Covid-19 has infected more than 229M people and killed over 4.7M. Here are virus-related developments for September 20:

In this March 22, 2020 file photo, passengers pass a gate at Salt Lake International Airport.
In this March 22, 2020 file photo, passengers pass a gate at Salt Lake International Airport. (AP)

Monday, September 20, 2021

US will re-open to international travelers with vaccine requirements

The United States will re-open to air passengers from China, India, Britain and many other European countries who have received Covid-19 vaccines in early November, the White House said, rolling back tough pandemic-related travel restrictions that started early last year.

The United States currently bars most non-US citizens who within the last 14 days have been in Britain, the 26 Schengen countries in Europe without border controls, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil.

There will be some exceptions to the vaccine policy, officials said, including for children not yet eligible to be vaccinated. 

The new rules do not yet apply to travelers crossing land borders with Mexico and Canada.

Italy reports 44 deaths, 2,407 new cases

Italy has reported 44 coronavirus-related deaths against 26 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 2,407 from 3,838.

Vatican to require health pass for residents, visitors

A health certificate showing proof of immunity from Covid-19 will be required to enter the Vatican as of October 1, the city state said.

Residents, workers and visitors will have to carry the co-called "Green Pass" that is already widely used in surrounding Italy, the Holy See said in a statement.

An exception will be made for those attending mass "for the time strictly necessary for the rite".

Austria will require masks, Covid passes for ski lifts

Austria will require protective face masks and Covid-19 passes for the use of ski lifts this winter as it tries to attract foreign skiers for the first time in two years and also prevent coronavirus outbreaks.

The new rules stop short of requiring all skiers to be vaccinated and left many details unclear even though public frustration over confusing coronavirus rules has grown.

Pfizer/BioNTech say vaccine safe and protective in kids

Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE has said that their Covid-19 vaccine induced a robust immune response in 5 to 11 year olds, and they plan to ask for regulatory authorisation as soon as possible to use the shot in children in that age range in the United States, Europe and elsewhere.

Indonesia logs fewest daily cases in over a year

Indonesia has reported 1,932 new daily coronavirus infections, the lowest since August 2020, data from country's Covid-19 task force showed, and the government further eased restrictions in Java and on its resort island Bali.

Ukraine extends restrictions until December 31

Ukraine has extended a state of emergency that allows regional authorities to impose Covid-19 restrictions until the end of 2021 to tackle a surge in infections, the government said.

"Due to the worsening epidemic situation, the government at an extraordinary meeting decided to extend the adaptive quarantine until December 31, 2021," it said in a statement.

The state of emergency had been due to expire at the end of September.

India urges states to increase Covid screening

Indian health ministry has urged states and federally controlled territories to step up testing, warning that the festival season could lead to another spike in infections. 

Local governments are responsible for local-level health policies in the country, as per the Indian constitution.

The warning came as the country conducted the lowest number of daily tests since mid-August as the health ministry urged local governments not to let their guard down during the September to November festival season.

States and federally controlled territories carried out 1.18 million tests on Sunday, government data showed on Monday, down from 1.56 million on Saturday and against a capacity of more than 2 million. 

It comes as most states dropped compulsory testing for fully vaccinated travellers in recent weeks, as they try to boost their economies by making it easier for people to commute.

New  infections meanwhile have plateaued at around 30,000 a day as vaccinations surged but some health experts say this could also been down to reduced testing.

Laos locks down capital as Covid cases hit record high

Reclusive Laos has locked down its capital Vientiane and barred travel between Covid-hit provinces, as cases soared to a record high.

The communist country appeared to have escaped the brunt of the pandemic in 2020, and by March this year had reported fewer than 60 cases - though the low number was due in part to limited testing.

But a surge since mid-April has seen its caseload steadily increase, and on Saturday the country reported 467 new cases of community infection, its highest ever single-day tally.

Philippines to reopen 120 schools for in-person classes

The Philippines will reopen up to 120 schools for limited in-person classes for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in a pilot approved by President Rodrigo Duterte, officials have said.

While nearly every country in the world has already partially or fully reopened schools for face-to-face lessons, the Philippines has kept them closed since March 2020.

"We have to pilot face-to-face (classes) because this is not just an issue for education, it's an issue for the children's mental health," presidential spokesman Harry Roque told reporters.

"It's also an issue for the economy because we might lose a generation if we don't have face-to-face (classes)."

Under guidelines approved by Duterte Monday, up to a hundred public schools in areas considered "minimal risk" for virus transmission will be allowed to take part in the two-month trial.

Twenty private schools can also participate.

Classrooms will be open to children in kindergarten to grade three, and senior high school, but the number of students and hours spent in face-to-face lessons are limited.

Virus-hit Fiji to reopen borders for tourists

Fiji plans to reopen for international tourists by November, aiming to rebuild a pandemic-devastated economy while battling a Delta-variant coronavirus outbreak.

"Our goal is to free our country –– and our economy –– from the rut of the pandemic," Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said in a statement last week.

Once 80 percent of Fiji's eligible population is vaccinated, it will offer quarantine-free travel to visitors from a "green list" of locations.

Of Fiji's eligible population, 66 percent is now fully vaccinated and Bainimarama predicts the country's target will be met by November 1.

Fiji's green list includes Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, Korea, Singapore and parts of the United States.

Visitors would need to be fully vaccinated and test negative prior to departure.

New Zealand eases curbs slightly in biggest city

 New Zealand has eased coronavirus curbs slightly in its largest city of Auckland, as the government expressed confidence that there was no widespread regional transmission of the Delta variant.

But tough restrictions will continue even after midnight on Tuesday, when the alert level drops to 3 from 4 in the city of about 1.7 million at the centre of the latest Delta outbreak.

Schools and offices must still keep closed, for instance, with businesses limited to offering only contactless services.

Residents must still keep to their own "bubbles", cannot visit friends or neighbours, or let children play together, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

"Bubbles must remain small and exclusive," she told a news conference.

Vietnam capital Hanoi to ease coronavirus curbs this week

Vietnam's capital Hanoi will further ease its restrictions from this week, the government said, with new cases on the decline and the majority of its adult population partially vaccinated.

Most construction projects can resume from Wednesday, authorities said late on Sunday, adding further easing would follow, with average new daily cases down to just 20.

So far 94 percent of Hanoi's adult population of 5.75 million has received one shot of vaccine, with the aim of completing second doses by the end of November, said deputy chairman of Hanoi's ruling People's Committee, Duong Duc Tuan.

"We can't maintain the social distancing measures indefinitely," Tuan said in a statement.

Fauci: Data on booster shots weeks away

Data needed to determine the advisability of booster shots of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines is just weeks away, chief US medical adviser Dr Anthony Fauci said as officials signaled they expected boosters would be recommended for a broad swath of Americans.

US health regulators already have begun to consider a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. 

A US Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday recommended a third shot of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for people age 65 and older or at high risk, but declined to endorse boosters for the wider population.

People who have received the two-dose Moderna vaccine or one-dose J&J vaccine are still awaiting guidance on possible booster shots.

Comedian Chris Rock contracts virus

Chris Rock said he has been diagnosed with the virus and sent a message to anyone still on the fence: “Get vaccinated.”

The 56-year-old comedian wrote on Twitter: “Hey guys I just found out I have COVID, trust me you don’t want this. Get vaccinated.”

Rock has previously said he was vaccinated. Appearing on “The Tonight Show” in May, he called himself “Two-shots Rock” before clarifying that he received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“You know, I skipped the line. I didn’t care. I used my celebrity, Jimmy,” he told host Jimmy Fallon.

'Stockpiled vaccines must be given to poorer nations'

A vaccine summit being hosted by US President Joe Biden must come up with a plan this week to transfer 100 million stockpiled vaccines to poorer countries before they reach their expiry date, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said.

Biden is due to convene a virtual summit on Wednesday on the margins of the UN General Assembly, aimed at boosting vaccinations worldwide with the goal of ending the pandemic by the end of 2022.

Brown said he had sent Biden and fellow G7 leaders research by Airfinity, a scientific information and analytics company, which found 100 million vaccines stockpiled in rich countries in the northern hemisphere would expire by December without being used.

Out of 5.7 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines administered around the world, only 2% have been in Africa.

Brazil registers 244 more deaths in 24 hours

Brazil registered 244 more deaths and 9,458 additional cases, according to data released by the nation's Health Ministry.

The South American country has now registered a total of 590,752 total deaths and 21,239,783 total confirmed cases.

On Saturday, Brazil registered over 150,000 cases, due to a backlog of cases in Rio de Janeiro that had not been previously reported to the Health Ministry.

Mexico adds nearly 5,000 new cases

Mexico reported 4,983 new confirmed cases and 200 deaths, according to Health Ministry data, bringing the total number of infections since the pandemic began to 3,569,677 and 271,503 fatalities.

The ministry has previously said the real numbers are likely significantly higher.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies