Coronavirus digest: China′s Sinovac vaccine 78% effective, says Brazil | News | DW | 07.01.2021

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Coronavirus digest: China's Sinovac vaccine 78% effective, says Brazil

The trial results are being closely watched by developing countries who are counting on the vaccine to begin mass inoculations. Brazil and Indonesia are planning to roll out the jab this month. Follow DW for the latest.

A gloved hand holds a syringe against a background showing the word 'Sinovac'

The Sinovac vaccine is one of at least five Chinese shots undergoing late-stage trials

The coronavirus vaccine developed by Chinese company Sinovac Biotech was found to be 78% effective in late-stage trials in Brazil, Brazilian media reported Thursday. 

A source cited by Reuters said Sao Paulo's Butantan Institute — Sinovac's Brazilian partner — had submitted a request for the shot's emergency use.

The trial results bring the vaccine, called CoronaVac, one step closer to being cleared for use in South America's largest country, which also has the continent's highest number of COVID-19 cases.

Trials for vaccines developed by Moderna and BioNTech-Pfizer were found to be 90% effective. However, Sinovac's jab is said to be easier to transport and can be stored at normal refrigerator temperatures. Brazil is hoping to begin administering the company's vaccine this month. Indonesia, Turkey, Chile, Singapore, Ukraine and Thailand have also struck deals with the firm.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday it was reviewing "some vaccines from China" and the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University for possible emergency listing.

Asia Pacific

China is experiencing its biggest surge in COVID-19 cases in more than five months. Cases in the Hebei province near Beijing rose to 51 on Thursday. Authorities have imposed travel restrictions to prevent the virus from spreading to other parts of the country. 

Officials in Shijiazhuang, Hebei's capital, have also started mass testing drives and banned public gatherings. Chinese state television reported the city has now banned passengers from entering its main railway station. 

Mainland China reported 63 new cases on Thursday, compared to 32 from a day earlier. This is the largest spike the country has seen since July. 

The Japanese government has declared a monthlong emergency in the greater Tokyo area, hoping to control the surge in infections. The region houses around a quarter of Japan's total population and accounts for a large number of cases.

Local restaurants and bars are being asked to stop serving alcohol at 7 p.m. and shut down by 8 p.m. Residents will be asked to minimize nonessential outings and are being urged to work from home in order to reduce commute traffic by 70%. 

Australia's prime minister, Scott Morrison, said his country was on track to administer vaccines in February, as the government has accelerated its inoculation program from March.

Australian authorities are expected to approve BioNTech-Pfizer's vaccine by the end of January. "We are now in a position where believe we will be able to commence vaccinations in mid-to-late February," Morrison told reporters. 

Europe

The European branch of the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the more infectious variant of the coronavirus has created "a tipping-point in the course of the pandemic."

The start of a new year has brought "new opportunities and tools," including vaccines, WHO Europe director Hans Kluge said. But he stressed that the challenge posed by the new virus mutation and surging infections had created "an alarming situation."

He called for countries to do more to "intensify the public health and social measures to be certain we can flatten the steep vertical line" that has emerged in countries like the UK. 

Some doctors' practices in England were to receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from Thursday, Britain's National Health Service said. 

"We are aiming to offer vaccinations to the majority of care home residents by the end of January and all 13 million people in the top four priority cohorts by mid-February," said Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

About 1.3 million people in the UK have already received one shot of either AstraZeneca's or Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff Helge Braun has warned there may need to be a longer lockdown if the country's 16 states don't keep stringent restrictions in place.

Germany this week extended its coronavirus measures until at least January 31 as it grapples with a second wave that has seen soaring daily numbers of deaths and cases. On Thursday, the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases reported 1,070 more deaths and 26,391 new infections.

France's finance minister has warned that the pandemic could do more damage to the French economy in 2021 than this year.

"The hardest is still to come, we're going to have to show considerable strength of character," Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said.

"There will be more bankruptcies in 2021 than in 2020 ... which will result in job losses over a certain period that will be difficult to absorb."

France has spent billions of euros in a bid to prop up businesses and limit job losses, particularly in the hard-hit hospitality and culture sectors. Hotels and restaurants are hoping to be able to reopen on January 20, but officials say they may have to remain closed beyond that date given increasing case numbers after the holidays.  

The Czech government has extended a nationwide coronavirus lockdown until at least January 22.

Health Minister Jan Blatny announced the decision on Thursday after the country reported a record number of cases for the second day in a row.

A nightly curfew is currently in place, and all nonessential shops, hotels, restaurants and cultural venues must remain closed. A maximum of two people can meet in public.

Estonia has reported its highest case increase in a single day, with 1,104 new infections in the past 24 hours.

The country is experiencing a spike in new infections, despite the government imposing tighter restrictions on public life in December.

Africa

South Africa says it has ordered 1.5 million doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine from India's Serum Institute, with the first batch due to arrive later in January.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize made the announcement on Thursday and said two-thirds of the population, or around 40 million people, would be given the jab over the course of the year in order to achieve herd immunity. 

"We need 67-70% of the population to be immunised to break the cycle of transmission," he said, adding that it was "a huge task."

A more contagious mutation of the coronavirus, discovered in South Africa last month, is driving a second wave of infections that has overwhelmed the local health system.

Kenya's health minister said the country is to start receiving 24 million doses of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University next month. Health workers and teachers will be the first to receive the jab, Minister Mutahi Kagwe said.

The East African country has so far reported 97,398 COVID-19 cases and 1,694 deaths 

Morocco has approved the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine, to be produced by India's Serum Institute.

Last month, the government announced it had ordered 65 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from China's Sinopharm and AstraZeneca. Morocco's immunization program plans to vaccinate 80% of the population in various stages.

The country has currently imposed a curfew to control a rise in cases. 

Middle East

Lebanon began a 25-day nationwide lockdown on Thursday following a holiday season that resulted in record numbers of infections.

On the eve of the lockdown, the country reported 4,166 new cases — its highest daily tally since the start of the pandemic. A nighttime curfew has been implemented, road traffic restricted, and most business have been forced to close.

Israel, which is also experiencing a big rise in infections, has decided to tighten a pre-existing lockdown in the hope of containing the virus. 

Schools and businesses will be closed and public gatherings will be restricted. Public transportation is also to be limited for a two-week period beginning at midnight Thursday night.  

A man receives a vaccination against coronavirus in Jerusalem

A man receives a vaccination against coronavirus in Jerusalem

Americas

Canada's Quebec province has announced a nighttime curfew until February 8 to address a rise in infections and hospitalizations. Nonessential businesses have also been ordered to close, but schools are expected to reopen at the start of term as planned.

Canada is also expected to start vaccinating its federal inmates. The process will start with 600 elderly and medically vulnerable inmates. 

An earlier version of this article stated that Estonia had experienced 1,104 new deaths. This has been corrected to state 1,104 cases. DW apologizes for the error.

nm,tg/sms (dpa, AP, Reuters)

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