India on Thursday registered 97,894 new coronavirus cases, the biggest single-day spike, in the past 24 hours, bringing the total caseload to more than 5.1 million.
The Health Ministry on Thursday said that the new cases raised the nation’s confirmed total to more than 5.1 million since the pandemic began, reports AP.
Besides, the country also reported 1,132 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking the total death tally to 83,198 as of Thursday.
At the current rate of infection, India is expected within weeks to surpass the 6.6 million reported cases in the United States, currently the country with the most reported infections.
Nationwide, India is testing more than 1 million samples per day.
Global coronavirus cases surged past 29,760,579 as of Thursday morning, according to the Johns Hopkins University (JHU).
The university's tracker said 939,175 people have died from the virus worldwide.
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Participants of a phase 3 clinical trial of American biopharmaceutical company Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine candidate were experiencing mild-to-moderate side effects, said the company on Tuesday.
The company has enrolled more than 29,000 people in its 44,000-volunteer trial to test the experimental COVID-19 vaccine, BNT162b2, that Pfizer is developing with German partner BioNTech.
In a presentation to investors, Pfizer said side effects included fatigue, headache, chills and muscle pain. Some participants in the trial also developed fevers, including a few high fevers.
Over 12,000 study participants had received a second dose of the vaccine, Pfizer executives said on an investor conference call.
Depending on current infection rates, a conclusive readout on efficacy of the vaccine candidate is expected by the end of next month, according to the company.
The latest comments by Pfizer came after multinational pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine trials were put on hold globally on Sept. 6 following a report of serious side effect in a volunteer in Britain.
AstraZeneca's trials resumed in Britain and Brazil on Monday following the green light from British regulators, but remain on hold in the United States, according to a report of Fox Business.
Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Robert Redfield said it will be the late second quarter or third quarter of 2021 before a COVID-19 vaccine is generally available to the American public.
The CDC Director came up with the information on Wednesday, reports Xinhua.
During a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing, Redfield said he thought that there would be a vaccine initially available sometime between November and December, but "very limited supply and will have to be prioritized."
"If you're asking me when is it going to be generally available to the American public, so we can begin to take advantage of vaccines to get back to our regular life, I think we're probably looking at late second quarter, third quarter 2021," he said.
Even if a vaccine for COVID-19 was released, it would take "six to nine months" for enough people to get it to create immunity, according to Redfield.
"In order to have enough of us immunized so we have immunity, I think it's going to take us six to nine months," he said.
In this time, it is important for people to embrace mitigation steps such as physically distancing, mask use and avoiding crowds, Redfield said, adding wearing a face mask might provide better protection against COVID-19 than a vaccine.
"I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine, because the immunogenicity may be 70 percent," he said.
"If I don't get an immune response, the vaccine is not going to protect me. This face mask will," Redfield said, adding that the American public has not yet embraced the use of face masks to a level that could effectively control the outbreak.
"I do want to keep asking the American public to take the responsibility, particularly the 18 to 25 year olds where we're seeing the outbreak in America continue to go like this," Redfield said.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of Defense released two documents Wednesday outlining detailed strategy of the U.S. government to deliver COVID-19 vaccine doses to the American people.
The documents provide a strategic distribution overview along with an interim playbook for state, tribal, territorial, and local public health programs and their partners on how to plan and operationalize a vaccination response to COVID-19, said the HHS.
Months into the pandemic, the United States has recorded more than 6.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 196,400 deaths by Wednesday afternoon, according to a tally of Johns Hopkins University.
United Nations’ Secretary-General António Guterres on Wednesday stressed making the coronavirus vaccine, once it is manufactured commercially, affordable and available to mass people, irrespective of borders.
He came up with the call at a press conference ahead of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) High Level Week.
Guterres noted that the coronavirus outbreak is still out of control and the death toll from the virus would soon reach a one million-mark.
Recognising that many pin their hopes on a vaccine, he said, “Let’s be clear, there’s no panacea in a pandemic”.
