People wait in line for the Covid-19 vaccine in Paterson, New Jersey Thursday, January 21, 2021.(AP)
People wait in line for the Covid-19 vaccine in Paterson, New Jersey Thursday, January 21, 2021.(AP)

US Covid-19 cases trend downward, deaths roughly steady: Virus update

The US added 162,390 cases on Friday, as new infections continue a downward trend, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Bloomberg |
PUBLISHED ON JAN 30, 2021 11:00 PM IST

Coronavirus infections in the US continued a downward trend, with 162,390 new cases added on Friday.

The European dispute over the supply of vaccines is threatening to unleash a wider political and economic conflict that could stymie global collaboration needed to end the pandemic. Virus mutations that likely offer some resistance to vaccine and antibody treatments are now prevalent in South Africa and Brazil.

The World Bank committed $12 billion to African countries to support vaccination programs, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said. Novartis AG will be able to deliver “substantial amounts” of Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s vaccine, its chief executive officer told Schweiz am Wochenende.

Key Developments:

  • Global Tracker: Cases exceed 102.2 million; deaths pass 2.2 million
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 90.8 million shots given worldwide
  • EU in ‘damage control’ as bloc turns to vaccine export curbs
  • Covid mutations undercut optimism even as more vaccines get near
  • Computer-shy elderly are shouldered aside in vaccination race
  • Latest Covid surge appears to flame out even in worst hot spots
  • How vaccine nationalism flares over scarce supplies: QuickTake

Read | World Bank commits $12 billion for vaccinations in Africa

Italy cases slow

Italy registered a decline in new virus cases on Saturday to 12,715 from 13,574 the previous day as the country prepares to ease virus restrictions from Monday for some regions, including the Rome and Milan areas. Daily deaths were also lower, at 421 compared with 477 a day earlier.

The country’s Aifa medicines agency has approved the AstraZeneca vaccine, though it is recommending its use on people 18-55 years old, according to the Ansa newswire.

UK cases moderate

The UK reported 23,275 new cases on Saturday, more than 3,500 fewer than the average of the previous seven days and 30% lower than a week ago. Another 1,200 people died within 28 days of a positive test, in line with the weekly average. More than 8.37 million people have received their first vaccination.

Pakistan to begin receiving vaccine

Pakistan will receive as much as 17 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine under the Covax arrangement by the end of second quarter this year, the nation’s planning minister Asad Umar said. The South Asian nation got a letter from Covax indicating that the initial delivery of about 6 million doses would start this month, he said in a Twitter message. The nation, with a population of 220 million, plans to start vaccinating its frontline health workers first.

NY cases steady

New York state added 12,804 cases, in line with the recent trend of new infections well below the record of almost 20,000 on Jan. 14. Hospitalizations fell to 8,176, and the positive test rate rose slightly to 4.75%, though that number has been falling steadily in the last few weeks. Another 140 people died, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a tweet.

Sweden to rule on testing for travelers

Sweden’s government has promised to make a swift decision regarding a request by the Public Health Agency that anyone wishing to enter the country produce a negative Covid-19 result.

“We are now sending the Agency’s request for a lightning-fast referral to the Police Authority, the Coast Guard and the Swedish Migration Board,” said Mikael Damberg, Sweden’s Minister of Home Affairs, at a press conference on Saturday.

According to the proposal, non-Swedish citizens who want to enter the country would have to show a negative test that is no more than 48 hours, while Swedish citizens would be tested on the day of arrival.

Portugal keeps adding ICU patients

Portugal, which is facing one of the world’s worst outbreaks, on Thursday reported 12,435 new confirmed coronavirus cases in a day, below the record 16,432 new cases announced on Thursday and taking the total to 711,018. The government reported 293 fatalities, less than a record 303 on Thursday, taking the total to 12,179 deaths. The number of patients in intensive-care units rose by 37 to 843. The country’s national health service has a capacity of about 1,200 intensive-care beds.

German minister expresses optimism

One year after the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Germany’s health minister is cautiously optimism about the future course of the crisis. “There will not be a second anniversary in this form,” Jens Spahn told newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung in an interview. “Over the course of the year, we will get the pandemic largely under control - through the vaccinations and through the possibility of adapting the vaccine to mutations.”

US cases continue to slow

The US added 162,390 cases on Friday, as new infections continue a downward trend, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. This week’s average number of cases is 15% less than the previous one.

Deaths were roughly steady, with 3,582 new fatalities registered. That brings this week’s average slightly above last week’s. The US has recorded 25,924,374 total cases and 436,634 deaths to date.

Vietnam confirms more local cases

Vietnam’s health ministry confirmed 27 more local virus cases and one imported case, bringing the tally of domestic patients since the new outbreak reported Jan. 28 to 208.

The imported case was in Ho Chi Minh City. The new infections indicate the outbreak has spread beyond the northern region to the central part and south.

Vietnam has registered 901 local infections since the start of the pandemic, according to the ministry’s newspaper Suc Khoe Doi Song.

Deaths in Iran rise

The number of Covid-19 deaths in Iran rose by 82 in the last 24 hours, up from 71 yesterday. The country recorded 6,317 new infections since Friday, consistent with an average of 6,366 daily cases over the last week, the Health Ministry reported. Iran now has 1,411,731 known infections with a total of 57,889 Covid-19 fatalities.

Malaysia adds 5,728 new cases

Malaysia added a record number of coronavirus cases for a second day on Saturday, just days before the government decides on whether to prolong or tighten curbs on movement that are set to end next week. Authorities registered 5,728 new cases, up from Friday’s 5,725.

Indonesia reports record cases

Indonesia reported another record spike in Covid-19 infections as it struggled to roll out its mass vaccination program to combat Southeast Asia’s worst outbreak. The country confirmed 14,518 new cases in the 24 hours through midday Saturday, taking the total to 1,066,313. Nearly 30,000 have died from the virus so far.

As many as 482,145 people had received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine as of Saturday, with 20,810 of them completing their second shot, official data show. The government is targeting to inoculate 598,400 people in January.

Poland has 5,864 new cases, 303 deaths

Poland registered 5,864 new coronavirus cases and 303 deaths from the virus over the past 24 hours. The government said this week that the pandemic situation has stabilized enough for it to reopen shopping centers from Feb. 1.

Novartis prepares vaccine production, CEO tells SamW

Novartis AG will be able to deliver “substantial amounts” of the Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE Covid-19 vaccine, Chief Executive Officer Vas Narasimhan told Swiss newspaper Schweiz am Wochenende. The company has also been working on agreements to assume production of key parts of vaccines and putting them into vials, largely in Europe, but also in Asia.

Norway extends national lockdown, Oslo to ease

Norway extended national measures until mid-February and for Oslo to Feb. 10, Health Minister Bent Hoie said. It plans to ease curbs for schools and pre-schools in the Oslo area. Restaurants and individual stores will be allowed to reopen in Oslo. Stricter measures were introduced Jan. 23 to contain more contagious variants of the virus.

Merkel urges Germans to remain cautious

German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged citizens to remain cautious so as to make a future easing of lockdown measures possible. “There is the very real danger from highly contagious viral mutations,” she said in her weekly podcast. “That’s why we have to be careful and cautious as we move through the next few weeks.”

Germany isn’t ready yet to reopen daycare centers and schools, she added.

World Bank commits $12 billion for Africa vaccinations

The World Bank has committed $12 billion to African countries to support vaccination programs, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said.

The money will be in the form of grants or on “highly concessional terms,” he said in a statement.

Iran to get first batch of Russian vaccine next week

Iran will receive the first batch of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine for Covid-19 by February 4, with two more deliveries due by the end of next month, the state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported, citing the Iranian ambassador in Moscow.

An agreement has also been signed for production of the treatment in Iran, Kazem Jalali said, without providing further details. Earlier this week, the government said it had signed a deal with Russia for 2 million doses of the Russian vaccine.

Astra-EU struggle opens fresh rift in bid to end pandemic

A European dispute over supply of Covid-19 vaccines is threatening to unleash a wider political and economic conflict that could stymie global collaboration needed to end the pandemic.

After accusing U.K. vaccine maker AstraZeneca of favoring deliveries to its home country, the EU announced a drastic plan to control exports of Covid shots. The retaliatory move may encourage more governments to use economic might -- or other means -- to protect their interests. The bloc is under pressure to speed up an immunization campaign that’s trailing those in Britain and the U.S.

Moscow lures vaccine takers with ice cream

If the offer of immunity against Covid-19 isn’t enough to lure shoppers to get a vaccination at a Moscow shopping mall on Red Square, the organizers have sweetened the deal with free ice cream.

Even so, there were few takers on a recent snowy afternoon for a city-sponsored Sputnik V injection and anyone looking to receive the free Russian shot could get it without a wait. While shortages, confusion and long lines hinder vaccination roll-outs in many countries, the Russian capital is a rare place faced with oversupply.

Japan discovers new type of UK virus strain

Three new types of the U.K. coronavirus strain, previously not detected in Japan, were discovered in patients at the Tokyo Medical and Dental University Hospital, according to a research group studying Covid-19 cases at the hospital.

None of the three patients infected with mutations of the U.K. strain had traveled abroad, meaning there is a high possibility that the variants are spreading in Japan, the group said in a statement on Friday. The patients were hospitalized during the period of November through late-December, with two of the three experiencing severe symptoms.

Chicago talks with teachers’ union falter

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said no deal has been reached with the teachers’ union over resuming in-person learning even as kindergarten through eighth grade students are scheduled to return to classrooms on Monday.

The school district expects teachers to return on Monday when those students have the option to return, Lightfoot said. Preschool and cluster students are also expected to come back.

AMLO Says ‘Critical Stage’ of Covid-19 Infection has Passed (11:10 a.m. HK)

“I’m appearing here so there are no rumors or misunderstandings,” Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, known as AMLO, said in a video posted online late Friday. “I’m well.”

In the video, AMLO walked through the national palace and said he would have to continue resting. He said he’s been following the distribution of vaccines and conditions at hospitals in Mexico, confirming other official remarks that he’s continued to govern while stricken with the virus.

J&J’s McClellan says may be enough vaccines for all US adults by June: CNBC

There could be enough vaccinations for the entire U.S. adult population by the summer, Johnson & Johnson board member Mark McClellan said in an interview on CNBC.

The US plans to buy 200 million doses from Moderna and Pfizer and the Department of Health and Human Services is boosting its supply to states to at least 10 million does per week, according to CNBC.

McClellan said the US should boost the number of shots it administers each day to closer to 3 million.

Mexico reports 16,374 New Covid-19 Cases, 1,434 more deaths

Mexico’s total coronavirus cases rose to 1,841,893, while deaths increased to 156,579, according to data released by the Health Ministry Friday night.

The country has administered 662,217 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, with 31,397 people receiving a second dose, Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell said. 13 states are at the highest risk level due to the virus.

Separately, Mexico will receive 870,000 AstraZeneca doses from India in February, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said in an online video.

Virus mutations undercut optimism even as more vaccines emerge

Emerging virus variants are forcing drugmakers to develop booster shots for a disease that could remain active for years.

Vaccines made by Moderna Inc. and Pfizer Inc. are already in use. Meanwhile, studies show those from Johnson & Johnson and Novavax Inc. pack a punch against early forms of the virus, potentially paving the way for quick authorizations in the US for J&J’s vaccine and in the U.K. for Novavax’s shot.

Now the bad news: Mutations that likely confer partial resistance to vaccines and antibody treatments are now prevalent in both South Africa and Brazil, and threatening to spread worldwide. The J&J shot was found in a late-stage trial to be 72% effective in the US, but that fell to 57% in studies done in South Africa. Novavax’s shot, 89% effective in the UK, was only 49% effective in South Africa.

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