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Political crisis in Italy, African Union buys 270 million doses of vaccine & other Covid news

As the Covid-19 pandemic shows no signs of letting up, ThePrint highlights the most important stories on the crisis from across the globe.

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New Delhi: The novel coronavirus pandemic continues to devastate countries across the world — the latest count being over 9.2 crore cases and more than 19 lakh deaths.

The Italian government is in a crisis after former prime minister Matteo Renzi withdrew support from the ruling coalition because of disagreement over how the country should spend its European Union aid to recover from the pandemic. A Human Rights Watch report has accused Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro of blocking anti-Covid measures and attempting to sabotage the country’s fight against the pandemic.

ThePrint brings you the most important global stories on the coronavirus pandemic and why they matter.

Disagreement over handling of Covid-19 sparks political crisis in Italy

Italy’s former prime minister Matteo Renzi has withdrawn his support to the current dispensation over the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. He announced the resignation of two cabinet ministers and one junior minister from the ruling coalition Wednesday, depriving current PM Giuseppe Conte of a parliamentary majority, reports Al Jazeera.

Tension between Renzi and Conte had been rising after their disagreement on the way the 200 billion euros in European Union recovery funds for Covid-19 should be spent.

Italy’s current government is a four-party coalition. Renzi’s party, Italia Viva, holds the power balance in the country’s senate, while PM Conte, an independent, holds a comfortable majority in the lower house.

Italy has reported 2,319,036 cases of Covid-19 and 80,326 deaths so far.

Also read: China records first Covid death since April, cases mount in northern province

UK likely to ban flights from Brazil amid fears of new variant

Weeks after many countries had banned flights to and from the UK, the country is now considering banning flights coming from Brazil, after reports of a new Covid-19 variant being detected in the South American country.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has hinted that travel restrictions could be imposed as he was being pressured by Labour MP Yvette Coope, during a cross party liaison committee, reports The Guardian.

It is not yet known if the new variant identified in Brazil is more contagious or immune to the vaccine.

The UK has reported 3,211,576 cases of Covid-19 and 84,767 deaths so far.

African Union buys 270 million doses of vaccine for continent

African Union announced Wednesday that it has secured 270 million vaccine doses by Astra Zeneca and Pfizer through the Serum Institute of India and Johnson and Johnson, reports Associated Press.

The 270 million doses will complement the World Health Organization’s COVAX initiative to provide 600 million vaccine doses to the continent.

The recent purchase, along with the vaccines provided under COVAX initiative, will only cover just over half of the continent’s vaccine needs, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention.

Africa seeks to vaccinate 60 per cent of the continent’s population which translates into 780 million people. The Africa CDC says this comes up to 1.5 billion doses which is set to cost the continent $10 billion.

Africa has reported 3,157,992 cases of Covid-19 and 75,787 deaths so far.

Hospitals in Japan struggle to cope amid surge in cases

The third wave of Covid-19 in Japan shows no signs of abating, even after Tokyo and adjacent areas were put into a state of emergency. The country’s medical care system now finds itself on the brink of collapse, reports The Japan Times.

The unavailability of beds is forcing hospitals to send back patients and postpone stays. The number of people in Tokyo who were unable to secure hospital treatment is rising sharply, topping 3,000 at the beginning of January. As much as 77 per cent of 4,000 coronavirus beds in the Japanese capital were filled as of Wednesday.

While the government is expected to extend financial support to medical facilities that secure more beds for Covid-19 patients, lack of doctors and nurses means many facilities won’t be able to answer such a call.

Japan has reported 297,315 cases of Covid-19 and 4,145 deaths so far.

Bolsonaro tried to sabotage anti-Covid measures, says report

President Jair Bolsonaro attempted to sabotage measures to slow the spread of Covid-19 in Brazil and pursued policies that undermine the rights of its citizens, the Human Rights Watch has said in its annual world report.

The organisation has also stated that the country’s Supreme Court, Congress and other institutions stepped up to protect Brazilians by blocking Bolsonaro’s damaging policies, reports Reuters.

Bolsonaro, who was also infected with Covid-19, has constantly downplayed the pandemic, calling it “the little flu” and criticising lockdowns as well as social distancing measures. He also tried to block the authority of states to restrict people’s movement, a move stopped only by the Brazil’s Supreme Court.

Brazil has reported 8,257,459 cases of Covid-19 and 206,009 deaths so far.

What else we are reading:

Hong Kong fourth wave: city faces more than 20 new Covid-19 cases as pandemic adviser investigates fresh housing block breakout: South China Morning Post

New York pleads for more Covid-19 vaccine as daily US death toll hits record: Channel News Asia

Also read: Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot Covid vaccine generates long-lasting response in early study


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