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March 22, 2021

International update: Global Covid infections pass 123 million as US nears 30 million cases

By Paul Dennis

22 March

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 2.7 million with a figure of 2,715,626 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have passed 123 million world wide. Global weekly Covid-19 deaths rose for the first time since January, with fatalities for the week ended Sunday climbing by more than 61,000. Infections increased for a fourth straight week, by more than 3 million. Brazil continues to be the global hot spot, seeing a record number of cases and deaths. Eastern Europe is seeing a resurgence, with Poland introducing some of the strictest lockdown measures in months as it struggles against a new wave. India reported more than 46,000 cases on Monday. The country is seeing infections escalate rapidly after earlier reducing cases to less than 20,000 a day.

US: Covid -19 infections are nearing 30 million at 29,818,934. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 542,359 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. The US added almost 55,000 cases on Saturday, ending a week in which the highest daily number of infections exceeded 60,000 for the first time since early March. However, fatalities in the country were the lowest since November.

Former FDA chief Scott Gottlieb remains focused on the virus variants swirling around New York City. Even as cases overall decline, “you’re seeing a lot of infection surging in pockets,” including parts of Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island, he said Sunday on CBS. “What we don’t understand with B.1.526,” a variant that began to show in New York City samples in November, “is whether or not people are being reinfected with it, and whether or not people who might have been vaccinated are now getting infected with it.”

UK: There have been a further 5,312 lab-confirmed coronavirus cases in the UK, according to government data, and 33 deaths – the lowest fatality count since early October. Public Health England’s head of immunisation has said “lower-level” restrictions such as social distancing rules and face masks may be required for “a few years”.

The UK government is developing new testing technology that would identify whether positive Covid-19 test samples contain variants of concern, and provide more rapid results. The “genotype assay test” would halve the time it takes to identify the variants and could be used in addition to standard testing to find cases more quickly, the UK government’s health ministry said in a statement.

France: France, where about a third of the population has been subjected to a lockdown since Saturday, reported 30,581 new daily cases and 138 deaths on Sunday evening. That brings the total to 92,305 deaths in the country, as hospitalizations and critical cases keep rising.

Turkey: Turkey has reported a further 20,428 cases, taking the number of infections registered since the pandemic began beyond 3 million.

Philippines: A surge of new coronavirus cases in the Philippines has pushed the nation’s seven-day moving average for infections to the highest in Southeast Asia, surpassing Indonesia for the first time since September. Although Indonesia still has the most cases in the region, it has seen a steady decline in the pace of new infections since early February, while the Philippines has experienced a marked increase. As a result, Manila and nearby areas have been placed under tighter movement curbs for two weeks, reversing the re-opening of businesses that had begun after last year’s record economic slump.

Ireland: Ireland reported the most new cases in nearly a month, threatening government plans to ease restrictions. There were 769 newly confirmed cases with two deaths, the health ministry said. Ireland has been effectively locked down since Christmas, and the government had planned to ease limits on travel and construction early next month. Cases have started to increase in recent days despite the current restrictions, while hospitalizations are increasing again too.

Vaccine news

EU: European Union officials will probably block future exports of AstraZeneca Plc’s Covid-19 vaccine to the UK according to an EU official, deepening a post-Brexit conflict that has festered as Europe seeks to get its vaccination drive on track. Any AstraZeneca vaccines and components produced in the EU are set to be reserved for local use and the EU isn’t responsible for helping the company meet commitments to Britain, said the official, who asked not to be named discussing internal EU deliberations. UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace earlier Sunday called on the European Commission to honor Covid-19 vaccine contracts.

Australia: Australia’s vaccine rollout is being hampered by torrential rain and flooding with thousands of residents in parts of Sydney and along the New South Wales coast evacuated as rivers overflow. The severe wet weather is expected to intensify into the middle of the week and comes as the government moves into the next phase of its vaccine program amid criticism for poor organization and a slower-than-expected start to the rollout. General practitioners are due to begin inoculating patients from Monday, with about 6 million Australians eligible.

Cuba: Cuba will vaccinate 150,000 key workers with its Covid-19 vaccine candidate as part of the final stage of its clinical trial, authorities have said as cases rise.

Palestinian Authority: The Palestinian Authority is stepping up is vaccination drive after about 60,000 doses of Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca doses arrived in the Israeli-occupied West Bank via the Covax scheme.

South Africa: South Africa has sold 1m AstraZeneca vaccine doses to the African Union, the health ministry announced on Sunday in a statement reported by AFP, after it suspended its rollout of the jab.

Niger: China has sent Niger 400,000 doses of its Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine, the country’s health ministry said on Sunday.

Brazil: Brazil will no longer require local authorities to keep half their Covid-19 vaccine stockpiles for second doses as it seeks to hasten its lagging vaccination campaign amid a deadly surge.

 

Lockdown updates

US: Miami Beach extended a curfew aimed at controlling large spring-break crowds to 12 April, the Miami Herald reported. After imposing the 8 pm curfew on Saturday, the Florida city’s police dispersed revelers with pepper spray balls and SWAT teams. The curfew and ban on traffic on central roads was announced only a few hours before going into effect, after city officials said a larger-than-usual number of people flocked to the city as one of the few places open during Covid-19 restrictions. The curfew was initially imposed for 72 hours. The city’s police say they have made more than 1,000 arrests related to spring break since February.

Massachusetts will reopen further on Monday, as the outbreak there continues to recede. Indoor and outdoor stadiums, including Fenway Park, can open at 12% capacity, and the numbers allowed at public and private gatherings will increase. The quarantine for high-risk states will end, replaced with an advisory. Overnight summer camps are now permitted.

Germany: Chancellor Angela Merkel proposed keeping German lockdown restrictions in force for another four weeks after Covid-19 cases rose beyond a level that may prompt government action to avoid health-care overload. The plan would extend existing curbs through 18 April, according to a chancellery draft seen by Bloomberg. Merkel and regional government leaders will discuss the proposals on Monday during talks on how to proceed with the lockdown amid an upward curve of infections in Europe’s biggest economy.

Greece: Greece has ended its ban on flights from Turkey, Albania and North Macedonia, the civil aviation authority announced on Sunday in a statement reported by Reuters.

Malaysia/Singapore: Malaysia and Singapore are set to explore reciprocal vaccination certification as part of the post Covid-19 collaboration between the Southeast Asian neighbors. The arrangement will be discussed when Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan visits Malaysia for a two-day visit starting 23March, Malaysia’s foreign affairs minister said in a statement on Monday.

New Zealand/Australia: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said a date for the commencement of a quarantine-free travel corridor between New Zealand and Australia will be announced on 6 April. The so-called travel bubble is “highly complex” and several conditions must be met before any final decision is made by the cabinet, Ardern said.

Hong Kong: HSBC Holdings Plc will reopen its main Hong Kong office on Monday, after being closed last week in the wake of three people testing positive for Covid-19. The outbreak came as a wave of infections hit the city’s business and expatriate community. In a memo, HSBC is advising that only critical staff should come into any of its premises, with staff required to maintain a distance of at least 1.5 meters apart and wear masks at all times.

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