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Coronavirus digest: Japan may prioritize vaccinations for Olympic athletes

dw.com logo dw.com 4/8/2021 dw.com

The Japanese government is considering prioritizing vaccines for athletes competing in the summer Olympics games. Follow DW for the latest.

a person in a suit and tie: Japan may prioritize vaccines for athletes competing in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics © Yuichi Yamazaki/AP/picture alliance Japan may prioritize vaccines for athletes competing in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics

The Japanese government is considering prioritizing COVID-19 vaccines for athletes taking part in the July Olympics and Paralympics, the Kyodo news agency reported.

Japan's vaccination drive is far behind many other rich nations. Regulators have only approved one vaccine so far and just 1 million have received a first dose since February. This comes as the country struggles with a rising number of new cases.

However, according to government officials quoted by Kyodo late on Wednesday, Toyko is evaluating the possibility of ensuring all its Olympic and Paralympic athletes are fully vaccinated by the end of June.

The report provoked outrage on social media, with many noting that the original plans prioritized vaccinations for medical workers, the elderly and those with chronic conditions.

Polls show the vast majority of Japanese want the Olympics, which have already been postponed once because of the pandemic, to be cancelled or postponed again. Yet the government is determined they will be carried out as planned starting on July 23.

Here is an overview of the latest coronavirus news from around the world.

Americas

Chile's health regulator on Wednesday approved emergency use of the Chinese produced CanSino COVID-19 vaccine as the country moves ahead with its vaccination drive while fighting a second spike of cases.

Following a late-stage trial, Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said at the end of March that he had signed a deal to buy 1.8 million vials of the single-dose vaccine.

CanSino has also been approved for use in China, Mexico, Pakistan and Hungary. It is due to arrive in Chile next month.

Venezuela's Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza claimed Wednesday that economic sanctions against the government of President Nicolas Maduro are blocking the nation from acquiring vaccines.

The United States, which refuses to recognize Maduro's reelection in 2018, has frozen Venezuelan money in US bank accounts. Along with several European and other countries, the US views the election as fraudulent, and instead recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country's acting president. Washington has handed control of the frozen funds to Guaido.

"If Venezuela did not have its resources blocked we would have been able to buy the 30 million vaccines the country needs three months ago," Arreaza said in an interview with AFP. "As they are blocked, here we are."

The nation has so far received 250,000 of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine doses as well as half-a-million from China's Sinopharm.

Guaido said last month he would allocate $30 million from the frozen funds towards vaccinations in Venezuela.

As the country fights another wave of the virus, Caracas is also negotiating to buy more doses from the global Covax vaccine access program.

Officially, Venezuela has 165,000 cases and some 1,700 deaths. But NGOs such as Human Rights Watch question these figures, which they fear are vastly underestimated.

Argentinia announced new restrictions to fight a second wave of the virus on Wednesday.

Among the measures, which are set to begin Friday, are a nightly curfew between midnight and 6 am, the closure of bars and restaurants after 11 pm, and restrictions on family gatherings.

To restrict movements and limit the spread of infections, only workers in essential sectors will be allowed to travel on local public transport.

The new measures will last for at least three weeks, said Argentinian President Alberto Fernandez, who himself is currently in isolation after testing positive for Covid-19 last week.

On Wednesday Argentina reported a record 22,039 new virus infections. This brings the total caseload to about 2.4 million. Almost 57,000 have so far died in connection with Covid-19.

Asia

Gujarat, the home state of India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the latest to tighten coronavirus curbs as infections nationwide surged to a record of almost 116,000 new cases in 24 hours.

Modi will chair a meeting with other state chiefs as coronavirus cases increase.

On Wednesday, experts blamed the new wave on people ignoring guidelines and attending huge religious and political events, including weddings and cricket matches over the past few months.

India has now recorded 12.8 million cases, the third-highest behind the United States and Brazil, although India's population is much larger. So far, at least 166,000 Indians have died.

Maharashtra, home to megacity Mumbai, is the nation's worst-hit state. Beginning on Friday evening, a night time curfew will be imposed and weekend lockdowns will be enforced.

Australia

Australia has no plans to change the rollout of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday, after Europe's drug regulator found possible links between rare blood clots and it's usage.

"At this point, there is no advice to suggest there would be any change to the rollout of the vaccine," Morrison told reporters in the nation's capitol of Canberra.

Australian authorities have ordered an urgent inquiry following the findings from Europe's drug regulator.

The nation is more than 80% behind its original immunization schedule, and its plan relies heavily on AstraZeneca to vaccinate its 26 million population.

Authorities had pledged to administer at least 4 million first doses by the end of March, but could only deliver 670,000 due to supply issues from Europe.

mb/aw (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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