Covid-19 has killed more than 3.3M people and infected more than 160M others globally. Here are all the coronavirus-related developments for May 12:

A healthcare worker holds syringes with the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines against the coronavirus disease at a vaccination centre, in El Paso, Texas, US May 6, 2021.
A healthcare worker holds syringes with the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines against the coronavirus disease at a vaccination centre, in El Paso, Texas, US May 6, 2021. (Reuters)

Wednesday, May 12:

US CDC finds more clotting cases after J&J vaccine, sees causal link

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said it had found more cases of potentially life-threatening blood-clotting among people who received the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine and sees a "plausible causal association".

The CDC said in a presentation the agency has now identified 28 cases of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) among the more than 8.7 million people who had received the J&J vaccine.

TTS involves blood clots accompanied by a low level of platelets - the cells in the blood that help it to clot.

So far, three of the 28 have died. Previously, as of April 25, the CDC had reported 17 cases of clotting among nearly 8 million people given vaccines.

The CDC said the events appear similar to what is being observed following the administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Europe.

Scientists are working to find the potential mechanism that would explain the blood clots. A leading hypothesis appears to be that the vaccines are triggering a rare immune response that could be related to these viral vectors.

Norway drops AstraZeneca vaccine, J&J remains on hold

Norway will not resume use of the vaccine made by AstraZeneca, and a decision on whether to include Johnson & Johnson shots in its mass inoculation scheme remains on hold, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said.

A government-appointed commission had recommended that both vaccines be excluded from Norway's programme due to the risk of rare but harmful side-effects.

Authorities on March 11 suspended the AstraZeneca rollout after a small number of inoculated people, some of whom later died, were hospitalised for a combination of blood clots, bleeding and a low platelet count.

A study in Denmark and Norway found slightly increased rates of blood clots among people who have had a first dose of AstraZeneca's vaccine, including in the brain, compared with expected rates in the general population.

The J&J vaccine has not been used in Norway so far despite European Medicines Agency approval.

On May 10, a public panel of medical, legal and other experts said the two vaccines should not be offered as part of the national inoculation scheme, although volunteers should be allowed to take them.

Turkey reports drop in cases

Turkey's downward trend in coronavirus numbers continued as the country reported just over 13,000 new cases, according to Health Ministry data.

A total of 13,029 cases, including 1,496 symptomatic patients, were confirmed across the country, down from 14,497 on Tuesday.

Turkey's overall case tally is over 5.07 million, while the nationwide death toll has reached 43,821, with 232 fatalities over the past day.

WHO reviewing Vietnam proposal to produce mRNA jabs

The World Health Organization said it was reviewing a proposal by an unidentified vaccine manufacturer in Vietnam to become an mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccine technology hub in the Southeast Asian country.

"A vaccine manufacturer in Vietnam has already expressed its interest to become a mRNA-based Covid-19 vaccine technology transfer hub," Kidong Park, the WHO representative in Vietnam, said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

The proposal was being reviewed by the WHO, said Park, who added that the organisation expects Vietnam to also apply for "large scale manufacturing" of an mRNA-based vaccine.

Britain to launch public inquiry into Covid response

An independent public inquiry into the British government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic will be held early next year, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

The country had "found itself in the teeth of the gravest pandemic for a century" and the state has "an obligation to examine its actions as rigorously and as candidly as possible and to learn every lesson for the future", he told lawmakers.

Britain has been hit hard by the outbreak, with more than 127,000 deaths since March last year – the world's fifth-highest official toll – raising questions about why it has fared worse than other nations.

Johnson told parliament the inquiry would be established on a "statutory basis", with oral evidence given under oath and powers to "compel the production of all relevant materials".

The government in London has said it will work with the UK's devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to determine the probe's scope.

Catastrophic Covid pandemic was preventable if world acted faster - report

The catastrophic scale of the Covid-19 pandemic could have been prevented but a "toxic cocktail" of dithering and poor coordination meant the warning signs went unheeded.

The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response (IPPPR) said a series of bad decisions meant Covid-19 went on to kill at least 3.3 million people so far and devastate the global economy. 

Early responses to the outbreak detected in Wuhan, China in December 2019 "lacked urgency", with February 2020 a costly "lost month" as countries failed to heed the alarm, said the panel.

The panel of experts who reviewed the World Health Organization’s response to the coronavirus pandemic says the UN health agency should be granted “guaranteed rights of access” in countries to investigate emerging outbreaks, a contentious idea that would give it more powers and require member states to give up some of theirs.

The panel did not spare the WHO, saying it could have declared the situation a Public Health Emergency of International Concern – its highest level of alarm – on January 22, 2020.

Maldives bans South Asia travellers as virus cases soar

The Maldives banned travellers from across South Asia in a bid to contain surging Covid-19 infections despite having one of the world's most successful vaccination roll-outs.

Sri Lanka and other countries in the region have also imposed travel restrictions as they battle a new wave of the virus that has hit India and its neighbours.

The Maldives, whose economy relies on tourists visiting its pristine atolls, has suffered a more than 15-fold increase in daily infections in the past week after it allowed in rich Indian tourists.

The Indian Ocean nation, which halted international flights for more than three months last year, saw a record single-day rise of 1,500 cases on Tuesday – compared with less than 100 just one month ago.

Authorities said tourist arrivals from the key Indian market and other South Asian countries would stop from Thursday. They have already banned the entry of foreign labourers from around South Asia except health workers.

Poland brings forward reopening of cinemas, to vaccinate 16-year-olds

Poland will bring forward the reopening of cinemas and start vaccinating 16- and 17-year-olds, the prime minister said, as  cases decline.

The country reported 4,255 new cases on Wednesday, part of a marked decrease since the peak of the third wave in May, when there were as many as 35,253 daily cases. This has given authorities the confidence to ease restrictions faster than originally planned.

"We are accelerating the opening of cinemas, theatres, concert halls and cultural institutions by 1 week, or exactly 8 days, to May 21, so that ... these sections of social and socio-economic life can start earlier," Mateusz Morawiecki told a news conference.

Germany eases quarantine rules with eye on summer travel

Germany said people who are vaccinated, have recovered from Covid or can show a recent negative test will no longer have to quarantine after arriving from a coronavirus risk area, opening up swathes of Europe for summer travel.

The new rules agreed by Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet cover popular holiday destinations such as Italy, Spain and Greece.

But they leave out neighbouring France, which is considered an area of "particularly high risk of infection", meaning unvaccinated travellers would still need to quarantine upon return to Germany.

Infections surge among prisoners in Bangkok

Nearly 3,000 inmates at two prisons in Thailand’s capital have tested positive for the virus, the Corrections Department said, as the country battles a new wave of the coronavirus.

The department said 1,785 of the 3,274 inmates tested positive at Bangkok Special Prison, which holds detainees ahead of trial. At the Central Women’s Correctional Institution, 1,040 of the 4,475 inmates were infected, it said.

The Corrections Department announced the infections after a prominent political activist released on bail last week announced that she had tested positive for the virus.

Indonesia study finds China's Sinovac vaccine effective in medical staff

China's Sinovac Biotech Covid-19 vaccine was 98 percent effective at preventing death and 96 percent effective at preventing hospitalisation among a group of inoculated Indonesian medical staff, a study conducted by the country's health ministry has found.

The findings were based on data from 120,000 healthcare workers in Jakarta who had received the vaccine between January and March this year, lead researcher and health official Pandji Dhewantara told a briefing.

Phase 3 trials of the vaccine, called CoronaVac, have produced varying results globally, but Pandji said the study found it also prevented symptomatic Covid-19 in 94 percent of the group.

"We see data from the taskforce that the incidence of morbidity and mortality for health workers tends to decrease," health ministry official Siti Nadia Tarmizi said at the news conference.

Turkey to ease restrictions post Eid holiday

Turkey will gradually ease lockdown restrictions after the Eid holiday as coronavirus cases and fatalities continue to ebb nationwide, the country's president has said.

"Hopefully, by bringing the pandemic under control, we will take normalisation steps in a controlled manner after Eid,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a video message on the eve of the Muslim Eid al Fitr holiday that will start on Thursday.

Erdogan said “good days are ahead even though we are having a bitter holiday due to the problems caused by the pandemic”.

Turkey began a 17-day lockdown on April 29 that will last until May 17, also covering this week’s Eid al-Fitr holidays.

The restrictions led to a drop in 80 of Turkey’s provinces on May 1-7, according to the latest Health Ministry statistics.

Norway will not use AstraZeneca vaccine, says daily VG

Norway will not resume the use of the Covid-19 vaccine made by AstraZeneca as part of its inoculation programme due to a risk of rare but harmful side-effects, newspaper VG has reported.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg is expected to announce at 1600GMT whether Norway will resume the use of the AstraZeneca shot, as well as the government's decision on Johnson & Johnson'sinoculation.

A government-appointed panel has recommended that Norway should drop both vaccines. 

India's daily deaths rise by record 4,205

India has posted a record rise in deaths from Covid-19 over the last 24 hours, pushing its total fatalities past the 250,000 mark.

Deaths from Covid-19 swelled by 4,205, while daily coronavirus cases rose by 348,421, with India's overall caseload now surging past 23 million, according to health ministry data.

Many experts suspect the real numbers are much higher.

Taiwan says to tighten prevention steps for businesses

Taiwan Health Minister ChenShih-chung has said the government would tighten Covid-19 prevention measures in all business venues, which will have to close if they are unable to comply.

Taiwan has plenty of personal protective equipment supplies and people do not need to panic-buy them, he told reporters amid a rise in domestic infection figures.

The country reported 16 new domestic Covid-19 infections on Wednesday, amid a rise in cases which has unnerved the island and spooked the stock market.

China administered total of 342.7 mln doses of vaccines as of May 11

China has carried out about 9.7 million vaccinations against Covid-19 as of May 11, bringing the total number of doses administered to 342.70 million, according to data released by the National Health Commission.

Another Thai protest leader says has Covid-19 after weeks in jail

Another leader from Thailand's anti-government protest movement has tested positive for the coronavirus after spending eight weeks in jail pending trial on charges of insulting the country's powerful king.

Panusaya "Rung" Sithijirawattanakul, who was released last week on bail after being held in pre-trial detention, said on her Twitter account that she was being treated in a hospital after testing positive for the virus after being released.

Two other protest leaders have tested positive to Covid-19 while in custody.

Germany's cases rise by 14,909

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has increased by 14,909 to 3,548,285, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 268 to 85,380, the tally showed.

Brazil reports 2,300 deaths 

Brazil recorded 72,715 additional confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, along with 2,311 deaths from Covid-19, the country's health ministry has said.

Brazil has registered nearly 15.3 million cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 425,540, according to ministry data.

Mexico adds 234 more fatalities

Mexico's health ministry has reported 1,897 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 234 more deaths, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 2,368,393 and fatalities to 219,323.

Canada stops giving Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine

Canada’s largest province says it will stop giving out first doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine due to concerns over blood clots.

Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr David Williams says the decision has been made out of an abundance of caution because of increased instances of a rare blood clotting disorder linked to the shot.

AstraZeneca is restricted in some European countries because of a potential link to extremely rare blood clots. In Canada, at least 12 cases have been confirmed out of more than two million doses given and three women have died.

Ontario says it has 49,280 doses of the shot remaining in the province out of over 707,000 received.

Netherlands to ease curbs

Dutch zoos and theme parks will be allowed to reopen next week under strict conditions and bars and cafes can extend the opening hours of their outdoor terraces if hospital and intensive care admissions continue to fall, caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte has announced.

Rutte said the country will move to the second phase of its gradual reemergence from a lockdown that has lasted months on May 19 if the numbers have declined by 20 percent from peaks in late April.

If they don't, the relaxation won't go ahead. But Rutte said he expects the current downward trends to continue and the easing of the lockdown to go ahead.

It is "step two with a pause button”, Rutte said in a nationally televised news conference.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies