Covid-19 has killed more than 4.2M people and infected over 200M globally. Here are all the coronavirus-related developments for August 4:

People stand in line waiting to receiving a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine during a vaccination drive at the provincial government building in Medan, North Sumatra province in Indonesia on August 3, 2021. Photo: Antara Foto/Fransisco Carolio via Reuters.
People stand in line waiting to receiving a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine during a vaccination drive at the provincial government building in Medan, North Sumatra province in Indonesia on August 3, 2021. Photo: Antara Foto/Fransisco Carolio via Reuters. (Antara Foto/Fransisco Carolio / Reuters)

August 4, Wednesday

US rejects WHO call for booster shot moratorium as 'false choice'

The US has rebuffed a call from the World Health Organization (WHO) to impose a worldwide coronavirus booster shot moratorium, saying it presents "a false choice." 

WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus earlier in the day urged the halt until at least the end of September to boost global equity and allow at least 10 percent of the population in every country to be vaccinated. 

"To make that happen, we need everyone's cooperation, especially the handful of countries and companies that control the global supply of vaccines," he said during a webinar in Geneva. 

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the Biden administration believes it can allot jabs for domestic booster shots should they be recommended by domestic health authorities while continuing its efforts to distribute vaccines worldwide. 

"We believe we can do both, and we don''t need to make that choice," she said. "We will have enough supply to ensure that if the FDA decides that boosters are recommended for a portion of the population, to provide those as well." 

Psaki was referring to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is currently reviewing Covid-19 vaccines to determine if it should update its guidance on the shots or grant full authorization. 

Number of Covid-19 vaccine shots administered in Turkey crosses more than 74 million

Turkey has administered more than 74.33 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines since it launched a mass vaccination campaign in January, according to official figures.

The country continues its intensive vaccination campaign to curb the spread of coronavirus, as everyone age 18 and over is eligible for vaccine shots.

According to the Health Ministry, over 41.3 million people have gotten their first dose, while more than 27.83 million are fully vaccinated.

Turkey is also administering third Covid-19 vaccine booster shots, and over 5.19 million such doses have been given.

To date, 66.54 percent of the country's adult population has received at least one dose of the two-step vaccines.

The ministry also confirmed 26,822 new infections and 122 coronavirus-related deaths in the last 24 hours, while as many as 6,096 more patients recovered.

Delta variant 'highly worrisome' as spread grows across Americas - PAHO

The Delta variant of the coronavirus is "highly worrisome" as the mutation has spread to nearly two dozen countries across the Americas, officials with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) told reporters.

Meanwhile, health officials are keeping close tabs on another variant know as Lambda, but note uneven detection across the region has yet to cause a major impact.

Delta's growing spread in the United States, as well as most of Latin America and the Caribbean, should cause governments to prioritize prevention efforts like masking and especially a faster pace of vaccinations, according to PAHO Director Carissa Etienne.

PAHO is the Americas office for the UN-affiliated World Health Organization.

Etienne added that to date barely 18 percent of people in Latin America and the Caribbean have been fully vaccinated.

The PAHO chief also highlighted growth in new infections in Guatemala, Brazil and Cuba.

Even as other variants like Alfa and Gamma are still more common across the Americas, the Lambda variant has recently been detected in hard-hit South American countries, including Argentina and Peru, as well as Chile and Ecuador, according to PAHO Covid-19 Incident Manager Sylvain Aldighieri.

Italy reports 21 deaths

Italy has reported 21 coronavirus-related deaths against 27 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 6,596 from 4,845.

Italy has registered 128,136 deaths linked to Covid-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the eighth-highest in the world. The country has reported 4.37 million cases to date.

Patients in hospital with Covid-19 - not including those in intensive care - stood at 2,309 on Wednesday, up from 2,1 96 a day earlier.

There were 14 new admissions to intensive care units, down from 26 on Tuesday. The total number of intensive care patients increased to 260 from a previous 258.

Some 215,748 tests for Covid-19 were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 209,719, the health ministry said.

UK to roll out vaccines to 16 and 17-year-olds

The UK plans to offer coronavirus vaccines to 16 and 17-year-olds in the next few weeks after the independent body of scientists that makes vaccine recommendations to the government changed its advice.

The four nations of the UK all accepted the change from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization, which now says healthy 16 to 17-year-olds can be offered a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. They will not need parental consent.

The change, which means another 1.4 million people across the UK will be eligible for a first vaccine shot, comes just two weeks after the JCVI recommended against routine vaccinations for those under 18, although it did stress that it would continually assess the evidence.

Currently, the only 16 and 17-year-olds being offered the Pfizer vaccine, which has been approved by Britain’s medical regulator for anyone 12 and over, are those with underlying health conditions or those living with vulnerable people.

WHO calls for moratorium on third booster shot

The World Health Organization has called for a moratorium on administering booster shots of Covid-19 vaccines as a way to help ensure that doses are available in countries where few people have received their first shots.

WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus made the appeal mostly to wealthier G20 countries that have far outpaced the developing world in numbers of vaccinations. 

He said richer countries have administered about 100 doses for every 100 people on average, while low-income countries — hampered by short supplies — have provided only about 1.5 doses per 100 people.

The UN health agency has long argued that no one is safe until everyone is safe because the longer and more widely the coronavirus circulates, the greater the chance that new variants could emerge — and prolong a global crisis in fighting the pandemic.

"WHO is calling for a moratorium on boosters until at least the end of September to enable at least 10 percent of the population of every country to be vaccinated,” Tedros said.

Israel, France, Germany and many Middle Eastern countries have already started administering boosters, and other nations, including the United States and Britain, are considering plans to do so in the wake of the emergence of the highly transmissible delta variant.

“The G-20 has a vital leadership role to play as the countries that are the biggest producers, the biggest consumers and the biggest donors of Covid-19 vaccines,” Tedros said.

Microsoft: US workers must be fully vaccinated

Microsoft says employees must be fully vaccinated to enter the company’s US offices and other worksites, starting next month.

The tech giant told employees on Tuesday it will require proof of vaccination for all employees, vendors and any guests entering Microsoft buildings in the US. 

The company also says it will have a process to accommodate employees “who have a medical condition or other protected reason, such as religion, which prevent them from getting vaccinated.”

The company is also delaying its return to the office until October 4.

Caregivers of people who are immunosuppressed or parents of children who are too young to receive a vaccine can work from home until January, the company says.

Microsoft’s new vaccine policy follows similar moves last week by other employers, including Google and Facebook, along with Disney and Walmart.

 First Olympic cluster 

The Olympic Games, which went ahead despite a rise in cases in Japan, reported that all 12 members of the Greek artistic swimming team had entered isolation after five tested positive for the coronavirus.
The team have withdrawn from the remaining competition and the seven members who have so far tested negative have agreed to move to a facility for "close contacts" of positive cases, Tokyo 2020 spokesperson Masa Takaya said.
"We pray for their swift recovery," Takaya said, adding that it was the first "cluster" discovered at the Games.
So far, Tokyo 2020 has reported 322 positive virus cases among its "stakeholders" including athletes, officials and media. Most of the positive cases have been among Japanese residents working as employees or contractors.

Russia reports 22,589 new cases

Russia has reported 22,589 new cases, including 2,502 in Moscow, taking the official national tally since the pandemic began to 6,356,784.

The government virus task force said 790 people had died of virus-related causes in the past 24 hours, pushing the national death toll to 161,715.

The federal statistics agency has kept a separate count and has said Russia recorded around 290,000 deaths related to the virus from April 2020 to May 2021. 

Ukraine receives 500,000 doses of vaccines from Denmark

Ukraine has received 500,000 doses of vaccines from Denmark, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.

Ukraine has lagged behind other European countries in vaccinating its population of 41 million people. 

So far, 2.1 million Ukrainian citizens have received two jabs as of July 4.

Tokyo's daily infections hit record of 4,166

Tokyo has reported 4,166 new cases, a record high in the daily tally, the metropolitan government said.

Pfizer vaccine deal for Thailand unlikely

The chair of Thailand's Thonburi Healthcare Group (THG) has said that a deal to import 20 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is unlikely to happen, despite his earlier claims that a deal was close.

Thailand is battling its biggest virus outbreak yet, and has been racing to secure vaccines. Last month, THG Chairman Boon Vanasin said talks to clinch a deal with BioNTech was nearing conclusion, but both Pfizer and BioNTech said they were not in talks with THG.

Boon did not say with which importer his group had been working. THG shares fell 8.13 percent along a benchmark decline of 0.35 percent.

Last month, BioNTech denied it was in talks with THG while a Pfizer spokesman said the company was only in discussions with Thailand's health ministry and disease control department.

South Korea count spikes amid vacations

South Korea has posted a sharp increase in its cases as it struggled to tame its fourth wave of infections amid the spread of new virus variants strains.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported 1,725 cases, up by more than 500 from a day before, as more tests were conducted after the weekend.

Total infections rose to 203,926, with 2,106 deaths.

The daily tally hit a new high of 1,895 last week, partly fuelled by the more contagious Delta variant, with the fourth wave showing little signs of subsiding.

Officials from Japan's LDP seek withdrawal of at-home  care policy

Officials from Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party have agreed to seek a withdrawal of a new policy to ask patients with less serious symptoms to isolate at home rather than seek hospital care, Jiji news agency reported.

Lockdowns in China as cases hit six-month high

China reported its highest daily number of local cases in months as mass testing and contact tracing campaigns uncovered a trail of Delta variant infections.

Health authorities reported 71 domestic cases on Wednesday, the highest since January, as China battles its largest outbreak in months by testing entire cities and locking down millions.

The official results of those tests have revealed a low caseload despite the outbreak spreading to dozens of major cities.

But the latest outbreak is threatening that record with nearly 500 domestic cases reported since mid-July, when a cluster among airport cleaners in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, was found.

Wuhan, where the virus first emerged in 2019, reported its first local infections in over a year this week and said Tuesday it was "swiftly launching" testing of all 11 million residents.

Wuhan has also suspended flights and trains, cancelled all events and announced mass testing

Meanwhile, Nanjing has tested its 9.2 million residents three times after shutting down gyms and cinemas and closing off residential compounds.

And the tourist destination of Zhangjiajie in central Hunan province, where infected travellers who had been in Nanjing attended a theatre performance, abruptly announced that no one would be allowed to exit the city after it emerged as an infection hotspot.

US FDA to give Pfizer-BioNTech full approval 

The US drug regulator is set to fully approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by early next month, the New York Times reported.

The Food and Drug Administration has set an "unofficial deadline" of the September 6 Labor Day holiday "or sooner" to give the shot the final green light, the newspaper reported, citing sources familiar with the plan.

The vaccine is currently being administered via an emergency use authorisation that was granted in December.

The FDA had said in a statement last week that granting the Pfizer vaccine final approval was one of the agency's highest priorities and anticipated being finished with the final review soon.

Full approval could boost vaccine-hesitant Americans' confidence in getting the shot as the ultra-contagious Delta variant sweeps through the country, driving daily case counts to levels not seen since the winter.

As of August 2, the US had seen an average of 84,389 new cases daily over the previous seven days, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some 192 million Americans have already received at least one dose of one of the three Covid vaccines available in the US, 58 percent of the total population.

India's gender inequity in vaccinations narrows

The gender disparity in India's immunisation drive has narrowed, government data showed , as pregnant women are now allowed to get their shots and authorities try to dispel rumours about fertility.

Women have received about 47 percent of the 481 million vaccine doses administered in India, nearly in line with the gender ratio in the country, the data showed. Men have now received 13 percent more doses than women, compared with about 17 percent in early June.

India officially started vaccinating pregnant women only in July and has been running ground-level campaigns to encourage them to get their shots, according to the government. It has also sent teams of grassroots health workers to towns and villages to dispel fears that vaccines affect fertility.

Oxygen in short supply as virus surges in Tunisia

As Tunisia faces a surge of cases, demand for life-saving oxygen has grown higher than the supply, leaving patients desperate and family members angry at the government as they say they are forced to find oxygen on their own.  

Traders have seized an opportunity for profit, buying supplies of oxygen and other treatments and renting or selling them at higher prices.

The profitable enterprise that is growing online has prompted citizens to call on authorities for intervention.  

Tunisia, with a population of 12 million, has reported more deaths per capita in the pandemic than any African country and has had among the highest daily death rates per capita in the world in recent weeks.

More than 20,000 Tunisians have died so far, and the vaccination rate remains low.

Sydney man in his 20s dies from virus

Authorities in Australia's New South Wales say a Sydney man in his 20s has died from the virus and the state reported 233 locally transmitted cases.

A woman in her 80s also died in hospital from the virus.

Authorities said the man's condition deteriorated suddenly and he died while isolating at home in the city's south-western suburbs. He was not vaccinated.

Macau begins tests, shuts some venues after four new cases

The gambling hub of Macau will begin testing its 600,000 people and close some entertainment spots after the Chinese-ruled city confirmed four new coronavirus cases.

Macau has set up 41 nucleic acid testing stations across the city which will run non-stop for at least three days, which is the estimated required period, the statement said. Appointments would not be needed, it said.

Separately, the government said cinemas, theatres, indoor playgrounds, bowling alleys, massage parlours, bars, nightclubs, and other such venues would be closed from midnight.

CDC issues new eviction ban for most of US through October 3

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a new eviction moratorium that would last until October 3, as the Biden administration sought to quell intensifying criticism from progressives that it was allowing vulnerable renters to lose their homes during a pandemic.

The ban could help keep millions in their homes as the delta variant has spread and states have been slow to release federal rental aid. It would temporarily halt evictions in counties with “substantial and high levels” of virus transmissions and would cover areas where 90 percent of the US population lives.

The announcement was a reversal for the Biden administration, which allowed an earlier moratorium to lapse over the weekend after saying a Supreme Court ruling prevented an extension. That ripped open a dramatic split between the White House and progressive Democrats who insisted the administration do more to prevent some 3.6 million Americans from losing their homes during the pandemic.

UK study: Vaccinated people have up to 60% less risk of getting Delta

Fully-vaccinated people have an around 50 to 60 percent reduced risk of infection from the Delta coronavirus variant, including those who are asymptomatic, a large English coronavirus prevalence study found on Wednesday.

Imperial College London researchers said people who reported receiving two vaccine doses were half as likely to test positive for Covid-19, adjusting for other factors such as age, whether or not the people tested had Covid-19 symptoms.

Focusing on those who had Covid-19 symptoms, effectiveness rose to around 59 percent, according to the study, which covered a period when the Delta variant completely displaced the previously dominant Alpha variant.

The estimates, which did not break down effectiveness by vaccine, are lower than those reported by Public Health England for Pfizer and AstraZeneca's shots.

The researchers said this was not surprising or worrying, given that PHE estimates were based on those who have symptoms and get tested, while the Imperial study is designed to pick up more people.

Imperial professor Steven Riley said that 5- to 24-year-olds accounted for 50 percent of all infections, even though they are only 25 percent of the population.

Schools have now shut for summer holidays, and cases have fallen from that peak despite legal coronavirus restrictions ending on July 19.

"We've shown that prior to the recent dip, young people were driving the infections," Riley told reporters.

"These data support the idea that there is uncertainty about what might happen in September when schools return and we have increased indoor mixing, because of the patterns of infection that we saw driving the growth."

Mexico records over 650 new deaths

Mexico has reported 18,911 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country and 657 fatalities, bringing its total to 2,880,409 infections and 241,936 deaths.

The government has said the real number of cases is likely significantly higher, and separate data published recently suggested the actual death toll is at least 60 percent above the confirmed figure.

Chile study shows variations in success of Covid vaccines

Sinovac's vaccine was 58.5 percent effective in preventing symptomatic illness among millions of Chileans who received it between February and July, the Chilean health authorities said, while Pfizer's Covid-19 shot was 87.7 percent effective and AstraZeneca's was 68.7 percent effective.

The data came in the latest "real world" data published by the Chilean authorities into the effectiveness among its population of a raft of vaccines.

Chile began one of the world's fastest inoculation campaigns against Covid-19 in December, having now fully vaccinated more than 60 percent of its population, predominantly with Sinovac's CoronaVac.

That vaccine was 86 percent effective in preventing hospitalisation, 89.7 percent effective in preventing admission to intensive care units and 86 percent effective in preventing deaths within the population between February and July, health official Dr Rafael Araos said in a press conference.

Brazil sees more than 1,200 new deaths

Brazil has had 32,316 new cases of the novel coronavirus reported in the past 24 hours and 1,209 deaths from Covid-19, the Health Ministry said.

The South American country has now registered 19,985,817 cases since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 558,432, according to ministry data, in the world's third worst outbreak outside the United States and India and its second-deadliest.

As vaccination advances, however, the rolling seven-day average of Covid deaths has fallen to one-third of the toll of almost 3,000 a day at the peak of the pandemic in April.

Australia's New South Wales reports 233 locally acquired cases

Australia's New South Wales state has reported 233 locally acquired cases of Covid-19, up from 199 a day earlier, as the state continues its battle to stamp out the latest outbreak from the highly infectious Delta strain.

Of the new cases, at least 47 spent time in the community while infectious, state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney. 

Australia's Queensland state reported 16 locally acquired cases as authorities warned a lockdown in state capital Brisbane might be extended beyond Sunday if people flout the tough restrictions.

US may offer vaccine to migrants crossing from Mexico –Washington Post

The Biden administration is preparing to offer coronavirus vaccines to migrants in US custody along the Mexico border, the Washington Post has reported.

Under the broad outlines of the new plan, the Department of Homeland Security will vaccinate the migrants soon after they cross into the United States and await processing by US Customs and Border Protection, said the Post, which cited two unnamed DHS officials.

Until now, only a limited number of migrants have received the vaccine while held in longer-term US Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities, the Post said.

The plan has not yet been finalised, the paper said.

Thailand reports daily record of over 20,000 infections

Thailand has reported 20,200 new coronavirus cases and 188 additional deaths, both the highest daily increases so far during the pandemic.

The new cases and fatalities brought total infections to 672,385 and deaths to 5,503, data from the Health Ministry's website showed.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies