Coronavirus: What’s happening in Canada and around the world on Sept. 15

The latest:

The African Union on Tuesday accused manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines of denying African countries a fair chance to buy them, and urged manufacturing countries — in particular India — to lift export restrictions on vaccines and their components.

“Those manufacturers know very well that they never gave us proper access,” Strive Masiyiwa, AU special envoy for COVID-19, told a World Health Organization briefing from Geneva.

“We could have handled this very differently.”

Out of 5.7 billion doses of coronavirus vaccines administered around the world so far, only two per cent have been given to people in Africa.

Masiyiwa stressed that, in aiming to vaccinate 60 per cent of its population, the African Union and its partners had expected to buy half the doses needed, while half were expected to come as donations through the COVAX program, backed by the WHO and the GAVI global vaccine alliance.

“We want access to purchase,” he said.

South African rail company Transnet turned a train into a COVID-19 vaccination centre on rails to speed up vaccine rollout in the country’s remote communities, seen here in East Rand on Aug. 30. (Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters)

GAVI CEO Seth Berkley said his organization had been counting on receiving supplies from India — the world’s largest vaccine manufacturing centre — at the start of the outbreak, but has received no doses from India since March, when India imposed export restrictions in an effort to meet its own domestic needs amid a difficult second wave that saw the country’s death toll soar.

Masiyiwa urged the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to begin working on a standby pandemic readiness fund to help poorer nations buy vaccines in the future, instead of having to rely on a sharing facility like COVAX, which has so far managed to provide only 260 million doses. COVAX is set to fall nearly 30 per cent short of its previous goal of two billion shots this year.

“Vaccine sharing is good, but we shouldn’t have to be relying on vaccine sharing, particularly when we can come to the table with structures in place and say we also want to buy,” he said.

Along with WHO leader Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Masiyiwa reiterated a demand for patent waivers on vaccines of global importance, saying that Africa wanted to set up its own manufacturing capacity.

Efforts to develop an African base for COVID-19 vaccine production will focus on trying to replicate Moderna’s shot, but a lack of progress in talks with the U.S. company means the project will take time, Martin Friede, co-ordinator of the WHO’s Initiative for Vaccine Research, told Reuters.

-From Reuters, updated at 4:30 p.m. ET

What’s happening across Canada

(CBC News)

WATCH | School closures, masking among responses to COVID-19 outbreaks in schools: 

School closures, masking among responses to COVID-19 outbreaks in schools

Schools across the country are dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks and to try to slow them down, Quebec is instituting rapid testing, New Brunswick is reinstating masks, while P.E.I. and Yellowknife are closing some schools. 2:04

What’s happening around the world

Employees work at a production factory for Russia’s Sputnik COVID-19 vaccine at Hankook Korus Pharm, in Chuncheon, South Korea, earlier this month. (Heo Ran/Reuters)

As of Tuesday evening, more than 225.7 million cases of COVID-19 had been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker. The reported global death toll stood at more than 4.6 million.

In Europe, physical distancing will end in the Netherlands on Sept. 25, the same day that the government will begin mandating COVID-19 health passes to get into venues such as bars, restaurants and theatres, caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Tuesday. About 62 per cent of the Dutch population of 17.5 million people has been fully vaccinated, including 77 per cent of adults, according to European Centre for Disease Control figures from Sept. 5.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is self-isolating after members of his entourage fell ill with COVID-19 and will therefore not travel to Tajikistan this week for planned regional security meetings, the Kremlin said on Tuesday. The 68-year-old has taken an array of health precautions throughout the pandemic and has had two doses of the Sputnik V 
COVID-19 vaccine. 

Britain is highly likely to require front-line health- and social-care workers in England to be vaccinated against COVID-19, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said on Tuesday.

WATCH | Javid on U.K.’s vaccination plan, including government’s views on booster doses: 

Britain lays out winter plan for defence against COVID-19

19 hours ago

Booster shots of COVID-19 vaccines for vulnerable Britons and the jab for children 12-15 are part of the British government’s plan to protect people through the winter months, says Health Secretary Sajid Javid. (Matt Dunham/Associated Press Photo) 1:40

In the Asia-Pacific region, new local COVID-19 infections more than doubled in China’s southeastern province of Fujian, health authorities said, prompting officials to quickly roll out measures including travel restrictions to halt the spread of the virus.

Australia’s capital city of Canberra will remain locked down for a second month after the local government reported 22 new coronavirus infections. Sydney’s cases rose at the slowest pace in nearly two weeks on Tuesday, but officials said they needed to see a steady drop in daily cases before deciding whether the infection curve had flattened after 12 weeks in lockdown.

In the Americas, COVID-19 deaths and cases in the U.S. have climbed back to where they were over the winter, wiping out months of progress and potentially bolstering President Joe Biden’s argument for sweeping new vaccination requirements. The cases — driven by the delta variant, combined with resistance among some Americans to getting vaccinated — are concentrated mostly in the South.

Less than 3.5 per cent of people in Africa are vaccinated against COVID-19, far short of its official target of 60 per cent, John Nkengasong, director of Africa’s Centers for Disease Control, said on Tuesday.

World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at the same briefing that the continent was being “left behind by the rest of the world” and that this would allow the coronavirus to keep circulating.

In the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday reported 617 new cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths.

-From The Associated Press, Reuters and CBC News, last updated at 2:55 p.m. ET

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