23rd February 2021 – (Hong Kong) Total worldwide COVID-19 cases have reached 112,386,906 with 2,488,241 deaths as of 11.28pm today.
At least 98 countries and territories have administered more than 212 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, barely a year after the first COVID-19 case was reported in China.
The European Commission on Tuesday said travel and border curbs set up by six EU nations to combat COVID-19 variants were too tight, as it sought to push through a coordinated approach to managing the movement of goods and people within the bloc.
Dunkirk may soon see extra measures implemented to curb the spread of coronavirus and the mayor of the Northern French city has asked for one last chance after a sharp rise in coronavirus incidence rates.
“New variant” cases of COVID-19 are falling across the UK, according to the country’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, who credits extra border measures for the drop. COVID-19 is likely to be a problem for the next few winters — despite vaccination programs — the chief medical officer for England, Chris Whitty, said during a news conference Monday.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he’s “very optimistic” that England’s restrictions on social contact will end in June, and airline bookings have started to surge in Britain. Meanwhile, the U.K.’s finance minister is planning more economic aid after pandemic curbs pushed up unemployment.
U.K. holidaymakers have begun showering airlines with summer bookings after Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined a roadmap for air travel to return. EasyJet Plc ticket sales more than quadrupled in the hours after Johnson said Monday that international trips may restart as soon as 17th May. Tour operator TUI AG said holiday bookings to Spain, Turkey and Greece jumped sixfold overnight, while Ryanair Holdings Plc cited Italy as another popular destination.
Scotland is targeting a substantial reopening of its economy from late April if recent progress in suppressing the virus continues, but First Minister Nicola Sturgeon warned that any decisions on an easing of rules will be driven by “data not dates.”
Starting Wednesday, the gathering limit in Iceland will be 50 people instead of 20, and up to 200 will be allowed to attend sporting events, stage performances and museums as long as social distancing is observed, the country’s health minister said in a televised interview with local media.
Italy plans to impose a hard lockdown in the northern province of Brescia and other municipalities of the Lombardy region following a surge of infections related to variants of COVID-19. The area is close to the original epicenter of the pandemic in Italy.
People travelling to Germany from the Czech Republic and the Austrian province of Tyrol face border controls until at least 3rd March after restrictions were extended by eight days, news agency DPA reported, citing a spokesman for the interior ministry.
Czech hospitals are nearing “total exhaustion” as beds at intensive-care units become overwhelmed with Covid patients, forcing hospitals to curb other care and possibly seek help from neighbouring countries, a government official said.
AstraZeneca Plc’s antibody cocktail has proved effective against variants of the virus in early testing, a potentially key development for vulnerable populations unable to receive vaccines.
U.S. and Canada
As all eyes are on whether the Senate parliamentarian will allow an increase in the minimum wage in the Senate’s COVID-19 relief package, Democrats are having discussions about alternative paths they could take to salvage their increase in the minimum wage.
President Biden marked “a truly grim, heartbreaking milestone” of 500,000 Americans killed by the coronavirus during a candle-lighting ceremony Monday at the White House.
The United States can expect to see a total of 240 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine by the end of March, according to prepared remarks drug companies will deliver to a House subcommittee today. The vaccine makers are set to testify at 10.30am ET.
Multiple governors across the United States have ordered flags being flown at half-staff to honor the 500,000 victims who have died from COVID-19.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he expects US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for fully vaccinated people will be coming soon.
Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota Tuesday that if Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine candidate is granted emergency use authorization the number of doses will likely be relatively few at first, but will ramp up to meet contractual agreements.
Latin and South America
Brazil has fully approved the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE, its health regulator said on Tuesday, though a dispute over a supply deal means it has none to start an immunisation program with. It is the first coronavirus shot to receive full approval in Brazil, regulator Anvisa said. Vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd, have only been approved for emergency use.
Though Mexico has logged more than 180,000 COVID-19 deaths, it has some of the world’s loosest entry requirements for foreigners. Visitors aren’t required to submit negative test results, and there is no mandatory quarantine.
Mexico, the first country in North America to approve Russia’s coronavirus shot, has received its first batch of the vaccine, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), said Tuesday.
Argentina’s government released the names of dozens of officials and allies who secretly got vaccinated against COVID-19 in an apparent violation of the country’s guidelines, attempting to contain a growing political scandal. The list of about 70 people disclosed on Monday by the government includes leaders from the ruling Peronist party, mid-level government officials and family members who received the shots.
China and Hong Kong
China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) responded to CNN’s exclusive report on how the World Health Organization (WHO) panel will recommend “deeper” study of early COVID-19 clues, saying that Chinese experts conducted “lots of virus tracing work.”
Hong Kong will allow public gatherings of up to four people starting Wednesday at midnight, according to a government statement. The current limit is two people. Around 70,000 Hong Kong residents in priority groups have made appointments to receive their CoronaVAC vaccine shots, filling up all available slots between 26th Feb and 11th March, according to a statement.
Elsewhere in the world
Senegal began its coronavirus vaccination campaign on Tuesday with 200,000 doses that it purchased from China’s Sinopharm, which it received last week. The West African country is one of the first in the region to start vaccinating its population against COVID-19. It has so far recorded 33,242 cases and 832 deaths from the disease.
Japan appointed its first Minister for Loneliness this month after the country’s suicide rate increased for the first time in 11 years during the COVID-19 pandemic. Japan is planning to lift the state of emergency outside the Tokyo area a week earlier than planned, with falling numbers of cases easing the strain on hospitals, local media reported Tuesday.
Oman’s supreme committee for dealing with COVID-19 has decided to suspend incoming flights from 10 countries for 15 days over concerns about the spread of variants, according to state-run Oman News Agency.
Israel won’t be able to supply a significant amount of vaccine to others that have asked for help, at least until its own inoculation drive is completed, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on Tuesday.
One in four people in Africa’s biggest city may have had COVID-19. A survey conducted by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research showed that 23% of people in the West African nation’s commercial hub of Lagos, which has a population of 21 million people, have been infected.
Thailand may scrap mandatory quarantine for visitors vaccinated against COVID-19 as a way to revive tourism, according to Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha. Foreigners visiting Thailand may be allowed to skip the two-week isolation if they furnish vaccination certificates, but authorities will still track them.
India said on Tuesdaymutated versions of the coronavirus were not responsible for an upsurge in cases in two states, a potential relief for a country where mask-wearing and social distancing have largely disappeared. Maharashtra in the west and Kerala in the south account for 75 per cent of India’s current active cases of about 147,000, and both states have seen a sudden rise in new infections in recent days, raising calls for a faster roll-out of vaccines.
The chief minister of the Indian state of Maharashtra, which includes the financial capital of Mumbai, warned that new regional localized lockdowns could be imposed after the number of daily cases rose to almost 7,000 on Sunday, accounting for about half the entire country’s reported infections.
Information compiled from Reuters, CNN, CNA and Bloomberg.