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February 22, 2021

International update: US nears half a million Covid deaths – Global infections pass 111 million

By Paul Dennis

22 February

Global: The global Covid death toll has reached 2,466,444 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have passed 111.3 million world wide.

US: Covid-19 infections have passed 28 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 498,897 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

US infectious diseases official Anthony Fauci said on Sunday that it is possible Americans will still be wearing masks in 2022, but that measures to stop the spread of Covid-19 would be increasingly relaxed as more vaccines are administered.

Italy: Coronavirus cases are rising again in Italy, a top virologist has warned in a newspaper interview, largely attributing the surge to the more transmissible variant first detected in the UK.

UK: Daily fatalities in the UK were the lowest since December and less than half of the average of the previous seven days. Another 215 people died, compared to a weekly average of almost 500. Reporting delays usually result in lower figures on weekends. The UK reported 9,835 new cases on Sunday.

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South Korea: South Korea reported 332 new coronavirus cases over the last 24 hours, the smallest increase in eight days.

Vaccine news

Global: Pfizer-BioNTech shot stops Covid’s spread. The vaccine, which was rolled out in a national immunization program in Israel that began 20 December, was 89.4% effective at preventing laboratory-confirmed infections, according to a copy of a draft publication that was posted on Twitter and confirmed by a person familiar with the work. The early results on lab-confirmed infections are important because they show the vaccine may also prevent asymptomatic carriers from spreading the virus that causes Covid-19, something that hadn’t been clear so far.

US: The top US infectious diseases specialist, Anthony Fauci said the backlog of vaccinations from last week’s severe weather should be mopped up by midweek. Fauci spoke as the US stands on the verge of a milestone few imagined when the first coronavirus cases were diagnosed a year ago: 500,000 deaths. “It’s something that is stunning when you look at the numbers, almost unbelievable,” Fauci said. “People will be talking about this decades and decades and decades from now.” While 88 days passed from the first death, on Feb. 29, 2020, to 100,000, it will take just over a month for the toll to rise from 400,000 to half a million.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said vaccines that were delayed due to weather conditions have been shipped to Los Angeles. The city’s six vaccination sites will resume operations on Tuesday after appointments were postponed since Friday. The county reported 1,465 new cases Sunday, bringing the total to 1.18 million – or more than one in nine people. Deaths rose by 93 to 19,885.

South Korea: The country on Friday is scheduled to begin using AstraZeneca Plc’s vaccine to inoculate about 272,000 patients and workers at nursing homes and related facilities who are younger than 65. Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine will be used to inoculate medical workers beginning Saturday.

UK: People living with HIV in England will no longer have to disclose their status in order to be prioritised for the Covid-19 vaccine, according to a report in inews.co.uk.

Palestine: Gaza received 20,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine from the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, a move secured by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas’s rival, Mohammad Dahlan, who is based in the Gulf state.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam and other top officials will receive Covid-19 vaccines on Monday, as the Asian financial hub prepares to begin its delayed rollout of inoculations. While a statement announcing the vaccinations didn’t specify which shot would be administered, Lam previously said she would receive the Chinese vaccination produced by Sinovac Biotech Ltd. Hong Kong will start its vaccination drive on Friday.

Philippines: The Philippines approved Sinovac Biotech Ltd.’s coronavirus vaccines for emergency use, ahead of the expected delivery of 600,000 doses. The Chinese developer’s shots are effective to prevent Covid-19, Food and Drug Administration head Eric Domingo said. Sinovac isn’t recommended for health workers exposed to the virus due to its 50.4% efficacy for this group, he said Vaccines from Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE and AstraZeneca Plc have already been approved for limited use, with health workers as priority.

Lockdown updates

UK: Prime Minister Boris Johnson will announce that all schools in England will reopen from 8 March, as he outlines how the national coronavirus lockdown will be lifted over the coming months. Alongside the reopening of schools, people will be allowed to meet one-on-one to sit down for a coffee or picnic outdoors, and after-school activities outside can restart from the same date, according to a person familiar with the plans. In a statement to Parliament on Monday, Johnson is also expected to allow more social contact from 29 March when outdoor gatherings of either six people or two households can take place, and outdoor sports such as tennis and football can resume.

Nottinghamshire police have issued a £10,000 fine to the organiser of a church gathering in a pub car park. Officers said about 30 people in Nottingham attended the Church on the Streets service on Saturday afternoon in breach of lockdown rules.

US: The Biden administration continues to call for K-8 public schools to reopen for in-person learning by the end of April, and said the provision of additional funds will be key. White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Sunday drew a direct line from the timetable for classrooms to be back in action to the $1.9 trillion Biden-backed stimulus plan now moving through Congress almost entirely with Democratic support.

Germany: Germany needs to further slow the spread of the coronavirus before the government can consider additional steps to loosen restrictions on Europe’s largest economy. “Once we have firm footing, we can take another step” after reopening schools and daycares, Health Minister Jens Spahn said in an interview with ARD television. Germany’s contagion rate rose to the highest level in more than a week on Sunday, the latest evidence that a steady decline since a peak before Christmas has ground to a halt.

France: Lorry drivers returning to France from the UK will not now need to have a coronavirus test if they have spent less than 48 hours in the country, UK transport secretary Grant Shapps said on Sunday.

Israel: Israel allowed a number of businesses to reopen their doors to customers on Sunday – with some venues only available to those who have received two Covid-19 vaccine doses.

Netherlands: Police have forcibly cleared demonstrators protesting against lockdown in Amsterdam’s Museum Square.

India: India’s western Maharashtra state, home to the country’s financial hub Mumbai, is imposing new coronavirus restrictions in four districts, amid concerns about a second wave and slow vaccine rollout.

New Zealand: Auckland will step down to Alert Level 1 from midnight Monday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters. The change from Level 2 means there will be no limit on the size of gatherings at public events or hospitality outlets.

Thailand: Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha will consider easing restrictions on alcohol sales and consumption at restaurants and also allow the re-opening of entertainment venues at a Covid-19 panel meeting later Monday, he said in a Facebook post.

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