CORONAVIRUS

Global Virus Update: J&J vaccine given key nod; South Africa finds 4,000 Covid reinfections

By Bloomberg 24 February 2021

(Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

South Africa registered a further 1,862 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, bringing the cumulative total to 1,507,448. A further 110 Covid-19-related deaths were reported, bringing the total to 49,523 deaths.

Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine is safe and effective, US regulators said, a key milestone on the path toward giving Americans access to the first shot to work in a single dose.

About one in five states are still trying to regain momentum in the Covid-19 vaccination push, more than a week after winter weather upended the US vaccination effort. Virginia is lifting its overnight curfew.

Ghana received the first batch of vaccines shipped through the World Health Organisation-backed Covax initiative, as the West African country prepares to kick off an inoculation campaign. China donated 200,000 more doses to Zimbabwe, while Ukraine and Malaysia began immunisations.

Key developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases exceed 112.2 million; deaths pass 2.48 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 213 million shots given worldwide
  • NYC landlords amp up tests with offices mostly still empty
  • Air travel quarantines are getting longer and lonelier
  • Why feeling bad after Covid vaccine jab could be good: QuickTake
  • EU speeds vaccine drive after early flubs leave bloc behind

Colorado beef plant to vaccinate workers

A Colorado beef plant that was the site of a deadly coronavirus outbreak will soon distribute thousands of vaccine doses.

JBS USA’s facility in Greeley will offer vaccines for members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 and nonunion JBS workers on 5-6 March, according to a statement from the union on Wednesday. The plant will be shut on those days and workers choosing to be vaccinated will receive four hours of pay and $100, the company said in a statement.

Workers getting sick at the Greeley plant prompted its temporary shutdown in April. Eventually, 415 workers at the facility tested positive and six died, according to data compiled by the Food and Environment Reporting Network.

South Africa finds 4,000 reinfections 

About 4,000 cases of reinfection with Covid-19 have been found in South Africa, Barry Schoub, the chair of the country’s Ministerial Advisory Committee on Vaccines, said.

“This is probably to a large extent due to the variant” of the virus that was first identified in the country, he said on a webinar on Wednesday.

Portugal sending shots to Africa

Portugal plans to send about one million Covid-19 vaccine shots to a group of Portuguese-speaking African countries and the small island nation of East Timor, the government said on Wednesday.

The Portuguese-speaking African countries include Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea and Sao Tome and Principe. The number of vaccine shots Portugal plans to send to these countries and East Timor account for 5% of the southern European nation’s coronavirus vaccine shots.

Virginia to lift overnight curfew 

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said he would loosen some coronavirus restrictions, including lifting the stay-at-home curfew and extending hours of alcohol sales until midnight. The new rules go into effect on 1 March.

China again donates vaccines to Zimbabwe 

China will donate a second batch of 200,000 coronavirus vaccines to Zimbabwe, Guo Shaochun, the Chinese ambassador to the southern African nation said on Wednesday on Twitter after a virtual meeting with President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Zimbabwe began its inoculation programme on 18 February using the donated Sinopharm vaccines, and by Tuesday had issued shots to 4,041 frontline workers. The country expects to take delivery of an additional 600,000 vaccines it bought from China early in March.

NYC says variant level remains steady 

New York City health officials said 6% of the city’s coronavirus cases are due to the UK variant, which is believed to be more contagious. The city said the level is “higher than they liked”, but that the number has remained steady in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, the city’s middle-school students will return to the classroom on Thursday, bringing New York one step closer to a semblance of normality since the pandemic shuttered many school buildings for nearly a year. Mayor Bill de Blasio hasn’t said when he’ll reopen high schools, but said an announcement could come in a matter of weeks.

Bulgaria to reopen bars despite rise in cases 

Bulgaria plans to reopen bars and restaurants with reduced capacity from 1 March, the health ministry said. The easing of restrictions comes despite the rising number of daily coronavirus cases, which on Monday reached the highest number since 5 January.

The EU country with the lowest share of vaccinated population will also allow conferences and will reopen borders for organised tourist visits.

Czech leader warns of ‘hellish days’

The Czech Republic is preparing to impose a stricter lockdown to prevent the collapse of its medical system as existing measures fail to contain one of the fastest-spreading and deadliest outbreaks in Europe.

Almost exactly a year after the first Covid-19 case appeared in the country, the crisis is worse than ever and the situation requires a tougher response, Prime Minister Andrej Babis said. The cabinet would discuss more extreme rules to limit contact among people, he said.

Germany to set up task force

Germany will set up a government task force to monitor vaccine production, the finance ministry said on Wednesday. The panel will support efforts to deliver doses to all citizens willing to be vaccinated and work closely with manufacturers in the event of supply bottlenecks.

Switzerland to ease lockdown

Switzerland will allow non-essential shops, museums and outdoor sporting facilities to reopen starting next month, the first of several steps to unwind physical distancing restrictions to contain the pandemic.

With the Covid-19 caseload falling, the government has faced pressure to allow businesses to reopen. Officials have urged caution, however, due to the spread of new strains of the coronavirus which are considered to be more transmissible.

J&J shot found safe, effective, by FDA staff

Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine is safe and effective, FDA staff said before a review by external advisers. If cleared for use, it would be the first single-dose shot available.

The vaccine was 72% effective in a US clinical trial, FDA staff wrote in a document summarising the company’s trial data. Agency officials prepared the document before a meeting on Friday where external advisers will make a non-binding recommendation on whether the vaccine should be authorised.

Mozambique to receive first vaccines

Mozambique was to receive its first Covid-19 vaccines on Wednesday, from China’s state-owned Sinopharm, to be administered to health workers. The donation of 200,000 doses was to be received at an airbase in Maputo, the office of Prime Minister Carlos Agostinho do Rosário said.

South Africa funds free vaccines

South Africa’s National Treasury set aside funds to provide free coronavirus vaccines to all who need them as the nation races to bring the pandemic under control.

An allocation of R10.3-billion has been made to buy and dispense the shots until March 2024, the Treasury said Wednesday in its annual budget statement. A further R9-billion could be allocated if needed, it said.

Ukraine starts virus jabs

Ukraine, the biggest European country yet to start vaccinations against the coronavirus, administered its first shot on Wednesday.

Yevhen Horenko, an emergency doctor in Cherkasy in central Ukraine, received an AstraZeneca vaccine, along with nine other people, according to the Health Ministry. The government plans to inoculate about 370,000 people, mainly doctors and nurses, in the first round of immunisation. DM

— With assistance by Will Davies, Vincent Del Giudice, Karen Leigh, Jing Li, Eduard Gismatullin, Randy Thanthong-Knight, Dong Lyu, Yudith Ho, Ekow Dontoh, Slav Okov, Shelly Banjo, Ray Ndlovu, and Henrique Almeida.

Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c), it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address Covid-19. We are, therefore, disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information we should know about, please email [email protected]

Gallery

"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

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