The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Protection spoke on Wednesday about evidence that vaccinated people can spread the Covid-19 Delta variant to others, after the nation’s top health agency expanded on its new guidance that fully vaccinated Americans wear masks indoors in certain places, my colleagues Adam Gabbatt, Martin Pengelly and Maya Yang report.
Rochelle Walensky said “new science” observed in recent days demonstrated that new variants of the coronavirus were transmissible by people who have been fully vaccinated in some cases. “With prior variants, when people had these rare breakthrough infections, we didn’t see the capacity of them to spread the virus to others,” Walensky told CNN.
“But with the Delta variant we now see in our outbreak investigations that have been occurring over the last couple of weeks, in those outbreak investigations we have been seeing that if you happen to have one of those breakthrough infections that you can actually now pass it to somebody else.”
The CDC revised its mask guidance on Tuesday to recommend fully vaccinated Americans wear masks in “public indoor settings” with “substantial and high transmission”, a shift from its earlier guidance issued on 13 May, which said vaccinated individuals did not need to wear masks in most indoor settings.
Zimbabwe has authorised the emergency use of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine, the first Western-made shot to be approved by the southern African nation, its medicines regulator have said.
Nearly half of its 101,711 cumulative cases and 3,280 deaths in the country throughout the pandemic have been recorded this month, according to official data.
Until now, the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) had only registered vaccines from India, Russia and China. More than 1.5 million Zimbabweans have received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. Most were given China’s Sinovac and Sinopharm shots. Zimbabwe has so far received more than five million doses from China, including both purchases and donations.
MCAZ spokesman Shingai Gwatidzo. declined to say when Zimbabwe would receive its first J&J shots, adding that the health ministry would confirm the deployment of the vaccines after reviewing requirements for cold chain storage, Reuters reports.
Finance minister Mthuli Ncube said on Sunday the government had fully paid for a total of 12 million vaccine doses from China. He said Zimbabwe expected 5 million shots under an African Union vaccine procurement facility after making a $7.5m deposit, while another 1.15 million doses would be delivered under the Covax global vaccine distribution programme.
Here’s a quick news flash from Reuters. Guatemala’s president Alejandro Giammattei has said the central American nation has renegotiated its contract for the delivery of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccines and is now set to receive 8 million doses. Giammattei told a news conference the new contract has already been paid for.
A deaf woman has won a court case against the UK government for failing to provide sign language interpreters at televised Covid-19 briefings. AFP reports that the ruling is the latest setback for the UK government in its legal battles against citizens suing over its handling of the pandemic.
Judge Michael Fordham ruled in favour of citizen Katie Rowley against the Cabinet Office for not providing the interpretation during broadcasts on 21 September and 12 October last year.
Fordham said the omission constituted “discrimination” as it breached the “reasonable adjustments duty” but found the government was not “in present or continuing breach”.
Campaign group The Good Law Project have also taken the UK government it to court amid accusations of inadequate transparency and cronyism relating to the procurement of contracts for personal protective equipment.
In June, the High Court ruled against senior minister Michael Gove for unlawfully awarding a contract worth more than £560,000 for virus-related communications to a firm without going through proper procedures. And state auditors last year found the government failed to account clearly for spending on supplies and services during the pandemic worth £18bn.
Rowley, a self-employed actor and writer from Leeds in northern England, wanted compensation for “injury to feelings”. Her lawyers claimed she should receive thousands of pounds in compensation, and a lower court will award damages at a later date.
Only two of more than 170 Covid-19 briefings were unlawful because British Sign Language was not provided, according to officials.
The leading US residential landlord association is suing the federal government over the stoppage on evictions during the pandemic.
The National Apartment Association claims that the national freeze cost owners around $27bn not covered by existing aid programs, with the moratorium set to expire in less than a week.
The New York Times reports that analysts cited in the landlords’ suit adjudged that around 10 million tenants owed $57bn in arrears by the end of 2020, and that another $17bn had since gone unpaid.
It is hoped by the group that the action would accelerate the disbursement of $47bn in emergency rent relief included in federal pandemic relief packages.
“If the government takes a hard-line approach, renters and rental housing providers will suffer credit damage and economic harm that could follow them for years to come,” Robert Pinnegar, the association’s president, told the NYT.
“Alternatively, our nation’s leaders could work alongside the industry to make everyone whole and find a resolution that fully funds the economic impact of the CDC eviction order and swiftly distributes those funds.”
According to the BBC, the UK government has decided that they will allow fully vaccinated people from the US and the EU to enter England without having to quarantine.
Main opposition party Labour described the plan as “reckless”, since travellers from abroad could be bringing new variants to the UK, while it also remained unclear how the vaccine status of people who have been vaccinated in the US would be checked.
Yesterday, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Dr Rochelle Walensky said studies show that fully vaccinated people who become infected carry as much virus as unvaccinated people do and that they can transmit the disease.
You can keep up to date with UK-focused developments with my colleague Andrew Sparrow.
Pfizer has raised its forecast for sales of the Covid-19 vaccine that it developed with Germany’s BioNTech to $33.5 billion from the previous figure of $26 billion, the second increase this year as demand for the jab grows.
The company said the raised sales forecast of the vaccine is based on signed deals for 2.1 billion doses this year. The drugmaker’s previous forecast in May of $26 billion was based on deals signed for 1.6 billion doses, Reuters reports.
Wall Street analysts were broadly in line with that forecast at $28.51 billion, according to nine analysts polled by Refinitiv. Since then, Pfizer has said it expects to produce as much as 3 billion doses this year. Expenses and profit from the vaccine are split 50-50 between Pfizer and BioNTech.
Pfizer has broadly avoided some of the negative press attracted by competitors including AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson due to safety fears over their jabs.
But it has faced criticism for resisting a patent waiver to allow for a speedier global rollout to developing countries and earlier this month Pfizer/BioNTech said people’s immunity starts to wane six months after they have been vaccinated with their jabs, and called for booster shots.
The US Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initially pushed back against the announcement and said Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot, but then said they were prepared to consider any emerging research.
McDonald’s sales in the US have jumped nearly 15% on 2019 despite obesity being a leading Covid risk factor, with the company crediting easing pandemic restrictions in helping it beat revenue forecasts.
Comparable sales in the US rose 25.9% from a year earlier when the restaurant chain’s sales took a hit from government curbs, including limited dine-in capacity and dining room closures. Compared to 2019, US sales grew nearly 15%.
Same-store sales globally rose 40.5% in the second quarter and slightly exceeded the pre-pandemic levels of 2019 for the second straight quarter, Reuters reports.
But there has been growing scrutiny on the role of diet in the functioning of a healthy immune system in the era of Covid. Countries with high levels of overweight people, such as the US where McDonald’s also have a new fast food loyalty scheme, have the highest death rates from Covid-19.
About 2.2 million of the 2.5 million deaths from Covid were in countries with high levels of overweight people, said a report from the World Obesity Federation. Countries such as the US, UK, and Italy, where more than 50% of adults are overweight, have the biggest proportions of deaths linked to coronavirus.
McDonalds has previously been accused of endangering public health in the UK by encouraging customers to eat more fast food in exchange for prizes such as fries, desserts and fizzy drinks.
An Olympic skateboarder who was put in quarantine after testing positive for Covid-19 called the conditions at the hotel “inhuman” on Wednesday.
Candy Jacobs has been in isolation for eight days and missed the street event in skateboarding’s debut as an Olympic sport. The Netherlands athlete said she had to force officials to allow her a supervised short break for some fresh air away from her room, where the window doesn’t open, the Associated Press reports.
“Not having any outside air is so inhuman,” the 31-year-old Jacobs said in a video message posted on Instagram. “It’s mentally super draining … definitely more than a lot of humans can handle.”
Jacobs was removed from the Olympic Village and put in a quarantine facility for people at the Tokyo Games infected with the virus. On her seventh day of isolation, she said she refused to move.
After more than seven hours, she said, officials agreed she could stand at an open window under supervision for 15 minutes. “Having that first breath of outside air was the saddest and best moment in my life,” Jacobs said.
The president of Tanzania, one of the world’s last countries to embrace Covid-19 vaccines, has publicly received a dose and urged others to do the same.
Samia Suluhu Hassan, the former deputy to her predecessor John Magufuli – who died in March after perturbing health officials by heavily downplaying the pandemic – received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and expressed confidence in its safety.
“We will make sure our country has enough vaccines for those who are willing to be vaccinated,” Hassan said before taking her jab publicly along with the prime minister, the chief justice and others.
I’m a mother of four children, grandmother to many, wife and most importantly, the president and commander in chief of the Tanzanian armed forces.You can imagine how many people depend on me from that chain. In that context, I cannot put my life at risk if the vaccines are not safe.
In June, Tanzania joined the global Covax scheme for sharing vaccines with poorer nations, culminating in the delivery of its first batch of 1.06 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine last week. Tanzania placed an order for more doses from the African Union’s vaccines acquisition platform (AVATT) yesterday, she said.
Magufuli, who died from a heart condition after a mysterious absence of almost three weeks, had warned citizens against Covid-19 vaccines and recommended at-home remedies such as steam inhalation. But the government has changed tack following his death and officials now call for social distancing and emphasise mask wearing in public.
The late former president made a number of comments which caused serious anxiety, saying in January: “The ministry of health should be careful, they should not hurry to try these vaccines without doing research, not every vaccine is important to us, we should be careful. We should not be used as ‘guinea pigs’.”
Referring to Tanzania’s first leader Julius Nyerere’s habit of rejecting advice from Western nations, he also said: “Our founding father was not someone to be directed to be told what to do… Those who devise these kinds of rules [lockdown] are used to making these directives that our founding father refused.”
He added: “Vaccinations are dangerous. If the white man was able to come up with vaccinations, he should have found a vaccination for Aids, cancer and TB by now.”
But, with the country now changing course, Tanzania’s current president has also pledged to invest in vaccine manufacturing, according to the Africa CDC, following a meeting with the agency’s director, John Nkengasong, yesterday.
Tanzania went well over a year without updating its number of confirmed virus cases due to concerns over the efficacy of tests but has now resumed reporting the data to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which shows 858 cases throughout the pandemic, and 21 deaths – though there are fears the true figures may be greater.
Just two African countries still have yet to start Covid-19 vaccinations, Burundi and Eritrea. Burundi, whose late President Pierre Nkurunziza also had been criticised for downplaying the pandemic, has said vaccines are not required, the AP reports.
Joe Biden says requiring all federal workers to get coronavirus vaccine is “under consideration” as the Delta variant surges.
Meanwhile, CNN has reported that the president will indeed announce a vaccine requirement for all federal employees and contractors, or submit to regular testing and mitigation requirements, according to a source the network said is close to the matter.
As he wrapped up a speech to members of the intelligence community at the Office of the Director of National intelligence today, Biden took a couple questions from reporters.
One journalist asked Biden whether he plans to mandate coronavirus vaccinations for federal employees. “That’s under consideration right now, but if you’re not vaccinated, you’re not really as smart as I thought you were,” Biden said.
It comes as US health authorities reversed a decision made in May and said even Americans fully vaccinated against Covid-19 should go back to wearing masks in indoor public places in regions where the coronavirus is spreading rapidly.
Studies show that fully vaccinated people who become infected carry as much virus as unvaccinated people do, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Dr Rochelle Walensky said. “We felt it was important for people to understand that they could pass the disease onto someone else,” she said.
The CDC also recommended all students, teachers and staff at schools from kindergarten to 12th grade wear masks regardless of whether they are vaccinated.
Despite 58% of people eligible being fully vaccinated, the CDC said that 63.4% of U.S. counties had transmission rates high enough to warrant indoor masking and should immediately resume the policy. Manhattan, Los Angeles and San Francisco meet the transmission criteria, as does the entire state of Florida, but Chicago and Detroit do not.
The US leads the world in the daily average number of new infections, accounting for one in every nine cases reported worldwide each day. The seven-day average for new cases has been rising sharply and stands at 57,126, still about a quarter of the pandemic peak.
Norway has postponed for a second time a planned final step in the reopening of its economy from lockdown, due to the continued spread of the Delta variant, the government has said.
“A new assessment will be made in mid-August,” health minister Bent Hoeie said. Measures that will be kept in place to halt the spread of Civud-19 include bars and restaurants being limited to table service and limits of 20 people on gatherings in private homes.
The government in April launched a four-step plan to gradually remove most pandemic restrictions, and had completed the first three of those steps by mid-June, Reuters reports.
On 5 July, prime minister Erna Solberg said the fourth step could come in late July or early August at the earliest because of Delta concerns.
About 80% of adults in Norway have received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and 41% of adults are fully vaccinated, according to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.
The nation of 5.4 million people has seen one of Europe’s lowest rates of mortality from the virus. Some 800 Norwegians have died from Covid-19.
Barclays shareholders are in line for a payout of more than £800m from dividends and share buybacks after a rise in profits as the UK economy recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.
Barclays is the first major UK bank to hand money back to investors since the Bank of England scrapped the remaining Covid restrictions on shareholder payouts, which were introduced by the central bank at the start of the pandemic last year.
It follows a strong second quarter, with Barclays’ pre-tax profits rising to £2.6bn over the three months to the end of June, up from £359m a year earlier. It also beat consensus forecasts for £1.7bn in profits for the period.
More than half the population of Germany is now fully vaccinated, health minister Jens Spahn has said, but concerns are growing about a slowdown in uptake.
“41.8 million Germans now have full protection, while 61.1% have received at least one shot. The more people who get vaccinated, the safer we will be in autumn and winter,” Spahn wrote on Twitter.
Germany’s vaccination campaign accelerated in the spring after a sluggish first few months, yet the country remains some way off the 80% targeted for herd immunity, AFP reports. The inoculation drive has slowed to a snail’s pace in recent weeks.
With case numbers also rising, the debate over how to cajole more people into taking the vaccine is set to become a key issue in the national elections scheduled for 26 September. Unlike other European countries such as France and Greece, Germany has so far ruled out introducing compulsory jabs for certain parts of the population.
But chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff Helge Braun has mooted possible further restrictions on public life for the unvaccinated, even if they can show a recent negative test, AFP reports.
“Vaccinated people will definitely have more freedom than unvaccinated people” if case numbers rise again in the autumn, said Braun.
Wizz Air has said it expects passenger numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels in August amid a steady climb in summer holiday bookings despite Covid-19 pandemic restrictions across Europe.
In an upbeat statement to the London stock market on Wednesday despite a €114m (£97m) loss between April and June, the budget airline said it expected to operate at 90% of its pre-pandemic capacity in July and 100% in August.
Airlines have been among the slowest companies to recover from the pandemic, with cross-border movement restrictions holding back travel despite the progress of vaccination programmes. However, there have also been signs of pent-up demand from consumers used to foreign holidays as passenger numbers steadily rise.
Prime minister Scott Morrison has called on Australians to channel its Olympians and “go for gold” in the country’s vaccine programme, after he previously insisted repeatedly that the country’s vaccine rollout is “not a race”.
It comes as the federal government announce additional financial support for residents and businesses in locked down greater Sydney, bringing combined government assistance for the state to more than $1bn a week.
Meanwhile, reviews of rapid Covid-19 tests in Australia have found markedly different results in their effectiveness, but experts say the New South Wales government’s decision to employ them in schools and essential workplaces will help to control the virus.
Hello and greetings to everyone reading, wherever you are in the world. Mattha Busby here to take you through the next few hours of global Covid developments. Thanks to my colleague Clea Skopeliti for covering the blog up until now. Please feel free to drop me a line on Twitter or message me via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any tips or thoughts on our coverage.
Japan’s vaccination minister has said the speed of the country’s vaccine rollout is less important than ensuring young people take up doses, as Tokyo recorded an all-time high number of cases.
Taro Kono, the vaccination minister, told the Associated Press that Japan is “overshooting” its goal of a million shots a day, so “speed doesn’t matter anymore.” Officials are getting an average of 10 million shots in arms each week after a late start to the campaign.
“Even if we slow down a little bit, I’m OK. Rather we need to reach out to the younger people, so that they would feel that it’s necessary for them to get vaccinated,” Kono said.
Italy’s medicine regulator has approved the use of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine for children 12-17 years old, following the approval of Pfizer for adolescents.
Moderna announced in May that its vaccine had been found to be safe and effective in teenagers, and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) recommended its authorisation be extended for use on over-12s.
Drug agency AIFA said it had endorsed the vaccine Spikevax for teenagers, fully accepting the EMA’s recommendation.
“The available data demonstrate the efficacy and safety of the vaccine also for subjects in this age group,” Aifa said in a statement reported by Reuters.
Some European countries have backed vaccinating under-18s in order to tackle the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant.