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Africa to start receiving Covax shots; New York health...

Covid-19

Global Virus Update

Africa to start receiving Covax shots; New York health chief tests positive, SA records 4,058 new infections

(Photo: Unsplash / Jon Tyson)
By Bloomberg
03 Feb 2021 0

South Africa on Wednesday recorded a cumulative total of 1,463,016 Covid-19 cases, adding 4,058 new infections on the day,. A further 398 Covid-19 related deaths were reported. This brings the total to 45,344 deaths.

AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford have started looking at how to re-engineer their coronavirus vaccine to defeat new mutations, saying a tweaked injection could be ready by autumn.

GlaxoSmithKline agreed to work with CureVac to help boost production of its experimental vaccine and improve the shot to help protect against multiple variants.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy loosened indoor capacity restrictions for restaurants and other businesses to 35% from 25%. New York City expanded vaccine eligibility to taxi drivers and restaurant workers, two weeks before indoor dining is scheduled to reopen.

Key Developments:

Houston rodeo disrupted for second year

The 2021 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo was cancelled on Wednesday amid concerns about the safety of large public gatherings.

The rodeo, originally scheduled to run for three weeks beginning in early March, was postponed until May earlier this year. On Wednesday, organisers announced the event – which typically attracts 2.5 million attendees and employs almost 4,000 – would be scrapped. Last year’s rodeo was halted after the first week as the virus began to circulate in the fourth-largest US city.

Associated events including the downtown Houston rodeo parade and the World’s Championship Bar-B-Que Contest also have been cancelled, organisers said.

New Jersey loosens restaurant restrictions

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy loosened indoor capacity restrictions for restaurants and other businesses to 35% from 25%.

Murphy also lifted the 10pm curfew on indoor restaurant service. All changes are effective from Friday.

“We’re able to take this step today because the data says we can,” he said Wednesday at a press briefing.

World Economic Forum moves annual meeting

The World Economic Forum proposed to reschedule the Special Annual Meeting in Singapore to mid-August due to travel restrictions and the current state of the coronavirus pandemic. The meeting had been scheduled for late May.

New York City expands eligibility to restaurant workers

Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed that New York will expand vaccine eligibility to restaurant workers, taxi drivers and people who live in homes for developmentally disabled people as well as those who work there.

The decision follows Governor Andrew Cuomo’s directive to leave the decision of eligibility expansion up to localities after he decided to reopen indoor dining in the city on February 14.

New York City has administered nearly 840,000 shots so far. It had to pause vaccinations this week due to the biggest snowstorm in the city since 2016. But the majority of vaccine sites have reopened and will try to push through a stockpile that has built up of more than 104,492 first doses on hand, the mayor said.

Africa to start receiving Covax shots 

Covax, the global programme that strives to ensure equitable access to coronavirus vaccines, has allocated millions of doses of AstraZeneca’s shots to African countries and aims for its first deliveries by the end of the month.

Nigeria, the most populous nation on the continent, stands to receive 16 million doses, while Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo are in line for nine million and seven million doses respectively, according to an interim distribution forecast published on Wednesday. Other African countries will get a smaller number of vaccines.

New York health commissioner tests positive

New York City’s health commissioner, Dave Chokshi, has tested positive for Covid-19, he said in a statement on Wednesday.

“I now have mild symptoms, but they are manageable,” Chokshi said. “I have been in touch with New York City’s Test and Trace Corps to ensure that anyone who was potentially exposed is offered services and care. This is a reminder – if we ever needed one – that Covid is still with us and we all must continue to wear masks, wash our hands, socially distance and stay home if feeling ill.”

Bristol Myers joins Covid antibody race

Bristol Myers Squibb has clinched a deal with the Rockefeller University for the rights to a Covid-19 therapy that combines two antibodies, the drugmaker said on Wednesday.

Rockefeller launched the experimental treatment into human trials in mid-January. The agreement grants Bristol Myers an exclusive licence to develop, manufacture and commercialise the therapy globally.

US companies add more jobs than expected

US companies added more jobs than forecast in January, a sign that the labour market may be gradually improving as Covid-19 infections begin to ebb.

Company payrolls increased by 174,000 during the month, according to ADP Research Institute data released on Wednesday. The median projection in a Bloomberg survey of economists called for an increase of 70,000.

Chile expands vaccination programme

Chile, the Latin American country that has procured the most vaccines per capita, expanded its inoculation programme on Wednesday to include the elderly.

People lined up at state-run health centres and private clinics to receive the first dose of the Sinovac vaccine. The government is putting into practice a programme that begins with people age 90 and higher and essential workers. In coming days, the age limit will fall progressively.

Serbia appeals for more of Chinese vaccine

Serbia has appealed for more Chinese vaccine doses after being the first in Europe to import shots from Sinopharm last month, the office of President Aleksandar Vucic said. The initial shipment of one million doses put the Balkan country ahead of the rest of continental Europe in inoculation.

Hong Kong to double in-school teaching capacity

Hong Kong is to allow up to one-third of a school’s learner capacity to return to classes on a half-day basis after February’s Lunar New Year holiday, double the current capacity. School campuses have been closed as the city battles an extended wave of the coronavirus, which has led authorities to enact some of its strictest restrictions since the start of the pandemic.

Astra, Oxford to work on re-engineered shot

AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford are planning to have a re-engineered shot that protects against new mutations available by the fall in time for the next round of immunisations that may be required before winter.

Andrew Pollard, chief investigator of the Oxford trials, said switching out the genome sequence, manufacturing and completing new studies for a vaccine against variants should be fairly quick.

Moderna offers South Africa vaccines in first 

Moderna offered to supply its coronavirus vaccine to South Africa, in what would be its first deal to sell shots to an African nation, a person familiar with the talks said.

Discussions have started, though no deal has been concluded, the person said. Business Day earlier reported that Moderna offered to sell South Africa 20 million doses, with the first arriving in May, citing a health activist from the C19 People’s Coalition.

Germany calls in troops

Germany has boosted the number of army troops helping in the fight against the pandemic by 5,000 to 25,000 and will call up more reservists as well, as Chancellor Angela Merkel is under increasing pressure to speed up a lagging vaccination programme.

From guarding vaccine shipments to helping with mobile medical units, soldiers are being deployed throughout the country. On Wednesday, a team of 26 health workers equipped with 150 beds, 50 ventilators and other supplies set off for Portugal to help fight the spike of cases there.

Israel widens vaccination drive to young adults

Israel’s Health Ministry has instructed the country’s health-service providers to prepare to extend their vaccination drive to all people over the age of 16 starting on Thursday. The country is trying to reinvigorate the pace of vaccination, which has slowed this week to about half of the government’s target of 200,000 shots a day.

Antibodies remain six months after infection: study

The vast majority of people who contract Covid-19 still have antibodies at least six months after infection, a new study involving more than 20,000 people showed.

Some 88% of participants who tested positive for a previous infection retained antibodies for six months, according to the report by UK Biobank, a major biomedical database. The number was 99% at three months.

The results follow other, smaller studies that indicate a level of immunity following a natural infection for at least six months. Health officials have said it’s still unclear how long protection through vaccines could last.

‘Contagion’ movie shaped UK vaccine roll-out

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the 2011 movie Contagion influenced his planning for the roll-out of coronavirus vaccines.

“In the film, it shows the moment of highest stress around the vaccine programme is not in fact before it’s rolled out,” Hancock told LBC radio on Wednesday. “It’s afterwards, when there is a huge row about the order of priority.” The British government asked for “very early” clinical advice on who should get the shots first and laid it out to the public, he said.

France blasts Hungary for vaccine approach

France’s junior minister for EU affairs, Clement Beaune, condemned Hungary for a go-it-alone approval of Russian and Chinese vaccines outside the European Union process. Instead, he suggested that Russia should submit its Sputnik V vaccine to European regulators to ensure it’s vetted according to the same criteria as others.

“The Russians haven’t submitted their vaccine to European authorities and we would invite them to do so,” he said on Wednesday on LCI television.

Singapore authorises Moderna vaccine

Singapore approved Moderna’s vaccine for use in the country with an interim clearance. A review of the clinical data found that benefits of the vaccine outweigh any known risks, according to Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority.

Denmark to offer digital Corona passport

Business travellers in Denmark will be offered a digital coronavirus passport at the end of the month, in a move designed to facilitate exporters affected by international restrictions, the government said on Wednesday. The electronic document will contain information about an individual’s Covid-19 and vaccination history.

China ready to provide vaccine doses to Covax

China said it’s ready to supply 10 million coronavirus vaccine doses to the Covax effort, primarily for emergency use in developing countries, Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a briefing in Beijing.

Sinopharm, Zhifei vaccines work against variant

The vaccines developed by Sinopharm and Zhifei Biological work against the variant found in South Africa but with slightly weaker protection, Jiemian.com reported, citing an article by authors including George Gao Fu, head of China’s Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

Glaxo, CureVac team up to develop shots

GlaxoSmithKline and CureVac will work together to create next-generation messenger RNA vaccines. The companies aim to have a candidate approved by 2022 as part of a €150-million deal, they said in a statement.

Glaxo will also manufacture as much as 100 million doses of CureVac’s current mRNA vaccine, which is in late-stage trials. Drugmakers are looking to accelerate the development of shots as new variants emerge, sparking fears some vaccines could become less effective. DM

With assistance by Mark Schoifet, Jim Wyss, Joao Lima, Dan Reichl, Tim Smith, Thomas Kutty Abraham, Karen Leigh, Melissa Cheok, Corinne Gretler, Tara Patel, Kitty Donaldson, Alisa Odenheimer, Suzi Ring, Naomi Kresge, Henry Goldman, Stacie Sherman, and Joe Carroll.

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 l[email protected]

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]"

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