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CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

Key points

  • Covid-19 emerges in China's Wuhan in Dec '19, declared a pandemic on March 11
  • Over 99.7 million infected globally; more than 2.1 million dead, over 62.7 million recovered
  • 535,914 cases reported in Pakistan; 11,376 dead, 490,126 recovered
  • Click here for Dawn's coronavirus coverage
Jan 26, 2021
11:01 PM

Regeneron study shows antibody cocktail effective in preventing Covid-19 infection

10:32 PM

Canada to soon unveil more steps to clamp down on foreign travel: PM Trudeau

9:40 PM

UAE reports 3,601 new coronavirus infections

9:10 PM

Mexican president recovering well from Covid-19, minister says

8:40 PM

Moderna Covid-19 jabs can be up to six weeks apart: WHO

8:10 PM

Vaccines will power 5.5pc global economic growth in 2021, predicts IMF

7:56 PM

Stop hoarding Covid vaccines, South Africa's Ramaphosa tells rich nations

7:00 PM

No data suggesting lower efficacy of AstraZeneca vaccine: German health ministry

6:30 PM

Negative Covid-19 test must for all travellers to US

5:56 PM

Iran urges Biden to lift sanctions affecting medicines as it fights Covid-19

5:29 PM

Sindh reports 739 new Covid-19 cases, 25 deaths

4:59 PM

Iran approves Russian coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V for use

4:00 PM

Colombia defence minister dies from viral pneumonia linked to Covid-19

3:30 PM

Indonesia passes one million coronavirus cases

3:00 PM

Covax has pledged $112 million for Covid-19 vaccines for Afghanistan, says official

2:30 PM

Thousands of Australians defy virus rules to mark 'Invasion Day'

2:05 PM

Ukraine expects 100,000-200,000 vaccines from Pfizer in February

1:35 PM

WATCH: WHO Pakistan shares public service message on Covid-19

12:56 PM

Greece bans large gatherings for 'health' reasons

11:31 AM

Kazakhstan says another lockdown possible in March

10:49 AM

Islamabad, AJK report 107 cases, 1 death

10:46 AM

KP, Balochistan report 212 cases, 9 deaths

10:43 AM

Punjab reports 700 cases, 40 deaths

10:40 AM

1,223 recoveries reported across the country

10:00 AM

New Zealand may approve Covid vaccine next week, start general vaccinations mid-year

9:10 AM

US detects first case of Brazil coronavirus variant

8:10 AM

Training of Covid-19 vaccinators almost complete, say provinces

7:10 AM

Bolsonaro thanks China for fast-tracking vaccine supplies

Jan 25, 2021
11:00 PM

Gym facility in Karachi's DHA, 2 cafes sealed over SOPs violations

10:15 PM

US firm Moderna says Covid vaccine effective against UK, South African variants

9:50 PM

Mexico to procure 24 million Russian Sputnik V coronavirus vaccines

9:30 PM

Mexican president still running government despite Covid-19 diagnosis

8:55 PM

Merck ends Covid vaccine programme, citing inferior immune responses

8:20 PM

Zimbabwe, beset by soaring Covid-19 cases, gets vaccine offers from Russia, China

8:15 PM

China pushes fringe theories on Covid origin, vaccines

7:30 PM

Risk of 'vaccine-busting' coronavirus variants prompts tougher UK quarantine

6:45 PM

Anger and grief as United Kingdom's Covid-19 death toll nears 100,000

6:10 PM

Job losses from virus 4 times as bad as ’09 financial crisis

5:35 PM

UAE vaccinates more than 83,000 people in last 24 hours

5:05 PM

Sindh reports 854 new Covid-19 cases, 8 deaths

4:35 PM

China tackles pandemic with mass construction once again

4:00 PM

Dutch PM condemns lockdown riots as 'criminal violence'

3:30 PM

UK opposition leader Starmer says he's self-isolating, no Covid symptoms

3:00 PM

Pfizer requests S. Korea approval for Covid-19 vaccines ahead of February rollout

2:30 PM

Mexican president's past health woes sharpen focus on Covid-19 diagnosis

1:51 PM

Covid situation is worrying, says head of French health regulatory body

1:18 PM

Australia approves Pfizer vaccine, warns of limited global AstraZeneca supply

12:41 PM

Japan likely to hit Covid-19 herd immunity in October, months after Olympics: researcher

12:12 PM

Hong Kong lifts lockdown in Kowloon district after testing 7,000 people

11:15 AM

Karachi has highest Covid-19 positivity rate in country: NCOC

Jan 26, 2021 11:01pm

Regeneron study shows antibody cocktail effective in preventing Covid-19 infection

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Jan 26, 2021 10:32pm

Canada to soon unveil more steps to clamp down on foreign travel: PM Trudeau

Canada will shortly take more steps to restrict foreign travel as part of its campaign to clamp down on the coronavirus, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has told reporters, but did not give details.

Trudeau had previously said one option would be to oblige arriving passengers to spend a 14-day quarantine period in a hotel at their own expense.

Jan 26, 2021 09:10pm

Mexican president recovering well from Covid-19, minister says

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has kept up his strength and is recovering well from Covid-19, Interior Minister Olga Sanchez.

Lopez Obrador announced on Sunday he was infected with the coronavirus. He has been holding some meetings, including a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to Reuters.

Jan 26, 2021 08:40pm

Moderna Covid-19 jabs can be up to six weeks apart: WHO

World Health Organisation experts have cautiously backed delaying second injections of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine in some situations, as they did for the Pfizer-BioNTech jabs.

The WHO's Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation (SAGE) also insisted international travellers should not be prioritised for any Covid-19 jabs for the time being.

The WHO's vaccine advisory group said it was best to respect the tested intervals between doses of 21 days in the case of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 28 days for Moderna.

Head of the SAGE, Alejandro Cravioto, warned in a virtual press briefing though that “the evidence we have does not go beyond that” six-week cut-off.

Jan 26, 2021 08:10pm

Vaccines will power 5.5pc global economic growth in 2021, predicts IMF

The spread of Covid-19 vaccines will power a stronger global economic recovery in 2021, the International Monetary Fund has forecast.

After sinking 3.5 per cent in 2020, the worst year since World War II, the global economy will grow 5.5pc this year, the 190-country lending organisation predicted, according to AP.

The new figure for 2021 is an upgrade from the 5.2pc expansion the IMF forecast in October and would mark the fastest year of global growth since the 2010 snapback from the financial crisis.

The vaccines should contain the spread of the virus and allow governments around the world to ease lockdowns and encourage a return to normal economic activity.

Jan 26, 2021 07:56pm

Stop hoarding Covid vaccines, South Africa's Ramaphosa tells rich nations

With Africa struggling to secure sufficient vaccines to start countrywide inoculation programmes for its 1.3 billion people, the head of the international Gavi vaccine alliance said the surplus doses that richer countries had ordered ran into the hundreds of millions, Reuters reports.

Ramaphosa, who chairs the African Union and whose nation has recorded nearly half of the continent’s coronavirus deaths, said the world needed those who had hoarded doses to release them for other countries to use.

“The rich countries of the world went out and acquired large doses,” he told a virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum. “Some even acquired up to four times what their population needs ... to the exclusion of other countries.”

World Health Organisation Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus last week described this unequal access as a “catastrophic moral failure”.

The African Union this month secured 270 million shots for the continent to supplement 600 million doses from the COVAX vaccine distribution scheme co-led by the WHO and Gavi.

Jan 26, 2021 07:00pm

No data suggesting lower efficacy of AstraZeneca vaccine: German health ministry

There is no data that would suggest efficacy of only eight per cent among older people for AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, the German health ministry said in response to corresponding media reports.

It reiterated that it expects the European Medicines Agency to decide on Friday whether to approve the vaccine.

Jan 26, 2021 06:30pm

Negative Covid-19 test must for all travellers to US

Those travelling to the United States will be required to show a negative Covid-19 test in order to enter the country, according to an official announcement.

The order applies to both foreign nationals and US citizens, said a statement issued by the US Department of State and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The two departments, who deal with all immigration and health matters, said that “beginning Jan 26, all travellers, including air passengers two years of age or older arriving to the United States must provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test or proof of recovery from Covid-19 before boarding.”

Jan 26, 2021 05:56pm

Iran urges Biden to lift sanctions affecting medicines as it fights Covid-19

Iran has urged US President Joe Biden to lift sanctions which it said are hampering Tehran's fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, Reuters reported.

“Since [Biden's] administration claims not to be anti-science like the previous one [...] one expects it to free the transfer of Iran's own foreign exchange resources to fight the coronavirus and for health and food, and lift banking sanctions quickly,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei told state television.

Jan 26, 2021 05:29pm

Sindh reports 739 new Covid-19 cases, 25 deaths

Sindh has confirmed 739 new cases of the coronavirus, taking the provincial tally to 242,792, according to Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah.

Twenty-five more people lost their lives due to the virus, with Sindh's death toll climbing to 3,925.

A total of 11,083 tests were carried out in the province in the last 24 hours, Shah said in a statement.

Jan 26, 2021 04:59pm

Iran approves Russian coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V for use

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says Tehran has approved the Russian Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine for domestic use.

“The Sputnik V vaccine was yesterday also registered and approved by our health authorities,” Zarif said at a meeting with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Moscow today.

Jan 26, 2021 04:00pm

Colombia defence minister dies from viral pneumonia linked to Covid-19

Colombia's Defence Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo has died from viral pneumonia related to Covid-19, the government said.

Trujillo was reported infected with coronavirus earlier this month and was later transferred to an intensive care unit.

The Andean country has reported more than two million coronavirus infections, as well as close to 52,000 deaths, according to Reuters.

Jan 26, 2021 03:30pm

Indonesia passes one million coronavirus cases

Indonesia has passed more than one million Covid-19 cases, as the archipelago launches one of the world's biggest vaccine drives to clamp down on a soaring infection rate.

The Southeast Asian nation of nearly 270 million has recorded 1,012,350 virus cases and almost 29,000 deaths, according to official data. But low testing rates mean the crisis is believed to be much bigger than those figures suggest.

Some hospitals are on the brink of collapse as they are overwhelmed with patients in one of Asia's worst-hit nations, public health experts warn.

According to an AFP report, the virus has killed more than 600 doctors, nurses and other medical workers, many outfitted with limited protection equipment, according to independent researchers.

Jan 26, 2021 03:00pm

Covax has pledged $112 million for Covid-19 vaccines for Afghanistan, says official

The World Health Organisation's Covax programme has pledged $112 million for Covid-19 vaccines to reach 20 per cent of Afghanistan's population, an Afghan health official said.

Afghanistan's Deputy Health Minister Waheed Majroh told journalists it was going to take six months to get the vaccines but authorities were in discussions to get them earlier.

The Covax programme is a global scheme to vaccinate people in poor and middle-income countries against the coronavirus. It aims to deliver at least two billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021 to cover 20pc of the most vulnerable people in 91 poor and middle-income countries.

Jan 26, 2021 02:30pm

Thousands of Australians defy virus rules to mark 'Invasion Day'

Thousands of Australians defied coronavirus rules to protest the country's national day, held on the anniversary of British colonisation of the vast continent that its Indigenous population marks as “Invasion Day”.

Officially recognised as Australia Day, January 26 also sees annual rallies drawing attention to the injustices faced by Indigenous people and calling on the government to change the date of the national holiday.

Thousands of people gathered at a central Sydney park in defiance of police threats of fines and arrests for breaching a 500-person limit on public gatherings, though organisers called off a march through the city that usually follows, AFP reported.

Police said five people were arrested, including one who was charged with assaulting a police officer, but praised the crowds as largely peaceful. Authorities earlier refused to waive the cap on numbers, despite no new cases being detected in Australia's biggest city for more than a week.

People raise their fists as thousands of people attend an Australia Day protest in Melbourne in January 26. — AFP
People raise their fists as thousands of people attend an Australia Day protest in Melbourne in January 26. — AFP

Jan 26, 2021 02:05pm

Ukraine expects 100,000-200,000 vaccines from Pfizer in February

Ukraine expects to receive 100,000 to 200,000 doses of vaccines from Pfizer under the COVAX scheme in February and vaccinate the first 367,000 people against the coronavirus in the first stage, Ukrainain Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said.

Shmygal told the parliament the country also expected to receive 700,000 doses of Sinovac's Covid vaccine in three-four weeks.

Jan 26, 2021 12:56pm

Greece bans large gatherings for 'health' reasons

Greek police have announced a ban on large gatherings for a week for public health reasons, ahead of expected protests on a number of issues.

“All public gatherings of over 100 people (are restricted) until February 1,” the police said in a statement. The police said large protests posed a “danger of further boosting the spread of the coronavirus."

Student groups have been demonstrating for weeks against plans to introduce a special police force to guard universities. Another protest on the issue is to be held on Thursday, according to AFP.

Jan 26, 2021 11:31am

Kazakhstan says another lockdown possible in March

Kazakhstan may have to impose another lockdown to avoid overcrowding hospitals in March when it expects a fresh peak in Covid-19 cases, Healthcare Minister Alexei Tsoy has told a government meeting, according to a Reuters report.

The Central Asian of 19 million bordering China and Russia introduced two lockdowns last year to contain the spread of the virus.

Jan 26, 2021 10:49am

Islamabad, AJK report 107 cases, 1 death

Islamabad and Azad Jammu and Kashmir have collectively reported 107 new cases of Covid-19 and one death over the past 24 hours.

Following is a breakdown of cases reported in each region:

  • Islamabad: 77 cases

  • AJK: 30 cases; 1 death

Gilgit Baltistan did not report any case or death.

Jan 26, 2021 10:46am

KP, Balochistan report 212 cases, 9 deaths

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan have collectively reported 212 cases and nine deaths over the past 24 hours, according to data provided by the government.

Following is the breakdown of cases reported in both provinces:

  • KP: 208 cases; 9 deaths

  • Balochistan: 4 cases

Jan 26, 2021 10:43am

Punjab reports 700 cases, 40 deaths

About 700 cases and 40 deaths have been reported in Punjab over the past 24 hours, according to the official Covid portal.

The province has so far reported 154,717 cases and 4,608 deaths.

Jan 26, 2021 10:40am

1,223 recoveries reported across the country

Pakistan has reported 1,223 recoveries over the past 24 hours, according to official data.

The total number of recoveries in the country is now 490,126 while the death toll is 11,376.

Jan 26, 2021 09:10am

US detects first case of Brazil coronavirus variant

The first case of a coronavirus variant that recently emerged in Brazil has been confirmed in the United States, health authorities in the state of Minnesota said.

The Minnesota Department of Health said in a statement that the “Public Health Laboratory has found the variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus known as the Brazil P.1 variant in a specimen from a Minnesota resident with recent travel history to Brazil”.

The patient, who is a resident of the Twin Cities metro area of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, tested positive for Covid-19 in early January and was advised to isolate, the statement said. Further lab information revealed the case to be the Brazil variant, AFP reported.

This case, as well as the discovery of three cases of the British coronavirus variant in Minnesota in the past few weeks, underscores “why it is so important to limit travel during a pandemic as much as possible,” state epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield said in the statement.

Jan 26, 2021 08:10am

Training of Covid-19 vaccinators almost complete, say provinces

The provinces informed the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) that they had almost completed the training of the staff of teaching hospitals and tehsil and district hospitals regarding Covid-19 vaccination.

A meeting of the NCOC, presided over by National Coordinator Lt Gen Hamood Uz Zaman Khan, was also informed that all foreign travelers, especially from the United Kingdom and South Africa, were being tested at the airports and those tested positive were being quarantined.

The meeting discussed updates from the provinces on positivity and critical data, non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs or alternate measures to treat Covid-19 other than medical treatment) implementation, preparations for vaccine inoculation and national vaccine strategy.

Read more here.

Jan 26, 2021 07:10am

Bolsonaro thanks China for fast-tracking vaccine supplies

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, a longtime China skeptic, thanked Beijing for rapidly approving the export of active ingredients for local Covid-19 vaccine production, as his government scrambles to secure scarce shots.

“They are already being sent to Brazil and will arrive in the next few days," he said.

The supplies are enough to produce about 8.5 million doses of Sinovac Biotech’s Covid-19 vaccine at Sao Paulo’s Butantan biomedical center, the lab said.

25th Jan, 11:00 PM

Gym facility in Karachi's DHA, 2 cafes sealed over SOPs violations

Two cafes and a gym studio have been sealed in Karachi over violations of coronavirus standard operating procedures, according to a statement from the South deputy commissioner's office.

The Saddar assistant commissioner sealed Cafe Arafat in Saddar for offering indoor dining services, while the Garden assistant commissioner sealed a roadside cafe in Ranchor Lines over SOPs violations.

In the DHA area, the gym facility of The Forty-Two Day Challenge was sealed over similar violations.

25th Jan, 10:15 PM

US firm Moderna says Covid vaccine effective against UK, South African variants

US biotechnology firm Moderna said lab studies showed its Covid-19 vaccine would remain protective against variants of the coronavirus first identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa, AFP reports.

But out of caution, the company will test adding a second booster of its vaccine — to make three shots in total — and has begun preclinical studies on a booster specifically for the South African variant.

“We are encouraged by these new data, which reinforce our confidence that the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine should be protective against these newly detected variants,” said Stephane Bancel, Moderna's CEO.

25th Jan, 9:30 PM

Mexican president still running government despite Covid-19 diagnosis

Despite his Covid-19 diagnosis on the weekend, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador continues to run the government and should recover soon, says a senior minister, sounding an optimistic note on the leader’s health.

Reuters quoted the Interior Minister Olga Sanchez telling reporters at a regular government news conference that Obrador feels well after he announced on Sunday that he had mild symptoms of Covid-19.

25th Jan, 8:55 PM

Merck ends Covid vaccine programme, citing inferior immune responses

Drugmaker Merck & Co said it would stop development of its two Covid-19 vaccines and focus pandemic research on treatments, with initial data on an experimental oral antiviral expected by the end of March, Reuters reports.

In early trials, both vaccines generated immune responses that were inferior to those seen in people who had recovered from Covid-19 as well as those reported for other Covid-19 vaccines, the company said.

Merck said it would focus Covid-19 research and manufacturing efforts on two investigational medicines: MK-7110 and MK-4482, which it now calls molnupiravir.

Molnupiravir, which is being developed in collaboration with Ridgeback Bio, is an oral antiviral being studied in both hospital and outpatient settings.

25th Jan, 8:20 PM

Zimbabwe, beset by soaring Covid-19 cases, gets vaccine offers from Russia, China

Russia and China have approached Zimbabwe about supplying vaccines to tackle its escalating Covid-19 outbreak amid concern about Harare’s ability to afford the shots, with plans for meetings with business leaders who have offered to pay for them, Reuters reports.

Portia Manangazira, a director of epidemiology and disease control in the health ministry, told a parliamentary committee that China and Russia were among those that had approached Zimbabwe to offer supplies of their Covid-19 vaccines. "They have near pre-qualified vaccines and those are going to be for sale [...] they might offer a small donation."

Acting Health Secretary Robert Mudyirandima said President Emmerson Mnangagwa would meet business leaders on Tuesday who have offered to finance vaccines to help out the cash-strapped government.

25th Jan, 8:15 PM

China pushes fringe theories on Covid origin, vaccines

Chinese state media have stoked concerns about Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine, despite rigorous trials that showed it was safe. The Associated Press reports that a government spokesperson has raised the unfounded theory that the coronavirus could have emerged from a US military lab, giving it more credence in China.

State media and officials are sowing doubts about Western vaccines and the origin of the coronavirus in an apparent bid to deflect renewed criticism of China's early Covid-19 response. Both issues are in the spotlight because of the rollout of vaccines globally and the recent arrival of a World Health Organisation team in Wuhan, China, to investigate the origins of the virus.

In the latest volley, state media called for an investigation into the deaths of 23 elderly people in Norway after they received the Pfizer vaccine. An anchor at CGTN, the English-language station of state broadcaster CCTV, and the Global Times newspaper accused Western media of ignoring the news.

Read more here.

25th Jan, 7:30 PM

Risk of 'vaccine-busting' coronavirus variants prompts tougher UK quarantine

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he is looking at toughening border quarantine rules because of the risk of “vaccine-busting” new coronavirus variants, Reuters reports.

“We have to realise there is at least the theoretical risk of a new variant that is a vaccine-busting variant coming in — we’ve got to be able to keep that under control,” Johnson told reporters at a vaccination centre.

“We want to make sure that we protect our population, protect this country against reinfection from abroad,” Johnson said. “We need a solution.”

New variants of the virus that causes Covid-19 are opening up the prospect of a much longer battle against the pathogen than previously thought. Scientists fear the new variants may be more deadly, and that vaccines may be less effective against them.

25th Jan, 6:45 PM

Anger and grief as United Kingdom's Covid-19 death toll nears 100,000

As the United Kingdom’s Covid-19 death toll approaches 100,000, grief-stricken relatives of the dead express anger at Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s handling of the worst public health crisis in a century, Reuters reports.

With 97,939 deaths, the United Kingdom has the world’s fifth worst official death toll — more than its civilian death toll in World War Two and twice the number killed in the 1940-41 Blitz bombing campaign. Behind the numbers there is grief and anger.

Some scientists and opposition politicians say Johnson acted too slowly to stop the spread of the virus and then bungled both the government’s strategy and execution of its response.

Read more here.

25th Jan, 6:10 PM

Job losses from virus 4 times as bad as ’09 financial crisis

Four times as many jobs were lost last year due to the coronavirus pandemic as during the worst part of the global financial crisis in 2009, reports AP quoting a UN report.

The International Labor Organisation estimated that the restrictions on businesses and public life destroyed 8.8 per cent of all work hours around the world last year. That is equivalent to 255 million full-time jobs — quadruple the impact of the financial crisis over a decade ago.

“This has been the most severe crisis for the world of work since The Great Depression of the 1930s. Its impact is far greater than that of the global financial crisis of 2009,” said ILO Director-General Guy Ryder.

The fallout was almost equally split between reduced work hours and “unprecedented” job losses, he said.

25th Jan, 5:05 PM

Sindh reports 854 new Covid-19 cases, 8 deaths

Sindh has confirmed 854 new cases of the coronavirus, taking the provincial tally to 242,053, according to Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah.

Eight more people lost their lives due to the virus, with Sindh's death toll climbing to 3,900.

A total of 11,497 tests were carried out in the province in the last 24 hours, Shah said in a statement.

25th Jan, 4:35 PM

China tackles pandemic with mass construction once again

A sprawling quarantine centre with more than 4,000 rooms is being thrown up in Zhengding county in northern China in response to a Covid-19 outbreak in Shijiazhuang, a city of more than 10 million people in Hebei province.

Construction workers and materials have been sent from all over the country to help build the centre, state media reported. It’s common practice for China to mobilise resources nationwide to tackle natural disasters and other crises.

The quarantine centre is designed to house people who have been in contact with Covid-19 patients. Each room, for one person only, is 18 square metres and comes with bedding, a desk, an air conditioner, a television and Wi-Fi, the China News Service reported.

25th Jan, 4:00 PM

Dutch PM condemns lockdown riots as 'criminal violence'

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has condemned riots across the country this weekend in which demonstrators attacked police and set fires to protest against a night-time curfew to slow the spread of the coronavirus, calling them “criminal violence”, Reuters reported.

The police said hundreds of people had been detained after incidents that began on Saturday evening and lasted until the early hours of Monday, including some in which rioters threw rocks and in one case knives at police and burned down a Covid-19 testing station.

“This has nothing to do with protest, this is criminal violence and we will treat it as such,” Rutte told reporters outside his office in The Hague. Rutte’s government added the curfew as an additional lockdown measure from Saturday over fears that the British variant of Covid-19 may soon lead to an increase in cases.

25th Jan, 3:30 PM

UK opposition leader Starmer says he's self-isolating, no Covid symptoms

Britain's opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer says he is self-isolating after coming into contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, the third time he has needed to quarantine.

“I have no symptoms and will be working from home until next Monday,” Starmer said on Twitter.

Starmer also had to self-isolate in September after a member of his household showed symptoms of the virus and again in December after a member of his staff tested positive.

25th Jan, 3:00 PM

Pfizer requests S. Korea approval for Covid-19 vaccines ahead of February rollout

Drugmaker Pfizer Inc has filed an application seeking approval of its coronavirus vaccines to be used in South Korea as the country gears up to begin inoculations next month, authorities said.

The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said it aims to reach a decision within 40 days after cutting its previous deliberation period of up to 180 days to fast-track the approval and speed up the vaccination process.

“Pfizer submitted the request today for its vaccines produced in Belgium,” the ministry said in a statement, according to Reuters.

“We will thoroughly review their safety and effectiveness in cooperation with professional examiners and outside experts so that our people can access safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines.”

25th Jan, 1:51 PM

Covid situation is worrying, says head of French health regulatory body

The Covid-19 situation in France is worrying, the head of the country's Haute Autorite de Sante (HAS) health regulator told France Inter radio, as President Emmanuel Macron's government considers a new lockdown.

France has the world's seventh highest Covid-19 death toll, with more than 73,000 deaths.

“It is a worrying moment. We are looking at the figures, day by day. We need to take measures pretty quickly....but at the same time, not too hastily,” said HAS head Dominique Le Guludec.

Jean-Franois Delfraissy, head of the scientific council that advises the government on Covid-19, had said on Sunday that France probably needed a third national lockdown, perhaps as early as the February school holidays, because of the circulation of new variants of the virus.

25th Jan, 1:18 PM

Australia approves Pfizer vaccine, warns of limited global AstraZeneca supply

Australia has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine for use but warned AstraZeneca’s international production problems mean the country would need to distribute a locally manufactured shot earlier than planned, Reuters reported.

Vaccination of priority groups with the Pfizer vaccine is expected to begin in late February at 80,000 doses per week, Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters.

Hunt said AstraZeneca had advised Australia the company has “had a significant supply shock and so that means we won’t have as much of AstraZeneca international[ly available] in March as they had previously promised”.

Read more here.

25th Jan, 12:41 PM

Japan likely to hit Covid-19 herd immunity in October, months after Olympics: researcher

Japan is likely to achieve herd immunity to Covid-19 through mass inoculations only months after the planned Tokyo Olympics, even though it has locked in the biggest quantity of vaccines in Asia, Reuters reported quoting a London-based forecaster.

That would be a blow to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga who has pledged to have enough shots for the populace by the middle of 2021, as it trails most major economies in starting Covid-19 inoculations.

“Japan looks to be quite late in the game,” Rasmus Bech Hansen, the founder of British research firm Airfinity, told Reuters. “They’re dependent on importing many [vaccines] from the US And at the moment, it doesn’t seem very likely they will get very large quantities of for instance, the Pfizer vaccine.”

25th Jan, 12:12 PM

Hong Kong lifts lockdown in Kowloon district after testing 7,000 people

The Hong Kong government lifted a lockdown in an area of Kowloon district after testing about 7,000 people for coronavirus to curb an outbreak in the densely populated area, Reuters reported.

The government set up 51 temporary testing stations on Saturday and found 13 confirmed cases in the restricted area that is home to many ageing, subdivided flats in which the disease could spread more quickly.

“Businesses in the area have been hit hard and brought to a standstill,” the government said in a statement.

“The government hopes this temporary inconvenience will completely cut the local transmission chains in the district and ease residents’ worries and fear, so that they will regain confidence in resuming social and business activities in the area, and return to a normal life.”

A government worker wearing personal protective equipment guards at the closed area in Jordan district, in Hong Kong, on Jan 24. — AP
A government worker wearing personal protective equipment guards at the closed area in Jordan district, in Hong Kong, on Jan 24. — AP

25th Jan, 11:15 AM

Karachi has highest Covid-19 positivity rate in country: NCOC

The National Command and Operation Centre has said that Karachi has the highest positivity rate in the country at 11.39 per cent, followed by Peshawar with 9.72pc and Mirpur with 9.62pc.

In a statement, the NCOC said that 2,218 Covid patients are in critical condition across Pakistan while the number of such patients is rising fast.

Breakdown of positivity rate in cities across Pakistan:

  • Karachi: 11.39pc
  • Peshawar: 9.72pc
  • Mirpur: 9.62pc
  • Hyderabad: 6.89pc
  • Lahore: 5.73pc
  • Quetta: 5.0pc
  • Bahawalpur: 4.32pc
  • Faisalabad: 4.18pc
  • Abbottabad: 3.11pc
  • Islamabad: 2.39pc
  • Multan: 2.06pc
  • Swat: 1.89pc
  • Gwadar: 1.84pc
  • Rawalpindi: 0.46pc