30 March

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed the grim tally of 2.79 million with a figure of 2,792,268 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University . Meanwhile, infections have passed 127.6 million world wide.

The World Health Organization said that a long-awaited report into the origins of Covid-19 following a mission to China where the virus first emerged will be released publicly on Tuesday, but that further study is required. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “As I have said, all hypotheses are on the table and warrant complete and further studies.”

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 30.3 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 550,036 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The seven-day average of hospital admissions with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 increased in 25 US states plus the nation’s capital and Puerto Rico last week, compared with same period a week earlier, according to US Department of Health and Human Services data through Saturday.

The head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pleaded with Americans to wear masks and stick with Covid-19 mitigation measures, warning of “impending doom” as cases, hospitalizations and deaths begin to rise again. Rochelle Walensky, speaking at a press briefing Monday, fought back tears as she outlined a series of warning signals and said she was frightened about a looming fourth wave of Covid cases. She said the US trajectory looks “similar” to that in the EU a few weeks ago, before spikes in cases took hold.

Singapore: Scientists from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University have developed a Covid-19 rapid test that detects variants in the virus, The Straits Times reported. The results are produced within 30 minutes and are about 10 times more accurate than rapid antigen tests currently in use, according to the report.

France: France recorded the highest number of people in intensive care units with Covid-19 since the second lockdown in November and the number of people in hospital with the disease rose by over 600 in a day, the biggest jump in more than four months.

Germany: Angela Merkel threatened to centralise Germany’s pandemic response as several of the country’s federal states refuse to implement an emergency brake mechanism on easing restrictions in spite of rapidly rising infection rates. “We need action in the federal states,” the German leader said. “We need to take the appropriate measures very seriously. Some states are doing it; others are not yet doing it.”

Vaccine news

Global: Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. effectively prevented coronavirus infections, not just illness, with substantial protection evident two weeks after the first dose, government researchers said. Two doses of the vaccines provide as much as 90% protection against infection, according to data from US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study published Monday. Earlier clinical trials had established that the shots also prevent illness, hospitalizations, and deaths.

Ethiopia: Ethiopia on Monday said it would receive 300,000 Covid-19 vaccine doses from China’s state-backed China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm) on Tuesday. Ethiopia is struggling to administer shots and tame infections, which have risen to the highest number of new cases in the last week of any country on the continent.

UK: The UK does not have a surplus of Covid-19 vaccines to share with other countries, but will consider how to share any future surplus if there is one, the prime minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said.

Canada: Health officials in at least five Canadian provinces, including Ontario and Quebec, are halting the rollout of AstraZeneca ’s Covid-19 vaccine to people under 55 over concerns it could lead to blood clots in rare circumstances. The move could cast further doubt about the safety of the vaccine after concerns were raised in Europe about potential side effects. It’s also another setback for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s vaccine effort, which is off to the second-slowest start among Group of Seven nations.

US: President Joe Biden said Monday that 90% of U.S. adults will be eligible to get a Covid-19 vaccine in three weeks, and that his administration will more than double the number of pharmacies where shots are available, as cases begin to rise again. “Look at what we have done in the last 10 weeks. No other country has come close,” Biden said at the White House. But he urged states that have eased restrictions on masks and other prevention measures to reinstate them: “The war against Covid-19 is far from won.”

New York state will make coronavirus vaccine eligibility universal by 6 April, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday. It became one of the last U.S. states to take that step. Vaccine eligibility will expand to those age 30 years and older starting on Tuesday, and will then increase to those age 16 and older the following week, Cuomo said. The news comes ahead of the federal 1 May deadline aimed to increase eligibility for all those age 16 and older.

White House officials said that the push for vaccine passports should come from the private sector and that the federal government won’t take the lead in creating a centralized document-proving vaccination.

Apple is encouraging employees to get Covid-19 vaccines by offering paid time off for appointments and paid sick leave for those experiencing side effects. In California, where Apple has its main offices and more than 50 stores, people over the age of 16 will be eligible for vaccination on 15 April, the state said last week. Many other states are also expanding vaccine eligibility.

Philippines: Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte said he will allow private companies to import vaccines “at will” to boost inoculations amid a global supply crunch and to help speed up the reopening of the economy. Businesses can choose where to source and import vaccines. The move comes amid the Philippines’ vaccination campaign lagging behind its Southeast Asian neighbours as the country faces a new surge in infections and an economic recession that’s seen persisting into this quarter.

Lockdown updates

Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia said it would allow people who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 to attend sporting events at stadiums at a capacity of 40%, starting on 17 May. Face masks and social distancing would be required, the sports ministry said.

Pakistan: Pakistan’s president, Arif Alvi, tested positive for Covid-19, he said on Twitter on Monday, after receiving his first dose of a vaccine. It came as Pakistan imposed a partial lockdown in several more high-risk areas in the capital, Islamabad, and elsewhere in the country after the positivity rate from coronavirus infections jumped to over 11%.

Australia: Australians with working-from-home arrangements appear to be on a permanent foothold, with the popularity of the arrangement rising even as workplaces reopen, global jobs website Indeed Inc. said. The trend dovetails with Australians opting to rebase to regional areas during the pandemic as remote working arrangements allowed them to tap more affordable housing or enjoy a better lifestyle.

Singapore: Singapore received a proposal from Hong Kong about re-opening borders for travel and will respond shortly, the island-city’s Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said in a statement Monday. Hong Kong has kept the pandemic under “good control” and this is a positive development, Ong said. In November, Singapore and Hong Kong halted what would have been the world’s first travel bubble due to a rising number of cases in Hong Kong.