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August 11, 2021

International update: Covid accounted for 4% of all UK deaths in the last week of July

By Paul Dennis

11 August

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed the grim milestone of 4 million, with a figure of 4,315,066 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have passed 204 million world wide.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 36 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 618,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Hospitals across the US are parceling out beds for Covid patients, hunting for doctors and nurses as the disease outstrips any mitigation measures. In a few states, the unvaccinated are entering intensive care units at rates matching the winter wave. The vaccinated are coming to realize that a sweet summer of release may have been a fantasy, as they again calculate the risks of working, seeing relatives and circulating in society.

President Joe Biden said he doesn’t think he has the power to overrule governors who nullify requirements imposed by school systems calling on kids and staff to wear masks to protect against Covid-19. “I don’t believe that I do thus far. We’re checking that,” Biden told reporters Tuesday in response to a question at the White House. “On federal workforce, I can.” Biden’s comments came as school leaders across the country face a dilemma as millions of students prepare to return in person to classes as the delta variant of Covid-19 spreads rapidly.

Meanwhile, a group of parents in Florida have gone to court to block an executive order by Governor Ron DeSantis that bans school districts from imposing mask requirements when classes resume this fall. At least six other states, including Arizona, Texas and Arkansas, have banned local school districts from requiring students to wear masks.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis predicted that the Covid-19 wave may begin easing in northeast Florida, one of the hardest-hit parts of the US. In Duval County, home to Jacksonville, DeSantis noted that the seven-day average of new cases has begun to drop. He also said that emergency-room visits with Covid-like illness were down in the past week, and that the effective reproductive number was below 1, which theoretically signals declining infections ahead. “If those trends are durable, you will absolutely see the hospital census reflect that for sure,” DeSantis said. “And I think we’re seeing in other parts of the state as well a flattening.”

Donald Trump was “afraid” when he put on a display of bravado at the White House after being treated for a severe coronavirus infection, his estranged niece Mary Trump has claimed. The then US president had a pained expression that Mary recognised from her grandmother, but dared not admit his fear even to himself.

UK: The UK said Covid accounted for 4% of all deaths in the last week of July, the highest weekly share of all deaths in three months. These figures reflect a progressive loosening of lockdown rules starting in April that resulted in most restrictions being scrapped on 19 July. Infections have been rising steadily since, but serious sickness and hospitalizations remain below peak levels last year because of a rapid takeup of vaccines.

Thailand: In the south-east Asian country today, police fired teargas and rubber bullets at protesters calling for the government to resign over its handing of the pandemic. Lines of police, backed by trucks spraying jets from water cannons, fired tear gas and rubber bullets at scores of demonstrators in Bangkok, as they threw rocks and fireworks and set fire to a traffic police booth.

Myanmar: Myanmar’s army has carried out at least 252 attacks and threats against health workers since the February coup, killing at least 25 medics and hampering the response to a resurgent outbreak of Covid-19, rights groups have said. More than 190 health workers have been arrested and 86 raids on hospitals carried out since the coup, said the report.

India: Researchers are aiming to find out whether ashwagandha, a traditional but increasingly popular Indian herb, can help promote recovery from long Covid. The herb is traditionally used in the Indian Ayurvedic system of medicine and recent trials have reportedly proven it reduces anxiety and stress, improves muscle strength and reduces fatigue in patients with chronic conditions.

Greece: Greece recorded 4,181 new coronavirus cases Tuesday, the highest daily increase in just over four months. The Heraklion area of the island of Crete saw the largest rise in new cases over the past 24 hours after central Athens. Greek authorities announced a nighttime curfew for the area.

Vaccine news

Global: Coldplay, Billie Eilish and Ed Sheeran are among those who will perform a day of concerts across multiple cities on 25 September to raise awareness about vaccine distribution, climate change and poverty. New York, Paris and Lagos are the first cities to be announced for Global Citizen Live, which will run for 24 hours and be screened around the world via TV stations and social media.

Canada: Moderna Inc. reached a tentative agreement with Canada’s government to build a messenger RNA vaccine factory in the country, a move that could boost domestic supplies of shots for Covid and other viruses while expanding the shot maker’s footprint.

UK: More than three out of every four UK adults has now had two doses of coronavirus vaccine, the country’s Department for Health and Social Care said on Tuesday. Some 47,091,889 people have received at least once dose, while 39,688,566 have received two, it said.

The UK health secretary, Sajid Javid, said preparations are being made to offer Covid booster jabs in the UK from next month, but a leading expert suggested that such a move would not be supported by the science and that it was likely to be unnecessary. The head of the Oxford Vaccine Group, Prof Andrew Pollard, said data so far suggested that the vaccines were holding out against the virus that causes Covid-19 and that the doses would be much better used elsewhere in the world.

Meanwhile, reaching herd immunity is “not a possibility” with the current Delta variant, Pollard told MPs, since the vaccines do not stop the spread of Covid. Therefore reaching the threshold for overall immunity in the population is “mythical”, although the existing vaccines are very effective at preventing serious Covid illness and death, he said.

Portugal: Portugal began recommending the use of vaccines for 12- to 15-year olds on Tuesday as the southern European country accelerates its vaccination program. Vaccines for teens will become available around the time the school year begins in September. The government began easing restrictions last month as the latest surge shows signs of slowing. Portugal’s government expects 70% of the population to be fully vaccinated by early September.

Lockdown updates

EU: The European Union decided not to reinstate restrictions on non-essential travel from the US despite new cases there exceeding the bloc’s threshold. The guidance from the bloc is a recommendation and any decision on who to let in, and what restrictions to impose, ultimately rests with the government of each member state. The Biden administration has kept foreign travel restrictions in place despite pressure to allow visitors from places like the EU. US officials have cited rising delta variant cases as one reason for that decision.

Germany: Germany’s leaders are expected to set out new coronavirus regulations for the coming months, including abolishing free testing to incentivise people to get vaccinated. The unvaccinated will be expected to undergo tests which they must pay for themselves as a condition for attending all manner of events, from indoor gatherings to restaurant visits to church services.

US: Citigroup Inc. told employees returning to offices in the New York area and other big US cities that they’ll need to be vaccinated against Covid-19, among the more restrictive moves by a US financial firm as companies contend with the deadly virus and its highly contagious delta variant. The decision also affects workers in Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston and Washington, D.C., the bank told employees in a memo Tuesday. Citigroup expects employees to return to offices starting 13 September. Staffers at the company’s bank branches are encouraged but not required to get Covid-19 vaccines. Mask-wearing is required for all office and branch workers regardless of whether they’ve gotten shots, Citigroup said.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong extended regulations allowing it to implement measures to contain the pandemic, including rules on group gatherings, compulsory quarantine of visitors, compulsory testing and mask-wearing. The legislation extended until 31 March, 2022 is meant to maintain the legal framework needed to enact curbs, the government said.

Economy updates

Germany: Investor confidence in Germany’s recovery dropped to the lowest level since late last year after a rise in infection rates stoked concerns over a possible tightening of pandemic curbs. ZEW’s gauge of expectations declined to 40.4 in August from 63.3 the previous month. Although more than half of Germany’s population is fully vaccinated, coronavirus infections in Europe’s largest economy are on the rise. The government has already tightened some travel rules and is set to discuss additional steps during a summit on Tuesday.

 

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