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May 24, 2021

International update: Global Covid infections pass 167 million – India fatalities at near record levels

By Paul Dennis

24 May

Global: The global Covid death toll is still rising with a figure of 3,463,982 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 167 million world wide.

Three researchers from the Wuhan Institute of Virology sought hospital care in November 2019, about the time when experts say the coronavirus began circulating around the Chinese city, the Wall Street Journal reported.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 33 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 589,893 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The US reported just over 18,700 new cases Saturday, capping the first week since June with no days of infections exceeding 30,000, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. Average daily infections dropped to about 25,600, compared with almost 217,500 at the end of the first week that vaccines were rolled out in the US in mid-December. A further 481 fatalities were recorded, capping a week with the fewest fatalities since the end of March 2020.

Falling hospitalizations from Covid-19 show a “rapidly-declining vulnerability” in the US as the people getting infected – sharply falling, but still averaging over 25,000 a day in the past week – tend to be younger and less vulnerable to complications, said former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb.

Meanwhile, Federal health officials are ramping up their surveillance of the highly transmissible Covid-19 variant first identified in India, as experts warn that under-vaccinated areas in the US could become hot spots for the mutation.

France: The number of people treated for Covid-19 in intensive care units (ICUs) in France has fallen by 29 over the past 24 hours to 3,515, nearly half the amount five weeks ago, the health ministry has said. Meanwhile, France’s daily Covid-19 death toll fell to a more than seven-month low of 70, while the seven-day average for new cases fell below the 13,000 level for the first time since 2020.

India: India reported 222,315 new coronavirus infections on Monday, the lowest since April 16, government data show. While cases have peaked, almost 4,500 people died over the past 24 hours, and fatalities continue at near-record levels. Meanwhile, India’s capital, New Delhi, extended its lockdown until 31 May as it halted vaccinations of people age 18 to 44 due to a shortage of jabs. India and scores of other World Trade Organization members made a fresh appeal for a three-year patent waiver on products and technology used in the treatment of Covid-19, the Economic Times reported.

Singapore: Singapore has approved a breath test designed to detect Covid-19 and give accurate results within a minute. The Breathonix test has so far undergone three clinical trials, and achieved a sensitivity of 93% and specificity of 95% in one early Singapore-based pilot study that involved 180 patients. The city-state will screen incoming travelers from Malaysia at the Tuas Checkpoint on the western side of the island in a deployment trial of the breathalyzers, the Straits Times reported. Anyone who tests positive in the breath test would be screened in a confirmatory PCR swab test. Singapore currently screens entrants with antigen rapid tests, which would continue alongside the breathalyzers.

UK: Covid-sniffing dogs could be used to detect the coronavirus at ports of entry, potentially reducing long waits at testing lines and strengthening efforts to contain transmission, according to a UK study. Two dogs could accurately scan 300 plane passengers in about half an hour as part of a rapid screening strategy, scientists from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said in research published Monday. Then only the people selected by the dogs would need to undergo a PCR test.

The UK government pushed back on claims from the former chief aide of Prime Minister Boris Johnson that officials pursued a herd-immunity strategy in the early days of the pandemic. Dominic Cummings unleashed a series of tweets on Saturday criticizing the UK’s response. He said that letting enough citizens become infected in order to reach natural herd immunity was the “official plan in all docs/graphs/meetings” until early March 2020, when it became clear that such a policy would lead to catastrophe. When asked about the allegations in an interview on the BBC on Sunday, Home Secretary Priti Patel said that was “not at all” the plan. Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, also said it wasn’t the nation’s strategy.

Vaccine news

US: The US has administered 285,720,586 vaccine doses as of Sunday morning, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.

UK: UK health secretary Matt Hancock celebrated on Twitter after 60m vaccines have been administered across the UK.

Japan: Japan’s large-scale vaccination centers in Tokyo and Osaka opened from Monday, as the government pushes towards the goal to administer 1 million doses a day and finish inoculating the country’s 36 million over-65s by the end of July. The venues will use Moderna Inc.’s vaccine.

Lockdown updates

UK: The possibility of all safety restrictions being lifted in the UK next month is said to be “looking good”, the chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency has said.

Taiwan: Taipei, Taiwan’s capital, banned all on-site dining and drinking from May 24, the city government said in a statement Sunday. Outlets will only be allowed to serve takeout food or make deliveries. Operators who fail to comply will be fined as much as NT$15,000 ($536).

Malaysia: In new rules imposed in Malaysia from 25 May, businesses will only be allowed to operate from 8 am until 8 pm daily, while about 80% of government officers and 40% of private sector employees will work from home, with the move affecting 7 million to 8 million workers.

Japan: The Japanese government is planning to extend a coronavirus state of emergency in nine prefectures including Tokyo and Osaka that’s scheduled to expire on 31 May, the Yomiuri newspaper reports, citing several unidentified officials. The government is considering an option to extend the period in all nine prefectures to 20 June. Another option being discussed is to end the period on 13 June. An official decision is expected this week.

Israel: Israel will end local Covid-19 restrictions following its vaccine rollout that has nearly stamped out new infections, the country’s health minister said.

Germany: Germany’s health minister, Jens Spahn, has promised a wide-ranging easing of pandemic restrictions during the summer if the country’s seven-day incidence rate falls below 20. “Last summer the rate was below 20. We should aim for that again,” Spahn told the Sunday edition of Bild. According to the Robert Koch Institute, Germany has a seven-seven-day incidence rate of 64.5. That means that there are 64.5 new infections per 100,000 individuals over a period of seven days.

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