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Afghanistan running out of oxygen as Covid surge worsens – latest updates

Coronavirus has claimed the lives of more than 3.8M people and infected over 178M globally. Here are the latest Covid-related developments for June 19:

Men wait outside a privately owned oxygen factory to get their oxygen cylinders refilled, in Kabul, Afghanistan on June 19, 2021.
Men wait outside a privately owned oxygen factory to get their oxygen cylinders refilled, in Kabul, Afghanistan on June 19, 2021. (AP)

Saturday, June 19

Afghanistan running out of oxygen as Covid surge worsens

Afghanistan’s is racing to ramp up supplies of oxygen as a deadly third surge of Covid-19 worsens, a senior health official said in an interview.

The government is installing oxygen supply plants in 10 provinces where the increase in Covid cases in some areas is hovering around 65 percent, health ministry spokesman Ghulam Dasigi Nazary said.

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By WHO recommendations, anything higher than 5 percent shows officials aren’t testing widely enough, allowing the virus to spread unchecked.

Afghanistan carries out barely 4,000 tests a day and often much less.

Afghanistan received 900 oxygen cylinders from Iran, part of 3,800 cylinders Tehran promised to deliver to Kabul last week.
The shipment was delayed by Iran’s presidential elections, said Nazary.

Afghanistan has even run out of empty cylinders, receiving a delivery of 1,000 last week from Uzbekistan.

Meanwhile, hospitals are rationing their oxygen supplies.

Afghans desperate for oxygen are banging on the doors of the few oxygen suppliers in the Afghan capital, begging for their empty cylinders to be filled for Covid infected loved ones at home.

Turkey receives 5M more doses of Sinovac

Turkey has received five million more doses of the Sinovac vaccine, the Health Ministry said.

The jabs will be distributed to hospitals and health centres across the country after necessary tests.

The number of Sinovac vaccine doses received in the last 10 days has reached eight million.

The country has administered over 40.85 million coronavirus vaccine doses since launching a mass inoculation drive in mid-January.

Meanwhile, the country reported 5,480 new cases and 51 more deaths in the past 24 hours on Saturday.

Virus cases, deaths at three-month low in Pakistan

Pakistan reported the lowest daily number of new Covid-19 cases and deaths in the past three months.

Federal authorities reported 27 deaths and 974 new confirmed cases.

That brings the total deaths to 21,940 and more than 947,000 cases since the virus first appeared last year.

With a steady decline in cases, the worst-affected southern Sindh province announced that it was easing restrictions in the commercial hub, Karachi, other major urban centres and in rural areas.

Authorities in Sindh said junior schools would reopen on Monday and all senior schools and higher educational institutions would follow shortly.

Shrines, marriage halls and parks will also be allowed to open by next week.

US triples vaccines for Taiwan with 2.5 million-dose shipment

The United States will ship 2.5 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to Taiwan, a senior administration official said, more than tripling Washington’s previous allocation of shots for the island, which has faced increasing political and military pressure from China.

The 2.5 million donated doses of the Moderna Inc vaccine will leave Memphis, Tennessee, on a flight belonging to Taiwan’s China Airlines early on Saturday and arrive in Taipei on Sunday evening, the senior US administration official said, adding that the prompt delivery was due to experts from both sides being able to work out regulatory issues.

Italy reports 28 new coronavirus deaths, 1,197 cases

Italy reported 28 coronavirus-related deaths against 35 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections was up to 1,197 from 1,147.

Italy has registered 127,253 deaths linked to Covid-19 since its outbreak in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the eighth-highest in the world.

The country has reported 4.25 million cases to date.

Indonesia to get Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from August

Indonesia will receive 50 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine jointly made by Pfizer and BioNTech, with the first batch expected in August, a senior health ministry official said.

“Pfizer vaccines will start arriving from August, with shipments of between 7.5 million to 12 million doses per month,” said Siti Nadia Tarmizi, adding that the supply is the result of a direct government purchase.

Tokyo cancels public viewing sites, some to be vaccination centres

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike cancelled all public viewing sites for the summer Olympics, diverting some venues to be Covid-19 vaccinations centres instead.

The ban on public viewing follows the metropolitan government’s decision this month to scrap plans for a public viewing site in Yoyogi Park in central Tokyo, converting the venue to a vaccination centre.

“I believe these are necessary measures, when looking from various perspectives, for a successful Olympic and Paralympic Games,” Koike told reporters after meeting with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

British Open to welcome up to 32,000 fans per day

The British Open will be able to accommodate up to 32,000 fans per day at Royal St George’s, organisers the Royal and Ancient (R&A) said after discussions with the government and public health authorities.

The 149th Open, cancelled last year because of the Covid-19 pandemic, will take place July 15-18 and fans will be allowed despite the government’s announcement that it is delaying the next planned easing of its restrictions.

“We are pleased to now be able to proceed with our plans for having a significant attendance at this year’s championship,” Martin Slumbers, the chief executive of the R&A, said in a statement.

Cambodian PM in quarantine, cancels meeting with UK’s Raab

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said he has cancelled talks next week with British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab after the Southeast Asian leader came into contact with someone infected with coronavirus.

Hun Sen wrote in a Facebook post that he had indirect contact with a Covid-19 patient and doctors required he be tested and undergo quarantine for 14 days until July 3.

“I apologise that I have to cancel all scheduled meetings… I beg for understanding from the UK Foreign Secretary,” he said, adding that the pair had been scheduled to meet Wednesday morning.

Moscow reports record cases for second day

Russia’s capital Moscow reported a pandemic high for new coronavirus cases for the second consecutive day, as the city’s hospitals are flooded with new patients due to the Delta variant.

The city registered 9,120 new coronavirus infections in 24 hours, according to government figures, a second consecutive high topping the previous day’s total of 9,056 cases.

UK holds first festival since pandemic start

Thousands of heavy metal fans are camping, singing — and even moshing — in the rain at Britain’s first full music festival since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

The three-day Download Festival, taking place at Donington Park in central England, is one of a series of test events to see whether mass gatherings can resume without triggering outbreaks of Covid-19.

About 10,000 fans, a tenth of the festival’s pre-pandemic attendance, have tickets to watch more than 40 bands including Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes and Bullet for My Valentine.

Attendees all took Covid-19 tests before the event, and don’t have to wear masks or follow social distancing rules during the festival.

Over 2.58B coronavirus vaccine shots given worldwide

Over 2.58 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines have been given worldwide so far, figures compiled by Our World in Data, a tracking website, showed.

China leads the global count with over 990.26 million jabs, followed by the US with 316.50 million.

India has administered 272.38 million shots, Brazil 85.39 million, the UK 73.36 million, Germany 65.74 million, France 46.95 million and Italy 45.20 million.

Turkey ranks ninth on the list with over 40.68 million doses given, followed by Mexico, Spain, Indonesia and Russia.

UK reports 14 new Covid deaths, 10,321 cases

UK’s government reported 14 new deaths within 28 days of a positive test for Covid-19, up from 11 the day before, and a further 10,321 cases of the disease.

The data also showed that 81.0 percent of the adult population had received a first dose of a vaccine, and 59.0 percent two doses.

BioNTech shots have stronger antibody response than Sinovac

People who are vaccinated against Covid-19 with BioNTech’s vaccine were found to have “substantially higher” levels of antibodies than those who received Sinovac’s jab, the South China Morning Post has reported, citing a Hong Kong study.

Some who received the Sinovac vaccine might need a third booster shot as well, the newspaper said, citing lead researcher Professor Benjamin Cowling, an epidemiologist with the University of Hong Kong (HKU).

The government-commissioned study was conducted by HKU’s scho ol of public health and involved tracking the antibody responses of 1,000 people who received either vaccine, the report added.

Earlier this week, officials in Indonesia warned that more than 350 medical workers have caught Covid-19 despite being vaccinated with Sinovac and dozens have been hospitalised, raising concerns about its efficacy against more infectious variants of the virus.

Earlier in June, Uruguay released real-world data on the impact of Sinovac Biotech’s Covid-19 vaccine among its population that showed it was over 90 percent effective in preventing intensive care admissions and deaths.

The Uruguay government also studied the effectiveness of the Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine among 162,047 health workers and people over 80 years old, and said the shot was 94 percent effective at preventing intensive care unit admissions and deaths, and reduced infections by 78 percent.

Shenzhen airport tightens measures as China logs 30 new cases

The airport in China’s southern city of Shenzhen has said that anyone entering the premises must show a negative virus test taken within 48 hours before entry.

The instruction posted on the airport’s official WeChat page follows the outbreak of new cases in southern China since late May which has seen lockdowns in certain neighborhoods and the cancellation of flights.

China reported 30 new confirmed Covid-19 cases on the mainland for June 18, up from 23 infections a day earlier, the country’s health authority said on Saturday.

Of the new cases, six were local infections in southern Guangdong province, while the rest were imported cases, the National Health Commission said.

Total confirmed Covid-19 cases in mainland China stood at 91,564 at the end of June 18, with the death toll unchanged at 4,636.

Russia reports 17,906 new cases, 466 deaths

Russia has reported17,906 new Covid-19 cases, including a record 9,120 in Moscow, pushing the national infection tally up to 5,299,215 since the pandemic began.

The government coronavirus task force confirmed 466 coronavirus-related deaths in the past 24 hours, raising the death toll to 128,911.

The state statistics agency, which keeps separate figures, has said Russia recorded around 270,000 deaths related to Covid-19 from April 2020 to April 2021.

Milkha Singh, India’s ‘Flying Sikh’ ace runner, dies of Covid at 91

Milkha Singh, one of India’s first sport superstars and ace sprinter who overcame a childhood tragedy to become the country’s most celebrated athlete, has died. He was 91.

Singh’s family said he died late Friday of complications from Covid-19 in a hospital in the northern city of Chandigarh.

Singh had first tested positive for the coronavirus on May 20. His wife Nirmal Kaur, a former volleyball captain, had died of the virus just days earlier. She was 85.

Popularly known as “the Flying Sikh,” Singh was the first Indian athlete to win a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in the 400m division in 1958.

He narrowly missed out on an Olympic medal, finishing fourth at the 400m final of the 1960 Rome Games.

Singh represented India at the Olympics in 1956, 1960 and 1964.

India reports 60,753 new cases

India has reported 60,753 new Covid-19 cases and 1,647 deaths over the past 24 hours, according to a government statement.

The total cases of Covid-19 in India have risen to 29.82 million and so far 385,137 have succumbed to the infections.

Singapore sees early rush for Sinovac vaccine

Offering Sinovac Biotech Covid-19 vaccines to the public in Singapore for the first time since Friday, several private clinics reported overwhelming demand for the Chinese-made shot, despite already available rival vaccines having far higher efficacy.

Singapore has vaccinated almost half its 5.7 million population with at least one dose of the vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Both have shown efficacy rates of well over 90 percent against symptomatic disease in clinical trials, compared with Sinovac’s 51 percent.

Earlier this week, officials in neighbouring Indonesia warned that more than 350 medical workers have caught Covid-19 despite being vaccinated with Sinovac and dozens have been hospitalised, raising concerns about its efficacy against more infectious variants.

Evidence from other countries showed people who had taken the Sinovac vaccine were still getting infected, Kenneth Mak, Singapore’s director of medical services, said on Friday.

“There is a significant risk of vaccine breakthrough,” he said, referring to the report on Indonesian healthcare workers.

A number of the people rushing for the Sinovac shot on the first day of its availability in Singapore were Chinese nationals, who felt it would make it easier to travel home without going through quarantine.

Germany’s cases rise by 1,108

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany has increased by 1,108 to 3,721,139, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 99 to 90,369, the tally showed.

Brazil has 98,832 cases, 2,495 deaths in 24 hours – ministry

Brazil has had 98,832 new cases of the novel reported in the past 24 hours, and 2,495 deaths, the health ministry said.

The South American country has now registered 17,801,462 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 498,499, according to ministry data, in the world’s third worst outbreak outside the United States and India and its second-deadliest.

China reports 30 new cases versus 23 the day before

China reported 30 new confirmed Covid-19 cases in the mainland for June 18, up from 23 infections a day earlier, the country’s health authority has said.

Of the new cases, six were local infections in southern Guangdong province, while the rest were imported cases, the National Health Commission said.

The number of new asymptomatic infections rose to 42 from 25 a day earlier. China does not classify these as confirmed cases.

Total confirmed Covid-19 cases in mainland China stood at 91,564 at the end of June 18, with the death toll unchanged at 4,636.

Mexico’s death toll hits 230,959

Mexico has reported 4,098 confirmed coronavirus cases and an additional 167 deaths, according to Health Ministry data, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 2,471,741 and the overall death toll to 230,959.

Copa America’s cases increase again from 66 to 82

Brazil’s government has said that 82 people connected with the Copa America football tournament had contracted Covid-19, an increase of 16 infections from the previous day.

Brazil’s health ministry said in a statement that 6,926 tests were conducted, with 37 players and staffers of the 10 tournament teams infected plus 45 workers.

All four host cities of the tournament, Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia, Cuiaba and Goiania, have cases relating to the tournament.

Brazil stepped in as an emergency host despite the country having the second highest number of recorded deaths from the coronavirus in the world, nearing 500,000.

Half of the teams playing in the Copa America have reported cases – Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Peru and Chile.

Argentine lab makes first half million doses of Russian vaccine

Argentine laboratory Richmond has said that it had produced almost half a million doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine against the coronavirus, the first made in the country.

The vaccines await approval from the National Administration of Medicines, Food and Medical Technology (ANMAT) and Russia’s Gamaleya Institute for their release, Richmond said in a tweet.

“We appreciate the hard work it took our staff to achieve this first objective, and continue with our commitment to have local vaccine production,” it said.

Argentina has had a slow rollout of its inoculation program with about 18 million doses applied so far. But only a little more than 3.5 million people have gotten both doses. The vaccines being applied in Argentina are Sputnik V, AstraZeneca, Sinopharm and previously CoviShield.

To date, Argentina has had 88,247 deaths.

“Today we celebrate this new milestone in the production of Sputnik V,” Argentine Production Minister Matias Kulfas said.

Turkey administers more than 1.53M vaccine shots in past 24 hours

Turkey has administered more than 1.53 million coronavirus vaccine doses in the last 24 hours, the country’s health minister announced.

“The number of vaccine doses have been shot until midnight is 1.53 million doses,” Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter.

More than 40.40 million doses have been administered since the country launched a mass vaccination campaign in January.

And an excess of 26.11 million people have received their first doses, while more than 14.28 million have been fully vaccinated, Health Ministry data showed.

Dutch to drop almost all remaining virus restrictions

The Dutch government is dropping almost all of its remaining coronavirus restrictions, with the exception of social distancing, starting June 26 as vaccinations gather pace and infection rates fall sharply.

Dutch caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Friday that from next Saturday people no longer need to wear face masks at indoor public places where social distancing is possible.

He said anything that can be done at a 1.5 metre distance is allowed, “without limitation in group size, without mandatory closing times.”

Masks will still be mandatory on public transport and at the country’s airports.

Rutte added masks would still be necessary if the 1.5 metre rule is not feasible.

Rutte says that the government also is dropping its advice to work from home, freeing employees to return to their offices if they can do so while observing social distancing.

He called the announcement a “special moment” that marks a shift from telling the public what they can’t do amid the pandemic, to telling them what they can do.

Uganda tightening measures due to virus surge

Uganda is tightening its lockdown measures to try and stem a surge in infections in the East African country that is seeing an array of variants.

The measures announced late on Friday by President Yoweri Museveni include a ban on private and public transportation within and across districts, including in the capital Kampala. Only vehicles carrying cargo and those transporting the sick or essential workers are permitted to operate on the roads.

The normally crowded shops in downtown Kampala have also been ordered shut. An ongoing nighttime curfew will stay in place.

The new measures will last 42 days.

Uganda is among some African countries seeing a dramatic rise in the number of infections amid a vaccine shortage. It has confirmed a total of 68,779 infections, including 584 deaths. The actual totals are believed to be much higher. Only a few thousand samples are tested daily.

Canadiens coach Ducharme tests positive for virus, isolating

Montreal Canadiens interim coach Dominique Ducharme has tested positive for the coronavirus and will miss at least Game 3 of his team’s semifinal series against the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday night.

The NHL said Ducharme received a confirmed positive test nine days since receiving his second vaccine dose. No other Canadiens players or members of the Vegas Golden Knights have tested positive.

Ducharme isolated immediately and Game 3 scheduled for Friday night in Montreal is set to be played as scheduled. General manager Marc Bergevin said he doesn’t know how long Ducharme will be out.

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