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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 96.9 million infected globally; more than 2 million dead, over 61.7 million recovered
  • 527,146 cases reported in Pakistan; 11,157 dead, 480,696 recovered
  • Click here for Dawn's coronavirus coverage
Jan 21, 2021
11:05 PM

Spain opens 200 criminal probes into care home pandemic failings

10:35 PM

On Britain's Covid-19 frontline, medics and patients fight for life

10:05 PM

Still separated: Covid-19 order keeps families apart after Biden lifts 'Muslim ban'

9:35 PM

Mutant variants pose very high Covid risk in Europe, ECDC agency says

8:55 PM

UAE again reports more than 3,500 new coronavirus cases

8:25 PM

Portugal's daily Covid-19 deaths hit record for fourth consecutive day

7:55 PM

Manchester City's Aguero self-isolating after contracting coronavirus

7:25 PM

India's vaccine diplomacy in South Asia pushes back against China

6:55 PM

Swiss crematorium braces for more Covid deaths as it tries to enable peaceful goodbyes

6:25 PM

WATCH: Exhibition shows Wuhan's battle with Covid-19

5:55 PM

Biden pledges to reopen most US schools in 100 days

5:25 PM

Sindh reports 716 new coronavirus cases, 12 more deaths

5:15 PM

Lebanon extends all-day Covid lockdown by two weeks

4:45 PM

UAE approves Russia's Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use

4:00 PM

India's Bharat Biotech seeks Bangladesh trial for Covid vaccine approved at home

3:22 PM

Fire breaks out at world's biggest vaccine maker in India

2:50 PM

Moscow announces 'significant' easing of virus restrictions

2:15 PM

New Covid-19 variant defeats plasma treatment, may reduce vaccine efficacy

1:56 PM

Sweden extends pandemic curbs amid tentative signs of slowing outbreak

1:10 PM

WATCH: Sensors help enforce social distancing, check temperatures as data apps join virus fight

12:34 PM

Biden to re-engage with WHO, join global vaccine effort

12:05 PM

California resumes Moderna Covid-19 vaccine usage after pause

11:30 AM

Visitors to Australia will need negative Covid tests

10:55 AM

Islamabad, federal territories report 162 cases, 3 deaths

10:54 AM

Punjab records 714 virus cases, 25 deaths

10:51 AM

KP, Balochistan collectively report 325 Covid cases, 13 deaths

10:49 AM

Pakistan reports more than 2,000 virus recoveries

10:10 AM

National Institute of Health gets go-ahead to store Covid vaccine

9:25 AM

Oxford vaccine may cost around $6 in Pakistan

8:15 AM

World Bank, IMF agree to hold April meetings online due to Covid-19 risks

7:09 AM

UK's Johnson says record Covid-19 death figures are appalling

12:00 AM

Italy reports 524 coronavirus deaths, 13,571 new cases

Jan 20, 2021
11:35 PM

Dubai orders hospitals to cancel surgeries amid virus surge

11:05 PM

Argentine regulator approves Sputnik V coronavirus vaccination for people over 60

10:35 PM

Biden to hit reset on America's fight against Covid-19 on his first day as president

9:30 PM

Lidl offers $200 extra to US workers to get Covid-19 vaccination

8:45 PM

Longer German lockdown to weigh on economy but growth seen in second-quarter: economists

8:41 PM

PM's aide details Pakistan's vaccination campaign strategy

8:04 PM

Govt hopeful of procuring 1 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines by March 31: Dr Faisal

7:15 PM

At 3,506, UAE reports highest number of daily coronavirus cases yet

6:45 PM

199 officials of Sindh police test positive for virus in last 4 days

6:18 PM

Ireland cancels St Patrick's parade again over virus

5:45 PM

UnitedHealth profit slumps as Covid-19 costs mount

5:25 PM

Sindh records 1,162 new cases, up from 778 a day earlier

4:51 PM

Pfizer vaccine appears effective against Covid-19 variant found in Britain: study

4:20 PM

Vatican starts vaccinating Rome's homeless against Covid-19

3:50 PM

China worries about lagging consumption as broader economy shakes off Covid

3:20 PM

India starts supplying Covid-19 shots to neighbouring nations

2:37 PM

Partial lockdown in Beijing over Covid-19 outbreak

1:20 PM

Tokyo 'unwavering' on Olympics but fans not guaranteed: CEO

Jan 21, 2021 11:05pm

Spain opens 200 criminal probes into care home pandemic failings

Spain’s public prosecutor is investigating more than 200 cases of potential criminal mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic at nursing homes, where the virus spread almost unchecked during the devastating first wave, according to Reuters.

Nearly 43,000 care home residents died of Covid-19 or suspected infection during the March-May first wave of contagion, according to official data.

At the time, staff reported shortages of basic protective equipment and army units deployed on disinfection missions discovered unattended bodies at several facilities.

The prosecutor’s office said nearly half of its investigations related to homicide through a neglect of duty of care, while it was looking into 21 cases of deficiencies in medical treatment.

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Jan 21, 2021 10:35pm

On Britain's Covid-19 frontline, medics and patients fight for life

At Milton Keynes University Hospital in England, it’s a battle between life and death. For those most ill, death is gaining the upper hand.

The latest Covid-19 wave has hit the hospital northwest of London with even more force than the first: younger patients fill its wards and fewer of the sickest people respond to treatment, Reuters reports.

Doctors and nurses are grappling with the strain of exhaustion and loss.

The official death toll from Covid-19 in the United Kingdom is 93,290, the highest in Europe and the fifth worst in the world after the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico. 39,068 Covid-19 patients are being treated in hospitals. Deaths rose by a record 1,820 people on Wednesday.

Jan 21, 2021 10:05pm

Still separated: Covid-19 order keeps families apart after Biden lifts 'Muslim ban'

On the eve of United States President Joe Biden’s inauguration, Mania Darbani’s mother called her from Iran.

She was ecstatic that Biden would soon repeal the Trump administration’s so-called “Muslim ban” that barred people from a number of mostly Muslim-majority nations, including Iran, from coming to the United States.

Darbani said she could not bring herself to explain that other roadblocks remained in place before her mother could join her. On top of the original travel ban that kept them apart for years, Trump issued another ban in 2020 that blocked certain immigrant visas because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Darbani, a US citizen, petitioned for an immigrant visa for her mother, a 71-year old nurse, in 2019, but the Trump administration stopped issuing almost all new family-based green cards in April 2020, saying the move would protect American jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden has not yet said whether he will rescind the proclamation, but until he does, Taghdissi Jani will remain in Iran.

Read the full story here.

Jan 21, 2021 09:35pm

Mutant variants pose very high Covid risk in Europe, ECDC agency says

Three mutant variants of the coronavirus that emerged in Britain, South Africa and Brazil pose a high risk in Europe as they have led to increased transmissibility, Europe's disease surveillance agency said.

“Based on the new information, the risk associated with the introduction and community spread of variants of concern has been increased to high/very high,” the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said in a risk assessment.

Jan 21, 2021 08:25pm

Portugal's daily Covid-19 deaths hit record for fourth consecutive day

Portugal's daily death toll from the coronavirus has reached a record high of 221, up from 219 reported a day before, bringing the total to 9,686 fatalities since the start of the pandemic, health authority DGS said.

The country of 10 million people, where hospitals are struggling to cope with a surge in infections and authorities are mulling tougher lockdown measures, also reported 13,544 infections over the last 24 hours, below Wednesday’s record of 14,647.

Jan 21, 2021 07:55pm

Manchester City's Aguero self-isolating after contracting coronavirus

Manchester City's record goalscorer Sergio Aguero has said he has contracted coronavirus and is self-isolating.

The 32-year-old Argentinian striker had already been self-isolating due to being in close contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.

Manchester City have been hard hit by the virus with 11 players and staff testing positive in recent weeks.

“After a close contact, I've been self-isolating and the latest test I took was positive for Covid-19,” he tweeted.

Jan 21, 2021 07:25pm

India's vaccine diplomacy in South Asia pushes back against China

India will give millions of doses of Covid-19 vaccine to South Asian countries in the next few weeks, government sources said, drawing praise from its neighbours and pushing back against China’s dominating presence in the region.

Free shipments of AstraZeneca’s vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, the world’s biggest producer of vaccines, have begun arriving in the Maldives, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

India is considering giving away anywhere from 12 million to 20m shots to its neighbours in the first wave of assistance over the next three to four weeks, one government source said. India is also helping with the training of health workers in some of these countries and the setting up of the infrastructure to administer the shots, the source said.

Read more here.

Jan 21, 2021 06:55pm

Swiss crematorium braces for more Covid deaths as it tries to enable peaceful goodbyes

Switzerland’s biggest crematorium is bracing itself for a renewed spike in coronavirus deaths as new variants of the virus drive up infection rates around the country, while striving to maintain the conditions for saying peaceful goodbyes.

“We were stretched to our limit,” said Rolf Steinmann, head of the funeral and cemetery office in Zurich. “Not just because of the number of deaths, but also because the uncertainty took its toll. We never knew when there would be a break in the numbers or if they would continue to rise,” he told Reuters.

“It is important for family members to have their chance to say good-bye,” said Steinmann, who has been in charge of the service for nine years. “It can be more peaceful and less traumatic, especially if the last time they saw the person they were in intensive care. It helps with the grieving process.”

Jan 21, 2021 05:25pm

Sindh reports 716 new coronavirus cases, 12 more deaths

Sindh has reported 716 new coronavirus cases and 12 more deaths in the last 24 hours, according to a statement from Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah.

This has taken the provincial caseload to 239,186 and the total number of fatalities to 3,855.

The statement further said that a total of 6,380 tests were conducted in the province in the last 24 hours while 775 more people recovered from Covid-19.

Jan 21, 2021 05:15pm

Lebanon extends all-day Covid lockdown by two weeks

Lebanon has said that a 24-hour lockdown imposed earlier this month to combat Covid-19 infections overwhelming its medical systems would be extended by two weeks.

The tight restrictions on movement across the country, which had been due to run until Monday, will stay in place until Feb 8, the cabinet said in a statement.

It said the decision was taken in response to a continued increase in Covid-19 infections and a relentless rise in the number of patients needing intensive care.

A day earlier, the health ministry reported 4,332 new cases of the coronavirus and 64 new deaths in Lebanon, raising the cumulative number of confirmed cases to more than 250,000 in a country of around 6 million people.

Jan 21, 2021 04:45pm

UAE approves Russia's Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use

The UAE health ministry has approved Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use, state media reported, as infection levels hit a record and only weeks after vaccine trials began in the United Arab Emirates.

Daily infections of the novel coronavirus in the UAE reached 3,529, the health ministry said, the highest in the Gulf Arab region, where daily tallies in each of the other five states have fallen below 500.

“Study results have demonstrated the effectiveness of the vaccine in triggering a strong antibody response against the virus, its safety for use, and its compliance with international safety and effectiveness standards,” the Emirates’ news agency WAM reported.

“The decision comes as part of the UAE’s comprehensive and integrated efforts to ensure increased prevention levels against the virus and to safeguard the health of the country’s citizens and residents,” WAM said.

Jan 21, 2021 04:00pm

India's Bharat Biotech seeks Bangladesh trial for Covid vaccine approved at home

India’s Bharat Biotech has applied to conduct trials in Bangladesh for its coronavirus vaccine recently approved for emergency use at home, a senior official at Bangladesh’s main medical research body told Reuters.

If allowed to go ahead, this would be the first trial of any coronavirus vaccine in Bangladesh and could give the densely populated country of more than 160 million faster access to the shot for mass use.

“We have received their proposal,” said Mahmood-uz-Jahan, a director at the state-run Bangladesh Medical Research Council, adding that its ethics committee would review the application.

Jan 21, 2021 02:50pm

Moscow announces 'significant' easing of virus restrictions

The mayor of Russia's capital Moscow announced a “significant” easing of coronavirus restrictions citing the success of the vaccination campaign.

Starting Friday, Moscow will reopen its museums and libraries, while theatres and cinemas will be allowed to accommodate more visitors, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said.

He said colleges, sports schools and children's clubs will resume in-person attendance, while university students will continue studying remotely.

“The situation with the spread of the coronavirus infection inspires cautious optimism,” Sobyanin wrote on his blog.

Jan 21, 2021 02:15pm

New Covid-19 variant defeats plasma treatment, may reduce vaccine efficacy

The new Covid-19 variant identified in South Africa can evade the antibodies that attack it in treatments using blood plasma from previously recovered patients, and may reduce the efficacy of the current line of vaccines, scientists told Reuters.

Researchers are racing to establish whether the vaccines currently being rolled out across the globe are effective against the so-called 501Y.V2 variant, identified by South African genomics experts late last year in Nelson Mandela Bay.

“This lineage exhibits complete escape from three classes of therapeutically relevant monoclonal antibodies,” the team of scientists from three South African universities working with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases wrote in a paper published in the bioRxiv journal.

“Furthermore, 501Y.V2 shows substantial or complete escape from neutralising antibodies in Covid-19 convalescent plasma,” they wrote, adding that their conclusions “highlight the prospect of reinfection [...] and may foreshadow reduced efficacy of current spike-based vaccines.”

Read more here

Jan 21, 2021 01:56pm

Sweden extends pandemic curbs amid tentative signs of slowing outbreak

Sweden extended distance learning for high school students and told public employees to continue to work from home, renewing measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus pandemic despite signs that infections are beginning to slow, Reuters reports.

Sweden has avoided the kind of lockdown seen across much of Europe, but has gradually tightened restrictions after being hit by a second wave of Covid-19 infections in autumn last year.

Those measures seem to be bearing fruit with authorities cautiously optimistic that, in some parts of the country, the situation is improving. The government said it nevertheless needed to extend many of the measures aimed at social distancing.

Jan 21, 2021 12:34pm

Biden to re-engage with WHO, join global vaccine effort

The Biden administration will re-engage with the World Health Organization and opt into a multilateral effort to distribute vaccines around the world, reversing two decisions by the Trump administration that ripped the country away from public health diplomacy in the middle of a pandemic, according to The Washington Post.

US President Joe Biden signed a series of directives hours after taking office, including a call to halt the country’s withdrawal from the UN health agency.

The early days of the Biden administration will coincide with annual WHO meetings. To signal US support, Biden will send a delegation led by top infectious-disease expert Anthony S. Fauci, who is expected to deliver remarks on Thursday.

Jan 21, 2021 12:05pm

California resumes Moderna Covid-19 vaccine usage after pause

California's health department said it was safe to continue to use a batch of Covid-19 vaccine from Moderna Inc for inoculation after a pause due to possible allergic reactions.

Moderna said on Tuesday it had received a report from the California Department of Public Health that several people at a center in San Diego were treated for possible allergic reactions after vaccination from one lot of its vaccine.

The state health department held discussions with various US authorities, including the US Food and Drug Administration and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and found no scientific basis to continue the pause, state epidemiologist Dr Erica Pan said in a statement.

Moderna confirmed the vaccine would continue to be administered in California when contacted by Reuters.

Jan 21, 2021 11:30am

Visitors to Australia will need negative Covid tests

People traveling to Australia from most other countries will need to test negative for the coronavirus before they depart, as of Friday.

Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt said that he has signed orders that require international travelers to have a negative test within three days of leaving for Australia.

All internationals passengers will also have to wear masks on their flights, according to AP. New Zealand and a handful of Pacific Island countries are exempt from the new rules.

Jan 21, 2021 10:55am

Islamabad, federal territories report 162 cases, 3 deaths

Islamabad, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir have collectively reported 162 coronavirus cases and three deaths during the last 24 hours.

Breakdown of cases and deaths reported:

  • Islamabad: 126 cases
  • AJK: 34 cases, 3 deaths
  • GB: 2 cases
Jan 21, 2021 10:54am

Punjab records 714 virus cases, 25 deaths

Punjab has reported 714 coronavirus cases and 25 deaths during the last 24 hours.

The provincial total has risen to 151,603 while the death toll is 4,501.

Jan 21, 2021 10:51am

KP, Balochistan collectively report 325 Covid cases, 13 deaths

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan have collectively reported 325 coronavirus cases and 13 deaths.

Of these, KP reported 295 virus cases and 12 deaths. The provincial total has risen to 64,373 while the death toll is 1,811.

Meanwhile, Balochistan reported 30 cases and one new death. The total is 18,670 and the death toll is 192.

Jan 21, 2021 10:49am

Pakistan reports more than 2,000 virus recoveries

Pakistan has reported 2,179 coronavirus recoveries during the last 24 hours, according to the government's portal for tracking the spread of the disease in the country.

The total has risen to 480,696 while the recovery rate is 91.2 per cent.

Jan 21, 2021 10:10am

National Institute of Health gets go-ahead to store Covid vaccine

In a major development, the Islamabad district health department gave approval to store the Covid-19 vaccine to be acquired from Chinese state-owned company Sinopharm in the warehouse of the Expanded Programme of Immunisation (EPI) located at the National Institute of Health (NIH) and other facilities.

An official of the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS), requesting not to be named, said the EPI had one of the best systems, across the globe, to store the vaccine.

“As a huge quantity of the vaccine will be imported, we have therefore quickly enhanced our EPI capacity that can hold 2-8 degrees centigrade Covid-19 vaccine for 20pc of the national population at any point in time. It means we have developed a capacity to store 50 million doses," the official said.

Read more here.

Jan 21, 2021 09:25am

Oxford vaccine may cost around $6 in Pakistan

The government is likely to bear $6 to $7 per dose of millions of shots if it opts to pick the Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, which has been approved by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap), though its sole authorised local distributor is at the moment unable to give a proper timeline for the supply.

“Since the government has allowed it [the Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine] and given us the nod to import the consignments, we have estimated that it would be available to the government for something between US$6 and US$7,” said Usman Ghani of the Sindh Medical Stores, one of the biggest importers of vaccines and other pharmaceutical products in Pakistan.

Read more here.

Jan 21, 2021 08:15am

World Bank, IMF agree to hold April meetings online due to Covid-19 risks

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have agreed to hold their spring meetings, planned for April 5-11, online instead of in person due to continued concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, they said in joint statement.

The meetings usually bring some 10,000 government officials, journalists, business people and civil society representatives from across the world to a tightly-packed two-block area of Washington that houses their headquarters, according to Reuters.

This will be the third of the institutions’ semiannual meetings to be held virtually due to the pandemic.

21st Jan, 12:00 AM

Italy reports 524 coronavirus deaths, 13,571 new cases

Italy has reported 524 coronavirus-related deaths, against 603 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 13,571 from 10,497.

Some 279,762 tests were carried out in the past day, against a previous 254,070, according to Reuters.

Italy has registered 83,681 Covid-19 deaths since its outbreak came to light last February, the second-highest toll in Europe and the sixth-highest in the world. The country has also reported 2.41 million cases to date.

20th Jan, 11:35 PM

Dubai orders hospitals to cancel surgeries amid virus surge

The government of Dubai has ordered all hospitals to cancel non-essential surgeries for the next month as coronavirus infections surge to unprecedented heights in the United Arab Emirates.

In a circular sent to government-run and private health centers across the emirate, Dubai's Health Authority announced that starting on Thursday medical operations may be allowed to continue only per medical urgency as the city tries to keep its hospitals from becoming overrun.

According to AP, daily infections in the country have nearly tripled since November. Tens of thousands of tourists flooded Dubai to celebrate New Year's Eve and the holidays in recent weeks. The emirate mandates social distancing inside and masks outside, but otherwise, a sense of normalcy prevails.

Overall, the outbreak in the UAE has infected over 260,000 people and killed 762 amid an aggressive testing campaign.

20th Jan, 11:05 PM

Argentine regulator approves Sputnik V coronavirus vaccination for people over 60

Argentina has approved use of Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccination for people over the age of 60, the government of the South American country announced in a statement.

The National Administration of Medicines, Food and Medical Technology, or ANMAT, Argentina's regulatory body, said in the statement that the vaccine “is within an acceptable margin of safety and efficacy for the age group over 60 years”.

President Alberto Fernandez, 61, plans to get vaccinated with Sputnik V, now that it has been approved for his age group, government officials said. Some 45,832 people have died in Argentina of Covid-19 so far.

The second batch of Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine arrived in Argentina on Saturday, allowing the country to apply the second part of the two-dose program currently aimed at inoculating frontline health workers.

20th Jan, 9:30 PM

Lidl offers $200 extra to US workers to get Covid-19 vaccination

German discount supermarket chain Lidl said on Wednesday it is providing an extra $200 to all its US employees who get vaccinated for Covid-19, as states make shots more widely available, according to Reuters.

The announcement follows similar moves from peers Aldi and Dollar General Corp, as well as grocery delivery firm Instacart, with Lidl’s incentive among the biggest a company has offered its US workers so far.

Lidl said its employees were “eager” to get vaccinated, citing an internal survey in which nearly eight in 10 workers said they planned to get inoculated as soon as a vaccine became available.

20th Jan, 8:45 PM

Longer German lockdown to weigh on economy but growth seen in second-quarter: economists

Germany’s extended shutdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus will weigh on Europe’s largest economy but not choke it off, with economic institute Ifo forecasting quarterly growth of 3 per cent in the second quarter, according to Reuters.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and the country’s 16 states agreed on Tuesday to extend a shutdown until mid-February as Germany, once seen as a role model for fighting the pandemic, struggles with a second wave of infections.

Ifo said gross domestic product will likely stagnate in the first quarter before growing by 3pc quarter-on-quarter in spring.

“Every week with an extended lockdown directly leads to losses in sales, production and added value,” Ifo economist Timo Wollmershaeuser said.

Commerzbank economist Joerg Kraemer said the lockdown’s impact on retailers and services will likely lead to a GDP contraction of 2pc in the current quarter, adding the economy would normally grow by 2pc without restrictions on activity.

20th Jan, 8:41 PM

PM's aide details Pakistan's vaccination campaign strategy

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan says it is important to prepare the supply chain system in addition to the procurement of vaccines for Pakistan to achieve the target of vaccinating 70 per cent of its population.

"Our Expanded Programme of Immunisation [staff] has the training and methods to do it. Our national campaign will be run through EPI and they will store the vaccines. They have reviewed and strengthened their cold chain and they can further expand it as well. We are capable of vaccinating our entire population."

Dr Sultan said it was also important to upgrade the information system because the vaccine would only be provided to the adult population of the country.

Know more here.

20th Jan, 8:04 PM

Govt hopeful of procuring 1 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines by March 31: Dr Faisal

SAPM on Health Dr Faisal Sultan has expressed confidence in the government's ability to procure at least one million doses of coronavirus vaccines by March, saying it ultimately aims to inoculate 70 per cent of the country's population against the virus.

"The overall status is that we hope to be able to provide one million doses of the vaccine in the first quarter of the year that ends on March 31. We believe that we will obtain more vaccines," he told a press conference.

"The vaccine has been approved only for those above 18 years old. We think we can achieve immunity if we provide the vaccine to 70pc of our [vaccinable] population."

20th Jan, 6:45 PM

199 officials of Sindh police test positive for virus in last 4 days

A spokesperson for the Sindh police has said that 199 officials tested positive for the coronavirus in the last four days.

After the detection of the new cases, the total number of policemen who have been affected by the virus so far has risen to 5,246.

The spokesperson said that 23 officials have succumbed so far while 4,609 have recovered.

20th Jan, 6:18 PM

Ireland cancels St Patrick's parade again over virus

Ireland's St Patrick's Day parade in Dublin has been cancelled for the second year running as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, organisers said.

In a Facebook message, the promoters said revellers “cannot gather on the streets for the St Patrick's Festival Parade this March 17th” and outlined how celebrations will move online instead.

The 2020 parades were called off just one week before the national holiday, when the Irish traditionally flock to pubs to celebrate the nation's patron saint.

20th Jan, 5:45 PM

UnitedHealth profit slumps as Covid-19 costs mount

Health insurer UnitedHealth Group Inc has said that its quarterly profit fell nearly 38 per cent, weighed by costs related to its programmes to make Covid-19 testing and treatment more accessible for its customers, Reuters reported.

For the quarter, UnitedHealth reported a medical loss ratio — the percentage of premiums paid out for medical services — of 79.1pc, improving from 82.5pc last year.

20th Jan, 5:25 PM

Sindh records 1,162 new cases, up from 778 a day earlier

Sindh has recorded 1,162 new cases of the coronavirus, up from 778 a day earlier, bringing the provincial total to 238,470, Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said in a statement.

The province also reported 13 additional fatalities from the virus, taking the death toll to 3,843.

Meanwhile, 1,044 more people recovered from Covid-19 in Sindh, the statement said.

20th Jan, 4:51 PM

Pfizer vaccine appears effective against Covid-19 variant found in Britain: study

The Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech is likely to protect against a more infectious variant of the virus, which was discovered in Britain and has spread around the world, according to results of further lab tests released today.

The encouraging results, based on an analysis of blood of participants in trials, are based on more extensive analysis than those released by the US drugmaker last week. Last week, Pfizer said a similar laboratory study showed the vaccine was effective against one key mutation, called N501Y, found in both of the highly transmissible new variants spreading in Britain and South Africa.

The latest study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, was conducted on 10 mutations, which are characteristic of the variant known as B117 identified in Britain.

20th Jan, 4:20 PM

Vatican starts vaccinating Rome's homeless against Covid-19

The Vatican has begun offering free vaccinations against Covid-19 to Rome's homeless.

Reuters reported that the vaccinations took place in the atrium of the Paul VI Hall, the huge auditorium where weekly papal general audiences take place but which has been largely disused because of the coronavirus pandemic.

They were overseen by Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, 57, the Polish head of the papal charities office, who has taken on a leading personal role in looking after Rome's homeless.

About 25 homeless people who are looked after in facilities run by the office received their first dose, and more groups would be vaccinated in the coming days, a statement said.

20th Jan, 3:20 PM

India starts supplying Covid-19 shots to neighbouring nations

India has begun supplying coronavirus vaccines to its neighbouring countries, as the world’s largest vaccine making nation strikes a balance between maintaining enough doses to inoculate its own people and helping developing countries without the capacity to produce their own shots.

According to AP, India’s Foreign Ministry said the country would send 150,000 shots of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine, manufactured locally by Serum Institute of India, to Bhutan and 100,000 shots to the Maldives today.

Vaccines will also be sent to Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and the Seychelles in coming weeks, the ministry said, without specifying an exact timeline. It added in a statement that regulatory clearances were still awaited from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius.

Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Anurag Srivastava said the government would ensure that domestic vaccine makers have adequate stocks to meet India’s domestic needs as it supplies partner countries in the coming months.

20th Jan, 2:37 PM

Partial lockdown in Beijing over Covid-19 outbreak

A partial lockdown was imposed on the Chinese capital with 1.6 million residents banned from leaving Beijing, after a handful of cases were detected.

Seven cases were reported in the city in the past 24 hours, including six in southern Daxing district.

All 1.6 million residents of Daxing must not leave Beijing unless they have received special permission from the authorities and tested negative for Covid-19 in the past three days, the district said.

Meetings of 50 or more people in the district have been banned, while “weddings should be postponed and funerals simplified”, the district government said.

It also ordered all kindergarten, primary and secondary students in the district to study at home.

Residents of five Daxing neighbourhoods where the cases were detected were ordered to remain indoors.

Daxing includes one of the city’s two international airports.

20th Jan, 1:20 PM

Tokyo 'unwavering' on Olympics but fans not guaranteed: CEO

Olympics organisers are “unwavering” on holding the coronavirus-delayed Games this year but can't rule out staging it without spectators, Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto told AFP.

In an interview ahead of the Games' six-month countdown, Muto conceded people are “anxious” as virus cases soar worldwide, including in Japan where Tokyo is under a state of emergency.

But he insisted the Olympics were still possible, even without requiring athletes and fans to be vaccinated, and that public opinion will swing behind the Games once the virus situation improves.

“We are not discussing cancellation,” he said. “Holding the Games is our unwavering policy, and at this point in time we're not discussing anything other than that.”

Polling in Japan this month showed around 80 per cent of respondents oppose holding the Games this year, even after organisers unveiled a raft of anti-virus measures.