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EasyJet to increase flights as summer travel returns

EasyJet to increase flights as summer travel returns

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India has suffered between 3.4m and 4.7m excess deaths since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, a study has shown, suggesting coronavirus has taken a heavier toll than New Delhi acknowledges.

The study, whose trio of authors includes Arvind Subramanian, the government’s former chief economic adviser, argues the true impact of Covid-19 on India’s population has been “catastrophically worse” than officially acknowledged.

“What is tragically clear is that too many people, in the millions rather than the hundreds of thousands, may have died,” the study said.

India has acknowledged just 414,000 Covid-19 deaths since the virus was first detected in the country in early 2020.

But experts have noted that India only counts patients who die in hospital with a positive test as Covid-19 deaths, which excludes large numbers of victims who could not obtain tests or hospital care, or who died from Covid-related complications after being discharged.

The paper attempts to arrive at a more accurate range of the virus’s toll through examining three sources of data. These include all-cause mortality data from seven large states; an analysis of India’s studies on the number of people with antibodies and international estimates of fatality rates; and household surveys carried out by the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy.

While each of the three sources yields different estimates, the paper’s authors said “they all point to significantly greater deaths than the official estimates”, and also indicate that India’s “first wave was more lethal than is widely believed”.

The study found 3.4m to 4.7m excess deaths between the beginning of the pandemic and the start of June, though it acknowledged that not all of the excess deaths could be conclusively attributed to Covid-19.

The supply of bank loans to eurozone businesses and households has stabilised and demand for mortgages surged after the lifting of most lockdown measures during the second quarter, according to a European Central Bank survey.

The shift follows five consecutive quarters of tightening lending standards by eurozone banks in response to the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The levelling out of bank lending standards also underlines how the supply of credit continues to be supported by vast amounts of fiscal and monetary support.

The ECB’s quarterly survey of banks found broadly unchanged lending standards for companies and households in the second quarter, while demand for credit increased strongly from households and moderately from businesses.

The conditions reflected “the overall improvements seen in the euro area economy as lockdown measures are lifted and the continued support provided by monetary, fiscal and supervisory authorities”, the ECB said.

The central bank found that lending conditions had loosened for companies benefiting from Covid-19 related government guarantees in the first six months of the year. Banks reported “unchanged risk perceptions” in the second quarter, it said.

However, it added that eurozone banks expected a slight net tightening of lending standards to companies along with stable credit standards for households in the third quarter.

European equities rose on Tuesday as investors hunted for bargains following a global stock downturn in the previous session driven by the threat of the Delta variant of coronavirus.

The Stoxx 600 index rose 0.9 per cent, following its biggest drop of the year. Energy companies listed on the regional benchmark gained 1.3 per cent, financial services businesses advanced 1.1 per cent and European industrials rose 1 per cent.

Brent crude, the international oil marker, added 1.1 per cent to $69.41 a barrel after shedding almost 7 per cent on Monday as jitters about global economic growth were compounded by producer group Opec + agreeing to raise output by 400,000 barrels a day.

The rapid spread of the Delta strain of coronavirus has hit the developing world hard, led to renewed social restrictions in Asian countries that had previously appeared to have the virus under control and caused British businesses to struggle with worker shortages.

However, despite some angst over the spread of virus variants, many investors have remained largely optimistic as they look at fundamentals that remain strong for many major countries.

Analysts expect companies listed on the MSCI Europe share index to report 109 per cent year-on-year earnings growth for the second quarter, while a recent Bank of America survey found fund managers mostly expect the Stoxx to rise this year.

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Venues where large numbers of people are gathered should use vaccine passports as the spread of coronavirus infections in England accelerates, a UK minister has said.

“[Anywhere] where large numbers of people come together we are encouraging [people] to use certification,” Paul Scully, minister of small businesses, told Sky News on Tuesday. “We want people to do it voluntarily.”

“This is the right thing to do to make sure that we can really get on top of transmission,” he added.

In a briefing on Monday, UK prime minister Boris Johnson said that, from September, people would need to show proof of two vaccinations to access “nightclubs and other venues where large crowds gather”.

Scully noted that further clarity was needed on the kinds of venues this would apply to.

“We’re not ruling anything out, but we’re not saying crowded pubs,” he said. “We’re saying nightclubs and also larger ticketed events,” adding that the government will work on the definition over the coming months.

Singapore is set to tighten safe-distancing measures again after the emergence of new clusters involving karaoke lounges, a critical fishery port and food markets.

The city state reported an average of 46 locally transmitted cases a day in the week to July 18, the highest number since April 2020.

Starting on Thursday, dining in restaurants will be suspended and a maximum of two people will be allowed to gather in public or visit a household — measures that were first implemented in May.

The restrictions, which will run until August 18, were necessary to slow down Covid-19 transmission and vaccinate more elderly individuals, authorities said.

“Unlike the earlier KTV [karaoke] cluster which largely affected younger population segments, the current Jurong fishery port cluster is spreading among a wider segment of the population, including the elderly,” said Gan Kim Yong, co-chair of Singapore’s Covid-19 task force.

Almost 30 per cent of the over 70s remain unvaccinated. Singapore has fully vaccinated more than half its 5.7m population.

The KTV cluster includes 193 cases and numbers are falling, while the Jurong port group — which includes 179 patients and has spread to 28 markets and food centres — is expanding. The two clusters may be linked.

Authorities said transmission in the port may have been introduced by fishing boats including those from Indonesia, which is facing the worst Covid-19 outbreak in south-east Asia.

Singapore has said that, once at least two-thirds of the population is vaccinated, sharp restrictions would not be imposed in response to jumps in cases. The goal is set to be reached next month.

EasyJet will significantly increase the number of flights it operates over the late summer and pivot its operations towards continental Europe in response to growing demand for travel as coronavirus restrictions ease. 

The low-cost carrier expects to operate 60 per cent of its 2019 schedule between July and September, up from just 17 per cent in the previous quarter.

EasyJet posted a pre-tax loss of £318m during the second quarter, only marginally less than the £349m it lost a year earlier when there was virtually no flying due to strict coronavirus restrictions. 

But the carrier on Tuesday welcomed a pick-up in demand for flying, which it said was “heavily skewed” towards the EU rather than the UK thanks to “the current divergence in government travel policies”.

From the start of this month, passengers from the EU can use a digital Covid-19 pass to cross borders, while the UK government has complex and sometimes rapidly changing rules on foreign travel.

While easyJet’s business is normally split evenly between the UK and Europe, at present two-thirds of its bookings come from continental Europe.

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said the recovery from the pandemic “isn’t going to be a straight line”, but said the company had cut costs through the crisis and “built back stronger for the future”. 

The airline cut its cash burn during the second quarter to £55m a week, and has access to £2.9bn of liquidity, having raised more than £5.5bn since the start of the crisis. The company will “continue to review its liquidity position on a regular basis”, but did not detail any immediate plans to raise further cash. 

China has recorded its highest tally of new Covid-19 infections since January, as mass testing near the country’s border with Myanmar has uncovered dozens of cases.

The health commission of Yunnan province in the country’s south-west on Tuesday reported eight new locally transmitted Covid-19 cases, as well as 41 imported cases of individuals who arrived in China between July 12 and 18 while carrying the virus. 

The new cases brought China’s total daily case count to 65, the highest number recorded for more than half a year. 

Since early July, Ruili, a border town of just over 200,000 people, has become the frontline of China’s battle to stop travellers carrying the disease from seeding new outbreaks. There are 259 people now quarantined in Yunnan’s hospitals.

Since largely containing the spread of Covid-19 by April 2020, China has maintained a policy of attempting to totally eradicate the virus’s presence within its borders, responding to even small-scale outbreaks with strict lockdowns and widespread swab tests.

A surge of Covid-19 infections is swamping Myanmar’s threadbare healthcare system, causing bodies to pile up at cemeteries and crematoriums and adding a virulent element to the disorder that has followed the coup in February.

Australia’s state of Victoria will temporarily halt the re-entry of residents from neighbouring New South Wales as it seeks to run an outbreak of the Delta variant of Covid-19 to ground, Daniel Andrews, Victorian premier, said on Tuesday.

Since the beginning of the second wave in Sydney, the Victorian government has helped about 10,000 people return home from hotspots — so-called “red zones” — in NSW, urging them to get home as quickly as possible because of the escalating Covid-19 situation there.

However, Andrews’ government has announced a U-turn on that policy. “Due to the serious and persistent nature of the risk in NSW, we cannot continue to have hundreds of people coming to Victoria from the red zone every day,” the premier said. 

He said from Tuesday night, for at least the next two weeks, Victorian residents in red zones would require an exemption to enter the state.

“These will only be granted in exceptional circumstances,”Andrews said. “If people enter Victoria from NSW without an exemption, they will be put on a return flight or placed in 14 days mandatory quarantine.”

People entering Victoria without a permit also face a A$5,452 (US$3,992) fine.

“Given how fast we have seen cases spread over the last week, it is clear a further incursion of the Delta strain cases from interstate would potentially cause the lockdown to last even longer and threaten our ability to ease restrictions,” Andrews said.

National Stadium, the main Olympic Games venue, is seen from the observation deck of the Shibuya Scramble Square skyscraper
National Stadium, the main Olympic Games venue, is seen from the observation deck of the Shibuya Scramble Square skyscraper © Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

The Olympic Games coronavirus tally rose to at least 68 on Tuesday after two Mexican baseball players tested positive for Covid-19 before departing for Tokyo.

