Mandatory Vaccination of Healthcare Professionals, Single Vaccine Dose for Boys: Global COVID-19 Weekly Highlights

Medscape, Univadis, & MediQuality Staff

July 29, 2021

These are the global coronavirus stories you need to know about this week.

UK cases have been falling for 7 days in a row (as of Monday July 26) but deaths and hospitalisations continued to rise. Some experts believe the start of school holidays in parts of the UK could be affecting the case figures. It will be some days yet before the effect of lifting lockdown measures in England on July 19 is seen in the data. Doctors' regulator, the General Medical Council, released a survey showing that burnout among trainers and trainees reached its worst level since polling on the issue began in 2018. Meanwhile, consultants are being asked whether they want to take industrial action over a 3% pay rise that was said to reward "their extraordinary efforts throughout this global pandemic". 

In France, a bill to introduce a coronavirus health pass was adopted by Parliament, making the vaccination of healthcare professionals mandatory.

The disease incidence is now above 250 per 100,000 population nationally but the country passed the milestone of 50% of people fully vaccinated on Tuesday. The Government's goal is to vaccinate 50 million people with a first-dose by the end of August.

Paediatricians recommend administering only a single dose of vaccine to most boys aged 12 to 17 because of the risk of myocarditis and pericarditis.

In Belgium, just over 4 in 10 young people (aged between 18 and 34) have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in Brussels, compared to 8 in 10 in Flanders. Officials are working with religious and community leaders to encourage vaccine uptake in some hesitant groups.

In Italy, from 12 to 18 July, the prevalence of the Delta variant has more than doubled from 14 to 31 new cases per 100,000 population. Approximately 55% of the population aged over 12 years is now fully vaccinated. There's some opposition to the use of green vaccination passes in bars, restaurants, gyms, and discos from August 6. Some doctors have joined protests against the restrictions.

In Portugal, the government is gathering information to help decide the next steps in opening up the country. The Health Minister Marta Temido said that any measures will apply nationally because the Delta variant is prevalent in more than 95% of the country.

The incidence rate remains at 427.5 cases of infection by COVID-19 per 100,000 population nationwide.

According to the Federal Ministry of Health, there is now sufficient COVID-19 vaccine available in Germany to allow vaccination to be offered to all eligible groups. The 7-day incidence has been rising for 3 weeks and stood at 15.0 per 100,000 population on Wednesday.

In Switzerland, the 'normalisation phase' will be initiated later than planned. Vaccination targets have not been met so COVID-19 restrictions won't be lifted yet. Swiss citizens who do not live in the country will only receive a Swiss COVID-19 certificate if they received the vaccines approved in the country: Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, or Johnson&Johnson. The EU COVID-19 certificate is still valid with the AstraZeneca vaccine. 

In Austria by July 27, around 66% of the eligible population has been vaccinated with at least one vaccine dose, and around 56% received a second dose. The 7-day incidence has been increasing since the relaxation of mask requirements on 1 July.

In Spain, the 14 day incidence exceeded 700 cases per 100,000 population on Tuesday but the trend lowered to 700 by Thursday. So far, 55.1% of the population is fully vaccinated and 65.3% has received one dose. 

In the US, the CDC now recommends people wear masks indoors in areas with high or substantial SARS-CoV-2 transmission, including individuals who are fully vaccinated. In addition, universal mask wearing is recommended for students, teachers, staff, and guests in schools. There's evidence that vaccinated individuals who experience a 'breakthrough' infection can transmit the virus to others. This suggests that viral loads can be the same in vaccinated and unvaccinated people. COVID-19 cases increased by more than 300% nationally between June 19 and July 23.

In Mexico, the third wave of COVID-19 continues with a record increase in infections (17,408 confirmed cases on 27 July) and deaths per day (484 in one day). However, no major containment measures are being put in place. So far, 28.69% of the population over 18 has been fully vaccinated.

Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) Director Carissa Etienne said the pandemic continued to take a "devastating toll in our region". Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, and Paraguay are among countries reporting the world's highest weekly death rates. In total, more than 1.26 million COVID-19 cases and nearly 29,000 deaths were reported in the Americas in the past week.

In Brazil, a shortage of vaccines remained a problem with five states having to suspend vaccination. Around 45.49% of the population has received a first vaccine dose, and 17.96% are fully vaccinated. The country has passed 550,000 COVID-19 deaths. Because of the Delta variant cases, the Ministry of Health is considering reducing the interval between doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from 90 to 21 days. Pregnant and postpartum women who received a first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine are recommended to have Pfizer for their second dose. The National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) suspended the import of the Indian Covaxin vaccine after allegations of false documentation.

The lockdown in Sydney, Australia which was supposed to end this week, has been extended till August 28 as the COVID-19 outbreak in the city continues to grow. Sydney recorded 177 new cases on July 27. On the other hand, the state of Victoria eased its COVID-19 restrictions on July 28 after its outbreak was successfully contained.

South Korea recorded a new daily high of 1896 COVID-19 cases on July 27, the capital Seoul accounting for the majority of the cases.

China reported 76 new COVID-19 infections on July 25, the highest daily figure since January, with the eastern city of Nanjing reporting a significant spike in locally transmitted cases. Mass testing is currently underway in Nanjing.

Tokyo, Japan reported a record number of 3177 new COVID-19 infections on July 28. Organisers reported seven new COVID-19 cases at the Tokyo Olympics on July 27, including two athletes. The total number of COVID-19 cases associated with the Games has now risen to 155, including 20 athletes in the Games village.

India reported 29,689 new COVID-19 cases on July 27, the lowest daily count since March 17.

Indonesian authorities have extended the COVID-19 restrictions in the country by a week to August 2. Government data indicates that infections in the capital Jakarta have started to decline. However, the situation in other parts of the country remains serious.

Africa has exceeded six million infections, 3.2% of the world's total, and 150,000 deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. The Delta variant has already been detected in more than half of African countries. The most affected countries are South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, and Egypt, despite the fact that they have the highest number of people vaccinated.

See more global coronavirus updates in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Centre.

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