Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5.9 million, with a figure of 5,928,168 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have continued past 430 million to a world wide figure of 431,415,270.
At least 5.2 million children have lost a parent or caregiver to Covid, putting them at risk of poverty, exploitation and abuse and highlighting the lasting scars of the pandemic, a study shows. More than 1.2 million children under nine years of age were orphaned between March 2020 and October last year, along with 2.1 million kids between 10 and 17, according to a new modeling study published in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health journal.
The world’s first plant-derived Covid vaccine was cleared for use in Canada, creating a novel immunization to combat the virus from a unit of Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings Corp. and Philip Morris International. The vaccine named Covifenz was jointly developed by Medicago Inc., a biopharma company owned by Mitsubishi Chemical and Philip Morris and based in Quebec City, and GlaxoSmithKline Plc. It will be available for adults aged 18 to 64, Health Canada said in a statement.
Several high-end countries have vaccinated 90% of their populations while some African nations have completed only 10% of inoculation, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said. Speaking in a panel discussion as part of BioAsia 2022, she suggested that there was a need for a distributed manufacturing network across the globe.
News by region
US: Covid -19 infections have now passed 78.7 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has increased to more than 944,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.
The pace of Covid-19 shots in the US has plummeted to the lowest level since the start of the vaccination campaign, the latest sign that the nation may be nearing maximum uptake. The seven-day average of shots administered fell to 337,874 on 18 February, the lowest since December 2020, when vaccine distribution had just begun and the shots were only available to the most vulnerable. At the peak of the US campaign, in April 2021, about 3.5 million shots a day were being given.
New York Times Co. told its employees to begin returning to the office by the week of 6 June. Most Times employees will work in a “hybrid” environment that “balances the benefits of in-person participation with the flexibility of working remotely,” Times’ chief human resources officer, Jacqueline M. Welch, wrote in an internal memo obtained by Bloomberg News. “We are proceeding with a phased, gradual return that gives ample time to readjust to office life, and to manage a return that works for you and your family,” she wrote.
Most California voters support mandated Covid-19 vaccinations and masking for students and teachers at K-12 schools, according to a new survey by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies. About two-thirds of the roughly 9,000 respondents said they wanted the precautions to contain the virus, according to the poll, which was co-sponsored and published by the Los Angeles Times on Thursday. The views diverged according to political affiliation: While about 85% of Democrats backed vaccine mandates for schools about 70% of Republicans opposed them. Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom last week unveiled a plan to move the most prosperous US state into the next phase of managing the pandemic as cases sharply fall.
Iceland: Iceland will lift all remaining coronavirus restrictions on Friday, including a 200-person indoor gathering limit, restricted opening hours for bars and quarantine requirements for those infected with the virus.
UK: The legal requirement to self-isolate with Covid ends today in England. Guidance will remain in place until April for those who test positive to stay at home and avoid contact with others for at least five full days, but there will be no penalty for not doing so.
Most pregnant women in the UK are still shunning Covid vaccines despite an increased chance of stillbirth, premature birth and risks to their own health, analysis shows. Data reveals 73% of Asian women, 86% of black women and 65% of white women were unvaccinated at the time of giving birth in October 2021.
The UK government health secretary, Sajid Javid, has defended the Covid response against accusations that MPs were unable to scrutinise controversial provisions in emergency legislation during the early stages of the pandemic. Ministers had to “act quickly”, Javid said, as he addressed the public administration and constitutional affairs committee on the Coronavirus Act ahead of its two-year anniversary.
Hong Kong: Hong Kong’s government has invoked emergency powers to allow doctors and nurses from the Chinese mainland to practise in the financial hub as it struggles to tackle a spiralling coronavirus outbreak.
China: China’s Covid outbreak continued to swell, especially in the northern part of the country, as Inner Mongolia detected 30 new cases and Liaoning province found 18. A total of 82 domestically transmissions have been found in more than half of Chinese provinces on Friday, according to the National Health Commission. There were 22 additional infected that didn’t shown symptoms. Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the pathogen first emerged over two years ago, seems to have successfully tackled a flareup after reporting more than 20 cases recently.
South Korea: South Korea expects its current Omicron wave to peak in mid-March with daily cases reaching as high as 250,000, Yonhap News reported, citing Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum. Kim said on Wednesday the government would revise social distancing rules if it judges that serious cases and deaths can be controlled even if Omicron cases rise. Separately, the country disclosed 165,890 new cases Friday.
Taiwan: Taiwan is reopening to business travellers and shortening quarantine for all arrivals. From early March, foreigners will be allowed to enter for business purposes, including inspection, investment, employment or fulfilling contractual obligations.
Singapore: Singapore businesses are facing staff shortages after daily coronavirus infections spiked to a record earlier this week, causing temporary closures of some bank branches, restaurants and gyms, the Business Times newspaper reported. The surge in infections led the government to push back plans to ease limits on home gatherings and other pandemic curbs after local cases breached 20,000 for two straight days this week.
Australia: Western Australia exceeded 1,000 daily Covid cases for the first time during the pandemic, the state’s chief health officer told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. The state was one of the world’s final Covid zero policy holdouts and is due to open its borders to vaccinated travellers from 3 March. Case numbers and hospitalizations continue to trend down in Australia’s two biggest states, New South Wales and Victoria, which on Friday scrapped mask mandates for office workers and in most other settings.
Indonesia: Indonesia could start making its own mRNA vaccines after the World Health Organization picked it to receive a technology transfer to become Southeast Asia’s Covid vaccine hub. State company PT Bio Farma will start producing mRNA doses, according to a statement from the State-Owned Enterprises Ministry, which didn’t name the brand. The company is one of the largest vaccine manufacturers in the region, with the capacity to produce 3.2 billion doses a year.
Asia: Stirrings of a recovery in global travel are bringing airlines back from the brink, but the rebound may come too late for several carriers still facing a heightened risk of bankruptcy, a Bloomberg News analysis shows. Covid paralyzed international aviation as nations locked their borders and imposed other restrictions that are only now being dismantled in some parts of the world. Asia is lagging, with China and Hong Kong almost completely walled off, and the financial positions of some airlines in the region have deteriorated since Bloomberg did the same analysis in March and November 2020
Japan: Shares of Shionogi & Co. rose in Tokyo after the company said it filed for approval of its Covid pill, becoming the first Japanese company to do so for a coronavirus treatment in the country.
India: Indian economic activity showed mixed signals in January, with most indicators pointing to a moderation in growth after a surge in Omicron cases brought back some of the pandemic-related restrictions. While five of the eight high-frequency indicators compiled by Bloomberg News came in weak last month, the rest signalled a steady recovery. A three-month weighted average view of the readings, however, helped keep the needle on a dial measuring the so-called ‘Animal Spirits’ unchanged at 5 for a seventh month.