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February 1, 2021

International update: Global Covid infections pass 102 million – China arrests fake vaccine suspects

By Paul Dennis

1 February

Global: The global Covid death toll has reached 2,227,923 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have passed 102 million world wide.

A World Health Organization-led team investigating the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic was due on Monday to visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention of Hubei province, the central Chinese region where the outbreak emerged in late 2019. The team has already visited the Huanan food market in Wuhan.

US: Covid-19 infections have passed 26 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 441,319 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

A leading infectious disease expert predicted on Sunday that the deadlier British variant of Covid-19 will become the dominant strain of the virus in the US and could hit the country like a hurricane.

President Joe Biden has invited a group of 10 Republican senators to meet with him in the coming days to discuss their alternative plan for Covid-19 economic stimulus, the White House said Sunday evening. The GOP lawmakers offered a $600 billion proposal early Sunday in a letter to Biden, responding to the $1.9 trillion plan he laid out more than two weeks ago and which Republicans have rejected.

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China: China reported the lowest daily increase in new Covid cases in more than three weeks, official data showed on Monday, reversing a sharp uptick a day earlier, amid efforts to contain the disease ahead of a major holiday break. New confirmed reported cases more than halved to 42, the National Health Commission said in a statement, down from 92 a day earlier and marking the lowest one-day increase since 33 reported on 8 January.

 Taiwan: Taiwan health authorities are still battling an outbreak centred around a Taoyuan hospital, which claimed the first Covid-related death almost nine months on Friday. The woman in her eighties was a relative of another confirmed case. Authorities said she presented with Covid-like symptoms on Thursday and was taken to hospital. A test returned a negative result for Covid, but she passed away on Friday night. She had chronic kidney disease and other underlying health issues.

Thailand: Thailand reported 836 new Covid-19 cases, of which 832 were local infections, according to Apisamai Srirangsan, the country’s Covid-19 spokeswoman. “There will be more active case-finding efforts this week, so daily reports may still show high numbers,” she said. Thailand’s Covid-19 task force last week approved loosening restrictions across the country to allow businesses and schools to resume operations. The country is facing its biggest wave of infections since the pandemic started.

Brazil: Brazil reported 27,756 new cases, fewer than the previous day as the nation’s second-wave outbreak slows. Total cases are 9,204,731, according to data from the Health Ministry. Another 559 people died, also fewer than the day before, for a total of 224,504 fatalities. Brazil has the most deaths after the US.

Vaccine news

EU: The EU wants 70% of adults vaccinated by end of summer. AstraZeneca will increase its coronavirus vaccine deliveries to the EU by 30%, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said Sunday as the bloc sought to claw back time lost rolling out the jabs. The aim was still to vaccinate 70% of adults in the EU by the end of summer, she added.

China: Chinese police detained more than 80 suspects involved in fake Covid vaccine manufacturing and selling in a special campaign against vaccine-related crimes, Xinhua reported. Suspects have been using saline to make fake coronavirus vaccines and have been selling them to the public since September, the report said. The case was exposed by police in provinces and cities including Jiangsu, Beijing and Shandong.

UK: The NHS has said official figures are expected to confirm on Monday that it has offered a coronavirus vaccine to every older care home resident across England. In another milestone for the vaccine programme, coming after it set a new daily record of almost 600,000 people being inoculated against Covid-19 on Saturday, nurses, GPs and other NHS staff have offered the jab to people living at more than 10,000 care homes with older residents. Some 598,389 shots were administered on Saturday, bringing the total to 8.98 million. New cases continue to drop, with 21,088 reported Sunday, and another 587 people died. Figures are often lower on weekends due to reporting delays.

Pakistan: Pakistan received its first batch of Covid vaccine doses, 500,000 from China’s Sinopharm, on Monday, Health Adviser Faisal Sultan said in a statement released on Twitter. “Thank God, the first batch of Sinopharm vaccine has arrived! Grateful to China and everyone who made this happen,” he said. “I salute our frontline healthcare workers for their efforts and they’ll be first to get vaccinated.”

US: New York City broke down its Covid-19 vaccination data by ethnicity for the first time, with the mayor underscoring a “profound problem” with racial inequality. White residents made up nearly half of the people who have received at least one dose, despite consisting of only a third of the population. Latinos, 29% of the city, only accounted for 15% of those vaccinated. The lowest ratio was among Blacks – even though they make up almost a quarter of the city’s population, they only accounted for 11% of those vaccinated.

Singapore: Singapore said migrant workers will be among the priority groups for vaccinations, as their communal living and working conditions put them at higher risk of infections and formation of large clusters, Tan See Leng, second minister for manpower, said in Parliament on Monday. Tan said those in higher-risk dorm accommodations will be among those vaccinated first.

Lockdown updates

Japan: Japan is expected to extend a state of emergency this week for Tokyo and other areas as hospitals remain under pressure despite a decline in cases from their peaks, local media reported on Monday.

US: Chicago Public Schools on Sunday delayed the resumption of in-person classes for thousands of elementary and middle school students by at least a day as the district and teachers failed to reach an agreement on a Covid safety plan.

Hong Kong: As Hong Kong continues to fight its widespread outbreak, authorities have employed a new tactic in response to clusters of infection in residential housing blocks. Since last week, police have launched four ambush-style lockdowns, arriving unannounced at buildings to immediately prevent anyone leaving and to run mandatory testing.

Ghana: Ghana has reimposed a ban on social gatherings as the number of Covid-19 cases spiral in the West African nation, the president announced Sunday. Schools reopened in January after a 10-month closure, but President Nana Akufo-Addo said a return to stricter measures was needed. “Our hospitals have become full, and we have had to reactivate our isolation centres,” he said.

Israel: Israel extended a national lockdown on Sunday as Covid variants offset its vaccination drive and officials predicted a delay in a turnaround from the ongoing crisis.

Australia: About 2 million Australians begun their first full day of a strict coronavirus lockdown on Monday following the discovery of one case in the community in Perth, capital of Western Australia state, but no new cases have since been found.

Singapore: Singapore tabled a bill on Monday in parliament to formalize the use of contact tracing data in criminal investigations for serious offenses, after it was revealed that such information was used for that purpose in a murder case. The law will specify that public sector agencies can use personal contact tracing data recorded in digital contact tracing systems only for the purpose of contact tracing, except where there is a need for police officers and law enforcement officers to use the data for criminal investigations and proceedings in respect of serious offenses, according to the Smart Nation and Digital Government Office in a statement on Monday. Such offenses include murder, terrorism, kidnapping and serious sexual offenses.

Italy: Italy reported 11,252 new cases and 237 deaths Sunday, as it gets ready to ease restrictions for most of the country starting Monday. The positivity rate remained even at around 5.2%. Italy’s cases have remained stable in recent weeks, and the country has so far avoided the sharp increases suffered by some neighboring countries. Both the Milan and Rome regions will fall in the so-called “yellow zone” starting Monday, the lower tier of restrictions which allows bars and restaurants to remain open during the day.

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