The coronavirus pandemic has killed over 2.34 million people and infected more than 107 million. Here are the developments for February 9:

A pharmacist conducts an antigen rapid test for Covid-19 at her pharmacy in Madrid on February 09, 2021.
A pharmacist conducts an antigen rapid test for Covid-19 at her pharmacy in Madrid on February 09, 2021. (AFP)

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Spain tops three million virus cases

The total number of confirmed cases in Spain, one of Europe's hardest-hit nations, has topped three million since the start of the pandemic, the health ministry said.

Spain recorded another 16,402 cases in the last 24 hours, taking its overall figure to 3,005,487. 

Seroprevalence studies, which test for antibodies using a blood serum sample, suggest the real figure is far higher.

Over the same 24-hour period, Spain also saw another 766 deaths, bringing the overall toll to 63,061 in the nation of some 47 million people.

France reports close to 19,000 cases

France has reported 18,870 new cases and 724 more deaths from Covid-19.

The country has reported a total of 3,360,235 infections and 80,147 fatalities. 

Ghana parliament shuts down after outbreak

Ghana's parliament has suspended most of its activities for three weeks after at least 17 MPs and 151 staff members were infected, the speaker said.

President Nana Akufo-Addo warned last month that infection rates were skyrocketing and threatened to overwhelm Ghana's health system, part of a second wave of the virus across Africa that has been far more serious than the first.

Two new variants found in England under investigation

Two new variants, one of which has been classified as a "concern," have been identified in England with some similarities to the South African and Brazilian variants, a government advisory scientific committee said.

One of the new variants, first identified in Bristol, has been designated a "Variant of Concern," by the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group.

The other, first identified in Liverpool, has been designated as a "Variant under Investigation" by the group.

Turkey reports over 8,500 more cases

Turkey has reported 8,636 new cases, including 659 symptomatic patients, and 98 more fatalities.

The overall case count has now passed 2.54 million, with the death toll at 26,998, according to the Health Ministry.

Some 8,109 more patients won the battle against the virus, taking the total number of recoveries past 2.43 million.

The number of patients in critical condition stands at 1,310, latest figures showed.

Italy reports over 10,500 new cases

Italy has reported 422 deaths against 307 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 10,630 from 7,970 the day before.

Italy has registered 92,002 deaths 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 2.655 million cases to date.

UK's reported cases fall again, deaths increase

Britain has recorded another fall in the number of new daily cases, although there was an increase in the reported death toll.

There were 12,364 people who tested positive for the virus in the latest daily total, down from 14,104 on Monday which was the lowest figure since December 8.

The number of new deaths within 28 days of a positive test rose to 1,052 from 333 on Monday. 

The government also said 12.646 million people had received a first dose of a vaccine up to Monday.

Swiss detect first case of Brazilian virus strain

A first case of the variant first spotted in Brazil has been found in Switzerland, where the British variant is already spreading rapidly, authorities said.

Virginie Masserey, head of the health ministry's infection control department, said the number of cases of new virus variants detected in Switzerland had doubled in the last week to 4,411 cases.

While the specific mutations have not been sequenced in most of those cases, she said 1,692 had been determined to be the more contagious variant first found in Britain, known as B.1.1.7, while 69 cases involved t he variant discovered in South Africa, B.1.351.

Merkel seeks to extend virus curbs as Germans grumble

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will seek to extend strict curbs to fight the pandemic until at least the end of February at crunch talks this week, party sources has said.

As fatigue grows with the partial lockdown in Europe's top economy, Merkel advised against any loosening of the measures before March 1.

"We would gain nothing if we left lockdown prematurely," Merkel told members of her CDU party according to meeting participants, ahead of talks Wednesday to set policy on the restrictions.

Peru kicks off inoculation campaign with Sinopharm vaccine

Peru has launched its vaccination campaign with newly arrived doses of China's Sinopharm vaccine, as the South American country struggles to control a fierce second wave of infections that has forced a lockdown in the capital Lima.

Health officials kicked off the program in the intensive care unit of Lima's Arzobispo Loayza Hospital, authorities said, where medical staff were slated to receive the first of 300,000 doses delivered by Sinopharm on Sunday.

Peru, mired in a political crisis last year, initially lagged behind its wealthier neighbours in locking down vaccine deals.

