22 July

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed the grim milestone of 4 million, with a figure of 4,128,058 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 192 million world wide while more than 3.9 billion vaccine doses have been administered.

The Delta coronavirus variant is expected to become dominant globally within months, the World Health Organization has warned as 13 further territories detected cases. The highly contagious strain has now been discovered in 124 territories.

China pushed back against the World Health Organization’s call for another probe into the coronavirus’s origins that includes examining whether it leaked from a lab, saying there’s no evidence for the theory and it defies common sense. The coronavirus pandemic most likely arose in an animal, which transmitted it to humans via an intermediate host animal, a group of top Chinese science officials insisted at a briefing in Beijing on Thursday. They praised an earlier report from the WHO that pointed primarily to animals, while finding that the lab leak hypothesis was “extremely impossible.”

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 34.2 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 609,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data. The White House is likely to record breakthrough Covid cases “statistically speaking” because there are more than 2,000 people on its grounds every day, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Wednesday. Officials continue to follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that say masks aren’t required for fully vaccinated people. President Joe Biden hasn’t had to change his behavior or self quarantine, Psaki added. Her comments came a day after she confirmed a fully inoculated staff member had tested positive for Covid. She has said there have been other breakthrough Covid cases among vaccinated White House staffers but hasn’t provided details.

In Texas, 99.5% of the 8,787 people who died due to Covid-19 from 8 February to 14 July were unvaccinated, the Texas Tribune reported, citing preliminary numbers from the Texas Department of State Health Services. Some 0.5% – 43 people – died after “breakthrough infections,” which the department defines as people who contracted the virus two weeks after being fully vaccinated, the Tribune said. The rate of deaths has slowed dramatically since vaccines became widely available in April, it said. Texas reported the most confirmed infections in more than three months and hospitalizations climbed. There were 3,621 cases in the past 24 hours, the highest daily total since 13 April, department figures showed. Hospitalizations have more than doubled so far this month and now stand at 3,566. More than 51,000 Texans have died from the virus, although no new fatalities have been reported in four of the past five days.

Tunisia: The army’s health department will be put in charge of Tunisia’s pandemic response, president Kais Saied has said, as tensions rise in government amid the country’s worsening health crisis.

India: More than 45,000 coronavirus patients across India have suffered from the deadly “black fungus” which has followed the virus’s spread in the last two months, the health ministry said.

India’s actual death toll from Covid-19 could range between 1.3 million to a staggering 5 million, with even the most conservative estimate putting its tally at more than double the US, the highest recorded in the world so far. The numbers, derived from research models and local authority data, range from three to 10 times the country’s official count, adding to evidence that the true cost of India’s outbreak has been massively under-reported.

UK: The UK has recorded 44,104 new coronavirus cases, and 73 further deaths, according to the latest update to the government’s dashboard. The total number of new cases over the past week is up 35.8% on the total for the previous seven days, and deaths are up 59.8% week on week.

The number of Covid-19 patients admitted to hospital in England has reached its highest level for nearly five months, with 752 admissions were reported on 19 July. This is a rise of 21% on the previous week, and the highest daily number since 25 February.

Italy: Coronavirus infections in Rome have increased fivefold over the past nine days, a boom believed to have been triggered by the European football championship celebrations.

Thailand: Thailand reported 13,655 new infections on Thursday, the highest single-day increase since the pandemic began, taking the nation’s cumulative cases to 453,132, according to the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration.

South Korea: South Korea reported a record 1,842 cases as health authorities added 270 sailors infected on a Navy destroyer conducting anti-piracy operations in the Middle East. The sailors were flown back to the country Tuesday. Excluding the ship outbreak and imported cases, local transmissions fell to 1,533 from 1,726 a day earlier.

Australia: In New South Wales, Sydney’s daily Covid cases hit their highest number since the city’s current outbreak began and are expected to keep rising. The city of almost 6 million people recorded 124 new cases in the community Thursday, fueled by the highly-contagious delta variant. Infections have reached 1,648 cases since the outbreak began in mid-June.

Vaccine news

US: President Joe Biden urged more Americans to get vaccinated, saying that the coronavirus is only raging among those who have not received their shots and that those under 12 years old will be able to get inoculated “soon.” “We have a pandemic for those who haven’t gotten the vaccination,” Biden said Wednesday night during a CNN town hall in Cincinnati.

The American Hospital Association backed medical centers mandating Covid-19 vaccinations for health-care workers. The group said hospitals mandating vaccinations should provide exemptions for medical reasons. Hospital workers were among the first in the US to be offered the inoculations and an increasing number of hospitals have been requiring them for employees.

Chile: Chile’s Institute of Public Health has approved the Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use, adding the Russian-made jab to its arsenal that includes vaccines by Pfizer, Sinovac and AstraZeneca.

Chile expects to start offering Covid-19 vaccinations to children under the age of 12 by September, as the nation presses ahead with one of the world’s fastest inoculation campaigns.

Africa: Pfizer Inc. reached an agreement to start production of its vaccine at a facility in Cape Town to deliver more than 100 million doses annually to African nations. Pfizer and its German vaccine partner, BioNTech SE, signed a letter of intent with Biovac Institute, a company partially owned by the South African government, to manufacture the shots.

Ivory Coast: Ivory Coast plans to buy 3.5 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccines by December, while neighboring Burkina Faso received a donation of 150,000 J&J shots from the US despite concerns about the inoculation’s side effects.

Zambia: Zambia on Wednesday took delivery of 151,200 doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine from the US through the World Health Oranization-backed Covax facility. The single-dose vaccine is the third to be used in the southern African nation, after it earlier began inoculations using AstraZeneca and Sinopharm shots. Zambia has reported 188,573 cumulative coronavirus cases and 3,162 deaths.

Uganda: At least 800 people in Uganda were given fake Covid-19 vaccines in a scam that involved “unscrupulous” doctors and health workers, government officials have said.

Lockdown updates

Vietnam: Authorities in Vietnam’s capital city of Hanoi ordered all arrivals from southern areas under Covid-19 stay-home orders including Ho Chi Minh City to be placed in quarantine facilities beginning Thursday, the city government said in a website statement. The order applies to travelers from 19 southern localities, according to the statement, which did not specify how long quarantines will last.

Australia: Queensland’s border with New South Wales will close from 1 am Friday to reduce the risk of Covid-19 spreading, state Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said in a tweet.

Singapore: The Marina Bay Sands casino in Singapore will shut for two weeks after authorities detected a Covid cluster, the latest to emerge after an outbreak at a fishery port that made the government reimpose social restrictions. Some 11 Covid cases have been linked to the casino owned by Las Vegas Sands Corp., prompting the decision to close until 5 August for deep cleaning to break the spread of the virus, the Health Ministry said in statement on Thursday.

US: The City of New Orleans asked residents to wear a mask indoors when with people who are not members of their immediate family. Health Department Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno cited “alarming transmission data” in the last two weeks. “People who continue to refuse to take the lifesaving Covid vaccine are now also putting the entire community in jeopardy,” Avegno said, according to an emailed statement. “We must take action now to slow the rapid spread of the Delta variant.”