The coronavirus pandemic has killed nearly 3.5 million people, infecting more than 169.4 million around the world. Here are updates for May 27:

Security personnel keep watch outside Wuhan Institute of Virology during the visit by WHO team tasked with probing origins of coronavirus, in Wuhan, China, on  February 3, 2021.
Security personnel keep watch outside Wuhan Institute of Virology during the visit by WHO team tasked with probing origins of coronavirus, in Wuhan, China, on February 3, 2021. (Reuters)

Thursday, May 27:

US urges WHO to carry out second phase of virus origin study

The United States has called for the World Health Organization to carry out a second phase of its investigation into the origins of the virus, with independent experts given full access to original data and samples in China.

President Joe Biden ordered aides to find answers to the origin of the virus, saying on Wednesday that US intelligence agencies are pursuing rival theories potentially including the possibility of a laboratory accident in China.

"It is critical that China provides independent experts full access to complete, original data and samples relevant to understanding the source of the virus and the early stages of the pandemic," the US mission to the UN in Geneva said in a statement.

WHO, GAVI seek 190M vaccine doses by end-June to fill gap

The COVAX vaccine-sharing facility urgently needs 190 million doses by the end of June to fill a gap left by India halting vaccine exports, as the virus surges in South Asia, the GAVI vaccine alliance and World Health Organization have said.

"We need an additional $2 billion to lift coverage in (advance market countries) up to nearly 30%, and we need it by June 2 to lock in supplies now so that doses can be delivered through 2021, and into early 2022," they said in a statement.

"At least one billion doses could be shared by wealthy countries in 2021," it said.

Turkey reports over 8,400 new cases

Turkey has registered a total of 8,426 cases, including 673 symptomatic patients, in the past 24 hours, reports the Health Ministry.

Turkey's overall case tally is now over 5.2 million, while the nationwide death toll reached 46,970, with 183 more fatalities over the past day.

UK records over 3,500 new cases

Britain has reported 10 new deaths within 28 days of a positive test and a further 3,542 cases of the disease, official government data showed.

That compared to nine deaths and 3,180 cases reported a day earlier.

On vaccines a total of 38.61 million people have now received a first dose and 24.04 million have received both shots. 

Italy reports over 4,000 new cases

Italy has reported 171 deaths against 121 the day before, the Health Ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 4,147 from 3,937.

Italy has registered 125,793 deaths since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the seventh-highest in the world. 

The country has reported 4.2 million cases to date.

Physician warns Tokyo Olympics could spread variants

A physician representing a Japanese medical body warned that holding the postponed Tokyo Olympics in two months could lead to the spread of variants of the coronavirus.

Dr Naoto Ueyama, chairman of the Japan Doctors Union, said the International Olympic Committee and the Japanese government had underestimated the risks of bringing 15,000 Olympic and Paralympic athletes into the country, joined by tens of thousands of officials, judges, media and broadcasters from more than 200 countries and territories.

Turkey starts administering vaccines to persons with disabilities

Turkey has started administering vaccines to people with disabilities, the health minister announced.

Underlining that another priority group has been added to Turkey’s vaccine programme, Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter: “As of today, our profound, moderate, and severely disabled citizens are starting to get vaccinated.”

Since the launch of its vaccination campaign in mid-January, Turkey has administered nearly 28.5 million doses of vaccines, according to official figures.

Malaysia sees record-high daily cases

Malaysia reported another 7,857 virus cases, its highest jump in daily infections, the country’s Health Ministry confirmed.

With the recent addition, the country's total caseload rose to 541,224.

The state of Selangor recorded 2,675 new cases, followed by Sarawak with 772 and Kelantan with 752 cases, according to the official data.

Earlier on Wednesday, the country recorded 7,478 cases.

UK health minister says ex-PM aide's lies claim are untrue

British health minister Matt Hancock said "unsubstantiated allegations" from the prime minister's former chief aide that he had lied to colleagues and the public about the government's response to the pandemic were untrue.

Dominic Cummings, who was Prime Minister Boris Johnson's right-hand man until late last year, delivered a withering attack on his former boss and Hancock during seven hours of testimony before a parliamentary committee on Wednesday, saying their ineptitude led to tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths.

Johnson, Cummings said, was unfit for his role, while his greatest criticism was reserved for Hancock who he said had repeatedly lied to such an extent that the country's top civil servant lost confidence in his honesty.

"These allegations that were put yesterday ... are serious allegations and I welcome the opportunity ... to put formally on the record that these unsubstantiated allegations around honesty are not true, and that I've been straight with people in public and in private throughout," Hancock told parliament.

With almost 128,000 deaths, the United Kingdom has the world's fifth highest official virus toll, far higher than the government's initial worst-case estimates of 20,000.

Many teachers pressed into Indian poll duty became virus victims

Suman Lata’s family begged her to refuse a summons to monitor elections in Uttar Pradesh state last month but, worried about losing her job, the 49-year-old mother of three went anyway, just as India’s second coronavirus wave hit a peak.

Two weeks later, she was dead, one of more than 1,600 teachers who died from the virus in the weeks after working at the polls, according to the families of eight victims and mortality data supplied by a teachers’ union.

"She asked if she could be excused but the officers said 'if you are not sick, you have to do your duty',” said Lata’s 25-year-old son, Vaibhav Agarwal, sitting in front of her photo, garlanded with flowers at the family’s home in Mathura town, southeast of the capital, New Delhi.

India hails ‘fabulous work’ in Tokyo, to vaccinate entire contingent

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) praised the "fabulous work" done by the Olympic organisers to create a safe environment for the Games and said the country's entire contingent will be vaccinated before heading to Tokyo.

The International Olympic Committee launched a playbook for the athletes and officials last month outlining plans for safe conduct of the beleaguered Games, which could not be held last year due to the pandemic.

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) said the IOC and the Japanese organisers had done "fabulous work to ensure that the Olympic Games are held in a completely safe and secure environment". 

Sinopharm's two shots effective, study says

Two vaccines from China’s Sinopharm showed more than 70 percent efficacy against symptomatic cases, but it remains unclear how much protection they provide against severe or asymptomatic cases, according to the first detailed result of a large late-stage study published to the public.

A vaccine developed by a Wuhan-based subsidiary of Sinopharm was 72.8 percent effective against symptomatic Covid at least two weeks after second injection, based on interim results, the peer-reviewed study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed on Wednesday.

This is slightly better than the 72.5 percent rate announced in a company statement in February.

Another vaccine developed by a Beijing-based institute linked to Sinopharm, which this month obtained emergency use approval by the World Health Organization (WHO), showed a 78.1 percent efficacy, the paper said.

Taiwan reports another rise in domestic Covid-19 cases

Taiwan reported 667 new domestic Covid-19 cases, including 266 cases added to previous days' totals, as it re-adjusts figures following delays in reporting positive tests. 

Sanofi, GSK launch Phase III trial for their Covid-19 shot

France's Sanofi and Britain's GlaxoSmithKline launched a late-stage human trial for their recombinant Covid-19 vaccine candidate that they hope to get approved by the end of this year.

The two companies, which earlier this month reported positive interim results, confirmed their double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase III study would include more than 35,000 adults in the United States, Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

The virus lineage known as B.1.351 was first detected in South Africa.

Spain races to vaccinate farm workers against virus 'time bomb'

Outside an old blue and white school in northeastern Spain dozens of farm workers wait their turn to be vaccinated against the coronavirus by a team of nurses.

Spain, a key provider of fresh fruit and vegetables to the rest of Europe, is racing to immunise the army of cheap labour that follows the ripening of different crops across the country as the harvest season nears.

The aim is to avoid a repeat of the outbreaks of Covid-19 among farm workers in the northeastern regions of Catalonia and Aragon last year that fuelled a spike in infections, leading to localised lockdowns.

Philippines officials warned to enforce lockdown

 The president of the Philippines warns he will jail village leaders and police officers who don’t enforce pandemic lockdown restrictions.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s comments Wednesday night were in response to swimming parties, drinking sprees and picnics held earlier this month in three resorts where dozens of merrymakers later tested positive for the virus.

Duterte is known for a tough approach to crime and he says he wants law enforcers to carry wooden sticks as a “permanent fixture” so offenders who resist arrest can be hit in the hands and feet wi th “reasonable force.”

A surge in coronavirus infections that started in March has begun to ease after the government re-imposed lockdowns in metropolitan Manila and four adjacent provinces. But daily cases are still high and a vaccination campaign is struggling with supply problems.

Number of deaths in Ukraine exceeds 50,000

The total number of coronavirus related deaths has exceeded 50,000 in Ukraine, which remains among the most affected European countries, the health ministry data showed.

The number of new daily coronavirus infections in Ukraine, which has a population of 41 million, has decreased over the past several weeks to the lowest levels since August 2020, though the deaths rate remains high.

Ukraine registered 3,509 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours with 183 deaths. It reported a total of 2.19 million cases and 50,076 deaths as of May 27.

Ukraine has received up to 3 million doses of various vaccines so far but only around 1 million people have had their first shot, government data show.

The parliament this month fired health minister Maksym Stepanov, accusing him of failing to supply adequate vaccine doses to fight the pandemic.

India posts daily rise in cases of 211,298

India posted 211,298 new coronavirus cases over the last 24 hours, while deaths rose by 3,847.

The South Asian country's overall caseload is now at 27.37 million, while total fatalities are at 315,235, according to health ministry data. 

Germany's confirmed cases rise by 6,313 

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 6,313 to 3,662,490, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed. 

The reported death toll rose by 269 to 87,995, the tally showed.

Australia's Victoria state to enter brief one-week lockdown

Australia's second most populous state of Victoria recorded its second-highest day of new Covid-19 infections and will enter a one-week Covid-19 lockdown beginning Thursday, 11:59 pm local time until June 3, people will only be allowed to leave their homes for essential work, healthcare, grocery shopping, exercise or to take their coronavirus vaccinations. 

This will force nearly seven million residents to remain home except for essential business in a bid to contain a fresh virus outbreak.

"We have seen more evidence we're dealing with a highly infectious strain of the virus, a variant of concern, which is running faster than we have ever recorded," Victoria state Acting Premier James Merlino told reporters in Melbourne.

Merlino said contact tracers have identified more than 10,000 primary and secondary contacts who would need to quarantine, test and self isolate, adding "that number will continue to grow and change".

A fresh cluster of infections in Melbourne detected early this week has swelled to 26 on Thursday after the state reported 12 new cases overnight, while the number of virus-exposed sites rose above 150.

The lockdown comes just days after authorities reinstated coronavirus curbs for state capital Melbourne, limiting gathering sizes and making masks mandatory in restaurants, hotels and other indoor locations until June 4.

Chinese embassy in US lashes out at Covid-19 origin investigation

China's embassy in the United States has said that politicising the origins of Covid-19 will hamper investigations, after US President Joe Biden said the US intelligence community is divided over where the virus emerged. 

The Biden administration also called on China to comply and cooperate with a transparent investigation into the source of the virus.

China supports "a comprehensive study of all early cases of Covid-19 found worldwide and a thorough investigation into some secretive bases and biological laboratories all over the world," the embassy said in remarks attributed to a spokesperson, posted on its website. 

However, it has also dismissed speculation the virus emerged from Wuhan, China as disinformation.

France announces restrictions on UK travellers

The mandatory quarantine restrictions follow similar policies taken by neighbouring countries in view of spikes in Indian coronavirus variant numbers.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal said the move was taken in view of rising cases in the UK stemming from the B.1.617 variant first identified in India or the so-called double mutant.

The highly contagious variant has spread rapidly in recent days prompting the government to place India on the red list and advising against traveling to the country.

There are at least 20 confirmed cases of the B.1.617 variant across France.

France also reports the number of people in intensive care units with Covid-19 fell by 117 to 3,330 on Wednesday, while the overall number of people in hospital with the virus fell by 837 to 18,593.

Both numbers have been on a steady downward trend since the end of April.

Austria and Germany have already placed restrictions on travellers from the UK. The duration of the mandatory quarantine and the date of its implementation is yet to be declared by the French government.

Besides the UK, travellers from Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, India, Nepal , Pakistan, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Uruguay, as well as the department of Guyana, are required to undergo a mandatory 10-day quarantine on arrival.

Travellers are expected to declare the place of isolation or provide the hotel details at the time of boarding, which will be subjected to police inspection.

Violators who jump the quarantine period or are absent from the location will be fined €1,000 to 1,500.

Thailand reports new daily record of 47 coronavirus deaths

A spokesperson for the government of Thailand has announced 47 new deaths from the coronavirus, bringing the country's total number of fatalities to 920 since the pandemic began.

The country's Covid-19 task force also reported 3,323 new coronavirus cases, including 1,219 among prisoners, taking the total number of infections to 141,217. 

Brazil sees new coronavirus cases, deaths

Brazil has announced 80,486 new cases of coronavirus and 2,398 new COVID-19 deaths in the last 24 hours, the country's Health Ministry said on Wednesday. This comes days after Brazil passed 450,000 COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday. More critically, the number of daily deaths and infections is on the rise,  according to the Health Ministry. 

Since the pandemic began, over 452,000 people have died from the virus in Brazil, with over 16.2 million confirmed cases, official data shows.

Philippines plans emergency Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for 12-15 year olds

The Philippines announced it will permit the use of Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine for emergency use in children between the age of 12-15, according to an announcement by the head of its Food and Drugs Administration. The policy is meant to increase the number of people in the country that will be protected against the virus.

The Pfizer-BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine is one of the seven brands of coronavirus shots allowed for emergency use in the Philippines.

Source: TRT World