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March 29, 2021

International update: Global Covid infections pass 127 million as EU threatens to block AstraZeneca exports again

By Paul Dennis

29 March

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 2.78 million with a figure of 2,784,377 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have passed 127 million world wide.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 30 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 549,335 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Top Biden administration officials expressed concern about the way a pivotal report examining the origins of the Covid pandemic was crafted, including the possibility that the Chinese government had a hand in writing it. The Geneva-based World Health Organization has said the findings from its mission to Wuhan, China, in early 2021 will be ready in a few days.

Brazil: Brazil has recorded 44,326 new coronavirus cases and 1,656 further deaths, Reuters reports. The total number of cases has surpassed 12.53m while the number of fatalities is over 312,000.

UK: The UK reported a further 3,862 Covid-19 cases and 19 more deaths within 28 days of a positive coronavirus test, according to official data.

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France: The number of Covid-19 patients in France’s intensive care units has risen to a new high for this year, health ministry data showed on Sunday, as doctors warned a third wave of infections could soon overwhelm hospitals. There were 4,872 ICU patients being treated for Covid-19, close to a November peak during France’s second wave of the virus. The number of new infections fell, however, by around 5,600 to 37,014.

Chile: Chile’s government will ask congress to postpone April’s highly anticipated elections as policy makers struggle to halt the country’s most severe virus wave yet. “The entire world is witnessing a new outbreak of coronavirus, and new and more contagious variants have appeared,” President Sebastian Pinera said in a televised speech.

Vaccine news

Global: Sinovac has started developing updated versions of its inactivated vaccine against the South African and Brazilian strains of coronavirus, company general manager Gao Qiang said at a briefing in Beijing on Sunday. Work has begun on a vaccine against the South African strain, while the company is waiting for the Brazilian strain to arrive. Only a small-scale clinical trial is needed to confirm the new vaccines’ ability to elicit an immune response in humans before mass manufacturing, according to Gao.

US: President Joe Biden said most US states are meeting his goal of opening up vaccinations to all adults by 1 May, while pointing out four that haven’t: New York, South Carolina, Arkansas and Wyoming. Asked why cases have crept up again in the US, Biden told reporters on Sunday that “apparently people are letting their guard down.” He said he’ll meet with his pandemic response team on Monday and “get a better sense.”

EU: The EU will block AstraZeneca exports if the company fails to deliver the doses bought by the region on time, according to Thierry Breton, the EU commissioner in charge of fixing the bloc’s vaccination drive.

AstraZeneca has met about 30% of its commitment to deliver 70 million doses to the EU in the second quarter, Breton said on RTL radio Sunday. “As long as AstraZeneca doesn’t make good on its obligations, everything that’s produced on European soil is distributed to Europeans,” he said.

The head of the EU’s vaccine taskforce said he hoped Europe would have a summer tourist season “comparable to last year”, supported by the bloc’s vaccine rollout. A new poll shows that 68% of Britons have not booked any summer holiday this year.

Kosovo: Kosovo received its first shipment of Covid-19 jabs on Sunday through the UN-backed Covax scheme to help poorer nations.

UK: More than 30 million people in the UK have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine. A total of 30,151,287 people between 8 December and 27 March received their first jabs – around 57% of all UK adults, the country’s Department of Health and Social Care announced.

France: President Emmanuel Macron said France’s vaccination rollout will have caught up with the UK’s “in a few weeks” amid tensions over vaccine supplies.

Sweden: Sweden will not meet its target of fully vaccinating all adults by 30 June, the country’s vaccine coordinator said, citing delays in deliveries. He said it may take “a couple of weeks into July” before the goal is reached.

South Africa: South Africa plans to vaccinate to up to 200,000 people daily from mid-May, according to a report in the South African Sunday Times newspaper. So far, only 231,605 people have been vaccinated.

Venezuela: Venezuela will pay for Covid-19 vaccines with oil shipments as an alternative if government funds frozen in banks abroad are not available, President Nicolas Maduro said on state TV. Venezuela is working on two scenarios to pay for the United Nations’ Covax system, which is lobbying for the unfreezing of government foreign accounts via legal and diplomatic claims and the payments with oil.

Lockdown updates

India: Authorities imposed a nighttime curfew on India’s western state of Maharashtra after the state capital, Mumbai, reported a record daily rise in cases. The state-wide curfew, which is between 8pm and 7am, begins on Sunday and will be in force until 15 April.

Pakistan: Pakistan will allow some businesses and factories to operate in the third wave of the pandemic, Prime Minister Imran Khan, who has tested positive for the virus, said in a televised speech. Among steps in the latest lockdown, Pakistan has closed schools and shut shops and restaurants on the weekend in cities with positivity rate higher than 8%. It is also banning large gatherings and weddings receptions. Khan said he got the virus during the campaigning for indirect elections for Senate. He has made a steady clinical recovery and may resume his routine work over the next few days, the nation’s health chief Faisal Sultan said in a Twitter post.

Philippines: The Philippines’ key economic area plunged back into another lockdown for a week starting Monday as the Southeast Asian nation faces its worst coronavirus surge and a slow vaccine rollout. Metro Manila and the adjacent provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal were placed under enhanced community quarantine or ECQ, the nation’s strictest classification of movement curbs, from March 29 to April 4. A curfew from 6pm to 5am will be imposed during the lockdown.

Malta: Malta tightened its coronavirus restrictions on public gatherings on Sunday as it sought to avert a surge in infections over Easter. The limit on the number of people from different households who can meet outdoors has been reduced from four to two.

UK: The UK’s culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, refused to guarantee that there would be no further lockdowns, saying, “You can’t rule things out.” Appearing on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show before the minister, Prof Mark Woolhouse said that another lockdown should be regarded as “a failure of public health policy”, underlining that government has the knowledge to avoid that route.

Meanwhile, Britons are being urged to follow the rules or risk a resurgence of the coronavirus as England takes a much-anticipated step toward exiting restrictions that have pummeled the economy and curtailed civil liberties. Starting Monday, six people, or two households, can gather outdoors and outdoor sports facilities such as tennis and basketball courts will be allowed to reopen. It’s the second in a series of steps the government hopes will see all lockdown curbs removed by 21 June.

Australia: Brisbane, Australia’s third most-populous city, will enter a three-day lockdown from 5 pm local time Monday due to an outbreak of the UK strain of the coronavirus. Residents will only be able to leave their homes for food, exercise, essential work and medical reasons, Queensland state Premier Annastacia Palaszczuktold reporters. Mask wearing in public will becom compulsory for people in the rest of the state and home gatherings limited to 30 people, the premier said, after announcing four new cases of community transmission.

Brazil: Protesters took to the streets of Rio de Janeiro on Sunday in response to restrictions curbing crowds on beaches, restaurants and bars, even as daily deaths and new infections reach the highest point of the nation’s outbreak. Dozens of demonstrators waving Brazilians flags and chanting, “we want to work,” marched down the main drag along the iconic Copacabana Beach, capping a week in which Brazil passed the milestone of 300,000 registered coronavirus deaths.

Germany: German Chancellor Angela Merkel threatened to assert federal control over measures to stem the Covid-19 pandemic, picking a legal fight that reflects the gravity of the latest surge in infections. In an extraordinary turn of events, Merkel said she may use federal law to regain the initiative after rescinding a wide-ranging lockdown for the Easter holidays amid a storm of criticism. She expressed exasperation with what she described as broken commitments by the leaders of Germany’s 16 states.

Italy: Italy reported 19,611 new cases and 297 deaths on Sunday, reflecting a 7.2% positive test rate. New cases in the country remain stable as some regions, including the one around Rome, are set to slightly ease restrictions starting Tuesday. Deputy health minister Pierpaolo Sileri said the slower rate of increase in new infections shows that tight restrictions introduced by Mario Draghi’s government are showing the first results.

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