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May 17, 2021

International update: Global Covid infections pass 163 million – India death toll may be higher than stated

By Paul Dennis

17 May

Global: The global Covid death toll is still rising with a figure of 3,379,501 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 163 million world wide.

US: US Covid -19 infections have passed 32.9 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 585,684 according to Johns Hopkins University data. Dr Anthony Fauci has said that “the undeniable effects of racism” have led to severe health disparities that especially impacted African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans during the coronavirus pandemic.

The US added slightly more than 30,000 cases on Saturday, sending the nation’s rolling one-week average to the lowest level since late last June, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. Even so, another 480 people died of illness related to Covid-19. That compares with peaks of more than 5,000 deaths a day in January and February.

California’s deaths doubled to 55 from 27 the day before, with the fatalities still low at 0.1 deaths for every 100,000, based on the state’s seven-day average. The positive test rate dipped slightly to 1%, the health department’s website said. The state reported 1,370 Covid-19 cases yesterday, a rate of 3.3 new cases per 100,000, a decrease from the day before. California has administered more than 34.4 million vaccines in total.

India: India reported 311,170 new infections Sunday, continuing the downward trajectory seen in the past few days, bolstering hopes that cases may have peaked after a deadly second wave that overwhelmed hospitals and crematoriums. The case tally has crossed 24.6 million, according to the India’s health ministry. More than 182 million vaccine doses have been administered.

While the daily surge in cases is ebbing, there’s no let up in deaths with the Asian nation reporting 4,077 more casualties, pushing the total to 270,284. Those death toll numbers might be under stated, according to local media reports of bodies floating along river banks in the northern states.

The Dainik Bhaskar, a Hindi newspaper popular across India’s crowded heartland, fanned 30 of its reporters along the banks of the river Ganga in Uttar Pradesh state. They found – and photographed – more than 2,000 corpses across some 1,140 kilometers (708 miles). The state government claims only about 300 are dying daily. Inc. and Indian renewable energy company Greenko Group are boosting supplies of oxygen concentrators to the country. The US company is working with “sellers on its marketplace to help them bring in about 9,000 oxygen concentrators for customers in India,” it wrote in a blog on Saturday. The first batch of 1,000 oxygen concentrators have landed and are available for purchase while the rest are expected in the second half of May, it said.

UK: A public inquiry must examine whether Boris Johnson’s decision to delay adding India to the travel “red list” of countries was influenced by his desire to start trade talks with Delhi, the chair of a cross-party Covid inquiry group has said.

Italy: Italy’s daily death toll fell below 100 for the first time since October, with 93 Covid-related deaths reported on Sunday.

France: The number of Covid-19 patients in France’s intensive care units has dropped for the 13th consecutive day, with 4,255 reported on Sunday.

Mexico: Mexico reported a daily rise of 53 Covid-19 deaths, bringing the total to 220,433, according to data released Sunday by the Health Ministry.

Vaccine news

EU: The European Union will support an expansion of vaccine production in Africa with President Ursula von der Leyen to back proposals for strategic vaccine production hubs, the Financial Times reported, citing unidentified European officials. Contributions could include both direct EU aid as well as funding from the European Investment Bank and national development agencies, the FT said. The EU also wants to help build up regulatory capacity, including the establishment of the African Medicines Agency.

US: Any mandates in the US to require people to be vaccinated against Covid-19 will be set at the local level by companies and institutions such as colleges, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. “It may very well be that local businesses, local jurisdictions, will work towards vaccine mandates,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “That is going to be locally driven and not federally driven.”

Separately, on “Fox News Sunday,” Walensky cited colleges or universities that may enforce vaccine mandates for students, and that the cruise ship industry may also consider it for people about to embark on multiday journeys at sea. Walensky spoke days after the CDC announced that Americans vaccinated against Covid-19 were clear to shed their face masks in public at most times.

India: Mumbai canceled vaccinations Monday at all public sites after a cyclone warning, the municipality said on Twitter. Cyclone “Tauktae” is set to hit the western coast of India – the country’s industrialized belt with big refineries and ports – prompting authorities already grappling with a deadly second virus wave to start preparations for evacuating citizens. Local authorities in Mumbai have already moved hundreds of Covid-19 patients to other facilities.

UK: More than 20 million adults in the UK have had both doses of a Covid-19 vaccine. More than two-thirds (69.4%) of adults have had a first dose while and 38.2% have had both.

Mexico: Mexico has administered more than 23 million doses of vaccine against the coronavirus with 10.6 million people now fully vaccinated.

Indonesia: Indonesia’s private vaccination program will start with 484,400 doses of Sinopharm vaccines, Rosan Perkasa Roeslani, chairman on the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry known as Kadin, said by text message Monday. The first phase will prioritize the manufacturing sector in 20 sites across the greater Jakarta area with Kadin estimating 20-26 million workers will be inoculated. Earlier, the country suspended use of a certain batch of AstraZeneca’s vaccine pending an investigation into its side effects as a precautionary measure to test its toxicity and sterility.

China: China is vaccinating almost 14 million people a day, a record for the nation as worries grow amid a Covid-19 flareup. The ramp up in shots comes just days after China detected its first new cluster in months with a smattering of cases in the eastern province of Anhui and northeastern region of Liaoning. Videos on social media showed citizens rushing to get their vaccines, with long queues at inoculation sites despite heavy rainfall.

South Africa: South Africa will start a mass vaccination effort Monday at 87 sites across the country using Pfizer Inc. doses administered to frontline health-care workers and the elderly, health minister Zweli Mkhize said Sunday.

Ghana: Ghana will begin administering doses from a second delivery of vaccines from the WHO-backed Covax facility starting May 19. Ghana received a batch of 350,000 AstraZeneca Plc vaccines. Priority will be given to those who already have a first shot, President Nana Akufo-Addo said in a television broadcast in the capital, Accra.

Singapore: Singapore may be facing slower vaccine deliveries over the next couple of months, as the country considers delaying second shots. New Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said the government is studying holding off the second shots in order to give more people at least one vaccine dose.

Lockdown updates

Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia has announced that travellers flying from most countries will no longer need to quarantine if they have been vaccinated against Covid-19.

Algeria: Algeria will reopen its air and land borders on 1 June, but strict measures will be imposed to limit the spread of the coronavirus, the presidency announced on Sunday.

UK: Health experts in the UK have said people should ignore Monday’s easing of lockdown and avoid socialising indoors in pubs and restaurants to prevent the new Covid-19 variant first detected in India sparking a third wave of the disease.

A decision on whether all legal restrictions can be ended in England next month will be made on 14 June, the health secretary, Matt Hancock, said.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong will increase restrictions on arrivals from Taiwan and Singapore, the South China Morning Post reports. Taiwan, Singapore and Japan are to be classified high risk according to the city’s vaccine bubble travel arrangements. Unvaccinated travelers arriving from those places will have to quarantine at designated hotels for 21 days as well as present proof of a negative test.

Singapore: All primary, secondary, junior college and Millennia Institute students will shift to full home-based learning from May 19 till the end of the school term on May 28, Singapore’s Ministry of Education said on Sunday. Preschools and student care centers remain open to support parents who have to work. The city also plans to vaccinate under 16 year-olds after a recent rise of infections among students.

Economy updates

Thailand: Thailand’s economic contraction continued into the start of year, setting the stage for a further slump as the country now faces its worst wave of Covid-19 cases. Gross domestic product in the first quarter shrank 2.6% from a year earlier, the National Economic and Social Development Council said Monday. The government faces a fresh dilemma between containing the new outbreak and sustaining domestic demand, which had started to recover in March before slumping again last month. The fresh wave, with new cases hitting a record 9,635 on Monday, has almost quadrupled the country’s total caseload since the start of April, sending consumer confidence to a 22-year low.

UK: The amount of central London office space companies need will fall by as much as 15% as people continue working from home even after coronavirus restrictions ease, according to a Deloitte survey. Developers anticipate that more flexible working patterns post-pandemic will result in less densely filled offices, so businesses will need less square footage, although this will be offset by reduced hot-desking and demand for more meeting space. Some large corporate tenants will shrink their office footprints by half, Deloitte said.

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