The novel coronavirus has infected more than 88 million people globally and claimed over 1.8 million lives. Here are the updates for January 7:

Ellen Prosser, known as Nell, who is 100 years old, receives Oxford/AstraZeneca shot from Dr. Nikki Kanani at Sunrise Care Home, in Sidcup, Britain, on January 7, 2020.
Ellen Prosser, known as Nell, who is 100 years old, receives Oxford/AstraZeneca shot from Dr. Nikki Kanani at Sunrise Care Home, in Sidcup, Britain, on January 7, 2020. (Reuters)

Thursday, January 7, 2021:

UK extends England entry ban to travellers from 11 African countries for Covid variant

The United Kingdom said it would extend a ban on travellers entering England to southern African countries in a measure to prevent the spread of a new Covid-19 variant identified in South Africa.

The restriction will take effect on Saturday and remain in place for two weeks, the government said in a statement.

"Entry into England will be banned to those who have travelled from or through any southern African country in the last 10 days, including Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Eswatini, Zambia, Malawi, Lesotho, Mozambique and Angola – as well as Seychelles and Mauritius," the country's Department for Transport said.

Sinovac coronavirus vaccine 78 percent effective in Brazil trial, details sparse

A coronavirus vaccine developed by China's Sinovac Biotech was 78 percent effective in a late-stage Brazilian trial and entirely prevented severe Covid-19 cases, researchers said, although a lack of data details stirred calls for more transparency.

The announced efficacy, closely watched by developing countries counting on the vaccine to begin mass inoculations to help end a raging pandemic, was below preliminary findings from Turkish researchers and lacked detailed data provided on US and European vaccines.

The director of Brazilian biomedical centre Butantan, Sinovac's research and production partner, said detailed results were being submitted to health regulator Anvisa as part of a request for emergency use of the vaccine.

France's new coronavirus cases up 21,703 over 24 hours

France reported 21,703 new confirmed virus cases, down from 25,379 on Wednesday.

The health ministry also reported 277 new virus deaths in hospitals against 283 on Wednesday.

The cumulative cases toll now stands at 2,727,321 and the total death toll at 66,841.

Poorest countries can expect vaccines within weeks – WHO

The world's poorest countries can expect to start receiving their first Covid-19 vaccine doses between the end of January and mid-February, the World Health Organization said.

Vaccination is already under way in some of the world's wealthiest nations, including the United States, Britain, European Union countries and Canada.

Covax, the globally-pooled vaccine procurement and distribution effort, has struck agreements to secure two billion doses – and the first of those will start rolling out within weeks, said the WHO's head of vaccines, Kate O'Brien.

Covax aims to secure vaccines for 20 percent of the population in each participating country by the end of the year, with funding covered for the 92 lower- and lower-middle income economies involved in the scheme.

Colombia tightens virus restrictions as cases rise

Colombia, which has the third-highest virus death toll in South America, has imposed restrictions on two-thirds of its 50 million citizens for five days in a bid to relieve fast-growing pressure on hospitals.

The country, which detected its first coronavirus case last March, was under lockdown for six months until September, when President Ivan Duque decided to ease stay-at-home measures that had ravaged the economy.

Mask-use was made mandatory as businesses gradually reopened in the country that has registered some 44,700 deaths to Covid-19 to date.

Since the December holiday season, the country has experienced a sharp rise in infections, and there is concern about the emergence of a new, more infectious strain in Britain.

Spain tops 2 million virus cases as infection rate rises

Spain became the fourth Western European country to pass 2 million cumulative virus cases, health ministry data showed, while the rate of infection continued to climb.

The ministry reported 42,360 cases since Tuesday, bringing the total to 2,024,904. The death toll rose by 245 to 51,675.

No data was released on Wednesday due to a national holiday to celebrate Epiphany.

Authorities in the northern region of Castile and Leon announced they would close down shopping centres and gyms, and extended a ban on non-essential travel across regional borders until May.

UK reports over 52,000 new cases, 1,162 deaths

The United Kingdom has recorded 52,618 new cases and 1,162 deaths within 28 days of a positive test for the virus, according to official data.

Wednesday's data had shown 62,322 new infections and 1,041 deaths.

France detects two clusters of UK strain

Two risk clusters of the mutant virus variant sweeping Britain have been detected in France, the Health Ministry has said.

The clusters were located in the western French region of Brittany, and in the Paris region, the ministry said in a statement.

A total of 19 cases of infections with the variant have been confirmed in France, as well as three cases of people infected with a different new strain which was first detected in South Africa, it said.

Turkey reports 12,171 new cases, 194 deaths

Turkey has reported 12,171 new cases in the last 24 hours, Health Ministry data showed, bringing the country's total number of cases to 2,296,102.

It reported 194 related fatalities over the same period, raising the total death toll so far to 22,264.

Turkey has imposed curfews each weekday evening and full weekend lockdowns for more than a month to curb the virus' spread.

Lebanon begins new lockdown amid surge in cases

Lebanon has begun a 25-day nationwide lockdown to limit the virus's spread as infections hit a record high in the tiny Mediterranean nation and patients overwhelmed the health care sector.

The lockdown in Lebanon is the third since the first case was reported in late February. 

It will close most businesses and limit traffic by imposing an odd-and-even license plate rule on alternating days. It also reduces the number of flights at the country’s only international airport.

Russia's number of deaths top 60,000 

Russia has reported 23,541 new virus cases, which brought the total number of cases to 3,332,142.

The number of virus deaths rose by 506 in the past 24 hours, taking the national death toll to 60,457, the coronavirus crisis centre said. 

Moderna aiming to make up to 1B doses of vaccine this year

Moderna Inc is on track to deliver between 600 million and 1 billion doses of its vaccine this year, Chief Executive Stephane Bancel said.

Bancel said Moderna had orders for 500 million doses of its vaccine and could comfortably make at least 600 million doses. He told a conference organised by Oddo BHF that the group was working to meet or even exceed a target for 1 billion doses, however.

Bancel said it was still not clear how long the antibodies generated by the vaccines would last, but added that it could potentially be a couple of years.

Indonesia reports record 9,321 infections

Indonesia has reported a daily record 9,321 new virus infections, bringing its total cases to 797,723, data from its Covid-19 task force showed.

It was the second consecutive day of reporting record infections. Thursday's data showed 224 people died due to the virus, bringing total fatalities to 23,520.

South Africa to get 1.5M vaccines from Serum Institute of India

South Africa's health ministry said that the country would get 1.5 million vaccines from the Serum Institute of India, with a million coming in January and the remainder the following month.

The ministry added in a statement that it was working with the country's health regulator SAHPRA to ensure there were no delays with the rollout of the vaccines.

Hungary could receive first shipment of Moderna's vaccine next week – Surgeon General

Hungary could receive the first shipment of Moderna's vaccine next week, Surgeon General Cecilia Muller told an online briefing.

Muller said Hungary would receive 1.7 million doses of the vaccine altogether under a European Union purchase agreement, enabling the central European country to inoculate 872,000 people.

England test and trace scheme reports 24 percent rise in cases

There has been a 24 percent increase in people testing positive for the virus in the week to December 30, England's test and trace scheme said, reflecting a spike in cases that has prompted a new national lockdown.

The scheme contacted 92.3 percent of the 493,573 people identified as close contacts of positive cases, a similar proportion to the week before.

"The number of close contacts identified has notably increased across the last 3 weeks and is more than double the number identified at the end of November," the health ministry said in its weekly update.

Malaysia reports record jump in cases 

Malaysia has reported its biggest daily rise in virus cases as the government considered imposing restrictions in some areas, while businesses warned that another nationwide lockdown would further batter the economy.

A jump in infections has spooked investors, with the Kuala Lumpur stock index falling as much as 1.2 percent on Thursday, a day after authorities said the rise in cases was straining the health system.

The government was considering targeted lockdowns in parts of the country in response, Director-General of Health Noor Hisham Abdullah had said on Wednesday.

Australia urges China to give access to WHO experts 'without delay'

China should give access to World Health Organization (WHO) officials investigating the origins of Covid-19 "without delay", Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne said.

Earlier this week, the head of the WHO said he was "very disappointed" that China had still not authorised the entry of a team of international coronavirus experts.

"We hope that the necessary permissions for the WHO team's travel to China can be issued without delay," Payne said.

She reiterated the importance of the WHO-convened scientific study and said: "We look forward to the findings from the international field mission to China".

CureVac strikes vaccine alliance deal with Bayer

German biotech firm CureVac has agreed to an alliance with drugmaker Bayer to get global support in seeking approval for its experimental Covid-19 vaccine and for distribution.

"Bayer will contribute its expertise and established infrastructure in areas such as clinical operations, regulatory affairs, pharmacovigilance, medical information, supply chain performance as well as support in selected countries," the two companies said.

Czech Republic reports highest daily tally

The Czech Republic has reported 17,668 new cases over the past 24 hours in its highest daily tally, Health Ministry data showed.

Deaths in the country of 10.7 million, one of Europe's worst-hit, rose by 185 to 12,621 including revisions for previous days. 

Indonesia Islamic council aims for halal ruling before mass vaccination

Indonesia's highest Muslim clerical council aims to issue a ruling on whether a vaccine is halal, or permissible under Islam, before the country is due to start a mass inoculation programme using a Chinese vaccine next week.

The world's largest Muslim-majority country plans to launch vaccinations on Janaury 13 after obtaining 3 million doses from China's Sinovac Biotech.

Controversy over whether vaccines adhere to Islamic principles has stymied public health responses before, including in 2018, when the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) issued a fatwa declaring that a measles vaccine was forbidden under Islam.

"Our target is before first injections start, the fatwa has to come out then," said Muti Arintawati, an official at MUI in charge of analysing food and drugs to assess whether they are halal.

Russian vaccine trials begin in UAE as cases rise

Abu Dhabi has started Phase III clinical trials of Russia's experimental vaccine, known as Sputnik V, amid a surge in infections in the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi's media office said.

The human trial, announced in October before the recent rise in cases, is initially seeking up to 500 volunteers to be vaccinated at a hospital in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.

Two doses of the vaccine will be given, 20 days apart, to volunteers, the statement said.

Participants will have to be 18 years or older, have not previously been infected with  or participated in other vaccine trials, it said.

The UAE is also conducting Phase III trials of a vaccine developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm).

The UAE has approved the vaccine and it is available for free to anybody who wants it, with priority given to more vulnerable individuals, according to the health ministry.

Japan to declare virus state of emergency in Tokyo region

Japan's government will declare a state of emergency in the greater Tokyo area, as media said the capital would again report a record daily number of infections.

The new month-long restrictions will be far less strict than the harsh lockdowns seen in other parts of the world, and softer than even Japan's first state of emergency last spring.

They will primarily target restaurants and bars, which are being asked to stop serving alcohol by 7 pm (10 GMT) and close an hour later, with residents also requested to avoid non-essential outings after 8 pm.

Businesses in Tokyo and three surrounding areas that petitioned the government to make the move will be urged to maximise teleworking, with the goal of reducing commuter traffic by 70 percent.

Australia moves up vaccination start to February

Australia is advancing the start of its coronavirus vaccination program to mid-February, with plans to inoculate 15 percent of the population by late March.

The government had argued there was no reason for an emergency rollout that cut short usual regulatory processes as has occurred in the United States and elsewhere because local transmission rates in Australia are much lower. It had planned to start vaccinating in March.

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he expects the Pfizer vaccine will be delivered two weeks after the Australian regulator approves it in late January.

He said that “it is moving considerably faster than normal.”

Morrison says the goal is to give 80,000 shots a week and have 4 million of Australia’s 26 million people vaccinated by the end of March.

Virus restrictions heightened in China province

Lockdown measures were being imposed in a northern Chinese province where coronavirus cases more than doubled in the region near Beijing that's due to host some events in next year's Winter Olympics.

Rail, air and highway connections to the Hebei capital of Shijiazhuang, a city of at least 10 million people, have been suspended and prevention and control measured tightened over urban communities and villages in the area. Classes have been suspended and school dormitories isolated.

The National Health Commission announced 51 new cases had been confirmed in Hebei province, bringing the total to 90 since Sunday.

Most have been in Shijiazhuang, although cases have also been recorded in the city of Xingtai.

Thailand reports 305 new cases, 1 more death

Thailand has reported 305 new infections and one new death, bringing its total to 9,636 cases and 67 fatalities since it first detected the virus early last year.

The new infections included three cases imported from abroad and found in quarantine, the government's Covid-19 taskforce said at a news briefing.

Germany's confirmed cases rise by 26,391 - RKI

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has increased by 26,391 to 1,835,038, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 1,070 to 37,607, the tally showed.

Mexico hits new daily high for cases

Mexico has reported a new high for a daily increase in cases, with 13,345 newly confirmed infections reported for the previous 24 hours. Officials also reported a near-record of 1,165 deaths related to the virus. 

The country has now seen about 1.48 million infections and almost 130,000 deaths so far in the pandemic. A low testing rate means that is an undercount, and official estimates suggest the real death toll is over 180,000.

Mexico’s vaccination effort continues at a glacial rate, with about 7,500 shots administered Wednesday, a rate similar to previous days.

Tunisia reports daily record of 2,820 cases

Tunisia has recorded 2,820 new confirmed cases, the health ministry said, a record since the start of the pandemic last year.

Seventy more deaths were reported, taking the death toll to more than 5,000, the ministry added.

The total number of cases has jumped to around 150,000.

Brazil sees 1,242 deaths, 63,430 new cases

Brazil has recorded 63,430 new cases and 1,242 fresh deaths, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday.

UK vows 'sprint' to vaccine finishing line

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday said the coronavirus marathon had turned into a hopeful sprint to vaccinate millions in the weeks ahead but justified another lockdown to relieve crisis-hit hospitals.

Hastily recalled lawmakers voted retroactively in favour of the lockdown measures, which came into effect in England overnight, by 524 votes to 16.

Also Wednesday, the government announced 1,041 new deaths from the virus -- the first time fatalities have exceeded 1,000 in a single day since the peak of the pandemic last April.

The new figure means 77,346 people have now died in the UK within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test, one of the world's worst tolls.

A record 62,322 new cases were also registered in 24 hours, after Johnson warned a variant strain of the virus which emerged in southeast England last month was spreading with "frightening ease and speed"

To curb the spread of the virus, across England schools were shut this week as part of a stay-at-home order, matching the UK's other nations.

Australia's cabinet to meet early amid new variant worries

Australia's national cabinet will meet a month earlier than scheduled on Friday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said, as authorities seek to stop the spread of a more contagious variant of Covid-19 that emerged in Britain.

The meeting will consider a proposal from the national expert medical panel to further strengthen the travel rules for its citizens and residents returning from overseas, Morrison wrote in a Facebook post late Wednesday.

"This is being done particularly in the context of the UK strain," Morrison said.

Australian media reported the federal government has plans to introduce mandatory Covid-19 testing for all international travelers before they board their flights to the country.

Australia created a national cabinet in March, when it closed its international borders, and includes federal, state and territory leaders to coordinate measures to combat the pandemic. The next meeting was scheduled on Feb. 5.

Morocco approves AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine

Morocco authorised for emergency use the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, the health ministry said.

The North African nation, with some 35 million people, has recorded over 447,000 Covid-19 cases including 7,618 deaths, according to the latest official count.

The government says it has ordered 65 million doses of AstraZeneca's vaccines as well as from the Chinese firm Sinopharm.

It says preparations for rolling out the vaccine are "very advanced" but has not given a date for injections to start.

The authorities re-imposed a nationwide curfew and other restrictive measures on December 21 in a bid to slow the spread of the virus.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies