Novel coronavirus has infected more than 184 million people and killed more than 4 million. Here are the latest Covid-related developments for July 6:
Tuesday, July 6:
Global Covid-19 deaths top 4M
Global Covid-19 deaths have topped the 4 million mark, according to data from Worldometer tracker.
The US tops the list as the country with the highest number of deaths, 621,335.
Brazil is second with 525,229 and India third with 403,310 deaths.
The global case tally is at a staggering 189.9 million as the highly contagious Delta variant wreaks havoc across the world.
US, Brazil and India also dominate the top three slots with the highest number of cases.
Israel sees drop in Pfizer-BioNTech protection against infections
Israel has reported a decrease in the effectiveness of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine in preventing infections and symptomatic illness, but said it remained highly effective in preventing serious illness.
The decline coincided with the spread of the Delta variant and the end of social distancing restrictions in Israel.
Vaccine effectiveness in preventing both infection and symptomatic disease fell to 64 percent since June 6, the Health Ministry said.
At the same time the vaccine was 93 percent effective in preventing hospitalisations and serious illness from the virus.
The ministry in its statement did not say what the previous level was or provide any further details.
However ministry officials published a report in May that two doses of the vaccine provided more than 95% protection against infection, hospitalisation and severe illness.
A Pfizer spokesperson declined to comment on the data from Israel, but cited other research showing that antibodies elicited by the vaccine were still able to neutralise all tested variants, including Delta, albeit at reduced strength.
Australian F1 and MotoGP races cancelled for 2021
The Australian Formula One Grand Prix and MotoGP round have been cancelled for the second successive year on Tuesday because of the border controls in place to keep the virus out of the country.
The 2020 edition of the Formula One race was cancelled at the last minute as the pandemic took hold and this year’s Melbourne round was shifted from its traditional season-opening spot to November 21.
Australia’s borders are still effectively closed, however, and the requirement for any body entering to quarantine for 14 days looks set to remain in place until the end of the year, at the earliest.
Victoria’s Sports Minister Martin Pakula said it was possible that situation might have improved by October but the government was not able to make a commitment on that now.
Pakula was confident that the country’s vaccine rollout, which has been one of the slowest in the developed world, would be accelerated to the extent that restrictions would not impact the Australian Open tennis tournament in January.
Delta variant fuels record infections in Fiji
Struggling to contain an outbreak of the highly-transmissible Delta variant, Fiji reported a record 636 infections and six deaths, with the mortuary at Pacific island’s main hospital already filled to capacity.
Since the pandemic began, Fiji has reported a total 39 deaths, but most have come since the emergence of the Delta variant in April.
Located some 2,000 km north of New Zealand, and with a population of less than a million people, mostly concentrated on two islands in the archipelago, Fiji had initially succeeded in keeping the virus at bay.
The government has resisted calls for a national lockdown.
The infections that erupted in the past few months were suspected to have been caused by someone breaching quarantine.
The Colonial War Memorial Hospital in the capital, Suva, is Fiji’s largest public hospital with 500 beds, and has been assigned the task of treating virus patients.
On Monday, the government said many patients were seeking treatment too late, and the hospital’s mortuary was full, even though some victims were dying at home.
About 54% of Fijians have received at least one dose of the AstraZeneca or Sinopharm vaccines, according to official data, while almost 9% have received a second.
Israel to ship 700K Pfizer doses to South Korea in swap deal
Israel is sending 700,000 vaccine doses to South Korea in exchange for a future shipment of the jabs, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Tuesday.
In a statement, Bennett said Israel will transfer the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to South Korea in an effort to inoculate more of the Asian nation’s citizens this month.
South Korea will return the same number of doses to Israel as soon as September, he added.
“This is a win-win deal,” Bennett said in his statement. The agreement will “reduce the holes” in the vaccine’s availability.
Bennett said the agreement, which he personally negotiated with Pfizer CEO Albert Burla, is the first of its kind between Israel and another country.
The Israeli vaccines still need to be tested after their arrival in South Korea, he added.
Germany eases some travel restrictions
Germany is easing strict restrictions on travel from Britain, Portugal and some other countries that were imposed because of the rise of the more contagious delta virus variant.
Germany’s national disease control centre, the Robert Koch Institute, said late Monday that Britain, Portugal, Russia, India and Nepal will be removed from the country’s highest risk category of “virus variant areas” effective from Wednesday. They will move into the second-highest category of “high-incidence areas.”
The UK had been in the top coronavirus risk category since May 23, and was joined last Tuesday by Russia and Portugal, one of Germany’s partners in the European Union.
Airlines and others are restricted largely to transporting German citizens and residents from “virus variant areas,” and those who arrive must spend 14 days in quarantine at home.
Mexico sees 67 more fatalities
Mexico reported 1,805 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country and 67 more fatalities, bringing its total to 2,541,873 infections and 233,689 deaths, according to health ministry data published on Monday.
Brazil’s death toll tops 525,000
Brazil registered 22,703 new Covid-19 cases and 695 new deaths in the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry has said.
That brought the total in Brazil to 18.79 million cases and 525,112 deaths.
Canada, US are easing pandemic border-crossing restrictions
Pandemic restrictions on travel between Canada and the US began to loosen on Monday for some Canadians, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said plans to totally reopen the border would be announced over the next few weeks.
Canadian citizens and permanent residents who have had a full dose of a coronavirus vaccine approved for use in Canada can skip a 14-day quarantine that has been a requirement since March 2020.
Eligible air travellers also no longer have to spend their first three days in the country at a government-approved hotel.
Restrictions barring all non-essential trips between Canada and the United States, including tourism, will remain in place until at least July 21.
Trudeau said the easing of the rules marks a “big step” toward re-opening the border.
“We’re very hopeful that we’re going to see new steps on reopening announced in the coming weeks,” he said at a news conference in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
Morocco’s Sothema to produce Sinopharm vaccine
Moroccan pharmaceutical firm Sothema will soon start producing 5 million doses of China’s Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine in the North African country, state news agency MAP has reported.
The announcement was made at a ceremony on Monday chaired by King Mohammed VI during which the Moroccan government, Sinopharm and Sothema, whose formal name is Société Therapeutique Marocaine, also signed deals to produce the vaccine in the African country, which has a population of about 36 million.
During the same event, the Moroccan government also signed a deal with Sweden’s Recipharm to set up a plant in Morocco to produce other key vaccines.