Covid-19

CORONAVIRUS GLOBAL UPDATE

New York orders 380,100 paediatric doses; South Africa registers 472 new cases

New York orders 380,100 paediatric doses; South Africa registers 472 new cases
A man receives the Covid-19 vaccination at Meadowlands Vaccination Site on 27 October 2021 in Soweto, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Papi Morake)

South Africa registered 472 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 2,920,581. A further 62 Covid-19-related deaths were reported, taking total official deaths to 89,049. A total of 21,924,915 people have been vaccinated.

Novavax filed for authorisation of its vaccine in the UK, and Merck reached a licensing agreement aimed at widening access to its promising pill treatment. Health advocates hope the pact will spur other pharmaceutical companies to act.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is concerned about the latest increase in German infections and the burden that may place on hospitals. Ireland, Spain and the United Arab Emirates topped Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking. Southeast Asian countries continue to rank lowest. 

US President Joe Biden plans to provide Southeast Asia with more funding, and Australia is donating more vaccine doses. Singapore’s health ministry said an additional 100 beds in intensive care units will be ready next week. 

Key developments 

Governor warns of California winter surge 

California Governor Gavin Newsom, who received Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine in April, got Moderna’s shot as a booster on Wednesday. He urged eligible residents to get boosters as soon as possible, warning of the prospects of a winter surge in virus cases.

He pointed to data last year, when California had a relatively low case rate in October, only to see infections triple in November and again in December.

“This is an incredibly important time,” he said at a press briefing on Wednesday. “We know the ticket out of this pandemic is getting these booster shots and getting the unvaccinated vaccinated. And we still have more work to do.”

New York orders 380,100 paediatric doses 

New York is gearing up to vaccinate younger children as soon as federal guidance is available, Governor Kathy Hochul said. US Food and Drug Administration approval of Pfizer’s vaccine for children could come this week.

The state has ordered 380,100 paediatric doses for children aged five to 11, and has been working with paediatricians, pharmacies and schools to prepare for the vaccination effort, Hochul said at a Covid briefing on Wednesday. “This is really a breakthrough.”

Nearly 350 school districts will hold vaccination events, and 390 districts have said they’ll send out vaccine communications, Hochul said. 

Hochul appointed Emily Lutterloh, the state’s director of epidemiology, to lead the state’s effort to vaccinate children. 

For the 900,994 children aged 12 to 15 years old who are already eligible, 63.6% have received at least one dose, according to state data. The overall first-dose vaccination level for New Yorkers age 18 and older is 86.8%.

New Jersey set to begin child vaccines after approval 

New Jersey will be prepared to vaccinate younger children as soon as approval is granted, Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said.

The state has 760,000 five- to 11-year-olds and has pre-ordered 205,000 paediatric Pfizer doses. All 21 counties will have sites ready to vaccinate children, Persichilli said on Wednesday.

For children 12-17 who are already eligible, 62.3% have received at least one dose. The rate is lower – 57% – for the younger 12 to 15-year subset, and higher – 71% –for 16- and 17-year-olds, according to Persichilli. The overall first-dose vaccination level for eligible New Jerseyans is about 75%.

German parties agree on milder virus rules 

The three parties negotiating to form Germany’s next government agreed to end emergency pandemic legislation that empowers regional authorities to close schools, limit travel or ban cultural events. The agreement means the legislation will expire at the end of next month.

The SPD, Greens and FDP, who are aiming to have their coalition in place at the beginning of December, are counting on milder measures to keep the coronavirus under control, caucus officials said,

“In short, there won’t be another lockdown,” the SPD said in a statement, adding that the goal is to get through the winter “responsibly” and “put the pandemic behind us in the spring”.

Novavax files for authorisation of shot in UK

Novavax applied for authorisation of its Covid-19 vaccine in the UK, the first submission for a protein-based shot against the disease in the region.

The company has completed its rolling submission – an accelerated review of trial and manufacturing data – with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and filed for a conditional marketing licence, Gaithersburg, Maryland-based Novavax said in a statement on Wednesday. The shares rose 13% in US pre-market trading. 

The drugmaker is planning to apply for authorisation in the US by year-end, according to the statement. An application for emergency authorisation from the World Health Organization was made last month.  

Cases climb in Latvia, Poland 

Latvia reported a record 3,206 new cases on Wednesday, as the Baltic country struggles to stop a surge that led to a new lockdown. The government will consider mobilising private doctors to handle increased hospitalisations, and the Latvian doctors society demanded the resignation of Health Minister Daniels Pavluts.

Poland reported 8,361 new cases, a 28% rise from a week earlier and the most since the end of April, as the virus continues to surge across eastern Europe. The government has so far refrained from imposing new restrictions, focusing mainly on boosting hospital capacity.

Hit to employment worse than expected  

The number of working hours lost due to the Covid-19 crisis will be “significantly higher” than projected just a few months ago, according to the International Labor Organization. 

In what it termed a “dramatic revision,” the Geneva-based group now estimates that global hours worked this year will be 4.3% below their pre-pandemic level, the equivalent of 125 million full-time jobs. Africa, the Americas and Arab states were the regions that experienced the biggest declines.

Merkel concerned about latest virus numbers 

Chancellor Angela Merkel is worried about the latest increase in infections in Germany and the burden that may place on the country’s hospitals.

“The question now for the chancellor is at what point we should start talking about new measures,” her chief spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said at a regular news conference. Merkel, who will rule in a caretaker capacity until the next government is formed, is ready to discuss such measures with Germany’s 16 federal states at any time, Seibert added.

Germany recorded more than 23,000 new infections and 114 deaths from the virus on Tuesday, according to the latest data from the RKI public-health institute.

Merck signs pact to expand access to pill 

Merck reached a licensing agreement aimed at widening access to its promising Covid pill, a pact health advocates hope will spur other pharmaceutical companies to act.

The accord with the United Nations-backed Medicines Patent Pool will help make the antiviral therapy available in more than 100 low- and middle-income nations if it gains approval, allowing generic-drug companies to apply for licences to make the experimental drug, according to a statement on Wednesday. 

Best places to be in the pandemic 

The economies that have embraced reopening as vaccinations curbed deaths around the world have become the best places to be in the pandemic in October, with Ireland topping Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking for a second consecutive month. 

Spain and the United Arab Emirates round out the top three. Southeast Asian countries continue to rank lowest, with Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines in the bottom six for the third month.

But the looming northern hemisphere winter, along with loosening Covid curbs globally, will test the strategy of vaccinated reopening. Already, places like Ireland, the UK and Belgium are seeing a worrying uptick in cases as the weather cools. DM

– With assistance from Fiona Rutherford, Mary Schlangenstein, Tim Smith, Iain Rogers, Milda Seputyte, Sri Taylor, Keshia Clukey and Kara Wetzel.

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"Information pertaining to Covid-19, vaccines, how to control the spread of the virus and potential treatments is ever-changing. Under the South African Disaster Management Act Regulation 11(5)(c) it is prohibited to publish information through any medium with the intention to deceive people on government measures to address COVID-19. We are therefore disabling the comment section on this article in order to protect both the commenting member and ourselves from potential liability. Should you have additional information that you think we should know, please email [email protected]"

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