South Korea in talks to make a billion mRNA vaccines – latest updates

Novel coronavirus has infected more than 184 million people and killed more than 3.9 million. Here are the latest Covid-related developments for July 5:

Visitors wearing face masks walk past in front of a banner at an exhibition hall in Goyang, South Korea, Monday, July 5, 2021.
Visitors wearing face masks walk past in front of a banner at an exhibition hall in Goyang, South Korea, Monday, July 5, 2021. (AP)

Monday, July 5:

South Korea in talks to manufacture a billion mRNA vaccines

South Korea is in talks with mRNA vaccine makers including Pfizer and Moderna to produce shots in the country and is ready to offer the capacity to make up to 1 billion doses immediately, a senior government official said.

The plan, if agreed, would help ease tight global supply of vaccines, particularly in Asia which lags North America and Europe in vaccine rollouts, and put South Korea a step closer to its ambition to become a major vaccine manufacturing centre.

South Korea already has deals to locally produce three vaccines developed by AstraZeneca-Oxford University, Novavax, and Russia.

It also has a vaccine bottling and packaging deal with Moderna.

Indonesia seeks more medical oxygen amid shortage

Parts of Indonesia lack oxygen supplies as the number of critically ill virus patients who need it increases, the nation’s pandemic response leader said Monday, after dozens of sick people died at a public hospital that ran out of its central supply.

“Due to an increase of three to four times the amount (of oxygen) needed, the distribution has been hampered,” said Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, the coordinating maritime affairs and investment minister.

The government is asking oxygen producers to dedicate their full supply to medical needs and will import it if needed, Pandjaitan said at the virtual news conference.

This statement comes after Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikit said the government guaranteed oxygen supply for virus patients on June 26.

At least 63 patients died during treatment at Dr. Sardjito General Hospital in Yogyakarta city since Saturday, 33 of them during the outage of its central liquid oxygen supply even though the hospital switched to using oxygen cylinders during that period, hospital spokesman Banu Hermawan said.

Fiji hospital mortuary full as cases surge

The mortuary at Fiji’s largest hospital is now full, the country’s health ministry said on Monday, as the Pacific island nation logs record daily cases.

There were no immediate details on the capacity of the morgue.

At least 28 people have died during a second wave of infections starting in April, the ministry said on Sunday.

Although Fiji had early success with keeping the virus at bay by closing its borders, the highly transmissible Delta variant, first detected in India, is now spreading.

A new daily high of 522 new infections was recorded on Sunday.

The island has a population of about 900,000.

About 54% of Fijians have received at least one dose of the AstraZeneca or Sinopharm vaccines, according to official data, while almost 9% have received a second.

Malaysians suffering in lockdown fly white flag for help

Malaysia’s nationwide lockdown to curb a surge was tightened further, banning people in certain areas from leaving their homes except to buy food and necessities.

To help people in desperate need, a white flag campaign was launched on social media.

To concept is simple: It urges people to hoist a white flag or cloth outside their window to signal they need immediate help, without having to beg or feel embarrassed.

Since the campaign began, scores of food retailers and celebrities have stepped in to help and many Malaysians have driven around their neighbourhoods in search of white flags.

The campaign, called #benderaputih, began as Malaysian society’s response to rising suicides believed linked to economic hardships caused by the pandemic.

Police reported 468 suicides in the first five months this year, an average of four a day and up sharply from 631 for the whole of 2020.

Thousands of people have lost their jobs since Malaysia enacted various curbs on movement, including a coronavirus state of emergency that has suspended Parliament until August 1.

The strict national lockdown imposed on June 1 is the second in more than a year.

Pakistan records lowest deaths in five months

Pakistan has recorded 19 deaths from coronavirus during the past 24 hours, the lowest single-day toll since February, the Health Ministry said.

The South Asian country registered 16 fatalities on February 21 — the lowest in 2021 — while 201 deaths were recorded on April 27, the highest since the country was hit by a third virus wave in March.

The number of new infections, however, remained over 1,000 for the sixth consecutive day following the lifting of almost all lockdown restrictions nationwide.

Some 1,347 new cases were reported, pushing the country’s overall caseload to 963,660. The total death toll stands at 22,427.

The number of active cases in the country are 33,299, while 907,934 patients have recovered so far.

Pakistan, which mostly received vaccines from China, has administered over 17.39 million shots so far. Anyone over 18 years old is eligible for vaccination.

India’s cases rise by 39,796

India has reported 39,796 new cases of Covid-19 pushing the country’s total to more than 30.5 million infections, death toll rises by 723 to reach 402,728 fatalities.

The number of active cases stood at 482,071.

Venezuela to give COVAX ultimatum to ship vaccines

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said he will give the COVAX system an ultimatum this week to send the country’s share of coronavirus vaccines as all pending payments had been made to the global vaccine-sharing scheme.

Venezuela received word from COVAX in June that the last four payments had been blocked by UBS. The payments to cover the $120 million fee have already been made, he said.

Maduro said in a live appearance on state television that officials had been instructed to “give the COVAX system an ultimatum: they send us the vaccines or they give us the money back, period.”

Australia’s New South Wales reports 35 locally acquired virus cases

New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, reported 35 locally acquired cases of Covid-19, taking total infections in the latest outbreak of the Delta variant to more than 300.

Of Monday’s cases, 28 were either in isolation throughout or for part of their infectious period. Seven cases spent time in the community while they were infectious.

Portugal’s Madeira to allow visitors with Covid shots not approved by EU

The popular Portuguese islands of Madeira will allow entry to visitors with any of the Covid-19 jabs being administered worldwide and not only with those approved by Europe’s drug regulator, the regional government said.

The European Union, which launched its digital Covid certificate last week, has so far authorised only four vaccines – those of Pfizer Inc and BioNTech, Moderna Inc, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.

Queen to honour UK health workers for Covid service

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth will award the UK’s state-run National Health Service (NHS) the country’s highest civilian honour in recognition of health workers’ service during the pandemic, the government announced.

The award of the George Cross, which is the civilian equivalent of Britain’s Victoria Cross for extraordinary military heroism, comes amid outcry from medical professionals over pay and working conditions in the NHS, which has been pushed close to breaking point during the pandemic.

Brazil Covid-19 deaths surpass 524,000

Brazil registered 27,783 new Covid-19 cases and 830 new deaths in the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry said.

That brought the total in Brazil to 18,769,808 cases and 524,417 deaths.

Mexico reports 2,611 new cases, 42 more deaths

Mexico’s Health Ministry reported 2,611 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country and 42 more fatalities, bringing its total to 2,540,068 infections and 233,622 deaths.

The government has said the real number of cases is likely significantly higher, and separate data published recently suggested the actual death toll could be 60 percent higher than the official count.

Biden says US has made good progress against virus

President Joe Biden says the American people are closer than ever to declaring independence from a deadly virus.

The president made the comments at a July Fourth celebration at the White House.

He told the crowd of service members and first responders to think back to where this nation was a year ago and think about how far the nation has come.

France faces risk of 4th wave from end July

France faces the risk of a fourth Covid-19 wave by the end of July due to the progression of the Delta variant of the virus, the country’s health minister warned.

Olivier Veran said that in the last five days, cases of the Delta variant had increased and there was a grave possibility of the resumption of the pandemic.

Around 30 percent of new Covid-19 cases detected in the country are linked with the highly contagious Delta variant. According to the latest health data, around 2,549 new cases and nine deaths were recorded in the last 24 hours

UK’s Johnson to set out plan for final lockdown easing on Monday

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will set out plans for the final step of easing lockdown in England on Monday, including guidance on social distancing, face coverings and working from home, the government said.

The remaining legal restrictions to prevent the spread of Covid-19 are due to be lifted on July 19, with the decision whether to go ahead scheduled for July 12.

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