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Coronavirus: Free to read

Coronavirus: Week of Mar. 7 to Mar. 13, US tops 100m vaccine doses administered

Japan's variant cases surge 60%; WHO approves J&J vaccine

Vaccinations in the U.S. top 100 million doses on Friday.   © Reuters

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

Global cases have reached 119,014,982, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The worldwide death toll has hit 2,638,139.

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

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



Saturday, March 13 (Tokyo time)

5:38 a.m. The U.S. vaccination drive tops 100 million doses administered, with 13% of the adult population fully inoculated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's tally of 101.1 million doses as of Friday is for the Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

4:50 a.m. Japan's confirmed cases from coronavirus variants jump 60% in one week, complicating the work of a government scrambling to contain the pandemic ahead of the Summer Olympics.

3:14 a.m. The U.S. has turned downed requests for vaccines from other countries, the White House says.

President Joe Biden's "priority and focus is on ensuring the American people are vaccinated," press secretary Jen Psaki says.

1:30 a.m. The World Health Organization approves emergency use of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine, marking the third vaccine authorized.

This clears the way for the single-dose vaccine to be part of the WHO-led COVAX initiative to supply doses to developing nations. The international organization has already approved use of vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca.

"Every new, safe and effective tool against COVID-19 is another step closer to controlling the pandemic," says WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Friday, March 12

8:00 p.m. Indonesia's Health Ministry announces the launch of an official WhatsApp chatbot to help people register for coronavirus vaccinations in the second stage of the country's inoculation program, which began on Feb. 15 and targets over 38 million recipients.

The second stage includes public sector workers and people aged 60 or older.

A similar chatbot was used for registration of health workers during the first stage of the vaccination program in January.

6:00 p.m. Japan is set to receive 100 million doses of Pfizer's vaccine between May and June, vaccination minister Taro Kono says. The shipments of the two-shot Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine -- the only one approved by the government -- will be enough to inoculate 50 million people. Japan is now inoculating 4.8 million health care workers and plans to expand the vaccine rollout to people aged 65 or older, or 36 million people, in mid-April.

Workers load a shipment of the Pfizer vaccine onto a Japanese-bound plane at Brussels Airport in Belgium on Feb. 11.   © Kyodo

5:20 p.m. The Philippines reports 4,578 cases, up from 3,749 a day earlier. This marks the biggest daily increase in nearly six months, bringing the country total to 611,618 with 12,694 deaths, counting today's 87 fatalities.

3:10 p.m. Tokyo confirms 304 cases, down from 335 a day earlier. But the seven-day average of new daily cases that the metropolitan government is monitoring remained unchanged from a week earlier at 273. This is making uncertain the planned lifting of the state of emergency on March 21.

3:00 p.m. Japan's equity benchmark Nikkei Stock Average rose sharply during afternoon trade, closing up over 500 points, or 1.7%, to 29,717 as investors turned hopeful of an economic rebound. The upbeat mood was a carryover from a rally on Wall Street, driven by the House of Representatives passing President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.

1:37 p.m. India reports 23,285 new cases in the last 24 hours, the highest daily count this year, pushing the country's total to 11.3 million with 158,306 fatalities.

12:49 p.m. The Asian Development Bank approves a $400 million loan to the Philippines for its vaccine purchases, making Manila the first recipient of funding under the multilateral lender's Asia Pacific Vaccine Access Facility.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha speaks during a ceremony over an agreement with AstraZeneca on potentially purchasing its COVID-19 vaccine in Bangkok on Nov. 27.   © Pool photo/Reuters

11:30 a.m. Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and members of his cabinet canceled plans to receive AstraZeneca's vaccine after the country delayed use of the vaccine following reports of blood clots in some European nations, a health official says. Prasit Watanapa, dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Siriraj Hospital, confirmed that the rollout would be delayed after a suspension of inoculations using the vaccine in Denmark, Norway and Iceland.

