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Coronavirus digest: Hard-hit Brazil starts vaccine drive

January 18, 2021

Brazil's vaccination program has begun after emergency approval was granted for the vaccines produced by Sinovac and AstraZeneca. Australia says it may not fully reopen its borders this year. Follow DW for the latest.

Monica Calazans becomes the first person to be vaccinated against COVID in Brazil
Nurse Monica Calazans became the first person to be vaccinated in BrazilImage: Marcelo Chello/ZUMA Wire/picture alliance

Brazil's vaccination program has begun in earnest after its health regulator granted emergency approval for the use of the China's Sinovac and Britain's AstraZeneca vaccines.

Monica Calazans, a 54-year-old nurse in Sao Paulo, was the first to receive the jab in the country of 210 million inhabitants, as Latin America's largest nation began an immunization program that's been subject to months of delay and political disputes.

Brazil currently has 6 million doses of Sinovac's CoronaVac ready to distribute in the next few days, and is awaiting the arrival of a further 2 million doses of the version manufactured by AstraZeneca and partner Oxford University.

Brazil's COVID-19 vaccination program has begun
Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria could not hold back the tears after Calazans recieved the first COVID-19 shot in BrazilImage: Carla Carniel/AP Photo/picture alliance

Meanwhile, Brazil's death toll from the virus that has infected some 8.5 million people edged towards 210,000.

Due to a recent surge in acute cases, the health system in Manaus recently collapsed, with oxygen having to be airlifted into the metropolis.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro revealed that a convoy of trucks carrying emergency oxygen supplies for the northern Amazonas state is en route.


Australia may not fully reopen its borders this year, even if most of its population has received a coronavirus vaccine, the head of its health department has announced.

"Even if we have a lot of the population vaccinated, we don't know whether that will prevent transmission of the virus," Brendan Murphy told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

The mini-crisis surrounding the Australian Open showed no signs of abating as the number of players in hard quarantine increased to 72. An unnamed player was among an additional four people to test positive for the coronavirus ahead of the season-opening tennis major that is due to start in Melbourne on February 8.


China has reported more than 100 new infections for the sixth day in a row, with rising infections in the northeast fueling concerns of another national wave ahead of a major holiday season.


As of Monday, Bavarians will have to wear FFP2 masks in public spaces, such as public transport and supermarkets, and it may become a nationwide mandate as Germany's 16 state premiers meet Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday to discuss tougher restrictions.

FFP2 masks in Bayern
FFP2 masks are now mandatory on public transport across Bavaria, though not for long-distance journeysImage: Sven Hoppe/dpa/picture alliance

However, the obligation to wear the FFP2 masks in the southern German state of Bavaria does not apply to shop workers and it excludes children up to and including 14 years of age. Children and adolescents from the age of six to 14 must continue to wear mouth and nose coverings as before. Until now, FFP2 masks were only required when visiting relatives in a nursing home.

Meanwhile, there appears to have been an outbreak of a mutated variant of the coronavirus — which does not appear to be any of the known strains — at a clinic in the Bavarian town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

"We have to wait for the complete sequencing ... We cannot say at all at the moment whether this has any clinical relevance," Clemens Stockklausner, deputy medical director at the clinic, told journalists.

The number of reported cases in Germany increased by 7,141 in the latest update from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases. The death toll rose by 214.

England will launch the next phase of its vaccination program on Monday when it will start administering doses to people aged 70 and over, as well as those who are considered extremely vulnerable. The process has until now focused on people aged 80 and above, in addition to frontline medical workers. Health minister Matt Hancock said more than half of all over-80s had received the vaccine.

Dutch riot police on Sunday dispersed some 2,000 people holding an unauthorized protest in Amsterdam against a national lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.


President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has announced that his government has agreed with a UN proposal to delay shipments of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine to countries like Mexico, in order to get more doses to poorer countries quicker.

"We are already seeking out other vaccines," Lopez Obrador said, referring to the AstraZeneca vaccine as well as the Chinese CanSino and Russian Sputnik V vaccines, neither of which has been approved in the country until now.

Mexico has so far received almost a half million doses of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine and administered nearly all of them.

jsi, rc/rs (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)