Coronavirus pandemic has killed over 2.94 million people and infected over 136.13 million globally. Here are the coronavirus-related developments for April 12:

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference organised by Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) amid the Covid-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus, at the WHO headquarters in Geneva Switzerland July 3, 2020.
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference organised by Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) amid the Covid-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus, at the WHO headquarters in Geneva Switzerland July 3, 2020. (Reuters Archive)

Monday, April 12

Italian region rejects Draghi's "stupid" vaccine guidelines

The head of Italy's southern Campania region said he would ignore a government order to give the elderly vaccination priority and would instead focus on workers in order to safeguard the local economy.

The central government has often clashed with the powerful presidents of Italy's 20 regions over Covid-19 policy, with a blurred division of power hampering efforts to speed up vaccine rollout and protect the most vulnerable.

Italy has administered a first shot to 66 percent of those aged over 80, in line with the European Union average, but only 17 percent of those between 70 and 79, lagging its main partners, and has been reporting around 400 deaths a day in recent weeks.

Russia restricts flights to Turkey as virus cases increase

Russia has decided to restrict flights to and from Turkey from April 15 until June 1 due to a rise in virus cases, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova said.

She said some flights, including two per week to Istanbul, would remain in place.

Russia has also suspended flights to Tanzania from April 15 until June 1. 

UK reports highest number of new virus cases since April 1

Britain reported the highest number of new virus cases since April , with 3,568 new cases reported, up from 1,730 on Sunday, government data showed.

A further 13 people were reported as having died within 28 days of a positive test for Covid-19, taking the total number of deaths on the measure to 127,100.

Some 69,223 people received a first dose of a vaccine against coronavirus, taking this total to 32.191 million, and 189,665 people received a second dose.

France reports nearly 6,000 Covid-19 intensive care patients

The French health ministry reported that the number of patients in intensive care units with Covid-19 increased by another 78 to a new 2021 record of 5,916 as a new nationwide lockdown in place for a week has yet to show an impact.

France also reported 385 new coronavirus deaths in hospitals, compared to 176 on Sunday, taking the cumulative toll 99,135.

France also reported 8,536 new cases, taking the total to 5.07 million, a week-on-week increase of 4.84 percent, the lowest week-on-week increase since Wednesday last week.

Italy reports 358 coronavirus deaths, 9,789 new cases

Italy reported 358 coronavirus-related deaths against 331 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 9,789 from 15,746.

Italy has registered 114,612 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 3.78 million cases to date.

Patients in hospital with Covid-19 - not including those in intensive care - stood at 27,329, up from 27,251 a day earlier.

There were 167 new admissions to intensive care units, down from 175 on Sunday. The total number of intensive care patients slightly rose to 3,593 from a previous 3,585.

Some 190,635 tests for the virus were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 253,100, the health ministry said.

CDC head warns against surging shots to Michigan

A top Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official says surging vaccines to Michigan would not help the hard-hit state control the latest virus wave that has strained its hospitals and is raising concerns nationwide, because vaccines take two to six weeks to confer protection.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told reporters during a White House coronavirus briefing that the answer in a crisis situation such as Michigan is facing is to go back to virus control basics.

UAE may invest in Indonesian vaccine production facility - minister

The United Arab Emirates may invest in a Covid-19 vaccine production facility in Indonesia, the UAE state news agency WAM said, citing Energy and Infrastructure Minister Suhail al Mazrouei. 

Indonesia satisfied with effectiveness of China's vaccine

Indonesia said that it is satisfied with the effectiveness of the Sinovac coronavirus vaccine it is using, after the acknowledgement by China’s top disease control official that current vaccines offer low protection against the virus.

Siti Nadia Tarmizi, a spokesperson for Indonesia’s Covid-19 vaccine program, said the World Health Organization had found China's vaccines had met requirements by being more than 50 percent effective. She noted that clinical trials for the Sinovac vaccine in Indonesia showed it was 65 percent effective.

“It means we are talking about the ability to form antibodies in our bodies is still very good,” she said.

Protesters scuffle again with Italian police over virus curbs

Protesters scuffled with police for a second week running as frustrated restaurant and small business owners demonstrated against continued virus restrictions that are pounding the economy.

Around 200 people from all over Italy tried to reach Prime Minister Mario Draghi's office, but were held back by lines of police in full riot gear.

Chanting "we are all workers", some protesters hurled stones at the police lines, and let off fireworks, which filled the street with billowing smoke.

"The problem is we just don't know what to do. They tell us that we can only do take-aways, but in my neighbourhood with a population of 3,000, what kind of take-aways can I do?" said Silvio Bessone, a chef from the northern Piedmont region.

Coronavirus pandemic 'a long way from over' – WHO's Tedros

Confusion and complacency in addressing the virus means the pandemic is a long way from over, but it can be brought under control in months with proven public health measures, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

"We too want to see societies and economies reopening, and travel and trade resuming," Tedros told a news briefing.

"But right now, intensive care units in many countries are overflowing and people are dying – and it’s totally avoidable."

"The Covid-19 pandemic is a long way from over. But we have many reasons for optimism. The decline in cases and deaths during the first two months of the year shows that this virus and its variants can be stopped," he added, saying transmission was being driven by "confusion, complacency and inconsistency in public health measures."

Americans roll up sleeves for variant vaccine

Dozens of Americans are rolling up their sleeves for a third dose of Covid-19 vaccine – this time, shots tweaked to guard against a worrisome mutated version of the virus.

Make no mistake: The vaccines currently being rolled out across the US offer strong protection.

But new studies of experimental updates to the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines mark a critical first step toward an alternative if the virus eventually outsmarts today's shots.

Viruses constantly evolve, and the world is in a race to vaccinate millions and tamp down the coronavirus before even more mutants emerge.

Covid cases at Toulon sees postponement of Top 14 match

An outbreak of Covid-19 in the Toulon squad has led to the postponement of this weekend's Top 14 match at Montpellier, the French national rugby league announced.

The game, due to be played on Saturday as part of round 21 of the Top 14, was called off "following several positive cases for Covid-19 declared today".

Ten days ago, Toulon were ousted from the European Champions Cup after a single positive test led to the cancellation of their last 16 tie against Leinster in Dublin. 

Europol says pandemic has fuelled crime 

The European Union’s crime agency says the pandemic has opened up new sources of revenue for organised crime, from online fraud to fake vaccines and illegal digital content.

Europol says “criminals were quick to adapt … in order to exploit the fear and anxieties of Europeans and to capitalise on the scarcity of some vital goods during the pandemic.”

The agency says the pandemic acted as a “catalyst” for new online fraud schemes and the sale of counterfeit medical equipment such as face masks, while unlawful sanitary waste treatment and disposal has become a focus of police investigations.

Spanish pharmaceutical to produce Moderna’s vaccine

A Spanish pharmaceutical company says it’s setting up a new production line that would produce millions of Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine doses on European Union soil later this year.

Rovi’s existing facility in southern Spain’s Granada will receive an undisclosed investment to produce the active ingredient of Moderna’s jab, the company announced Monday in a press release.

The expected output will be up to 100 million vaccine doses per year starting in the third quarter of 2021, Rovi said, adding that the production will be destined to markets outside the United States.

Ireland set to restrict use of AstraZeneca vaccine

Ireland's National Immunisation Advisory Committee is expected to recommend that AstraZeneca's vaccine be restricted for use for people over the age of 60, national broadcaster RTE reported.

The expert group met to discuss the issue on Monday and RTE said it was due to sign off on the issue shortly. A formal announcement is expected later, it added.

A European Medicines Agency (EMA) investigation of blood clots in the brain reported by some people given the AstraZeneca vaccine has prompted some European countries to change their recommendations on who should be given the vaccine. 

Germany to make regular virus tests compulsory for firms - draft law

German companies will be obliged to offer staff regular Covid-19 self-testing kits at least once a week, according to a draft amendment to occupational health and safety regulations seen by Reuters.

The amendment will be submitted to the German cabinet on Tuesday where ministers are expected to agree on unified measures to impose restrictions in a bid to contain a third wave of the pandemic.

Under the amendment from Labour Minister Hubertus Heil, employees at high risk of infection, such as those who are housed in communal accommodation or work in closed rooms, will be offered two tests per week.

Dutch tourists trade lockdown at home for confinement in Greek resort

Almost 200 Dutch tourists traded lockdown in the Netherlands for eight days of voluntary confinement in a Greek holiday resort, as part of a test to see if safe holidays can be arranged during the pandemic.

For 399 euros ($475) each, participants will have "all-inclusive" access to the pools, restaurants and other facilities of the Hotel Mitsis Grand Beach on the island of Rhodes, but nothing else.

They will have to settle for watching the sea from their room or the hotel terraces, as no one is allowed to leave the resort where they will be the only guests.

South Africa extends virus loan scheme deadline by three months

South Africa has extended by a further three months the deadline of a loan scheme that is central to efforts to counter the economic impact of the pandemic, the Treasury said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the bank loan scheme for businesses, worth up to $13.72 billion (200 billion rand) in total and partly guaranteed by the government, in April 2020.

The availability of the loans in the scheme has been extended to July 11, from an earlier deadline of April 11, the Treasury said in a statement issued jointly with the South African Reserve Bank and the country's banking association.

Regeneron to seek US ok for Covid-19 cocktail to be used for prevention

Regeneron is pursuing US approval for its monoclonal antibody cocktail as a preventative treatment after it helped cut the risk of symptomatic infections in households where someone else is ill, the US drugmaker said.

REGEN-COV, a combination of casirivimab and imdevimab, protected household contacts from exposure to SARS-CoV-2, with 72 percent protection against symptomatic infections in the first week, and 93 percent after that, according to trial data released by the company.

In a separate trial, Regeneron also said the treatment reduced overall risk of progressing to symptomatic Covid-19 by 31 percent, and by 76 percent after the third day.

Indian panel gives emergency approval for Russia's Sputnik V vaccine

An expert panel of India's drugs regulator has recommended emergency use approval of Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, two sources said, which could make it the nation's third to be approved as infections surge again.

India overtook Brazil to become the nation with the second highest number of infections worldwide after the United States, as it battles a massive second wave, having given about 105 million doses among a population of 1.4 billion.

Spain to vaccinate 70-79 year olds with J&J's shot

Spain will initially prioritise people aged between 70 and 79 for vaccination with coronavirus shots produced by Johnson & Johnson's Janssen unit, which are due to start arriving this week, its health minister said.

Spain will take a first delivery of 300,000 doses of the single-shot vaccine on Wednesday morning, Carolina Darias told reporters at Gran Canaria airport after a visit to the Spanish Canary Islands.

Johnson & Johnson began delivering its vaccine to EU countries after some delays due to production issues, European Union officials and the company said.

Following a sluggish start to its vaccination campaign, Spain is betting on a surge of deliveries in the second quarter to meet its target of inoculating half the population by July.

Czech schools, shops reopen after long virus shutdown

Czech schools, libraries, zoos and some stores reopened after months of coronavirus closures in one of the world's worst-hit countries.

A six-month state of emergency expired at midnight, lifting restrictions on movement including a night-time curfew and a ban on non-essential travel among districts.

Children in pre-schools and grades 1-5 returned to school, mostly on a weekly rotating basis. Pupils must take a nasal swab test twice a week.

J&J begins vaccine supplies to EU, 50 million doses expected in Q2 

Johnson & Johnson began delivering its single-dose vaccine to EU countries, a European Union lawmaker said.

The company had initially planned to start its deliveries at the beginning of April, but delayed the rollout due to production issues.

"Johnson & Johnson begins vaccine shipments to the EU today. Very good news," said Peter Liese, an EU lawmaker from the same party as German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Gaza records highest daily death toll 

Gaza has recorded the highest daily deaths since the coronavirus broke out in the Palestinian enclave.

The Health Ministry reported that 17 Palestinians have died, bringing the death toll to 694.

Gaza is under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade and its Hamas rulers had managed to keep it relatively free of the virus by imposing obligatory quarantine on the few dozens returnees who cross in via Israel or Egypt.

But in August, the virus escaped the walls of the isolation centers and spread rapidly. After a significant decrease of infections in February, Hamas removed all precautionary measures and cases resurged.

The vaccination rollout is limited. The territory of 2 million people has received vaccines for only 40,000 people, including a shipment via the global COVAX program.

Philippines to ease some tough restrictions 

The hard-hit Philippine capital and four nearby provinces have been placed under a lighter lockdown to avoid further damage to an already battered economy despite a continuing surge in infections and deaths.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said Metropolitan Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal, a region of more than 25 million people, would remain under lighter restrictions up to the end of April after a two-week hard lockdown. 

An 11-hour night curfew has been shortened to nine hours in the Manila metropolis.

Most residents, except for workers in authorized businesses and medical and government law and order personnel will have to remain at home from Monday except for urgent errands like grocery runs and medical emergencies.

Essential businesses will remain open, including hospitals, supermarkets, convenience stores and banks, but amusement parks, movie houses, cockfighting arenas, fitness gyms and beauty salons will remain shut.

“Our emerging strategy is to increase our bed capacities instead of closing the economy,” said Roque, who spoke in a televised news briefing from a Manila hospital after contracting like many Cabinet members.

The government has struggled to open more isolation and treatment centers after many hospitals were overwhelmed starting in March by the worst surge in coronavirus infections. More than 1,000 additional beds could now be used, many of them in the government-run National Center for Mental Health, officials said.

The Philippines has long been a Southeast Asian coronavirus hotspot, with about 865,000 confirmed infections and nearly 15,000 deaths.

S Korea says five companies have begun clinical trials for vaccines

Five South Korean companies have launched clinical trials for their coronavirus vaccines, aiming to enter the third phase of trials in the second half of this year, the Yonhap news agency reported on Monday, citing health authorities.

Russia reports 8,320 new cases, 277 deaths

Russia has reported 8,320 new cases, including 1,833 in Moscow, taking the national infection tally to 4,649,710 since the pandemic began.

The government taskforce said that 277 people had died, taking its death toll to 103,263. The statistics agency, which keeps a separate count, has reported a much higher toll of 225,000 from April 2020 to February. 

Shops, gyms, outdoor dining restart in Britain

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged people to “behave responsibly” as shops, gyms, hairdressers, restaurant patios and beer gardens reopen after months of lockdown.

Monday sees the easing of restrictions that have been in place in England since early January to suppress a surge in coronavirus infections linked to a more transmissible new variant of the virus.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said businesses were “excited and desperate” to welcome customers back.

At a hairdresser in Birmingham, customer Amy Smith said she was thrilled to be getting a trim at last.

“It’s great to be here, I’ve been going with this weird little topknot for a few months now,” she said. “I’m going to go to a beer garden experience later, so it’s going to be good.”

Many people were planning outdoor meals and drinks, despite unseasonably cold weather that brought snow to London and many other areas.

Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — are following their own, broadly similar plans to ease lockdown.

Britain has had Europe’s worst coronavirus outbreak, with more than 127,000 confirmed deaths.

Greek high schools reopen after five months of closure

Greece's high schools have reopened after a five-month closure to curb coronavirus infections with precautions including virus tests for students and teachers twice per week, the education minister said.

High school classes had been held online since November 7. Monday's reopening saw some schools hold classes outdoors.

Primary and secondary schools, which had briefly reopened, remain closed across the country.

Every Monday and Thursday, high school students and teachers will have to be screened for Covid-19 with self-tests available free in pharmacies.

"These self-tests will be a valuable tool," Education Minister Niki Kerameus told ERT TV.

A positive self-test will result in a 48-hour quarantine and another screening in a clinic. A second positive test will lead to 14 days of quarantine.

Hong Kong plans to relax some rules for fully vaccinated residents

Hong Kong will loosen some coronavirus measures for residents who have been fully inoculated from late April, the city's leader Carrie Lam said, as authorities seek to boost the take-up of vaccines in the global financial hub.

Bars and pubs, which are currently shut, would be allowed to resume operations in phases provided all staff and customers had been vaccinated, she said. Visitation to public hospitals and care homes could also be permitted for vaccinated people.

Lam, who was speaking at a press conference, said the government was discussing further details and aimed to loosen measures from April 29. Only residents who receive both doses of their shot would be eligible.

Take-up has been sluggish since the vaccination programme began in the Chinese special administrative region in February due lacklustre confidence in China's Sinovac vaccine and fears of adverse reactions. Only around 8 percent of the city's 7.5 million population have been inoculated so far.

"We would like to see the vaccination rate go up, at the moment it is not satisfactory," Lam said.

Australia abandons vaccination targets after new advice on AstraZeneca shots

Australia has abandoned a goal to vaccinate nearly all of its 26 million population by the end of 2021 following advice that people under the age of 50 take Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine rather than AstraZeneca's shot.

Australia, which had banked on the AstraZeneca vaccine for the majority of its shots, had no plans to set any new targets for completing its vaccination programme, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a Facebook post on Sunday afternoon.

"While we would like to see these doses completed before the end of the year, it is not possible to set such targets given the many uncertainties involved," Morrison said.

Authorities in Canberra changed their recommendation on Pfizer shots for under-50s on Thursday, after European regulators reiterated the possibility of links between the AstraZeneca shot and reports of rare cases of blood clots.

Australia, which raced to double its order of the Pfizer vaccine last week, had originally planned to have its entire population vaccinated by the end of October.

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said Australia will have 40 million doses from Pfizer by the end of the year, enough to vaccinate all Australian adults.

India overtakes Brazil as world's second worst-hit country  

India has reported a record 168,912 infections overnight, data from the Health Ministry showed, overtaking Brazil to become the second-most affected country globally by the coronavirus.

India's overall tally reached 13.53 million, surpassing Brazil's 13.45 million cases, according to data compiled by Reuters. The United States led the global tally with 31.2 million cases.

Deaths in India stood at 904, taking the total to 170,179, data showed. 

New Zealand's Ardern says border workers must take vaccine after new cases

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said that people working at the borders must be vaccinated by the end of this month or risk being moved out of the role, after a third coronavirus case related to a frontline staff was reported.

New Zealand has virtually eliminated the virus within its borders and there's been no community transmission for more 40 days.

But it reported a positive case in the community last week of a border worker who had missed two vaccine appointments. Two more cases linked to this individual has emerged since.

"By the end of April, those not yet vaccinated will not be permitted to work in high-risk workplaces and will be moved to other roles," Ardern said at a news conference.

She said about 86 percent of border workers have been vaccinated.

New Zealand has started vaccinating its border and managed isolation facility workers and their family with BioNTech-Pfizer vaccines in its first phase. 

So far it has vaccinated over 90,000 people. The country last week temporarily suspended entry for all travellers from India, including its own citizens, following a high number of positive coronavirus cases arriving from the South Asian country. 

Thailand reports daily record of 985 new cases

Thailand has reported 985 cases, the biggest daily jump for a second day in a row, as the country deals with a third wave of infections and a highly contagious variant.

The Southeast Asian nation has reported a total of 33,610 coronavirus cases, while deaths remained at 97.

Germany's confirmed cases rise by 13,245 - RKI

The number of confirmed cases in Germany has increased by 13,245 to 3,011,513, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed. 

The reported death toll rose by 99 to 78,452, the tally showed.

Japan begins shots for over 65s as fourth infection wave looms

Japan has started vaccinations for its sizable elderly population, with imported doses still in short supply and the pace unlikely to stop a fourth wave of infection.

Shots for people aged 65 and above began at some 120 sites across the country, using Pfizer Inc's vaccine made in Europe and delivered to the regions in the past week.

Just 2,810 people in Tokyo are expected to get a shot from the first batch, while most regions will receive 1,000 doses or fewer, according to a Health Ministry schedule. Japan has a rapidly ageing population totalling 126 million.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato reiterated on Monday the government's projection that it can secure enough vaccines for Japan's 36 million people over the age of 65 by the end of June.

"If imports from the EU go smoothly, I understand the country is expected to distribute vaccines that can be administered to all of the elderly," Kato said.

Tokyo also began on Monday a month-long period of quasi-emergency measures to blunt a fourth wave of contagion driven by virulent mutant strains and with the planned start of the Summer Olympics just over 100 days away.

EU seeks clarification from AstraZeneca on supply shortfalls(PROMO)

BRUSSELS, April 12 (Reuters) - The European Commission said on Monday it was seeking clarification from AstraZeneca over its shortfalls in supplies to the European Union, after it sent a letter to the company in March as part of a dispute-resolution process.

"The Commission still expects the company to clarify a number of outstanding issues," a spokesman for the EU executive told a news conference, noting there had been a meeting on the matter. (Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio and Sabine Siebold)

Virus restrictions ease in England after months of lockdown

Millions of people in England will get their first chance in months for haircuts, casual shopping and gym sessions on Monday, as the government takes the next step on its lockdown-lifting road map.

Nationwide restrictions have been in place in England since early January, and similar rules in the other parts of the UK, to suppress a surge in coronavirus infections that swept the country late last year, linked to a more transmissible new variant first identified in southeast England.

Britain has had Europe’s worst coronavirus outbreak, with more than 127,000 confirmed deaths.

On Monday, nonessential shops will be allowed to reopen, along with hair salons, gyms and outdoor service at pubs and restaurants.

The easing is good news for retail, hair salons and gyms, which have endured several stretches of lockdown over the past year.

The rules apply in England.

The other parts of the United Kingdom — Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — are following their own, broadly similar plans.

Mainland China reports 16 new cases

Mainland China has reported 16 new Covid-19 cases for April 11, up from 10 cases a day earlier, the country's national health authority said.

The National Health Commission, in a statement, said 14 of the new cases were imported infections originating from overseas, while 2 were from the southwest province of Yunan.

The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to 12 from 22 cases a day earlier.

The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in mainland China now stands at 90,426, while the death toll remained at 4,636. 

Australia abandons vaccination targets after new advice on AstraZeneca shots

Australia has abandoned a goal to vaccinate nearly all of its 26 million population by the end of 2021 following advice that people under the age of 50 take Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine rather than AstraZeneca's shot.

Australia, which had banked on the AstraZeneca vaccine for the majority of its shots, had no plans to set any new targets for completing its vaccination programme, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a Facebook post on Sunday afternoon.

"While we would like to see these doses completed before the end of the year, it is not possible to set such targets given the many uncertainties involved," Morrison said.

Authorities in Canberra changed their recommendation on Pfizer shots for under-50s on Thursday, after European regulators reiterated the possibility of links between the AstraZeneca shot and reports of rare cases of blood clots.

Australia, which raced to double its order of the Pfizer vaccine last week, had originally planned to have its entire population vaccinated by the end of October.

About 1.16 million Covid-19 doses have now been administered, Morrison added.

Australia's total number of infections stands at just under 29,400, with 909 deaths, since the pandemic began.

US administers 187 million doses of vaccines

The United States has administered 187,047,131 doses of Covid-19 vaccines and distributed 237,796,105 doses as of Sunday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Those figures are up from the 183,467,709 doses the CDC said had been administered by April 10, out of 237,791,735 doses delivered.

The agency said 119,242,902 people had received at least one dose, while 72,630,892 people had been fully vaccinated as of Sunday.

