Covid-19 deaths pass 700,000; WHO to send 43 specialists to SA

The Covid-19 global death toll has now surpassed 700,00, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. And despite South Africa having a relatively low death toll of 8,884 due to the coronavirus, the World Health Organization is sending 43 specialists to help SA deal with the virus. As reported by Bloomberg, the WHO has raised concerns, responding to the country’s request for help. According to Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, all sudden deaths, as well as those that occur at home, must now be tested for the virus before a death certificate is issued. Reason being SA’s discrepancy between its confirmed Covid fatalities and the number of excess natural deaths. With the news, medical researchers have insinuated that SA’s death toll may be higher than documented. With 18.5 million global cases, Bloomberg News give a further breakdown on what’s happening across the globe. – Nadim Nyjer 

WHO sends specialists to South Africa to help contain pandemic

By Janice Kew

(Bloomberg) – The World Health Organization is sending dozens of senior experts to South Africa to help the nation deal with the world’s fifth-highest number of coronavirus infections.

South Africa has more than half-a-million confirmed Covid-19 cases and expects the first wave of infections to peak around the end of August, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told reporters. The WHO is responding to a request for help by sending 43 specialists, with several arriving Wednesday, he said.

Read also: SA’s Covid-19 mortality rate remains low – Dave de Klerk

While South Africa has had reduced hospital admissions in recent weeks and its official virus death toll of 8,884 people is relatively low, medical researchers have found a discrepancy between the country’s confirmed Covid-19 fatalities and the number of excess natural deaths. All sudden deaths, as well as those that occur at home, must now be tested for the virus before a death certificate is issued, Mkhize said.

The country is also pursuing local vaccine manufacturing options and is participating in two global research projects, he said.

Scotland locks down oil hub; deaths top 700,000: virus Update

By Bloomberg News

(Bloomberg) – The global death toll from Covid-19 surpassed 700,000, data from Johns Hopkins University showed. The U.K. agreed to invest $18 million in a Scottish vaccine-manufacturing plant, while Moderna Inc. said it has received $400 million of deposits for its potential Covid-19 shot.

China will speed up approvals for rapid-turnaround coronavirus test products, while a key Japanese minister warned a major new virus wave is coming.

Scotland reimposed lockdown restrictions in Aberdeen, the country’s oil hub, after a spike in new cases.U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar will visit Taiwan to discuss the international response to the pandemic. Meanwhile, Bill Gates said the U.S. must take a more global approach in making vaccines available.

Key Developments

  • Global Tracker: Global cases top 18.5 million; deaths pass 700,000
  • Japan’s virus rise erodes support for Prime Minister Abe
  • Novavax shares go on wild swing after early vaccine data
  • Ireland’s pubs face “devastating” blow with reopening postponed
  • Join our Q&A on school reopenings at 10 a.m. NY/3 p.m London (Terminal users only)
The number of deaths resulting from Covid-19 has topped 700,000

Scotland Locks Down Oil Hub (7:46 a.m. NY)

Scotland reimposed lockdown restrictions on travel and indoor gatherings between households in Aberdeen, the country’s oil hub, after a spike in new coronavirus cases, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said.

“This shows what can happen if we let our guard drop and it should serve as a warning to all of us,” the Scottish leader said. “The risk of an even more significant outbreak is very real, which is why we have to take the decisive action we’ve announced today.”

Moderna Books $400 Million of Vaccine Deposits (7:44 a.m. NY)

Moderna Inc. said it has received $400 million of deposits so far for potential supply of its Covid-19 vaccine, as part of discussion with several countries.

Investors are waiting to see if Moderna strikes a deal to sell a big supply of its vaccine to the U.S. Its competitor Pfizer Inc. already has such a deal, at just under $40 for a two-shot regimen.

Vietnam Confirms 41 New Virus Cases (7:42 a.m. NY)

Vietnam reported 41 new coronavirus cases, with 40 tied to the coastal city of Danang and one returning from Russia, bringing the country’s total infections to 713, according to the health ministry.

Since the Danang outbreak started July 25, authorities have placed 20,645 people in quarantine centers, isolated 1,565 people in hospitals and ordered 97,831 others to quarantine at home.

WHO Sends Team to Virus-Hit South Africa (6:51 a.m. NY)

The World Health Organization is sending 43 specialists to South Africa, which has more than half a million confirmed cases and expects infections to peak near the end of August.

South Africa has seen reduced hospital admissions in recent weeks, and its official virus death rate at 8,884 people is relatively low, though medical researchers have found a discrepancy between the country’s confirmed Covid-19 fatalities and the number of excess natural deaths.

All sudden deaths as well, as those that occur at home, must now be evaluated for the virus before a death certificate is issued, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize told reporters Wednesday.

Animal Tourism Industry Worth $29 Billion Under Threat (6:27 a.m. NY)

Africa’s wildlife tourism industry, which usually generates $29 billion a year and employs 3.6 million people, is under threat as the coronavirus has brought leisure travel to a near halt, a report published in Nature Ecology & Evolution said.

U.K. Retailer WH Smith to Cut 1,500 Jobs (6:23 a.m. NY)

WH Smith Plc is to eliminate 1,500 jobs in a fresh blow to Britain’s retail sector, which is struggling to recover from the pandemic lockdown.

The newsagent and stationery retailer said it had to reduce costs as its business continues to suffer from a low level of customer visits. Most of the job cuts will come from stores located in airports and railway stations

Poland Reports Most Deaths in 5 Weeks (5:35 p.m. HK)

Poland reported 18 new coronavirus-related deaths in the past 24 hours, the most in a day since June 30, taking the total to 1,756 as an outbreak in the country’s industrial heartland worsens.

The pace of new cases slowed from Tuesday’s record 680, rising by 640 to 48,789, mostly in the southern coal mining region of Silesia and at a poultry processing company in the western district of Wielkopolska.

Experts Shoot Down Osaka’s Gargling Claim (5:07 p.m. HK)

There’s not enough evidence to support Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura’s claim that gargling with diluted povidone-iodine could prevent mild coronavirus patients from falling seriously ill, Toshio Nakagawa, chairman of the Japan Medical Association, told reporters Wednesday. The World Health Organization Centre for Health Development also added to skepticism.

“I understand that the governor must be very concerned about the sudden growth of cases in his region and is looking for some positive news,” said Nakagawa, adding that “we should keep calm and research it.”

Shelves across Japan were stripped clean of popular brands after the governor’s comments. Fears are growing of a new virus wave coming to Japan.

Hong Kong Outbreak Shows Signs of Slowing Down (4:39 p.m. HK)

Hong Kong reported fewer than 100 local coronavirus cases for the third straight day, as the city’s worst outbreak shows signs of abating under tightened restrictions.

The Asian financial hub added a total of 82 local infections on Wednesday, according to data from the city’s health department. Thirty-three were unlinked to previous cases. The results come after Hong Kong reported 75 local cases on Tuesday and 80 on Monday.

Sweden Fell Into Record Slump During Virus Peak (4:08 p.m. HK)

Sweden saw a softer economic contraction than in the U.S. or the euro area, but was unable to escape its worst slump on record despite adopting one of Europe’s softest approaches to the pandemic.

Gross domestic product shrunk 8.2% in the second quarter, compared with the same quarter of 2019, according to a first estimate from Statistics Sweden. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had expected a year-on-year drop of 7.4%.

Sweden relied on voluntary public health guidelines during the outbreak, and saw a considerably higher mortality rate than in neighbouring countries.

Sweden's economy posted its biggest contraction in 2Q

Euro-Area Recovery Stronger Than Expected (4:00 p.m. HK)

Businesses in the euro zone saw stronger-than-initially reported growth in July, with output expanding for the first time since lockdowns in March.

Services providers and manufacturers both saw activity pick up. A composite purchasing managers’ index rose to 54.9, the highest level in just over two years and above a flash estimate. Orders increased for the first time in five months.

Taiwan Requires Longer Quarantine for Visitors From Japan (3:23 p.m. HK)

Travelers from Japan will now need to undergo 14-day quarantine when entering Taiwan, Taiwan Centers for Disease Control said, after the country was dropped from a list of areas that posed a low to mid-level of virus risk due to a surge in cases.

BMW Reports Loss on Virus Impact (2:24 p.m. HK)

The widening pandemic pushed BMW AG into its first quarterly loss in more than a decade as deliveries tanked. It rounded out a dismal quarter for German car manufacturers, with main rivals Volkswagen AG and Daimler AG also posting big losses.

The German manufacturer lost 666 million euros ($787 million) before interest and taxes between April and June, its first quarterly deficit since the financial crisis in 2009.

Virus Will Remain in Germany ‘For a Long Time’ (1:45 p.m. HK)

The coronavirus will be present in Germany “for a long time” and the health care system must be ready to cope if infections rise further, according to the chair of the World Medical Association Council, Frank Montgomery, who spoke on DLF radio.

The country has seen an uptick in daily infections in recent days compared with mid-July. The number of cases rose by 717 in the 24 hours through Wednesday, taking the total to 212,828, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

U.K. to Invest in Vaccine Factory (1 p.m. HKT)

The U.K. government and Valneva SE will each invest 14 million pounds ($18 million) in a Scottish plant that will make the French biotech firm’s Covid-19 vaccine, a person with knowledge of the matter said. Britain has reached deals for at least 250 million doses from four different vaccine developers in recent weeks, giving it one of the highest number of Covid-19 vaccine doses per capita globally.

Convalescent Plasma Lowers Mortality: WSJ (10:53 a.m. HK)

Transfusions of blood rich with antibodies from recovered Covid-19 patients to those currently hospitalized with the virus reduced their mortality rate by about 50%, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing data slides it saw from researchers who presented their analysis to physicians at a Mayo Clinic webinar.

The data, based on an analysis of about 3,000 patients, was submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration but hasn’t been published in a journal or subject to peer review. An FDA spokesperson told WSJ it can’t comment on the conclusions.

Australia’s Virus Hotspot Sees Record Cases (11:08 a.m. HK)

Victoria reported a record daily coronavirus case total as Australia’s second-most populous state enters its strictest lockdown since the pandemic began.

The state had 725 new cases in the past 24 hours, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters in Melbourne. Fifteen people died in that period.

Meanwhile, economists at Australia New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. said they now see nationwide employment falling by 50,000 in August and September, reversing an earlier forecast of a 40,000 increase in jobs.

Azar to Visit Taiwan, Discuss Covid-19 Virus (10:09 a.m. HK)

Azar is scheduled to arrive in Taiwan “in the coming days” to discuss the global response to the pandemic and give supplies of medical equipment and technology, according to a statement on Wednesday from the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto U.S. embassy in Taipei. It is the first cabinet-level visit to Taiwan in six years.

The visit comes amid steadily escalating tensions between the U.S. and China, which Taiwan officials accuse of taking a more hostile posture toward the island with a sharp increase in military incursions into its air defense identification zone.

Gates Urges U.S. to Help Poorer Countries (9:01 a.m. HK)

The Microsoft Corp. founder and philanthropist said in an interview that while the U.S. leads in research, “we’ve only taken care of ourselves” in producing and procuring a vaccine.

He’s encouraged Congress to consider adding $8 billion to a relief bill currently being debated to help less-developed countries procure an eventual vaccine.

Gates also said he believes a vaccine will likely be approved by the beginning of 2021, though that may be a “stop-gap” primarily available to wealthier nations. More effective vaccines, Gates said, may take longer to develop.

WHO Urges Caution Over Russia Covid-19 Vaccine (8:15 a.m. HK)

The World Health Organization has urged caution over a coronavirus vaccine that Russia has been developing, the Telegraph reported, citing a document from the organization.

The global health body said that while the vaccine is in clinical trials, no second- or third-phase trials from Russia have been listed to date. The vaccine by the Gamaleya Research Institute in Moscow is still in phase one trials and far behind some of other prospective candidates.

Tokyo Olympics to Be Held ‘With Corona’ (7:55 a.m. HK)

Toshiro Muto, chief executive of Tokyo’s Olympic organizing committee, told the Financial Times that the event will still take place next summer, and that the national government must take a larger role since a comprehensive virus strategy will be crucial.

“I don’t know what the state of coronavirus infections will be next summer, but the chances it is a thing of the past are not high. Rather, the important thing is to deliver an Olympics for people who must live with Covid-19,” the FT cited Muto as saying.

New Zealand Warned to Brace for Virus Return (6:05 a.m. HK)

New Zealand must prepare for another local outbreak of the coronavirus, the Director-General of Health warned. “It’s a matter of when, not if,” Ashley Bloomfield told Radio New Zealand on Wednesday.

“We are working on the basis it could be any time, of course coupled with doing everything we can to intercept the virus at the border,” he said.

Texas Positivity Rate Increases (5:05 p.m. NY Tuesday)

Texas’s positivity rate climbed for a third straight day, reaching 13.88%, the highest since July 22, according to state health department data. The figure was still down from the July 16 peak of 17.43%.

The Lone Star state also detected 9,167 new cases, bringing the total to date to 451,181. In Houston, the fourth-biggest US city, Covid-19 hospitalizations declined for a 14th consecutive day, according to the Texas Medical Center.

U.S. Cases Rise 1.1% (4 p.m. NY Tuesday)

Coronavirus cases in the U.S. increased 1.1%, as compared with the same time Monday, to 4.74 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. The increase was lower than the average 1.4% daily gain over the past week. Deaths rose 0.7% to 156,133.

  • Arizona reported 1,008 new cases, a drop from the day before and the lowest since late June. Total cases grew by 0.6%, less than the seven-day average of 1.2%.
  • Florida’s cases rose 1.1% from a day earlier to 497,330, compared with an average increase of 1.8% in the previous seven days. Deaths reached 7,402, an increase of 245, or 3.4%
  • Hawaii experienced a 9.2% increase in the number of cases from the same time yesterday, bringing the total to 2,448, according to the data from Johns Hopkins and Bloomberg News.