Coronavirus News Update – Nov. 26: The World Moves to Contain Fast-Moving South Africa Virus Variant

Pandemic Death Toll in Germany Hits 100,000 Mark

By Anna Breuer on 26 November 2021
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Harvested grapes in the town of Rust in Austria’s Burgenland province

A new variant of the coronavirus that was first identified in South Africa may have a number of mutations in it that could make it more transmissible and allow it to evade some immune system in the body responses triggered by vaccines or previous infection, scientists and the Health Ministry there warned.

Officials there are considering new public-health restrictions to contain the outbreak, dubbed B.1.1.529, and many countries took steps to limit travel from southern Africa.

Germany declared South Africa to be a “virus variant area” and, as of Friday night, airlines will only be allowed to carry German nationals and permanent residents from the country.  Gesundheitsminister Jens Spahn said in a tweet that anyone arriving from the region, including those who are fully vaccinated or who recently recovered from Covid, would face a 14-day quarantine.

Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, recommended that member states activate an “emergency brake” in their pandemic policies and stop all travel from southern African countries.

Israel and the United Kingdom suspended travel from the region, and Denmark, France, Italy, and Spain all announced temporary suspensions of travel as well.

Despite this, the United States took no action and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease doctor, said scientists were quickly gathering data and could ban flights once more is known.

Meanwhile, the death toll in Germany from the coronavirus hit the 100,000 mark on Thursday, as the country, along with others on the continent, battled a fourth wave of infection.  The Robert Koch Institut reported 351 new deaths Thursday, bringing the total to 100,119, while reporting 75,961 new cases, a pandemic high.

“The day on which we must mourn 100,000 victims of the coronavirus is a sad one,” outgoing BundeskanzlerinAngela Merkel told reporters at a news conference.

Meanwhile, the European Commission said that its Covid pass for cross-border travel will expire nine months after the most recent dose of vaccine an individual has received.  A booster shot will be required to extend the validity of the pass.

Finally, the Burgenland province in Austria said it would only allow individuals with a 2G Covid pass, where 2g stands for “geimpft” (vaccinated) or “genesen” (recovered from a recent infection), versus a 3G pass, where the third “G” stood for “getestet,” or tested, to take the written driving theory test.   The new rule will remain in effect until the end of the current lockdown in Austria.

As of Friday morning, the world has recorded 260.6 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.7 million new cases, and 5.2 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 235.5 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus.

The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in the United States over the past 14 days is 92,221, a 20% increase.  The average daily death toll over the same period is 1,066, a change of -10% over the same period.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Friday, recorded 48.9 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 798,551. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, almost 34.6 million, and a death toll of 467,468, although experts believe that both numbers are in reality significantly higher.  Finally, Brazil has recorded the second highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 613,697, and has seen just almost 22.1 million cases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Friday, 231.4 million people in the United States – or 69.7% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 59.1%, or 196.2 million people, are now fully vaccinated, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 454.4 million. Breaking this down further, 82.2% of the population over the age of 18 – or 212.3 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 70.1% of the same group – or 183.1 million people – is fully vaccinated.

Some 53.9% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 7.85  billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis.

Meanwhile, only 5.6% 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 65% 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.

Figures from the World Health Organization show that well-off countries are vaccinating people at the rate of one person per second, while the majority of poor countries have yet to give a single dose to its citizens.

It is critical that the world do a better job of sharing vaccines with poorer nations.

Sharing vaccines is not merely a form of charity.  Rather, the equitable distribution of vaccines is in every country’s health and economic interest and no country will be able to move past the pandemic until other countries have recovered as well.

Jonathan Spira contributed to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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