29 October

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 4.9 million, with a figure of 4,982,412 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University . Meanwhile, infections exceed 245.5 million world wide.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 45.8 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 743,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

UK: Britain has reported 39,842 new cases of Covid, government data showed on Thursday. A further 165 people were reported as having died within 28 days of a positive test for Covid, meaning the seven-day total was up 16.2% from the previous week.

Meanwhile, The UK removed all seven remaining countries from its Covid-19 red list, effectively ending a mandatory hotel quarantine requirement for any arriving travelers. The highest-risk category will remain in place to protect public health, and UK officials are prepared to add countries back if necessary, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said Thursday on Twitter.  The seven countries – Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Haiti, Panama, Ecuador and Peru, will be removed on 1 November, Shapps said.

People inoculated against Covid-19 are just as likely to spread the delta variant of the virus to contacts in their household as those who haven’t had shots, according to new research. In a yearlong study of 621 people in the UK with mild Covid-19, scientists found that their peak viral load was similar regardless of vaccination status, according to a paper published Thursday in The Lancet Infectious Diseases medical journal. The analysis also found that 25% of vaccinated household contacts still contracted the disease from an index case, while 38% of those who hadn’t had shots became infected.

Singapore: Singapore reported 3,432 new cases of Covid on Thursday, a day after recording its highest single-day rise in cases which the city-state’s healthy ministry described as an “unusual surge”.

New Zealand: New Zealand records another 125 Covid cases, pushing the country’s Delta outbreak past 3,000.

Japan: Wearing masks may be near-ubiquitous in Japan, but the government has come under fire after it was revealed that more than 80m face coverings it procured at the start of the coronavirus pandemic are still in storage, at a huge cost to taxpayers.

Germany: Germany recorded more than 28,000 new Covid cases on Wednesday, the biggest daily increase since April. Deaths exceeded 100 for a third straight day, taking the total to 95,485.

Vaccine news

Global: Some 82 countries at risk of not being able to vaccinate at least 40% of their population by the end of this year – a goal the World Health Organization has set – only because of a lack of supply, WHO senior adviser Bruce Aylward said. Those 82 countries only need an additional 550 million doses to hit that target. Between now and the end of 2021, about 3 billion doses of vaccine will be manufactured, he added. “The big question to the G-20 is, are they going to say, ‘here’s where those 550 million doses are going to come from’ because those 20 countries control the global vaccine supply,” Aylward said at a briefing on Thursday. “This is a very solvable problem. The numbers are not daunting. It’s an issue of the will and the manufacturers cooperating to make sure doses go where they’re needed.”

The World Health Organization confirmed to Inovio that the company’s vaccine candidate is one of two vaccines being tested in a large Phase 3 clinical trial that’s funded, sponsored, and conducted by the organization.

Africa: A syringe shortfall threatens Africa’s Covid vaccine drive. As vaccines arrive to the continent, a scarcity of syringes could “paralyse progress”, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday. UNICEF , the United Nation’s fund for children, is predicting an “imminent shortfall” of up to 2.2 billion of the single-use syringes used to give jabs.

Only five African countries will meet the target of fully vaccinating 40% of their populations against Covid unless the pace of inoculations increases, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Thursday.

US: Pfizer and BioNTech have announced that they expect to deliver 50m more doses of their Covid vaccine to the United States by the end of April.

Nearly a third of New York Police Department cops are unvaccinated against Covid-19 ahead of the city’s Friday deadline. The Police Benevolent Association, which represents 24,000 cops in the most populous US city, said 10,000 of the roughly 35,000 uniformed NYPD officers have not gotten the shot. Last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio eliminated the test-out option and said all city employees must receive their first vaccine dose by 29 October or face unpaid leave. The union is fighting the mandate in court, but a judge has refused to block it in the meantime. It’s not clear what effect the drop in staff will have on the operations of the nation’s largest police force, but de Blasio on Thursday sought to assure New Yorkers they will be safe.

Citigroup Inc. will require all US employees be vaccinated against Covid-19 as a condition of their employment, citing new orders from President Joe Biden. The Wall Street giant asked staffers to submit proof of vaccination by 8 December, and said those who comply will receive $200 as a “thank you,” according to a memo to staff Thursday seen by Bloomberg News.

Florida has sued the Biden administration over vaccine mandates for federal contractors, the latest in a wave of Republican pushback against the president’s orders to fight the pandemic. In a federal lawsuit filed Thursday in Tampa, the state called vaccination requirements for government contractors a “radical intrusion on the personal autonomy of American workers.” It alleges that the administration issued the mandate based on a law that doesn’t give it such power. Among the defendants is the National Aeronautics and Space Administration , or NASA, which has a large presence in the state through the Kennedy Space Center on Merritt Island.

New York City said it will temporarily outlaw days off for sanitation workers as needed ahead of anticipated employee shortages stemming from a vaccine mandate that goes into effect next week.

India: More than 100 million Indians have not turned up for their second coronavirus vaccine dose, official data showed, raising concerns of a resurgence in the disease despite a relatively low infection rate.

Hungary: Hungary will allow companies to enforce Covid vaccines on staff as a condition of employment, as the number of cases surges and the vaccination program stalls. The government will also demand that public-sector workers receive a shot, while compulsory mask-wearing will be re-introduced on public transport from next week.

Germany: Germany needs to press ahead with providing booster shots to the elderly to prevent more sickness and deaths amid a new surge in cases, according to the head of the country’s vaccine commission. “It certainly won’t be as dramatic as the start of the pandemic, because the protection from vaccination won’t disappear from one day to the next,” Thomas Mertens, the chairman of the government’s standing committee on vaccination, said on DLF radio.

Lockdown updates

EU: The European Commission has decided to give equivalence to the UK’s Covid-19 certificate. The move was reciprocated by the UK, which will accept the EU certificate for travel.

South Korea: Officials in South Korea have announced restrictions will begin to ease from next week. “Beginning 1 November, our community will take the first step of resuming our normal life,” Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said. “However, we must be aware that this doesn’t mean the fight against coronavirus is over, but a new beginning.”

Israel: Israel must do more to break down vaccine resistance and implement tougher safeguards as foreign tourists start returning next month, or risk a fifth Covid wave, public health experts are warning.  “What we did last time was open and then we were passive and did almost nothing  – no enforcement, no good genetic surveillance – and gradually we lost control,” said Nadav Davidovitch, head of Ben-Gurion University’s School of Public Health and a member of the expert panel advising the Israeli government. Tourists tentatively are to start returning on Monday, pending final government approval, but guidelines the government has released so far apply only to vaccination and testing requirements.

Economy updates

US: The US economy grew at its slowest pace in more than a year in the third quarter as a resurgence in Covid cases further stretched global supply chains, leading to shortages and decreased consumer spending, Reuters reports.