Australia vows not to rush rollout of Covid-19 vaccine

Monitoring Desk

The novel coronavirus has infected almost 86 million people globally and claimed more than 1.8 million lives.

Under mounting pressure to speed up coronavirus vaccinations, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said he would not take “unnecessary risks” and emulate Britain’s emergency drug approval.

While vaccinations are already well underway in many countries, Australia’s pharmaceutical authority is not expected to rule on candidate drugs for around another month, and is aiming to administer the first doses by the end of March.

Pressed about that seemingly sluggish timetable, Morrison – who early in the pandemic boasted Australia would be “at the front of the queue” for any vaccine – suggested virus-ravaged countries like Britain had been forced to take risks with emergency approvals.

Thailand confirms 527 new cases

Thailand has confirmed 527 new virus infections  and ramped up restrictions in five provinces deemed high-risk in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.

The new cases include 439 in a known cluster of migrant workers in the southwestern province of Samut Sakhon near Bangkok, Taweesin Wisanuyothin, spokesman for Thailand’s Covid-19 taskforce, told a news conference.

Restrictions will be intensified in Samut Sakhon and four other provinces, he said. Thailand has reported a total of 8,966 cases since early last year. 

Mexico approves AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine

Mexico has authorised the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford for emergency use in the country, which has one of the world’s highest Covid-19 death tolls.

Deputy health minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell announced on Twitter that Mexican regulators had approved the vaccine, which has also been authorised by Britain, India and Argentina.

Lopez-Gastell said the vaccine could be available in March.

California hospital says costume may have spread virus

A Kaiser Permanente employee has died and dozens of workers were infected with the coronavirus after a staffer appeared at one of its Northern California medical centers wearing an inflatable holiday costume on Christmas Day.

Irene Chavez, senior vice president and area manager at San Jose Medical Center, said in a written statement that 44 staff members of the emergency department have tested positive for the virus since December 27.

The Oakland-based hospital chain is investigating the outbreak and says the source could be a blow-up, holiday costume worn by a staffer who “briefly” visited the department December.

Germany’s virus cases rise by 11,897

The number of confirmed virus cases in Germany has increased by 11,897 to 1,787,410. 

The reported death toll rose by 944 to 35,518, the data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed. 

Vacations abroad cost Canadian politicians’ jobs amid travel curbs

Eight Canadian politicians have resigned or were demoted after travelling internationally over the Christmas holidays despite urgings from government officials to avoid non-essential trips during the pandemic.

Conservative member of parliament David Sweet resigned as chair of the House of Commons’ ethics committee after he travelled to the United States to deal with a “property issue” but stayed on for leisure, federal opposition Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole’s office said in a statement.

In the western province of Alberta, Premier Jason Kenney said on social media he accepted the resignation of Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard and asked his chief of staff Jamie Huckabay to step down after they travelled to Hawaii and the United Kingdom respectively.

Five other legislative assembly members of Alberta’s ruling United Conservative Party have been demoted for travelling abroad over the holidays, violating travel warnings issued by federal and provincial governments.

Brazil on the back foot as pandemic surges

Brazil has registered 20,006 new cases and 543 fresh Covid-19-related deaths, the health ministry said.

Premier League to continue during new English lockdown

Premier League football and other forms of elite professional sport in England will be allowed to continue despite new national lockdown restrictions announced by the British government on Monday.

Nearly 56 million people in England will return to a full coronavirus lockdown, possibly until mid-February, to try to cut spiralling infection rates, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a televised address.

The measures, which include the closure of primary and secondary schools, will come into effect Wednesday, he said after Scotland announced similar measures to come into force from midnight (0000 GMT) on Tuesday.

But a list of exemptions published by the UK government allowed “elite sportspeople (and their coaches if necessary, or parents/guardians if they are under 18) – or those on an official elite sports pathway – to compete and train”.

England imposes six-week lockdown after Covid surge

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday a new national lockdown for England until at least mid-February to combat a fast-spreading new variant of the virus, even as Britain ramped up its vaccination program by becoming the first nation to start using the shot developed by Oxford University and drugmaker AstraZeneca.

Johnson said people must stay at home again, as they were ordered to do so in the first wave of the pandemic in March, this time because the new virus variant was spreading in a “frustrating and alarming” way.

From Tuesday, primary and secondary schools and colleges will be closed for face to face learning except for the children of key workers and vulnerable pupils. University students will not be returning until at least mid-February. People were told to work from home unless it’s impossible to do so, and leave home only for essential trips.

All nonessential shops and personal care services like hairdressers will be closed, and restaurants can only operate takeout services.

Courtesy: TRT World