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Canada

Virus: an authorization request filed for the AstraZeneca vaccine (EMA)

The Hague | The European Medicines Agency (EMA) announced on Tuesday that it had received an application for authorization for the AstraZeneca / Oxford vaccine against the new coronavirus, specifying that it could make its decision on January 29.

“The EMA has received a request for authorization for a conditional marketing of the vaccine against COVID-19 developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford,” said the European agency based in Amsterdam, in a statement .

The EMA already authorized the Pfizer / BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on December 21 and the Moderna vaccine on January 6, for which the European Commission immediately gave the green light.

The agency said it would conduct an expedited review, with a decision that could be made on Jan. 29, if the data reported is “robust and complete” enough.

The European Union and EMA are under pressure to speed up approval of new vaccines against the virus, which has already claimed more than 620,000 lives across the continent.

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Canada

In South Africa, virus causes surge at border with Zimbabwe

From neighboring Zimbabwe, heavy truck driver Wallace Muzondiwa has been waiting for four days in his truck to enter South Africa, where thousands have flocked to the border to flee new restrictions linked to Covid-19 in his country .

The influx of people wanting to leave Zimbabwe has taken immigration officials by surprise at the Beitbridge border post, South Africa’s second largest, where angry crowds are stuck in traffic jams.

“The situation is very, very, very chaotic,” said Wallace Muzondiwa, who is about to hit the road again after authorities finally accept his negative coronavirus test and additional papers required in connection with the pandemic.

“The tail is moving very, very slowly and the sun is very strong,” he complains.

The government of Zimbabwe on January 2 ordered a new containment throughout the country, due to an upsurge in cases of contamination with the new coronavirus.

In Zimbabwe, bordering South Africa, the country officially by far the most affected by the virus on the continent, the number of cases has more than doubled since November, to 18,000 cases.

Zimbabwe, in the grip of a very serious economic crisis since the beginning of the 2000s which caused the collapse of its health system, had already declared a first lockdown in March 2020, but these measures had been gradually relaxed from May .

At the border crossing, lost-looking travelers crowded with their luggage, rushing into taxis parked alongside stalls selling grilled chicken wings to take away.

The coronavirus has complicated the already laborious border crossing in South Africa, where heavy goods vehicles can sometimes wait days to settle customs formalities.

“It’s the papers that cause border delays,” said South African driver Sinki Tshangise, 44, who has crossed the borders of Botswana, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe for almost ten years.

Coronavirus negative test certificates often expired before arriving at the border post, forcing drivers to be tested again on the road, he adds.

“I don’t think I can afford to pay (for new tests) every time I have to cross a border,” Tshangise emphasizes.

Risk of “super-propagator”

At the Beitbridge border crossing, heavy truck drivers were joined by crowds of travelers queuing for PCR tests provided by the South African government.

Health workers who perform the tests in a tent say the influx from Zimbabwe since the second lockdown began in that country has been difficult to manage.

Some Zimbabweans have also caught the virus while traveling to South Africa, according to country nurse Country Musekwa.

Long lines have formed on the only bridge that overlooks the Limpopo River, the natural border between the two countries.

“People who say they tested negative in Zimbabwe are tested positive here because they have been on the bridge for more than four days,” he said.

Beitbridge officials said they detected more than 100 cases of Covid-19 contamination in just four days this week, raising concern over the health impact of border traffic jams.

Officials in the South African province have described the traffic jams as a “potential super-spreader” of the virus and called on those who manage to self-quarantine.

“We cannot control everyone,” commented provincial government spokesman Thilivhali Muavha, stressing that authorities cannot force travelers to self-isolate. “It is now their responsibility,” he added.

South Africa has so far recorded more than 1.17 million cases of contamination with 31,800 deaths.

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Headlines UK

Pregnant women who catch Covid may pass on the virus to their babies

Pregnant women who catch Covid may pass on the virus to their babies as some infants test positive within hours of birth, study shows

  • Some babies develop COVID-19 within hours of their birth, according to study 
  • Five out of 139 newborns from infected mothers were diagnosed within hours 
  • Confirming Covid-19 transmission from mother to newborn is difficult to verify 
  • Researchers called on for more study into babies contracting COVID-19 

Some babies develop COVID-19 within hours of their birth, but it’s not yet clear if the deadly virus was passed on during pregnancy.

A University of NSW-led review of existing COVID-19 infection data found five out of 139 newborns from infected mothers were diagnosed within several hours or just days after birth.

But confirming COVID-19 transmission from mother to newborn is difficult to verify and further research is needed to find out, senior study author Dr Nusrat Homaira of UNSW said in a statement on Wednesday.

Some babies develop COVID-19 within hours of their birth, but it’s not yet clear if the deadly virus was passed on during pregnancy (stock)

‘More research is needed to understand if children born to women who have Covid-19 during pregnancy have an increased risk of acquiring the infection and what the long-term outcomes are for newborns with the disease,’ she said.

The findings could influence Australia’s plans to vaccinate the population against the deadly disease in terms of vaccinating young children and mums-to-be.

‘As the vaccine is being rolled out to the whole population and other parts of the world, maternal immunisation could be a viable preventive approach,’ Dr Homaira said.

The UNSW team examined a range of international COVID-19 research, particularly in relation to children under five years of age.

An examination of 1,214 cases of Covid-infected children in the 65 studies from 11 countries found half were infants and half of the total were asymptomatic. All but one recovered.

This group is most at risk of respiratory infections, which are one of the most common reasons children end up in hospital.

The UNSW team examined a range of international COVID-19 research, particularly in relation to children under five years of age (Pictured: Healthcare worker at Royal Melbourne Showgrounds)

The UNSW team examined a range of international COVID-19 research, particularly in relation to children under five years of age (Pictured: Healthcare worker at Royal Melbourne Showgrounds)

‘Children often have asymptomatic infection, generally, and play a significant role in transmission of respiratory infections within the community,’ Dr Homaira said.

That’s why immunisation programs often target the under-five age group for infections like the flu.

‘So, we wanted to understand all those issues in light of Covid-19,’ Dr Homaira added.

The research aligns with other studies showing more than 90 per cent of children develop mild to moderate cases of Covid-19 when infected.

The review, the first to specifically examine the under-five age group, was published in The Lancet Journal of Child and Adolescent Health in August.

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Coronavirus COVID-19 The Buzz

Global leaders hail India for decisive virus fight


New York, January 5

Global leaders have lauded India’s leadership in scientific innovation and decisive action to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, as the country gets set to begin the world’s largest vaccination drive.

The Drug Controller General of India on Sunday approved the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine Covishield, manufactured by the Serum Institute and Covaxin of Bharat Biotech, for restricted emergency use in the country, paving the way for a massive inoculation drive.

“It’s great to see India’s leadership in scientific innovation and vaccine manufacturing capability as the world works to end the Covid-19 pandemic,” Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said in a tweet, tagging the Prime Minister’s Office.

Director-General of the World Health Organisation Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted that India “continues to take decisive action & demonstrate its resolve to end #Covid-19 pandemic”.

“As the world’s largest vaccine producer, it’s well placed to do so. If we #ACTogether, we can ensure effective & safe vaccines are used to protect the most vulnerable everywhere,” Ghebreyesus said and tagged Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his tweet.

A day after India’s drug regulator approved two vaccines for restricted emergency use, Modi said the world’s biggest inoculation drive against coronavirus was set to begin in the country. Praising the scientists and technicians for the ‘Made in India’ vaccines, he said the country was proud of them. — PTI





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Health

COVID Vaccinations Lag as Virus Rages


Jan. 5, 2021 — As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations soar across the U.S., the nation’s unprecedented effort to vaccinate hundreds of millions of adults against the virus is off to a sluggish start.

In December, officials with Operation Warp Speed had repeatedly promised to vaccinate 20 million people by the end of the year. As of Monday, the CDC reports just 4.5 million people — mostly health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities — have gotten their first shots, out of more than 15 million doses delivered to states. Officials with Warp Speed have noted that there’s a 3- to 4-day delay in reporting.



“It’s chaotic, and it’s slow, and it’s not where it needs to be,” says Jennifer Kates, PhD, senior vice president and director of global health & HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation. She is part of a team of analysts who have been studying state plans for vaccine distribution.

Many states such as Florida, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Nevada have now made seniors eligible to get their shots, if they could find any. In Volusia County, FL, local ABC affiliate WFTV reported that seniors were sleeping in their cars outside of Daytona Stadium to get the vaccine on Tuesday morning.

The apparent lag has left governors frustrated.

On Tuesday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said he would activate the National Guard to help county health departments give the shots. Just 65,000 people have been vaccinated out of 275,000 shots distributed in the state.

Hogan also called on retired health care workers to help turn local vaccine clinics into 7-day-a-week operations. He said more than 700 retired health workers had already signed up for the effort.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatened to fine hospitals up to $100,000 if they didn’t use up their current supplies of vaccines before the end of the week. Repeated delays could cause them to lose the ability to distribute the vaccine altogether.

“This is a management issue of hospitals,” he said in a Monday news briefing.


In Ohio last week, Gov. Mike DeWine also urged hospitals to pick up the pace. He told them they should distribute any vaccine within 24 hours of receiving it and report back to the state within 24 hours of giving the shots.

“There’s a moral imperative to get this out. Every dose of this vaccine could save someone’s life,” he said.

But his biggest concern, he said, was people feeling reluctant to take the shot.

“Anecdotally, it looks like we’re at somewhere around 40% of staff in nursing homes are taking the vaccine, 60% are not taking it,” he said, at least for now.

“What I’m worried about is people who are not taking it,” DeWine said at a news conference.

Kates says that Operation Warp Speed did a remarkable job developing the vaccines and making deals with pharmaceutical companies to buy doses, but in terms of distribution, “It’s been basically punted to the states.”

Before the latest stimulus package was signed, states were given limited funds to develop complicated distribution plans.

Kates says stretched-thin health departments and hospitals have been asked to manage vaccine distribution on top of trying to manage testing and contact tracing, all while COVID-19 cases are surging.

Some local health departments are having to make hard choices about how much they can handle. On Jan. 1, Georgia’s South Central Health District tweeted that it was dramatically scaling back on testing to focus on vaccinations.

Kates says states are supposed to have some visibility into how many doses they’re getting and where they are going, but she says in some cases, doses have been sent directly to individual facilities.

“It’s very complicated, and we don’t have a national system that is guiding how all this is happening,” she says. “States have not necessarily been given the tools they need to make this a success.”



WebMD Health News


Sources

Jennifer Kates, PhD, senior vice president and director of global health & HIV policy,  Kaiser Family Foundation, Washington, DC.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine.

WFTV9 ABC: “Volusia County to allow seniors to park overnight at Daytona Stadium ahead of Tuesday’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution.”

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.

Twitter: @SCHD_5_1, Jan. 1, 2021.

CDC.



© 2021 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.





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Coronavirus COVID-19 The Buzz

UK PM Johnson cancels India visit, citing need to oversee virus response


London, January 5

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday cancelled a planned trip to India later this month, citing the need to oversee the pandemic response at home.

“The prime minister spoke to Prime Minister Modi this morning, to express his regret that he will be unable to visit India later this month as planned,” a Downing Street spokeswoman said.

“In light of the national lockdown announced last night, and the speed at which the new coronavirus variant is spreading, the prime minister said that it was important for him to remain in the UK so he can focus on the domestic response to the virus.”  Reuters





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Bollywood

Vaani Kapoor: Industry has been heavily affected by the virus, we need to bring people back to cinemas


While the last year was quite a dud for the entertainment industry, things are now slowly looking better. Vaani Kapoor also has a busy 2021 with three films — Shamshera, Bellbottom, and Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui — lined up for release this year. And these will see her share screen space with actors Ranbir Kapoor, Akshay Kumar and Ayushmann Khurrana respectively.

The 32-year-old, who made his Bollywood debut Shuddh Desi Romance in 2013, says she is really looking forward to 2021, as this year will help her showcase every aspect of her skill set as an artiste.

“I will have three films releasing in a calendar year which hasn’t happened to me before! All these three films are extremely diverse and will help showcase different facets of me as an artiste. I have always wanted to be an actor who stretches herself as a performer and isn’t afraid to take risks, to push the envelope. These three films have helped me do just that,” shares the actor, who shot for two of these films during the pandemic itself.

 

Calling these movies “an incredible learning experiences”, Kapoor is grateful to have gotten a chance to work with great teams.

“The fascinating filmmakers whom I have collaborated with, and the incredible actors like Akshay sir, Ranbir, and Ayushmann whom I have witnessed perform, has helped me explore and learn more as an actor. My learning curve on these films has been immense and I couldn’t be happier,” she gushes.

The actor’s last release was War in 2019 alongside Hrithik Roshan, and Shamshera which was likely to a July 2020 release was pushed due to the onset of pandemic and subsequent delay in production and shutdown of theatres.

Going forward, the actor wants to continue her journey to constantly rediscover herself as a performer on screen with every new film that she signs.

“I want to always keep learning and exploring myself which, in turn, will help sharpen my craft. All I want is to be able to leave a mark as a performer. These three are big screen entertainers, and I am hoping that these movies will pull people into theatres. The industry has been heavily affected by the virus and we will need to bring people back to the cinemas,” she concludes.



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Headline USA

Thousands gather for pop concert in Wuhan after it ‘stamped out virus’ with draconian lockdown

While millions around the world celebrated the New Year from the comfort of their own sofas in lockdown, thousands of revellers in Wuhan were partying together with no social distancing in sight.  

In what is sure to spark envy in many countries still subject to strict measures, party-goers were seen crowding into a live music event in the former Covid epicentre.

Many opted to go mask-free inside the venue where people danced just inches from each other.

Thousands of revellers in Wuhan celebrated the New Year together with no social distancing in sight

Party-goers were seen crowding into a live music event with dancers on stage in the former Covid epicentre

Party-goers were seen crowding into a live music event with dancers on stage in the former Covid epicentre

Many opted to go mask-free inside the venue where people danced just inches from each other

Many opted to go mask-free inside the venue where people danced just inches from each other

The festivities come 12 months after the virus was first discovered in the Chinese city

The festivities come 12 months after the virus was first discovered in the Chinese city

Balloons were released into the sky in an incredible display in Wuhan. Huge crowds gathered in the city which was the Covid-19 epicentre less than a year ago

Balloons were released into the sky in an incredible display in Wuhan. Huge crowds gathered in the city which was the Covid-19 epicentre less than a year ago

Amazed locals took photos of balloons being released into the sky to bring in 2021. The crowds weren't socially distanced but many opted to wear face masks

Amazed locals took photos of balloons being released into the sky to bring in 2021. The crowds weren’t socially distanced but many opted to wear face masks 

As per tradition, hundreds gathered in front of the old Hankow Customs House building, one of the city’s more popular New Year’s Eve spots. 

When the building’s old clock struck midnight balloons were released and people hugged and cheered in the joyous scenes.

The festivities come 12 months after the virus was first discovered in the Chinese city, sparking a deadly pandemic which has so far killed more than a million people across the world.

Wuhan has been largely virus free for months, and in recent days it has been vaccinating some specific groups of the local population.  

Hundreds gathered in front of the old Hankow Customs House building, one of the city's more popular New Year's Eve spots

Hundreds gathered in front of the old Hankow Customs House building, one of the city’s more popular New Year’s Eve spots

Wuhan has been largely virus free for months, and in recent days it has been vaccinating some specific groups of the local population

Wuhan has been largely virus free for months, and in recent days it has been vaccinating some specific groups of the local population

The city of 11 million was shut off from the rest of China in a surprise overnight lockdown beginning January 23

The city of 11 million was shut off from the rest of China in a surprise overnight lockdown beginning January 23

In what is sure to spark envy in many countries still subject to strict lockdown measures, party-goers were filmed crowding into a live music event in the former-Covid epicentre

In what is sure to spark envy in many countries still subject to strict lockdown measures, party-goers were filmed crowding into a live music event in the former-Covid epicentre

The city hasn’t reported a new locally transmitted case of the disease since May 10, after undergoing one of the strictest lockdowns worldwide. 

The city of 11 million was shut off from the rest of China in a surprise overnight lockdown beginning January 23, with road blocks erected and planes, trains and buses barred from entering the city. Almost 3,900 of China’s 4,634 recorded Covid-19 deaths occurred in the industrial city.

Wuhan’s lockdown only lasted 76 days, ending in early April when most of the world was in the darkest days of the pandemic. 

Although China has been criticised for allegedly covering up the virus as it took hold at the end of 2019, it has also won plaudits for the way it has since managed the pandemic.

The city hasn't reported a new locally transmitted case of the disease since May 10, after undergoing one of the strictest lockdowns worldwide

The city hasn’t reported a new locally transmitted case of the disease since May 10, after undergoing one of the strictest lockdowns worldwide

Wuhan's lockdown only lasted 76 days, ending in early April when most of the world was in the darkest days of the pandemic

Wuhan’s lockdown only lasted 76 days, ending in early April when most of the world was in the darkest days of the pandemic

People with and without protective masks on their faces walk in a street on New Year's Eve

People with and without protective masks on their faces walk in a street on New Year’s Eve

Life in Wuhan, a Chinese city of more than 11 million, which nearly a year ago became the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak is returning to normal

Life in Wuhan, a Chinese city of more than 11 million, which nearly a year ago became the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak is returning to normal

The country was well placed to tackle a disease, with a centralised epidemic response system on the back of the SARS outbreak in 2002.

It implemented a very harsh lockdown, with Wuhan residents forced to stay at home from January and all non-essential shops closed for months.

The state also used facial recognition and CCTV cameras to identify people leaving home, and even used loudspeakers to shout at people who were disobeying the rules. 

Another crucial factor was that only three per cent of elderly people in China live in care homes.

The facilities have been a hotbed for the virus in many countries across the world, but ageing parents normally living with their families in China, meaning less transmission between vulnerable people.

Although China has been criticised for allegedly covering up the virus as it took hold at the end of 2019, it has also won plaudits for the way it has since managed the pandemic

Although China has been criticised for allegedly covering up the virus as it took hold at the end of 2019, it has also won plaudits for the way it has since managed the pandemic

China implemented a very harsh lockdown, with Wuhan residents forced to stay at home from January and all non-essential shops closed for months

China implemented a very harsh lockdown, with Wuhan residents forced to stay at home from January and all non-essential shops closed for months

Partygoers, mostly wearing protective face masks, gathered in the streets of Wuhan to welcome 2021

Partygoers, mostly wearing protective face masks, gathered in the streets of Wuhan to welcome 2021

Revellers posed for a selfie in front of buildings lit up in bright colours. Wuhan had a more-normal New Year's Eve than many others across the globe

Revellers posed for a selfie in front of buildings lit up in bright colours. Wuhan had a more-normal New Year’s Eve than many others across the globe

China was quick to enforce its draconian measures, imposing a lockdown which suspended all public transport in Wuhan, setting up 14,000 health checkpoints at transport stations across the country, closing schools and minimising movement.

The government also put up physical barricades to enclose the epicentre of the virus in Wuhan. 

Its track and trace system was also set up within weeks, with the government claiming that the entire population of 11million people in Wuhan were tested by May. This was in part achieved by the government warning of possible detention for those who refused to be tested. 

Mass testing has been heralded as the key to controlling the virus, but many countries have struggled to replicate China’s success.

A fireworks display delighted the huge crowds gathered in the former virus hotspot to see in the New Year

A fireworks display delighted the huge crowds gathered in the former virus hotspot to see in the New Year

Vast crowds were seen gathered on the streets of Wuhan as a new year countdown ushers in 2021

Vast crowds were seen gathered on the streets of Wuhan as a new year countdown ushers in 2021

The country also implemented a traffic light-style health code in February, with a green code allowing someone to travel freely, and orange or red indicating someone has to quarantine for up to two weeks. 

The QR based system uses location tracking to show if a user has been near a confirmed case of the coronavirus. 

Also key to the country’s response was its ability to deliver PPE to healthcare workers, being the world’s largest manufacturer of the equipment.

The fact that Chinese people are more accustomed to wearing face masks also eased the introduction of the new laws, whereas many in the West remain averse to the measures which they deem an infringement of civil liberties. 

In February, Wuhan opened 16 new hospitals in public venues where people who had only experienced mild symptoms were ordered to self-isolate.

Huge crowds were seen on the streets of Wuhan on New Year's Eve. Once the virus epicentre, lockdown rules have since been significantly relaxed in the city

Huge crowds were seen on the streets of Wuhan on New Year’s Eve. Once the virus epicentre, lockdown rules have since been significantly relaxed in the city

Mass testing has been heralded as the key to controlling the virus, but many countries have struggled to replicate China's success

Mass testing has been heralded as the key to controlling the virus, but many countries have struggled to replicate China’s success

In Wuhan, where the virus first surfaced at the very end of 2019 before spiralling catastrophically around the globe, revellers partied to welcome the new year in

In Wuhan, where the virus first surfaced at the very end of 2019 before spiralling catastrophically around the globe, revellers partied to welcome the new year in

If they started showing more serious symptoms, they were then moved to established hospitals.

These measures helped guarantee the isolation of those suffering from the virus, whereas other countries have relied on their citizens to isolate at home.

China also closed off its borders and tested and quarantined the few who did enter the country or moved between its states from early on in the pandemic, another measure which wasn’t adopted until much later by other countries. 

Gregory Poland, director of the Vaccine Research Group at the Mayo Clinic, told The Lancet: ‘In China, you have a combination of a population that takes respiratory infections seriously and is willing to adopt non-pharmaceutical interventions, with a government that can put bigger constraints on individual freedoms than would be considered acceptable in most Western countries.

‘China does not have the kind of raucous anti-vaccine, anti-science movement that is trying to derail the fight against Covid-19 in the USA.’   

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Big Story Coronavirus COVID-19

Norway lifts ban on flights from Britain introduced due to virus variant


OSLO (Reuters) – Norway is lifting its ban on flights from Britain, introduced to stop the spread of a more contagious variant of the coronavirus, the health ministry said on Friday, with planes allowed to land from January 2 at 1600 GMT.

Following the lead of other European nations, Norway on December 21 halted travel from Britain after news that the new variant of the virus was rapidly spreading.

Oslo announced on Thursday it would introduce from Jan. 2 mandatory Covid-19 tests for all people arriving in the Nordic country from abroad, either directly upon arrival or up to 24 hours after.

“If this strain should spread in Norway, it will probably mean a full lockdown of society,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg said on Thursday.

Norway’s 14-day cumulative number of Covid-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants was down to 113.6 as of Wednesday, the fourth lowest in Europe behind Iceland, Greece and Finland, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has said.

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)

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Headline USA Ohio

Russia ‘researching how to weaponise deadly Ebola virus as part of a catastrophic doomsday project’

Experts fear Russia could weaponise the deadly Ebola virus as part of a catastrophic biological weapons project. 

Unit 68240 of Moscow’s FSB spy agency – linked to the Salisbury Novichok poisonings – is thought to be behind the programme codenamed Toledo.

It is believed the unit is researching both Ebola and the even-more deadly Marburg virus.

The diseases have caused devastating outbreaks and lead to organ failure and severe internal bleeding. 

Experts fear Russia (President Vladimir Putin, pictured) could weaponise the deadly Ebola virus as part of a catastrophic biological weapons project

Unit 68240 of the country's FSB spy agency is believed to be researching both Ebola and the even-more deadly Marburg virus. Pictured: Healthcare workers carrying a coffin with a baby, suspected of dying from Ebola, in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2018

Unit 68240 of the country’s FSB spy agency is believed to be researching both Ebola and the even-more deadly Marburg virus. Pictured: Healthcare workers carrying a coffin with a baby, suspected of dying from Ebola, in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2018

Ebola has a fatality rate of 50 per cent and can cause severe bleeding both internally and from the eyes, ears and mouth. Pictured: Health workers wearing protective suits tend to an Ebola victim kept in an isolation tent in Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo, last year

Ebola has a fatality rate of 50 per cent and can cause severe bleeding both internally and from the eyes, ears and mouth. Pictured: Health workers wearing protective suits tend to an Ebola victim kept in an isolation tent in Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo, last year

WHAT IS EBOLA AND HOW DEADLY IS IT? 

Ebola, a haemorrhagic fever, killed at least 11,000 across the world after it decimated West Africa and spread rapidly over the space of two years.

That pandemic was officially declared over back in January 2016.

Sierra Leone reported the highest number of Ebola cases, with nearly of all those infected having been residents of the nation.

WHERE DID IT BEGIN?

An analysis, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found the outbreak began in Guinea – which neighbours Liberia and Sierra Leone.

A team of international researchers were able to trace the pandemic back to a two-year-old boy in Meliandou – about 400 miles (650km) from the capital, Conakry.

Emile Ouamouno, known more commonly as Patient Zero, may have contracted the deadly virus by playing with bats in a hollow tree, a study suggested. 

Figures show nearly 29,000 people were infected from Ebola – meaning the virus killed around 40 per cent of those it struck.

Cases and deaths were also reported in Nigeria, Mali and the US – but on a much smaller scale, with 15 fatalities between the three nations.

Health officials in Guinea reported a mysterious bug in the south-eastern regions of the country before the WHO confirmed it was Ebola.

Ebola was first identified by scientists in 1976, but the most recent outbreak dwarfed all other ones recorded in history, figures show. 

IS THERE A TREATMENT?

Ebola symptoms include high temperatures, head aches and muscle weakness.

It can subsequently lead to severe bleeding both internally and from the eyes, ears and mouth. 

The WHO warns that there is ‘no proven treatment’ for Ebola – but dozens of drugs and jabs are being tested in case of a similarly devastating outbreak.

Hope exists though, after an experimental vaccine, called rVSV-ZEBOV, protected nearly 6,000 people. The results were published in The Lancet journal. 

A former UK military intelligence insider fears that Moscow could be going beyond studying the diseases and is instead examining how to weaponise them via the Toledo programme.

Toledo is a city in Spain which was devastated by the plague. A city in Ohio which saw a major flu outbreak in 1918 also shares the same name.

Investigators from the non-profitmaking OpenFacto organisation say they have discovered the Russian Ministry of Defence has a secret unit called the 48th Central Research Institute which is studying ‘rare and lethal’ pathogens.

 Moscow’s 48th Central Research Institute is linked to the 33rd Central Research Institute which helped develop deadly nerve agent Novichok.

Novichok was used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury in 2018.

The US has slapped both institutes with sanctions for ‘likely conducting research for the biological weapons’, reports claim.

The 48th instute is reportedly supplying data to FSB unit 68240, which is spearheading the Toledo programme.  

A source told The Mirror: ‘Both Russia and the UK have labs studying biological and chemical warfare to learn how to defend against weapons such as Novichok.’

But he stressed that Russia has already demonstrated that it is open to using such devastating weapons on Britain’s streets, including Novichok, which ‘steps it up a level’.

He added: ‘It could mean Russia potentially stepping up research on Ebola and Marburg and looking at its lethality as a weapon.’   

The World Health Organisation describes the Marburg virus as a ‘highly-virulent disease’ with a 88 per cent fatality rate.

It was responsible for two major outbreaks in Marburg and Frankfurt in Germany, and in Belgrade in Serbia, in 1967. 

It is believed to have stemmed from African green monkeys brought from Uganda for laboratory research.

There have since been outbreaks in countries including Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya and South Africa.

Ebola has a fatality rate of 50 per cent and can cause severe bleeding both internally and from the eyes, ears and mouth.

An outbreak between 2014 and 2016 caused more than 11,000 deaths. 

Earlier this month, the UK’s Defence Secretary revealed that Russia is capable of killing thousands with a second chemical weapon attack on the streets of Britain.   

Moscow's 48th Central Research Institute which is studying 'rare and lethal' pathogens is linked to the 33rd Central Research Institute which helped develop deadly nerve agent Novichok. Novichok was used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia (pictured) in Salisbury in 2018

Moscow’s 48th Central Research Institute which is studying ‘rare and lethal’ pathogens is linked to the 33rd Central Research Institute which helped develop deadly nerve agent Novichok. Novichok was used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia (pictured) in Salisbury in 2018

Russia is capable of killing thousands with a second chemical weapon attack on the streets of Britain, the Defence Secretary has warned. Pictured: Novichok victim Dawn Sturgess

Russia is capable of killing thousands with a second chemical weapon attack on the streets of Britain, the Defence Secretary has warned. Pictured: Novichok victim Dawn Sturgess

Mother-of-three Dawn Sturgess (pictured) and her partner Charlie Rowley fell ill at the flat in Amesbury, near Salisbury, after she handled a perfume bottle containing the poison

Ms Sturgess's partner, Charlie Rowley (pictured)

Mother-of-three Dawn Sturgess (left) and her partner Charlie Rowley (right) fell ill after handling a perfume bottle containing the poison. Ms Sturgess died in hospital in Salisbury, Wiltshire, on July 8 that year. Mr Rowley was left seriously ill but recovered

WHAT IS THE MARBURG VIRUS AND IS IT MORE DEADLY THAN EBOLA?

The World Health Organisation describes the Marburg virus as a ‘highly-virulent disease’ with a 88 per cent fatality rate.

This makes it more deadly than Ebola which has a fatality rate of 50 per cent.

Symptoms include a sudden fever, along with chills and headaches.

A rash around the chest, back and stomach could also occur. 

More severe cases have involved jaundince, inflamation of the pancreas, liver failure and substantial hemorrhaging.

It was responsible for two major outbreaks in Marburg and Frankfurt in Germany, and in Belgrade in Serbia, in 1967. 

It is believed to have stemmed from African green monkeys brought from Uganda for laboratory research.

There have since been outbreaks in countries including Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya and South Africa.

Ben Wallace admitted Russian behaviour is ‘not within the norms it used to be’ following a spate of activity in British waters in recent weeks, the Daily Telegraph reported.

He stressed that although the UK hopes to forge a relationship with Russia, tensions were raised after the Government ‘used a nerve agent on the streets of Britain’ two years ago.  

Former Russian spy Mr Skripal, 69, and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with Novichok in March 2018. 

Both survived, though Mr Skripal, who was jailed in Russia in 2006 for selling secrets to MI6, required a tracheotomy and now breathes through a tube. 

The attack later claimed the life of mother-of-three Dawn Sturgess, who is thought to have come into contact with the nerve agent after picking up a perfume bottle in a public park.  

Speaking during a visit to Tapa Camp in Estonia, Mr Wallace said: ‘That type of nerve agent, delivered differently, could kill thousands of people.’

It comes as the family of Ms Sturgess moved to take legal action against Russia following her death four months after the Salisbury attack, the Mirror reported.

Lawyers for the victim’s family have lodged proceedings under the European Convention on Human Rights at the High Court in London. 

The action, against the Russian Federation, its Ministry of Defence and Military Intelligence Service, gives them the right to sue in the future.