Coronavirus: A timeline of how the deadly outbreak is evolving
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Coronavirus: A timeline of how the deadly COVID-19 outbreak is evolving

9:12 am

Coronavirus company news summary – Canada signs agreements with Merck and Pfizer for Covid-19 treatments – Australia green lights Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for 5-11 age group

The Government of Canada has signed agreements to purchase Covid-19 oral antiviral treatments from Merck and Pfizer. Under the deal, Merck will deliver 500,000 courses of molnupiravir to Canada with options for up to 500,000 additional courses, subject to Health Canada approval. Meanwhile, Pfizer will deliver an initial quantity of 1 million courses of its Covid-19 oral antiviral treatment, subject to Health Canada authorisation. Earlier this week, Pfizer submitted a rolling submission with Health Canada for its oral pill.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), the medicine regulator in Australia, has approved Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine COMIRNATY for children aged between 5 and 11. The vaccine should be administered in two doses at least three weeks apart. However, a lower dose of 10 micrograms using a different orange-capped vial will be given to children within the age group. TGA approved the COMIRNATY vaccine for 12 years and older on 22 July 2021. Subsequently, it green lighted a booster dose for adults above 18 years of age.

Bavarian Nordic has reported positive topline results from the Phase II clinical trial of its non-adjuvanted Covid-19 vaccine candidate ABNCoV2. An assessment found that a booster shot of the vaccine candidate increased existing SARS-CoV-2 neutralising antibodies in participating individuals. The increase was based on the initial levels of antibodies in the individuals. The study, which enrolled 103 adult subjects, observed no adverse events.

7:44 am

International update: Existing Covid-19 vaccines may be less effective against Omicron variant – Hoge

6 December

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5.2 million, with a figure of 5,255,967 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections passed 265 million world wide.

Omicron latest

Moderna Inc. President Stephen Hoge said there’s a clear risk that existing Covid-19 vaccines will be less effective against the Omicron variant, though it’s too early to say by how much.

An updated formulation would be probably be needed if effectiveness is shown to drop by something like half, Hoge said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.

“I think that there’s a real risk that we’re going to see a decrease in the effectiveness of the vaccines,” Hoge said. “What I don’t know is how substantial that is.”

Hong Kong: The Omicron variant spread among two fully vaccinated travellers across the hallway of a Hong Kong quarantine hotel, underscoring why the highly mutated coronavirus strain is unnerving health authorities. Closed-circuit television camera footage showed neither person left their room nor had any contact, leaving airborne transmission when respective doors were opened for food collection or Covid testing the most probable mode of spread, researchers at the University of Hong Kong said in a study published Friday in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Denmark: Denmark reported a “concerning” jump to 183 total Omicron strain cases. The country has a highly developed sequencing regime but the surge is still worrying for its speed.

US: The Omicron variant is now present in at least 15 US states, CDC director Rochelle Walensky said on Sunday. Initial data from South Africa, the epicenter of the outbreak of the Omicron variant, are “a bit encouraging regarding the severity,” Anthony Fauci said on Sunday. “Thus far, it does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to it,” Fauci, US President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “But we’ve really got to be careful before we make any determinations.” He added that existing vaccines may provide “a considerable degree” of protection against the variant.

South Africa: Initial data from a major hospital complex in South Africa’s Omicron epicenter show that while Covid-19 case numbers have surged, patients need less medical intervention.

UK: The UK reported a total 246 Omicron cases, alongside 43,992 infections and 54 deaths, as ministers were told by one government scientific advisor it’s already too late to suppress Omicron with restrictions. The UK’s NHS will be in a “very, very difficult position” if the Omicron variant were to lead to a surge in hospital admissions in the UK, the president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine has warned.

India: States in India updated Covid death statistics, inflating the daily death tally to its highest rate since 21 July. Bihar state added 2,426 unrecorded deaths and Kerala added 263 deaths. The country confirmed a total 12 Omicron cases.

Tunisia: A first Omicron case has been detected in Tunisia.

Thailand: A US citizen who arrived in Thailand from Spain is suspected to be the first case of the Omicron variant in the Southeast Asian nation, according to the Ministry of Health.

Australia: Australia’s New South Wales state said genome sequencing has confirmed an additional nine Omicron cases contracted from an outbreak in Sydney’s western suburbs, bringing the number of locally acquired infections to 14. Including international arrivals, the state — home to Sydney — has now found 25 cases of the variant, none of which have been admitted to the hospital for treatment, health officials said in a statement Monday.


US: Covid -19 infections have passed 49 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 788,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.


Belium: Protests against Covid restictions in Brussels, Belgium bubbled over into violent clashes between demonstrators and police for the second time in two weeks. Police fired tear gas and water cannon while protestors threw cobblestones.

Italy: Italy reported 15,021 new Covid cases, 16% up from 12,927 on the same day last week.

Poland: Poland detected 22,389 positive Covid infections in the past 24 hours, rising 9% on the 20,574 new cases on Sunday last week. The country recorded its worst death tally, at 570, since April on Wednesday.

Russia: Russia confirmed October was its deadliest month in decades after spiking cases. The wave has since reduced but remains high, with a further 1,206 people dying from Covid-related causes on Sunday alongside another 32,602 infections.

France: France recorded 42,252 new Covid infections in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said, a percentage change of 188% from the 14,646 cases recorded on Sunday three weeks ago. Ministers continue to see vaccination, not lockdowns, as the route out the current wave.

Germany: Germany will introduce mandatory Covid vaccines for healthcare workers by 16 March, according to draft legislation seen by Reuters, as the new government led by incoming chancellor Olaf Scholz seeks to suppress Germany’s surging cases with jabs, not lockdowns.


Australia: Australia’s Queensland state will reopen its border to the rest of the nation ahead of schedule next Monday as more than 80% of the eligible population will be fully vaccinated later this week, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk told reporters Monday.  Fully vaccinated travelers will need to have received a negative test within the 72 hours prior to arriving, while those that haven’t been inoculated must arrive by air and spend 14 days in hotel quarantine. The border was due to reopen on 17 December.

China: China’s top health expert identified two conditions for the country to return to “normality” and maintained that it should stick to a Covid Zero policy in battling Omicron, the state-backed Global Times reported. Prerequisites for getting back to normal include Covid fatalities needing to fall to a rate of 0.1% similar to the flu’s, said Zhong Nanshan, who heads China’s Covid task force, according to the paper.  The virus’s reproduction rate — a measure of how many people one patient can transmit the virus to — also needs to remain within a range of 1 to 1.5, according to Zhong.

Singapore: Singapore will open Covid vaccinations for children aged 5 to 11 “soon,” according to Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, a co-chair of the country’s task force on handling the virus.

Japan: A Japanese poll found that close to 90% of respondents backed Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s move to suspend new entry by foreigners amid Omicron worries.

Middle-east and Africa

South Africa: South Africa’s MTN will implement a mandatory vaccination policy for staff from January and said it was prepared to fire workers who don’t comply, the biggest African company yet to say it’s willing to axe non-inoculated employees. MTN, Africa’s largest mobile phone company, recognizes the right of employees to apply to be exempted from the policy or refuse vaccination on certain clearly defined grounds, it said.

11:21 am

International update: Risk of reinfection from Omicron three times higher than any other variant

3 December

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5.2 million, with a figure of 5,237,087 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections passed 264 million world wide.

Omicron latest

The risk of reinfection from the Omicron coronavirus variant is three times higher than for any previous variant, according to a South African study of infections since the start of the pandemic. The finding provides evidence of Omicron’s “ability to evade immunity from prior infection,” according to the authors, Juliet Pulliam of the South African Center for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis and Harry Moultrie of the National Center for Communicable Diseases.

South Africa: The Omicron coronavirus variant is spreading faster in the Gauteng province, the epicenter of the latest outbreak in South Africa, than the delta strain or any of the earlier mutations, an adviser to the provincial government said. There is the “strongest acceleration in community transmission ever seen in South Africa,” Bruce Mellado, the adviser, said in a presentation on Thursday. This is “consistent with dominance of a variant that is more transmissible,” he said.

Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe has identified its first case of the Omicron variant, a day after announcing a 10-day mandatory quarantine of all travelers entering the country. President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Wednesday announced rules imposing quarantine on all travelers entering the country, including returning residents. Hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans who work and live in neighboring South Africa, which was first to disclose detection of the new variant, are expected to travel home over Christmas.

Singapore: Singapore has detected two imported cases who tested preliminary positive for the Omicron variant, after both individuals arrived on a flight from Johannesburg. They were isolated upon arrival in the island state on 1 December and had not interacted in the community. Both individuals, who tested negative during their pre-departure tests, are fully vaccinated and have mild symptoms.

US: California is reporting its second confirmed case of the Omicron variant in as many days. Hawaii says it detected a case in an unvaccinated Hawaii resident with no recent travel history. New York reported five cases. Colorado has confirmed its first case of the Omicron variant, in an adult female resident who had recently traveled to South Africa, according to a statement from state officials. A Minnesota man who recently visited New York City for a crowded anime convention has tested positive for the Omicron variant. “We should assume there is community spread of the variant in our city,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday in a statement.

Finland: Finland confirmed its first case of the Omicron variant on a person who had returned from Sweden.

Greece: Greece has found its first case of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, Health Minister Thanos Plevris told reporters Thursday. The case was detected on the island of Crete in a Greek citizen who had arrived from southern Africa he said.

Norway: Oslo is heading back to working from home and using face masks after an outbreak at a Christmas party raised the prospect of a jump in Omicron variant infections. Home office will now be required for part of the week in Norway’s capital and 21 other municipalities, while face masks must be worn in shops, public transport, bars and restaurants, Health and Care Services Minister Ingvild Kjerkol told reporters on Thursday. Bars will have to serve customers at tables, guests will need to register to receive notices of infection exposure and limits will be placed on events held inside.

India: India confirmed two cases of the Omicron variant in the southern state of Karnataka, home to the nation’s Silicon Valley. The two infected individuals have mild symptoms and are males aged 66 and 46, Lav Agarwal, a senior health ministry official, told reporters at a Thursday briefing in New Delhi, without elaborating.


US: Covid -19 infections have passed 48.8 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 785,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Omicron is stealing most of the attention, but it’s the Delta variant that’s pressuring the US health-care system. The seven-day average of hospital admissions with confirmed Covid-19 has climbed 18% in the past two weeks to 6,691, the highest since 13 October, according to US Department of Health and Human Services data. The numbers are ticking higher in 39 states and the nation’s capital.

President Joe Biden called on health providers to expand the availability of vaccines and booster shots, aiming to combat a winter surge of infections — and hold off the new Omicron variant. Biden outlined a new strategy to curb the pandemic in a speech at the National Institutes of Health on Thursday, with cases rising in several states. He said his administration would also make free home Covid tests more available by requiring insurers to pay for them and “accelerate efforts to vaccinate the rest of the world.” “My plan I’m announcing today pulls no punches in the fight against Covid-19,” he said.

Illinois’s one-day Covid-19 case count nearly doubled, according to data reported Thursday on the state department of public health website. The state reported 11,524 probable and confirmed cases on Thursday, up from 6,119 the day before and the highest number since December 2020. The jump in cases is accompanied by “a record high number of tests across the entire pandemic” and a higher test positivity rate, according to an emailed statement from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

New York state reported 11,300 new Covid-19 cases, the most since January, as dozens of hospitals neared capacity.


Germany: Germany is reporting a further 74,352 new daily Covid cases and 390 deaths, according to recently released figures from the Robert Koch Institute.

Germany imposed nationwide restrictions on people who aren’t vaccinated against Covid-19 and limited attendance at soccer games and other public events to check a brutal surge in infections.

In one of her final acts as chancellor, Angela Merkel held talks with her incoming successor, Olaf Scholz, and Germany’s 16 regional premiers on Thursday, where they agreed on new curbs including allowing only people who are vaccinated or recovered into restaurants, theaters and non-essential stores. The officials also backed a plan to make Covid shots mandatory, saying that the lower house of parliament would vote on it soon. Scholz said he expects the measure to pass.

UK: The UK reported the most new coronavirus cases since before its so-called “Freedom Day” on Thursday, amid fears that the Omicron variant could disrupt the holiday season for another year. A further 53,495 cases were reported, the highest since 17 July, although there have been a handful of days close to that number before today. That’s compared to a 7-day rolling average of about 44,600 new cases a day.


New Zealand: New Zealand’s largest city of Auckland celebrates after emerging from a gruelling 107 days in lockdown.

South Korea: South Korea reports another 4,944 cases of Covid-19 and 34 deaths. The figures are a drop on Thursday’s record of more than 5,200 daily infections as concern grows over the sharp rise in patients with severe symptoms.

China: A continuing outbreak in a Chinese city of Manzhouli on the Russian border has prompted more freight shutdowns as authorities seek to control it. The country reported 96 new Covid cases for 2 December, up from 73 cases a day earlier.

Middle-east and Africa

South Africa: South Africa reports another 11,535 new cases and 44 deaths — a significant jump from Wednesday’s 8,561 new cases, up from 4,373 the day before and 2,273 on Monday.

10:13 am

Coronavirus company news summary – UK approves new Covid-19 treatment Xevudy – EMA begins rolling review of Valneva’s vaccine after positive early data

The UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has approved the use of Xevudy (sotrovimab) for Covid-19 treatment after it was found to reduce hospitalisation and death by 79% in high-risk adults. Developed by GSK and Vir Biotechnology, the monoclonal antibody was approved for use in individuals with mild to moderate Covid-19 with at least one risk factor for developing a severe infection. MHRA recommended the use of sotrovimab within five days of symptom onset.

The human medicines committee of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has initiated a rolling review of Valneva’s Covid-19 vaccine VLA2001. The review was initiated following positive preliminary results received from laboratory studies and early clinical studies in adults. VLA2001 includes inactivated SARS-CoV-2 virus and two adjuvants to trigger an immune response. EMA’s rolling review accelerates assessment of a promising medication.

ARCA biopharma has completed enrolment for a study that seeks to assess rNAPc2 as a potential treatment for hospitalised Covid-19 patients. A total of 160 patients were enrolled in the Phase IIb ASPEN-COVID-19 trial at multiple clinical investigative sites in the US, Argentina and Brazil. In the study, two dose regimens of rNAPc2 will be evaluated versus heparin in hospitalised Covid-19 patients with an elevated D-dimer level. The company is expected to report top-line data of the study in the first quarter of 2022.

10:46 am

International update: US reports first Omicron Covid variant case

2 December

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5.2 million, with a figure of 5,226,923 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections passed 263 million world wide.


US: Covid -19 infections have passed 48.6 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 782,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The US reported its first Omicron case identified in California and discovered in a traveller who returned from South Africa on 22 November and tested positive on 29 November.

The arrival of the highly-mutated Omicron variant in the US shouldn’t cancel end-of-year holiday plans for fully vaccinated Americans, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor said during a CNN Global Town Hall on coronavirus. “If you are vaccinated and your family is vaccinated, enjoy the holidays,” said Anthony Fauci, the head of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “I would not do anything different than what we had recommended,” he said.

US health officials praised a new global agreement to strengthen the world’s readiness for future pandemics. The US will join other nations in a years-long process to negotiate new global rules meant to boost transparency and collaboration in response to health threats.


EU: The EU must consider mandatory vaccination, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said. One-third of Europe’s 150-million population are not vaccinated.

Italy: Italy’s medicines agency Aifa approved the use of the Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE for children aged 5-11. The approval follows that of the European Union’s drugs regulator last month. Two shots will be administered at a three-week interval, and the dosage for kids will be a third of that given to adults and adolescents.

Germany: Germany has reported another 73,209 new Covid cases for Wednesday and 388 deaths, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute.

UK: Ministers in the UK have secured new contracts to buy 114m more Covid-19 vaccines for the next two years.

Greece: Greek lawmakers approved legislation making vaccination for Covid mandatory for all residents aged over 60. Some 17% of Greeks aged over 60 have not yet been vaccinated. They have until 16 January to get their first jabs, or will be fined 100 euros for every month they remain unvaccinated.


South Korea: South Korea has reported a new daily record in Covid cases with 5,266 cases recorded on Wednesday, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

South Korea is considering halting a “gradual return to normal life” and tightening social-distancing rules as infections surge and Omicron cases are detected, DongA Ilbo newspaper reported.

India: India has recorded another 9,765 daily Covid cases and 277 for Wednesday, according to an update from the health ministry.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong’s quarantine is pushing Cathay Pacific pilots to “breaking point” as many seek work elsewhere, AFP reports.

Indonesia: Indonesia is extending quarantine for travelers arriving from overseas to 10 days from 7 days to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant, the leader of the pandemic response in Java and Bali said. The new rule will come into effect Friday.

China: China is reporting 73 new Covid cases for Wednesday, a decrease from the 113 reported Covid cases a day earlier, Reuters reports. China reported 53 new local cases in Inner Mongolia’s Hulunbuir region, while an infection linked to the cluster was detected in Harbin in the country’s northeast, showing it has spread to other provinces.

Harbin city government offered incentives of 10,000 yuan ($1,570) to people who request Covid tests and are found to be infected, aiming to encourage those who might be connected to the Inner Mongolia flareup to report to municipal authorities.

Australia: NSW Health confirmed a traveller has been infected with the Omicron variant, bringing total cases of the variant in the Australian state to seven, according to an emailed statement. The person arrived on flight QR908 from Doha to Sydney on Nov. 23 and is isolating in special health accommodation with family.

Middle-east and Africa

South Africa: The heavily mutated Omicron variant has propelled a sharp rise in Covid cases in South Africa as health experts describe the degree of increase as “worrying”. The variant now accounts for 74% of all the virus genomes sequenced in the nation last month.

South Africa is in talks with Pfizer Inc. and Merck & Co. to gain access to their Covid-19 treatment pills as the Omicron variant spreads across the country and cases almost double. South Africa wants one of them to potentially produce the therapeutics domestically, said Nicholas Crisp, deputy director general in the Department of Health.

UAE: The United Arab Emirates announced its first known case of the new Covid variant Omicron.

10:00 am

Coronavirus company news summary – Moderna to supply additional 60m Covid-19 vaccine doses to UK – Mexico grants emergency use authorisations of Lilly’s Covid-19 antibody treatment

Moderna has signed a revised supply agreement with the UK government to supply up to 60 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine. The company plans to deliver up to 29 million doses next year and up to 31 million doses in 2023. The agreement includes an option that will enable the UK government to increase or decrease purchase volumes by up to 20%. The deal may include authorised booster vaccine candidates.

Cofepris, the health regulator in Mexico, has authorised emergency use of Eli Lilly and Co‘s Covid-19 antibody treatment amid increasing concerns over the new emerging variant Omicron. The treatment, an injectable combination of bamlanivimab and etesevimab, was approved for use on patients above 12 years of age with mild to moderate coronavirus. Patients must weigh at least 40kg to receive the treatment. Previously, Lilly’s Covid-19 antibody treatment was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Belgium is planning to purchase Merck & Co’s Covid-19 antiviral oral pill molnupiravir. Belgian health minister Franck Vandenbroucke was quoted by Reuters as saying that the country plans to buy around 10,000 doses of molnupiravir. He added that Belgium is in favour of a joint procurement by the European nations. Merck developed the Covid-19 antiviral pill jointly with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. Recently, a US FDA panel recommended Merck’s antiviral pill for Covid-19 patients at high risk of developing severe disease.

10:42 am

International update: WHO advises vulnerable, unvaccinated and over 60s against travel

1 December

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5.2 million, with a figure of 5,218,199 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections passed 262.9 million world wide.

The WHO advises vulnerable, unvaccinated and over 60s against travel in a new warning.

The Omicron variant of the coronavirus could lead to more infections among vaccinated people, but they will most likely remain protected from a severe course of illness, Dow Jones reported, based on an interview with the inventor of one of the first Covid-19 vaccines. While the new variant might evade the antibodies generated in reaction to the vaccine, the virus will likely remain vulnerable to immune cells that destroy it once it enters the body, BioNTech SE co-founder Ugur Sahin said.

The University of Oxford said it can quickly update its Covid-19 vaccine if necessary. “Despite the appearance of new variants over the past year, vaccines have continued to provide very high levels of protection against severe disease and there is no evidence so far that Omicron is any different,” the university said.


US: Covid -19 infections have passed 48.5 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 780,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Vir Biotechnology Inc. Chief Executive Officer George Scangos said he expects the company’s Covid-19 antibody treatment, sotrovimab, developed in partnership with GlaxoSmithKline Plc, will be effective against the Omicron variant.

The US is set to toughen testing requirement for all international travellers, including returning Americans and both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, entering the country. US officials will reportedly require everyone entering the country to be tested one day before boarding flights, regardless of their vaccination status or country of departure. The Biden administration is expected to make an official announcement on Thursday.

An expert committee voted to recommend the US Food and Drug Administration authorise Merck’s Covid pill for high-risk adults, the first of a new class of antiviral drug that could tackle Omicron and other variants. The drug, molnupiravir, is likely to be approved for older and more vulnerable people at greater risk of severe illness.

The US Food & Drug Administration says it is evaluating the effectiveness of authorised Covid vaccines against the Omicron variant and expects to have more information in the next few weeks.

Canada: Canada’s mandatory vaccination for travel within and out of the country took effect from 30 November.

Brazil: Brazil reports first Omicron cases in Latin America after detecting two cases of the Omicron Covid strain on Tuesday, the country’s health regulator, Anvisa, said.

The variant was spotted in samples from a traveller who had recently arrived from South Africa and his wife, health watchdog Anvisa said in a note on Tuesday. The tests will be repeated for further confirmation, it said, giving no further information about the patients. Brazil was among nations that tightened travel restrictions in response to the emergence of the strain.


The European Union has recorded at least 44 confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in 11 countries, but so far all of those are asymptomatic or people with mild symptoms, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

The European Medicines Agency would use expedited procedures to approve new versions of vaccines to address the Omicron variant should the current ones prove insufficient to fight it off. Emma Cooke, the agency’s director, told the European Parliament that regulatory approval could be completed in three to four months from when the companies are ready to move forward, but that testing is ongoing to evaluate how the variant responds to the current vaccines.

Germany:    Germany reported a daily rise of 67,186 Covid cases and 446 deaths, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute of public health.

Germany’s constitutional court has ruled that sweeping restrictions to stem Covid infections such as curfews, school closures and contact restrictions were lawful, in a decision that could pave the way for further curbs.

Germany took a step closer toward making Covid-19 vaccinations compulsory as the incoming chancellor threw his support behind the move, part of a tougher line by European leaders as the pandemic spirals out of control. Olaf Scholz called for a parliamentary vote on the step before the end of the year, saying on Tuesday that he would allow lawmakers to make the decision.

Poland: Poland records highest Covid deaths since April with 526 deaths in the past 24 hours.

UK: All eligible adults in the UK should be offered a Covid booster jab by the end of January, British prime minister Boris Johnson announced.

Netherlands: The Omicron variant was present in Europe at least 10 days ago, according to health authorities in the Netherlands.

Austria: Austria extends lockdown to 20 days after lawmakers voted to extend a nationwide lockdown by 10 days on Tuesday, bringing the total lockdown ending on 11 December to 20 days.

Greece: Greece has said it will fine people over the age of 60 who have not received a first Covid-19 shot €100 per month from 16 January.

Ireland: All travellers entering Ireland will now have to show negative Covid tests.

Finland: Finland is set to mandate social and health-care staff to take vaccinations against the coronavirus and plans to widen the use of Covid passports beyond bars and restaurants, Krista Kiuru, the minister overseeing the pandemic response efforts, told reporters in Helsinki on Tuesday.


South Korea: South Korea reported a new daily record of 5,123 new Covid cases for Tuesday, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

Singapore: Singapore introduces tougher testing for all arrivals and will require mandatory PCR testing for all travellers and additional antigen rapid tests for travellers on vaccinated travel lanes.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong adds non-residents from Japan, Portugal and Sweden to the list of travellers unable to enter the city due to concerns over the Omicron variant.

Japan: Japan is set to expand its travel ban on foreigners entering the nation even further, preventing those with resident status from ten African nations including South Africa.

Japan confirmed its first case of the Omicron variant. A Namibian diplomat in his 30s is thought to have tested positive for the variant.

Middle-east and Africa

Israel: Israel’s health minister says boosters may protect against Omicron.

9:28 am

Coronavirus company news summary – US FDA committee backs Merck’s Covid-19 oral antiviral – Regeneron warns of decreased Covid-19 drug efficacy against Omicron

The US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Antimicrobial Drugs Advisory Committee (AMDAC) has recommended the use of Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics’ oral Covid-19 antiviral molnupiravir. The panel voted 13 to 11 to endorse emergency use of the oral pill for treating mild to moderate Covid-19 in adults who are at higher risk of severe disease or hospitalisation. The FDA is not obligated to follow AMDAC’s recommendation.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals has warned that its Covid-19 antibody drug may be less effective against the emerging variant Omicron. According to a Reuters report, the company said that it can lead to reduced neutralisation of “both vaccine-induced and monoclonal antibody-conveyed immunity activity”. This is based on a study of Omicron’s mutations. Currently, the company is conducting additional studies using the variant’s genetic sequence to determine potential impact of Omicron. Earlier, Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel raised similar concerns regarding its vaccine.

US FDA has announced that it is working to assess the potential impact of emerging Covid-19 variant Omicron on currently available diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines. The agency will primarily evaluate the effectiveness of authorised vaccines against the variant. Omicron was first detected in South Africa, and triggered concerns that available vaccines may not be effective in neutralising it. However, FDA added that current vaccines are highly effective in preventing Covid-19 and serious associated illnesses.

10:18 am

International update: UK ramps up Covid vaccination booster program in response to Omicron variant

30 November

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5.2 million, with a figure of 5,207,764 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections passed 262 million world wide.

The World Health Organization said the Omicron variant was likely to spread internationally, posing a “very high” global risk where Covid surges could have “severe consequences” in some areas.

Omicron has been detected in at least a dozen countries including Britain, Germany, France, Denmark, Israel, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia and South Africa. Sweden, Canada, Spain and Portugal reported their first cases linked to the Omicron variant.

Pfizer Inc.’s top executive said the company will know within two to three weeks how well its Covid-19 vaccine holds up against the new Omicron variant, and even in a worst-case scenario he expects the existing formula will retain some efficacy against the heavily mutated strain. The company is currently conducting lab tests to see how antibodies generated by the existing vaccine work against the new variant, Chief Executive Albert Bourla said on Bloomberg Television’s “Balance of Power with David Westin.”


UK: The UK is to ramp up booster vaccinations and will halve the minimum gap between jabs to three months, aiming to administer 500,000 jabs a day.

The UK also announced that all adults would be eligible for a booster jab as part of the country’s response to Omicron as the country recorded 42,583 new cases and a further 35 deaths.

France: France recorded a big jump in Covid cases after the health minister said the country had entered the fifth wave of the pandemic last week.

Germany: Germany’s seven-day Covid-19 incidence rate per 100,000 people fell slightly on Tuesday, the first decline in nearly a month, according to the latest data from the RKI public-health institute. The rate slipped to 452.2, from 452.4 the previous day, while there were 45,753 new cases and a further 388 deaths from the disease. Chancellor Angela Merkel and her incoming successor, Olaf Scholz, will hold talks with Germany’s 16 state premiers later on Tuesday, with authorities under pressure to impose tighter restrictions.


US: Covid -19 infections have passed 48.4 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 778,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

US president Joe Biden has said Omicron “is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic”. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention is urging all US adults 18 and over to get booster shots. No further travel restrictions were planned for the US.

Covid-19 rapid tests such as Abbott’s BinaxNOW should be able to pick up the Omicron variant, potentially lending a critical tool to curbing the spread of the new strain. Anthony S. Fauci, the White House’s chief medical adviser for Covid-19, said Monday that his South African colleagues told him “at least some of the rapid antigen tests” could detect the variant first discovered by South African scientists last week.

Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE are poised to ask the US Food and Drug Administration to authorize a booster shot of their Covid-19 vaccine for 16- and 17-year-olds, the Washington Post reported, citing two people familiar with the situation. Regulators are expected to sign off on the request quickly, the people told the newspaper.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending booster shots for all vaccinated people 18 and older as scientists race to study the emerging Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2. The guidance, which previously said adults “may” get boosters, now says they “should” get a third dose of the Moderna Inc. or Pfizer Inc. shot six months after their second dose. The same recommendation applies to those who received the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine but after only two months.


Vaccine makers in Asia are considering developing new vaccines to fight Omicron.

Sinovac Biotech Ltd. said it is collecting information and samples through its global partner network and evaluating the efficacy of its existing vaccine. It has previously looked into developing vaccines against the gamma and delta variants and can mass-produce a new vaccine quickly, the company said.

CanSino Biologics Inc. has started research for a vaccine targeting Omicron, the Global Times reported on Monday, adding the company can come up with a new vaccine “in the shortest time” if needed. Shionogi & Co., which has an experimental vaccine, has also obtained information on the variant and is considering making a vaccine against it, a spokesman said on Tuesday.

China: President Xi Jinping said China would offer another 1bn doses of Covid vaccines to African countries and would encourage Chinese companies to invest $10bn in Africa over the next three years, Reuters reports.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention has come up with a diagnostic method for detecting the Omicron variant, China’s National Health Commission said. It is monitoring genomes of imported infections to help it track any incursion of the variant in China early.

The country added 21 local confirmed cases to its Covid tally on Monday and said all these local cases were in Inner Mongolia. The latest flareup is centered on the town of Manzhouli near the border with Russia.

India: India revised international travel guidelines in the wake of the Omicron variant, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation said in a circular posted on Twitter late Monday.

International travellers arriving in India will have to submit their travel history of the last 14 days before boarding flights and there will be a separate holding area for passengers arriving from “at-risk” countries as they wait for test results.

South Korea: South Korea reported a record 661 coronavirus patients in critical condition, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency’s website. There were 44 deaths. Amid the increase in critically-ill patients and concerns about the new variant, the country plans to roll out booster shots more quickly. Some 79.9% of the population is already fully vaccinated.

Singapore: Singapore started contact tracing for airport staff who may have come into contact with two travellers infected with the Omicron variant of Covid-19 who transited through Changi Airport on their way to Australia from South Africa, the health ministry said. While most of the travellers for the Singapore Airlines flight from Johannesburg had remained in the transit area until their departure for Sydney, seven disembarked, the ministry said in a statement Monday. Six of them are in isolation at a dedicated facility and one, a close contact of an infected individual on the flight, has been quarantined.

Australia: Australia is to trial its first ever mRNA covid vaccine in the new year, the government of Victoria announced Tuesday. Scientists and manufacturers from the state have spent five months developing the drug product, and 150 people will now take part in Phase 1 clinical trials. Results are expected later in 2022.

Separately, the government has delayed the planned reopening of its borders to students and foreign workers as officials weigh the threat posed from the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

9:21 am

Coronavirus company news summary – Pfizer-BioNTech to seek Covid-19 booster authorisation for 16 to 17-year-olds – Celltrion enters contract with Europe to supply Covid-19 antibody therapy

Pfizer and BioNTech are set to seek authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration for the booster Covid-19 vaccines for usage in individuals aged 16-17 years soon, CNN reported. Currently, booster shots are indicated for use in people aged 18 years and above, six months after the initial dosing regimen. Meanwhile, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised all adults to receive booster doses with the emergence of the new SARS-CoV-2 variant Omicron.

Celltrion’s distribution division has entered deals with nine European countries to deliver its monoclonal antibody therapy, Regkirona (regdanvimab, CT-P59), for the treatment of Covid-19. Recently, the European Commission granted marketing authorisation for the drug. Regkirona is intended for use in adult Covid-19 patients who do not need supplemental oxygen but are at high disease progression risk. The initial shipment of 50,000 doses will be made to Europe this year while Celltrion is holding discussions with 47 other countries.

Immunome has filed an Investigational New Drug application with the US Food and Drug Administration to commence clinical trials of its three-antibody cocktail, IMM-BCP-01, to treat Covid-19. Acting on the non-overlapping regions of the Spike protein, IMM-BCP-01 induces multi-modal activity in pre-clinical analysis. In in vitro testing, the antibody combination showed the potential to lower viral load in lungs of Covid-19-infected hamsters and could also neutralise present, as well as former, variants of concern.

11:16 am

International update: New Covid Omicron variant begins to spread

29 November

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5.2 million, with a figure of 5,200,271 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections passed 261.8 million world wide as the new Omicron variant begins to spread.

The World Health Organization is urging caution after two South African health experts, including the doctor who first sounded the alarm about the Omicron variant, indicated that symptoms linked to the coronavirus strain have been mild so far. The initial reported infections were among university students, WHO said, adding that younger patients tend to have milder symptoms. “Understanding the level of severity of the Omicron variant will take days to several weeks,” WHO said in a statement, adding that “there is currently no information to suggest that symptoms associated with Omicron are different from those from other variants.”

The health ministers of the G7 will hold an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss the Omicron variant.

The 194 member states of the World Health Organization agreed to launch pandemic treaty negotiations as the world prepares to learn the lessons of Covid for the next pandemic.


US: Covid -19 infections have passed 48 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 776,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said no cases of the new Covid-19 Omicron variant detected in South Africa have so far been identified in the United States to date.

The US chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci warned of a potential “fifth wave” of Covid in America, as the US vaccination rate slows, cases rise and the Omicron variant looms on the horizon.

New York governor Kathy Hochul issued a Covid-19 “disaster emergency” declaration on Friday, citing increasing rates of infections and hospitalisations. An order from the governor said the state was experiencing Covid-19 transmission “not seen since April 2020” and that hospital admissions has been increasing over the past month to over 300 a day.

Merck & Co.’s Covid-19 pill will likely still get US authorization despite disappointing efficacy data and concerns raised by regulators, Morgan Stanley analysts predicted. Merck shares fell 3.8% Friday after the release of data showing molnupiravir was less effective than previously reported, and as the Food and Drug Administration raised concerns about its safety and long-term effectiveness.

Stocks in the US followed those in Asia and Europe by falling sharply on Friday in the wake of concerns about the new Covid variant. The Dow Jones industrial average closed down 2.5%, its worst day since late October 2020, while the S&P500 was down 1.73% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq fell 2.23%.

Brazil: Brazil will shut its borders to travellers arriving from six southern African countries, the chief of staff to president Jair Bolsonaro said.


EU: European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen warned of global “race against time” against Omicron, urging people to practice social distancing and get vaccinated so scientists have time to understand the new variant’s transmissibility and severity.

European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde said vaccination drives in poorer countries must be improved. “We won’t be protected until we are all vaccinated,” Lagarde told Italy’s Rai 3 in a live television interview. “If some companies can deliver packages everywhere, I’m sure we can do that with vaccines too.”

Germany: Germany reports an additional 67,125 Covid cases and 303 deaths, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute.

Germany has more suspected cases of infections with the Omicron variant, this time in Essen and Dusseldorf, Rheinische Post reported, citing a spokesman for the State government of North-Rhine Westphalia.

Half of Germany’s intensive care beds are now taken by patients with Covid-19. The nation’s state governments are now planning to postpone all elective operations, Business Insider reported, citing a draft decisions to be adopted at the national conference of health ministers scheduled for Monday.

Netherlands: Authorities in the Netherlands detected at least 13 cases of the Omicron variant from recent flights into Amsterdam from South Africa.

UK: The UK said it has detected three total Omicron infections in Nottingham, Essex and the London borough of Westminster, with targeted PCR testing being stepped up.

Moderna Inc. Chief Medical Officer Paul Burton said he suspects the new Omicron coronavirus variant may elude current vaccines, and if so, a reformulated shot could be available early in the new year. “We should know about the ability of the current vaccine to provide protection in the next couple of weeks,” Burton said Sunday on the BBC’s “Andrew Marr Show.” “If we have to make a brand new vaccine, I think that’s going to be early 2022 before that’s really going to be available in large quantities.”

The UK reported 37,681 new Covid cases and 51 deaths, with the government vaccine watchdog suggesting the vaccine booster drive could be accelerated as soon as Monday to suppress cases.

Secondary school pupils and teachers in England will wear once again face coverings in communal areas.

There’s no need to impose a new work-from-home rule or other draconian steps now that the new coronavirus variant has spread to the UK, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said. Moves taken on Saturday by the government will buy scientists “precious weeks” to evaluate the Omicron strain and work on new vaccine formulations if needed, Javid said. In interviews with Sky News and the BBC, he cited the “heavy cost” of lockdowns on the economy and mental health.

Switzerland: Swiss voters backed the government’s use of Covid-19 certificates for entry into theaters and restaurants despite vociferous campaigning by skeptics, who consider them an infringement of civil liberties. Support for the measure was at 62%. Polls for the broadcaster SRF had indicated the law, which also covers financial aid to pandemic-stricken companies, was supported by a comfortable majority.


South Korea: South Korea’s Covid deaths hit record high with new curbs expected. The country reported 4,068 new Covid-19 cases and 52 new deaths. Critically ill patients hit an all-time high of 634, up 17 from the previous day, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).

China: China would face a “colossal outbreak” on a scale beyond anything any other country has yet seen, if it were to reopen in a similar manner to the US. That’s a prediction based on statistical modeling by researchers at Beijing’s prestigious Peking University. A switch from China’s current Covid elimination strategy to an American-style approach with few restrictions would lead to as many as 637,155 infections a day, according to the study, which was published by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention on 24 November.

India: India will resume scheduled international flights from 15 December with a limited service to 14 nations, the Civil Aviation Ministry said.

Australia: Australia confirmed it will close its borders to anyone who has been in southern Africa, and is not an Australian citizen. Australian citizens, residents and their dependents arriving from these countries will need to go into immediate supervised quarantine for 14 days.

Middle-east and Africa

Botswana: Botswana, which borders South Africa, said it has recorded a total 19 Omicron cases.

South Africa: South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphos said the new variant is a “wake-up call” for global vaccine inequality and criticised travel bans for their economic fallout.

Israel: Israel suspended all flights into the country on Sunday at 10pm GMT after detecting its first Omicron infection on Friday, just four weeks after it fully opened its skies to vaccinated travellers.

Morocco: Morocco said it will stop all incoming flights for two weeks starting Monday to prevent spread of the new strain.

9:54 am

Coronavirus company news summary – Novavax developing Covid-19 shot targeting Omicron variant – Swissmedic approves Moderna’s Covid-19 booster shot for all adults

Novavax is developing a version of its Covid-19 vaccine that acts on the new variant, Omicron (B.1.1.529), first identified in South Africa. Reuters reported that the vaccine will be ready for testing and production in the coming weeks. The company is claimed to be developing a spike protein specially based on the known genetic sequence of the variant.

Switzerland’s medicine regulator Swissmedic has granted marketing authorisation for a booster dose of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine for all adults aged 18 years and above. The booster shot is indicated for administration six months after the preliminary vaccine regimen. Furthermore, people at increased risk can receive the booster dose from the age of 12 years. The initial dosing regimen of Spikevax comprises two doses of 0.5ml given at a gap of one month, while the booster is 0.25ml.

Pfizer has said it could develop a Covid-19 vaccine for the novel SARS-CoV-2 strain Omicron, first detected in South Africa, in “nearly 100 days” on obtaining regulatory approval, CBS MoneyWatch reported. The company’s scientists are carrying out tests to assess the effectiveness of its current vaccine against the variant. If not sufficiently effective, Pfizer intends to “produce a tailor-made vaccine against that variant” in partnership with German company BioNTech. Reuters reported that the results from the tests on the Omicron variant are anticipated in two weeks.

10:32 am

Coronavirus company news summary – Turkovac Covid-19 vaccine seeks emergency authorisation in Turkey – South Africa identifies new SARS-CoV-2 variant

The Turkish Health Ministry has filed an application with the Turkish Medicines and Medical Devices Agency, seeking Emergency Use Authorisation for its domestically made Covid-19 vaccine, Turkovac. A team of Turkish researchers, in collaboration with the Presidency of Turkish Health Institutes and Kayseri Erciyes University, developed the vaccine, Reuters reported. On concluding the Phase I and Phase II trials, Phase III of the vaccine was launched in June this year. The vaccine is anticipated to be made available by this year end.

Researchers have identified a novel SARS-CoV-2 variant in South Africa and are analysing its possible implications, Reuters reported. The news agency quoted scientists as saying that the variant, known as B.1.1.529, contains a “very unusual constellation” of mutations. This is concerning as it could aid in evading the immune response of the body, making the variant highly infectious. The country has sought an urgent meeting with the World Health Organization virus evolution working group to address the novel variant.

The US has seen a near-record rise in Covid-19 booster vaccination rates after eligibility was extended to all adults, Reuters reported. Health officials expanded the programme to get more people vaccinated with booster shots before the winter holiday season, due to concerns about a rise in Covid-19 cases. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s estimates, nearly 37.5 million individuals were inoculated with a booster shot in the country as of 23 November. Earlier, the booster shot was indicated for use in individuals aged 65 years and above and for people at increased disease risk due to health conditions or exposure at work.

9:30 am

Coronavirus company news summary – Canada permits import of J&J Covid-19 shots made at Emergent facility – Bonus BioGroup drug lowers Covid-related death by 94% in Phase II trial

Health Canada has permitted Johnson & Johnson to import its Covid-19 vaccine made with a drug substance produced at contract manufacturer Emergent BioSolutions’ facility in Baltimore, US. The move comes after Health Canada, European Medicines Agency and South African Health Products Regulatory Authority concluded inspection at the site and found that the plant was Good Manufacturing Practices-compliant. In June this year, Health Canada had decided to not release the batches of product or ingredients made at the plant until it finished the site inspection.

Bangladesh-based company Globe Biotech is set to commence the human clinical trials of its Covid-19 vaccine, Bangavax, next month, Arab News reported. Bangavax is the first-ever Covid-19 vaccine made in the country to enter trials on obtaining approval from the Bangladesh Medical Research Council. A single-dose messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccine, Bangavax introduces a fragment of mRNA that resembles a viral protein and induces an immune response that generates virus antibodies.

Israel based company Bonus BioGroup has reported data from a multicentre Phase III clinical trial where its drug MesenCure offered a 70% decline in mortality in severe Covid-19 patients with pneumonia and respiratory distress. Following the 30-day follow-up period, the survival rate of the 50 hospitalised subjects treated with MesenCure was found to be 94%. The treatment reduced the average time in hospital by eight days, with a relative decline of 45% as against the control arm. Furthermore, nearly half of the subjects in the MesenCure arm were discharged from the hospital up to one day after concluding the therapy.

10:55 am

International update: Covid deaths across Europe to exceed 2 million by March next year – WHO

24 November

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5.1 million, with a figure of 5,166,818 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections pass 258.8 million world wide.


Total Covid-19 deaths across Europe are likely to exceed 2 million by March next year, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said, adding that the pandemic had become the number one cause of death in the region.

Nordic countries have been among the most resilient against the coronavirus, based on a review of 12 months of Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking, which uses data ranging from outbreak control to death tolls, and from vaccination campaigns to progress on restarting travel.

In Finland, Helsinki and its surrounding cities are set to recommend a return to remote working as well as extended mask use as cases mount. When remote work isn’t possible, employers should require mask use at workplaces even if social distancing is possible, a group that drafts recommendations for municipal authorities said in an emailed statement. Mask use will be recommended in all public indoor spaces and public transport, including schools starting at the age of 12.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moved its travel advisory for Denmark and Germany to the highest level in response to recent surges in infections across Europe. Both Denmark and Germany are ranked as level 4, or “very high,” which means Americans should avoid all travel there, and make sure they are fully vaccinated if they do visit.

France: France announced that there were more than 30,000 Covid infections in the past 24 hours. On Monday, France reported 5,266 new cases.

Germany: Germany had a record 66,884 new Covid-19 cases, up from 45,362 a day earlier, according to the country’s public health authority RKI. There were 309 reported deaths associated with Covid-19, bringing the total toll to 99,768. The national seven-day incidence rate rose to 404.5 per 100,000 people.

Germany’s sluggish vaccine campaign is rattling back to life, with many snapping up online appointments for shots and others enduring hours of lines in the cold to receive more protection against the coronavirus. Some are taking to Twitter to voice frustration, elation or both at the surge in demand for shots. Comments thanked those hardy enough to brave the elements for a shot, while others criticized authorities for not better organizing the latest inoculation push.

Spain: Government researchers have signed a licensing agreement for their coronavirus antibody test to allow other manufacturers to make it. It is hoped that the move, which marks the first time a manufacturer has allowed its Covid test to be included in a World Health Organization technology pool, will boost testing in poor countries.

Netherlands: The Netherlands hit a new weekly record on Tuesday – with Covid cases rising by 39% – and intensive care unit admissions rising sharply. The figures show a 19% rise in hospital admissions over the last week and a 26% rise in intensive care unit admissions. Maintaining a distance of 1.5 meters (5 feet) will once again become mandatory in the Netherlands starting Wednesday as cases continue to rise. People were already encouraged to maintain social distancing, but the caretaker Dutch cabinet said in a statement on Tuesday that the rule is now mandatory and can be enforced by police. Weekly coronavirus cases rose by 39% on Tuesday from 110,558 infections in the week prior to 153,957 infections.

The Netherlands has started transporting coronavirus patients to Germany in a bid to ease pressure on hospitals struggling to cope with a surge in cases.

UK: Delays to England’s vaccination rollout may mean some 12- to 15-year-olds may not get their Covid jab until February next year – 15 weeks after the government’s original target for offering the jab to all eligible teenagers, according to Labour.

According to an analysis of the Covid case rates across the UK, 75% of local authorities experienced a week-on-week rise in the seven days to 19 November.

The UK reported a further 42,484 Covid-19 cases and 165 additional deaths, official data shows. The weekly tally was up by 9% to reach 297,658 who have tested positive.

AstraZeneca Plc will open labs for its Covid-19 products at a new UK research and development site this year as the drugmaker faces questions about the future of its vaccine in its home country. The labs, which will be based at the R&D hub in Cambridge, England, opened Tuesday, will house a unit for vaccines and will also focus on the company’s antibody cocktail, which is expected to receive US and UK authorization in the coming months.


US: Covid -19 infections have passed 47.9 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 773,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The northern New England states of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, all highly vaccinated, are suffering from surges that are taxing hospitals beset by staff shortages and sicker-than-usual patients. New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu told reporters Tuesday that the state is seeing its highest level of Covid-19 since the pandemic began, averaging about 1,000 new infections per day. He issued an executive order to help hospitals use their space more flexibly to add capacity.

Canada: Justin Trudeau has said that his top priority for his new government is to get Covid-19 in Canada under control and get more people vaccinated. In a speech outlining his legislative agenda for a new session of parliament after September’s election, the Canadian prime minster pledged support to Canadian industries, which he said were still struggling due to the pandemic.


South Korea: South Korea reported a record 4,116 new coronavirus cases, mostly local infections, with 586 critical cases, also an all-time high. The death toll rose by 35 to 3,363. The virus situation is “more serious than expected,” Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said. An emergency plan may be needed for the greater Seoul area, Yonhap News quoted Kim as saying. About 82.4% of the population have received at least one vaccine dose, while 79.1% of the population have completed their vaccination.

Indonesia: Indonesia ordered its governors to stop all workers from taking leave during the upcoming holiday season in a bid to prevent a potential spike in Covid-19 infections. Civil servants and private-sector employees are banned from taking leave from 24 December to 2 January, according to an instruction from the home affairs ministry. The restriction also applies to the police and military forces, while schools are urged to cancel year-end holidays.

Philippines: President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the government to “use all available resources” in its drive to vaccinate 15 million people from 29 November to 1 December, telling soldiers and police to help deliver shots and asking local officials to give fast-food treats to those who will get inoculated. “I am authorizing all governors and mayors, just spend money. I will replace that some day,” Duterte said in remarks late Tuesday.

China: China’s Kintor Pharmaceutical Ltd., which is working on a pill to help treat Covid, said such treatments will be more needed in places like China, where the virus has yet to gain a sustained foothold, than in pandemic hotspots. “China is a virgin land for the virus, with so few people exposed,” Chief Executive Officer Tong Youzhi said in an interview. “The urgency for effective Covid drugs is no less in China than elsewhere if we want to regain our pre-pandemic life.”

Thailand: Thailand reported 5,126 new Covid-19 cases on Tuesday, the lowest single-day tally since June 30, ahead of a scheduled review of a further easing of virus curbs. The country had 53 Covid deaths over the prior 24-hour period, and the cabinet approved the purchase of a further 30 million doses of Pfizer vaccines.  Separately, there were 20,272 foreign travelers to Thailand in October, the highest monthly tally since March last year when the Southeast Asian closed its borders. There were 12,237 visitors in September.

India: Covaxin, one of the main vaccines used in India’s coronavirus immunization drive, provides only 50% protection against symptomatic Covid-19, according to a study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal. The findings suggest that Covaxin, a shot co-developed by India’s state-funded health research agency and local company Bharat Biotech International Ltd., is less effective than initially thought. While studies show almost all Covid vaccines have reduced effectiveness against the highly infectious delta variant, the new research on Covaxin may dent its appeal at a time when Bharat Biotech is scaling up manufacturing and as India restarts overseas vaccine shipments.

New Zealand: Fully vaccinated New Zealanders and other eligible travellers can enter New Zealand from Australia without staying in managed isolation from 17 January, and they can travel from all other countries from 14 February, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said. All fully vaccinated individuals will be able to travel to New Zealand from April 30 onwards, with the re-opening staged over time, he said.

9:29 am

Coronavirus company news summary – Valneva signs deal to deliver 60m Covid-19 vaccine doses to EU – Oncotelic reports positive top-line data from OT-101 Covid-19 study

Valneva has signed an Advance Purchase Agreement (APA) with the European Commission for its inactivated Covid-19 vaccine candidate called VLA2001. Under the APA, Valneva will deliver up to 60 million doses of VLA2001 over two years. The company plans to supply 24.3 million doses during the second and third quarters of next year, however the delivery is subject to approval of VLA2001 by the European Medicines Agency.

Oncotelic Therapeutics has reported positive top-line data from an ongoing study that assessed the safety and efficacy of OT-101 against Covid-19. OT-101 is an anti-TGF-β ribonucleic acid (RNA) therapeutic that demonstrated single agent activity in relapsed/refractory cancer patients. Currently, the therapeutic is being investigated against hospitalised severe Covid-19 patients in Oncotelic’s C001 clinical trial. According to the top-line data, mortality rate at the end of treatment for the entire study population stood at 4.5% for OT-101, compared to 20% for placebo.

Swiss drugs regulator Swissmedic has authorised the use of Pfizer-BioNTech‘s Covid-19 boosters for all individuals aged 16 years and over. The move further expands booster vaccination amid increasing Covid-19 cases in the country. Swissmedic decided to expand the usage after assessing a study with 10,000 participants, among other factors. According to a statement, the booster dose will be administered at least six months after the second shot.

9:30 am

Coronavirus company news summary – Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine shows high efficacy in adolescents – EMA decision on J&J booster shot expected soon

Follow-up Phase III trial data has indicated that the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is highly effective in individuals between 12 and 15 years of age. The analysis noted that a two-dose vaccine series offered 100% protection against Covid-19 over four months after the second dose. The data will be used to make additional submissions to the US FDA and pursue regulatory approvals in other countries. Currently, the vaccine is available for the 12-15 age group under FDA’s Emergency Use Authorisation.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA), the drug regulator in the EU, has said that it is expected to take a decision on a booster shot of Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) single-dose Covid-19 vaccine soon. The decision is expected ‘within weeks’, Reuters reported, quoting EMA. J&J’s vaccine Janssen’s booster shot is expected to be administered in adult individuals at least two months after the first dose.

Simcere Pharmaceutical Group in China has partnered with the Shanghai Institute of Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Sciences, to develop Covid-19 antiviral drugs. This comes after some compound candidates demonstrated strong inhibitory effects on multiple SARS-CoV-2 strains, including the Delta variant, in preclinical studies. The collaboration will provide Simcere with the exclusive right to develop and commercialise the novel antiviral drug SIM0417 globally. This antiviral agent targets the 3C-like protease, which supports replication of coronaviruses including SARS-CoV-2.

7:46 am

International update: Covid shot effectiveness wanes with time – US CDC data

23 November

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5.1 million, with a figure of 5,159,493 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 258 million world wide.

While Covid shots remain highly effective at keeping people alive and out of the hospital, new US data adds more support to the argument that they’re not preventing infections as much as they once did. Unvaccinated people were about five times more likely to test positive for the virus than the unvaccinated in the week starting 26 September, down from about 15 times more likely in May, according to the latest age-adjusted data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was updated Monday.

More than two-thirds of people in high-income countries have been fully vaccinated, while in low-income countries an average of less than one in 20 of people have received a single dose, according to a new report by the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response.

Helen Clark, the co-chair of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, has accused the UK of throwing unused vaccines “down the drain”. The former prime minister of New Zealand told a press conference today that vaccine manufacturing had been “far too slow” and urged countries such as the UK and the US to exert pressure on manufacturers and to redistribute vaccines.


US: Covid -19 infections have passed 47.8 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 772,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

US health officials are not currently recommending lockdowns or economic restrictions to curb rising Covid-19 cases, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday.

Erie County in Western New York is implementing a mask mandate starting Tuesday, with coronavirus cases soaring in the region. Masks will be required at all indoor public locations including bars, grocery stores, restaurants, gyms, and places of worship, according to the county health department. Western New York has the highest 7-day average rate of positive tests in the state at 9.79%, compared to 3.82% statewide, according to state data.


The European Union will this week discuss updating its digital Covid-19 certificates and its approach to travel within and outside the bloc as member nations take varying steps to counter the latest wave of the pandemic.

Booster shots will be a topic of conversation when European affairs ministers meet in Brussels on Tuesday, along with a debate over whether to change the length of time during which a vaccine certificate is valid, according to EU diplomats who declined to be named on confidential preparations.

The ministers, who have the task of preparing the next EU leaders’ summit on Dec. 16-17, will also discuss vaccine hesitancy, which has fueled sometimes violent street protests in several member states in recent days, one of the diplomats said.

France: Prime minister Jean Castex tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday, hours after returning from a visit to neighbouring Belgium and just as France is seeing a nationwide resurgence of infections, according to his office.

Netherlands: Prime minister, Mark Rutte, has condemned violent anti-lockdown rioters as “idiots” after a wave of protests over the weekend. “This was pure violence disguised as protest,” said Rutte.

Germany: “Probably by the end of winter, more or less everyone in Germany will be vaccinated, cured or dead,” German health minister, Jens Spahn, said. “That sounds cynical, but it’s the reality.” The outgoing chancellor, Angela Merkel, said tighter restrictions were needed.

German people are feverishly snapping up Covid test kits at drug stores and pharmacies as the country buckles under soaring infection rates and the government tightens the rules to access shops, restaurants and gyms. Home-use infection tests that provide a rapid read-out via a nasal swab have been hard to get in recent days.

UK: The UK reported an additional 44,917 new Covid cases and 45 new deaths. Prime minister Boris Johnson says the UK government is “concerned” about Covid, but that there is nothing to suggest that the country should bring back restrictions, despite rising cases across Europe.

The UK is to review its Covid-19 travel rules in January, the country’s aviation minister said today. Robert Courts’s comments come amid complaints from airlines who claim that day two coronavirus test requirements and passenger locator forms are putting people off travelling to and from the UK.

Greece: Greece imposes strict new Covid curbs, aimed at reducing Covid-19 infections that have pushed death rates to almost twice the EU average. The new restrictions went into effect as authorities struggled to convince older Greeks in particular to have the jab.

Italy: Italy’s health minister announced that Italians will be able to get a Covid booster five months after their first vaccination cycle.


Hong Kong: Hong Kong’s border with China won’t fully reopen before a 19 December vote on the local legislature, the city’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam told a briefing.

A delegation of Chinese health experts is conducting site inspections to review Hong Kong’s Covid-19 measures, part of the city’s bid to resume quarantine-free travel with the mainland.

Singapore: Singapore is seeing a slowdown in its virus cases, and recently further relaxed strict curbs that were put in place to prevent infections from overwhelming its healthcare system. However, ministers have cautioned against expecting any more major easing this year.

Philippines: Merck’s Covid-19 pill molnupiravir is now available for patients in the Philippines, Vice President Leni Robredo said.

Thailand: Thailand on Tuesday reported 5,126 new cases, the country’s lowest daily tally since 30 June, ahead of a scheduled review of further virus curb easing.  The Southeast Asian tourist hub’s virus task force is set to meet this week to consider demand from business operators to allow night entertainment venues to reopen, after having been closed since April.

Middle-east and Africa

Israel: Israel has started rolling out vaccinations for five- to 11-year-olds in a bid to bring down rising Covid infections.

10:55 am

International update: WHO ‘very worried’ as Covid infections race across Europe

22 November

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5.1 million, with a figure of 5,150,762 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections pass 257.5 million world wide.

The Delta variant was first detected a year ago and is now dominant across the globe. Scientists are concerned that a new strain could supersede it.


The World Health Organisation said it is “very worried” about a fresh wave of European infection.

Violence erupted at demonstrations in Belgium and the Netherlands over the weekend as tougher Covid-19 restrictions to curb the resurgent pandemic led to angry protests in several European countries.

France: The French government has warned that Covid is spreading at “lighting speed”. The seven-day average of new cases in France reached 17,153 on Saturday, an increase of 81%.

Germany: German politicians are debating making Covid-19 vaccinations compulsory for citizens in light of soaring infections and low inoculation rates.

Germany’s infections continued to climb, with the seven-day incidence rate increasing to 372.7 per 100,000 people compared with 362.2 the prior day. With intensive-care units all but filled in some regions, Europe’s largest economy faces its biggest test yet of the pandemic. The country reported 42,727 new cases, compared with 63,924 the day before. Deaths rose by 75 to a total of 99,062.

Austria: Austria has clamped down on public life from Monday as its fourth national Covid-19 lockdown began, making it the first western European country to reimpose the measure in the face of surging coronavirus infections.

Switzerland: Many Swiss cantonal health services won’t be able to offer Covid booster shots to those under 65 until January, newspaper SonntagsZeitung reported, citing Gundekar Giebel, a spokesman for the cantonal health department in Bern. The federal government had previously said it hoped to make booster shots available to those under 65 beginning in December.

UK: England’s flagship test-and-trace service is still spending more than £1m a day on private consultants, official figures reveal weeks after MPs lambasted it as an “eye-watering” waste of taxpayers’ money that is failing to cut Covid infection levels.

In the UK, Covid booster jabs are likely to be offered to all adults eventually, with the independent Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation already considering the issue, the health secretary has suggested.

There’s no need yet for the UK to implement “Plan B” to clamp down on Covid infection levels, said Health Minister Sajid Javid. Javid said expanding the UK’s vaccine booster program is the key to a successful Christmas season without new restrictions, speaking on Sky News’ “Trevor Philips on Sunday.”  Javid also confirmed a report in The Sunday Times that he has begun a review into possible racial bias in medical equipment, and how it may have slanted treatment for Covid. The move comes after research showing that oximeters, devices that measure oxygen levels in the blood, are less accurate on patients with darker skin.

The UK has added Sinovac-CoronaVac, Sinopharm Beijing and Covaxin to its list of approved vaccines for travel into the country, according to the Department for Transport and Department of Health and Social Care’s guidance.


US: Covid -19 infections have passed 47.7 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 771,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The US government’s chief medical adviser Dr Anthony Fauci warns that time is running short to prevent a “dangerous” new surge of Covid-19 infections from overwhelming the upcoming holiday season.

The US Marine Corps has the worst vaccination record among US military branches, Reuters reports, with thousands of active-duty staff set to miss a 28 November deadline for personnel to be fully vaccinated.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said he doesn’t expect a vaccine requirement that includes airport security screeners to disrupt US holiday-season travel. Many US federal employees, including Transportation Security Administration workers, face a Monday deadline to document full vaccination or apply for an exemption, though any discipline for workers who don’t comply isn’t immediate. “The deadline tomorrow, that’s not a cliff,” Buttigieg said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “People aren’t getting immediately pulled off their posts. It’s part of a process to make sure that everyone in the federal workforce is safe.”


Some Pacific countries will have less than a quarter of adults vaccinated by the end of the year, with predictions that Papua New Guinea will take five years to vaccinate just one-third of its population, undermining economic recovery and threatening huge loss of life across the region.

Australia: Labor stepped up its criticism of prime minister Scott Morrison’s handling of anti-vaccine protests, with shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers accusing him of “dangerous, dog-whistling doublespeak” and trying to divide the country for political gain.

Victoria was “very, very close” to reaching the 90% mark for double vaccinations among residents, the premier Daniel Andrews said, an important milestone as the state recorded another 1,275 new cases of Covid-19 on Sunday.

Meanwhile, New South Wales is inching closer to the 95% double-vaccination mark. On Sunday the state’s premier, Dominic Perrottet, said he wouldn’t budge on his decision to continue to force restrictions on unvaccinated people until the mark was reached, or 15 December, despite protests in the city over the weekend.

Two remote communities in the Northern Territory were pushed into a “hard” lockdown after a spike in cases in the areas. The territory’s chief minister, Michael Gunner, instituted the harder lockdown on the two towns near Katherine because of what he described as low vaccination rates among residents.

Australia will allow fully vaccinated eligible visa holders to enter the nation from 1 December without needing to apply for a travel exemption. Eligible visa holders include skilled workers and students, refugee visa holders, temporary working holiday makers and people with provisional family visa holidays. Australia will also allow fully vaccinated citizens from Japan and Korea to enter. “The return of skilled workers and students to Australia is a major milestone in our pathway back, it’s a major milestone about what Australians have been able to achieve,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Monday.

New Zealand: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the country will shift into a new alert system to manage Covid-19 on 3 December, a step that moves away from the use of lockdowns and will allow all businesses to operate.

India: The Indian government has allowed the Serum Institute of India Ltd. to start Covid-19 vaccine exports to the Covax global sharing body, the Economic Times reported, citing people it didn’t identify. Serum Institute, the world’s largest vaccine maker, will export 5 million doses, and Nepal will receive the first lot of Covishield vaccine 24 November, the newspaper said.

China: China reported 17 new confirmed Covid cases on 20 November, including four local infections, as its latest outbreak continues to wind down. Three were found in Liaoning’s Dalian and one in Yunnan.

Philippines: The Philippines on Monday started giving vaccine booster doses to senior citizens.

Vietnam: Vietnam Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh directed local officials to accelerate Covid-19 shots in order to fully vaccinate all adults age 18 and older this year, surpassing the nation’s inoculation target, the cabinet’s news portal reported. The nation will have enough vaccine doses this month to administer two shots to its entire adult population against the virus by the end of the year, according to the report, which also cited Deputy Premier Vu Duc Dam. Vietnam had targeted fully vaccinating at least half of people age 18 and older by the end of December and 70% of its entire population by the end of March, 2022. The planning ministry this month proposed increasing that target to 80% of the population during the same period.

Hong Kong: JPMorgan Chase & Co. is offering to reimburse Hong Kong employees up to $5,000 to compensate for their quarantine stay as the financial hub sticks to its zero-Covid policy.  All Hong Kong-based employees who are executive directors and below may claim the amount for a single quarantine stay. The offer covers personal trips undertaken by employees visiting immediate family members, including spouses, domestic partners, children, parents and grandparents, according to an internal memo. A Hong Kong-based spokeswoman confirmed the content. The move comes after Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon touched down in Hong Kong last week after receiving an exemption from the city’s stringent quarantine, which can be as long as 21 days in designated hotels. During his visit, he highlighted that the restrictions were making it harder for JPMorgan to retain talent.

Singapore: Singapore reported fewer total cases and community infections were below 2,000 for the fourth straight day as the country moves to relax some restrictions.

Middle-east and Africa

Israel: Israel’s Covid-19 infection reproduction rate rose to over 1, the highest since early September, indicating the virus is spreading again. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett acknowledged the rise at the start of the Cabinet meeting. “Winter is starting and we are on the verge of what is shaping up to be a wave of child illness,” the premier said. Israel starts vaccinating children ages 5 to 11 this week. It opened its doors to fully vaccinated tourists earlier this month.

9:19 am

Coronavirus company news summary – US FDA expands Covid-19 booster eligibility to all adults – EMA recommends Lagevrio pill for high risk Covid-19 patients

The US Food and Drug Administration has expanded eligibility for Covid-19 booster shots to all adults amid a rise in daily cases. The regulator authorised a booster dose of Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines for all adults who have completed their primary inoculation at least six months before. Previously, a single booster dose of the two vaccines was approved for older people above 65 years of age, individuals at higher risk categories and those with frequent exposure to SARS-CoV-2.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has recommended that oral antiviral medicine Lagevrio can be used to treat high-risk Covid-19 adult patients who do not need supplemental oxygen. The EMA’s human medicines committee said that the medicine should be administered in such cases within five days of first symptoms. The Lagevrio capsule should be taken twice a day for five days, the recommendation added. Lagevrio is being jointly developed by Merck Sharp & Dohme and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. The medicine is yet to receive authorisation in the EU.

Akston Biosciences has initiated an open-label bridging study of its protein subunit Covid-19 vaccine candidate AKS-452 in India. The company has dosed the first 100 subjects in the study. AKS-452 is based on Akston’s Fc fusion protein platform and is shelf-stable for at least six months at room temperatures (up to 25°C). The company claims that the vaccine maintains its potency for one month at 37°C. Following this study, Akston will conduct a larger multi-site, double-blind Phase II/III study of the vaccine candidate with around 1,500 adults in India.

10:58 am

International update: US Covid outbreak on the rise again – Midwest worst hit

19 November

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5.1 million, with a figure of 5,133,242 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections pass 256 million world wide.

Covid origins: The first known Covid case originated with a vendor at a Wuhan wet market, a leading virus expert has claimed in a report published on Thursday.

AstraZeneca’s antibody cocktail offered 83% protection against Covid over six months, the pharmaceutical firm said. Evusheld has shown promise in preventing severe disease when given early as a treatment to those infected with Covid-19.


US: Covid -19 infections have passed 47.5 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 768,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The American Medical Association and more than 60 other US health organizations endorsed the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for companies with 100 or more employees. They said the requirement is “reasonable and essential to protect workers.” “When employers require workers to get vaccinated, vaccination rates increase to over 90%,” a public letter read. “Courts have repeatedly supported the legality of employer mandates.” More than 30 lawsuits have been filed against the requirement, which also allows for regular testing. The deadline is 4 January.

The US state of Florida has banned schools and businesses from requiring vaccination against Covid. Republican governor Ron DeSantis signed the new laws.

The US outbreak, on the rise again, is shifting to the Midwest, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Indiana recorded the largest increase of infections in the week ending 16 November, with Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin among the states with the biggest weekly jumps, the data show. Parts of the Northeast, the most vaccinated region of the country, are also recording a spike, with infections in New York state up 27%. The seven-day average of new hospital admissions with confirmed Covid-19 cases is rising in 28 states and the nation’s capital from a week earlier, with visible clusters in the Northeast and upper Midwest.

Chicago is facing a surge of infections ahead of the holiday season, Allison Arwady, the city’s public health commissioner, said Thursday. “In terms of our outbreak, the numbers are not good,” Arwady said during a livestream broadcast. “We are absolutely in the middle of this Covid increase. Right now is the time to get vaccinated for the holidays.” The nation’s third-largest city is seeing an average of 501 cases per day, up about 18% from the previous week, giving Chicago a high transmission risk for new cases, she said. Deaths also are rising, with four reported each day. Chicago’s positivity rate is about 2.7%.

Apple Inc. has chosen 1 February as the deadline for corporate employees to start their return to offices, a slight delay from its previous goal of January, marking a key step toward getting its operations back to normal after the pandemic. Starting at the beginning of February, the company will adopt a phased return, Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook told staff via email on Thursday. For the first month, some teams will be required to come into the office one or two days a week. After that “transitional period,” staff will be required to come in at least three days per week.

Brazil:   Brazil has recorded 12,301 new cases of coronavirus reported in the past 24 hours, and 293 deaths from Covid, the health ministry said on Thursday.

Canada: Canada will announce on Friday it is authorising the use of Pfizer’s Covid vaccine in children aged between 5 and 11, a government source said on Thursday.


France: France will not impose Covid lockdowns on unvaccinated people because of the success of its health pass in curbing the virus’s spread, president Emmanuel Macron said.

Spain: Spain has approved the use of a Covid-19 booster shot for people between 60-69 years old and for health workers, as part of an effort to combat an uptick in infections.

Germany: Germany will limit large parts of public life in areas where hospitals are becoming dangerously full of coronavirus patients to those who have either been vaccinated or have recovered from the illness, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday.

Saxony, the German region hardest hit by the country’s fourth wave of coronavirus, is considering a partial lockdown.

Austria: Austria may impose a full Covid lockdown as infections are still rising despite the current lockdown for the unvaccinated.

UK: The UK reported another 46,807 Covid cases and a further 199 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.

A more infectious new version of Covid-19’s delta variant is spreading fast in the UK, accounting for about 12% of the samples gathered in the most recent government survey. That represents a 2.8% daily growth rate for sub-variant AY.4.2 over the course of the REACT survey, from 19 October to 5 November, the researchers said. Still, the new sub-variant seemed less likely to cause symptomatic Covid.

As Covid-19 makes a comeback in Europe, one study offers a reminder that simple measures like mask-wearing and hand-washing help to ward off the disease. Donning a face mask more than halves the risk of getting Covid, according to a review of eight studies published in the British Medical Journal. So does hand-washing. Physical distancing, meanwhile, cuts the risk by a quarter.

Greece: Greece expands restrictions for the unvaccinated, prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis warned during a televised address urging citizens to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

Hungary: Hungary will make a booster shot mandatory for all healthcare workers and will require protective mask wearing in most enclosed places from Saturday, Viktor Orbán’s chief of staff said.

Slovakia: Slovakia will impose stricter measures for people who have not been vaccinated against coronavirus amid a surge in infections and hospital admissions, prime minister Eduard Heger said.

Poland: Poland’s sanitary services quarantined 503,400 people, the most since October last year, as Covid-19 rips through the European Union’s fifth most populous state in a growing headache for the ruling nationalists.

Portugal: The Portuguese island of Madeira will impose new restrictions on unvaccinated residents and visitors amid a surge in cases across Europe. People who have not been vaccinated will be banned from attending public events such as concerts from Saturday, Miguel Albuquerque, the president of Madeira’s regional government, said on Thursday. Unvaccinated people are allowed to attend mass or go to the supermarket as long as they show a negative Covid-19 test.


India: India has approved the export of 20m doses of the Novavax Covid vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India (SII) to Indonesia, according to a government document seen by Reuters and a government source.

Australia: Almost all eligible citizens in Australia’s “Bush Capital” have had at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine and it is expected to reach full inoculation next month, a milestone that shows just how fast the nation has overcome a slow start to its vaccination rollout. Canberra, one of a number of highly vaccinated cities in the Asia-Pacific region, achieved the feat by relying on education and access to get its citizens to embrace the rollout, according to Andrew Barr, the chief minister of the Australian Capital Territory which oversees the city.  Data show the city’s vaccination rate is at 96.8% for eligible people aged 12 and over.

9:23 am

Coronavirus company news summary – Clover and CEPI extend Covid-19 vaccine collaboration – Italy to buy 50,000 courses of Merck, Pfizer’s Covid-19 pills

Clover Biopharmaceuticals and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) have expanded their existing partnership to further develop the company’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate, SCB-2019 (CpG 1018/Alum). The vaccine contains the SCB-2019 antigen along with Dynavax’s CpG 1018 adjuvant and aluminium hydroxide. As per the deal, CEPI will provide additional funds of $36.9m to Clover. This takes the funding from CEPI for the vaccine to a total of up to $397.4m.

The Italian health ministry is set to procure 50,000 courses each of molnupiravir and Paxlovid, the Covid-19 antiviral pills of Merck and Pfizer, respectively. The development was declared through a mandate from the country’s Covid-19 Special Commissioner, Reuters reported. The process to sign contracts with the two companies will be initiated soon. Several countries have rushed to acquire doses of the oral Covid-19 drugs following their favourable trial results.

Health Canada is set to grant authorisation for the use of Pfizer and BioNTech‘s Covid-19 vaccine, Comirnaty, for use in children aged five to 11 years, Reuters reported. In a press statement, the Government of Canada said its officials will host a technical briefing for the media on November 19 to give an update on authorisation for the shot. Last month, Canada entered an agreement with the company to purchase 2.9 million doses of the paediatric vaccine, to be supplied on obtaining approval, CityNews reported.

10:14 am

International update: Europe the only region with increasing Covid deaths – World Health Organization

18 November

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5.1 million, with a figure of 5,124,079 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections pass 255 million world wide.


Europe is the only region with increasing Covid deaths, the World Health Organization reports. Covid deaths rose 5% in the last week as deaths in all regions other than Europe remained stable or declined, and totalled 50,000 worldwide last week. Of the 3.3 million new infections reported, 2.1 million came from Europe.

The Czech Republic and Slovakia both reported record daily new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, a day before the two European Union countries plan to approve new restrictions for unvaccinated people in response to rising infections.

Hungary: Hungary reported 10,265 new Covid-19 infections, its highest daily tally since the end of March.

Sweden: Sweden is introducing a digital Covid-19 vaccination certificate for public gatherings and events with more than 100 people indoors, authorities said Wednesday.

Spain: Spain has approved the use of a Covid-19 booster shot for people between 60-69 years old and for health workers, as part of an effort to combat an uptick in infections.

Germany: A fourth Covid wave is hitting Germany with ‘full force’, Angela Merkel says. Germany reported 52,826 new infections on Wednesday – up by a third from a week ago and another daily record, while 294 people died.

Belgium: Belgium tightened its coronavirus restrictions, mandating wider use of masks in indoor settings and enforcing work from home, as cases rose in the country’s fourth Covid wave. The country has one of the highest cases per capita rates in the EU.

UK: The UK reported another 38,263 Covid infections and a further 201 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.

Mandatory vaccine passports are set to be introduced in Northern Ireland.


US: Covid -19 infections have passed 47.4 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 767,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Covid deaths have decreased by 17% in the Americas over the past week, but the most populous countries like the US, Brazil and Colombia are seeing a levelling of new infections after weeks of declining trends, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday.

The US is set to boost vaccine manufacturing and produce at least a billion doses a year. The Biden administration is planning to dedicate billions of dollars to build up vaccine manufacturing in the US to produce at least a billion doses each year, in an effort to shore up global Covid-19 supply for poorer countries while also pre-empting future pandemics.

As many as 40% of US airport security screeners haven’t been vaccinated for Covid-19 as an immunization deadline for federal employees and the busy holiday travel season converge. Many Transportation Security Administration workers are resisting the requirement as the 22 November deadline approaches, said Hydrick Thomas, president of the American Federation of Government Employees’ division representing front-line airport security officers.

Florida’s Republican-controlled legislature approved rules on Wednesday to punish companies that enforce strict Covid-19 vaccine mandates for employees. In a special session this week in Tallahassee, lawmakers agreed with Governor Ron DeSantis that companies must give employees the chance to opt out of mandates. If a worker is fired for noncompliance, companies with fewer than 100 employees could face $10,000 fines and larger ones could be hit with penalties of $50,000.

New York City will roughly double the size of its mobile testing fleet to 70 vans, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “We want to emphasize testing is very, very important to this next phase as we try to put the Covid era behind us,” he said in a briefing. Cases are rising in the city as the weather cools and the holidays approach. Early in the week, the mayor opened up booster shots to all adults. About 42,000 New Yorkers received boosters on Monday and Tuesday, according to the city. Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi advised New Yorkers, including those who are vaccinated, to get tested before attending gatherings and traveling.


China: A foreign athlete attending the luge world cup in Beijing tested positive for Covid-19, China’s state TV network reported, citing the organizing committee for the Winter Olympics slated to begin in the city in February. The athlete is asymptomatic and in quarantine, according to the CCTV report. Two other foreign athletes tested positive earlier in Beijing and are in stable condition, CCTV said.

Indonesia: Indonesia will tighten movement restrictions during the year-end holiday period to avoid another surge in Covid-19 infections, Kompas newspaper reported, citing Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto. The government will impose “Level 3” curbs, just one level below the strictest measures, nationwide from 24 December until 1 January, he was quoted as saying during a briefing on Thursday. That would include full work-from-home order for non-essential sectors, 25% capacity limit for malls and no dine-in at restaurants without outdoor seating.

Hong Kong: The boss of HSBC Holdings Plc, the biggest bank in Hong Kong, said he won’t do anything that would put the city’s efforts to open up travel to mainland China at risk, even as criticism of the financial hub’s zero-Covid policy grows. In an interview at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore, Chief Executive Officer Noel Quinn said he currently has no plans to visit the city, the lender’s biggest market.

Hong Kong Ocean Park staff and visitors who were at the amusement park on 7 November between 2 pm and 7 pm were ordered to get tested for Covid-19. Ocean Park was added to the so-called test list a day after Hong Kong Disneyland temporarily closed to comply with a similar order.

South Korea: South Korea reported 506 critical coronavirus cases, down from 522 a day earlier as the country’s vaccination rate increases. About 78.5% of the population is fully vaccinated, while 82% has received the first dose. New coronavirus cases rose to a record 3,292 following eased restrictions on social gatherings, according to Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency.

Thailand: Thailand plans to allow more foreign workers into the country starting next month to fill a labor shortage that has hurt manufacturers and poses a risk to an economy that’s just starting to recover from the Covid-19 outbreak.

9:49 am

Coronavirus company news summary – US to invest in increased Covid-19 production capacity – Moderna seeks EUA for Covid-19 booster shots for all adult

The US government has announced investment plans to boost Covid-19 vaccine production capacity to an additional one billion doses every year. This funding is part of a private-public partnership to meet both domestic and global vaccine demands, and to equip for pandemics in the future, the New York Times reported. The scheme is expected to cost billions of dollars and will be funded through the American Rescue Plan. Reuters quoted an administration official as saying that the government is ready to extend aid to mRNA vaccine producers to boost infrastructure and resources.

Moderna has sought emergency use authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration for the booster dose of its Covid-19 vaccine for individuals aged 18 years and above. Currently, the booster shots are authorised for usage in immunocompromised individuals, those of age 65 years and above, and for people at increased risk of severe Covid-19 or exposure to the virus due to work. The 50µg booster vaccine is half the dosage of the company’s original shot, administered at an interval of four weeks.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund has reported that the Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine demonstrated an efficacy of 96.3%, as well as a greater safety profile, in a study among vaccinated people in the Republic of Belarus. The vaccine’s efficacy was determined based on results from over 1.2 million individuals inoculated with two components of Sputnik V between January and September this year, when the Delta variant was prevalent. In the study, adverse events following immunisation were reported to be mild or moderate in nature, without any deaths linked to vaccine observed.

10:31 am

International update: Restrictions re-imposed in Europe as Covid infections rise

17 November

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5.1 million, with a figure of 5,116,058 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections pass 254.4 million world wide.


Greece: Thousands of restaurant owners in Greece shut their businesses in a nationwide protest against recent measures that fine establishments for serving customers without proper documentation of their vaccination or test status.

Portugal: Portugal may bring back some measures to stop the spread of Covid in the run-up to the holiday season as infections soar across Europe, prime minister Antonio Costa said. The number of new cases has been gradually rising over the past month in one of the world’s most vaccinated nations, reaching a two-month daily high of 1,816 infections on Saturday.

Slovakia: Slovakia plans curbs on unvaccinated people as hospitals reach a “critical” situation, prime minister Eduard Heger said. The government is due to decide on Thursday on tighter restrictions to limit access to services to those unvaccinated or those who had overcome Covid in the past six months.

Spain: The Basque region reeimposed some restrictions on large gatherings as infection rates rise, the first Spanish region to do so since curbs were eased earlier in the year. In municipalities where the infection rate is above 150 per 100,000 inhabitants, the government will limit large public sports or other events where people can eat or drink, regional health chief Gotzone Sagardui said. The region will request permission from the Basque Supreme Court to implement a Covid passport requirement for access to restaurants and night clubs, she said.  “We have to reinforce the measures so that we do not have to take a step back,” Sagardui said. “We have to be vigilant.” The region’s infection rate rose this week to the highest in two months.

Germany: In Germany, plans are underway for the introduction of tighter restrictions on people who have so far chosen not to be vaccinated against Covid-19, in an effort to control its highest infection levels since the pandemic began. Munich became the first major German city to cancel its upcoming Christmas market, blaming the “dramatic” coronavirus resurgence.

UK: The UK has recorded another 37,243 Covid cases in the last 24 hours, and a further 214 deaths within 28 days of a positive test. That is compared with 39,705 infections and 47 deaths reported the day before.

Scotland’s Covid passport scheme could be extended to cinemas, theatres and bars next week if that helped avoid a harsher lockdown closer to Christmas, Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed. Hospitality firms said further restrictions would be “a devastating blow”, warning it could force some venues to close.

Only a small fraction of attendees at the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow tested positive for Covid during the event, at a rate of around 1 in 250 people, Public Health Scotland said.

Ireland: People in Ireland are being asked to work from home where possible from Friday and bars, restaurants and nightclubs will introduce a midnight closing time on Friday as a raft of new restrictions is agreed by the government in the face of rising hospitalisations.

Ireland will offer boosters to people over 50, the Health Ministry said. Individuals age 16 and older with underlying conditions, as well as residents of long-term health facilities also will be eligible. Recipients must have their vaccine shot at least five months ago.


US: Covid -19 infections have passed 47.3 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 765,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The Biden administration plans to buy 10 million treatments of Pfizer Inc.’s Covid-19 pill. The company plans to submit data for the pill, administered twice a day for five days, to US regulators by Thanksgiving.

An advisory panel of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention scheduled a meeting for 19 November to discuss expanding booster eligibility for the vaccine produced by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE. The third shots currently are authorized for people 65 and older, as well as those 18 and up at high risk of getting a severe case.

Pfizer has announced it is asking US regulators to authorise its experimental antiviral Covid-19 pill, Paxlovid, which has been shown in clinical trials to cut the risk of hospitalisation and death for adults by almost 90%. The company has said it will allow generic manufacturers to supply its experimental antiviral Covid pill to 95 low- and middle-income countries.

A federal appeals court in Cincinnati has won the lottery to handle the consolidated case challenging the Biden administration’s emergency regulation requiring large employers to mandate that their workers either get vaccinated against Covid-19 or test regularly. The case will go to a panel of three judges from the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, a federal panel on multidistrict litigation announced Tuesday. The majority of judges in that circuit were appointed by Republican presidents.

New York City will open Times Square on New Year’s Eve to fully vaccinated revelers, after limiting the celebration last year to front-line workers. This year, those too young to be get a shot must be accompanied by a vaccinated adult, said Tom Harris, president of the Times Square Alliance. Visitors who aren’t able to get vaccinated because of a disability will need to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test and wear a mask if able. “New York City is back,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “We want to show the world we’re back.”

Mexico: Mexico will make vaccinations available to children age 15 to 17 without underlying health conditions. Pre-registration will begin Friday.


New Zealand: Vaccine passes were made available for the more than 3.4 million New Zealanders who are fully vaccinated, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said. The pass can be downloaded to a phone or printed out. It can be used to attend hospitality settings, retail establishments, community and sporting events, religious gatherings and other functions. Vaccination status isn’t required at supermarkets, pharmacies, health services and other essential establishments.

9:21 am

Coronavirus company news summary – Europe to donate over 70m doses of Moderna Covid-19 shot to COVAX – Bangladesh approves molnupiravir generic for Covid-19

Moderna has entered an agreement with the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) countries to donate more than 70 million doses of the company’s Covid-19 vaccine to COVAX. The doses were procured by the EU and EEA countries under the European Union Vaccines Strategy. The vaccines will be delivered this year, with France and Germany donating 15 million and 40 million doses, respectively, in the initial stage. Under the deal, the donated vaccines will be distributed to 92 low- and middle-income countries.

Regulatory agencies in Bangladesh have granted approval for the manufacturing and supply of the generic version of Merck (MSD) and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics’ oral drug, molnupiravir, to treat Covid-19. Last week, the Directorate General of Drug Administration in Bangladesh authorised eight pharmaceutical firms to produce and market the generic drug in the country, NHK WORLD-JAPAN reported. Merck has claimed that molnupiravir reduces the Covid-19-associated hospitalisation or mortality risk by nearly 50%. A Bangladeshi firm, Beximco, has already commenced production of the pill.

Revive Therapeutics has reported that potent thiol drugs, such as its Bucillamine, could potentially hinder Covid-19 infection in vitro, especially the Delta variant of the virus. The study found that such drugs could lower Covid-19-linked lung injury in vivo. The company noted that the latest data offers a robust rationale for clinical trials of systemically offered thiol drugs to treat Covid-19. The oral formulation of Bucillamine is being analysed in a Phase III trial for the treatment of mild-to-moderate Covid-19. Revive intends to create a reformulated version of the drug for the treatment of severe Covid-19 cases.

10:28 am

International update: Global Covid infections near 254 million

16 November

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5.1 million, with a figure of 5,108,273 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections near 254 million world wide.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 47.2 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 764,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Florida lawmakers will meet in a special legislative session, called by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis with the goal of thwarting coronavirus vaccine mandates.

Meanwhile, US president Joe Biden’s vaccine requirements are prompting more Americans to get Covid shots, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday.

New York City encouraged health care providers to allow all adults to get the booster shot as the city grapples with a rise in virus cases. People age 18 and over who received a Moderna or Pfizer dose at least six months ago or the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago are eligible for the booster, city Health Commissioner Dave Chokshi said. More than 630,000 New Yorkers have already received a booster shot. The percentage of positive cases on a seven-day-average rose to 1.66% on Saturday, up from 1.36% on 31 October, according to city data.

American Express Co. will require all 22,000 US employees to be fully vaccinated before they can work from its offices in the country. The requirement will also apply to in-person, company-sponsored events, on- and off-site. The company isn’t planning a broad return to its offices until 24 January, at which point a large majority of its staff will split their time between an office and remote work.

Novavax Inc. was sued for allegedly overstating its vaccine manufacturing capabilities and playing down issues that led the company to delay seeking emergency-use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. The shareholder complaint was filed 12 November in US federal court for the District of Maryland.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its travel advisory on Japan to Level 1, the agency’s lowest risk assessment. Travelers should be fully vaccinated, wear masks and maintain social distancing, the CDC said. Inc. will step up efforts to inform warehouse workers in California about safety protocols and outbreaks under a deal reached with the state’s attorney general. The accord requires that the retailer notify workers within a day and local health agencies with 48 hours about new cases in the workplace. The state filed suit against Amazon in state court, along with a request that a judge approve the settlement.


EU: European Commission recognizes the Covid-19 certificates issued by Georgia, Moldova, New Zealand and Serbia. At the same time, the four countries agreed to accept the EU’s digital certificate for travel.

France: France has reported 1,257 people in intensive care units for Covid, a rise of 47 on the previous days figures. It reported 91,298 deaths now that have taken place in hospital, up by 70.

Italy: Italy reported 44 Coronavirus deaths on Monday, up from 36 on Sunday, the health ministry said. The country also reported 5,144 infection cases, down from 7,569 a day earlier.

The Italian police identified 17 anti-vaccine and anti-green pass extremists affiliated with the “Enough of the Dictatorship” Telegram chat. The protesters are under investigation for instigation to commit crimes against doctors, journalists, scientists and government officials in the country, including Prime Minister Mario Draghi, authorities said.

Netherlands: Dutch hospitals are feeling the strain from a surge in Covid-19 patients but the worst has yet to come, the head of the country’s hospital association said.

Spain: International travel to Spain will likely recover some two thirds of its pre-pandemic levels in the fourth quarter of this year, the tourism minister Reyes Maroto said.

Russia: Russia reported 1,211 deaths from Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, close to an all-time high of 1,241 reported last week, as well as 38,420 new cases.

Czech Republic: The Czech government is considering several options of stricter rules for people who aren’t vaccinated against Covid-19, ranging from harsh steps to only a mild tightening of measures, according to outgoing Prime Minister Andrej Babis. One of the alternatives is a similar regime to the one imposed in neighboring Austria, which limits the movement and activities of those who have refused inoculation, Babis told a televised news conference after a government meeting on Monday.

Austria: On the day its lockdown of unvaccinated people begins, Austria has become the first European country to take radical action in a bid to increase take-up of jabs as new cases surge.

Austrian police were ordered to stop individuals on the streets to enforce a lockdown on people who have refused a Covid-19 shot, with Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg condemning the country’s “shamefully low vaccination rate.”  Starting on Monday, people who can’t show proof of vaccination and are caught going into cinemas, gyms or retail stores face fines starting at 500 euros ($573). Business owners could be tapped for 3,600 euros, the Interior Ministry announced on Sunday.

Germany: The three German parties negotiating a government coalition – the Social Democrats, Free Democrats and Greens – are planning to tighten restrictions on unvaccinated people, according to Oliver Krischer, the deputy head of the Greens caucus in German parliament. People who have refused a Covid shot will have to expect curbs on contact, he said Monday on ZDF television. Current extraordinary measures to combat the spread of the virus will expire on 25 November, and the coalition parties are planning to present new legislation later this week.

Cyprus: Cyprus approved a booster for everyone above age 18, the country’s Health Ministry said. Some 67% of the population has been fully vaccinated and the extra shot will be administrated six months after the second one.

Ireland: Ireland’s government is set to recommend people go back to working from home where possible, the Irish Times reported. The country has seen the most new cases since January in recent days. Still, the government is unlikely to push through more severe restrictions for now, with hospitalizations about a third of what they were at the start of the year.

UK: Asked if there could be another lockdown this Christmas, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned: “Clearly, we cannot rule anything out.” While saying that current data show no need for more restrictions, “history shows we cannot afford to be complacent,” he said. Last month Johnson said there would be no curbs over the holidays.

England Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said large parts of the National Health Service are under “very significant pressure” and are likely to remain so over the winter.

Britain’s booster vaccine rollout is to be extended to people aged between 40 and 49, officials said, in a bid to boost waning immunity in the population ahead of the colder winter months.


Singapore: Singapore recorded 2,069 new cases, up from 1,723 on Sunday. The Health Ministry reported that 1,533 patients were hospitalized, 255 of whom required oxygen supplementation. Eight people died from Covid-19 complications on 15 November.

Singapore will allow vaccinated arrivals from five more countries, including Indonesia and India, to access the country without quarantine via its travel lanes from 29 November, its transport minister said.

Japan: Japan will promote the establishment of production bases for semiconductors, Covid vaccines and drugs as part of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s economic stimulus, a draft plan seen by Reuters showed.

New Zealand: New Zealand reduced the isolation period to 10 days from 14 for fully vaccinated people who get Covid-19 or are in close contact with someone who has it. The isolation period must include 72 hours symptom-free.

A Maori tribe that claims New Zealand’s most famous haka as its heritage told anti-vaccine protesters to stop using the traditional performance to promote their message.

China: China is battling the spread of its biggest outbreak, according to the latest numbers, with travellers from a city where infections have grown faster than elsewhere in the country subject to tough quarantine rules in nearby areas.

Indonesia: Indonesia reported 221 new Covid-19 cases on Monday, the fewest since April last year, with 11 deaths. While the country has identified so-called delta subvariants among its active cases, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said in a press briefing that the government is confident there is now sufficient immunity, with about 40% of the targeted population fully vaccinated. More than 130 million Indonesians have received at least their first dose, nearly half of the total. The country is still monitoring the virus situation in other countries before reopening borders further, said Coordinating Minister of Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto.

Middle-east and Africa

Egypt: A ban on public sector employees entering their offices if they are unvaccinated and untested for Covid-19 took effect in Egypt on Monday as the government pushes to accelerate vaccination rates in the final weeks of the year.

Israel: Israel’s economy is expected to grow 7.1% in 2021 and 4.7% in 2022, the finance ministry said following a rapid recovery. The country also said on Sunday children aged five to 11 would be eligible for vaccination.

9:53 am

Coronavirus company news summary – Dr. Reddy’s open to manufacturing Pfizer’s Covid-19 antiviral – Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 shot offers robust immune response, study shows

Indian pharmaceutical company Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories has announced that the company is open to producing Pfizer’s Covid-19 antiviral pill. Dr. Reddy’s is one among the Indian firms that have obtained licenses to manufacture Merck’s Covid-19 pill, molnupiravir. Merck has granted licenses to manufacturers in developing nations to ensure a quick supply of the drug across the globe, Reuters reported. Various firms hope that Pfizer will also provide licences to produce the pill. The UK and Bangladesh have authorised molnupiravir while Dr. Reddy’s awaits approval from the drug regulator in India.

Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine was shown to demonstrate a robust immune response in a study comparing four vaccines, Bloomberg reported. Furthermore, the study indicated that individuals who received Sinopharm‘s shot may be more vulnerable to a breakthrough infection. Findings showed that the Sinopharm and Sputnik V vaccines induced reduced concentrations of antibodies, while AstraZeneca’s vaccine stimulated intermediate levels. The causes for the disparities in immune responses between the four vaccines are not known yet.

RedHill Biopharma has enrolled the last subject in the Part A portion of a Phase II/III clinical trial of its new oral pill RHB-107 (upamostat) to treat individuals with symptomatic Covid-19 who do not require hospitalisation. Conducted in the US and South Africa, the two-part, randomised, multicentre, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group trial will assess the safety and efficacy of the antiviral drug. The company also submitted data modules for another oral Covid-19 drug candidate, opaganib, to regulatory agencies in the US, EU and UK, among others.

12:06 pm

International update: Germany returns to ‘work from home’ as Covid cases soar

15 November

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5.1 million, with a figure of 5,102,855 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 253 million world wide.

Germany: Germany’s health minister, Jens Spahn, said the country faces a “bitter December” if immediate measures are not taken to try to control the spread of coronavirus.

Germany recorded another 33,498 coronavirus infections in the 24 hours through Sunday morning, taking the total since the start of the pandemic above 5 million, according to data from the RKI public-health institute. The number of deaths rose by 55 to 97,672, while the seven-day incidence rate climbed to 289.

Meanwhile, the head of Germany’s Robert Koch Institute advised Germans to avoid large gatherings amid the record surge in coronavirus infections, saying: “It’s five minutes past midnight.”

Germany to return to work from home amid rising infections. The measure is being reintroduced under draft legislation seen by AFP on Sunday, after the home working restriction was lifted at the beginning of July.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 47 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 763,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

UK: Elderly and vulnerable people must get their booster jabs if a rise in Covid cases in the UK is to be prevented, the British prime minister said, as he warned of “storm clouds” forming over parts of Europe where infections are surging.

UK officials have compiled a ‘Covid exit strategy’ from April called Operation Rampdown, leaked documents reveal. Under the plan, the government could wind down testing and people would no longer be forced to isolate if they are ill from April.

Czech Republic: The Czech republic recorded 9,161 new Covid-19 cases in 24 hours through Saturday, up by 3,400 from a week ago, according to the health ministry data. The nation of 10.7 million people reported more than 10,000 daily cases for four consecutive days this week. The outgoing government of Prime Minister Andrej Babis plans to announce new measures to stem the spread on Monday but is seeking agreement on curbs with the future cabinet lead by the Civic Democrats.

Vaccine news

Global: AstraZeneca has started signing commercial contracts to supply its Covid-19 vaccine next year as the pandemic moves to an “endemic phase” – in a major shift away from the drugmaker’s not-for-profit pricing.

US: One in three Americans aged 65 and above has received a Covid-19 booster jab, data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed on Friday.

Brazil: Brazil’s Supreme Court has suspended a government order that prevented companies from requiring employees to provide proof that they have been vaccinated against Covid-19 and stopped dismissals of those not immunised, Reuters reports.

China: China donated 500,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine on Sunday to Syria, which has one of the world’s lowest inoculation rates and what the UN called an alarming rise in cases.

Norway: Norway will offer a third Covid vaccine dose to everyone aged 18 or older and will give municipalities the option of using digital “corona passes” as a way to beat back an ongoing surge in infections, the government said.

Switzerland: A third vaccination will have to be extended to the general population in the near future, Swiss President Guy Parmelin said in an interview with local paper NZZ am Sonntag. Switzerland currently recommends booster shots for people over 65 years old.

UK: Britain expected to extend Covid booster programme to under 50s.

In the UK more than two million people received their Covid-19 booster in the past week, with health officials describing the numbers as record-breaking. NHS England said 2.1 million boosters were delivered between November 6-12, an increase on the 1.7 million boosters given out during the previous seven days.

A UK firm is to trial T-cell Covid vaccine that could give longer immunity against Covid-19. An Oxfordshire-based company Emergex will soon start clinical trials of a second-generation vaccine against Covid-19, an easy-to-administer skin patch that uses T-cells to kill infected cells and could offer longer-lasting immunity than current vaccines.

Egypt: Egypt’s national research body said on Sunday that it will start clinical trials for a domestically made coronavirus vaccine.

Lockdown updates

Netherlands: The Netherlands will return to partial lockdown amid surging Covid cases – the first lockdown in western Europe this winter. Taking effect from Saturday evening for three weeks, restaurants and non-essential shops will close early and spectators will be barred from major sporting events.

Austria: Austria announced a lockdown for unvaccinated people for at least 10 days as coronavirus cases spike to record levels from Monday until at least Nov. 24. Only about 65% of Austrians are fully vaccinated, one of the lowest rates in Western Europe.

Austria’s 7-day average of Covid cases has more than doubled this month to more than 10,000, and its recent rate of infection is among the highest in the world. A record 13,152 cases were reported on Saturday. The seven-day infection rate of 775 new cases per 100,000 people is well above 289 in neighboring Germany.

Russia: The Russian government has published a draft proposal to require QR codes as proof of immunity to Covid-19 from air and railway travellers up to 1 June.

Mauritius: Mauritius imposed a series of Covid-19 curbs today as it confronts a surge in cases despite a high vaccination rate.

Thailand: Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha said he is satisfied with almost 40,000 foreign tourists entering Thailand between November 1-12 after the nation’s reopening. Bangkok will allow internet cafes and game centers to reopen from 16 November as daily new infections have fallen below 10,000 daily cases since late October, compared with the peak of 20,000 daily cases in August.

Economy updates

US: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said controlling Covid-19 in the US is the key to easing inflation. “It’s important to realize that the cause of this inflation is the pandemic,” Yellen said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “If we want to get inflation down, I think continuing to make progress against the pandemic is the most important thing we can do,” she said.

Getting Americans back to work depends on bringing the Covid-19 pandemic under control, Minneapolis Fed president Neel Kashkari said. “What’s keeping people on the sidelines – we think it’s fear of the virus, the delta wave and the continued spread,” Kashkari said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” Getting the pandemic “really under control” will give people the confidence to return to work, helping the US economic recovery and bringing down inflation, he said.

9:28 am

Coronavirus company news summary – EC authorises Roche-Regeneron’s Covid-19 antibody combination – Appili’s Covid-19 antiviral fails Phase III trial

Roche and Regeneron have obtained marketing authorisation from the European Commission (EC) for their antibody combination therapy, Ronapreve, to prevent and treat Covid-19 in individuals aged 12 years and above. Ronapreve is indicated for Covid-19 patients who do not need supplemental oxygen but are at high disease progression risk. The approval comes after the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use of the European Medicines Agency recommended approval based on positive results from two Covid-19 trials of the therapy.

Appili Therapeutics has reported that its Covid-19 oral antiviral tablet, Avigan/Reeqonus (favipiravir) failed the Phase III PRESECO clinical trial. Data showed that the trial failed to attain statistical significance on the primary goal of time to sustained clinical recovery. The double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised trial assessed the safety and efficacy of oral tablets in Covid-19 outpatients. A total of 1,231 subjects suffering from mild-to-moderate Covid-19 were enrolled at 38 trial centres across the US, Mexico and Brazil. Further assessment of the results from the trial is underway, the company noted.

Innovation Pharmaceuticals has reported that the firm is carrying out a complete assessment of data from the Phase II Covid-19 clinical trial of Brilacidin to include the drug in Covid-19 platform clinical trials sponsored by various governments. The CTAP programme of the UK government and the ACTIV programme of the US National Institutes of Health focus on identifying potential therapies for Covid-19. In addition, the latest data from in vitro study showed that Brilacidin acts on viral proteins as well as host factors, indicating that the drug is less likely to acquire resistance as against other antiviral therapies.

12:22 pm

International update: Record Covid case rises in Netherlands and Germany

12 November

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5 million, with a figure of 5,080,019 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 251.9 million world wide.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 46.8 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 759,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Hospitals in some parts of the US are already starting to see the impact of an autumn wave of Covid-19 infections, the latest sign that the health-care system still faces serious pressure from the virus, even in places that have achieved relatively high vaccination rates. Intensive-care beds occupied by Covid-19 patients are climbing in 12 states from two weeks earlier, with most of them in a contiguous strip running from Arizona and New Mexico, through the Great Plains and into Minnesota. In several Western states, many doctors and nurses haven’t caught their breath from the last round of infections.

Eastern Europe: Morgues are filling up in Romania and Bulgaria as the countries record the EU’s highest daily death rates from Covid-19, after superstition, misinformation and entrenched mistrust in governments and institutions combined to leave them the least vaccinated countries in the bloc.

Bulgaria, the EU’s least vaccinated country, has asked the bloc to activate a protection mechanism under which it can receive oxygen, respirators and beds from other countries “in case of a sudden worsening” of the pandemic, the health ministry said. While the spread of the disease has slowed down, the country has the world’s second-highest overall Covid death rate after Peru.

Ukraine’s health ministry proposed expanding the list of occupations for which Covid vaccinations will be compulsory to cover medical personnel and municipal employees. Ukraine, which has a vaccination rate among the lowest in Europe, already obliges teachers and employees of state institutions and local governments to receive vaccinations, without which they face being suspended from work. The new list of roles that will require vaccination will include medical staff, municipal workers and employees of municipal companies.

A fire at a hospital treating Covid-19 patients in the southern Romanian town of Ploiesti killed two people and injured a nurse. It’s the fourth deadly fire that takes place in Romania since the pandemic started. Despite seeing a slowdown in new cases in the past week, Romanian hospitals are still overwhelmed with Covid patients and the intensive-care units are running at full capacity.

Germany: Germany’s chancellor-in-waiting Olaf Scholz has pushed ahead with a plan to phase out a state of national emergency by the end of the month, despite the country recording the highest coronavirus case numbers since the start of the pandemic.

The number of new cases in Germany jumped by more than 50,000 in a single day for the first time, and the southern state of Bavaria declared the latest wave of the pandemic a “disaster situation.”

Netherlands: The Netherlands on Thursday recorded more than 16,000 coronavirus infections in 24 hours, the highest number since the start of the pandemic. Dutch health experts have called on the government to impose a partial lockdown to fight the increase in cases.

Austria: Austria will place millions of people not fully vaccinated against Covid-19 in lockdown in a matter of days, as daily infections are at a record high and intensive-care units are increasingly strained, the chancellor, Alexander Schallenberg, said. About 65% of Austria’s population is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, the lowest rate of any western European country apart from Liechtenstein.

Sweden: Sweden has seen a sharp decline in Covid testing this month after its health agency said vaccinated Swedes no longer need to get tested, even if they have symptoms.

UK: The UK reported another 42,408 Covid cases and a further 195 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.

The UK government’s vaccine mandate for care home workers came into effect as about 50,000 care home staff have not been fully vaccinated in England and will not be allowed to work from Thursday.

Brazil: Brazil reports 188 Covid deaths in past 24 hours and 15,300 new cases of the coronavirus.

Africa: Death rates from Covid infections are much higher in patients with diabetes in Africa, where the number of people with diabetes is growing rapidly, the World Health Organization said. A WHO analysis of data from 13 African countries found a 10.2% case fatality rate in patients with Covid and with diabetes, compared with 2.5% for patients with Covid overall. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa, said: “Covid-19 is delivering a clear message: fighting the diabetes epidemic in Africa is in many ways as critical as the battle against the current pandemic.”

South Africa: South Africa’s measures to reduce the spread of the coronavirus may limit the severity of the next wave, the official running the national vaccination program said. Africa’s most-industrialized nation has fully vaccinated about a third of its 40 million adults, and has kept in place prevention measures including a curfew, limits on gathering and mandatory use of masks in public. The country has had the worst confirmed outbreak on the continent, with almost 3 million infections and about 90,000 deaths. “If we continue with social distancing, we will still get a fourth wave, but it will be mild,” Nicholas Crisp, the deputy director general of South Africa’s Department of Health, said in an interview, citing mathematical modeling.

Vaccine news

EU: Europe’s drug regulator has recommended two Covid antibody therapies, one from American-Swiss partners Regeneron-Roche and another from South Korea’s Celltrion, as the region builds up its defence against surging cases. Approval by the European Commission would mark the first for any Covid treatment on the continent since Gilead’s remdesivir last year.

Africa: Moderna Inc. is selling its Covid-19 vaccine to the African Union at $7 a dose, much less than the price other countries paid for the shot earlier this year. Moderna’s vaccine was seen as one of the more expensive shots, with the company’s chief executive officer having given a range of $25 to $37 per shot for the two-dose vaccine.

Lockdown updates

Mauritius: Mauritius is reimposing restrictions as cases and deaths rise again amid the spread of the delta variant. Starting Friday, bars and nightclubs will be closed, and sports activities, concerts and picnics will be banned, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth said in a statement on national television. Fewer people can attend funerals and weddings. “People went to the beach, did shopping and attended parties without taking the necessary precautions,” the prime minister said. “With such carelessness, the situation has deteriorated … We must react.”

Myanmar: Myanmar announced lifting of the stay-at-home order imposed on 17 townships in seven provinces where Covid-19 cases sharply declined in the past two weeks, according to the Ministry of Health.

Economy updates

US: The head of the organization representing companies in labor relations at the US’s largest ports is worried that the federal vaccine mandate set to take effect in January could worsen the current supply-chain crisis. James McKenna, president of the Pacific Maritime Association, which negotiates labor agreements for 70 companies at 29 West Coast ports, said he’s concerned that some workers who aren’t vaccinated won’t report for duty if there’s a mandate in place. McKenna estimates 30% to 40% of local dockworkers aren’t vaccinated. “Probably the worst thing that could happen to us is to have less bodies available to man these terminals,” McKenna said in an interview.

9:18 am

Coronavirus company news summary – Zipline drone delivers Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines in Ghana – CHMP recommends authorisation of Roche and Celltrion Covid-19 therapies

Zipline has executed the first-ever long-distance drone delivery of Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccines, requiring ultra-cold-chain, in Ghana. Earlier this year, the three companies collaborated to create and assess an end-to-end vaccine delivery system. This new vaccine supply model will enable the supply of nearly 50,000 doses of the vaccine in the country. Pfizer and BioNTech offered technical support, as well as expertise linked to vaccine management and storage at temperatures ranging from -90°C to -60°C, and financial aid for the pilot programme.

The Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) of the European Medicines Agency has recommended granting marketing authorisation to Roche’s antibody cocktail Ronapreve (casirivimab and imdevimab) and Celltrion’s Regkirona (regdanvimab) for Covid-19. The CHMP recommended authorisation of Ronapreve to treat or prevent Covid-19 in individuals aged 12 years and above who do not need additional oxygen and are at greater disease progression risk. Regkirona is intended for the treatment of adult Covid-19 patients who do not need supplemental oxygen but are at higher risk of severe disease.

Jiangsu Recbio Technology has reported positive initial data from the double-blinded, randomised, placebo-controlled, first-in-human clinical trial of its recombinant two-component Covid-19 subunit vaccine, ReCOV. Findings showed that the vaccine was well tolerated with a good safety profile. A 20μg dose of ReCOV elicited increased anti-SARS-CoV-2 neutralising antibody titers, at a level equivalent to already reported data on mRNA vaccines. The company plans to progress the vaccine into larger clinical trials in the coming days to assess its efficacy and safety.

12:03 pm

International update: Covid cases surge across Europe

11 November

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5 million, with a figure of 5,075,443 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 251.5 million world wide as cases surge across Europe.

People testing negative for Covid-19 despite exposure may have ‘immune memory’, a study has found. Scientists found that a proportion of people experience “abortive infection” in which the virus enters the body but is cleared by the immune system’s T-cells at the earliest stage meaning that PCR and antibody tests record a negative result. The discovery could pave the way for a new generation of vaccines targeting the T-cell response, which could produce much longer lasting immunity, they said.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 46.7 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 759,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Ten Republican-led US states sue over vaccine mandate for healthcare workers. The lawsuit contends that the vaccine requirement threatens the jobs of millions of workers and could “exacerbate an alarming shortage” in healthcare fields, particularly in rural areas where some health workers have been hesitant to get the shots.

Eastern Europe: The Czech Republic recorded a steep rise in new infections, which came close to a record at 14,539 new cases. The number of people hospitalized with Covid almost doubled since the end of October, according to health-care ministry data. Premier Andrej Babis called the situation “not good” and said that the government will debate curbs. He ruled out lockdowns.

Croatia reported a new high in daily infections and the Ukraine continued to struggle to contain its outbreak, with lines in Kyiv for death certificates and hospital beds for Covid patients at 73% occupancy.

Russia’s coronavirus death toll surpassed 250,000. The country reported a record 1,239 Covid-related fatalities in the previous 24 hours, taking the official death toll to 250,454.

India: India added 11,466 cases on Wednesday, pushing the overall tally to 34.4 million, while Covid-related deaths rose by 460 in a day to 461,849, latest data from the health ministry show. The country has administered 1.1 billion vaccine doses. As many as 96 countries, including the US, UK, Canada and Germany, have agreed to recognize India’s Covid vaccination certificates in a move that will boost international travel, the health minister said.

Brazil: Brazil has had 12,273 new cases of coronavirus reported in the past 24 hours, and 280 deaths, the health ministry said on Wednesday.

France: France is at the beginning of a fifth wave of the coronavirus epidemic, health minister Olivier Veran said on Wednesday. Demand for Covid booster jabs jumped in France after Emmanuel Macron said a top-up dose would be necessary for people to retain their vaccine passes.

Germany: Soaring coronavirus rates in Germany are threatening plans for a rollout of the country’s famous Christmas markets, due to open in about a week’s time.

Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to meet as soon as possible with leaders from Germany’s 16 states to discuss how best to tackle record increases in Covid cases. Merkel “will work with all her might until the last day of her term in office” to ensure that federal, regional and municipal governments deal effectively with the spreading fourth wave, according to her chief spokesman Steffen Seibert. The outgoing German leader has warned that hospitals in some hotspots risk being overwhelmed, and has urged more people to get vaccinated.

UK: The UK reported another 39,329 Covid cases and a further 214 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, official data showed.

Tens of thousands of care home residents in England face losing vital support as unvaccinated carers clock off for the last time before double jabs become mandatory. About 50,000 care home staff who have not had two doses will not be allowed to work from Thursday. Analysis by the Guardian suggests that on current staff/resident ratios without other measures to tackle the problem, the care of about 30,000 people could be affected.

Prime minister Boris Johnson came under fire from the World Health Organization’s special envoy for Covid-19 after being photographed without a face covering during a hospital visit. Asked about pictures of the British prime minister walking through Hexham General without a mask, Dr David Nabarro said: “I’m not sitting on the fence on this one – where you’ve got large amounts of virus being transmitted, everybody should do everything to avoid either getting the virus or inadvertently passing it on.”

The first case in the UK of a pet dog catching coronavirus, apparently from its owners, has reportedly been detected.

Singapore: A fifth lion at Singapore Zoo has tested positive for Covid-19, the Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS) said on Wednesday.

New Zealand: New Zealand prime minister Ardern’s popularity has plummeted in two new polls, as the country struggles to contain a Delta outbreak and transitions to a new era of endemic Covid.

Israel: Israel is to hold world’s first drill to test readiness for the possible emergence of a lethal ‘Omega’ Covid variant.

Vaccine news

EU: The EU signed its eighth Covid vaccine deal, approving French company Valneva’s jab. The European Commission said the contract with Valneva provides the possibility for EU member states to purchase nearly 27m doses in 2022. Valneva is hoping its candidate, which uses more traditional technology than the mRNA vaccines, could be a more reassuring option for Europeans still reluctant to be immunised. It said last month that it demonstrated efficacy “at least as good, if not better” than AstraZeneca’s vaccine in a late-stage trial comparing the two, with significantly fewer adverse side effects.

US: At least 900,000 US kids age 5 to 11 have received one shot of Pfizer’s vaccine out of about 28 million in the age group, White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said in a briefing. The pace of immunizations in children is expected to increase over the next several days as more than 20,000 sites across the country will provide them, Zients said.

South Africa: South Africa’s Medical Association, which represents doctors, said there must must be a choice of booster vaccine after Johnson & Johnson won the right to run research on the half a million health workers who took the company’s shot in an initial study. The government said offering a choice would delay the process. The head of the South African Medical Research Council, which is overseeing the trial, said the intervention wasn’t based on evidence and could create a “vaccine apartheid.”

Germany: Germany’s vaccine commission recommended that people under 30 and pregnant women receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for first doses or boosters rather than the Moderna shot. The rare heart-inflammation side effects appear more frequent with the Moderna shot in younger patients, and while there’s no comparable data for pregnant women, the group advised the Pfizer-BioNTech shot out of caution.

Italy: Italy, one of the first nations to be hit hard by the coronavirus, will offer a booster dose to all citizens in the 40-60 age group from 1 December, Health Minister Roberto Speranza told lawmakers on Wednesday. As of Wednesday, 83.7% of Italian residents have completed the vaccine cycle, he said. Booster shots are already available in Italy for vulnerable citizens, medical staff, people over age 60 and those who have previously received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Thailand: Thailand plans to set aside up to 500,000 doses of Covid vaccines for foreign workers as it prepares to welcome them back to the country to help ease a labour shortage. The government plans to allow workers from neighbouring Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos to re-enter the country beginning next month and fill up shortages in big exporting industries such as food and rubber production, the labour minister Suchart Chomklin said.

Israel: A panel of experts at Israel’s Ministry of Health voted overwhelmingly to approve the vaccination of children from 5 to 11 years old, according to a statement from the ministry on Wednesday evening. The director general of the health ministry will examine the team’s recommendation. US regulators cleared Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE vaccine for ages 5-11 this month.

Japan: Japan agreed to buy 1.6 million courses of Merck & Co.’s Covid pill for $1.2 billion, contingent on the experimental treatment’s clearance by domestic drug regulators, where it’s now under review. Merck’s molnupiravir has already been approved by UK authorities, and is under review in the US, which has agreed to purchase 3.1 million doses, pending authorization there. The Merck drug has been shown to cut hospitalizations and deaths by 50% in high-risk patients who are still early in the disease, and has been hailed along with an experimental pill from Pfizer as a potentially important tool in blunting the pandemic’s impact.

Lockdown updates

China: China is taking its extreme containment measures a step further, warning that the virus could be transmitted on parcels just as the country’s biggest annual online shopping festival looms. After three workers at a children’s clothing maker in the northeastern Hebei province were found to have Covid, authorities more than 1,200 miles away ordered people who had received – or even just handled – parcels from the company to get tested. The health commission in Guangxi, in China’s southeast, described the situation as a “Covid-related mail chain.” Back in Hebei, which surrounds Beijing, officials have tested 300 packages of clothing from the company, Haohui Ecommerce Co., and halted parcel-delivery services in two cities – Xinji and Jinzhou – as well as the town of Shenze. All the tests came back negative.

9:22 am

Coronavirus company news summary – Japan to buy 1.6m courses of Merck’s Covid-19 pill – J&J to supply Covid-19 vaccine through COVAX Humanitarian Buffer

The Japanese Government has signed an agreement to buy around 1.6 million courses of Merck (MSD) and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics’ molnupiravir for $1.2bn on obtaining authorisation or approval. Japan’s Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency, the US Food and Drug Administration, and the European Medicines Agency are currently reviewing the applications seeking authorisation for the experimental oral antiviral. It is already authorised in the UK to treat adult patients with mild-to-moderate disease and at least one risk factor for developing severe Covid-19.

Johnson & Johnson has signed an agreement with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the US Government to provide its single-dose Covid-19 vaccine to the world’s most vulnerable people through the COVAX Humanitarian Buffer. The company plans to supply the initial shipments of the vaccine soon. A part of the COVAX Facility, the COVAX Humanitarian Buffer aids in offering access to Covid-19 shots to individuals residing in conflict zones or humanitarian settings.

An alliance of ten states in the US has filed a lawsuit against the government, challenging a mandate for the healthcare staff in the country to get vaccinated against Covid-19, AP has reported. The lawsuit was filed in a Missouri district court. It alleged that the mandate threatens the jobs of healthcare workers and could worsen the shortage of staff, especially in rural regions. Missouri, Nebraska, Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Wyoming, Alaska, South Dakota, North Dakota and New Hampshire are part of the coalition.

3:01 pm

International update: Covid cases surge in Russia, Latvia and Greece

10 November

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5 million, with a figure of 5,068,233 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 251 million world wide.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 46.6 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 757,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Russia: Virus deaths in Russia hit daily record of 1,211 Covid-19 deaths, the highest daily death toll in the pandemic, and 39,160 new cases.

Latvia: Latvia, one of the least vaccinated countries in the European Union, is facing its most severe outbreak of Covid-19 yet.

Greece: Covid cases surge in Greece with a record of 8,613 new cases in the last 24 hours – the highest since the pandemic began. Cases have more than doubled in less than a fortnight.

UK: Daily Covid-related deaths in the UK rose above 250 again, with 262 reported on Tuesday.

National Health Service staff in England who work face to face with patients must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by 1 April, Health Secretary Sajid Javid told Parliament. Only those who can prove they are fully vaccinated can be employed by the NHS. The decision follows a government consultation that had 34,000 responses, Javid said.

Singapore: Covid-19 patients in Singapore who remain unvaccinated by choice will have to pay for their hospitalisation bills from 8 December, the government has ruled.

Vaccine news

Global: The World Health Organization has warned there could be shortfall of up to two billion syringes in 2022, which threatens to hamper vaccine efforts globally is production does not improve, AFP reports.

EU: Moderna also applied for European authorisation of its Covid-19 vaccine in children aged 6-11 years, weeks after it delayed a similar filing with US regulators.

US: Pfizer asks FDA to approve Covid booster shots for all US adults. Older Americans and other vulnerable groups have had access to a third dose of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine since September but the Food and Drug Administration has said it would move quickly to expand boosters to younger ages if warranted.

Stepping up the rate of vaccinations and boosters can help avoid a holiday surge in new cases that have dropped to a plateau of about 70,000 a day, White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci said. While hospitalizations and deaths have fallen in the US, it’s far too early to pull back on mitigation measures such as mask-wearing, Fauci said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Balance of Power with David Westin.”  “If we get the overwhelming proportion of unvaccinated people vaccinated, and we get those who are vaccinated and eligible to get a booster,” Fauci said, “we can go a long way to preventing a new surge as we go into the winter.”

The US will buy another $1 billion worth of the Covid-19 pill made by Merck & Co Inc and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, the companies said on Tuesday.

The American Apparel & Footwear Association, which represents more than 1,000 brands, urged the Biden administration to step up vaccine donations to Vietnam after the US gave the country 15 million doses, Stephen Lamar, the group’s president and CEO, said. Vaccinations are critical for Vietnam, the second-largest supplier of apparel, footwear and travel goods to the US after China, to instill confidence in workers to return to factories, he said. Pouyuen Vietnam, a unit of one of the world’s largest makers of athletic shoes, is struggling to meet orders after 6% of its workforce quit amid the nation’s worst virus outbreak, according to a post on the Ho Chi Minh City Communist Party Committee’s website.

Canada: Canada authorised the use of Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine as a booster shot for people 18 years of age and older.

France: France pushes to accelerate update of Covid-19 booster shots for elderly and vulnerable citizens. President Emmanuel Macron said a third injection would be made available to those aged 50-64 from early December. Anyone over 65 who was vaccinated more than six months ago will need to get a booster shot by mid-December for their “health pass” to remain valid, Macron said.

Lockdown updates

New Zealand: Auckland and Waikato students in years 1 to 10 can return to face-to-face learning at schools on 17 November, New Zealand Education Minister Chris Hipkins said Wednesday. Measures to help minimize the spread of Covid-19 will include mask wearing from year 4 up, ventilating classrooms, limiting the number of students on site and making sure groups of children distance from each other.

Scotland: Scotland is looking at tightening Covid restrictions because of a high level of new cases as it hosts the United Nations climate summit in its largest city. The government expects case numbers to increase further in the coming weeks, partly due to the COP26 meeting in Glasgow, Deputy First Minister John Swinney told lawmakers on Tuesday. The administration in Edinburgh “cannot rule out” strengthening existing measures to avoid the need for any future lockdowns, Swinney said.

9:49 am

Coronavirus company news summary – Pfizer, BioNTech seek FDA approval for Covid-19 booster use in all adults – Moderna seeks expansion of EU CMA for Covid-19 vaccine in children

Pfizer and BioNTech have sought authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use of Covid-19 vaccine booster shots in all individuals aged 18 years and above, Reuters has reported. Initially, when the companies sought authorisation for all adults, an FDA advisory panel rejected the request, citing lack of evidence. The FDA then authorised the use of booster shot in September for individuals aged 65 years and above and those at increased risk of infection due to workplace exposure. Meanwhile, Pfizer sought approval from the Japanese health ministry for Covid-19 vaccine use in children aged between five and 11 years.

Moderna has sought an expansion of the Conditional Marketing Authorisation (CMA) from the European Medicines Agency for its Covid-19 vaccine in children aged between six and 11 years. The filing is based on positive data from Phase II/III KidCOVE clinical trial of the vaccine in children of the same age group. Findings showed that two 50μg doses of shot were well tolerated and offered strong neutralising antibody titers.

AstraZeneca has announced plans to set up a vaccines unit to accommodate its Covid-19 vaccines and antibody therapies. AstraZeneca Europe and Canada executive vice-president Iskra Reic will lead the division, which will focus on research and development as well as production. A company spokesperson said: “The team will be dedicated to our Covid-19 vaccine, our long-acting antibody combination and our developmental vaccine addressing multiple variants of concern.”

10:02 am

Coronavirus company news summary – Sona partners with Arlington to supply Covid-19 saliva test in US – Japan to offer free Covid-19 testing for asymptomatic people

Sona Nanotech has signed a binding licensing agreement with in-vitro diagnostics developer Arlington Scientific to market the former’s quick saliva Covid-19 test. According to the deal, Sona will license the intellectual property for its rapid saliva Covid-19 test to Arlington. Arlington will seek an Emergency Use Authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration for usage at the point-of-care as well as for at-home settings. Arlington can produce and supply the test in the US on obtaining approval. In lab studies, the test demonstrated a sensitivity and specificity of 93% and 100%, respectively.

Japan has plans to offer free Covid-19 tests to people showing no symptoms of SARS-Cov-2 infection. The move is anticipated to protect the country from another potential Covid-19 wave. To date, Covid-19 tests are offered free to individuals experiencing virus-associated symptoms and those exposed to infection. Testing centres will be chosen by prefectural governments. Covid-19 has claimed over 18,000 lives in the country so far.

Several mayors from both sides of the US-Canada border have held discussions to urge the Canadian federal government to scrap the expensive Covid-19 test mandate for fully vaccinated travellers, CBC has reported. Following 19 months of closure, the US has now reopened the land border for fully inoculated tourists. Border-town mayors noted that vaccinated people who enter Canada are required to provide negative results from an expensive molecular test.

8:09 am

International update: France suffers Covid resurgence as global infections pass 250 million

9 November

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5 million, with a figure of 5,056,034 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 250 million world wide.

France: Covid hospitalisations in France saw their highest daily rise since August. French health authorities said he number of people hospitalised because of Covid went up by 156 over the past 24 hours, the highest daily rise since 23 August, to reach a one-month peak of 6,865. The president Emmanuel Macron will address the nation on Tuesday about the resurgence of Covid infections.

Schoolchildren in large parts of France were ordered to again wear face masks in class, less than a month after being allowed to remove them, as the country tries to tamp down a surge in Covid cases. Primary schools in 40 of France’s 101 departments, which had been mask-free for weeks, are affected by the order, when the incidence rate rises above 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants over five consecutive days.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 46.6 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 755,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Almost 6% of hospital beds in US hospitals were occupied by Covid-19 patients on 7 November, the least since 28 July, according to the US Department of Health & Human Services. The hospitalization rate fell to 5.9% from 6.0% the day before, and hospital beds occupied by Covid-19 patients totaled 45,121. Idaho has the greatest percentage of beds occupied by Covid-19 patients at 13.0% followed by Montana at 12.1%

About 11,000 Boeing Co. employees have asked to be exempted from Covid-19 vaccines the planemaker has mandated, according to a person briefed on the matter, a sign of backlash among some rank-and-file workers to the Biden administration’s rules for government contractors.

China: China reported more infections in people who exhibited no symptoms of Covid-19 on Tuesday than in those who were actively suffering from the virus, indicating the challenge it faces in eliminating the highly infectious and insidious pathogen. Among the 89 people who learned they were harboring the virus, 46 had no outward signs of disease. It is the first time those with covert infections outnumbered those with symptoms during the broadest outbreak that China has experienced since the virus first emerged in Wuhan in late 2019.

UK: The UK reported a further 57 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, and another 32,322 Covid cases, according to the latest data on the government’s dashboard. This represents a drop in infections by 16.6% in the past week, while deaths are up by 8.2%.

The UK is “a long way away” from thinking about a winter lockdown, a leading scientist advising the government has said, but it is vital that anyone eligible gets their booster vaccine. Dr Mike Tildesley, a member of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling group (Spi-M), said “we are not out of the woods yet” as he urged people to have their flu and Covid booster vaccines. Asked about the prospect of a winter lockdown, he told Sky News that if the NHS were under severe pressure and the number of deaths started to increase “there may be discussions around whether more restrictions need to come in”. On the importance of booster take-up, he added: “It is certainly true that, if we don’t get good immunity across the population, there may need to be perhaps further measures taken.”

Greece: Greece reported a new high of daily cases with 7,335 infections. It’s the sixth record in the past nine days, while the government took extra measures last week to contain spread of the virus by reaching out to unvaccinated people. Bookings for the first dose of the vaccine has been rising since then.

Vaccine news

Russia: Russia’s one-dose Sputnik Light vaccine had a good safety profile and induced strong immune responses especially in people who had already encountered Covid, according to the results of phase 1 and 2 trials published in The Lancet Regional Health – Europe medical journal.

US: Texas warned residents that the unvaccinated are about 20 times more likely to die from the virus than fully vaccinated people and 13 times more likely to test positive. The data was the result of a four-week, in-state study that compared electronic lab reports, death certificates and state immunization records, the Texas Department of State Health Services said in a statement. The risk of death was 48 times higher for unvaccinated people in their 30s and 63 times higher for those in their 40s, the study found.

Regeneron’s antibody cocktail cut the risk of contracting Covid-19 by 82% for up to eight months, according to a company-sponsored study that could pave the way for its broader use.  The company has asked the US Food and Drug Administration to expand the authorization so the drug can be used to prevent infections, even when it’s given before a person has been exposed.

Nigeria: It will be “impossible” for Nigeria to meet its target of vaccinating 40% of its population by the end of the year because Covid is not being taken seriously, health experts have warned. Fewer than 1.5% of the country’s 206 million population has been fully vaccinated. But with more people killed in conflict last year and substantially more recorded deaths from malaria than Covid in Nigeria, experts believe it is further down the list of concerns for many in the country.

Vietnam: Australia pledged more than 3m Covid vaccine doses to Cambodia, the prime minister Hun Sen said, which would help the country give booster shots to its people.

Singapore: Singapore will require those who chose not to get the vaccines to pay for their own medical bills if they get Covid. To date, 85% of the population is fully vaccinated, and 18% have received boosters.

Lockdown updates

New Zealand: Thousands of people gathered in front of New Zealand’s parliament to protest vaccine mandates and lockdowns, Reuters reported. Security measures at the building were bulked up after the protesters gathered following a march through central Wellington, the report said.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong could open up to global travel in roughly six months, after officials have successfully navigated the introduction of quarantine-free borders with mainland China and boosted the local vaccination rate, a government adviser said. “We maybe need half a year or so to develop an adequate vaccination rate, especially among the older people,” Lam Ching-choi, a member of Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam’s advisory Executive Council, said in an interview on Monday. “Hopefully by then, we have opened up the border with China and we might have conditions favorable to open up the border to other places.”

Denmark: Denmark, which has one of Europe’s highest vaccination rates, plans to reintroduce some restrictions to halt a recent spike in cases. Danes will have to again present so-called corona passports to attend public events, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said at a press conference late on Monday. The move follows a recommendation from health authorities that the country reclassify the virus as a disease that poses a critical threat to society.

UK: The UK government said beginning 22 November, travelers coming to England who received Covid vaccines on the World Health Organization’s Emergency Use Listing will be treated as fully vaccinated. Sinovac, Sinopharm Beijing and Covaxin will be added to the list of approved vaccines for inbound travel, according to the UK government website.

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Coronavirus company news summary – UK to start rolling out Merck’s molnupiravir through trial – NRx plans vaccine production facility in Luxembourg

The UK is set to commence the rollout of Merck’s antiviral pill, molnupiravir, for Covid-19 through a trial by the end of this month. Developed jointly by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, the drug obtained the world’s first emergency approval from the UK last week. Previously, the country had procured 480,000 doses of the antiviral pill. UK Health Security Agency chief medical adviser Susan Hopkins told the BBC that the trial will analyse how the pill works in the broader population of vaccinated individuals.

NRx Pharmaceuticals is set to establish a production capability in Luxembourg to manufacture its BriLife Covid-19 vaccine. This plant will aid in serving European and other nearby markets. The company expects tech transfer and scale-up of the vaccine to begin this month. NRx plans to start vaccine production in the first half of next year with over 300 million doses a year to be supplied every year in the preliminary stage.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted Emergency Use Authorization to use two more batches of Johnson and Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine produced at the Baltimore facility of Emergent BioSolutions. With the latest development, the regulatory agency has authorised a total of 11 batches of the shot produced at the plant. The authorisation is based on a detailed review of the plant records and quality testing conducted by the manufacturer. The facility is yet to be included in the vaccine EUA as an authorised production site.

9:21 am

International update: New analysis puts Covid pandemic death toll between 10 and 19 million

8 November

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5 million, with a figure of 5,049,340 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. However, new analysis puts the pandemic’s death toll between 10m and 19m people. Meanwhile, infections exceed 249 million world wide.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 46.4 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 754,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Los Angeles County is set on Monday to impose one of the strictest vaccine mandates in the US, requiring proof for most indoor public places. Proof of full vaccination must be presented for entrance to restaurants, bars, gyms, movie theaters, shopping centers, concerts and some government buildings. Enforcement doesn’t begin until Nov. 29. Establishments that don’t enforce the mandate will be subject to fines starting at $1,000 for the second violation and rising to $5,000.

Germany: Germany reports 15,513 new Covid cases in the past 24 hours, a decrease from yesterday’s 23,543 reported cases, the Robert Koch Institute reports.

India: India’s daily Covid cases rose by 11,451 to reach a total of 34.37m and deaths rose by 266 for a total death toll of 461,057 the health ministry reports.

Australia: NSW recorded 244 new Covid-19 cases as the state prepared for further easing of restrictions for fully vaccinated people from Monday

Victoria recorded 1,173 Covid-19 cases and the state government announced a $44m package to revitalise Melbourne’s CBD, including a plan to allow diners to claim 30% off their bills between Monday and Thursday each week

The ACT became the first Australian jurisdiction to fully vaccinate 95% of its population

The Northern Territory government announced the lockdown of Katherine would end at 3pm NT time and switch to a lockout for people who are not fully vaccinated. The Darwin lockout was extended to midnight tomorrow night, when the Katherine lockout is also scheduled to end.

Thailand: Thailand reported 39 Covid-19 deaths in the past 24 hours, the lowest single-day tally since 29 June, after the government accelerated vaccinations to facilitate a wider border reopening. Thailand also reported 7,592 new daily infections.

Singapore: Singapore’s infection rate fell to 0.81, the lowest level in the latest viral wave and matching the level last reached Friday, Ministry of Health data showed. The intensive-care utilization rate dipped to 69.9% Sunday from 72.8% the day before, when it touched the highest in more than a week. The city-state added 2,553 new cases and 17 deaths.

Vaccine news

Australia: Australia will begin administering booster shots of Pfizer’s Covid vaccine from Monday amid an accelerating immunisation drive against the coronavirus.

UK: More than 10 million people have had Covid booster jabs in the UK, according to new figures, as people were told to get their top-up to help prevent restrictions this Christmas. The UK government could restrict travel for people who refuse Covid boosters as government sources confirmed they are looking at plans for travel restrictions on people who do not take up the booster offer.

The UK will start to roll out Merck’s molnupiravir Covid-19 antiviral pill through a drug trial later this month, Dr Susan Hopkins, the chief medical adviser at the UK Health Security Agency said on Sunday. Last week the UK became the first country in the world to approve the potentially game-changing Covid-19 antiviral pill, jointly developed by US based Merck & Co. and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.

US: US president Joe Biden is pushing forward with an ambitious plan to require millions of private sector employees to get vaccinated by early next year, while simultaneously battling to convince workers in his own federal government to get the shot.

New treatments under development for Covid-19 show promise but vaccination remains the surest way to end the pandemic, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.  “There is a 100% effective strategy to avoid hospitalization and death, and that’s not getting Covid in the first place,” Murthy said on ABC’s “This Week.” “A therapeutic, a pill is not a substitute for getting vaccinated.” Pfizer Inc. and Merck & Co. have presented data showing their new antiviral drugs can significantly reduce the risk of serious infection. Both must go before US regulators for approval.

Vietnam: Vietnam’s health ministry said the US has donated 2.5 million additional doses of Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine. That brings the total doses sent from the US to Vietnam to more than 14.6 million, according to a statement on the ministry’s website.

Lockdown updates

US: Flights for fully-vaccinated travelers from Europe to US begin Monday, though the lucrative market will be very different from the one before the pandemic. Demand compared with before the pandemic will be lower. The corporate road warriors who were once the North Atlantic’s lifeblood are still largely grounded as firms avoid unnecessary travel, putting the onus on attracting leisure passengers. The US is letting in Europeans just as virus infections surge again across the continent. The US is lifting entry restrictions for more than 30 countries, including China, Brazil and India.

UK: Professor Anne Johnson, president of Academy of Medical Sciences and a member of SAGE, told LBC radio that she understood a “Plan B” for lowdown restrictions is still on the cards, according to the Guardian. “If we want to avoid any restrictions in the future, or indeed reduce the damage, we need to think about all the things that we can do, which include not just vaccinating, which is very important, but also going to isolate when we’re sick, get tested,” the Guardian quoted her as saying.

New Zealand: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern further eased Covid-19 restrictions in Auckland and said the country’s largest city is on track to exit lockdown by the end of the month.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong should reopen its borders to the rest of the world if six months of being Covid free isn’t enough to enable authorities’ sought-after travel bubble with China, a top epidemiologist in the city said.

Japan: Japan reported zero Covid-19 deaths for the first time in 15 months on Sunday, a day before the country eases border control measures. The country reported 157 new infections on Sunday, down from a peak of about 25,000 during the summer.  With Japan’s outbreak easing and a vaccination campaign that’s inoculated more than 70% of the population, the government is seeking to reopen the economy. Effective Monday, Japan will shorten quarantine for short-term business travelers and Japanese nationals or foreign residents returning from abroad if they have received an approved vaccine. Japan will also decide whether to change the way it categorizes the severity of the Covid situation based on the burden on its health-care system in five different stages, the NHK reported.

Economy updates

Asia: Makers of vaccines and treatments slumped in Asia, while global travel and tourism shares rose, after Pfizer Inc. announced its pill reduced Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths substantially. Investors are betting that the drug, the second promising pill for treating Covid-19 patients, will help tame the pandemic and speed up the comeback of travel. The news lifted shares of airlines and cruise companies, while casino and hotel operators also rose along with luggage makers and tour operators.

11:56 am

GlobalData Epidemiologist Report: Russia, Romania, Ukraine suffering heavy Covid toll

5 November

Globally, the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 have reached over 248,757,000, with more than 5,032,000 deaths reported.

Eastern Europe is now a pandemic hotspot with a high number of daily new cases and deaths. Russia, Romania, and Ukraine are suffering the heavy toll of the highly infectious Delta variant of coronavirus.

Ukraine and Romania have reported over 400 daily new confirmed deaths, whereas Russia has over 1,000 daily deaths.

This is in sharp contrast to Western Europe where the daily new confirmed deaths are much lower than Eastern Europe.

The major reason for this difference is the low vaccination rate in Eastern European countries.

In Ukraine and Russia, only 17% and 33% of the population are fully vaccinated. Millions of the Eastern European population remain unvaccinated, increasing the risk for the winter surge of the virus.

Encouraging people to get vaccinated will help prevent a fresh wave of cases, as will continued mitigation with mask use and other precautionary measures.

In Western Europe, daily confirmed Covid-19 cases have started to increase in recent weeks, with France, Germany, Italy, and Spain all reporting higher 7-day averages of new daily confirmed cases this week compared to two weeks ago.

Daily confirmed cases, however, are still lower than in the UK.

The possible reason for this difference is the high vaccination rate in children and mitigation measures such as mask-wearing and vaccine passports in Western Europe.

There are concerns in the UK that a high rate of infection in children has spilled over to older age groups as the cases and hospitalizations are also rising in these groups.

To help mitigate further transmission, public health measures must remain in place, in addition to increasing vaccinations among school-aged children who are currently a primary driver of transmission in the UK.

Bishal Bhandari, Senior Epidemiologist at GlobalData

11:13 am

International update: Europe again a centre of Covid pandemic – WHO

5 November

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed the grim milestone of 5 million, with a figure of 5,029,891 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 248.6 million world wide.

Europe: Europe is once again a centre of the Covid pandemic, the World Health Organization has said. Cases are at near-record levels and 500,000 more deaths are forecast by February. Uneven vaccine coverage and a relaxation of preventive measures have brought Europe to a “critical point” in the pandemic, WHO says.

Central and Eastern Europe are grappling with spiralling coronavirus cases with several countries hitting new daily records in the regions, which have lower vaccination rates than the rest of the continent. Ukraine, Croatia, Slovenia and Slovakia reported their highest ever numbers of daily cases, while other countries registered the most infections in months. Most Central and Eastern European countries have vaccinated about half of their populations or less, which is lower than the European Union average of some 75%.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 46.3 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 751,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data. 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 hospital admissions dropped 7.6% through Monday on a rolling weekly basis. Intensive-care unit utilization for Covid patients nationwide fell to 15% from 16% a week earlier, the CDC reported Thursday.

Understanding the origins of Covid-19 remains a key focus of the Biden administration and that they will continue pushing for answers, The White House said.

Arizona, Florida, and Missouri have vowed to sue the Biden administration Friday to block an emergency rule mandating workplace Covid-19 vaccination or testing, with more lawsuits expected from Republican-led states and industry groups. Attorneys general in those three states said they’ll file lawsuits early Friday, when the rule is officially published and will take effect. Ohio and Indiana’s attorneys general also have pledged to challenge the regulation in court. Alabama and Georgia are expected to join Florida’s suit.

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 5 December. Workers must be fully vaccinated by 4 January or submit to testing.

China: China’s latest Covid-19 outbreak continues to grow as it shifts east through the nation’s rust belt, prompting officials to implement increasingly stringent prevention measures in an effort to control it.  The country’s health commission reported 68 local confirmed cases on Friday, plus 22 additional infections that didn’t cause any symptoms. Heilongjiang province in the northeast, which accounted for more than one-third of the total, has become the latest epicenter as a mysterious cluster that emerged in the northern border town Heihe ballooned despite a city-wide lockdown.

UK: The UK has become the first country to approval an oral antiviral pill to treat Covid. Nearly half a million doses of molnupiravir, a pill that can be taken twice daily at home, are due for delivery from mid-November and will be given as a priority to elderly Covid patients and those with particular vulnerabilities, such as weakened immune systems. The drug will initially be given to patients through a national study run by the NHS.

A study suggests UK Covid cases may have peaked for this year. The study, which estimates the number of Covid cases in the community from the information that users log on an app, found a clear decline in cases in under-18s since mid-October, with infection rates levelling off in most other age groups though still climbing in 55- to 75-year-olds.

Australia: NSW recorded 308 new locally acquired Covid cases and four deaths. Victoria recorded 1,247 new cases and nine deaths. The ACT recorded 13 new cases. Queensland recorded three new locally acquired cases in the regional town of Goondiwindi. Queensland town Moree was also be declared a restricted border zone area.

Chile: Almost two weeks before Chile’s presidential election, one of the candidates has contracted Covid-19, sending five of his opponents into quarantine and forcing campaigning to go virtual. Gabriel Boric must remain isolated for 10 days after testing positive, while rivals Sebastian Sichel, Eduardo Artes, Yasna Provoste, Marco Enriquez-Ominami and Jose Antonio Kast have to quarantine for seven days.

Vaccine news

Global: Novavax Inc. requested an emergency-use listing for its Covid-19 vaccine from the World Health Organization, saying its shot provided 100% protection against moderate and severe disease and had 90.4% efficacy overall. While Novavax has experienced production setbacks that prevented its shot from being a key player in the U.S. vaccination drive, it has been moving to gain access to more markets in other countries including Indonesia earlier this week. The vaccine could eventually be an excellent booster candidate, said Novavax Chief Executive Officer Stanley Erck.

EU: 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: US vaccine mandate for private sector workers to begin 4 January. President Joe Biden will begin enforcing the mandate that private-sector workers in the US be vaccinated against Covid or be tested weekly from 4 January.

South Africa: The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine helps prevent severe symptoms among those infected with the delta variant, according to research involving 1.2 million medical insurance plan members in South Africa. The Pfizer vaccine is 73% effective in protecting against hospital admission two weeks after the first dose, and 92% after the second shot. Unvaccinated members had a five times higher risk of infection and a 20 times risk of dying from complications of an infection.

Latvia: Latvia will allow businesses to fire workers who refuse to either get a Covid vaccine or transfer to remote work, from 15 November as the country battles one of the worst Covid waves in the EU. The new law allows businesses to suspend the unvaccinated without pay if they refuse to either get the Covid jab or, if possible, to get transferred to remote work. They can then fire the employees if they do not get the vaccine in three months of the suspension.

Lockdown updates

Australia: Australia’s largest state said it would open domestic and international borders for fully vaccinated arrivals once 90% of the population aged over 12 had received two shots, in a shift away from one of the world’s strictest Covid-Zero approaches. Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan on Friday said that reopening wouldn’t be likely until around late January or early February when the target is expected to be achieved, dashing hopes that border restrictions might ease before Christmas. The current double dose level for the state is 63.7%.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong expects to resume reopening with China “at scale” in February next year, Sing Tao reported, citing Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s speech in a forum.

HSBC asked all staff including vendors in Hong Kong to get vaccinated or undergo Covid-19 testing every 2 weeks, the Hong Kong Economic Times reported, citing an internal memo.

Philippines: The Philippines is easing coronavirus restrictions in the Manila capital region from Friday until 21 November to spur economic recovery as infections decline.

Singapore: Singapore’s weekly infection rate, a key indicator used by the government to ease restrictions in the financial hub, fell for a second day to its lowest since at least early September. The ratio of community cases for the past week to those a week earlier dropped to 0.93, the Ministry of Health reported Thursday.

Economy updates

US: 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.

10:58 am

Coronavirus company news summary – FDA denies EUA to NRx’s Zyesami for critical Covid-19 – AZ will not pursue approval of its Covid-19 vaccine in Switzerland

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has denied emergency use authorization (EUA) to NRx Pharmaceuticals’ Zyesami (aviptadil) for the treatment of critical Covid-19 patients with respiratory failure. The agency cited inadequate data on the known and possible risk-benefit profile of the therapy in people with critical Covid-19 and respiratory failure. The agency said that to date, it had assessed the safety data of only 131 randomised participants receiving the investigational therapy. NRx said it will seek to share data from at least 150 additional patients treated on the NIH ACTIV-3b trial, and that it has requested a Type A meeting with the FDA to discuss Zyesami’s development.

AstraZeneca will not pursue marketing authorisation for its Covid-19 vaccine in Switzerland. The company attributed the move to medical regulator Swissmedic’s insistence on limiting the usage of the vaccine to individuals aged 50 years and above. In October last year, AstraZeneca started rolling submissions to obtain authorisation for the shot in the country, submitting trial data and other required documents. The vaccine was found to have an encouraging reactogenicity profile and was well tolerated in people aged 18 years and above.

Novavax has concluded the rolling submission process for emergency use listing of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate, NVX-CoV2373, with the World Health Organization. The company submitted all the required modules including the chemistry, manufacturing and controls data needed by the agency to review the recombinant nanoparticle protein-based vaccine with Matrix-M adjuvant. Data from the Phase III PREVENT-19 trial in the US and Mexico are included in the filing. The vaccine was found to provide complete protection against moderate and severe Covid-19 in the trial.

10:53 am

Coronavirus company news summary – Lilly to supply more doses of antibody cocktail to US in $1.29bn deal – NRx reports positive safety data in Phase III trial of Covid-19 treatment

Eli Lilly has signed an agreement to supply additional doses of its Covid-19 combination therapy, bamlanivimab with etesevimab, to the US Government. Under the $1.29bn deal, Lilly will deliver 614,000 doses of the neutralising antibody cocktail by 31 January 2022. At least 400,000 of these doses will be delivered by end of 2021, the company said. Administered together, the cocktail has received Emergency Use Authorization in the US to treat mild to moderate Covid-19 infection or for disease prevention post-exposure in some people.

NRx Pharmaceuticals has reported that the treatment with Zyesami (aviptadil) posed no novel safety concerns in the US National Institutes of Health-sponsored Phase III ACTIV-3b Critical Care clinical trial. The Independent Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) of the trial carried out the third scheduled assessment and reported no new safety concerns linked to Zyesami on reviewing over 300 subjects. The DSMB also advised advancing subject enrolment in the trial.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have recommended inoculating children aged five to 11 years with the Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine. In a media statement, CDC director Rochelle Walensky endorsed the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ previous recommendation of the shot in children of this age group.

8:20 am

International update: Covid Delta variant sweeps across China – infections reach 19 of 31 provinces

3 November

Global: The global Covid death toll continues to climb past the grim milestone of 5 million, with a figure of 5,013,591 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 247.5 million world wide.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 46 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 748,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

China: More provinces in China are fighting Covid-19 than at any time since the deadly pathogen first emerged in Wuhan in 2019. The highly-infectious Delta variant is hurtling across the country despite the increasingly aggressive measures that local officials have enacted in a bid to thwart it. Local infections have been found in 19 of 31 provinces in the world’s second-largest economy. China reported 93 new local cases on Wednesday, and 11 asymptomatic infections. Three more provinces detected cases, central Chongqing and Henan and Jiangsu on the eastern coast.

UK: The UK has had its highest number of daily Covid deaths reported since late February, as another 293 people have died within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test.

A scientist has quit the UK government’s pandemic advisery body Sage, saying that the Covid crisis is “a long way from over”. Sir Jeremy Farrar, quit the body at the end of October.

Romania: Romania broke its daily death toll record, after another 591 people died from Covid. It has lagged behind on vaccinations and is well below the average within the EU.

Ireland: Public health officials in Ireland say that its case numbers are at their highest point since January, as another 3,726 were registered – 70% higher than a week ago.

Netherlands: Weekly positive cases jumped by 39% on Tuesday and coronavirus hospital admissions rose by around 30% week-on-week.

Vaccine news

US: Children as young as 5 are one step closer to being vaccinated against Covid in the US, after the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) unanimously voted in favour of the broad use of Pfizer and BioNTech jabs for them.

UK: The UK government is increasingly worried that hospitalisations and deaths among double-vaccinated people could rise due to waning immunity as an estimated 4.5 million people have failed to get their booster shots despite being eligible.

The UK government’s independent vaccine advisers recommended against Covid shots for healthy teenagers despite considering evidence that the jabs would reduce infections, hospitalisations and some deaths in the age group.

New Zealand: The New Zealand government signed a purchase agreement with Pfizer Inc. for 4.7 million additional doses of the Covid-19 vaccine for delivery in 2022, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said in statement. The additional supply will be used for a potential booster program and if eligibility is extended to the 5- to 11-year-old age group. There were 100 new cases of Covid in the community, the Ministry of Health said.

Greece: Greece has announced new restrictions on non-vaccinated people and increased fines for non-compliance.

Lockdown updates

China: China urges citizens to stockpile daily necessities, prompting panic-buying, amid surging vegetable prices linked to recent extreme weather, fears of supply shortages and an ongoing Covid outbreak.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong is in advanced discussions with Chinese officials about reopening their shared border, local media reports, a major breakthrough on reviving travel exchanges crucial to the Asian financial hub’s economy.

Separately, Hong Kong’s airport officials plan to segregate passengers on mainland China flights from other travelers to prevent cross-infection and build a case for the reopening of the border, South China Morning Post reported earlier, citing unidentified people.

Netherlands: The government has reintroduced face masks in an attempt to stop rising Covid-19 cases. Prime minister Mark Rutte said the use of Covid passports would also be broadened out to include museums, gyms and outdoor terraces.

From Saturday, people in the Netherlands are expected to work from home half of the time. The coronavirus entry pass will be required in more places such as sporting events and cinemas.

Singapore: Singapore’s health ministry signalled again that virus curbs won’t remain as they are through the month of November if the city-state reaches a key target for further easing. The Ministry of Health was responding to a parliamentary question Tuesday on the likelihood of people being able to dine out in groups of more than five. Current restrictions limit groups to just two. That means if a couple and their young children want to go out to dinner, they are forced to split up across multiple tables. The ministry reiterated that its key metric for easing is whether the city-state’s seven-day moving average of community cases declines week over week. Known as the weekly infection growth rate, that ratio currently sits at 1.09.

Japan: Japan is looking at restarting issuance of long-term business visas as part of a broader easing of Covid-era border controls, the Nikkei reported without citing how it obtained the information.

Meanwhile, the Yomiuri reported Wednesday that the government was looking at ways they could experiment with letting in tour groups, without citing sources.

Economy updates

Global: Covid-19 vaccination progress will help steady economic activity and stabilize global credit conditions in 2022, says Moody’s, as many pandemic-related uncertainties will start receding absent the emergence in vaccine-resistant strains.

China: A private gauge of China’s services sector activity climbed higher in October, defying expectations of softening momentum amid Covid outbreaks in the world’s second-largest economy.

New Zealand: New Zealand’s transition to living with Covid-19 could lead to changes in consumer behavior that damp economic growth, the central bank said. “Businesses will need to adapt, and some businesses that have stayed afloat to date may not be viable as support schemes wind down,” the Reserve Bank said in its semi-annual Financial Stability Report published Wednesday in Wellington. “These changes could drag on economic activity.”

1:32 pm

International update: WHO World Health Organization reopens search for experts to study Covid-19 origins

2 November

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed the grim milestone of 5 million, with a figure of 5,008,694 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 247 million world wide.

The World Health Organization reopened a search for experts to join a committee to study Covid-19’s origins, in order to add more specialists in areas such as biosecurity. Applicants have until Wednesday to express interest. The WHO said Monday it’s looking for experts in social science, anthropology, ethics, political science and biosafety.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 46 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 747,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

In Tennessee in the United States the state’s general assembly has passed laws that will make it harder for bodies like schools to bring in measures to restrict the spread of Covid – including masks for children.

Although 80% of Colorado residents have received at least one Covid-19 vaccination, Governor Jared Polis announced Monday, while warning surging infections among the unvaccinated are bringing the state closer to rationing hospital care “in the next few days.” “It’s the 20% who haven’t been vaccinated that are filling up our hospital wards,” Polis said at a news briefing in Denver. Nearby Idaho, a state with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the US, is actively rationing hospital care.

UK: Of the 377 local areas in the UK, 64 have seen a week-on-week rise in rates while the majority – 313 – have seen a fall.

Thailand: Thailand reported 7,574 new cases, the lowest single-day tally since 8 July, as Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy this week reopened its border to foreign tourists.

Australia: Cases continued to fall in Australia’s two most-populous states, as the country starts to reopen following more than 19 months of harsh restrictions. Victoria state on Tuesday reported 989 new cases, the first time below 1,000 since 29 September. New South Wales state recorded 173 new cases and the lowest seven-day average since 5 August.

Romania: Romania, a European nation suffering one of the worst death tolls per capita in the world over the past two weeks, transferred six critically ill patients to Germany on Monday, as its Covid intensive-care unit wards were full, the country’s health ministry said in a statement on its website. A total of 18 patients will be transferred to Germany by Wednesday. The nation is battling its worst virus outbreak since the pandemic started, with more than 1,800 severely ill patients occupying all available Covid ICU beds in hospitals and field units for a few weeks already. The second-least vaccinated European Union nation asked for international assistance last month and received medical supplies and staff from the World Health Organization and several nations, including Hungary, Poland, Serbia and Moldova.

Vaccine news

Global: Novavax Inc.’s top executive said the company’s Covid-19 vaccine could be a good booster option for people who have received other shots, as the drugmaker looks to ramp up output and gain approvals around the world.

US: The United States is rolling out Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines for children aged 5 to 11 this week, but most of the 15 million shots being shipped initially are unlikely to be available before next week.

In the United States, as deadlines for jabs approach, military leaders are wrestling with the decision of how to treat soldiers who choose not to be vaccinated.

UK: A total of 49,987,325 first doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been delivered in the UK by 31 October, a rise of 27,402 on the previous day, government figures show.

Lockdown updates

Vietnam: Cambodia’s prime minister, Hun Sen, declared the country open and ready for a new way of life after hitting vaccination targets that made it one of the most vaccinated countries in south Asia.

Greece: In Greece, officials alarmed by the steep rise in Covid-19 infections are poised to implement a new round of restrictive measures for those who remain unvaccinated.

China: The Chinese capital suspended classes at 18 primary and middle schools in Chaoyang district after a school teacher became infected with Covid-19, according to a local government briefing. A key Communist Party meeting, a central committee plenary session, will be held next week in Beijing. The city reported four new local coronavirus cases on Tuesday morning.

New Zealand: New Zealand put the north of its Northland region back into lockdown as the source of two new cases in the area remains unknown. The area moves back to Level 3 lockdown at midnight, initially through midnight Nov. 8. The rest of Northland stays at Level 2. Northland’s vaccination rate is lower than the rest of the country at just 79% for first doses, increasing the risk for 11,000 unvaccinated Maori in the region, said Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins.

Australia: Australia’s New South Wales state pushed back the date when Covid-19 restrictions will be eased for unvaccinated people. Instead of 1 December, those curbs will be eased on 15 December or whenever the state reaches 95% double-dose coverage for people aged 16 and above, Premier Dominic Perrottet said Tuesday.

Economy updates

Vietnam: Vietnam’s planning and investment ministry is considering a post-pandemic economic recovery package worth 800 trillion dong ($35.2 billion) in 2022-2023, Thanh Nien newspaper reported, citing a proposal submitted to the government.

10:07 am

Coronavirus company news summary – Indonesia grants emergency approval to Novavax vaccine – Resverlogix in talks to start Covid-19 treatment trial in Morocco

The National Agency of Drug and Food Control of the Republic of Indonesia has granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to Novavax’s Covid-19 vaccine. Serum Institute of India will produce the vaccine in India and market it under the brand name COVOVAX in Indonesia. The first shipments of the recombinant nanoparticle protein-based vaccine with Matrix-M adjuvant into Indonesia are planned to commence shortly. The companies have also sought authorisation for the vaccine in India and the Philippines, as well as emergency listing with the World Health Organization.

Resverlogix has reported that the company is holding talks with the Ministry of Health of the Kingdom of Morocco to commence Phase II clinical trials of its epigenetic drug, apabetalone, to treat Covid-19. The company is engaging with hospitals as well as health ministries of several other countries to launch Covid-19 trials. It has received clearance from Health Canada to conduct trials. Pending final protocol clearance, a Phase III trial is expected to begin in the following months in the US.

The Health Ministry of Zimbabwe has granted approval for Sinovac Biotech’s Covid-19 vaccine in individuals aged 16-17 years. The country aims to achieve herd immunity by the end of 2021, Reuters reported. The Sinovac vaccine is the only one in the country indicated for use in this age group. All the provinces, secondary schools, universities, colleges, and vaccination sites in the country have been instructed to start inoculating adolescents of this age.

10:02 am

Coronavirus company news summary – FDA grants emergency approval to Pfizer/BioNTech shot in children aged 5-11, extends review of Moderna’s jab in adolescents

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted Emergency Use Authorisation to Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11 years. Two 10µg doses of the vaccine given at a gap of 21 days are indicated for use in this age group. The EUA is based on positive results from a Phase II/III trial that enrolled nearly 4,500 children. Paediatric doses of the vaccine will begin shipping immediately, the companies said.

Meanwhile, the FDA has sought more time to conclude the review of its EUA for the use of 100µg dose of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine, mRNA-1273, in adolescents aged 12 to 17 years. The evaluation of the new global analysis of myocarditis risk following inoculation requires more time, the FDA notified the company, adding that the evaluation may not be finished before January 2022. Moderna said it will delay its EUA submission for a 50µg dose in kids aged six to 11 years while the adolescent review is ongoing.

The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority has granted approval to Oramed Pharmaceuticals subsidiary Oravax Medical to initiate subject enrolment in a Phase I clinical trial of its oral Covid-19 vaccine. Preparations to begin the first-in-human trial are progressing. The company’s virus-like particle vaccine acts on three surface proteins of the SARS CoV-2 virus, including those less vulnerable to mutation. This makes the shot more effective against present as well as emergent viral variants, Oramed said.

11:35 am

Coronavirus company news summary – US buys 50 million Pfizer vaccine doses for paediatric use – ARCA to proceed with Phase IIb trial of severe Covid-19 treatment

The US government has bought 50 million additional doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine. These doses will aid in boosting readiness for inoculating the paediatric population, including procuring shots for children aged below five years on obtaining regulatory authorisation. The companies anticipate delivering these doses by 30 April 2022. The latest order takes the number of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine doses procured by the US government to 600 million.

ARCA biopharma has reported that the Phase IIb ASPEN-COVID-19 clinical trial of small recombinant protein, rNAPc2, to treat severe Covid-19 patients in hospital will advance without modifications. The move comes after the Data and Safety Monitoring Committee (DSMC) concluded a pre-specified interim assessment and advised progressing the trial without any changes in study design. The company expects to reach target enrolment of 160 subjects by the year-end and report topline results from the trial in the first quarter of 2022.

Indian companies Optimus Pharma, Natco Pharma and Hetero have sought regulatory approval to manufacture a generic version of Merck’s (MSD) oral Covid-19 drug, molnupiravir in the country. Optimus Pharma intends to ramp up manufacturing to produce 80 million capsules per month on obtaining Emergency Use Authorization, Reuters reported. The Subject Expert Committee (SEC) of the Indian regulatory agency is anticipated to review the applications in the coming days, Economic Times reported.

10:53 am

International update: UK negates Covid ‘Red List’ as weekly deaths increase by more than 16%

29 October

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 4.9 million, with a figure of 4,982,412 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 245.5 million world wide.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 45.8 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 743,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

UK: Britain has reported 39,842 new cases of Covid, government data showed on Thursday. A further 165 people were reported as having died within 28 days of a positive test for Covid, meaning the seven-day total was up 16.2% from the previous week.

Meanwhile, The UK removed all seven remaining countries from its Covid-19 red list, effectively ending a mandatory hotel quarantine requirement for any arriving travelers. The highest-risk category will remain in place to protect public health, and UK officials are prepared to add countries back if necessary, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said Thursday on Twitter.  The seven countries – Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Haiti, Panama, Ecuador and Peru, will be removed on 1 November, Shapps said.

People inoculated against Covid-19 are just as likely to spread the delta variant of the virus to contacts in their household as those who haven’t had shots, according to new research. In a yearlong study of 621 people in the UK with mild Covid-19, scientists found that their peak viral load was similar regardless of vaccination status, according to a paper published Thursday in The Lancet Infectious Diseases medical journal. The analysis also found that 25% of vaccinated household contacts still contracted the disease from an index case, while 38% of those who hadn’t had shots became infected.

Singapore: Singapore reported 3,432 new cases of Covid on Thursday, a day after recording its highest single-day rise in cases which the city-state’s healthy ministry described as an “unusual surge”.

New Zealand: New Zealand records another 125 Covid cases, pushing the country’s Delta outbreak past 3,000.

Japan: Wearing masks may be near-ubiquitous in Japan, but the government has come under fire after it was revealed that more than 80m face coverings it procured at the start of the coronavirus pandemic are still in storage, at a huge cost to taxpayers.

Germany: Germany recorded more than 28,000 new Covid cases on Wednesday, the biggest daily increase since April. Deaths exceeded 100 for a third straight day, taking the total to 95,485.

Vaccine news

Global: Some 82 countries at risk of not being able to vaccinate at least 40% of their population by the end of this year – a goal the World Health Organization has set – only because of a lack of supply, WHO senior adviser Bruce Aylward said. Those 82 countries only need an additional 550 million doses to hit that target. Between now and the end of 2021, about 3 billion doses of vaccine will be manufactured, he added. “The big question to the G-20 is, are they going to say, ‘here’s where those 550 million doses are going to come from’ because those 20 countries control the global vaccine supply,” Aylward said at a briefing on Thursday. “This is a very solvable problem. The numbers are not daunting. It’s an issue of the will and the manufacturers cooperating to make sure doses go where they’re needed.”

The World Health Organization confirmed to Inovio that the company’s vaccine candidate is one of two vaccines being tested in a large Phase 3 clinical trial that’s funded, sponsored, and conducted by the organization.

Africa: A syringe shortfall threatens Africa’s Covid vaccine drive. As vaccines arrive to the continent, a scarcity of syringes could “paralyse progress”, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday. UNICEF, the United Nation’s fund for children, is predicting an “imminent shortfall” of up to 2.2 billion of the single-use syringes used to give jabs.

Only five African countries will meet the target of fully vaccinating 40% of their populations against Covid unless the pace of inoculations increases, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.

US: Pfizer and BioNTech have announced that they expect to deliver 50m more doses of their Covid vaccine to the United States by the end of April.

Nearly a third of New York Police Department cops are unvaccinated against Covid-19 ahead of the city’s Friday deadline. The Police Benevolent Association, which represents 24,000 cops in the most populous US city, said 10,000 of the roughly 35,000 uniformed NYPD officers have not gotten the shot. Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio eliminated the test-out option and said all city employees must receive their first vaccine dose by 29 October or face unpaid leave. The union is fighting the mandate in court, but a judge has refused to block it in the meantime. It’s not clear what effect the drop in staff will have on the operations of the nation’s largest police force, but de Blasio on Thursday sought to assure New Yorkers they will be safe.

Citigroup Inc. will require all US employees be vaccinated against Covid-19 as a condition of their employment, citing new orders from President Joe Biden. The Wall Street giant asked staffers to submit proof of vaccination by 8 December, and said those who comply will receive $200 as a “thank you,” according to a memo to staff Thursday seen by Bloomberg News.

Florida has sued the Biden administration over vaccine mandates for federal contractors, the latest in a wave of Republican pushback against the president’s orders to fight the pandemic. In a federal lawsuit filed Thursday in Tampa, the state called vaccination requirements for government contractors a “radical intrusion on the personal autonomy of American workers.” It alleges that the administration issued the mandate based on a law that doesn’t give it such power. Among the defendants is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, or NASA, which has a large presence in the state through the Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island.

New York City said it will temporarily outlaw days off for sanitation workers as needed ahead of anticipated employee shortages stemming from a vaccine mandate that goes into effect next week.

India: More than 100 million Indians have not turned up for their second coronavirus vaccine dose, official data showed, raising concerns of a resurgence in the disease despite a relatively low infection rate.

Hungary: Hungary will allow companies to enforce Covid vaccines on staff as a condition of employment, as the number of cases surges and the vaccination program stalls. The government will also demand that public-sector workers receive a shot, while compulsory mask-wearing will be re-introduced on public transport from next week.

Germany: Germany needs to press ahead with providing booster shots to the elderly to prevent more sickness and deaths amid a new surge in cases, according to the head of the country’s vaccine commission. “It certainly won’t be as dramatic as the start of the pandemic, because the protection from vaccination won’t disappear from one day to the next,” Thomas Mertens, the chairman of the government’s standing committee on vaccination, said on DLF radio.

Lockdown updates

EU: The European Commission has decided to give equivalence to the UK’s Covid-19 certificate. The move was reciprocated by the UK, which will accept the EU certificate for travel.

South Korea: Officials in South Korea have announced restrictions will begin to ease from next week. “Beginning 1 November, our community will take the first step of resuming our normal life,” Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said. “However, we must be aware that this doesn’t mean the fight against coronavirus is over, but a new beginning.”

Israel: Israel must do more to break down vaccine resistance and implement tougher safeguards as foreign tourists start returning next month, or risk a fifth Covid wave, public health experts are warning.  “What we did last time was open and then we were passive and did almost nothing  – no enforcement, no good genetic surveillance – and gradually we lost control,” said Nadav Davidovitch, head of Ben-Gurion University’s School of Public Health and a member of the expert panel advising the Israeli government. Tourists tentatively are to start returning on Monday, pending final government approval, but guidelines the government has released so far apply only to vaccination and testing requirements.

Economy updates

US: The US economy grew at its slowest pace in more than a year in the third quarter as a resurgence in Covid cases further stretched global supply chains, leading to shortages and decreased consumer spending, Reuters reports.

10:33 am

Coronavirus company news summary – CDC committee to discuss Covid-19 vaccines in young children – Merck signs molnupiravir licensing deal with Medicines Patent Pool to increase generic production

The advisory committee of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will convene a meeting on 2 November to hold talks on the usage of Covid-19 vaccines in children aged five to 11 years, Reuters reported. Advisors to the US Food and Drug Administration have already recommended granting authorisation for Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid-19 shot for children of this age group. The vaccine is currently is cleared for use in individuals aged 16 and above and is also authorised for use in children aged 12 to 15 years.

Merck and the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) have entered a voluntary licencing deal to offer affordable international access to the former’s oral Covid-19 drug, molnupiravir. The experimental antiviral drug is intended to treat mild to moderate Covid-19 in adult patients at risk for disease progression and/or hospitalisation. The deal will permit more companies selected by MPP to produce generic versions of molnupiravir. The royalty-free licence is applicable to 105 low- and middle-income nations.

Novavax has finished its rolling regulatory filing to the UK Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) seeking Conditional Marketing Authorization (CMA) for its Covid-19 vaccine candidate, NVX-CoV2373. The company said it has included preclinical, clinical and chemistry, manufacturing and controls data in the submission. The vaccine demonstrated efficacy of 96.4% against the original SARS-CoV-2 strain in a Phase III trial of 15,000 subjects in the country. The filing also comprises findings from the PREVENT-19 trial, which enrolled nearly 30,000 subjects in the US and Mexico.

9:27 am

International updates: Covid infections surge across Eastern Europe

28 October

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 4.9 million, with a figure of 4,972,731 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 245 million world wide.

Europe: A report out of the World Health Organization found the European region recorded an 18% increase in Covid cases over the last week — a fourth straight weekly increase for the area. Covid-19 infections continue to surge across Eastern Europe in particular, with reported cases rising in Bulgaria, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 45.7 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 741,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

CDC says the seven day average of Covid cases in the US is down 16% to 765,900 per day.

Some of the biggest meatpackers say they shelled out millions to combat the pandemic while their workers were on the front lines, pushing back against Democrats and labor advocates who say they’re to blame for worker deaths. At least 59,000 meatpacking plant workers suffered infections during outbreaks at corporate plants — and 269 died between March 2020 and February 2021, a new report by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis details.

California Governor Gavin Newsom, who received Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine in April, got Moderna Inc.’s shot as a booster 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 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.”

UK: The UK recorded 43,941 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday and 207 more people have died within 28 days of a positive test, official figures show.

Singapore: Singapore’s health ministry is stumped as to why the city-state reported 5,324 new cases of Covid on Wednesday, the most since the beginning of the pandemic.

New Zealand: New Zealand’s South Island records first Covid cases in major city in over a year.

Germany: Germany recorded more than 28,000 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, the biggest daily increase since April, according to data from the RKI public-health institute. Deaths exceeded 100 for a third straight day, taking the total to 95,485. Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday that she’s concerned about the latest surge in cases, and its potential to overload the nation’s hospitals.

Vaccine news

Global: A landmark licensing deal between Merck and the UN-backed Medicines Patent Pool could expand access to the company’s antiviral Covid-19 pill throughout the developing world.

US: 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 Inc.’s vaccine for children could come this week. The state has ordered 380,100 pediatric doses for children ages 5 to 11, and has been working with pediatricians, pharmacies and schools to prepare for the vaccination effort, Hochul said 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. 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%.

Australia: Thousands of AstraZeneca Covid vaccine doses are going to waste in Australia despite near-record production and calls for increased donations to lower-income neighbouring countries. Almost 1,000 Covid vaccination providers are destroying expired AstraZeneca supplies, wasting 31,833 doses, data shows. About 7m doses of AstraZeneca remain unused.

Australia confirms Covid booster shots will be available from 8 November after Atagi approval.

UK: Novavax Inc. has filed for authorisation of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate in the UK.

Lockdown updates

Israel: Israel will welcome vaccinated tourists from 1 November.

Taiwan: Taiwan government decided to further ease some Covid controls from 2 November as the local situation has stabilized, Cabinet spokesperson Lo Ping-cheng said at a briefing in Taipei. The cap on the number of people allowed in gatherings will be removed, while masks will are be required at all times, with exceptions including exercise and singing. Dining will be allowed on trains, domestic flights and ships, as well as movie theaters.

Vietnam: Fully-vaccinated international travelers won’t be quarantined if they test negative for Covid-19 on arrival in Vietnam for packaged tours to some tourist cities from next month, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported, citing guidance from ministry of culture, sports and tourism. Areas that will be allowed to recieve tourists include Phu Quoc, Khanh Hoa, Quang Nam, Danang, Quang Ninh.

New Zealand: New Zealand will begin scaling back one of its key Covid-19 defenses by easing border restrictions for fully vaccinated people arriving from overseas. The amount of time travellers will have to spend in government-run hotel quarantine facilities will be halved to 7 from 14 days from 14 November, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said in a news conference in Wellington on Thursday. Home isolation will be introduced in the first quarter of 2022, he said.

Myanmar: Myanmar announced its lifting a stay-at-home order imposed on 44 townships in eight provinces, including Yangon and Mandalay, according to the Ministry of Health.

Germany: 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.”

Economy updates

Global: The number of working hours lost due to the pandemic 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.

Canada: Toronto-Dominion Bank is thanking employees for their pandemic-era resilience with a new reward: a one-time gift of five TD shares. The shares are worth about C$449 ($363), based on Wednesday’s closing price. A year ago, the lender gave 90,000 full- and part-time employees $500 cash bonuses to recognize their efforts during the crisis. This time, workers outside Canada, the US and the UK will receive a one-time cash award instead of shares.

US: A requirement for federal workers and contractors to be fully vaccinated – which would affect a number of transportation companies that work with the US government – won’t exacerbate a backlog of shipping and deliveries, according to the Biden administration. “The requirements for federal workers and contractors will not cause disruption,” Jeff Zients, President Joe Biden’s coronavirus response coordinator, said at a Wednesday briefing for reporters. Organizations that have instituted vaccine mandates have seen overwhelming compliance, and those who refuse will go through education and counseling before any enforcement, Zients added.

10:27 am

International update: Covid-19 crisis is far “far from finished” – WHO

27 October

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 4.9 million, with a figure of 4,965,156 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 244.5 million world wide.

The Covid-19 crisis is far “far from finished”, the World Health Organization’s emergency committee has said. The 19-member committee, which meets every three months to discuss the pandemic and make recommendations, also called for research into next-generation vaccines and long-term action to control the virus.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 45.6 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 738,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Hospital admissions are declining sharply among US children with Covid-19, even more than adults, quieting concerns for now that the return to school could trigger a major uptick in viral transmission. Daily pediatric admissions with confirmed Covid have fallen 56% since the end of August to an average of about 0.2 per 100,000, according to Department of Health and Human Services data. Among adults, new admissions fell 54% to 2.1 per 100,000 in the same period, the data show.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it’s extending its pandemic-era rules for cruise ship operation until 15 January, after which it will move to a voluntary Covid-19 mitigation program. The rules – under the umbrella of the CDC’s so-called conditional sailing order – were set to expire on 1 November. The CDC said it decided to extend the protocols with a slight variation because of the spread of the more infectious Delta variant, the rise of breakthrough cases and other factors.

UK: A damning report to come out of the UK has lambasted the NHS test and trace system, saying it failed to achieve “its main objective” to cut infection levels and aid in returning to life as normal. The initiative was handed an “eye-watering” £37bn in taxpayers’ cash but ultimately “has not achieved its main objective to help break chains of Covid-19 transmission and enable people to return towards a more normal way of life,” the Commons spending watchdog has said. At the time of its launch, Boris Johnson claimed the programme would be “world-beating” but the watchdog says its aims had been “overstated or not achieved”. The funding – equal to about 20% of the health service’s entire annual budget – was used to hire more than 2,000 consultants who were employed on rates of more than £1,000 a day, the report by the public accounts committee (PAC) found.

The UK recorded 40,954 new Covid cases today and 263 more people have died, official figures show.

Brazil: A Brazilian Senate committee recommended on Tuesday that president Jair Bolsonaro face a series of criminal indictments for actions and omissions related to the world’s second highest Covid-19 death toll. The 7-to-4 vote was the culmination of a six-month committee investigation of the government’s handling of the pandemic.

Eastern Europe: Russia, Bulgaria and the Ukraine all reported a record number of daily deaths on Tuesday. Russia reported 1,106 deaths in 24 hours, the most since the start of the pandemic bringing the total death toll to 232,775, Europe’s highest by far. Sluggish vaccination rates have allowed the virus to spread quickly across Eastern Europe.

Bulgaria, the EU’s least-vaccinated country, reported a record rise in daily Covid deaths, at 243. The Balkan country last week limited most public leisure activities to those who have either been vaccinated or already had Covid. The number of new cases on Tuesday was also a record high at 5,863. The health ministry isn’t ruling out a lockdown, Deputy Health Care Minister Alexander Zlatanov said.

Belgium: Belgium will extend the use of a Covid pass (a proof of vaccination, recovery or negative test) to restrict access to bars, restaurants and fitness clubs in the northern Flemish region starting next week. The Brussels capital region and southern Wallonia already decided to use the pass in those venues.

Prime Minister Alexander De Croo also announced the reinstatement of a mask requirement in indoor public spaces as of Friday, less than a month after abolishing the nationwide rule. Finally, Belgians got a “strong recommendation” to work from home again.

Belgium has reported the highest daily number of Covid-19 infections of 2021 in recent days. Cases are currently doubling every nine days.

Denmark: Denmark, which has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, has registered a rise in Covid-19 cases with several key indicators showing that the virus has accelerated in the past month. The reproductive rate of the virus, known as the R rate, is now 1.2, up from 1 a week ago, which means the virus is spreading, Health Minister Magnus Heunicke tweeted on Tuesday.

China: China’s capital city Beijing has reported 17 confirmed local Covid cases as of Monday. They are all over 57 years old and some have pre-existing conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure, according to the local government briefing. China hasn’t reported any death from Covid since February.

India: India reported 12,428 new Covid cases, the lowest addition in 238 days, according to a statement from the government. India’s confirmed virus cases stood at 34.2 million while deaths totaled 455,068.

Vaccine news

US: Vaccine booster rates are now exceeding first-shot rates across the US, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

FDA advisers recommend approval of Pfizer’s Covid vaccine for children aged 5-11. it will be the first vaccine available for younger children in the US. The nearly unanimous vote clears the way for possible approval for emergency use next month, making nearly 30m children eligible.

China: China started giving Covid-19 vaccines to children as young as three, as the country grapples with the return of the delta variant and more frequent virus outbreaks. Multiple places across China are rolling out vaccines to children aged between three and 11, according to reports in local media. The shots, developed by homegrown drugmakers Sinovac Biotech Ltd and state-owned Sinopharm, have already been administered to those aged 12 and above, with the country green-lighting their use in those aged over three in June.

Australia: Australia could hit the 80 per cent full Covid-19 vaccination mark within a week.

Africa: BioNTech plans to start building its first start-to-finish vaccine plant in Africa in the middle of next year, aiming to build a manufacturing network that could eventually supply hundreds of millions of doses to the continent. The German company, which makes a vaccine in partnership with Pfizer Inc., is developing the plans with the governments of Rwanda and Senegal.

Switzerland: Switzerland’s drug regulator Swissmedic approved a third shot of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for people at high risk.  “The latest study data indicate that an additional dose can increase the ability to form antibodies against the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, particularly in patients with a weakened immune system,” it said in a statement.

Lockdown updates

China: China has locked down a city of 4m over six Covid cases. Residents in Lanzhou, Gansu, have been told to stay at home as buses, taxis and key rail routes are suspended.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong will soon end most of the quarantine exemptions for overseas and mainland travelers, with the city under pressure from officials in Beijing to tighten up what is already one of the world’s strictest Covid-19 containment regimes. The city will soon announce arrangements to remove exemptions that allow some people to skip mandatory hotel quarantine stays of as long as 21 days to improve the chance that China will allow easier cross-border travel, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Tuesday at a regular briefing. Hong Kong’s government said it will stick to its “zero infection” strategy on Covid-19. In a statement issued to Bloomberg News in response to calls from the city’s top bank lobbying group for a change of course, a government spokesperson reiterated that the top priority remains reopening travel to the Chinese mainland, saying that other places that have adjusted their strategies to co-exist with the virus have seen increases in infections, hospitalizations and deaths.

Australia: No exemptions are to be given for unvaccinated tennis players travelling from overseas for the Australian Open, the state’s premier has said. Players like Novak Djokovic has repeatedly refused to reveal his vaccination status.

Fully vaccinated Australians will no longer have to apply for travel exemptions to leave the country, as Australia prepares to ease its international borders from 1 November.

Economy updates

Global: Risks related to Covid-19 and the economic havoc it wreaked across the globe are keeping corporate executives up at night. That’s the takeaway from an Aon Plc survey of 2,344 risk managers, chief risk officers and chief financial officers conducted in the second quarter. Cyber attacks were the No. 1 most-cited hazard, and more than half of the Top 10 risks executives say they face today are tied to the pandemic, according to survey results released Tuesday.

US: Eli Lilly & Co. raised its full-year forecast as the delta variant-fueled surge in cases spurred demand for its Covid-19 treatment, particularly among the unvaccinated.

UK: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was warned that a switch to stricter coronavirus Plan B rules would cause as much as 18 billion pounds ($24 billion) in damage to the economy, Politico reported, citing government documents it saw.

China: China’s economy is showing signs of a further slowdown with car and housing sales dropping again this month even as exports continue their strong performance. That’s the outlook from Bloomberg’s aggregate index of eight early indicators for October. Economic growth was already lower last quarter, partly due to a higher base of comparison from a year ago, but also dragged down by power shortages, repeated Covid outbreaks, and turmoil in the housing sector.

Thailand: In Thailand, businesses are pleading with the government to drop the nation’s current alcohol ban when the country reopens, saying it will deter tourists.

