Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5.4 million, with a figure of 5,495,383 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections passed 300 million to a world wide figure of 310,483,235.
Vaccines drugs and treatments
Pfizer Inc chief executive Albert Bourla has said a redesigned Covid-19 vaccine that specifically targets the Omicron variant is likely needed and his company could have one ready to launch by March.
Moderna has announced it expects record sales of about $18.5bn (£13.6bn) in contracts for its Covid vaccine in 2022.
Novavax Inc. has shipped the first doses of its Covid-19 vaccine to Europe, marking the drug company’s entry into a potentially large new market. Chief Executive Officer Stanley Erck announced the shipments during a presentation on Monday at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference. The company also said in a statement that it and its partner Serum Institute of India Pvt. Ltd. had filed for an emergency-use authorization for the shot in South Africa.
More than 10 million Covid patients worldwide have now received Gilead Sciences Inc.’s Veklury treatment, Chief Executive Officer Daniel O’Day said in a presentation. The infused drug, better known by its generic name, remdesivir, is a standard five-day treatment for hospitalized Covid patients. In the US more than 3 of 5 hospitalized Covid patients are receiving it, O’Day said in a presentation at the JPMorgan Healthcare Conference on Monday. Gilead is also working on a three-day course of the drug that can help patients outside of the hospital. Last year, it was shown in a big trial to lower risk of hospitalization by 87% when given to to high-risk patients. The data have been submitted to US regulators.
Merck & Co. delivered 900,000 courses of its antiviral pill to the US in December and is set to provide 3 million courses ordered by the government by the end of January, Chief Executive Officer Rob Davis said. Despite the supply-chain issues that have plagued companies around the world, Davis said Merck was able to make 10 million courses of the drug, molnupiravir, as expected last year. They just need to be labeled and shipped, he said. “We’re confident we’re going to deliver the product,” Davis said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Monday. “We’re not seeing issues.” Molnupiravir, which Merck makes in partnership with biotech Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, was authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration for use in high-risk adults in late December. Merck has said it will make at least 20 million courses of molnupiravir in 2022.
China: The central Chinese city of Anyang has ordered five million people to begin home confinement today in a new lockdown to curb the spread of Omicron variant. Residents are not to leave their homes or drive cars on the roads, while all non-essential businesses have been closed and outbound travel is restricted, state news agency Xinhua reports.
US: US school closures reached a record high for the academic year last week as Omicron-fuelled coronavirus cases caused staff shortages and disrupted classes, but the shutdowns are about to ease as more schools are set to reopen in-person. At least 5,409 schools had cancelled class or switched to virtual learning as of the end of last week, more than triple the count at the end of December, according to data from Burbio, which tracks closures.
Taiwan: Taiwan has tightened its entry requirements for new arrivals in the latest move to head off a large-scale Omicron outbreak.
News by region
US: Covid -19 infections have now passed 61 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has increased to more than 839,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reclassified its travel advisory for Singapore to high level of Covid-19, less than a week after the agency declared the level of the disease in a country that publishes detailed data every day was unknown. The agency raised eyebrows on 4 January, when it classified the country’s Covid-19 situation as “Unknown” from “Very High” because of a lack of testing data updates for the country on third party platform Our World in Data since 8 November.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention raised its Covid-19 travel advisory for Canada by one step to Level 4, the highest possible, and advised against travel to the country. The new guidance and the threat of the Omicron variant underscore the notion that normal travel will likely not resume for some time, even between close politically and economically allied countries. The CDC also recommends against travel to France, Spain and Sweden. The Omicron outbreak led the agency last month to discourage Americans from getting on cruise ships, regardless of the vaccination status.
Meta Platforms Inc. will require its staff to have received Covid-19 booster shots before they can enter its offices, Dow Jones reported, citing a company spokesman. The company formerly known as Facebook also delayed its full office reopening until late March, Dow Jones said.
Canada: Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau has said the government has secured enough Covid-19 vaccine doses for all eligible Canadians to receive a booster as well as a fourth dose.
UK: Prime minister Boris Johnson has ordered officials to examine plans to cut Covid isolation to five days in England as scientists urged caution over the lack of evidence to support a change.
Meanwhile, Johnson was accused on Monday night of an “utterly outrageous” breach of lockdown rules as a leaked email showed one of his top officials invited more than 100 Downing Street staff to a “bring your own booze” party during the first lockdown. The police are now investigating.
NHS England has struck a deal with private healthcare providers under which their hospitals will be ready to start treating NHS patients who cannot get the Covid or non-Covid care they need because their local NHS hospital is under too much pressure.
France: France announced an easing of Covid rules for schools as record-high case numbers shut down thousands of classes across the country.
Germany: Germany recorded a total of 45,690 new cases, compared with 25,255 the day before, according to the country’s public health authority RKI. Reported new deaths associated with the virus rose by 322, bringing the total to 114,351. The 7-day incidence rate rose to 387.9 per 100,000 people.
Italy: The small number of people in Italy’s population who refuse to be vaccinated against Covid-19 are largely responsible for the continued health crisis, prime minister Mario Draghi said on Monday.
Spain: The prime minister of Spain, Pedro Sánchez, has called for European officials to consider ditching detailed pandemic tracking for Covid in favour of a flu-like monitoring system. The change would mean treating Covid-19 as an “endemic illness” rather than a pandemic, Sánchez said on Monday.
Sweden: Stricter pandemic measures are to be introduced in Sweden in response to a rising number of Covid cases and pressure on hospitals, the prime minister has said.
China: Beijing will not adjust its Covid-19 prevention measures for the Winter Olympics unless there are many cases inside the “closed-loop”, an official said on Tuesday.
Hong Kong: Hong Kong will begin offering Covid-19 vaccines for children over the age of five, as the city-state suspends classes in kindergartens and primary schools, its chief executive Carrie Lam said on Tuesday.
Japan: Japan will maintain its tight entry restrictions until the end of February, prime minister Fumio Kishida said on Tuesday.
South Korea: South Korea is reporting a daily rise of 3,097 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 43 deaths, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Thailand: Thailand is reporting a daily rise of 7,133 cases and 12 deaths, according to the Department of Disease Control.
Thailand added three popular beach destinations to a visa program that allows foreign visitors to bypass a mandatory isolation, throwing a lifeline to its Covid-hit tourism industry seen as key to a nascent economic recovery. Starting Tuesday, vaccinated foreign tourists can enter Krabi, Phang Nga, and Koh Samui in addition to Phuket under the so-called sandbox program that won’t require them to go through quarantine, provided they spend at least a week in these destinations.
Malaysia: Malaysia is reporting a daily rise of 2,641 cases and 18 deaths, according to government data.
India: India is reporting a rise of 168,063 new Covid cases and 277 deaths, according to health ministry figures.
Only one weekly market will be allowed per day per zone in Delhi, Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal tweeted Monday. The capital’s health department has been advised to beef up manpower at hospitals and scale up the vaccination drive, even among the 15-18 year age bracket.
Australia: The health care system in Australia’s Victoria state is under “significant pressure” with at least 4,500 furloughed hospital workers and paramedics forced to isolate after contracting covid or deemed close contacts of a confirmed case, Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters Tuesday. The state recorded 37,994 new infections and 13 deaths on Tuesday, with 861 people requiring hospital care. Authorities expect new infections to peak by early February, with hospitalizations peaking a week or so afterwards.
Hong Kong: Hong Kong will announce details on a new round of anti-epidemic funding to support businesses affected by the latest round of social distancing rules on Friday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam says at a briefing. Hong Kong has about HK$4 billion remaining in the fund after previous rounds.
Europe: Airbus Chief Executive Officer Guillaume Faury raised a note of caution on the planemaker’s outlook for this year, citing the spread of omicron in China. The European jet manufacturer is closely watching the situation in China, the destination for 23% of aircraft handovers in 2021, Faury said.