The coronavirus has killed over 2.54 million people and infected more than 114.5 million globally. Here are the virus-related developments for February 28:

A person waits to get the coronavirus vaccine in London, Britain, on February 18, 2021.
A person waits to get the coronavirus vaccine in London, Britain, on February 18, 2021. (Reuters)

Sunday, February 28, 2021

UK says first vaccines given to 20.09M people 

A total of 20.09 million people in Britain have received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, official data showed.

Britain also reported a further 6,035 cases within the previous 24 hours, and 144 more deaths within 28 days of a positive test.

The latest figures meant cases over the past seven days were down 21.2 percent compared with the previous seven-day period, and deaths were down 33.5 percent.

France reports 19,952 new cases, 122 deaths

France has reported 19,952 new confirmed Covid-19 cases in past 24 hours, down from 23,996 the previous day, the health ministry said.

The data from the ministry showed that 122 had died in hospital with the coronavirus, after 186 on Saturday.

Mexico registers more than 185,000 deaths

Mexico has registered another 458 coronavirus fatalities, bringing its overall death toll to 185,715, according to health ministry data, as the country marks the one-year anniversary of its first confirmed infections.

The ministry's data also showed additional 2,810 confirmed cases, for a total of 2,086,938 cases. The government says the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

South Africa signs deal with J&J for 11 mln vaccine doses

South Africa has signed an agreement with Johnson & Johnson to secure 11 million Covid-19 vaccine doses, President Cyril Ramaphosa said in an address to the nation.

Ramaphosa said 2.8 million of those doses would be delivered in the second quarter, with the rest spread over the rest of the year. Unlike most vaccines approved so far, the Johnson &Johnson vaccine does not require a second or "booster" shot.

Ramaphosa added that the cabinet had decided to ease restrictions on movement and activity due to a decline in coronavirus infections, downgrading the national alert level from 3 to 1.

Turkey reports 8,424 new cases 

Turkey has reported 8,424 new coronavirus cases, including 610 symptomatic patients. 

The country's overall caseload thus crossed 2.7 million, including 28,569 related deaths, according to the Health Ministry data released on Sunday. 

While 66 died, as many as 6,511 patients won the battle against the disease, bringing the number of recoveries to over 2.57 million. 

Italy sees 192 deaths

Italy has reported 192 coronavirus-related deaths, while the daily tally of new infections declined to 17,455, the health ministry said.

On Saturday, the country had reported 280 Covid-19 related deaths and 18,916 new cases of the coronavirus.

Italy has registered 97,699 deaths linked to Covid-19 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 2.92 million cases to date.

Israel to vaccinate Palestinians with Israeli work permits

Israel has confirmed it will vaccinate Palestinians in the West Bank with permits to work in Jewish settlements in the occupied territory and inside Israel. 

The Israeli military branch responsible for civil affairs in Palestinian territories said in a statement there had been political approval "to conduct a vaccination campaign for Palestinian workers with employment licenses in Israel and in the communities across Judea and Samaria", which are the biblical names used widely in Israel for the occupied West Bank. 

Fauci says of Johnson & Johnson vaccine: 'I would take it'

Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease official, has said that he would take the newly approved Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine, as he encouraged Americans to accept whatever version was available.

"All three of them are really quite good, and people should take the one that's most available to them. If you go to a place and you have J&J, and that's the one that's available now, I would take it," Fauci said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Germany to tighten controls at French border

Germany has classed France's Covid-battered Moselle region as a virus variant area, triggering tougher entry requirements at the border between the two neighbours.

The Moselle region is now listed as an area "at particularly high risk of infection due to widespread occurrence of SARS-CoV-2 virus variants", Germany's Robert Koch Institute for disease control announced. 

From Tuesday, cross-border travellers from Moselle will need to be able to show a recent negative coronavirus test.

Iran health ministry says virus deaths cross 60,000 mark

Iran's health ministry has said the country's coronavirus fatalities have broken the 60,000 mark, as the Islamic republic battles the Middle East's worst outbreak of the illness.

The grim milestone comes after several Iranian officials, including President Hassan Rouhani, warned of a virus "fourth wave" with cases rising in certain areas of the country.

"Sadly in the past 24 hours, 93 people lost their lives to Covid-19, and total deaths from this disease reached 60,073," health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said in a televised address.

Iran has registered a total of 1,631,169 infections, according to the ministry.

Czechia can use Sputnik vaccine without Europe's EMA approval – PM

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis has said the country could use Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine even without approval by European Union's EMA drugs agency.

On February 10, Babis has said Czechs would wait for the approval by EMA before using the vaccine.

Hungary's PM receives Chinese vaccine as govt ramps up rollout

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been vaccinated with a vaccine developed by China's Sinopharm, Orban announced on his official Facebook page as the country tries to accelerate its vaccination programme.

Hungary on Wednesday became the first European Union member to start inoculating people with Sinopharm shots after rolling out Russia's Sputnik V vaccine as well, even though neither has been granted approval for emergency use by the bloc.

Italy's Lombardy region heads toward lockdown

The Lombardy region where Milan is located is heading toward a partial lockdown on Monday.

Mayor Giuseppe Sala said in a video message he was disturbed by scenes of people gathering in public places, often with their masks down.

Italy has failed to flatten the curve on the fall resurgence, with numbers of new infections and deaths remaining stubbornly high amid new variants creating new outbreaks. The Italian Health Ministry reported 18,916 new infections and 280 deaths on Saturday.

First shipment of vaccine arrives in Philippines

A Chinese military aircraft carrying the first batch of Sinovac Biotech's CoronaVac doses has arrived in the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte's spokesman said, the first batch of coronavirus vaccines to arrive in the Southeast Asian country.

Duterte was set to witness the turnover of the shipment of 600,000 doses, a donation from the Chinese government, which will be used to kick off a vaccination campaign initially covering health care workers and police and military personnel.

Russia reports 11,359 cases

Russia has reported 11,359 new virus cases, bringing the national tally to 4,246,079 infections.

The coronavirus crisis centre said that 379 more deaths of virus patients had been confirmed in the past 24 hours, which pushed the official Russian death toll to 86,122. 

Thailand starts vaccination campaign

Thailand has kicked off its inoculation campaign, with cabinet ministers, health officials and medical professionals among the first in the queue to receive vaccinations.

The first doses of vaccine, developed by China's Sinovac Biotech, were given to Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul, who is also the health minister, among others at an infectious diseases institute on the outskirts of Bangkok.

"I hope that the vaccination will result in people being safe from the spread of the virus and it allows Thailand to return to normalcy as soon as possible," Anutin told reporters afterwards.

Australia receives AstraZeneca vials as it ramps up vaccination drive

Australia has received 300,000 doses of the AstraZeneca PLC vaccine, more than doubling the amount of all vaccines shipped to the country so far and allowing the government to ramp up its immunisation drive.

Mass vaccinations for Australia's 25 million people began on Monday after the arrival of a first batch of more than 142,000 doses of the Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE vaccine.

"We will now be able to scale up the vaccination rollout to our priority groups, including our most vulnerable Australians and to our frontline border and health workers," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement.

Eight arrested at anti-lockdown protest in Denmark

Danish police said they arrested eight people in an anti-lockdown demonstration in Copenhagen.

Organised by a group calling itself "Men in Black", the rally of around 1,200 people in the Danish capital was the first since the government announced last week that it was extending many anti-coronavirus restrictions.

Police said the rally remained largely peaceful, but eight people were arrested for allegedly using fireworks and for rowdy behaviour.

Auckland outbreak hits cricket, sailing, rugby

The fourth Twenty20 cricket international between New Zealand and Australia has been shifted and the first weekend of racing in the America’s Cup sailing match has been postponed after new cases were reported in Auckland on Saturday.

The third Australia-New Zealand T20 is due to be played in Wellington on Wednesday and the fourth match of the five-match series will also be played in that city on Friday, both without crowds.

All English households with school children offered twice weekly tests

All households in England with school or college aged children will be offered two rapid tests per person per week to support the government’s priority to get young people back in the classroom, the health ministry said.

Last week British Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out a phased plan to end England's latest lockdown, offering a "cautious" approach to try to prevent a return to wholesale restrictions that have hobbled the economy.

He said the first stage would prioritise schools returning on March 8 when only minimal socialising outdoors would be allowed.

Germany reports 7,890 cases

The number of confirmed virus cases in Germany increased by 7,890 to 2,442,336, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed. The reported death toll rose by 157 to 70,045, the tally showed. 

China reports 6 new cases vs 10 a day earlier

Mainland China reported six new Covid-19 cases on February 27, down from 10 cases a day earlier, the national health authority said on Sunday.

The National Health Commission said in a statement all of the new cases were imported infections. Six new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, were reported, compared with eight the day before.

Total confirmed Covid-19 cases in mainland China stand at 89,893, while the death toll remains 4,636, according to the statement.

US authorises Johnson & Johnson's Covid-19 vaccine

The US government on Saturday authorised Johnson & Johnson's single-dose Covid-19 vaccine, enabling millions more Americans to be vaccinated in the coming weeks and setting it up for additional approvals around the world.

The US Food and Drug Administration announced the emergency use authorisation for adults aged 18 and older following Friday's unanimous endorsement by the agency's panel of outside experts. Shipments are expected to begin on Sunday or Monday.

US President Joe Biden hailed the move but cautioned Americans against celebrating too soon. "Things are still likely to get worse again as new variants spread," he said in a statement, urging people to continue washing their hands, wearing masks, and maintaining social distancing.

"There is light at the end of the tunnel, but we cannot let our guard down now or assume that victory is inevitable," he said.

In J&J's 44,000-person global trial, the vaccine was found to be 66% effective at preventing moderate-to-severe Covid-19 four weeks after inoculation, and 100% effective in preventing hospitalisation and death due to the virus.

There were very few serious side effects reported in the trial, which also offered some preliminary evidence that the vaccine reduced asymptomatic infections.

However, more study is expected, and the FDA on Sunday dismissed the idea that evidence proved the vaccine prevented transmission between people and added there was no data to determine how long the vaccine's protection lasted.

New Zealand's Auckland starts second lockdown in month

Auckland, New Zealand's biggest city, woke up on Sunday morning to a second lockdown in a month as health authorities try to rein in a coronavirus cluster of the more contagious UK variant.

The seven-day lockdown, announced late Saturday by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, follows a three-day stay-at-home order in mid-February after a local emergence of the UK variant of the new coronavirus that causes Covid-19.

Genomic sequencing of a new case recorded on Saturday, which prompted the lockdown, was linked to the existing cluster, health authorities said on Sunday, bringing it to 13 cases.

UK’s Sunak to provide $7 billion of grants to pandemic hit businesses in budget

British finance minister Rishi Sunak will announce $7 billion (5 billion pounds) of additional grants to help businesses hit hard by pandemic lockdowns in his budget statement next week, the government said on Saturday.

Shops, bars, clubs, hotels, restaurants, gyms and hair salons would be among nearly 700,000 companies eligible for new direct cash grants of up 18,000 pounds.

The government said the funding takes the total spent on direct grants to businesses during the crisis to 25 billion pounds.

Encouraged by the rapid roll-out of vaccines, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has unveiled a route out of lockdown for England.

However, some businesses will need to remain shuttered until the summer.

Local authorities in England will also get an extra 425 million pounds to distribute grants to businesses not eligible for the restart grants, while the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will receive 794 million pounds of extra funding.

The government has already racked up more than 280 billion pounds in coronavirus spending and tax cuts, pushing Britain's borrowing to its highest level since World War Two.

Brazil registers over 1,300 deaths for fifth straight day

Brazil registered 1,386 Covid-19 deaths on Saturday and 61,602 additional cases, according to data released by the nation's Health Ministry.

The South American country has suffered an enduring second wave since November, and infection rates have not begun to fall. Saturday was the fifth consecutive day Brazil registered over 1,300 deaths and 60,000 cases due to the coronavirus.

The nation has now registered 10,517,232 total confirmed cases and 254,221 deaths due to the virus. 

Vatican Iraq envoy tests positive for Covid-19

The Vatican ambassador to Iraq, the point man for Pope Francis' trip to the country next week, has tested positive for Covid-19 but the visit will go ahead, he said on Saturday.

Archbishop Mitja Leskovar, who has been the key person planning the March 5-8 trip, told Reuters that he as well as several other staff at the nunciature (embassy) were in self-isolation.

"This is not going to influence the pope's program, which is going on as planned," Leskovar said.

Leskovar, who is Slovenian and whose title is Apostolic Nuncio, said he had been experiencing only light symptoms so far.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies