Covid-19 has infected more than 243M people and killed over 4.9M globally. Here are the virus-related developments for October 23.

South Africa and Namibia have high HIV prevalence rates.  (October 21, 2021)
South Africa and Namibia have high HIV prevalence rates. (October 21, 2021) (AFP)

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Namibia suspends use of Russian vaccine after S.Africa flags HIV concerns

Namibia will suspend the rollout of Russia's Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine, days after the drugs regulator in neighbouring South Africa flagged concerns about its safety for people at risk of HIV.

Regulator SAHPRA decided not to approve an emergency use application for Sputnik V for now because some studies suggested that administration of vaccines using the Adenovirus Type 5 vector - which Sputnik V does - can lead to higher susceptibility to HIV in men.

South Africa and Namibia have high HIV prevalence rates.

Namibia's health ministry said in a statement that the decision to discontinue use of the Russian vaccine was "out of (an) abundance of caution that men (who) received Sputnik V may be at higher risk of contracting HIV," adding it had taken SAHPRA's decision into account.

The Gamaleya Research Institute, which developed Sputnik V, said Namibia's decision was not based on any scientific evidence or research.

Italy reports 39 new deaths and 3,908 new cases 

Italy has reported 39 coronavirus-related deaths, the same number as the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections inched up to 3,908 from 3,882.

Italy has registered 131,802 deaths linked to Covid-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the ninth-highest in the world. The country has reported 4.74 million cases to date.

Patients in hospital - not including those in intensive care - stood at 2,455 on Saturday, from 2,443 a day earlier.

There were 20 new admissions to intensive care units, down from 22 on Friday. The total number of intensive care patients decreased to 338 from a previous 343.

Some 491,574 tests for Covid-19 were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 487,218, the health ministry said. 

UK reports 135 more deaths

Britain has reported 135 more deaths within 28 days of a positive test for Covid-19, down from 180 on Friday, taking the cumulative total since the start of the pandemic to 139,461.

Government figures showed that 44,985 new coronavirus cases were reported on Saturday, down from 49,298 on Friday.

Cases over the past week have risen by 15 percent, while the number of deaths in the past seven days is up by 12 percent.

Bulgaria overwhelmed

Bulgaria's government says it is days away from sending coronavirus patients abroad as a vicious fourth wave overwhelms the country's health system.   

The latest wave could lead to infections hitting 9,000 a day in two weeks' time in the country of 6.9 million, experts say.

Virus surge persists in Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia

Serbia is set to launch partial Covid-19 passes while Croatia and Slovenia reported high daily rates of infections, as countries with low vaccination rates grapple with a persisting virus surge.

Serbia has seen thousands of news cases daily for weeks now and recorded more than 50 deaths each day, in the country of 7 million where about half of adults have been fully jabbed and tens of thousands have received booster doses.

On Saturday, authorities reported an additional 6,748 new infections in the past 24 hours and 60 fatalities from the virus.

The Balkan nation has confirmed more than 1 million infections since the start of the pandemic and nearly 10,000 deaths.

Slovenia on Saturday said the number of confirmed daily cases has reached a nine-month high and a positivity rate of about 30 percent in the country of about 2 million people. Slovenia has fully vaccinated 53 percent of the population of 2 million. Just over 5,000 people have died of Covid-19.

Croatia too is reporting a surge in daily new cases to more than 3,500 over the past days — the daily number of confirmed cases has risen by 1,600 since last weekend, authorities said.

Germany's cases at highest since mid-May

Germany has recorded the highest incidence of coronavirus infections since mid-May, reaching the threshold of 100 cases per 100,000 in the past seven days that used to be the yardstick for imposing a strict lockdown.

The seven-day incidence rate of cases - which until August was used to decide whether to impose more stringent Covid-19 curbs - rose to 100 on Saturday from 95 on Friday, the Robert Koch Institute responsible for disease control said.

A total of 15,145 new infections were reported, 4,196 more than the same time last Saturday, it added, and another 86 people died, to bring the total to 95,077.

Russia's virus surge persists, setting new death record

 Russia is reporting a record-high number of coronavirus infections and Covid-19 deaths as the country approaches a week of nonworking days aimed at stemming the sharp surge in cases.

The national coronavirus task force said that 1,075 people had died from the virus in the past day and that 37,678 new infections were tallied – the largest single-day numbers of the pandemic.

The daily death toll is about 33 percent higher than that recorded in late September and infection cases have risen by about 70 percent in the past month.

Only about one-third of Russia’s 146 million people have been vaccinated, frustrating officials and placing a strain on the country’s healthcare system.

Facing widespread resistance to vaccination, President Vladimir Putin has responded to the worsening situation by ordering Russians to stay away from work between October 30 and November 7.

Overall, Russia has recorded about 8.2 million cases of coronavirus infection and 229,528 deaths, according to the task force.

South Korea achieves goal of 70% vaccinations

South Korea has said that it has achieved its goal of vaccinating 70 percent of its 52 million people, paving the way for a planned return to normal next month.

The target, set a month before the country kicked off its inoculation campaign in late February, was reached by 2 p.m. (0500 GMT), with some 36 million vaccinated, said the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

The goal earlier met with scepticism as the government grappled with global Covid-19 vaccine shortages and shipment delays.

But despite its rough start, South Korea quickly ramped up its vaccination drive, thanks chiefly to expanded supplies and relatively high public acceptance, surpassing the United States and other early starters.

Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol said last week that the government will begin a phased return to normal activities starting November 1, putting forward the shift initially scheduled for mid-November.

South Korea has largely successfully managed to cope with the pandemic without imposing lockdowns seen in many other parts of the world, on the back of intensive testing and tracing.

Peru's death toll rises to 200,000

Peru, which has the world's highest Covid-19 death rate per capita, has surpassed 200,000 deaths from the coronavirus, the health ministry said on Friday.

The ministry announced 25 new deaths over the previous 24 hours, taking the South American country over the symbolic threshold with 200.003 deaths since the pandemic started in March 2020.

The Andean country of 33 million has also recorded 2.2 million infections.

The news comes at a time of falling daily cases and deaths attributed to the increase in vaccinations, although authorities remain worried about a potential new wave of infections due to the Delta variant that is now predominant in the country.

Ukraine crosses new record high in virus deaths and infections

Ukraine's coronavirus infections and deaths have reached all-time highs for a second straight day, in a growing challenge for the country with one of Europe's lowest shares of vaccinated people.

Ukrainian health authorities reported 23,785 new confirmed infections and 614 deaths in the past 24 hours.

Authorities in the capital, Kyiv, shut schools for two weeks starting Friday, and similar measures were ordered in other areas with high contagion levels.

Authorities have blamed surging infections on a sluggish pace of vaccination in the nation of 41 million.
Ukrainians can freely choose between Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Sinovac vaccines, but only about 15 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, Europe’s lowest level after Armenia.

Overall, the country has registered over 2.7 million infections and about 63,000 deaths.

Covid vaccine more than 90 percent effective in kids – Pfizer

Kid-size doses of Pfizer’s vaccine appear safe and nearly 91 percent effective at preventing symptomatic infections in 5- to 11-year-olds, according to study details released Friday as the US considers opening vaccinations to that age group.

The shots could begin in early November, with the first children in line fully protected by Christmas, if regulators give the go-ahead. That would represent a major expansion of the nation's vaccine drive, encompassing roughly 28 million elementary school-age youngsters.

Mexico's death toll rises to 285,953

Mexico registered 284 more deaths and 4,653 new cases, bringing the overall death toll to 285,953 and the total number of cases to 3,777,209, the Health Ministry.

Brazil has 460 deaths, average daily toll falling – ministry

Brazil has had 14,502 new cases of the novel coronavirus reported in the past 24 hours, and 460 deaths from the virus, the health ministry said.

The South American country has now registered 21,711,843 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 605,139, according to ministry data, in the world's third worst outbreak outside the United States and India and its second-deadliest.

Tunisia imposes vaccine pass on Tunisians and all foreign visitors

Tunisia imposed vaccine passes on Tunisians and all foreign visitors, a presidential decree showed.

Officials, employees and users are required to show their vaccine pass to access public and private administrations, according to the decree.

The pass will also be required to enter cafes, restaurants, hotels and tourist establishments, it said.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies