International update: Delta variant and vaccine rate drop driving US Covid case uptick
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International update: Delta variant and vaccine rate drop driving US Covid case uptick

23 Jul 2021

23 July

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed the grim milestone of 4 million, with a figure of 4,135,996 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 192.5 million world wide while more than 3.9 billion vaccine doses have been administered.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 34.2 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 610,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data. The seven-day average of confirmed Covid-19 infections in the US topped 40,000 on Wednesday for the first time since early May, data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg show. The death toll is averaging at 250 a day. Both figures are a fraction of the levels reported in January but cases, on average, have more than tripled since the beginning of the month, underscoring how infections are swelling as the delta variant spreads and vaccination rates drop.

The recent rise in Covid-19 cases shows no signs of abating in the US states that have fueled the uptick as the delta variant proliferates. Nationally, cases are likely to rise to 306,909 for the week ending Aug. 14, up 39% from last week, according to an ensemble of forecasts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Surges are expected in some states where case rates are among the worst. Florida rates are seen climbing to 62,744 cases per week, more than half the state’s winter peak. The trend looks similar in Missouri, where the governor this week announced a new vaccine incentive program.

The US is “at another pivotal moment in this pandemic,” with Covid-19 cases once again climbing and beds at some hospitals filling up, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said at a Thursday briefing. Daily hospital admissions have risen by more than 30% over the last week, she said.

The White House said China’s decision to reject a World Health Organization plan for a second phase of an investigation into the origin of the coronavirus which would have a greater focus on a possible lab leak was “irresponsible and dangerous”. Previously considered a crackpot conspiracy theory that was not permitted to be discussed on Facebook, there is growing pressure on China to investigate the part US-funded lab.

China: China reported 12 new confirmed cases and 10 asymptomatic infections, amid signs that a fresh outbreak at the airport in eastern Chinese city of Nanjing has quietly spread to other provinces. Northeastern province Liaoning, eastern province Anhui and southern province Guangdong have each reported one asymptomatic infection related to the Nanjing cluster. The city of Nanjing reported 12 confirmed cases and 7 asymptomatic infections on Friday. Authorities have expanded Covid testing to all of the city’s over 9 million residents to curb the virus spread.

Thailand: Thailand reported 14,575 new infections on Friday, the highest single-day increase since the pandemic began, according to the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration.

France: France reported 21,909 new coronavirus cases and 11 deaths in 24 hours Thursday. On average, the number of positive cases is up by 133% in a week.

UK: Workers from 16 key services including health, transport and energy will not have to isolate after being pinged by the NHS Covid app, as it was revealed that more than 600,000 people in England and Wales were sent self-isolation alerts last week. The raft of changes, after days of frantic talks with industry leaders, came amid open Conservative revolt over the so-called “pingdemic” with the former health secretary Jeremy Hunt warning the government that it was facing a crisis of public trust in the system.

India: Tax raids were carried out on the offices of one of India’s most popular newspapers, after months of critical coverage of the government’s handling of the pandemic. On Thursday morningmore than 100 tax inspectors descended on the headquarters of the Dainik Bhaskar media group, in the state of Madhya Pradesh, and raided 30 regional offices in the states of Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra.

Peru: Peruvian police dismantled an alleged criminal ring that had charged as much $21,000 per bed for seriously ill Covid-19 patients in a state-run hospital. Authorities arrested nine people in an early morning raid on Wednesday, including the administrators of Lima’s Guillermo Almenara Irigoyen public hospital, according to reports.

Germany: German pharmacies stopped issuing digital Covid-19 vaccination certificates after hackers created passes from fake outlets, the industry association said. The German Pharmacists’ Association said hackers had managed to produce two vaccination certificates by accessing the portal and making up pharmacy owner identities.

Vaccine news

US: Advisers to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will consider evidence suggesting that a booster dose of Covid vaccines could increase protection among people with compromised immune systems. Last week, Israel began administering third doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to immunocompromised people. Some experts believe the CDC is nearing a similar recommendation in the US.

Johnson & Johnson’s Covid jab is much less effective in mitigating the symptoms of those with the Delta or Lambda variants than against the original virus strain, a new study suggested. The New York Times reports that the conclusions of the paper appear to contradict smaller studies published by the drugmaker which suggest a single dose of the jab is indeed effective against the Delta variant.

Meanwhile, in a bad day for the J&J jab, Europe’s medicines regulator added a rare nerve-degenerating disorder, Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), as a possible rare side effect from the vaccine after it reviewed 108 cases reported worldwide. It came after the vaccine was reportedly largely sidelined in the US after setbacks culminating in the US Food and Drug Administration also saying it can lead to GBS.

Los Angeles County’s top health official said fully vaccinated people made up 20% of cases in June, up from 11% in May, and warned the figure may rise in July with a higher level of community transmission. “We had a significant increase in the number of people who were fully vaccinated and tested positive,” said Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, though she pointed out that the majority of these cases had no symptoms or had just very mild illness. “The numbers can go up again in July, until we get the community transmission back in control.” The data came a week after the county of 10 million announced plans to reimpose its indoor mask order, which began Sunday, as cases jumped with the highly-contagious delta variant. The number of infections surged to 2,767 Thursday, she said, an 80% increase from the previous week.

San Francisco and two other counties in the Bay Area – Contra Costa and Santa Clara, home to many Silicon Valley tech companies – are encouraging employers to consider requiring vaccinations for workers. Health officers for the counties said the rapid spread of the delta variant has led to significantly higher case rates and risk of transmission at jobs.

EU: The EU has said that 200 million Europeans had been fully vaccinated, more than half of the adult population but still short of a 70% target set for the summer. It came as an EU document showed member states have so far donated just a tiny portion of excess Covid-19 vaccines to poor nations, mostly out-of-favour AstraZeneca shots, less than 3% of the 160m doses they plan to give away in total to help tame the pandemic.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong’s health authorities said on Thursday it’s too early to confirm if a third, booster dose of Covid-19 vaccine is necessary for the general population. Both BioNTech SE’s mRNA vaccine and Sinovac Biotech Ltd.’s inactivated shot are “highly effective” in preventing severe disease and death, though the antibody response these vaccine generated, which is related to prevention of infection, is more susceptible to variants, the authorities said in a statement.

Lockdown updates

Chile: Chile announced that its citizens and foreign residents would be allowed to travel outside the country if they were fully inoculated against coronavirus, a fresh perk for Chileans participating in one of the world’s fastest vaccination campaigns.

Thailand: Taiwan Premier Su Tseng-chang approved a proposal to downgrade the Covid-19 alert to level 2 from level 3 given local pandemic has stabilized, cabinet spokesman Lo Ping-cheng says in text message statement. That means that some virus curbs will be eased.

Taiwan: Taiwan plans to ease limits on social gatherings to 50 people indoors and 100 people outdoors from 27 July, Taipei-based Commercial Times reports, citing draft rules from Central Epidemic Command Center.

South Korea: South Korea will extend current social distancing steps that ban gatherings of three or more people after 6 pm in the greater Seoul area for another two weeks, as the number of coronavirus cases continue to surge. The nation reported a record 1,842 new virus cases on Thursday.

Singapore: Singapore will postpone its annual independence day celebrations to 21 August to curb a resurgent spread of Covid-19. The event, which typically features a large-scale parade and draws big spectator crowds, is originally commemorated on August 9. In light of the postponement, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will also delay his associated national rally speech to 29 August.

New Zealand: New Zealand suspended its quarantine-free travel bubble with Australia for at least the next eight weeks, starting 11:59 pm local time Friday. The decision followed health advice on the growing number of Covid-19 cases across Australia.

Italy: Italy will restrict many leisure activities for citizens who aren’t vaccinated against Covid-19 or haven’t recently tested negative for the virus, amid a surge of delta variant infections. Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s cabinet decided on Thursday that a so-called green pass will be required to dine indoors or to enter crowded venues such as theaters, stadiums, cinemas, gyms or museums. The passes are currently given to people who have received one shot, have recovered from Covid-19 or have tested negative in the last 48 hours.