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Global Virus Update: Merkel sets summer vaccine goal; N...

Covid-19

CORONAVIRUS

Global Virus Update: Merkel sets summer vaccine goal; NYC’s snow snag; SA reports 2,548 cases

(Photo: Rawpixel)
By Bloomberg
01 Feb 2021 0

South Africa on Sunday registered a further 2,548 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 1,456,309. A further 235 Covid-19 related deaths were reported. This brings the total to 44,399 deaths.

The US recorded more than 95,500 Covid-related deaths in January, the worst monthly total since the pandemic began, though fatalities in February are expected to be lower. A major snowstorm forced New York City to halt vaccinations for two days.

Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed to offer all Germans a vaccine by the end of September, even if new shots aren’t approved. Europe’s largest economy will have sufficient supplies to stand by its target despite delivery delays, she said after crisis talks with pharmaceutical executives, regional German leaders and European Commission officials.

In a shot of welcome news before the meeting, Bayer AG agreed to produce CureVac NV’s experimental coronavirus vaccine to help speed up the rollout of a promising shot. Meanwhile, Valneva SE, a French vaccine developer, said the UK government exercised an option to order 40 million extra doses of its shot for next year.

Key developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases top 103 million; deaths surpass 2.2 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 98.3 million shots given worldwide
  • US Hot Spots: Deaths are starting to drop across the nation
  • Governments exploit Covid data for other uses, risking backlash
  • Pfizer or Sputnik? Race to inject prompts calls for choice
  • Yay vaccines, but here’s why Covid will never go away: QuickTake

Cuomo open to shots for NY restaurant workers 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he would be open to making the coronavirus vaccine available to restaurant workers, but said it’s not possible with the current supply coming from the federal government.

The state has administered 1.96 million vaccinations to date, but only receives about 300,000 doses from the federal government each week, he said. At present, seven million people are eligible, including healthcare and essential workers, and those aged 65 and above.

The number of people eligible dramatically increased in early January after a change in guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention opened it up to those age 65 and older, as well as immunocompromised individuals.

The question about restaurant workers comes as the state prepares to lift indoor dining restrictions for New York City on 14 February, allowing them to operate at 25% capacity.

Portugal ICUs at 94% capacity

Portugal, which is facing one of the world’s worst coronavirus outbreaks, now has an occupancy rate of about 94% at its intensive-care units, Secretary of State for Health Antonio Lacerda Sales said.

Austrian retail reopening

Austrian retail opens for business from 8 February albeit under strict safety measures. Consumers need an FFP2 mask and 20m2 space in order to shop. Schools will partially reopen two days a week for children who test negative. Those seeking a haircut need a negative test within 48 hours before booking an appointment. Hotels, bars and cafes? Out of luck. The next review is scheduled for 15 February.

WHO: China mission focusing on early cases

The team of international scientists investigating the origins of the coronavirus is focusing on early cases and is having “very good discussions around that,” World Health Organisation officials said on Monday.

“They’re having very productive discussions with their Chinese counterparts, they’re visiting hospitals and had a good visit to the market, seeing first-hand the stalls and walking through,” said Maria van Kerkhove, the group’s technical lead officer on Covid-19.

The coronavirus was first found in people who shopped or worked at a so-called wet market in the central city of Wuhan, where live animals were sold.

Italy reports fewest new cases since October

Italy registered the lowest daily increase in virus cases since 14 October on Monday, with 7,925 new infections, down from 11,252 the day before. The country reported 329 deaths, from 237 on Sunday. The Italian government has eased restrictions for most regions in the country, including the Rome and Milan areas, as of 1 February.

Dubai tightens restrictions

Dubai imposed a new set of restrictions on Monday, requiring restaurants and cafes to close by 1am. It also asked hotels to operate at 70% capacity, and indoor venues such as cinemas to operate at 50%. The government also promised tougher penalties for violators. Those measures are to remain in effect until the end of the month.

The UAE has seen a rise in coronavirus cases as it accelerates its vaccination drive. It has so far administered 3.4 million doses.

Denmark to reopen elementary schools

Denmark will send its youngest pupils back to school next week following a drop in Covid-19 infections, broadcaster TV2 reported, citing unidentified sources familiar with the matter.

Denmark’s schools, restaurants and non-essential stores have been closed since Christmas. According to TV2, the government is expected to announce later on Monday that children aged six to 10 will be able to return to their classrooms on Monday, 8 February. All other restrictions are expected to be kept in place until the end of the month.

Though overall cases of coronavirus have been falling steadily in January, health officials are concerned about the spread of the more infectious British variant.

Fake test results for sale, Europol warns

An Irish organised crime gang is behind a scheme to forge coronavirus test results for people travelling between countries, according to Europol.

Europol has received “intelligence on the alleged use of a mobile application by the Rathkeale Rovers Mobile Organised Crime Group which allows members of the organised crime group to manually falsify test results”, the law-enforcement agency said in a statement Monday.

EU nations tighten rules for arrivals

European Union governments agreed to tighten rules for travellers to the bloc by requiring them to have a Covid-19 test within 72 hours of departure, highlighting concerns about new virus variants. The move covers essential and non-essential travellers to the EU except “transport and frontier workers”, officials said on the condition of anonymity because the deliberations on Monday in Brussels were confidential.

Diplomats also decided to open the door for member countries to impose self-isolation, quarantine and contract-tracing obligations for as many as 14 days after arrival from outside the EU, according to the officials. The deal among EU member-country envoys still needs formal approval — a step that is usually a formality.

Snow forces NYC to postpone shots

A massive snowstorm has shut down most of New York City and all vaccination appointments will be cancelled on Monday and Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

“We need to keep people safe,” De Blasio said in a briefing on Monday. “We know we can reschedule appointments very quickly.”

New York City continues to face shortages: the city has fewer than 43,000 doses on hand for first vaccinations. New York has another 310,000 shots on hand reserved for second doses. The city has administered more than 815,000 doses since it began its vaccine campaign last December.

US recorded most deaths in January 

The US recorded the worst monthly death toll from the pandemic in January, more than 95,500, but fatalities in February are likely to be lower, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. That’s because the seven-day average of daily confirmed cases at the end of January dropped to about 151,000, a level last seen in November and down from a peak of nearly 282,000 in early January. Confirmed cases in January were 6.2 million, down from 6.4 million in December.

Puerto Rico to limit shots for first responders

Puerto Rico will quit providing vaccines to first responders for four weeks to focus on the island’s seniors.

Health Secretary Carlos Mellado Lopez said he will be signing an order Monday restricting the island’s vaccine supply to people 65 and older — save a handful of clinics that are providing vaccines to teachers.

Mellado said first responders can resume getting shots after the four-week period is over. The change doesn’t affect medical personnel, most of whom have already been vaccinated.

The decision comes amid reports that some people not eligible for the limited number of vaccines were passing as first responders.

EU official confident drugmakers to deliver doses

The chief European Union negotiator for the EU’s agreements securing about 2.3 billion vaccine doses for member countries says the drugmakers will meet their delivery pledges.

“These are companies that have started the production, they are ramping up production — we have found that there were a few glitches — but let me say I have full confidence that they will deliver according to schedule,” Sandra Gallina told a European Parliament committee on Monday in Brussels. “They have committed to that.”

Gallina is director-general for health in the European Commission, the 27-nation EU’s executive arm.

No masks, no physical distancing

The Isle of Man, a small island between Great Britain and Ireland, removed all of its coronavirus restrictions on Monday, leaving it surrounded by countries under lockdown.

The community of about 85,000 people will not ask for physical distancing, mandate masks or restrict socialising. Schools will reopen and everyone can return to work. The island has just 15 active coronavirus cases. In a bid to retain this freedom, travel on to the island for non-residents is banned.

Malawi secures AstraZeneca vaccines

Malawi has secured doses of AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine through the Covax initiative to inoculate its population, the government said.

The first consignment of the vaccine is expected to arrive at the end of February in readiness for the rollout in March, said President Lazarus Chakwera.

Bayer to help CureVac produce its Covid vaccine

Bayer agreed to produce CureVac’s experimental coronavirus vaccine to help speed up the roll-out of a promising shot that’s in advanced clinical tests.

The move extends Bayer’s act with CureVac beyond simply helping with regulatory clearances and global distribution. It follows commitments from fellow European pharma giants Sanofi and Novartis to put their manufacturing capacities behind scaling up Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid-19 injection. DM

— With assistance by Mark Schoifet, Jonathan Stearns, Vivek Shankar, Henry Goldman, Shelly Banjo, Dana Khraiche, Flavia Rotondi, Corinne Gretler, Jonathan Tirone, and Keshia Clukey.

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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"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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