U.S. Health System Strained; Pfizer Shots for Kids: Virus Update
Parts of the U.S. health system “are in dire straits,” as the spread of the delta variant forces some states to prepare for rationed medical care, said Rochelle Walensky, head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Pfizer Inc. will submit data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on vaccines for children ages 5 to 11 within “days, not weeks,” said Albert Bourla, the company’s CEO.
Singapore hit record cases again, almost doubling from a week earlier, ahead of new curbs that kick in on Monday. South Korea will start offering booster shots to “high-risk groups,” including people over 60 and medical workers.
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WHO Starts New Team to Probe Covid Origin (5:42 p.m. NY)
The World Health Organization is reviving its investigation into the origins of the Covid-19 virus by building a new team of about 20 scientists, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday. The previous team, which had been disbanded after a visit to Wuhan, had said data provided by Chinese scientists was insufficient to reach a conclusion.
Members of the new team will be chosen by the end of this week, and the team’s “priority needs to be data and access in the country where the first reports were identified,” WHO officials told the Journal.
The Chinese government declined to say if the new team will be allowed to enter the country.
Another Record Hit, Singapore Adds Curbs (2:55 p.m. NY)
Singapore added 1,939 new cases, almost doubling from a week earlier, the latest in a string of daily records in the past week ahead of new curbs that kick in on Monday.
The new restrictions include working-from-home as the default and tightening rules to allow a maximum of two people to meet in restaurants or other social settings. Most grade school students will also switch to virtual learning.
Two more deaths were reported, both elderly with underlying conditions who were not vaccinated, bringing the death toll to 78. A total of 30 people are in the ICU.
Australian PM Defends Strict Border Closures (2:02 p.m. NY)
Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended Australia’s strict anti-virus measures, including shutting the borders since the start of the pandemic.
“I’ll tell you what shutting those borders did,” Morrison said on CBS’s “Face the Nation. “It saved over 30,000 lives in Australia...About 1,200 Australians have lost their lives to Covid. That is what is lost in a day here in the United States.”
He said measures would ease as Australia continues to vaccinate its population, with three quarters of the nation having received a first shot. In an earlier appearance on Australian television, he said state premiers must not keep internal borders closed once vaccination targets are reached.
CDC Head Warns of Health Care Strain (12:55 p.m. NY)
Parts of the U.S. health system “are in dire straits,” as the spread of the Covid-19 delta variant forces some states to prepare for rationed medical care, said Rochelle Walensky, head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“That means that we are talking about who is going to get a ventilator, who is going to get an ICU bed,” Walensky said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “Those are not easy discussions to have, and that is not a place we want our health care system to ever be.”
Idaho, among the U.S.’s least-vaccinated states, and Alaska have said that hospitals can begin to ration medical care if needed. A major hospital in Montana also implemented so-called “crisis of care standards” to prioritize who is treated. Health officials warned the measure could be widened across the state.
Pfizer to Submit Data on Kids’ Vaccine (10:07 a.m. NY)
Pfizer Inc. will submit data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on vaccines for children ages 5 to 11 within “days, not weeks,” Albert Bourla, the company’s CEO, said on ABC’s “This Week.”
“If they approve it, we will be ready with our manufacturing to provide this new formulation of the vaccine,” he said.
He said the dosage for young children is one-third that of the vaccine for adults. Last week Pfizer and BioNTech said that formulation produced strong antibody responses in children in a large-scale trial. The companies also plan to share the data with regulators in Europe.
Norway Sees Violence as Rules Eased (9:40 a.m. NY)
Norway suffered outbreaks of violence across many of its cities as revelers celebrated the lifting of Covid-related restrictions from Saturday afternoon, according to local media.
The police in Oslo registered about 50 fights and other disturbances, while several people were arrested for possession of machetes, knives and other weapons, public broadcaster NRK reported.
Indonesia Cases Drop to Lowest in Year (5:50 p.m. HK)
Indonesia said its daily infection numbers dropped to the lowest level in more than a year. The country reported 1,760 new Covid-19 cases in the past 24 hours, the least since August 2020, according to the Health Ministry.
Deaths also declined to the lowest level since March, with 86 people dying on Sept. 26. More than 4 million people in Southeast Asia’s largest economy have tested positive with the virus since the pandemic began.
South Africa, U.K. to Discuss Red List (5:05 p.m. HK)
Officials from South Africa will meet British scientists Monday seeking an explanation for the nation’s continued inclusion on the U.K.’s Covid-19 travel red list, according to the Johannesburg-based Sunday Times.
While nations such as Kenya, Egypt and Turkey were removed from Britain’s red list this week, South Africa remained on it.
The U.K. has cited the presence of the beta variant in South Africa, where it was discovered in late 2020, as the reason. South African scientists say the beta variant has been completely overtaken by the delta variant.
France Doubles Vaccine Pledge (3:25 p.m. HK)
French President Emmanuel Macron said France will double the number of vaccine doses it donates to poorer countries to 120 million. “The injustice is that in other continents vaccination is far behind because of us, collectively,” Macron said in a message broadcast during the Global Citizen fundraising concert in Paris.
France will also commit to helping UNICEF and health systems with vaccine distribution, Macron said, noting that only 3% of Africa’s population is vaccinated.
South Korea Readies Booster Rollout (3:08 p.m. HK)
South Korea will start offering booster shots to “high-risk groups,” including people over 60 and medical workers, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said during a Covid-19 response meeting, adding that the country also plans to expand vaccine eligibility to teenagers and pregnant women.
Three-quarters of the population have received at least one vaccine dose, with less than half fully vaccinated, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency’s website Sunday. The Seoul metropolitan area remains under the government’s strictest social distancing measures.
China Adds Cases in Harbin (10:15 a.m. HK)
China reported three more infections in the northeastern city of Harbin, a new cluster, and nearby Suihua city recorded one more. Harbin raised risk levels to “mid-level” for five residential complexes and the province’s official Weibo account described the coronavirus situation as “severe and complex.”
A larger outbreak that started earlier this month in southeast China’s Fujian province is ebbing, with five cases reported from Xiamen in the province and none from Putian.
Judge Halts NYC Schools Shot Mandate (6:40 a.m. HK)
New York City’s school system, the largest in the U.S., has been temporarily blocked from imposing a mandate forcing teachers and other staff to get vaccinated against Covid-19, according to a ruling from a federal judge. That mandate was scheduled to go into effect on Monday at midnight.
Late Friday, a judge from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit referred the case to a three-judge panel “on an expedited basis.” The hearing will take place on Wednesday, Reuters reported.
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