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US hospitalisations steady; South Africa registers 2,97...

World

CORONAVIRUS GLOBAL UPDATE

US hospitalisations steady; South Africa registers 2,972 new cases

Pope Francis arrives to lead the prayer to mark the end of the month of worldwide prayers to end the pandemic in the Vatican gardens, 31 May 2021. (Photo: Epa-efe / Filippo Monteforte / Pool)
By Bloomberg
31 May 2021 0

South Africa registered 2,792 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 1,665,617. A further 67 Covid-19-related deaths were reported, taking total deaths to 56,506.

US hospital beds occupied by Covid-19 patients on 28 May held steady at the lowest rate since March 14, 2020. As the raging pandemic in Argentina prompted co-hosts of the Copa America soccer tournament to pull out, the decision was made to move the premier South American sports event to Brazil.

Singapore is preparing to ease restrictions in mid-June as it gets the spread of variants under control. Chancellor Angela Merkel is ready to allow Germany’s controversial lockdown law to lapse, the latest sign that the pandemic is releasing its grip on Europe’s largest economy.

The US reported the lowest level of infection since the early days of the pandemic as it continues to roll out inoculations. Two US disease experts said Sunday that the world needs the cooperation of the Chinese government to trace the origins of Covid-19 and prevent future pandemic threats. The precise origins of the virus remain obscure.

Key developments:

Toyota, Honda to halt Malaysia production — Nikkei

Toyota and Honda will shut down production in Malaysia on Tuesday as the country enters a pandemic lockdown, Nikkei reports, without citing where it obtained the information.

Toyota will halt production and sales starting on Tuesday, Nikkei reported, while Honda will close two plants during the lockdown.

France’s Macron says he’s vaccinated

Emmanuel Macron is vaccinated against Covid-19, the French president said in a tweet on Monday.

Denmark looks to review suspension of Astra vaccine

Denmark’s government has asked the national health authority to review whether the country can resume use of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, and include Johnson & Johnson in its inoculation programme after initially judging they were too risky, Health Minister Magnus Heunicke tells state broadcaster DR.

J&J was removed from the Danish vaccine programme in May, amid concerns it was linked to blood clots. Denmark suspended AstraZeneca’s vaccine in April.

Turkey’s Erdogan announces easing of lockdown

Restaurants and cafes in Turkey, which have been effectively closed for weeks except for takeaway and delivery, in a partial easing of lockdown measures will be allowed to open in June from 7am until 9pm, except for Sundays, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after a cabinet meeting on Monday. Gyms and parks will also reopen in June.

Merkel ready to give up special lockdown powers

Chancellor Angela Merkel is ready to allow Germany’s controversial lockdown law to lapse, the latest sign that the pandemic is releasing its grip on Europe’s largest economy.

Germany passed mandatory restrictions in hard-hit areas, including curfews, in April. The powers were set to expire at the end of June, and Merkel confirmed that those “can run out now”, she said on Monday in Berlin.

The country has gradually been easing restrictions as infections fall and vaccinations accelerate. On Monday, Germany had 35.1 cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days, the lowest level since mid-October, and as of Sunday, 43% of the population had received at least one vaccine dose.

Brazil assesses Pfizer request to vaccinate teens

Pfizer wants to include teenagers ages 12 and older in its Covid-19 vaccine package leaflet, Brazil’s health regulator known as Anvisa said.

The vaccine is at present authorised in Brazil for those 16 and older. Studies will be needed to demonstrate a safety and efficacy relationship for the age group, Anvisa says.

Myanmar to push vaccines amid new cases 

Myanmar will continue to push for Covid-19 vaccination after cases soared in the last week of May, according to the Ministry of Health and Sports. The country is set to administer more than 800,000 doses of AstraZeneca and Sinopharm vaccines in 15 provinces.

Philippines extends region’s movement curbs

The Philippines kept its capital’s loose movement restrictions under which most businesses can operate in a limited capacity.

Metro Manila and other nearby economic areas will remain under the second-lowest level of curbs called “general community quarantine” until 30 June, President Rodrigo Duterte said in a televised briefing on Monday.

The surge in Covid-19 cases has subsided in the past weeks, prompting renewed calls from officials for reopening to aid an economy that remained in recession last quarter. Vaccinations have been picking up, with almost 5.2 million doses administered as of Sunday.

Soccer event moved to Brazil from Argentina

After violent street protests in Colombia and a raging pandemic in Argentina prompted the co-hosts of the Copa America soccer event to pull out, the premier South American soccer tournament will be played in Brazil.

About 12 hours after Argentina announced that it wouldn’t host the event, CONMEBOL, the South American soccer association, said that it will move to Brazil.

“The oldest tournament of national teams in the world will make the entire continent shake,” CONMEBOL said on its official Twitter account.

Brazil, which has the third-most Covid-19 cases in the world, is clearly not a risk-free setting to host the matches. But the local soccer league kicked off its season last weekend without fans in the stands, and Brazil has few, if any, restrictions to enter the country beyond a negative PCR test.

Bangkok decision to ease curbs reversed

The Thai government’s main Covid-19 panel decided to delay a plan to ease restrictions on some businesses in the capital. That was only six hours after it was announced that Bangkok, the epicentre of Thailand’s latest outbreak, would allow some venues including museums, nail salons, beauty clinics and massage parlours to resume operations from Tuesday. This means the establishments will remain closed until 14 June.

Thailand recorded 5,485 new infections and 19 deaths on Monday, taking the cumulative caseloads to 159,792 and 1,031, respectively. Most new infections reported were still found in Bangkok.

US hospitalisations steady

Beds in US hospitals occupied by Covid-19 patients on 28 May held steady at 3.67%, the lowest since March 14, 2020, according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. The hospitalisation rate was little changed from the day before and hospital beds occupied by Covid-19 patients totalled 25,393.

Sputnik to be made in Lebanon

Lebanon’s Arwan Pharmaceutical Industries will sign a contract next month to manufacture Russia’s Sputnik vaccine, according to the presidency’s Twitter account.

Lebanon has witnessed a gradual decline in daily cases as it accelerates its vaccination drive. Authorities administered the AstraZeneca vaccine to more than 10,000 on Saturday, part of a weekly campaign to boost vaccinations nationwide.

Vietnam presses firms on shots

Vietnam is asking Samsung Electronics and other foreign manufacturers with plants in the country to find vaccines for their workers as it grapples with a virus surge, according to the government website.

In nearby Bac Giang province, home to Apple and Samsung suppliers, officials are working to help factories reopen after they were shuttered during the closure of four industrial parks.

Taiwan situation easing

Taiwan’s outbreak has been easing, based on recent data, while the situation remains challenging, President Tsai Ing-wen said in an online briefing. Tsai urged the public to avoid unnecessary outings and gatherings as its Covid-19 alert remains at the third level.

Singapore prepares to ease curbs

Singapore will probably ease restrictions in mid-June as it gets a new outbreak driven by variants under control. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that if the number of community cases falls further, authorities should be able to ease curbs that had been put in place for four weeks after 13 June. As part of the strategy, schoolchildren will be inoculated next month, and every adult who wants a shot would have one by early August.

“Barring another super-spreader or big cluster, we should be on track to bring this outbreak under control,” Lee said in a national address. “We will know for sure in another week or so.”

Germany probes reports of fraud

Germany is investigating reports of fraud by some of the country’s 15,000 centres offering free coronavirus tests, according to Health Minister Jens Spahn. Some centres have been drastically inflating the number of tests carried out and cashing in on government funds, local media have reported.

Australian state adds cases

Australia’s Victoria state recorded six new local Covid-19 infections on Monday in addition to the five reported earlier, taking active cases to at least 54.

“I want to be very clear with everyone, this outbreak may well get worse before it gets better,” Acting State Premier James Merlino told reporters in Melbourne. “In the past 24 hours we identified many more points of concern.”

The nation’s second-most populous state has been under stay-at-home orders since May 27 and will remain so until at least 3 June, when officials will assess if the latest outbreak is under control.

Guangzhou requires a Covid test to leave

A negative nucleic acid test within the previous three days is mandatory for people leaving the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou by plane, train or bus, according to an official statement. One neighbourhood in the metropolis is in lockdown, with state television reporting infections in the city are of the variant first detected in India.

China reported 20 confirmed local Covid-19 cases and three asymptomatic cases in Guangdong province on May 30.

Japan wants Olympic spectators tested

The Japanese government is considering requiring spectators of the Tokyo Olympics to be either tested or vaccinated, the Yomiuri newspaper reported, citing officials who weren’t identified.

The government’s draft plan calls for spectators to present proof of a negative result from a test taken within a week of the event they’re viewing. Those who present certification of vaccination would be exempt from that requirement.

Meanwhile, Japan’s medical establishment is becoming increasingly anxious about bringing together 78,000 people from 200 countries for the games. The country is struggling to keep coronavirus infections under control and speed up vaccinations. DM

— With assistance by Sunil Jagtiani, Prim Chuwiruch, Cindy Wang, Mai Ngoc Chau, Nguyen Dieu Tu Uyen, Philip Heijmans, Faris Mokhtar, Dana Khraiche, Daniel Cancel, Firat Kozok, Arne Delfs, and Jessica Park.

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