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Russia claimed Tuesday it had developed the world's first "sustainable immunity" vaccine against coronavirus, as the pandemic marked another bleak milestone with 20 million infections worldwide.
President Vladimir Putin said after the pioneering Soviet satellite of the 1950s one of his own daughters received the inoculation, dubbed "Sputnik."
Western scientists have previously raised concerns about the speed at which Russian vaccines develop, suggesting researchers might cut corners.
Tuesday the World Health Organization warned that any Russian vaccine approval would require rigorous data review to demonstrate its safety and efficacy.
"I know it is quite effective, it gives lasting immunity," Putin said of the vaccine developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute in coordination with the Moscow Department of Defence.
Russia hopes to start production in September, and immediately afterwards start vaccinating medical staff.
According to Russia's sovereign wealth fund, which helped to develop the vaccine, around 20 foreign countries have pre-ordered over a billion doses.
As nations around the globe, the race for a vaccine is heating up for new disease outbreaks even as they try to restart economies battered by months of initial lockdowns to curb the spread.
An AFP tally from official sources showed that the number of confirmed infections worldwide passed 20.1 million by 1100 GMT Tuesday, having peaked 20 million the night before.
Nearly 737,000 deaths have been recorded since the virus first appeared in China late last year and spread worldwide, with the figure expected to exceed 750,000 within days.
-- Tests currently underway-
Russian Minister of Health Mikhail Murashko said vaccine clinical trials involving several thousand participants would be continuing.
Indonesia has said it would launch a "Phase 3" human trial of a vaccine candidate from Sinovac Biotech in China elsewhere in the world.
"Phase 3" refers to studies involving large numbers of human test subjects and is usually the last step before approval of the regulations.
The vaccine Sinovac, dubbed CoronaVac, is already being tested on 9,000 health workers in Brazil.
A WHO overview said 165 candidate vaccines are being worked on worldwide, six of which reach Phase 3.
But Michael Ryan, director of emergencies at the WHO warned that a vaccine was "only part of the answer," pointing to polio and measles as diseases with vaccines that have not been completely eradicated.
"You have to be able to deliver that vaccine to a population that wants this vaccine and demands it," he said.
-- Second waves 'indispensable'-
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has pointed to "green shoots of hope" in countries that have successfully clamped down on COVID-19, such as Rwanda and New Zealand, which say it plans to open a virus-free "travel bubble" with the Cook Islands.
But Wellington reported its first localized coronavirus infections in over 100 days, on Tuesday.
"We've all worked incredibly hard to prevent this scenario," said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, but added, "we planned and prepared for it as well."
New Zealand has reported only 22 deaths from the COVID-19 disease so far, although a second wave was "inevitable" repeatedly warned by the authorities.
Bhutan 's remote Himalayan kingdom on Tuesday announced its first lockdown of coronavirus after months largely shielded from the illness.
And in Europe, as new cases began to pick up again, the EU health agency urged countries to reinstate some controls.
"As a result of relaxing physical distancing measures, there is a real resurgence in cases in several countries," the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said.
France had already reacted by requiring mask wearing in some crowded areas and the Paris capital's tourist hotspots.
Similar measures have already been introduced in several French towns and cities, as well as parts of Belgium , the Netherlands, Romania and Spain.
There was better news for Gaza Strip residents Tuesday as the only border crossing of the enclave with Egypt was opened to people who wanted to leave for the first time since the pandemic started.
But some inhabitants were afraid to leave the tightly sealed territory, which has seen only 81 cases.
"There is a fear of being infected with COVID-19 in Egypt's automobiles or buses," Hatem al-Mansi told AFP. "We didn't have that problem in Gaza."
-- 'As my last every day'-
In China, after lockdowns were lifted in April, the city of Wuhan where the novel coronavirus first emerged is limping back towards normal.
Business is slow for food-market stall owners, while a pandemic-themed exhibition presents autographed hazmat suits used by medical workers.
China officially recorded around 85,000 cases and just over 4,600 deaths — a fraction of the total worldwide — and has now largely brought its spreading domestic virus under control.
Despite the fears of a resurgence, some residents of Wuhan are eager to enjoy the recovery of the town.
"I now enjoy every day as if it were the last," Hu Fenglian says. "I do not want to be too worried."
Source Bangkok Post