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New York City cases climb; South Africa registers 13,75...

Covid-19

CORONAVIRUS GLOBAL UPDATE

New York City cases climb; South Africa registers 13,751 new cases

President Cyril Ramaphosa, accompanied by acting minister of health Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane and Gauteng Premier David Makhura, visits a vaccination site in Ekurhuleni, Gauteng on 29 July 2021 to assess progress in South Africa’s vaccination programme. (Photo: GCIS / Elmond Jiyane)
By Bloomberg
30 Jul 2021 0

South Africa registered 13,751 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 2,422,151. A further 523 Covid-19-related deaths were reported, taking total official deaths to 71,431. A total of 7,279,912 people have been vaccinated.

New York City’s daily average cases passed 1,000 for the first time in almost three months, though hospitalisations remain relatively low. Diners soon will be required to be vaccinated to eat indoors at some of the city’s most famous restaurants, including Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Café.

President Joe Biden called on Congress to extend a moratorium on home evictions that is set to expire on July 31 as the Delta variant continues to spread throughout the US. His administration is also calling on states and local governments to provide $100 to people who get vaccinated.

Israel will start giving third doses of Pfizer’s vaccine to people over age 60, becoming the first country to widely roll out booster shots intended to halt a resurgent spread of the virus.

Key developments

Biden pushes for $100 vaccine incentive

President Joe Biden’s administration is calling on states and local governments to provide $100 to people who get vaccinated using the $350-billion of aid that his administration has provided them.

The Treasury Department released a statement on Thursday saying that the president was calling on states, municipalities and territorial governments to provide the vaccine incentive using funds from the $1.9-trillion American Rescue Plan.

On Wednesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said $100 would be given to any resident who got a first shot at a city-run vaccination site.

New Mexico requires vaccines or testing

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham on Thursday signed an executive order requiring all state employees to either be fully vaccinated or otherwise submit to regular testing, according to a press release.

Employees not fully vaccinated will be required to show a negative test at least once every two weeks. Unvaccinated employees must also wear a face mask when indoors during employment. Those who don’t comply will be subject to disciplinary action, including termination.

“Right now, it’s very simple: Get a vaccine, or else you will be tested,” Lujan Grisham said.

New York moves to aid restaurants

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday unveiled a $35-million tax credit programme for restaurants that move quickly to hire back workers in one of the sectors hardest hit by the pandemic.

Restaurants that qualify could receive a $5,000 return-to-work tax credit for every new hire, up to $50,000 in credits per business. The programme was created as part of a $1-billion package of economic recovery initiatives included in the state’s fiscal 2022 budget finalised in April.

District of Columbia reimposes indoor mask mandate

The District of Columbia will require the wearing of masks indoors as the Delta variant causes cases of the coronavirus to surge, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced on Thursday.

“People over the age of two must wear a mask indoors regardless of their vaccination status,” Bowser said at a press conference. “I know that DC residents have been very closely following the public health guidelines and they will embrace it. Our businesses will embrace it.”

The announcement comes as the city has seen a five-fold increase in the daily case rate since the beginning of July.

New Jersey cases, hospitalisations accelerate

New Jersey reported more than 1,000 new cases for the first time since early May, according to state data.

Hospitals logged 480 patients, a 35% increase over one week. The sickest patients, those on ventilators, numbered 35. That figure hasn’t exceeded 40 since last month.

Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat who is running for re-election in November, on Wednesday said he strongly recommended face masks indoors even for people who have been vaccinated. He stopped short of mandating face coverings but said that if numbers continue to increase, he may issue such an order.

Portugal eases curbs

Portugal plans to lift a nighttime curfew and ease other restrictions as the number of vaccinated people increases and the latest surge in infections in the country shows signs of slowing.

A limit to movement in public spaces between 11pm and 5am that was imposed in some regions will be lifted on Sunday, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said at a press conference on Thursday. Restaurants and non-food stores can now stay open until 2am. Remote working will no longer be mandatory.

“The vaccination campaign has made a very positive contribution,” Costa said.

Israel to give boosters to over-60s

Israel will start giving third doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine to people over age 60, becoming the first country to widely roll out booster shots intended to halt a resurgent spread of the virus.

Starting on Sunday, those who received a second dose more than five months ago will be eligible for the booster, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a televised address on Thursday.

“Reality has proven that the vaccines are safe,” Bennett said. Israel has already given a third dose to 2,000 immuno-compromised people and seen “no severe adverse events”, he said. New infections have surged in Israel in recent weeks, largely due to the Delta variant.

Top New York City restaurants require guests to be vaccinated

Starting on September 7, you will have to be vaccinated to eat indoors at some of New York’s most famous dining rooms, including Gramercy Tavern and Union Square Café.

Danny Meyer, chief executive officer at Union Square Hospitality Group and the chairman of New York City’s Economic Development Corporation, announced on Thursday that eating indoors at any of his restaurants, which also include the Modern at the Museum of Modern Art, will require proof of vaccine.

Meyer made clear to Bloomberg that this move does not impact Shake Shack, the burger empire that he founded, even for requiring proof of vaccination for employees.

“It’s one of these make or break moments and I want to commend Danny Meyer for what he did,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “This is the shape of things to come.”

Durst mandates vaccines

The Durst Organization, the New York City real estate firm, is requiring employees to be vaccinated by September 6 or face termination, a company spokesman said.

“People need to be in an environment that they are safe in,” Jordan Barowitz said.

The directive applies to all the company’s more than 1,000 workers, though any direct termination only applies to the 350 corporate staff, whom Barowitz said largely supported the mandate. A vaccination policy for unionised workers, which includes cleaners, security, building operators and doormen, is being negotiated.

Louisiana cuts back on non-Covid care

Almost all of Louisiana’s hospitals have cancelled or postponed surgeries and other non-emergency care, and many can’t accept transfers of critical patients, as a Delta-fuelled surge in infections grows there, said Joseph Kanter, state health officer of the Louisiana Department of Health, on a call with reporters Thursday.

The number of patients hospitalised with Covid in Louisiana has increased sixfold in the past four weeks, he said, adding that health officials are finding it difficult to project how the outbreak will evolve. “Nobody really knows how to model Delta appropriately,” Kanter said.

New York calls out Facebook for misinformation in Spanish

New York Attorney-General Letitia James called on Facebook to do more to address false information spreading on its platform in Latino communities, much of which she said is in Spanish. She asked that the company share policies that address Covid-19 misinformation targeted towards Latinos across all of its platforms including WhatsApp and Instagram.

“We’re calling on Facebook to take responsibility for its role in allowing these dangerous lies to continue to spread, and to do more to combat this disinformation,” James said in a statement.

Facebook has a “comprehensive strategy to combat Covid-19 misinformation in Spanish”, including machine learning and fact checkers, said Will Castleberry, vice-president of state and local public policy.

Biden calls for extension of eviction moratorium

President Joe Biden on Thursday called on Congress to extend a moratorium on home evictions that is set to expire on July 31 as the Delta variant of Covid-19 continues to spread throughout the US.

Biden also asked the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, and Veterans Affairs to extend the moratorium through the end of September for Americans living in federally insured, single-family properties.

In recent days, Democratic lawmakers and housing advocates have called for extending the eviction moratorium beyond the July 31 deadline. But it isn’t clear Congress can act in time, even if there’s enough political support for an extension.

New York City cases top 1,000 a day

New York City surpassed 1,000 new daily cases on a seven-day average this week for the first time since early May, beginning Monday with 1,032 recorded. Tuesday’s seven-day average totalled 1,008.

The upward trend has concerned city health officials, leading Mayor Bill de Blasio to offer $100 prepaid cash cards to everyone who gets a shot, starting on Friday. The city has fallen short of a goal to get at least five million New Yorkers vaccinated by the end of June, with 4.95 million receiving at least one shot so far, representing about 59% of the population, according to city health department data.

Hospitalisations due to the virus remained relatively low, with 98 suspected cases as of July 27, amounting to less than one person per 100,000.

Phuket to limit access

Thailand’s resort island of Phuket will ban all domestic travellers and vehicles from entering the province from August 3 to 16 as a Covid-19 outbreak worsens in the Southeast Asian nation.

Travellers with confirmed international itineraries will be exempted from the rules, according to a provincial order issued on Thursday.

A sign mandating the use of face masks at the empty Patong Beach in Patong, Phuket, Thailand, on Monday, 19 July. In a precursor to the broader opening, vaccinated tourists were this month allowed to travel to the resort island of Phuket without needing to quarantine in the so-called Phuket Sandbox experiment.

Citi reinstates mask rules

Citigroup has gone back to requiring employees – regardless of their vaccination status – to don masks when they’re in the office, according to a person familiar with the matter.

Workers can remove their masks when at their desks or while eating in the cafeteria, according to the person, who asked not to be identified discussing personnel information.

China makes new proposal for origin probe

China says it’s put forward alternative parameters for a second probe into the origins of Covid-19 that should span multiple countries, Beijing’s latest move to counter a push by the US for a deeper investigation into the theory the virus leaked from a Wuhan lab.

China, where the coronavirus that caused the pandemic first emerged, submitted a counterproposal for how the second phase of the World Health Organization’s study should be conducted, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a regular press briefing in Beijing on Thursday. He didn’t specify when or to which body the proposal had been submitted.

Astra to file for US licence this autumn

AstraZeneca plans to file an application to the US Food and Drug Administration in the next two to three months, Chief Executive Officer Pascal Soriot said in a Bloomberg TV interview on Thursday. Astra hopes to get approval “relatively quickly,” he added. DM

–With assistance from Suttinee Yuvejwattana, Alberto Nardelli, Henry Goldman, Naomi Nix, Emma Kinery, John Tozzi and Elise Young.

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