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March 28, 2022

Covid-19 update: UK infections nearing 1 million a week

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 6 million, with a figure of 6,123,493 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have continued past 480 million to a world wide figure of 480,905,929.

News by region

Europe

UK: The number of people infected with Covid-19 in the UK soared by almost a third in a week just as the government prepares to end free virus testing for most people. About 4.25 million people currently have the disease, almost a million more than last week, according to an estimate by the Office for National Statistics.

Americas

US: Covid -19 infections have now passed 79.9 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has increased to more than 976,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The US is planning to give Americans age 50 or older the option of getting a second booster against Covid-19, but will stop short of explicitly recommending the shot, the New York Times reported, citing unidentified people familiar with the plan.

A divided US Supreme Court said the Navy can limit deployment and training for 35 Seals and other special operations forces who are refusing on religious grounds to get vaccinated against Covid-19. Granting a Biden administration request over three dissents, the justices partly blocked a federal judge’s order that required the Navy to assign and deploy the sailors without regard to their unvaccinated status. The order will apply while litigation over the Navy’s vaccine mandate goes forward.

White House deputy press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said she tested positive for Covid-19 on Sunday after returning from US President Joe Biden’s trip to Europe. Jean-Pierre said she was not considered a close contact of Biden despite participating in a “socially-distanced meeting” on Saturday with the president. Jean-Pierre travelled with Biden in place of press secretary Jen Psaki, who tested positive for the virus before the trip.

Asia pacific

Hong Kong: Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam will be questioned over her strategy for exiting the Covid-19 crisis by pro-China politicians during a 90-minute video-conference meeting on Monday, the South China Morning Post reported. Dozens of people – including Hong Kong deputies to the Chinese parliament, local delegates to China’s top advisory body and others from prominent mainland Chinese organizations – have been invited to attend the meeting organized by lawmaker Chan Yung, the paper reported, citing an invitation it has seen.

An influx of imported cases from Hong Kong preceded China’s worst outbreak since Wuhan, showing the risk the city’s virus crisis poses to the mainland.  Hong Kong feeds key cities in China, including Shanghai and the technology hub of Shenzhen, which is located just across the border. Shenzhen is just now emerging from a week-long lockdown, while Shanghai is entering one.  An analysis by Bloomberg News found the uptick in cases in both cities – key entry points into the mainland – came around the same time or shortly after a surge in infections was recorded in quarantined travellers coming from Hong Kong, where the number of recorded new cases still hovers above 8,000.

Hong Kong will start a Covid-19 home vaccination program for older or disabled residents in the coming weeks as the city seeks to boost its inoculation rate, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at a press briefing on Sunday. The government plans to start registration for home vaccinations with older or disabled residents at public housing estates where compulsory testing will be carried out in restricted areas. More than 8,000 new cases were detected in the city, officials said Sunday.

Taiwan: Taiwan added 83 local cases Sunday, according to a statement from Taiwan Centers for Disease Control. The number of confirmed local cases surged to the highest since June last year, with at least six clusters, Taipei-based Central News Agency reported, citing Health Minister Chen Shih-chung. The biggest cluster was at a Datan power plant expansion project in Taoyuan, which reported 52 cases after migrant construction workers were tested, according to CNA report. It was followed by a flare-up in Keelung city where 19 new cases were reported Sunday, including five employees at a bar, four patrons, their contacts as well as six police officers, the report said.

South Korea: Omicron’s spread in South Korea has started to decline for the first time in 11 weeks, Health Minister Kwon Deok-cheol said, indicating the country is past its peak. Daily cases dropped to 187,213 on Monday, compared with 318,130 yesterday. There were more than 200,000 a week ago. The number of critical cases and deaths may continue to climb for another two to three weeks, officials said.

China: Shanghai locked down on Monday, closing half the city at a time in four-day turns, to conduct a mass testing in an effort to staunch its spiraling Covid outbreak.  Residents can’t leave their homes and public transportation will be suspended, the city announced Sunday evening, a pivot from its earlier, more targeted approach. The city will ensure basic supplies such as food, fuel and electricity during the lockdown. Production at Tesla Inc.’s Shanghai factory will be suspended for at least one day. Some in the financial markets have been sleeping at their offices to avoid building lockdowns that would prevent them from the trading floor.

The Shanghai stock exchange will provide online services for IPO approval meetings, consultation and road shows during the city-wide lockdown. It will also extend the time window for listed companies’ releases to 11 pm, and allow them to apply to postpone the release of full-year earnings until April 30, according to a bourse statement. Meanwhile, the Shanghai International Port will maintain operations around the clock during the lockdown, Securities Times reported.

China reported 6,215 local infections on Sunday, the vast majority in people with mild or no symptoms. Most of the asymptomatic infections were found in Shanghai, at 3,450, with another 907 in Jilin.

Economy news

Hong Kong: Hong Kong cut the time airlines are banned for carrying excessive numbers of Covid-positive passengers to seven days from two weeks. The circuit-breaker mechanism that bans airlines if they carried four cases or more travellers from the same airport of origin within a week has been deleted, according to a statement released by the government late Saturday. Under the revised rules, most other existing triggers remain. Bans can be meted out if three or more Covid cases are found on the same flight, or one confirmed infection and another non-compliant one are discovered. The revised airline rules kicks in 1 April on the day rules lifting a flight ban on nine countries, and a halving of quarantine from 14 to seven days is implemented.

China: China’s economy faces its worst downward pressure since the spring of 2020 when it was hit by the first wave of Covid-19, according to Nomura Holdings Inc. The slowdown in China’s growth worsened in the first quarter and markets should be concerned about a further slide in the second, economists wrote in a note Saturday. The investment bank cut its estimate for China’s growth for April through December, citing the worsening Covid-19 situation. Production activities in the country’s tech and manufacturing hub Shenzhen and automotive city Changchun have been disrupted by virus control measures, while residents in the financial center of Shanghai were told to stay at home as the city conducts rounds of mass testings.

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