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Delta, low levels of vaccination drive surge in global infections

medical staff wearing protective equipment attend to patients affected by COVID-19
In this Thursday June 17, 2021 file photo medical staff wearing protective equipment attend to patients affected by COVID-19, on the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the Machakos County Level-5 hospital in Machakos, Kenya. Driven by the Delta variant, a new wave of COVID-19 is sweeping across the African continent where new cases, hospital admissions, and deaths are increasing. (AP/Brian Inganga)

Covid infections globally increased the most in two months as the spread of the Delta variant, a surge across the US, and low levels of vaccination in most Southeast Asian nations led to higher numbers.

wMore than 3.729 million people were infected around the world in the week ended July 25, led primarily by six countries—the US, Brazil, Indonesia, UK, India and Spain—according to data compiled by Bloomberg and Johns Hopkins University. Global cases now top 194 million, and deaths exceed 4.1 million.

The number of cases in the US surged by 62 percent over the previous week. However, fatalities have stayed relatively low in the US, UK and Spain due to high vaccine coverage, while deaths are soaring in India, Brazil and Indonesia.

The top US infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, warned that the nation is moving in the “wrong direction” in combating a new wave of the pandemic as vaccinations slow, and said a booster shot may be needed especially for the most vulnerable.

Countries including Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea and Algeria are imposing curfews in cities to battle a surge in cases.

Brazil reported 18,129 new infections over the past 24 hours, pushing its total to almost 19.7 million, according to data from the Health Ministry. Deaths rose by 476 to 549,924, the world’s highest number of fatalities after the US.

Thailand reported 15,376 new infections on Monday, the highest single-day increase since the pandemic began. That took the nation’s cumulative cases to 512,678, according to the Center for Covid-19 Situation Administration. The country also reported 87 fatalities and 6,782 recoveries on Monday.

Indonesia is extending its mobility curbs for another week until Aug. 2 as cases remain high even after about a month of restrictions. Adjustments are being made to allow small businesses to operate under strict health protocols, President Joko Widodo said. Traditional markets selling staple foods will open as normal, while shops selling non-food items and other small merchants are allowed to operate at half capacity and shorter trading hours. Dine-in can resume at food stalls and restaurants in outdoor areas under very strict protocols.

Protests against Covid measures took place in a number of nations from Australia to France to Tunisia, where the president fired the prime minister Sunday after violent demonstrations.

Key developments:

Vietnam adds 2,704 new cases

Vietnam reported 2,704 new local cases, with 1,714 coming from Ho Chi Minh City. That’s taken the total infections in the country to more than 100,000, the government reported Monday morning.

Ho Chi Minh City officials are imposing a 6 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew beginning Monday to contain a fast-spreading outbreak, news website VnExpress reported earlier, citing Chairman of the City People’s Committee Nguyen Thanh Phong.

All activities in Vietnam’s business hub will be suspended during the curfew, except for emergency and epidemic coordination activities, according to the report.

The government said it’s working to lock up deals for as many as 170 million Covid-19 vaccine doses by year-end. Vietnam has secured 130 million doses and is trying to negotiate for an additional 40 million shots, Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long said in a speech to the National Assembly on Sunday.

Hundreds of children die in Indonesia

Hundreds of children—many under age five—have died in Indonesia from Covid in recent weeks, a mortality rate that’s higher than any other country, the New York Times reported, citing doctors.

The children’s deaths challenge the notion that they face a far lower risk than adults, the paper said. The surge in child deaths corresponds with the spread of the Delta variant, the paper said, and the outbreak now makes Indonesia the new epicenter of the pandemic.

Sydney numbers rise

Sydney’s daily cases climbed and are expected to keep rising after thousands took to the streets over the weekend in defiance of the lockdown restrictions sweeping parts of Australia.

The city of almost 6 million people recorded 145 new cases Monday, up by a handful from the day before, with half of the people active in the community while infectious. There have been 2,226 cases since the latest outbreak began in mid-June, fueled by the contagious Delta variant.

Taiwan vaccine mixing

Taiwan will allow people to take combinations of two different vaccines, health minister Chen Shih-chung said at a briefing Sunday. The government decided to allow the public to take one dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine with a second dose of an mRNA vaccine after examining international data and cases. Chen did not say when the first mixed inoculations would start. Currently, Moderna is the only mRNA vaccine available in Taiwan, with 15 million doses of the BioNTech vaccine scheduled to start arriving from September.

Jiangsu cluster swells

China added 39 local confirmed cases in eastern province of Jiangsu and one infection in Liaoning province on July 25, according to a statement from National Health Commission. There were also four new local asymptomatic cases reported Sunday; provinces of Jiangsu, Anhui, Guangdong and Sichuan each had one.

South Korea vaccinates 33 percent of population

South Korea said 32.9 percent of its population has had the first round of vaccine. The country has given 6.86 million doses and 13.4 percent of its people are fully vaccinated. South Korea added 1,318 new cases.

The country will expand social distancing measures outside the capital Seoul from Monday and ban gatherings of more than five people. Seoul is already subject to strict curbs.

Japan’s Shionogi trials once-a-day pill

Osaka-based Shionogi & Co. started a Japanese Phase 1 clinical trial of an orally administered antiviral drug for Covid-19. The first dose was administered successfully on July 22 and no safety concerns have been identified so far. This is just the start of clinical trials and lots of such drugs eventually fail to make the cut.

Ghana imposes curbs amid Delta wave

Ghana is restricting the length of events such as weddings and funerals to two hours and has banned post-event receptions due to the risk of people abandoning safety protocols including mask-wearing and social distancing.

“It appears that our nation like many others is experiencing a third wave of Covid-19 infections,” President Nana Akufo-Addo said in a state broadcast late Sunday. Ghana has reported more than 102,000 Covid-19 cases, including 823 deaths, since the first case was reported.

South Africa eases virus lockdown

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa eased virus curbs after new infections slowed and the nation’s vaccination program gathered pace.

Alcohol sales, which have been banned for the past four weeks, will now be permitted at restaurants and at retail outlets from Monday to Thursday, the president said in a televised address. Restrictions on leisure travel and gatherings will also be relaxed.

Image courtesy of AP/Brian Inganga
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