The novel coronavirus has infected over 90 million people globally and claimed more than 1.9 million lives. Here are the updates for January 11:

People walk past paintings of a doctor and a nurse wearing superhero
People walk past paintings of a doctor and a nurse wearing superhero "superman" costumes drawn by physician associate Fatih Olmez at Adnan Menderes University hospital in Aydin, Turkey on January 9, 2021. (AA)

Monday, January 11, 2021

Turkey to start Covid-19 vaccination on Thursday or Friday

Turkey will begin administering Covid-19 vaccines as of Thursday or Friday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said, adding that Ankara would also gradually lift restrictive measures as daily infections declined.

Turkey has agreed to purchase 50 million doses of Sinovac's CoronaVac vaccine and has taken delivery of an initial shipment of 3 million doses. 

It has also agreed to procure 4.5 million doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, with an option to procure 30 million more doses later.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting in Ankara, Erdogan said the vaccination process would begin either on Thursday or Friday inline with the vaccination programme set out by the government.

Italy reports nearly 450 deaths

Italy reported 448 coronavirus-related deaths, up from 361 the day before, the Health Ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 12,532 from 18,627.

However, the number of swab tests also fell, as often happens over the weekend, amounting to just 91,656 against a previous 139,758.

Italy has registered 79,203 Covid-19 deaths since its outbreak came to light on February 21, the second-highest toll in Europe and the sixth-highest in the world. The country has also reported 2.289 million cases to date, the Health Ministry said.

Palestinians approve Russian vaccine for use in self-rule areas

Palestinian Authority has approved the main Russian vaccine against Covid-19, known as Sputnik V, for use in Palestinian self-ruled territory, Russia's sovereign wealth fund has said.

In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, Palestinian Health Minister Mai Alkaila confirmed that her ministry had granted "emergency approval" for the Russian vaccine to be administered in areas under limited Palestinian self-rule.

The first shipment of the Russian shot is expected to arrive next month, with all deliveries expected in the first quarter of this year, according to the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which is responsible for marketing the vaccine abroad.

UK in 'race against time' as it faces worst weeks of pandemic

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said Britain was in "a race against time" to roll out Covid-19 vaccines as deaths hit record highs and hospitals run out of oxygen, with his top medical adviser saying the pandemic's worst weeks were imminent.

A new, more transmissible variant of the disease is now surging through the population, with one in 20 people in parts of London now infected, threatening to overwhelm the health service with hospitals overloaded with patients.

The death toll in the United Kingdom has been soaring and now stands in excess of 81,000 — the world's fifth-highest toll — while more than 3 million people have tested positive.

A total of 2,286,572 people have received a first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine in the UK whilst 388,677 second doses have been given, according to government data published on Monday.

Pakistan to get Sinopharm vaccine 'by early February'

The first batch of Covid-19 jabs from the Chinese vaccine manufacturing company Sinopharm will arrive in Pakistan by the first week of February, a top Pakistani official has told Anadolu Agency.

Dr Faisal Sultan, a special assistant to the prime minister on health, said the "first installment of 1.1 million doses for about 500,000 people" will be received from Sinopharm.

Sultan, who is also the acting health minister, had told Anadolu Agency earlier that authorities were negotiating with China and Russia, among others, to procure the vaccines, and that frontline workers and senior citizens will be inoculated first.

Pakistan has so far recorded a total of 504,293 cases of Covid-19 with 10,676 deaths.

Mutated strain dominates UK's Covid-19 cases

Britain is facing the worst weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic, its chief medical officer Chris Whitty said, with the health service facing a "dangerous time" as deaths and cases hit record highs before the rollout of a mass vaccination programme.

Deaths from the virus have now exceeded 81,000 in the United Kingdom, the world's fifth-highest toll, with more than 3 million people testing positive. 

A new, more transmissible variant of the disease is surging through the population, with one in 20 people in parts of London now infected and is now the dominant strain across much of the country, Whitty added.

