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Monday, May 17, 2021, 10:23
US daily COVID-19 cases fall to 14-month low
By Agencies
Monday, May 17, 2021, 10:23 By Agencies

A man receives the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at a temporary vaccination site at Grand Central Terminal train station on May 12, 202 in New York City. (PHOTO / AFP)

BUENOS AIRES / BRASILIA / SANTIAGO / HAVANA / BOGOTA / QUITO / ADDIS ABABA / TRIPOLI / MEXICO CITY / ALGIERS / PARIS / DUBLIN / MOSCOW - The US recorded 16,857 new coronavirus infections on Sunday, the lowest daily total since the early days of pandemic in March 2020, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg. In January after a holiday-fueled surge, the US was averaging about 250,000 new cases a day.

Sundays typically have the fewest reported cases of the week. Even so, yesterday’s total was the lowest for any day of the week since Wednesday, March 25, 2020.

For the week ended Sunday, new cases rose by 0.7 percent, the slowest increase of the pandemic. The weekly total of 232,839 new infections was the lowest since the seven days ended June 21.

Andy Slavitt, senior adviser for the Biden administration’s COVID-19 response, said in a tweet Monday that cases are falling in all 50 states.

President Joe Biden’s top medical adviser said the pandemic response had shown “the undeniable effects of racism” in the way the burden of the coronavirus fell more heavily on minority communities.

"COVID-19 has shone a bright light on our own society’s failings,” Anthony Fauci said in a commencement speech to Emory University in Atlanta, by webcast from Washington.

Minorities including Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans disproportionately work in jobs where they might be exposed to the coronavirus, and also tended to suffer more frequently from conditions such as diabetes or obesity that can make Covid more deadly, Fauci said.

“Very few of these comorbidities have racial determinants,” Fauci said. “Almost all relate to the social determinants of health dating back to disadvantageous conditions that some people of color find themselves in from birth.”

Any mandates in the United States to require people to be vaccinated against COVID-19 will be set at the local level by companies and institutions such as colleges, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.

Sanofi, Glaxo vaccine

Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline Plc reported positive results from a redo of a mid-stage study for their COVID-19 vaccine, putting the delayed shot on track for possible clearance by the end of the year.

Volunteers showed a similar immune response to people who have recovered from the coronavirus, Sanofi said Monday. Those who’d already been infected had a higher response after just one injection, prompting the companies to decide to test a second formulation to bring to market as a booster.

The results come as a relief for the partners, two of the biggest and most experienced companies in the vaccine field whose effort stumbled late last year when a dosing error delayed the initial study. Glaxo’s stock rose in London trading, as did Sanofi’s in Paris.

The improved shot, which relies on technology used to make flu vaccines, could win regulatory approval in the fourth quarter, roughly a year after the one developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE. Since then, a handful of other injections have received clearance. But as the world faces a growing number of variants and many countries struggle to get enough doses to immunize their population, the product could still play an important role - especially since it can be stored in a fridge.

“There have been so many unexpected twists and turns to this story,” said Thomas Triomphe, head of Sanofi’s vaccines unit. “We know the world today needs more than one platform to address the global need.”

G7

The head of UNICEF on Monday asked G7 countries to donate supplies to the COVAX vaccine-sharing scheme as an emergency measure to address a severe shortfall caused by disruption to Indian vaccine exports.

India has curbed exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine made by its Serum Institute, which had been pledged to COVAX, to be used by the country as it battles a massive second wave of infections. read more

UN agency UNICEF, which is in charge of supplying coronavirus vaccines through COVAX, estimates the supply shortfall at 140 million doses by the end of May and about 190 million by the end of June.

Citing new research from scientific information and analytics company Airfinity, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said that G7 countries could donate about 153 million doses if they shared only 20 percent of their available supply over June, July and August.

Workers load boxes of Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines, part of the the Covax programme, which aims to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccinations, into a truck after they arrived by plane at the Ivato International Airport in Antananarivo, Madagascar, on May 8, 2021. (MAMYRAEL / AFP)

Fujifilm

Fujifilm Holdings Corp said on Monday a subsidiary had launched a detection kit that can identify COVID-19 variants that were first identified in India and California.

The kit developed by Fujifilm Wako Pure Chemical uses a research reagent that is capable of detecting the L452R mutation at a high sensitivity, the company said in a news release.

Algeria

Algeria will reopen air and land borders on June 1, but strict measures will be imposed to limit the spread of the coronavirus, the presidency said on Sunday.

