COVID-19 WRAP | SA records 449 new Covid-19 cases

23 October 2021 - 08:59
By TimesLIVE
Police officers monitor Victorian Freedom Movement protestors staging a sit-in picnic rally on the second day of eased coronavirus disease (Covid-19) regulations, following a lockdown to curb an outbreak, in Melbourne, Australia, October 23, 2021.
Image: REUTERS/Sandra Sanders Police officers monitor Victorian Freedom Movement protestors staging a sit-in picnic rally on the second day of eased coronavirus disease (Covid-19) regulations, following a lockdown to curb an outbreak, in Melbourne, Australia, October 23, 2021.

October 23 2021 -  22:00

SA records 449 new Covid-19 cases

October 23 2021 -  16:38

As Russia's Covid-19 toll surges, a Siberian hospital struggles to cope

The beds at the intensive care unit at this Siberian hospital rarely stay empty for long. Doctors at Hospital No. 2 in the Russian city of Biysk are having to cope with an unprecedented surge of coronavirus patients, many of whom are unvaccinated.

Doctors at the hospital have to work up to three 24-hour shifts in a row.

The work is much harder than during the first wave of the pandemic last year, deputy chief doctor Olga Kaurova said."

Last year we kept the numbers at 23-24 people. Today we have 65 people in intensive care," Kaurova told Tolk Channel, a local media outlet, on Wednesday. "Most of our patients in the ICU are not vaccinated."

Younger patients were also being admitted more frequently, she said, citing a recent case of a 19-year-old woman dying.

With a population of just over 200,000, and located 3,000 km (1,864 miles) southeast of Moscow, Biysk has become a hot spot in the Altai Krai region during a nationwide surge in coronavirus cases and deaths.

Russia hit a record toll for the fifth successive day on Saturday, with 1,075 deaths, and the country is preparing to go into a nationwide lockdown at the end of the month."

There are major difficulties with staff. Some people come and just cannot cope with the enormous workload here," said the hospital's chief doctor, Aleksei Karhaukhov.

"Those who stay work to their full capacity, without having any mercy on themselves."

Despite developing its own Covid-19 vaccine early in the pandemic, Russia has vaccinated only about a third of its population, one of the lowest rates in Europe, with citizens citing distrust of the authorities and new medical products.

Last week, Biysk authorities reported a sharp rise in coronavirus infections. Local media reported that an additional morgue had to be opened and the mayor's office was seeking to extend the territory of the local cemetery.

The regional authorities in Altai Krai had set a target of vaccinating at least half the 2.2 million population, but so far only 700,000 people have received two doses.

Inside the hospital, footage this week showed patients lying on beds hooked up to oxygen. One received a back massage from the doctor aimed at preventing further lung damage."

It's only when it comes to this point that people start to understand that they should always wear gloves, change masks and keep a 1.5 metre distance even in the street," said one patient, speaking from a hospital bed while wearing an oxygen mask.

Asked whether he had been vaccinated, he said: "I was not. And I regret I did not get vaccinated."


October 23 2021 -  16:32

Namibia suspends use of Russian Covid vaccine after S.Africa flags HIV concerns

Namibia will suspend the rollout of Russia's Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine, its health ministry said on Saturday, days after the drugs regulator in neighbouring South Africa flagged concerns about its safety for people at risk of HIV.

Regulator SAHPRA decided not to approve an emergency use application for Sputnik V for now because some studies suggested that administration of vaccines using the Adenovirus Type 5 vector - which Sputnik V does - can lead to higher susceptibility to HIV in men.

South Africa and Namibia have high HIV prevalence rates.

Namibia's health ministry said in a statement that the decision to discontinue use of the Russian vaccine was "out of (an) abundance of caution that men (who) received Sputnik V may be at higher risk of contracting HIV," adding it had taken SAHPRA's decision into account.

The Gamaleya Research Institute, which developed Sputnik V, said Namibia's decision was not based on any scientific evidence or research."

Sputnik V remains one of the safest and most efficient vaccines against Covid-19 in use globally," the institute told Reuters, adding over 250 clinical trials and 75 international publications confirmed the safety of vaccines and medicines based on human adenovirus vectors.

Namibia said the suspension would take effect immediately and last until Sputnik V receives a World Health Organization Emergency Use Listing. But it will offer people who received a first dose of Sputnik V a second to complete their immunisation course.

Namibia received 30,000 doses of Sputnik V as a donation from the Serbian government, but only 115 had been administered as of October  20.Namibia has also been using Covid-19 vaccines developed by China's Sinopharm, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, acquired through a mix of procurement deals and donations.

So far it has only fully vaccinated around 240,000 of its 2.5 million people, reflecting African nations' difficulties securing enough vaccines amid a global scramble for shots.


October 23 2021 - 11:20

German Covid-19 infections at highest since mid-May

Germany recorded the highest incidence of coronavirus infections since mid-May on Saturday, reaching the threshold of 100 cases per 100,000 in the past seven days that used to be the yardstick for imposing a strict lockdown.

However, Health Minister Jens Spahn noted that Germany could cope much better now due to vaccination, although he said restrictions like mask wearing and limits on indoor activity for unvaccinated people would stay until next spring.

The seven-day incidence rate of cases - which until August was used to decide whether to impose more stringent Covid-19 curbs - rose to 100 on Saturday from 95 on Friday, the Robert Koch Institute responsible for disease control said.

A total of 15,145 new infections were reported on Saturday, 4,196 more than the same time last Saturday, it added, and another 86 people died, to bring the total to 95,077.The rise comes as the leaders of Germany's 16 states are discussing how to proceed after a nationwide state of emergency is set to lapse on Nov. 25, meaning restrictions will automatically expire then unless extended by parliamentary vote.

Spahn said on Saturday that it should be possible to lift the state of emergency while still upholding rules requiring mask-wearing and proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test result to enter most indoor public spaces.

"We can obviously deal with higher incidences, higher numbers of infections better, much better without overburdening the health system, because so many are already vaccinated," Spahn said in an interview with Deutschlandfunk radio."

This path from a state of emergency to a state of special caution to a state of normality, probably in the spring, if there is no new variant, is, I think, also one that gives confidence.

"However, he noted that parts of Germany with lower rates of vaccination - such as Saxony and Thueringen - were already seeing pressure on hospitals from rising infections.

Around 66% of German residents are fully vaccinated, compared with 63.3% of people across the European Union.


October 23 2021 - 10:45

Romania tightens restrictions to stem Covid-19 surge 

The Romanian government will re-introduce a night curfew and make health passes mandatory for entry to most public venues from Monday, as well as sending school children on vacation for two weeks, as it seeks to stem a surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths.

The measures, expanding to make countrywide steps that had already been taken on a local basis, were approved by the interim government late on Friday.

Romania has reported record numbers of daily coronavirus deaths and infections this month and the hospital system is stretched to breaking point. The country has the second-lowest coronavirus vaccination rate in the European Union.


October 23 2021 - 10:19

Covid-19 deaths in Russia hit record for fifth straight day as lockdown looms

Russia reported 1,075 Covid-19 deaths on Saturday, its fifth straight daily record, as the authorities prepare to shut workplaces countrywide and lock down the capital. A record 37,678 new cases were also reported.

Despite developing one of the world's first vaccines against Covid-19, Russia has vaccinated only about a third of its population, one of the lowest rates in Europe.

President Vladimir Putin this week approved a nationwide workplace shutdown in the first week of November, and the capital Moscow will reimpose a partial lockdown from October 28, with only essential shops such as pharmacies and supermarkets allowed to remain open.


October 23 2021 - 09:15

Covid-19 jabs safe in early pregnancy, Norwegian data shows

Covid-19 vaccinations do not increase the risk of first-trimester miscarriages in pregnant women new research shows. 

Data from nearly 20,000 women in Norway provides further evidence that getting the jab during pregnancy is safe, even early on.

“Our study found no evidence of an increased risk for early pregnancy loss after Covid-19 vaccination and adds to the findings from other reports supporting Covid-19 vaccination during pregnancy,” Prof Deshayne Fell and her co-authors, from Canada’s Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine this week.

October 23 2021 - 09:00

Australia's Melbourne enjoys weekend of eased Covid curbs after long lockdown

Melbourne, Australia's second-biggest city, began its first weekend out of the world's longest string of Covid-19 lockdowns with spontaneous street parties, live music and packed pubs, bars and restaurants.

Home to about five million people, Melbourne endured 262 days, or nearly nine months, of restrictions during six lockdowns since March 2020, longer than the 234-day continuous lockdown in Buenos Aires.

Despite rain on Saturday morning, people queued for barbers and breakfast restaurants, all of which are open only to the fully vaccinated.

Late on Friday, people broke into a spontaneous street party in Melbourne's southeast and many rejoiced with their first drink in months in a pub with friends, social media footage showed.

Although the Delta outbreak continues to spread, with 1,750 new cases and nine deaths reported on Saturday in Victoria state, of which Melbourne is the capital, the ease in restrictions came the state's full-vaccination rate reached 70%.

While most retail outlets remained closed, authorities said further easing will come once 80% of Victorians are fully inoculated, estimated by next weekend.

"Let's not slack off, let's increase the pace as we get to the 80% milestone - but also the 90% vaccination milestone," Jeroen Weimar, Victoria's Covid-19 response commander, said on Saturday.

While small but violent anti-vaccinations protests have taken place in Melbourne and other cities this year, Australians overwhelmingly support vaccinations, with polls showing the percentage decisively opposed in single digits.

Nearly 72% of adults in Australia are now fully vaccinated and nearly 87% have received one shot. According to a national strategy, lockdowns will be unlikely once 80% of Australians are fully inoculated.

Sydney, Australia's largest city, celebrated its reopening two weeks ago, after reaching the vaccination threshold of 70%. On Saturday, New South Wales state, of which Sydney is the capital, recorded 332 Covid-19 cases and two deaths.

Weekend newspapers were filled with travel advertising for the coming months, as international border restrictions start to ease from November.

Flag carrier Qantas Airways Ltd (QAN.AX) is speeding up plans to restart flights to many destinations and upsize some planes amid "massive demand". 


October 23 2021 - 08:50

FDA says benefits outweigh risks for Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in children

Scientists at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said on Friday that the likely benefits of giving the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to 5 to 11 year olds clearly outweigh the risks of rare cases of heart inflammation.

Earlier on Friday, the vaccine makers said their shot showed 90.7% efficacy against the coronavirus in a clinical trial of children 5 to 11 years old.