Covid-19 has infected more than 229M people and killed over 4.7M. Here are virus-related developments for September 21:
Tuesday, September 21, 2021
Russia reports 812 new virus deaths
Russia has recorded 812 additional Covid-19 fatalities and 19,179 new cases in the past 24 hours, taking the total case toll to 7,313,851 and death toll to 199,808.
Calls grow for mandatory vaccine in Singapore
Some health experts in Singapore are calling for mandatory vaccination against the coronavirus with a growing toll of severe Covid among unvaccinated people as infections surge and with vaccine take-up plateauing at 82 percent of the population.
The government has linked reopening to vaccination targets but it paused the easing of restrictions this month to watch for signs that severe infections could overwhelm the health system.
"I would love to see vaccine mandates in over 60s, they are the group most likely to die," said Dale Fisher, an infectious disease expert at the National University Hospital in Singapore.
"It's the same reason that age group was selected early for vaccines, the same reason that age group has been selected for booster jabs."
Singapore has been a model for coronavirus mitigation since the pandemic began with mandatory masks, effective contact tracing and a closed border.
In all, 62 of its 5.7 million people have died and new daily infections were for months no more than a handful.
New Zealand increases fines for rule breakers
New Zealand announces higher fines of up to NZ$12,000 ($8,400) for individuals breaching coronavirus restrictions amid concerns that the current outbreak may spread beyond Auckland to other regions due to people breaking rules.
"Our success has been really based on the fact that people by and large have been compliant," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a news conference.
"However, there has been the odd person that has broken the rules and put others at risk," she said.
A person who intentionally fails to comply with an order, such as travelling without permission, will have committed a criminal offence and is now liable on conviction for a fine of up to NZ$12,000, up from NZ$4,000, or six months imprisonment.
Fines for companies can go up to NZ$15,000.
Chinese city orders spas, mahjong salons to shut
Spas, cinemas and mahjong salons in the Chinese city of Harbin were ordered to close to prevent spreading in poorly ventilated spaces, state television reported.
The temporary shutdowns were part of a range of restrictions imposed on the northeastern city after one case of community transmission, the report said, citing the Harbin government.
Religious activities were also suspended, tourist attractions were ordered to operate at half capacity, and visits were banned at retirement homes.
The restrictions come as China celebrates the mid-moon festival on Tuesday, and ahead of the National Day golden week holiday starting on October 1, a time of increased travel and social interaction.
China on Tuesday reported 72 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the mainland for Sept. 20, down from 49 a day earlier, with the latest cluster of infection in the southeastern province of Fujian, according to National Health Commission data.
March protests Australia state's vaccine mandate
Hundreds of demonstrators have marched in the streets of Australia’s second-largest city to protest against mandatory coronavirus vaccine rules in the construction industry.,
The protest Tuesday in Melbourne was aimed at a Victoria state government mandate requiring all construction workers to get vaccinated.
The march came a day after riot police were called in to disperse about 500 protesters who smashed the door at the offices of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union, which represents construction workers.
On Monday nig ht, the state government announced that the construction industry would be shut down from Tuesday for two weeks in metropolitan Melbourne and some regional areas.
Officials say all worksites will need to demonstrate compliance with health directions prior to reopening, including that staff have had at least one dose of a vaccine before they return to work October 5.
India's total case toll reach 33.50M
India has reported 26,115 new Covid-19 cases and 252 more deaths in the last 24 hours, the total case toll reaching to 33.50 million and death toll to 445,385, according to official data.
Germany records 4,664 new cases
Germany has reported 4,664 new Covid-19 cases and 81 new deaths, taking the total caseload to 4,150,516 and total death toll to 93,052.
Hanoi is easing some pandemic restrictions
Vietnamese authorities are relaxing some pandemic restrictions in Hanoi starting from Tuesday after two months of lockdown to contain a surge in coronavirus cases.
An order signed by the mayor Monday evening will allow the opening of government offices, markets, essential services such as banking, logistics and take-away restaurants.
But schools will remain closed, public events and gatherings of more than 10 people are still banned and public transport including train and air travel stay suspended. Hanoi will also maintain 22 checkpoints on the outer ring roads to control travel into the city.
A dozen of high risk neighbourhoods in Hanoi where recent virus cases were found will continue to be in lockdown.
Since July, Vietnam has enabled a strict lockdown order for more than half of the country in an effort to contain the spread of the delta variant.
Lam: no-quarantine HK-mainland travel top priority
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has said that quarantine-free travel to mainland China is her "top priority."
She made the comments in a weekly meeting with media on Tuesday, where she also announced that she will be traveling to mainland China herself in the coming week, without quarantine, for official meetings.
Hong Kong residents have been unable to travel between Hong Kong and the mainland since the beginning of the pandemic.
Carrie Lam has refused to respond to those who demanded the city to close borders with mainland China back in January and February 2020 when the virus first started to spread.
At a news conference in early 2020, she told her staff and Hong Kong people not to wear face masks unless they were sick.
She has not apologised for this outburst, but she soon returned to the routine of wearing a face mask as the virus continued to spread, and Hong Kong now has one of the world's strictest quarantine policies.
Last week, Hong Kong began to allow people from mainland China to come in without quarantine, but mainland China has not yet reciprocated.
Pfizer says its vaccine works in kids aged 5 to 11
Pfizer said its vaccine works for children ages 5 to 11 and that it will seek US authorisation for this age group soon, a key step toward beginning vaccinations for youngsters.
The vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech already is available for anyone 12 and older. But with kids now back in school and the extra-contagious delta variant causing a huge jump in pediatric infections, many parents are anxiously awaiting vaccinations for their younger children.
For elementary school-aged kids, Pfizer tested a much lower dose, a third of the amount that’s in each shot given now.
Yet after their second dose, children ages 5 to 11 developed coronavirus-fighting antibody levels just as strong as teenagers and young adults getting the regular-strength shots, Dr. Bill Gruber, a Pfizer senior vice president, said.
The kid dosage also proved safe, with similar or fewer temporary side effects, such as sore arms, fever or achiness, that teens experience, he said.
More Americans lost to Covid than 1918 flu pandemic
Despite a century of medical advances, more Americans have now died from Covid than the number who succumbed to the 1918 flu pandemic, according to new data.
The latest grim milestone comes as the country is experiencing a fourth-wave driven by the highly contagious Delta variant, with low vaccination uptake in many regions the main cause of death.
Johns Hopkins University tracker showed 675,722 US deaths as of Friday, which surpasses the 675,000 US deaths during the influenza outbreak that began in the last year of World War I.
All told, some 50 million died worldwide in the flu pandemic, sometimes inaccurately referred to as the "Spanish flu", making it the deadliest event in human history, according to epidemiologists.
That far exceeds global Covid deaths so far, around 4.7 million.
But the United States has borne a disproportionate 14 percent of those fatalities, despite making up only five percent of the world's population.
The American population in 1918 was less than a third of what it is now, meaning the flu deaths would be equivalent to some 2.2 million in today's terms.
India to resume global vaccine exports in October
India will resume exporting vaccines from October, five months after it stopped sending supplies abroad in the face of a deadly wave of infections, the health minister said Monday.
The South Asian giant, dubbed the "pharmacy of the world", was a major supplier to the Covax programme aimed at ensuring poor countries can access doses.
Exports stopped in April, according to foreign ministry data, when a virus surge in India pushed the healthcare system to breaking point and there was a huge demand for jabs.
Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said more than 300 million vaccine doses would be produced in October and one billion in the last three months of the year.
Vietnam to buy 10M Cuban vaccine doses
Cuba agreed to provide Vietnam with 10 million doses of its homegrown Abdala vaccine, for which the Asian nation has given emergency approval.
A deal was signed between the two countries during an official visit by President Nguyen Xuan Phuc to the communist island, the government said.
The agreement concerns an initial five million doses, but Vietnam has already authorised the purchase of 10 million doses in total, Cuban media reported.
On Saturday, Vietnam became the first foreign country to approve the emergency use of Abdala, which Cuba is already using along with Soberana 02 , another locally developed vaccine.
Venezuela has signed a contract to acquire 12 million Abdala doses, while Iran is producing Soberana 02 under agreement.
Argentina and Mexico have also expressed interest in the Cuban vaccines.
Last week, Cuba started the process of seeking World Health Organization approval for Abdala and Soberana 02.