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April 29, 2021

International update: Global Covid cases approach 150 million as India suffers worst day of pandemic

By Paul Dennis

29 April

Global: The global Covid death toll is still rising past the grim tally of 3.1 million with a figure of 3,151,064 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have passed 149 million world wide and appear to be accelerating towards 150 million.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 32.2 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 574,326 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

India: India suffered its worst day yet of the pandemic, as both new Covid-19 cases and deaths break previous records. Crematoriums in Delhi have become so overloaded with bodies that they are running out of both space and wood, and are being forced to build makeshift funeral pyres on spare patches of land.

The Indian Ocean Island nation of Mauritius has donated 200 oxygen concentrators to India to help its medical staff treat patients suffering from the coronavirus, Prime Minister Pravind Kumar Jugnauth said on Twitter. Mauritius began its inoculation campaign in January using 100,000 Covishield vaccines it received from India’s government.

Africa: Almost 30 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection in the Sahel and the Lake Chad basin in 2021 amid a deepening crisis, a report by the UN office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs (Unocha) has estimated. Poverty, the climate emergency, armed conflicts, chronically high food insecurity and malnutrition have all contributed to the worsening crisis, and across the region Covid-19 is further compounding acute needs.

Singapore: A 46-year-old nurse in Singapore who was fully vaccinated earlier this year has tested positive for Covid-19, the Ministry of Health said. Tan Tock Seng Hospital locked down one of its wards and tested patients and staff who had been in it. Four more cases have tested preliminarily positive – a doctor and three patients. All staff who treated infected patients at Tan Tock Seng Hospital’s Ward 9D, as well as all visitors, patients and people working in the ward, will be placed on quarantine. Singapore’s community cases have risen slightly in recent days, up to 13 this past week from 9 last week.

Vaccine news

Global: Vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna reduced the risk of being hospitalized for Covid-19 among fully immunized older adults by 94%, and by 64% for those who received only one of the two-shot regimens, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. The study evaluated 417 hospitalized patients who were 65 and older between January and late March, 130 of whom had received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. The results were in line with clinical trial findings.

US: President Joe Biden declared in his first speech to Congress that the US has turned a corner on the pandemic. He also urged people to get vaccinated and hailed a rollout that has delivered more than 315 million shots. “Our progress these past 100 days against one of the worst pandemics in history is one of the greatest logistical achievements our country has ever seen,” he said.

UK: The UK has secured 60m doses of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to be used for booster shots later this year, the health secretary Matt Hancock said. He said said the extra doses would be used alongside other approved vaccines in “protecting the progress that we have made”.

Progress with the UK’s vaccine rollout should limit the damage from any third wave of Covid-19 infections, one of England’s top doctors, Jonathan Van-Tam, said, adding that there would likely still be bumps in the road in the coming year.

Japan: Japan will consider making vaccines and medical treatments that have yet to be domestically approved available for emergency use in order to reduce regulatory delays to vaccination as cases spike, the Nikkei reported.

South Africa: Countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America must engage the international human rights movement to ensure equitable access to vaccines, particularly for poor countries, South African Finance Minister Tito Mboweni said.

Israel: Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. has stopped searching for opportunities to produce vaccines for a developer partner, according to the generic drug giant’s chief executive officer, who said the vaccine makers have already secured needed manufacturing capacity. Chief Executive Officer Kare Schultz said in February that Teva was in discussions with top-tier shot makers about helping with production and distribution. Those talks ended after the companies clinched other manufacturing agreements and determined they had sufficient capacity to meet targets, he said Wednesday.

Lockdown updates

US: In a Level 4 travel advisory — the highest issued by the Department of State – the US government told its citizens to leave India as soon as possible and not travel there because of the escalating coronavirus crisis in the country.

Maryland is dropping most outdoor mask requirements effective immediately and loosening other restrictions. Masks will still be required at all large venues, such as stadiums and concerts and indoors at all private and public businesses, Kata D. Hall, a spokeswoman for Governor Larry Hogan, said on Twitter.

Europe: British and European travellers should be able to visit EU countries this summer but may have to deal with multiple, potentially unconnected health certificates unless the bloc can agree on cost, privacy and technical aspects of a common pass.

UK: Thousands of people at a mass nightclub rave in the UK this week will be a key test of whether live events halted during the pandemic can reopen at full capacity as planned from the end of June. The two-day event in Liverpool, northwest England, is part of a national research program that so far appears to show people are happy to be tested to secure entry to large-scale events.

Switzerland: Switzerland is considering permitting large public events to be held again from July. The government unveiled a program that will shoulder some of the costs – up to 5 million francs ($5.5 million) – if an event gets canceled due to the pandemic.

Japan: Athletes at the Tokyo Olympic Games this summer will be required to take daily coronavirus tests, a stricter requirement than previously announced. All participants are also required to take two virus tests before flying to Japan, according to a joint statement on the updated playbook released following a five-party meeting, including Tokyo 2020 and the International Olympic Committee.

Italy: Italy has imposed an entry ban on travellers from Bangladesh in a move aimed to prevent a spread of Covid-19 infections from the country hard-hit by the virus. Restrictions will be imposed on returning residents.

China: China will let airlines choose between halting flights to the country for two weeks or capping their passenger load factor at 40% if there are instances where five to nine passengers test positive for Covid-19. The policy is effective from Saturday and replaces one that required a two-week route suspension.

Philippines: The Philippines’ president Rodrigo Duterte extended restrictions in the capital region and four nearby provinces for another two weeks. From 1 May, non-essential movement, mass gatherings and dining in restaurants will remain banned in Metro Manila and in the provinces of Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna and Cavite. The country is battling one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in Asia, with hospitals and medical workers in Manila overwhelmed, while authorities face delays in the delivery of vaccines.

Kenya: Kenya is suspending flights to India for 14 days “subject to review,” Health Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said in an emailed statement. The suspension will come into effect from midnight Saturday, though cargo flights will continue.

Singapore: Singapore could consider letting vaccinated residents travel to countries where caseloads are low without having to be quarantined when they return, the Straits Times reported, citing Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung. This is another avenue for travel that the city-state is exploring, Ong said, two days after Singapore and Hong Kong announced a travel bubble plan.

Economy updates

Global: The pandemic has had a greater economic impact on women due to over-representation in industries hardest hit by the crisis, according to Oxfam International, which said women around the world lost at least $800 billion in income in 2020. That’s more than the combined gross domestic product of 98 countries. “This conservative estimate doesn’t even include wages lost by the millions of women working in the informal economy — domestic workers, market vendors and garment workers — who have been sent home or whose hours and wages have been drastically cut,” Oxfam Executive Director Gabriela Bucher said.

US: The Texas Senate passed a bill permanently allowing beer, wine, margaritas, and other mixed drinks to be included in pickup and food delivery orders, securing a revenue stream to the restaurant industry waylaid by the pandemic. The legislation now heads to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk following a 30-1 vote. Abbott signed a waiver in March 2020 allowing the sales as a boost to an industry that statewide generates $70 billion across more than 50,000 locations, according to the Texas Restaurant Association.

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