Covid-19 wrap | WHO says India variant found in 44 countries as Maldives bans travel from South Asia

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  • The government of Maldives has banned travel from South Asia.
  • Pfizer Inc has formally asked the UK medical regulator for permission to use its Covid-19 vaccine for 12-to 15-year olds in Britain.
  • The Canadian provinces of Alberta and Ontario said they would stop offering first doses of AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine.

Maldives bans travel from South Asia as virus cases soar     

Rich Indians can no longer escape their country's raging pandemic by holidaying in the Maldives, after the island paradise said on Wednesday it would ban travel from South Asia as it battles a surge in Covid-19 infections.

The tourism ministry said:

The government of Maldives has decided to temporarily suspend the issuance of tourist visas for travellers originating from South Asian countries - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

The indefinite travel ban would also apply to travellers who spend more than 24 hours transiting in the listed countries, or who had visited them in the previous 14 days, the ministry added.

Travellers from other countries are still permitted to travel to the Maldives' resort islets with a negative PCR test taken within 96 hours before arrival, but are not permitted to have contact with the local population.

The upmarket tourist spot earlier this week suspended the entry of work permit holders from South Asia.


Indian Covid-19 variant found in 44 countries: WHO   

The World Health Organisation said on Wednesday that a variant of Covid-19 behind the acceleration of India's explosive outbreak has been found in dozens of countries all over the world.

The UN health agency said the B.1.617 variant of Covid-19, first found in India in October, had been detected in more than 4 500 samples uploaded to an open-access database "from 44 countries in all six WHO regions".

"And WHO has received reports of detections from five additional countries," it said in its weekly epidemiological update on the pandemic.

Outside of India, it said that Britain had reported the largest number of Covid cases caused by the variant.

WHO also pointed to "preliminary evidence" that the variant was more resistant to treatment with the monoclonal antibody Bamlanivimab, and also highlighted early lab studies indicating "limited reduction in neutralisation by antibodies".


Pfizer asks UK regulator to approve vaccine for teenagers -The Telegraph

Pfizer Inc has formally asked the UK medical regulator for permission to use its Covid-19 vaccine for 12-to 15-year olds in Britain, the Telegraph reported on Tuesday.

Citing a Pfizer spokesperson, the report said:

We can confirm that the companies have submitted a request to the MHRA to expand the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine in the UK to adolescents.

Pfizer and the MHRA did not immediately response to Reuters requests for comment.

The move comes as US regulators on Monday authorised Pfizer and BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine for use in children as young as 12, widening the country's inoculation programme as vaccination rates have slowed significantly.


Two Canadian provinces stop offering AstraZeneca's Covid vaccine           

The Canadian provinces of Alberta and Ontario said on Tuesday they would stop offering first doses of AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine, with Ontario citing evidence that the risk of rare blood clots is somewhat higher than previously estimated.

Alberta said it took the same step only because it was unclear when more shipments of the vaccine might arrive, and not due to concern about side effects.

Officials in Ontario said roughly one in 60 000 people who received the vaccine in the province, eight in total, developed the complication, which involves blood clots accompanied by a low level of platelets, cells in the blood that help it to clot.

Regulators and expert groups in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and Europe had previously estimated that the risk was between one in 95 000 and one in 130 000.

Ontario's Chief Medical Officer David Williams said:

We maintain that those who received their first dose with the AstraZeneca vaccine did absolutely the right thing to prevent illness and protect their families, loved ones and communities.

Three deaths in Canada have been linked to the AstraZeneca vaccine.


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