Coronavirus News Updates: Covaxin, being developed in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research and the National Institute of Virology, is now undergoing Phase 3 trials

Coronavirus News LATEST Updates: Covaxin, being developed in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research and the National Institute of Virology, is now undergoing Phase 3 trials.

Health Canada approved the COVID-19 vaccine developed by American biotech firm Moderna two weeks after authorising immunisations with the Pfizer/BioNTech shot.

The UK has announced immediate quarantine for anyone who has travelled to South Africa, with reports quoting UK health secretary Matt Hancock as saying that the South Africa variant is more infectious than the UK variant.

In view of COVID-19 pandemic, public prayers or gatherings will not be allowed in Gujarat during Christmas and New Year, the state government said on Wednesday. At the same time, the government allowed local authorities to take a call on allowing celebrations at public places “in special cases”.

A total of 11 people, who travelled from the UK to Delhi in four flights, have tested positive for coronavirus , said reports. As per India Today, over 950 persons have been tested so far and the samples which tested positive have been sent to the NCDC for genome sequencing.

As many as 1,688 passengers arrived at the Mumbai international airport from the UK and other countries since Monday midnight and 745 of them were quarantined in the city, a civic official said on Wednesday. Mumbai municipal commissioner on Monday had announced that all passengers arriving from the UK, other European countries and from West Asia will have to be under institutional quarantine for seven days.

It could not be ascertained if any of these 745 passengers were found to have COVID-19 symptoms.

Amid concerns over a new variant of the coronavirus detected in the United Kingdom, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said that those who came to the state from abroad between 25 November and 8 December should undergo tests for detection of COVID-19 . Those who arrive in UP from abroad after 9 December must undergo RT-PCR test, he told officials at a review meeting.

Board examinations for Classes 10 and 12 will be held in June one after another, said West Bengal Education Minister Partha Chatterjee. The class 10 (Madhyamik) exams will be held first and the class 12 (Ucchya Madhyamik) examinations after that, he said.

Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ had earlier ruled out conducting board examinations till February next year in view of the COVID-19 situation.

Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain on Wednesday said people who have arrived in Delhi from the UK are being rigorously traced and tested for any COVID-19 -like symptoms. He asserted that the coronavirus situation in the city is under control with the positivity rate plummeting to below one percent.

The Maharashtra government on Wednesday widened the scope of the night curfew, which was imposed in municipal limits on Tuesday amid growing concerns over the emergence of a new coronavirus strain in UK.

As a precautionary step amid growing concerns over the mutated COVID-19 variant, the state government clamped a curfew from 11 pm to 6 am in the limits of 27 municipal corporations, including Mumbai, from 22 December to 5 January.

Taking to Twitter, the former Congress president also shared a ‘ COVID-19 vaccinations’ chart showing China ahead followed by the United States, United Kingdom and Russia.

Chilean authorities announced that at least 58 people that were at two military bases in Antarctica or on a navy ship that went to the continent tested positive for the new coronavirus .

The night curfew has been imposed to contain the coronavirus strain found in the UK. We are also monitoring international passengers arriving in Karnataka, said health minister Dr K Sudhakar on Wednesday.

The number of people who have recuperated from the disease surged to 96,63,382 pushing the national recovery rate to 95.69 percent, while the COVID-19 case fatality rate stands at 1.45 percent.

According to BBMP officials, Prasad had slight fever and related symptoms and has been admitted to Mallige Hospital in Bengaluru.

India reported 23,950 fresh cases of the novel coronavirus and 333 deaths in the past 24 hours, said the Union health ministry on Wednesday, as the country continued to witness a declining trend in average daily infections.

A total of 16,42,68,721 COVID-19 samples have been tested up to 22 December. Of these, 10,98,164 samples were tested on Tuesday alone, said ICMR.

There is no need to panic over the mutated variant of SARS-CoV-2 detected in the UK, the government said on Tuesday, asserting that no such variant or any significant mutation in the coronavirus strain has been seen in India yet.

NITI Aayog member (health) Dr VK Paul, during a press briefing, also said the mutated SARS-CoV-2 strain detected in the UK will have no impact on the potential of emerging vaccines which are being developed in India and other countries.

“As of now, based on our discussions, deep understanding of data available and our deep assessment, there is no need to panic but it is a cause to be more vigilant,” he said.

Paul said that “this new challenge, we have to counter with our comprehensive efforts”. “We will be safe if we suppress the genomic sequence,” he said.

There is no change in the treatment guidelines so far due to this mutation and the vaccines that are being developed, particularly those in the country, will not be impacted, Paul said.

This variant of the virus in the UK is defined by a set of 17 changes or mutations, he said and added that its tendency to enter the body’s cells has become higher and transmissibility has also increased with mutation.

“It is also being said that in these viruses, the transmissibility has increased by 70 percent, you can also call them super spreader in a way. This virus increases infectiousness but does not increase propensity for death or hospitalisation or severity of the disease. What is affected is the tendency to affect more people that by itself is a cause of concern. It is an adverse development,” he said.

Paul said that there is no need to “panic” and added that “we are yet to spot such a virus in our country and for which there are intensive efforts in the offing.”

BioNTech CEO confident vaccine will work on UK variant

German pharmaceutical company BioNTech is confident that its coronavirus vaccine works against the new UK variant, but further studies are needed to be completely sure, its chief executive said Tuesday.

The variant, detected mainly in London and the southeast of England in recent weeks, has sparked concern worldwide because of signs that it may spread more easily. While there is no indication it causes more serious illness, numerous countries in Europe and beyond have restricted travel from the UK as a result.

“We don’t know at the moment if our vaccine is also able to provide protection against this new variant,” CEO Ugur Sahin told a news conference the day after the vaccine was approved for use in the European Union. “But scientifically, it is highly likely that the immune response by this vaccine also can deal with the new virus variants.”

Sahin said that the proteins on the UK variant are 99 percent the same as on the prevailing strains, and therefore BioNTech has “scientific confidence” that its vaccine will be effective.

“But we will know it only if the experiment is done and we will need about two weeks from now to get the data,” he said. “The likelihood that our vaccine works is relatively high.”

Should the vaccine need to be adjusted for the new variant the company could do so in about six weeks, Sahin said, though regulators might have to approve the changes before the shots can be used.

Having to adjust the vaccine would be a blow for the rollout of immunization campaigns and the effort to rein in the pandemic that has so far killed more than 1.7 million people worldwide.

BioNTech’s vaccine, which was developed together with US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, has been authorized for use in more than 45 countries including Britain, the United States and the EU. Hundreds of thousands of people have already received the shots.

The companies submitted data to regulators showing the vaccine, which goes by the brand name COMIRNATY in Europe, is 95 percent effective in preventing infection with COVID-19 .

“All countries across the EU that have requested doses will receive them in the next five days, the very initial supply, and that will be followed up next week with further supplies,” said Sean Marett, BioNTech’s chief commercial officer.

The company is distributing super-cooled batches of vaccine across the 27-nation bloc by truck and plane from a Pfizer plant in Belgium. The EU has ordered 200 million doses of the vaccine, with an option of 100 million more.

Marett said BioNTech is examining ways to deliver more than the 1.3 billion doses currently planned worldwide for 2021.

“As BioNTech we’re always interested in looking at facilities that could help boost up production next year,” he told The Associated Press, citing the recent acquisition of a plant in Germany from Novartis. “We would be looking to do very quick transactions if we can.”

BioNTech expects demand for COVID vaccines to continue in the future.

“This virus is not going to go away,” Marett told The AP. “It’ll be there at least for the next decade, and therefore it’s important that if people so choose, they should get vaccinated.”

It’s also still unclear how long the immunity conferred by a vaccine lasts.

“It’s quite possible that we will need to give a booster injection,” Marett said. “So a repeat injection, maybe as frequently as one year, maybe every two years. We don’t know yet.”

Several EU countries have said they plan to start vaccinating on Sunday. Germany’s health minister, Jens Spahn, said he expects the country to receive more than 1.3 million doses by the end of this year.

Germany is among the European countries that have banned flights from the UK because of the new variant there.

“We want to avoid for as long as we can that a possibly dangerous virus variant spreads to continental Europe,” said Spahn.

But Lothar Wieler, the head of Germany’s national disease control center, said it was very likely the UK variant is already circulating in Germany.

Wieler, who heads the Robert Koch Institute, said it was common for viruses’ genetic material to change, and that can affect how transmissible they are.

“Whether that is really the case with the variant in England is not yet entirely clear,” Wieler said. “What is clear is that the more widely viruses spread, the more opportunity they have to change.”

A leading German virologist who was initially skeptical about reports that the strain was much more contagious voiced concern after seeing further data. Christian Drosten, a professor of virology at Berlin’s Charite hospital, tweeted that “unfortunately it doesn’t look good”.

But Drosten added: “What is positive is that cases with the mutation so far only increased in areas where the overall incidence was high or rising. So contact reduction also works against the spread of the mutation.”

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