First Thing, Daily Maverick's flagship newsletter

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

Global Virus Update: SA reports 9,780 cases; US deaths...



Global Virus Update: SA reports 9,780 cases; US deaths top 400,000; New York warns on dose supply

(Photo: EPA-EFE / Fernando Bizerra)
By Bloomberg
19 Jan 2021 0

South Africa on Monday registered a further 9,780 Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 1,356,716. A further 839 Covid-19 related deaths were reported. This brings the total to 38,288 deaths.

The number of US deaths on Tuesday topped 400,000, the worst toll in the world, even as cases fell in all regions. New York City will have to close vaccination sites after Thursday unless it receives a major resupply, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

Ireland’s Covid-19 hospitalisations fell for the first time since December 22, a sign one of the world’s worst outbreaks may be abating, and France is seeing benefits from an earlier curfew. Portugal and the UK reported record deaths, while Italy saw some positive indications.

In Asia, Indonesia had its deadliest day of the pandemic. Hong Kong will extend social-distancing measures, expand mandatory testing and introduce restrictions in certain neighborhoods as cases surge. The city will also ban travellers from Ireland and Brazil.

Key developments

US deaths top 400,000

The US has recorded 400,000 Covid-19 deaths, a sobering milestone that comes as the nation prepares to inaugurate a new president who has pledged to speed up vaccine delivery and promote protective measures like mask-wearing as a patriotic duty.

With more than 24 million Covid-19 infections, the US has been the world leader in cases and deaths, contributing about a fifth of the more than two million fatalities reported globally. India and Brazil are next in line.

Abbott’s Binax misses some cases

Abbott Laboratories’ BinaxNOW, a 15-minute test for Covid-19, may miss nearly two-thirds of infections in those without symptoms, according to a federal study that suggests repeat testing is needed to catch people when they are most contagious.

Moderna Slides After California warning

Moderna fell as much as 7.1% on Tuesday after the California state epidemiologist advised a pause in the distribution of a batch of the biotech’s Covid-19 vaccine amid a rise in the number of possible severe allergic reactions. The move was done “out of an extreme abundance of caution,” said Erica Pan, the epidemiologist.

UK records most deaths in single day

The UK reported a further 1,610 new deaths from the coronavirus on Tuesday, the most reported in a single day.

A further 33,355 cases were reported, lower than the seven-day rolling average of 44,997. The average number of new cases has been steadily falling since early January, although it remains significantly higher as a more infectious strain spreads through the country.

There are now more than 4.26 million people who have received their first coronavirus vaccine dose.

The number of deaths reported in the UK are often higher on Tuesdays due to a backlog that accumulates over the weekend. Deaths are within 28 days of a positive test, and are reported on the day they are recorded, not the day they occur.

Italy sees some positive signs

Italy reported 10,497 new cases compared with 8,825 the day before, but down 26% from a week earlier. The test positivity rate fell to 4.1% from 5.6%. Daily fatalities jumped to 603 from 377 on Monday. Patients in intensive-care units fell by 57 to 2,487, the fewest since early November.

New York warns supply may run out this week

New York City will have to close vaccination sites after Thursday if it doesn’t get a major resupply, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

The city wants to vaccinate 300,000 people this week but only has about 92,000 doses, De Blasio said in a Tuesday briefing. More than 450,000 doses have been administered in the city.

“At this rate, we will run out on Thursday and hit zero on Friday,” De Blasio said. “We will not be able to give shots at a lot of our sites. We won’t get shots until next week.”

De Blasio said the city is opening massive vaccination sites that will be operating around the clock, seven days a week at Citi Field in Queens and Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. “Capacity is growing every day, but it won’t work without the vaccine,” he said.

Slovenia eyes vaccine coverage by summer

Slovenia ordered and is expecting to get 3.23 million doses of currently approved Covid-19 vaccines in 2021, Premier Janez Jansa said. The Alpine state of 2.1 million people can achieve immunisation coverage by the beginning of summer, Jansa said.

Slovenia is third in the world by number of deaths per million inhabitants, behind San Marino and Belgium, according to Our World in Data.

The nation’s Covid-19 death toll reached 3.231 on Monday. Although the number of new infections is dropping, as well as positivity rates and the reproductive rate, which fell to 0.95 at the start of the week, the number of patients that need hospital care is hovering at 1,200, with 187 needing intensive care.

Portugal reports record deaths again

Portugal on Tuesday reported the biggest daily increase in deaths from the coronavirus since the start of the outbreak. There were 218 fatalities in a day, more than the previous record of 167 on Monday, taking the total to 9,246 deaths.

The government reported 10,455 new confirmed coronavirus infections in a day, less than a record 10,947 cases announced on Saturday. The number of patients in intensive care units rose by six to 670. The country’s national health service has a capacity of about 1,200 ICU beds.

Scotland extends lockdown

Scotland extended its lockdown until at least the middle of February as the rate of coronavirus infections puts severe pressure on the health service.

UK watchdog: Vaccine reactions normal

The UK’s health regulator said it hasn’t seen any worrisome reactions to Covid-19 vaccines so far after reports from Norway raised safety concerns. “There’s nothing unusual in what we’re seeing,” June Raine, interim chief executive officer of the UK Medicines and HealthcareProducts Regulatory Agency, said at a public board meeting on Tuesday.

Germany extends curbs

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and regional leaders agreed to extend virus curbs and tighten mask rules in a bid to stem the spread of the coronavirus, Der Spiegel magazine reported.

Merkel and the leaders of Germany’s 16 states agreed to prolong lockdown rules – which include closing schools and non-essential stores – until mid-February, the magazine said, without identifying the source of its information. Their video call was brought forward by almost a week due to concern that faster-spreading variants of the disease could establish themselves in Europe’s biggest economy.

There were 9,253 new cases in Europe’s biggest economy in the 24 hours through Tuesday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University data. An additional 482 people died.

India to ship vaccines to South Asian nations

India will begin shipping coronavirus vaccines to Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles from January 20. The vaccines will be sent as grant assistance and will cover healthcare providers, frontline workers and the most vulnerable in the South Asian nations, the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

India is waiting for regulatory clearances from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius to send out vaccines, it said.

Polish Deputy Premier Sasin hospitalised

Polish Deputy Premier and Minister of State Assets Jacek Sasin has been hospitalised with Covid-19, his spokesperson said by phone.

Netherlands faces more measures

The Dutch caretaker government will announce further measures on Wednesday, according to Health Minister Hugo de Jonge. Concern about new variants has prompted the Cabinet to weigh additional steps on top of the lockdown in place until at least February 9. A curfew or lowering the number of home visitors is possible, according to local media reports.

Gaining support for further restrictions in a lockdown-fatigued nation may prove challenging given a decline in overall numbers in recent weeks. In the week ended January 19, 38,776 people with Covid-19 were confirmed, down from 49,398, according to health agency RIVM. The number of deaths and patients admitted to intensive care units also dropped.

Homeless Danes to get early shots

Denmark has added homeless people to the list of those set to be vaccinated against Covid-19 early on, as the country barrels ahead of the rest of the EU in inoculating its population. Almost 3% of Danes have now received at least one immunisation shot since the programme started shortly after Christmas. Still, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told lawmakers on Tuesday that a lockdown currently set to stay in place until February 7 may need to be extended.

Ireland sees hopeful sign

Ireland’s Covid-19 hospitalisations fell for the first time since December 22, a sign one of the world’s worst outbreaks may be abating. There were 1,954 confirmed cases in the hospital on Tuesday morning, according to health authority data, down from 2,023 a day earlier. Still, the hospital system remains under pressure, with about 94% of intensive care beds occupied across the country. Intensive care is full in 13 of Ireland’s 29 public hospitals.

France sees effect of earlier curfew

France is starting to see the effect of an earlier curfew on the coronavirus spread, Health Minister Olivier Veran said on France Inter radio on Tuesday. In areas that extended the measure by two hours to 6pm starting on January 2, the number of weekly new cases is about 16% lower than in other regions, the minister said. France expanded the earlier curfew nationwide on Saturday.

France isn’t facing an exponential spread at this time, even if the situation remains “worrisome,” according to the minister. Veran said 1.4% of positive PCR tests in the country are of more transmissible variants of Covid-19.

Singapore defers reopening nightclubs

Singapore will defer reopening some nightclubs and karaoke outlets until further notice following an increase in the number of community cases. The reopening under a pilot programme was due to start this month.

London Metal Exchange may shut trading floor

The London Metal Exchange (LME) will propose permanently closing its open-outcry trading floor, putting an end to the century-old practice of setting the world’s metals prices in a daily shouting match.

The trading floor known as “the Ring” is one of the last of its kind in the world. It’s been closed since the UK’s first lockdown in March, when the LME switched to an electronic system. The 10 months of smooth operations since then have revived a years-long debate about whether the Ring has outlived its usefulness.

Russia says second approved vaccine is 100% effective

Immunological efficacy of the second Russian vaccine, EpiVacCorona developed by Vector State Virology and Biotechnology Centre in Siberia is 100%, based on clinical trial data, Tass reported, citing public health agency Rospotrebnadzor.

UK Minister Hancock to self-isolate after alert via app

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he’ll self-isolate and stay home until Sunday after being alerted Monday night by the NHS Covid-19 app, according to a post on his Twitter feed.

Covid could be source of new global crises for years

The coronavirus has exposed the “catastrophic effects” of ignoring long-term risks such as pandemics, and the economic and political consequences could cause more crises for years to come, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF).

The WEF’s annual survey of global risks lists infectious disease and livelihood crises as the top “clear and present dangers” over the next two years. Knock-on effects lead concerns over 3-5 years. Most countries struggled with crisis management during the pandemic, highlighting how leaders need to prepare better for the next major shock.

Germany, BioNTech still in talks for 30 million more doses

Germany is still in talks with BioNTech for an additional 30 million doses of the vaccine the German firm developed together with Pfizer, the Health Ministry said. The government and the company signed a memorandum of understanding on September 8 for the doses, which would be in addition to the supply Germany is getting under an EU deal, the ministry said in a response to questions from lawmakers.

Indonesia reports deadliest day

Indonesia reported the highest number of deaths since the coronavirus outbreak began. The government said 308 people died from Covid-19 in the 24 hours through midday Tuesday, bringing the total to 26,590. The country added 10,365 confirmed cases.

Hong Kong to ban travellers from Brazil, Ireland

Visitors who have been to Brazil and Ireland in the past 21 days for more than two hours will be barred from entry, Hong Kong Under-Secretary for Food and Health Chui Tak-yi said at a briefing, citing risks of the more transmissible strains in those countries.

Hong Kong will also extend social-distancing measures, expand mandatory testing and introduce restrictions in certain neighbourhoods to battle an extended wave of cases. The moves come after the Asian financial hub reported 107 daily infections on Monday, the most in a month, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam told an earlier news briefing on Tuesday.

Hong Kong’s unemployment rate jumped to the highest level in 16 years last month as it struggled under stiff social distancing measures. DM

With assistance by Mark Schoifet, Dong Lyu, Kyunghee Park, Randy Thanthong-Knight, Nour Al Ali, Peter Flanagan, Joao Lima, Misha Savic, Simone Preissler Iglesias, Jan Bratanic, Shelly Banjo, Jonathan Stearns, Marco Bertacche, 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]"

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