19 October

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 4.9 million, with a figure of 4,906,281 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University . Meanwhile, infections exceed 241 million world wide.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 45 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 726,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

About 72% of breakthrough Covid-19 patients who died in New Jersey had underlying medical conditions, according to Ed Lifshitz, medical director of the state’s Health Department. Of 362 breakthrough deaths, 262 had pre-existing conditions. A similar percentage of breakthrough Covid-19 patients hospitalized – 69% of 1,718 – had previous medical issues, Lifshitz said Monday.

With Covid-19 stressing health care, the New Mexico health department will permit hospitals to ration care as needed, the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper reported Monday.

UK: UK government warns of “challenging” winter months ahead in battle against Covid as cases continue to rise. Epidemiologist and government adviser Prof Andrew Hayward said the situation was “concerning” and there was “huge potential for the NHS to come under a lot of pressure”.

UK Covid cases neared 50,000 in one day after steadily increasing through October and reaching 49,156 on Monday, the highest reported since 17 July and a 16% rise in new cases over the past week.

A UK private laboratory is under investigation for potentially issuing more than 40,000 false negative Covid tests was not fully accredited to perform the work, contrary to assurances made by health officials.

The UK government has been ordered to reveal firms awarded “VIP” access to multimillion-pound contracts for the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the early months of the Covid pandemic, in a ruling from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

Germany: German Health Minister Jens Spahn has said that enough people have been vaccinated to permit ending a national state of emergency as scheduled on 25 November, Bild newspaper reported Monday, without saying where it got the information. Spahn told a meeting of regional leaders that a complete return to normalcy would nevertheless only be possible in the spring of next year at the earliest.

New Zealand: After months of Covid-zero, New Zealand recorded its highest daily Covid-19 case count since the pandemic began, with 94 new infections reported. Younger New Zealanders have been particularly hardest hit with the highest number of cases in the under 39 age bracket.

Russia: Russia set another new record daily caseload, recording 34,325 new cases in the last 24 hours. That’s up just slightly on the previous day’s 34,303. There were 998 further deaths. The population of Russia is around 144 million people. Despite the rising cases, Moscow continues to see a busy nightlife.

China: A rule-breaking elderly couple enjoying China’s tourist sites have become the focus of the country’s latest Covid-19 cluster, prompting a massive contact tracing and testing exercise. The two retired university lecturers from Shanghai started a holiday trip with several others in early October and were found to be infected days later in Shaanxi Province, according to media reports.  The couple traveled from Gansu, even though they had been told that their test results were abnormal, and headed to Shaanxi province, where they were tested again. While awaiting the results, they traveled around the provincial capital Xi’an and visited many scenic spots. Their results came back positive, and Shaanxi has since reported several infections. Inner Mongolia, which they also visited, and Gansu both reported new cases today. A traveler from Gansu has also been found infected in Beijing, a district health commission said separately.

Indonesia: Indonesia expects to enter the endemic phase for Covid-19 in January, as long as it can go through the year-end holiday without a further spike in cases, according to Luhut Panjaitan, the minister overseeing the pandemic response. The Asian nation is on course to have 122 million people fully vaccinated by year-end, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said.

Vaccine news

Global: Moderna Inc. CEO Stephane Bancel says the world will soon be “soon be swimming” in vaccines as the supply of Covid-19 shots rises. Speaking at a health conference in Boston on Monday, Bancel recalled how the US earlier this year shifted within months from a scarcity to easily available shots in every pharmacy. “The same thing is going to happen around the world very soon, and my guess is two-to-three months,” he said.

A study found the Valneva Covid vaccine may be as effective as the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. The vaccine uses inactivated Sars-CoV-2 virus and can be stored in fridge. Like the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, the Valneva jab was found to stimulate responses from other components of the immune system, including T-cells. However, the Valneva jab gave rise to T-cells able to respond not only to the coronavirus spike protein, but to two other key proteins.

EU: The EU has exported over 1bn vaccine doses worldwide, according to head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leye.

US: The FDA will allow people to get a different vaccine as a booster than the one they originally received, people familiar said, confirming an earlier report in the New York Times . The FDA is still considering the scope of the measure, including whether to allow the widespread mixing and matching of vaccines or whether to narrow the parameters of use, the people said, speaking on condition of anonymity before any announcement. It’s expected to authorize Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters by Wednesday evening.

India: India will soon have administered 1 billion Covid-19 vaccine doses, but the milestone masks a yawning gap between the number of people who have been fully inoculated and those that have had just one shot.  The country has only given two shots to 20% of its population of about 1.4 billion, according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker.

Canada: Pfizer Inc. and partner BioNTech SE are seeking Canadian approval for their vaccine for children as young as 5. The country’s health regulator said it will “prioritize” the review.

Lockdown updates

China: A quarantine requirement for people traveling from gambling hub Macau to the nearby mainland Chinese city of Zhuhai has been lifted from noon on Tuesday, the government said. Authorities said they want to dispel rumors that the scheduled travel resumption would be delayed due to the discovery of a suspected local Covid case. No such case has been found, the government said.

Latvia: Latvia plans to impose a four-week lockdown after a surge in cases threatened to overwhelm hospitals, Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins said, according to the Leta newswire.