The global battle against the COVID-19 endemic is continuing on many fronts.
Much focus is now on South America, especially Brazil, where the rapidly spreading and extremely virulent Brazilian variant is threatening to overwhelm health services.
Brazil has seen a rapid expansion of Covid-19 cases over the past month which the country’s health experts worry could be linked to various mutations of the virus.
A new super-variant of the Covid-19 virus described as a combination of 18 different mutations, including the so-called Brazil, British and South African strains, is said to be gaining a foothold in the region.
Several other South American countries are struggling with a spike in infections and deaths with Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay among the worst affected.
Brazil, now seen as the epicentre of the pandemic, has recorded over 13 million COVID-19 cases with fatalities averaging around 3,000 a day with its health service struggling to cope.
An increasing number of countries are putting Brazil on a travel blacklist over fears of importing the Brazil strain and its other mutations.
Meanwhile, with mass vaccination seen as a pathway out of the pandemic, or at least to suppress the spread, the roll-out of new vaccines continues apace but is being met with some hiccups.
The UK’s Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine which has been linked to a few cases of blood clots resulting in deaths in a handful of instances has been suspended by some governments.
The reason given is to review the drug's efficacy and to verify whether it is really the cause of the reported side effects.
Some countries, such as Denmark have stopped using the vaccine altogether while others which had previously been cautious about administering it have reinstated its use.
Several leaders are publicly taking the vaccine to shore up confidence in its efficacy and to reassure their citizens of its safety.
In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel was due to have her Oxford/AstraZeneca jab on Friday, while in Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon took her first dose of the vaccine on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the American Johnson and Johnson vaccine has been recalled by the company just days after its roll-out started.
The company said it was halting further injections after the US regulator, the Federal Drug Administration(FDA) advised a temporary pause "out of an abundance of caution".
One person has died from blood clotting complications, after taking the Johnson and Johnson jab and another was said to be hospitalised in a critical condition.
27 Jan, 2020
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