New Delhi―A fast and cheap paper-based coronavirus test will soon be available across India, with scientists hopeful it will help turn the tide on the pandemic in one of the world's worst-hit nations.
India has recorded more than 7.5 million infections, second only to the United States, and the outbreak has spread from densely packed megacities like Mumbai to rural communities with limited medical services.
The locally developed Feluda, named for a detective in a famous Indian novel series, resembles a home pregnancy paper-strip test and delivers results within an hour.
Researchers are optimistic that its low cost and ease of use can help stem the pathogen's spread in poor and remote areas.
"This test doesn't require any sophisticated equipment or highly trained manpower," said co-creator Souvik Maiti, a scientist at New Delhi's CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB).
"There are lots of remote parts of India where you do not have any sophisticated laboratories... (The test) will be much easier to deploy; it will have much more penetration."
Brazil embraces Chinese Covid vaccine after row
In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil's health minister said Tuesday the country would add the Chinese-made CoronaVac vaccine against Covid-19 to its national immunization program, despite a political and diplomatic row over whether to use it.
Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello said the federal government had reached a deal with Sao Paulo state, which is helping test and produce the vaccine, to buy 46 million doses to be administered starting in January.
"This vaccine will be Brazil's vaccine," in addition to another developed by Oxford University and pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca, Pazuello told a video meeting of the South American country's 27 governors.
"That's our big news. This is going to recalibrate the process" of eventually vaccinating Brazil's population against Covid-19, which has claimed more lives here than any country except the United States.
CoronaVac, developed by Chinese pharmaceutical firm Sinovac Biotech, has been caught up in a messy battle in Brazil.
Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro had labelled it the vaccine from "that other country," and resisted using it, pushing for the Oxford vaccine instead.
Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria, a top Bolsonaro opponent, meanwhile pushed a deal between Sinovac and Brazil's Butantan Institute to test and produce the vaccine in his state.
Brazil had previously signed a contract for 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine.
But CoronaVac is expected to be available first after Oxford had to suspend testing in September when a volunteer developed an unexplained illness.
Quarantined fishermen drive New Zealand virus spike
In Wellington, New Zealand, a coronavirus outbreak among hundreds of Russian and Ukrainian fishermen flown to New Zealand to bolster its struggling deep-sea fishing industry has prompted that country's largest daily increase in infections in months, authorities said Wednesday.
Over 230 fishermen were flown in from Moscow last week, with 18 of the crew members then testing positive for Covid-19 while in quarantine, New Zealand's director-general of health Ashley Bloomfield said.
The Pacific nation has almost eliminated local transmission of the virus, but regularly records small numbers of new cases in returned travellers.
The fishing cluster pushed the daily tally of new infections to 25, the highest level since April sparking concern among officials in prime minister Jacinda Ardern's recently reelected government.
New Zealand has recorded over 1,500 cases and 25 deaths in a population of almost five million and has been widely praised for its handling of the pandemic.
Health officials said two new cases had also been linked to a port worker, who may have come into contact with a vessel now docked off Australia's east coast.