8 July

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed the grim milestone of 4 million with a figure of 4,001,920 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 185 million world wide.

Even as rapid vaccine rollouts allow life to start to return to normal in countries like the UK and US, it’s taken just 82 days for the latest million deaths, compared to 92 days for the previous million, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The real toll could be far higher than reported because of inconsistent calculations around the world. The developing world is shouldering a rising death toll. India accounted for 26% of the increase from 3 million to 4 million deaths, and Brazil about 18%. By comparison, the US, where more than 332 million shots have been administered, accounted for about 4% of the rise.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said “vaccine equity is the greatest immediate moral test of our times.” In a statement marking the gloomy milestone of 4 million Covid-19 deaths, he also said: “It is also a practical necessity. Until everyone is vaccinated, everyone is under threat.”

Cases are rising in the 22 countries of the eastern Mediterranean region due to limited vaccination, the spread of the Delta variant and increased travel, the World Health Organization has warned. Increasing infection levels follow two months of maintained decline.

Early Covid-19 cases traced to markets in Wuhan, China, mirror the initial spread of SARS 17 years earlier, scientists said in a paper that concludes that animal contagion is the most likely explanation for the pandemic’s genesis. The epidemiological history of SARS-CoV-2 is comparable to previous animal market-associated outbreaks of coronaviruses and offers a simple route for human exposure, Edward Holmes, Andrew Rambaut and 19 other researchers said Wednesday in a review of the scientific evidence pertaining to the pandemic’s origins.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 33.7 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 606,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

France: The Delta variant now represents around 40% of new Covid-19 infections in France, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said. The share of this variant has doubled each week over the past three weeks, from 10% of infections three weeks ago to 20% last week and 40% this week, he said.

Indonesia: Indonesia has set new daily records for both deaths and cases again, with 34,379 infections and 1,040 deaths. It is the third consecutive day of record new infections in Indonesia and the fourth straight day for record deaths.

Turkmenistan: Turkmenistan’s healthcare ministry has said it is making Covid vaccination mandatory for all residents aged 18 and over. Exceptions would only be made for those with medical issues preventing inoculation.

UK: The UK has reported 32,548 new Covid cases, with the weekly tally double that of the previous seven days amid surging cases in the runup to the lifting of all restrictions on 19 July.

Bangladesh: Bangladesh has reported its highest daily number of Covid deaths, with 201 fatalities registered as the south Asian country battles a surge in cases.

Australia: Sydney’s delta-strain coronavirus outbreak has reached a record daily high since it stated in mid-June, with authorities concerned some residents aren’t complying with lockdown restrictions as the virus spreads through vulnerable multicultural communities. Australia’s most-populous city recorded 38 new cases in the community from the day before. The lingering lockdown of some 6 million Australians during school holidays is a blow to the domestic tourism industry and yet again shows the limitations of the government’s strategy of trying to eliminate community transmission of the virus.

South Africa: Excess deaths in South Africa, seen by health officials there as a more precise measure of fatalities from Covid 19, rose to their highest level since January as the delta variant spread to the country’s nine provinces. In the week ended 27 June, the country recorded 5,228 excess deaths compared with 1,729 official deaths from the virus, according to a report by the South African Medical Research Council on Wednesday.

Vaccine news

Chile: Sinovac Biotech Ltd.’s vaccine was less potent than Pfizer Inc.’s shot at stopping Covid-19 in Chile where the two shots were used simultaneously, the first real-world analysis comparing a China-made inoculation against an mRNA has found. Researchers found CoronaVac was 66% effective in preventing Covid-19 among fully vaccinated adults, versus 93% for the jab made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech SE. The inactivated inoculation, given to more than 10 million Chileans, was slightly less effective in preventing hospitalization and deaths than the mRNA vaccine, which was administered to fewer than half a million people, according to the study, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.Latvia: In Latvia, employers will be allowed to sack employees who have not had their vaccines by 15 September, according to the country’s main news agency.

Lockdown updates

Global: The World Health Organization urged caution as most regions around the world have seen increasing cases over the last week. More than two dozen countries have epidemic curves that are almost vertical right now, according to Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead officer on Covid-19. “The idea that everyone is protected and it’s kumbaya and everything goes back to normal is a very dangerous assumption right now anywhere in the world, and still is in the European environment,” Mike Ryan, head of the WHO’s health emergencies program, said in a Wednesday briefing.

Vietnam: Vietnam will impose restrictions on its largest city, Ho Chi Minh City, for 15 days from Friday to tackle rising cases, according to state media reports.

Japan: Japan’s government is expected to issue a state of emergency this month in Tokyo that will likely remain in place throughout the Tokyo Olympics, according to financial newspaper Nikkei.

Myanmar: Authorities in Myanmar have ordered people in several regions of the country’s largest city, Yangon, to stay at home as coronavirus cases surged to almost 4,000 infections on Wednesday. In early May, there were fewer than 50 daily.

Taiwan: Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center suggests the government maintain an island-wide soft lockdown, with gradual easing of Covid curbs to maintain people’s lives and support the economy. A decision is expected later Thursday.

UK: British travelers who have received both doses of a coronavirus vaccine will no longer need to isolate when they return home from moderate risk countries, under a plan officials expect to come into force this month. Ministers have been working on an overhaul of pandemic rules for foreign trips to give more freedom to fully vaccinated passengers returning to England from destinations on the government’s “amber list.” Instead of isolating at home for 10 days, travelers will be told to take Covid tests after arrival under the new rules, which are due to be finalized on Thursday and could take effect as soon as July 19, people familiar with the matter said.

Mexico: Mexico Finance Minister Arturo Herrera ruled out another shutdown of the economy as Covid-19 cases in the country have begun to rise, El Financiero reports. The country reported its Covid-19 cases rose by 8,507, the highest daily increase since late February, according to data provided by the government on Wednesday. Mexico’s Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell earlier said that while cases have been increasing, deaths and hospitalizations haven’t risen at the same rate.

South Korea: South Korea is discussing raising social distancing in Seoul to highest level, according to Yonhap News. The report comes after the country reported 1,275 Covid-19 cases, a record daily tally. The latest rise coincides with Korea easing social distancing measures including wearing masks outdoors for those fully vaccinated and extending business hours. The easing had followed the nation stepping up vaccinations with about 30% of the population having had at least one shot.

Thailand: Thailand risks missing its target of fully reopening the country in about 100 days as it resists the harsh measures needed to contain the deadliest wave of Covid-19 infections. The spread of the delta variant nationwide and low rate of vaccinations mean new cases and fatalities will continue to spike, according to health experts. Meanwhile, hospitals have already run out of beds for critically ill patients after a 10-fold surge in infections since early April.