CORONAVIRUS GLOBAL UPDATE
New York City sees high demand for shots for kids; South Africa registers 245 new cases
South Africa registered 245 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 2,924,317. A further 35 Covid-19-related deaths were reported, taking total official deaths to 89,387. A total of 23,402,284 people have been vaccinated.
Pfizer is expected to share new data with US regulators as it seeks clearance for all adults to receive a booster shot. Its German partner, BioNTech, raised its forecast for this year’s vaccine sales to almost $20-billion.
Stepping up the rate of vaccinations and boosters can help avoid a holiday surge, White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci said on Bloomberg TV. New York City schools are seeing greater-than-expected demand for vaccines for children aged five to 11, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
In England, National Health Service staff who work face to face with patients must be fully vaccinated by April 1. Meanwhile, an Australian study showed that immunised people are 16 times less likely to end up in intensive-care wards or to die from Covid-19, adding to evidence that may bolster the case for countries to treat Covid as endemic.
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Miami schools drop mask mandate
Parents of Miami-Dade County public school students can opt out of the district’s mask mandate, the Miami Herald reported, citing Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. The eased protocols are due to the plummeting number of cases, hospitalisations and deaths in South Florida since the Delta variant caused a spike in infections over the summer, the newspaper said.
Fauci seeks to prevent winter surge
Stepping up the rate of vaccinations and boosters can help avoid a holiday surge in new cases that have dropped to a plateau of about 70,000 a day, White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci said.
While hospitalisations and deaths have fallen in the US, it’s far too early to pull back on mitigation measures such as mask-wearing, Fauci said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s Balance of Power with David Westin.
“If we get the overwhelming proportion of unvaccinated people vaccinated, and we get those who are vaccinated and eligible to get a booster,” Fauci said, “we can go a long way to preventing a new surge as we go into the winter.”
Mauritius shuts schools as cases rise
The Indian Ocean island of Mauritius has shut schools and will revert to online classes from Thursday after an increase in Covid-19 cases in the community. In the week through November 9, new asymptomatic cases rose to 809 from 620 in the prior seven days, according to Health Ministry data.
Admissions to public hospitals advanced to 61 from 53.
“There are risks that transmission will increase,” Education Minister Leela Devi Dookun-Luchoomun said in a video disseminated by the Port Louis-based Government Information Service.
Since October 18, the ministry registered 1,856 cases in pre-primary, primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions, she said. As at November 9, a total of 866,610 people had completed inoculation, representing about 68.4% of the population.
US to buy 1.4 million Merck pill doses
Merck said the US had committed to buy 1.4 million courses of its Covid-19 pill developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics for about $1-billion, bringing the country’s total to 3.1 million.
The purchases are contingent on Food and Drug Administration clearance of the oral antiviral, called molnupiravir, Merck said on Tuesday in a statement, and the US has the ability to buy two million more courses.
New York City sees high demand for kids’ vaccines
New York City schools are seeing greater-than-expected demand for vaccines for children aged five to 11, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
After long lines were reported at about a dozen school vaccination sites on Monday, the city is sending 24 mobile units to schools, De Blasio said. About 4,500 students got shots on Monday at school sites, for a total of almost 25,000 in that age group that have been vaccinated so far, according to the mayor.
De Blasio had previously planned to have vaccine sites at schools at least one day a week. For those that had more demand than expected Monday, a site will open there again in the next few days, De Blasio said.
Scotland considers tighter restrictions
Scotland is looking at tightening coronavirus restrictions because of a high level of new cases as it hosts the United Nations climate summit in its largest city.
The government expects case numbers to increase further in the coming weeks, partly due to the COP26 meeting in Glasgow, Deputy First Minister John Swinney told lawmakers on Tuesday. The administration in Edinburgh “cannot rule out” strengthening existing measures to avoid the need for any future lockdowns, Swinney said.
NHS staff must be fully vaccinated
National Health Service staff in England who work face to face with patients must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by April 1, Health Secretary Sajid Javid told Parliament. Only those who can prove they are fully vaccinated can be employed by the NHS. The decision follows a government consultation that had 34,000 responses, Javid said.
BioNTech lifts vaccine sales forecast
BioNTech raised its forecast for this year’s vaccine sales to as much as €17-billion, lifting the estimate once more as the pandemic drags on and countries order more shots.
BioNTech and partner Pfizer have signed contracts to deliver some 2.5 billion doses this year, and expect to manufacture as many as three billion by year-end.
The windfall from the vaccine – the best-selling pharmaceutical product of all time in a given year – has given BioNTech the funds to push the rest of its experimental pipeline forward.
Genetics startup to announce new investment
At the onset of the pandemic, a small genetics startup called Color Genomics set up a Covid-19 testing lab. The company, now known as Color Inc, plans to announce a new investment on Tuesday that values the startup at $4.6-billion, triple what it was just 11 months ago. Now Color must prove that a business built around a pandemic will serve a purpose when the virus is contained.
Hong Kong requires boosters for some airport staff
Airport Authority Hong Kong is requiring all airport staff belonging to high-risk groups to receive a third dose of vaccine, according to a statement on its website. The groups include those handling high-risk cargo or having unavoidable close range contact with arrival, transfer or transit passengers and crew.
UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland tests positive
UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis has tested positive for coronavirus, he said in a tweet. Lewis is “experiencing mild symptoms.”
UK Minister for Science, Research and Innovation George Freeman said on November 8 that he has had “a bad attack of Covid”.
Bulgaria, Ukraine report record deaths
Bulgaria recorded a record 334 daily Covid deaths. It’s the European Union’s least-vaccinated country, with just 22% of people fully inoculated.
The Balkan country has the world’s second-highest overall death rate after Peru. Widespread institutional distrust and doubts about the safety of the vaccines have slowed inoculation. Two weeks ago, the health ministry limited most public leisure activities to those who are either vaccinated or have had Covid, or who test negative. The spread of cases has slowed down since, but hospitals continue to fill up.
Ukraine also reported a record 833 deaths in the past 24 hours.
Vaccination slashes deaths and ICU stays, study finds
People who are fully vaccinated are 16 times less likely to end up in intensive care wards or to die from Covid-19 than those who aren’t immunised, an Australian study found, the latest evidence showing how the shots prevent the most dreaded outcomes.
Nearly 16 out of 100,000 people who had yet to receive a Covid vaccine landed in intensive care or died after contracting the virus, compared with fewer than one in every 100,000 who were fully vaccinated, according to data compiled by health authorities in New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state.
The results add to a growing body of evidence that the vaccines’ protection against severe disease and death holds up even after the waning of protective antibodies over time allowed more breakthrough infections. They will likely bolster the case for countries to treat Covid as endemic, causing a mostly mild malaise among the vaccinated.
Covid stole 28 million years of life last year
The pandemic’s effects on mortality have been uneven. Life expectancy dipped in most places last year, shaving 28.1 million years off the cumulative longevity in 31 countries. But residents of a handful of places that successfully kept Covid-19 at bay – including New Zealand and Taiwan – actually lived longer.
German parties agree on new measures
The three parties in talks to form the next German government agreed on a package of measures to tackle the latest surge in cases, which seeks to avoid sweeping restrictions like school closures and curfews.
The legislation, which the SPD, Greens and FDP want to push through Parliament next week, is designed to provide a nationwide framework and will replace a law that expires on November 25. The measures – many of which are already being deployed – include distancing and hygiene rules, obligatory mask wearing and some restrictions for public events and travel.
Lawmakers from the three parties decided to let the existing legislation lapse and draw up a new framework due to concerns that some of the measures previously agreed interfered too severely with citizen rights and potentially conflicted with Germany’s Constitution. DM
– With assistance from Anuchit Nguyen, Jeff Sutherland, Iain Rogers, Elaine Chen and Kamlesh Bhuckory.
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