February 28, 2021
Here again is the weekly COVID-19 update. Worldwide, 114 million official SARS-CoV-2 infections have been recorded so far, and 2 539 000 COVID-19 deaths have been registered. Unfortunately, the downward trend of the last few weeks has not continued, with the number of new infections per day just stagnating at about 400 000. 236 million doses of vaccine have been administered so far.
Rising Numbers in Europe Again
In Europe, many countries, including Austria, Italy, Poland, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Romania, Sweden, Serbia, Hungary, etc. are again seeing an increase in cases. In Finland, cases are also going up, but are still from quite low levels.
Countries like France, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Croatia, Slovakia and the Netherlands have quite stable case numbers at the moment. Some of this level is quite high, some of it is actually quite OK. Denmark, for example, is currently at the same level as it was last fall, as is Croatia.
The UK, Slovenia, Switzerland and Portugal show a downward trend in cases, probably for different reasons.
Downward Trend also Stalling in the Americas
In the USA and Canada as well, the downward trend has stalled, the case numbers have now settled at a high level – comparable to last October (when the case numbers were unfortunately also quite high). In Latin America, the picture is mixed. In Mexico there is a steady downward trend; in Central America, the case numbers are partly quite low. In Colombia, case numbers are going down. In Argentina, Bolivia, Venezuela and Chile, case numbers are quite stable but high. In Brazil, they are also stable but at an extremely high level. Peru is in the middle of a wave.
Stable Asia – As Usual
From Asia there is nothing to report, India and the Philippines have reported a slight increase in cases. But basically, Asia looks very rosy almost everywhere. The Middle East is mixed, case numbers especially in Jordan, Iraq and Iran are going up. Israel is coming down from a wave. North Africa/Maghreb looks basically OK. Most African countries are stable or coming down from smaller waves, like Senegal. The only country I noticed where cases are going up at the moment is Ethiopia.
Now a few vaccine updates. There are now three studies out, one from Scotland and two from Israel, which show that the effectiveness of the vaccines used is quite high after only one dose. The studies from Israel refer of course to the Pfizer-Biontech mRNA vaccine, but the study from Scotland shows that both the Pfizer and the AstraZeneca vaccine are effective after one dose – even for old people. After two doses, the Pfizer vaccine actually protects 92% of the population from disease. What was reported in the newspaper last week was actually corroborated by these scientific publications.
Johnson & Johnson to the Fore
Yesterday, the vaccine from J&J was approved in the USA. It is a viral vector vaccine based on an adenovirus 26 (which is also used for Ebola vaccines approved in the EU). The vaccine has shown 72% efficiency against moderate and severe disease with normal SARS-CoV-2 viruses and 57% against the B.1.351 variant from South Africa. Most importantly, the vaccine against normal SARS-CoV-2 and B.1.351 is 100% protective against illness requiring hospitalization. And, it only needs to be given once. The EMA will probably approve the vaccine in Europe in mid-March.
The Situation Around the World
What is the situation with vaccination worldwide? As mentioned above, 236 million doses have already been administered worldwide. Israel is really number 1. More than 52% of the population there have been vaccinated at least once, 37% twice.
Second best – who would have thought it – is the Seychelles! They have 54% vaccinated at least once and 25% twice. I suppose they will soon be the #1 vacation destination.
Behind them are the United Arab Emirates (56 doses of vaccine per 100 inhabitants vaccinated so far), the UK (30% vaccinated at least once, 1.2% vaccinated twice), the Maldives (28% of the population vaccinated at least once), the US (14% vaccinated at least once, 7% vaccinated twice), Serbia (13% vaccinated at least once, 7% vaccinated twice), Bahrain (19.7% of the population vaccinated at least once) and Chile (17.3% vaccinated at least once).
What I also find very good is what the Danes are doing. They had a test day for mass vaccination, where 37,000 people were vaccinated in one day. They expect to be able to vaccinate 100,000 people per day as soon as there is enough vaccine. That would be 3 million in one month. Denmark has about 6 million inhabitants. Let’s hope that something will happen in Austria soon.