Covid-19 wrap: Denmark suspends AstraZeneca shots, Germany third wave looms, EU to extend vaccine export

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FOLLOW LIVE | Covid-19 in SA: Death toll at 51 015 as cases hit 1 524 174

Coronavirus toll at 11:00 (GMT) Thursday

Paris – The novel coronavirus has killed at least 2 621 295 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 Thursday.

At least 117 982 000 cases of coronavirus have been registered.

The vast majority have recovered, though some have continued to experience symptoms weeks, or even months, later.

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 Wednesday, 9 765 new deaths and 460 039 new cases were recorded worldwide. Based on latest reports, the countries with the most new deaths were Brazil with 2 286 new deaths, followed by the United States with 1 455 and Mexico with 699.

The United States is the worst-affected country with 529 263 deaths from 29 154 666 cases. After the US, the hardest-hit countries are Brazil with 270 656 deaths from 11 202 305 cases, Mexico with 192 488 deaths from 2 144 558 cases, India with 158 189 deaths from 11 285 561 cases, and the United Kingdom with 124 987 deaths from 4 234 924 cases.

The country with the highest number of deaths compared to its population is the Czech Republic with 211 fatalities per 100 000 inhabitants, followed by Belgium with 193, Slovenia 188, United Kingdom 184 and Montenegro 174.

 - AFP

Denmark suspends AstraZeneca Covid shots for two weeks after blood clot reports

COPENHAGEN – Denmark has put using AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine shots on hold for two weeks after reports of cases of blood clots forming, including one death in Denmark, Danish authorities said on Thursday.

They did not say how many reports of blood clots there had been, but Austria has stopped using a batch of AstraZeneca shots while investigating a death from coagulation disorders and an illness from a pulmonary embolism.

"Both we and the Danish Medicines Agency have to respond to reports of possible serious side-effects, both from Denmark and other European countries," the director of the Danish Health Authority, Soren Brostrom, said in a statement.

"It is currently not possible to conclude whether there is a link. We are acting early, it needs to be thoroughly investigated," Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said on Twitter.

The vaccine would be suspended for 14 days. The health agency did not give details of the Danish blood clot victim.

AstraZeneca on Thursday told Reuters in a written statement the safety of its vaccine had been extensively studied in human trials and peer-reviewed data had confirmed the vaccine was generally well tolerated.


Spain to keep using AstraZeneca vaccine, no blood clot cases reported

MADRID – Spain has not registered any cases of blood clots related to AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine so far and will continue administering the shots, Health Minister Carolina Darias said on Thursday.

She said she had been informed of cases of blood clots among recently vaccinated people in Austria, but added that "so far, no causal relation between the vaccine and the blood clot events has been established", and the European regulator EMA was evaluating the situation.

Danish health authorities on Thursday temporarily stopped using the Covid-19 vaccine produced by AstraZeneca after several cases of blood clots.


Germany sees jump in infections amid third wave warning

Berlin – Germany on Thursday recorded a sharp rise in coronavirus infections, as disease control agency chief Robert Wieler warned that a third wave of the pandemic has begun in Europe's biggest economy.

New infections over the last 24 hours shot up to 14 356, a level not seen since 4 February, latest data from disease control agency Robert Koch Institute showed.

"In Europe, we should be worried," Wieler told the journalists' association ACANU in Geneva on Wednesday.

"If I reflect on Germany, we are at the beginning of the third wave," said Wieler, underlining the importance for the population to keep to rules like mask wearing or social distancing.

Germany began very gradually easing a partial lockdown from late February, first allowing the youngest pupils to return to school before this week letting some shops reopen again.

The relaxations came as a relief for a population weary of shutdowns that started in November with the closure of leisure, cultural and sporting facilities. Schools and most shops had followed in mid-December.

 - AFP

3 000 nurses dead, Covid exodus looming - global federation

Geneva – At least 3 000 nurses have been killed by Covid-19, the global nurses' federation said on Thursday as it warned of a looming exodus of health workers traumatised by the pandemic.

Exactly one year on since the World Health Organisation (WHO) first described Covid-19 as a pandemic, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) said burnout and stress had led millions of nurses to consider quitting the profession.

And once the pandemic is over, a dwindling number of experienced nurses could be left to handle the giant backlog of regular hospital care that had been postponed due to the crisis, the ICN warned.

The known death toll of nurses killed by the disease – compiled from just 60 countries – is likely to be a gross underestimate of the full total, the federation said.

ICN chief executive Howard Catton said nurses had gone through "mass traumatisation" during the pandemic, being pushed to physical and mental exhaustion.

"They reach a point where they've given everything they can," he told reporters.

Catton said the global workforce of 27 million nurses was six million short going into the pandemic – and four million were heading for retirement by 2030.

 - AFP

Calls grow for UK to share surplus vaccines with Ireland

Dublin – Calls grew on Thursday for the UK to share any surplus coronavirus jabs with Ireland to address the massive gulf in vaccination rollouts between the neighbouring jurisdictions.

Northern Ireland's First Minister Arlene Foster said the lagging vaccination programme in the Republic of Ireland is "a concern" which could undermine immunity efforts in the British province she governs.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson should consider sharing surplus jabs to close the gap, Foster said in an interview with Belfast Live published late on Wednesday.

While Northern Ireland has benefitted from the UK's speedy vaccine programme, Ireland has been tethered to an EU rollout hampered by production and supply issues.

Northern Ireland – home to 1.9 million – has delivered 650 000 doses to residents, according to latest official figures.

The Republic of Ireland is lagging far behind, having delivered just 525 000 doses to a far larger population of 4.9 million.

 - AFP

EU to extend vaccine export monitoring scheme

Brussels – The European Union (EU) will prolong the use of its oversight mechanism on coronavirus vaccine exports for another two months, senior officials said on Thursday.

Under the measure, which will now continue until the end of June, manufacturers which have signed advance purchase agreements with the European Commission must make a declaration if they intend to export doses outside the bloc.

This was brought in after British-Swedish drugs giant AstraZeneca failed to meet promised delivery schedules to EU members while honouring its British contract.

 - AFP

India agrees 'significantly lower' AstraZeneca vaccine price

The Indian government has lowered the price at which it buys AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine doses being produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII), the federal health secretary said on Thursday.

"The renegotiated price is significantly lower than 200 rupees ($2.75) per dose," Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan told a news conference.

The SII, the world's biggest vaccine maker, has licensed the vaccine from AstraZeneca and Oxford University and markets it as COVISHIELD.


IOC to buy vaccines from China for Tokyo, Beijing Olympic competitors

Lausanne – Competitors at this year's coronavirus-hit Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 Beijing Winter Games will be offered vaccines bought from China, Olympic chief Thomas Bach announced on Thursday.

The Chinese Olympic Committee have made "an offer to make additional vaccine doses available to participants for Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022", Bach said.

"The IOC will pay for these additional doses of vaccines for the Olympic and Paralympic teams."

 - AFP

Iran says received 150 000 doses of India's Covid jab

Tehran – Iran has received a shipment of 150 000 doses of an Indian Covid-19 vaccine, Covaxin, local media reported on Thursday, as the Islamic republic combats the Middle East's deadliest outbreak of the illness.

"The coronavirus vaccine shipment from India arrived at (Tehran's) Imam Khomeini airport containing 150 000 doses," deputy customs chief Mehrdad Jamal Arvanaghi told ISNA news agency.

Iran, which is in its second month of a vaccination campaign, is to receive another 375 000 doses from India next week, the health ministry's public relations head Kianoush Jahanpour announced on Twitter.

The country of more than 80 million has lost more than 61 000 lives out of over 1.7 million cases of Covid-19 infection, according to health ministry figures.

Tehran, using multiple sources, started its national vaccination campaign on 9 February, but the number of people inoculated to date has not been announced.

It has bought a total of two million doses of Russia's Sputnik V, according to Jahanpour, to be delivered in stages.

 - AFP

Cambodia reports first coronavirus death

Phnom Penh – Cambodia reported its first coronavirus death on Thursday as the country battles its worst outbreak since the pandemic began one year ago.

A driver died in a hospital on Thursday morning in Phnom Penh after testing positive for the virus late last month, the health ministry said.

Cambodia has largely escaped the brunt of the pandemic, registering just 1 163 cases, but a community cluster among Chinese expatriates has brought the biggest spike yet seen in the country.

Health authorities announced 39 new cases on Thursday. The virus is now spreading around the country, including to Sihanoukville, the seaport city that has become a honeypot for Chinese gamblers and investors.

Cambodia's parliament last week passed a strict Covid-19 prevention bill that could see people who flout coronavirus rules jailed for up to 20 years.

 - AFP

South Korea to extend use of AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to people aged 65 and over - PM

SEOUL – South Korea will extend vaccination for people aged 65 years and older with AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun told a government meeting on Thursday.


CDC finds Covid-19 drove 15% spike in US death rate in 2020 - Politico

A US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study has found that last year was the deadliest in US history, with Covid-19 helping to drive a 15% increase in deaths, Politico reported on Wednesday.

Over three million people died in the US in 2020, Politico said, adding Covid-19 was the third most common cause of death, behind only heart disease and cancer.


Brazil registers daily record for Covid-19 deaths

SAO PAULO – Brazil has registered a record for daily Covid-19 fatalities, with 2 286 people dead from the virus in the last 24 hours, according to the Health Ministry on Wednesday.

New coronavirus infections tallied 79 876 to bring the total in the year-long pandemic to more than 11.2 million, according to the Health Ministry.

The total death toll of 270 656 is the second-highest after the United States.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday that infection rates in Brazil are worrying, spurred by a new and more contagious variant known as P1, and called for much stricter public health measures.


Mexico's coronavirus death toll rises to 192 488

MEXICO CITY – Mexico's Health Ministry on Wednesday reported 6 674 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country and 699 additional fatalities, bringing the total tally of infections to 2 144 558 and 192 488 deaths.

Health officials have said the actual number of infected people and deaths in Mexico is likely significantly higher than the official count because of a lack of wide-scale testing.


Germany's confirmed coronavirus cases rise by 14 356 - RKI

BERLIN – The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 14 356 to 2 532 947 data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Thursday.

The reported death toll rose by 321 to 72 810, the tally showed.


Russia reports 9 270 new Covid-19 cases, 459 deaths

MOSCOW – Russia reported 9 270 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, including 1 281 in Moscow, taking its total case tally to 4 360 823 since the pandemic began.

The government coronavirus task force also said that 459 people had died in the last 24 hours, pushing its death toll to 90 734.


Poland reports 21 045 daily coronavirus cases, highest since November

WARSAW – Poland reported 21 045 daily coronavirus cases on Thursday, health ministry data showed, the highest tally since November as the country faces a surge in infections driven by a highly contagious variant of the virus first identified in Britain.

In total, the country has reported 1 849 424 cases of the coronavirus and 46 373 deaths.


Hungary reports record 8 312 coronavirus infections in 24 hours

BUDAPEST – Hungary reported a record 8 312 new coronavirus infections and 172 deaths on Thursday.

There were 8 329 coronavirus patients in hospital, 911 of them needing a ventilator, putting a strain on the healthcare system, the government said on its website.

Hungary has been hit by a third wave of the pandemic, with infections surging since the second half of February.


Philippines reports largest daily rise in Covid-19 cases in nearly six months

MANILA – The Philippines' health ministry on Thursday recorded 3 749 new coronavirus infections, the highest daily increase in cases in nearly six months, and 63 additional deaths.

In a bulletin, the ministry said total confirmed cases had increased to 607 048 while confirmed deaths reached 12 608. Authorities have warned the public not to be complacent and practice physical distancing to avoid the spread of the virus accelerating further.


China reports 11 new Covid-19 cases vs 5 day earlier

SHANGHAI – China reported 11 new Covid-19 cases on the mainland on 10 March, up from five cases a day earlier, the country's national health authority said on Thursday.

All of the new cases were imported infections originating from overseas, the National Health Commission said in a statement. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to 10 from 16 cases a day earlier.

The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in mainland China now stands at 90 018, while the death toll remained unchanged at 4 636.


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