Coronavirus Morning News Brief – April 1: Senate Close to Bipartisan Covid Aid Bill, England Ends Free Covid Testing

Number of Workers Who Telecommute Has Plummeted

By Jonathan Spira on 1 April 2022
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Old Senate chamber in the Capitol

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 752nd day of the pandemic.

Today is also April 1st, known as April Fools’ Day, Aprilscherz in German, a day marked by practical jokes and hoaxes.  I wish I could say that, after 752 days, this entire pandemic was merely a joke foisted upon the populace, but alas it was not.

In other news we cover today, the percentage of workers who are telecommuting has plummeted, the Senate is close to a deal after cutting $5.6 billion from a $15 billion Covid aid bill, and England ended free coronavirus testing.

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

UNITED STATES

The number of people who are telecommuting has declined in recent months.   In May 2020, more than one-third of U.S. workers were performing their jobs at least partially from home.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the number has fallen to 22.7% as of February and an additional 10% in March.

The Senate on Friday scaled down the size of a Covid-19 aid package to $10 billion, down from $15.6 billion.   The action was taken by bipartisan Senate negotiators, who said they plan to drop approximately $5 billion in aid to help boost vaccination rates in other countries.

At press time, it was unclear whether the revised bill would garner sufficient support to be passed into law.

GLOBAL

Officials in England announced the end of free coronavirus tests Friday.  While the government considers the move a landmark decision in the country’s plan to “live with the virus,” it was criticized by many as being too soon.  Prior to Friday, residents there could take a PCR or antigen test at no charge or get an at-home test delivered.  Free testing will remain available to healthcare workers and those at risk of serious illness from the virus if they have symptoms.

The government is advising that those with symptoms of respiratory illness stay home and avoid contact with others.

The Singapore-Malaysia land border fully reopened on Friday for the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.  The move allowed thousands of vaccinated people on both sides of the border to reunite with friends and family not seen since early 2020.

Local news media reported that people at the border cheered, honked their car horns, and set off fireworks to celebrate the reopening.

The following is not an April Fool’s story, even if it might sound like one.  Anti-vaccine protestors who were cleared out of the grounds of New Zealand’s parliament after a three-week occupation not only destroyed much of the grounds but also left “a lot” of cannabis seedlings there to grow.  The seedlings were first identified by a visitor and the government began a program to remove them immediately.

“We are weeding out the weed,” said Trevor Mallard, the speaker of Parliament, in a statement.

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Friday, April 1.

As of Friday morning, the world has recorded 489 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 1.5 million new cases in the preceding 24 hour period, and almost 6.2 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 423.9 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 1.3 million.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Friday is 58,915,911, an increase of 131,000 from the prior day. Out of that figure, 99.9%, or 58,858,356 are considered mild, and 0.1%, or 57,555 are listed as critical.  The percentage of cases considered critical is largely unchanged over the past 24 hours.

The United States reported 38,273 new coronavirus infections on Friday for the previous day, compared to 49,503 on Thursday, 25,528 on Wednesday, and 42,000 on Tuesday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.   Figures for the weekend (reported the following day) are typically 30% to 60% of those posted on weekdays due to a lower number of tests being conducted.

The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in the United States over the past 14 days is 27,846, an 8% 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 698, a decrease of 43% over the same period.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Friday, recorded 81.8 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of over 1 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, just over 43 million, and a reported death toll of 521,211. Finally, Brazil has recorded the second highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 659,860, and has seen over 29.9 million cases.  France continues to occupy the number four position with 25.6 million cases, and Germany is in the number five slot with 21.4 million, moving up on Friday from the number six position.  The United Kingdom, with 21.1 million cases, is now number six and is the only other country in the world with a total number of cases over the 20 million mark.

VACCINATION SPOTLIGHT

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Friday, over 255.4 million people in the United States – or 76.9% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, a figure that is largely unchanged over the past 24 hours. Of that population, 65.5%, or 217.6 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now over 560.4 million. Breaking this down further, 88.3% of the population over the age of 18 – or 228.2 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 75.4% of the same group – or 194.8 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 48.3% of that population, or 94 million people, has already received a third, or booster, dose of vaccine.

Over 64.5% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Friday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 11.29 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis.

Meanwhile, only 14.5% 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.

Anna Breuer contributed to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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