US infections hit 14-month low; South Africa registers 1,757 new cases

US infections hit 14-month low; South Africa registers 1,757 new cases
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu visits the Brooklyn Hospital Centre in Cape Town on 17 May 2021 for his Covid-19 vaccination under South Africa's Phase 2 roll-out for citizens aged over 60. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

South Africa registered 1,757 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 1,615,485. A further 50 Covid-19-related deaths were reported, taking total deaths to 55,260.

The US on Sunday recorded its lowest number of new coronavirus infections since the early days of the pandemic. President Joe Biden plans to send an additional 20 million doses of vaccines abroad by the end of June as supply is beginning to outstrip demand.

California will keep its mask mandate in place for another month. The New York City Marathon, a major tourism draw, will return in November with at least 33,000 runners.

Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline reported positive results from a mid-stage study, offering optimism that their delayed vaccine could be cleared by year-end. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the next step out of lockdown must be taken “with a heavy dose of caution” as more coronavirus restrictions were lifted on Monday.

Key developments

California to keep mask rule for another month

California will keep its mask mandate in place until it fully reopens its economy on 15 June in an effort to persuade more residents to get vaccinated, breaking from other states that are dropping their requirements on the federal government’s advice.

It’s back to the classroom in New Jersey

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said all school districts must return to in-person learning by September.

The governor said on Monday his executive order allowing districts to provide remote instruction will expire at the end of the current school year. Full-time remote learning will no longer be an option, he said.

Murphy also lifted the state’s travel advisory that required visitors to quarantine, and he ended the outdoor mask mandate in public places. The requirement for masks in indoor public places remains in place, Murphy said.

New York to ease mask mandate

New York will lift its mask mandate on Wednesday in accordance with national guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as Covid vaccinations approach 50% of the state’s residents and cases and hospitalisations ebb.

“All the arrows are pointed in the right direction, so let’s get back to life,” said Governor Andrew Cuomo in a briefing on Monday. “We need to get the exuberance back, the excitement back.”

Cuomo called the easing of the mask mandate a “radical adjustment of rules and guidelines” and said the state took a couple of days to analyse the guidance and align it with its own.

Italy to phase out curfew

Italy is set to phase out a national curfew, currently set at 10pm, seeking to remove it on 21 June, bowing to calls to reopen the country following a steady decrease in the number of cases.

At a Monday meeting, the government of Mario Draghi agreed to delay the curfew for low-risk areas to 11pm and to allow indoor dining from 1 June, according to an official who asked not to be named.

Biden to send vaccines abroad

President Joe Biden plans to send an additional 20 million doses of US coronavirus vaccines abroad by the end of June — including, for the first time, shots authorised for domestic use, where supply is beginning to outstrip demand.

Biden announced on Monday that he’ll export 20 million doses of vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson, on top of 60 million AstraZeneca doses he had already planned to give to other countries.

BioNTech gets refrigeration extension

BioNTech on Monday said the European Medicines Agency agreed to extend the time it would allow medical agencies to store the Covid-19 vaccine it makes with Pfizer at refrigerator temperature to 31 days, longer than the five days it previously gave permission for. The change to the rules will allow for more vaccinations within Europe. The company said US regulators are considering a similar request.

UK finds more cases of India strain

Authorities have identified 2,323 cases of the Indian strain of coronavirus in the UK, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said, as the highly transmissible new variant spreads.

Speaking in Parliament on Monday, Hancock said 86 local authority areas had now identified at least five people with the new strain.

Cases have doubled in the past week in Bolton, Blackburn and Darwen in northwestern England and the Indian variant is now the dominant strain of the virus, Hancock said.

He urged the public to get vaccinated, saying most people with the India strain in Bolton hospital hadn’t received a shot. Early evidence shows vaccines still work against this new variant, he added.

New York City Marathon to return

The 50th running of the New York City Marathon, the biggest in the world and a major tourism draw for the city, will be held on 7 November, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday.

The race, which was cancelled last year, will be held at 60% capacity, meaning about 33,000 runners will be able to participate. That capacity may be subject to change, the governor said. Registration will open on 8 June.

“The marathon is back,” Cuomo said.

Seychelles using Russia’s Sputnik shots

Seychelles, which has vaccinated a greater proportion of its population than any other nation against Covid-19, said it has started offering Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine in addition to the AstraZeneca and Sinopharm shots.

So far 99% of the “target population” has been vaccinated with at least a single dose of vaccine and 88% have received two doses, the health ministry said in a statement on Monday. Still, Seychelles has seen a surge in cases in recent weeks.

China donates vaccines to Zimbabwe’s army

The People’s Liberation Army of China donated 100,000 Sinopharm vaccines to the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Zimbabwe’s Health Ministry said on its Twitter account.

The consignment was received by Defence Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri at the main airport in the capital, Harare, on Monday. The inoculations will benefit 50,000 military personnel, including war veterans and their dependents, it said.

Zimbabwe recorded 38,560 coronavirus infections and 1,582 deaths by 16 May, according to government data.

US daily cases fall to 14-month low

The US recorded 16,857 new coronavirus infections on Sunday, the lowest daily total since the early days of the pandemic in March 2020, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. In January after a holiday-fuelled surge, the US was averaging about 250,000 new cases a day.

Sundays typically have the fewest reported cases of the week. Even so, Sunday’s total was the lowest for any day of the week since Wednesday, 25 March 2020.

For the week ended Sunday, new cases rose by 0.7%, the slowest increase of the pandemic. The weekly total of 232,839 new infections was the lowest since the seven days ended June 21.

Andy Slavitt, senior adviser for the Biden administration’s Covid response, said in a tweet on Monday that cases are falling in all 50 states.

World Economic Forum cancels Singapore meeting

The World Economic Forum is cancelling the annual meeting it was planning to hold this August in Singapore, a spokesman said.

The city-state has seen a jump in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, prompting its government to introduce restrictions on activity and tighten border controls.

Pakistan cases drop after week-long lockdown

New infections in Pakistan dropped to the lowest level in nine weeks after it imposed a week-long shutdown, according to data compiled by Bloomberg and Johns Hopkins University.

The nation, which is in the middle of a new wave of the virus, relaxed restrictions by resuming public transport and extending market opening hours.

Philippines signs deal for Pfizer shots

The Philippines signed an initial deal with Pfizer for 40 million vaccine doses, paving the way for the southeast Asian nation’s biggest supply agreement. The country hopes to reach herd immunity this year to help it fight one of the region’s worst outbreaks. DM

— With assistance by Robert Fenner, Alessandro Speciale, Harry Suhartono, Jack Wittels, Swetha Gopinath, Philip Heijmans, Sara Marley, Ros Krasny, Ekow Dontoh, Lizzy Burden, Soraya Permatasari, Andrea Navarro, Prim Chuwiruch, Claire Che, Suttinee Yuvejwattana, Max Zimmerman, Suzi Ring, Antony Sguazzin, and Keshia Clukey.


"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

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