Argentina has become the first Latin American country to approve the Russian vaccine, the Sputnik V.
Argentina’s health ministry said on Wednesday that it has given ‘emergency’ authorisation of the Russian vaccine, which is due to arrive on Thursday with 25m doses.
The health minister, Gines Gonzalez Garcia said that the approval for the vaccine was given “in conformity with the recommendations” of Argentina’s drug administration policy.
The Sputnik V previously came under fire from critics after it was registered before it began large-scale clinical trials. Its developers claim it is more than 90% effective.
So far Argentina has recorded over 1.5m coronavirus cases and more than 42,000 deaths.
In South Africa, the current rate of coronavirus infections is expected to soon surpass the record set during the first wave of the virus earlier this year, the health ministry warned.
Positive cases have increased by 14,046, increasing the total infection number to 954,258. The positivity rate is at 26%, double the average rate of infection seen before December when the virus showed signs of decline.
But following the discovery of the new variant, South Africa’s health department said it was likely the cause of the recent surge.
The World Health Organization and local officials have said that the variant discovered in South Africa is different from the one found in Britain, despite both being more transmissible than the previously circulating variants.
In a statement, the Ministry of Health wrote that South Africans would need to “review the current restrictions and consider further measures to ensure that we curb the alarming rate of spread.”
Northern Ireland has confirmed a case of the new UK Covid-19 variant. The positive case was found after a genome analysis was conducted on a small number of suspected cases, reports PA.
It is understood that health officials believe that the variant has been in circulation at a low level in the nation for several weeks now.
The health minister, Robin Swann, has said: “This is sadly the confirmation we had been expecting.
“As I have stated from the outset of this pandemic, we have to avoid both panic and complacency.”
As part of its Stormont guidance, anyone returning to Northern Ireland for the holiday season should self-isolate on Christmas Day.
Currently, Covid cases remain high in the region, with another 21 deaths and 787 new cases confirmed on Wednesday.
Northern Ireland finds a positive case of the new UK variant
Northern Ireland’s Department of Health is reporting that they have found one positive case of the new variant.
The first batch of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine will reach Costa Rica on Wednesday night, with inoculations set to begin on Thursday, President Carlos Alvarado told a news conference.
The shipment is expected to contain 9,750 doses with another shipment coming in next week with an additional 10,725. The health minister, Daniel Salas, said the vaccine’s arrival was “a light in this year of darkness” but warned the pandemic is not over.
Like many national rollouts, Costa Rica will give the vaccine to its essential workers and elderly care facilities first before wider distribution, reports Reuters.
With a population of 5 million, Costa Rica has registered more than 2,000 death due to the coronavirus and 161,942 infections.
The new South African variant of Covid-19 is likely to be more transmissible and hit young people harder, according to scientists in the country, Jason Burke reports.
While research into the new variant is ongoing, it appears to not have more serious symptoms or require different treatment as the variant the world has been dealing with for the past year.
However, epidemiologists point out that death rates have the potential to rise if the new variant spreads rapidly and overwhelms healthcare systems.
Mexico will begin inoculating health workers on Thursday with the arrival of the first vaccines.
The foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, told a news conference: “It’s true that we still face a tremendous pandemic, but today is the beginning of the end.”
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said that the vaccinations would begin with hospitals in Mexico City and the northern city of Saltillo, speaking before the first Pfizer vaccines were flown into the capital.
Mexico has recorded nearly 1.4m cases and 119,495 deaths from Covid-19, now having the fourth-highest death toll worldwide.
New York has started requiring international visitors to quarantine on Wednesday to safeguard against the new variant of Covid-19 coming from the UK.
As the city’s next group of essential workers, paramedics and first responders, lined up to get the vaccine, Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters that travellers would receive a city order via certified mail.
All international travellers will have to provide their contact details upon arriving in the city. Those to be found breaking the imposed quarantine orders could be fined $1,000 a day, the mayor said.
“There’s going to be a follow-up, direct home visit or hotel visit from the sheriff’s deputy to confirm that they are following the quarantine,” De Blasio said.
Peru is set to receive a “significant batch” of vaccines from the Covax alliance during the first quarter in 2021, the interim president, Francisco Sagasti, said on Wednesday.
The Covax global alliance was designed to help secure Covid-19 vaccines to poor and middle-income countries. It hopes to deliver at least 2bn doses by the end of 2021.
Peru has been especially hard-hit by the pandemic after it coincided with the country’s political crisis which saw three presidents all hold office in just two weeks.
As it stands, Peru recorded 1m cases on Tuesday and more than 37,000 deaths. According to Reuters figures, the country’s Covid mortality rate is among the world’s highest.
Sinovac Biotech’s Covid-19 vaccine is reported to be 50% effective in late-stage trials, according to the newspaper Folha de S.Paulo on Wednesday. They added that the Chinese company had asked the Brazilian institute who ran the tests to wait up to 15 days before publishing their full results.
The Butantan Institute, who are running the trials in Brazil, and the Sao Paulo government which oversees the institute declined to comment, saying there would be more details at 4 pm local time, reports Reuters.
France has registered 14,929 new Covid cases and 276 more deaths in the last 24 hours, according to French healthcare data. Currently, France has a total of nearly 2.5m confirmed Covid-19 infections and 61,978 deaths since the pandemic began.
The Irish head of the Covid-19 modelling body has said it is not confident that the restrictions announced this week will bring the R number back below 1.
The health ministry has also reported that the British variant of the virus is likely to have been present in the country since the second week of December.
Canada has become the second country to approve the Moderna vaccine. This comes two weeks after authorising immunisations with the Pfizer/BioNtech jab.
“Today’s authorisation is a critical step in ensuring additional Covid-19 vaccines are available to all Canadians in all parts of the country,” Health Canada said in a statement.
“The different storage and handling requirements of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine mean that it can be distributed to isolated and remote communities, including the territories.”
The country is also set to extend its ban on incoming commercial and passenger flights from Britain until 6 January, Reuters reports.
The Treasury has announced an additional £800m in coronavirus funding to the UK’s devolved nations, reports PA.
The fund will be split into £400m for the Scottish government, £200m for the Welsh government and £200m for the Northern Ireland executive.
The chief secretary to the Treasury, Steve Barclay, said: “We’ve already committed unprecedented levels of support to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“This extra funding will provide the nations with the certainty they need to plan through these difficult months.
“We remain committed to an economic recovery for the whole of the United Kingdom and will continue to work closely with the devolved administrations to support people and businesses.”
The Treasury has said that the fund can be spent on business support or the NHS.
It will take its upfront funding guarantee for the devolved administrations to around £16.8bn, in addition to the money already outlined in the 2020 spring budget.
Karnataka state in India will impose a night curfew starting today over fears of the new virus variant.
Home to the country’s technology hub, the ban by the southern state will focus on gatherings and non-essential travel from 10pm to 6am and is set to last until January 2.
The new agreement came into place after the national government reported that nine states had found positive cases of coronavirus among travellers coming from the UK.
Karnataka’s chief minister, B.S. Yediyurappa, called on the public to respect the curfew to “prevent the spread of the new Covid strain”.
Currently, India is the world’s second most-infected nation, with more than 10 million cases and over 146,000 deaths.
Turkey records further 259 deaths
Turkey’s coronavirus death toll rose by 259 in the last 24 hours, health ministry data showed on Wednesday, bringing the total number of deaths to 18,861.
Turkey also recorded 19,650 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours. Total cases since March, when the first Covid-19 case was identified in Turkey, stood at 2,082,610, the data showed.
The government has imposed full weekend lockdowns and weekday curfews to curb infections.
The first formally approved batch of Covid-19 vaccine to arrive in Latin America was met with ceremonies fitting a VIP on Wednesday: flags, television cameras and cabinet-level dignitaries lined up along the runway.
A DHL flight touched down at Mexico City’s international airport and ground crew unloaded the first batches of ultra-cold vaccines produced by Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech.
“Today is the beginning of the end of that pandemic,” said the foreign secretary, Marcelo Ebrard.
The first vaccines were due to be given to health workers in Mexico City and the northern city of Saltillo, starting on Thursday.