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Singapore says healthcare system risks being ‘overwhelmed’ as virus surges
Singapore’s healthcare system is at risk of being “overwhelmed” by surging coronavirus infections, government officials warned Wednesday, a day after the city-state expanded quarantine-free travel as it shifts its approach to dealing with the pandemic.
The health ministry reported 18 deaths on Wednesday – Singapore’s highest toll in a single day – and 3,862 more cases, just shy of the record 3,994 tallied the day before.
“At the current situation, we face considerable risk of the healthcare system being overwhelmed,” Lawrence Wong, co-chair of a government task force fighting Covid-19, said before the new figures were released, AFP reports.
Wong, who is also the finance minister, said nearly 90% of isolation beds in hospitals have been filled and more than two-thirds of intensive care unit beds are occupied.
Singapore has reported more than 158,000 coronavirus cases and 264 deaths.
Hi I’m Samantha Lock reporting from Sydney, Australia, and I’ll be giving you a summary of the latest developments before we close the blog for today.
- The British Medical Association says the “time is now” for the government to enact ‘plan B’ in England to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed by growing numbers of coronavirus cases. The doctors’ trade union believes not taking action over England’s growing Covid cases is “wilfully negligent”.
- Excess AstraZeneca vaccines may go to waste in Australia. None of the current 7m surplus doses has been earmarked for foreign aid, with the volume of supply available to Pacific neighbours declining to just 26,500 last week. Former AMA president, Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, condemned “a very good vaccine going to waste”, as declining public take-up causes stock held by suburban GPs to pass expiration dates.
- Lithuania’s biggest news portals said they were switching off public comments on their articles about Covid-19 vaccines in an effort aimed at curbing conspiracy theories.
- Poland is facing an explosion of coronavirus cases that may need drastic action, the health minister has said after the country recorded more than 5,000 daily new infections for the first time since May.
- The UK health secretary says daily Covid cases could hit as high as 100,000. Sajid Javid said the government always knew that winter would bring problems and that Covid hospitalisations are already approaching 1,000 a day.
- New York city announces all municipal workers – including refuse workers, police officers and firefighters – must be vaccinated or be put on unpaid leave.
- Hundreds of anti-vaccine protesters took to the streets of Sofia today to demonstrate Bulgaria’s new Covid pass requirement.
US children aged five to 11 years old are expected to be offered the Covid vaccine within weeks. Laying out plans for its distribution, the White House said the age group would soon be able to get the vaccine at their doctor, pharmacy or maybe at school.
- Latvia is the first country to reimpose lockdown in Europe’s new Covid wave. The Baltic state once seen as coronavirus success story announced a month of restrictions including curfew.
Vaccination is 90% effective at preventing deaths from the Delta variant of Covid-19, according to research.
The data, released by the University of Edinburgh, was gathered using a Scotland-wide Covid surveillance tool.
Figures show the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 90% effective and the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab 91% effective in preventing deaths in people who have been double vaccinated but who have tested positive for coronavirus in the community.
The study is the first to show across an entire country how effective vaccines are at preventing death from the Delta variant, which is the most dominant form of Covid in the UK.
Brazil has registered 15,609 new coronavirus cases and a further 373 deaths, the country’s health ministry said.
The country has recorded over 21.6 million cases overall and more than 604,000 deaths.
The British Medical Association has said the “time is now” for the government to enact plan B in England to prevent the NHS being overwhelmed by growing numbers of coronavirus cases.
The doctors’ trade union believes that not taking further action will be “wilfully negligent” by ministers and a failure to learn the lessons from the report last week by the Commons health and science committees into the government’s handling of the pandemic.
Infections have been rising sharply since the start of October but the government is resisting introducing the extra restrictions set out in its winter plan such as masks, vaccine passports and advice to work from home.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is still assessing the Russia-designed Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use, according to an update on the WHO’s website.
“As with other candidate vaccines, WHO continues to assess Sputnik V vaccines from different manufacturing sites and will publish decisions on their EUL (emergency use listing) status when all the data are available and the review is concluded,” WHO told Reuters.
It said it has restarted the assessment process for the Russian vaccine and that it is awaiting the “completion of rolling submission”.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which promotes Sputnik V abroad, said a group of WHO inspectors is due to visit Russia shortly “to round up all necessary inspections and paperwork on Sputnik V”.
The US Food and Drug Administration authorised booster doses of the Covid-19 vaccines from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, and said Americans can choose a different jab than their original inoculation as a booster.
The decision paves the way for millions more people in the United States to get the additional protection with the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus causing breakthrough infections among some who are fully vaccinated, Reuters reports.
The agency previously authorized boosters of the Pfizer vaccine developed with German partner BioNTech at least six months after the first round of jabs to increase protection for people aged 65 and older, those at risk of severe disease and those who are exposed to the virus through their work.
The US administered 410,189,737 doses of Covid-19 vaccines in the country as of Wednesday morning and distributed 496,915,265 doses, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
Those figures are up from the 409,438,987 vaccine doses the CDC said had gone into arms by Oct. 19 out of 495,844,635 doses delivered.
The agency said 219,381,466 people had received at least one dose while 189,709,710 people are fully vaccinated as of 6:00 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Reuters reports.
Despite Delta being more transmissible than earlier Covid-19 variants, in Australia few children and adolescents who get the virus have severe symptoms, and schools should only be closed under exceptional circumstances, research from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute has found.
However, the analysis reveals children and adolescents living with some pre-existing health conditions, including obesity, and those living in disadvantage, low socioeconomic or those with minority ethnic status have an increased risk of severe disease.
They found ventilation is important and mental health surveillance is needed across both primary and secondary schools.
“In Early Childhood Education Centres [ECEC] and school settings, transmission is largely seen between adults and from adults to children,” the report said. “Although child-child transmission also occurs, the highest risk of transmission remains within households.”
Lithuania’s biggest news portals said they were switching off public comments on their articles about Covid-19 vaccines in an effort aimed at curbing conspiracy theories.
Some 71% of adults in the eurozone country of 2.8 million people are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 – a higher rate than many of its neighbours in central and eastern Europe.
But infection rates have surged in recent days.
“We are showing solidarity with the state and society with the common effort to disable the unfounded misinformation spread by anti-vaxxers,” Arnas Marcinkus, head of the Association of Online Media in Lithuania, told AFP.