Héctor Velázquez, a pitcher who played for the Boston Red Sox, and Sammy Solís, a former Washington Nationals pitcher, were immediately isolated in the team hotel, the Mexican Baseball Federation said.

The team still plans to fly to Tokyo tomorrow.

In Japan, Olympic organisers announced nine new cases, including one athlete. Four more positive cases were identified by municipal governments outside Tokyo.

The first case of a volunteer testing positive was also reported.

Organisers said that of the 21 members of the South African men’s soccer team who were identified as close contacts, three have been declared exempt from self-quarantine after further case investigation and contact tracing.

Joe Biden, US president, greeted Muslims around the world celebrating Eid al-Adha by saying donated vaccines would help ensure safe pilgrimages in the post-pandemic era.

He said Eid carried a special meaning this year “as we continue to navigate the challenges of Covid-19”, according to a White House statement on Monday.

Biden noted the Eid traditions and hajj rituals of providing for those less fortunate in commemoration of the prophet Abraham, or Ibrahim, who was willing to sacrifice his son to show his devotion to God. A lamb was killed instead, a tradition that continues to the present day. 

He said the hajj, “which convenes people from all walks of life and from every corner of the globe”, is also a reminder of Islam’s commitment to equality and the shared roots of Abrahamic faiths. 

The US, Biden added, “is committed to working with the international community to emerge stronger from the pandemic, and thousands of Muslim Americans are among those eager to perform the pilgrimage next year, God willing”. 

Customers have returned to England’s pubs, including the London and South Western at Clapham Junction, London
Customers have returned to England’s pubs, including the London and South Western at Clapham Junction, London © Rob Pinney/Getty Images

Pubs and restaurants dialled down offers for free pints and burgers on the UK’s “Freedom day” with only a handful of companies offering promotions amid a wave of new Covid-19 infections.

Wetherspoon and Young’s, the restaurant company Fridays and fast-food chain McDonald’s offered free or discounted drinks and food to consumers on Monday but on a limited basis as all final restrictions on hospitality businesses were lifted. 

Young’s offered 30,000 free pints to randomly selected users of its app, a less generous offer than previously intended. Wetherspoon said 780 of its 870 pubs would serve beers from local brewers at £1.99 to promote small breweries rather than celebrate the easing of restrictions.

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A health worker collects a swab sample from a member of the media ahead of the National Assembly session
A health worker collects a swab sample from a member of the media ahead of the National Assembly session © Nhac Nguyen/AFP via Getty Images

Vietnam’s rubber-stamp parliament kicked off its annual session on Tuesday as the country mobilises public security forces to help stamp out a surge of Covid-19 cases.

In an opening speech, Vuong Dinh Hue, National Assembly chairman, said the first session was taking place “in the context of the complicated developments of the Covid-19 pandemic”. 

The showcase meeting began without 17 of its 499 deputies who were assisting with local authorities in suppressing the Covid-19 outbreaks that have hit mostly in the country’s south.

“Police in southern provinces and cities need to deploy their full force, closely coordinate with military forces, advise the Communist party committees and local authorities to mobilise militia and self-defence forces at grassroots levels,” said Le Quoc Hung, deputy minister of public security.

Hung, an army major-general and a party central committee member, said the military would assist police and local authorities in setting up checkpoints to curb travel.

Vietnam reported 2,154 new cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday, of which 1,519 were detected in Ho Chi Minh City. Of the 56,000 cases recorded in the country since the pandemic began last year, more than 52,000 have emerged since late April.

Authorities are bracing for further increases. “Covid-19 is still evolving, with multiple outbreaks, multiple sources of transmission and multiple strains, especially the Delta variant,” the health ministry said, hinting that the southern region is struggling to keep the situation under control.

The National Assembly meeting is expected to pass 50 statutes, elect a prime minister and four deputy prime ministers and approve appointments of 22 ministers, although it wields little actual power over the party. The session lasts until July 31.

​​The threat of the Delta variant of Covid-19 hit Asian markets on Tuesday, after US and European stocks fell sharply lower on concerns that new outbreaks of the virus would hit global growth.

The equities sell-off snapped a months-long streak of gains for international markets as the rapid spread of the Delta strain, a highly infectious mutation of the virus that has swept across the world in recent weeks, put economies that had been steadily recovering on the back foot. 

Japan’s benchmark Topix dropped 1.1 per cent while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 and South Korea’s Kospi both fell 0.4 per cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was flat, while China’s CSI 300 index of Shanghai- and Shenzhen-listed stocks rose 0.3 per cent.

