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May 13, 2021

International update: Global Covid infections pass 160 million – deaths reach 583,684

By Paul Dennis

Global: The global Covid death toll is still rising with a figure of 3,331,604 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 160 million world wide.

Covid was preventable and need not have led to such huge loss of life, according to an WHO-commissioned report.

US: US Covid -19 infections have passed 32.8 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 583,684 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Newly reported Covid deaths and hospitalizations in the US will likely decrease over the next four weeks, according to ensemble forecasts published Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The median forecast for new weekly deaths drops to 3,366 for the week ending 5 June from 4,357 for the week ending 15 May. The median forecast for new daily hospitalizations falls to 2,024 for 7 June from 3,915 for 13 May.

UK: UK prime minister Boris Johnson has come under fire for delaying until spring 2022 the newly-announced public inquiry into his government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, UK researchers have found that the Indian variant of Covid-19 may be spreading more quickly than the Kent variant that led to the UK’s second lockdown last year and spread around the world.

Mexico: Mexico’s health ministry on Wednesday reported 3,090 new confirmed coronavirus cases and 267 more deaths, Reuters reports. It brings the total number of cases in the country to 2,371,483 and fatalities to 219,590.

Malaysia: Malaysia’s ministry of health said that the country has yet to see the worst of a current surge in coronavirus cases, as it reported its highest daily death count to date. It recorded 39 deaths among the 4,765 new cases on Wednesday, pushing its total caseload past 450,000 with 1,761 fatalities – the third highest rate in south-east Asia behind Indonesia and the Philippines.

Japan: Japan will set up a temporary Covid-19 testing facility in New Delhi from next week to test Japanese citizens who want to return home, according to NHK. From Friday, Japan will ban all foreign residents of Japan who’ve been in India, Pakistan or Nepal within the previous 14 days from re-entering Japan unless there are “special exceptional circumstances.” The ban applies to permanent and long-term residents, and spouses or children of Japanese nationals, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on its website Wednesday.

Thailand: Thailand reported a record single-day increase in infections Thursday, with 4,887 new cases reported after the discovery of thousands of infections in the capital’s main prisons. Of the new cases, 2,835 were from two prisons. Bangkok is working to speed up its vaccination efforts to contend with a new wave of infections which began in early April. The total death toll exceeded 500 after 32 new deaths.

South Africa: South Africa’s Department of Health said that while Covid-19 infections climbed 46% in the past week the country hasn’t yet reached a “resurgence threshold.” Cases are rising fastest in the Northern Cape and Gauteng provinces, the department said in a statement on Wednesday. While deaths rose 18% in the week, the number of hospitalizations hasn’t increased, it said. “We have not yet hit the third wave; however, we are at risk,” the department said.

Vaccine news

Global: United Nations secretary-general Antonio Guterres has highlighted the need to double the capacity of Covid-19 vaccine production and for fairer redistribution of the shots in the developing world.

Mixing doses of two leading Covid-19 vaccines increased patients’ side effects such as fatigue and headaches in early findings from a study that has yet to show how well such a cocktail defends against the virus. People who got a first dose of AstraZeneca Plc’s shot followed by Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine four weeks later reported more short-lived side effects, most of them mild, researchers from the University of Oxford reported in The Lancet medical journal. That was also true when the order of the shots was switched.

US: The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said it has found more cases of potentially life-threatening blood clotting among people who received the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine and sees a “plausible causal association”.

In an effort to boost flagging vaccine numbers Ohio will give $1 million dollar cash prizes to five randomly selected residents who get a shot by May 26, Governor Mike DeWine announced. “I know that some of you now are shaking your head and saying, ‘That Mike DeWine, he’s crazy. This million-dollar-drawing idea of yours is a waste of money,’” he said from his Cedarville home. “But truly, the real waste in this pandemic when the vaccine is readily available to anyone who wants it, the real waste is a life that is lost now to Covid-19.”

Brazil: Brazil could run out of ingredients to produce AstraZeneca Plc’s shot by the end of the week, Fiocruz’s Bio-Manguinhos Director Mauricio Zuma said in an interview. Butantan Institute has enough inputs until Friday — after that, it will halt vaccine production, Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria said on Wednesday. The country reported a total of 15,359,397 Covid-19 cases, with 76,692 confirmed in the last 24 hours, according to Health Ministry data.

Norway: Norway will not resume the use of AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine and has delayed a decision on whether to start using jabs made by Johnson & Johnson, following a press conference led by the country’s prime minister Erna Solberg. It comes after a government-appointed commission recommended that both vaccines should be excluded from Norway’s vaccination programme due to a risk of rare but harmful side-effects.

Australia: Australia will buy 25 million doses of the Moderna Inc. vaccine, according to the government, and is in also talks with the company about building a factory to make the vaccine domestically. The government expects the company to apply for approval soon.

South Korea: May soon announce a deal to produce the shot locally, according to domestic media.

Taiwan: A rising number of Covid-19 infections is prompting thousands of members of the hesitant Taiwanese public to get vaccinated. A record 11,018 people received vaccinations Wednesday, after a combined 23 confirmed cases on Tuesday and Wednesday. That outbreak prompted the government to reimpose restrictions on large gatherings for the first time since last summer, although it sees a smaller chance of further raising the Covid-19 alert level, the Apple Daily reports, citing health minister Chen Shih-chung. That is because investigators have found some signs of the infection route for local cases with unknown sources.

Seychelles: Seychelles President Wavel Ramkalawan said vaccines that have been widely administered to the nation’s population are working, even as the Indian Ocean archipelago experiences a surge in coronavirus cases. The country has fully inoculated 62.2% of its population, the biggest proportion of any nation, issuing them with either Sinopharm shots or Covishield vaccines that are made under license from AstraZeneca Plc. Most infections have been mild, according to Ramkalawan. “Imagine if we did not have our people vaccinated?” he said in an interview late Tuesday. “We have only a few people needing intensive care.”

Lockdown updates

EU: The European Union’s executive arm asked the bloc’s 27 member states to ban all non-essential travel to and from India, according to a statement on Wednesday. “It is important to limit to the strict minimum the categories of travelers that can travel from India for essential reasons and to subject those who may still travel from India to strict testing and quarantine arrangements,” the European Commission said. The so-called emergency brake is intended to limit the spread of the B.1.617.2 variant first detected in India. “EU citizens and long-term residents, as well as their family members, should still be able to travel to Europe, subject to strict testing and quarantine arrangements,” the commission said.

Japan: Japan’s northern Hokkaido Prefecture is proceeding with “careful considerations” over whether to ask the central government to declare a state of emergency as virus infections soar, NHK reports. The capital Sapporo is expected to report a daily record of about 500 infections Thursday, national broadcaster NHK says, citing an unidentified local official, and about 700 cases are expected across the prefecture, the Asahi reported earlier.

Greece: Greece will lift most remaining restriction measures from May 14 including the need for citizens to send a text message with a specific code in order to leave home, Deputy Minister for Coordination of Government Work Akis Skertsos said.

Switzerland: Switzerland plans to ease restrictions on indoor dining at restaurants and public gatherings after a decline in coronavirus infections. Restaurants will be able to welcome guests indoors again starting 31 May, while theaters will be able to accommodate more guests, the government said Wednesday. A final decision will be made on 26 May, following input from the cantons, or states, and will depend on how the Covid-19 case load develops.

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