Covid-19 pandemic has infected more than 196 million people and killed least 4.1 million around the world. Here are updates for July 28:

People between the ages of 18 and 29 years sit after receiving a dose of Sputnik V vaccine, in Mexico City, Mexico on July 27, 2021.
People between the ages of 18 and 29 years sit after receiving a dose of Sputnik V vaccine, in Mexico City, Mexico on July 27, 2021. (Reuters)

Wednesday, July 28:

Covid still devastating in the Americas, says health agency 

Covid-19 continues to inflict a devastating toll on the Americas, with Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, and Paraguay among the countries with the world’s highest weekly death rates, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said.

Cases have more than doubled in the United States over the past week, mainly among unvaccinated people, PAHO Director Carissa Etienne said in a briefing.

Cuba is seeing higher Covid infection and death rates than at any other point in the pandemic there, she said, adding that more than 7,000 minors and nearly 400 pregnant women have tested positive in the last week.

Over the last week, there were over 1.26 million Covid-19 cases and nearly 29,000 deaths reported in the Americas.

Infection hotspots have been reported in Argentine provinces bordering Bolivia and Chile, and in Colombia’s Amazon region.

So far, only 16.6% of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, as countries in the regions have yet to access the vaccines needed to keep their people safe, she said.

France to introduce anti-Covid pass for cafes, trains

France will from August 9 enforce new legislation that will make a health pass compulsory to visit a cafe, board a plane, or travel on an inter-city train, the government's spokesperson has said.

The legislation passed by parliament at the weekend has sparked mass protests in France but the government is determined to press ahead and make the health pass a key part of the fight against Covid-19.

A valid health pass is generated by two jabs from a recognised vaccine, a negative coronavirus test, or a recent recovery from infection. The legislation also makes vaccination obligatory for health workers and carers.

The pass has already been obligatory from July 21 for visits to museums, cinemas and cultural venues with a capacity of more than 50 people. But government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said it would be obligatory in cafes, restaurants, flights, and inter-city trains from August 9.

Pfizer raises vaccine sales forecast to $33.5B for 2021

Pfizer raised its revenue forecast from coronavirus vaccine sales to $33.5 billion for 2021, according to financial results statement released.

The US pharmaceutical firm's previous estimates were $26 billion and $15 billion, made in May and February, respectively.

The revised projection in revenue from the BNT162b2 vaccine, which was developed with German partner BioNTech, reflects 2.1 billion doses that are expected to be delivered under contracts signed through mid-July, said the statement.

Pfizer's total revenue increased 92% to $18.98 billion in the second quarter, up from $9.86 billion during the same period last year.

Vaccinated EU, US travellers set to skip England quarantine

Fully vaccinated travellers from the US and parts of the EU will be allowed to travel to England starting next Monday without the need to quarantine for 10 days as their vaccination status will now be recognised by the government.

The government announced that double-vaccinated travelers arriving from the “amber list” of countries from EU member states, European Free Trade Association countries, and the European microstate countries of Andorra, Monaco, and Vatican City as well as the United States need not quarantine.

Double-jabbed arrivals from amber countries in the EU will be required to complete a pre-departure test before arriving in England as well as a PCR test on or before their second day after their arrival. 

Passengers arriving from France, however, will still have to quarantine. Vaccinated US citizens will have to provide proof of US residency.

NY to require state employees to get vaccines, or get tested

New York will mandate all state employees to be vaccinated or get tested for Covid-19 by Labor Day, Governor Andrew Cuomo said. 

All local governments should pass the same mandate, the governor said. New York is seeing a surge in Covid-19 infections and hospitalisations. 

Cuomo said he's also requiring vaccinations for health care workers who work with patients at state hospitals. Those workers can't ask to get tested instead.

New York hasn't announced plans to require vaccinations for workers at state-run veterans homes.

The Cuomo administration has previously announced plans to mandate vaccinations for SUNY and CUNY students.

Norway delays reopening for a second time over Delta variant

Norway's government has announced that it was again postponing the near-complete lifting of its coronavirus restrictions, planned for early August, because of the rise of the Delta variant.

Originally planned for July, the fourth phase of the reopening plan was first pushed back earlier this month over fears sparked by the more contagious Delta variant first discovered in India.

"The pandemic is not over," Health Minister Bent Hoie said in a statement.

"There is a concerning development in several European countries as a result of the Delta variant, also in countries with a higher vaccine coverage than in Norway, such as the UK and the Netherlands."

The fourth phase of reopening would have meant the lifting of most of the remaining restrictions.

Games host Tokyo records another infection peak 

The city of Tokyo registered another peak in daily cases, the Kyodo news agency has reported, at more than 3,000.

Three prefectures around Tokyo are set to ask the government to call a state of emergency there, while the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said the Japanese public should be reassured by anti-virus measures taken by organisers. 

Olympics organisers on Wednesday reported 16 new Games-related Covid-19 cases, bringing the disclosed total to 169. 

Three regions near Tokyo to ask for state of emergency on Thursday - minister

Three prefectures around Japan's capital of Tokyo are set to ask the government to call a state of emergency there on Thursday, has said Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura, who is spearheading efforts to battle the coronavirus.

Tokyo is under a state of emergency even as it hosts the Olympic Games, though curbs are slightly less restrictive in the surrounding prefectures of Chiba, Kanagawa and Saitama.

Nishimura also forecast that daily Covid-19 cases, already at a record high, would rise further in coming days as testing may have been delayed during last week's holidays.

Pakistan reports over 4,000 new cases, highest in 2 months

Pakistan has reported 4,119 new cases, the highest since May 19, as the Delta variant spreads across the country.

Pakistan has expedited its inoculation drive in recent weeks, with anyone aged 18 or over now eligible. 

India reports 45 percent rise in cases compared to Tuesday 

India's health ministry has reported 43,654 new cases, a day after it had reported 29,689, a record low since March 19. The country's total caseload now stands at 31.44 million infections, according to a Reuters tally.

The country recorded 640 new virus deaths.

CDC changes course on indoor masks in some parts of the US

People vaccinated against Covid-19 in high-risk parts of the United States should resume wearing masks indoors, the top health authority has said, a major reversal in guidance that underscored the country's struggle to suppress the Delta variant.

President Joe Biden said the announcement showed that America needs to "do better" on vaccinations, adding that a vaccine mandate for the country's more than two million federal workers was now "under consideration."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky cited new data that shows rare breakthrough cases involving Delta have an increased risk of onward transmission.

As recently as last week, the CDC had defended its surprise decision in May that vaccinated people did not have to wear masks indoors in most circumstances.

In another setback, the White House also ordered all its staff to mask up again due to local transmission rates in Washington.

According to the latest CDC data, 63 percent of the country's more than 3,200 counties are experiencing substantial or high transmission.

Thailand reports daily record of 16,533 new cases

Thailand has reported a daily record of 16,533 new coronavirus infections, bringing the country's total accumulated cases to 543,361.

The country's Covid-19 task force also reported 133 new deaths, taking its total to 4,397 fatalities.

South Korea reports highest-ever daily case rise

South Korea has reported 1,896 new coronavirus cases, its highest-ever daily increase, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said.

Sydney locked down for another month  as rest of Australia opens

Australia's New South Wales state authorities have extended a Covid-19 lockdown in state capital Sydney for another month after weeks-long curbs failed to contain an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta virus variant.

Lockdown rules were due to end on Friday but restrictions will now run until August 28, state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney.

A total of 177 new locally acquired cases were detected in New South Wales, up from 172 a day earlier.

Of particular concern is the growing number of people moving around in the community who are positive with the Delta strain, that was first identified in India. Unless that number returns to near zero, tough restrictions would continue, authorities have said.

Around one in three new cases detected over the last several days have spent time in the community while infectious.

As Sydney braced for tougher restrictions for most of August, Victoria and South Australia states came out of lockdown restrictions on Wednesday after getting on top of virus outbreaks.

Brazil reports 1,333 deaths

Brazil has recorded 41,411 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus during the past 24 hours, along with 1,333 deaths, the Health Ministry said.

The country has registered more than 19.7 million cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 551,835, according to ministry data.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies