(Reuters) – The United States on Monday passed the milestone of 500,000 COVID-19 deaths just over a year since the pandemic claimed its first known U.S. victim in Santa Clara County, California. However, the number of deaths fell for a third straight week last week, as cases and hospitalizations both showed steep drops.
DEATHS AND INFECTIONS * Eikon users, see COVID-19: MacroVitals https://apac1.apps.cp.thomsonreuters.com/cms/?navid=1592404098 for a case tracker and summary of news.
* Britain is facing a quieter week in its vaccination roll-out due to uneven supply schedules, health minister Matt Hancock said, but he expects supplies to increase next month.
* Germany is reworking its strategy to vaccinate the nation as its campaign, which has faltered due to a lack of supply, also faces public resistance to the shot from AstraZeneca.
* Italy extended a ban on non-essential travel between the country’s 20 regions until March 27, while the number of people being treated in intensive care units in France exceeded 3,400 for the first time since Dec. 3.
* Vietnam said health workers, diplomats and military personnel would be among the first to be vaccinated when the country starts its inoculation programme next month, while Thailand will start vaccinating priority groups by the end of this week.
* The first of three expert panels in South Korea reviewing a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech gave its recommendation for the government to approve the vaccine.
* Australia will ramp up its immunisation drive with more shots to be rolled out from next week, after a second shipment of vaccine reached the country overnight.
* The U.S. House of Representatives Budget Committee approved legislation with $1.9 trillion in new coronavirus relief, advancing a top priority of President Joe Biden toward a full House vote on passage expected later this week.
* Pfizer expects to deliver more than 13 million vaccine doses per week to the United States by the middle of March, a top company executive said.
* The first shipment of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine arrived in Mexico on Monday night, the country’s foreign minister said.
* Movie theaters in New York City can reopen on March 5 at 25% capacity with no more than 50 people per screen, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA
* Afghanistan began its first vaccinations on Tuesday, administering doses initially to security force members, health workers and journalists, in a campaign that may face challenges from a sharp rise in violence.
* Egypt received 300,000 doses of a vaccine developed by China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) in the early hours of Tuesday, the health ministry said.
* Oman will not allow people from 10 countries to enter the country for 15 days to curb the spread of the coronavirus, in particular certain mutated strains.
* Europe’s drugs regulator said it is evaluating the use of remdesivir in COVID-19 patients who do not need oxygen support, after developer Gilead Sciences submitted an application to extend the medicine’s use.
* French researchers are using tiny antibody particles extracted from the family of animals that includes camels and llamas to produce a test they say can detect if patients have COVID-19 faster and more accurately than existing methods.
* Optimism about the economic outlook pushed commodity prices to new highs on Tuesday, helping stocks steady as expectations of a dovish testimony by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell calmed down bond yields. [MKTS/GLOB]
* Indonesia’s government had increased its budget to control the coronavirus pandemic and help the economy recover to 699.43 trillion rupiah ($49.6 billion), a Finance Ministry presentation showed.
(Compiled by Anita Kobylinska and Devika Syamnath; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Giles Elgood)