| |

"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 19th Apr 2022

Lockdown Exit
BA.2 Proves the Pandemic Isn’t Over, but People Are Over It
BA.2 is spreading in the U.S., although few want to talk about it. The Omicron subvariant is contributing to school and work absences, yet two years of dealing with Covid-19 have made people tired of taking precautions, getting tested and asking about other people’s status, say physicians, psychologists and behavioral scientists. If this is a pandemic wave, then many have decided the best response is a weary shrug. Part of that reaction comes from the fact that while cases are ticking up in some areas, hospitalizations remain low. Research has so far shown most people who are up-to-date with Covid-19 vaccines face little risk of landing in the hospital with BA.2, and prior infection with another variant also bolsters the body’s defenses. In addition, people in many places got on with their lives long ago and are unwilling to return to a pandemic crouch.
China Inflation Rises as Lockdowns, Ukraine War Drive Up Prices
Inflation in China picked up in March as soaring global commodity prices and lockdowns in major cities drove up prices for consumers and businesses. The overall inflationary picture in China remains far more benign than in the U.S. and other major economies, though, giving the government and central bank ample room to support the slowing economy with stimulus. The inflation data highlight how China’s stringent pandemic control measures are increasingly affecting consumer prices
Officials Adopt New Message on Covid-19 Behaviors: It’s Your Call
In the latest phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, federal and local officials are telling people to decide for themselves how best to protect against the virus. Health officials are leaving it up to people to assess if they need booster shots, whether to wear a mask and how long to isolate after a positive test. Businesses, schools and other entities are scaling back specific guidelines as they prepare for a return to normal. The question of when older adults should get a second vaccine booster is the latest example of the government shifting decisions from broad-based community outreach to personal choice.
Australia's Pandemic-Era Ban on Cruise Ships Comes to an End
Australia’s two-year long ban on cruise ships expires on Sunday, another step toward the rehabilitation of tourism from the damage wrought by the pandemic. The ban on foreign cruise ships -- imposed in March 2020 after a Covid outbreak aboard the Ruby Princess spilled into Sydney once the vessel docked -- cost the Australian economy more than A$10 billion ($7.4 billion), the Cruise Lines International Association estimates. Operators “are preparing for a carefully managed resumption of operations in a sector that previously supported more than 18,000 Australian jobs,” the association said in a statement ahead of the ban’s expiry.
UK's Johnson shredded ministerial code with lockdown breaches, constitutional expert says
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has thrust Britain into a constitutional crisis by breaking the law he set for pandemic restrictions, effectively "shredding the ministerial code", the country's leading constitutional expert said on Sunday. Peter Hennessy, a historian and member of the upper house of parliament, said Johnson had become "the great debaser in modern times of decency in public and political life" after he was fined by police for attending a social gathering in Downing Street while lockdown restrictions were in place.
As ‘zero COVID’ bites, China’s leadership sounds alarm on economy
When Chinese Premier Li Keqiang called for a “sense of urgency” about growing economic risks during a meeting with provincial officials earlier this week, it was his third such warning in days. “We need to be highly vigilant for unexpected changes in the international and domestic situations, and downward economic pressure has further mounted,” China’s No 2 official told a symposium in Jiangxi province on Monday, according to a report in South China Morning Post, less than a week after drawing attention to the “complicated and evolving” global situation and COVID-19 outbreaks at home.
China Covid-19 Lockdowns Spread Beyond Shanghai to Other Cities
Localized Covid-19 lockdowns are proliferating across China, suggesting Shanghai’s struggle to contain the virus might be the prelude to a broader battle that threatens to hobble the world’s second-largest economy. Chinese health authorities on Thursday reported more than 29,000 new infections, the highest daily tally since the pandemic began in the central city of Wuhan more than two years ago. Strict measures appear to be working in China’s far Northeast, where local officials are declaring victory following an extended lockdown. Yet localized lockdowns are being newly imposed, expanded or extended elsewhere in the country, including the northern industrial city of Taiyuan, and the southern megacities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen.
China's Covid Deaths Data Questioned as Tally Lags Other Nations
Almost two months into China’s worst Covid-19 outbreak, the vast country has reported only two deaths -- a striking number that’s the subject of growing debate because it appears to best even nations with higher vaccination rates. China reported more than 386,000 cases in the first six weeks of its latest outbreak, giving it a fatality rate of about 0.5 for every 100,000 people infected through April 13. The deaths both occurred in the northeastern province of Jilin, while financial hub Shanghai, now the epicenter of the country’s outbreak with a record 27,719 cases on Thursday, hasn’t reported any so far. The low death rate is in marked contrast to what happened when the highly transmissible omicron variant coursed through Singapore, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, some of the world’s best performers in curbing Covid and vaccinating to a high level, a data analysis by Bloomberg News shows.
'Last few tweaks' being made to COVID IP waiver deal -WTO chief
The head of the World Trade Organization told Reuters on Thursday that negotiations on an intellectual property deal for COVID-19 vaccines were ongoing between the four parties, saying they were seeking to agree on the proposal's final terms. Since the draft compromise emerged in the media a month ago, pressure from civil society groups has been rising for the parties - the United States, the European Union, India and South Africa - to walk away from the deal. Other public figures have also criticised it such as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, saying it is too narrowly focused on vaccines
WHO: COVID cases, deaths in Africa drop to lowest levels yet
The number of coronavirus cases and deaths in Africa have dropped to their lowest levels since the pandemic began, marking the longest decline yet seen in the disease, according to the World Health Organization. In a statement on Thursday, the U.N. health agency said COVID-19 infections due to the omicron surge had “tanked” from a peak of more than 308,000 weekly cases to fewer than 20,000 last week. Cases and deaths fell by 29% and 37% respectively in the last week; deaths decreased to 239 from the previous week. “This low level of infection has not been seen since April 2020 in the early stages of the pandemic in Africa,” WHO said, noting that no country in the region is currently seeing an increase of COVID-19 cases.
Latino Mortality Rate Spiked 48% in Los Angeles During Covid
The death rate of Latinos in Los Angeles rose dramatically more than any other ethnic group during the Covid-19 pandemic. Between 2019 and 2021, the percentage rate of deaths for any reason for Latinos spiked 48%, data from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health show. Just under half of the city’s population is of Hispanic or Latino descent, according to Census data. While all ethnic groups suffered more than usual deaths during the first year of the pandemic, only the Latino population saw the trend continue the following year. The overall two year mortality-rate for Black people increased 23% and 22% for Asian people, consistent with the broader county statistics. The overall mortality rate for White residents rose by 7% in the two-year span. Black residents in Los Angeles, who comprise just under 9% of the population, still have the highest death rate of any group.
Exit Strategies
U.S. CDC lifts COVID 'Do Not Travel' recommendations on about 90 countries
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Monday it had dropped its "Do Not Travel" COVID-19 recommendations for about 90 international destinations. Last week, the CDC said it was revising its travel recommendations and said it would its reserve Level 4 travel health notices "for special circumstances, such as rapidly escalating case trajectory or extremely high case counts." The countries and other regions dropped to "Level 3: High," which still discourages travel by unvaccinated Americans, include the United Kingdom, France, Israel, Turkey, Australia, Greece, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Spain and Russia.
Mask Mandate Overturned for Planes, Public Transportation by Florida Judge
A federal judge overturned the U.S. government mask mandate on airplanes, trains and other public transportation, dealing a blow to the Biden administration as fights continue nationwide over policies tied to the Covid-19 pandemic. U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Tampa, Florida, vacated the mask requirement nationwide and directed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reverse the policy put in place in February 2021. The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the Health Freedom Defense Fund. Mizelle, an appointee of former president Donald Trump, ruled that the CDC had incorrectly described the mask mandate as a form of “sanitation” to justify its authority in the matter.
Inside a Shanghai Mass Quarantine Center: No Showers, Lights On 24/7
China doesn’t make public the total number of people in its isolation facilities, but official data published Friday show there were more than 270,000 asymptomatic cases nationwide under medical observation. It couldn’t be determined how many are in government centers, and there are signs that, as these fill up, more people are being allowed to quarantine at home. Shanghai has built more than 100 makeshift hospitals with a total capacity of more than 160,000 beds for Covid-positive individuals with mild or no symptoms, according to state media. The city had 7,776 people hospitalized and more than 220,000 under medical observation, China Daily reported Thursday.
Shanghai targets lockdown turning point by Wednesday
Shanghai has set a target to stop the spread of COVID-19 outside of quarantined areas by Wednesday, two people familiar with the matter said, which would allow the city to further ease its lockdown and start returning to normal life as public frustrations grow. The target will require officials to accelerate COVID testing and the transfer of positive cases to quarantine centres, according to a speech by a local Communist Party official dated Saturday, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.
Nicola Sturgeon Reported to Police Over Apparent Face Mask Law Breach
Nicola Sturgeon has been reported to police after footage showed her apparently breaching Scotland's Covid face mask law on the council election campaign trail. A video posted on social media appears to show Scotland's First Minister not wearing a mask during a visit to a barber's in East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire, on Saturday. There is currently a legal requirement to wear a face covering in most indoor public places in Scotland, including shops, public transport and hairdressers. In the video, Ms Sturgeon appears to be seen without a face covering as she mingles with customers and pats the head of a man in a barber's chair while mimicking the sound of an electric razor.
Is the world moving on from COVID too quickly?
Many countries have been loosening COVID protocols but is the move being made too soon or has the worst of the pandemic passed? According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University the global tally of new coronavirus cases has fallen drastically, but global deaths have been climbing. Earlier this month Shanghai, the commercial hub of China, ground to a halt under a strict lockdown as the Omicron variant took over. The city remains closed and there are worries the quarantine is triggering a hunger crisis. The new XE variant of the virus, first detected in the United Kingdom, has now been detected in Japan. The subvariant has already spread rapidly across the UK infecting about one in every thirteen people there, according to the latest estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) – the highest number since April 2020.
Bangladesh, Nepal celebrate new years after pandemic pause
After a two-year break, thousands of people in Bangladesh and Nepal on Thursday celebrated their respective new years with colorful processions and musical soirees as the coronavirus pandemic eased and life swung back to normal. In Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, people clad in the traditional red attire ushered in the Bengali year 1429. They marched, sang and danced at a prominent arts college on the Dhaka University campus and in historic Ramna Park. Similar processions were organized in other parts of Dhaka and elsewhere in the country, but the celebration was subdued as the Muslim-majority Bangladesh was also observing the fasting month of Ramadan amid scorching heat.
Anti-virus shutdowns in China spread as infections rise
Anti-virus controls that have shut down some of China’s biggest cities and fueled public irritation are spreading as infections rise, hurting a weak economy and prompting warnings of possible global shockwaves. Shanghai is easing rules that confined most of its 25 million people to their homes after complaints they had trouble getting food. But most of its businesses still are closed. Access to Guangzhou, an industrial center of 19 million people near Hong Kong, was suspended this week. Other cities are cutting off access or closing factories and schools. Spring planting by Chinese farmers who feed 1.4 billion people might be disrupted, Nomura economists warned Thursday. That could boost demand for imported wheat and other food, pushing up already high global prices.
China's GDP growth seen slowing to 5.0% in 2022 on COVID hit
China's economic growth is likely to slow to 5.0% in 2022 amid renewed COVID-19 outbreaks and a weakening global recovery, a Reuters poll showed, raising pressure on the central bank to ease policy further. The forecast growth for 2022 would be lower than the 5.2% analysts tipped in a Reuters poll in January, suggesting the government faces an uphill battle in hitting this year's target of around 5.5%. Growth is then forecast to pick up to 5.2% in 2023.
Hong Kong confirms it will ease COVID restrictions from April 21
Hong Kong confirmed on Thursday it will ease some of the world's most stringent COVID-19 restrictions, allowing beauty parlours, cinemas and gyms to reopen from April 21 as infections in the global financial hub hover below 2,000 per day. The Chinese-ruled city has been hit by a fifth wave of coronavirus since early this year that has battered business and led to more than 8,600 deaths, many in the past two months, although cases have dropped in recent days. Coronavirus restrictions have battered businesss and helped fuel a net outflow of around 70,000 people in February and March, up from nearly 17,000 in December, raising concerns over the city's status as a global financial centre
S.Korea to lift most COVID curbs from next week as Omicron wanes
South Korea said on Friday it will drop most COVID-19 pandemic-related restrictions next week including a midnight curfew on eateries as the Omicron surge in cases shows signs of waning, although people will still have to wear masks. From April 18, the midnight curfew on restaurants and other businesses will be scrapped, along with the cap on private gatherings which was set at 10, Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum told a coronavirus response meeting.
Lockdown Financial Aid in China Leaves Households Behind
China’s government is channeling its Covid-related financial aid toward businesses rather than households, an approach that’s increasingly being challenged as consumers struggle to cope under stringent lockdowns. Officials say the support for firms aims to preserve jobs, but many households required to stay at home for weeks on end are battling to pay rent and other living costs, according to social media posts and charity workers. A total of 45 Chinese cities are now imposing partial or total lockdowns, according to Nomura Holdings Inc., restricting the movement of some 370 million people.
Partisan Exits
U.S. Army chief tests positive for COVID-19- spokesperson
U.S. Army Chief General James McConville tested positive for the coronavirus and was experiencing very mild symptoms, a spokesperson said on Monday. McConville tested positive on Sunday, is fully vaccinated and is working remotely, the spokesperson added.
Small Businesses Object to Rerouting of Covid-19 Aid
Small-business owners are bristling over a congressional proposal that would redirect unspent money from Covid-19 programs to provide $10 billion for the federal government’s pandemic health response, including vaccines and therapeutics. At issue is about $5 billion that Congress allocated for three small-business aid programs but which hasn’t yet been spent. Some lawmakers want to repurpose those existing funds for healthcare, rather than allocate new money, because they are increasingly focused on reining in the federal deficit and spending amid a surge in inflation, which is at a 40-year high. The debate underscores the struggle to fulfill requests made by the Biden administration to address pandemic needs, while also accommodating Republican demands to not spend new money.
Unvaccinated Air Force Reserve Colonel Rejected by Supreme Court
A divided U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene on behalf of an Air Force Reserve officer who was relieved of his command after saying he wouldn’t get vaccinated against Covid-19 for religious reasons. Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Dunn was seeking to avoid being shifted to the Individual Ready Reserve, which would mean he wouldn’t take part in drills or be paid. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch said they would have granted his request. Neither they nor the court gave any explanation.
Italy PM Mario Draghi Tests Positive for Covid, To Miss Africa Trip
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi will miss a trip to Africa this week after testing positive for Covid-19. He is asymptomatic, according to a government official on Monday. Draghi was scheduled to travel to central and southern Africa this week in pursuit of further natural gas deals to reduce Italy’s dependence on Russian supplies. Italy has already struck agreements for Algerian and Egyptian gas. Italy will be represented in the planned trips to Angola and the Republic of Congo, on April 20 and 21, by Ecological Transition Minister Roberto Cingolani and Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, according to the official.
China Urges Xi Support Despite Covid Lockdown Anger in Shanghai
The Chinese Communist Party’s flagship newspaper called on the nation to support President Xi Jinping’s Covid Zero strategy, showing any shift in policy is unlikely even as lockdowns in Shanghai and elsewhere threaten to hurt the economy. In a front-page commentary Monday, the People’s Daily said Xi’s strategy to snuff out the virus has proven “correct and effective” and China should be “uniting more closely around the party’s leadership with Xi Jinping as the core.” Citizens should follow the strategy “unswervingly and unrelentingly” with “earlier, faster, stricter and more practical” measures, it said.
China Coronavirus Outbreak: Xi Jinping's Covid Zero Is Failing
Beijing oversold its surveillance-based system of disease control and underestimated the shape-shifting virus. The result is an economic mess — though probably not a political crisis.