10:07 am

Coronavirus company news summary – FDA panel recommends EUA expansion for Pfizer/BioNTech jab in children aged five to 12 – Vaxart begins world-first Phase II trial of Covid-19 oral tablet vaccine

The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended granting Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine in children aged five to 12. The panel reviewed all evidence submitted by the companies, including data from a controlled, randomised Phase II/III clinical trial that saw enrolment of nearly 4,500 children of the same age group. The FDA is expected to make a decision on expanding the vaccine’s EUA in the days to come.

Vaxart has dosed the first patient in a Phase II clinical trial of its oral tablet vaccine for Covid-19. The first part of this trial plans to enrol 96 participants at four centres in the US. The US portion of the trial is an open-label randomised dose and age escalation lead-in segment. It will feature untreated as well as previously vaccinated subjects. On concluding this part, the company will commence a global, placebo-controlled efficacy trial recruiting more subjects. Vaxart plans to report complete results from the US trial in the first quarter of 2022.

The Technical Advisory Group (TAG) of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has sought further clarifications from Indian firm Bharat Biotech for its Covid-19 vaccine, Covaxin, to complete a final risk/benefit analysis for Emergency Use Listing (EUL), PTI reported. The panel will conduct a final analysis on 3 November this year on obtaining the data. On 19 April, Bharat Biotech filed an Expression of Interest to the WHO for the vaccine’s EUL. The vaccine showed a 77.8% efficiency against symptomatic Covid-19.

10:42 am

Coronavirus company news summary – Moderna vaccine elicits strong immune response in children aged six to 12 – SII seeks full approval from Indian regulator for Covishield vaccine

Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine candidate mRNA-1273, also known as Spikevax, has triggered a strong immune response in children aged between six and 12 years, according to data presented by the company. The assessment is based on interim data received from the Phase II/III study of mRNA-1273. The study showed that two doses of mRNA-1273 at the 50µg dose level were generally well tolerated and generated neutralising antibody response among the participants. Moderna plans to submit the study data to various global regulators including the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and European Medicines Agency (EMA).

The Serum Institute of India (SII) has reportedly applied for a regular marketing authorisation for its Covid-19 vaccine Covishield in India. According to a PTI news report, the application has been sent to the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) for approval. If approved, Covishield will become the second vaccine in the world after Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine, which was granted full approval by the US Food and Drug Administration in August, to be approved beyond emergency authorisation. Covishield uses the same formulation as the Vaxzevria jab developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, and is produced by SII under licence.

South Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare is working to increase the production of Covid-19 vaccines. In an interview with Reuters, Aspen CEO Stephen Saad said the firm aims to achieve an annual manufacturing capacity of 1.3 billion doses by February 2024 from the current output of around 250 million. Currently, Aspen is supplying Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine under a fill-and-finish contract but it is working on a broader deal that will enable the company to produce J&J’s shot under licence.

10:17 am

International update: Covid-19 more likely than vaccines to cause rare neurological conditions

26 October

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 4.9 million, with a figure of 4,954,574 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 244 million world wide.

Covid-19 is more likely than vaccines to cause rare neurological conditions, according to a study published in the Nature Medicine journal. The study, led by the University of Oxford, analyzed the health records of 32 million people in England to identify the risks of developing rare brain conditions before and after testing positive, or receiving the first dose of either the Oxford-AstraZeneca Plc or Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE jabs. Rare cases of such complications led many countries to restrict the use of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to older age groups.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 45.4 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 737,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

UK: UK reports 38 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid as of Monday, bringing the UK total to 139,571.

Russia: Russia reports 37,930 new Covid-19 infections in the last 24 hours, its highest single-day case tally since the start of the pandemic.

Spain: Spain reached the grim milestone of 5 million Covid-19 cases during the pandemic.

Mexico: Mexico reports more than 1,000 new Covid-19 cases, health ministry says.

India: India reported 12,428 new covid cases, the lowest addition in 238 days, according to a statement from the government. India’s confirmed virus cases stood at 34.2 million while deaths totaled 455,068.

China: China’s ongoing delta outbreak spread further with the virus found in a 12th province in eastern Shandong. The country reported 34 infections on Tuesday, slightly down from a day ago. Health authorities are expanding its booster campaign, giving out shot for practically all adults who have been fully vaccinated for six months.

Vietnam: Vietnam’s Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long warned about the risks of another outbreak tied to large numbers of workers returning to rural provinces from southern virus-hit areas, according to a post on the health ministry’s website. Long instructed local officials to monitor returnees from Ho Chi Minh City and surrounding industrial provinces of Binh Duong, Dong Nai and Long An.

Australia: Australia’s Queensland has announced that international students will be allowed back into the state to study in 2022. They will be required to be fully vaccinated and to quarantine at a new government facility at Wellcamp, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said. The state recorded two new Covid-19 cases in the community on Tuesday. Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, posted 282 cases and its second-most populous, Victoria, had 1,510.

Indonesia: Indonesia is bracing for a potential upsurge in infections with almost 20 million people estimated to travel in Java and Bali for the year-end holidays. The Southeast Asian nation is on alert as its previous Covid-19 spikes have been preceded by long holidays. New cases had spiked after millions of people traveled and gathered with families to celebrate Eid al-Fitr in May. Infections have since gone down sharply after the government expanded testing and reimposed stringent lockdown measures across the country. Indonesia added 460 cases on Monday, the lowest since May 26, 2020.

Vaccine news

African Union: The African Union (AU) has brokered a deal to buy up to 110 million vaccine doses from Moderna Inc, Reuters reports. Under the negotiations delivery of some doses intended for the United States will be deferred to facilitate the deal, officials told the news agency. The deal was brokered in part by the White House. The AU’s doses will be delivered over the coming months, with 15 million arriving before the end of 2021, 35 million in the first quarter of next year and up to 60 million in the second quarter.

EU: European Medical Agency approves Moderna booster. The medical body approved doses for all adults, saying the Spikevax booster can be given out and administered, after it gave the green light to the Pfizer/BioNTech’s Comirnaty jab earlier in October.

China: Children as young as three will start receiving Covid vaccines in China, where 76% of the population has been fully vaccinated. It comes as authorities continue to maintain a zero-tolerance policy towards outbreaks.

Taiwan: The 5 million doses Medigen vaccine ordered by the government are unlikely to be used up, Taipei-based United Daily News reported, citing Health Minister Chen Shih-chung’s comments to lawmakers. Taiwan’s government had earlier placed an order with Medigen for 5 million doses with an option for 5 million more. The government won’t order additional doses if the first batch isn’t used up.

Lockdown updates

US: US introduces new guidelines on non-US citizens’ entry into the country and testing for travellers. Foreign nationals will have to be fully vaccinated before entering the country, with some exemptions in place for under-18s. Those coming from countries with low vaccination rates will have to justify their visit.

Meanwhile, The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it’s extending its pandemic-era rules for cruise ship operation until 15 January, after which it will move to a voluntary Covid-19 mitigation program. The rules – under the umbrella of the CDC’s so-called conditional sailing order – were set to expire on 1 November. The CDC said it decided to extend the protocols with a slight variation because of the spread of the more infectious Delta variant, the rise of breakthrough cases and other factors.

Japan: People in Tokyo can eat and drink in bars and restaurants later in the evening from today as Japan eases social distancing rules.

New Zealand: Vaccination will be required for all workers at businesses where customers need to show Covid-19 vaccination certificates, such as hospitality and close-contact businesses, Workplace Relations Minister Michael Wood said. Non-vaccinated workers in roles requiring immunization will be given a four-week notice period to get vaccinated before employment can be terminated.

Australia: Australia is eager to start quarantine-free travel with Singapore as soon as possible, Trade and Tourism Minister Dan Tehan said.  Hopes of quarantine-free travel between the two nations were raised last week when Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he expected borders to open more quickly. Singapore allows fully-vaccinated visitors from a handful of countries including the US, the UK and Germany to enter quarantine-free via designated travel lanes. Transport Minister S. Iswaran said earlier this month the city-state is considering more vaccinated travel lanes with regional neighbors including New Zealand and Japan.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong will soon end most of the quarantine exemptions for overseas and mainland travelers, with the city under pressure from officials in Beijing to tighten up what is already one of the world’s strictest Covid-19 containment regimes. The city will soon announce arrangements to remove exemptions that allow some people to skip mandatory hotel quarantine stays of as long as 21 days to improve the chance that China will allow easier cross-border travel, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Tuesday at a regular briefing.

Economy updates

China: China’s economy is showing signs of a further slowdown with car and housing sales dropping again this month even as exports continue their strong performance. That’s the outlook from Bloomberg’s aggregate index of eight early indicators for October. Economic growth was already lower last quarter, partly due to a higher base of comparison from a year ago, but also dragged down by power shortages, repeated Covid outbreaks, and turmoil in the housing sector.

South Korea: South Korea’s economic expansion cooled last quarter as a renewed virus outbreak prompted authorities to impose their toughest social distancing restrictions to date. The gross domestic product gained 0.3% in the July-to-September quarter, decelerating from 0.8% in the second quarter and slower than the 0.6% predicted by economists.

11:39 am

International update: UK NHS maternity services feared to be near breaking point due to Covid surge

25 October

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 4.9 million, with a figure of 4,948,928 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 243.6 million world wide.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 45.4 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 735,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

STI rates “at their highest numbers” in the US as Covid dominates health funding. Health officials are concerned about how to divert key resources to combatting a rise in sexually-transmitted infections (STI) that is now continuing despite the social restrictions of the coronavirus pandemic and is now in its sixth consecutive year of increase.

UK: NHS maternity services feared to be near breaking point, the UK’s most senior gynaecologist has warned. The health service could soon be unable to deliver “the care it needs to” for women giving birth if the surge in Covid cases continues, the president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has said. As Covid cases rise the NHS battles a huge backlog of 5.7 million patients caused by the first and second waves of the virus.

UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak to announce almost £6bn to tackle England’s record NHS waiting list. In an effort to get a grip on the crisis, the chancellor will unveil plans for investment in NHS capital funding this week to help deliver about 30% more elective activity by 2024-25 compared to pre-pandemic levels. This is equivalent to millions more checks, scans and procedures for non-emergency patients.

UK records nearly 40,000 positive Covid results.

Russia: Russia reports 1,000 daily Covid deaths. Russian coronavirus cases and deaths remained near record levels on Sunday ahead of the implementation of strict nationwide curbs to stem a surge in infections. There were 35,660 new cases and 1,072 deaths over the past day, slightly below records set Saturday, according to data from the national coronavirus headquarters.

Papua New Guinea: Papua New Guinea urgently needs help from the international community as a surge in Covid cases overwhelms the Pacific country’s health system, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said on Monday, Reuters reported. Coronavirus cases in the nation of nine million have surged in recent weeks, with 385 new cases recorded on Thursday, Reuters reported, citing the latest available government data.

Malaysia: Malaysia recorded the fewest cases since the end of June. The Southeast Asian country added 5,666 new infections Sunday, bringing the total number of cases to more than 2.43 million, according to a tweet by Health Malaysia Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah. Meanwhile, almost 95% of Malaysia’s adult population have received a complete dose of vaccines, according to the health ministry’s data.

Vaccine news

US: US chief medical adviser Dr Anthony Fauci predicts Covid shots for kids five to 11 will be available by early November. A review panel of the US food and drug administration (FDA) found last week that the benefits of Pfizer-BioNTech shots for the younger age group outweighed the risks.

UK: In a move towards preparing the nation for winter and a potential surge in Covid cases, ministers in the UK say they want to ramp up the booster jab rollout. More than 5 million people had had a third jab since the vaccination programme began administering them last month, NHS England said on Sunday. About 7.5 million people have already been invited by text, email and letter, encouraging them to book through the national booking service. Two million more will receive invitations this week.

The UK is lagging behind other G7 countries in sharing surplus Covid vaccines with poorer countries, according to newly published figures. The advocacy organisation One, which is campaigning to end extreme poverty and preventable disease by 2030, described it as shaming for the UK government. The figures show that the UK is behind every member of the G7 – of which Britain is currently the chair – except for Japan.

Philippines: The Philippines’ Health Department has approved local experts’ recommendation to administer Covid-19 booster shots on health workers and adults 60 years and older starting this quarter.

Singapore: Singapore’s Ministry of Health has instructed the Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Act (Pofma) Office to issue a Correction Direction to the “Truth Warriors” website for assertions related to the effectiveness of Covid vaccines, use of ivermectin as a treatment and more.

Lockdown updates

Taiwan: Taiwan’s government may gradually reopen border when full vaccination rate reaches 60% and at least 70% of the population have received at least one shot, the Taipei-based Central News Agency reported, citing Health Minister Chen Shih-chung. About 66% of the population has received at least one shot and about 26% of people are fully vaccinated as of 22 October, according to data from the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control.

Hong Kong: The finance industry is ratcheting up pressure on Hong Kong to ease its strict quarantine rules and abandon its zero-Covid policy after a survey found almost half of major international banks and asset managers are contemplating moving staff or functions out of the city.

China: China locked down a county that has seen the most Covid-19 cases in the country’s latest delta outbreak, as an initial flareup in the northwest quickly spirals into a nationwide surge. Ejin, a county in northwestern China’s Inner Mongolia, has asked its 35,700 residents to stay home from Monday and warned of civil and criminal liabilities should anyone disobey the order, state broadcaster CCTV reported, citing a local government statement. The small county bordering Mongolia is the current outbreak’s hotspot, home to nearly one-third of the more than 150 infections found over the past week in the mainland. The lockdown came a day after a warning from National Health Commission officials that the outbreak would continue to worsen after spreading to 11 provinces in about a week. China reported 38 Covid infections on Monday, half of which were found in Inner Mongolia. The current outbreak in China is caused by the delta variant, Wu Liangyou, an official at the National Health Commission, said at a briefing in Beijing on Sunday. The outbreak has expanded to 11 provinces in the week since 17 October, Mi Feng, a spokesman for the commission, said at the same briefing. Earlier on Sunday, Beijing authorities announced the city is halting cross-province tourism and closing card and majhong rooms. China’s capital will also cut the number of large events and increase supervision over small clinics and pharmacies, according to the official WeChat account of the Beijing Municipal Health Commission.

South Korea: South Korea will begin a “gradual return to normal life” in November as 70% of the population has been fully vaccinated, President Moon Jae-in said at the National Assembly. Schools will reopen and small businesses will be revived, he said. The country will announce details on easing social distancing rules for gradual return to normal life on 29 October.

Economy updates

Indonesia: Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo pushed for travel to reopen in Southeast Asia, saying this would help economic recovery in the region that has seen coronavirus cases recede. He said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations needs to hit its vaccination target of 70% of the population of over 650 million people as soon as possible so that economies could reopen safely. Jokowi, as the president’s known, has been pushing for a regional travel corridor arrangement since late last year. Instead, each country has set up bilateral deals with nations around the world, with Singapore reopening to North America and Europe while Thailand scrapped quarantine rules for 46 countries while excluding Indonesia.

10:30 am

Coronavirus company news summary – Philippines to start ivermectin Covid-19 trial – Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine benefits outweigh myocarditis risk in young children, FDA study finds

The Philippines Department of Science and Technology is set to commence subject enrolment in a clinical trial of Merck’s anti-parasitic drug, ivermectin, against Covid-19 next month, CNN reported. The trial will be carried out in the quarantine centres of Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, University of the Philippines Diliman and Makati Science High School and is expected to enrol 1,464 asymptomatic and non-severe Covid-19 cases patients. Initial data from the trial is expected by the end of this year. In February, Merck affirmed its position that current evidence does not support the safety and efficacy of ivermectin beyond the doses and populations indicated in the regulatory agency-approved prescribing information.

Researchers at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have reported that the potential benefits of the Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine in children aged five to 11 years outweigh the risks of myocarditis, Reuters reported. The vaccine demonstrated efficacy of 90.7% against SARS-CoV-2 in a trial involving children of the same age group. The team noted that the benefit of the shot in preventing Covid-19-associated hospitalisations and morality would outweigh any serious potential adverse events in children.

The US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) will provide funds worth $50m to Indian company Biological E to increase its Covid-19 vaccine production capacity. The latest DFC funding is in line with commitments made by the US during the Quad Leaders’ Summit in March this year, Financial Express reported. Biological E is conducting Phase II/III clinical trials of its Covid-19 shot, Corbevax. Biologic E intends to manufacture one billion doses of its vaccine and Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 shot by the end of next year.

10:35 am

International update: WHO estimates up to 180,000 health workers may have died from Covid

22 October

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 4.9 million, with a figure of 4,930,618 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 242.5 million world wide.

WHO estimates up to 180,000 health workers may have died from Covid in the period between January 2020 to May 2021, while calling for more health workers to be fully vaccinated.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 45.3 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 733,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

An estimated 1-in-10 inmates in Wyoming prisons are infected with Covid-19, the Casper Star-Tribune reported Thursday. Testing this week revealed a record 222 new infections, including some prison staff, the newspaper said.

Colorado will review plans for rationing hospital care as Covid-19 admissions rise and intensive care unit capacity reaches dangerous levels Governor Jared Polis said Thursday. Health care facilities report just 120 ICU beds available statewide. Crisis standards of care are “ready to be implemented if needed, potentially tweaked or improved, if necessary,” Polis said at a news conference in Denver. Health department data show 1,130 patients hospitalized with Covid-19 across the state, the highest since last December, and 893 of these are unvaccinated, Polis said.

UK: UK prime minister Boris Johnson resists calls to activate ‘plan B’ as daily Covid cases top 50,000. “The numbers of infections are high but we are within the parameters of what the predictions were, what Spi-M [modelling group] and the others said we would be at this stage given the steps we are taking. We are sticking with our plan,” Johnson told reporters.

Infections in UK at highest level since July with 52,009 new coronavirus cases. That is the highest daily total on this measure, and the first time the daily tally has topped 50,000, for more than three months. Hospitalizations crossed 8,000, an increase of more than a thousand from a week earlier. A strong vaccine rollout means daily deaths still remain relatively low compared to more than 1,800 recorded at the beginning of this year.

Jeremy Hunt has called for the government to cut the time required between Covid vaccine doses to allow more booster jabs to be given. Relaxing six-month gap between second and third doses would speed up rollout, the former health secretary said.

New Zealand: New Zealand Covid daily cases passed 100 for first time since pandemic began. The nation’s director general of health says the country is following a similar trajectory to the UK, with vast majority of hospital cases being unvaccinated.

China: Covid infections doubled in China from a day earlier as the country’s ongoing delta outbreak worsens, with a total of 35 cases were reported on Friday, mostly in the northwestern provinces. Infections spread among tourists and those who crossed paths with them, and the virus was further relayed across the mainland as people travelled home. So far at least eight provinces have reported cases in less than a week, underscoring how quickly delta spreads – and the challenges of controlling it. Beijing reported four more infections, fuelling concerns that more tough measures could be introduced to prevent Covid from further penetrating into the tightly guarded Chinese capital.

Vaccine news

Global: High- and upper-middle-income countries have now distributed almost half as many booster shots as the total number of vaccines administered in low-income countries, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a media briefing on Thursday. G-20 countries have pledged to donate 1.2 billion vaccine doses to Covax, the global program set up to equitably distribute vaccines, and 150 million have been delivered. “For most donations, there’s no timeline – we don’t know what’s coming and when,” Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “We can’t have equity without transparency.” Roughly 500 million vaccine doses will be produced between now and the G-20 meeting at the end of the month, he said. That’s the amount of additional doses needed to achieve the WHO’s target of inoculating 40% of the population of every country by the end of the year.

US: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’s recommendation for booster shots from Moderna Inc. and Johnson & Johnson. There are now booster recommendations for all three available Covid vaccines in the US. The CDC also said those eligible people will be able to choose a different booster from the vaccine they originally received, allowing greater flexibility for patients and doctors as the US tries to stave off another wave of infections.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said he’ll be calling back the Republican-dominated state legislature to take action against employer Covid-19 vaccine mandates. The goal is to block employers from firing workers over vaccination status, he said Thursday. “We want to make sure that individuals in Florida have their livelihoods and their jobs protected,” DeSantis said in Clearwater, Florida. DeSantis and Texas Governor Greg Abbott are the most prominent Republican state leaders seeking to buck President Joe Biden and blunt employer vaccine mandates in the US.

New Zealand: New Zealand sets new 90% vaccination target as prime minister Jacinda Ardern vows to only lift most restrictions when country reaches the milestone.

Czech Republic: Only 14% of promised Covid vaccine doses reach poorest nations, a report has revealed. Of 1.8bn doses pledged by wealthy nations, just 261m (14%) have arrived in low-income countries, according to the analysis by the People’s Vaccine alliance, a coalition of groups that includes Oxfam, ActionAid and Amnesty International.

Lockdown updates

Australia: Once deemed the world’s most liveable city seven times in a row, Melbourne, Australia, found itself in what many believe to be the world’s longest lockdown. After six separate stretches totalling 262 days of stay-at-home orders, the city has finally surged back to life after restrictions were lifted today and bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants opened their doors once again.

Australia’s Victoria state, home of Melbourne, will drop quarantine requirements for fully vaccinated international arrivals from 1 November, Premier Daniel Andrews said. The arrivals will need to demonstrate their vaccination status with a shot approved or recognised by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Russia: Moscow announces a one-week nationwide lockdown as Russia Covid deaths rise. The country registered its highest daily number of coronavirus deaths and infections since the start of the pandemic.

South Korea: South Korea is considering lifting restrictions on operating hours at restaurants and coffee shops from early Nov., a health ministry official told a daily briefing.

10:27 am

Coronavirus company news summary – Novartis extends fill and finish contract for Pfizer vaccine – UK adds Guillain-Barré Syndrome to list of possible AZ shot adverse events

Novartis will extend its support for the fill and finish of Pfizer and BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine using its production expertise. As per the deal, Novartis intends to fill a minimum of 24 million doses next year, leveraging sterile production sites at its technical operations plant in Ljubljana, Slovenia. BioNTech will provide the bulk messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) active ingredient and Novartis will fill it into vials under sterile conditions. The finished product will be shipped back to BioNTech for supply.

The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has included a rare autoimmune nerve disorder to the list of possible side effects of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, Reuters reported. The agency revised vaccine adverse events to include Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS), a paralysis-inducing disorder of the nervous system. Nearly 432 cases of GBS potentially linked to the shot and 26 cases of Miller Fisher Syndrome were reported to the MHRA.

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended the usage of a 50µg booster dose of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine for individuals who are aged 65 years and above. Adults aged 18 to 64 years who at the greater risk of being infected with severe Covid-19 as well as those who are frequently exposed to the disease because of their work profile are eligible to get the shot. The latest recommendation comes after the Food and Drug Administration granted Emergency Use Authorization for the booster shot.

11:11 am

Coronavirus company news summary – UK signs deals for supply of Merck and Pfizer antivirals – FDA authorises booster doses of J&J and Moderna vaccines

The UK Government has entered deals to procure two Covid-19 antiviral therapies developed by Merck and Pfizer, subject to regulatory approval. The government secured 480,000 courses of MSD’s molnupiravir, which in a Phase III trial reduced the risk of hospitalisation or mortality by 50% in mild to moderate Covid-19 patients. Nearly 250,000 courses of Pfizer’s PF-07321332/ritonavir were also acquired.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to booster doses of Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccines. J&J’s shot is cleared for administration in adults aged 18 and above at least two months after the first dose. Eligible individuals who received a different authorised or approved Covid-19 vaccine can also receive the booster shot. A 50µg dose of Moderna’s shot, mRNA-1273, can be administered as a booster dose at least six months after the initial regimen in people aged 65 years and above. Higher-risk adults aged 18 to 64 years and people who are frequently exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus through their work can also receive the shot.

The US government has outlined plans to inoculate children aged five to 11 years after Covid-19 shots are authorised for usage in this age group. Clinics will be set up in over 100 children’s hospital systems around the country, as well as physicians’ offices, pharmacies and schools, Reuters reported. The plan is intended to ensure a quick rollout if Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine is authorised for the younger age group.

8:48 am

International update: UK government “wilfully negligent” not to implement ‘Plan B’ – BMA

21 October

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 4.9 million, with a figure of 4,922,096 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 242 million world wide.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 45.2 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 731,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Poisonings from taking ivermectin, an antiparasitic drug that some people have used in an attempt to treat or prevent Covid-19, rose sharply in August, according to a report from the Oregon Poison Center. Among the 21 reported poisonings, six people were hospitalized, including four who required intensive care. All six hospitalizations were in people taking ivermectin to prevent the viral disease, according to the report. Symptoms included gastrointestinal distress, confusion, weakness, loss of muscle coordination, low blood pressure and seizures.

US Vice President Kamala Harris and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh will meet with federal workers on Wednesday morning ahead of the president’s deadline for government employees to prove their vaccination status. Office of Personnel Management Director Kiran Ahuja, who leads the federal government’s human resources agency, will also attend the meeting. Federal workers will have to prove they’re vaccinated by 8 November or face unpaid suspension followed by termination, her team said earlier this month. The meeting marks the latest step in the president’s push to increase vaccination rates nationwide. Roughly 2.1 million civilians work for the federal government.

UK: The British Medical Association says the “time is now” for the government to enact ‘plan B’ in England to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed by growing numbers of coronavirus cases. The doctors’ trade union believes not taking action over England’s growing Covid cases is “wilfully negligent”.

The UK health secretary says daily Covid cases could hit as high as 100,000. Sajid Javid said the government always knew that winter would bring problems and that Covid hospitalisations are already approaching 1,000 a day.

Javid will hold a press conference at 5 pm in London as pressure rises on the government to control a surge in cases. Javid is expected to encourage more elderly and vulnerable people to get booster vaccinations, and give an update on antiviral drugs. Javid will insist this is not yet the time for “Plan B” measures, which could include mandatory masks, vaccine passports and guidance to work from home, according to The Sun newspaper. It will be the first Covid press conference in five weeks.

UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said there won’t be a fresh lockdown of the UK economy even as cases tick upward and Prime Minister Boris Johnson warns of a difficult winter ahead. In a bullish round of interviews with UK broadcasters, Kwarteng said the government is monitoring coronavirus data by the hour, and pointed out that while case levels are high, hospitalizations and deaths are much lower than at the start of the year due to the country’s successful vaccination program. He told LBC radio “I categorically rule out” new lockdown measures.

New Zealand: New Zealand Covid daily cases passed 100 for first time since pandemic began. The nation’s director general of health says the country is following a similar trajectory to the UK, with vast majority of hospital cases being unvaccinated.

Poland: Poland is facing an explosion of coronavirus cases that may need drastic action, the health minister has said after the country recorded more than 5,000 daily new infections for the first time since May.

Austria: Austria is struggling to curb the latest wave of infections, with more than 3,700 new cases registered on Wednesday, the most since March. Vaccinations have helped cap hospitalizations, however, with coronavirus patients in intensive-care units at less than a third of peak levels seen in April and a year ago.

Romania: Romania is seeking more help from the European Union to get medicine and medical personnel to treat coronavirus patients, the country’s health ministry said. Its Covid hospitals had no available ICU beds Wednesday, with about 1,800 people occupying existing capacity. The country is suffering one of the worst outbreaks in the world because of a low vaccination rate, insufficient restrictions and a disregard for social distancing measures. Top government officials are poised to discuss introducing tougher curbs later on Wednesday.

Malaysia: Malaysia’s Covid-19 tracking application has been misused by “malicious scripts” to send unsolicited one-time passwords to random phone numbers. The team running the MySejahtera app, which also verifies Covid vaccinations, said they received complaints from several users about getting OTP messages to verify their phone numbers for check-in QR registrations. Some users received emails saying they’ve tested positive for Covid. The incident sparked concerns on social media about a likely leak of personal data involving the nation’s 32 million people.

Vaccine news

Australia: Excess AstraZeneca vaccines may go to waste in Australia. None of the current 7m surplus doses has been earmarked for foreign aid, with the volume of supply available to Pacific neighbours declining to just 26,500 last week. Former AMA president, Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, condemned “a very good vaccine going to waste”, as declining public take-up causes stock held by suburban GPs to pass expiration dates.

US: The US Food and Drug Administration cleared a broad path for millions of Americans to receive Covid-19 vaccine booster shots, as the nation looks to bolster its defenses and prevent another virus surge. The agency said in a statement on Wednesday that Moderna Inc. vaccine recipients over 65 and over can receive a third shot, as can adults 18 and up at high risk of severe Covid or with frequent institutional or occupational exposure to the virus that causes the disease. Additionally, all J&J recipients 18 and older are eligible for a booster shot at least two months after receiving their first dose.

Lithuania: Lithuania’s biggest news portals said they were switching off public comments on their articles about Covid-19 vaccines in an effort aimed at curbing conspiracy theories.

Bulgaria: Hundreds of anti-vaccine protesters took to the streets of Sofia to demonstrate Bulgaria’s new Covid pass requirement.

Lockdown updates

Latvia: Latvia is the first country to reimpose lockdown in Europe’s new Covid wave. The Baltic state once seen as coronavirus success story announced a month of restrictions including curfew.

Czech Republic: The Czech government will make wearing face-masks obligatory at all indoor spaces as of next week to stem coronavirus spread that has significantly accelerated this week, Health Minister Adam Vojtech said after an extraordinary cabinet meeting. Customers at the restaurants will have to provide certificates of either vaccination or negative test results. The government also shortened the validity of Covid-19 tests and stopped providing free tests to people, with the exceptions of children, to motivate people to get vaccinated.

Serbia: Serbia is curbing access to indoor bars and restaurants, allowing in only people who have been fully vaccinated or recovered not more than seven months ago, Premier Ana Brnabic told reporters in Belgrade. Negative virus tests are valid for up to 72 hours, she said. The health crisis is worsening again, with new infections spiking to more than 7,000 a day in the nation of barely 7 million people.

Russia: President Vladimir Putin ordered Russia’s most sweeping restrictions since May as the numbers of new infections and deaths reached record levels. Putin approved a government proposal to declare 30 October to 7 November “non-working days” to slow the spread. The country’s worst-affected regions will be required to introduce the stay-at-home order from 23 October. “Now it is especially important to bring down the peak of a new wave of the epidemic,” said Putin, who issued an unusually impassioned plea for Russians to protect themselves by getting vaccinated.

Austria: Austria will require people who come into close contact with others at the workplace to show proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test. The measure, announced by the government in Vienna, takes effect next month.

Kenya: Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta lifted a dusk-to-dawn curfew as the number of new coronavirus cases fell. Place of worship can also be filled to two-thirds of their capacity, double the previous limit, Kenyatta said in a televised address on Wednesday.

Singapore: Singapore will maintain current virus restrictions for about another month as new infections threaten to overwhelm its health care system. The city-state set a record with almost 4,000 daily cases.

EU: EU countries are seeking agreement on ways to ease pandemic travel restrictions within and into the bloc as leaders work to boost vaccination levels. One option under discussion ahead of a two-day EU summit in Brussels is a plan to effectively scrap the traffic-light system of green and red areas in the bloc that has been used to govern travel rules and instead allow anyone who has been vaccinated to travel freely, according to a European Commission informal proposal seen by Bloomberg.

Economy updates

US: Employers across the US are struggling to attract and retain talent, and in some areas, vaccine mandates have made it even more challenging to hold onto workers, the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book said Wednesday. The central bank said vaccine mandates were “widely cited” as contributing to high labor turnover, along with child-care issues and Covid-related absences. However, diving into the comments of the five regional Fed banks that mentioned vaccines, the repercussions of mandates varied.

Switzerland: Roche Holding AG raised its forecast for the year slightly, saying demand for its prescription drugs and Covid-19 tests will help sales and earnings rise in the mid-single digits. The new outlook comes after revenue rose 8% in the first nine months of the year, the Basel, Switzerland-based company said. Roche’s previous forecast was for sales and earnings excluding some items to grow by a low- to mid-single-digit percentage.

11:24 am

International update: New Delta strain “on an increasing trajectory” – UK Health Security Agency

20 October

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 4.9 million, with a figure of 4,915,486 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 241.6 million world wide.

Just months after the Delta variant wrecked havoc across the world, a newly detected offshoot has been identified and is reportedly on the rise across England. Identified as as AY.4.2, the strain is “on an increasing trajectory,” according to a briefing from the UK Health Security Agency. With two mutations in its spike protein, the virus is more easily able to enter cells.

Without a Covid-19 vaccination, reinfection could occur every 16 months as immunity erodes over time, studies suggest. In England, people are increasingly reporting catching Sars-CoV-2 for a second or even third time.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 45.1 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 728,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The US homeland security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, who is vaccinated, tested positive for Covid on Tuesday morning, the Department of Homeland Security said. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden aren’t considered close-contact exposures to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who tested positive three days after attending an outdoor event with them. Biden, who received his booster shot three weeks ago, isn’t considered at risk because his most recent encounter was more than 48 hours before the positive test and occurred outdoors, the White House said. Mayorkas tested positive Tuesday morning as part of routine check before a planned trip, according to his department. Mayorkas is experiencing mild congestion and will isolate and work from home.

UK: Ministers in the UK are being urged to implement sweeping “plan B” winter measures to curb the sharp rise in Covid infections or the efforts to tackle a backlog of 5 million patients could be derailed.

The head of the NHS Confederation gave the warning as the UK recorded 223 Covid deaths, its highest since March alongside one of the highest weekly rates of new reported cases in the world. Infections have been rising sharply since the start of October, but the government is resisting introducing the extra restrictions set out in its winter plan such as masks, vaccine passports and advice to work from home.

Bath and North East Somerset has the highest Covid case rate in the UK and 86% of local authority areas have seen a week-on-week rise, according to a new analysis.

Brazil: The Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, should face murder charges for his role in the country’s “stratospheric” coronavirus death toll, a draft report from a senate inquiry into Brazil’s Covid crisis has recommended.

Vaccine news

Global: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said millions of courses of Merck & Co.’s promising pill for Covid-19 could begin to reach lower-income nations early next year as the charity kicks in as much as $120 million to widen global access to the therapy. The funds will assist generic-drug manufacturers, some of which have indicated they could produce as many as 10 million treatments a month, according to Trevor Mundel, president of the global health division at the Gates Foundation. The drug’s progress has been accompanied by concerns that lower-income nations struggling to obtain Covid vaccines could be left behind once again when it comes to therapies. The foundation is calling on other donors to devote resources to accelerating the rollout of Merck’s experimental molnupiravir to poorer nations if it’s approved.

Pregnant and breast-feeding women appear to respond relatively weakly to their first vaccine dose, according to a study that indicates the importance of them receiving both doses of standard regimens. Immune responses to a single dose of vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer and BioNTech SE were weaker than in a group of nonpregnant women, according to the study released Tuesday by Science Translational Medicine.

UK: Covid vaccine appointments for children will be bookable from next week in England. The rollout of jabs has been extended for 12- to 15-year-olds, Downing Street confirmed.

South Africa: The South African drug regulator has rejected the Russian-made coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V, citing some safety concerns the manufacturer wasn’t able to answer.

US: The Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine is 93% effective in preventing hospitalisation among 12-18-year-olds, according to new research by the US government. The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention study was conducted between June and September when Delta was the most dominant variant.

General Electric Co. will require its roughly 56,000 employees in the U.S. to be fully vaccinated by 8 December, or receive a medical or religious exemption by that date, the company said in a statement. GE is a federal contractor and said it will comply with Biden’s order mandating vaccines for workers at those companies.

Southwest Airlines Co. said employees will continue working, while following mask and distancing guidelines applicable to their job, if their request for an accommodation to not receive the vaccine hasn’t been reviewed or approved by the 8 December federal deadline.

New Zealand: New Zealand faces obstacles in vaccinating Māori population.

Thailand: Thailand’s capital has administered at least two doses of vaccine to 71% of its adult population, paving the way for the city to welcome back inoculated visitors without a mandatory quarantine from 1 November. The inoculation rate is projected to reach 80% by the end of this month, according to the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.

Lockdown updates

Bulgaria: Bulgaria is to make Covid passes mandatory for entry to indoor restaurants, cinemas, gyms and shopping malls amid rising coronavirus infections.

New Zealand: Chris Hipkins, Covid-19 Response Minister, said the changing nature of the pandemic in New Zealand may lead to changes to the country’s border controls, with the possibility of shorter stays in government-managed isolation facilities and increased use of self-isolation for people coming into the country.

