Coronavirus Morning News Brief – May 8: BioNTech Seeks New Growth Opportunities, Hong Kong Willing to Continue Preventative Measures

What Happens When the Covid Public Health Emergency Ends

By Jonathan Spira on 8 May 2023
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London roofscape viewed from the Jumeirah Carlton Tower

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 1,153rd day of the pandemic.

If you’re wondering how the end of the federal Covid public health emergency will mean to you, it’s fairly simple: A number of changes in healthcare rules that currently favor patients and that both providers and patients have grown accustomed to in the past 38 months will disappear in one fell swoop.

While some Covid-era flexibilities have already been extended by Congress or individual state laws, the end of others will undoubtedly have an impact on access to healthcare for many.

One change many took advantage of during the first two years of the pandemic was the use of applications videoconferencing such as Apple FaceTime for telemedicine.  This was permitted under a temporary relaxation of the Health Insurance portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, which allowed Medicare-covered providers to use the applications.  This allowance will likely disappear after the emergency ends.

In addition, doctors will no longer be able to prescribe controlled substances following a telemedicine appointment with a patient without an in-person interaction.

Private insurance companies will no longer be obliged to cover over-the-counter and laboratory coronavirus tests without cost-sharing, although the Department of Health and Human Services said recently that it will encourage insurers to continue the practice.   Meanwhile,  Medicare beneficiaries won’t be eligible to receive free over-the-counter at-home tests, although they will be covered without cost-sharing on lab tests ordered by their physician.

Patients insured by Medicaid will receive a reprieve on all tests through September 30, 2024, after which time it will be up to the individual states to determine what is or is not covered.

Finally, coronavirus inoculations will continue to be fully covered for individuals on Medicare and Medicaid plans as well as for many, but not all, individuals with private insurance.

With apologies to T.S. Elliot, this is the way that the pandemic’s emergency phase ends, not with a bang but with a whimper.

In other news we cover today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recalled some at-home coronavirus test kits and Jordan ended state of emergency powers enacted at the start of the pandemic.


Covid-19 vaccines will continue to be covered without cost-sharing for those on Medicare and Medicaid, and most of those with private insurance although there maybe be some exceptions on private plans.


As coronavirus vaccine opportunities wither, Germany’s BioNTech, the Mainz-based pharmaceutical house that partnered with Pfizer for a major mRNA vaccine, said it is looking for new opportunities.  The drugmaker has pursued a series of takeovers and alliance deals in order to broaden its work on cancer treatments.  It is also working on other vaccines against infections such as tuberculosis and shingles.

A Chinese University survey showed that most Hong Kongers were willing to continue such public-health practices as donning face masks in public and using hand sanitizer but the take-up for vaccine booster shots in the city is weak. Only 13% of survey respondents said they would be willing to get a booster dose.

Meanwhile, Jordan ended laws on Sunday that had been enacted in March 2020 that gave the government the power to enforce a state of emergency.  Human rights groups said at the time that the new powers were being used as an excuse to suppress civic and political liberties.

“We have a legislative system that will go back to functioning as normal as life has gone back to normal,” Minister of Government Communications Faisal Shboul told state media.


Now here are the daily statistics for Monday, May 8.

As of Monday morning, the world has recorded over 687.8 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of just under 0.1 million from the previous day, and 6.87 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 660.3 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of under 0.1 million from the previous day.

The reader should note that infrequent reporting from some sources may appear as spikes in new case figures or death tolls.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Monday at press time is 20,685,753, an increase of 20,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 20,646,648, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 39,105, are listed as critical. The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past five months.

The United States reported 88,210 new cases in the period April 20 through April 26, a figure that is down 13% over the same period one week earlier, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The death toll for the same period is 1,052, a figure that is down 20%.  The average number of hospital admissions from Covid was 4,198 on May 2, a figure that is down 15% over the preceding 14 days.  Finally, the test positivity rate is 5.1%, down 14% over the 14 days preceding April 28.

Starting on March 25, 2023, the Morning News Brief began to update case data as well as death tolls on a weekly basis.

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Monday, recorded over 106.7 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 1.16 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, just under 45 million, and a reported death toll of 531,692.

The newest data from Russia’s Rosstat state statistics service showed that, at the end of July, the number of Covid or Covid-related deaths since the start of the pandemic there in April 2020 is now 823,623, giving the country the world’s second highest pandemic-related death toll, behind the United States.  Rosstat last reported that 3,284 people died from the coronavirus or related causes in July 2022, down from 5,023 in June, 7,008 in May and 11,583 in April.

Meanwhile, France is the country with the third highest number of cases, with 40 million, and Germany is in the number four slot, with 38.4 million total cases.

Brazil, which has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 701,833, has recorded 37.5 million cases, placing it in the number five slot.

The other five countries with total case figures over the 20 million mark are Japan, with 33.8 million cases, South Korea, with just under 31.3 million cases, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with 25.8 million, as number eight, as well as the United Kingdom, with over 24.5 million, and Russia, with  just under 22.9 million.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of the past Thursday, 270.1 million people in the United States – or 81.4% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 69.5%, or 230.6 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 676 million. Breaking this down further, 92.2% of the population over the age of 18 – or 238.2 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 79.1% of the same group – or 204.3 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 20.3% of the same population, or 52.6 million people, has already received an updated or bivalent booster dose of vaccine, while 23.5 million people over the age of 65, or 42.9% of that population have also received the bivalent booster.

Starting on June 13, 2022, the CDC began to update vaccine data on a weekly basis and publish the updated information on Thursdays by 8 p.m. EDT, a statement on the agency’s website said.

Some 70% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Monday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 13.38 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 114,063 doses are now administered each day.

Meanwhile, only 29.8% 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 at or below 10%.

In addition, with the start of vaccinations in North Korea in late September, Eritrea remains the only country in the world that has not administered vaccines.

Paul Riegler contributed reporting to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)


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