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May 18, 2021

International update: US Covid infections falling as cases near 33 million

By Paul Dennis

18 May

Global: The global Covid death toll is still rising with a figure of 3,390,316 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections exceed 163 million world wide.

US: US Covid -19 infections are nearing 33 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 586,359 according to Johns Hopkins University data. The US recorded 16,857 new coronavirus infections on Sunday, the lowest daily total since the early days of pandemic in March 2020, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. In January after a holiday-fueled surge, the US was averaging about 250,000 new cases a day.

Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will retire this summer. It’s a high-profile exit following the departure of another top official, Nancy Messonier, on Friday. The moves come amid criticism of the agency’s communications and policy changes in response to emerging science on how the virus spreads through aerosols and when wearing masks is needed.

California will keep its mask mandate in place until it fully reopens its economy on 15 June in an effort to persuade more residents to get vaccinated, breaking from other states that are dropping their requirements on the federal government’s advice.

New York will lift its mask mandate on Wednesday in accordance with national guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as Covid vaccinations approach 50% of the state’s residents and cases and hospitalizations ebb.

India: India will add 17 laboratories to the Indian Sars Cov-2 Genomics Consortium, or Insacog, to help understand the spread of variants, the Economic Times reports citing Health Minister Harsh Vardhan. The minister announced the additions to the existing 10 labs, which were supposed to test 5% of positive samples from states and all positive international travelers, but are actually testing far fewer samples, according to the report.

France: France reported there were 4,186 people in intensive care units with Covid-19 on Monday, a fall of 69 and the 14th consecutive decline. Health ministry data also showed that the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 fell again, by 214 to 22,749, after rising on Sunday for the first time in nearly two weeks, Reuters reports.

Malaysia: Malaysia has reported 45 new Covid-19 deaths, its highest daily number so far. The health ministry also recorded 4,446 new coronavirus cases, raising the total number of infections to 474,556 with 1,947 deaths, Reuters reports.

Singapore: The World Economic Forum has cancelled a summit planned to take place in August in Singapore, saying it was impossible to convene an in-person meeting because of the uncertainties of the Covid pandemic.

UK: Authorities have identified 2,323 cases of the Indian strain of coronavirus in the UK, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said, as the highly transmissible new variant spreads. Speaking in Parliament on Monday, Hancock said 86 different local authority areas had now identified at least five people with the new strain. Cases have doubled in the past week in Bolton, Blackburn and Darwen in northwestern England and the Indian variant is now the dominant strain of the virus, Hancock said.

Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe recorded 38,560 coronavirus infections and 1,582 deaths by 16 May, according to government data.

Pakistan: New infections in Pakistan dropped to the lowest level in nine weeks after it imposed a week-long shutdown, according to data compiled by Bloomberg and Johns Hopkins University.

Vaccine news

EU: BioNTech on Monday said the European Medicines Agency agreed to extend the time it would allow medical agencies to store the Covid-19 vaccine it makes with Pfizer at refrigerator temperature to 31 days, longer than the five days it previously gave permission for. The change to the rules will allow for more vaccinations within Europe. The company said US regulators are considering a similar request.

US: President Joe Biden plans to send an additional 20 million doses of US coronavirus vaccines abroad by the end of June – including, for the first time, shots authorized for domestic use, where supply is beginning to outstrip demand.

Americans who resisted wearing masks when they were urged to also were less inclined to get a Covid-19 vaccine, according to Kaiser Family Foundation data. Half of non-mask wearers said they would “definitely not” get vaccinated, according to a poll taken the week of 15 March. The foundation has been running surveys since December 2020, and has seen an increasing number of people who were on the fence about the vaccine get inoculated. But the number of people who say they definitely don’t want a Covid-19 vaccine has remained stable at 13% to 15%.

Germany: Germany will scrap its Covid vaccine priority list and start offering jabs to all adults from June 7, the country’s health minister Jens Spahn said. The move means anyone aged 16 and up will be eligible for a vaccine in Germany, scrapping the existing priority criteria based on age, jobs and pre-existing medical conditions, AFP reports.

Indonesia: Indonesia has kicked off its privately run vaccination campaign, with companies including Unilever Plc inoculating local employees to help Southeast Asia’s biggest economy reach herd immunity sooner and revive growth.

Philippines: The Philippines ordered 40 million coronavirus vaccine doses from Pfizer Inc., the Southeast Asian nation’s biggest supply agreement as it fights one of the region’s worst outbreaks. The country is targeting herd immunity this year to help an economy that remained in recession last quarter.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong will start offering on-site Covid-19 vaccinations at major corporations from Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said at a briefing. The city has administered about two million doses so far and has another two million in storage.

Seychelles: Seychelles, which has vaccinated a greater proportion of its population than any other nation against Covid-19, said it has started offering Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine in addition to the AstraZeneca Plc and Sinopharm shots. So far 99% of the “target population” has been vaccinated with at least a single dose of vaccine and 88% have received two doses, the health ministry said in a statement on Monday. However, Seychelles has seen a surge in cases in recent weeks.

Zimbabwe: The People’s Liberation Army of China donated 100,000 Sinopharm vaccines to the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, the southern African nation’s Health Ministry said on its Twitter account.

Lockdown updates

Italy: Italy’s ruling parties have agreed to put back a nationwide nightly curfew to 11 pm from 10 pm with immediate effect, government sources told Reuters. Speaking after a meeting of medical advisers to Mario Draghi’s government and coalition representatives, the sources said the curfew will begin at midnight from 7 June, and be abolished altogether from 21 June. Italy reported 140 coronavirus-related deaths on Monday against 93 the day before, the country’s health ministry said.

Netherlands: The Netherlands will ease its coronavirus lockdown measures this week as the rollout of Covid-19 vaccinations has eased pressure on hospitals, health minister Hugo de Jonge said. Amusement parks and zoos will be allowed to reopen as of Wednesday, while outdoor service at bars and restaurants will be extended by two hours until 8pm.

Hong Kong: The long-awaited Hong Kong-Singapore “travel bubble” has been deferred again, amid the surge in Covid cases in Singapore, the two governments have said.

Macau: Macau extended the quarantine period to 35 days from 28 days for visitors from the Philippines, India, Pakistan, Nepal or Brazil who have positive antibody test results, according to a government statement Monday. Visitors from other places who have antibodies will have their quarantine extended to 28 days from 21.

Economy updates

Japan: Japan’s recovery stalled last quarter, with the economy shrinking for the first time since last year’s pandemic collapse, as renewed restrictions to contain the coronavirus weighed on activity. Gross domestic product shrank an annualized 5.1% from the prior quarter in the three months through March, ending a two-quarter streak of double-digit growth, the Cabinet Office reported Tuesday. Economists had forecast a 4.5% contraction.

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