Coronavirus Morning News Brief – Feb. 21: Australia Reopens to Visitors, England to End Restrictions

Israel Joins List of Nations Dropping Requirements for International Tourists

By Jonathan Spira on 21 February 2022
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A Qantas Airways Airbus A380 in London

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 52nd day of 2022.

Mask mandates and other coronavirus restrictions are being lifted throughout the world, including all mainland states in the United States, but some experts see this as throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

The number of new coronavirus infections is plummeting after the highly-transmissible omicron surge but the fact is that cases are drpping in great part because of masks mandates and other restrictions.

“We’ve been to this show before,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in an interview on Thursday on CNN.   “Where things came down, you pull back a little, and it [the coronavirus] bounces back.”

In other news we cover today, England is slated to announce an end to coronavirus legal restrictions, Australia reopened to tourists, and New York State’s positivity rate has fallen precipitously.

Here’s a look at what has taken place over the past 24 hours.

UNITED STATES

New York Governor Kathy Hochul reported that the Covid positivity rate as well as hospitalizations are at their lowest point since before Thanksgiving and the beginning of the omicron surge.  The state’s positivity rate on Sunday was 1.52, after falling below 2% on Saturday for the first time since omicron was named a variant of concern by the World Health Organization.

Officials in the Empire State recorded 3,050 new daily cases on Sunday.  The number of hospitalizations was at 2,640, down 171

GLOBAL

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce his plans to end all remaining coronavirus legal restrictions in England, including the requirement to isolate when testing positive.  The announcement will come one day after Buckingham Palace reported that Queen Elizabeth had tested positive for the virus.

At press time, the plan had hit a snag in the course of a cabinet meeting at No. 10 Downing Street, with disagreement over the funding of additional lateral-flow tests.

Some experts have cautioned that the plan may be too much too soon.

Johnson said earlier on Monday that his plan would bring society “towards a return to normality.”

A spokesman at No. 10 said that the country’s vaccination program had put England in a “strong position to consider lifting the remaining legal restrictions.”

TRAVEL

Australia reopened its borders to tourists for the first time in almost two years as the country tried to keep the novel coronavirus at bay.  Over 50 international flights from a wide range of nations including Britain, the United States, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates were slated to land Monday at the country’s airports.  Visitors were greeted by gifts of stuffed plush koala bears and jars of Vegemite, although there was no word if the visitors actually had plans to consume the latter.

“It’s been a party out here at Sydney airport; everyone is celebrating,” the country’s minister for tourism, Dan Tehan, said at a news conference at the airport on Monday morning. “To see the way people have been united – the hugs, the tears – has been wonderful,” he added.

Meanwhile, Israel, which has seen a 63% decline in new Covid cases over the past two weeks, will also reopen its borders to foreign tourists, regardless of country of origin or vaccination status.  Visitors will be required to provide a negative PCR test prior to departure for the country and will also be required to take a second PCR test after arrival.

ENTERTAINMENT

Singer Justin Bieber tested positive for the coronavirus one day after the start of his world tour in San Diego on Friday. Several concerts are being postponed including one in Las Vegas this past Sunday and a second near Phoenix on Tuesday.

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Monday, February 21.

As of Monday morning, the world has recorded 425.6 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 1.2 million new cases in the preceding 24 hour period, and 5.91 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 351.4 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 1.7 million.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Monday is 68,284,991.  Out of that figure, 99.9%, or 68,202,933, are considered mild, and 0.1%, or 82,058, are listed as critical.  The percentage of cases considered critical is largely unchanged over the past 24 hours.

The United States reported 26,167 new coronavirus infections on Monday for the previous day, compared to 46,210 on Sunday, 109,223 on Saturday, and 103,866 on Friday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in the United States over the past 14 days is 102,590, a 65% decrease, based on data from the Department of Health and Human Services, among other sources.  The average daily death toll over the same period is 2,184, a decrease of 15% over the same period.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Monday, recorded 80.1 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 959,412. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, over 42.8 million, and a reported death toll of 512,141. Finally, Brazil has recorded the second highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 644,362, and has seen over 28.2 million cases.  France continues to occupy the number four position, with 22.3 million cases, and the United Kingdom is in the number five slot with 18.6 million.

VACCINATION SPOTLIGHT

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Monday, 252.8 million people in the United States – or 76.1% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 64.7%, or 214.7 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 549.9 million. Breaking this down further, 87.7% of the population over the age of 18 – or 226.4 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 74.8% of the same group – or 193.1 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 46.5% of that population, or 89.9 million people, has already received a third, or booster, dose of vaccine.

Due to the Monday bank holiday in the United States, the public health agency has not updated its vaccination figures since Saturday evening.

Over 62.3% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Monday, a figure that is largely unchanged in the past 24 hours, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 10.57 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis.

Meanwhile, only 11.4% of people in low-income countries have received one dose, while in countries such as Canada, China, Denmark, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States, at least 75% of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine. In countries such as Ethiopia, Haiti, Syria, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda, for example, vaccination rates remain in the single digits, if not lower.

Paul Riegler contributed to this story.

 

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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