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Coronavirus: Pfizer delays Bahrain’s vaccine delivery for January

A January shipment of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to the Gulf state of Bahrain will not arrive on time, the ministry of health said on Saturday, but second doses of the jab already scheduled will not be affected.

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The small island state of Bahrain has the third highest rate of vaccinations per capita in the world so far, according to the Our World in Data website, which is run by an Oxford University research program.

“The delay … will not affect citizens and residents receiving the second dose of the vaccine over the upcoming period, according to current scheduled dates and the availability of the needed quantity for them,” the health ministry said in a statement carried by state news agency BNA.

Bahrain offers its citizens free of charge either the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine or one manufactured by Chinese state-backed pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm.

Other Gulf states including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and the emirate of Dubai have also purchased the Pfizer jabs.

US pharmaceutical firm Pfizer this week said there would be a temporary impact on shipments in late January to early February caused by changes to manufacturing processes to boost production.

Read more:

Coronavirus: UAE COVID-19 vaccinations surpass 1 million, ranks second globally

Coronavirus: More than 700,000 register to receive vaccine in Saudi Arabia

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Signal messaging app faces global outage

Millions downloaded the app as WhatsApp unveiled controversial privacy policy update.

Cross-platform messaging app Signal faced a global outage on Friday, just days after it was downloaded by millions of new users.

Users across the world reported they were unable to send messages on both the mobile and desktop applications.

The company posted on Twitter that it was experiencing technical difficulties and was “working hard to restore service as quickly as possible.”

Also read: WhatsApp delays privacy policy update amid uproar

Ever since its rival WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, unveiled its new privacy terms last week, Signal has seen a huge interest from new users.

Signal said that it has been adding new servers and extra capacity at “a record pace” every single day this week nonstop.

“…but today exceeded even our most optimistic projections. Millions upon millions of new users are sending a message that privacy matters. We appreciate your patience,” the messaging app tweeted.

Also watch: WhatsApp vs Signal vs Telegram

It further said it is working to get the service back online.

“We are making progress towards getting the service back online. Privacy is our top priority, but adding capacity is a close second right now,” add the tweet image here.

According to estimates, in India, Signal was downloaded by close to 3 million users.

WhatsApp on Friday (local time) said it has decided to postpone a privacy update due to “misinformation causing concern” among people, the company said.

“We’re now moving back the date on which people will be asked to review and accept the terms. No one will have their account suspended or deleted on February 8. We’re also going to do a lot more to clear up the misinformation around how privacy and security works on WhatsApp. We’ll then go to people gradually to review the policy at their own pace before new business options are available on May 15,” the blog post read.

This came following a rise in concerns among the public regarding a threat to their right to privacy.

The New York Times reported that since the announcement of the privacy update many users and some media outlets interpreted the notification as a marked shift in WhatsApp’s data-sharing practices, mistakenly believing that the company could now read people’s conversations and other personal data.

The concerns resulted in people switching to other messaging services such as Signal and Telegram. This week, Signal became the No. 1 app in India, one of WhatsApp’s biggest markets, on Apple and Android phones, the NYT said.

Earlier this month, an advocate in Delhi filed a plea stating that WhatsApp’s update privacy policy violated the Right to Privacy and sought to direct the Centre to lay down guidelines in the exercise of its powers under relevant sections of the Information Technology Act and under the Constitution of India to ensure that Respondent Whatsapp does not share any data of its users with any third party or Facebook and its companies for any purpose whatsoever.

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Largest Covid vaccine drive: Sanitation worker gets first jab

Over the coming months, India aims to inoculate around 300 million people.

India begins one of the world’s biggest coronavirus vaccination programmes on Saturday, hoping to end a pandemic that has killed 150,000 people in the country and torpedoed the economy.

The country is home to the world’s largest vaccine makers and has one of the biggest immunization programs. But there is no playbook for the enormity of the challenge.

The first dose of a vaccine was administered to a health worker at All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences in the capital New Delhi, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi kickstarted the campaign with a nationally televised speech. Priority groups across the vast country, from the Himalayan mountains to the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal, began receiving it shortly after.

“We are launching the world’s biggest vaccination drive and it shows the world our capability,” Modi said in his address. He implored citizens to keep their guard up and not to believe any “rumors about the safety of the vaccines.”

It was not clear if Modi, 70, has taken the vaccine himself like other world leaders as an example of the shot’s safety. His government has said politicians will not be considered priority groups in the first phase of the rollout.

Health officials haven’t specified what percentage of the nearly 1.4 billion people will be targeted by the campaign. But experts say it will almost certainly be the largest such drive globally.

AFP looks at the numbers involved in the vast and complex undertaking compounded by weak infrastructure, online hoaxes and security and safety worries:

Over the coming months, India aims to inoculate around a quarter of the population, or 300 million people. They include healthcare workers, people aged over 50 and those at high risk.

On the first day, around 300,000 people will be vaccinated at 3,000 centres. About 150,000 staff in 700 districts have been trained to administer jabs and keep records. Around 100 people will be vaccinated in each of the 3,006 centers across the country on the first day, the Health Ministry said this week.

The government aims to manage the entire process digitally with its own app, CoWIN, which will link every vaccine dose to its recipient.

India has four “mega depots” to take delivery of the vaccines and transport them to state distribution hubs in temperature-controlled vans, keeping the doses colder than 8 degrees Celsius.

A total of 29,000 cold-chain points, 240 walk-in coolers, 70 walk-in freezers, 45,000 ice-lined refrigerators, 41,000 deep freezers and 300 solar fridges are at the ready.

These will be needed once the Indian summer arrives in the coming months.

In one recent practice run in a rural area, a consignment of dummy vaccines was photographed being delivered by bicycle.

To stop any of the vials being stolen and being sold on India’s large drugs black market, authorities are taking no chances, with armed police guarding every truck.

CCTVs are in place at warehouses with entry subject to fingerprint authentication. Automated data loggers will monitor storage temperature and transfer messages every three seconds to a central unit, according to the Times of India.

“Security measures are essential to not only address the issue of logistics and safety but also build confidence in people that the supply chain is intact, unbroken and safe to the point of delivery,” Preeti Kumar, a public health specialist, told AFP.

India gave nod for emergency use of two vaccines, one developed by Oxford University and UK-based drugmaker AstraZeneca, and another by Indian company Bharat Biotech, on January 4. Cargo planes flew 16.5 million shots to different Indian cities last week.

India has ordered an initial 11 million doses of Covishield, AstraZeneca’s vaccine made by India’s Serum Institute, at 200 rupees ($2.74) each, and 5.5 million doses of Covaxin at 206 rupees each.

The government’s “emergency approval” of Covaxin, made by India’s Bharat Biotech, has some doctors worried because Phase 3 human trials are yet to be completed.

Authorities say that people will be given two doses of one of the vaccines – and not one of each – 28 days apart. Effectiveness begins 14 days after the second shot, they say.

Serum plans later to sell the jab privately to Indian individuals and firms for 1,000 rupees ($14), raising fears that the rich will get inoculated sooner.

A recent survey of 18,000 people across India found that 69 percent were in no rush to get a Covid-19 shot, in part due to public scepticism fuelled by online disinformation.

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan took to social media on Thursday to dispel some of the doubts.

“There is no scientific evidence to suggest that #COVIDVaccine could cause infertility in either men or women. Kindly do not pay heed to such rumours or information from unverified sources,” he said in one tweet.

Other developing countries are banking on India for getting vaccines. Brazil is reportedly sending a plane to India this weekend in the hope of collecting two million doses from Serum.

India plans to offer 20 million doses to its neighbours, with the first batches shipped over the next two weeks, Bloomberg News reported. Latin America, Africa and ex-Soviet republics will be next.

Over 35 million doses of various Covid-19 vaccines have been administered around the world, according to the University of Oxford.

While the majority of the Covid-19 vaccine doses have already been snapped up by wealthy countries, COVAX, a UN-backed project to supply shots to developing parts of the world, has found itself short of vaccine, money and logistical help.

As a result, the World Health Organization’s chief scientist warned it is highly unlikely that herd immunity – which would require at least 70 per cent of the globe to be vaccinated – will be achieved this year. As the disaster has demonstrated, it is not enough to snuff out the virus in a few places.

“Even if it happens in a couple of pockets, in a few countries, it’s not going to protect people across the world,” Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said this week.

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World’s largest Covid vaccine drive in India begins

Over the coming months, India aims to inoculate around 300 million people.

India begins one of the world’s biggest coronavirus vaccination programmes on Saturday, hoping to end a pandemic that has killed 150,000 people in the country and torpedoed the economy.

AFP looks at the numbers involved in the vast and complex undertaking compounded by weak infrastructure, online hoaxes and security and safety worries:

Over the coming months, India aims to inoculate around a quarter of the population, or 300 million people. They include healthcare workers, people aged over 50 and those at high risk.

On the first day, around 300,000 people will be vaccinated at 3,000 centres. About 150,000 staff in 700 districts have been trained to administer jabs and keep records.

The government aims to manage the entire process digitally with its own app, CoWIN, which will link every vaccine dose to its recipient.

India has four “mega depots” to take delivery of the vaccines and transport them to state distribution hubs in temperature-controlled vans, keeping the doses colder than 8 degrees Celsius.

A total of 29,000 cold-chain points, 240 walk-in coolers, 70 walk-in freezers, 45,000 ice-lined refrigerators, 41,000 deep freezers and 300 solar fridges are at the ready.

These will be needed once the Indian summer arrives in the coming months.

In one recent practice run in a rural area, a consignment of dummy vaccines was photographed being delivered by bicycle.

To stop any of the vials being stolen and being sold on India’s large drugs black market, authorities are taking no chances, with armed police guarding every truck.

CCTVs are in place at warehouses with entry subject to fingerprint authentication. Automated data loggers will monitor storage temperature and transfer messages every three seconds to a central unit, according to the Times of India.

“Security measures are essential to not only address the issue of logistics and safety but also build confidence in people that the supply chain is intact, unbroken and safe to the point of delivery,” Preeti Kumar, a public health specialist, told AFP.

India has ordered an initial 11 million doses of Covishield, AstraZeneca’s vaccine made by India’s Serum Institute, at 200 rupees ($2.74) each, and 5.5 million doses of Covaxin at 206 rupees each.

The government’s “emergency approval” of Covaxin, made by India’s Bharat Biotech, has some doctors worried because Phase 3 human trials are yet to be completed.

Authorities say that people will be given two doses of one of the vaccines – and not one of each – 28 days apart. Effectiveness begins 14 days after the second shot, they say.

Serum plans later to sell the jab privately to Indian individuals and firms for 1,000 rupees ($14), raising fears that the rich will get inoculated sooner.

A recent survey of 18,000 people across India found that 69 percent were in no rush to get a Covid-19 shot, in part due to public scepticism fuelled by online disinformation.

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan took to social media on Thursday to dispel some of the doubts.

“There is no scientific evidence to suggest that #COVIDVaccine could cause infertility in either men or women. Kindly do not pay heed to such rumours or information from unverified sources,” he said in one tweet.

Other developing countries are banking on India for getting vaccines. Brazil is reportedly sending a plane to India this weekend in the hope of collecting two million doses from Serum.

India plans to offer 20 million doses to its neighbours, with the first batches shipped over the next two weeks, Bloomberg News reported. Latin America, Africa and ex-Soviet republics will be next.

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Roadside bomb kills two policemen in Afghanistan: Officials

A roadside bomb targeting a police vehicle in the Afghan capital killed two policemen Saturday, officials said, as violence continues unabated in Afghanistan despite peace talks between the Taliban and government.

The vehicle carrying the policemen was struck by the bomb in the centre of the capital on the road to the prestigious Kabul University, police spokesman Ferdaws Faramarz said.

For all the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app

Two policemen were killed and one wounded, Faramarz said.

Violence has surged across the country in recent months, especially in Kabul which is also rocked by a new trend of targeted killings that has sown fear in the city.

The bloodshed comes even as the Taliban and government negotiators engage in peace talks to end the nearly two decade war in the country.

The two warring sides are currently in the Qatari capital Doha discussing the agenda items of the talks.

Read more:

Taliban kills at least nine Afghan security personnel: Officials

US troops in Afghanistan, Iraq cut to 2,500 each: Acting Defense Secretary

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Coronavirus: India starts world’s largest COVID-19 vaccination drive

India started inoculating health workers Saturday in what is likely the world’s largest COVID-19 vaccination campaign, joining the ranks of wealthier nations where the effort is already well underway.

The country is home to the world’s largest vaccine makers and has one of the biggest immunization programs. But there is no playbook for the enormity of the challenge.

For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.

Indian authorities hope to give shots to 300 million people, roughly the population of the U.S and several times more than its existing program that targets 26 million infants. The recipients include 30 million doctors, nurses and other front-line workers to be followed by 270 million others, who are either aged over 50 or have illnesses that make them vulnerable to COVID-19.

The first dose of a vaccine was administered to a health worker at All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences in the capital New Delhi, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi kickstarted the campaign with a nationally televised speech. Priority groups across the vast country, from the Himalayan mountains to the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal, began receiving it shortly after.

“We are launching the world’s biggest vaccination drive and it shows the world our capability,” Modi said in his address. He implored citizens to keep their guard up and not to believe any “rumors about the safety of the vaccines.”

It was not clear if Modi, 70, has taken the vaccine himself like other world leaders as an example of the shot’s safety. His government has said politicians will not be considered priority groups in the first phase of the rollout.

Health officials haven’t specified what percentage of the nearly 1.4 billion people will be targeted by the campaign. But experts say it will almost certainly be the largest such drive globally.

The sheer scale has its obstacles. For instance, India plans to rely heavily on a digital platform to track the shipment and delivery of vaccines. But public health experts point out that the internet remains patchy in large parts of the country, and some remote villages are entirely unconnected.

Around 100 people will be vaccinated in each of the 3,006 centers across the country on the first day, the Health Ministry said this week.

India gave nod for emergency use of two vaccines, one developed by Oxford University and U.K.-based drugmaker AstraZeneca, and another by Indian company Bharat Biotech, on January 4. Cargo planes flew 16.5 million shots to different Indian cities last week.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Health experts worry that the regulatory shortcut taken to approve the Bharat Biotech vaccine without waiting for concrete data that would show its efficacy in preventing illness from the coronavirus could amplify vaccine hesitancy. At least one state health minister has opposed its use.

India’s Health Ministry has bristled at the criticism and says the vaccines are safe, but maintains that health workers will have no choice in deciding which vaccine they would get themselves.

India is second to the US with 10.5 million confirmed cases, and ranks third in the number of deaths, behind the US and Brazil, with 152,000.

Read more:

Coronavirus: India prepares for ‘world’s biggest vaccination drive’

Coronavirus: India tests vaccine delivery system with nationwide trial

Coronavirus: Indian vaccine makers end disagreement, guarantee ‘smooth rollout’

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Gen Pervez Musharraf’s mother passes away in Dubai

Pakistan COAS condoles death of Zareen Musharraf.

Former Pakistan president and chief of army staff General (r) Pervez Musharraf’s mother Zareen Musharraf passed away on Friday. She was 100.

General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Pakistan Chief of Army Staff, expressed his heartfelt condolences on the passing of the mother of General (r) Musharraf.

Begum Zareen was born in the early 1920s, grew up in Lucknow and received her schooling there, after which she graduated from Indraprastha College at Delhi University, taking a bachelor’s degree in English literature, Ary News reported.

She had earlier been hospitalised in the UAE after suffering from respiratory issues.

The former president is also undergoing treatment in Dubai.

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5.0-magnitude aftershock hits Indonesia’s Sulawesi island

An aftershock hit Indonesia’s Sulawesi island on Saturday as rescue workers searched for people trapped under rubble after an earthquake killed at least 45 people, injured hundreds and sent thousands fleeing in terror.

Indonesia’s disaster mitigation agency said no damage or casualties were reported from the Magnitude 5.0 aftershock in the West Sulawesi districts of Mamuju and Majene a day after the Magnitude 6.2 earthquake.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Agency head Doni Monardo told Kompas TV the search continued for victims who could still be trapped under rubble.

More than 820 people were injured and about 15,000 people have been evacuated, the agency said. Some have sought refuge in the mountains, while others went to cramped evacuation centers, witnesses said.

Friday’s quake and its aftershocks damaged more than 300 homes and two hotels, as well as flattening a hospital and the office of a regional governor, where authorities told Reuters several people had been trapped.

Access to the neighboring city of Makassar remains cut off, Arianto Ardi of the search and rescue agency in Mamuju told Reuters, adding that the search will focus on the hotels.

Dwikorita Karnawati, the head of Indonesia’s meteorology and geophysics agency, told Metro TV on Saturday that another quake was possible and could reach a magnitude of 7.0, urging residents to keep out of the water because of the tsunami risk.

The earthquake magnitude scale is logarithmic; a one-point increase means it is 10 times bigger. The difference in energy released is even greater. Straddling the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, Indonesia is regularly hit by earthquakes.

In 2018, a devastating 6.2-magnitude quake and subsequent tsunami struck the city of Palu, in Sulawesi, killing thousands.

Read more:

Indonesia earthquake death toll rises to at least 34: Authorities

Indonesia earthquake: Damaged roads, lack of gear hinder search rescue

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Coronavirus: Emirates ceases flights to three Australian cities amid COVID-19 strains

Emirates has suspended flights to Australia’s three largest cities as the country further restricts international arrivals over fears of new virus strains.

The Dubai-based carrier was one of the last to maintain routes into and out of the country’s east coast throughout most of the pandemic but on Friday evening told travelers a handful of planned flights next week would be the last.

For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.

“Due to operational reasons, Emirates flights to/from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne will be suspended until further notice,” Emirates said on its website.

The airline will still run two flights a week to Perth, but the cuts are another barrier for tens of thousands of stranded Australians still attempting to return home.

The Australian government responded by announcing more repatriation flights and said other carriers still flying services to the cities could fill the gap.

“The capacity that Emirates was able to use within the cap will be allocated to other airlines, ensuring that there are still as many tickets, as many seats available into Australia,” Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said.

A small number of airlines — including Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines — are still running services to Australia but local media were already reporting delays and cancellations among returning travelers.

Australia’s borders have effectively been closed since March to curb the spread of the virus, with the government even limiting the number of citizens allowed to return.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Last week travel restrictions were further tightened, with arrival numbers slashed and all travelers into the country requiring a negative COVID-19 test before flying.

In making the changes, Prime Minister Scott Morrison cited a growing number of people in quarantine testing positive for new strains of COVID-19.

Fears that a variant of the virus from Britain, believed to be more contagious, had leaked into Brisbane from hotel quarantine triggered a snap lockdown in the city last week.

“There are many unknowns and uncertainties in relation to the new strain, and so that’s why this precautionary approach, we believe, is very sensible,” Morrison said.

Australia continues to deal relatively well with the virus, having recorded about 28,600 cases and 909 deaths linked to COVID-19 in a population of 25 million.

Read more:

Emirates may cancel more flights as coronavirus spreads

Coronavirus: Australia requires masks as COVID-19 cases rise

Coronavirus: More details about new COVID-19 strain expected soon: WHO

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Woman arrested in US Capitol attack: ‘I listen to my president’

A Dallas-area real estate agent who is facing charges for allegedly being part of the pro-President Donald Trump mob that stormed the US Capitol last week said she’s a “normal person” who listened to her president.

Jenna Ryan, 50, is accused of “knowingly” entering or remaining in the restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds on January 6, according to a criminal complaint filed by the FBI in a Washington federal court.

For all the latest headlines follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

Matt DeSarno, special agent in charge of the FBI Dallas office, confirmed that Ryan had turned herself in and that her Carrollton apartment was searched Friday. No personal telephone for Ryan was available, and court records didn’t list a lawyer for her as of Friday.

Ryan shared photos and videos on social media, including a video in which she says, “We’re gonna go down and storm the Capitol,” in front of a bathroom mirror, according to the FBI criminal complaint.

The agent who signed the complaint also noted that Ryan live-streamed a 21-minute Facebook video of her and a group walking toward the Capitol.

“We are going to (expletive) go in here,” Ryan said in the video as she approached the top of the stairs on the west side of the Capitol building. “Life or death, it doesn’t matter. Here we go.”

In an interview with KTVT-TV in Fort Worth, Ryan said she hoped that Trump would pardon her.

“I just want people to know I’m a normal person, that I listen to my president who told me to go to the Capitol, that I was displaying my patriotism while I was there and I was just protesting and I wasn’t trying to do anything violent and I didn’t realize there was actually violence,” Ryan said.

Ryan is the third person in FBI’s Dallas region of northern, northeastern and near western Texas to be named in criminal complaints, DeSarno said.

Read more:

Four dead, 52 arrested after violent protests by Trump supporters at US Capitol

Explainer: Who’s been charged in the deadly US Capitol siege?

Trump tells US Capitol protesters to ‘stay peaceful,’ police use tear gas, draw guns