Covid-19 has killed over 3M people and infected more than 140M others globally. Here are the latest coronavirus-related developments for April 17:

A man receives a dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, in Tripoli, Libya, April 17, 2021.
A man receives a dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, in Tripoli, Libya, April 17, 2021. (Reuters)

Saturday, April 17

Libya launches public vaccination drive

Libya has launched its coronavirus vaccination campaign for the general population in Tripoli, with the elderly and healthcare workers given priority in the conflict-hit North African nation.

Those over 70 would get the AstraZeneca jab while the Russian Sputnik V vaccine would be administered to medical personnel and those aged 50-60, the National Centre for Disease Control said.

Libya has so far received 400,000 doses, including 200,000 Sputnik V shots, 57,600 AstraZeneca jabs and 150,000 from Turkey thought to be China's Sinovac.

Although rich in oil, the economy has been hit hard and the situation was further compounded by the pandemic with nearly 1,000 cases registered per day in recent weeks.

Since the pandemic emerged last year, there have been 171,131 confirmed Covid cases in Libya, including 2,882 deaths, out of a population of seven million, officials say.

Zimbabwe frees some inmates to reduce virus risk in jails

Zimbabwe has begun releasing about 3,000 prisoners under a presidential amnesty aimed at easing congestion to reduce the threat of Covid-19 in the country’s overcrowded jails.

About 400 prisoners were released from Chikurubi prison and other jails in the capital, Harare, on Saturday with more coming from other prisons countrywide.

Zimbabwe’s prisons have a capacity of 17,000 prisoners but held about 22,000 before the amnesty declared by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Those to be released had been convicted of non-violent crimes. Those convicted of crimes such as murder, treason, human trafficking, and sexual offences will not benefit.

The amnesty “will go a long way” to reduce expenditure and the threat of the spread of the virus in prisons, said Alvord Gapare, the commander for prisons in Harare.

He said prisons in the capital had recorded 173 confirmed infections and one death.

Zimbabwe has recorded 37,534 cases of Covid-19, including 1,551 deaths by Apr. 17, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Turkey reports over 62,500 new cases

Turkey has reported 62,606 new coronavirus cases, including 2,973 symptomatic patients, according to the Health Ministry data.

Turkey’s overall case tally is now over 4.21 million, while the nationwide death toll reached 35,608, with 288 new fatalities.

As many as 52,184 more patients won the battle against the virus, bringing the total number of recoveries to over 3.6 4 million.

Nearly 43.5 million coronavirus tests have been conducted in Turkey to date, with 319,316 done since Friday.

Italy reports 310 new deaths , 15,370 cases

Italy has reported 310 coronavirus-related deaths against 429 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections edged down to 15,370 from 15,943.

Italy has registered 116,676 deaths linked to Covid-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the seventh-highest in the world. The country has reported 3.857 million cases to date.

Patients in hospital with Covid-19 - not including those in intensive care - stood at 24,100 on Satur day, down from 24,743 a day earlier.

There were 163 new admissions to intensive care units, down from 199 on Friday. The total number of intensive care patients declined to 3,340 from a previous 3,366.

Some 331,734 tests for Covid-19 were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 327,704, the health ministry said. 

France reports daily decline in patients in intensive care 

The number of coronavirus patients in intensive care units in France has fallen, the health ministry said.

Health ministry data showed that 5,877 people were in intensive care units with Covid-19 on Saturday, 37 fewer than on Friday.

France has imposed a nationwide lockdown this month to try to stem its third wave of infections. 

Dubai expands vaccine eligibility in certain cases

The Dubai Health Authority said it was allowing women who are breastfeeding and those planning on conceiving to take the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, according to the Dubai Media Office.

In a Twitter post, the media office said this was in line with the latest international studies and guidelines on coronavirus vaccines.

It also said the DHA was cutting the time frame of vaccine eligibility for those who have previously contracted the virus to 10 days from three months, provided the case was mild or asymptomatic.

Canadian province of Ontario strengthens lockdown

Canada's most populous province, Ontario, has extended its lockdown and implemented stricter measures to fight the virus, closing domestic borders and barring unnecessary travel, its leader said.

The province of 14 million people registered 4,812 new cases – a record high – and 25 deaths on Friday, according to health officials.

"The pace of our vaccine supply has not kept up with the spread of the new Covid variants," Ontario Premier Doug Ford told reporters.

Remote cheating leads to 'corona degrees' in Greece

Shuttered for over a year because of the pandemic, Greek universities are now grappling with a surge in online exam cheating giving rise to a new reality: the "corona degree".

Both professors and students candidly admit that examination safeguards are practically impossible to enforce in a remote-learning environment with hundreds of participants simultaneously online.

Russia reports 9,321 cases

Russia reported 9,321 new virus cases over the past 24 hours, including 2,822 in Moscow, taking the national tally to 4,693,469.

The country also reported another 398 deaths, raising the official toll to 105,193.

Brazilians told to delay pregnancy plans amid virus surge

Brazil's health ministry has recommend that women living in the country delay any pregnancy plans due to the virus.

Speaking in Brasilia, Raphael Parente, from the Brazilian Ministry of Health advised young women "to wait so the situation gets better."

He said that although there was no formal research carried out, there was some evidence to suggest that the Brazilian variant of the virus showed "more aggressiveness" in pregnant women compared to last year.

Germans visit Moscow for Sputnik V vaccines

A group of German tourists travelled to Russia to get vaccinated against the virus amid vaccine shortages in Europe.

Around 50 Germans flew to Moscow from Frankfurt to get their first shot of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine as part of the vaccine tour organised by the German office of European Tour Operators.

During the three-night trip tourists are getting vaccinated by a Russian private clinic at a hotel and combine it with sightseeing of lockdown-free Moscow.  

Weekend shutdown in Delhi as virus grips India

New Delhi went into a weekend lockdown Saturday as India faces a ferocious new virus wave, with more than 200,000 fresh daily cases and families clamouring for drugs and hospital beds.

Hopes that South Asian countries might have beaten the pandemic have been dashed with India seeing over two million new cases this month alone and Bangladesh and Pakistan imposing shutdowns.

Guatemala blocks travel from Brazil, UK and South Africa in new measure

Guatemala will restrict entry to visitors who have recently been to Brazil, the United Kingdom and South Africa in an effort to control a jump in virus cases, President Alejandro Giammattei said.

The measure will go into effect on Saturday and last through April 30, applying to tourists who have been to those countries within the prior two weeks, Giammattei said in a public address.

He noted that Guatemala had registered 5,813 new infections in the last five days, bringing the total in the Central American country to 210,667 confirmed cases.

Thailand reports 1,547 cases

Thailand reported 1,547 new virus cases and two additional deaths, amid a third wave of infections in the Southeast Asian country.

The new cases took the total number of confirmed infections to 40,585, with 99 fatalities.

Germany reports 23,804 cases – RKI

The number of confirmed virus cases in Germany increased by 23,804 to 3,123,077, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed. The reported death toll rose by 219 to 79,847, the tally showed.

Australia to continue review of vaccinations – health minister

Australia will continue its review of vaccines after a 48-year-old woman's death was likely linked to the inoculation, Health Minister Greg Hunt said. 

On Friday, Australia reported its first fatality from blood clots in a recipient of AstraZeneca's shot. 

It was the third case of the rare blood clots appearing in people who have been administered the vaccine in the country.

"The government will ask ATAGI (Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation) to ensure continuous review of all of the vaccines in terms of their safety and its efficacy," Hunt said at a televised briefing.

India reports another record daily rise in infections

India reported a record daily increase of 234,692 infections over the last 24 hours, health ministry data showed.

It was the eighth record daily increase in the last nine days.

Total cases reached nearly 14.5 million, second only to the United States which has reported more than 32 million infections.

India's deaths from the virus rose by 1,341 to reach a total of 175,649, the data showed.

Mainland China reports 15 new cases vs 11 a day earlier

Mainland China reported 15 new cases on April 16, up from 11 cases a day earlier, the country's national health authority has said.

The National Health Commission, in a statement, said one of the new cases was a local infection reported in southwestern Yunnan province, which discovered a new cluster in late March in a city on the border with Myanmar.

The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to 19 from 31 cases a day earlier.

The total number of confirmed cases in mainland China now stands at 90,483, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,636.

Mexico says 14 townships refuse vaccines

Mexican health authorities have said that 14 of the country’s roughly 2,600 townships have refused to allow vaccination teams to administer anti-coronavirus doses there.

Assistant Health Secretary Hugo Lopez-Gatell said the townships were concentrated largely in the heavily indigenous southern states of Chiapas and Oaxaca.

He did not give specific reasons why those communities did not want to be vaccinated, citing only “cultural and perhaps religious beliefs.”

Lopez-Gatell said the decision to refuse vaccines had been made by town councils, adding “we respect that decision.” He said authorities are trying to set up a scheme in which people who wanted vaccines could get them in a neighbouring township.

Indigenous municipalities in southern Mexico have some degree of autonomy, and some are governed by traditional "use and custom" schemes without political parties or formal elections.

Some Chiapas townships dominated by the Zapatista rebels have rejected other government programs, but it was unclear whether they were among those refusing vaccines.

Local media in Chiapas reported some communities distrusted the vaccines, or did not think there were enough local cases to justify it.

Brazil registers 3,305 deaths on Friday

Brazil registered 3,305 new deaths on Friday and 85,774 additional cases, according to data published by the nation's Health Ministry.

The South American country has now registered 368,749 total deaths and 13,832,455 total confirmed cases.

Vaccines to be made available at Alaska airports

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy says vaccines would be made available at key airports in the state starting June 1.

He made the announcement on Friday, as he unveiled plans aimed at bolstering Alaska’s pandemic-battered tourist industry.

Dunleavy, a Republican, outlined plans for a national marketing campaign aimed at luring tourists and said the vaccine offering is “probably another good reason to come to the state of Alaska in the summer.”

Dunleavy and other state leaders have been pushing to allow large cruise ships to return to Alaska after restrictions kept them away last year.

Qatar seeking virus jabs for all World Cup visitors

Qatar is in talks with coronavirus vaccine makers to ensure all fans attending the 2022 World Cup in the country have been vaccinated, the foreign minister said on Friday.

The Gulf nation is facing a resurgence of virus cases and deaths despite progress in its mass vaccination programme, forcing authorities to impose a nationwide lockdown.

"We have been negotiating and talking to the vaccination providers on how we can make sure that everyone attending the World Cup is vaccinated," Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said.

"Right now there are programs under development to provide vaccination to all the attendees of the World Cup," he added during the Raisina Dialogue, a virtual event hosted by the Observer Research Foundation.

"We will be able, hopefully, to host a Covid-free event. We also hope that globally the pandemic will start to go down and disappear."

Globally no one vaccine certification system has yet been universally accepted or recognised, though the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Travel Pass has gained popularity amongst Gulf airlines including Qatar Airways.

Chilean study finds Chinese jab slashes virus deaths

A real-world study of millions of Chileans who had received the Chinese-developed CoronaVac vaccine has found it 67 percent effective against symptoms, and 80 percent effective against death from Covid-19, the South American country's Health Ministry said on Friday.

Ministry adviser Rafael Araos said the study covered 10.5 million people, including 2.5 million who had received both doses of the vaccine, and 1.5 million who had received a single dose between February 2 and April 1.

The study looked at cases starting 14 days after the second dose of the vaccine was given, which in Chile was given 28 days after the first.

The vaccine has been widely used across the world, but has not been part of rollouts in the United States or Europe.

Araos said it had reduced hospitalisations by 85 percent, intensive care visits by 89 percent and deaths by 80 percent.

It is one of the broadest studies so far published of any of the vaccines used against coronavirus. Most previous studies were based on clinical studies of limited groups of thousands of people given the vaccines to test efficacy and safety prior to general use.

Chile has led the region with a vaccination campaign that has reached 40 percent of its 19 million people overall, with 27percent of those having received both doses.

It began in large part with the elderly and health workers, but has expanded to include essential workers and recently people as young as 48.

The country has a three year contract for 60 million doses of the CoronaVac vaccine produced by Sinovac, and also has been using vaccines produced by Pfizer.

About 90 percent of vaccines used so far in Chile have been CoronaVac.

Authorities reported Thursday that Chile had had a sharp reduction in hospitalisation of people 70 or older, a figure credited to the vaccination campaign among the elderly.

But it has also seen "a sustained rise" in hospitalisations of people 59 and younger.

The country has reported 1.1 million confirmed infections of the new virus and nearly 25,000 deaths.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies