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February 12, 2021

International update: Global Covid infections approach 108 million – Brazil variant may be three times as contagious

By Paul Dennis

12 February

Global: The global Covid death toll has reached 2,370,362 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have passed 107.8 million world wide.

Blood-thinning drugs reduced the risk of death from Covid-19 in a new study, pointing to one more promising tool as physicians scour their medicine cabinets for treatments to blunt the pandemic. About 14% of patients who were given anticoagulants within 24 hours of hospital admission died from the coronavirus, compared with 19% of those who didn’t, according to a study published Friday in the British Medical Journal. The patients were treated with heparin, an injected blood-thinner. The study is based on observation, which means the results need to be confirmed by clinical trials and some are underway, the scientists said.

The director general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, appears to have rejected comments made on Tuesday by the team of experts studying the origins of the Covid-19 virus after they said it was “extremely unlikely” that it leaked from a Wuhan virology laboratory and “isn’t a hypothesis we suggest implies further study”. Tedros said “I want to clarify that all hypotheses remain open and require further study”.

US: Covid-19 infections have passed 27.3 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 475,457 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, US hospitalizations for the coronavirus plunged about 16% so far in February, dropping to the lowest since mid-November, data from the Department of Health and Human Services show.

US President Joe Biden has confirmed the US has ordered 200m more doses of coronavirus vaccine. He said “my predecessor did not do his job” in scaling up the country’s vaccine rollout and urged Americans to “mask up”.

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People in the US who have received a full course of Covid vaccine can skip the standard two week quarantine following exposure to someone whose infected as long as they remain asymptomatic, health officials have suggested.

The US House Energy and Commerce Committee approved more than $46 billion for Covid-19 testing and $20 billion to expand vaccine distribution as part of House Democrats’ $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package. Legislation, approved by a vote of 31-25, will now advance to House floor with a vote possible during the week of 22 February.

Brazil: The Brazilian Amazon variant of the coronavirus disease may be “three times” as contagious as other strains, the country’s health minister has said.

Mexico: Reported a daily rise of 1,474 Covid-19 deaths, bringing the total to 171,234, according to data released by the Health Ministry. The country is in the process of deploying vaccines with more than 700,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine administered. More than 85,000 have received a second dose.

Vaccine news

US: New data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show allergic reactions to Covid-19 are rare and anaphylaxis, one type of severe reaction, occurs in 2 to 5 people for every million vaccinated in the US. The update from the CDC draws on data from the agency’s system to monitor vaccine side effects. When anaphylaxis occurs it is almost always within half an hour of administering the vaccine, the CDC said. The system hasn’t found any link between Covid vaccines and death, the agency said on its website.

Los Angeles is expected to run out of Covid-19 vaccine on Thursday and will shut Dodger Stadium and four other mass vaccination sites on Friday and Saturday while waiting for more doses to arrive.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said vaccinations of nursing-home patients have helped cut the number of hospitalized Covid-19 patients, allowing the state to lift a daily curfew in force since November. Nursing-home residents account for more than half of Ohio’s deaths, which state officials revised upward to 12,577 on Thursday after what DeWine called a data reconciliation issue.

Anthony Fauci predicted an increasing supply of vaccines will allow for “much more of a mass vaccination approach” in the US by April, allowing anyone who wants a shot to get one. “I would imagine by the time we get to April that will be what I would call for better wording, open season,” the nation’s top infectious disease doctor said on NBC’s “Today Show.” “Namely virtually everybody and anybody in any category could start to get vaccinated.” He cautioned however that it would take several more months logistically to meet demand.

Nearly 20,000 Covid-19 vaccine appointments at CVS Health Corp. stores in New Jersey were booked within an hour Thursday as a national pharmacy expansion rolled out. About 1 million shots are available at nearly two dozen pharmacy chains across the country through a federal program that started on Thursday. CVS, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., Rite Aid Corp. are among participating companies.

Philippines: The Philippines is poised to receive 600,000 doses this month of Sinovac Biotech’s vaccine donated by China, a portion of which will be used to inoculate military personnel.

Singapore: Singapore will start vaccinating the city-state’s seniors starting 22 February, Straits Times reported, citing Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. The move comes after Singapore carried out a monthlong pilot program where seniors age 70 and above at two areas.

Japan: Japan’s first shipment of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine arrived in the country by airfreight on Friday, Nikkei reports, citing an unidentified person. Kyodo reported that the shipment contains more than 400,000 doses. Public broadcaster NHK reported earlier that a health ministry panel is expected to approve the vaccine’s use on Friday. The panel starts meeting at 6 pm local time and approval would pave the way for the government to officially approve the vaccine “soon,” NHK said.

Venezuela is seeking to create a $300 million fund for Covid-19 vaccines, President Nicolas Maduro said on state television. The government is seeking a “practical and effective agreement” to create the fund with the Pan American Health Organization and the World Health Organization, he said.

Lockdown updates

Portugal: Has extended a lockdown until 1 March or perhaps later to tackle its worst surge of Covid-19 infections since the pandemic began.

Ireland: Which has, according to the latest official figures, recorded 3,794 Covid related deaths, is set to extend its lockdown until April, prime minister Micheal Martin has said.

Germany: Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, has defended her government’s decision to extend Germany’s lockdown into March by highlighting the “very real danger” of a third wave driven by Covid mutations. Germany plans to impose restrictions on travel from Austria and the Czech Republic over concerns about aggressive mutations of the coronavirus, potentially disrupting cross-country commuters and commerce. The German states of Bavaria and Saxony have asked the federal government to establish border controls with the neighboring countries, Bavarian Premier Markus Soeder said on Thursday.

Philippines: The government will soon allow cinemas, theme parks and conferences to resume as it seeks to further reopen an economy that suffered a record contraction last year. It will also expand the seating capacity of religious gatherings to a maximum of 50% from the current 30% starting 15 February, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement on Friday. President Rodrigo Duterte is worried about the economy and aims for an immediate recovery, Roque said earlier this week.

Australia: Victoria state will enter a snap five-day lockdown from midnight after an outbreak of the virulent UK strain of the coronavirus from a quarantine hotel spread. Residents must stay home except for essential shopping, care, exercise and work. Supermarkets will remain open but other retailers, gyms and entertainment venues will close. The Australian Open will continue without spectators. “We must assume that there are further cases in the community than we have positive results for, and that it is moving at a velocity that has not been seen anywhere in our country over the course of these last 12 months,” state Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters on Friday.

Japan’s Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told a government advisory panel that it’s necessary to maintain a state of emergency for ten areas of the country, including Tokyo and Osaka. Nishimura said the medical system is still under strain and the number of elderly people with infections isn’t dropping.

UK: Ministers will discuss a Cabinet Office proposal to create vaccine and testing certificates for when international travel is able to resume, Sky News reported, citing an unidentified government official and briefing paper. The Department of Transport would draw up plans for a certificate infrastructure and the Foreign Office will help design the international certificate system, Sky said. Formal engagement with other countries and international organizations will also begin with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab to sign off on the proposal ahead of a meeting with other ministers.

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