Coronavirus has claimed lives of more than 3.8M people and infected over 177M globally. Here are the latest Covid-related developments for June 16:

87 year old Catherine Daries, sitting in the wheelchair, after receiving a first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, at the Karl Bremer Hospital, in Cape Town, South Africa on June 11, 2021
87 year old Catherine Daries, sitting in the wheelchair, after receiving a first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, at the Karl Bremer Hospital, in Cape Town, South Africa on June 11, 2021 (AP)

Wednesday,  June 16:

South Africa infections hit five-month high

South Africa's infections have jumped by 13,246, the highest daily total in five months, government said.

The figure is almost double the weekly average for the past seven days, and compares to 8,436 cases recorded the previous day.

"These concerning figures represent the highest number of daily cases and positivity rate recorded since January 2021," the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said in a statement.

Spain, Portugal get EU approval for Covid recovery plans

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen has given Spain and Portugal the first green lights for their recovery plans seeking funding from the bloc's multi-billion-euro rescue fund.

In visiting Portugal, Von der Leyen began activating the landmark $910-billion (750-billion-euro) recovery plan, Next Generation EU, which was drawn up nearly a year ago.

"It is the first national plan endorsed by the Commission, here in Portugal," she said in Lisbon alongside Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa whose country currently holds the EU's six-month rotating presidency.

Spain's plan for recovery after the pandemic and transformation into a greener and more digitalised economy was approved shortly after.

Spain will get 69.5 billion euros in grants until 2026 to help revive its tourism-dependent economy, which has been hit hard by the crisis.

Romania to donate, sell jabs because of 'surplus'

Romania has said it will give more than 150,000 coronavirus vaccine doses to neighbouring Ukraine and Serbia, and partially suspend some imports for June because it has a "surplus."

Besides sending 108,000 doses to Ukraine and 50,400 to Serbia as "humanitarian aid", the government plans to resell some doses, Monica Althamer, a state secretary in the health ministry, told a press conference.

UK records over 9,000 cases

Britain has reported nine new deaths within 28 days of a positive test and a further 9,055 cases of the virus, official government data showed.

That compared to 10 deaths and 7,673 cases reported a day earlier.

Italy reports over 1,400 new cases

Italy has reported 52 deaths against 63 the day before, the Health Ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 1,400 from 1,255.

Italy has registered 127,153 deaths since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the eight-highest in the world. The country has reported 4.25 million cases to date.

Turkey administers over 1.4M jabs in last 24 hours

Turkey has administered over 1.44 million jabs of vaccines in the last 24 hours, according to official figures released.

More than 23 million people have received their first doses, while over 14 million have been fully vaccinated, showed the Health Ministry count.

Meanwhile, the country reported 6,221 new cases, bringing the total cases to 5.34 million, and 71 more fatalities, bringing the death toll to 48,950.

US buying 200M more doses of Moderna vaccine

The United States has reached a deal to buy 200 million more doses of Moderna's vaccine, with the option to purchase variant-specific boosters that are in the pipeline, the biotech company said.

The purchase brings Washington's confirmed order to 500 million doses of the two-shot regimen.

Moderna has so far supplied 217 million doses, with 110 million more to be delivered by the end of this year and 90 million in the first quarter of 2022.

More horses die as Bangladesh tourist town reels from Covid closures

Animal activists in Bangladesh have warned of a growing crisis among horses used for tourism during the country's lockdown, after owners said that five more had died of starvation in a popular resort town.

Twenty-one horses that used to carry tourists along Cox's Bazar beach in southeastern Bangladesh died in one month, their owners said, after a lockdown imposed from April 14 saw visitors to the scenic spot dry up.

Germany set to offer vaccine to all willing by August

Germany is on track to have given at least a first vaccine to more than half of the population this week and will be able to offer a vaccine to everybody who wants one by the end of July or early August, the health minister has said.

Jens Spahn said the expected delivery of more vaccines mostly from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna should mean that Germany can offer a shot to everybody who wants one in the coming two months.

Moscow orders mandatory jabs over 'dramatic' case rise

The mayor of Moscow has ordered mandatory vaccinations for residents of the Russian capital working in the service industry, citing a "dramatic" rise in infections.

The announcement by Sergei Sobyanin — one of the first compulsory vaccination orders for a major world city — was a stark admission from a senior Russian official that authorities are struggling to bring the pandemic under control.

Russian businesses that fail to ensure the vaccination of certain employees in Moscow could be fined between $695 and $13,896 (50,000 roubles and 1 million roubles), the TASS news agency cited a city official as saying.

France to end mandatory outdoor masks and curfew

France has said it was ending the obligation to wear masks outside and would bring forward the lifting of a nighttime curfew, as  infections fall and the country's vaccine drive picks up.

Prime Minister Jean Castex said the requirement for people to wear masks outdoors in much of the country would be lifted from Thursday, with some exceptions, while an unpopular 21:00 GMT (11:00 pm local) curfew will be scrapped on June 20, 10 days earlier than initially planned.

EU members approve return of US travellers

European Union member states have agreed to lift travel restrictions on travellers from eight countries and territories including the United States, officials and diplomats said.

The white list of countries and regions exempted from the travel ban will be expanded to include Albania, North Macedonia, Serbia, Lebanon, the United States, Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong, they said.

Japan looks to ease virus emergency in Tokyo

Japan is expected to ease a state of emergency in Tokyo and most other areas this weekend, with the Olympics starting in just over a month.

Daily cases have since significantly declined and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is expected to downgrade the state of emergency when it expires on Sunday to a less-stringent quasi-emergency for several weeks.

Thai PM sets goal to reopen to tourists in 120 days

Thailand's prime minister has set a goal of re-opening the country to fully vaccinated foreign visitors within 120 days, as the government seeks to restart the pandemic-hit tourism industry.

"Re-opening the country is one of the important ways to start reducing the enormous suffering of people who have lost their ability to earn an income," Prayuth Chan-ocha said in televised address.

"I am, therefore, setting a goal for us to be able to declare Thailand fully open within 120 days from today, and for tourism centres that are ready, to do so even faster," he announced.

Study: Regeneron therapy cuts deaths among hospitalised patients who lack antibodies

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc's Covid-19 antibody cocktail reduces deaths in hospitalised patients who have not mounted their own antibody response, a large British study published on Wednesday found.

The therapy, REGEN-COV, has been granted emergency use authorisation for people with mild-to-moderate Covid-19 in the United States, but results from the RECOVERY trial provide the clearest evidence of its effectiveness among hospitalised patients.

It found that the antibody therapy reduced by a fifth the 28-day mortality of people admitted to hospital with Covid-19 whose immune system had not mounted an antibody response, known as seronegative.

The result translates into six fewer deaths for every 100 seronegative patients treated with the therapy, researchers said.

India's Taj Mahal re-opens for tourists 

India's iconic Taj Mahal has re-opened to the public as the country, still reeling from a disastrous second wave of the pandemic, rushes to lift restrictions in a bid to revitalise its economy.

The 17th century monument, built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the northern city of Agra, was closed in early April as India introduced strict lockdown measures in an effort to contain a surge in infections that is still killing thousands every da y.

Only 650 tourists will be allowed inside the premises of the Taj Mahal at any point of time, Prabhu Singh, the District Magistrate of Agra said. The white marble monument normally attracts 7 million to 8 million visitors annually, or an average of over 20,000 people per day.

Quarter of South Koreans vaccinated ahead of schedule

South Korea has inoculated 25 percent of its population with at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine two weeks ahead of schedule, authorities said on Wednesday, putting the country on track to meet a target of 70 percent by September.

The milestone follows a stepped-up drive that injected a daily average of 650,000 doses, rising to a record 850,000 on one day, boosted by increased supply and people's growing willingness in the wake of a slow start with limited supplies.

Sydney records first local case in more than a month

Australia's most populous city Sydney has recorded its first locally acquired case of the coronavirus in more than a month, stoking concerns of a fresh wave of infections on Wednesday.

New South Wales state said it is not clear how the unnamed man in his 60s acquired the virus, but he was a driver who occasionally transported overseas airline crew.

Malaysia says China to contribute 500,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines

Malaysia's foreign minister Hishammuddin Hussein said China has agreed to contribute 500,000 doses of vaccines made by its drugmaker Sinovac BioTech to the Southeast Asian country.

"This timely contribution will bolster the vaccination process and assist the ongoing rollout of Malaysia's National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme," Hishammuddin said.

India reports 62,224 new cases

India reported 62,224 new Covid-19 infections over the past 24 hours, data from the health ministry showed.

The South Asian country's total Covid-19 case load now stands at 29.63 million, while total fatalities are at 379,573, the data showed. India added 2,542 deaths overnight.

Coronavirus was likely present in US from December 2019: study

A new antibody testing study has found further evidence that the coronavirus was present in the United States from at least December 2019, weeks before the first confirmed case was announced on January 21, 2020.

The National Institutes of Health study analysed 24,000 stored blood samples contributed by volunteers across the country from January 2 to March 18, 2020. 

Antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus were detected via two different serology tests in nine patient samples, according to the paper, which was published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The participants were outside the major hotspots of Seattle and New York City, thought to be the key entry points of the virus to the United States.

The first positive samples came from participants in Illinois and Massachusetts on January  7 and 8, 2020, respectively, suggesting that the virus was present in those states in late December.

US tops 600,000 Covid deaths, New York and California drop curbs

The US death toll from Covid-19 has surpassed 600,000, although officials hailed progress towards a return to normality as its world-leading vaccination program promised to turn the page on one of the worst health crises in American history.

The United States has racked up by far the largest national death toll – ahead of Brazil and India – after a heavily-criticised early response to the pandemic, but has since organised among the world's most effective immunisation drives.

Progress against the coronavirus was underlined as New York announced more than 70 percent of adults had received at least one vaccine dose and the last of the state's restrictions could be lifted.

"There's still too many lives being lost," President Joe Biden said, noting that despite the daily number of dead dropping sharply, the continuing loss of life was still "a real tragedy."

"My heart goes out to all those who have lost a loved one," he said, speaking on Monday in Brussels as the Johns Hopkins University tally ticked close to 600,000.

Biden has set July 4 as the target date for 70 percent of US adults to have received at least one dose, but several states in the South are lagging far behind and the country might miss that goal.

In New York city – where more than 33,000 died from Covid – life took a major step forward as almost all restrictions were lifted.

California – the first US state to enact a stay-at-home order just under 15 months ago – also celebrated its "reopening day" on Tuesday by lifting almost all pandemic-related social distancing and capacity limits.

Vaccinated people will be free to ditch their masks in nearly all of the nation's richest and most populous state, though exceptions will remain for locations including public transport, schools and hospitals.

The capital Washington entered the 70 percent club on Monday.

Brazil sees 2,468 new deaths

Brazil has had 80,609 new cases of the novel coronavirus reported in the past 24 hours, and 2,468 deaths from Covid-19, the Health Ministry said.

The South American country has registered 17,533,221 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 490,696, according to ministry data, in the world's third worst outbreak outside the United States and India and its second-deadliest.

Mexico records 241 new deaths

Mexico has reported 4,250 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country and 241 additional coronavirus deaths, bringing the overall death toll to 230,428 and the total number of cases to 2,459,601, according to Health Ministry data.

Separate government data published in March suggested the real death toll may be at least 60% above the confirmed figure.

Last week the Health Ministry said about a quarter of Mexico's population of 126 million, or about 31.1 million people, are estimated to have been infected with the coronavirus. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies