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Coronavirus: Free to read

Coronavirus: Week of Feb.7 to Feb.13, Australian Open continues under lockdown

Japan one step away from approving Pfizer vaccine; Pakistan greenlights vaccine from CanSino Biologics

Norway's Casper Ruud plays his third round match against Moldova's Radu Albot on Feb. 13. The tournament continued without spectators that day after the state of Victoria was placed under a snap lockdown Feb. 12 to contain a fresh outbreak of Covid-19.   © Reuters

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

Global cases have reached 108,148,755, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

The worldwide death toll has hit 2,380,659.

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. 13 (Tokyo time)

12:20 p.m. The sixth day of the Australian Open is usually one of the best attended of the Grand Slam fortnight but there is an eerie quiet around the Melbourne Park precinct as play gets underway on Saturday. A snap five-day lockdown to try to contain an outbreak of COVID-19 came into effect just before midnight on Friday, restricting Victoria's 6 million residents to their homes and shutting fans out of the tennis venue.

10:20 a.m. China reports eight new cases for Friday, compared to 12 a day earlier. All of the new cases were imported infections. New asymptomatic infections, which China does not classify as confirmed COVID-19 cases, rose to 14 from eight a day earlier.

2:52 a.m. China has refused to give the World Health Organization raw data on its early COVID-19 cases, the Wall Street Journal reports, citing WHO investigators who it said described heated exchanges over lack of detail.

1:01 a.m. All hypotheses are still open in the World Health Organization's search for the origins of COVID-19, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tells a briefing.

A WHO-led mission in China said this week that it was not looking further into the question of whether the virus escaped from a lab, which it considered highly unlikely. The U.S. has said it will review the mission's findings.

"Some questions have been raised as to whether some hypotheses have been discarded. Having spoken with some members of the team, I wish to confirm that all hypotheses remain open and require further analysis and study," Tedros says.

Friday, Feb. 12

11:55 p.m. Pakistan approved China's CanSino Biologics' COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, the fourth candidate authorized in the South Asian nation of 220 million, Reuters reports, citing the nation's health minister.

China's Sinopharm, AstraZeneca and Russia's Sputnik V have also received authorization. Pakistan is the second country to approve CanSinoBio's vaccine after Mexico.

8:19 p.m. The Japanese health ministry gives the green light for Pfizer's vaccine, with formal approval for use in Japan expected to follow soon afterward.

6:01 p.m. Japanese retail giant Aeon will offer its shopping malls for use as vaccination sites for the government's inoculation campaign, Nikkei has learned. Aeon will allow local governments to use its main shopping malls, including parking lots and power sources, as vaccination centers. It has some 290 shopping malls across the country.

4:40 p.m. Indonesia, the Southeast Asian nation hardest hit by COVID-19, has ambitious plans to achieve herd immunity by inoculating 181 million people across the sprawling archipelagic nation in just 15 months. The country is now aiming to inoculate 1.5 million health care workers by the end of February, before moving on to public servants and then the general public.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses the media at a coronavirus pandemic briefing in London on Feb. 3. The U.K. economy shrank 9.9% in 2020, the biggest annual fall in output since modern records began, official figures showed Friday.   © Reuters

4:30 p.m. The U.K. economy shrank 9.9% in 2020, the biggest annual fall in output since modern records began, but avoided heading back toward recession in the final quarter of the year, official figures show. British GDP grew 1.0% between October and December versus the previous quarter. That makes it unlikely the country will see two straight quarters of contraction -- the standard definition of recession -- even though the economy is set to shrink sharply early this year due to the effects of a third COVID lockdown trigged by concerns over more transmissive variants.

2:43 p.m. Lufthansa Technik Philippines, a joint venture between the German aviation services group and Philippine tycoon Lucio Tan's MacroAsia, will lay off 300 employees, reducing its headcount to 2,700, or 20% below its pre-pandemic level, according to a press statement.

2:32 p.m. India reports 9,309 cases in the last 24 hours, down from 12,923 the previous day and falling below the 10,000 mark for the third time this month, bringing the national total to 10.88 million. Fatalities rose by 87 to 155,447. Meanwhile, India has vaccinated over 7.5 million health care and front-line workers since the inoculation drive started on Jan. 16, according to the latest update from the Health Ministry.

12:00 p.m. Australia's second-most-populous city will enter a five-day snap coronavirus lockdown, authorities say, barring spectators from the Australian Open tennis tournament. A fresh COVID-19 cluster linked to a quarantine hotel in Melbourne, the capital of Victoria state, reached 13 cases as of Thursday midnight as authorities rushed to quash the spread of the virus.

11:30 a.m. The first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer with BioNTech has arrived in Japan. The country is expected to begin inoculations next week for high-priority groups such as medical workers, following an approval by the Health Ministry. The shipment was flown from Belgium, where Pfizer has a production base, and arrived at Narita Airport near Tokyo on Friday morning.

10:30 a.m. South Korea reports 403 new cases, down from 504 a day earlier and bringing the country's total to 82,837.

9:30 a.m. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the country's COVID-19 inoculation program will likely begin on Feb. 20, brought forward by the earlier receipt of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine than originally anticipated. "Last year we indicated the vaccine would arrive in quarter two, and earlier this year we updated that to quarter one," Ardern told reporters. "It's pleasing to be receiving doses this early in quarter one."

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, pictured at a Labour Party event in October, says the country's COVID-19 inoculation program has been brought forward by the earlier receipt of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine than originally anticipated.    © Reuters

9:20 a.m. China reports 12 new cases for Thursday, up from two a day earlier, but there were no new locally transmitted infections as the Lunar New Year holiday began. All of the new cases were imported infections that originated overseas.

8:55 a.m. President Joe Biden says the U.S. government has signed contracts for 100 million doses of the Moderna vaccine and 100 million more from Pfizer. "We've now purchased enough vaccine to vaccinate all Americans," he said. A Pfizer spokeswoman confirmed that it and BioNTech had reached a deal with the U.S. government. "We will deliver 100 million doses by the end of March, a total of 200 million doses by the end of May and the full 300 million doses by the end of July," she said.

3:00 a.m. The European Commission has approved all requests for the export of COVID-19 vaccines, a spokeswoman says. The European Union has granted 37 authorizations for vaccine exports to 21 countries as of Wednesday, including the U.S., Britain, Japan, Mexico, several Persian Gulf nations, Canada, Australia and China, according to the spokeswoman.

A volunteer in Oaxaca, Mexico, receives an injection of a coronavirus vaccine by CanSino Biologics during a late stage-trial in November.   © Reuters

1:10 a.m. Two million doses of Chinese company CanSino Biologics' COVID-19 vaccine have arrived in Mexico, a Mexican deputy foreign minister says.

The vaccines will be packaged in Queretaro, deputy foreign minister Martha Delgado wrote on Twitter, including a video of the shipments arriving at the airport.

12:25 a.m. Roche's arthritis drug tocilizumab cuts the risk of death among patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19, shortens recovery time and reduces the need for mechanical ventilation, results of a large trial show.

The findings -- from the RECOVERY trial, which has been testing a range of potential treatments for COVID-19 since March -- should help clear up confusion about whether tocilizumab has any benefit for COVID-19 patients after a slew of recent mixed trial results.

12:00 a.m. Merck is in talks with governments and companies to potentially help with the manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines that have been already authorized, the U.S. pharmaceutical company says.

"Beyond our own candidates, we are actively involved in discussions with governments, public health agencies, and other industry colleagues to identify the areas of pandemic response where we can play a role, including potential support for production of authorized vaccines," a spokesperson says.

The spokesperson did not divulge details of companies or public agencies the company was in touch with.

Thursday, Feb. 11

1:25 p.m. Zimbabwe has purchased 600,000 COVID-19 vaccinations from China's Sinopharm, in addition to 200,000 China has donated, Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said in a video posted on the ministry's Twitter feed late on Wednesday.

1:04 p.m. Malaysia's economy contracted 3.4% in the fourth quarter of 2020, resulting in a pandemic-driven decline of 5.6% for the full year, the central bank announced on Thursday.

12:27 p.m. Health authorities in Australia's Victoria state ramp up contact tracing and prepare for more mass testing of residents in Melbourne after a new COVID-19 cluster linked to a quarantine hotel grew to 10 cases on Thursday.

11:56 a.m. Singapore Airlines begins operating flights with full sets of crew members vaccinated against COVID-19 as the city-state seeks to rejuvenate its status as an international travel hub.