In a bid to get on top of the pandemic and to try to restore some degree of normality by the spring, Britain is rushing out its largest ever vaccination programme, with shots to be offered to all those in its top four priority categories, about 15 million people, by the middle of next month.

But the government's chief medical adviser Chris Whitty warned the situation would deteriorate in the meantime.

"The next few weeks are going to be the worst weeks of this pandemic in terms of numbers into the National Health Service," he said.

Malaysia to reimpose 2-week limited lockdown to stem virus spread

Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has announced a fresh lockdown in the capital Kuala Lumpur and five states, as the Southeast Asian nation's cumulative cases grew to over 135,000 as of Sunday.

Muhyiddin said interstate travel will also be barred during the two-week lockdown, but assured that five essential sectors will be allowed to continue operating under strict regulations.

Indonesia approves China's Sinovac vaccine as infections surge

Indonesia has given Sinovac Biotech's Covid-19 vaccine its first emergency use approval outside China as the world's fourth most populous country launches nationwide inoculations to stem surging infections and deaths.

A lack of data and varying efficacy rates reported for the vaccine from different countries could undermine public trust in the rollout, according to public health experts.

Interim data from a late-stage human test of CoronaVac showed it is 65.3 percent effective, Indonesia's food and drugs authority BPOM said, lower than figures in Brazil and Turkey which have yet to launch mass vaccinations. 

"These results meet the requirements of the World Health Organization of minimum efficacy of 50 percent," BPOM head Penny K. Lukito told a news conference.

President Joko Widodo is set to get his first dose on Wednesday in a sign of the priority placed on immunisation in a country of 270 million people that has done far less than Southeast Asian neighbours to contain the virus.

Russia reports 23,315 new cases and 436 deaths

Russia has reported 23,315 new Covid-19 cases, including 4,646 in Moscow, taking the national tally, the world's fourth highest, to 3,425,269 since the pandemic began.

Authorities also confirmed 436 Covid-19 deaths during the past 24 hours, pushing the official death toll to 62,273.

Meanwhile, production of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine will total four million doses over the next 30 days, the RIA news agency cited the director of the Gamaleya Institute which developed the vaccine as saying.

China says WHO team to probe Covid-19 origins will arrive on Thursday

Chinese authorities have said a World Health Organization (WHO) team of international experts tasked with investigating the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic will arrive in China on Thursday.

Lack of authorisation from Beijing had delayed the arrival of the 10-strong team on a long-awaited mission to investigate early infections, in what China's foreign ministry called a "misunderstanding."

The National Health Commission, which announced the arrival date, delayed from its early January schedule, did not detail the team's itinerary, however.

China has been accused of a cover-up that delayed its initial response, allowing the virus to spread since it first emerged in the central city of Wuhan late in 2019.

The United States has called for a "transparent" WHO-led investigation and criticised its terms, which allowed Chinese scientists to do the first phase of preliminary research.

Malaysia buys additional 12.2 million doses of Pfizer-Biontech vaccine

Malaysia has signed a deal to buy an additional 12.2 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine manufactured by US and German drugmakers Pfizer and Biontech, the health ministry said in a statement.

The deal brings the total amount of the Pfizer vaccines procured by Malaysia to 25 million doses, enough to cover 39 percent of its population, the ministry said.

Germany's confirmed coronavirus cases rise by 12,497

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has increased by 12,497 to 1,921,024, data from the Robert Koch Institute, RKI, for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 343 to 40,686, the tally showed.

Indonesia extends ban on foreign visitors for 2 more weeks 

Indonesia has extended a ban on the arrival of foreign tourists into the country for another two weeks.

The 14-day extension came in a bid to control the transmission of the coronavirus, Indonesian chief economic minister said.

The reason for the stricter measures against international visitors, which were imposed on January 1, was to try to keep out the new Covid-19 variant first detected in Britain, the government has said.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said the country would begin Covid-19 vaccination this week and President Joko Widodo will be the country’s first vaccine recipient. 

Indonesia’s top Muslim body had earlier declared China’s Sinovac vaccine for Covid-19 halal, or permissible under Islam.

Thailand reports 249 new coronavirus cases

Thailand has reported 249 new coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of infections to 10,547 since it detected its first case almost a year ago.

The tally included 25 cases imported from abroad, according to the country's Covid-19 taskforce. There were no new deaths reported. Thailand has recorded 67 coronavirus-related fatalities so far.

New coronavirus variant found in Japan

The Japanese Health Ministry has found a variant in people arriving from Brazil that’s different from the ones in Britain and South Africa.

The variant was found in airport tests on a man in his 40s, a woman in her 30s and two teens, the ministry said Sunday. 

Japan was working with other nations, the WHO and other medical experts to analyse the new version of the virus, and it was still unclear whether available vaccines would work.

The man who tested positive had no symptoms upon arrival but was hospitalised after his breathing became difficult. 

The woman suffered head aches, one teen, a male, had a fever, while the other female teen had no symptoms, according to the ministry.

About 30 cases of variants from Britain and South Africa have earlier been reported in Japan. 

Experts are worried the variants appear to spread faster.

UK opens seven vaccination centres to boost immunisation drive

Britain will open seven large-scale vaccination centres on Monday, helping to accelerate the rollout of shots that the government wants to deliver to all vulnerable people by mid-February.

The country, which was the first to approve vaccines developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and by Oxford/AstraZeneca, is currently immunising about 200,000 people a day, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.

It needs to boost that rate to 2 million a week to meet its target of vaccinating those in care homes, the over-70s, the clinically vulnerable with pre-existing conditions and health and social-care workers by February 15.

Britain is battling surging infections but is pinning its hopes on rapid immunisation to enable life to start returning to some degree of normality by the spring.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock will set out his immunisation plan, the biggest vaccination programme in British history, later on Monday.

China reports 103 new cases

Mainland China reported 103 new cases on January 10, up from 69 cases a day earlier, the country's national health authority said on Monday.

The National Health Commission, in a statement, said 82 of the 85 local infections were reported in Hebei province.

Another 18 cases were imported infections originating from overseas.

New UK strain confirmed in Mexico

The new strain of the virus first detected in Britain has been confirmed in Mexico, the health ministry of northern Tamaulipas state said in a statement on Sunday, adding a new layer of concern to an already severe national outbreak.

Meanwhile, the country reported 10,003 new cases and 502 more fatalities according to health ministry data, bringing its total to1,534,039 infections and 133,706 deaths.

The real number of infected people and deaths is likely significantly higher than the official count, the ministry has said, due to little testing

South Korea reports 451 new cases

South Korea reported 451 new cases as of Monday midnight, the first time the daily infections had dropped below 500 since the beginning of December last year, the Korea Disease Control and PreventionAgency said on Monday.

Of the new cases, 419 were locally transmitted and 32 were imported.

Brisbane lifts virus lockdown after city finds zero cases

Australia's third-largest city lifted stay-at-home orders Monday, after mass testing and tracing across Brisbane found no new cases despite fears over a contagious strain entering the community.

More than two million people were ordered into a snap lockdown Friday after a cleaner at a quarantine hotel contracted the UK variant of Covid-19 from a returned traveller.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the lockdown would be lifted at 6pm local time Monday after tens of thousands of tests detected zero cases of transmission.

She defended the measures as "definitely not an over-reaction".

It will remain compulsory to wear masks indoors and on public transport until January 22, while restaurants and pubs will be subject to fresh restrictions on patron numbers.

UK helps raise $1B in global vaccine donations

Britain said it has helped raise $1 billion from global donors towards the drive to help "vulnerable countries" access coronavirus vaccines, by match-funding contributions.

The UK said, in addition, it has committed £548 million to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC), after matching with £1 every $4 pledged by other donors.

Canada, Japan and Germany are among the countries to make contributions that it matched, helping the AMC raise more than $1.7 billion in total so far.

The fund will allow for the distribution of one billion Covid- 19 vaccine doses to 92 developing countries this year, according to Britain's Foreign Office.
France says first Moderna vaccine doses to arrive Monday

France's health minister says that more than 50,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine, newly authorised in Europe, would be ready for use this week in hard-hit regions.

Olivier Veran told Europe 1 radio that after arriving in France Monday, the vaccine would be sent to towns and cities with the highest virus circulation, from Strasbourg on the German border to Nice on the Mediterranean.

Coming on top of ongoing distribution of Pfizer-BioNTech shots, the Moderna doses would reach vaccination centres by Wednesday, Veran added.

The health ministry said in a statement that almost eight million doses of Moderna's vaccine would arrive in France by July.

Like the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, it takes two injections spaced out over several weeks for Moderna's version to reach maximum effectiveness.

It poses fewer logistical challenges however as it requires storage only at -20 Celsius rather than around -80C for Pfizer/BioNTech's vaccine.

Brazil sees almost 30,000 new daily cases

Brazil records 29,792 additional confirmed cases in the past 24 hours, along with 469 deaths, the Health Ministry said on Sunday.

Brazil has registered more than 8.1 million cases of the virus since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 203,100, according to ministry data.

Seychelles begins virus vaccination using Chinese drug

The Indian Ocean archipelago of the Seychelles began vaccinating its population, the first African nation to do so.

The country's president, Wavel Ramkalawan, was the first to receive the jab, an event broadcast on live television at a hospital in the capital Victoria. Several dozen other public figures joined him.

"It's exactly as if I was getting any vaccine," he said, encouraging all the people of the island nation to get the injection.

The country is using the Chinese vaccine developed by the Chinese pharma giant Sinopharm with its su bsidiary the China National Biotec Group (CNBG).

Health Minister Peggy Vidot said Thursday that the country had received a donation of 50,000 doses of the vaccine from the United Arab Emirates.

Health workers will start being vaccinated on Monday, and then people aged over 65, followed by distribution to the rest of the population.

The Seychelles hopes to vaccinate 70 percent of its population within two to three months, at a rate of 1,000 per day.

Russia confirms first case of new UK virus strain

Moscow on Sunday confirmed its first case of the new UK strain, despite an earlier decision by officials to suspend flights from Britain to stop the mutation reaching Russia.

One person returning to Russia from the UK was found to have been infected with the new strain, the head of Russia's health regulator Rospotrebnadzor told state-run television.

Watchdog head Anna Popova did not specify when the individual tested positive or any other circumstances surrounding the discovery.

The B117 strain is thought to have first emerged in southeastern England late last year, and has since been detected in dozens of countries around the world.

Officials in Moscow temporarily suspended flights to and from the UK in December, following a similar move by dozens of other countries in the wake of the emergence of the new strain.

Russia has one of the highest infection rates in the world and officials on Sunday confirmed a total of nearly 3.5 million cases.

Greeks ignore virus lockdown as temperatures soar

A heatwave bringing temperatures as high as 28 Celsius (82 F) prompted Greeks to cut loose during their lockdown Sunday and flock to beaches and parks.

According to the National Observatory of Athens, the temperature in Chania, on the southern island of Crete, was 28.3 C around noon, one of the highest January temperatures of the last 50 years.

Normal Greek temperatures this time of the year are around 15 C.

In Athens, where thermometers reached 22 C, people flocked to nearby beaches, squares and parks.

"It's great weather and we are inside our homes so much of the time", a man told Skai TV from Kavouri beach, near Athens, were many people were walking and some also took a dip.

The warm weather from Africa also brought fair amounts of dust to Greece and is forecast to keep temperatures high until Wednesday.

Police monitored the situation to try and avoid overcrowding.

Officers with loudspeakers reminded people to practice social distancing and fined those who did not wear masks.

Greece has been in lockdown since early November, as authorities try to avoid a third wave of the pandemic after Christmas and New Eve celebrations.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies