The coronavirus pandemic has killed over 2.3 million people and infected more than 106 million. Here are the developments for February 8:

Vials of a Covid-19 vaccine candidate, a recombinant adenovirus vaccine named Ad5-nCoV, co-developed by Chinese biopharmaceutical firm CanSino Biologics Inc and a team led by Chinese military infectious disease expert, are pictured in Wuhan, China on March 24, 2020.
Vials of a Covid-19 vaccine candidate, a recombinant adenovirus vaccine named Ad5-nCoV, co-developed by Chinese biopharmaceutical firm CanSino Biologics Inc and a team led by Chinese military infectious disease expert, are pictured in Wuhan, China on March 24, 2020. (Reuters)

Monday, February 8, 2021

CanSinoBIO's vaccine 65.7 percent effective in global trials

CanSino Biologics Inc's (CanSinoBIO) vaccine has shown 65.7 percent efficacy in preventing symptomatic cases and a 90.98 percent success rate in stopping the severe disease in an interim analysis of global trials, said Pakistan's Health Minister Faisal Sultan.

The positive data moves the vaccine, jointly developed by a research institute affiliated with the Chinese military, a step closer to becoming China's third successful shot for the disease.

The CanSinoBIO vaccine is being tested in Pakistan, Mexico, Russia, Argentina, and Chile, according to clinical trial registration data, and the company has supply deals with some of those countries, including Mexico.

The efficacy of the shot is based on analysis of 30,000 participants and 101 confirmed cases of Covid-19, the minister said on Twitter, quoting data from an independent data monitoring committee.

It was not immediately clear whether the study also looked into the vaccine's efficacy against new and highly transmissible variants first found in South Africa, Britain, and Brazil.

No serious safety concerns have been raised in the study, Sultan said.

In the Pakistani subset, the efficacy of the CanSinoBIO vaccine at preventing symptomatic cases was 74.8 percent and 100 percent at preventing severe disease, Sultan added.

Sultan had said that the country could receive "in the range of tens of millions" of the vaccine under an agreement with the Chinese firm.

Hassan Abbas, head of the CanSinoBIO's trial at AJ Pharma in Pakistan, said it has already applied to the government for permission to import the vaccine.

"The initial set of vaccines will come in vials already filled, but we hope in the future to get them in the form of concentrates from CanSino, and do the filling here in Pakistan," he told Reuters news agency.

UK reports over 14,000 new cases
Britain has reported 14,104 new cases and 333 deaths, government data showed.

The country has recorded a total of 3,959,784 cases since the pandemic began and 112,798 fatalities.

Turkey reports over 8,000 new infections

Turkey has reported 8,103 additional cases, including 632 symptomatic patients, according to the Health Ministry.

The country's case tally passed 2.53 million, while the nationwide death toll reached 26,900, with 103 fatalities over the past day.

As many as 8,567 more patients in the country won the battle against the virus, bringing the total number of recoveries to over 2.44 million.

Italy reports 307 new deaths 

Italy has reported 307 deaths against 270 the day before, the Health Ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 7,970 from 11,641 the day before.

Some 144,270 tests were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 206,789, the ministry said.

Italy has registered 91,580 deaths since its outbreak emerged last February, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the sixth-highest in the world. 

The country has reported 2.65 million cases to date.

Iran unveils second homegrown virus vaccine project

Iran has unveiled its second homegrown vaccine project, the day before the launch of a vaccination campaign to combat the Middle East's deadliest outbreak.

"We will start human tests in the coming days, or in a week at the latest," Massoud Soleimani, a member of Iran's national vaccine committee, told journalists in Karaj near Tehran.

The vaccine, dubbed Razi Cov Pars, was developed at the Razi Vaccine and Serum Research Institute, which is linked to the agriculture ministry, Soleimani said.

Mexico's president returns after catching the virus

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has returned to his daily morning news conferences following a two-week absence after catching coronavirus but vowed not to wear a mask or require Mexicans to use them.

"There is no authoritarianism in Mexico ... everything is voluntary, liberty is the most important thing," Lopez Obrador said. "It is each person's own decision."

Obrador revealed he received experimental treatments, which he described only as an "antiviral" medication and an anti-inflammatory drug.

Dutch government to extend night curfew through March 2 

The Dutch government has said it will extend a night-time curfew intended to slow the spread of coronavirus through March 2, broadcaster RTL reported, citing sources in The Hague.

The curfew, the first in the Netherlands since World War Two, sparked several days of riots from anti-lockdown protesters when it was initially introduced on January 23.

RTL reported that Mark Rutte's government would announce the extension at a news conference later Monday.

New coronavirus cases in the Netherlands have been declining after months of lockdown measures, but the government is warning that a wave of new infections is coming due to the growth in more contagious variants.

UK: Virus jabs for all regardless of immigration status

Undocumented migrants in Britain will still be able to get Covid vaccines without being subject to status checks, the government has said.

Anyone in Britain can register with doctors and access free frontline medical care, regardless of their immigration status.

Some data is shared with the interior ministry, which is responsible for border enforcement and investigating irregular immigration, including deporting those with no right to remain.

However, the health ministry has made clear to officials in the state-run National Health Service (NHS) that people receiving vaccinations, as well as testing and treatment, are not subject to any immigration status checks.

Laos receives 300,000 vaccine doses from China

Laos has received 300,000 doses of a vaccine produced by Chinese pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm, media in the two countries reported.

The Southeast Asian country has already started to inoculate 600 frontline medical workers, the English-language Laotian Times reported, adding that the country had previously received 2,000 doses from China and also Russia's Sputnik V vaccine.

"These vaccines will be provided to medical workers and at-risk frontline workers in Laos," Health Minister Bounkong Syhavong was quoted a saying in the paper.

State-media China Radio International also reported the arrival of the 300,000 doses.

Denmark’s primary school children return to classes 

Nearly 300,000 primary school pupils in Denmark have returned to their classes after five weeks at home, a first step in relaxing the Nordic country's strict virus curb measures.

This particular start of the new school year however comes with some sanitary caveats, such as no mixing of different classes to limit transmission.

Meals must be eaten in the classroom, but masks are not compulsory for students and teachers.

Germany to allow some to jump vaccine queue

The German government has said it's giving an official blessing to allowing some people to jump the vaccination queue if it’s a choice between that and letting vaccines go to waste.

Health Minister Jens Spahn said new vaccination regulations that took effect specifically envision limited departures from the set order of vaccinations if, for example, doses left over in the evening would go to waste.

According to the German government’s priority list, vaccines were initially reserved for those over age 80, people living or working in nursing homes, and hospital staff treating particularly vulnerable patients.

EU chief urges states to donate vaccines to Ukraine

The European Commission chief has called on EU member states to donate some of their jabs to Ukraine, which is trying to launch a vaccination campaign.

The country of some 40 million is awaiting delivery of eight million doses promised under the United Nations Covax programme and up to five million doses of the Chinese CoronaVac jab.

"On top of Covax, I have also asked our member states to donate part of their doses to Ukraine," European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said in a video address at a conference held in Ukraine's capital Kiev.

Australia urges calm after SA halts AstraZeneca rollout

Australia moved to reassure its citizens over the efficacy of AstraZeneca's vaccine after South Africa suspended use of the shot because data showed it offered limited protection against a new strain of the virus.

Citing data that showed the AstraZeneca vaccine reduced mild-to-moderate Covid-19 by 22 percent, South Africa said it would put on hold the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

But Australia's Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, said the vaccine is effective in its primary objective.

"There is currently no evidence to indicate a reduction in the effectiveness of either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccines in preventing severe disease and death. That is the fundamental task, to protect the health," Hunt told reporters in Canberra.

Australia is expected approve the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine within days. Last month, it approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, although it has secured enough doses for less than half of its population and orders remain delayed.

Schools, shops, salons are reopening in Austria

Schools, shops, hairdressing salons and museums are reopening in Austria after the country’s third lockdown, but concerns linger about infection rates and the spread of new coronavirus variants.

The relaxation of measures taking effect Monday is far from complete. People going to the hairdresser will need to show a negative test result that’s at most 48 hours old. In shops, customers have to wear full protective masks rather than just fabric face coverings.

Restaurants and hotels remain closed, and authorities say they won’t reopen this month.

The lockdown had been in place since December 26. While the government has said that Austria needs to get as close as possible to an infection level of 50 new cases per 100,000 residents over seven days, the figure is still considerably higher, currently 108.

The country’s opposition leader says that reopening more than schools is a significant risk.

Fans are in, but crowd numbers are thin at Australian Open

The lines for beer on Day 1 at the Australian Open were noticeably thinner than usual, and the lawn chairs set up in front of the giant television screen in Garden Square were far emptier.

On the outer courts, there was none of the usual jostling or standing on tiptoes to catch a glimpse of a tight match. No waiting in long lines to get a seat, either.

Attendance for this year’s first Grand Slam tournament is capped at 30,000 per day. On Day 1 last year, 64,387 fans crammed onto the grounds at Melbourne Park.

Still, there were actual fans at a Grand Slam again.

Tennis went into shutdown last year after the Covid-19 outbreak became a global pandemic. The tours resumed in August but mostly without crowds. No fans were allowed at the US Open and only small crowds were allowed at the French Open.

Cambodia gets first vaccine from key ally China

Cambodia received its first shipment of vaccine, a donation of 600,000 doses from China, the country’s biggest ally.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, his senior Cabinet members and Chinese Ambassador Wang Wentian were at Phnom Penh International Airport for a reception ceremony for the Sinopharm vaccine carried by a Chinese Air Force flight.

Hun Sen had announced that he would be the first person to be vaccinated, but backtracked last week, saying the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine was effective only for people aged between 18 and 59, while he is 68.

He said at the airport that he would urge younger members of his family, as well as top officials and generals under 60, to get vaccinated Wednesday as an example to the public.

Thailand reports 186 new cases

Thailand reported 186 new cases and no additional deaths, its Covid-19 taskforce said.

The new infections took the overall total to 23,557, with fatalities remaining at 79.

Germany's confirmed cases rise by 4,535 - RKI

The number of confirmed cases in Germany increased by 4,535 to 2,288,545, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 158 to 61,675, the tally showed. 

Panama says buying vaccines for more than 80 percent of its population

Panama has sought to acquire more than 8 million vaccine doses to inoculate about 80 percent of the Central American nation's residents, Health Minister Luis Sucre said.

Panama has a population of about 4.2 million people but most vaccines require two shots spaced several weeks apart.

Panama has requested about 1 million doses from the vaccine portfolio under the COVAX facility coordinated by the World Health Organization to support lower-income countries, Sucre said.

Panama will acquire a further 3 million doses from US pharmaceutical firm Pfizer Inc and the same amount from Russia, which has developed the Sputnik V vaccine.

Panama also aims to acquire 1.1 million doses manufactured by AstraZeneca PLC and 300,000 shots produced by Johnson & Johnson, Sucre added.

South Korea daily cases drop ahead of Lunar New Year

South Korea reported the lowest daily number of new cases since late November as the government slightly eased social distancing restrictions in the face of growing criticism from businesses impacted by the rules.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported 289 additional cases as of midnight Sunday, with the daily tally falling below 300 for the first time since November 23.

In recent months South Korea has been battling its largest and most persistent wave of infections, with daily cases peaking at more than 1,200 over the Christmas holiday.

Despite the drop in cases since then, authorities have been hesitant to ease unprecedented social distancing restrictions ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday from February 11, when tens of millions of Koreans usually travel across the country to family gatherings.

In late January, authorities extended social distancing curbs until February 14, including a ban on private gatherings larger than four people, and called on residents to stay home during the long holiday. 

Chicago mayor says schools, teachers union have reached tentative safety plan agreement

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said that Chicago Public Schools and the teachers union have reached a tentative agreement on a Covid-19 safety plan, a major milestone that will put an end to a bitter labor dispute and avert a possible work stoppage.

Chicago Public Schools, the third largest school district in the United States, and the Chicago Teachers Union, which represents 28,000 educators, have been locked in talks for months over a gradual reopening of schools, with teachers demanding stronger safety protocols to prevent the spread of the virus in classrooms.

Brazil's Covid-19 cases exceed 9.5M

Brazil has had 26,845 new cases of the novel coronavirus reported in the past 24 hours, and 522 deaths from Covid-19, the Health Ministry has said.

The South American country has now registered 9,524,640 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 231,534, according to ministry data, in the world's third-worst outbreak outside the United States and India and the second-deadliest.

Mexico's death toll rises to 166,200

Mexico's health ministry has reported 414 new confirmed deaths from Covid-19, bringing the total to166,200.

The government says the real number of infected people and the death toll in Mexico are both likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

China reports 14 new cases

China reported 14 new mainland Covid-19 cases on February 7, official data has showed, up slightly from a day earlier.

All new cases originated from overseas.

The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed Covid-19 cases, rose to 16 from 10 a day earlier, the National Health Commission said in a statement.

The total number of COVID-19 cases in mainland China stands at 89,706, while the death toll is unchanged at 4,636.

US administers 41.2M doses 

The United States has administered 41,210,937 doses of Covid-19 vaccines as of Sunday morning and distributed 59,307,800 doses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced.

The tally of vaccine doses is for both Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech  as of 1100 GMT on Sunday, the agency said.

According to the tally posted on Saturday, the county had administered 39,037,964 doses of the vaccines and distributed 59,304,600 doses.

The agency said 31,579,100 people had received one or more doses while 9,147,185 people have got the second dose as of Sunday. A total of 4,839,144 vaccine doses have been administered in long-term care facilities, the agency said.

South Africa suspends use of AstraZeneca vaccine

South Africa will suspend use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in its immunisation programme while scientists advise on the best way to proceed,Health Minister Zweli Mkhize has said.

Mkhize was speaking after trial data showed the AstraZeneca vaccine offered only limited protection against mild disease caused by the 501Y.V2 coronavirus variant first identified in South Africa.

Hungary gives all-clear to Sputnik V vaccine 

Hungarian health authorities have approved Russia's coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V, the government has said, with 40,000 doses of the jab already to be given.

Official testing has been completed "and the vaccine may be administered", Miklos Kasler, the human resources minister who is in charge of health, said on social media on Sunday.

The government had announced Tuesday that it had taken delivery of 40,000 doses of Sputnik V, a first within the European Union.

It is the first batch of a total order of two million doses to be supplied over three months.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies