The coronavirus pandemic has killed over 932,000 people and infected more than 29.4 million worldwide. Here are the coronavirus-related developments for September 15:

Filling and packaging tests for the large-scale production and supply of the University of Oxford’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate, AZD1222, in Anagni, Italy, September 11, 2020.
Filling and packaging tests for the large-scale production and supply of the University of Oxford’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate, AZD1222, in Anagni, Italy, September 11, 2020. (AFP)

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Germany eyes voluntary vaccine by mid-2021

Germany aims to reach herd immunity through a voluntary coronavirus vaccine expected to be widely available by mid-2021, the health minister said.

Speaking to reporters in Berlin, minister Jens Spahn said he wanted to stress there would be no mandatory requirement to get inoculated once a vaccine is ready, "despite what is sometimes said".

"We need 55 to 65 percent of the population to get vaccinated to reach what is known as herd immunity and I firmly believe we can achieve this voluntarily," he said.

Scientists around the world are racing to produce a safe and efficient vaccine to halt a pandemic that has killed almost a million people.

AstraZeneca resumes vaccine trials in South Africa

AstraZeneca has resumed Covid-19 vaccine trials in South Africa, more than a week after tests were paused due to serious side effects in a participant in Britain, an official at the country's Department of Health told Reuters.

The move, confirmed to Reuters by director of affordable medicines in the health department, Khadija Jamaloodien, comes after the British drugmaker on Saturday got the go-ahead to restart trials in the UK, prompting Brazil to follow suit.

Tests remain on hold in the US pending an investigation and the Serum Institute of India said it would restart its trials once it had permission from the Drugs Controller General of India.

Denmark tells Copenhagen restaurants to close at 10 pm

Denmark's government has said it was limiting opening hours for restaurants, bars and cafes in the capital Copenhagen to 10:00 pm after seeing a rise in new coronavirus infections.

The reproduction rate, which indicates how many people one infected person on average transmits the virus to, is currently at 1.5 across the country, Health Minister Magnus Heunicke told a news conference.

Heunicke said 334 new virus infections had been registered in the last 24 hours.

Ireland sets new rules for quarantine-free travel

Ireland has set out new rules for its quarantine-free travel "green list", saying visitors from a list of countries with a Covid-19 infection rate of under 25 cases per 100,000 over the past two weeks can skip a 14-day quarantine.

Previously the green list was made up of countries with lower infection rates than Ireland, but the government stopped updating the list when cases in Ireland surged to 45 cases per 100,000 over the past 14 days.

Prime Minister Micheal Martin said that the government would soon publish a new list and would then adopt a coordinated EU system of travel restrictions that he said would be approved an EU General Affairs Council meeting on October 13. 

Netherlands hits new high for daily cases

The Netherlands has recorded a daily record number of new coronavirus infections, an increase of 1,379 in 24 hours, the Volkskrant newspaper reported, citing national health authorities.

The previous record was 1,335 from early April. The new rise took the increase over the past week to 9,194, 85 percent more than in the first week of September, the National Institute for Health said. 

Some back out of J&J vaccine trial in Spain after AstraZeneca scare

News of serious side effects in one participant of AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine trial led some volunteers in Johnson & Johnson's vaccine trial in Spain to drop out, its lead investigator has told Reuters.

Still, the trial had sufficient reserve volunteers to carry on as normal, lead investigator Alberto Borobia said.

"Many have called to ask us some more detail about the risk of the vaccine, whether what happened with that vaccine had anything to do with the one we are studying, these types of questions," Borobia said in the interview.

He did not say how many people had dropped out.

AstraZeneca's vaccine trial was placed on hold globally on September 6 after a serious side effect was reported in a trial participant in the UK.

Myanmar reports highest daily toll

Myanmar has reported 307 new virus cases of Covid-19, its highest daily toll since the start of the pandemic in March, as the country battles a second wave of infections.

The health ministry did not say immediately where the new cases were found. Most recent infections have been in the commercial city Yangon and in Sittwe, capital of conflict-torn Rakhine state.

Myanmar has so far reported a total 3,502 Covid-19 cases and 35 deaths. Infections have quadrupled over the last month after the coronavirus resurfaced in the western state of Rakhine, following weeks without a confirmed domestic case.

Domestic airlines announced that services have been suspended until the end of September and health authorities widened a stay-at-home order to nearly half of the townships in greater Yangon, the biggest city.

Sweden lifts ban on elderly care visits

Sweden, which made headlines for its controversial softer approach to Covid-19, will lift its ban on visits to elderly care homes, which were hit particularly hard at the outset of the pandemic, the government has said.

The measure, which was imposed in early April, was one of Sweden's few mandatory restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Another was a ban on public gatherings of more than 50 people, which is still in force.

Speaking at a press conference, Health Minister Lena Hallengren said that visits to nursing homes will once again be allowed from October 1 after a decline in the number of new cases since June.

UK sending thousands of swabs overseas for testing

A shortage of Covid-19 testing in the UK is jeopardising efforts to restore medical services and prepare for a potential surge in coronavirus cases this winter.

Inadequate testing is leading to increased absences in the National Health Service as staff members are forced to self-isolate while they and their family members wait for test results after possible exposure to the virus, NHS Providers, the group that represents hospitals in England, said.

Last weekend hospital leaders in three different cities raised concerns about testing, said Chris Hopson, the group's CEO.

“The problem is that NHS trusts are working in the dark – they don’t know why these shortages are occurring, how long they are likely to last, how geographically widespread they are likely to be and what priority will be given to healthcare workers and their families in accessing scarce tests,'' Hopson said in a statement.

At the weekend, it was reported that a backlog of 185,000 swab tests were sent for processing in laboratories in Italy and Germany.

The government last week announced plans for an ambitious program, dubbed Operation Moonshot, that aims to administer millions of tests a day.

But the estimated cost for the program nearly matches the NHS budget, Dr Chaand Nagpaul said in the text of a speech to be delivered Tuesday to the annual meeting of the doctor’s union.

Russia reports 5,529 new Covid-19 cases

Russia has reported 5,529 new virus cases , pushing its national tally to 1,073,849, the fourth largest in the world.

Authorities said 150 people had died in the last 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 18,785.

At least 17 Indian MPs infected as parliament reopens

At least 17 members of the Indian parliament have tested positive for the coronavirus, underlining the widening spread of infections set to cross five million cases soon.

The lawmakers were screened ahead of the re-opening of parliament on Monday after six months, government officials said on Tuesday. MPs cleared by the tests wore masks, occupied seats with glass enclosures and worked for truncated hours.

Twelve of the 17 infected MPs were from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, according to a government official who had a list of the lawmakers.

WHO praises AstraZeneca vaccine trial pause

A World Health Organization official says that the decision by AstraZeneca to pause global trials of its experimental virus vaccine after an unexplained illness showed the firm was prioritising safety.

"This is what we want to see with trials, it is a well-run trial. Safety is always critical, it is crucial and they have looked at that in an appropriate manner," Margaret Harris told journalists in Geneva.

Asked to react to experimental virus vaccine use in China and Russia, she said: "the WHO would like to see vaccines go head to head so we can have clear information and to see these results against each other." 

Indonesia's virus cases rise  to 225,030

Indonesia has reported 3,507 new virus infections, taking the country's total tally to 225,030.

The number of deaths rose by 124 to 8,965, the highest number of fatalities in Southeast Asia. 

Poland seeks more flu vaccines amid shortage

The Polish government is trying to secure more flu vaccines from international producers amid a national shortage fueled by higher demand during the coronavirus pandemic.

Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said that Poland generally has very low flu vaccinations rates and is seeing a vaccine shortage now because orders for this fall and winter were based on last year's demand.

Niedzielski said in an interview on Polish commercial station Radio Zet that his ministry held a meeting on Monday with representatives of key vaccine suppliers to explore the possibility of getting more vaccine shipments to Poland.

India nears five million virus cases

India registered more than 83,000 new cases of coronavirus, bringing its national total to nearly 5 million.

The Health Ministry also reported 1,054 new deaths, driving total fatalities up to 80,776.

With 4.93 million confirmed cases, India has the second-highest total in the world after the US infections have maintained an upward surge amid an ease in virus restrictions nationwide. More than 600,000 new cases have been confirmed in the last week alone.

Germany's virus cases rise by 1,407 to 261,762

Confirmed virus cases in Germany rises by 1,407 to 261,762.

The death toll rose by 12 to 9,362, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed. 

South Korea sees lower daily cases

South Korea’s daily tally of new virus infections has stayed in the low 100s for a third consecutive day, maintaining a downward trajectory.

The 106 cases added by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency brought the country’s total reported cases to 22,391 with 367 deaths since the pandemic began.

South Korea’s daily increase has remained in triple digits for more than a month, but the number has gone down recently in the wake of stringent social distancing rules.

Pakistan schools reopen as cases decline

Educational institutions all over Pakistan re-opened after being closed for up to six months because of the coronavirus.

The move comes after a steady decline in Covid-19 deaths and infections. Schools in Pakistan were closed in March when the government enforced a nationwide lockdown.

Authorities lifted curbs on most businesses in May, but schools remained closed across the country.

Mexico's confirmed coronavirus deaths approach 71,00

Mexico reported 4,408 new confirmed cases and 217 additional fatalities, bringing its totals to 668,381 infections and 70,821 deaths, according to updated Health Ministry data.

The government has said the real number of infected people is likely to be significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

China reports 8 new cases

Mainland China reported eight new cases, down from 10 cases a day earlier, the country's national health authority said in a statement on Tuesday.

The National Health Commission said all new reported cases were imported infections involving travellers from overseas. 

The commission also reported nine new asymptomatic cases, down from39 a day earlier.

The total number of confirmed cases now stands at 85,202. The death toll remained unchanged at 4,634.

Australia's Victoria state reports 42 cases

Australia's Victoria state, at the centre of the country's latest outbreak reported 42 new cases, compared with 35 a day earlier.

Victoria, Australia's second-most populous state, said no deaths from the virus were reported in the last 24 hours.

Melbourne, the southeastern state's capital, is on an extended hard lockdown until September 28. 

Those curbs have helped to bring down the daily rise in cases in the state to double digits after it touched highs of more than 700.

Brazil caseload hits over 4.3M

Brazil registered 15,115 new cases on Tuesday, totalling 4,345,610, the health ministry said. Deaths rose by 381 to 131,625. 

Panama lifts controversial measures

Panama has lifted a five-month-old coronavirus measure that restricted women from going out one day, and men the next.

The rules, lifted on Tuesday, limited when people could go out for essentials. 

They proved controversial because it led to harassment and discrimination against transgender people.

Health Minister Luis Antonio Sucre urged caution despite the lifting of the rule, which had been in place since March.

Similar measures were also tried in Peru as a way to reduce the number of people on the street and slow the spread of contagion.

Macy's Thanksgiving parade to have Covid-19 theme

This year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving parade has been reimagined for the pandemic.

Macy’s officials said the parade will feature floats, performers and giant balloons parading along a one-block stretch of 34th Street in front of the retailer’s flagship Manhattan store.

The spectacle will be broadcast on NBC and will include both live and recorded elements. 

The giant balloons will be flown without the traditional 80 to 100 handlers and will instead be tethered to vehicles. 

Most of the parade’s performers will be locally based to cut down on travel.

Egypt to allow gatherings with limited capacity

Egypt says wedding parties, funeral prayers and cultural events will be allowed next week, only at open venues, for the first time since the government imposed a partial lockdown earlier this year to fight the pandemic.

Nader Saad, a spokesman for the government, said wedding parties will be allowed with a maximum capacity of 300 people starting from September 21 at tourist facilities and hotels that have obtained health safety certificates.

He said in a statement that cultural events, including book fairs, will be allowed in open-air places with 50 percent of its capacity. Funeral prayers will be also allowed at mosques with outdoor yards.

Brazil's Supreme Court Chief Justice tests positive

Brazil's Supreme Court says its chief justice has contracted the virus and is feeling well.

Luiz Fux, who has sat on the top court since 2011, assumed its top position five days ago from Jose Dias Toffoli. 

The 67-year-old will remain in the post for the next two years.

The Supreme Court said in a statement Monday that Fux will remain in isolation for 10 days.

Brazil’s top court is meeting online due to the pandemic and, while the Chief Justice normally presides over hearings from the court’s main chamber, Fux is expected to chair Wednesday’s session from home.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies