Brazil struggles to control coronavirus surge, while new COVID vaccine Novavax shows 89 percent efficacy.

Brazil has vaccinated more than a million people but it is still less than 1 percent of the population, as the country is struggling to control a coronavirus case surge.

Hospitals are swamped with COVID-19 patients, with the city of Manaus, the gateway to the Amazon rain forest, still facing a shortage of oxygen in hospitals.

A fast-spreader COVID-19 strain detected in cities such as Manaus and Sao Paulo have thrown new challenges before authorities who have been accused of slow response.

On Friday, Novavax, a US-based company, announced that its coronavirus vaccine appears to be 89 percent effective based on early findings from a British study, and that it also seems to work – though not as well – against new mutated versions of the virus circulating in the United Kingdom and South Africa.

Africa can expect that at least 30 percent of its population will be immunised by the end of 2021, said the World Health Organization as vaccines begin trickling into the continent.

Worldwide, the pandemic has killed more than two million people and infected nearly 101 million, according to data from the Johns Hopkins University.

Hello, this is Virginia Pietromarchi in Rome, Italy, giving you the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic:

UK bans UAE flights

Britain is banning direct passenger flights to and from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from Friday, shutting down the world’s busiest international airline route from Dubai to London.

Britain said it was adding the UAE, Burundi and Rwanda to its coronavirus travel ban list because of worries over the spread of a more contagious and potentially vaccine-resistant COVID-19 variant first identified in South Africa.

Read the full story here.

Novavax says vaccine 89 percent effective in UK trial

Biotech company Novavax has said its coronavirus vaccine was 89.3 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 in a trial conducted in the United Kingdom, and was nearly as effective in protecting against the more highly contagious variant first discovered in the UK, according to a preliminary analysis.

A mid-stage trial of the vaccine in South Africa, where a troubling new variant of the virus is common, showed 60 percent effectiveness among people who did not have HIV.

Novavax shares surged 34 percent in after-hours trading following the release of the trial results on the same day the United States reported its first cases of the South African variant.

Read the full story here.

Brazil struggles to contain the outbreak

Brazil has vaccinated more than a million people, but that is less than 1 percent of the population. The country is struggling to contain the coronavirus and the situation seems far from resolving as a fast-spreader variant of the virus has already been detected in large cities such as Sao Paulo.

The Amazonas state’s capital, Manaus, is facing a shortage of oxygen with healthcare workers working around the clock to prevent patients from suffocating to death.

“You ask a nurse to help you and she says she can’t do anything because she is dealing with another patient who is dying in front of you,” said mourner Valceny Ferreira. “There aren’t enough healthcare workers to deal with this, but we wouldn’t be in this state if the Amazonas state would have invested in the healthcare,” she added.

Researches say the variant of the coronavirus detected in Japan originating in the Brazilian state of Amazonas is already dominant in its capital Manaus, reinforcing initial suspicions that it may be more contagious [Marcio James/AFP]