Malaysian health authorities have raised concerns about a growing number of coronavirus deaths and serious cases involving children, after a surge in overall infections forced the Southeast Asian nation into a strict lockdown, Reuters reports.
Malaysia recorded the deaths of three children aged below five due to the coronavirus in the first five months of this year, the same number recorded over the whole of 2020, according to Health Ministry director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah.
A total of 27 children, including 19 below the age of five, also had to be treated in intensive care between January and May after contracting the virus, up from eight cases last year.
“The health ministry hopes all parties, especially parents and guardians, play an important part in protecting those with low immunity, such as babies and children, from Covid-19,” Noor Hisham said in a statement.
Noor Hisham did not say how many children had been tested for Covid-19 or if authorities planned to ramp up testing among minors.
Neighbouring Singapore also warned last month that new coronavirus variants, such as the one first detected in India, were affecting more children.
Malaysia’s prime minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, has declared a two-week “total lockdown” from 1-14 June, as daily Covid-19 cases and deaths hit record numbers.
Japan is to deliver to Taiwan 1.24 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine for free, the foreign minister, Toshimitsu Motegi, has said, in a gesture that will more that double the amount of shots the island has received to date.
Taiwan is battling a spike in domestic infections and has vaccinated only around 3% of its population. Japan has contracted to procure more than 300 million doses of coronavirus vaccines from Pfizer Inc, Moderna Inc and AstraZeneca, more than enough to cover its entire population.
“At the time of the great east Japan earthquake 10 years ago, people in Taiwan sent us a lot of donations promptly. I believe that is etched vividly in the minds of Japanese people,” Motegi said, according to Reuters, announcing the vaccines would reach Taiwan on Friday afternoon.
“Such an important partnership and friendship with Taiwan is reflected in this offer.”
Taiwan thanked its former colonial master for its generosity.
“The relationship between Taiwan and Japan has always been extremely close, and our friendship is firm and deep,” Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said. “Whenever disasters or accidents occur, both sides immediately lend a helping hand to each other and send help in the hour of need.”
Taiwan has received only around 860,000 doses so far, mainly AstraZeneca ones but also a smaller number from Moderna. It has ordered more than 20 million doses from AstraZeneca and Moderna and is also developing its own vaccines.
Like many governments, Taiwan’s vaccine plans have been stymied by global shortages. China, which claims the island as its own territory, has offered vaccines, but Taiwan has repeatedly expressed concern about their safety, and accused China of trying to block Taiwan’s vaccine purchases internationally. Beijing denies this.
Top US infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci has called on China to release the medical records of nine people whose ailments might provide vital clues into whether Covid-19 first emerged as the result of a lab leak, the Financial Times has reported (paywalled).
“I would like to see the medical records of the three people who are reported to have got sick in 2019. Did they really get sick, and if so, what did they get sick with?” the report quoted Fauci as saying, according to Reuters.
US intelligence agencies are still examining reports that researchers at a Chinese virology laboratory in Wuhan were seriously ill in 2019 a month before the first Covid-19 cases were reported.
However, Chinese scientists and officials have consistently rejected the lab leak hypothesis, saying the virus could have been circulating in other regions before it hit Wuhan and might have even entered China through imported frozen food shipments or wildlife trading.
The Financial Times reported that Fauci continues to believe the virus was first transmitted to humans through animals, pointing out that even if the lab researchers did have Covid-19, they could have contracted the disease from the wider population.
Hello and welcome to today’s coverage of the coronavirus pandemic with me, Helen Livingstone.
Top US infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci has called on China to release the medical records of workers at a virology lab in Wuhan, as US intelligence agencies examine reports that researchers there were seriously ill in 2019, a month before the first Covid-19 cases were reported.
Japan is set to donate 1.24 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Taiwan for free, with the foreign minister, Toshimitsu Motegi, saying his country well remembers Taiwan’s generosity following the earthquake that shook Japan a decade ago.
Here’s a roundup of what’s been happening around the world in the past 24 hours:
- People who have had the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine have lower antibody levels targeting the coronavirus variant first discovered in India than those against previously circulating variants in the UK, new data suggests.
- Malala Yousafzai says she fears the coronavirus crisis will cause millions of girls worldwide to lose their education.
- The UK has recorded 5,274 new cases – the highest daily figure since March. There were 18 deaths reported within 28 days of a positive test.
- France’s seven-day moving average of daily Covid-19 deaths fell below 100 for the first time since October 27th, official figures show. The Covid-19 death toll increased by 70 to 109,828, the eighth-highest total globally, Reuters reports. The seven-day moving average stood at 95 versus 105 on Wednesday.
- John Hopkins university confirmed that more than two billion vaccine doses have been distributed worldwide, with Israel remaining the country with the most vaccinated – as nearly six-in-10 people are fully inoculated against Covid.