Only five flights a day from and to Algerian airports will be allowed "with full adherence to strict precautions", it said in a statement after a cabinet meeting chaired by President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.

More details would be announced in a week, it added.

Algeria has so far recorded 125,311 coronavirus cases, including 3,374 deaths.

ALSO READ: Brazil restricts flights to stop spread of variant found in India

Argentina

Argentina on Sunday reported 270 more deaths from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, raising the nationwide tally to 70,522, the health ministry said.

Meanwhile, 16,350 new infections were reported, bringing the national count to 3,307,285, the ministry said.

Brazil

Brazil recorded 40,941 additional confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, along with 1,036 deaths from COVID-19, the Health Ministry said on Sunday.

Brazil has now registered 15.63 million cases since the pandemic began, and the official death toll stands at 435,751, according to ministry data.

Chile

Chile reported 6,320 new cases of COVID-19 and 98 more deaths, bringing the total number of cases to 1,286,548 and the death toll to 27,832, the Ministry of Health reported on Sunday.

Minister of Health Enrique Paris said that this week, there has been a "slight drop" in cases and a lower number of patients with the disease in hospitals.

Colombia

Colombia reported on Sunday 520 deaths from COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, raising the nationwide death toll to 81,300, the ministry of health and social protection said.

Meanwhile, 15,093 new infections were reported, bringing the nationwide tally to 3,118,426, the ministry said.

Cuba

Cuba's death toll from COVID-19 is now over 800, with another eight deaths reported on Sunday, along with 1,233 new cases, according to the Ministry of Public Health.

With these latest figures, the total number of deaths rose to 804 and the number of cases to 124,454.

Havana reported 630 infections in its 15 municipalities and continues to be the epicenter of the disease on the island, with a case incidence rate of 446.2 per 100,000 inhabitants.

Ecuador

Ecuador registered 609 cases of COVID-19 and seven more deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of cases to 410,129 and the death toll to 14,415, the Ministry of Public Health reported on Sunday.

The ministry said that over the last week, another 11,621 people recovered from the disease, for a total of 54,499, or 86.44 percent of the cumulative infections in the country.

Ethiopia

Ethiopia registered 432 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking the nationwide tally to 266,264 as of Sunday evening, according to the country's Ministry of Health.

The ministry said 20 new deaths were reported, bringing the death toll to 3,996, the ministry said.

The East African country reported 700 more recoveries, taking the national count to 219,566.

EU

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has recommended extending the storage time for the Pfizer-BioNTech, COVID-19 vaccine at normal fridge temperatures to 31 days from five days, easing logistical challenges during rollouts in the region.

The change is applicable for unopened vials, the EMA said on Monday, adding that its suggestion came after the assessment of additional stability study data submitted by Pfizer and BioNTech.

US authorities in February had approved storage and transportation of the vaccine at standard freezer temperatures of 2-8 degrees Celsius for up to two weeks instead of the ultra-cold temperatures between -80 to -60 degrees Celsius it usually requires.

The EU has allowed for ramped up production of the vaccine in the region and is eyeing a new deal to secure 1.8 billion doses of the shot after the trading block was hit by a shortage in supply of AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine.

A health travel pass in the European Union will be available from around June 20, French junior minister for European Affairs Clement Beaune said in an interview Sunday on Europe 1 radio interview. 

The pass will show either proof of vaccination against COVID-19, immunity due to past infection or the result of a negative PCR test. 

Beaune says he’s pushing for quarantine measures to be lifted once the pass is operational. 

Only vaccines approved by the European Medicine Agency will be accepted as proof of vaccination. 

France will implement its own health pass from June 9 for major gatherings of more than 1,000 such as festivals and concerts, he added.

A nurse prepares doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at the giant vaccination center against the COVID-19 set up at the Porte de Versailles convention centre in Paris on May 15, 2021. (GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP)

France

France reported 4,255 people in intensive care units with COVID-19 on Sunday, down by 16 from the day before and the 13th day in a row the number of patients needing ICU treatment has dropped.

France also reported 81 deaths in hospital among people who had tested positive for the coronavirus, down from 112 on Saturday.

Ireland

Irish health officials are considering allowing the use of COVID-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson for those aged between 40 and 49 in addition to the current use for over-50s, a senior health official said.

The Irish Health Service’s Chief Clinical Officer Colm Henry said an expert group had recommended the consideration of the use of the two vaccines in those aged 40-49 “with some conditions” and that a final decision would be announced soon.

Italy

Italy recorded 93 coronavirus deaths on Sunday, the lowest count since late October. 

New infections were 5,753, close to the seven-month low registered last week. 

Italy has registered 124,156 deaths linked to COVID-19 and 4.16 million cases since its outbreak emerged in February last year.

Italy has been accelerating its vaccination campaign to over 500,000 shots per day, and infections have continued falling even with the loosening of restrictions on the economy and social life.

COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective even after the first dose, according to a large-scale study by Italy’s national health institute. Infections, hospitalizations and deaths all declined significantly about 14 days after the first shot. After 35 days, infections were 80 percent lower than among those who hadn’t received any dose, while hospitalizations were 90 percent lower and deaths 95 percent lower.

Libya

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) on Sunday announced the supply of 74 refrigerator units to help Libya build a cold chain for COVID-19 vaccine.

"Plans are in place to distribute the refrigerators to 46 municipalities across Libya to upgrade the cold chain capacities," UNICEF tweeted, noting that it was working with the Libyan health ministry on logistics preparedness.

Delivering vaccines to all corners of Libya is a complex effort, and it takes a chain of precisely coordinated events in temperature-controlled environments to store and transport them, it noted.

Libya recently launched a national vaccination campaign against COVID-19, with more than 100,000 people inoculated so far.

The national count of COVID-19 cases on Sunday reached 181,410, including 168,128 recoveries and 3,088 fatalities.

The Netherlands

The Netherlands will ease its coronavirus lockdown measures slightly this week as the rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations has eased pressure on hospitals, health minister Hugo de Jonge said.

Amusement parks and zoos will be allowed to reopen as of Wednesday, while outdoor service at bars and restaurants will be extended by two hours until 8 PM.

Next steps to ease the lockdown are expected in the coming three weeks, De Jonge said.

Mexico

Mexico's health ministry on Sunday reported 1,233 newly confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country and 53 more fatalities, bringing its total to 2,381,923 infections and 220,437 deaths.

Mexico has administered more than 23 million doses of vaccine against the coronavirus with 10.6 million people now fully vaccinated.

Russia

Russia on Monday reported 9,328 new COVID-19 cases, including 3,573 in Moscow, taking the national infection tally to 4,949 573.

The coronavirus taskforce said 340 people had died of coronavirus-linked causes, taking its death toll to 116,211. The state statistics agency keeps a separate tally and has said it recorded around 250,000 deaths related to COVID-19 between April 2020 and March 2021.

South Africa

South Africa will launch phase two of its vaccine rollout on Monday with the aim of inoculating five million citizens aged over 60 by the end of June, its health minister said.

“This is provided that the supply of vaccines flows as anticipated. By the end of June we expect to have received 4.5 million doses of Pfizer and 2 million doses from Johnson & Johnson,” the minister, Zweli Mkhize, said during a webinar on Sunday.

Mkhize said that more than 325,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine would arrive at midnight on Sunday, bringing the total of Pfizer doses up to 975,780.

So far South Africa has ordered enough COVID-19 vaccines for 46 million of its 60 million population.

A member of the public receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a temporary vaccination centre at the Essa academy in Bolton, northwest England on May 14, 2021. (OLI SCARFF / AFP)

UK

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the government is closely monitoring the highly transmissible coronavirus variant that originated in India, while proceeding with plans to allow people to mix indoors and travel overseas, starting Monday.

Hancock warned that it could “spread like wildfire among the unvaccinated groups” and urged people to come forward for shots when eligible. 

The UK will offer inoculations to people aged 35 and over this week, Hancock told the BBC. 

The UK government will make its decision on whether to go ahead with the final lifting of COVID-19 restrictions on June 14, with the spread of the Indian variant in parts of the country threatening to delay the end of lockdown measures set for June 21, said Hancock. 

More than 20 million people, or 38 percent of the British adult population, are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, the government said Sunday.  Over 36.5 million, or 69 percent, have had one dose. 

The government is seeking to increase daily vaccinations to 1 million a day as part of its drive to beat the Indian variant, the Sunday Telegraph reported. Current vaccination levels are less than 600,000 a day.

The country reported another 1,926 cases and four deaths on Sunday. Both figures are up about 9 percent over the last seven days.

READ MORE: Trudeau govt begins work on reopening US-Canada border

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