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February 24, 2021

International update: One shot vaccine on the way as global Covid infections pass 112 million

By Paul Dennis

24 February

Global: The global Covid death toll has reached 2,485,434 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have passed 112 million world wide.

Chinese officials did “little” in terms of epidemiological investigations into the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic in Wuhan in the first eight months after the outbreak, according to an internal World Health Organization document.

US: Covid-19 infections have passed 28.2 million. Meanwhile, 502,660 lives have been lost.

The US is now analyzing about 14,000 coronavirus cases each week with genetic sequencing to detect faster-spreading variants, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said. That’s up from 250 sequences per week when Walensky took office last month.

France: French investigators probe manslaughter allegations against Italy’s Costa Cruises over its handling of Covid-19 cases onboard one of its ships, which claimed the lives of three passengers.

Serbia: Daily infections spiked to the highest in two months in Serbia, despite one of the fastest vaccinations in Europe. The biggest former Yugoslav republic reported 3,257 new Covid-10 cases on Tuesday, a spike the authorities warned would happen after tens of thousands used a long February weekend to go skiing and ditched face masks too soon.

Nigeria: One in four people in Africa’s biggest city may have had Covid-19. A survey showed that 23% of people in the West African nation’s commercial hub of Lagos, which has a population of 21 million people, have been infected. That’s far above the official estimate of 152,616 cases in the whole of Nigeria.

Vaccine news

US: Johnson & Johnson said it will be ready next month to ship 20 million doses of its one-shot vaccine. That adds to a coming surge in vaccine availability in the US, according to a Bloomberg analysis of drugmaker promises. Along with vaccines from Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc., which both require two doses, the delivery targets through next month will be enough to fully vaccinate 130 million Americans.

A US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention committee scheduled a meeting for Sunday and Monday regarding J&J’s application for emergency use of its vaccine candidate. An authorization could swiftly follow the meeting.

EU: A person familiar with the matter confirmed a report by Reuters that AstraZeneca is expected to deliver about half the Covid-19 vaccines it had committed to supply the European Union in the second quarter. According to Reuters, the company told EU officials it would deliver fewer than 90 million doses, compared with a commitment of 180 million. The shortfall would not impact the EU’s target of vaccinating 70% of the adult population by the end of the summer, the person said.

Israel: Israel announced it would send a “token amount” of surplus coronavirus jobs to several countries, in the latest move to suggest limited global supplies will lead to a new form of diplomatic currency.

South Africa: South Africa has held extensive talks with the manufacturers of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine and has concerns about its efficacy against a variant of the coronavirus first identified in the country. The country is also concerned about the adenovirus 5 vector used in the shot, which has in previous studies appeared to make people more susceptible to HIV infection, Anban Pillay, deputy director-general in the Department of Health, said on Tuesday. The country’s health authorities don’t think that the vaccine produced by Novavax Inc. is suitable for the country because of its low efficacy against the variant, he said. Talks have been held with India’s Bharat Biotech International Ltd., he said.

South African President Cyril Rampahosa backed a call by French President Emmanuel Macron and European Union Commission President Ursula von der Leyen for wealthy countries to donate 5% of their vaccines to poorer nations. “We need to pool our resources, capabilities, knowledge and intellectual property” to ensure equitable access to vaccines and medical supplies across the globe, Ramaphosa said. South Africa and India have urged the World Trade Organization to suspend intellectual-property rights related to Covid-19 to ensure access to vaccines and medication for all.

India: India began its vaccination drive last month, but with only 11 million people inoculated so far, is lagging behind a target to inject 300 million people by August.

Hong Kong: The Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE vaccine procured by the Hong Kong government will arrive in the city as soon as Thursday, HK01 reported, citing unidentified sources.

Lockdown updates

Scotland: Scotland is to look to begin a “substantial” easing of coronavirus restrictions from 26 April, first minister Nicola Sturgeon said.

Ireland: Ireland is to start reopening some schools next week but is extending other lockdown restrictions until April to prevent another explosion in Covid-19 cases.

Netherlands: The Netherlands is expected to announce a slight easing of restrictions, allowing schools and hairdressers to reopen.

Spain: Spain extended its ban on arrivals from Britain, Brazil and South Africa until 16 March to safeguard against the spread of new coronavirus strains from these countries.

Iceland: Starting on Wednesday, the gathering limit in Iceland will be 50 people instead of 20, and up to 200 will be allowed to attend sporting events, stage performances and museums as long as social distancing is observed, the country’s health minister said. Iceland has had no domestic infections outside of quarantine since the beginning of the month.

Italy: Italy plans to impose a hard lockdown in the northern province of Brescia and other municipalities of the Lombardy region following a surge of infections related to variants of Covid-19. The area is close to the original epicenter of the pandemic in Italy.

Germany: People traveling to Germany from the Czech Republic and the Austrian province of Tyrol face border controls until at least 3 March after restrictions were extended by eight days, news agency DPA reported, citing a spokesman for the interior ministry. The measures have been in place since 14 February to stem the spread of aggressive variants. The new end date coincides with a scheduled meeting between Chancellor Angela Merkel and state premiers to discuss next steps.

UK: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he’s “very optimistic” that England’s restrictions on social contact will end on 21 June but there is no guarantee, according to a pooled interview on Sky TV. The vaccine rollout has “made all the difference,” he said.

Economy updates

UK: Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak is set to spend billions of pounds in extra support for the economy over the next four months, as pandemic curbs pushed unemployment to its highest level in almost five years.

Meanwhile, UK holidaymakers have begun showering airlines with summer bookings after Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined a road map for air travel to return. EasyJet Plc ticket sales more than quadrupled in the hours after Johnson said that international trips may restart as soon as 17 May. Tour operator TUI AG said holiday bookings to Spain, Turkey and Greece jumped sixfold overnight, while Ryanair Holdings Plc cited Italy as another popular destination.

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