11 November

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 5 million, with a figure of 5,075,443 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University . Meanwhile, infections exceed 251.5 million world wide as cases surge across Europe.

People testing negative for Covid-19 despite exposure may have ‘immune memory’, a study has found. Scientists found that a proportion of people experience “abortive infection” in which the virus enters the body but is cleared by the immune system’s T-cells at the earliest stage meaning that PCR and antibody tests record a negative result. The discovery could pave the way for a new generation of vaccines targeting the T-cell response, which could produce much longer lasting immunity, they said.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 46.7 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 759,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Ten Republican-led US states sue over vaccine mandate for healthcare workers. The lawsuit contends that the vaccine requirement threatens the jobs of millions of workers and could “exacerbate an alarming shortage” in healthcare fields, particularly in rural areas where some health workers have been hesitant to get the shots.

Eastern Europe: The Czech Republic recorded a steep rise in new infections, which came close to a record at 14,539 new cases. The number of people hospitalized with Covid almost doubled since the end of October, according to health-care ministry data. Premier Andrej Babis called the situation “not good” and said that the government will debate curbs. He ruled out lockdowns.

Croatia reported a new high in daily infections and the Ukraine continued to struggle to contain its outbreak, with lines in Kyiv for death certificates and hospital beds for Covid patients at 73% occupancy.

Russia’s coronavirus death toll surpassed 250,000. The country reported a record 1,239 Covid-related fatalities in the previous 24 hours, taking the official death toll to 250,454.

India: India added 11,466 cases on Wednesday, pushing the overall tally to 34.4 million, while Covid-related deaths rose by 460 in a day to 461,849, latest data from the health ministry show. The country has administered 1.1 billion vaccine doses. As many as 96 countries, including the US, UK, Canada and Germany, have agreed to recognize India’s Covid vaccination certificates in a move that will boost international travel, the health minister said.

Brazil: Brazil has had 12,273 new cases of coronavirus reported in the past 24 hours, and 280 deaths, the health ministry said on Wednesday.

France: France is at the beginning of a fifth wave of the coronavirus epidemic, health minister Olivier Veran said on Wednesday. Demand for Covid booster jabs jumped in France after Emmanuel Macron said a top-up dose would be necessary for people to retain their vaccine passes.

Germany: Soaring coronavirus rates in Germany are threatening plans for a rollout of the country’s famous Christmas markets, due to open in about a week’s time.

Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to meet as soon as possible with leaders from Germany’s 16 states to discuss how best to tackle record increases in Covid cases. Merkel “will work with all her might until the last day of her term in office” to ensure that federal, regional and municipal governments deal effectively with the spreading fourth wave, according to her chief spokesman Steffen Seibert. The outgoing German leader has warned that hospitals in some hotspots risk being overwhelmed, and has urged more people to get vaccinated.

UK: The UK reported another 39,329 Covid cases and a further 214 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, official data showed.

Tens of thousands of care home residents in England face losing vital support as unvaccinated carers clock off for the last time before double jabs become mandatory. About 50,000 care home staff who have not had two doses will not be allowed to work from Thursday. Analysis by the Guardian suggests that on current staff/resident ratios without other measures to tackle the problem, the care of about 30,000 people could be affected.

Prime minister Boris Johnson came under fire from the World Health Organization ’s special envoy for Covid-19 after being photographed without a face covering during a hospital visit. Asked about pictures of the British prime minister walking through Hexham General without a mask, Dr David Nabarro said: “I’m not sitting on the fence on this one – where you’ve got large amounts of virus being transmitted, everybody should do everything to avoid either getting the virus or inadvertently passing it on.”

The first case in the UK of a pet dog catching coronavirus, apparently from its owners, has reportedly been detected.

Singapore: A fifth lion at Singapore Zoo has tested positive for Covid-19, the Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS) said on Wednesday.

New Zealand: New Zealand prime minister Ardern’s popularity has plummeted in two new polls, as the country struggles to contain a Delta outbreak and transitions to a new era of endemic Covid.

