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February 22, 2022

Covid-19 update: Reduced booster shots on trial

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5.8 million, with a figure of 5,890,840 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have continued past 425 million to a world wide figure of 425,944,300.

A trial in Australia, Indonesia and Mongolia will evaluate the impact of giving people reduced Covid-19 booster shots – as opposed to full doses – as part of an effort to increase access to vaccines. The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations will provide as much as $8.7 million to support the fractional-dose study, led by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in Australia, according to a statement. As many as 3,300 adults will receive either a full or reduced dose of the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE, Moderna Inc. or AstraZeneca Plc booster.

News by region

Americas

US: Covid -19 infections have now passed 78.5 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has increased to more than 935,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Mexico: Mexico reported 98 Covid deaths and 4,832 new cases.

Brazil: Brazil reported 318 Covid-19 deaths and 37,339 new cases, the health ministry said.

Europe

UK: Free Covid tests in England will end on 1 April and those who test positive will no longer legally have to isolate from this Thursday, Boris Johnson announced in his ‘living with Covid’ plan. Britons can now only order a free box of lateral flow Covid-19 tests every 72 hours, according to the government’s website. Charities have warned the ending of mandatory coronavirus rules in England will cause “huge anxiety” to immunocompromised and disabled people, leaving them feeling “abandoned” and “forgotten”.

Nurseries in England continue to be severely affected by the pandemic, with the latest official data showing record numbers of early years and childcare settings reporting Covid cases at the end of last month.

The UK recorded 38,409 new Covid cases and 15 more deaths within 28 days of a positive test on Monday, government data showed. That is compared to 25,696 cases and 74 deaths reported on Sunday.

Over-75s and people with suppressed immune systems in the UK are to be offered another Covid-19 booster vaccination in the coming weeks to increase potentially waning protection, after advice from the government’s vaccines watchdog.

France: France has reported 17,195 new daily Coronavirus cases compared with 59,003 on Sunday.

Italy: Italy reported 201 Coronavirus daily deaths and 24,408 cases.

Germany: Germany expects vaccinations with Novavax’s Covid-19 vaccine to begin across the country over the course of this week, the health ministry said.

Asia pacific

Australia: International tourists and business travellers began arriving in Australia with few restrictions today. On Monday the country removed its final travel restrictions for fully vaccinated passengers.

New Zealand: New Zealand will lift Covid vaccine mandates and social distancing measures after the Omicron peak has passed, its prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said.

Meanwhile, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern denounced protesters against vaccine mandates after ugly clashes with police. As the protest in downtown Wellington entered its 15th day, police said three officers were taken to hospital for a medical assessment after being sprayed with a stinging substance that is still to be determined. “The attacks on police have been absolutely disgraceful,” Ardern told reporters. “Clearly there are a group who are increasingly acting out in a violent way toward the police.”

Hong Kong: The worsening Covid outbreak in Hong Kong is likely to claim more than 3,000 lives by the middle of May, according to a forecast by a team of medical professors and health data experts. Daily infections are likely to peak at nearly 183,000 in early March, before gradually dropping to around 400 by mid-May, an updated forecast from the Laboratory of Data Discovery for Health and the University of Hong Kong’s WHO Collaborating Center for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Control showed. Deaths would peak at almost 100 a day in late-March, with cumulative casualties hitting 3,206 in mid-May, according to the analysis released Monday.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam will hold a briefing in the afternoon to reveal details of a mandatory mass testing in the city, local broadcaster TVB reported, citing unidentified people.

One of the last air links between two key Asian financial hubs has been severed, with Hong Kong banning Singapore Airlines’ budget carrier Scoot from flying to the city for two weeks after passengers tested positive for Covid on arrival.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines services from Amsterdam are also prohibited from 21 February to 6 March, Hong Kong’s Department of Health said in a statement Monday evening. The ban was imposed after a passenger on a Feb. 18 flight tested positive on arrival in Hong Kong, while two others failed to comply with travel requirements.

China: China and Hong Kong won’t tolerate a significant number of elderly deaths caused by Covid in the city and that Hong Kong should stick to the “dynamic zero” policy, Chinese top epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan was cited as saying by media including HK01 and Sing Tao. Hong Kong and China’s principle of treating Covid is “putting life and health as priority,” which is different from some western countries, he said in a pre-recorded video. The city should prevent Covid transmissions by segregating patients from the uninfected population and that those infected should not stay at home and should be isolated.

Japan: Japan is considering further easing Covid restrictions for those who are vaccinated, NHK reported. Last week Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida rolled back some of the developed world’s most stringent virus border measures saying he’ll end a ban on new entry by foreigners and ease quarantine rules.

Thailand: Thailand raised its Covid alert level to the second-highest on Monday following a surge in new daily cases and deaths. Alert level 4 advises to avoid group gatherings, visits to places at high risk of infections, social distancing and work from home as much as possible to help stem the outbreak, the health ministry said in a statement. It expects new cases to continue to rise in the next one to two weeks.

Africa and Middle East

Iran: Iran has returned 820,000 donated coronavirus vaccines, State TV reports.

South Africa: South Africa’s health department said it was changing Covid vaccination rules to try to increase uptake, as inoculations have slowed and the country has ample vaccine stocks.

Economy news

UAE: The number of passengers using Dubai’s main airport should double this year as borders reopen, though a recovery to pre-Covid levels may take until 2024, the chief executive officer of the Gulf hub said. Customer traffic at Dubai International Airport is expected to hit 57 million this year, spurred by global moves to free up travel for vaccinated passengers, Dubai Airports Chief Executive Officer Paul Griffiths said in a Bloomberg Television interview. That compares with 29.1 million people last year.

South Korea: South Korea’s parliament passed a larger-than-planned first extra budget of the year as the government tries to shore up parts of the economy worst hit by the country’s biggest coronavirus outbreak of the pandemic. The 16.9 trillion won ($14.2 billion) budget, approved by parliament late Monday, is aimed at compensating losses to businesses that have been laboring under some of the strictest conditions since Covid-19 erupted, as virus cases rose from thousands a day to over a 100,000.

Hong Kong: On Wednesday Hong Kong’s government is expected to unveil a budget that’s headed further into the red as the surging virus threatens to engulf the economy. To cushion the economy, Financial Secretary Paul Chan is expected to keep the fiscal taps open, driving the government’s budget to its fourth deficit in a row in the coming fiscal year, the longest period of shortfalls in almost a decade.

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