A roundup of the salient news on the coronavirus pandemic:
Norway to ease some COVID-19 restrictions
Norway’s government will ease some restrictions designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus after extra measures imposed for the past two weeks seem to have had the desired effect, Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on Monday.
“Although the measures seem to be working, and the infection rates are somewhat lower, the situation is still uncertain,” Solberg told parliament.
The government will ease some restrictions and again allow households to receive guests, but only up to a maximum of five visitors. Children and teenagers can resume sports activities.
Bars and restaurants are however still banned from serving alcohol until further notice.
Emirates airline offers COVID-19 vaccines to staff
Emirates airline on Monday started offering employees vaccinations against the COVID-19 disease with priority given to front-line workers such as cabin crew and pilots.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and another developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) are being made available to all employees in the United Arab Emirates, parent company Emirates Group said.
Both vaccines are already available to the general public in the United Arab Emirates with priority given to certain groups.
Emirates Group employs about 80,000 persons.
Ukraine sees lowest daily coronavirus tally since late September
Ukraine reported 3,034 new coronavirus cases on Monday, its lowest daily tally since the end of September, health minister Maksym Stepanov said.
The number of deaths decreased to 67 from 116 the day earlier, he said on Facebook.
A strict lockdown would end as scheduled on Jan. 25, the ministry said last week. Ukraine closed schools, restaurants and gyms on Jan. 8.
The number of new coronavirus cases dropped in early January to less than 10,000 a day from record levels in mid-December.
Ukraine has registered more than 1.16 million coronavirus cases with 20,869 deaths.
Singapore urges national airline to be first to vaccinate all staff
Singapore on Monday urged workers at its national airline to help make it the world’s first carrier with all staff vaccinated against COVID-19, with Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Phong Choon also encouraging employees to receive shots.
Vaccinating Singapore’s 37,000 frontline aviation and maritime staff is seen as key to reopening borders of the island-state, which is preparing to host events such as the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting and the Shangri-La Dialogue Asian security summit in a few months’ time.
Singapore Airlines (SIA), in which state investor Temasek is the biggest shareholder, lacks a domestic market to cushion it against the coronavirus border closures which have shattered the aviation industry globally. It said last year it had cut 4,300 jobs, or around 20% of its staff.
“SIA (Singapore Airlines) can be the first vaccinated international airline of the world. Try to get that done,” Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung told aviation workers at a vaccination drive at the airport on Monday.
More than 5,200 SIA employees have signed up to be vaccinated since staff started being inoculated last week, according to a memo sent to staff by CEO Goh on Monday.
UK says vaccine manufacturing is lumpy, supply not as good as hoped
Britain’s vaccine rollout is limited by a “lumpy” manufacturing process with production changes by Pfizer and a delay by AstraZeneca that could lead to brief supply disruption, Vaccine Deployment Minister Nadhim Zahawi said on Monday.
The United Kingdom, which has the world’s fifth worst official COVID-19 death toll, is racing to be among the first major countries to vaccinate its population – seen as the best way to exit the pandemic and get the economy going again.
The United Kingdom has vaccinated 3,857,266 people with a first dose and 449,736 with a second dose. On vaccines administered per 100 people, the United Kingdom is fourth in the world after Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
Zahawi told LBC radio that the United Kingdom was hoping for 2 million vaccines a week from AstraZeneca but that those numbers will not be reached until mid February. Still, he said the UK was on course to hit its rollout targets.
“It’s been a bit lumpy,” Zahawi said of vaccine manufacture.
Hong Kong records 107 new COVID-19 cases in latest spike
Hong Kong reported 107 new coronavirus cases on Monday, the highest toll in nearly a month as authorities tested thousands of residents after an outbreak in an old residential building located in a busy commercial and residential area last week.
The Chinese special administrative region last recorded a triple digit figure on Dec. 19 with 109 cases. At its peak in July 2020 the city logged 149 new infections.
Dozens of infections were found last week in a densely packed apartment building in Yau Tsim Mong, a teeming district in the city’s Kowloon area.
Authorities thereafter ordered mandatory testing on hundreds of people living in the area and neighbouring streets.
Hong Kong has recorded nearly 10,000 coronavirus cases and 162 deaths since the start of 2020.
France can vaccinate 2.4 million people by end of February
France is on track to reach its target of vaccinating 1 million people against COVID-19 by the end of January and has enough doses to increase the total to 2.4 million by the end of February, Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Monday.
During a visit to a vaccination centre in the eastern city of Grenoble, Veran told reporters that France had now set up about 800 such centres.
“With the acceleration of the vaccination campaign in retirement homes, we will comfortably reach our goal of 1 million French people vaccinated by the end of this month,” he said.
On Sunday, the health ministry reported that France had vaccinated more than 422,000 people since the start of the vaccination campaign on Dec. 26.
But France still trails far behind several other European countries such as Britain, where the number of people who have received a first dose of the vaccination had reached 3.2 million by Friday. In Germany and Italy, more than 1 million people had been vaccinated at the end of last week.
Brazil to begin vaccination campaign on Monday afternoon
Brazil’s Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello said the federal government will distribute all vaccine doses it has available to the country’s states on Monday afternoon.
Vaccination by the states can start at 5 p.m. (2000 GMT) on Monday, Pazuello said in a statement. The states asked the government to bring forward the roll-out of the only vaccine available, CoronaVac made by China’s Sinovac Biotech and imported by Sao Paulo biomedical center Butantan.
UK is vaccinating 140 people per minute on average
The United Kingdom is vaccinating 140 people per minute against COVID-19 on average, Vaccine Deployment Minister Nadhim Zahawi said on Monday.
“It is going well, we’re vaccinating on average 140 people, that’s first jab, literally a minute. That’s the average so some areas are doing better,” Zahawi told Sky.
He said the 24-hour vaccine offering would begin to be piloted in London by the end of the month.
Key workers in Britain such as teachers, the police and shopworkers could move to the top of the list for a vaccine once all those over 50 have been offered a shot, he said in an other intervention on British media.
Main Photo: A man counts boxes of protective face masks next to a mural painted on a wall to educate residents on how to prevent from contracting and spreading COVID-19 at a store in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire amid the ongoing pandemic of the COVID-19 disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. The first COVID-19 case was recorded in Ivory Coast on 11 March 2020. EPA-EFE/LEGNAN KOULA