The novel coronavirus has infected over 91 million people globally and claimed more than 1.9 million lives. Here are the updates for January 12:

People leave a train at the Victoria tube station amid the coronavirus disease outbreak, in London, Britain, January 12, 2021.
People leave a train at the Victoria tube station amid the coronavirus disease outbreak, in London, Britain, January 12, 2021. (Reuters)

Tuesday, January 12, 2021:

UK sees 1,243 more Covid-19 deaths

Britain has reported 1,243 new deaths within 28 days of the positive Covid-19 test, making it one of the most deadly days in the country’s battle against the virus.

The government also reported 45,533 new cases.

Italy reports 616 coronavirus deaths, 14,242 new cases

Italy has reported 616 coronavirus-related deaths, up from 448 the day before, the Health Ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 14,242 from 12,532.

Some 141,641 swab tests were carried out in the past day, against a previous 91,656.

Turkey records over 9,800 new infections

Turkey has reported 9,809 new coronavirus infections. Among the fresh cases, 983 symptomatic patients were confirmed across the country, according to Health Ministry data.

Turkey's overall case tally topped 2.34 million, including 23,152 deaths with 171 new fatalities recorded over the past day.

As many as 10,013 more patients have recovered in the country, raising the total past 2.21 million.

More than 26.55 million Covid-19 tests have been carried out in Turkey to date, with 179,208 done over the past 24 hours.

Brazil reports disappointing 50.4% efficacy for CoronaVac vaccine

A coronavirus vaccine developed by China's Sinovac showed "general efficacy" of 50.4 percent in a late-stage trial in Brazil, researchers have said, barely enough for regulatory approval and far short of earlier indications.

The latest results are a major disappointment for Brazil, as the Chinese vaccine is one of two that the federal government has lined up to begin immunization during the second wave of the world's second-deadliest Covid-19 outbreak.

The letdown after a more promising partial data disclosure last week may also contribute to criticism that vaccines developed by Chinese manufacturers are not subject to the same public scrutiny as US and European alternatives.

Last week, the Brazilian researchers had celebrated results showing 78 percent efficacy against Covid-19 cases, a rate they have since described as "clinical efficacy."

Third US lawmaker in lockdown tests positive

A third Democratic member of the House who was forced to go into lockdown during last week’s violent siege at the US Capitol has tested positive for Covid-19.

Republican Brad Schneider, D-Ill, said on Twitter that he tested positive on Tuesday morning. 

He said he is not feeling symptoms but expressed dismay at the spate of positive test results and blamed Republican members of Congress who declined to wear a mask when it was offered to them during the lockdown.

US releases millions of doses

The Trump administration has said it is releasing millions of Covid-19 vaccine doses it had been holding back for second shots and urged states to offer them to all Americans over age 65 or with chronic health conditions.

US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said during a news briefing that the US pace of inoculations has risen to 700,000 shots per day and is expected to rise to 1 million per day within a week to 10 days.

Last week, President-elect Joe Biden's spokesperson said that Biden, who takes office next week, would accelerate distribution of Covid-19 vaccines and jump-start lagging inoculations by releasing more doses.

Tunisia announces new curbs 

Tunisia will impose a four-day national lockdown from Thursday, which is a national holiday, because of a sharp rise in Covid-19 cases, Health Minister Fouzi Mehdi has said.

Schools will be closed from Thursday until January 24, Mehdi said.

WHO experts to visit Wuhan this week

China said the World Health Organization experts will begin their fact-finding visit this week in the central city of Wuhan where the coronavirus was first detected in late 2019.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that the experts would fly from Singapore to Wuhan on Thursday. Other details of their schedule haven’t been announced and the central government’s National Health Commission offered no further information.

The visit has been expected for months and WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus last week expressed frustration that arrangements were taking so long to finalise.

EU wraps preliminary talks with Valneva for vaccines

The European Union says it has concluded exploratory talks with French drugmaker Valneva for the supply of up to 60 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate.

"The envisaged contract with Valneva would provide for the possibility for all EU Member States to purchase together 30 million doses, and they could further purchase up to 30 million more doses," the EU Commission said in a statement. 

Israel expects to start vaccinating children by March

Israel may include children over the age of 12 in groups receiving Covid-19 vaccines within the next two months if research shows this is safe, a top health official says. 

Vaccinating at a world-record pace, Israel says it aims to have administered one or both shots to 5 million of its 9 million citizens, and reopen the economy, by mid-March.

Elderly Israelis and adults with medical conditions or jobs in critical high-risk sectors have been given priority. But with Israeli officials anticipating more regular vaccine shipments, the eligibility categories have been expanded.

Malaysia reports record daily rise in virus cases

Malaysia has reported 3,309 new coronavirus cases, the biggest daily rise since the start of the pandemic, as the country imposed a nationwide state of emergency.

Russia reports 22,934 more cases

Russia has reported 22,934 new cases, including 5,001 in Moscow, taking the national tally - the world's fourth highest - to 3,448,203.

Authorities said 531 people had died from the virus in the last 24 hours, pushing Russia's official death toll to 62,804.

