13 October

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 4.8 million, with a figure of 4,866,339 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University . Meanwhile, infections exceed 238.7 million world wide.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 44.5 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 716,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

More than 22,000 lives could have been spared in Texas and Florida, states where governors have spoken out against mask and vaccine mandates, if they had inoculated three-quarters of their adult populations, according to a study published in the scientific journal Lancet . The two states had vaccinated less than 60% of their adult population by the time the study was conducted.

US regulators are ending temporary policies that allowed more companies to produce hand sanitizer at the height of the pandemic, saying there’s no longer a shortage. Companies making sanitizers or alcohol for use in hand sanitizers under the temporary rules have until the end of the year to stop manufacturing and until 31 March to distribute their remaining supply. After March, the Food and Drug Administration says it will resume its normal policies of regulatory enforcement as it pertains to hand sanitizers.

Europe: Slower vaccination rates in eastern Europe are leading to a dramatic surge in cases in comparison to higher vaccination rates and lower Covid infection and death rates in western Europe, figures from Our World in Data suggests. The exception is in the UK where case numbers are surging.

UK: Senior figures in the UK say the failure to a prevent second wave was inexcusable given what was known about the virus. The failure to prevent tens of thousands of deaths during Britain’s brutal second wave of Covid infections was a more serious error than the timing of the first lockdown, senior scientists told the Guardian, after a damning report by MPs on the handling of the pandemic.

Bereaved families call for acceleration of UK Covid public inquiry to be accelerated and for ministers to apologise after a damning report by MPs on the handling of the pandemic.

The UK reported a slight fall back in cases to below the 40,000 mark with 38,520 confirmed cases of Covid-19, down from 40,224 yesterday.

China: China reported no local Covid-19 cases for a week after quelling a delta-variant flareup that started before a week-long public holiday at the start of October. Officials discouraged unnecessary travel and gatherings before the break to reduce transmission risks. China hasn’t shown any sign of changing its Covid Zero approach.

Thailand: Thailand reported 10,064 new infections, an increase from a three-month low on Tuesday, ahead of a government plan to ease restrictions. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha is set to chair a meeting on Thursday to decide on details of reopening plans as well as consider lifting Covid curbs. Cumulative cases rose to 1.74 million and 82 new deaths were reported, taking total fatalities to 17,917.

Vaccine news

Global: Moderna Inc. said that Gavi , the Vaccine Alliance, has agreed to purchase an additional 176.5 million doses of its vaccine for the Covax facility, a program backed by the World Health Organization that aims to get shots to low-income nations. All of the doses, which will be delivered in the first half of next year, will be offered at the company’s lowest-tiered price, Moderna said. 

Europe: Curevac NV is abandoning its first-generation vaccine to focus on another shot it’s developing with GlaxoSmithKline Plc. European regulatory authorities had indicated the vaccine probably wouldn’t be approved before the second quarter of next year, the German biotech firm said. By then, CureVac and Glaxo expect to be conducting late-stage patient trials of a second-generation shot.

Australia: Canberra, Australia’s capital city, is set to become the most Covid vaccinated city in the world. “The current evidence suggests that the ACT will be one of the most vaccinated cities in the world,” said the territory’s chief minister, Andrew Barr. “We expect to be at around 99% of the eligible population fully vaccinated by the end of November. It’s a testament to ACT residents and their willingness to protect themselves, their family and their community.”

Australian consumers who intend to get vaccinated are far more optimistic than those who don’t intend to have a jab, Westpac Banking Corp.’s October household sentiment survey showed. “The confidence level of those not intending to get vaccinated has also fallen quite sharply in the last month,” said Bill Evans, chief economist at Westpac. “Encouragingly, the size of this group has fallen as well, accounting for only 6% of respondents in the October survey compared to 9% in September and just under 20% at the start of the year.”

US: The US has administered 403,576,826 doses of Covid-19 vaccines as of Tuesday morning and distributed 488,178,975 doses, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Moderna and Johnson & Johnson said data they’ve gathered support the need for booster shots, ahead of a key regulatory meeting later this week. A panel of scientific experts who advise the US Food and Drug Administration on vaccines are scheduled to meet on Thursday and Friday to weigh the evidence for booster doses for the two vaccines.  In documents prepared for the meeting, both companies said that supplemental doses would be advisable after six months.

White House officials told state governors to start preparing to vaccinate children in early November, ABC News reported. The Biden administration said it has enough pediatric doses on hand for the 28 million children ages 5 to 11 who are expected to soon become eligible for shots, according to ABC.

Three of the largest employers in Texas will follow Joe Biden’s mandate requiring employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19, defying an order by state Governor Greg Abbott blocking such actions. International Business Machines Corp., a federal contractor, has more than 6,000 people in its Austin-area workforce, while Fort Worth-based American Airlines and Dallas-based Southwest have an even bigger footprint in the state. The two carriers have contracts with the federal government for transporting employees and goods.

Boeing told about 125,000 US based workers they have until 8 December to be fully vaccinated or risk losing their jobs. The company cited Biden’s executive order for federal contractors for the policy shift, adding that workers won’t be able to cite a prior infection or antibody test to sidestep the requirement.

New York City’s program requiring proof of vaccination to enter restaurants, gyms and clubs can continue, a federal judge ruled, finding no racial bias in the mandate. The ruling followed a lawsuit filed last month by a group of city residents, including business owners, seeking to block Mayor Bill de Blasio’s program, Key to NYC. They claim it illegally discriminates on the basis of race because Black and Hispanic New Yorkers have vaccination rates below the city average and are therefore disproportionately barred from indoor commercial spaces.

Russia: Russia will test a nasal spray form of its Sputnik V vaccine against Covid-19 among adult volunteers, according to a state document published on Tuesday.

Japan: The Japanese government is considering making the approval process for vaccines and treatments easier to accelerate their use in emergencies, according to a Kyodo News report, which cited an unidentified official.  Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is expected to instruct ministers to formulate a policy framework for virus countermeasures by the end of the month.

Lockdown updates

US: After a 19-month travel ban, the US has announced it will reopen its land borders with Canada and Mexico for nonessential travel.

New Zealand: Parts of the Waikato region and the whole of Northland will remain in lockdown at Alert Level 3 for at least another five days, New Zealand’s Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told news conference in Wellington.

Indonesia: hotels and hospitality businesses in Indonesia’s main tourism hotspot of Bali are slowly coming back to life after being shuttered for 17 months. On Thursday, Bali is due to reopen to travellers from several countries including China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, and the United Arab Emirates. Visitors will be required to follow certain regulations – they need to be fully vaccinated and take two PCR tests, both before their flight and on arrival. They will also need to quarantine for five days.

Economy updates

China: Investor sentiment for airlines and airports in Asia has picked up in recent weeks as more countries pivot toward “living with Covid-19” amid easing infections and higher vaccination rates, JPMorgan analysts including Karen Li wrote in a research note.  JPMorgan remains broadly positive on Chinese airlines and sees potential for positive surprises for reopening. In Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. is staying agile and has been improving its cash burn, hence it has been upgraded to overweight. Singapore Airlines Ltd. was raised to neutral because its shares look fairly priced and there’s limited upside, the analysts said.