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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 100 million infected globally; more than 2.1 million dead, over 62.7 million recovered
  • 537,477 cases reported in Pakistan; 11,450 dead, 492,207 recovered
  • Click here for Dawn's coronavirus coverage
Latest
7:15 AM

PHOTOS: Coronavirus vaccination drill in Japan

Jan 27, 2021
10:40 PM

UK AstraZeneca vaccine plant partially evacuated over suspect package

10:05 PM

Britain cracks down on travel to stop virus spread

9:10 PM

How Brazil missed its chance to secure Covid-19 vaccines

8:55 PM

Wuhan next-of-kin say China silencing them as WHO visits

8:25 PM

131 arrested on ‘calmer’ night during Dutch virus curfew

7:55 PM

Tensions rise as AstraZeneca, EU hold vaccine delivery talks

7:25 PM

US boosting vaccine deliveries amid complaints of shortages

6:55 PM

Belgium fears spread of Dutch riots over virus restrictions

6:20 PM

WATCH: Is it safe for people with pre-existing conditions to receive a Covid vaccine?

5:49 PM

Covax to supply 355m vaccine doses for Eastern Med including Pakistan this year: WHO

5:10 PM

Sindh records 889 coronavirus cases, 32 deaths

4:35 PM

Biden to reopen 'Obamacare' markets for Covid-19 relief

4:00 PM

Thailand to reopen schools outside of virus hotspot

3:58 PM

WATCH: Portugal urged to seek help abroad amid Covid-19

3:28 PM

EU asks AstraZeneca to publish vaccine contract after CEO's disclosures

2:50 PM

Health workers become first to get vaccine in Nepal

2:20 PM

'Crazy and evil': Bill Gates surprised by pandemic conspiracies

1:45 PM

Japan PM apologises after lawmakers' night club outings

1:02 PM

China, India's Covid-19 vaccinations to stretch to late 2022

12:23 PM

Which country is leading the vaccination race?

12:19 PM

Australia records 10 straight days of no local Covid-19 cases

12:07 PM

WATCH: Matchday revenue for European football clubs almost zero as stadiums remain empty

11:15 AM

UK imams mobilise to counter Covid vaccine disinformation

10:33 AM

103 cases, 2 deaths reported in federal territories

10:30 AM

KP, Balochistan report 224 new cases, 9 deaths

10:27 AM

Punjab reports 497 cases, 38 deaths

10:27 AM

2,081 recoveries reported across Pakistan over past 24 hours

9:40 AM

Covid-19 has nearly wiped out the flu: WSJ

9:15 AM

Global Covid-19 cases surpass 100 million as nations tackle vaccine shortages

8:15 AM

WHO issues guidelines for patients facing long-term problems

7:10 AM

US Vice President Harris receives second dose of coronavirus vaccine

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

Jan 27, 2021 10:40pm

UK AstraZeneca vaccine plant partially evacuated over suspect package

A factory in Wales that produces AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine was partially evacuated on Wednesday after it received a suspicious package and police said a bomb disposal unit was dealing with the incident, according to Reuters.

Operated by Wockhardt UK, the plant provides so-called fill-and-finish capacity for AstraZeneca’s UK supply chain, which is the final manufacturing step of putting vaccines into vials or syringes and packaging them.

AstraZeneca has agreed to supply Britain with 100 million doses of the vaccine it developed with Oxford University.

Jan 27, 2021 09:10pm

How Brazil missed its chance to secure Covid-19 vaccines

Brazil’s vaccine rollout is just the latest misstep by its health ministry, which President Jair Bolsonaro has stocked with active-duty and retired military men with little public health experience. Those newcomers failed to grasp how quickly they needed to move to secure supplies amid heated global competition, and the importance of hedging their bets by striking deals with multiple manufacturers, according to a Reuters report.

The ministry’s hesitance led to a missed opportunity back in August to order 70 million doses of a vaccine made by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE, with delivery starting in December.

The country’s principle strategy — to manufacture 100m doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine locally — has been plagued by repeated delays. AstraZeneca last week sent 2m emergency doses to help Brazil get started. Meanwhile, Brazil’s Health Ministry has yet to sign deals with other vaccine makers.

Read more here.

Jan 27, 2021 08:55pm

Wuhan next-of-kin say China silencing them as WHO visits

Relatives of Wuhan's coronavirus dead say Chinese authorities have deleted their social media group and are pressuring them to keep quiet while a World Health Organisation (WHO) team is in the city to investigate the pandemic's origins, AFP reports.

Pressure has escalated in recent days, apparently to muzzle any criticism and avoid embarrassment during the highly sensitive WHO investigation.

A group on social media platform WeChat used by 80 to 100 family members over the past year was suddenly deleted without explanation about 10 days ago, said Zhang Hai, a group member and a vocal critic of the outbreak's handling.

Jan 27, 2021 08:25pm

131 arrested on ‘calmer’ night during Dutch virus curfew

Dutch police said that the fourth night of the Netherlands’ coronavirus curfew passed more peacefully than the previous three nights marred by rioting. Even so, officers arrested 131 people, mainly for public order offences and incitement, AP reports.

“It was calmer around the curfew [tonight] than the days before,” police said in a statement.

Underscoring the role of young people, who have been forced to stay home from school for weeks due to the country’s tough lockdown, police said that most suspects arrested for inciting riots using social media were aged under 18 years.

A police officer speaks to youths on scooters at a road block during a nation-wide curfew in Amsterdam, Netherlands on January 26. — AP
A police officer speaks to youths on scooters at a road block during a nation-wide curfew in Amsterdam, Netherlands on January 26. — AP

Jan 27, 2021 07:55pm

Tensions rise as AstraZeneca, EU hold vaccine delivery talks

The European Union’s (EU) dispute with AstraZeneca has intensified with the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker denying the EU’s assertion that it had pulled out of talks on vaccine supplies, AP reports.

AstraZeneca said in a statement that it still planned to meet with EU officials in Brussels later in the day. The comments came after EU officials said the company had informed the bloc that it wouldn’t take part in a meeting to discuss delayed vaccine commitments — the third such talks in as many days.

The latest disagreement between the two sides came after AstraZeneca rejected the EU’s accusation that the company had failed to honour its commitments to deliver coronavirus vaccines. AstraZeneca said the figures in its contract with the EU were targets that couldn’t be met because of problems in rapidly expanding production capacity.

Jan 27, 2021 07:25pm

US boosting vaccine deliveries amid complaints of shortages

Answering growing frustration over vaccine shortages, President Joe Biden has announced that the US is ramping up deliveries to hard-pressed states over the next three weeks and expects to provide enough doses to vaccinate 300 million Americans by the end of the summer or early fall, AP reports.

Biden, calling the push a “wartime effort,” said the administration was working to buy an additional 100m doses of each of the two approved coronavirus vaccines. He acknowledged that states in recent weeks have been left guessing how many vaccines they will have from one week to the next.

The administration said it plans to buy another 100m doses each from drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna to ensure it has enough vaccine for the long term. Even more vaccine could be available if federal scientists approve a single-dose shot from Johnson & Johnson, which is expected to seek emergency authorisation in the coming weeks.

Jan 27, 2021 06:55pm

Belgium fears spread of Dutch riots over virus restrictions

Riots in the Netherlands over coronavirus restrictions could spark similar protests in neighbouring Belgium, the Belgian interior minister warned as she instructed local authorities on how to limit the risks that protesters will spread the virus, AP reported.

Calls for protests against Belgium’s tough lockdown and its 9pm curfew have mounted on social media.

“The violent demonstrations that degenerated in the Netherlands have apparently incited certain people to call, also in our country, for demonstrations against the health measures,” Belgian Interior Minister Annelies Verlinden’s office said.

Jan 27, 2021 05:49pm

Covax to supply 355m vaccine doses for Eastern Med including Pakistan this year: WHO

The Covax vaccine sharing platform expects to have 25 million coronavirus vaccine doses for the Eastern Mediterranean region in March, rising to 355 million doses by December, a World Health Organisation (WHO) official has said.

The first doses provided for the region through Covax will arrive in February, WHO official Yvan Hutin told reporters.

The WHO's Eastern Mediterranean region includes Middle Eastern countries as well as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia and Djibouti.

Jan 27, 2021 05:10pm

Sindh records 889 coronavirus cases, 32 deaths

Sindh has recorded 889 new coronavirus cases and 32 more fatalities in the last 24 hours, according to Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah.

This has taken Sindh's caseload to 243,682 and the death toll to 3,957. According to the chief minister's update, 1,030 more people have recovered from Covid-19 in the province.

Jan 27, 2021 04:35pm

Biden to reopen 'Obamacare' markets for Covid-19 relief

US President Joe Biden plans to reopen the HealthCare.gov insurance markets for a special sign-up opportunity geared to people needing coverage in the coronavirus pandemic, AP reported.

Biden is expected to sign an executive order on Thursday, said two people familiar with the plan, whose details were still being finalised. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to discuss the pending order ahead of a formal announcement.

The White House had no comment on Biden's expected order, but the two people familiar with the plan said the new enrollment period would not go into effect immediately. Instead, the White House wants to provide time for the Department of Health and Human Services to mount a marketing campaign, and for insurers to get ready for an influx of new customers.

Jan 27, 2021 04:00pm

Thailand to reopen schools outside of virus hotspot

Thailand has said it would reopen most schools including those in the capital Bangkok from next week, in response to localised declines in new coronavirus infections.

The education ministry ordered schools closed in 28 provinces at the beginning of January. It will restart classes in all but one of those from Monday, Education Minister Natthapol Teepsuwan told reporters, according to Reuters.

The move follows an easing of some curbs last week in Bangkok, including on some sports and leisure activities, but bars and night entertainment venues remain closed. The announcement comes despite the country reporting its second-highest number of new daily coronavirus cases, with 819 infections.

Jan 27, 2021 03:28pm

EU asks AstraZeneca to publish vaccine contract after CEO's disclosures

The European Union is asking AstraZeneca to publish the contract it signed with the bloc on Covid-19 vaccine supplies after the company's chief executive revealed confidential clauses, Reuters reported quoting an EU official.

In an interview with newspapers on Tuesday, AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot said the EU contract was based on a best-effort clause and did not commit the company to a specific timetable for deliveries.

The interview followed the company's announcement of a cut in supplies to the EU in the first quarter.

The EU official said on Wednesday that the best-effort clause was standard in contracts with manufacturers of products that are in development.

Jan 27, 2021 02:50pm

Health workers become first to get vaccine in Nepal

Thousands of health workers lined up across Nepal to get the coronavirus vaccine as the Himalayan nation began a three-month vaccination campaign, AP reported.

At the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital in Kathmandu, doctors were encouraging hesitant colleagues to get the vaccine.

Hospital director Dr Dinesh Kafle said 300 staffers were set to get the vaccine and the remaining 2,000 within a week.

On the first day, 12,000 doctors, nurses, custodians, ambulance drivers and other health workers will be vaccinated, with the number increasing in the next few days, Health Minister Hridayesh Tripathi said. The 120 vaccination centres in use will be doubled.

Jan 27, 2021 02:20pm

'Crazy and evil': Bill Gates surprised by pandemic conspiracies

Former CEO of Microsoft and famous philanthropist, Bill Gates. — Reuters/File
Former CEO of Microsoft and famous philanthropist, Bill Gates. — Reuters/File

Microsoft co-founder turned philanthropist Bill Gates says he has been taken aback by the volume of “crazy” and “evil” conspiracy theories about him spreading on social media during the Covid-19 pandemic, but he would like to explore what is behind them.

In an interview with Reuters, Gates said the millions of online posts and “crazy conspiracy theories” about him and about top US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci had likely taken hold in part because of the combination of a frightening viral pandemic and the rise of social media.

“Nobody would have predicted that I and Dr Fauci would be so prominent in these really evil theories,” Gates said. "I’m very surprised by that. I hope it goes away.”

Read full story here.

Jan 27, 2021 01:45pm

Japan PM apologises after lawmakers' night club outings

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has apologised after lawmakers from his ruling coalition visited night clubs despite his government’s call for people to avoid unnecessary outings to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The news is another headache for Suga whose approval rating has tumbled due to dissatisfaction with his handling of the pandemic, which critics have called too slow and inconsistent.

“I’m terribly sorry that this happened when we are asking people not to eat out after 8pm and to avoid non-essential, non-urgent outings,” Suga told parliament.

“Each lawmaker should behave to gain the public’s understanding.”

Jan 27, 2021 01:02pm

China, India's Covid-19 vaccinations to stretch to late 2022

Covid-19 vaccination programmes in China and India will stretch until late 2022 due to the sheer size of their population, and more than 85 poor countries will not have widespread access to vaccines before 2023, a study shows.

“Most developing countries will not have widespread access to the shots before 2023 at the earliest,” Agathe Demarais, director of the Economist Intelligence Unit, the research division of the Economist Group, said in its study.

The report said vaccine deliveries to poor countries by global vaccine sharing scheme COVAX, backed by the World Health Organisation, may be slow due to delays in delivery to wealthy nations first and poor infrastructure in the developing world.

Jan 27, 2021 12:19pm

Australia records 10 straight days of no local Covid-19 cases

Australia has recorded a 10th straight day of no new local Covid-19 cases, allowing its most populous state of New South Wales (NSW) to relax coronavirus restrictions after controlling a fast-spreading cluster, Reuters reports.

NSW has recorded no local cases for 10 days after low single digit numbers earlier in January. Victoria state, which is hosting the Australia Open tennis tournament, has gone three weeks without a local case.

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt tweeted that Wednesday marked the 10th day of no community transmission of Covid-19 Australia-wide, adding the country’s success comes at a time when global coronavirus cases have crossed 100 million with the death toll surpassing two million.

Jan 27, 2021 11:15am

UK imams mobilise to counter Covid vaccine disinformation

Imams across Britain are helping a drive to dispel coronavirus disinformation, using Friday sermons and their influential standing within Muslim communities to argue that Covid-19 vaccines are safe, AFP reported.

Qari Asim, chairman of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (MINAB) which is leading a campaign to reassure Muslims, is among those publically advocating that the inoculations are compatible with Islamic practices.

“We are confident that the two vaccines that have been used in the UK, Oxford AstraZeneca and Pfizer, are permissible from an Islamic perspective,” he told AFP.

“The hesitancy, the anxiety [and] concern is driven by misinformation, conspiracy theories, fake news and rumours.”

Jan 27, 2021 10:33am

103 cases, 2 deaths reported in federal territories

Islamabad, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan have collectively reported 103 new cases and two deaths over the past 24 hours.

Following is a breakdown of cases in the federal territories:

  • Islamabad: 80 cases; 1 death

  • AJK: 22 cases; 1 death

  • GB: 1 case

Jan 27, 2021 10:30am

KP, Balochistan report 224 new cases, 9 deaths

Khyber Pakhutnkhwa and Balochistan have collectively reported 224 new cases of the novel coronavirus and nine deaths over the past 24 hours.

Following is a breakdown of cases and deaths in both provinces:

  • KP: 213 cases; 9 deaths

  • Balochistan: 11 cases

Jan 27, 2021 10:27am

Punjab reports 497 cases, 38 deaths

Punjab has reported 497 new cases and 38 deaths from the novel coronavirus, according to government data.

The total number of cases in the province is now 155,214 while the death toll is 4,646. About 139,887 people have recovered from the virus.

Jan 27, 2021 10:27am

2,081 recoveries reported across Pakistan over past 24 hours

Pakistan has reported 2,081 recoveries over the past 24 hours, according to official figures. The total number of recoveries in the country has now reached 492,207.

Currently, there are 33,820 active cases in Pakistan, while the death toll is 11,450.

Jan 27, 2021 09:15am

Global Covid-19 cases surpass 100 million as nations tackle vaccine shortages

Global coronavirus cases surpassed 100 million, according to a Reuters tally, as countries around the world struggle with new virus variants and vaccine shortfalls.

Almost 1.3 per cent of the world's population has now been infected with Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and more than 2.1 million people have died.

One person has been infected every 7.7 seconds, on average, since the start of the year. Around 668,250 cases have been reported each day over the same period, and the global fatality rate stands at 2.15 per cent.

The worst-affected countries the United States, India, Brazil, Russia and the United Kingdom make up more than half all reported Covid-19 cases but represent 28pc of the global population, according to a Reuters analysis.

Jan 27, 2021 08:15am

WHO issues guidelines for patients facing long-term problems

The World Health Organisation (WHO), while issuing revised clinical management guidelines, has recommended that patients who have Covid-19 — both confirmed and suspected — should have access to follow-up care if they have persistent, new or changing symptoms.

Evidence was gathered on the post-coronavirus condition, initially termed ‘long Covid’, where people who have recovered from Covid-19 continue to have longer-term issues like extreme fatigue, persistent cough and exercise intolerance.

According to a statement, understanding the condition was one of WHO’s priority areas of work. WHO will organise a series of consultations next month to reach consensus on a description of this condition and its subtypes, and case definitions.

Read more here.

26th Jan, 10:32 PM

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.

26th Jan, 9:10 PM

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.

26th Jan, 8:40 PM

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.

26th Jan, 8:10 PM

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.

26th Jan, 7:56 PM

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.

26th Jan, 7:00 PM

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.

26th Jan, 6:30 PM

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.”

26th Jan, 5:56 PM

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.

26th Jan, 5:29 PM

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.

26th Jan, 4:59 PM

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.

26th Jan, 4:00 PM

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.

26th Jan, 3:30 PM

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.

26th Jan, 3:00 PM

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.

26th Jan, 2:30 PM

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

26th Jan, 2:05 PM

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.