Coronavirus latest: Malaysia gives approval for AstraZeneca, Sinovac shots – Nikkei Asia

Nikkei Asia is tracking the spread of the new coronavirus that originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

Global cases have reached 114,414,597, according to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

The worldwide death toll has hit 2,537,449.

For more information about the spread of COVID-19 and the progress of vaccination around the world, please see our interactive charts and maps.

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Status of vaccinations around the world

World map of spreading mutated strains

Coronavirus mutations can be classified into 12 types

Distribution, duration, safety: challenges emerge in vaccine race


Wednesday, March 3 (Tokyo time)

1:18 a.m. India has plenty of COVID-19 vaccines for the country, the government says, even though it has gifted or sold shots to several countries.

“The Central Government has adequate stock and will provide the required vaccine doses to the States and Union Territories,” the federal government said in a statement.

Tuesday, March 2

11:42 p.m. Merck will help make rival Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot COVID-19 vaccine in a partnership to be announced Tuesday by U.S. President Joe Biden, a White House official says.

After scrapping development of its own vaccine candidates in January, Merck last month said it was working on a deal to open its manufacturing capacity to other vaccine makers. The agreement with J&J comes just days after the U.S. authorized its one-dose vaccine and as the company looks to increase production.

11:24 p.m. Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike is preparing to ask the Japanese government to extend the coronavirus state of emergency in the greater Tokyo area, likely by about two weeks.

The capital region has been under a second state of emergency since Jan. 7 in response to a third wave of infections in Japan. The emergency order is set to expire March 7.

8:58 p.m. Malaysia grants conditional approval for the use of vaccines made by U.K. firm AstraZeneca and China’s Sinovac, just days after launching its nationwide COVID-19 inoculation programme.

8:49 p.m. Japan’s health ministry says a woman in her 60s died from a brain haemorrhage three days after receiving a Pfizer coronavirus vaccination, adding there may not be a link between the two. The woman was vaccinated on Friday and is suspected to have suffered the haemorrhage on Monday. It was Japan’s first reported death following a vaccination.

8:02 p.m. U.S. biotechnology firm Moderna is planning to file for the Japanese health ministry’s approval of its novel coronavirus vaccine as early as Friday, several people familiar with the matter told Kyodo News. The request would be the third such application for regulatory approval in Japan and will be filed with Takeda, Moderna’s partner for its vaccine’s clinical study and distribution in Japan.

7:00 p.m. Iraq receives its first 50,000 doses of the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine donated by China as the country is struggling to cope with a new surge of the disease.

6:23 p.m. Thai Airways International says it will downsize its operations significantly by cutting 50% of its workforce and its aircraft in operation from 102 to 86 as part of a rehabilitation plan that it submitted to the bankruptcy court earlier in the day.

5:30 p.m. Thailand Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has commissioned a study about issuing COVID-19 vaccination certificates for international travelers, as the country seeks to revive a tourism industry battered by the pandemic. The country has been weighing the idea of “vaccine passports,” but no target date has been set while tourism operators have complained about lost revenue.

3:10 p.m. Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike cites an expert analysis in saying the pace at which new COVID-19 infections are falling may not be fast enough to lift the state of emergency for the greater metropolitan area as scheduled on Sunday. Tokyo reported 232 new cases on Tuesday, up from 121 a day earlier. Its seven-day average has edged down to 263 cases from 318 a week ago.

Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike says the emergency decree asking restaurants and bars to close by 8 p.m. might have to stay as new infections fail to fall at a fast enough rate.

  © Kyodo

2:30 p.m. Indonesia has detected two cases of the highly infectious U.K. variant, according to the country’s COVID-19 task force.

2:13 p.m. India reports 12,286 cases in the last 24 hours, down from 15,510 the previous day, bringing the country total to 11.12 million. Fatalities jumped by 91 to 157,248.

2:00 p.m. COVID-19 variants are increasing in Kobe, officials in the Japanese port city say. The city conducted a random check for variants among people who tested positive for COVID-19 after Jan. 1. Between Feb. 12 and Feb. 18, about 15% of 79 samples indicated a variant. However, the percentage of new variants to total patients has increased to about 50% since Feb. 19.

1:20 p.m. The U.S. must stick to a two-dose strategy for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, U.S. disease official Anthony Fauci told the Washington Post. Fauci said that delaying a second dose to inoculate more Americans creates risks. He warned that shifting to a single-dose strategy could leave people less protected, enable variants to spread, and possibly boost skepticism among Americans already hesitant to get the shots.

Philippine Health Secretary Francisco Duque injects a health worker with Sinovac Biotech’s Coronavac at the Lung Center of the Philippines, Quezon City, Metro Manila, on March 1.

  © Reuters

11:50 a.m. The Philippines has documented six cases of the South African coronavirus variant, its health ministry says, raising concern among experts regarding current vaccines’ efficacy. Of the six South African variant cases, three were local transmissions and two were among Filipinos returning from overseas. The origin of the other case is still being verified. The Philippines kicked off its COVID-19 vaccination campaign on Monday.

10:00 a.m. South Korea confirms 344 new cases, down from 355 a day ago. Total infections reach 90,372 with 1,606 deaths. The government plans to submit an extra budget of 20 trillion won to the National Assembly on Thursday to pay for a fourth round of “disaster subsidies” for small business owners.

9:20 a.m. China reports 11 new cases for Monday, down from 19 a day earlier. All of the new cases reportedly originated overseas. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to six, from 13 a day earlier.

9:10 a.m. The drug hydroxychloroquine, once touted by former U.S. President Donald Trump as a pandemic “game-changer,” should not be used to prevent COVID-19 and has no meaningful effect on patients already infected, a World Health Organization expert panel wrote in the BMJ British medical journal. Exploring further research studies of the antiinflammatory’s COVID-19 possibilities is “not worthwhile,” the panel says.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, received vaccines at some point before their Jan. 20 departure from the White House.

  © Reuters

7:00 a.m. Former U.S. President Donald Trump and his wife, Melania, quietly received coronavirus vaccinations in January before leaving the White House, a Trump adviser tells multiple news outlets. The revelation comes the day after Trump appeared at the CPAC political conference in Orlando, Florida, where for the first time he encouraged people to go get vaccinated. A number of his supporters have expressed resistance to the vaccine, while President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have tried setting an example by receiving their first doses in public.

6:10 a.m. Novavax’s COVID-19 vaccine could be cleared for use in the U.S. as soon as May if regulators authorize it based on data from the company’s British trial, which could be completed “in the coming weeks,” Chief Executive Stanley Erck says. Talks with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are ongoing, and the agency may require Novavax to submit data from its U.S. trial, which could take an additional two months to complete, pushing back U.S. clearance to mid-summer, Erck said.

2:10 a.m. The U.S. has begun distributing a single-shot coronavirus vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, with states slated to start administering it to residents starting Tuesday. About 3.9 million doses of the J&J vaccine will be distributed to states, tribes, territories, pharmacies and community health centers, according to a Biden administration official. The country’s third vaccine against COVID-19 does not need to be kept frozen or to be followed by a second shot.

2:00 a.m. Apple says all 270 of its U.S. retail stores are open for the first time in almost a year after the pandemic first led it to shut locations. The company has been cautious about reopening stores, using a team that includes medical experts to make its own calls on a county-by-county basis and sometimes shuttering stores again when local rules would otherwise allow them to operate.

1:45 a.m. The number of reported COVID-19 cases rose for the first time in seven weeks in the past week, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reports. Tedros calls the rise “disappointing but not surprising” and urges countries not to let up on other measures to fight the spread of the disease.

12:50 a.m. Poland is considering buying Chinese COVID vaccines amid delays in deliveries from such producers as AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech. Polish President Andrzej Duda and Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping discussed the issue, according to state-run news agency PAP. The European Union has yet to grant regulatory approval to China’s Sinopharm vaccine.

Monday, March 1

10:22 p.m. More than 1,000 COVID vaccine doses went to waste in Japan due to a freezer malfunction, according to the health ministry. An ultra-cold freezer storing the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine failed late Friday night at a medical facility administering shots, says a report sent to the ministry, compromising 1,032 doses.

7:49 p.m. Tokyo has requested that Beijing stops performing anal swab tests for COVID-19 on Japanese citizens as the procedure causes psychological pain, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato says. He adds that the government has yet to receive a response from Beijing that suggests it will change its testing procedures, so Japan will continue to make the request to China.

7:43 p.m. A Chinese state-backed hacking group called APT10, also known as Stone Panda, has in recent weeks targeted the IT systems of two Indian vaccine makers — Bharat Biotech and the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine maker — whose coronavirus shots are being used in the country’s immunization campaign, Reuters reports, citing Goldman Sachs-backed cyber intelligence firm Cyfirma.

Rivals China and India have both sold or gifted COVID-19 shots to many countries. India produces more than 60% of all vaccines sold in the world.

A hospital worker receives the first dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine at a hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan.

  © Reuters

6:30 p.m. China has pledged to deliver 400,000 doses of Sinopharm’s COVID-19 vaccine to Afghanistan in a boost for an immunization campaign that began last week, Reuters reports citing Afghan officials.

The vaccination of members of the security forces has also begun, after receiving India’s COVISHIELD and AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

Afghan government forces are facing intensified attacks, blamed on Taliban insurgents, since September, when the two sides entered U.S.-brokered peace talks hosted by Qatar. The Taliban has largely denied responsibility for the rash of violence. The militant group has also said it supports the vaccination campaign.

6:18 p.m. To help support its pandemic-hit economy, Indonesia until August has removed a 10% value added tax for sales of houses priced below 2 billion rupiah ($140,351) and will charge only half of such a tax for sales of homes priced between 2 billion and 5 billion rupiah, Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati says in a virtual news conference.

6:00 p.m. The European Commission will present a proposal in March on creating an EU-wide digital vaccination passport, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says. “As for the question of what the digital green passport could look like: We will submit a legislative proposal in March,” she says in a video conference with German conservative lawmakers.

Staff at a bar and grill in Tokyo prepare to close around 8 p.m., as requested under the state of emergency. The government will decide whether to lift the emergency this week.

  © Reuters

3:06 p.m. Tokyo confirms 121 new cases, down from 329 a day earlier, the lowest daily count in four months. Japan lifted the state of emergency on Monday, except for Tokyo and three surrounding prefectures — Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba. The government will decide this week whether to end the emergency for the area, which is slated to continue until March 7.

1:20 p.m. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, 70, takes the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as India began inoculating people over the age of 60, along with those over 45 with existing health conditions. The country has begun the second round of a massive vaccination drive, which kicked off in January with shots for health care and frontline workers. Modi received his jab of homegrown Covaxin, one of two vaccines that received emergency use approval in January. The other approved vaccine is Covishield, developed by Oxford-AstraZeneca and locally manufactured by Serum Institute of India.

12:00 p.m. South Korean President Moon Jae-in says his country will work with Japan for the success of the Tokyo Olympics, a move that could help the countries recover from pandemic-related problems. Moon also says the games could provide a chance to reopen talks between North Korea and the U.S., as well as spur dialogue between North Korea and Japan, and the two Koreas.

A box of Sinovac Biotech’s vaccine is unloaded at Villamor Air Base in the Philippines on Feb. 28.

  © Reuters

11:30 a.m. Thailand’s COVID-19 vaccination program officially begins, one day after Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul and a group of health care workers received injections of a Chinese vaccine. The country has approved two vaccines so far, those from European pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and China’s Sinovac Biotech. The latter is only approved for people aged 18-59, which would exclude Prayuth, who turns 67 on March 21.

11:-00 a.m. South Korea confirms 355 cases, barely changed from 356 a day ago, bringing the country total to 90,029 with 1,605 deaths.

10:49 a.m. The Philippines begins its immunization drive using Sinovac vaccines donated by the Chinese government. Dr. Gerardo Legaspi, director of state-run Philippine General Hospital, received the first jab to shore up public confidence in vaccines.

10:00 a.m. The mayor of Auckland says residents should be prioritized for vaccines after New Zealand’s biggest city was thrown into its fourth lockdown over the weekend costing millions of dollars a day. The seven-day lockdown affecting nearly 2 million people was prompted by a person who had been infectious for a week but not in isolation.

