Brazil approves trials with 3rd dose of Astra vaccine

Brazilian Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga gives a second dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to Chief of Staff Minister Luiz Eduardo Ramos at a vaccination center Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, July 14, 2021. (ERALDO PERES / AP)

WASHINGTON / ROME / LUSAKA / KIGALI / BRASILIA /  MEXICO CITY / PARIS / LAGOS / LONDON / LA PAZ / MONTEVIDEO / SANTIAGO / HAVANA / RABAT / BERLIN / ATHENS / MOSCOW – Brazil's health regulator Anvisa said on Monday that it has approved trials with a third dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19.

Anvisa said a third dose of the vaccine would be administered to 10,000 volunteers between 11 and 13 months after the second shot.

Brazil registered 948 additional COVID-19 deaths and 34,126 additional cases, according to data released by the country's health ministry on Sunday.

South Sudan

South Sudan has stopped vaccination against COVID-19 after it exhausted all its AstraZeneca vaccines it received from the COVAX facility in March.

John Rumunu, director-general for preventive health services in the Ministry of Health said they have ended vaccination in all the 90 centers across the country. "We have closed down all our vaccination centers because we have run out of vaccines," Rumunu told journalists in Juba on Sunday.

In March, Juba received 132,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from the COVAX facility. It, later on, sent back 72,000 dozes it failed to use up due to low vaccine intake and lack of enough storage capacity.

Since the start of the vaccination campaign in April, 56,989 doses have been used with 52,226 people having received their first COVID-19 jab and 4,763 others received their second jab.

Poland

Poland’s COVID-19 reproduction rate, which represents the number of people one coronavirus patient infects on average, rose to 1 on Monday for the first time since April, Health Minister Adam Niedzielski said on Twitter.

While the number of new infections is still low, the country’s seven-day average rose 13 percent from last week. Meanwhile, the pace of vaccinations is slowing and could grind to a halt in the next two to three weeks, the Dziennik Gazeta Prawna newspaper reported.

France 

Britain's imposition of restrictions on travelers from France seems rather "excessive", France's junior European affairs minister said on Monday, after London said visitors would need to quarantine for 10 days after entering the country.

"We don't think that the United Kingdom's decisions are totally based on scientific foundations. We find them excessive," Clement Beaune told BFM TV.

Meanwhile, Beaune also said the re-imposition of curfew measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 cannot be excluded in France if infections continued to climb.

France reported more than 12,500 new cases on Sunday, the third day that the tally has held above 10,000, as the quick spread of the more contagious Delta variant led to a jump in new infections.

The health ministry, however, said that the 12,532 new cases reported on Sunday, which took the total to 5.87 million, included data not published the day before. Deaths rose by five to 111,472.

Meanwhile, France will limit the use in shopping malls of a contested digital “health pass” that provides evidence of COVID-19 status, after thousands of people attended marches on Saturday in major cities to oppose President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to use health passes to access venues such as restaurants and cafes.

In a bid to limit the impact on retailers, the passes will only be required to enter malls with a surface area of more than 20,000 square meters, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said in an interview with Sunday newspaper JDD.

Global tally

Coronavirus cases worldwide have exceeded 190.42 million while the global death toll topped 4.08 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

European Medicines Agency

The European medicines regulator said on Monday it is evaluating an application to use arthritis drug, Kineret, to treat COVID-19 in adult patients with pneumonia who are at risk of developing severe respiratory failure.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said it will assess data including results from two ongoing clinical studies investigating the safety and efficacy of the drug in patients hospitalized with COVID-19.

Kineret, currently authorised to treat a number of inflammatory conditions, is made by Swedish rare disease drug maker Sobi.

The drug reduces the activity of the immune system, and its active substance blocks the activity of a chemical messenger in the immune process that leads to inflammation.

"It is thought that this could also help reduce the inflammation and tissue damage associated with COVID-19," the EMA said, adding that it expects the outcome from the evaluation in October.

Canada

Canada has fully vaccinated 48.8 percent of its population against COVID-19, overtaking the US rate for the first time after a delayed start caused by procurement troubles and distribution bottlenecks.

In the US, where vaccinations are plateauing in some regions, 48.5 percent of the population is fully inoculated.

Of those old enough to get the vaccine in Canada, 55 percent have now received two doses, according to calculations by CTV News based on provincial and federal government data. Health authorities have approved the Pfizer Inc. shot for children 12 years and older.

Rapid progress in the vaccine campaign – Canada had fully vaccinated only 3 percent of its population as of the middle of May — is paving the way for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to relax travel restrictions on the eve of a likely election campaign.

Italy

Italy reported just three coronavirus-related deaths on Sunday against 13 the day before, the lowest toll since last August, however, the daily tally of new infections edged up to 3,127 from 3,121.

Sundays normally see a fall in cases because only limited testing is done at weekends, so although the rise in infections was minimal it still represented a sixth consecutive daily increase, underscoring concerns of a fresh wave of contagion.

Health experts believe the surge was fuelled by celebrations during the recent European soccer championships, which Italy won and which triggered street parties and a total breakdown in social distancing in many cities and towns.

The head of Italy's health institute, Franco Locatelli, said the average age of those infected was 28. "The gatherings and crowds have helped the spread of the virus," he told La Republica newspaper on Sunday.

Patients in hospital with COVID-19, not including those in intensive care, stood at 1,136 on Sunday, up from 1,111 a day earlier, the health ministry said.

There were three new admissions to intensive care units against nine on Saturday, while the total number of intensive care patients fell to 156 from a previous 162.

Some Italian regions and holiday destinations including the islands of Sardinia and Sicily and the Adriatic region of Abruzzo are introducing COVID-19 tests at airports for foreign arrivals. Sardinian President Christian Solinas announced Saturday that the region will join Sicily, which has already introduced checks for arrivals from Malta, Spain and Portugal.

People react on the dance floor at The Piano Works in Farringdon, in London, on July 19, 2021, shortly after the COVID-19 restrictions in England were lifted. (ALBERTO PEZZALI / AP)

UK

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan to get the UK back to normal is in disarray, with COVID-19 cases rising the most in the world and a public outcry over the prime minister’s perceived attempt to dodge isolation rules.

Pandemic restrictions are ending in England on Monday — a day what UK media have called “Freedom Day” —  and a moment that was meant to herald the full reopening of an economy battered by its deepest recession in 300 years.

The move comes, though, with the UK adding more than 54,000 new cases Saturday, and over 47,600 on Sunday, more than Indonesia, the pandemic’s current epicenter, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

According to the latest official data, the UK on Sunday reported 48,161 new cases and 25 more deaths, taking the total to 5,433,939 confirmed cases and 128,708 fatalities.

Johnson is fighting to regain his credibility after a furious backlash forced him and Finance Minister Rishi Sunak to drop their initial intention to not isolate. They held meetings with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, who Saturday announced he had tested positive for COVID-19.

Johnson and Sunak had both been contacted by the National Health Service (NHS) and told to stay home but announced Sunday morning that they would take part in a trial program allowing them to take regular tests instead, while continuing to go to work and carry out essential government business.

The decision sparked an immediate storm on social media and within three hours the pair had reversed course. 

Meanwhile, the inconvenience and fresh economic damage created by the NHS’s test and trace system, designed to slow the virus’ spread, has infuriated businesses. The system has created acute worker shortages across industries ranging from the healthcare system, retail stories to car factories, and there have been reports the app is over-zealous and can even identify neighbors as contacts through house walls.

On Monday, the government said fully-vaccinated frontline health and social care workers in England may be able to carry on working even if they are exposed to someone with COVID-19.

The new rules will apply to staff whose absence would cause a significant risk of harm. Those considered eligible will need to test negative for the virus, and take daily tests throughout the period they would have been required to isolate for.

ALSO READ: South Africa starts weekend vaccinations in Gauteng

US

US hospital admissions for COVID-19 rose 33.7 percent in the week ending July 16, compared with the previous seven days, according to the latest data released by the Department of Health and Human Services. 

The region with the largest increase is the eight states comprising the agency’s southeastern district, which includes Florida, now reporting the most new cases in the nation. New admissions in that area rose 52.8 percent in that same period, the data show.

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy stood by federal guidance that those fully vaccinated against COVID-19 no longer needed to wear masks, while blaming social media companies for fueling vaccine misinformation.

Murthy told CNN's "State of the Union" that allowing vaccinated individuals to forgo masks also gives communities the flexibility to revert to mask mandates based on new infections and vaccination rates, as Los Angeles has done.

Murthy said that social media companies have fueled false narratives about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, echoing President Joe Biden's comments that social media companies were "killing people".

Facebook defended itself against Biden's assertion in a post on Saturday, saying that it promoted authoritative information about vaccines and acted aggressively against health misinformation on its platforms.

Mexico

Mexico's health ministry on Sunday reported 4,438 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country and 91 more fatalities, bringing the total to 2,659,137 infections and 236,331 deaths.

Nigeria

Nigeria has put six states on red alert after seeing a "worrisome" rise in COVID-19 infections, a government official said, urging people to curb gatherings and hold prayers outside mosques during this week's Muslim festival Eid-el-Kabir.

The head of the presidential steering committee on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, said Lagos, Oyo, Rivers, Kaduna, Kano, Plateau and the Federal Capital Territory had been placed on red alert as part of preventive measures against the pandemic.

A red alert allows authorities in the states to restrict celebrations and gatherings to a minimum.

Mustapha said there was potential for wider spread of the virus during the Eid-el-Kabir gatherings and said Friday prayers should be held outside local mosques. He also suspended Durbar, an annual Muslim festival in northern Nigeria, which is marked by colorful horse riding events watched by large gatherings.

Nigeria recorded 169,329 cases and 2,126 deaths so far.

READ MORE: African countries to receive US-donated virus vaccines 'in days'

Zambia

A senior Zambian government official said on Sunday that the country may experience a fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic this year.

Kennedy Malama, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Health in charge of Technical Services, said there was a possibility of the country seeing a fourth wave at the end of this year into early 2022.

Zambia has witnessed three successive waves, with the current third wave being more ferocious so far, resulting in a spike in cases and deaths.

In the past 24 hours, the country reported 977 new cases and 32 additional deaths, taking the tally to 185,649 and the toll to 3,084.

People register to get vaccinated at a mobile pop-up vaccination station at Hermannplatz square in Berlin's Neukoelln district, Germany, on July 16, 2021. (STEFANIE LOOS / AFP)

Germany

Germany's Economy Minister Peter Altmaier ruled out further lockdowns and wants to allow major events exclusively for the vaccinated and those who have recovered from COVID-19.

“We must and will prevent a new lockdown,” Altmaier told the Bild an Sonntag newspaper. “It would be devastating for many shops and restaurants that have been closed for months.”

Altmaier also said he wants to accelerate vaccinations by deploying mobile vaccination teams spread throughout German cities.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased  by 546 to 3,745,227, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Monday. The reported death toll rose by one to 91,363, the tally showed.

Bolivia

Bolivia registered a 15 percent decrease in COVID-19 infections last week, the fifth consecutive week of decline amid the intensification of the national vaccination campaign, the Ministry of Health and Sports reported on Sunday.

"The last epidemiological week … we have had a reduction of 47 percent of cases in La Paz. In other departments, they are increasing slightly and at this moment in the country, we have a decrease of 15 percent," Health Minister Jeyson Auza said.

The Vaccination United for Health and Life Day began in La Paz on Saturday with the opening of 12 immunization centers. Bolivia, with a population of more than 11 million, had administered 3,491,771 doses of vaccine as of Saturday.

The country has registered 461,714 cases of COVID-19 and 17,443 deaths, according to the latest official figures.

Uruguay

Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou said on Sunday that the country was aiming to reopen its borders to foreigners who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of the year.

"One of the hardest hit sectors that we have to help to reactivate is tourism. If what we have been experiencing and the new variants allow for it, we plan to open the border in (the southern hemisphere) spring for some people … who are immunized," he said.

The Ministry of Public Health confirmed on Saturday the detection of the first cases of the Delta variant, and two cases of the Alpha and Beta variants of concern.

According to the authorities, more than 69 percent of the population has received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and more than 57 percent have been fully vaccinated.

To date, Uruguay has registered 378,733 cases of COVID-19 and 5,879 deaths.  

People transport food during a lockdown in Kigali, capital of Rwanda, July 17, 2021. (CYRIL NDEGEYA / XINHUA)

Rwanda

A Rwandan health official on Sunday attributed the 1,997 COVID-19 cases reported on Saturday, double of the previous single-day record of 964 in June, to the ongoing mass testing in the capital city Kigali.

Of the new cases, 1,391 were posted in Kigali, according to the ministry's daily update released early Sunday. In total, the country's cumulative total stood at 54,549 cases with 38,186 recoveries and 638 deaths.

"The tests conducted were ten times the usual numbers we do. So if you test more you are likely to have more cases," Director General of Rwanda Biomedical Center Sabin Nsanzimana told Xinhua in a telephone interview.

He also said a high number of positive cases are expected on Sunday, the second day of the mass testing.

The two-day mass testing targets at least 15 percent of adult residents in each cell of Kigali, or about 106,000 residents, and is expected to be extended next week to other eight districts, where 5 percent of adults will be tested, Nsanzimana said.

The objective is to better understand the epidemiological situation and help people who have never been tested to do so, he said.

ALSO READ: WHO: COVID-19 deaths surged 43% week-on-week in Africa

Chile

Chile on Sunday registered 1,419 cases and 111 deaths of COVID-19, bringing the total to 1,599,879 infections and 34,514 deaths.

According to official data, the positivity rate for the disease fell to 2.59 percent at the national level for the last 24 hours, the lowest since the onset of the pandemic.

The occupancy rate of intensive care unit beds has also fallen to 88 percent following the near collapse of the hospital system due to a wave of infections that began in March.

Cuba

Cuba, which kept coronavirus infections low last year, now has the highest rate of contagion per capita in Latin America. That has strained its healthcare sector and helped stoke rare protests that have roiled the Communist-run island.

The Caribbean nation of 11 million people reported nearly 4,000 confirmed cases per million residents over the last week, nine times more than the world average and more than any other country in the Americas for its size.

On Sunday, health authorities reported 6,279 new COVID-19 cases and 62 more deaths, taking the tally to 281,887 and the toll to 1,905.

The outbreak, fueled by the arrival of the more contagious Delta variant, has pushed hospitals at the virus epicenter in the province of Matanzas to the brink. State media has shown rare images of patients in beds in corridors and doctors complaining of a lack of oxygen, ventilators and medicines.

"There is a high incidence throughout Cuba, except in the special municipality of Isla de la Juventud," said Francisco Duran, the ministry's national director of hygiene and epidemiology, who pointed to a higher rate of infection among young people, with 13,483 children and adolescents diagnosed in the last two weeks.

Cuba's cumulative cases per capita are still below the global average, while deaths per capita, though rising, are still just a third of the global average, a fact Cuba credits to its experimental treatments and its free, universal healthcare.

However, with cases now rising fast, a deepening of Cuba's economic crisis has prevented officials from imposing stricter lockdowns with many Cubans having to stand in lines for hours to get scarce goods.

About 18 percent of the island's population has received the three necessary doses of the nationally produced vaccines Abdala and Soberana, while a total of 8.1 million total doses have been administered.

Morocco

Morocco reported on Sunday 2,144 new COVID-19 cases, taking the caseload in the North African country to 557,632.

The total number of recoveries from COVID-19 increased by 848 to 531,649 while the death toll rose by 16 to 9,450.

A total of 11,219,675 people have received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine whiel 9,620,665 havereceived both shots.

Greece

There was no music and no dancing on Greece's famed party island Mykonos on Sunday as new rules to contain the spread of COVID-19 pushed tourists to cancel holidays and left business owners fuming.

Mykonos is one of its most popular destinations, attracting more than a million visitors each summer, among them Hollywood stars, models and world-famous athletes.

Authorities said they were forced to impose a week-long nighttime curfew and ban on music on Saturday after a "worrying" local outbreak. 

Under the rules, music is banned in restaurants, cafes and clubs and only those going to and from work or to the hospital are allowed to move around between 1 am to 6 am.

Russia

Russia reported 24,633 new COVID-19 cases on Monday, including 4,007 in Moscow, taking the official national tally since the pandemic began to 5,982,766.

The government coronavirus task force said 719 people had died of coronavirus-linked causes in the past 24 hours, pushing the death toll to 149,138.