11:00 a.m. Japan's Daiichi Sankyo says it has started the process of manufacturing the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca, preparing to supply the vaccine quickly after it is approved. AstraZeneca has applied to Japan's Health Ministry for "special approval," which simplifies the review of drugs already used overseas. AstraZeneca has a contract with the Japanese government to supply 120 million doses, for 60 million people. Daiichi Sankyo plans to first import 30 million doses of stock solution, which it has already begun putting in vials, by the end of March and then manufacture 90 million doses in Japan.

10:20 a.m. China reports nine new cases for Thursday, down from 11 a day earlier. All of the new cases originated from overseas. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, stood at 10, the same as a day earlier.

10:00 a.m. South Korea reports 488 new cases, up from 465 a day ago. Total infections in the country have reached 94,686, with 1,652 deaths.

8:40 a.m. Novavax's COVID-19 vaccine was 96% effective in preventing cases caused by the original version of the coronavirus in a late-stage trial conducted in the United Kingdom, the company says, and was 86% effective against the more contagious variant first discovered in the country. The overall effectiveness rate was 90%, based on data from both kinds of infections, the company adds, moving it a step closer to regulatory approval.

6:00 a.m. Johnson & Johnson says the company expects to produce up to 3 billion doses of its COVID-19 vaccine next year, after the European Union approved the one-shot immunization. The company is bringing on three manufacturing plants to produce the key drug substance and will have seven plants globally that will handle final production. In addition, rival Merck recently agreed to produce J&J's vaccine.

The company will be able to deliver a total of 1 billion doses this year and more than 2 billion next year, said its chief scientific officer -- even up to 3 billion if it maximizes capacity.

5:45 a.m. Brazil overtakes the U.S. as the country with the most daily COVID-19 cases and deaths as an aggressive strain of the disease takes hold in Latin America's biggest nation. Brazil's daily death toll surged to 2,286 on Wednesday, its highest yet during the pandemic. The U.S. death toll on Tuesday was 1,947. Brazil's seven-day average daily death rate has risen to 1,573, while the rate in the U.S. is plunging amid fewer cases and more vaccinations.

3:30 a.m. France sees no reason to suspend the use of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccinations, the health minister says, despite suspensions in several European countries. "The benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine are considered higher than the risks at this point," Health Minister Olivier Veran says at a weekly coronavirus briefing.

2:14 a.m. Europe approves Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine, marking the fourth cleared for use in the bloc. The European Union has endorsed the Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca-Oxford and Moderna vaccines. Delivery delays of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines have slowed Europe's vaccination rollout. The first shipments of the single-dose J&J vaccine will start in the second half of April.

Denamark, Norway and Iceland have suspended the use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine after the death of a Danish woman from blood clots.    © Reuters

12:30 a.m. Denmark, Norway and Iceland suspend use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in a precautionary move after a Danish woman died with blood clots following inoculation. At least five other European countries have halted the use of a specific batch of the vaccine this week, after reports of blood clots set off a safety investigation from European regulators. Italy says it has halted the use of another batch after two deaths.

Thursday, March 11

6:10 p.m. China will continue to work with the World Health Organization in the search for the origins of COVID-19, Premier Li Keqiang says in response to a question on U.S. criticism that it has not been transparent. China has "acted in a fact-based manner and with an open, transparent and cooperative approach," Li tells reporters after China's annual session of parliament.

6:00 p.m. Vir Biotechnology and Britain's GSK plan to seek emergency use authorization for their experimental COVID-19 antibody therapy after interim data from a study shows an 85% reduction in hospitalizations and deaths, the companies say.

A health worker prepares to inoculate a colleague at the Marikina Sports Center in Metro Manila: The Philippines had its highest tally of coronavirus cases in nearly six months on March 11.   © Reuters

5:00 p.m. The Philippines reports 3,749 new infections, the highest daily tally since mid-September, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 607,048, with 12,608 fatalities.

4:00 p.m. Cambodia reports its first death from the coronavirus amid its biggest COVID-19 outbreak so far. A 50-year-old man died on Thursday after testing positive on Feb. 27, the Health Ministry says. He was a driver for a Chinese national who lived in the coastal town of Sihanoukville and was also infected. With just 1,124 infections recorded in total, Cambodia has among the fewest cases in Asia, although a sharp rise in infections since Feb. 20 has seen its overall tally more than double.

3:30 p.m. Auto sales in China surged 365% in February over the same month a year earlier, their 11th straight month of gains, as the country leads the global industry's recovery from the pandemic. Sales reached 1.46 million vehicles in February, data from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers show.

The seven-day average of new daily coronavirus cases in Tokyo rose 1.5% to 273 from 269 a week ago, making it tougher to lift the state of emergency scheduled to end March 21.   © Reuters

3:10 p.m. Tokyo confirms 335 new infections, slightly down from 340 a day earlier. However, the seven-day average of new daily cases in the capital rose 1.5% to 273 from 269 a week ago, making it tougher to lift the state of emergency, which is scheduled to end March 21. The metropolitan government is looking at an average of 140 new cases a day before ending the emergency.

12:40 p.m. The Australian government unveils a 1.2 billion Australian dollar ($928 million) tourism support package aimed at boosting local travel while international routes remain closed because of the pandemic. The basket of airline ticket subsidies for travelers, cheap loans to small tour companies and financial aid for the country's two largest airlines is designed to keep the critical sector ticking over until foreign tourists return.

11:40 p.m. Vir Biotechnology and Britain's GSK say they plan to seek emergency use authorization for their experimental COVID-19 antibody therapy after interim data from a study showed an 85% reduction in hospitalization and deaths among patients. An independent panel recommended stopping further enrollment for the late-stage trial due to evidence of "profound efficacy" of the therapy, Vir and GSK said in a joint statement.

South Korea will expand the use of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine to people aged 65 and older later this month after additional testing showed the vaccine to be safe for that age group.    © Reuters

10:09 a.m. South Korea will expand vaccinations to people aged 65 or older with AstraZeneca's vaccine later this month, as the vaccine proved to be effective for the age group. The country began rolling out the vaccine in the last week of February, but had excluded over-65s citing a lack of clinical trial data. South Korea reports 465 new cases, down from 470 a day ago. Total infections in the country have reached 94,198, with 1,652 deaths.

9:50 a.m. China reports 11 new cases for Wednesday, up from five a day earlier. All the new cases originated overseas. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to 10 from 16 cases a day earlier.

7:30 a.m. The Japanese government will spend about $1.5 billion to support the homegrown development of vaccines, as it grapples with uncertainties from relying on imported coronavirus inoculations. Japan will partner with other Asian nations to create a cross-border network for clinical research and clinical trials to promote speedy development.

7:00 a.m. A highly infectious variant of COVID-19 that has spread around the world since it was first discovered in Britain late last year is between 30% and 100% more deadly than previous dominant variants, researchers say. In a study that compared death rates among people in Britain infected with the new SARS-CoV-2 variant -- known as B.1.1.7 -- against those infected with other variants of the COVID-19-causing virus, scientists said the new variant's mortality rate was "significantly higher." The study was published in the British Medical Journal on Wednesday.

6:00 a.m. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closes above 32,000 for the first time after the House passed a sweeping pandemic relief package and February inflation data showed a tepid increase in consumer prices. The index jumps 15% to close at 32,395. The S&P gains 0.6% and Nasdaq finishes the day largely unchanged.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer celebrate the passage of President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill.    © Reuters

4:20 a.m. The U.S. Congress gives final approval to a $1.9 trillion stimulus package, giving President Biden an early legislative victory. The measure designed to address the economic toll of the pandemic passes the House with a vote of 220 to 211. The bill provides another round of direct payments to many Americans, an extension of jobless benefits and billions of dollars in federal aid for vaccine distribution. Biden is expected to sign the bill on Friday.

3:45 a.m. New coronavirus cases in Turkey reach the highest daily count for the year, 10 days after pandemic restrictions were loosened. The 14,556 cases for Wednesday are nearly double the level from a month earlier, according to health ministry data.

3:28 a.m. The U.S. plans to double its order for the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine with an additional 100 million doses, the White House says.

"This order allows for [President Biden] to plan for the future," says White House COVID-19 adviser Andy Slavitt. "It gives us maximum flexibility for our upcoming needs."

1:30 a.m. Brazil asks China for help with securing an additional 30 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine, Reuters reports. The request, made in a letter from a Brazilian Health Ministry official to the Chinese ambassador, comes as Brazil's vaccination program faces a scarcity of doses.

1:26 a.m. The Japanese government asks airlines to reduce the number of passengers brought into the country during the typically busy fiscal year-end travel period, with foreign airlines restricted to 100 per flight.

Daiichi Sankyo will become the first Japanese drugmaker to test a vaccine based on mRNA technology. Pfizer's mRNA vaccine is already administered in Japan.   © Reuters

Wednesday, March 10

10:38 p.m. Japanese drugmaker Daiichi Sankyo will begin a clinical trial on a COVID-19 vaccine candidate in late March, the first domestic vaccine based on the mRNA technology used by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.

The homegrown vaccine, which taps into joint research with the University of Tokyo, will be tested on 152 adults for safety and efficacy. Although the Pfizer vaccine is already in use in Japan, Daiichi Sankyo sees the need for mRNA technology in preparing for the next pandemic.

"Japan should have this technology available from the perspective of national security," says President and CEO Sunao Manabe.

8:56 p.m. The European Commission says it has reached a deal with drugmakers Pfizer and BioNTech for the supply of an additional four million COVID-19 vaccine doses to be delivered this month. The doses to vaccinate two million people will be supplied in addition to planned deliveries, to ease border movement and to tackle virus hotspots, according to the commission.

The European Commission says it has reached a deal with drugmakers Pfizer and BioNTech for the supply of an additional four million COVID-19 vaccine doses to be delivered this month.

8:49 p.m. The Tokyo Olympics will go ahead safely from mid-July, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach says. The organizers are racing to overcome challenges posed by the pandemic.

Bach, who is set to be re-elected on Wednesday for a second term until 2025, says Tokyo is "the best-prepared Olympic city," in remarks at the start of a three-day virtual IOC session. "At this moment we have no reason to doubt that the opening ceremony will take place on July 23," he says.

5:24 p.m. Russia reports 9,079 new COVID-19 cases, including 1,116 in Moscow, taking the national infection tally to 4,351,553 since the pandemic began. The government coronavirus taskforce says that 466 people had died in past 24 hours, pushing its death toll to 90,275.

3:30 p.m. South Korea will exempt people working on vehicle memory chips from two-week COVID-19 quarantine requirements and prioritize vaccinations for persons key to auto chip procurement in order to minimize damage from the chip shortage.

3:05 p.m. Tokyo reports 340 cases, up from 290 a day earlier. The seven-day average of new cases in the capital decreased nearly 5% from a week ago to 265 but was still higher than the threshold of 140 that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government wants before ending the state of emergency.

2:54 p.m. People in Japan who received the Pfizer vaccine may have suffered a higher rate of severe allergic reactions than in the U.S. and Europe. Taro Kono, the minister in charge of the country's inoculation program, said 17 cases of anaphylaxis -- a potentially fatal allergic reaction -- have been reported among the 107,558 health care workers inoculated as of Tuesday. The rate compares with five cases in every one million doses administered in the U.S. and 20 cases per million in the U.K.

2:48 p.m. India reports 17,921 cases in the last 24 hours, up from 15,388 the previous day, bringing the country total to 11.26 million. Fatalities rose by 133 to 158,063. More than 24 million vaccine doses have been administered to people nationwide since the country's inoculation drive was launched on Jan. 16. About 20 million people have received the first jab and over four million their second shot after a gap of 28 days.

A Jetstar Airways plane takes off from Sydney's Kingsford Smith International Airport. The low-cost carrier sees domestic capacity rising as travel restrictions ebb.   © Reuters

1:09 p.m. Qantas Airways' budget arm Jetstar is flying 90% of its pre-pandemic domestic schedule in March amid a rebound in demand as state borders reopen in Australia, according to Jetstar's CEO.

1:07 p.m. Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways reports a record annual loss of 21.7 billion Hong Kong dollars ($2.8 billion) due to a sharp downturn in travel associated with the pandemic, restructuring costs and fleet writedowns.

1:06 p.m. The leaders of the Quad countries -- the U.S., Japan, India and Australia -- will meet online on Friday for their first summit, signaling their commitment to providing COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries.

2:09 p.m. Low-cost carrier AirAsia is ready to furlough more workers unless Malaysia's domestic coronavirus travel curbs end next month, even as the company speeds expansion of its non-airlines business to fill an earnings hole, top executives told Nikkei Asia.

11:42 a.m. China's producer price index (PPI) rises 1.7% in February from a year earlier, the fastest pace since November 2018, as manufacturers raced to fill export orders, raising expectations for robust growth in the world's second-largest economy in 2021. PPI figure speeds up from a 0.3% pickup in January.

China's exports in February grow at a record 154.9% in dollar terms from a year earlier, when the country was in virtual shutdown during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

10:25 a.m. South Korea reports 470 cases, up from 446 a day ago, bringing the country total to 93,733 with 1,648 deaths. Health authorities say an additional 60,662 people have been inoculated, bringing the vaccination total to 446,941.

10:12 a.m. Mexico is asking China to fill a vaccine shortage with an order for 22 million doses, the foreign minister said on Tuesday, a week after the U.S. ruled out sharing vaccines with Mexico in the short term.

7:07 a.m. BioNTech could have the capacity next year to make 3 billion doses of the vaccine it developed with Pfizer, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday, citing an interview with the German company's CEO.

7:00 a.m. Reserve Bank of Australia Gov. Philip Lowe counters rumors of rate hikes, saying 2024 would be the earliest date to reach full employment, even as the economy is now within "striking distance" of its pre-pandemic output.

5:46 a.m. Walt Disney hopes to reopen its California theme parks to limited attendance in late April, CEO Bob Chapek said at the company's annual shareholder meeting on Tuesday. The parks were closed a year ago due to the pandemic.

A Hindu priest watches as a health care worker fills a syringe with a coronavirus vaccine in Ahmedabad, India on March 8.   © Reuters

4:40 a.m. The Indian state of Rajasthan has begun limiting vaccinations to major hospitals, citing a shortage of doses. The federal government says there is no vaccine shortage in the country or the state.

3:45 a.m. Russia's Sputnik V vaccine could be produced in western Europe after a deal to make it in Italy was signed by Moscow's RDIF sovereign wealth fund and Swiss-based pharmaceutical Adienne.

1:33 a.m. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development upgrades its forecast for the U.K. economy, saying the country's quick rollout of coronavirus vaccines "should help momentum to build."

The OECD projects 5.1% growth in Britain's gross domestic product this year and 4.7% in 2022, up from the group's forecast in December of 4.2% for 2021 and 4.1% the next year. The U.K. says it has inoculated more than 22.5 million Britons.

The OECD also says global economic activity will surpass pre-pandemic levels by midyear.

Tuesday, March 9

7:21 p.m. The Tokyo Olympics organizing committee has decided to close the games to foreign visitors because of the pandemic, Nikkei has learned. The Japanese government had initially hoped to welcome around 1 million spectators from aboard to support local businesses that rely on tourism. However, as the spread of the virus continues globally, the organizing committee made the decision to close the games to overseas fans to ensure safety.

6:00 p.m. Japanese medical equipment maker Terumo in the next 12 months plans to make 20 million syringes that can pull one or two extra doses out of each Pfizer vaccine vial, Nikkei has learned, with the company intent on beginning mass production by the end of this month.

5:30 p.m. Top Glove, the world's largest latex glove maker, announces a surge in profit and revenue on increases in sales and average prices, saying it sees no signs of a slowdown in demand despite the global rollout of COVID-19 vaccines. Net profit for the Malaysia-based company soared by 24 times in the December-February quarter to 2.87 billion ringgit ($695 million) from a year earlier. Revenue increased 336% to 5.37 billion ringgit.

3:20 p.m. Tokyo confirms 290 new cases, up from 116 a day earlier. The seven-day average of new cases in the capital edged down 0.5% from a week ago to 261 but was still higher than the threshold of 140 that the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is looking at before ending the state of emergency.

A policeman receives a dose of Covishield, a vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, in Ahmedabad on Feb. 4. India has now vaccinated 23 million people against COVID-19.   © Reuters

2:30 p.m. India vaccinated over 2 million people in the past 24 hours, the most in a single day since it launched its inoculation drive on Jan. 16. The total number of anti-COVID shots administered now stands at more than 23 million. India reports 15,388 new cases for the past 24 hours, down from 18,599 the previous day.

1:30 p.m. Indonesia has approved AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use. More than 1 million doses of the vaccine arrived late on Monday via the COVAX global vaccine program. About 38 million doses of a vaccine produced by China's Sinovac Biotech also have arrived in the country, some of which have been used in a mass inoculation drive starting in January.

12:20 p.m. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he remains optimistic the country's COVID-19 vaccination drive will finish on time by October despite initial delays. Australia began mass inoculation for its 25 million people on Feb. 22 but missed its targets in the first two weeks as the pace of vaccination slowed after two elderly people were inadvertently given four times the recommended dose. Australia reported zero new local cases for the 11th straight day on Tuesday.

10:39 a.m. South Korea reports 446 new cases, up from 346 a day ago. Total infections reach 93,263, with 1,645 deaths. Health authorities say 64,111 people got COVID-19 vaccines, raising the total number of the vaccinated to 383,346.

People in Shanghai wait to be vaccinated against COVID-19 on Jan. 19.   © Reuters

9:14 a.m. China launches a vaccine passport for cross-border travel. Called the International Health Certificate and containing data accessed via the WeChat mobile app, the certificate stipulates the vaccine manufacturer and type, as well as other information such as results for nucleic acid and serum antibody tests.

8:55 a.m. Japan lowers its economic growth to 2.8% for the October-December quarter from the preceding three-month period, but still registers a recovery that started in the second half of 2020. The figure translates into an annualized GDP growth rate of 11.7%.

7:30 a.m. Major U.S. aviation, travel and aerospace groups join airline unions in urging the Biden administration to help establish temporary COVID-19 health credentials to boost travel, which has been hit hard by the pandemic. Trade group Airlines for America, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Travel Association and 24 other groups urged the administration to work with industry to "quickly develop uniform, targeted federal guidance for temporary COVID-19 health credentials covering both tests and vaccinations."

7:00 a.m. The COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech was able to neutralize a new variant of the coronavirus spreading in Brazil, according to a laboratory study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Blood taken from people who had been given the vaccine neutralized an engineered version of the virus that contained the same mutations affecting the spike protein of the highly contagious P.1 variant first identified in Brazil, the study found.

3:00 a.m. A decision on whether international spectators will be allowed to attend the Tokyo Olympics this summer will be made this month, the International Olympic Committee says. "In terms of spectators, there will be a decision towards the end of March, at least regarding international spectators," IOC spokesman Mark Adams told a virtual news conference. "Beyond that it is too difficult to say."

People line up to get vaccinated at the Javits Center in Manhattan, New York.   © Reuters

1:10 a.m. Fully vaccinated people can safely visit with one another indoors without masks or physical distancing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says in new guidance.

Fully vaccinated people should continue to take precautions against COVID-19 in certain other circumstances, such as through avoiding medium-size and large gatherings, the guidelines say.

More than 90 million COVID-19 shots have been administered across the U.S. so far.

Monday, March 8

9:10 p.m. Syria's President Bashar Assad and his wife, Asma, have tested positive for COVID-19 after showing minor symptoms, Reuters reports, citing a statement issued by the president's office.

8:35 p.m. Indonesia receives its first shipment of the AstraZeneca vaccine, amounting to around 1.1 million doses. They are part of the 11.7 million doses of coronavirus vaccines Indonesia expects to receive via the COVAX facility through the end of May.

So far, Indonesia has received 38 million doses of vaccine from China's Sinovac.

6:43 p.m. British consumer confidence has risen to its highest level since the coronavirus pandemic started, polling firm YouGov says, as its consumer confidence score rose 2 points to 105.4, driven by hopes for a pickup in business activity, higher house prices and better household finances over the next year.

|Foreigners who have been vaccinated will only have to quarantine for seven days in Thailand. 

6:14 p.m. Thailand will reduce the mandatory quarantine from 14 to seven days starting April for foreign arrivals who have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, says Health Minister Anutin Charnvirankul.

5:30 p.m. The tiny Southeast Asian nation of East Timor will put the capital on coronavirus lockdown for the first time, the government says, amid fears it could be facing its first local outbreak. A "sanitary fence and mandatory confinement" will be imposed in Dili for seven days, starting midnight Monday, with residents asked not to venture outside unless necessary. East Timor has detected just 122 novel coronavirus cases, most of which were imported. But its porous border with Indonesia, which has recorded close to 1.38 million cases, has raised concern.

4:30 p.m. Malaysia will buy additional doses of Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine, bringing the total secured to 32 million, enough to cover half of its population, the country's science minister says. "All of the Pfizer vaccines secured so far are expected to be delivered by this year," he said. Malaysia is also considering dropping negotiations to procure the single-dose vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, in favor of a deal with Chinese company CanSino Biologics, which also requires only one dose, he said. Johnson & Johnson's supplies are expected to arrive only in the fourth quarter of the year, he added.

A medical worker is injected at Kuala Lumpur Hospital in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on March 1, 2021.   © Reuters

4:28 p.m. One of Hong Kong's major movie theater chains shut down on Monday after 36 years in operation, a victim of the coronavirus pandemic. UA Cinemas was established in 1985 and operated six cinemas across the city. It said the decision was "due to unavoidable and devastating pressure" caused by the pandemic. For the past year, cinemas and live-performance theaters in Hong Kong have faced temporary closures or reduced-seating capacities in an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19.

3:30 p.m. Tokyo confirms 116 new infections, down from 237 a day earlier. The daily number marked the lowest in more than four months, and the seven-day-average of new cases in the capital dropped around 6% from a week ago to 253. The metropolitan government is looking at a threshold of 140 cases per day, on average, before lifting the current state of emergency.

2:40 p.m. Vietnam launches its COVID-19 vaccination program with health care workers first in line, even as the country looks set to contain its fourth outbreak of the coronavirus since the pandemic began. Monday's shots were part of Vietnam's first batch of 117,600 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that arrived late last month.

2:16 p.m. India reports 18,599 new infections for the past 24 hours, slightly lower than the 18,711 of the previous day but marking the third consecutive day with more than 18,000 cases. The country total now stands at 11.23 million. Deaths rose by 97, to 157,853. Western Maharashtra state, which is home to the financial hub of Mumbai, had the highest number of daily new cases, 11,141.

JBS Greeley Beef plant in Greeley, Colorado. The U.S. has become one of the globe's two leaders in number of daily vaccinations, along with China.   © Reuters

1:30 p.m. New Zealand will buy additional COVID-19 vaccines, developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, sufficient to vaccinate the whole country, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says. The government has signed an agreement to buy an extra 8.5 million doses, enough to vaccinate more than 4 million people, Ardern said, adding the vaccines were expected to reach the country in the second half of the year. The government's original agreement with Pfizer was for 1.5 million doses.

11:00 a.m. Over 300.19 million vaccine doses have been administered as of March 6, with an average of 6,476,065 injections for each of the past seven days. By country/region, the U.S. and China stand out, accounting for 46.8% of the total. The number of vaccinations is also increasing in India, Brazil and European countries. For details, see our vaccine tracker.

9:57 a.m. South Korea reports 346 new cases, down from 416 a day ago. Total infections reach 92,817 with 1,642 deaths.

9:45 a.m. China reports 19 cases for Sunday, up from 13 a day earlier. All new cases originated overseas. The number of asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, rose to 17 from 11 a day earlier.

4:30 a.m. The U.S. has administered over 90.3 million vaccine doses as of Sunday and distributed nearly 116.4 million, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. The doses comprise both Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines, the agency said.

Sunday, March 7

9:30 p.m. Austria has suspended a batch of AstraZeneca's vaccine while investigating the death of one person and the illness of another after being inoculated, a health agency says. One 49-year-old woman died as a result of severe coagulation disorders, while a 35-year-old woman developed a pulmonary embolism and is recovering. A pulmonary embolism is a lung disease caused by a dislodged blood clot.

China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi says Beijing is ready to work with the International Olympic Committee to help provide vaccines to Olympic athletes.   © Reuters

4:38 p.m. China looks to discuss procedures for mutual recognition of COVID-19 vaccinations with other nations, says Foreign Minister Wang Yi. He also says Beijing is ready to work with the International Olympic Committee to help provide vaccines to Olympic athletes.

11:57 a.m. Japan's health ministry could approve a second COVID-19 vaccine as early as May, minister Norihisa Tamura says on a television program.

8:40 a.m. Auckland, New Zealand's biggest city, emerges from a weeklong lockdown imposed after the detection of a community cluster of the more contagious British coronavirus variant. No new local COVID-19 cases are recorded Sunday, health officials say, marking a full week of no community transmissions nationwide.

7:34 a.m. Moderna has agreed to supply the Philippine government with 13 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine, the U.S. drugmaker says Saturday, with deliveries set to begin in mid-2021. Moderna says it expects to reach a separate deal with the government and private sector to supply an additional 7 million doses.

6:25 a.m. U.S. scientists are skeptical of a one-shot regimen for the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, saying there isn't enough evidence that a single dose provides long-term protection, The Wall Street Journal reports.

"It is essential that these vaccines be used as authorized by [the Food and Drug Administration] in order to prevent COVID-19 and related hospitalizations and death," Peter Marks, director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, tells the Journal.

3:44 a.m. Ecuador and Paraguay both have received about 20,000 doses of Sinovac Biotech's coronavirus vaccine from Chile, the recipient countries say Saturday.

3:30 a.m. The U.S. Senate passes President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan, which includes one-time payments of $1,400 to most Americans, extended unemployment benefits and $350 billion in aid to state and local governments.

The legislation, among the largest stimulus packages in U.S. history, returns to the House of Representatives for a vote slated for Tuesday. Biden hopes to sign the bill before enhanced jobless benefits expire on March 14.

12:24 a.m. Japan will maintain tight controls on the entry of foreign nationals following the extension of a state of emergency covering Tokyo and its surrounding prefectures to curb COVID-19.

The emergency extension comes as authorities have been particularly vigilant in guarding against spikes in coronavirus cases as the countdown to hosting the Tokyo Games this summer begins.

Saturday, March 6

9:40 p.m. India's federal government asks local authorities to prioritize COVID-19 vaccinations in several districts of eight states including New Delhi that have seen a spike in coronavirus cases in recent weeks. The country began vaccinations in mid-January and at least 12 million health and frontline workers have received the shot so far. India aims to vaccinate 300 million of its 1.35 billion people by August.

6:30 p.m. Saudi Arabia will end most coronavirus-related restrictions on Sunday, including resuming indoor dining, reopening cinemas and resuming entertainment activities and events, the state news agency SPA says. However, some activities will remain banned, including weddings and corporate meetings. Social gatherings will continue to be limited to a maximum of 20 people.

3:23 p.m. The Dalai Lama has received a Covid-19 vaccine at a hospital in Dharamshala, a city in India's north where he resides. In a video message after taking the jab, the 85-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader says his trusted friends, including doctors, suggested that he get vaccinated as a preventive measure. "More people should have [the] courage to take this injection."

3:10 p.m. Tokyo confirms 293 new infections, down from 301 a day earlier. The seven-day average for daily cases in the capital edged down to 267 from 269 a week ago, but the pace of decline has slowed. The Japanese government has decided to extend the state of emergency for Tokyo and three surrounding prefectures until March 21.


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

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