Boost in vaccine doses planned for poor as virus rages on
Up to 100 million additional doses of any eventual COVID-19 vaccines will be secured for delivery to poorer countries in 2021, health groups announced on Sept. 29, as the virus showed no sign of receding after claiming more than one million lives around the world.
The announcement doubles the number of doses already secured from the Serum Institute of India by the Gavi vaccine alliance and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, following an initial agreement last month.
The public-private health partnership stressed that the eventual total is "potentially several times" greater, and said the price would be capped at $3 per dose.
"No country, rich or poor, should be left at the back of the queue when it comes to COVID-19 vaccines; this collaboration brings us another step closer to achieving this goal," Gavi chief Seth Berkley said.
As nine vaccine candidates are in last-stage trials, the World Bank said on Sept. 29 it had asked its board of directors to approve $12 billion to help poor countries purchase and distribute vaccines.
A World Bank spokesman said that "the global economy will not recover fully until people feel they can live, socialize, work and travel with confidence."
As humanity struggles against COVID-19, the World Health Organization said this week that some 120 million rapid tests will soon be made available to low- and middle-income countries if funding can be secured.
The kits - faster, cheaper and easier to administer than standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) swab tests, but also less reliable - will be rolled out across 133 countries in the next six months.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday said that "responsible leadership matters" in steering the world through the pandemic.
"Science matters. Cooperation matters - and misinformation kills," he warned, urging people to respect familiar infection control measures like hand-washing, distancing and mask-wearing.
Case numbers are climbing rapidly in Europe, where governments are clamping down on movement in an attempt to curb the surge.
Germany introduced new limits on the number of people who can attend private events, after Spain, France, Britain and Northern Ireland all imposed fresh restrictions.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said "a reaction is necessary" after recent outbreaks were frequently traced to weddings and other gatherings.
In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared to share general confusion about his government's measures, apologising after wrongly saying that rules limiting gatherings in northeast England to no more than six people did not apply outdoors.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia said they were preparing to declare a state of emergency.
In Israel, which has the world's highest infection rate per capita, Health Minister Yuli Edelstein said on Sept. 29 that there was "no way" the country's second nationwide coronavirus lockdown would be lifted after three weeks as originally planned.
Across the Atlantic, former coronavirus hotspot New York's rate of positive tests surged to more than three percent from below two in just 24 hours, authorities said, adding that Orthodox Jewish communities have faced a particularly sharp increase.
The figures were a "real cause for concern," Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters as he introduced fines for those not wearing masks in public.
More than one in ten of the 203,107 people who have so far died of coronavirus in the U.S. were New Yorkers.
U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden were gearing up for their first televised election debate, with the country's troubled response to the virus likely to be a battleground.
Hours before the debate, the economic impact of the virus was highlighted by Disney saying it will cut 28,000 jobs from its U.S. theme parks division.
Worldwide the virus has now infected almost 33.5 million people and killed over a million, according to an AFP tally compiled from official sources.
Mid-September saw a record rise in cases in most regions and the WHO has warned that virus deaths could even double to two million.
On Sept. 28, the number of cases in India surpassed six million, with the country on course to overtake the U.S. in the coming weeks as the nation with the most infections.
The country's lead pandemic agency said on Sept. 29 that as many as 60 million of India's 1.3 billion population could already have been infected, based on a study of blood antibodies.