CORONAVIRUS GLOBAL UPDATE
New York to provide college doses; South Africa registers 655 new cases
South Africa registered 655 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 1,559,113. A further 34 Covid-19-related deaths were reported, taking total deaths to 53,356.
The weekly death toll from Covid-19 in the US rose for the first time since February and infections climbed for a fourth straight week, even as vaccinations surge. The Biden administration rejected a plea for more vaccine doses from Michigan, which has the nation’s highest infection rate.
England reopened shops, pub gardens, gyms and hair salons after months of lockdown, while Hong Kong outlined plans to ease social-distancing restrictions as an incentive to get vaccinated.
A study in Brazil showed that Sinovac Biotech’s vaccine is slightly more than 50% effective, raising new concerns over the efficacy of China’s suite of Covid-19 shots, which are being used in a range of countries as well as domestically.
- Global Tracker: Cases pass 135.8 million; deaths 2.93 million
- Vaccine Tracker: More than 780 million shots given worldwide
- Italy’s Draghi wants faster vaccine shipments
- U races toward elusive herd immunity in bid to curb Covid
- World’s worst-hit Covid region reopening despite warnings
- Why it’s not easy to say which is the best Covid vaccine
Ireland limits Astra shot to people over 60
Ireland recommended the AstraZeneca vaccine be given only to people 60 and older, becoming the latest country to restrict its use amid blood clot concerns.
People under 60 who have already received a first dose should have the interval before the second shot extended to 16 weeks from 12 weeks “to allow further assessment of the benefits and risks as more evidence becomes available,” the state’s vaccine advisory group said on Monday night.
While the vaccine is “highly effective”, authorities recommended the restriction because the reported clotting events carry “a very high risk of death or severe outcome,” the group said.
Russia suspends most air travel with Turkey
Russia suspended most air travel with Turkey, citing rising coronavirus infections, cutting off a key source of tourism revenue to the country amid tensions over Ankara’s support for Ukraine.
Most charter and regular flights will be suspended between 15 April and 1 June, but two flights a week will still run between Moscow and Istanbul, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said in a televised briefing on Monday.
Fully 80% of the cases of Covid-19 identified in Russians returning from abroad were in people who came from Turkey, public-health chief Anna Popova told the same briefing.
Kentucky sees bourbon as key to vaccinations
In a bid to overcome vaccine hesitancy, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said he’ll remove nearly all pandemic restrictions once 2.5 million residents are vaccinated, allowing Kentuckians to join friends in their hallowed distillery tap rooms.
The move is what Beshear called a creative strategy to incentivise indifferent Kentuckians by dangling a carrot — the removal of bar curfews and restaurant capacity restrictions that have hurt tourism centred on the state’s $8.5-billion bourbon-making industry.
Beshear’s plan called on employers in the rural and increasingly Republican state to encourage 900,000 more people to get a shot at a time when enthusiasm for the vaccine is waning. Roughly 42% of the state’s vaccine allotment went unused during the week of 29 March to 2 April, and the state has more than 400,000 vaccines available to distribute.
Michigan plea for more doses rebuffed
The Biden administration on Monday put Michigan’s Democratic governor on notice that her plea for more vaccine doses to be sent to the state isn’t going to happen, despite a surging Covid-19 outbreak there.
Shutdowns are needed to control the spike in cases, not more vaccine, said Rochelle Walensky, the head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a Monday news briefing.
Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a separate briefing that the administration is “not in a place, nor will we be, where we take supply from one state to give them to another”.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has urged the federal government to increase the amount of vaccine sent to Michigan, which has the highest rate of new infections in the US.
New York to give vaccines directly to colleges
New York state will be giving vaccines directly to colleges and universities so they can administer them to their students, Governor Andrew Cuomo said. The state is focusing on the 18- to 24-year-old population, which is growing in positivity, Cuomo said on Monday during a press conference at Suffolk County Community College.
Cuomo urged students to protect themselves and others by getting the vaccine. The goal is to get students vaccinated this school year before they return home for the summer, he said.
Austria’s capital extends lockdown to 2 May
The city of Vienna extended the regional lockdown measures for the Austrian capital until 2 May as intensive-care resources are increasingly strained by severe cases of coronavirus patients, Mayor Michael Ludwig told reporters.
That means non-essential shops and services such as hairdressers will remain closed. Schools will also remain shut for most learners until 25 April. The lockdown was originally planned to be lifted gradually from next week.
Kenya seeks only WHO-backed vaccines
Kenya will only accept applications for emergency use of Covid-19 vaccines for jabs that have been listed by the World Health Organization, according to Ronald Inyangala, director in charge of products registration at the Pharmacy and Poisons Board.
A study into Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin has been temporarily stopped until the vaccine gets WHO approval, Inyangala said by phone on Monday. Kenya has so far allowed emergency use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine and Russia’s Sputnik V. The use of the latter, which hasn’t been listed by WHO, was frozen last week.
New York City surpasses five million doses
New York City surpassed five million vaccine doses administered, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday. The city is now doling out more than half a million doses a week in its quest to get five million of the city’s eight million residents fully vaccinated by June, he said.
A new vaccination site in Times Square opened on Monday with dedicated appointments for film, television and theatre workers as the city seeks to jump-start New York’s all-important arts and entertainment industry.
US weekly death toll rises again
The weekly death toll from Covid-19 in the US rose for the first time since February, topping 7,000 for the period ending on Sunday. Fatalities are again averaging about 1,000 a day, data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg show.
Meanwhile, infections have climbed for four consecutive weeks — the longest streak since November. Two weeks ago, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned of “impending doom” even though more people are getting vaccinated.
UK shoppers show pent-up demand
Consumers flocked to shopping streets across England on Monday as non-essential retailers reopened after almost 100 days of lockdown, along with pubs and restaurants with outdoor space.
Shoppers lined up outside retailers on London’s famous Oxford Street, including the luxury department store Selfridges and outlets of sneaker retailer JD Sports Fashion. Businesses are hoping the pent-up demand following England’s third lockdown will translate into bumper sales.
EMA visits Sputnik V clinics in Moscow
Experts from the European Medicines Agency visited a pair of clinics in Moscow that were involved with Phase Three trials of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, Interfax reported on Monday, citing an unidentified person familiar with the trip.
EU regulators are conducting a rolling review of Sputnik V, a process that could take several months. The inoculation has been approved in more than 50 countries, now including India.
Ireland flags Covid-related stillbirths
Ireland has identified six stillbirths tied to Covid placentitis, a virus-related condition that leads to inflammation of the placenta. The findings make it “even more important that pregnant women do not come in contact with Covid, Peter McKenna, the Irish health authority’s head of healthcare for women and infants, told RTE Radio. “The fact that this can affect the baby does change the emphasis a little bit.”
The frequency of cases in Ireland appears to be greater than elsewhere, McKenna said. “In the numbers we’re talking about, that hasn’t been recognised outside of Ireland,” he added.
US cancels deal for Lilly’s single antibody
Eli Lilly said US health officials cancelled a deal for doses of its single antibody drug for Covid-19 to focus on the drugmaker’s combination treatment.
Health officials in three states have restricted the use of Lilly’s single antibody because of possible reduced effectiveness against a new variant circulating in California. Dual antibody doses — including a combination antibody treatment from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals — are considered less likely to encounter resistance from new viral strains.
Separately, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals said that its antibody cocktail helped reduce the risk of symptomatic Covid-19 by 81% among household contacts of people who had the disease in a large trial. The finding could pave the way for broader use of the drug.
Botswana probes deaths for Astra link
Botswana’s health ministry asked the country’s health regulator to probe two deaths of people who had recently taken a Covid-19 vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India on behalf of AstraZeneca. The regulator has been tasked with finding out if the deaths are linked to taking the vaccine, the ministry said in a statement on Monday.
India approves Sputnik V shot
India granted emergency use approval to Russia’s highly effective Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, making it the third such shot approved by the nation as it races to contain an escalating health crisis amid a record daily surge in infections.
India reported a record 168,912 new Covid-19 cases on Monday, with its total tally pushing past 13.5 million. India has seen more than 170,000 Covid deaths and administered 104.5 million vaccinations so far, according to data from its health ministry.
Some parts of India have already imposed partial lockdowns while states such as Maharashtra — where financial hub Mumbai is located — are seeing vaccine shortages. Adding a third vaccine to the country’s arsenal could ease the shortfall.
Efficacy fears for China vaccines
Concern is mounting that China’s Covid-19 vaccines are less effective at quelling the disease, raising questions about nations from Brazil to Hungary that are depending on the shots and the country’s own mammoth inoculation drive.
Research released on Sunday showed the rate for Sinovac Biotech’s vaccine — deployed in Indonesia and Brazil — was just above 50%, barely meeting the minimum protection required for Covid vaccines by leading global drug regulators. The other Chinese shots have reported efficacy rates of between 66% to 79%.
Vaccines developed by Pfizer, Moderna and Russia’s Sputnik have delivered protection rates of more than 90%. DM
— With assistance by Joanna Ossinger, Adam Blenford, Arsalan Shahla, Jason Scott, Philip Heijmans, Toru Fujioka, Andreo Calonzo, Ganesh Nagarajan, Bhuma Shrivastava, Thomas Kutty Abraham, Vivek Shankar, Henry Goldman, David Herbling, Boris Groendahl, Alexander Ebert, and Peter Flanagan.
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