Coronavirus live news: WHO to present China mission findings; Canada pauses AstraZeneca vaccine for under 55s | World news


10.49am EDT

The prime minister of Slovakia and his government have resigned after a secret deal to buy Russian Sputnik V coronavirus vaccines triggered a political crisis.

Igor Matovic’s administration is the first European government to collapse over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. But, according to the Associated Press, the move will keep the country’s current four-party coalition, which holds a comfortable parliamentary majority, in power.

The crisis erupted when a secret deal was exposed at the beginning of March in which Slovakia agreed to acquire 2 million doses of Sputnik V. Matovic orchestrated the deal despite disagreement among his coalition partners, according to AP.

Slovakia’s president, Zuzana Caputova, accepted Matovic’s resignation and asked Eduard Heger, from Matovic’s Ordinary People party, who was already serving as finance minister and deputy prime minister,

Matovic is expected to assume Heger’s former post in the new government.

With few changes, Heger’s Cabinet is expected to be the same as Matovic’s. The president might swear it in as soon as this week.

10.38am EDT

Singapore has no new locally transmitted cases of coronavirus today.

Ministry of Health

As of 30 Mar 2021, 12pm, we have confirmed and verified that there are no new cases of locally transmitted COVID-19 infection. There are 26 imported cases.

March 30, 2021

Ministry of Health

7 more cases of COVID-19 infection have been discharged from hospitals or community isolation facilities. In all, 60,138 have fully recovered from the infection and have been discharged.

March 30, 2021

Ministry of Health

There are currently 37 confirmed cases who are still in hospital. Of these, most are stable or improving, and 1 is in critical condition in the intensive care unit.

March 30, 2021

10.13am EDT

Dutch coronavirus cases rise for seventh week, officials say

New Covid cases in the Netherlands rose for a seventh consecutive week, health authorities said on Tuesday, despite the country’s lockdown.

New cases climbed by 13% to 51,866, the National Institute for Health (RIVM) said in its weekly review, the highest level since early January, Reuters reports.

More cases were seen in every age category, but there was only a 5% increase in cases in people above the age of 80, which the RIVM attributed to the country’s vaccine rollout.

According to RIVM data, 2.4 million first and second vaccine doses combined have been administered among a population of 17.3 million, with the oldest being given shots first by Dutch policy.

The agency expects cases to peak in late April before declining as vaccination levels increase.

Bans on public gatherings of more than 2 people and an evening curfew have been in place since 23 January.

10.07am EDT

Poland will widen access to Covid vaccines in April to those in their 40s and 50s, as it aims to inoculate all citizens who want to become vaccinated by the end of August, the government has announced.

Poland, with a population of 38 million, wants to administer 10 million Covid vaccine doses per month, the government said.

The country has reported a surge in new coronavirus cases in the past weeks, with many hospitals running out of beds and ventilators, Reuters reports.

People queue to the entrance of the vaccination point at the Netto Arena in Szczecin, northwestern Poland, 29 March 2021. Photograph: Marcin Bielecki/EPA

10.02am EDT

Switzerland is warning people not to storm pharmacies next Wednesday when free Covid-19 self-tests become available, according to Reuters.

Infections are rising anew in all 26 Swiss cantons with health officials expecting daily new cases could double within the next three weeks.

While neighboring Germany has been offering self-testing kits for several weeks, in Switzerland they will be available only from next week, after the Easter holiday.

Swiss residents will be able to get five free home test kits monthly, saving them from having to go to a doctor for the procedure. But Martine Ruggli, head of the pharmacy industry group PharmaSuisse, warned people not to come all at once.

Ruggli told a news conference:

It’s very important that not everybody storms into the pharmacies on the first day because then we couldn’t manage the crush. Daily, 320,000 people visit Swiss pharmacies. If suddenly one or two million people come on one day to get these tests, it won’t be possible to serve all customers…Please, have a little patience.

9.13am EDT

Number of people in Sweden in intensive care due to Covid infection rises

The number of people in Sweden needing intensive care as a result of coronavirus infection increased 9% compared to last week, as the country grapples with a third wave of the virus, health officials said on Tuesday (see earlier post for case statistics).

A total of 1,552 Covid patients were being treated in hospitals, with just over 300 were being admitted to intensive care units during the period, an increase of 9% compared to last week, Reuters reports.

“The pressure on the healthcare has been high for a long time now,” Taha Alexandersson, an official at the National Board of Health and Welfare, told a news conference. “The increased spread indicates it will increase even more.”

8.44am EDT

Parts of Germany suspend AstraZeneca vaccine for under-60s

Berlin has paused giving AstraZeneca shots to patients under 60. Local health minister Dilek Kalayci announced the decision on Tuesday afternoon, saying it was based on new data about possible side effects.

She added that there would be a further statement from all the regional health ministers about the use of AstraZeneca on Tuesday evening.

Berlin’s neighbouring state of Brandenburg also paused giving the AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone under 60, the local public broadcaster reported.

Munich, according to the German newspaper Bild, has also halted the jab for anyone over 60.

Berlin’s state hospital groups Charite and Vivantes on Tuesday stopped giving female staff under the age of 55 shots of AstraZeneca vaccine following further reports of a rare brain blood disorder (see earlier post).

A spokeswoman for Charite said the step was necessary following reports of blood clots known as cerebral sinus vein thrombosis (CSVT) in women in Germany.

“Although no complications have occurred at the Charite after vaccinations with AstraZeneca, the Charite wants to take precautionary action here and wait for final assessments,” the spokeswoman said.

at 9.06am EDT

8.31am EDT

Third Covid wave emerging in Russia – health official warns

A Russian health official has said a third Covid wave was emerging in the country, which has recorded more than 4.5 million cases since the start of the pandemic.

President Vladimir Putin said last week he expected Russia to reach herd immunity and lift curbs by the end of the summer, Reuters reports. Some regions have already begun easing some restrictions.

“Unfortunately, the incidence rate and the progression of the disease allow us to speak of a third wave of coronavirus infections,” TASS news agency quoted deputy health minister Tatiana Semyonova as saying.

Putin said last week that 4.3 million people in the country of around 145 million had so far received two shots of a vaccine.

On Tuesday, Russia reported 8,277 new coronavirus cases in the previous 24 hours, including 1,291 in Moscow. The country also reported 409 deaths, raising the official toll to 98,442.

8.13am EDT

Sweden, which has shunned lockdowns throughout the pandemic, has registered 16,427 new Covid cases since Friday, health agency statistics showed on Tuesday.

The figure compared with 14,063 cases during the corresponding period last week, Reuters reports.

The country of 10 million inhabitants registered 28 new deaths, bringing the total to 13,430 .

8.08am EDT

Spain to require people to wear face masks at all times outdoors

A new law announced today makes mask wearing outdoors, including on beaches and at swimming pools, obligatory throughout Spain, even in situations where social distancing is not an issue.

The regulation, which has been in force in Catalonia since last July, is now being extended to the entire country.

The announcement has provoked a rash of comments on social media, with many complaining that the decision has less to do with science – which suggests there is little risk of the virus spreading in open spaces – than with the government wishing to show it is taking action to control the pandemic.

“They’re doing this to make it look like they’re doing something even though it makes no sense,” one woman Tweeted. “Fighting with penitence instead of science,” commented another.

Masks may only be removed for eating, drinking and smoking, creating the absurd situation of people queuing for an outside table at a bar with their masks on, then removing them as soon as they are seated.

As Easter approaches, health authorities are warning that infection levels are dangerously close to tipping Spain into a fourth wave. The country has already recorded around 3.2 million cases and over 75,000 deaths. Over the past 14 days Spain has recorded 138,68 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

The vaccination program continues to run at a snail’s pace. In Catalonia, barely a third of the over-80s have been vaccinated.

A total of 4.5 million doses have been administered, covering around 10 per cent of the population, but barely 5 per cent have received a second dose.

at 8.14am EDT

8.02am EDT

India’s Covid-19 situation is turning from “bad to worse”, a senior government official has said, as infections surge across several states, Reuters reports.

“Remember if the cases are more, they will eventually overwhelm the system,” senior health official Vinod Kumar Paul told a news conference.

India’s current caseload of 12.1 million ranks third behind only the U.S and Brazil, with testing unable to keep up with demand. The daily rise in cases has quadrupled in the space of a month.

“The current rise in cases… has the potential of overwhelming healthcare systems unless checked right now,” health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said in a letter to 28 federal states.

He added:

Many districts in the country are seeing clusters of cases emerging because of specific events and/or places where crowding happens, or where a large number of people are in close contact coupled with a lack of a Covid-appropriate behaviour.

Woman walks past a graffiti depicting former American actress Marilyn Monroe wearing a mask, in Mumbai.

Woman walks past a graffiti depicting Marilyn Monroe wearing a mask in Mumbai. Photograph: Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters

at 10.21am EDT

7.57am EDT

Britain could approve Novavax’s Covid vaccine next month, the chief investigator for the shot’s trial told the Evening Standard.

Prof Paul Heath, chief investigator for the Novavax jab trial in the UK, said: “The regulator will do a very detailed and thorough review and will decide in good time,” adding: “I would hope it would be in the spring, possibly end of April.”

7.46am EDT

Austria is in talks with Russia to buy a million doses of its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, which has yet to be approved by the European Medicines Agency, chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s office said on Tuesday.

Kurz is under fire from opposition parties because his government did not buy as many Covid vaccines as it could have under the EU’s collective purchasing scheme, Reuters reports.

“There must be no geopolitical blinkers regarding vaccines,” Kurz said in a statement issued by his office, adding that Austria is in talks with Russia and Moscow has offered to sell it a million doses as of April.

“The only thing that must count is whether the vaccine is effective and safe.”



Robert Dunfee