9 March

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 2,600,000 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University . Meanwhile, infections have passed 117 million world wide.

US: Covid -19 infections have now passed 29 million having reached 29,044,109. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 525,752 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

Italy: Italy’s coronavirus death toll eclipsed 100,000 on Monday, as prime minister Mario Draghi reiterated his pledge to speed up the vaccination programme.

Vaccine news

Global: The World Health Organization expressed concern about nations facing conflicts that could halt or slow the response to the pandemic, including vaccinations, officials said at a briefing on Monday. “The response to the pandemic needs to be a public health response and we have to take out politics,” said Kate O’Brien, head of the WHO’s vaccination division. She said vaccines have a shelf life and risk being wasted if they’re not distributed on time. Myanmar, Yemen, Syria and Libya have all faced disruption to general health services.

EU: The European Commission is “tired of being the scapegoat” for the slow rollout of vaccines, its president, Ursula von der Leyen, said as she continues to face pressure over the EU’s uncertain response to the pandemic. In a blistering counter-attack against criticism over the European Union ’s sluggish Covid-19 vaccination program, von der Leyen refocused blame on manufacturers, notably AstraZeneca Plc, which she said hadn’t stockpiled doses as it started producing in Europe.

Italy: Italy approved the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for people aged over 65 on Monday, after the Italian government had initially blocked the use for over-65s over doubts regarding the vaccine’s efficacy in that age groups and a lack of data.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi pledged strong action to turn around Italy’s slow vaccination campaign, saying an exit path out of the coronavirus pandemic isn’t far away if the country can move faster on inoculations.

A Swiss biopharmaceutical company will produce the Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine at its Italian facilities, marking the first European production agreement for the Russian shot. Lugano, Switzerland-based Adienne Pharma & Biotech SA signed an agreement with Russian sovereign wealth fund RDIF to manufacture the vaccine at its production site near Milan, according to a statement on the company’s website. Italian regulators must still approve the production but several million doses are expected to be made by the end of the year.

Brazil: Preliminary data from a study in Brazil indicates that the Covid-19 vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd is effective against the P1 variant of the virus first discovered in Brazil.

US: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said the state is opening up the vaccine to everyone 60 and over starting on 15 March, expanding general eligibility by five years from the previous starting age of 65.

UK: More than one-third of the UK population has received a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine as deaths from the disease continue to fall. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the milestone at a news conference on Monday, the same day the government took its first major step in easing lockdown restrictions by reopening schools.

Lockdown updates

UK: The reopening of schools in England will have an impact on infection rates that could affect the roadmap for lifting restrictions, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned, despite the number of new cases recorded in the UK having fallen to its lowest total since late September.

Netherlands: Most Dutch coronavirus restrictions must remain in place for now, prime minister Mark Rutte said on Monday, with the evening curfew being extended until 31 March and foreign travel advised against until mid April.

Belgium: The EU’s executive criticised Belgium on Monday for extending its blanket ban on non-essential travel to and from the country despite the European commission asking it to ease restrictions on movement.

US: Vaccinated people can visit indoors without masks but must still wear them in public and avoid large gatherings when around those who aren’t immunized or are at high risk for contracting Covid-19, the US. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday. The agency issued its long-awaited guidance for what fully vaccinated people can safely do, as inoculations rise but as health experts warn that the risk of the virus remains, especially with new variants. Broadly, the CDC recommended that fully vaccinated people can meet freely in private settings with other fully vaccinated people, but that several restrictions remain, including advising against travel and recommending mask-wearing in public.

High schools in New York City will welcome students back to the classroom for in-person instruction on 22 March, mayor Bill de Blasio said on Monday.

Wyoming will lift its mask requirement and permit bars, restaurants, theaters and gyms to resume normal operations 16 March, Governor Mark Gordon said Monday. Health officials in neighbouring Colorado last week directed counties to maintain safety protocols and Governor Jared Polis extended Colorado’s mask order for at least another 30 days. Gordon is a Republican. Polis is a Democrat.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Wrigley Field , home to the Chicago Cubs , and Guaranteed Rate Field, home to the Chicago White Sox , will allow up to 20% capacity, starting on each baseball team’s opening day in April. That capacity may grow as vaccination and recovery efforts continue, but any jump in Covid-19 cases could prompt closures, the city said. Wrigley Field, the oldest ballpark in the National League, will be limited to 8,274 fans per game starting on 1 April, the city said. Normal capacity is 41,374. Guaranteed Rate Field, home to the Chicago White Sox on the South Side, will be limited to 8,122 fans. Normally, the ballpark seats just over 40,000 guests.

Economy updates

US: The US federal government should be able to launch the delivery of $1,400 checks to around 160m American households almost immediately once Congress finalises the new coronavirus aid bill and president Joe Biden signs it.

US airlines carried an average of more than 1 million passengers a day in the past week, the highest non-holiday total since the Covid-19 pandemic began gutting travel demand in the country almost a year ago. Sunday’s total of 1.28 million was the third highest since travel collapsed in mid-March 2020, according to data reported by the Transportation Security Administration . The only equivalent periods with that many fliers since March 17, 2020, have been during the traditionally busy Thanksgiving and Christmas periods.

Italy: Prime Minister Mario Draghi told a Rome conference that his priorities include fuelling a recovery for Italy’s economy, which contracted by 8.9% last year.