- In interviews with Reuters, more than a dozen influential infectious disease and vaccine development experts said there is growing evidence that a first round of global vaccinations may offer enduring protection against the coronavirus and its most worrisome variants discovered to date.
- Britain will adapt its vaccine rollout to protect people more quickly in areas where a coronavirus variant first detected in India has emerged.
- Data revealed Germany's seven-day rate of Covid-19 cases fell below the threshold of 100 per 100 000 people for the first time since March.
UK to flex vaccine rollout to tackle Indian variant
Britain will adapt its vaccine rollout to protect people more quickly in areas where a coronavirus variant first detected in India has emerged, the country's vaccine minister said on Friday.
Government agency Public Health England (PHE) said the total number of confirmed cases of the B.1.617.2 variant had more than doubled in the past week to 1 313 across the United Kingdom.
Nadhim Zahawi said in areas where the new variant has emerged that the government would step up enhanced testing and flex the vaccine rollout by offering it to younger people if they live in multi-generational households.
He told BBC TV:
Zahawi said there were concerns about the presence of the Indian variant in some parts of England but that there was no evidence that it had a more severe impact on people or was able to escape the vaccines.
"The (reopening) roadmap from Monday remains in place because the vaccines are delivering, vaccines are keeping people out of hospital and away from severe infection," Zahawi told Sky News.
Singapore tightens Covid-19 curbs on social gatherings, dining
Singapore announced on Friday the strictest curbs on social gatherings and public activities since easing a Covid-19 lockdown last year, amid a rise in locally acquired infections and with new coronavirus clusters forming in recent weeks.
The new measures announced by the health ministry, which will be effective from Sunday to mid June, include limiting social gatherings to two people and ceasing dining in at restaurants.
The authorities said they will review the measures after two weeks to assess if adjustments are needed.
Mainland China reports first local Covid-19 cases in more than 3 weeks
Mainland China reported seven new Covid-19 cases on 13 May, including its first local transmissions in more than three weeks, the country's national health authority said on Friday.
Two of the new cases were local infections in the eastern province of Anhui, the National Health Commission said in a statement. The cases were the first local transmissions since 20 April, when China recorded two local infections in the southwestern province of Yunnan, where a city on the border with Myanmar reported a new cluster in late March.
Another local infection was newly reported on Friday in Feixi county, under Hefei's jurisdiction, according to the city government.
The other five cases announced on Friday were imported infections originating overseas. The health commission had reported nine cases a day earlier, all imported.
The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, rose to 22 from 14 cases a day earlier.
First Australian repatriation flight from India to arrive Saturday
The first repatriation flight for Australians from Covid-ravaged India will arrive in the Northern Territory on Saturday after the lifting of a two-week travel ban, officials said.
The flight will carry up to 150 citizens and permanent residents who will be required to spend two weeks in quarantine at a converted mining camp in remote Howard Springs, a Northern Territory health department spokesperson said on Friday.
Canberra banned all travellers from India, including its own citizens, from entering Australia for two weeks until 15 May and said offenders could face jail, drawing criticism from some lawmakers, expatriates and the Indian diaspora.
The government aims to more than double capacity at Howard Springs, 25 kms southeast of Darwin, to 2 000 passengers every two weeks from June. There are about 9 000 Australian citizens and permanent residents in India seeking flights home.
Two further Royal Australian Air Force repatriation flights to the Northern Territory are scheduled this month, and authorities plan to repatriate about 1 000 people by the end of June. Vulnerable people will be given priority.
Taiwan premier says no need to raise Covid-19 alert level for now
Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang said on Friday that there is no need to raise the island's Covid-19 alert level for the time being and that compared with last year it has more experience and resources to fight the pandemic.
Writing on his Facebook page, Su said the next two weeks would be crucial to controlling the chain of transmission.
"Compared with this time last year, we already have more experience and resources to fight the pandemic," he said.
"With the cooperation of the central and local governments, the command centre has successively found the transmission chain between the confirmed cases, and there is no need to upgrade (the alert level) for the time being."
England to reopen and monitor Indian coronavirus variant, minister says
England will push ahead with its plan to lift the Covid-19 restrictions gradually because even though it is worried about the emergence of a variant first detected in India it believes the vaccines are working, the vaccines minister said on Friday.
Nadhim Zahawi said there were concerns about the presence of the Indian variant in some parts of England but that there was no evidence that the B.1.617.2 variant had a more severe impact on people or was able to escape the vaccines.
Zahawi told Sky News:
Germany's Covid-19 case rate falls below key threshold
Germany's seven-day rate of Covid-19 cases fell below the threshold of 100 per 100 000 people for the first time since March, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Friday.
The number of new cases reported rose by 11 336, bringing the total to 3 577 040, while the death toll increased by 190 to 85 848. The seven-day incidence fell to 96.5, down from 103.6 on Thursday and almost 126 a week ago.
An incidence rate of 100 new infections per 100 000 people is used as the threshold for imposing a nationwide emergency brake, which includes night-time curfews and limits on private gatherings, as well as the closure of shops. Should the virus incidence fall below this level consistently, restrictions can be relaxed.
With infection levels dropping and Germany's vaccination campaign picking up speed, Health Minister Jens Spahn last week declared the third wave of the pandemic to finally be broken.
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