Hello and welcome today’s live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic.
South Korea’s daily count of coronavirus cases topped 800 on Thursday, the highest in nearly six months, due to new cluster infections and the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, officials said on Friday.
Meanwhile Thailand reported the third straight day of record coronavirus deaths on Friday, with 61 fatalities, as authorities struggle to tackle the country’s latest wave of infections.
Here are the other key recent developments:
- A night-time curfew will be imposed in several Portuguese municipalities, including the capital Lisbon and the city of Porto, as authorities scramble to bring under control a surge in Covid-19 infections, the government said. Reuters reports that the 11pm to 5am curfew, which starts tomorrow, will be in place in 45 municipalities deemed high-risk including popular tourist town Albufeira in the sunny southern Algarve region.
- Spain reported 12,345 new coronavirus infections and eight deaths on Thursday, with health ministry data showing daily increases this week at their highest levels since mid-April, in part due to the more contagious Delta variant.
- Germany’s vaccine committee recommended that everyone who received an AstraZeneca first dose switch to Pfizer or Moderna jabs for better protection against Covid. Studies show that the immune response is “clearly superior” when an AstraZeneca shot is combined with a second mRNA vaccine, compared with double AstraZeneca jabs, said the German public health vaccine committee.
- The African Union’s head of vaccine procurement has said “not a single” Covid jab has so far left the EU for Africa, hitting out at the bloc for hoarding supply. Strive Masiyiwa criticised the global effort meant to distribute vaccines to less developed countries, accusing Covax of withholding crucial information including that key donors had not met funding pledges – with “not one dose, not one vial, [having] left a European factory for Africa”.
- Dominican health authorities are to begin distributing a third dose of Covid-19 vaccines in an attempt to protect against more contagious new variants of the virus. Turkey also made a similar decision for people over-50 today, despite the World Health Organization saying there is no scientific evidence that more than two doses of Covid-19 vaccines were necessary.
- The Covid vaccine-sharing initiative Covax urged governments to consider equally all people inoculated with WHO-approved products to avoid creating a two-tiered travel and trade regime. It spoke out after an EU-wide Covid certificate took effect that recognises four vaccines but not others, notably the Covishield version of AstraZeneca’s jab widely used in Africa.
- New Covid cases in the World Health Organization’s 53-country European region rose 10% last week after falling for 10 straight weeks, the body has said, warning a new surge could come before autumn and calling for more monitoring of Euro 2020 matches.
- Israel, a world leader in coronavirus vaccinations, reported its highest daily infection rate in three months as it scrambled to contain the spread of the new Delta variant – though there has been no increase in deaths.
- Kazakhstan ordered mandatory vaccinations for a wide range of workers in sectors from the service industry to banking to entertainment who came into contact with others after cases of the Delta variant were discovered in the central Asian country. Otherwise they will be restricted from working face-to-face with others.
- A Pakistan province suspended 70 paramilitary troops without pay after they repeatedly refused to receive Covid-19 vaccines, officials said, after the national government advised all its employees to get vaccinated.
- Romania asked AstraZeneca to extend the shelf life of some 43,000 Covid-19 vaccines that expired on 30 June, as the country has been unable to administer them in time due to the low take-up by the public.