CORONAVIRUS GLOBAL UPDATE

Missouri county sounds alarm; South Africa registers 16,435 new cases

By Bloomberg 15 July 2021

Vaccines being prepared at the South African Police Services (SAPS) Western Cape vaccination drive launch at SAPS Milnerton, Cape Town on 8 July 2021. The SAPS plans to vaccinate more than 180,000 employees at 108 registered vaccination sites across the country as part of government’s national Covid-19 vaccination programme. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

South Africa registered 16,435 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 2,253,240. A further 377 Covid-19-related deaths were reported, taking total deaths to 65,972. A total of 4,869,759 people have been vaccinated.

Health officials in southwestern Missouri asked the state to set up an emergency hospital to handle a surge in Delta-variant cases that threatens to overwhelm health services. New York City’s marriage bureau will reopen on Monday, 16 months after the city closed the department at the start of the pandemic.

Most vaccinated Americans are unlikely to need Covid-19 booster shots for months, or even years, despite the rise of highly infectious variants and the continued spread of the virus, according to top scientists.

Melbourne entered a snap five-day lockdown at midnight, joining Sydney in imposing stay-at-home restrictions as the Delta strain spreads. New cases in Tokyo reached the highest in six months, about a week before the Olympics are scheduled to start.

Key developments

  • Global Tracker: Cases top 188.6 million; deaths pass 4.06 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 3.51 billion doses administered
  • Wall Street itches for office return as variants muddy recovery
  • Delta engulfs Southeast Asia with world’s fastest-growing deaths
  • Virus trio could push UK hospitals to brink, scientists warn
  • The next pandemic could be averted with AI, apps and big data

Canada allows cruise ships back

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra announced that cruise ships will once again be able to enter Canadian waters as of 1 November.

Cruise operators, barred since the start of the pandemic, will need to prove they’ll be able to meet public health requirements to be allowed to travel to Canada.

“As Canadians have done their part to reduce the spread of Covid-19, our government continues to work hard to safely restart our economy and build back better. We will welcome cruise ships — an important part of our tourism sector — back in Canadian waters for the 2022 season,” Alghabra said in an emailed statement.

French lawmakers get death threats

A number of French lawmakers have received death threats due to their backing of the government’s vaccine policy, according to a statement on Thursday from the National Assembly. This type of intimidation won’t be tolerated, the statement said, adding that French police have been alerted.

President Emmanuel Macron earlier this week increased pressure on people to be vaccinated with a plan to make it mandatory for healthcare workers. So-called immunity passes will also be required for entry into venues such as restaurants and cafes. The Delta variant has gained ground in France and the number of new cases is rising.

Ireland sounds warning

Ireland is heading into a “difficult couple of weeks” where Covid cases will spike and hospitalisations will increase, Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar warned, as the country saw the most new cases in five months.

There’s concern that unvaccinated people could “overwhelm our hospitals” if they take risks with the virus, Varadkar told lawmakers in Dublin.

Hospitalisations rose to their highest level in five weeks, although well below the previous peak in January. Despite the rise in cases, the government has set a target to reopen indoor dining for 26 July.

Experts say to relax about booster shots

Most vaccinated Americans are unlikely to need Covid-19 booster shots for months, or even years, despite the rise of highly infectious variants and the continued spread of the virus, according to top scientists.

Pfizer has been touting a plan to apply for clearance this summer for a third shot of its messenger RNA vaccine. But vaccine experts and health officials in both the US and Europe say that while a booster may eventually be needed, existing shots remain highly effective in preventing severe disease, including against all known variants.

Singapore mulling new measures

Singapore is mulling new measures to curb Covid as it deals with the latest outbreak stemming from karaoke lounges in the city-state.

“We are working round the clock to deal with the latest cases, to contain them,” Lawrence Wong, Singapore’s finance minister who co-chairs the city’s Covid task force, said in a Facebook post. The task force will update citizens on the latest measures soon, he said.

Singapore reported 42 new cases in the community on Thursday, adding to the 56 the previous day. Wong, who expressed disappointment and frustration in his social media post, asked for those who have been to the lounges to get tested. Meanwhile, police have arrested 20 women suspected of involvement in vice-related activities at the lounges.

Portugal expands nighttime curfew

Portugal said a nighttime curfew will apply to more municipalities as the government tries to contain an increase in infections. The limit to movement in public spaces between 11pm and 5am in regions including Lisbon and the southern Algarve region, popular with tourists, will now be imposed in 90 municipalities, up from 60 previously, Presidency Minister Mariana Vieira da Silva said on Thursday.

The government in June began to face a surge in infections around Lisbon, where the Delta variant had a high incidence, and had to halt a plan to continue gradually easing confinement measures across the country.

WHO urges cooperation from China

The World Health Organization’s director-general called on China to cooperate in a second phase of studying the origins of the coronavirus as the pandemic rages on around the world.

One of the challenges is the lack of raw data, especially from the early days of the outbreak, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a media briefing Thursday. China hasn’t yet shared that information.

“We’re asking China to be transparent and open and cooperate,” Tedros said.

NYC marriage bureaus to reopen

New York City’s marriage bureaus will reopen on Monday, 16 months after the city shut the department at the start of the pandemic.

The city’s five marriage bureaus had been closed since March 2020 due to health and safety concerns, despite the reopening of most other municipal offices and the return to office buildings by city employees. The city has been holding virtual ceremonies, but a deluge of requests led to months-long waits.

Missouri asked to help contain outbreak

Health officials in southwest Missouri asked the state to set up an “alternate site” to handle overflowing hospitalisations caused by a spike in new virus cases. The state is one of the worst hit by the Delta variant, particularly around the city of Springfield and surrounding Greene County.

“Today, there are 231 patients being treated in Greene County hospitals with Covid-19, 104 of those are in critical care and 61 are on ventilators,” read a statement released on Wednesday night by officials from the city, county and three health care networks. “Greene County is averaging more than 196 cases per day, and the increase in severe illness is projected to outpace hospital capacity.”

In Missouri, 46.1% of people have received at least one dose of vaccine, compared with the national average of 55.7%, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.

US doses arrive in Haiti

The US delivered 500,000 doses of Moderna’s vaccine to Haiti, and the Biden administration plans to send additional doses soon, according to a White House official, who said the shipments don’t come with strings attached. Haiti has been dealing with the aftermath of the assassination of its president, Jovenel Moise, on 7 July, including a power struggle and unrest in the impoverished Caribbean nation.

Antibody review moving rapidly in Europe

A rolling review of the antibody cocktail from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Roche Holding is moving “quite rapidly,” said Marco Cavaleri, head of biological health threats and vaccines strategy at the European Medicines Agency. A decision on marketing authorisation is possible by year-end or sooner, he said.

CureVac will probably be able to submit for review the data package from its Covid vaccine clinical trials “toward the end of the summer,” Cavaleri said.

WHO warns of South Africa surge

South Africa should prepare for a surge in cases after days of widespread rioting and looting in the two most populous provinces, said Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization’s Africa director. The deadliest and most widespread unrest since the end of apartheid followed the imprisonment of former president Jacob Zuma on 7 July. The looting spree has occurred amid the country’s third and most severe wave of Covid-19 infections.

Deaths from Covid-19 in Africa as a whole rose 40% in the past week and hospitals are now at “breaking point,” Moeti said.

The continent is in the grip of its most severe wave of coronavirus infections yet, with an additional million cases recorded over the past month compared with the three months it took for the previous million to accumulate, she said.

Tokyo virus cases hit six-month high

Tokyo logged 1,308 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the most in six months, with just over a week remaining until the Olympics kicks off on July 23. Serious cases also increased to 57 from 54 the previous day. Tokyo’s daily record stands at 2,520 new cases on 7 January.

People in their 20s and 30s accounted for most of the new cases. Cases among older people have dwindled amid the acceleration of Japan’s vaccination drive, which has prioritised the elderly. About 71% of Tokyoites aged 65 or older had received at least one shot of either Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccine as of 7 July, while younger age groups are yet to catch up.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, visiting Japan before the Olympic opening ceremony, said on Wednesday that measures against the virus are in place and working. He said about 85% of the residents in the Olympic Village will arrive in Japan vaccinated and nearly 100% of the IOC members and staff will be as well.

Saudi vaccinations spike before deadline

Saudi Arabia’s daily coronavirus vaccination rate has accelerated to more than 400,000 ahead of a 1 August deadline that would ban those without at least one dose from entry to most places except homes. Long lines were visible this week in the capital Riyadh at clinics administering vaccines.

Saudi Arabia’s fully vaccinated rate still lags behind some of its smaller Gulf neighbours. About 8.4% of the population has received two doses of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccines in the kingdom.

Melbourne locked down again

Melbourne entered a snap five-day lockdown from midnight, joining Sydney in imposing stay-at-home restrictions as the Delta strain of the coronavirus spreads around Southeast Australia, the nation’s most populated region.

Australia’s second-largest city, along with the rest of Victoria state, is locking down for the fifth time since the pandemic began, Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters on Thursday. His state has recorded 18 Covid cases since the virus was again seeded there after infected Sydney-based movers delivered furniture to a home in Melbourne, which last year endured one of the world’s longest and most strict lockdowns. DM

— With assistance by Ian Fisher, Muneeza Naqvi, Sophie Jackman, Joao Lima, Linus Chua, Derek Wallbank, Peter Flanagan, and Tara Patel.

Gallery

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