Inside Covid-19: Deep insights on how people have battled Covid-19 demons; Ivermectin SA legal battle – behind-the-scenes 

When the Covid-19 pandemic first swept across the globe and governments instituted lockdowns, many people thought the crisis would be over in a few months. But a year later, many countries are still under lockdown rules, even as vaccinations are rolled out. In a powerful, in-depth report from Bloomberg, we hear how people in the world’s richest nation have been coping – and failing to cope – with the new world order in the era of Covid-19. Also in this episode, we share an update on the role of Ivermectin in treating Covid-19, including from lawyer Bongani Luthuli of Bongani Khanyile ka Luthuli Attorneys who has been involved in taking the South African regulatory authority to court in a battle to legalise the use of Ivermectin specifically for Covid-19. – Jackie Cameron

Inside Covid-19 headlines

  • Global Tracker: Cases worldwide pass 121.8 million; deaths top 2.69 million, with just under 52,000 people reported as having died of the disease in South Africa.
  • Vaccine Tracker: More than 410 million shots given worldwide; in South Africa just under 178,000 healthcare workers have been vaccinated against Covid-19 
  • US to reach 100 million vaccinations goal six weeks early
  • Europe’s efforts to speed up its Covid-19 vaccination campaign now face the hurdle of damage to public trust after a chaotic week of vaccine suspensions, health scares and export-ban threats, says Bloomberg. Countries across the European Union, including Germany, France and Spain, are resuming using AstraZeneca’s vaccine after temporarily suspending it to investigate a possible blood-clot issue. But while the European Medicines Agency has cleared the shot for use, worries among citizens may linger. Leaders, aware of the hit to confidence, are getting their own jabs to show it’s safe, with French Prime Minister Jean Castex taking his on Friday. Public confidence is crucial for the EU, which is trying to get a grip on a vaccine drive that’s lagging the US and the UK. The rising pace of coronavirus cases and a renewed four-week lockdown announced Thursday for parts of France underscore the urgency of the threat.
  • In Germany, Health Minister Jens Spahn said Friday the country is in the “third wave of the pandemic.” Cases there are increasing by the most in two months, close to a level that could trigger new restrictions, says Bloomberg.
  • The UK didn’t suspend the Astra vaccine, but is also working to prevent any damage to its campaign. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was treated for Covid last year, will get vaccinated, and has said it will “certainly” be the Astra shot. The European Union has a chance to put its Covid-19 inoculation push back on track after a chaotic week that’s ended with its medicines regulator lifting a suspension of vaccines made by AstraZeneca.
  • While most nations in the bloc, including Germany, France, Italy, will restart administering the shots, Scandinavian countries will wait for a green light from local regulators on the risk of side effects. Norway’s prime minister faced a police probe after she flouted her own government’s Covid restrictions.
  • Cases in Germany rose by the most in two months, just days before Chancellor Angela Merkel decides on how to proceed with the country’s lockdown restrictions.
  • Mauritius received 200,000 doses of India’s only homegrown coronavirus vaccine, Covaxin on Friday, its third delivery of shots, the Government Information Service said in a statement. The tourism dependent-country ordered a two-week nationwide lockdown on March 9 because of a resurgence in local coronavirus infections. Tourism revenue slumped 72% to 17.7 billion rupees ($438m) in 2020.
  • South Korea’s capital city of Seoul rescinded an administrative order requiring all foreign employees to get tested for Covid-19 after cluster outbreaks at companies with migrant workers. The city said it now only “advises” foreign workers to get the test. The change came after outcry from foreigners who called the measure discriminatory and xenophobic.
  • Russia is to produce more vaccines in India. The Russian Direct Investment Fund announced an agreement with India’s Stelis Biopharma to produce 200 million doses of Sputnik V vaccine starting in the third quarter, says Bloomberg. The deal follows one with Gland Pharma to supply 252 million shots announced earlier this week and helps cement India’s roll as the biggest producer of the Russian vaccine.
  • Norway’s prime minister, who faces elections in September, will be the subject of a police probe after she flouted her own government’s Covid restrictions. Erna Solberg admitted in an interview with state broadcaster NRK that she breached national guidelines when she took part in a family gathering that included more people than currently allowed. Police will look into the matter, local media cited the Southwestern Police District as saying in a statement on Friday.
  • The European Medicines Agency’s assertion that AstraZeneca’s vaccine is safe and effective fell flat in Scandinavia, where countries are keeping the company on hold until local authorities complete their own reviews. Sweden, Denmark and Norway put out statements shortly after the EMA’s reassurances were made public late on Thursday. All three said they expect to make a decision next week, pending the outcome of national reviews of Astra’s vaccine.
  • ImmunityBio will have its first Covid-19 vaccine made in South Africa by The Biovac Institute, a partly state-owned company, once regulators approve it. ImmunityBio’s vaccine, which is in phase 1 trials in South Africa and the US, uses a cold germ, known as adenovirus 5, to act against the coronavirus, says Bloomberg.
  • Bloomberg reports that Germany’s coronavirus cases rose by the most in two months, just days before Chancellor Angela Merkel decides on how to proceed with the country’s lockdown restrictions. The number of new cases jumped by 28,489 in the 24 hours through Friday morning, the most since Jan. 21 according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The country’s seven-day incidence rate per 100,000 people climbed to 95.6, the highest in more than a month and close to the level that triggers an “emergency brake” at which regional restrictions need to be reimposed. Merkel and regional leaders are due to meet Monday to decide on the next steps in the fight against the pandemic. Germany’s remaining lockdown restrictions expire on March 28.
  • Indonesia has lifted a suspension on AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine and plans to start distributing it next week, while the government will expand the current movement restrictions to five provinces to further bring down number of positive cases and deaths, says Bloomberg.
  • India added almost 40,000 new cases Friday – the highest one-day jump since end of November – pushing the overall tally past 11.5 million, according to the health ministry data. New cases have nearly doubled in a week as the third-worst hit nation scrambles to contain another wave of infections that may undermine a recent economic recovery. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said earlier this week that the country needs to increase testing and tracing to arrest this sharp spike. India imposed the world’s biggest lockdown in March last year, pushing millions deeper in poverty and hobbling the local economy. Deaths rose to 159,370 as of Friday while a little over 39 million Covid-19 vaccines have been administered. Meanwhile, the Serum Institute of India is planning to expand capacity by end April or early May with an aim to increase vaccine production by another 40m-50m doses, CNBC reports.
  • The European Union faces a tough task in seeking to introduce so-called Covid-19 passports by June to get people traveling again, according to the owner of France’s busiest airport, says Bloomberg.
  • Thailand will reduce the mandatory quarantine period for foreign travellers from next month but deferred a decision on recognising vaccine certificates for easier global mobility amid a spike in global virus cases.
  • Hong Kong’s government sees the potential to relax some social distancing measures when at least 50% of the people in the city are vaccinated, and the government may consider resuming hospital and care home visitations if visitors and staff are vaccinated.
  • Health Canada says that the benefits of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine continue to outweigh the risks, according to a statement. Health Canada says it assessed the available data and determined that the vaccine has not been associated with an increase in overall risk of blood clots, says the news wire.
  • France is locking down the Paris area as it suffers to contain a third wave of the coronavirus epidemic, Prime Minister Jean Castex announced. In a bid to contain the resurgence in cases, only essential businesses and schools will stay open, he said on Thursday. The measures will start from midnight on Friday and will remain in place for four weeks, says Bloomberg.

* This podcast is brought to you by Discovery.