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US to spend $3.2B on antiviral pills for Covid-19 – latest updates

Coronavirus has claimed lives of more than 3.8M people and infected over 177M globally. Here are the latest Covid-related developments for June 17:

People gather on Wall Street, Monday, May 24, 2021, in New York.
People gather on Wall Street, Monday, May 24, 2021, in New York. (AP)

Thursday, June 17

Fauci: US to spend $3.2B for antiviral pills for Covid-19

The United States is devoting $3.2 billion to advance development of antiviral pills for Covid-19 and other dangerous viruses that could turn into pandemics, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert announced.

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The pills for Covid-19, which would be used to minimise symptoms after infection, are in development and could begin arriving by year’s end, pending the completion of clinical trials. The funding will speed those clinical trials and provide additional support to private sector research, development and manufacturing.

White House to finish allocating 80M jabs abroad

The White House will finish allocating 80 million US-made Covid-19 shots that it has pledged to ship abroad in the coming days, with shipments going out as soon as the countries are ready to receive them, a top US official said.

The United States has already begun shipping doses, said White House Covid-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients, adding that some shots will go to Canada and some will go to Brazil in the coming weeks.

Italy reports 37 coronavirus deaths, 1,325 new cases

Italy reported 37 coronavirus-related deaths against 52 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 1,325 from 1,400.

Italy has registered 127,190 deaths linked to Covid-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the eight-highest in the world. The country has reported 4.25 million cases to date.

Turkey reports 62 new virus deaths

Turkey has reported 5,904 Covid-19-related cases and 62 new deaths. Official data showed 4,143 people have recovered.

The country has so far seen 5,354,153 cases in total.

Ukraine says Estonia to provide 200,000 doses

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said that Estonia would allocate 200,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses to Ukraine.

Ukraine has lagged behind other European countries in vaccinating its 41 million citizens.

To date, 1,594,083 people have had their first shot as of June 16 while around 2.23 million cases and 51,902 deaths have been registered.

Amusement parks reopen in Italy after months

Excited teens raced for the rides as Cinecitta World, Rome’s largest amusement park, reopened after months closed due to the pandemic.

Visitors had to book their tickets online, stop to have their temperature’s measured, use disinfecting gels before getting on rides, and keep a distance from others.

Moscow surge probably due to infectious variants: mayor

Moscow’s mayor said the situation with Covid-19 was unexpectedly and rapidly deteriorating, and the city was probably facing new variants of the coronavirus that were more aggressive and infectious.

In televised comments, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said officials were rapidly increasing the number of hospital beds in the city to treat a possible influx of patients. He said there were currently enough beds available.

Nepal desperate for vaccine, minister says

Nepal’s health minister says the country has significantly reduced coronavirus infections after its worst outbreak but is in desperate need of vaccines.

Health Minister Sher Bahadur Tamang said in an interview with The Associated Press that “The main issue for us is vaccines, and unless we get vaccines we cannot say everyone is safe.”

Only about 8.5 percent of the population has received one shot and about 2.5 percent have been fully immunised.

Covid surges in US embassy in Kabul

The US embassy in Kabul ordered strict confinement of personnel over a surge in Covid cases at a mission already under pressure ahead of the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

A notice sent by embassy management said that 114 people at the sprawling and heavily guarded mission have contracted Covid-19 and one has died, with several others medically evacuated.

Madrid deaths jumped 41 percent in 2020 as pandemic hit

The number of deaths from all causes in the Madrid region, the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic in Spain, jumped 41 percent in 2020 over the previous year, official figures showed.

The region, which is home to around 6.7 million people, recorded a total of 66,683 deaths last year, up from 47,165 in 2019, Spain’s national statistics agency INE said in a statement.

Deaths in all of Spain totalled 492,930 in 2020, an increase of 74,227 or 17.7 percent over 2019 and the biggest number of annual deaths since records began in 1941.

Slovak player, staff member test positive for Covid-19

Slovakia defender Denis Vavro and a staff member have tested positive for Covid-19 ahead of Friday’s Group E game against Sweden at Euro 2020, coach Stefan Tarkovic said.

The 25-year-old Vavro, who spent the second half of last season on loan at La Liga side Huesca from Lazio, sat out Slovakia’s 2-1 win against Poland in their opening game on June 14.

France weighs mandatory vaccination for reticent health workers

Covid vaccinations could become compulsory for health workers if they do not drop their resistance to getting the jab, France’s health minister warned.

The vaccination rate among health workers in care homes, however, is lagging behind that of the general adult population, 60 percent of which have now received at least one Covid jab, Health Minister Olivier Veran said.

EU chief, on Covid recovery tour, backs Greek stimulus

Greece became the third EU country to secure the European Commission’s approval for a recovery plan to be financed by the bloc’s coronavirus rescue fund.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen made the announcement on the third stop of a tour to highlight EU approval for packages presented by countries that have suffered severe economic fallout from the pandemic.

Austria’s dance floors set to reopen

Austria said that partygoers will be allowed to hit the dance floor again in July as nightclubs reopen after a long Covid-induced pause, in line with a broader easing of measures.

Medical-grade masks also no longer need to be worn anywhere except for hospitals, with regular mouth-and-nose coverings once again allowed on public transport, in shops and other indoor places.

UK reports biggest daily rise in virus cases since February 19

Britain reported its biggest daily rise in new cases of Covid-19 in nearly four months, government figures showed, after 11,007 new infections were recorded, up from 9,055 the day before.

The number of new deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid test rose to 19 from 9 reported on Wednesday.

Kuwait to allow fully vaccinated non-citizens in from August 1

Kuwait will allow non-citizens to enter the country from August 1 if they have received two doses of Covid-19 vaccines that have been approved by the Gulf state, the civil aviation authority said.

A PCR test must be taken before flying and another during seven days of home quarantine on arrival.

Vietnam reports record 515 new virus cases

Vietnam’s health ministry reported 515 new coronavirus cases, the highest number of new daily infections recorded since the virus was first detected in the country in January last year.

The Southeast Asian country has recorded 12,014 infections overall, with 61 fatalities, the health ministry said.

No decision yet on easing restrictions for vaccinated travellers, says UK PM’s spokesman

No decision has been made yet on whether to ease travel restrictions for those people who have received two Covid-19 vaccine shots, a spokesman for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

Asked whether he could confirm that double vaccinated people could be exempt from quarantine rules, he said: “We want people to be able to travel abroad as soon as it is safe to do so … At this stage in the pandemic our current approach is the right one but we keep our measures under review.”

Virus cases surge in Africa, less than 0.8% of fully vaccinated, say officials

Covid-19 cases rose by over 20 percent week-on-week in nearly two dozen African countries and progress on vaccinating Africans is proceeding slowly, with just 0.79 percent of people on the continent fully vaccinated, senior health officials said.

“Africa is in the midst of a full blown third wave…We’ve seen in India and elsewhere how quickly Covid-19 can rebound and overwhelm health systems,” Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, told a news conference.

France to allow nightclubs to reopen in July, minister says

The French government plans to allow nightclubs to reopen in July, Health Minister Olivier Veran said, allowing the industry to operate again for the first time since it was shut during the first Covid-19 lockdown ordered in March 2020.

Veran said the government was working on safety protocols for the reopening with details to be announced next week, after President Emmanuel Macron said earlier this month an update on nightclub operations would be made on June 21.

Tanzania to submit request to join COVAX vaccine-sharing facility

Tanzania is submitting a formal request to join the COVAX global vaccine-sharing facility, the top World Health Organisation (WHO) official in Africa said.

“We have received information that Tanzania is now formally working to join the COVAX facility,” Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, told a news conference.

Japan to lift virus emergency

Japan’s government has approved lifting Tokyo’s virus emergency just over a month before the Olympics, but set new restrictions that could sharply limit fans at Games events.

The state of emergency in place in Tokyo began in late April and largely limits bar and restaurant opening hours and bans them from selling alcohol.

That measure will now end in the capital and eight other regions on June 20, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announced. It will stay in place in Okinawa.

Indonesia reports highest rise in cases since January

Indonesia has reported 12,624 new coronavirus infections, the biggest increase since January 30, health ministry data showed.

The total number of infections rose to 1,950,276, while the health ministry also reported 277 new deaths, taking total fatalities to 53,753.

Hundreds of vaccinated Indonesian health workers get Covid-19

More than 350 doctors and medical workers have caught Covid-19 in Indonesia despite being vaccinated with Sinovac and dozens have been hospitalised, officials said, as concerns grow about the efficacy of some vaccines against more infectious variants.

Most of the workers were asymptomatic and self-isolating at home, said Badai Ismoyo, head of the health office in the district of Kudus in central Java, but dozens were in hospital with high fevers and declining oxygen saturation levels.

Kudus, which has about 5,000 healthcare workers, is battling an outbreak believed to be driven by the more transmissible Delta variant which has pushed up its bed occupancy rates above 90 percent.

France removes Turkey from virus red list

France has removed Turkey from the red list of countries for which it has imposed travel restrictions against the coronavirus pandemic.

Ali Onaner, Turkey’s ambassador to Paris, said on Twitter that Turkey went down from red to orange on France’s travel restrictions list.

The mandatory 10-day quarantine process for passengers traveling from Turkey to France has been lifted.

Denmark to immunise 12-15 year-olds

Denmark will offer vaccines for children aged 12-15 after the adult population has been inoculated to boost its overall immunity against the virus ahead of the winter, health authorities said.

Initially, Denmark will only offer Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for 12-15 year-olds, as it is the only vaccine approved by the EU’s drug regulator for use in adolescents, the Danish Health Authority said in a statement .

Australia further restricts AstraZeneca vaccine over clotting concerns

Australia recommended that AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 jab should not be given to people under 60, a fresh blow to the country’s glacial vaccine rollout.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said concerns over possible links to blood clots meant Pfizer was now “the preferred vaccine” for everyone under 60 years old.

Kenya medics denounce lack of vaccines

Kenya’s frontline workers, mostly doctors, have come out publicly to complain about missing their second dose appointments for a vaccine due to a shortage in the East African country.

Medical practitioners under the Kenya Medical Practitioners and Dentists Union say that despite being alerted to come for their second jabs, they reported to vaccination centres numerous times only to be turned away due to a lack of the second dose.

Delta variant fuelled 50% rise in English Covid prevalence

The rapid spread of the Delta coronavirus variant has driven a 50% rise in infections in England since May, a large prevalence study led by Imperial College London has found after Prime Minister Boris Johnson delayed the end of restrictions.

The government said the data supported Johnson’s decision to push back the end of Covid restrictions in England to July 19, citing the threat of the Delta variant first identified in India, and the need to vaccinate more people.

The latest round of the REACT-1 prevalence survey, conducted between May 20 and June 7, found prevalence was 0.15%, compared to 0.10% in the last set of data from late April to early May.

“Prevalence is increasing exponentially, driven by younger ages… and it appears to be doubling every 11 days. Clearly, that is bad news,” Steven Riley, professor of infectious disease dynamics, Imperial College London, told reporters.

The study is one of the largest prevalence surveys in Britain, with 109,000 volunteers tested in its latest round.

Abu Dhabi receives first shipment of coronavirus medication Sotrovimab

UAE’s Abu Dhabi has received its first shipment of the coronavirus Sotrovimab medication, becoming the first city globally to receive it, the media office said.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention approved the emergency use of Sotrovimab in May, saying it ” offers the prospect of reducing hospitalisation for more than 24 hours and fatalities by as much as 85% when administered to patients as an early treatment for Covid-19″, the state news agency reported.

CureVac’s vaccine misses efficacy goal in mass trial

German biotech group CureVac said its vaccine was shown to be 47% effective in a late-stage trial, missing the study’s main goal and throwing in doubt the potential delivery of hundreds of millions of doses to the European Union.

Brazil reports 2,997 deaths in 24 hours -health ministry

Brazil has had 95,367 new cases of coronavirus reported in the past 24 hours, and 2,997 deaths from Covid-19, the Health Ministry said.

The South American country has now registered 17,628,588 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 493,693, according to ministry data, in the world’s third worst outbreak outside the United States and India and its second-deadliest.

Pfizer’s rheumatoid arthritis drug shows benefit in pneumonia

Pfizer has said its oral rheumatoid arthritis drug Xeljanz reduced death or respiratory failure in hospitalised Covid-19 patients with pneumonia in Brazil, meeting the study’s main goal.

Results of the study, which tested the drug in 289 hospitalised adult patients with the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Pfizer said the incidence of death or respiratory failure was 18.1 per cent for patients treated with the drug compared to 29 per cent for placebo. Serious adverse events occurred in 20 patients treated with the drug compared to 17 patients on placebo.

EU moves to pre-Covid normal as cases spike in Moscow

The European Union has agreed to lift coronavirus restrictions for US travellers as Western countries move toward a return to pre-Covid life, but in a stark reminder that the global pandemic is far from over, Moscow ordered mandatory jabs over a “dramatic” rise in infections.

The United States was among eight countries and territories added to an EU “white list”, exempting them from Covid-19 travel bans ahead of the busy summer holiday season critical to the economies of many European countries.

EU states will still be able to choose to require travellers from these areas to undergo Covid-19 testing or undergo a quarantine once the new list is approved.

Albania, North Macedonia, Serbia, Lebanon, Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong have also been added to the EU white list, officials said.

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