Coronavirus Morning News Brief – May 11: EU Ends Mask Recommendation for Air Travel, Bill Gates Tests Positive

Shanghai Once Again Intensifies Lockdown Despite Dramatic Drop in Cases

By Jonathan Spira on 11 May 2022
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Austrian airlines employees in Vienna in the early days of the pandemic.

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 762nd day of the pandemic.

The big news this morning is that the European Union said it will no longer recommend that member states mandate face masks on flights and in airports.  The news was announced by two EU agencies, the EU Aviation Safety Agency, known as EASA, and the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.

The change goes into effect on Monday.

“For passengers and aircrews, this is a big step forward in the normalization of air travel,” Patrick Ky, the executive director of the EASA, said in a joint statement with the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.

The move is, however, merely a guideline.  Individual countries will ultimately determine their own policies.

Airlines should continue to require masks on flights to and from destinations where masks remain mandatory on public transit, a list that includes Italy and Germany but not France.

The two agencies said that the decision came about after reviewing current levels of vaccination and naturally acquired immunity across the bloc.

Multiple airlines including KLM, Virgin Atlantic, and British Airways have already made masks optional, unless the destination requires them.

In other news we cover today, Bill Gates tested positive for Covid, lockdowns are intensifying once again in Shanghai, and the CDC moved the British Virgin Islands to Level 3, its highest-risk category for the coronavirus.

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

UNITED STATES

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said Tuesday in a tweet that he had tested positive for the coronavirus.  The 66-year-old philanthropist, who has donated millions to pandemic relief efforts, said he was in isolation and experiencing mild symptoms, adding that he was fully vaccinated and boosted.

Last week, Gates’ book, How to Prevent the Next Pandemic, was released.  The book examines how countries might coordinate efforts to avert another pandemic and “eliminate all respiratory diseases.”

It is not known whether this is the first time Gates has been infected with the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Tuesday gun-related deaths reached the highest number ever recorded in the United States in 2020, the first year of the pandemic.  Gun-related homicides increased by some 35%, which translates to some 45,000 people.

“This is a historic increase, with the rate having reached the highest level in over 25 years,” said Dr. Debra E. Houry, the agency’s acting principal deputy director and the director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, at a news conference.

GLOBAL

After appearing to ease some Covid restrictions in Shanghai, officials have intensified the already stringent lockdown measures in place in many parts of the city.

The actions are being taken even as the number of new reported cases continues to plummet.  The number of new infections on Tuesday was reported as 229, a substantial decrease from the 3,240 recorded on April 16, less than one month ago.

According to social media reports, health officials have placed the occupants of entire apartment blocks into quarantine after a report of a single positive case there.

TRAVEL

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention moved the British Virgin Islands, a British Overseas Territory, to Level 3, its highest-risk category.

The Travel Health Notice system provides coronavirus risk ratings for non-U.S. destinations.

Levels 3, 2, and 1 are primarily determined by 28-day incidence of Covid, and, as of mid-April, Level 4, previously the highest category, is reserved  for “special circumstances, such as rapidly escalating case trajectory or extremely high case counts, emergence of a new variant of concern, or healthcare infrastructure collapse.”

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Wednesday, May 11.

As of Wednesday morning, the world has recorded 518.7 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.7 million new cases in the preceding 24 hour period, and almost 6.3 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 473.5 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.7 million.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Wednesday is 38,895,582, an increase of 49,000 from the prior day. Out of that figure, 99.9%, or 38,856,280, are considered mild, and 0.1%, or 39,302, are listed as critical.  The percentage of cases considered critical is largely unchanged over the past 24 hours.

The United States reported 93,413 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday for the previous day, compared to 110,388  on Tuesday, 11,793 on Monday, 30,358 on Sunday, and 94,704 on Saturday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The 7-day incidence rate continues to climb and is now 77,583.  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 77,092, a 52% increase, based on data from the Department of Health and Human Services, among other sources.  The average daily death toll over the same period is 365, an increase of 3% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 19,270, a 19% increase.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Wednesday, recorded 83.8 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, over 43.1 million, and a reported death toll of 524,157.

New data from Russia’s Rosstat state statistics service showed at the end of April that the number of Covid or Covid-related deaths since the start of the pandemic there in April 2020 is now over 803,000, giving the country the world’s second highest pandemic-related death toll, after the United States.  Rosstat reported that 35,584 people died from the coronavirus or related causes in the month of March, compared to 43,543 in February.

Meanwhile, Brazil now has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 664,443, and has seen 30.6 million cases.

France continues to occupy the number four position in total cases with 29 million cases, and Germany is in the number five slot with 25.6 million.  The United Kingdom, with 22.1 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 Wednesday, 258.2 million people in the United States – or 77.8% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 66.3%, or 220.2 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 579.7 million. Breaking this down further, 89.2% of the population over the age of 18 – or 230.3 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 76.2% of the same group – or 196.9 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 49.6% of that population, or 97.6 million people, has already received a third, or booster, dose of vaccine.

Over 65.5% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Wednesday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 11.67 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 8.95 million doses are now administered each day.

Meanwhile, only 15.9% 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.

Only a handful of the world’s poorest countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia and Nepal – have reached the 70% mark in vaccinations. Many countries, however, are under 20% and, in countries such as Haiti, Senegal, and Tanzania, for example, vaccination rates remain in the single digits, if not lower.

In addition, North Korea and Eritrea are now the only two countries in the world that have not administered vaccines.

Anna Breuer contributed to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

Accura News

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