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New York cases jump; South Africa registers 965 new inf...

Covid-19

CORONAVIRUS GLOBAL UPDATE

New York cases jump; South Africa registers 965 new infections

A masked man walks past an artwork in central Johannesburg on 26 March 2021. World Art Day is on 15 April. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Kim Ludbrook)
By Bloomberg
28 Mar 2021 0

South Africa registered 965 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 1,545,431. A further 15 Covid-19-related deaths were reported, bringing the total to 52,663 deaths.

The US added the fewest deaths since last Monday, even as infections have been rising nationally. New York state reported the most daily cases in more than a month.

The US has “real concerns about the methodology and the process” of a draft World Health Organisation report on the origins of the Covid-19 virus, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

Germany may come under pressure to impose a harder lockdown as a third viral wave ripples through the European Union’s most populous country. The EU will block exports of AstraZeneca vaccines if the company fails to deliver doses bought by the region on time, according to an EU commissioner.

Key developments

California cases, deaths slow

California reported 2,998 new Covid-19 cases on Saturday, down from the previous day’s 3,278, according to the health department’s website. Deaths rose by 195, lower than the 215 reported on Friday. The state’s 14-day positive test rate hovered at a record low of 1.7%. California has administered more than 17 million vaccines.

China picks UAE to produce shots

China is partnering with the United Arab Emirates to make millions of doses of its state-backed Sinopharm vaccine, in a deal that takes manufacturing of the shot overseas for the first time and deepens Beijing’s influence in the Middle East.

A newly created joint venture between Sinopharm and Abu Dhabi-based G42 aims to produce up to 200 million doses annually at a new plant that will become operational this year, the companies said in a statement. Production on a smaller scale has already started at an existing Gulf Pharmaceutical Industries PSC plant with a capacity of two million doses a month.

Biden tweets on expanded eligibility

President Joe Biden said most US states are meeting his goal of opening up vaccinations to all adults by 1 May, while pointing out four that haven’t: New York, South Carolina, Arkansas and Wyoming.

Iraq gets first Astra doses

Iraq received 336,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Sunday, according to the government’s official Twitter account citing the health ministry’s spokesperson. The country agreed with the vaccine manufacturer last year to get 16 million doses, the spokesperson said. More shipments of the AstraZeneca vaccine are set to gradually arrive in the coming days and weeks, covering 20% of the population.

Marriott calls for vaccine passes

The new chief executive of hotel group Marriott International called for the US and other countries to do more to create something akin to a vaccine passport to unlock international travel.

In an interview with CBS’s Face the Nation, Anthony Capuano, who took over as CEO of Maryland-based Marriott in February, said he was concerned that no one was coordinating current efforts to develop a system to allow international travel for people who have been vaccinated.

“We need a comprehensive and global solution for it to be effective,” Capuano told CBS.

The Washington Post on Sunday reported that the White House was consulting with the private sector about developing a possible app-based vaccine passport system. The efforts were focused on greater coordination and identifying privacy and other issues raised by the need for such a passport, according to the report. It said the White House had identified at least 17 different initiatives now under way to develop portable vaccine credentials.

New York cases tick up

New York state reported 9,395 new cases, the largest daily increase since early February. Average daily cases rose about 3% over the past seven days compared with the previous week.

Hospitalisations decreased slightly, to 4,529, according to a statement from Governor Andrew Cuomo. While that number has been relatively stable in recent weeks, the state still has the most Covid-19 hospitalisations in the nation, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. New York has the second-highest number of cases per capita after New Jersey, CDC data show. Another 64 people died.

Fauci cautious on summer camp

President Joe Biden’s top medical adviser on Sunday stopped short of telling parents it would be safe this summer to loose their children on community playgrounds and ship them off to summer camp.

In an interview with CBS’s Face the Nation Dr Anthony Fauci said he was concerned that while Covid-19 cases and fatalities had come down from a winter peak, they had settled at a high plateau because of new variants and states loosening restrictions prematurely.

Increasing travel, such as that seen over the spring break school holiday in the US, was also a concern as travel inevitably led to rising infections, Fauci said.

But Fauci did hold out a carrot for parents. If the acceleration in vaccinations to its latest three to 3.5 million doses a day rate continued, it was “conceivable” families could dispatch their children to camp come summer.

US questions WHO report on virus origin

The US has “real concerns about the methodology and the process” of a draft World Health Organisation report on the origins of the Covid-19 virus, including that the Chinese government “apparently helped to write it,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

The politically contentious report, based on findings by international scientists convened by WHO and China, is expected shortly. While there needs to be “accountability for the past,” the focus should be on building “a stronger system for the future,” Blinken said on CNN’s State of the Union.

Italy to ease some curbs

Italy reported 19,611 new cases and 297 deaths on Sunday, reflecting a 7.2% positive test rate. New cases in the country remain stable as some regions, including the one around Rome, are set to slightly ease restrictions starting on Tuesday.

Deputy Health Minister Pierpaolo Sileri said the slower rate of increase in new infections shows that tight restrictions introduced by Mario Draghi’s government are showing the first results.

UK to test arriving truckers

All truckers arriving in England from outside the UK will have to take a Covid-19 test within 48 hours, Transport Minister Grant Shapps said on Twitter. The drivers will then have to take additional tests for every 72 hours they remain, he said. The mandatory testing will help “ensure we keep track of any future coronavirus variants of concern”, he said.

EU to offer vaccine passports

As inoculation progresses, EU member states will create a “health pass” from the middle of June to facilitate a rebound in leisure, tourism and business travel, Thierry Breton, the EU’s internal markets commissioner, said on Sunday.

People will be able to display their vaccination status and most recent Covid-test results with a certificate using a QR code, Breton said. It will be available on a voluntary basis and will respect European data-protection rules, he said.

Mumbai region faces lockdown

The government of Maharashtra, which encompasses Mumbai, asked authorities to prepare for another lockdown if a resurgence in infections isn’t reined in and residents flout rules. Hospital facilities are quickly reaching capacity, with a fifth of isolation beds already filled up, it said in a statement on Sunday.

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray asked officials to prepare for food and supplies of other essentials. “There should not be any kind of confusion among the people once a lockdown is announced,” he said.

Slovenia to lock down

Slovenia will impose an 11-day lockdown amid a surge in new infections driven by the UK variant, Prime Minister Janez Jansa said at a press conference at Brdo. The government will also enforce stricter border controls.

Between 1-11 April the Alpine state will close schools and most non-essential services, most of the public sector will switch to working from home and the government will ask industry to do the same. The government is also reintroducing mandatory masks in public places and a regional travel ban, except Easter Sunday.

German restrictions loom

Germany may come under pressure to impose a harder lockdown as the infection rate in the nation returns to January levels. The topic will be front and centre when Chancellor Angela Merkel is interviewed on the Anne Will show on German state television on Sunday night.

Bild newspaper reported an emergency meeting between Merkel and state leaders could decide on the course of action in the coming days. German cases topped 28,000 on Saturday, more than three times the rate at the start of the month, underscoring the challenge facing authorities as they attempt to curb the pandemic’s spread.

Zimbabwe to issue vaccine passports

Zimbabwe will begin issuing vaccine “passports” this week, the state-owned Sunday News reported, allowing inoculated travellers to enter and exit the country. The southern African nation has vaccinated 65,466 people for the first dose and 7,965 people for the second dose as of 27 March, according to Health Ministry data.

US death toll slows

The US added 758 deaths from Covid-19 on Saturday, the fewest since Monday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. Reported new infections declined to about 63,000, the lowest in three days and a fraction of peaks of more than 300,000 daily cases in late December and early January.

Vaccinations are picking up in the US, with 75% of the population on pace to be covered within an estimated four months, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. Some 3.5 million doses were administered on Saturday, more than the average of 2.7 million over the previous seven days.

EU makes Astra ultimatum

The EU will block AstraZeneca exports if the company fails to deliver the doses bought by the region on time, according to Thierry Breton, the EU commissioner in charge of fixing the bloc’s vaccination drive.

AstraZeneca has met about 30% of its commitment to deliver 70 million doses to the EU in the second quarter, Breton said on RTL radio on Sunday.

“As long as AstraZeneca doesn’t make good on its obligations, everything that’s produced on European soil is distributed to Europeans,” he said.

Putin aims for summer immunity

Russian President Vladimir Putin hopes that Russia will reach herd immunity by the end of the summer as it ramps up its vaccine roll-out, he said in an interview to state television on Sunday. This will pave the way for a significant easing of restrictions, he said.

UK to offer shots to Ireland

Britain is planning to offer 3.7 million Covid jabs to the Republic of Ireland, in part to help lift the lockdown in Northern Ireland, saying it would be the first time the UK has exported vaccines to the EU, the UK Sunday Times reported.

Britain expects to receive the first doses of the US-made Moderna vaccine within weeks, a government minister said on Sunday.

Iran cases spike

Iran reported 8,751 new daily cases, the highest number in more than three months after millions defied government guidelines and travelled during a weeklong public holiday, the Health Ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

Serbia vaccinates foreigners

People from Western Balkan states converged on the Serbian capital, Belgrade, this weekend as Serbia decided to inoculate foreign citizens, state news agency Tanjug reported. About 9,600 people were vaccinated at three locations in Belgrade on Saturday, with another 8,500 expected on Sunday, said Assembly president Nikola Nikodijevic. One motive for the foreign offer was that Serbia found itself with excess doses of AstraZeneca vaccine due to expire on 29 March, according to Bosnian news portal Klix. DM

— With assistance by Ian Fisher, Chiara Albanese, Sherry Su, William Wilkes, Jan Bratanic, Arsalan Shahla, Morten Buttler, Andrew Atkinson, Faseeh Mangi, Ray Ndlovu, Arne Delfs, Cecile Gutscher, Dhwani Pandya, Ravil Shirodkar, Yuliya Fedorinova, Francois De Beaupuy, Andrew Davis, Shawn Donnan, and Abeer Abu Omar.

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