These are the global coronavirus stories you need to know about this week.
In the UK, Scotland confirmed it will lift most of its remaining legal COVID-19 restrictions on Monday 9 August as it moves “beyond level zero”. England altered the logic behind its COVID-19 app to cover contact with asymptomatic cases over 2 days rather than 5 to try and reduce the number of people ‘pinged’ to self-isolate. The lifting of restrictions in England on July 19 doesn’t appear to have caused a rise in positive cases in the daily data. As of Tuesday, 73.2% of UK adults are fully vaccinated, and 88.7% received a first COVID-19 vaccine dose. A study of 1734 UK children who tested positive for coronavirus, published in The Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, found that those who become ill with COVID-19 are unlikely to have long-term effects, and less than 2% had symptoms lasting more than 8 weeks. The UK is to extend COVID-19 vaccination to 16 and 17-year-olds and is keeping vaccinating younger children under review.
The situation in France appears to be stabilising nationally but some areas are seeing rising cases and overwhelmed hospitals, including the overseas territories Martinique, Guadeloupe and Réunion. Martinique even had to transfer three patients to the mainland. Corsica triggered its Plan Blanc allowing it to cancel non-urgent operations to prioritise COVID-19 care. A French study showed that almost 85% of hospitalised patients were not vaccinated. As of August 3, 77% of the adult population had received at least one dose and 66% were fully vaccinated.
In Germany, the pace of first-time vaccinations continues to decline and is currently as low as it was in February. So far, 52.3% of the population is fully vaccinated and 61.7% has received at least one dose. Health ministers have decided to expand vaccinations for children . The independent Standing Commission on Vaccination (Stiko) has only recommended vaccinating higher risk children. The Government is considering ending the supply of free weekly COVID-19 rapid tests.
In Austria, about 67% of the vaccine-eligible population has currently received at least one dose, and about 59% are fully vaccinated. The 7 day incidence is currently rising in Austria and now stands at 37.1 per 100,000 population.
Switzerland reported 1059 new COVID-19 infections within 24 hours on Tuesday. In addition, 53 people were newly admitted to hospital. No deaths were reported. Vaccination uptake continues to decline in Switzerland, especially among younger people.
Belgium reached a new milestone in its vaccination campaign on Monday, as over eight million people have now received their first dose. In total that’s 83.5% of adults.
In Italy the number of new cases kept on growing and has reached 50 cases per 100,000 population. The Regions of Emilia-Romagna, Lazio, Liguria, Sardinia, Sicily, Tuscany, Umbria, and Veneto have already passed this number. The country’s R is 1.57 compared to 1.26 last week. A flash survey by the National Health Institute on July 20 identified the Delta variant in almost 95% of tested samples. The green pass will be mandatory to visit restaurants, shopping centres, museums, and cinemas from Friday. So far, 60% of the population over 12 is fully vaccinated.
Portugal’s national incidence is 394.6 cases per 100,000 population. As of Sunday, 55.76% of the Portuguese were fully vaccinated with a target of 70% by September, and 85% in October. The recommended interval for the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has been reduced from 28 days to 21.
The incidence of new COVID-19 cases at 14 days continues to trend downwards in Spain, with 653 cases per 100,000 population on Wednesday. So far, 57.8% of the Spanish population is fully vaccinated and 68.2% have received at least one dose.
The US hit a milestone of 70% of adults having at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The country was about a month late achieving that goal, and new cases, hospitalisations, and deaths are all rising due to the Delta variant. The surge is happening as many schools are returning to full-time classroom learning. Paediatric cases now represent about 20% of all COVID-19 cases diagnosed in the US. Severe illness still appears to be rare in children. Nearly all those hospitalised in the US for COVID-19 are unvaccinated.
In Mexico, 20% of the population is fully vaccinated. Mexico City and Baja California Sur are the states with the highest number of reported cases. In the city of Tijuana, on the border with the United States, vaccination centres for migrants have been set up. More than 130,000 children have been orphaned by COVID-19. A report from a Mexican hospital shows that paediatric patients with comorbidities and SARS-CoV-2 or influenza infection are equally likely to die.
PAHO Director Dr Carissa Etienne said that “it remains critical to wear masks, maintain physical distance and comply with other public health measures” to effectively contain transmission as more than 1.2 million new cases of COVID-19 were reported in the Americas region last week. Cases are increasing in Guatemala, Cuba, Martinique, and the Virgin Islands while in most of South America, cases are decreasing.
More than two million deaths have been reported so far in the Americas region. While in Latin America and the Caribbean region only 18% of the population is fully vaccinated.
In Argentina, heterologous vaccination trials are underway with Sputnik Light and vaccines from AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Sinopharm. Initial results from a group of 121 volunteers found the combination of Sputnik Light with other vaccines and vaccination with two doses of Sputnik Light have a high safety profile and show no serious adverse events after vaccination.
In Brazil, the moving average of deaths maintains a downward trend. After 191 days in a row with averages above 1000, on Saturday, the country had a moving average of 991 deaths. As of August 2, 19.89% of the population were fully vaccinated. Last week, vaccination was halted in several cities due to supply shortages.
Students from municipal, elementary, and high schools are gradually returning to classes this week.
Local authorities in Sydney, Australia have drafted in unarmed military personnel to help enforce the ongoing lockdown. They’ll visit the homes of individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 to ascertain that they are sticking to quarantine rules. Brisbane and surrounding areas in Queensland have extended the lockdown to August 8.
COVID-19 infections in Japan continue to surge at an unprecedented rate. New daily cases in the Olympic host city Tokyo hit a record 4166 on August 4.
Thailand reported 20,200 new COVID-19 cases and 188 deaths on August 4, its highest daily numbers so far. Night curfews and other restrictions have been implemented in response to the surge in infections.
China reported 71 locally-transmitted COVID-19 cases on August 3, the highest daily count since January 2021. The total number of symptomatic domestic COVID-19 cases recorded in the country between July 20 and Aug 3 stands at 485. The city of Wuhan will start testing its entire population with local infections resurfacing after more than a year.
Macau will test its entire population of 600,000, after the gambling hub witnessed four new COVID-19 cases. The resurgence of cases has forced the authorities to shut down entertainment venues, but casinos will continue to remain open.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency has detected the first two cases of the new Delta Plus SARS-CoV-2 variant in South Korea.
The gender gap in India’s COVID-19 vaccination coverage has narrowed, with women now accounting for nearly 47% of the 481 million vaccine doses administered to date.
The World Health Organisation called for a halt on COVID-19 booster doses until at least the end of September.
“I understand the concern of all governments to protect their people from the Delta variant. But we cannot accept countries that have already used most of the global supply of vaccines using even more of it,” said its head, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
See more global coronavirus updates in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Centre.
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