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June 15, 2021

International update: Covid Delta variant detected in 74 countries – spread continues

By Paul Dennis

15 June

Global: The global Covid death toll is still rising with a figure of 3,812,157 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 176 million world wide.

The Delta variant has been detected in 74 countries and is continuing to spread, prompting fears it will become the most dominant strain globally. There is also concern that while data is being shared, countries with weaker monitoring systems may not have detected the strain’s presence.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 33.4 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 599,945 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Experts have warned that the US risks seeing a sharp rise in cases caused by the Delta variant, especially in southern states where vaccination rates are lower than the national average. Currently 10% of Covid-19 infections in the US can be attributed to the Delta variant, but that proportion is doubling every two weeks.

Indonesia: Indonesia said it fears rising cases will not peak until July, despite hospitals in the capital Jakarta and other parts of Java already coming close to full capacity. The country is trying to increase hospital capacity and turn hotels into isolation centres.

Russia: Russia reported 13,721 new coronavirus cases, including 6,590 in the capital, Moscow.

Afghanistan: The two main hospitals in Afghanistan dealing with Covid-19 have had to turn away patients, saying they have no more beds and are short on oxygen and medical supplies.

India: New infections in India fell to 80,834, the lowest level since the start of April. Daily recoveries from Covid-19 have outnumbered new infections for 31 consecutive days, the health ministry said in an update.

Vaccine news

Global: Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer Inc. and AstraZeneca Plc are highly effective after two doses at preventing hospitalization of those infected with the delta variant, underscoring the urgency in getting people fully vaccinated. The Pfizer and BioNTech SE shot is 96% effective against hospitalization after two doses, while the AstraZeneca and University of Oxford Covid inoculation is 92% effective, according to an analysis announced Monday by Public Health England. Those results are comparable with the protection offered against the alpha variant, which first emerged in Britain, the data show.

Novavax Inc. said its Covid-19 vaccine was 90% effective at preventing symptomatic Covid and 100% effective at preventing moderate and severe symptoms. The shot was 93% effective against variants of concern, it said. The company expects to be able to manufacture 100 million doses a month by the end of the third quarter and 150 million daily by the end of the fourth quarter.

Thailand: Thailand’s recently launched coronavirus vaccination campaign was hit by confusion after at least 20 hospitals in Bangkok postponed Covid-19 inoculation appointments set for this week, citing delays in vaccine deliveries. A series of coronavirus outbreaks in Thai factories is also raising concerns that the export sector could be hit hard, threatening to further undermine an economy as it struggles to recover from the pandemic’s crippling blow to the crucial tourism industry.

Africa: A WHO official said Africa will get priority treatment for the 870 million vaccine doses pledged by the G7 because it has emerged as one of “the most vulnerable, under-served (areas)”.

Colombia: President Ivan Duque received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Sunday, as he urged people to continue keeping themselves safe against Covid-19 amid a record number of daily deaths.

Myanmar: The former head of Myanmar’s Covid-19 immunisation programme has been arrested and faces charges of high treason for colluding with opponents of the military authorities, state media reported. The arrest of Htar Htar Lin and other doctors, following February’s coup, was condemned by the US-based Physicians for Human Rights.

Japan: Japan, which has enough vaccine doses to cover its population, will donate about a million shots of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine to Vietnam, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Tuesday. It may also provide vaccines to Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.

Japan’s defense ministry has decided to expand the age group of those getting vaccinations at large sites from Thursday, public broadcaster NHK reported, without identifying the source of its information. Those aged 18 and above from across the nation will be eligible, though they will require vouchers from local authorities. The ministry’s official decision on the matter will come Thursday.

US: Pfizer Inc. will examine cases of fully vaccinated people who contracted Covid-19 to determine whether and when a booster shot is necessary. More than 10,200 Covid-19 vaccine breakthrough cases have been reported in the US as of 30 April, although it’s rare for fully vaccinated people to get infected.

Lockdown updates

UK: Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a four-week delay to the lifting of coronavirus restrictions in England. He said the extra delay could prevent thousands of deaths by allowing more vaccinations. No 10 said data indicated two doses of a vaccine were needed for protection against the Delta variant causing a rise in cases.

The main impacts of that delay in England will be pubs and hospitality remain restricted to table service and with social distancing measures in place, people should still work from home where possible, theatres and entertainment venues will have their capacity held at 50% and nightclubs will have to remain closed. The suggestion, however, is that there will be some lifting of the 30-person cap on attendees at weddings in England.

Russia: Authorities in St Petersburg, which is hosting a series of Euro 2020 matches, said on Monday they were tightening anti-coronavirus restrictions in an effort to curb a new spike in infections. Food courts and children’s play areas in shopping malls in Russia’s second city will be closed, and no food will be sold at Euro 2020 fan zones.

India: Many Indian states eased coronavirus restrictions today. That includes the capital, Delhi, where authorities allowed all shops and malls to open, as the number of new infections dropped to the lowest in more than two months. Tourist sites like the Taj Mahal and Red Fort are also set to begin allowing visitors back in from this week.

Germany: Germany could soon begin easing rules on mask-wearing as the country enjoys a sharp drop in Covid-19 infections, health minister Jens Spahn said this morning.

Singapore: Singapore, one of the first countries to authorize the use of Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine for children aged 12 and above, plan to resume face-to-face instruction in schools on a staggered bases from28  June.

Indonesia: Indonesia said offices can only have staff equivalent to 25% of capacity, down from 50% previously, and said schools and places of worship must shut in areas deemed most at risk. The curbs will stay in place until June 28, with the police and military ensuring compliance, Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto said Monday.

Philippines: Manila and Bulacan province will remain under so-called “general community quarantine” with “some restrictions” until 30 June, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said in a recorded briefing Monday night. The neighboring provinces of Rizal, Laguna and Cavite – which host some export manufacturers – will be put under the same quarantine status, but with “heightened restrictions”. A stricter quarantine classification will be imposed on more than a dozen areas including Davao City, the economic center of Mindanao Island.

Japan: An expert panel in the southern Japanese prefecture of Okinawa prefecture sees the need to extend a state of emergency due to expire on20  June, broadcaster TV Asahi reported, without attribution. Although daily infections are declining, the medical system remains strained and the prefecture’s government will decide whether to ask the central authority for an extension.

Economy updates

US: Honeywell International Inc. is shutting two N95 mask facilities that were hastily run up for production last year. The shutdowns will affect about 470 workers in Smithfield, Rhode Island, and another 700 in Phoenix, and come after many states ended mask mandates and as vaccines gave more people confidence to forgo face coverings, Honeywell said.

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