Grim Argentine Landmark; U.S. Overdose Deaths Soar: Virus Update

The death toll from Covid-19 topped 100,000 in Argentina, which recorded 614 fatalities on Wednesday. Ten other countries have crossed that grim milestone, with the worst-hit nation — the U.S. — reporting another somber health record. U.S. drug overdose deaths soared almost 30% to 93,331 in 2020, or an average of 256 a day.

The version of the AstraZeneca Plc vaccine made in India is expected to be approved in Europe within a month, the Telegraph reported. Meanwhile, European health officials say data supporting the use of vaccine boosters remains thin, and they urged countries in the region to speed up inoculation programs amid the rise of the delta variant. Austria Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said those younger than 35 need to get shots, noting in a statement that this age group accounts for 70% of new infections in the country.

In the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces a backlash from businesses and officials over his decision to make masks optional next week.

Serum’s Astra Shots to Get Europe Approval (5:10 a.m. HK)

The Serum Institute of India, which makes the version of the AstraZeneca Plc vaccine known as Covishield, said European approval of the jab is expected within a month, the Telegraph reported.

ImmunityBio Booster Trial in South Africa (4:15 p.m. NY)

ImmunityBio Inc.’s hAd5 T-cell Covid-19 vaccine won approval from South Africa’s health products regulator for a trial as a booster shot in a study of 480,000 health workers in the country who have received Johnson & Johnson’s inoculation.

South African Excess Deaths Climb (4:00 p.m. NY)

Excess deaths, seen as a more precise way of measuring total fatalities from the coronavirus, rose for a fourth week in South Africa and hit pandemic-era records in two provinces as a third wave of infections continues to take hold in the country. In the week ended July 4, the country recorded 7,374 deaths compared with 2,631 official deaths from the virus, the South African Medical Research Council said in a report Wednesday. The number of deaths, which is measured against a historical average, exceeded the peak of a first wave of infections in July last year but was about half of that of the peak of the second in January

Citi Monitoring Delta Rise (10:35 a.m. NY)

Citigroup Inc. is monitoring the rise of cases tied to the delta variant closely as the Wall Street giant prepares to invite more of its staff back to U.S. offices in the coming months.

The firm will alter those plans if local health data suggests it’s unsafe to return to the office, Chief Financial Officer Mark Mason said on a conference call with journalists. While Citigroup is planning to allow most staff to work from home, the firm has said it expects almost all employees back at least part of the time starting in September.

Moderna Value Hits $100 Billion (10:35 a.m. NY)

Moderna Inc. briefly soared above a $100 billion valuation on Wednesday as vaccinations continue to ramp up across the globe.

Shares of the drug developer rose amid a broader rally in the stock market. The messenger RNA vaccine maker has surged more than 220% over the past 12 months as drugmakers raced to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus. The company’s first shots received emergency use authorization in the U.S. in December, just a week behind the first approval for the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE vaccine.

The breakthrough has helped vault the biotech firm to a household name as Americans identify the jab they received by the company name, “Pfizer” or “Moderna.”

Grim Argentine Landmark; U.S. Overdose Deaths Soar: Virus Update

Ireland Cases on the Rise (10:34 a.m. NY)

Ireland reported the most new coronavirus cases since February 1, as the Delta variant takes hold in the country. There were 783 newly diagnosed cases on Wednesday, the Irish health ministry said.

Hospitalizations are now at their highest in more than a month, though still far below the peak of January. While modeling of the virus’s spread gives “cause for considerable concern” it’s not yet clear what impact the variant will have on hospitalizations, health ministry adviser Philip Nolan told reporters in Dublin.

Overdoses Soared in Pandemic (10 a.m. NY)

U.S. drug overdose deaths soared almost 30% to a record 93,331 in 2020, a year that saw hundreds of thousands of Americans killed by Covid-19.

The rise, reported by the U.S. the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, illustrates how the pandemic has worsened other medical problems, from mental health issues triggered by isolation, to conditions that went untreated because patients delayed visiting their doctors. There’s also been an increase in suicide attempts.

Serbia Mulls Vaccine Lottery (9:55 a.m. NY)

Serbia is looking to allocate budget money for a lottery that would reward people who take vaccines, President Aleksandar Vucic said on Wednesday as he outlined efforts to speed up the Balkan country’s inoculation campaign.

About half of Serbia’s population is vaccinated, reducing the number of new daily cases to double-digits in past weeks. But the campaign has now slowed to just a few thousand a day, with infections on the rise in the Balkan country of 7 million.

Austria Urges Youth Vaccination (9:31 a.m. NY)

Austria Chancellor Sebastian Kurz urged people younger than 35 to get vaccinated, noting in a statement that this age group accounts for 70% of all new infections.

The case rate has grown to 15.1 per 100,000 people over the past seven days in Austria, almost triple the level seen earlier this month. On Wednesday, authorities reported 65 new cases related to Austrian and German students participating in a Croatian graduation trip.

Data Slim for Booster, Europe Agencies Say (9:08 .m. NY)

There’s not enough data from vaccination campaigns and studies to confirm if and when booster shots will be needed, according to a statement by the European Medicines Agency and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

The European Medicines Agency is engaged with vaccine developers to coordinate data submission in order to ensure ensure regulatory steps can be undertaken swiftly if boosters are needed, the group said in a statement.

The ECDC estimated that by the end of August, the Delta variant will represent 90% of all SARS-CoV-2 viruses circulating in Europe. The group urged countries to speed up their vaccination programs.

Face Mask Row Isolates Johnson (8:26 a.m. NY)

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is increasingly isolated over his decision to scrap rules requiring face masks to be worn in shops and on public transport.

From Monday, Johnson will lift Covid restrictions in England to make mask wearing optional in all settings. But authorities in Scotland, Wales and London are planning their own rules in which face coverings will remain compulsory.

The standoff threatens to complicate Johnson’s efforts to reopen the economy, undermining his credibility at a sensitive time.

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