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September 23, 2021

International update: Global Covid cases pass 230 million but infection rate falls

By Paul Dennis

23 September

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed the grim milestone of 4.7 million, with a figure of 4,719,193 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 230 million world wide.

Global Covid cases have fallen in the past week, the World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed. There were 3.6 million new cases reported around the world last week, down from 4 million new infections the previous week.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 42.5 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 681,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The United Nations said a delegate who was in the main hall of the General Assembly on Tuesday morning tested positive. While the UN didn’t identify which country the delegate represented, heads of state speaking in the hall at that time included Biden and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro. Two members of Bolsonaro’s delegation – including Brazil’s health minister – have tested positive while in New York.

Alaska, which led most US states in coronavirus vaccinations months ago, took the drastic step on Wednesday of imposing crisis-care standards for its entire hospital system, declaring that a crushing surge in Covid patients has forced rationing of strained medical resources.

The US Olympic & Paralympic Committee said all athletes and team staff using its training facilities must be fully inoculated  by 1 November, and that any athletes trying to compete at the Winter Games in Beijing will need to show proof of vaccination, the New York Times reported.

South Korea: South Korean authorities warned people returning from a holiday to get tested even for the mildest Covid-like symptoms, especially before clocking in for work amid a new surge in coronavirus cases in and around the capital.

Singapore: Virus cases are rising faster in Singapore than the government originally projected but the situation remains under control, Health Minister Ong Ye Kung told a Straits Times sister publication.  The Southeast Asian city-state had 1,457 new virus cases as of noon 22 September, the Ministry of Health said – a higher per-capita rate than New York, and just below that of London, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. “We had planned to have a preparatory period, during which we could gradually open up while handling perhaps 100 to 200 cases a day,” Ong was quoted as saying in a Mandarin-language interview with Lianhe Zaobao, reported by the Straits Times. “But Delta did not wait for us to be ready and attacked us first.”

China: China reported 28 local cases on Thursday, as a new cluster emerged from the northern city of Harbin while an existing outbreak across the country in Fujian province started to taper. Harbin found eight more infections, as the city of 10 million underwent mass testing. In Fujian, cases started decreasing amid stringent curbs that have included a lockdown of Xiamen, home to 4.5 million people. The costal city reported 17 cases on Thursday, while Putian – where the latest outbreak started – saw cases dwindle to three.

Australia: Australia’s second-most populous state, Victoria, reported a daily record of 766 virus infections on Thursday. Authorities have struggled to bring the state’s current Delta surge under control, despite months of lockdown in Melbourne. The outbreak has doubled in size to more than 10,000 cases in about eight days. Meanwhile, the Delta outbreak in Australia’s most populous state – New South Wales – appears to be slowing, after a months-long lockdown and mass vaccination effort.

Germany: Health authorities in Germany are planning new rules under which unvaccinated workers would not receive compensation for lost pay if coronavirus measures forced them to quarantine.

Italy: Italy confirmed 67 deaths from Covid on Wednesday, the same number as the day before, its health ministry said.

UK: England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty has told MPs that the Covid transmission rate is currently highest among children compared to all age groups.

Vaccine news

US: The US Food and Drug Administration authorized a third booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech SE vaccine for people aged 65 and older and individuals with a high risk of getting severe Covid. The added shots are to be administered at least six months after completion of the primary series.

Future administration of mRNA vaccines like Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna Inc.’s will likely require three doses from the start, instead of two doses plus a booster, Chief Medical Advisor AnthonyFauci said. If implemented as the top infectious disease expert predicted, the third shot would become part of the primary series, potentially changing the vaccine label and plan for administering shots altogether.

New York City’s requirement for teachers to be vaccinated was cleared by a state judge following a legal challenge from labor unions.

Taiwan: The board of Taiwan’s Medigen approved a phase-3 clinical trial of its vaccine in Europe, the firm said in statement to the Taiwan stock exchange on Wednesday. There are expected to be up to 4,000 people participating in multiple locations and countries in Europe, the Taipei Times reported, citing a company spokesman.

New Zealand: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she wants it to become one of the world’s most vaccinated countries. Once a very high level of inoculation is achieved, authorities won’t need to turn to the strictest form of lockdown – Alert Level 4 – in the event of an outbreak, she told a press conference. The government is still trying to stamp out a current outbreak in Auckland, with 15 new cases reported in the city on Thursday.

Ukraine: Ukraine is planning to make coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for certain professions, including teachers and employees of state institutions and local governments.

Lockdown updates

Australia: In Australia, police in Melbourne have again fired non-lethal rounds and teargas at anti-Covid lockdown protesters to end an almost three-hour standoff at the city’s war memorial during a third straight day of demonstrations.

France: France has no plans at this stage to relax its health pass restrictions set up to deal with a fourth wave of Covid infections.

Thailand: Thai officials proposed reducing a mandatory quarantine period to just seven days – down from two weeks – for all vaccinated international travelers, according to Opas Karnkawinpong, director-general of the Department of Disease Control. Travelers with inoculation vaccine certificates would still need to be tested for Covid upon arrival, and before departing quarantine.

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