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"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 25th May 2022

Lockdown Exit
Covid-19 Vaccine and Drug Sales, Once Booming, Plateau
The gold rush for drugmakers making Covid-19 vaccines and treatments might be over, as demand plateaus, supplies turn ample and the pandemic evolves. Merck & Co. and Johnson & Johnson are among the companies cutting sales expectations for pandemic products this year as they assess the outlook. Analysts, meantime, are lowering sales estimates for Covid-19 drugs such as Pfizer Inc.’s antiviral Paxlovid, citing softening demand and few new supply deals. The situation marks a new phase in the pandemic, according to analysts, one without the record sales that certain companies such as Pfizer and Moderna Inc. notched just a few months ago.
Retailer Selloff Leaves Covid Slump in the Dust as Rout Widens
The darkest days of the pandemic might be long gone, but for chain stores and other merchants, it’s March 2020 all over again. And it’s getting worse. A selloff in Target Corp. and Walmart Inc. shares has pushed the SPDR S&P Retail exchange-traded fund (ticker XRT) down 44% from its November record high, outpacing the fund’s 41% rout during the pandemic. The $484 million ETF’s 16% slump in May would be the second-worst month since 2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Rising costs on everything from transportation to labor are eating into the profit margins of some of America’s best known retailers, stoking concerns over whether companies will be able to pass on the increased expenses to consumers.
Beijing ramps up COVID quarantine, Shanghai residents decry uneven rules
Beijing stepped up quarantine efforts to end its month-old COVID outbreak as fresh signs of frustration emerged in Shanghai, where some bemoaned unfair curbs with the city of 25 million preparing to lift a prolonged lockdown in just over a week.
61% of Americans Underestimate Their Odds of Contracting Long COVID-19
Two years into the pandemic, most people underestimate the prevalence of long COVID-19, according to a new survey from fintech leader Policygenius. More than half of Americans (61%) estimate that long COVID affects up to 20% of COVID-19 cases, when studies show that it actually affects 31% of North Americans who have contracted COVID-19.
Sweden: 5th COVID-19 shot to people over 65, pregnant women
Sweden is recommending a fifth COVID-19 vaccine dose for people with an increased risk of becoming seriously ill, including pregnant women and anyone aged 65 and over, authorities said Tuesday, adding that the country must "be prepared for an increased spread during the upcoming autumn and winter season.” “The vaccine is our strongest tool for preventing serious illness and death,” Swedish Social Affairs Minister Lena Hallengren said, adding the pandemic is not over. As of Sept. 1, Sweden recommends that another booster shot is given to people aged 65 and older and people over 18 in the risk groups.
Why the Gym is Risky for COVID-19, and Tips for Keeping Safe
Now a new experiment has given us a more exact sense of just how many aerosols a single person can spew during an intense workout—and the results aren’t pretty. According to research by scientists in Germany published in PNAS on May 23, people emit about 132 times as many aerosols per minute during high intensity exercise than when they’re at rest, which the researchers warn raises the risk of a person infected with COVID-19 setting off a superspreader event. At rest, people emitted an average of 580 particles each minute, but during maximal exercise—in which researchers gradually increased intensity until the subjects were exhausted—people emitted an average of 76,200 particles a minute.
Covid can cause ongoing damage to heart, lungs and kidneys, study finds
Damage to the body’s organs including the lungs and kidneys is common in people who were admitted to hospital with Covid, with one in eight found to have heart inflammation, researchers have revealed. As the pandemic evolved, it became clear that some people who had Covid were being left with ongoing symptoms – a condition that has been called long Covid. Previous studies have revealed that fewer than a third of patients who have ongoing Covid symptoms after being hospitalised with the disease feel fully recovered a year later, while some experts have warned long Covid could result in a generation affected by disability.
Exit Strategies
U.S. CDC recommends re-isolation if COVID recurs after taking Pfizer's pill
Patients who experience recurrence of COVID-19 symptoms after completing treatment with Pfizer's drug Paxlovid should isolate again for five days, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in an advisory issued on Tuesday. Dozens of individuals have reported rebounding COVID symptoms on social media or to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration after taking Paxlovid, but Pfizer suggests the experience is rare. A recent rise in COVID cases has driven up use of therapeutics in the country
Manhattan return-to-office plans face persistent headwinds over COVID, safety
Efforts by financial firms and others to bring workers back to Manhattan offices more than two years after the start of the coronavirus pandemic face persistent headwinds, consultants said, with commuters still worrying about COVID-19 as well as safety. New York has lagged others major markets in the percentage of employees regularly working in the office, in part because of high usage rates of public transportation and COVID concerns, said David Lewis, chief executive of HR consultant firm OperationsInc, which works with several firms in the financial sector.
South Korea to call at Davos for COVID aid for North, envoy says
South Korea will issue a call this week at the World Economic Forum for COVID-19 vaccines and other medical help for North Korea, even if that means exemptions from U.N. sanctions imposed over its nuclear programme, a senior official said on Tuesday. Secretive North Korea went for more than two years insisting it had no COVID but it confirmed its first outbreak nearly two weeks ago. It has since reported some 2.95 million people showing fever symptoms - it has limited testing capacity for COVID - and 68 deaths, and has imposed a sweeping lockdown and other anti-virus measures
China’s bet on homegrown mRNA vaccines holds back nation
China is trying to navigate its biggest coronavirus outbreak without a tool it could have adopted many months ago, the kind of vaccines that have proven to offer the best protection against the worst outcomes from COVID-19. As early as the spring of 2020 a Chinese pharmaceutical company, Fosun Pharma, reached an agreement to distribute — and eventually manufacture — the mRNA vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech. It still has not been cleared in mainland China, despite being authorized for use by separate authorities in Hong Kong and Macao. Now health experts say that delay — a result of putting politics and national pride above public health — could lead to avoidable coronavirus deaths and deeper economic losses because whole cities would be locked down to insulate the country’s unprotected population.
China's Weibo bans Trip.com co-founder who questioned zero-COVID strategy
A leading entrepreneur in China who had questioned the wisdom of the country's zero-COVID strategy was banned from posting on Weibo, with the social media platform accusing Trip.com co-founder James Liang of violating laws. Weibo, a platform similar to Twitter, did not specify which laws Liang had broken, and it was unclear when the ban took effect or what had triggered it. But on Tuesday, online users noticed changes to Liang's account, which has 817,000 followers.
New York School Vaccine Mandate Survives as Supreme Court Rejects Appeal
The US Supreme Court turned away a challenge to New York’s requirement that schoolchildren be vaccinated against serious diseases, refusing to question the state’s 2019 repeal of its longstanding exemption for families with religious objections. The justices without comment left in place a state court ruling that said New York wasn’t targeting religion when it eliminated the exemption after the worst measles outbreak in a quarter century. The vaccine requirement applies to children under 18 in both public and private schools.
Partisan Exits
Fresh photos of UK PM Johnson drinking reignite 'Partygate' row
New photographs of Prime Minister Boris Johnson drinking at a leaving party at his Downing Street residence have been published, reigniting opposition accusations that he breached his own COVID-19 lockdown rules. The photographs, obtained by ITV News, were taken at a gathering in honour of Downing Street's outgoing director of communications Lee Cain in November 2020, an event previously investigated by police for potential breaches of the law.
China's Weibo bans Trip.com co-founder who questioned zero-COVID strategy
A leading entrepreneur in China who had questioned the wisdom of the country's zero-COVID strategy was banned from posting on Weibo, with the social media platform accusing Trip.com co-founder James Liang of violating laws. Weibo, a platform similar to Twitter, did not specify which laws Liang had broken, and it was unclear when the ban took effect or what had triggered it. But on Tuesday, online users noticed changes to Liang's account, which has 817,000 followers.
Boris Johnson did not knowingly lie to parliament about lockdown party, transport minister says
A British minister defended Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday over photographs of him drinking at a coronavirus lockdown-breaking gathering at Downing Street, saying he did not knowingly lie to parliament about the event. New photographs of Johnson drinking at a leaving party in Downing Street in November 2020 were published by ITV News on Monday, reigniting opposition accusations that he breached his own COVID-19 lockdown rules and calls for his resignation.
Continued Lockdown
Beijing ramps up COVID quarantines, Shanghai residents decry uneven rules
Beijing stepped up quarantine efforts to end its month-old COVID outbreak as fresh signs of frustration emerged in Shanghai, where some bemoaned unfair curbs with the city of 25 million preparing to lift a prolonged lockdown in just over a week. Even as China's drastic attempts to eradicate COVID entirely - its "zero-COVID" approach - bite into prospects for the world's second-biggest economy, new reported infection numbers remain well below levels seen in many Western cities. The capital reported 48 new cases for Monday among its population of 22 million, with Shanghai reporting fewer than 500.
China Covid News: Beijing Cases Drop, Remains Under High Restrictions
China’s top official for pandemic control has shifted her attention from Shanghai’s ebbing Covid-19 crisis to Beijing, raising pressure on the capital to contain its lengthy outbreak, and potentially signaling harsher curbs to come. Sun Chunlan, China’s Vice Premier and health czar whose appearance at virus hotspots across the country typically reflects the central government’s priorities, on Monday urged authorities in Beijing to adhere stringently to Covid Zero and eradicate community spread more swiftly.
Scientific Viewpoint
WHO says monkeypox containable, convening research meeting to support member states
The outbreak of monkeypox cases outside of Africa can be contained, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday, as more governments said they would launch limited vaccinations to combat rising infections of the virus. The moves came as authorities investigated 237 suspected and confirmed cases of the virus in 19 countries since early May. That number is expected to increase, WHO officials have said, but most of the infections so far have not been severe.
Vaxzevria Gains Approval in EU as a Third Dose COVID-19 Booster in Adults
AstraZeneca's recombinant COVID-19 vaccine, originally invented by the University of Oxford, has been approved as a third dose booster vaccine in the EU. AstraZeneca has revealed in a May 23, 2022 press release, that its recombinant COVID-19 vaccine originally invented by the University of Oxford, Vaxzevria (ChAdOx1-S), has been given the nod by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) as a third dose booster vaccine for use in the European Union (EU). Through this latest market authorization, healthcare professionals will be able to use the vaccine as a third dose booster in patients who have already been administered a primary vaccine schedule of either Vaxzevria or other EU-approved messenger RNA (mRNA) COVID-19 vaccines. The authorization has been based on EMA’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) recommendation, for which there was a review of data demonstrating an increased immune response with a third dose booster Vaxzevria jab.
Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine produces strong immune response in children
Pfizer and BioNTech have announced recent data from a top-line safety, immunogenicity and vaccine efficacy phase 2/3 trial assessing a third 3µg dose – one-tenth of the adult dosage – of their COVID-19 vaccine for children aged from six months to under five years old. The vaccine resulted in a strong immune response following the third dose in this particular age group, and showed a positive safety profile similar to placebo. One of the second endpoints in the trial was vaccine efficacy, which was 80.3% in children aged six months to under five years. This analysis was taken during a period when the Omicron strain was the predominant variant, and was based on ten symptomatic COVID-19 cases identified seven days after the third dose and accrued as of 29 April 2022.
Ocugen gets FDA approval to resume COVID vaccine trial
Bharat is seeking approval for the shot in more than 60 other countries, even amid declining demand for COVID-19 vaccines worldwide. Europe recently delayed deliveries from Pfizer and BioNTech by three months. Earlier this month, Bloomberg reported that Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine manufacturing partner in South Africa, Aspen, had received no orders.
Are COVID Vaccines Still Blocking Severe Disease?
The shots aren’t perfect: They can’t completely block infections or keep the debilitating symptoms of long COVID at bay. Still, against the severest outcomes, “I think vaccination is holding up,” Ali Ellebedy, an immunologist at Washington University in St. Louis, told me. “It provides a lot of comfort, just knowing that layer is there,” says Natalie Dean, a biostatistician at Emory University.
Pfizer to seek US emergency approval of Covid vaccine for under 5s
Pfizer has said it will seek emergency authorisation in the US for its Covid-19 vaccine for children under the age of five after interim results from its clinical trial showed the jab is safe and highly effective. The US drugmaker said on Monday that three doses of its children’s jab — each about a tenth of the size of an adult dose — produced a strong immune response with a favourable safety profile similar to a placebo in the age group.
Higher air pollution linked to more severe cases of COVID-19, study suggests
People living in areas with higher levels of air pollution are more likely to develop severe COVID-19 illness that leads to hospitalization and even death, a new study suggests. The research, published Tuesday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), found an elevated likelihood of hospitalization, admission to an intensive care unit and death among COVID-19 cases who were chronically exposed to fine particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and ground-level ozone. “These results suggest that chronic exposure to air pollution before SARS-CoV-2 infection may contribute to COVID-19 severity, particularly chronic exposure to (ozone),” the researchers write.
Covid-19 linked to impaired heart function, research finds
Covid-19 is associated with impaired function of the right side of the heart, a new study of intensive care patients has found. The research, led by experts from NHS Golden Jubilee, aimed to help improve future care and outcomes for those most at risk from Covid-19, by gaining a better understanding of the impact the virus has on the sickest patients who require invasive ventilation. The Covid-RV study was carried out in 10 intensive care units across Scotland and examined 121 critically ill patients who were receiving treatment on ventilators due to the impact of coronavirus on their system. Researchers found that about one in three of the patients in the study showed evidence of abnormalities in the right side of the heart – the area that pumps blood to the lungs.
Covid-19: Vaccine effectiveness wanes more rapidly for cancer patients, study finds
Covid-19 vaccination is effective for cancer patients but protection wanes much more rapidly than in the general population, a large study has found. Vaccine effectiveness is much lower in people with leukaemia or lymphoma, those with a recent cancer diagnosis, and those who have had radiotherapy or systemic anti-cancer treatments within the past year, according to the research published in Lancet Oncology. The authors of the world’s largest real world health system evaluation of covid-19 in cancer patients highlighted the importance of booster programmes, non-pharmacological strategies, and access to antiviral treatment programmes in order to reduce the risk that covid-19 poses to cancer patients. The study, jointly led by the universities of Birmingham, Oxford, and Southampton and the UK Health Security Agency, included 377 194 people with active or recent cancer who had received two doses of a covid-19 vaccine, of whom 43 882 had breakthrough SARS-CoV-2 infections. The control population consisted of 28 010 955 people of whom 5 748 708 had a breakthrough infection.
Long Covid-19: 'I'm physically and mentally not able to do anything'
One Christmas, Michelle Kibble was given a mug with 'chaos coordinator' printed on the side because she was so busy juggling her full-time job in a pharmacy with being the main carer for her bed-bound father and running a small business with her husband of 25 years, Terry. But Michelle and Terry's lives changed forever when Michelle, 47, from Swindon, almost died after contracting Covid-19. It left her disabled, she lost her job, and became fearful of leaving the house in case she caught the virus again. In her own words, Michelle tells the BBC how the trauma has affected her family and how she is managing to cope.
AstraZeneca says EU regulator approves COVID shot as booster
Drugmaker AstraZeneca said on Monday its COVID-19 vaccine, Vaxzevria, has been approved in the European Union by the bloc's drugs regulator as a third-dose booster in adults following a committee endorsement last week. The vaccine can now be used as a booster following the two-dose Vaxzevria schedule or by those who have been previously vaccinated by an mRNA vaccine, such as the ones made by Pfizer and BioNTech or Moderna.
U.S. FDA sets June meeting dates for Moderna, Pfizer small children COVID-19 vaccines
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration set June 14-15 as the new meeting date to review Moderna Inc's emergency authorization request for its COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 6 months to 5 years and Pfizer Inc's vaccine for those aged 6 months through 4 years. The new dates for our pediatric COVID-19 vaccine advisory committee meetings will now be June 14 and June 15, the FDA said in a statement Monday.
Germany's vaccine panel says one COVID shot enough for children
Germany's vaccine advisory panel on Tuesday said one COVID-19 shot was enough for healthy five- to 11-year-olds because most of them had already undergone an infection, maintaining its cautious approach. The view by the panel of 18 appointees, known as STIKO, contrasts with European Union regulators' approval for a two-shot regimen in that age group. U.S. regulators last week even authorized a third, booster shot for the group
As reports of ‘Paxlovid rebound’ increase, Covid researchers scramble for answers
As he was treating some of the nation’s first coronavirus patients, Andre Kalil noticed something unusual about the new virus: Patients didn’t always progress linearly. They’d get better, then worse. Then sometimes better again. Initially, most researchers figured these undulating symptoms were collateral damage, as a riled-up immune system kept firing long after most of the virus was gone. Sometimes, though, Kalil could swab the lungs of a patient in the ICU and find virus still replicating weeks after they were admitted. Often, the amount of virus bounced up and down by the day. “I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen patients that late in the disease, with very, very high viral load,” said Kalil, a physician and professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, home to the nation’s only federal quarantine center. “This virus is different than other viruses in the past. It has the capacity to replicate for much longer.”
Kids' COVID syndrome—MIS-C—less severe in Omicron
COVID-19–related multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) was milder amid the Omicron variant surge than during the Alpha and Delta waves in Israel, concludes a research letter published late last week in JAMA. Researchers from Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa conducted prospectively studied all pediatric MIS-C patients at 12 Israeli hospitals during the same 16-week period in the Alpha (Dec 20, 2020, to Apr 10, 2021), Delta (Jul 18 to Nov 13, 2021), and Omicron (Nov 21, 2021, to Mar 12, 2022) pandemic waves. Participating hospitals account for roughly 70% of pediatric intensive care unit (ICU) admissions in Israel.
Coronavirus Resurgence
Omicron outbreak: 8435 new cases, 15 virus-related deaths; how to download new vaccine pass
There are 8435 new Covid community cases today as the country faces at least five more weeks at the orange traffic light setting. The Ministry of Health reported a further 15 Covid-related deaths. One of these people was aged in their 40s, two were in their 60s, one was in their 70s, three were in their 80s and eight were aged over 90. The deaths took place over the past four days. There are 327 people in hospital with the virus, including 10 in intensive care. The seven-day rolling average of cases today is 7507, compared to 7795 last Tuesday, the ministry said.
Covid-19 death registrations fall for second week in a row
The number of deaths involving coronavirus registered in England and Wales has fallen for the second week in a row. Some 719 deaths registered in the seven days to May 13 mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This is down 2% week-on-week and is the lowest total since mid-March, when numbers were just starting to rise due to the surge in infections caused by the Omicron BA.2 variant. The drop comes despite the latest figures including a backlog of deaths that needed to be registered following the bank holiday on May 2, when most council offices were closed.
Are UK coronavirus cases actually going down or are they just harder to count?
For almost two years we’ve been glued to a set of numbers: the grim trio of cases, hospitalisations and deaths that defined coronavirus in the UK. The daily figures led news reports for more than a year: people watched in horror as the height of the Omicron wave brought the highest ever daily caseload on Tuesday 4 January 2022 when 275,618 people tested positive. And they saw how many people died: a number that peaked on Tuesday 19 January 2021, when 1,366 people died, making it the the worst day of the pandemic*. Since March 2022 case numbers from the daily government dashboard have tumbled. A fall that has coincided with the government’s Living with Covid plan: as restrictions fell away in England, so did cases. The government ended restrictions including the legal requirement to self-isolate on 24 February and cut the provision of free tests on 1 April.
North Korea says COVID-19 outbreak under control, but analyst says claim 'essentially nonsense'
For the first time since North Korea — which is unable to confirm COVID-19 cases — revealed it had a fever outbreak, state media is reporting no new deaths and a "stable" downward trend in cases — claims doubted by experts. North Korea's COVID-19 wave, first declared on May 12, has fuelled concerns over a lack of vaccines, inadequate medical infrastructure and a potential food crisis in the country of 25 million. But the North said it was reporting "successes" in stemming the spread of the virus, and there was no new fever deaths reported as of Monday evening, despite officials recording 134,510 new patients. The statistic marked a third consecutive day the daily figure stayed below 200,000.
N.Korea says no new fever deaths, COVID situation under control
North Korea said on Tuesday there were no new deaths among fever patients in the country, the first time since it flagged a COVID-19 outbreak nearly two weeks ago, adding that it was seeing a "stable" downward trend in pandemic-related cases. The COVID-19 wave, which North Korea first declared on May 12, has fuelled concerns over a lack of vaccines, inadequate medical infrastructure and a potential food crisis in the country of 25 million.
Beijing reports 41 new symptomatic COVID cases, 7 asymptomatic cases for May 23
China's capital Beijing recorded 41 new symptomatic coronavirus cases for May 23, down from 83 a day earlier, state broadcaster CCTV said on Tuesday, citing official data. Asymptomatic cases fell to 7 from 16 the previous day, it said.
Taiwan kept COVID below 15000 cases for all 2021. Now it has 80000 a day, testing its 'new model'
Billed a COVID-19 success story as its economy boomed through the pandemic, Taiwan is now battling a record wave of infections as it eases restrictions that had kept outbreaks at bay to start life with the virus. For the whole of 2021, Taiwan reported less than 15,000 locally transmitted cases. Now, it's registering around 80,000 cases a day - a startling reversal after the effectiveness of its long-standing zero-COVID policy won it international praise.