South Africa

CORONAVIRUS GLOBAL UPDATE: England reports no Covid deaths; South Africa registers 1,548 new cases


South Africa registered 1,548 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 1,599,272. A further 71 Covid-19-related deaths were reported, taking total deaths to 54,896.

The discrepancy between the most vaccinated countries and those lagging behind is growing starker.

England reported no deaths from Covid-19 in its latest daily update, and Germany’s health minister expressed optimism about falling infection rates. Greece has set a goal to vaccinate residents of all of its islands by the end of June to help boost the country’s image for tourists.

Meanwhile in Asia, Taiwan announced limits on crowds, following Singapore’s move to restrict foreign workers, in a wave of new limits in countries trying to stamp out small outbreaks after months of keeping Covid-19 contained. Thailand Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha warned that local cases may increase over the next few weeks, and Vietnam’s capital city banned large gatherings.

Key developments

Netherlands to lift some restrictions

The Netherlands will reopen gyms, zoos and amusement parks from May 19 if the number of Covid-19 infections and hospital admissions continues to decline.

The government will decide on Monday whether it needs to use a “stop button” to halt the easing of restrictions, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Tuesday. From May 15, travel to countries with a low infection rate will be possible again, and a colour-coded system will be used to provide travel advice.

The Dutch health service on Tuesday reported 47,108 Covid-19 cases over the past seven days, down from 52,987 the previous week. Hospital admissions declined to 1,379 in the past week, from 1,763 in the prior week.

Uber, Lyft to offer free rides to vaccine sites

The White House announced new efforts to vaccinate Americans, including an expansion of free rides from Uber Technologies Inc.and Lyft Inc. to get shots and a partnership with community colleges to administer vaccines.

Lyft and Uber will offer free rides through July 4 to anyone going to get vaccinated in the U.S., the White House said on Tuesday. It’s an expansion of programs they were already providing to some low-income users in cooperation with pharmacies and nonprofits.

UnitedHealth CEO sees Covid impact fading

UnitedHealth Group expects much of the negative impact from Covid-19 to fade next year, Chief Executive Officer Andrew Witty said on Tuesday.

“Our Plan A assumption is that Covid impacts start to recede in 2022,” Witty said in an appearance at the Bank of America Securities 2021 Virtual Health Care Conference.

US health insurers mostly reported robust earnings for the first quarter, yet were conservative with guidance for the rest of 2021, citing uncertainty amid the pandemic. Health insurers saw medical costs drop during Covid as people shunned regular doctors’ visits and elective surgeries in the early stage of the pandemic.

Brazil halts Astra shots for pregnant women

Brazil’s health regulator recommended officials stop giving AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 shots to pregnant women as authorities investigate the reported death of a woman in Rio de Janeiro who had received the vaccine.

Anvisa, as the regulator is known, said that the use of the shot on pregnant women should be “immediately suspended,” according to a statement on its website late on Monday.

Scotland to ease restrictions

Scots will be able to drink alcohol indoors at pubs and restaurants from next week and meet more people in their homes after a reduction in new cases, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said.

The general success of the vaccination roll-out means some restrictions are being lifted ahead of schedule, she told reporters in Edinburgh. Cinemas, theatres and casinos will be able to reopen from Monday, and the government is also reviewing rules on physical distancing.

Rules may be relaxed further at the next review in three weeks, Sturgeon said.

Greece aims to vaccinate all island communities by end of June

Greece aims to fully vaccinate permanent residents of all islands by the end of June, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a meeting with local officials. The country wants to support island communities and economies, while also sending a positive signal for the image of Greek tourism, Mitsotakis said.

EU seeks court order for Astra doses

The European Union is asking a Belgian court to order AstraZeneca to deliver 90 million doses to the bloc, European Commission spokesman Stefan De Keersmaecker told reporters in Brussels.

The move is part of the EU’s legal action against the company, which the bloc insists has violated its contract by failing to deliver doses under an Advanced Purchase Agreement.

Malaysia to follow unified protocol

Malaysia will follow a standardised protocol nationwide to make it easier for people to comply with social-distancing procedures, Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob told reporters on Tuesday. The decision comes a day after Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin extended the restrictions on movements nationwide to rein in a fresh wave that has left some hospitals low on beds.

Hanoi bans gatherings of 10 or more

Hanoi banned gatherings of more than 10 people in public places and requested the suspension of non-essential meetings and events, according to a post on the health ministry’s website. The Vietnamese capital city, which is asking residents to leave home for essential reasons only, closed parks after a new outbreak centred in North Vietnam began on April 27.

Japan discussing more Moderna doses

The Japanese government is in discussions with Moderna for an additional 50 million doses of its vaccine, said Christophe Weber, CEO of Takeda Pharmaceutical, which is handling regulatory approval and distribution of the shot in Japan. The deal would bring Japan’s total Moderna doses to 100 million. Weber said he expects the vaccine to be approved in Japan this month.

England reports zero Covid deaths

England reported no deaths from Covid-19 in its latest daily update, a milestone that highlights the effectiveness of the UK’s vaccine programme. Sunday was the first day without any recorded deaths in England since July. More than 112,000 people have died since the pandemic began more than a year ago. DM

— With assistance by Joe Schneider, Chris Reiter, Christian Wienberg, Lenka Ponikelska, Charles Penty, Shruti Singh, Stacie Sherman, Keshia Clukey, Riley Griffin, Charles Capel, and April Roach.

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