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Coronavirus digest: First Tokyo Olympics event postponed in Japan

The swimming event was scheduled to take place from March 4-7 in Tokyo, but has been postponed to May. Meanwhile, Australia has extended its travel bubble suspension with New Zealand. Follow DW for the latest.

A woman in a mask walks past the Olympic rings in Tokyo. File photo: March 13, 2020.

About 80% of Japanese believe the Olympics will not or should not take place as planned

The first event of the Tokyo Olympics has been postponed because of travel restrictions in Japan, the event's organizers said on Thursday. Japan is currently in a state of emergency until at least February 7 following rising cases of the coronavirus.

The artistic swimming event was scheduled to take place from March 4-7 in Tokyo but is now postponed to May. The organizers said the decision was taken to ensure the "fairest possible conditions for athletes to participate."

They added that other qualifying events such as a Diving World Cup in April and marathon swimming in May were on schedule. Public support for the Olympics is low, with 80% of Japanese saying they either thought the Games would not or should not go ahead as currently planned in a recent poll.

Here's a rundown of some of the other most notable pandemic-related stories around the world at present. 

Global

The pandemic cost the tourism industry $1.3 trillion in lost revenue in 2020, as the number of people traveling sunk due to restrictions, the UN said, calling it "the worst year in tourism history."

Revenue lost last year amounted to "more than 11 times the loss recorded during the 2009 global economic crisis, " the World Tourism Organization (WTO) said in a statement. International tourist arrivals fell by one billion, or 74% in 2020 in Asia – the first region to be hit by the pandemic. 

"While much has been made in making safe international travel a possibility, we are aware that the crisis is far from over," said WTO head Zurab Pololikashvili. 

Asia

The Philippines Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given emergency authorization to AstraZeneca and Oxford University's COVID-19 vaccine. This is the second vaccine after the BioNTech-Pfizer version to receive approval in the Philippines.

The head of the FDA said that the potential benefits of the vaccine outweighed its known risks.

South Korea will start COVID-19 vaccinations for the general public in the third quarter of this year, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) director Jeong Eun-kyeong told a news briefing. The country aims to reach "herd immunity" through mass vaccinations by November.

Just hours after confirming the first two infections in nearly two months, Vietnam reported 82 new coronavirus cases. Seventy-two came from an electronic company in Hai Duong province.

A WHO-led team investigating the origins of the virus left its quarantine hotel in Wuhan to begin field work, two weeks after arriving.

The probe has been plagued by delays, concern over access and tensions between China and the United States. 

The team of independent experts is due to remain for two more weeks. Researchers are expected to visit hospitals, clinics and laboratories, as well as the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, where the virus was initially believed to have spread. 

Africa

The COVID variant first identified in the UK has now been detected in Senegal, the country's health institute has said. It comes just as measures to contain the spread of the virus seemed to have stalled a recent surge.

Oceania

New Zealand's response to the coronavirus pandemic has been rated the best in the world, in a new study by the Lowy Institute, an Australian think tank. The think tank came to the result by comparing publicly available data on the pandemic response in 98 countries in the 36 weeks that followed their 100th confirmed case.

New Zealand got the top rank out of 98 countries

New Zealand got the top rank out of 98 countries

New Zealand was closely followed by Vietnam, Taiwan and Thailand. According to the report, countries in the Asia-Pacific were most successful in containing the pandemic. The institute did not include China in its list, citing a lack of data.

Australia has extended the suspension of a so-called "travel bubble" with New Zealand until Sunday. The bubble was originally suspended on Monday after a positive case of the South African strain of the coronavirus was detected in New Zealand.

Europe

German Health Minister Jens Spahn has warned that Germany faces a vaccine shortfall for the next "10 weeks." The government is now mulling a "vaccine summit."

Meanwhile the German vaccine commission, STIKO, has recommended to only use the AstraZeneca vaccine on those aged 64 and under, citing a lack of data regarding the its efficacy in older people.

France will receive 25% less doses of the Moderna vaccine than it expected in February, the country's health ministry said in a statement.

The World Health Organization's European branch has said it is too early to ease restrictions in Europe despite a drop in new cases in most countries.

Hans Kluge, the WHO's regional director for Europe, said 30 countries had "seen a significant decrease in 14-day cumulative incidence," but transmission rates remained "very high."

Car output in the UK has fallen to the lowest level since 1984, according to data released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, an industry body, on Thursday. It cited low demand for vehicles owing to the coronavirus pandemic as the key reason for the dramatic fall.

The UK produced 920,928 cars in 2020, down 29% year-on-year. EU-wide figures published this month showed a drop of 23.7%, also the highest percentage decline since records began. 

Russia dispatched 240,000 doses of its Sputnik V vaccine to Latin American countries, with most heading to Argentina and the rest bound for Bolivia. 

Bolivia, which an airline official said would take delivery of 20,000 doses from the consignment, will be the second Latin American country after Argentina to roll out the Russian vaccine. Argentina has already taken the delivery of two consignments, each with 300,000 shots. 

Catch up with DW content

Amid heated debate about the long-term effects of the lockdown on children, business and the arts, Germany’s refugees seem to have been forgotten. Read the full story here

People in Poland long appeared hesitant to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Then they saw celebrities and politicians scandalously jump the line for the jab. Now there's not enough vaccine to go around. Read the full story here

The coronavirus has raged for a year now and there seems to be no end in sight. Germany is no longer considered as an example of good pandemic management. But the worst could still be to come, says Rosalia Romaniec. Read the full story here

And catch up with all the developments in Wednesday's coronavirus digest.

am/rt (Reuters, AP, AFP)