30 July

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed the grim milestone of 4 million, with a figure of 4,199,017 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 196 million world wide.

The delta variant appears to cause more severe illness than earlier variants and spreads as easily as chickenpox, the Washington Post reported, citing an internal CDC presentation. The paper said a slide show shared within the agency cites unpublished data from outbreak investigations and outside studies to show that vaccinated individuals infected with the variant may be able to transmit the virus as easily as those who are unvaccinated.

New research showed that those vaccinated who were infected carry a significant amount of the virus, contradicting earlier observations that inoculated people weren’t infectious, the New York Times reported. The research indicated these so-called breakthrough cases have the virus in the nose and throat, the paper said, citing CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. The data, which helped prompt the latest mask US recommendations, showed that even without symptoms, those inoculated may be as contagious with the delta variant as those who haven’t received their shots.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 34 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 612,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The Biden administration announced it will allow a nationwide ban on evictions to end on Saturday, claiming that its hands are tied after the supreme court signalled it would only be extended until the end of the month – putting millions at risk of eviction amid a sluggish distribution of promised support funds.

Pakistan: Pakistan is to ban air travel for anyone without a Covid-19 vaccine certificate from August and will require all public sector workers to get vaccinated by the end of next month, the government announced along with a host of other draconian restrictions. From 31 August, unvaccinated staff will no longer be allowed to enter government offices, schools, restaurants or shopping malls.

China: Health authorities in China set up checkpoints and reportedly suspended flights in the eastern city of Nanjing in the country’s worst coronavirus emergency in months. More than 170 people have been diagnosed with the Delta variant in the past 10 days.

Japan: Japan is seeking to extend a virus emergency in Tokyo to the end of August and bring surrounding areas and Osaka under similar measures, as the country struggles with its worst-yet wave of Covid-19 cases. Tokyo reported 3,865 new infections, a third straight daily record.

Vaccine news

Global: More than 4.02 billion vaccine doses have been administered across 180 countries, according to data collected by Bloomberg. The latest rate was roughly 39 million doses a day. In the US, 344 million doses have been given so far. In the last week, an average of 615,404 doses per day were administered.

Campaigners said the global vaccine rollout may represent “the most lethal profiteering in history”, as the People’s Vaccine Alliance published an analysis suggesting pharmaceutical companies are charging at least five times above cost price. More than 4bn doses of Covid vaccines have now been administered around the world, eight months after the vaccination drive started, according to an AFP count, but distribution has been extremely skewed towards wealthier countries.

Israel: Israel is to begin offering a third shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine to people over 60, local media said. The campaign will in effect turn Israel into a testing ground for the companies’ booster, which is likely to seek approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), amid significantly waning efficacy of the jabs.

UK: The British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has said it is considering its future in the vaccine market after it Covid jab generated $1.2bn in sales in the first half of the year, with quarterly sales tripling. They had decided to make the jab available at cost, after entering into an exclusive licensing agreement with Oxford University, who initially sought to work with manufacturers to produce without paying royalties.

A “substantial chunk” of 9m Covid jab doses to be donated by the UK to developing states in the coming weeks expire at the end of September, “setting up African countries to fail”. Dr Ayoade Alakija, co-chair of the Africa Union Vaccine Delivery Alliance, said the donations were comparable to a “Trojan horse” and that “the limited shelf life could actually be detrimental to all of our efforts to contain this pandemic”.

Philippines: President, Rodrigo Duterte, said officials should detain those who refuse to be vaccinated against Covid inside their homes. Legal experts said the move would be unconstitutional and reflected his “militaristic mindset”, after Duterte claimed responding to the pandemic was more important than laws guaranteeing freedom of movement.

US Focus

President Joe Biden asked the Pentagon to determine how and when to require that all US troops are vaccinated. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin would consider requiring the vaccine before full FDA approval, Biden told reporters Thursday.

Texas hospitals are poised to record their biggest monthly influx of virus patients in more than a year. With one day left in July, the statewide hospital tally has reached 5,662, almost triple what it was at the end of June and the largest monthly increase since June 2020, state health department figures showed.

Illinois is now requiring face coverings in state facilities regardless of vaccine status given a majority of its counties “are experiencing substantial or high Covid-19 transmission,” according to an emailed statement Thursday from the governor’s office.

Los Angeles, which reimposed its mask order about two weeks ago, is seeing a slower increase in the transmission rate for new cases. The number of new infections in the county rose 17% in the past week to 3,248 on Thursday, compared with an 80% jump the week before, according to Barbara Ferrer, director of public health.

Jefferies Financial Group Inc. is mandating that employees who wish to return to its offices must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. After hearing from concerned staffers, the New York-based investment bank decided that those who aren’t fully vaccinated will be required to continue to work from home after the Labor Day holiday, Chief Executive Officer Rich Handler and President Brian Friedman said in a memo on the firm’s website.

Uber Technologies Inc. is postponing its return-to-office date from September to 25 October, and has told employees that it could be further delayed depending on the global coronavirus case load. The company also said that it would mandate that all employees in the office be vaccinated starting Monday. With the announcement, San Francisco-based Uber is joining a growing number of large tech employers requiring vaccines.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said he would require state employees to get vaccinated or be tested weekly as the state sees an increase in cases driven by people who are unvaccinated, his office said in a statement.

Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson declared a public health emergency, with cases at levels of the surge in January and hospitals overwhelmed. As he announced the emergency, he said four Covid patients were in ambulances waiting for spaces in hospitals.

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham on Thursday signed an executive order requiring all state employees to either be fully vaccinated or otherwise submit to regular testing, according to a press release.

The District of Columbia will require the wearing of masks indoors as the delta variant causes cases of the coronavirus to surge, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Thursday.

New Jersey reported more than 1,000 new cases for the first time since early May, according to state data. Hospitals logged 480 patients, a 35% increase over one week. The sickest patients, those on ventilators, numbered 35. That figure hasn’t exceeded 40 since last month.

New York City surpassed 1,000 new daily cases on a seven-day average this week for the first time since early May, beginning Monday with 1,032 recorded. Tuesday’s seven-day average totalled 1,008.