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April 6, 2021

International update: Global Covid infections pass 131 million – UK begins to ease lockdown

By Paul Dennis

6 April

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed the grim tally of 2.8 million with a figure of 2,850,821 according to the WHO. Meanwhile, infections have passed 131 million world wide.

US: US Covid -19 infections have passed 30.7 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 555,615 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Gayle Smith, a former US Agency for International Development administrator and chief executive officer of the ONE Campaign to eradicate preventable disease, was named the coordinator for global Covid response and health security at the US State Department. Smith, who helped lead the Obama administration’s response to the Ebola outbreak in 2014, was introduced Monday by Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Smith will help oversee the Biden administration’s effort to get more Covid-19 vaccine to poor countries amid concern that rich nations like the US have been too stingy with their supplies.

France: In France the number of people in intensive care units with Covid rose by 92 to 5,433 on Monday.

Italy: Another 296 people have died in Italy, bringing its death toll to 111,326. New infections fell from 18,025 to 10,680.

Spain: The infection rate in Spain has risen again to an average of 163.4 per 100,000 over the last fortnight, as it reported 85 more deaths.

Mexico: Mexico’s government reported another 252 more deaths on Monday. It means that 204,399 have now died from the virus.

India: India now has the highest daily Covid caseload in the world, with more than 100,000 new infections reported Monday, yet the ratio of reported deaths to cases has fallen to around 1.3% from as high as 3.6% a year ago, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The trend could be caused by increased testing, better hospital treatment, improved immunity, the age of those infected and even vaccinations.

Japan: With just over 100 days to go to the Tokyo Olympics, Japanese health authorities are concerned that variants of the coronavirus are driving a nascent fourth wave. Meanwhile, North Korea has decided not to participate in the Tokyo Olympics due to the coronavirus, a state-run sports website reported, making it the first country to skip the games because of the pandemic.

Hong Kong: Most toddlers infected with Covid-19 don’t have symptoms, but have a high viral load and a long duration of live viral shedding, making them potential silent spreaders of the infection in the community, according to a study by the Faculty of Medicine at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. To identify any hidden transmission chain, the authors recommend testing stool samples from young children. “While we are working intensively to prevent high-risk individuals from being infected, it is important to come up with a solution to avoid unfavorable outcomes in young children,” said Siew Chien Ng, associate director of the university’s Centre for Gut Microbiota Research.

Chile: A record virus surge is eroding support for the Chilean government’s Covid-19 policies and tarnishing one of the world’s fastest vaccination drives, according to a survey. Thirty-eight percent of Chileans back President Sebastian Pinera’s response to the coronavirus, down from 58% on Feb. 26, according to a Cadem poll published Monday. Meanwhile, 85% of respondents say it will take more than six months for daily life to return to normal, with open schools and stores. Pinera’s administration is grappling with a resurgence of the virus that’s driven hospitalizations and daily infections to all-time highs. Critics say Chile shouldn’t have encouraged travel during the Southern Hemisphere summer, and that the economy was reopened too quickly.

Vaccine news

US: The US has now administered 167,187,795 vaccines and distributed a total of 207,891,395 to clinics, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has reported.

President Joe Biden’s administration is working with AstraZeneca Plc to find new manufacturing capacity in the US after the company agreed to abandon a Baltimore Covid-19 vaccine plant that will focus exclusively on making doses for Johnson & Johnson. The talks are the latest development after an error at the Emergent BioSolutions Inc. facility – in which ingredients for the two companies’ vaccines were mixed up – led to a batch of 15 million doses worth of drug substance being spoiled.

Washington, DC residents aged 16 and older will be eligible for Covid vaccinations starting April 19, Mayor Muriel Bowser said on Twitter. She urged those eligible to pre-register.

Brazil: Brazil expects to vaccinate 1 million people per day in April, doubling that number in May, Senate President Rodrigo Pacheco said in an interview with CNN. The pandemic scenario for April is bad, Pacheco said. The country reported 1,319 deaths related to Covid-19 in the last 24 hours and 28,645 new cases.

South Africa: South Africa has finalized a deal for 20 million shots of the Covid-19 vaccine produced by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, with deliveries starting mid-April, allowing it to begin a broad roll-out of inoculations, Business Day reported. The deal had been delayed by Pfizer’s insistence that South Africa’s health and finance ministers personally sign the pact, which includes indemnity clauses to protect the company.

Russia: Russian officials have slowed authorization of China’s CanSino Biologics Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine, the only foreign inoculation that’s undergoing domestic testing, because local authorities are prioritizing Russian-developed inoculations, according to three people familiar with the situation. When CanSino’s local partner, Petrovax Pharm LLC, filed for approval in November, it wasn’t clear how quickly Russia would be able to scale up production of its domestic vaccines, according to one of the people, who is a government official.

France: French drug maker Valneva SE plans to start final-phase clinical trials on its vaccine candidate this month after a phase 1/2 test gave positive results for a high dose. The vaccine uses a sample of the coronavirus that has been killed to stimulate an immune response, an approach that has been used for decades in inoculations against other diseases. Valneva has said it believes the well-established safety profile of inactivated jabs will allow a successful shot to be used in a broader group of people than newer technologies being tested by other drugmakers. The results are very promising, UK Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zawahi said in the company’s statement. The UK has signed a deal worth as much as 1.4 billion pounds ($1.9 billion) to receive as many as 190 million doses of the shot between 2021 and 2025. The British government is also investing in the biotech’s Scottish manufacturing plant, where the vaccine will be created.

UK: People aged under-30 in the UK may stop being given the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine over concerns about rare blood clots.

India: Many Indian state leaders have asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to open up vaccinations to most of the country’s hundreds of millions of adults, following a second surge in infections that has eclipsed the first wave, Reuters reports.

Australia: Australia’s vaccine rollout has slowed after delay in AstraZeneca exports from the EU.

Lockdown updates

UK: Prime minister Boris Johnson confirmed the UK will move to the second stage of its lockdown lifting from next week, as non-essential shops, pub gardens and hairdressers will reopen. Meanwhile, up to 200 workers at Goldman Sachs’ office in London will return to the office this week.

In the UK, Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth has called on government ministers to be clear about plans for the use of so-called vaccine passports. – The Vaccine minister has ruled out English pubs and restaurants requiring vaccine certificates as economy reopens.

Thailand: Thailand reported 250 new virus cases Tuesday as testing of hundreds of patrons of Bangkok bars confirmed several new infection clusters. The flareup prompted authorities to close almost 200 night-life entertainment venues Monday for two weeks, including bars, pubs and karaoke centers. The surge in new cases comes ahead of Thailand’s New Year holiday next week, when millions of Thais travel across the country, and can potentially derail a government plan to gradually ease quarantine requirements for vaccinated foreign visitors.

Saudi Arabia: Authorities in Saudi Arabia said only people who have been vaccinated or had the virus will be able to do the umrah pilgrimage later this month.

France: An investigation has been launched in France after a TV exposé revealed “clandestine” luxury dinners in Paris despite the pandemic.

New Zealand: New Zealand has agreed to open a quarantine-free travel corridor with Australia as of April 19, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Tuesday, restoring unrestricted, two-way travel across the Tasman Sea for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began. “The bubble will give our economic recovery a boost and represents a world leading arrangement of safely opening up international travel while continuing to pursue a strategy of elimination and keeping the virus out,” Ardern said. “We have worked hard to ensure travel is safe and that the necessary public health measures are in place.”

Singapore: People flying to Singapore will be able to use the International Air Transport Association’s travel pass to share their pre-departure Covid-19 PCR test results at check-in and on arrival from May 1.

Economy updates

Global: A plan to end the pandemic by speeding up immunizations could be financed through a record asset allocation via the International Monetary Fund, according to the Rockefeller Foundation. The IMF should approve and swiftly distribute $650 billion in additional reserve assets to help developing economies vaccinate as much as 70% of their populations by the end of next year, the foundation said in a report.

Sweden: Sweden’s government will spend a further 6.9 billion kronor ($792 million) on measures to fight the pandemic, Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson said at a presser. The money will be used to prevent the spread of the disease and carry out vaccinations, and to extend support measures for individuals that need to work from home until 30 June. Each month the pandemic can be cut shorter means a boost to GDP worth 25 billion kronor, and 20 billion kronor for public finances, Andersson said.

UK: The UK’s Recovery Loan Scheme starts Tuesday, offering loans of as much as 10 million pounds ($14 million) to businesses, the Treasury said in a statement. The government is providing an 80% guarantee for all loans, and interest rates have been capped at 14.99% — though they’re expected to be much lower in most cases. The program runs until the end of the year and replaces various emergency loan programs that have distributed more than 75 billion pounds of loans since the pandemic began.

Indonesia: Indonesia’s government expanded movement restrictions to Aceh, Riau, South Sumatra, North Kalimantan and Papua, Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs Airlangga Hartarto said in a statement Tuesday. Curbs are now being implemented in 20 provinces through 19 April.

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