Covid-19 wrap | Australia doubles Pfizer as Astra clotting concerns loom, record infections in India

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  • Australia has doubled its order of the Pfizer Inc Covid-19 vaccine, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday, as it raced to overhaul its inoculation plan over concerns about the risks of blood clots.
  • Japan aims to place Tokyo under a new, month-long "quasi-emergency" state to combat surging Covid-19 cases, less than a month after lifting a broader state of emergency.
  • India reported 131 968 new infections on Friday, a record increase for a third straight day, data from the health ministry showed.


Australia doubles Pfizer order as Astra clotting worries upend rollout

Australia has doubled its order of the Pfizer Inc Covid-19 vaccine, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday, as it raced to overhaul its inoculation plan over concerns about the risks of blood clots with the AstraZeneca Plc vaccine.

Until late Thursday, Australia based its vaccination programme largely on an AstraZeneca shot, with an order for 50 million doses - enough for the required two shots for its entire 25 million population - to be made domestically by biopharma CSL Ltd. But it has now joined a host of countries in restricting use of the vaccine due to clotting concerns.

Morrison told reporters in Canberra after a national cabinet meeting to discuss the virus response:

It is not a prohibition on the AstraZeneca vaccine. For those who are over 50, there is a strong encouragement to be taking this AstraZeneca vaccine.


Green, amber or red: UK to classify travel destinations

Britain will confirm in early May whether it will allow international travel to resume from 17 May and which countries will fall into the red, amber or green categories in a new traffic light system based on Covid-19 risks.

Factors in assessing the categories will include the percentage of the population that has been vaccinated, rate of infection, prevalence of variants of concern and the country's access to reliable genomic sequencing.

 The British public can now think about booking summer vacations abroad but there were still risks, transport minister Grant Shapps said on Friday after the government unveiled details of its new traffic light system for travel.

Shapps told Sky News:

I'm not telling people that they shouldn't book some holidays now, it's the first time I've been able to say that for many months, I think everybody doing it understands there are risks with coronavirus. For the first time, people can start to think about visiting loved ones abroad, or perhaps a summer holiday, but we're doing it very, very cautiously because we don't want to see any return of coronavirus in this country.

South Korea, Japan to tighten curbs

Japan aims to place Tokyo under a new, month-long "quasi-emergency" state to combat surging Covid-19 cases, a minister said on Friday, less than a month after the capital and host of the Summer Olympics lifted a broader state of emergency.

Meanwhile, South Korea will reimpose a ban on nightclubs, karaoke bars and other nightly entertainment facilities from Monday for three weeks, authorities said on Friday, after the number of new coronavirus cases surged, fanning fears over a potential fourth wave of outbreaks.

French health body to say mRNA vaccine should be used as second dose after AstraZeneca

France's top health body will on Friday say that recipients of a first dose of AstraZeneca's traditional Covid-19 vaccine who are under 55 should get a second shot with a new-style messenger-RNA vaccine, two sources aware of the plans said on Thursday.

The Haute Autorite de la Sante, in charge of setting out how vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency should be used in France, has now decided to proceed with the plan, the two sources said. But there is no evidence that this approach combining messenger RNA vaccines with traditional ones such as AsztraZeneca's will be as effective.

Infections hit record in India

India reported 131 968 new infections on Friday, a record increase for a third straight day, data from the health ministry showed. Deaths rose by 780 to a total of 167 642.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi rejected calls from states to offer vaccines to younger people to help contain the record surge. Inoculations are currently limited to those aged over 45 and health and frontline workers.


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