"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 11th May 2021
WHO names B1617 fourth COVID-19 Variant of Concern
- Top World Health Organization (WHO) officials said the agency now classifies the B1667 SARS-CoV-2 variant first detected in India as a Variant of Concern, following a detailed analysis of early findings by its genetics working group, which said the variant is more transmissable.
- Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO's technical lead for COVID-19, said the group's experts have been meeting for the past few days to review as much data as possible about the B1617 variant. She said B1617 has three sublineages. preliinary analysis suggests it is more trnsmissable, part of what led the group to move it from a Variant of Interest to a Variant of Concern alongside B117, B1351 and P1.
- She said much more work is needed to look at B1617 sequences form India and other countries that have detected it, adding that lab studies to shed light on virus neutralization issues are needed, as well as epidemiological studies to provide clues on how the variant behaves.
- So far, public health measures such as distancing, limiting gatherings and wearing lasks seem to work against B1617, Van Kerkhove said. But with a more transmissable virus, 'we have to work that much harder.'
- Tomorrow in its weekly COVID situation report the WHO will publish more details about the variant and its investigations so far, she said.
- Public Health England on May 7th announced it has reclassified B1617.2 as a variant of concern. Indian officials have said a combination of factors have been driving its second suge, the world's worst of the pandemic. They include social mixing, relaxed measures and more transmissable variants, which has also invluded B117, the variant first seen in the UK.
WHO names B1617 fourth COVID-19 variant of concern
Top World Health Organization (WHO) officials today said the agency now classifies the B1617 SARS-CoV-2 variant first detected in India as a variant of concern, following a detailed analysis of early findings by its genetics working group, which said the variant is more transmissible. In other key global developments, during a Global Citizen's Vax Live concert over the weekend, countries, corporations, and charities raised more than $60 million for the COVAX program to ensure more equitable access to COVID-19 vaccine, while India's massive surge remained at record high levels.
The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 has mutated more than 6600 times
The Sars-CoV-2 virus that sparked the Covid-19 pandemic has undergone more than 6,600 unique spike protein mutations, said Dr Sebastian Maurer-Stroh, executive director of the Bioinformatics Institute at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star). Viruses mutate whenever there is a "mistake" in the replication process. This could result from an addition, a deletion or a change to its genetic code. If that mistake increases its survival prospects, more copies of that "wrong" replication will survive, and sometimes overwhelm the original version. For example, the D614G mutation which started to rise sharply in February last year is now found in all samples of the virus, no matter which variant they are. Because this variant became so pervasive, it was given a clade name - or family group - of its own, and is designated as G clade. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that while the G clade has increased infectivity and transmission, the illness it causes is not more severe, nor does it affect diagnostics, treatment or vaccines.
Argentina confirms first cases of COVID-19 variants from India, South Africa
Argentina's Health Ministry on Monday confirmed its first cases of the more contagious COVID-19 variants discovered in India and South Africa in three travelers returning to the South American country from Europe.
COVID-19: Experts call on UK to back intellectual property waiver on coronavirus vaccines
More than 400 academics, politicians, charities, faith leaders, and others have called on the British prime minister to waive vaccine patents. The move comes just days after the US announced it is backing the proposed waiver, a move described by the World Health Organisation's director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as "monumental". In an open letter organised by Global Justice Now, StopAIDS, and Just Treatment, the group called on Boris Johnson to "stand on the right side of history".
Will a waiver work? Don't expect COVID-19 vaccine patents to lift quickly, if ever, analysts say
When the Biden administration unveiled its support for waiving patent protections for COVID-19 vaccines, the tremors were felt worldwide. But less than a week later, the shock and awe has subsided and cooler heads are questioning whether the move would have an effect at all. With existing vaccine producers ramping up supplies significantly and tough negotiations ahead to make the World Trade Organization (WTO) waiver a reality, can the initiative reach the finish line in time to make a difference?
What’s behind the disagreement over COVID-19 vaccine waiver?
Almost everyone agrees one way to beat the pandemic is to increase global vaccine production. But world leaders differ on how to give more access to poor nations that lack doses. The United States has supported suspending intellectual property rights on vaccines. That could allow developing nations to acquire the knowledge needed to produce jabs locally.
Send coronavirus vaccines abroad now most vulnerable are inoculated, says Professor Andrew Pollard
Countries like the UK which have vaccinated the vast majority of their vulnerable population against the coronavirus should rethink their priorities and send available doses to other parts of the world, a vaccination expert said. Professor Andrew Pollard, head of the Oxford University vaccine group, told the BBC that around 30,000 people worldwide would die from Covid-19 today, with the total by the end of the month set to be “just shy of a million deaths”. “History will not look kindly on us if a million people die this month and we haven’t acted,” he said. “Countries that have now vaccinated the vast majority of the vulnerable need to be rethinking priorities. We are in a very joined up global community and just can’t stand by and see that level of catastrophe happen.”
