President Biden gets booster shot; South Africa registers 578 new cases

Residents in an observation area following their Covid-19 vaccine, outside a pop-up vaccination bus in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: Dwayne Senior / Bloomberg via Getty Images)
By Bloomberg
27 Sep 2021 0

South Africa registered 578 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 2,897,521. A further 164 Covid-19-related deaths were reported, taking total official deaths to 87,216. A total of 16,999,722 people have been vaccinated.

US President Joe Biden received a booster shot on Monday and said he’d press for more vaccination mandates to improve the US inoculation rate. Meanwhile, a State Department spokesman said he has tested positive and will quarantine for 10 days.

UK healthcare workers should get priority access to fuel as a shortage continues, according to a union for doctors. There’s a “real risk” that National Health Service staff will be unable to do their jobs, the British Medical Association said.

American men lost 2.2 years of life expectancy last year because of Covid-19, the biggest decline among 29 nations in a study of the pandemic’s impact on longevity. Only Denmark and Norway avoided drops in life expectancy across both sexes, according to researchers at the University of Oxford.

Key developments 

United Airlines notches 98.5% vaccination rate 

United Airlines Holdings said 98.5% of its US-based employees have been vaccinated and expects the figure to exceed 99% in its final tally of compliance with its mandate. The carrier had set a Monday deadline for all US-based workers to receive the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or an initial dose of a two-shot vaccine. Failure to comply could result in termination.

Montana admissions higher for unvaccinated 

Montana residents eligible for shots but not fully vaccinated are 4.4 times more likely to contract Covid-19 than people who are fully inoculated, state health officials said. Unvaccinated people account for 88% of the state’s Covid-19 admissions. Hospitalisation and death rates are 5.1 and 3.3 times greater, respectively, for unvaccinated people.

US boosts travel warnings for Hong Kong, Singapore 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised its travel advisories for Hong Kong and Singapore by one notch each. Hong Kong has a moderate level of Covid-19, the agency said, while Singapore’s is high.

Unvaccinated travellers should avoid nonessential travel to Singapore, where all travellers may be at risk for getting and spreading variants, the CDC said.

State Department spokesperson tests positive 


South Africa, UK discuss red list 

South Africa said government scientific experts met with UK counterparts to discuss the African country’s continued presence on a so-called red list of nations whose citizens are banned because of Covid-19 risks. Britain also is looking to extend recognition of certificates for vaccines administered in South Africa “as rapidly as possible,” South Africa’s Department of Health said.

Biden gets booster, presses for mandates 

US President Joe Biden received a booster shot made by Pfizer and BioNTech and said he would press for more vaccination mandates to improve the inoculation rate.

Americans who have refused to be vaccinated are causing “an awful lot of damage for the rest of the country”, he said at the White House. “This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. That’s why I’m moving forward with vaccination mandates wherever I can.”

Biden (78) meets federal guidelines that those over the age of 65 get a third shot. The president received his second in January, putting him well past the six-month threshold for getting another.

Chile to use Sinovac shot for children 6-11 

Chile began vaccinating children aged six to 11 with a vaccine made by Sinovac Biotech that won emergency use approval from the government this month. Previously, Pfizer’s vaccine, approved for people 12 to 17 years old, had been Chile’s only shot available to young people. The country has vaccinated 82.4% of its residents, behind only Uruguay in Latin America, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. 

Crowdsourced pill research gets £8m

A crowdsourced effort to design a Covid-19 pill won £8-million in funding from the Wellcome Trust. About 250 people submitted to the Covid Moonshot effort more than 4,500 potential molecular designs intended to block a key protein that helps the virus replicate. 

“It is a way of working that none of us realised was possible,” said University of Oxford Professor Frank von Delft, a leader of the project. It has been “an express train on tracks we have had to lay down as we go”. 

The Wellcome funding will help pay for the expensive last step of research needed to bring the project into human clinical trials but is unlikely to beat big pharmaceutical companies. Pfizer is in late-stage trials on an oral antiviral. 

New York City mayor vows to fight for school mandate 

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed to fight for a vaccine requirement for school workers and said 90% of teachers and 97% of principals have received their first shot. The city’s school system was temporarily blocked by a judge from enforcing a mandate forcing teachers and other staff to get vaccinated by Monday. A federal appeals court is expected to hold a hearing on Wednesday.

Groups representing teachers and administrators argued that a mandate would result in employee shortages that would endanger student safety and said the district had no plan to redeploy substitutes and central office employees to cover absent teachers and other workers.

Pfizer starts advanced trial of oral drug  

Pfizer advanced testing of an experimental oral antiviral drug. The medicine, PF-07321332, is intended to be given at the first sign of exposure or infection, without requiring patients to be hospitalised first.

Pfizer’s new trial is enrolling as many as 2,660 adults who live in the same household as someone with a confirmed infection. Participants will get either a placebo or a combination of the experimental drug plus ritonavir twice daily for five or 10 days, the company said.

Monoclonal antibodies from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly & Co. are authorised in the US for preventing Covid-19 in high-risk individuals who have been exposed, but no oral drugs have been approved yet.

Slow J&J deliveries hobble South Africa 

Slow delivery of Johnson & Johnson vaccinations is hampering South Africa’s inoculation drive, Business Day reported, citing Nicholas Crisp, acting director-general of the country’s health department. While South Africa has ample supply of Pfizer vaccines, it needs J&J’s for people in remote areas, since those shots can be stored with normal refrigeration and only one dose is needed.

“We don’t have plenty of J&J vaccines, and that is a problem for us because there are communities that are very hard to get back to a second time,” Crisp said. No doses were delivered in May and June and only 1.5 million were in July, Crisp said. South Africa has agreed to buy 31 million. 

Harvard moves some MBA students online 

Harvard Business School moved its first-year MBA students to remote learning this week amid a “steady rise” in infections in students, despite high vaccination rates and frequent testing. Remote learning will be in place for this week and the school asked all students to eliminate unmasked indoor activities.

UK doctors seek priority access to fuel 

Healthcare workers should get priority access to fuel as the UK’s shortage continues, according to a trade union representing doctors. The British Medical Association stressed the importance of fuel for both emergency and essential workers, stating that it not only affects travelling to work, but work itself. It said there’s a “real risk” that National Health Service staff would be unable to do their jobs and provide vital services.

Indonesia takes steps to avoid new variants 

Indonesia said it’s taking steps to reduce the possibility of any new variants entering the country, including restricting arrivals from places with high infections, such as Turkey and the US. Flight arrivals will be better managed to avoid crowding at airports.

The government is preparing to reopen Bali’s Nusa Dua, Sanur and Gianyar beaches during a trial phase in a decision to be made this week, Tourism Minister Sandiaga Uno said earlier. Fully vaccinated foreign tourists who test negative for coronavirus will first be quarantined at facilities to be set up in Sanur, Ubud and Nusa Dua. The government said a new Covid variant is inevitable and it’s anticipating the next wave of outbreak in November and December. 

Japan to lift Covid State of Emergency 

The Japanese government will end the coronavirus State of Emergency covering Tokyo and 18 other prefectures on September 30. 

Daily coronavirus cases have been steadily coming down in Japan since its peak in mid-August when it saw more than 25,000 cases, according to data compiled by public broadcaster NHK. The cases dropped to 2,134 on Sunday.

Pakistan makes arrests over fake certificates 

Authorities in Pakistan arrested more than 40 people for issuing fake vaccination certificates. The arrests took place over the past month and a half, said Sanaullah Abbasi, director-general at Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency.

Ho Chi Minh City plans to ease lockdown 

The People’s Committee of Ho Chi Minh City issued a draft plan to ease restrictions from October 1, news website Zing reported. The city may allow factories in some industrial parks to reopen with the requirement of testing workers every seven days. The draft also allows people with at least one shot or who have recovered from the virus to travel in the city.

AstraZeneca-Sputnik protection study 

A combination of the AstraZeneca and Sputnik Light vaccines provides “strong” protection against Covid-19, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, AstraZeneca and R-Pharm said in a joint statement, citing a study conducted in Azerbaijan.

Neutralising antibodies to the spike protein of the coronavirus increased by at least fourfold in 85% of the volunteers on the 57th day of the study, according to the statement. It cited an interim analysis based on data collected from the first 20 participants in the study.

Singapore extends aviation workforce support 

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore said wage support will be extended for six months. It will cost the government about S$130- million ($96-million) and benefit more than 100 companies.

The authority said passenger traffic movement at Singapore’s Changi Airport was at 3.6% of pre-Covid levels as of September 2021.

Thailand to reopen regions, including Bangkok  

Thailand’s government is reopening 10 more provinces, including Bangkok, for vaccinated foreign tourists from November 1. The mandatory quarantine period for vaccinated travellers will be cut to seven days from 14, the government said in a statement.

More places and businesses, including theatres and nail salons, will be allowed to reopen from October 1, the government said. A nighttime curfew will be shortened by one hour, it said.

Taiwan eases restrictions 

Taiwan will allow some recreational facilities, including karaoke and video game venues, to resume operation conditionally from October 5, according to a statement from Taiwan Centers for Disease Control. The easing comes as Taiwan reported zero new daily infections.

Partition or separated seating at the venues is required, and no dining will be allowed. Bars and nightclubs will remain shut.

New Zealand’s pilot programme for travellers 

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said a small pilot programme will begin soon to trial self-isolation for returning international travelers.

Those arriving in New Zealand are allowed to isolate at home for 14 days as an alternative for managed isolation. The programme will be capped at 150 people and focus on those required to travel for work. Participants must be New Zealand citizens and residents and fully vaccinated.

China infections are tailing off 

China reported 16 infections on Monday, as the spread of the Delta variant appears to be tailing off. The cluster in southeastern province Fujian dwindled to two cases, all in Xiamen, a city of 5.2 million and a manufacturing hub for electric components that was placed under lockdown following detection of cases in early September.

The northeastern city of Harbin reported 13 infections, including two asymptomatic cases, while a smaller city in the north called Suihua reported one infection, raising concern that the virus is spreading within the broader Heilongjiang Province. DM

– With assistance from Shinhye Kang, Dong Lyu, Zulfugar Agayev, Catherine Larkin and Vincent Del Giudice.


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