13 September

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed the grim milestone of 4.6 million, with a figure of 4,630,729 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 224 million world wide.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 40 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 659,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The US president, Joe Biden, will announce new steps to slow the spread of Covid-19 before the UN general assembly meets, the surgeon general, Dr Vivek Murthy, said.

West Virginia reported more than 2,200 new cases on Sunday, as the state endures its worst outbreak of the pandemic. As cases begin to level off in hot spots like Florida and Missouri, West Virginia now has one of the worst per capita outbreaks in the US, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with intensive-care cases breaking pandemic records and hospitalizations almost even with previous highs. The outbreak, driven by the delta variant, is expected to get worse. “The weather is going to get bad, and absolutely we’re going to be overrun in our hospitals, and there are going to be decisions that have to be made on who is going to live and who is going to die,” Governor Jim Justice said at a press briefing on Friday, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported. “It’ll be terrible beyond belief.” The Republican governor strongly urged people to get vaccinated, though he added that he opposes vaccination mandates.

South Africa: South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa has announced plans to introduce Covid-19 “vaccine passports” amid widespread scepticism of vaccines in the country.

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Scotland: Scotland’s first minister has ruled out the possibility of a second referendum on independence until all day-to-day Covid restrictions are lifted. Nicola Sturgeon has repeatedly pledged to hold another poll by the end of 2023, but only if the public health crisis is over.

China: China reported 46 new Covid-19 cases on the mainland for 11 September, up from 25 a day earlier, the national health authority said.

China is experiencing another Covid-19 outbreak caused by the delta variant, with dozens of infections detected in the southeastern province of Fujian less than a month after the nation’s last flare-up was contained.  The cluster was detected thanks to routine testing in local schools, where two students tested positive on Friday. Their father, who returned from Singapore in early August, was also found to have been infected. The man did three weeks of quarantine and took 10 tests with no signs of infection before returning to the community, underscoring how difficult it can be to identify every case. China’s so-called Covid Zero policy relies on aggressive testing and contact tracing.

Thailand: Thailand reported 12,583 new Covid-19 cases, the lowest one-day tally since July 20, according to government data on Monday. The Southeast Asian nation reported 132 deaths in the past 24 hours, the lowest daily fatalities since July 30. The lower tally comes as Thailand keeps strict containment measures in 29 provinces considered as virus hotspots at least until the end of September to prevent a spike in infections.

Malaysia: Malaysia’s ministry of health has reported 100 Covid-19 deaths yesterday, and announced a further 492 backlog deaths, via its Covid information website.

Indonesia: Indonesia recorded 3,779 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, the fewest Since 16 May, according to data from government’s Covid-19 task force. The disease has infected a total of 4.17 million people in the world’s fourth most-populous nation.

Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka is facing food shortages with customers in state-run supermarkets reporting long queues for items such as rice, sugar, lentils and milk powder.

Australia: The delta-strain outbreak centered in Sydney is showing signs of peaking as New South Wales state begins easing some restrictions and remains on track to inoculate more than 70% of its adult population by mid-next month.

Germany: The spread of the coronavirus slowed in Germany on Sunday. The number of people newly infected rose by 7,345 – some 3,108 cases less than a week ago. The death toll fell to eight on Sunday, compared with 21 a week ago. The country recorded in total 4,077,640 Covid-19 infections.

Vaccine news

EU: Europe has emerged as the biggest vaccine-producing continent in the world and makes enough doses in less than a month to administer third shots to its population, EU Commissioner Thierry Breton said. Europe “is the world’s pharmacy,” he said Sunday in an interview on CNews. The region and the US need to do more to get vaccines to Africa, he said, in part because of the importance of heading off new viral variants.

Israel: Israel is making preparations to ensure it has sufficient vaccine supply in case a fourth round of Covid-19 shots is needed, the country’s top health official said on Sunday. “We don’t know when it will happen; I hope very much that it won’t be within six months, like this time, and that the third dose will last for longer,” Health Ministry Director General Nachman Ash said in an interview with Radio 103FM.

Germany: Chancellor Angela Merkel urges Germans to get vaccinated ahead of the winter months. Four million people in Germany have contracted the virus and more than 90,000 people have died from it, she said on Sunday in her regular podcast. This week volunteer workers will offer vaccinations on soccer fields, in the streets and at mosques, she said.

Iraq: Iraq has received a donation of more than 100,000 AstraZeneca doses from Italy via the Covid-19 vaccine-sharing scheme Covax, according to Unicef. More than 4 million people, around 10% of Iraq’s population, have already received at least one coronavirus vaccine jab.

Japan: Japan’s Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said Sunday that more than 50% of people have been fully vaccinated on NHK broadcaster’s weekly TV program. He expects to surpass 60% by the end of this month, on a par with levels seen in Europe. Tokyo on Sunday reported 1,067 new daily cases of coronavirus infections, below the seven-day average of 1,384.

New Zealand: New Zealand has purchased 500,000 doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine from Denmark.

US: Alabama quietly shifted its rules earlier this summer to require parental consent for anyone younger than 19 to receive the vaccine at state-run clinics in public schools. AL.com reported. Generally, children older than 14 can consent to routine medical treatment, AL.com reported, but the state’s Department of Public Health changed the rules after complaints from several legislators that children were being vaccinated without parents’ consent.  Medical officials were quoted as worrying that the change may further depress the rate of vaccination in Alabama, already one of the lowest in the US.

Meanwhile, Scott Gottlieb, a board member of the Pfizer Inc. and the former head of the Food and Drug Administration, said Covid-19 vaccines for kids could arrive as soon as Halloween this year. Pfizer has said it will have data on Covid-19 vaccines for children by the end of Sept., and the FDA will take “weeks, not months,” to evaluate the data and make a decision, he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “In a best-case scenario, given that timeline they’ve just laid out, you could potentially have a vaccine available to children age five to 11 by Halloween,” Gottlieb said. Parents should consult with pediatrician to decide the number of doses and dosage for vaccinating their kids, he added.

Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, a strong proponent of the Covid-19 vaccines, said President’s Joe Biden’s announcement of federal mandates last week only “hardens the resistance” to taking the vaccine.  “This is an unprecedented assumption of federal mandate authority that really disrupts and divides the country,” the Republican governor said NBC’s “Meet the Press. “It increases the division in terms of vaccination when we should all be together trying to increase the vaccination uptake.” Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, also a Republican, called the mandates “an egregious overreach of federal authority” and said that attorneys general of several states are conferring about legal action. “So many people told me they’re just going to be fired if they’re forced to take the vaccine,” Ricketts said on “Fox News Sunday.” “This is really going to create huge problems for all small businesses and for our American workers.”

UK: The UK health secretary, Sajid Javid, has confirmed that plans for vaccine passports in England are going to be scrapped. Javid also said he expects the booster vaccination programme for Covid-19 to start this month.

Meanwhile, Conservative MPs fear vaccine passports could still be made mandatory later this year amid a warning the NHS faces “the worst winter in living memory”, despite the health secretary’s announcement earlier today that they are to be scrapped.

Valneva said the UK government is cancelling a supply contract for Covid-19 vaccines, a blow to the French drugmaker’s attempt to develop an alternative to existing shots. The company said Monday it contests allegations by the UK government that it’s in breach of its obligations under the agreement. Valneva’s shot targets the whole virus rather than just the spike protein and some scientists expect it could potentially stand up better to variants.

Lockdown updates

New Zealand: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern extended a strict lockdown in the largest city Auckland as an outbreak of the delta variant of coronavirus proves difficult to vanquish. Auckland will remain at Alert Level 4, the strictest setting,for at least another week while the rest of the country, which exited lockdown last week, will remain at Level 2, Ardern said.

Vietnam: Vietnam’s Phu Quoc Island will be the country’s first tourist destination reopened to fully-vaccinated foreign visitors beginning in November, according to the government website, which cited the tourism administration. Foreign travelers will be required to have received their second vaccine shot at least 14 days before traveling to the island in the southern province of Kien Giang and no more than 12 months ahead of arrival. This comes even as Ho Chi Minh City will extend its Covid-19 lockdown for most areas through the end of September as officials work to roll out green cards for vaccinated residents that will allow them more movement freedoms, Vietnam Television reported on its website.