In India’s northeast there’s fear of a virus surge to come
With experts saying the coronavirus is likely spreading in India’s northeastern state of Assam faster than anywhere else in the country, authorities were preparing Monday for a surge in infections by converting a massive stadium and a university into hospitals. Cases in Assam started ticking upward a month ago and the official seven-day weekly average in the state on May 9 stood at more than 4,700 cases. But a model run by the University of Michigan — which predicts the current spread of cases before they are actually detected — says infections in Assam are likely occurring as fast as any other place in the country.
France detects 20 cases of Indian COVID variant: Health minister
The coronavirus variant first detected in India appears to be on the rise in France, which has now recorded at least 20 cases, according to the country’s health minister. On Monday, Olivier Veran told French news channel LCI that people affected had been identified in five small clusters, local media reported.
‘Mumbai model’: Indian city thwarting COVID, slowly but steadily
Till the end of last month, 27-year-old Ashish Avhad had to field non-stop telephone calls from COVID patients seeking beds, ambulances and guidance on home isolation. Avhad works as a telephone operator in one of the 24 COVID response “war rooms” in India’s financial capital Mumbai, home to more than 12.5 million people, in the western state of Maharashtra.
India turns to ex-army medics as COVID surge sparks calls for lockdown
India will recruit hundreds of former army medics to support its overwhelmed healthcare system, the defence ministry said on Sunday, as the country grapples with record COVID-19 infections and deaths amid calls for a complete nationwide lockdown. Some 400 medical officers are expected to serve on contract for a maximum of 11 months, the ministry said in a press release, adding that other defence doctors had also been contacted for online consultations.
Dr. Fauci urged India to impose a national lockdown as its COVID-19 crisis worsens. So far, Prime Minister Modi has refused.
India has been experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases for weeks. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has refused to put a national lockdown in place. Dr. Anthony Fauci and others have said a lockdown could prevent the spread of the virus.
COVID-19: Police raid Indian hospital and accuse doctors of 'false scaremongering' over low oxygen supplies
A small private hospital in India's most populous state is being charged under the National Security Act for sounding the alarm over a lack of oxygen. The director of the Sun Hospital in Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh told Sky News he faced being arrested at any time and his business seized after the police laid charges against him. Akilesh Pandey, who owns and runs the hospital in the state's capital, said four of his patients died on a single day when oxygen ran out.
Brazil to spend an extra $1 bln on producing, acquiring COVID-19 vaccines
Brazil's government will direct an extra 5.5 billion reais ($1.05 billion) of federal spending towards the production, supply and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, President Jair Bolsonaro's office said in a statement on Monday.
Norway advised to drop Oxford/AstraZeneca and J&J from vaccine program
Norway's expert committee on vaccination advised the government on Monday to use neither the Oxford/AstraZeneca nor the Johnson & Johnson jab for its immunization drive. The decision is based on the reports of rare blood clots with low platelets but also takes into consideration the stable and low case count in Norway, which makes the supply situation less urgent, wrote the committee in its report. Separately, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health cited similar evidence Monday in its recommendation that also called for the J&J jab to not be administered. The institute previously recommended against including the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
Japan ramps up vaccine distribution amid COVID-19 surge
Japan accelerated on Monday its rollout of coronavirus vaccines with the aim of completely inoculating all people age 65 or older by the end of July amid a fourth wave of infections. Over the next two weeks starting Monday, the government will send vaccines to municipalities to administer shots to over 9 million people, covering a quarter of the nation’s population age 65 or over of about 36 million and plans to distribute vaccines for the entire population of such people by the end of June. Japan lags behind other advanced countries in its vaccine rollout, with only some 240,000 of older people having received the first of two shots as of Thursday
In about a dozen countries, not even health care workers can get COVID-19 vaccines
There are nearly a dozen countries that have yet to receive a single COVID-19 vaccine dose, including Chad, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Eritrea, and Tanzania. "Delays and shortages of vaccine supplies are driving African countries to slip further behind the rest of the world in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, and the continent now accounts for only 1 percent of the vaccines administered worldwide," the World Health Organization said last week.
Germany to make J&J's COVID-19 vaccine available to all adults
Germany is to make Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine available to all adults, Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Monday, adding that they will be able to receive the shot on the advice of a doctor. Europe's drug regulator backed J&J's vaccine last month after examining cases of a rare blood clotting issue in U.S. adults who received a dose. But it left it up to the European Union's member states to decide how to use it. Germany's move to offer the J&J single-dose vaccine widely follows the lifting of restrictions last week on the AstraZeneca vaccine.
CVS, Walgreens Are America's Epicenters For COVID-19 Vaccine Waste
NPR's Sacha Pfeiffer speaks with reporter Joshua Eaton about the two pharmacy chains accounting for the majority of wasted COVID-19 vaccines, according to reporting from Kaiser Health News. The findings are based on CDC data and show that those two companies are responsible for more wasted vaccines than federal, state and local government agencies combined.
Why the world’s most vaccinated country is seeing a surge in coronavirus cases
As the Seychelles began to offer free coronavirus vaccinations early this year, president Wavel Ramkalawan told reporters that the country was planning to reach herd immunity within weeks. It was an ambitious target for a small, geographically isolated island nation in the Indian Ocean. But with its economy heavily reliant on tourism, the country called in favors to attain a vaccine supply from regional allies, including India and the United Arab Emirates. The effort initially seemed to be a success. The Seychelles stands as the most vaccinated nation on Earth, with more than 60 percent of its population fully vaccinated, more than other vaccine giants such as Israel and Britain, and almost twice the United States’ rate of vaccination.
Florida reports more than 10,000 COVID-19 variant cases, surge after spring break
Variant COVID-19 infections skyrocketed following spring break in Florida and there have been more than 10,000 variant cases reported throughout the state, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported based on data from the Florida Department of Health. A total of 753 variant cases from three strains -- the B.1.1.7, the P.1, and the B. 22.214.171.124. -- were reported on March 14, according to variant infection data shared with ABC News. The Florida Department of Health does not disclose variant cases on its public dashboard. That number swelled to 5,177 cases from five types of variants on April 15. Just two weeks later, the number of variant infections exploded to 9,248 on April 27, according to local ABC affiliate , WFTV.
Rise in COVID cases drives Singapore back to stricter measures
Singapore, the Asian city-state that has been among the world’s best at containing the Covid-19 pandemic, is back on the defensive, reimposing local restrictions and tightening its borders amid a pop in cases. With infections in the community sometimes reaching double digits among a population of 5.7 million, the government last week started limiting social gatherings, curbed entry for most foreign workers and ordered mass testing across industries and areas where new cases have arisen.
Malaysia declares nationwide lockdown as COVID-19 cases spike
Malaysia on Monday imposed a new nationwide lockdown, as the country grapples with a surge in coronavirus cases and highly infectious variants that the government said are testing its health system. Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said all inter-state and inter-district travel will be banned, along with social gatherings. Educational institutions will be shut but economic sectors will be allowed to continue, Muhyiddin said, without elaborating.
COVID-19 Lays Bare the Price of Populism
As populism has experienced a resurgence in recent years, many have focused on the hazards the ideology poses to democratic systems. But today’s complex and highly technical global threats—pandemics, climate change, cyberattacks, financial crises—that demand technocratic solutions have driven home a grim reality: Populism can place us all at risk. In 2018, a burst of anger over government corruption propelled a populist politician named Jair Bolsonaro to Brazil’s presidency. Brazil, which is currently suffering from one of the world’s worst coronavirus outbreaks, is a prime example of how populist governance in one country can threaten the whole world. If the way out of the pandemic is through science, in the form of mass vaccination and other containment measures, the corollary is also true: The way we remain mired in it is, in large part, through the kind of anti-science worldview that populists frequently champion.
US may be turning a corner on Covid-19. Here's when we could see cases and deaths plummet, expert says
While the pace of Covid-19 vaccinations may be slowing in the US, experts are optimistic about where the country will be in just a matter of weeks. "This summer is going to seem so much closer to normal than we've had in a very long time," Dr. Jonathan Reiner, professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University, told CNN on Sunday. "The key statistic to think about is ... what percentage of the adult population has received at least one vaccination." Roughly 58% of US adults -- and nearly 46% of the country's total population -- have received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 34% of the US population is fully vaccinated, CDC data shows.
BioNTech: Covid-19 Vaccine Does Not Need Any Changes To Protect Against Variants
BioNTech, which co-developed its Covid-19 vaccine with Pfizer, said on Monday that its shots do not require any new adaptations to protect against new emerging variants of the coronavirus, echoing two recently concluded studies showing that the mRNA shot offered robust protection against the more infectious variants that first emerged in the U.K. and Brazil.
Novavax combined influenza/COVID-19 vaccine shows promise in animal study
Novavax Inc said on Monday its combined flu and COVID-19 vaccine produced functional antibodies against influenza and the coronavirus in a preclinical study. The company said the NanoFlu/NVX-CoV2373 vaccine elicited robust responses to both influenza A and B and protected against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. “Seasonal influenza and COVID-19 combination vaccines will likely be critical to combating emerging COVID-19 variants,” said Russell Wilson, the executive vice president and NanoFlu general manager of Novavax. Hamsters that received the combined vaccine had heightened levels of COVID-19 antibodies two weeks after the first immunization, which increased significantly after a second dose, compared to animals that received the COVID-19 vaccine, NVX-CoV2373, alone, the company said.
Inovio to start global late-stage COVID-19 vaccine trial this summer
Inovio Pharmaceuticals plans to begin a global late-stage trial of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate this summer, the company said on Monday, a month after the U.S. government pulled the funding for further studies of the drug.
U.S. Authorizes Pfizer/BioNTech COVID Vaccine for Children 12 to 15
U.S. regulators on Monday authorized Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine for use in children as young as 12, widening the country's inoculation program as vaccination rates have slowed significantly.
Coronavirus: SAGE warns Britain's next 'wave' will start after May 17 rule-change
SAGE files published tonight show that Covid cases will start rising again from next week in England. Scientists are certain this will happen as lockdown rules are loosened but are more optimistic than previously. They firmly believe vaccines will keep rates of severe disease, hospital admission and death low. But they warn a new vaccine-resistant variant is the number one threat and could lead to another lockdown
BioNTech, Fosun Pharma eye 1B doses of COVID-19 vaccine capacity with new China JV
As BioNTech makes inroads with its COVID-19 vaccine in Western countries under a partnership with Pfizer, the German biotech is bringing its work in China to the next level as the shot nears a local approval. BioNTech and Fosun Pharma is setting up a 50-50 joint venture to make and sell the COVID mRNA shot in China, with manufacturing capacity to produce up to 1 billion doses a year, Fosun said in a filing (PDF) to the Hong Kong Exchange on Sunday. The news came as the pair expects a Chinese approval for the vaccine, known as BNT162b2 or Comirnaty, by July the latest, according to BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin’s comment a few days ago and as reported by Reuters.
Researchers fear people of color may be disproportionately affected by long Covid
It’s well-known now that people of color have shouldered a disproportionate burden in the Covid-19 pandemic. Now researchers and clinicians are increasingly concerned that history is repeating itself in the case of long Covid. Long Covid — one name for the mysterious multitude of problems that persist after Covid-19 infections have cleared — affects all populations to some degree; it also afflicts people regardless of whether they had mild or even no symptoms, or needed ICU care to survive. But researchers and health care clinics fear that the same reasons that caused certain racial and ethnic groups to experience higher infection rates and illness severity may be responsible for driving disparities in the treatment of long Covid. Many vulnerable communities lack access to quality care, or face heightened burdens to convince providers that their conditions are real.
BioNTech committed to deliver 1.8 bln doses of COVID-19 vaccine this year
BioNTech SE said on Monday that its order backlog for delivery of COVID-19 vaccines this year together with partner Pfizer Inc had grown to 1.8 billion doses, underscoring its role as a major global supplier of immunization shots. That was up from 1.4 billion doses announced in March. Based on these delivery contracts, the company said it expects about 12.4 billion euros ($15.1 billion) in revenue from the vaccine this year, including sales, milestone payments from partners and a share of gross profit in the partners’ territories, up from a previous forecast of 9.8 billion euros.
COVID-19 patients from Australian ICUs still reporting symptoms six months after infection
Experts have been tracking the long-term health outcomes of Australians recovering from severe COVID-19 disease, and early results show roughly two in three people have ongoing issues. The study is being conducted across 30 different hospitals in Australia and is a collaboration between researchers, physiotherapists, doctors, and nursing staff who work in intensive care units (ICUs).
Egypt's Eva Pharma to export COVID-19 drug remdesivir to India
Egypt's Eva Pharma on Monday signed an agreement to provide India with 300,000 doses of remdesivir, used in the treatment of COVID-19, the company said in a statement. The agreement, which was signed at the Indian embassy in Cairo, is aimed at helping India combat a surge in infections which has overwhelmed the health system and held close to record daily highs on Monday. Eva Pharma, a generic drugmaker established in 1997, said in June 2020 it had received a licence from Gilead Sciences Inc to make remdesivir in Egypt and distribute it in 127 countries. The drug targets moderate to severe cases of COVID-19 in intensive care who require oxygen.
Coronavirus vaccine passports under consideration in Australia amid international travel hopes
Vaccine passports enabling Australians to travel overseas are not a matter of 'if' but 'when', leading industry experts say. As the country's coronavirus vaccine rollout ramps up to more than two million doses, the door to international travel edges a little closer to reopening. With countries and continents like Europe, UK and Canada flagging their intention to introduce a digital vaccine passport system, experts say Australia is not far from doing the same.