8 March

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 2,594,000 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have passed 116 million world wide.

US: Covid -19 infections are nearing 29 million having passed 28,999,000. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 525,035 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

The US recorded a full week with fewer than 70,000 daily cases for the first time since mid-October. The nation added 62,103 cases on Saturday, capping a week with some 60,700 new infections a day, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg.

UK: The UK has reported a further 82 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, bringing the total to 124,501. This compares with 144 last Sunday, and is the first time fatalities have dropped below triple digits since October.

Mexico: Mexico’s health ministry has reported 2,734 new confirmed Covid-19 cases and 247 further fatalities, bringing the total tally to 2,128,600 infections and 190,604 deaths, Reuters reports.

Germany: A German MP has announced his resignation after it was revealed that his company had made hundreds of thousands through deals to procure face masks.

Vaccine news

US: The US has administered 90.35m doses of vaccine according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency said 59m people had received one or more doses while 30.6m people have received the second dose as of Sunday.

Macedonia: North Macedonia received its first batch of Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccines on Sunday, after beginning its vaccine rollout last month.

France: France has donated 15,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses to Slovakia as the country battles against the world’s highest coronavirus mortality rate.

New Zealand: New Zealand has purchased an additional 8.5 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, meaning it will have enough to vaccinate the entire population, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in an emailed statement. The vaccines are expected to arrive during the second half of the year. Ardern said the decision to make Pfizer New Zealand’s primary vaccine provider was based on the fact that the shot has been shown to be about 95% effective at preventing symptomatic infection. Having a single vaccine will also simplify the roll out.

Vietnam: Vietnam began vaccinations with medical workers in Hanoi, Hai Duong and Ho Chi Minh City getting the first shots Monday morning, the government website reported. The health ministry is initially distributing vaccines only to medical facilities treating virus patients in 13 provinces and cities, according to the government website post.

China: China needs to vaccinate 70% to 80% of its population to reach herd immunity against Covid-19, and it can only accomplish that by mid-2022 at the earliest, said George Gao, head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in an interview with Chinese News Service.

Austria: Austria stopped shots from one batch of the AstraZeneca vaccine after two incidents involving women who received shots from that batch. One 49-year-old woman died from a severe coagulation dysfunction, and one 35 year-old woman developed a pulmonary embolism but is now recovering. The Austrian Federal Office for Safety in Health Care said on its website that “there is no evidence of a causal relationship” with the vaccination, and that “thrombotic events in particular are not among the known or typical side effects of the vaccine in question.”

Lockdown updates

Netherlands: More than a thousand clubbers in Amsterdam were given a short break from lockdown as part of a trial investigating how large events can operate safely amid the pandemic.

Greece: Police used tear gas against protesters in Athens on Sunday night after footage of an officer beating a man during a coronavirus lockdown patrol went viral.

Taiwan: Taiwan could set up a “travel bubble” with the island nation of Palau as early as next week, subjecting tourists from each side to fewer quarantine restrictions, Taipei-based Apple Daily reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The details aren’t finalized yet, the report said.

US: A year into the pandemic, new CDC guidelines expected soon on what people can do after they’re vaccinated need to be grounded in reality, said the former head of the US Food and Drug Administration. “Public health guidance needs to take into consideration what people want to do. We can’t be so far behind the aspirations of the public that the guidance itself gets ignored,” Scott Gottlieb said on CBS.

Thousands of US students tired of a year of Covid-19 restrictions have descended on Florida for spring break, despite travel warnings and fears of another viral wave. “This spring break feels like a different order of chaos,” Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said, according to the Miami Herald. “It feels different. Part of it, clearly, is we’re the only place open.” Local officials worry the break will become a super-spreader event, especially with the rise of more-transmissible variants. Florida is the US state with the most cases of the B.1.1.7 strain first found in the UK, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC said it did not recommend traveling for spring break.

US cases remain “very high” and a rush to lift virus-related restrictions risks triggering another surge, Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” Meanwhile, Fauci said that new federal guidelines for how vaccinated people can interact with non-vaccinated folks would be coming out likely in the next couple of days.

Governor Asa Hutchinson said Sunday he would keep Arkansas’s mask mandate at least through the end of the month. He said wanted a more gradual “off ramp” to easing than states like Texas or Mississippi that abruptly ended their mandates last week.

Republicans Greg Abbott of Texas and Tate Reeves of Mississippi announced last week they’re eliminating state mask mandates and allowing businesses to reopen at full capacity, setting expectations for other GOP-led states to follow suit. The moves drew dire warnings from Democrats and health officials that they risk igniting another spike in cases and deaths and stood in stark contrast to Joe Biden’s cautious approach.

Restaurants outside of New York City will be able to increase capacity to 75% from 50% starting March 19, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a briefing Sunday.