WHO says Covid will kill 100,000 more by end of Olympics

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The WHO chief’s comments come as cases continue to surge globally, including in Japan, where Tokyo on Wednesday reported its highest daily increase of new infections since mid-January. Despite the country’s struggle to rein in cases, Tokyo 2020 organizers have decided to push ahead. But with just two days until the Olympics’ formal opening ceremony on Friday, it is still unclear whether the public health measures in place will be enough to prevent the Games from becoming a global superspreader event.
Some 11,000 athletes from 200 countries are set to arrive for the Olympics and the number of cases in Japan linked to the Games now stands at 79, according to organizers. Five of them are Olympic Village residents, three of which are athletes. Competitors including US gymnast Kara Eaker, basketball player Katie Lou Samuelson and tennis star Coco Gauff member tested positive for Covid prior to arriving in Tokyo, cutting their Olympic dreams short.

Opinion polls in Japan show that most people oppose holding a major sporting event during a public health crisis. Tokyo extended its coronavirus state of emergency until August 22, with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) barring fans from attending the competition — an Olympic first.

The United States also renewed its public health emergency on Tuesday, underlining the severity of the pandemic’s trajectory there. Covid-19 cases — fueled by the fast-spreading Delta variant — have nearly tripled over the last three weeks, with at least 44 states now seeing an increase. The Delta variant represents the vast majority (83%) of new infections, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

There’s a common theme behind the worsening Covid-19 numbers, according to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. “This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Walensky said at a Covid-19 briefing Friday. More than 97% of people getting hospitalized with the virus now are unvaccinated, she said. And 99% of deaths are among the unvaccinated, according to the US Surgeon General.

Meanwhile, vaccination rates in the US have stalled. Less than half of the country’s population is fully vaccinated, according to CDC data, and the majority of those who are not vaccinated are not at all likely to get their shots, according to a poll published Tuesday by Axios-Ipsos. Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, warned this week that if those holding out on the vaccine don’t change their minds, the US can expect a “smoldering” outbreak for “a considerable period of time.”
The Dow suffered its biggest drop of the year on Monday, plunging by more than 700 points as fears over the Delta variant also hit Wall Street.
In the United Kingdom, where the Delta variant is dominant and cases and deaths are also on the rise, Prime Minister Boris Johnson took a gamble in lifting England’s final Covid restrictions on Monday, admitting that the move could lead to more fatalities.

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Q: When will the vaccine for younger children be available in the US?

A: It’s going to be months, if not longer, until we have more information on this. That’s because pharmaceutical companies are still doing clinical trials to see how coronavirus vaccines work in children under 12, if they’re safe and what the right dose should be. Pfizer predicts that they will have more data from their trials, in which children 5 to 11 years old are enrolled, by the fall. Moderna has not provided a timeline on when the trial data results from their study — which is enrolling children aged 6 months to 11 years — might be available.
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TOP 3 READS OF THE WEEK

Biden targets anti-vaccine misinformation

The Biden administration has ramped up its efforts to squash misinformation about Covid, with officials calling out social media giant Facebook for not doing enough to stop the spread of such falsehoods on its platform.

Biden said Friday that Facebook was “killing people” with misinformation, but later walked back those comments, saying that about a dozen people — who have large followings on Facebook and other social media platforms — were super-spreaders of anti-vaccine misinformation. “Facebook isn’t killing people — these 12 people are out there giving misinformation. Anyone listening to it is getting hurt by it. It’s killing people. It’s bad information,” Biden told reporters at the White House on Monday.

Facebook has pushed back at the criticism, with one Facebook representative telling CNN that the “White House is looking for scapegoats for missing their vaccine goals.” Biden’s target was for 70% of Americans to be vaccinated by July 4.

Indonesia battles a devastating situation, with its peak still likely to come

Indonesia, the world’s fourth-most populous country, is fast becoming the new center of Asia’s coronavirus crisis as the Delta variant ravages the country. For weeks, the archipelago nation has been reporting thousands of daily cases and hundreds of deaths. Hospitals are running dangerously low on supplies, excavators are frantically digging burial plots, and isolating remains impossible for millions living on the poverty line.

But the country is also facing an additional threat: rampant misinformation that’s contributing to a vaccination rate of less than 6%. For months, WhatsApp messages have spread fake news about ineffective Covid-19 treatments. Hoaxes about the vaccines have circulated on social media, making some people unwilling to take the shot for fear it could cause serious disease or death. Because of this misinformation, many people in Indonesia still aren’t taking Covid-19 seriously, even as cases rise around them. And with more than 2.7 million people infected and more than 70,000 dead, onlookers caution the country may not have reached its peak.
A woman mourns with her son during her mother's funeral at the Mulyaharja cemetery for Covid-19 victims, in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia on July 8, 2021.

The Pacific’s Covid-19 crisis has become a political power play

For years, China and Australia have jockeyed for influence in the Pacific, a region of 14 island nations and territories whose location (between the US and Asia) has made them desirable for military and defense ambitions on both sides. Australia has longstanding economic and cultural ties with the Pacific, and it is crucial to the country’s national security to ensure the Chinese government doesn’t gain a large foothold in the region. For Beijing , the region represents an opportunity to expand its influence.

China has donated 300,000 vaccines to the Pacific, but they’ve failed to meet Australia’s nearly 600,000 shots. And with Canberra promising to supply another 15 million doses to the region, Beijing is on the backfoot.

TOP TIP

Feeling anxiety about your body image coming out of lockdown? You’re not alone.

Pandemic stress has led many people to turn to other coping mechanisms, some of which were harmful to both physical and mental health. As we eye a return to some sort of normalcy, taking steps such as focusing on what you appreciate about your body, engaging with others who accept and appreciate all bodies, and practicing self-compassion can help.

Read more here on how to combat “pandemic-body” anxiety.

LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST

The Tokyo Olympics will be one of the few Games ever to take place during a global pandemic. That means zero fans in the host city, no family or friends allowed and a ban on cheering. For today’s episode, CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta talks to two-time Olympic rower Gevvie Stone about the competition and her difficult decision to postpone medical residency an extra year to train. Gupta also hears from an athlete whose Olympic dreams were crushed by a positive Covid-19 test. And sports psychologists Catherine Sabiston and Kanyali Ilako reflect on how the lack of fans and added Covid stresses could impact athletes’ performances. Listen Now.
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