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The hospital system in the Amazon city of Manaus is collapsing from a second wave of Covid-19 and it is running out of oxygen, Brazilian health minister Eduardo Pazuello has said.
Speaking on a webcast with president Jair Bolsonaro at his side, Pazuello said the city’s hospitals were short of medical staff as deaths surge again.
Amazonas state has appealed to the United States to send a military transport plane with oxygen cylinders.
Here’s a quick recap of the latest coronavirus developments across the globe over the last few hours:
Britain reported 1,248 new deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test on Thursday, down from a record high of more than 1,500 the previous day.
The number of people in the UK to have been given a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine as of 13 January is 2,918,252, according to Public Health England, a rise of 278,943 from the figures published on Wednesday.
A total of 437,977 people have received a second dose in the UK as of January 13, a rise of 9,745 from the previous day, PHE added.
Earlier in the day, a number of NHS staff gathered outside Downing Street to protest over the government’s handling of the pandemic.
Wearing PPE and carrying a sign which read “You failed the public, you failed the NHS, Boris must go”, the five campaigners arrived at 8pm, the scheduled start time of the Clap For Heroes.
Nobody was heard clapping along Whitehall in the heart of Westminster as one nurse told reporters: “The situation in hospitals is so severe, we are stretched across all ICUs.”
ICU nurse Ameera Sheikh told reporters: “It’s been very difficult, very challenging.
“We’re stressed out and very anxious, there’s a lot of PTSD amongst staff, staff are going off sick ... leaving nurses very short, which increases the risk of patients deteriorating and ultimately patients dying.
“This is the government’s fault, they need to take responsibility, they need to provide us with better pay and better working conditions.”
As the first groups from Central America reached the Guatemalan border as part of a caravan aiming to reach the United States, regional governments are using coronavirus measures as the latest tool to curtail migration.
Small groups of migrants arrived in the Honduran border town of Corinto on Thursday afternoon, where they were stopped by police demanding negative coronavirus tests, according to local media.
Hundreds more have amassed outside the bus terminal in San Pedro Sula in advance of the caravan’s formal departure on Friday morning, according to footage from local television outlets.
Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico issued a joint declaration earlier this week imposing coordinated health measures to deter migration, including requirements to produce negative coronavirus tests at border checkpoints.
The tightening by Mexican and Central American authorities, coupled with pandemic-linked US border restrictions in place since March, represent a sweeping effort to use public health regulations to deter movement along one of the world’s busiest migration routes at a time when a fierce second wave of coronavirus is sweeping the region.
In Mexico, the pandemic has killed nearly 137,000 people and the capital’s hospitals are spiking with Covid-19 cases.
This week’s caravan, slated to depart Honduras on Friday, would be the first of the year and comes six days before US president-elect Joe Biden takes office.
Yet, Central American and Mexican authorities are stepping up efforts to stop migrants well before the US border, which will likely be a relief for Biden, whose aides have privately expressed concerns about the prospect of growing numbers of migrants seeking to enter the US in the early days of his administration.
On Thursday, Guatemala cited the pandemic in order to declare emergency powers in seven Guatemalan border provinces migrants frequently transit through en route to the Mexican border. The measures limit public demonstrations and allow authorities to disperse any public meeting, group or demonstration by force.
Honduras and Guatemala have announced they will deploy thousands of soldiers to preemptively stop caravan members not complying with health regulations, while Mexico deployed agents to the border with Guatemala.
In online forums, migrants hoping to join the caravan expressed concern on Thursday about the crackdown, with some suggesting searching for “blind points” where they could cross the borders undetected by authorities.
Central America is reeling from economic crises, high rates of violence, and the devastating fallout of two major hurricanes that battered the region in November.
“We barely have food to eat, how do they think we are going to pay for these (coronavirus) tests?” said 29-year-old Ulises Santos from El Salvador, who is hoping to join the caravan.
Migration experts say the public health measures are part of a broader effort by Central American and Mexican authorities, under pressure from Washington, to stop migrants before they reach US territory.
“The US border is moving further and further south,” said renowned Honduran human rights activist Ismael Moreno. “The goal (of local police) is to stop migrants, whether through repression, threats, extortion, or requirements to present a Covid-19 test.”
The Gambia has registered two cases of a British-identified coronavirus mutation which is likely more infectious, the tiny West African state’s government said.
Gambian health minister Ahmadou Samateh told lawmakers the strain was detected in two people entering the country - both of whom were asymptomatic.
“People coming from 20 hot-spot countries, like the UK, Spain, France and Sweden must face another test because we have detected the new variant,” he said. “This one transmits faster”.
Coronavirus variant B117 likely emerged in southeastern England in September, according to Imperial College London. The World Health Organization says it has already spread to 50 countries worldwide.
This strain is believed to be more easily transmissible because of a mutation of the spike protein, the part of the virus which latches on to human cells.
A former British colony of some two million people, The Gambia is the smallest country on mainland Africa. Health officials in the poor nation have registered 3,890 coronavirus cases to date, with over 125 fatalities.
Samateh said the government was engaged in “initial talks” to procure a consignment of Covid-19 vaccines, which it expects to acquire in several months.
Turkey has vaccinated more than 285,000 people as it began administering Covid-19 shots developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech to health workers on Thursday.
President Tayyip Erdoğan also received his first dose of the vaccine in Ankara.
He urged political leaders and lawmakers to endorse the inoculation process and called on Turks not to heed criticism of the vaccine. Health minister Fahrettin Koca also urged citizens to get vaccinated as soon as their turn came, saying it was the “most important way” to beat the pandemic.
At a research hospital in Istanbul, 30 clinics were set up to administer the vaccine. Health workers were given a first dose, with a second to be given 28 days later.
Surgeon general Nurettin Yiyit said the hospital could vaccinate around 1,800 people a day and that its 3,500 staff, including nurses and janitors, could be vaccinated in two days.
As of 8.32pm, Turkey had vaccinated 285,940 people, according to health ministry data.
Asked about the rapid pace of the vaccinations, Turkey’s health ministry said vaccines had been distributed across the country at the start of the week and distribution from provincial storage centres had taken place overnight, after emergency authorisation for the vaccinations was granted.
Seriously ill Covid patients are being transferred from overstretched UK capital London hospitals to intensive care units almost 300 miles away in Newcastle, the Guardian can reveal.
The crisis engulfing the capital’s hospitals is so severe that in recent days patients have also been moved 67 miles to Northampton, 125 miles to Birmingham and 167 miles to Sheffield.
NHS England has told hospitals in the north of England, the Midlands and other areas to open up hundreds of extra ICU beds to take patients from London, the south-east and east, where the new variant has pushed Covid hospital admissions to new levels.
It is the latest dramatic illustration of the increasingly difficult situation confronting the health service. Hospitals across the UK are battling to provide care for 36,489 people with Covid, an increase of 5,872 in seven days. There were a further 48,682 confirmed cases reported on Thursday but Public Health England said that UK deaths data had been delayed due to a “processing issue”.
The number of people who have received a Covid-19 vaccine in Israel has passed the two million threshold, with the prime minister saying there was “light at the end of the tunnel”.
Israel “will become the first country to emerge from the corona crisis,” prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.
“I am the second millionth,” to be vaccinated in Israel, read a sign held by 22-year-old Margaret Alsoso as she received her first dose of the vaccine in the city of Ramla near Tel Aviv.
Netanyahu - who faces yet another re-election contest and a corruption trial over the coming weeks - has sought to highlight his personal role in the inoculation campaign.
The prime minister was the first to get the jab on 19 December, when Israel launched its inoculation campaign with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
In early January authorities said two million people would receive a two-dose Covid-19 vaccine by the end of the month.
As of Thursday only 150,000 people had received their two doses.
But as Israel pushes ahead aggressively with its vaccination drive, it is also witnessing a surge in the pandemic with some 9,000 coronavirus cases registered daily.
The country, currently in its third national lockdown, has recorded more than 523,000 cases, including around 3,850 deaths, according to the health ministry.
On Thursday, Netanyahu urged Israelis to respect lockdown restrictions.
Amnesty International has called on Israel to provide coronavirus vaccine doses to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, saying the Jewish state is obliged to do so under international law.
As coronavirus continues to tear across the US without any sign of slowing down, officials have warned there is a “full resurgence” in most major population centres – and that the country could see an additional 92,000 deaths in less than a month.
There have been more than 23m confirmed Covid-19 cases in the US and 385,503 deaths, Johns Hopkins University’s most recent data revealed.
White House coronavirus taskforce reports from 10 January, obtained by CNN, said they were seeing a “full resurgence” of the virus in “nearly all metro areas” and advocated for “aggressive action”.
The report, which is sent to states, suggested measures such as using “two or three-ply and well-fitting” masks, enforcing “strict” social distancing” and more aggressively testing young adults.
Officials worried that there was “significant, continued deterioration from California across the Sunbelt and up into the south-east, mid-Atlantic and north-east”. These regions effectively comprise all of the continental US.
The reports were quoted as stating that there was a “clear continuation of the pre-holiday high rate of spread as measured by rising test positivity, increased cases, increased hospitalization rates and rising fatalities”.
Additional date compiled by the New York Times indicate that a record number of deaths almost daily in the US largely stems from skyrocketing cases in California and Arizona. In Los Angeles county, there is a Covid-19 death every eight minutes.
Chilean authorities remain confident in a vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac despite jitters elsewhere, after researchers in Brazil said its efficacy was lower than initially suggested.
Rodrigo Yañez, the Chilean trade undersecretary tasked with procuring Covid vaccines for the country, said Chile’s health regulator was assessing all the available data and would announce its decision on an emergency roll-out for the inoculation soon.
He said vaccines would serve their critical purpose if they helped diminish severe symptoms, hospitalisations and deaths.
This week, researchers in Brazil released late-stage trial clinical data showing the Sinovac vaccine was 50.4% effective at preventing symptomatic infections, including “very mild” cases. The previous week they said the vaccine, called CoronaVac, showed 78% efficacy against “mild-to-severe” cases.
“The numbers in Brazil are good though they could be misleading in terms of focusing only on the 50% because the target is to avoid people filling the hospitals and fatalities,” he told Reuters. “It should be very effective with the more severe symptoms of the disease, provided that the clinical data supports what was announced this week.”
Chile paid $3.5m to host a clinical trial of the vaccine and has also ordered 60m doses to be administered to its population of 18 million over three years.
The country’s regulator sent two inspectors to the Sinovac factory in Beijing in November ahead of the expected arrival of the first doses in Chile in mid-January.
Chile has already started vaccinating its health workers using a Pfizer developed shot and its regulator is also weighing approval of AstraZeneca’s for emergency use.
The disappointing Brazilian efficacy news prompted Malaysia and Singapore, which also have purchase agreements with Sinovac, to say on Wednesday that they would seek more data from the Chinese firm on efficacy rates before they approved and bought supplies.
Sinovac vaccination campaigns are already underway in Indonesia and Turkey, with Turkish president Tayyip Erdoğan receiving the jab on Thursday.
Yañez told Reuters the Chilean Public Health Institute would look at the data from Brazil as well as Turkey and Indonesia, which reported efficacy of 91.25% and 65.3% efficacy respectively based on interim trial data.
He said Sinovac’s vaccine wasn’t the only one which has raised doubts, pointing to experts in Australia who had questioned whether herd immunity could be achieved from the 62% efficacy reported for the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“The common flu vaccine is between 50% and 60% effective - we run massive vaccination campaigns with those levels of efficacy,” he said.
“We are in a position where we need to put a stop to the more severe impact of Covid-19. No vaccine so far is capable of proving that it also stops infections spreading. At the end of the day all of them are more or less efficient in helping you avoid the impact.”
The US tennis player Tennys Sandgren has arrived in Melbourne after Tennis Australia reportedly intervened so he could board a charter flight despite testing positive for coronavirus.
In a series of tweets on Thursday, Australian time, Sandgren initially suggested he would not be able to board the flight for the Australian Open, writing “Covid positive over thanksgiving” and “Covid positive on Monday”.
Later, Sandgren, a quarter-finalist at last year’s open, added it appeared he would able to board the chartered flight before lauding the Tennis Australia chief executive, Craig Tiley, as a “wizard”.
“Wow I’m on the plane. Maybe I just held my breath too long,” he said in a tweet.
He then explained his first positive test was in November and he was now “totally recovered”. “I was sick in November, totally healthy now. There’s not a single documented case where I would be contagious at this point.”
The Australian Open suggested Victorian health authorities had given Sandgren the all-clear to fly.
The tournament’s official Twitter account said people who had recovered and were “non-infectious can continue to shed the virus for several months”.
“Victorian government public health experts assess each case based on additional detailed medical records to ensure they are not infectious before checking in to the charter flights,” the Australian Open said.
“Players and their teams are tested every day from their arrival in Australia, a much stricter process than for anyone else in hotel quarantine.”
A group representing major US airlines has backed president-elect Joe Biden’s plan to mandate facial coverings for all air passengers, but asked him to lift it once the coronavirus pandemic ends and give them flexibilities in enforcing it.
Airlines for America, which represents American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and others, asked Biden in a letter seen by Reuters to “allow air carriers to maintain their existing policies and practices which are aimed at de-escalating conflict in-flight and allowing the aircraft to continue while providing a consequential enforcement backstop on the ground”.
Twitter has lifted restrictions briefly imposed on the official account promoting the Russian Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine.
The account was restricted for around an hour earlier in the day with a notice saying Twitter had seen “some unusual activity” on the page.
“This account was temporarily locked in error by an automated spam filter. This action has been reversed and the account is now fully operational,” Twitter said in a statement.
The Sputnik V account said that, according to an explanation from Twitter, the brief shut down was due to “a possible security breach from Virginia, USA”. The account did not provide any further details.