Covid-19 wrap | India will test Brazil, SA, UK travellers and Turkey to start lifting curbs in March

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  • Malaysia reported a new daily high of 25 coronavirus deaths, taking the total number of fatalities to 1 030.
  • Johnson & Johnson has only a few million doses of its experimental Covid-19 vaccine in its inventory even as likely US regulatory authorization is only a few weeks away, White House officials said.
  • Pfizer has yet to deliver about 10 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to the European Union that were due in December, leaving it about one-third short of the supplies it had expected by now.

India to test travellers from Brazil, South Africa, UK after detecting new virus strains     

India will make Covid-19 molecular tests mandatory for people arriving directly or indirectly from the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil in a bid to contain the spread of more infectious virus variants found in those countries.

The government has said the South African and Brazilian strains can more easily infect a person's lungs than the UK mutation. India has so far reported 187 cases of infection with the UK variant.

The government late on Wednesday said airlines would be required from next week to segregate inbound travellers from those countries. India does not have direct flights with Brazil and South Africa, and most people travelling from these countries generally transit through Middle Eastern airports.

"All the travellers arriving from/transiting through flights originating in United Kingdom, Europe or the Middle East shall be mandatorily subjected to self-paid confirmatory molecular tests on arrival," India's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said in a statement.

All flyers will also have to carry a recent Covid-negative report before boarding any flight to India, except in extraordinary circumstances like death in a family.


Erdogan: Turkey to start lifting Covid curbs in March      

Turkey will begin a gradual return to normal life on a province-by-province basis from March, according to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who added that nationwide weekend Covid-19 lockdowns would be lifted in some provinces based on infection rates.

Turkey imposed curfews, weekend lockdowns and other curbs in December as cases rose sharply. It plans to reopen schools nationwide on March 1 and its vaccination programme has so far administered shots to nearly 5.7 million people using shots developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting in Ankara on Wednesday, Erdogan said a plan on reopening cafes and restaurants, which have been shut down for months, would be announced in the days and urged citizens to continue abiding by the measures.

“We will categorise our provinces as low, medium, high, and very high risk based on infection and vaccination rates. As of March, we are beginning the gradual normalisation period,” he said.

“We are gradually lifting lockdowns restrictions, starting with the weekends, based on infection, vaccination and other criteria in provinces,” Erdogan said, adding that the road map for the normalisation and return to schools would be evaluated again in the coming weeks.


English lockdown reducing Covid-19 infections but prevalence still high, study finds        

 England's third national Covid-19 lockdown is helping to reduce infections, a study found on Thursday, but the prevalence of cases remains high as Prime Minister Boris Johnson eyes a cautious route to re-opening the economy.

Johnson is due to set out a roadmap out of the lockdown, which began on 5 January, on Monday, and has said that it will be a cautious and prudent approach.

The study, known as REACT-1 and led by researchers at Imperial College London, found that national prevalence was two thirds lower between Feb 4 and 13 than it had been in the previous survey that covered 6-22 January.

"It's really encouraging news. We do think that lockdown is having an effect. We've seen this quite rapid decline now between January and this month," Paul Elliott, director of the programme at Imperial, told reporters.

"But... the actual prevalence is still very high. We're only back where we were in September."


Indonesia capital warns of big fines for refusing Covid-19 vaccine             

Indonesia's capital Jakarta is threatening residents with fines of up to 5 million rupiah ($356.89) for refusing Covid-19 vaccines, an unusually stiff penalty aimed at ensuring compliance with a new regulation making inoculations mandatory.

Deputy Jakarta governor Ahmad Riza Patria said city authorities were merely following rules and such sanctions were a last resort in Jakarta, which accounts for about a quarter of the archipelago nation's more than 1.2 million coronavirus infections.

"If you reject it, there are two things, social aid will not be given, (and a) fine," Riza told reporters.

Indonesia announced a presidential order earlier this month stipulating anyone who refuses vaccines could be denied social assistance or government services or made to pay a fine.

The penalty would be determined by regional health agencies or by local governments.


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