Keeping you up to date on the latest novel coronavirus (Covid-19) news from around the world.
Coronavirus toll at 11:00 (GMT) Friday
Paris – The novel coronavirus has killed at least 2 191 865 people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 11:00 (GMT) on Friday.
At least 101 436 360 cases of coronavirus have been registered. Of these, at least 61 581 300 are now considered recovered.
These figures are based on daily tolls provided by health authorities in each country and exclude later re-evaluations by statistical organisations, as has happened in Russia, Spain and Britain.
On Thursday, 16 326 new deaths and 589 862 new cases were recorded worldwide.
Based on latest reports, the countries with the most new deaths were United States with 3 949 new deaths, followed by Mexico with 1 506 and Brazil with 1 386.
The United States is the worst-affected country with 433 206 deaths from 25 767 168 cases.
After the US, the hardest-hit countries are Brazil with 221 547 deaths from 9 058 687 cases, Mexico with 155 145 deaths from 1 825 519 cases, India with 154 010 deaths from 10 720 048 cases, and the United Kingdom with 103 126 deaths from 3 743 734 cases.
The country with the highest number of deaths compared to its population is Belgium with 181 fatalities per 100 000 inhabitants, followed by Slovenia with 166, United Kingdom 152, Czech Republic 150 and Italy 145.
Mexico's Covid-19 death toll surpasses India, becomes world's third highest
MEXICO CITY – Mexico on Thursday surpassed India in confirmed Covid-19 deaths, giving the Latin American country the third-highest toll worldwide, according to a Reuters tally of official data.
Mexico's health ministry reported 18 670 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infections and 1 506 additional fatalities, bringing the total number of cases to 1 825 519 and deaths to 155 145.
The latest total death toll in India, a country with a population more than 10 times that of Mexico's 126 million inhabitants, stood at 153 847, according to a Reuters tally.
When adjusted for deaths per head of population, Mexico's toll is lower than those of several other countries, including the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, Italy, the United States, Peru and Spain, according to data published by Johns Hopkins University.
Mexico's ballooning death toll underscores its struggle to contain the pandemic, which is worsening despite government restrictions on movement and commerce.
Brazil's confirmed Covid-19 cases pass 9 million - health ministry
BRASILIA – Brazil has had 61 811 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus reported in the past 24 hours, and 1 386 deaths from Covid-19, the health ministry said on Thursday.
The South American country has now registered 9 058 687 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 221 547, according to ministry data, in the world's third worst outbreak outside the United States and India and its second-deadliest.
Brazil researchers find people infected with two different coronavirus strains
BRASILIA – Researchers in southern Brazil said they have discovered patients infected with two different strains of the new coronavirus simultaneously, reflecting concerns about the growing number of variants in the country.
The researchers, who posted their findings on Wednesday on medical website medRxiv, said their study would be the first in the world to confirm co-infection with two strains of the coronavirus. The study has yet to be published in a scientific journal and has not been peer reviewed.
The patients, both in their 30s, were infected in late November with the P.2 variant of coronavirus identified in Rio, also known as the B.1.1.28 lineage, and simultaneously tested positive for a second variant of the virus.
Their symptoms were reportedly mild, with a dry cough in one case, and coughing, sore throat and headache in the second. They did not require hospitalisation.
The cases underscore how many variants could already be circulating in Brazil and raise concerns among scientists that the co-existence of two strains in the same body could speed up mutations of new variants of coronavirus.
"These co-infections can generate combinations and generate new variants even more quickly than has been happening," said the study's lead researcher Fernando Spilki, a virologist at Feevale University in Rio Grande do Sul state. "It would be another evolutionary pathway for the virus."
First known US cases of potent South African Covid-19 variant found in South Carolina
A potent coronavirus variant originating in South Africa and found to be partly resistant to current vaccines and antibody treatments has been detected for the first time in the United States in two South Carolina patients, health officials said on Thursday.
Medical experts said arrival of the so-called South African variant presented an alarming new challenge in efforts to contain a raging pandemic that has claimed at least 430 000 American lives in 11 months, as authorities struggle to launch the largest mass-vaccination campaign in US history.
All viruses mutate frequently, and scientists have identified several variants of the novel coronavirus found to be more transmissible than the original strain.
But the presence of the South African variant, which has shown no evidence of causing more severe disease, is nonetheless especially concerning because several laboratory studies have found that it reduces vaccine and antibody therapy efficacy.
Confirmation of two patients with that variant in South Carolina came days after the Minnesota Department of Health identified the first known US case of another highly contagious strain that originated in Brazil.
Yet a third form of the virus from the UK that is more infectious, and associated with higher mortality, made its first US appearance last month in Colorado and has since been detected in at least 28 states.
The flurry of variants taken together "have really changed the entire picture of the Covid-19 pandemic", Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, said in an MSNBC interview. "We're now in by far the most dangerous period of the pandemic."
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has predicted the UK variant could become the dominant strain in the United States by March.
Novavax Covid vaccine highly effective, but not against South African variant
Washington – US biotech firm Novavax said on Thursday its two-shot Covid-19 vaccine showed an overall efficacy of 89.3% in a major Phase 3 clinical trial in Britain, and remained highly effective against a variant first identified there.
But the positive news was offset by other results that showed it offered significantly less protection against a highly transmissible variant of the coronavirus first identified in South Africa, which is spreading rapidly around the world.
Novavax said it began working on new vaccines against emerging strains in early January and expects to select ideal candidates in the coming days, then begin clinical testing in the second quarter of the year.
"NVX-CoV2373 has the potential to play an important role in solving this global public health crisis," said the company's president and CEO Stanley Erck, using Novavax's name for the vaccine.
"We look forward to continuing to work with our partners, collaborators, investigators and regulators around the world to make the vaccine available as quickly as possible."
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted that the results were "good news".
Ukraine bans use of Russian vaccines
KYIV – Ukraine's parliament on Friday approved a bill intended to speed up the approval of Covid-19 vaccines, which also bans the approval of vaccines made in Russia.
The government has said it expects to receive 100 000 to 200 000 doses of the vaccine made by Pfizer of the US and Germany's BioNTech under the global COVAX scheme in February.
No vaccine has yet been approved in Ukraine, but authorities have repeatedly said Kiev will not approve or use vaccines from Russia, with which it is at loggerheads.
Portugal breaks daily records in Covid-19 cases and deaths
LISBON – Portugal reported a record-breaking 303 Covid-19 deaths and 16 432 cases on Thursday, as it struggles to contain a crippling surge in cases over the past month.
The country of 10 million people, which has so far reported a total of 11 608 Covid-19 deaths and 685 383 cases, has the world's highest seven-day rolling average of cases and deaths per capita, according to data tracker www.ourworldindata.org.
Vietnam to begin mass Covid-19 testing after new outbreak -health official
HANOI – Vietnam will conduct mass testing for Covid-19 in the northern province of Hai Duong, the epicentre of a new outbreak of the coronavirus, and other affected areas, deputy health minister Nguyen Truong Son said on Friday.
Vietnam has reported 93 locally transmitted infections since the outbreak emerged on Thursday, most linked to an electronics factory in the province. In a statement on the government's website, Son said most of the remaining 2 340 workers at the factory had subsequently tested negative for the virus.
Vietnam reports 53 more Covid-19 infections in latest outbreak
HANOI – Vietnam reported 53 more Covid-19 infections on Friday as a new outbreak spreads to the capital Hanoi, where the ruling Communist party is holding its key five-yearly congress.
Of the new cases, 47 were detected in Hai Duong province, the epicentre of the outbreak, the government said in a statement on its website.
The remaining were found in nearby Quang Ninh, Hanoi and Bac Ninh provinces, it said, adding that 149 people have tested positive to the virus in the outbreak that began on Thursday.
Malaysia reports record daily increase of 5 725 coronavirus cases
KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia on Friday reported 5 725 new coronavirus cases, the highest daily increase since the start of the pandemic a year ago.
The new cases took the cumulative total of infections past the 200 000 mark. Health authorities also reported 16 deaths, raising total fatalities to 733.
Russia reports 19 238 new Covid-19 cases, 534 deaths
MOSCOW – Russia reported 19 238 new Covid-19 cases on Friday, including 2 799 in Moscow, taking the national tally to 3 813 048 since the pandemic began.
Authorities said 534 people had died of Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, pushing the official death toll to 72 185.
Germany's confirmed coronavirus cases rise by 14 022 to 2 192 850 - RKI
BERLIN – The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 14 022 to 2 192 850, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Friday.
The reported death toll rose by 839 to 55 752, the tally showed.
China reports 52 new mainland Covid-19 cases vs 54 a day earlier
SHANGHAI – Mainland China reported 52 new Covid-19 cases on 28 January, down from 54 cases a day earlier, the country's national health authority said on Friday.
The National Health Commission said in a statement that 36 of the new cases were locally transmitted infections. Asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed Covid-19 cases, rose to 42 from 28 a day earlier.
The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in mainland China now stands at 89 378, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4 636.
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