The new coronavirus variant circulating in Brazil has been detected for the first time in Germany.
The state of Hesse’s minister of social affairs, Kai Klose, said on Friday that a patient in the western German state tested positive for the Brazilian variant. According to Klose, the infected person flew into Frankfurt Airport, Germany's busiest hub, from Brazil on Thursday.
According to Ciesek and Klose, the infected person had no symptoms. Ciesek said that a PCR test apparently confirmed that the man had the strain first identified in Brazil, but that confirmatory sequencing results were still pending. The variant is thought to spread more easily, and to perhaps carry a higher risk of reinfections than the typical COVID variant — but Ciesek said there were as yet no indications of it causing worse symptoms in patients.
Germany’s Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases said the variant detected in Brazil is similar to the one from South Africa and that an "increased transmissibility is considered conceivable." The institute said it continues to closely monitor the variant in Germany.
Germany's total coronavirus pandemic death toll also crossed the 50,000-mark on Friday, the RKI added.
The country reached the grim milestone as health authorities recorded 859 new coronavirus deaths in 24 hours. In Germany, authorities count all deaths of people who died with a potential connection to COVID-19 as coronavirus-related deaths. That means people recorded as having been infected with COVID-19 alongside preexisting illnesses, but whose deaths can not be conclusively attributed to that condition, are also counted as a COVID-19 death.
The country has been under lockdown since mid-December. Sweeping restrictions that have seen most areas of public life shuttered are set to remain in place until February 14.
The new lockdown appears to be having an effect. Germany has recorded a consistent drop in cases, according to its seven-day cases incidence metric.
Authorities hope to bring the seven-day incidence rate back down to below 50, to allow the resumption of contact tracing.
In China, Beijing is launching mass COVID-19 testing in some areas, while Shanghai has imposed lockdowns on two well-known hospitals in the city. China is currently fighting against an upsurge in cases that have emerged largely in the country's north.
South Korea has reported its smallest daily increase in coronavirus infections in two months. New infections in the country totaled just 346, bringing the total caseload up to over 74,000. Officials believe the country is coming out of a second infection wave.
Japan has said there is "no truth"to claims published in newspapers that the Tokyo Olympics would be canceled this year amid the pandemic. The report in The Times said the government had privately concluded the Games would not go ahead.
The postponed 2020 Summer Olympics are scheduled to take place from July 23 to August 8, 2021.
Mexico has posted new daily highs for pandemic cases and deaths. The Latin American country has confirmed 22,339 newly confirmed coronavirus infections and 1,803 deaths in the last 24 hours.
Mexico City is the epicenter of the pandemic in the country. Its hospitals are at 89% capacity.
Brazil is awaiting 2 million AstraZeneca and University of Oxford vaccine doses from India.
Brazilian public health experts are concerned there will not be sufficient doses, even with the shipment. The Brazilian city of Manaus has temporarily halted its vaccine program due to a shortfall.
Carnival celebrations in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil have been completely cancelled this year due to the pandemic.
Organizers had initially just planned on pushing back the festival from February to July. But the mayor of Rio, Eduardo Paes, said this was not feasible.
Hungary has become the first EU country to buy Russia's Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told a briefing during talks in Moscow on Friday.
In the video posted on his Facebook page, he said the vaccines would arrive in three tranches, and that details about the size of the shipments would be revealed later.
The announcement came as Pfizer has slashed in half the volume of COVID-19 vaccines it will deliver to some EU countries this week, amid growing frustration over the US drugmaker's unexpected cut in supplies.
Denmark is halting all arriving flights from Dubai for five days due to potential problems with fake coronavirus tests in Dubai, the country's Transport Ministry has announced.
Universities, schools and day care centers in Portugal could shut from early on Friday, local press reported. Calls are also being made to postpone the presidential elections that are currently set for Sunday.
Portugal has recorded what it called "particularly dramatic" figures this week. Authorities think this is driven in part by the arrival of the highly contagious COVID-19 British variant.
kmm, mvb/msh (Reuters, dpa, AFP, AP)