The Covid-19 pandemic has infected more than 103 million people around the world, with over 2.2 million fatalities. Here are developments for February 2:

A medical worker prepares a syringe with a dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre in Brussels in Belgium, February 2, 2021.
A medical worker prepares a syringe with a dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre in Brussels in Belgium, February 2, 2021. (Reuters)

Tuesday, February 2, 2021:

Palestinians begin vaccinations in West Bank

The Palestinian Authority has started vaccinating health workers in the occupied West Bank against virus, after delivery of the shots that followed a pressure campaign on Israel to provide the jabs.

Israel, which is carrying out an aggressive inoculation campaign for its own citizens, has faced mounting global pressure in recent weeks, including from the UN, to help Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip access vaccines.

Medical personnel treating coronavirus patients or working in intensive care units were inoculated at Hugo Chavez hospital in the West Bank city of Ramallah, headquarters of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

"It was a wonderful step because it is crucial to protect medical staff who are dealing with COVID-19 patients f rom zero distance and are at risk of getting the infection," said Bassil Bawatneh, the hospital's director.

Israel transferred 2,000 doses of Moderna Inc's vaccine on Monday and said it had earmarked another 3,000 shots for the Palestinians.

Palestinian Health Minister Mai Alkaila, kicking off the vaccination programme, said that within days her ministry would receive 5,000 doses of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine and 37,000 doses from the COVAX global vaccine-sharing programme.

Portugal's infection surge slows, hospitals still strained

Daily infections and deaths from virus in Portugal have retreated retreated further from last week's records and fewer patients were in intensive care, easing pressure on overstretched hospitals.

Deaths rose by 260 to 13,017, below Monday's increase of 275 and down from an all-time high of 303 reported on Thursday and Sunday, data from the health authority DGS showed.

Portugal reported close to half of all its virus deaths last month, highlighting an acceleration in cases that has prompted several European nations to offer help.

Egypt receives first shipment of AstraZeneca vaccine

Egypt has received its first 50,000-dose shipment of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine this week as part of its programme to vaccinate health workers, the cabinet said.

The cabinet was confirming reports in the local media, which had reported that the consignment arrived on Sunday.

Britain records 1,449 deaths

Britain has recorded 1,449 deaths within 28 days of a positive test for virus, up from 406 a day earlier, with a further 16,840 cases of the disease, a decrease from a day earlier.

Official data showed that 9.65 million people have been given the first dose of a vaccine, up from a figure of 9.29 million people announced on Monday.

Italy reports 499 deaths

Italy has reported 499 virus-related deaths against 329 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 9,660 from 7,925.

Some 244,429 tests for virus were carried out in the past day, against a previous 142,419, the health ministry said.

Italy has registered 89,344 deaths linked to virus 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 2.57 million cases to date. 

Canada signs first deal for manufacture of foreign vaccine

Canada, under pressure over the slow pace of inoculations against virus, has signed its first deal to allow a foreign vaccine to be manufactured domestically, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

Trudeau said the Novavax Inc vaccine – still awaiting approval from Canadian regulators –would be produced in a new government facility in Montreal that is due to be finished later this year.

"This is a major step forward to get vaccines made in Canada, for Canadians. ... We need as much domestic capacity for vaccine production as possible," he told reporters.

Tunisia expects vaccines from GAVI alliance mid-February

Tunisia expects to receive four million free doses of vaccine through the Geneva-based GAVI vaccine alliance from mid-February, Health Minister Fouzi Mehdi said.

The doses will be enough to immunise 2 million of Tunisia's 11.5 million population.

Tunisia become the third country in Africa to approve use of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine against virus, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) said on Saturday. 

Ireland reports 101 deaths in highest daily total

Ireland reported 101 deaths related to virus, the highest number of deaths confirmed in a single day since the start of the pandemic, exceeding the previous peak of 93 from January 19.

The daily death toll is published by the National Public Health Emergency Team and can include fatalities that took place weeks ago but were just confirmed to authorities on the day in question.

The team said 83 of the deaths reported on Tuesday occurred in January, with 18 occurring in February.

Netherlands extends many curbs to March 2 

The Netherlands will extend many coronavirus measures until March 2 due to concerns over the "rapid rise" of a variant first identified in Britain, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said.

"We have come to the conclusion that it is inevitable the current lockdown is almost completely extended until at least March 2," said Rutte of the restrictions, which were due to end on February 9.

Captain Tom Moore, WWII vet whose walk cheered UK, dies at 100

Captain Tom Moore, the World War II veteran who walked into the hearts of a nation in lockdown as he shuffled up and down his garden to raise money for health care workers, has died after testing positive for virus. He was 100.

His family announced his death on Twitter, posting a picture of him behind his walker in a happy moment, ready for an adventure.

“The last year of our father’s life was nothing short of remarkable. He was rejuvenated and experienced things he’d only ever dreamed of,’’ the family’s statement said. “Whilst he’d been in so many hearts for just a short time, he was an incredible father and grandfather, and he will stay alive in our hearts forever.’’

White House to boost vaccine to states – New York governor

The White House has indicated it would boost the federal government's planned increase in the supply of vaccine to states to 20 percent from 16 percent, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

"The increase is now going to go from 16 to about 20 percent as a direct allocation," Cuomo told a news conference, reporting on a call a governors association had with the White House. "The state will then turn around and supply 20 percent additional to the local governments."

Turkey registers 7,795 cases

Turkey registered 7,795 new cases, including 630 symptomatic patients, according to the data released by the Health Ministry.

The country's case count topped 2.49 million, while nationwide fatalities reached 26,237, with 120 deaths over the past day.

With 8,639 more patients winning the battle against the virus, the total number of recoveries in the country rose to over 2.37 million.

Over 29.9 million virus tests have been administered to date in Turkey, including 140,120 in the past 24 hours.

Uganda orders 18 mln doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine

Uganda has ordered 18 million doses of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and up to 40 percent of the shipments are expected to arrive in the country by the end of March, the government said.

Uganda has so far reported 39,65 cases and 325 deaths – a much lower toll than in most countries due to what experts attribute to years of experience battling other viral outbreaks such as HIV AIDS and Ebola.

Its economy, however, is reeling from the impact of the measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus.

Oxford says virus shot 76 percent effective after one dose for 3 months

The vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca has 76 percent efficacy against symptomatic infection for three months after a single dose, with efficacy improving when a second shot is given later, a preprint study showed.

Oxford University said the findings supported a decision made by Britain to extend the interval between initial doses and booster doses of the shot to 12 weeks.

Russia's Sputnik V vaccine 91.6 percent effective – Lancet study

Russia's Sputnik V vaccine is 91.6 percent effective against symptomatic Covid-19, according to an analysis published in The Lancet that independent experts said allayed transparency concerns over the jab, which Moscow is already rolling out.

But the new analysis of data from 20,000 participants in Phase 3 trials suggests that the two-dose vaccination offers "has shown high efficacy" and was well tolerated for participants over 18 in final-stage clinical trials, said co-lead author Inna Dolzhikova of Russia's Gamaleya National Research Centre for Epidemiology and Microbiology.

The results suggest Sputnik V is among the top performing vaccines, along with the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna jabs that also reported more than 90 percent efficacy.

Pre-empting the results of the phase 3 trials, Russia has already launched a mass inoculation campaign for citizens 18 and older.

Sri Lanka reports first doctor death

Sri Lanka has reported the first death of a doctor due to the virus.

Health authorities said the 31-year-old doctor at a government hospital on the outskirts of Colombo died while receiving treatment in an Intensive Care Unit.

Sri Lanka’s first virus patient was detected last March, and since then 332 people have died of the coronavirus out of 64,982 confirmed cases.

Czech Republic experiences a record decline in economy in 2020

The economy in the Czech Republic has experienced a record decline in 2020 amid the virus pandemic.

The preliminary figures from the Czech Statistics Office released show that the Czech economy contracted by 5.6 percent last year compared with the previous year.

It is the worst result for the economy since the split of Czechoslovakia in 1993.

Danish children to return to schools in February

Children in classes up to fourth grade will return to school February 8 in Denmark after the country has seen a steady reduction in new infections in recent weeks.

Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said it was “a careful reopening,” adding the Scandinavian country is still dealing with the virus variant first reported in Britain that has been spreading in Denmark despite overall declining number of new infections.

Staff at schools will undergo regular testing and parents will be required to wear facemasks on school sites.

Estonia to let passengers with vaccination proof skip quarantine requirement

Estonia says it will let passengers arriving into the country with proof of vaccination skip its travel quarantine requirement.

Health officials of the Baltic country say that proof isn’t restricted only to vaccine suppliers approved in the European Union but proof from any of the global vaccine suppliers would be accepted. The move takes effect on Tuesday.

However, Estonia’s Health Board said the certificate of vaccination from foreign citizens has to meet certain criteria, including language. Vaccination certificates must be in either in Estonian, Russian – which is widely spoken in Estonia – or English.

Austria toughens entry requirements

Austria is toughening entry requirements in an effort to prevent the spread of contagious coronavirus variants.

Interior Minister Karl Nehammer said that the country will require weekly tests for cross-border commuters, who also will have to register under a “pre-travel clearance system,” the Austria Press Agency reported. New arrivals also won’t be able to cut their 10-day quarantine short by testing negative.

Nehammer also said checks by police and health officials in Austrian ski resorts will be stepped up after authorities discovered scores of visitors in illegally booked accommodations.

Algeria to begin production of Sputnik V vaccine

Algeria will begin producing Russia's Sputnik V vaccine “within the coming weeks,” according to the head of Algeria's national agency for pharmaceuticals.

The first batch of 50,000 doses of Sputnik V was flown to Algeria from Russia on Thursday, a tenth of what had been previously announced by the North African government. A cargo of 50,000 Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine doses arrived on Monday.

The head of the national agency for pharmaceuticals, Kamel Mansouri, said Algeria and Russia were in advanced discussions over Sputnik V and the vaccine would be manufactured at the government-owned SAIDAL facility.

Spain cancels San Fermin bull-running festival

The northern Spanish region of Navarra has announced the cancellation of the famed annual San Fermin bull-running festival in Pamplona for a second year in a row because of the virus pandemic.

“An international festival like San Fermín, in which millions of people come to Navarra, is not going to be possible,” said regional President María Chivite.

The nine-day festival in July is easily Spain’s most international event. The festival was popularised by Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel “The Sun Also Rises” and up to last year’s cancellation had last been called off during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.

Japan says EU export curbs delaying its Covid-19 vaccination plan

EU export rules are preventing Japan from finalising its virus vaccination plan, a Tokyo minister said, after the bloc introduced a controversial new mechanism for the shipment of jabs made inside its borders.

With less than six months until the pandemic-postponed Tokyo Olympics, Japan has yet to set out when it will vaccinate its population of 126 million people, although it hopes to give the first doses later in February.

The European Union, which is facing criticism of its own sluggish vaccine rollout, on Friday brought in a new rule requiring drugmakers to seek approval before exporting vaccines to non-EU countries.

Zimbabwe will have access to Chinese vaccine soon, ambassador says

Zimbabwe will have access to a Chinese vaccine soon, China's ambassador in Harare said, as Beijing ramps up its availability to developing nations.

Last week, Zimbabwe health officials said Russia and China had approached it about supplying coronavirus vaccines.

Infections have escalated in Zimbabwe this year, with about 60 pecent of its 33,548 cases and more than two-thirds of its 1,234 deaths recorded since New Year's Day.

Singapore to limit police access to contact-tracing data

Singapore will only allow police to access personal data from its virus contact-tracing app for "serious" criminal investigations, a move aimed at addressing privacy concerns among users and to safeguard against its unauthorised use.

An amendment to a virus bill – tabled in parliament this week – will only allow authorities to use data collected from contact tracing in investigations into seven types of crime, with strict penalties including jail for unauthorised use.

When the pandemic is over, the government will stop using the contact tracing systems, and public agencies must stop collecting data and delete all personal information collected, according to the bill.

Hungary to receive first batch of Russian vaccine

Hungary will receive the first batch of Russia's vaccine, public television reported citing Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto as saying.

Hungary, which last month became the first European Union member state to buy Russia's Sputnik V shot, would receive 40,000 doses of the vaccine, Szijjarto said.

Dubai to start vaccinations with Oxford-AstraZeneca shot

Dubai will start vaccinating people with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, the state media office said as the United Arab Emirates battles its biggest outbreak since the pandemic begun.

The first shipment has arrived from India, the state media office said in a tweet. It did not provide details on how many doses were received or when inoculations would start.

India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar tweeted: "Made in India vaccines reach Dubai. A special friend, a special relationship."

Coronavirus variant accounts for up to 20 percent of cases in Paris 

The highly contagious variant of the coronavirus first detected in Britain now accounts for up to 20 percent of infections in the wider Paris region, a leading hospital executive said, calling for more restrictive measures to rein in the disease.

France's main indicators have reached two-month highs on average on Monday but the government, who will hold a dedicated virus cabinet meeting on Wednesday, is still hoping to avoid a third national lockdown.

"We have initial results in the Paris region and they are not good", Remi Salomon, head of the medical committee of Paris hospitals group AP-HP told franceinfo radio. "We were at 6 percent to 7 percent on January 7, we reached 15 percent to 20 percent last week."

Malaysia says its delivery of Pfizer vaccines on track

Malaysia said it expects its vaccination plan to proceed as scheduled after the government received assurances from the EU and Belgian ambassadors about the delivery of Pfizer's vaccine.

The Pfizer vaccine is produced in Belgium and the European Commission said on Friday it had agreed a plan to control exports of vaccines from the European Union, including to Britain, arguing it needed to do so to ensure its own supplies.

Malaysia's science minister, Khairy Jamaluddin, said Belgian ambassador Pascal Gregoire gave his assurance that the Southeast Asian nation's advanced purchase agreement with Pfizer will be fulfilled, upon Pfizer applying for export authorisation.

Sweden reports increased spread of British variant

Sweden has seen an increased spread of the British virus variant, with 11 percent of randomly screened positive tests last week showing the mutation, thought to be a more contagious form of the virus, the Public Health Agency said.

Sweden, which has seen a marked decrease of virus cases in recent weeks, found a total of 250 cases of the British variant last week out of 2,200 positive samples screened for the strain.

Under fire, EU's von der Leyen defends vaccine strategy

EU chief executive Ursula von der Leyen vigorously defended the European Commission's record on vaccines and described a proposal that would have set up border checks on the island of Ireland as the sort of slip made when in a hurry.

In interviews with newspapers across Europe, the European Commission president sought to defuse mounting criticism over the EU's slow start to vaccinations and outrage over a decision, swiftly reversed, to invoke Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol.

Von der Leyen, who has tweeted but not appeared in public since the bloc mandated that vaccine exports require clearance, was asked by the Irish Times if she would apologise.

Over half in New Delhi may have had virus, govt survey suggests

More than half of New Delhi's 20 million inhabitants may have been infected with the virus, according to a government serological survey whose findings echoed earlier private-sector research.

India has reported 10.8 million infections, the most anywhere outside the United States. But Tuesday's survey, based on some 28,000 samples, suggests the true figure among its 1.35 billion population is dramatically higher and approaching herd immunity levels.

"In the fifth sero survey done in the national capital of Delhi, (virus) antibodies have been detected in 56.13 percent of the city's population," Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain said on Twitter after the report was published.

Real Madrid president Perez tests positive

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has tested positive for virus, the Spanish champions said.

A statement from Real said Perez, 73, had returned a positive test in the club's routine tests and was currently asymptomatic.

Pfizer sees about $15 billion in 2021 sales from vaccine

Pfizer Inc on forecast sales of about $15 billion from the coronavirus vaccine that it is making along with German partner BioNTech and raised its full-year profit forecast.

The company said it expects total 2021 revenue of between $59.4 billion and $61.4 billion.

The vaccine was among the first to be authorized for emergency use in the United States and several other countries, and analysts have forecast billions in sales.

WHO-led probe team in China visits animal health facility

A team of investigators led by the World Health Organization arrived at an animal health facility in China's central city of Wuhan in the search for clues about the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The independent team has already visited key hospitals, the regional disease control centre and the city's Huanan seafood market, where the first cluster of infections was believed to have originated late in 2019.

The trip was going "really well, excellent", one of its members, Peter Daszak, president of the EcoHealth Alliance, told Reuters, responding to a query just before entering the animal health centre.

The centre in the province of Hubei, which fights epidemic diseases in animals, could provide information on how a coronavirus endemic in horseshoe bats in southwest China might have crossed into humans, possibly via an intermediary species.

UK begins door-to-door testing of 80,000 people

Britain begins door-to-door testing of 80,000 people in a bid to stem the spread of a new highly infectious so called South African variant of the novel coronavirus.

To contain the new outbreaks, residents in eight areas of the country will now be tested whether or not they are showing symptoms, a process known as "surge testing".

There are about 10,000 people in each area. Three are inLondon, two in the southeast, one in central England, one in the east and another in the northwest.

"It is concerning - it's deeply concerning," junior education minister Michelle Donelan told Sky. "It's still a very perilous stage of this virus and we've got these new variants spreading."

Germany's confirmed cases rise by 6,114  RKI

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 6,114 to 2,228,085, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 861 to 57,981, the tally showed. 

Vietnam confirms latest virus outbreak is more contagious UK variant

Vietnam's health minister said a newly detected outbreak, which has infected 276 people and spread to 10 provinces and cities, is caused by the more contagious British variant of the coronavirus.

Six days since the virus reemerged in the northern province of Hai Duong, the cluster there was under control, health minister Nguyen Thanh Long said, according to a government statement. Containing the virus in the capital, Hanoi, where 20 new cases have been detected. would take longer, he added:

"Gene sequencing showed that 12 of 276 newly detected patients are positive with the UK variant, although the source of this outbreak remains unknown," Long told a cabinet meeting. "We need to scrupulously follow mask-wearing regulations".

Vietnam reported one new coronavirus case on Tuesday. Officials have said they will try to contain the outbreak by February 6. 

Australia falls back to zero cases after hotel infection

Fears of a new cluster of cases in Australia eased, as the city of Perth maintained a strict lockdown and no new cases were detected across the country for a second day, Health Minister Greg Hunt said.

Australia ended two weeks without any local cases of the coronavirus on Sunday when a security guard working in hotel quarantine in the Western Australian state capital tested positive for Covid-19.

The city of more than 2 million was ordered into a five-day lockdown after the guard at a hotel used to house people returning from overseas was found to have the UK strain of the virus.

The unnamed man most likely contracted Covid-19 from a person who recently returned to the country, Western Australia state Premier Mark McGowan said.

McGowan said 101 close contacts of the security guard had so far tested negative.

Australia has managed to largely contain its novel coronavirus epidemic, limiting cases to less than 29,000 and deaths to 909, with the sort of decisive action seen in Perth, and tight border controls. 

France hopes AstraZeneca vaccine can be rolled out by mid-Feb - vaccine chief

French vaccines chief Alain Fischer said he hoped the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was approved by the European Commission last week, could be rolled out in the country by mid-February.

Fischer told France 2 television he did not expect any surprise from France's main heath authority regarding the approval of the AstraZeneca vaccine, expected later on Tuesday.

France has so far approved vaccines developed by Pfizer/BioNTech, and Moderna.

Tanzania says no plans in place to accept vaccines

Tanzania’s health ministry says it has no plans in place to accept vaccines, just days after the president of the country of 60 million people expressed doubt about the vaccines without offering evidence.

Health Minister Dorothy Gwajima told a press conference in the capital, Dodoma, that “the ministry has no plans to receive vaccines.” Any vaccines must receive ministry approval. It is not clear when any vaccines might arrive, though Tanzania is eligible for the COVAX global effort aimed at delivering doses to low- and middle-income countries.

The health minister insisted Tanzania is safe. During a presentation in which she and others didn’t wear face masks, she encouraged the public to improve hygiene practices including the use of sanitisers but also steam inhalation, which has been dismissed by health experts elsewhere as a way to kill the coronavirus.

Tanzania’s government has been widely criticised for its approach to the pandemic. It has not updated its number of coronavirus infections, 509, since April.

Massachusetts pandemic case total passes 500,000

Massachusetts has passed 500,000 cases for the pandemic even as other statistics appear to show a continued easing following a post-holiday spike.

The state crossed that mark Monday, exactly a year after officials reported the first case of a coronavirus infection in Massachusetts. It involved a Boston resident who had traveled to the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the first cases were identified.

The number of newly confirmed deaths in Massachusetts rose by 30 on Monday, pushing the state’s confirmed death toll to 14,317 since the star t of the pandemic.

The number of newly confirmed cases of coronavirus infections increased by more than 2,200.

Johnson & Johnson seeks Thai approval for vaccine

Johnson & Johnson is seeking Thailand's approval for its vaccine, a senior Thai health official told Reuters.

The request makes J&J's one-dose vaccine the third vaccine to seek registration with Thailand's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after requests from AztraZeneca Plc and China Sinovac Biotech.

Last month, Thailand's FDA granted a one year emergency use approval for imported AstraZeneca's vaccine.

J&J had started the request process for its vaccine late last month, but the timing of any approval will depend on when the company submitted all required documents, Surachoke Tangwiwat, Deputy Secretary-General of the FDA, said.

J&J did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Thai health authorities have previously said the first 50,000 doses of imported vaccine from AztraZeneca and 200,000 doses f rom China's Sinovac will arrive in February, although Surachoke said Sinovac had not yet submitted all the documents required for FDA approval.

French Covid-19 indicators at two-month high but no lockdown

France's main Covid-19 indicators have reached two-month highs on average and the country's ski lifts will remain closed throughout February but the government is still hoping to avoid a third national lockdown.

President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday defended his decision to hold off such a new lockdown, telling the public he had faith in their ability to rein in Covid-19 with less severe curbs even as a third wave spreads and the vaccine rollout falters.

Earlier in the day, government spokesman Gabriel Attal did nonetheless say the chance of avoiding a third lockdown was slim, adding everything would be done to avoid it.

The seven-day moving average of daily new cases, which evens out daily reporting irregularities, now stands at 20,515, a high since November 23.

France's cumulative total of cases reached 3,201,461, the sixth-highest in the world.

The death toll was up by 455, at 76,512, the seventh-highest in the world, versus an almost two-month-high seven day moving average of 431.

Chinese syringe producers under pressure as vaccination programmes drive order surge

Chinese syringe makers are warning that they may only be able to fulfill some orders as late as June, as global vaccination programmes put unprecedented levels of pressure on their factory lines and snarl the country's own vaccine efforts.

Companies told Reuters that they were working around the clock, raising prices and trying to expand factory lines. China and India are the world's biggest producers of syringes, industry executives said.

Zhejiang KangKang Medical Devices began receiving export contracts for 10 million to 20 million syringes each in December, compared with order sizes of about 5 million each before the pandemic, thanks to overseas vaccination programmes, Guo Chun, its general manager, told Reuters.

The company, a unit of Wanbangde Pharmaceutical Holding , was adding capacity to quadruple its production for certain types of syringes by May, but until then can only partly fulfill large orders, he said.

In the United States, the administration of new President Joe Biden aims to give 100 million vaccinations in its first 100 days.

Its effort to squeeze more doses from Pfizer Inc's vaccine vials is spurring unanticipated demand for specialized syringes, which US syringe supplier Becton Dickinson and Co says exceeds existing capacity, Reuters reported last week.

Mexico reports 5,448 new confirmed cases, 564 more deaths

Mexico's health ministry reported 5,448 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 564 more confirmed fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 1,869,708 cases and 159,100 deaths.

Mexico's deputy health secretary Hugo Lopez Gatell said the country would receive between 1.6 million and 2.75 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the COVAX global vaccine sharing program this month. 

Early US data indicates Blacks, Hispanics lagging in vaccinations

Early data on US coronavirus vaccinations released suggests that Blacks and Hispanics received a smaller proportion of shots than their representation among healthcare workers and nursing home residents, two priority groups for inoculations.

The United States needs more complete data on the race and ethnicity of people who have been vaccinated, said the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which released the data.

Race data was only available for about half of the 12.9 million people vaccinated in the United States between December 14, 2020 and January 14, 2021.

Blacks received 5.4 percent of shots reported with race/ethnicity data, the CDC said, despite national data showing they made up 16 percent of healthcare workers and 14 percent of nursing home residents, two groups prioritized for the first wave of vaccinations.

Hispanics received 11.5 percent of the shots, according to the available data, while making up 13 percent of healthcare workers and 5 percent of nursing home residents.

Whites received 60.4 percent of shots and accounted for 60 percent of healthcare workers and 75 percent of nursing home residents.

Thailand reports 836 new cases, 2 new deaths

Thailand reported 836 new cases, taking its total infections to 20,454.

The Covid-19 task-force said two new deaths were confirmed, taking total fatalities to 79 since the country's first cases in January last year.

China reports 30 new mainland cases vs 42 a day earlier

China reported 30 new cases on the mainland on February 1, official data showed, down from 42 cases a day earlier as the number of local infections continued to decline.

The National Health Commission said in a statement that 12 of the new cases were locally transmitted infections, with the remaining 18 originating from overseas. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to 15 from 16 a day earlier.

The total number of confirmed cases in mainland China now stands at 89,594, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,636.

Japan seeking extension of state of emergency for 10 prefectures

Japan's government is seeking an extension of the country's state of emergency for 10 prefectures until March 7, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said.

Nishimura told a meeting on fighting the coronavirus that the situation was improving but that the medical system was still under pressure.

Merkel defends 'slower' EU vaccine rollout

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has defended the European Union's troubled vaccine drive, saying there were "good reasons" the rollout had got off to a slower start than in some other countries.

Speaking after a vaccine "summit" that brought together key players, Merkel renewed a promise to offer every German citizen a vaccine by the end of September.

Merkel had convened the online talks in response to growing anger in the 27-member bloc over the sluggish rollout of Covid-19 jabs, which has been beset with delivery delays and piled political pressure on EU leaders.

"It is true that in some areas, the pace became slower, but there were good reasons for it to be slower," Merkel told reporters in Berlin.

Merkel, the leader of Europe's largest economy, acknowledged that the United States, Israel and Britain were further along with their inoculations.

Republican senators, Biden meet on Covid-19 relief bill

A group of Republican US senators held productive discussions with Democratic President Joe Biden about Covid-19 relief, but they did not come to agreement on a package, Senator Susan Collins said.

Collins, who had met with Biden together with eight other fellow Republican senators at what she termed an "excellent"meeting in the White House, told reporters she was hopeful Congress could pass another Covid-19 relief package.

Brazil's death toll rises above 225,000

Brazil registered 24,591new cases of Covid-19 on Monday and 595 additional deaths attributable to the coronavirus, the nation's Health Ministry said.

The South American country has registered a total of 9,229,322 Covid-19 cases and 225,099 deaths.

'Encouraging' that global infections are falling: WHO chief

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said it was "encouraging" that the global number of new coronavirus cases had fallen for the third week in a row.

"It shows this virus can be controlled, even with the new variants in circulation," he said.

However, "we have been here before", he warned.

"Over the past year, there have been moments in almost all countries when cases declined, and governments opened up too quickly and individuals let down their guard, only for the virus to come roaring back."

Source: TRTWorld and agencies