U.K. expected to delay reopening as Delta variant accounts for 90% of cases and U.S. court upholds mandatory vaccination

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The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 climbed above 176 million on Monday, and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was expected to delay the full lifting of restrictions on movement amid a surge in new cases caused by the Delta variant.

The U.K. began easing in March and was expected to fully reopen on June 21. But that goal has been overturned after a 50% increase in positive tests in the past week with the Delta variant that was first detected in India accounting for more than 90% of cases.

Cases are now at their highest level since February, although hospitalizations and deaths have remained in check and more than 40% of the adult population are fully vaccinated.

There was positive vaccine news from Novavax Inc., which said a Phase 3 study of its COVID jab found it was 90.4% effective overall. The study involving almost 30,000 patients found the vaccine provided 100% protection against moderate and severe disease.

The company intends to file for regulatory authorizations in the third quarter, and it said it remains on track to reach manufacturing capacity of 100 million doses per month by the end of the third quarter and 150 million doses per month by the end of the fourth quarter of 2021.

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In the U.S., a Texas hospital system’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for employees can stand after a federal judge on Saturday dismissed a closely watched lawsuit from workers refusing to get the shot.

Southern District of Texas Judge Lynn Hughes made his decision days after Houston Methodist Hospital suspended 178 workers for not getting vaccinated by a June 7 deadline.

The hospital system’s policies were not coercion against staff, Hughes said. They were a choice the hospital system made “to keep staff, patients, and their families safer.”

The U.S. has now fully vaccinated 43.4% of its overall population, according to a tracker created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That means 143.9 million people have received two shots of the two-dose vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc.
PFE,
-1.44%
and German partner BioNTech SE
BNTX,
-9.32%
and Moderna Inc.
MRNA,
-7.25%,
or one shot of the Johnson & Johnson
JNJ,
-0.46%
one-shot vaccine. The AstraZeneca
AZN,
-0.17%

AZN,
-0.23%
vaccine has not been authorized for use in the U.S.

Among Americans 18 years-and-older, 139.6 million people are fully vaccinated, equal to 54.1% of the population. Among 65 years-and -older, 41.7 million people are fully vaccinated, equal to 76% of that group. More than 47 million people in that age bracket have received a first jab, covering 86.8% of that population.

The U.S. added 14,288 cases on Sunday, according to a New York Times tracker, after daily numbers ticked back above 20,000 twice last week. That is still down 29% from the average two weeks ago. But hospitalizations and deaths remain well below the 14-day averages, the tracker shows.

However, the pace of vaccinations has continued to slow, raising doubts that President Joe Biden will reach his goal of 70% of the population vaccinated by July 4. So far, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island are the only states to have fully inoculated more than 50% of their populations, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

Southern states have lagged with Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi showing the lowest rates of vaccination.


Source: Johns Hopkins University

Latest tallies

The global tally of COVID-19 deaths stands at 3.8 million., the Johns Hopkins data shows.

The U.S. leads the world in total cases at 33.46 million and deaths at 599,769.

India is second in total cases at 29.5 million and third by deaths at 347,305.

Brazil has the third-highest case load at 17.4 million, according to JHU data, and second in deaths at 487,401.

Mexico has the fourth-highest death toll at 230,450 and 2.5 million cases.

The U.K. has 4.5 million cases and 128,168 deaths, the highest in Europe and fifth-highest in the world.

China, where the virus was first discovered late in 2019, has had 103,381 confirmed cases and 4,846 deaths, according to its official numbers, which are widely held to be massively underreported.



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