That’s it from me, Helen Sullivan, for today. Thanks for following along – my colleagues in London will be bringing you the latest for the next few hours.
Here are the key pandemic developments from the last few hours:
The US is on the brink of a once-unthinkable tally: 500,000 people lost to the coronavirus. A year into the pandemic, the running total of lives lost is 498,883 — roughly the population of Kansas City, Missouri, and just shy of the size of Atlanta. The figure compiled by Johns Hopkins University surpasses the number of people who died in 2019 of chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, Alzheimer’s, flu and pneumonia combined.
Vaccine giant says told to prioritise India. The world’s biggest vaccine maker, India’s Serum Institute, has urged other countries to be “patient” about it supplying anti-coronavirus shots, saying it has been instructed to prioritise its home market.
US President Joe Biden will mark the country crossing 500,000 lives lost from Covid-19 with a moment of silence and candle lighting ceremony at the White House. Biden has made a point of recognizing the lives lost from the virus. His first event upon arriving in Washington for his inauguration a month ago was to deliver remarks at a Covid-19 memorial ceremony.
England’s roadmap out of lockdown has been revealed. Boris Johnson will unveil the government’s roadmap out of lockdown for England on Monday. Here’s what the prime minister is expected to tell MPs: All pupils in all years can return to the classroom from 8 March; Outdoor after-school sports and activities will be allowed to restart; In a fortnight, socialising in parks and public spaces with one other person will be allowed; On 29 March, restrictions will be eased further to allow larger groups to meet in parks and gardens; Outdoor sport facilities will also reopen, as well as organised adult and children’s sport.
Britain is accelerating its vaccine rollout. The UK government vows to offer a first coronavirus vaccine dose to every adult by the end of July – a month earlier than previously planned – as it prepares to announce a gradual easing of its third lockdown.Prime Minister Boris Johnson will outline the lockdown review in parliament on Monday.
UK homeless deaths rose by more than a third last year, a study has found. Deaths among homeless people have risen by more than a third in a year, according to an analysis by a social justice group that found that almost 1,000 unhoused people had died across the UK in 2020.
Dr Fauci said Americans may still be wearing masks in 2022. Fauci, who is President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said he expects a “significant degree of normality” in everyday life toward the end of the year but that it was “possible” people will still need to be wearing masks into 2022.
Tanzania’s president finally acknowledged that his country has a coronavirus problem after claiming for months that the disease had been defeated by prayer. Populist President John Magufuli on Sunday urged citizens of the East African country to take precautions and even wear face masks but only locally made ones. Over the course of the pandemic he has expressed wariness about foreign-made goods, including Covid vaccines.
Quarantine-free travel from New Zealand to Australia has resumed ahead of a downgraded alert level expected in Auckland today. Australia reopened the one-way travel bubble on Monday morning following a cluster of coronavirus cases in Auckland.
Vanuatu and New Caledonia will open a safe travel corridor between the two countries – a ‘tamtam bubble’ between the Melanesian neighbours.Vanuatu prime minister Bob Loughman said the travel bubble will open in April, with travel initially limited, at Vanuatu’s end, to the main island of Efate.
If you’re just joining us: the US is on the brink of a once-unthinkable tally: 500,000 people lost to the coronavirus.
The Associated Press: A year into the pandemic, the running total of lives lost was about 498,883 — roughly the population of Kansas City, Missouri, and just shy of the size of Atlanta. The figure compiled by Johns Hopkins University surpasses the number of people who died in 2019 of chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, Alzheimer’s, flu and pneumonia combined.
“It’s nothing like we have ever been through in the last 102 years, since the 1918 influenza pandemic,” the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
The US virus death toll reached 400,000 on 19 January in the waning hours in office for President Donald Trump, whose handling of the crisis was judged by public health experts to be a singular failure.
The first known deaths from the virus in the US happened in early February 2020, both of them in Santa Clara County, California. It took four months to reach the first 100,000 dead. The toll hit 200,000 deaths in September and 300,000 in December. Then it took just over a month to go from 300,000 to 400,000 and about two months to climb from 400,000 to nearly half a million.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has written an op-ed for the Guardian in which he warns that the world “faces a pandemic of human rights abuses in the wake of Covid-19”:
Covid-19 has deepened preexisting divides, vulnerabilities and inequalities, and opened up new fractures, including faultlines in human rights. The pandemic has revealed the interconnectedness of our human family – and of the full spectrum of human rights: civil, cultural, economic, political and social. When any one of these rights is under attack, others are at risk.
The virus has thrived because poverty, discrimination, the destruction of our natural environment and other human rights failures have created enormous fragilities in our societies. The lives of hundreds of millions of families have been turned upside down – with lost jobs, crushing debt and steep falls in income.
You can read the full piece here:
Britain has circulated a draft resolution to the UN Security Council demanding that all warring parties immediately institute a “sustained humanitarian pause” to enable people in conflict areas to be vaccinated against Covid, the Associated Press reports.
The proposed resolution reiterates the council’s demand last 1 July for “a general and immediate cessation of hostilities” in major conflicts from Syria and Yemen to Central African Republic, Mali and Sudan and Somalia, an appeal first made by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on 23 March 2020, to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
The draft, obtained Friday by The Associated Press, “emphasizes the need for solidarity, equity, and efficacy and invites donation of vaccine doses from developed economies to low- and middle-income countries and other countries in need, including through the Covax Facility,” an ambitious World Health Organization project to buy and deliver coronavirus vaccines for the world’s poorest people.
The British draft stresses that “equitable access to affordable Covid vaccines, certified as safe and efficacious, is essential to end the pandemic.”
In case you missed this earlier, via the Associated Press:
Italians are marking one year since their country was shocked to discover it had the first known locally transmitted Covid case in the West.
With church services Sunday and wreath-laying ceremonies, including in small northern towns which were the first to be hard-hit by the pandemic, citizens paid tribute to the dead. Italy has a confirmed death toll from the virus of 95,500.
While the first wave of infections largely engulfed Lombardy and other northern regions, a second wave, starting in fall 2020, has raced throughout Italy, which so far has registered some 2.8 million cases.
The first locally transmitted case was discovered in a 38-year-old patient in a hospital in Codogno, Lombardy. That patient survived.
But in the northeastern town of Vo, which registered the nation’s first known death on Feb. 21, 2020, officials unveiled a memorial plaque at a tree-planting ceremony.
Vaccine giant says told to prioritise India
The world’s biggest vaccine maker, India’s Serum Institute, has urged other countries to be “patient” about it supplying anti-coronavirus shots, saying it has been instructed to prioritise its home market, AFP reports.
“Dear countries & governments, as you await Covidshield supplies, I humbly request you to please be patient,” Serum chief Adar Poonawalla tweeted on Sunday.
Dear countries & governments, as you await #COVISHIELD supplies, I humbly request you to please be patient, @SerumInstIndia has been directed to prioritise the huge needs of India and along with that balance the needs of the rest of the world. We are trying our best.
February 21, 2021
Serum, from its sprawling facility in Pune in western India, is producing hundreds of millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Many countries around the world, particularly poorer nations, are relying heavily on the company for supplies of the vaccine, and it has already shipped millions of doses abroad.
The Serum Institute also plans to supply 200 million doses to Covax, a World Health Organization-backed effort to procure and distribute inoculations to poor countries.
Poonawalla did not say who had told the firm to prioritise India, or whether the instructions were new.
India’s aim of inoculating 300 million people by July is falling well behind schedule with just over 11 million shots given so far.
The problems however are thought to lie more with not enough people coming forward for the vaccinations rather than problems with supplies of the shots.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 4,369 to 2,390,928, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed on Monday.
The reported death toll rose by 62 to 67,903, the tally showed.
One of the biggest logistical exercises in Australia’s history, the delivery of coronavirus vaccines to more than 20 million people, has begun.
The government is hoping to have 4 million people vaccinated by March and the entire country inoculated by October – but the timing for when you should expect to get the vaccine is dependent on who you are, how old you are and what you do for work.
Here is what we know of the timeline so far:
The Philippines has approved Sinovac Biotech’s Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use, the chief of the food and drugs agency Rolando Enrique Domingo told a briefing on Monday.
The Chinese company’s vaccines are the third candidate to get emergency use authorisation in the Southeast Asian nation of over 108 million.
Japan’s vaccine rollout has encountered a problem less than a week after it was launched.
The country’s vaccination tsar, Taro Kono, has said that supply issues mean that vaccinations for older people, due to begin in April, will proceed at a slower pace than originally planned.
Japan began vaccinating 40,000 frontline health workers last week, with 4.7 million additional medical staff to follow in March and 36 million people over 65 and over from April.
But Kono, who doubles as the administrative reform minister, said EU approval for each batch of Pfizer vaccine could mean limited supplies until May.
“We would like to start vaccinations for the elderly in April, but unfortunately the number of doses allocated to them will be very limited at first, so we want to start slowly and gradually expand,” Kono told the public broadcaster NHK.
Japan’s coronavirus vaccination tsar Taro Kono Photograph: REX/Shutterstock
He added that it would be difficult to achieve the government’s goal administering jabs to the older population in two months and three weeks in big cities.
Japan has secured 500 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna, but has so far only approved the Pfizer vaccine. Delays caused by its cautious approach to the rollout have been exacerbated by its dependence on imports.
The government is sticking to its pledge to secure enough doses for the entire population by June, but no date has been set for inoculating the general population.
Just over 5,000 health workers had been inoculated at 68 medical facilities as of Friday, the health ministry said.
Half of the health workers currently receiving jabs are taking part in a study to track potential side effects. They have been asked to keep daily records for seven weeks after receiving the first of two vaccinations, with the second shot coming three weeks after the first.
Vanuatu and New Caledonia to open safe travel corridor
Vanuatu and New Caledonia will open a safe travel corridor between the two countries – a ‘tamtam bubble’ between the Melanesian neighbours.
Vanuatu prime minister Bob Loughman said the travel bubble will open in April, with travel initially limited, at Vanuatu’s end, to the main island of Efate.
“New Caledonia has shown that it could manage its COVID-19 risk properly and has followed health and security rules set by the government of Vanuatu,” Loughman said.
“Also, Vanuatu and New Caledonia share a history and connections. This makes it safe and secure to pilot the travel bubble with New Caledonia. The bubble will be implemented initially with Port Vila before other islands.
“The extended focus of the bubble includes people seeking medical assistance, students traveling for education, technical experts and visitors.”
A tamtam is a traditional wooden slit drum.
New Caledonia and Vanuatu’s borders remain closed to travellers from other countries for the time being, though both are looking at ways they can safely open to travellers to help re-ignite stalled tourism industries.
Neither New Caledonia or Vanuatu has had a single Covid death. Vanuatu is currently free of the novel coronavirus. Vanuatu has had three cases in the past seven days, according to World Health Organisation figures.
Coronavirus vaccines are being rolled out across Australia in what experts says marks the start of the “final phase of the pandemic”.
Those at the highest risk of infection, including quarantine and health hotel workers, frontline health staff and airport and port workers, were the first to receive it on Monday:
Japan will only receive limited doses of Covid vaccines for the first months of the inoculation rollout and shots for the elderly will be distributed gradually, the country’s inoculation chief said.
Reuters: Pfizer Inc, the maker of Japan’s only approved vaccine, is ramping up production in Europe, but those increased supplies are not likely to reach Japan until May, Administrative Reform Minister Taro Kono cautioned on Sunday in an interview with national broadcaster NHK.
“We would like to start vaccinations for the elderly in April, but unfortunately the number of doses allocated to them will be very limited at first, so we want to start slowly,” Kono said.
A medical worker receives a dose of the Covid vaccine as the country launches its inoculation campaign, at Tokyo Medical Center. Photograph: ZUMA Wire/REX/Shutterstock
Japan has negotiated to receive more than 500 million doses of vaccines developed by Western drugmakers. But domestic regulators have only approved one vaccine so far, and the nation remains dependent on imported supplies that have been held up by production snags and export controls.
Since Kono, the minister for administrative reform, was tapped last month to lead Japan’s vaccination push, he has resisted giving firm timelines for when doses will arrive and be distributed. Even so, the government has stuck to a pledge to secure enough shots for the whole population of 126 million by June.
Japan has negotiated to receive 144 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine this year, and its second shipment of about 450,000 shots arrived on Sunday.
The inoculation campaign kicked off last week with doctors and nurses getting the first shots. The government is prioritising vaccinations for around 4.7 million medical workers, about 1 million more than initially estimated.
at 3.15am GMT
Biden to mark US crossing 500,000 deaths with moment of silence and candle ceremony
US President Joe Biden will mark the country crossing 500,000 lives lost from Covid-19 with a moment of silence and candle lighting ceremony at the White House, AP reports.
The nation is expected to pass the grim milestone on Monday, just over a year after the first confirmed US fatality due to the novel coronavirus.
The White House said Biden will deliver remarks at sunset to honor those who lost their lives. He will be joined by first lady Jill Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff. They will participate in the moment of silence and lighting ceremony.
Biden has made a point of recognizing the lives lost from the virus. His first event upon arriving in Washington for his inauguration a month ago was to deliver remarks at a Covid-19 memorial ceremony.
Here are the key dates for the England’s roadmap out of lockdown:
UK homeless deaths rise by more than a third in a year, study finds
Deaths among homeless people have risen by more than a third in a year, according to an analysis by a social justice group that found that almost 1,000 unhoused people had died across the UK in 2020.
The Museum of Homelessness (MoH), a community-driven organisation which runs the Dying Homeless Project, called for action to prevent a repeat of such “terrible loss of life”. Among cases where a cause of death was confirmed, 36% were related to drug and alcohol use and 15% were suicide.
Jess Tuttle, the organisation’s co-founder, said the findings demonstrated how the pandemic had hit a system “already cut to the bone from 10 years of austerity”. The MoH is now calling for a national confidential inquiry into homeless deaths.
A total of 976 deaths were recorded across the four nations in 2020: 693 in England and Wales, 176 in Scotland, and 107 in Northern Ireland. There were 710 deaths registered in the 2019 study, the group said: