Global Covid report: 300,000 excess US deaths recorded as Cathay Pacific cuts 5,900 jobs

Helen Sullivan
·3 min read
<span>Photograph: Mike Simons/AP</span>
Photograph: Mike Simons/AP

The US Centers for Disease Control and Protection has found that 300,000 excess deaths were recorded in the US this year – 66% of which are accounted for by the official coronavirus death toll of around 220,000.

Excess deaths refer to how many more deaths have been reported in total this year compared with the same period last year. Usually, between the beginning of February and the end of September, about 1.9 million deaths are reported. This year, it is closer to 2.2 million – a 14.5% increase.

The remaining deaths, the CDC wrote, “provide information about the degree to which Covid-19 deaths might be underascertained”. While the remaining 100,000 deaths may not be people who had contracted coronavirus, these deaths may be indirectly related to the pandemic: a heart attack victim, for example, who might not have been able to get treatment because hospitals were overwhelmed.

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The largest portion of the excess deaths occurred among people aged 75 to 84. That groups saw about 95,000 deaths, or 21.5% more than in a normal year. But the biggest relative increase, of 26.5%, was in people aged 25 to 44. Deaths among under-25s dropped slightly.

Deaths were up for different racial and ethnic groups, but the largest increase - 54% - was among Hispanic Americans.

In Brazil, which has the second-highest death toll worldwide after the US, health minister Eduardo Pazuello has fallen ill with a suspected case of Covid-19. The ministry said Pazuello had a fever on Tuesday and would be tested for Covid-19. On Monday, the minister had missed a public event with President Jair Bolsonaro.

“He had a small indisposition and went to the hospital,” Bolsonaro said at the event. The ministry said on Monday that Pazuello had been discharged and was at home.

Two different health ministers resigned in the span of roughly a month before Bolsonaro appointed Pazuello. Bolsonaro has endorsed the drug hydroxychloroquine for treating coronavirus, despite its being unproven for that purpose; the former ministers had advised a more cautious approach.

Brazil has more than 5.3 million confirmed cases and a death toll of just under 155,000.

In yet another blow to airline industry workers, Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways said on Wednesday it would cut 5,900 jobs and end its regional Cathay Dragon brand as it grapples with a plunge in demand.

The restructuring will cost HK$2.2bn ($284m) and the airline will also seek changes to conditions in its contracts with cabin crew and pilots, it told the stock exchange.

Overall, it will cut 8,500 positions, or 24% of its normal headcount, but that includes 2,600 roles already unfilled due to cost reductions, Cathay said.

The airline, which has stored around 40% of its fleet outside Hong Kong, said on Monday it planned to operate at less than 50% of its pre-pandemic capacity in 2021.

After receiving a $5bn rescue package led by the Hong Kong government in June, it had been conducting a strategic review that analysts expected would result in major job losses because it has been losing HK$1.5bn-$2bn a month.

Other key global developments include:

  • A state-owned drugmaker in China is setting up production lines to supply a billion doses of two possible vaccines that are being tested on 50,000 people in 10 countries, the company chairman said on Tuesday. Testing by SinoPharm Group is “in the last kilometre of a long march”, chairman Liu Jingzhen said. He gave no indication when results were expected.

  • Health officials in New Zealand recorded 25 new cases of Covid-19 on Wednesday – the highest number in a single day in many weeks – with two of them diagnosed in the community.

  • Spain is nearing a total of a million infections over the course of the pandemic so far, with 988,322 registered on the Johns Hopkins database, which would make it the first European country and sixth country globally to do so. Its death toll stands at more than 34,000.