Reuters Health News Summary

19 Jan 2021 / 20:59 H.

    Following is a summary of current health news briefs.

    Independent pandemic review panel critical of China, WHO delays

    An independent panel said on Monday that Chinese officials could have applied public health measures more forcefully in January to curb the initial COVID-19 outbreak, and criticised the World Health Organization (WHO) for not declaring an international emergency until Jan. 30. The experts reviewing the global handling of the pandemic, led by former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, called for reforms to the Geneva-based United Nations agency.Their interim report was published hours after the WHO's top emergency expert, Mike Ryan, said that global deaths from COVID-19 were expected to top 100,000 per week "very soon".

    Coronavirus cases in Switzerland and Liechtenstein pass 500,000 mark

    Coronavirus infections in Switzerland and Liechtenstein passed the 500,000 mark on Tuesday, data from Swiss health authorities showed, as new infections rose by 2,260. The total number of confirmed cases in Switzerland and neighbouring principality Liechtenstein increased to 502,191, the death toll rose by 75 to 8,166, while 129 new hospitalisations kept pressure on the health care system.

    Already in lockdown, Dutch to toughen measures against COVID-19: minister

    The Dutch government will soon announce new measures to help fight the country's coronavirus epidemic, ANP press agency reported on Tuesday, citing the country's Health Minister Hugo de Jonge. The Dutch government has been weighing a night time curfew in addition to its current lockdown measures, which include a ban on public gatherings and the closure of schools, restaurants and non-essential stores.

    European countries struggle to make most of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses

    Some European countries are drawing fewer than the approved six doses from Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine vials, meaning shots are likely going to waste even as nations plead for more. Officials and healthcare professionals in France, Germany and Switzerland all pointed to yields short of six doses, adding to frustrations in countries already lagging vaccination campaigns in nations such as Britain and the United States.

    Sputnik-AstraZeneca vaccine trials to start in February, says R-Pharm

    Human trials of a coronavirus vaccine combining Russia's Sputnik V shot with that developed by Britain's AstraZeneca and Oxford University are expected to start in early February, the chairman of Russian drugmaker R-Pharm told Reuters. AstraZeneca first announced plans to explore the possibility of working with Russian scientists on a combined vaccine in December, interpreted by Moscow as a vote of confidence in its vaccine.

    Exclusive: India to start COVID-19 vaccine exports as soon as Wednesday - sources

    India, one of the world's biggest drugmakers, will start exports of COVID-19 vaccines as early as Wednesday, government sources said, paving the way for many mid- and lower-income countries to secure supplies of the easy-to-store Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. The first batch of exports will be shipped to the tiny nation of Bhutan, said the officials, who asked not to be named as no formal announcement has yet been made in India.

    Malaysia expands lockdown measures to most states as virus spreads

    Malaysia on Tuesday said it would extend lockdown restrictions across most of the country as it grappled with a rise in coronavirus infections. Last week, capital Kuala Lumpur and six states went into a two-week lockdown. Essential sectors including manufacturing, plantations and construction were allowed to stay open, but a nationwide travel ban was implemented.

    Epidemics lead world's biggest short-term risks: World Economic Forum

    Infectious diseases and livelihood crises led the rankings of risks expected to pose a critical threat to the world in the next two years, according to a survey of more than 650 World Economic Forum (WEF) members from business, government and academia. Extreme weather events and cybersecurity failure were also key risks, WEF said in an annual risks report on Tuesday.

    British hospitals use blockchain to track COVID-19 vaccines

    Two British hospitals are using blockchain technology to keep tabs on the storage and supply of temperature-sensitive COVID-19 vaccines, the companies behind the initiative said on Tuesday, in one of the first such initiatives in the world. Two hospitals, in central England's Stratford-upon-Avon and Warwick, are expanding their use of a distributed ledger, an offshoot of blockchain, from tracking vaccines and chemotherapy drugs to monitoring fridges storing COVID-19 vaccines.

    Supermarket chain Aldi to pay U.S. workers who get COVID-19 vaccination

    German supermarket chain Aldi on Tuesday became the latest firm in the grocery sector to offer incentives for U.S. employees getting a COVID-19 vaccine, saying it would give up to four hours of pay to those who choose to receive inoculations. The retailer, which has more than 2,000 stores in 37 U.S. states, said it would cover costs associated with vaccine administration and implement on-site vaccination clinics at its warehouse and office locations.

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