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August 4, 2021

International update: US Republican states push back against mask and vaccine mandates

By Paul Dennis

4 August

Global: The global Covid death toll has passed the grim milestone of 4 million, with a figure of 4,246,242 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, infections have passed 199.5 million world wide.

US: Covid -19 infections have passed 35.2 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll has passed 614,000 according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The US government is in “active” and “sensitive” discussions about investing in a comprehensive pandemic preparedness program, said Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert. Speaking at a Tuesday event with the Center for Strategic & International Studies, a Washington-based think tank, Fauci said the US is continuing to plan for the future, ever-focused on how vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics might be used to combat future pandemics.

Idaho is suffering a surge in Covid-19 infections among babies and toddlers, prompting an urgent call for unvaccinated adults to get shots and “cocoon these kids.” The current pace is 53 per 100,000 children from newborn to age 4, up from 16 per 100,000 two weeks ago, Kathryn Turner, deputy state epidemiologist at the Idaho Division of Public Health, said during an online briefing Tuesday. The most likely cause is circulation of the delta variant, Turner said.

US President Joe Biden singled out Florida and Texas, where cases are surging, criticizing the pandemic response by the Republican governors in those states. The two states are responsible for about one-third of all new cases in the US in the past week, the administration said Monday. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has threatened to withhold funding to local school districts that have mask requirements, while Texas Governor Greg Abbott has banned vaccine mandates.

The number of people hospitalized with Covid-19 in Florida climbed to a record 11,863, even as Governor Ron DeSantis reaffirmed his stance against against new public-health mandates.

President Joe Biden said US authorities plan to announce new measures aimed at protecting struggling renters after an eviction moratorium lapsed days ago, setting off a firestorm of criticism from fellow Democrats and housing advocates.

UK: More than 200 areas across England and Wales had at least twice as many deaths as average during the first Covid wave, according to analysis by the Office for National Statistics.

Fewer than one in 20 Covid-positive children who experience symptoms continue to be symptomatic beyond four weeks, a study carried out in the UK between September 2020 and February 2021 has found.

China: China reported its highest daily number of local coronavirus cases in months as mass testing and contact tracing campaigns uncovered a trail of Delta variant infections.

Australia: The most disadvantaged areas of Sydney have had almost twice as many Covid cases as the rest of the city during the current outbreak, according to a Guardian Australia analysis.

A Sydney man in his 20s has died of Covid as local cases continue to proliferate in the worst outbreak so far in New South Wales.

Netherlands: Weekly cases in the Netherlands continue to fall with 21,005 infections reported on Tuesday, down from 37,343 in the previous week. The national health service said the country appears to have reached a peak in Covid-19 hospitalizations, with 541 new admissions reported in the past week, down by 23.

Vaccine news

Hungary: The Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine has failed to produce sufficient antibodies in a quarter of elderly people who were voluntarily tested in Budapest, according to a study by the opposition-led Budapest City Hall. The results were published just as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s government, which has faced opposition criticism for having widely given Sinopharm shots to older people, started offering third shots this week for anyone who requests them. Hungary, which has had the highest level of Covid-19 deaths per capita after Peru, was the only European Union country to have deployed the Sinopharm vaccine.

US: Tyson Foods Inc. is requiring all of its US workers to be fully vaccinated no later than 1 November. The move by Tyson, America’s biggest meat company, is among the most aggressive yet to prevent another wave of infections that shuttered food-production plants in 2020. Walmart Inc., the biggest private employer in the US, and Walt Disney Corp. announced vaccination requirements for some employees last week.

UK: The UK is set to approve Covid-19 vaccination shots for those at age 16 and 17, the Telegraph reports, citing a government source. The demographic group will be advised to get the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, matching the guidance for other younger UK residents.

Scotland: Teenagers aged 16 and 17 will reportedly be given the green light for Covid-19 vaccination, according to Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon.

New Zealand: Helen Clark, former New Zealand prime minister and co-chair of an influential Covid panel, criticised more developed countries for buying up many more vaccines than they require.

Argentina: The Russian Direct Investment Fund said it’s reached agreement to produce 3 million doses of the second shot of its Sputnik V vaccine in Argentina this month, after a presidential adviser in the Latin American country criticized delays in deliveries. Laboratorios Richmond SA will start making Sputnik vaccines available in Argentina starting this week with an initial batch of 150,000 doses, Russia’s sovereign wealth fund, which is in charge of Sputnik’s international rollout, said by email on Tuesday.

Lockdown updates

Scotland: The legal requirement for physical distancing in Scotland will be removed from next week, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

US: New York City is to require proof of vaccination for indoor activities including entering restaurants, going to gyms and attending performances, mayor Bill de Blasio said.

Public schools in Denver will require indoor masks for students, teachers, staff and visitors when classes resume 9 August “regardless of vaccination status,” Will Jones, a spokesman for the school system, said in an email. On Monday, the city announced all municipal workers, including teachers, must be vaccinated by the end of September.

Morocco: Morocco is introducing new coronavirus restrictions, including a curfew from 9pm to 5am, as infection rates rise.

Brazil: Brazilian states and cities are preparing to suspend most limitations on businesses and gatherings as Covid cases and deaths drop to the lowest in months while vaccinations pick up speed.

Economy update

Global: CureVac and Arcturus Therapeutics rose after Sanofi agreed to buy Translate Bio Inc. for $3.2 billion. Sanofi and Translate were partnered on Covid-19 vaccine development before the French drugmaker made a bid for the Massachusetts-based biotech. Arcturus also said it got the go-ahead in Singapore to advance two mRNA candidates to a Phase 1/2 study.

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