Covid-19 has infected more than 245M people and killed nearly 5M globally. Here are the coronavirus-related developments for October 28:

The ambitious plan of WHO and its partners outlines the strategy of the Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator until September 2022.
The ambitious plan of WHO and its partners outlines the strategy of the Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator until September 2022. (Reuters)

Thursday, October 28, 2021

WHO, partners seek $23.4 billion for new Covid-19 war chest

The World Health Organization (WHO) and other aid groups have appealed to leaders of the world's 20 biggest economies to fund a $23.4 billion plan to bring Covid-19 vaccines, tests and drugs to poorer countries in the next year.

The ambitious plan outlines the strategy of the Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) until September 2022, expected to include use of an experimental oral antiviral pill made by Merck & Co for treating mild and moderate cases.

If the pill is approved by regulatory authorities, the cost could be as little as $10 per course, the plan said, in line with a draft document obtained by media sources earlier this month.

"The request is for $23.4 billion. That's a fair amount of money, but if you compare with the damage also done to global economy by the pandemic it is not really that much," Carl B ildt, WHO Special Envoy to the ACT-Accelerator, told a pre-briefing for selected journalists ahead of a press conference by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Sanofi exec: new COVID-19 shot will cost less than 10 euros 

The Covid-19 vaccine that French drugmaker Sanofi is developing with British partner GlaxoSmithKline will have a price tag of less than 10 euros, a senor executive at the company said on Thursday.

Sanofi is hoping for a comeback after falling behind rivals in the race for coronavirus shots and is expecting to have the full results of mass trials for its planned vaccine by the end of 2021.

Thomas Triomphe, head of the Sanofi Pasteur vaccines division, told a conference call with analysts the company was aiming to produce a "practical, universal" shot that could be used as a booster to vaccines already on the market.

He said the shots would have "affordable pricing, south of 10 euros." 

UK has no plans to scrap red travel list, an official says

Britain has no plans to scrap a travel red list country system that requires arrivals to stay in a hotel to quarantine, a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday.

Ukraine's capital tightens restrictions due to spike in cases

The Ukrainian capital Kyiv will tighten lockdown restrictions due to a spike in coronavirus cases, mayor Vitali Klitschko said at a televised briefing on Thursday.

From Monday, cafes, restaurants, gyms, shopping and entertainment facilities will only be allowed to operate if all staff are vaccinated, he said. At the same time, these institutions are prohibited from accepting visitors who do not have vaccination certificates or negative tests.

A negative Covid-19 test or vaccine certificate will also be mandatory to use public transport.

Poland must undo judicial overhaul to get EU's Covid aid

Poland must undo its new disciplinary system for judges to unlock access to billions of euros of European Union aid aimed at helping revive economic growth mauled by the coronavirus pandemic, the bloc's chief executive has said.

Poland could get up to 57 billion euros in EU recovery funds but the executive has been withholding its necessary approval for Warsaw's detailed plan on how to spend it amid protracted and increasingly bitter feuds over democratic standards.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen told a news conference that Poland's ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party had to undo its new disciplinary regime for judges, widely criticised for undercutting judicial independence.

"We want to put into that recovery and resilience plan a clear commitment to dismantle the disciplinary chamber, to end or reform the disciplinary regime and to start a process to reinstall the judges," she said.

"I think it is doable, I hope that we will reach an agreement. But the reform part is conditios ine qua non," she said, using the Latin term for an indispensable condition.

European Central Bank keeps pandemic support going

The European Central Bank has decided to keep its pandemic stimulus efforts unchanged even as consumer prices spike and central banks in other parts of the world look to dial back support as their economies bounce back from the worst of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Bank President Christine Lagarde underlined that the burst of inflation was temporary and the economy still needed support from the bank's 1.85 trillion euro ($2.14 trillion) stimulus programme. But she added that the programme would conclude at its previously announced earliest end date in March, opening the way for a decision at December's meeting on what might come next.

The bank's bond purchase programme drove down longer-term borrowing costs for businesses as they weathered shutdowns and for governments as they spent more on pandemic support. It had been slated to run at least through March or until the bank deemed the crisis phase of the pandemic over, though rising inflation has sharpened questions about whether the exit should come sooner rather than later. 

Lagarde said much of the surge in prices is tied to comparisons with low prices during the pandemic, recently higher fuel costs and demand outpacing supply as the economy reopens.

She said she expects all three to be temporary.

Moscow shuts down as Russia reaches record virus cases, deaths

Russia has reported record numbers of daily coronavirus cases and deaths as Moscow shuts down non-essential services for 11 days to combat the surge in infections.

The country reported 1,159 new deaths in the past 24 hours, all-time high, amid a surge in new cases that has prompted authorities to reimpose partial lockdown measures.

The state Covid-19 task force also reported 40,096 new infections, compared with 36,582 a day earlier.

Authorities have shied away from the kind of severe lockdowns imposed in many countries, but have shut down all non-essential services in Moscow from Thursday until November 7.

Retail outlets, restaurants, and sporting and entertainment venues are all closed, along with schools and kindergartens. Only shops selling food, medicine and other essentials are allowed to remain open.

China places third city under lockdown

China has placed a third city under lockdown to tackle Covid-19 numbers, with around six million people now under orders to stay home.

The resurgence prompted officials this week to lock down Lanzhou city-with a population of over four million -and Ejin in the Inner Mongolia region.

After confirming one new case, authorities in Heihe in Heilongjiang province followed suit , ordering people to stay at home and forbidding residents from leaving the far northern city except in emergencies, according to a local government statement.

China reported 23 new domestic cases, less than half of the previous day's number, in a sign that the country's tough disease controls may be working.

Japan's  booster shots to be free to fully vaccinated ones

Japan's health ministry said it has decided to offer Covid-19 booster shots to anyone who has already received two vaccine doses.

The country had initially considered giving booster shots to frontline health workers and others who required priority first. 

Hungary to need vaccinations at state institutions

Hungary's government will require employees at state institutions to be vaccinated against Covid-19 after a jump in new coronavirus cases, Prime Minister Viktor Orban's chief of staff said. 

The PM's chief of staff Gergely Gulyas said that private companies will also be empowered to require Covid-19 vaccinations for employees if they believe that is necessary and mask wearing will be mandatory on public transport from November 1.

Antidepressant decreases Covid-19 hospitalisation risk

Treating high-risk Covid-19 patients with the antidepressant fluvoxamine may reduce the risk of prolonged hospitalisation by up to a third, a large-scale study showed.

Writing in the journal The Lancet Public Health, researchers from North and South America, described results in nearly 1,500 Covid-19 outpatients in Brazil.

Of the 741 people that received fluvoxamine, 79 -just over 10 percent -had an extended stay in hospital. 

Of the 756 who received a placebo, 119 (15.7 percent) were hospitalised. 

Authors said that administering fluvoxamine resulted in a relative reduction in hospitalisations of 32 percent.

They said the research could help boost low-cost protection against severe sickness or death in countries that have yet to receive adequate vaccine doses during a grossly uneven rollout.

The authors stressed that further evaluation is needed as fluvoxamine isn't on the World Health Organization's list of essential medicines and can be addictive.

WHO: Europe had most cases, deaths over last week

Europe stood out as the only major region worldwide to report an increase in both coronavirus cases and deaths over the last week, with double-digit percentage increases in each, the UN health agency said Wednesday.

The World Health Organization said new Covid-19 cases in its 53-country European region, which stretches as far east as former Soviet republics in Central Asia, recorded an 18 percent increase in cases over the last week – a fourth straight weekly increase for the area.

In WHO's weekly epidemiological report on Covid-19, Europe also saw a 14 percent increase in virus-related deaths. That amounted to more than 1.6 million new cases and over 21,000 new deaths.

WHO officials have pointed to a number of factors for Europe's virus woes, including relatively low rates of vaccination in some countries in Eastern Europe. Countries including Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova and Georgia had some of the highest rates of infection per 100,000 people in the last week.

Singapore looking into unusual surge after record cases

Singapore's health ministry said it is looking into an "unusual surge" in infections after the city-state reported 5,324 new cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday, the most since the beginning of the pandemic.

Singapore also recorded 10 new deaths from the disease on Wednesday, taking the toll to 349.

"The infection numbers are unusually high today, mostly due to many Covid-positive cases detected by the testing laboratories within a few hours in the afternoon," the ministry of health said in a statement.

Germany records highest daily cases since April

Germany’s daily Covid-19 cases have reached a six-month high, ahead of a potential surge in infections this winter.

The Robert Koch Institute reported 28,037 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, and 126 coronavirus-related fatalities. 

Until recently, the last time the institute recorded over 23,000 cases was on April 30.

Mexico's 5,000 new cases likely undercounted

Mexico has added 4,797 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 386 more fatalities, health ministry data showed, bringing the country's overall death toll from the pandemic to 287,274 and the total number of cases to 3,793,783.

Officials have said the ministry's official figures likely represent a significant undercount of both cases and deaths due to a lack of widespread testing.

Brazil sees rising cases, no slowdown

Brazil has registered 433 new deaths due to Covid-19 and 17,184 additional confirmed cases, according to data released by its Ministry of Health.

Brazil has now reported 606,679 deaths due to the coronavirus.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies