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February 9, 2021

International update: Global Covid death toll exceeds 2.3 million – Russian figures could be understated by more than 50%

By Paul Dennis

9 February

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 2.3 million according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have passed 106.5 million world wide.

WHO investigators are to brief media from Wuhan at 4pm local time. The international team of experts in China investigating how the outbreak started will speak to the media in Wuhan on Tuesday, the WHO has announced. The briefing, at 4:00pm local time (0800 GMT) at a hotel in the city, will be live-streamed in English on the UN health agency’s digital and social media platforms.

US: Covid-19 infections have passed 27 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 465,072 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

The director of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention suggested that testing people for the coronavirus before US domestic flights could help reduce transmission, as she urged state and local leaders to maintain steps to limit Covid-19’s spread. She didn’t say whether the CDC will move forward with the policy, which the Biden administration is actively considering.

Russia: Russia has recorded a dramatic increase in mortality in 2020 fuelled by the coronavirus pandemic, according to new data published by the Rosstat agency. The figures showed that between April, when the pandemic hit Russia, and December, the country saw 162,429 coronavirus-related fatalities. However, as of Monday, the official total released by Russia’s health officials stood at only 77,068 virus deaths – on the Johns Hopkins University tracker, the figure is listed as 75,828.

UK: Covid mortality in England still higher for some ethnic minorities, study finds. A new sweeping analysis in England shows that between the first and second waves of the pandemic in 2020, death rates in black communities improved, but continued to remain high in people from Bangladeshi and Pakistani backgrounds.

The UK’s plan for “surge testing” to detect and suppress new variants of coronavirus is unlikely to work unless it is done on a larger scale, a scientific adviser to the government said. Mike Tildesley, an academic at the University of Warwick who advises Boris Johnson’s government on pandemic modelling, said authorities should “cast their net slightly wider” to pick up cases and make sure people with the virus are staying home.

China: The number of newborns in China plummeted 15% in 2020 from a year earlier, according to the Ministry of Public Security, with the onset of the novel coronavirus disrupting the economy and weighing on decisions to have a family. China saw 10.035 million births last year, the ministry said on Monday, compared with 11.79 million in 2019. Of those born last year, 52.7% were boys and 47.3% girls.

Five people including three officials have been jailed in China for dereliction of duty over an outbreak in a Shandong prison which saw more than 200 inmates infected in February 2020.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said there were indications the city’s Covid-19 wave was subsiding, while urging caution ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday. Hong Kong reported 28 new local coronavirus infections on Monday amid a winter wave.

Vaccine news

Global: The World Health Organization insisted on Monday that the AstraZeneca vaccine was still a vital tool in the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic, after South Africa delayed the start of its inoculation programme over concerns about its efficacy against a virus variant.

Facebook has banned misinformation about all vaccines following years of harmful, unfounded health claims proliferating on its platform. As part of its policy on Covid-19-related misinformation, Facebook will now remove posts with false claims about all vaccines, the company announced in a blogpost on Monday.

EU: The European Commission chief said on Monday she had called on EU member states to donate some of their coronavirus jabs to Ukraine, as it prepares to launch its vaccination campaign.

Easter Island: Authorities on Easter Island began vaccinating residents on Monday, distributing 1,200 doses on the first day, AFP reports.Situated 3,500 kilometres (2,200 miles) off Chile’s coast, the island – renowned for its ancient, giant humanoid monoliths – has not reported a single coronavirus case in more than 300 days.

Thailand: Thailand will rely on vaccines from China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. to kick off an inoculation drive that aims to cover about two-thirds of the eligible population by the end of this year, potentially paving the way for a full reopening of its tourism industry. While the bulk of vaccine needs will be met from AstraZeneca Plc shots to be locally produced by a Thai drugmaker, the country’s drug regulator is expected to approve Sinovac’s product for emergency use parallel to the arrival of the first shipment of 200,000 doses later this month, Deputy Prime Minister and Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul said Monday.

Pakistan: CanSino Biologics Inc.’s experimental coronavirus shot demonstrated an efficacy rate of 66% at preventing symptomatic cases, making it the latest vaccine candidate to show some protection against Covid-19. It is also 90.98% effective in preventing severe disease, Faisal Sultan, Pakistan’s health adviser, said in a Twitter post on Monday.

China: China’s new vaccination plan, which was recently communicated to health officials, shifted the timeline for reaching 50 million shots to the end of March, people familiar with the matter said. Bloomberg and other media reported in December that China intended to reach that target by the Lunar New Year holiday, which starts this Thursday.

Lockdown updates

UK: Scientists and senior MPs have renewed calls for sweeping border curbs to protect the UK’s vaccination programme against new variants as Boris Johnson prepared to introduce tougher measures and Britain saw internal infections fall.

US: Indoor dining in New York city will open at 25% capacity starting on Friday, 12 February, not Valentine’s Day as originally planned, Governor Andrew Cuomo said. Restaurant owners asked for the date to be moved up to take advantage of the entire weekend, he said.

Economy updates

Germany: German Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized Economy Minister Peter Altmaier over delays in the payment of aid to help companies weather the pandemic, Bild-Zeitung reported. Citing people close to the Christian Democratic Union party, the newspaper reported that Merkel told a meeting of party leaders that she couldn’t understand why the Finance Ministry and the Economy Ministry haven’t managed to provide the support the government promised.

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