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"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 26th May 2022

Lockdown Exit
China’s Top Two Leaders Diverge in Messaging on Covid Impact
When China’s top two leaders sought to reassure foreign executives increasingly frustrated over the country’s stringent Covid-control measures last week, Chinese leadership seemed to be speaking with two voices. On May 18, President Xi Jinping spoke by video about economic challenges the world faces as a result of the pandemic but made little mention of China’s own economic downturn—which has been exacerbated by the costs of China’s stringent measures to combat Covid outbreaks. A day later, in an in-person meeting, Premier Li Keqiang struck a more candid and conciliatory tone, focusing his remarks largely on China’s own issues. Speaking to a group of senior representatives for American, European and Asian multinationals operating in China, Mr. Li said China is “committed to striking a balance” between reviving the economy and containing repeated Covid-19 outbreaks, said people who attended the meeting with Mr. Li, held at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing.
Employers more open to part-time working post-Covid-19, report finds
The furlough scheme brought in by the Government during the Covid-19 pandemic did not just save millions of people from unemployment and economic hardship, but may have had a lasting effect on the ways in which their employers allow them to work in the future, according to a new report out today (25 May). Introduced in March 2020, and further modified in July that year to allow for a part-time furlough option, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) enabled organisations to reclaim up to 80% of the wage costs of employees that could not work during the pandemic. Successful in avoiding mass redundancies during a time of crisis, new research from Cranfield School of Management and the CBI has found the scheme may also have ongoing benefits, by increasing employer openness to and knowledge of how to facilitate part-time working.
Pfizer warns of 'constant waves' of Covid as complacency grows
Growing complacency about Covid-19 and politicisation of the pandemic response will cost lives as the world is hit by new waves of the virus in the coming months, Pfizer’s chief executive has warned. Albert Bourla said people were growing “tired” of the measures introduced to slow the spread of the virus, while “politicians want to claim victory”. Compliance with authorities’ requests for people to get booster shots would fall even among those who are already vaccinated, he predicted.
French health body backs new COVID vaccine booster campaign for this autumn
France's Haute Autorite de Sante (HAS) health authority recommended preparing for a new vaccination campaign this autumn to give people aged 65 and older, and those with special health risks or conditions, access to a COVID-19 "booster" jab. The French government typically follows the recommendations of the country's health authority body.
Germany eases COVID-19 entry rules from June 1 -Funke
Germany's Health Ministry will ease COVID-19 entry rules for travellers from June 1, suspending a requirement for vaccination, recovery from the virus or a negative test, Funke media group reported on Wednesday, citing the health minister. "We will suspend the 3G rule on entry until the end of August," Health Minister Karl Lauterbach was quoted as saying. The new regulations still need to pass the Cabinet on Wednesday and will recognise all COVID-19 vaccines that are approved by the World Health Organisation even if not approved by the European Union, Funke reported.
Pfizer to offer low-cost medicines, vaccines to poor nations
Pfizer said Wednesday that it will provide nearly two dozen products, including its top-selling COVID-19 vaccine and treatment, at not-for-profit prices in some of the world’s poorest countries. The drugmaker announced the program at the World Economic Forum’s annual gathering in Davos, Switzerland, and said it was aimed at improving health equity in 45 lower-income countries. Most of the countries are in Africa, but the list also includes Haiti, Syria, Cambodia and North Korea. The products, which are widely available in the U.S. and the European Union, include 23 medicines and vaccines that treat infectious diseases, some cancers and rare and inflammatory conditions
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.
Exit Strategies
Bavarian Nordic raises sales guidance after monkeypox vaccine order
Danish biotechnology company Bavarian Nordic (BAVA.CO) on Wednesday lifted its sales outlook and now expects a smaller operating loss this year after signing a contract with an undisclosed country for the supply of its monkeypox vaccine.
Pfizer to sell all its patented drugs at nonprofit price in low-income countries
Pfizer Inc will make all of its patented medicines including COVID-19 treatment Paxlovid and big-selling breast cancer drug Ibrance available at a not-for-profit price to 45 of the world's poorest countries, the drugmaker said on Wednesday. These countries lack good access to innovative treatments. It can take four to seven years longer for new treatments to become available in low-income countries, according to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, if they become available at all.
COVID-19: Over 1 mln complete Pfizer vaccination cycle
As of May 25, 1, 021,972 people in Kazakhstan were fully vaccinated with the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, the Telegram Channel of the Interdepartmental Commission for preventing coronavirus reads. 1,143,837 people were administered the 1st jab, 1,021,972 received both. 846,952 teens, 39,469 pregnant women, and 140,496 breastfeeding moms were inoculated with the 1st jab, while 796,701 teens, 35,321 pregnant women, and 129,239 nursing moms fully completed the vaccination cycle.
NGOs urge Biden to push for changes to WTO's COVID waiver text
Oxfam America, Partners in Health and other civil society groups urged U.S. President Joe Biden to press for changes in a draft agreement on waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, underscoring divisions over the current text.In a letter sent to Biden on Monday, and viewed by Reuters, the groups said an "outcome document" reached after months of discussions between the main parties - the United States, the European Union, India and South Africa - fell short of his "righteous goal" of removing IP barriers for COVID vaccines.
Moderna again points at U.S. gov't in COVID-19 vaccine patent lawsuit
Moderna Inc told a Delaware federal court Monday that it is immune from patent-infringement allegations over its COVID-19 vaccine because it supplied the shots for a U.S. government effort. Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc is required under a longstanding federal law to sue the government directly over shots used in its nationwide vaccination effort, Moderna said in a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. Moderna argued earlier this month that the law similarly insulates it from patent claims over its vaccine brought by Arbutus Biopharma Corp and Genevant Sciences GmbH.
Nigeria receives 4.4 million doses of J&J COVID vaccine from Spain
Nigeria has received 4.4 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine from Spain, a government official said on Tuesday. Nigeria has already received 2 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from Finland, Greece and Slovenia with more expected from EU countries. Faisal Shuaib, head of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), said Nigeria wanted to vaccinate 70% of its population. It was far off the target but Spain's donation would help, he said.
High-risk people eligible for second Covid booster vaccine under new Australian guidelines
People with medical conditions or disabilities that increase the risk of severe Covid-19 will be eligible for a fourth vaccine dose after updated advice by Australian health authorities. From 30 May about 1.5 million more people aged 16 to 64 will be eligible for the fourth dose, the interim health minister, Katy Gallagher, announced on Wednesday. However, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (Atagi) has not given the green light for healthy people who do not have a risk factor for severe disease to receive a second booster. This includes healthcare workers and pregnant women who do not have other risk factors.
Partisan Exits
Covid Lockdown Costs Shanghai Its China Currency Trading Crown
The fallout of China’s Covid Zero policy is starting to show in Shanghai’s financial markets, with the city losing its top currency trading hub title for the first time. Shanghai handled fewer currency deals than Beijing in April, to rank second among China’s 36 provinces and municipalities, according to the State Administration of Foreign Exchange. The decline points to another consequence of strict lockdowns and may serve as a case study for the possible implications of movement curbs in major Chinese cities, including Beijing, as Covid cases climb. Traders volunteering to stay in the office, sleeping on trading floors, did little keep up currency volumes. Settlement and sales by banks for their clients, dropped 30% from March to $61.8 billion. That’s 15% of the national tally, compared with a steady share of around 20% before the lockdown, as per data going back to 2019.
Hemmed in by COVID curbs, Beijingers seek respite in urban outdoors
On a hot, sunny day, children and adults splashed in the cool run-off of the Yongding River in a park on the western outskirts of Beijing, a city under near-lockdown in China's head-on battle with COVID-19. While gatherings are discouraged and many parks in the sprawling city of 22 million are shut, Beijingers - like others across China with limited travel options - have taken up outdoor pursuits such as camping and picnicking after more than two years of strict and often claustrophobic pandemic curbs.
UK report blames "senior leadership" over illegal Downing Street COVID parties
A failure of leadership at British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Downing Street office was to a blame for a culture that led to illegal parties being held during coronavirus lockdowns, a report by a senior civil servant said on Wednesday. The report by senior official Sue Gray was commissioned by Johnson after revelations of alcohol-fuelled parties at Downing Street when social mixing was all but banned under stringent laws his government had made to curb the spread of COVID-19. "Many of these events should not have been allowed to happen," the report said. "The senior leadership at the centre, both political and official, must bear responsibility for this culture."
UK PM Johnson has been given report into lockdown parties - Cabinet Office
The civil servant leading investigation into coronavirus lockdown-breaking parties at the Boris Johnson's Downing Street office and residence has passed her official report to the UK prime minister, the Cabinet Office said on Wednesday. "We can confirm that Sue Gray has provided her final report to the Prime Minister," a Cabinet Office spokesperson said. Downing Street is due to publish the report later on Wednesday.
Drunkenness, vomiting and a scuffle at UK government lockdown parties
A scuffle broke out, one attendee was sick and excessive amounts of alcohol were consumed when workers at Downing Street held a party in the middle of Britain's coronavirus crisis as the rest of the country was observing strict lockdown rules. The incidents happened at a leaving party on June 18, 2020, that began in the Cabinet Room and later moved to the nearby Cabinet Secretary's room with the last member of staff leaving at 3:13 a.m. the following morning. The government's former head of ethics, Helen MacNamara, attended for part of the evening and provided a karaoke machine, according to a report into lockdown breaches at government buildings during the pandemic.
‘They were laughing at us’: Covid families’ fury at revelations in Sue Gray report
In Britain, families bereaved by Covid-19 have said they are “sickened” by the revelations in Sue Gray’s Partygate report, and have accused Boris Johnson and his staff of “laughing at us”. A group of 4,000 families who lost loved ones from Covid-19 have hit out at the prime minister after his government was guilty of “a serious failure” to abide by the “standards expected of the entire British population”
Continued Lockdown
Tightening COVID net, Beijing issues punishments and stark warnings
China's COVID-hit capital Beijing further tightened its dragnet on the virus with zero community transmission the target, punishing workplaces that flout rules or circumvent curbs and imploring residents to police their own movements. Since late April, the city of 22 million has wrestled with dozens of new cases a day. While these have been mostly in quarantine areas, a handful have been found in the community at large, illustrating the challenge the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant poses even to the world's most stringent pandemic containment policies. With Shanghai, China's business and commercial hub, and numerous other giant cities also shackled by partial lockdowns or other curbs, the zero-COVID approach remains the government's focus despite the damage it has done to the world's second-biggest economy and global supply chains.
Scientific Viewpoint
New Study Shows Vaccination Reduces Long Covid Risk, But Modestly
Vaccination reduces your risk of developing long Covid, but not by much on average, new research suggests. A Veterans Affairs study out Wednesday found that vaccinated people with breakthrough Covid-19 infections had a 15% reduction in experiencing persistent or new symptoms and health conditions up to six months after infection compared with those who were unvaccinated and got Covid.
Heart-Failure Drug Used to Treat Long Covid Symptoms
More than 200 symptoms can afflict those dealing with the aftereffects of Covid-19. An emerging approach to treating one of them—heart palpitations—highlights the successes scientists are having in addressing the symptoms, even if it may take years to understand how they’re caused. About 11% of coronavirus patients report experiencing palpitations or an increased heart rate, according to a meta-analysis of long-Covid studies published in the journal Scientific Reports in August. The symptoms are suggestive of a broader condition called postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, or POTS, which affects more than 24 million Americans—a number that’s growing because of Covid. POTS is more prevalent among women of childbearing age; often coincides with lightheadedness, brain fog, and gastric upset; and can eventually lead to chronic fatigue.
AstraZeneca reviews diversity in trials to ensure drugs work for all
The pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca is conducting a major review of diversity across its trials in an attempt to ensure its medicines work for all population groups, although it has admitted that including pregnant women is a particular challenge. The head of oncology at Britain’s biggest drugmaker, David Fredrickson told the Guardian that the firm was among those leading efforts to improve participation of people of colour and other under-represented groups in clinical trials. Speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, he called it applying an “equity lens” to every phase of the medicine’s lifecycle.
Vaccines may not prevent many symptoms of long covid, study suggests
A large U.S. study looking at whether vaccination protects against long covid showed the shots have only a slight protective effect: Being vaccinated appeared to reduce the risk of lung and blood clot disorders, but did little to protect against most other symptoms. The new paper, published Wednesday in Nature Medicine, is part of a series of studies by the Department of Veterans Affairs on the impact of the coronavirus, and was based on 33,940 people who experienced breakthrough infections after vaccination. The data confirms the large body of research that shows vaccination greatly reduces the risk of death or serious illness. But there was more ambiguity regarding long covid.
COVID nasal sprays could offer advantages over traditional vaccines – a virologist explains how they work
As new waves of omicron infections continue to hit around the world, it’s becoming clearer that COVID is here to stay. As such, in the years to come, vaccination – both first courses and booster doses – will likely remain necessary to brace global communities against the worst health outcomes wrought by the virus. But what if the current crop of vaccines could be improved? Recent advances in vaccine technology and delivery systems suggest there could be gains to be made. In particular, scientists are working on vaccines that activate your “mucosal” immune system, which may be better able to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19
Covid survivors face double risk of getting lung blood clots, CDC study warns
Survivors of Covid-19 have twice the risk of developing a blood clot in the lungs or a respiratory condition, according to a new study by the US’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Published on Tuesday, the study by the US government body said adults aged between 18 and 64 years have an increased risk of developing pulmonary embolism – a clot in an artery of the lung – or other respiratory conditions like chronic cough or shortness of breath. One in five Covid survivors in this age range and one in four survivors over the age of 65 years have experienced “at least one incident condition that might be attributable to the previous infection”, it said.
Persistent multiple organ damage noted with COVID-19
A multicenter Scottish study reveals persistent multisystem abnormalities among 159 COVID-19 patients 28 to 60 days after release from the hospital, including cardio-renal inflammation, diminished lung function, worse quality of life, and poor outcomes. In the study, published yesterday in Nature Medicine, a team led by University of Glasgow researchers collected serial blood biomarkers and patient-reported outcomes and performed digital electrocardiography, chest computed tomography (CT) with pulmonary and coronary angiography, and cardio-renal (heart-kidney) magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in the hospital and 28 to 60 days later. For longer-term outcomes, the researchers accessed electronic health records.
The future of Paxlovid for COVID-19
In comments to Bloomberg published on May 3, 2022, Pfizer chief executive officer Albert Bourla suggested that patients who experience a relapse of symptoms after finishing a course of the company's COVID-19 antiviral, Paxlovid, should take a second course of the drug. Yet the emergency use authorisation issued by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stipulates that Paxlovid is “not authorized for use longer than five consecutive days”. On May 4, John Farley, director of the Office of Infectious Diseases at the FDA, reiterated this message. “There is no evidence of benefit at this time for a longer course of treatment...or repeating a treatment course of Paxlovid in patients with recurrent COVID-19 symptoms following completion of a treatment course”, stated Farley.
CDC: COVID survivors struggle with pulmonary embolisms, breathing issues
A large study of adults in the United States who survived COVID-19 during the first 2 years of the pandemic found that they had twice the risk of developing pulmonary embolism or respiratory conditions in the year following infection. In other developments, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tracking today shows that the more transmissible BA.2.12.1 Omicron subvariant is now the dominant strain, as illness levels continue a steady rise across the country.
We're finally learning more about long Covid
Vaccines, variants, natural immunity and better treatment options mean catching Covid-19 now isn't the same as it was a year or two ago. But for millions of people who contracted the virus even in the pandemic's first months, the impact of the disease lingers. As many as one in five adults who recovered from a Cov id-19 infection have experienced at least one medical condition relating to long Covid, according to a study published Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That figure jumps to one in four in people aged 65 and older. The most common conditions among all adults were respiratory symptoms and musculoskeletal pain, the researchers found. Covid patients were also twice as likely as other people to have conditions affecting the lungs.
Women twice as likely to suffer from long Covid, study suggests
Women are more than twice as likely as men to suffer from long Covid, according to the largest study of the condition to date, which found a history of autoimmune disease or depression also increased the likelihood of experiencing symptoms. The study by genetic testing company 23andMe surveyed more than 100,000 people who had Covid-19, about a quarter of whom reported having experienced long Covid — where symptoms such as breathing problems, fatigue and brain fog last for more than 12 weeks. Some 7,000 of these had been formally diagnosed.
The future of Paxlovid for COVID-19
In comments to Bloomberg published on May 3, 2022, Pfizer chief executive officer Albert Bourla suggested that patients who experience a relapse of symptoms after finishing a course of the company's COVID-19 antiviral, Paxlovid, should take a second course of the drug. Yet the emergency use authorisation issued by the US Food and Drug Administration stipulates that Paxlovid is “not authorized for use longer than five consecutive days”. On May 4, John Farley, director of the Office of Infectious Diseases at the FDA, reiterated this message.
Coronavirus Resurgence
Vaccines bring optimism as COVID cases soar in South America
After a reprieve of months, confirmed cases of COVID-19 are surging in the southern tip of South America. But officials in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay hope high vaccination rates mean this latest wave will not be as deadly as previous ones. At the same time, there is concern that many people are not ready to once again take on the prevention measures that authorities say are needed to ensure cases remain manageable. Cases have been steadily increasing for weeks, largely fueled by the BA.2 version of the omicron variant. In Chile, the number of weekly confirmed cases more than doubled by late May when compared to the beginning of the month. In Argentina, cases rose 146 percent in the same period, while in Uruguay, the increase was almost 200 percent.
Queensland records over 1,000 COVID-19 deaths as doctors warn booster shots remain 'critically important'
Queensland surpassed 1,000 COVID-19 deaths today, with the pandemic virus on course to feature among the state's leading reasons for lives lost this year. Lea King's much-loved husband Colin was one of them. The father of four and grandfather of 10 died in February, just before they were due to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. The 74-year-old crossword lover, who lived in Logan, south of Brisbane, was being treated for lung cancer when he caught SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19. But Mrs King said "it was the COVID that got him and that's on the death certificate that the COVID pneumonia is the cause of death".
Nation's latest COVID-19 wave largely hidden from view, health experts say
Current COVID-19 cases are just a fraction of what they were at the peak of the omicron wave. But many people in the country may be noticing what seems to be a flood of cases in their social circles. Health experts say this anecdotal evidence may not be simply coincidence, as the U.S. may be in a “hidden” wave — one much larger than reported data would suggest. “There's a lot of COVID out there. I see it in my social circles, in my kids' schools and in the hospital employee infection numbers,” Dr. Shira Doron, an infectious disease physician and hospital epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, told ABC News. “We are clearly in a wave.”
N.Korea reports no new deaths for second day amid 'stable' COVID trend
North Korea reported no new deaths among fever patients for a second consecutive day, state media KCNA said on Wednesday, a day after it said the country's first confirmed coronavirus outbreak was being stably managed. The COVID outbreak, which the isolated country confirmed about two weeks ago, has stoked concerns about a lack of vaccines and medical supplies, while experts said a nationwide lockdown could deepen a food crisis in the country of 25 million. Pyongyang said on Tuesday its anti-virus campaign was having "successes" in curbing and controlling the outbreak and "maintaining the clearly stable situation.
Platinum Jubilee celebrations could increase Covid infections by 50 per cent in summer spike, scientists warn
Covid infections will jump by up to 50 per cent following the Jubilee celebrations after falling by two-thirds in the past two months, leading scientists have warned. New symptomatic infections have tumbled from a record 349,011 a day on 31 March to an estimated 117,136 cases today – with cases relatively stable over the past fortnight, according to the ZOE Covid study app. But Professor Tim Spector, who runs the ZOE app, believes greater social mixing over the extended bank holiday weekend, alongside waning immunity, will see infections rise sharply from their current level of 1 in 37 people across the UK.