9 July 2021

• The G20 High Level Independent Panel on Financing the Global Commons for Pandemic Preparedness and Response presents its report to Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors. The report’s key messages include a call for swift action from the G20 and international community to fix current shortfalls in the response to COVID-19, since the world cannot wait for the current pandemic to end before making critical investments and reforms to prepare for future pandemics, which are likely to be more dangerous- and more frequent; a $ 75 billion dollar increase in international funding for pandemic prevention and preparedness over the next five years, going towards infectious disease surveillance, resilience of national healthcare systems, global capacity to supply and deliver vaccines and other medical technologies and global governance. The Panel noted that the necessary investment is larger than what the international community has historically been willing to spend, but far less than the cost of another major pandemic – which could cost governments 700 times more than the additional yearly investment of $15 billion proposed by the Panel. The request for funding includes support for a new Global Health Threats Fund and additional support for existing international institutions, including the WHO and for creating concessional financing windows in the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) and Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs). The Panel also calls for the creation of a new Global Health Threats Board, which would bring together Finance and Health Ministers and International Organizations for systemic financial oversight and timely and effective resourcing and coordination of international efforts to mitigate pandemic threats. While underscoring the need for all countries to make domestic investments in pandemic preparedness, low- and-middle-income countries would need to add 1 percent of their GDP to spending on health, with additional support from multilateral and bilateral financing partners.

The G20 will consider the Panel’s report before the Joint Finance and Health Ministers meeting in October. Source

• The International Monetary Fund (IMF) Executive Board approved a plan to issue $650 billion in reserve funds that poor countries can use for vaccines, healthcare and paying down their debt, which the Fund’s Board of Governors will hold a vote on in August. Kristalina Georgieva, the IMF’s Managing Director, said “This is a shot in the arm for the world.” The money would be allocated for Special Drawing Rights (SDR). Each IMF member receives an SDR allotment, based on its shares in the fund – which track with the size of a country’s economy. The largest economic powers like the United States, gain the biggest tranche. Countries can trade their SDR for currencies that they can use to buy things. If two countries agree, they can trade their SDR for cash, with the IMF facilitating the deal.

The program has faced criticism from those who feel it will not work unless rich countries voluntarily transfer their holdings to poorer nations. Eswar Prasad, the International Monetary Fund’s former China chief, said “It is a legitimate concern that new SDR will end up mostly in the hands of large and rich countries that have little use for them rather than in the hands of the smaller and poorer countries that really need them. A reallocation of SDR toward the latter group, in addition to increasing the overall volume of SDR, would be helpful in dealing with stresses to the global financial system.” In response, the IMF is establishing a trust fund for excess SDR from rich countries, enabling poor countries to take loans from to expand health care systems in conjunction with existing IMF programs. Source

• Russia’s official COVID-19 death toll for May was increased by 65 percent, reaching 18,695 and bringing the total to nearly 290,000 as cases of the Delta variant continue to surge across the country. Source

• As the Delta variant drives Spain’s coronavirus surge, Germany declares it a risk area and France warns against visiting the country. Source

• Geoff Makhubo, the mayor of Johannesburg, South Africa, dies from COVID-19. Source

• The US CDC issues new guidance for schools, which prioritize a return to in-person learning. The Guidance encourages vaccination and recommends masking for all unvaccinated people age 2 and over, and that students should remain at least three feet apart in classrooms in addition to ventilation, handwashing, respiratory etiquette, getting tested and staying home when feeling ill, contact tracing, quarantining, isolation and cleaning and disinfecting schools. The CDC also recommends that localities monitor community transmission, vaccination coverage, screening, testing, and occurrence of outbreaks to inform decisions on prevention strategies. Source

• Indian generics producer Hetero Labs is seeking emergency use authorization for molnupiravir, an experimental COVID-19 treatment that is being developed by Merch and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, currently in phase III. Interim results from a molnupiravir in India in non-hospitalized patients with mild COVID-19 showed that the drug reduced hospital admissions, sped up time to recovery and viral clearance. Results from the global phase III trial are expected in late 2021. Source

• Cuba’s state-run biopharmaceutical corporation, BioCubaFarma, announces that its two-shot Soberana 2 vaccine, with a booster called Soberana Plus, was 91.2 percent effective against COVID-19 in late-stage clinical trials. The county has five experimental coronavirus vaccines in development, including Abdala (which was 92.28 percent effective in late-stage trials). Local regulators are expected to quickly approve emergency use of Soberana 2 and Abdala; they will be submitted to WHO as well. Argentina and Viet Nam are interested in producing Cuba’s protein vaccines, which use a part of the coronavirus spike protein to elicit an immune response. Iran is already producing Soberana 2. Source

• Cuba’s Center for State Control of Medicines, Equipment and Medical Devices grants emergency approval for the three-dose Abdala coronavirus vaccine, which is locally developed and produced. Source

• In Mexico, where 39 percent of adult residents have had at least one vaccine, a third wave is underway. Daily coronavirus cases increased by 29 percent in just a week, most among young people. The country’s Assistant Health Secretary, Hugo López- Gatell, says that more public activity- not the Delta variant – is driving the increase, which is expected to peak in August. Source

• Despite increasing cases in Britain, driven by the Delta variant, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his administration plan to remove restrictions such as masking and physical distancing requirements on 19 July, which has been called “Freedom Day” and “Freedom to Catch COVID Day.” The situation has led to a hashtag, #JohnsonVariant – dubbed the “UK’s deadliest strain.” Source

Nature publishes an article suggesting that two 25 microgram doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine (rather than the approved dose of 100 micrograms each) could elicit strong immune responses for up to six months, based on results among most participants in an early dose-finding trial of the vaccine. The authors propose that dose-stretching could promote vaccine equity. Source

• Research and Markets issues a report on the global market for coronavirus diagnostics from 2021 to 2026, predicting that it will reach $4395.9 million by 2026, with the Europe and Asia Pacific regions dominating. Source

Lancet publishes results from the 292-person ATOMIC Trial, which assessed adding azithromycin to standard of care for non-hospitalized people with mild to-moderate COVID-19. Azithromycin use did not reduce subsequent hospitalization or death. Source

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