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February 19, 2021

International update: Global Covid cases pass 110.3 million as daily numbers continue to fall

By Paul Dennis

19 February

Global: The global Covid death toll has reached 2,441,917 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have passed 110.3 million world wide.

Reported daily coronavirus infections have been falling across the world for a month and on Tuesday hit their lowest since mid-October, figures that suggest the seasonality of the virus show.

A team of World Health Organization scientists is focusing on two animal types – ferret badgers and rabbits – in the search for the origins of the coronavirus, the Wall Street Journal reported. The animals can carry the virus and were sold at a market in Wuhan, China, where the earliest cases of the coronavirus emerged.

US: Covid-19 infections have passed 27.8 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 493,098 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

Brazil: Covid cases surpassed 10 million, with infections picking up speed in recent weeks as a new variant spreads amid a shortage of vaccines. Latin America’s largest nation reported 51,879 new cases Thursday, pushing the total confirmed to 10,030,626, according to Health Ministry data.

Philippines: The Philippines has detected Covid-19 virus mutations in its central Visayas islands, the Department of Health said, while adding that more data are needed to determine if these make the coronavirus more transmissible and if they will be considered a new variant. The development won’t affect the push to further reopen the capital region, which is away from the area where the mutations were found, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said at an online forum Friday.

Vaccine news

Global: A single dose of the vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE significantly reduced Covid-19 symptoms in the first four weeks after injection, according to an analysis. Among health-care workers who got the vaccine, symptomatic infections were reduced by 85% in the 15 to 28 days after the first dose, compared with those who didn’t get a shot, according to the report in The Lancet medical journal. While most workers received a second dose on schedule – about three weeks after the first – the booster would only have just started to kick in by the end of the study, so it was essentially looking at the effects of one dose, researchers said Thursday. The result gives support to health officials who recommend postponing second shots to quickly get first doses to as many people as possible.

The World Health Organization urged nations producing Covid vaccines not to distribute them unilaterally but to donate them to the global Covax scheme to ensure fairness.

Novavax Inc. will supply 1.1 billion doses of its experimental Covid-19 vaccine to Covax, a global alliance many low and middle-income countries are relying on to protect their populations from the virus. The Covax Facility is an effort led by the World Health Organization , The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovations, and Gavi , the Vaccine Alliance. Novavax , along with its manufacturing and distribution partner the Serum Institute of India , announced the commitment in a statement on Thursday, sending shares of the US drugmaker up 7% in post-market trading. Novavax and Gavi haven’t yet finalized the advanced purchase agreement for supply of the two-shot regimen.

A laboratory study suggests that the South African variant of the coronavirus may reduce antibody protection from the Pfizer /BioNTech vaccine by two-thirds, and it is not clear if the shot will be effective against the mutation, the companies have said.

US: The US will contribute as much as $4 billion to Covax, the global effort to fund vaccinations in lower-income countries, but doesn’t plan on shipping any of its own vaccines abroad until the nation’s own demand has been met, officials familiar with the matter said.

Los Angeles shut down vaccine distribution on Friday at some of its largest sites, including Dodger Stadium, due to supply shortages. Approximately 12,500 residents were to receive an email or text message telling them of the delay, Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a statement Thursday.

Houston plans to resume virus vaccinations and testing on Friday for the first time since an unprecedented winter storm and power outages paralyzed Texas for the better part of a week.

UK: Prime Minister Boris Johnson will announce on Friday that the UK will donate surplus coronavirus vaccines to developing countries to boost the global battle against the Covid-19 pandemic. The “majority” of any future UK surplus coronavirus vaccines will be shared with the World Health Organization -backed Covax program, Johnson’s office said late Thursday in a statement. That’s on top of the 548 million pounds ($766 million) the country has already donated to the program, which is aimed at supplying some of the world’s poorest nations with inoculations.

France: France is committing to donate 5% of its secured Covid-19 vaccine supplies to poorer countries through the World Health Organization -backed Covax program. A multilateral approach via Covax – a global alliance many developing nations are relying on for inoculations – is the most efficient way to show solidarity, a French official who asked not to be named in line with protocol, said Thursday.

Canada: Canada has begun to accelerate its vaccine rollout after delivery disruptions became a major political headache for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In an update by public-health officials Thursday, the government announced the pace of deliveries of both the Pfizer Inc. –BioNTech SE and Moderna Inc. shots is ramping up as of this week.

Germany: Doctors and public health officials have pleaded with Germans to take up AstraZeneca Covid vaccines. AFP reports that officials in Italy, Austria and Bulgaria were also starting to signal some public resistance to the British vaccine, and France’s health minister, Olivier Véran, got the jab live on television to drum up support, amid similar reports in Sweden.

South Africa: A top coronavirus adviser to South Africa’s government expects a slower vaccine roll-out than what has been officially mapped out. The start of the program was delayed this month after studies showed AstraZeneca Plc’s shot, the first to arrive in South Africa, provided little protection against mild forms of the disease caused by a variant of the virusidentified late last year. The government is targeting inoculating about 67% of the population this year. That time-line may be too ambitious, said Salim Abdool Karim, who co-chairs the health minister’s ministerial advisory committee on Covid-19. Instead, South Africa should aim to complete the first two phases, which would cover about 43% of almost 40 million people it plans to vaccinate this year, he said in an interview.

Lockdown updates

Netherlands: A night-time curfew to limit coronavirus transmissions looks set to remain in place in the Netherlands as most parties in parliament voiced support for an emergency government bill which would circumvent a court order that the measure be dropped.

Spain: Protesters in Spain flouted coronavirus restrictions for a second consecutive night to demonstrate against the imprisonment of a rapper who had posted tweets insulting police and the Spanish monarchy, with more than 50 people arrested and dozens injured following clashes with officers.

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