LONDON — Health officials in Britain have identified six cases of a highly contagious coronavirus strain first identified in the Brazilian city of Manaus — including one in a person who has not been traced.
Scientists say the variant is more transmissible and may be more resistant to existing vaccines than the original virus, and may be able to infect people who have previously had COVID-19.
Direct flights from Brazil to the U.K. have been halted, but the newly identified cases have been linked to people who came to the U.K. from Brazil through other European cities in early February.
The arrivals came days before the U.K. imposed a 10-day hotel quarantine on people arriving from high-risk countries, including Brazil.
Three of the cases of the variant are in Scotland and two in southwest England. The sixth individual has not been identified because they did not correctly fill in a form with their contact details. Public Health England said it was working to find the person and is conducting local mass testing to see whether the variant has spread in the community.
THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Calls grow for pharmaceutical companies to share vaccine know-how and technology more broadly to meet global shortfall
— Health experts are urging Pope Francis to reconsider his March trip to Iraq, which is experiencing a surge of coronavirus cases
— India is expanding its vaccination drive to older people and those with medical conditions that put them at risk
— In the U.S., fraud overwhelms some pandemic unemployment aid programs
— Optimism abounds as Major League Baseball begins a rite of spring that includes fans
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
BERLIN — Hairdressers across Germany are reopening for business after a 2 ½ month closure, another cautious step as the country balances a desire to loosen restrictions with concern about the impact of more contagious coronavirus variants.
Monday’s move came after many elementary students returned to school a week ago. It follows a decision Feb. 10 by Chancellor Angela Merkel and Germany’s 16 state governors. They will meet on Wednesday to decide how to proceed with the rest of Germany’s coronavirus restrictions, which at present run until March 7.
Some states also are allowing businesses such as flower shops and hardware stores to open. Most shops have been closed nationwide since Dec. 16. Restaurants, bars, sports and leisure facilities have been closed since Nov. 2 and hotels allowed only to accommodate business travelers.
Germany is expected to remain cautious because a decline in infection figures has stalled, and even been reversed in some areas, as a more contagious variant first discovered in Britain spreads.
On Monday, Germany’s disease control center reported 4,732 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, compared with 4,369 a week earlier. Another 60 deaths were reported, bringing the total to 70,105.
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines launched a vaccination campaign Monday to contain one of Southeast Asia’s worst coronavirus outbreaks but faces supply problems and public resistance, which it hopes to ease by inoculating top officials.
Cabinet officials, along with health workers and military and police personnel, were among the first to be vaccinated in six hospitals after 600,000 doses donated by China were received Sunday.
The Philippines has reported more than 576,000 infections, including 12,318 deaths, the second-highest totals in Southeast Asia after Indonesia.
Aside from China’s donated vaccine from Sinovac Biotech Ltd., the government has separately ordered 25 million doses from the China-based company but no date has been set for the deliveries. Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the delivery of an initial 525,600 doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine that was initially scheduled for Monday would be delayed by a week due to supply problems.
The government has been negotiating to secure at least 148 million doses from Western and Asian companies to vaccinate about 70 million Filipinos for free in a massive campaign funded by foreign and domestic loans.
WASHINGTON — Nearly 4 million doses of the newest COVID-19 vaccine are being delivered to U.S. states for injections starting on Tuesday.
The White House said the entire stockpile of the newly approved single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine will go out immediately. J&J will deliver about 16 million more doses by the end of March and 100 million total by the end of June, but the distribution would be backloaded.
Though the new shot is easier to administer and requires only one dose, the administration is not altering its distribution plans.
The White House is encouraging Americans to take the first dose available to them, regardless of manufacturer.
Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted overwhelmingly Sunday to recommend the vaccine for adults 18 years old and up. It adds to the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna that were authorized in December.
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah is canceling about 7,200 coronavirus vaccine appointments after an error in the state health department’s registration website allowed people without qualifying conditions to register for the shots.
Department spokesman Tom Hudachko said that the error allowed residents who are not 65 or older or who don’t have an underlying medical condition to sign up.
Utah has administered more than 680,000 vaccine doses and estimates that 10% of its 3.2 million population has been fully vaccinated.
ATHENS, Greece — Greek health authorities have announced that 70 specialized intensive care units will be added to Athens hospitals as high hospitalization rates have nearly filled the available ones.
The Athens area along with several others across the country are under lockdown until March 8, with most shops closed, schools operating on distance learning and a 9 p.m. curfew, but many experts talk of extending this for at least another week.
On Sunday, authorities announced 1,269 new COVID-19 cases, along with 36 deaths. This brings the number of confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic to 191,100, with 6,504 deaths. There are 391 patients on ventilators in ICUs, close to a record high.
RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil’s capital has entered a two-week lockdown, joining several states in adopting measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 as intensive care beds begin to fill in some important cities.
At least eight Brazilian states adopted curfews over the past week due to the rise in cases and deaths from COVID-19. Thursday was Brazil’s deadliest day since the beginning of the pandemic, with 1,541 deaths confirmed from the virus. So far 254,000 people have died overall.
Brasilia Gov. Ibaneis Rocha decreed the total closure of bars, restaurants, shopping malls and schools until March 15 and prohibited gatherings of people. Sale of alcoholic beverages was prohibited after 8 p.m.
In the federal district, 85% of hospital beds were occupied on Sunday, according to the local health ministry.
President Jair Bolsonaro again criticized such measures, saying on his Twitter account: “The people want to work.” He threatened on Friday to cut off federal emergency pandemic assistance to states resorting to lockdowns.
ROME — While new COVID-19 cases surge in Italy’s north, the island of Sardinia has earned coveted ’’white zone” status, allowing for evening dining and drinking at restaurants and cafes and the reopening after months of closure of gyms, cinemas and theaters.
Earlier this year, the Italian government added ’’white zone” status to its color-coded system of restrictions on businesses and schools, with “red zone” designation carrying the strictest measures.
Starting on Monday, the region of Sardinia, with an incidence of fewer than 50 cases per 100,000 residents, will be able to allow the most liberties since a second wave of coronavirus infections last fall prompted the government to tighten restrictions nationwide after easing them during summer.
The Health Ministry report covering the third week of February shows nationwide incidence was 145 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, and several regions had far higher incidence.
The Mediterranean island of Sardinia is a popular vacation destination. Last summer, crowds at seaside discos and clubs there were a factor in an explosion of cases in Italy in the last months of 2020.
TEHRAN, Iran — Iran has surpassed 60,000 known coronavirus-related deaths, the latest grim milestone for the hardest-hit country in the Middle East.
The Health Ministry reported 93 new deaths from COVID-19 on Sunday and more than 8,000 new infections, pushing the total infection count over 1.63 million.
After more than a year of the pandemic, deaths from COVID-19 recently have declined in Iran as movement restrictions in the capital have set in, including inter-city travel bans, mask mandates and school closures.
The government on Sunday banned incoming travelers from a list of 32 countries, including Britain and other states in Africa and Latin America, due to fears of new virus variants.
Over the year, Iran has struggled with surges that at times overwhelmed its health system as authorities resisted a total lockdown to salvage an economy crippled by U.S. sanctions.
Iran’s vaccine drive recently has gotten underway, with Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine administered to health workers this month. An additional 250,000 doses by the Chinese state-backed pharmaceutical Sinopharm arrived in Iran over the weekend.
BERLIN — The German disease control agency is adding France’s Moselle region to its list of areas with a high rate of variant coronavirus cases, meaning travelers from there will face additional hurdles when crossing the border into neighboring Germany.
The Robert Koch Institute said Sunday that the restrictions would come into force at midnight on March 2, putting Moselle on a par with countries such as the Czech Republic, Portugal and the United Kingdom.
Travelers from those areas must produce a recent negative coronavirus test before crossing the German border. The measure is likely to affect many people who live on one side of the frontier and work on the other.
The Moselle region in northeastern France includes the city of Metz and borders with the German states of Saarland and Rhineland-Palatinate.
Clement Beaune, the French minister for European affairs, said France regrets the decision and is in negotiations with Germany to try to lighten the measures for 16,000 inhabitants of Moselle who work across the border.