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India reports new cases of coronavirus variants – latest updates

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But the numbers shot back up in just three days, topping 600 for the first time in 39 days on Tuesday, after a ban on nighttime entertainment facilities was lifted and a restaurant curfew extended by one hour to 10 p.m

Coronavirus has killed more than 2.42 million people and infected over 110 million globally. Here are the coronavirus-related developments for February 17: A woman walks past a painting of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi a day before the inauguration of the COVID-19 vaccination drive on a street in Mumbai, India, January 15, 2021. (Reuters) Wednesday, February 17, 2021

India finds new cases of a coronavirus variant

Health officials in India have confirmed that cases of the Covid-19 variant first detected in South Africa and Brazil have been found in the South Asian country

They said  that the South African variant was detected in four travelers last month. Over 150 cases of another variant first detected in the United Kingdom have previously been found in India.

One patient with the mutation first detected in Brazil was also registered in India earlier this month.

Cases in India have been falling dramatically and uniformly across the country for months. But the detection of the more infectious variants comes amid some worrying but so far isolated outbreaks.

A cluster of over a 100 cases has been detected in the southern India city of Bengaluru at an apartment complex.

Another spike was detected by health officials in several pockets of Maharashtra state, including in Mumbai, the country’s financial capital.

Thailand reports 175 new cases

Thailand has reported 175 new cases, taking its total infections to 24,961.

No new deaths were reported, the country's Covid-19 taskforce said at a briefing. Thailand has recorded 82 coronavirus-related fatalities since a year ago.

El Salvador getting its first vaccine from India

El Salvador’s government has said the Central American nation will receive its first shipment of coronavirus vaccine from India on Wednesday.

The office of President Nayib Bukele says the shipment of AstraZeneca vaccine will arrive on a flight from an Indian plant where it is produced.

Bukele’s office says the first doses will be used to vaccinate health care workers. The office did not say how many doses will be in the shipment, but says it will be used to vaccinate “thousands” of health care professionals.

The country has recorded about 58,000 infections and 1,758 deaths so far in the pandemic.

South Korea warns against lax distancing 

South Korea's Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun has warned against loosening enforcement of social distancing rules after the number of new cases hit the highest levels in nearly 40 days.

The government relaxed distancing curbs starting this week, after getting on top of a third wave of Covid-19 outbreaks that peaked at about 1,200 daily cases in late December.

But the numbers shot back up in just three days, topping 600 for the first time in 39 days on Tuesday, after a ban on nighttime entertainment facilities was lifted and a restaurant curfew extended by one hour to 10 p.m.

Chung said there were signs of lax discipline, singling out nightclubs opening at 5 am and people partying at a hotel after the curfew.

“We've eased distancing to help small business owners maintain their livelihoods, not to keep a slack rein on the virus,” he told a televised meeting. “The third wave is not over … now is never the time to loosen up.”

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported 621 cases as of Tuesday midnight, from in the 300-400s in the previous few days as testing increased after last week's Lunar New Year holidays.

Japan kicks off Covid-19 vaccination drive

Japan has launched its Covid-19 inoculation drive by administering Pfizer Inc's vaccine shots to Tokyo hospital workers, TV footage showed, as Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga aims to defy the odds and hold the Tokyo Olympics this summer.

After vaccinating the initial group of 40,000 medical workers, Japan plans to move to the remaining 3.7 million medical personnel who come into contact with Covid-19 patients, and then to the 36 million people aged 65 or above.

Some in Japan, where relatively rare side effects from vaccines tend to be played up, are in no hurry to get the shot. 

That reluctance could prove to be a big problem for the Tokyo Olympics scheduled for this summer after a year’s delay. Vaccinations are considered a key to holding the games.

With domestic vaccine development still in its early stages, import-reliant Japan faces uncertainty in its supply. It’s also unclear if the already-strained Japanese health care system will be able to treat the extra visitors during the games as they juggle local patients and the mass inoculations.

Australia's Victoria to ease lockdown curbs

Australia's Victoria state will ease Covid-19 restrictions from midnight, PM Daniel Andrews has said, after reporting no new cases on the final day of a five-day snap lockdown put in place to contain a fresh virus cluster.

Nearly all mobility restrictions will be lifted but masks will be required indoors and outdoors if social distance rules could not be followed, Andrews said.

Brazil reports 55,271 new cases, 1,167 deaths

Brazil has recorded 55,271 additional confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, along with 1,167 deaths from Covid-19, the Health Ministry said.

Brazil has registered more than 9.9 million cases of the virus since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 240,940, according to ministry data.

New Zealand reports two new locally transmitted cases

New Zealand has detected two new locally transmitted cases of Covid-19, broadcaster TVNZ reported, ahead of an expected decision by authorities on whether to extend a lockdown on its biggest city, Auckland.

The two new infections were people with close contacts to a person who had already tested positive, the report said, quoting Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins.

US administers 55.2 million doses of vaccines

The United States has administered 55,220,364 doses of Covid-19 vaccines and delivered 71,657,975 doses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The tally of vaccine doses are for both Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, vaccines as of 6:00 am.ET on Tuesday, the agency said.

According to the tally posted on February 14, the agency had administered 52,884,356 doses of the vaccines and distributed 70,057,800 doses.

The agency said 39,670,551 people had received one or more doses, while 15,015,434 people have got the second dose as of Tuesday.

A total of 5,968,542 vaccine doses have been administered in long-term care facilities, the agency said.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies