Covid-19 has infected more than 190 million people and killed more than 4 million. Here are the latest coronavirus-related developments for July 16:

People wearing protective face masks walk along a platform at King's Cross Station, amid the coronavirus disease outbreak in London, Britain on July 12, 2021.
People wearing protective face masks walk along a platform at King's Cross Station, amid the coronavirus disease outbreak in London, Britain on July 12, 2021. (Reuters)

Friday, July 16:

Scientists round on UK over plan to end curbs

The UK government's plan to scrap day-to-day pandemic restrictions in England next week is reckless and has no basis in science, international experts have warned, with one arguing it amounts to premeditated murder.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said this week it was "highly probable" the worst of the coronavirus pandemic was over as he pressed ahead with Monday's reopening, despite the Delta variant spreading out of control.

He has said the UK can reopen because two-thirds of adults are now fully vaccinated, but England's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty warned that infection rates were on track to reach "quite scary" levels.

US warns Covid 'becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated'

US health authorities have pleaded with vaccine holdouts to roll up their sleeves and get their shots, as cases, hospitalisations and deaths surged.

"There is a clear message that is coming through: this is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky told reporters.

The agency reported more than 33,000 new cases on Thursday, bringing the seven-day average up to 23,306, a 70 percent rise on the week before.

The seven-day average of hospital admissions is about 2,790 per day, an increase of 36 percent.

And after weeks of declines, the seven-day average of deaths was 211, an increase of 26 percent.

World leaders pledge to redouble pandemic fight at special APEC meeting

Leaders of the Asia-Pacific trade group APEC, including US President Joe Biden, Russia's Vladimir Putin, and China's Xi Jinping, have pledged to work to expand sharing and manufacturing of vaccines to fight the global pandemic.

The leaders, struggling to tame outbreaks exacerbated by the Delta variant, said they would encourage the voluntary transfer of vaccine production technologies "on mutually agreed terms" as the region prepared for future health shocks.

UK cases hit six-month high as curbs about to ease

Britain has reported its highest number of new cases in more than six months, days before the government plans to relax curbs on pubs, restaurants and nightclubs in England and ease requirements to wear masks.

Government data showed there were 51,870 new cases of coronavirus, up from 48,553 on Thursday and the highest daily total since January 15.

The number of new deaths reported as having occurred within 28 days of a positive test was 49, down from 63 on Thursday, taking the total on this measure to 128,642.

WHO proposes fresh mission to China and lab audits

The World Health Organization has proposed a second phase of studies into the origins of the coronavirus in China, including audits of laboratories and markets in Wuhan, calling for transparency from authorities.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus presented the plan to member states a day after saying that investigations were being hampered by the lack of raw data on the first days of spread of the virus in China.

Phase two work would require studies of humans, wildlife and animal markets in Wuhan, including Huanan wholesale market, he said in remarks released by the agency.

It would also require "audits of relevant laboratories and research institutions operating in the area of the initial human cases identified in December 2019", Tedros said.

Europe sends aid to help Tunisia counter surge

Italy, Spain and Switzerland have sent medical aid to Tunisia, which is facing its worst health crisis since the start of the pandemic, with a sharp rise in deaths, hospitals filled to capacity and a lack of oxygen supplies.

Deaths exceeded 150 per day during the past week in Tunisia, prompting countries including Qatar, Algeria, the UAE, Morocco, Turkey and Kuwait to send aid. 

Egypt and Saudi Arabia opened an air bridge earlier this week, sending at least 8 planes of aid.

France said this week it also planned to send about one million vaccination doses and medical aid.

EU disease agency predicts near five-fold rise in new cases by next month

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) expects to see a rise in cases linked to the highly transmissible Delta variant, first identified in India, along with the relaxing of measures in European countries.

In its coverage area which includes the European Union, Norway and Iceland,  the agency expected to see 420 cases per 100,000 inhabitants for the week ending on August 1, up from just under 90 last week, it said in a weekly report.

Indonesia reports record rise in Covid-19 deaths

Indonesia has reported a record increase of 1,025 deaths from Covid-19, bringing the country's total tally of fatalities to more than 71,000.

The Southeast Asian nation also reported 54,000 new coronavirus infections, taking the total number of cases to 2.78 million. 

Melbourne returns to Covid-19 lockdown for the fifth time

Melbourne has returned to a virus lockdown for the fifth time, as Australia battled to contain an outbreak of the Delta variant of Covid-19 in its two largest cities.

More than 12 million Australians are now under stay-at-home orders after Melbourne residents began their first day of a snap lockdown, joining Sydneysiders already deep into weeks-long restrictions.

Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters in Melbourne Friday these new cases confirmed the decision to lock down the state for five days.

Andrews said the new cases bring the total in Victoria to 24.

BioNTech produces 10 times more antibodies than China's Sinovac: study

People who received BioNTech's coronavirus vaccine have ten times the amount of antibodies than those given China's Sinovac, a Hong Kong study has shown, adding to growing data on different jabs' effectiveness.

The University of Hong Kong (HKU) research, based on a study of 1,442 healthcare workers, was published in Lancet Microbe on Thursday.

Researchers said antibodies are not the only measure of a vaccine's success at fighting a particular disease.

But they warned that "the difference in concentrations of neutralising antibodies identified in our study could translate into substantial differences in vaccine effectiveness".

Those who received Sinovac had "similar or lower" levels of antibodies to those seen in patients who caught and successfully fought off the disease.

China administered total of 1.426 bln doses of vaccines by July 15

China has administered about 11.7 million doses of vaccines on July 15, taking the total to 1.426 billion doses, data from the National Health Commission showed. 

Olympics-Nigerian delegation member hospitalised in Tokyo with virus-media

 A member of the Nigerian Olympics delegation who tested positive for the coronavirus at Japan's Narita airport on Thursday evening has been admitted to a Tokyo hospital, TV Asahi reported, .

The person, in their 60s, had only light symptoms but was hospitalised because of their advanced age and pre-existing conditions, TV Asahi said, adding that it was the first Covid-19 hospitalisation of an Olympics-related visitor. 

The person's gender and other details were not disclosed.

Hungary to offer third dose of vaccine

Hungary will offer the option of taking up a third dose of a vaccine from Aug. 1 and will make coronavirus vaccines mandatory for all healthcare workers, Prime Minister Viktor Orban told state radio.

Orban said doctors will decide which vaccine people should take up as a third dose, and it should come at least 4 months after the second shot, unless doctors advise otherwise.

India's daily infections rise by 38,949 

India has reported 38,949 new cases over the last 24 hours, health ministry data showed, taking the nationwide tally above 31 million.

Philippines detects first local transmission of Delta variant

The Philippines has detected its first locally acquired cases of the more infectious Delta variant, the health ministry said.

Of the 16 new cases with the Delta variant, 11 were tagged as locally acquired cases, health undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told a news conference.

Germany's confirmed cases rise by 1,456 - RKI

 The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has increased by 1,456 to 3,741,781, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed. 

The reported death toll rose by 18 to 91,337, the tally showed. 

Abu Dhabi announces sudden overnight lockdown

The capital of the United Arab Emirates has announced a sudden overnight lockdown over the pandemic, even as the rest of the country remains open for tourism.

The state-run WAM news agency announced late Thursday the lockdown would begin Monday and last each day from 12 a.m. to 5 a.m. It comes just ahead of the long Eid al Adha holidays in the UAE, which begins Monday as well.

Abu Dhabi’s Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee euphemistically described the lockdown as being part of “the National Sterilization Program.” The UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms, used the same term during lockdowns in 2020 amid the start of the pandemic.

Abu Dhabi has struck a hard line after Dubai reopened for tourism a year ago, requiring PCR tests for those coming over the border. Dubai, like other emirates, have remained open to spur tourism and business even as daily reported new coronavirus case remain around 1,500 a day despite a mass vaccination program.

South Korea pushes more restrictions beyond capital

South Korean officials are pushing for tightened pandemic restrictions beyond the hard-hit capital area as they wrestle with a record-breaking surge in cases.

Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum during a virus meeting on Friday called for all local governments outside the greater Seoul area to simultaneously enforce four-person limits on gatherings after 6 p.m. to slow the viral spread.

Permitted social bubbles are even smaller in Seoul and nearby Gyeonggi province and Incheon, where officials are enforcing the strongest “Level 4” restrictions that prohibit gatherings of three or more people after 6 pm, ban visitors at hospitals and nursing homes, and shut down nightclubs and churches.

Lee Ki-Il, deputy minister of health care policy at South Korea’s Health Ministry, said during a briefing that national government officials will discuss Kim’s proposal with local governments later in the day and could announce a decision over the weekend.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency reported another new 1,536 coronavirus cases, the 10th straight day of over 1,000, including a one-day record of 1,615 on Wednesday. The country ’s caseload is now at 175,046, including 2,051 deaths.

Thailand reports daily record of infections

Thailand has reported a daily record of 9,692 infections, taking total cases to 381,907 since the start of the pandemic, as authorities struggle to tackle the country's biggest wave of infections so far.

The Covid-19 task force also reported 67 new coronavirus deaths, bringing the total number of fatalities to 3,099.

Study: One in two severe Covid hospital cases develop complications

As many as one in every two people hospitalised with severe Covid-19 go on to develop other health complications, according to comprehensive new research released.

Authors of the study said their findings showed a "profound" short- and long-term health impact on Covid-19 patients as well as on health and care services.

Data from more than 70,000 hospital patients across more than 300 British hospitals was collected for the research.

It found that the most common health complications were problems with patients' kidneys and lungs, but neurological and cardiovascular conditions were also widely reported.

The rate of complications was high even among "young, previously healthy" patients, with 27 percent of 19-29 year olds and 37 percent of 30-39 year olds experiencing at least one complication after being hospitalised with Covid-19.

Chilean Sinovac trial leaders recommend third dose of vaccine

The leaders of a Chilean late-stage human trial of the CoronaVac Covid-19 vaccine developed by Sinovac has recommended a third dose of the jab to protect against the more contagious Delta variant.

The trial leaders said a separate in vitro laboratory trial to determine the vaccine's effectiveness against the Delta strain of the virus showed that neutralising antibodies reduced four-fold compared to those produced against the original coronavirus strain first found in China.

Chinese scientists have previously reported a smaller three-fold reduction.

Dr Alexis Kalergis, the director of Chile's Millennium Institute for Immunology and Immunotherapy which also ran a clinical trial with 2,000 participants, said less than 3 percent had contracted the virus six months after receiving a second vaccine shot.

However, the study showed a drop-off in protective antibody levels after six months and Kalergis said he recommended the application of a third, "booster dose" to provide better protection against virus mutations.

Slovakia pledges 10,000 vaccine doses to Taiwan

Taiwan has garnered another donation of coronavirus vaccines, this time from Slovakia which has pledged 10,000 doses in what the central European country said was a show of support after a Taiwanese gift of face masks to Slovakia last year.

In a statement on its Facebook page, the de facto Slovak embassy in Taiwan said the country would be giving Taiwan 10,000 vaccine doses. It did not say which brand or when they would be arriving.

Brazil registers 1,548 deaths

Brazil has registered 1,548 Covid-19 deaths and 52,789 additional cases, according to data released by the nation's Health Ministry.

The South American country has now registered 538,942 total coronavirus deaths and 19,262,518 total confirmed cases.

Mexico posts 233 more deaths

Mexico's health ministry has reported 12,821 new confirmed cases and 233 more fatalities, bringing its total figures to 2,629,648 infections and 235,740 deaths.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies