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Coronavirus digest: Germany administers 100 million vaccine doses

Germany has reached a new vaccine milestone, having administered over 100 million doses. Elsewhere, Japan is extending emergency measures. Follow DW for the latest.

A doctor administers a COVID vaccine to a homeless person in Düsseldorf

The rate of vaccinations in Germany has slowed down in recent months

Germany has administered over 100 million vaccine doses since it began its immunization drive six months ago. The milestone was reached on Tuesday when over 280,000 doses were given out.

Despite the high total, Germany's vaccination rate has slowed down in recent months, casting doubt over the prospect of achieving herd immunity.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn celebrated the news in a tweet, saying: "Further milestone: More than 100 million coronavirus vaccines in Germany in six months, that is one of the greatest logistic successes in the history of our country. Some 64.4% (53.5 million) have received at least one shot. Some 59.4% (49.4 million) have full protection. Thanks to everyone who has helped!"

In the wake of the rising numbers of vaccinations, Germany's most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, will stop mass contact-tracing of infections as of Friday. Another state, Baden-Württemberg, plans to do the same in the near future.

This is despite the rising numbers of cases in recent weeks in Germany , prompting officials to declare the country's fourth wave has arrived.

However, the previous level of importance applied to the number of new cases per 100,000 population has dwindled since more people are now vaccinated, thus protected from severe symptoms.

Instead, officials are moving towards using the weekly hospitalization rate in connection with COVID as the most important indicator in the future. 

Meanwhile, the Bundestag decided on Wednesday to extend the "epidemic situation of national importance" until the end of November.

The epidemic situation creates a legal basis for state ordinances on concrete crisis measures, such as mandatory use of masks or contact restrictions.

Watch video 01:16

Can Germany stop the fourth wave of the pandemic?

Here's a roundup of the latest coronavirus developments from around the world:

Asia

Japan is set to expand a state of emergency to an additional eight prefectures, taking the total to 21, the minister in charge of the country's COVID response said, as a surge in cases begins to overwhelm hospitals.

Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said the increase, which would cover almost half of Japan's 47 prefectures, was approved by a panel of external experts. It is expected to be formally agreed upon at a government task force meeting later on Wednesday.

"The most important task is to beef up the medical system," Nishimura said, adding that securing oxygen stations and nurses was among the top priorities.

Watch video 01:51

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The World Health Organization (WHO) said that the Asia-Pacific region is going through a "critical phase" in terms of the coronavirus pandemic. It warned that actions must be taken to avoid the emergence of new, more contagious variants.

New infections in the region made up 10% of global cases in the first three weeks of August and were "rising sharply," the WHO's regional director Takeshi Kasai said.

Vietnam has begun to pay patients who have recovered from a coronavirus infection a monthly allowance if they agree to help health workers who are dealing with an overwhelming influx of COVID-19 patients.

Those who agree are being provided with protective equipment, food, accommodation and a monthly allowance of 8 million dong ($350, €298), according to a document seen by Reuters.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh sent a letter to the WHO on Tuesday requesting that the COVAX vaccine sharing prioritize the southeast Asian country.

The low levels of vaccination and the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant have ravaged the country despite a strict containment policy.

Watch video 02:28

Vietnam in lockdown due to skyrocketing COVID cases

Kazakhstan said that it would ban unvaccinated people from entering shopping malls, restaurants and cafes during weekends unless they can show a negative test.

Over 5 million people, more than a quarter of the population, have been fully vaccinated so far. The government is planning on reopening schools next month for the first time since March 2020.

The Indian government is providing states with an extra 20 million vaccine doses in a push to get all teachers immunized before face-to-face teaching gradually starts again over the next month.

It is hoped that the drive to vaccinate the country's 10 million teachers, as well as the recent approval of a COVID-19 vaccine for older children, will prevent new outbreaks at schools.

Taiwan reported zero new domestic COVID cases on Wednesday, a first since May 9. With no community transmission, the pandemic is well under control on the island.

The World Health Organization said it was concerned that the mass exodus from Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover could cause a spike in coronavirus infections. This could also be easily spread, as people are in close proximity and traveling to various parts of the globe. 

COVID-19 vaccinations in Afghanistan have decreased by 80% in the first week since the Taliban took power in the country, the UN's agency for children UNICEF said on Wednesday. The agency also warned that half of the doses that have already been delivered are close to expiring.

Europe

Germany reported another 11,561 new COVID cases and 39 more deaths on Wednesday. The total number of cases now stands at 3,899, 173 and deaths at 92,061.

Protection against COVID provided by two doses of BioNTech-Pfizer and Oxford–AstraZeneca vaccines began to wane within six months, underscoring the need for booster shots, according to a new study by British researchers. The UK's ZOE COVID study was based on data from more than 1.2 million test results.

Oceania

New South Wales (NSW), Australia, has recorded another new daily high of 919 infections. Australia's most populous state recorded two deaths from the coronavirus on Wednesday.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said Wednesday that the state's health system is under pressure but is coping.

Watch video 12:01

COVID-19 Special: Hoarding vaccines while the world waits

Americas

The United States will donate 1 million BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine doses to Vietnam, Vice President Kamala Harris announced in Vietnam on Tuesday. Harris is currently touring Southeast Asia.

Harris said the doses would begin arriving within the next 24 hours. The US had previously donated 5 million vaccines to Vietnam. The Department of Defense will also send 77 freezers to store the vaccines adequately. 

Vietnam is currently reeling under a COVID crisis driven by the delta variant of the virus. It has vaccinated under two percent of its population of 98 million people.

A new assessment into the COVID lab-leak theory by US spy agencies has come up short of providing the government and the public with any firm conclusion, the Wall Street Journal newspaper reported. The study was concluded Tuesday, but an unclassified version of the report is yet to be published. 

ab, rm, jsi/rt (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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