Economy updates

Vietnam: The southeast Asian nation is seeking to revive manufacturing and exports after a crippling coronavirus outbreak, the prime minister said. “The country faced increasing difficulties with the outbreak of the delta variant,” which challenged the resiliency of its economy, Chinh said in an address to the National Assembly. The ravages of the Covid-19 delta variant sent GDP plunging 6.17% in the third quarter, the worst performance since the government started tracking the figure.

11:23 am

Coronavirus company news summary – Atea/Roche antiviral fails to meet endpoint in Phase III trial – CDC analysis confirms Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine efficacy in adolescents

Atea Pharmaceuticals’ oral direct-acting antiviral AT-527 has failed to meet the primary goal of reducing the amount of SARS-CoV-2 virus in patients with mild or moderate Covid-19 in a global study. AT-527 is being jointly developed by Atea and Roche as an antiviral pill for treating Covid-19. Atea and Roche are now assessing potential modifications to the Phase III MORNINGSKY trial, including changing its primary endpoint and patient population. The partners therefore expect trial data to be available in the second half of 2022.

An analysis released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine provides strong protection in the population group aged 12 to 18. The study was conducted between June and September, reported Reuters. The vaccine was found to be 93% effective in preventing hospitalisations.

German biopharmaceutical company InflaRx has received a grant of up to €43.7m from the German government to support the development of vilobelimab for treating severely ill, mechanically ventilated Covid-19 patients. The grant was awarded through a government initiative that seeks to fuel the development of promising Covid-19 therapeutic options. Initially, InflaRx will receive €25.8m. The remaining grant will be awarded in three tranches upon achieving specific development milestones. The Phase III part of vilobelimab’s Phase II/III study is currently underway with results expected in Q1 2022.

10:35 am

International update: Global Covid death toll passes 4.9 million

19 October

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 4.9 million, with a figure of 4,906,281 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 241 million world wide.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 45 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 726,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

About 72% of breakthrough Covid-19 patients who died in New Jersey had underlying medical conditions, according to Ed Lifshitz, medical director of the state’s Health Department. Of 362 breakthrough deaths, 262 had pre-existing conditions. A similar percentage of breakthrough Covid-19 patients hospitalized – 69% of 1,718 – had previous medical issues, Lifshitz said Monday.

With Covid-19 stressing health care, the New Mexico health department will permit hospitals to ration care as needed, the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper reported Monday.

UK: UK government warns of “challenging” winter months ahead in battle against Covid as cases continue to rise. Epidemiologist and government adviser Prof Andrew Hayward said the situation was “concerning” and there was “huge potential for the NHS to come under a lot of pressure”.

UK Covid cases neared 50,000 in one day after steadily increasing through October and reaching 49,156 on Monday, the highest reported since 17 July and a 16% rise in new cases over the past week.

A UK private laboratory is under investigation for potentially issuing more than 40,000 false negative Covid tests was not fully accredited to perform the work, contrary to assurances made by health officials.

The UK government has been ordered to reveal firms awarded “VIP” access to multimillion-pound contracts for the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the early months of the Covid pandemic, in a ruling from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Germany: German Health Minister Jens Spahn has said that enough people have been vaccinated to permit ending a national state of emergency as scheduled on 25 November, Bild newspaper reported Monday, without saying where it got the information. Spahn told a meeting of regional leaders that a complete return to normalcy would nevertheless only be possible in the spring of next year at the earliest.

New Zealand: After months of Covid-zero, New Zealand recorded its highest daily Covid-19 case count since the pandemic began, with 94 new infections reported. Younger New Zealanders have been particularly hardest hit with the highest number of cases in the under 39 age bracket.

Russia: Russia set another new record daily caseload, recording 34,325 new cases in the last 24 hours. That’s up just slightly on the previous day’s 34,303. There were 998 further deaths. The population of Russia is around 144 million people. Despite the rising cases, Moscow continues to see a busy nightlife.

China: A rule-breaking elderly couple enjoying China’s tourist sites have become the focus of the country’s latest Covid-19 cluster, prompting a massive contact tracing and testing exercise. The two retired university lecturers from Shanghai started a holiday trip with several others in early October and were found to be infected days later in Shaanxi Province, according to media reports.  The couple traveled from Gansu, even though they had been told that their test results were abnormal, and headed to Shaanxi province, where they were tested again. While awaiting the results, they traveled around the provincial capital Xi’an and visited many scenic spots. Their results came back positive, and Shaanxi has since reported several infections. Inner Mongolia, which they also visited, and Gansu both reported new cases today. A traveler from Gansu has also been found infected in Beijing, a district health commission said separately.

Indonesia: Indonesia expects to enter the endemic phase for Covid-19 in January, as long as it can go through the year-end holiday without a further spike in cases, according to Luhut Panjaitan, the minister overseeing the pandemic response. The Asian nation is on course to have 122 million people fully vaccinated by year-end, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said.

Vaccine news

Global: Moderna Inc. CEO Stephane Bancel says the world will soon be “soon be swimming” in vaccines as the supply of Covid-19 shots rises. Speaking at a health conference in Boston on Monday, Bancel recalled how the US earlier this year shifted within months from a scarcity to easily available shots in every pharmacy. “The same thing is going to happen around the world very soon, and my guess is two-to-three months,” he said.

A study found the Valneva Covid vaccine may be as effective as the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. The vaccine uses inactivated Sars-CoV-2 virus and can be stored in fridge. Like the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, the Valneva jab was found to stimulate responses from other components of the immune system, including T-cells. However, the Valneva jab gave rise to T-cells able to respond not only to the coronavirus spike protein, but to two other key proteins.

EU: The EU has exported over 1bn vaccine doses worldwide, according to head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leye.

US: The FDA will allow people to get a different vaccine as a booster than the one they originally received, people familiar said, confirming an earlier report in the New York Times. The FDA is still considering the scope of the measure, including whether to allow the widespread mixing and matching of vaccines or whether to narrow the parameters of use, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity before any announcement. It’s expected to authorize Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters by Wednesday evening.

India: India will soon have administered 1 billion Covid-19 vaccine doses, but the milestone masks a yawning gap between the number of people who have been fully inoculated and those that have had just one shot.  The country has only given two shots to 20% of its population of about 1.4 billion, according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker.

Canada: Pfizer Inc. and partner BioNTech SE are seeking Canadian approval for their vaccine for children as young as 5. The country’s health regulator said it will “prioritize” the review.

Lockdown updates

China: A quarantine requirement for people traveling from gambling hub Macau to the nearby mainland Chinese city of Zhuhai has been lifted from noon on Tuesday, the government said. Authorities said they want to dispel rumors that the scheduled travel resumption would be delayed due to the discovery of a suspected local Covid case. No such case has been found, the government said.

Latvia: Latvia plans to impose a four-week lockdown after a surge in cases threatened to overwhelm hospitals, Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins said, according to the Leta newswire.

10:06 am

Coronavirus company news summary – Valneva reports positive Phase III results for Covid-19 vaccine candidate – South Africa rejects Sputnik V jab over HIV concern

Valneva has reported positive topline results from the Phase III pivotal trial of its inactivated, adjuvanted Covid-19 vaccine candidate, VLA2001. The trial met its co-primary endpoints; VLA2001 demonstrated superior neutralising antibody titre levels compared to AstraZeneca’s AZD1222 (ChAdOx1-S) and achieved antibody seroconversion rate above 95%. The trial included 4,012 participants across 26 trial sites in the UK. The company aims to secure initial approval in the UK by the end of 2021. Last month, the UK government terminated a contract with Valneva to supply the vaccine.

The South African health products regulator has reportedly refused to approve Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine. According to an AFP report, the regulator said that it will not approve the vaccine as some studies indicated that Sputnik V can increase the risk of HIV infection among men. However, the Gamaleya Centre, which developed Sputnik V, said that such concerns were “completely unfounded”.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has commenced a review to extend the use of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine to young children aged five to 11. The agency started the review after Pfizer and German partner BioNTech submitted data seeking the extension of use for their vaccine, Comirnaty. Currently, the vaccine is authorised for use in people aged 12 and older. EMA’s human medicines committee (CHMP) will now assess the data and results from an ongoing study, and then forward its opinion to the European Commission.

10:26 am

Coronavirus company news summary – FDA committee recommends J&J booster shot – Bayer ends vaccine manufacturing partnership with CureVac

The US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) has unanimously recommended for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) Covid-19 vaccine booster shot. The committee backed the follow-up shot in adults at least two months after the first dose. The recommendation was based on the positive results of two trials including the global Phase III ENSEMBLE 2 study. The FDA is expected to announce its decision in the coming days.

Bayer has ended a vaccine manufacturing partnership with CureVac, a company spokesperson told German newspaper Rheinische Post. The partnership would have required Bayer to produce 160 million doses of CureVac’s Covid-19 vaccine next year. The step comes after CureVac announced that it will not pursue the development of its first-generation Covid-19 vaccine. CureVac has said it will shift its focus on partnering with GSK to develop improved mRNA vaccine technology.

The Philippines has commenced Covid-19 vaccination of minors aged between 12 and 17 years. According to a Reuters report, the move is aligned with the government’s plans to reopen schools, which remained closed for the entirety of the pandemic. The Southeast Asian nation has approved two vaccines – the mRNA jabs developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna – for the younger population. The programme will prioritise vaccinating adolescents with existing health conditions.

9:39 am

International update: US delivers 10 million-plus booster shots as Covid cases near 45 million

18 October

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 4.8 million, with a figure of 4,898,685 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 240 million world wide.

Aid organisation World Vision warned the fallout of the pandemic could provoke a rise in child stunting in the Pacific as job losses and rising food prices threaten malnutrition.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 44.9 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 724,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

UK: Cases of psychosis have soared over the past two years in England as an increasing number of people experience hallucinations and delusional thinking amid the stresses of the Covid-19 pandemic. There was a 75% increase in the number of people referred to mental health services for their first suspected episode of psychosis between April 2019 and April 2021, NHS data shows.

Meanwhile, The UK recorded 45,140 new infections on Sunday, the highest jump in Covid cases since mid-July.

Italy: Italy announced 2,437 new Covid cases and 24 deaths, following its introduction of workplace vaccine mandates on Friday.

Russia: Cases surged in Russia as 34,303 new positive Covid tests and 997 deaths were reported.

UAE: The Gulf nation reported 99 new infections on Sunday, the first time since March 2020 that cases have fallen below 100. With 86% of its population fully inoculated, the UAE has one of the fastest vaccination programs in the world and cases have dropped by about 95% since the start of August.

Indonesia: The country added 19 fatalities in the 24 hours through midday Sunday, the fewest since May 25, 2020. There were 747 confirmed infections over the same time period, near the 16-month low of 620 reached on Oct. 11. Indonesia’s outbreak has eased in recent weeks, allowing the government lift movement and border restrictions further, including reopening tourist hot spot Bali to 19 countries.

Singapore: Singapore’s number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care surged on Saturday, according to the Ministry of Health. The ministry said 62 people were in critical condition, compared with 48 a day earlier. The city state reported 3,348 new coronavirus cases as of noon on 16 October, including four imported infections.

Australia: has secured agreements on virus medications, one agreement is with Roche for 15,000 doses of the antibody-based therapy Ronapreve, with initial supplies available by the end of October, the government said in a statement. The other deal is for 500,000 treatment courses of Pfizer’s oral antiviral drug, which is set to be available next year subject to final clinical trials and approvals.

Vaccine news

US: The US surpassed 10 million booster shots, with more doses now going daily to people who are fully vaccinated than those getting a shot for the first time, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser said he expects US regulators to consider whether people who got the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine should get an mRNA shot against Covid-19 as a booster.  “If you boost people who have originally received J&J with either Moderna or Pfizer, the level of antibodies that you induce in them is much higher than if you boost them with the original J&J,” Anthony Fauci said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.  “But the data of boosting the J&J first dose with a J&J second dose is based on clinical data,” he said. “So what’s going to happen is that the FDA is going to look at all those data, look at the comparison, and make a determination of what they will authorize.”

Wyoming is battling low vaccination rates and overwhelmed hospitals with an advertising campaign based on what it says are real stories about people who regretted not getting vaccinated, the Casper Star-Tribune reported. The tag-line is: “Catch Covid-19, and the virus may decide for you.” “We almost lost a really strong guy, he’s retired law enforcement. He was on a ventilator with a feeding tube,” a man dressed like a doctor says in the video advertisement. “He now believes and wishes he could tell everyone, ‘take the vaccine.’” Wyoming has the third-lowest vaccination rate in the US, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. Less than 50% of people in the state have received one dose, compared with the US average of 65.8%.

UK: England is planning to launch walk-in vaccine clinics within weeks for children aged 12 to 15, after its inoculation rate for this age group severely lags behind Scotland. The programme is hoped to stem rising rates of Covid-19 infections within secondary schools.

Africa: Former UK prime minister Gordon Brown urged an emergency Covid vaccine airlift to Africa, saying it could save 100,000 lives.

France: France’s health agency wants more details on the effects of Moderna’s Covid vaccine on younger people amid concerns about potential side effects, Dominique Le Guludec, who heads the agency, told Le Journal du Dimanche.  “We want to be sure about the vaccine’s benefits” on younger people, and an alert in Scandinavia this month “made us change our strategy,” the head of Haute Autorite de Sante said. The agency has also recommended not using the vaccine as a third booster shot for elderly people until it gets European Medicines Agency approval.

China: CanSino’s inhaled version of viral vector Covid-19 vaccine can boost neutralizing antibody level by 250-300 times among those fully vaccinated with two doses of inactivated shots six months ago, Zhu Tao, the chief scientific officer of the Chinese firm said in a speech Friday.

Lockdown updates

New Zealand: In New Zealand, prime minister Jacinda Ardern has extended Auckland’s level 3 lockdown by another two weeks. “If we get this right, if we keep case numbers low while we vaccinate people then it makes it easier for us to keep control of Covid, while we ease restrictions in the future, and that is everyone’s goal,” she said on Monday.

Australia: Melbourne, Australia is set to lift stay-at-home orders this week, ending what is considered to be the world’s longest lockdown. About 5 million people living in Australia’s second-most populous city have spent more than 260 days under six lockdowns since March of 2020. The figure surpasses Buenos Aires, Argentina, for the longest lockdown globally.

Meanwhile, Expedited discussions are underway with Singapore over so-called green-lane travel, Health Minister Greg Hunt said Sunday in a televised briefing, adding the proposal is under “rapid development.” Australia is already planning to reintroduce a bubble for visitors from New Zealand’s South Island.

Egypt: Egypt announced new Covid requirements for public sector employees from 15 November, who will have to be vaccinated or take a weekly Covid test to work in government buildings.

Japan: Japan’s minister in charge of virus response said restrictions on bars and restaurants could be lifted next month if the current infection trend continues. Daishiro Yamagiwa was speaking on a program broadcast by Fuji TV. The government is also considering softening border restrictions, he added. Tokyo bars are being instructed to stop serving alcohol by 8 pm and close by 9 pm The daily number of infections recorded in the capital has been less than 100 for a week.

11:00 am

Coronavirus company news summary – US study finds mixed vaccine boosting is safe and effective – Russia reports strong efficacy of Sputnik Light jab against Delta variant

The US National Institutes of Health have reported results from a study where subjects receiving Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) Covid-19 vaccine as a first dose developed robust immune response when boosted with Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna’s vaccines, Reuters reported. The study enrolled more than 450 adult subjects, who were already vaccinated with initial doses of Pfizer, Moderna or J&J’s vaccines. The study found that mixing and matching of booster doses of these vaccines was safe in the subjects.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and Gamaleya National Research Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology have reported that the Sputnik Light vaccine demonstrated an efficacy of 70% against the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant in a study. The efficacy was observed during the first three months following vaccination, with the data collected in July 2021 in Moscow. In subjects aged below 60 years, the vaccine showed 75% effectiveness. Standalone use of the vaccine showed “much higher efficacy” against severe Covid-19 and hospitalisations, RDIF said in a release, but no specific efficacy rate was cited.

Panama has granted approval to a third dose of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine for individuals who are at increased risk, including healthcare personnel, nursing home residents, bedridden patients, and those aged over 55 years. The booster dose will be administered to individuals who have taken their second dose of the vaccine at least six months previously, Reuters reported. As well as those at risk of occupational exposure, the additional dose is intended for people at increased risk of developing viral complications.

9:44 am

International update: WHO proposes new 26 strong team to investigate Covid pandemic origins

14 October

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 4.8 million, with a figure of 4,874,334 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 239 million world wide.

The World Health Organization proposed a new team to lead an investigation into the pandemic’s origins. The 26 proposed members of the group have expertise in a range of areas from epidemiology to biosecurity, the WHO said. They include Marion Koopmans from Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, Christian Drosten from the Institute of Virology at Charite in Berlin and Yungui Yang, the deputy director at the Beijing Institute of Genomics.Michael Ryan, the WHO’s emergencies director, said it may be the “last chance to understand the origins of this virus” in a collegiate manner.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 44.6 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 719,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

UK: Malfunctioning NHS app for Covid vaccine status causes travel delays. Travellers have been blocked from boarding flights and ferries for trips abroad after a four-hour outage of England’s NHS app left people unable to access a Covid pass to prove their vaccine status.

Meanwhile the UK recorded 136 deaths and 42,776 new Covid-19 cases. Coronavirus infections among school-aged children in England are “high and rising,” according to a major study that is likely to exacerbate concerns about the pace of the vaccine rollout. Rates of Covid-19 is growing in those aged 17 and younger, the React-1 study led by Imperial College London found. The reproduction rate in that age group was 1.18, meaning that on average every 10 young people infected are passing it on to about 12 others. That’s driven up the national rate, even though prevalence is falling in the 18-54 age group.

Russia: Russia has set a record for the number of Covid deaths in a 24-hour period for the second day running. Wednesday’s official toll of 984 is slightly higher than yesterday’s then-record 973 deaths.

New Zealand: Once the envy of the world for its handling of the pandemic, New Zealand is now preparing its health system for an influx of Covid-19 patients as it pivots away from its elimination strategy. Health Ministry modelling forecasts more than 5,000 cases per week in the Auckland and Northland regions next year, even assuming 90% of the eligible population is vaccinated, Health Minister Andrew Little said on Thursday. The figure does not include the rest of the country, where modelling is still being conducted.

New Zealand’s government gave the green light for 300,000 rapid antigen tests to be imported, Auckland Airport CEO Adrian Littlewood said in an emailed statement on behalf of a coalition of businesses. The tests are expected to start arriving in New Zealand from Oct. 21. More than 25 companies sought emergency approval from the government last week to allow rapid surveillance testing to get underway.

Australia: Victoria – Australia’s second most-populous state – recorded 2,297 new local Covid cases on Thursday, the highest daily total in any of the country’s states since the pandemic began. The surge comes even though Melbourne, where most of Victoria’s population lives, has been among the world’s most locked-down cities over the past 18 months. By contrast, New South Wales saw its seven-day average of daily cases drop to the lowest in eight weeks, as it began easing restrictions now that 70% of people aged 16 years and older have been fully inoculated. Australian employment, meanwhile, tumbled for a second consecutive month and the jobless rate advanced as a surge in the delta variant kept businesses shuttered in Sydney and Melbourne, the country’s two biggest cities.

Thailand: Thailand reported 11,276 new Covid-19 cases, the highest daily total since 2 October, the government said. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha will chair the main Covid-19 panel in Bangkok on Thursday and may release on details on the reopening plan.

China: China’s autonomous region of Inner Mongolia reported one local Covid-19 case Thursday morning, after the country found no local infections for a week. Erenhot, a city with a population of around 70,000, said one logistics worker tested positive for the virus. Local authorities will start citywide mass testing at noon Thursday, and will aim to finish the first round by the end of the day.

Vaccine news

Global: The World Health Organization has authorized AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine manufactured in Thailand under its Emergency Use Listing procedure, with immediate effect, according to a statement from the Anglo-Swedish company. The authorization for doses manufactured by Siam Bioscience, the company’s production partner in Thailand, follows other EULS including those granted in February to Astra vaccine-making peers in India and South Korea. 

US: Mixing Covid vaccines produces as much or more antibodies as using the same shot as a booster, according to preliminary results of a widely awaited US government-sponsored trial. The trial is the first major US study to compare the effects of using different vaccines as boosters from the initial shot or shots. The complicated, 9-arm trial involved more than 450 people and measured the effects from giving a booster shot of the Moderna Inc., Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE or Johnson & Johnson vaccines to those who had originally gotten a different vaccine.

India: India is building up a stockpile of vaccine doses, with 250 million shots prepared and three more vaccines under development, a government official said. Most of these doses will be given to neighbouring countries and will also meet India’s commitments to the WHO’s Covax initiative for poorer nations, said V. K. Paul, a member of a government think-tank that advises Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Vietnam: Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam instructed the health ministry to promptly issue guidance on Covid-19 vaccinations for people under 18, as well as booster shots, according to a post on the government website. No other details were given on the booster shots.

Japan: Japan’s health ministry is planning to recommend Pfizer’s vaccine over Moderna Inc.’s for men in their teens and 20s because of concerns over side effects, including Myocarditis, the Nikkei newspaper reported, without attribution. The ministry plans to also recommend switching the second dose of vaccination to Pfizer’s for those who already received Moderna’s as the first one. The recommendations will be discussed at a panel meeting Friday. The ministry will offer drug companies 3.8 billion yen ($34 million) to support their coronavirus drug development, Asahi reported, without attribution.

Australia: Pfizer will make an expedited application to Australia’s medical regulator for its Covid-19 vaccine to be considered for use in children aged five to 11, Health Minister Greg Hunt said. The company is expected to submit data on its vaccine to the Therapeutic Goods Administration within weeks, Hunt said at a press conference on Thursday. If the TGA approves the vaccine, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization then needs to green light the shot before it can be provided, he said. The country’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Sonya Bennett said it was a welcome step which would help protect children and their families, as well as helping keep schools open.

Westpac Banking Corp. moved to mandate vaccines for all staff working at its offices and branches, becoming the first of the big banks to require the jab for its employees across Australia. The country’s second-largest bank said Thursday that it expects all employees entering a workplace in the eastern states of New South Wales, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory to be fully vaccinated by 1 December, while staff in other parts of the nation have until 22 February.

Lockdown updates

US: After a 19-month travel ban, the US has announced it will reopen its land borders with Canada and Mexico for nonessential travel.

Indonesia: hotels and hospitality businesses in Indonesia’s main tourism hotspot of Bali are slowly coming back to life after being shuttered for 17 months. On Thursday, Bali is due to reopen to travellers from several countries including China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, and the United Arab Emirates. Visitors will be required to follow certain regulations – they need to be fully vaccinated and take two PCR tests, both before their flight and on arrival. They will also need to quarantine for five days.

Economy updates

Thailand: Thai Airways International has adjusted flight schedules to support the government’s plan to allow quarantine-free travel for international visitors from 1 November, according to Nond Kalinta, the airline’s chief commercial officer. The carrier’s winter flight schedules are aimed at reviving the country’s economy and travel and tourism industry, Nond said in a statement on Thursday. Scheduled flights via Bangkok and Phuket include destinations such as Copenhagen, Frankfurt, London, Paris and Stockholm.

10:57 am

International update: Lancet – More than 22,000 lives could have been spared in Texas and Florida

13 October

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 4.8 million, with a figure of 4,866,339 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 238.7 million world wide.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 44.5 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 716,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

More than 22,000 lives could have been spared in Texas and Florida, states where governors have spoken out against mask and vaccine mandates, if they had inoculated three-quarters of their adult populations, according to a study published in the scientific journal Lancet. The two states had vaccinated less than 60% of their adult population by the time the study was conducted.

US regulators are ending temporary policies that allowed more companies to produce hand sanitizer at the height of the pandemic, saying there’s no longer a shortage. Companies making sanitizers or alcohol for use in hand sanitizers under the temporary rules have until the end of the year to stop manufacturing and until 31 March to distribute their remaining supply. After March, the Food and Drug Administration says it will resume its normal policies of regulatory enforcement as it pertains to hand sanitizers.

Europe: Slower vaccination rates in eastern Europe are leading to a dramatic surge in cases in comparison to higher vaccination rates and lower Covid infection and death rates in western Europe, figures from Our World In Data suggests. The exception is in the UK where case numbers are surging.

UK: Senior figures in the UK say the failure to a prevent second wave was inexcusable given what was known about the virus. The failure to prevent tens of thousands of deaths during Britain’s brutal second wave of Covid infections was a more serious error than the timing of the first lockdown, senior scientists told the Guardian, after a damning report by MPs on the handling of the pandemic.

Bereaved families call for acceleration of UK Covid public inquiry to be accelerated and for ministers to apologise after a damning report by MPs on the handling of the pandemic.

The UK reported a slight fall back in cases to below the 40,000 mark with 38,520 confirmed cases of Covid-19, down from 40,224 yesterday.

China: China reported no local Covid-19 cases for a week after quelling a delta-variant flareup that started before a week-long public holiday at the start of October. Officials discouraged unnecessary travel and gatherings before the break to reduce transmission risks. China hasn’t shown any sign of changing its Covid Zero approach.

Thailand: Thailand reported 10,064 new infections, an increase from a three-month low on Tuesday, ahead of a government plan to ease restrictions. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha is set to chair a meeting on Thursday to decide on details of reopening plans as well as consider lifting Covid curbs. Cumulative cases rose to 1.74 million and 82 new deaths were reported, taking total fatalities to 17,917.

Vaccine news

Global: Moderna Inc. said that Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, has agreed to purchase an additional 176.5 million doses of its vaccine for the Covax facility, a program backed by the World Health Organization that aims to get shots to low-income nations. All of the doses, which will be delivered in the first half of next year, will be offered at the company’s lowest-tiered price, Moderna said. 

Europe: CureVac NV is abandoning its first-generation vaccine to focus on another shot it’s developing with GlaxoSmithKline Plc. European regulatory authorities had indicated the vaccine probably wouldn’t be approved before the second quarter of next year, the German biotech firm said. By then, CureVac and Glaxo expect to be conducting late-stage patient trials of a second-generation shot.

Australia: Canberra, Australia’s capital city, is set to become the most Covid vaccinated city in the world. “The current evidence suggests that the ACT will be one of the most vaccinated cities in the world,” said the territory’s chief minister, Andrew Barr. “We expect to be at around 99% of the eligible population fully vaccinated by the end of November. It’s a testament to ACT residents and their willingness to protect themselves, their family and their community.”

Australian consumers who intend to get vaccinated are far more optimistic than those who don’t intend to have a jab, Westpac Banking Corp.’s October household sentiment survey showed. “The confidence level of those not intending to get vaccinated has also fallen quite sharply in the last month,” said Bill Evans, chief economist at Westpac. “Encouragingly, the size of this group has fallen as well, accounting for only 6% of respondents in the October survey compared to 9% in September and just under 20% at the start of the year.”

US: The US has administered 403,576,826 doses of Covid-19 vaccines as of Tuesday morning and distributed 488,178,975 doses, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Moderna and Johnson & Johnson said data they’ve gathered support the need for booster shots, ahead of a key regulatory meeting later this week. A panel of scientific experts who advise the US Food and Drug Administration on vaccines are scheduled to meet on Thursday and Friday to weigh the evidence for booster doses for the two vaccines.  In documents prepared for the meeting, both companies said that supplemental doses would be advisable after six months.

White House officials told state governors to start preparing to vaccinate children in early November, ABC News reported. The Biden administration said it has enough pediatric doses on hand for the 28 million children ages 5 to 11 who are expected to soon become eligible for shots, according to ABC.

Three of the largest employers in Texas will follow Joe Biden’s mandate requiring employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19, defying an order by state Governor Greg Abbott blocking such actions. International Business Machines Corp., a federal contractor, has more than 6,000 people in its Austin-area workforce, while Fort Worth-based American Airlines and Dallas-based Southwest have an even bigger footprint in the state. The two carriers have contracts with the federal government for transporting employees and goods.

Boeing told about 125,000 US based workers they have until 8 December to be fully vaccinated or risk losing their jobs. The company cited Biden’s executive order for federal contractors for the policy shift, adding that workers won’t be able to cite a prior infection or antibody test to sidestep the requirement.

New York City’s program requiring proof of vaccination to enter restaurants, gyms and clubs can continue, a federal judge ruled, finding no racial bias in the mandate. The ruling followed a lawsuit filed last month by a group of city residents, including business owners, seeking to block Mayor Bill de Blasio’s program, Key to NYC. They claim it illegally discriminates on the basis of race because Black and Hispanic New Yorkers have vaccination rates below the city average and are therefore disproportionately barred from indoor commercial spaces.

Russia: Russia will test a nasal spray form of its Sputnik V vaccine against Covid-19 among adult volunteers, according to a state document published on Tuesday.

Japan: The Japanese government is considering making the approval process for vaccines and treatments easier to accelerate their use in emergencies, according to a Kyodo News report, which cited an unidentified official.  Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is expected to instruct ministers to formulate a policy framework for virus countermeasures by the end of the month.

Lockdown updates

US: After a 19-month travel ban, the US has announced it will reopen its land borders with Canada and Mexico for nonessential travel.

New Zealand: Parts of the Waikato region and the whole of Northland will remain in lockdown at Alert Level 3 for at least another five days, New Zealand’s Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told news conference in Wellington.

Indonesia: hotels and hospitality businesses in Indonesia’s main tourism hotspot of Bali are slowly coming back to life after being shuttered for 17 months. On Thursday, Bali is due to reopen to travellers from several countries including China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, and the United Arab Emirates. Visitors will be required to follow certain regulations – they need to be fully vaccinated and take two PCR tests, both before their flight and on arrival. They will also need to quarantine for five days.

Economy updates

China: Investor sentiment for airlines and airports in Asia has picked up in recent weeks as more countries pivot toward “living with Covid-19” amid easing infections and higher vaccination rates, JPMorgan analysts including Karen Li wrote in a research note.  JPMorgan remains broadly positive on Chinese airlines and sees potential for positive surprises for reopening. In Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. is staying agile and has been improving its cash burn, hence it has been upgraded to overweight. Singapore Airlines Ltd. was raised to neutral because its shares look fairly priced and there’s limited upside, the analysts said.

10:21 am

Coronavirus company news summary – Indian regulator backs use of Bharat Biotech Covid-19 vaccine in children – Russia to study nasal spray form of Sputnik V jab

The Subject Expert Committee (SEC) of India’s Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) has recommended emergency use of Bharat Biotech’s Covid-19 vaccine, Covaxin, for children and adolescents aged two to 18 years. Earlier this month, the company, which concluded the Phase II/III clinical trials of the shot in children, presented the results to CDSCO for verification and to obtain emergency use authorisation, PTI reported.

Russia has announced plans to study a nasal spray form of the Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine developed by the Gamaleya Research Institute in adult subjects in the wake of a rising number of cases in the country. As per a document published on the state register of medicines, the nasal spray will be administered in two doses to subjects at a clinic in St Petersburg, Reuters reported. Further details of the tests were not divulged.

The Vietnam Ministry of Health has granted approval to Arcturus Therapeutics to commence the Phase IIIb segment of the Phase I/II/III clinical trial assessing Covid-19 vaccine candidate ARCT-154 against the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant and other variants of concern. The Phase IIIb trial has started dosing subjects and plans to enrol nearly 20,000 people. These participants will be given either two doses of the vaccine administered at a gap of 28 days or a placebo.

4:00 pm

GlobalData Epidemiologist Report: Global Covid fatalities inch towards 5 million

12 October

Globally, the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 have reached over 238,346,000, with more than 4,859,000 deaths reported.

Malaysia has relaxed Covid-19 related restrictions after new daily confirmed cases reached their lowest levels since early July, and the country announced it has fully vaccinated 90% of adults.

On Monday, interstate and international travel were allowed to resume for fully vaccinated and inoculated individuals.

The shift in policy reflects the government’s strategy to treat Covid-19 as endemic by reducing the interference of Covid restrictions in the lives of individuals and instead classifying it as a normal risk to people’s lives.

Despite these relaxations, daily confirmed Covid-19 cases remain high in Malaysia, with over 20 new daily confirmed cases per 100,000 population.

As such, preventative measures to reduce transmission remain imperative for the easing of restrictions to work.

Like Malaysia, daily confirmed Covid-19 cases in Mongolia have declined in recent weeks, but transmission remains high, with over 44 new daily confirmed cases per 100,000 individuals.

Unlike Malaysia, however, the vaccination rate in Mongolia is much lower as 65% of the population has been fully vaccinated, and progress in vaccinating new individuals has largely stalled since July.

The relative lack of vaccination has likely contributed to a different outcome than Malaysia as Mongolia battles through a wave of Delta variant related infections that have resulted in hospital bed shortages and most Covid-19 cases being treated at home.

Hence, while Malaysia is beginning to recover from the latest wave of Covid-19 infections, Mongolia may need to institute further measures to prevent a further strain on the health system.

Walter Gabriel, MPH, Epidemiologist at GlobalData Plc.

11:10 am

International update: Slower vaccination rates in Eastern Europe sparks surge in Covid cases

12 October

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 4.8 million, with a figure of 4,858,033 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 238 million world wide.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 44.4 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 714,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Europe: Slower vaccination rates in eastern Europe are leading to a dramatic surge in cases in comparison to higher vaccination rates and lower Covid infection and death rates in western Europe, figures from Our World In Data suggests. The exception is in the UK where case numbers are surging.

UK: A landmark inquiry has found Britain’s early handling of the coronavirus pandemic to be one of the worst public health failures in UK history. The 151-page report, ‘Coronavirus: lessons learned to date’, led by two former Conservative ministers, found authorities took a “fatalistic” approach that exacerbated the nation’s death toll. Despite being one of the first countries to develop a test for Covid in January 2020, the UK “squandered” its lead and “converted it into one of permanent crisis”, the report said.

The UK reported a further 40,224 Covid cases on Monday, according to official data. Meanwhile, a further 28 deaths were reported.

Italy: Relatives of coronavirus victims in Italy are pushing for a full public inquiry into the government’s handling of the pandemic as documents from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) show the first Covid-19 cases registered in 16 European countries originated from Italy.

France: A French study of over 22m people finds vaccines reduces the risk of dying or being hospitalised in people over the age of 50 with Covid-19 by 90%. The research published on Monday also found that vaccines appear to protect against the worst effects of the most prevalent virus strain, the Delta variant.

Russia: Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, seen coughing during a televised government meeting, reassured officials on Monday that he was fine and said he was being tested for Covid virtually every day.

Meanwhile, Russia’s daily Covid numbers remain close to their highest figures with 957 coronavirus-related deaths and 29,409 new cases in the past 24 hours.

Vaccine news

Global: An advisory panel of immunization experts to the World Health Organization recommended that severe or moderately immunocompromised people should get an extra dose of Covid-19 vaccines. In the case of Sinopharm or Sinovac, an extra shot should be given to anyone 60 or above, said Alejandro Cravioto, chairman of the panel. Katherine O’Brien, director of immunizations at the WHO, said this is part of a normal schedule of vaccines, that and the panel will consider the issue of boosters to the main immunization schedules on 11 November.

AstraZeneca’s antibody cocktail was effective at preventing people with mild or moderate Covid-19 infection from worsening, a study showed. The cocktail halved the risk of developing severe illness or death compared with a placebo in a primary analysis of 822 patients who weren’t hospitalized, Astra said in a statement Monday. The trial took place in countries including the UK, Brazil, the US and Germany. The results are another boon for the product after it was also found to be highly effective at preventing symptomatic Covid in high-risk people. The outcomes are a relief for Astra after an initial trial testing whether the cocktail could prevent symptomatic disease in people explicitly exposed to the virus failed in June. The company said last week it had applied for emergency-use authorization in the US.

China: China has expanded its booster-shot rollout to more parts of the country, including the central provinces of Hubei and Anhui and the southern regions of Guangxi and Guangdong, according to local media. People aged 18-to-59 who received their second shot more than six months ago are eligible for a booster, local authorities said.

Australia: Australia still lags behind many other countries on vaccine rollout – but it’s catching up fast. After a slow start and sluggish vaccine rollout, 68.2% of Australians have had at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine as of 8 October. This is ahead of Germany at 67.9%, the United States at 64.39%, and the European Union at 67.8%.

Lockdown updates

Thailand: Thailand is set to reopen its borders to sun-seeking vaccinated tourists from November. Mandatory quarantine requirements will be dropped for visitors from the UK and US and alcohol will be allowed to be served at restaurants from 1 December. Tourism made up almost 20% of the nation’s income prior to the pandemic, attracting nearly 40 million visitors a year. However, Covid-related travel restrictions have left the economy battered, contributing to its worst performance in more than 20 years.

Wales: From today people in Wales must show an NHS Covid Pass or demonstrate their vaccination status to enter nightclubs and attend large events in the country.

Germany: People in Germany will now need to pay for lateral flow coronavirus tests out of their own pockets, as the government is trying to nudge vaccine-hesitant citizens into getting the jab.

Indonesia: Indonesia is reopening its borders further, allowing visitors from more countries to enter and imposing a shorter quarantine period. Southeast Asia’s largest economy will allow arrivals from 18 countries and reduce the minimum quarantine period to five days, from eight previously, said Luhut Panjaitan, coordinating minister for maritime and investment affairs who’s overseeing the pandemic response. He didn’t name any of the 18 countries.

Economy updates

Global: Covid pandemic pushes poor countries to record debt levels, the World Bank says. David Malpass, the bank’s president warned the virus had widened the gap between rich and poor nations, setting back progress by years and, in the case of some countries, by a decade. Figures show the debt burden of more than 70 low-income nations had increased by a record 12% to $860bn (£630bn) in 2020.

UK: Ryanair bans Covid refund passengers from boarding new flights. The budget airline has been accused of barring passengers who pursued chargebacks during the pandemic from taking new flights this year – unless they return their refunds. An investigation by MoneySavingExpert (MSE) found that holidaymakers who sought refunds from their credit card provider faced last-minute demands of up to £600 if they want to board a Ryanair plane.

Finland: Finland’s fur industry is organizing an inoculation program for minks in a bid to avert the extermination of the farmed animals as part of disease-prevention measures. The country has about half a million doses of a domestically developed vaccine ready to be deployed this winter, enough to protect the entire population of breeding minks from Covid-19. Minks are known to be particularly susceptible to the virus. Evidence from the Netherlands suggest the virus can jump from minks to humans.

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Coronavirus company news summary – MSD and Ridgeback seek US emergency approval for molnupiravir – AZ antibody combination lowers Covid-19 mortality risk in Phase III trial

Merck (MSD) and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics have sought an emergency use authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration for an experimental oral antiviral drug, molnupiravir, to treat Covid-19. The therapy is intended for adult patients with mild-to-moderate Covid-19, who are at risk of progression to severe disease and/or hospitalisation. The application is based on positive interim analysis data from the Phase III MOVe-OUT trial of molnupiravir in adult Covid-19 patients in the non-hospital setting.

AstraZeneca has reported that its long-acting antibody combination, AZD7442, showed a statistically significant decline in severe Covid-19 or mortality in patients suffering from mild-to-moderate symptomatic Covid-19 and are not hospitalised. The Phase III TACKLE trial, which included 903 participants, also met the primary goal. AZD7442 was demonstrated to be beneficial in prophylaxis as well as treatment of Covid-19.

Colombia’s National Food and Drug Surveillance Institute INVIMA has authorised Inovio to carry out the Phase III portion of the Phase II/III INNOVATE trial of its Covid-19 vaccine candidate, INO-4800, in the country. Collaborating with Advaccine Biopharmaceuticals Suzhou, Inovio is conducting the trial in a number of nations worldwide. The trial will assess the efficacy of a two-dose regimen of INO-4800 in adults, with doses administered a month apart.

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GlobalData Epidemiologist Report: Imperative that UK reduces Covid transmission among adolescents

11 October

Globally, the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 have reached over 237,955,000, with more than 4,853,000 deaths reported.

The US, India, and Brazil remain the top three countries for total confirmed cases of Covid-19, with the US reporting the highest number of total confirmed cases out of all countries, with over 44,338,000 cases.

The UK follows these three countries, with over 8,100,000 total confirmed cases after rising from having the sixth most total cases globally in mid-June.

The UK began vaccinating adolescents in August, far later than the US and other European countries, which likely contributed to the high caseloads among school children, who are driving transmission.

As the winter months approach, it will be imperative to reduce transmission in this age group as the high transmission rate may prolong the high number of daily confirmed cases in the UK.

Several countries in Eastern Europe are also facing high levels of Covid-19 transmission, as Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are all facing over 60 new daily confirmed cases per 100,000 population.

As a result of the high number of Covid-19 cases, the Lithuanian government has declared a state of emergency in their healthcare system.

The measure is designed to grant medical authorities more autonomy in handling their resources to provide the necessary medical assistance to Covid-19 sufferers and other urgent patients.

However, while the measure is designed to reduce mortality by freeing up resources, it is unlikely to dramatically reduce the number of deaths if cases keep rising.

In addition, Lithuania has currently fully vaccinated roughly 58.4% of its population, suggesting that cases may continue to increase without further restrictions, as Lithuania has not yet reached herd immunity.

Walter Gabriel, MPH, Epidemiologist at GlobaData Plc.

9:33 am

Coronavirus company news summary – India permits export of Russia’s Sputnik Light vaccine – Elixirgen signs global licensing deal for Covid-19 vaccine

The Indian government has granted permission to Hetero Biopharma for the export of Russia’s Covid-19 vaccine, Sputnik Light. A vaccine production partner of the Russian Direct Investment Fund, Hetero Biopharma will export a total of four million doses of the vaccine to Russia, PTI reported. Sputnik Light is the first component of the Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine and is not authorised for emergency usage in India.

Elixirgen Therapeutics has signed an exclusive licensing agreement with an undisclosed pharmaceutical firm for the rights to market its Covid-19 vaccine EXG-5003 internationally, except in Japan. The intradermal, temperature-controllable, self-replicating RNA vaccine expresses the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein’s receptor binding domain. It can elicit strong cellular immunity to offer wider protection against variants. The company is presently dosing subjects in a Phase I/II clinical trial of the vaccine in Japan.

Indian firms Aurobindo Pharma and MSN Laboratories have separately sought permission from the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation’s Subject Expert Committee to conclude the late-stage clinical trials of Merck’s investigational oral antiviral therapy, molnupiravir, for the treatment of moderate Covid-19 patients. The move comes after Merck reported that the drug demonstrated favourable results in a trial involving subjects with mild-to-moderate disease.

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International update: Air filters can take out Covid particles study finds

11 October

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 4.8 million, with a figure of 4,852,089 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 237.8 million world wide.

Inexpensive, portable air filters can efficiently remove coronavirus particles and other pathogens from the air, Nature reported last week, citing a study by doctors in a working hospital. Vilas Navapurkar, an intensive-care unit physician at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, UK, and a co-author of the study, said filters might be more important to use in general wards than in ICUs.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 44.3 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 713,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Meanwhile, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention says 187 million people in US are fully vaccinated. Dr Anthony Fauci warns the US must not ‘prematurely declare victory’ over Covid. As the holiday season approaches, the White House medical adviser urged caution in celebrating declining Covid cases.

New Zealand: New Zealand is on a ‘knife-edge’ as Covid cases are expected to rise further. The nation recorded 94 new infections over the weekend, as experts say an “exponential growth curve” will occur where new cases will quickly top 100 a day if the government stays its current course.

Australia: New South Wales state recorded 496 new locally-transmitted cases and eight deaths in the 24 hours to 8 pm Sunday. Neighboring Victoria, which remains under stricter stay-at-home orders as its vaccination rate lags behind New South Wales, reported 1,612 new local cases.

UK: One in six of England’s most critically ill patients are unvaccinated pregnant women, new figures reveal. Twenty of the 118 patients with Covid who received extra corporeal membrane oxygenation (Ecmo) between July and September were mothers-to-be, NHS England said. Of these, 19 had not had a jab and the other had only had one dose of a vaccine. The health service is urging pregnant women to get fully vaccinated amid new evidence that the virus can cause serious problems for the mother-to-be and her baby in the later stages of pregnancy.

UK Health Security Agency chief executive Dr Jenny Harries has warned that people who catch flu and Covid at the same time this winter are twice as likely to die than those who only have coronavirus. Harries also said that it’s hard to predict what the next chapter of the pandemic will look like in the UK, as immunity from vaccines wanes among older people.

Singapore: Singapore’s health ministry reported 3,703 new cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, the highest since the beginning of the pandemic, while it recorded 11 new deaths.

Indonesia: Indonesia saw a continued slowdown in its virus spread on Sunday, an encouraging sign as it prepares to relax its borders and welcome foreign tourists back to Bali this week. The Southeast Asian nation added 894 cases and 39 deaths on Sunday, both the lowest since June 2020, as it benefits from an aggressive test-and-trace campaign to contain the delta outbreak.

Vaccine news

UK: Two million people in England have received a Covid booster jab, NHS England said. The health secretary, Sajid Javid, tweeted: “This is great progress which is helping to reinforce our wall of defence so we can keep the virus at bay.” Over-50s, younger adults with health conditions and frontline health and care workers are eligible for a third shot.

New Zealand: Vaccinations will be mandatory for most healthcare and education workers, including doctors, pharmacists and midwives as well as teachers and support staff, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said in a statement Monday.

US: A majority of parents who aren’t vaccinated against Covid-19 say they won’t have their kids ages 5 to 11 get a shot, according to a CBS News/YouGov poll. In contrast, 61% of parents with vaccinations said they’ll have their children inoculated – the same as the share of unvaccinated parents who said they wouldn’t. About a quarter on both sides signaled they were undecided. The poll, published Sunday, has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points. Kids in the 5-11 age group could get a vaccine as soon as the first week of November. Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE said Thursday they’d finished submitting data to the Food and Drug Administration ahead of an advisory panel meeting set for26 October.

Lockdown updates

Australia: Millions of Australians have woken up today to new freedoms after 106 days of lockdown. Greater Sydney reopened at 12:01am on Monday as stay-at-home orders were lifted across the state of New South Wales after state reached its milestone of 70% of the over-16 population fully vaccinated last week. Gyms, cafes, restaurants, pools, shops, hairdressers and beauticians can now reopen, people can have 10 people over to their home, gather in groups of 30 people outdoors in public, and travel more than 5km from their home. The new freedoms are only available to the fully vaccinated and those who have a medical exemption.

New Zealand: New Zealand has extended Auckland’s lockdown after reporting 35 new Covid-19 cases in the nation’s biggest city. Auckland will remain at Alert Level 3, meaning people can’t leave the city and should stay at home where possible, for at least another week. Restrictions in Waikato and Northland were extended until midnight 14 October.

Italy: Police in Italy said on Sunday they had arrested 12 people including the leaders of the extreme right-wing party Forza Nuova, after clashes in Rome a day earlier over a government drive to make the Covid-19 “Green Pass” mandatory for all workers.

Malaysia: Malaysia on Sunday lifted interstate and international travel restrictions for residents fully vaccinated against Covid-19, as the country achieved its target of inoculating 90% of its adult population, Reuters reports.

Fiji: Fiji will reopen to fully vaccinated international travelers from 1 December, ending more than 20 months of isolation that smashed the nation’s tourism industry. US tourists will be the first to be able to travel to the popular South Pacific holiday destination. National carrier Fiji Airways will launch daily flights from Los Angeles to Nadi using new Airbus A350-900 aircraft, as well as five flights a week from San Francisco and two flights a week from Honolulu.

Economy updates

UK: The policymaker Michael Saunders has added to signs the Bank of England might become the first major central bank to raise rates since the coronavirus pandemic struck.

British ministers are concerned that a lack of pilots could impede a rebound in flights to pre-pandemic levels, the Telegraph newspaper reported. At least double the usual number of pilots retired during the time when most travel was banned, the newspaper said, citing sources in the aviation industry. Activity is now growing steadily, according to weekly seat capacity estimates from OAG Aviation. UK capacity surpassed Germany and France in August after lagging for many months though it’s still 45% less than two years ago. While the UK has recently eased entry rules for foreign travelers in a bid to boost tourism, post-Brexit labor shortages are threatening the nation’s economic recovery. A lack of truck drivers has contributed to a fuel crisis.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam defended Covid-19 travel restrictions that are frustrating global businesses, signaling the curbs will stay in place for the foreseeable future even as Singapore allows more quarantine-free travel.

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GlobalData Epidemiologist Report: Fast rising Covid infections ‘worrisome’ in Russia

8 October

Globally, the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 have reached over 236,854,000, with more than 4,836,000 deaths reported.

With over 7,575,000 cases since the start of the pandemic, Russia is fifth in the world for total confirmed cases of Covid-19.

Daily confirmed cases have been on the rise during the past week, with cases averaging over 25,000 per day, an approximately 30% increase compared to the beginning of September.

Daily confirmed deaths are also increasing and exceeded 920 on 6 October.

These trends are worrisome but not unexpected, due to Russia’s low vaccination rate and the presence of the infectious Delta variant.

To curb the spread of the virus, regions have reimposed local restrictions, but the Kremlin has not reinstated any nationwide measures, instead focusing on encouraging people to get vaccinated.

About 30% of Russia is fully inoculated against Covid-19.

Although increasing vaccine coverage is key to prevent future outbreaks, vaccine skepticism is high in the country, including fears over side effects and the speed at which the vaccines were produced.

South America, one of the hardest hit continents during the pandemic, is getting a reprieve from Covid-19.

Daily confirmed cases and deaths have been dropping in countries like Brazil, which remains third worldwide for total confirmed cases.

Although confirmed cases in Brazil average around 16,000 per day, this is an over 80% drop compared to June and July.

Overall, 45% of the country’s population is fully vaccinated, and in some cities like Rio de Janeiro, 99% of eligible adults have received a shot.

In Chile and Uruguay, over 75% are fully vaccinated.

As South America has used vaccines to combat yellow fever and other diseases, vaccine hesitancy is not as much of an issue there compared to some other parts of the world.

Shaina Stacy, PhD, MPH, Senior Epidemiologist at GlobalData

11:55 am

International update: More than 140,000 US children have lost a parent or caregiver to Covid

8 October

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 4.8 million, with a figure of 4,836,281 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 236.8 million world wide.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 44 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 710,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

More than 140,000 US children lost a parent or caregiver to Covid, a study found. Published on Thursday in the journal Pediatrics, the study estimated that from April 2020 through June 30 this year, more than 140,000 children under the age of 18 lost their mother, father, or grandparent who provided their housing, basic needs and daily care to the disease.

A measure of new hospital admissions in Florida has declined almost to the level of May 13, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention relaxed mask guidance for fully vaccinated people  – a change it reversed when the delta variant struck the US. Admissions in at least eight other states and Washington, D.C., are less than or close to May levels. The one-week average of new cases nationally has dropped 40% from its Sept. 21 peak, according to CDC data.

New Guinea: Hospitals in Papua New Guinea are being pushed to the brink and morgues are overflowing, as the country suffers what health authorities say is the worst surge in Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began. The country’s health care system has long been plagued by shortages of drugs, funding, an ailing infrastructure and a severe lack of health workers.

UK: A coronavirus report warned of the impact on the UK four years before the pandemic began, the Guardian can reveal. Senior health officials who war-gamed the impact of a coronavirus hitting the UK, warned of the need for stockpiles of PPE, a computerised contact tracing system and screening for foreign travellers.

In the UK, a further 40,701 Covid infections were reported in the past 24 hours – the highest daily figure since 6 September.

Japan: Japanese drugmaker Shionogi & Co. Ltd. said the Covid-19 pill it’s developing could be a $2 billion drug potentially used in combination with a similar offering from Merck & Co. Inc., as the pandemic’s focus shifts to the need for easy-to-take medications able to combat mild cases. Shionogi expects to have late-stage trial data for its pill by December and will move quickly on filing for regulatory approval in Japan, chief executive officer Isao Teshirogi told Bloomberg in an interview. The company will began manufacturing the drug this month.

Vaccine news

Global: UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres has appealed for $8 billion to help vaccinate 40% of people in all countries by the end of the year. It comes as the World Health Organization (WHO) launched a plan that aims to inoculate 70% of the world by mid-2022.

US: US president Joe Biden has talked up vaccine mandates, saying the unvaccinated have “put our economy at risk”. Speaking in Illinois on Thursday, he said: “vaccination requirements are good for the economy” and called on more business owners to enact them.

Meanwhile, a Covid vaccine for children aged five to 11 is another step closer to authorisation in the US, with Pfizer-BioNTech announcing that the full application has been submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

International Business Machines Corp. said all of its US-based employees must be vaccinated by 8 December or be put on unpaid suspension. The Armonk, New York-based company told workers that because it’s a government contractor, the company is required to adhere to President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors. The requirement applies to US employees regardless of where they work or how often they go into a company office, with limited medical and religious exemptions.

American Airlines Group said employees must be fully vaccinated by 24 November. Failure to comply will lead to termination, American Airlines said in a memo to employees. Workers can request medical and religious exemptions. The “majority” of employees already are vaccinated, the company said, without providing specifics.

UK: The NHS aims to issue 35m flu jabs in a bid to immunise a record 35 million people – more than half the UK’s population. It would be the most ambitious programme of flu jabs in NHS history as the country prepares to face its first winter with Covid and flu circulating at the same time. Experts have warned there could be up to 60,000 deaths.

Adults in the UK are severely underestimating the impact that the combination of coronavirus and flu could have this winter, research showed. Almost a third of respondents to a survey in England said they were unaware that Covid and flu can circulate at the same time. Just over a quarter didn’t know that influenza can be fatal.

Finland: Finland announced it will pause the use of Moderna’s vaccine for men under-30 due to reports of a rare cardiovascular side effect. It follows similar moves by Swedish and Danish health officials after a pan-Nordic study.

Malaysia: Malaysia’s Drug Control Authority granted conditional approval for the Pfizer vaccine to be used as the country’s first Covid-19 booster shot. The dose must be administered at least six months after the second shot, and is only for those 18 years old and above, said Health Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah.

Japan: Japan’s health ministry signed a contract with Pfizer for 120 million more doses of its Covid-19 vaccine. The additional vaccination will be supplied from January, the ministry said.

Australia: The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization recommended a third Covid-19 vaccination for people who are severely immunocompromised. The recommended interval for the third dose is two to six months after the second jab, the government advisory group said.

Greece: Greece’s national vaccination committee approved a third vaccine dose for people older than 50, Health Ministry official Marios Themistocleous said Thursday. A minimum of six months must have passed since the second dose. A third dose for vulnerable groups, such as people with cancer, was approved earlier.

Lockdown updates

UK: England’s latest ‘red list’ restrictions have confounded many South Americans. Strict Covid travel rules remain in place for seven South American and Caribbean countries in a move which has prompted further fury and confusion in the nations which remain on the ‘red list’.

Children could be forced to wear masks in schools across England again as part of the government’s back-up plan if the country’s Covid situation deteriorates significantly, the education secretary has admitted.

US: San Francisco will ease its indoor mask requirements beginning Oct. 15 for areas including offices, gyms and college classes. People in those settings can remove masks if everyone is fully vaccinated, provided the gatherings don’t exceed 100 people.

Italy: Italy has increased the maximum attendance capacity allowed at cultural and sporting venues for those who can show documents of immunity. As of 11 October, cinemas, theatres and concert venues will be able to fill all their seats, scrapping the current limit of 50%, the government said, following advice from its panel of public health advisors. The maximum capacity of sports stadiums will be raised to 60% from 35% for indoor venues and to 75% from 50% outdoors.

Hong Kong: The Hong Kong government’s top priority is trying to fully reopen the border with China by convincing authorities there that the city won’t leak the virus into the mainland, a top adviser to Hong Kong’s leader said. While foreign executives in Hong Kong might want the city to relax quarantine requirements  – as long as 21 days in some cases  – most Hong Kong residents appreciate the current Covid-free environment, said Bernard Chan, a financier and convener of Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam’s advisory Executive Council.

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Coronavirus company news summary – EMA approves Merck plant to produce J&J vaccines for Europe – Vaxart oral tablet vaccine reduces SARS-CoV-2 transmission in preclinical study

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has approved Merck’s plant in Pennsylvania, US to manufacture Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine. The approval is expected to help in ensuring a continued supply of Covid-19 vaccine Janssen in the European Union (EU). The site can start production immediately. EMA said it is working with all marketing authorisation holders to boost the supply of vaccines.

A Duke University-led study has found that Vaxart’s investigational oral tablet vaccine reduced the airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 virus in an animal model. The results are aligned with those from Vaxart’s Phase II human flu challenge study. The tablet vaccine candidate is designed to target the SARS-CoV-2 viral spike protein. Earlier this week, Vaxart started recruiting for a global Phase II clinical trial of the candidate.

Indonesia has granted an emergency use approval for a Covid-19 vaccine made by a unit of China’s Chongqing Zhifei Biological Products. The Zifivax vaccine is the fourth Chinese vaccine to be greenlit by the Southeast Asian nation. Indonesia’s food and drug agency (BPOM) chief Penny Lukito told Reuters that the protein-recombinant vaccine has an efficacy of around 81%. It will be administered in three doses within a period of three months.

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GlobalData Epidemiologist Report: Uneven vaccination rates across EU member countries

7 October

Globally, the total confirmed cases of COVID-19 have reached over 236,612,000, with more than 4,830,000 deaths reported.

Daily confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Greece are approximately half of what they were toward the end of August, but continue to average 2,100 cases per day.

Confirmed deaths since the beginning of October have averaged about 30 per day.

Greece plans to lift some COVID-related restrictions in areas where cases have been the highest.

This includes lifting the current ban on music in bars and restaurants and only allowing people who can provide proof of vaccination or of recent recovery from COVID infection into indoor venues.

It is hoped continued restrictions for unvaccinated people will help motivate them to get inoculated.

Nearly 58% of Greece is fully vaccinated against the virus, but further increasing vaccination coverage will help prevent future outbreaks.

Over 60% of the total population of the European Union is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but vaccination rates are unevenly distributed across its 27 member countries.

For example, over 70% of Spain and Belgium are fully inoculated, while only 19% and 28%, respectively, of Bulgaria and Romania are.

As COVID-19 restrictions continue to relax across the EU, there is a high risk of another surge in cases and deaths for countries with low vaccination coverage.

EU public health officials are recommending keeping restrictions in place until the end of November while member countries work to increase their vaccination coverage among eligible groups.

Shaina Stacy, PhD, MPH, Senior Epidemiologist, GlobalData

1:40 pm

Coronavirus company news summary – Sweden and Denmark pause Moderna vaccine rollout over cardiac concerns – Bharat Biotech submits Covaxin paediatric trial data to Indian regulator

Sweden and Denmark have stopped administering Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine following reports of cardiovascular side effects among the younger population. According to a Reuters report, the Swedish health agency has stopped giving the jab to those born after 1990 after data indicated that there is an increase in myocarditis and pericarditis conditions among those inoculated. Danish authorities have stopped using the Moderna vaccine for those below 18 as a “precautionary principle”.

India’s Bharat Biotech has submitted paediatric clinical trial data of its coronavirus vaccine, Covaxin, to the country’s drug regulator, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation. The trial was conducted on children aged two to 18 years, reported Reuters. If approved, Covaxin will be the first vaccine in India to be administered to children. In a separate development, the World Health Organization (WHO) is expected to provide Emergency Use Listing (EUL) for Covaxin in October, The Times of India reported.

Covicept Therapeutics has initiated a Phase II study of PSJ-539, an oral pill developed to treat Covid-19 patients. The multi-centre, randomised, double-blind and placebo-controlled trial will assess the safety and efficacy of PJS-539 in patients recently diagnosed with Covid-19. The trial is being conducted in Brazil and aims to enrol up to 150 patients.

8:57 am

International update: Global Covid infections exceed 236.5 million

7 October

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 4.8 million, with a figure of 4,828,370 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 236.5 million world wide.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 44 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 707,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

After complaints to US regulators about false positives from a startup’s at-home Covid-19 test, the Australian company investigated and recalled hundreds of thousands of kits sold through stores and online, the US Food and Drug Administration said. Ellume Ltd. late last week announced a voluntary recall of about 195,000 tests that remained unused. Around 427,000 total tests were affected by a test component that left them more likely to return a false positive, a company spokeswoman said.

The Biden administration will announce a $1 billion purchase of rapid at-home tests on Wednesday, an additional investment geared at expanding the availability of such products in the coming months, a White House official said. Along with the authorization of another at-home test product earlier this week, the $1 billion investment and earlier outlays should put the country on track to quadruple rapid testing by December, the official said.

UK: The UK government has lifted its advice against non-essential travel to 32 countries and territories, including Bangladesh, Fiji, Gambia, Ghana and Malaysia. The UK will stop advising Britons to avoid all but essential travel to non-red list countries on Covid-19 grounds except in “exceptional circumstances”.

Destinations including Brazil, Mexico and South Africa are expected to be moved off the red list on Thursday, meaning passengers returning from them will not have to isolate in a hotel.

Meanwhile, the UK reports 39,851 new Covid cases and 143 deaths.

Brazil: An investigation is underway in Brazil after allegations emerged claiming a hospital chain tested unproven drugs on elderly Covid-19 patients without their knowledge. The Brazilian agency that regulates health insurance plans made the allegations against Prevent Senior, a major healthcare chain serving tens of thousands of patients in the Sao Paulo area, during a Senate inquiry on Wednesday. The country reported 530 Covid deaths on the same day.

Turkey: Turkey reports record number of daily coronavirus cases, surpassing 30,000 on Wednesday, the highest number of infections since 30 April.

Russia: Russia reports record number of daily Covid deaths with 929 coronavirus-related deaths recorded on Wednesday, the largest single-day death toll since the pandemic began.

Wales: Wales to go ahead with the introduction of a Covid pass for nightclubs and big sporting events.

Romania: Romania reported the highest number of deaths since the start of the pandemic and President Klaus Iohannis described the country’s situation as a “catastrophe.” About 331 people died in the past 24 hours, with almost 15,000 people testing positive since Tuesday. Romania has no available intensive-care beds, with doctors saying they have to treat patients in ambulances or in the hallways.

Vaccine news

Israel: Immunity provided by the Covid-19 vaccine from partners Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE weakens significantly within months, with men having less protection than women, according to research that supports the use of booster doses. Protective antibodies decreased continuously during the six months after the administration of the second dose of the vaccine, according to a study of about 5,000 Israeli health workers, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. The levels fell first at a sharp pace and later at a more moderate one.

US: Data that may show the safety and effectiveness of mixing and matching boosters of different Covid-19 shots are under review by US regulators, presidential adviser Anthony Fauci said. A study of adults who received booster doses of different Covid-19 vaccines than their original shots has been completed, Fauci said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Balance of Power with David Westin,” and the data have been presented to the US Food and Drug Administration. The National Institutes of Health study looked at the safety, immunogenicity and efficacy of mixing and matching of the three US authorized vaccines for booster purposes.

Canada: Justin Trudeau unveiled a vaccine mandate for federally regulated industries in Canada, following through on an election pledge he made during his successful bid for a third term. The prime minister and his deputy, Chrystia Freeland, announced new rules Wednesday requiring passengers age 12 or older on planes, trains and cruise ships within the country to be fully vaccinated as of 30 October. Individuals who are in the process of being inoculated will be able to provide proof of a negative Covid-19 test to travel during a transition period, which will end of 30 November.

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GlobalData Epidemiologist Report: Vigilance needed to prevent potential Covid surge

6 October

Globally, the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 have reached over 235,933,000, with more than 4,819,000 deaths reported.

Covid-19 cases and deaths are beginning to fall in parts of the US where the Delta variant surged over the summer.

Overall, daily confirmed cases have averaged over 110,000 in recent days, down approximately 60% from mid-September.

Nearly 57% of the US is fully vaccinated, but millions of Americans have yet to be inoculated, leaving some public health officials worried about a winter surge of the virus.

After drops in cases, people tend to let their guard down, traveling more and taking less precautions, such as wearing masks.

Getting more Americans vaccinated will go a long way toward preventing a fresh wave of cases, as will continued vigilance with mask use and other precautionary measures.

New confirmed cases in the UK have continued to average approximately 33,000 per day over the past week, while daily confirmed deaths remain below 200.

England is seeing a surge of Covid-19 infections among students, reporting about 186,000 student absences with confirmed or suspected infections on 30 September.

This is a 78% increase from two weeks ago.

Although almost 68% of the UK is fully vaccinated, children under 12 are not yet eligible to be vaccinated, and there is no requirement to wear face masks in schools.

Without mask wearing and other mitigation efforts in place, Covid-19 infections will likely continue to rise in young students.

Shaina Stacy, PhD, MPH, Senior Epidemiologist at GlobalData

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Coronavirus company news summary – EMA authorises third Moderna shot for immunocompromised – J&J seeks FDA approval for booster dose

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has authorised a third shot of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine (Spikevax) for severely immunocompromised individuals above 12 years of age. The EU agency recommended the booster shot at least 28 days after the second dose. The move comes after several studies have indicated that a third dose will benefit immunocompromised people. Moderna has received emergency authorisation for use of its mRNA vaccine in more than 50 countries.

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has submitted data to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) seeking emergency use authorisation for a booster shot of its Covid-19 vaccine among adults. The submission includes recent results from the Phase III ENSEMBLE 2 study. The study found that a booster dose given 56 days after the primary dose provided 94% protection against symptomatic Covid-19 in the US. The booster shot also demonstrated 100% protection against severe Covid-19, at least 14 days after inoculation. J&J plans to submit the data to other regulators.

EmphyCorp has announced that its non-steroidal N115 nasal spray has completed Phase III clinical trials for Covid-19, long Covid-19 and pulmonary fibrosis. In a trial with active Covid-19 patients, N115 lowered viral numbers below 10,000 viral genome copies by day 6.4, compared to 10.3 days for untreated patients. For Covid-19 long haulers, N115 clinically and significantly reduced coughing/sneezing, reduced headaches and body aches, and improved breathing.

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International update: Micro blood clots possible link to long-Covid

6 October

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 4.8 million, with a figure of 4,817,388 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 235.8 million world wide.

Some of the symptoms of so-called long-Covid, the ailments that can persist for months after a Covid-19 infection, may be caused by inflammatory molecules trapped inside tiny blood clots, a scientist at South Africa’s Stellenbosch University said. High levels of inflammatory molecules were found in micro blood clots in blood samples from people with long-covid, Resia Pretorius, a researcher at the university, said in a statement. The molecules contained fibrinogen, a clotting protein, and alpha(2)-antiplasmin, which prevents the breakdown of blood clots, she said.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 43.9 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 705,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data. The Covid-19 death toll in the US this year is poised to surpass the number of fatalities in 2020. The wave fuelled by the delta strain is waning in the US, but daily infections are still hovering near 100,000 and more than 1,800 people are dying every day, on average. More than a 100,000 Americans succumbed to the virus in the last four months – a time when safe and effective vaccines were widely available in the nation.

Federal researchers estimate that Covid-19 vaccinations averted 39,000 deaths and 107,000 hospitalizations in the Medicare population in the first five months of 2021. They compared Medicare data and county-level vaccination rates with models predicting how the virus would have spread in the absence of vaccines to come up with estimates of the effects of immunization.

UnitedHealth Group Inc. will require US employees to get vaccinated against Covid-19 by 30 November, according to an announcement on the company’s website. Those workers who don’t get vaccinated, can’t be accommodated based on their role or don’t get an exemption will be placed on unpaid leave and may be terminated, a company spokesman said.

Symptoms of anxiety and depression hit US adults more frequently as the number of Covid cases mounted during the accelerating pandemic, according to a study. Mental health severity scores were highly correlated with the average number of daily Covid-19 cases, according to the study in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

UK: The UK reported 33,869 new coronavirus cases and 166 deaths on Tuesday. The official figures showed that 348 out of every 100,000 people have coronavirus.

More than 100,000 children in England are off school with confirmed cases of Covid, according to Department for Education figures. The proportion of children at school has fallen below 90% – worse than this time a year ago.

India: India reported 18,346 new cases, the lowest in more than 200 days, according to data from the federal Health Ministry. While cases have been trickling down over the past few weeks, experts are warning caution as the country heads into the holiday season. India has administered a massive 915.5 million vaccine doses so far, but even so only 18% of its population is fully inoculated, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.

Romania: Romania is running out of ICU beds designated for coronavirus patients as cases spike to a new daily record. The EU’s second least-vaccinated country had 1,480 patients in ICUs on Tuesday. It also reported more than 15,000 daily cases and over 250 deaths.

Vaccine news

Global: The World Health Organization is still reviewing whether Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine can be approved by the UN health agency for emergency use against coronavirus.

EU: An EU advisory committee will consider starting an accelerated review for Merck & Co.’s experimental antiviral pill against Covid-19 following the company’s announcement last week that it will seek emergency-use authorization from the FDA as soon as possible.

US: AstraZeneca Plc submitted its antibody cocktail for US emergency approval to prevent Covid-19 infection. The medicine was 77% effective in preventing symptomatic Covid in a clinical trial that included patients with high risk factors for severe infection.

UK: England has been urged to step up the distribution of Covid booster shots and second vaccinations for teenagers to avoid a surge of the virus over winter, a senior scientist advised. Prof Neil Ferguson, the head of the influential disease modelling group at Imperial College London, said even a moderate rise in infections could put the NHS under pressure.

Norway: Norway will soon offer a third dose of Covid vaccines to people aged 65 and older, the health minister Bent Høie said on Tuesday.

Spain: Spain has approved administering of third doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, which are based on the same mRNA technology, for people aged 70 or over, the health ministry said.

Dominican Republic: Dominican Republic Health Minister Daniel Rivera is recommending that Covid-19 vaccines be provided to children as young as 5. Rivera made the recommendation late Monday after holding meetings with the Dominican Board of Health. The government’s nine-member Health Cabinet will review the request Tuesday, the Ministry said.

Israel: Serious Covid cases continue to drop in Israel now that almost 3.6 million people have received a third dose of vaccine. Israel began administering booster shots in early August after the delta variant pulsed through the country, causing a surge in new infections and talk of renewed lockdowns.

Economy updates

Global: The head of the International Monetary Fund said the most serious obstacle to a full recovery was the vaccine divide between rich and poor nations and warned the global economy could suffer a cumulative $5.3tn loss over the next five years unless it was closed.

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GlobalData Epidemiologist Report: Indonesia risks Covid surge by reopening Bali

5 October

Globally, the total confirmed cases of Covid-19 have reached over 235,511,000, with more than 4,811,000 deaths reported.

Indonesia, the southeast Asian nation hit hardest by Covid-19, plans to reopen Bali island to foreign tourists for the first time in over 18 months.

Covid-19 cases in the country peaked during the summer, with over 50,000 cases per day in mid-July.

However, daily confirmed cases have since declined considerably, to under 2,000 cases per day in the past week.

Travel restrictions necessitated by the pandemic have devastated Bali’s tourism industry.

In this first phase of reopening the island, eligible travellers would include foreigners with a work permit or business visa that would be required to complete an eight-day quarantine upon arrival.

However, with slightly less than 20% of Indonesia’s population fully vaccinated, it is possible the country could see an increase in cases as it reopens to tourists.

Throughout much of the pandemic, Singapore has employed a “zero Covid” strategy with tight measures intended to completely eliminate the virus’s presence.

Recently; however, the country intended to pivot to a long-term strategy of treating Covid-19 as endemic.

ingapore’s most recent surge in cases, due to circulation of the highly infectious Delta variant, has once again resulted in a tightening of restrictions.

There have been between 2,000–3,000 confirmed cases per day in the past week, but most of these cases have had no or mild symptoms and were detected because the country is doing considerable surveillance.

Over 80% of Singapore’s population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

Thus, some officials there are advocating for a more targeted approach that focuses on people with severe illness and preventing deaths, rather than widespread closures and testing of asymptomatic cases.

Shaina Stacy, PhD, MPH, Senior Epidemiologist at GlobalData