Africa registers record number of Covid-19 cases – latest updates

Novel coronavirus has infected more than 184 million people and killed more than 3.9 million. Here are the latest Covid-related developments for July 5:

Members of the South African Police Services queue to receive their dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine in Soweto on July 5, 2021.
Members of the South African Police Services queue to receive their dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine in Soweto on July 5, 2021. (AFP)

Monday, July 5:

Africa suffers record number of cases

Africa has suffered a record number of coronavirus cases over the past week, registering over 36,000 new infections per day, according to an AFP count based on official figures.

African nations combined saw a daily average of 36,141 new Covid-19 cases from June 28 to July 4 as the pandemic flares up across the continent, surpassing the 32,609 daily cases registered in early January, during the previous high point of the virus.

South Africa is the worst-hit country in Africa, with new daily infections hitting record highs of 26,000 cases over the weekend, fuelled by the highly contagious Delta variant which first surfaced in India.

The daily figures across Africa had fallen under 8,000 in mid-May but have marched upwards since then.

Last week’s figures were a 23 percent increase on the previous week.

Part of the problem is that African countries are suffering from a crippling shortage of Covid vaccines.

According to the AFP count, just 3.66 vaccine doses have been administered for every 100 Africans.

The corresponding figure in the US and Canada is 100.26, while in Europe it stands at 68.3.

The number of deaths from coronavirus is also on the rise in Africa, with an average of 748 fatalities per day, a surge of 43 percent over the previous week.

That figure is still lower than 906 deaths recorded between January 18-24 across the continent.

Britain’s cases up 53 percent in past week

Britain has reported 27,334 new cases of Covid-19, government data showed, meaning the rise in cases between June 29 and July 5 stood at just over 53 percent compared with the previous seven days.

A further nine people were reported as having died within 28 days of a positive test for Covid-19.

A total of 45.35 million people had received a first dose of a vaccine against coronavirus by July 4 and 33.73 million people had received a second dose

France says China-Europe air traffic should resume as Covid shots progress

Airline traffic between Europe and China should resume as soon as possible as Covid-19 vaccination campaigns progress, French President Emmanuel Macron’s office has said following a call with the leaders of Germany and China.

Italy reports 31 deaths, 480 new cases

Italy has reported 31 coronavirus-related deaths against 12 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections fell to 480 from 808.

Italy has registered 127,680 deaths linked to Covid-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the eight-highest in the world.

The country has reported 4.26 million cases to date.

Mexico produces 1st test batch of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine

Mexico has produced a first test batch of the Russian Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine at a local plant, the Russian Direct Investment Fund, RDIF, which markets the shot abroad and signs manufacturing deals, said.

Indonesia beefs up health funds with hospitals in critical condition

Indonesia’s government has agreed to boost its coronavirus healthcare budget and introduce telemedicine services to non-critical patients, in an effort to reduce pressure on a health system choked by days of record Covid-19 cases.

Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said health spending would be raised again to $13.39 billion (193.93 trillion rupiah) for coronavirus treatment, testing, tracing, drugs, vaccines and protective gear, larger than the sum announced on Friday.

Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said remote services would be provided from Tuesday by telehealth firms such as Alodokter and Halodoc and will include free consultations and medication delivery.

“Positive Covid-19 patients can get medical services on time without waiting in line at hospitals, so that hospitals can be prioritised for patients with medium, heavy, and critical symptoms,” he told a news conference.

Russian church urges followers to vaccinate

Russia’s powerful Orthodox Church has admonished people refusing to be vaccinated against Covid-19, calling them sinners who would have to atone for the rest of their lives, as the country reported another jump in new infections and deaths.

Speaking on state television, Metropolitan Hilarion, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s department for external church relations, said those refusing to vaccinate were committing “a sin for which they will have to atone throughout their lives”.

He added: “I see situations every day where people visit a priest in order to confess that they had refused to vaccinate themselves or their close ones and unwillingly caused someone’s death.

“…The sin is thinking of oneself but not of another person.”

Bangladesh extends lockdown

Bangladesh has extended its strictest lockdown to July 14 to combat a surge in coronavirus cases led by the highly contagious Delta variant, with areas bordering India taking the brunt of infections.

Hospitals are overwhelmed with coronavirus patients, particularly in districts bordering India where the Delta variant was first identified.

Bangladesh sealed its border with India in April, but trade continues.

A surge in cases had prompted the government to order a week of tight controls on Thursday, with army troops patrolling streets.

All measures have been extended, the government said in a statement.

The shutdown has sparked an exodus of migrant workers from the capital Dhaka to home villages.

Factories are allowed to operate observing health protocols while all offices and transportation remain shut expect essential goods carriers and ambulances.