Americans could have their first look at Johnson & Johnson’s newly approved one-shot vaccine on Tuesday.

  © Reuters

9:30 a.m. China reports 19 cases for Sunday, up from six a day earlier, with all new cases originating overseas. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, rose to 13 from six a day earlier.

8:30 a.m. Initial deliveries of Johnson & Johnson’s newly approved vaccine should start on Tuesday, helping to boost vaccination rates across the country, according to administration officials, who urged everyone in the U.S. to get vaccinated as soon as it is their turn.

4:01 a.m. The U.S. has administered over 75 million shots as of Sunday morning and distributed more than 96 million doses nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The numbers cover both the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines, each of which requires two shots. Nearly 50 million Americans have received at least one shot, while about 25 million have received both.

12:10 a.m. Japan lifts the state of emergency in six prefectures outside the Tokyo region amid improving infection rates. The edict was lifted in Aichi, Gifu, Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo and Fukuoka a week earlier than the planned end date of March 7, as all had met exit conditions. The four remaining prefectures — Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama — will await further signs of improvement.

Students in Kyoto, Japan: The state of emergency was lifted in Aichi, Gifu, Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo and Fukuoka a week earlier than the planned date of March 7.

  © Reuters

Sunday, Feb. 28

7:57 p.m. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has received a coronavirus inoculation developed by China’s Sinopharm, the leader says on his official Facebook page Sunday. “Vaccinated,” he wrote, with photos of him receiving the shot and a doctor showing the vaccine’s packaging.

5:27 p.m. The Philippines receives its first batch of COVID-19 vaccine in a shipment donated by China, a day before the Southeast Asian country is due to roll out its inoculation campaign. President Rodrigo Duterte attends a ceremony for the arrival of the initial 600,000 doses of Sinovac Biotech’s CoronaVac, delivered by a Chinese military aircraft. The Philippines is due to receive another 25 million doses of CoronaVac in batches this year.

1:48 p.m. Australia receives 300,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Sunday, more than doubling the amount of all vaccines shipped to the country so far, allowing the government to intensify its immunization drive. Mass vaccinations for Australia’s 25 million people began Monday after the arrival of the first batch of more than 142,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

9:30 a.m. The U.S. authorization of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine enables millions more Americans to be inoculated in the coming weeks and sets up the company for additional approvals around the world.

7:42 a.m. Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city, begins a second lockdown. The seven-day lockdown, announced late Saturday by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, follows a three-day stay-at-home order in mid-February after a local emergence of the U.K. variant of the coronavirus. The new lockdown allows people to leave home only for essential shopping and essential work. Public venues will remain closed.

Saturday, Feb. 27

2:35 p.m. Tokyo reports 337 new infections, according to the city government. Japan said on Friday it would lift at the end of this month a state of emergency in six prefectures, a week earlier than scheduled, although the curbs would stay until early March in Tokyo and three other prefectures.

2:04 p.m. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte extends partial coronavirus curbs in the capital until the end of March, as the country awaits the arrival of vaccines. The move comes after the country recorded 2,651 new virus infections on Friday, the highest daily increase in more than four months.

With Southeast Asia’s second-highest tally of infections and deaths, the Philippines has suffered lengthy, strict lockdowns in Manila and provinces, hitting an economy that was among Asia’s fastest growing before the pandemic.

Curbs will stay for another month in Manila, which accounts for 40% of national economic output, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque says in a statement. Also under partial curbs are Duterte’s southern home city of Davao, and the northern city of Baguio. The curbs limit operations of businesses and public transport.

6:03 a.m. South Korean begins a review of Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine after the U.S. pharmaceutical firm submitted an application for approval.

The review comes after South Korea vaccinated more than 18,000 people with AstraZeneca’s vaccine by midnight on Friday, part of its ambitious COVID-19 inoculation campaign. The country begins using Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines today.

The first to receive the shots are health care workers, staffers at assisted care facilities and other high-risk people, with a goal of vaccinating 32 million to 36 million people — some 60% to 70% of the population — by September.

The government hopes to reach herd immunity, defined as at least a 70% vaccine take-up, by November, as health authorities remain on alert for signs of sporadic infections.

To catch up on earlier developments, see the last edition of latest updates.



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