CORONAVIRUS GLOBAL UPDATE

CDC sees ‘pivotal moment’ in US; South Africa registers 14,858 new cases

By Bloomberg 23 July 2021

(Photo: EPA-EFE / Nathalia Aguilar)

South Africa registered 14,858 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 2,342,330. A further 433 Covid-19-related deaths were reported, taking total deaths to 68,625. A total of 6,085,108 people have been vaccinated.

The U.S. is “at another pivotal moment in this pandemic,” with Covid-19 cases once again climbing and beds at some hospitals filling up, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said. The recent rise in cases shows no signs of abating in the U.S. states that have fuelled the uptick as the delta variant proliferates.

Indonesia has become a new epicenter for the pandemic after a recent streak of 50,000 infections a day, with more than 1,000 virus fatalities every day in the world’s fourth-most populous country. New Zealand suspended its quarantine-free travel bubble for at least the next eight week with Australia, where infections are rising.

The Tokyo Summer Olympics are starting with events held without spectators for the first time in history as coronavirus cases surge throughout Asia.

Italy will restrict many leisure activities, including dining indoors, for citizens who aren’t vaccinated against Covid-19 or haven’t recently tested negative for the virus. In the U.K., vaccine certificates could be required at business conferences, music festivals and sports events in England from September.

Key Developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases top 192.4 million; deaths exceed 4.1 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 3.74 billion doses administered
  • Delta surge halts Asia’s travel bubbles before they even begin
  • ‘Ridiculous’: Vaccine myths cripple U.S. uptake as delta surges
  • With 50,000 cases a day, one country opens up as another suffers
  • Why the vaccinated are still at risk from the coronavirus

NZ Suspends Australia Travel Bubble 

New Zealand suspended its quarantine-free travel bubble with Australia for at least the next eight weeks, starting 11:59 p.m. local time Friday. The decision followed health advice on the growing number of Covid-19 cases across Australia.

“This is not a decision we have taken lightly, but it is the right decision to keep New Zealanders safe,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said. “We do want the bubble to resume. We remain committed to it, and when I spoke to PM Scott Morrison this morning I conveyed this view directly. But it must be safe.”

For the next seven days there will be managed return flights for New Zealanders to return home from all states and territories in Australia that will require proof of a negative pre-departure test. The government will work with airlines to ensure flights are available for this period and extend it if necessary.

HK Says Too Early to Confirm if Third Jab Needed 

Hong Kong’s health authorities said on Thursday it’s too early to confirm if a third, booster dose of Covid-19 vaccine is necessary for the general population. Both BioNTech SE’s mRNA vaccine and Sinovac Biotech Ltd.’s inactivated shot are “highly effective” in preventing severe disease and death, though the antibody response these vaccine generated, which is related to prevention of infection, is more susceptible to variants, the authorities said in a statement.

Signs That China Outbreak Spreading 

China reported 12 new confirmed cases and 10 asymptomatic infections, amid signs that a fresh outbreak at the airport in eastern Chinese city of Nanjing has quietly spread to other provinces.

Northeastern province Liaoning, eastern province Anhui and southern province Guangdong have each reported one asymptomatic infection related to the Nanjing cluster. The city of Nanjing reported 12 confirmed cases and 7 asymptomatic infections on Friday. Authorities have expanded Covid testing to all of the city’s over 9 million residents to curb the virus spread.

Thailand Reports Record Virus Cases 

Thailand reported 14,575 new infections on Friday, the highest single-day increase since the pandemic began, according to the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration.

Despite the surge in virus cases, the nation’s tourist hotspots including Koh Phi Phi and Khao Lak will reopen from Aug. 1 to vaccinated foreign tourists. The expanded opening program will allow vaccinated travelers to skip quarantine, said Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, spokesman for the government’s panel to mitigate the economic impact from the pandemic.

Taiwan to Ease Gathering Limits: Commercial Times 

Taiwan plans to ease limits on social gatherings to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors from July 27, from 5 and 10 respectively, Taipei-based Commercial Times reports, citing draft rules from Central Epidemic Command Center.

Health authorities will announce in coming days whether they will downgrade the Covid response level, health minister Chen Shih-chung said on Thursday.

South Korea to Extend Seoul Restrictions 

South Korea will extend current social distancing steps that ban gatherings of three or more people after 6 p.m. in the greater Seoul area for another two weeks, as the number of coronavirus cases continue to surge. The nation reported a record 1,842 new virus cases on Thursday.

L.A. Says More Fully Vaccinated People Infected 

Los Angeles County’s top health official said fully vaccinated people made up 20% of cases in June, up from 11% in May, and warned the figure may rise in July with a higher level of community transmission.

“We had a significant increase in the number of people who were fully vaccinated and tested positive,” said Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, though she pointed out that the majority of these cases had no symptoms or had just very mild illness. “The numbers can go up again in July, until we get the community transmission back in control.”

The data came a week after the county of 10 million announced plans to reimpose its indoor mask order, which began Sunday, as cases jumped with the highly-contagious delta variant. The number of infections surged to 2,767 Thursday, she said, an 80% increase from the previous week.

Bay Area Counties Urge Vaccine Requirement 

San Francisco and two other counties in the Bay Area — Contra Costa and Santa Clara, home to many Silicon Valley tech companies — are encouraging employers to consider requiring vaccinations for workers. Health officers for the counties said the rapid spread of the delta variant has led to significantly higher case rates and risk of transmission at jobs.

“Workers who are unvaccinated against Covid-19 pose a substantial health and financial risk to the workplace,” Chris Farnitano, health officer of Contra Costa County, said in a statement Thursday. While the health officers said they “strongly urge” employers to consider requirements, it isn’t a mandate. Last week, the counties and others in the region said they were encouraging indoor mask use among all individuals to slow the virus’s spread.

Italy Requires Vaccine Pass for Leisure

Italy will restrict many leisure activities for citizens who aren’t vaccinated against Covid-19 or haven’t recently tested negative for the virus, amid a surge of delta variant infections.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s cabinet decided on Thursday that a so-called green pass will be required to dine indoors or to enter crowded venues such as theaters, stadiums, cinemas, gyms or museums. The passes are currently given to people who have received one shot, have recovered from Covid-19 or have tested negative in the last 48 hours.

“The use of vaccine certificates is needed to keep the economy open,” Draghi said at a press conference. “An invitation not to get vaccinated is an invitation to die, or to let others die. No vaccines mean a new lockdown.”

France Cases Up 133% in Week

France reported 21,909 new coronavirus cases and 11 deaths in 24 hours Thursday. On average, the number of positive cases is up by 133% in a week.

U.S. Case Uptick Not Abating 

The recent rise in Covid-19 cases shows no signs of abating in the U.S. states that have fueled the uptick as the delta variant proliferates.

Nationally, cases are likely to rise to 306,909 for the week ending Aug. 14, up 39% from last week, according to an ensemble of forecasts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Surges are expected in some states where case rates are among the worst. Florida rates are seen climbing to 62,744 cases per week, more than half the state’s winter peak. The trend looks similar in Missouri, where the governor this week announced a new vaccine incentive program.

J&J Shot Benefits Outweigh Risk: CDC 

The benefits of the J&J Covid vaccine outweigh its risks after reports of a rare immune-system disorder, according to data presented during an advisory meeting scheduled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Thursday.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, or ACIP, discussed Covid-19 vaccine safety, including the possible risks from Guillain-Barré Syndrome, in which the immune system attacks the nerves.

As was previously reported, of the 100 reports of Guillain-Barré Syndrome among people who had received the shot, 95 of the cases required hospitalization, 10 of which were incubated and/or required mechanical ventilation. One person died: A 57-year-old man with past medical history of heart failure, stroke, hypertension and diabetes. The cases were seen mostly in men over the age of 50.

CDC Chief Says U.S. at ‘Another Pivotal Moment’ 

The U.S. is “at another pivotal moment in this pandemic,” with Covid-19 cases once again climbing and beds at some hospitals filling up, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said at a Thursday briefing. Daily hospital admissions have risen by more than 30% over the last week, she said.

The availability of highly effective Covid-19 vaccines has made the U.S. safer, but some communities remain vulnerable due to low vaccination rates and the highly-contagious delta variant. At the Thursday briefing, Walensky and other Biden administration officials urged Americans to get vaccinated.

U.S. Case Average Highest Since May 

The seven-day average of confirmed Covid-19 infections in the U.S. topped 40,000 on Wednesday for the first time since early May, data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg show. The death toll is averaging at 250 a day.

Both figures are a fraction of the levels reported in January but cases, on average, have more than tripled since the beginning of the month, underscoring how infections are swelling as the delta variant spreads and vaccination rates drop.

“We have a pandemic for those who haven’t gotten the vaccination,” President Joe Biden said Wednesday night during a CNN town hall in Cincinnati. “If you’re vaccinated,” he added, “you’re not going to die.” DM

– With assistance from Seyoon Kim, Cindy Wang, Masumi Suga, Randy Thanthong-Knight, Dong Lyu, Georgina Mckay and Victoria Batchelor.

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