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Coronavirus digest: WHO sending COVID aid to North Korea

The World Health Organization says it's trying to ship essential COVID-19 medical supplies to North Korea. Meanwhile, Australia's largest city is set to emerge from a 106-day lockdown next week. Follow DW for the latest.

An audience member undergoes a health check as part of preventative measures against the coronavirus before a performance by the North Korean National Acrobatic Troupe at the Pyongyang Circus Theater

North Korea has not reported a single case of the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday it is working to get COVID-19 medical aid into North Korea through China.

WHO started the shipment of essential medical supplies through the Chinese port of Dalian, near the Korean border, for "strategic stockpiling and further dispatch" to North Korea, it said in its weekly monitoring report.

The announcement was the first sign of the isolated country easing one of the world's toughest border restrictions to receive aid.

North Korea described its campaign against the coronavirus as a matter of "national existence." It has not reported a single infection since the start of the pandemic.

WHO reported that the country had tested at least 40,700 people for the virus with no positive results as of September 23.

The United States and South Korea have cast doubt over the claim that the country, which shares a border with China, has remained unscathed by the illness.

However, no signs of a major outbreak have been confirmed.

An epidemic could be devastating for North Korea, due to its lack of proper health infrastructure.

Watch video 04:54

What's behind the surge in coronavirus infections in South Korea?

Here are the latest major coronavirus developments from around the world:

Asia-Pacific

Australia's largest city Sydney will emerge from a nearly four-month-long lockdown on Monday, authorities said, confirming that the coronavirus vaccination targets had been met.

"The light at the end of the tunnel is now very, very close," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

The wider state of New South Wales also gave the official approval to start easing lockdown restrictions for the fully vaccinated starting next week.

Watch video 02:02

Australia to reopen borders after more than a year

Malaysia has become the latest Asian country to strike a deal with US pharmaceutical company Merck & Co. to buy 150,000 courses of its experimental antiviral pill, the country's Health Ministry said on Thursday.

"This decision was made as we prepare to transition into an endemic phase, where we can co-exist with the virus by adding new innovative treatments as 'weapons' to fight COVID-19, apart from vaccinations and other public health measures," Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said.

Americas

Los Angeles has approved one of the toughest vaccine mandates in the United States.

The City Council voted 11-2 in favor of the ordinance that will require people to show proof of full COVID inoculation for entering restaurants, bars, salons, gyms, shopping centers, sports arenas, and other indoor city facilities.

People with religious or medical exemptions for jabs would be required to show negative coronavirus tests within 72 hours of entry to the facilities.

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday said federal employees who are unvaccinated by October 29 will be placed on unpaid leave.

Air, train, and ship passengers over the age of 12 will be required to show proof of full vaccination after October 30.

These travel measures, along with mandatory vaccination for federal employees, are some of the strongest in the world," Trudeau told reporters.

"If you've done the right thing and gotten vaccinated, you deserve the freedom to be safe from COVID," he said.

Europe

Finland has stopped the use of the Moderna vaccine for men aged 30 years and under following reports of a rare cardiovascular side effect, the institute for health and welfare said on Thursday.

This follows similar age limits on the vaccine in Scandinavian countries.

While Sweden suspended the use of Moderna for those under 30, Denmark said it won't offer the US company's vaccine to recipients under 18 years of age.

Meanwhile, Norway has urged those under 30 to get the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine instead.

Africa

Moderna on Thursday announced it would invest about $500 million (€430 million) to set up a "state-of-the-art mRNA facility" in Africa to make up to 500 million doses of vaccines each year.

The US pharma company "expects to begin a process for country and site selection soon," it said in a statement.

While the vaccines will use Moderna's mRNA technology, the statement did not say if it would be the company's COVID-19 shot.

adi/nm (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)

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