Covid-19

CORONAVIRUS GLOBAL UPDATE

Cases soar by 47% in US; South Africa registers 11,182 new cases

Vaccines are prepared at the South African Police Service (SAPS) Western Cape vaccination drive launch at SAPS Milnerton on 8 July 2021 in Cape Town. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)
By Bloomberg
12 Jul 2021 0

South Africa registered 11,182 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 2,206,781. A further 220 Covid-19-related deaths were reported, taking total deaths to 64,509. A total of 4,390,891 people have been vaccinated.

Confirmed cases in the US soared 47% in the week ending Sunday, the largest weekly rise since April 2020. The increase came as the Delta variant spreads while vaccination rates fall. Anthony Fauci, the top US virus specialist, said “ideological rigidity” is slowing use of the shots.

Federal health officials are monitoring reports of Guillain-Barré syndrome in about 100 of the 12.3 million people who received Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine. The link to the rare immune-system disorder will be discussed at an upcoming vaccine advisory committee meeting, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Elsewhere, the United Nations reported that world hunger spiked last year, outpacing population growth and probably reaching the highest since 2005, as the pandemic curbed incomes and access to food. In Europe, both France and Greece are planning to mandate shots for at least some of their citizens, while Boris Johnson, the UK’s prime minister, is set to warn people to stay vigilant as he prepares to lift virtually all remaining curbs in England. Science advisers are concerned.

Key Developments:

Warren seeks Amazon mask probe

Senator Elizabeth Warren is urging the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to review her investigation of Amazon for deceiving search results on the sale of masks authorised by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Finding the masks on Amazon “is a mess, and Amazon seems to be actively misleading customers”, she says on Twitter

France to mandate shots for some

France is set to make vaccines compulsory for healthcare workers and those who work with vulnerable people, as President Emmanuel Macron tries to encourage the vaccine-shy French to get immunised.

While European countries are on the whole pushing ahead with plans to reopen, they are also looking at new pandemic measures as the rate of infection rises. Macron said he will also force people to use so-called health passes to visit bars and restaurants and step up border controls.

Meanwhile, the Spanish region of Catalonia will force restaurants and nightclubs to close at half-past midnight and limit meetings to 10 people, El Pais newspaper reported.

J&J tie to syndrome weighed 

US health officials are monitoring reports of a rare immune-system disorder in some people who received the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine.

The adverse-event data indicate a “small possible risk” of Guillain-Barré Syndrome, a rare condition in which the immune system attacks the nerves, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement on Monday.

There were 100 preliminary reports of the syndrome out of some 12.8 million doses of the vaccine administered, the CDC said. The cases were seen mostly in men over the age of 50, about two weeks after receiving the single-dose vaccine. The agency noted that the risk of severe adverse events from vaccines remains rare and that everyone 12 years and older is recommended to receive a vaccine.

The issue will be discussed at an upcoming vaccine advisory committee meeting, the CDC reported.

Unrest slows South African inoculations

South Africa’s vaccination programme faltered amid widespread unrest and looting following the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma.

The country vaccinated 146,577 people in the 24 hours to 5pm local time compared with more than 191,000 late last week, according to information on a National Department of Health website.

Inoculation numbers had been climbing steadily towards a target of 300,000 a day set by President Cyril Ramaphosa. There were reports of some sites not operating on Monday while many people kept off the streets amid the violence.

Greece mandates vaccinations

Greece is mandating vaccinations for those who work in senior citizen homes, within private or public healthcare and for those in the military, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Monday in a national television address.

Meanwhile, all indoor areas — including nightclubs and bars, cinemas and theatres — will be open only for those who have been vaccinated, Mitsotakis said. Greece has seen a jump in the daily number of new coronavirus cases attributed mainly to large social gatherings of younger adults.

UK risks predicted with curbs lifted

England is facing multiple “major risks” after pandemic restrictions are lifted next week — including hospitals coming under intense pressure, a new vaccine-resistant variant emerging and as many as 200 Covid-19 deaths a day.

Newly released data from the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) suggests the picture could be far worse if the public immediately abandons basic precautions such as wearing face coverings on trains and in crowded indoor spaces when the rules are eased on 19 July.

The findings, based on a clutch of studies commissioned by the government advisory group, will fuel the debate over whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson is taking too big a gamble by pressing ahead with his plan to lift curbs next Monday.

US cases soar

Confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the US soared 47% to 136,351 in the week ended Sunday, data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg show. The largest weekly rise since April 2020 comes as the highly contagious Delta variant spreads in the country amid declining vaccination rates. The death toll for the period ticked up to 1,629.

