NEW DELHI (AP) – India has started delivering the COVID-19 vaccine to several cities, four days before the national inoculation campaign.
The shipment of the first vaccine developed by the Serum Institute of India left the Indian city of Pune on Tuesday. Vaccines are launched from the Serum Institute of India facilities in temperature-controlled trucks to the city’s airports from where they are loaded onto private airlines for distribution across the country.
Civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri called vaccine deliveries an “important mission”.
From Saturday, India will begin a massive effort to inject some 30 million doctors, nurses and other front-line workers. That effort would then shift to inoculating some 270 million people who are over 50 or have secondary health conditions that increase the risk of dying from COVID-19.
The first delivery of the vaccine contains the COVISHIELD vaccine made by the Serum Institute and developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca.
Indian drug regulators have also approved the emergency use of a homemade vaccine, COVAXIN Bharat Biotech. Medical groups and others have raised concerns about the approved drug with little evidence of its effectiveness. It remains unclear when and where COVAXIN will be distributed.
India has the second most number of COVID-19 infections in the world, after the US Since the pandemic began, India has confirmed more than 10.4 million cases and more than 150,000 deaths.
Other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:
– The tiny Pacific nation of Micronesia has reported its first case of coronavirus after a crew member arriving on board tested positive. In his address to the nation, President David Panuelo said many people had heard “alarming news” but that cases had been resolved at the border. Panuelo said one of the government’s crew members, Chief Mailo, tested positive after the ship returned from the Philippines after more than a year of drydock repairs. He said the crew had been isolated on board, that all other crew members remained on board, and that the ship was being monitored daily by law enforcement. Micronesia, home to 100,000 people, is among the few countries that have avoided the virus completely.
– New Zealand will soon require travelers from most countries to show a negative coronavirus test before they depart for New Zealand. Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins said New Zealand was in a fortunate position to eradicate the spread of the virus in communities but was not taking it for granted. The new rules will require travelers to test negative within 72 hours of departure. The rules will apply to travelers from the US and UK starting Friday and most other countries soon thereafter. Tourists from Australia and several Pacific countries will be exempted. In addition to the test requirements, New Zealand will continue to place new arrivals in a mandatory two-week quarantine at the border.
– Indonesia has received raw materials to start making 15 million doses of Sinovac’s COVID-19 vaccine. The material will be stored at cold temperatures before being sent to state-owned PT Bio Farma in Bandung, West Java, which Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikit says will be processed within one month. The Indonesian Food and Drug Authority gave emergency approval for the Sinovac vaccine on Monday. The first two batches of the vaccine, produced entirely by the Chinese company, will be distributed starting this week. “The government is bringing in this third batch to increase the number of vaccines that will be distributed to the public,” said the Head of the COVID-19 Task Force Doni Monardo. Indonesia has recorded 836,000 cases and 24,000 deaths due to COVID-19.
Malaysia’s king approved a coronavirus emergency that would suspend parliament and halt any bids to call early elections in a political reprieve for contested Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin. Muhyiddin assured residents in his televised address that the state of emergency “is not a military coup and a curfew will not be imposed.” He said his civilian government would remain in charge during the emergency, which would last until August 1 or earlier depending on the situation. The emergency declaration came as a surprise just a day after Muhyiddin announced Kuala Lumpur, the administrative capital and five states would return to closure to contain the spread of the virus. Malaysia’s virus cases have risen from more than 15,000 three months ago to 138,224, including 555 deaths.
– The lockdown has been extended and a major political conference has been postponed in a province next to Beijing which is the site of China’s most serious COVID-19 outbreak recently. Residents of the city of Gu’an in southern Beijing have been ordered to stay at home for seven days starting Tuesday. Hebei has also postponed meetings of the provincial People’s Congress and its advisory bodies which are usually held in February. The Hebei provincial health commission on Tuesday reported 40 new confirmed cases, all but one in the provincial capital Shijiazhuang where transportation links have been cut off and residents are being asked to stay at home.
– A three-day lockdown on Australia’s third most populous city ended on Tuesday even though authorities found a second case of the highly contagious variant of the coronavirus first identified in Britain. The lockdown for Brisbane began on Friday evening in an attempt to prevent the spread of the variant by the community. It came after cleaners at a Brisbane hotel for tourists who were quarantined were infected. Queensland state’s Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said on Tuesday that the cleaning partner had also tested positive. Despite the easing of restrictions, masks will remain mandatory in indoor settings and on public transport until January 22.
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