As we continue our efforts to keep you informed of the COVID-19 situation across the globe, there are more than 100 vaccine candidates being tested, with an Australian candidate proven effective against the dominant strain despite fears that mutations would render it unviable. A combination vaccine for both influenza and the new coronavirus entering human trials in Hong Kong will be administered by nasal spray. Meanwhile, France and Germany see daily infection rates surpassing even those from early in the pandemic. Indonesia, Malaysia, Canada, and the United States also see new case counts rising.
The following is a roundup of key events that have happened around the world in the last 7 days.
- Global update:
To date, 36,985,492 confirmed cases, 27,798,084 recoveries, and 1,069,820 fatalities have been reported globally. The global recovery rate is reported to be 75.15% (increasing) and the mortality rate is reported to be 2.89% (decreasing).
- Situational update:
We are well into the tenth month of the ‘year of the pandemic,’ as COVID-19 continues to claim lives and spread at an alarming rate across the globe. While initially it was thought of as a pneumonia-like illness as it displayed all telltale signs of a respiratory condition, it has been well-established by now that COVID-19 can impact the entire body from head-to-toe. As people of different ages, ethnicities and health conditions continue to contract the SARS-CoV-2 virus, it is clear that the virus manifests in completely bizarre ways. There are currently more than 100 COVID-19 vaccine candidates under development, with a number of these in the human trial phase. The WHO is working in collaboration with scientists, businesses, and global health organizations through the ACT Accelerator to speed up the pandemic response. When a safe and effective vaccine is found, COVAX (led by WHO, GAVI and CEPI) will facilitate the equitable access and distribution of these vaccines to protect people in all countries. People most at risk will be prioritized. On Oct. 6, 2020, the WHO published the results of a survey of the impact of COVID-19 on mental, neurological, and substance use (MNS) services in 130 WHO Member States, ahead of World Mental Health Day on Oct.10. The survey revealed that most countries are experiencing some disruption to MNS services, with the greatest impact on community-based and prevention and promotion services.
- The evolving traits of the COVID-19 virus:
India’s drug authority last month approved a paper-strip test for COVID-19 that shows results in less than an hour, the head of the government institute that invented the test told CNN on Monday. The test, called FELUDA—an acronym for FNCAS9 Editor-Limited Uniform Detection Assay—was named after a popular Indian fictional detective. It intends to “address the urgent need for accurate mass testing,” according to a statement from TATA Sons, which manufactured the test. The SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, may linger on human skin for nine hours, much longer than flu viruses can, according to a recent study. The influenza A virus, in contrast, remains viable on human skin for nearly two hours, said researchers, including those from Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine in Japan. The study, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, found that both viruses were rapidly inactivated on skin with a hand sanitizer. The finding underscores the importance of hand washing or using a sanitizer to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The researchers noted that the stability of SARS-CoV-2 on human skin remains unknown, considering the hazards of viral exposure to humans. An experimental dual vaccine for both influenza and the new coronavirus delivered via a nasal spray will enter human studies in Hong Kong next month, a top infectious diseases doctor said. The early-stage clinical trial will enroll about 100 adults, said Yuen Kwok-Yung, chair of infectious diseases in the University of Hong Kong’s department of microbiology. The candidate vaccine is similar to a nasal spray flu immunization already on the market that’s designed to start working where respiratory viruses typically enter the body: the nose.
- India’s recovery rate increasing while death rate holds steady at 1.5%.
India recorded 70,496 fresh cases of coronavirus and 964 deaths in the last 24 hours, taking the total number of COVID-19 cases to 6.9 million, according to Health Ministry data released this morning. 78,365 people have also successfully fought off the viral disease over the last 24 hours, bringing down the overall active cases to almost 13% of the total caseload. According to government figures, total COVID-19 cases in India now stand at 6,906,151, including 893,592 active cases, 5,906,069 recoveries, and 106,490 total deaths. India’s recovery rate increased marginally to 85% and its death rate stood steady at 1.5%. (Source: NDTV)
- Philippines report says coronavirus cases are on a downward trend but recommends strict quarantine in some areas.
A group of independent researchers on Thursday said coronavirus cases in the Philippines were on a “downward trend,” seven months after the country was placed on lockdown to halt the spread of COVID-19. But the group, OCTA Research, recommended stricter quarantine measures for at least 18 areas in the country, including Metro Manila. In its Oct. 6 report, OCTA Research—composed of independent researchers from the University of the Philippines, University of Santo Tomas, and Providence College in the United States—noted that there were now only 2,500 new coronavirus infections a day in the Philippines, placing the country back in its May-June case levels. (Source: Inquirer)
- Australian scientists find vaccine candidate effective against now-dominant strain.
The quest for an effective COVID-19 vaccine is a step closer to reality, with Australian scientists proving potential candidates should work against the now-dominant strain. CSIRO researchers have dispelled fears mutations of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes coronavirus, could render some developmental vaccines out of date before they are approved. Most worldwide vaccines under development are based on the original early-pandemic “D-strain” of COVID, but the virus has since evolved to the globally dominant “G-strain.” (Source: 7News)
- Indonesian health facilities overrun by COVID-19 cases as epidemiological efforts hit snags. Indonesia is in a race against time to contain the country’s COVID-19 outbreak as patients overrun health facilities and medical workers are overwhelmed, but primary efforts to break the chain of transmission are still far from expected, epidemiologists say. Testing, tracing, and isolation are key to containing COVID-19. But these measures remain weak in Indonesia, largely because of limited testing capacity, an insufficient number of COVID-19 tracers, and people’s reluctance to share information with these workers. Indonesia currently has 376 laboratories with a combined testing capacity of around 40,000 a day. Masdalina Pane of the Indonesian Epidemiologists Association said that having a high number of suspected cases on the waiting list for diagnostic tests would definitely delay contact tracing, quarantine, and treatment. (Source: The Jakarta Post)
- China joins WHO’s international COVAX framework.
China’s government says the country has joined an international framework aimed at ensuring fair distribution of coronavirus vaccines. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying issued a statement on Friday saying China joined the framework COVAX Facility the previous day. About 170 countries and territories, including Japan, are taking part in the framework founded by the World Health Organization and others. Hua said China leads the world with several vaccines in advanced stages of research and development with ample production capacity. (Source: NHK-World Japan)
- South Korea records double-digit increases in new cases for second straight day.
South Korea‘s daily coronavirus count increased by double-digits for a second straight day, as health authorities are still on alert over a possible post-holiday resurgence. Korea added 54 new COVID-19 cases – 38 locally transmitted and 16 imported from overseas – according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency. Friday’s tally marks a drop from 69 cases added the previous day. Before reporting double-digit figures for two consecutive days, the country’s daily infections reached 114 cases on Wednesday. The government has been on alert as a three-day weekend with Hangeul Day starting Friday could serve as a catalyst for another resurgence in the number of fresh coronavirus cases. (Source: The Korea Herald)
- Malaysia reports continually high numbers of cases, swelling to more than 14K.
This week, daily new COVID-19 cases in Malaysia rose to numbers never seen before in the country, with the highest, 691, recorded on Oct. 6. Three states—Sabah, Kedah, and Selangor—continued to rage as COVID-19 hotspots. Over the 24-hour period up to noon yesterday, 375 new cases were reported, of which 303 were categorized as community transmissions and 18 involved prisoners and people on remand. Together with yesterday’s new cases, Malaysia’s total number of COVID-19 cases has swelled to 14,368, while active cases have ballooned to 3,703. (Source: The Edge Markets)
- United States could have 233K deaths by end of month. President signs off on $1.8 trillion stimulus package.
The U.S. is averaging more than 46,000 new COVID-19 infections each day, up 12% from the previous week and more than double what the country was seeing in June, as lockdown restrictions were easing. On Thursday, the number of cases reported in the country—57,191—was the highest in almost two months, and 10 states saw their highest seven-day averages of new daily cases. And where in the past just one or a few regions were experiencing a growth in cases, infections are now on the rise across all regions. It’s a case count that experts warn is far too high, ahead of what’s forecast to be a challenging, and deadly, winter season. The latest U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ensemble forecast says U.S. COVID-19 deaths could reach 233,000 by the end of this month. (Source: CNN) President Donald Trump has signed off on a roughly $1.8 trillion stimulus offer to be presented to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, according to two people with knowledge of the decision, marking the highest topline dollar figure the administration has put on the table to this point. (Source: CNN)
- Canada’s prime minster urges Canadians to stay home as cases spiral upwards. Ontario imposes new restrictions.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced new support for businesses Friday and pleaded with Canadians to stay home as COVID-19 cases continue to spiral upwards. There have now been 175,000 cases in Canada and in the next ten days, Health Canada is modelling there could be nearly 200,000. Ontario is imposing new restrictions in Toronto, Peel Region, and Ottawa to help slow the spread of COVID-19. The restrictions will prohibit indoor dining at restaurants and bars, and close gyms, movie theatres, and casinos. The measures will go into effect tomorrow and will be in place for at least 28 days. The government is also asking people in those areas to leave their homes only for essential purposes. (Source: The National Post)
- Costa Rica reopens to flights from other Central American countries.
Costa Rica announced Thursday that it will again receive flights from other Central American countries, in a decision to expand the reopening of its borders since restrictions were first established in Mar. The six Central American countries join Mexico, the United States, Canada, Uruguay, the European Union, the United Kingdom, and several Asian nations as countries from which citizens and residents can visit Costa Rica. As a requirement, tourists must present a negative coronavirus test and obtain travel insurance that covers COVID-19 medical care and related lodging. (Source: Tico Times)
- Colombia sees highest per-day increase in cases since mid-August.
Colombian Health Minister Fernando Ruíz has not ruled out the possibility that the entire nation could once again be placed under quarantine if new cases of COVID-19 continue to increase. The remarks come after the Colombian capital registered 2,409 cases on Tuesday, and the highest per-day increase since mid-August when rotating quarantines were lifted. The capital currently has 25,597 active cases of the nation’s 74,586. Colombia, since the outbreak on March 6, has totaled 877,683 cases and remains in fifth place in the world with the most cases, surpassed by Russia, Brazil, India and United States. (Source: The City Paper Bogota)
- Brazil surpasses 5 million confirmed cases.
Brazil surpassed 5 million confirmed coronavirus cases on October 7 to become the world’s third hardest coronavirus-hit country, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tally. Currently, Brazil’s figures have fallen to about 27,000 cases and 700 deaths daily from more than 45,000 cases and 1,000 deaths per day from when the country was at the peak of COVID-19 infections. Experts say that people shunning isolation and taking to public activities is a pressing concern as campaigning mayors are allowing bars, restaurants and movie theaters to reopen. (Source: Hindustan Times)
- Dominican Republic intensifies measures for curfew violations.
To control the outbreak of coronavirus in the country, the ministries of Public Health, Defense, Interior Police and the National Police warned that as of Thursday night the measures will intensify with arrests and prosecution of those who violate the curfew, circulation permits and those who don’t wear masks. Public Health Minister Plutarco Arias and senior Defense, and Police officials agreed to assign officers and inspectors to examine the validity of the permits produced by those who are not authorized to circulate during the curfew that begins 9:00 p.m. from Monday to Friday and at 7:00 p.m. on weekends. (Source: Dominican Today)
- United Kingdom to impose new restrictions.
The prime minister is to make a statement to MPs on Monday giving details of new restrictions to slow the spread of coronavirus in England. A letter from Boris Johnson’s chief strategic adviser to MPs in the northwest of England seen by the BBC states, ”It is very likely that certain local areas will face further restrictions.” A three-tier system will see areas face differing rules based on case severity. It comes as the chancellor announced support for U.K. firms forced to shut. Under the new restrictions, pubs and restaurants could be closed in parts of northern England and the Midlands— where some of the highest number of cases are occurring— while a ban on overnight stays is also being considered. The most severe measures will be agreed to with local leaders in advance before they are implemented. (Source: BBC)
- Ireland may restrict cross-border movement to curb spread.
Restrictions on cross-border movement could be introduced if they are agreed by governments in the Republic and Northern Ireland, Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney warned. This comes after a huge spike in COVID-19 cases in Northern Ireland, prompting concerns within the Irish government about cases spilling south of the border. Coveney said there was a clear agreement that both jurisdictions need to do more together to curb the spread of the virus. (Source: The Irish Mirror)
- France daily infection count tops 20K, a new high.
The number of new coronavirus infections in France jumped more than 20,000 in one day for the first time since the start of the pandemic, data from the country’s health ministry showed on Friday. The ministry reported 20,330 new infections, taking the cumulative total to 691,977 since the start of the year. In the past two days, the ministry had reported more than 18,000 daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases. The number of deaths from the virus also increased by 109 to 32,630. While this is the most in a week, it is below the highs of around 150 seen earlier this month. (Source: France24)
- Germany records more than 4K infections in a single day, a record high.
Germany’s health minister called a spike in coronavirus infections to over 4,000 in one day “worrying.” But the country’s infectious disease agency warned that number could jump to as high as 10,000 new cases per day if people do not follow hygiene and social distancing rules. Germany recorded more than 4,000 coronavirus infections in a 24-hour period, marking the highest recorded figures since the height of the pandemic in the spring. (Source: DW)
- Spain’s Cabinet declares state of alarm despite opposition from regional government.
The Spanish Cabinet on Friday decided to declare a state of alarm in the Madrid region for a 15-day period, in a bid to get coronavirus infections under control. It did so despite fierce opposition from the regional government, which has been resisting the central administration’s calls in recent weeks to implement stricter measures to control the pandemic. The restrictions will be applied in the municipalities of Alcobendas, Alcorcón, Fuenlabrada, Getafe, Leganés, Madrid, Móstoles, Parla, and Torrejón de Ardoz. (Source: El Pais)
- Tunisia imposes new curfew in four states.
Tunisia has imposed a 15-day curfew in four states to stem the spread of the coronavirus, state-run television announced Wednesday. The aim is to curb the COVID-19 infection rate, which is rising quickly, according to the governor. More than 1.3 million people (10% of the national population) live in the Tunis region. For the next two weeks, the curfew will begin at 9:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m. on weekdays, and from 7:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m. on weekends. Markets will be closed, and Friday prayers suspended during that period. (Source: AA)
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