Global Virus Update: Arizona sets death record; New York state lowers vaccine age

Global Virus Update: Arizona sets death record; New York state lowers vaccine age
(Photo: Rawpixel)

The Trump administration is urging states to expand access to vaccines, including making them available to anyone over 65. New York state lowered its vaccine age to 65 from 75 after the change in guidance.

New York City will use Citi Field, home of the Mets baseball team, as a mass-vaccination site starting the week of 25 January, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

The European Union reached its eighth supply deal for doses, and an official said deliveries of shots will accelerate starting in April. The number of patients in the UK needing ventilators rose to the highest since the pandemic began. Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that Germany’s hard lockdown could last into late March.

Malaysia’s king declared a state of emergency, and Japan is considering expanding one beyond Tokyo. A World Health Organisation team looking into the origins of the pandemic is set to arrive in China.

Key developments:

UK patients on ventilators reach record 

More coronavirus patients are on mechanical ventilation in the UK than at any point in the pandemic. There are now 3,363 people on ventilation, compared with a previous peak of 3,301 set on 12 April 2020, the latest data shows.

The figure indicates that despite treatments that reduce the likelihood that a patient will be moved on to ventilation, the new strain of the disease has affected many more people than the April outbreak.

More than 35,000 people are hospitalised with the disease, as of 10 January, significantly higher than the April peak of 21,600.

The UK is relying on a mass vaccination programme to reduce the mortality of the disease, and hopes to vaccinate 15 million of the most vulnerable people by 15 February.

Ontario declares second emergency 

Ontario’s government declared a second provincial emergency as Covid-19 rates accelerate and a new, more transmissible variant has surfaced in Canada’s most populous province.

The province is imposing stay-at-home rules that take effect on 14 January, requiring residents to stay in except for essential purposes such as buying groceries, medical appointments, exercise or essential work, according to a statement. All businesses must ensure any employee who can work from home does so.

Ontario declared its original provincial emergency during the first wave in March 2020. It remained in effect until 24 July.

Arizona sets death record 

Arizona reported 335 deaths from Covid-19, a record number that underscored its status as a new epicentre of the virus’s latest surge. The state’s 8,559 new cases brought its total since the pandemic began to 636,100.

Arizona leads the nation in people hospitalised with the virus per capita, with 687 per million residents, according to the Covid Tracking Project.

Dutch lockdown extended 

Lockdown measures in the Netherlands will be extended by three weeks until 9 February, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Tuesday evening. The present lockdown, which added the shuttering of non-essential shops to the closure of bars and restaurants, was announced mid-December and had been set to last until at least 19 January. “The British corona variant is in the Netherlands, and this worries us greatly”, Rutte said at a press conference in the Hague.

US to require testing for international air passengers — Dow Jones

The US is expected to require all international airline passengers to show proof of a negative Covid-19 test before boarding flights to the country, Dow Jones reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention planned to issue its order as soon as Tuesday, the news service said.

About 1% of French cases are UK variant 

France’s health authorities analysed thousands of positive Covid tests on Thursday and Friday, finding about 1% of confirmed cases were the UK variant, Health Minister Olivier Veran said in a hearing in the senate on Tuesday.

Suspect PCR tests were identified using Thermo Fisher’s platform, followed by genetic sequencing. Monitoring will be repeated about every 7-10 days to survey the progress of the variant.

France aims to vaccinate five million people by Easter, Veran said. The country will potentially have as many as 77 million doses of various vaccines delivered by the end of June, depending on approvals, the minister said. Should AstraZeneca’s vaccine be approved by the European medicines agency in January, France expects to receive three million doses of the shot in February and another six million in March, according to Veran.

NY opening pop-up testing sites 

New York plans to open pop-up sites statewide that could be used to test customers and workers in a push to reopen offices, restaurants and theatres, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Tuesday in his State of the State speech.

The state’s plan for reopening New York will hinge on rapid testing, he said. The state will follow the model used for the Buffalo Bills, where about 6,700 fans were allowed to attend a recent playoff game after showing a negative Covid test result.

That pilot program is continuing with the 16 January game against the Baltimore Ravens.

Texas opens field hospital in capital 

Texas opened a field hospital in a convention centre in the state’s capital city, Austin, to relieve some of the strain on local hospitals. The “alternate care site” has an initial capacity of 25 beds that can be expanded if needed, Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement on Tuesday.

More than 19% of hospital beds in the 11-county region that includes Austin are occupied by virus patients, state health department figures showed.

UAE reports record cases 

The United Arab Emirates recorded the most daily coronavirus cases since the pandemic began: 3,243, for a total of 236,225. Earlier in the day, Dubai’s ruler urged everyone to get a vaccine to protect themselves and the economy and to speed up recovery. The Ministry of Health said it has so far administered 1.28 million vaccines including 108,401 in the past 24 hours, with an average of 12.9 doses for every 100 people.

NY allows shots for people over 65 

New York state is opening up vaccinations to those age 65 and older, as well as the people with compromised immune systems, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is encouraging states to widen access to Covid-19 vaccines as part of an effort to speed up a stumbling immunisation campaign.

There will be more than seven million people in the state eligible for the vaccine including those aged 65 and older, and essential and healthcare workers, Cuomo said. That doesn’t include the category of people who are immunocompromised that the CDC also recommended be made eligible. The governor said that could include anyone with conditions including cancer, diabetes and asthma.

Of the about 196,000 tests conducted on Monday, 7.7% were positive, including hotspot areas, Cuomo said. There were 164 virus-related fatalities and 8,926 hospitalisations, up 281 from the day before.

NYC turning Mets stadium into vaccination site 

New York City will open up the Mets stadium at Citi Field for vaccinations starting the week of 25 January. The site will operate 24 hours a day and will be able to do between 5,000 and 7,000 vaccinations a day. It will be operated by Health & Hospitals, the public hospital agency.

“We welcome all New Yorkers; we even welcome Yankee fans,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio in a briefing. “It’s going to be big, it’s going to be a game changer.”

De Blasio said the city had given 26,528 doses on Monday. “We are well on track for this week our goal of 175,000 vaccinations. Freedom to vaccinate is what allowed us to do this.”

Irish virus ICU patients hit record 

The number of Irish coronavirus patients in intensive-care units reached a record on Tuesday, as the hospital system nears capacity amid one of the worst outbreaks in the world.

Some 158 confirmed Covid-19 cases are intensive care, according to the health ministry, beating a record set in April. Overall, 1,620 patients are in hospital. The nation is in the teeth of a new wave of the pandemic and now has the worst instance of the virus per million people globally, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

New virus strain reaches Vienna 

The new B117 virus strain was identified in Vienna, where it has reached elderly care facilities, according to the Austrian Press Agency. The variant is rampant in neighbouring Slovakia, from where many commute into the Austrian capital for work. Also, 17 ski instructor trainees, mostly from the UK, tested positive and probably have the new strain, the Tyrol province said.

Swiss vaccination goal realistic, says health official 

Switzerland’s goal of vaccinating residents over the age of 75 by the end of February is realistic, according to Nora Kronig, vice director of the country’s Federal Office of Public Health. Even with intensified efforts to trace contacts, the number of cases of UK and South African variants has increased in Switzerland. Officials said it was possible that 5% to 6% of positive cases in the country were due to the mutations.

Separately, Swissmedic temporarily authorised Moderna’s vaccine for use in Switzerland, the drug regulator said.

Dutch cases fall as longer lockdown looms 

The number of cases in the Netherlands showed a “cautious” decline in the past seven days, according to health agency RIVM on Tuesday. In the week ending 12 January, 49,398 people with Covid-19 were confirmed, down from 56,440. Prime Minister Mark Rutte is still expected to say this evening that lockdown measures will be extended by three weeks until 9 February, according to local media reports. The government is looking at expanding financial aid for companies hit by the measures, the reports said.

US urges states to widen vaccine pool 

The Trump administration is expected to encourage states to widen access to Covid-19 vaccines as part of an effort to speed up a stumbling immunisation campaign.

Health officials on Tuesday will push states to expand the shots’ availability to anyone older than 65, regardless of underlying conditions, and anyone 16 and older with such a condition, according to two US officials who asked not to be named because the information isn’t public.

Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will send a letter to governors making the recommendations on Tuesday. The planned announcement, first reported by Axios, follows President-elect Joe Biden’s pledge to release more of the available vaccine supply.

Uber, Moderna team on vaccine awareness 

Uber Technologies is partnering with Moderna to provide vaccine information and eventually even help schedule rides to appointments. The companies announced they would collaborate “to help support the uptake” of coronavirus vaccines by sending in-app messages in the US

India kicks off race to vaccinate 

India has kicked off one of the world’s biggest inoculation programmes, which will be a crucial test of how quickly developing countries with limited health and transportation infrastructure can protect their populations. Refrigerated trucks and private planes, accompanied by police officers, fanned out from the western city of Pune on Tuesday to about 60 locations as medical workers went on standby to begin vaccinations this weekend.

Scottish deaths surpass 5,000 

The number of deaths in Scotland directly related to Covid-19 surpassed the 5,000 mark, with a record number of people now in hospital and intensive care, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said. Scotland could be facing additional restrictions, Sturgeon said. Details will be announced in the Edinburgh parliament on Wednesday.

Greek PM proposes common vaccination certificate 

Greece is proposing the introduction of a common Covid-19 vaccination certificate for all European Union member states. The document could help quickly re-establish freedom of movement among EU countries and beyond, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Tuesday in a letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

EU-Valneva in pact for 60 million doses 

The European Commission said it aimed to secure as many as 60 million Covid-19 vaccine doses from Valneva for EU countries as a whole. The planned deal — the commission’s eighth supply pact — would allow EU governments to buy an initial 30 million doses and include an option to purchase another 30 million.

Earlier, the chief negotiator of the EU supply accords with drug companies said deliveries of vaccines in the bloc would speed up appreciably as of April. The second quarter “is going to be the quarter with many doses”, Sandra Gallina told a European Parliament committee.

Also on Tuesday, the European Medicines Agency said its drugs advisory panel could issue an opinion on the AstraZeneca-Oxford shot by 29 January, when it would meet to evaluate the application. DM

— With assistance by Jeff Sutherland, Henry Goldman, Shelly Banjo, Keshia Clukey, Stacie Sherman, Dana Khraiche, Jerrold Colten, Flynn McRoberts, Danielle Bochove, and Charles Capel.


"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

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