COVID-19 SUMMARY: China approves two more domestic vaccines, Finland to go into a three-week lockdown


25th February 2021 – (Hong Kong) Total worldwide COVID-19 cases have reached 113,236,530 with 2,511,477 deaths as of 11.30pm today.


COVID-19 cases in England have fallen 78% since the government imposed a national lockdown on 4th January, according to weekly statistics from the National Health Service Test and Trace. 84,310 people tested positive for the virus between 11th February and 17th February, the lowest weekly figure recorded since September. 2,580,210 people were tested for the virus in the same time period, a 14% decrease from the previous week.

Finland will go into a three-week lock down starting 8th March and is prepared to declare a state of emergency, Prime Minister Sanna Marin said Thursday. The incidence of cases across the country was 62 infections per 100,000 population in the week of 15th Feb., compared to 46 infections per 100,000 population in the previous week, the Health Ministry said in a statement Thursday.  

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz will push the European Union Thursday to introduce a “green passport” for people who have protection against coronavirus, he said. 

Italy will receive 25 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine by the end of June, the company’s head in the country Lorenzo Wittum said in an interview with Corriere della Sera newspaper. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned of a third wave of COVID-19 cases if Germany gets its reopening wrong. “We have to proceed wisely and carefully now so that a third wave does not necessitate a new complete shutdown throughout Germany,” Merkel said in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.

Hungary posted the highest number of daily new cases in more than two months, prompting the government to extend restrictions through the middle of March.

Bulgaria’s coronavirus deaths surpassed 10,000 as the EU country with the lowest vaccinated share of the population is preparing to ease restrictions.

U.S. and Canada

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen made an urgent bid for global cooperation ahead of her first meeting with Group of 20 counterparts, marking a reversal from Trump-era unilateralism that triggered rifts between the U.S. and many allies.

COVID-19 numbers across the US remain staggeringly high. For the past week, the US has averaged more than 72,000 new cases daily, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Getting infection numbers down now not only will help prevent the virus from further mutating but will also give vaccines a better shot at remaining effective. More than 54,000 people remain hospitalized with the virus nationwide, according to the COVID Tracking Project. And more than 57,000 COVID-19 deaths have been recorded this month alone. On Wednesday, California became the first state to surpass 50,000 virus-related deaths, Johns Hopkins data showed — a grim reminder of its brutal battle against the virus.

The number of COVID-19 vaccine doses administered in the US as second doses outpaced first doses for the first time over the past week, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Epidemiologist Michael Osterholm says that while the United States is in a downward trend with coronavirus cases, he expects an increase in cases to occur in the next few weeks due to a highly contagious variant first detected in the United Kingdom

Moderna Inc said on Thursday it expects COVID-19 vaccine sales of US$18.4 billion this year, above the US$15 billion in sales forecast by Pfizer Inc for the only other vaccine authorised for emergency use in the United States so far. Both vaccines, developed using a technology based on messenger RNA (mRNA), are being distributed at an unprecedented speed as cases mount in the United States, with deaths from COVID-19 surpassing the dire milestone of 500,000.

Moderna has completed enrollment for a Phase 2/3 trial studying their vaccine in adolescents and will start the Phase 2 study in younger children soon, the company said in a press release Thursday. 

Pfizer and its partner BioNTech said Thursday they have begun to test how well a third dose of their authorized vaccine stacks up against new coronavirus variants.

The post-vaccination observation period required after the administration of Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines may not be necessary for Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, Dr. Nirav Shah, deputy director of the Maine Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a media briefing by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Wednesday. The J&J vaccine is made using an adenoviral vector. A small piece of genetic material from the coronavirus is inserted into a weakened version of a common cold virus called an adenovirus. Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines use a newer platform, called mRNA (or messenger RNA) that delivers instructions to the cells to make a small piece of the coronavirus spike protein, which primes the immune system to recognize the virus in the future. 

China and Hong Kong

China’s National Medical Products Administration said on Thursday that it had approved two more COVID-19 vaccines for public use, increasing the number of domestic vaccines approved in China to four.

The two newly approved vaccines are made by CanSino Biologics Inc and Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, an affiliate of China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm).

Elsewhere in the world

Israel is passing a major threshold as its rapid coronavirus vaccination drive leads the world in doses per capita. “As we speak we are crossing the line of 50% of the general Israeli population getting at least a first jab,” Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said in a Bloomberg Television interview on Thursday.

India reported 16,738 new cases on Thursday — the highest one-day addition this month — pushing the total past 11 million and stoking fears of another wave in the Asian nation.

Syria will start administering vaccines the country has received “from a friendly country” to frontlines workers treating coronavirus patients next week, the health minister Hassan al-Ghobash said Thursday, according to state news agency SANA. 

South Africa will take about three months to register another vaccine for general use after the already approved AstraZeneca Plc shot proved only minimally effective in preventing mild disease caused by a variant of the virus first identified in the country.

Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the country will buy 1.8 million vaccines from China’s Sinopharm Group.

The African Union is backing calls for drugmakers to waive some intellectual property rights on COVID-19 medicines and vaccines to speed up their rollout to poor countries, the head of its disease control body said on Thursday. South Africa and India, which both manufacture drugs and vaccines, made the proposal at the World Trade Organisation last year, saying intellectual property (IP) rules were hindering the urgent scale-up of vaccine production and provision of medical products to some patients.

Bahrain Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa said his country might invest in a proposed Israeli vaccine manufacturing plant, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on Thursday after a telephone call between the two leaders.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha will be the first person to receive the nation’s COVID-19 vaccines on 28th Feb kicking off the inoculation program, which will begin on 1st March for the public.

Cyprus will ease some of its restrictions after a stabilisation in the number of new cases over the past 14 days. Starting on 1st March, some high-school classes will re-open, as well as gyms, dance schools and swimming pools under certain conditions. 

Malaysia recorded 1,924 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the lowest count since 4th Jan, according to data from the Health Ministry

Thousands of Indonesia’s religious figures gathered on Thursday for mass COVID-19 inoculations for clergy and faith groups, with monks, priests, imams and nuns queuing to receive their first doses of vaccine.

Information compiled from Reuters, CNN, CNA and Bloomberg.