Covid-19 has killed more than 3.7M people and infected nearly 175M globally. Here are the latest coronavirus-related developments for June 9:

Vials labelled
Vials labelled "AstraZeneca, Pfizer - BioNtech, Johnson&Johnson, Sputnik V coronavirus (Covid-19) vaccine" are seen in this illustration picture taken on May 2, 2021. (AFP)

Wednesday, June 9

US to donate 500 million Pfizer vaccine doses globally

The administration of President Joe Biden is buying 500 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to distribute among other countries, US media reported citing people familiar with the matter.

Biden will make the formal announcement at the G-7 meeting in Britain this week, the Washington Post and New York Times said.

The deal would see the US paying the "not for profit" price for the doses, with the first 200 million to ship this year and the remaining 300 million the next year.

It will donate them to 92 lower-income countries and the African Union, they added.

WTO to start vaccine supply negotiations amid patent clash

World Trade Organization members have agreed to start formal negotiations on a plan to boost vaccine supply to developing countries, but face rival proposals – one with and one without a waiver of intellectual property rights.

South Africa and India, backed by many emerging nations, have been pushing for eight months for a temporary waiver of IP rights on vaccines and other treatments. This could allow local manufacturers to produce the shots, something the proponents say is essential to redress "staggering" inequity of supply.

Developed nations, many home to large pharmaceutical companies, have resisted, arguing that a waiver would not boost production and could undermine future research and development on vaccines and therapeutics.

Virus resurgence slows lifting of Lisbon lockdown

The Portuguese government has decided to slow down the process of post-lockdown reopening in Lisbon and three other municipalities after a hike in new coronavirus cases.

Braga and Vale de Cambra in the north and Odemira in the south are the other affected areas which will keep its current lockdown measures in place until at least June 27.

Norway offers Johnson & Johnson vaccine to volunteers

Norway will offer the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to volunteers under strict conditions from mid-July, the government has said, flouting the advice of various health authorities who say the risks outweigh the benefits.

The Nordic country, which has dropped the AstraZeneca jab from its vaccination programme amid concerns about rare but severe blood clots, had also suspended the use of the J&J vaccine over similar concerns earlier this year.

But the government said on May 12 that it planned to offer the J&J single-dose jab to volunteers.

PAHO: Could be years before virus is controlled

If the spread of the virus continues at current rates it will be years before the virus is controlled in the Americas, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has said, as it called for countries to share excess vaccine doses.

There were almost 1.2 million new cases and 34,000 deaths in the region last week, and four of the five countries with the highest death counts worldwide are in the Americas, PAHO Director Carissa Etienne said during the organisation's weekly news conference.

US to buy 1.7 million courses of Merck’s pill

The United States has announced an agreement with Merck to buy 1.7 million courses of an experimental antiviral pill against the virus.

The $1.2 billion dollar deal is for a drug called molnupiravir, which is currently being tested in a global Phase 3 clinical trial of 1,850 people, with results expected by fall.

Italy reports over 2,000 new cases

Italy has reported 77 deaths against 102 the day before, the Health Ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 2,199 from 1,896.

Italy has registered 126,767 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 4.24 million cases to date.

Three killed in Russian ward blaze, official blames ventilator

Three people have been killed in a blaze that broke out at a Russian hospital treating patients with Covid-19, the authorities said, with one official suggesting a faulty ventilator was to blame.

Since the start of the pandemic, Russia has reported several fires at intensive care units that doctors said were caused by malfunctioning ventilators used to treat patients severely ill with the virus.

Vietnam to postpone SEA Games until next year

Vietnam has plans to postpone this year's Southeast Asian Games, state media said, as the country grapples with a new virus outbreak.

The regional Olympics are due to be held in Hanoi and 11 other locations – some of them at the epicentre of the fresh wave – from November 21 to December 2.

But Vietnam reportedly wants to move the 31st SEA Games to next year.

Moscow to toughen enforcement of rules as cases rise

Authorities in Moscow have said they would step up enforcement of rules requiring people to wear medical masks and gloves in indoor public spaces due to a rising number of cases in the Russian capital.

Turkey reports over 6,500 new cases

Turkey has registered a total of 6,609 cases, including 557 symptomatic patients, were confirmed across the country in the past 24 hours, the country's Health Ministry announced.

Turkey's overall case tally is now over 5.3 million, while the nationwide death toll reached 48,341, with 86 more fatalities over the past day.

Turkey’s Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said vaccinations for people over the age of 45 will begin on Thursday and citizens over the age of 40 will begin inoculations on Monday. 

UK reports over 7,500 new cases

Britain has reported six new deaths within 28 days of a positive test and a further 7,540 cases of the disease, official government data showed.

That compared to 13 deaths and 6,048 cases reported a day earlier.

On vaccines a total of 40.7 million people have now received a first dose and 28.5 million have received two shots. 

Olympics: Athletes will be subject to GPS monitoring

Olympic athletes will be subject to GPS monitoring as will members of the media, Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee CEO Toshiro Muto has said.

Muto, speaking at a news conference, also said the monitoring system will be used not to track every single movement of the Olympic participants but to retroactively trace them if an issue arises.

EU endorses digital Covid-19 certificate for EU citizens

European Union lawmakers have endorsed a new travel certificate that will allow people to move between European countries without having to quarantine or undergo extra tests for the coronavirus, paving the way for the pass to enter force in time for summer.

The widely awaited certificate is aimed at saving Europe's travel industry and prime tourist sites from another vacation season hindered by virus restrictions.

Holiday destination countries like Greece have led the drive to have the certificate, which will take both paper and digital form, rapidly introduced.

The status of countries is marked by a traffic-light system, where those in green are considered safe, those in red to be avoided. But nations are applying different rules and standards, making travel confusing for all.

Indonesia reports highest rise in cases in over three months

 Indonesia has reported 7,725 new infections, the highest daily number since February 26, bringing the total number of cases to 1.87 million, data from the country's virus taskforce showed.

The task force also reported 170 people died from the virus, taking the total to 52,162. 

Illicit drug sales moved online during lockdowns - EU reports

Illegal drug production on European soil has increased during the coronavirus pandemic last year as lockdowns helped move drug sales from streets to encrypted online platforms, according to an analysis of continental drug trends.

The 2021 European Drug Report says criminal groups also adapted to travel restrictions and border closures by relying less on human couriers and turning instead to shipping containers and commercial supply chains to smuggle illicit substances.

The report is produced annually by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction drawing data from the European Union's 27 member countries, Turkey and Norway.

There were 46 new drugs detected in 2020 alone, including new synthetic cannabinoids and opioids, the report said.

Elephants in India tested for virus after rare lion's death

Twenty-eight elephants have been tested for Covid-19 at a forest reserve in southern India, officials said Wednesday, after the reported death of a rare Asiatic lion from the virus.

In what is believed to be the first known death of an animal in India from the coronavirus, a nine-year-old lioness at a zoo in Chennai in Tamil Nadu state passed away in early June, local media reported.

The feline was among nine lions that had tested positive for the virus, including two who were in critical condition, Chennai's The New Indian Express newspaper reported last week.

"After lions in Vandalur Zoo tested positive for Covid-19, we were asked to test the camp elephants as a precautionary measure," a forest ranger at Mudumalai Tiger Reserve in the south of Tamil Nadu told AFP on Wednesday.

"The animals had no symptoms, it was just as a precaution," the ranger said.

Some 21 tigers in a zoo in the eastern state of Jharkhand underwent virus tests last week after a 10-year-old tiger with a fever died, local media reported.

The tiger had returned a negative rapid antigen test but officials said they were also awaiting results from an RT-PCR test, the Press Trust of India reported.

Russia's new cases reach three-month high

Russia has reported 10,407 new cases in the last 24 hours, its highest number of daily infections since early March, taking the national tally to 5,156,250 since the pandemic began.

The government coronavirus task force said that 399 people had died, pushing the national death toll to 124,895. The federal statistics agency has kept a separate toll and has said that Russia recorded around 270,000 deaths related to the virus between April 2020 and April 2021.

Japan's Suga regrets having to take all the heat for hosting Olympics

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has said he regretted having to take all the flak for holding the Summer Olympics during a pandemic as his government was reported to favour allowing domestic spectators into stadiums to watch.

Tokyo 2020, already postponed by a year, has faced strong opposition from the public, medical experts and some former athletes amid a fourth wave of infections.

And Suga's comments appeared to illustrate tensions bubbling to the surface as the government bolsters its assurances to the world that the Games will be safe.

He was speaking in response to comments at a parliamentary session from an opposition lawmaker, who said the prime minister had been coming under attack over holding the Games during the pandemic when the host city governor, Yuriko Koike, should be weighing in.

UN calls for urgent action to end AIDs

The UN General Assembly has overwhelmingly approved a declaration calling for urgent action to end AIDS by 2030, noting “with alarm” that the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated inequalities and pushed access to AIDS medicines, treatments and diagnosis further off track.

The declaration commits the assembly’s 193 member nations to implement the 18-page document, including reducing annual new HIV infections to under 370,000 and annual AIDS-related deaths to under 250,000 by 2025. It also calls for progress toward eliminating all forms of HIV-related stigma and discrimination and for urgent work toward an HIV vaccine and a cure for AIDS.

Without a huge increase in resources and coverage for those vulnerable and infected, “we will not end the AIDS epidemic by 2030,” the assembly warned.

It said the pandemic has created setbacks in combating AIDS, “widening fault lines within a deeply unequal world and exposing the dangers of under-investment in public health, health systems and other essential public services for all and pandemic preparedness.”

Australia's Melbourne to ease lockdown after low cases

Australia's second largest city Melbourne will exit lockdown as planned on Thursday night although some restrictions on travel and gatherings will remain.

Residents will have more freedom to step outside their homes but must stay within 25 kilometres (15 miles) and there will be a total ban on house gatherings, Victoria state Acting Premier James Merlino told reporters in Melbourne.

Melbourne entered a snap lockdown on May 27 to quash its latest virus outbreak forcing its five million residents to remain home except for essential business.

India reports 92,596 new cases

India has reported 92,596 new infections over the past 24 hours, and 2,219 deaths from the virus.

The country's total  caseload now stands at 29.1 million, while total fatalities are at 353,528, according to data from the health ministry.

Fiji parliament closed as virus numbers climb

Fiji's parliament has been forced to close as cases surge in the South Pacific country, overwhelming quarantine facilities and prompting calls for a nationwide lockdown.

After a staffer was found to be a close contact of a positive case, speaker Epeli Nailatikau said the legislative buildings in the capital Suva were shut.

China records 16 new cases

China has reported 16 new virus cases on the mainland , down from 33 cases a day earlier.

Of the new cases, 8 were local transmissions from the southern province of Guangdong, the National Health Commission said.

China also reported 9 new asymptomatic infections, compared with 16 a day earlier. China does not classify symptomless infections as confirmed cases.

By Tuesday, China had a total of 91,316 confirmed infections. Its death toll stood unchanged at 4,636.

Mongolians head to polls in virus-curbed elections

Mongolians have taken to the polls to vote for the country's new president, in the nation's third election to take place in the shadow of the pandemic.

Polls opened at 7am local time in the vast central Asian democracy, in an election hampered by social distancing, cancelled presidential debates and one candidate catching  the virus. 

Inequality is a key concern among Mongolian voters with the poverty rate standing at 28 percent, according to the latest World Bank survey.

HIV response in the Philippines hit hard by pandemic 

UNAIDS has released a report with the latest HIV data and trends showing 1.5 million new infections within the last year, 40 years after the first reported cases of HIV.

There were 37.6 million people globally living with HIV in 2020, UNAIDS said.

A record 27.4 million people were accessing antiretroviral therapy, but 690,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2020, according to UNAIDS.

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed faults in healthcare systems globally, especially when dealing with HIV and AIDS.

Germany reports 3,254 more cases

The number of confirmed cases in Germany has increased by 3,254 to reach a total of 3,705,942 infections. 

The reported death toll rose by 107 to hit 89,491 fatalities, the data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed. 

US pharmacist jailed for three years for tampering with vaccines

A Wisconsin pharmacist who pleaded guilty to trying to spoil hundreds of doses of Moderna’s vaccine because he was skeptical about them has been jailed for three years.

Steven R. Brandenburg, 46, was also ordered to pay about $83,800 in compensation to the hospital at which he worked, according to a statement on Tuesday from the US Attorney's Office of the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

Brandenburg had agreed to plead guilty to two counts of attempting to tamper with consumer products with reckless disregard for the risk that another person would be placed in danger of death or bodily injury.

Court documents showed he purposefully removed a box of  vaccine vials from a hospital refrigeration unit during two successive overnight shifts in December last year, the Justice Department said in its statement.

US plots how to restart international travel

The United States will hold talks with Canada, Mexico, the European Union and Britain on how to restart travel as the pandemic eases, a senior administration official has said.

"Expert working groups" will be formed, the official said, adding the White House recognised the importance of travel and "the critical role trade relationships and our transportation sector play in our economies."

"While we are not reopening international travel today, we hope that these expert working groups will help us use our collective expertise to chart a path forward," the official said.

On Tuesday, the United States eased warnings against travel to dozens of countries including Olympics host Japan and much of Europe.

The CDC said on Tuesday it was easing travel recommendations on 110 countries and territories, including Canada, Mexico, Japan, South Africa and Iran, but has declined to lift any Covid-19 travel restrictions.

Australian baseballers give up on Olympic bid

Australia has pulled out of the final baseball qualifying tournament for the Tokyo Olympics due to "insurmountable" challenges amid the global Covid-19 pandemic, the sport's national governing body has said.

The decision comes less than a week after Taiwan's withdrawal from the June 22-26 tournament in Puebla, Mexico, which was moved from Taiwan due to a spike of coronavirus cases in the Asian nation.

"Attending the Final Olympic Qualifier in a Covid world was always going to present significant challenges," Baseball Australia Chief Executive Glenn Williams said in a statement.

"The planning for Taiwan was extensive and with the late change in location and dates, those plans became obsolete."

"We worked through multiple options and scenarios but the logistical challenges of providing a safe environment for the group were insurmountable."

Brazil reports 2,378 Covid deaths in 24 hours

Brazil has had 52,911 new cases of the novel coronavirus reported in the past 24 hours, and 2,378 deaths from COVID-19, the Health Ministry said.

The South American country has now registered 17,037,129 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 476,792, according to ministry data, in the world's third worst outbreak outside the United States and India and its second deadliest.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies