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March 31, 2022

Covid-19 update: Norway tops Covid Resilience Ranking

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 6 million, with a figure of 6,138,354 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have continued past 480 million to a world wide figure of 486,866,307.

Norway topped Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking, after scrapping travel restrictions and loosening curbs. The US fell four rungs to No. 24 as its tally of daily Covid fatalities exceeded 900 on average in March, and the UK slid one spot to No. 10 as it experiences a rise in infections driven by another Omicron wave. Hong Kong scored poorly on Flight Capacity and Community Mobility. Russia was No. 52, weighed down by a slow vaccine rollout and the worst GDP growth outlook among all the ranked places in 2022 largely due to its invasion of Ukraine.

News by region

Americas

US: Covid -19 infections have now passed 80 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has increased to more than 979,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The US President called on Congress to authorize new money for Covid-19 treatments and vaccines, warning that supplies are running low and leaving the door open to a deal that reallocates previous funding. The policy change is likely to be announced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by week’s end and implemented by the end of May, said the person, who asked not to be identified ahead of the announcement. “Just as we’ve reached the critical turning point in this fight, Congress has to provide the funding America needs to continue to fight Covid-19,” Biden said on Wednesday at the White House before receiving his second booster shot of the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE vaccine. “We’re already seeing the consequences of congressional inaction.”

Asia pacific

Hong Kong: Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam is considering implementing a so-called closed-loop system for non-domestic aircrew, which would enable them to travel in and out of the city relatively freely, as long as they have no contact with the local community, people with knowledge of the matter said. Under pressure from the business community, Hong Kong has unveiled a number of changes in recent weeks to its Covid policies, which have left the financial hub isolated and have been criticized as ineffective after they failedto keep out the Omicron variant. The amount of time travellers have to spend in quarantine upon entering Hong Kong has been halved, and a flight ban on nine countries deemed at high risk for the virus, including the US, UK and Australia, is being lifted.

China: China’s growing Covid outbreak continues to swell as the latest epicenter Shanghai reported some 5,653 infections on Thursday, while the daily count comes slightly down from the record highs in the past few days. The financial hub has caused desperation among residents with chronic medical conditions and chaos on the ground as the country vows zero tolerance against the virus. The city’s government issued a statement late Wednesday night saying it will adopt a strategy of “static management of the whole region” among its 25 million population. While the phrase has been used by Chinese officials to mean a strict lockdown in which residents are barred from leaving their homes, the Shanghai statement did not clarify the scope of any new measures. The city locked down areas east of the Huangpu River, which includes its financial district and industrial parks, for four days. The lockdown shifts to the other half of the city, in the west, for another four days from Friday.

Meanwhile, Shanghai’s phased lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19 is impacting the world’s busiest container port, Caixin reported, citing interviews with industry executives. Inefficient Covid testing has reduced the number of truck drivers with valid certificates and many drivers are staying away from Shanghai to avoid having to undergo mandatory quarantine when they return to their home towns, the report said. Some shipping operators are choosing to skip Shanghai for other neighbouring ports such as Ningbo.

Vietnam: Vietnam’s health ministry directed localities to start giving second Covid-19 booster shots to some adults at least three months after they received first booster, a local newspaper reported. Priority will be given to people with underlying health problems, needing long-term care at medical facilities, age 50 and older, medical staff and those who test, care for and treat Covid patients, according to the newspaper.

Taiwan: Taiwan plans to distribute rapid-antigen testing kits to everyone in the northern port city of Keelung in an effort to corral an emerging Covid-19 outbreak. Some 360,000 tests will be handed out to residents in the coming days. It is the first time Taiwan has conducted mass testing of an entire city. Health authorities are yet to decide if the tests will be voluntary or if there will be any form of punishment for those who do not use them. Officials expect to complete testing within a week. The government has been struggling to rein in a growing Omicron outbreak in Keelung. The city has reported 68 cases of the virus over the past week.

Africa Middle East

South Africa: An additional 44 deaths from Covid-19 have been reported, bringing the total to 100,020, the National Institute of Communicable Diseases said in a statement on Wednesday. However, the actual number of Covid-19 related deaths may be triple that toll, studies by the South African Medical Research Council that track the number of deaths above the historical norm show. South Africa’s official death toll from the coronavirus has passed the 100,000 mark, a week after the country relaxed almost all restrictions in response to a decline in new infections.

Economy news

China: China’s biggest airlines reported widening annual losses late Wednesday, with Air China Ltd. and China Southern Airlines Co. posting their worst results on record as Covid-19 restrictions crimped travel. China Eastern Airlines Corp., in focus after one of its Boeing Co. jetliners crashed last week killing all 132 people on board, also reported a bigger loss than analysts expected. Combined, the so-called Big Three lost about 41 billion yuan ($6.5 billion) in 2021.

Germany: BioNTech SE said it’s planning a share buyback of as much as $1.5 billion and will propose a special dividend, returning some of the profit from its best-selling Covid-19 vaccine to shareholders. The German company, Pfizer Inc.’s Covid vaccine partner, said it expects this year’s revenue from the shot to reach 13 billion euros ($14.5 billion) to 17 billion euros.

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