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EU leaders turn up heat on vaccines; South Africa regis...



EU leaders turn up heat on vaccines; South Africa registers 12,537 new cases

A technician wearing a protective suit places a beaker of liquid material into a hatch inside the Afrigen Biologics & Vaccines laboratory facility in Cape Town The World Health Organization announced it would establish its first mRNA technology transfer hub in Cape Town in an agreement with Afrigen and the Biovac Institute. (Photo: Dwayne Senior / Bloomberg via Getty Images)
By Bloomberg
14 Jul 2021 0

South Africa registered 12,537 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 2,219,316. A further 633 Covid-19-related deaths were reported, taking total deaths to 65,142. A total of 4,535,222 people have been vaccinated.

More than half of adults in the European Union are now vaccinated, and regional leaders turned up the pressure to get even more people immunised. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that will be the deciding factor for the future course of the pandemic.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing warnings that his plan to ease pandemic restrictions in England could lead to a rise in infections that will strain hospitals and undermine an economic recovery. In Scotland, face masks remain mandatory in public places and the government is maintaining its work-from-home policy. In Greece and the Netherlands, cases surged.

Russia signed a deal with the Serum Institute of India to boost annual production of Sputnik V shots. In the US, regulators added a warning to Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine about a rare immune-system disorder.

Key developments:

Mexico cases rise most since February

Mexico recorded 11,137 Covid-19 cases Tuesday, the most since 10 February, according to government data. Deaths rose by 219. Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell said while cases have increased there have been fewer deaths due to the vaccinations.

CDC panel to review vaccine safety

Vaccine safety and Guillain-Barré Syndrome will be the focus of an immunisation advisory committee scheduled by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on 22 July.

The announcement comes a day after the fact sheet for Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 shot was revised by federal regulators to warn about a “small possible risk” for the rare condition in which the immune system attacks the nerves.

Greeks sees highest case rate in two months

Greece reported 3,109 new cases on Tuesday, the highest daily rise in just over two months. To combat the recent increase amid concerns for its tourism industry, authorities said customers of indoor restaurants and indoor areas at entertainment venues will need to show they’ve been vaccinated or have tested negative within the past three days.

The requirement will remain in force until the end of August at the earliest, and doesn’t concern outdoor areas.

Spain safe for tourists, minister says

Spain, Europe’s second-largest tourism market pre-pandemic, is still a safe destination, Tourism Minister Reyes Maroto said on Tuesday after Germany and France earlier warned citizens about the risks of heading there.

Catalonia and Valencia, two of the most popular vacation spots, have both seen a surge in infections in recent days as restrictions are relaxed.

Cases surge in Netherlands

Weekly cases in the Netherlands surged more than sixfold with 51,957 infections reported by the Dutch health service in the week ending 13 July. Last week’s tally was 8,541 cases.

On Friday, the Dutch government announced it would reintroduce some pandemic restrictions in a bid to reduce the rising number of infections. Nightclubs were closed until 13 August and the opening hours of bars were reduced.

Dutch caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte publicly apologised on Monday for making an “error in judgment” and easing restrictions too quickly.

Scotland to keep face masks — Home Office

Scotland will stick with its plan to lift more coronavirus restrictions, though it will diverge from England’s reopening next week by keeping face coverings mandatory in stores and other public places and maintaining working from home as government policy.

Hospitality venues will need to close at midnight and there will still be physical distancing restrictions at bars and restaurants.

Moscow’s covid mortality rate hits 3.9%

The ratio of deaths per 100 confirmed cases would place Moscow fourth-highest among countries tracked by Johns Hopkins University, trailing only Peru, Mexico and Afghanistan. The rate falls to 2.8% if only cases where Covid-19 was determined to be the main cause of death are included, according to the city’s health department.

Tanzania begins Sinovac inoculations

Tanzania’s semi-autonomous Zanzibar archipelago began vaccinations after downplaying the extent of the pandemic for more than a year.

“The Sinovac vaccines were originally meant to be administered to people who wanted to attend the annual Hajj pilgrimage,” Zanzibar’s Health Ministry Permanent Secretary Omar Shajak said. “After Saudi Arabia prohibited foreign visitors due to the coronavirus outbreak, we decided to give those vaccines to our front-line workers.”

Tanzania’s move leaves Eritrea and Burundi as the only African countries yet to start vaccinating.

Riots force South Africa to halt some vaccines

South Africa’s vaccination programme has been partially halted as violent protests following the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma rage in two key provinces. State-administered inoculations have been suspended in KwaZulu-Natal and parts of Gauteng, the economic hub, said Nicholas Crisp, a consultant to the National Health Department who helps oversee the programme.

“We are clearly not going to be putting our staff in harm’s way,” Crisp said in an interview Tuesday, adding that those queuing for vaccines could also be in danger. “It will just have to wait until things calm down.” The health department had expected to exceed 200,000 vaccinations on Monday, but only 146,000 people were vaccinated.

Delta causes 60% of new cases in France

The incidence rate of Covid has increased by 60% in the past week, and has reached alarming levels in eight French regions including the Paris area, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said Tuesday. The Delta variant now represents more than 60% of new infections, he said.

Merkel makes urgent appeal for shots

German Chancellor Angela Merkel reinforced the government’s urgent appeal for people to get vaccinated, saying the inoculation campaign will be the deciding factor for the future course of the pandemic.

“The more are vaccinated, the more free we can be again,” Merkel said Tuesday during a visit to the RKI public-health institute. Still, Germany won’t follow France in requiring compulsory vaccination for health workers, she said.

Indonesia’s curbs fall short for government

The tightest curbs so far imposed on Java, Indonesia’s most populated island, and Bali, the tourism spot, haven’t eased people’s movement as much as the government expected.

Mobility has only eased by 6%-16% since the restrictions whereas authorities had expected a 20% drop, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said in a hearing with lawmakers on Tuesday. The government had earlier said that a 50% drop in mobility is needed to cut back on infections.

Russia reports record number of deaths 

Russia reported 780 deaths from the virus in the past 24 hours, the highest number since the start of the pandemic as its healthcare system strained against a third wave of infections.

A spike in hospitalisations driven by the Delta variant has led several regions to announce mandatory vaccinations in the past month. The measures have boosted demand for home-grown inoculations, with about 20% of Russians receiving at least one dose of a vaccine to date.

Germany to simplify travel rules

Germany plans to simplify its travel rules, the Funke media group reported, citing a draft of a Health Ministry document.

The proposals include reducing the number of Covid-19 risk area types to two from three. A very high incidence rate and “other quantitative and qualitative” factors would dictate which countries are high risk.

France keeps UK on orange list, demands tests

France added Tunisia, Mozambique, Cuba and Indonesia to its so-called red list, an official said.

The UK remains on the orange list, but non-vaccinated people arriving in the country will have to show a negative test no older than 24 hours. Spain and Portugal remain on the green list, but non-vaccinated travellers will also need to present a test.

Singapore karaoke clubs become hotspots

Singapore’s daily infection tally hit the highest in almost a month as authorities started investigating new cases from karaoke lounges and clubs.

The uptick in cases may fuel concerns of a delay in rolling back restrictions although the government has said it is drawing up a roadmap that treats Covid-19 as endemic.

World’s top vaccine maker to buoy Sputnik roll-out

Russia signed a deal with the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer to boost annual production of Sputnik V shots by 300 million doses in India as the South Asian nation struggles with supplies.

The Serum Institute of India, which is already producing AstraZeneca’s vaccine, aims to deliver its first batch of Sputnik V by September, the company and the state-run Russian Direct Investment Fund, which backed the vaccine’s development and is in charge of its foreign sales, said in a joint statement.

More than half of EU adults vaccinated

More than half of all adults in the EU are fully vaccinated, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a tweet. The bloc has enough doses to immunise 70% of its adult population, she said.

India’s covid deaths surge after data revision

Covid-related deaths in India jumped by 2,020 in a day to 410,784 as one of the states revised its fatality data.

The second-worst hit nation added 32,906 new cases on Tuesday, the lowest daily count since mid-March before the second wave overwhelmed the country. An adviser to Prime Minister Narendra Modi told Bloomberg that fiscal deficit worries should not stop the government from spending more to save “the lives and livelihoods” affected by the pandemic.

French book appointments after Macron speech

Close to a million people booked vaccination appointments after President Emmanuel Macron’s speech late on Monday, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Franceinfo radio.

Macron said vaccination will become mandatory for healthcare personnel and those working with the vulnerable while so-called health passes — which show proof of testing or immunisation — will be required in venues such as restaurants and cafes. In a further effort to drive people to get their shots, Macron said the reimbursement for Covid tests without prescription will end.

Bangladesh lifts curbs for Eid

Bangladesh is suspending lockdown restrictions from 14 July to 23 July, allowing public transport to restart ahead of the Muslim holiday of Eid-ul-Adha, according to a government notice.

German firms more bullish

Fewer German companies are worried they may go out of business due to the pandemic, according to a June survey by the Ifo research institute, with only 14% of those polled saying they feared for their existence, down from 19% in February.

Companies in the events industry “are still particularly at risk,” with more than 70% concerned about going out of business, said Ifo’s head of polling, Klaus Wohlrabe.

Goldman on pandemic and US economy

Covid is fueling a productivity boost for the US economy by speeding up workplace digitisation, according to Goldman Sachs Group, which said annualised growth in output per hour has risen 3.1% since the crisis began, compared with 1.4% in the previous business cycle.

Cases at Malaysian vaccination centre

A vaccination centre in the Malaysian state of Selangor was closed down for a day after staff tested positive, Science Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said. It’s the first time the country has shuttered a centre since beginning its vaccination campaign in February.

UK virus gamble sparks fears

With physical distancing and the mandatory wearing of masks due to end in England on 19 July, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is pushing ahead with dropping virus measures even as a new wave of the pandemic takes hold.

Daily hospital admissions are expected to hit 1,000-2,000 a day at a peak in August and there could be as many as 200 daily deaths, according to modelling by the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies. Economists expect a dip in consumer confidence in the coming weeks due to the greater perceived threat to public safety.​

Japan to give Vietnam vaccines

Japan will provide one million more vaccine doses to Vietnam, with delivery expected on 16 July, bringing its total donations to the Southeast Asian country to three million, according to a Vietnam health ministry publication.

Sydney hospital admissions rise

The number of Sydney residents hospitalised from Covid-19 increased to 65 as the Australian city struggles to contain an outbreak of the Delta variant. A man in his 70s died, the second fatality in the past week from an outbreak that’s grown to more than 700 cases since mid-June.

The hospitalisations are a worrying sign that authorities may impose tighter movement restrictions after Sydney was placed into a lockdown on 26 June as the city battles its largest coronavirus outbreak in more than a year.

Mary-Louise McLaws, a professor at the University of New South Wales and adviser to the World Health Organization, told Bloomberg Television that Sydney should have locked down earlier. Watch the interview here.

New Zealand border restrictions

Finance Minister Grant Robertson said New Zealand’s border curbs “will be with us for some time” as the pandemic continues to evolve, but there are opportunities to refine the approach as vaccination rates increase.

Australia-Singapore travel bubble talks

Australia has a “firm commitment” to launch a quarantine-free travel bubble with Singapore, Australia’s top diplomat to the city-state said. The plan is now more likely to occur by the end of the year due to the outbreak in Sydney, Australia’s High Commissioner to Singapore Will Hodgman said in an interview with Bloomberg Television.

“There’s a very strong commitment for officials, both governments in Australia and here in Singapore, to progress the systems — the operational capabilities, the requirements — that will be necessary to ensure safe travel,” Hodgman said. DM

— With assistance by Corinne Gretler, Vivek Shankar, Linly Lin, Iain Rogers, Angela Cullen, Caroline Alexander, Derek Wallbank, Gregory White, David Herbling, Bhuma Shrivastava, Ania Nussbaum, Alexander Michael Pearson, Jake Rudnitsky, Naomi Kresge, Patrick Donahue, Yudith Ho, Antony Sguazzin, and Dale Quinn.


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