UK reports record 1,564 daily COVID deaths

Britain has the highest death toll in Europe with nearly 85,000 deaths and at least 3.2 million infections reported to date.

A shopper walks past NHS signage promoting "Stay Home, Save Lives" on a bus shelter
A shopper walks past NHS signage promoting 'Stay Home, Save Lives' on a bus shelter in Chinatown, central London, UK [Tolga Akmen /AFP]

The United Kingdom reported a daily record of 1,564 coronavirus fatalities on Wednesday, the first time the death toll passed the 1,500-mark since March last year.

Meanwhile, Spain’s Galicia, La Rioja and Cantabria regions became the latest areas to impose more stringent COVID-19 restrictions amid a rapid increase in infections.

Worldwide, more than 91 million coronavirus cases have been reported with more than 1.9 million deaths.

These were Wednesday’s updates:

Lebanon’s caretaker health minister hospitalised

Lebanon’s caretaker Health Minister Hamad Hassan has tested positive for coronavirus and was admitted to hospital, a statement from the ministry said.

“The minister has been admitted to Saint George hospital for treatment,” the statement said.

Lebanon’s hospitals are running out of capacity to treat critically ill patients as COVID-19 infections surge after the Christmas and New Year holiday period.

People wait to get tested for the coronavirus disease, at Rafik Hariri University Hospital, in Beirut, Lebanon [File: Mohamed Azakir/Reuters]

African Union secures 270 million COVID-19 vaccine doses – Ramaphosa

The African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team has secured a provisional 270 million COVID-19 vaccine doses for African countries, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said.

“As a result of our own efforts we have so far secured a commitment of a provisional amount of 270 million vaccines from three major suppliers: Pfizer, AstraZeneca (through the Serum Institute of India) and Johnson & Johnson,” Ramaphosa, who is the African Union chair, said in a statement.

Russia agrees with Brazil to supply 10 million doses of Sputnik V vaccine in Q1

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and Brazilian pharmaceutical company Uniao Quimica have agreed on supplying 10 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine to Brazil in the first quarter of 2021, vaccine developers said.

The RDIF and Uniao Quimica will apply for an emergency use authorisation for Sputnik V in Brazil this week, said the developers of the vaccine, which is backed by the RDIF. First deliveries will begin in January, they added.

A view shows vials during the production of the Gam-COVID-Vac, also known as Sputnik V vaccine against the coronavirus disease at a facility of BIOCAD biotechnology company in Saint Petersburg, Russia [File: Anton Vaganov/Reuters]

J&J’s vaccine should hopefully show over 80 percent effectiveness – Slaoui

Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate should hopefully show high effectiveness of 80 to 85 percent, the chief adviser for Operation Warp Speed Moncef Slaoui said.

“My expectation is high efficacy,” Slaoui said at a JP Morgan healthcare conference, noting that he hoped anything at 80 percent or above would receive emergency use authorisation in the US.

The vaccine, not yet authorised for emergency use in the United States, is in late-stage trials as a single dose vaccine, in contrast to rival two-shot vaccines from Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc.

New lockdown to come into force in Portugal from Friday

A new lockdown to bring a worrying rise in coronavirus cases under control will come into force in Portugal from Friday, Prime Minister Antonio Costa announced, urging people to stay indoors and protect themselves.

“We are at the most dangerous moment (of the pandemic),” Costa told reporters on Wednesday, adding remote work would be compulsory where possible. “The rule is simple: all of us should stay home.”

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Lisbon
The rules will be similar to the six-week lockdown imposed between March and April last year during the first wave of the pandemic, except all schools – public and private – will stay open this time [File: Rafael Marchante/Reuters]

French new cases lower than a week ago

France reported 23,852 new confirmed COVID-19 cases , more than the 19,752 on Tuesday but down from 25,379 a week ago.

Health ministry data also showed that 229 people had died from the virus in hospitals, from 355 on Tuesday.

The number of people in intensive care rose by double-digit numbers for the fourth consecutive day.

Second year of pandemic ‘could even be tougher’ – WHO’s Ryan

The second year of the COVID-19 pandemic may be tougher than the first given how the new coronavirus is spreading, especially in the northern hemisphere as more infectious variants circulate, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.

“We are going into a second year of this, it could even be tougher given the transmission dynamics and some of the issues that we are seeing,” Mike Ryan, the WHO’s top emergencies official, said during an event on social media.

UK, South Africa COVID variants found in dozens of countries: WHO

A highly infectious mutation of the novel coronavirus first recorded in the United Kingdom last month has spread to dozens of countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Since being reported to the WHO on December 14, the UK-identified variant VOC 202012/01 has been found in 50 countries, territories and areas, the United Nations body said in its weekly report on the pandemic, published on Tuesday.

Read more here.

FILE PHOTO: A man wearing a protective face mask walks past an illustration of a virus outside a regional science centre in Oldham, Britain [File: Phil Noble/Reuters]

US must vaccinate Mexican migrant workers: FM

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said that the US is responsible for vaccinating Mexican migrants working north of the border.

He cited Article 23.8 of an agreement between the US, Mexico and Canada, or the USMCA, that establishes protection for migrant workers in a foreign land and said a worker’s health cannot be compromised.

Coronavirus deaths in the US hit another daily high

The daily death toll in the United States hit another one-day high at more than 4,300.

The nation’s overall death toll from coronavirus has eclipsed 380,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. It is closing in fast on the number of Americans killed in World War II, about 407,000.

The US recorded 4,327 deaths on Tuesday, with Arizona and California among the hardest-hit states.

Healthcare workers prepare their equipment as a ‘vaccination super station’, built to vaccinate 5,000 people a day against the coronavirus opens in San Diego, California, US, January 11, 2021 [Mike Blake/Reuters]

INSIDE STORY: Will poorer nations miss out on COVID-19 vaccine?

The WHO has urged countries to prioritise COVAX, an initiative to secure vaccines for low and middle-income nations.

Read more here.

‘No limit’ for WHO delegation in month-long Wuhan mission, team member says

A global team of scientists led by the World Health Organization to investigate the origins of the novel coronavirus will spend around a month in the Chinese city of Wuhan, including two weeks in quarantine, a team member said.

Hung Nguyen, a Vietnamese biologist, told Reuters news agency that he did not expect any restrictions to the 10-member team’s work in China as they prepared to fly on Thursday from Singapore to Wuhan, where the first human cases were detected in late 2019.

Turkey approves China-based Sinovac vaccine’s emergency use

Turkish authorities gave the go-ahead for the emergency use of the COVID-19 vaccine produced by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd, paving the way for the roll-out for Turkey’s vaccination programme starting with healthcare workers and other high-risk groups.

The country’s health minister, Fahrettin Koca, and members of the country’s scientific advisory council received the first shots live on television, soon after the health regulatory authority, the Turkish Medicines and Medical Devices Agency, announced it had given the green light for use in the country of 83 million.

Last month, Turkish researchers said CoronaVac showed a 91.25 percent efficacy based on an interim analysis of 29 cases [File: Emrah Gurel/AP]

Britain targets 24/7 COVID-19 vaccine rollout

The United Kingdom is targeting a 24-hour, 7-day a week COVID-19 vaccination programme as soon as possible, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

AstraZeneca executives said the company was on track to deliver two million doses of its shot a week before mid-February, and Johnson said increased availability would be crucial to scaling up to a round-the-clock service.

“We’ll be going to 24/7 as soon as we can,” Johnson told parliament. “At the moment the limit is on supply.”

German army offers 10,000 soldiers to help virus fight

Germany’s defence minister offered up to 10,000 soldiers to help carry out coronavirus tests in care homes as the country continues to struggle with high infection numbers.

“The Bundeswehr is ready to assist at short notice with up to 10,000 men and women in old people’s homes and nursing homes if we are called upon,” a spokesman for Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told AFP news agency.

The soldiers would be able to receive training from manufacturers in how to carry out rapid tests, easing the pressure on care home staff and helping to protect those deemed most at risk from the virus, the spokesman said.

Spanish regions toughen response; Madrid blames UK strain

The Spanish regions of Galicia, La Rioja and Cantabria became the latest to tighten coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday amid a spiralling national infection rate that government officials have blamed on lax adherence to the rules over Christmas.

Madrid’s health chief Enrique Ruiz Escudero said he suspected the highly contagious variant of the virus first identified in the UK was partly to blame for the surge, accusing the government of “minimising” the issue.

UK registers record daily deaths

On Wednesday, the UK announced 1,564 fatalities, a daily record and the first time the death toll has passed 1,500 in a 24-hour period during the coronavirus pandemic.

The latest figures take the number of deaths to 84,767, among the highest in Europe alongside Italy.

It also registered another 47,525 new infections – a drop on the same day last week, when health officials recorded 62,322 cases.


Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies