Britain records lowest new COVID-19 cases in weeks as vaccine roll out heats up globally

Britain recorded on Sunday its lowest number of COVID-19 cases since December 27 at 38,598 and said 671 people had died within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test.

On Saturday, Britain reported 41,346 people had tested positive and a further 1295 deaths. 

The vaccine roll out has begun in earnest with UK data showing 3,827,266 people have received their first dose of the vaccine.

It's a similar story across the globe, with top US health professional Dr Anthony Fauci backing President-elect Joe Biden's plan to deliver 100 million doses of the vaccine in his first 100 days. 

It "is absolutely a doable thing," said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Fauci, speaking on NBC's "Meet The Press", said two new vaccines under development by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson could "very soon" be presented to U.S. regulators for approval, which would increase the pace of vaccinations. "We're weeks away, not months away, for sure," he said.

He said more vaccinations - coupled with mask-wearing and avoiding crowds - would be the best way for the United States to tackle a new, more infectious strain of the coronavirus.

"If we can get the overwhelming majority of the population vaccinated, we'd be in very good shape and could beat even the mutant," he said.

Fauci's remarks came amid criticism of the pace at which the United States is administering vaccines for a disease that has killed more than 390,000 people in the country. About 10.6 million Americans have so far been vaccinated, about half as many as President Donald Trump's administration hoped would have received injections by the end of 2020.

Biden has said ramping up the pace of vaccinations will be one of his top priorities when he takes office on Wednesday.

"One thing that's clear is that the issue of getting 100 million doses in the first 100 days is absolutely a doable thing," Fauci said. "The feasibility of his goal is absolutely clear. There's no doubt about that, that that can be done." 

Vaccination is a key issue across the globe. 

The United Arab Emirates has lowered the minimum age requirement to receive a COVID-19 vaccination to 16, from 18 previously, the ministry of health said on Sunday.

The UAE, made of up seven emirates, is offering all residents and citizens free of charge a vaccine manufactured by Chinese state-backed pharmaceutical giant Sinopharm.

The emirate of Dubai alone is offering citizens and residents the choice of either the Sinopharm or the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The statement carried by the country's National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority did not specify which vaccine the new minimum age applied to.  India's COVID-19 vaccination drive was still facing some delays on Sunday after it hit a bump on the first day due to glitches in an app used to coordinate the campaign, according to officials in some states.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched on Saturday what his government has described as the "world's largest vaccination programme". It aims to vaccinate around 300 million people to curb the pandemic in India, which has reported the second highest number of coronavirus cases after the United States.

India was aiming to vaccinate more than 300,000 people on Saturday, but only 191,181 people were inoculated on the first day, official data shows.

Many health workers, who were due to receive a vaccine on Saturday, did not get the message via an app developed by the government called Co-Win, officials in at least four states said. Officials in at least one state said the issues had still not been resolved on Sunday.

Co-Win is supposed to alert healthcare workers, who are first in line to get shots. It also allows officials to monitor and manage the entire programme.

"We were planning to vaccinate 28,500 people on Saturday but could do only 18,328 because of glitches in the Co-Win app," a senior official at the health department of the western state of Maharashtra told Reuters on condition on anonymity.

Maharashtra, home to the financial hub of Mumbai, has been the Indian state hit hardest by COVID-19.

In the eastern states of Odisha and West Bengal, officials said they were forced to use printouts on Saturday due to issues with the app.

"We also went with our plan B and contacted people to be vaccinated directly offline," Bijay Kumar Mohapatra, director, Health Services, Odisha, told Reuters in the state capital Bhubaneswar.

The Indian government did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday.

"The system performance and speed was improved and is being further optimised," Manohar Agnani, a senior health ministry official, said on Saturday.

The eastern state of West Bengal was still encountering glitches on Sunday.

"The problem is yet to be fixed and we are facing serious impediments," said Dr. Ajoy Chakraborty, director of West Bengal health services.

Officials in other states could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

India is currently using Britain's Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine, which is also being produced in India, and a government-backed vaccine developed by India's Bharat Biotech.

However, approval of Bharat Biotech's COVAXIN has been criticised by health experts and opposition lawmakers due to a lack of efficacy data, which the manufacturer is still conducting