China will give Myanmar some vaccines

China will give Myanmar a batch of coronavirus vaccines for free, the Chinese foreign ministry announced as the government's top diplomat wrapped up a two-day visit to Myanmar.

"China will continue to provide anti-epidemic materials according to Myanmar's needs. We shall give a batch of coronavirus for free and will continue discussions on vaccine cooperation," the ministry said in a statement.

After leaving Myanmar, Wang Yi, China's state councillor and foreign minister, will visit Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines before returning to China on January. 

Russia to send Nepal up to 25 mln vaccine doses

Russia intends to supply Nepal with up to 25 million doses of its Sputnik V vaccine against Covid-19, the RIA news agency has reported, citing the Russian foreign ministry.

Two US lawmakers test positive after Capitol riot

Two members of the US Congress have tested positive for the coronavirus, with one accusing Republicans of refusing to wear masks and mocking those who did during a riot at the legislature last week.

In a tweet, Democratic Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal said she had taken a test after being trapped in a secure room with fellow lawmakers, and that she had tested positive.

Jayapal said colleagues that refused to wear masks were guilty of "selfish idiocy" and should not be allowed to take their seats in the chamber.

AstraZeneca files for EU vaccine approval

AstraZeneca and Oxford University have applied for authorisation for their coronavirus vaccine in the EU with a decision possible by January 29, the European Medicines Agency says. 

The jab would be the third available for the 27-nation European Union after the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna drugs, as the bloc struggles to speed up the rollout.

The EU and the EMA have been under pressure to speed up approval of new vaccines against the virus, which has claimed the lives of more than 620,000 people across the continent.

EU regulator gets request to approve Oxford vaccine

The European Medicines Agency says AstraZeneca and Oxford University have submitted an application for their Covid-19 vaccine to be licensed across the European Union.

In a statement, the EU regulator said it has received a request for the vaccine to be green-lighted under an expedited process and that it could be approved by January 29 during an EMA meeting, “provided that the data submitted on the quality, safety and efficacy of the vaccine are sufficiently robust and complete.”

The drugs agency for the 27-nation EU has already approved two other coronavirus vaccines, one made by American drugmaker Pfizer and Germany's BioNTech and another by Moderna.

Virus deaths surge in California

The coronavirus death toll in California has reached 30,000, another staggering milestone as the nation's most populous state endures the worst surge of the nearly yearlong pandemic. 

Newly confirmed infections are rising at a dizzying rate of more than a quarter-million a week and during the weekend, a record 1,163 deaths were reported. 

Los Angeles County is one of the epicentres and health officials there are telling residents to wear a mask even when at home if they go outside regularly and live with someone elderly or otherwise at high risk.

“The damaging impact to our families and local hospitals from this surge is the worst disaster our county has experienced for decades,” health director Barbara Ferrer said. 

New Zealand to ask for negative virus test before flying in

New Zealand will ask international travellers from most countries to show negative Covid-19 test results before boarding flights to the country as new contagious variants of the virus spread globally.

"Given the high rates of infection in many countries and evidence of the global spread of more transmissible variants, it's clear that most global air routes will be of critical concern for the foreseeable future," Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said in a statement.

Hipkins said the pre-departure test requirement would soon expand to all countries and territories excluding Australia, Antarctica and some Pacific Island nations.

Travelers would still have to complete the 14-day mandatory quarantine and undergo testing upon arrival in New Zealand.

Australia records handful of new cases 

Australia has recorded a handful of new locally acquired coronavirus cases, with frictions increasing between state leaders over the best approach to manage and contain the outbreaks.

The northern state of Queensland recorded one new case of the UK strain last week, which triggered a three-day lockdown over the weekend to Monday. The country's most populous state of New South Wales logged five new locally acquired infections.

Including cases from returning travellers in hotel quarantine, Queensland registered three new cases and New South Wales logged 16 new cases. Victoria recorded no community infections for a sixth consecutive day.

Premier Mark McGowan of Western Australia said that Australia "could rest a lot easier" if Covid-19 was eliminated in NSW. Western Australia has not seen any locally acquired infections in nine months.

That is in contrast to the national suppression policy that others contend is the most appropriate option if Australia continues to accept returning travellers from overseas.

"We've had Covid deaths in this nation but we are going to have more deaths from mental health, from people being locked away in isolation," NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro told media. "Stop lecturing us, look after your own backyard."

Mexico could buy 24 mln doses of Russia's Sputnik vaccine

Mexico is considering acquiring 24 million doses of Russia's Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine and will receive its first batch of AstraZeneca jabs from Argentina to finish production of them, a top Mexican health official said.

Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell, who travelled to Buenos Aires last week to discuss Argentina's vaccination campaign using Sputnik and the production of AstraZeneca's vaccine, said Mexico reached agreements to potentially acquire the Russian vaccine.

"We're thinking that we could use up to 24 million doses of this vaccine, for 12 million people," considering that Sputnik requires two doses, Lopez-Gatell told a regular evening news conference.

Japan to widen state of emergency beyond Tokyo

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has told a meeting of ruling party executives he would declare a state of emergency for the three western prefectures of Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo to stem the spread of Covid-19, Kyodo news reported.

Responding to pressure from Tokyo and three neighbouring prefectures in eastern Japan, Suga last week declared a one-month state of emergency for that region until February 7.

But the number of coronavirus cases has also climbed in the west, prompting Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo to seek a state of emergency too. 

The government is finalising plans to do so, and could also consider adding the central prefectures of Aichi, home to Toyota Motor Corp, and Gifu, Kyodo reported, citing government sources.

Adding those five prefectures would mean a state of emergency for about half of Japan's population of 126 million people.

Germany's confirmed coronavirus cases rise by 12,802

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 12,802 to 1,933,826, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed. 

The reported death toll rose by 891 to 41,577, the tally showed.

Malaysian king declares emergency to fight virus

Malaysia's king Tuesday declared a nationwide state of emergency to fight a surge in cases that threatens to overwhelm the country's healthcare system.

Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah "is of the opinion that the outbreak in the country is at a very critical stage and that there was a need for the emergency," said a statement from the national palace.

WHO rules out Covid-19 herd immunity for 2021

Scientists at the World Health Organization warned that mass vaccinations would not bring about herd immunity to the virus this year, even as one leading producer boosted its production forecast.

German company BioNTech said it could produce millions more doses of its coronavirus doses than originally expected this year, boosting production forecast from 1.3 to two billion.

The announcement by BioNTech, which partnered with US firm Pfizer to produce the first vaccine approved in the West, was a boost to countries struggling to deliver the jabs.

But the company also warned that Covid-19 would "likely be come an endemic disease", and said vaccines would need to fight against the emergence of new viral variants and a "naturally waning immune response".

Later Monday, the WHO's chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan warned it would take time to produce and administer enough vaccine doses to halt the spread of the virus.

"We are not going to achieve any levels of population immunity or herd immunity in 2021," she said, stressing the need to maintain physical distancing, hand-washing and mask-wearing to rein in the pandemic.

Portugal's president tests positive

Portugal's President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, who is seeking a second term in an election on January 24, has tested positive but has so far shown no symptoms.

The 72-year-old had one major presidential debate scheduled for Tuesday, as well as a meeting with health experts to discuss the details of a planned lockdown to be announced on Wednesday, but his office said he had already cancelled all his public appearances.

In a statement shared on his official website, Rebelo de Sousa's office said the president has already informed Prime Minister Antonio Costa and Health Minister Marta Temido of the situation.

Rebelo de Sousa will self-isolate at his official residence in Lisbon, the statement said.

Almost 30,000 new daily cases in Brazil

Brazil reported 25,822 new confirmed cases in the past 24 hours, and 480 deaths, the health ministry said.

The South American country has now registered 8,131,612 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 203,580, according to ministry data, in the world's third worst outbreak outside the United States and India.

Dodger Stadium testing site to become vaccine centre

Los Angeles will convert its huge Dodger Stadium coronavirus testing site into a mass vaccination center this week, officials said, as the hard-hit city races to ramp up its sluggish inoculation program.

Currently the nation's largest testing site, the baseball stadium's parking lot will be used to more than triple the daily vaccinations administered in the nation's second-largest city, and eventually serve 12,000 people daily, the mayor's office said.

"From early on in this pandemic, Dodger Stadium has been home base for our testing infrastructure," Mayor Eric Garcetti said late Sunday.

"Vaccines are the surest route to defeating this virus and charting a course to recovery," he added.

The move follows mounting criticism of Los Angeles' vaccination campaign, which has seen less than one-third of roughly half a million doses received from Pfizer and Moderna administered so far.

Last week, Governor Gavin Newsom said California's vaccination rollout was "not good enough," and vowed to inoculate an additional one million over nine days while earmarking $372 million from his annual budget.

Dodger Stadium will end its current testing role la te Monday before undergoing a transition "into a mass vaccination center by the end of the week," a statement said.

South Africa extends restrictions as surge continues

South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa extended recently imposed restrictions and placed curbs on land border traffic, as the country grapples with an unprecedented surge in cases fuelled by a new virus strain.

The continent's most industrialised economy and worst-hit country went back into partial lockdown last month to stem flaring infections.

Alcohol sales were banned to ease pressure on emergency wards, large gatherings prohibited, parks shut and a 9 pm curfew imposed to limit exposure.

Ramaphosa on Monday said those measures would be extended until further notice.

Gorillas test positive for coronavirus at San Diego park

Several gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park have tested positive in what is believed to be the first cases among such primates in captivity.

The park’s executive director, Lisa Peterson, told The Associated Press on Monday that eight gorillas that live together at the park are believed to have the virus and several have been coughing.

It appears the infection came from a member of the park’s wildlife care team that also tested positive for the virus but has been asymptomatic. Veterinarians are closely monitoring the gorillas who will remain in their habitat at the park, north of San Diego, Peterson said.

While other wildlife has contracted the coronavirus from minks to tigers, the gorilla cases are believed to be the first reported from a zoo in the United States and possibly the world.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies