Covid-19 wrap | Japan finds over 90 cases of new virus variant, Brazil passes 10 million infections

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  • The World Health Organisation urged nations producing vaccines not to distribute them unilaterally but to donate them to the global Covax scheme to ensure fairness.
  • Ireland will remain under significant restrictions until the end of April, the prime minister was quoted as saying.
  • New Zealand officials injected a small group of medical professionals with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, in preparation for a wider rollout over the weekend.

Japan finds more than 90 cases of new Covid-19 virus variant     

Japanese health authorities have found more than 90 cases of a new variant of the Covid-19 virus, the government's chief spokesman said on Friday.

The mutant variant, known as E484K, has been found in 91 cases in the Kanto area of eastern Japan and in 2 cases at airports, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobo Kato told reporters.

The variant is believed to have come from overseas but is different from those that originated in Britain and South Africa, according to an earlier report by the Mainichi newspaper which cited Japan's National Institute of Infectious Diseases.

Japan has reported 151 cases of variants from Britain, South Africa and Brazil, according to the health ministry. The nation has had more than 400 000 cases of Covid-19 with 7 194 fatalities.


Amid new strain, stalling vaccinations, Brazil passes 10 million Covid-19 cases

Brazil surpassed 10 million confirmed coronavirus cases on Thursday, as a new variant discovered in the Amazon threatens to further ravage a country where inoculations have been halted in many cities due to a lack of vaccines.

As of Thursday, the Health Ministry had tallied 10 030 626 total infections, including 51 879 cases in the past 24 hours. Ministry data showed 1 367 additional deaths since the last update on Wednesday.

"Despite the size of this number, it is still probably well below the real figure due to a lack of testing," said Alexandre Naime Barbosa, head of epidemiology at the State University of Sao Paulo.

With the new Brazilian strain - which originated in the jungle city of Manaus - experts worry things could get worse.

Despite vowing to vaccinate the entire population of around 210 million by the end of the year, the Health Ministry has provided states with just 11.8 million doses so far.


Hong Kong is not politicising any vaccine, says health chief

Hong Kong's Health Secretary said on Friday that the government had not politicised any coronavirus vaccine, as she sought to reassure residents worried about China's Sinovac, due to be rolled out in the global financial hub from next week.

Chan told Reuters that standards had not been lowered to accept the Sinovac vaccine and there was no pressure from Beijing to get it approved in the Chinese special administrative region.

"The government has not politicised any vaccine. In fact, we really think that one should not politicise any of the vaccination process, because really the Covid-19 vaccine is our hope," she said in an interview at her office in government headquarters.


China donates 200 000 Covid jabs to Algeria

Beijing will gift Algeria 200 000 Sinopharm coronavirus vaccines, the Chinese ambassador to Algiers said Thursday, boosting supplies in the North African nation.

Ambassador Li Lianhe told the official APS news agency that Beijing will "continue to provide the support and necessary backing" Algeria needs.

The vaccines will arrive later in February, Health Minister Abderrahmane Benbouzid said, adding to as many as 800 000 expected through the international Covax programme.

Algeria and China are close allies, and when the pandemic started Beijing sent medical teams to help.


Germany must ease lockdown measures with caution - health minister  

Falling coronavirus infections and a steady rise in vaccinations mean lifting lockdown measures in Germany is possible, Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Friday, urging caution given that a more infectious variant had been identified.

"There are rising demands to end the lockdown and this is possible but we need to be careful in order not to jeopardise our achievements," Spahn told a news conference.


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