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Latest on COVID-19 in Russia



The whole world is facing a second wave of COVID-19 virus pandemic. By many estimates, the disease is spreading very rapidly, writes Alex Ivanov, Moscow correspondent.

The US, India and Brazil are leading the way. In Europe, restrictions are being imposed again: cafes and restaurants, night clubs are being closed, and borders are still closed. Russia is no exception. Although the authorities do not plan large-scale quarantine measures, however, many strict limitations have already been introduced. Students and high school students were transferred to distance learning. In many Russian regions, stricter regulations are also being imposed.

The situation with the spread of coronavirus infection in Russia is complicated, more than 2,138 million cases of infection have been recorded in the country, that is, almost 1,457 for every 100 thousand inhabitants, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said at one of the official meetings.

According to her, in 32 regions of Russia, the incidence of coronavirus per 100 thousand population exceeds the average level in Russia. In total, the country recorded more than 2,138 million cases of infection, that is, almost 1,457 for every 100 thousand inhabitants. At the same time, the daily rate of increase in the incidence of coronavirus from October 1 to November 23 increased in Russia by 2.8 times – from 6.1 to 17.1 per 100 thousand population, RIA Novosti reports.

“To date, about 520 thousand medical workers, including almost 147 thousand doctors, 301 thousand secondary medical personnel, more than 71 thousand Junior medical personnel and more than 38 thousand drivers of ambulances, provide medical care with a new coronavirus infection," she added, TASS reports. Golikova also recalled that two vaccines have been registered in Russia until now against the new coronavirus infection, in addition to Sputnik, this is Epivaccorona, developed by the Novosibirsk scientific center Vector. Another vaccine is being developed and is undergoing clinical trials by the Chumakov Research center of the Russian Ministry of education and science. These clinical trials are planned to be completed by the end of December this year, she said.

"Since the final registration of the Sputnik-V vaccine, more than 117 thousand doses of the vaccine have been released into civil circulation, and manufacturers plan to produce more than 2 million doses by the end of this year. Now, first of all, people from risk groups, medical and pedagogical workers are being vaccinated, " Golikova said. According to her, mass vaccination of the population against coronavirus is planned from 2021 .

"At the same time, I want to once again draw attention to the fact that in accordance with the legislation of the Russian Federation, vaccination is voluntary," Golikova said. Over the past day, 24,326 new cases of coronavirus were detected in Russia, with more than 2.1 million cases registered in the country.

While various government and medical authorities in Russia find it difficult to give an accurate forecast of the stabilization of the situation with the spread of coronavirus. Many cautious assumptions point to spring-summer of the next year. It is obvious that the situation is very serious and the authorities are taking this issue with maximum responsibility. President Putin regularly holds meetings with various government agencies in charge on this issue.

It is obvious that the pandemic brings huge economic losses to the country's economy. Unfortunately, the number of deaths is also increasing, which, in the context of a steady decline in the population in the country, also has a negative effect.

Nevertheless, the authorities expect to curb the virus in the near future and bring the situation to conditions where it is possible to control the rampant pandemic. Great hopes are pinned on the vaccines being developed in Russia, and interest in them is constantly growing in the world.


Dutch PM condemns lockdown riots as 'criminal violence'




Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte (pictured) on Monday (25 January) condemned riots across the country at the weekend in which demonstrators attacked police and set fires to protest against a night-time curfew to slow the spread of the coronavirus, calling them “criminal violence”, writes .

The police said hundreds of people had been detained after incidents that began on Saturday evening and lasted until the early hours of Monday, including some in which rioters threw rocks and in one case knives at police and burned down a COVID-19 testing station.

“This has nothing to do with protest, this is criminal violence and we will treat it as such,” Rutte told reporters outside his office in The Hague.

Schools and non-essential shops in the Netherlands have been shut since mid-December, following the closure of bars and restaurants two months earlier.

Rutte’s government added the curfew as an additional lockdown measure from Saturday over fears that the British variant of COVID-19 may soon lead to an increase in cases.

There have been 13,540 deaths in the Netherlands from COVID-19 and 944,000 infections.

The police trade union NPB said there could be more protests ahead, as people grow increasingly frustrated with the country’s months-long lockdown.

“We haven’t seen so much violence in 40 years,” union board member Koen Simmers said on television program Nieuwsuur.

Police used water cannon, dogs and officers on horseback to disperse a protest in central Amsterdam on Sunday afternoon. Nearly 200 people, some of them throwing stones and fireworks, were detained in the city.

In the southern city of Eindhoven, looters plundered stores at the train station and set cars and bikes on fire.

When police said the demonstrators were violating the country’s current lockdown rules “they took weapons out of their pockets and immediately attacked the police”, Eindhoven Mayor John Jorritsma said.

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Head of French health regulatory body: COVID situation is 'worrying'



The COVID-19 situation in France is worrying, the head of the country’s Haute Autorite de Sante (HAS) health regulator told France Inter radio on Monday (25 January), as President Emmanuel Macron’s government considers a new lockdown, write Sudip Kar-Gupta and Dominique Vidalon.

France has the world’s seventh-highest COVID-19 death toll, with more than 73,000 deaths.

“It is a worrying moment. We are looking at the figures, day by day. We need to take measures pretty quickly....but at the same time, not too hastily,” said HAS head Dominique Le Guludec.

Jean-François Delfraissy, head of the scientific council that advises the government on COVID-19, had said on Sunday that France probably needed a third national lockdown, perhaps as early as the February school holidays, because of the circulation of new variants of the virus.

French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune, when asked about this on French radio on Monday, replied that no firm decision had been taken on the matter.

France is currently in a nationwide 18h to 6h curfew, in a bid to slow down the spread of the virus, but the average number of new infections has increased from 18,000 per day to more than 20,000.

Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux, head of the MEDEF French business lobby group, said he would call on the government to keep as many businesses and schools open as possible in any new lockdown, to protect the economy and help children’s education.

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EU urges AstraZeneca to speed up vaccine deliveries amid 'supply shock'



The European Union has urged AstraZeneca to find ways to swiftly deliver vaccines after the company announced a large cut in supplies of its COVID-19 shot to the bloc, as news emerged the drugmaker also faced supply problems elsewhere, write and

In a sign of the EU’s frustration - after Pfizer also announced supply delays earlier in January - a senior EU official told Reuters the bloc would in the coming days require pharmaceutical companies to register COVID-19 vaccine exports.

AstraZeneca, which developed its shot with Oxford University, told the EU on Friday it could not meet agreed supply targets up to the end of March, with an EU official involved in the talks telling Reuters that meant a 60% cut to 31 million doses.

“We expect the company to find solutions and to exploit all possible flexibilities to deliver swiftly,” an EU Commission spokesman said, adding the head of the EU executive Ursula von der Leyen had a call earlier on Monday with AstraZeneca’s chief Pascal Soriot to remind him of the firm’s commitments.

A spokesman for AstraZeneca said Soriot told von der Leyen the company was doing everything it could to bring its vaccine to millions of Europeans as soon as possible.

News emerged on Monday that the company faces wider supply problems.

Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters AstraZeneca had advised the country it had experienced “a significant supply shock”, which would cut supplies in March below what was agreed. He did not provide figures.

Thailand’s Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said AstraZeneca would be supplying 150,000 doses instead of the 200,000 planned, and far less than the 1 million shots the country had initially requested.

AstraZeneca declined to comment on global supply issues.

The senior EU official said the bloc had a contractual right to check the company’s books to assess production and deliveries, a move that could imply the EU fears doses being diverted from Europe to other buyers outside the bloc.

AstraZeneca has received an upfront payment of 336 million euros ($409 million) from the EU, another official told Reuters when the 27-nation bloc sealed a supply deal with the company in August for at least 300 million doses - the first signed by the EU to secure COVID-19 shots..

Under advance purchase deals sealed during the pandemic, the EU makes down-payments to companies to secure doses, with the money expected to be mostly used to expand production capacity.

“Initial volumes will be lower than originally anticipated due to reduced yields at a manufacturing site within our European supply chain,” AstraZeneca said on Friday.

The site is a viral vectors factory in Belgium run by the drugmaker’s partner Novasep.

Viral vectors are produced in genetically modified living cells that have to be nurtured in bioreactors. The complex procedure requires fine-tuning of various inputs and variables to arrive at consistently high yields.

“The flimsy justification that there are difficulties in the EU supply chain but not elsewhere does not hold water, as it is of course no problem to get the vaccine from the UK to the continent,” said EU lawmaker Peter Liese, who is from the same party as German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The EU called a meeting with AstraZeneca after Friday’s (22 January) announcement to seek further clarification. The meeting started at 1230 CET on Monday.

The EU official involved in the talks with AstraZeneca said expectations were not high for the meeting, in which the company will be asked to better explain the delays.

Earlier in January, Pfizer, which is currently the largest supplier of COVID-19 vaccines to the EU, announced delays of nearly a month to its shipments, but hours later revised this to say the delays would last only a week.

EU contracts with vaccine makers are confidential, but the EU official involved in the talks did not rule out penalties for AstraZeneca, given the large revision to its commitments. However, the source did not elaborate on what could trigger the penalties. “We are not there yet,” the official added.

“AstraZeneca has been contractually obligated to produce since as early as October and they are apparently delivering to other parts of the world, including the UK without delay,” Liese said.

AstraZeneca’s vaccine is expected to be approved for use in the EU on Jan. 29, with first deliveries expected from 15 February.

($1 = €0.8214)

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