Boris ‘sorry’ as UK passes 100k deaths
More than 100,000 people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in Britain since the pandemic took hold last year, official data showed on Tuesday (local time)
Another 1631 deaths were reported on Tuesday bringing the total to 100,162 from nearly 3.7 million positive cases.
In a press conference early evening on Tuesday, Mr Johnson spoke from No. 10 Downing Street, saying he was "deeply sorry" after the UK passed the tragic milestone of 100,000 deaths from coronavirus.
He vowed to fight the pandemic with "greater resolve".
The sombre PM addressed the nation flanked by the Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Sir Simon Stephens, the NHS chief executive.
According to The Sun, Mr Johnson said the huge death toll "exhausts the thesaurus of misery" and represents "an appalling and tragic loss of life".
"It's hard to compute the sorrow contained in that grim statistic - the years of life lost, the family gatherings not attended, and for so many relatives the missed chance even to say goodbye.
"I offer my deepest condolences to everyone who has lost a loved one: fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, and the many grandparents who have been taken.
To all those who grieve, we make this pledge: that when we come through this crisis we will come together as a nation to remember everyone we lost and to honour the selfless heroism of all those on the front line who gave their lives to save others."
On a brighter note however, the PM said over 6.8 million people have now been vaccinated across the UK.
"My thoughts are with each and every person who has lost a loved one - behind these heartbreaking figures are friends, families and neighbours," Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.
"I know how hard the last year has been, but I also know how strong the British public's determination is and how much we have all pulled together to get through this.
"We cannot let up now and we sadly still face a tough period ahead. The virus is still spreading and we're seeing over 3,500 people per day being admitted into hospital," he added.
Britain reported its first cases of the disease almost a year ago, on January 29, 2020 but Prime Minister Boris Johnson was initially relaxed about introducing measures to tackle the spread.
Then as cases rose, he eventually relented, and a lockdown was introduced in March but questions have remained ever since about the government's approach, particularly its testing and tracing regimen.
At the time, National Health Service (NHS) England medical director Steven Powis said: "If we can keep deaths below 20,000 we will have done very well".
The lockdown was ordered largely on the back of an Imperial College London study that warned 500,000 could die without severe measures, and 250,000 with less stringent regulations.
Since then, the country has endured another two waves of the virus, and is currently mired in its third and deadliest bout, blamed on a new variant that hit before Christmas.
Although case numbers have fallen over the past week, Chris Whitty, the government's chief medical officer, warned on Friday that the peak in deaths of the current wave was still "in the future".
EU EXPORT THREAT AMID VACCINE SHORTAGE FEARS
Meanwhile, the EU has threatened to block exports of coronavirus vaccines to countries outside the bloc such as Britain and the US, after multinational pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca was accused of failing to explain a massive shortfall in promised doses to of the COVID-19 vaccine to EU member states.
The British-Swedish biotech company's distribution plans have been deemed "unacceptable" after it sprang news of the shortage on the European commission.
The EU had earmarked 100 million doses in the first quarter of this year but it is now feared that the bloc will receive only half of that despite its advance purchases long before the jab was authorised, which will happen this week by the European Medicines Agency.
European commission president, Ursula von der Leyen said AstraZeneca needed to be held to the contractually-binding advance purchase agreement.
According to The Guardian, Ms von der Leyen has blasted the company's CEO on a heated phone call.
A spokesman said: "Of course, production issues can appear with the complex vaccine, but we expect the company to find solutions and to exploit all possible flexibilities to deliver swiftly."
Additionally, the EU's health commissioner, Stella Kyriakides, made a televised statement to express her frustration with AstraZeneca stating that their answers had not been satisfactory, citing "lack of clarity and insufficient explanations."
"EU member states are united: vaccine developers have societal and contractual responsibilities they need to uphold.
DUTCH RIOT OVER COVID CURFEWS
It comes as Holland was hit by more chaos as Dutch police arrested at least 184 rioters after protests against a coronavirus curfew turned violent for a third night, police said on Tuesday (local time), in the worst unrest to hit the Netherlands in four decades.
At least 10 police officers were injured in the latest clashes, which left a trail of looted shops and burned cars in cities including Rotterdam, Amsterdam and The Hague on Monday night, local time.
While a majority of Dutch people have peacefully observed the country's first curfew since World War II, the riots have spread since the 9:00pm to 4:30am restriction came into effect on Saturday.
"We can confirm that at least 184 arrests were made," police spokesman Sherlo Esajastold media. Police added that more arrests could follow.
Dutch police chief Henk van Essen strongly condemned the rioters, saying "it has nothing to do any longer with the right to demonstrate."
Police unions said it was the worst rioting in four decades, referring to clashes between law officials and squatters in the 1980s as they were evicted from illegally-occupied buildings.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte condemned the riots, saying they were "unacceptable" and that normal people regarded it "with horror."
Clean-up operations started for a second day in many city centres across the country including in the port city of Rotterdam where shops were looted by mobs of rioters and police used water cannon against rioters.
The protests began with a single riot in the village of Urk in the Dutch "Bible Belt" during which a coronavirus testing centre was burned down.
The riots then spread, with police using water cannon, tear gas and horses against people in Eindhoven, Rotterdam and in Amsterdam.
Mr Rutte said he had not wanted to put the liberal Netherlands under curfew but had no choice.
More than 13,500 people have died there since the start of the pandemic.
DISMAY IN FRANCE OVER VACCINE FLOP
France has fallen further behind in the race to develop COVID-19, despite a celebrated history of medical breakthroughs, including from Louis Pasteur, a pioneer in microbiology and the inventor of vaccines against rabies and anthrax.
With the world-renowned research centre that bears his name in Paris, the Pasteur Institute, as well as leading pharma group Sanofi, the country looked well placed to produce its own jab to protect against coronavirus.
But the Pasteur Institute announced on Monday, local time, that it was abandoning research on its most promising prospect, while Sanofi has said its candidate for inoculation will not be ready before the end of 2021 at best.
"It's a sign of the decline of the country and this decline is unacceptable," Francois Bayrou, a close political ally of pro-business President Emmanuel Macron, said on Tuesday.
Bayrou said the problem was a brain-drain from France to the United States.
Speaking on France Inter radio, he said it was "not acceptable that our best researchers, the most brilliant of our researchers, are sucked up by the American system".
He referred to Stephane Bancel, a Frenchman who heads US-based biotech firm Moderna, whose vaccine was the second to be approved for use in the United States and Europe.
Experts say the US government has invested more in vaccine research in the previous decades, while innovative companies are also drawn to the country because raising funds from private investors is easier and quicker.
Communist Party head Fabien Roussel called the setbacks a "humiliation".
The Pasteur Institute bet on adapting a measles vaccine to fight COVID-19, while Sanofi tried to tweak one of its flu jabs.
The most successful approach among Western researchers turned out to be "messenger RNA," which was harnessed by German biotech group BioNTech as well as the US Moderna, Inc. whose jabs have been approved.
VACCINATION SHORTAGE, BUT NEW DRUG HOPE
And in hard-hit America, President Joe Biden said he thinks anyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get it by the northern spring, CNN reports, and he expects the US will soon be able to vaccinate 1.5 million Americans a day.
Meanwhile, in America's largest city, New York, a population of 8.5 million has just 7710 doses on hand, and 72,409 second doses yet to be scheduled.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said, "We have almost no supply to allow us to create new opportunities for people, new appointments for people".
He added "right now I need hundreds of thousands of more doses per week."
But Mr De Blasio added, "we're going to see a lot of impact from the Biden White House."
"Right now we are dealing with the residue of what was left to us previously," the mayor said.
On Tuesday, local time, it was reported that the antibody cocktail used to treat COVID-19 is 100 per cent effective at protecting against symptomatic cases of the virus, according to the New York Post.
Regeneron stated that its REGEN-COV treatment completely reduced symptomatic infections and cut overall rates of infections to about 50 per cent in about 400 participants who were living with a COVID-19 patient.
Ten out of 186 people who received the treatment contracted COVID-19 but did not experience symptoms.
But US health officials are "extremely" worried about the spread of the new COVID-19 variants.
"We've seen what happens in other countries that have actually had coronavirus under relatively good control, then these variants took over and they had explosive spread of the virus, and then overwhelmed hospitals," Dr Leana Wen told CNN's Anderson Cooper.
Officials in Minnesota have detected the P.1 variant of the virus in a traveller from Brazil, which appears to be more easily transmissible.
CDC officials have also said another variant, B.1.1.7 - first spotted in the UK - has been detected in more than 20 states.
While 42 states of the US report a downward trend in infection rates, Dr Wen said the more contagious strains could force a new peak in the pandemic.
"If we thought that going to the grocery store before was relatively safe, there's actually a higher likelihood of contracting coronavirus through those every day activities," she said.
MODERNA TO DEVELOP BOOSTER SHOT
American biotech company Moderna, Inc. has said it believed its COVID-19 vaccine is effective against mutations but will develop a booster shot just in case.
The pharma firm said it plans to begin human studies of a booster shot for its COVID-19 vaccine to help it protect against the more-transmissible South Africa virus variant, after a lab test showed the shot may be less potent against that strain.
In lab tests conducted with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Moderna says its vaccine produced lower levels of neutralising antibodies against the South Africa variant called B.1.351 than it did against the original COVID-19 strain.
But even with the lower antibody levels, its existing vaccine should still protect against people who are exposed to the South Africa strain, Moderna said in a statement.
Even at the reduced levels, the shot produces neutralising antibody levels "that remain above" levels that protect primates.
MOGUL 'LIED TO GET VACCINE' AHEAD OF MOST VULNERABLE
A Canadian casino CEO has resigned amid accusations he and his wife travelled to a remote community near the Alaska border and received coronavirus vaccines meant for vulnerable indigenous residents.
Rodney Baker, formerly the head of the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, and his actor wife Ekaterina allegedly travelled by private plane to Beaver Creek, a community of 100 in Canada's Yukon territory, where a team was administering the Moderna vaccine to residents, officials said.
The vaccine had been intended for elderly members of the White River First Nation.
The couple allegedly lied to officials in the clinic, says Yukon Community Services Minister John Streicker, claiming to be workers at a local motel.
After receiving a tip off, police tracked the couple down to the airport where they were preparing to fly back to Vancouver.
They were both fined last week for breaking public health rules in Canada's Yukon territory.
"Effectively what they did was they put our community and our isolation team at risk," Yukon community services minister John Streicker told CBC News. "I'm pretty angry at the whole thing."
Originally published as Boris 'sorry' as UK passes 100k deaths