African Union to buy 110M Moderna vaccine doses

Coronavirus has infected more than 244M people and killed over 4.9M globally. Here are the virus-related developments for October 26:

This file photo shows boxes containing vials of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine stored at the Kedren Community Health Center in Los Angeles, California. (AFP)

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

African Union to buy up to 110 million Moderna vaccines

The African Union (AU) intends to buy up to 110 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna Inc in an arrangement brokered in part by the White House, which will defer delivery of some doses intended for the United States to facilitate the deal, officials told Reuters.

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The AU’s doses will be delivered over the coming months, with 15 million arriving before the end of 2021, 35 million in the first quarter of next year and up to 60 million in the second quarter.

“This is important as it allows us to increase the number of vaccines available immediately,” AU coronavirus envoy Strive Masiyiwa said in an email.

“We urge other vaccine producing countries to follow the lead of the (US government) and give us similar access to buy this and other vaccines.”

Russia’s daily death toll hits new record

Russia has reported 1,106 Covid-19 deaths in the past 24 hours, the highest figure since the start of the pandemic, amid a surge in new cases that has prompted authorities to reimpose partial lockdown measures.

The daily toll has hit new records in six of the past eight days. The state Covid-19 task force also reported 36,446 new infections, compared with 37,930 a day earlier.

China locks down Lanzhou city

China has placed a city of four million under lockdown on Tuesday in a bid to stamp out a domestic coronavirus spike, with residents told not to leave home except in emergencies.

The restrictions came as China reported 29 new domestic infections – including six cases in Lanzhou, the provincial capital of northwestern province Gansu.

Officials in Lanzhou said the “entry and exit of residents” would be strictly controlled and limited to essential supplies or medical treatment.

“All types of residential communities are to implement closed management,” authorities said in a statement.

Bulgaria reports record deaths, infections

Bulgaria has reported record numbers of daily coronavirus deaths and infections as a fourth wave of the disease is stretching the health system in the European Union’s least vaccinated member state.

New infections in the previous 24 hours topped 5,863 while 243 people died of the virus, official data showed. The pandemic has killed 23,316 people in Bulgaria.

Climate-vulnerable countries forced to scale back their attendance at COP26 summit

Some of the world’s most climate-vulnerable countries have been forced to scale back their attendance at the COP26 climate summit due to Covid-19 travel curbs and costs, blunting their negotiating power, according to Fiji’s UN ambassador.

Border closures, quarantine rules and high travel costs will see small island states and poorer nations sending smaller delegations, with some leaders unable to travel to the key United Nations’ climate talks that start in Scotland on Sunday.

Only four leaders from Pacific island states – Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Tuvalu and Palau – are due to attend the COP26 conference in person, according to Satyendra Prasad, Fiji’s ambassador to the United Nations.

“The stakes could not be higher, but it’s a very difficult situation,” Prasad told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from New York, where he is based.

Borders remain closed in many Pacific island countries to keep local communities safe from Covid-19, as in Kiribati, while long quarantine periods of up to three weeks including in Tonga make it hard for leaders to travel, Prasad added.

COP26 is billed as the “last best shot” for the world to try to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius – crucial for Pacific nations battling more powerful tropical storms and rising sea levels, according to the UN envoy.

Biden imposing new international travel vaccine rules, lifting restrictions

US President Joe Biden has signed an order imposing new vaccine requirements for most foreign national air travelers and lifting severe travel restrictions on China, India, and much of Europe effective November 8, the White House said.

The extraordinary US travel restrictions were first imposed in early 2020 to address the spread of Covid-19.

The rules bar most non-U.S. citizens who within the last 14 days have been in Britain, the 26 Schengen countries in Europe without border controls, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran, and Brazil.

“It is in the interests of the United States to move away from the country-by-country restrictions previously applied during the Covid-19 pandemic and to adopt an air travel policy that relies primarily on vaccination to advance the safe resumption of international air travel to the United States,” Biden’s proclamation says.

The White House confirmed that children under 18 are exempt from the new vaccine requirements as are people with some medical issues. Non-tourist travelers from nearly 50 countries with nationwide vaccination rates of less than 10 percent will also be eligible for exemption from the rules.

Those receiving an exemption will generally need to be vaccinated within 60 days after arriving in the United States.

Thousands of Nicaraguans go to Honduras border for vaccines

Nearly 8,000 Nicaraguans received Covid-19 vaccines at two customs border crossings with neighboring Honduras in recent days, Honduran health authorities said, as supplies of the inoculations in Nicaragua have run low.

Promoting the vaccines for Nicaraguans, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez wrote in a post on Twitter that “the solidarity and brotherhood of Hondurans crosses borders.”

He added that up to 500 doses were being given out daily to Nicaraguans.

Honduran health authorities also pitched cross-border assistance as a way to help beat back the risk of more infections at home.

“They don’t have access to vaccines in Nicaragua and that becomes a risk for us due to the significant movement of people along the border,” said Honduran regional health official Jose Maria Paguada.

Facebook, YouTube take down Bolsonaro video over false vaccine claim

Facebook and YouTube have removed from their platforms a video by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in which the far-right leader made a false claim that Covid-19 vaccines were linked with developing AIDS.

Both Facebook and Alphabet Inc’s YouTube said the video, which was recorded on Thursday, violated their policies.

“Our policies don’t allow claims that Covid-19 vaccines kill or seriously harm people,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement on Monday.

YouTube confirmed that it had taken the same step later in the day.

“We removed a video from Jair Bolsonaro’s channel for violating our medical disinformation policy regarding Covid-19 for alleging that vaccines don’t reduce the risk of contracting the disease and that they cause other infectious diseases,” YouTube said in a statement.

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