Brazil has vaccinated more than a million people but it is still less than 1 percent of the population, as the country is struggling to control a coronavirus case surge. Hospitals are swamped with COVID-19 patients, with the city of Manaus, the gateway to the Amazon rain forest, still facing a shortage of oxygen in hospitals. A fast-spreader COVID-19 strain detected in cities such as Manaus and Sao Paulo has thrown new challenges before authorities who have been accused of slow response. On Friday, Novavax, a US-based company, announced that its coronavirus vaccine appears to be 89 percent effective based on early findings from a British study and that it also seems to work – though not as well – against new mutated versions of the virus circulating in the United Kingdom and South Africa.
Africa can expect that at least 30 percent of its population will be immunized by the end of 2021, said the World Health Organization as vaccines begin trickling into the continent. Worldwide, the pandemic has killed more than two million people and infected nearly 101 million, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Hello, this is Virginia Pietromarchi in Rome, Italy, giving you the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic:
Vietnam to begin mass testing
Vietnam will conduct mass testing for COVID-19 in the northern province of Hai Duong, the epicenter of a new outbreak of the coronavirus, and other affected areas, according to deputy health minister Nguyen Truong Son. Vietnam has reported 93 locally transmitted infections since the outbreak emerged on Thursday, most linked to an electronics factory in the province. In a statement on the government’s website, Son said most of the remaining 2,340 workers at the factory had subsequently tested negative for the virus.
A health worker takes a swab sample from a resident, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Hai Duong province, Vietnam [Manh Minh/VNA/Handout via Reuters]
The UK to not disclose vaccine contract due to national security risk: junior minister
Britain will not publish the vaccine contract it has with AstraZeneca because it would risk national security, said a junior minister. “Where it is appropriate for the public to be informed we have done so but if that risks national security for any reason, of course, we should not, ” British prison minister Lucy Frazer said when asked why the government was worried about the publication of the contract. Pressed further on the risk to national security, she said: “Well, that is my understanding,” he told LBC Radio.
UK bans UAE flights
Britain is banning direct passenger flights to and from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from Friday, shutting down the world’s busiest international airline route from Dubai to London. Britain said it was adding the UAE, Burundi, and Rwanda to its coronavirus travel ban list because of worries over the spread of a more contagious and potentially vaccine-resistant COVID-19 variant first identified in South Africa.
Novavax says vaccine 89 percent effective in UK trial
Biotech company Novavax has said its coronavirus vaccine was 89.3 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 in a trial conducted in the United Kingdom, and was nearly as effective in protecting against the more highly contagious variant first discovered in the UK, according to a preliminary analysis. A mid-stage trial of the vaccine in South Africa, where a troubling new variant of the virus is common, showed 60 percent effectiveness among people who did not have HIV. Novavax shares surged 34 percent in after-hours trading following the release of the trial results on the same day the United States reported its first cases of the South African variant.
Brazil struggles to contain the outbreak
Brazil has vaccinated more than a million people, but that is less than 1 percent of the population. The country is struggling to contain the coronavirus and the situation seems far from resolving as a fast-spreader variant of the virus has already been detected in large cities such as Sao Paulo. The Amazonas state’s capital, Manaus, is facing a shortage of oxygen with healthcare workers working around the clock to prevent patients from suffocating to death.
“You ask a nurse to help you and she says she can’t do anything because she is dealing with another patient who is dying in front of you,” said mourner Valceny Ferreira. “There aren’t enough healthcare workers to deal with this, but we wouldn’t be in this state if the Amazonas state would have invested in the healthcare,” she added.