-related deaths, some of the highest totals in West Africa.

UK hunts for carrier of strain first detected in Brazil 

Britain has appealed for a person infected with a powerful Covid-19 strain from Brazil to come forward as experts fretted about its impact on new vaccines.

The public appeal came a week before England is due to start unwinding its third Covid lockdown, with progress hinging on the vaccines' ability to curtail the pandemic.

The variant that emerged in Manaus, northern Brazil, has been detected in six people in the UK, one of whom cannot be located after they failed to fill in their contact details on a form after taking their coronavirus test.

He said community-wide "surge testing" was starting in South Gloucestershire, western England, after two of the Manaus cases were confirmed there.

Experts warned that based on data from Brazil, the variant was both more transmissible and better at evading antibodies than the UK's predominant strain, which emerged in the southeastern county of Kent last September.

Philippines launches virus vaccinations amid supply problems

The Philippines has launched a vaccination campaign to contain one of Southeast Asia’s worst coronavirus outbreaks but faces supply problems and public resistance, which it hopes to ease by inoculating top officials.

Cabinet officials, along with health workers and military and police personnel, were among the first to be vaccinated in six hospitals in Metropolitan Manila, after President Rodrigo Duterte and other top officials received 600,000 doses on Sunday of Covid-19 vaccine donated by China.

At the state-run Philippine General Hospital in Manila, the hospital director, Dr Gerardo Legaspi, was inoculated first by a nurse in a televised event and was followed by Cabinet and Department of Health officials.

India giving vaccines to more people as cases rise

India is expanding its  vaccination drive beyond health care and frontline workers, offering the shots to older people and those with medical conditions that put them at risk. Among the first to be inoculated was Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Those now eligible to be vaccinated include people older than 60, as well as those over 45 who have ailments such as heart disease or diabetes that make them vulnerable to serious Covid-19 illness. The shots will be given for free at government hospitals and will also be sold at over 10,000 private hospitals at a fixed price of 250 rupees, or $3.40, per shot.

The country of nearly 1.4 billion people started one of the world's largest vaccination drives in January, but the rollout has been sluggish.

Mexico's coronavirus czar in hospital with Covid-19

Mexico's coronavirus czar has been hospitalised over the past several days for treatment for Covid-19 as the country marks the one-year anniversary of its first confirmed infections.

Hugo Lopez-Gatell, who has spearheaded the country's response to the pandemic, was in stable condition and recovering well, said Ruy Lopez, head of the National Center of Preventative Programs and Disease Control (Cenaprece), at a news conference.

Mexico registered another 458 coronavirus fatalities and 2,810 more confirmed infections on Sunday, for a total of 2,086,938 cases. The government says the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

Mexico has registered 185,715 fatalities from the coronavirus, giving it the world's fourth-highest death toll from the pandemic, according to a Reuters tally.

Germany's cases rise by 4,732

The number of confirmed virus cases in Germany has increased by 4,732 to 2,447,068.

 The reported death toll rose by 60 to 70,105, the data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

US eyes Tuesday deliveries of J&J vaccine; urges minorities to get shots

Initial deliveries of the newly approved Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine should start on Tuesday, senior Biden administration officials said on Sunday, saying they hoped to boost lagging vaccination rates among minorities. 

The officials acknowledged that vaccination rates among Black and brown Americans were "not where we ultimately want them to be," but said measures had been put in place to boost those numbers, and sought to assure minorities that the vaccines were safe.

Federal officials were also closely monitoring distribution to ensure it was equitable, they said. "Even though we know the data are not complete, we do see these early patterns that suggest Black and brown Americans largely are getting vaccinated at rates lower than the representation in the general population," said one of the officials.

The officials gave no data on the disparities, but KFF, a health policy and research organisation, has found that people of colour are getting smaller shares of vaccinations as compared to their share of the population. In Alabama, for instance, Black people account for 27 percent of the population and 31 percent of the deaths from Covid-19, but only 17 percent of the vaccinations.

China reports 19 new cases

Mainland China reported 19 new Covid-19 cases on February 28, up from six cases a day earlier, the country's national health authority said.

The National Health Commission, in a statement, said all of the new cases were imported infections originating from overseas. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, rose to 13 from six cases a day earlier.

The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in mainland China now stands at 89,912, while the death toll remains unchanged at 4,636. 

