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September 22, 2021

International update: UN secretary general slams inequitable distribution of Covid vaccines

By Paul Dennis

22 September

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed the grim milestone of 4.7 million, with a figure of 4,709,292 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 229.5 million world wide.

The United Nations secretary- general, António Guterres, described the world as getting an “F in ethics” over global vaccine distribution as he spoke at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday. Guterres said the pandemic had “supersized glaring inequalities” and criticized the inequitable distribution of vaccines, highlighting that 90% of Africans were still waiting for their first dose. He said the inequitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines is an “obscenity”.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 42 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 678,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

US President Joe Biden is betting on millions more rapid, at-home tests to help curb the latest deadly wave of the Covid-19 pandemic

UK: Long Covid patients told a UK parliamentary committee that they are “struggling’” to get help on the NHS.

Germany: German Health Minister Jens Spahn predicted that the pandemic will be over by next spring once so-called “herd immunity” has been achieved. “As long as no new virus variant emerges against which a vaccination has no effect — which is very unlikely — then we will have overcome the pandemic in the spring and can return to normal,” Spahn said in an interview with the Augsburger Allgemeine newspaper.

China: Five more Covid-19 cases have been found in the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin on Wednesday, bringing the total case count to eight since the first case was found on Tuesday.  The city of 10 million people is rolling out virus testing to all of its residents and will suspend vaccinations for three days. In Bayan county, where most of the cases were found, local authorities have suspended public transportation on Wednesday. Meanwhile, a cluster in the southeastern Chinese province of Fujian appears to be easing, with only 13 cases reported on Wednesday, compared with a few dozen in the past few days. More than 400 infections have been found in the province, a manufacturing hub for electronic components, shoes and clothing, and a trade gateway with Taiwan across the strait.

Thailand: Thailand reported 11,252 new Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, the first daily increase since Sept. 17, according to government data Wednesday. The country is set to reopen more of its popular tourist destinations starting next month.

Vaccine news

US: President Joe Biden plans to announce an order of 500 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech SE vaccine Wednesday, according to two people familiar with the matter, as the president looks to increase donations of shots abroad and ward off criticism about US plans for boosters.

Vietnam: South Korea is offering Vietnam more than 1 million Covid-19 vaccine doses, with delivery expected in October, news website Zing reported, citing President Moon Jae-In during a New York City meeting with Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

South Africa: South Africa’s daily Covid-19 vaccination rate plunged this week, indicating that the inoculation drive may be losing steam amid criticism of a lack of information about the shots among more remote and impoverished communities.

UK: Cambridge University in England has reported that 96% of 12,000 students said that they had received a Covid-19 vaccination, or intended to get one, before arriving in the city for the new academic year.

Taiwan: Taiwan’s government expects to have 70% of the population at least partially vaccinated by the end of October, Premier Su Tseng-chang told reporters in Taipei. It sees close to 30% fully vaccinated by then, TVBS reported, citing the Premier’s report to lawmakers.

Lockdown updates

India: India’s foreign minister on Tuesday urged Britain to remove a rule requiring Indians visiting there to quarantine even if they are fully vaccinated.

Australia: Australia plans to open its international border by Christmas at the latest, unwinding one of the world’s strictest controls on overseas travel since the pandemic began. Australians will be able to travel abroad, with no restrictions on the destination, once the vaccination rate in their respective home state hits 80%, Tourism Minister Dan Tehan said at a National Press Club of Australia event Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Australia’s Victoria state said it would come down hard against further protests after thousands of people demonstrated in Melbourne against Covid-19 restrictions and a shutdown of the construction industry. Flanked by police officials while addressing the media, Premier Daniel Andrews condemned the “ugly” behavior Tuesday, which culminated in the business district being closed and a raft of arrests. Minister for Police Lisa Neville warned people to avoid entering the city and said she’d ordered police to use any means necessary to stamp out unrest.

New Zealand: New Zealand Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the country is “not giving up on getting back down to zero, that is exactly why Auckland is still at Alert Level 3.”  Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said on Monday that New Zealand may not get back to zero cases of Covid-19, but that doesn’t mean the country has abandoned its elimination strategy. That means trying to stamp out the virus whenever it is found, Bloomfield told Radio New Zealand. Auckland, the largest city, has been in lockdown for five weeks and won’t exit for at least another two, while social distancing and mask-wearing requirements are in place for the rest of the country. Although a handful of new cases continue to be reported daily, health officials are on top of the current outbreak and are aiming to get the vaccination rate over 90% so that restrictions can be eased, Bloomfield said.

Vietnam: Authorities in Vietnam’s commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City issued new Covid-19 safety rules that went into effect Monday requiring workers at plants, supermarkets, stores, traditional markets, offices and customers to at least be partially vaccinated or fully recovered from the virus, according to statements posted on the city’s media center website.

EU: The EU is expected to accept the UK NHS Covid pass as proof of vaccination across the union within days.

Economy updates

Global: The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development has warned that uneven vaccine distribution globally is affecting economic recovery from the pandemic.

Nigeria: Around 20% of workers in Nigeria have lost their jobs as a result of Covid-19.

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