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"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 26th Nov 2021

Lockdown Exit
Portugal reimposes rules as COVID-19 cases rise
Portugal, which has one of the world's highest rates of vaccination against COVID-19, announced it would reimpose restrictions to stop a surge in cases, ordering all passengers flying into the country to show a negative test certificate on arrival. "It doesn't matter how successful the vaccination was, we must be aware we are entering a phase of greater risk," Prime Minister Antonio Costa told a news conference on Thursday. "We have seen significant growth (in cases) in the EU and Portugal is not an island," he added.
Israel labels 7 African countries ‘red’ as new variant stokes worry
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett on Thursday evening ordered that several countries in southern Africa be labeled “red,” heavily restricting entry from them following the emergence of a new, highly mutable coronavirus variant in South Africa, South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, and Eswatini were added to the list of countries from which foreigners are barred entry to Israel. The list had been empty for some six weeks, as no country met the Health Ministry’s criteria. Israelis returning to the country, including those fully vaccinated, from any of the countries now considered “red” will be required to isolate at a state-run hotel for a week and will be released after receiving two negative PCR virus tests, Bennett said in a statement.
New Coronavirus Variant a 'Serious Concern' in South Africa
Scientists in South Africa are studying a recently identified new coronavirus variant of concern, stoking fears the country may face a potentially severe fourth wave that could spread internationally. The new discovery, called B.1.1.529 until a Greek letter is assigned to it by the World Health Organization, carries an unusually large number of mutations and is “clearly very different” from previous incarnations, Tulio de Oliveira, a bio-informatics professor who runs gene-sequencing institutions at two South African universities, said at a briefing on Thursday. “Here is a mutation variant of serious concern,” Health Minister Joe Phaahla said at the same media event. “We were hopeful that we might have a longer break in between waves -- possibly that it would hold off to late December or even next year January.”
Slovaks lock down to slow world's highest COVID-19 infection rate
Slovakia went into a two-week lockdown on Thursday, as the country with one of the EU's lowest vaccination rates reported a critical situation in hospitals and new infections that topped global tables. Slovakia, a country of 5.5 million, ordered all but essential shops and services closed and banned people from travelling outside their districts unless going to work, school, or a doctor. Gatherings of more than six people were banned. The decision comes as coronavirus cases surge across Europe, making the continent the centre of the pandemic again, and follows neighbouring Austria which started a lockdown on Monday.
South Africa detects new COVID-19 variant in small numbers
South African scientists have detected a new COVID-19 variant in small numbers and are working to understand its potential implications, they said on Thursday. The variant - called B.1.1.529 - has a "very unusual constellation" of mutations, which are concerning because they could help it evade the body's immune response and make it more transmissible, scientists told reporters at a news conference. Early signs from diagnostic laboratories suggest the variant has rapidly increased in the most populated province of Gauteng and may already be present in the country's other eight provinces, they said.
When fighting COVID-19, "every day counts," Merkel warns her successors
Germany is in a phase of exponential growth in numbers of coronavirus cases, Chancellor Angela Merkel said, adding that every day counted when it came to enacting social distancing measures designed to slow its spread. Some of outgoing conservative chancellor's allies have criticised Social Democrat Olaf Scholz's government-in-waiting for declining to extend some lockdown measures that were put in place by Merkel's government. Merkel said more social distancing measures were needed. "The situation is so serious because we are seeing exponential growth," she said. "And the people who get ill today are the ones who will be in intensive care in 10 to 14 days' time.... Every day counts."
Europe’s Christmas markets warily open as COVID cases rise
The holiday tree is towering over the main square in this central German city, the chestnuts and sugared almonds are roasted, and kids are clambering aboard the merry-go-round just like they did before the pandemic. But a surge in coronavirus infections has left an uneasy feeling hanging over Frankfurt’s Christmas market. To savor a mug of mulled wine — an uncomplicated rite of winter in pre-pandemic times — masked customers must pass through a one-way entrance to a fenced-off wine hut, stopping at the hand sanitizer station. Elsewhere, security officers check vaccination certificates before letting customers head for the steaming sausages and kebabs. Despite the pandemic inconveniences, stall owners selling ornaments, roasted chestnuts and other holiday-themed items in Frankfurt and other European cities are relieved to be open at all for their first Christmas market in two years, especially with new restrictions taking effect in Germany, Austria and other countries as COVID-19 infections hit record highs
New proposed lineage
Description - Sub-lineage of: B.1.1 = Earliest Sequence: 2021-11-11 - Latest Sequence: 2021-11-13 Countries circulating: Botswana (3 genomes), Hong Kong ex S. Africa (1 genome, partial) Description: Conserved Spike mutations - A67V, Δ69-70, T95I, G142D/Δ143-145, Δ211/L212I, ins214EPE, G339D, S371L, S373P, S375F, K417N, N440K, G446S, S477N, T478K, E484A, Q493K, G496S, Q498R, N501Y, Y505H, T547K, D614G, H655Y, N679K, P681H, N764K, D796Y, N856K, Q954H, N969K, L981F Conserved non-Spike mutations - NSP3 – K38R, V1069I, Δ1265/L1266I, A1892T; NSP4 – T492I; NSP5 – P132H; NSP6 – Δ105-107, A189V; NSP12 – P323L; NSP14 – I42V; E – T9I; M – D3G, Q19E, A63T; N – P13L, Δ31-33, R203K, G204R Currently only 4 sequences so would recommend monitoring for now. Export to Asia implies this might be more widespread than sequences alone would imply. Also the extremely long branch length and incredibly high amount of spike mutations suggest this could be of real concern (predicted escape from most known monoclonal antibodies) Genomes: EPI_ISL_6590608 (partial RBD Sanger sequencing from Hong Kong) EPI_ISL_6640916 EPI_ISL_6640919 EPI_ISL_6640917
Exit Strategies
Fauci says changing definition of fully vaccinated to include boosters is 'on the table' | TheHill
Top infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci said changing the definition of what qualifies a person as fully vaccinated to include a booster shot is “on the table.” "Right now, officially, fully vaccinated equals two shots of the mRNA and one shot of the J&J, but without a doubt that could change," Fauci said in an interview for the upcoming Reuters Next conference, Reuters reported. "That's on the table for discussion,” he added. The consideration comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that booster shots can be given to anyone above the age of 18. "We'd like to get as many people who were originally vaccinated with the first regimen boosted," Fauci said, adding he hopes to see an “overwhelming majority” get the booster shot. Proof of full vaccination has been required by many venues across the country and in some major cities has been required for dining in at restaurants.
Czechs shut bars and restaurants early, hoping to avoid COVID lockdown
The Czech government on Thursday ordered bars and clubs to close at 10 p.m. and banned Christmas markets in an attempt to stem one of the world's highest coronavirus infection rates. The new restrictions also include a maximum attendance of 1,000 people at culture and sports events, stopping short of the sweeping lockdowns in neighbouring Austria and Slovakia, where infection rates are even higher. Just hours after the new restrictions were announced, the presidential office said President Milos Zeman was taken to hospital after testing positive for the coronavirus, although local media reported he showed no symptoms.
Health minister suggests fourth vaccine dose amid rising fears of fifth COVID wave
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz said Wednesday that Israelis may need to get a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose at some point if cases climb again, as the country’s top coronavirus official warned that the country may already be seeing the start of a fifth infection wave. “It’s not unreasonable [to think] we’ll need a fourth vaccine,” said Horowitz in an interview with Channel 12, after Health Ministry data indicated that 9 percent of the new cases diagnosed Tuesday had received the third booster dose. Most concerns, however, have revolved not around triply-vaccinated adults, but children who have yet to be vaccinated. Israel began giving shots to kids as young as 5 this week, amid signs pointing to increasing infection rates among kids.
UK public urged to get Covid booster by 11 December if eligible to avoid waning immunity
Ministers are urging millions of Britons to get their Covid booster jab by 11 December to ensure they have “very high protection against Covid by Christmas Day” as new evidence shows the risk of infection increases with the time since the second dose. The fresh warning comes after cases broke records in parts of Europe on Wednesday, with the continent once again the centre of a pandemic that has prompted new restrictions. About 16 million people have had a booster vaccine or a third dose across the UK. Everyone aged 40 and over and the clinically extremely vulnerable are eligible to get a booster six months after their second jab. “If you’re yet to get your first, second or booster dose, please do come forward for the jab as soon as possible,” said Maggie Throup, the vaccines minister.
France extends COVID-19 booster shots to all adults
France said on Thursday it would make COVID-19 booster shots available to all adults, toughen rules on wearing face masks and ramp up health pass checks as it seeks to curb a fifth wave of infections that risks undermining its economic recovery. The number of infections is doubling every 11 days in France but officials said there was no need to follow Austria's example of reimposing a lockdown. Health Minister Olivier Veran said anyone aged 18 or over would be eligible for booster shots and that the period between full vaccination and the booster jabs would be shortened to five months from six.
Logistical challenges hampering Africa’s COVID-19 vaccination drives
As deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines to Africa finally pick up, many nations are struggling with the logistics of accelerating their inoculation campaigns, the head of Africa’s disease control body said on Thursday.
Portugal expands booster shots as COVID-19 cases rise
Portugal, one of the world's most vaccinated nations, will give COVID-19 booster shots to a quarter of its population by the end of January, the health secretary said on Wednesday, as authorities try to stop a recent surge in infections. The number of cases in Portugal reached a four-month daily high of 3,773 on Wednesday. Deaths, however, remain far below January levels, when the country faced its toughest battle against COVID-19, and the infection rate is far lower than in most of Western Europe.
EU proposes booster jabs for 2022 travel as COVID cases soar
European Union residents will need to have COVID-19 vaccine booster jabs if they want to travel to another country in the bloc next summer free of tests or quarantines, the European Commission proposed on Thursday. The EU executive also proposed accepting all vaccines approved by the World Health Organization for travel purposes, which would allow non-essential travel to the EU from outside the bloc for people vaccinated with Chinese shots and vaccines made in India. The Commission wants to harmonise rules across the 27 EU nations to allow free movement, a cornerstone of the European Union, but is facing new restrictions as cases break records in Europe and many EU countries roll out booster doses.
Italy tightens screws on COVID unvaccinated, extends shot mandate
Italy on Wednesday tightened the screws on people unwilling to take an anti-COVID vaccine, sharply restricting access to an array of services and making vaccines mandatory for a wider group of public sector workers. Italy acted as much of Europe is increasing restrictions to try to grapple with a new wave of the pandemic. Under the Italian measures, which will come into force from Dec. 6, unvaccinated people will not be able to enter venues such as cinemas, restaurants and sports events, Prime Minister Mario Draghi's government said in a statement
Covid-19 Vaccination Rate for Federal Workers Is 92%, White House Says
A total of 92% of federal workers have received at least one Covid-19 vaccination shot, according to data released by the White House on Wednesday. President Biden set a Monday deadline for federal employees to get vaccinated. Of the roughly 3.5 million workers, 92% have received at least one shot and a further 4.5% have a pending or approved exception request, said the report from the Office of Management and Budget. The report provided details on compliance broken down by department and agency, showing that some have a vaccination rate below the 92%, while others come in above. The report didn’t specify what percentage of federal workers were fully vaccinated.
Europe Health Agency, in Shift, Urges Faster Covid-19 Booster Rollout as Cases Surge
The head of the European Union’s public-health agency recommended governments accelerate their campaigns to roll out Covid-19 booster shots as case numbers rise rapidly across parts of the bloc. Andrea Ammon, head of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, said on Wednesday that Covid-19 boosters should be offered to everyone over 18 years old, six months after they were first fully vaccinated, with priority given to those ages 40 and older. The ECDC’s recommendations aren’t binding on the governments of EU states, but they help shape health policy. Previously, the agency said boosters weren’t urgent except for the frail and people with compromised immune systems.
As vaccination efforts falter, the U.S. must get serious about Covid-19 testing and reporting
As the U.S. heads into Thanksgiving and the holiday season beyond, new cases of Covid-19 are as high as they were in the first week of November 2020 and are quickly rising after two months of steady decline, even though the pandemic toolbox is fuller today than it was then. One year ago this week, the Food and Drug Administration had just authorized the first at-home test and the first monoclonal antibody treatment, and there were no authorized vaccines. Hotspots flared across the nation as different states took different approaches to curbing the virus by requiring masks and limiting public gatherings. It doesn’t fully make sense for the U.S. to be in this position today when we have an ample supply of safe and effective vaccines, we know how the virus spreads, and we understand the effectiveness of masks and distancing in limiting infection.
Partisan Exits
Chief Minister criticises 'misinformation spreading online' about NT COVID-19 outbreak
Northern Territory's Chief Minister Michael Gunner has used a COVID-19 update press conference to denounce misinformation spread by anti-vaxxers and overseas conspiracy theorists who, he says, could harm Indigenous Territorians. At the press conference, Mr Gunner announced one new case in the outbreak and the lifting of the hard lockdown for one of the communities that, earlier in the week, had been considered most at risk. Mr Gunner also called it a "positive day" in the current outbreak, which has predominantly impacted Aboriginal Territorians.
Australia to deploy police, military to Solomon Islands as protests spread
Australia will deploy more than 100 police and military personnel to aid the Solomon Islands, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Thursday, as protesters in the Pacific Island nation defied a curfew to protest for a second consecutive day. Morrison said Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare had requested Australian assistance, which Canberra's national security committee quickly approved. Australia will send 23 police officers immediately to assist with riot control, Morrison said, with a further 50 personnel to enforce security at critical infrastructure.
Louisiana spends $27M and counting on vaccine outreach work
Trying to boost one of the nation’s lowest coronavirus vaccination rates, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ administration has spent $27 million and counting on incentive programs, community door-knocking and advertising in hopes of persuading people to get the shot. The Louisiana Department of Health’s vaccine outreach costs continue to grow weekly and are entirely federally financed. The work began in November 2020, according to the agency, and has reached a spending pace of about $2 million a month on its paid media campaign alone. The state has sought to chip away at immunization hesitancy with TV, radio and digital advertising, direct mail to homes, telephone town hall meetings, billboards and a hotline to answer vaccine-related questions. Local organizations have been hired to make phone calls, show up at local events and walk neighborhoods promoting the vaccine benefits.
Scientific Viewpoint
South African scientists detect new virus variant amid spike
A new coronavirus variant has been detected in South Africa that scientists say is a concern because of its high number of mutations and rapid spread among young people in Gauteng, the country's most populous province, Health Minister Joe Phaahla announced Thursday. The coronavirus evolves as it spreads and many new variants, including those with worrying mutations, often just die out. Scientists monitor for possible changes that could be more transmissible or deadly, but sorting out whether new variants will have a public health impact can take time.
New 'Botswana' variant is most mutated version of Covid
A new variant of the coronavirus with a "constellation" of mutations has been identified in Botswana. Designated as B.1.1.529, scientists are still unclear whether existing antibodies would react well to the variant - which has 32 spike protein mutations. Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London, branded the mutations "really awful".
Africa Health Body Investigates New Covid Variant in South Africa
African health authorities plan to hold talks with their South African counterparts next week about a new coronavirus variant that has been found in the country. Data on the new variant is currently being analyzed and more information will be released after the meeting, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention Director John Nkengasong said in a virtual briefing on Thursday. A new Covid-19 variant with a large number of mutations has emerged, with cases reported in Botswana, South Africa and Hong Kong, the Independent reported earlier. The B.1.1529, or so-called Botswana variant, is an offshoot of another variant called B.1.1., the London-based newspaper said.
Novavax expected to be become fourth Covid vaccine available in UK
Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna. Britons have become so accustomed to the three Covid vaccines available in the UK that most have forgotten about two others. One is the vaccine developed by Janssen, approved in May, with doses due to be delivered by the end of this year, but the UK government is now planning to donate all 20m of them to developing countries, via the Covax initiative. The other is the Novavax jab; the government has ordered 60m doses and hundreds of British jobs depend on it. Late last month the US company, with a factory on Teesside primed to manufacture doses, submitted final data to UK regulators and a positive decision is anticipated within days or weeks.
COVID-19: New coronavirus variant B.1.1.529 identified in Botswana as scientists play down concerns
A new variant of the coronavirus with a "constellation" of mutations has been identified in Botswana. Designated as B.1.1.529, scientists are still unclear whether existing antibodies would react well to the variant - which has 32 spike protein mutations. Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College London, branded the mutations "really awful". Spike proteins are what viruses use to get into human cells, and some of the vaccines work by training the body to recognise the spikes and neutralise them. Mutations on the spike can therefore potentially prove problematic for mRNA doses, like Pfizer and Moderna. However, with only a handful of recorded cases - three in Botswana, six in South Africa and one in Hong Kong from someone who travelled from South Africa - scientists are hopeful that COVID cases caused by the new virus specimen will not be widespread.
Australia will face a new wave of Covid-19 unless booster shot rates skyrocket, expert warns
Australia will face a new wave of COVID-19 cases similar to that currently being seen in Europe unless booster shot rates dramatically increase, a leading epidemiologist has warned. It comes as several European nations have reimposed restrictions and lockdowns after a spike in infections as the continent heads into winter. While case numbers were reducing in Australia as vaccination levels increase, infectious diseases expert Professor Raina MacIntyre said the country should heed the COVID situation overseas to avoid an identical situation next year.
Reinfection from Covid-19 is rare, severe disease is even rarer, a study of people in Qatar finds
When people got reinfected with Covid-19, their odds of ending up in the hospital or dying were 90% lower than an initial Covid-19 infection, according to a new study. The study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine found that there were few confirmed reinfections among 353,326 people who got Covid-19 in Qatar, and the re-infections were rare and generally mild.
Pfizer sues departing employee it says stole COVID-19 vaccine secrets
Pfizer Inc has sued a longtime employee for allegedly stealing "scores" of confidential documents, including some related to its COVID-19 vaccine, as she prepared to jump to a competitor. In a complaint filed on Tuesday in San Diego federal court, Pfizer said Chun Xiao Li breached her confidentiality agreement by uploading more than 12,000 files without permission to her personal accounts and devices from her company-issued laptop. The alleged materials include a Sept. 24 "playbook" containing internal assessments and recommendations about the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, Pfizer's relationship with its German vaccine partner, and presentations related to cancer antibodies.
Turkey's domestic COVID-19 vaccine applies for emergency authorisation
Turkey's domestically developed COVID-19 vaccine, Turkovac, has applied for emergency authorisation, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Thursday, adding he hoped the shot would be available for use by year-end. Speaking at his ministry's budget debate in parliament, Koca said work on Turkovac was nearing completion, and added the shot would mark the first Phase III clinical research project to be fully carried out by Turkey. "I would like to share a piece of good news for our people: our domestic inactive COVID-19 vaccine Turkovac has applied for emergency authorisation as of today," Koca said.
S.Africa detects new COVID-19 variant, implications not yet clear
South African scientists have detected a new COVID-19 variant in small numbers and are working to understand its potential implications, they said on Thursday. The variant - called B.1.1.529 - has a "very unusual constellation" of mutations, which are concerning because they could help it evade the body's immune response and make it more transmissible, scientists told reporters at a news conference. Early signs from diagnostic laboratories suggest the variant has rapidly increased in the most populated province of Gauteng and may already be present in the country's other eight provinces, they said.
EU regulator gives go-ahead to first COVID shot for 5-11 year olds
The EU's drug regulator approved the use of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine for children between the ages of five and 11 on Thursday, paving the way for them to be given a first shot as Europe struggles with a surge in cases. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) recommended that Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine, approved for European Union use in teenagers between 12 and 17 years old since May, be given as an injection in the upper arm in two 10 microgram doses, three weeks apart. Adult doses contain 30 micrograms.
Did AstraZeneca Keep Britain Safer From Covid Than Europe?
Pascal Soriot knows how to make a headline. The AstraZeneca Plc chief executive officer gave a rare interview to the BBC to mark the opening of a billion-pound ($1.3 billion) research facility in Cambridge. But he couldn’t resist a little plug for his vaccine, too. “If you look at the U.K., there was a big peak of infections but not so many hospitalizations relative to Europe,” he said. His suggestion — made in dulcet tones and bracketed with the caveat that more research needs to be done — is that the AstraZeneca vaccine offers more longer-term effectiveness against serious illness than rival jabs produced by Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. In other words, Britain’s homegrown jab is the reason the country is faring better with the latest Covid wave than Europe.
UK raises alarm over new COVID variant which could beat vaccines
Britain on Thursday said it was concerned by a newly identified coronavirus variant spreading in South Africa that might make vaccines less effective and imperil progress made across the world in fighting the pandemic. The UK Health Security Agency said that the variant - called B.1.1.529 - has a spike protein that was dramatically different to the one in the original coronavirus that COVID-19 vaccines are based on. Officials characterise the variant, which has double the number of mutations as the currently dominant Delta variant, as the "worst one yet".
Pfizer says former employee stole trade secrets on megablockbuster COVID-19 vaccine
Pfizer and other drugmakers go to great lengths to protect their proprietary information. When it comes to the world's best-selling pharmaceutical product, the company's BioNTech-partnered COVID-19 vaccine, Pfizer's defense of trade secrets carries even more weight. That's why the company is working to get a handle on information allegedly stolen by a "soon-to-be former employee." In a new lawsuit filed in California, published by Bloomberg, Pfizer says an employee, Chun Xaio Li, uploaded more than 12,000 files, including "confidential Pfizer documents," to a personal Google Drive account and to personal devices. The company says it "has yet to understand the full scope" of the alleged theft thanks to the "sheer number" of documents involved. The company's lawsuit focuses on the COVID-19 vaccine, Comirnaty, and two cancer monoclonal antibodies.
Emotional toll of COVID-19 on health workers is vast, varied
In the US study, a team led by Duke University researchers surveyed 1,344 HCWs in 2020 about their emotional state before the availability of COVID-19 vaccines. They recruited HCWs via email and social media from Apr 24 to May 30 (phase 1) and Oct 24 to Nov 30 (phase 2). In phase 1 involved 335 survey respondents of whom 32.6% were 35 to 44 years old, 86% were women, and 87.8% were White. Phase 2 included 1,009 participants, of whom 38.1% were aged 35 to 44, 90.5% were women, and 93.7% were White. Respondents included nurses, physicians, advanced practice practitioners, and chaplains. The HCWs reported emotions related to changes in family, social life, and occupational function. They expressed fear of contracting COVID-19 and spreading the infection to family and friends, stigmatization, short-staffing, and inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE).
Virus expert Trevor Bedford on annual Covid boosters and the inevitable next pandemic
In January 2020, computational biologist Trevor Bedford told STAT’s Helen Branswell about the then-new coronavirus: “If it’s not contained shortly, I think we are looking at a pandemic.” Talk about a prediction. Last week at the 2021 STAT Summit, Branswell again caught up with Bedford, a scientist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and an expert on viral evolution and epidemiology. They talked about the future of the coronavirus and antigenic drift (essentially, whether the virus mutates in ways that escape the protection generated by vaccines or earlier infections), as well as what’s in store for flu season, and what might lie ahead with the next pandemic.
Coronavirus Resurgence
Shanghai city reports three local COVID-19 confirmed cases
Shanghai city found three locally transmitted COVID-19 cases with confirmed symptoms, Wu Jinglei, a local health official, told a news briefing. The three individuals were friends who had long period of being in close contact before their diagnosis, and it remains unclear whether they were linked to clusters in other parts of China, Wu said.
COVID-19 cases surge 23% in Americas, mostly in North America - health agency
New COVID-19 cases have jumped 23% in the Americas in the last week, mostly in North America where both the United States and Canada are reporting increasing infection rates, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday, warning that the region might be facing a relapse as in Europe. Canada's Yukon and Northwest territories saw a two- to three-fold increase in new infections over the last week, it said. In Central America, by contrast, there has been a 37% reduction in new infections. In South America, nearly every country except Brazil, Suriname and Venezuela is reporting increasing COVID-19 incidence. The biggest jumps were in Ecuador and Paraguay, PAHO said.
German Covid Deaths Pass 100000 With Cases Still Spiking
Germany passed the threshold of 100,000 Covid-19 deaths, with the latest resurgence of the disease pushing new infections higher at a record pace and putting hospitals in some hotspots under severe pressure. Since it took hold at the beginning of last year, 100,119 people have died from the virus, according to the latest data from the RKI public-health institute. Battling the fourth wave of the pandemic -- which is spreading rapidly in many European countries -- will dominate the early weeks of Germany’s new government. Social Democrat Olaf Scholz on Wednesday sealed a coalition agreement with the Greens and Free Democrats and he’s expected to be sworn in to replace Angela Merkel early next month.
Europe's Facing a Fourth Wave of Covid. What This Means for Its Economy.
Europe is in the grip of a virulent, fourth wave of coronavirus disease infections that risks further dampening its economic recovery. It’s unlikely for now that the measures taken by policy makers will have to be as stringent as in 2020, when they shrank the economy by 6%. That explains why economists don’t expect the impact to be as devastating as in the first months of the Covid-19 pandemic. But if there is little doubt that there will be consequences, what remains uncertain is the true extent of this potential impact.
German COVID-19 deaths pass 100000 mark in fourth wave
Germany crossed the threshold of 100,000 COVID-19-related deaths on Thursday with a surge in infections posing a challenge for the new government. Another 351 people have died from coronavirus, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 100,119, data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases showed. The number of new daily cases hit a new record of 75,961. "The day on which we must mourn 100,000 victims of the coronavirus is a sad one," outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel told a news conference.
New Lockdown
Slovakia follows Austria into lockdown amid record surge in COVID cases
Slovakia's government followed the example of neighbouring Austria on Wednesday and ordered a two-week lockdown to quell the world's fastest rise in COVID-19 cases as the number of people sick in hospital reached a critical level and vaccination levels remain low. Restaurants and non-essential shops will close as part of the measures and movement will be limited to trips for essential shopping, work, school or medical visits, along with walks in nature, government officials said.
Europe's Harsh Covid Restrictions Are Coming Back. They Don't Have To Stay
Before the arrival of safe and effective vaccines, dealing with Covid-19 in Europe was dominated by fear, uncertainty and blunt tools like lockdowns and travel bans to keep hospitals from being overrun. Countries with blanket curbs such as Israel, Austria and Denmark — whose leaders self-identified as “first movers” — wore their strict social-distancing rules like a badge. This fear is back as the region struggles with breakout infections moving from East to West. Austria is sliding into lockdown, with its middling vaccination rate making it look more like a laggard than a leader. Neighboring Germany, where public health played second fiddle to politics this fall, is refusing to rule out another lockdown. Denmark, despite a high vaccination rate, is seeing record cases after lifting restrictions in September. (Less complacent Southern Europe looks better-placed for now.)