New Zealand will first administer Covid-19 vaccines to quarantine personnel, front line health workers and airline staff, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said, as the government formally approved its use on Wednesday.
New Zealand’s medicines regulator last week provisionally approved the use of the Covid-19 vaccine jointly developed by US drugmaker Pfizer Inc and Germany’s BioNTech.
“Now we’ve reached the crucial stage of approval for the first vaccine, we are in a much better position to start having a conversation with New Zealanders about how we plan to proceed,” Hipkins said in a statement.
Authorities expect the Pfizer vaccine to arrive in the country by end-March but they had expressed concerns about export curbs.
Pressure has been mounting on prime minister Jacinda Ardern to start inoculations for the country’s five million people soon even though New Zealand has virtually eliminated the virus.
With just under 2,000 confirmed cases and 25 deaths since the pandemic began, New Zealand largely escaped the high number of cases and deaths from the virus compared with many other developed countries thanks to border closures and lockdowns.
But the emergence of highly contagious variants abroad and more overseas residents returning home has raised concerns of the virus spreading in the community again.
Ardern’s critics have said New Zealand has fallen behind the rest of the world after promising in November that it would be first in the queue for Covid-19 vaccines.
“When the first batch of vaccine arrives, we will be ready to go,” Hipkins said, adding information campaigns will begin next week.
New Zealand will get 1.5 million vaccines from Pfizer, which will provide enough doses to vaccinate 750,000 people, while the medicines regulator is in talks with AstraZeneca, Janssen and Novavax regarding the approval of their Covid-19 vaccines.
More from Australia: New South Wales will ease some Covid restrictions from Friday
Premier Gladys Berejiklian, has spoken to media after the state recorded no new cases of Covid-19.
This comes after a man in Wollongong tested positive for coronavirus on the 16th day after he started quarantine. That was announced on Monday.
Berejiklian said it was possible it was “an old infection”.
“It is unlikely to have contracted at in quarantine, so the best advice is that it’s either an old infection or else the person obviously has had an unusually longer incubation period, which can happen.”
Berejiklian said NSW would be raising its flight arrival cap on Monday, back to 3,000 people a week.
“It’s the right thing to do by Australians.”
And she says that the NSW chief health officer, Dr Kerry Chant, has signed off on a relaxing of restrictions on Friday.
Masks will no longer be mandatory for hospitality workers – but will still be required on public transport. Venues will be able to go back to the 2-square metre rule.
Britain’s financial sector paid £75.6bn pounds ($104.08 billion) in tax in 2020, but receipts are forecast to drop this year as unfettered access to the European Union ends and fallout from the pandemic continues, a report said on Wednesday.
The City of London Corporation, which administers the capital’s historic financial district, said the tax contribution in the year to March 2020 was little changed from £75.5bn pounds in the prior period, despite uncertainties over Britain’s future relations with the European Union.
“However, the future is uncertain, and we do not yet know the long-term impacts of the pandemic, Brexit and changes in ways of working,” City leader Catherine McGuinness said.
The sector accounts for over 10% of UK tax receipts.
Receipts are expected to ease in the current financial year that ends next month to between £71.1bn and £75.7bn, consultants PwC estimated in a report for the City.
“The transition to new trading arrangements between the UK and the EU will put further downward pressure on the recovery of the financial services sector,” the report said.
Britain’s trade deal with the bloc from January 1 does not cover financial services, with the City likely to get only limited access to the EU for the forseeable future.
Financial services exports to the EU in recent years have totalled about £26bn pounds annually, but some of this activity has already moved to the bloc.
The US Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorisation to Eli Lilly’s combination antibody therapy to fight Covid-19, the US drugmaker said on Tuesday.
Eli Lilly’s combination therapy of two antibodies, bamlanivimab and etesevimab, helped cut the risk of hospitalisation and death in Covid-19 patients by 70%, data from a late-stage trial showed in January.
“This therapy is authorised for the treatment of mild to moderate Covid-19 in patients aged 12 and older who are at high risk for progressing to severe Covid-19 and/or hospitalisation”, the company said in a statement.
US drugmaker Moderna Inc has signed supply agreements for its Covid-19 vaccine with the governments of Taiwan and Colombia for five million doses and 10 million doses, respectively.
“The Covid-19 vaccine Moderna is not currently approved for use in Taiwan or Colombia, and the company will work with regulators to pursue necessary approvals prior to distribution,” Moderna said in a statement.
Deliveries would begin in mid-2021, the company added.
Late in December, Taiwan said it had agreed to buy almost 20 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine, including 10 million from UK drugmaker AstraZeneca Plc, with the first shots to start arriving from March.
Last week, Germany ducked an appeal by Taiwan for its help to supply Covid-19 vaccines, as the Asian tech powerhouse’s request for assistance following Berlin’s plea to ease a semiconductor supply crunch in the auto industry risked provoking China’s ire.
More on Venezuela’s announcement it will begin a vaccination roll-out next week.
The first 100,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine will arrive in Venezuela next week, the South American nation’s President Nicolas Maduro said Tuesday.
“When the vaccination process begins, we are going to vaccinate all medical personnel, all health personnel in Venezuela,” Maduro said in a televised address.
“The most vulnerable sectors, and then we will vaccinate the teachers.”
The shipment represents just one percent of a total of 10 million vaccines that Russian authorities have agreed to send impoverished Venezuela.
With 30 million residents, Venezuela has recorded more than 130,000 cases of Covid-19 and more than 1,240 deaths, though international groups have questioned the accuracy of the figures.
We had this story in our earlier blog coverage, but it bears repeating: a little bit of joy amongst so much awful news.
A French nun who is Europe’s oldest person has recovered from Covid-19 after it swept through a nursing home in the south of France, and will celebrate her 117th birthday this week.
Kim Willsher reports:
To Australia, where your correspondent sits, and Victoria, the state hardest hit by Australia’s comparatively limited Covid-19 outbreaks.
More Victorians have been forced into isolation and another review of the state’s hotel quarantine system is underway after two new cases of Covid-19 were linked to a Holiday Inn at Melbourne Airport.
A food and beverage worker and a returned traveller tested positive on Tuesday after an authorised officer working at the same hotel tested positive on Sunday.
The returned traveller had tested negative several times during her stay, which ended on Sunday. She got tested again on Monday after learning of the outbreak.
The woman did not leave home other than to get tested and only one primary close contact has been identified so far.
The food and beverage worker worked on the same floor as the returned traveller and was identified as a close contact of the positive authorised officer.
Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said the three Holiday Inn cases were likely linked to a floor with known Covid-positive guests.
That includes a family of three, one of whom has been transferred to intensive care.
Professor Sutton indicated the infected workers and former guest appeared to have picked up the virus from the family, despite having no close contact.
“Cases can happen anywhere, at any time, and they can happen without a breach of protocol or any particular errors being made,” he said on Tuesday.
“We are talking about an incredibly infectious virus. We have known that airborne transmission is possible.”
Health officials are investigating ways to better protect hotel quarantine workers and guests.
“All I can say is bring on the vaccine,” Sutton said.
Hello, and welcome to a new liveblog, and our continuing coverage of the global coronavirus pandemic. My name’s Ben Doherty, typing these words in Sydney, Australia, thank you for your company. Correspondence and comments are always welcome, you can find me at [email protected] or @BenDohertyCorro on twitter.
To begin, a summary of global developments:
- People may need to get vaccinated against Covid-19 annually for the next several years, Johnson & Johnson chief executive Alex Gorsky told CNBC on Tuesday, due to mutations to the virus.
- Venezuela will receive the first 100,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine next week, President Nicolas Maduro said on Tuesday.
- Brazil has reported 51,486 new coronavirus cases, as well as 1,350 deaths, the health ministry said on Tuesday.
- In London, Lambeth council is asking some residents to take a coronavirus test after the variant first identified in South Africa was detected in the local area.
- The Athens region will enter a stricter coronavirus lockdown from Thursday, Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has said, with schools and non-essential shops closed.
- Spain has now recorded more than 3 million Covid cases, while also registering 766 deaths over the past 24 hours – the highest daily death toll of the current third wave.
- Two new Covid variants, one of which has been classified as a “concern”, have been identified in England with some similarities to the South African and Brazilian variants, a government advisory scientific committee said.
- The Navajo Nation’s vaccination rollout continues to surpass the broader United States, Al Jazeera reports, having distributed 94 per cent of the doses it has received.
- Ireland is likely to gradually emerge from its strict lockdown between April and June with outdoor dining and domestic tourism likely to be possible during the summer, deputy prime minister Leo Varadkar has said.
- Ghana’s parliament has suspended most of its activities for three weeks after at least 17 MPs and 151 staff members were infected with the coronavirus, the speaker Alban Bagbin has told the country’s parliament.
- eSwatini health minister Lizzie Nkosi has said that her country, which borders South Africa, would no longer use AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine.
- Argentina has announced it has approved the emergency use of the Indian-made Covishield vaccine, AFP reports.
- Equatorial Guinea has said it would impose a curfew for the first time, limit flights and reintroduce other restrictions after cases of coronavirus rebounded in the West African country, AFP reports.
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