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Global Virus Update: US to deliver doses to pharmacies;...



Global Virus Update: US to deliver doses to pharmacies; New York mayoral hopeful Andrew Yang tests positive

(Image: Unsplash / United Nations Covid-19 Response)
By Bloomberg
03 Feb 2021 0

South Africa on Tuesday registered a further 2,649 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 1,458,958. A further 547 Covid-19 related deaths were reported. This brings the total to 44,946 deaths.

US President Joe Biden’s administration will test a programme to provide coronavirus vaccines directly to pharmacies, as they try to ratchet up the pace of US inoculations.

New York mayoral hopeful Andrew Yang, a Democratic candidate for president last year, tested positive for Covid-19. The US may recommend wearing two masks to battle the more contagious variants of the coronavirus, according to Anthony Fauci.

AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine showed 82.4% effectiveness with a three-month gap between two shots, according to a new study that bolsters the UK’s controversial decision to adopt the extended dosing interval. Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine provided strong protection in an interim analysis of an advanced clinical trial.

Key developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases top 103.5 million; deaths surpass 2.24 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 100 million shots given worldwide
  • US hotspots: Deaths are starting to drop across the nation
  • Europe’s vaccine frontrunner Serbia draws on support from China
  • QuickTake: Masks, Covid and what kind of mask – what experts say
  • Stats show a trend from vaccinations: Johns Hopkins (Video)

Cuomo says waiters could be eligible for vaccines

Restaurant workers, taxi drivers and workers at developmentally disabled facilities could become eligible to receive Covid-19 vaccines if local governments choose to include them, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

Cuomo said he is directing local governments to make decisions about whether to add groups, and which ones, to the so-called 1B eligible tier, he said in a briefing on Tuesday.

Last week, he announced a plan to reopen New York City’s indoor dining on February 14 to 25% capacity, raising questions about whether restaurant workers should then be included in eligibility lists. He has also been asked to make those with health conditions eligible.

Dutch lockdown extended until March 

The lockdown in the Netherlands will be extended until March 2, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announced on Tuesday during a press conference in the Hague.

Despite decreasing infections since Christmas, Rutte warned of “an inevitable third wave” because the British mutation accounts for about two-thirds of all new infections. A relaxation of measures would have been possible if it weren’t for the British variant, he said.

Rutte did announce a reopening of elementary schools from February 8, stating that the risk is limited. The night-time curfew will remain in place until February 10, and Rutte said his government will decide early next week whether an extension is needed.

Ireland reports death record as surge eases

Ireland recorded 101 virus related deaths on Tuesday, the highest since the pandemic began, health authorities said. The nation had battled one of the world’s worst outbreaks last month, which is now showing signs of easing. Daily infections dropped to 879, the lowest in over a month.

Astra shot shows 82% efficacy with three-month gap

AstraZeneca Plc’s Covid vaccine showed 82.4% effectiveness with a three-month gap between two shots, according to a new study that bolsters the UK’s controversial decision to adopt the extended dosing interval.

The vaccine also may significantly reduce transmission of the virus, according to analysis of trial data by the University of Oxford, which developed the vaccine with the UK drugmaker. Swabs taken from volunteers in the UK arm of the trial showed a 67% reduction in transmission after the first dose, the report showed.

US to test direct delivery to drugstores

President Joe Biden’s administration on Tuesday began to test a programme to provide coronavirus vaccines directly to pharmacies, as they try to ratchet up the pace of US inoculations.

Biden’s team was expected to announce that they’ll ship roughly one million doses per week directly to pharmacies as a trial run, according to two people familiar with the plans. The people asked not to be identified ahead of the announcement.

The programme will expand as vaccine supply allows, the people said. It’s distinct from a planned 5% increase in shipments that the Biden administration revealed to states in a call with governors on Tuesday morning, one person said.

France: Astra shot not for seniors

France’s National Authority for Health declined to recommend giving AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine to people aged 65 and over, a spokesperson said on Tuesday by phone, declining to be identified in line with its policy.

France is counting on the AstraZeneca shot to speed up its vaccination campaign, after criticism of a slow start there and across the European Union. The inoculation adds to the vaccines by Pfizer and BioNTech and that of Moderna already being administered in the country.

The French health authority is following the lead of Germany’s immunisation authority, which has said the inoculation should be authorised only for people between the ages of 18 and 64 due to a lack of trial data in older groups. The EU’s drug regulator on January 29 cleared the vaccine from Astra for all adults.

NYC mayoral candidate Yang tests positive

New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang tested positive on Tuesday for Covid-19 after facing criticism for aggressive in-person campaigning. He said he was experiencing mild symptoms and would quarantine in accordance with public health guidelines.

“When the time is right, I look forward to once again hitting the campaign trail and advancing a positive vision for our city’s future,” he said in a statement.

Yang, a former Democratic candidate for president, had come under criticism for vigorous in-person campaigning, which included multiple outdoor lunches, subway rides and campaign events. He previously halted in-person events last month after a campaign staff member tested positive.

New York City cases slowing, mayor says

New York City’s coronavirus tracking data showed the pandemic’s impact on the city on a downward trend, with the seven-day average of new cases at 4,585 as of Sunday, down from its January highs of 6,371, the largest case surge since the pandemic hit last year.

“The numbers are going in the right direction,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a briefing on Tuesday. “But I’m extremely concerned by the variants. These are big open questions of what’s coming at us.”

Daily hospital admissions totalled 206 as of January 31, just six above the city’s hospital capacity comfort level of 200, and the previous day, it was below that threshold at 186. Testing for the virus produced a seven-day positivity rate of 8.20%, down from January highs of 9.7%.

CDC may recommend two masks, Fauci says

The US Centers for Disease Control may recommend wearing two masks – one over the other – to keep at bay the more contagious variants of the coronavirus, according to Anthony Fauci.

The CDC and Fauci discussed the matter on Monday but the agency doesn’t yet have the data to make any formal recommendation, he said on Tuesday during a Washington Post event. Still, “it makes common sense” to increase protection, Fauci said.

The government’s top infectious-disease expert, now President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, has previously endorsed double-masking given the new strains of the virus.

Scotland tightens quarantine rules

Scotland will tighten rules for anyone coming into the country in an effort to further suppress coronavirus infections as the government in Edinburgh set out an initial roadmap out of lockdown.

“We intend to introduce a managed quarantine requirement for anyone who arrives directly in Scotland, regardless of which country they’ve come from,” First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament.

The goal is to isolate Scotland – even from the rest of the UK – to keep infections on a downward trajectory. Scotland can’t control people entering the country from other parts of Britain and she is urging the government in London to take a similar approach.

UK strain picks up mutation, raising concern

The UK coronavirus strain that’s sparked concern around the globe has picked up another mutation – in a few cases – that appears to make the virus more resistant to vaccines. Scientists have identified the so-called E484K mutation on 11 different sequences of the new strain known as B.1.1.7, Public Health England said in an updated report on Monday. The findings came from a data set of more than 200,000 sequences.

UK, Italy lead Moody’s concerns in Europe

Britain and Italy top the list of European concerns for Moody’s Investors Service in the coming half-decade as they grapple with the fallout from the pandemic and economic headwinds.

US governors meeting with White House

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he and other governors would be talking with the White House on Tuesday about vaccines. He reiterated the state’s need for more supplies. He also said the state ordered all vaccination sites to honour and reschedule appointments that had to close because of the snowstorm. State sites will reopen on Wednesday downstate, Cuomo said.

Evidence of spread of UK variant seen

In the Netherlands, health agency RIVM estimates that about two-thirds of newly infected people last week had the UK variant and therefore lockdown measures can only be relaxed with “the greatest possible caution”. The Dutch government is expected to extend lockdown measures until at least March 2, news agency ANP reported.

Sweden’s Public Health Agency, meanwhile, said random checks suggest it’s also seeing an increased spread of the British variant. It was found in almost 11% of 2,220 samples analysed. In the Paris region, an analysis of positive Covid tests found the strain accounted for 15% to 20% of cases last week, up from around 6% in the first week of January, according to hospitals operator AP-HP.

Virus spread will accelerate without tighter measures, Remi Salomon, head of the medical committee at AP-HP, said on France Info radio.

EU sees vaccine surge with new contracts

The EU predicted a surge in the domestic supply of Covid-19 vaccines during the second quarter and said the bloc had authorized exports of the shots to the UK and Canada.

“We expect that in the second quarter we should be receiving 300 million doses and, of course, more if other vaccines come on stream,” European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer told reporters on Tuesday in Brussels.

Czechs record highest jump in deaths since World War 2

The Czech Republic recorded a 15% jump in deaths in 2020, with the virus driving the annual increase to its highest level since the end of World War 2. The country recorded 129,100 deaths last year, 16,700 more than in 2019, the Statistics Office said on Tuesday.

Russia’s vaccine protects patients in early analysis

Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine provided strong protection against Covid-19 in an interim analysis of an advanced clinical trial, while its backers said it appears to work against new strains.

The vaccine was well-tolerated and also worked among the elderly, according to the peer-reviewed findings, which were published on Tuesday in the medical journal The Lancet. Sputnik V showed efficacy of 91.6%, validating claims by the developers last year.

Pfizer forecasts $15bn in vaccine sales

Pfizer said it expects $15-billion in revenue this year from the Covid-19 vaccine it developed with BioNTech, a sign of returns to come from the industry’s pandemic response efforts.

More than half of New Delhi residents have had virus: study

More than half the residents in India’s capital New Delhi have had the coronavirus and developed antibodies for the infection, according to the latest sero-prevalence study. At the time of the survey in January, 56% of those tested had antibodies, Satyendar Jain, health minister for the Delhi government said in a tweet on Tuesday.

With a population of about 16 million, New Delhi has so far reported 635,248 confirmed cases and has vaccinated 64,711 people.

Iran cases reach six-week high

The number of daily Covid-19 cases in Iran climbed to a six-week high with 6,820 new infections over the last 24 hours. The death toll rose by 72 overnight, reaching a total of 58,110, the Health Ministry reported. DM

With assistance by Mark Schoifet, Bibhudatta Pradhan, Alisa Odenheimer, Henry Goldman, Shelly Banjo, Rudy Ruitenberg, and Diederik Baazil


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