In an effort to speed up access to Covid-19 vaccination in the developing world, the UN health agency approved Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccines for emergency use.
Regulatory experts convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) from around the world and UN agency’s own teams reviewed the data on the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and found on Thursday that it met WHO’s must-have criteria for safety and efficacy – with its benefits offsetting any potential risks, reports UN News.
“This is a very positive step towards ensuring global access to Covid-19 vaccines,” said Dr. Mariângela Simão, WHO Assistant-Director General for Access to Medicines and Health Products.
“But I want to emphasize the need for an even greater global effort to achieve enough vaccine supply to meet the needs of priority populations everywhere.”
‘Working night and day’
The move opens the door for countries to expedite their own regulatory approval processes to import and administer the vaccine.
It also enables Unicef and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) to procure the vaccine for distribution to countries in need.
At the same time, WHO is encouraging more developers to come forward for review and assessment to satisfy the critical supply for all countries globally to stem the pandemic.
“WHO and our partners are working night and day to evaluate other vaccines that have reached safety and efficacy standards,” said Dr. Simão.
The vaccine is also under policy review.
Drawing from WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) population prioritization recommendations for Covid-19 vaccines, which were issued in September, the group will convene on 5 January to formulate vaccine specific policies and recommendations.
Meanwhile, WHO is working with regional partners to advise national health authorities about the two-dose shot and its anticipated benefits.
The World Health Organization, with the GAVI Vaccine Alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), are spearheading a global effort called COVAX to secure the equitable distribution of vaccines to all countries and not just to wealthy nations.
As the Covid-19 infections spreading fast, its global caseload hit 83.3 million on Friday, according to data released by the Johns Hopkins University (JHU).
The data showed the total caseload reached 83,399,225 with 1,817,531 fatalities as of Friday morning,
Also Read: Global COVID-19 cases exceed 82 million
In the US, the worst-hit country of the world, the infection tally topped near 20 million (19,967,278) while the death toll climbed to 345,736.
A doctor checks body temperature of a woman at a hospital in Fuzhou, southeast China's Fujian Province. Xinhua File Photo
California surpassed 25,000 coronavirus deaths since the start of the pandemic and officials disclosed Thursday that three more cases involving a mutant variant of the virus have been confirmed in San Diego County, reports AP.
The grim developments came as the ongoing surge swamps hospitals and pushes nurses and doctors to the breaking point as they brace for another likely increase after the holidays.
A waiter cleans a table at a restaurant in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Xinhua File Photo
Public health officials continued to plead with residents just hours before the start of 2021 not to gather for New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Also Read: COVID-19 global caseload crosses 81 million
Brazil’s Covid-19 cases surpassed 7,675,973 while the death toll from the virus reached 194,949.
Meanwhile, India’s Covid-19 tally reached 10,266,674 while the death toll mounted to 148,738 as of Friday morning.
Situation in Bangladesh
Covid-19 fatalities in Bangladesh surged to 7,559 with 28 more deaths recorded in 24 hours until Sunday morning.
The mortality rate stood at 1.47 percent, the Directorate General of Health Services said.
Also Read: Covid-19 claims 28 more lives in Bangladesh
Besides, 1,014 new cases pushed the caseload to 513,510.
So far, 457,459 patients – 89.08 percent, with 1,389 new ones, have recovered.
Bangladesh reported its first cases on March 8. The infection number reached the 5,00000-mark on December 20.
The first death was reported on March 18 and the death toll exceeded 7,000 on December 12.
This New Year’s Eve is being celebrated like no other in most of the world, with many bidding farewell to a year they’d prefer to forget.
From the South Pacific to New York City, pandemic restrictions on open air gatherings saw people turning to made-for-TV fireworks displays or packing it in early since they could not toast the end of 2020 in the presence of friends or carousing strangers.
As midnight rolled from Asia to the Middle East, Europe, Africa and the Americas, the New Year’s experience mirrored national responses to the virus itself. Some countries and cities canceled or scaled back their festivities, while others without active outbreaks carried on like any other year.
Australia was among the first to ring in 2021. In past years, 1 million people crowded Sydney’s harbor to watch fireworks. This time, most watched on television as authorities urged residents to stay home to see the seven minutes of pyrotechnics that lit up the Sydney Harbor Bridge and its surroundings.
In New York’s Times Square, the ball was set to drop like always, but police fenced off the site synonymous with New Year’s Eve to prevent crowds of any size from gathering.
Another of the world’s most popular places to be on December 31, Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, pressed ahead with its revelry despite a surge of infections. Images of masked health care workers briefly lit up Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower, before fireworks exploded in the sky over the building. Tens of thousands of people flooded the streets and squares marked out for social distancing were largely ignored.
Still, the pandemic robbed the night of its freewheeling spirit. Authorities implemented a raft of anti-virus measures to control rowdy crowds in downtown Dubai. At luxury bars and restaurants, music blared and people drank, but dancing was strictly prohibited.
Also read: New virus mutes Lunar New Year mood in Asia
South Africans were urged to cancel parties and light candles to honor health workers and people who have died in the COVID-19 pandemic.
In many European countries, authorities warned they were ready to clamp down on revelers breaching public health rules, including nightly curfews in France, Italy, Turkey, Latvia, the Czech Republic, and Greece.
“No one will be on the streets after 10 p.m. (Athens) will be a dead city to make sure no more restrictions are imposed,” said Greece’s public order minister, Michalis Chrisohoidis.
France’s government flooded the streets with 100,000 law enforcement officers to enforce the nationwide curfew.
A few families gathered in Madrid’s sunny central Puerta de Sol square to listen to the rehearsal of the traditional ringing of the bells that is held at midnight. They followed the Spanish custom of eating 12 grapes with each stroke of the bells before police cleared the area that normally hosts thousands of revelers.
“That’s it, life goes on. Despite what happened we have to celebrate,” said Cesar Pulido, 32, who celebrated in Madrid. “We have to eat the 12 grapes in order to ask 12 wishes like health, love, money, everything and good vibes.”
As the clock struck midnight, fireworks erupted over Moscow’s Red Square and the Acropolis in Athens, but the explosions echoed across largely empty streets as people obeyed orders to stay home.
From Berlin to Brussels, normally raucous celebrations were muted by the pandemic.
Even the British government, keen to celebrate the U.K.’s definitive split from the EU, ran ads imploring the public to “see in the New Year safely at home” amid a record number of newly confirmed cases. London’s annual New Year’s Eve fireworks display was canceled, but an unannounced display was broadcast before midnight, with tributes to health care workers, a reference to the Black Lives Matter movement and even a voice saying “you’re on mute” in reference to a bugbear of virtual work meetings.
In Scotland, residents normally mark the new year with parties and “first footing,” where a home’s first visitor of the year comes bearing gifts. The tradition is among the list of activities the government warned against.
“No gatherings, no house parties, no first-footing. Instead, we should bring in 2021 in our own homes with just our own households,” Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said.
Many around the world looked toward 2021 with hope, partly due to the arrival of vaccines that offer a chance of beating the pandemic.
“Although this was a very difficult year, a year of many losses, I’m grateful to be safe, to follow the rules, to do my part,” said Marilia Rafael, 33, who celebrated in Portugal, “and would like to ask that the next year may be better for all of us, may it be a year of hope, peace and love.”
More than 1.8 million deaths worldwide have been linked to the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic.
Some leaders, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, used their New Year’s address to thank citizens for enduring hardship during the lockdown and criticize those who defied the rules. Others, like Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella, flew the flag for science, urging citizens to discard their fears about getting immunized against COVID-19.
“Faced with an illness so highly contagious, which causes so many deaths, it’s necessary to protect one’s own health and it’s dutiful to protect those of the others – family members, friends, colleagues,”’ said Mattarella, 79.
In Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro, where official fireworks and celebrations also were canceled to limit the rapid spread of the virus, police officers braced for what promised to be a long night.
Rio officials decided to seal off Copacabana, where millions of people dressed in white usually gather on the beach to marvel at fireworks and attend large concerts. This year, between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. on Jan. 1, only local residents will be able to access the city’s iconic shore, authorities said.
In South Korea, Seoul’s city government canceled its annual New Year’s Eve bell-ringing ceremony in the Jongno neighborhood for the first time since the event was first held in 1953, months after the end of the Korean War.
New Zealand, which is two hours ahead of Sydney, and several of its South Pacific island neighbors that also have no active COVID-19 cases held their usual New Year’s activities.
In Chinese societies, the virus ensured more muted celebrations of the solar New Year, which is less widely observed than the Lunar New Year that in 2021 will fall in February. Initial reports about a mystery respiratory illness sickening people in the Chinese city of Wuhan emerged exactly a year ago.
More than 10 million children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), northeast Nigeria, the Central Sahel, South Sudan and Yemen will suffer from acute malnutrition in 2021, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has said.
All of these countries and regions are experiencing "dire humanitarian crises" while also grappling with intensifying food insecurity, the coronavirus pandemic and, with the exception of the Central Sahel, "a looming famine," UNICEF said on Wednesday.
"For countries reeling from the consequences of conflicts, disasters and climate change, COVID-19 has turned a nutrition crisis into an imminent catastrophe," UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said.
"Families already struggling to feed their children and themselves are now on the brink of famine. We can't let them be the forgotten victims of 2020," she added.
Read Also:Covid-19 pushed Rohingyas towards hunger, malnutrition: Experts
Severe acute malnutrition is the most extreme and visible form of under nutrition. Children with severe acute malnutrition have very low weight for their height and severe muscle wasting. It is a major cause of death in children under five, and its prevention and treatment are critical to child survival and development.
Through 2020, in spite of COVID-19 challenges, UNICEF and its partners continued to deliver lifesaving assistance to the most vulnerable children and their families in the hardest to reach areas through adjustments on the existing programs to maintain and increase access.
Read Also:Bangladesh sees sharp decline in child malnutrition: Survey
With the situation feared to worsen in 2021, UNICEF called on humanitarian actors on the ground in these countries as well as the international community to urgently expand access to and support for nutrition, health and water and sanitation services for children and families.
UNICEF has appealed for more than 1 billion U.S. dollars to support its lifesaving nutrition programs for children in countries affected by humanitarian crises over 2021.
The global COVID-19 caseload crossed 82 million on Thursday amid reports of a new, more contagious coronavirus variant affecting a number of countries.
Data compiled by Johns Hopkins University (JHU) put the caseload at 82,667,945 with 1,804,138 fatalities.
In the US, the worst-hit country, the infection tally topped 19.7 million, while the death toll climbed to 342,312.
AP reported that California on Wednesday announced the nation’s second confirmed case of the new and apparently more contagious variant of the coronavirus, offering a strong indication that the infection is spreading more widely in the United States.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the infection found in Southern California during an online conversation with Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
The announcement came 24 hours after word of the first reported U.S. variant infection, which emerged in Colorado. That person was identified Wednesday as a Colorado National Guardsman who had been sent to help out at a nursing home struggling with an outbreak. Health officials said a second Guard member may have it too.
The cases triggered a host of questions about how the version circulating in England arrived in the U.S. and whether it is too late to stop it now, with top experts saying it is probably already spreading elsewhere in the United States.
Brazil registered 193,875 deaths from COVID-19 with total caseload of 7,619,200.
The South American country has the third-largest COVID-19 outbreak in the world.
Meanwhile, India’s COVID-19 tally reached 10,244,852 while the death toll mounted to 148,439 as of Thursday morning.
COVID-19 situation in Bangladesh
Bangladesh recorded 22 more deaths from Covid-19 and 1,235 new infections in 24 hours until Wednesday.
Also read: Christmas in the time of Covid-19 pandemic
The number of deaths rose to 7,531 since the first cases were reported in the country on March 8.
With 1,235 new infections the country’s total caseload stood at 512,496, said the Directorate General of Health Services.
So far, 3,2143,44 tests have been carried out. The overall infection rate stood at 15.94 % and the death rate at 1.47
However, 456,070 patients – 88.99% – have so far recovered.
Bangladesh is seeing 3,009.26 infections, 2,677.93 recoveries and 44.22 deaths per million.
The country’s infection number reached the 5,00000-mark on December 20. The first death was reported on March 18 and the death toll exceeded 7,000 on December 12.
The government has been warning of a second wave of Covid-19 in winter and urging people to follow health safety measures. It has also adopted a “no mask, no service” policy.
Bangladesh will get Covid-19 vaccines for around 4.5 crore people by May-June next year, Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam said recently.
“We will get 3 crore doses of vaccine for 1.5 crore people at the end of January or early February next year and 6 crore doses for 3 crore people by May-June.”