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BioNTech sees need for new vaccine by mid-2022; South A...

Covid-19

CORONAVIRUS GLOBAL UPDATE

BioNTech sees need for new vaccine by mid-2022; South Africa registers 809 new cases

Simon Ntsiman gets his vaccination shot at the FF Robeiro Clinic at Sammy Marks Square vaccination site in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Alet Pretorius)
By Bloomberg
03 Oct 2021 0

South Africa registered 809 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 2,906,422. A further 27 Covid-19-related deaths were reported, taking total official deaths to 87,780. A total of 17,875,187 people have been vaccinated.

BioNTech Chief Executive Officer Ugur Sahin, whose company developed the first Covid-19 vaccine along with Pfizer, said a new formula will probably be needed by mid-2022 to protect against future virus mutations, the Financial Times reported.

Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said the US is turning the corner on its latest surge in cases. He urged more Americans to get vaccinated after the country’s pandemic death toll passed 700,000. UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid told nursing home workers they need to get vaccinated or find another job.

Indonesia’s daily death count dropped to the lowest level in more than a year, while Russian daily deaths rose to a record. New Zealand placed its fourth-largest city in lockdown. 

Key developments 

  • Global Virus Tracker: Cases top 234.6 million; deaths near 4.8 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 6.33 billion shots given
  • Vaccine mandates hit amid historic health-care staff shortage
  • BlackRock return-to-office pilot programme starts next month
  • How Covid is transforming a $380-billion luxury fashion industry
  • Restaurants’ fragile recovery is fizzling in the US.

US one-day vaccination number exceeds one million 

Daily vaccinations in the US topped one million on Saturday for the first time in several weeks, helped by vaccine requirements and people getting booster shots, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain said on Twitter.

The number includes 363,000 newly vaccinated people and 545,000 additional doses or boosters, according to Cyrus Shahpar, the White House director of Covid-19 data.

More than five million boosters have been completed in the US, Klain said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention backed booster doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for certain groups of adults, including everyone 65 and older and long-term care residents, on September 24.   

Fauci says US is turning the corner 

More people need to get vaccinated to keep infections on a declining trend, infectious disease specialist Anthony Fauci said. He also said that while the full-vaccination rate has reached 55%, the key risk is the 70 million eligible people in the US who haven’t got a shot.

“We certainly are turning the corner on this particular surge,” Fauci said on ABC’s This Week on Sunday. “The way to keep it down, to make that turnaround continue to go down, is to do what we mentioned: get vaccinated.”

Lufthansa adds flights, sees rising leisure demand 

Deutsche Lufthansa is adding more than 80 flights from Frankfurt and over 50 departures from Munich this autumn. The carrier will offer extra flights to Spain’s Palma de Mallorca, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Malaga, and to other European destinations, during the country’s autumn vacation period, it said in a statement on Sunday. Spain is in particularly high demand, it added. Lufthansa already added additional business-focused flights within Germany. 

Indonesia deaths lowest in a year  

Indonesia said daily deaths from the virus fell to the lowest in more than a year, as the country reported improved testing and vaccination coverage. 

The nation added 58 fatalities in the past 24 hours, the fewest since August 17 last year. And it recorded 1,142 additional cases, the lowest since 29 June  2020, suggesting deaths, which come on a lag, may be headed even lower. 

BioNTech sees new vaccine need next year 

Ugur Sahin, co-founder and chief executive officer of Germany’s BioNTech, which developed the first Covid-19 vaccine together with Pfizer, said new strains will emerge that can evade booster shots and the body’s immune defences, requiring the development of updated vaccine formulas.

“This year [a different vaccine] is completely unneeded, but by mid-next year, it could be a different situation,” the Financial Times quoted him as saying in an interview. “This is a continuous evolution, and that evolution has just started.”

Russian death count rises to record 

Russia recorded its highest daily death count to date, with 890 people dying from the virus in the past 24 hours.

The country has suffered the fifth-highest number of Covid-19 infections since the pandemic began, with a mortality rate of almost 2.8%.

Singapore minister vows clearer virus messaging 

Singapore authorities need to do a better job communicating the country’s virus strategy, a minister said, addressing residents’ frustrations over confusing signals on the financial hub’s reopening plan.

The country has shifted its approach from Covid elimination to trying to live with the virus, yet authorities have tightened restrictions on gatherings, restaurants and businesses even after pledging more freedoms. Officials need to improve the messaging on how their actions relate to the country’s goals to avoid confusion, said Josephine Teo, the minister for communications and information.

Malaysia eyes border reopening in December 

Malaysia is looking to reopen its borders to foreign travel in December once 90% of its adult population is fully vaccinated, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob told local media.

An accelerated vaccine roll-out has allowed the government to gradually ease restrictions. As of Saturday, 87.2% of the adult population had been fully vaccinated, officials said on Twitter on Sunday. Meanwhile, 94.3% of the adult population had received the first dose.

New rules for Sydney businesses 

Australia’s New South Wales state, which includes Sydney, issued new guidelines for businesses, saying they will be responsible for taking reasonable measures to stop unvaccinated people entering their premises.

Businesses may face spot fines of $5,000 if they don’t comply, said Brad Hazzard, the state’s health minister. The state recorded 667 new cases on Sunday, a slowdown from 813 recorded on Saturday.

Hong Kong plans to procure Covid pill 

Hong Kong is in the process of securing an experimental Covid-19 pill that manufacturers claim reduces the risk of hospitalisation or death by 50%, the South China Morning Post reported.

The city’s health authorities are planning to buy hundreds of courses of the antiviral medication after the manufacturers, Merck, ­released promising results from their trials, according to the report.

New Zealand locks down city 

New Zealand placed its fourth-largest city into a snap lockdown after two cases of Covid-19 were reported outside Auckland, where an outbreak of the infectious Delta variant continues to fester.

The nation will require all non-citizens aged 17 and over arriving in the country to be fully vaccinated from November 1, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said. All arrivals will still be required to complete 14 days in quarantine.

Air New Zealand said it would require international travellers to be fully vaccinated starting in February. Australia’s national carrier, Qantas Airways, will only carry inoculated passengers on international flights when it restarts trips out of Sydney to destinations including London and Los Angeles on November 14.

Alaska invokes crisis care at 20 hospitals 

Alaska invoked emergency crisis-care protocols at 20 hospitals, which allows for rationing medical care in what is now the US state hardest-hit by the virus. The declaration includes several facilities that have already adopted the standards.

The standards give decision-making guidance to hospitals battling with a shortage of resources, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services said in a statement. Challenges include limited bed availability, staff and oxygen supplies, it said.

Thailand to begin student vaccinations 

Thailand will start administering vaccines to millions of students aged 12-18 starting on Monday as authorities push to reopen schools next month. An estimated 3.6 million students, or 72% of the nation’s total, may receive Pfizer-BioNTech shots during the first phase of the vaccination drive, according to an official statement.

Thailand has relaxed most of the virus curbs and is on track to waive a mandatory quarantine for inoculated visitors starting next month as new Covid cases and deaths decline. The tourism-reliant Southeast Asian nation on Sunday reported 10,828 new cases and 77 deaths in the past 24 hours. The single-day fatalities were the lowest since July 16, government data showed.

Australian Open set to require vaccinations 

The Australian Open is likely to require players taking part in the tournament in January to be vaccinated, The Age reported on Sunday, citing unidentified people in sports and government.

Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley is resigned to a requirement for players to be inoculated and is cooperating with the state government, the newspaper said, citing the people. Tiley had initially resisted the requirement on concern it would deter vaccine-hesitant champion Novak Djokovic and other top players, according to the newspaper.

Oregon provider puts unvaccinated staff on leave 

A major health provider in Oregon and Washington State said it was putting almost 800 workers on administrative leave for refusing to be vaccinated, the Oregonian reported. Legacy Health had required the employees to be fully vaccinated by September 30. They will be fired on October 19 if they continue to decline the shots, though they can return if they decide to get vaccinated. 

Legacy said on Friday that as a result of staff shortages it would have to close or consolidate some services, the newspaper reported.

UK to end most travel quarantine 

The UK will abolish quarantine for almost all countries, the Sunday Telegraph reported.

The current “red list” of 54 countries will be slashed to as few as nine. The changes, which are expected to be announced on Thursday, will allow travellers to visit those countries without having to isolate on their return.

South Africa, Brazil and Mexico are expected to be opened up to quarantine-free travel in time for the October half-term break for schools. 

Biden mourns 700,000 deaths, urges vaccination 

President Joe Biden marked the “painful milestone” of 700,000 US deaths from Covid-19, saying it’s a reminder for Americans to get vaccinated. He said “we must not become numb to the sorrow”.

“On this day, and every day, we remember all those we have lost to this pandemic and we pray for their loved ones left behind who are missing a piece of their soul,” Biden said in a statement. “As we do, the astonishing death toll is yet another reminder of just how important it is to get vaccinated.”

Ron Klain, Biden’s chief of staff, focused on what he said are the practical benefits of vaccine mandates, which are coming into effect around the US. He tweeted a list of nursing homes in New York and how mandates had prompted almost full compliance.  

UK gives nursing home workers ultimatum 

UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid told nursing home workers they needed to get vaccinated against Covid-19 or find another job. The government has given care home workers until November 11 to get the vaccine or risk losing their jobs. 

In an interview with the BBC’s Radio 4, Javid said he wasn’t prepared to “pause” the requirement, adding that if you work in a nursing home and “cannot be bothered to go and get vaccinated, then get out and go and get another job.” 

Nadra Ahmed, National Care Association chairman, told the BBC her organisation was making progress in persuading workers to get vaccinated. 

Currently about 86% of nursing home workers have got the shot. Without an extension to the deadline, the consequences for care homes will be severe, she told the BBC. DM 

– With assistance from Thomas Kutty Abraham and Ainsley Thomson.

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