July 6, 2022

Sri Lanka looks into packaging Russian vaccine

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – A Sri Lankan official says Russia has offered to help produce…

Sri Lanka looks into packaging Russian vaccine

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – A Sri Lankan official says Russia has offered to help produce its COVID-19 vaccine locally and that the government is looking into the possibility of packaging it in two factories.

Dr. Amal Harsha de Silva. secretary to the ministry of COVID-19 prevention, told media that Russia made the offer during negotiations for vaccines.

“ We have two good factories in Sri Lanka, and we are studying…(if) we are able to bring the Sputnik V vaccine here and vial it. If we manage to do that, we will move from being a country that imports vaccines to an exporter of vaccines,” he said.

Sri Lanka has so far approved only the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for domestic use and has received 500,000 doses from India, which produces the jab developed in Britain under license.

China has offered Sri Lanka a grant of vaccines, but the ones developed in China have not been approved by Sri Lankan regulators yet.

Sri Lanka has reported a total of 67,115 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 339 deaths.

___

THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Israel, a global leader in COVID vaccinations, finds limits

— “Hug tent” provides safe space to embrace in Colorado

— Desperation grows as Mexico runs out of vaccines

— Opposition legislators are accusing Turkey’s leaders of secretly selling out Uighurs to China as a quid pro quo for getting coronavirus vaccines.

— Burundi has become at least the second African country to say it doesn’t need COVID-19 vaccines, even as doses finally begin to arrive on the continent that’s seeing a deadly resurgence in cases.

— A 76-year-old nurse practitioner in California is working to save lives during a deadly pandemic, just as her mother did more than a century ago.

___

Follow all of AP’s pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic, https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-vaccine and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

___

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

WARSAW, Poland – Poland’s prime minister says hotel, theaters, ski lifts, swimming pools and other facilities will be allowed to reopen with conditions starting next week.

Prime Minster Mateusz Morawiecki said Friday that the country’s existing pandemic restrictions have led to a “fragile stabilization” in the number of new COVID-19 cases but the number of deaths, around 400 daily, remains “very disturbing.”

He says that’s why the government is acting with caution and lifting restrictions in small steps.

Starting Feb. 12, indoor facilities like hotels and theaters will be allowed to operate at 50{d54a1665abf9e9c0a672e4d38f9dfbddcef0b06673b320158dd31c640423e2e5} capacity and strictly adhere to infection-control measures such as social distancing and mask use. Hotels will be able to offer food only through room service.

Restaurants and fitness centers will remain closed.

Morawiecki said decisions on opening more businesses are conditioned on how well people observe the rules for curbing infections.

A nation of some 38 million, Poland has confirmed over 1.5 million COVID-19 cases, including almost 39,000 deaths.

___

BERLIN — Germany’s health minister says first batches of the newly authorized AstraZeneca vaccine for will be delivered to the country’s 16 states Friday.

Jens Spahn said the addition of a third vaccine would “make a real difference” to Germany’s immunization campaign, which has so far been sluggish compared to the United States or Britain.

But Spahn said that, for now, the AstraZeneca shot will only be given to people aged 18-64, due to lack of data on older age groups.

He cited the additional vaccine as one of several positive signs for the country’s fight against the pandemic, along with the fact that for the first time in two months Germany has fewer than 200,000 people infected with COVID-19 and the nationwide number of newly confirmed cases per week has dropped to 80 per 100,000 inhabitants.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted Thursday that the target remains 50 cases per week for every 100,000 people.

Klaus Cichutek, the head of Germany’s medicines regulator, said his agency doesn’t currently recommend stretching the time period between first and second doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, as practiced in Britain, where about 10.5 million people have received a first shot, compared to 2.1 million in Germany.

___

BUDAPEST — Hungary could be the first country in the European Union to administer a Russian COVID-19 vaccine as early as next week.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban said during a radio interview that health authorities were performing the final tests on the vaccine Sputnik V, and that a Chinese shot produced by state-owned company Sinopharm was also undergoing late-stage evaluations. Hungary has purchased 2 million doses of the Russian and 5 million doses of the Chinese vaccine.

All people over the age of 60 who wish to be vaccinated will receive an injection by March 15, Orban said, adding that around 2 million Hungarians could be vaccinated by April 1. That’s roughly 20{d54a1665abf9e9c0a672e4d38f9dfbddcef0b06673b320158dd31c640423e2e5} of the population.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis will meet Orban in Budapest on Friday where the leaders will discuss Hungary’s experiences with Sputnik V, according to a tweet by Babis.

___

LONDON — British officials say everyone arriving in the country from coronavirus hot spots will have to spend 10 days in hotel quarantine starting Feb. 15 in a bid to stop new variants of the virus reaching the U.K.

The government is facing criticism for the delay in implementing the policy, which it first announced in late January.

Arrivals from high-risk countries will have to quarantine in approved hotels patrolled by security guards, and will be billed for their stay. The U.K. says it has sought advice from Australia and New Zealand, where quarantine hotels have been used to contain COVID-19.

