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February 11, 2021

International update: Global Covid cases pass 107 million – asthma drug offers hope – Lancet report slams Trump

By Paul Dennis

11 February

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 2,356,000 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have passed 107.4 million world wide.

A cheap and widely available asthma drug called budesonide appears to significantly reduce the risk of people getting seriously ill with Covid-19, if it is taken within the first week of developing symptoms.

World Health Organization investigators have identified possible Covid-19 cases that appeared two months before the disease was identified, Dow Jones reported. About 90 people were hospitalized with Covid-19-like symptoms in central China in late 2019, Dow reported, citing the investigators. They are pushing for further testing to see if the virus was spreading earlier than previously known, Dow said.

US: Covid-19 infections have passed 27.2 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 471,575 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. The daily number of new coronavirus cases in the US was under 100,000 for a third consecutive day on Tuesday, the first time that’s happened since the week of 2 November, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg.

The US could have averted 40% of deaths from Covid-19, had the country’s death rates corresponded with the rates in other high-income G7 countries, according to a Lancet commission tasked with assessing Donald Trump’s health policy record. Former President Donald Trump’s disdain for science and cuts to global health programs and public health agencies impeded the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, causing tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths, according to the scathing report in the British medical journal The Lancet. The 33 scientists who co-authored the article blamed Trump for eschewing the advice of public health agencies and politicizing common sense responses to the pandemic such as mask-wearing.

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A study by the US CDC has shown wearing two masks can “substantially reduce” exposure to Covid-19. The report found that in the lab tests with dummies, “exposure to infectious aerosols decreased by about 95% when they both wore tightly fitted masks”.

The governor of Montana will lift a statewide mask order Friday, the Billings Gazette reported. Greg Gianforte, a Republican who took office in January, announced his plan after signing legislation shielding businesses and other organization from Covid-19 liability, the newspaper said. Montana’s mask order has been in place since July.

China: China has recorded its lowest number of new cases in five months, with just two new infections on 10 February. It follows a series of robust counter-measures that helped stamp out a new wave of the disease that emerged in the northeast last month.

Australia: A cluster of the virulent UK strain of coronavirus in Australia rose to eight on Thursday, with authorities saying it started in a Melbourne quarantine hotel by a person who used a nebulizer to treat a health condition. The medical device, which vaporizes medication or liquid, also worked to spread the virus through mist “suspended in the air with very, very fine aerosolized particles,” said Victoria state Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton. This was how the virus was carried out of the hotel room into the corridor, where staff walking the halls were exposed, he said.

Vaccine news

Global: The WHO says that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine can be given to adults of all ages, after some countries decided not to give the dose to those aged over 65 over doubts about its effectiveness.

Malaysia: Malaysia will extend its free vaccination programme to all foreigners residing in the country, including students, refugees and undocumented migrants, the government said on Thursday.

Mexico: Mexico has signed an emergency use authorisation for China’s Sinovac vaccine, according to the country’s deputy health minister.

Philippines: The Philippines will receive 600,000 Sinovac Biotech Ltd. vaccine doses donated by China this month, with the military getting 100,000 shots, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Thursday. The shots are expected to arrive on 23 February, and will be stored until these are cleared for emergency use by the nation’s Food and Drug Administration, he said in a televised briefing. Vaccines from the World Health Organization-backed Covax initiative, which were due to arrive next week, will be shipped later this month, he said.

Indonesia: A group of Indonesian companies are calling on the government to let them conduct their own Covid-19 vaccinations as the country struggles to procure enough shots in time. The Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is compiling a list of companies that want to do their own inoculations, with a preference to buy the shots from the government, Chairman Rosan Roeslani said by phone on Thursday. He said the government plans to issue the rule allowing private vaccinations as soon as next week.

India: India-based vaccine maker Panacea Biotec Ltd. is in advanced talks with Russian Direct Investment Fund to manufacture the Sputnik V vaccine, Mint reported, citing two people aware of the discussions who weren’t named. The management of Panacea and RDIF are in the process of finalizing the deal, Mint reported. The Russian company is gearing up to soon start technology transfer for the two-dose vaccine, and vaccines produced by the Indian company could be sold in both the domestic and export markets, it said.

US: Merck & Co. may agree with other drugmakers to manufacture Covid-19 vaccines that have already received regulatory clearance. Merck believes it has a responsibility to contribute to the pandemic response and would consider “potential support for production of authorized vaccines,” the Kenilworth, New Jersey-based company said in an email. The development was reported earlier by Dow Jones. Merck last month discontinued development of its two experimental Covid-19 vaccines after early trial data showed they failed to generate immune responses comparable to a natural infection or existing vaccines.

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. is in talks with Covid-19 vaccine makers about helping to produce and distribute shots as demand rises for immunizations. The generic drug giant is offering to dedicate its manufacturing capacity in the US, Europe and beyond to aid with mass-immunization efforts geared at combating the pandemic, Chief Executive Officer Kare Schultz said Wednesday.

Governor Gavin Newsom said California is making progress in delivering coronavirus vaccines and trends are improving, even as the state is poised to surpass New York for the most Covid-19 fatalities. The governor said more than 5 million vaccinations have been administered in California while other data, including new cases and hospitalizations, are moving in the right direction. The state had 45,052 Covid-19 fatalities as of Wednesday, compared with 45,306 in the early virus epicenter of New York.

Lockdown updates

Italy: Italy is reopening its ski resorts in Lombardy, the region worst hit by the coronavirus. Lifts will resume operating from 15 February, which will mark the return of skiing for the first time this year.

Germany:    Germany will remain in a partial lockdown until at least 7 March. Following crunch talks with the leaders of Germany’s 16 states, Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the number of new Covid-19 infections in Europe’s top economy was dropping after more than two months of shuttered schools and shops.

German schools and kindergartens may reopen as soon as next week, a win for state leaders over Chancellor Angela Merkel in a wider battle over how quickly Europe’s biggest economy reopens. Authorities on Wednesday set guidelines for relaxing curbs, should the country’s coronavirus outbreak continue to recede, starting with granting states the power to open schools and daycare centers. Merkel had argued for maintaining consistent rules across the country and keeping children at home until the end of the month.

US: New York’s large venues and stadiums can start reopening on 23 February with testing requirements and capacity limits, Governor Andrew Cuomo said. Barclays Center will be one of the first to reopen on 23 February for the Brooklyn Nets basketball game versus the Sacramento Kings, Cuomo said Wednesday at a virus briefing. Venues with over 10,000-person total capacity must adhere to a 10% capacity limit. All attendees must show proof of a negative PCR test within 72 hours of the event. Face coverings, social distancing and temperature checks are required, along with assigned and socially distanced seating.

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