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August 18, 2021

International update: Covid cases surge in Australia, India, Greece and Japan

By Paul Dennis

18 August

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed the grim milestone of 4 million, with a figure of 4,382,381 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have passed 208 million world wide.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 37 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 623,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Idaho hospitals are “completely stressed” and “overwhelmed” by staffing shortages due to Covid-19 infections, virus exposure and burnout, Elke Shaw-Tulloch, administrator for the state Division of Public Health, said during an online briefing. A hospital in Northern Idaho has 500 job openings, more than twice as high as normal times, Shaw-Tulloch said.

Hospitals in Mississippi and Alabama are sending patients across their borders to Kentucky even as Bluegrass State officials warn their hospitals are running short on available staff and beds. New infections in Kentucky, population 4.5 million, have risen to 2,000 or more per day from a low of fewer than 150 cases per day in June, according to the Kentucky Department for Public Health. Helping other states’ overwhelmed hospitals no longer may be possible, because this week Kentucky will exceed its record for intensive care unit patients, around 1,200 patients, and several Kentucky hospitals are deciding to limit or stop non-emergency care to preserve stretched staff, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear said.

Los Angeles will require universal masking at outdoor mega events regardless of vaccination status, according to health officials. Masks are required to be worn by everyone at all times except when actively eating or drinking at these events, said the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health in a statement. Outdoor mega events are outdoor events with crowds greater than 10,000 attendees.

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham ordered use of face masks in all public indoor settings regardless of vaccination status, as hospitalizations in the state is at a six-month high.

In Colorado, Denver ordered mandatory mask use in schools and childcare settings for those 2 years and older, effective Wednesday. Meanwhile, in Florida, the state board of education directed the education commissioner to “take all legal steps” to enforce Republican Governor Ron DeSantis’s ban on mask mandates in schools.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has tested positive for Covid-19, according to a statement from his office. The Republican leader of the second-largest US. state is isolating in the governor’s mansion and receiving monoclonal antibody treatment, according to the statement. Abbott already was fully vaccinated and so far has been asymptomatic.

Australia: Australia is on track to break its daily coronavirus case record with surging infections and more deaths in New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, fuelling national concern. The state, which is under lockdown, reported a record-breaking 633 new cases in the past 24 hours. Some 34 aged care facilities in New South Wales are currently in the grips of a Covid-19 outbreak.

India: India reported on 35,178 new Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours, nearly 40% higher than yesterday. Deaths remained low, with 440 reported in the past 24 hours.

Indonesia: The country reported 17,384 confirmed infections on Monday, the least since June 23. One in five people tested were found to have the virus, a sign of insufficient testing. Indonesia continues to top the world’s tally of daily deaths, with 1,245 fatalities reported on Monday.

Thailand: On Tuesday, the country reported a daily record 239 Covid deaths and 20,128 new cases. Thai police again used water cannon and teargas to disperse protesters near the office of the prime minister, as opposition parties moved to censure him in parliament over his handling of the pandemic. Hundreds marched on government house to demand his resignation.

Greece: Greece reported 4,205 new cases, the highest daily increase since 6 April and the third-biggest one-day jump since the start of the pandemic. Greek authorities are worried by the situation on the island of Crete, which is a popular vacation destination for foreigners and Greeks alike. The Heraklion area of the country’s largest island saw the third-biggest increase in new cases nationwide after Thessaloniki and central Athens.

Switzerland: Switzerland recorded 3,150 new infections within the last 24 hours, the biggest daily increase in months. Since early July, the number of hospitalizations has risen 10-fold, Patrick Mathys of the Federal Office of Public Health said. The government has redoubled efforts to get more people vaccinated with a publicity campaign this week. Just 56% of the public has received at least one dose. With demand for vaccinations weak, the government agreed take delivery of just half the 1 million doses it was due to receive from Moderna

Vaccine news

Rome: Pope Francis has encouraged people to get Covid vaccines in new media campaign. Getting vaccinated against Covid-19 is “an act of love,” Pope Francis says in a public service advert that will start circulating online and on television on Wednesday.

Asia: The International Federation of Red Cross has called for southeast Asian countries to be given more help securing Covid-19 vaccines, as the region struggles to contain record infections and deaths driven by the Delta variant.

US: The number of people getting a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine has risen to almost half a million a day, a level last seen at the end of May when the US vaccination campaign was still in full swing in much of the country.  Unlike the spring rollout, however, the new bump in vaccinations has been driven by counties in the South, which earlier in the year were among the most resistant to getting the shots and still have lower rates of vaccination than many other places. Those regions, however, have been hit by a fast-moving wave of Covid infections that have sent thousands of people to the hospital.

New York has become the first US city to require proof of vaccination to enter gyms, theatres and restaurants.

Morgan Stanley is stepping up efforts to ensure employees comply with its rule that they be vaccinated to enter its buildings. The firm told vaccinated workers to provide documentation of their shots by 1 October, after previously letting them attest to their status, according to an internal memo. The extra step is meant to “provide greater comfort for those working in the office,” it wrote.

UK: The UK has approved the use of the US-made Moderna vaccine for 12 to 17 year olds. The Pfizer jab was given the same approval a few weeks ago.

Vietnam: Poland will provide Vietnam with more than 3.5 million Covid-19 vaccine doses, including a donation of 501,000 AstraZeneca Plc. shots, according to Vietnam’s government website, which cited Poland’s ambassador to Vietnam, Wojciech Gerwel. Vietnam has received more than 19 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines from various sources, of which nearly 15.3 million doses have been administered. About 1.4% of residents in the country of 98 million people was fully vaccinated as of Monday.

South Korea: South Korea wants to have 70% of its population vaccinated by the end of September, the premier said, speeding up one of the lowest inoculation rates among major Asian economies as cases surge to record highs. Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum, at the forefront of the government’s pandemic policy, said Tuesday that South Korea would keep funneling aid to small businesses hurt by strict social distancing measures aimed at stemming a record Covid-19 wave powered by the delta variant. Kim indicated Seoul would do all it can to avoid a lockdown.

Myanmar: Myanmar’s runaway virus outbreak is presenting wealthy nations donating Covid-19 vaccines and supplies with a tough choice: work with the generals that overthrew the civilian government, or let the situation spiral further out of control. Since the military took over in a coup more than six months ago, virus infections and deaths have soared. The country has officially disclosed a few hundred fatalities each day for the past month, though doctors say the real numbers are exponentially higher. The true scope of the catastrophe is unknown, as many citizens avoid healthcare facilities that have recently been the target of military attacks.

Lockdown updates

Australia: Qantas airlines will require all of its frontline employees, including cabin crew, pilots and airport workers to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

New Zealand: “A very prolonged outbreak” is not the working premise “at this time,” said New Zealand Finance Minister Grant Robertson at a news conference in Wellington after the RBNZ rate decision. The government announced nationwide lockdown to contain outbreak of delta strain of coronavirus.

A further six cases have been identified in New Zealand, all connected to the single delta infection discovered Tuesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters in Wellington. That was the first community case detected in the nation since February, with genome testing of the original case showing a clear link to the outbreak in Australia’s New South Wales state.

Japan: Japan’s government on Tuesday expanded a coronavirus state of emergency to seven more regions as it battles a record wave of infections a week before the Paralympic Games.

The Japanese Grand Prix, scheduled for 8-10 October, has been cancelled due to a rise in Covid cases in the country.

Philippines: The Philippines’ Health Department said it’s recommending the use of surgical instead of cloth masks, as the Southeast Asian nation fights the spread of the delta variant. Cloth masks can however still be used by those who don’t have access to medical-grade masks. To speed up vaccinations, the government has allowed shots for caretakers of the elderly and of those with weak immune systems. Covid infections have reached over 1.76 million as of Tuesday, with nearly 12% of the population fully vaccinated.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong’s quarantine about-face – coming less than two months after it eased one of the world’s toughest Covid-19 border regimes – is upending travel plans and causing chaos for hotels just weeks before the start of the school year and the end of the summer vacation period.  Triggered, officials say, by growing concern about the delta variant, Tuesday’s reversal saw the scrapping of a new rule that allowed vaccinated residents returning from medium-risk locations to quarantine in a hotel for just one week, half the typically required time. The day before, countries including the US, Spain and France were classed as high risk, requiring a longer quarantine stay of 21 days.

Economy updates

New Zealand: New Zealand’s central bank refrained from raising interest rates during a coronavirus outbreak and nationwide lockdown, but signaled it intends to start tightening monetary policy soon. The Reserve Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee, led by Governor Adrian Orr, on Wednesday held the official cash rate at 0.25% but said the decision was made in light of the lockdown. Projections published by the RBNZ show the OCR lifting at least once later this year, suggesting hikes are imminent if the outbreak is contained.

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