18 October

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed 4.8 million, with a figure of 4,898,685 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University . Meanwhile, infections exceed 240 million world wide.

Aid organisation World Vision warned the fallout of the pandemic could provoke a rise in child stunting in the Pacific as job losses and rising food prices threaten malnutrition.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 44.9 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 724,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

UK: Cases of psychosis have soared over the past two years in England as an increasing number of people experience hallucinations and delusional thinking amid the stresses of the Covid-19 pandemic. There was a 75% increase in the number of people referred to mental health services for their first suspected episode of psychosis between April 2019 and April 2021, NHS data shows.

Meanwhile, The UK recorded 45,140 new infections on Sunday, the highest jump in Covid cases since mid-July.

Italy: Italy announced 2,437 new Covid cases and 24 deaths, following its introduction of workplace vaccine mandates on Friday.

Russia: Cases surged in Russia as 34,303 new positive Covid tests and 997 deaths were reported.

UAE: The Gulf nation reported 99 new infections on Sunday, the first time since March 2020 that cases have fallen below 100. With 86% of its population fully inoculated, the UAE has one of the fastest vaccination programs in the world and cases have dropped by about 95% since the start of August.

Indonesia: The country added 19 fatalities in the 24 hours through midday Sunday, the fewest since May 25, 2020. There were 747 confirmed infections over the same time period, near the 16-month low of 620 reached on Oct. 11. Indonesia’s outbreak has eased in recent weeks, allowing the government lift movement and border restrictions further, including reopening tourist hot spot Bali to 19 countries.

Singapore: Singapore’s number of Covid-19 patients in intensive care surged on Saturday, according to the Ministry of Health. The ministry said 62 people were in critical condition, compared with 48 a day earlier. The city state reported 3,348 new coronavirus cases as of noon on 16 October, including four imported infections.

Australia: has secured agreements on virus medications, one agreement is with Roche for 15,000 doses of the antibody-based therapy Ronapreve, with initial supplies available by the end of October, the government said in a statement. The other deal is for 500,000 treatment courses of Pfizer’s oral antiviral drug, which is set to be available next year subject to final clinical trials and approvals.

Vaccine news

US: The US surpassed 10 million booster shots, with more doses now going daily to people who are fully vaccinated than those getting a shot for the first time, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser said he expects US regulators to consider whether people who got the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine should get an mRNA shot against Covid-19 as a booster.  “If you boost people who have originally received J&J with either Moderna or Pfizer, the level of antibodies that you induce in them is much higher than if you boost them with the original J&J,” Anthony Fauci said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday.  “But the data of boosting the J&J first dose with a J&J second dose is based on clinical data,” he said. “So what’s going to happen is that the FDA is going to look at all those data, look at the comparison, and make a determination of what they will authorize.”

Wyoming is battling low vaccination rates and overwhelmed hospitals with an advertising campaign based on what it says are real stories about people who regretted not getting vaccinated, the Casper Star-Tribune reported. The tag-line is: “Catch Covid-19, and the virus may decide for you.” “We almost lost a really strong guy, he’s retired law enforcement. He was on a ventilator with a feeding tube,” a man dressed like a doctor says in the video advertisement. “He now believes and wishes he could tell everyone, ‘take the vaccine.’” Wyoming has the third-lowest vaccination rate in the US, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. Less than 50% of people in the state have received one dose, compared with the US average of 65.8%.

UK: England is planning to launch walk-in vaccine clinics within weeks for children aged 12 to 15, after its inoculation rate for this age group severely lags behind Scotland. The programme is hoped to stem rising rates of Covid-19 infections within secondary schools.

Africa: Former UK prime minister Gordon Brown urged an emergency Covid vaccine airlift to Africa, saying it could save 100,000 lives.

France: France’s health agency wants more details on the effects of Moderna’s Covid vaccine on younger people amid concerns about potential side effects, Dominique Le Guludec, who heads the agency, told Le Journal du Dimanche.  “We want to be sure about the vaccine’s benefits” on younger people, and an alert in Scandinavia this month “made us change our strategy,” the head of Haute Autorite de Sante said. The agency has also recommended not using the vaccine as a third booster shot for elderly people until it gets European Medicines Agency approval.

China: CanSino’s inhaled version of viral vector Covid-19 vaccine can boost neutralizing antibody level by 250-300 times among those fully vaccinated with two doses of inactivated shots six months ago, Zhu Tao, the chief scientific officer of the Chinese firm said in a speech Friday.

Lockdown updates

New Zealand: In New Zealand, prime minister Jacinda Ardern has extended Auckland’s level 3 lockdown by another two weeks. “If we get this right, if we keep case numbers low while we vaccinate people then it makes it easier for us to keep control of Covid, while we ease restrictions in the future, and that is everyone’s goal,” she said on Monday.

Australia: Melbourne, Australia is set to lift stay-at-home orders this week, ending what is considered to be the world’s longest lockdown. About 5 million people living in Australia’s second-most populous city have spent more than 260 days under six lockdowns since March of 2020. The figure surpasses Buenos Aires, Argentina, for the longest lockdown globally.

Meanwhile, Expedited discussions are underway with Singapore over so-called green-lane travel, Health Minister Greg Hunt said Sunday in a televised briefing, adding the proposal is under “rapid development.” Australia is already planning to reintroduce a bubble for visitors from New Zealand’s South Island.

Egypt: Egypt announced new Covid requirements for public sector employees from 15 November, who will have to be vaccinated or take a weekly Covid test to work in government buildings.

Japan: Japan’s minister in charge of virus response said restrictions on bars and restaurants could be lifted next month if the current infection trend continues. Daishiro Yamagiwa was speaking on a program broadcast by Fuji TV. The government is also considering softening border restrictions, he added. Tokyo bars are being instructed to stop serving alcohol by 8 pm and close by 9 pm The daily number of infections recorded in the capital has been less than 100 for a week.