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April 21, 2021

International update: Global Covid infections near 143 million – India faces oxygen crisis

By Paul Dennis

21 April

Global: The global Covid death toll continues to rise past the grim tally of 3 million with a figure of 3,041,923 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 142.9 million world wide.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 31.7 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 568,461 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Colorado’s fourth wave of Covid-19 is intensifying with hospitalizations reaching the highest since the end of January at 553, Governor Jared Polis said at a Tuesday news conference. Most patients admitted to Colorado hospitals are between 20 and 50, a “concerning trend,” said Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist. The state has opened four on-demand vaccine sites to reverse the trend.

India: The chief minister of India’s capital took to Twitter Tuesday to plead for oxygen supplies from the federal government as the country reels under a ferocious second wave of virus infections. His deputy, Manish Sisodia, said that several hospitals treating critically ill Covid-19 patients had only a few hours of oxygen supplies left. The city reported nearly 24,000 new infections Monday, forcing the government to order a lockdown for the next six days.

Israel: There are at least eight known cases of the Indian variant in Israel, and two more possible cases, Hezi Levi, health ministry director general, said in a radio interview Tuesday. While the variant seems to have characteristics that make it more resistant to vaccines, the shots will still work against it, though less efficiently, Levi said. Not enough is known about the variant, he added.

Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia reported 1,070 new cases on Tuesday, the biggest daily jump in eight months, bringing the total number of infections to 407,010. The kingdom recorded 12 new coronavirus-related deaths, raising the total to 6,846, the health ministry said in a tweet. A health ministry spokesman said the spike is attributable to gatherings and people not observing virus restrictions in all regions as they celebrate the month of Ramadan, a key Islamic holiday that often involves social gatherings.

Vaccine news

EU: The European Medicines Agency has stated that the overall benefits of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine outweigh any risks after eight cases of unusual blood clots, including one death, were reported in the US out of 7 million people vaccinated.

The EU drug regulator also said a warning about very rare blood clots should be added to label of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after finding a “possible link” between the shot and the clots.

Johnson & Johnson will restart shipments of its vaccine to the European Union after the bloc’s drug regulator said the benefits of the shot outweigh the risks of a possible link with cases of rare blood clots.

US: US House Democratic Whip James Clyburn said he’s concerned about the track record of Emergent BioSolutions Inc., a manufacturer expected to produce Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine at its Baltimore plant, and has launched an investigation into how the company came to be awarded its federal contracts. Two House panels, including one that Clyburn chairs, launched an investigation Monday into whether Emergent officials leveraged a relationship with a Trump administration official to profit from federal contracts, and whether the company’s actions impeded the US pandemic response. Clyburn has requested testimony from Emergent executives.

North Dakota and the province of Manitoba have undertaken a joint initiative to vaccinate Canada-based truck drivers transporting goods to and from the US The arrangement was announced by North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum and Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, who said it was the first such program between a Canadian and American jurisdiction.

Netherlands: The Netherlands will resume its use of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine from Wednesday, Dutch health minister Hugo de Jonge has announced following the European drug regulator’s statement earlier on Tuesday.

Spain: Spanish health officials have rejected a proposal to widen the interval between first and second vaccine doses, Reuters reports, citing an announcement on Cadena Ser radio on Tuesday.

Yemen: Yemen started its vaccine rollout on Tuesday, with government-held areas in the war-torn country administering the first doses three weeks after initial supplies arrived.

Sweden: Sweden will give people under 65 who have had an initial AstraZeneca vaccine dose a different vaccine for the second dose, the country’s health agency said on Tuesday.

Japan: Japan is poised to buy more doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, a move that would pave the way for the country to immunize its adult population without using any of the controversial shots it purchased from AstraZeneca Plc. Pfizer is expected to provide an additional 50 million doses by September in a contract that could be agreed on this month, the Nikkei said, without citing sources. The purchase would bring Japan’s total supply of the companies’ vaccine to 195 million doses. The nation also has an agreement for 50 million doses of Moderna Inc.’s shot, creating enough supply of the two-dose immunizations to protect around 110 million residents above the age of 16.

South Korea: Moderna Inc.’s vaccine will be supplied to South Korea in the second half of 2021, Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki told lawmakers Tuesday. South Korea said last year Moderna agreed to provide enough vaccines for 20 million people, with shipments starting in the second quarter. South Korea is still aiming for herd immunity nationwide by November.

Israel: Moderna reported a new supply agreement with Israel for 2022, with the nation also getting an option to purchase doses of variant-specific vaccine booster candidates, pending regulatory approval.

Lockdown updates

US: The US has warned against travel to India, where cases are rising to staggering levels and a new coronavirus variant has been detected.

Convention Business Commissioners in Clark County, Nevada, home to Las Vegas, voted to allow large gatherings to be held at 80% of capacity starting May 1. The decision paves the way for a return of the city’s convention business, which ground to a halt as a result of the pandemic and related restrictions. If 60% of the population is vaccinated, all county restrictions will lifted. The county is at 44% presently. Concerts with as many as 20,000 guests could be held indoors, if all attendees are tested for the virus.

Japan: Tokyo and Osaka will ask the Japanese government to declare a state of emergency, looking to ramp up restrictions to contain a surge in coronavirus just three months before the start of the delayed Olympics. Virus cases are spreading in the capital and swift action is needed, with the medical system coming under strain in some areas, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike told reporters. Osaka Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura said Tuesday he’ll seek the declaration to stem record infections in the country’s second-biggest metropolis.

India: Authorities will impose a strict lockdown this week on India’s western state of Maharashtra, the worst-hit state in India’s latest coronavirus wave, Reuters reports two senior ministers as saying.

Myanmar: Myanmar’s Ministry of Health and Sports warned people to prevent a possible third wave by strictly following precautionary measures. The warning comes as cases sharply increase in nearby India and Thailand, while testing in Myanmar has declined since a coup earlier this year.

Singapore: Singapore is reviewing its border measures for recovered travelers following the emergence of new variants. The city-state will also closely monitor for re-infection of people who have previously recovered from Covid-19, the Health Ministry said.

Canada: Toronto health authorities will order workplaces across Canada’s biggest city to close if they have more than five confirmed cases of Covid-19.

Netherlands: The Netherlands will ease some lockdown restrictions starting next week, though conditions will be attached to the amended measures as the country’s health system remains hard-hit. A hotly debated nighttime curfew, which triggered riots when first implemented, will end on 28 April, caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte said during a press briefing Tuesday evening.

Scotland: Scotland will proceed with its biggest easing of virus restrictions this year as vaccinations reduce the number of new infections and deaths. Starting next week, non-essential shops, gyms and museums will be able to reopen, while cafes, restaurants and pubs can resume the sale of food and drink outdoors, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said. A ban on travel between Scotland and England and Wales will also be lifted. More than 60% of Scotland’s adult population has now received a first dose, according to government data.

Economy updates

US: Netflix Inc. credited the pandemic with delivering record growth in 2020. Now it’s blaming the pandemic for the worst first quarter in eight years. The streaming service added far fewer new customers than Wall Street expected in the first three months of 2021, even missing its own forecast by millions of subscribers. Netflix has been warning for months that growth would slow after customers emerged from their Covid-19 hibernation, but few expected the company to stall so dramatically.

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