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February 15, 2022

Covid-19 update: Moderna urged to “act in interests of people, not profits”

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5.8 million, with a figure of 5,826,582 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have raced past 413 million to a world wide figure of 413,503,790.

More than 60 charities, campaigners and non-governmental organisations have accused Moderna of attempting to derail World Health Organization (WHO) plans to manufacture more Covid-19 vaccines in Africa. In an open letter, they urged Moderna to “act in the interests of people, not profits” by withdrawing patents and patent applications in South Africa.

News by region

Americas

US: Covid -19 infections have now passed 77.9 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has increased to more than 922,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

US President Joe Biden’s effort to vaccinate the world against Covid-19 is falling short, with the world not on pace to meet a 2021 goal of vaccinating 70% of the world population by later this year, Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged at a virtual meeting with other countries. Only about 54% of the global population is vaccinated so far.

Microsoft Corp. told many US employees to begin returning to their offices starting 28 February, making a fresh attempt to get the software maker’s operations back to normal as Covid-19 cases abate. The Redmond, Washington-based company, which has said it will remain a flexible workplace, has told employees that they’ll be able to work from home up to half the week without discussing it with managers.

California plans to keep its mask mandate for schools in place for now, but officials said they may soon announce a timeline for ending the requirement. The most-populous state will reassess the mandate on 28 February and could announce then when it will be lifted.

Brazil: Brazil has registered 473 new Covid-19 deaths and 58,540 new cases, the health ministry said.

Canada: Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau invoked emergency measures to tackle the ongoing protests.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Canada’s largest province will drop many of its pandemic-fighting measures next month as cases and hospitalizations decline. Proof-of-vaccination requirements and capacity limits in indoor public settings are among the measures that will be dropped as of March 1 if the health-system continues to improve, Ford said Monday. Masking requirements will remain in place, the province said.

Europe

UK: The UK recorded 41,648 new Covid cases on Monday, government figures showed, and a further 35 deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test. That is compared with 41,270 infections and 52 fatalities in the 24 hours prior.

The UK will set out “more details” on its vaccination strategy for 5-to-11 year-olds next week, as part of its planned “Living with Covid” strategy, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman, Max Blain, told reporters on Monday.

All remaining Covid-19 legal restrictions are to be lifted in Northern Ireland from 15 February and replaced with guidance.

Families bereaved by Covid in the UK want Boris Johnson to relinquish control over which issues will be investigated in the pandemic public inquiry, alleging he is compromised by allegations of lockdown-breaking at Downing Street.

Italy: Italy has reported a rise in daily Covid-19 related deaths with 281 registered, the health ministry said. This compares with 191, the previous day. A further 28,630 Covid-19 daily related cases were recorded.

Italy’s vaccination mandate for about 8.8 million workers over 50 will kick off on Tuesday. Workers in the private and public sector will be required to show their so-called super green pass to prove their vaccination, or face fines for up to 1,500 euros ($1,695). Until Monday, proof of a negative test was enough to enter workplaces. More than 91% of people over 50 are partly vaccinated, leaving more than 1 million of the 50-59 age group without any vaccination.

Belgium: About 500 cars and campervans have arrived in Brussels, mainly from France, in a convoy to protest against Covid-19 restrictions. The vehicles were barred from the city. Police directed them to a parking place on the outskirts of Brussels, from where protesters continued on foot to a square in the city centre and the area housing European Union institutions.

Germany: Covid restrictions in Germany are set to end as case numbers have dropped slightly, according to a draft official plan seen by Agence France-Presse. The plan is expected to be approved by the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, and the heads of the federal states on Wednesday.

Asia pacific

New Zealand: New Zealand’s prime minister has said protesters who oppose coronavirus mandates were using “intimidation and harassment”, as authorities appeared to take a harsher stance toward the convoy of demonstrators that has disrupted the capital of Wellington for nearly a week.

China: China continues to battle Covid flareups as Manzhouli, a city of 300,000 people in Inner Mongolia bordering Russia, said it would enter lockdown after five people tested positive for Covid. Suzhou, a city near Shanghai in eastern China, also found 12 Covid infections, mostly at the city’s industrial park. A wafer factory run by Taiwan’s United Microelectronics Corp. had to suspend production in the city after employees tested positive. Meanwhile, the southwestern border city of Baise started to lift lockdown restrictions Tuesday after its Omicron-led cluster outbreak appeared to come under control. The city of 3.6 million residents near Vietnam entered lockdown last week. China reported 47 Covid infections overall on Tuesday, with 28 of them in the northeastern coastal city of Huludao.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong’s leader said a growing outbreak of the Omicron variant has overwhelmed the city’s government, even as she pledged to continue trying to bring Covid cases back down to zero. “The scale and speed of the spread of the virus has overwhelmed our capacity in the fight against the pandemic,” Chief Executive Carrie Lam said Tuesday at a regular news briefing. “The situation is very serious.” The city is set to report about 1,510 confirmed cases Tuesday and another 5,400 preliminary cases, local media said, with constrained testing capacity slowing verification of daily numbers.

Meanwhile, Pernod Ricard has asked top executives from its Hong Kong office to relocate temporarily to avoid strict Covid-19 curbs, as China prepares to take a greater role in the city’s response to the Omicron wave, the Financial Times reported. Dubai is being considered as one temporary solution.

Indonesia: Indonesia is considering lifting all quarantine requirements for inbound travellers in April, as Covid-19 hospitalizations and fatality rates remain under control despite a resurgence in cases.

Singapore: Singapore will be able to ease virus restrictions more once the current Omicron wave has peaked and starts to subside, health minister Ong Ye Kung said Monday in a response to questions in parliament. Hospital bed numbers are probably the biggest constraint now, he said, adding that the healthcare system is able to handle the current wave. Separately, the South East Asian nation remains committed to reopening its borders and extending its vaccinated travel lane arrangements with other countries, deputy prime minister Heng Swee Keat said Monday at the Singapore Airshow.

Japan: Japan’s government will ease requirements for business travellers to the country, no longer requiring them to submit a detailed itinerary of their trip prior to arrival, the Nikkei reported. The requirement, which was in place before the current border controls that effectively halted business travel were implemented, won’t be reinstated after the curbs are eased from March. The move was among measures that companies had criticized for adding excessive paperwork.

Separately, the government is considering extending Covid-19 measures in Osaka and some other prefectures beyond 20 February when they are set to expire, broadcaster NHK reported. However, it is considering lifting measures for some areas, including Okinawa, where new Covid cases have eased.

South Korea: South Korea will begin giving out fourth doses of Covid vaccines this month and supply millions of additional home test kits to ease shortages amid a surge in Omicron infections, authorities confirmed on Monday.

Taiwan: Taiwan aims to ease its strict Covid quarantine policy from next month as it needs to gradually resume normal life and reopen to the world, the government said on Monday.

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