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June 25, 2021

International update: Global Covid infections pass 180 million

By Paul Dennis

25 June

Global: The global Covid death toll is still rising with a figure of 3,900,469 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 180 million world wide.

Meanwhile, the pandemic, and responses to it, is pushing more people into drug use, while illegal cultivation could also get a boost as joblessness increases globally, the UN said. The Vienna-based United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said its report showed that drug markets swiftly resumed operations after initial disruption at the onset of the pandemic – demonstrating the resilience of the market amid record demand for many substances.

Child-care demands at home skyrocketed during the pandemic, but men and women did not split the burden equally, according to a study released Friday by the Center for Global Development. Globally, women took on 173 additional hours of unpaid child care last year, compared to 59 additional hours for men, the poverty non-profit said.

US: US Covid -19 infections have passed 33.5 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 603,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The delta variant first identified in India is raging in rural western Colorado, which was largely spared in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, a state official said. More than 50% of new Colorado cases are believed to be due to the delta variant, Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist, said in a statement issued by the state emergency operations center.

President Joe Biden warned of the risks posed by a highly transmissible and potentially deadlier coronavirus variant as he prodded Americans to get vaccinated amid a decline in the pace of inoculations. Biden spoke on Thursday as part of his administration’s effort to re-ignite a US vaccination campaign that is slowing to a crawl. The White House conceded this week that it missed a pair of upcoming goals – for 70% of US adults to have at least one shot and for 160 million people to be fully vaccinated, by July 4. Both measures are on pace to hit a few weeks late.

Brazil: Brazil recorded 73,602 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, along with 2,032 deaths, the country’s health ministry said on Thursday. Brazil has registered more than 18.2 million cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 509,141, Reuters reports.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong’s government is investigating a local Covid case from an unknown source that may involve a version of the delta strain, a Department of Health official said Thursday. The case is a 27-year-old man who worked as an airline ground crew staff member at Hong Kong International Airport but had no recent travel history, according to the official. His family members and close contacts have tested negative for now. Hong Kong will also will tighten quarantine requirements for UK arrivals starting 28 June, according to a government statement Thursday. The city will raise the UK’s Covid risk designation to “very high” from “high,” which means arrivals will be subject to a 21-day quarantine at designated hotels, regardless of their vaccination status.

Myanmar: Myanmar reported 787 new coronavirus cases Thursday, the highest daily spike since the country’s February coup, according to the Ministry of Health and Sports. The government has imposed a stay-at-home order in nine townships across the country so far, restricting movement of over 1.23 million people, with the country’s total caseload at more than 150,000 cases.

UK: The UK spent billions of pounds on rapid Covid-19 test kits but has no idea if most of them are being used, according to the National Audit Office. A total of 691 million tests had been sent to homes, workplaces, schools and care settings across England as of 26 May, but results from only 14% were reported, the country’s spending watchdog said Friday. The government, which spent three billion pounds ($4.2 billion) buying about one billion rapid test kits through March, doesn’t know how many of the unregistered tests were used, it added. The findings are likely to fuel further criticism of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government, which has touted the importance of mass testing as crucial to a full reopening.

Indonesia: Jakarta on Wednesday recorded its highest demand for burial services since the pandemic began, intensifying Indonesia’s battle against a more infectious strain of the coronavirus. Funeral services for Covid-19 related deaths in Indonesia’s capital jumped to 180, Governor Anies Baswedan tweeted.

Vaccine news

Global: The World Health Organization forecasts that people most vulnerable to Covid-19, such as the elderly, may need to get an annual vaccine booster to be protected against variants, but the evidence on its potential effectiveness is scarce.

US: Roche’s Actemra received an emergency-use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of Covid-19 in some hospitalized patients. Actemra may be effective for patients who are receiving systemic corticosteroids and require supplemental oxygen, non-invasive or invasive mechanical ventilation, or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, according to an FDA letter.

Meanwhile, Ohio, the US state that offered millions of dollars in incentives to boost vaccination rates, is to conclude its program — while still unable to crack the 50% vaccination threshold.

India: India this week hit a single-day record by administering more than 8 million Covid-19 vaccinations – but even this unprecedented pace may not be fast enough for a country just emerging from a devastating second wave to head off a third one, experts say. They also question whether this week’s push averaging about 4.6 million doses a day, up from about 3 million for most of the past month, can be sustained.

Mexico: Mexico’s health regulator has given approval to US drug maker Pfizer Inc’s Covid-19 vaccine for use in children 12 years old and older, Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell said on Twitter on Thursday.

Africa: African Union special envoy Strive Masiyiwa accused the world’s richest nations of deliberately failing to provide enough Covid-19 vaccines to the continent. Masiyiwa, the union’s special envoy to the African vaccine acquisition task team, said the Covax scheme had failed to keep its promise to secure production of 700 million doses of vaccines in time for delivery by December 2021.

Japan: Japan will provide 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca Plc vaccine to each of Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Malaysia from July 1, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Friday. Taiwan and Vietnam, which already have received some shots from Japan, will each receive an additional 1 million doses, Motegi said.

Vietnam: Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh aims to have a domestic Covid-19 vaccine produced by June 2022 at the latest as the government ramps up its nationwide vaccination program, according to a post on the government website.

Malaysia: Malaysia expects some companies will receive approval to bring in private vaccines from China by August, according to Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin. Those who wish to expedite their vaccination may purchase jabs through this private market, said Khairy in a briefing Thursday.

Thailand: The drug regulator cleared Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine for local use, making it the sixth shot approved in the country, according to a government spokeswoman. The country earlier approved vaccines from Sinovac Biotech, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Sinopharm for local use.

Lockdown updates

EU: The French president Emmanuel Macron joined the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and urged EU countries to coordinate more closely on how tourists from outside the bloc are able to come, amid calls for all UK arrivals to the EU to have to quarantine.

Malta: Malta and the Balearic Islands will be added to England’s green list of places that are safe to visit without requiring quarantine on return, British transport minister Grant Shapps said on Thursday.

Australia: More than 500,000 Sydney residents will go into lockdown for at least a week as Australia races to control an outbreak of the delta variant. People who live or work in four of Sydney’s most populous areas will be allowed to leave home only for four specified essential reasons, New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters Friday.

Chile: The senate approved a measure extending the country’s state of catastrophe to 30 September, following approval from parliament’s lower house, effective from July 1. The step gives the government the ability to close borders and impose quarantines and curfews to fight Covid.

Israel: Israelis can expect to start donning masks again and the country has put off reopening to foreign tourists after its bid to return to a post-Covid normal was hobbled by a surge in infections linked to the highly transmissible delta variant. New cases were down to the single digits in mid-June, but this week topped 100 for three straight days. Most new cases have been unvaccinated children and people returning from abroad. Some of the sick had been fully vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Hungary: Authorities in Hungary will end a requirement to wear masks indoors once 5.5 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine, Cabinet Minister Gergely Gulyas said. People will no longer be required to show vaccination certificates in restaurants, hotels and public baths, Gulyas said at a briefing in Budapest. He said Hungary will reach 5.5 million vaccinated by next week.

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