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February 9, 2022

Covid-19 update: Global Covid infections pass 400 million

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5.7 million, with a figure of 5,764,479 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have raced past 400 million to a world wide figure of 400,812,917.

News by region

Americas

US: Covid -19 infections have now passed 77 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has increased to more than 908,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker will lay out a plan on Wednesday to phase out the mask mandate for the state residents in most indoor settings, Chicago Sun Times reported, citing people it didn’t identify. Pritzker teased the rollback Tuesday, telling residents to “stay tuned” for an update on the policy. While the governor will wind down the mask mandate for the public at large, state officials are expected to continue waging the legal battle to keep masks on in schools, which Pritzker says present a different challenge in the fight to curb the spread of the virus, the report said.

Plans for a demonstration by truckers in the US similar to the one in Canada appear to be gaining momentum, aided by online supporters, the New York Times reported. The route and timing of the demonstration, meant to protest pandemic restrictions in the US, was set to be announced on Tuesday evening, said Brian Brase, a trucker who is organizing the American effort.

Canada: Canadian truckers block bridge to US as Trudeau demands end to protest.

Protesters blocking traffic between the US and Canada to oppose vaccine rules are further stretching an auto supply chain already worn thin by pandemic-related labour shortages and a scarcity of chips. Protesters halted traffic Monday night at the Ambassador Bridge that connects Windsor, Ontario, to Detroit, the busiest border link for goods moving between Canada and the US and a crucial artery for the automotive supply chain. Traffic to Canada appeared to be largely blocked as of Tuesday afternoon though it was moving again, slowly, on lanes headed to the US.

Europe

UK: England’s chief medical officer, Prof Chris Whitty, has written to NHS staff telling them it is their “professional responsibility” to get vaccinated.

Asia pacific

Hong Kong: The city’s Covid Zero policy undercuts its appeal, according to a research note by Tommy Wu at Oxford Economics. Hong Kong is likely to keep its zero-Covid policy at least until late 2022. The city is out of sync with other economies that have shifted to living with Covid. US-China tension and the national security law implementation are expected to raise risk of people and companies leaving Hong Kong. Wu sees Hong Kong holding on to its global financial hub status.

Hong Kong will report more than 1,100 cases on Wednesday, as the city’s worsening outbreak prompts the government to roll out its toughest ever pandemic measures. The city will announce an almost doubling of cases from a day earlier, local media reported, citing people they didn’t identify, and it would be the first time daily infections have crossed the four-digit threshold.

Vegetables and other fresh produces are gradually back in stock in Hong Kong after China reopened its border control point for food deliveries. Fresh food prices soared since the weekend after some cross-border truck drivers responsible for ferrying supply tested positive for Covid, prompting mainland authorities to take testing and isolation measures, which caused delivery delays. Hong Kong relies on mainland China for more than 90% of its vegetable and fresh water fish supplies.

Hong Kong is further tightening quarantine rules for airline staff, with cargo pilots isolating at home to be tracked with electronic monitoring bracelets and crew on passenger planes who have been in countries with high levels of the virus made to quarantine for 14 days. The updated rules, set out in a document seen by Bloomberg News, will come into effect Wednesday. The strengthened protocols for turnaround cargo pilots and cargo crew, the last remaining category of flight staff to not require hotel quarantine, close a loophole that allowed some to shirk stay-at-home orders because there was no monitoring or checking in place.

Japan: Japan reported 155 daily deaths today – a new daily record.

Thailand: Thailand reported 13,182 new Covid-19 infections on Wednesday, the highest single-day count since Sept. 23, as the Southeast Asian nation considers further easing of border curbs to lure more foreign visitors. The government plans to hold travel bubble talks this month with China and Malaysia, the country’s largest source of visitors, a government spokesman said Monday.

Myanmar: Myanmar reported 1,145 new Covid cases on Tuesday, the highest one-day tally in almost three months, with new clusters emerging among factory workers in commercial hub Yangon. Rapid response teams and bed management committees have been formed in Yangon region to contain the virus spread, and people are urged to take swab tests if they exhibit Covid symptoms, the Ministry of Health said.

China: An Omicron outbreak in southern China led officials to switch traffic lights to red in several counties, as local governments strive to limit people’s movements to meet Beijing’s strategy of eliminating Covid-19 despite the virus’s growing infectiousness. A sudden Covid-19 resurgence in the southwestern province of Guangxi during the recent Lunar New Year Holiday prompted a snap lockdown on Monday of Baise, a city of 3.6 million bordering Vietnam, after nearly 100 infections were detected. Soon after, local authorities in five sub-districts in the city turned the lights red to reinforce the stay-at-home order, though it granted exceptions for essential travel related to medical care, deliveries and the Covid response.

New Zealand: An anti-vaccine mandate protest is in its second day with a small number of people in a standoff with police outside the nation’s parliament in Wellington. Around 100 officers have formed a line on the concourse, while the crowd sings and listens to speeches. The protesters, some of whom camped overnight in the grounds in small tents, have been served trespass notices but are refusing to leave. Earlier, an attempt to break the police lines resulted in a handful of arrests. The protesters are the remnants of a large convoy of trucks and vehicles that descended on the city yesterday, disrupting traffic and attempting to mimic the truckers who have gridlocked the Canadian city of Ottawa.

Australia: Australia officially recorded 1,582 Covid-19 deaths in January, more than the annual totals for both 2020 and 2021, driven by an Omicron-fuel wave that’s expected to result in 10% more deaths than predicted from all causes, according to the Actuaries Institute, a professional body. “For the month of January 2022, if there had been no pandemic, we would have expected around 13,500 to 14,000 deaths,” Jennifer Lang, convenor of the Actuaries Institute’s Covid-19 Working Group said in a statement. “However, the surge in Covid-19 deaths without any corresponding reduction in other deaths means that in January 2022 we expect to see excess mortality of around 10% once the complete death data is available.”

South Korea: South Korea confirmed 49,567 more cases, rising 35% from a day earlier and more than doubling from a week ago. Daily new cases have doubled every week for the past three weeks with the Omicron becoming the dominant variant. Mortality rate and severe cases remain low; 21 deaths were reported with 285 patients in critical condition.

Economy news

UK: Border controls since the end of the Brexit transition period have piled costs on UK businesses, hit trade flows and may cause passenger chaos this year as normal cross-border travel returns with the end of Covid restrictions, a committee of lawmakers warned. Although it is not clear exactly how much of the decline in trade in 2021 was the result of Brexit rather than the pandemic, “the new controls have created additional costs for businesses and affected international trade flows,” according to a report by Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee.

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