Coronavirus updates: WHO calls for an end to ‘vaccine nationalism’

The World Health Organization’s chief says governments and drug-makers are putting their own interests ahead of others as they race to develop a coronavirus vaccine.

Meanwhile, a Chinese pharmaceutical company has revealed that a potential vaccine it is developing is likely to cost less than $200 for two doses.

This story will be updated throughout Wednesday.

Wednesday’s key moments:

WHO calls for end to ‘vaccine nationalism’

World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said countries putting their own interests ahead of those of others in trying to ensure supplies are making the pandemic worse.

Governments and drug-makers around the world are in a frenetic race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine.

More than 200 candidates are in development, including more than 20 in human clinical trials.

“[Acting] strategically and globally is actually in each country’s national interest — no one is safe until everyone is safe,” Dr Tedros told a virtual briefing on Tuesday calling for an end to “vaccine nationalism”.

He said he had sent a letter to all WHO members asking them to join the multilateral COVAX vaccine effort.

Chinese firm says vaccine likely to cost less than $200 for two shots

A lab researcher working on the Chinese vaccine for COVID-19
Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinopharm has revealed that two doses of its potential coronavirus vaccine will likely cost less than $200.(AP via Xinhua)

A Chinese pharmaceutical company has revealed the approximate price to be charged for their coronavirus vaccine.

China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) chairman Liu Jingzhen told Chinese state media on Tuesday a potential coronavirus vaccine it is developing could cost less than 1,000 yuan ($200) for two shots.

The Australian Government has announced a deal with UK-based drug company AstraZeneca that would see Australians receive a vaccine for free, if trials are successful.

Sinopharm has said its experimental vaccine could be ready for public use by the end of this year.

“It will not be priced very high. It is expected to cost a few hundred yuan for a shot, and for two shots it should be less than 1,000 yuan,” Mr Liu said.

South Africa eases lockdown as new case numbers decline

A woman in a face mask looks through a barred window
South Africa has more than half of all coronavirus cases on the African continent.(Reuters: Mike Hutchings)

South Africa, which had one of the world’s strictest lockdowns for five months, has begun relaxing restrictions in response to decreasing new cases and hospitalisations for COVID-19.

The country loosened its regulations on Tuesday, permitting the sales of alcohol and cigarettes and allowing the opening of bars, restaurants, gyms, and places of worship, all limited to no more than 50 people.

Virtually all businesses and factories have reopened but with distancing regulations.

Schools will reopen gradually from August 24, starting with grades 12 and 7 and a phased opening of other grades. The country will keep its night-time curfew from 10pm to 4am.

With more than 589,000 confirmed cases, South Africa has more than half of all reported cases in Africa, and more than 11,900 deaths from COVID-19.

South Africa’s new confirmed cases have dropped from an average of 12,000 per day at the peak in July to less than 5,000 per day last week.

Vice-president blames Brazilians for severity of country’s coronavirus crisis

You view an aerial image of Rio de Janeiro at night with the Christ the Redeemer statue lit up with coronavirus messages.
Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue was lit up as if wearing a protective mask earlier this year.(AP: Leo Correa)

Brazil’s Vice-president, Hamilton Mourao, has defended his Government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and says a lack of discipline from his compatriots had made the Government’s job more difficult.

The South American nation is the world’s second-worst hit for coronavirus cases and deaths after the United States

“Of course we regret the deaths of more than 100,000 Brazilians, but the Federal Government and the State Governments did everything we could,” Mr Mourao told the BBC.

“We were successful in adapting the curve of the pandemic to the capacity of our public hospitals because in the beginning everybody was afraid that we would have people dying in the halls of our hospitals and this did not happen.

“We had a lot of measures to mitigate the economic and social problems.

Mr Mourao said Brazilians by nature were “not very disciplined”.

“So it’s impossible to come from the top down and say ‘you have to do this, you have to do that’,” he said.

Brazil’s President, Jair Bolsonaro, has repeatedly played down the seriousness of COVID-19 and described it as “a little flu”.