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International update: Oxygen supply crisis as India Covid cases surge

22 Apr 2021 (Last Updated April 22nd, 2021 11:35)

22 April

Global: The global Covid death toll continues to rise past the grim tally of 3 million with a figure of 3,056,040 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 143.5 million world wide.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 31.8 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 569,401 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

India: The situation in India continues to deteriorate, with 15.93 million confirmed cases as of Thursday morning. The 314,835 new cases Thursday were more than the previous one-day gain of 314,312 cases, reported by the US in December. The official death toll rose to 184,657.

The unfolding disaster is such that New Delhi’s largest hospital chain had to ask a court for assistance after 1,400 Covid-19 patients were put at risk due to “dangerously low” levels of Oxygen.

At least 22 patients have died in a hospital in India’s western Maharashtra state after their oxygen supply ran out due to a leaking tank, a government official said on Wednesday.

Turkey: Turkey has recorded 362 coronavirus deaths the last 24 hours – its largest daily rise since the beginning of the pandemic.

UK: The UK has reported a further 2,396 new Covid-19 cases as well as 22 deaths, according to government data.

Officials are deploying surge-testing in an area of Birmingham after a case of the coronavirus variant first detected in South Africa was discovered.

Japan: Japan’s health ministry has decided to approve the use of rheumatoid arthritis treatment Baricitinib in treating Covid-19 patients, broadcaster NHK reported. The drug is from Eli Lilly & Co. and Incyte Corp.

Vaccine news

US: The Biden administration is weighing an appeal from progressive Democrats to accelerate global access to Covid-19 vaccines by supporting a waiver of intellectual-property protections, a move opposed by big drugmakers. Lawmakers led by senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren last week called on President Joe Biden to back a proposal before the World Trade Organization that seeks a broad waiver from obligations on the protection of IP rights, including patents, copyrights and trade secrets. The lawmakers and allies including labor unions argue that the plan – backed by South Africa, India, and more than 50 other countries – would save lives. The Trump administration blocked the proposal, first put forward in October.

US President Joe Biden is calling on employers to use a tax credit to provide paid time off to workers to get vaccinated and for businesses to do more to boost the inoculation effort as US vaccine supply begins to meet demand. Biden will announce that the US will achieve its goal on Thursday of giving 200 million vaccine shots in his first 100 days in office, while pivoting to a new phase of the campaign by urging businesses to make vaccination as accessible as possible.

Production at an Emergent BioSolutions Inc. facility in Baltimore will remain on hold, US regulators said, following an inspection that found problems. It’s a contract manufacturer that is expected to produce the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine. In an inspection report on its website, the US Food and Drug Administration said Emergent failed to thoroughly investigate unexplained discrepancies, including the cross-contamination of a vaccine substance batch with ingredients from another client.

Greece: Greece will begin administering Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine on 5 May, health authorities said on Wednesday, a day after Europe’s drug regulator backed its use.

Finland: Finland decided to keep the lower age limit for administering AstraZeneca vaccines at 65, the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare said in a statement on Wednesday. For second doses, people over the age of 65 can be administered the Astra vaccine, but for the under 65s the second dose will always be a mRNA vaccine, the authorities said.

China: China’s Sinopharm said it hasn’t found any severe side effects from administering nearly 520,000 doses of its inactivated Covid-19 vaccines, according to a study published in the Chinese Journal of Epidemiology. The side effects it has found include pain at the injection site, fever, fatigue, skin rashes, a lack of appetite and diarrhea. They occur within a week of the vaccination and usually fade in three-to-four days, the study said. But side effects appear to be twice as common among women than men, with an incidence of 1.58% for females and 0.72% for males.

France: France should start using the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine next week, the government spokesman has said following the European drugs regulator’s statement on the jab on Tuesday.

France will give 100,000 vaccine doses to poorer countries in April via the Covax multilateral program, an official in President Emmanuel Macron’s office said. France will be the first country to give doses – as opposed to funds – to Covax, according to the Elysee official, who asked not to be identified in line with government rules.

The country aims to deliver 500,000 doses to Covax by mid-June, starting with AstraZeneca vaccines this month. While the French vaccination campaign is picking up, there’s reluctance in the country to get the Astra shot.

India: Covaxin, India’s domestically developed Covid-19 vaccine, has been found to be 78% effective in a second analysis of clinical trials done around the country, its manufacturer Bharat Biotech said on Wednesday.

Syria: North-western Syria has received its first batch of Covid-19 vaccines, AFP’s correspondent reports, with the doses arriving in Idlib on Wednesday.

Lockdown updates

Sweden: Sweden’s government has warned that coronavirus measures may be strengthened if people ignore existing restrictions as intensive care units in some regions hit capacity.

Germany: Germany’s lower house of parliament backed Chancellor Angela Merkel’s controversial lockdown law, as officials struggle to check a fresh wave of coronavirus infections that’s putting intense pressure on hospitals. Merkel’s ruling coalition pushed the legislation through after her government failed to find common ground with regional leaders on measures needed to fight the pandemic. The law – which expires at the end of June – triggers tighter restrictions in virus hot spots, including nighttime curfews and closing schools and non-essential stores.

Switzerland: Switzerland will pursue a three-tiered reopening strategy, contingent on the epidemiological situation and the proportion of the public vaccinated. Social-distancing restrictions are unlikely to be eased further before late May, the government said. The second stage will begin once the general public has been vaccinated, which is likely to be in July and will allow in-person teaching to resume at universities, a relaxation of capacity limits at sporting facilities and potentially the re-opening of indoor dining at restaurants. In a final phase, remaining restrictions will be unwound. If Covid-19 infections surge again, the government can backtrack on any of the steps.

Greece: Prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has said Greece will reopen for tourism from 15 May as infections begin to level off in the Mediterranean country due to vaccinations.

Hong Kong: Singapore and Hong Kong called off an announcement planned for Thursday on an air travel bubble between Asia’s two major financial hubs, according to people familiar with the matter. That’s the second time in five months the highly anticipated arrangement appears to have run into obstacles.

Japan: Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike today said she has asked Japan’s government to declare a state of emergency in the capital due to a surge in coronavirus cases. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga yesterday said he has already received requests for a state of emergency from Osaka and neighboring Hyogo prefecture, and that he aims to make a decision as early as this week. While Suga had pledged to try to avoid another state of emergency, surveys show public support for the measure. But tighter curbs could delay the economy’s recovery and further test the resolve of policy makers and Olympic organizers to press ahead with the Summer Games, set to start in July after a one-year delay.

Economy updates

US: New York will embark on a $30 million tourism marketing campaign in an effort to recharge a moribund industry that at one time employed 400,000 and injected $70 billion into the city economy. The funds, which come from federal stimulus programs, will be the largest marketing campaign the city has undertaken, said Fred Dixon, chief executive officer of NYC & Company, the city’s tourism and convention marketing agency.