COVID-19 SUMMARY: U.S. House of Representatives passes Biden’s US$1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, Italy to tighten restrictions in Milan, Turin and Other Areas


27th February 2021 – (Hong Kong) Total worldwide COVID-19 cases have reached 114,121,297 with 2,531,715 deaths as of 11.30am today.


Germany plans to extend a transport ban for people entering the country from areas with a high proportion of COVID-19 mutations to 17th March, Funke Mediengruppe newspapers reported, citing a government document. The government also plans to discuss on Monday whether border controls with the Czech Republic and Austria’s Tyrol state should be prolonged.

Italy will tighten COVID-19 restrictions in Milan, Turin and other areas after an uptick in cases, while Portugal will maintain travel curbs on flights from the U.K. and Brazil. New Zealand’s largest city Auckland will enter a seven-day lockdown while authorities investigate a new case of COVID-19 in the community.

Portugal on Saturday extended an existing suspension of commercial and private flights to and from Brazil and the U.K. until 16th March, the government said in an emailed statement. Portugal will present in March a gradual plan to ease restrictions, and it’s “natural” that the first steps may be schools, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said Friday.

Poland reported 12,100 new coronavirus infections and 303 deaths over the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry said. The country has registered an increase in the number of Covid patients in hospitals for a ninth day, the longest streak since November.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen will travel to Israel next week to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on vaccines, Kurz said on Twitter.

Greece extended a strict lockdown for high-risk areas of the country, which include Athens and the surrounding area, by one week to 8th March, Deputy Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias said Friday, citing a rise in new virus cases.

Belgium’s federal government and regions agreed to postpone a decision about relaxing restrictions by a week amid a surge in hospital admissions in recent days, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said.

The Czech government announced the strictest lockdown measures since the start of the pandemic to stem one of the world’s deadliest outbreaks and avoid a collapse of the health-care system.

U.S. and Canada

The recent sharp decline in new cases and deaths in the U.S. appears to be leveling off, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. The nation added 75,194 new cases on Friday, compared with the weekly average of almost 69,000. 

 President Joe Biden scored his first legislative win as the House of Representatives passed his US$1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package early Saturday, though Democrats face challenges to their hopes of using the bill to raise the minimum wage.

Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot coronavirus vaccine won the backing of a panel of U.S. government advisers, paving the way for authorization of a third U.S. immunisation against the deadly virus.

California’s 14-day positive test rate dropped to 2.9%, the lowest since 23rd Oct, according to the health department’s website

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that while the vaccine program wasn’t going as fast as people would like, he expects everyone to be vaccinated “by the end of summer,” according to a transcript of an interview with Meet the Press.

Latin and South America

Mexico will receive 800,000 Sinovac doses on 27th Feb and 852,150 Pfizer doses on 2nd March, Health Ministry official Ricardo Cortes said at a Friday evening press conference. So far, Mexico has received 1.77m doses of Pfizer vaccine, 870,000 of AstraZeneca, 200,000 of Sinovac and 200,000 of Sputnik, according to data presented by Cortes at the conference. 

Ecuador health minister Juan Carlos Zevallos resigned Friday, becoming the third top Latin American health official forced out in a week as outrage grows over the ability of the region’s richest and most powerful to obtain vaccinations before the rest of the population

China and Hong Kong

Hong Kong will open online registrations for the BioNTech vaccine injection starting next week, with additional details to be announced soon, the government said in a statement. About 585,000 doses arrived this morning and the rest is expected to be shipped in early March, according to the government. The city has secured at least 1 million BioNTech vaccines.

Elsewhere in the world

Russia reported 11,534 new confirmed coronavirus infections in the past day, the first increase in new cases in nine days. It raises the total to 4.235 million, according to data from the Russian government’s virus response centre.

 A Russian trial testing the effectiveness of revaccination with the Sputnik V shot to protect against new mutations of the coronavirus is producing strong results, researchers said on Saturday. Last month President Vladimir Putin ordered a review by 15th March of Russian-produced vaccines for their effectiveness against new variants spreading in different parts of the world.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Saturday that the country’s biggest city, Auckland, will go into a seven-day lockdown from early morning on Sunday after a new local case of the coronavirus of unknown origin emerged.

The 15-country Caribbean Community has asked wealthy nations to share their supply of COVID-19 vaccines, saying their economies won’t be able to recover from the pandemic without them. In a statement issued late Thursday, CARICOM said it was “dissatisfied and deeply concerned about the inequitable access to vaccines” it was facing.

 Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has extended partial coronavirus curbs in the capital until the end of March, as the country awaits the arrival of vaccines, the presidential spokesman said on Saturday. The Philippines is set to receive more than 1.1 million vaccine doses from Sinovac and AstraZeneca, allowing the nation to kickstart an inoculation effort weeks after some of its neighbours began theirs. Iran is set to receive 250,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine.

Japan plans to allow entry for participants in the summer Olympics and the Paralympics after the state of emergency that runs to 7th March, according to the Nikkei.

South Korea’s Disease Control and Prevention Agency has allowed health workers to squeeze extra doses from vials of coronavirus vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Pfizer. The decision on Saturday came after some health workers who were administering the AstraZeneca shots reported to authorities that they still saw additional doses left in the bottles that had each been used for 10 injections.

Iran expects to receive 250,000 doses of the vaccine from China’s Sinopharm on Saturday, the Associated Press reported.

Life across Australia inched toward pre-pandemic normal on Saturday, with New South Wales and South Australia states allowing some dancing and Victoria permitting larger crowds at sporting events. The three states, home to nearly two-thirds of Australia’s 25 million people, recorded no community transmissions on Saturday of the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19. For New South Wales, the most populous state, it was 41st straight day without a local case.

There were 12 new COVID-19 cases in Singapore as of noon on Saturday, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said in its daily update. All the new cases were imported and placed on stay-home notice or isolated upon arrival in Singapore. MOH also said on Saturday that a 64-year-old Singaporean has died from COVID-19 complications after he was medically evacuated from Indonesia to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) for treatment last month.

Malaysia received vaccine from Sinovac on Saturday, adding a second brand of COVID-19 shots days after kicking off its inoculation program.

Information compiled from Reuters, CNA and Bloomberg.