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Global Coronavirus Updates, 18 August: Australian PM says country to manufacture, distribute vaccine free to citizens

Global Coronavirus Updates: The pandemic has pushed Japan's economy to the brink and also lead to delay in polls in New Zealand. After finding virus samples on chicken, the Chinese coastal city of Guangzhou halted imports of frozen meat and seafood from coronavirus-hit areas.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: August 20, 2020 12:51:36 pm
Fresh controversy erupts at Moga CiVil hospitalEmergency use of the vaccine, which is still being tested, was granted after a set criteria and after it had been tested on 31,000 volunteers

Coronavirus Global Updates: Globally, over 21.82 million have been infected with the novel coronavirus. The infection has killed 7.7 lakh people, while 13.80 million people have already recovered.

The pandemic has pushed Japan’s economy to the brink and also led to delay in polls in New Zealand. After finding virus samples on chicken, the Chinese coastal city of Guangzhou halted imports of frozen meat and seafood from coronavirus-hit areas.

Important Covid-19 news from across the globe

Australian PM says country to manufacture, distribute vaccine free to citizens

Australia has signed a deal with drugmaker AstraZeneca to secure a potential COVID-19 vaccine, the Prime Minister said on Tuesday, joining a growing list of countries lining up supplies of the drug.

AstraZeneca’s candidate is seen as a frontrunner in the global race to deliver an effective vaccine against the coronavirus that has killed more than 770,000 people and infected nearly 22 million, according to a Reuters tally. With several countries moving to secure supplies that some fear may lead to a global shortage, Australia said it had signed a letter of intent with AstraZeneca to produce and distribute enough doses for its population.

“Under this deal we have secured early access for every Australian,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in an emailed statement. “If this vaccine proves successful we will manufacture and supply vaccines straight away under our own steam and make it free for 25 million Australians.”

UK creates brand new health unit to combat COVID-19, infectious diseases

The UK government on Tuesday confirmed the creation of a brand new “rigorous” science-led health unit to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and other infectious diseases.

The National Institute for Health Protection (NIHP), reports of which had emerged over the weekend, will start work immediately with a single command structure that brings together existing units such as Public Health England (PHE), National Health Service (NHS) Test and Trace and the Joint Biosecurity Centre.

Coronavirus, Boris Johnson Coronavirus, Coronavirus london, london lockdown Coronavirus, london economy Coronavirus, covid lockdown Messages thanking key workers and Union Jack design banners hang over Oxford Street in London, U.K., on Thursday, July 9, 2020. British shops aren’t getting much of a boost from newly reopened bars, cafes and restaurants as customers prefer to stay away. (Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg)

“To give ourselves the best chance of beating this virus once and for all and of spotting and being ready to respond to other health threats, now and in the future, we are creating a brand new organisation to provide a new approach to public health protection and resilience,” said UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock, confirming the new unit at a speech in London.

“The National Institute for Health Protection will bring together the expertise of PHE with the enormous response capabilities of NHS Test and Trace and the Joint Biosecurity Centre to put us in the best possible position for the next stage of the fight against COVID-19 and for the long-term,” he said.

WHO: Herd immunity requires effective vaccine

The World Health Organisation has said the planet is nowhere near the amount of coronavirus immunity needed to induce herd immunity, where enough of the population would have antibodies to stop the spread.

WHO’s emergencies chief Dr Michael Ryan said, “As a global population, we are nowhere close to the levels of immunity required to stop this disease transmitting,” he said. “This is not a solution and not a solution we should be looking to.”

Most studies conducted to date have suggested only about 10 per cent to 20 per cent of people have antibodies.

Pakistan to conduct phase-III clinical trial of Covid-19 vaccine

Pakistan’s drug watchdog has approved phase-III clinical trial of a COVID-19 vaccine developed in collaboration with a Chinese company, a media report said on Tuesday. According to a statement from the National Institute of Health (NIH), it has obtained “formal approval” from the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) for phase-III Clinical Trial of Recombinant Novel Coronavirus Vaccine Adenovirus Type 5 vector (Ad5-nCoV) developed by CanSinoBio and Beijing Institute of Biotechnology China (BIB)”.

According to a document signed by DRAP Clinical Studies Committee secretary Shafqat Hussain Danish, the committee recommended that the trial be held in Indus Hospital in Karachi. (Getty image)

The NIH said this would be the first-ever phase-III clinical trial for any vaccine in Pakistan. “It is a multi-country multi-centre clinical trial which CanSinoBio is already conducting in China, Russia, Chile, Argentina and will shortly start in Saudi Arabia. The principal investigator of the multi-centre clinical trial in Pakistan is NIH executive director Maj Gen Aamer Ikram,” the statement said.

“AJM Pharma CEO Adnan Hussain signed an agreement with the NIH last month for collaborating on the phase-III clinical trial of CanSinoBIO Ad5-nCoV in Pakistan,” it added.

According to a document signed by DRAP Clinical Studies Committee secretary Shafqat Hussain Danish, the committee recommended that the trial be held in Indus Hospital in Karachi. The Dawn newspaper reported that after seeing the document the test will be carried out by the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences, Karachi, in collaboration with a Chinese company already conducting trials in China.

Europe clamps down on nightlife

Europe is tightening some restrictions on public life again as summer partying risks reigniting the spread of the coronavirus. Wary of returning vacationers spreading Covid-19 at workplaces and schools, European officials are caught between fostering an economic recovery and the threat of a widespread outbreak. The concerns prompted Spain and Italy to shut discos and Greece to restrict hours for bars and restaurants in hopes of avoiding more stringent measures after the holiday season winds down.

US case increase lower than average daily gain

Medical staff register drivers at a Covid-19 testing site at Walt Disney World in Florida.

Coronavirus cases in the US increased 0.8% as compared with the same time Sunday to 5.42 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. The increase was lower than the average daily gain of 1% over the past week. Deaths rose by 0.3% to 170,277. Arizona reported no deaths, as virus cases continued to decline. Hawaii experienced a 4.5% increase in the number of cases.

WHO says people in 20s, 30s, 40s increasingly driving pandemic

Medics load a possible Covid-9 patient into an ambulance in Houston.

The spread of the coronavirus is being increasingly driven by people aged in their 20s, 30s and 40s and many are not aware that they have been infected, the World Health Organisation’s regional director for the Western Pacific said on Tuesday. “This increases the risk of spillovers to the more vulnerable: the elderly, the sick people in long-term care, people who live in densely populated areas and underserved areas,” Takeshi Kasai told a virtual briefing

New Zealand rules out COVID-19 outbreak links to freight or frozen items

Medical staff prepare to take a COVID-19 tests at a drive through community based assessment centre in Christchurch, New Zealand (AP)

New Zealand on Tuesday ruled out the possibility that a coronavirus outbreak in its biggest city of Auckland came from frozen food items or freight, as it reported 13 new cases. Investigations suggested the virus had not come through chilled services or material arriving from overseas at an Americold cold-storage facility in Auckland where one of the recently infected individuals worked, health officials said. “Seems clear now that the possibility is being ruled out from that investigation,” Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield told reporters. The origin of the latest outbreak is still unknown, and transmission through the environment in the cold storage was one theory being considered.

Australia’s Victoria reports lowest rise in COVID-19 cases in a month

A patient has her temperature checked at a medical clinic during in Melbourne (AP)

Australia’s second most populous state of Victoria reported its lowest daily rise in new coronavirus cases in a month on Tuesday, stoking hopes that a second wave of infection in the state is easing. The state recorded 17 deaths from the new coronavirus in the last 24 hours, a day after recording its deadliest day of the pandemic with 25 casualties. It reported 222 cases compared with 282 on Monday. Australia’s biggest biotech company CSL Ltd, meanwhile, said it was in talks with AstraZeneca to determine if the potential COVID-19 vaccine being developed by the British drugmaker could be manufactured locally

South Koreans urged to stay indoors

People wearing face masks pass by posters about precautions against the coronavirus at a subway station in Seoul (AP)

South Korea found 246 more confirmed coronavirus cases in 24 hours, up from 197 a day earlier, according to data from the Korea Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. The country warned over the weekend of another mass infection after reporting the highest number of coronavirus cases since early March, most of which are linked to an outbreak at a church in the capital.

Study find link between virus and humidity 

Researchers at the University of Sydney have found a link between lower humidity and increased spread of the coronavirus in Australia, estimating that Covid-19 transmission rates could double if the relative humidity drops by 10%. Aerosols expelled when someone sneezes or coughs are larger and heavier in humid air, allowing the particles to fall to the ground faster, according to researchers. In drier conditions, the aerosols are smaller and may linger for longer periods in the air.

Although researchers noted that the connection between climate and the coronavirus needs to be studied further, the findings put more scientific support behind the notion that Covid-19 will become a seasonal affliction. Health officials have expressed concern over a possible surge of cases when cooler weather returns to the Northern Hemisphere.

Philippine eases lockdown

A health worker prays as a catholic priest blesses the COVID19 swab test area of a hospital in Manila, Philippines (AP)

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has decided to ease a mild lockdown in the capital and four outlying provinces to further reopen the country’s battered economy in a high-risk gamble despite having the highest number of coronavirus infections in Southeast Asia. The Philippines has reported more than 164,000 of confirmed cases, including 2,681 deaths. Duterte’s administration has been under intense pressure to revive the economy after it fell into a recession in the second quarter and millions lost their jobs.

South Korea says 457 cases linked to church

South Korean health officials said Tuesday that they have found 457 coronavirus cases linked to a huge Seoul church led by a bitter critic of the country’s president, driving an alarming surge of infections in the greater capital area Kwon Jun-wook, director of South Korea’s National Health Institute, said outbreaks at the Sarang Jeil Church and elsewhere have pushed the country into the biggest crisis yet since the emergence of Covid-19.

He said a failure to slow transmissions in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, home to nearly 26 million people, could create a situation comparable to the miserable scenes of the United States or European countries. There’s concern that the virus’s spread could worsen after thousand of protesters, including members of the church and its ultra-right pastor, Jun Kwang-hun, marched in downtown Seoul on Saturday.

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