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June 24, 2021

International update: US Covid infections may have been understated by 17 million

By Paul Dennis

24 June

Global: The global Covid death toll is still rising with a figure of 3,891,945 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University . Meanwhile, infections exceed 179.5 million world wide.

Details of the genetic makeup of some of the earliest samples of coronavirus in China were removed from an American database where they were initially stored at the request of Chinese researchers, US officials confirmed, adding to concerns over secrecy surrounding the outbreak and its origins.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 33.5 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 602,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

An estimated 20 million individuals in the US were likely infected with Covid-19 by mid-July of last year, about 17 million more than previously thought, according to a new study from National Institutes of Health scientists published in the peer-reviewed journal Science Translational Medicine. The data suggest that during that time period, for every one diagnosed case there were nearly five undiagnosed cases. While the researchers said the findings speak to the prevalence of asymptomatic coronavirus infections, they also likely reflect a dearth of Covid-19 diagnostic testing infrastructure. The results were based on blood samples obtained from about 8,000 volunteers, which were tested for coronavirus antibodies. Some of the positivity rates were among people of color, particularly Black individuals; residents of mid-Atlantic and Northeast states; adults aged 18 to 44; people living in cities; and women, the study found.

Portugal: Portugal on Wednesday reported almost 1,500 new cases, two-thirds of them in the capital region where 2.8 million people live. Three people died in Portugal of Covid-19 over 24 hours, Reuters reports. The national 14-day cumulative Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people has risen to 130 — over double what it was three weeks ago.

Germany: The share of Covid-19 infections caused by the Delta variant of the coronavirus has doubled in Germany in a week and is likely to gain more traction over other variants, the Robert Koch Institute public health agency said.

Tunisia: Tunisia has detected six cases of the Delta variant, the health ministry said on Wednesday, amid a rapid spread of the virus in the North African country.

Japan: A second member of the Uganda Olympics delegation that arrived in Japan last week for the summer games has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to a statement from the Uganda Olympic Committee posted on Twitter. Both cases are asymptomatic, and the entire group from Uganda had been fully vaccinated with the AstraZeneca PLC vaccine, according to the committee.

UK: Women are more likely to develop persistent symptoms after a coronavirus infection, a condition known as Long Covid, and their risk increases with age, according to a survey of more than 500,000 adults in England. Nearly one fifth said they had contracted Covid-19, according to the React-2 study from Imperial College London . One third of those who experienced symptoms had at least one of them linger for 12 weeks or more. That equates to more than 2 million people nationwide, the researchers concluded.

South Africa: South Africa’s daily Covid-19 infections rose to 17,493, the highest number recorded in the country’s third resurgence of the virus. The number of infections, announced by the National Institute of Communicable Diseases on Wednesday, is the highest since Jan. 14. Of those tested 24.9% were positive for Covid-19 and 62% of the new infections were in the commercial hub of Gauteng, the NICD said.

Vaccine news

US: Over 150 staff at a hospital in Texas, US, were forced to leave their jobs after refusing to be vaccinated against Covid. Employees had been told they had to be inoculated by 7 June or face a fortnight’s suspension as dozens protested over the mandatory vaccine policy and filed an unsuccessful lawsuit.

US public-health leaders sought to reassure Americans that Covid-19 shots are safe and to get vaccinated after reports that a relatively small number of mostly young men had suffered a heart problem after being immunized. About 1,200 cases of heart inflammation have been reported in people who received messenger RNA Covid-19 vaccines, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The numbers were reported at a Wednesday meeting of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

Japan: Japan’s health ministry is considering approving AstraZeneca ’s Covid-19 vaccine for those aged 18 and older for public use, though recommending it to only those aged 60 and above, Kyodo reports, citing an unidentified person.

Brazil: A Brazilian health ministry official has revealed he alerted president Jair Bolsonaro to internal pressure he was facing to buy a Covid-19 vaccine developed by India’s Bharat Biotech , according to a newspaper interview.

Australia: The Australian federal government announced it will shelve the controversial AstraZeneca vaccine by October after safety fears, suggesting it will have enough supplies of other vaccines to meet “allocation horizons” for vaccinating the population by the end of the year.

Vietnam: The Vietnamese government will accelerate vaccinations nationwide and plans to administer 300,000 to 500,000 shots a day nationwide in the next six months, according to a post on the government’s website.

Seychelles: Seychelles, which has inoculated a greater proportion of its population than any other country, said it remains unsure how effective the shots it has administered are and will have to determine if boosters are required. “We don’t know yet the validity of these vaccines. So once that is clear we will look at the additional booster shots that we need to offer,” Foreign Affairs and Tourism Minister Sylvestre Radegonde told the Qatar Economic Forum on Wednesday.

Lockdown updates

US: JPMorgan Chase & Co. said it may require employees to be vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus, as Wall Street’s biggest banks ramp up efforts to keep thousands of personnel safe while reopening US workplaces. The nation’s largest bank is ordering workers to fill out a questionnaire on their vaccination status by the end of this month, Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon and other members of the operating committee wrote in a memo to staff Wednesday. Employees who don’t respond will be contacted by managers until they do.

Australia: Prime Minister Scott Morrison is backing health authorities in Sydney to control an outbreak of the Delta strain of the coronavirus without going into a full lockdown, even as some say stronger measures are needed as the cluster spreads. The outbreak almost doubled on Wednesday from the day before to 31 cases. While New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian has barred about 1 million of Sydney’s population of 6 million from leaving, there’s concern the virus is quickly spreading in the local community and may get out of control.

EU: Angela Merkel said travellers from the UK should be quarantined wherever they arrive in the EU, as the union’s agency for disease control forecast that the Delta variant of Covid will account for 90% of cases in member states by the end of August.

Switzerland: Switzerland will scrap most of its remaining coronavirus restrictions this weekend, the government confirmed, including for entry into the country, but non-Schengen arrivals will need to have been vaccinated.

Greece: Greece is to end the mandatory wearing of face masks outdoors and ease other remaining restrictions imposed to curb the pandemic, authorities said, with infections now clearly on the wane.

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