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February 2, 2021

International update: Global Covid infections pass 103 million – US January death toll exceeded 95,500

By Paul Dennis

2 February

Global: The global Covid death toll has reached 2,238,624 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have passed 103 million world wide.

The team of international scientists investigating the origins of the coronavirus is focusing on early cases and is having “very good discussions around that,” World Health Organization officials said Monday. “They’re having very productive discussions with their Chinese counterparts, they’re visiting hospitals and had a good visit to the market, seeing first-hand the stalls and walking through,” said Maria van Kerkhove, the group’s technical lead officer on Covid-19.The coronavirus was first found in people who shopped or worked at a so-called wet market in the central city of Wuhan, where live animals were sold.

An Irish organized crime gang is behind a scheme to forge coronavirus test results for people traveling between countries, according to Europol. Europol has received “intelligence on the alleged use of a mobile application by the Rathkeale Rovers Mobile Organised Crime Group which allows members of the organized crime group to manually falsify test results,” the law-enforcement group said in a statement Monday.

US: Covid-19 infections have passed 26.3 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 443,355 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. The US recorded the worst monthly death toll from the pandemic in January, more than 95,500, but fatalities in February are likely to be lower, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. That’s because the seven-day average of daily confirmed cases at the end of last month dropped to about 151,000, a level last seen in November and down from a peak of nearly 282,000 in early January. Confirmed cases in January were 6.2 million, down from from 6.4 million in December.

Ten Republican senators have agreed to carry on talks with the White House in an attempt to negotiate a bi-partisan coronavirus relief package, after a two-hour meeting with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on Monday night ended short of a breakthrough.

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The Covid Tracking Project, a widely cited resource that compiles figures on coronavirus cases, testing, hospitalizations and deaths and is staffed by a small army of volunteers, said on Monday that it would stop compiling data next month. In a posting on the group’s website, co-founders Erin Kissane and Alexis Madrigal said the site would release its final daily data update on March 7, the one-year anniversary of its launch. Covid Tracking, which is supported by The Atlantic magazine, will continue to do documentation, analysis and archival work for two months before closing in May, they said.

China: China reported the fewest new coronavirus cases in a month as imported cases overtook local infections, official data showed on Tuesday, suggesting the country’s worst wave since March 2020 is being stamped out ahead of a key holiday. Thirty cases were reported in the mainland on 1 February, the National Health Commission said in a statement, down from 42 cases a day earlier and marking lowest total since 24 cases were reported on 2 January.

Italy: Italy registered the lowest daily increase in virus cases since Oct. 14 on Monday, with 7,925 new infections, down from 11,252 the day before. The country reported 329 deaths, from 237 on Sunday.

Vaccine news

Global: Bayer AG agreed to produce CureVac NV’s experimental coronavirus vaccine to help speed up the roll out of a promising shot that’s in advanced clinical tests. The move extends Bayer’s current pact with CureVac beyond simply helping with regulatory clearances and global distribution. It follows commitments from fellow European pharma giants Sanofi and Novartis AG to put their manufacturing capacities behind scaling up Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s Covid-19 injection.

US: More Americans have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine than have tested positive for the virus, an early but hopeful milestone in the race to end the pandemic. As of Monday afternoon, 26.5 million Americans had received one or both doses of the current vaccines, according to data gathered by the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. Since the first U.S. patient tested positive outside of Seattle a year ago, 26.3 million people in the country have tested positive for the disease.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found only 5.4% of coronavirus vaccine recipients were black, in its first analysis of how vaccines were given out among different demographic groups in the first month of US distribution.

New York state Governor Andrew Cuomo said a briefing he would be open to making the coronavirus vaccine available to restaurant workers but said it’s not possible with the current supply coming from the federal government. The state has administered 1.96 million vaccinations to date but only receives about 300,000 doses from the federal government each week, he said. Currently 7 million people are eligible, including health-care and essential workers, and those age 65 and over.

A massive snowstorm has shut down most of New York City and all vaccination appointments will be canceled on Monday and Tuesday.

South Africa: The first vaccine doses have arrived in South African, where president Cyril Ramaphosa hailed their arrival on Monday as a chance to “turn the tide” on a disease that has devastated the country.

Puerto Rico: Puerto Rico will quit providing vaccines to first-responders for four weeks to focus on the island’s seniors. Health Secretary Carlos Mellado Lopez said he will be signing an order Monday restricting the island’s vaccine supply to people 65 and older — save a handful of clinics that are providing vaccines to teachers. Mellado said first-responders can resume getting shots after the four-week period is over. The change doesn’t affect medical personnel, most of whom have already been vaccinated.

Malawi: Malawi has secured doses of AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine through the Covax initiative to inoculate its population, the government said. The first consignment of the vaccine is expected to arrive in the South-East African country at the end of February in readiness for the rollout in March, said President Lazarus Chakwera, who leads the nation of about 19 people.

Lockdown updates

China: Many places in China plan to suspend religious gatherings during the upcoming Spring Festival holidays to control the coronavirus outbreak, the Global Times newspaper reported on Tuesday.

EU: European Union governments agreed to tighten rules for travelers to the bloc by requiring them to get a Covid-19 test within 72 hours of departure, highlighting concerns about new virus variants. The move covers essential and non-essential travelers to the EU except “transport and frontier workers,” officials said on the condition of anonymity because the deliberations on Monday in Brussels were confidential. Diplomats also decided to open the door for member countries to impose self-isolation, quarantine and contract-tracing obligations for as many as 14 days after arrival from outside the EU, according to the officials. The deal among EU member-country envoys still needs formal approval.

UAE: Dubai imposed a new set of restrictions Monday, requiring restaurants and cafes to close by 1 am It also asked hotels to operate at 70% capacity, and indoor venues like cinemas to operate at 50%. The government also vowed tougher penalties for violators. Those measures are to remain in effect until the end of the month. The UAE has seen a rise in coronavirus cases as it accelerates its vaccination drive. It has so far administered 3.4 million doses.

Australia: Austrian retail opens for business from 8 February, albeit under strict Covid measures. Consumers need an FFP2 mask and 20 square meters space in order to shop. Schools will partially reopen two days a week for kids who test negative. Those seeking a haircut need a negative test within 48 hours before booking an appointment.

Isle of Man: The Isle of Man, a small island that sits between Great Britain and Ireland, removed all of its coronavirus restrictions on Monday, leaving it surrounded by countries under lockdown. The community of about 85,000 people will not ask for social distancing, mandate masks or restrict socializing. Schools will reopen and everyone can return to work. The island has just 15 active coronavirus cases. In a bid to retain its freedom, travel onto the island for non-residents is banned.

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