Covid-19 has infected more than 235M people and killed over 4.8M globally. Here are the virus-related developments for October 4:

A nurse prepares a syringe to give a third dose of the coronavirus vaccine, in Jerusalem on October 3, 2021.
A nurse prepares a syringe to give a third dose of the coronavirus vaccine, in Jerusalem on October 3, 2021. (Reuters)

Monday, October 4, 2021

Global virus deaths figures falls to lowest in 11 months

The weekly number of deaths worldwide has fallen to levels unseen for almost a year, according to a count on Monday based on official national figures.

The 53,245 deaths recorded worldwide between September 27 and October 3, an average of 7,606 each day, showed that the global pandemic continues the downward trend that began at the end of August, after a peak of around 10,000 deaths per day.

The new weekly death toll figure is the lowest recorded since October 31-November 6, 2020.

Over the last month the number of virus-related deaths has fallen by almost a quarter, as vaccination campaigns make progress.

EU regulator OKs Pfizer vaccine booster for 18 and older

The European Union’s drug regulator gave its backing Monday to administering booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for people 18 and older.

The European Medicines Agency said the booster doses “may be considered at least 6 months after the second dose for people aged 18 years and older.”

The agency’s human medicines committee issued the recommendation after studying data for the Pfizer vaccine that showed a rise in antibody levels following boosters given around 6 months after the second dose in people from 18 to 55 years old.

The agency also said it supports giving a third dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna vaccine to people with severely weakened immune systems at least 28 days after their second shot.

The agency said its decision came after studies showed that an extra dose of the vaccines increased people's ability to produce antibodies against the virus in organ transplant patients with weakened immune systems.

Vaccine mandate takes effect for NYC teachers, staff

Vaccination requirement for teachers and other staff members took effect in New York City's sprawling public school system Monday in a key test of the employee vaccination mandates now being rolled out across the country.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said 95% of the city's roughly 148,000 public school staffers had received at least one vaccine dose as of Monday morning, including 96% of teachers and 99% of principals.

Some 43,000 employees have gotten the shots since the mandate was announced Aug. 23, de Blasio said.

“Our parents need to know their kids will be safe," the mayor said. "They entrust us with their children. That’s what this mandate is all about. Every adult in our schools is now vaccinated, and that’s going to be the rule going forward.”

UK eases travel rules but upsets nations not on list

Simplified international travel rules took effect Monday in the UK, easing quarantine and testing requirements for fully vaccinated travelers from more than 50 countries, and the Conservative government vowed it will seek to regularly expand the rules to more nations.

Still, the rules have sparked anger from many nations in the developing world, particularly India, which have been excluded from the list of countries whose vaccination programmes are accepted by UK authorities. 

As part of the new regime, Britain eased entry requirements for fully vaccinated travelers from 18 countries, including Canada, Japan and the United Arab Emirates. It builds on a pilot phase with US and most European countries that began over the summer.

Under the new rules, Britain scrapped its traffic light system for international travel, which applied different rules to travellers from countries in three different categories of risk. 

Now there are just two categories: a “red list,” which bars most non-essential travel, and the rest of the world.

But travellers from non-red list countries aren’t all treated equally.

Those who have been fully vaccinated with one of four authorised vaccines and have a certificate from a recognised public health agency are now allowed to enter the UK without a negative pre-departure PCR test and without being required to quarantine on arrival.

But travellers coming from countries whose vaccination programs aren't recognised by UK authorities will still be required to show a pre-departure test and quarantine for 10 days.

Most countries in Africa and South America, as well as major Asian nations such as China, India and Vietnam, don’t have vaccination programs that are authorized by the UK.

Venezuelans rely on the kindness of strangers to pay for treatment

Venezuelans are increasingly relying on friends and strangers to help pay for coronavirus treatment as hyperinflation and soaring health care fees make social media pleas and crowdfunding campaigns the only way to cover costs while infection rates rise.

Although Venezuelans have used such platforms for years to cover the cost of medical treatment and operations in the country, now in its seventh year of economic crisis, the onset of virus has dramatically increased the practice.

The state of Venezuela's already overloaded and crumbling public health system, in which hospitals often lack access to even water, has pushed many to use costly private centers. Meanwhile vaccination campaigns have been slow while drug prices increase as the country consolidates an informal dollarization.

Due to voracious inflation, most Venezuelans have no savings. Now families and friends of patients with the virus post weekly appeals for funds on Twitter and Facebook, often using an account loaned to them from someone abroad if asking in dollars.

'Get vaccinated', says Kremlin as Russia's daily cases hit highest in months

The Kremlin implored people to get vaccinated against the virus, calling it the only way to stop the virus' spread, as Russian authorities mulled reintroducing health restrictions to cope with daily cases rising to their highest levels since January.

Moscow may soon bring back incentives such as prize drawings for people to get vaccinated, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said, as authorities struggle to contain a wave of cases and deaths. The 25,781 new infections reported nationwide on Monday was the most since Jan. 2.

"The vaccination rate, despite the complete preparedness of all infrastructure, leaves much to be desired," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday.

Vaccine hesitancy has hampered Russia's inoculation drive. Russians often cite a general fear of new medical products and distrust of the authorities as their reason for refusing the vaccination.

Italian studies show that shots less effective in immunocompromised

Vaccines are less effective on people with weakened immune systems, three small Italian studies show, which the studies' researchers say highlight the need to deploy booster shots for this group of vulnerable people.

The studies show that, on average, 30% of immunocompromised patients do not develop immunity to the virus after vaccination.

The remaining 70% respond to the vaccine, especially after the second dose, but to a lesser extent than healthy people and with differences from group to group , the Bambino Gesu Hospital in Rome, which conducted the three small studies, said in a statement on Monday.

The studies were conducted among a group of 21 patients with primary immunodeficiency disease, 34 children and young adults undergoing heart and lung transplants, and 45 young people with liver and kidney transplants.

The results indicate the need to increase the level of protection of the most vulnerable with booster doses, the hospital said.

Thailand in talks with Merck for 200,000 courses of anti-virus pills

Thailand's government is in talks with US drugmaker Merck & Co to purchase 200,000 courses of the company's experimental antiviral pill for coronavirus treatment, a Thai official said.

Many Asian countries are scrambling to lock in supplies of the potential treatment early after they lagged behind Western nations in vaccine rollouts, hit by tight supplies.

South Korea, Taiwan and Malaysia said they are all in talks to buy Merck's potential treatment, while the Philippines, which is running a trial on the pill, said it hopes its domestic study would allow access to the treatment.

They all declined to provide details on purchase negotiations.

Japan's new PM Kishida says virus fight 'top priority'

Japan's new Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged to combat the pandemic with fresh stimulus and fight income inequality after lawmakers voted him leader of the world's third-largest economy on Monday.

The soft-spoken 64-year-old from a Hiroshima political family made his first speech as premier hours after unveiling his cabinet, a mix of holdovers and newcomers.

"I'm determined to fulfill my duty with all my strength and all my heart," he said, calling measures to counter the virus "top priority".

"I will swiftly take economic measures to support those who have been considerably affected by the new coronavirus."

'We need vaccines now': African singers urge donations

Popular African singers Angelique Kidjo and Davido called on G20 leaders scheduled to meet later this month to urgently donate coronavirus vaccines to the continent.

In an open letter published by UNICEF, a group of influencers warned that only four percent of the continent's population are fully vaccinated while some wealthy countries have already met or exceeded 70 percent.

"This inequity is unjust and self-defeating. It leaves Africans, and the whole world, at the mercy of the virus. Unchecked, it can create new and more dangerous variants," the letter said.

"We cannot wait for promises to be fulfilled, we need vaccines NOW," said popular Beninese singer and activist Angelique Kidjo.

Virus deaths are declining almost everywhere except in Africa, where they are rising, the group said.

Nearly 111M vaccine jabs administered in Turkey to date

Turkey has administered over 110.74 million shots since the country launched a massive immunisation drive in January, according to official figures released on Monday.

More than 54.14 million people have been given a first dose of a vaccine, while around 45.25 million are fully vaccinated, the Health Ministry said.

According to the data, some 87.22% of Turkey's adult population has now received at least one dose of a two-shot vaccine.

Turkey has also given third booster shots to more than 10.53 million people.

Vaccine-resistant NBA player Wiggins gets jab

Golden State Warriors wing Andrew Wiggins received his jab to play for his team this season.

"Golden State’s Andrew Wiggins has been vaccinated and will be available for all games this season," NBA insider Shams Charania said on Twitter.

NBA does not mandate but is pushing vaccine-resistant players to get their coronavirus jabs before the season begins on Oct. 19.

Canadian small forward Wiggins, 26, previously applied for a religious exemption but the NBA denied his request.

Nearly 90% of NBA players have received at least one dose of the shot, but some are reportedly not vaccinated.

FIFA talks with Qatar on easing vaccine mandate

FIFA is in talks with Qatari authorities about scrapping the mandatory vaccination requirements for next year's World Cup.

Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani announced in June that it would require any fans wanting entry into next year's tournament to be fully inoculated, but has said nothing about the policy for players yet.

FIFA and Qatari officials are discussing the possibility that fans, players and officials will be able to provide proof of having recovered from the virus or produce negative tests, a person familiar with the talks said.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing discussions.

Qatar World Cup organisers and the Qatari government did not respond to a request for comment.

Biden to visit Chicago area, press need for vaccine

US President Joe Biden will travel to the Chicago area on Thursday as part of the administration's effort to encourage people to get the vaccine, the White House said on Monday.

Sweden to give 12-15 year olds Pfizer shot

Sweden's Public Health Agency said it recommended the use of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children between 12-15, opting against rival Moderna's Spikevax.

The European Medicines Agency approved the use of Comirnaty in May, while Spikevax was given the nod for children over 12 in July.

"All in all, we see reason to choose the vaccine that we know the most about and that is most well-proven when it comes to vaccinating children between 12 and 15 years of age," Anders Tegnell, head of department and state epidemiologist at the Health Agency said.

Thailand kicks off vaccinations for school students

Thailand rolled out vaccines to high school students for the first time on Monday, as it seeks to boost its immunisation rate ahead of a planned school reopening next month.

About 88% of high school students aged 12-18 in the capital Bangkok had signed up for the vaccine, city authorities said. Nationwide, 3.6 million of more than 5 million eligible students have registered, according to official figures.

"I want the situation to return to normal because I want to return to school," said Puwarit Chinnaburanasophon, 16 .

Thailand has vaccinated about 31% of its more than 66 million people and has eased many restrictions in Bangkok, where infection numbers have declined lately.

Covid-19 variants are better at travelling through the air: studies

Newer variants of the Covid-19 such as Alpha and Delta are far more transmissible, contracting much more people than the original virus, according to the two new studies reported by the New York Times.

These two new studies provide a possible explanation, "The virus is evolving to spread more efficiently through air."

Russia records 883 more fatalities

Russia has registered 25,781 more coronavirus cases and 883 deaths over the past 24 hours, according to the official data.

India sees 20,799 additional cases

India records 20,799 additional Covid-19 cases and 180 fatalities, the health ministry reports.

New Zealand drops elimination strategy under pressure from Delta

New Zealand has abandoned its long-standing strategy of eliminating coronavirus amid a persistent Delta outbreak, and will instead look to live with the virus and control its spread as its vaccination rate rises.

The Pacific nation was among just a handful of countries to bring virus cases down to zero last year and largely stayed virus-free until an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant in mid-August frustrated efforts to stamp out transmission.

"With this outbreak and Delta the return to zero is incredibly difficult," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a news conference in a major policy shift.

Germany logs 3,088 cases

Germany has reported 3,088 more Covid-19 cases and 7 fatalities, according to the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases. 

Tokyo daily cases total 87, lowest since November 2

Tokyo's government has said that new daily infections declined to 87, the lowest since November 2 last year.

Cases have been on the decline since peaking at more than 5,000 a day in August amid a wave driven by the infectious Delta variant. Tokyo and much of Japan last week exited a state of emergency over the virus that had lasted for almost six months.

EU nations' plans diverge amid booster data dilemma

A patchwork of campaigns for an extra Covid-19 shot are being rolled out across the European Union even before the region's drug watchdog rules on whether they are safe and effective.

Italy, France, Germany, and Ireland have already started to administer booster shots and the Netherlands plans to do so soon but only to people who are immuno-suppressed.

But several EU countries are waiting for the European Medicines Agency to give its opinion this week.

The fragmented picture mirrors the different approaches seen in the roll-out of shots across one of the world's wealthiest regions at the turn of the year.

They also highlight the lack of consensus among scientists about how broadly they are needed, while governments seek to revive their ailing economies, fight the more infectious Delta variant, and avoid further lockdowns in the winter.

Australia's new cases top 2,000

Australia has reported 2,029 new Covid-19 infections, up from Sunday, even as its two most populous states remained under extended lockdowns and vaccination rates rose.

The state of New South Wales, of which Sydney is the capital, reported 623 new cases and six deaths, down from 667 cases and 10 deaths on Sunday.

Victoria state reported 1,377 new infections, up from 1,220 on Sunday. There were also four new deaths.

Victoria's case count was, however, down from a record high of 1,488 on Saturday, the highest for any state since the start of the pandemic last year.

Mexico reports 211 deaths

Mexico's Health Ministry has reported 2,980 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 211 fatalities, bringing its total to 3,681,960 infections and 278,801 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.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies