The coronavirus has killed more than 2.6M people and infected over 117M worldwide. Here're the latest developments for March 7:

Health workers and volunteers assist as students take coronavirus disease tests at Harris Academy Beckenham, ahead of full school reopening in England, Beckenham, south east London, Britain, March 5, 2021.
Health workers and volunteers assist as students take coronavirus disease tests at Harris Academy Beckenham, ahead of full school reopening in England, Beckenham, south east London, Britain, March 5, 2021. (Reuters)

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Britain says 22.2 million people have received first Covid vaccination

Britain has reported the number of people who had received a first dose of a vaccine had risen to 22.2 million.

Britain also reported 5,177 new cases of Covid-19 on Sunday, a drop from 6,040 a day earlier.

The government's website earlier said there had been no deaths within 28 days of a positive test, but posted a message saying: "Owing to processing issues for deaths in England, the numbers of deaths throughout the UK will be updated later. In the meantime, the number of newly reported deaths for 7 March 2021 may incorrectly show as zero."

France reports 21,825 new cases, 130 deaths

France has reported 21,825 new confirmed Covid-19 cases, down from 23,306 on Saturday.

The Health Ministry reported 130 new Covid-19 deaths, taking the total to 88,574. The number of people in intensive care rose by 54 to 3,743.

It said 3,772,579 people had now received a first vaccination dose, up about 200,000 from Saturday. 

Italy reports 207 deaths, 20,765 new cases

Italy has reported 207 coronavirus-related deaths against 307 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 20,765 from 23,641 the day before.

Some 271,336 tests for Covid-19 were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 355,024, the health ministry said.

Italy has registered 99,785 deaths linked to Covid-19 since its outbreak began in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the seventh-highest in the world. The country has reported 3 .07 million cases to date.

Patients in hospital with Covid-19 - not including those in intensive care - stood at 21,144 on Sunday, up from 20,701 a day earlier.

There were 161 new admissions to intensive care units, down from 214 on Saturday. The total number of intensive care patients increased to 2,605 from a previous 2,571.

Turkey reports over 11,000 new infections

Turkey has reported 11,187 new coronavirus cases, including 735 symptomatic patients, according to the Health Ministry.

The total number of cases in the country passed 2.78 million, while the nationwide death toll reached 29,030, with 65 fatalities over the past day.

As many as 7,785 more patients in the country won the battle against the virus, bringing the total number of recoveries to over 2.62 million.

More than 34.12 million coronavirus tests have been conducted in Turkey to date, with 129,299 since Saturday.

The latest figures show that the number of Covid-19 patients in critical condition stands at 1,261.

Medical panel to investigate spread of coronavirus in PSL

The Pakistan Cricket Board has formed a two-member fact-finding panel to investigate how players were infected with coronavirus in the bio-secure bubble, leading to the postponement of the country’s premier Twenty20 league.

The Pakistan Super League was indefinitely postponed on Thursday after six players and a support staff member — including Australian legspinner Fawad Ahmed — tested positive for Covid-19.

The two-member panel is made up of Pakistan’s infectious disease experts Dr Syed Faisal Mahmood and Dr Salman Mohammad Abbas, who will review the bio-secure bubble protocols put in place for the PSL.

They will submit a report to PCB chairman Ehsan Mani by March 31.

The PCB said in a statement on Sunday that the independent panel has also been tasked with identifying shortcomings of the bio-secure bubble and “advise as to the reasons why the bio-secure environment did not remain Covid-19 free.”

Mani said that both doctors will also speak with all the relevant PSL stakeholders, including players, event and hotel staff as well as medical and compliance officers attached to all six teams.

“The independent panel of two distinguished experts has been appointed with the sole purpose of an honest, constructive and objective review,” Mani said.

Nigeria leaders get Covid jab to encourage citizens

All eligible Nigerians must enlist for Covid-19 vaccinations, the country’s president has said after taking the first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab live on television.

President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo were given the vaccine in the capital Abuja on the second day of Nigeria’s immunisation drive on Saturday.

The event was televised as “a demonstration of leadership and faith in the safety and efficacy of the vaccines,” according to the president.

“I have received my first dose and I urge all eligible Nigerians to do the same so that we can be protected from the virus,” said Buhari, advising citizens to only get vaccinated at authorised designated centres.

“The vaccine offers us hope for a safe Nigeria that is free of this coronavirus.”

Nigeria’s Covid-19 case tally is now above 158,000, including 1,954 deaths and over 137,000 recoveries, according to latest figures from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control.

UK schools to reopen, backed by frequent virus testing

British students, backed by a robust coronavirus testing program, are gearing up to return to school Monday after a two-month closure, in what Prime Minister Boris Johnson says is a plan to get the country “moving closer to a sense of normality.”

The reopening of schools is the first step in the UK government's plan to gradually ease Covid-19 restrictions as the country's vaccination drive gains critical mass, with all restrictions lifted by June.

As part of the plan, millions of high school and college students coming back to UK classrooms will be tested for the virus for the first few weeks.

Authorities want to quickly detect and isolate asymptomatic cases in order to avoid sending entire schools home.

“We are being cautious in our approach so that we do not undo the progress we have made so far,” Johnson said in a statement, urging everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated.

High schools and colleges will be allowed to reopen in phases to allow for three rounds of testing. Students will then get kits so they can test themselves twice more at home. The UK government has distributed nearly 57 million rapid “lateral flow” test kits to schools across the country, but there are concerns about the accuracy of the tests, which may result in pupils being forced to self-isolate unnecessarily.

A senior public health official, however, said on Sunday that the risk of a false positive was very low.

Ethiopian Airlines says ready to transport vaccines

Ethiopian Airlines is set to take a lead role in ferrying Covid-19 vaccines around the world and expects demand for the service to last for up to three years, its head of cargo services said.

Africa's biggest carrier has turned to cargo services to shore up revenue after the onset of the coronavirus crisis last year sent passenger numbers down sharply.

"We have aircrafts converted from passengers by removing their seats, 16 of them, which are very wide aircrafts converted to transport vaccines," Fitsum Abadi, the managing director of Ethiopian Cargo, told Reuters.

He was speaking after an Ethiopian plane landed with the country's first 2.2 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines acquired through the COVAX global vaccine-sharing initiative.

Last December, Ethiopian Airlines reached a deal with Cainiao Network, the logistics arm of China's Alibaba Group, to establish an international cold chain from China for the supply of pharmaceuticals, including vaccines.

Under the deal, temperature-controlled pharmaceuticals are distributed twice a week from the Chinese city of Shenzhen to Africa and beyond via hubs in Dubai and Addis Ababa.

Israel reopens economy before election 

Israelis has begun reopening its economy as part of its final phase of lifting coronavirus lockdown restrictions, some of them in place since September.

Coffee shops, bars, restaurants, event halls, sporting events, hotels and all primary and secondary education may reopen to the public, with some restrictions on entry and capacity.

The move comes after months of government-imposed shutdowns.

Over 52% of its population has received one dose and almost 40% have had two doses of the Pfizer vaccine, one of the highest rates in the world.

Israel has confirmed more than 800,000 cases since the start of the pandemic, including 5,861 deaths, according to the Health Ministry.

Netanyahu is campaigning for reelection as Israel's coronavirus vaccine champion at the same time that he is on trial for corruption.

Austria suspends AstraZeneca vaccine batch after death

Austrian authorities have suspended inoculations with a batch of AstraZeneca's vaccine as a precaution while investigating the death of one person and the illness of another after the shots, a health agency said.

"The Federal Office for Safety in Health Care (BASG) has received two reports in a temporal connection with a vaccination from the same batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the district clinic of Zwettl" in Lower Austria province, it said.

One 49-year-old woman died as a result of severe coagulation disorders, while a 35-year-old woman developed a pulmonary embolism and is recovering, it said.

Swiss newspaper Niederoesterreichische Nachrichten as well as broadcaster ORF and the APA news agency reported that the women were both nurses who worked at the Zwettl clinic.

"As a precautionary measure, the remaining stocks of the affected vaccine batch are no longer being issued or vaccinated," it added.

The APA news agency quoted AstraZeneca as saying the company was in contact with Austrian authorities and would fully support the investigation.

Virus reaches previously Covid-free New Caledonia

The remote Pacific territory of New Caledonia, one of the few places on the planet to have avoided Covid-19, is to go into strict lockdown after detecting nine cases.

The outbreak on the French archipelago was detected after a school headteacher fell ill on the Wallis and Futuna islands – another French territory in the Pacific – leading authorities to screen for cases.

"According to the first indications, the patient developed symptoms in mid-February and could have been infectious in Wallis and Futuna from the end of January," the head of the local government in New Caledonia, Thierry Santa, told reporters.

Travel between the two French territories had previously been unrestricted, while anyone arriving from elsewhere had to undergo a strict 14-day quarantine in a hotel.

Ethiopia gears up for vaccine drive as first doses arrive

Ethiopia has received its first 2.2 million doses of vaccine against the coronavirus, and officials in Africa's second most populous country said the first jabs would be administered in the coming days.

The doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, were allocated under the UN-led Covax initiative which is working to facilitate vaccine access for poorer countries.

Ethiopia has so far reported 165,029 cases of Covid-19, the fifth-highest total in Africa and the highest in East Africa.

Germany's Covid-19 case tally crosses 2.5 million

The number of confirmed virus cases in Germany has  reached 2,500,182, and an increase of 8,103 new infections.

The reported death toll rose by 96 to 71,900,  the data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

Russia reports 10,595 new cases

Russia has reported 10,595 new Covid-19 cases, including 1,534 in Moscow, taking the national case tally to 4,322,776 since the pandemic began.

The government's coronavirus taskforce said that 368 people had died during the past 24 hours, bringing the Russian death toll to 89,094.

China exports spike to highest in decades after Covid-19 hit

China's export growth has jumped to the highest in over two decades, with imports also surging in a sharp bounceback from the coronavirus outbreak that had brought activity to a near halt.

Electronics and textile exports such as masks contributed to the spike in outbound shipments, as demand for work-from-home supplies and protective gear against the virus outbreak soared during the pandemic.

Exports spiked 60.6 percent on-year in the January-February period, well above analysts' expectations, while imports rose 22.2 percent, official data showed.

Paraguay reshuffles cabinet after violent protests

Paraguay's President Mario Abdo Benitez has announced a cabinet reshuffle after violent street protests over the government's handling of the pandemic.

Paraguayans are angry over a shortage of personal protective gear and other equipment to confront the health crisis and a collapse in the healthcare system. The health minister already resigned Friday.

On Saturday, another 5,000 people came out to protest but this time the rally was peaceful, and they called for the president's resignation.

England invites people aged 56 to 59 to book vaccinations

NHS England has invited people aged 56 to 59 to book Covid-19 vaccinations in the coming week, with letters to 850,000 people in that age bracket landing on doorsteps from Saturday and another 850,000 due to land Monday.

Britain's medical regulator on Thursday said it would fast-track vaccines for coronavirus variants, adding that makers of already-authorised shots would not need new lengthy clinical trials to prove their adapted vaccines work.

There is concern that some variants, such as those first found in South Africa and Brazil, may reduce the efficacy of the first generation of Covid-19 vaccines, and manufacturers are looking to adapt their shots.

Anti-lockdown protesters burn masks in Boise

At least 100 people have been gathered at the front of the Idaho Capitol to burn masks in a protest against measures taken to limit infections and deaths caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Some groups say mask mandates are a restriction of their freedoms.

Health experts say they help slow the spread of the disease.

New Zealand's Auckland emerges from weeklong lockdown

Auckland, New Zealand's biggest city, emerged from a strict weeklong lockdown imposed after a community cluster of the more contagious UK coronavirus variant.

There were no new local Covid-19 cases recorded, health officials said, allowing for the restrictions to ease. If no community cases are confirmed during the rest of Sunday, it would make a full seven days since the last community case.

There are still limits on public gatherings in the city of nearly two million, however, and masks are obligatory on public transport.

Footage on TVNZ, New Zealand's state-owned television network, showed people lining up at coffee shops on Sunday morning with many saying they were feeling relieved.

The government said it might ease restrictions in Auckland further on Friday, to bring them to the same level as in the rest of New Zealand.

Brazil's Sao Paulo goes into lockdown amid new virus wave

Full hospitals and rising Covid-19 infections forced the Sao Paulo government into a new lockdown, closing businesses in the hopes of reducing the state's caseload.

State health authorities say the number of cases continues to climb alarmingly, with restrictions applied for at least the next two weeks.

Even the 44-bed Barradas field hospital in Brazil's largest city, which only opened on February 8, was fully occupied.

State Health Secretary Jean Gorinchteyn compared the situation to a "war", inviting people to "take responsibility" and abide by the measures.

Mexico reports 6,561 new cases and 779 more deaths

Mexico's health ministry reported 6,561 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country and 779 fatalities, bringing its total to 2,125,866 infections and 190,357 deaths.

Officials have been frustrated by bottlenecks in the vaccine supply and raised concerns that wealthy countries are hoarding vaccines against Covid-19.

Mexico has so far administered roughly 2.7 million vaccine doses, enough for about 1.1% of the population.

No Covid vaccine mandate for NBA players – commissioner

NBA commissioner Adam Silver says the league won't require players to be vaccinated against Covid-19, but if progress continues against the virus the league can play a normal schedule in "relatively full" arenas next season.

Silver said there are no plans for any overseas exhibition or regular-season games in the upcoming campaign, but he remains confident teams will be able to play a full 82-game schedule starting next October and ending in June.

The commissioner said he believed it was a "personal decision" whether to be vaccinated "that players need to make just like everyone in our communities needs to make."

Chile donates 20,000 doses of Sinovac vaccine to Ecuador

Ecuador has received a donation of some 20,000 doses of the Sinovac coronavirus vaccine from Chile, Ecuador's President Lenin Moreno said, in a sign of the stark disparities in South American countries' inoculation campaigns.

Chile, one of Latin America's wealthiest countries, ranks sixth in the world for per-capita vaccine shots administered, according to Reuters data, with a quarter of the population now having received a dose.

By contrast, Ecuador's slow rollout has prompted criticism of Moreno by municipal authorities, who are planning to import vaccines on their own.
The Andean country had administered some 65,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine as of Friday, namely to healthcare workers and nursing home residents.

Oral Covid treatment yields promising trial data – drugmakers

German pharmaceutical giant Merck and a US partner reported promising results in trials of a drug administered orally to fight Covid-19, saying it helps reduce patients' viral load.

In January, Merck halted work on two Covid vaccine candidates but has pressed on with research into two products to treat the disease, including a pill-based one called molnupiravir, which it has developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.

This drug caused a significant drop in patients' viral load after five days of treatment with it, Merck said at a meeting with infectious disease experts.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies