COVID-19 WRAP | SA's Covid-19 cases now exceed 1.5-m & AU says Russia offers 300 mln doses of Sputnik V vaccine

19 February 2021 - 07:33 By TimesLIVE
A student eats a vitamin tablet sent by Mairabot, the medical frontline robot designed by the Glisten International Academy robotics group, in the school clinic in Abuja, Nigeria.
A student eats a vitamin tablet sent by Mairabot, the medical frontline robot designed by the Glisten International Academy robotics group, in the school clinic in Abuja, Nigeria.
Image: REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

February 19 2021 - 22:08

SA's Covid-19 cases now exceed 1.5 million

SA has recorded 1,500,677 cumulative cases of Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic in 2020.

Health minister Zweli Mkhize said in an update on Friday evening that the death toll in the country had climbed to 48,859.

There were 151 more Covid-19 related deaths reported in the past 24-hour cycle. The deaths according to province were: Eastern Cape (12), Free State (21), Gauteng (43), KwaZulu-Natal (40), Limpopo (one), Mpumalanga (eight), North West (zero), Northern Cape (zero) and Western Cape (26).

February 19 2021 - 21:23

SA government's top advisers back Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine despite study findings on local coronavirus variant

Two of SA government's top advisers on Covid-19 backed Pfizer's vaccine on Friday, despite a study earlier this week showing that the dominant local coronavirus variant may reduce protective antibodies it triggers.

The country is counting on the Pfizer shot, developed with German partner BioNTech, to step up its vaccination programme after administering its first Johnson & Johnson doses on Wednesday.

AstraZeneca vaccinations are on hold after a small local trial found the shot offered minimal protection against mild to moderate illness from the 501Y.V2 variant first identified late last year.

February 19 2021 - 17:43

Court bans 'traumatic' Covid-19 death cellphone alerts in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s biggest mobile operator, Econet Wireless, has been barred by the high court from sending unsolicited text messages to subscribers about daily Covid-19 infections and deaths.

The operator, with 13 million mobile subscribers, was sued by legal practitioner Sikhumbuzo Mpofu for sending Covid-19 updates as infections and deaths surged in the country.

Mpofu told TimesLIVE that after losing his father to Covid-19 in January the updates were causing him anxiety and trauma.

February 19 2021 - 15:15

Andile Lungisa rubbishes ANC 'step aside' rule in defence of Ace Magashule

On the sidelines of ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule's court appearance on Friday, the ruling party's national executive committee (NEC) and SA's lockdown regulations were under fire.

Ex-convict Andile Lungisa took a swipe at the under-construction ANC “step aside” rule which has been the subject of ANC NEC factional wars since last year.

The rule, yet to be finalised, seeks to have ANC leaders charged with serious crimes, such as Magashule, vacate their positions until they are cleared.

February 19 2021 - 14:49

Pfizer submits data showing Covid-19 vaccine's stability at higher temperatures

Pfizer Inc and partner BioNTech SE said on Friday they have submitted new data to the U.S. health regulator showing the stability of their COVID-19 vaccine at temperatures commonly found in pharmaceutical freezers and refrigerators. 


February 19 2021 - 13:55

Pfizer, BioNTech start testing Covid-19 vaccine in pregnant women

Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE have started an international study with 4,000 volunteers to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of their Covid-19 vaccine in healthy pregnant women, the companies said on Thursday.

February 19 2021 - 11:55

African Union says Russia offers 300 mln doses of Sputnik V vaccine

The African Union's vaccine procurement scheme said on Friday that Russia had been offered 300 million doses of its Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine and that the offer included a financing package for member states wanting to secure the shot.

It said in a statement that the Sputnik V vaccine would be available for a period of 12 months starting May 2021, adding that member states had taken up all of the 270 million doses previously secured from AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson in "the first allocation phase".


February 19 2021 - 08:34

Pfizer plans to test Covid-19 vaccine booster targeting the variant identified in SA

A top Pfizer Inc scientist says the company is in intensive discussions with regulators to test a booster shot version of its coronavirus vaccine specifically targeted for a highly contagious variant that is spreading widely in SA and elsewhere.

A laboratory study released on Wednesday suggested that the “South African” virus variant may reduce protective antibodies elicited by the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by two-thirds, but it is not clear how much that reduces the shot's effectiveness against this version of the pathogen.

Phil Dormitzer, one of Pfizer's top viral vaccine scientists and a co-author of the study, said in an interview he believes the current vaccine is highly likely to still protect against the concerning variant first discovered in SA.

February 19 2021 - 08:24

New Zealand vaccinators receive Covid-19 jab ahead of formal rollout

New Zealand officials injected a small group of medical professionals with the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on Friday, in preparation for a wider rollout over the weekend.

The group chosen for the test run were vaccinators who will be administering the inoculation to border and quarantine staff from Saturday.

Health Director-General Ashley Bloomfield said the test run gave vaccinators the opportunity to handle the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech, which requires ultra-low temperature storage.

February 19 2021 - 07:30

Africa COVID-19 deaths surpass 100,000 after second wave

Africa's reported COVID-19 death toll surpassed 100,000 on Friday, a fraction of those reported on other continents but rising fast as a second wave of infections overwhelms hospitals.

The continent's reported deaths, at 100,354, compare favourably with North America, which has registered more than half a million, and Europe, which is approaching 900,000, a Reuters tally shows.

But deaths are rising sharply across Africa, driven by its southern region, especially economic powerhouse South Africa, which accounts for nearly half. South Africa was ravaged by a second wave caused by a more contagious variant that has jammed up casualty wards.

"The increased number (of infections) has led to many severe cases and some of the countries really found it quite difficult to cope," Richard Mihigo, coordinator of the immunisation programme at the World Health Organization's Africa office, told Reuters.