The CDC tally includes the two-dose Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines as well as Johnson &Johnson's one-shot vaccine as of 6 am EDT on Sunday.

A total of 7,766,002 vaccine doses have been administered in US long-term care facilities, the agency said.

Brazil reports 1,803 deaths new deaths

Brazil has recorded 1,803 new Covid-19 deaths, as a large study found that a Chinese vaccine that has become the linchpin in the country's vaccination campaign is 50.7 percent effective against the infectious new homegrown variant known as P1.

Brazil, which has in recent weeks become the global epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, saw over 37,000 new cases, the Health Ministry said on Sunday. With over 353,000 deaths, Latin America's biggest country has the second-highest coronavirus death toll in the world, after the United States.

The outbreak has recently reached its most severe phase due to a lack of federal restrictions, a patchy vaccine rollout and the P1 variant.

Sao Paulo's Butantan biomedical institute, which tested and is now producing the CoronaVac vaccine developed by China's Sinovac Biotech Ltd, said on Sunday a study it conducted found the shot had an efficacy rate of 50.7 percent against the P1 variant, and a less widespread strain known as P2.

Mexico reports 1,793 new cases and 126 more deaths

Mexico's government has reported 1,793 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 126 more fatalities, according to data from the Health Ministry, bringing the total to 2,280,213 infections and 209,338 deaths.

The government says the real case numbers are likely significantly higher, and separate data published by the Health Ministry suggested the actual coronavirus death toll may be at least 60 percent above the confirmed figure. 

China gives 200,000 vaccine doses to Cameroon

Cameroon has received a gift of 200,000 doses of China's Sinopharm vaccine against Covid-19 on Sunday, state TV reported.

The vaccine will be used in the first phase of the central African country's inoculation campaign.

Health Minister Malachie Manaouda urged Cameroonians to get the jab, "especially priority targets," in a statement dated Friday.

The country of around 26 million people is one of the hardest hit on the African continent, with 61,700 cases and 919 deaths recorded.

Neighbours Equatorial Guinea and Gabon have already begun inoculation campaigns using the Sinopharm vaccine.

China said in December that the vaccine is 79 percent effective, without publishing the results of its clinical trials.

Brazil evangelicals protest Covid curbs on church services

Several hundred demonstrators have marched in Brazil to protest a ruling by the Supreme Court allowing authorities to bar in-person religious services under Covid-19 restrictions.

The "Christian Family Freedom March" came after the high court ruled on Thursday in a 9-2 decision that regional officials have the right to suspend worship services, at a moment when the coronavirus is killing thousands of people a day in Brazil.

Brazil is reeling from a deadly Covid-19 surge that has claimed more than 3,000 lives a day on average over the past week – currently the highest toll in the world by far.

The pandemic has killed more than 350,000 people in Brazil, second only to the United States.

Rio red-faced over vaccine campaign with upside-down mask

An ad campaign encouraging Brazilians to get vaccinated against Covid-19 became the butt of online jokes when some noticed it showed a man wearing his mask upside-down, prompting the Rio de Janeiro government to apologize on Sunday.

Dubbed "Rio embraces the vaccine," the public service billboard from the state government shows a health worker in a white lab coat giving himself an embrace, appearing to smile beneath an FFP2 mask whose metal clip — meant to fit over the nose — can be seen beneath his chin.

"The mask in this ad seems to be ... upside down???? This is serious," tweeted Jandira Feghali, a Congresswoman and doctor who was among the first to comment on the gaffe.

"I think the inverted mask picture is perfect! So representative — everything really is backwards here in Rio de Janeiro," quipped another Twitter user.

"Rio de Janeiro never managed to control the pandemic, and that upside-down mask shows your recklessness is a constant," said another.

The fracas soon prompted state officials to acknowledge the mistake.

"Thank you for pointing this out. We the communication professionals at the Rio de Janeiro state Health Ministry and public relations office apologize for not noticing this error in mask use in the campaign," the state Health Ministry said on Twitter.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies