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April 1, 2021

International update: Global Covid infections pass 129 million as more variants discovered

By Paul Dennis

1 April

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed the grim tally of 2.8 million with a figure of 2,817,939 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University . Meanwhile, infections have passed 129 million world wide.

US: US Covid -19 infections have passed 30 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 552,073 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

A more contagious strain of the coronavirus is now predominant in five US regions and accounts for a quarter of new cases nationally, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The B.1.1.7 variant, first uncovered in the UK makes up from 4% to 35% cases depending on the region, and 26% of cases nationally, Rochelle Walensky said at a press briefing Wednesday. US officials had warned it could become the predominant strain of the virus in the US by early April.

Italy: Italy has made coronavirus vaccinations mandatory for all health workers, in a potentially controversial move aimed at protecting vulnerable patients and pushing back against significant ‘no-vax’ sentiment in the country.

Brazil: Brazil has detected a new Covid variant in São Paulo state that is similar to the one first seen in South Africa, it was reported earlier.

Brazil hit a record number of Covid-19 deaths for a second day, with 3,869 fatalities in the last 24 hours, the Health Ministry reported. Total deaths rose to 321,515 and the country reported 90,638 new cases, pushing the total to 12.7 million, the second highest tally globally. Brazil’s healthcare system is collapsing with 18 of 27 states reporting over 90% intensive-care beds occupied, the Fiocruz foundation reported. President Jair Bolsonaro said that “only without a lockdown policy it is possible to return to normality.”

China: China reported six new confirmed cases and 23 asymptomatic cases in the city of Ruili in the southwestern province of Yunnan, near the border with Myanmar. The cluster is China’s first since mid-February, and authorities are testing Ruili’s entire population of 210,400. Yunnan boasts caves that are the natural habitat for bats, from which Chinese scientists found a distant relative of the Sars-CoV-2 virus years before the pathogen caused an outbreak in Wuhan. Four of the six confirmed cases are Chinese nationals, while the other two are from Myanmar. All Ruili residents must quarantine at home for one week.

Vaccine news

Global: Coronavirus vaccines developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. and Sinopharm Group Co. appeared safe and effective in an interim analysis, though the World Health Organization wants more details on the elderly and infirm. The companies applied for the Who ’s emergency-use listing and the group’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization reviewed the information gathered thus far, according to details reported by Agence France Presse and confirmed by a person familiar with the matter.

A manufacturing error at a Baltimore plant affected 15 million doses worth of an ingredient for Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, according to two sources familiar with the matter, but the company downplayed the situation and said it met its most recent vaccine delivery target. In a statement, J&J said a batch of drug substance failed its quality test. Johnson & Johnson said it beat its March delivery target, providing the US government more than 20 million doses, and that it expects to deliver another 24 million by the end of April.

Pfizer Inc. said its vaccine was 100% effective in a final-stage trial in kids ages 12 to 15, a finding that could pave the way for shots for teens and pre-teens before the next school year. The vaccine is already authorized in the U.S. for people ages 16 and up. Pfizer and its partner BioNTech SE said they planned to submit the data to regulators in the US and Europe as soon as possible, seeking to amend their vaccine authorizations to include the younger age group.

EU: The European Union will have delivered 107 million vaccines by the end of this week, reaching the bloc’s targeted goal for the first three months of the year. The milestone was confirmed by European Commission spokesperson Dana Spinant. It was a revised goal that had to take into account multiple delays in the deliveries from AstraZeneca Plc.

Meanwhile, Europe’s drug regulator is investigating 62 cases worldwide of a rare blood clotting condition which has prompted some countries to limit the use of AstraZeneca ’s Covid vaccine, its chief said in a briefing.

Israel: Israel plans to administer the Pfizer Inc/BioNTech Covid vaccine to 12- to 15-year-olds upon FDA approval, the health minister said after the manufacturer deemed the shots safe and effective on the cohort.

Lockdown updates

US: President Joe Biden called it “a mistake” for the Texas Rangers baseball team to allow full attendance at games as the season kicks off while the country continues to battle the Covid-19 pandemic. “They should listen to Dr. Fauci and the experts,” Biden said during an ESPN interview broadcast on Wednesday night, referring to Anthony Fauci, his health adviser and top infectious disease expert.

Finland: Finland’s government has withdrawn a proposal to confine people largely to their own homes in several cities to help curb the spread of Covid, the prime minister said.

Sweden: Sweden’s government will postpone a planned easing of some Covid restrictions until at least 3 May amid a severe third wave, the prime minister said. Meanwhile, Sweden’s Public Health Authority has decided to halt inoculations using AstraZeneca ’s Covid-19 vaccine while the European Medicines Agency reviews possible side effects from the jab.

Germany: The premiers of two southern German states badly hit by the pandemic (Bavaria and Baden-Wuerttemberg) urged leaders in the rest of the country to reintroduce tougher lockdown measures to try to contain a third wave of infections.

The head of Germany’s intensive-care and emergency medicine association said he’s “deeply worried” about the pressure Covid-19 patients are putting on ICUs and called for tougher lockdown measures. “We are in an especially critical phase of the pandemic, if not the most critical,” Gernot Marx, president of the DIVI lobby group, said in an interview with ARD television. “If we wait longer then we’ll have 6,000 or 7,000 intensive-care patients and we are really scared about that because it would mean the system is overburdened.” The number of virus patients in ICUs climbed to 3,668 on Wednesday and the occupancy rate rose to 86% according to the latest data from DIVI.

Canada: The Canadian province of Ontario will return to a lockdown on Saturday, placing additional restrictions on stores and closing gyms and hair salons for 28 days in an effort to get Covid-19 under control, CBC News reported, citing multiple sources.

Japan: Japan’s government is seeking to impose new restrictions on Osaka and two other regions to control the coronavirus, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said Thursday. The new measures would allow local governments in Osaka, Hyogo and Miyagi to order bars and restaurants to close early, and impose fines on those that refuse. Case numbers in Osaka hit 599 Wednesday, higher than Tokyo, despite having a population only two-thirds the size of the capital. Infections have been rising in Osaka since a state of emergency was lifted at the end of February.

France: President Emmanuel Macron announced a nationwide four-week lockdown, shutting down schools and business. “We did everything we could to make these decisions as late as possible, until they became strictly necessary, which is now,” Macron warned in an address to the nation on Wednesday. “The virus is more contagious and deadlier.” He implored people to make an extra effort as the lockdown begins to come into force on Saturday. Restrictions will be flexible this weekend, during the Easter holidays, to allow people to relocate.

Greece: Greece will ease certain lockdown measures even as new cases surge. The country will allow non-essential shops to reopen from 5 April but only with online ordering and pickup, and appointment-only in-store shopping, Deputy Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Hardalias said Wednesday. At weekends only, starting 3 April, a maximum of three citizens or families will be allowed to move outside the municipality where they live for personal exercise. Greece reported 3,616 new Covid-19 cases Wednesday, the second-highest daily increase since the start of the pandemic. That followed Tuesday’s record 4,340 new cases.

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