First Thing, Daily Maverick's flagship newsletter

Join the 230 000 South Africans who read First Thing newsletter.

Global Virus Update: US deaths near 400,000; SA deaths...

Covid-19

CORONAVIRUS

Global Virus Update: US deaths near 400,000; SA deaths rise above 37,000; UK weighs quarantines

(Image: Rawpixel)
By Bloomberg
17 Jan 2021 0

South Africa on Sunday registered a further 12,267 Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 1,337,926. A further 254 Covid-19 related deaths were reported. This brings the total to 37,105 deaths.

Another 3,830 people in the US died of causes related to Covid-19, keeping the country on track to reach 400,000 deaths before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday. Biden’s promise of delivering 100 million doses of the vaccine in 100 days is “absolutely a doable thing”, Dr Anthony Fauci said.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he’s considering all possible measures after the nation recorded 1,200 deaths for the fifth day in a row on Saturday. Austria is extending its lockdown.

Brazil is poised to grant approval for the emergency use of AstraZeneca and Sinovac Biotech vaccines as the virus roars back in Latin America’s largest economy. The Australian Open tennis tournament will go ahead, even after the number of players sent into quarantine rose to 72.

Key Developments

  • Global Tracker: Cases pass 94.7 million; deaths surpass two million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 39.7 million shots given worldwide
  • The rich are minting money in the pandemic like never before
  • Norway lifts estimate of deaths among elderly who got Pfizer vaccine
  • How fear of vaccine threatens to delay pandemic’s end: QuickTake

Ireland hospitalisations not yet at peak, minister says

Ireland expects coronavirus hospitalisations to peak “in the next week or two,” Health Minister Stephen Donnelly told state broadcaster RTE Radio, even as the nation ramps up its vaccination programme.

The country has seen one of the worst virus outbreaks in the world since the new year, with hospitalisations almost double the previous high in April. Daily infections have started to fall, however, and on Sunday, the 2,944 cases reported were the lowest since New Year’s Day, health authorities said.

Still, Donnelly said the number of those seeking hospital treatment has not yet peaked. The National Public Health Emergency Team said on Sunday the situation in the hospitals remains “stark.”

The government expects to have vaccinated about 140,000 people by January 24, Donnelly said. About 77,000 people had received their first dose by January 13.

Brazil poised to approve first Covid vaccines 

Brazil is poised to grant approval for the emergency use of AstraZeneca and Sinovac Biotech vaccines against Covid-19, allowing the country to kick-start deploying shots as the virus roars back in Latin America’s largest economy.

A majority of directors at health regulator Anvisa cleared the boosters in a Sunday meeting, citing the recent significant increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in Brazil and the lack of alternatives for treatment of the disease.

French minister dismisses vaccination passports as ‘premature’

France is “very reluctant” to back any move by the European Union to create vaccination passports that would allow people who have been inoculated against Covid-19 to travel, Clement Beaune, junior minister for European Affairs, told France Info radio on Sunday. “It’s premature” to discuss using a document of this type to allow travel within Europe, at least until the vaccine is widely available, he said.

Italy hospitalisations drop 

Italy reported 12,545 new cases on Sunday, down from 16,310 a day earlier. The number of hospitalised patients fell for a fifth day, reaching 25,260, the lowest since November 4. Patients in intensive-care units are also at the lowest since early November.

The country reported 377 deaths linked to Covid-19, down from 475 on Saturday. Italy has reached 1,123,021 vaccination doses and started second shots Sunday.

UK reports fewest cases in three weeks 

The UK reported another 38,598 cases on Sunday, the fewest since December 27. Reporting is often lower on weekends, however. Fatalities, at 671, were also below the average of 1,100 over the previous seven days. Hospitalisations continued to rise with 37,475 patients as of January 14.

Fauci says Biden’s 100 million doses ‘doable’ in 100 days

President-elect Joe Biden’s promise of delivering 100 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine in 100 days is “absolutely a doable thing,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he expects Biden not to hesitate to “use whatever mechanisms we can” to speed the production and distribution of the shots.

“The feasibility of his goal is absolutely clear, there’s no doubt about it,” Fauci said on Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press.

Portugal new cases, deaths fall from record

Portugal on Sunday reported 10,385 new confirmed cases, less than the record of 10,947 on Saturday, taking the total to 549,801. The total number of deaths rose by 152 in a day to 8,861, following Saturday’s record daily increase of 166. The number of patients in intensive-care units rose by nine to 647, according to government data. The country’s national health service has a capacity of about 960 beds in intensive-care units.

Australian Open to go ahead with 72 players in quarantine 

The Australian Open tennis tournament will go ahead as scheduled next month, even after the number of players sent into a 14-day hotel quarantine on arrival rises to 72.

A passenger has tested positive on a third flight, arriving in Melbourne from Doha, the event organisers said in a statement on Sunday. This means an additional group of people, including a further 25 players, will need to complete a 14-day hotel quarantine. It brings the total number of players in a two-week isolation period to 72.

US adds more than 3,800 deaths

Another 3,830 people in the US died of causes related to Covid-19, keeping the country on track to reach 400,000 deaths before President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.

Reported cases nationwide increased by about 231,000 to more than 23.7 million, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. Deaths rose to 395,785. The US leads the world in cumulative cases and deaths.

Lockdowns fuel double-dip recession fears in Europe

Euro area restrictions have significantly slowed economic activity, fueling fears of a double-dip recession, the FT reported on Sunday, citing alternative data indicators.

Dominic Raab says UK considering all measures at border to curb virus

The UK government is considering “all possibilities” to enforce Covid-19 rules for travellers, and won’t rule out setting up quarantine hotels and using GPS trackers to fight the spread of the coronavirus, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.

Raab warned on Sunday there would be more checks by Public Health England to make sure people are self-isolating in their own homes for 10 days after arrival.

He also refused to rule out setting up the hotels or using global positioning system trackers.

Separately, the Telegraph reported that the government aims to vaccinate four to five million people a week within months, with shots from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson helping it to inoculate all 54 million adults by the end of June.

The UK reported more than 1,200 deaths for the fifth day in a row on Saturday. New cases of 41,346 were below the weekly average of 51,221. More than 37,000 people were in hospitals, and 3.56 million people have received their first dose of a vaccine.

Hong Kong reports four imported infections

Hong Kong health authorities reported 55 new infections on Sunday, of which four were imported. It also found more than 80 preliminary positive cases.

The unemployment rate for the three months ended December is likely to exceed the highest level in 16 years because of the impact of tightened coronavirus restrictions, Financial Secretary Paul Chan said on his blog earlier on Sunday.

The latest jobless rate is scheduled to be released Tuesday. Unemployment stood at a high of 6.4% for the three months ended October, matching a high from January 2005.

Austria extends lockdown as virus mutation spreads 

Austria will keep its current lockdown in place until February 7. It will shut restaurants, cafes and hotels for at least all of February and tighten mask and distancing requirements as more infectious coronavirus mutations accelerate the spread of the disease.

The setback for the Alpine country that had planned to lift most measures on January 25 comes as the B.1.1.7 mutation is suspected to have reached locations including Vienna. Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said the country will now make the more effective FFP2 masks mandatory on public transport and in supermarkets and pharmacies –the only stores still open – and increase the required distance in public places to 2m.

Iran cases, deaths ease

Iran’s daily new Covid-19 cases eased to 6,016 from 6,100 on Saturday. The country recorded 86 more fatalities over the last 24 hours, down from 96 on Saturday, the Health Ministry reported. Iran now has 56,803 deaths in 1.33 million confirmed infections.

Club Med owner pleads to reopen ski lifts

The head of resort owner Club Med is pleading with the French government to allow the reopening of ski lifts in the Alps, saying 100,000 seasonal jobs are at stake and bankruptcies are rising.

Henri Giscard d’Estaing has written to Prime Minister Jean Castex urging him to weigh the economic consequences for the region if they remain closed, Journal du Dimanche newspaper reported on Sunday.

The government is set to decide on January 20 ahead of the first wave of school holidays that begin on February 6. Tougher curfew conditions took effect on Saturday amid a resurgence in the virus.

Israel to begin reopening economy in February

Israel will begin gradually reopening its economy from February, and much of it will be active by March, Finance Minister Israel Katz said on Sunday.

As of Sunday morning, 1,772 soldiers and IDF civilian employees have been diagnosed with Covid-19, the Jerusalem Post reported. In addition, 12,196 are in home isolation. Some 31,110 soldiers have received the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine so far.

Taiwan adds second case over past two days 

Taiwan reported another local case of Covid-19 on Sunday, the second such case in the past two days.

A doctor at a northern Taiwan hospital tested positive on Sunday, having worked with another doctor who was earlier confirmed to be infected. A nurse at the hospital also tested positive on Saturday.

The cases bring the number in the past month to five, after the island ended what was the world’s longest stretch without a domestic infection.

Germany to detain quarantine breakers as cases, deaths increase

Several German states plan to detain quarantine breakers, Welt am Sonntag reported. People who repeatedly violate quarantine orders face detention in some German states, in addition to high fines, the newspaper reported, citing its own inquiries.

The state of Baden-Wuerttemberg plans to admit persistent quarantine breakers to designated sections of hospitals, which are monitored by a security service; Schleswig-Holstein plans to detain the persons on the premises of a youth detention centre; and Saxony is in the process of putting up a designated facility for such cases, according to the paper.

The country reported an increase of 14,817 to 2,038,645 coronavirus cases for the past 24 hours, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. Covid-19 related deaths rose by 242 to 46,464.

Dubai bets on vaccines for Expo 2020

Dubai is hoping one of the world’s fastest vaccination programmes and rapid testing technology will help achieve its goal of holding the Expo 2020 event this year after the coronavirus pandemic forced a delay.

The government aims to open the Expo on Oct. 1 and says it’s still possible that 25 million people will visit the city for the six-month event. DM

— With assistance by Ian Fisher, Chikafumi Hodo, Cindy Wang, David Stringer, Hooyeon Kim, Suttinee Yuvejwattana, Gearoid Reidy, David Verbeek, Peter Flanagan, Joao Lima, Ros Krasny, Sara Marley, Marco Bertacche, Tara Patel, Dara Doyle, and Danielle Chaves.

Gallery

"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]"

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted