US secures 300 million possible vaccine doses
BENGALURU/LONDON • The United States has secured almost a third of British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca's one billion possible Covid-19 vaccine doses by pledging up to US$1.2 billion (S$1.7 billion), as the world's biggest powers scramble for medicinal supplies to get their economies back to work.
After President Donald Trump demanded a vaccine, the US Department of Health agreed to provide up to US$1.2 billion to accelerate AstraZeneca's vaccine development and secure 300 million doses for the United States.
"This contract with AstraZeneca is a major milestone in Operation Warp Speed's work towards a safe, effective, widely available vaccine by 2021," US Health Secretary Alex Azar said, referring to the US project to develop a vaccine by the end of the year.
The vaccine was developed by the University of Oxford and licensed to AstraZeneca. Immunity to the new coronavirus is uncertain, so the use of vaccines is unclear.
Britain's tracking system under fire
LONDON • Britain's system for tracing those with the coronavirus was under fire yesterday as it grappled with the development of a tracking app.
Health workers warned the government that unless there was clarity, the country could suffer a second deadly wave.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday that a "world-beating" programme to test and trace would be in place by June 1. Britain is currently testing the Bluetooth-based app.
Mr James Brokenshire, Junior Interior Minister in charge of security, said there were technical issues with the app and that traditional measures would be used until it works.
The NHS Confederation, a group which represents the National Health Service's organisations, said Britain is at risk of a second jump in cases.
"The relaxation of restrictions based on scientific advice is the right approach, but it must be accompanied by an effective test, track and trace strategy which enables us to monitor local spread of the disease," the confederation said.
Malaysia reports 35 new cases at detention centre
KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia reported 35 new coronavirus cases at an immigration detention centre yesterday, after the authorities rounded up undocumented migrants this month in areas under lockdown.
The United Nations has called on Malaysia to stop the crackdown, which it said has spread fear among migrant communities in South-east Asia's third-largest economy.
Malaysia has so far reported 7,059 cases, with 114 deaths.
The Malaysian authorities have detained more than 1,800 migrants in at least two raids as part of efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus. This has raised concerns that they could instead increase infection risks in overcrowded detention centres.
The Health Ministry said yesterday that it had 35 confirmed cases at the Bukit Jalil immigration detention centre, located in the outskirts of the capital Kuala Lumpur, out of 645 people who were being held in one block at the centre.