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April 27, 2021

International update: Global Covid infections near 148 million – India situation ‘beyond heartbreaking’

By Paul Dennis

27 April

Global: The global Covid death toll is still rising past the grim tally of 3.1 million with a figure of 3,120,879 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have passed 147.8 million world wide.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 32.1 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 572,666 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said Americans should begin to see a turning point in the pandemic “within a few weeks,” CNBC reported. If the US continues its vaccination pace, “literally within a few weeks, we’re going to start to see a turning around of the dynamics,” Fauci said Monday during a virtual event hosted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

India: The World Health Organization says it is “doing everything we can, providing critical equipment and supplies,” to India as its chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters the situation there was “beyond heartbreaking”.

The WHO said it was sending oxygen, mobile field hospitals and laboratory supplies and had transferred more than 2,600 experts from various programmes, including polio and tuberculosis, to work with Indian health authorities.

Gilead Sciences Inc. pledged to donate at least 450,000 vials of Remdesivir to the government of India and said it will provide the active pharmaceutical ingredient in the medicine to help scale up production in the country in response to the rapid increase of cases. The US company is also providing its voluntary licensing partners with technical assistance and supporting the addition of new local manufacturing facilities, Gilead said in a statement.

Boris Johnson pledged Britain would do “all it can” to help India.

France said it would send eight oxygen production units as well as oxygen containers and respirators to India.

Pakistan: Pakistan reported 874 deaths in the week ended 25 April, the worst week since the pandemic started more than a year ago. The South Asian nation that neighbors India is going through a new wave of infections and government officials are warning this one may be the worst yet.

Germany: Germany’s coronavirus cases rose by 10,976 on Tuesday, according to the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases.

Philippines: The Philippines’ Covid-19 case count breached 1 million on Monday, fueled by a surge since mid-March which health authorities attributed to a possible spread of new virus variants, economic reopening, and lower compliance to mask-wearing and distancing orders.

Vietnam: A hotel worker in Vietnam’s northern province of Yen Bai tested positive for Covid-19 after contact with 11 quarantined visitors from India, the provincial department of health said in a website statement. The worker was the first reported domestic virus case since 25 March as the government warned of possible new outbreaks tied to visitors from abroad.

Vaccine news

US: US trade chief Katherine Tai met with key officials at Pfizer and AstraZeneca about raising production of Covid-19 vaccines and a proposed waiver of intellectual-property protections. India and South Africa have proposed that the WTO waive broad sections of its intellectual-property rules and to try to forge an agreement on how patents developed in the race against Covid-19 should be recognized. The pharmaceutical companies say they are working to expand global capacity already, and argue that the fastest way for the US to help developing countries is by giving them the stockpile of vaccines it already has. The US announced Monday it would share its entire AstraZeneca supply with other countries and readied an aid package for India.

Japan: Japan will open a mass vaccination centre in central Tokyo next month, officials said on Tuesday, part of the country’s bid to speed up its Covid-19 inoculation campaign as the Olympic Games looms.

Lockdown updates

US: Vaccinated Americans may get clearance to shed masks outdoors in one of the most significant changes to virus guidelines since the US first told people to don the face coverings to curb the spread of Covid-19. President Joe Biden is expected to announce as early as Tuesday that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will issue the new guidance, according to a CNN report citing unidentified sources. With the US averaging 2.74 million vaccine doses daily – with a total of 231 million given out overall – some public health experts have called for less strict guidelines as warmer weather arrives.

Starting on 10 May New Jersey will relax some gathering restrictions, allowing bigger crowds to attend high school proms and graduation ceremonies, Governor Phil Murphy said on Monday.

With infections falling to the lowest level since November, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he is increasing allowable capacity to 33% from 20% at outdoor stadiums, to 50% from 25% at casinos, to 50% from 33% at gyms outside New York City, and to 75% from 50% at office buildings.

Turkey: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan imposed an almost 3-week lockdown starting Thursday. All students will enroll in remote schooling during the lockdown period, which runs until May 17, Erdogan said in a press conference following Monday’s cabinet meeting in Ankara. The daily number of cases should be lowered to below 5,000 so that Turkey can reopen economy along with the rest of Europe, Erdogan said. On Sunday, Turkey reported 38,553 new cases of Covid-19 and 347 deaths, bringing the death toll from the pandemic to 38,358.

Thailand: Thailand’s prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was fined for not wearing a mask after new restrictions came into force to try to halt an outbreak that saw deaths hit a record single-day high on Tuesday (15 deaths) for the third time in four days.

Malaysia: Malaysia’s Transport Ministry will halt entry of Indian nationals and passengers as well as implement strict controls for ships from the South Asian country docking at the nation’s ports. Transport Minister Wee Ka Siong said in a Facebook posting that he has informed port operators as well as domestic and foreign airlines to comply with the decision by National Security Council following a meeting on Monday.

France: President Emmanuel Macron gave some hints about how the country will start to reopen some businesses from mid-May. During a school visit Monday, just as pupils were going back to class after an extended vacation to tackle the virus, Macron said restaurants would reopen gradually between May and the end of June. He added that the timeline will be based on local virus circulations, potentially diverging from one region to another. Cultural venues would start to reopen from mid-May, with limited occupancy rates, and the current 7 pm-6 am curfew might be pushed back, he told pupils.

Economy updates

Africa: A slow rollout of Covid-19 vaccines and a lack of funding to bridge the gap between poor and rich countries could set Africa back two to five years, according to the head of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. “The fact that Africa isn’t going to get vaccinated as fast is going to clearly slow growth,” Vera Songwe, the executive secretary of the UNECA, said Monday in an interview. A lack of access to vaccines that will keep barriers to travel and business in place will also slow trade and hamper investments that could set back economic growth and prevent the creation of 26 million jobs, she said.

OPEC: OPEC and its allies projected a strong recovery in global oil demand this year, but the outlook was clouded by a raging virus outbreak in India just days before the group’s next meeting. A committee of technical experts from the group forecast that world oil consumption will rebound by 6 million barrels a day this year, according to delegates who attended the panel on Monday. Most of the fuel inventory glut accumulated during the pandemic will have dissipated by the end of this quarter, they estimated.

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