US children could receive vaccine by year's end: Fauci

The United States could start vaccinating older children against Covid-19 by the fall and younger ones by year's end or early 2022, the White House's top pandemic advisor Anthony Fauci said on Sunday.

The mass vaccination of school-age children will allow millions of children to return sooner to in-person learning and ease the burden on millions of parents now caring for their offspring at home.

School reopenings, an intensely debated matter, have varied sharply across the country, with some private and religious schools opening before public schools and teachers in some areas protesting any early return.

But the decision Saturday by the US Food and Drug Administration to grant emergency use authorisation to a new single-dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson has boosted the prospects for earlier reopenings.

"We now have three really efficacious vaccines," Fauci said on ABC's "This Week."

New Zealand lockdown costs millions each day to Auckland businesses

The mayor of New Zealand's biggest city, Auckland, said that its residents should be prioritised for vaccines, after it was thrown into its fourth lockdown over the weekend costing millions of dollars a day.

The seven-day lockdown of the population of nearly 2 million was prompted by the case of a person who had been infectious for a week but not in isolation.

The lockdown led to several major sporting and cultural events being cancelled or postponed in Auckland.

It also caused traffic chaos over the weekend, with travellers stuck at city checkpoints for up to 10 hours trying to get to their Auckland homes.

Auckland loses an estimated 200 jobs and more than $21.7 million (NZ$30 million) per day under level 3 restrictions," Mayor Phil Goff said in a statement.

Taking Covid-19 vaccine will not alter your DNA: Ghana president 

Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo urged citizens of the West African state on Sunday to ignore conspiracy theories surrounding coronavirus vaccines ahead of the launch of its nationwide inoculation campaign against the virus on Tuesday.

"Fellow Ghanaians, I know there are still some who continue to express doubts about the vaccine, others have expressed reservations about its efficacy, with some taking sides with conspiracy theorists who believe the vaccine has been created to wipe out the African race. This is far from the truth," Akufo-Addo said in a nationwide address on Sunday night.

"Taking the vaccine will not alter your DNA, it will not embed a tracking device in your body, neither will it cause infertility in women or in men," he said.

Ghana was the first country to receive vaccines as part of the global Covax scheme aimed at providing poorer nations vaccines to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

UK earmarks a further $2.3B for its Covid vaccine push

British Finance Minister Rishi Sunak will announce an extra $2.3 billion (1.65 billion pounds) to fund the country's fast vaccination rollout as part of his annual budget statement on Wednesday, the Finance Ministry said.

"Protecting ourselves against the virus means we will be able to lift restrictions, reopen our economy and focus our attention on creating jobs and stimulating growth," Sunak said in a statement.

Britain has so far given a first vaccination more than 20 million people, or more than one in three adults, Europe's fastest vaccination rollout.

"The new money will continue to vaccinate the population and ensure every adult is offered a dose of a vaccine by July 31," the ministry said.

Slovakia to tighten anti-Covid measures, hard lockdown looms

Slovak government will tighten anti-epidemic measures from March 3, including stricter limits on people's movement, as the country struggles with the resurgent coronavirus.

The government of Prime Minister Igor Matovic released details of the new measures after several days of debates with experts as the country has ranked among the world's worst-hit by the recent wave of Covid-19 cases.

As of Wednesday, people will be allowed to travel from 8 pm to 1 am only to work or to see a doctor, while all currently valid exceptions from the limits on movement will be effective only between 5 am and 8 pm. People who can work from home should do so.

As of March 8, more effective respirators of FFP 2 grade will be required for people in shops or on public transport.

Pre-schooling and the lower grades at elementary schools will be open only for children of parents whose work cannot be done from home.

If the tougher restrictions do not curb infections by March 21, the government will prepare even stricter limits on movement, including closure of companies and borders, local media reported.

As of Sunday, the country of 5.5 million reported 308,083 Covid infection cases and 7,189 deaths. 

Brazil registers 721 deaths 

Brazil registered 721 Covid-19 deaths on Sunday and 34,027 new confirmed cases, according to data released by the nation's Health Ministry.

The numbers represent a slight decrease after five consecutive days of at least 1,300 daily deaths and 60,000 cases. But the South American country is nonetheless dealing with a severe and stubborn second wave that has now lasted well over three months.

Brazil has now registered 254,942 total coronavirus deaths and 10,551,259 total confirmed cases. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies