The Serum Institute of India says it hopes to start delivering coronavirus vaccine doses to the U.N. backed effort known as COVAX and to other countries by the end of the year, which will significantly set back global efforts to immunize people against COVID-19.
In March, India’s Serum Institute, the world’s biggest vaccine maker and the main supplier of COVID-19 vaccine doses to COVAX, said it was postponing all exports of coronavirus vaccines to deal with the explosive surge of cases on the subcontinent. At the time, the World Health Organization and Gavi announced the delay would affect about 90 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, but they expected deliveries to resume by June.
“SII has delivered more than 200 million doses,” the company said in a statement posted to its Twitter account. It says in the past few days, there’s been “intense discussion” on the decision of the Indian government and vaccine manufacturers about the possible export of vaccines.
“We continue to scale up and prioritize India,” the company says. “We also hope to start delivering to COVAX and other countries by the end of the year.”
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Clinic helps long-haul patients in London neighborhoods where COVID-19 hit hard
— India reports record day of virus deaths as cases of infection level off
— Virus testing strategies, opinions vary widely in US schools
— Joy over the U.K.’s measured reopening is tempered by worries over the variant from India
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
GENEVA — More than 60 countries want the World Trade Organization member states to temporarily ease protections on the know-how behind vaccines, medicine and tests for the coronavirus.
They are appealing to approximately 140 other members to step forward “as soon as possible” to flesh out a text for the proposal. The 62 WTO member states — mostly developing countries — have rallied around a proposal first made by India and South Africa that garnered some support from the Biden administration when it comes to vaccines.
A joint statement from the countries says they’ll “soon” present a revised proposal on the issue that aims to get coronavirus help to the neediest people — whether in rich or poor countries.
The 62 states also pledged flexibility on the issue to “ensure swift outcomes” that would suit a majority of WTO member states. However, the WTO operates by consensus — meaning any single country could block the proposal. Some have expressed strong opposition.
Wealthy countries with strong pharmaceutical industries say such a temporary “intellectual property waiver” could have a long-lasting impacting innovation and would take months to carry out — rendering it ineffective against urgent supply shortages faced in many countries. They say a better solution would be immediate donations of vaccines from rich countries that have extra doses.
Proponents insist capacity to scale up production of vaccines exists, but the protections under WTO rules prevent it.
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus’ health minister says private doctors can administer the AstraZeneca shot against COVID-19 to anyone over age 20 to expedite its vaccination program.
Constantinos Ioannou says the government’s online vaccination appointment program will re-open for all ages so anyone who missed out the first time around can make the arrangement.
So far, 45.2% of its 875,000 population has received at least one shot and 15.5% have completed their vaccination. Ioannou says the government’s target to vaccinate two-thirds of the population by the end of June remains on track.
BUCHAREST — All students in Bucharest can return to school on Wednesday after the capital’s coronavirus infection rate fell below one per 1,000 residents, officials announced Tuesday.
Before new restrictions were implemented in late March, Romania was facing rising coronavirus infections forcing many schools to operate a hybrid learning system of online lessons and some physical attendance.
If a child tests positive for the coronavirus after schools reopen Wednesday, classes will be moved online with the approval of the authorities.
This week, Romania recorded less than 400 daily coronavirus infections, its lowest daily rate since last July.
Romania’s government is aiming to fully vaccinate 5 million of its 19 million people by June 1. So far, 7 million doses have been administered but only 3 million people are fully vaccinated.
WASHINGTON — The nation’s top infectious disease expert is acknowledging “confusion” after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week said fully vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks in most instances, even indoors.
Dr. Anthony Fauci tells ABC News, “The problem and the issue is that we don’t have any way of knowing who is vaccinated and who’s not vaccinated.”
He says it is “reasonable and understandable” that some businesses and localities are maintaining mask requirements because they can’t be sure of an individual’s vaccination history. But he says it’s important to note those measures protect the unvaccinated from each other, and vaccines provide a high level of protection for those who have gotten them.
Fauci says children who are not vaccinated — including children under 12 who won’t be eligible for vaccines for months — should continue to wear masks indoors. But he says that recommendation could change as the CDC conducts more research and more Americans get shots.
BERLIN — Health officials say they have quarantined the residents of two high-rise buildings in the western German town of Velbert after several people tested positive with the coronavirus variant first detected to India.
Officials from the county of Mettmann said “there are currently several infections with the Indian virus variant in Velbert.”
They said several families who were in close touch with each other were affected and that everyone was being tested. Local broadcaster WDR reported about 200 people in the two buildings were affected. They have been quarantined, are getting tested and the Red Cross is providing food and other help.
So far, the COVID-19 variant that was first detected in India has not been found a lot in Germany, but is said to be more contagious than other variants currently more prevalent in Germany.
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan reported 240 cases of domestically transmitted cases of COVID-19 and two new deaths Tuesday.
It was lower than Monday’s 333 cases but continues to be the island’s worst outbreak of the pandemic, with more than 1,000 cases discovered in about a week. Now, more than 600,000 people are in medical isolation for two weeks, as the island seeks to stop transmission of the virus.
Island-wide, schools will be shut for two weeks starting Wednesday, the minister of education said on Tuesday at a daily news briefing.
The island has recorded 14 deaths and 2,260 cases in total and has been lauded for its success in curbing the spread of the virus despite close ties with China, where COVID-19 first emerged in late 2019.
President Tsai Ing-wen spoke about the island’s handling of the current outbreak during a visit to the Central Epidemic Command Center Tuesday morning.
She assured people vaccines purchased abroad will arrive and that domestic development of a vaccine was progressing.
And she said several quarantine centers were being added to care for patients with mild or no symptoms. “We will continue to strengthen our medical capacity.”
NEW DELHI — India’s total virus cases since the pandemic began swept past 25 million as the country registered more than 260,000 new cases and a record 4,329 fatalities in the last 24 hours.
The numbers reported Tuesday follow a trend of falling cases after infections dipped below 300,000 for the first time in weeks a day earlier.
Active cases in the country also decreased by more than 165,000 on Tuesday — the biggest dip in weeks. But deaths have continued to rise and hospitals are still swamped by patients.
India has recorded nearly 280,000 virus deaths since the pandemic began. Both the number of deaths and total reported cases are thought to be vast undercounts.
The government on Monday announced that 17 new labs will help track variants, boosting India’s genome sequencing abilities as concern grows over a potentially worrisome variant first detected here. The variant may spread more easily but the country has lagged behind in doing the testing needed to track it and understand it better.
The variant first identified in India has prompted global concern — most notably in Britain, where it has more than doubled in a week, defying a sharp nationwide downward trend in infections.
HARTFORD, Conn. — As some states set plans to a pandemic $300 weekly supplemental unemployment benefit as a way to encourage people to find work, Connecticut is offering a much different incentive — a $1,000 signing bonus for taking a job.
Starting May 24, up to 10,000 people in Connecticut considered to have been unemployed for the “long-term” will be able to sign up for the program with the state Department of Labor. Ultimately, they would be paid the bonus after spending eight weeks in their new full-time job.
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said Monday that the state will also retain the $300 benefit before some people are still afraid to work because of the coronavirus.
WASHINGTON — The Biden Administration is putting a fresh wave of funding toward its stated goal of making a serious dent in homelessness across the country.
Despite a wave of public support and a nationwide eviction moratorium, Housing Secretary Marcia Fudge said as many of 580,000 people experienced homelessness in the middle of the pandemic.
Fudge, who heads the Department of Housing and Urban Development, said Monday that an extra $5 billion would be allocated toward keeping families off the streets. That’s in addition to the $5 billion in funds for preventing homelessness previously announced as part of the American Rescue Plan.
The aid will come in the form of 17,000 emergency housing vouchers that will be distributed to housing authorities across the country. Fudge said the vouchers were expected to help provide shelter for up to 130,000 people and called the new money, “an important milestone in our effort to end homelessness in the United States.”
WARSAW, Poland — Poland-based molecular diagnostics firm Genomtec says it has registered for use in European Union a pioneer, high-reliability COVID-19 test from saliva.
The test, Genomtec SARS-CoV-2 EvaGreen Direct-RT-LAMP CE-IVD Kit spares those tested the discomfort of having swabs pushed up their noses and down their throats. Instead, they only need to produce a sample of saliva in a small test tube, Genomtec, a Polish-British firm, said Monday.
The result is obtained within one hour, because the technology does not require special preparatory procedures on the sample. Its reliability is pegged at over 92%, according to the Genomtec. The test detects various mutations of the coronavirus, said the company that is listed on the Warsaw’s Stock Exchange NewConnect market.,
Genomtec said the test has been registered and approved for use in the European Union by Poland’s Office of Medicinal Products, Medical Devices and Biocidal Products. First tests on the general public using the kit will be done still this month in Wroclaw, southwestern Poland, where Genomtec is based.
PRAGUE — The Czech government has announced a new wave of easing coronavirus restrictions amid falling numbers of infected people.
Starting May 24, all hotels are allowed to return to business. The guests will need to present a negative coronavirus test or be vaccinated or recover from COVID-19. If they want to stay longer than seven days, an additional test will be required.
At the same time, all elementary schools and high schools will fully reopen. Schoolchildren and students will be tested once a week.
The same applies for universities where, however, the spring term in many cases ends next week.
It will be also possible for up to 1,000 people to attend outdoor cultural events, while up to 500 are allowed at such events indoor.
Monday’s announcement comes on the day when Czech bars and restaurants are reopening for outdoor dining.
The number of people infected per 100,000 inhabitants in last seven days has dropped to 71 in the Czech Republic.
BERLIN — Germany’s health minister says the country will open up coronavirus vaccinations to everyone starting on June 7. Health Minister Jens Spahn told reporters on Monday that the current system of prioritization in which the most vulnerable groups are to be vaccinated first will no longer be valid then.
The minister said, “this does not mean that everyone will get an appointment within days, but … everyone who wants to get vaccinated will get an offer.”
Spahn said that the vaccination campaign has picked up speed in recent weeks and that by the end of May about 40 percent of all people in Germany will have received at least one shot. He said 70 percent of those above the age of 60 have received one shot, about one-quarter of them are fully vaccinated. All in all, 40 million doses of coronavirus vaccines have been given and around nine million people are fully vaccinated, in this country of 83 million.
After months of lockdown, the infection rate has been dropping in Germany and some states are slowly starting to open up outdoor dining and various shopping possibilities.
NEW YORK — Vaccinated people no longer have to wear masks or social distance in New York starting Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.
The governor said the state is adopting the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released last week.
“Let’s get back to life,” Cuomo said. “If you are vaccinated, you are safe, no masks, no social distancing.”
Cuomo urged people who are unvaccinated and immunocompromised to continue to wear a mask and social distance.