CORONAVIRUS GLOBAL UPDATE

US political vaccine gap widens; South Africa registers 3,699 new cases

By Bloomberg 14 September 2021

Residents in an observation area following their Covid-19 vaccine inside the Discovery mass vaccination site at the Cape Town International Convention Centre in Cape Town, South Africa, on Tuesday, 7 September 2021. (Photo: Dwayne Senior / Bloomberg via Getty Images)

South Africa registered 3,699 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 2,864,534. A further 300 Covid-19-related deaths were reported, taking total official deaths to 85,302. A total of 15,188,787 people have been vaccinated.

Britain will begin offering booster shots to people aged 50 and over next week to avert a winter surge. On the other end of the age spectrum, Cuba will begin vaccinating children as young as two this week, The New York Times reported.  

The World Health Organization said talks are under way with India for a resumption of vaccine exports to African countries following a pause. Roche Holding AG said it sees a high likelihood that Covid-19 will become seasonal and endemic, with 200 million to 500 million new infections each year.  

Russian President Vladimir Putin will go into self-isolation after people around him fell sick. China locked down a coastal city of 4.5 million people to halt an outbreak as the country sticks to its zero-tolerance approach. China’s aviation regulator also advised against international travel during upcoming national holidays. 

Key developments 

US vaccine gap widens, Kaiser says

In April, the #COVID19 vaccination rate in counties that voted for Biden was 2.2 percentage points higher than in Trump counties. 

This month, the vaccine gap has widened to 12.9 points, said the Kaiser Family Foundation, highlighting a growing challenge for public health officials.  

Dutch to end social distancing rule

The Netherlands will say goodbye to its 1.5m social distance rule for the first time since the start of the pandemic, starting on September 25, “a symbolic move,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said during a press conference in the Hague. “This is an exciting but positive step”.

The Dutch government is also expanding the use of its vaccine certificate, making it a requirement for entry to cinemas, theaters and catering businesses. Nightclubs will be allowed to reopen with limited opening hours until midnight, as is the case for bars and restaurants. Outdoor events such as festivals and sport competitions can take place at full capacity. A 75% capacity limit applies to unseated indoor events. 

People with severe immune disorders will be offered a third vaccination dose in October. 

Montana’s biggest hospital ‘in crisis’

Montana’s largest hospital is “in crisis,” a top official said. Billings Clinic was caring for 70 Covid patients, the most since the first week of December, with overflow intensive-care unit beds added as the delta variant spreads, the Billings Gazette reported. 

Typically the ICU has 28 beds, but more than 40 are now squeezed into the facility. As of Monday, there were 25 patients at the ICU level, with 13 on ventilators and six in overflow beds. 

“It’s gotten to the point that we are in a crisis,” Billings Clinic Chief Executive Officer Scott Ellner said. Staff are “tired and incredibly frustrated”, he said. “We’re worried that the public doesn’t understand.” 

India may resume vaccine exports to Africa

The World Health Organization (WHO) said talks are under way with India for a resumption of Covid-19 vaccine exports to African countries following a pause during a deadly wave of infections earlier this year. 

“Be assured the conversation is ongoing, be assured that supply will restart this year,” Bruce Aylward, a senior WHO official, said at a briefing on Tuesday. “We are hoping we can get assurance it can start even faster than later this year and in the coming weeks.” 

India had been supplying doses to Covax, the equitable vaccine initiative on which most African countries are reliant. The government then moved to prioritise its own population after the Delta virus variant began sweeping through major cities. 

Cuba to vaccinate two-year-olds

Cuba will begin vaccinating children as young as two against the coronavirus this week, making it the only country so far to immunise children that young, The New York Times reported. The US and many European countries currently allow Covid-19 vaccinations for children 12 and older. US regulators could authorise a vaccine for children five to 12 later this year. 

DeSantis: I don’t recall conspiracy remark

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said he doesn’t recall a speaker at one of his events on Monday falsely telling a crowd that the Covid-19 vaccine “changes your RNA.” 

Darris Friend, a Gainesville employee who rejects his city’s vaccine rules, was a featured speaker at the rally in Newberry, Florida, organised by DeSantis to criticise mandates. Friend delivered the remarks behind a podium with the official state seal, directly next to DeSantis. The governor watched Friend as he spoke, but after the conspiracy-theory comment DeSantis made no effort to correct it. 

Roche sees up to 500 million annual cases 

Roche Holding sees a high likelihood that Covid-19 will become seasonal and endemic, with 200 million to 500 million new infections each year. 

The disease probably won’t become another “common cold,” Barry Clinch, global head of infectious disease clinical development for the Swiss drug giant, said on a conference call with analysts. Roche will keep working on Covid treatments and diagnostics because it believes there will be a need for them, he said. 

The virus will “become easier to manage over time”, but will “still need management,” Clinch said. An optimistic scenario where cases plummet is less likely, as is a pessimistic one where constant mutations make the disease unpredictable, he said. 

Delta hampers small-business recovery

Inflation pressures and a resurgence in coronavirus cases due to the Delta variant are hampering the recovery of small businesses across the US, according to a Goldman Sachs Group report. 