While last week’s figures are a fraction of the weekly numbers during the winter, about half of Americans remain unvaccinated, slowing the battle against the virus. The US has administered 334 million doses of vaccine, enough to cover about 52% of residents, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.

Globally, cases were up 12% to about three million last week, with fatalities at 53,576.

Pfizer meeting regulators on booster

Pfizer said it is meeting with US health officials Monday to discuss its plans to request an emergency authorisation for a third booster dose of its Covid-19 vaccine.

The drugmaker announced Thursday it would seek clearance in August for the booster dose it developed with BioNTech SE on the basis of compelling early data demonstrating it can sharply increase immune protection against the virus. Within hours, federal health officials released a statement suggesting they’d take a cautious approach to potential booster shots, and would not rely on data exclusively from pharmaceutical companies.

The Biden administration declined to comment on the Monday meeting of Pfizer executives and US health officials.

Sputnik vaccine is effective against variants

Sputnik V was shown to be effective against new Covid-19 variants, including the Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta strains, as well as two mutations detected in Moscow, according to a study published in Vaccines magazine.

Pandemic sparks worst hunger since 2005: UN

As many as 811 million people — more than a tenth of the global population — were undernourished in 2020, the UN said in a report on Monday. The agency said it will now take a “tremendous” effort for the world to fulfil a pledge to end hunger by 2030, and reiterated a call to transform food systems.

The fallout from the pandemic put healthy food further out of reach for many people, and this year’s surge in food prices to the highest in almost a decade is particularly bad news for poorer countries dependent on imports. Conflict, climate change and economic downturns — the major drivers of food insecurity and malnutrition — continue to increase in both frequency and intensity, and are occurring more often in combination.

US ships J&J vaccines to Nepal

The US is delivering more than 1.5 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine to Nepal, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Twitter.

Zimbabwe speeds up vaccinations

Zimbabwe ramped up daily Covid-19 vaccinations to a record as the government expects a faster rollout to help the economy recover from its second contraction in two years.

On Thursday, 29,750 people were vaccinated, the highest number since the public rollout plan began earlier this year. To date, 895,980 people have received their first dose and 595,417 a second, according to Ministry of Health data.

Israel clears way for third Pfizer-BioNTech dose

Israel’s Health Ministry granted permission to health providers to offer a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to immunocompromised patients, Channel 12 news reported Monday.

Patients eligible for the third dose include people who have undergone liver transplants and cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, the report said.

Indonesia posts record number of cases

Indonesia added the highest number of new cases since the outbreak began, reporting 40,427 people infected with the virus in the 24 hours through midday Monday.

Fatalities remained high at 891 people as hospitals were overwhelmed, with oxygen supplies falling short of demand. The government expects curbs placed on the most populated islands of Java and Bali to help bring down the number of new infections to less than 10,000 a day in August.

Belgium fully vaccinates over half of adults

Belgium has fully vaccinated 52.7% of its adult population, up from 49.8% in the last update, on Friday. More than 81% of Belgium’s adult population has received at least one shot.

Delta variant spreads rapidly in Seoul

The Delta variant accounted for 26.5% of total Covid-19 cases in the greater Seoul area in the first week of July, compared with 2.8% in the second week of June, Jeong Eun Kyeong, head of Disease Control & Prevention Agency, said.

It’s estimated that, if the current situation continues with a 1.22 reproduction rate, daily cases will increase to about 2,300 in mid-August before decreasing.

German minister urges vaccination

German Health Minister Jens Spahn again urged citizens to get vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus, after new data provided more evidence that the inoculation drive is slowing.

“We last had as few initial vaccinations as yesterday in February, but unlike in February there are now enough vaccines,” Spahn wrote in a tweet. Germany administered 221,720 shots on Sunday, meaning that 58.5% of the population has had at least one dose and 42.6% are fully inoculated.

Thailand approves mixing vaccines

Thailand approved mixing Covid-19 vaccines and booster shots, in an effort to stem infections and serious illnesses from the Delta variant, which is the dominant strain found in the Southeast Asian nation.

Mixed shots of Sinovac followed by AstraZeneca were approved, as well as the administering of a third booster shot using a different vaccine for medical personnel and at-risk individuals to boost protection. Antigen test kits will also be allowed for private use to reduce waiting times and congestion at public testing facilities.

Germany eyes hospitalization rate

Germany’s RKI public-health institute will look at the hospitalisation rate as an additional main indicator for a more precise evaluation of the pandemic, Bild newspaper reported, citing an internal presentation.

This would mean moving away from the “incidence rate,” or the number of cases per 100,000 people over a week, as the most important indicator. Germany’s incidence rate rose for a sixth straight day on Monday, but remains at a low level of 6.2 after reaching almost 170 at the end of April.

Taiwan makes progress on vaccines

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing and Hon Hai Precision Industry’s Yonglin Healthcare Foundation agreed to buy 10 million doses of BioNTech’s vaccine, which they will donate to Taiwan. The deal ends a months-long impasse over the island’s attempts to get doses from the German firm and is a massive boost to its lagging vaccination efforts.

The island’s government also announced it plans to buy at least 15 million doses of Moderna vaccines in 2022 and 2023.

UK’s Johnson to urge caution

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will warn people to stay vigilant as he prepares to lift virtually all remaining virus curbs in England.

In a news conference on Monday, Johnson is expected to confirm that mandatory curbs will end as planned on 19 July, including a legal requirement to wear masks indoors. But he’ll also warn that the change will spark new cases and that people must “all take responsibility” to keep infections at a manageable level, his office said in an emailed statement.

Tokyo enters state of emergency

Tokyo entered a state of emergency for the fourth time on Monday, with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga having decreed it will run until 22 August, covering the entire duration of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Japan has plenty of vaccines, but faces a slowing inoculation rate due to distribution issues. Just 11 days before the games, Japan has given enough shots to cover about 23% of its people, with some Olympic volunteers still awaiting second shots.

Organisers decided to ban all spectators from the Olympics after the state of emergency was announced last week. Though Japan has done better than most rich nations in the pandemic, polls show the public is concerned about the safety of the games.

Sydney surge may prolong curbs

Australia’s most populous city had 112 new coronavirus cases on Monday, and at the weekend recorded its first death since April.

The Delta strain leaked into the local community in mid-June and the city has been in lockdown since 26 June. New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian indicated that the current stay-at-home orders may be extended beyond Friday. “We just want people to stay at home,” she said. “The virus won’t spread if people don’t leave home. That is the bottom line.”

Thailand has 80 deaths, economy hit

Thailand reported 8,656 new infections on Monday, taking the nation’s cumulative cases to 345,027, according to the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration. It had 80 fatalities.

The greater Bangkok area, accounting for about 50% of Thailand’s gross domestic product, will shutter shopping malls, spas, massage and beauty clinics for at least two weeks starting today. A mandatory work-from-home rule for most government staff, overnight curfews and curbs on domestic travel are set to hurt retailers, airlines and restaurant operators, already reeling from some form of Covid restrictions for more than a year.

Vietnam imposes curbs in the south

Authorities across Vietnam’s south issued physical distancing curbs after last week’s imposition of a stay-home order in Ho Chi Minh City. In Binh Duong province, home to 30 industrial parks, stay-home orders were issued for seven of nine localities as virus infections topped 1,500 cases. Authorities in the nation’s Mekong Delta rice bowl put in place similar anti-virus measures.

Cubans protest as outbreak grows

Thousands of Cubans demonstrated to protest against food shortages and high prices as the pandemic devastates an economy already suffering from US sanctions. The mass gatherings came even as Cuba grappled with a serious coronavirus outbreak.

The country of 11 million people has about 32,000 active cases of Covid-19 and reported 6,923 daily cases and 47 deaths on Sunday, breaking a record set Friday, the New York Times reported, citing the health ministry. Only about 15% of the population is fully vaccinated.

France warns of new viral wave

As the French government warns of a “fourth wave” due to the now-dominant Delta variant, France reported 4,256 new cases in 24 hours, up 60% in a week based on a seven-day rolling average. There were four deaths, though the number of patients needing intensive care continues to fall.

A key ally of President Emmanuel Macrons said France must “live with the virus” rather than count on a new lockdown.

Fauci voices frustration at vaccine lag

Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious disease specialist, said “ideological rigidity” is preventing people from getting Covid-19 shots and voiced frustration at the struggle to boost vaccination rates in parts of the country.

“It’s not an easy solution,” Fauci said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “We’ve got to get away from this divisiveness that has really been a problem right from the very beginning.” DM

— With assistance by Lars Klemming, Adrian Kennedy, Linus Chua, Yueqi Yang, Ania Nussbaum, Alexander Sazonov, Peter Pae, Derek Wallbank, Mariajose Vera, John Martens, Iain Rogers, Shinhye Kang, Prim Chuwiruch, Carla Canivete, Vivek Shankar, and Paul Tugwell.

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