Coronavirus: Latest Global Developments

A GSK employee is seen at the factory of British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) in Wavre on 8 February, 2021 where the CureVac vaccine will be produced. (AFP Photo)

Here are the latest developments in the coronavirus crisis:

Darkening Economic Prospects  

The ongoing hit from the COVID-19 pandemic and the failure to distribute vaccines worldwide is worsening the economic divide and darkening prospects for developing nations, the IMF says. 

"The outlook for the low-income developing country group has darkened considerably due to worsening pandemic dynamics," IMF chief economist Gita Gopinath said.

Britain's Botched Response 

A parliamentary report says the government's delay in locking down when COVID-19 hit last year had cost lives and was "one of the most important public health failures" in the country's history. 

In a damning assessment, a cross-party group of MPs found that official pandemic planning was "too narrowly and inflexibly based" on curbing influenza, and had failed to learn the lessons from prior outbreaks of SARS, MERS and Ebola.

French 'Vulnerabilities' 

President Emmanuel Macron says the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed France's dependence on foreign countries, including its failure to produce a vaccine, when announcing a 30-billion-euro (US$35 billion) plan to re-industrialise the country. 

Six months before a presidential election and one month ahead of a United Nations (UN) climate summit, Macron said France had taken key decisions "15-20 years later than some of our European neighbours" and now needed "to become a nation of innovation and research again".

African mRNA Jab

South African biotech consortium Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines is working on a messenger RNA jab based on the Moderna formula in a ground-breaking drive to end Africa's life-threatening lack of COVID vaccines. 

Cape Town-based Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines is leading a pilot project, backed by the UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) and the COVAX initiative, which seeks to tweak Moderna's revolutionary drug.

CureVac Ditches Jab 

Germany's CureVac says it is no longer seeking European regulatory approval for its coronavirus vaccine, after disappointing final trial results, and will focus instead on a more promising second-generation jab. 

The decision comes after final trial results in July confirmed that CureVac's first vaccine had an efficacy rate of just 48 percent, well below that of faster rivals Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, whose vaccines are based on the same mRNA technology.

London's Fireworks Off 

London's New Year's Eve fireworks show along the River Thames has been cancelled for the second year in a row due to concerns over COVID, city authorities say. 

"Due to the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, our world-famous New Year's Eve display will not be held on the banks of the Thames this year," Mayor of London Sadiq Khan's office said in a statement.

Anti-Vax Basketball Star Barred 

The Brooklyn Nets bars star guard Kyrie Irving from practice as well as playing in games because he is refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19. 

Because of the ongoing pandemic, New York has implemented new health and safety regulations which do not allow unvaccinated athletes to take part in practices and games.

Over 4.8 Million Dead  

The coronavirus has killed at least 4,855,208 people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019, according to an AFP compilation of official data on Tuesday. 

The United States (US) has suffered the most COVID-related deaths at 714,060, followed by Brazil with 601,213, India 450,963, Mexico 282,227 and Russia 218,345.

Taking into account excess mortality directly and indirectly linked to COVID-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates the overall death toll could be two to three times higher. – AFP