The main opposition Labour Party said Friday it was “beyond comprehension” that the policy was being introduced so late, 50 days after a new, more transmissible strain of the virus from South Africa had been identified. Labour borders spokesman Nick Thomas-Symonds said the government was doing “too little, too late.”

Britain has experienced Europe’s worst coronavirus outbreak with more than 110,000 confirmed deaths.

___

PRAGUE — The Czech Republic is further tightening entry rules in an effort to limit the growing spread of highly contagious variants of the coronavirus.

Travelers from high-risk countries have to present a negative PCR test on arrival that is not older than 72 hours and must go into quarantine for at least five days before another PCR test. They also have to fill in an online form before their trip and wear a respirator for the first 10 days of their visits.

High-risk countries include Britain, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Baltics states and most other countries outside the EU.

Those traveling from less risky countries are asked to present a fast antigen test on arrival.

The measure becomes effective on Friday.

The Czech Republic has already banned all tourist trips.

___

JERUSALEM — Israel plans to begin slowly easing its latest coronavirus lockdown on Sunday, hoping that its rapid vaccination campaign helps to contain an outbreak accelerated by new variants.

A government statement released early Friday details the lifting of restrictions. People will no longer have to remain within 1,000 meters (yards) of home, national parks will reopen and restaurants can offer takeout. Workplaces not open to the public can also reopen.

Israel has launched one of the world’s most successful vaccination drives, inoculating more than a third of its population of 9.3 million in a matter or weeks. But the rate of new cases has remained high, in part because of more contagious variants from Britain and South Africa.

Israel has been reporting some 7,000 new infections a day, one of the highest in the developed world. Nearly 5,000 people have died, more than a quarter of them in January alone. There have been three nationwide lockdowns since the start of the pandemic.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is urging Israelis to get vaccinated, with a particular focus on people over 50. The rate of vaccinations has slowed recently, with some apparent hesitancy among Arab citizens, ultra-Orthodox Jews and younger people.

___

BERLIN — Germany’s death toll in the coronavirus pandemic has topped 60,000 even as new infections decline significantly.

The country’s disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, said Friday that 855 more deaths were reported over the past 24 hours. That brought Germany’s total so far to 60,597.

In Europe, the U.K., Italy, France, Russia and Spain have reported more deaths. Germany had a relatively low death rate in the pandemic’s first phase, but saw much more infections in the fall and winter — peaking around a month ago — and hundreds of deaths per day in recent weeks. The death toll hit 50,000 two weeks ago.

A partial shutdown that started at the beginning of November was widened into a second lockdown in mid-December and is still in place. Chancellor Angela Merkel and state governors are due to discuss on Wednesday what, if any, restrictions can be lifted after its current expiry date of Feb. 14.

The Robert Koch Institute said Friday that 12,908 new coronavirus cases were reported in the past day, compared with 14,022 a week earlier. There were 79.9 new cases per 100,000 residents over the past seven days — down from a peak of nearly 200 in late December but still above the government’s target of a maximum 50.

___

NEW DELHI — Pfizer Inc says it has withdrawn its application for emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine in India.

The company said Friday that it participated in a meeting of experts of the drug regulator on Feb. 3. Based on the deliberation of that meeting and “our understanding of additional information that the regulator may need, the company has decided to withdraw its application at this time,” it said in a statement.

The company was the first to approach the Indian regulator in December for its messenger RNA vaccine that it has developed with Germany’s BioNTech. They were closely followed by applications for two other vaccines — a version of the AstraZeneca made by Serum Institute of India and another by Indian company Bharat Biotech — which eventually got the nod for emergency use on Jan. 3.

However, India’s Health Ministry has said that Pfizer hadn’t made its presentation to experts who needed to clear the vaccine, before the regulator could green-light its use in India.

Pfizer said in the statement that it would continue to engage with authorities and that it was committed to making its vaccine available for use in India. The company said that it would “resubmit its approval request with additional information as it becomes available in the near future.”

It isn’t clear what information the committee of experts had sought from Pfizer on Feb. 3.

Indian Health Ministry officials point out that the Pfizer vaccine isn’t necessarily best suited for India since it requires ultra-cold freezers for storage that aren’t easily available, and due to its high cost.

___

MEXICO CITY — Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador posted a video Thursday saying he had tested negative on an antigen test, after testing positive for COVID-19 about 12 days ago.

“I am well now,” López Obrador said, walking down a flight of stairs in the National Palace to prove his point. He did not say when he would end his isolation and return to public appearances.

The country posted a near-record daily COVID-19 death toll of 1,682 Thursday, bringing the total to 162,922. Authorities also announced that about five cases of the U.K. variant had been found in Mexico, some apparently through local transmission.

___

WASHINGTON — Biden administration officials are weighing sending masks to every American as they hope to nudge individuals to do their part in lowering coronavirus transmission rates.

White House chief of staff Ron Klain said in an interview with NBC News that administration officials are looking at using mask supplies that the government already has in its stockpile.

Klain said that the administration hopes to make an announcement on a potential move “in the next few days or next week.”

Biden has pleaded for Americans to wear masks during the first 100 days of his administration. It’s a step he said could help save thousands of lives as Americans await their turn to be vaccinated.