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June 9, 2021

International update: Global Covid infections pass 174 million as concern increases over Delta variant

By Paul Dennis

9 June

Global: The global Covid death toll is still rising with a figure of 3,747,385 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 174 million world wide.

The Delta variant of coronavirus that first arose in India appears markedly easier to transmit and more virulent than previous mutations, including the alpha strain that emerged last year in the UK, according to the World Health Organization’s weekly update.

People infected with the Delta variant were 2.6 times more likely to land in the hospital. They were also more likely to spread the virus to others, the WHO said. Two studies suggest Covid vaccines may be less effective against the Delta strain, which is now found in 74 countries, up by about a dozen from a week ago.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 33.3 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 598,326 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Singapore: Singapore authorities found four locally transmitted coronavirus infections on Tuesday, extending a streak of low daily virus counts since the start of the week. The decline in cases comes ahead of a possible easing of restrictions after 13 June.

Sequencing in Singapore has revealed the emergence of the delta variant as the country’s major local strain, underscoring the highly infectious nature of the mutation that was first detected in India. Of these cases to date, 449 have been found to be caused by variants of concern, among which 428 were infections of the delta strain, said the country’s health ministry. The next largest group was nine cases linked to the beta mutation that first emerged in South Africa.

Vaccine news

Global: World Bank president David Malpass said the institution does not support waiving intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines at the World Trade Organization, claiming it is out of concern that it would hamper innovation in the pharmaceuticals sector.

US: Pfizer is to begin testing its Covid-19 vaccine on a larger cohort of thousands of children under 12 years old in the US, Finland, Poland and Spain after selecting a lower dose of the shot in an earlier stage of the trial.

A top White House official has urged state governors to work with the US Food and Drug Administration to extend the shelf life of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid vaccine as millions of unused doses nationwide near expiration.

Washington state is to give adults a free cannabis spliff after they receive a Covid jab in an attempt to accelerate vaccination uptake through a promotion coined “Joints for Jabs” by the state’s liquor and cannabis board.

US health officials said Tuesday that the more harmful Covid-19 variant known as delta has surged in the UK, a country with high vaccination levels, in a warning to states as inoculation fades across the US.

Africa: Many thousands of vaccine doses have been destroyed in African countries after exceeding their expiry dates amid a reluctance to be inoculated and a lack of medical infrastructure, while some jabs were donated relatively late in their shelf life.

Hong Kong: Getting vaccinated for Covid-19 in Hong Kong could mean winning a Tesla or even a pile of gold as as the city’s tycoons and their companies look to incentivize the shots and help boost a sluggish inoculation rate. Incentives from local businesses appear to be creating a bounce in the vaccine uptake. About 34,600 people reserved slots for shots from BioNTech SE and China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. vaccinations in the 24 hours to 8 p.m. Tuesday, according to a government statement.

Indonesia: Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, will let those aged 18 years and older to start getting vaccinated against Covid-19 as the government seeks to speed up its inoculation program. Indonesia has administered more than 40 million shots so far, with the doses given to priority groups including health workers, civil servants, the elderly and those with disabilities. Southeast Asia’s largest economy seeks to give out 1 million shots a day to reach its goal of inoculating more than 180 million people to reach herd immunity.

India: Coal India Ltd., one of the nation’s biggest employers, has asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to help accelerate the vaccination of its work force after the deaths of almost 400 staff from Covid-19.

Lockdown updates

UK: Vaccine passports will be used for the first time at UK sporting events for England’s Euro 2020 group games at Wembley stadium, with those not fully vaccinated able to show proof of a negative lateral flow test taken within the previous 48 hours.

Albania: Music fans flocked to the first unrestricted European festival since the pandemic began over the weekend at an event in Albania that had 10,000 attendees across four days, with everyone showing proof of a recent negative test.

Australia: Melbourne’s two-week lockdown will ease as authorities in Australia’s second-most populous city bring a Covid-19 cluster under control. The city’s stay-at-home order will lift from Friday, Victoria state Acting Premier James Merlino told reporters. Retail stores and schools will re-open and outdoor gatherings will be allowed with a maximum of 10 people. The city’s 5 million people have been forced into lockdown four times since the pandemic began for a total period of more than 140 days.

South Korea: South Korea is seeking travel bubble agreements with Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Guam and Saipan to allow group trips as soon as July for people who are fully vaccinated. Under the government’s proposal, travel would be limited to the use of Incheon airport and designated airport in counterpart location. Returning tourists who test negative at the airport won’t have to quarantine.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong will extend social distancing measures until 23 June, according to a government statement. “A number of local cases with the N501Y mutant strain have been recorded in Hong Kong recently, and the source of infection has yet to be identified,” a government spokesman said.

US: The Biden administration is forming expert working groups with Canada, Mexico, the European Union and the UK to determine how best to safely restart global travel, Reuters reported, citing a White House official. The groups will be led by the White House Covid Response Team and the National Security Council. They will also include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as other agencies.

Maldives: Maldives extended a 16-hour curfew and other restrictions to a third week even as active cases fell to the lowest since 29 April.

Germany: Germany’s launch of a digital vaccine certificate could be imminent, with Handelsblatt reporting that IBM will probably activate the technical infrastructure on Wednesday. The German newspaper cited a letter from the head of digital at the Federal Ministry of Health. Digital certificates will be available for citizens at “many” regular pharmacies starting 14 June, according to a separate release by the ABDA Federal Union of German Associations of Pharmacists on Tuesday.

Germany will approve changes to travel rules this week that mean people accredited for the European soccer championship won’t have to quarantine even if they arrive from areas affected by mutations. “The European football championship is a major sporting event that the whole world is watching and Germany will do its part to make it a success,” Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said in an emailed statement, adding that strict hygiene rules will still apply. The tournament starts on Friday.

Economy updates

South Africa: South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa placed the country’s health minister on “special leave” over alleged links to a corruption scandal involving coronavirus communications funding.

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