US joins WHO programme aimed at boosting virus fight

A US official has told a World Health Organization meeting that Washington would participate in a programme to boost virus testing, diagnostics and vaccines as it joins global efforts to respond to the pandemic.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus welcomed the announcement which follows confirmation last month that Washington under President Joe Biden will remain in the Geneva-based agency. 

Former President Donald Trump criticised the agency and halted funding.

"We want to underscore the commitment of the United States to multilateralism and our common cause to respond to this pandemic and improve global public health," Colin L McIff, Acting Director at the Office of Global Affairs in the US Department of Health and Human Services, said at a WHO virtual meeting.

Ethiopia secures 9 million doses of vaccines till April

Ethiopia has secured nine million doses of vaccines up until April, its health minister told Reuters, adding that it hopes to inoculate at least a fifth of the country's 110 million people by the end of the year.

"For now up to April we have been allocated close to nine million doses," Lia Tadesse said.

"Within this year we want to make sure we get at least 20 percent of the population," she said, adding that Ethiopia was open to possible donations of vaccines but was not doing any procurement of doses independently but only through the COVAX facility.

Mongolia approves Sputnik V vaccine

Russia's RDIF sovereign wealth fund has said Mongolia approved its Sputnik V vaccine for domestic use, becoming the 23rd country to do so globally.

Mongolia granted the vaccine an emergency use authorisation without conducting its own clinical trials. 

Pharmaceutical firm Mongol Emimpex Concern LLC supported the process, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) said in a statement. 

Sweden records over 8,000 new cases since Friday

Sweden, which has shunned lockdowns throughout the pandemic, has registered 8,112 new cases since Friday, health agency statistics showed.

The figure compared with 9,649 cases during the corresponding period last week.

The country of 10 million inhabitants registered 73 new deaths, taking the total to 12,188. The deaths registered have occurred over several days and sometimes weeks.

Sweden's death rate per capita is several times higher than that of its Nordic neighbours' but lower than in sever al European countries that opted for lockdowns.

WHO mission to China fails to find source of virus

The WHO mission to China to uncover the origins of the coronavirus has failed to identify the source of the pandemic but the team ruled out the Wuhan lab-leak theory propagated by Donald Trump.

Experts believe the disease originated in bats and could have been transmitted to humans via another mammal.

World Health Organization foreign expert Peter Ben Embarek said identifying the animal pathway remains a "work in progress," and the absence of bats in the Wuhan area dimmed the likelihood of direct transmission.

UK announces stricter travel restrictions

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock has announced stricter travel restrictions to reduce virus transmissions and prevent new variants from entering the nation.

The latest measures are to take effect from Monday, and includes a 10-year prison sentence for those who attempt to hide travelling from 33 "red list" countries on the passenger locator form.

Anyone travelling from flagged destinations must pay $2,412 (£1,750) for a quarantine package, which includes transport, two PCR tests and a 10-day stay at a designated hotel.

Does the world need new vaccines? ‘Jury is out,’ Oxford’s Pollard says

It is not yet clear whether or not the world needs a new set of vaccines to fight different variants of the novel coronavirus, but scientists are working on new ones so there is no reason for alarm, the head of the Oxford Vaccine Group has said.

“There are definitely new questions about variants that we’re going to be addressing. And one of those is: do we need new vaccines?” Andrew Pollard, Chief Investigator on the Oxford vaccine trial, told BBC radio.

"I think the jury is out on that at the moment, but all developers are preparing new vaccines so if we do need them, we'll have them available to be able to protect people."

Pollard's team developed the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

South Africa paused a planned rollout of AstraZeneca's vaccinations after data showed it gave minimal protection against mild infection from one variant, stoking fears of a much longer cat-and-mouse battle with the pathogen.

Researchers from the University of Witwatersrand and the University of Oxford said in a prior-to-peer analysis that the AstraZeneca vaccine provided minimal protection against mild or moderate infection from the South African variant among young people.

"I think there's clearly a risk of confidence in the way that people may perceive you. But as I say I don't think that there is any reason for alarm today," Pollard said.

Iran starts vaccination campaign

Iran began its vaccination campaign to fight the Middle East's deadliest outbreak of the illness, images broadcast by state TV showed.

"We begin our national vaccination against the Covid-19 virus ... (in) memory of the martyrdom of health workers," Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said at a ceremony at a Tehran hospital, referring to medical personnel who have died from the disease.

Iran's inoculation effort for its 80-million-plus population is starting with Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, authorities have said.

The first doses of the Russian vaccine arrived on Thursday in Tehran, with two more shipments expected by February 18 and 28, according to Iranian authorities.

Russia reports 15,019 new cases, 530 deaths

Russia reported 15,019 new cases, including 1,584 in Moscow, taking the national tally to 3,998,216 since the pandemic began.

Authorities also reported 530 deaths in the last 24 hours, which pushed the death toll to 77,598. 

France was right to decide against new national lockdown

Health Minister Olivier Veran said the Covid-19 situation was currently stable in France and that the government was right to have decided against imposing a new national lockdown.

Veran also told France Info radio that "it is possible and indeed preferable" that France will not have to be locked down again. 

Veran said he was considering using vaccines other than the one developed by AstraZeneca in French overseas territories.

Veran told France Info radio that he expected that between 3.5 milllion and 4 million people in France would have received their first dose of a vaccine by the end of February.

Pakistan approves Sputnik V for emergency use

Russia's Sputnik V has become the third vaccine to be approved by Pakistan for emergency use after China's Sinopharm and the one developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, the country's health minister said.

"Sputnik has received EUA (emergency use authorisation)," the minister, Faisal Sultan, told Reuters in a WhatsApp text message.

Another candidate, developed by CanSino Biologics Inc(CanSinoBIO), has also completed clinical trials in the South Asian nation of 220 million people.

UK mulls tougher testing for international arrivals as virus variants spread

Britain is looking at greater testing of all people who have arrived from abroad while they are self-isolating to defend against new variants of the virus, a minister said.

Airlines have been brought to their knees by the pandemic, with travel restrictions forcing once fast-growing brands like Norwegian to fight for survival while established names like British Airways have raised cash and laid off thousands of staff.

ITV reported that all international a rivals would have to be tested for Covid-19 on the second and eighth days of their self-isolation.

"We are constantly looking at refining our approach to the border simply because there is a risk from new variants coming from other countries around the world," Environment Secretary George Eustice told Times Radio.

"Until we have fully rolled out the vaccine and identified a way to be able to update the vaccine to meet new challenges we do have to exercise some caution about international travel," he said. 

India orders 14.5M more vaccine doses as campaign expands

India has ordered 10 million more doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the Serum Institute of India (SII) and 4.5 million more of a homegrown one from Bharat Biotech, company representatives told Reuters.

Just the two shots have been used in what India calls the world's biggest immunisation programme to cover 300 million people by August, starting with healthcare and other workers to reach the elderly and those with existing conditions by March.

India's drug regulator says SII's COVISHIELD vaccine is about 72 percent effective, while Bharat Biotech says COVAXIN’s last-stage trial results are expected by March.

The regulator is expected to approve Russia's Sputnik V and Cadila Healthcare's ZyCov-D vaccines in the next few months.

WHO: Variants raise questions about vaccines

The head of the World Health Organization has said the emergence of new Covid-19 variants has raised questions about whether or not existing vaccines will work, calling it "concerning news" that the vaccines developed so far may be less effective against the variant first detected in South Africa.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a media briefing on Monday that South Africa’s decision on Sunday to suspend its vaccination campaign using the AstraZeneca vaccine is “a reminder that we need to do everything we can to reduce circulation of the virus with proven public health measures.”

He said it was increasingly clear that vaccine manufacturers would need to tweak their existing shots to address the ongoing genetic evolution of the coronavirus, saying booster shots would most likely be necessary, especially since new variants of the virus are now spreading globally and appear likely to become the predominant strains.

Germany's confirmed cases rise by 3,379 - RKI

The number of confirmed cases in Germany increased by 3,379 to 2,291,924, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 481 to 62,156, the tally showed.

Thailand reports 189 new cases, no new deaths

Thailand reported 189 new cases, taking total infections to 23,746.

No new deaths were reported, with total fatalities remaining at 79, the country's Covid-19 task-force said at a briefing. 

Number of newborns in China drops 15 percent in 2020

The number of newborns in China plummeted 15 percent in 2020 from a year earlier, according to the Ministry of Public Security, with the onset of the novel coronavirus disrupting the economy and weighing on decisions to have a family.

China saw 10.035 million births last year, the ministry said on Monday, compared with 11.79 million in 2019. Of those born last year, 52.7 percent were boys and 47.3 percent girls.

The abandoning of the decades-long one-child policy in 2016 has not provided much impetus to the country's birth rate.

The economic uncertainties brought on by Covid-19 last year further weighed on decisions to have children, extending a long-term birth decline in the world's most populous but fast-ageing nation.

About a fifth of Chinese citizens are aged 60 and above, or around 250 million people.

Rapid aging will create policy headwinds for Chinese leaders as they promise to guarantee health care and pension payments.

Coronavirus testing collapses in Myanmar after coup

Testing for coronavirus has collapsed in Myanmar after a military coup prompted a campaign of civil disobedience led by doctors and mass protests swept the country, official testing figures showed.

The number of daily tests reported late on Monday stood at 1,987, the lowest number since December 29, compared with more than 9,000 a week earlier and an average of more than 17,000 a day in the week before the February 1 coup. Since the coup, tests per day have averaged 9,350.

The number of cases found on Monday was just four, compared with an average of 420 a day in the last week of January.

Health workers have been at the forefront of a civil disobedence campaign against the coup, stopping work to demand the release of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and recognition of her party's big win in a November election.

Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing, whose removal and detention of the widely popular Suu Kyi prompted mass protests, promised in his first televised address on Monday to make the fight against Covid- 19 a priority, including vaccinations for all.

Australia says active cases at near 2-month low

Australia has fewer than 50 active cases of Covid-19, official data released showed, the lowest number in nearly two months, although authorities warned against complacency.

A patient in the state of Victoria has been transferred to an intensive care unit, the first such case in over two weeks, while authorities are still investigating a case in a worker at a quarantine hotel for returned travellers.

Victoria state Premier Dan Andrews said the unnamed person transferred to intensive care caught the virus overseas and had recently returned to Australia.

Australia's most populous state, New South Wales, which has now gone 23 days without detecting any local cases, also warned of a drop-off in testing rates among the community.

Australia has escaped a high number of casualties from the new coronavirus, with just over 28,800 infections and 909 deaths, aided by strict lockdown measures and social distancing rules.

At 46 cases, the number of people currently diagnosed with the virus is at its lowest level since December 15.

Covid-19 positive player loses in Australia

Paula Badosa has lost her first-round match at the Australian Open after going through a three-week quarantine because she tested positive for Covid-19.

The 23-year-old from Spain, who is ranked 70th, served for the match but dropped the last four games and was beaten 6-7 (4), 7-6 (4), 7-5 across more than 2 1/2 hours by Russian qualifier Liudmila Samsonova.

Badosa already was in a hard quarantine, not allowed to leave her hotel room in Melbourne, after potentially being exposed to the coronavirus on an Australian Open charter flight.

But then she tested positive for the illness on her seventh day in lockdown, and so needed to isolate for another two weeks.

She was allowed to play in the tournament after testing negative.

Mexico's death toll rises to 166,731

Mexico's Health Ministry has reported 531 new confirmed deaths from Covid-19, bringing the total to 166,731.

The government says the real number of infected people and the death toll in Mexico are both likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

China reports 14 new cases

China reported 14 new Covid-19 cases on the mainland on Feb 8, official data showed on Tuesday, unchanged from a day earlier and the second day of no locally transmitted infections.

All cases were imported infections originating from overseas, the National Health Commission said in a statement. 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 Covid-19 cases in mainland China to date is 89,720, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4,636.

Brazil reports 636 more deaths

Brazil recorded 23,439 additional confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, along with 636 deaths from Covid-19, the Health Ministry has said.

Brazil has registered more than 9.5 million cases of the virus since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 232,170, according to ministry data.

France administers first vaccine jab to 1.92M

The French Health Ministry said on Monday that 1.92 million people had received a first injection of the Covid-19 vaccine since the start of the vaccination campaign, while 296,265 second injections had been administered to date.

Toronto residents to stay at home another two weeks

Canada's most populous province of Ontario has said that it would extend a stay-at-home order in Toronto and nearby suburbs by two weeks, but residents of three largely rural public health regions can leave their homes starting on Wednesday.

The stay-at-home orders in the remaining 28 regions will end Feb 16. The order for Toronto, Canada's financial capital, and nearby suburban regions Peel and York will end on Feb 22.

"We can't return to normal – not yet, not while our hospitals could still be overwhelmed. But we can transition out of the province-wide shutdown," said Premier Doug Ford.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies