Covid-19 wrap: Global cases top 100m, UK expects 'quite a lot more' deaths, China deploys anal testing

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Global coronavirus cases top 100 million - AFP tally

Paris – The number of confirmed coronavirus cases around the world on Tuesday passed 100 million since the start of the pandemic, according to an AFP tally.

As of 21:30 (GMT), a total of 100 010 798 infections had been reported, according to AFP's count, compiled from figures provided by national health agencies.

Worldwide, at least 2 151 242 people have lost their lives to Covid-19.

The vast majority of people infected with the virus recover, but some patients suffer from symptoms for weeks or even months.

The official number of cases registered since the pandemic first broke

out in China, in late 2019, represents just a fraction of the real number of infections around the world.

Many countries were late to implement systematic testing, and some continue to test only the most seriously ill.

 - AFP

UK will see 'quite a lot more' Covid-19 deaths - England's Chief Medical Officer

LONDON – Britain will see more deaths from coronavirus before a vaccination programme takes effect, England's chief medical officer Chris Whitty said on Tuesday, after the country's death toll exceeded 100 000.

"Unfortunately, we're going to see quite a lot more deaths over the next few weeks before the effects of the vaccines begin to be felt," he said.


COVAX to supply 355 million vaccine doses for Eastern Mediterranean region this year - WHO official

CAIRO – The COVAX vaccine sharing platform expects to have 25 million coronavirus vaccine doses for the Eastern region in March, rising to 355 million doses by December, a World Health Organisation (WHO) official said on Wednesday.

The first doses provided for the region through COVAX will arrive in February, WHO official Yvan Hutin told reporters.

The WHO's Eastern Mediterranean region comprises of Middle Eastern countries, as well as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Djibouti.

COVAX is co-led by the GAVI vaccine alliance, the WHO and others, and is designed to ensure equitable access to Covid-19 vaccinations globally. COVAX has said it aims to deliver 1.8 billion doses to poorer countries this year.

At least five countries in the Eastern Mediterranean region will benefit from the first wave of COVAX vaccines, though the list of countries is yet been confirmed, said Richard Brennan, a second WHO official.


China deploys anal swabs to test for Covid-19

Beijing, Jan 27, 2021 (AFP) -China has begun using anal swabs to test those it considers at high risk of contracting Covid-19, state TV reported, with social media users and travellers squirming over the invasive procedure which doctors say can be more effective in detecting the virus.

Officials took anal swabs from residents of neighbourhoods with confirmed Covid-19 cases in Beijing last week, broadcaster CCTV said, while those in designated quarantine facilities have also undergone the test.

Small, localised outbreaks in recent weeks have seen multiple cities in northern China sealed off from the rest of the country and prompted mass testing campaigns -- which up until now have mostly been conducted using throat and nose swabs.

But the anal swabs method "can increase the detection rate of infected people" as traces of the virus linger longer in the anus than in the respiratory tract, Li Tongzeng, a senior doctor from Beijing's You'an Hospital, told CCTV.

CCTV said on Sunday anal swabs would not be used as widely as other methods, as the technique was "not convenient."

 - AFP

Morocco gets half million doses of Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine

RABAT – Morocco received on Wednesday half a million doses of China’s Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine as it prepares to be the first African country to roll out a national immunisation campaign.

The consignment is the second batch to arrive in Morocco after 2 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by India’s Serum Institute.

The government has announced that it will first start vaccinating health, security, and teaching staff this week and has launched a website for other people to register for the vaccine.

The country signed a deal with Sinopharm in August, which involved conducting clinical trials in Morocco as well as announcing plans to set up a production plant.

Morocco plans to vaccinate 25 million people, or 80% of its population, within three months.

By Tuesday, Morocco had recorded 467,493 coronavirus cases, including 8,187 deaths and 14,483 active cases.


Portugal urged to seek international help as Covid-19 deaths hit record

LISBON – Portugal's government was urged to transfer Covid-19 patients abroad on Tuesday as deaths hit a record high and the oxygen supply system of a large hospital near Lisbon partly failed from overuse.

Covid-19 fatalities in the past 24 hours reached a record 291, bringing the total to 653 878 cases and 11 012 deaths. It now has the world's the highest seven-day average of cases and deaths per million people, according to

A hospital in the Amadora municipality had to transfer 48 of its patients to other health units in the capital late on Tuesday, as oxygen pressure was not enough for the large number of patients, it said in a statement.

"There was a need to relieve oxygen consumption so patients were transferred," said the hospital, which has nearly no empty beds left. "They were never in danger."

News reports showed ambulances rushing through the hospital's main gates to get the patients, while some left escorted by police.

Across Portugal's health service, 830 intensive care beds have been allocated to Covid-19 patients out of a total of 1 200, the health ministry said. Currently 765 Covid-19 patients are in intensive care units.


Peru orders total lockdown across 10 states as second wave bites

LIMA – President Francisco Sagasti of Peru on Tuesday night announced a total lockdown of the capital and nine other regions following a significant increase in Covid cases, which he said had pushed hospitals close to collapse.

Sagasti said the new measures covering central Peru would remain in effect until at least 14 February. They include instructions to work from home, the closure of all non-essential shops, the suspension of interregional land and air travel and the extension of a ban on flights coming from Europe to flights from Brazil in a bid to curb new, more contagious strains of the virus.

On Tuesday, Peru reported 4 444 new cases of the coronavirus, taking its total to 1 107 239, and 40 107 deaths. According to Reuters data, Peru's cases are at 57% of a 22 August peak, when more than 9 000 new cases were confirmed.

Sagasti said Covid-19 vaccines were the way out of the crisis and pledged to be among the first to receive the shot.

He said the first one million of an order for 38 million doses of Sinopharm's candidate vaccine would arrive "in the coming days", ready for an inoculation campaign to begin in February.


South Korea reports big jump in Covid-19 cases on outbreaks in Christian schools

SEOUL – South Korean authorities were scrambling on Wednesday to contain coronavirus outbreaks centred around Christian schools as the country reported a jump in infections, dampening hopes of a speedy exit from a third wave of the pandemic.

A total of 297 Covid-19 cases had been traced to six churches and mission schools run by a Christian organisation, senior health official Yoon Tae-ho told a briefing.

More than 100 cases were confirmed overnight among people linked to a church and its mission school in Gwangju, about 270km south of Seoul, officials said. Another 171 cases had been linked to an affiliated school in the city of Daejeon since 17 January.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said the Daejeon mission school outbreak appeared to have been spreading for some time before it was detected.

The Christian organisation responsible for the facilities, International Mission, was ordered to test everyone linked to 32 of its 40 schools and churches around the country.


Bars, restaurants to open overnight as Moscow relaxes Covid-19 curbs

MOSCOW – The city of Moscow eased some Covid-19 restrictions on Wednesday, including the overnight closure of bars, restaurants and night clubs, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said.

Businesses would no longer have to restrict the number of employees working from the office, Sobyanin wrote on his personal blog.

The changes were effective from Wednesday, he said.


Indonesia reports record daily increase in coronavirus deaths

JAKARTA – Indonesia reported a record daily increase in coronavirus deaths on Wednesday, with 387 new fatalities, data from the country's Covid-19 task force showed.

This brought the total number of deaths to 28 855.

The Southeast Asian nation also recorded 11 948 new coronavirus infections, bringing the total number of cases to 1 024 298.


Cuba's coronavirus cases, death toll surge

HAVANA – Cuba's death toll from the coronavirus reached 200 on Tuesday, with authorities reporting nearly as many deaths so far in January as in the six previous months combined, due to an unprecedented acceleration in infections.

While Cuba had just a tenth of the world average of daily infections per capita for much of last year, cases have surged since the government reopened borders in November and loosened restrictions on daily life.

The situation in Cuba is now much worse than at any other point during the pandemic, and edging closer to that world average.

The health ministry has reported 54 deaths in January so far, compared with 60 in the previous six months, with daily infection numbers hitting new records on a regular basis – 786 on Tuesday – and cases spread throughout the Caribbean island nation.

Like many countries, Cuba suffered the rebound in cases after opening borders without requiring inbound travellers to provide negative coronavirus test results.


Australia records 10th day of no local Covid-19 cases

SYDNEY – Australia recorded a 10th straight day of no new local Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, allowing its most populous state of New South Wales (NSW) to relax coronavirus restrictions after controlling a fast-spreading cluster.

NSW has recorded no local cases for 10 days after low single digit numbers earlier in January. Victoria state, which is hosting the Australia Open tennis tournament, has gone three weeks without a local case.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt tweeted on Wednesday marked the 10th day of no community transmission of Covid-19 Australia wide, adding the country's success comes at a time when global coronavirus cases have crossed 100 million with the death toll surpassing 2 million.

Australia has recorded more than 22 000 local cases since the pandemic began and 909 deaths.

The Covid-free run allowed NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklien to ease coronavirus restrictions from Friday, including relaxing rules around mask wearing and increasing numbers in house parties, weddings, funerals and places of worship.


Palestinian Authority plans to buy 100 000 Sputnik V vaccine doses from Russia in Feb - Ifax

MOSCOW – The Palestinian Authority plans to buy 100 000 doses of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine against Covid-19 in February, the Interfax news agency cited the Palestinian Authority's envoy in Moscow as saying on Wednesday.

Abdel Hafiz Nofal, the Authority's ambassador to Russia, said Moscow would provide 10 000 free doses of the vaccine.


Beijing city tightens Covid-19 curbs ahead of New Year, parliament meeting

Beijing city will require people arriving from low-risk areas in China between 28 January and 15 March to show negative Covid-19 test results, tightening curbs ahead of the Lunar New Year and the annual parliament meeting.

People wanting to enter the capital from those areas will also first need to undergo a 14-day health observation period at home, Xu Hejian, spokesperson of the Beijing city government, said on Wednesday.

Covid-19 tests will also be performed on the seventh and 14th day of their arrival, he told reporters.

The tighter measures come ahead of the peak Lunar New Year peak travel season kicking off on Thursday, and before China's annual parliamentary meeting starting on 5 March.


Taliban backs vaccine drive as Afghan government receives $112 million funding pledge

KABUL – The Taliban militant movement gave its backing on Tuesday for a coronavirus vaccination campaign in Afghanistan that has received a $112 million pledge from the World Health Organisation's COVAX programme.

The immunisation drive will have to take place amid relentless violence in the country despite the government and the Taliban insurgents opening peace talks in September.

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters that the group would "support and facilitate" the vaccination drive conducted via health centres. Officials believe the insurgents would not target vaccine teams as they would not be going door-to-door.

Announcing the funding, an Afghan health official said the programme would cover 20% of the country's 38 million population.

Afghanistan's Deputy Health Minister Waheed Majroh told journalists it was going to take six months to get the vaccines, but authorities were in discussions to get them earlier.

Afghanistan has registered 54 854 infections and 2 390 deaths – but experts say cases are significantly underreported due to low testing and limited access to medical facilities in the war-torn country.


China injects more than 22 million doses of coronavirus vaccines

BEIJING – China has administered about 22.8 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, a health official said on Wednesday, as the country steps up its campaign ahead of next month's Lunar New Year holidays and the accompanying flurry of travel.

The world's most populous nation has widened its targeted inoculation scheme since mid-December to include more priority groups facing higher risk of virus exposure, in a bid to prevent any outbreaks in winter and spring.

"Overall, the work is progressing in a smooth and orderly manner," Zeng Yixin, vice director of the National Health Commission, told a news conference, referring to the vaccination effort.

China aims to vaccinate 50 million people before the Lunar New Year in February, state media Global Times said this month.


Germany's confirmed coronavirus cases rise by 13 202 to 2 161 279 - RKI

BERLIN – The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 13 202 to 2 161 279, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Wednesday.

The reported death toll rose by 982 to 53 972, the tally showed.


Russia reports 17 741 new Covid-19 cases, 594 deaths

MOSCOW – Russia on Wednesday reported 17 741 new Covid-19 cases, taking its official tally to 3 774 672.

Authorities also reported 594 deaths in the last 24 hours, pushing the death toll to 71 076.


Mexico reports 7 165 new coronavirus cases, 1 743 more deaths

MEXICO CITY – Mexico's health ministry on Tuesday reported 7 165 new confirmed cases of coronavirus infection and 1 743 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 1 778 905 cases and 152 016 deaths.

The government says the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.


Malaysia reports 3 680 new coronavirus cases, 7 deaths

KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia reported 3 680 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, raising the cumulative total to 194 114 infections.

The health ministry also reported seven new deaths, bringing Malaysia's total fatalities from the pandemic to 707.


Thailand reports 819 new virus cases, 1 additional death

BANGKOK – Thailand on Wednesday reported 819 new coronavirus cases, taking its total infections to 15 465.

One additional death was reported, bringing total fatalities to 76. More than 700 of the new infections were in Samut Sakhon province, the epicentre of the most recent outbreak, the Covid-19 taskforce said at a briefing.


China reports 75 new mainland Covid-19 cases vs 82 a day earlier

SHANGHAI – Mainland China reported 75 new Covid-19 cases on 26 January, down from 82 cases a day earlier, the country's national health authority said on Wednesday.

The National Health Commission said in a statement that 55 of the new cases were local infections, down from 69 a day earlier. New asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, rose to 61 from 57 a day earlier.

The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Mainland China now stands at 89 272. The death toll remains at 4 636.


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