First New Zealand case in months
New Zealand on Monday confirmed its first case of COVID-19 in the community in months in a 56-year-old woman, but said close contacts of the recently returned traveller had so far tested negative.
The woman, who returned to New Zealand on December 30, had tested positive for the South African strain of the virus after leaving a two-week mandatory quarantine where she had twice tested negative, COVID-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said.
No other community cases had been reported since the woman’s case was disclosed on Sunday and authorities said the source of the infection was probably a fellow returnee at the quarantine facility. Authorities were looking at whether the virus was spreading through the ventilation and air-conditioning systems in these facilities, Hipkins said.
Previously asymptomatic patients drive rise in China’s daily cases
China reported a climb in new COVID-19 cases driven by a spike in infections among previously symptomless patients in northeastern Jilin province, official data showed on Monday.
Of the 117 new local infections, Jilin accounted for 67 cases - all but three of whom were previously asymptomatic patients who were reclassified as confirmed cases after developing symptoms.
Authorities have rolled out a combination of measures including home quarantine of millions of people, travel curbs, mass testing and screening.
Australia approves Pfizer vaccine, warns of limited global AstraZeneca supply
Australia on Monday approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for use but warned AstraZeneca’s international production problems mean the country would need to distribute a locally manufactured shot earlier than planned.
Vaccination of priority groups with the Pfizer vaccine is expected to begin in late February, at 80,000 doses per week, Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters.
The Australian rollout update comes after AstraZeneca Plc told European Union officials on Friday it would cut deliveries of its vaccine to the bloc by 60 percent in the first quarter due to production problems. Australia will start CSL’s domestic supply of the AstraZeneca vaccine in March, earlier than planned, at 1 million doses a week, Hunt said.
Biden administration fights for $1.9 trillion relief plan
Officials in US President Joe Biden’s administration tried to head off Republican concerns that his $1.9 trillion pandemic relief proposal was too expensive on a Sunday call with Republican and Democratic lawmakers, some of whom pushed for a smaller plan targeting vaccine distribution.
While Congress has already authorized $4 trillion to respond, the White House says the additional $1.9 trillion is needed to cover the costs of responding to the virus and provide enhanced jobless benefits and payments to households.
The Trump administration lagged far behind its target of 20 million Americans inoculated by the end of 2020 and left no plan for how to distribute the vaccine to millions of Americans, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said on Sunday.