Germany to discuss AstraZeneca shots after blood clot reports



















A healthcare worker of the Italian Army prepares doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, as part of COVID-19 vaccinations plan for the military personnel, on March 5, 2021 in Rome, Italy. (PHOTO / BLOOMBERG)

BUENOS AIRES / BRASILIA / MEXICO CITY / PARIS / LONDON / WASHINGTON / BUDAPEST / MADRID / RABAT / SANTIAGO / NIAMEY / ADDIS ABABA / BRUSSELS / JOHANNESBURG / ALGIERS / MONTEVIDEO / BERLIN / ROME / MOSCOW – German leaders will discuss the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, after several states said they would stop giving the shot to people under the age of 60 following further reports of a rare brain blood disorder.

Health Minister Jens Spahn will talk with his regional counterparts at 1800 CET (1600 GMT), a ministry spokesman said.

The meeting follows further reports by Germany’s vaccine regulator, the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI), of cases of blood clots known as cerebral sinus vein thrombosis (CSVT).

Several German states, including Berlin and Brandenburg, as well as the city of Munich, said they would stop giving the shot to people under 60.

State hospital groups Charite and Vivantes suspended vaccinations in female staff aged under 55, citing further cases of CSVT.

“Although no complications have occurred at the Charite after vaccinations with AstraZeneca, the Charite wants to take precautionary action here and wait for final assessments,” a spokeswoman said.

All passengers entering Germany via air travel now have to have a negative COVID-19 test, according to new regulations that came into force on Tuesday.

The negative test result has to be presented to the airline before departure and travelers would have to pay for the tests themselves, according to the Ministry of Health. In addition, the tests have to be conducted no more than 48 hours before entering Germany.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 9,549 to 2,791,822, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Tuesday.

The reported death toll rose by 180 to 76,093, the tally showed. 

Pfizer 

Pfizer Inc. is demanding that South Africa’s health and finance ministers personally sign a COVID-19 vaccine-supply agreement so that it is indemnified from any claims made against it in the country regarding the shot. 

The demand is contained in a March 24 letter from South Africa’s Health Minister Zweli Mkhize to his finance counterpart, Tito Mboweni, seen by Bloomberg and confirmed by the National Treasury. 

Pfizer wasn’t satisfied by assurances that the signature of the country’s health director general was sufficient to guarantee the indemnity, Mkhize said. 

Pfizer didn’t immediately respond to emailed queries.

BioNTech SE and Pfizer Inc. raised this year’s production target for their COVID-19 vaccine to as many as 2.5 billion doses, with the biotech’s chief executive predicting a version of the shot that can be stored in refrigerators will be ready within months.

The new target represents an increase of about one quarter from the company’s earlier estimate.

The world’s thirst for more shots has challenged vaccine makers, who had to pivot from a breakneck development pace to ensuring production capacity. Pfizer and BioNTech have repeatedly revised their targets as they scaled up production, largely avoiding the controversies facing other drugmakers such as AstraZeneca Plc.

Global tally

Coronavirus cases worldwide surpassed 127.65 million while the global death toll topped 2.79 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Algeria

Algeria on Monday reported 110 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number of confirmed cases in the North African country to 116,946.

The death toll rose to 3,084 after four more fatalities were added, the Ministry of Health said in a statement.

Meanwhile, 82 more patients have recovered from the disease, bringing the total number of recoveries in the country to 91,349, according to the statement. 

Argentina

An Argentine far-left workers group protested on Monday outside local vaccine market mAbxience, which is producing the Oxford University/AstraZeneca COVID-19 drug for the region, criticizing delays to doses being available in the country.

Around 50-100 people, organized by the Workers’ Left Front-Unity alliance, protested with banners reading “vaccines for all” outside the plant in the Garín neighborhood of Buenos Aires, which is making the vaccine’s active ingredient.

Austria 

Austria is in talks about purchasing as many as 1 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine with first deliveries as early as next month, the APA newswire reported.

The European Medicines Agency’s adoption of a so-called rolling procedure for approval means Austria could receive the doses by next month, according to the report, which cited unidentified people in the office of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz who said the deal isn’t final. Details of the understanding were shared with health officials, with signed confidential documents exchanged between Austria and Russia.

