Quarantine fishermen are driving New Zealand virus peaks

A coronavirus outbreak among hundreds of Russian and Ukrainian fishermen who have flown to New Zealand to bolster struggling deep-sea fishing has resulted in the largest daily surge in infections in months, authorities said.

Over 230 fishermen were flown in from Moscow last week, with 18 of the crew members in quarantine testing positive for Covid-19, New Zealand director general of health Ashley Bloomfield said.

The Pacific nation has nearly eliminated local transmission of the virus, but is regularly registering a small number of new cases in returning travelers.

The fishing cluster increased the daily number of new infections to 25, the highest since April, a cause for concern among officials in the recently re-elected government of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

New Zealand has recorded over 1,500 cases and 25 deaths among a population of nearly five million and has been widely lauded for its handling of the pandemic.

Health officials said two new cases have also been linked to a dock worker who may have come into contact with a ship now docked off Australia’s east coast.

Major travel bans remain in place in New Zealand, and those who have been granted exemptions – including fishermen who have been classified as essential workers – must be quarantined for 14 days.

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Mr Bloomfield said the new cases had highlighted the threat of overseas arrivals.

“We cannot afford to be complacent, we are not complacent at the border,” he said.

The maritime sector has also been scrutinized in Australia, where dozens of crew members on a cattle ship docked off Australia’s west coast tested positive for the virus.

“It is becoming clear that ships arriving with Covid-19 on board are one of the weakest links and the greatest risk to our way of life in Western Australia,” Western Australian Prime Minister Mark McGowan said yesterday.

Australia has registered over 27,400 cases and 905 deaths among a population of 25 million.

Brazil one by one welcomes the Chinese Covid vaccine

The Brazilian health minister said the country would include the China-made CoronaVac vaccine against Covid-19 in its national vaccination program, despite political and diplomatic disputes over its use.

Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello said the federal government has reached an agreement with the state of Sao Paulo, which is helping test and manufacture the vaccine, to buy 46 million doses to be administered from January.

“This vaccine will be Brazil’s vaccine,” said Nr. Pazuello, along with another vaccine developed by Oxford University and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, at a video meeting of the South American country’s 27 governors.

“This is our big news. This will recalibrate the process “of eventually vaccinating the Brazilian people against Covid-19, which has claimed more lives here than any other country except the United States.”

CoronaVac, developed by the Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech, was embroiled in a chaotic battle in Brazil.

President Jair Bolsonaro had called it a vaccine from “that other country” and refused to push for the Oxford vaccine instead.

Sao Paulo governor Joao Doria, a top opponent of Bolsonaro, meanwhile, pushed for a deal between Sinovac and the Brazilian Butantane Institute to test and manufacture the vaccine in his state.

Both the Sinovac and Oxford vaccines are currently in the final stages of clinical trials in Brazil, a top test field for vaccine candidates due to its high infection rate.

Both still require official approval.

Brazil had previously signed a contract for 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine.

However, CoronaVac is expected to be available first after Oxford had to stop testing in September when a volunteer developed an unexplained disease.

Brazil, a country of 212 million people, has recorded 5.3 million cases and 155,000 deaths from the novel coronavirus.

Coronavirus-related deaths in Ukraine have been recorded with an increase in infections

The number of daily coronavirus deaths in Ukraine has increased from 113 deaths recorded yesterday to 141, the National Security Council said.

The council also reported a record of 6,719 new coronavirus cases recorded in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 315,826 cases with 5,927 deaths.

Ukrainian Health Minister Maksym Stepanov said the number of coronavirus cases could rise to 8,000-10,000 a day in the coming weeks.

The daily number of cases rose to over 5,000 in October, prompting the government to extend lockdown measures until the end of 2020.

Mr Stepanov said Ukraine will introduce stricter lockdown restrictions if cases rise to 11,000-15,000 daily.

He warned that the medical system’s resources would run out if the number of daily cases exceeded 20,000.

Meanwhile, the Czech Republic reported 11,984 new cases of coronavirus yesterday, the highest daily number ever recorded as the country struggled with a surge in recent weeks.

The number of people dying from Covid-19 rose from 1,513 in the last 24 hours to 1,619 in the country from 10.7 million, data from the Ministry of Health showed.

The government will have an extraordinary meeting to discuss the epidemiological situation. Health Minister Roman Prymula had indicated yesterday that stricter restrictions were on the way.

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