Texas bans local mask mandates; South Africa registers 2,355 new cases

Texas bans local mask mandates; South Africa registers 2,355 new cases
A Covid-19 vaccine is held up by nursing staff at the launch of SA’s Phase 2 roll-out in Krugersdorp on 17 May 2021. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla / Daily Maverick)

South Africa registered 2,355 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 1,617,840. A further 80 Covid-19-related deaths were reported, taking total deaths to 55,340.

Singapore, reeling from a new wave of infections that has forced a return to lockdowns, will lengthen the time between vaccination doses to stretch out supply. The city-state will also authorise the Pfizer shot for children as young as 12.

Combining doses of vaccines from AstraZeneca and Pfizer is safe and gives people high levels of immunity, according to a study by Spain’s Instituto de Salud Carlos III. The research institution conducted one of the first studies into the combined use of shots that includes clinical trials.

Britain will approve Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine “very imminently,” according to the UK drugs regulator. In the US, Texas banned local governments and schools from mandating mask-wearing.

Key developments

Texas governor bans local mask mandates

Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order prohibiting governmental entities – including counties, cities, school districts, public health authorities, or government officials – from requiring or mandating mask-wearing. Public schools may continue to follow current mask-wearing guidelines through June 4. After that date, no student, teacher, the parent or other staff member or visitor can be required to wear a mask while on campus.

Beginning on May 21, local governments or officials that attempt to impose a mask mandate or impose a limitation inconsistent or conflicting with the executive order can be subject to a fine of up to $1,000.

Abbott ended the state’s mask mandate in early March, generating national headlines, but some municipalities and many businesses have kept their own requirements in effect.

Rural counties lag behind cities on vaccines, says CDC

Covid-19 vaccination coverage in the US was generally lower in rural counties than in urban ones, according to a report published on Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Overall, adult vaccination coverage was 38.9% in rural counties and 45.7% in urban counties. Coverage among age groups and among men and women in rural counties also lagged behind urban counties.

The study analysed data on adults who received their first dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, or a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, from mid-December to early April.

Residents of rural communities have limited access to intensive care and are at a greater risk for severe Covid illness or death, the report said, so vaccination disparities between urban and rural counties hinder efforts to reduce severe illness and death nationally.

Nets offer mobile vaccine site for playoffs

A mobile vaccination site outside New York City’s Barclays Center will greet fans attending the Brooklyn Nets playoff game this weekend, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Tuesday. The move is an effort to ramp up inoculations by the most populous US city, which has already administered more than 7.5 million doses.

To encourage vaccinations, anyone receiving a shot will get a chance to enter a lottery for free playoff tickets and receive merchandise from the National Basketball Association team.

John Abbamondi, chief executive officer of the Brooklyn Nets, said almost everyone in the arena will be vaccinated, with a few sections reserved for fans who aren’t.

Turkey fails to persuade Russia to start flights

Turkish officials failed to persuade Russia to lift a ban on flights between the two countries at the end of May, a setback for a tourist sector attempting to recover from a year of pandemic restrictions as new cases fall.

Moscow is now expected to allow tourists to travel to Turkey, a popular destination for Russians, from mid-June at the earliest, according to a senior Turkish official.

No ‘conclusive’ reason to delay UK easing

UK ministers are “looking very carefully” at the data on the coronavirus variant that originated in India, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday in a pooled television interview.

“At the moment we see nothing conclusive to say that we have to deviate from the roadmap” for unlocking the economy, Johnson said.

Zambia records first case of India variant

Zambia recorded its first case of the variant B.1.617.1 first found in India, in a 42-year-old man who travelled from India to Zambia, Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary Kennedy Malama said on state-owned ZNBC TV.

Mixing doses is safe and effective: Spanish study

Combining doses of vaccines from AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech is safe and gives people high levels of immunity, according to a study by Spain’s Instituto de Salud Carlos III. The research institution conducted one of the first studies into the combined use of shots that includes clinical trials.

The study administered 441 people younger than 60 years old a first dose of AstraZeneca and a second of Pfizer-BioNTech. Results show an increase in antibodies after the second dose and mild secondary effects that didn’t require hospitalisation.

The research was prompted by the appearance of blood clots in some people who had received the AstraZeneca vaccine. These isolated cases, some of which were fatal, prompted some European countries including Spain to halt vaccination of AstraZeneca to young people.

Read more: Mixing Astra and Pfizer shots triggers more fatigue, headaches

Singapore to lengthen dose gap

Singapore will lengthen the time between vaccination doses to six to eight weeks, in an effort to stretch out limited supply that could see its entire adult population receive a first shot by the end of August.

The revised strategy comes amid a new wave of infections that has forced the city-state to return to lockdown-like conditions and caused the cancellation of high-profile initiatives like the World Economic Forum and an air travel bubble with Hong Kong.

The government will also authorise the vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech for children as young as 12.

J&J vaccine approval in UK is ‘imminent’

The UK will approve Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine “very imminently,” according to the country’s drugs regulator, giving Britain its first one-dose vaccine against the pandemic. DM

— With assistance by Joanna Ossinger, Jeanette Rodrigues, Laura Millan Lombrana, Taonga Clifford Mitimingi, Henry Goldman, Elaine Chen, and Joe Carroll.


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