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June 8, 2021

International update: Calls for more research on Covid Delta variant symptoms

By Paul Dennis

8 June

Global: The global Covid death toll is still rising with a figure of 3,738,175 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 173.6 million world wide.

The coronavirus variant that drove India’s devastating Covid-19 epidemic is the most infectious to emerge so far. Doctors now want to know if it’s also more severe. Hearing impairment, severe gastric upsets and blood clots leading to gangrene, symptoms not typically seen in Covid patients, have been linked by doctors in India to the so-called Delta variant. In England and Scotland, early evidence suggests the now-dominant strain carries a higher risk of hospitalization. “We need more scientific research to analyze if these newer clinical presentations are linked to B.1.617 or not,” said Abdul Ghafur, an infectious disease physician at the Apollo Hospital in Chennai, southern India’s largest city. Ghafur said he is seeing more Covid-19 patients with diarrhea now than in the initial wave of the epidemic.

A top World Health Organization official said that the WHO cannot compel China to divulge more data on Covid-19’s origins, while adding it will propose studies needed to take understanding of where the virus emerged to the “next level”, as criticism towards the US and a leading medical journal mounts.

Chinese markets linked to some of the earliest Covid-19 cases were illegally selling a range of wildlife from which the coronavirus may have spread, according to a study published less than two weeks after US President Joe Biden ordered a deeper probe into the pandemic’s genesis. Mink, masked palm civets, raccoon dogs, Siberian weasels, hog badgers and Chinese bamboo rats were among 38 animal species sold live at markets in Wuhan from May 2017 to November 2019, researchers said Monday in a paper in the journal Scientific Reports originally submitted last October. “While we caution against the mis-attribution of Covid-19’s origins, the wild animals on sale in Wuhan suffered poor welfare and hygiene conditions and we detail a range of other zoonotic infections they can potentially vector,” lead author Xiao Xiao, from the Lab Animal Research Center at Hubei University of Chinese Medicine in Wuhan, and colleagues wrote.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 33.3 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 597,952 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

India: India’s new infections dipped to less than 100,000 cases for the first time since 6 April, signalling that the country’s deadly second wave that overwhelmed its hospitals and crematoriums has eased. The country with the second-largest number of cases reported 86,498 new infections on Tuesday, also lower than the peak in September last year during the first wave of Covid-19. The total tally rose to 29 million while Covid-related deaths rose by 2,123 to 351,309, according to latest data from India’s health ministry. The second wave, which saw a record 414,188 new cases on 7 May, has been tapering sharply. Experts, however, have emphasized the need for continuous genome sequencing to watch for any new virus mutations that can thwart this recovery.

Indonesia: Indonesia added 6,993 cases on Monday, the most since 4 March, as the government warned that new infections are set to keep picking up until June or July. The expected resurgence after the Eid holiday in late May could last for about five to seven weeks as people gradually return from their hometowns, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said. About half of the 72,000 beds allocated for Covid-19 patients have been filled, he added.

Vaccine news

Global: World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that glaring Covid-19 vaccine inequality has created a “two-track pandemic”. He called on manufacturers to turn their attention to the Covax facility, which has struggled to get donation-funded doses to poorer countries, and give the global jab equity scheme first refusal on new doses, or commit half of their volumes to it.

EU: Moderna Inc. applied for a conditional marketing authorization in the European Union that would allow its vaccine to be given to adolescents, after the company found the shot was highly effective in the age group. Moderna said Monday it had filed for the clearance in 12- to 17-year-olds with EU regulators and was planning to apply for the equivalent status — an emergency-use authorization — with the US Food and Drug Administration. The company has also asked Canadian regulators to authorize the shot for that age group.

China: China is discussing cooperating to produce Covid-19 vaccines with ten countries while encouraging vaccine manufacturers to transfer technology to developing countries, according to state media Xinhua, citing an interview with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology. Currently, three Chinese vaccine makers have carried out joint production with eight countries, MIIT’s official Mao Junfeng said.

Philippines: The Philippines has cleared Sinopharm Group Co.’s coronavirus vaccine, adding to the more than 15 million doses expected to arrive in the coming weeks as the nation aims to accelerate inoculation.

Indonesia: Indonesia has asked for more Covid vaccines from China through Covax. The Indonesian government has offered to become the production hub for China’s vaccines in Asean as it seeks to improve collaboration.

Slovakia: Slovakia became the EU’s second country to start inoculating people with the Russian-made Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, after months of rows over the shot that has yet to be approved by European regulators.

India: In a u-turn amid intense criticism over his handling of the pandemic, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi said that the Indian federal government would provide Covid-19 vaccines free of charge to all adults from later this month.

Norway: Norway is to shorten the interval between Covid-19 vaccine doses to nine weeks from the current 12 weeks, thus speeding up the inoculation process, the health ministry said. As of today the country had fully or partly vaccinated 41.8% of all adults, according to the Institute of Public Health.

US: Safety concerns about Johnson & Johnson’s Covid vaccine along with overall flagging demand for vaccinations have slowed its US rollout to a crawl, leaving close to half of the 21 million doses produced for the country sitting unused.

Thailand: Thailand started its Covid vaccination campaign amid concerns over the supply of doses, which are mainly being produced locally by a royal-owned company that has no prior experience of making vaccines. The Thai government is expected to sign purchase agreements with manufacturers for 20 million doses of Pfizer Inc. vaccines and 5 million doses of Johnson & Johnson this week.

Lockdown updates

India: India’s capital New Delhi and financial hub Mumbai began to ease restrictions as infections fell to a two-month low. Delhi Metro services were allowed to operate at 50% capacity.

Spain: Spain opened its borders to vaccinated travellers from all over the world, with tourists from Germany, Ireland and Belgium seen passing through the arrival gates at Malaga airport this morning.

UK: The UK’s plan to ease a lockdown could be delayed by two weeks as cabinet ministers are getting pessimistic following a briefing from the government’s chief medical officer and chief scientific officer, the Times of London reported, citing a cabinet source.

Canada: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government is crafting plans to loosen the current 14-day isolation period for border-crossers who’ve had two vaccine doses, according to people familiar with the discussions. Travelers entering Canada would still be tested for the virus and may be required to quarantine for a shorter period.

Economy updates

US/UK: Airlines from Britain and the US issued a joint plea for the resumption of travel between the two countries, saying government curbs on the world’s most lucrative air route are holding back an economic recovery. Leisure and business trips could restart without undermining efforts to combat Covid-19, the heads of Delta Air Lines Inc., United Airlines Holdings Inc., American Airlines Group Inc. and JetBlue Airways Corp. said Monday. They were joined by counterparts from British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. While carriers have been pitching for a resumption of trans-Atlantic travel since last summer, the latest push comes days before President Joe Biden is set to attend the G-7 summit in England.

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