Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 1,059th day of the pandemic.
A new antiviral, ensitrelvir, developed and manufactured by drugmaker Shionogi in Osaka, Japan, can reportedly shorten the duration that people with mild have SARS-CoV-2 and how long they test positive, and it might reduce the risk of Long Covid, although more data is needed.
Ensitrelvir is not approved in the United States at the present time, however.
The research was presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle, Washington, on February 21, and has not yet been peer reviewed. Meanwhile, scientists are understandably skeptical about that claim and critical of the design of the clinical trial.
At the present time, two oral antivirals are widely in use to treat SARS-CoV-2, namely Paxlovid and molnupiravir. Both are targeted at individuals at high risk of severe disease, but ensitrelvir was tested on people of varying risks.
In addition, no drug has been proven to reduce the risk of contracting Long Covid after a SARS-CoV-2 infection, but some evidence hints that Paxlovid might have this effect.
In other news we cover today, North Koreans are facing death by starvation, U.K. health minister Matt Hancock wanted to “scare the pants off people” in order to gain compliance with pandemic rules, and the famously non-vaccinated Novak Djokovic still won’t be able to come to the United States to play in a tennis match.
In the second year of the coronavirus pandemic in the United Kingdom, Health Minister Matt Hancock old aids that he wanted to “frighten the pants off everyone“ to ensure compliance with Covid-19-related restrictions, according to the latest batch of leaked messages which reveal discussions that took place with Hancock over when to “deploy” details of a new strain of SARS-CoV-2.
The leaked WhatsApp exchanges, published in the Sunday Telegraph, suggest the then health secretary and others discussed how to use an announcement about the Kent variant of the virus, which began to spread in February 2021, to scare the public into modifying their behavior.
The messages also show that cabinet secretary Simon Case suggested in January 2021 that the “fear” factor would be “vital” in stem the spread of the virus.
SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Novak Djokovic, who was famously deported from Australia last year after trying to enter without being vaccinated for the coronavirus and who holds some fairly bizarre medical beliefs, will not be playing at Indian Wells after the United States took no action on his application for a special waiver that would allow him to enter the country unvaccinated to play in that tournament. He recently applied for a similar waiver to play in the Miami Open, a Masters 1000 event that starts in the middle of March, but at press time, no action has been taken on that one either..
OTHER HEALTHCARE NEWS
The food shortage in North Korea is apparently about to take a deadly turn for the worse. Analysts believe that deaths due to starvation are soon likely. In the 1990s, a famine known as the “Arduous March” resulted in mass starvation and the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, an estimated 3% to 5% of the population, which at that time, was 20 million people. Lucas Rengifo-Keller, a research analyst at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, told CNN that trade data, satellite images, and assessments by the United Nations and South Korean authorities all suggest the food supply has now “dipped below the amount needed to satisfy minimum human needs.”
Now here are the daily statistics for Sunday, March 5.
As of Sunday morning, the world has recorded 680.7 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.1 million cases, and 6.81 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 653.5 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.1 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 Sunday at press time is 20,357,671, a decrease of 12,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 20,317,037, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 40,634, are listed as critical. The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past three months.
The United States reported 1,671, new coronavirus infections on Sunday for the previous day, compared to 69,509on Saturday, 62,111 on Friday, 89,261 on Thursday, and 25,343 on Wednesday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The 7-day incidence rate is now 38,746. 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 33,997, a figure down 9% 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 538, an increase of 41% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 26,311, a decrease of 9%. In addition, the number of patients in ICUs was 3431, a decrease of 9% and the test positivity rate is now 8.5%, a figure that is down by 12% over the same period.
In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Sunday, recorded 105.4 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 1.15 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, 44.7 million, and a reported death toll of 530,775.
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 last reported that 3,284 people died from the coronavirus or related causes in July 2022, 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 39.6 million, and Germany is in the number four slot, with 38.2 million total cases.
Brazil, which has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 699,276, has recorded 37.1 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 just under 33.3 million cases, South Korea, with just under 30.6 million cases, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with 25.6 million, as number eight, as well as the United Kingdom, with just under 24.4 million, and Russia, with just over 22.3 million.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Thursday, 269.6 million people in the United States – or 81.2% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 69.3%, or 230.1 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 672.1 million. Breaking this down further, 92.1% of the population over the age of 18 – or 237.8 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 79% of the same group – or just under 204 million people – is fully vaccinated. In addition, 19.6% of the same population, or 50.5 million people, has already received an updated or bivalent booster dose of vaccine, while 22.7 million people over the age of 65, or 41.4% of that population have also received the bivalent booster.
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 69.7% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Sunday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information. So far, 13.32 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 816,957 doses are now administered each day.
Meanwhile, only 27.9% 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.
Paul Riegler contributed reporting to this story.
(Photo: Accura Media Group)