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March 9, 2022

Covid-19 update: Pfizer reviews fourth vaccine dose data

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed the grim milestone of 6 million, with a figure of 6,014,702 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have continued past 449 million to a world wide figure of 449,742,231.

News by region

Americas

US: Covid -19 infections have now passed 79 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has increased to more than 961,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Pfizer Inc. will soon submit data to US regulators on a fourth dose of its Covid-19 vaccine, Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla said. Bourla said he spent Tuesday morning reviewing new data from various Covid vaccine studies, including one looking at the effects of a fourth dose of the currently available vaccine, as well as a new formulation that will protect against multiple coronavirus variants

The Biden administration is set on a plan to impose minimum staffing requirements on nursing homes, according to a top health official, even as industry groups say it won’t work without more funding. The staffing proposal is part of a broad agenda President Joe Biden released last week to bring greater scrutiny to a US nursing-home industry whose patients and workers have been devastated by Covid-19. Over 201,000 residents and staffers have died from Covid in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Hawaii on Tuesday became the 50th and final state to announce that it will drop its universal indoor mask mandate, the New York Times reported. Masks are still required indoors at schools in Hawaii, even though the state’s education department on Tuesday lifted the outdoor mask mandate on school campuses. But the end of the blanket mandate marked an abrupt reversal from a week ago.

San Francisco employers would have to grant more flexible work arrangements to employees, including remote workers, under amendments to the Family Friendly Workplace Ordinance the Board of Supervisors unanimously passed Tuesday.

Employers with 20 or more workers would have to provide the flexibility if requested in writing unless it would cause undue hardship. This could include modified hours, job sharing, and a change in work location to allow more leeway in child or elder care.

Canada: Ontario is set to drop most mask mandates including in shops, restaurants, elementary and secondary schools on 21 March, Toronto Star reported. An announcement is expected Wednesday 11 am local time from Ontario’s chief medical officer of health Kieran Moore.

Asia pacific

China: China’s domestic Covid-19 infections topped 500 for a third day as outbreaks widened across the country and penetrated into mega cities like Shanghai and Beijing as well as manufacturing hubs in southern Chinese province Guangdong.

While cases reach levels unseen since the initial outbreak in Wuhan two years ago, health authorities in major cities have largely avoided lockdowns and mass testing. Shanghai, which saw several dozen new cases, has largely adhered to targeted restrictions, such as locking down buildings that detected cases for two days for testing. Nearly 90% of China’s 1.4 billion people have been fully vaccinated and more than one third have received booster shots.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong authorities will focus on a vaccination drive for elderly people living at care facilities, and increase the number of hospital beds to treat patients, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said.

The pivot from in priorities from mass testing follows suggestions from Liang Wannian, the leader of China’s National Health Commission’s Covid response team who is visiting Hong Kong. It also shows the strain on the city’s health-care facilities, with hospitals overwhelmed and morgues unable to keep up with the growing number of deaths.

About 1.8 million people had become infected by 7 March during Hong Kong’s current wave of Covid-19, according to Gabriel Leung, the dean of medicine and a professor of public health at the University of Hong Kong. The city’s outbreak peaked on 4 March and daily infection numbers should drop below 1,000 by the end of April, he wrote on Twitter on 8 March. About 4.3 million people will have been infected by the time the wave ends and about 5,000 people will have died, according to Leung.

Malaysia: Malaysia will allow quarantine-free entry for fully vaccinated travelers from 1 April, ending almost two years of stringent border controls introduced to contain the Covid-19 outbreak. The reopening marks the final step in the lifting of virus curbs, as Malaysia joins other Southeast Asian nations in transiting to the endemic phase of the outbreak. A high vaccination rate – 64% of adults have got booster shots – has allowed the government to rollback restrictions that battered the tourism sector and pushed the economy into contraction for two quarters in 2021.

South Korea: South Korea had a daily record 342,446 infections Wednesday. Critical cases also rose to a record high of 1,087. The country reported 158 coronavirus-related deaths, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency. Mortality rate declined to 0.18%.

New Zealand: New Zealand will reduce the isolation period for Covid-19 cases and their household contacts to seven days to get more people back to work. The period will reduce from 10 days effective at 11:59 p.m. on Friday 11 March in Wellington, Minister for Covid Response Chris Hipkins said in a statement.

New Zealand is facing the reality of the pandemic as Omicron takes hold, with reported daily cases exceeding 20,000 and the likelihood of thousands more unreported. City streets are quiet and many businesses are closed as staff self-isolate and people work from home.

Economy news

Japan: Japan’s economy expanded at a slower pace than first estimated last quarter, suggesting the recovery already had less momentum when the country was hit by the Omicron variant of coronavirus. Gross domestic product grew an annualized 4.6% in the three months through December, revised figures from the Cabinet Office showed Wednesday. Economists had expected a 5.6% increase, compared with the government’s initial 5.4% estimate.

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