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Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 21st Jan 2022

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'Some people may not make it': athletes risk failing Beijing COVID-19 tests - IOC expert

Strict COVID-19 testing requirements for the Beijing Winter Olympics could see more athletes from high-risk Omicron regions banned from participating, but the system in place will be as flexible as possible, an Olympic medical adviser told Reuters. Experts have warned that China's strict "zero-COVID" strategy, as well as its more sensitive testing protocols, could see more athletes excluded from the Games scheduled to take place between Feb. 4 and Feb. 20 - especially from regions that have seen a spike in the highly infectious Omicron variant.
21st Jan 2022 - Reuters

U.S. to require COVID vaccines for essential workers crossing borders

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is announcing Thursday it is requiring that non-U.S. essential workers such as truck drivers and nurses who are crossing land borders be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, effective Saturday. The Biden administration first announced in October that effective Nov. 8 it would again allow non-essential foreign visitors to travel from Canada and Mexico into the U.S. across land borders if they were vaccinated. The U.S. land borders with Canada and Mexico had been closed to non-essential travel for 20 months because of COVID-19 concerns.
21st Jan 2022 - Reuters

Austria set to make COVID shots compulsory after bill clears parliament

Austria's lower house of parliament passed a bill on Thursday making COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory for adults as of Feb. 1, bringing Austria closer to introducing the first such sweeping coronavirus vaccine mandate in the European Union. Faced with a stubbornly high number of vaccine holdouts and a surge in infections, the government said in November it was planning the mandate. Since then it has raised the age as of which the mandate will apply, to 18 from 14.
21st Jan 2022 - Reuters

U.S. preparing for possible future COVID variants -White House

The Biden administration is preparing for future variants of COVID-19, White House chief of Staff Ron Klain told MSNBC in an interview that aired on Thursday as the Omicron-related wave of cases appeared to be easing in parts of the country. "We're prepared. We're increasing the production of tests. We're increasing the production of masks," Klain said. "We have to be prepared for whatever comes next... there's a lot of steps left in fighting this pandemic. We are taking those steps."
20th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Britain must learn to live with COVID-19, it could be with us forever - Javid

Britain must learn to live with COVID-19 as it may be with us forever, health minister Sajid Javid said on Thursday, adding that Britain was moving ahead of other countries as the government lifted coronavirus measures. "We need to learn to live with it. Sadly people die of flu as well: in a bad flu year you can sadly lose about 20,000 lives, but we don't shut down our entire country," Javid told Sky News.
20th Jan 2022 - Reuters UK

Indonesia to Propose New Global Health Agency at G20 Summit

Indonesia will propose the creation of a new global health agency when leaders meet at the Group of 20 Summit. The agency would set up standard operating procedures for international travel and health protocols, as well as procure vaccines and ensure access and investment in medical equipment and medicines for developing countries, President Joko Widodo said in a statement at the World Economic Forum event
20th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

New Zealand Won’t Resort to Lockdowns When Omicron Arrives

New Zealand will tighten Covid-19 restrictions when the omicron variant hits but won’t resort to lockdowns, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said. When omicron starts to spread in the community, the country will move to “red” from “orange” in its Covid protection framework, which will see gathering limits of 100 imposed on events, social distancing in hospitality venues and greater use of face masks, Ardern told reporters. However, “we won’t use lockdowns,” she said.
20th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Western Australia state to stay shut as Omicron stalks the east

Australia will remain a divided nation with the vast mining state of Western Australia cancelling plans to reopen its borders on Feb. 5 citing health risks from a surge in the Omicron COVID-19 variant in eastern states. Australia's most populous state New South Wales (NSW) on Friday reported its deadliest day of the pandemic. NSW reported 46 deaths of patients with COVID-19 including one infant, while Victoria state saw 20 lives lost. Yet, a drop in hospitalisations in both states did offer hope the latest outbreak might have peaked.
20th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Canadian vaccine mandate to lead to inflation, empty shelves, trucking executives say

The premier of Canada's Alberta province on Thursday called on the federal government to pause a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for cross-border truckers that companies say will disrupt the supply chain and fuel inflation. The mandate, imposed by Ottawa to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, has cost Canadian trucking companies about 10% of their international drivers, six top executives said this week. They said they are hiking wages to lure new operators during the worst labor shortage they have experienced.
20th Jan 2022 - Reuters

The pandemic is birthing billionaires and killing the poor

We enter 2022 witnessing the biggest increase in billionaire wealth since records began. A billionaire was created every 26 hours during this pandemic. The wealth of the world’s 10 richest men alone has doubled, rising at a rate of $15,000 per second. But COVID-19 has left 99 percent of humanity worse off. Our malaise is inequality. Inequality of income is now a stronger indicator of whether you will die from COVID-19 than age. In 2021, millions of people died in poorer countries with scant access to vaccines as pharmaceutical monopolies, protected by rich countries, throttled their supply. We minted new vaccine billionaires on the backs of denying billions of people access to vaccines.
20th Jan 2022 - AlJazeera

Biden's Team Says It's on Alert for Omicron Disruptions in China

The Biden administration is monitoring real-time data obtained from businesses operating in China to determine whether outbreaks of the omicron variant of coronavirus pose a risk to U.S. supply chains, an administration official said. It’s too early to tell whether there will be any impact on the American economy from the variant’s spread in China or from aggressive efforts by officials there to stamp it out, the official said. The official asked not to be identified discussing the administration’s efforts because the data is not public.
20th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Wearing a mask on planes DOES cut risk of COVID spreading, study finds

Study used simulation to test how far virus-laden droplets could travel and infect They then compared it to real world flights where passengers had caught Covid Their model was 80 per cent right in predicting who did and didn't get the virus In one flight, the team found masks would have cut Covid infections from 12 to 1
20th Jan 2022 - Daily Mail


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 20th Jan 2022

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Covid-19 Cases Fall Sharply in India’s Biggest Cities, Raising Hopes for Nearing Peak

A swift decline of cases following a huge surge is a pattern seen with the Omicron variant in other countries such as South Africa, epidemiologists say. But they are watching India especially closely because of its large population, its relatively low vaccination rate and the severity of last year’s wave—factors which led public-health experts to warn the country’s hospitals could be overwhelmed by Omicron. “The virus is meeting up with a whole population of people already previously infected and immune or vaccinated and immune,” said T. Jacob John, a retired professor of virology at the Christian Medical College in India’s southern city of Vellore. “That adds to the mildness of the disease.”
20th Jan 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

Scientists develop new Covid diagnosis test using X rays

A new covid diagnosis could replace PCR tests using X-rays - within minutes. Experts developed Artificial Intelligence (AI) to detect the virus faster than PCR. In testing, this groundbreaking technique was found to be 98 per cent accurate. It is hoped that this technology could be used to aid medical staff on frontline.
19th Jan 2022 - Daily Mail

Airlines Step Up Hygiene to Keep Covid Out of the Air

In that long-ago time before the pandemic, most travelers chose an airline based on a single, straightforward factor: price. And those who didn’t grab the cheapest fare typically steered their business toward a carrier where they had frequent-flyer miles. Cleanliness, by contrast, barely registered. These days, hygiene is the most important factor in choosing a travel company for almost 60% of Americans, according to a survey by aerospace products manufacturer Honeywell International Inc. That tracks with International Air Transport Association data showing that passengers worry about boarding planes, with 42% of them uncomfortable using lavatories and more than a third concerned about breathing recirculated cabin air. “We know that our customers are more conscious than ever about hygiene,” says Anil Jain, engineering chief at Air India Express, which has introduced robots to clean its planes. “We need to be proactive.”
19th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Beijing Covid Flareup Worsens with New Clusters at Cold Storage

China’s capital found a Covid-19 cluster among cold chain workers on Wednesday, the latest sign the country is seeing more infections resulting from a controversial claim of transmission through contaminated goods. Five people who worked at a cold chain storage facility in the Fangshan district of Beijing tested positive for Covid, with genetic sequencing showing three of them were infected by the delta variant, Beijing officials said at a briefing on Wednesday. The refrigeration facility also deals with imports, and the workers who tested positive hadn’t left the city in the past two weeks, they added. While authorities are still investigating the source of the infection, the cluster among cold chain workers adds to a growing body of cases linked to exposure to Covid-contaminated goods ranging from frozen seafood and fruits to international parcels.
19th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

China's Zero Covid, Vaccine Program Leaves It With Omicron Whack-a-Mole

The U.S. recently passed the grim marker of 850,000 deaths from Covid-19. By contrast, China has recorded 4,636 Covid-related deaths since the pandemic began. And yet the policies that were so successful for Beijing over the past two years have now become something of a trap. On the face of it, China has changed its policy to reflect its high rate of vaccination. Beijing recently replaced “Zero Covid,” an approach that kept infections and deaths extremely low while allowing the economy to grow, with what it calls “dynamic clearing.” The new policy accepts that infections will happen and empowers local regions to deal with them.
19th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Omicron Pushes Japan to Consider Living With Covid Like the Flu

Calls are growing in Japan to treat Covid-19 as endemic, adding to a global chorus pushing for a return to normal life as people tire of pandemic restrictions, vaccines become more accessible and virus deaths remain low. Drawing on data that shows omicron posing a less severe risk than previous variants, public figures from Tokyo’s governor to former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have signaled their support for downgrading the legal status of the virus in Japan. The change would widen health care access for patients, effectively casting the virus as no different than the flu.
19th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

End of Plan B Covid Restrictions: Boris Johnson Drops Work-From-Home Guidance

Most Covid-19 restrictions are being lifted in England over the coming days, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, as he set out his ambition for a transition to “living with” the virus -- including the end of mandatory isolation for positive cases -- by the end of March. People are no longer being asked to work from home, and rules forcing people to wear face masks in shops and on public transport will be dropped from Jan. 27, Johnson told the House of Commons on Wednesday. Mandatory Covid passes for businesses will also end next week. The move unwinds rules put in place in December, when the omicron variant was spreading rapidly across the U.K. “Scientists believe it is likely that the Omicron wave has now peaked nationally,” Johnson said.
19th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Prior COVID infection more protective than vaccination during Delta surge -U.S. study

People who had previously been infected with COVID-19 were better protected against the Delta variant than those who were vaccinated alone, suggesting that natural immunity was a more potent shield than vaccines against that variant, California and New York health officials reported on Wednesday. Protection against Delta was highest, however, among people who were both vaccinated and had survived a previous COVID infection, and lowest among those who had never been infected or vaccinated, the study found. Nevertheless, vaccination remains the safest strategy against COVID-19, according to the report published in U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
19th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Starbucks suspends vaccine, test requirement after U.S. court ruling

Starbucks Corp suspended COVID-19 vaccine-or-test requirement for U.S. employees that had been mandated by the government, according to a memo sent to workers on Tuesday, following an adverse U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The coffee giant had said earlier this month it would require its around 220,000 U.S. employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing. The U.S. Supreme Court last week struck down Joe Biden administration's vaccination-or-testing mandate for large businesses, ruling that the policy overstepped executive authority.
19th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Greece imposes rolling fines to push COVID-19 vaccinations in older people

Greece has begun imposing recurring fines on those over the age of 60 who are unvaccinated against COVID-19 to try to boost inoculation in the most vulnerable age group even as infection rates from the fast-spreading Omicron variant are slowing. After hitting an all-time high of 50,126 registered coronavirus infections on Jan. 4, mainly driven by the spread of the Omicron variant over the Christmas holidays, cases have been falling in recent days
19th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Coronavirus spreading like never before in Americas, health agency says

COVID-19 infections are reaching new peaks in the Americas with 7.2 million new cases and more than 15,000 COVID-related deaths in the last week, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said. "The virus is spreading more actively than ever before," PAHO Director Carissa Etienne told a briefing. The Caribbean has had the steepest increase in infections since the start of the two-year-old pandemic, the regional agency said. In North America, the United States and Canada are experiencing a surge of COVID-19 hospitalizations.
19th Jan 2022 - Reuters

UnitedHealth says Omicron-driven cost impact cushioned by healthcare deferrals

UnitedHealth Group Inc said added costs of testing and treatment related to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases are being offset by postponements of non-urgent healthcare procedures, and the health insurer maintained its 2022 profit forecast. The comments should help allay investor concerns that the steep rise in COVID infections and hospitalizations driven by the Omicron variant of the virus in recent weeks would significantly drive up medical costs for health insurers. Adding to those concerns was a Biden administration initiative requiring insurers to reimburse Americans for up to eight at-home rapid COVID-19 tests per month, while setting no limit for tests, including at-home tests, that insurers must cover if they are ordered or administered by a healthcare provider.
19th Jan 2022 - Reuters

U.S. judge calls unvaccinated adults 'unpatriotic' as Omicron prompts trial delay

A federal judge in Florida in a scathing order delayed an upcoming trial due to the surge in COVID-19 cases as he blasted adults who have yet to get vaccinated as "uninformed and irrational, or – less charitably – selfish and unpatriotic." U.S. District Judge Robert Scola, an appointee of former Democratic President Barack Obama, in Tuesday's order said that given the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, he had proposed requiring all jurors in the Feb. 7 trial to be vaccinated. But Scola said lawyers for Progressive Select Insurance Co, which is defending against claims for coverage by a motorist who was in a car crash in 2019, objected, saying they did not want to exclude unvaccinated jurors.
19th Jan 2022 - Reuters

U.S. to distribute 400 million free N95 masks at CVS, Walgreens in COVID fight

The U.S. government will make 400 million non-surgical "N95" masks from its strategic national stockpile available for free to the public starting next week, a White House official said, as the Biden administration tries to curb the COVID-19 pandemic. Snug-fitting N95 face masks, so-called because they filter at least 95% of particulate matter from the air, will be shipped to pharmacies and community health centers this week, the official said, and will be available for pickup late next week. The U.S. government is leveraging the "federal retail pharmacy program" it used for vaccines, the White House said, as well as federally funded health clinics that serve minority groups hit hard by COVID infections and deaths.
19th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Djokovic has 80% stake in biotech firm developing Covid drug

Novak Djokovic is the controlling shareholder in a Danish biotech firm aiming to develop a treatment for Covid-19 that does not involve vaccination, it has emerged. The world No 1, who was deported from Australia this week after the government cancelled his visa in a dispute over a medical exemption relating to his unvaccinated status, bought an 80% stake in QuantBioRes in 2020. Ivan Loncarevic, the company’s chief executive, confirmed the investment to Reuters. He subsequently told the Financial Times that he had not spoken to Djokovic, who has won more than $150m in prize money, since November and that the tennis star was “not anti-vax”
19th Jan 2022 - The Guardian

Ireland announces annual bank holiday to honour Covid victims and workers

Ireland is to get a bank holiday as a national commemoration of those who have lost their lives to Covid and to recognise those who worked on the frontline of the pandemic, the government has announced. Frontline healthcare workers in hospitals and nursing homes are also to receive a €1,000 (£830) tax-free bonus for their contribution to the national pandemic effort as part of a package of measures agreed by the cabinet on Wednesday. The government has estimated the cost of the giveaway at €100m, but questions remain as to who will qualify for the ha
19th Jan 2022 - The Guardian

