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Coronavirus: What’s happening around the world on Wednesday

The latest:

  • Russia’s COVID-19 vaccination claims draw international skepticism. 
  • India’s coronavirus caseload tops 2.3 million.
  • Australian state of Victoria reports a record 21 virus deaths.
  • COVID-19 cases in Singapore continue to drop.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn on Wednesday said Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine has not been sufficiently tested, adding the aim is to have a safe product rather than just being first to start vaccinating people.

President Vladimir Putin announced on Tuesday that Russia had become the first country to grant regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine after less than two months of human testing.

Moscow’s decision to grant approval before final trials have been completed has raised concerns among some experts.

“It can be dangerous to start vaccinating millions, if not billions, of people too early because it could pretty much kill the acceptance of vaccination if it goes wrong, so I’m very skeptical about what’s going on in Russia,” Spahn told radio broadcaster Deutschlandfunk.

The U.S. health secretary Alex Azar also said Wednesday that the push to develop a COVID-19 vaccine is “not a race to be first.”

German Health Minister Jens Spahn said it was crucial to carry out proper studies and tests to give people confidence in a potential vaccine. (Keuenhof/Pool/Getty Images)

Azar says the U.S. is combining the powers of its government, economy and biopharmaceutical industry to “deliver as quickly as we can for the benefit of the United States’ citizens, but also for the people of the world, safe and effective vaccines.”

Two companies’ vaccine candidates have entered the third phase of trials while the Russian vaccine is just now embarking on that stage with no information having been disclosed, he said. 

He says the U.S. process should allow the production of a “gold-standard, safe and effective vaccine” available in the tens of millions of doses by the end of the year.

Spahn said it was crucial, even during a pandemic, to carry out proper studies and tests and make the results public to give people confidence in the vaccine.

WATCH | Doubts surround Russia’s coronavirus vaccine:

Russian President Vladimir Putin says a locally developed COVID-19 vaccine has been given regulatory approval after less than two months of testing on humans, but there are concerns safety could have been compromised for speed. 3:14

“It’s not about being first somehow — it’s about having an effective, tested and therefore safe vaccine,” he said when asked about Russia’s vaccine, which will be called “Sputnik V” in homage to the world’s first satellite launched by the Soviet Union.

Russian Health Minister Mikhail Murashko shot back at critics alleging Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine was unsafe, saying the claims were groundless and driven by competition, the Interfax news agency reported.

Moscow’s decision to grant the vaccine approval has raised concerns among some experts. Only about 10 per cent of clinical trials are successful and some scientists fear Moscow may be putting national prestige before safety.

Russia said on Wednesday the first batch of its COVID-19 vaccine would be ready for some medics within two weeks.

An employee works at the production line of Russia’s biotech company BIOCAD, which is developing its own vaccine against coronavirus. (Olga Maltseva/AFP/Getty Images)

“It seems our foreign colleagues are sensing the specific competitive advantages of the Russian drug and are trying to express opinions that in our opinion are completely groundless,” Murashko said on Wednesday.

He said the vaccine developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute would be administered to people, including doctors, on a voluntary basis, and would be ready soon.

Alexander Gintsburg, director of the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology, said clinical trials would be published once they have been assessed by Russia’s own experts.

He said Russia plans to be able to produce 5 million doses a month by December-January.

What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada

As of 5:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had 120,421 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 106,746 of those as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 9,030.

Ontario public servants may not be required to wear face masks in all instances when they return to work, according to documents obtained by CBC News from the Doug Ford government.

In the “Guide to Planning for the Gradual Reopening of the Workplace,” dated Friday, Aug. 7, the government says masks will not be mandatory unless employees are in indoor public spaces.

The guide notes that Ontario cities and regions have made masks mandatory in enclosed public spaces, while most public health units have recommended that masks should be worn in public spaces.

“When access to ministry/working space is controlled (security cards, locks, etc.) then it is generally not considered public space,” the guide says.

Alexandra Hilkene, spokesperson for Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott, said the guide is a work in progress. The province has not yet finalized a return-to-work plan for the Ontario Public Service (OPS) for employees currently working at home, she said.

“The attached documents are in no way final,” Hilken said in an email on Tuesday. “They were prepared to begin the conversation internally as to what a return to work could look like. While initial planning is underway, no final direction has been provided to the OPS around a potential return to work for those working remotely.”

Here’s what’s happening around the world

According to Johns Hopkins University, the global total of confirmed coronavirus cases is now more than 20.3 million. Over 742,000 people have died, while 12.6 million have recovered.

Singapore on Wednesday reported 42 new COVID-19 cases, its lowest daily count in about four and a half months.

A test for COVID-19 is carried out at a temporary clinic near Namdaemun, a 600-year-old gate listed as South Korea’s number one national treasure, in Seoul. (Jung Yeon-je/AFP/Getty Images)

The city-state went into a lockdown in mid-April after mass outbreaks in cramped migrant worker dormitories pushed its caseload to one of the highest in Asia.

Last week, it said it had cleared infections from all of the dormitories — housing around 300,000 workers — barring some blocks which continue to serve as isolation zones.

India’s coronavirus caseload has topped 2.3 million after adding 60,963 in the last 24 hours.

The nation also reported 834 deaths on Wednesday for a total of 46,091. India has the third-highest caseload after the United States and Brazil, but only the fifth-highest death toll, and authorities say the fatality rate has dropped below 2 per cent for the first time.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a video conference Tuesday with the top elected officials of 10 states that together account for about 80 per cent of India’s total cases, urging them to rigorously apply the strategies of containment, surveillance and contact tracing.

WATCH | Schools may have to adapt with information about COVID-19 and kids:

Schools in British Columbia have pushed back their start date to allow for better preparation for the COVID-19 pandemic, and experts say more adapting may be needed as information about how the virus affects kids is learned. 2:02

South Korea reported 54 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 as health authorities scramble to stem transmissions amid increased social and leisure activities.

The figures announced by South Korea’ Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) Wednesday brought the national caseload to 14,714 infections, including 305 deaths.

The KCDC says 35 of the new cases were local transmissions, all but three of them reported from the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, which has been at the centre of a virus resurgence since late May.

The Australian state of Victoria on Wednesday reported a record 21 virus deaths and 410 new cases from an outbreak in the city of Melbourne that has prompted authorities to impose a strict lockdown.

Melbourne remains under Stage 4 lockdown restrictions, with people only allowed to leave home to give or receive care, to shop for food and essential items, and for daily exercise and work. (Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

State Premier Daniel Andrews said 16 of the deaths were linked to aged-care facilities. The number of new cases in Victoria is down from the peak, giving authorities some hope the outbreak is waning.

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