Luxembourg PM in ‘serious,’ stable condition with Covid-19

Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel is in a “serious, but stable” condition and will remain in the hospital for up to four more days after he was unable to shake a bout of Covid-19 that developed over a week ago, the government has said.

In a statement, it added that the running of state affairs will be taken over by Finance Minister Pierre Gramegna in the meantime.

Bettel, 48, was diagnosed with insufficient oxygen saturation, forcing him to remain under medical observation since the weekend.

He was also suffering from coronavirus symptoms including coughing, headaches and a fever.

“The medical state of the prime minister is considered serious, but stable,” the government said.

Spain restricts some nightlife as virus surges among young

Faced with soaring numbers of new coronavirus infections among unvaccinated young people, some Spanish regions are rolling back curbs on nightlife only weeks after dropping them.

Fearing that the surging contagion could strain health care services as stressed employees try to go on summer holidays, health officials in several parts of the country are also rushing to get Covid-19 vaccine shots to people under 30.

Spain’s strict vaccination rollout has so far focused on older, more vulnerable groups, leaving for this summer the vaccination of teenagers and people in their 20s.

So far, nearly 40 percent of Spain’s 47 million people have been fully vaccinated, one of the highest levels in Europe, but the share falls to one in ten vaccinated in the 20-29 age group and a meager 0.6 percent for youngsters up to 20.

Vietnam reports record 1,102 new infections

Vietnam has reported 1,102 new Covid-19 infections, a record daily increase in cases.

It was the first time Vietnam has reported more than 1,000 coronavirus cases in a single day.

Norway delays full reopening over Delta Covid-19 variant

Norway has announced the easing of some Covid-19 restrictions but delayed the final phase of reopening the economy until the end of this month at the earliest because of concerns about the Delta coronavirus variant.

Measures that will remain include bars and restaurants being limited to table service, limits of 20 people on gatherings in private homes, and restrictions on adult recreational sports.

“There is a risk that the Delta variant will cause a fourth wave of infection in the unvaccinated part of the population, among those who have only received one dose or are in vulnerable groups,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg said.

South Korea in talks to manufacture a billion mRNA vaccines

South Korea is in talks with mRNA vaccine makers including Pfizer and Moderna to produce shots in the country and is ready to offer the capacity to make up to 1 billion doses immediately, a senior government official said.

The plan, if agreed, would help ease tight global supply of vaccines, particularly in Asia which lags North America and Europe in vaccine rollouts, and put South Korea a step closer to its ambition to become a major vaccine manufacturing centre.

South Korea already has deals to locally produce three vaccines developed by AstraZeneca-Oxford University, Novavax, and Russia.

It also has a vaccine bottling and packaging deal with Moderna.

Indonesia seeks more medical oxygen amid shortage

Parts of Indonesia lack oxygen supplies as the number of critically ill virus patients who need it increases, the nation’s pandemic response leader said Monday, after dozens of sick people died at a public hospital that ran out of its central supply.

“Due to an increase of three to four times the amount (of oxygen) needed, the distribution has been hampered,” said Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, the coordinating maritime affairs and investment minister.

The government is asking oxygen producers to dedicate their full supply to medical needs and will import it if needed, Pandjaitan said at the virtual news conference.

This statement comes after Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikit said the government guaranteed oxygen supply for virus patients on June 26.

At least 63 patients died during treatment at Dr. Sardjito General Hospital in Yogyakarta city since Saturday, 33 of them during the outage of its central liquid oxygen supply even though the hospital switched to using oxygen cylinders during that period, hospital spokesman Banu Hermawan said.

Fiji hospital mortuary full as cases surge

The mortuary at Fiji’s largest hospital is now full, the country’s health ministry said on Monday, as the Pacific island nation logs record daily cases.

There were no immediate details on the capacity of the morgue.

At least 28 people have died during a second wave of infections starting in April, the ministry said on Sunday.

Although Fiji had early success with keeping the virus at bay by closing its borders, the highly transmissible Delta variant, first detected in India, is now spreading.

A new daily high of 522 new infections was recorded on Sunday.

The island has a population of about 900,000.

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.

Malaysians suffering in lockdown fly white flag for help

Malaysia’s nationwide lockdown to curb a surge was tightened further, banning people in certain areas from leaving their homes except to buy food and necessities.

To help people in desperate need, a white flag campaign was launched on social media.

To concept is simple: It urges people to hoist a white flag or cloth outside their window to signal they need immediate help, without having to beg or feel embarrassed.

Since the campaign began, scores of food retailers and celebrities have stepped in to help and many Malaysians have driven around their neighbourhoods in search of white flags.

The campaign, called #benderaputih, began as Malaysian society’s response to rising suicides believed linked to economic hardships caused by the pandemic.

Police reported 468 suicides in the first five months this year, an average of four a day and up sharply from 631 for the whole of 2020.

Thousands of people have lost their jobs since Malaysia enacted various curbs on movement, including a coronavirus state of emergency that has suspended Parliament until August 1.

The strict national lockdown imposed on June 1 is the second in more than a year.

Pakistan records lowest deaths in five months

Pakistan has recorded 19 deaths from coronavirus during the past 24 hours, the lowest single-day toll since February, the Health Ministry said.

The South Asian country registered 16 fatalities on February 21 — the lowest in 2021 — while 201 deaths were recorded on April 27, the highest since the country was hit by a third virus wave in March.

The number of new infections, however, remained over 1,000 for the sixth consecutive day following the lifting of almost all lockdown restrictions nationwide.

Some 1,347 new cases were reported, pushing the country’s overall caseload to 963,660. The total death toll stands at 22,427.

The number of active cases in the country are 33,299, while 907,934 patients have recovered so far.

Pakistan, which mostly received vaccines from China, has administered over 17.39 million shots so far. Anyone over 18 years old is eligible for vaccination.

India’s cases rise by 39,796

India has reported 39,796 new cases of Covid-19 pushing the country’s total to more than 30.5 million infections, death toll rises by 723 to reach 402,728 fatalities.

The number of active cases stood at 482,071.

Venezuela to give COVAX ultimatum to ship vaccines

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said he will give the COVAX system an ultimatum this week to send the country’s share of coronavirus vaccines as all pending payments had been made to the global vaccine-sharing scheme.

Venezuela received word from COVAX in June that the last four payments had been blocked by UBS. The payments to cover the $120 million fee have already been made, he said.

Maduro said in a live appearance on state television that officials had been instructed to “give the COVAX system an ultimatum: they send us the vaccines or they give us the money back, period.”

Australia’s New South Wales reports 35 locally acquired virus cases

New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, reported 35 locally acquired cases of Covid-19, taking total infections in the latest outbreak of the Delta variant to more than 300.

Of Monday’s cases, 28 were either in isolation throughout or for part of their infectious period. Seven cases spent time in the community while they were infectious.

Portugal’s Madeira to allow visitors with Covid shots not approved by EU

The popular Portuguese islands of Madeira will allow entry to visitors with any of the Covid-19 jabs being administered worldwide and not only with those approved by Europe’s drug regulator, the regional government said.

The European Union, which launched its digital Covid certificate last week, has so far authorised only four vaccines – those of Pfizer Inc and BioNTech, Moderna Inc, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson.

Queen to honour UK health workers for Covid service

Britain’s Queen Elizabeth will award the UK’s state-run National Health Service (NHS) the country’s highest civilian honour in recognition of health workers’ service during the pandemic, the government announced.

The award of the George Cross, which is the civilian equivalent of Britain’s Victoria Cross for extraordinary military heroism, comes amid outcry from medical professionals over pay and working conditions in the NHS, which has been pushed close to breaking point during the pandemic.

Brazil Covid-19 deaths surpass 524,000

Brazil registered 27,783 new Covid-19 cases and 830 new deaths in the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry said.

That brought the total in Brazil to 18,769,808 cases and 524,417 deaths.

Mexico reports 2,611 new cases, 42 more deaths

Mexico’s Health Ministry reported 2,611 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country and 42 more fatalities, bringing its total to 2,540,068 infections and 233,622 deaths.

The government has said the real number of cases is likely significantly higher, and separate data published recently suggested the actual death toll could be 60 percent higher than the official count.

Biden says US has made good progress against virus

President Joe Biden says the American people are closer than ever to declaring independence from a deadly virus.

The president made the comments at a July Fourth celebration at the White House.

He told the crowd of service members and first responders to think back to where this nation was a year ago and think about how far the nation has come.

France faces risk of 4th wave from end July

France faces the risk of a fourth Covid-19 wave by the end of July due to the progression of the Delta variant of the virus, the country’s health minister warned.

Olivier Veran said that in the last five days, cases of the Delta variant had increased and there was a grave possibility of the resumption of the pandemic.

Around 30 percent of new Covid-19 cases detected in the country are linked with the highly contagious Delta variant. According to the latest health data, around 2,549 new cases and nine deaths were recorded in the last 24 hours

UK’s Johnson to set out plan for final lockdown easing on Monday

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will set out plans for the final step of easing lockdown in England on Monday, including guidance on social distancing, face coverings and working from home, the government said.

The remaining legal restrictions to prevent the spread of Covid-19 are due to be lifted on July 19, with the decision whether to go ahead scheduled for July 12.

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