29 July

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed the grim milestone of 4 million, with a figure of 4,187,466 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections near 196 million world wide.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 34.6 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 611,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Protection has spoken about evidence that vaccinated people can spread the Covid-19 Delta variant to others, after the US’s top health agency expanded on its new guidance that fully vaccinated Americans should wear masks indoors in certain places. Rochelle Walensky said new science observed in recent days demonstrated new variants of the coronavirus were transmissible by people who have been fully vaccinated in some cases.

Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said that the US will likely be living with the Covid-19 Delta variant for at least a few months, and encouraged people to get vaccinated to be able to get back to work.

California is recommending mask use in all public indoor settings, regardless of vaccination status, following the CDC’s revised guidance. More than 90% of the state’s population is in areas with substantial or high transmission, the Department of Health said. Los Angeles County, the nation’s most populous, has made masks a requirement.

Apple Inc. plans to restore a mask requirement at most of its US retail stores on Thursday for both customers and staff, even those who are vaccinated, in a response to a resurgence in Covid cases.

China: Beijing reported one locally transmitted coronavirus case on Thursday, breaking a six month streak of zero community infections in the Chinese capital. Local media said the confirmed case is linked to cases in the central China tourist city of Zhangjiajie where an outbreak at a theater has already seeded infections in multiple provinces across the country. Beijing has sealed off the residential compound where the confirmed patient is, according to reports on social media, although no official information has been provided so far. Recent flareups are testing China’s aggressive efforts to contain the coronavirus. The outbreak that started in the airport of Nanjing in China’s east has sickened more than 150 people in less than 10 days, with the highly-contagious delta variant posing challenges to the country’s contact tracing and mass testing approaches.

Vietnam: Authorities in Ho Chi Minh City and surrounding provinces estimate it may take months to contain the region’s worst Covid-19 outbreak, the government website reported, citing Deputy Premier Vu Duc Dam.

Thailand: Thailand reported 17,669 new infections on Thursday, the highest single-day increase since the pandemic began, taking the nation’s total cases to 561,030, according to the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration. The country reported 165 fatalities, the highest single-day increase since the pandemic, with 9,798 recoveries.

Norway: Norway now leads a group of European nations that have leaped ahead of the US in Bloomberg’s July Covid Resilience Ranking.

The US’s reign as the No. 1 on the ranking was short-lived. Its vaccination drive has plateaued and cases, fueled by the delta variant, surged anew in July, triggering renewed restrictions in some parts of the country. Still, deaths remain a fraction of what they were during previous waves.

The UK is also facing uncertainty, dropping 16 rungs to 25th as cases at one point jumped the most in the world. Though deaths have so far stayed low thanks to high vaccine penetration, the resurgence has undermined confidence.

Vaccine news

Global: The UK has begun exports of coronavirus vaccine doses to poorer countries, announcing that 9m will be delivered this week around the world as its domestic programme slows. However, vaccine equity campaigners said the move was “shamefully inadequate” with the UK among richer nations blocking efforts to waive intellectual property on Covid-19 vaccines and treatments.

US: New York City will give out $100 to any resident who gets their first Covid-19 vaccine in an effort to boost lagging vaccination rates. The cash incentive will start on 30 July at city run vaccination sites, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on a briefing.

South Africa: About 54% of South Africans say they are unlikely to get a Covid-19 vaccine and almost half say they believe prayer provides more protection than the shots against contracting the disease, a survey showed. The Afrobarometer survey of 1,600 South Africans highlights a hurdle for the government’s drive to inoculate two thirds of its 60 million people in a bid to curb infections in the country, which is Africa’s worst hit by the disease, according to official statistics.

Tanzania: The president of Tanzania, one of the world’s last countries to embrace Covid-19 vaccines, has publicly received a dose and urged others to do the same. Samia Suluhu Hassan, the former deputy to her predecessor John Magufuli – who died in March after perturbing health officials by heavily downplaying the pandemic – received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and expressed confidence in its safety.

Guatemala: Guatemala president Alejandro Giammattei cancelled an order of a second batch of eight million Russian-made Covid-19 vaccines due to lengthy delays. The money that was due to go towards Sputnik vaccines will now be reinvested to get a further 8m doses from Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson, Giammattei said.

New Zealand: New Zealand’s regulatory authority Medsafe provisional approved AstraZeneca’s vaccine for people age 18 or older, the country’s Acting Minister for Covid-19 Response Ayesha Verrall said Thursday.

Japan: Japan’s health ministry is considering using AstraZeneca’s vaccine on middle-aged adults, amending earlier plans of administering it to those age 60 and above, Nikkei reported, without attribution. Inoculation of the middle-age group has become a key focus as the demographic represents the biggest share of serious Covid cases in Tokyo. The ministry will hold a panel meeting “soon” to make an official decision.

Lockdown updates

France: France will from 9 August enforce controversial new laws making a health pass compulsory to visit a cafe, board a plane or travel on an inter-city train, the government’s spokesman has said. The legislation passed by parliament at the weekend has sparked mass protests in France but the government is determined to press ahead. A valid health pass is generated by two jabs from a recognised vaccine, a negative coronavirus test or a recent recovery from infection. The legislation also makes vaccination obligatory for health workers and carers.

Philippines: The Philippines will keep its capital under the second-loosest restrictions even with rising coronavirus infections partly due to the highly contagious delta variant. The Manila capital region, which accounts for about a third of the economy, will remain under general community quarantine with heightened restrictions from Aug. 1 to Aug. 15, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement Thursday. Most businesses can operate on limited capacity.

Australia: Sydney’s delta-outbreak cases reached a new peak even as the city nears the end of its fifth week under strict stay-at-home orders, triggering authorities to implement further restrictions and penalties to enforce compliance. New South Wales, Australia’s biggest state economy, recorded 239 new cases Thursday — the highest tally since this outbreak started in Sydney in mid-June. At least 70 cases were active in the community while infectious, concerning health officials that the delta variant may further spread in the city. Mask-wearing in public will be mandated for the city’s worst-hit areas, with penalties increased from a A$200 ($147) fine to A$500, New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters on Thursday. Stricter travel restrictions will be implemented, and thousands of additional police officers are being tasked with ensuring compliance.

US: Twitter Inc. is closing its newly reopened offices in San Francisco and New York and indefinitely postponing other reopening plans, the New York Times reported. Twitter made no announcement about when it would allow employees to return and the decision was made after the company considered the latest advice from the CDC, the newspaper said. The social media company had allowed employees to return to its San Francisco and New York offices on 12 July.

Alphabet Inc.’s Google postponed its date for bringing employees back to its offices by a month, and will require returning workers to be vaccinated, Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai wrote on Wednesday.

Lyft Inc. postponed the date for employees to return to most of its offices by six months, saying in an email to staff on Wednesday that it now expects employees to return on 2 February. The decision follows an advisory from the CDC advising even vaccinated people to wear masks inside in some parts of the country. Lyft’s offices will remain open for employees who want to come in, and company will require those currently working there to be vaccinated started 2 August.

Walt Disney Co. is requiring masks again at its theme parks in Florida and California, a response to surging cases of the new delta variant, joining other companies in reinstating mask mandates after new guidance from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Disney, the world’s largest theme-park operator, reopened its Florida resorts last year and its California parks in April. It and other resort operators lifted mask requirements for vaccinated guests at the start of the summer as inoculations rose nationally. Now, all visitors aged 2 and up will be required to wear masks in all indoor locations at the parks starting Friday, regardless of vaccination status, Disney said in an emailed statement.

Singapore: Singapore moved back to tighter Covid-19 restrictions in recent weeks to prevent the nation’s hospital capacity from getting overwhelmed due to rising infections, local media reported, citing comments from Health Minister Ong Ye Kung.

Economy updates

US: McDonald’s sales in the US have jumped nearly 15% on 2019 despite obesity being a leading Covid risk factor, with the company crediting easing pandemic restrictions in helping it beat revenue forecasts. Countries with high levels of overweight people, such as the US where McDonald’s also have a new fast food loyalty scheme, have the highest death rates from Covid-19.