Covid-19

CORONAVIRUS GLOBAL UPDATE

UK daily cases surge; Portugal limits weekend travel to and from Lisbon

People wearing protective masks arrive to watch a movie as cinemas reopen after 15 months in Bogota, Colombia, on Tuesday, 15 June 2021. (Photo: Ivan Valencia / Bloomberg via Getty Images)
By Bloomberg
18 Jun 2021 0

The UK recorded the most cases in a day since mid-February, amid warnings the current wave of infections driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant may still be weeks from peaking.

The South African 17 June Covid-19 figures on new cases and deaths were unavailable from the Department of Health at the time of going to press.

Bank of America expects all of its vaccinated employees to return to the office after Labor Day in early September, and will then focus on developing plans for returning unvaccinated workers. BlackRock will allow only fully vaccinated workers to come back to work starting next month.

The UK recorded the most cases in a day since mid-February, amid warnings the current wave of infections driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant may still be weeks from peaking. Portugal is limiting weekend travel to and from Lisbon because of a surge in cases, also apparently driven by the variant.

The World Health Organization sounded the alarm over Africa, warning urgent action is needed to curb a third wave of infections sweeping across the continent.

Key developments:

Gambia runs out of Astra shots

Gambia, which started its vaccination campaign against the coronavirus in March, has already run out of AstraZeneca shots.

“The Ministry of Health wishes to inform the public that the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine is out of stock in the country,” the government said in a statement on Thursday. The statement did not say when more vaccine could be available.

Illinois reports 64 cases of Delta variant

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker said his biggest concern about the more transmissible Delta Covid-19 variant is children younger than 12 years old, who aren’t eligible for vaccination. The state reported on Thursday that it had identified 64 cases of the variant.

“The Delta variant seems to have been predominant among people who are unvaccinated, so those kids are who I’m focused on,” the Democratic governor said in a news conference on Thursday. “So far it appears that the available vaccines are resistant to the Delta variant.”

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday classified Delta as a “variant of concern” and said it now made up 10% of sampled cases. CDC data show it accounts for just above 2% of cases in Illinois. The state with the highest percentage is Missouri, at almost 7%.

BlackRock to allow back vaccinated workers

BlackRock is adjusting its plans for US employees to return to the office, allowing only fully vaccinated workers to come back to work, starting next month.

The world’s biggest asset manager said that US-based employees who’ve been inoculated can resume in-person work in July and August if they’d like to, according to a memo from the New York-based company. Unvaccinated staffers are not allowed in the office as of then, the memo said.

Tanzania ends no-vaccine policy

Tanzania has submitted a formal request to the Covax facility to receive vaccines, potentially bringing to a close the downplaying of the disease that left the country as one of three in Africa with no plans to inoculate its people.

“Tanzania has submitted to the Covax facility its vaccine request form and is currently preparing a Covid-19 vaccine deployment plan,” said Richard Mihigo, coordinator of the immunisation programme at the World Health Organization’s Africa office.

Portugal limits Lisbon travel

The Portuguese government will limit travel to and from the greater Lisbon area during the weekend following an increase in cases in the region.

The restrictions on movement will apply from 3pm on Friday, with exceptions including international travel, Presidency Minister Mariana Vieira da Silva said on Thursday. “Apparently there is a greater prevalence of the Delta variant” in the region, the minister said.

UK cases surge

The UK recorded the most coronavirus cases in a day since mid-February, amid warnings the current wave of infections driven by the highly transmissible Delta variant may still be weeks from peaking.

More than 11,000 new cases of the disease were reported on Thursday, along with 19 deaths, according to the Department of Health. A study by Public Health England showed infection rates increasing across all age groups, but are highest among people aged 20 to 29.

US invests in antiviral drugs

The US will invest $3.2-billion into developing antiviral medicines to combat Covid-19 and other viruses with pandemic potential, the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) said on Thursday.

Dubbed the Antiviral Program for Pandemics, the effort led by US health agencies will support the discovery, development and production of antiviral treatments for Covid-19 and future viral threats, HHS said. The collaboration, bringing together the National Institutes of Health and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, aims to develop antivirals that could be taken at home soon after someone gets sick.

US shots to reach Taiwan soon

Jonathan Fritz, the US deputy assistant secretary of state for China, Mongolia and Taiwan coordination, said shipments may be headed to Taiwan in less than a few weeks. Fritz, testifying to a Senate Foreign Relations Committee panel, said getting the vaccines to Taiwan is a priority, “keeping in mind a number of critical industries including semiconductors, for example, could be affected”.

Bank of America sets office return date

Bank of America expects all of its vaccinated employees to return to the office after Labor Day in early September, and will then focus on developing plans for returning unvaccinated workers to its sites.

More than 70,000 of the firm’s employees have voluntarily disclosed their vaccine status to the bank, CEO Brian Moynihan said in a Bloomberg Television interview on Thursday. The firm, which has more than 210,000 employees globally, has already invited those who have received their shots to begin returning.

Kuwait to ease foreign visits

Non-Kuwaitis will be permitted to enter the country from 1 August, provided they have received two doses of the Pfizer, AstraZeneca or Moderna vaccine or one dose of the Johnson & Johnson shot. Expatriates will also have to quarantine at home for seven days, unless a PCR test during that time is negative, according to government spokesman Tareq Al-Mezrem.

As of 27 June, no one will be permitted to enter numerous public places without at least one dose of the vaccine.

Kenya restricts internal travel

Kenya announced restrictions on movement into and out of 13 counties located in the western part of the country nearing Uganda.

The areas constitute 60% of the national caseload and the surge of infections in the region is further compounded by their proximity to Uganda, which has recorded a spike in cases, according to an emailed statement from Mutahi Kagwe, Kenya’s Health secretary.

WHO warns on third African wave

African cases rose by more than a fifth week on week, pushing infections to more than five million, WHO Regional Director for Africa Matshidiso Moeti said on Thursday. The spike in infections should push countries and governments into “urgent action” to expand vaccinations and inoculate priority groups, she said.

UK weighs easing foreign travel

British officials are considering plans to open up international travel for passengers who have been fully vaccinated. Under the policy, which is still being discussed inside government, people who have received both doses of Covid vaccines would not need to quarantine on returning from medium-risk countries on the so-called amber list.

Airline shares surged on the possible adjustment. Under current rules, destinations are coded red for the highest infection risk, amber for medium risk and green for the lowest risk. Travellers are advised against going to amber or red-list countries.

Indonesia’s cases spike

Indonesia added the highest number of new cases since January, reporting 12,624 more infections on Thursday. The government has tightened restrictions on capacity limits in areas deemed most at risk while seeking to speed up its mass vaccination programme to administer one million doses a day in July.

The country remains Southeast Asia’s virus hotspot, with the number of total infections nearing two million and deaths exceeding 50,000.

Tanzania asks for vaccines

Tanzania made a formal request to Covax to receive virus vaccines, after downplaying the disease for months. The government said it now expects doses to arrive in the country in the next couple of weeks. Previously, it had been one of the few African nations with no plans to inoculate its people.

Hong Kong to ease travel quarantine

Hong Kong will shorten hotel quarantine for many travellers, people familiar with the matter said, easing a border policy that has been criticised by residents and the city’s powerful finance industry for being among the strictest in the world.

Authorities are now checking various antibody tests — which are meant to confirm that a person has been vaccinated or has recovered from Covid-19 — like those that require a prick of the finger, the people said.

Japan to end emergency before Olympics

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Thursday that Japan would act quickly to tackle any new infection surges as the country prepares for the 23 July start of the games. Apart from Tokyo and Osaka, Suga said the emergency will end the same day for seven other regions. The government will retain focused restrictions on seven regions including the capital until 11 July, he said.

CureVac shot falls short

CureVac’s shares plunged more than 52% in German trading, wiping out almost $9.6-billion in market value, after the company said the vaccine was only 47% effective in an early trial analysis. The interim analysis of data from about 40,000 volunteers included 134 Covid cases, the German company said.

The findings throw the future of the vaccine into question as wealthy nations around the world move swiftly to inoculate their populations with shots already available.

Austria to ease lockdown

Austria will end a daily curfew from July as its infections continue to drop. Sport and cultural events will be allowed at full capacity and the requirement to wear more protective FFP-2 masks in most public places will no longer stand, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told reporters.

The nation of about nine million people registered an average 188 new cases a day in the week up to Wednesday, the least since August. Further lockdown-easing steps may be announced later in July.

South Africa positivity surges

South Africa recorded 13,246 confirmed coronavirus cases over 24 hours and a positivity rate of 21.7% on tests, the highest since January, the National Institute of Communicable Diseases said. DM

— With assistance by Ian Fisher, Natalie Lung, Peter Pae, Marton Eder, Katarina Hoije, David Herbling, and Fiona MacDonald.

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