Coronavirus Morning News Brief – May 27: On Holiday Weekend, Americans Travel Despite Resurgence of Cases, Japan to Reopen to Tourists, Sort Of

North Korea Stockpiled Masks, Vaccine Before Outbreak

By Jonathan Spira on 27 May 2022
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Lobby of the Fairmont Copley Plaza in Boston, Mass.

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 778th day of the pandemic.

Despite a dramatic surge in new coronavirus cases and major storms forecast for parts of the country, millions of Americans are taking to roads and skies to celebrate what is considered the unofficial start of summer, the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Never mind that Memorial Day, originally known as Decoration Day, was intended to pay tribute to the war dead, after two years, the pent-up demand for travel combined with pandemic fatigue is bringing the number of people traveling – up to 40 million based on various estimates – out in big numbers.

Most are not attending solemn Memorial Day parades nor going to cemeteries to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers, whence the name “Decoration Day.”

Instead, à la Boris Johnson, they are throwing caution to the wind and hoping for the best.

Johnson, of course, is facing what could be the battle of his career after a government report faulted him for hosting various parties at No. 10 Downing Street, the prime minister’s official residence, while the country was in lockdown.

Still, stormy weather is ahead, both for the pandemic as well a forecast calling for heavy rain and thunderstorms in the Northeast, the Southeast, the Gulf Coast, and the Pacific Northwest.

In other news we cover today, North Korea reportedly stockpiled face masks and possibly doses of coronavirus vaccine in the months before reporting its first outbreak of the virus, the White House is expanding access to antivirals for those who test positive, and Japan is inching towards a full reopening of its borders to tourists.

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

UNITED STATES

The White H0ouse is taking steps to make the antiviral Paxlovid more available across the country and will financially support test-to-treat sites that have someone present who is authorized to prescribe such medication to anyone testing positive.

The goal is to “help make it easier for people to quickly access oral antiviral treatments in one convenient location,” the White House said in a news release.

The move comes as the country is seeing a 30% increase in new daily infections over the past two weeks.

The first site will be a clinic in Rhode Island and additional such sites will open in Illinois and New York, areas that have seen marked rises in new cases.  The program will also see the deployment of clinical personnel to state-run sites in Minnesota and the government is working with officials in Massachusetts and New York City to increase patient access to antivirals.

GLOBAL

North Korea reportedly began to stockpile masks and doses of vaccine from China in the months before reporting its Covid outbreak several weeks ago.  The country brought in millions of face masks and 1,000 ventilators and possibly doses of coronavirus vaccine, all from China.

The news agency Reuters said that North Korea acquired $311,126 worth of unspecified vaccines as well as the other items, based on publicly available data published by the Chinese government.

An elaborate, pagoda-shaped wooden memorial to those who have died from Covid opened in a public park in Bedworth, England.  Named Sanctuary and designed by California artist David Best, it is intended to provide a space for people to grieve, leave notes, reflect and, when it is set on fire Saturday, to release their grief.  Thousands have already made the pilgrimage to the site.

TRAVEL

Tens of tourists began flocking back to Japan as the country opened its borders to non-residents for the first time in over two years.   The Land of the Rising Sun is one of the last major economies to reopen to tourism.  The small number of people was allowed under a trial program and participants are subject to tight hygiene and mask requirement.

Starting in June, Japan will allow tourists from 95 countries to visit, although they will only be permitted to come as part of tour groups.

TODAY’S STATISTICS

Now here are the daily statistics for Friday, May 27.

As of Friday morning, the world has recorded 530.5 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.6 million new cases in the preceding 24 hour period, and 6.3 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 501.7 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 23,103,534, a decrease of 103,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 23,065,864, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 37,670, are listed as critical.  The percentage of cases considered critical is unchanged over the past 24 hours.

The United States reported 124,584 new coronavirus infections on Friday for the previous day, compared to 187,530 on Thursday, 132,365 on Wednesday, 133,346 on Tuesday, and 21,982 on Monday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  The 7-day incidence rate continues to remain over 100,000 and is now 110,935.  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 110,084, a 26% 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 358, an increase of 12% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 26,110, a 29% increase.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Friday, recorded 85.5 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 524,539.

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, 666,248, and has seen 30.9 million cases.

France continues to occupy the number four position in total cases with 29.4 million cases, and Germany is in the number five slot with 26.2 million.  The United Kingdom, with 22.3 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, 258.4 million people in the United States – or 77.8% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 66.6%, or 221.1 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 586 million. Breaking this down further, 89.2% of the population over the age of 18 – or 230.4 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 76.5% of the same group – or 197.7 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 50.2% of that population, or 99.1 million people, has already received a third, or booster, dose of vaccine.

Over 65.8% 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, 11.81 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 6.97 million doses are now administered each day.

Meanwhile, only 16.2% 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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