Covid-19 wrap | Brazil's daily deaths surpass 4 000, Biden announces vaccine eligibility by 19 April

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  • Brazil registered more than 4 000 Covid-19 deaths in 24 hours for the first time.
  • President Joe Biden announced that all adults across America will be eligible for Covid-19 shots within two weeks.
  • A study in Chile has found that a first dose alone does not protect against coronavirus infection.

Brazil's daily Covid death toll surpasses 4 000 for the first time

Brazil registered more than 4 000 Covid-19 deaths in 24 hours for the first time on Tuesday, the health ministry said, as the country reeled from a surge of infections that has made it the current epicentre of the pandemic.

The coronavirus claimed 4 195 lives in the deadliest day of the pandemic yet for the hard-hit country, whose total reported death toll is now nearly 337 000, second only to the United States.

Brazil's health system is buckling under the strain of the latest virus wave, which has forced doctors into agonising decisions over which patients to give life-saving care and led cemeteries to hold night time burials to deal with the crush of coffins.

"We're in a dreadful situation, and we're not seeing effective measures by either state or federal governments" to respond, said epidemiologist Ethel Maciel of Espirito Santo Federal University.

She told AFP:

At the rate we're vaccinating - 10 percent of the population (with a first dose) so far - the only way to slow the extremely fast spread of the virus is an effective lockdown for at least 20 days. Unfortunately, politics has brought us where we are today: This enormous number of people who have lost their lives. Very sad.


Biden announces all adults in US eligible for Covid vaccine by 19 April

President Joe Biden announced on Tuesday that all adults across America will be eligible for Covid-19 shots within two weeks, while economic powerhouse California set a 15 June target to fully reopen businesses.

Biden announced in a White House speech that he is moving up the deadline for all over 18 to be eligible for vaccines to 19 April. The previous target had been 1 May.

Biden told the nation:

Our vaccine programme is in overdrive. We're making it easier to get a vaccination shot. We're the first country to administer 150 million shots and the first country to fully vaccinate over 62 million people.

Biden's 19 April deadline means ending restrictions by age, health issues or other categories for people wanting to get vaccinated. It would not necessarily mean that anyone could get a shot immediately, as distribution remains a work in progress.

Visiting a vaccination site in Virginia earlier, Biden said that while the worst of the pandemic is "not over yet", vaccines mean it soon could be.

"Get one quickly. That's how we're going to beat this," he said.


First Covid vaccine shot alone not protective: Chile study

A study in Chile, which has one of the furthest-advanced vaccination campaigns in South America - mainly with China's Coronavac, has found that a first dose alone does not protect against coronavirus infection.

The study by the University of Chile found inoculation to be 56.5% effective in protecting recipients two weeks after the second dose, and 27.7% effective within the first two weeks.

But for a single dose, efficacy in the 28 days between the first and second dose was only three percent - on par with the margin of error in such studies, it said.

University of Chile rector Ennio Vivaldi told a virtual press conference:

Getting vaccinated very significantly decreases the possibility of infection, it does not eliminate it, but it decreases it a lot, therefore you have to get vaccinated.

But it was also clear that the first dose on its own "does not have any relevant effect after four weeks" which means the recipient was for all intents and purposes just as vulnerable to infection as a non-vaccinated person.


Olympic torch relay barred from public roads across Japan's Osaka

The Olympic torch relay will be barred from public roads across Japan's Osaka region as virus cases there spike, prompting officials to declare a medical emergency, the governor said Wednesday.

Regional governor Hirofumi Yoshimura told reporters:

Today, we decided to ask residents across the entire Osaka region to refrain from making non-essential and non-urgent outings, so we will cancel the torch relay on public roads in the prefecture.

He said officials were discussing whether the torch could be carried on a closed route inside a park as an alternative.

The relay launch ceremony was held without spectators because of virus concerns, and rules already require fans lining the route to wear masks and avoid cheering.

Yoshimura said it would be "inappropriate" to hold it in the Osaka region on public roads as large numbers of onlookers could gather.

He said:

The torch relay tends to attract crowds because people want to see it, even if we take measures.


Canada faces ‘very serious third wave’ of pandemic: Trudeau

Canada is facing “a very serious third wave” of the Covid-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday, as the country’s most populous province is struggling to respond to rising infections and hospitalisations, and the rapid spread of coronavirus variants.

During a news conference in Ottawa, Trudeau warned that hospitalisations are increasing, intensive care units are filling up, and coronavirus variants are spreading.

He said:

Around the world, countries are facing a very serious third wave of this pandemic and right now so is Canada. Even if the sun is shining and the weather is getting warmer, Covid-19 isn’t done with us yet.

Canada has reported at least one million cases of Covid-19 and more than 23 000 deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.


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