Swiss Say More Data Needed On AstraZeneca Vaccine

A nurse draws Covishield, AstraZeneca's Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine made by India's Serum Institute, at the Baruipur sub-divisional hospital on the outskirts of Kolkata on January 18, 2021. Dibyangshu SARKAR / AFP
A nurse draws Covishield, AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine made by India’s Serum Institute, at the Baruipur sub-divisional hospital on the outskirts of Kolkata on January 18, 2021.
Dibyangshu SARKAR / AFP

 

 

Swiss regulators said Wednesday that data submitted by AstraZeneca were not yet sufficient for it to authorise use of the Anglo-Swedish firm’s COVID-19 vaccine and “new studies” were needed.

The Swissmedic regulatory authority said it had been examining information from AstraZeneca but that it was “not yet sufficient to permit authorisation”.

“To obtain more information about safety, efficacy and quality, additional data from new studies are needed,” it said in a statement.

Switzerland has so far given the green light to Covid-19 vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

It had been expected to authorise the AstraZeneca jab soon, after the neighbouring European Union last week gave the vaccine the go-ahead.

But while the EU granted approval for use in all people over the age of 18, several European countries have advised against giving the jabs to people over 65, citing lack of evidence that it was effective among the elderly.

Swissmedic said a meeting of its external advisory body on Tuesday had confirmed its interim assessment of the AstraZeneca vaccine data.

“The data currently available do not point to a positive decision regarding benefits and risks,” it said.

“To obtain a conclusive assessment, the applicant will among other things have to submit additional efficacy data from a Phase 3 trial under way in North and South America, and these will have to be analysed.

“As soon as the results have been received, a temporary authorisation according to the rolling procedure could be issued at very short notice,” it added.

A spokesperson for AstraZeneca meanwhile stressed in an email that the company’s jab had already been granted emergency use authorisation “in close to 50 countries, spanning four continents, including most recently in the European Union.”

“We are confident that our vaccine is effective, well-tolerated, and can have a real impact on the pandemic.”

The spokesperson said the company would “continue to share new data as it becomes available and work with Swissmedic to make Covid-19 vaccine AstraZeneca available in Switzerland as soon as possible.”

– 17 mn more doses –
Switzerland, which kicked off vaccination against the coronavirus in late December, meanwhile announced Wednesday that it had signed three more contracts to acquire another 17 million vaccine doses.

The country of 8.5 million people said it had reached an agreement with Germany’s Curevac, whose vaccine is in Phase 3 trials, and the Swedish government for the delivery of five million doses.

It said it had also signed a preliminary agreement with US firm Novavax for six million doses.

These will add two new vaccines to the Swiss portfolio, if they are approved by regulators.

At the same time, the Swiss government had also signed a deal to acquire an additional six million doses of the Moderna vaccine, bringing the total number of those jabs available in Switzerland to 13.5 million.

In addition, the government has signed deals for access to around three million Pfizer-BioNTech doses and 5.3 million AstraZeneca doses.

Swiss Lawyer Reveals How Abacha Looted Billions

General Sani Abacha was a Nigerian military Head of State in the 1990s
General Sani Abacha was a Nigerian military Head of State in the 1990s

 

A Swiss lawyer, Enrico Monfrini says he has been working for the past twenty years to recover funds looted by the Sani Abacha government.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Monfrini said he was first contacted by the civilian government of President Olusegun Obasanjo to help with the recovery.

He also explained some of his findings on how the former military dictator diverted the funds to Swiss banks using several allies and what he describes as dollars by truckloads.

In 2008, Mr Monfrini said $508m found in the Abacha family’s many Swiss bank accounts was sent from Switzerland to Nigeria between 2005 and 2007.

According to him, by 2018, the amount Switzerland had returned to Nigeria had reached more than $1bn.

He alleged that the late dictator diverted over four to five billion dollars at the initial stage.

Mr Monfrini said he is still expecting $30m he says is sitting in the UK to be returned, along with $144m in France and a further $18m in Jersey.

Switzerland Plans To Extend COVID-19 Restrictions Until March

Swiss Interior and health Minister Alain Berset reacts during a press conference on January 6, 2021 in Bern after the Swiss government decided to extend the measures to fight the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus by five weeks until the end of February. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

Switzerland on Wednesday planned to extend the closure of bars, restaurants and leisure facilities until the end of February in a bid to control stubbornly high Covid-19 case numbers.

“The situation is not good; frankly, it’s bad,” Health Minister Alain Berset told a press conference in the capital Bern.

The pandemic “is not decreasing and remains at a very high level”.

The restrictions, which had been due to last until January 22, are set to be extended for a further five weeks.

READ ALSO: Manchester City Confirm Three More COVID-19 Cases

The government will consult the regional cantons on the proposals before a final decision on January 13.

Switzerland’s pandemic restrictions have not been as strict as in other European countries.

However, “the epidemiological situation remains tense: the number of infections, hospitalisations and deaths, as well as the burden on health workers, remains very high,” the government said in a statement.

Switzerland, population 8.6 million, recorded nearly 4,800 new cases and 65 new deaths on Wednesday, taking its totals to 468,427 cases and 7,400 fatalities.

The Federal Council said it could not see case numbers decreasing significantly in coming weeks and therefore envisaged extending the measures first imposed in late December.

Furthermore, the discovery of “new, more contagious” coronavirus variants in Britain and South Africa “increases the likelihood of an upsurge”.

The government said it would take steps to mitigate the economic consequences of extending the restrictions.

From Saturday it was ending exemptions from the existing rules for cantons where the virus was less prevalent.

“The Federal Council thus wants to prevent shopping tourism and gastronomic tourism between cantons and strengthen acceptance of the measures,” it said.

Switzerland has found the new coronavirus mutation in 28 samples — all people who arrived from Britain, or people with whom they had been in contact.

“This new variant could behave like a new pandemic within the pandemic,” Virginie Masserey, head of the health ministry’s infection control department, said Tuesday.

Switzerland was the first continental western European country to start its Covid-19 vaccination campaign, doing so on December 23 with the Pfizer-BioNTech jab.

With the doses already received from manufacturers, Switzerland can vaccinate the most vulnerable 2.7 percent of the population, said Berset.

AFP

Switzerland Authorises Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine

In this file photo taken on November 23, 2020 is pictured a bottle reading “Vaccine Covid-19” next to US pharmaceutical company Pfizer and German biotechnology company BioNTech logos on November 23, 2020.
JOEL SAGET / AFP

 

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been authorised for use in Switzerland following a two-month rolling review, the Swissmedic regulatory authority said Saturday.

“After a meticulous review of the available information, Swissmedic concluded that the Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech is safe and that its benefit outweighs the risks,” the body said in a statement.

It is the first vaccine against the new coronavirus that has been authorised for use in the wealthy Alpine nation.

“The safety of patients is an essential prerequisite, especially where the authorisation of vaccines is concerned,” said Swissmedic director Raimund Bruhin.

“Thanks to the rolling procedure and our flexibly organised teams, we nevertheless managed to reach a decision quickly — while also fully satisfying the three most important requirements of safety, efficacy, and quality.”

Switzerland, population 8.6 million, has secured around 15.8 million Covid-19 vaccine doses, in deals with three manufacturers.

It has signed contracts for around three million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, around 7.5 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine, and around 5.3 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

With all three manufacturers’ vaccines, two doses are required per person.

With Covid-19 cases and deaths still rising fast, the Swiss government announced Friday that restaurants and bars would be closed again across the country.

“The epidemiological situation is a cause of great concern,” the government said in a statement.

“The number of infections is very high and is continuing to rise. Hospitals and healthcare workers have been under extreme pressure for weeks and the festive period increases the risk of an even more rapid rise in cases,” it explained.

Switzerland is continuing to witness more than 4,000 new cases and 100 deaths each day.

In total, Switzerland has recorded more than 400,000 cases and nearly 6,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

-AFP

Switzerland To Impose 7:00 PM Curfew As COVID-19 Cases Continue

Swiss Interior and Health Minister Alain Berset speaks during a press conference on new measures against the Covid 19 pandemic on December 11, 2020 in Bern. Switzerland, which is failing to control the Covid-19 epidemic with the highest contamination rates in Europe, adopted a package of measures including the closure of restaurants, bars and shops at 7pm.
Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

Switzerland announced Friday that all shops, bars, and restaurants must close from 7:00 pm as it struggles to tame a resurgence in the coronavirus pandemic.

The country has some of the worst per capita infection rates in Europe and with those numbers back on the rise, the government fears the situation could get completely out of control over Christmas.

“We’re witnessing an exponential increase,” President Simonetta Sommaruga told a press conference in the capital Bern.

“Our hospitals and our health workers are being stretched to the limit. We couldn’t wait any longer.”

The new rules apply from Saturday and will last until January 22, with a closing time extension until 1:00 am on the nights of December 24 and 31.

The restrictions are an attempt to reduce the amount of contact between people.

With a population of 8.6 million, Switzerland is clocking up around 5,000 new cases and 100 deaths a day — a base level Health Minister Alain Berset said was far too high to start from if infections begin to double again.

“We can’t count on a vaccine, even if it arrives in January,” to fix the problem, Berset said.

 

READ ALSO; Russia Records 613 COVID-19 Deaths In 24 Hours

 

In March, during the first wave of infections, Switzerland was not hit as hard by Covid-19 deaths and did not impose as strict a lockdown as some other European states.

It gradually eased off those measures in stages and seemed to have mastered the virus.

From nearly no new cases at the beginning of June — indeed, just three were recorded on June 1 — infections rose slowly but steadily before rocketing in October, when cases, hospitalisations, and deaths began doubling from week to week.

After tumbling from a very high peak, progress stagnated in December and the daily case numbers have since begun to tick up again.

Some 372,329 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in Switzerland, while 5,378 have died.

-AFP

Swiss Sound Alarm As ICU Beds Fill Up With COVID-19 Patients

A healthcare worker takes a swab sample from a Swiss army reservist to be tested for the coronavirus disease at Moudon military base near a sign reading “Military” on November 8, 2020 
Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

A top Swiss medical association has sounded the alarm about over-saturated intensive care units across Switzerland as the second wave of Covid-19 infections takes a heavy toll.

“Swiss intensive care units are at the limit of their regular bed capacity,” the Swiss Society for Intensive Care Medicine (SSMI) warned in a statement issued Tuesday.

It said the 876 ICU beds for adults that it certifies across the wealthy Alpine nation “are practically all full”.

More beds have meanwhile been added, and the Swiss military has been called in to support efforts in several cantons.

Andreas Stettbacher, the Surgeon General of the Swiss Armed Forces, told media on Tuesday that the total number of intensive care beds in the country was now above 1,100, but warned they were at 80 percent capacity.

At the same time, the number of Covid-19 patients in ICUs across Switzerland has soared from 148 at the end of October to 543 on Tuesday, he said.

Switzerland emerged relatively unscathed from the first wave of Covid-19 infections in the spring but has been heavily impacted by the second wave, with hospitals pushed to the brink.

The country of 8.5 million people passed 10,000 cases per day several times earlier this month, and stricter measures, including the closure of restaurants and shops in some areas, have seen the numbers drop somewhat.

On Wednesday, Switzerland registered more than 6,000 new cases and 84 new deaths, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to nearly 280,000 confirmed cases and 3,377 deaths.

Swiss authorities have voiced concern over a spike in excess deaths among the elderly.

During the first week of November, 1,702 people aged over 65 died from causes including Covid — 50 percent more than normal for the age group.

SSMI said it was essential to postpone all non-urgent medical procedures to avoid overwhelming hospitals.

The organisation also urged everyone, but especially those with a high risk of developing severe Covid-19, to draft directives such as whether they wish to receive prolonged life-support if they fall critically ill.

“In this way, their loved ones, but also medical teams in the intensive care units, will be supported in the decision-making process, ensuring the best possible treatment in accordance with the patient’s wishes,” it said.

-AFP

Messi Vs Ronaldo In Champions League Group stage, Man Utd To Face PSG

(COMBO) This combination created on October 1, 2020, shows file pictures of Barcelona's Argentine forward Lionel Messi (L) Juventus' Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo. Miguel MEDINA, Josep LAGO / AFP
(COMBO) This combination created on October 1, 2020, shows file pictures of Barcelona’s Argentine forward Lionel Messi (L) Juventus’ Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo. Miguel MEDINA, Josep LAGO / AFP

 

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will meet in a mouthwatering clash in this season’s Champions League after Barcelona and Juventus were placed in the same group in Thursday’s draw.

Messi and Ronaldo will resume the rivalry they developed when the Portuguese superstar was at Real Madrid. Between them, they have won 11 of the last 12 Ballons d’Or.

The two heavyweights were drawn in Group G along with Dynamo Kiev of Ukraine and Ferencvaros, the Hungarian club returning to the group stage for the first time in quarter of a century.

Meanwhile, beaten 2020 finalists Paris Saint-Germain will have a chance for revenge against Manchester United, who ousted the French club in the last 16 two seasons ago.

READ ALSO: Lewandowski Named UEFA Men’s Player Of The Year

PSG will also come up against RB Leipzig in Group H. The sides met in last season’s semi-finals in Lisbon in August, with Paris winning 3-0 before losing to Bayern Munich in their first-ever final appearance.

Completing the group is Istanbul Basaksehir, who are appearing in the tournament proper for the first time.

English Premier League champions Liverpool, who won the Champions League in 2019, will face Ajax as well as Atalanta and Midtjylland of Denmark in Group D.

Holders Bayern will take on Atletico Madrid and will also have a short trip across the border to Austria to take on Salzburg in Group A. Lokomotiv Moscow are other team in the section.

Other notable match-ups will see 13-time European champions Real Madrid meet Inter Milan in Group B and Chelsea come up against debutants Rennes as well as Europa League winners Sevilla in Group E.

Chelsea signed goalkeeper Edouard Mendy from Rennes last week.

The group stage starts on October 20, and all six rounds of games will be crammed into eight weeks in a schedule that is even more packed than usual because of the coronavirus pandemic.

This season’s final is scheduled to be staged in Istanbul, which was initially the host for last season’s final before UEFA was forced into a change of plans because of the health crisis.

It remains to be seen whether spectators will be able to attend matches in the group stage.

Lewandowski Named UEFA Men’s Player Of The Year

 

Robert Lewandowski was named UEFA Men’s Player of the Year on Thursday following a superb season in which he won the treble with Bayern Munich.

Lewandowski was at UEFA headquarters in Nyon in Switzerland to receive the award at the draw for the Champions League group stage, just weeks after Bayern won the 2019/20 edition of the competition.

The Poland striker scored 55 goals in 47 games as Bayern also won the Bundesliga and German Cup. He was the top scorer in the Champions League with 15 goals.

Viral Video: Nigerian Embassy In Switzerland Didn’t Call Police On Nigerians, Says NIDCOM

The Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM) has denied claims that the Nigerian Embassy in Switzerland called police on some Nigerians who were at the Embassy to collect their passports.

NIDCOM in a statement signed on Wednesday by its spokesperson, Abdurrahman Balogun, said the Embassy instead invited officials of the Embassy Protection Unit to bring order to the situation which was already turning rowdy.

“The mission did not call the Police as erroneously stated in the video but invited the Embassy Protection Unit to bring calm and decorum back to the hall.

“The men of the Embassy protection unit addressed them and those on appointment as well as those who had made their online payments were attended to while others were advised to follow the due process, with an assurance that everyone will be attended to as long as the rules were followed,” the statement read in part.

READ ALSO: US Hails INEC, Security Agencies Over Edo Guber Poll

While explaining further the circumstances which led to the commotion in the viral video, NIDCOM said 64 Nigerians besieged the mission on that day, whereas the Embassy could only attend to a maximum of 20 persons at a time in line with the COVID-19 protocols.

Although a voice could be heard in the viral video alleging that the Swiss police were called to arrest the Nigerians who were at the embassy to collect their passports, NIDCOM insists no Nigerian was arrested.

“In view of the above video it is imperative to state the facts. In line with Covid-19 protocols, the Embassy in Bern. Switzerland is only allowed to attend to 10 applicants, however, the Mission made it possible to attend to a maximum of 20 daily, spacing out the appointments.

“But on this day, 64 Nigerians besieged the Nigerian mission in Bern. Only 10 of them were on the scheduled appointments.

“54 of them had no appointment for that day and had not made the mandatory online payment and the majority of the applicants came from Italy and Spain with no appointment with no online payment.

“While the Nigerian Ambassador Baba Madagu was addressing them, they barged in through the front door and overcrowded a hall that was meant to receive only 10 people at a time,” the statement read in part.

It, therefore, appealed to Nigerians abroad to be good ambassadors of Nigeria wherever they are and obey laws put in place.

UK To Impose Quarantine On Arrivals From Switzerland, Jamaica

PM Johnson Says UK Anti-Racism Protests 'Hijacked By Extremists'
In this file photo taken on April 12, 2020 A handout image released by 10 Downing Street, shows Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he delivers a television address after returning to 10 Downing Street after being discharged from St Thomas’ Hospital, in central London on April 12, 2020. Pippa FOWLES / 10 Downing Street / AFP.

 

Britain said on Thursday it will reimpose quarantine for travellers from the Czech Republic, Jamaica and Switzerland, but ease restrictions on arrivals from Cuba in a bid to keep coronavirus infection rates down.

The decision, which will come into effect from 0300 GMT on Saturday, will require travellers from those three countries to self-isolate for 14 days following spikes in cases.

“Data shows we need to remove the Czech Republic, Jamaica and Switzerland from our list of #Coronavirus Travel Corridors to keep infection rates DOWN,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps wrote on Twitter.

“Data also shows we can now add Cuba to those countries INCLUDED in Travel Corridors,” he added, warning that people thinking of travelling abroad should be prepared for the advice to change at short notice.

Quarantine was imposed last week on Croatia, Austria, and Trinidad and Tobago, following France, the Netherlands and several other countries on the list as governments across Europe grapple with fears of a second wave of virus infections.

Britain, which has been the hardest-hit European country by COVID-19, registering more than 41,000 deaths to date, has itself seen its number of confirmed cases creeping up in recent weeks.

Officials announced more than 1,500 new cases on Thursday, its highest total since mid-June, although hospital admissions and death rates remain low.

The UK had no quarantine measures in the early stages of the pandemic but in June imposed a blanket self-isolation requirement on all arrivals.

Weeks later it carved out “travel corridors” which exempted travellers from certain countries from quarantine.

However, the measures were reintroduced for arrivals from Spain in late July, catching airlines by surprise — as well as thousands of Britons leaving for their holidays.

The country’s struggling tourism sector has criticised the quarantine policy as overbearing and called for more targeted testing at ports of entry.

AFP

Hit By COVID-19, Switzerland Plunges Into ‘Historic’ Recession

An elderly man wearing a protective face mask walks in a street in Lausanne on August 18, 2020, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
An elderly man wearing a protective face mask walks in a street in Lausanne, Switzerland, on August 18, 2020, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

Switzerland has plunged into recession after the coronavirus pandemic caused a “historic” 8.2-percent slump in economic activity in the second quarter, official figures showed Thursday.

“In the second quarter, Switzerland’s GDP (gross domestic product) suffered the biggest decline since records of quarterly data began in 1980,” the economic affairs ministry (SECO) said in a statement.

During the first quarter, the wealthy Alpine nation’s economy shrank 2.5 percent compared to the previous quarter, it said, revising the figure slightly from the 2.6 percent announced in June.

Recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of contraction.

SECO pointed out that Switzerland was by no way unique, with the global economy also in sharp recession as the pandemic rages worldwide.

To date, more than 820,000 people have died out of the some 24 million infected globally by the novel coronavirus.

SECO stressed that in Switzerland, which has seen over 1,700 deaths and more than  40,000 cases, the “GDP decline remained limited in an international comparison.”

During the second quarter, Switzerland saw manufacturing slump nine percent, with growth in the country’s sizeable pharmaceutical industry preventing a steeper decline.

Exports of goods, excluding precious metals and other valuables, plunged 9.4 percent.

Switzerland’s service sector was meanwhile hit hardest by the measures taken to contain the pandemic, it said, with accommodation and food services for example  plummeting over 54 percent.

SECO pointed out that tourism-related services had a smaller share of GDP than in most neighbouring nations.

But internally, the measures, which shuttered shops and restaurants, hit private consumption hard, pushing it down 8.6 percent.

Overall, SECO said, domestic demand recorded a “historic decline”, with imports of goods falling 14.3 percent and services more than 22 percent.

 

AFP

FG Expecting $200m From Netherlands, Switzerland – Malami

 

The Federal Government says Nigeria is awaiting the return of $200million from the Netherlands and Switzerland.

According to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami, the money is part of proceeds from the Oil Prospecting Licence (OPL) 245 Malabu oil deal.

Mr Malami disclosed this on Tuesday at a one-day capacity building workshop organised for judiciary correspondents in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

At the event, he presented a scorecard of the Ministry of Justice in the last one year during which he outlined the efforts of the present administration in the war against corruption.

“On the fight against corruption and associated recovery of looted and illicit assets, I am happy to inform you that within the period in contention, Nigeria succeeded in recovering $311 billion from U.S. and New Jersey and the money has been repatriated to Nigeria,” Malami said.

READ ALSO: FG Recovers N800bn Looted Funds, Convicts 1,400 – Lai Mohammed

The minister said due to the anti-corruption crusade, the Federal Government facilitated the recovery of $62 billion arrears from oil companies as part of its Production Sharing Agreement (PSA).

He explained that the money has been paid into the Federal Government treasury for utility development such as the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Kano-Abuja Expressway, and the Second Niger Bridge, in line with the agreement reached with the foreign partners.

Malami also disclosed that over N685 million was recovered through the help of whistle-blowers within the last one year while N500 million was recovered from forfeited vessels, trucks, and barges.

A file photo of Information Minister, Lai Mohammed.
A file photo of the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed.

 

Elsewhere, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, said the government has recovered looted funds in excess of N800 billion with over 1,400 convictions secured.

Mohammed, who also addressed reporters in the nation’s capital, stated that the present administration’s fight against corruption was as strong as ever.

While stressing that there were records to back up his claim, he said Nigerians have recently been inundated with allegations of monumental corruption in a number of government agencies.

He listed some of the agencies to include the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF), and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).