11:14 a.m. Mexico has authorized emergency use of the Chinese Sinovac and CanSino COVID-19 vaccines, Mexico's Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell said on Wednesday.

10:15 a.m. With the weeklong Lunar New Year break set to begin Thursday in China, holiday travel is on track to be down sharply compared to typical year before the coronavirus pandemic hit, raising concern that consumer spending in the country will suffer a blow.

8:58 a.m. Merck & Co is in talks with governments and companies to potentially help with manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines that have already been authorized, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

Medical workers attend to coronavirus patients at the intensive care unit of a hospital in Wuhan in February 2020.   © Reuters

6:12 a.m. U.S. President Joe Biden says he is "interested in getting all the facts" when it comes to assessing whether China disclosed all the information it had on the initial outbreak of the coronavirus slightly more than a year ago. He was responding to a reporter's question on whether China should be punished for possibly not being truthful.

3:55 a.m. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi reassures Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that India will do its best to supply Canada with COVID-19 vaccines. Canada has struggled to secure vaccine doses from Pfizer and Moderna. Trudeau has promised that every Canadian seeking a shot would be vaccinated by September.

3:12 a.m. Turkey secures an additional 50 million doses of Sinovac Biotech's CoronaVac vaccine, bringing the total number of contracted doses from the Chinese drugmaker to 100 million. Health minister Fahrettin Koca, who announced the contract, reiterated that Turkey will receive 4.5 million to 5 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by the end of March, with an option to acquire up to 30 million doses.

2:47 a.m. AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective, and should be used even in countries where the South African variant may reduce its efficacy, says a World Health Organization panel. South Africa paused its rollout of the vaccine this week after trial results showed that the AstraZeneca shots did not protect against mild to moderate illness stemming from the variant.

"We have thousands of people dying from the infection, in many countries of the world, daily," said Alejandro Cravioto, chair of WHO's immunization advisory panel. "Anything we can do to use a product that might reduce that is totally justified."

1:31 a.m. The Japanese government will not lift its coronavirus state of emergency this week ahead of the March 7 end date, with heavily affected areas continuing to experience a shortage in hospital beds. The mandate covers 10 prefectures, including Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto.

Wednesday, Feb. 10

10:54 p.m. U.S. drugmaker Moderna will supply its COVID-19 vaccine to Taiwan, pending approval from regulators. Taiwan is slated to receive 5 million doses, with deliveries expected to begin in mid-2021, according to the company.

8:30 p.m. Hong Kong will relax social distancing rules after the city records fewer than 20 new daily cases. Sports venues, beauty salons, theme parks and cinemas could reopen as early as Feb. 18. People will be able to gather in groups of up to four from two now and dining in restaurants will be allowed until 10 p.m.

Hong Kong's health workers in protective gear in a locked down part of the Jordan residential area. The city will relax social distancing rules as cases come under control.   © Reuters

7:57 p.m. South Africa will discuss with the international COVAX vaccine scheme whether it can swap 500,000 AstraZeneca vaccine doses it has ordered from the Serum Institute of India but which are yet to arrive, its health minister says.

"The 500,000 that was ordered, we have actually contacted the Serum Institute, and we will actually be discussing with COVAX whilst it has not been delivered whether it is possible to swap it on COVAX and therefore get a different vaccine," Zweli Mkhize says.

7:18 p.m. Malaysia on Wednesday reports 3,288 new coronavirus infections, raising the cumulative total to 251,694 cases. Health authorities also report 14 deaths, bringing total fatalities to 923.

6:07 p.m. The world is watching Israel and its unmatched coronavirus vaccination drive. Israel, meanwhile, is watching COVID-19 around the world with a "Knowledge Center" spearheaded by military intelligence. Read more.

5:55 p.m. Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways is only operating flights with pilots and cabin crew who have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, the state carrier says. The airline has made a coronavirus vaccine developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) available to employees.

Dubai's Emirates Airline has also offered the Sinopharm vaccine to staff as well as one developed by Pfizer-BioNTech.

The United Arab Emirates has seen a sharp rise in coronavirus infections since the start of the year, with daily cases peaking at a record 3,977 on Feb. 3.

4:25 p.m. The U.K. extends for six months a deal with Wockhardt to supply COVID-19 vaccines, the Indian drugmaker says. The agreement now runs through August 2022 and Wockhardt will continue to make vaccines at its unit in Wrexham in Wales, the company said. It did not disclose financial details.

4:10 p.m. China has administered 40.52 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to key groups of people as of Feb. 9, Mi Feng, spokesman for the National Health Commission, tells a media briefing. The state-run Global Times said in January that China aimed to vaccinate 50 million people before the start of the Lunar New Year in mid-February.

3:46 p.m. The chairman of Bangkok-based hotel and restaurants empire Minor International has proposed a fast track vaccination program for hotel employees and tourism-related workers in a bid to help revive the industry at a time when Thailand is still struggling to control a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

3:22 p.m. Indian pharmaceutical company Biological E is looking to manufacture around 600 million doses of Johnson and Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine a year on a contract basis, says Mahima Datla, managing director of the privately-held company. "We are targeting 600 million doses for J&J. This will be in addition to our own product, for which we are targeting approximately 1 billion doses."

3:09 p.m. Tokyo reports 491 new coronavirus infections, up from 412 a day earlier. The average number of new infections in the past week was about 508, which is a decline of around 30% from the previous week (about 708). The state of emergency has been extended to March 7 for Tokyo and nine other prefectures.

2:10 p.m. South Korea approves AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine on the condition that the U.K. drugmaker submits additional clinical data in the U.S. The approval is Seoul's first for a COVID-19 vaccine. Health authorities plan to roll out the vaccine for people aged 18 and over, starting Feb. 24, but notified doctors that they should exercise caution administering it to people aged 65 or older.

1:44 p.m. Cambodia launches its coronavirus inoculation drive, using 600,000 vaccine doses donated by China, with the sons of long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen and government ministers among the first recipients. The Southeast Asian nation of about 16 million has managed to limit the spread of the disease, reporting just 478 infections and no deaths, although a rare cluster of cases emerged in November.

1:32 p.m. Toyota Motor on Wednesday revised its full-year net income forecast through March to 1.9 trillion yen ($18.1 billion), up 33.8% from its last prediction in November, as the Japanese car giant expands its robust sales momentum in the wake of COVID-19 despite the industry being shaken by semiconductor shortages.

2:32 p.m. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga says COVID-19 vaccinations will begin in Japan from the middle of next week.

11:10 a.m. New Zealand will first administer COVID-19 vaccine to quarantine personnel, front-line health workers and airline staffers, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said, as the government formally approved its use on Wednesday.

The country's medicine regulator last week provisionally approved the use of the COVID-19 vaccine jointly developed by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and Germany's BioNTech.

11:01 a.m. China's factory gate prices rose in annual terms in January for the first time in 12 months and at the fastest rate since May 2019, official data showed on Wednesday, suggesting gathering growth momentum for the world's second-largest economy.

The producer price index rose 0.3% from a year earlier, the National Bureau of Statistics said, but slightly lagged behind the 0.4% gain tipped in a Reuters poll of analysts. The index declined 0.4% in December.

10:34 a.m. Malaysia's third-largest glove-maker, Supermax, has temporarily stopped work at its manufacturing facility after discovering several COVID-19 infections among its factory workers.

The company said in a bourse filing on Tuesday evening that it would shut down its facility in Klang, 40 km west of Kuala Lumpur, from Wednesday to Friday.

10:09 a.m. China reported 14 new COVID-19 cases on the mainland on Tuesday, official data showed, unchanged from a day earlier, as the latest wave of the disease appears to have subsided ahead of the Lunar New Year break beginning on Thursday. All of the new cases were imported infections originating from overseas. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as COVID-19 cases, fell to seven from 15 a day earlier.

10:09 a.m. South Korea says new cases jumped to 444, from 303 a day earlier. Total infections are at 81,930, with 1,486 deaths.

9:53 a.m. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency use authorization to Eli Lilly's combination antibody therapy to fight COVID-19, the U.S. drugmaker said on Tuesday.

Eli Lilly's combination of two antibodies, bamlanivimab and etesevimab, helped cut the risk of hospitalization and death in COVID-19 patients by 70%, data from a late-stage trial showed in January.

8:51 a.m. U.S. drugmaker Moderna said on Tuesday it had entered supply agreements for its COVID-19 vaccine with the governments of Taiwan and Colombia for 5 million and 10 million doses, respectively.

8:47 a.m. South Korea's unemployment rate soared to a 21-year high in January, while the number of people employed fell at the sharpest pace in more than two decades, government data showed on Wednesday. The country lost 982,000 jobs in January from a year ago due to strong social distancing rules in the service sector.

7:27 a.m. Annual COVID-19 vaccine shots may be needed for the next several years, Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky tells U.S. cable network CNBC. With each mutation, the virus can "have a different kind of response not only to a therapeutic but also to a vaccine," he said.

7:00 a.m. China's attempt to win hearts and minds in Southeast Asia during the coronavirus pandemic through "vaccine diplomacy" appears to have fallen flat, according to a survey by the ASEAN Studies Centre at Singapore's ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute. 61.5% of respondents said they would choose the U.S. over China if they were forced to pick sides in the ongoing U.S.-China rivalry.

6:52 a.m. Venezuela will receive the first 100,000 doses of Russia's Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine next week, President Nicolas Maduro said on Tuesday.

5:01 a.m. Registered births in China fell sharply last year, by 15%, as the coronavirus pandemic sapped household incomes and added fuel to economic worries, accelerating a worrisome decline in China's birthrate.

4:12 a.m. The Biden administration looks forward to scrutinizing a World Health Organization report that finds the COVID-19 virus was unlikely to have originated in a Wuhan lab, White House press secretary Jen Psaki says. The "jury's still out" on whether China has been transparent about the early days of the pandemic, according to State Department spokesman Ned Price.

2:41 a.m. Logistics companies in Japan are rushing to prepare a cold chain network that can deliver coronavirus vaccines safely from overseas production sites to recipients' arms. The country's first doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine are set to arrive as early as Feb. 14.

1:24 a.m. Peru launches its inoculation drive with China' Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine amid a second wave of infections. The Sinopharm deal guarantees 38 million doses for the country, which has agreements with Pfizer and AstraZeneca as well. Peru is also expected to receive vaccines through the World Health Organization's COVAX program for developing nations.

Tuesday, Feb. 9

11:05 p.m. Mongolia approves Russia's Sputnik V vaccine for emergency use, becoming the 23rd country to grant authorization, according to the Russian sovereign wealth fund behind the initiative.

A doctor puts on protective goggles before entering the isolation ward at a hospital in Wuhan in January 2020.   © Reuters

10:46 p.m. The coronavirus is "extremely unlikely" to have leaked from a lab and probably first spread to humans through an animal, according to an investigative team led by the World Health Organization. The expert team, which is visiting Wuhan to trace the origins of the virus, outlined its initial findings after weeks of meetings and site visits in the initial epicenter of the pandemic.

9:30 p.m. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says fewer than 3% of COVID-19 deaths in the country over the past month were people who had received vaccines, Reuters reports.

7:30 p.m. Indian pharmaceutical company Bharat Biotech says it is likely to start exporting its COVID-19 vaccine to Brazil and the United Arab Emirates this week, Reuters reports. Despite a lack of efficacy data from a late-stage trial, Bharat has already supplied millions of doses of its COVAXIN shot, developed with the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research, to the domestic inoculation campaign.

Brazil intends to import 8 million doses this month and another 12 million in March. Bharat has also sought emergency authorization in the Philippines. While the company only expects results from a trial with 25,800 participants in India by March, the Indian drug regulator has called the vaccine safe and effective.

Indian Health Minister Harsh Vardhan holds a vial of Bharat Biotech's COVID-19 vaccine, called COVAXIN, on Jan. 16.   © Reuters

6:00 p.m. Russia's Sputnik-V is the third COVID-19 vaccine to be approved by Pakistan for emergency use, following approvals for China's Sinopharm and a vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, the country's health minister says, according to Reuters. The Russian vaccine is administered in two shots, three weeks apart, has a six-month shelf life and must be stored at -18 C.

5:09 p.m. Nissan Motor raises its full-year forecast for the year through March for the second time in three months on Tuesday, predicting a net loss of 530 billion yen ($5.1 billion), as the Japanese carmaker recovers gradually from the COVID-19-induced slowdown. Meanwhile, Honda Motor revises up its full-year net profit to 465 billion yen on the same day, backed by cost-cutting efforts and showing a rise of 2% from fiscal 2019.

4:08 p.m. Macao kicks off its vaccination program with Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng receiving his first dose of the Sinopharm vaccine. The special administrative region of China has received 100,000 doses of the vaccine.

3:55 p.m. Indonesia's economic contraction in 2020 was greater than anticipated and recovery slower than expected, Bank Indonesia Gov. Perry Warjiyo says. The central bank has room for further interest rate cuts, even after the 125 basis point decrease to its benchmark rate last year, he said.

3:10 p.m. Auto sales in China during January surged 30% from a year earlier -- the tenth straight month of gains -- as China continued to lead the recovery in the global automobile industry. Sales reached 2.5 million vehicles in January, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

2:25 p.m. India reports 9,110 cases in the last 24 hours, down from 11,831 the previous day and falling below the 10,000-mark for the second time this month, bringing the country total to 10.85 million. Fatalities rose by 78 to 155,158, remaining less than 100 for the fourth straight day. Meanwhile, India has vaccinated over 6.25 million people since the inoculation drive started on Jan. 16, according to the latest update from the health ministry.

1:00 p.m. Members of the World Health Organization-led team looking for clues about the origins of COVID-19 will hold a briefing after nearly a month of meetings and site visits in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the disease was first identified. The briefing was scheduled for 3:30 p.m. local time, according to the Chinese foreign ministry.

12:00 p.m. The number of new births in China plummeted 15% in 2020 from a year earlier, government data shows, with the onset of the novel coronavirus disrupting the economy and weighing on decisions to have a family. China saw 10.035 million new births last year, compared with 11.79 million births in 2019.

A participant pretends to receive a coronavirus vaccine during a mock inoculation exercise at a college gym in Kawasaki, Japan, on Jan. 27 as the country prepares to give shots to its citizens.   © Reuters

11:00 a.m. The European Union has approved the first shipment of Pfizer's vaccine to Japan, according to the Japanese government. The country aims to begin inoculating medical workers by mid-February. The government did not say how many doses the first shipment would contain, or when it would be delivered, as each shipment may require EU approval.

9:55 a.m. China reports 14 new cases for Monday, unchanged from a day earlier and the second day of no locally transmitted infections. All cases were imported infections originating from overseas. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to 15 from 16 a day earlier.

7:00 a.m. More than 32 million U.S. residents, or roughly 10% of the population, have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of the 59 million doses distributed so far, 42 million doses had been administered as of Sunday -- the most in the world. U.S. President Joe Biden seeks to raise the number of shots given per day to 1.5 million.

5:00 a.m. South Africa will start its immunization campaign with Johnson & Johnson's vaccine after data showed AstraZeneca's shot offered minimal protection against the local virus variant. The country had planned to offer health care workers the AstraZeneca shot but halted the plan on Sunday. A government factsheet on Monday said the J&J vaccine would be offered from mid-February.

South Africa has turned to the vaccine from Johnson & Johnson in light of recent findings about AstraZeneca's weaker than expected efficacy.   © Reuters

4:40 a.m. Sales of new autos in six major Southeast Asian markets declined for a second straight year in 2020, falling 29% as the coronavirus pandemic weighed on the industry.

2:20 a.m. Ron Wright, a Republican congressman from Texas, died Sunday after being hospitalized for COVID-19, his office says. He is the first member of Congress to die from the coronavirus while in office.

1:40 a.m. The best defense against the evolution of COVID-19 and the emergence of variant strains is getting as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible, top U.S. infectious disease doctor Anthony Fauci says.

While it is reasonable to think about studying the efficacy of Pfizer's and Moderna's vaccine as a one-dose regimen in light of supply vaccine constraints, such a study would take months to complete, thus likely making its conclusions moot, Fauci says in his daily briefing.

12:40 a.m. CanSino Biologics' COVID-19 vaccine shows 65.7% efficacy in preventing symptomatic cases and a 90.98% success rate in stopping severe disease, based on an interim analysis of global trials, Pakistan's health minister says.

Monday, Feb. 8

Anthony Fauci, a top infectious disease expert, gives his daily press briefing at the White House.   © Reuters

8:45 p.m. Hiroshi Mikitani, CEO of Japanese e-commerce group Rakuten, tweets: "As for the Olympic Games, given the current situation, we should discuss calmly with the International Olympic Committee whether to review or postpone the event. The risk is too high."

It is unclear what Mikitani means by "review" but he says he is speaking up "with courage, although it is taboo in the business world."

John Coates, vice president of the IOC, has said in a recent interview with Nikkei Asia that the Tokyo games would "100%" go ahead in summer.

8:13 p.m. Indian auto companies witnessed a sharp recovery in earnings in the last quarter of 2020, as the festival season boosted sales despite an economic slowdown and rising cases of COVID-19. The top three auto manufacturers -- Maruti Suzuki India, Tata Motors and Mahindra & Mahindra -- all posted profits for the first time since the pandemic hit in early 2020.

8:10 p.m. Japan's Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi plans to put off a visit to the U.S. in February after Washington showed hesitance about the idea due to the coronavirus pandemic.

7:49 p.m. The South Korean government confirms it will go ahead with plans to distribute AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine, but a panel of advisers will decide later this week whether to provide it to older citizens. The food and drug safety ministry last week says that the panel has urged caution over the use of the company's vaccine for people older than 65, citing a lack of data.

Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency director Jeong Eun-kyeong says some 1.5 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccines, enough for some 750,000 people, will arrive in the final week of February.

Laos receives 300,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine produced by Sinopharm, a day after Beijing sent Cambodia 600,000 doses.   © Reuters

7:48 p.m. Laos has received 300,000 doses of a COVID-19 vaccine produced by Chinese pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm, media in the two countries reported. The Southeast Asian country had previously received 2,000 doses from China and also Russia's Sputnik V vaccine. The delivery of 300,000 doses comes a day after Beijing sent Cambodia 600,000 Sinopharm doses.

With a population of just over seven million people, landlocked Laos has reported only 45 cases of the coronavirus and no fatalities.

7:29 p.m. Any decision about holding the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, postponed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, must be based on science, U.S. President Joe Biden told a radio show.

7:16 p.m. Malaysia reports a daily record 24 deaths from COVID-19, raising total fatalities to 896. Health authorities also reports 3,100 new coronavirus cases, bringing the cumulative total to 245,552.

7:15 p.m. Taiwan's exports rose in January for the seventh consecutive month, with a 36.8% jump from a year earlier as its manufacturers benefited from consumers staying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic and new technologies such as 5G.

6:00 p.m. There is still hope that the AstraZeneca and Oxford COVID-19 vaccine will prevent severe disease from the South African variant of coronavirus, according to the professor who found it had limited impact on mild disease.

South Africa on Sunday said it would hold off using the shot in its vaccination program, after data showed it gave minimal protection against mild to moderate infection caused by the country's dominant coronavirus variant. Shabir Madhi, who led the study in South Africa, said the AstraZeneca vaccine is comparable to the one made by Johnson & Johnson in preventing severe disease.

3:08 p.m. Tokyo reports 276 infections, down from 429 a day earlier. While daily numbers tend to be relatively low on Monday, it was the first time for the capital to register fewer than 300 daily cases since Dec. 7, 2020. The state of emergency has been extended to March 7 for Tokyo and nine other prefectures.

2:31 p.m. India reports 11,831 cases in the last 24 hours, down from 12,059 the previous day, bringing the country's total to 10.84 million. Fatalities jumped by 84 to 155,080, remaining below 100 for the third straight day. Meanwhile, India has vaccinated over 5.8 million people since launching its inoculation drive on Jan. 16, according to the health ministry.

1:00 p.m. Australia reassures citizens over the efficacy of AstraZeneca's vaccine after South Africa suspended use of the shot because data showed it offered limited protection against a new strain of the virus. South Africa cited data showing the vaccine reduced mild-to-moderate COVID-19 by only 22%. But Australia's Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, said the vaccine is effective in its primary objective. "There is currently no evidence to indicate a reduction in the effectiveness of either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccines in preventing severe disease and death," he said.

11:00 a.m. South Korea reports the lowest daily number of cases since late November. The government has eased social distancing restrictions in the face of growing criticism from businesses hurt by the rules. The country reported 289 additional cases as of Sunday, with the daily tally falling below 300 for the first time since Nov. 23.

A medical worker has her information verified before receiving the second dose of a coronavirus vaccine in Beijing on Jan. 29.   © Reuters

10:15 a.m. Japan's benchmark Nikkei stock index surged past the 29,000 mark for the first time in more than 30 years in early morning trading. Market sentiment improved on the back of progress made toward U.S. approval of additional stimulus measures. A wide range of stocks are being bought, especially cyclical stocks in the steel and shipping industries.

9:50 a.m. China reports no locally transmitted cases for the first time in nearly two months. The number of cases rose slightly to 14 on Feb. 7, up from 12 a day earlier, but all were infections from overseas. Seven of the cases were in Shanghai, the rest in southeastern Guangdong Province.

6:42 a.m. Japan will consider lifting its coronavirus state of emergency in some prefectures ahead of the new deadline, based on the law that takes effect Saturday allowing for fines against social distancing violators.

4:55 a.m. The U.S. has administered 41.2 million COVID-19 vaccine shots, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Sunday. Over 9.14 million people have received their second dose, completing their inoculation. The tally covers both the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines.

4:30 a.m. South Africa suspends use of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 shot in its inoculation program after data shows the vaccine gave minimal protection against mild to moderate infection caused by the country's dominant coronavirus variant. The country had intended to roll out the vaccine to health care workers soon, after receiving 1 million doses produced by the Serum Institute of India. Instead, it will offer vaccines developed by Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer in the coming weeks.

AstraZeneca's vaccine provides only minimal protection against mild to moderate infections caused by South Africa's dominant coronavirus variant.   © Reuters

Sunday, Feb. 7

10:30 p.m. Bangladesh launched a vaccination drive with the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine on Sunday, aiming to inoculate 3.5 million people in the first month. The country has received 5 million of the 30 million doses of the COVISHIELD vaccine it ordered from the Serum Institute of India, the world's biggest vaccine producer and maker of the AstraZeneca vaccine. India wants to inoculate 80% of its population of 170 million.

7:47 p.m. India approves the shipment of COVID-19 vaccines to Cambodia and plans to supply Mongolia and Pacific island states, officials say, as supplies arrive in Afghanistan. These moves are part of New Delhi's widening vaccine diplomacy.

5:00 p.m. Russia reports 16,048 new COVID-19 cases, including 2,028 in Moscow, taking the national tally to 3,967,281 since the pandemic began. Authorities confirm 432 deaths in the past 24 hours, pushing the official death toll to 76,661.

1:42 p.m. Confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increase by 8,616, to 2,284,010, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases shows. The reported death toll rises by 231, to 61,517.

10:41 a.m. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it has distributed 59,304,600 doses of COVID-19 vaccines nationwide and that 39,037,964 doses have been administered as of Saturday morning.

10:02 a.m. mainland China reports 11 new COVID-19 cases Saturday, down from 12 a day earlier and the lowest daily increase since Dec. 16.

6:30 a.m. Preliminary findings show the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine does not appear to offer protection against mild and moderate cases caused by the viral variant first identified in South Africa, the Financial Times reports. Efficacy against deaths and severe cases of the disease remains to be determined, the study says.

Saturday, Feb. 6

11:39 p.m. India urges states and union territories to accelerate vaccinations after a review found "substantial" room for speeding up the program.

India started what it says is the world's biggest vaccination program on Jan. 16, aiming to reach 300 million people by July-August.

Twelve states and union territories have vaccinated 60% of their health care workers so far but many need to improve their performance, the government says after a review by the federal health secretary. It says there remains "substantial scope for improvement in the number of average vaccinations per vaccination session."

India vaccinated about 3 million health care workers in the first two weeks of the campaign -- an average of just over 200,000 a day -- but will have to accelerate to meet its summer coverage target. The government asks states to schedule all health care workers for vaccination at least once by Feb. 20 and all front-line workers by March 6.

10:34 p.m. Myanmar approves Russia's Sputnik V vaccine, the Russian Direct Investments Fund says on the official Twitter account for the vaccine. "Myanmar becomes the 21st country to register Sputnik V," the fund tweets.

10:19 p.m. Indonesia approves Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech's COVID-19 vaccine for its elderly population, reports Reuters, citing a letter from the country's food and drug authority.

7:03 p.m. Malaysia reports 3,847 new coronavirus cases, bringing the infections to 238,721. The health ministry also reports 12 new deaths, taking fatalities to 857.

5:37 p.m. Sinovac Biotech's COVID-19 vaccine is formally approved for use by the general public by China's medical products regulator, the company says. Prior to the approval, the CoronaVac vaccine had already been administered in China's vaccination program mainly targeting groups deemed to be at higher risk of exposure to the virus.


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

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