New York City to reopen in July; South Africa registers 1,086 new cases

New York City to reopen in July; South Africa registers 1,086 new cases
A man wearing a mask sleeps in front of a wall showing graffiti honouring frontline workers in the fight against the spread of coronavirus in Mumbai, India, on 22 March 2021. (Photo: EPA-EFE / DIVYAKANT SOLANKI)

South Africa registered 1,086 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 1,579,536. A further 46 Covid-19-related deaths were reported, taking total deaths to 54,331.

New York City is moving to fully reopen on July 1, Mayor Bill de Blasio said, though Governor Andrew Cuomo said he wants it to happen sooner. Chicago is broadly easing restrictions to allow for higher capacity at restaurants, bars and large indoor venues. Michigan will tie reopening to hitting vaccination benchmarks.

A surge in Oregon is sweeping through a partially vaccinated population, with steep rises in case rates among the young – an indication that the US may struggle with distinct outbreaks for months to come. Meanwhile, the country’s focus on increasing vaccine supply for other nations may mean boosting manufacturing at US facilities rather than waiving intellectual-property protections, the White House said.

France will ease its virus restrictions in four stages starting on May 3 and ending on June 30, while Ireland plans to start reopening after a four-month lockdown. Germany believes it’s steered away from a third wave, as vaccinations hit a record.

Key developments

  • Global Tracker: Cases top 149.8 million; deaths exceed 3.15 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 1.08 billion doses have been given
  • US Spotlight: A surge in Oregon is sweeping through a partially vaccinated population
  • How India’s vaccine drive crumbled and left a country in chaos
  • The rich are flocking back to New York City for Frieze art fair
  • Study shows a little extra weight raises the risk of severe Covid-19

Colleges urged to mandate vaccines

Colleges and universities should require all on-campus students to be vaccinated for the Covid-19 virus this fall, the American College Health Association said.

“Comprehensive Covid-19 vaccination is the most effective way for institutions of higher education to return to a safe, robust on-campus experience for students in fall semester 2021,” the group said in a statement on Thursday.

Dozens of colleges, including Rutgers and Duke University, have already said that they’ll make vaccinations mandatory for students to return to campus, with some exemptions.

US diplomatic families can leave India

The State Department said it’s allowing families of staffers at US missions in India to leave the country due to record levels of Covid-19 cases. US embassies and consulates in India will remain open, the department said in a notice on its website.

The State Department has advised against travel to India, its most severe advisory level.

Italy sets vaccine target

Italy is targeting to reach herd immunity by the end of September, when about 80% of its population will have received a full vaccine, General Francesco Figliuolo, who’s heading the country’s vaccination campaign, said in remarks quoted by Ansa. Figliuolo said that Italy seeks to vaccinate about 60% of people by mid-July and that the nation can potentially administer 600,000 to 700,000 shots a day.

South Africa worries over India

The resurgence of the Covid-19 pandemic in India has prompted the South African government to consider introducing additional measures in order to stave off the third wave.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told an online conference that a close eye was being kept on India, which has now the highest Covid-19 infection rate in the world.

“The challenges we have seen in India are very serious,” Mkhize said. “We have received an advisory from the ministerial advisory council that we have to consider some restrictions and we are now going through that,” he said.

Oregon surges, pandemic not over

A surge in Oregon is sweeping through a partially vaccinated population, with steep rises in case rates among the young – an indication that the US may struggle with distinct outbreaks for months to come.The state reported 888 confirmed and presumed cases on Tuesday and a 6.5% test positivity rate, bringing the seven-day average to 832, according to the Oregon Health Authority.

Those levels are still below peaks reached this winter, but Governor Kate Brown has elevated more than a dozen counties to the most extreme risk category, effective on Friday, shuttering indoor dining and warning of strain to the state’s hospitals.

The spike is the latest indication that the pandemic is far from over. A surge in Michigan and an all-out crisis in India is reminding health officials how delicate the path to recovery can be. Variants, virus fatigue, vaccine hesitancy and pressure to reopen risk eroding progress in the US.

Ireland to start reopening next month

Ireland will reopen swathes of its economy next month, Prime Minister Micheal Martin said, as the country’s four-month lockdown comes to an end.

Hairdressers and so-called click-and-collect retail will reopen on May 10, with non-essential stores to open fully a week later. The government will also ease restrictions on household gatherings and religious services, while some sporting activities can resume.

All construction will start from May 4, a month after homebuilding resumed. Hotels, bars and restaurants are slated to open from early June, albeit with some restrictions. “We now believe it is safe to continue moving forward” with reopening, Martin said.

New York City plans full reopening on July 1

New York City is moving to fully reopen by July 1 with arenas, gyms, stores, restaurants and hair salons returning, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

“This is going to be the summer of New York City,” De Blasio said on Thursday during a press briefing. “We’re all going to get to enjoy this city again, and people are going to flock here from all over the country.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has ultimate reopening authority, said he hopes the city can fully reopen before de Blasio’s July 1 target, but isn’t going to make projections. “I don’t want to wait that long,” he said.

India strain spreads abroad

China has detected new Covid-19 variants circulating in India among its imported cases, Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said in a briefing in Beijing.

In Israel, the Health Ministry reported 41 cases of the strain, more than half of whom were people returning from abroad. Uganda also detected the strain, with the health ministry saying it was a “wake-up call” for people to step up precautions.

Outbreaks rise in Colorado schools

Covid-19 outbreaks are rising in Colorado’s elementary schools, junior high schools and high schools as the state endures a fourth wave of infections, The Denver Post reported. As of Wednesday, state data showed 210 active outbreaks in schools, the highest since the beginning of December, the newspaper said.

Chicago relaxes restrictions

Chicago is broadly easing restrictions across industries to allow for higher capacity at restaurants, bars and large indoor venues as Covid-19 vaccinations increase, city officials said on Thursday.

“It’s time for the Pier and the city to be open,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said during a press conference on Thursday at Navy Pier, an entertainment complex with shops, restaurants and parks on Lake Michigan. “We are able to broadly loosen capacity restrictions across industries starting today.”

Moderna aims for three billion doses

Moderna said it would produce as many as three billion doses of its Covid-19 vaccine next year as it makes new investments to bolster output at several factories in the US and Europe.

The biotech company said it would increase supply by 50% at its Norwood, Massachusetts, plant, which makes much of the vaccine substance used in shots for the US market. The investments would also enable partner Lonza Group, which is making supply for foreign markets, to double its output at a factory in Switzerland that makes vaccine substances.

Michigan ties easing to vaccinations

Michigan health officials will peel back the state’s remaining pandemic health orders as residents hit vaccination benchmarks, Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced on Thursday.

Roughly 49% of Michiganders ages 16 and older are vaccinated. At 70%, she said all social distancing, occupancy and mask orders will be lifted. Further easing on rules for remote work begins at 55%, a goal she said could be reached as early as the end of next week.

“Vaccines are our best chance of putting this pandemic behind us and returning to normal,” the Democratic governor said at a press briefing. “If we work together we can get this done.”

UK reports clot cases from Astra

The UK regulator received 209 reports of major blood clot cases following a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine, almost a fifth of whom died.

The cases, which occurred in 120 women and 89 men aged from 18 to 93 years, were recorded up to April 21 under the UK’s Yellow Card side effects scheme. The latest tally marks a 24% increase on the number of cases in the last week, with the proportion of deaths remaining stable at 19%.

US weighs local vaccine production

The US focus on increasing supply of Covid-19 vaccines for other countries may mean boosting manufacturing at US facilities rather than waiving intellectual-property protections for doses, the White House said.

US Trade Representative Katherine Tai has yet to make a recommendation to the White House on the waiver proposal, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in an interview with CNN on Thursday. President Joe Biden and his Covid-19 team will then make the ultimate decision on the US waiver position, she said.

France plans phased reopening

France will ease its coronavirus restrictions in four stages starting on May 3 and ending on June 30, said President Emmanuel Macron cited in an interview with French media by Le Parisien.

Curbs will be lifted on domestic travel from Monday, with the curfew to be pushed back from the current 7pm to 9pm from May 19. From June 9 the curfew will be 11pm.

Heathrow may restart US travel

The UK could restart leisure travel with the US next month as part of a plan to reopen its borders, says the head of London’s Heathrow airport, John Holland-Kaye. Locations likely to feature on the list include Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, Israel and Iceland, plus some Caribbean destinations, he said.

Germany hits record doses

Germany administered about 1.1 million Covid-19 shots on Wednesday, a record. More than a quarter of Germans have now received one dose, Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn said. About 7.5% of Germans have received two doses, he said.

Germany has managed to check a third wave of the virus, but it’s too early to sound the all-clear, according to the president of the country’s public-health institute.

“The case numbers are still too high, especially among the under-60s, where they are even increasing,” RKI President Lothar Wieler said. “The pandemic is unfortunately not over and it won’t be under control until it’s under control in every part of the world.” DM

— With assistance by Ian Fisher, Alexander Ebert, Vincent Del Giudice, Peter Flanagan, and Chiara Albanese.


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