Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 1,170th day of the pandemic.
OP-ED ON THURSDAY
Container ships were all the rage at the start of the pandemic, when the cost of shipping a container rose to never-before-seen prices. Box-ship operators were among the few pandemic winners as consumer spending on a variety of diverse products from clothing to tech gear increased in the stay-at-home/lockdown economy. Money not spent on dining out was spent on amazon.com instead.
Not surprisingly, multiple shipping companies posted record profits that year.
But it appears that the summer is bringing the container ship winter.
A slowdown in orders from large importers is bringing shipping prices to what ship operators consider “unsustainable” levels just ahead of ocean shipping’s busiest season.
“Spot rates are at a level that in the long run are not sustainable, with costs up by 25% to 30% since 2019,” said the CEO of Hapag-Lloyd, Rolf Habben on the Hamburg-based company’s earnings call earlier this month. In certain cases, some voyages don’t make financial sense “because you simply lose too much money,” he noted.
As a result, some ship operators are cancelling what would be unprofitable voyages, leaving shippers who need those trade routes stranded.
Oh, for the halcyon days of container shipping, I’m sure they are thinking in box-ship company boardrooms these days. Some might even be secretly hoping for another pandemic or similar crisis to stimulate the market.
In other news we cover today, more people are putting off medical procedures due to their cost, a doctor was sentenced to jail for trying to bribe a nurse for a vaccination certificate, and the U.S. Department of Justice asked an appeals court to dismiss a ruling against the CDC’s travel-mask mandate.
While Covid may have made Americans more conscious of hand-washing, the percentage of individuals who skip medical care due to a lack of funds has risen 5 percentage points since the start of the pandemic.
That figure now stands at 28% and is at the highest point since 2014, when the Affordable Care Act fully came into effect. In 2013, the figure was 32%, falling to 31% in 2014 and 27% in 2015. It was 24% in 2021 and 23% in 2020.
Meanwhile, the Justice Department asked on Tuesday a three-judge panel at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to vacate an April 2021 ruling that had declared unlawful a government order requiring masks on airplanes and other transportation modes during the coronavirus pandemic, saying the issue was moot because the national emergency was now over.
The DOJ said in a court filing the issue was now moot because of a fundamental change in public health conditions, as evidenced by the joint resolution of Congress terminating the national emergency.
The mask mandate went into effect in early 2021 shortly after the inauguration of President Joseph Biden.
A doctor in Hong Kong was sentenced to prison for six months after offering 1,000 Hong Kong dollars ($128) to a nurse in exchange for a coronavirus vaccination certificate without having to be inoculated. Cheung Chin-hang pleaded guilty for attempting to bribe a nurse at Osman Ramju Sadick Memorial Sports Centre in Kwai Chung in September last year.
Cheung’s behavior was an attempt to endanger public health, Acting Principal Magistrate Veronica Heung said in her ruling.
Now here are the daily statistics for Thursday, May 25.
As of Thursday morning, the world has recorded over 689.2 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of under 0.1 million from the previous day, and 6.88 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, just under 661.6 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of less than 0.1 million from the previous day.
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 20,744,326, an increase of 22,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 20,683,726, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 38,214, are listed as critical. The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past eight months.
The United States reported 72,136 new cases in the period May 4 through May 10, a figure that is down 26% over the same period one week earlier, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The death toll for the same period is 840, a figure that is down 20%. The number of hospital admissions from over the past week Covid was 9,186 as of May 16, a figure that is down 4.9% over the preceding 7-day period. Finally, the test positivity rate is 5.2%, up 5% over the 14 days preceding May 11.
Starting on March 25, 2023, the Morning News Brief began to update case data as well as death tolls on a weekly basis. In addition, starting on May 15, 2023, the Morning News Brief has pressed pause on certain data sets as we assess the update of changes in reporting by U.S. health authorities at the CDC.
Since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Thursday, recorded 107.1 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 1.16 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, just under 45 million, and a reported death toll of 531,854.
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 just under 40.1 million, and Germany is in the number four slot, with 38.4 million total cases.
Brazil, which has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 702,664, has recorded 37.6 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 33.8 million cases, South Korea, with 31.6 million cases, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with 25.8 million, as number eight, as well as the United Kingdom, with 24.6 million, and Russia, with 22.9 million.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of the past Thursday, over 270.2 million people in the United States – or 81.4% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 69.5%, or 230.6 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now over 676.7 million. Breaking this down further, 92.23% of the population over the age of 18 – or 238.2 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 79.1% of the same group – or 204.3 million people – is fully vaccinated. In addition, 20.5% of the same population, or 53 million people, has already received an updated or bivalent booster dose of vaccine, while 23.7 million people over the age of 65, or 43.3% 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 70% 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, 13.39 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 65,080 doses are now administered each day.
Meanwhile, only 29.9% 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.
Anna Breuer contributed reporting to this story.
(Photo: Accura Media Group)