Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, with me, Alison Rourke.
There are concerns in the US that the Superbowl – the culmination of the football season – which takes place on Sunday, could lead to a rise in Covid cases. Traditionally a time that families get together, there are fears another spike could follow the event. It comes as the country recorded more than 40,000 deaths in a two-week period.
Mexico meanwhile has reportedly run out of vaccines. According to the Associated Press, the country is scrambling to line up shipments of Russia’s Sputnik vaccine, but no new doses are expected to arrive until mid month. The website for people to register for the vaccine crashed for the third day running. AP says Mexico has received only about 760,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and has only about 89,000 of those left, many of which are earmarked for second shots.
In other developments:
- China will donate 100,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine to Congo Republic and forgive $13 million in public debt, its ambassador to the country said. The ambassador Ma Fulin announced the measures after a meeting with Congo’s president Denis Sassou Nguesso. He did not say which Chinese-developed vaccine would be provided, but the doses are enough to vaccinate 50,000 of Congo’s 5.1 million people. Ma said the Chinese government would also forgive all public Congolese debt that came due before the end of 2020, an estimated $13 million.
- Brazil reported more than 1,200 deaths for the third day in a row. A further 1,232 deaths were registered on Thursday, according to data released by the nation’s health ministry, taking its death toll to 228,795, the second highest in the world after the US.
- Paraguay signed a contract with the Russian Direct Investment Fund to purchase the Sputnik V vaccine. The Paraguayan health minister Julio Mazzoleni said the number of doses and schedule for distribution would be reported later. The country will also receive some 300,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in the second half of February through the COVAX program promoted by the World Health Organization.
- The World Health Organization said its COVAX initiative aims to start shipping nearly 90 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to Africa in February. About 320,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine have been allocated to four African countries – Cabo Verde, Rwanda, South Africa and Tunisia, the WHO said in a statement.
- Peru’s interim president, Francisco Sagasti, said his administration had locked in a deal with Pfizer to purchase 20 million doses of its vaccine. Sagasti said that by April, Peru would receive at least 500,000 doses of the vaccine. The first 250,000 doses are slated for arrival in March, he said.
- Iran received its first batch of foreign-made coronavirus vaccines – Russia’s Sputnik V – as the country struggles to stem the worst outbreak of the pandemic in the Middle East.
- Ghana’s parliament will restrict its sessions to twice a week after 15 lawmakers and dozens of legislative staff tested positive for coronavirus, the house speaker Alban Bagbin announced. He said 56 staffers had also tested positive, forcing him to decide the parliament would only sit on Tuesdays and Thursdays in a measure to control the spread.
- Portugal, hit by the world’s highest per capita Covid-19 death rates and infections in recent weeks, is now seeing a decline in cases, the health minister Marta Temido said. Temido warned there were “nevertheless…difficult weeks ahead of us”.
- The French prime minister Jean Castex said that the coronavirus situation in France remained fragile but that for the moment ruled out a new national lockdown. Castex said that the rate of infection had not significantly strengthened over the past two weeks, even if the pressure on French hospitals remained strong, and the country must stick with the current restrictions.
- The Netherlands became the latest European country to limit AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine to people aged under 65, despite the EU approving it for all ages. It comes after Switzerland’s medical regulator said it couldn’t authorise use of the vaccine based on the available trial data.