Novel coronavirus has infected more than 182 million people and killed over 3.9 million. Here are the latest Covid-related developments for June 29:

A medical staff member inoculates a man with a Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine at the Mugda General Hospital as the vaccination began across the country, in Dhaka on February 7, 2021.
A medical staff member inoculates a man with a Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine at the Mugda General Hospital as the vaccination began across the country, in Dhaka on February 7, 2021. (AFP)

Tuesday, June 29

US sending Bangladesh 2.5M vaccine doses

The United States has began shipping 2.5 million doses of Moderna's vaccine to Bangladesh, a White House official told AFP, as the South Asian country confronted a wave of new infections.

"Thanks to the US commitment to playing a leading role in ending the pandemic everywhere, 2.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine will begin to ship to Bangladesh," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Illustrating the urgency, delivery is expected to be completed this week.

African Union warns EU over vaccine-certificate 'inequality'

The African Union has warned that the European Union's non-recognition of AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured in India risks disadvantaging people who received jabs in Africa.

Under new rules to take effect on Thursday, the EU will do away with the need for quarantines and further testing for travellers immunised with vaccines recognised by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

These travellers will receive a digital certificate showing their vaccination status.

But the EMA does not currently recognise Covishield — a copy of the AstraZeneca jab made in India which has been widely distributed to African states through the Covax vaccine scheme.

Estonia fridge failure destroys more than 68,000 shots

A refrigerator failure in Estonia has destroyed more than 68,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccines last week after the temperature rose to 15 degrees Celsius, the Health Board said.

The alarm system failed to report the failure, which lasted for more than 12 hours and was only detected after an employee entered the cold room.

AstraZeneca's vaccine must be kept at 2-8 degrees Celsius. At least 32,000 shots of other vaccines were also destroyed.

Over 49M vaccine shots given in Turkey to date 

Turkey has administered over 49 million doses of vaccines since it launched a mass vaccination campaign in January, according to official figures released. 

More than 34 million people have received their first doses, while over 15 million have been fully vaccinated, showed the Health Ministry count. 

Turkey's overall case tally is now over 5.42 million with 5,846 more cases on Tuesday, while the nationwide death toll has reached 49,687, with 53 additional fatalities.

India approves Moderna's vaccine for emergency use

India has authorised the emergency use of Moderna's vaccine as it seeks to ramp up inoculations in the wake of a record-breaking surge in infections and deaths.

Moderna's shot is the fourth to be approved by New Delhi after Oxford-AstraZeneca's Covishield and Covaxin — which was developed by Indian firm Bharat Biotech — and Russia's Sputnik V.

Rwanda closes schools following infection surge

Rwanda has hardened restrictions, including closing schools, to combat a rise in cases.

The East African country has been broadly successful in containing the pandemic but has been battling flare-ups in recent weeks following the emergence of new variants.

Schools will be closed in the capital Kigali and eight other virus hotspots for two weeks starting July 1.

Five Indian drugmakers to jointly start trial of Merck & Co's anti-viral drug

Five Indian generic drugmakers, including Cipla and Dr Reddy's Laboratories, have said they would jointly conduct a clinical trial in India for Merck & Co's experimental anti-viral drug to treat mild cases in non-hospitalised patients.

Between March and April, each of these companies, including Sun Pharmaceutical Industries, Torrent Pharmaceuticals and privately held Emcure Pharmaceuticals, partnered with Merck to expand production of the drug, molnupiravir, hastening its availability in India to address a new wave of infections in the country.

Kenya to start receiving 13M J&J shots in August

Kenya will receive the first batch of 13 million vaccine shots from Johnson & Johnson in August, President Uhuru Kenyatta has said, helping to accelerate the country's vaccination drive.

Like other nations on the continent, the East African country has struggled to secure vaccines for its citizens, to allow it to fully lift restrictions aimed at containing the pandemic.

Only 1 million Kenyans, out of 47 million, have had a first jab and only 300,000 are fully vaccinated, according to the health ministry.

UK records over 20,000 new cases

Britain has reported 20,479 new cases and 23 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, official government data showed.

That compared to 22,868 cases and 3 deaths reported a day earlier. 

Italy reports over 670 new cases

Italy has reported 42 deaths against 28 the day before, the Health Ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 679 from 389.

Italy has registered 127,542 deaths since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the eight-highest in the world. The country has reported 4.26 million cases to date.

Russia 'tense' with 151,000 cases in hospital

Health Minister Mikhail Murashko has said that 151,000 people in Russia are currently in hospital, amid a third wave driven by the highly contagious Delta variant.

Infections have especially spiked in the capital Moscow and second city Saint Petersburg, which hosts a Euro 2020 quarter-final on Friday.

At a televised meeting of Russia's coronavirus task force, Murashko said the "situation is tense, especially in large cities".

"182,000 hospital beds are allocated, 151,000 patients are receiving treatment," the minister said.

Over 10 million Australians in coronavirus lockdown

More than 10 million Australians have been ordered into lockdown as virus cases spread across the country, and Brisbane became the fourth major city to issue stay-at-home orders.

The three-day snap lockdown for Brisbane, starting on evening, comes on top of similar measures imposed in Sydney, Perth and Darwin in recent days.

Australia has been broadly successful in eliminating local transmission through a mix of border closures, mandatory hotel quarantine for overseas arrivals and snap lockdowns.

But it is now battling flare-ups of the highly contagious Delta variant – which first emerged in India – as public anger grows at the slow pace of vaccinations.

France's Sanofi to invest $2.4 billion in mRNA vaccines

French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi that it would invest $2.4 billion (2 billion euros) in the mRNA vaccine technology behind the pioneering Covid-19 jabs developed by rivals BioNTech-Pfizer and Moderna.

Sanofi, which was left trailing in the race to break out a Covid vaccine in 2020, said it would invest $476 million (400 million euros) a year between now and 2025 to develop at least six vaccine candidates using messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA).

It said it would set up an mRNA "centre of excellence" employing 400 people at its laboratories in the US city of Cambridge and Marcy -L'Etoile near the French city of Lyon.

Indonesia's Covid-19 situation nears 'catastrophe' - Red Cross

Indonesia's virus surge is on the edge of a "catastrophe" as the more infectious Delta variant dominates transmission and chokes hospitals in Southeast Asia's worst epidemic, the Red Cross said.

Indonesia has reported record daily infections of more than 20,000 in recent days, in a new wave of infections fueled by the emergence of highly transmissible virus variants and increased mobility after the Muslim fasting month.

Russia reports record daily deaths

Russia will fail to vaccinate 60 percent of its population against Covid-19 by the autumn as planned due to sluggish demand for the shots, the Kremlin said, after the country recorded its highest number of daily deaths from the virus.

Russia has recorded 652 virus deaths in the past 24 hours, the highest death toll in the country since the outbreak of the pandemic, according to a government tally.

A record-high number of daily deaths – 119 – was also reported in the Euro 2020 host city Saint Petersburg that's hosting a quarter-final on Friday, as Russia grapples with a spike of infections spurred by the highly infectious Delta variant.

Nigeria to ban travellers from some African countries over virus fears

Nigeria will ban travellers coming from some African countries due to concerns about the spread of virus there.

In a statement, Boss Mustapha, the secretary to the government and chairman of the Presidential Steering Committee on virus, said some countries face a fast-surging third wave of the virus pandemic and this caused concern.

Mustapha said that as part of the virus measures, no one will be accepted from South Africa, Zambia, Rwanda, Namibia and Uganda.

He added that Abuja has extended the travel ban for Turkey, Brazil and India for four weeks.

China administers 1.2B vaccine doses

China said it has administered over 1.2 billion doses of its vaccines, the most in any country in the world.

As of June 28, 31 Chinese provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities under the central government have given a total of 1.206 billion doses, the National Health Commission said in a statement.

According to Our World in Data tracking website, at least 223 million people in China have been fully vaccinated.

India's vaccine shortage eases as inoculations outpace new registrations

India has administered more vaccine doses in the last two weeks than the number of people who signed up for shots during the period, government data showed, signalling improving supplies after widespread shortages.

Indians struggled to book scarce inoculation slots after Prime Minister Narendra Modi opened up vaccinations to all of the country's 930-940 million adults last month without a corresponding rise in output. Many immunisation centres ran out of vaccine shots and closed temporarily.

India reported 37,566 new infections over the last 24 hours, health ministry data showed, taking the South Asian nation's tally to 30.31 million, with a death toll of 397,637.

Virus-related deaths rose by 907 overnight. 

Germany's confirmed virus cases rise by 404 – RKI

The number of confirmed virus cases in Germany increased by 404 to 3,727,333, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed. The reported death toll rose by 57 to 90,819, the tally showed. 

Delta variant gaining traction in France – minister

The Delta variant of the virus first found in India now represents some 20 percent of virus cases in France, French Health Minister Olivier Veran told France Info radio, up from last week's estimate of it representing 9-10 percent of cases.

"The Delta variant now accounts for about 20 percent of new cases (...) its share keeps on increasing in percenta ge not in absolute terms as the total number of cases is decreasing," Veran said.

Only 509 new confirmed cases were reported on Monday and the seven-day moving average of daily additional infections fell to 1,819, an almost 10-month low, versus an 14 April peak of 42,225.

NZ to partially restart travel bubble with Australia

New Zealand said on Tuesday it will partially resume quarantine-free travel with Australia and remove all virus curbs in place in Wellington as no community cases were reported in the capital city after over a week of restrictions.

Quarantine-free travel will resume with South Australia, ACT, Tasmania and Victoria from July 5, COVID-19 Response Minister Chrish Hipkins told a news conference.

Restrictions in Wellington will be eased from midnight on Tuesday, Hipkins said.

Australia's New South Wales sees more cases

Australia's most populous state, New South Wales (NSW), reported 19 locally acquired cases on Tuesday as it fights an outbreak of the highly contagious Delta virus variant.

Seventeen cases are linked to previously confirmed cases while the source of infection for two cases is under investigation

Delta variant pushes South Africa's deaths to over 60,000

South Africa, the worst virus-hit country in the continent, on Monday crossed the threshold of 60,000 virus deaths, health officials announced, a day after a stricter lockdown was enforced.

At least 512 new hospital admissions were reported early Tuesday, pushing the total number of hospitalised people to 11,801.

The health authority said 12,222 new cases had been recorded over the last 24 hours, 28.3 percent of those tested.

Gauteng province, home to the administrative capital Pretoria and financial hub Johannesburg, is the outbreak's current epicentre, accounting for around 69 percent of the latest daily increase.

Government and scientists at the weekend announced that the highly contagious Delta variant was driving the surge in South African infections, which is testing the capacity of hospitals.

Puerto Rico to get nearly $4B in US pandemic funds

US Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said that Puerto Rico will receive nearly $4 billion in federal education pandemic relief funds to help boost the US territory’s fight against the virus.

The announcement was made during Cardona’s official three-day trip to Puerto Rico, the first for a Biden administration Cabinet member. It marks the first time the island has full access to those funds.

“The students of Puerto Rico have suffered enough,” he said. “It’s time to get back to school safely and quickly.”

Roughly half of the nearly $4 billion will be released as part of the American Rescue Plan Act, which was signed into law in March to help offset the pandemic’s impact on the economy and public health.

Mexico reports almost 1,700 new cases

Mexico's health ministry reported 1,661 new confirmed cases in the country and 44 more fatalities, bringing its total to 2,507,453 infections and 232,608 deaths.

The government has said the real number of cases is likely significantly higher, and separate data suggested the actual death toll is at least 60% above the confirmed figure.

Brazil senators file case against Bolsonaro for vaccine malfeasance

Three Brazilian senators formally accused President Jair Bolsonaro of malfeasance before the Supreme Court Monday over allegations he failed to have a top ally investigated for suspicions of massive corruption in the purchase of vaccines.

"I filed a criminal complaint today with the Supreme Court because of the serious accusation that the president took no action after being notified of a gigantic corruption scheme at the health ministry," said one lawmaker, opposition Senator Randolfe Rodrigues.

Rodrigues is the deputy chair of a Senate commission investigating the administration's pandemic response.

Last week, the commission uncovered explosive accusations that Bolsonaro knew about suspected corruption in Brazil's $300-million deal for the Indian-made vaccine Covaxin and failed to intervene.

A congressman close to Bolsonaro, Luis Miranda, testified that the president told him he suspected the scheme was the work of Ricardo Barros, a powerful congressman who is head of Bolsonaro's coalition in the lower house.

Miranda said Bolsonaro told him in March he would order the police to investigate, but never did.

A criminal case against Bolsonaro before the Supreme Court could see him removed from office, though Prosecutor General Augusto Aras, an ally, would have to bring charges.

Nigeria to get nearly 4M vaccines by August

Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, will receive another batch of nearly four million doses of vaccines under the Covax scheme by August.

Covax was set up to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines, particularly to low-income countries, and has already delivered more than 80 million doses to 129 territories.

Nigeria, home to some 200 million people, got some four million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in March with which it started a nationwide vaccination programme.

The virus has killed 2,119 people and infected 167,467 in Nigeria since the first index case in February last year.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies