Coronavirus has killed more than 3.9M people and infected over 180M globally. Here are the latest Covid-related developments for June 25:
Friday, June 25
Delta most transmissible variant so far – WHO
The head of the World Health Organization has said the Covid-19 variant first seen in India, also known as the delta variant, is “the most transmissible of the variants identified so far” and that it is now spreading in at least 85 countries.
At a press briefing on Friday, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the UN agency was concerned about the increasing reach of the Delta variant, particularly among unvaccinated populations.
“We are starting to see increases in transmission around the world,” Tedros said, adding that “more cases means more hospitalizations ... which increases the risk of death.”
WHO has previously said that two doses of the licensed Covid-19 vaccines appear to provide strong protection against the variant first seen in India but warned the lack of access to vaccines in poor countries — which have received fewer than 2 percent of the billion doses administered so far — makes them extremely vulnerable.
Lack of vaccines in poor countries global failure – Tedros
The world's inability to provide enough Covid-19 vaccines for poor countries is a global failure that highlights injustice, the head of the World Health Organization said on Friday.
"It's not hesitancy. It's lack of vaccines. And the situation in many low-income countries, especially Africa, it's very worrisome," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
"There is no vaccine. You can't even talk about delivery or absorption capacity when there's no vaccine."
Tedros also said the unchecked circulation of the coronavirus could lead to the emergence of even more variants.
“New variants are expected and will continue to be reported,” Tedros said. “That’s what viruses do. They evolve,” he said. “But we can prevent the emergence of variants by preventing transmission.”
Over a dozen vaccinated doctors dead as Indonesia's virus cases surge
Over a dozen fully vaccinated doctors have died of Covid-19 in Indonesia, a medical association said, as the Southeast Asian country battles a rash of severe cases in inoculated medical workers and highly infectious new virus strains.
Nearly 1,000 Indonesian health workers have died from the virus since the pandemic started, with the country's medical association confirming Friday that 401 doctors were among the victims – 14 of whom were fully vaccinated.
"We are still updating the data and confirming whether the other cases had been vaccinated or not," the association's Covid-19 mitigation head Mohammad Adib Khumaidi told journalists.
The rise of severe cases in inoculated medical workers has raised questions about the China-produced Sinovac jab, which Indonesia is heavily relying on to vaccinate more than 180 million people by early next year.
Pakistan fears fourth wave in July
A minister in Pakistan on Friday warned the country could be hit by the fourth Covid-19 wave next month, asking people to adhere to safety measures and get vaccinated.
"Reviewed the artificial intelligence based disease modeling analysis today ... In the absence of strong SOP enforcement and continued strong vaccination program, the fourth wave could emerge in Pakistan in July," tweeted Asad Umar, who leads the country's anti-virus task force.
"Please adhere to sop's and vaccinate as soon as possible."
An apparent resistance to follow health guidelines such as wearing masks and vaccine hesitancy has led provincial governments to warn of drastic measures such as blocking cellphone connections, and withholding the salaries of government employees who are not inoculated.
Pakistan, which has obtained vaccines largely from China, has administered over 13.5 million doses so far. Anyone over 18 years old can now be vaccinated.
Delta variants surge in Italy to nearly 17 percent of cases
The Delta coronavirus variant and its sub-type Kappa have surged in Italy in the past month, accounting for nearly 17 percent of total cases, the national health institute ISS said on Friday.
The Delta variant, originally detected in India, was becoming dominant, it said.
"Cases of the Kappa and Delta variants ... rose from 4.2 percent in May to 16.8 percent in June," based on data extracted on June 21, the institute said.
"Our epidemiological monitoring shows a rapidly evolving picture that confirms that also in our country, as in the rest of Europe, the Delta variant of the virus is becoming dominant," Anna Teresa Palamara, director of ISS Infectious Diseases Department, said in a statement.
The Alpha coronavirus variant remains the most widespread in Italy, representing 74.9 percent of cases, the institute said.
Amid J&J's supply woes, EU approves new vaccine plant
Europe's medicines regulator said on Friday it had approved the production of Johnson & Johnson's single-dose Covid-19 vaccine at an additional site in Italy, as it looks to speed up the supply of the shot in the European Union.
The approval came after the EU said J&J was expected to miss its EU supply target for the second quarter after millions of doses were banned for use in Europe over safety concerns following a contamination incident at a US site.
The Italian site, located in Anagni and operated by US-based Catalent, will help with vial filling and packaging of the vaccine developed by J&J, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said.
US health officials grant emergency use for another antibody-drug
US health officials have granted emergency use for another antibody drug to help hospitalised patients with the most dangerous cases of the virus.
The Food and Drug Administration said late on Thursday it authorised the drug Actemra from Roche for hospitalised patients who are already receiving steroid drugs, oxygen and other measures to fight the virus.
When added to those treatments, studies showed Roche’s drug reduced the risk of death and cut hospitalization time.
Actemra does not target the coronavirus directly but instead helps reduce inflammation, a driver of the disease.
It is already approved for rheumatoid arthritis and several other diseases.
Health officials have emphasized the need to develop more pill-based drugs for Covid-19.
More funds approved for COVAX vaccines, tighter access planned – statement
The board of the GAVI vaccine alliance has approved a further $775 million to fund the delivery of vaccines to lower-income economies over the next two years, as it plans to accelerate the rollout, it said on Friday.
The total funds available to cover the cost of delivering the vaccines will rise to $925 million, GAVI said in a statement issued after a two-day board meeting.
COVAX, run jointly with the World Health Organization, has delivered 90 million doses to 132 countries since F ebruary, but has faced major supply issues since India suspended vaccine exports.
Israel resumes indoor mask requirement amid virus spike
The Israeli health ministry has reimposed a requirement for masks to be worn in enclosed public places following a surge in cases since it was dropped 10 days ago.
The spike in new infections is a blow for a country which has prided itself on one of the world's most successful vaccine rollouts.
The head of Israel's pandemic response taskforce, Nachman Ash, told public radio the requirement came after four days of more than 100 new cases a day, with 227 new cases confirmed.
South Africa aims to more than double daily vaccinations over next month
South Africa is aiming to more than double the rate of daily vaccinations over the next month to more than 200,000 as more Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson shots arrive, health officials said.
The country's vaccination campaign has started slowly, set back by the revelation that AstraZeneca's vaccine is much less effective against the dominant local coronavirus variant.
The government found it difficult to secure supplies from other manufacturers given huge global demand.
A rapid resurgence of is slamming South Africa's largest city, Johannesburg, and threatens to overwhelm its hospitals.
Johannesburg and the surrounding Gauteng province account for about 60 percent of the country’s new daily infections.
South Africa’s 7-day rolling average of daily new cases has doubled over the past two weeks from 10 new cases per 100,000 people on June 10 to 22 per 100,000 people on June 24, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Khamenei receives all-Iranian jab
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has received the first dose of a domestically produced virus vaccine, his social media announced, as the country battles the Middle East's deadliest outbreak.
The 81-year-old cleric's Twitter feed published a video it said showed him "receiving the first dose of the #IranianCovidVaccine that has been developed by young Iranian scientists".
The footage shows him wearing a surgical mask and a black turban, sitting under a picture of the Islamic republic's founder Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini, as two male medics tend to him, injecting him in the left arm.
Russia reports 20,393 cases
Russia has reported 20,393 new cases on, including 7,916 in Moscow, taking the official national tally since the pandemic began to 5,409,088.
The government coronavirus task force said 601 people had died of coronavirus-linked causes in the past 24 hours, pushing the national death toll to 132,064.
The federal statistics agency has kept a separate count and has said Russia recorded around 270,000 deaths related to the virus from April 2020 to April 2021.
Deaths, cases on rise in Arab countries
Tunisia and Jordan announced more coronavirus cases and deaths Thursday as they continued efforts to contain the disease.
Tunisia’s Health Ministry said 88 people succumbed to the virus in the last 24 hours, taking the country’s death toll to 14,406.
It said the virus was detected in 3,951 more people, taking the number of infections in the country to 395,362.
The recovery tally reached 342,598 with 1,764 additions.
Hawaii to drop test, quarantine for vaccinated domestic travelers
Hawaii will from July 8 drop a requirement for pre-travel coronavirus testing and quarantine upon arrival for domestic travelers who have been fully vaccinated in the United States, Governor David Ige said.
"Hawaii is expected to reach a 60 percent fully vaccinated rate by July 8. Because of that, we will be able to safely relax some of the travel and social restrictions currently in place", the governor said on Twitter.
"Social gatherings will increase to 25 indoors and 75 outdoors statewide. Restaurants can also increase to 75 percent capacity", he said.
Indonesia has enough oxygen for patients – health minister
Indonesia has sufficient oxygen supplies for the virus patients, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin has said, responding to concerns about pressure on supplies due to a surge in coronavirus infections in the country.
Out of Indonesia's total oxygen production capacity, only a quarter was being used to produce oxygen for medical purposes and producers were "committed" to convert production capacity to support medical needs, the minister told a virtual briefing.
Antibodies triggered by Chinese shots less effective on Delta variant – researcher
Antibodies triggered by two Chinese vaccines are less effective against the Delta variant compared with other strains but the shots still offer protection, a Chinese disease control researcher told state media.
The Delta variant of the new virus, first detected in India, is becoming the globally dominant variant of the disease with its increased transmissibility, the World Health Organization's chief scientist warned last week.
In an interview aired by China Central Television late on Thursday, Feng Zijian, researcher and former deputy director at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, did not provide further details.
India reports 51,667 cases
India has registered 51,667 new cases, bringing the country's total over 30.13M as the country's death toll rises by 1,329 to reach 393,310 fatalities, its health ministry said.
Taiwan reports 76 cases
Taiwan has reported 76 new domestic infections on Friday, down from 129 a day earlier.
Japan to give 6M doses of vaccines to Taiwan, 5 SE Asia nations
Japan has said it would send 2 million additional doses of AstraZeneca Plc's vaccine to Taiwan and Vietnam and arrangements were being made to send 1 million doses each to Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
The direct donations, which should help Japan to increase its diplomatic influence in Asia, come as wealthy nations are being pushed to provide more doses to the global vaccine sharing scheme COVAX to cover a 200-million dose shortfall.
While densely populated lower-income countries act as incubators for new and more dangerous strains of the coronavirus, some of the poorest countries have vaccinated fewer than 1 percent of their populations, according to estimates from Gavi, a global vaccine alliance that runs COVAX with the World Health Organization.
Germany's confirmed coronavirus cases rise by 774 - RKI
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 774 to 3,725,580, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.
The reported death toll rose by 62 to 90,678, the tally showed.
China reports 24 new virus cases vs 16 a day earlier
China reported 24 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for Thursday, compared with 16 a day earlier, the health authority said.
All of the new infections were imported cases, the National Health Commission said in a statement. There were no new deaths.
China also reported 20 new asymptomatic patients, compared with 18 a day earlier.
Australia's New South Wales state reports 11 local cases
Australia's most populous state of New South Wales (NSW) reported 11 locally acquired cases of Covid-19 as officials issued health alerts for more than a dozen new venues scattered across Sydney, the country's largest city.
Friday's data includes six cases announced on Thursday after the daily cut-off deadline, taking the total number of infections in the latest outbreak to more than 50.
NSW is fighting to contain an outbreak of the highly-infectious Delta virus variant imposing mandatory masks in all indoor locations in Sydney, including offices, and limiting home gatherings to five.
First Covid-19 case could have hit China in Oct 2019 – study
The virus that causes Covid-19 could have started spreading in China as early as October 2019, two months before the first case was identified in the central city of Wuhan, a new study showed.
Researchers from Britain's University of Kent used methods from conservation science to estimate that SARS-CoV-2 first appeared from early October to mid-November 2019, according to a paper published in the PLOS Pathogens journal.
The most likely date for the virus's emergence was November 17, 2019, and it had probably already spread globally by January 2020, they estimated.
Mexico's OKs Pfizer's vaccine for use in kids 12 years and up
Mexico's health regulator has given approval to US drugmaker Pfizer Inc's Covid-19 vaccine for use in children 12 years old and older, Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell said.
"It's the first Covid-19 vaccine authorized for adolescents in our country," he said.
Royal Caribbean says two guests onboard ship test positive
Royal Caribbean Group said two guests on its cruise liner, Adventure of the Seas, had tested positive for Covid-19.
Both guests were not vaccinated and had been quarantined before they disembarked on Thursday in Freeport, The Bahamas, Royal Caribbean International, a unit of the company clarified in a statement.
UK’s Covid-19 test-and-trace system still missing targets –watchdog
Britain’s much-maligned multi-billion pound Covid-19 test-and-trace system has improved, but is still missing targets and the results of millions of tests to find asymptomatic cases have not been reported, parliament’s spending watchdog said.
The programme, which was given a $30.6 billion budget, was launched by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in May 2020 to oversee testing of those who thought they had the virus and then to trace the contacts of those who tested positive.
Critics say it has wasted huge sums and failed in its primary objective of breaking the chain of transmission.
Brazil reports 73,602 new cases and 2,032 deaths
Brazil recorded 73,602 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, along with 2,032 deaths from Covid-19, the Health Ministry said.
Brazil has registered more than 18.2 million cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 509,141, according to ministry data.
Mexico's death toll rises to 232,068
Mexico's Health Ministry reported 5,340 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country and 221 more fatalities, bringing the total figures to 2,493,087 infections and 232,068 deaths.
The government has said the real number of cases is likely significantly higher, and separate data published in March suggested the actual death toll is at least 60 percent above the confirmed figure.
Venezuela receives first shipment of Cuban vaccine
Venezuela's government announced it had signed a contract to acquire 12 million doses of a Cuban coronavirus vaccine that is allegedly 92 percent effective but is still awaiting approval from health authorities.
The Abdala vaccine has completed its three phases of clinical trials but has yet to be given the all-clear either by Cuba's health authorities or the World Health Organization.