CORONAVIRUS GLOBAL UPDATE
EU seeks bans on India travel; South Africa records 2,759 new cases
South Africa registered 2,759 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 1,602,031. A further 72 Covid-19-related deaths were reported, taking total deaths to 54,968.
A group of medical experts said children aged 12 to 15 can safely take the vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech, opening an important new phase of the US immunisation effort.
The European Union’s executive arm asked the bloc’s 27 member states to ban all non-essential travel to and from India. The World Health Organization should be overhauled and given more authority to investigate global disease threats, a new report recommended.
A full public inquiry will be launched next spring into how the UK government handled the pandemic, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced. Greece plans to ease most remaining restrictions.
- Global Tracker: Cases top 159.8 million; deaths exceed 3.3 million
- Vaccine Tracker: More than 1.35 billion doses have been given
- Big Take: India’s Covid catastrophe shows danger of complacency
- Sinovac CEO Yin discusses CoronaVac’s efficacy (Video)
- People are flying to nowhere just to shop duty-free during Covid
- Microbiologist Anirban Mahapatra on India’s crisis (Video)
South Africa says it hasn’t hit third wave
South Africa’s Department of Health said that while Covid-19 infections climbed 46% in the past week, the country hasn’t yet reached a “resurgence threshold”. Cases are rising fastest in the Northern Cape and Gauteng provinces, the department said in a statement on Wednesday. While deaths rose 18% in the week, the number of hospitalisations hasn’t increased, it said.“We have not yet hit the third wave; however we are at risk.”
CDC advisers back Pfizer shot for young teens
A group of medical experts said children ages 12 to 15 years old can safely take the Covid-19 vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech, opening an important new phase of the US immunisation effort.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunisation Practices voted 14 to 0, with one recusal, on Wednesday to support the two-dose vaccine’s emergency authorisation after it was cleared by the Food and Drug Administration on Monday. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky must now sign off on the recommendation before it becomes final.
Brazil running out of ingredients for vaccines
Ingredients used to produce AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 shot in Brazil could run out by the end of the week, exacerbating an already precarious mass vaccine campaign that has struggled to ramp up local production.
The Rio de Janeiro-based research institute Fiocruz, which partnered with Astra to produce the shot locally, has enough of the so-called IFA — the active ingredient to make the vaccines — to sustain output until early next week. It may have to halt production if the next batch doesn’t arrive by Saturday, Fiocruz’s Bio-Manguinhos director Mauricio Zuma said in an interview.
EU seeks bans on most travel to India
The European Union’s executive arm asked the bloc’s 27 member states to ban all non-essential travel to and from India, according to a statement on Wednesday.
“It is important to limit to the strict minimum the categories of travellers that can travel from India for essential reasons and to subject those who may still travel from India to strict testing and quarantine arrangements,” the European Commission said.
The so-called emergency brake is intended to limit the spread of the B.1.617.2 variant first detected in India. “EU citizens and long-term residents, as well as their family members, should still be able to travel to Europe, subject to strict testing and quarantine arrangements,” the commission said.
CDC forecasts drop in deaths, hospital use
Newly reported Covid deaths and hospitalisations in the US will likely decrease over the next four weeks, according to ensemble forecasts published on Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The median forecast for new weekly deaths drops to 3,366 for the week ending 5 June from 4,357 for the week ending 15 May. The median forecast for new daily hospitalisations falls to 2,024 for 7 June from 3,915 for 13 May.
Over the same period, the number of newly reported deaths per week are likely to decrease in 15 jurisdictions, according to state- and territory-level ensemble forecasts. The number of daily hospitalisations are predicted to likely decrease in 32 jurisdictions.
The number of new coronavirus cases in the US rose last week at the slowest pace since the pandemic began, as more Americans are vaccinated and the nation recovers from a winter spike fueled by holiday travel.
Greece to lift remaining restrictions
Greece will lift most remaining restriction measures from 14 May including the need for citizens to send a text message with a specific code in order to leave home, Deputy Minister for Coordination of Government Work Akis Skertsos said.
The current ban on inter-regional travel on the mainland will end. Trips to islands will be allowed on the presentation of a vaccination certificate or negative test. Shoppers will be allowed to freely visit stores without pre-booking appointments with the number dependent on the size of the store.
While a nighttime curfew will continue, it will begin at 30 minutes after midnight to give restaurants and bars more time to operate. The move comes ahead of Greece opening to international tourism from 15 May.
Major overhaul of WHO needed, panel says
The World Health Organization should be overhauled and given more authority to investigate global disease threats, according to a review of the international Covid-19 response that found myriad failures, gaps and delays allowed the coronavirus to mushroom into a pandemic.
While stopping short of assigning blame to any particular factor, the report released on Wednesday by an independent panel co-chaired by former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark linked the severity of the global outbreak to deficiencies across governments, the WHO and other multilateral organisations, and regulations that guide official actions.
Swiss press ahead with reopening
Switzerland plans to ease restrictions on indoor dining at restaurants and public gatherings after a decline in coronavirus infections.
Restaurants will be able to welcome guests indoors again starting 31 May, while theatres will be able to accommodate more guests, the government said on Wednesday. A final decision will be made on 26 May, after input from the cantons, or states, and will depend on how the Covid-19 case load develops.
UK public pandemic inquiry
A full public inquiry will be launched from spring 2022 into how the UK government handled the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced.
The premier told members of parliament it would be important to wait until after a likely resurgence in the disease over the winter before opening the inquiry.
Seychelles says shots work
Seychelles President Wavel Ramkalawan said vaccines that have been widely administered to the nation’s population are working, even as the Indian Ocean archipelago experiences a surge in coronavirus cases.
The country has fully inoculated 62.2% of its population, the biggest proportion of any nation, issuing them with either Sinopharm shots or Covishield vaccines that are made under licence from AstraZeneca. Most infections have been mild, according to Ramkalawan.
“Imagine if we did not have our people vaccinated?” he said in an interview late Tuesday. “We have only a few people needing intensive care.”
Russian vaccine hesitancy
Fully 62% of Russians say they don’t want to get the country’s Sputnik V vaccine, unchanged from February despite a Kremlin campaign to push the shot. Only 26% said they want to get the shot, while 10% said they already had, according to the survey conducted by the independent Levada Centre in late April. DM
— With assistance by Brett Miller, Simon Kennedy, Jeong-Ho Lee, Nguyen Dieu Tu Uyen, Yantoultra Ngui, Lilian Karunungan, Dhwani Pandya, Nupur Acharya, Cindy Wang, Jeanette Rodrigues, Bhuma Shrivastava, Ania Nussbaum, Suzi Ring, Iain Rogers, Paul Tugwell, Elaine Chen, and Antony Sguazzin.
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