Covid-19 wrap: UK death toll nears 100 000, Dutch PM condemns lockdown riots and US tops 25m cases

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Anger and grief as United Kingdom's Covid-19 death toll nears 100 000

LONDON – As the United Kingdom's Covid-19 death toll approaches 100 000, grief-stricken relatives of the dead expressed anger at Prime Minister Boris Johnson's handling of the worst public health crisis in a century.

When the novel coronavirus, which first emerged in China in 2019, slid silently across the United Kingdom in March, Johnson initially said he was confident it could be sent packing in weeks.

But 97 939 deaths later, the United Kingdom has the world's fifth worst official death toll – more than its civilian toll in World War Two, and twice the number killed in the 1940-41 Blitz bombing campaign, although the total population was lower then.

Behind the numbers there is grief and anger.

Jamie Brown's 65-year-old father died at the end of March after it was suspected he contracted Covid-19 while travelling on a train into London for work. At the time, the government was mulling a lockdown.

Told by medics to stay at home, he awoke days later with a tight chest, disorientated and nauseous, and was taken to hospital in an ambulance. He died from a cardiac arrest five minutes after arriving.

Some scientists and opposition politicians say Johnson acted too slowly to stop the spread of the virus and then bungled both the government's strategy and execution of its response.

The United Kingdom's death toll – defined as those who die within 28 days of a positive test – rose to 97 939 on 24 January. The toll has risen by an average of over 1 000 per day for the past 7 days.


Dutch PM Rutte condemns riots against lockdown, curfew as 'criminal'

AMSTERDAM – Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte condemned a weekend in which rioters attacked police and set fires to protest the night-time curfew his government introduced on Saturday to slow the spread of coronavirus as "criminal".

Dutch police said on Monday hundreds had been detained after incidents including some where rioters threw rocks and in one case knives at police, burned down a Covid-19 testing station and warned there could be more to come.

"This has nothing to do with protest, this is criminal violence and we will treat it as such," Rutte told reporters outside his office in The Hague.


Biden reinstates US Covid-19 travel restrictions, adds South Africa

US President Joe Biden will reinstate a ban on most non-US citizens entering the country, including people from Brazil and the United Kingdom where new, more transmissible variants of the coronavirus have emerged in recent months, and add South Africa to the restricted list, according to public health officials.

"We are adding South Africa to the restricted list because of the concerning variant present that has already spread beyond South Africa," Dr Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said in an interview with the Reuters news agency.

Arrivals from Ireland and 26 countries in Europe that allow travel across open borders will also be banned.

She added that the CDC was "putting in place this suite of measures to protect Americans and also to reduce the risk of these variants spreading and worsening the current pandemic".

The move overturns a last-gasp decision from former president Donald Trump that the restrictions on Brazil and Europe be lifted from 26 January, when new testing requirements are also due to come into force.

Biden, who took office on Wednesday, is taking an aggressive approach to combating the spread of the virus after Trump rejected mandates sought by health agencies and downplayed the severity of the pandemic. More than 25 million people in the United States have now been confirmed with Covid-19, about a quarter of the world’s total infections.

The South African variant, also known as the 501Y V2 variant, is 50% more infectious and has been detected in at least 20 countries.

The South African variant has not yet been found in the US but at least 20 US states have detected a UK variant known as B117, which is also significantly more transmissible. While current vaccines appear effective against the UK mutations, there are concerns the South African variant might be more resistant.


Japan likely to hit Covid-19 herd immunity in October, months after Olympics - researcher

Japan is likely to achieve herd immunity to Covid-19 through mass inoculations only months after the planned Tokyo Olympics, even though it has locked in the biggest quantity of vaccines in Asia, according to a London-based forecaster.

That would be a blow to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who has pledged to have enough shots for the populace by the middle of 2021, as it trails most major economies in starting Covid-19 inoculations.

"Japan looks to be quite late in the game," Rasmus Bech Hansen, the founder of British research firm Airfinity, told Reuters. "They're dependent on importing many (vaccines) from the US. And at the moment, it doesn't seem very likely they will get very large quantities of for instance, the Pfizer vaccine."

Hansen said Japan will not reach a 75% inoculation rate, a benchmark for herd immunity, until around October, about two months after the close of the Summer Games.


UK detects 77 cases of South African Covid-19 variant, 9 of Brazilian

LONDON – Britain has detected 77 cases of the South African variant of Covid-19, the health minister said on Sunday, also urging people to strictly follow lockdown rules as the best precaution against Britain's own potentially more deadly variant.

Matt Hancock said all 77 cases were connected to travel from South Africa and were under close observation, as were nine identified cases of a Brazilian variant.

"They are under very close observation, and we have enhanced contact tracing to do everything we possibly can to stop them from spreading," he said during an interview on BBC television.

Oxford professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of a scientific committee on vaccination that advises the government, said the South African and Brazilian variants were of concern because Covid-19 vaccines may not be effective against them.

"The new variants abroad are a real worry. The South African and the Brazilian Amazonian ones, there are hints that there will be vaccine escape," he said on Sky News, adding that new variants would keep appearing around the world.


Tunisia's foreign minister tests positive for Covid-19 - statement

CAIRO – Tunisia's foreign minister, Othman Jerandi, has tested positive for Covid-19, saying in a tweet that the symptoms are severe, according to an official statement by the Foreign Ministry late on Sunday.

"Today, my tests confirmed that I have Covid-19, despite taking all the necessary precautions and respecting the health protocol. Severe symptoms, I ask God the safety for everyone," Jerandi said in his tweet.


Turkey receives 6.5 million doses of Sinovac vaccine - media

ISTANBUL – Turkey received 6.5 million further doses of the coronavirus vaccine made by China's Sinovac Biotech on Monday, CNN Turk and other media reported, allowing its nationwide rollout to continue.

An initial consignment of 3 million doses previously arrived in Turkey and it has so far vaccinated 1.245 million people, mostly health workers and elderly people, according to health ministry data.

State broadcaster TRT Haber said the latest shipment, part of a second consignment which will total 10 million doses, arrived at Istanbul Airport early in the morning on a Turkish Airlines flight from Beijing.

About 600 000 people were vaccinated in just two days when the vaccine rollout began in mid-January, but the pace later slowed as it moved beyond healthcare workers.

The Health Ministry will test the new shipment, which medics say takes around two weeks, before the vaccines are administered. That means Turkey would be constrained to around 100 000 inoculations per day for the next two weeks.

Turkey has recorded more than 2.4 million infections and 25 073 deaths due to Covid-19.


US coronavirus cases top 25 million - Reuters tally

The number of coronavirus cases in the United States crossed 25 million on Sunday, a Reuters tally showed, as states accelerate their vaccine distribution and more infectious strains are found globally.

The United States has administered at least 21.8 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, to about 6% of its population. The two vaccines currently approved also require a second dose.

An analysis of Reuters data shows it took 200 days to reach the first 5 million cases, 93 days to go from 5 million to 10 million, 31 days from 10 million to 15 million, 25 days to go from 15 million to 20 million, and 24 days to go from 20 million to 25 million cases.

US deaths have also soared this year as more than 70 000 people have lost their lives in the last 25 days, taking the toll to more than 417 000 and predicted to surpass 500 000 by February.


Russia reports 19 290 new coronavirus cases, 456 deaths

MOSCOW – Russia registered fewer than 20 000 new Covid-19 cases for the first time since 11 November, the country's coronavirus crisis response centre said on Monday.

Russia reported 19 290 new daily cases, including 2 382 in Moscow, taking the national tally to 3 738 690.

Authorities also reported an additional 456 deaths in the last 24 hours, raising the total count to 69 918.


Mexico reports 10 872 new coronavirus cases, 530 deaths

MEXICO CITY – Mexico's health ministry on Sunday reported 10 872 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the country and 530 fatalities, bringing its totals to 1 763 219 infections and 149 614 deaths.

The real number of infected people and deaths is likely significantly higher than the official count, the health ministry has said.


Brazil sees 592 new Covid-19 deaths, with 28 323 new cases, health ministry says

SAO PAULO – Brazil recorded 592 new Covid-19 deaths, the Health Ministry said on Sunday, taking total fatalities from the pandemic to 217 037 people.

The country saw 28 323 new cases of coronavirus, with nearly 8.9 million people infected since the outbreak began, the official data showed.


Germany's confirmed coronavirus cases rise by 6 729 to 2 141 665 - RKI

BERLIN – The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 6 729 to 2 141 665, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Monday.

The reported death toll rose by 217 to 52 087, the tally showed.


Malaysia reports 3 048 new coronavirus cases, 11 new deaths

KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysian health authorities reported 3 048 new coronavirus cases on Monday, raising the total number of confirmed cases to 186 849.

It reported 11 new fatalities, bringing the cumulative death toll to 689. The Southeast Asian country reported the highest daily infections on Saturday.


Thailand reports 187 new coronavirus cases, 2 new deaths

BANGKOK – Thailand reported 187 new coronavirus cases and two deaths on Monday, bringing the overall number of cases to 13 687 and fatalities to 75 since it detected its first case a year ago.

The tally included 10 imported cases, the country's Covid-19 taskforce said.


Hong Kong lifts first virus lockdown after 13 new cases found

Hong Kong lifted its first neighbourhood coronavirus lockdown on Monday morning after testing some 7 000 people and finding 13 cases, as debate swirled over the efficacy of the move.

Over the weekend, police moved in to seal off a poor and densely populated neighbourhood of about 150 apartment blocks where coronavirus clusters had sprung up in recent weeks.

Officials went door to door conducting mandatory tests and found 0.17% of those tested had the virus.

Some community and business leaders were critical of how the lockdown was carried out. But officials defended the move as proportionate and said they would not rule out similar neighbourhood lockdowns.

Hong Kong was one of the first places to be struck by the coronavirus after it spilled out of central China.

It has recorded just over 10 000 infections with some 170 deaths, by imposing effective but economically punishing social distancing measures for much of the last year.

 - AFP

China reports 124 new mainland Covid-19 cases vs 80 a day earlier

SHANGHAI – Mainland China reported 124 new Covid-19 cases on 24 January, up from 80 cases a day earlier, the country's national health authority said on Monday.

The National Health Commission said in a statement that 117 of the new cases were local infections. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to 45 from 92 cases a day earlier.

The total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in mainland China is 89 115, while the death toll remains unchanged at 4 635.


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