International update: WHO warns against ‘virus rebound’ as global Covid infections rise – New variant detected in US

2 March 2021 (Last Updated March 2nd, 2021 10:05)

2 March

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 2.53 million with a figure of 2,539,880 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have passed 114.4 million world wide.

The number of new coronavirus infections globally rose last week for the first time in seven weeks, the World Health Organization said on Monday. Part of the reason is that countries are easing restrictions, people are letting their guard down and variants are spreading, WHO officials said at a media briefing. “If the last week tells us anything, it’s that this virus will rebound,” said Maria van Kerkhove, the group’s technical lead officer on Covid-19. “This virus will rebound if we let it. We cannot allow it to take off again.”

US: US Covid-19 infections have passed 28,664,000. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 514,657 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

A new Covid-19 variant detected in New York City that’s now travelled through various neighbourhoods is being watched “very, very closely” by US health officials, Anthony Fauci said on Monday. The variant, known scientifically as B.1.526, likely started off in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, Fauci, a top adviser to President Joe Biden on the pandemic, said. It is one of five concerning variants now being tracked nationally by health officials.

Covid-19 infections in the US had the biggest monthly decline in February, plunging 61% to about 2.42 million, data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg show. That helped lower the death count from January by 25% to 71,772.

Brazil: Angry with President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the pandemic in its most severe phase, 16 Brazilian governors accused the far-right leader of misleading the country and state authorities urged a nationwide curfew and closure of airports.

France: France reported that the number of people being treated in intensive care units for Covid-19 was up by 52, at 3,544, going above the 3,500 threshold for the first time since 1 December last year.

UK: The UK recorded the lowest daily death toll and the lowest number of new cases since October.

Iran: Iran recorded 108 deaths from coronavirus in 24 hours, the highest since 4 January and the first time in seven weeks that the country surpassed 100 Covid-19 deaths in one day. The number of daily new cases rose by 8,510, the highest since 11 December, the Health Ministry reported. Iran now has 60,181 deaths from the virus with more than 1.6 million infections.

Poland: The UK variant of Covid-19 is the main cause of the third wave of the coronavirus epidemic in Poland, the health minister said on Monday.

Philippines: The Philippines said it detected for the first time the Covid-19 strain that initially emerged in South Africa. Six people were reported to have the variant, some local cases and some Filipinos returning from overseas. Meanwhile, the Southeast Asian nation also reported 30 additional cases of the more contagious strain that was first discovered in the UK, bringing the total to 87.

Mexico: Mexico reported a daily rise of 437 Covid-19 deaths, bringing the total to 186,152, according to data released by the Health Ministry. The country has administered 2,526,863 doses of vaccine against the coronavirus, and 583,896 people have received a second dose. US President Joe Biden and Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador discussed the response to the pandemic, migration and climate change in a video meeting on Monday.

Vaccine news

Global: Both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines are effective in reducing Covid-19 infections among older people aged 70 years and over, a new study shows.

Johnson & Johnson is looking for manufacturing partnerships to increase supply of its Covid-19 vaccine that was cleared Saturday by US regulators, Chief Executive Officer Alex Gorsky said. J&J will deliver 3.9 million doses of its one-shot vaccine within the next 24 to 48 hours, Gorsky said Monday in a telephone interview. The company wants to speed up its timeline of supplying enough vaccines to immunize 20 million Americans by the end of the month and a total of 100 million by the end of June, he said.

Vaccine doses in Ukraine and Japan have been wasted due to vaccine scepticism among doctors and fridge failures respectively, it emerged on Monday.

Twitter said it will label tweets that may contain misleading information around Covid-19 vaccinations.

Russia: Nearly two thirds of Russians are not willing to receive the country’s Sputnik V vaccine, and about the same number believe Covid-19 was created artificially as a biological weapon, an independent pollster said on Monday.

Israel: The Israeli government is looking to buy an additional 36 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine in case booster shots are needed later in the year.

France: People in France aged over 65 with existing health problems can be given the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, the health minister said on Monday, departing from Paris’s earlier stance that the vaccine should be for under-65s only.

China: China is lagging in its coronavirus vaccination rollout, but plans to inoculate 40% of its population by June.

Thailand: Johnson & Johnson has submitted all necessary documents for the Thai drug regulator’s approval of its Covid-19 vaccines for local use, according to government spokeswoman Rachada Dhnadirek. Moderna is expected to submit its documents next week, she said in a post on Twitter. Bharat Biotech has also contacted the agency.

Poland: The Polish government will discuss the potential purchase of Covid-19 vaccines with its Chinese counterparts, according to a readout from a Monday phone call between Presidents Andrzej Duda and Xi Jinping. Details of possible supplies will be figured out by special working group.

Lockdown updates

EU: The European Commission will unveil a proposal this month for a “digital green pass,” which will provide proof that a person has been vaccinated, recovered from Covid-19 or has received a negative test. “The proposal’s aim will be to facilitate travel within the European Union based on this medical data that will be available in this green digital pass,” Commission spokesman Eric Mamer told reporters in Brussels on Monday.

Czech Republic: The Czech Republic tightened lockdown measures on Monday, beefing up police presence to restrict movement throughout the country as the government battles the world’s worst surge in Covid-19 infections.

Austria: Austria plans to let cafe and restaurant terraces reopen this month in a further loosening of its coronavirus lockdown.

France: France needs another four to six weeks before the government can start lifting restrictions, Agence France-Presse reported on Monday, citing comments made by President Emmanuel Macron. The country is already implementing a nationwide curfew that runs from 6pm to 6am, but officials have warned that more curbs might be needed.

Finland: The Finnish government has declared a state of emergency over rising coronavirus infections, mainly in order to be legally able to close restaurants.

Zimbabwe: On Monday Zimbabwe eased a coronavirus lockdown and overnight curfew imposed in January by allowing businesses to fully reopen after the rate of new infections slowed in the last two weeks.

US: California Governor Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders said they’ve struck a deal that would push school districts in the most-populous U.S. state to begin reopening by April. The state would hand out more than $6 billion for related costs including personal protective equipment, ventilation upgrades and Covid testing. To make up for lost learning, the school year might extend into summer.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf said he was easing restrictions, including revising maximum occupancy limits for indoor and outdoor events, as well as ending out-of-state travel restrictions. Outdoor events are now allowed a maximum of 20% occupancy, regardless of venue size, the governor said. Attendees and workers must keep six feet (1.8 meters) apart. Indoor venues can have 15% occupancy.