COVID-shaming pits neighbour against neighbour in locked-down Shanghai
The tensions of lockdown have exposed divisions among Shanghai residents, pitting young against old, locals against outsiders, and above all, COVID-negative against COVID-positive people. Shanghai's 25 million people, most of whom live in apartment blocks, have forged new communal bonds during the city's coronavirus outbreak, through barter and group buying and setting up food-sharing stations. But with no end in sight to a lockdown that for some has lasted four weeks, frustrations are also mounting behind the shuttered gates of the city's tower blocks, often playing out within WeChat message groups
Taiwan’s COVID-hit tourism stews as island shuns global reopening
Before the pandemic, Taipei’s Yongkang Street was a top tourist destination, catering to visitors who would snack on spring onion pancakes, bubble tea and mango ice in between browsing gift shops and upscale boutiques. The area was so popular that the iconic Taiwanese restaurant chain Din Tai Fung opened a second location across the street from its flagship store to manage the demand for its dumplings. These days, “for rent” signs and empty shop fronts are a common sight in the neighbourhood. After more than two years of closed borders, times are tough for Taiwanese small businesses that once counted on tourists for much of their income. While Yongkang Street still draws locals on the weekends, they often have different tastes to the foreign tourists barred from the island since March 2020. Shaun Yu, who owns Lai Hao gift shop on a side street off Yongkang, said he had been forced to close two of his three locations – the last one opened at the end of 2019 when his shop was a popular destination for tourists looking for souvenirs.
Guatemala: As COVID misinformation spreads, vaccine doses expire
On a recent afternoon, the COVID-19 vaccination centre in the heart of the Indigenous Mayan town of Santiago Atitlan was quiet. The health centre had a vaccine supply, but demand was low. The lack of coordination of a Guatemalan government-led campaign to overcome vaccine hesitancy has resulted in the expiration of millions of doses across the country this year, critics have said, as more than half of the population remains unvaccinated. According to Juan Manuel Ramirez, an evangelical preacher in Santiago Atitlan, some community members have taken the vaccine, knowing it helps to protect against severe disease. But others have subscribed to conspiracy theories about its potential dangers. “There are other people who also have other types of thoughts, such as that the vaccine comes with a chip,” he told Al Jazeera. “Because of that, there is uncertainty, and therefore they have not been vaccinated. Earlier this month, approximately 1.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine donated by the United States expired. In March, the same fate befell nearly three million doses of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine, worth more than $33m. And by the end of June, more than two million doses of the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines will also expire.
Scientific Viewpoint
Study shows 99% on Indonesia's most populous island have COVID antibodies
Almost all residents of Indonesia's most populous island of Java have antibodies against COVID-19, owing to a combination of prior infection and vaccination against the virus, a government-commissioned survey showed. The March study of 2,100 people, conducted on Java, home to 150 million people, and Bali, Indonesia's top tourism destination, revealed 99.2% of people had COVID antibodies, a 6 percentage point increase from a December survey. Pandu Riono, an epidemiologist at the University of Indonesia, which conducted the survey with the health ministry, on Monday told Reuters the antibody levels in the latest survey were higher due to a wider booster shot rollout, as recipients had stronger protection.
The case for testing Pfizer's Paxlovid for treating long COVID
Reports of two patients who found relief from long COVID after taking Pfizer Inc's antiviral Paxlovid, including a researcher who tested it on herself, provide intriguing evidence for clinical trials to help those suffering from the debilitating condition, experts and advocates say. The researcher said her chronic fatigue symptoms, which "felt like a truck hit me," are gone after taking the two-drug oral therapy. Long COVID is a looming health crisis, estimated to affect up to 30% of people infected with the coronavirus.
Omicron-specific Sinopharm, Sinovac COVID vaccine candidates cleared for clinical trial
COVID-19 vaccine candidates developed by a Sinopharm subsidiary and Sinovac Biotech (SVA.O) to target the Omicron variant were approved for clinical trials in Hong Kong, the companies said on Saturday. Scientists worldwide are racing to study upgraded injections against Omicron, as data indicated that antibodies elicited by vaccines based on older strains show weaker activity to neutralise the highly transmissible variant.
Pfizer, Moderna, J&J See Respiratory Virus RSV as Next Vaccine Target
After Covid-19, vaccine makers’ next big target is a respiratory virus that kills up to 500 children a year nationwide and has been among the leading causes of U.S. hospitalizations for decades. The respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, infects nearly everyone at some point, causing mild, cold-like symptoms for most people. But it can lead to serious health problems such as difficulty breathing and pneumonia for infants and older adults. The virus has for decades eluded efforts to develop a vaccine, including a major setback in the 1960s when an experimental shot harmed some children in testing. RSV is one of the last remaining childhood diseases without an approved vaccine.
WHO warns coronavirus is far from settling into endemic situation
COVID-19 is far from becoming an endemic disease and could still trigger large outbreaks around the globe, the World Health Organization (WHO) said. WHO Health Emergencies Programme Director Michael Ryan said on Thursday that it was wrong to think that if COVID-19 settles down and becomes endemic, it will mean the end of the problem. “I certainly do not believe we’ve reached anything close to an endemic situation with this virus,” Ryan told a question-and-answer session on the WHO’s social media channels. “That is not an endemic disease yet,” he said.
Pfizer to seek COVID booster for healthy 5- to 11-year-olds
Pfizer said Thursday it wants to expand its COVID-19 booster shots to healthy elementary-age kids. U.S. health authorities already urge everyone 12 and older to get one booster dose for the best protection against the newest variants -- and recently gave the option of a second booster to those 50 and older. Now Pfizer says new data shows healthy 5- to 11-year-olds could benefit from another kid-sized shot. In a small study, 140 youngsters who’d already gotten two shots were given a booster six months later, and researchers found the extra shot generally revved up their immune response. But a closer look at 30 of the children found a 36-fold increase in virus-fighting antibodies, levels high enough to fight the super-contagious omicron variant, Pfizer and its partner BioNTech said in a press release.
Pfizer Says Covid-19 Booster in Children Ages 5 to 11 Sparked Immune Response Against Omicron
A booster dose of the Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE Inc. generated a strong immune response in children 5 to 11 years old, an encouraging sign for youngsters to maintain protection against the virus. The companies said Thursday that a late-stage study of a booster found the extra shot significantly increased antibody levels against the Omicron variant. The shot also raised antibody supply against the initial strain the vaccines were designed to fight. The booster shot was found to be safe and well-tolerated among the children in the study, the companies said. The results haven’t been peer-reviewed by independent experts or published in a medical journal. Separate studies have found that adults who receive a third dose of mRNA vaccines are less likely to become infected, or to develop severe disease, than those who got two doses.
Omicron BA.2 Is Advancing, but Covid-19 Hospitalizations Stay Muted
The Omicron BA.2 variant has dominated new infections in the U.S. for weeks without setting off a major surge so far, raising hopes among some public-health experts that the nation might dodge a more significant hit. BA.2 is in particular affecting the Northeast, where virus concentrations in wastewater are rising alongside reported infections in such places as New York, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia. Concern about BA.2 prompted Philadelphia to restore an indoor-mask requirement and U.S. authorities to extend mask mandates for airplanes and other forms of transportation.
Covid-19 Breathalyzer Test Gets FDA Approval
A Covid-19 breathalyzer test with the ability to provide diagnostic results in three minutes has won emergency-use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the agency announced Thursday. The test, made by Frisco, Texas-based InspectIR Systems, is authorized for those 18 and older and in settings where samples are both collected and analyzed, such as doctor’s offices, hospitals or mobile testing sites. The device is about the size of a piece of carry-on luggage, the FDA said, and works by detecting chemical compounds in breath samples associated with SARS-CoV-2 infection. The agency said the test was validated in a study of 2,409 people, where it correctly identified 91.2% of positive samples and 99.3% of negative samples. It performed similarly in follow-up tests focused on the omicron variant. The breathalyzer’s sensitivity is comparable to that of rapid antigen tests, studies show.
Fourth shot protects against severe Omicron outcomes; COVID may increase risk of rare eye blood clots
The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that has yet to be certified by peer review. Fourth vaccine dose protects vs Omicron for at least a month. A fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech provided significant added protection against severe disease, hospitalization and death for at least a month in older individuals, according to a study from Israel conducted when the Omicron variant was dominant. The estimated effectiveness of the fourth dose during days 7 to 30 after it was administered compared with a third dose given at least fourth months earlier was 45% against infection, 55% for symptomatic disease.
Pfizer says booster in kids 5-11 produces ‘high’ immune response
Pfizer and BioNTech said Thursday that a third dose of their COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 5 to 11 produced a “high” immune response, and that they will apply for authorization for a booster dose in the age group soon. Pfizer said in a news release that a third dose of the vaccine in those 5 to 11 produced a 36-fold increase in levels of neutralizing antibodies against the omicron variant, compared to two doses. Antibody levels against the original version of the virus increased by six-fold.
FDA authorizes 1st breath test for COVID-19 infection
The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday issued an emergency use authorization for what it said is the first device that can detect COVID-19 in breath samples. The InspectIR COVID-19 Breathalyzer is about the size of a piece of carry-on luggage, the FDA said, and can be used in doctor’s offices, hospitals and mobile testing sites. The test, which can provide results in less than three minutes, must be carried out under the supervision of a licensed health care provider. Dr. Jeff Shuren, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, called the device “yet another example of the rapid innovation occurring with diagnostic tests for COVID-19.”
UK clears 6th COVID shot despite canceling deal for doses
British authorities have authorized a coronavirus vaccine for adults made by French drugmaker Valneva, despite the government’s decision last year to cancel an order for at least 100 million doses. The U.K. is the first country to authorize Valneva’s vaccine, which is also under review by the European Medicines Agency. Britain’s medicines regulator said Thursday that the two-dose vaccine is intended for adults ages 18 to 50, with the second dose given about a month after the first. The Valneva vaccine is made with the decades-old technology used to manufacture shots for flu and polio. It is the sixth COVID-19 vaccine the U.K. has cleared and the only one that utilizes a “killed” virus; scientists grow the coronavirus in a lab and then inactivate the virus so it cannot replicate or infect cells.
Pfizer/BioNTech say booster dose increases protection vs Omicron in kids aged 5-11
A third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer Inc and BioNTech produced significant protection against the Omicron variant of the coronavirus in healthy children ages 5 to 11, the companies said on Thursday. Blood serum analysis of 30 pediatric participants who received a booster dose in a study showed a 36-fold increase in Omicron neutralizing antibodies, the drugmakers said. Neutralizing antibodies against the original version of the virus for which the vaccine was designed rose six-fold following the booster shot.
Coronavirus Resurgence
H.K. Reports 747 New Covid Cases as Infections Continue to Drop
The Chinese Communist Party’s flagship newspaper called on the nation to support President Xi Jinping’s Covid Zero strategy, showing any shift in policy is unlikely even as lockdowns in Shanghai and elsewhere threaten to hurt the economy. In a front-page commentary Monday, the People’s Daily said Xi’s strategy to snuff out the virus has proven “correct and effective” and China should be “uniting more closely around the party’s leadership with Xi Jinping as the core.” Citizens should follow the strategy “unswervingly and unrelentingly” with “earlier, faster, stricter and more practical” measures, it said. “At present, it is the most difficult critical period for epidemic prevention and control,” the People’s Daily commentary said. China can “never let the hard-earned achievements of epidemic prevention and control be wasted,” it added.
Shanghai reports three deaths among COVID patients on April 17
The Chinese financial hub of Shanghai said three people infected with COVID-19 died on Sunday, the first time during the current outbreak that it reported deaths among coronavirus patients. The city reported 19,831 new daily asymptomatic COVID-19 cases on April 17, down from 21,582 on the previous day. New symptomatic cases stood at 2,417, down from 3,238. The city has conducted more than 200 million nucleic acid tests since March 10 in a bid to curb China's biggest COVID-19 outbreak since the coronavirus was first discovered in Wuhan in late 2019.