Why Some Vaccinated People Resist Omicron and Others Don’t

A recent study led by Harvard and MIT showed that about 20% of people get much poorer protection from their vaccines against omicron. They’re still better off than completely unvaccinated people, but this variability could account for some of the fully vaccinated people who’ve been hospitalized in the omicron wave. The researchers looked at blood samples from 76 volunteers to examine the part of the immune system known as the T cells. While antibodies wane over time, T cells last longer and provide a second line of defense by identifying and killing infected cells. In vaccinated people, T cells are primed to fight SARS-CoV-2 and can usually clear the infection within a couple of days. Many experts consider them the most critical part of our defenses against omicron.
19th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Young Brazilians Studying Less, Dropping Out More During Covid

Young Brazilians are studying less and dropping out more during the pandemic, reversing decades of educational advances and exacerbating the country’s demographic inequalities, a new study found. School dropout rates among children aged 5-9 years old rose from 1.4% in 2019 to 5.5% by the end of 2020, the highest percentage seen since 2006, according to research from the Getulio Vargas Foundation, a Brazilian think tank. Although the dropout rate improved to 4.25% in the third quarter of 2021, that was still 128% higher than before the pandemic. “Younger children, the age group in which we have made great educational advances in the last 40 years, is where we are having the greatest losses,” co-author and economist Marcelo Neri said during a phone interview Wednesday. There was also a socioeconomic gap when it came to time spent hitting the books when school wasn’t in session.
19th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Covid-19, Endemic or Not, Will Still Make Us Poorer

The prospect that Covid-19 is transitioning from pandemic to endemic has brought out the bulls on Wall Street. “Meaningful upside to our medium-term economic outlook,” writes Bank of America Corp. “A positive for risk assets,” says JPMorgan Chase & Co. A “silver lining” of the “highly infectious” Omicron variant, says BlackRock Inc. By “endemic,” they mean Omicron will leave almost everyone highly immune through vaccination, prior infection, or both. Then, they reason, Covid-19 will be a more predictable, less deadly presence, much like flu, and the world will return to normal. Such optimism needs a reality check. This new normal won’t be the same as the old normal: Endemic Covid-19 will still take a toll on health, work and mobility; the only question is how big.
19th Jan 2022 - The Wall Street Journal


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 19th Jan 2022

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Covid pandemic is 'nowhere near over' and new variants are likely to emerge, WHO warns

WHO chief warned against dismissing the coronavirus Omicron variant as mild. Omicron more contagious than previous variants but causes less serious disease Some have suggested that Covid is passing from pandemic stage to endemic. But Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned that the sheer numbers of people still being infected will mean many vulnerable people falling ill and dying
19th Jan 2022 - Daily Mail

Swift End to Covid Threatened by Unvaccinated Faraway Locales

After losing her son who got infected with Covid-19 last year, 79-year-old Tomasa Valdez was desperate to get vaccinated. But on the remote Philippine island of San Salvador, where she lives, there were no shots to be had. Getting to the mainland, where the vaccinations were available, meant a boat ride that was arduous at her age and expensive for her meager income from drying sea grass which she sells for less than 100 pesos ($1.95) a sack. Help only arrived in December 2021 -- 10 months after the Philippines began its national program and about a year after Western nations like the U.S. and U.K. started theirs.
18th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Covid Infections Ravage Venezuela’s Congress, Delaying Session

Dozens of Venezuelan lawmakers tested positive for Covid-19 Tuesday amid a wave of new infections in the country, delaying the start of a meeting of congress. Forty-two members of the National Assembly tested positive for the disease on Tuesday ahead of a meeting of the legislative body,
18th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

COVID-19 concerns force U.N. to prepare tsunami-hit Tonga relief aid at a distance

The United Nations is preparing for distanced relief operations in Tonga to avoid a COVID-19 outbreak in the Pacific island nation that is reeling under the impact of a volcanic eruption and tsunami, an official said on Wednesday. All the homes on one of Tonga's small outer islands have been destroyed and three people have so far been confirmed dead, the government said in its first statement after Saturday's devastating eruption. With communications badly hampered by the severing of an undersea cable, information on the scale of the devastation so far has mostly come from reconnaissance aircraft.
18th Jan 2022 - Reuters

French Covid Infections Hit Record as Patients Fill Up Hospitals

France registered a record number of daily Covid-19 infections as the omicron variant spreads across the country, sending a growing number of patients to hospitals. New cases totaled 464,769 Tuesday, according to data from the public health office. That far surpassed the previous high of 368,149 recorded a week ago. The surge comes as France is poised to require a complete vaccination regimen for many public activities -- from eating in restaurants to attending the theater or getting on an airplane -- saying a recent negative test isn’t good enough anymore
18th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

COVID-19: All Omicron restrictions in Scotland to be lifted next Monday

Nightclubs will reopen and limits on hospitality come to an end as all of Scotland's Omicron coronavirus restrictions are lifted next Monday. The changes - first introduced to slow the spread of the Omicron variant - will take place from 24 January, as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed the country is on a "downward slope" of infections. The requirement for table service in hospitality will come to an end and attendance limits on indoor events will also be lifted, as well as restrictions preventing adults from taking part in indoor contact
18th Jan 2022 - Sky News

Sweden scraps demand for negative COVID test to enter country

Travelers to Sweden will no longer be required to show a negative COVID test before entering the country, the government said on Tuesday. Sweden introduced rules for a recent negative COVID test on Dec. 28 last year in a bid to slow the spread of the more contagious Omicron variant. Since then, Sweden has repeatedly set new daily case records with Omicron now the totally dominant variant. "Travelers are no longer considered to pose a particular risk of affecting the spread of Omicron in Sweden," the government said
18th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Denmark eases coronavirus restrictions, as cases hit new record

Denmark registered a record number of coronavirus infections on Monday, as cinemas, museums and other cultural institutions reopened after a month-long COVID-19 lockdown. The Nordic country registered 28,780 new cases in the space of 24 hours and the number of coronavirus-related hospitalisations rose to 802, the highest in a year. Still, health authorities said earlier this month that the now-predominant Omicron variant was milder than initially thought and that around 29% of those in hospital were there due to reasons other than COVID-19
18th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Analysis: With Omicron, global economy spots chance to push past COVID

Governments worldwide are easing quarantine rules, reviewing coronavirus curbs and dialling back pandemic-era emergency support as they bid to launch their economies back into some version of normality. The moves, motivated by the lower severity of the Omicron variant and the need to keep workers in work and the global recovery on track, have generated a whiff of optimism that has lifted oil and stock prices. Health experts say the variant's rapid spread may yet herald a turning point in the pandemic.
18th Jan 2022 - Reuters


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 18th Jan 2022

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Beijing Says International Mail Is Possible Culprit in First Omicron Case

Health authorities in Beijing said they haven’t been able to trace the source of the Chinese capital’s first local Omicron infection but indicated it might have arrived by international mail. Beijing announced the Omicron case on Saturday after the patient developed a low-grade fever on Friday and took a voluntary test that came back positive for Covid-19. Authorities sealed off the patient’s residential compound and office building, and launched contact-tracing efforts. Tests for more than 16,500 people identified as potentially being exposed to the patient came back negative, Pang Xinghuo, deputy director of the city’s municipal Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a press conference on Monday.
18th Jan 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

CDC Director Aims to Improve Covid-19 Messaging, Data Collection

One year into her tenure as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rochelle Walensky acknowledged that she hasn’t been clear enough with the American public. She says the pandemic threw curveballs that she should have anticipated. She thinks she should have made it clearer to the public that new rules and guidelines were subject to change if the nature of the fight against Covid-19 shifted again. “I think what I have not conveyed is the uncertainty in a lot of these situations,” Dr. Walensky said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. The CDC director has come under fire from public-health experts for the way she has communicated pandemic guidelines from mask wearing to isolation requirements. Some Biden administration officials said the CDC’s explanations of new and amended guidelines can sometimes be hard to grasp.
18th Jan 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

Chile Toughens Mobility Limits in Santiago on Covid-19 Surge

Chile’s Health Ministry toughened mobility restrictions in Santiago’s Metropolitan Region and 45 other municipalities nationwide, as the government copes with a surge in Covid-19 cases due to the Omicron variant. Fewer people will be allowed at events in homes and public spaces, and restaurants will cut seating capacity, the Health Ministry informed on Monday. Healthcare workers will also start receiving a second booster shot this week.
18th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Fourth Pfizer Dose Is Insufficient to Ward Off Omicron, Israeli Trial Suggests

A fourth dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was insufficient to prevent infection with the omicron variant of Covid-19, according to preliminary data from a trial in Israel released Monday. Two weeks after the start of the trial of 154 medical personnel at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv, researchers found the vaccine successfully raised antibody levels. But that only offered a partial defense against omicron, according to Gili Regev-Yochay, the trial’s lead researcher. Vaccines which were more effective against previous variants offer less protection with omicron, she said. Still, those infected in the trial had only slight symptoms or none at all.
18th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Beijing Olympics tickets will not be publicly sold due to COVID-19

Olympics set to begin on Feb. 4 will be distributed to "targeted" groups of people and will not be sold to the general public, the organising committee said on Monday, in the latest setback to the Games inflicted by COVID-19.
18th Jan 2022 - Reuters

French COVID hospitalisations see biggest jump since Nov 2020

The number of people with COVID-19 in French hospitals rose by 888 to 25,775, the health ministry said on Monday, the biggest one-day increase since early November 2020 - before the start of the country's vaccination campaign. The last time the number of COVID patients was over 25,000 was on Dec. 17, 2020. Health ministry data on Monday also showed that the number of people with COVID-19 in intensive care units rose by 61 to 3,913, after being flat to stable for four days.
18th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Chinese cities on high COVID-19 alert as peak Lunar New Year travel season starts

Several Chinese cities went on high COVID-19 alert as the Lunar New Year holiday travel season started on Monday, requiring travellers to report their trips days before their arrival, as the Omicron variant reached more areas including Beijing. Authorities have warned the highly contagious Omicron adds to the increased risk of COVID-19 transmission as hundreds of millions of people travel around China for the Lunar New Year holiday starting at the end of the month. Cities such as Luoyang in central China and Jieyang in the south said on Sunday travellers need to report to communities, employers or hotels their trips three days ahead of arrival. The southwestern city of Yulin said on Saturday those who want to enter should fill in a digital form including their health credentials and trip details one day in advance.
18th Jan 2022 - ARY News Live

COVID updates: Canada approves Pfizer COVID pill

Several Chinese cities are on high alert as hundreds of millions of people travel around China before the Lunar New Year celebration on February 1. Governments around the world are also enforcing stricter measures to contain the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant. In the Philippines, unvaccinated commuters have been banned from accessing public transport, despite opposition.
18th Jan 2022 - Al Jazeera English

Analysis: China's 'zero-COVID' campaign under strain as Omicron surges

China is doubling down on its "zero-COVID" strategy, saying the spread of the potentially milder Omicron variant is no reason to lower its guard amid warnings of economic disruptions and even public unrest as lockdowns drag into a third year. As other countries talk about a transition from "pandemic" to "endemic", China has stepped up policies to stamp out any new outbreak as soon as it arises, sealing off cities, shutting transport links and launching mass testing programmes.
18th Jan 2022 - Reuters on MSN.com

Return of the flu: EU faces threat of prolonged 'twindemic'

Influenza has returned to Europe at a faster-than-expected rate this winter after almost disappearing last year, raising concerns about a prolonged "twindemic" with COVID-19 amid some doubts about the effectiveness of flu vaccines. Lockdowns, mask-wearing and social distancing that have become the norm in Europe during the COVID-19 pandemic knocked out flu last winter, temporarily eradicating a virus that globally kills about 650,000 a year, according to EU figures.
18th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Beijing Winter Olympics: Tickets won't be sold to general public due to 'severe and complex' COVID-19 situation

Tickets for Beijing's Winter Olympics will not be sold to the general public due to worries about COVID. Only "targeted" groups will be able to get tickets for the games - which start on 4 February, said organisers. International fans are already excluded because of China's strict border policy to prevent importing cases
17th Jan 2022 - Sky News

French parliament approves vaccine pass

France's parliament gave final approval on Sunday to the government's latest measures to tackle the COVID-19 virus, including a vaccine pass contested by anti-vaccine protestors. Lawmakers in the lower house of parliament voted 215 in favour to 58 against, paving the way for the law to enter force in the coming days. The new law, which had a rough ride through parliament with opposition parties finding some of its provisions too tough, will require people to have a certificate of vaccination to enter public places like restaurants, cafes, cinemas and long-distance trains.
17th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Chinese cities on high COVID-19 alert as peak Lunar New Year travel season starts

Several Chinese cities went on high COVID-19 alert as the Lunar New Year holiday travel season started on Monday, requiring travellers to report their trips days before their arrival, as the Omicron variant reached more areas including Beijing. Authorities have warned the highly contagious Omicron adds to the increased risk of COVID-19 transmission as hundreds of millions of people travel around China for the Lunar New Year on Feb. 1.
17th Jan 2022 - Reuters

COVID review for England could come this week, early next - source

A review of "Plan B" measures to tackle the spread of COVID-19 in England could take place this week or early next, a senior government source said on Monday, part of efforts to move attention away from lockdown-breaking events at Downing Street. Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes to reset his agenda after coming under fire for attending a gathering in the garden of his Downing Street office and residence in May 2020, when strict COVID-19 rules forbade almost all socialising.
17th Jan 2022 - Reuters

'Upside down again': Omicron surge roils U.S. small businesses

Phillip Howard pointed toward a stack of black ski pants piled atop a counter in his winter sports shop as evidence of the hurdles small business owners still face as the pandemic drags on. The pants were supposed to arrive by August at Troy's Ski Lubbock shop in west Texas - well before his five-month hot season of selling that kicks off in October. Instead, they came from China the first week of January, delayed by supply-chain failures.
17th Jan 2022 - Reuters


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 17th Jan 2022

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Omicron hits Beijing: City records first local case of the highly transmissible variant

An Omicron case has been detected in Beijing, officials in the Chinese capital said Saturday, as the country battles multiple outbreaks of the highly transmissible coronavirus variant ahead of the Winter Olympics. Lab testing found 'mutations specific to the Omicron variant' in the person, Pang Xinghuo, an official at the city's disease control authority, told a news briefing. Officials have sealed up the infected person's residential compound and workplace, and collected 2,430 samples for testing from people linked to the two locations, a Haidian district official said.
16th Jan 2022 - Daily Mail

U.S. CDC recommends Americans wear 'most protective mask you can'

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) late on Friday revised its guidance for Americans on wearing masks, recommending wearing "the most protective mask you can," although the agency stopped short of calling for nationwide N95 usage.
15th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Burned by COVID supply crunch, hospitals invest in U.S. mask-making

Two days before Christmas, a cargo ship left Mumbai with a mask-making machine bound for Illinois-based OSF HealthCare, which will use the equipment to make its own N95 masks. It isn't the hospital group's first foray into manufacturing. After COVID-19 border closures in early 2020 choked shipments from Asia, producer of about 80% of the world's medical masks and protective gear, OSF and some other hospital groups started investing in U.S. production of key supplies including masks, gowns and critical pharmaceuticals.
14th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Gene Linked to Severe Covid to Provide Clues for Those at Risk

Polish scientists have discovered a gene that they say more than doubles the risk of falling severely ill with, or even dying from Covid-19. The Health Ministry in Warsaw expects the discovery to help identify people who are most at risk from the disease, which has already killed more than 100,000 people in Poland alone. It also plans to include genetic tests when it screens patients for potential Covid-19 infections as soon as the end of June. The research from the Medical University of Bialystok estimates that the gene could be present in about 14% of the Polish population, compared with around 9% in Europe and 27% in India. It’s the fourth most important factor determining the severity of the illness after age, weight and gender, it said.
14th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Biden Forms New Group to Plan for Future Coronavirus Variants

The Biden administration has assembled a group that will prepare new countermeasures for the emergence of future Covid-19 variants and other pandemic threats, after the arrival of the omicron strain led to tumult in the U.S. economy and health-care system. The Pandemic Innovation Task Force, formed by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, or OSTP, will focus on developing vaccines, treatments, diagnostic tests and other tools, said officials familiar with the matter, who asked for anonymity as the details aren’t yet public. That will help prepare the country in case new versions of the virus surface, and for future biological threats beyond Covid-19, they said.
14th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 14th Jan 2022

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China's Covid Absolutism Is Making It a No-Go Zone for Airlines

Entering the third year of the pandemic, China’s unbending approach to Covid-19 has left the world’s second-largest economy all but shut off from international travel, with fewer than 500 inbound flights scheduled this week, compared with about 10,000 this time two years ago. Capacity cuts are intensifying as China tries to snuff out virus flareups with aggressive lockdowns. Since mid-December, airlines have eliminated almost 1,000 flights that would have arrived in the country between now and Feb. 1, the start of the Lunar New Year -- typically the busiest time for travel anywhere on the planet.
13th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Norway Eases Measures as It Prepares to Live With Omicron Wave

Norway is scaling back some of its infection restrictions as it moves into a new phase of the pandemic. The omicron variant has pushed infection rates to records, and the country now needs to ready itself to tolerate living with the virus, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store told reporters on Thursday. It isn’t possible to stop an omicron-driven wave, but the likelihood of hospitalization is lower and vaccination provides good protection against serious sickness, he said.
13th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Hundreds of Millions of Covid Vaccine Doses Risk Going to Waste

Hundreds of millions of Covid-19 vaccine doses purchased by wealthy countries are at risk of going to waste, a new analysis shows, while large parts of the world remain unprotected amid the spread of the omicron variant. About 240 million doses purchased by the U.S., U.K., Japan, Canada and the European Union are expected to go unused and expire by March, London-based analytics firm Airfinity Ltd. said Thursday in a report. The number of potentially wasted doses could climb to 500 million by that point if other countries receiving donated doses don’t have enough time to administer them, it said. “Even after successful booster rollouts, there are surplus doses available that risk going to waste if not shared very soon,” Rasmus Bech Hansen,
13th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Analysis: India's new COVID-19 rules aim to free up resources but carry risks

India has eased its COVID-19 rules on testing, quarantine and hospital admissions in a bid to free up resources for its neediest people, a strategy hailed by experts even though it carries the risk of a heavy undercount of infections and deaths. The moves will offer a breathing space for healthcare facilities, often overstretched in a far-flung nation of 1.4 billion, as they battle a 33-fold surge in infections over the past month from the highly contagious Omicron variant.
13th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Australian Open crowds capped at 50% capacity due to COVID

Crowds at the main Australian Open tennis stadiums will be capped at 50% capacity under updated COVID-19 restrictions, organisers said on Thursday, as authorities battle a surge of cases in Melbourne. Face masks will also be mandatory for all patrons, except when eating or drinking, and there will be density limits of one person per two square metres at indoor hospitality venues. Tennis Australia (TA) said the 50% cap only applied for ticket sales at the Rod Laver Arena centre court and the second show court Margaret Court Arena.
13th Jan 2022 - Reuters

CES unable to confirm COVID-19 cases after 70 S.Korean nationals test positive

The organizer of CES, the world's largest technology show, said on Thursday it was unable to confirm the number of COVID-19 cases from its in-person event in Las Vegas last week after South Korean authorities said about 70 attendees from the country tested positive for the virus. The 70 South Korean nationals included representatives from Samsung Electronics and chipmaker SK Hynix sources told Reuters on Tuesday. Of the 40,000 that attended CES, 30% traveled from outside the United States.
13th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Volkswagen China shuts two plants in Tianjin due to COVID-19 outbreaks

Volkswagen Group's China unit said on Thursday it has shut a plant it jointly runs with FAW Group in the city of Tianjin, as well as a component factory, due to recent COVID-19 outbreaks there."Due to the recent COVID-19 outbreaks both the FAW-VW vehicle plant and VW Automatic Transmission Tianjin component factory have been shut down since Monday," a spokesperson told Reuters. "Both plants have conducted COVID -19 testing twice for all employees this week and are waiting for the results
13th Jan 2022 - Reuters


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 13th Jan 2022

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Omicron Is Dominant US Variant, Hospitals Face Dark Days as Covid Cases Soar

The highly infectious omicron variant has flushed out the delta strain across the U.S., but the ascendance of the purportedly milder form of Covid-19 has done nothing so far to ease the burden on stretched hospitals. The omicron variant represents about 98% of cases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday. That number is based on data for the week ending Jan. 8 and is a significant increase from just two weeks prior, when omicron accounted for 71.3% of cases. Omicron’s heightened transmissibility coupled with the immunity some have built to combat the delta through vaccination and exposure, have made conditions favor the “more mild” variant, said David Wohl, a professor at the Institute of Global Health and Infectious Diseases at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. But experts warn that for those who remain unvaccinated or who suffer from other health concerns, infection from any Covid-19 variant is a major concern.
13th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Colorado's Covid-19 Test Positivity Is Highest of Pandemic at 30%

Thirty-percent of people tested for Covid-19 in Colorado are receiving positive results, the highest of the pandemic, as the omicron variant rages, officials said Wednesday. The data imply a high level of community spread with the number of Covid-19 hospitalizations surpassing an autumn peak, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. There are more hospital beds available in Colorado than during the delta variant peak in late 2021, Scott Bookman, the state’s Covid-19 incident commander, said during an online briefing.
12th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Almost All Teens Needing ICU Care for Covid Are Unvaccinated

The vaccine prevented 98% of ICU visits and 94% of Covid-related hospitalizations in the real-world study of more than 1,000 adolescents ages 12 to 18 in 23 states published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. While adolescents can develop severe Covid complications, it’s relatively rare that they do, making it harder to study vaccine efficacy than among older adults, and leading to some controversy about the use of the shots in younger people. For example, the trial data Pfizer submitted for authorization of its shot for 12- to 15-year-olds didn’t include enough cases to assess efficacy in preventing severe Covid. The research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a network of 31 hospitals is one is one of the most detailed yet showing that vaccines can prevent severe Covid complications in teenagers.
12th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

France Records More Than 360000 New Covid Cases for Second Day

France on Wednesday registered more than 360,000 new Covid-19 infections, just shy of Tuesday’s record, highlighting the omicron variant’s fast-paced spread across the country. New cases totaled 361,719 on Wednesday after 368,149 on Tuesday, according to data from the public health office. The death toll rose by 246 to 126,305, while the number of Covid patients in emergency care climbed by 16 of 3,985, the highest level since mid-May last year. More than half of Europe’s population may be infected with omicron within weeks at current transmission rates, a World Health Organization official said Tuesday.
12th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

China Faces Mounting Economic Damage From Its Covid-Zero Policy

As Goldman Sachs noted in a Jan. 5 report, the economic costs of Beijing’s Covid-zero stance “appear to be increasing over time as each new variant is more transmissible than the previous ones.” Omicron is a threat of a different magnitude, even for a population that’s 87% vaccinated, because the China-made shots appear to provide inadequate protection against it. Expect more citywide lockdowns like the one instituted in Xi’an, a metropolis of 13 million residents.
12th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

U.S. Orders 500000 More Doses of AstraZeneca Covid Cocktail

The U.S. government is in talks with AstraZeneca Plc to order 500,000 doses of its coronavirus antibody drug, used by vulnerable people before exposure to the virus to prevent severe illness. Jeff Zients, Biden’s Covid-19 response coordinator, said Wednesday that the administration and AstraZeneca are “in the process of ordering” the doses, which are aimed at immunocompromised people. The new order will push the total U.S. purchase to 1.2 million doses, all due by the end of March, AstraZeneca said in a statement. “The federal government was instrumental in the research and development of this product,” Zients said. “Bottom line, we’ve acted aggressively to support and secure a diverse portfolio of Covid treatments.”
12th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Denmark to offer fourth coronavirus jab while easing curbs

Not enough Canadian children are being vaccinated against COVID-19 at a time when the Omicron variant threatens to swamp healthcare systems, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday. As of Jan. 1, 87.6% of Canadians above the age of 12 had received two shots. But among those aged from 5 to 12, that number dipped to just 2%, with 45.6% having received one dose. "Almost half of kids across this country have gotten their vaccine. ... We need to get more, so please ask your parents if you can get vaccinated," Trudeau said, addressing children directly during a regular briefing.
12th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Not enough Canadian children are getting COVID-19 jabs, health systems at risk - Trudeau

Not enough Canadian children are being vaccinated against COVID-19 at a time when the Omicron variant threatens to swamp healthcare systems, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday. As of Jan. 1, 87.6% of Canadians above the age of 12 had received two shots. But among those aged from 5 to 12, that number dipped to just 2%, with 45.6% having received one dose. "Almost half of kids across this country have gotten their vaccine. ... We need to get more, so please ask your parents if you can get vaccinated," Trudeau said, addressing children directly during a regular briefing.
12th Jan 2022 - Reuters

WHO's Ryan counters Brazil's Bolsonaro and says no virus is welcome

World Health Organization Emergency Director Mike Ryan on Wednesday refuted statements made by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus would be welcome and that it could even bring about the end of the pandemic. In an interview earlier, Bolsonaro played down the advance of the new variant in Brazil. During a news conference in Geneva, when asked about the statements made by the Brazilian president, Ryan affirmed that while Omicron is "less severe as a viral infection in an individual, that doesn't mean it's a mild disease." There are many people around the world in hospitals, in ICUs, gasping for breath, which "obviously makes very clear that this is not a mild disease," he added.
12th Jan 2022 - Reuters Canada

UK acted unlawfully with 'VIP' COVID contract lane, court rules

The British government acted unlawfully by setting up a fast-track "VIP lane" to allow ministers and officials to recommend suppliers of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the coronavirus pandemic, a London court ruled on Wednesday. Opposition politicians have accused the government of running a "chumocracy", awarding deals to those with family or business links to people in power, including for what turned out to be unusable PPE in some cases. The campaign groups, the Good Law Project and EveryDoctor, brought legal action claiming some suppliers were given an unfair advantage in obtaining contracts worth hundreds of millions of pounds.
12th Jan 2022 - Reuters UK

Omicron Has Workers on Edge About Returning to the Office: Poll

Workers grew more uncomfortable about heading back to the office in the first week of the year and were much more likely to consider quitting if their employer demanded they return, a sign that companies’ efforts to get people back amid rising Covid caseloads face stiff resistance. The share of remote workers who would consider leaving their job if they were asked back to the office before they felt safe rose to 55% as of Jan. 6, up from 45% just a week earlier, according to pollster Morning Consult. More than 4 in 10 workers felt unsure about returning to the office, compared with 35% who said so on Dec. 30. People were also less likely to want to attend indoor sporting events, go to the movies and dine out, Morning Consult’s weekly U.S. survey found.
12th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Europe Slowly Starts to Consider Treating Covid Like the Flu

Spain is calling for Covid-19 to be treated as an endemic disease, like the flu, becoming the first major European nation to explicitly suggest that people live with it. The idea has gradually been gaining traction and could prompt a re-evaluation of government strategies on dealing with the virus. British Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi on Sunday told the BBC that the U.K. is “on a path towards transitioning from pandemic to endemic.” The omicron variant’s lower hospitalization and death rates despite record infections prompted Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to hold out the tantalizing prospect of Europe moving beyond pandemic-style restrictions on normal life.
12th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Work Anywhere and Commute by Plane, Yahoo Tells Japan Employees

Yahoo Japan is telling its 8,000 employees they can work anywhere in the country -- and even be flown into work when the job requires it -- bucking the trend of companies looking to return workers to offices in the third year of the coronavirus pandemic. The program takes effect April 1 and allows employees to commute by plane, which wasn’t previously an option, the company said in a statement Wednesday. While Yahoo is best known for its internet portal in Japan, it’s a unit of SoftBank Group Corp.’s Z Holdings Corp., which also owns the Line messaging app and PayPay mobile payments service.
12th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Omicron wave prompts media to rethink which data to report

For two years, coronavirus case counts and hospitalizations have been widely used barometers of the pandemic’s march across the world. But the omicron wave is making a mess of the usual statistics, forcing news organizations to rethink the way they report such figures. “It’s just a data disaster,” said Katherine Wu, staff writer who covers COVID-19 for The Atlantic magazine. The number of case counts soared over the holidays, an expected development given the emergence of a variant more transmissible than its predecessors. Yet these counts only reflect what is reported by health authorities. They do not include most people who test themselves at home, or are infected without even knowing about it. Holidays and weekends also lead to lags in reported cases.
12th Jan 2022 - The Associated Press


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 12th Jan 2022

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Vaccination in Africa: Countries Struggle to Give Shots Despite Improved Doses

As shipments of Covid shots ramp up for billions of people left behind last year, and new vaccines make their way to the public, dozens of countries are struggling to turn supplies into inoculations. A dearth of immunization sites in Cameroon, weak communication and Covid denial in the Democratic Republic of Congo and a syringe shortfall in Kenya are among the hurdles complicating rollouts. In Zimbabwe, which initially raced ahead of many peers, complacency and a perception of omicron as less serious have slowed the campaign. Starved for vaccines for most of last year, Covax, the World Health Organization-backed program that aims to tackle vaccine inequity, is now approaching 1 billion doses in shipments. As the focus shifts to increasing immunization in poorer countries, officials worry the rapid spread of the omicron variant could spur the emergence of more shot-evading variants.
12th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Pfizer plans to produce up to 100 million doses of new Omicron-specific Covid vaccine by spring

Pfizer, producer of the most popular vaccine in the U.S., says it could produce up to 100 million doses of an Omicron specific vaccine by early April. The Omicron Covid variant, first discovered in November, has the ability to evade protections provided by the vaccine. This has sent pharma companies and vaccine manufacturers into a race to develop new vaccines and treatments for the variant. Bourla has said that the virus will likely be around for the next decade but his company's shots will allow Covid to be able to be controlled
11th Jan 2022 - Daily Mail

A million set to throng India's Ganges for holy dip despite COVID-19

Nearly one million Hindu worshippers are expected to gather on the banks of the Ganges river this Friday and Saturday for a holy bathe despite galloping COVID-19 infections across the country, an official told Reuters on Tuesday. India reported 168,063 new COVID-19 infections on Tuesday, a 20-fold rise in a month. Most infected people have recovered at home and the level of hospitalisations has been less than half of that seen during the last major wave of infections in April and May.
11th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Spain Calls for Debate to Consider Covid as Endemic, Like Flu

Spain is calling on Europe to debate the possibility that Covid-19 can now be treated as an endemic illness, setting a model to monitor its evolution akin to the one used for flu.
11th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Bill Gates Expects Fewer Covid Cases, Yearly Shots After Omicron

A decline in the number of coronavirus cases is likely after the current wave of the omicron variant crests and the disease could be “treated more like seasonal flu,” billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates says in a Twitter discussion with Professor Devi Sridhar of Edinburgh University Medical School. “A more transmissive variant is not likely but we have been surprised a lot during this pandemic. Omicron will create a lot of immunity at least for the next year,” he writes. Gates, who has committed resources via his foundation to help in the global fight against the virus, says people may have to take “yearly shots for Covid for some time”
11th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

J&J Vaccine Gets Additional Warning on Bleeding Side Effect

The fact sheet for Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine has been revised by U.S. regulators to warn of the risk of a rare bleeding disorder. The Food and Drug Administration said in a letter to the company on Tuesday that adverse-event reports suggested an increased risk of immune thrombocytopenia during the 42 days following vaccination. Symptoms include bruising or excessive or unusual bleeding, according to the agency. The changes to the fact sheet include recommendations to vaccination providers about giving the J&J shot to people with existing medical conditions, including those who have a low level of platelets, a type of blood cell that helps stop bleeding.
11th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

China: Twenty million under strict COVID lockdown amid fears Omicron could disrupt Beijing Winter Olympics

About 20 million people in China are now under a stay-at-home order after a third city brought in a strict COVID lockdown. Anyang in Henan province, with a population of 5.5 million, confirmed a lockdown after 84 cases were detected since Saturday - at least two of them Omicron. Mass testing is being carried out - established practice in China after even a handful of cases - and non-essential vehicles are banned from the streets.
11th Jan 2022 - Sky News

No vax, pay tax, says Canada's Quebec as health system struggles

Quebec, Canada's second most populous province, is planning to force adults refusing to get COVID-19 vaccinated pay a "health contribution" in a move likely to spur a debate about individual rights and social responsibility. Premier Francois Legault told reporters at a briefing on Tuesday that the proposal, details of which were still being finalised, would not apply to those who cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons.
11th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Pfizer to cut U.S. sales staff as meetings with healthcare providers move to virtual

Pfizer Inc said on Tuesday it is reducing its U.S. sales staff as it expects doctors and other healthcare providers to want fewer face-to-face interactions with sales people after the COVID-19 pandemic ends. The move comes as the company is expected to announce more than $80 billion in revenue in 2021 on strong sales of the COVID-19 vaccine it developed with Germany's BioNTech SE . That would be record sales for a pharmaceutical company, according to Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla. "We are evolving into a more focused and innovative biopharma company, and evolving the way we engage with healthcare professionals in an increasingly digital world," the company said in a statement.
11th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Abbott Labs CEO expects strong COVID-19 testing demand in near term

Abbott Laboratories Chief Executive Officer Robert Ford said on Tuesday demand for COVID-19 testing has surged globally and that sales of its tests should stay strong in the near term. "We've obviously you know, had a pretty, pretty strong last couple of months of testing and we expect that to continue here in the more immediate future," Ford said at the annual J.P. Morgan Health care conference. He added his company has the capacity to support demand. While testing demand will eventually dwindle, there will be a portion that is sustained, Ford said.
11th Jan 2022 - Reuters


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 11th Jan 2022

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Chile, a vaccine front-runner, launches fourth COVID dose

Chile, one of the world's fastest movers on COVID-19 vaccines, started its campaign to give fourth doses on Monday to immunocompromised people, a regional first, as infections rise driven by the fast spread of the Omicron variant. The South American country has seen daily infections rise to over 4,000, doubling over the last week, government data show, a reflection of soaring infections globally, despite hopes over data suggesting Omicron may be less fatal, if more contagious. "This vaccine, this fourth dose or second booster dose, will be available to everyone
10th Jan 2022 - Reuters

U.S. Covid-19 Cases Set to Triple Pre-Omicron Record

The seven-day average of newly reported Covid-19 infections in the U.S. is on track to triple the pre-Omicron record set a year ago, when America saw a quarter million daily cases, as concerns grow over access to and reliability of testing both in the U.S. and Europe, where the highly transmissible Omicron variant has also taken root. Growing demand for tests has led some laboratories to ration access, giving priority to people exhibiting symptoms or who have other underlying health concerns. The University of North Carolina’s microbiology lab, for instance, is restricting tests to those showing Covid-19 symptoms, employees and patients who need a test before undergoing surgery. The University of Washington temporarily closed some of its testing sites last week and is giving appointment priority to people with Covid-19 symptoms or a known exposure, amid growing demand, though health experts worry that asymptomatic people might continue to spread the virus if they are unable to access testing.
10th Jan 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

Italy's COVID woes mainly caused by unvaccinated, Draghi says

The small number of Italians who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19 are largely responsible for the continued health crisis, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Monday. The government last week made vaccinations mandatory for everyone aged over 50, one of very few European countries to take such a step, in an attempt to ease pressure on its hospitals as new cases surge. "We must never lose sight of the fact that most of the problems we have today are because there are non-vaccinated people," Draghi told a news conference. "For the umpteenth time, I invite all those Italians who are not yet vaccinated to do so, and to get the third shot."
10th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Omicron takes over as Czech Republic's dominant coronavirus variant

The Omicron variant of the COVID-19 coronavirus has become the dominant strain in the Czech Republic, the country's National Institute of Public Health (SZU) said on Monday. The central European country of 10.7 million expects the Omicron wave to culminate in late January, with about 50,000 daily cases detected, but that may not be a complete picture because of the expected strain on testing capacity, the government and independent experts have said. The SZU said that Omicron had accounted for more than 50% of positive tests as of Jan. 8, with samples from mainly big cities on Jan. 9 showing 79% of COVID-19 cases were the Omicron variant
10th Jan 2022 - Reuters

U.S. breaks COVID-19 hospitalization record at over 132000 as Omicron surges

COVID-19 hospitalizations in the United States reached a record high on Monday, according to a Reuters tally, as a surge in infections caused by the highly contagious Omicron variant strains health systems in several states. There were 132,646 people hospitalized with COVID, surpassing the record of 132,051 set in January last year. Hospitalizations have increased steadily since late December, doubling in the last three weeks, as Omicron quickly overtook Delta as the dominant version of the virus in the United States.
10th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Pfizer CEO predicts omicron vaccine will be ready in March

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla on Monday said that his company is aiming to have a vaccine that targets the omicron variant as well as other COVID-19 variants ready in March. “This vaccine will be ready in March,” Bourla said in an appearance on CNBC’s "Squawk Box." “We [are] already starting manufacturing some of these quantities at risk,” he added. Pfizer will produce the doses to be ready in case countries want the shots, but Bourla noted that it was unclear if a vaccine targeting variants was necessary or how exactly it would be used. “The hope is that we will achieve something that will have way, way better protection particularly against infections, because the protection against the hospitalizations and the severe disease — it is reasonable right now with the current vaccines as long as you are having let’s say the third dose,” Bourla said.
10th Jan 2022 - The Hill

Spanish PM calls for debate on treating COVID-19 as endemic

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says that amid falling lethality rates for COVID-19, Spain wants European officials to consider whether to move away from the detailed tracking that the pandemic has required until now to a flu-like monitoring system. The change would mean treating COVID-19 as an “endemic illness” rather than a pandemic, Sánchez said Monday, adding that deaths as a proportion of recorded cases have fallen dramatically since the initial onset of the pandemic. “I believe that we have the conditions for, with precaution, slowly, opening the debate at the technical level and at the level of health professionals, but also at the European level, to start evaluating the evolution of this disease with different parameters than we have until now,” Sánchez told Cadena SER radio.
10th Jan 2022 - The Independent

COVID-19: 'End in sight' but there will be more 'bumps' for next three months - WHO envoy

COVID-19 could continue to pose a "difficult" situation for the next three months but "we can see the end in sight", the World Health Organisation's special envoy on the virus has said. Disease experts are looking at when coronavirus will become endemic and how governments will need to change the way it is managed in the future. The WHO's Dr David Nabarro told Sky News: "I'm afraid we are moving through the marathon but there's no actual way to say that we're at the end - we can see the end in sight, but we're not there. And there's going to be some bumps before we get there."
10th Jan 2022 - Sky News

Covid-19 news: Ministers plan for UK to ‘live with covid’

UK government ministers are hinting at plans for the nation to “live with covid”. “I hope we will be one of the first major economies to demonstrate to the world how you transition from pandemic to endemic,” Nadhim Zahawi, former minister for covid vaccine deployment, told Sky News on Sunday. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce details of such a plan within the coming weeks. “We are moving to a situation where it is possible to say that we can live with covid and that the pressure on the NHS and on vital public services is abating,” senior minister Michael Gove told Sky News. “But it’s absolutely vital to recognise that we are not there yet.” To be considered endemic, a disease outbreak would be consistently present in a region, with predictable spread and infection rates. The spread and rates of the disease would be predictable. This is currently far from the case in the UK, where over 150,000 deaths have been reported so far, and 141,472 new cases were reported on Sunday. Scientists have expressed concern. Devi Sridhar at the University of Edinburgh points out that no country has learned to live with covid without “crashing health services, social life, the economy or having widespread disruption” in one way or another.
10th Jan 2022 - New Scientist

Schools return amid Omicron havoc, but hopes flicker

European governments are relaxing COVID-19 rules to keep hospitals, schools and emergency services going as the much more contagious but less lethal Omicron variant changes their approach to the pandemic. Even though a record surge in infections has yet to peak in Europe, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said the time was right to start evaluating the disease's evolution "with different parameters". The mass return of children to school after the Christmas holidays is evidence that few wish to see a return to the online-only learning that marked some of the early waves of infection. Even as France registered a record seven-day average of almost 270,000 cases a day, it eased testing protocols for schoolchildren, saying too many classes were closed
10th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Europe loosens COVID policies as Omicron takes out key workers

The Czech Republic said on Monday it would allow critical workers such as doctors and teachers to go to work after a positive COVID-19 test, the latest European country to ease restrictions to keep services running as cases surge. As the much more contagious Omicron variant becomes dominant and forces hundreds of thousands to isolate, the pressure is growing on health workers, police and firefighters, with teachers set to follow as schools resume after Christmas holidays.
10th Jan 2022 - Reuters


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 10th Jan 2022

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COVID: Record number of children admitted to hospital in a single day

A record number of children in England were admitted to hospital with COVID on 3 January, according to government data. Some 157 children were admitted on the Bank Holiday Monday, 110 of whom were aged 5 or younger. The figure surpasses the previous record on 145 admissions on 28 December. In the last seven days, a total of 567 children have been admitted to hospital with COVID.
8th Jan 2022 - Yahoo News UK

Covid: Thousands protest in France against proposed new vaccine pass

French authorities say more than 105,000 people have taken part in protests across the country against the introduction of a new coronavirus pass. A new draft law would in effect ban unvaccinated people from public life. Demonstrators in the capital, Paris, held placards emblazoned with phrases like "no to vaccine passes". Interior Ministry officials said 34 people were arrested and some 10 police officers were injured after the protests turned violent in some places. The bill, which passed its first reading in the lower house of France's parliament on Thursday, would remove the option of showing a negative Covid-19 test to gain access to a host of public venues.
8th Jan 2022 - BBC News

Chile to become first country in Latin America to offer fourth COVID shot

Chile will begin offering a fourth shot of the coronavirus vaccine next week to immunocompromised citizens, the government said on Thursday, the first country in Latin America and one of the first in the world to offer the extra dose. "Starting next Monday, January 10, we are going to start a new mass vaccination process with a fourth dose or a second booster dose," said Pinera in a press conference. Chile has one of the world's highest vaccination rates and has been hailed as a model for its response to the pandemic, having administered two doses to over 85% of the population. About 57% have received a third booster shot, according to Our World in Data.
7th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Omicron pushes U.S. COVID hospitalizations toward record high

COVID-19 hospitalizations in the United States are poised to hit a new high as early as Friday, according to a Reuters tally, surpassing the record set in January of last year as the highly contagious Omicron variant fuels a surge in the number of cases. Hospitalizations have increased steadily since late December as Omicron quickly overtook Delta as the dominant strain of the coronavirus in the United States, although experts say Omicron will likely prove less deadly than prior variants.
7th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Government ‘failing’ on classroom ventilation as thousands will not get air purifiers

The government's plan to provide 7,000 air purifiers to schools falls thousands short of what is needed to ensure adequate ventilation in every classroom, according to a survey of teachers. The Department for Education said ventilation in classrooms was key to reducing the spread of Covid-19 among schoolchildren but many teachers report that they have been left unable to even monitor the quality of their air. Labour said the government was providing “just a fraction” of the ventilation support that schools need. A survey of nearly 2,000 teachers by Nasuwt, the teachers' union, found that more than half (56 per cent) did not have access to a CO2 monitor despite a commitment by ministers to provide all schools and colleges with them at the start of the school year.
7th Jan 2022 - The Independent

Biden, in Shift, Prepares Americans to See Covid-19 as Part of Life

As Covid-19 cases climb across the U.S., President Biden and his administration are preparing Americans to accept the virus as a part of daily life, in a break from a year ago when he took office with a pledge to rein in the pandemic and months later said the nation was “closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus.” The recalibration of Mr. Biden’s message comes as the country braces for another round of disruptions wrought by the pandemic. A growing number of schools temporarily have returned to virtual instruction and many businesses are strained by staffing shortages, in both cases due to infections triggered by the highly transmissible Omicron variant. Thursday marked the 12th straight day of more than 1,000 flight cancellations, and many states warned that ongoing testing shortages will make it harder to return people to work and school.
7th Jan 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

Work-From-Home Access Is Skewed Across U.S. Race, Education Gap

Remote work is here to stay and newly released U.S. government data show how much it could exacerbate inequalities. The ability to telework differed sharply by race and by level of education in a Bureau of Labor Statistics survey of workers in their late 30s and early 40s. Almost half of White respondents worked from home at least part-time during the February 2021 through May 2021 survey period, compared with 38% of Black workers.
7th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Record numbers of NHS staff quit as frontline medics battle Covid pandemic trauma

More than 27,000 people voluntarily resigned from the NHS from July to September last year, the highest number on record. NHS medics have been quitting in record numbers as staff warned of burnout among an overwhelmed workforce. One worker revealed he battled PTSD and had to quit as an intensive care nurse last year after the trauma of working on Covid wards, with others left in tears due to the strains of the job. Meanwhile, NHS Million, a campaigning website that supports NHS staff said it is receiving a “constant flood” of “disturbing” messages from workers who have spent almost two years working during the pandemic.
7th Jan 2022 - iNews

Canada warns provinces they need to do more to fight Omicron variant

Canadian Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos on Friday warned some of the country's 10 provinces that they needed to do more to fight the Omicron coronavirus variant and prevent healthcare systems from being swamped. New daily cases of COVID-19 soared by 65% in the last week across Canada, and hospitals say it is becoming increasingly hard to maintain staffing levels. Duclos said provinces should pay attention to Ontario and Quebec, which together account for around 61% of Canada's population of 38.4 million. Both have reimposed severe restrictions on businesses and gatherings.
7th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Omicron Study in South Africa Points to End of Acute Pandemic Phase

A South African study from the epicenter of the world’s omicron surge offers a tantalizing hint that the acute phase of the Covid-19 pandemic may be ending. The infection wave moved with “unprecedented speed” and caused much milder illness than earlier strains, a study of patients infected with Covid-19 at a large hospital in the South African city where the first outbreak of the omicron variant was recorded showed. “If this pattern continues and is repeated globally, we are likely to see a complete decoupling of case and death rates,” the researchers said. That suggests “omicron may be a harbinger of the end of the epidemic phase of the Covid pandemic, ushering in its endemic phase.” The study at the Steve Biko Academic Hospital Complex analyzed records of 466 patients from the current wave and 3,976 from previous bouts of infection. Researchers that worked on it included Fareed Abdullah, a director at the council and an infectious disease doctor at the hospital.
7th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Hong Kong Faces Worst of Both Worlds as Omicron Ruins Covid Zero

Hong Kong is at a Covid-19 tipping point. The once-vibrant gateway to China sacrificed its status as an international hub to “Covid Zero,” its strategy for eliminating the virus by isolating itself from a world awash in the pathogen. It worked for nearly a year, keeping residents safe and largely unfettered while raising the tantalizing possibility of reopening the border with China, the city’s economic lifeblood. Now it’s living with the worst of both worlds, after a couple of imported infections caused by the highly transmissible omicron variant started spreading in the under-vaccinated city, triggering renewed curbs. Residents can no longer go to the gym or the cinema, and the once-ubiquitous banquets where people gathered to celebrate the Chinese New Year were cancelled for another year.
7th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

U.S. Investors Will Return to the Office, but Probably in London

Even as the Omicron strain forces London’s white-collar workers to do their job from home, U.S. investors are eyeing the U.K. capital’s offices. Returns are better than other European hubs, but maybe not for long. North Americans were the biggest purchasers of London offices in the fourth quarter of 2021, accounting for 39% of deals by value overall and 56% within the City of London district, based on data from real-estate firm Knight Frank. Typically, they make around one in five purchases. The numbers may be skewed by the fact that Asian buyers, who usually dominate London deals, face travel restrictions. But higher returns on the city’s offices are also becoming a draw. Average rent yields on the best properties are around 4%, while in Paris and Berlin they are below 3%.
6th Jan 2022 - The Wall Street Journal


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India: New COVID cases jump nearly four times since start of year

India’s new COVID-19 cases have soared by 90,928 in the past 24 hours, up nearly four-fold since the start of the year, mostly from cities where health officials say the Omicron variant has overtaken Delta. Cities such as capital New Delhi, Mumbai in the west and Kolkata in the east are experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, although without a corresponding rise in hospitalisations.
6th Jan 2022 - Al Jazeera English

Scepticism grips Romania, the EU’s second-least vaccinated nation

“There is a quote attributed to Mark Twain: it’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled,” says Marius Mioc, a self-published Romanian author, as he clutches two copies of his latest book: Covid, The Lie of The Century. “This is not a real pandemic, but hysteria, and it is driven by politics and the want to make money.” Despite having previously sold his books about Romania’s 1989 revolution against the former Communist regime in local bookshops, Mioc found retailers did not want to stock his latest work, which was first published in 2020 and costs 45 RON (just more than $10). That, he says, is all part of the conspiracy. In Romania, which has among the lowest spending on healthcare in Europe and a health system that is consistently ranked the worst in the European Union, doctors are bracing for a surge of the fast-spreading Omicron variant. Head of the communicable disease centre, Adriana Pistol, recently warned a peak of 25,000 daily cases was soon possible – a significant jump from the current 1,800 or so cases per day now in the country of 20 million.
6th Jan 2022 - Al Jazeera English

Chicago schools shut for 2nd day over virus safety protocols

Hundreds of thousands of Chicago students remained out of school for a second straight day Thursday after leaders of the nation’s third-largest school district failed to resolve a deepening clash with the influential teachers union over COVID-19 safety protocols. The Chicago Teachers Union, which voted to revert to online instruction, told teachers to stay home starting Wednesday during the latest COVID-19 surge while both sides negotiate. The move just two days after students returned from winter break prompted district officials to cancel classes. Chicago Public Schools, like most other districts, has rejected a return to remote learning, saying it worsens racial inequities and is detrimental to academic performance, mental health and attendance. District officials insist schools can safely remain open with protocols in place.
6th Jan 2022 - The Associated Press

Omicron surge vexes parents of children too young for shots

Afternoons with Grammy. Birthday parties. Meeting other toddlers at the park. Parents of children too young to be vaccinated are facing difficult choices as an omicron variant-fueled surge in COVID-19 cases makes every encounter seem risky. For Maine business owner Erin Connolly, the most wrenching decision involves Madeleine, her 3-year-old daughter, and Connolly’s mother, who cares for the girl on the one day a week she isn’t in preschool. It’s a treasured time of making cookies, going to the library, or just hanging out. But the spirited little girl resists wearing a mask, and with the highly contagious variant spreading at a furious pace, Connolly says she’s wondering how long that can continue “and when does it feel too unsafe.”
6th Jan 2022 - The Associated Press

Schools sticking with in-person learning scramble for subs

Principals, superintendents and counselors are filling in as substitutes in classrooms as the surge in coronavirus infections further strains schools that already had been struggling with staffing shortages. In Cincinnati, dozens of employees from the central office were dispatched this week to schools that were at risk of having to close because of low staffing. The superintendent of Boston schools, Brenda Cassellius, tweeted she was filling in for a fifth grade teacher. San Francisco’s superintendent, Vince Matthews, has called on all employees with teaching credentials to take a class.
6th Jan 2022 - The Associated Press

French parliament approves Macron's vaccine pass

France's parliament on Thursday approved President Emmanuel Macron's plans for a vaccine pass to help curb the spread of the Omicron variant after a tumultuous debate whipped up by Macron's comments that he wanted to "piss off" the unvaccinated. Macron told Le Parisien newspaper earlier this week that he wanted to make the lives of those refusing the COVID-19 vaccine so complicated by squeezing them out of public places that they would end up getting jabbed. read more. Macron's coarse language barely three months before a presidential election was widely seen as a politically calculated, tapping into a intensifying public frustration against the unvaccinated.
6th Jan 2022 - Reuters

French Prime Minister not in favour of compulsory COVID vaccination

French Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Thursday that making vaccination compulsory to rein in the new coronavirus would not be very helpful, as that move would bring more problems than solutions. "We already have some difficulties to control the health pass compliance. Those difficulties would be even bigger if we made vaccination compulsory," Castex told BFM TV and RMC Radio.
6th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Dogs to visit 3 school districts to sniff out COVID-19

Two dogs trained to detect an odor distinct to people who are sick with COVID-19 will visit three school districts in Bristol County this week. A black Labrador named Huntah and a golden Lab called Duke can detect the smell of the virus on surfaces and will sit to indicate when they pick up the scent. The dogs will visit schools in the Freetown, Lakeville and Norton school districts, WBZ-TV reported Tuesday. “With COVID, whether it’s the omicron, whether it’s the delta, our dogs will hit on it,” said Bristol County Capt. Paul Douglas. “And if there’s a new variant that comes out in six months, hopefully there isn’t, but if there is one, COVID is COVID.” Fairhaven School Superintendent Tara Kohler welcomed the dogs saying their presence shows students, “we are doing everything we can to mitigate the risk and I want them to feel secure and safe and not anxious about their surroundings.”
5th Jan 2022 - The Associated Press


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CDC advisory panel in favor of Pfizer vaccine booster for ages 12 to 15

A panel of outside experts advising the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Wednesday voted to recommend booster shots of Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE's COVID-19 vaccine be made available to 12- to 15-year-olds. The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted 13 to 1 to recommend that the U.S. health agency support booster shots for those aged 12 to 15 at least five months after their second dose. The panel also said the CDC should strengthen its recommendation for boosters ages 16 and 17. The agency had previously made the shots available to those teenagers, but had stopped short of suggesting that all of them should receive the additional jab.
6th Jan 2022 - Reuters

England to suspend PCR confirmation of positive rapid COVID tests

People who test positive for COVID-19 on rapid lateral flow tests will not need to confirm their results with a follow-up PCR test if they are not showing symptoms, the UK Health Security Agency said on Wednesday. Britain is reporting record daily case numbers, and the UKHSA said that the high prevalence meant the chance of a false positive from a lateral flow device (LFD) was low. The move could also reduce the burden on the testing system, and reduce confusion if the test results contradict each other. At current levels of prevalence, officials say a positive LFD result is likely to be accurate, even if a follow-up PCR were negative.
5th Jan 2022 - Reuters

COVID testing policy put under the microscope as Omicron sweeps world

Britain and Israel are overhauling their COVID-19 testing policies as governments seek to reduce the burden on laboratories and struggle with tight supplies of kits amid soaring infection rates fuelled by the Omicron variant. This time last year, vaccines offered hope that the pandemic could be over by now. But Omicron has brought new challenges, including overloading public health systems, even if - as many scientists say - it leads to less severe illness than the earlier Delta variant.
5th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Italy extends COVID vaccine mandate to everyone over 50

Italy on Wednesday made COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for people from the age of 50, one of very few European countries to take a similar steps, in an attempt to ease pressure on its health service and reduce fatalities. The measure is immediately effective and will run until June 15. Italy has registered more than 138,000 coronavirus deaths since its outbreak emerged in February 2020, the second highest toll in Europe after Britain.
5th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Portugal could ease isolation rules by Jan. 30 vote as infections soar

Portugal's authorities said on Wednesday that isolation rules for quarantined voters may need to be eased ahead of a snap general election on Jan. 30 as the country reported a daily record of 39,570 COVID-19 infections. As the Omicron variant sweeps the country that has one of the world's highest vaccination rates, hospital admissions and mortality remain well below levels seen in the previous peak of the disease in early 2021.
5th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Thailand fears "tens of thousands" of new COVID-19 cases, weighs curbs

Thailand is considering measures such as limiting large gatherings and banning alcohol sales in restaurants to discourage customers to avert a wave of coronavirus infections, a health official said on Wednesday. The country reported 3,899 cases on Wednesday, up from an average of 2,600 daily cases towards the end of last year, and the Omicron variant itself has tripled from last month's holiday period, government data showed. If measures like wearing masks and regular testing were not followed, infections could reach the "tens of thousands in the next two weeks," Sumanee Watcharasin, a spokeswoman for the country's coronavirus taskforce, said.
5th Jan 2022 - Reuters on MSN.com

Australia's health system under pressure as COVID-19 cases hit fresh records

Australia's daily COVID-19 cases hit a record high for a third day on Wednesday, further straining hospital resources and testing facilities as public anger grew over the handling of the fast-moving outbreak of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. Many Australians, already unhappy about long queues at public testing centres and a shortage of at-home tests, were further incensed when news broke that tennis world number one Novak Djokovic had been given a medical exemption to enter the country. Prime Minister Scott Morrison, under pressure at the start of an election year, announced a further relaxing of testing requirements to shorten long lines, and provided access to free rapid antigen tests for pensioners, the poor and veterans.
5th Jan 2022 - Reuters on MSN.com

Germany could reduce COVID isolation periods to keep country running

Germany is considering shortening COVID-19 self-isolation periods over fears that critical services could grind to a halt as the highly infectious Omicron variant takes hold, a health ministry plan showed on Wednesday. Workers in critical sectors, such as hospitals or electricity suppliers, would be able to end their isolation after five days, provided they test PCR negative for the virus, under the draft proposals being sent to regional leaders. The current isolation period is 14 days for everyone. For the general population, the isolation period would be reduced to seven days with a negative PCR test, according to the draft document prepared for the leaders, who will meet Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Friday to discuss how to respond to the spread of the Omicron variant.
5th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Bank of America to staff: Get a booster, we'll give a food bank $100

Bank of America Corp told workers on Wednesday it will donate $100 to local food banks for every one of its employees who gets a COVID-19 vaccine booster shot and notifies the bank before Jan. 31, according to a memo seen by Reuters. It is a new spin on the $100 financial incentives that some cities and states offered newly vaccinated residents, and comes as companies look for ways to protect staff and ultimately return to work in offices. Bank of America, the United States' second-largest bank, said it would donate up to $10 million for workers who get booster shots this month or who have already gotten the shot if they register that information with the bank.
5th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Shares in COVID-19 vaccine developer Valneva extend fall

Shares in biotech company Valneva fell again on Wednesday, declining for the seventh day in a row due to a growing belief amongst investors that the COVID-19 Omicron variant might lessen the need for mass vaccination. Valneva shares were down 3% at 17.10 euros, meaning the stock has now lost close to 40% since its Dec. 27 close of 26.38 euros. It did gain more than 200% a year in 2021 and 2020 as Valneva's COVID-19 vaccine candidate came increasingly closer to approval. It is still awaiting a green light for its shot in the European Union and Britain.
5th Jan 2022 - Reuters on MSN.com

One in 10 Londoners Had Covid-19 at the End of 2021

Covid-19 afflicted one in 10 people in London by the end of 2021, according to estimates by the Office for National Statistics. That’s the highest infection rate of any part of the U.K., where omicron is now the dominant variant. Infections increased everywhere across the country, reaching over 3.7 million in total.
5th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Scarce At-Home Covid Tests Leave Some Consumers Paying $40 a Pop

High prices for at-home Covid-19 tests are hitting the wallets of U.S. families who need them to get back to school and work — if they can find any to buy at all. One restaurant worker in New York said she paid an acquaintance double the retail price in a sidewalk exchange for a test kit. A mom in Missouri said she’s rationing her last two-pack for if her kids show serious symptoms. Another parent is keeping her daughter home from school, where tests are required before returning after the holiday, until an in-person appointment later this week because the $80 price tag she saw in online community groups was too steep.
5th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Italy to Require Covid Shots for Those Over 50 to Blunt Record Cases

Italy made vaccination compulsory for people over 50 and further reduced what the unvaccinated can do in its latest bid to fight the surge in Covid-19 cases. “We want to slow down the growth of the contagion curve and push Italians who still aren’t vaccinated to do so,” Prime Minister Mario Draghi said during the cabinet meeting, according to a statement. “We are acting in particular on age groups that are most at risk of hospitalization, to reduce pressure on hospitals and save lives.”
5th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Inside a Covid-19 School Closing: A Pennsylvania Superintendent Agonizes Over Going Remote

Teachers calling in sick from Covid-19 are prompting superintendents across the country to close schools and move classes online, forcing parents to scramble for child care and reorder work schedules. Nationally, more than 4,500 schools will be closed at least one day this week due to the pandemic, the highest number this academic year, according to Burbio Inc., a Pelham, N.Y., data company that tracks K-12 school closures. On Wednesday, Chicago Public Schools, the nation’s third-largest district, canceled classes after the teachers union said the classrooms presented unsafe conditions. City leaders called the vote by the Chicago Teachers Union an illegal job action and said teachers who didn’t report to work wouldn’t receive pay. Districts in other cities such as Atlanta and Milwaukee moved over the weekend to shift classes online as the highly contagious Omicron variant has driven a surge in cases.
5th Jan 2022 - The Wall Street Journal


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Germany needs 15 million additional boosters to slow Omicron

Germany needs to offer booster shots to an additional 15 million people to slow the spread of the Omicron strain and hopefully avoid a rush on intensive care units, its health minister said in remarks published on Wednesday. Karl Lauterbach told the RND group of newspapers that modelling by the Robert Koch Institute for public health showed that more than 80% of people who have already received two vaccination shots against the coronavirus would need a third.
4th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Lockdown of Chinese City Leaves 13 Million Stranded

A week and a half into one of the biggest pandemic lockdowns in China, residents of Xi’an voiced desperation online about challenges in getting food and medical care. China’s Covid-19 count remains low in comparison with other countries, hovering at around 100 a day. In the past few days, about 90% of cases have been in Xi’an, the city of terracotta-warrior fame in China’s northwest, which has confirmed 1,758 total Covid-19 infections since Dec. 9, a high number for China. Most of the cases have been mild, officials said. No deaths related to Covid-19 have been reported anywhere in China in the past 11 months, including Xi’an.
4th Jan 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

WHO Official Downplays Coronavirus Variant Found in France

The World Health Organization said a coronavirus variant found in France hasn’t become much of a threat since it was first identified in November. The variant “has been on our radar,” Abdi Mahamud, a WHO incident manager on Covid, said at a press briefing in Geneva on Tuesday. “That virus had a lot of chances to pick up.” The variant was identified in 12 people in the southern Alps around the same time that omicron was discovered in South Africa last year. The latter mutation has since traveled the globe and kindled record levels of contagion, unlike the French one that researchers at the IHU Mediterranee Infection -- helmed by scientist Didier Raoult --nicknamed IHU.
4th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

India's Political Parties Campaign On With Huge Rallies Despite Omicron

Covid-19 cases are surging in India. Still, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his political opponents are on the campaign trail. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party plans the “biggest ever political rally” in the northern state of Punjab (which is also under a range of virus curbs). As many as 300,000 people are expected at Wednesday’s gathering, organizers told local media. Meanwhile, the capital, New Delhi, is under a strict nighttime and weekend curfew. Its Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who belongs to a rival party and is just back from a heavy few days of campaigning across the north, announced on Tuesday he’d tested positive for the virus.
4th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

France vows to go ahead with vaccine pass despite parliamentary glitch

French government officials on Tuesday vowed to enact by mid-January as planned a law to block unvaccinated people from hospitality venues, despite the legislation hitting a procedural hitch in parliament overnight. "January 15 remains our goal," for the law coming into force, European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune told LCI television. Until now France has enforced a COVID-19 health pass, which means in order to get into restaurants, cafes or cinemas or board trains, people need to either show a fresh negative test, or proof of vaccination. The legislation will remove the option of showing a negative test, effectively barring unvaccinated people from hospitality venues or trains.
4th Jan 2022 - Reuters

South Korea court exempts private schools from vaccine passes

A South Korean court ordered that private educational facilities, including cram schools, should be temporarily excluded from government COVID-19 vaccine pass mandates, the health ministry said on Tuesday. The injunction is one of the first legal obstacles to South Korea's vaccine mandates, which require passes or testing for entry to facilities including restaurants, cafes, gyms, and bars, as well as privately-run schools. A Seoul administrative court ruled that the mandate at private education facilities such as tuition centres, libraries and study cafes should be blocked while it considers a legal challenge filed against the Ministry of Health by federations of private education and parents' groups, the ministry said.
4th Jan 2022 - Reuters


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COVID-19: New variant, B.1.640.2, detected in France - study

A new coronavirus variant has been discovered in southern France, spreading in a small outbreak, according to a new study. The variant, tentatively identified B.1.640.2 according to a recent study backed by the French government that has yet to be peer-reviewed, is believed to be Cameroonian in origin and have so far spread to 12 patients in southern France. This new variant seems to have 46 new mutations as well as 37 deletions.
3rd Jan 2022 - The Jerusalem Post

South Africa lifts curfew as it says COVID-19 fourth wave peaks

South Africa has lifted a midnight to 4 a.m. curfew on people's movement with immediate effect, believing the country has passed the peak of its fourth COVID-19 wave driven by the Omicron variant, a government statement said on Thursday. The country made the changes based on the trajectory of the pandemic, levels of vaccination in the country and available capacity in the health sector, according to a press release issued by Mondli Gungubele, a minister in the presidency. South Africa is currently at the lowest of its five-stage COVID-19 alert levels.
31st Dec 2021 - Reuters

Omicron dampens worldwide New Year celebrations, but London throws party on TV

The Omicron coronavirus variant dampened New Year festivities around much of the world, with Paris cancelling its fireworks show, London relegating its to television, and New York City scaling down its famous ball drop celebration in Times Square. The illuminated ball made of Waterford crystal panels slid down its pole at the midnight hour in Times Square, but only 15,000 spectators were allowed into the official viewing area instead of the usual 58,000.
1st Jan 2022 - Reuters

New Year celebrations muted by Omicron, but South Africa ...

The Australian city of Sydney was one place where the New Year charged in with something like full swagger, as spectacular fireworks glittered in the harbour above the Opera House. But many other landmark cities were forgoing pyrotechnics as midnight rolled across the globe, with displays called off at Paris's Arc de Triomphe, London's riverside and the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. The glittering ball is still due to drop at New York's Times Square, but the crowd shouting out the countdown of the year's exit is set to be a quarter the usual size - masked up, socially distanced, and with vaccine proof in hand. Still, South Africa, which first raised the alarm about the new fast-spreading coronavirus variant, gave the world one of the last big good surprises of the year, becoming the first country to declare its Omicron wave had crested - and with no huge surge in deaths. The abrupt lifting
1st Jan 2022 - Thomson Reuters Foundation

UK honours COVID scientists and medics, Bond actor Daniel Craig

Britain recognised the scientists and medical chiefs at the forefront of the battle against COVID-19 in Queen Elizabeth’s annual New Year’s honours list, while James Bond actor Daniel Craig was given the same award as his famous onscreen character.
31st Dec 2021 - Reuters UK

Australia starts 2022 with record COVID cases

Australia started 2022 with a record number of new COVID-19 cases as an outbreak centred in the eastern states grew, and New South Wales eased its isolation rules for healthcare workers as the number of people hospitalised with the virus rose. New South Wales, the most populous state, and Victoria both posted daily record case numbers of 22,577 and 7,442 respectively on Saturday, health department figures showed.
1st Jan 2022 - Reuters

China ends 2021 with highest weekly COVID cases since taming original epidemic

China ended its final week of 2021 with its biggest tally of local coronavirus cases for any seven-day period since subduing the country's first epidemic nearly two years ago, despite an arsenal of some of the world's toughest COVID-19 measures. The National Health Commission reported on Saturday 175 new community infections with confirmed clinical symptoms for Dec. 31, bringing the total number of local symptomatic cases in mainland China in the past week to 1,151. The surge has been driven mostly by an outbreak in the northwestern industrial and tech hub of Xian, a city of 13 million.
1st Jan 2022 - Reuters

Paris attacks trial to be paused after main suspect catches COVID -source

The trial of Salah Abdeslam, the main suspect in the November 2015 Islamist attack that killed 130 people in Paris, and others will be paused briefly in January as Abdeslam has caught the coronavirus, a judicial source told Reuters on Friday. The criminal trial will resume as scheduled on Jan. 4 but then be officially suspended until Jan. 13., the source said. French news agency AFP earlier reported on the planned suspension, citing an e-mail sent to the parties by the court's president.
1st Jan 2022 - Reuters

U.K. Tinkers With Covid Measures as Omicron Cases Spike

The U.K. is trying various strategies to limit the impact of record high Covid-19 cases on health care and other sectors, while attempting to stay true to a vow to avoid new lockdowns. Among the latest moves, Boris Johnson’s government is developing contingency plans to help companies and supply chains avoid disruptions caused by rising staff absences, the Financial Times reported. It’s asked private businesses to test the plans against a worst-case scenario of as much as 25% in workforce absences, according to the newspaper. Covid-related absences among hospital staff jumped nearly two-thirds between Dec. 26 and Dec. 31, the Times reported on Sunday, citing National Health Service figures.
2nd Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Fauci warns of danger of hospitalization surge due to large number of COVID cases

Top U.S. infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said there was still a danger of a surge in hospitalization due to a large number of coronavirus cases even as early data suggests the Omicron COVID-19 variant is less severe. "The only difficulty is that if you have so many cases, even if the rate of hospitalization is lower with Omicron than it is with Delta, there is still the danger that you will have a surging of hospitalizations that might stress the healthcare system," Fauci said in an interview on Sunday with CNN. The Omicron variant was estimated to be 58.6% of the coronavirus variants circulating in the United States as of Dec. 25, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
2nd Jan 2022 - Reuters

Israel reports first case of 'flurona': Doctors say they have found rare double infection of influenza and Covid in young pregnant woman

A young pregnant woman has become the first person in the world to be infected with both Covid and the flu. The woman tested positive for both viruses in Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tikva city, Israel, on Thursday. She is suffering mild symptoms and Israeli health officials are studying her case to determine whether the combination causes any greater severity of illness. Her case is first documented in the world but doctors believe there could be more 'flurona' infections in the country.
2nd Jan 2022 - Daily Mail

English school children to wear masks to tackle Omicron surge

Children in secondary schools in England will be told to wear face coverings when they return after the Christmas holiday next week to tackle a surge in cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said on Sunday. "We want to maximise the number of children in school and college for the maximum amount of time," he said in an article in the Sunday Telegraph. "One of the additional, temporary measures that will help achieve this in light of the omicron surge is recommending face coverings are worn in secondary school classrooms and teaching spaces for the coming weeks – although not for longer than they are needed."
3rd Jan 2022 - Reuters

U.S., Europe Weigh Isolation Requirements as Omicron Disrupts Daily Life

European governments are relaxing some quarantine requirements to help keep daily life open with new Covid-19 infections surging, while the top U.S. infectious-disease expert suggested health authorities might tighten isolation measures. Countries have been grappling with isolation requirements, trying to balance health concerns as the Omicron variant takes hold, with the risk that those quarantine periods sideline medical staff, teachers and other workers for so long that hospitals, schools and other workplaces are unable to function effectively. Throughout the pandemic, Europeans have typically been required to self-isolate for 10 days if they or a close contact have tested positive for the virus. Some governments are responding to the threat of breakdown by shortening or otherwise easing their quarantine rules.
3rd Jan 2022 - The Wall Street Journal


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France reports ‘dizzying’ daily record of 208,000 COVID cases

France is seeing a “tsunami” of COVID-19 infections, with 208,000 cases reported during the past 24 hours on Wednesday, a new national and European record, Health Minister Olivier Veran has told lawmakers. France has been breaking infection records repeatedly during the past few days, with Tuesday’s 180,000 cases already the highest for a country in Europe, according to data on Covidtracker.fr. “This means that 24 hours a day, day and night, every second in our country, two French people are diagnosed positive,” Veran said. “We have never experienced such a situation,” he said, describing the increase in cases as “dizzying”. Global COVID-19 infections have hit record highs during the past seven days, data from the Reuters and AFP news agencies showed on Wednesday, as the new Omicron variant spreads rapidly, keeping many workers at home and overwhelming testing centres.
29th Dec 2021 - Al Jazeera English

New COVID-19 cases in US soar to highest levels on record

More than a year after the vaccine was rolled out, new cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. have soared to their highest level on record at over 265,000 per day on average, a surge driven largely by the highly contagious omicron variant. New cases per day have more than doubled over the past two weeks, eclipsing the old mark of 250,000, set in mid-January, according to data kept by Johns Hopkins University. The fast-spreading mutant version of the virus has cast a pall over Christmas and New Year’s, forcing communities to scale back or call off their festivities just weeks after it seemed as if Americans were about to enjoy an almost normal holiday season. Thousands of flights have been canceled amid staffing shortages blamed on the virus.
29th Dec 2021 - The Associated Press

U.S. COVID-19 deaths, hospitalizations 'comparatively' low despite Omicron surge, CDC director says

COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations are "comparatively" low as the highly infectious Omicron variant of the coronavirus spreads, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky said on Wednesday as cases in the United States reached a record high. "In a few short weeks Omicron has rapidly increased across the country, and we expect will continue to circulate in the coming weeks. While cases have substantially increased from last week, hospitalizations and deaths remain comparatively low right now," she said, referring to overall cases.
29th Dec 2021 - Reuters

Fauci says Omicron likely to peak in U.S. by end-January

Top U.S. infectious disease adviser Anthony Fauci said on Wednesday that the surge in the COVID-19 Omicron variant in the United States is likely to peak by the end of January. "I would imagine given the size of our country, and the diversity of vaccination versus not vaccination, that it's likely to be more than a couple of weeks, probably by the end of January," he said on CNBC.
29th Dec 2021 - Reuters

Ireland smashes daily COVID-19 case record

Ireland became the latest country to smash its previous record number of daily COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, reporting 16,428 new infections as those requiring treatment in hospital also began to rise, the health department said. That topped the 11,182 reported on Dec. 24 with the fast- spreading Omicron accounting for almost all cases and making tests hard to come by. There are 568 coronavirus patients in hospital, sharply up on the Dec. 25 two-month low of 378.
29th Dec 2021 - Reuters

