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Coronavirus: Free to read

Coronavirus: Week of Feb. 21 to Feb. 27, UN Security Council calls for ceasefires to allow vaccinations

Philippines logs highest case rise in 4 months; Indonesia authorizes private shot scheme

Ethiopians cross into Sudan in December 2020 as they flee the fighting in Tigray region.   © Reuters

Nikkei Asia is tracking the spread of the new coronavirus that originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

Global cases have reached 113,372,398, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

The worldwide death toll has hit 2,515,869.

For more information about the spread of COVID-19 and the progress of vaccination around the world, please see our interactive charts and maps.

-- Global coronavirus tracker charts

-- Status of vaccinations around the world

-- World map of spreading mutated strains

-- Coronavirus mutations can be classified into 12 types

-- Distribution, duration, safety: challenges emerge in vaccine race



Saturday, Feb. 27 (Tokyo time)

5:38 a.m. The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopts a resolution calling for a "durable, extensive, and sustained humanitarian pause" to all armed conflicts to allow for COVID-19 vaccinations.

The resolution would help bring vaccines to 160 million people in conflict-affected areas or displaced by conflict, according to Britain's U.N. Ambassador Barbara Woodward.

3:03 a.m. Countries making their own deals with vaccine makers threaten the supply for the global COVAX program for developing nations, according to the World Health Organization.

"Now, some countries are still pursuing deals that will compromise the COVAX supply. Without a doubt," WHO senior adviser Bruce Aylward told a briefing.

12:32 a.m. A new law in the Philippines gives indemnity to vaccine makers if their COVID-19 shots cause adverse side-effects. President President Rodrigo Duterte signs the bill ahead of the launch of the country's vaccination program. The Philippines will be the last Southeast Asian nation to receive its initial set of vaccines, Reuters reports.

The Philippines, which is about to receive its first vaccine shipment, recorded 2,651 new infections on February 26, its highest daily total in four months.   © Reuters

Friday, Feb. 26

8:11 p.m. Japan will lift its COVID-19 state of emergency for six prefectures at the end of the month, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga announces. But the Tokyo metropolitan area is not included and will have to wait for further signs that its situation is improving.

7:26 p.m. Vietnam plans to acquire 150 million doses for its COVID-19 vaccination program, with the health ministry saying a medical panel has recommended it approve Russia's Sputnik V vaccine and the Moderna vaccine.

6:49 p.m. Taiwan could begin administering its home-made COVID-19 vaccines as early as July, the health minister says, with the island still awaiting the arrival of imported vaccines to begin its immunization campaign.

 6:14 p.m. A U.S. Navy warship operating in the Middle East has reported a dozen cases of the novel coronavirus, while another warship in the region is investigating whether some of its members are also infected. The USS San Diego, which has the confirmed cases, is currently at port in Bahrain. It generally moves with a crew of about 600 sailors and Marines aboard.

6:04 p.m. Sebastian Coe, president of World Athletics and a member of the International Olympic Committee, told Nikkei in a recent interview that postponing the Tokyo Games is no longer an option and expressed confidence the games can be held safely.

6:00 p.m. Indonesia has authorized a private vaccination plan to run concurrently with its national program so companies can buy vaccines procured by the state for employees, a ministerial regulation shows. Employees and their families should not have to pay for vaccines, and prices will be set by the government, the regulation says. State-owned pharmaceutical Bio Farma will distribute vaccines and shots, which must be given in private health centers.

5:10 p.m. The Philippines reports 2,651 new infections, the highest daily increase in more than four months, and 46 additional deaths. The health ministry says total confirmed cases are now at 571,327, while confirmed deaths stand at 12,247. The Philippines, which has Southeast Asia's second-highest caseload, takes its first vaccine delivery this weekend.

4:30 p.m. Israel has given at least one vaccine shot to 50% of 9.3 million residents. Health Minister Yuli Edelstein says 35% of this population has received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine, putting these recipients on course to gain Green Passes, which grant access to leisure sites. Israel counts East Jerusalem Palestinians, who are included in the vaccine drive, as part of its population. Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip are not part of the drive.

3:50 p.m. Vietnam has approved Russia's Sputnik V vaccine for COVID-19, the Interfax news agency reports, citing the Vietnamese government.

Japan's Nikkei Stock Average fell over 1,200 point on Feb. 26 for its biggest percentage fall since April 2020.

3:00 p.m. Stock markets across Asia are reeling after a surge in U.S. Treasury yields spurs investors to sell off shares with high valuations, particularly in the technology sector. Japan's Nikkei Stock Average plunged over 1,200 points, or 3.9%, to close at 28,966 and mark the biggest percentage drop since April 2020.

1:10 p.m. Malaysia's exports rose 6.6% from a year earlier in January, buoyed by higher shipments of electrical and electronic goods as well as rubber products, government data shows. The pace of growth was in line with the median forecast of 10 analysts surveyed by Reuters but slower than the 10.8% rise posted in December.

12:30 p.m. China's gross domestic product could expand 8% to 9% in 2021 as it rebounds from the COVID crisis, Liu Shijin, a policy adviser to the People's Bank of China, says. This speed of recovery would not mean China has returned to "high growth," Liu says, as the upturn began from a low base in 2020 when China's economy grew 2.3%. If 2020 and 2021's average GDP growth is around 5%, this would be "not bad," Liu says.

10:30 a.m. Japan's vaccination chief Taro Kono says the government will complete deliveries of COVID-19 shots for the elderly -- a total of about 36 million people -- to all local governments by the end of June. Japan and vaccine provider Pfizer have agreed on the delivery schedule, he said. The country plans to start inoculating its elderly on April 12.

A medical worker in Tokyo fills a syringe with a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as Japan launches its inoculation campaign on Feb. 17. Vaccination chief Taro Kono says all local governments will have shots for the country's approximately 36 million elderly by the end of June. Senior citizens start getting jabs on April 12.   © Reuters

10:06 a.m. South Korea rolls out AstraZeneca vaccines for 289,000 residents and workers at nursing homes aged less than 65. The country confirms 406 new cases, up from 396 a day ago. Total infections reach 88,922 with 1,585 deaths.

9:53 a.m. The Japanese government plans to end its coronavirus state of emergency early in Fukuoka, Osaka, Nagoya and surrounding areas. The declaration runs to March 7 for 10 prefectures but will now expire at the end of February for Fukuoka, Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Aichi -- home to Nagoya -- and Gifu. A decision is slated for Friday following a government advisory panel meeting.

9:50 a.m. China reports six new infections for Thursday, down from seven a day earlier. All of the new cases were imported infections originating overseas. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to six from nine a day earlier.

9:20 a.m. Japan's industrial output rose 4.2% in January, increasing for the first time in three months on sharp rises in production of electronic parts and general-purpose machinery, as well as getting a boost from a smaller increase in car output. But retail sales, a key gauge of consumer spending, posted a second straight month of declines in January as emergency measures taken in response to the pandemic hit consumption.

6:50 a.m. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves storage and transportation of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and German partner BioNTech SE at standard freezer temperatures for up to two weeks instead of the previous ultra-cold conditions.

The U.S. has given the green light for the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and German partner BioNTech SE  to be stored and transported at standard freezer temperatures for up to two weeks instead of the previous ultra-cold conditions.   © Reuters

12:52 a.m. Johnson & Johnson's one-dose COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for emergency use by Bahrain, the first country to do so. The Gulf state already offers free shots from Pfizer/BioNTech, China's Sinopharm, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Russia's Sputnik V vaccine.

Thursday, Feb. 25

10:40 p.m. China approves two more COVID-19 vaccines for public use, one from CanSino Biologics and the other from Sinopharm affiliate Wuhan Institute of Biological Products. They join an inoculation from Sinovac Biotech approved this month, and another from Sinopharm's Beijing unit accepted last year. China has yet to approve COVID-19 vaccines developed by Western drugmakers.

Sinopharm's Wuhan unit says its vaccine had an efficacy rate of 72.51% against COVID-19, citing interim analysis of late-stage clinical trial data, without offering more details. The four Chinese vaccines can be stored at normal freezer temperatures, making them a potentially attractive option for developing countries.

9:06 p.m. Regeneron Pharmaceuticals says an independent panel found the company's COVID-19 antibody cocktail to have "clear clinical efficacy" in reducing the rates of hospitalization and deaths in patients.

The cocktail, a combination of two antibodies casirivimab and imdevimab, was authorized in November for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

A woman carrying a child walks among a crowd inside a Mumbai railway station on Feb. 23. India has reported its highest daily spike in coronavirus infections in nearly a month.   © Reuters

6:00 p.m. Toyota Motor says its global sales in January rose 4.6% on year to 766,000 vehicles, setting a monthly sales record for the fifth straight month. While its sales fell in Europe due to business closures driven by the pandemic, the strong sales in China and Japan led the automaker's continued recovery.

3:30 p.m. The Philippines will take delivery of its first COVID-19 vaccines this weekend, allowing it to start inoculations next week, a senior official says. The delivery of 600,000 doses of Sinovac Biotech's vaccines, donated by China, will arrive on Sunday, said Harry Roque, spokesman for President Rodrigo Duterte. "It rolls out on Monday because our countrymen are excited," he said of the program. The Philippines will be the last Southeast Asian country to receive its initial set of vaccines.

3:18 p.m. Japan's capital of Tokyo reports 340 new infections, up from 213 a day earlier, with the latest seven-day average standing at 279 cases, compared with 355 a week earlier.

2:10 p.m. India reports 16,738 cases in the last 24 hours -- the highest daily spike in nearly a month -- bringing the country total to 11.05 million. Deaths rose by 138 to 156,705.

12:30 p.m. Singapore received the first batch of a vaccine made by China's Sinovac Biotech on Tuesday, although the shot is still awaiting government approval. Sinovac has submitted initial data but Singapore's Health Sciences Authority is waiting for more information to thoroughly assess the vaccine. Singapore is the only wealthy country considering use of Sinovac's vaccine, which studies have found be from about 50% to 90% effective.

The Tokyo 2020 Go aircraft, which carries the Olympic torch between Greece and Japan   © Reuters

11:20 a.m. The Tokyo Olympic Organising Committee is asking spectators for the torch relay to support by clapping, and will broadcast the event live to avoid crowds. The relay, which begins on March 25, could be temporarily halted over COVID concerns if big gatherings are spotted, a senior committee official said. Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee says a decision on whether to allow overseas spectators to attend the games would be made by around the end of April.

10:05 a.m. Japan's Nikkei Stock Average surged on Thursday morning, at one point jumping over 500 points -- or 1.8% -- as investors welcomed news that Johnson & Johnson's vaccine was deemed safe and effective by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Companies in cyclical sectors like steel and rubber climbed higher as market participants turned optimistic that the vaccine will support economic recovery from the pandemic.

9:30 a.m. China reports seven new cases for Wednesday, down from 12 a day earlier and all originating overseas. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, stood at nine, matching the total from a day earlier.

7:30 a.m. Research in Israel two months into one of the world's fastest vaccine rollouts shows two doses of the Pfizer shot cut symptomatic cases 94% across all age groups, and severe illnesses by nearly as much. The study of about 1.2 million people also shows a single shot was 57% effective in protecting against symptomatic infections after two weeks, according to the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday. Until now, most data on the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines has come in clinical trials, leaving uncertainty over how results would translate into the real world.

Used vials of COVID-19 vaccines are displayed at a vaccination center in Sweden on Feb. 17.   © Reuters

6:30 a.m. Moderna is working with U.S. government scientists to study a booster shot that targets a new coronavirus variant. The company has raised its vaccine production goal for this year by 100 million doses. Moderna has produced raw material for an experimental booster shot aimed at addressing the virus variant first found in South Africa. It has shipped the new vaccine to the U.S. National Institutes of Health -- which helped develop Moderna's current vaccine -- for additional study.

4:20 a.m. A music concert is held in Israel for those vaccinated against COVID-19. Attendees were required to show a "Green Pass," a government-validated certificate showing they had received both doses of the vaccine more than a week prior to the event or that they had recovered from COVID-19 and were presumed immune.

2:31 a.m. People in England may not need to wear face masks over the summer months if COVID-19 infections drop sufficiently, but they are likely to be required again in the winter, says Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jenny Harries, according to Reuters.

Wednesday, Feb. 24

11:07 p.m. Johnson & Johnson's one-shot COVID-19 vaccine appeared safe and effective in trials, says U.S. Food and Drug Administration staff, paving the way for its approval for emergency use.

The FDA's panel of independent experts meets on Friday to decide whether to approve the shot. While it is not bound to follow the advice of its experts, the FDA usually does and has authorized vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.

9:32 p.m. Egypt has approved Russia's Sputnik V vaccine for COVID-19, Russia's RIA news agency reports, citing Egypt's medicines regulator. Egypt is the 34th country outside Russia to register the shot for domestic use.

8:44 p.m. Thailand is preparing to ease restrictions for travelers vaccinated against COVID-19. Measures could include shortening the mandatory quarantine two weeks to three days for those vaccinated, or waiving it entirely, said Yuthasak Supasorn hea of the country's tourism authority. "We have to be fast because we want to start welcoming tourists in the third quarter," he told Reuters.

5:57 p.m. The Sinopharm unit Wuhan Institute Of Biological Products Co. says its COVID-19 vaccine shows an efficacy rate of 72.51% against the disease in Phase 3 clinical trials, based on interim analysis.

Taiwan will lift its entry ban on foreign visitors from March 1.    © Reuters

The company has filed a formal application to China's National Medical Products Administration for approval for public use of the vaccine, it says in a statement on its website.

4:47 p.m. The Philippine health ministry says it will investigate the illegal use of unauthorized COVID-19 vaccines, after a presidential adviser admitted to receiving shots of a Sinopharm vaccine smuggled into the country, Reuters reports.

Ramon Tulfo, a celebrity radio and television host and special envoy to China, revealed in his newspaper column on Feb. 20 and again in an interview with One News that he received a dose in October from a batch that was also used by President Rodrigo Duterte's security detail.

"I got hold of vaccines from a friend who smuggled it into the country," Tulfo told One News.

News last month of Duterte's bodyguard unit taking the vaccine, which it said was without the president's knowledge, prompted criticism from lawmakers about privileged access and the flouting of laws.

Several government officials also received Sinopharm shots, Tulfo said, adding to speculation that vaccines were available on the black market.

4:38 p.m. Malaysia kicked off its nationwide COVID-19 immunization program on Wednesday, with Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin taking the first jab. The rollout will be the largest vaccination drive in the country's history, targeting over 26 million residents.

4:00 p.m. Taiwan will partially lift restrictions on the entry of foreign visitors starting March 1 and impose shorter quarantine periods for business travelers from some countries.

3:38 p.m. CanSino Biologics says it has filed for approval in China of its vaccine. If approved, it would be the country's third locally developed shot allowed for use on the general public. While China has yet to approve vaccines developed by Western drugmakers, it has authorized domestic products that have also been used in developing countries. CanSino said interim data from its multicountry trial showed that its candidate has an efficacy of 65% at preventing symptomatic cases and 90% at preventing severe disease 28 days.

3:00 p.m. Indonesia is forecast to top China regarding the growth rate of its superwealthy, as vaccination rollouts drive its economic recovery.

2:36 p.m. Vietnam receives the first batch of 117,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine ahead of its vaccination program next month. The vaccine will be used to inoculate more than 50,000 high-risk individuals. South Korea's SK Bioscience has a facility that has been approved to manufacture the AstraZeneca vaccine. The batch is part of 30 million doses that Vietnam Vaccine Joint Stock -- a company set up to handle vaccine distribution -- will import.

2:13 p.m. Thailand receives its first 200,000 doses of Sinovac's vaccine, the country's first batch of vaccines. Inoculations are set to begin in a few days, with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha expected to be among the first to receive the jab. Most doses have been reserved for frontline medical workers. "Thank you to the People's Republic of China for delivering the vaccine this month and subsequent months," Prayuth said at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport, where the shipment arrived.

12:59 p.m. Singapore is discussing mutual recognition of vaccine certificates with other countries, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says, calling it a step toward resuming global travel. Lee did not specify the countries. The travel and tourism hub has been implementing its vaccination program over the last two months and has approved shots from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. "Even if each of us gears up to secure our own supplies, we must cooperate internationally so that all countries -- including developing ones -- have access to vaccines," Lee said in a Wednesday Facebook post.

12:15 p.m. Hong Kong's economy is expected to expand by 3.5% to 5.5% this year compared with a 6.1% contraction in 2020. The economy of the Chinese-ruled city has been in recession since 2019, when pro-democracy protests erupted, with last year's coronavirus outbreak further curbing economic activities.

12:11 p.m. The Australian states of New South Wales and South Australia will loosen restrictions on indoor dancing and ease other curbs from Friday after several weeks of no new cases.

12:05 p.m. The number of births in South Korea hit a new low in 2020, dropping 10% to 272,400 compared with the previous year. The country's fertility rate -- which measures the average number of children a woman is expected to bear over her life -- also sunk to a record low of 0.84.

11:20 a.m. Pandemic-hit travel agency JTB will cut its capital to 100 million yen ($949,000) from around 2.3 billion yen, Nikkei has learned, in a drastic move that transforms the Japanese industry leader into a small business for tax purposes.

10:49 a.m. New Zealand's central bank held its official cash rate at a record low of 0.25% on Wednesday, saying the current levels of stimulus were needed to meet its consumer price inflation and employment remit.

9:54 a.m. South Korea cases jump to 440 from 356 a day ago, bringing the country total to 88,120 with 1,576 deaths. The country's first AstraZenca vaccines will be sent to senior care facilities and public clinics today as health authorities plan to begin shots on Friday.

8:16 a.m. The presidents of Mexico and Argentina pressed the United Nations and the world's richest countries on Tuesday to improve poorer nations' access to vaccines, deriding efforts as inadequate so far, Reuters reports.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the UN scheme to ensure the poorest could get vaccines was not working, arguing that 80% of supplies were concentrated in 10 countries. His Argentine counterpart, Alberto Fernandez, agreed, noting that he and French President Emmanuel Macron were pushing to have vaccines declared a "global good" by the Group of 20, to which Mexico and Argentina belong.

7:04 a.m. Argentina expects to receive on Thursday 904,000 doses of a vaccine developed by Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinopharm. The delivery is part of a purchase of 1 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine, which will be added to the 1.22 million doses of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine the country has already received. Argentina has also received 580,000 doses of the Covishield vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.

4:25 a.m. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell says the central bank will keep its attention focused on getting Americans back to work as a vaccine-related recovery proceeds, pushing back on suggestions that loose monetary policy risked unleashing inflation.

"Monetary policy is accommodative and it continues to need to be accommodative ... Expect us to move carefully, patiently, and with a lot of advance warning," before any changes, Powell says in response to questions from Republican lawmakers.

A pregnant woman receives the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at a U.S. pharmacy. The Biden administration has directed 2 million doses to pharmacies in the country.   © Reuters

1:45 a.m. Moderna and Pfizer tell U.S. lawmakers that they project a major increase in vaccine deliveries that will result in 140 million more doses over the next five weeks, saying they have solved manufacturing challenges.

"Because of the dire need to vaccinate more people, we have ramped up production of doses," John Young, Pfizer's chief business officer, tells the House Energy and Commerce oversight and investigations subcommittee in prepared testimony.

Pfizer and Moderna, the companies with the only authorized vaccines for U.S. distribution so far, will need to increase their combined deliveries to date of 75 million doses to reach their promised target of 220 million shots by March 31.

Tuesday, Feb. 23

9:30 p.m. Thailand's unemployment rate improved in the fourth quarter of 2020, the state planning agency says, according to Reuters.

Unemployment stood at 1.86% in the October-December period, down from 1.90% in the previous quarter as COVID-19 restrictions were eased. The latest figure represented 730,000 jobless workers.

"Employment increased slightly, while the unemployment rate remained high and working hours were still lower than pre-crisis levels," Danucha Pichayanan, head of the National Economic and Social Development Council, tells a briefing.

The rate had hit an 11-year high of 1.95% in the June term.

7:20 p.m. Kyrgyzstan has registered Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, Reuters reports, citing the RDIF sovereign wealth fund behind the shot.

A student undergoes a temperature check in Bangkok in early February.   © Reuters

6:20 p.m. Thailand's cabinet has approved an extension of its emergency decree until the end of March to continue to try to control the COVID situation. It was set to expire by the end of this month. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha's administration introduced the decree in March 2020. The latest extension means the kingdom will have been under its state of emergency for over a year.

6:00 p.m. According to MONTSAME News Agency in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolian Prime Minister Luvsannamsrain Oyun-Erdene got the country's first dose of COVID-19 vaccine -- from AstraZeneca -- at the 2nd Central Hospital in the capital city today, launching the start of the nation's vaccination program. In Mongolia, about 2 million Mongolians are expected to be inoculated by July.

2:32 p.m. India reports 10,584 cases in the last 24 hours, down from 14,199 the previous day, pushing the country tally to over 11.01 million. Deaths jumped by 78 to 156,463. The total number of people that received vaccines in the country has crossed 11.74 million, according to the latest update from the health ministry.

2:18 p.m. China's Clover Biopharmaceuticals says it has raised $230 million from investors, including Singapore's state investment firm, Temasek Holdings. It said the proceeds of the fundraising will be used to develop vaccines targeting the virus, including variants, and other diseases, as well as cancer therapies.

10:48 a.m. Health Minister Greg Hunt says Australia will ramp up its COVID-19 immunization drive, with more shots to be rolled out from next week, after a second vaccine shipment reached the country late Monday.

About 166,000 doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer and Germany's BioNTech had arrived, authorities said Tuesday as the country entered the second day of a nationwide inoculation program, according to Reuters. Total weekly doses will be raised to 80,000 next week from 60,000 doses this week, with the number expected to reach 1 million a week by the end of March, when CSL will begin to locally produce the AstraZeneca vaccine.

10:08 a.m. South Korea confirms 357 new cases, up from 332 a day ago. Total infections reach 87,681, with 1,573 deaths.

6:50 a.m. U.S. fatalities from COVID-19 surpass 500,000, according to tallies by Johns Hopkins University. The grim milestone comes even as reported cases and hospitalizations decline.

President Joe Biden is scheduled to deliver remarks to honor those who lost their lives and mark the occasion with a moment of silence.

Newly reported cases fell to more than 56,000 on Sunday, and deaths to more than 1,200.

Healthcare personnel perform CPR on a patient inside a COVID-19 unit at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas.   © Reuters

4:00 a.m. Britain will start reopening March 8, with the reopening of schools, the resumption of care home visits and other steps under a lockdown exit strategy announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

After that, daily life restrictions could eventually give way to outdoor sports, wider group gatherings and more activities such as shopping or getting a haircut -- but not until mid-May at the earliest.

2:30 a.m. Vaccine developers will not need to run lengthy randomized controlled trials to evaluate vaccines that have been adapted to target coronavirus variants of concern, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says.

The recommendations, which call for small trials more like those required for annual flu vaccines, would greatly accelerate the review process at a time when scientists increasingly worry about how the variants might slow or reverse progress against COVID-19.

Monday, Feb. 22

11:05 p.m. Thailand's Food and Drug Administration gives emergency use authorization for the COVID-19 vaccine from Sinovac Biotech, paving the way for the country's first coronavirus inoculations. The Southeast Asian country expects within days to receive the first 200,000 of 2 million doses of Sinovac's CoronaVac, which will be given primarily to health workers.

Thailand has recorded 25,504 coronavirus cases in total, more than four-fifths of those since December, with 89 deaths overall. The government has ordered 26 million vaccine doses from AstraZeneca, and reserved a further 35 million doses from the company.

8:10 p.m. Britain's GlaxoSmithKline and France's Sanofi say they have started a new clinical trial of their protein-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate and aim to reach the final testing stage in the second quarter. If the results are conclusive, the two drugmakers hope to see the vaccine approved by the fourth quarter after having initially targeted it for the first half of this year.

4:30 p.m. The Chinese government has made an investment in BGI Genomics, a listed Chinese company that has supplied millions of COVID-19 tests globally as it seeks to fund exponential growth driven by the pandemic.

BGI Group, which runs a massive gene databank in China and has DNA sequencing contracts worldwide, has in the past responded to U.S. claims that it is closely linked to the Chinese government by saying it has no government capital.

BGI Genomics raised the equivalent of just over $300 million in a private placement to investors including China's biggest state investment vehicle, the State Development and Investment Corp., filings to the exchange on Feb. 1 show.

4:00 p.m. Vietnam will begin its vaccination program next month with front-line health care staffers and the elderly in line for the first doses, according to state media. The country expects to receive 60 million doses this year, including 30 million under the WHO-led COVAX program. The first 204,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are due to arrive on Feb. 28.

3:47 p.m. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and other government officials receive shots after the first batch of China's Sinovac vaccine arrived in Hong Kong last week. The city approved emergency use of the vaccine despite it not being authorized by the World Health Organization. The Sinovac vaccine has an efficacy of slightly over 50%, and up to 62.3% after a second jab, according to the company.

3:10 p.m. Tokyo reports 178 cases, down from 272 a day earlier and dipping below 200 for the first time since Nov. 24. The number of patients in serious condition fell by six to 76 people. Tokyo is still in a state of emergency until March 7.

2:09 p.m. India's COVID-19 tally crosses 11 million as the country reports 14,199 new cases in the last 24 hours, marginally down from 14,264 the previous day. Fatalities rose by 83 to 156,385.

Sinovac's vaccine is already being used in Indonesia, among other countries.   © Reuters

1:03 p.m. The Philippines has granted Sinovac Biotech's CoronaVac emergency use authorization. Last week, a spokesperson for President Rodrigo Duterte said Sinovac's vaccine will be delivered after the company obtains an emergency use permit.

12:00 p.m. More than 43 million vaccine doses from China's state-backed China National Pharmaceutical Group, or Sinopharm, have been used, including over 34 million administered in the country and the rest overseas, official media said on Sunday. China National Biotec Group, a Sinopharm unit, has two COVID-19 vaccines. One was developed by its Beijing unit and has been approved for general use in China and emergency use in several countries including Iraq, Pakistan and Morocco. The other vaccine, developed by CNBG's Wuhan unit, has also obtained China's green light for emergency use.

10:15 a.m. China reports 11 cases for Sunday, compared with seven a day earlier. All new infections were imported cases. There were also eight asymptomatic patients, compared with six a day earlier. China does not classify asymptomatic cases as confirmed infections.

9:52 a.m. South Korea confirms 332 cases, down from 416 a day ago, bringing total infections to 87,324 with 1,562 deaths. The government plans to pay the fourth "disaster subsidies" to small shop owners by March to compensate for pandemic-related losses.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison receives his COVID-19 vaccination in Sydney on Feb. 21 as the country launches its inoculation program.   © Reuters

9:00 a.m. Australia begins its mass vaccine program with frontline health care staff and senior citizens getting the first doses. A group of 20 that included Prime Minister Scott Morrison received the first shots on Sunday with broader inoculations to start Monday morning. Authorities expect to administer more than 60,000 doses by the end of the week. The vaccine -- developed by Pfizer and BioNTech -- will be rolled out in the initial weeks, while AstraZeneca's first batch is expected to reach the country in the next two weeks.

6:33 a.m. Ten months after turning negative for the first time in history, oil prices are floating up to their pre-COVID level, driven by vaccine optimism and oil producers' output cuts. Read more in this week's Nikkei Asia Market Spotlight.

4:00 a.m. The U.S. has administered 63,090,634 doses of COVID-19 vaccines as of Sunday morning, up from the tally of 61,289,500 on Saturday morning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

1:00 a.m. About 240,000 couples in Japan have postponed or canceled wedding plans over the past year amid the pandemic, public broadcaster NHK reports, citing estimates by the Bridal Institutional Association.

The impact goes beyond the couples and their families: The industry's economic losses add up to around 850 billion yen ($8 billion), according to the association.

Sunday, Feb. 21

4:14 p.m. South Korea will begin administering the first of 117,000 doses of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine on Feb. 27, the day after the country begins its first vaccinations with AstraZeneca's offering, the prime minister announces. Plans call for about 10 million high-risk people, including health care workers and staffers and some residents of assisted care facilities and nursing homes, to be inoculated by July.

3:37 p.m. Taiwan's government says that it has confirmed three cases of the COVID-19 variant first discovered in Brazil and that all arrivals from that country will undergo centralized quarantine from this week.

1:27 p.m. Malaysia moves up its COVID-19 inoculation drive by two days as the first batch of vaccines arrives in the Southeast Asian nation.

A man receives a vaccination against COVID-19 as part of a Tel Aviv municipality initiative offering a free drink at a bar to residents getting the shot, in Tel Aviv, Israel on Feb. 18.    © Reuters

1:00 p.m. Israel's rate of coronavirus infections dropped 95.8% among people who received both shots of Pfizer's vaccine, the Health Ministry says.

The findings were based on data collected nationally through Feb. 13.

Israel is reopening swaths of its economy in what it calls the start of a return to routine enabled by a COVID-19 vaccination drive that has reached almost half the population. While shops are open to all, access to leisure sites like gyms and theaters is limited to vaccines or those who have recovered from the disease with presumed immunity -- a so-called Green Pass status displayed on a special Health Ministry app.

10:10 a.m. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is injected with the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine jointly developed by Pfizer and BioNTech as the nation starts its inoculation program a day ahead of schedule. Up to 4 million Australians are expected to receive a COVID-19 vaccine voluntarily by March.

10:07 a.m. Japan receives its second shipment of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine as it continues inoculating an initial group of health care workers in the first phase of its vaccination rollout. The shipment of up to around 450,000 doses of the first vaccine against the novel coronavirus that Japan has approved for use arrives at Narita Airport near Tokyo after the European Union gave the green light under its new vaccine export controls.

1:08 a.m. Japan's Fujifilm Holdings will restart a clinical trial for its flu-fighting drug Avigan to treat Japanese COVID-19 patients as early as April, Nikkei has learned, giving new life to the medication that had been seen as a potential game-changer in the early stages of the pandemic. Avigan, which has already been approved in India and Indonesia for emergency use to treat COVID-19 patients, could not win the green light in Japan last year after a health ministry expert board postponed a decision in December.

Saturday, Feb. 20

8:35 p.m. Malaysian glove maker Top Glove says it has resolved overcrowding issues at dormitories provided for its foreign workers after a coronavirus outbreak among its staff last year attracted scrutiny of their living conditions. More than 5,000 workers at Top Glove were infected with the coronavirus and one died in what became Malaysia's biggest COVID-19 cluster.

6:22 p.m. The Philippines' Department of Health reports 239 new coronavirus deaths, the second-highest daily increase in casualties since the pandemic started.

11:04 a.m. New Zealand begins its rollout of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine, while Australia has finalized plans to begin inoculations on Monday, a new phase in tackling the virus that both countries have kept largely contained.


To catch up on earlier developments, see the last edition of latest updates.

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