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A hospital worker and patient with COVID-19 are seen in a hospital in Cape Town, South Africa.
UN Secretary-General said that the limited supply and access to vaccines has hamstrung Africa's recovery from the pandemic.Image: RODGER BOSCH/AFP

Coronavirus digest: UN calls for more vaccines for Africa

May 20, 2021

The United Nations has urged accelerated donation of coronavirus vaccines to Africa with the region receiving only 2% of the total vaccines administered globally. Follow DW for the latest.

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The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday called for more coronavirus vaccines for Africa amid concerns that the continent has received only 2% of all shots administered in the world.

A statement approved by all 15 members at a council meeting called for "increased and accelerated donation of safe and effective vaccine doses from developed economies" and others with supplies to African countries in need.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the council meeting that the limited supply and access to vaccines has hamstrung Africa's recovery from the pandemic.

"Out of 1.4 billion doses administered around the world today, only 24 million have reached Africa — less than 2%," he said.

Here's the latest on coronavirus from around the globe:

Americas

The BioNTech-Pfizer COVID-19 shot can be stored at refrigerator temperatures for up to a month in the United States, the US Food and Drug Administration has said.

The move was "based on a review of recent data submitted by Pfizer," and will now allow vaccines to be stored at refrigerator temperatures of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius (35 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit) for up to one month.

Previously, the vials were only allowed to be stored at such temperatures for five days. 

"This change should make this vaccine more widely available to the American public by facilitating the ability of vaccine providers, such as community doctors' offices, to receive, store and administer the vaccine," said Peter Marks, director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research.

Brazil's former health minister denied receiving any direct orders from President Jair Bolsonaro during his 10-month tenure in a testimony given on Wednesday as part of a probe into the president's handling of the COVID-19 crisis. 

"The actions were all mine," Eduardo Pazuello told the Senate, adding that the president never "issued an order to do anything other than what I was doing."

Pazuello was the country's top health official from May 2020 to March 2021 and his testimony had been among the most anticipated. 

"The president told me and every minister several times: The person who discusses health issues is Minister Pazuello. So never, never — and I will repeat — not once was I called to get guidance from the president in a different way," he said.

Pazuello's statement on Wednesday contradicted the comments he made during a live Facebook broadcast in October last year, with Bolsonaro sitting beside him.

The ex-health minister had said his relationship with the president was simple : "One orders," he said, pointing to Bolsonaro. "The other obeys," he said, pointing to himself.

The risks of vaccine scepticism

Mexico said it expects to start shipping the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine from a private fill-and-finish plant by the end of May.

The shipping would come after a delay of nearly three months.

The shot is produced in Argentina, but the active ingredient is mixed and bottled in Mexico.

Mexico and  Argentina, along with other nations in Latin America, were expecting millions of doses to start flowing in March — but are now unlikely to get them before June. 

Meanwhile, Mexico City's 1.5 million schoolchildren will return to classrooms from June 7 on a voluntary basis in the latest easing of COVID-19 curbs, following a steady drop in cases. 

Europe

Serbia is planning to give the Czech Republic 100,000 free doses of the BioNTech-Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis called it an "incredible gift," in a tweet on Wednesday.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic was on a three-day visit to Prague. 

On Tuesday, Czech President Milos Zeman had personally apologized to Vucic for the 1999 NATO air strikes on Serbia. 

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, many countries continue to restrict entry and most travel remains discouraged. DW Travel offers a brief recap of what rules apply in the EU — and how to get the latest info.

Germany has reported 12, 298 new cases of COVID-19 infections, data released by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Thursday.

The country’s total coronavirus caseload now stands at 3,626,393.  Deaths rose by 237, taking the toll to 86,902.

As Greece reopens to tourists, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis says the Greek islands will be free of COVID-19 by June, but will that be soon enough to save the country’s tourist industry? 

Asia-Pacific

Singapore on Thursday directed Facebook and Twitter to post a correction notice to users of the social media networks in the city-state over what it called a false statement about a new variant of COVID-19 originating in Singapore. 

The move comes after Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said in a tweet earlier this week that a new form of the virus that was particularly harmful to children had come to Singapore, and called for a ban on flights.

Singapore, along with India's federal government, has denounced the comments, saying they were not based on facts and were "irresponsible."

People in India are dealing with another blow — to their mental health, brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Some experts think this crisis might outlast the virus.

New Zealand on Thursday revealed a big-spending budget that focuses on boosting the COVID-19 hit economy while also carrying out long-expected progressive reforms. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced major funding boosts to welfare payments, social housing and health.

"We're making sure our recovery leaves no one behind," Ardern said.

"It's what some people would call a two-birds-one-stone strategy — putting in place policies that ensure our finances remain sustainable while building a stronger New Zealand for the future."

The budget earmarks 3.3 billion New Zealand dollars (€2 billion, $2.3 billion) to spur benefits, which the government expects will lift as many as 33,000 children out of poverty.

The spending includes a 4.7-billion-dollar boost for health, and a new 3.8-billion-dollar fund for housing.

dvv/aw (AFP,AP, dpa, Reuters)

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