Coronavirus Morning News Brief – Feb. 3: Bill Gates Would Rather Fund Vaccines Than Go to Mars, China’s ‘Zero-Covid’ Affected Q4 Earnings

Good morning. This is Jonathan Spira reporting. Here now the news of the pandemic from across the globe on the 1,029th day of the pandemic.

American late-night television host Stephen Colbert took the opportunity, of the Biden administration’s announcement that it plans to end in May the public health emergency declared by then President Donald Trump in early 2020, to mock the news.

“Take that, Covid, we beat you!” Colbert, who hosts “The Late Show” on CBS, said during his monologue in response to the news. “Shove that up your nose and rotate it five times!”

“I wish you could see the smiles on the faces in my audience,” he said, adding “[A]nd I wish I could, too. Because they’re still wearing masks.”

“The Late Show“ requires its studio audience to “be fully vaccinated and provide in-person verification of vaccination,” according to its official ticketing website.

Masking is tied to the “community risk level” for Manhattan as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “When New York County is in a medium or high community risk level, according to the CDC, masks covering your nose and mouth are required at all times in the theater,” the website reads.

In other news we cover today, Bill Gates says he would rather fund vaccinees than flights to Mars and China’s ‘zero-Covid’ affected Q4 earnings.


Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates doesn’t plan to join the billionaire race to space.

In an interview with BBC World News that will air on Friday, Gates, whose charitable foundation has supported the global efforts to roll out coronavirus vaccines, said there were social issues that needed to be prioritized more highly over  privately funded rocket launches.

“It’s actually quite expensive to go to Mars,” he told the BBC. “You can buy measles vaccines and save lives for $1,000 per life saved. And so [that] just kind of grounds you, as in… don’t go to Mars.”

Meanwhile, a new study found that people who contract SARS-CoV-2 may experience a 24% increased risk for high cholesterol levels for up to a year after infection.  The peer-reviewed study was published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal.

“These are people who never had cholesterol problems before,” Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, an author of the study and a clinical epidemiologist at Washington University in St. Louis, said in an interview with NBC News.  “Now, all of a sudden, they started having problems weeks and months after Covid-19.”

The researchers looked at new diagnoses of high cholesterol among nearly 52,000 patients within the Department of Veterans Affairs who had been diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 between March 2020 and January 2021, the period before vaccines were widely available. Their data were compared with 2.6 million people who did not have Covid during that period.


The surge in coronavirus-related deaths in Japan is being fueled by a combination of low immunity and overwhelmed hospitals.  Japan, which for most of the pandemic has had one of the lowest Covid death rates in the world, saw figures begin to trend upward at the end of 2022, according to data from Our World in Data.  It hit an all-time high on January 20 this year, surpassing the United States, United Kingdom, and South Korea.

The fallout from China’s draconian “zero-Covid” chaos is showing up in corporate earnings reports from the fourth quarter in companies ranging from Apple to Starbucks.  Both blamed the lockdowns and then surge that followed the abrupt end of zero-Covid policies for disappointing earnings.

Apple reported its first decline in quarterly revenue since 2019, posting $117.2 billion for Q4, a 5% year-over-year decline.  The company’s CEO, Tim Cook, said that “Covid-19-related challenges” disrupted the supply of the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max smartphones through most of the month of December, leading to extended wait times for product shipments.


Hong Kong is moving forward with its plan to hand out free air travel tickets to encourage tourism.  The “Hello Hong Kong” campaign will start doling out the free plane tickets on March 1.  Travel will be on three airlines, Cathay Pacific, HK Express, and Hong Kong Airlines.  The program will open to residents of Southeast Asia on March 1, and will then expand to mainland China in April, and then northeast Asia and the rest of the world in May. Travelers can enter to win the tickets via the online channels of three participating Hong Kong airlines.

Hong Kong CEO John Lee called it “world’s biggest welcome ever.”

Finally, the Chinese government  said on Friday that cross-border travel between the mainland, Hong Kong and Macau would fully resume from February 6, dropping existing quotas and ending a mandatory coronavirus test that was required before travelling.


Now here are the daily statistics for Friday, February 3.

As of Friday morning, the world has recorded 675.9 million Covid-19 cases, an increase of 0.3 million cases, and 6.77 million deaths, according to Worldometer, a service that tracks such information. In addition, 648.2 million people worldwide have recovered from the virus, an increase of 0.3 million.

The reader should note that infrequent reporting from some sources may appear as spikes in new case figures or death tolls.

Worldwide, the number of active coronavirus cases as of Friday at press time is 20,927,888, an increase of 35,000. Out of that figure, 99.8%, or 20,886,069, are considered mild, and 0.2%, or 41,819, are listed as critical. The percentage of cases considered critical has not changed over the past 24 hours.

The United States reported 67,603 new coronavirus infections on Friday for the previous day, compared to 109,666 on Thursday, 31,067 on Wednesday, 30,449 on Tuesday, and 4,424 on Monday, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The 7-day incidence rate is now 37,083.  Figures for the weekend (reported the following day) are typically 30% to 60% of those posted on weekdays due to a lower number of tests being conducted.

The average daily number of new coronavirus cases in the United States over the past 14 days is 41,412, a figure down 19% over the past 14 days, based on data from the Department of Health and Human Services, among other sources.  The average daily death toll over the same period is 462, a decrease of 7% over the same period, while the average number of hospitalizations for the period was 31,392 , a decrease of 21%. In addition, the number of patients in ICUs was 3,962, a decrease of 22% and the test positivity rate is now 11%, a 3% decrease and a figure that has remained constant for the past 7 days..

In addition, since the start of the pandemic the United States has, as of Friday, recorded 104.4 million cases, a higher figure than any other country, and a death toll of 1.14 million. India has the world’s second highest number of officially recorded cases, 44.7 million, and a reported death toll of 530,741.

The newest data from Russia’s Rosstat state statistics service showed that, at the end of July, the number of Covid or Covid-related deaths since the start of the pandemic there in April 2020 is now 823,623, giving the country the world’s second highest pandemic-related death toll, behind the United States.  Rosstat reported that 3,284 people died from the coronavirus or related causes in July, down from 5,023 in June, 7,008 in May and 11,583 in April.

Meanwhile, France is the country with the third highest number of cases, with 39.5 million, and Germany is in the number four slot, with 37.8 million total cases.

Brazil, which has recorded the third highest number of deaths as a result of the virus, 697,248, has recorded over 36.8 million cases, placing it in the number five slot.

The other five countries with total case figures over the 20 million mark are Japan, with 32.7 million cases, South Korea, with 30.2 million cases, placing it in the number seven slot, and Italy, with 25.5 million, as number eight, as well as the United Kingdom, with 24.3 million, and Russia, with over 21.9 million.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that, as of Thursday, 268.9 million people in the United States – or 81% – have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. Of that population, 69.2%, or 229.6 million people, have received two doses of vaccine, and the total number of doses that have been dispensed in the United States is now 668.8 million. Breaking this down further, 91.9% of the population over the age of 18 – or 237.4 million people – has received at least a first inoculation and 78.9% of the same group – or 203.7 million people – is fully vaccinated.  In addition, 18.8% of the same population, or over 48.6 million people, has already received an updated or bivalent booster dose of vaccine.

Starting on June 13, 2022, the CDC began to update vaccine data on a weekly basis and publish the updated information on Thursdays by 8 p.m. EDT, a statement on the agency’s website said.

Some 69.4% of the world population has received at least one dose of coronavirus vaccine by Friday, according to Our World in Data, an online scientific publication that tracks such information.  So far, 13.26 billion doses of the vaccine have been administered on a global basis and 1.17 million doses are now administered each day.

Meanwhile, only 26.4% of people in low-income countries have received one dose, while in countries such as Canada, China, Denmark, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States, at least 75% of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine.

Only a handful of the world’s poorest countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia and Nepal – have reached the 70% mark in vaccinations. Many countries, however, are under 20% and, in countries such as Haiti, Senegal, and Tanzania, for example, vaccination rates remain at or below 10%.

In addition, with the start of vaccinations in North Korea in late September, Eritrea remains the only country in the world that has not administered vaccines.

Anna Breuer contributed reporting to this story.

(Photo: Accura Media Group)


* This article was originally published here