Kurz has become an outspoken critic of the European Union’s vaccine distribution policies. He attacked EU bureaucrats for running an opaque bazaar for the jabs and has demanded a “correction mechanism” to ensure equitable access to inoculations across the bloc.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) on Monday recorded its highest daily number of COVID-19-related deaths since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Health authorities reported 856 new cases and 93 deaths were registered in the past 24 hours.

The previous record daily toll was 86, reported on Dec 22, 2020. 

Hit hard by the third wave of the pandemic, the capital Sarajevo alone reported 304 new cases and 16 deaths.

To date, BiH's Ministry of Civil Affairs has reported 165,787 COVID-19 cases and 6,427 deaths.

Brazil

Brazil reported 1,660 COVID-19 deaths were registered in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 313,866, the health ministry said on Monday.

The ministry also reported 38,927 new infections, pushing the caseload to 12,573,615.

Across the country there are over 6,000 people waiting for an ICU bed, according to government data. In 15 of Brazil’s 26 states, ICU capacity is at or above 90 percent full, as the country’s P1 variant fuels a second wave far deadlier than the first.

Even in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s wealthiest state with a sophisticated public hospital network, scores are dying in line for intensive care.

The country has been slow to secure vaccines for its 210 million inhabitants. Less than 10 percent of adults have received a first dose and only 3 percent are fully vaccinated.

Brazilian Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga said on Monday that he was pushing Brazilian and US diplomats to get an earlier delivery of 20 million doses of coronavirus vaccines from the United States to help slow the country’s raging pandemic.

As of Sunday, Brazil has vaccinated 20.17 million people, 15.47 million of whom had received the first dose and 4.69 million had received both jabs, according to local media. 

Canada

Health officials in Canada are suspending plans to give AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine to younger people over concerns it could lead to blood clots in rare circumstances.

Provincial health authorities, including those in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta, halted the AstraZeneca shots after the nation’s vaccine advisory committee recommended a pause on administering it to people under 55 years old.

Canada is due to receive 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca shot from the US this week.

The suspension comes as new virus cases are on the rise: Canada reported an average of 4,352 new cases a day over the seven days ended March 28, up 23 percent from the previous week.

British Columbia, which has kept restaurants open for most of the pandemic, announced Monday it would close indoor dining, worship services and most indoor fitness activities for three weeks.  The region recorded more than 2,500 new cases over the weekend and new variants are on the rise.

In Toronto, Canada’s largest city, officials reported 670 new cases; about a third of them are among those aged 20 to 39, Medical Officer of Health Eileen de Villa said.

READ MORE: WHO warns of counterfeit COVID-19 vaccines

Healthcare workers take nasal swabs samples to test people for the novel coronavirus at a park in Santiago, Chile, March 29, 2021. (ESTEBAN FELIX / AP)

Chile

Chile's Ministry of Health reported on Monday more than 7,000 new daily COVID-19 cases for the fifth consecutive day.

The ministry said there were 7,247 newly confirmed infections in the last 24 hours, bringing the cumulative caseload to 984,484.

The ministry also reported 101 more deaths, pushing the toll to 23,070.

Deputy Health Minister Paula Daza said during a press conference that Chile has seen an 11 percent increase in cases in the last seven days and a 33 percent increase in the last 14 days.

Due to the critical health situation in the country, Daza announced that 11 more towns will be added to the quarantine list beginning on Thursday. 

Currently, more than 16 million Chilean residents are now in quarantine, including the entire Santiago Metropolitan Region.

Cuba

Cuba's Public Health Ministry reported on Monday 701 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the cumulative tally to 73,204 confirmed cases.

Two newly reported deaths pushed the toll to 417.

"With these figures, if maintained over time, we can say we are beginning to control the pandemic," the ministry's national director of hygiene and epidemiology, Francisco Duran said, referring to a decrease of 218 COVID-19 cases from the previous day.

Meanwhile, an intervention trial of the COVID-19 vaccine candidate Abdala began in Havana with 120,000 volunteers.

Cyprus

Epidemiologists in Cyprus agreed that the government should keep most of the current coronavirus restrictions in force until the middle of April, but the return of all students to classes should be allowed on the condition that they take a rapid COVID-19 test, a member of the scientific team advising the country's Ministry of Health said on Monday.

A formal decision by the government is expected on Wednesday.

Cyprus is speeding up its vaccination campaign by administering almost 20,000 vaccine doses to vulnerable people this week.

The ministry said it expected a large vaccine shipment for April, which will make it possible for Cyprus to immunize all people aged 45 and older.

About 35 percent of the population have already been vaccinated, and the ministry said it expected half of the total population to receive both vaccine doses by the middle of June.

Ecuador

Ecuador has adopted new restrictions on mobility and the sale of alcohol to curb COVID-19 infections for the upcoming upcoming Easter holiday (April 2, 3 and 4) and International Workers' Day on May 1, President Lenin Moreno announced on Monday.

Restrictions will be imposed on light vehicles on national roads according to the last odd or even number of their licence plates from 12 pm to midnight.

The sales and consumption of alcohol will also be prohibited on those holidays starting from 6:00 pm.

He added that local authorities have been asked to close beaches on April 2, 3 and 4, and suspend large events.

Ecuador, which is slowly advancing its vaccination plan, has reported 325,124 COVID-19 cases and 11,880 deaths as of Monday. 

Ethiopia

A batch of China's Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccines, donated by the Chinese government to Ethiopia, arrived in the capital Addis Ababa on Tuesday.

The doses were received at the Addis Ababa Bole International Airport by Chinese Ambassador to Ethiopia, Zhao Zhiyuan, Ethiopia Minister of Health Lia Tadesse and State Minister of Ethiopia Ministry of Foreign Affairs Birtukan Ayano.

Tadesse said the donation of Sinopharm vaccines will significantly contribute to Ethiopia's plan to vaccinate up to 20 percent of the east African country's population.

Ethiopia’s COVID-19 tally rose to 202,545 as of Monday evening, after 1,982 new COVID-19 cases were registered in the past 24 hours, the health ministry reported.

The death toll went up by 24 to 2,825, the ministry said.

Meanwhile, another 867 people have recovered, bringing the total recoveries to 155,190, it added.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaks during an online news conference at the end of a EU summit at the European Council building in Brussels, March 25, 2021. (ARIS OIKONOMOU / POOL VIA AP)

EU

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Monday warned of the "domino effect" of the health crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We risk that the COVID crisis sets off a number of other crises, especially in developing countries," she said in remarks at a high-level meeting on international debt architecture and liquidity.

Von der Leyen named those crises as a debt crisis, an education crisis and a crisis of rising inequalities both between countries and within countries.

She called for investment and action at the global level to avert the crises, asking countries to focus on two parallel strands of work – fighting the pandemic and pursuing a green economic recovery, with the Sustainable Development Goals at its core.

In a video speech addressing the meeting, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for better debt relief and new creative financing for poorer nations.

Finland

Finland resumed the use of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, but only for people over the age of 65, as per the guidelines issued by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL).

The THL said that it was still investigating the possibility of side effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine in younger adults.

"There is no increased risk of the very rare blood clotting disorder after vaccination in people over 65 years of age, whose possible association with the AstraZeneca vaccine is currently being investigated. Vaccinations for this age group can therefore be continued as normal," explained Taneli Puumalainen, chief physician at the THL, in a press release.

The Finnish health authority said that use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for people under the age of 65 may continue after the Easter holiday at the earliest.

France

France recorded the highest number of people in intensive care units (ICU) with COVID-19 since the second lockdown in November and the number of people in hospital with the disease rose by over 600 in a day, the biggest jump in more than four months.

The health ministry reported on Monday that the number of patients in intensive care with COVID-19 increased by 102 to 4,974, more than the 4,919 high of mid-November, although still well below a record of over 7,000 last April.

The number of people in hospital with the virus rose by 610 to a new 2021 high of 28,322 as emergency unit doctors warned that the situation was set to get worse in coming weeks.

France also reported 360 additional deaths in hospitals from COVID-19, taking the cumulative death toll since the start of the epidemic to nearly 95,000.

France discovered a new variant at a hospital in Creteil last month that may be more transmissible and more resistant to vaccines, France Inter reported. The variant, temporarily named after the Henri Mondor hospital where it was identified, carries 18 mutations, including seven on the spike protein, according to the report. The variant accounted for about 2 percent of French cases at the beginning of March.

READ MORE: World leaders back pandemic treaty idea for future emergencies

A staff member checks the newly arrived coronavirus vaccines from Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinopharm at a  logistics base set up in the parking lot of the government office in the 13th district of Budapest, Hungary, March 29, 2021. (NOEMI BRUZAK / MTI VIA AP)

Ghana

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Ghana has exceeded 90,000, according to the latest data released by the Ghana Health Service (GHS).

As of Tuesday morning, the number of cases in Ghana increased to 90,287, with 121 new infections confirmed.

The data on the GHS COVID-19 dashboard also revealed that 87,137 patients had recovered from their infections and 740 succumbed to the pandemic, leaving 2,410 active cases.

The West African country has conducted a total of 986,349 tests since the outbreak of the pandemic with a 9.2 percent positive rate.

Hungary

Hungary has already administered one coronavirus jab to nearly two million out of its population of 10 million, while the country has recorded 20,000 deaths, the government's coronavirus information website reported on Monday.

On Monday, the country registered 7,263 new COVID-19 cases in a 24-hour span, raising the cumulative caseload to 641,124, according to official data.

Another 189 newly recorded deaths in the past 24 hours pushed the toll to 20,161

A total of 399,961 people have recovered, while there were 12,291 patients being treated in hospitals, including 1,497 on ventilators, according to the government website.

As of Monday, 1,920,347 people had received one shot of the vaccine, while 689,392 had gotten both jabs, according to the website.

Italy

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and his wife Maria Serenella Cappello received their first doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday as the country looks to ramp up its vaccination campaign.

Draghi and his wife, who are both 73, received their jabs at a large vaccination centre set up at Rome’s main railway station, the prime minister’s office said in a brief statement.

According to latest data, Italy, which has a population of some 60 million, has fully vaccinated 3.04 million people, while another 3.6 million have had their first shot only.

Meanwhile, Italy will ask all travelers returning from elsewhere in the EU to get tested before departure, self-isolate for five days on arrival in the country and then take another test. Italy’s health minister will sign off the new rules on Tuesday, according to a ministry official. Those traveling for work, health or other emergency reasons are exempt.

Italy on Monday reported 12,916 new COVID-19 infections as more than half of its 20 regions turned into “red zones”, according to the latest data from the Ministry of Health.

The country's death toll rose by 417 to 108,350, while the total recoveries increased by 19,725 to over 2.87 million, according to the ministry.

Health Minister Roberto Speranza signed a March 26 order designating regions based on a three color-coded system – yellow or low risk, orange or medium risk, and red or high risk – with the new rules going into effect on Monday and will last through April 6.

The new orders moved the regions of Calabria, Tuscany and Valle d'Aosta into the red zone, where they joined Campania, Emilia Romagna, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Lazio, Lombardy, Marche, Piedmont, Puglia, Veneto and the Autonomous Province of Trento.

Red zones have near-total lockdown rules, with all shops shut down except for those selling essential goods, such as groceries and pharmacies, and a ban on all social activities in public.

Kenya

The majority of Kenyan citizens have a positive attitude towards the COVID-19 vaccine despite misinformation about its safety and efficacy, said a survey that was launched in the capital, Nairobi on Tuesday.

The survey which was carried out by non-profit group, Africa's Voices Foundation (AVF) said that 39 percent of 1,525 respondents had faith in the vaccine as opposed to 16 percent who expressed skepticism towards the jab.

"From the analysis, 39 percent of participants indicated that the arrival of the vaccine is a good thing that will help to stop the virus and 24 percent suggested that more people need to be vaccinated across the country," said the survey that covered 44 counties.

Kenyan hospitals are running out of oxygen as the number of COVID-19 patients surge and individuals and companies are holding onto cylinders that would normally be available to health facilities.

Demand for oxygen has more than doubled to 880 tons a month from 410 tons before the coronavirus pandemic struck, Health Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said in a televised briefing. The nation has 50,000 medical oxygen cylinders, but only 60 percent of them are in circulation, said Marion Gathoga-Mwangi, managing director of BOC Gases Ltd.

Kenyan hospitals are grappling with record numbers of critical-care patients, stretching a system that was inadequate even before the outbreak of COVID-19. Intensive care units are filled with COVID-19 invalids, especially in the capital, Nairobi, the epicenter of the pandemic, according to Kagwe. The positivity rate for tests was 26.6 percent on Monday, compared to about 2 percent at the start of the year.

Kenya has just over 300 ICU beds and 7,411 isolation beds nationally, according to the presidency.

The number of hospitalized patients rose to 1,270 by Monday and another 4,620 are in home-based isolation and care. Deaths have also climbed with 18 fatalities reported on Monday, bringing the total to 2,135 deaths. So far, 131,116 cases have been detected, according to Health Ministry data. Many more cases and deaths may not have been diagnosed.

The scenario “is very worrying,” Kagwe said.

Mali

Mali has approved the use of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine against COVID-19, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) said on Tuesday.

RDIF, which has actively promoted the vaccine abroad, said the shot had so far been approved for use in 58 countries.

Mexico 

Mexico on Monday reported 1,292 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 203 more fatalities, bringing the country’s total to 2,227,842 infections and 201,826 deaths, according to health ministry data.

A delivery of 1.5 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine from the United States landed in Mexico City on Sunday night, Mexico’s foreign ministry said, following an accord US President Joe Biden made with Mexico this month.

The vaccines were the initial batch in an agreement to send some 2.7 million AstraZeneca doses from the United States to help Mexico offset local shortages for its drive to inoculate its population of 126 million.

Morocco

The Moroccan government announced on Monday that all flights to and from France and Spain will be suspended from Tuesday to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

The announcement came on the same day Morocco reported 97 new COVID-19 cases, taking the tally in the North African country to 494,756, the health ministry said in a statement.

The total number of recoveries increased by 233 to 482,585 while the death toll rose by nine to 8,807.

There were 428 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units, according to the ministry.

So far, 4,302,897 people have received one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, of whom 3,455,603 have also received the second dose.

Nigerien Prime Minister Brigi Rafini (left) receives a shot of a Chinese COVID-19 vaccine in Niamey, Niger, March 29, 2021. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

Niger

Niger’s Prime Minister Brigi Rafini declared Monday the launch of the country's vaccination campaign with COVID-19 vaccines donated by China at the Niamey General Referral Hospital.

Rafini, after receiving his first dose of vaccine, called on "all Nigeriens and even non-Nigeriens residing in Niger to be vaccinated because it is extremely important for the health of our populations."

Health workers, the elderly with underlying health conditions, refugees and migrants are among the priority groups to be vaccinated, said Niger's acting Health Minister Ahmed Boto.

Niger has reported 5,001 COVID-19 cases, including 186 deaths and 4,590 recoveries.

Peru

Peru will hold presidential elections on April 11 with strict social distancing rules in place to protect voters amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the head of the country's electoral body said Monday.

Peru has registered 1,529,882 confirmed COVID-19 cases so far.

But with established health and safety measures, the elections should pose no risk in terms of viral transmission, Piero Corvetto, head of the National Office of Electoral Processes said.

Russia

A Russian health official said on Tuesday a third wave of coronavirus infections was emerging in the country, which has recorded more than 4.5 million cases since the start of the pandemic.

President Vladimir Putin said last week he expected Russia to reach herd immunity and lift pandemic-related restrictions by the end of the summer. Some regions have already begun easing some curbs.

Russia on Tuesday reported 8,277 new coronavirus cases were registered in the last 24 hours, including 1,291 in Moscow, taking the national tally to 4,536,820.

The country also reported another 409 deaths, raising the official toll to 98,442.

Russia’s health ministry has registered the one-shot Sputnik-Light version of its COVID-19 vaccine for use, the TASS news agency reported on Monday.

Russia said last week that it had completed clinical trials for the slimmed-down vaccine, which it has cast as a possible temporary solution to help countries with high infection rates make the vaccine go further.

Moscow has said that its two-dose Sputnik V vaccine will remain the main version used in Russia.

South Africa

The mining sector of South Africa on Tuesday expressed concern over the possibility of high COVID-19 infection during the Easter holidays leading to the third wave of the pandemic.

The Minerals Council South Africa said the Easter and the school holidays could see a lot of people traveling, thereby increasing the COVID-19 infection.

"The Minerals Council is conscious that a significant post-Easter spike in infections, with subsequent increases in hospitalizations and deaths would have serious negative consequences for the industry, for the economy, and for all South Africans," said the Minerals Council spokesperson Charmane Russell. "With that in mind, we call on employees and communities to exercise extreme caution over the long weekend, to avoid travel wherever possible, and to behave responsibly if travel is unavoidable."

South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA), the country’s medicine regulator, said on Monday the Ivermectin drug was not authorized to be prescribed for the treatment of COVID-19.

SAHPRA released a statement after the national broadcaster South African Broadcasting Corporation reported that the regulator has given a greenlight for Ivermectin to be used to treat COVID-19.

"This is grossly untrue, misleading to the public and irresponsible and could have dire consequences," reads the statement.

