The Palestinian Authority received 10,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine on Thursday to help jumpstart their COVID-19 inoculation campaign, officials said.
Health Minister Mai Alkaila told Voice of Palestine Radio the supply would be enough to vaccinate 5,000 people, who would each be given two shots.
Reuters reports that the shipment was flown into Israel and transported from there to Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank.
Alkaila said a shipment of vaccines from China would also be arriving, but did not specify a date or which vaccine. A batch of around 37,000 doses from the COVAX global vaccine-sharing programme is expected later this month.
The West Bank, where 3.1 million Palestinians live, has reported 101,508 coronavirus cases, with 1,276 deaths. Gaza, with a population of 2 million, has registered more than 52,000 cases with 527 deaths.
Sweden plans to launch a digital 'vaccine passport'
Sweden plans to launch a digital coronavirus “vaccine passport” by summer, assuming there is an international standard in place for the document by then, the government said on Thursday.
“When Sweden and countries around us start to open up our societies again, vaccination certificates are likely to be required for travel and possibly for taking part in other activities,” Swedish digitalisation minister Anders Ygeman told a news conference.
According to Johns Hopkins, Sweden has recorded 580,916 infections and 11,939 deaths from Covid. It has administered 190,096 vaccines, with 8.437 people fully vaccinated (that amounts to 0.08.% of the population).
Denmark said on Wednesday that it would launch a first version of a coronavirus vaccination passport by the end of February. The country planned a registry online that could be accessed to check someone’s vaccination status, which it hopes to have in place in late February, while it develops a long-term technical solution.
“It is absolutely crucial, for us to be able to restart Danish society, that companies can get back on track,” the acting finance minister, Morten Bødskov, said in a statement.
You can read our full story on Sweden and Denmark’s plans below.
Mexico runs out of vaccine
Frustration is mounting in Mexico, as the government vaccine registration website crashed for a third day in a row and concerns grew about the vaccine rollout.
Even as Mexico scrambles to line up shipments of Russia’s Sputnik vaccine, no new doses are expected to arrive until mid-month, the Associated Press reports. Hospitals are over 80% full.
Mexico has received only about 760,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and has only about 89,000 of those left, many of which are earmarked for second shots.
It expects to get more Pfizer doses by mid-month, and as many as 400,000 Sputnik shots by the end of February, but they won’t be enough to vaccinate even the country’s 750,000 frontline health workers and represent a drop in the bucket for Mexico’s population of 126 million.
Authorities say said they are still working on getting enough server capacity to handle the number of people attempting to register.
According to Johns Hopkins figures, Mexico has recorded 1.9m cases of Covid and 161,000 deaths.
US records 40,000 deaths in two weeks
After Covid deaths surged past 450,000 in the US on Thursday, there are concerns over a potential spike from families getting together to watch this weekend’s Superbowl.
Daily deaths in the Us have remained stubbornly high at more than 3,000 a day, despite falling infections and the arrival of multiple vaccines. There have been more than 40,000 deaths recorded in the past two weeks.
And while infectious disease specialists expect deaths to start dropping soon, there’s also the risk that improving trends in infections and hospitalisations could be offset by people relaxing and coming together — including for this Sunday’s big game between Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs.
“I’m worried about Super Bowl Sunday, quite honestly,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky told The Associated Press, adding that one reason cases and hospitalisations were not rising as dramatically as they were weeks ago is because the effect of holiday gatherings has faded.
“We’re still in quite a bad place,” she said.
The biggest driver to the U.S. death toll over the past month has been California, which has averaged more than 500 deaths per day in recent weeks.
Public health experts are watching Florida closely this week, where the Super Bowl will be played in Tampa. City leaders and the NFL are trying to ensure social distancing by capping attendance at a third of the stadium’s capacity – 22,000 people.
But there will still be plenty of parties, events at bars and clubs, and other activities that draw people together.
Florida recorded its highest number of daily deaths of the pandemic two weeks ago, with 272 fatalities on 22 January, according to the CDC.
On 2 January, just over a week after the Christmas holiday, the state recorded its highest daily caseload of 30,531. On Wednesday that was down to just under 7,000 new cases, according to CDC figures.
Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, with me, Alison Rourke.
There are concerns in the US that the Superbowl – the culmination of the football season – which takes place on Sunday, could lead to a rise in Covid cases. Traditionally a time that families get together, there are fears another spike could follow the event. It comes as the country recorded more than 40,000 deaths in a two-week period.
Mexico meanwhile has reportedly run out of vaccines. According to the Associated Press, the country is scrambling to line up shipments of Russia’s Sputnik vaccine, but no new doses are expected to arrive until mid month. The website for people to register for the vaccine crashed for the third day running. AP says Mexico has received only about 760,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and has only about 89,000 of those left, many of which are earmarked for second shots.
In other developments:
- China will donate 100,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine to Congo Republic and forgive $13 million in public debt, its ambassador to the country said. The ambassador Ma Fulin announced the measures after a meeting with Congo’s president Denis Sassou Nguesso. He did not say which Chinese-developed vaccine would be provided, but the doses are enough to vaccinate 50,000 of Congo’s 5.1 million people. Ma said the Chinese government would also forgive all public Congolese debt that came due before the end of 2020, an estimated $13 million.
- Brazil reported more than 1,200 deaths for the third day in a row. A further 1,232 deaths were registered on Thursday, according to data released by the nation’s health ministry, taking its death toll to 228,795, the second highest in the world after the US.
- Paraguay signed a contract with the Russian Direct Investment Fund to purchase the Sputnik V vaccine. The Paraguayan health minister Julio Mazzoleni said the number of doses and schedule for distribution would be reported later. The country will also receive some 300,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in the second half of February through the COVAX program promoted by the World Health Organization.
- The World Health Organization said its COVAX initiative aims to start shipping nearly 90 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to Africa in February. About 320,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine have been allocated to four African countries - Cabo Verde, Rwanda, South Africa and Tunisia, the WHO said in a statement.
- Peru’s interim president, Francisco Sagasti, said his administration had locked in a deal with Pfizer to purchase 20 million doses of its vaccine. Sagasti said that by April, Peru would receive at least 500,000 doses of the vaccine. The first 250,000 doses are slated for arrival in March, he said.
- Iran received its first batch of foreign-made coronavirus vaccines - Russia’s Sputnik V - as the country struggles to stem the worst outbreak of the pandemic in the Middle East.
- Ghana’s parliament will restrict its sessions to twice a week after 15 lawmakers and dozens of legislative staff tested positive for coronavirus, the house speaker Alban Bagbin announced. He said 56 staffers had also tested positive, forcing him to decide the parliament would only sit on Tuesdays and Thursdays in a measure to control the spread.
- Portugal, hit by the world’s highest per capita Covid-19 death rates and infections in recent weeks, is now seeing a decline in cases, the health minister Marta Temido said. Temido warned there were “nevertheless...difficult weeks ahead of us”.
- The French prime minister Jean Castex said that the coronavirus situation in France remained fragile but that for the moment ruled out a new national lockdown. Castex said that the rate of infection had not significantly strengthened over the past two weeks, even if the pressure on French hospitals remained strong, and the country must stick with the current restrictions.
- The Netherlands became the latest European country to limit AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine to people aged under 65, despite the EU approving it for all ages. It comes after Switzerland’s medical regulator said it couldn’t authorise use of the vaccine based on the available trial data.