COVID-19 SUMMARY: Johnson sets plan for June U.K. reopening, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi start a new clinical trial of their protein-based vaccine


22nd February 2021 – (Hong Kong)   Total worldwide COVID-19 cases have reached 112,062,764 with 2,479,927 deaths as of 11.58pm today.


The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) pleaded with rich countries on Monday to check before ordering additional COVID-19 vaccine shots for themselves whether that undermines efforts to get vaccine shots to poorer nations.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has renewed its call for Tanzania to start reporting COVID-19 cases and share information on what measures it is taking to combat the pandemic. “WHO is yet to receive any information regarding what measures Tanzania is taking to respond to the pandemic,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement on Saturday. 

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will announce plans on Monday to reopen England’s schools and allow people to see family and friends, part of a phased exit from COVID-19 lockdown underpinned by one of the world’s fastest vaccine roll-outs. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to reopen England’s stores and outdoor hospitality from mid-April, as he set out his aim to fully restart the economy from 21st June.

New findings in the U.K., the first country in the western world to roll out COVID-19 vaccines, show the shots provide a high level of protection against infection and illness after a single dose.

GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi on Monday said they had started a new clinical trial of their protein-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate, reviving their efforts against the pandemic after a setback in December delayed the shot’s launch. The British and French drugmakers aim to reach final testing in the second quarter, and if the results are conclusive, hope to see the vaccine approved by the fourth quarter after having initially targeted the first half of this year.

COVID-19 vaccination rollout has been linked to a substantial fall in the risk of admission to hospitals from the disease in Scotland, according to early data from a study on the effect of the Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca shots in the community. 

Slovakia’s foreign minister called on EU partners on Monday to send an advance vaccine shipment to the central European country which he said was in a “tragic” coronavirus situation with record numbers of cases. The country of 5.5 million has suffered about 100 deaths per day recently, the highest in the world relative to population on a one-week basis and ahead of neighbouring Czech Republic, according to data tracker Slovakia had 3,672 patients in hospital with confirmed coronavirus as of Sunday.

Italy extended a ban on movement between the country’s 20 regions to 27th March, Ansa newswire reported. Mario Draghi’s new government is trying to step up a vaccination campaign to counter the pandemic, while maintaining a system of restrictions based on regional spread of the virus.

France rugby captain Charles Ollivon is among five new players to have tested positive for Covid-19, the French rugby federation (FFR) announced on Monday. Authorities ordered a lockdown on the next two weekends along the coastline of the Alpes-Maritimes region of southeastern France, including the city of Nice, to stem rising infections.

The German COVID-19 incidence rate has risen slightly, according to the country’s national agency for disease control and prevention. The Robert Koch Institute (RKI) says the incidence rate — the rate of infected inhabitants per 100,000 people — now stands at 61 per 100,000. It had dropped down to 57 previously.

The Alpes-Maritimes police commissioner on Monday announced a partial lockdown in between the French coastal towns of Menton and Theoule over the next two weekends in an effort to curb a surge in COVID-19 cases and the spread of new variants.

There will be no requirement to quarantine when entering Poland if presenting a negative coronavirus test result, the head of the country’s health ministry, Adam Niedzielski, said in a Monday interview with private broadcaster TVN24. Niedzielski added that the border police “needs 48 hours to reach operational capacity at individual border points.” He specified that these rules would apply “on the southern and western border.”

U.S. and Canada

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen discussed the road to economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, saying a successful recovery to her “would be if we could get back to pre-pandemic levels of employment.”

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city lost a full week in its vaccination effort due to snowstorms and bad weather around the country, which affected vaccine delivery.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said again on Monday that Americans might be wearing masks into 2022, and although there may be far less spread of the coronavirus, people must be prepared for the possibility of another surge of cases. 

As the United States approaches half a million deaths from Covid-19, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday that the situation didn’t have to be this bad, the country needs to be unified and committed to fighting the virus together. 

The biotechnology company Novavax announced on Monday that it has completed enrollment of its PREVENT-19 trial, a Phase 3 study of its COVID-19 vaccine in the United States and Mexico.  The trial has enrolled 30,000 volunteers across 118 locations, according to the announcement. 

Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline said Monday they had begun a Phase 2 trial of their COVID-19 vaccine candidate, and if results are positive, a Phase 3 study could start in the second quarter of 2021.

China and Hong Kong

Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam received China’s Sinovac vaccine on Monday together with top officials at a live televised event to bolster public confidence ahead of the vaccine’s rollout in the global financial hub this week.

Elsewhere in the world

Russia reported 337 deaths caused by the coronavirus, the lowest daily number since mid-November. The country has also seen a steady decline in cases — it reported 12,604 new cases on Monday, down from a peak of almost 30,000 a day in December.

The chief minister of the Indian state of Maharashtra, which includes the financial capital of Mumbai, warned that new regional lockdowns could be imposed after the number of daily cases rose to nearly 7,000 on Sunday, accounting for about half the entire country’s reported infections.

Australia’s government has condemned the “disgusting” behaviour of spectators at the Australian Open tennis tournament Sunday, after sections of the crowd loudly booed a speech praising the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. Australia began its COVID-19 vaccination rollout for frontline workers on Monday with about 60,000 Pfizer/BioNTech doses, according to Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s office.

Gaza will begin its COVID-19 vaccination rollout from Monday, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said Sunday, delaying original launch plans by 24 hours.

Tokyo reported 178 new coronavirus cases, the lowest number since 9th November Japan is in the midst of an extended second state of emergency for much of its urban areas, as the country was hit by a winter surge of cases at the end of last year. Cases have been easing significantly, and the country began its vaccination drive last week.

Thailand extended a state of emergency until the end of March and ordered the easing of some COVID-19 containment measures as authorities prepared to start a vaccination drive as early as next week. The cabinet is expected to back the extension — in place since March last year — at a meeting on Tuesday.

The Philippines has approved Sinovac Biotech’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, but the country’s Food and Drugs Agency (FDA) said it would not recommend the vaccine be given to healthcare workers, local media reported on Monday.

COVID-19 vaccination for seniors aged 70 and above began across Singapore on Monday. This follows a pilot conducted in Tanjong Pagar and Ang Mo Kio that started end-January. More than 5,000 seniors from the two towns have received their vaccinations as of Feb 18, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said last week.

Information compiled from Reuters, CNN and Bloomberg.