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June 17, 2021

International update: US Covid death toll passes grim figure of 600,000

By Paul Dennis

17 June

Global: The global Covid death toll is still rising with a figure of 3,833,089 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 177 million world wide.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 33.4 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed the grim figure of 600,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

President Joe Biden said China was trying to project itself as a responsible nation in regard to the Covid-19 pandemic, but it remained unclear whether Beijing was really trying to understand the origins of the coronavirus.

Virus hospitalizations in Texas have fallen to levels not seen since April 2020, when the pandemic was only beginning to spread in the second-largest US state. The hospital tally of virus patients has dropped to 1,560 in a state of 29 million people, down 90% from the peak of about 14,200 on 11 January, according to state health department data. Virus patients occupied less than 4% of intensive-care beds almost everywhere in the state and in some regions stood at less than 1%.

South Africa: South Africa’s Covid-19 infections jumped by 13,246 on Wednesday, the highest daily total in five months, its government said.

Italy: Codogno, the town where the first domestic transmission of Covid-19 was detected in Italy, has registered zero infections among its inhabitants for the first time since February 2020.

UK: Coronavirus variants will continue to emerge and “we will not be through this pandemic until the whole world has the ability to get vaccinated,” Susan Hopkins, deputy director of Public Health England’s National Infection Service, said at a House of Commons science committee meeting. “And that realistically is two years away.”

Vaccine news

EU: Johnson & Johnson is expected to miss its Covid vaccine supply target to the EU for the second quarter after millions of doses were banned for use in Europe over safety concerns, according to the European Commission.

CureVac said its vaccine was 47% effective, falling well short of the high bar set by other messenger RNA shots in a preliminary analysis of a large study muddied by the spread of virus variants. The interim analysis of data from about 40,000 volunteers included 134 Covid cases, the German company said in a statement. CureVac declined to say how many who got the shot got sick or how many received a placebo. But the results suggest the vaccine works less well for older people than in a younger population, Chief Technology Officer Mariola Fotin-Mleczek said in an interview.

Germany: Germany will this week pass the threshold of vaccinating 50% of its population with at least one dose, Health Minister Jens Spahn said.

US: More than half of unvaccinated Americans would prefer to get a Covid-19 shot from their local doctor’s office than a pharmacy or large vaccination site, according to a nationwide poll of 12,000 people by the African American Research Collaborative and the Commonwealth Fund. Over 40% of Latino, Black, and Native American people are still hesitant to get vaccinated, according to the survey. More than 70% of those communities say they face barriers when it comes to accessing the vaccines, such as transportation and difficulty getting off work.

China: More than 80% of the adult population in Beijing, or 15.6 million people, were fully vaccinated against the coronavirus by Wednesday, the Beijing Daily reported. China has administered 924 million vaccine doses in total.

UK: All care home staff in England will need to be fully vaccinated against coronavirus under a controversial new law, the government announced.

New Zealand: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said a vaccine rollout to the general population will begin next month, starting with people who are 60 or older from 28 July, then 55 or older from 11 August. Separately, New Zealand extended a pause on quarantine-free travel from Australia’s Victoria for another five days to 22 June, but expects to lift it after then.

Australia: Australia narrowed the range of people who will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine due to concern about blood clots, in a move that could further slow the nation’s rollout. The Australian Technical Advisory Group recommended the AstraZeneca vaccine should only be given to those aged 60 and above, up from the previous range of 50 and above. Australia has confirmed at least 35 cases of thrombocytopenia syndrome following administration of the shot, including two deaths. Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine will be the preferred option for those under 60, Health Minister Greg Hunt said at a press conference.

Macau: Macau has lowered the eligible age for recipients of BioNTech vaccines to 12 from 16, according to an order from the Chief Executive. Macau has administered 268,000 vaccines in total, enough to cover about 20% of its population.

Lockdown updates

UK: MPs in England have voted 461 to 60 to approve regulations that delay the easing of coronavirus restrictions in England to 19 July.

Japan: Japanese local governments will issue proof of vaccination documents to people who have received Covid-19 inoculations, probably starting next month, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said. The documents will initially be provided to those who need them to travel abroad. Digital versions of the certification will also be considered.

The Japanese government recommended ending a state of emergency for Tokyo, Osaka and other areas on Sunday as planned, because infections have fallen about a month before the country is due to host the Summer Olympics. A formal decision will be made by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who will have a news conference later Thursday on the issue.

Organizers of the Tokyo Olympics are making final arrangements to hold the Games with domestic spectators and will decide soon on the cap in numbers, broadcaster NHK reported.

Tokyo plans to continue asking eateries to refrain from serving alcohol even after the state of emergency in the capital is lifted on 20 June, public broadcaster NHK reported, without attribution.

Germany: Companies in Germany will from the end of June no longer be forced to allow working from home, chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff was quoted as saying.

India: The Taj Mahal reopened to the public as India pushes to lift restrictions in a bid to revitalise its economy.

Thailand: Thailand plans to fully reopen to foreign visitors in 120 days and give at least one vaccine dose to the majority of residents by early October to revive the tourism-reliant nation’s economy, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha said. Some places will open earlier, with Phuket set to lead the way on 1 July.

Economy updates

EU: Ursula von der Leyen signed off on the first plans by EU member states to spend Brussels’ €800bn (£687bn) Covid recovery fund, as she sought to reverse the reputational damage inflicted on the bloc by the pandemic during a visit to Portugal and Spain.

UK: The UK extended its ban on evictions of commercial tenants by nine months to protect Covid 19-hit businesses from losing their premises while pandemic restrictions are still in place. The ban had been due to end on 30 June, but Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay told the House of Commons the government would extend it until 25 March next year. The government also plans to establish a binding arbitration protest for tenants and landlords who are unable to reach agreement on repayment programs.

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