New Rules for Vaccinated People, Troops Enforce Lockdown: COVID-19 Global Weekly Highlights

These are the global coronavirus stories you need to know about this week.

As of Wednesday, positive UK cases had risen 12.1% in 7 days, and cases stood at a rate of 339.3 per 100,000 population. Over the same period, deaths were up 13.4%, and hospital admissions up 9.4%. Some big events have been linked to local hotspots, including 4700 cases after Cornwall’s Boardmasters music and surfing festival. So far, 77.4% of those aged 16 and over are fully vaccinated. A UK-wide antibody surveillance programme is to be launched next week. Most patients who acquired COVID-19 in hospital during the first wave tended to get it from other patients, according to University of Cambridge and Addenbrooke’s Hospital research published in eLife. The Scottish Government will begin an independent inquiry into its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic by the end of the year. A UK-wide inquiry is due next spring.

A booster vaccination programme is being recommended in France for people aged 65 and over, as well as for patients with comorbidities. So far, 70.9% of the total population has received at least one vaccine dose. In addition, 62.4% are fully vaccinated. Meanwhile, the country has seen continuing demonstrations against COVID pass measures. Health professionals have been issued guidance on how to avoid vaccine certificate fraud.

In Belgium, the Brussels-Capital Region will deploy up to 40 mobile vaccination teams in schools, businesses, and shops, to help achieve 65% vaccination coverage by the end of October.

In Spain, the Government approved the purchase of 500,000 doses of SANOFI/GSK COVID-19 vaccine for delivery in the first quarter of 2022. By August 24, two thirds of the Spanish population was fully vaccinated.

In Italy, incidence is stable at 69 new cases per 100,000 population, and 67.25% of the population over 12 years of age is fully vaccinated. Discussions are underway about booster doses for vulnerable groups.

In Portugal, the second phase of easing restrictions came into force, and the goal of vaccinating 70% of the population has been reached. An epidemiological study carried out by the National Institute of Health Doctor Ricardo Jorge (INSA) and the General Directorate of Health (DGS) on the effectiveness of mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 estimated that the risk of an infection by the Delta variant in vaccinated individuals is, approximately twice the risk of infection with the Alpha variant. The trend was seen in partially and fully vaccinated individuals. The national incidence rate is 310.4 cases of infection per 100,000 population.

In Germany, the 7-day incidence has again risen slightly. According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) on Tuesday (August 24) morning, it was 58.0. A week ago it was 37.4.

The Government wants to remove the incidence rate from infection protection law s. In future the burden of cases on hospitals will be taken into account.

In Austria, the 7-day incidence is 92.7 per 100,000 population. The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of the Interior reported 1002 newly registered coronavirus cases within the last 24 hours.  

In Switzerland, the Federal Office of Public Health (BAG) reported 2993 new infections after the weekend. The national R number is 1.22, indicating that the virus is spreading rapidly. 

The US has reached 151,000 new daily COVID-19 cases.  Currently there are more than 25,000 Americans in intensive care, the most since the pandemic began.  The fourth surge continues to be most serious for people who have not been vaccinated, but vaccine breakthrough infections are rising. The Food and Drug Administration gave full approval, rather than emergency use authorisation, to the Pfizer vaccine this week. Dr Anthony Fauci said the US was unlikely to have the pandemic under control until Spring next year.

Pan American Health Organisation Director Carissa Etienne announced that PAHO will boost regional vaccine manufacturing efforts in Latin America and the Caribbean.

During the last week in the Americas region there were more than 1.5 million new cases and nearly 20,000 COVID-19-related deaths. Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras are experiencing a rise in COVID-19 infections. Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and smaller Caribbean islands have reported increases in new infections and deaths.

In Mexico, as of 24 August, 17 of the 32 states show a clear downward trend in COVID-19 infections and hospitalisations, which is an indicator that the third wave is beginning to subside. Emergency use of the Moderna vaccine was approved. The Mexican Government announced that it does not plan to vaccinate children aged 12 to 17-years against COVID-19, unless the return to school causes a big rise in infections.

In Brazil, the moving average of deaths is falling, but circulation of the Delta variant is increasing. So far, 26% of the Brazilian population has been fully vaccinated, and 58.65% have received a first vaccine dose. A group of Brazilian researchers published a study in the BMJ evaluating the effectiveness of CoronaVac in elderly people before the Delta variant was circulating. It found protection falls with age. Protection against death in the  over 80s was 44%, with a 38.9% protection rate against hospitalisations. In the 70 to 74-year-old age group, protection against death was 77.6% and 83.9% against hospitalisation. One of the authors, Dr Julio Croda, told Medscape that a booster dose needs to be given as soon as possible.

New South Wales, Australia, reported yet another daily record of 919 new COVID-19 infections on August 25. The Australian government is likely to drop its zero-case strategy and will instead aim to vaccinate its population to sufficient levels needed for herd immunity. Signs are now being issued by police to be displayed outside homes in South Australia where people are under COVID-19 quarantine.

New Zealand reported 41 new COVID-19 cases on August 24, the highest daily count since April 2020. The majority of the cases were around Auckland, where the recent outbreak originated.

In response to the continuing surge of COVID-19 infections, Japan has expanded its ‘state of emergency’ to eight more prefectures, taking the total to 21. The Paralympic Games opened in Tokyo on August 24 amid the ongoing surge in Japan. 

The World Health Organisation expressed concern about a potential spike in COVID-19 cases in Afghanistan as a result of the mass exodus following the takeover of the country by the Taliban.

Taiwan reported zero new domestic COVID-19 cases on August 25 for the first time since May 9. On August 23, Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen was vaccinated with the island’s first homegrown COVID-19 vaccine developed by Medigen. It has since been made publicly available.

Vietnam has deployed army personnel to help enforce a lockdown in Ho Chi Minh City, which is the epicenter of the country’s worst outbreak since the beginning of the pandemic. 

India has granted emergency use approval to its second homegrown COVID-19 vaccine, ZyCoV-D developed by Zydus Cadila. The three-dose, needle-free vaccine is the first plasmid DNA vaccine in the world to be approved. The vaccine demonstrated an efficacy of 66% against symptomatic disease in clinical trials.

Israel has lowered the eligibility age for booster vaccine doses from 40 to 30 to help stem rising Delta variant cases. Boosters are given at least 5 months after second vaccine doses.

In Africa there have been at least 7,669,000 infections and 192,000 documented deaths from COVID-19 to date. The average number of new infections reported each day in Mozambique decreased by more than 1100 during the last 3 weeks, down 51% from its previous peak. Ethiopia reports the highest number of new infections since April. The average number of new infections reported in Tunisia has been increasing for 7 days in a row.

See more global coronavirus updates in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Centre.

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