Coronavirus live news: Fauci says political divide added to ‘stunning’ US deaths; Italy ‘misled’ WHO – The Guardian

Tens of thousands of Hong Kongers have made an appointment for a Covid-19 vaccination in the first nine hours of registration.

Hong Kong authorities launched the online bookings at midnight, and by 9am 42,000 people from the five priority groups had signed up, the city’s chief executive said this morning. Vaccinations for the first priority group will begin next week and run for a fortnight, Carrie Lam said.

“The registration opened at midnight. Most citizens were sleeping, but some of them couldn’t wait and booked their vaccination. The response is enthusiastic,” she said.

While Lam praised the sign-up rate, there are signs of some teething problems. RTHK reports there was a waiting time of more than one hour on the website, and the booking link went to a page only in Chinese. Vaccinations at 18 designated outpatient clinics were also fully booked after the 42,000 registrations, but Lam said there were still appointments available at the five community vaccination centres.

She also said the first shipment of the second vaccine Hong Kong has procured – from Pfizer/BioNtech – would arrive shortly.

The first rollout is of the Chinese-made Sinovac, which has drawn some suspicion from Hong Kongers, amid an already high level of vaccine hesitancy compared to other countries.

A citywide poll conducted in January by University of Hong Kong found only about 30% residents were prepared to take the vaccine supplied by Sinovac. In contrast, 56% of respondents said they’d like to be vaccinated with Pfizer/BioNtech’s vaccine amid concern over Sinovac’s low efficacy.

Another poll by the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s medicine department, also conducted in January, found the overall Covid-19 vaccine acceptance rate for Hong Kong adults was 37%, which is far lower than that of other countries (around 60 – 90%).

In an effort to reassure the public (as many global leaders have done) Lam and key ministers were the first to receive the vaccine yesterday, and she told the Tuesday press conference she was feeling fine.

Lam decried “skilfully crafted” rumours and misinformation on the internet, including claims that she and other ministers were given something other than the Sinovac vaccine.

“We will be on our guard and will monitor the situation around the clock and as soon as we spot any untruthful reports we will swiftly clarify it. The vaccination will not just protect yourself, it will help you protect others.”

Leading Australian scientists have called on the federal government to urgently develop additional onshore Covid vaccine manufacturing capability to protect against supply disruption as the country completes its second day of vaccinations.

In a pre-budget submission published on Tuesday, the Australian Academy of Science said without the ability to produce mRNA vaccines, Australia and the region remain vulnerable to supply limitations:

Papua New Guinea’s Covid-19 tsar has tested positive for the coronavirus.

David Manning, PNG’s pandemic response controller and police commissioner, tested positive, along with two family members, over the weekend.

He said, given the nature of his work, and his high level of exposure, infection “was bound to happen sooner or later”.

I have been telling people to be tested for Covid-19 and as the controller I had to take the test. I am glad I did, so I am now taking measures to protect my family.

I urge everyone to go to your nearest health centre and get tested. It is by knowing your status you can then take steps to protect your loved ones, especially the most vulnerable including the old and those with existing medical conditions.

Manning reiterated concerns about the low number of Covid-19 tests conducted across PNG.

Papua New Guinea pandemic controller and police commissioner David Manning
Papua New Guinea pandemic controller and police commissioner David Manning Photograph: EMTV Papua New Guinea

“Our Covid-19 response is more than 12 months in place but we have only tested about 50,000 people. This is roughly 0.5% of the PNG population.

“I want to see more tests being done around the country so that we can have a fair idea of where the pandemic is in PNG and take measures to mitigate and contain it.”

PNG has had only 1056 confirmed cases, and 10 known deaths from Covid-19, but the actual rate of infection and death is likely significantly higher.

In a somber address to the nation as the US surpassed half a million coronavirus deaths on Monday, Joe Biden urged the country to unify in its battle against the virus.

“I ask all Americans to remember those we lost and those we left behind. But as we all remember, I also ask us to act, to remain vigilant, to stay socially distanced, to mask up, get vaccinated when it’s your turn,” the president said in his address from the White House.

Biden used the speech to urge Americans to overcome partisanship and follow public health guidelines as his administration races to distribute vaccines and end the pandemic:

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Coronavirus live news: Fauci says political divide added to ‘stunning’ US deaths; Italy ‘misled’ WHO – The Guardian

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