Covid-19 wrap: Finland opens drive-in voting, Mexico, UK approve J&J vaccine, Spain to trial certificate

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Keeping you up to date on the latest novel coronavirus (Covid-19) news from around the world.

FOLLOW LIVE | Covid-19 in SA: 4 424 new cases, 93 more deaths

Coronavirus toll at 10:00 (GMT) Friday

Paris – The novel coronavirus has killed at least 3 513 088 people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 10:00 (GMT) on Friday.

At least 168 905 450 cases of coronavirus have been registered.

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

The figures are based on daily reports provided by health authorities in each country. They exclude revisions made by other statistical organisations, which show that the number of deaths is much higher.

The World Health Organisation estimates that the pandemic's overall toll could be two to three times higher than official records, due to the excess mortality that is directly and indirectly linked to Covid-19.

A large number of the less severe or asymptomatic cases also remain undetected, despite intensified testing in many countries.

On Thursday, 12 736 new deaths and 586 617 new cases were recorded worldwide.

Based on latest reports, the countries with the most new deaths were India with 3 660 new deaths, followed by Brazil with 2 245 and United States with 1 234.

The United States is the worst-affected country with 593 288 deaths from 33 218 046 cases.

After the US, the hardest-hit countries are Brazil with 456 674 deaths from 16 342 162 cases, India with 318 895 deaths from 27 555 457 cases, Mexico with 222 657 deaths from 2 405 772 cases, and the United Kingdom with 127 758 deaths from 4 473 677 cases.

 - AFP

Finland opens drive-in voting for a Covid-safe election

Helsinki – Cars are queued up on an old airport runway on the outskirts of the Finnish capital Helsinki – not for coronavirus tests, but for drivers to cast their vote.

Outdoor polling stations have sprung up across the Nordic country as authorities try to make voting as socially distanced as possible ahead of the country's local elections on 13 June.

"Signing in and filling out the ballot paper went brilliantly," retiree Joukko Salminen tells AFP from inside his white car. "And corona safe too!"

Finland's municipal vote was due to take place in April, but was postponed due to the pandemic, after which officials began looking for ways to cast ballots outside during a two-week advance voting period, while protecting the legally protected privacy of voters.

"We've built screens that stop people being able to see the voting happening," polling station manager Vesa Kouvonkorpi tells AFP.

"Because the car is the polling booth, and by law you're not allowed to see into the polling booth."

Waiting cars are directed into one of three voting lanes, and the driver hands a polling clerk their voting ID through the window and is given a ballot paper.

The clerk turns their back while the driver casts their vote, puts it into an envelope and returns it.

Finnish law states that a person must be alone when voting so they are not under duress, meaning any passengers inside the vehicle must wait outside.

 - AFP

Africa needs 20 million second-dose AstraZeneca jabs in six weeks - WHO

Brazzaville – Africa needs at least 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine within six weeks if those who have had their first shot are to get the second in time, the WHO said on Thursday.

"Africa needs vaccines now," said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organisation's Regional Director for Africa.

"Any pause in our vaccination campaigns will lead to lost lives and lost hope."

The WHO statement underlined the importance of respecting the recommended interval of eight to 12 weeks between doses to ensure a recipient's prolonged 81% protection rate.

"In addition to this urgent need, another 200 million doses of any WHO Emergency Use Listed Covid-19 vaccine are needed so that the continent can vaccinate 10% of its population by September 2021," the statement added.

 - AFP

Mexico authorizes J&J vaccine against Covid-19 for emergency use

MEXICO CITY – Mexico's health regulator COFEPRIS has granted emergency use authorisation to Johnson & Johnson's vaccine against Covid-19, Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell said on Thursday.

"This authorisation for emergency use certifies that the vaccine meets the quality, safety and efficacy requirements necessary to be applied," COFEPRIS said in a separate statement.

Earlier on Thursday, Mexico reported more than 3 000 new cases of Covid-19.


UK approves single shot Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine

London – Britain on Friday approved the use of the single shot Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) announced on Friday.

"This is a further boost to the UK's hugely successful vaccination programme, which has already saved over 13 000 lives, and means that we now have four safe and effective vaccines approved to help protect people from this awful virus," said Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

 - AFP

Next 3 weeks key to speed up vaccinations and stop infection spread - Japan PM

TOKYO – Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said the next three weeks will be key to speeding up vaccinations and stopping the coronavirus infection's spread, as he extended the state of emergency in Tokyo and other areas of Japan on Friday until 20 June, just over a month before the Olympics.


Hungary detects first cases of Indian Covid-19 variant

BUDAPEST – Hungary has identified two cases of the coronavirus variant first detected in India, the government official in charge of vaccinations said on Friday.

Hungary has been badly hit by the pandemic, and according to Johns Hopkins University data is the country with the most deaths per 100 000 people. An especially lethal third wave has been easing after an aggressive vaccination campaign.

"The Indian variant is present in Hungary, according to experts we cannot exclude the possibility of a new wave of the pandemic," Istvan Gyorgy, deputy minister and head of the government's task force on vaccinations, told a news conference.

Surgeon General Cecilia Muller added one of the two patients has recovered already. Contact tracing was unable to establish how they were infected. Neither of them spent time abroad recently.


Spain to take part in EU Covid-19 certificate trials from 7 June

MADRID – Spain will participate in general trials of the European Union's digital Covid-19 certificate from 7 June, ahead of its planned launch in July, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said at an event on Friday.

"This will be decisive in getting the certificate ready before summer begins and is big news for our tourism industry," he told an event on rural depopulation in the northern Spanish city of Soria.


Greece ready to use Covid-19 pass before July to save summer, PM says

ATHENS – Greece is ready to use a Covid-19 travel certificate before its EU-wide launch on 1 July to attract foreign travellers and save its tourism sector from a second summer lost to the coronavirus.

Greece was one of the early advocates of a certificate that would ease European Union travel curbs and help pull the country's economy from recession by lifting tourism revenues.

The European Council and parliament last week reached a deal on the digital green certificate following a rapid pick-up of vaccinations allowing widespread lifting of coronavirus curbs.

The European Parliament is expected to pass a law in the week from 7 June and more than a dozen EU countries, including France and Spain, have agreed to test the system before a launch on 1 July.

The certificate would show if a person had received a vaccine, had a recent negative test or had immunity based on recovery.


India posts lowest daily rise in Covid-19 cases in over a month

BENGALURU – India reported on Friday 186 364 new coronavirus infections during the previous 24 hours, for its lowest daily rise since 14 April, while deaths rose by 3 660.

The South Asian nation's tally of infections now stands at 27.56 million, with the death toll at 318 895, health ministry data show.


Argentina posts record rise in daily Covid-19 cases

BUENOS AIRES – Argentina posted a record one-day number of new Covid-19 cases of 41 080 on Thursday, amid a second wave of infections that has made the country one of the hardest hit in the world, pushing the local health care system to its limit.

The nation of 45 million inhabitants has so far registered a total 3 663 215 cases and 76 135 deaths, according to official data, making it one of the countries with the most deaths per capita along with neighbours Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil.

Argentina began a strict lockdown for nine days on Saturday to get the virus under control. But the rollout of its vaccination programme has been slower than promised by the centre-left government of President Alberto Fernandez.


Brazil reports 67 467 new coronavirus cases, 2 245 deaths

RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil recorded 67 467 additional confirmed cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, along with 2 245 deaths from Covid-19, the Health Ministry said on Thursday.

Brazil has registered more than 16.3 million cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 456 674, according to ministry data.


Mexico reports 3 050 new Covid-19 cases, 429 more deaths

MEXICO CITY – Mexico's health ministry on Thursday reported 3 050 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country and 429 more fatalities, bringing the total to 2 405 772 infections and 222 661 deaths.

The government has said the real number of cases is likely significantly higher, and separate data suggested the actual death toll is at least 60% above the confirmed figure.


Russia reports 9 252 new Covid-19 cases, 404 deaths

MOSCOW – Russia reported 9 252 new Covid-19 cases on Friday, including 3 274 in Moscow, taking the official national tally since the pandemic began to 5 044 459.

The government coronavirus task force said 404 people had died of coronavirus-linked causes in the past 24 hours, pushing the national death toll to 120 406.

The federal statistics agency has kept a separate count and has said Russia recorded around 250 000 deaths related to Covid-19 from April 2020 to March 2021.


Germany's confirmed coronavirus cases rise by 7 380 - RKI

BERLIN – The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 7 380 to 3 669 870, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Friday. The reported death toll rose by 192 to 88 187, the tally showed.


Philippines reports highest daily Covid-19 cases in 4 weeks

MANILA – The Philippines reported 8 748 new coronavirus infections on Friday, its highest single-day increase this month.

Its health ministry said areas outside the capital region, the epicentre, have seen a rise in Covid-19 cases, as well as an increase in usage of healthcare facilities. Deaths rose by 187 on Friday to 20 566 overall. The Philippines has recorded 1.2 million coronavirus cases.


Malaysia reports 8 290 new coronavirus cases, a daily record

KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia reported 8 290 new coronavirus cases on Friday, its fourth straight day of record infections.

This brings the total cumulative cases since the start of the pandemic to 549 514.


Taiwan reports another rise in domestic Covid-19 cases

TAIPEI – Taiwan reported 555 new domestic Covid-19 cases on Friday, including 258 cases added to the totals for recent days as it continues to readjust its infection numbers following delays in reporting positive tests.


China reports 7 new Covid-19 cases vs 19 a day earlier

SHANGHAI – China reported 7 new Covid-19 cases on the mainland for 27 May, down from 19 cases a day earlier, the country's national health authority said on Friday.

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, rose to 26 from 22 cases a day earlier.

The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in mainland China now stands at 91 045, while the death toll remains unchanged at 4 636.


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