Health authorities in Japan say they have found more than 90 cases of a new variant of COVID-19.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobo Kato told reporters the mutant variant known as E484K, has been found in 91 cases in the Kanto area of eastern Japan. There were also 2 cases at airports.
It is believed that the strain came from overseas, but it is different from those that originated in Britain and South Africa, according to an earlier report citing Japan's National Institute of Infectious Diseases.
Japan, which has just started its vaccination program, has had more than 400,000 cases of COVID, with 7,194 fatalities.
Germany's Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Friday that coronavirus infection levels were highly stagnating, urging people to remain cautious. Spahn also said the government was starting a vaccination task force to speed up Germany's slow rollout.
Doctors' practices are planning to start large-scale vaccinations in the second quarter of the year.
"We are gearing up to start vaccinating in doctors' offices nationwide," the vice-chair of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians, Stephan Hofmeister, told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland newspaper group.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases for Germany increased by 9,113 to 2,369,719, information from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed on Friday. Fatalities rose by 508 to 67,206, the tally showed.
According to information revealed by German media, BioNTech-Pfizer originally demanded €54 ($65.4) per vaccine dose, for a purchase of 500 million doses.
Last summer BioNTech-Pfizer wanted €27 billion to supply enough jabs to inoculate almost half of the EU's population. The final price is thought to have been around €15.50 per dose.
Hitting back at accusations that the European Union had mismanaged the coronavirus vaccine rollout, Margaritis Schinas, a vice-president of the European Commission, said blaming Brussels is "convenient" and makes headlines, "but it doesn't sort out the problems."
This week the bloc revealed plans to combat COVID-19 variants and speed up approval of new vaccines. On DW's Conflict Zone, host Tim Sebastian asked Schinas if the announcement was more than a PR exercise to boost an unfavorable image.
United States President Joe Biden was expected to use his first meeting with leaders of the G7 advanced economies to announce an immediate donation to the COVAX program co-led by the World Health Organization.
The meeting comes with richer countries on course to have more than a billion more doses of COVID-19 vaccines than they need, according to a report by anti-poverty campaigners found on Friday.
Brazil, the nation with the second-highest coronavirus death toll, has passed the 10-million mark for reported infections. The grim milestone was reached amid a deadly second wave and problems with its vaccination campaign.
The country had more than 51,900 new infections in 24 hours, according to official data. It is the third to reach such a level of infections – after the United States and India. Over the same one-day period, there were 1,367 fatalities, bringing the total to more than 243,400.
The number of reported COVID-19 deaths across Africa has surpassed 100,000, a fraction of the fatalities reported on other continents but rising fast.
Amid a second wave of infections, some hospitals are being overwhelmed.
The rise in deaths was pronounced in countries near South Africa like Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi. This raises the possibility that the 501Y.V2 variant identified in South Africa late last year could have caused the rapid spread. More genomic sequencing is needed to ascertain that.
Health experts are voicing concerns over a decision by Pakistan to allow some private companies to import coronavirus vaccines, which are likely to be sold at commercial rates.
The move has caused an outcry among medical professionals, some of whom claim it amounts to commercializing human suffering.
In New Zealand, a small group of medical professionals hs received the BioNTech-Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. The jabs were delivered in preparation for a wider rollout over the weekend.
The group chosen were vaccinators who will administer shots to border and quarantine staff from Saturday.
rc/sms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)