Among the 1,145 respondents surveyed around the end of August, about 75% worry about the impact of rising Covid infection rates on their businesses, Goldman Sachs said on Tuesday in its report. Some 86% said they’re concerned about inflation, with 81% seeing an increase in pricing pressures since the firm’s last survey in June. The number of small-business owners who think the US is moving in the right direction has declined in the period. 

KLM won’t mandate vaccines

KLM has opted to accommodate crew members who aren’t vaccinated, rather than issuing mandates as more global destinations require shots. The Dutch arm of Air France-KLM will ask pilots and flight attendants to register their vaccine status, but not require inoculation, it said on Tuesday. 

Schedules will be adjusted to avoid sending those who aren’t vaccinated to destinations where they’ll fail to meet entry requirements. Managers won’t be told why workers are being kept off of certain flights. 

UK to begin booster drive

The UK will offer booster shots to people 50 and over and other vulnerable groups starting next week, in a move to avert a coronavirus surge this winter. 

Health Secretary Sajid Javid told Parliament on Tuesday the government had accepted the advice of its vaccine committee and would go ahead with the roll-out. He also warned that contingency measures are being held in reserve if the National Health Service risks being overwhelmed by cases. They include mandatory vaccine certification in certain venues, legally mandating face coverings in some settings and asking people to work from home if they can. 

The vaccine committee recommended Pfizer-BioNTech as the preferred brand for the extra doses, regardless of which one a person received previously. It should be given no earlier than six months after the second shot, it said. 

German ‘action week’ has slow start

Germany’s vaccination “action week” apparently failed to provide the immediate boost the government had hoped for, with significantly fewer doses administered Monday than on the same day a week earlier. 

Just over 118,000 people received a shot, down from more than 150,000 a week earlier, and 62.3% of the population is now fully vaccinated, according to the latest health ministry data. 

The government’s weeklong vaccine drive aims to make it easier for people to get shots by providing them at venues like sports clubs, playgrounds and shopping centres, as well as at the workplace. 

Japan to ease off curbs with care

Japan will lift its virus restrictions gradually, in a process that will require the cooperation of businesses and the understanding of the public, the government’s top spokesman said. 

Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato, in an interview with Bloomberg at the prime minister’s offices in Tokyo, said efforts to restart the economy would start from low-risk areas. The plans for a step-by-step approach are in contrast with the UK where the government lifted almost all restrictions in July, and with the US.  

Putin to self-isolate

Russian President Vladimir Putin will go into self-isolation after people around him fell sick with Covid-19, the Kremlin said on Tuesday. He has tested negative. 

The leader cancelled plans to fly to Dushanbe, Tajikistan, this week to attend the Collective Security Treaty Organization summit and will instead hold online meetings, according to a statement. The summit is set to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. 

City of London staff return

More people are back at their desks in the City of London than at any time since the pandemic forced the government to impose a lockdown 18 months ago. In the financial district, more than half of staff were back in their offices on Thursday, according to data compiled by Google, which tracks the locations of its users. 

The number of people returning has gradually ticked up in recent months, but the start of the school term is now accelerating the process. Many employers are pushing staff to come into work for at least a few days a week. 

China advises against travel in holidays  

China’s aviation regulator advised against international travel during national holidays later this month and in October due to coronavirus outbreaks overseas and the low volume of international flights. Before the pandemic, Chinese travellers were major sources of tourist income for countries globally. 

Singapore Air cancels some Australia flights 

Singapore Airlines cancelled some flights to Australia due to strict international arrival caps in that country, the carrier said in an emailed statement. The airline reduced flights to Sydney to daily from twice a day.

Separately, Singapore’s trade minister said that port closures may increase in the future. 

Germany eyes measures for unvaccinated

Germany may increase restrictions on people who aren’t inoculated if contagion rates climb and health-care facilities get stretched, said Helge Braun, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff. 

“We’re looking very closely at the situation in the hospitals. If operations would be cancelled – for instance, an inoculated person can’t have hip surgery because beds need to be reserved for additional corona patients – then we’d have to consider whether further measures are necessary,” he said in an interview with ntv television. 

That could mean restricting privileges for unvaccinated people, Braun said, adding that Germany is in a good position and that the goal of the vaccination “action week” is to prevent a fourth wave in fall and winter. About two-thirds of the population has had at least one dose of a Covid vaccine. 

France advises second shot with Janssen

France’s drug safety agency ANSM is advising people who received the Janssen vaccine, which is given as a single dose, to get a second jab with an mRNA vaccine – Pfizer or Moderna. The recommendation comes after a probe into 32 so-called breakthrough cases and four deaths among the Janssen recipients. Those who got sick had an average age of 68 with co-morbidities, ANSM said. DM 

 With assistance from Jake Rudnitsky, Iain Rogers, Joel Leon, Alexandre Rajbhandari, Antony Sguazzin, Go Onomitsu, Andreo Calonzo, Cecilia Yap, Randy Thanthong-Knight, Georgina Mckay, Yuko Takeo, Suttinee Yuvejwattana, Claire Che, Lisa Du, Max Zimmerman, Chris Reiter, Tara Patel, Diederik Baazil and Vincent Del Giudice.

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