By Ciara Linnane
Other COVID-19 news you should know:
• Hong Kong authorities said Tuesday that they will cull some 2,000 small animals, including hamsters, after several of the rodents tested positive for the virus at a pet store where an infected employee was working, the Associated Press reported. The city will also stop the sale of hamsters and the import of small mammals, according to officials from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department. The move came after the pet-shop employee tested positive for the delta variant on Monday. Several hamsters imported from the Netherlands at the same store tested positive as well.
• Health authorities in Beijing said they haven’t been able to trace the source of the Chinese capital’s first local omicron infection but indicated it might have arrived by international mail, the Wall Street Journal reported. Beijing announced the case on Saturday after the patient developed a fever and took a voluntary test that came back positive. Authorities sealed off the patient’s residential compound and office building, and launched contact-tracing efforts.
• Authorities in the Pacific island of Tonga are working to provide water and other supplies to those impacted by a volcanic eruption on Saturday in a contactless way to avoid spreading COVID, the Washington Post reported. The remote archipelago kingdom is one of the few places in the world to remain virtually free of cases — it went into lockdown in November when its first case was detected in a person staying at a quarantine hotel.
• Australia suffered a record one-day death toll from COVID on Tuesday, when 74 people died, ABC News reported. The nation’s second largest state, Victoria, declared an emergency for hospitals in the capital city, Melbourne, and several regional hospitals from midday Wednesday because of staff shortages and a surge in patient admissions. About 5,000 staff are absent because they are either infected or close contacts of infected people.
• Merck /zigman2/quotes/209956077/composite MRK +1.23% and its privately held partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics said Tuesday that they have won a supply agreement from the United Nations Children’s Fund, or Unicef, to provide it with up to 3 million doses of their COVID-19 antiviral molnupiravir in the first half of 2022. The doses will be distributed in more than 100 low- and middle-income countries following regulatory authorizations. The treatment has already been authorized in more than 10 countries, including the U.S., U.K., Japan and Taiwan.
Here’s what the numbers say
The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 rose above 331.3 million, and the death toll is now more than 5.54 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.
The U.S. leads the world with 66.5 million cases and 851,730 fatalities.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s vaccine tracker is showing that about 209 million people living in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, equal to 62.9% of the total population.
Some 79.6 million have received a booster, equal to 38.1% of the fully vaccinated.