WHO: Funding, vaccines sought from G20 nations for COVAX

In this May 8, 2021 photo, workers load boxes of Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines, part of the the COVAX program, which aims to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccinations, into a truck after they arrived by plane at the Ivato International Airport in Antananarivo, Madagascar. (MAMYRAEL / AFP)

MOSCOW / GENEVA / MINSK / ADDIS ABABA / LUSAKA / LONDON / KAMPALA / HAVANA / RABAT / SANTIAGO / TIRANA / RIO DE JANEIRO / KYIV / WINDHOEK – A senior World Health Organization (WHO) official said on Monday that talks were being held with G20 countries, including India, regarding financial and COVID-19 vaccine donations to the COVAX dose-sharing facility.

Bruce Aylward, senior adviser to the WHO director-general and the agency’s coordinator of the ACT-Accelerator, also told reporters WHO wanted the United States, European Union member states, Britain, Canada and Japan to contribute doses.

Aylward said that a proposal submitted last Friday by the EU to the World Trade Organization to widen COVID-19 vaccine access did not go far enough and said a waiver of patent rights “would add value”.

Moderna

Drugmaker Moderna Inc said on Monday it has submitted applications to the European and Canadian health regulators seeking authorization for the expanded use of its COVID-19 vaccine in adolescents.

The company said it plans to file for an emergency use authorization with the US FDA and other regulatory agencies around the world for the vaccine's use in adolescents aged 12 to 17.

Moderna's vaccine is already being used in the United States, the European Union and Canada for people over 18 years of age and vaccinating children has been considered important for reaching herd immunity against the coronavirus.

Children with COVID-19 mostly develop only mild symptoms or no symptoms, but remain at risk of becoming seriously ill, and can spread the virus.

Vaccinating children has been thought to be crucial to help countries fully reopen schools and return to some semblance of normalcy.

The EU last month cleared Pfizer and German partner BioNTech SE's COVID-19 vaccine for use in children as young as 12.

EMA

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) on Monday highlighted guidance for doctors which calls for them to avoid heparin when treating rare blood clots and low platelet counts in patients who received AstraZeneca's or Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccines.

Europe's drugs regulator, in a statement seeking to boost awareness of proper treatment, focused on guidance from the International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis (ISTH), which has concluded "management should be initiated with non-heparin anticoagulation upon suspicion" of vaccine-linked clotting.

"For the management of suspected (thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome), especially if no local guideline is available, the taskforce recommends that healthcare professionals consider the ISTH interim guidance," the EMA said in its statement.

An illustration picture shows vials with COVID-19 Vaccine stickers attached and syringes, with the logo of the University of Oxford and its partner British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, on Nov 17, 2020. (JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)

European Union

European Union Commissioner Thierry Breton called for reciprocity from the US in allowing vaccinated visitors into the country without having to self-isolate.

American tourists will be able to come to the EU this summer after they have been fully vaccinated, he said Monday in an interview on RTL radio. “We want reciprocity because there is still a requirement for quarantine in the US,” he said, adding that he is scheduled to hold talks with his US counterparts later Monday on the subject of travel.

Russia

Russia’s single-dose Sputnik Light vaccine against COVID-19 has been approved for use in the Republic of the Congo, Russia’s RDIF sovereign wealth fund, which markets the vaccine abroad, said on Monday.

Russia reported 9,429 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, taking the national infection tally to 5,135,866 since the pandemic began.

The government coronavirus task force said that 330 people had died, pushing the national death toll to 124,117. The federal statistics agency has kept a separate toll and has said that Russia recorded around 270,000 deaths related to COVID-19 between April 2020 and April 2021. 

Global tally

Fresh COVID-19 cases for the week ended June 6 were the lowest since mid-March, at 3 million, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Weekly cases worldwide have been declining for six weeks as the outbreak in India is waning and global vaccination efforts ramp up.

Coronavirus cases worldwide surpassed 173.32 million while the global death toll topped 3.72 million, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The US reported the lowest number of daily cases – 5,455 – since March 2020, when the coronavirus began its rapid spread across the country.

The global death toll is also easing, falling from a peak of over 92,000 a week at the end of April to less than 80,000 in the last week of May. A drastic revision of Peru’s fatalities – the country more than doubled its official COVID-19 death count – skews comparisons for the latest week.

G7

One hundred former presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers have urged the Group of Seven (G7) rich nations to pay for global coronavirus vaccinations to help stop the virus mutating and returning as a worldwide threat.

The leaders made their appeal ahead of a G7 summit in England which begins on Friday, when US President Joe Biden will meet the leaders of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan.

In their letter to the G7, the former world leaders said global cooperation had failed in 2020, but that 2021 could usher in a new era.

Among the signatories were ex-British premiers Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, former UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon and 15 former African leaders.

They said the G7 and other leaders invited to the summit should guarantee to pay what would amount to about US$30 billion a year over two years towards fighting the pandemic worldwide.

Egypt

Egypt received 500,000 doses of China's Sinovac coronavirus vaccine on monday, airport sources said, as the health ministry said local production of the Chinese vaccine will start in mid-June.

Egypt received raw materials for the production of two million Sinovac doses in May, after signing an agreement to produce the vaccine locally and distribute it in Egypt and other African countries.

The first vials are due to be produced on June 15 and up to six weeks will be needed for checks before they are put to use in vaccination centres, Health Minister Hala Zayed told the private MBC Masr TV channel late on Sunday.

Egypt expects raw materials for a further 4.2 million Sinovac doses this month, Zayed said, and aims to produce 40 million doses this year.

Morocco

Morocco will relax border restrictions and allow international passengers to enter the country starting from June 15 ahead of the tourism season, the Moroccan Foreign Ministry said on Sunday.

Passengers from countries that have the virus and its variants under control will only need to submit a vaccination certificate against COVID-19 or a negative PCR test, the ministry said in a statement.

Nationals from countries experiencing the surging spread of COVID-19 variants or lacking reliable statistics will have to obtain a special permit and a negative test. They will also need to undergo a 10-day quarantine upon arrival.

Morocco's COVID-19 tally rose to 521,426 on Sunday as 231 new cases were registered during the past 24 hours.

Uganda

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni on Sunday re-imposed a strict lockdown that included the closure of schools and the suspension of inter-district travel to help beat back a surge in COVID-19 cases in the East African country.

The new measures, which will be effective from Monday morning, include the closure of all educational institutions, some bans on travel, the shutdown of weekly open markets, and the suspension of church services.

Most of the new restrictions, Museveni said, would be implemented for 42 days. An assessment of their impact will then help the government decide whether to ease or prolong them, he added.

Uganda implemented one of Africa's tightest lockdowns at the beginning of the pandemic more than a year ago, but it was gradually lifted as cases slowed to a trickle.

Last month however infections started to spike and new cases, particularly among younger people, have surged, fuelling fears that the country could slip into an out-of-control second wave.

Museveni said in a televised address on Sunday night that a second wave gripping the country was "diffuse and sustained".

Brazil

Brazil has had 39,637 new cases of the novel coronavirus reported in the past 24 hours, and 873 deaths from COVID-19, the health ministry said on Sunday.

The numbers reflect a weekend drop in registered cases and deaths. On a rolling seven-day average, Brazil is reporting more than 1,800 deaths a day.

The South American country has now registered 16,947,062 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 473,404, according to ministry data, in the world's third worst outbreak outside the United States and India, and its second-deadliest.

Belarus

Belarus reported 943 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, taking its total to 399,852, according to the country's health ministry.

So far, 2,910 people have died of the disease in the country, including 10 over the past 24 hours, it said.

Africa

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Africa reached 4,913,645 as of Sunday afternoon, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said.

The Africa CDC, the specialized healthcare agency of the African Union, said the death toll from the pandemic stands at 132,221 while 4,437,694 patients across the continent have recovered from the disease.

Zambia

Zambia's cumulative COVID-19 cases on Sunday crossed the 100,000 mark as the pandemic gains momentum in the third wave.

The country has also started seeing a rise in the number of COVID-19 associated deaths.

The country's cumulative cases now stand at 100,278 following 738 new cases recorded in the last 24 hours. The new cases were picked from 6,987 tests done.

Five people died during the same period, bringing the total deaths to 1,308. While 338 patients were discharged, bringing the total recoveries to 93,374.

Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa prepares to leave at the end of the second day of the European Union summit at the European Council building, in Brussels, on May 25, 2021. (JOHANNA GERON / POOL / AFP)

Portugal

Portugal's prime minister criticized Britain on Sunday for removing his nation from a COVID-19 quarantine-free travel list, and urged London to adhere to a European digital certificate scheme to ease travel.

Britain said last week it was removing Portugal from its "green list" of countries that do not require quarantine on return because of rising COVID-19 case numbers and the risk posed by coronavirus variants detected in Portugal.

Portugal had been placed on the "green list" just weeks earlier. But from 0400 GMT on Tuesday, Britons returning from Portugal will need to quarantine for 10 days and take two COVID-19 tests.

"We can't have this system of instability and changes every three weeks," Prime Minister Antonio Costa told reporters. "It isn't good for those who plan their holidays, nor for those who have to organise the tourism industry to receive tourists in good conditions."

Costa said "a good way for the British to find a solution to this situation" would be to adhere to a system of digital certificates which the European Union plans to introduce from July 1.

Britain

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it’s too early to say whether a planned easing of restrictions on June 21 can go ahead, as ministers continue to weigh the threat of a potential fresh wave of the pandemic.

“We’ll be looking at all of the data over the next week,” Hancock said on Sky News on Sunday. “We are not saying ‘no’ to the 21st of June at this point.”

A final easing of restrictions has been thrown into doubt by the rise of the highly transmissible Delta variant first identified in India, which is now the dominant strain in the UK There were 5,341 new cases of coronavirus reported on Sunday, a 65 percent increase compared to the same day a week ago.

UK businesses are also warning that the potential for a fresh wave of restrictions is posing a threat to their ability to reboot as well.

While small companies surveyed by the British Chambers of Commerce are increasingly optimistic about their near-term prospects, progress risks being derailed by the possibility of another nationwide lockdown, according to a BCC statement on Sunday.

“The ability of businesses to bounce back from the devastation caused by Covid is a huge testament to their resilience,” said Claire Walker, co-executive director of the BCC. “The government must now clarify the future of safety measures, such as social distancing, and set out a clear package of support that would be available should further restrictions be imposed on businesses this year, or in the years to come.”

Four out of five businesses say they expect to be operating at the same levels as before the pandemic by October, with more than half saying they’re there already. But almost 40 percent of the companies surveyed say the threat of future lockdowns are holding them back from re-opening at all.

The UK reported another 5,341 COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 4,516,892, according to official figures released Sunday.

The country also recorded another four coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the total number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain to 127,840. These figures only include the deaths of people who died within 28 days of their first positive test.

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United States

US hospitalizations continue to fall, with 3.17 percent of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients on June 4, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. That percentage dropped from 3.67 percent on May 28 and is the lowest since March 14, 2020.

Cuba

Cuba has once again reported more than 1,000 new cases of COVID-19, reporting on Sunday 1,087 infections and nine deaths, bringing the total number of cases to 148,918 and the death toll to 1,012.

Havana continues to be the epicenter of the disease, reporting another 408 cases in its 15 municipalities, with an incidence rate of 344.8 infections per 100,000 inhabitants.

ALSO READ: In Peru's hinterland, a town battles world's worst virus outbreak

Chile

Chile reported 7,768 cases of COVID-19 on Sunday and 121 more deaths, bringing the total number of cases to 1,427,956 and the death toll to 29,937, the Ministry of Health (Minsal) reported.

The ministry stated that 3,242 people are currently hospitalized in intensive care units, including 2,777 who are on ventilators, and that the nation's hospitals are reporting over 95 percent occupancy.

Chile has seen a rise in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, despite the progress of the vaccination campaign, in which more than 54.5 percent of the target population has been fully vaccinated.

Germany

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 1,117 to 3,701,484, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Monday.

The reported death toll rose by 22 to 89,244, the tally showed.

Ukraine

Ukraine registered on Monday the lowest daily number of new COVID-19 infections over the past 24 hours for nearly a year, the health ministry data showed.

The ministry reported 535 new coronavirus cases as of June 7, the lowest since June 9, 2020, when it registered 525 cases.

The number of recorded new infections usually dips on Mondays due to fewer registrations over the weekend.

Ukraine, which has a population of 41 million, has been among the most affected European countries so far, with around 2.22 million COVID-19 cases and 51,215 deaths as of June 7.

The data showed Ukraine had registered 33 deaths in the past day.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia registered 109 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking the nationwide tally to 272,914 as of Sunday evening, according to the country's Ministry of Health.

The ministry said eight new deaths were reported, bringing the national death toll to 4,209.

Malta

Malta registered no new COVID-19 cases for the first time in 11 months on Monday, but the Mediterranean island's health minister urged people to remain careful to prevent any resurgence.

"Today is the first day with zero cases since last summer," minister Chris Fearne wrote on Twitter. "It is essential that we maintain discipline and responsibility."

The news came as Malta allowed bars, cinemas and theatres to reopen as part of a government timetable to progressively roll back restrictions that was announced months ago.

Malta last registered zero cases on July 25, but cases then gradually rose, to spike at 510 in March before dropping again. They have been in single figures for weeks.

The island leads the European Union in the vaccination programme, with more than half the adult population now fully vaccinated and 75% having had at least a first dose.

Namibia

Namibia's Health Ministry has suspended non-emergency or non-urgent operations at two of its state hospitals.

"Only emergency and urgent operations will be performed in theaters until further notice," Health Ministry executive director Ben Nangombe said in a statement Monday. "Management should find lasting solutions to the oxygen crisis."

The ministry said last week that hospitals, especially state-owned ones, were overwhelmed with admissions and also grappling with oxygen shortages.