US to support vaccine IP waiver; South Africa registers 2,073 new cases, 46 deaths

US to support vaccine IP waiver; South Africa registers 2,073 new cases, 46 deaths
A man refills oxygen cylinders as demand for supplies rises in Peshawar, Pakistan, 5 May 2021. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Bilawal Arbab)

South Africa registered 2,073 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 1,588,221. A further 46 Covid-19-related deaths were reported, taking total deaths to 54,557.

Canada has become the first nation to clear the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for adolescents. The US is expected to take similar action “within several days”, according to White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci.

US cases could see a sharp decline by July if nationwide vaccination efforts continue to be successful, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The US will support a proposal to waive intellectual property protections for vaccines, joining an effort to increase global supply and close the gap between rich and poor nations.

The UK insisted a meeting of top Group of Seven diplomats in London should go ahead after India’s foreign minister said he would self-isolate over possible exposure to coronavirus. Meanwhile, new research suggests deaths from Covid-19 in India may double from present levels.

Key developments

US to back waiver of vaccine IP protections

The US will back a proposal to waive intellectual property protections for Covid-19 vaccines, joining an effort to increase global supply and access to the life-saving shots as the gap between rich and poor nations widens.

“We are for the waiver at the WTO, we are for what the proponents of the waiver are trying to accomplish, which is better access, more manufacturing capability, more shots in arms,” US Trade Representative Katherine Tai said in an interview on Wednesday.

The Biden administration will now actively take part in negotiations for the text of the waiver at the World Trade Organization and encourage other countries to back it, Tai said.

She acknowledged the talks will take time and “will not be easy,” given the complexity of the issue and the fact that the Geneva-based WTO is a member-driven organisation that can only make decisions based on consensus.

Biden touts relief funds for restaurants

President Joe Biden visited a Washington restaurant owned in part by Mexican immigrants on Wednesday to highlight $28.6-billion in federal aid for restaurants that struggled during the pandemic.

Under the Covid-19 relief measure Biden signed in March, restaurants can apply for grants ranging from $1,000 to $5-million per location, or $10-million for those with 20 or fewer locations.

Pandemic delays FDA plant inspections

Pandemic disruptions severely hampered US regulators’ ability to inspect drug and device makers’ manufacturing plants, delaying at least 68 applications for approval to market new products, according to a Food and Drug Administration review.

Seven of the delayed applications were mission-critical, meaning they represented a medical advancement, the agency said Wednesday in its report, and six of those were for new drugs. The delayed applications were among 600 where the FDA required a factory inspection before approval decisions.

Yankees, Mets to segregate unvaccinated fans

New York Yankees and Mets stadiums will reopen to all fans on 19 May, with separate sections for vaccinated and unvaccinated spectators.

Those who are vaccinated can sit together at 100% capacity, as long as they wear masks. Unvaccinated fans will need to wear masks and also observe a 1.8m social distancing rule, which works out to about 33% capacity in those sections, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Wednesday.

Fans will be able to get vaccinated at the games, under a deal between the state and the teams. Those who get a shot at a game will get a free ticket to another game, Cuomo said. New York joins several other states offering incentives for vaccines as the pace of inoculations slow.

The governor also announced that Broadway tickets will go on sale on Thursday, with shows starting on 14 September at full capacity, Cuomo said.

US cases could see ‘sharp decline’: CDC

US Covid-19 cases could see a sharp decline by July if nationwide vaccination efforts continue to be successful, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers used scenario modelling techniques to show long-term projections of potential trends in Covid-19 cases, hospitalisations and deaths in data released on Wednesday in the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Canada clears Pfizer shot for teens.

Canadian public health officials authorised the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for teenagers, making Canada the first nation to do so. Supriya Sharma, chief medical adviser with Health Canada, made the announcement on Wednesday at a press conference. The department determined the vaccine was “safe and effective” for the younger age group, Sharma said. The US is considering similar action.

Fauci sees Pfizer shot cleared for teens soon

The US Food and Drug Administration is likely to issue an emergency authorisation for use of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for adolescents “within several days,” said White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci.

“I think it is going to be very soon,” Fauci said during an interview with NBC News. “I mean, I don’t want to get ahead of the FDA, but I believe it is going to be within several days.”

G-7 meeting goes ahead in UK

The UK insisted a meeting of top Group of Seven diplomats in London should go ahead after India’s foreign minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said he would self-isolate over possible exposure to the coronavirus.

The news risked derailing a high-profile event that marked the G-7 debut of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Britain is hosting the gathering, which began on Tuesday.

Thailand readies relief

Thailand is planning to spend billions of dollars for financial relief to low-income groups to cope with the economic hit from the biggest outbreak sweeping the nation since the pandemic began.

The cabinet on Wednesday approved in principle fiscal stimulus measures, including the extension of two cash handout programmes by a month at a cost of $2.8-billion. It also proposed $4.5-billion of spending for co-payment and e-voucher programmes and more cash handouts to welfare cardholders and special groups to stimulate consumption, officials said.

Malaysia tightens curbs in capital

Malaysia tightened restrictions on movements in the capital city of Kuala Lumpur to defuse a fresh wave of coronavirus infections, a day after it imposed similar curbs in the nation’s richest state of Selangor.

The movement control order will be in force from 7 May to 20 May, Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said in a statement on Wednesday. Dining at restaurants is prohibited and curbs on inter-state travel remain, the minister said. DM

— With assistance by Marthe Fourcade, Jason Scott, Natalie Lung, Nguyen Dieu Tu Uyen, Xuan Quynh Nguyen, Anisah Shukry, Angus Whitley, Philip Heijmans, Andreo Calonzo, Mai Ngoc Chau, Anirban Nag, Suvashree Ghosh, Flavia Krause-Jackson, Justin Sink, and Stacie Sherman.


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