Russia official death toll half of figure listed by state statistics agency;
Worldwide, according to official figures, the coronavirus pandemic has claimed more than 2.3 million lives worldwide out of more than 106 million known infections.
AFP: Russia has recorded a dramatic increase in mortality in 2020 fuelled by the coronavirus pandemic, according to new data published by the Rosstat agency.
The figures showed that between April, when the pandemic hit Russia, and December, the country saw 162,429 coronavirus-related fatalities.
However, as of Monday, the official total released by Russia’s health officials stood at only 77,068 virus deaths – on the Johns Hopkins University tracker, the figure is listed as 75,828.
WHO investigators to brief media from Wuhan at 4pm local time
The international team of experts in China investigating how the outbreak started will speak to the media in Wuhan on Tuesday, the WHO has announced.
The briefing, at 4:00pm local time (0800 GMT) at a hotel in the city, will be live-streamed in English on the UN health agency’s digital and social media platforms.
AFP on the background of the investigation: The first Covid-19 cases were detected in Wuhan in December 2019.
Scientists think the disease originated in bats and could have been transmitted to humans via another mammal.
But there are no definitive answers so far and top WHO officials have played down the chances of the sensitive investigation mission finding them on the first attempt.
More on the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and the South African variant, from AFP:
South Africa, the continent’s hardest-hit nation, had been due to start its campaign in the coming days with a million AstraZeneca doses.
However, the government decided to hold off because of the results from the trial.
“It’s a temporary issue that we have to hold on AstraZeneca until we figure out these issues,” Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told reporters on Sunday.
South Africa has 1.5 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses, which will expire in April.
AstraZeneca, which developed the shot with the University of Oxford, also stood by its product.
“We do believe our vaccine will still protect against severe disease,” it told AFP.
A company spokesperson said researchers were already working to update the vaccine to deal with the South African variant spreading rapidly around the world.
WHO says don’t dismiss AstraZeneca shot after South Africa delays jabs
The World Health Organization insisted Monday that the AstraZeneca vaccine was still a vital tool in the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic, after South Africa delayed the start of its inoculation programme over concerns about its efficacy against a virus variant, AFP reports.
“It is vastly too early to be dismissing this vaccine,” said Richard Hatchett, who heads the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), which co-leads the Covax vaccine facility with the WHO and Gavi after the AstraZeneca shot ran into a number of setbacks, including questions about its efficacy for over-65s.
“It is absolutely crucial to use the tools that we have as effectively as we possibly can,” he said, speaking at the WHO’s regular bi-weekly press briefing on the coronavirus pandemic.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is currently a vital part of Covax, which was set up to procure Covid-19 vaccines and ensure their equitable distribution around the world.
It accounts for almost all of the 337.2 million vaccine doses Covax is preparing to begin shipping to some 145 countries during the first half of the year, once it receives WHO authorisation, which is expected next week.
But a trial at Johannesburg’s University of Witwatersrand, concluded the vaccine provided only “minimal” protection against mild to moderate Covid-19 caused by the variant first detected in South Africa.
That was bad news for many poorer nations counting on the logistical advantages offered by the AstraZeneca shot.
Hello and welcome to today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.
My name is Helen Sullivan and I’ll be bringing you the latest for the next few hours, as the World Health Organization warns that the AstraZeneca vaccine is still a vital tool in the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic, after South Africa delayed the start of its inoculation programme over concerns about its efficacy against a virus variant.
“It is vastly too early to be dismissing this vaccine,” said Richard Hatchett, who heads the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), which co-leads the Covax vaccine facility with the WHO and Gavi on Monday, after the AstraZeneca shot ran into a number of setbacks, including questions about its efficacy for over-65s.
More on this soon – in the meantime, here are the other key recent developments:
- The French health ministry has reported another 458 deaths from Covid-19, as the number of patients in hospital has increased for the second day in a row.
- Surge testing will begin near Manchester after the Kent variant of Covid-19 has been detected. About 10,000 extra tests will be handed out in six postcode areas.
- Migrants and indigenous people in Mexico risk missing out on the coronavirus vaccine because not everyone has the ID number required, according to human rights groups.
- There are fears in the US that Super Bowl celebrations could spark new outbreaks, as the country’s vaccination campaign gathers pace and new case levels have fallen to their lowest level in three months.
- Scientists and senior MPs have renewed calls for sweeping border curbs to protect the UK’s vaccination programme against new variants as Boris Johnson prepared to introduce tougher measures and Britain saw internal infections fall.
- Wall Street set a record closing high on Monday, on the back of financial stimulus and as the US’s vaccine rollout continues.
- A stay-at-home order for Toronto will be extended by another fortnight, according to Reuters.