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Palestinian hospitals overfull as Israel eases lockdown – latest updates

  • 9 Mar 2021

The coronavirus has killed more than 2.6M people and infected over 117M worldwide. Here are the latest developments for March 9:

Health care workers take nasal swab samples from Palestinians at a Covid-19 testing center, in the Palestine Medical Complex, in the West Bank city of Ramallah, March 2, 2021. ( AP )

Tuesday, March 9, 2021:

Palestinian hospitals fill up as Israel loosens restrictions

Palestinian hospitals are overfull and intensive-care units operating at 100 percent capacity with coronavirus patients in some areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh has said.

Palestinian cities have introduced full lockdowns over the last two weeks to control soaring infections, even as neighbouring Israel has begun to lift restrictions as it proceeds with one of the world's fastest vaccination campaigns.

"The percentage of hospital occupancy in some areas has reached more than 100 percent,” Shtayyeh said in Ramallah, one of the West Bank cities where his Palestinian Authority (PA) exercises limited self-rule.

"The number of casualties is increasing and the number of deaths is increasing on a daily basis, forcing us to take strict, direct and unprecedented measures."

Japan to stage Tokyo Olympics without foreign spectators

Japan has decided to stage this summer's Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics without overseas spectators due to concern among the Japanese public about Covid-19, Kyodo news agency said, citing officials with knowledge of the matter.

Kyodo said the government had concluded that welcoming fans from abroad would not be possible given public concern about the coronavirus and the detection of more contagious variants in many countries, Kyodo cited the officials as say ing.

The opening ceremony of the torch relay will also be held without spectators, Kyodo said.

The Games are set for July 23 to August 8.

Greece to welcome vaccinated and Covid-negative tourists

People who are vaccinated against Covid-19, have antibodies or test negative can travel to Greece this summer, Tourism Minister Harry Theocharis said.

Tourism is a major income earner for Greece, which has led calls for an EU-wide vaccination certificate to help unlock travel.

The industry accounts for about a fifth of the Greek economy and employs one in five workers, but arrivals collapsed last year because of the pandemic.

Greece is aiming to kick off its vital summer season by mid-May, said Theocharis a s he addressed the ITB Berlin trade show from the Athens Acropolis Museum, home to sculptures from Greek antiquity.

Mexico to buy 22M more Sinovac doses

Mexico aims to acquire an additional 22 million doses of Chinese vaccines during the coming months, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said.

Ebrard said Mexico has put in an order for an additional 10 million doses of China's Sinovac vaccine to be delivered between May and July, on top of the 10 million already ordered, which are due to arrive between March and May.

Mexico will also order 12 million vaccine doses made by the state-backed China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) once it h as been approved by the health regulator, Ebrard added. 

Sweden records 11,014 new cases, 39 deaths

Sweden, which has shunned lockdowns throughout the pandemic, has registered 11,014 new cases since Friday, health agency statistics showed.

The figure compared with 11,804 cases during the corresponding period last week.

The country of 10 million inhabitants registered 39 new deaths, taking the total to 13,042. The deaths registered have occurred over several days and sometimes weeks.

UK officials urge caution on easing lockdown

Britain is not "out of the woods" on Covid-19 and it won't be possible to eliminate infections and deaths, the government's top medical and scientific advisers said, stressing the need for a gradual exit from lockdown.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced what he has called a cautious but irreversible roadmap out of England's third national lockdown.

His Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance said that, while deaths were decreasing and the vaccine rollout was going well, the situation could quickly deteriorate.

Schools in England re-opened to all pupils on Monday. The next steps in lockdown easing have been pencilled in at five-week intervals but officials have said that data, rather than dates, will dictate the pace.

Ukraine approves Sinovac vaccine

Ukraine has approved the vaccine developed by China's Sinovac, the health ministry said.

Ukrainian pharmaceutical company Lekhim, one of Sinovac's partners, has an agreement with the manufacturer to deliver 5 million doses of the vaccine in Ukraine, including 1.9 million via a state procurement scheme.

Lekhim said last month it had submitted documents seeking approval for the shot, while a senior ministry official said last week that authorities would impose financial penalties on the company over delays in delivering it.

Sudan begins vaccinating health workers

Sudan began inoculating frontline healthcare workers against coronavirus after receiving its first batch of vaccines last week, a health official said.

The country is the first in the Middle East and North Africa to receive vaccines through COVAX, a UN-led initiative that provides jabs to poor countries, according to children's agency UNICEF.

The first batch to arrive in Sudan was comprised of 828,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which are planned to cover 414,000 frontline health care workers across the country, according to health officials.

Sudan has secured a total of 3.4 million doses through COVAX, which are expected to arrive in batches through to the end of September.

Targeted lockdowns in Philippine capital as cases surge

Targeted lockdowns were expanded in the Philippine capital and night-time curfews reintroduced in hot spots as authorities battle a resurgence in infections.

The number of new daily cases has soared past 3,000 in recent days, twice as many as two weeks ago and the highest in five months, as more contagious variants of the virus spread.

Most of the new cases are in Metro Manila where officials have been quarantining compounds, streets, neighbourhoods and even hotels in a bid to contain new clusters, while minimising the economic impact.

The mayor of Quezon City, one of 16 that make up the capital, announced that 11 more communities would be locked down for two weeks.

The move potentially affects tens of thousands of people.

Bosnia reports record daily number of deaths

Bosnia reported a record number of daily deaths with the capital Sarajevo going into lockdown next weekend for the first time since last May to combat a spike in coronavirus infections.

Sarajevo, which has seen a daily average of 456 new coronavirus cases over the past week, will be partially shut down next weekend for the first time in almost 10 months as hospital capacities have been overstretched, authorities said. Only food shops, pharmacies and gas stations will stay open.

After the number of infections dropped in January, Bosnia saw a new peak in cases in February after the skiing season and the end of school holidays, before vaccinations began.

Italy reports 376 deaths, 19,749 new cases

Italy reported 376 coronavirus-related deaths against 318 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 19,749 from 13,902 the day before.

Some 345,336 tests were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 184,684, the health ministry said.

Italy has registered 100,479 deaths 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 3.1 million cases to date.

New French cases steady at over 23,000

France reported 23,302 new cases, up slightly from 22,857 last Tuesday, but the week-on-week increase, at 3.95 percent was below the 4.23 percent seen last Tuesday.

The health ministry also reported that the number of patients in intensive care units was up by 69 to 3,918 people. 

Turkey logs 13,755 cases, 66 new fatalities 

Turkey recorded 13,755 new cases, Health Ministry data showed, the highest level since January 6.

The total number of cases rose to 2,807,387 and the data also showed 66 people died in the same period, raising the toll to 29,160.

China launches vaccination certificates 

China has launched a digital vaccination certificate for its citizens planning cross-border travels, joining other countries issuing similar documents as they seek ways to reopen their economies.

As vaccines are globally being rolled out, a few countries including Bahrain have already introduced certificates identifying vaccinated people, and the European Union agreed to develop vaccine passports under pressure from tourism-dependent southern countries.

UK cases will surge again even with vaccines, medical officer says

Britain will see a resurgence in coronavirus cases at some point and can't bring deaths from the virus down to zero even with a successful vaccine rollout, England's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said.

Whitty said that caution in re-opening the economy would affect the size and the timing of a resurgence, but that vaccines would not be able to prevent all deaths from the pandemic.

"All the modelling suggests there is going to be a further surge and that will find the people who either have not been vaccinated, or where the vaccine has not worked, and some of them will end up in hospital and sadly, some of them will go on to die," Whitty told lawmakers.

OECD hikes 2021 world growth forecast to 5.6 percent on vaccine, stimulus rollout

The OECD sharply hiked its 2021 global growth forecast as the deployment of coronavirus vaccines and a huge US stimulus programme greatly improve the economic prospects.

The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development said it now expects the global economy to grow 5.6 percent, an increase of 1.4 percentage points from its December forecast.

Italy factory to produce Sputnik vaccine, first in EU – trade body

An Italian-Swiss pharmaceutical company has agreed to produce Russia's Sputnik V vaccine in Italy, the first such deal in the European Union, a trade body said.

"The vaccine will be produced from July 2021 in (pharma company) Adienne factories in Lombardy," northern Italy, a spokesman for the Italian-Russian Chamber of Commerce, Stefano Maggi, told AFP.

Vaccine batch Austria has halted use of went to 17 countries

Austria was one of 17 European countries to receive doses from a batch of AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine that Austrian authorities have stopped using while investigating a death and an illness following their use, a senior health official has said.

A 49-year-old nurse in Zwettl, a town northwest of Vienna, died as a result of severe coagulation disorders after receiving the vaccine. Another nurse from Zwettl who is 35 and received a dose from the same batch, ABV 5300, developed a pulmonary embolism and is recovering.

