Canadian doctors say a clinical trial shows anti-inflammatory drug colchicine is effective in treating Covid-19

United States has suffered its highest death toll with 414,107 fatalities

The Chinese city of Wuhan marks one year since the start of its traumatic 76-day coronavirus lockdown.

On January 23, 2020, Wuhan shocked the globe by confining its 11 million citizens to their homes, starting a cycle that would spread across the world.

But China largely brought its outbreak under control and Wuhan is nothing like the ghost town of a year ago, with traffic humming, pavements bustling, and citizens packing public transport and parks.

With a quarter of its nine-million-strong population now vaccinated, Israel is expanding its drive to high school students aged 16-18 – as long as their parents agree.

As the country works down the age scale, people aged 40 and up are also allowed to get the vaccine from Saturday.

In Europe, France passes one million doses injected, while Spain’s top general resigns after accusations he got the vaccine early without belonging to a priority group.

Thousands of people in one of Hong Kong’s most densely packed districts are ordered to stay in their homes.

Norway’s government meanwhile imposes the strictest restrictions seen in the region of the capital Oslo since March after the discovery of the British variant in a retirement home.

In Gabon, Africa, the government announced an earlier evening curfew, from 8pm rather than 10pm, along with hefty fines for ignoring mask-wearing rules or a 30-person limit on the size of gatherings.

A French government source has said that “the hypothesis of confinement is more and more likely”, citing projections of a surge in cases due to the more transmissible British strain.

France’s national health authority says that it would be “reasonable” to extend the time between the two required vaccination doses to up to six weeks, from the current recommendation of three to four.

Hundreds of Czech pubs and restaurants belonging to the “Dog is dead” anti-lockdown movement defy restrictions in place since October by opening all at once, risking a fine of 20,000 crowns (US$932).

Mistaken infection statistics led Italy to lock down its economic powerhouse Lombardy for a week longer than needed, regional authorities say.

The ECOWAS west African bloc agrees to “harmonise” prices of Covid-19 tests across its 16 member countries at US$50, hoping especially to relieve a costly burden on travellers.

ECOWAS Commission chief Jean Claude Kassi Brou added that it will set up a joint fund to buy vaccines, backed by governments and other partners.

The World Health Organization says it has no plans to change its guidance recommending fabric face masks as new coronavirus variants spread, because the mutated strains are transmitted in the same way.

The statement comes after Germany and Austria made medical masks mandatory on public transport and in shops, allowing only surgical or FFP2 masks rather than fabric.

With Mexico City’s hospitals overwhelmed, relatives are queuing for hours to buy oxygen for the growing number of people fighting the virus at home. The country has recorded 146,174 Covid-19 deaths so far.

Brazil has just started its vaccination campaign but scientists are already warning the hard-hit country will quickly run out of doses and even syringes, some blaming the government for the shortages.

Canadian doctors say a clinical trial shows anti-inflammatory drug colchicine is effective in treating Covid-19 and reduces the risk of complications.

Colchicine is “the world’s first oral drug that could be used to treat non-hospitalised patients with Covid-19”, the Montreal Heart Institute says, after it reduced hospitalisations by 25 per cent, the need for mechanical ventilation by 50 per cent, and deaths by 44 per cent among 4,159 patients.

More than 2.1 million people have died of the virus since it first emerged in China in late 2019, according to a tally compiled by Agence France-Presse on Saturday based on official figures.

The US has suffered the highest death toll with 414,107 fatalities, followed by Brazil with 215,243 and India with 153,184.

But more than 60 million vaccination doses have been administered in some 64 countries or territories, with 90 per cent of those jabs taking place in 13 nations.

The number of deaths globally is broadly underestimated. The toll is calculated from daily figures published by national health authorities and does not include later revisions by statistics agencies.

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