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April 28, 2021

International update: Global Covid infections pass 148 million – India death toll nears 200,000

By Paul Dennis

28 April

Global: The global Covid death toll is still rising past the grim tally of 3.1 million with a figure of 3,131,660 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have passed 148 million world wide. New global cases rose for the ninth consecutive week by a record 5.7 million, the World Health Organization said in its weekly update. A 52% surge in India outweighed declines in most regions. Among the countries with the most cases, diagnoses dropped 15% in the US, 12% in Brazil and 9% in both Turkey and France. Deaths from Covid-19 gained for the sixth week to a record 87,000. India’s death toll surpassed 200,000 on Wednesday.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 32.1 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 573,378 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

India: Vital medical supplies began to reach India as hospitals starved of life-saving oxygen and beds turned away patients, and a surge in infections pushed the country’s Covid death toll close to 200,000. A shipment from the UK, including 100 ventilators and 95 oxygen concentrators, arrived in New Delhi. France is sending eight large oxygen-generating plants this week, while Ireland, Germany and Australia are dispatching oxygen concentrators and ventilators. Portugal plans to send antiviral drugs for Covid-19 treatment and oxygen to India as part of a broader European Union effort. Portugal is currently evaluating the fastest way within the EU framework to transport the medicine and oxygen to India, the Portuguese Foreign Ministry said in an emailed statement. The US president Joe Biden reaffirmed US commitment to sending doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, and the World Health Organization said it was working to deliver 4,000 oxygen concentrators to India.

Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka on Tuesday recorded nearly 1,100 new Covid-19 cases in a single day for the first time since the pandemic began.

Singapore: The Singapore government said Tuesday that five workers residing at a dormitory had likely been reinfected by Covid-19. Dorms were at the epicenter of the Covid-19 outbreak in the country last year, so when cases were discovered at the Westlite Woodlands dorm this month, more than 1,100 people living in the same block as the infected workers were quarantined. A total of 24 positive cases has been uncovered and are being investigated.

Vaccine news

Global: A technical advisory group at the World Health Organization is assessing Covid-19 vaccines from China’s Sinopharm and Sinovac Biotech and expects to reach a decision for the shots shortly, WHO assistant director-general Mariângela Simão said at an online briefing on Monday. A decision on the Sinopharm shot will be reached by the end of this week, while Sinovac’s will take until the end of next week. The WHO will also assess Moderna’s vaccine on Friday, she added.

US: A group of Republican lawmakers in the US with backgrounds as medical professionals launched a public service campaign to encourage people to get vaccinations as polls show a substantial minority of their party supporters are resisting getting the shot. Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, a physician, said that vaccine hesitancy in his home state is one of the reasons that he wanted to take part in the campaign, which was initiated by Senator Roger Marshall of Kansas, who is also a medical doctor.

Two new cases of blood clots linked to Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine are being investigated by federal health officials, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

Brazil: Russia protested a decision by Brazilian health regulators to block imports of the Sputnik V vaccine, citing a “lack of consistent and reliable data” on the shot’s safety, quality and efficacy. The five-member board of the Brazilian Health Surveillance Agency, or Anvisa, said in a late Tuesday statement that it had identified product-development flaws in all three phases of the drug’s clinical trials. The notoriously strict regulatory body stressed that it was unable to identify the source of the vaccine’s pharmaceutical materials, adding that it wasn’t given full access to facilities during a recent inspection visit to Russia. Sputnik V’s developers dismissed the findings as political, saying on Wednesday that Anvisa had been pressured by the US Department of Health and Human Services to block the Russian vaccine. They also denied that Brazilian regulators had been barred from production sites that would supply to Brazil.

Australia: Australia will give about 2,050 athletes and support staff bound for the Tokyo Olympics early priority access to Covid-19 vaccines. Amid concerns of a slow rollout, Australia had vaccinated almost 2 million of its 26 million population as of Monday, according to government data. Japan, which is due to host the Games from 23 July, is also in a race to vaccinate citizens, and has given enough doses to cover just 1.1% of its population.

Japan: The Japanese government is planning to use Moderna’s vaccine to inoculate the public at planned large-scale vaccination sites in Tokyo and Osaka, assuming the vaccine gets regulatory approval, NHK reported. Japan has so far only approved Pfizer’s dose.

Sweden: Swedish prime minister Stefan Lofven has received his first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and urged Swedes to do the same when offered. The country has vaccinated 28% of its adult population.

Lockdown updates

Portugal: Portugal’s state of emergency, the highest level of coronavirus alert, will end on Friday, the president announced, as infections drop sharply and the country prepares to further ease a strict lockdown imposed more than three months ago. The fourth and last phase of the easing of the lockdown is expected to start on Monday, with big outdoors and indoors events allowed under capacity restrictions, as well as all sport activities.

Iceland: Iceland will bar travellers from 16 countries considered to be at a “high risk” of Covid-19 infections, the justice ministry said. They include three members of the Schengen zone, notably France, Poland and Sweden. Starting on Tuesday, travellers who do arrive from the 16 countries are to spend five days in quarantine while they await the results of a virus test.

Philippines: The Philippines will ban all travelers from India and those with history of travel to the country in the last 14 days. The ban will be in effect from 29 April to 14 May, President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman, Harry Roque, said in a statement.

Australia: Is banning all flights from India until at least 15 May. Malaysia 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.

Economy updates

US: HSBC Holdings Plc expects to cut its office footprint by 20% this year and is budgeting for half its previous business travel costs as the adoption of flexible working spurs changes to longstanding practices. The bank has already committed to a 40% reduction in office space in the long term.

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