Covid-19 Update

Commentary is updated weekly. Last commentary updated April 14, 2021. 

April 14: The upward trend of global Covid-19 cases has been sustained over the last couple of weeks, and while Europe is still contributing heavily to this number the worsening situation in Brazil and India is causing concern globally. Both countries are seeing a significant ramp up in new cases, and healthcare systems there are struggling to deal with huge numbers of patients. Vaccination is seen as the way out of the current pandemic, but the roll out in western countries has again been hindered by safety concerns. While many European countries have resumed use of the Oxford/Astrazenca vaccine, albeit with restriction around age, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine has been temporarily suspended in the US following reports of unusual clotting. This matters because the one shot J&J vaccine and the cheaper Oxford/AZ jab had been the biggest hopes for developing countries to get their vaccination programmes up and running, but with mounting concerns over two the vaccines and a possible class effect that could also impact the Sputnik V vaccine, any global rollout of vaccine could be slowed down. 

Round up of cases and deaths

Worldwide – Fuelled by new cases in Brazil and India and steep rises in Russia, France, Germany and Turkey, Covid-19 infections across the globe have started to accelerate. Total cases have now surpassed 130 million and each week over 3 million new people are being infected with the virus. To date almost 2.9 million people across the globe have lost their lives to the virus.

US – The US vaccination programme appears to be showing its benefits with a 150,000 drop in new cases since last week. More than 190 million Americans have now had their first dose of a vaccine. However, following the reports of rare blot clots in six women receiving the J&J vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control this week took the decision to temporarily suspend further shots. A decision on the resumption of the vaccine could be made today, but there are fears that, even a very limited stop could increase vaccine hesitancy. Confidence in vaccination will need to remain high in the US, because despite overall falls in new cases a number of states are reporting rising infection levels, as social distancing restrictions are lifted across the country. 

Europe – Europe’s efforts to curb infections have been hindered by continuing problems with the European Union’s vaccine roll out. The EU bloc has been trying to get to grips with advising citizens on the use of the Oxford/AZ vaccine following reports of unusual clotting in a small number of people. Concerns over clotting in younger women in particular have led some in the bloc instituting age restrictions on use of the vaccine, with many limiting its use to older people, while Denmark has decided to stop its use permanently. There has been an equally mixed reaction to the use of the J&J vaccine, with Sweden pausing its rollout, until the outcome of a EMA review, but France taking the decision to continue its. The EMA is expected to announce the findings of its review next week. But given its previous ruling on the Oxford/AZ vaccine, that the benefits outweighed the risk, it would be unusual if the outcome was different. Despite a majority of European countries experiencing rising cases, some are trying to open up to help their struggling economies. Greece, which heavily relies on tourism, is planning to lift quarantine restrictions on travellers from some countries where vaccination levels are high, including Britain, Israel, the US and the UAE. 

Asia – India is in the grip of a major crisis with new daily Covid-19 cases now surpassing those at the height of the first wave in the country. Since last week new cases have increased by a further 100,000 and the country’s healthcare system is buckling under the weight of serious infections. India is now close to overtaking Brazil in terms of total Covid-19 cases, but for now still significantly lags the Latin American country when it comes to Covid deaths. It had been thought that the low cases India had reported at the beginning of the year, despite its large population, had been down to people being protected by immunity from previous coronavirus infections. But recent months have seen a breakdown in social distancing, with large crowds either attending political rallies or religious ceremonies. Alongside the weak adherence to social distancing, different attitudes to mask wearing and a vaccine programme that has experienced supply and roll out issues, it is thought the situation has been made worse by a new more virulent strain of the virus. If reports of young people and even children becoming seriously ill due to the variant are proved to be true governments around the world will be closely monitoring the situation. Case numbers are rising again in Japan, with almost 1,000 more cases this week, a statistic that could cause concern given that there are now less than 100 days before the start of the Olympic Games. 

ROW – While India is causing concern with its rising case numbers, Brazil remains the epicentre of the global pandemic. The country this week reported a staggering 527,917 new cases, pushing total recorded infections over the 13 million mark; the country is also still the second worst affected in terms of mortality with over 330,000 citizens losing their lives to the virus. While the situation in the country has been made worse by the emergence of the highly infectious P1 variant, many have blamed President Jair Bolsonaro’s handling of the crisis. Brazil’s senate has now launched an investigation into Mr Bolsonaro’s actions. 

Coronavirus in top 20 economic powers
Country Total cases Total deaths New cases week ending: 23/04/2021 New cases week ending: 16/04/2021 New cases vs previous week
World 147,212,708 3,113,482 5,635,263 5,295,100 Up
United States Of America 32,125,099 572,674 454,253 402,714 Up
India 17,118,040 195,123 2,056,121 1,534,202 Up
Brazil 14,369,423 391,936 395,728 455,887 Down
Russia 4,771,372 108,588 69,271 60,711 Up
United Kingdom 4,404,882 127,428 17,062 14,477 Up
France 5,498,044 102,887 208,518 230,846 Down
Spain 3,488,469 77,738 60,115 58,098 Up
Italy 3,962,674 119,238 92,543 100,317 Down
Turkey 4,629,969 38,358 361,522 419,436 Down
Germany 3,299,325 81,624 145,626 142,186 Up
Mexico 2,329,534 215,113 22,624 17,606 Up
Indonesia 1,641,194 44,594 36,846 37,353 Down
Netherlands 1,465,439 17,041 56,272 53,550 Up
Canada 1,187,918 24,024 56,145 60,757 Down
Switzerland 648,847 9,915 14,453 11,268 Up
Japan 562,141 9,913 28,089 30,649 Down
Saudi Arabia 413,174 6,913 8,204 6,535 Up
China 102,384 4,845 142 186 Down
South Korea 119,387 1,817 4,741 4,500 Up
Australia 29,666 910 147 114 Up
Source: ECDC as of 17:00 GMT and Evaluate research.
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