Following is a summary of current health news briefs.
China sees fall in new COVID-19 cases amid strict local lockdowns
China reported 80 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, mostly in the northeast where some residents complained they were short of food amid an ongoing local lockdowns, down from Friday’s 107.
The numbers pale in comparison to many countries, where new daily infections can measure in the thousands, but the world’s most populous country is determined to keep the spread in check ahead of next month’s Lunar New Year holiday when millions travel to their home provinces.
UK detects 77 cases of South African COVID variant, nine of Brazilian
Britain has detected 77 cases of the South African variant of COVID-19, the health minister said on Sunday, also urging people to strictly follow lockdown rules as the best precaution against Britain’s own potentially more deadly variant. Matt Hancock said all 77 cases were connected to travel from South Africa and were under close observation, as were nine identified cases of a Brazilian variant.
U.S. health officials: More data needed on UK COVID-19 variant warning
The United States is closely watching the more infectious variant of COVID-19 after British officials warned that it may also be more deadly, two top U.S. health officials said on Saturday, cautioning more data is needed. Officials are somewhat more worried about a separate variant from South Africa, although it has not yet been identified among U.S. cases of the novel coronavirus, National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins and Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden‘s top COVID-19 medical adviser, also said.
Turkey to get a further 6.5 million Sinovac vaccines on Monday
Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said 6.5 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine made by China’s Sinovac will arrive in Turkey on Monday, part of a second planned shipment, allowing the nationwide rollout to continue. Three million doses of the CoronaVac have already arrived and 10 million more doses were expected in total in Turkey’s second consignment from Sinovac Biotech.
Australia has eye on vaccination drive even though coronavirus under control
Australia recorded no new local coronavirus cases on Sunday, maintaining a recent run of success in keeping the virus at bay, but nevertheless is keen to press on with its vaccination campaign from next month, government officials said.
Australia’s first batch of the Pfizer vaccine is due to arrive in February and its campaign will then begin with people over 70, adults with underlying medical conditions and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at the front of the queue.
New Zealand probes first ‘probable’ community COVID-19 case in months
New Zealand health officials said on Sunday they were investigating what they said was probably the country’s first community coronavirus case, in months in a woman who recently returned from overseas. The 56-year-old, who returned to New Zealand on Dec. 30, tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 days after leaving a two-week mandatory quarantine at the border where she had twice tested negative.
Nine active cases of COVID-19 in Australian Open quarantine, officials say
One case of COVID-19 among those in quarantine ahead of the Australian Open has been reclassified, local health officials said on Sunday, leaving nine active cases in the group of players and support staff isolating in Melbourne hotels. Health officials previously said they were investigating some positive tests for evidence of “viral shedding”, where people who have had the virus continue to shed non-infectious remnants after they have recovered.
Britain still a long way from easing virus lockdown, minister says
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Sunday the country was still a long way from being able to relax a national lockdown despite evidence that the restrictions were bringing down the rate of COVID-19 infections. “There is early evidence that the lockdown is starting to bring cases down. But we’re a long, long, long way from that from being low enough because the case rate was incredibly high and you can see the pressure on the NHS (National Health Service),” he said during an interview on Sky News.
India to give homegrown vaccine in seven more states this week
India said it will administer homegrown coronavirus vaccine COVAXIN in seven more states from Monday as it seeks to inoculate 30 million healthcare workers across the country. The government this month gave emergency-use approval to the vaccine, developed by Bharat Biotech International Ltd and state-run Indian Council of Medical Research, and another licensed from Oxford University and AstraZeneca PLC that is being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.
Israel includes teens in vaccination drive, eyeing exams
Israel expanded its COVID-19 vaccination drive on Sunday to include 16- to 18-year-olds in what the government described as an effort to enable their attendance at school exams. Israel, which has the world’s fastest vaccine distribution rate, is hoping to begin reopening its economy next month.