International update: Global Covid infections pass 120 million amid AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine concerns
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International update: Global Covid infections pass 120 million amid AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine concerns

16 Mar 2021

16 March

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 2.6 million with a figure of 2,662,067 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have passed 120 million world wide. The world has seen an 11% jump in transmission in the past week, according to Maria van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s technical lead officer on Covid-19. Five out of six WHO regions have reported increases.

US: Covid -19 infections are nearing 29.5 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 535,628 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Coronavirus cases in the US rose 1.25% in the week ended Sunday, the slowest increase since the pandemic began. It was the second straight week in which the rate of new infections hit a record low. The US recorded 362,743 new infections last week, down from 417,173 in the period ended 7 March, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. The slowdown comes as the US vaccination effort ramps up. Last week, an average of 2.39 million doses a day were administered, according to Bloomberg’s Vaccine Tracker. So far, 69.8 million Americans have received at least one dose of a vaccine, or roughly a quarter of the adult population.

Brazil: Brazil registered 1,015 new coronavirus deaths, the health ministry said, bringing the total to 279,286 since the pandemic began. Confirmed cases rose by 36,239 to 11,519,609. The country has also signed a deal with Pfizer to purchase 100m doses of its Covid-19 vaccine, a source told Reuters.

President Jair Bolsonaro replaced General Eduardo Pazuello at the helm of the health ministry as daily records of infections and deaths add pressure on Brazil to get the coronavirus pandemic under control. Cardiologist Marcelo Queiroga will be the fourth person in charge of the health ministry since the coronavirus arrived in the country a little over a year ago. Two of his predecessors left after disagreements with Bolsonaro over social distancing and unproven treatments against Covid-19.

Turkey: Turkey recorded 15,503 new Covid-19 cases in the space of 24 hours, the highest daily rise this year, health ministry data indicated.

Japan: Japan is considering testing 40% of all positive coronavirus samples for variants, up from the 10% being checked now, FNN reported, without attribution. It’s also looking at increasing random screening nationwide to 10,000 people a day to get a better picture of overall infections.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong required all staff from the US consulate in the city to undergo Covid-19 testing after two workers there tested preliminary positive and were admitted to the hospital for isolation and treatment.

AstraZeneca/Oxford Vaccine update

The WHO has said countries should keep using the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine and has scheduled a meeting of its experts on Tuesday to discuss the vaccine’s safety.

The European Medicines Agency echoed the WHO’s calls for calm and said it was better to get the Oxford vaccine than not.

Limiting the use of the AstraZeneca shot as a precautionary measure could push back EU countries’ efforts to immunize three-quarters of their populations to September instead of August, according to London-based research firm Airfinity Ltd.

A number of countries have paused the vaccine, including Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Slovenia, Cyprus pending an assessment by the EU’s medicine regulator. Spain said it will stop using the AZ vaccine for at least two weeks.

Norway: One of three people hospitalized in Norway on Saturday with blood clots, bleeding and low platelet counts after receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine has died, the Norwegian Medicines Agency said. The other two are in a stable condition. An investigation to establish whether there is a connection with the vaccine is underway and to uncover if there are similarities between the three cases. All three were healthy before they were vaccinated and worked in the health care industry.

Australia: Australia has no plans to halt the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said.

Canada: Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization is expected to change its position and recommend the AstraZeneca vaccine for people over the age of 65, CTV reported, citing an unidentified senior government source.

Japan: Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he received the first shot of a Covid-19 vaccine ahead of his planned visit to the US in the first half of April. In comments to reporters in Tokyo aired live by broadcaster NHK, Suga said the vaccination went “smoothly” and “didn’t hurt.” He said Japan will gather and study information before making a decision on whether to approve AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

Thailand: has started its rollout of AstraZeneca vaccines, with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha among the first in the country to receive the British-Swedish shot, a live broadcast from the Government House showed. The country had delayed the program on March 12 following reports of blood clots in Europe.

Mexico: has asked the US to share doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine it has in stock, Reuters reported, citing sources. The AstraZeneca vaccine is a good candidate for sharing as it’s not approved in the US and Mexico has started using it, the report cited Mexico Deputy Foreign Minister Martha Delgado as saying. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador asked US counterpart Joe Biden for a vaccine “loan” during a virtual meeting. Delays in Mexico mean the first dose won’t ship until early May, rather than March as originally planned.

Vaccine news

Global: New Covid-19 vaccines, including ones that don’t require needles and can be stored at room temperature, may be ready for use later this year or next year, the World Health Organization’s top scientist said. Six-to-eight new immunizations may complete clinical studies and undergo regulatory review by the end of the year, Soumya Swaminathan, the Geneva-based agency’s chief scientist, said in an interview Saturday.

China: The Chinese capital Beijing is offering Covid vaccine shots to people aged 60 and above who are in good heath, Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control said in a statement.

China plans to donate 300,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses to United Nations peacekeepers, with priority given to peacekeeping missions in Africa, the Chinese mission to the UN said in a statement.

US: Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont said he is accelerating the state’s age-based rollout of the Covid vaccine, with plans for anyone over age 16 to become eligible by 5 April. The next step will be on 19 March, when the age cutoff will drop to 45 from the current 55, he said in a statement.

Lockdown updates

Australia: Direct flights from Australia to the Ok Tedi copper and gold mine in Papua New Guinea have been suspended indefinitely as a wave of coronavirus infections rocks the Pacific region’s most populous nation. Ok Tedi Mining Ltd., which initially suspended charter flights for its fly in-fly out expatriate workers for two weeks, has announced the tougher action after talking with health authorities in Australia’s Queensland state. Six workers from the mine have been treated in Queensland’s Cairns Hospital after contracting Covid-19.

Hong Kong: The government is exploring arrangements facilitating the direct return of its residents in the UK without compromising public health of the local community, according to an official statement issued late Monday.