Brazil has urged producers of COVID-19 vaccines to speed up their applications for use in the country, as a senior Health Ministry official vowed to improve dialogue with Pfizer after it complained of an onerous emergency use application.
President Jair Bolsonaro is under growing pressure to explain why Brazil has not begun vaccinating its population against the coronavirus.
In a news conference, Deputy Health Minister Elcio Franco said the government could only sign vaccine purchase agreements once producers have emergency use authorisations or full authorisations.
Moderna Inc said it was in discussions with the South Korean government to potentially provide 40 million or more doses of its COVID-19 vaccine.
Potential distribution of the two-dose vaccine in South Korea is expected to start in the second quarter of 2021, the company said in a statement.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Yonhap news agency citing the presidential office reported that South Korea will sign a deal with the vaccine developer to offer COVID-19 vaccines for 20 million people.
This comes a day after officials vowed to speed up efforts to launch a public coronavirus vaccination programme as the country detected its first cases of the virus variant linked to the rapid rise in infections in Britain.
First case of UK variant detected in the US
Jared Polis, the governor of Colorado, has announced the state’s first case of the COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7, the same more transmissible strain discovered in the UK earlier this month.
Coronavirus patients at a hospital in England are having to be treated outside in ambulances before entering the building as rising numbers put “significant pressures” on health services.
Footage shared on social media of Queen’s Hospital in Romford appears to show dozens of emergency vehicles queueing outside the hospital.
A statement released by the Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, urged people to only contact ambulance services in the case of real emergencies.
“Along with the rest of the NHS, we are under considerable pressure as we look after a rising number of Covid-19 patients, some of whom are being cared for safely in ambulances before entering Queen’s Hospital,” it said.
You can help us by calling NHS 111 if you need medical advice, and only coming to our emergency departments in a real emergency.”
Multiple ambulances were also seen lining the streets near to the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London, as the Barts Health NHS Trust announced it had moved into a “very high pressure” phase.
Magda Smith, the Trust’s chief medical officer, said: “London’s NHS is under significant pressure from high Covid-19 infection rates and non-Covid winter demands, with staff in all services going the extra mile and we are opening more beds to care for the most unwell patients.
“It is more important than ever that Londoners follow Government guidance and do everything possible to reduce transmission of the virus.”
US president-elect Joe Biden criticized the Trump administration Tuesday for the pace of distributing COVID-19 vaccines, saying it is “falling far behind.”
Biden said “it’s gonna take years, not months, to vaccinate the American people” at the current pace.
He vowed to ramp up the current speed of vaccinations five to six times to 1 million shots a day, but acknowledged it “will still take months to have the majority of Americans vaccinated.”
The president-elect, who takes office on January 20, said he has directed his team to prepare a “much more aggressive effort to get things back on track.”
I’m going to move heaven and earth to get us going in the right direction,” Biden said.
Brazil records highest death toll since mid-September
Brazil recorded 58,718 additional confirmed cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours, along with 1,111 deaths, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday.
It is the worst daily death toll reported by the ministry since September 15th, adding to concerns of a growing second wave of infections in Latin America’s largest country.
Brazil has registered nearly 7.6 million cases of the virus since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 192,681, according to ministry data.
The first study of the safety and effectiveness of a coronavirus vaccine in Iran began on Tuesday, state TV reported, with dozens due to receive the domestically developed shot even as details about its production remained slim.
The vaccine, the first in the country to reach human trials, is produced by Shifa Pharmed, part of a state-owned pharmaceutical conglomerate known as Barekat.
The company’s website describes it as involved in the large-scale production of antibiotics and penicillin, without offering any details about its coronavirus research, results of animal trials or previous vaccine development since its founding in 1995.
Iran has struggled to stem the worst virus outbreak in the region, which has infected over 1.2 million people and killed nearly 55,000.
The study, a phase 1 clinical trial, will enrol a total of 56 volunteers to receive two shots of the Iranian vaccine within two weeks, according to Hamed Hosseini, a clinical trial manager.
Results are to be announced roughly a month after the second shot. Three people received the first injections on Tuesday in a ceremony at a Tehran hotel attended by the country’s health minister.
State TV announced that none of the injections had so far caused any “fevers” or “bodily shocks.”
I am happy that the scientific process went ahead in a proper way,” said Tayebeh Mokhber, daughter of the Setad Foundation chairman, who was the first to get jabbed. “I hope the conclusion will be health for our people.”
The Algerian president, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, has returned home after being treated for Covid-19 in Germany, state television reported on Tuesday.
Tebboune’s absence since the end of October has fuelled speculation over whether he will finish his first term.
The French health minister, Olivier Véran, said the government could soon impose an earlier curfew that would start at 6pm instead of 8pm in eastern areas due to the spread of the coronavirus.
Veran added there were currently no plans to impose a third lockdown, despite the daily new Covid-19 case count being more than twice as high as the government’s target of less than 5,000.
Germany could offer shots against the coronavirus to all who want them by the summer if a third vaccine from either Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca or CureVac wins EU approval, the country’s health minister, Jens Spahn, said.
Spahn was grilled during an interview broadcast live on the website of mass-selling Bild newspaper about media reports that Germany had so far only received 4m doses of Pfizer Inc’s and BioNTech’s vaccine compared with 5m shots secured by Israel, whose population is one-tenth of Germany’s.
“We have not ordered insufficiently,” Spahn said. “We expect on the whole some 130 million doses from Moderna and BioNTech, which will be enough to offer the vaccine to anyone wishing to be vaccinated.”
Asked when the country would be in a position to make the vaccine available to all those wishing to have it, Spahn said: “It depends if we get more approvals, meaning Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca and CureVac. If one or two additional vaccines get approval, I think we will reach that point toward summer.”
Germany at the weekend rolled out the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine developed by the German biotech company with its US partner, starting in care homes where death rates are highest.
Denmark extends lockdown for a fortnight
Denmark has extended a hard lockdown for two weeks, until 17 January, to limit the spread of Covid-19, following a drastic spike in new infections over the past month, the country’s prime minister said on Tuesday.
The situation regarding infection rates, hospitalisations and deaths is now even more serious than in the spring,” Mette Frederiksen told a press briefing.
The extension of the current country-wide restrictions announced on December 16 will keep schools, shopping malls, restaurants, bars and other non-essential shops closed, Frederiksen said.
The Nordic country had fared relatively well through the pandemic until December, when the number of new infections more than doubled compared with the previous month. “The scenario we feared in the spring may become a reality in the coming weeks and months if we don’t act now,” Frederiksen said. Denmark on Tuesday reported 2,621 new cases among its population of 5.8 million over the past 24 hours, while the number of new hospitalisations rose by 28 to a record 900, close to the maximum capacity of its Covid-19 wards.
France records rise in people admitted to hospital for Covid-19
The French health ministry reported 11,395 new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours on Tuesday, jumping above the 10,000 threshold for the first time in four days.
France, which launched its gradual vaccination campaign on Sunday, saw the number of people hospitalised for the disease rise for the fourth day running, a sequence unseen since 13 November.
France’s cumulative total of cases now stands at 2,574,041, the fifth-highest in the world.
The seven-day moving average of new infections, which averages out weekly data reporting irregularities, stands at 11,871, more than twice as high as the government’s target of fewer than 5,000.
The Covid-19 death toll was up by 969, at 64,078, versus a seven day moving average of 339.
A man charged with two counts of murder in the deaths of a couple in the US has died from Covid-19 complications while in custody awaiting trial, an official said.
Craig Pennington, 56, died at Norton Healthcare in Louisville, Marion County detention center‘s chief of security, Irvin Mann, told news outlets.
Mann said Pennington was taken to hospital on 11 December for shortness of breath and tested positive for Covid-19.
Pennington was charged in July 2016 with killing 38-year-old Robert K Jones and 35-year-old Crystal J Warner.
Warner and Jones, both of Florence, went missing on 3 July and their bodies were later found in different counties.
Pennington had pleaded not guilty to murder and other charges and was scheduled for a pretrial conference on 15 January, according to court records.
Ten out of about 215 inmates at the jail were infected with Covid-19 as of Tuesday morning, Mann said.
Ireland records highest daily tally of cases
Ireland reported the highest Covid-19 cases in a single day on Tuesday with 1,546 infections, up from a previous record of 1,296 on Saturday.
The government is to meet on Wednesday to consider additional restrictions to try to control a surge that began after public health measures were eased in early December when Ireland had the lowest infection rate in the European Union.
Nigeria faces oxygen supply challenges to treat coronavirus patients in parts of the country and unacceptable laboratory delays as case numbers rose to the highest recorded in a single week, health authorities said.
The warnings from officials come as the resurgent virus strikes across much of the world, bringing greater case loads and hospitalisations.
“There is an on-going review of the chain for the supply of medical oxygen for our medical facilities across the nation,” said Boss Mustapha, chairman of Nigeria’s coronavirus task force, naming the capital of Abuja as an area of concern.
Labs’ “inability to function optimally has resulted in unacceptable levels of delay in receiving results,” he added, calling on Nigeria’s state governments to reopen all laboratories, ensure prompt testing and keep open treatment centres.
“This is not helping our national response.”
Nigeria has recorded few coronavirus cases compared to others on the continent.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, officials count 84,811 as of Tuesday evening, with 1,264 deaths.
A senior US public health official said on Tuesday the coronavirus testing the United States now is requiring for travellers from Britain should probably be extended to other countries as well.
“I think that probably should be extended to other countries,” US assistant secretary for health Brett Giroir told MSNBC.