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May 12, 2021

International update: Global Covid infections near 160 million – Indian variant found in 44 countries

By Paul Dennis

12 May

Global: The global Covid death toll is still rising with a figure of 3,318,053 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections are nearing 160 million world wide.

The India variant Covid-19 has been found in dozens of countries all over the world, according to the World Health Organization’s weekly update on the pandemic. The UN health agency said the B.1.617 strain had been found in “44 countries in all six WHO regions”.

US: US Covid -19 infections have passed 32.7 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 582,848 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

India: A tracker developed by researchers at Cambridge Judge Business School and the National Institute of Economic and Social Research suggests the number of new coronavirus infections in India has peaked. “But there is substantial variation among states and union territories in their trajectories, with cases continuing to increase over the next two weeks in areas such as Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Tripura,” the researchers wrote. The projections are in line with those from some other experts, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s advisers. However, the nation has reported more than 300,000 new infections for more than 20 straight days and health services remain overwhelmed.

Australia: A fresh outbreak in Australia has been blamed on a man who had completed hotel quarantine in South Australia. Officials in neighbouring Victoria said on Wednesday that the man tested positive after returning home to Melbourne.

Singapore: Authorities found 13 new cases of coronavirus with more than half linked to an existing cluster at Changi Airport as the government stepped up testing to track down the spread in the local community. Singapore has taken an aggressive approach in tackling an uptick in coronavirus infections by tightening border controls and reimposing stricter social distancing rules in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, The World Economic Forum plans to go ahead with its annual meeting in Singapore this August despite a jump in coronavirus cases that prompted the Asian city-state to reimpose restrictions and tighten border controls. The WEF’s marquee event, typically held in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, is scheduled for 17-20 August.

Vaccine news

US: Americans will be offered free taxis to vaccination centres in order to convince them to have a dose of the treatment. Joe Biden announced the scheme with Uber and Lyft on Tuesday.

US health agencies have identified 23 cases of a rare and dangerous blood-clotting condition among people who have received Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine, according to an update on the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention website. As of 4 May, more than 8.4 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been administered. Only 23 cases of so-called thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome have been identified, underscoring that the known and potential benefits of the vaccine outweigh its potential risks, the CDC said. “Nearly all reports of this serious condition have been in adult women younger than 50 years old,” according to the website, which was updated on Tuesday. “For all women, this is a rare adverse event. For women 50 years and older and men of all ages, this adverse event is even more rare.”

Indonesia: Sinovac Biotech Ltd.’s vaccine is wiping out Covid-19 among health workers in Indonesia, an encouraging sign for the dozens of developing countries reliant on the controversial Chinese shot, which performed far worse than western vaccines in clinical trials. Indonesia tracked 25,374 health workers in capital city Jakarta for 28 days after they received their second dose and found that the vaccine protected 100% of them from death and 96% from hospitalization as soon as seven days after, said Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin in an interview on Tuesday. The workers were tracked until late February.

Brazil: Brazil has signed a deal for Pfizer to deliver an additional 100m doses of its Covid-19 vaccine, doubling the number of shots from the company. The health ministry recorded 72,715 additional confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, along with 2,311 deaths.

Covid-19 vaccination of pregnant and postpartum women with AstraZeneca vaccine will be temporarily interrupted in Brazil, the country’s Immunization Program coordinator Franciele Francinato said during a press conference. Pfizer and Sinovac’ vaccines will continue to be given out.

UK: Pfizer has asked the UK medical regulator for permission to use its Covid-19 vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds in Britain, the Telegraph reported on Wednesday.

South Korea: “Vaccine partnership” is on the agenda for next week’s bilateral summit between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his US counterpart Joe Biden, according to presidential chief of staff for policy Lee Ho-seung. The US has the original vaccine technology, while South Korea has world-class bio-production facilities, said Lee, adding that the Asian nation could potentially become a “global hub” for vaccine production.

Canada: The Canadian provinces of Alberta and Ontario said on Tuesday they would stop offering first doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, with Ontario citing evidence that the risk of rare blood clots is somewhat higher than previously estimated.

Lockdown updates

Taiwan: Taiwan may be forced to raise its Covid-19 alert level in “coming days”, the health minister said on Wednesday. It could mean the closure of shops dealing in non-essential items after a cluster of six cases was discovered – a high number on the island which has kept infections very low throughout the pandemic.

Vietnam: Hanoi banned gatherings of more than ten people in public places and requested the suspension of non-essential meetings and events. The city, which is asking residents to leave home for essential reasons only, closed parks after a new outbreak centered in North Vietnam began 27 April. The municipality also requested beer establishments, wet markets and most restaurants to close.

Malaysia: Malaysia will follow a standardized protocol nationwide to make it easier for people to comply with social-distancing procedures as the nation bolsters efforts to stem a new wave of Covid infections. The decision comes after Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin extended the restrictions on movements nationwide to rein in the fresh wave that has left some hospitals low on ICU beds. There’s been confusion among the public over the different protocols that have been imposed from time to time to tackle the pandemic.

Maldives: The Maldives, which has one of the world’s fastest growing Covid-19 outbreaks, has tightened its restrictions. Residents of Male, the capital, are now required to stay indoors from 4 pm, until 4 am and visas for tourists from India and other nations in South Asia will be halted from 13 May, the Indian Ocean archipelago’s Health Protection Agency said in Twitter postings.

Scotland: Scots will be able to drink alcohol indoors at pubs and restaurants from next week and meet more people in their homes after a reduction in new cases, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said. The general success of the vaccination rollout means some restrictions are being lifted ahead of schedule, she told reporters in Edinburgh. Cinemas, theaters and casinos will be able to reopen from Monday, and the government is also reviewing rules on physical distancing. Rules may be relaxed further at the next review in three weeks, Sturgeon said.

Economy updates

US: Major US airlines have weighed in alongside UK carriers to urge the reopening of transatlantic travel, calling on governments in Washington and London to arrange a summit as soon as possible.

Australia: The virus has cost Australia A$311bn (£171bn), according to Tuesday’s federal budget, thanks to the massive cost of health and job support schemes.

India: Some companies in India are temporarily halting business or offering unusual assistance to employees as a devastating wave of the coronavirus sickens and kills hundreds of thousands. Feng Tay said it will suspend its Indian factories for ten working days to keep its employees safe, following firms including Honda Motor Co. and Suzuki Motor Corp. that have announced similar decisions in recent days. Developer Godrej Properties Ltd. extended a long weekend by three days to offer its employees time “to heal” while property company The Lodha Group will pay 12 months salary to the family of any of its associates who dies of Covid while in the service of the firm.

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