LA bars to require proof of vaccination; South Africa r…

The Cape Town Philharmonic holds a lunch-hour Concert of Gratitude at Groote Schuur Hospital for frontline health workers nationally on 15 September 2021 in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: Gallo Images / Brenton Geach)

South Africa registered 4,667 new Covid-19 cases, bringing the cumulative total to 2,869,201. A further 166 Covid-19-related deaths were reported, taking total official deaths to 85,468. A total of 15,447,034 people have been vaccinated.

Pfizer said data from the US and Israel suggest that the efficacy of its vaccine wanes over time, and that a booster dose was safe and effective at warding off the virus and new variants.

US President Joe Biden met with executives who’ve taken steps to require employees to be vaccinated, turning to businesses to drive a new wave of inoculations. The number of people getting a first dose is declining again in the US after a fleeting uptick in August, underscoring Biden’s challenge.

China’s economy weakened further last month after virus curbs dampened consumer spending, a trend that may be extended as students and teachers were urged to avoid travel for the upcoming holidays. Singapore said the treatment plan for most people with breakthrough infections will be home quarantine. 

Key developments 

Los Angeles to require vaccine proof at bars 

Proof of vaccination will be required at indoor bars, wineries, breweries, nightclubs and lounges in Los Angeles County under a forthcoming health order, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The mandate will also apply to employees of those establishments and require that both they and patrons have at least one vaccine dose by October 7 and are fully vaccinated by November 4, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said at a Board of Supervisors meeting on Wednesday, according to the newspaper.

New York to allow EMTs to give vaccines 

New York state will allow basic emergency medical technicians to administer vaccines, to alleviate anticipated staffing shortages once boosters are approved, Governor Kathy Hochul said.

Approximately 2,000 EMTs are eligible, while another 50,000 can be eligible once they complete training that takes a few hours, she said.

Hochul also added child-care centres to the list of facilities in the state that must require masks.

ICU beds full in southern Illinois 

The Illinois Department of Public Health reported zero available intensive-care unit beds in the southern region of the state, according to the latest count. None of the 88 ICU beds were available in Region 5 of the state’s emergency medical services regions. Region 5 is made up of 20 of the state’s southernmost counties. Data reported by the health department are based on daily counts that hospitals report and considered “provisional” and may be subject to change. There are 605 ICU beds available statewide.

World Expo requires vaccination or tests 

Visitors to Dubai’s World Expo will now be required to provide vaccination certificates or get tested to enter the event, under new rules issued days after organisers said inoculations weren’t needed.

Visitors will now be required to present proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test taken within the previous 72 hours, Expo 2020’s organisers said on Wednesday. Those who aren’t vaccinated and haven’t been tested can get a free PCR test at the event site.

The move would mark a shift from last week when the organisers said they “encourage” vaccination, but visitors wouldn’t be required to provide proof of immunisation or a negative PCR test. The Expo is one of the world’s biggest in-person events since the pandemic began and is expected to attract 25 million visits over six months.

Pfizer says vaccine efficacy erodes 

Pfize said that data from the US and Israel suggest that the efficacy of its vaccine wanes over time, and that a booster dose was safe and effective at warding off the virus and new variants.

The company detailed the data in a presentation it will deliver to a meeting of outside advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration on Friday. 

Separately, blood plasma taken from people immunised with the vaccine was able to neutralise the Lambda and Delta-plus variants in a lab study, a sign that the shot continues to be protective. The company-sponsored study was posted on BioRxiv, a preprint site, and has not been subject to peer review. 

Biden to meet executives on vaccine mandates 

President Joe Biden will meet with executives who’ve taken steps to require employees to be vaccinated.

Biden will meet at the White House with Brad Smith, president of Microsoft; Bob Chapek, chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Company; Roz Brewer, CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance; Tim Boyle, president and CEO of Columbia Sportswear; Greg Adams, CEO of Kaiser Permanente, and others, according to an official familiar with the meeting, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Biden will emphasise that businesses that have required shots have seen sharp increases in vaccination rates in short periods of time, the official said. White House officials hope the event serves as a rallying cry for other workplaces, the official said. 

Lilly to supply 388,000 antibody doses to US

Eli Lilly will supply 388,000 doses of its neutralising antibody therapy etesevimab to the US government, with much of that being shipped in the third quarter.

WHO sees vaccine progress in Africa 

Headway is being made in efforts to secure more coronavirus vaccines for Africa, where less than 3.5% of the population has been fully inoculated, according to the head of the World Health Organization.

“Between now and the end of the year we expect the volumes of vaccines coming into Africa to increase substantially,” said Tedros Ghebreyesus, the WHO’s director-general. “That makes it crucial that all countries step up their preparations to roll out vaccines.”

Officials from the WHO, the Covax initiative and the African Union’s Africa Vaccine Acquisition Trust met on Tuesday to discuss the continent’s vaccine shortfall and how to address it.

Putin ‘is feeling fine’ in self-isolation 

Russian President Vladimir Putin “is feeling fine, absolutely healthy”, as he continues self-isolation after being exposed to a staffer with Covid, a spokesman said. Putin is maintaining a full work schedule, holding meetings by videoconference and limiting in-person contacts “as much as possible”, he said.

Hungary sees no lockdowns as deaths rise 

Hungary doesn’t plan to reintroduce lockdown measures since a majority of the population is now vaccinated, Cabinet Minister Gergely Gulyas said.

Even with infections set to rise, the government expects serious cases and deaths to be significantly lower now than in earlier waves of the pandemic, he told reporters on Wednesday. 

Hungary, which has had the world’s highest per-capita deaths from coronavirus after Peru since the outbreak of the pandemic, reported that 12 people died on Tuesday, the highest level for a single day in more than three months. 

Japan finds floating material in vaccines 

Two more cities in Japan reported finding white-colored floating substances in Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine vials and said they will ask for an analysis. Pfizer said it’s investigating the substances. 

China advises students, teachers not to travel 

China’s Ministry of Education advised students and teachers not to travel during the upcoming holidays in late September and early October, according to a state TV report. 

The country’s Delta outbreak continued to grow in the southeastern province of Fujian, with 51 infections reported on Wednesday. The city of Putian, the manufacturing hub where the first handful of cases were detected, reported 33 cases. Xiamen, which has been placed in lockdown, reported 13 infections, including one that’s asymptomatic. Port city Quanzhou found five infections.

No local cases have been reported elsewhere in China, though tens of thousands left Fujian prior to the outbreak, prompting experts to warn about a potential spread to the rest of the country.

Taiwan’s New Taipei City to relax curbs 

Taiwan’s New Taipei City will allow dine-in services from Thursday as the recent outbreak stabilises, Mayor Hou Yu-ih said at a briefing. Libraries, sports centres and swimming pools will reopen as well.

Yet the government doesn’t plan to downgrade the current Level 2 Alert after September 20 given several recent cluster infections, health minister Chen Shih-chung said at a briefing. 

Italy set to extend vaccine pass 

The Italian government is set to approve a plan to require proof-of-vaccination documents for workers in the public and private sectors starting in mid-October, Corriere della Sera reported. A decree law may be approved on Thursday.

The new rules would extend the country’s use of the documents – known as Green Passes – to the private sector, affecting transport including taxis. The passes require at least a first dose of vaccine, proof of recovery from Covid or a recent negative test.

Australia’s search for new workers 

Hundreds of overseas workers could be welcomed to Australia in the next 10 months under a new class of visa the government is creating to aid the post-pandemic recovery – even as tens of thousands of its own citizens remain stranded overseas.

The visa will streamline entry requirements to allow the rapid relocation of workers critical to establishing a business in Australia. 

South Africa hampered by HIV epidemic 

The world’s biggest number of HIV cases is complicating South Africa’s efforts to fight the pandemic, raising the risk of more mutated versions emerging and spreading across the globe.

Many of the country’s 8.2 million HIV-infected people are immuno-compromised and scientists say they can harbour the coronavirus for longer, allowing it to mutate as it reproduces. A study of an HIV-positive 36-year-old woman showed that Covid-19 stayed in her body for 216 days and mutated rapidly.

Ho Chi Minh City plans reopening 

Vietnam’s commercial hub, Ho Chi Minh City, plans to gradually reopen in three phases beginning on October 1 if the outbreak is considered contained, the city’s media centre reported on its website. Party Chief Nguyen Van Nen said plans call for the reopening of “eligible” factories in the suburban districts of Can Gio, Cu Chi and 7, home to several industrial parks and global suppliers, according to the post. The statement did not provide a clear timing. 

India finds more new cases 

India added 27,176 new cases, a 7% increase over the previous day, according to government data. The death toll increased by 284 to 443,497. 

China’s economy weakens 

China’s economy weakened further in August after the government imposed stringent measures to contain a widespread outbreak, curbing consumer spending and travel during the peak summer holiday break. 

Retail sales growth slowed sharply to 2.5% from a year ago. Industrial output rose 5.3%. 

Even before the Delta variant outbreak from late July, consumers spent more cautiously, failing to fuel the economy back to pre-pandemic levels. Recent regulatory crackdowns in property and education services have also weighed on consumer sentiment. 

New South Wales sees lockdown lift 

Australia’s most-populous state is on track to lift lockdown measures within weeks after first-dose adult vaccination rates reached 80%.

New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian praised the immunisation effort and urged more people to come forward. Her government last week outlined a plan to lift stay-at-home orders for the fully vaccinated once 70% of those aged over 16 have received two shots. That number currently sits at 47.5% and the state is expected to see increased freedoms – like the reopening of pubs, restaurants and gyms – in mid-October. A night-time curfew for Sydney’s worst-affected areas will be lifted Wednesday, Berejiklian said.

Meantime Ballarat, a city of more than 100,000 people in Victoria, will go into a seven-day lockdown due to an increase in cases.

Singapore sees cases surging 

Singapore recorded a total of 837 new cases on Tuesday, including five imported infections, according to the Ministry of Health, more than doubling from a week before. The number of hospitalised patients reached 809, with 75 of them suffering serious illness that require oxygen supplementation, and nine in intensive care, the ministry said in a statement. 

Other countries across Asia Pacific also reported more cases. South Korea added 2,080 more infections and said 67.3% of its population have had their first round of vaccinations. New Zealand announced 14 new cases in the community while Thailand reported 13,798 more infections. DM

With assistance from Cindy Wang, Li Liu, Flavia Rotondi, Antony Sguazzin, Ainslie Chandler, Go Onomitsu, Zoltan Simon, Ilya Arkhipov, Deana Kjuka, Naomi Kresge, Matthew Hill, Erin McClam, Josh Wingrove, Adveith Nair, Elizabeth Campbell, Stacie Sherman and Keshia Clukey.

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