Israelis Gradually Resume Normal Life Amid Wide-Scale Vaccination Drive

Published February 21st, 2021 - 10:48 GMT
A health worker administers the COVID-19 vaccine to an Israeli at a bar in the coastal city of Tel Aviv on February 18, 2021. GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP
A health worker administers the COVID-19 vaccine to an Israeli at a bar in the coastal city of Tel Aviv on February 18, 2021. GIL COHEN-MAGEN / AFP
Coronavirus has killed more than 2.47 million people and infected over 111.6 million globally. Here are virus-related developments for February 21:

Israel starts reopening as number of vaccinees nears 50 percent

Israel has reopened swathes of its economy in what it called the start of a return to routine enabled by a vaccination drive that has reached almost half the population.

While shops were open to all, access to leisure sites like gyms and theatres was limited to vaccinees or those who have recovered from the disease with presumed immunity, a so-called "Green Pass" status displayed on a special Health Ministry app.

Social distancing measures were still in force. Dancing was barred at banquet halls, and synagogues, mosques or churches were required to halve their normal number of worshippers.

Malaysia to start vaccination drive early as first doses arrive

Malaysia has moved up its inoculation drive by two days as the first batch of vaccines arrived in the Southeast Asian nation.

Malaysia aims to vaccinate at least 80 percent of its 32 million people within a year as it pushes to revive an economy that, slammed by virus-related curbs, recorded its worst slump in over two decades in 2020.

It has imposed more lockdowns this year amid a fresh wave of virus infections. The country has recorded 280,272 cases and 1,051 deaths.

Germany reports 7,676 cases

The number of confirmed virus cases in Germany has increased by 7,676 to 2,386,559, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed. 

The reported death toll rose by 145 to 67,841, the tally showed. 

Argentina has new health chief after vaccine line-jumping scandal

Argentina's new health minister has taken office following the resignation of her predecessor after he was caught helping friends skip the line for vaccinations.

Carla Vizzotti, an internal medicine specialist, was sworn in by President Alberto Fernandez at the presidential residence in a brief ceremony broadcast on television. She did not issue a statement afterward or take questions from the media.

As a former deputy minister, Vizzotti, 48, was responsible for securing the Russian Sputnik V vaccine for Argentina.

Taiwan confirms three cases of Brazil variant

Taiwan's government has said that it had confirmed three cases of the variant first discovered in Brazil, and that all arrivals from that country would undergo centralised quarantine from this week.

Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said the three people, whose initial infections officials announced last month and are being treated in the hospital, had been confirmed on Saturday to have what is known as the P1 Brazil variant.

Chen added that starting at midnight on Wednesday, anyone arriving in Taiwan from Brazil or who had been in Brazil the previous 14 days must quarantine at a centralised facility for two weeks, as arrivals from Britain and South Africa also must to prevent the spread of separate variants found there.

Fujifilm to restart clinical trial of Avigan for treatment

Fujifilm Holdings Corp will restart a clinical trial in Japan of its antiviral drug Avigan for the treatment of the virus, the Nikkei newspaper reported.

Domestic approval of the drug was delayed after a health ministry panel said in December that trial data was inconclusive. The new study will involve about 270 patients and Fujifilm will aim to seek approval again in October, Nikkei said.

Mexico's reports 7,785 new cases, 832 more deaths

Mexico's health ministry on Saturday reported 7,785 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the country and 832 more fatalities, bringing its total to 2,038,276 infections and 179,797 deaths.

The real number of infected people and deaths is likely significantly higher than the official count, the health ministry has said.

Mainland China reports seven new cases vs eight a day earlier

China on Sunday reported seven new Covid-19 cases in the mainland for February 20, compared with eight cases a day earlier, the health authority said.

All the new infections were imported cases, the National Health Commission said in a statement. There were no new deaths.

China also reported six new asymptomatic patients, compared with 13 a day earlier. China does not classify asymptomatic cases as confirmed Covid-19 cases.

As of Saturday, mainland China had 89,831 confirmed coronavirus infections, while the Covid-19 death toll remained at 4,636, it said.

Australian PM Morrison gets Covid-19 vaccine as inoculation rollout starts

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison was injected on Sunday with the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine jointly developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech, as the nation started its inoculation program a day ahead of schedule.

Up to 4 million Australians are expected to receive a Covid-19 vaccine voluntarily by March, with Morrison and Paul Kelly, the country's chief medical officer, among a small group of Australians receiving the first inoculations.

"We're here making some very important points," Morrison said moments before cameras captured the first person being injected at a medical centre in Sydney.

"That it is safe, that it's important, and we need to start with those who are most vulnerable and on the frontline."

Doses of the Pfizer inoculations, which need to be kept at temperatures well below freezing, were still being distributed to 16 vaccine hubs around Australia in preparation for the broader rollout of the vaccines on Monday.

A small number of older Australians at the Castle Hill Medical Centre in the western part of Sydney, aged-care staff, and frontline nurses and workers were among the group injected on Sunday, officials said.

The country is enjoying a second day without a single new Covid-19 transmission in the community, officials said. The vast majority of its population will be injected with the AstraZeneca vaccine by the end of October.

Peru suffering medical oxygen crunch amid Covid spike

Hundreds of Peruvians waited in long lines on Saturday to get medical oxygen for loved ones with Covid-19, amid a shortage of the gas in the pandemic's second wave.

In San Juan de Lurigancho, a largely poor area just northeast of the capital, more than 200 people waited in front of a new plant opened by the San Marcos parish and the municipality of Lima, which provides free medical oxygen.

People had to show a medical order and a photocopy of the patient's identity document.

There was tight police surveillance at the plant, as in almost all medical oxygen sales spots around the country.

According to the government, the demand for medical oxygen grew by 200 percent in Peru with the second wave of Covid-19, which saw infections and deaths quadruple compared to rates in December.

Texas reports 227 more confirmed deaths

The number of deaths in Texas due to the illness caused by the coronavirus increased by more than 200 on Saturday while the number of people hospitalised with the virus declined, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

There were an additional 227 Covid-19 deaths, more than 4,900 new cases and 7,535 hospitalisations, a decline of 222 people hospitalised, the department reported.

Texas has had more than 2.5 million coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, and more than 42,000 deaths due to Covid-19, the third highest death count in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Brazil reports 1,212 new deaths

Brazil registered 1,212 additional Covid-19 deaths and 57,472 new confirmed cases of the virus on Saturday, according to data released by the Health Ministry.

The South American nation has now recorded 245,977 total coronavirus deaths and 10,139,148 confirmed cases. 

WHO director-general says he has no information yet on Tanzania's measures against pandemic

The World Health Organization's director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said on Sunday the organisation has yet to receive any information regarding measures Tanzania is taking to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

"This situation remains very concerning. I renew my call for Tanzania to start reporting Covid-19 cases and share data," Tedros said in a statement published on WHO's website.

Tedros said that in late January he had joined Matshidiso Moeti, WHO's Africa head, in urging Tanzania to scale public health measures against Covid-19 and prepare to distribute vaccines.

"I also encouraged the sharing of data in light of reports of Covid-19 cases among travellers," he said.

Britain to offer all adults a Covid-19 vaccine by end of July

All adults in Britain will be offered a first shot of a Covid-19 vaccine by the end of July, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Saturday ahead of a planned announcement on the cautious reopening of the economy from lockdown.

Johnson will set out a roadmap to ease England's third national lockdown on Monday, having met a target to vaccinate 15 million Britons from higher-risk categories by mid-February.

Britain now aims to give a first dose to all over-50s by April 15, the government said, having previously indicated it wished them to receive the shot by May.

If all adults receive a dose by the end of July, it will be well ahead of a previous target that they would receive a vaccine by autumn.

After suffering the world's fifth-worst official Covid-19 death toll and a series of mishaps in its pandemic response, Johnson's government moved faster than much of the West to secure vaccine supplies, giving it a head start.

This article has been adapted from its original source.

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