"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 20th May 2021
How the COVID pandemic ends: Scientists look to the past to see the future
- We're approaching the year-and-a-half mark of the globe's collective experience with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the COVID-19 pandemic it has triggered. At this point, it's fair to assume people the world over are asking themselves the same two questions: How will the end? And when?
- There may have been a fleeting chance humans could have halted the spread of SARS-2 and driven it back into nature, as happened with its cousin, SARS-1. But that door was firmly shut long ago. It also seems that another option - vaccinating our way out of the pandemic - is an expensive toll highway that few countries will be able to access in the near term.
- That probably sounds bleak, but don't despair. The truth of the matter is that pandemics always end. And to date vaccines have never played a significant role in ending them. (That doesn't mean vaccines aren't playing a critical role this time. Far fewer people will die from COVID-19 because of them).
- But there were no flu vaccines in 1918, when the world didn't yet know that the great influenza was caused by a virus, H1N1. IN 1957, when the H2N2 pandemic swept the world, flu vaccine was mainly a tool of the military. In the pandemic of 1968, which brought us H3N2, the United States produced nearly 22 million doses of vaccine, but by the time it was ready the worst of the pandemic had passed, and demand subsided. That 'too little and too late' phenomenon played out again in 2009, when the world finally had the capacity to make hundreds of millions of doses of H1N1 vaccine; some countries cancelled large portions of their orders because they ended up not needing them.
- How did those pandemics end? The viruses didn't go away; a descendent of the Spanish flu virus, the modern H1N1, circulates to this day, as does H3N2. Humans didn't develop herd immunity to them, either. That's a phenomenon by which a pathogen stops spreading because so many are protected against it, because they've already been infected or vaccinated.
- Instead, the viruses that caused these pandemics underwent a transition. Or more to the point, we did. Our immune systems learned enough about them to fend off the deadliest manifestations of infection, at least most of the time. Humans and viruses reached an immunological detente. Instead of causing tsunamis of devastating illness, over time the viruses came to trigger small surges of milder illness. Pandemic flu became seasonal flu.
The viruses became endemic.
How the Covid pandemic ends: Scientists look to the past to see the future
We’re approaching the year-and-a-half mark of the globe’s collective experience with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the Covid-19 pandemic it has triggered. At this point, it’s fair to assume people the world over are asking themselves the same two questions: How will this end? And when? There may have been a fleeting chance humans could have halted spread of SARS-2 and driven it back into nature, as happened with its cousin, SARS-1. But that door was firmly shut long ago. It also seems that another option — vaccinating our way out of the pandemic — is an expensive toll highway that few countries will be able to access in the near term.
Australia will need to remain closed for decades if it wants to stay 100% COVID-19 free, according to the Australian Medical Association
If Australia continues with its current approach to pandemic containment it could be decades before international borders reopen, the Australian Medical Association has warned. While the AMA suggests many Australians don’t think border closures past 2022 are “reasonable”, in fact evidence on the ground suggests the majority of Australians are content to sacrifice freedom for safety. The statement comes as the Morrison government is forced to defend its border plans amid pushback from industry groups.
EU presents WTO plan to boost COVID vaccine output
The European Union has put forward a plan it believes will help boost the production and availability of COVID-19 vaccines more effectively than a proposed waiver of patent rights now backed by the United States. Under pressure from developing countries demanding a waiver of intellectual property (IP) rights for vaccines and treatments, the EU presented on Wednesday an alternative focused on export restrictions, pledges from vaccine developers and the flexibility of existing World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.
COVID cases drop in Americas, but ‘glaring gaps’ in jabs: PAHO
While COVID-19 cases have been dropping overall in the Americas, the head of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has urged greater vaccine access to tackle infections and protect vulnerable health networks across the region. During a weekly news briefing on Wednesday, PAHO Director Carissa Etienne said coronavirus-related deaths in the Caribbean islands of Bahamas, Haiti, and Trinidad and Tobago doubled in the last week. Over the last week, PAHO said 1.2 million new coronavirus cases and 31,000 deaths were recorded in the region. “We’ve seen COVID infections drop throughout the region in the last month, offering some reprieve to our beleaguered health systems,” Etienne said. But she pointed out that intensive care unit occupancy rates in parts of Brazil and Colombia are at about 90 percent, “a sign that these communities are still at a high risk of not getting the care that they need”.
Covid-19 vaccines: Why some African states can't use their vaccines
Despite many African countries struggling to obtain enough Covid-19 vaccines, some have thousands of expired doses which they have been unable to use. Some countries are now destroying these vaccines, in line with the latest World Health Organization (WHO) advice. Many countries failed to prepare adequately before receiving the vaccines, Phionah Atuhebwe, from the WHO in Africa, says. "That is one of the reasons we are seeing the slow pace of rollout," she says. And some countries also faced financial challenges. Africa Centres for Disease Control head John Nkengasong says countries need more support to increase the numbers of health workers and obtain supplies, such as personal protective equipment.
Malawi burns 20000 expired AstraZeneca COVID-19 doses despite pleas
Malawi has burned nearly 20,000 expired AstraZeneca vaccines, amid conflicting advice over what to do with the doses. Health Minister Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda put some of the vials of the expired doses into an incinerator to start the destruction Wednesday at Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe, the capital. "We are destroying (these vaccines) because as government policy no expired health commodities are to be used," she said. "Historically under the expanded immunization program of Malawi no expired vaccine has ever been used." She said burning the vaccines will build public confidence that all vaccines used in Malawi are good.
Rwanda halts coronavirus vaccination because of vaccine shortage
Rwanda halted coronavirus vaccination because of delays in deliveries that have created a vaccine shortage, an official said. Director-General of the Rwanda Biomedical Centre Sabin Nsanzimana said the number vaccinated in Rwanda is still low. Rwanda wants to vaccinate 30% of the population by the end of 2021 and 60% by the end of 2022. About 350,400 people have received jabs as of Tuesday, representing just 5% of the population. Nsanzimana said 500,000 doses of the vaccine Rwanda procured from India have yet to arrive, following a health crisis that affected vaccine supplies to developing countries.
Paris summit mobilises finance, vaccines for Africa ‘New Deal’
A Paris summit promised to help Africa overcome the coronavirus pandemic with a “New Deal” using global financial firepower to replenish depleted coffers and ramp up a sluggish vaccine rollout. The summit launched “a New Deal for Africa and by Africa”, host French President Emmanuel Macron told a news conference. According to the latest AFP news agency tally from official sources, there have been a total of nearly 130,000 coronavirus deaths among African populations during the pandemic, compared with almost 3.4 million worldwide, although experts believe the official tolls in African countries could be undercounts. The economic cost of the pandemic has been devastating, with the International Monetary Fund warning in late 2020 that Africa faces a shortfall of $290bn up to 2023, undermining all efforts at development.
One shot of coronavirus vaccine may be enough to travel within EU
People who have received just one shot of a coronavirus vaccine may be able to use proof of vaccination on the Digital Green Certificate to travel between the European Union member states. This was disclosed to De Standaard by an EU source, who said there is hope that the negotiations on the certificate will be finalised this week. “Parliament, Council and Commission negotiators will resume talks – aimed at hammering out a deal this week- on the proposal for an EU certificate to show a person has been vaccinated against COVID-19, has a negative test result or has recovered from the virus,” a press release on the European Parliament agenda for Tuesday’s plenary sessions stated.
China cuts COVID-19 vaccine ingredient shipment to Brazil
China will reduce its shipment of pharmaceutical ingredients for producing COVID-19 vaccines to Brazil's Butantan biomedical institute next week to 3,000 liters from 4,000, Butantan said on Tuesday. This means the shipment scheduled for May 26 will now make 5 million doses of the Coronavac shot, Butantan said, instead of the 7 million Sao Paulo state Governor Joao Doria had tweeted on Monday.
COVID-19: 'Morally wrong' to offer coronavirus jabs to children while poorer nations suffer, says Oxford expert
It is "morally wrong" to offer coronavirus jabs to children in wealthy countries when people at greater risk in poorer nations remain unvaccinated, one of the scientists behind the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot has said. Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said global vaccine equality is "plain to see". Speaking to a COVID-19 All-Party Parliamentary Group, Prof Pollard said children had "near-to-zero risk" of severe disease or death from coronavirus and that global vaccine inequity is "plain to see".Prof Pollard's comments come a day after Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that the UK had secured enough vaccines to offer Pfizer jabs to children aged 12 and older
Philippines Says People Won't Be Given A Choice Of COVID-19 Vaccine
The Philippines' Health Department says it will no longer allow local governments to announce which brand of coronavirus vaccines will be available at inoculation sites. The move comes after hundreds of people this week lined up at a site in Manila when they found out the Pfizer vaccine would be given out there. "What we're going to enforce now is brand agnostic," Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje told CNN Philippines' The Source. From now on, only people already in line at a vaccination site will be told which shot they'll get and "if they do not like the vaccines that are given during that time, then they go to the end of the line," Cabotaje said.
COVID-19: UK faces 'rocky time' as people head off to Europe on holiday due to lower jab rates, expert warns
The UK is "in for a rocky time" as people head off on holiday to a Europe where vaccination levels are not as high as at home, an expert has told Sky News. Gabriel Scally, a member of Independent SAGE, a group of scientists which provide alternative advice to the government's own scientific group, said he was really worried by the risk from the Indian coronavirus variant in Europe. Mr Scally told Sky News: "There are great concerns about this particular variant because of its much more transmissible characteristics and it hasn't really taken off in Europe yet."
Nepal, Bangladesh scramble to secure COVID-19 shots as India curbs exports
Nepal and Bangladesh are making frantic diplomatic efforts to secure COVID-19 vaccines to prop up their faltering inoculation drives as their stocks run out and supply prospects have become clouded by a prolonged Indian curb on vaccine exports. Reuters reported on Tuesday that India was unlikely to resume major exports of COVID-19 vaccines until October at the earliest as it diverts shots for domestic use, a longer-than-expected delay set to worsen a shortage of supplies coming through the COVAX global vaccine sharing scheme. Bangladesh said it urgently needed 1.6 million doses of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine to provide second doses and it had approached several countries for help, including the United States and Canada.
UAE, Bahrain to offer Sinopharm COVID-19 booster shots
The United Arab Emirates said on Tuesday it would offer a booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine from China's state-owned drugmaker Sinopharm at least six months after the initial two doses. Gulf neighbour Bahrain also said it would offer a third dose of the vaccine, at least six months after the second shot, starting with more vulnerable groups. The UAE offer is part of its "proactive strategy to provide maximum protection for society", the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) said, with priority given to those aged over 60 or suffering a chronic disease.
YouTube and England's NHS join forces to tackle vaccine scepticism
England's National Health Service (NHS) has joined forces with YouTube to launch a campaign to counteract vaccine hesitancy among younger generations. The UK has vaccinated more 36 million people (53% of population) with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to Our World in Data. The 'Lets Not Go Back' campaign aims to drive credible information towards young people, in order to prepare the nation’s 18-34 year old's, for when they have the jab. The first of its kind campaign highlights the importance of getting vaccinated in the form of short videos, billboard and bus stop adverts. The campaign was spurred on by recent data from the ONS, which shows vaccine hesitancy rates are highest in younger people (13% of 16-29s) and almost double the national average in the UK (7%).
Punjab gasps as India’s Modi refuses to seek oxygen from Pakistan
Amid an alarming shortage of medical oxygen, the Punjab government approached Prime Minister Narendra Modi to facilitate an “oxygen corridor” with Pakistan, India’s archrival neighbour which shares a 550km-long (342 miles) border with the northwestern state. There have been at least eight instances of requests made by Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and other politicians from the state asking Modi to procure oxygen from Pakistan, whose city of Lahore is barely 50km (31 miles) away from Amritsar.
Fauci: Americans 'misinterpreting' mask rules
Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious diseases expert, said in a new interview that some Americans do not have a full understanding of the latest guidelines put forth by the federal government relative to mask wearing and coronavirus vaccines. "I think people are misinterpreting, thinking that this is a removal of a mask mandate for everyone. It's not," Fauci told Axios on Wednesday. "It's an assurance to those who are vaccinated that they can feel safe, be they outdoors or indoors." Fauci said it's not people's "fault" if they don't understand the new guidance because, in many cases, people "either read them quickly, or listen and hear half of it."
‘I don’t feel even 1 percent safe’: An Indian COVID vaccine nurse
Nina Sharma, 40, a nurse responsible for administering COVID vaccines at a government hospital in Nawanshahr, in the north Indian state of Punjab, says she never feels safe at work, “not even 1 percent”. “I have to communicate with a lot of people. Doctors can keep a distance but there’s no way we [nurses] can,” she says. The lack of social distancing and inadequate provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) makes it almost impossible to keep them “completely safe”, she adds. “We are only given masks and sanitiser; I have had to buy my own gloves.”
COVID-19 may reduce gray matter volume in brain, small study suggests
A study found that patients who required oxygen therapy for COVID-19 had lower gray matter volume in the frontal lobe of their brain compared with patients who did not require supplemental oxygen. Reduced gray matter in the frontal lobe also had links with more severe disability up to 6 months after recovery from COVID-19. Patients who experienced fever had lower gray matter volume in the temporal lobe compared with those who did not. However, the study was small, so scientists need to conduct more research to confirm the results.
Covid-19 vaccinations helped S'pore stave off second circuit breaker so far: Experts
Vaccinations are a more sustainable way of protecting the population, though the current slew of Covid-19 curbs - while fairly aggressive – are necessary, experts said. It is gratifying that the nation stopped short of a circuit breaker, which will otherwise signify that Singapore can no longer control the virus’ spread, Professor Dale Fisher, an infectious disease expert from the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, said on Tuesday. “But I believe we would have a circuit breaker in place if there was no vaccine,” said Prof Fisher, who is also the chair of the World Health Organisation’s Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network.
Covid-19: UK government failed to act on warnings about pandemic but got lucky with vaccine. The next major outbreak could be fungal, not viral – Professor Harry Burns
In 2019, the UK government was warned about the need to prepare for the health, social and economic consequences of a pandemic virus. The 2019 National Security Risk Assessment highlighted the need to stockpile essential equipment such as PPE, establish public health procedures for testing and tracing contacts, and preparing hospitals for an increase in demand. It even mentioned to possibility of a coronavirus pandemic. Planning was not implemented, and we were slow to get to grips with the emergency. The government has announced an inquiry into the handling of Covid-19. It will, I imagine, consider plans for minimising the impact of inevitable future pandemics.
Study: Under-60s who received first AstraZeneca dose can safely be given Pfizer for second shot
A study in Spain carried out by the Carlos III Health Institute has concluded that the under-60s who have already received one shot of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine can be safely administered the Pfizer-BioNTech medication for their second dose. The recommendation comes after the Spanish Health Ministry suspended the use of AstraZeneca among this age group due to associations with rare cases of blood clots. A total of 672 volunteers and five hospitals in Madrid, Bilbao and Barcelona took part in the study, officially called CombivacS. The participants had received their first dose of AstraZeneca between eight and 12 weeks previously. They were divided into two groups, with 442 people receiving the Pfizer vaccine for their second dose and 221 as a control group. The latter participants were not given another vaccine, allowing for the two groups to be compared.
Pfizer to begin manufacturing Covid-19 vaccine components in Ireland by end of the year
Ireland will begin to produce key Covid-19 vaccine components later this year, with Pfizer announcing that they will be investing in their west Dublin plant. The pharmaceutical giant made the announcement today, saying that they would be investing $40 million in upgrading their Grange Castle plant. In a statement, Pfizer said that they have made several enhancements to the vaccine supply chain since they began rolling out their mRNA vaccine in late December. “As such, Pfizer is now bringing on additional European-based facility to be a part of the global Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine supply chain network and Grange Castle (Ireland) will contribute to the worldwide supply of the vaccine,” they said in a statement.
Now pharmaceutical firms including AstraZeneca call on governments to share Covid vaccines with low-income countries to stamp out pandemic and threat of variants
Pressure is mounting on global leaders to address the Covid 'vaccine apartheid' IFPMA today called for 'immediate action' to 'step up responsible dose sharing' Warned it was the only way to end the global pandemic and prevent variants
COVID-related inflammatory syndrome looks different in adults
The postinfectious COVID-19–related multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS) first characterized in children has a different presentation in adults that may lead to underrecognition, according to a small, single-center study today in JAMA Network Open. Conducted by researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the retrospective study involved 15 patients 21 years and older who met the working definition for MIS in adults (MIS-A) from Mar 1 to Sep 30, 2020, and were hospitalized 14 to 84 days after testing positive for COVID-19 or 15 days before or after SARS-CoV-2 antibody test results identified them as at risk for the syndrome.
Emergent execs set to testify before some of the same lawmakers its political spending helped elect: report
Emergent BioSolutions' influence within the federal government has been placed under a spotlight ever since a manufacturing flub forced the contractor to discard millions of doses of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine. Now, two of the company's top execs are headed to Congress to discuss that work before lawmakers it helped elect. On Wednesday morning, Emergent founder and executive chairman Fuad El-Hibri and CEO Robert Kramer will testify before the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus to discuss their company's production problems, political connections and the hundreds of millions of dollars it received in federal funding last year to manufacture pandemic vaccines. At least three members on the panel have benefited directly from Emergent's political spending, The New York Times reports. El-Hibri and his wife since 2018 have pledged at least $150,000 to campaigns and groups affiliated with the panel's top republican, Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, according to federal campaign records.
Covid-19: Poor links between NHS and social care weakened England's response, says NAO
Pre-pandemic issues such as severe budget cuts to local government and poor integration between the NHS and social care weakened England’s ability to respond to covid-19, the public spending watchdog has said. The National Audit Office (NAO) assessed the government’s response to the pandemic and also found many issues with transparency around personal protective equipment (PPE) contracts, provision of PPE for the social care sector when compared with the health sector, and inconsistencies between what providers and frontline staff were reporting in terms of having protective equipment. Responding to the findings, the NHS Confederation’s chief executive, Danny Mortimer, said, “This report re-emphasises the long term issues that severely weakened the foundations of health and care, which meant the country was not better prepared to deal with the pandemic and its fallout . .
Children mostly asymptomatic but capable of spreading Covid-19 - Gvt
Amid rising concerns that children could be particularly vulnerable to future waves of COVID-19, the government on Tuesday said existing evidence suggested that kids were generally asymptomatic but were capable of spreading the disease. "Respons remains the same of what we do, we have to protect ourseleves with COVID appropriate behaviour and children have to be encouraged to wear masks and maintain social distancing
COVID hot spots persist in Latin American countries
Brazil's decline in cases has stopped, and cases and deaths doubled last week in parts of Argentina and Uruguay, a sign that the Americas region is still in the heat of battle with COVID, officials from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said today during a briefing. Though the world's cases declined last week, four of the five highest burden countries are in the Americas region, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday in its weekly snapshot of the pandemic. They include the Brazil, the United States, Argentina, and Colombia.
With 745 fatalities, Argentina hits new one-day COVID-19 death record
Argentina reported a record one-day coronavirus death toll of 745 on Tuesday as the South American country gets hit by a second wave of infections that brought the number of positive tests recorded in a 24-hour period to 35,543. Since the pandemic began in the first quarter of 2020, Argentina has confirmed a total 3.371 million infections and 71,771 deaths. According to data compiled by Reuters, the daily average of infections and deaths reported by Argentina places the country among the worst five countries in the world.
France reports 4015 people in intensive care units with COVID-19
The pressure on French hospitals from the coronavirus epidemic eased further on Tuesday with the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units (ICU) down by 171 to 4,015, as the country prepares for a new easing of coronavirus constraints. From Wednesday, non-essential retail outlets will be able to reopen to customers for the first time in six weeks as France gradually winds down its third national lockdown in little more than a year.
‘City in transition’: New York vies to turn page on pandemic
More than a year after coronavirus shutdowns sent “the city that never sleeps” into a fitful slumber, New York could be wide awake again this summer. Starting Wednesday, vaccinated New Yorkers could shed their masks in most situations, and restaurants, stores, gyms and many other businesses could go back to full capacity if they ascertain that all patrons have been inoculated. Subways resumed running round-the-clock this week. Midnight curfews for bars and restaurants will be gone by month’s end. Broadway tickets are on sale again, though the curtain won’t rise on any shows until September.