International update: Global Covid cases near 91 million – herd immunity not achievable in 2021 say WHO

12th January 2021 (Last Updated January 12th, 2021 09:07)

12 January

Global: Covid-19 has claimed 1.94 million lives worldwide as coronavirus infections near 91 million according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

The WHO’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan warned that it will take time to produce and administer enough doses to halt the spread of the virus and that herd immunity is not achievable in 2021.

US: COVID-19 infections have passed 22.6 million. Meanwhile, the US coronavirus death toll is 376,280 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

Several gorillas at the San Diego zoo safari park have tested positive for coronavirus, with some experiencing symptoms, in what is believed to be the first outbreak among such primates in captivity.

US Representative Pramila Jayapal said she has tested positive for Covid-19, days after having shared a safe room with Republican colleagues who declined to wear masks as they sheltered while President Donald Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol building. “I just received a positive COVID-19 test result after being locked down in a secured room at the Capitol where several Republicans not only cruelly refused to wear a mask but recklessly mocked colleagues and staff who offered them one,” she wrote in Twitter post.

US Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman, a New Jersey Democrat and lung-cancer survivor, also has tested positive for Covid-19. Watson Coleman, 75, believes she was exposed after sheltering during the storming of the Capitol, according to a statement from her office. She said she received a positive rapid test Monday and is awaiting the results of PCR testing.

UK: A quarter of coronavirus admissions to hospital are people under the age of 55, the head of NHS England has said. Sir Simon Stevens told MPs on Monday the virus was spreading out of control across much of the country, with worrying consequences for hospitals. “In London perhaps one in 30 people has the coronavirus, in parts of London it may be twice that number. In Merseyside in just the last week there has been a further 50% increase in the number of Covid hospitalisations,” he said.

India: India added 12,584 cases in a day, the lowest number since June 16. While the country has the second-highest number of cases in the world, with more than 10 million, it’s seen daily infections gradually ease from a peak of nearly 100,000 in September.

South Korea: South Korea reported 537 new cases over the last 24 hours, according to data from the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency’s website. While the number is up from 451 the previous day, it’s the eighth straight day infections have stayed below 1,000, indicating South Korea is making progress in taming its latest outbreak.

Japan: The Japanese government will declare a state of emergency for Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures as soon as Wednesday in an effort to contain the spread of coronavirus, public broadcaster NHK reports, without attribution. Aichi and Gifu governments will also ask the central government to declare emergencies in the prefectures, according to the report.

Vaccination updates

Global: A WHO team is in China working with producers of the Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines to assess compliance with international quality-manufacturing practices ahead of a potential emergency-use listing. WHO officials also said they’re confident the rollout in lower-income countries can begin in February, though added a lot depends on country readiness and companies supplying doses.

Brazil: The general efficacy of the vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. against coronavirus was between 50% and 60% in Brazil trials, website UOL reported citing unnamed people. Brazil’s Butantan Institute, which has partnered with the Chinese firm to produce the shot, said any information on the matter that isn’t presented by the institute “is purely speculative.” In a press conference last week, officials said the vaccine was 78% effective in preventing mild cases of Covid-19 and 100% effective against severe and moderate infections. It wasn’t apparent how the Brazilian researchers calculated that efficacy rate.

US: US CDC says nearly 9 million Americans vaccinated. The 8,987,322 people who have been given the first of two shots, according to the CDC, represent less than one-third of the total doses distributed to states by the US government.

Immunity from Moderna Inc’s Covid-19 vaccine should last at least a year, the company said on Monday at the JP Morgan Healthcare conference. The drugmaker said it was confident that the messenger RNA (mRNA) technology it used was well suited to deploy a vaccine based on the new variant of the coronavirus which has emerged in a handful of countries.

Finland: Finland’s Prime Minister Sanna Marin has asked the European Union to speed up the distribution of vaccines to member countries. Marin called for faster shipments of jointly procured vaccines in a letter to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the Finnish government said in a statement late on Monday.

Singapore: Singapore is setting up special centers to administer Covid-19 vaccinations daily to large groups of people, on top of allowing the jabs to be taken at clinics and other established health-care facilities. Those centers will be ready “soon,” the city-state’s chief health scientist Tan Chorh Chuan told The Straits Times in an interview.

Thailand: Thailand is set to begin inoculating its citizens against Covid-19 before the end of February, with the goal of vaccinating at least 33 million people, half the nation’s population, by the end of 2021. The Southeast Asian nation, battling its biggest wave of coronavirus infections since the pandemic began, will start with doses from Sinovac Biotech Ltd. once the Thai Food and Drug Administration approves it, according to the Health Ministry.

Philippines: The Philippines is preparing cold storage for Covid-19 vaccines, with the government telling industry groups with facilities for storing meat and fish to be ready to help in keeping and distributing the shots.

Australia: Australia will rely on general practice doctors and drug stores to administer Covid-19 vaccines as the nation aims to inoculate its population this year. General practices and pharmacies will begin providing doses of the AstraZeneca Plc vaccine in the second part of the first phase of Australia’s program, Health Minister Greg Hunt told reporters. Hospitals will use Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine due to the requirement it be kept at minus 70 degrees Celsius, he said.

Lockdown updates

China: Authorities in China introduced new Covid-19 curbs in areas surrounding Beijing on Tuesday, putting 4.9 million residents under lockdown as new infections raised worries about a second wave in a nation that has mostly contained the diseases. The city of Langfang in Hebei on Tuesday said residents will be put under home quarantine for seven days and be subject to mass Covid testing in the latest attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

South Africa: President Cyril Ramaphosa extended a prohibition on alcohol sales, restricted cross-border travel and announced plans to buy millions of additional vaccines as hospitals struggle to cope with a surge in coronavirus cases. The country will remain on virus alert level 3, and the alcohol ban that was introduced on 28 December and was due to end on 15 January will remain in place, Ramaphosa said in a nationally televised address. All land-border posts will be closed to most travelers until 15 February, public gatherings other than funerals won’t be allowed, and a nationwide curfew will be enforced from 9 pm to 5 am, he said.

New Zealand: New Zealand will ask international travellers from most countries to show negative Covid-19 test results before boarding flights to the country as new contagious variants of Covid-19 spread across globally.

Philippines: The Philippines is expanding its travel ban to five other countries, including China, as a safeguard against the new coronavirus strain. Except for Filipinos returning home, travelers from China, Pakistan, Jamaica, Luxembourg and Oman will not be allowed entry effective noon 13 January, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in media briefing. The travel ban will last until 15 January, subject to recommendation of the national taskforce on management of emerging infectious diseases.

Economy updates

Poland: Businesses have lodged their first class action against Poland’s state treasury over lockdown measures, newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza reported. the suit seeks to establish the state’s responsibility for losses incurred during the lockdown, without setting any specific compensation target. The suit alleges that restrictions on economic activity are illegal since authorities didn’t introduce the highest state of natural disaster.