Novel coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 193 million people around the world, claiming at least 4.1 million lives. Here are updates for July 22:

People take part in a yoga session during the international Yoga Day in Medellin, Colombia on June 21, 2021
People take part in a yoga session during the international Yoga Day in Medellin, Colombia on June 21, 2021 (AFP)

Thursday, July 22:

WHO warns of long term impact on mental health

The mental health impact of the pandemic will be "long-term and far-reaching", the World Health Organization has said, as experts and leaders called for action on Covid-linked anxiety and stress.

"Everyone is affected in one way or another," the WHO said in a statement at the start of a two-day meeting in Athens with health ministers from dozens of countries.

It said "anxieties around virus transmission, the psychological impact of lockdowns and self-isolation" had contributed to a mental health crisis, along with stresses linked to unemployment, financial worries and social alienation.

Daily cases in Turkey nears 10,000

Turkey's daily cases have doubled in just over two weeks to 9,586 on Thursday, its highest since May 19, with 52 related deaths according to an official tally that prompted a warning from the health minister.

"We have seen the highest number of cases recently. Without securing ourselves with vaccination the pandemic won't be off the agenda," Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter as the government published the daily data.

Infections remain well down from a wave in April-May when new cases peaked above 60,000.

They fell to 4,418 on July 4 in the wake of a stringent lockdown that ended in mid-May.

Most of the last restrictions were lifted this month.

German pharmacies stop issuing vaccine passes after security breach

German pharmacies have stopped issuing digital vaccination certificates after hackers created passes from fake outlets, the industry association said, the latest blow to the inoculation drive.

Germans who have been fully vaccinated are entitled to a certificate which allows them more freedoms, especially to travel. Pharmacies and vaccination centres issue them.

The German Pharmacists' Association (DAV) said hackers had managed to produce two vaccination certificates by accessing the portal and making up pharmacy owner identities.

Czech PM blasts 'scandal' as six positive at Olympics

The Czech Olympic team has received sharp words from their prime minister as six athletes and officials on the same flight to Tokyo tested positive for the virus.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis called the situation "a scandal" as beach volleyball player Marketa Nausch Slukova and road cyclist Michal Schlegel tested positive in the Olympic Village.

They took the tally of Covid-hit athletes in the Czech team to four, while two other staff also tested positive.

Argentina raises heat on Russia over vaccine delays

Argentina, one of the first countries to widely use Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, has ratcheted up pressure on Moscow over delays in the arrival of second doses that are holding back its inoculation campaign.

The South American country's government sent a letter to Russian state entity RDIF dated July 7, where it said Argentina urgently needed component two doses, which are different from the first dose, and warned the supply agreement was at risk.

CDC masking guidance unchanged as Delta variant sweeps US

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not revised its masking guidance, even as the infectious Delta variant continues to sweep the United States, driving up case counts, CDC director Rochelle Walensky said during a press call.

Walensky declined to say if the CDC is considering changing the guidance. The CDC in May relaxed its guidance so that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks in most public spaces.

Fears of empty shelves amid UK 'pingdemic' crisis

The British government has said it was putting together a list of workers exempt from self-isolation rules as a soaring cases and contacts threaten food supply chains.

UK supermarkets have told of "patchy" shortages in their stores across the country due to the increased need to isolate amid workers nationwide from lorry drivers to shop staff.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said during an interview with Sky News that the list of exemptions will, however, be "quite narrow" as there was still a need to "keep people safe".

UK reports over 39,900 new cases 

Britain has recorded 39,906 new infections, down from 44,104 a day earlier, and 84 deaths, up from the 73 reported the previous day, official data showed.

Daily positive cases have been broadly rising in Britain for a month but a rapid vaccination programme appears to have weakened the link between infections and deaths, with daily fatalities remaining at relatively low levels.

The data also showed that 46.43 million people have had a first dose of the vaccine and 36.59 million have had two

Italy reports over 5,000 new cases

Italy has reported 15 deaths against 21 the day before, the Health Ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections increased to 5,057 from 4,259 .

Italy has registered 127,920 deaths since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the eighth-highest in the world. 

The country has reported 4.3 million cases to date.

Israel to reimpose 'Green Pass' as Delta variant hits

Israel has announced plans to allow only people who are deemed immune or have recently tested negative to enter some public spaces such as restaurants, gyms and synagogues after a surge in cases.

Virus curbs that were previously removed have already been reinstated, including wearing protective masks indoors and tighter entry requirements for incoming travellers, because of the rapid spread of the more infectious Delta variant.

In a further tightening of measures, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's office said the Green Pass programme would be back in force from July 29, pending government approval.

US donates vaccines to Georgia and Tajikistan

The United States will donate vaccine doses to Georgia and Tajikistan, a White House official has said.

Tajikistan on Sunday will receive 1.5 million doses of the Moderna shot via the international vaccine distribution system known as Covax, while Georgia will get 500,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine Saturday in a bilateral donation, the official told AFP.

India denies millions have died from virus

The Indian government has rejected recent studies suggesting that millions of people have died in the country from the virus, several times the official toll of almost 420,000.

It said in a statement however that several Indian states were now "reconciling" their data after dealing with a spike in cases in April and May.

On Tuesday a study by US research group the Center for Global Development suggested anywhere from 3.4 million to 4.7 million people had died in India, between eight and 11 times the official number.

Biden administration to spend $1.6B for testing in high-risk settings

US President Joe Biden's administration will announce it is directing $1.6 billion for virus testing in high-risk settings, such as prisons, according to an official familiar with the plan.

NBC News first reported the administration is accelerating investments in testing as it battles an infections surge in places with low vaccination rates. 

Australia, New Zealand quit Rugby League World Cup

Australia and New Zealand's decision to pull out of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup over virus concerns has rocked tournament organisers, with the chair of International Rugby saying some players may now switch allegiance so they can play in the showpiece tournament.

League's top two ranked nations cited "player welfare and safety" during the pandemic as compelling reasons to delay the event until next year.

They said their decision to withdraw came after considering the risk of infection in England, the worsening environment in Australia and the time most players would be away from home under strict biosecurity conditions before the World Cup.

EU has shipped tiny percentage of planned shot donations

EU countries have so far donated just a tiny portion of excess vaccines to poor nations, mostly AstraZeneca shots, less than 3 percent of the 160 million doses they plan to give away in total to help tame the global pandemic, an EU document shows.

EU states, with a combined adult population of 365 million, have so far received about 500 million doses from drugmakers and expect nearly a billion by the end of September.

But as of July 13, they had donated less than four million shots, the internal document, compiled by the European Commission and reviewed by Reuters, shows.

The bloc said it will donate more than 200 million doses of vaccines to middle and low-income countries before the end of the year.

Malta charters plane to fly home French students hit by virus

A group of 128 French students who all tested positive for the virus will be flown home on a special charter flight, Maltese officials have said.

The students, mostly in their late teens and unvaccinated, came to Malta to study English earlier this month after testing negative for the virus. However, they subsequently tested positive and are in quarantine ahead of their departure.

Azerbaijan extends quarantine restrictions until September

Azerbaijan has extended its quarantine restrictions to limit the spread of the virus until September 1, the government said.

The restrictions mean the borders of the South Caucasus country of about 10 million people will remain closed. Only vaccinated people will be able to attend weddings and visit sports venues. People are required to wear face masks indoors.

Azerbaijan's task force also said that public transport would not operate in the capital, Baku, on weekends and public holidays. The country has confirmed 339,062 cases and 4,998 deaths since the pandemic began.

Germany to list Spain, Netherlands as high incidence areas

Germany has plans to declare Spain and the Netherlands high risk areas, meaning that incoming travellers who are not fully vaccinated must quarantine, the Funke group of newspapers reported.

The plans would be announced on Friday, Funke said, citing government sources.

The foreign ministry was not immediately available for comment.

More than 90% of adult Beijing residents fully vaccinated

China's capital Beijing has fully vaccinated nearly 91 percent of its adult residents, data from the municipal government showed, as the country expands its nationwide vaccination efforts.

Some 17.7 million people, or 90.8 percent of adult residents in Beijing, had been inoculated as of July 21, city authorities said on Thursday via social media. That accounts for roughly 80.8 percent of its total population of 21.9 million.

Full vaccinations of adults in other large Chinese cities have also made significant headway, with Shanghai and Wuhan exceeding rates of 80 percent and 77 percent respectively, local authorities said.

Africa to receive 400M doses of J&J vaccine

The first batch of 400 million vaccine doses from Johnson & Johnson will reach Africa next week, the African Union's special envoy and head of its taskforce on vaccine acquisition said on Thursday.

The doses will be used to immunise half of the estimated 800 million people in need of the vaccine on the continent.

Tokyo hits another six-month high in new cases

Concerns continue to grow about worsening infection rates in Tokyo during the Games as the city hit another six-month high on Thursday, with nearly 2,000 cases recorded. 

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga placed Tokyo under a state of emergency on July 12, but daily cases have continued to rise since then. Organisers of the Games have been adamant the event can go ahead with due precautions.

Over 4,000 new cases in Moscow amid surge

Russia reported 24,471 new cases on Thursday, including 4,287 in Moscow.

The government's coronavirus task force said 796 people had died in the past 24 hours, amid a surge in cases that authorities have blamed on the Delta variant and the slow vaccination uptake. 

'Pingdemic' causing supermarket shortages in England

Supermarket shelves across England looked empty on Thursday as tens of thousands of workers in the food industry were 'pinged' by a government app as close contacts of cases and asked to self-isolate.

Around 428,000 people were reached by contact tracers in England in the week to July 14, the health ministry said on Thursday.

Death rates soar in Southeast Asia as virus wave spreads

Indonesia has converted nearly its entire oxygen production to medical use just to meet the demand patients struggling to breathe. 

Overflowing hospitals in Malaysia had to resort to treating patients on the floor. And in Myanmar’s largest city, graveyard workers have been labouring day and night to keep up with the grim demand for new cremations and burials.

In the last two weeks, the three Southeast Asian nations have now all surpassed India’s peak per capita death rate as a new coronavirus wave, fuelled by the virulent delta variant, tightens its grip on the region.

Indonesia, Myanmar, and Malaysia have been showing sharp increases since late June and their seven-day averages hit 4.37, 4.29 and 4.14 per million, respectively, on Wednesday.

Cambodia and Thailand have also seen strong increases in both coronavirus cases and deaths, but have thus far held the seven-day rate per million people to a lower 1.55 and 1.38, respectively.

Individual countries elsewhere have higher rates, but the increases are particularly alarming for a region that widely kept numbers low early in the pandemic.

Australia PM 'sorry' for slow vaccine rollout

Australia's prime minister apologised for the country's glacial vaccine rollout, as Sydney recorded a record jump in new coronavirus infections.

Scott Morrison is under fierce public pressure to improve a vaccination rate currently languishing around 11 percent, among the lowest rate of any rich nation.

After months of boasting about his "gold standard" pandemic response and insisting vaccine rollout was "not a race", Morrison bowed to critics.

"I'm sorry that we haven't been able to achieve the marks that we had hoped for at the beginning of this year. O f course I am," he said.

"I take responsibility for the vaccination programme. I also take responsibility for the challenges we've had. Obviously, some things are within our control, some things that are not."

His comments came as authorities in locked-down Sydney warned residents to brace for a spike in infections and long-term restrictions.

Taiwan orders further 36M Moderna vaccine doses

Taiwan has ordered a further 36 million doses of Moderna Inc's vaccine, the government said, as it seeks to lock in deliveries for the months ahead.

Taiwan has received about 9 million doses to date of Moderna and AstraZeneca Plc, including almost 6 million doses donated by Japan and the United States, enabling it to speed up its inoculation programme.

Cabinet spokesman Lo Ping-cheng told reporters that the new order for Moderna vaccines, which comes on top of 5 million already ordered, was signed on Wednesday.

"This number is slightly more than the 30 million doses we had originally expected," Lo said, though he declined to say when they might start arriving. "We must strive for smooth delivery according to the scheduled time."

Speaking later on Thursday, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said the order consisted of 1 million doses for delivery by the end of this year, 20 million for next year, and 15 million for the year after that.

Moderna did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

More than 20 percent of Taiwan's 23.5 million people have received at least one dose in the two-shot vaccine regimen.

China says WHO plan to audit labs is 'arrogant'

China says a WHO proposal to audit Chinese labs as part of further investigation into the origins of the coronavirus pandemic showed "disrespect" and "arrogance towards science".

Last week, the World Health Organization said a second stage of the international probe should include audits of Chinese labs, amid increasing pressure from the United States for an investigation into a biotech lab in Wuhan.

The proposal outlined by WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus included "audits of relevant laboratories and research institutions operating in the area of the initia l human cases identified in December 2019," referring to the Chinese city of Wuhan.

But China's vice health minister Zeng Yixin told reporters Thursday that he was "extremely surprised" by the plan, which he said showed "disrespect for common sense and arrogance towards science".

Long derided as a right-wing conspiracy theory and vehemently rejected by Beijing, the idea that Covid-19 may have emerged from a lab leak has been gaining momentum.

Germany's cases up by 1,890 

The number of confirmed cases in Germany increased by 1,890 to 3,750,503, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed. 

The reported death toll rose by 42 to 91,458, the tally showed.

Namibian cyclist Craven tests positive in Spain

The Latest on the Tokyo Olympics, which are taking place under heavy restrictions after a year’s delay because of the pandemic:

One of the social media sensations of the Rio Olympics won’t be competing in Tokyo after Namibia’s Dan Craven tested positive in Spain, where the former professional cyclist lives with his family.

Even more devastating was the timing of it.

Craven told The Namibian newspaper that he had been trying to receive a vaccine through Spain’s national health care system, “but the bureaucratic system to get registered has just been crazy.”

“Two hours after I tested positive,” Craven said, “I got a phone call saying I can come in for my vaccine.”

The tall, lanky rider with the bushy red beard said on his Instagram page that he caught the virus on a training ride with three other people. 

He was supposed to have the single starting spot for Namibia, where he was born, but tested positive in a pre-event test and will be replaced in Saturday’s race to Fuji International Speedway by Tristan de Lange.

India's daily cases rise by 41,383

India reported 41,383 new infections in the last 24 hours, while daily deaths rose by 507, health ministry data showed.

The country's tally of infections now stands at 31.26 million, with the death toll at 418,987, according to government data. 

South Korea reports 1,842 new cases

South Korea has reported 1,842 new coronavirus cases, its highest-ever daily increase, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said, as the country grapples with the highly contagious Delta strain that was first discovered in India.

Biden urges vaccinations

President Joe Biden kicked off his town hall in a Republican-supporting part of Ohio with a plea to skeptical Americans to get vaccinated, as rising Covid-19 cases threaten to undermine the country's economic rebound after the pandemic.

"Look, it's real simple. We have a pandemic for those who haven't gotten a vaccination. It's that basic, that simple. Ten thousand people have recently died. Nine thousand nine hundred and fifty of them, thereabouts, are peo ple who hadn't been vaccinated," Biden said.

White House officials said the event, in a part of Cincinnati that voted strongly for Republican former President Donald Trump last November, would give Biden, a Democrat, a chance to reflect on his first six months in office and appeal directly to Americans to get vaccinated.

Biden's town hall, broadcast on CNN, marks his third visit to the state as Covid-19 cases rise amid a deadly variant, and the White House's vaccination efforts have stalled amid waves of disinformation and skepticism.

Victoria sees cases rise as Australia endures lockdowns

Australia's Victoria state has reported a slight rise in locally acquired cases of Covid-19 after nearly a week of a hard lockdown imposed to contain an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta virus strain.

Twenty-six new local cases were reported, up from 22 a day earlier, taking the total cases in the latest outbreak to almost 130. All new infections are linked to the current outbreak and 24 were in quarantine throughout their entire infectious period.

More than half of Australia's 25 million population, including the country's largest city of Sydney and the states of Victoria and South Australia, is under lockdown, with residents restricted to their homes except for urgent reasons.

Sydney, the worst affected city, is in a five-week lockdown until July 30 although a growing number of cases where people have been infectious in the community has raised the prospect of the tough restrictions extended further.

Nearly half of all new Sydney cases recorded a day earlier with the Delta strain were moving around in the community, particularly in the city's southwestern suburbs, stoking worries of a significant rise in infections.

South Australia, meanwhile, is bracing for more cases on Thursday as officials track two chains of transmission - a winery and a Greek restaurant in the state capital Adelaide. Five of the six cases reported late on Wednesday were linked to the winery.

Peru arrests state hospital workers for charging patients $21,000 per bed

Peruvian police have said they had dismantled an alleged criminal ring that had charged as much $21,000 per bed for seriously ill Covid-19 patients in a state-run hospital, aggravating care in a country hit by one of the world's deadliest outbreaks of the virus.

Authorities arrested nine people in an early morning raid on Wednesday, including the administrators of Lima's Guillermo Almenara Irigoyen public hospital, according to prosecutor Reynaldo Abia.

The scam was uncovered after police received a complaint from the brother of a man suffering from Covid-19 who had been asked for $20,783 (82,000 soles) to obtain an intensive care (ICU) bed and treatment at the hospital, said Abia.

Health Minister Óscar Ugarte told reporters the scam warranted immediate repercussions. "This is totally reprehensible," he said. "We cannot be negotiating with people's lives."

Corruption scandals around virus care have already rattled the highest levels of power in Peru. Outrage over prior allegations that some top officials had been granted preferential "VIP" vaccinations prompted the country's health an d foreign ministers to resign earlier this year.

The hospital involved in the more recent scandal, administered by the EsSalud social security system, provides free care. Patients must endure a long waiting list for the 80 ICU beds the hospital offers.

YouTube says it pulled Bolsonaro videos for Covid misinformation

YouTube has said it had removed videos from Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's channel for spreading misinformation about the coronavirus outbreak, becoming the latest tech giant to pull his pandemic pronouncements.

YouTube said in a press release the decision was taken "after careful review" and without consideration for Bolsonaro's job or political ideology. The far-right former army captain, who has overseen the world's second deadliest outbreak, has won widespread criticism for railing against lockdowns, tout ing unproven miracle cures, sowing vaccine doubts and shunning masks.

"Our rules do not allow content that states that hydroxychloroquine and/or ivermectin are effective in treating or preventing Covid-19, that states there is a cure for the disease, or says that masks do not work to prevent the spread of the virus," it said in a statement.

The president's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies