COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage across the world with some countries bracing for fresh surges of confirmed cases.

Yet vaccination worldwide has been picking up as more countries witness the Chinese vaccines showing high efficacy.

GLOBAL CASELOADS CLIMB UP
Asia-Pacific countries have witnessed various increases in both cases and deaths. India’s coronavirus death toll crossed the 250,000 mark, and Thailand reported a new daily record of 34 COVID-19 fatalities.

India registered as many as 4,205 deaths, the highest so far, during the past 24 hours, with 348,421 new cases, taking the total to 23,340,938, confirmed the federal health ministry. There are still 3,704,099 active cases in the country, with a decrease of 11,122 in the past 24 hours. This is the second consecutive day of falling active cases.

The Philippines has been battling one of the worst outbreaks in Asia. The country’s Department of Health reported 4,842 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the Southeast Asian country to 1,118,359.

The death toll climbed to 18,714 after 94 more patients died from the viral disease, the department said. The number of patients designated as having severe symptoms as a result of COVID-19 in Japan reached a fresh record high of 1,189, rising by 13 compared to the previous day’s record, the health ministry said.

The latest data regarding critically ill patients who typically require hospitalization and the assistance of ventilators or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation machines have more than tripled over the past month, according to the ministry.

In the Middle East, Iran reported on Wednesday 16,409 new coronavirus cases, raising the country’s caseload to 2,707,761. The pandemic has so far claimed 75,934 lives in Iran, up by 366 in the past 24 hours, the Iranian Ministry of Health and Medical Education said in a written briefing published on its official website. Meanwhile, Turkey will gradually ease lockdown restrictions after the Eid al-Fitr festival that marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a lockdown ease in a video speech for the occasion of Eid al-Fitr. “Having taken the pandemic under control, we will take normalization steps in a controlled manner after the fest,” Erdogan said.

Turkey on Wednesday confirmed 13,029 new COVID-19 cases, including 1,496 symptomatic patients, raising the total number of cases in the country to 5,072,462, according to its health ministry. The death toll from the virus in Turkey rose by 232 to 43,821 in the past 24 hours.

In Latin America, Brazil, which has the world’s second-highest COVID-19 death toll after the United States, and the third-largest caseload behind the U.S. and India, is seeing a second wave of the virus.

The country registered 2,494 more deaths from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, bringing the total death toll to 428,034, the Ministry of Health said Wednesday. The ministry said that tests detected 76,692 new cases, raising the national count to 15,359,397.

In Europe, Britain saw another 2,284 people test positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of coronavirus cases in the country to 4,441,975, according to official figures released Wednesday. Earlier Wednesday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that an independent public inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic will begin in the spring of next year.

“Amid such tragedy the state has an obligation to examine its actions as rigorously and as candidly as possible” and “learn every lesson for the future,” Johnson told lawmakers at the House of Commons, the lower house of the British Parliament.

VACCINATION WORLDWIDE PICKS UP
In North America, while the United States tops the world in both confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19, the country is reporting an average of 2.2 million shots of COVID-19 vaccine per day over the past week, the latest federal data showed, up slightly from the most recent low reported on Saturday. More than 46 percent of the U.S. population has received one or more shots and 35 percent are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Average daily U.S. COVID-19 cases fell further on Tuesday, with the seven-day average at about 38,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

New case counts are below 40,000 per day this week for the first time since September. World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced last week that China’s Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine has been validated for emergency use, marking the first Chinese vaccine officially recognized by the WHO.

China’s Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine, widely used globally, have been considered both safe and efficacious, said Mariangela Simao, WHO assistant director general for access to health products. “We still have data proving that they are efficacious against severe disease,” she said in a press conference on Monday. “Sinopharm has been very much used globally. I think 62 million doses have already been applied. It has been considered both safe and efficacious.”

The Brazilian government said Tuesday it would inoculate the country’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes using COVID-19 vaccines donated by China’s Sinovac and U.S. firm Pfizer. Around 1,800 Brazilians participating in the Tokyo Games — including coaches, medical staff, officials and journalists — will receive their first doses in the coming days, according to officials.

“We are going to vaccinate our Olympians … to ensure that they can perform very well at the Tokyo Olympics and bring back medals,” health minister Marcelo Queiroga told a news conference.

Meanwhile, China’s Sinovac vaccine has rendered a Brazilian town “maskless” and created a “pandemic oasis” amid surging COVID-19 infections, Nikkei Asia has reported. In Serrana, about a four-hour drive from Sao Paulo, a vaccination campaign known as “Project S” has successfully inoculated 97.7 percent of its adult residents with the Chinese-made shot, it reported.

Turkey began its drive with China’s Sinovac vaccine on Jan. 14, with priority given to health care professionals and the elderly. Until the beginning of April, the country solely used Sinovac’s CoronaVac jabs.

“Based on our field observations, we can say that the Sinovac vaccine prevents deaths and intensive care hospitalization 100 percent,” Nurettin Yiyit, chief physician of the hospital, recently told Xinhua, referring to the general situation in the country. “The phase studies had already proved its efficacy, but our field notes are even better,” he continued while inspecting the ongoing vaccinations.

A study by the Indonesian Health Ministry said that China’s Sinovac vaccine has effectively reduced the risk of COVID-19 symptoms in medical workers by 94 percent, and was 96 percent effective in protecting medical workers from hospitalization, and 98 percent effective in preventing deaths.

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Xinhua News Agency, Xinhuanet is an important central news service-oriented website, an important information organ of the central government, and an important platform for building up China's online international communication capacity. Established on November 7, 1997, as an online news provider of the Xinhua News Agency, it was officially named Xinhuanet on March 10, 2000 and began around-the-clock news release with leading online public opinion at home and setting a good image of China abroad as its main task.

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