“A vaccine alone cannot solve this crisis, certainly not in the near term,” stressed the UN chief. “We need to massively expand new and existing tools that can respond to new cases and provide vital treatment to suppress transmission and save lives, especially over the next 12 months.”
‘Global public good’
He emphasized that because the virus “respects no borders”, a vaccine must be seen as “a global public good”, affordable and available to all, but it requires “a quantum leap in funding”.
Besides, people must be willing to be vaccinated, but a proliferation of misinformation on vaccines is fueling vaccine-hesitancy, and igniting wild conspiracy theories, noted the UN chief.
He spoke of “alarming reports” that large populations in various countries are reluctant, or outright refusing, to take a new coronavirus vaccine.
“In the face of this lethal disease, we must do our utmost to halt deadly misinformation”, affirmed the Secretary-General.
Renewed ceasefire call
Guterres called for a global ceasefire back in March, recognising the coronavirus as “the number one global security threat in our world today”.
And next Tuesday he flagged that would renew the appeal at the beginning of the General Debate, for the international community “to mobilise all efforts for the global ceasefire to become a reality by the end of the year”.
The UN chief recapped that “hopeful new steps toward peace” have been taken, from Afghanistan to Sudan, and a slowdown in fighting in Syria, Libya, Ukraine and elsewhere, had created an opportunity for diplomacy.
In Yemen, “We’re pressing for a ceasefire” he said, and even though “distrust is deep” across these and other crises, “We must persevere.”
“We must seize every opening in the weeks ahead and make a new collective push for peace”, upheld the Secretary-General.
The UN Secretary-General speaks to the press, marring the opening of the 75th session of the General Assembly.
A world in flames
The UN chief then turned to other global fragilities.
“Even before the pandemic, the world was far off course in efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and losing the battle against climate change,” he said.
Guterres recalled that the northern hemisphere was just coming out of the hottest summer on record and that greenhouse gas concentrations in 2020 had reached “new record highs”.
“The world is burning,” he told the journalists.
However, Guterres maintained that the post-pandemic phase offered an opportunity to “get on track and tame the flames”, but that “it must be green” – aligned with the SDGs and the Paris Climate Agreement.
Effective multilateralism, gender equality and the voices of youth must also be part of recovery efforts.
He said on Monday, Member States would adopt a declaration marking the UN’s 75th anniversary – committing to “a reinvigorated multilateralism”.
Global solidarity is required to transform the global economy, transition to zero carbon, ensure universal health coverage, move towards a universal basic income, and shift to more open and inclusive decision-making, the UN chief maintained.
And it rejects “go-it-alone nationalist approaches and divisive populist appeals”, he asserted.
In this anniversary year, “We face our own 1945 moment”, the Secretary-General said, adding that it must be met with “solidarity and unity like never before” to overcome today’s emergency, get the world moving, working and prospering again while upholding the vision of the Charter.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called for massive investment in cheaper and profitable renewable energy, saying that it is not only the “right thing to do” but also the “best economic thing to do”.
“We need to stop the construction of coal power plants. We need to invest in new forms of mobility, namely through electric cars; we need to invest in hydrogen. That is the fuel of the future,” he told UN News in an exclusive interview ahead of the new General Assembly session.
Guterres said the UN’s objective has been defined by the scientific community.
He said the world “absolutely must limit” the growth in temperature to 1.5 degrees by the end of the century.
But to achieve that goal, the world needs to have carbon neutrality by 2050.
“For that, we need to have a reduction of about 45 percent of emissions in the next decade,” Guterres said, noting that the objectives are clear.
He said the world needs a total commitment, especially of the big emitters, to all the transformational actions in energy, in agriculture in industry, in transportation, in all areas of our life.
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“We need transformation actions that make it possible to reach those objectives,” he said adding that we also need to protect biodiversity, forests, and transform agriculture.
The UN chief said we all need to work together with a common strategy and a clear objective and we need to be carbon neutral in 2050.
“Covid-19 is a threat, is a problem, but it is also an opportunity, because as we are to change, we can change in the right direction,” he said.
“As we’re mobilising massive resources to rebuild, we can rebuild in the right direction and our blueprint must be Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals.”