The UK will help other countries to sequence new mutations of the Covid-19 virus in a bid to find dangerous new variants sooner.
So far, more than half of all genome sequencing of Covid has been carried out in Britain.
Scientists have warned that this means that new variants in other countries are far less likely to be detected, hindering efforts to tackle the global pandemic.
In a speech on Tuesday, the Health Secretary will say that the UK will offer its expertise to countries which lack the resources to carry out such work, in a bid to keep ahead of mutations.
The announcement, which will be made at Chatham House, will set out Matt Hancock’s vision for a stronger global health system, as part of the UK’s Presidency of the G7.
Countries will be offered UK capacity to analyse new strains of the virus through the launch of the New Variant Assessment Platform, run by the UK’s health bodies.
Follow the latest updates below.
Philippines confirms local transmission of ‘UK variant’
The Philippines has confirmed domestic transmission of the new, highly contagious British variant of the coronavirus, prompting President Rodrigo Duterte to abandon a plan to allow some minors to go outside their homes.
“Right now, we have local transmission where this individual or these cases with the variant have already infected their community, their family,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire told news channel ANC on Tuesday.
The Philippine health ministry said the B.1.1.7 variant had spread among 12 people in Bontoc, a mountainous northern province, with 17 such cases in the country.
Thailand reports highest daily tally of infections
Thailand reported a daily record 959 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, due to what authorities said was a ramping-up of testing at the epicentre of its most recent outbreak.
The new infections, the highest daily rise since the 745 cases reported on Jan 7, brought the overall number to 14,646, with deaths remaining at 75.
The tally included 22 imported cases and 914 that were reported late on Monday by authorities in Samut Sakhon province, where Thailand’s biggest outbreak was first detected at a big seafood market last month.
Thailand has recorded among the lowest number of coronavirus deaths and infections in Asia.
NZ borders may stay shut for most of 2021, says PM
New Zealand’s borders will remain closed for most of this year as the pandemic rages on, but the country will pursue travel arrangements with neighbouring Australia and other Pacific nations, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday.
Medical authorities, meanwhile, may approve a Covid-19 vaccine as early as next week, Ms Ardern said, as pressure mounts for a start to vaccinations after the country confirmed its first case of coronavirus in the community in months.
“Given the risks in the world around us and the uncertainty of the global rollout of the vaccine, we can expect our borders to be impacted for much of this year,” Ms Ardern said at a news conference.
For travel to restart, authorities either needed confidence that those vaccinated don’t pass Covid-19 on to others, which is not yet known, or enough of the population needed to be vaccinated so people can safely re-enter New Zealand. But both possibilities will take some time, she said.
Saudi Arabia to get 3m AstraZeneca shots from India
The Serum Institute of India (SII) will supply Saudi Arabia with 3 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses priced at $5.25 each in about a week on behalf of the British drugmaker, its chief executive told Reuters on Monday.
SII has no immediate plans, however, to divert supplies to Europe, even though AstraZeneca has come under pressure from the EU to deliver more shots after announcing a big cut in shipments due to production problems at a Belgian factory.
SII, the world’s biggest vaccine manufacturer, has partnered with AstraZeneca, the Gates Foundation and the Gavi vaccine alliance to make up to a billion doses for poorer countries.
The Indian company supplies doses on behalf of AstraZeneca but is also free to strike its own supply deals.
Indonesia set to surpass grim milestone of 1 million cases
Indonesia is set to officially surpass one million coronavirus cases on Tuesday, a grim milestone for the Southeast Asian nation that has struggled since last March to get the pandemic under control.
The world’s fourth-most-populous country had recorded 999,256 coronavirus infections as of Monday, with the average daily increase running above 11,000 for more than a week, according to official data. Deaths from the respiratory disease have totalled 28,132.
Those numbers are some of the highest in Asia but health experts believe the true spread is likely to be far worse.
The government started its vaccination programme and tightened movement restrictions earlier this month as hospitals came under mounting strain.
Mexico’s death toll surpasses 150,000
Mexico’s official death toll from the coronavirus passed 150,000 on Monday following a surge in infections in recent weeks that has stretched the health system in the capital to the limit and led to the president contracting the virus.
The Health Ministry on Monday reported 659 new deaths, bringing the total death toll to 150,273. There were 8,521 new cases on Monday for a total of 1,771,740 confirmed infections.
The government says the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.
China reports decline in cases
China reported a fall in new Covid-19 infections as the number of cases in two of the provinces particularly hard hit by the latest coronavirus wave fell to single digits, official data showed on Tuesday.
A total of 82 confirmed cases were reported in the mainland on Jan. 25, the National Health Commission said in a statement, down from 124 cases a day earlier.
The Heilongjiang province reported 53 of the new cases. But Jilin and Hebei – two other northeastern Chinese provinces which have seen cases surge in recent weeks – reported seven and five new cases, respectively.
Authorities in China have rolled out an aggressive package of countermeasures including home quarantines, travel curbs and mass testing this month in a bid to contain what has been the worst wave in the country since March 2020.
Crowds gather to protest Australia Day despite health concerns
Thousands of people defied public health concerns and protested against the mistreatment of Australia’s Indigenous people as the country marked its national day on Tuesday on the anniversary of the arrival of the British First Fleet in 1788.
For many Indigenous Australians, who trace their lineage on the continent back 50,000 years, the Australia Day holiday is known as Invasion Day symbolising the destruction of their cultures by European settlers.
In Sydney, Indigenous groups called for protests to demand the national day be changed, although state health officials refused to make an exemption to social distancing rules to allow for crowds of more than 500 people.
Television footage showed protesters gathering early on Tuesday in small groups to comply with the limits. Police warned protesters they could face fines and imprisonment for breaching public health orders designed to limit the spread of coronavirus.
Brazilian variant found in Minnesota
A new Brazilian variant of the coronavirus has made its first known appearance in the United States in a person who recently returned to Minnesota after travelling to Brazil, state health officials announced on Monday.
The Brazil P.1 variant was found in a specimen from a patient who lives in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area who became ill in the first week of January, the Minnesota Department of Health said in a statement. Epidemiologists are interviewing the person to obtain more details about their illness, travel and contacts.
There was no immediate indication that the variant was spreading in Minnesota.
Bolsonaro thanks China for fast-tracking vaccine supplies
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, a longtime China skeptic, thanked Beijing on Monday for rapidly approving the export of active ingredients for local Covid-19 vaccine production, as his government scrambles to secure scarce shots.
“They are already being sent to Brazil and will arrive in the next few days,’ he said in a Twitter post.
The supplies are enough to produce about 8.5 million doses of the Sinovac Biotech’s vaccine at Sao Paulo’s Butantan biomedical center, the lab said.
China had also fast-tracked approval for supplies of active ingredients to make AstraZeneca’s vaccine in Brazil, Mr Bolsonaro tweeted.
Mr Bolsonaro, a far-right former army captain who says he will not take any Covid-19 shot, has been criticised for the slow and patchy nature of Brazil’s vaccine rollout.