Covid-19 pandemic has claimed at least 4.1 million lives infecting more than 192.5 million people around the world. Here are updates for July 21:

People crowd the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, California on May 29, 2021.
People crowd the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, California on May 29, 2021. (AP)

Wednesday, July 21:

US life expectancy fell sharply in 2020 due to virus

Average US life expectancy has fallen by 1.5 years in 2020, a sharp decline driven by the pandemic affecting males and communities of colour the most, new data showed.

Life expectancy at birth for the total US population was 77.3 years, down from 78.8 in 2019, and the lowest it has been since 2003, said a report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The significant fall also bucks a trend of steady increase in the post-World War II period, albeit with small decreases in some years.

CDC probes deaths in immunised patients in nursing homes

Lagging vaccination rates among nursing home staff have been linked to a national increase in infections and deaths at senior facilities in July, and have been at the centre of a federal investigation in a hard-hit Colorado location where disease detectives found many workers were not inoculated.

The investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of facilities in the Grand Junction, Colorado, area raises concerns among public health doctors that successes in protecting vulnerable elders with vaccines could be in peril as the more aggressive delta variant spreads across the country.

Chile approves emergency use of Sputnik-V vaccine

Chile's Institute of Public Health has approved emergency use of the Russian Sputnik-V vaccine, joining the country's already massive inoculation program, the institute said in a statement.

One of the institute's experts voted against the approval, and two abstained, asking for more information about the efficacy of the formula developed by Russia's Gamaleya Institute. Five members of the committee convened by the institute voted for approval.

NYC mandates shots or weekly testing for public healthcare workers

New York City will require public hospital workers to get vaccinated or take a weekly virus test, Mayor Bill de Blasio has said as the metropolis faces an uptick in cases fuelled by the Delta variant.

The order will go into effect from August 2 and apply to the some 30,000 employees in the city's 11 public hospitals.

Turkey has administered over 64M vaccine shots

Turkey has administered over 64 million doses of vaccines since it launched a mass vaccination campaign in January, according to official figures.

According to the Health Ministry, over 39.06 million people have received their first dose, while over 21.28 million are fully vaccinated.

The ministry also confirmed 8,151 new infections and 59 fatalities in the last 24 hours, taking the total cases to 5,554,317 and death toll to 50,709.

South Africa aims for 35M people vaccinated by Christmas

South Africa aims to have given at least one dose of a vaccine to 35 million of its 60 million population by Christmas, a senior health official said.

"We will be able to have vaccinated — at least one dose — to 35 million people before Christmas. That is the target that we have been set and that we are chasing," Nicholas Crisp told a parliamentary committee.

PAHO: Americas is facing pandemic of the unvaccinated

The Americas is facing a pandemic of the unvaccinated, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has said, as it warned countries with low inoculation rates are seeing increases in Covid-19 and repeated a call for vaccine donations.

"We face a pandemic of the unvaccinated, and the only way to stop it is to expand vaccination," PAHO director Carissa Etienne said at a weekly briefing. "Vaccines are critical, even if no vaccine is 100 percent effective."

The start of vaccinations in Haiti - which has plunged deeper into turmoil following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise - highlights how ready countries are to receive donations of shots, she added. 

Italy reports over 4,200 new cases

Italy has reported 21 deaths against 10 the day before, the Health Ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections increased to 4,259 from 3,558.

Italy has registered 127,905 deaths since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the eighth-highest in the world. 

The country has reported 4.3 million cases to date.

Britain records over 44,000 new cases

Britain has recorded 44,104 new infections, down from 46,558 a day earlier, and 73 deaths, lower than the 96 reported on Tuesday, official data showed.

Daily positive cases have been broadly rising in Britain for a month but a rapid vaccination programme appears to have weakened the link between infections and deaths, with daily fatalities remaining at relatively low levels.

The data also showed that 46.4 million people have had a first dose of the vaccine and 36.4 million have had two.

Hundreds of Ugandans given fake jabs — health officials

At least 800 people in Uganda have been given fake vaccines -- some injected with water — in a scam that involved "unscrupulous" doctors and health workers, government officials said.

The counterfeit jabs were administered over May and June during a deadly surge in the East African nation, when new infections soared to record highs of about 1,700 cases per day.

The fraudsters targeted people looking to pay for immunisation, including corporate employees, at a time when vaccines were in short supply, said Dr Warren Naamara, the director of a health services monitoring unit under the presidency.

Norway, Lithuania swap J&J, Pfizer vaccines to speed up inoculation

Norway has signed a deal to swap 100,000 doses of its unused shots made by Johnson & Johnson with Lithuania in return for an equal number of doses from Pfizer in a move to speed up inoculations.

Norway, which is not using the J&J shot, known as Janssen, in its national vaccination programme due to concerns about rare blood clotting issues, will lend 100,000 doses to Lithuania, the government said.

In return, Lithuania will loan 100,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to Norway, with the delivery scheduled for Thursday.

Russia may have 80 percent of population immune by November 

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova has said that 80 percent of the population may be immune to the virus by November.

She also told a televised government meeting that 33.6 million Russians have been vaccinated with at least one dose of so far while 22.6 million have had two. 

Indonesia to expand testing before easing curbs 

Indonesia will increase testing in densely populated urban areas to prevent more major outbreaks, among measures the government will take before it begins easing mobility restrictions, a senior minister has said.

Luhut Pandjaitan, a senior minister overseeing Indonesia's pandemic response, said the curbs have managed to control the outbreak, with the hospital bed occupancy ratio falling to about 80 percent in some cities from over 90 percent.

If cases continue to fall and other indicators improve, restrictions will be eased starting Monday, he said in a joint news conference with other ministers. "We will be prudent but we want to be careful so that things that have been improving do not take a turn for the worse," he said.

Before the gradual reopening, the government will increase testing capacity, especially in heavily populated places in the Greater Jakarta area and other big urban agglomerations, Luhut said.

WHO: Delta variant to dominate within months

The highly contagious Delta variant is expected to become the dominant strain of the virus over the coming months, the World Health Organization has said.

Delta, which was first detected in India, has now been recorded in 124 territories — 13 more than last week — and already accounts for more than three-quarters of sequenced specimens in many major countries, the WHO said.

"It is expected that it will rapidly out-compete other variants and become the dominant circulating lineage over the coming months," the UN health agency said in its weekly epidemiological update.

Tunisia president says army will take over management of virus crisis

Tunisian President Kais Saied has said that the military health department will take over management of the health crisis in the country amid an outbreak  — an escalation of a battle over powers with the prime minister.

Tunisia is struggling to cope with a resurgence of the virus, with intensive care wards full and doctors overburdened by a rapid rise in cases and deaths and a lack of oxygen supplies.

Saied's comments come after Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi sacked Health Minister Faouzi Mehdi amid an exchange of accusations over performance in the fight against the pandemic and the slow pace of the vaccination campaign.

France launches vaccine pass for cultural, leisure venues

French cinemas, museums and sports venues have began asking visitors to furnish proof of vaccination or a negative test as the country, which is in the throes of a fourth wave of infections, rolled out a controversial vaccine passport system.

The so-called "health pass" is required for all events or places with more than 50 people, before being extended to restaurants, cafes and shopping centres in August.

Prime Minister Jean Castex defended the strategy, noting that 96 percent of the 18,000 new daily cases reported Wednesday — an unprecedented surge of 140 percent in just a week — were people who had not been immunised against the virus.

Tokyo cases at 6-month high ahead of Olympics

Tokyo’s infections have surged to a six-month high with the Olympic host city logging 1,832 new cases just two days before the Games open.

Tokyo is currently under its fourth state of emergency, which will last until August 22, covering the entire duration of the Olympics that start Friday and end August 8. Fans are banned from all venues in the Tokyo area.

Four competitors including a shooting world number one have also seen their Tokyo Olympic dreams dashed after testing positive: British shooter Amber Hill, Czech table tennis player Pavel Sirucek, Chilean taekwondo competitor Fernanda Aguirre and Dutch skateboarder Candy Jacobs.

US extends travel restrictions at Canada, Mexico land borders

US land borders with Canada and Mexico will remain closed to non-essential travel until at least August 21, the US Homeland Security Department has said.

The 30-day extension came after Canada announced Monday it will start allowing fully-vaccinated US visitors into the country on Aug 9 for non-essential travel as the threat from the pandemic fades. 

Pfizer-BioNTech to produce vaccine in South Africa

Vaccine makers BioNTech and Pfizer have said they had found a South African partner to produce their jab on the African continent for the first time.

The move comes amid growing criticism of vaccine inequality that has seen poor countries fall behind richer ones in the race to protect people.

Under the agreement, Cape Town-based Biovac will complete the last step in the manufacturing process of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, known as "fill and finish", the companies said in a statement.

The project will take time to get off the ground however, with the first African-finished Pfizer vaccines not expected before 2022.

French PM: Delta is the majority variant in France

The Delta variant is now the majority variant of the virus circulating in France, French Prime Minister Jean Castex has said.

Castex told TF1 television that the major steps taken to tackle fourth wave of infections in the country have been settled upon by a cabinet meeting of the government.

"We are in the fourth wave," Castex said. "The Delta variant is the majority one, it is more contagious."

Report: UK border officers to stop routine virus checks

UK border officers have been directed to stop routinely checking whether travellers from many countries have tested negative for Covid-19, British media reported, citing leaked government documents.

While the change is designed to reduce waiting times for airport immigration checks, it has raised concerns about importing new cases at a time when infection rates in Britain are soaring, the Guardian newspaper reported.

The new policy applies to people arriving from so-called green and amber list countries, the top two levels of the government’s three-tier traffic light system for foreign travel.

Study: Up to two-thirds of Indians have antibodies

Up to two-thirds of India's population may have been infected, a government study suggested.

The blood serum survey of about 29,000 people in June and July showed 67.6 percent of those tested had antibodies.

The results of the study by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) show the impact of a devastating surge of cases in April and May, when India reported about 400,000 cases and 4,000 deaths per day.

Indonesia reports record-high daily deaths

Indonesia has reported a record high 1,383 deaths, according to data from the Southeast Asian country's coronavirus task force.

The country also reported 33,772 new cases, taking Indonesia's total caseload to nearly 3 million, with 77,000 deaths. Indonesia is currently grappling with the worst coronavirus outbreak in Asia.

Vietnam makes test batch of Russia's Sputnik V jab

Russia has announced that a batch of its Sputnik V vaccine was produced for the first time in Vietnam, which is battling a new wave of infections.

The test batch was produced in partnership with Vietnam's state-owned pharmaceutical company Vabiotech, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which financially backed Sputnik V, said in a statement.

The first samples from the batch will be shipped to the vaccine's — the Gamaleya Centre in Moscow — for quality control, the RDIF added.

Russia reports over 23,700 new cases

Russia has reported 23,704 new cases, including 3,254 in Moscow, taking the official national tally since the pandemic began to 6,030,240.

The government task force said 783 people had died of coronavirus-linked causes in the past 24 hours, pushing the national death toll to 150,705.

The federal statistics agency has kept a separate count and has said Russia recorded around 290,000 deaths from April 2020 to May 2021. 

India reports 3,998 deaths after state corrects its data

India reported its highest death toll in a month, at nearly 4,000 after its richest state reconciled its death count with 3,509 previously unreported fatalities, the health ministry said.

Maharashtra, home to the financial capital of Mumbai, has reported 130,753 of the country's 418,480 coronavirus deaths, and added 3,509 earlier deaths to its tally, the federal health ministry said on Wednesday.

The ministry did not give a reason but authorities have in the past attributed other instances of deaths going unreported to administrative errors, before the mistakes are discovered and the numbers appear in official data.

Last month, the poor northern state of Bihar raised its death toll by more than 5,000 in a day when it included some unrecorded data.

The sudden appearance of previously unrecorded deaths has lent weight to suspicion that India's overall death tally is significantly more than the official figure..

India's tally of infections stands at 31.22 million, with a death toll of 418,480, according to official data.

But the Washington-based Center for Global Development estimated said in a report on Tuesday that India's real death toll could be as high as 4.9 million. 

On Wednesday, the government reported 42,015 new coronavirus infections in the previous 24 hours, health ministry data showed. 

Japan's cycling Saitama Criterium cancelled over pandemic

The Tour de France's Saitama Criterium has been cancelled for the second straight year over rising Covid-19 cases, organisers said, days before the Tokyo Olympic opening ceremony.

"We have reached the conclusion that our priority is ensuring the safety and security of the people of Saitama, athletes and other participants, and fans," organisers said in a statement late Tuesday.

"Various anti-infection measures are being taken... but the expanding spread of infections in Japan remains unpredictable," the statement said.

The annual autumn race features winners and stars from the Tour de France and attracts some 100,000 fans to Saitama region, north of Tokyo.

But the pandemic forced the event's cancellation last year for the first time since it started in 2013.

Taiwan bumps BioNTech vaccine order to 15M with Buddhist donation

A major Taiwanese Buddhist group said on Wednesday it had signed a deal to buy 5 million doses of BioNTech SE's Covid-19 vaccine via the German firm's Chinese sales agent, bumping the island's order for the shot up to 15 million doses.

The Tzu Chi Foundation said it June it was bidding to get the vaccines, and Taiwan's government said it would allow the group to negotiate on its behalf for the shot. The vaccines will be donated to the government for distribution.

In a statement on its Facebook p age, Tzu Chi said it had signed the deal with a Hong Kong subsidiary of Shanghai Fosun Pharmaceutical Group Co Ltd, which has the right to sell the shot in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

"After successfully signing the vaccine procurement contract, all the purchased vaccines will be donated to the competent authority for use by the public," it added, without saying when the vaccines would arrive.

Australia, under lockdown, sees jump in cases

Australia's two largest states reported sharp increases in new cases, a blow to hopes that lockdown restrictions would be lifted with more than half the country's population under stay-at-home orders.

New South Wales (NSW) state, home to the country's most populous city Sydney, logged 110 new cases, up from 78 the day before, nearly four weeks into a lockdown of the city and surrounding areas to contain an outbreak of the virulent Delta variant.

Victoria state clocked 22 new cases, from nine the day before, its biggest increase since the outbreak began this month, as it nears its second week of statewide lockdown.

"Had we not gone into the lockdown a few weeks ago, the 110 number today would undoubtedly have been thousands and thousands," said NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian at a televised news conference.

"But we need to work harder and, of course, all of us need to be on guard," she added.

Germany's cases rise by 2,203

The number of confirmed cases in Germany increased by 2,203 to 3,748,613, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 19 to 91,416, the tally showed. 

South Korea reports new daily record

South Korea reported a daily record of 1,784 cases, breaking a mark set last week, as the country grapples with Delta-driven outbreaks, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said.

World in early stage of another wave of infections - WHO

Warning that the world is in the early stages of another wave of infections, World Health Organisation (WHO) head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said Covid-19 is a test and the world is failing.

Speaking to the International Olympic Committee members at their session in the Japanese capital, Tedros said that the Tokyo games should go ahead to demonstrate to the world what can be achieved with the right plan and measures amid the pandemic.

Emphasising that profits and patents must come second, the WHO chief criticised the vaccine discrepancies between countries, saying the pandemic could be ended if G20 economies showed collective leadership and there was a fairer distribution of vaccines.

South Korea reports new daily record of 1,784 cases

South Korea has reported a daily record of 1,784 coronavirus cases, breaking a mark set last week, as the country grapples with Delta-driven outbreaks, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said.

Half of Australia hit by lockdowns as Victoria cases rise

More than half of Australia's 25 million population came under hard Covid-19 lockdowns as the highly infectious Delta variant, that was first discovered in India, spread across three of the country's major cities.

With South Australia state joining all of Victoria and Sydney in lockdown, strict stay-home orders have been enforced for large swathes of the country as officials rush to stem the worst coronavirus outbreak of the year.

Sydney, Australia's largest city, is in the fourth week of a five-week lockdown while Victoria and its capital Melbourne extended stay-home restrictions for seven days until early next week. South Australia announced week-long tough curbs on Tuesday as cases spread across its capital Adelaide.

Meanwhile, Victoria reported the biggest daily rise in locally acquired cases of Covid-19 in more than a week. Twenty-two local cases were detected, up from nine a day earlier, taking the total cases in the latest outbreak to more than 100. All new cases are linked to the current outbreak.

Australia has registered more than 32,100 cases and 915 deaths.

Brazil posts 27,592 new coronavirus cases, 1,424 deaths

Brazil has registered 27,592 new coronavirus cases and 1,424 more deaths during the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry said.

Mexico reports 13,853 new cases, 341 deaths

Mexico's Health Ministry has reported 13,853 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country and 341 fatalities, bringing the country's total to 2,678,297 infections and 236,810 deaths.

The government has said the real number of cases is likely significantly higher, and separate data published recently suggested the actual death toll could be 60 percent more than the official count.

Tunisian premier criticises ousted health minister

Tunisian Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi has accused the dismissed health minister of making "criminal" decisions that led to overcrowding and chaos at coronavirus vaccination centres.

The centres opened for young people on Tuesday and tens of thousands flocked to them only to find out that small quantities of vaccine were available, leading to some violence.

"The decision to summon all Tunisians for vaccination on the day of Eid is a populist decision and can be described as criminal and threatens the health of Tunisians and social peace," Mechichi said in a statement.

Mechichi had sacked Health Minister Faouzi Mehdi earlier on Tuesday, amid an exchange of accusations over performance in the fight against an increase in Covid-19 cases and the slow pace of the vaccination campaign.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies