UK to free vaccinated travelers from isolation on return

In this file photo taken on June 03, 2021 passengers push their luggage on arrival in Terminal 5 at Heathrow airport in London. (DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)

GENEVA / ZURICH / TUNIS / MEXICO CITY / BRASILIA / MADRID / LONDON / SANTIAGO / HAVANA / BUENOS AIRES / BANGUI / YAOUNDE / KHARTOUM / WASHINGTON / LILONGWE / RABAT / SOFIA / BERLIN / LISBON / TBILISI / ADDIS ABABA / ATHENS / HARARE / JOHANNESBURG / PARIS / NAIROBI – British travelers who have received a full dosage of coronavirus vaccine will no longer need to isolate when they return home from moderate-risk countries, starting this month.

Instead of quaranting at home for 10 days, passengers returning to England from destinations on the government’s “amber list” will be told to take a COVID-19 test two days after arrival, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said Thursday in a statement to the UK Parliament. The new rules take effect on July 19.

Those under 18 who are not currently vaccinated will also be exempted from the restrictions on movement once they’ve returned, making it easier for British families to go on holiday, Shapps said.

“Many people have not been able to travel for the last year and a half,” said Shapps. The move is aimed at “reuniting families who have been apart through this pandemic, helping businesses to trade and grow, and supporting aviation, a sector which hundreds of thousands of jobs rely on.”

For now, the measures apply only to returning UK residents. The government plans to extend the approach to visitors from major markets including the US and European Union later this summer, he said.

Under existing rules on foreign travel, visitors to more than 100 destinations, including the vital US market and some of the most popular European destinations, are required to isolate for 10 days on their return to the UK.

Many of these destinations are on the government’s “amber list,” rated as medium risk for coronavirus. Travelers to these places who have had their second coronavirus shot more than 14 days earlier will be able to avoid isolation.

The changes don’t apply to returnees from high-risk red listed countries. The government currently advises Britons not to travel to both categories of destination, but this guidance will be removed for amber-list locations, Shapps said.

Britain on Wednesday reported 32,548 cases of COVID-19, the first time the figure has surpassed 30,000 since January as the government looks set to ease almost all coronavirus measures later this month. The new cases took the tally to 4,990,916.

An additional 33 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were also registered, taking the toll to 128,301, according to official data.

COVID-19 infections in England have quadrupled in a month since early June, a large prevalence study showed on Thursday. According to the research, led by Imperial College London, cases were estimated to be doubling every six days as a new wave fuelled by the Delta variant picks up pace. 

The study, one of Britain's largest with 47,000 people returning tests from June 24 to July 5, found national prevalence was 0.59 percent, or 1 in 170 people, compared with 0.15 percent in the last round between late May and early June.

Argentina

Argentina registered 457 more deaths from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, raising the death toll from the pandemic to 97,439, the health ministry said Wednesday.

In the same period, tests detected 19,423 new infections, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 4,593,763, the ministry said.

Hospital occupancy nationwide is 64.6 percent, while the metropolitan area of the capital Buenos Aires registered 62.1 percent.

According to the Public Vaccination Monitor, 23,608,836 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered so far.

Brazil

Brazil registered 54,022 new COVID-19 cases and 1,648 additional deaths in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said on Wednesday.

This brings the total in Brazil to 18,909,037 cases and 528,540 deaths.

Brazilian health regulator Anvisa on Wednesday gave the go-ahead for the Butanvac COVID-19 vaccine developed by Sao Paulo's Butantan Institute biomedical center to be used on volunteers in clinical trials.

Anvisa in a statement said the vaccine will be applied in two doses, 28 days apart. Phase I of Butanvac's clinical trial will involve 400 volunteers, and the first two phases are expected to involve 6,000 volunteers in total.

Bulgaria

The authorities in Bulgaria have detected 43 new COVID-19 Delta variant cases, bringing the total number of new infections in the country to 51, the health ministry said on Wednesday.

Three people infected with the Delta variant have died, the ministry said.

Meanwhile, according to the country's COVID-19 information portal, the number of active cases and hospitalizations fell to 8,196 and 961, respectively, the lowest figures since Oct 13 and Oct 6.

Cameroon

Cameroon on Wednesday began a sensitization campaign to promote COVID-19 vaccination, targeting millions of its citizens in its biggest push yet against COVID-19 pandemic.

For four days, more than 500 vaccination teams will carry out sensitization and vaccinations door-to-door and in public places including churches and markets, authorities said.

The Central African nation launched an immunization campaign in April after receiving its first batch of vaccines donated by China. The first phase targeted some 800,000 persons, but only about 100,000 persons have taken the jab since then, said Minister of Public Health Malachie Manaouda.

Cameroon expects to vaccinate 20 percent of its about 25 million population before the Africa Cup of Nations football competition which the country will host in January next year, according to officials.

Chile

Sinovac Biotech Ltd.’s CoronaVac vaccine was 66 percent effective at stopping COVID-19 in a study involving more than 10 million people in Chile.

The study, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, also found the two-shot regimen was 88 percent effective at preventing hospitalization and 86 percent effective at preventing death. 

The results suggest the inactivated inoculation provides an effective shield against Covid-19, including severe disease, consistent with the results of mid-stage trials, the authors said.

Chile reported less than 2,000 COVID-19 cases for the second consecutive day, continuing a gradual decline in infections prior to a lifting of a lockdown, the Ministry of Health said on Wednesday.

In a statement, Health Minister Enrique Paris said that in the last 24 hours, 1,892 COVID-19 infections were reported, bringing the total caseload to 1,576,336.

There were also 40 more deaths registered in the last 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 33,328, according to the ministry.

Cuba

Cuba saw a new record for daily COVID-19 infections on Wednesday with 3,664 new cases, bringing the total caseload to 214,577/

The country also reported 18 more deaths, taking the toll to 1,405.

Of the new cases, 3,622 were spread by community transmission, said Francisco Duran, the national director of hygiene and epidemiology at the Ministry of Public Health.

The province of Matanzas recorded 806 new infections in the last day, with the highest incidence rate on the island at 1,316 per 100,000 inhabitants.

In light of the situation, the government decided to send 300 doctors and nurses from other areas to Matanzas, as well as 200 recently graduated doctors to reinforce the health system in the province.

Central African Republic

The government of the Central African Republic (CAR) on Tuesday received a batch of COVID-19 vaccines donated by China.

CAR President Faustin-Archange Touadera and Prime Minister Henri-Marie Dondra welcomed the Chinese vaccine donation at Bangui airport, accompanied by Chinese ambassador to the CAR Chen Dong.

According to WHO statistics, the African nation has so far reported 7,142 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 98 deaths. 

READ MORE: UN: COVID-19 rolled back progress against global poverty

COVAX

The global vaccine distribution scheme COVAX aims to deliver 520 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to Africa this year, its director said on Thursday.

Aurelia Nguyen, managing director of COVAX, told a news conference organised by the World Health Organization’s Africa region that the scheme was not happy with progress supplying doses so far, but that deliveries should ramp up from September.

The facility has experienced delays partly as a result of Indian export restrictions that have prevented COVAX from obtaining doses from the Serum Institute of India, one of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturers, which is making shots of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca.

Nguyen said so far COVAX had delivered around 25 million doses to 44 African countries.

By the end of the first quarter of 2022, COVAX now aims to supply nearly 850 million vaccine doses to the continent, which has some of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates worldwide.

In March, the CEO of vaccine alliance Gavi, one of the organizations co-leading COVAX, had said the aim was to supply Africa with 720 million doses in 2021.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia registered 85 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking the nationwide tally to 276,683 as of Wednesday evening, the Ministry of Health said.

The ministry said three more deaths and 93 new recoveries were also reported, bringing the toll to 4,338 and the total number of recoveries to 261,749.

European Union

The European Union and Switzerland have agreed to recognize each others’ COVID-19 digital certificates from July 9 to allow travel for Swiss citizens within the EU, and between the EU and Switzerland, the European Commission said on Thursday.

The EU’s executive said certificates issued by Switzerland will be considered equivalent to the EU COVID certificate, which was launched on July 1 to help citizens travel more freely across the 27-nation bloc and open up summer tourism.

At the same time, Switzerland will accept the EU Digital COVID Certificate for travel to Switzerland, the Commission said in a statement.

The EU certificate, which can be on a smartphone or printed out, takes the form of a QR-code that indicates if a traveller has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, has received a recent negative test result or has immunity due to recent recovery from a COVID-19 infection.

France

French Junior European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune advised French people on Thursday to avoid Spain and Portugal for their summer holidays, due to risks tied to the highly contagious COVID-19 Delta variant.

"To those who have not yet booked their holidays, I say avoid Spain and Portugal as destinations. It is a prudent advice, a recommendation," Beaune told France 2 TV.

The ministry later specified that "travel to Spain and Portugal and anywhere else in Europe remains authorized…We are sending a message of caution on Portugal and Catalonia which are strongly impacted by the Delta variant."

On Wednesday, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said that the Delta variant represented around 40 percent of new COVID-19 infections in France and could ruin the summer if a fourth wave of infections was allowed to build.

The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units in France fell below 1,000 for the first time since end September 2020, after rising to over 6,000 in April, French health ministry data showed on Wednesday.

The ministry reported 997 people in ICU with the virus, down by 35 on Tuesday.

Global toll

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday said that it has recorded over four million COVID-19-related deaths globally, but the WHO chief said the overall toll was likely underestimated.

"Compounded by fast moving variants and shocking inequity in vaccination, far too many countries in every region of the world are seeing sharp spikes in cases and hospitalization," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a virtual press conference, adding that "this is leading to an acute shortage of oxygen and treatments, and driving a wave of deaths in parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America".

Tedros pointed out that "at this stage in the pandemic, the fact that millions of health and care workers have still not been vaccinated is abhorrent."

The tragic loss of 4 million people to this pandemic must drive our urgent efforts to bring it to an end for everyone, everywhere.

Antonio Guterres, UN secretary-general

“Vaccine equity is the greatest immediate moral test of our times,” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement marking the gloomy milestone. “It is also a practical necessity. Until everyone is vaccinated, everyone is under threat.”

“The tragic loss of 4 million people to this pandemic must drive our urgent efforts to bring it to an end for everyone, everywhere,” he said.

The world needs a global vaccine plan to at least double the production of vaccines and ensure equitable distribution, using COVAX as the platform; to coordinate implementation and financing; and to support countries' readiness and capacity to roll out immunization programs, while tackling the serious problem of vaccine hesitancy, he said.

"To realize this plan, I am calling for an Emergency Task Force that brings together all the countries with vaccine production capacities, the World Health Organization, the global vaccine alliance GAVI, and international financial institutions able to deal with the relevant pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers, and other key stakeholders," Guterres said.

Meanwhile, WHO emergencies head, Michael Ryan, urged countries to use extreme caution when lifting COVID-19 restrictions so as "not to lose the gains you've made".

Ryan's comments come as England, hosting Europe's soccer championships, prepares to end many COVID-19 restrictions on July 19, European countries ease travel curbs and Indian states relax their lockdowns, despite accelerating infections with the Delta variant worldwide.

"The idea that everyone is protected, and it's 'Kumbaya' and everything goes back to normal, I think right now is a very dangerous assumption anywhere in the world, and it's still a dangerous assumption in the European environment," Ryan told reporters during a meeting from Geneva.

ALSO READ: UK to track virus variants with genomic sequencing across world

Georgia

Georgia reported on Thursday 1,043 new COVID-19 cases, taking its tally to 373,728, according to the National Center for Disease Control and Public Health (NCDC).

The death toll rose by 20 to 5,145, data from the NCDC showed.

The total number of recoveries reached  357,090  as 841 new recoveries were reported in the past 24 hours, according to the NCDC.

Federal police officers check incoming passengers traveling from Portugal, at Frankfurt airport, Germany, June 29, 2021. (BORIS ROESSLER / DPA VIA AP)

Germany

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 970 to 3,733,519 while the death toll rose by 31 to 91,141, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Thursday. 

The RKI said Wednesday that the more infectious Delta variant first identified in India made up 59 percent of cases at the end of June.

Meanwhile, Germany will give all its remaining doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine to less developed countries in August, the government decided on Wednesday.

The cabinet decided that at least 500,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine would be given to the COVAX consortium, which aims to ensure poor countries get access to vaccines. Almost all vaccination has taken place in rich countries so far.

Around 80 percent of the donated vaccines will be given via COVAX, with another 20 percent given directly to countries in the Western Balkans and members of the EU's Eastern Partnership – Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine – and Namibia.

Greece

Greece will announce mandatory vaccinations for specific professional groups next week, the government said on Thursday after a recent spike in COVID-19 infections.

The country's bio-ethics committee last month recommended compulsory shots for health workers and staff at elderly care facilities only "as a last resort measure" with a specific time frame if efforts to encourage inoculation proved ineffective.

"The government…has got the relevant recommendation by the national bio-ethics committee regarding mandatory vaccinations for specific professional groups," government spokeswoman Aristotelia Peloni told a briefing on Thursday. Relevant decisions would be announced next week, she said.

There has been debate about whether mandatory vaccinations are ethical, though a poll released by Greek Skai television on Wednesday showed the majority of Greeks were in favour of the move for specific groups dealing with the public.

On Thursday authorities reimposed curbs on restaurants, bars and nightclubs, allowing seated customers only, out of concern about a recent resurgence in COVID-19 infections driven by the more contagious Delta variant. read more

About 38 percent of Greece's eligible population is fully vaccinated and the government has offered incentives to entice more people to get the shot, including cash and free mobile data for youth, aiming to bring the rate up to 70 percent by the autumn.

Latin America

Donations of vaccines against COVID-19 are the way to get doses to Latin American countries in need, a top official from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the WHO's regional arm, said on Wednesday.

Carissa Etienne said the COVAX vaccine sharing facility had faced serious supply-side problems last month, partly because of a lack of vaccines from India.

READ MORE: COVAX eyes 1.9 billion vaccine doses by end of the year

On the same day, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States was sending one million Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine doses to Bolivia and one million to Paraguay.

Luxembourg

Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel has left hospital after receiving treatment for COVID-19, the Luxembourg government said on Thursday.

The government added Bettel would resume official duties from July 9.

Bettel, 48, tested positive for COVID-19 shortly after a two-day European Union summit in Brussels at the end of June, where participants included French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and other European leaders.

Malawi

Malawi’s government on Wednesday announced the imposition of level 3 preventive measures against COVID-19 following soaring figures of new cases and deaths since June 1.

Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda said the country had recorded over 3,032 new COVID-19 cases and 62 deaths from June 1 to July 6. Admissions in the country's treatment units have also risen from 10 to 109 during the same period, the highest number recorded since the end of the second wave in February.

"Based on this increase, our data indicates that we are experiencing a resurgence of the COVID-19 in our country and this indicates that we are in the third wave of the pandemic," said Chiponda.

Restrictions under the level 3 measures include reducing the number of people in the hospitality and recreation business by 50 percent, and domestic travel will only be limited to those who need to travel for essential purposes.

International arrivals will require a valid negative PCR test result certificate as prescribed by the government.

"All visitors arriving from countries or territories, placed as high-risk by the government, will be subjected to 14 days institutional quarantine at their cost," said Chiponda.

A medical worker prepares a nasal swab sample for a COVID-19 test in Mexico City on July 7, 2021. (MARCO UGARTE / AP)

Mexico

Mexico reported 8,507 newly confirmed COVID-19 infections on Wednesday, as case numbers rose amid signs of a surging pandemic and a slow vaccination rollout in the country.

The daily jump in cases marks the highest level of infections since Feb 24, according to official data, and follows nearly 8,000 additional COVID-19 infections posted by the health ministry on Tuesday.

The ministry on Wednesday also confirmed 234 additional fatalities, bringing Mexico's total since last year to 2,558,369 infections and 234,192 deaths, according to the data.

Morocco

Morocco's COVID-19 tally rose to 537,253 on Wednesday as 1,279 new cases were registered during the past 24 hours.

The death toll rose by five to 9,341, the health ministry said in a statement, adding that 290 people were in intensive care units.

The total number of recoveries increased to 521,671 after 708 new ones were added, the ministry said.

So far, 10,266,670 people have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine while 9,204,753 have received both doses.

Portugal

Portugal reported more than 3,000 daily coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours for the first time since February, data showed on Wednesday, as authorities pondered further measures to bring under control a worrying surge in infections.

Wednesday's 3,285 new cases, a nearly 40 percent jump from the same day last week, brought the total number of infections in Portugal, a country of just over 10,000 million, to 896,026 since the pandemic started.

Nearly 90 percent of cases in Portugal are of the Delta variant.

Government ministers will meet on Thursday to decide on the next steps and might announce further measures.

Russia

The European Union (EU) has proposed to Russia that they discuss the potential joint recognition of their COVID-19 vaccination certificates, the TASS news agency cited the bloc's ambassador to Moscow as saying on Thursday.

Russia has approved four vaccines, none of which have been approved by the EU. Moscow has not approved any foreign vaccines for use.

EU ambassador Markus Ederer said the EU has digital certificates allowing its citizens to travel freely within the bloc, as well as a law that envisages the possibility of recognizing other similar certificates.

"In that spirit, we have approached the Russian Ministry of Health and proposed discussing whether Russia would be interested in such a process," he was quoted as saying.

The developer of CoviVac, one of Russia's vaccines against COVID-19, said on Wednesday it is effective against the highly infectious Delta variant, TASS reported.

Also, Moscow's mayor said the COVID-19 situation was gradually stabilizing after a surge in infections blamed on the more contagious Delta variant, but the new daily case tally remained high nationwide on Thursday.

The coronavirus task force reported 24,818 new cases in the last 24 hours, including 6,040 in the capital. Russia also reported 734 coronavirus-related deaths, close to a record daily high.

Officials have been scrambling to encourage or compel Russians to get vaccinated since infections began rising steeply last month. Demand for COVID-19 vaccine had been tepid, but authorities say it has now picked up significantly.

The mayor of Moscow, Russia's worst-hit region throughout the pandemic, told residents that hospital admissions for COVID-19 patients were still very high, though down slightly from a peak last week.

Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said the city of more than 12.5 million was now vaccinating around 100,000 people every day, giving authorities room not to impose new restrictions.

South Africa

Excess deaths, seen as a more precise way of measuring total fatalities from the coronavirus, rose to their highest level since January in South Africa as the Delta variant spread to all of the country’s nine provinces.

In the week ended June 27, the country recorded 5,228 deaths compared with 1,729 official deaths from the virus, the South African Medical Research Council said in a report Wednesday. The number of deaths, which is measured against a historical average, was the highest since the week ending Jan 24 and compared with 4,145 the week earlier.

The surge in deaths is being driven by a severe third wave of infections in Gauteng, the industrial hub that includes Johannesburg and Pretoria. Excess deaths in Gauteng rose to a second consecutive weekly pandemic-era record with the province where one in four South Africans live recording 3,224 more deaths than would normally be expected.

Still, the seven-day average shows that infections may have peaked in the province. The proportion of national daily infections from Gauteng fell below 50 percent on Wednesday after climbing to as high as 69 percent in recent weeks. That indicates that infections are now rising in other regions.

With 63,039 confirmed COVID-19 deaths, South Africa is the worst-hit nation on the continent. Still, national excess deaths over the course of the pandemic exceed 182,000, indicating a much higher death toll from the virus.

While the main part of South Africa’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout started only in May the number of people vaccinated daily has climbed steadily, reaching over 180,000 on Wednesday. So far, more than 3.8 million doses have been administered.

Spain

Spain's health minister warned on Wednesday that young people can develop severe cases of COVID-19 and asked for their cooperation in taming an infection rate that has more than doubled in a week as the Delta variant tears through unvaccinated younger adults.

"One in every 100 cases in 20 to 24-year-olds is admitted to hospital," Carolina Darias said at a news conference on Wednesday, adding that the majority of recent outbreaks were linked to end-of-term student parties.

The national infection rate as measured over the past 14 days soared to 252 cases per 100,000 people on Wednesday from 117.2 a week ago, ministry data showed, putting the country back above the 250-case extreme risk threshold.

Among 20 to 29-year-olds that figure climbed to 814 cases per 100,000, jumping by nearly 100 since Tuesday.

Scrambling to bring the contagion under control, the northeastern region of Catalonia will shut down nightclubs from Friday just weeks after opening them.

A worker prepares to unload medical supplies and equipment from an Egyptian plane at an airport in Khartoum, Sudan, July 7, 2021. (MOHAMED KHIDIR / XINHUA)

Sudan

Four planes from Egypt arrived in Sudan's capital of Khartoum on Wednesday carrying 39 tons of medical supplies and equipment.

The supplies were received by Acting Director General of Global Health Directorate at Sudan's Federal Ministry of Health Arwa Omer and Egyptian Ambassador to Sudan Hossam Eissa at Khartoum International Airport

"This grant … represents a great support for hospitals that suffer from a shortage of these medicines," Omer said.

Eissa said the medical support included oxygen devices as well as all supplies such as cotton, gauze, serums and disinfectants.

The medical supplies also included antibiotics and other medicines as part of the cooperation between the health ministries in the two countries.

Tunisia

Tunisia’s health care system is collapsing due to the coronavirus, with intensive care departments full and doctors overburdened by a rapid outbreak of cases and deaths, the health ministry said on Thursday.

Tunisia recorded near 10,000 new coronavirus cases and 134 deaths on Wednesday, a daily record since the start of the pandemic, as concerns grow that the country will not be able to control the pandemic.

“We are in a catastrophic situation … the health system collapsed, we can only find a bed in hospitals with great difficulty,” ministry spokesperson Nisaf Ben Alaya said.

“We are struggling to provide oxygen … doctors are suffering from unprecedented fatigue,” she said, adding “the boat is sinking” and calling on all Tunisians to unite in efforts to combat the pandemic.

After successfully containing the virus in the first wave last year, Tunisia is grappling with a rise in infections. It imposed a lockdown in some cities since last week, but rejected a full national lockdown due to the economic crisis.

The total number of cases has climbed to around 465,000 and more than 15,700 deaths. 

Uganda

Uganda aims to inoculate 22 million people, about half of its population, to enable the economy to fully re-open, and is setting aside 560 billion shillings (US$157.9 million) to procure COVID-19 vaccines, according to Finance Minister Matia Kasaija.

“It’s only then that we will be able to fully re-open for tourism, entertainment, arts and recreation, and education to resume normal operation,” he said in an emailed statement.

The East African government has finalized legal requirements for the purchase of 2 million Johnson and Johnson vaccines through the Africa Export-Import Bank and the African Union, Health Minister Ruth Aceng said earlier this month. It’s also at different stages for securing doses from Cuba, Russia, China and the UK, she said.

So far, the country has received only 1.14 million doses through the COVAX facility and the Indian government. It is also due to receive a batch of 285,600 doses under Covax in a few weeks, another of 688,800 in August and a donation of 300,000 doses from Sinovac later this month.

Uganda has administered over 1 million doses and registered about 85,000 cases since March last year.

US

The United States will ship 500,000 doses of Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine to Uruguay on Thursday, the White House said, amid a wider distribution to Latin American nations this week.

The shipments are part of President Joe Biden’s commitment to share 80 million vaccines from the U.S. domestic supply with countries around the world.

“Today we ship 500,000 doses of Pfizer to Uruguay,” White House spokesman Kevin Munoz said in a Twitter post.

On Wednesday, the White House said the United States was sending 1 million Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine doses to Bolivia and 1 million to Paraguay.

According to data modeling done by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Delta variant is already the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the United States.

According to the health agency's estimates the Delta variant became dominant in the country over the two weeks ended July 3, with 51.7 percent cases linked to the variant that was first identified in India.

The proportion of cases linked to the Alpha variant which was first identified in Britain and had been dominant in the United States so far, fell to 28.7 percent.

The Biden administration will not immediately lift any international travel restrictions, even as it faces growing pressure from US business groups and lawmakers, a White House official told Reuters on Wednesday.

"We have made tremendous progress domestically in our vaccination efforts, as have many of these other countries, but we want to ensure that we move deliberately and are in a position to sustainably reopen international travel when it is safe to do so," the official said.

WHO

The delivery of COVID-19 vaccine to Africa through COVAX facility, donations and direct purchases from manufacturers has accelerated, hence injecting vitality in the continent's fight against the pandemic, a World Health Organization (WHO) official said Thursday.

Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, said that significant progress in vaccine deliveries after a prolonged crunch will boost efforts to suppress a third wave sweeping across the continent.

"With much larger COVID-19 vaccine deliveries expected to arrive in July and August, African countries must use this time to prepare to rapidly expand the roll-out," Moeti said in a statement, stressing that African governments and partners should expand vaccination sites, improve cold chain capabilities and embark on community-based awareness campaigns to boost uptake of COVID-19 jabs.

According to Moeti, more than 1.6 million vaccine doses were delivered to Africa in the last fortnight through the COVAX facility while more than 20 million doses from Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer-BioNTech are expected to arrive soon.

She said that 49 countries have been notified of the allocations they are expected to receive, adding that significant donations from some European countries will be delivered to the continent in the coming weeks.

So far, 66 million doses have been delivered to Africa, including 40 million secured through bilateral deals, 25 million through COVAX and 800,000 supplied by the African Union African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team. And 16 million people, or less than 2 percent of Africa's population, are fully vaccinated amid plans to supply 520 million doses to the continent by the end of 2021.

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe on Wednesday recorded 2,264 new COVID-19 infections, the highest figure since the onset of the pandemic last March, the health ministry said Thursday morning in a statement.

This brings the total number of confirmed cases to 60,227.

A total of 34 deaths were recorded on the same day, bringing the number of deaths to 1,973.

In the wake of an alarming spike in virus cases amid the third wave of the pandemic, Zimbabwe is scaling up its vaccination program to ensure the targeted herd immunity of 10 million people is achieved by the end of this year.

A total of 819,058 people have so far been vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the health ministry.