World marks 1 year since pandemic declared

A year ago today when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 spread a pandemic, there were more than 118,000 cases. Today, the global total topped 118 million, with levels rising again in some countries, but retreating in others.

And across the globe, countries are rushing to vaccinate their people in attempts to get ahead of the spread of new more transmissible SARS-CoV-2 variants and others that could evade immunity from natural infection or the vaccine.

Rises continue in current hot spots

Over the past 2 weeks, the global decline in cases has stalled, mainly due to increasing cases in some high-burden countries. Brazil yesterday reported nearly 80,000 cases, its third highest single-day total, according to the BBC. It also reported more than 2,000 deaths yesterday, a record daily high.

The country's Fiocruz Institute said intensive care unit (ICU) occupancy across Brazil—where the P1 variant is dominant—exceeds 80%, with levels above 90% in 15 state capitals, including Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

Cases are rising in other countries, as well, including some where the most of the activity is occurring in limited number of areas. In India, cases are surging in Maharashtra state, its second most populous, driving the countries cases to their highest level since the end of December, according to Reuters, which said public gathering and travel are contributing to the rise at a time when the majority of residents haven't been vaccinated.

Elsewhere, cases in the Philippines are at their highest daily level since September, and public leading to some reimposed lockdowns and a ban on public displays of affection, including kissing, according to the Washington Post.

Other global headlines

  • The European Medicines Agency (EMA) said today that it has authorized the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, the fourth vaccine to be recommended. In a separate development, the EMA said yesterday that following Austria's suspension of a batch of AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine due to four reports of blood clots, one in a patient who died, a preliminary review found no specific issues with the batch. The EMA said so far its investigation has found the number of thromboembolic events is vaccinated people is no higher than for the general population.
  • Real-world assessment of the use of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in Israel found 97% effectiveness for preventing symptomatic disease, severe illness, and death, in those who are fully vaccinated, Pfizer said today. Data from Israel's health ministry and Pfizer also revealed 94% effectiveness against asymptomatic disease starting 2 weeks after the second dose.
  • Richer nations from the west stalled an effort to waive patent rights as a way of increasing the production of COVID1-19 vaccines for poorer nations, according to Reuters. The discussions occurred in the latest round of World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS) discussions. The waiver proposal was backed by more than 80 developing countries and more than 375 civil society groups, including Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
  • The global total today rose to 118,339,476 cases with 2,625,132 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

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