Covid-19

CORONAVIRUS

Global Virus Update: Fauci says US cases too high; Cuomo under fire; 52 deaths reported in SA — bringing the total to 49,993

Global Virus Update: Fauci says US cases too high; Cuomo under fire; 52 deaths reported in SA — bringing the total to 49,993
A health worker receives a Covid-19 vaccine at Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

South Africa registered 1,168 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 1,513,393. A further 52 Covid-19-related deaths were reported, bringing the total to 49,993 deaths.

Covid-19 cases need to fall further before the US can confidently resume normal activities, even as the vaccine rollout accelerates, Anthony Fauci said. While cases have plunged from 300,000 a day to about 70,000, “that baseline’s too high”, the US government’s top infectious disease expert said.

New US cases declined slightly on Saturday, the same day Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine was cleared for use in the country. The European Union’s approval for the vaccine may come in two weeks, France’s European affairs minister said.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Governor Mario Cuomo should be stripped of his emergency powers, following accusations of sexual harassment and improper counting of deaths at nursing homes.

Key Developments:

UK detects cases of Brazil variant

Six cases of a Brazilian coronavirus variant have been detected in the UK, Public Health England said, warning the mutation may be more resistant to vaccines.

Two cases in England are from the same household in Gloucestershire with a history of travel to Brazil, while a third is unlinked, PHE said on Sunday in an emailed statement. Another three have been detected in Scotland, it said.

Norway tightens curbs on capital

Norwegian capital Oslo will close restaurants and shops from Monday to curb an acceleration of new cases caused by virus strains, especially the one first found in the UK. Exceptions will be allowed for pharmacies, groceries and take-away meals.

Norway has fared better during the pandemic than many other countries, including its neighbour Sweden. Still, cases in the capital have increased by about 50% in four days after a recent winter school break. The restrictions will be in place until 15 March.

Germany to revise Astra guidance for elderly

Germany’s STIKO health authority will soon reconsider its decision not to recommend the AstraZeneca vaccine for people over 65. “There will be a new updated recommendation very soon,” head of STIKO Thomas Mertens told ZDF television late on Saturday. Last month, Germany decided to keep its recommendation for the vaccine to only be administered to people aged 18-64, saying there was no sufficient data for effectiveness for 65 and above.

Cuomo’s powers should be curbed, De Blasio says

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Governor Mario Cuomo should be stripped of his emergency powers after accusations of sexual harassment and improper counting of deaths at nursing homes. The mayor said New York’s legislature “must immediately revoke the Governor’s emergency powers that overrule local control.”

“Questions of this magnitude cannot hang over the heads of New Yorkers as we fight off a pandemic and economic crisis,” De Blasio said in a statement Sunday. “It’s clear what must now take place.”

The two Democrats have become political adversaries, sparring frequently over decisions during the pandemic. At the start of the outbreak in New York, Cuomo said De Blasio did not have the authority to declare city schools shut for the academic year.

Senegal gets first vaccines 

Senegal will take delivery of its first tranche of 324,000 doses of vaccines offered under the Covax initiative on 3 March, Mamadou Ndiaye, spokesperson for the nation’s Ministry of Health, said today by phone.

Ghana became the first country last week to receive the vaccines through the World Health Organisation-backed programme, which aims to provide at least two billion doses to lower-income countries.

Italy tightens restrictions

Italy will tighten curbs in Milan, Turin and other areas starting Monday to counter an acceleration of the virus caused by new variants, particularly the strain first found in the UK. People in designated medium-risk and high-risk areas, known as orange and red zones, will be barred from leaving their city or town except for work or emergency reasons. Some areas will also close schools.

The country reported 17,455 new cases on Sunday and 192 daily deaths versus 280 the day before.

South Dakota governor defends Covid policy

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem defended her decision not to require business closures or other health measures to stop the spread of coronavirus in her state. South Dakota has had one of the worst rates for Covid-19 deaths and infections in the country, though the virus is now on the retreat.

“We allowed people to make decisions for themselves,” the Republican governor said in an interview on CBS News’ “Face the Nation.” She said that keeping children in school and making sure people can work and “pay their bills” are among her top priorities.

UK passes 20 million vaccine doses

The UK said it had administered more than 20 million first doses of vaccine, with almost 800,000 also receiving a second inoculation. The country added just over 6,000 new cases on Sunday, the lowest since September and down from a peak of more than 60,000 in early January. Another 144 people died after testing positive. Both figures are lower on weekends due to reporting delays.

US vaccines on track after storms

The US set records over the past two days for vaccinations, the drive now recovered after extreme winter weather paralysed parts of the nation, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. On Saturday, 2.4 million doses were administered and on Friday, 2.2 million. Before the storms, doses peaked at 2 million a day on 12 and 13 February, the tracker shows.

In total, 72.8 million doses have been given in the US, with an average over the past week at 1.65 million a day.

Fauci warns on return to normality

Anthony Fauci said the baseline level of coronavirus cases needs to fall further before the US can confidently resume normal activities.

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, made the rounds of Sunday talk shows at a moment when news related to the pandemic has been positive, but fresh concerns are emerging.

“We’ve seen what happens when you pull back prematurely,” Fauci said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “We will be” victorious over the coronavirus, “but we’re not there yet”.

Czechs eager for Russian shots

The Czech Republic won’t wait for the European Union regulator’s approval to use a Russian coronavirus vaccine, Prime Minister Andrej Babis said.

The country has taken “concrete steps” to purchase the Sputnik V vaccine and will use it if Czech health authorities approve, Babis said on Sunday in a weekly debate show on Prima TV. Local drug authorities’ assessment of the safety of the vaccine “would be sufficient” to use the shots, he said.

Heathrow imposes pandemic charges

London’s Heathrow airport will charge departing passengers an extra £8.90 ($12.40) in an effort to claw back costs as the coronavirus crisis depresses air travel.

Heathrow has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic since it relies on long-haul markets that have been all-but wiped out. The airport last week posted a £2-billion loss for 2020 after passenger numbers tumbled 73%, a decline it says has left it unable to cover the costs of providing some services.

US deaths and cases decline

Reported US cases declined on Saturday to 68,049, a daily total little changed from the previous seven-day average, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg.

The US added 1,536 deaths, the fewest since Monday, according to the data.

Germany to tighten border controls

Germany plans to tighten border controls with the French department of Moselle, DPA news wire reported, after a German health agency classified it as a region with elevated incidence of Covid-19 virus variants.

French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune expressed concern about the determination by Germany’s Robert Koch Institute and said France was in talks to avoid a de-facto border closing in Moselle, which neighbours Germany’s Saarland state.

Travellers from virus-variant risk areas have to show a negative Covid-19 test no older than 48 hours to enter Germany, DPA reported.

EU set to approve J&J shot soon

Beaune also said on Sunday that the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine is expected to be approved in the European Union in two weeks, during an interview with France Inter radio.

Iran fatalities pass 60,000

The total number of coronavirus fatalities in Iran surpassed 60,000 on Sunday, with 93 deaths over the past 24 hours, the health ministry reported. The country saw an average daily rate of 82 deaths from the virus over the past seven days, with the number remaining below 100 since 7 January.

Czech cases remain high

The Czech Republic, which is fighting one of the world’s worst outbreaks, reported 7,798 new cases in the 24 hours through Saturday, its highest weekend number since 9 January.

The government on Friday announced the strictest measures it has imposed since the beginning of the pandemic, including limits on travel between counties and closure of shops, all schools and preschools.

UAE cases drop from January peak

Coronavirus infections in the United Arab Emirates have fallen by more than a fifth from a late-January peak, a slower rate of decline than in Israel and the UK

Cases started rising again at the end of 2020 and peaked in late January, according to the seven-day average. While the spike led to some restrictions being reintroduced, the UAE has so far steered clear of another full lockdown.

Germany’s Moderna delivery plan

Moderna will supply about 1.8 million doses of its vaccine to Germany by the end of the first quarter, Health Minister Jens Spahn said in a tweet. He welcomed the news and said it ensured predictability over vaccinations in German federal states.

Germany’s total confirmed cases rose to 2,444,177 on Sunday, with 7,671 new infections recorded. Deaths rose to 70,092, including 153 new mortalities, as 5,797 people recovered to take the total number to 2,252,970.

A total of 5.91 million Covid vaccine doses have now been administered in Germany, according to data collected by Bloomberg News and Johns Hopkins

Poland cases again above 10,000

Poland, which tightened Covid restrictions this weekend, registered 10,099 cases and 114 Covid-related deaths over the past 24 hours. It’s the first time since November that new infections topped 10,000 for five straight days.

Sunak lines up more aid for workers

Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak said on Sunday there will be more coronavirus support in this week’s budget. “I said at the beginning of this crisis that I would do whatever it took to protect people, families and businesses through this crisis,” Sunak told Sky News when asked if a furlough program would be extended beyond April. “I remain completely committed to that.” Sunak also said he would lay out plans to shore up public finances.

India sets dose fees

India has fixed the price of coronavirus vaccines at $3.40 (Rs250) a dose at private hospitals for people older than 60 and for those over 45 with comorbidities from 1 March, the Ministry of Health and Welfare said. The government will offer free inoculations at state-owned hospitals, according to a statement. More than 1.5 million shots have been given so far, it said.

Iran begins vaccine trials

Human trials for a second locally made Iranian Covid-19 vaccine, Razi Cov Pars, began on Sunday, state television reported, as the country continues to push its own drug development initiative to begin mass inoculation by summer.

The country also took delivery of 250,000 doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine early on Sunday, boosting plans to inoculate 1.3 million people from vulnerable groups within the next three weeks.

Russia reports increase in cases

Over the past day, 11,359 new cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Russia, taking the total to 4,246,079, an increase of 0.27%. Some 379 deaths were confirmed, while 12,391 people recovered.

UK a ‘coiled spring,’ top chef says

The UK economy will make a strong rebound as anti-virus curbs are lifted, according to Clare Smyth, the first British woman to be awarded three Michelin stars in her own right. “People have saved a lot of money this year and they want to spend it,” Smyth said. The government plans to ease restrictions from 17 May, paving the way for restaurants to welcome diners back. “I am extremely optimistic,” Smyth said. “The economy is like a coiled spring.” DM

More from Bloomberg:

Brasilia enters lockdown as hospitals face Covid collapse

UK detects six cases of Brazilian coronavirus variant

Israel approves vaccinating Palestinian workers with Moderna jab

Fauci worried that US virus cases will stick at 70,000 a day

— With assistance by Ian Fisher, Anuchit Nguyen, Richard Vines, James Paton, Arsalan Shahla, Irina Reznik, Alexei Anishchuk, Geraldine Amiel, Sara Marley, Elizabeth Dexheimer, Alessandra Migliaccio, Momar Niang, and Veronica Ek.

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 we should know about, 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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