Health and Healthcare Systems

COVID-19: What you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic on 22 September

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a news conference organized by Geneva Association of United Nations Correspondents (ACANU) amid the COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus, at the WHO headquarters in Geneva Switzerland July 3, 2020. Fabrice Coffrini/Pool via REUTERS

'Vaccine nationalism will only perpetuate the disease' ... WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Image: Fabrice Coffrini/Reuters

Sean Fleming
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  • This daily round-up brings you a selection of the latest news updates on the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, as well as tips and tools to help you stay informed and protected.
  • Top stories: South Korea flu vaccine troubles; grim milestones for Mexico and the US; restrictions are relaxed in Bogota; Disneyland Hong Kong reopens.
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1. How COVID-19 continues to affect the globe

There are now more than 31 million confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine. The number of confirmed deaths has risen to over 965,000.

South Korea has paused its plans to offer free flu vaccinations to 19 million people this week. The decision came after an undisclosed number of doses were found to have been stored incorrectly while in transit. Protection from flu may help national healthcare systems cope with anticipated spikes in COVID-19 cases later this year.

Despite claims that infection rates are slowing, the number of confirmed cases in Mexico has passed 700,000. According to Reuters, Latin America has the highest confirmed case and fatality rates of any global region, standing at around 8.7 million and over 322,000 respectively.

Almost 200,000 COVID-19 deaths have been recorded in the US – the highest of any country. Around 800 people die each day in the US from the infection, according to Reuters’ data, which also states that six out of every 10,000 residents in the country have died from the virus. As of Tuesday 22 September, the US death toll stood at 199,884.

The financial impact of the pandemic on the US economy will be felt for decades, according to the country’s Congressional Budget Office. By 2050, federal government debt is expected to be 195% of GDP.

In Colombia, despite concerns of a new outbreak, restrictions are being lifted in the country’s capital, Bogota. The city’s mayor, Claudia Lopez, warned Bogota’s 8 million residents they will need to follow guidance on masks and social distancing: “If we maintain these bio-security rules, we can enjoy this new normality with more socializing, more activities and more work.”

Disneyland Hong Kong is reopening this week. The tourist destination was closed between January and June, and then closed again in mid-July. Visitors will have to wear masks, and the park will be closed on Tuesdays and Thursdays.


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2. Study finds possible link between dengue and resistance to COVID-19

Reuters has reported on the findings of a study that suggests people who have been exposed to dengue may have some level of COVID-19 immunity. The findings, which have not yet been peer-reviewed, were shared exclusively with the news service by Miguel Nicolelis, a professor at Duke University in the US.

The possible link was spotted when Nicolelis and his team were analysing the spread of COVID-19 in Brazil. They found lower coronavirus infection rates in areas that had experienced outbreaks of dengue in the past two years.

Data examined by Nicolelis’ team found that in Brazilian states that had suffered from recent dengue outbreaks – Mato Grosso do Sul, Minas Gerais, Paraná, Rio Grande do Sul, and Santa Catarina – COVID-19 seemed to have spread slower than expected.

His team also found a similar relationship between dengue and the slower spread of COVID-19 elsewhere in Latin America, Asia and among islands in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

“This striking finding raises the intriguing possibility of an immunological cross-reactivity between dengue’s Flavivirus serotypes and SARS-CoV-2,” the study said, referring to dengue virus antibodies and the novel coronavirus.

Brazil has the world’s third-highest total of confirmed COVID-19 cases and the second-highest confirmed death-toll.

3. More than 150 nations join forces on global vaccine plan

The question of how to secure the fair distribution of a future COVID-19 vaccine may have moved closer to an answer, with 156 nations committing to the UN’s COVAX initiative.

The COVAX scheme is being run by the WHO and GAVI, the Vaccine Alliance. It aims to get two billion doses of vaccine into the hands of medical workers around the world by the end of next year. Although front-line clinical staff, key workers, and the vulnerable will be prioritized, COVAX is intended to prevent a gap emerging between rich and poor countries when it comes to vaccination.

Total confirmed COVID-19 deaths and cases, World
Total worldwide confirmed COVID-19 deaths and cases. Image: Our World in Data

“Vaccine nationalism will only perpetuate the disease and prolong the global recovery,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Working together through the COVAX Facility is not charity, it’s in every country’s own best interests to control the pandemic and accelerate the global economic recovery.”

By pooling resources and committing to bulk-purchases from pharmaceutical companies, COVAX member nations will become part of a two-phase vaccination schedule. The first phase will dole out vaccine doses evenly across the participating member states. To begin with, they will get enough for 3% of their population, rising gradually to 20%.

The second phase will be based on the COVID-19 profile of each country, seeking to protect those who are most at risk of outbreaks.

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