Spain

A new law in Spain mandates that all citizens older than 6 years old wear masks inside and outside, even when social distancing rules are followed. 

The measure includes forcing beach-goers to wear a mask while they sunbathe, a measure that could impact the country’s struggling tourism industry. People with breathing difficulties or those who practice individual sports outside will be exempt.

Spain’s coronavirus infection rate rose by more than 10 since Friday, with 15,500 cases added to the tally, health ministry data showed on Monday, as a gradual uptick in contagion from mid-March lows gathered pace.

The rate, which is measured over the preceding 14 days, rose to 149 cases per 100,000 people from 138 cases on Friday, the data showed.

Monday’s infection numbers brought the total since the start of the pandemic to 3.27 million cases. The death toll climbed by 189 since Friday to 75,199.

The government has extended its travel ban on journeys from countries outside the European Union (EU) and Schengen Area for a further one month.

The restrictions, due to expire on March 31, will be extended until April 30, according to Spain's Official State Bulletin (BOE) on Monday.

Meanwhile, the BOE said the ban on travel to Spanish ports and airports from Britain will not be extended beyond March 31, allowing travel between the two countries for non-Spanish nationals or residents in the country to restart on April 1.

Sweden

About 200 COVID-19 cases were reported among individuals who have received two doses of vaccines, and 6,000 cases were reported in individuals who received one dose, the Swedish Public Health Agency announced on Tuesday.

The country used three vaccines in its vaccination campaign from Pfizer/BioNTech, Modena and AstraZeneca.

As of Friday, more than 1 million Swedes had received their first dose and more than 447,000 had received two doses, according to the latest statistics from the Public Health Agency.

Sweden’s health agency says the easing of COVID-19 restrictions should be pushed back to May 3 given infection rates are rising across most of the country.

“The spread of COVID-19 is increasing with an increased burden on health-care as a result,” the agency said in a statement.

Amendments to the restrictions were originally meant to come into force on April 11. Currently bars and restaurants in Sweden can’t serve alcohol after 8 pm and gatherings of more than eight people are not permitted.

Tunisia

Tunisia’s health ministry on Monday reported 604 new COVID-19 cases, raising the total number of infections in the country to 251,169.

The death toll rose by 25 to 8,760, the ministry said in a statement.

The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients reached 1,129, including 298 in intensive care units, while the total number of recoveries reached 215,920, it added.

UK

Scotland will go ahead with a tentative easing of restrictions during the next few days as the vaccine program succeeds in reducing the number of new cases, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said.

Some of Britain’s best-known Black celebrities united on Tuesday to urge the country’s Black communities to have a COVID-19 vaccine after figures showed far fewer were getting the shot compared to the rest of the population.

Britain will focus on vaccinating the whole of its adult population before it can to provide any surplus shots to other countries such as its close neighbour Ireland, British Business Minister Kwasi Kwarteng said on Tuesday.

He said Britain was working with European nations to try to ensure their populations were vaccinated, and that it was not “a competitive situation”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he hoped that England would not need to go into another lockdown if the public obey the rules and coronavirus vaccines continue to be effective

Britain has agreed deals to buy tens of millions of shots from a number of suppliers and on Monday GlaxoSmithKline announced details of plans for the final part of the manufacturing process for up to 60 million doses of Novavax’s vaccine for use in Britain. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday he hoped that England would not need to go into another lockdown if the public obey the rules and coronavirus vaccines continue to be effective.

“I am hopeful, I don’t see anything in the data right now that would cause us to deviate from the roadmap, but we have got to remain humble in the face of nature and we have to be prepared to do whatever it takes to protect the British public,” Johnson said at a news conference.

Johnson's remarks came on the day Britain reported 4,654 new cases and 23 more deaths, bringing the cumulative caseload to 4,337,696 and the toll to 126,615, according to official figures released Monday.

The City of London financial district is likely to see most workers return to their offices after the coronavirus pandemic, Catherine McGuinness, policy chair at the City of London Corporation, said.

More than 30.4 million people have been given the first jab of the coronavirus vaccine, according to the latest official figures. However, take-up is significantly lower in Black and Asian communities, raising the risk of ongoing illness and death in some of the country’s most ethnically diverse and underprivileged areas.

Official data released on Monday revealed that just 59 percent of Black African adults in England aged over 70 have received at least one shot, compared to about 91 percent of White people and a rate below 75 percent in England’s Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities. 

Meanwhile, more than half of the population of England was estimated to have COVID-19 antibodies in the week ended March 14, illustrating the impact of the UK’s vaccination program. Some 54.7 percent of people would have tested positive for antibodies against the coronavirus during the week, suggesting they have been exposed to the virus causing the disease in the past or have been vaccinated, the Office for National Statistics said.

Uruguay

Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou on Monday received his first dose of the CoronaVac COVID-19 vaccine developed by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac.

The president had announced before the start of the vaccination campaign, which began on March 1, that he would be vaccinated when it was the turn of his age group.

The vaccination campaign targets those aged between 50 to 70 and over 80, and healthcare workers, education workers and members of the security forces.

During the Holy Week from Monday to Saturday, all citizens over 18 years old will be allowed to get inoculated.

Lacalle Pou noted that Uruguay iss going through a "difficult" time, with an increase in COVID-19 cases "putting pressure on the last barrier, which are the ICUs (Intensive Care Units)."

So far, Uruguay has vaccinated more than 530,000 people, which is close to 15 percent of its population.

The South American country has registered 99,584 cases of COVID-19 and 928 deaths from the disease.  

People wearing face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus wait in line to receive COVID-19 vaccines at a site in Philadelphia, the United States, March 29, 2021. (MATT ROURKE / AP)

US

The percentage of US Black adults who say they have either received a vaccine shot for COVID-19 or want one as soon as possible rose to 55 percent in March from 41 percent in February, a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) showed.

Overall, 61 percent American adults reported being vaccinated or intended to receive the shot, up from 55 percent in February, the March report said, adding that the biggest driver in the change was interest from Black adults.

Distrust in COVID-19 vaccines has weighed on US rollout efforts, especially in some communities of color. Black and Hispanic communities have been lagging behind white people in receiving vaccines, a report by KFF showed early this month.

Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Rochelle Walensky said on Monday she feels a sense of "impeding doom" as COVID-19 infections in the country increased by 10 percent.

Walensky said CDC data show that new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations were increasing, which she attributed to increased travel in recent weeks, lifting restrictions, and more relaxed behavior.

Currently the United States has recorded more than 10,000 infection cases of coronavirus variants as experts warn of another COVID-19 surge.

So far, the country has reported over 30.32 million confirmed cases and more than 549,000 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

President Joe Biden announced that 90 percent of adult Americans will be eligible to get vaccinated by April 19, and the remaining 10 percent will be eligible by May 1.

The US has administered 145,812,835 doses of COVID-19 vaccines as of Monday morning and distributed 180,646,565 doses, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Monday.

The country is on pace to soon administer 3 million doses a day of COVID-19 vaccine, as the supply increases and states widen eligibility.

Moderna said Monday it has shipped 100 million doses of its vaccine to the US, of which 88 million have been delivered to date in the first quarter of 2021. The company expects to meet its promise of delivering the second batch of 100 million doses by the end of May and the third batch by the end of July, by delivering 40-50 million doses per month.

Biden's remarks came as the country sees a rise in new COVID-19 cases in 27 states. Asked if states should pause re-opening efforts, Biden said “yes.”

The US president vowed to direct governors to reinstate mask mandates.

In another development, the US will host a live-streamed event on April 15 to raise funds for the COVAX program. The event will take place in cooperation with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and be open to the public. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, USAID Acting Administrator Gloria Steele and Gavi Chairman Jose Manuel Barroso will speak.

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US study on Pfizer, Moderna shots

COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc with BioNTech SE and Moderna Inc reduced risk of infection by 80 percent two weeks or more after the first of two shots, according to data from a real-world study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released on Monday.

The risk of infection fell 90 percent by two weeks after the second shot, the study of nearly 4,000 US healthcare personnel and first responders found.

The results validate earlier studies that had indicated the vaccines begin to work soon after a first dose, and confirm that they also prevent asymptomatic infections.

Venezuela

Venezuela’s government will ask a UN health program for Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine that may not be available until July, eschewing AstraZeneca shots that would be accessible earlier.

The decision could extend the timeline for mass inoculations as cases hit a six-month peak and overwhelm hospitals.

Nicolas Maduro’s administration will propose the purchase of the single-dose J&J vaccine through the World Health Organization-backed Covax initiative, according to a senior government official who asked not to be identified because the discussions aren’t public. The request will be made through an emergency health committee made up of government officials and opposition figures formed last month.