Covid-19 has infected more than 239M people and killed over 4.8M globally. Here are the virus-related developments for October 12.

Ambulances with patients suspected of having coronavirus stand near a hospital in Kommunarka, outside Moscow, Russia on October 11, 2021
Ambulances with patients suspected of having coronavirus stand near a hospital in Kommunarka, outside Moscow, Russia on October 11, 2021 (AP)

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Russia hits new record for Covid-19 deaths

Russia hit another record of daily coronavirus deaths as the country struggled with a rapid surge of infections and lagging vaccination rates, but authorities have been adamant that there would be no new national lockdown.

The government coronavirus task force reported 973 coronavirus deaths, the highest daily toll since the start of the pandemic. Russia has repeatedly hit record daily death tolls this month, and daily infections also have been hovering near all-time highs, with 28,190 new cases reported.

Despite the rapidly mounting toll, the Kremlin has ruled out a nationwide lockdown, delegating the power to make decisions on toughening coronavirus restrictions to regional authorities.

FDA staff says Moderna did not meet all criteria for boosters

Scientists at the US Food and Drug Administration have said that Moderna Inc had not met all of the agency's criteria to support use of booster doses of its vaccine, possibly because the efficacy of the shot's first two doses has remained strong.

FDA staff said in documents that data for Moderna's vaccine showed that a booster does increase protective antibodies, but the difference in antibody levels before and after the shot was not wide enough, particularly in those whose levels had remained high.

Germany's CureVac drops first-generation Covid-19 jab

CureVac will withdraw its first-generation Covid-19 vaccine candidate and focus on collaborating with GSK to develop second-generation mRNA vaccine technology instead, the Germany-based biotechnology company has said.

CureVac said it would abandon its application for regulatory approval from the European Medicines Agency for its first-generation vaccine candidate CVnCoV after late-stage trials delivered disappointing results in June with 47 percent efficacy.

India recommends homegrown vaccine for kids aged 2-18

India has recommended emergency use of Bharat Biotech's shot in the 2 to 18 age-group, as the world's second-most populous nation expands its vaccination drive to include children.

The country has so far fully vaccinated around 29 percent of about 944 million eligible adults, as per government data, which includes administration of more than 110 million doses of Bharat Biotech's Covaxin.

South Korea to donate 1.1M vaccine doses to Vietnam, 470,000 doses to Thailand

South Korea will donate 1.1 miliion doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine to Vietnam and 470,000 doses to Thailand, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

The donations come as South Korea has administered nearly 80 percent of its 52 million population with at least one dose of a vaccine, KDCA said in a statement. 

London cancels New Year fireworks again due to pandemic

London's New Year's Eve fireworks show along the River Thames has been cancelled for the second year in a row due to concerns over the virus, city authorities said.

"Due to the uncertainty caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, our world-famous New Year's Eve display will not be held on the banks of the Thames this year," Mayor of London Sadiq Khan's office said in a statement.

The city is considering a number of "exciting options" to replace it, a spokesman added, promising that "London will be welcoming the new year in a spectacular way".

Sydney ends coronavirus lockdown after 106 days

Elated Sydneysiders celebrated the end of almost four months of coronavirus lockdown, putting behind them a period of "blood, sweat and no beers" in Australia's largest city.

Sydney's more than five million residents were subjected to a 106-day lockdown, designed to limit the march of the highly transmissible Delta variant.

With new infections now falling - New South Wales state recorded 496 cases on Monday - and more than 70 percent of over-16s fully vaccinated, the city is dusting off the cobwebs.

From midnight pubs, restaurants and cafes began throwing o pen their doors to anyone who could prove they were vaccinated.

Thousands of US hospital workers vote to strike

Thousands of health care workers at Kaiser Permanente facilities in US states Oregon and California gave a green light Monday to call a strike should contract talks fail.

Sticking points in negotiations appeared to be staffing levels and wages for nurses and others who have been on the front line of the pandemic.

"Health care workers are facing record levels of burnout after 20 months of the Covid pandemic," said Michael Barnett, president of the United Steelworkers local in Southern California.

Some 31,000 of the group's members who work at Southern California Kaiser Permanente locations voted by an overwhelming majority to authorise union leaders to call a strike, according to a USW statement.

The USW along with the United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals represent the workers.

Nearly 3,400 workers at the major US provider's facilities in Oregon have also voted by a large majority to strike, according to the Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals there.

New Zealand seeks to ramp up vaccinations

New Zealand expects to administer a record 100,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses in a single day during a mass immunisation drive on Oct. 16, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, as she seeks to accelerate inoculations before easing curbs in Auckland.

Ardern on Tuesday urged the country's population over 12 years of age "to roll up sleeves for New Zealand and help make us (one of) the most vaccinated and therefore protected countries in the world". Some 2.44 million, or 58 percent of the population over 12, have been fully vaccinated so far.

"There is nothing stopping us other than people (not) showing up," Ardern said during a media briefing in Wellington.

New Zealand, which had stayed largely virus-free for most of the pandemic until a Delta outbreak in mid-August, has recorded 4,345 confirmed cases overall and 28 deaths.

It reported 43 new locally acquired cases of Covid-19, with a bulk of those in its largest city of Auckland, up from 35 a day earlier.

Travel is back, UK's easyJet says after $1.5 billion pandemic loss

EasyJet said travel was back as it increased capacity for October-December to 70 percent of its pre-pandemic level, a turnaround from a year in which Covid-19 restrictions drove losses above 1 billion pounds.

Demand for holidays to winter sun destinations such as Egypt and Turkey was growing, said easyJet, which will fly more to the Canary Islands in October than it did in 2019.

It was also seeing more bookings from business travellers.

"It is clear recovery is under way," Chief Executive Johan Lundgren said on Tuesday.

Pandemic uncertainty and travel bans pushed easyJet to an expected headline loss of between 1.135 billion pounds ($1.54 billion)and 1.175 billion pounds for the 12 months ended Sept, it said.

In the best case scenario, that means the airline will beat a consensus forecast for a loss of 1.175 billion pounds.

India's Everest Organics starts making ingredient for Merck's Covid-19 pill

India's Everest Organics Ltd (EVER.BO) said it had started making the active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) for a generic version of Merck & Co's (MRK.N) experimental antiviral drug molnupiravir to treat mild to moderate Covid-19.

Shares of Everest Organics jumped as much as 11.6 percent after the news came in, and were last up 9.9 percent at 330 rupees in a weak Mumbai market.

The Indian bulk drugs manufacturer joins Divi's Laboratories Ltd (DIVI.NS) as an API maker for Merck's experimental oral drug.

Merck has separately entered into voluntary licensing agreements with at least eight Indian generic drugmakers for molnupiravir, with an aim to turn the country into a manufacturing hub for the drug.

California coronavirus death count tops 70,000 as cases fall

California's coronavirus death toll reached another once-unfathomable milestone — 70,000 people — as the US state emerges from the latest infection surge with the lowest rate of new cases among all states.

Last year at this time, cases in the state started ticking up and by January California was in the throes of the worst spike of the pandemic and was the nation’s epicentre for the virus. Daily deaths approached 700.

The latest surge started in summer and was driven by the delta variant that primarily targeted the unvaccinated. At its worst during this spike, California’s average daily death count was in the low 100s.

Texas governor Abbott bans all vaccine mandates

Texas' Republican governor Gregg Abbott on Monday announced he was banning Covid-19 vaccine mandates for any entities in his state, including private companies.

"I issued an Executive Order prohibiting vaccine mandates by ANY entity in Texas," the governor wrote on Twitter.

"The Covid-19 vaccine is safe, effective & our best defense against the virus, but should always remain voluntary & never forced," he said.

UK's 'policy approach of fatalism' early in pandemic was major error, lawmakers say

The delay to England's first coronavirus lockdown was a serious error based on groupthink that went unchallenged, lawmakers said in a report published on Tuesday, adding that failures in testing positive cases and tracing their contacts exacerbated the crisis.

Parliament's health and science committees have jointly published a 150-page report on lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic after hours of testimony from more than 50 witnesses, include government policy, health and science advisers.

Deficiencies in the Covid-19 response in Britain have been laid out in a series of Reuters news agency's special reports, including delays in the decision to lockdown, shortcomings in the test and trace system, and errors that led to the spread of the pandemic in care homes. 

China reports 12 new coronavirus cases 

China has reported 12 new coronavirus cases for October 11, compared with 25 a day earlier, the health authority said.

All of the new infections were imported cases, according to a statement by the National Health Commission. There were no new deaths.

China reported 14 new asymptomatic patients, which it classifies separately from confirmed cases, up from eight a day earlier.

As of Monday, mainland China had 96,435 confirmed coronavirus cases, the health authority said. 

The death toll remained at 4,636.

Get vaccinated if you want to play Australian Open – minister to players

Tennis players planning to compete in the Australian Open at Melbourne Park should get vaccinated for Covid-19 to give themselves the best chance of playing the Grand Slam, an Australian government official has said.

Victoria state, of which Melbourne is the capital, has introduced a vaccine mandate for all professional athletes but authorities have yet to clarify whether athletes from overseas or other Australian states must also vaccinate.

Victoria sports minister Martin Pakula urged players to leave no room for doubt.

"If I was an ATP or WTA player, I'd be getting vaccinated," Pakula told local radio station SEN.

"That will give them the best opportunity to play in the Australian Open with the more minimal restrictions that might be in place for those people."

Both the women's WTA and men's ATP tours have urged players to get vaccinated but some have expressed reservations, including Australian Open men's champion Novak Djokovic, who is opposed to vaccine mandates.

Sydney cases ease further as focus shifts to reviving economy

Sydney's Covid-19 cases fell to the lowest in two months as authorities rolled out support measures for businesses, shifting their focus to rejuvenating the economy after the city exited a nearly four-month lockdown a day earlier.

Pubs, cafes, and retail stores reopened in New South Wales (NSW), home to Sydney, on Monday after vaccination levels in the state's adult population crossed 70 percent.

New daily infections in the state fell to 360 on Tuesday, the majority in Sydney, marking a steady downward trend.

"It is going to be boom time in New South Wales for every single business and worker across our state," Premier Dominic Perrottet said during a media briefing on Tuesday as he unveiled a support package for firms to help them prepare for a "bright summer".

Source: TRTWorld and agencies