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Global Covid report: young and healthy may not get vaccine until 2022, WHO says

Healthy, young people may have to wait until 2022 to be vaccinated against coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization’s chief scientist, who says health workers and those at highest risks be prioritised. It comes as Germany recorded its highest daily number of infections since the start of the pandemic.

Soumya Swaminathan indicated that, despite the many vaccine trials being undertaken, speedy, mass shots were unlikely, and organising who would given access first in the event of a safe vaccine being discovered was still being worked on.

“Most people agree, it’s starting with healthcare workers, and frontline workers, but even there, you need to define which of them are at highest risk, and then the elderly, and so on,” Swaminathan said.

“There will be a lot of guidance coming out, but I think an average person, a healthy young person might have to wait until 2022 to get a vaccine,” she said.

Swaminathan hoped there would be at least one effective vaccine by 2021 but it would be available only in “limited quantities”.

Two vaccine candidates, from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca’s US trial, have been paused on safety concerns.

Swaminathan also warned against complacency about the virus death rate, saying with the increasing number of cases, mortality would also rise. “Mortality increases always lag behind increasing cases by a couple of weeks,” she said. “We shouldn’t be complacent that death rates are coming down.”

Germany has recorded its highest number of daily infections since the start of the pandemic, reporting 6,638 new cases. The previous high came on 28 March, with 6,294 cases.

On Wednesday, chancellor Angela Merkel and the premiers of the country’s 16 federal states agreed to a new rule where areas with rapidly increasing infection rates would have to impose an 11pm curfew for bars and restaurants.

If an area records more than 35 new infections per 100,000 people over seven days, masks will also become mandatory in places where people have close contact for an extended period.

Global infections stand at 38.4 million, with deaths at 1.09 million. The US leads on both counts, with just under 8 million infections and more than 216,000 deaths.

Donald Trump held a rally in Iowa on Wednesday evening, again saying he was “immune” from the virus. “I’m immune and I can’t give it to you,” he told the rally, adding that that he thought his son Barron, 14, who had had the virus but subsequently tested negative, “didn’t even know he had it”.

Meanwhile, Trump’s former defence secretary, General James Mattis, said America had not handled Covid well. He said: “The bottom line is we have seen a response to disease politicised in an unfortunate way and the cost is real.”

“We’ve paid a bloody awful price for it, is the bottom line – there’s no dressing it up,” Mattis said.

The WHO’s special envoy on Covid-19, Dr David Nabarro, was also critical of US handing of the virus, in an interview with Australia’s national broadcaster, the ABC. Asked about Trump’s return to the campaign trail, in which he claimed he was now immune, he said: “It’s quite hard to encourage everybody to behave in a way that enables them to keep free of the virus if there are public figures who are suggesting that they can behave differently.”

In other developments:

  • France has imposed a curfew in Paris and eight other cities from Saturday. “We have to act. We need to put a brake on the spread of the virus,” President Emmanuel Macron said in a TV appearance, announcing the 9pm-6am curfew that will remain in force for at least four weeks, except for essential reasons.

  • Spain will close bars and restaurants across Catalonia for the next 15 days following a surge in cases, as the country tackles one of the highest rates of infection in Europe, with nearly 900,000 cases and more than 33,000 deaths

  • In the Netherlands, where new measures also came into force, including restrictions on alcohol sales and new mask requirements, people drank and danced in the final minutes before all bars, restaurants and cannabis “coffee shops” closed down.

  • Mexico’s death tally is approaching 85,000, after an additional 498 fatalities. Total infections in the country stand at 829,396, the health ministry said.

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