COVID roundup: Vaccine restrictions, record cases and job losses

India’s daily cases continue to rise, African Union explores AstraZeneca alternatives and COVAX delivered vaccine to more than 100 countries.

An increasing number of countries are joining the ranks of those limiting the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) found a link between very rare blood clots in the brain and the jab.

Almost 134 million coronavirus infections have been reported around the world since the first reported case in 2019. More than 2.9 million people have died, with the United States reporting the highest death toll of more than 560,000.

Here is a quick roundup of the latest coronavirus-related news from around the world:

More restrictions over the AstraZeneca shot 

Countries across the world are taking measures following the EMA announcement of a link between rare blood clots in the brain and the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The French health ministry said the recipients of the first dose of AstraZeneca’s vaccine who are below 55 should get a second shot with a new-style messenger-RNA vaccine, like those developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.

Spain and Italy have also decided to limit the use of the vaccine to people aged above 60, while Belgium restricted the vaccine to people older than 56. In the United Kingdom, it is recommended that people between 18 and 29 are offered an alternative vaccine.

Australia and the Philippines limited the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, while the Africa Union dropped plans to buy the shot.

More countries are limiting the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine after the European Medicines Agency found a link between very rare blood clots in the brain and the jab [File: Pedro Nunes/Reuters]

‘We need a lockdown’: Germany’s health minister

German needs to implement nationwide measures to break the current wave of infections as quickly as possible, Health Minister Jens Spahn told journalists.

“We need a lockdown,” he said, adding that nighttime curfews may be necessary to further reduce social contacts.

He said that there were currently nearly 4,500 patients in intensive care in Germany, adding: “If this continues, it will be too much for our health system.”

Tokyo tightening restrictions ahead of Olympics

Meanwhile in Japan, the government has approved tighter coronavirus measures for the capital, weeks after lifting a state of emergency and with just more than 100 days until the postponed Tokyo Olympics.

The new restrictions are far less severe than the blanket lockdowns seen in other countries and mainly call for restaurants and bars to close at 8pm, with the threat of fines for those that do not.

The pandemic-delayed 2020 Games are due to open on July 23 in Tokyo, but a surge in cases in parts of the country is creating new concerns.

New restrictions are far less severe than the blanket lockdowns seen in other countries and mainly call for restaurants and bars to close at 8pm [Kim Kyung-Hoon/Reuters]

Latin America’s job losses

Some 26 million jobs have been lost in the region and the Caribbean due to the coronavirus pandemic, data from the International Labour Organization show.

The average employment rate in the region of some 650 million people has fallen from 57.4 percent to 51.7 percent from the outbreak of the pandemic until the end of last year. The unemployment rate in Latin America and the Caribbean rose year-on-year from 8.3 percent to 10.6 percent.

India’s new record high

For a third straight day, India reported a record high with 131,968 new infections in the last 24 hours. Deaths rose by 780 to a total of 167,642.

With an overall tally of 13.06 million cases, India’s caseload was the third-highest globally, behind the US and Brazil.

For a third straight day, India reported a record high of daily cases with 131,968 new infections in the last 24 hours [File: Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters]

Equitable vaccine access

The COVAX vaccine facility, an international platform that aims to deliver two billion vaccines to the poorest country by the end of the year, has sent more than 38 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to 102 countries and economies across six continents, six weeks after it began to roll out supplies.

The WHO has said despite India’s decision to temporarily suspend vaccines’ export from the Serum Institute (SII) to meet domestic demand, the world’s biggest vaccine manufacturer, it is still expecting to deliver doses to all participating economies that have requested vaccines in the first half of the year.

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