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: 09/04/2021 New cases week ending: 02/04/2021 New cases vs previous week
World 131,642,052 2,857,926 3,380,004 3,105,409 Up
United States 30,706,129 555,001 323,686 506,660 Down
India 12,589,067 165,101 260,742 155,941 Up
Brazil 13,013,601 332,752 527,917 467,944 Up
Russia 4,580,894 100,374 75,545 57,579 Up
United Kingdom 4,359,388 126,836 38,145 39,918 Down
France 4,822,470 96,678 210,941 167,429 Up
Spain 3,311,325 75,783 33,741 34,092 Down
Italy 3,668,264 111,030 153,234 155,656 Down
Turkey 3,487,050 32,263 133,732 98,973 Up
Germany 2,893,883 77,013 91,376 70,656 Up
Mexico 2,251,705 204,339 29,431 37,252 Down
Indonesia 1,496,085 40,449 40,729 39,793 Up
Netherlands 1,305,803 16,609 45,084 38,713 Up
Canada 1,014,373 23,118 25,672 22,349 Up
Switzerland 602,578 9,677 10,416 8,759 Up
Japan 482,867 9,221 8,875 7,914 Up
Saudi Arabia 392,682 6,697 2,613 2,576 Up
China 101,860 4,841 178 241 Down
South Korea 105,752 1,748 3,058 3,200 Down
Australia 29,348 909 89 80 Up
Source: ECDC as of 17:00 GMT and Evaluate research.
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