India, world's top vaccine maker, denies shortage at home

India's federal government has denied any shortage of vaccine doses in a big northwestern state and said it was sending supplies around the country based on demand and consumption patterns.

The world's biggest vaccine maker has so far given 23 million doses to some 17 million people, with the pace picking up significantly since last week after more people were made eligible.

Nigeria confirms 13 deaths

Nigeria's health authorities has confirmed 13 new deaths and 371 infections over the past 24 hours.

This brings the tally of deaths to 1,982 with 138,502 infections, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian government is encouraging citizens to take the Covid-19 vaccine.

On Saturday, Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo received the vaccine jab in the capital Abuja on the second day of the country's immunisation drive.

Russia reports fewer than 10,000 new cases for first time since October

Russia has reported 9,445 new cases, the first time since early October that the daily tally has dropped below 10,000.

That took the total number of coronavirus infections in Russia to 4,342,474.

Authorities said 336 people had died in the last 24 hours, pushing the official death toll to 89,809.

Sputnik V makers demand apology from EU medicines agency

The makers of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine have demanded an apology from the EU's medicines regulator after a senior official warned member states against hastily authorising the jab, comparing emergency rollouts to "Russian roulette".

Several EU countries have already begun distributing Sputnik V ahead of approval in the bloc, a move criticised by board chair of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) Christa Wirthumer-Hoche Monday.

Athens enlists private hospitals to ease pandemic pressure on health system

Two Athens private hospitals will join Greece's public health system to treat cases and relieve pressure on packed state intensive care units, the health minister said.

Greece has extended a lockdown and tightened curbs to stem the spread of the virus after a surge in new infections.

On Monday a 37-day-old baby boy became the youngest casualty of the country's outbreak which has so far killed 6,797 people. "Our sorrow is unbearable," Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said.

US daily Covid-19 toll below 1,000 for first time in months

For the first time in nearly three and a half months, the United States recorded fewer than 1,000 deaths in a day from Covid-19, according to Johns Hopkins University.

In 24 hours, 749 people died from the virus, far below the peak of 4,473 deaths recorded on January 12.

The daily US death toll has not been below the thousand mark since November 29, when 822 people died in a 24-hour period.

New Zealand opens 1st big vaccination clinic

New Zealand has opened its first large vaccination clinic as it scales up efforts to protect people from the virus.

The clinic in south Auckland will initially target household members of border workers. New Zealand has stamped out community spread of the virus and considers border workers and their families the most vulnerable to catching the disease from infectious travelers.

More than 700,000 deaths in Latin America

More than 700,000 lives have been lost to virus in Latin America and the Caribbean since the pandemic began, according to a tally on Monday evening from official sources.

The region, which encompasses 34 countries and territories in South and Central America and the Caribbean plus Mexico, recorded 700,022 deaths – the second-highest number of virus fatalities after Europe.

Brazil and Mexico account for two-thirds of the region's virus deaths, which hit the grim figure of over 500,000 by the end of December and have steadily increased since, reaching 600,000 on February 2.

EU eyes more vaccines

The European Union said it was working to secure a big increase in vaccine supplies to improve its slow roll-out.

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen told a German newspaper that vaccine deliveries to the European Union should double between April and June, compared to the first three months of 2021, to 300 million doses.

Even though that is 100 million fewer than projected in a February summit of EU leaders, she stood by her goal to see 70 percent of adults in the EU fully vaccinated by mid-September.
Von der Leyen has felt the heat from a failed first-quarter rollout that depended largely on Anglo-Swedish company AstraZeneca, which supplied just a fraction of the 100 million doses it was contracted to deliver to the EU.

China reports eight new cases

China reported eight new virus cases, down from 19 a day earlier, the country's national health authority said.

The National Health Commission said in a statement that all new cases were imported infections. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to nine from 17 a day earlier.

Total confirmed virus cases in mainland China now stand at 90,002. The death toll remains unchanged at 4,636.

Australia PM says vaccination drive on track to meet targets

Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he remained optimistic the country's vaccination drive would finish on time by October despite initial delays as it reported zero new local cases for the 11th straight day.

Australia began mass inoculation for its 25 million population on Feb. 22 but missed its targets in the first two weeks as the pace of vaccination slowed after two elderly people were inadvertently given four times the recommended dose.

Morrison said the vaccination rollout targets will be me t as the government looks to ramp up the immunisation drive when Australia begins the local production of vaccine by the end of the month.

Indonesia approves AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use

Indonesia has approved AstraZeneca's vaccine for emergency use, Penny K. Lukito, the chief of the country's food and drug agency, told a news conference.

More than one million doses of the vaccine arrived late on Monday via the COVAX global vaccine-alliance scheme. About 38 million doses of a vaccine produced by China's Sinovac Biotech have arrived in the Southeast Asian country so far, some of which have been used in a mass inoculation drive starting in January. 

Japan makes syringe to draw 7 doses from Pfizer vaccine vials

Japan's Terumo Corp said it has developed a new syringe that can get seven doses out of each vial of vaccine made by Pfizer Inc , at least one more than accessible with existing syringes.

The health ministry approved the design on Friday, and Terumo will begin production at the end of March, a Terumo spokesman told. The Kyodo News agency, which first reported the development, said Terumo is aiming to make 20 million units this year.

The vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, is shipped in vials initially indicated to hold five doses.

Afghanistan receives 500,000 vaccine doses via COVAX

Afghanistan has received around half a million doses of vaccines via the COVAX facility, the global initiative aimed at providing equitable access to jabs.

"Today MoPH [Ministry of Public Health] has received 468,000 doses of #COVID19 vaccine shipped via the #COVAX Facility. Congratulations to the Government of #Afghanistan for getting one step closer to defeating #COVID19," announced the World Health Organization (WHO) Afghanistan as a flight carrying the shipment landed at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul in the afternoon.

Study: Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine neutralises Brazil variant

Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine was able to neutralise a new variant spreading rapidly in Brazil, according to a laboratory study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Blood taken from people who had been given the vaccine neutralised an engineered version of the virus that contained the same mutations carried on the spike portion of the highly contagious P.1 variant first identified in Brazil, the study conducted by scientists from the companies and the University of Texas Medical Branch found.

The scientists said the neutralising ability was roughly equivalent the vaccine's effect on a previous less contagious version of the virus from last year.

The spike, used by the virus to enter human cells, is the primary target of many vaccines.

In previously published studies, Pfizer had found that its vaccine neutralised other more contagious variants first identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa, although the South African variant may reduce protective antibodies elicited by the vaccine.

CDC: Fully vaccinated Americans can gather without masks

Fully vaccinated Americans can gather with other vaccinated people indoors without wearing a mask or social distancing, according to long-awaited guidance from federal health officials.

The recommendations also say that vaccinated people can come together in the same way — in a single household — with people considered at low-risk for severe disease, such as in the case of vaccinated grandparents visiting healthy children and grandchildren.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the guidance Monday.

The guidance is designed to address a growing demand, as more adults have been getting vaccinated and wondering if it gives them greater freedom to visit family members, travel, or do other things like they did before the pandemic swept the world last year.

Germany looks to AstraZeneca shot to boost vaccine rollout

Eager to deliver hundreds of thousands of vaccine doses that have been piling up, Germany has begun ramping up its use of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine after authorities said it could be safely given to people age 65 and over.

The doses have been gathering dust in storage in recent weeks because of German restrictions on who could get the vaccine and misgivings among some who were eligible. 

Germany has received 2.1 million doses of the AstraZeneca shot so far, but administered just 721,000, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.

Jordan to extend curfew as cases hit near record

Jordan is planning new restrictions including extending a night curfew and closing some businesses, the government said, after it posted a near record one-day tally of virus cases, driven by a more contagious variant.

The Health Ministry reported 7,413 new cases and 52 deaths, taking the total number of infections in the country of 10 million people to 435,130, with the death toll at 4,987.

The capital Amman, where nearly four million people live, recorded 3,929 cases, the highest daily total to date.

Health Minister Nathir Obeidat also announced the closure of outpatient clinics in state hospitals to relieve the pressure amid fast-rising occupancy rates.

Netherlands extends lockdown

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte extended the country's tough lockdown until the end of the month, but he added a note of hope to his message to a pandemic-weary nation by predicting that a “tipping point is coming when the vaccine gains the upper hand over the virus and more will be possible.”

In minor tweaks to the lockdown, Rutte said that from March 16 children up to the age of 12 will be allowed to resume swimming lessons and adults will be allowed to play sports together outdoors in groups of no more than four people, up from the current two.

Polls have shown support for the lockdown eroding in recent weeks as this nation of 17 million grows tired of shuttered cafes, restaurants, museums and other meeting places.

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