Overnight, Wall Street’s S&P 500 index closed 1.6 per cent lower and the technology-focused Nasdaq Composite fell 1.1 per cent. London’s FTSE 100 dropped 2.3 per cent, as did the Stoxx Europe 600. 

Futures for the S&P 500 and the FTSE 100 rose 0.5 per cent in Asian trading on Tuesday.

“Investors are worried that a fresh outbreak could potentially hinder the pace of economic reopening,” said Tai Hui, chief Asia market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management. “The next one to two months will be an important litmus test of governments’ strategy in normalising lives and economic activities amid the threat of the pandemic.”

Japan’s Topix dropped 1.1 per cent while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 and South Korea’s Kospi both fell 0.4 per cent
Japan’s Topix dropped 1.1 per cent while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 and South Korea’s Kospi both fell 0.4 per cent © Kim Kyung-hoon/Reuters

In currency markets, sterling was steady at $1.3679 after dropping 0.7 per cent during the previous session to its lowest level since early February. 

The UK currency has been hit by a sudden resurgence of Covid-19 outbreaks just as the government removed the last of its restrictions to contain the virus.

On Monday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention placed the UK on its highest tier of Covid travel warnings, urging Americans not to visit as England celebrated “Freedom Day”.

In bond markets, the yield on the 10-year US Treasury steadied at about 1.2 per cent, a hair above its lowest level in six months as investors continued to seek safety in government debt. Yields fall as bond prices rise.

Oil prices rose after initially dropping on Monday in the wake of the Opec+ countries’ decision to increase production by 400,000 barrels a day each month into next year.

Brent crude, the international benchmark, rose 0.4 per cent to $68.91 a barrel on Tuesday, while US marker West Texas Intermediate rose 0.5 per cent to $66.91.

The EU’s drug regulator said on Monday it is evaluating whether to approve an existing anti-inflammatory drug as a treatment for Covid-19.

The European Medicines Agency said its investigation would reveal whether anakinra, sold as Kineret, was appropriate for treatment of adult patients with pneumonia who are at risk of developing severe respiratory failure.

Kineret is an immunosuppressant authorised for the treatment of several inflammatory conditions. Its active substance blocks the activity of a chemical messenger involved in immune processes that lead to inflammation. 

It is thought that this could also help reduce inflammation and tissue damage associated with Covid-19, the EMA said in a statement.

The agency’s human medicines committee will assess data submitted in the application to decide whether to recommend the extension. The data include results from two continuing clinical studies investigating the safety and efficacy of the medicine in adult patients hospitalised with Covid-19.

A decision by the EMA is expected by October. Kineret, made by Swedish Orphan Biovitrum, has been authorised for use in the EU since 2002.

Visitors to Balos Beach on Mykonos this week are under curfew as Covid-19 cases surge
Visitors to Balos Beach on Mykonos this week are under curfew as Covid-19 cases surge © Nicolas Economou/AFP via Getty Images

About 2.3m tourists have visited Greece in the first half of 2021, well short of last year’s pandemic-hit arrival numbers, official data showed on Monday.

Leisure arrivals fell 78 per cent in 2020 to 7.4m, down from 34m in 2019.

This year, Germany has been the top country of origin, accounting for 412,000 arrivals, according to Sofia Zaharaki, deputy tourism minister.

Poland has emerged as an important market, with 202,000 visitors to June 30, compared with a full-year total of 295,000 in 2020.

More than 100,000 US passport holders have visited Greece this year, the data showed.

Greece’s tourist reopening — centred on its picturesque islands — has been hit by setbacks, such as a surge of Covid-19 cases on Mykonos, one of the most popular destinations in the country.

Authorities have imposed a curfew on the Aegean resort isle, as well as banning music at bars and restaurants as Covid-19 cases surge.

The 1am-6am curfew will last until at least July 26, as the island reported a quadrupling of new daily infections in little more than a week. Music is banned from 6pm until 6am.

Despite the restrictions, Mykonos continues to be a popular draw for visitors. Celebrity tourists this week include actress Demi Moore and members of the England football team from the recent Euro tournament.

An antibody cocktail developed by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals was on Monday granted special emergency approval by Japan’s health ministry.

The decision opens up new opportunities to keep milder coronavirus cases from progressing and overwhelming health care providers on the ground.

Developed with Roche, the treatment was administered to Donald Trump, the former US president, when he contracted Covid-19 last year. 

A clinical trial found that the cocktail reduced the risk of hospitalisation or death by 70 per cent in high-risk patients, according to Regeneron, which is based in Tarrytown, north of New York City.

It received an emergency use authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration in November 2020.

“This is a big step forward,” Norihisa Tamura, Japan’s health minister, told reporters on Monday. “The treatment will be administered mainly to hospitalised patients who are at risk of developing severe symptoms,” he said.

Delivered via a one-time intravenous drip, the cocktail combines the monoclonal antibodies casirivimab and imdevimab, which bind to the surface of the virus to prevent its replication. 

The treatment is intended for patients with underlying risks, such as chronic illness or obesity, with mild to moderate symptoms. It may be administered to both adults and children weighing 40kg or more.

The treatment may also be effective against new versions of the coronavirus, such as the highly contagious Delta variant first identified in India, according to the ministry.

Shipments to health care providers throughout Japan will begin Tuesday.

The Philippines faces tougher rules on mass gatherings, such as church services
The Philippines faces tougher rules on mass gatherings, such as church services © Aaron Favila/AP

The Philippines has warned the country faces stricter lockdown measures if the Delta variant of the Covid-19 virus takes hold in the south-east Asian archipelago, official media reported on Tuesday.

President Rodrigo Duterte said health officials had identified 16 new cases of the Delta variant last week and he is eyeing tougher rules.

“The reported local cases in the country is a cause for serious alarm and concern,” Duterte said, according to the government-run Philippine News Agency. “We may need to impose stricter restrictions to avoid mass gatherings and prevent superspreader events.”

He cited the Covid-19 situation in Indonesia which, according to media reports, has averaged 49,435 new cases and more than 1,000 deaths a day for the past week.

“We have seen and heard in recent news about the spike of Covid-19 cases in other countries, including our neighbour Indonesia, due to the more contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus.”

The decisions by Australia and New Zealand to shut their borders to non-residents during the coronavirus pandemic has helped suppress Covid-19, enabling economic growth and corporate profits to beat expectations.

But 15 months on, critics warn that these “hermit nation” policies are now causing significant problems for businesses, which face worsening skills shortages that are raising costs and denting output.

Many industries are advocating a relaxation of border and visa rules, even as the highly infectious Delta strain of coronavirus prompts authorities to tighten rules to protect both nations’ largely unvaccinated public.

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Staff at asset managers Amundi, DWS and Goldman Sachs Asset Management are required to wear face masks inside their London offices this week despite the easing of almost all Covid-19 restrictions in England.

Amundi has also scaled back its plans for staff returning to the office, with employees now required to be at their desks just one day a week instead of three under a new hybrid work model being rolled out this summer.

The decision by some firms to maintain mask wearing inside offices comes amid a surge in Covid-19 cases in the UK, driven by the more infectious Delta variant.

The UK government dropped almost all restrictions, including mask wearing in enclosed public settings, this week for England and has said it is for employers to decide if face coverings should be worn inside the workplace.

Amundi told Ignites Europe that it carried out a survey with staff asking whether they felt comfortable with no mask wearing at the office. Responses were split 50/50, the company said.

The firm also took external advice, consulted its health and safety committee, and reviewed what peers are doing before reaching a decision.

As well as masks, social distancing measures would be kept in place at Amundi’s Moorgate office for the rest of the summer and it has introduced flexible start times to help staff avoid crowds on public transport.

Goldman Sachs Asset Management, which asked all staff to return to the office from Monday, said employees would have to wear masks except when seated at their desks.

Nine crew members onboard a container ship in quarantine in New Zealand have now tested positive for Covid-19, health authorities said on Tuesday.

The Marshall Islands-flagged Mattina arrived in the remote southern port of Bluff on Sunday night and all 21 crew members were tested.

Health officials said the only local who had contact with the crew of the 53,000-ton Mattina is the pilot, who went aboard as the ship entered the port.

Pilots are required to board vessels of this size when berthing. “The pilot wore appropriate personal protective equipment and was fully vaccinated,” the health ministry said in a statement. “No one else has been on or off the ship since it docked.”

The Mattina remains in quarantine in a secure area of the port. Bluff is more than 500km south of Christchurch and more than 1,600km from Auckland, the country’s largest city.

Kentucky’s governor has urged frontline workers in public-facing jobs such as retail and hospitality to wear masks, regardless of vaccination status.

Andy Beshear announced the recommendation at a press conference on Monday, during which he said that new Covid-19 cases had increased for three consecutive weeks, probably reflecting the impact of the more transmissible Delta variant.

The Democratic governor said that many counties in the state had yet to fully vaccinate more than 40 per cent of residents, and that although at least half of adults in several age brackets above 40 years old had been vaccinated, coverage levels were below 50 per cent for adults under 40.

Beshear urged all unvaccinated Kentuckians to get a jab and said that all unvaccinated individuals and those with pre-existing conditions “should wear masks indoors when not in their home”.

Vaccinated Kentuckians working in sectors such as retail, hospitality or restaurants where staff come in contact with “a tonne of people each day” should consider wearing a face covering, he continued.

A donor gives blood at an exhibition centre in Louisville, Kentucky. A rush of elective surgery postponed by the Covid-19 pandemic has created a shortage of blood products
A donor gives blood at an exhibition centre in Louisville, Kentucky. A rush of elective surgery postponed by the Covid-19 pandemic has created a shortage of blood products © Jon Cherry/Getty Images

The advisory puts Kentucky on a growing list of cities, counties and states that have recommended residents wear masks, even if they are fully vaccinated, due to the risks associated with the highly-transmissible Delta variant.

Los Angeles county, though, has gone one step further and over the weekend reinstated its mask mandate, requiring residents to wear masks in public indoor situations even if they have completed their vaccine regimen.

Beshear said the “vast majority of all our cases are the Delta variant,” but continued that not enough genomes had been sequenced in Kentucky to know the exact proportion of new infections linked to the new strain.

Steven Stack, the state’s health commissioner, said “we would estimate it’s over 50 per cent” but reiterated they did not have official data yet. 

Kentucky has fully vaccinated 44.8 per cent of its population, about 4 percentage points below the national average and putting it in the bottom half of US states by level of coverage, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Russian authorities said on Monday they would explore the possibility of setting up a vaccine production facility in Nicaragua at the central American country’s request.

Sergey Lavrov, foreign minister, told the official Tass news agency that Nicaraguan leaders sought a facility jointly run with the Chumakov Research Center, which makes the CoviVac vaccine.

Nicaragua already hosts a vaccine lab, the Mechnikov joint venture, with a Russian laboratory. “However, this is a challenging issue for a number of reasons,” Lavrov said. 

“[Mechnikov] is set up for the production of influenza vaccines and its capacities are fully loaded with these drugs, which are supplied not only to Nicaragua, but also to Venezuela, Cuba and Ecuador,” he said.

Lavrov also said that Chumakov was not yet geared up for mass production. “Politically, of course, we entirely support the idea,” he added.

A factory burns on the outskirts of Durban last week
A factory burns on the outskirts of Durban last week © AP

South African officials said the vaccination of prison inmates against Covid-19 would begin on Tuesday, as the country sought to get its jab programme back on track after days of communal violence.

Vaccination of correctional officers began on July 15, Ronald Lamola, justice and correctional services minister, said in a statement.

The vaccination of inmates will be undertaken at 90 sites in prisons and detention centres across the country.

“Inmates also get vaccinated in line with the Nelson Mandela Rules, which clearly stipulate that inmates should enjoy the same standards of healthcare available in the community,” a joint health and justice ministries statement issued on Monday said. 

“There is a high risk of inmates being exposed to Covid-19, due to the limitations of physical distancing in Correctional facilities,” it added.

Africa’s most industrialised economy is reeling from scenes of anarchy in Gauteng, the economic hub, and KwaZulu-Natal this week that left more than 200 dead, wrecked businesses and imperilled the country’s vaccine rollout.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said South African’s young democracy had been targeted in “a deliberate, co-ordinated and well-planned attack” as the worst violence since the end of apartheid last week saw security forces move in to restore order. 

Taiwan authorities would allow foreign workers to move between work sites from Tuesday, ending a ban imposed because of a recent surge in Covid-19 cases.

The Central Epidemic Command Center announced that “the right of employers to assign foreign workers to different work sites belonging to the same employer will be restored”. 

Assignments must be for more than 60 days and employers must arrange for the workers to undergo polymerase chain reaction tests within three days of reassignment.

Employers must also notify the country’s labour ministry, the CECC said. The ban mainly affected the construction sector.

The CECC on Monday announced 21 new Covid-19 cases, 15 of which were locally acquired.

Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, visits a vaccination centre in Montreal
Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, visits a vaccination centre in Montreal © Christinne Muschi/Reuters

Canada has vaccinated half of its population, putting it in a group of a dozen countries to have reached the milestone.

The latest figures from the government’s vaccination tracker on Monday afternoon showed that 50.013 per cent of the country’s residents had completed their vaccine regimens.

Canada’s vaccination rollout overcame a rocky start and picked up steam in the past couple of months. Over the weekend, Canada surpassed the US, which has fully vaccinated 48.6 per cent of residents.

Including Canada, a dozen countries have fully vaccinated half of their populations, according to the FT’s vaccination tracker. Malta leads this pack with a coverage level of 71.1 per cent while the UK ranks 11th with 53.9 per cent.

The rising level of vaccinations should also keep Canada on course to reopen its international borders.

The government announced on Monday that provided the country’s Covid-19 epidemiology “remains favourable” it planned to allow fully vaccinated US tourists to enter from August 9, before extending the same courtesy on September 7 to those from other destinations.

New York City’s mayor and health commissioner on Monday ruled out the imposition of a general face mask mandate, despite calls in the city council to take stronger measures to curb the spread of the Delta variant of Covid-19.

Officials said the strain accounts for nearly 70 per cent of new cases that have emerged in the city in recent weeks.

“Masks have value unquestionably, but masks are not going at the root of the problem, vaccination is, so we do not intend a mask mandate,” Bill de Blasio, the city’s mayor, told reporters. 

Dave Chokshi, the city health chief, said the city’s focus was on the unvaccinated. About 4.5m New Yorkers — 53.5 per cent of the population — have been fully jabbed.

He said a mask mandate remains for high-risk settings such as public transit, schools and health care facilities.

“In those places, we do want people to continue wearing their masks regardless of their vaccination status,” Chokshi said.

New York City’s health chief said policies would focus on the unvaccinated, not the unmasked
New York City’s health chief said policies would focus on the unvaccinated, not the unmasked © Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg

Andrew Cuomo, the New York state governor, also urged residents to be vaccinated. “We are now being told that Covid is now mainly a pandemic among the unvaccinated,” he said.

“If you haven’t already, I encourage you to get your shot to best protect yourself and your loved ones against the variants spreading through the nation.”

Mark Levine, who heads the city council’s health committee, called at the weekend for a return of a mask mandate.

He was backed by a state assembly member, Jessica González-Rojas, who wrote on Twitter on Monday: “We need to bring back the mask mandate including for the vaccinated and double our efforts on vaccination. Pandemics need various tactics.”

Covid-19 restrictions contributed to an increase in political violence in some nations, and were used to erode human rights and democratic institutions, according to a UN agency’s analysis of a new study published on Monday.

There was an increase in protests and riots in the majority of fragile states last year compared with 2019, according to the study, “Secondary impacts of COVID-19: Closing civic space in fragile contexts”. More than 80,000 incidents of political violence were recorded during the year.

The data show that this was mirrored by a significant increase in state repression in response to the pandemic, the UN Development Programme said in a statement. 

“During the crisis, 61 per cent of countries implemented policies that violated human rights. Close to 90 per cent of fragile countries, where democratic governance is vulnerable and institutions often weak, saw violations of democratic standards during 2020.”

Using six national case studies, the study cites incidences of voter repression and delayed elections, increased censorship, repression of government critics and violence against public protesters.

Migrant workers, gay and lesbian communities and journalists also faced harassment and violence. 

“Some governments used the pandemic as an opportunity to crack down on dissent and limit freedoms,” said Klaus Kristensen, UN Development Programme Analyst and one of the authors. 

“Violations occurred in the vast majority of countries where, prior to the pandemic, the government was categorized as autocratic. In some places, Covid-19 has been a pretext for repression.”

Carnival said on Monday it would add seven more ships in the next three months, bringing its active fleet to 15 liners as the cruise business continues its ramp up. 

In September, Carnival Glory would resume sailings from New Orleans, followed by Carnival Pride out of Baltimore and Carnival Dream from Galveston.

Carnival said unvaccinated travellers would be “welcome”, provided they undertake “pre-cruise and pre-embarkation testing and testing again prior to debarkation on cruises longer than four days”.

The cruise line charges passengers $150 per person to cover the costs of testing, reporting and health and safety screenings. 

Unvaccinated customers departing from Florida and Texas would also need to show proof of travel insurance coverage.

However, Carnival said its supervised programmes for children and youths would be limited to vaccinated customers.

“The decision to sail with vaccinated voyages was a difficult one to make, and we recognise this is disappointing to some of our guests, especially the many families with children under the age of 12,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line.

“In consultation with our medical experts and advisers, we’ve determined this plan is in the best interests of the health and safety of our guests, crew and the destinations that we bring our ships to,” she added.

Sparked by the global logistical challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, two UN agencies have created a joint project to investigate improved emergency responses to health crises.

The World Food Programme and the World Health Organization have launched Initiate2, which brings together emergency services staff, research and academic institutions, and international and national partners to “promote knowledge sharing and skills transfer”.

The initiative emerged from a recent G20 side event co-hosted by the Italian government and the WFP that focused on the role of logistics in current and future health emergencies.

Initiate2 will develop standardised materials such as disease-specific field facilities and kits. The agencies will also train logistics and health responders on their installation and use.

“Health emergencies like the west Africa Ebola response and the current Covid-19 pandemic have shown just how crucial working together as a humanitarian community is, and so we’re extremely pleased to be able to further cement our role as an enabler of humanitarian response through this collaboration with WHO,” said Alex Marianelli, WFP director of supply chain.

The US recession stemming from the coronavirus pandemic lasted two months, making it the shortest downturn on record. The National Bureau of Economic Research, which is considered the official judge of when and how long recessions occurred, said on Monday that the economy bottomed out in April 2020. 

Andrew Lloyd Webber has cancelled the opening of his new West End musical Cinderella to full audiences, blaming the “blunt instrument” of government self-isolation rules. The show’s Monday evening performance, on the day all distancing restrictions were lifted in England, was cancelled after a cast member tested positive

Florida congressman Vern Buchanan announced he has tested positive for Covid-19, despite being fully vaccinated. The diagnosis comes against a backdrop of rising coronavirus infections in Florida, which has accounted for one in five new cases reported across the US over the past week. 

Iran will this week shut down two of its most important provinces, including its capital, as authorities intensify travelling restrictions in most of the country. The six-day shutdown from Tuesday centres on Tehran and its neighbour Alborz and will close banks and state institutions, adding to travel bans in most of Iran’s provinces.

Fans pose at a Black Widow screening in Los Angeles
Fans pose at a Black Widow screening in Los Angeles © Mario Anzuoni/Reuters

Cinema owners in the US have hit out at Disney for making Marvel’s Black Widow available simultaneously on the silver screen and its streaming platform. The National Association of Theatre Owners attributed the “stunning second weekend collapse in theatrical revenues” to Disney’s decision to stream the movie.

Executives at mid-sized American companies have turned sharply optimistic about the prospects for the US economy and their own businesses, according to a JPMorgan Chase survey that also cast doubt on predictions of a rout in the office property market. Business confidence is at its highest level in a decade.

Stonegate, the UK’s largest pub group, is suing for losses it suffered during the pandemic, in a bitter dispute between the hospitality and insurance industries. The company, backed by private equity group TDR Capital, is seeking £845m from MS Amlin, Liberty Mutual Insurance Europe and Zurich.

Taiwan on Monday approved its first domestic Covid-19 vaccine, boosting the country’s efforts to inoculate its 23.6m population. A committee of health officials and scientists granted emergency use authorisation to MVC-COV1901, a vaccine developed by Medigen, a Taiwanese pharmaceutical company.

The top US public health agency on Monday placed the UK on its highest tier for Covid-19 levels, urging Americans not to visit — on the same day that England celebrates “freedom day”.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention placed the UK on Level 4, a ranking reserved for countries with “very high” levels of Covid-19, and urged its citizens to avoid travel to the country.

The CDC uses a four-level system to categorise international travel destinations as well as US territories. 

  • Level 1 is reserved for places with a low level of Covid-19 transmission and the CDC asks citizens to ensure they are fully vaccinated before travel.

  • Level 2 signals moderate levels of Covid-19 and urges unvaccinated travellers at increased risk of severe illness to avoid non-essential travel to these destinations.

  • Level 3 indicates high levels of Covid-19 and the US agency urges unvaccinated travellers to avoid non-essential travel.

  • Level 4 indicates very high levels of Covid-19.

England on Monday removed all restrictions on social contact as part of prime minister Boris Johnson’s “freedom day”, even as coronavirus cases continued to surge across the UK. 

The number of new daily infections across the UK reached 39,950 on Monday, fuelled by the Delta variant, while the seven-day infection rate stands at 399.6 per 100,000 people.

The move by the CDC dealt a further blow to hopes that the US and UK will agree to open an air travel corridor before the end of the summer.

An association representing about 67,000 paediatricians in the US has recommended that all children attending school in the autumn should wear face masks, regardless of Covid-19 vaccination status.

The updated guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics goes a step further than the country’s top public health agency, which had said vaccinated students and teachers did not need to wear masks in schools if certain public health guidelines could be met.

“AAP recommends universal masking because a significant portion of the student population is not yet eligible for vaccines, and masking is proven to reduce transmission of the virus and to protect those who are not vaccinated,” the association said in a statement on Monday. The recommendation applies to everyone older than age 2.

Many schools may not have a system to monitor the vaccine status of students and staff, and some local communities may have low vaccination coverage that could allow Covid-19 to circulate more prominently, AAP continued.

In its updated guidance, AAP also said it “strongly recommends” in-person learning and urged eligible individuals to get vaccinated.

That echoes updated guidance earlier this month from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which acknowledged the importance of in-person learning and said reopening schools in autumn was a “priority”. The public health agency said fully vaccinated students and staff would not need to wear face coverings, with the caveat that administrators could mandate universal mask wearing based on local Covid-19 transmission rates.

Those caveats also mean that if a school is unable to keep students a recommended distance of 3ft apart in the classroom, they should “layer” other health measures such as wearing a mask indoors.

In the wake of the CDC’s guidance, California acknowledged that many of its school facilities could not accommodate appropriate levels of physical distancing and said it would continue to require students to wear masks indoors in order to help achieve the bigger goal of returning to in-person learning.

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