Israel: Israel is to hold world’s first drill to test readiness for the possible emergence of a lethal ‘Omega’ Covid variant.

Vaccine news

EU: The EU signed its eighth Covid vaccine deal, approving French company Valneva ’s jab. The European Commission said the contract with Valneva provides the possibility for EU member states to purchase nearly 27m doses in 2022. Valneva is hoping its candidate, which uses more traditional technology than the mRNA vaccines, could be a more reassuring option for Europeans still reluctant to be immunised. It said last month that it demonstrated efficacy “at least as good, if not better” than AstraZeneca ’s vaccine in a late-stage trial comparing the two, with significantly fewer adverse side effects.

US: At least 900,000 US kids age 5 to 11 have received one shot of Pfizer’s vaccine out of about 28 million in the age group, White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said in a briefing. The pace of immunizations in children is expected to increase over the next several days as more than 20,000 sites across the country will provide them, Zients said.

South Africa: South Africa’s Medical Association, which represents doctors, said there must must be a choice of booster vaccine after Johnson & Johnson won the right to run research on the half a million health workers who took the company’s shot in an initial study. The government said offering a choice would delay the process. The head of the South African Medical Research Council , which is overseeing the trial, said the intervention wasn’t based on evidence and could create a “vaccine apartheid.”

Germany: Germany’s vaccine commission recommended that people under 30 and pregnant women receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for first doses or boosters rather than the Moderna shot. The rare heart-inflammation side effects appear more frequent with the Moderna shot in younger patients, and while there’s no comparable data for pregnant women, the group advised the Pfizer-BioNTech shot out of caution.

Italy: Italy, one of the first nations to be hit hard by the coronavirus, will offer a booster dose to all citizens in the 40-60 age group from 1 December, Health Minister Roberto Speranza told lawmakers on Wednesday. As of Wednesday, 83.7% of Italian residents have completed the vaccine cycle, he said. Booster shots are already available in Italy for vulnerable citizens, medical staff, people over age 60 and those who have previously received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Thailand: Thailand plans to set aside up to 500,000 doses of Covid vaccines for foreign workers as it prepares to welcome them back to the country to help ease a labour shortage. The government plans to allow workers from neighbouring Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos to re-enter the country beginning next month and fill up shortages in big exporting industries such as food and rubber production, the labour minister Suchart Chomklin said.

Israel: A panel of experts at Israel’s Ministry of Health voted overwhelmingly to approve the vaccination of children from 5 to 11 years old, according to a statement from the ministry on Wednesday evening. The director general of the health ministry will examine the team’s recommendation. US regulators cleared Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE vaccine for ages 5-11 this month.

Japan: Japan agreed to buy 1.6 million courses of Merck & Co.’s Covid pill for $1.2 billion, contingent on the experimental treatment’s clearance by domestic drug regulators, where it’s now under review. Merck’s molnupiravir has already been approved by UK authorities, and is under review in the US, which has agreed to purchase 3.1 million doses, pending authorization there. The Merck drug has been shown to cut hospitalizations and deaths by 50% in high-risk patients who are still early in the disease, and has been hailed along with an experimental pill from Pfizer as a potentially important tool in blunting the pandemic’s impact.

Lockdown updates

China: China is taking its extreme containment measures a step further, warning that the virus could be transmitted on parcels just as the country’s biggest annual online shopping festival looms. After three workers at a children’s clothing maker in the northeastern Hebei province were found to have Covid, authorities more than 1,200 miles away ordered people who had received – or even just handled – parcels from the company to get tested. The health commission in Guangxi, in China’s southeast, described the situation as a “Covid-related mail chain.” Back in Hebei, which surrounds Beijing, officials have tested 300 packages of clothing from the company, Haohui Ecommerce Co., and halted parcel-delivery services in two cities – Xinji and Jinzhou – as well as the town of Shenze. All the tests came back negative.