Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 1,028th day of the pandemic as well as Groundhog Day in the United States.
Boris Johnson has a message for his critics: They are “out of their mind” when it comes to l’affaire Partygate.
The former prime minister is insisting he believed that everyone at No. 10 Downing Street was obeying the rules on social gatherings during the height of the pandemic, even though he himself attended several dos where no one appears to have donned face masks or observed social distancing and the number of people allowed to gather for social reasons was limited to two.
Speaking with Nadine Dorries in an interview for her new TalkTV show, Johnson said that “[T]here’s a parliamentary committee looking into some aspects of this and I had better be respectful of them.”
Dorries is considered an ally of Johnson.
“But I’ll just repeat what I’ve said before, and I hope it’s obvious,” he added, namely “that anybody who thinks I was knowingly going to parties that were breaking lockdown rules in No. 10, and then knowingly covering up parties that were illicit that other people were going to, that’s all strictly for the birds. And if anybody thinks like that, they’re out of their mind.”
“I’ve got to wait for this thing to conclude. What I would say is that we all thought what we were doing – or certainly, I thought what we were doing – was within the rules. And what we certainly thought was that we were working blindingly hard on some massive priorities.”
The parties at No. 10 looked particularly bad to, and drew anger from, the British population who were under strict pandemic rules relating to masking, social distancing, and limitations on gatherings.
In other news we cover today, Japan is experiencing a surge in Covid deaths, New York may not recover pandemic-related job losses until 2027, and Germany is ending mask mandates for public transit.
Governor Kathy Hochul said that New York won’t fully recover all of its job losses stemming from the coronavirus pandemic until 2027, some seven years after the pandemic first began to ravage the Empire State.
The House of Representatives plans a vote on ending telecommuting for federal employees, with an eye towards the current decline in new SARS-CoV-2 infections. The number of telecommuters in the federal government has more than doubled since 2018, from 483,000 in 2018 to more than 1 million in 2021, according to figures from the Office of Personnel Management. It is not known if or when the Senate will take up the measure.
Santa Clara, California, the Bay Area’s most populous county and the first in the nation to declare a public health emergency after the emergence of the novel coronavirus, announced it will end the health emergency and shutter its mass vaccination and testing sites.
Finally, California officials have an answer to House Republicans investigating the massive unemployment fraud that plagued the nation in the early years of the pandemic: It was Donald Trump’s fault. “Unfortunately, the Trump Administration expressed no interest in establishing (a) coordinated national response when these (emergency pandemic unemployment) programs were initiated in 2020, leaving states to fend for themselves against a clear pattern of sophisticated, international criminal syndicates at work,” wrote Nancy Farias, director of the state Employment Development Department, in a four-page letter to Representative James Comer, R-Kentucky, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight & Accountability.
German healthcare officials announced an end to the country’s mask mandate for public transit. The mandate covered streetcar, bus, train, metro, and tram passengers.
Japan is experiencing a surge of Covid-related deaths and is no longer the best-performing wealthy nation when it comes to avoiding them, according to a report published Wednesday by the Japan Times. A winter surge of omicron infections is overwhelming the country’s health system and causing its biggest outbreak of cases since the start of the pandemic. Japan’s daily coronavirus death toll topped 500 on January 14, based on government data and that figure pushed the country’s overall mortality rate above New Zealand’s, which now has the fewest deaths per capita of developed nations.
OTHER HEALTHCARE NEWS
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging physicians and patients to stop using EzriCare Artificial Tears. The eye drops have been linked to 50 drug-resistant bacterial infections and one death in 11 states, according to a report.
A bill under consideration in the Massachusetts legislature is proposing reduced sentences for prisoners who donate organs or bone marrow.
Now here are the daily statistics for Thursday, February 2.
As of Thursday morning, the world has recorded 675.6 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.3 million cases, and 6.77 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 647.9 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.2 million.
The reader should note that infrequent reporting from some sources may appear as spikes in new case figures or death tolls.
Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Thursday at press time is 20,892,881, an increase of 22,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 20,850,984, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 41,897, are listed as critical. The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past 24 hours.
The United States reported 109,666 new coronavirus infections on Thursday for the previous day, compared to 31,067 on Wednesday, 30,449 on Tuesday, 4,424 on Monday, and 2,200 on Sunday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The 7-day incidence rate is now 38,690. Figures for the weekend (reported the following day) are typically 30% to 60% of those posted on weekdays due to a lower number of tests being conducted.
The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in the United States over the past 14 days is 41,771, a figure down 23% over the past 14 days, based on data from the Department of Health and Human Services, among other sources. The average daily death toll over the same period is 453, a decrease of 6% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 31,715 , a decrease of 20%. In addition, the number of patients in ICUs was 3,998, a decrease of 22% and the test positivity rate is now 11%, a 4% decrease and a figure that has stayed constant for the past 7 days..
In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Thursday, recorded 104.3 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 1.13 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, 44.7 million, and a reported death toll of 530,740.
The newest data from Russia’s Rosstat state statistics service showed that, at the end of July, the number of Covid or Covid-related deaths since the start of the pandemic there in April 2020 is now 823,623, giving the country the world’s second highest pandemic-related death toll, behind the United States. Rosstat reported that 3,284 people died from the coronavirus or related causes in July, down from 5,023 in June, 7,008 in May and 11,583 in April.
Meanwhile, France is the country with the third highest number of cases, with 39.5 million, and Germany is in the number four slot, with 37.8 million total cases.
Brazil, which has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 697,200, has recorded 36.8 million cases, placing it in the number five slot.
The other five countries with total case figures over the 20 million mark are Japan, with 32.6 million cases, South Korea, with 30.2 million cases, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with 25.5 million, as number eight, as well as the United Kingdom, with 24.3 million, and Russia, with over 21.9 million.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of the past Thursday, 268.9 million people in the United States – or 81% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 69.2%, or 229.6 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 668.8 million. Breaking this down further, 91.9% of the population over the age of 18 – or 237.4 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 78.9% of the same group – or 203.7 million people – is fully vaccinated. In addition, 18.8% of the same population, or over 48.6 million people, has already received an updated or bivalent booster dose of vaccine.
Starting on June 13, 2022, the CDC began to update vaccine data on a weekly basis and publish the updated information on Thursdays by 8 p.m. EDT, a statement on the agency’s website said.
Some 69.4% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Thursday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information. So far, 13.26 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 1.22 million doses are now administered each day.
Meanwhile, only 26.4% of people in low-income countries have received one dose, while in countries such as Canada, China, Denmark, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States, at least 75% of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine.
Only a handful of the world’s poorest countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia and Nepal – have reached the 70% mark in vaccinations. Many countries, however, are under 20% and, in countries such as Haiti, Senegal, and Tanzania, for example, vaccination rates remain at or below 10%.
In addition, with the start of vaccinations in North Korea in late September, Eritrea remains the only country in the world that has not administered vaccines.
Anna Breuer contributed reporting to this story.
(Photo: Accura Media Group)