Covid-19

CORONAVIRUS GLOBAL UPDATE

Delta Air reports spike in global travel bookings; South Africa registers 319 new cases

Delta Air reports spike in global travel bookings; South Africa registers 319 new cases
A Romanian man is connected to oxygen supply while a computer screen (background) displays his health parameters inside the Covid section of Bucharest Emergency University Hospital, in Bucharest, Romania, on 4 November 2021. (Photo: EPA-EFE / ROBERT GHEMENT)

South Africa registered 319 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 2,923,054. A further 31 Covid-19-related deaths were reported, taking total official deaths to 89,251. A total of 22,965,123 people have been vaccinated.

Delta Air Lines said its international bookings surged 450% in the six weeks since the US announced it was reopening to fully vaccinated travellers from abroad. At home, the US will be requiring Covid-19 politically contentious vaccinations or at least weekly testing by January 4 for workers at companies with 100 or more employees. 

US new cases rose 1% in the latest weekly trend, while hospital admissions and deaths linked to Covid-19 are declining, according to latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. The World Health Organization warned European governments to fight back against a surge in cases on the continent that has pushed the region back to the pandemic’s epicentre.   

The UK became the first country to approve Merck’s Covid-19 antiviral pill.

Key developments 

Delta Air says international bookings are surging 

Delta Air Lines said its international point-of-sale bookings increased 450% compared with the six weeks preceding a US announcement on reopening travel.

Many international flights are expected to operate at 100% capacity on Monday, the first day of the reopening, the airline said in a statement. The White House said on September 20 that the US would reopen to travellers from countries including much of Europe, China, Brazil and India.

US cases rise 1% in CDC’s weekly count  

US cases increased by 1.1% during the week through Tuesday compared with the preceding seven days, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. Covid-related deaths as a share of population on the county level fell 6.8% in the same period. 

Hospital admissions for Covid-19 fell 7.6% through Monday on a rolling weekly basis. Intensive-care unit utilisation for Covid patients nationwide fell to 15% from 16% a week earlier, the CDC reported on Thursday.

Moderna loses best-performer spot in S&P 500  

Moderna lost its place as the best performing stock on the S&P 500 Index after lowering its forecast for 2021 Covid-19 vaccine sales.

The biotech’s stock sank as much as 20%, the biggest drop since May 2020. The UK’s approval of Merck’s Covid-19 antiviral pill also hit Moderna’s shares. The company now expects sales of $15-billion to $18-billion, down from $20-billion expected earlier this year. 

WHO warns on pandemic 

The case surge in Europe despite its access to vaccinations should be a warning for the world, a World Health Organization official said at a media briefing on Thursday.

Amid a wrong perception that the pandemic is moving toward the end, governments may be hesitant to make moves that seem like steps backward to their populations, according to Mike Ryan, head of the WHO’s health emergencies programme.

“Every country needs to look at its strategic preparedness and response plan and look at the gaps in the system that exist right now and plug those holes,” Ryan said. 

“Every country needs to ensure they can get through the next few months without systems going into collapse again. In many countries, that will require a course correction and a real focus on ensuring every person has had full vaccination.”

Eiffel Tower tourists return 

A return of US tourists helped bump up the number of visitors to Paris’s Eiffel Tower to pre-Covid-19 levels last month, Agence France-Presse reported, citing the landmark’s operator, Sete.

The number of visitors in October topped 20,000 a day and was “better than in 2019 on the weekends”, AFP cited Sete as saying. Over the summer, the site received about 13,000 visitors a day, compared with 25,000 before the health crisis as the numbers were capped by health restrictions – including a 50% limit on the number of people allowed in elevators.

Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine effective, South African medical aid study shows 

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine helps prevent severe disease among those infected with the Delta variant, according to research involving 1.2 million medical insurance plan members in South Africa.

Two weeks after the first dose, the Pfizer vaccine is 73% effective in protecting against hospital admission. Waiting the same period after the second shot raises that to 92%. Unvaccinated members had a five times higher risk of infection and 20 times the risk of dying from complications of an infection.

New daily high infections in Greece 

Greece recorded a new high of daily Covid-19 cases on Thursday, reporting 6,808 infections in the past 24 hours, the most since the beginning of the pandemic. It was the fourth record high in the last five days, while the government announced on Tuesday a number of restrictive measures targeting the unvaccinated people. 

Greece will on Friday open the platform for everyone above 18 years old to get their booster shot, provided that it has been at least six months since the second one.

New York Governor Hochul gives hope on mask removal

New York Governor Kathy Hochul, speaking on Thursday at an AARP event with City & State, said she is in favour of getting rid of school mask mandates when the time is right.

“I do want to give parents and kids that sense of hope,” she said. “This is not a permanent situation, the mask will come off.”

Hochul said she and the state would continue to work on creative ways to encourage families to get their children vaccinated. There’s no “magic number” on how many children need to be vaccinated before the mask mandates are lifted, Hochul said. “I’ll be waiting for the CDC to help us declare when this is over.”

NYC dangles $100 incentive for kids 

New York City began offering shots for 5- to 11-year-olds on Thursday at city-run sites, where kids are eligible for a $100 incentive, Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a briefing.

Next week, each public school with students in the age group will have a vaccine site for at least one day, the mayor said. When asked what threshold of vaccinations will be needed for schools to drop mask requirements, De Blasio said that out of an abundance of caution, schools will keep masking at least in the short term.

The city has ordered about 330,000 doses that have either arrived or will be coming in the next few days, Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi said. 

De Blasio also addressed the city worker vaccine mandate, saying firehouses are all open and response times are normal. On Thursday morning, four units were out of service, fewer than the amount the fire department typically sees, Commissioner Daniel Nigro said.

Latvia rules on vaccine hesitancy 

The Latvian Parliament backed law amendments on Thursday that enable employers to dismiss employees if they refuse to get inoculated against Covid-19. If an employee fails to get a required Covid-19 shot in three months after suspension from work, an employer will have the right to terminate a contract immediately and to offer the employee one month’s severance pay

Poland reports surge in infections

Poland reported more than 15,000 cases, a 59% rise compared to last week. The number of hospitalised people rose by 39% in a week, with the most serious situation in lower-vaccinated eastern regions as well as Warsaw, where hospitals are becoming crammed. The government will discuss whether to impose any new restrictions on Friday.

EU panel weighs Astra booster 

AstraZeneca is submitting a data package to the European Medicines Agency today that could support the use of its Covid-19 vaccine as a booster shot, according to Marco Cavaleri, the head of biological health threats and vaccines strategy. The EMA will discuss with the company whether the data are sufficient or more evidence is needed to conclude whether it can be approved as a booster.

US vaccine deadline issued for workers 

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a federal rule mandating Covid-19 vaccinations or at least weekly testing for workers at US companies with 100 or more employees.

The first compliance deadline for employers – providing time off for workers to get inoculated and ensuring those who aren’t vaccinated are wearing masks – is December 5. Workers must be fully vaccinated by January 4 or submit to testing. 

Europe is Covid epicentre 

The World Health Organization warned that a surge of coronavirus cases in Europe and Central Asia pushed the region back as the epicentre of the pandemic.

There are now 78 million cases in the European region, which is more than infections reported in Southeast Asia, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Western Pacific and Africa combined. Last week, Europe and Central Asia accounted for almost half of the world’s reported deaths from Covid-19. 

Moderna lowers vaccine sales forecast  

Moderna shares slid after the company lowered its forecast for 2021 Covid-19 vaccine sales. Moderna now sees sales of $15-billion to $18-billion, down from $20-billion expected earlier this year. 

Merck’s Covid pill wins UK approval 

Britain’s regulator became the first in the world to approve Merck’s Covid-19 antiviral pill, describing the treatment as safe and effective following a swift review.

The drug, molnupiravir, was authorised for use in people with mild to moderate Covid and at least one risk factor for developing severe illness, the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency said on Thursday. DM

With assistance from Iain Rogers, Corinne Gretler, Konrad Krasuski, Keshia Clukey, Elaine Chen, Sotiris Nikas, Janice Kew and Greg Chang.

Gallery

"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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