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June 21, 2021

International update: Global Covid death toll heads towards 4 million

By Paul Dennis

21 June

Global: The global Covid death toll is still rising towards 4 million with a figure of 3,866,201 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 178 million world wide.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 33.5 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 601,824 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

China: China will risk international isolation if it fails to allow a “real” investigation on its territory into the origins of the virus that caused the Covid-19 pandemic, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said. Sullivan’s comments follow last week’s call by Group of Seven leaders including U.S. President Joe Biden for another probe into how the virus originated. Biden last month ordered the U.S. intelligence community to “redouble” its efforts to determine where the coronavirus came from and to report back in 90 days. China has rejected the theory that the virus originated in a lab in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the first cases were reported.

Portugal: More than half of the new Covid-19 cases being reported in the Lisbon region are of the more infectious Delta coronavirus variant, preliminary data showed on Sunday. Ricardo Jorge, from the national health institute, said the Delta variant represented more than 60% of cases in the Lisbon area though still less than 15% in the northern half of Portugal.

Japan: A member of Uganda’s Olympic team has tested positive for coronavirus and was barred entry into Japan, in the first detected infection among athletes arriving for the Tokyo Games, due to open in five weeks. The athletes, who arrived on Saturday night at Tokyo’s Narita airport, were all fully vaccinated with AstraZeneca and had negative PCR tests before boarding, the Asahi newspaper reported.

Brazil: Thousands of Brazilians returned to the streets on Saturday in protest against the response of Jair Bolsonaro’s administration to a pandemic that has killed close on half a million people in the country – the most after the US. On the second day of demonstrations in less than a month, the anti-Bolsonaro mobilisation is gaining momentum amid an ascendant curve of Covid-19 infections, while only 11% of 212 million Brazilians have been fully vaccinated, according to local media.

Vaccine news

US: With Covid vaccination penetration in the US likely to fall short of Joe Biden’s 70% by Fourth of July target, pandemic analysts are warning that vaccine incentives are losing traction and that “two Americas” may emerge as the aggressive Delta variant becomes the dominant US strain.

The highly transmissible delta variant first found in India is driving infections in parts of the US with low vaccination rates while having little effect in vaccinated areas, said Scott Gottlieb, former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “Connecticut, for example, where I am, shows no upsurge of infection, but Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri show very substantial upsurges of infections,” Gottlieb, who’s on the board of Pfizer Inc., said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “That’s based entirely on how much population wide immunity you have based on vaccination.”

President Joe Biden is traveling to North Carolina on Thursday to encourage more Americans to get vaccinated. The president’s trip to Raleigh comes ten days before 4 July, Biden’s stated target date to see at least 70% of adult Americans at least partially vaccinated — a goal that risks slipping out of reach. So far, slightly more than 65% of adults in the US have had at least one dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, despite a vaccine supply that has become plentiful across the nation. North Carolina is lagging many other states and the U.S. average. In North Carolina, 44.6% of the whole population has been inoculated, compared with 53.2% in the US as a whole, according to CDC data. So far, 23 states and other jurisdictions have vaccinated at least 50% of their populations, the data show.

Japan: Some of Japan’s biggest private employers will offer on-site vaccinations for employees starting Monday. The move is designed as a boost for the country’s slow vaccine rollout and to leverage strong workplace culture in companies where some may spend their entire working lives. Workers’ families are also eligible, as are contractors. Using Moderna Inc.’s messenger RNA shot, the effort is currently expected to cover about one-tenth of the country’s 126 million residents and hopefully accelerate what is still among the slowest inoculation programs in developed countries, though its pace has picked up markedly since May. Universities will also be able to administer on-site vaccinations for students, faculty and staff. As of Friday, the government had received 3,479 applications for the program, with doses set to cover 13.7 million people.

Qatar: Qatar will require full vaccination for fans at the 2022 World Cup, the Associated Press reported, quoting state media. “Due to the possibility that some countries will not be able to vaccinate all their citizens, Qatar will not allow fans to enter stadiums without receiving a full vaccination against the virus,” Prime Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani was quoted as saying.

Lockdown updates

France: Mandatory mask-wearing outdoors is being lifted and an eight-month nightly coronavirus curfew is ending in France today. The unpopular curfew has been scrapped just in time to coincide with elections in France in which the government faces pressure from a resurgent far right.

Thailand: With new cases under control and vaccination rates rising, Bangkok relaxed some Covid restrictions on restaurants, convenience stores and sports venues. Air-conditioned restaurants in Bangkok can operate at 50% capacity and remain open until 11 p.m., authorities said, and convenience stores can remain open 24 hours. Swimming pools and some sports venues are also allowed to reopen under some restrictions, according to the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.

China: China’s southern technology hub is adding restrictions for travelers and tightening enforcement of existing virus controls, after 38 passengers aboard an inbound Air China flight from Johannesburg tested positive for Covid-19. Local authorities said this weekend that they will target 100% compliance with existing protocols on public transit, including monitoring of temperatures and health codes, as well as ensuring that all passengers wear masks. Also, passengers departing Shenzhen by air now need to show proof of a negative test result done within 48 hours. As of now, roughly 62% of the city’s residents have been fully vaccinated, and officials said they would redouble efforts to reach people 60 and older. The flareup and response suggest that China could continue to follow a rigid virus-containment strategy and keep borders shut, despite the mass domestic vaccination drive that has given over 1 billion doses.

UK: The UK is moving towards a situation where people who have been double-vaccinated could be exempt from quarantine, Public Health England’s chief Covid-19 adviser has said. Dr Susan Hopkins, one of the key government advisers on the response to the pandemic, said a decision would be made after the results of a study that uses daily lateral flow tests as an alternative to isolation for ten days after coming into contact with a positive case.

Meanwhile, German Health Minister Jens Spahn warned against traveling to London for the final game of the UEFA European Football Championship, citing the prevalence there of the delta variant of the coronavirus. “Soccer is lovely, but one doesn’t absolutely have to be there in London,” Spahn told German broadcaster ARD. Germany requires a two-week quarantine for travelers from the UK.

US: The US border is unlikely to be completely reopened until 75% of Canadians are fully vaccinated, Canada’s border chief said on Sunday in comments likely to fuel mounting impatience in both countries at the restrictions. “We haven’t reached the finish line, and the finish line is when a significant majority of Canadians, approximately 75%, are fully vaccinated,” Public Safety Minister Bill Blair told national broadcaster CBC on Sunday. At present, less than a fifth of Canadians have received two shots, according to data compiled by CTV News.

Guests lined up to board Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.’s Freedom of the Seas on Sunday, marking the first cruise from a US port since the pandemic suspended operations 15 months ago. Passengers filed into PortMiami with suitcases in tow, a sight last seen in the world’s largest cruise port in March 2020. Freedom of the Seas can carry around 4,500 guests, and it’s expected to take about 650 on this first two-night loop, all of them Royal Caribbean employees who volunteered and were allowed to bring an 18-and-over guest. The trip is being dubbed a “simulated voyage,” a concept designed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to essentially prove the ships are safe to sail with Covid-19 still circulating around the globe.

Economy updates

UAE: Dubai Airport, the world’s largest by international passenger numbers, expects to recover as much as 90% of its pre-pandemic capacity by autumn and will reopen a terminal as demand picks up. Air travel will get a boost as countries start to remove restrictions, while an upcoming holiday in the Middle East and Expo 2020 Dubai, which begins in October, will also help shore up demand, Dubai Airports Chief Executive Officer Paul Griffiths said in an interview with Bloomberg TV on Sunday. The airport plans to reopen a terminal and concourse that were shut in March 2020, and will add 3,500 jobs to meet growing demand.

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