WHO's Tedros concerned about 'tsunami of cases' from COVID-19 variants

The simultaneous circulation of the Delta and Omicron variants of the coronavirus is creating a "tsunami of cases", World Health Organization (WHO) director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news briefing on Wednesday. "Delta and Omicrom are now twin threats driving up cases to record numbers, leading to spikes in hospitalisation and deaths," said Tedros. "I am highly concerned that Omicron, being highly transmissible and spreading at the same time as Delta, is leading to a tsunami of cases."
29th Dec 2021 - Reuters

Bolivia reports all-time record in COVID infections

Bolivia reported late on Tuesday an all-time record of 4,934 new cases of COVID-19, as the omicron variant spreads worldwide but without any confirmed cases of the variant in the Andean nation. "(This is) the worst epidemiological storm that we have lived through since the pandemic started," said Carlos Hurtado, a top health official in Santa Cruz, the country's most populated region and the most affected by the spread of the virus. Bolivia is going through its fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic. Its previous record number of infections had been of 3,179 cases on May 25, during its third wave, according to Reuters data.
29th Dec 2021 - Reuters

Many Latin American countries now have higher vaccination rates than Europe and North America

Many countries in Latin America were hit with soaring Covid-19 death rates early in the pandemic, as coronavirus raged throughout the region. The tide is turning in many Latin American nations today, where vaccination rates are outpacing countries in Europe and North America and helping drive down deaths. The vaccine rollout was slow at the start, with just getting the vaccines in hand a major issue. Just six months ago, Latin America and the Caribbean were reporting just under half of all Covid-19 related deaths worldwide. Now, the region accounts for about 10% of Covid-19 related deaths, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University. That's due to the accelerated delivery of European, American, Chinese and homegrown vaccines that a number of Latin American nations have received in the second half of this year, according to Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) data.
28th Dec 2021 - CNN


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 29th Dec 2021

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Madrid's free COVID tests struggle with demand as infections hit new high

Demand for free COVID-19 testing kits provided by Madrid's regional government far outstripped supply on Tuesday, with long queues forming outside pharmacies as nationwide infections continued to climb amid the Omicron variant's rapid expansion. Spain's coronavirus infection rate hit a new record, rising to 1,360 cases per 100,000 people, measured over the preceding 14 days, from 1,206 cases reported on Monday, a five-fold rise since the beginning of December, according to health ministry data.
28th Dec 2021 - Reuters

Japan, China Vaccine Makers Under Fire for Third-World Trials

Japanese drugmaker Shionogi & Co. sealed a deal to conduct a placebo-controlled trial of its Covid-19 vaccine in Vietnam and will be expanding it in the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries, even as criticism of such tests mounts in the scientific community. The Osaka-based company began testing the efficacy of its shot in Vietnam from Dec. 25, a spokesman at Shionogi said Monday. Participants of the trial, which will eventually total 50,000 volunteers, need to be unvaccinated, the spokesman said, with two-thirds of them receiving the inoculation and others getting a placebo. The company is also planning to analyze whether it’s effective against the omicon strain, the spokesman added.
27th Dec 2021 - Bloomberg

Greece expands restrictions to contain Omicron variant surge

Greece on Monday announced further restrictions effective from Jan. 3-16 to contain a further upsurge in COVID-19 infections including the Omicron variant, targeting mainly night-time entertainment venues. As confirmed new COVID-19 cases surged to a record of 9,284 on Monday, resulting in 66 deaths, the health minister said that under the new measures, high-protection masks would be compulsory at supermarkets, public transport and eating establishments. Bars and restaurants will have to close at midnight and no standing customers at entertainment venues will be allowed. There will also be a maximum limit of six people per table.
27th Dec 2021 - Reuters

Health experts say Italy faces paralysis under quarantine rules

Health experts urged the Italian government on Monday to relax COVID-19 quarantine rules, saying that the country otherwise risked paralysis as the highly infectious Omicron variant spreads. Under current rules, people who have come into close contact with a COVID-19 sufferer have to self-isolate for seven days if they are vaccinated and for 10 days if they have not had a shot. Nino Cartabellotta, head of the Gimbe health foundation, said each positive person had, on average, five to 10 close contacts, and predicted that within two weeks some one million people in Italy might have come down with COVID-19.
27th Dec 2021 - Reuters

UK sets new record for COVID cases as Omicron sweeps London

Britain reported another day of record COVID-19 cases on Friday, with new estimates showing swathes of London's population are carrying the virus, underlining the relentless advance of the Omicron variant. Omicron's rapid spread has driven a surge in cases over the last seven days, especially in the capital. Around 1 in 20 Londoners likely had COVID-19 on Dec. 16 and early estimates - which could yet be revised - suggest this may have risen to 1 in 10 on Sunday, models from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed on Friday.
25th Dec 2021 - Reuters

France Reports Record 100000 New Covid Cases as Omicron Rages

France reported a daily record of more than 100,000 new coronavirus cases as President Emmanuel Macron weighs measures to contain the fast-spreading omicron variant. Covid-19 cases totaled 104,611 on Saturday, according to data from the public health office, topping the 94,124 infections logged the previous day. The country reported 84 deaths. Macron, who is widely expected to seek a second term in April’s election, will convene his health defense council on Monday to discuss the coronavirus.
25th Dec 2021 - Bloomberg

Pressure Mounts on India to Begin Boosters as Omicron Spreads

India’s government faces a growing clamor from business leaders and public health experts to launch a Covid-19 booster drive and begin vaccinating children as the nation braces for a surge of omicron-fueled infections. With ample vaccine supplies, India could begin inoculating those under 18 as well as administer third doses to front-line health care workers, the elderly and those at high risk since they got their first shots in early 2021, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, the founder and chair of Biocon Ltd. -- one of India’s largest drugmakers -- told Bloomberg on Thursday. “We need a booster policy for sure,” she said. “I really don’t know what’s holding it up -- it’s got nothing to do with vaccine availability.”
24th Dec 2021 - Bloomberg

Israel Plan to Push Ahead With Fourth Covid Jab May Be Scuttled

Israel’s plan to administer a fourth coronavirus vaccine dose to older adults and medical personnel may be delayed or abandoned if the country’s top health official fails to sign off on the program. The plan, which would have made the country the first in the world to offer a fourth dose on such a widespread basis, was announced on Tuesday by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett following a recommendation from a panel of experts. The decision was based on a forecast showing that fast-paced spread of omicron would leave the population largely unprotected from infection.
24th Dec 2021 - Bloomberg

Universal Orlando reinstates mask rule as COVID cases rise

Universal Orlando is reinstating its mask requirements beginning Christmas Eve as COVID-19 cases are surging as a result of the omicron variant. Daily cases of coronavirus have quadrupled in the past week in the state of Florida,
24th Dec 2021 - The Associated Press

China puts city of 13 million in COVID lockdown before Olympics

China has put a city of 13 million people into lockdown over an increase in coronavirus infections, just weeks before it is set to host the Winter Olympics. The restrictions in the city of Xi’an in the northeastern Shaanxi province took effect on Thursday, with no word on when they might be lifted. They are some of the harshest since China imposed a strict lockdown last year on more than 11 million people in and around the city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus was first detected in late 2019. One person from each household will be allowed out every two days to buy household necessities, a government order said.
24th Dec 2021 - Al Jazeera English

German President Issues Pandemic Warning as Omicron Spreads

Germany’s head of state had little good cheer in his annual Christmas address to the nation, warning that the coronavirus will remain a challenge for Europe’s largest economy. “The pandemic won’t suddenly be gone one day,” President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in the text of a speech to be delivered on Saturday. “It will occupy us for a long time to come.” The country’s largely ceremonial head of state -- who’s likely to secure a new five-year mandate in February -- reinforced a public call to get inoculated against Covid-19. He also exhorted Germans to rein in festivities and limit social contact to curb an expected exponential rise in new infections from the fast-spreading omicron variant.
24th Dec 2021 - Bloomberg

Bulgaria offers cash reward to boost vaccination rates among pensioners

Bulgarian Prime Minister Kiril Petkov said on Thursday that elderly people who get a COVID-19 shot will be eligible for a cash reward as part of his government's drive to boost the vaccination rates, the lowest in the European Union. Petkov, who took office this month, said every retired Bulgarian will get a one-off payment of 75 levs ($43.40) in addition to their pension in the next six months when vaccinated with a first or second dose. Pensioners who have already received three shots will also be eligible for the add-on.
24th Dec 2021 - Reuters

Ecuador makes COVID-19 vaccination obligatory

Ecuador's government said on Thursday it has made it obligatory for eligible people to be vaccinated against COVID-19, amid an increase in cases and the circulation of new variants of the disease. About 12.4 million Ecuadoreans - or 77.2% of those aged 5 and over - have been fully vaccinated against the disease, the health ministry said in a statement. Indonesia, Micronesia, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan require vaccination for adults, and German and Austria will next year.
24th Dec 2021 - Reuters

Greece cancels Christmas events, brings back mask mandate

Christmas concerts and other events have been canceled in Greece under new restrictions announced Thursday that include a general mask mandate for outdoors and all public areas. Incoming travelers will also be required to have follow-up tests for COVID-19 on the second and fourth days after their arrival. The restrictions will take effect Friday as the country braces for the expected impact of the omicron variant of the coronavirus, with the public health service already under pressure and intensive care space at more than 90% capacity. “Due to the large amount of Christmas activity and crowded conditions that it creates, the mandatory use of masks is fully justified,” Health Minister Thanos Plevris said during a live-streamed presentation of the measures, which will remain in effect at least through Jan. 3.
23rd Dec 2021 - The Associated Press

Pre-Christmas Omicron surge leads to record new British COVID cases

Britain recorded a record number of new coronavirus cases on Thursday as the Omicron variant swept across the country, with the daily tally reaching 119,789 from 106,122 a day earlier. Many industries and transport networks are struggling with staff shortages as sick workers self-isolate, while hospitals in Britain have warned of the risk of an impact on patient safety. Omicron's rapid advance has driven a surge in cases in Britain over the last seven days, with the total rising by 678,165, government data showed.
23rd Dec 2021 - Reuters

French kids line up to get vaccine shots as omicron spreads

French schoolchildren clung nervously to their parents as they entered a vast vaccine center west of Paris on Wednesday — then walked excitedly away with a decorated “vaccination diploma,” as France kicked off mass COVID-19 inoculations for children age 5 to 11. It’s not a moment too soon for the French government, which is facing the highest recorded infection rates since the pandemic began but trying to avoid a new lockdown. The health minister said Wednesday that the swiftly-spreading omicron variant is expected to be dominant in France by next week, but ruled out additional restrictions on public life for now. Officials are hoping that a surge in vaccinations will be enough to limit the mounting pressure on hospitals, where COVID-19 patients occupy more than 60% of beds.
22nd Dec 2021 - The Associated Press


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 23rd Dec 2021

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WHO boss: western countries’ Covid booster drives likely to prolong pandemic

The world will have enough doses of Covid vaccines early next year to inoculate all of the global adult population – if western countries do not hoard those vaccines to use in blanket booster programmes, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has said. Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday there would be sufficient vaccine supplies in global circulation in the first quarter of 2022. “Blanket booster programmes are likely to prolong the Covid-19 pandemic, rather than ending it, by diverting supply to countries that already have high levels of vaccination coverage, giving the virus more opportunity to spread and mutate,” Tedros said, adding: “No country can boost its way out of the pandemic.” His remarks follow predictions by officials with the WHO’s Africa region earlier this month that African countries should receive almost a billion doses within the same timeframe.
22nd Dec 2021 - The Guardian

Some reduction in hospitalisation for Omicron v Delta in England: early analysis

Estimates suggest Omicron cases are 15% less likely to attend hospital, and 40% less likely to be hospitalised for a night or more, compared to Delta. The researchers stress that these estimated reductions in severity must be balanced against the larger risk of infection with Omicron, due to the reduction in protection provided by both vaccination and natural infection. For example, at a population level, large numbers of infections could still lead to large numbers of hospitalisations. They say the estimates provided in this paper will assist in refining mathematical models of potential healthcare demand associated with the unfolding European Omicron wave.
22nd Dec 2021 - Imperial College London

Germany says FOURTH Covid shot needed to tackle Omicron as health minister backs vaccine mandate

Germany has warned a fourth Covid vaccine will be needed to stop the spread of the contagious Omicron variant. Health minister Karl Lauterbach, who has thrown his support behind a vaccine mandate, has ordered 80million doses of a Biontech vaccine which targets Omicron and should arrive in Germany by May. He has also ordered 4million doses of the newly approved vaccine Novavax - seen as more acceptable to vaccine sceptics - and 11million doses of the new Valneva shot, which is waiting for marketing authorisation.
22nd Dec 2021 - Daily Mail

UK Covid cases soar by record 106,122 in biggest EVER increase since pandemic began

UK Covid cases have soared by 106,122 in the biggest ever increase since the beginning of the pandemic. A further 140 deaths have also been reported over the past 24 hours. Last Wednesday 78,610 cases were reported - meaning there has been a 30% increase over the last seven days. It comes as cases of the new Omicron variant also continue to rise across the country. A total of 301 Covid-19 admissions were recorded by hospitals in London on December 20, NHS England said. This is up 78% week-on-week and the highest number for a single day since February 7.
22nd Dec 2021 - The Mirror

Australian PM says no Christmas lockdown

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday ruled out a Christmas lockdown, saying hospitals were coping well with a record surge in COVID-19 cases fuelled by the Omicron variant.
22nd Dec 2021 - Reuters

COVID-19: More than 100,000 daily coronavirus cases reported in UK for first time in pandemic

The UK has reported more than 100,000 daily COVID cases for the first time since of the start of the pandemic. Some 106,122 cases have been recorded in the latest 24-hour period - around 13,000 more than the previous high of 93,045 on 17 December. A further 140 coronavirus-related deaths have also been recorded. The figures compare with 90,629 cases and 172 fatalities reported on Tuesday.
22nd Dec 2021 - Sky News

Israel to Offer Fourth Covid-19 Shot to Over 60s

Israel is set to offer a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine to older people and healthcare workers to reduce the impact of an expected surge of infections driven by the Omicron variant—as two major studies found that the variant causes significantly less serious disease than earlier strains. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland concluded that the risk of hospitalization with Omicron was two-thirds lower than with earlier variants. South African researchers said earlier on Wednesday that they estimate the risk of hospitalization at around 70% to 80% lower.
22nd Dec 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

Omicron's march revives urgent global calls for vaccinations

Australia's political leaders were set to hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday as cases of the Omicron coronavirus variant broke infection records and forced countries around to world to double down on vaccinations, just days before Christmas.Authorities globally have imposed new restrictions and stepped up inoculation efforts as Omicron emerges as the dominant strain of the virus, upending imminent reopening plans that many governments hoped would herald the start of a post-pandemic era in 2022.
22nd Dec 2021 - The Himalayan Times

With warning for unvaccinated, Biden lays out plan to fight surging Omicron

U.S. President Joe Biden announced on Tuesday more federal vaccination and testing sites to tackle a surge in COVID-19 driven by the Omicron variant, and said 500 million free at-home rapid tests will be available to Americans starting in January. Biden offered both a warning to the unvaccinated, who he said have "good reason to be concerned," and reassurance that those who are inoculated can gather for the holidays despite the new variant sweeping the country.
22nd Dec 2021 - Reuters

U.K. on Edge Heading Into Christmas Overshadowed by Omicron

Boris Johnson has given Britons the Christmas he has long promised -- some light-touch pandemic restrictions but with no limits on family gatherings. The big question is over what comes next. When the U.K. prime minister ruled out tighter restrictions in the coming days, he also urged Britons to be cautious and warned tougher curbs may yet be needed after Dec. 25 if an omicron-fueled wave of Covid-19 infections threatens to overwhelm the National Health Service.
22nd Dec 2021 - Bloomberg


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 22nd Dec 2021

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Many mutations of Omicron variant allow it to bond with human cells better than other Covid strains

Several mutations in the Omicron variant allow this coronavirus strain to bond with human cells more efficiently than past variants, a new study finds. Researchers at the University of British Columbia studied the variant with a highly powerful microscopy technique, examining its mutations. They found that Omicron has a much greater capacity to bind with human cell receptors than the original version of the coronavirus. The researchers also tested Omicron against antibodies, finding that it's more resistant to these immune system particles than other variants This study was posted as a preprint and has not yet been peer-reviewed, but it aligns with other recent research on Omicron's capacity to spread very fast
21st Dec 2021 - Daily Mail

Unvaccinated people who caught Delta have virtually no protection against Omicron infection, lab study suggests — but jabbed survivors are 'super immune'

People who are unjabbed but previously had the Delta Covid variant may have very little protection against Omicron infection, a lab study suggests. Austrian scientists tested the blood of those who had beat the older strain of the virus against the new super-variant to measure their antibody response. They found only one out of seven samples produced enough of the infection-fighting proteins to neutralise Omicron. It suggests that prior infection from Delta alone offers virtually no protection against catching Omicron — but the jury's still out on severe illness.
21st Dec 2021 - Daily Mail on MSN.com

Israel to offer fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine to people over 60

Israel announced on Tuesday that it will offer a fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to people older than 60, amid concern about the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. A Health Ministry expert panel recommended the fourth shot, a decision that was swiftly welcomed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as "great news that will help us overcome the Omicron wave that is spreading around the world." Although the decision is pending formal approval by senior health officials, Bennett urged Israelis to get the dose as soon as possible, saying: "My message is - don’t waste time, go get vaccinated." The decision follows the first known death in Israel of a patient with the Omicron variant.
21st Dec 2021 - Reuters

Oxford, AstraZeneca launch work on Omicron-targeted vaccine

AstraZeneca Plc said on Tuesday it is working with Oxford University to produce a vaccine for the Omicron coronavirus variant, joining other vaccine-makers who are looking to develop the variant-specific vaccine. "Together with Oxford University, we have taken preliminary steps in producing an Omicron variant vaccine, in case it is needed and will be informed by emerging data," a spokesperson for the company said in a statement. Oxford did not immediately respond to a request for comment outside business hours.
21st Dec 2021 - Reuters

COVAX delivers 15,977,160 doses, more than its commitment

Until a few months ago, the proportion of the doses of Covid-19 vaccine supplied to Nepal by COVAX, the United Nations backed international vaccine sharing scheme, was much lower compared to the doses purchased by the government. But at present, the number of doses supplied by the facility is almost equal to the doses purchased by the government. According to data provided by the Ministry of Health and Population, Nepal has so far received 38,539,367 doses of Covid-19 vaccines—Vero Cell, Covishield, AstraZeneca type, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Janssen and Pfizer and BioNTech. The facility, which had committed to supply sufficient doses for 20 percent of the Nepali population which will be around 13 million, has already supplied over 15 million doses(15,977,160 doses) to Nepal. “Yes, we received more doses than what the facility had committed to provide us,” Dr Bibek Kumar Lal, director at the Family Welfare Division, told the Post.
21st Dec 2021 - The Kathmandu Post

Covid-19 Relief Drives Largest Federal-Grant Increase to States Since 2009

A surge in emergency Covid-19 funds contributed to the largest increase in federal grants to U.S. states since 2009, when Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Federal grants to states rose 37% in fiscal 2020 from the prior year, outpacing the average annual increase of 4% in the prior half-decade, according to a report by The Pew Charitable Trusts. Relative to 2008, the grants climbed 93%, accounting for inflation. The jump was mostly driven by pandemic-related grants, for needs such as coronavirus testing and housing assistance, but Medicaid and other health spending also contributed, and largely fueled the steady growth in funding to states for the past several years.
21st Dec 2021 - Bloomberg

Spain Faces New Restrictions Despite High Vaccine Rates

Despite vaccination rates that make other governments envious, Spain and Portugal are facing the hard truth that, with the new omicron variant running rampant, these winter holidays won't be a time of unrestrained joy. Portugal on Tuesday announced a slew of new restrictions over Christmas and the New Year, making working from home mandatory and shutting discotheques and bars beginning Saturday night. Also, a negative test result must be shown to enter Portuguese cinemas, theaters, sports events, weddings and baptisms until at least Jan. 9.
21st Dec 2021 - Bloomberg

Thailand reinstates mandatory COVID-19 quarantine over Omicron concerns

Thailand will reinstate its mandatory COVID-19 quarantine for foreign visitors and scrap a quarantine waiver from Tuesday due to concerns over the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. The decision to halt Thailand's "Test and Go" waiver means visitors will have to undergo hotel quarantine, which ranges between 7 to 10 days. Meanwhile, a so-called "sandbox" programme, which requires visitors to remain in a specific location but allows them free movement outside of their accommodation, will also be suspended in all places except for the tourist resort island of Phuket.
21st Dec 2021 - Reuters

'Significant surge' in European cases expected as Omicron spreads - WHO

The World Health Organization's European head on Tuesday warned countries to brace for a "significant surge" in COVID-19 cases as Omicron spreads, and advised the widespread use of boosters for protection. Since it emerged in late November, Omicron has been detected in at least 38 of the 53 countries in the WHO's European region and is already dominant in several of them including Denmark, Portugal and the United Kingdom, Hans Kluge told a news conference in Vienna.
21st Dec 2021 - Reuters

EU sets binding 9-month validity of vaccinations for COVID-19 travel pass

The European Commission on Tuesday adopted rules that will make the European Union COVID-19 certificate valid for travel nine months after the completion of the primary vaccination schedule. The proposal comes as several EU states introduce additional requirements on travellers in a bid to reduce the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant. EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders told Reuters the EU Commission was against additional requirements, and was assessing the measures.
21st Dec 2021 - Reuters

Europe considers new curbs as Omicron sweeps world

Countries across Europe considered new curbs on movement on Tuesday as U.S. President Joe Biden called on military medics to support hospitals and fight the Omicron variant that has swept the world days before the second Christmas of the pandemic. Omicron infections are multiplying across Europe, the United States and Asia, including in Japan, where a single cluster of COVID-19 cases at a military base has grown to at least 180. "We can see another storm coming," said Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization's European head, warning European countries to brace for a "significant surge" in COVID-19.
21st Dec 2021 - Reuters

China must share more data on virus origins - WHO chief

China must be more forthcoming with data and information related to the origin of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that there had been "many failures" during the COVID-19 pandemic due to a lack of rules or obligations under the WHO's current 2005 International Health Regulations.
21st Dec 2021 - Reuters


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 21st Dec 2021

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Omicron infections appear no less severe than Delta; COVID-19 lowers sperm count, motility

Researchers at Imperial College London compared 11,329 people with confirmed or likely Omicron infections with nearly 200,000 people infected with other variants. So far, according to a report issued ahead of peer review and updated on Monday, they see "no evidence of Omicron having lower severity than Delta, judged by either the proportion of people testing positive who report symptoms, or by the proportion of cases seeking hospital care after infection." For vaccines available in the UK, effectiveness against symptomatic Omicron infection ranged from 0% to 20% after two doses, and from 55% to 80% following a booster dose. The report also estimated that after taking individual risk factors into account, the odds of reinfection with Omicron are 5.4 times greater than for reinfection with Delta.
20th Dec 2021 - Reuters

Europe weighs Christmas curbs as Omicron sweeps continent

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Monday he would tighten coronavirus curbs to slow the spread of the Omicron variant if needed, after the Netherlands began a fourth lockdown and as other European nations consider Christmas restrictions. Speaking after UK media reported Britain might impose new curbs after Christmas, Johnson said the situation was "extremely difficult" and hospitalisations were rising steeply in London. "I have to say to the British public, and I say to everybody, we will not exclude the possibility of going further if we have to do things to protect the public," Johnson said after a cabinet meeting.
20th Dec 2021 - Reuters

UK’s Johnson defies pressure to impose COVID curbs over Christmas

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has defied pressure to tighten coronavirus rules over Christmas to curb surging Omicron cases, but pledged to keep the situation “under constant review”. The embattled leader, who is reeling from weeks of crises over various scandals and is facing mounting disquiet within his ruling Conservative Party, said on Monday that “the possibility of taking further action” remained.
20th Dec 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Moderna: Initial booster data shows good results on omicron

Moderna said Monday that a booster dose of its COVID-19 vaccine should offer protection against the rapidly spreading omicron variant. Moderna said lab tests showed the half-dose booster shot increased by 37 times the level of so-called neutralizing antibodies able to fight omicron. And a full-dose booster was even stronger, triggering an 83-fold jump in antibody levels, although with an increase in the usual side effects, the company said. While half-dose shots are being used for most Moderna boosters, a full-dose third shot has been recommended for people with weakened immune systems. Moderna announced the preliminary laboratory data in a press release and it hasn’t yet undergone scientific review. But testing by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, announced last week by Dr. Anthony Fauci, found a similar jump.
20th Dec 2021 - The Associated Press on MSN.com

Israel to add US, Canada to travel ban over omicron variant

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office announced the decision following a Cabinet vote. The rare move to red-list the U.S. comes amid rising coronavirus infections in Israel and marks a change to pandemic practices between the two nations with close diplomatic relations. The U.S. will join a growing list of European countries and other destinations to which Israelis are barred from traveling, and from which returning travelers must remain in quarantine.
20th Dec 2021 - The Associated Press on MSN.com

Trump reveals he got COVID-19 booster shot; crowd boos him

Trump made the disclosure Sunday night during the final stop of “The History Tour,” a live interview show he has been doing with former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. "Both the president and I are vaxxed," O’Reilly said at the American Airlines Center, drawing some jeers from the audience, according to video shared online by O’Reilly’s “No Spin News.” “Did you get the booster?” he asked the former president. “Yes," Trump responded. “I got it, too," O'Reilly said, eliciting more hectoring. “Don't! Don't! Don't! Don't! Don't!” Trump told the crowd, waving off their reaction with his hand.
20th Dec 2021 - The Associated Press on MSN.com

UK medics warn of looming breaking point as omicron spreads

The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that has yet to be certified by peer review. Omicron infections no less severe based on early UK data. Infections caused by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus do not appear to be less severe than infections from Delta, according to early data from the UK. Researchers at Imperial College London compared 11,329 people with confirmed or likely Omicron infections with nearly 200,000 people infected with other variants
20th Dec 2021 - The Associated Press

Why changing the definition of 'fully vaccinated' could be difficult

Article reports that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention might consider redefining what it means to be "fully vaccinated" against Covid-19 to include a third dose of vaccine -- but the question is when the definition could change. Such a change is "on the table and open for discussion," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Friday. "That's certainly on the table. Right now, it is a bit of semantics," Fauci told CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin on "Squawk Box." Fauci was referring to the definition of "fully vaccinated" for the purpose of regulations or businesses that may require vaccination.
20th Dec 2021 - CNN

WHO sounds warning over fast-spreading Omicron

WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan added it would be "unwise" to conclude from early evidence that Omicron was a milder variant that previous ones. "... with the numbers going up, all health systems are going to be under strain," Soumya Swaminathan told Geneva-based journalists. The variant is successfully evading some immune responses, she said, meaning that the booster programmes being rolled out in many countries ought to be targeted towards people with weaker immune systems. "There is now consistent evidence that Omicron is spreading significantly faster than the Delta variant," WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the briefing.
20th Dec 2021 - Reuters

Omicron sweeps across nation, now 73% of US COVID-19 cases

Omicron has raced ahead of other variants and is now the dominant version of the coronavirus in the U.S., accounting for 73% of new infections last week, federal health officials said Monday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention numbers showed nearly a six-fold increase in omicron’s share of infections in only one week. In much of the country, omicron’s prevalence is even higher. It’s responsible for an estimated 90% of new infections in the New York area, the Southeast, the industrial Midwest and the Pacific Northwest.
20th Dec 2021 - The Associated Press

After reprieve, NYC is rattled by a stunning virus spike

Just a couple of weeks ago, New York City seemed like a relative bright spot in the U.S. coronavirus struggle. Now it’s a hot spot, confronting a dizzying spike in cases, scramble for testing, quandary over a major event and exhausting sense of déjà vu. An omicron-variant-fueled wave of cases is washing over the nation’s most populous city, which served as a nightmarish test case for the country early in the pandemic. While health officials say there are important reasons why it’s not spring 2020 all over again, some Broadway shows have abruptly canceled performances, an indoor face mask mandate is back and testing is hard to come by. “It’s disappointing that we haven’t developed a better system for this and that we weren’t better prepared for there to be another wave,” Jordan Thomas said Monday in her fourth hour of waiting for a test at a city-run health clinic near downtown Brooklyn.
20th Dec 2021 - The Associated Press


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New U.S. push for vaccines, boosters to stem 'raging' Omicron

U.S. health officials urged Americans on Sunday to get booster shots, wear masks and be careful if they travel over the winter holidays, as the Omicron variant raged across the world and was set to take over as the dominant strain in the United States. The government is gearing up for the next phase of battle in a two-year fight against a virus that has killed 800,000 people in the United States and disrupted every aspect of daily life. Two U.S. senators, Democrats Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, said on Sunday they tested positive for COVID-19 but were experiencing only mild symptom
20th Dec 2021 - Reuters

Vaccine Data Gaps Point to Millions More in U.S. Who Lack Shots

The U.S. government has over-counted the number of Americans who are at least partly vaccinated against the coronavirus, state officials warn, meaning millions more people are unprotected as the pandemic’s winter surge gathers steam. Last weekend, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised a bellwether metric -- the share of people 65 and older with at least one shot. The agency reduced the proportion from 99.9%, where it had been capped for weeks, to 95%, without changing its raw shot totals. The move acknowledged a dynamic state officials have discovered: in collating reams of data on vaccinations, the U.S. has counted too many shots as first doses when they are instead second doses or booster shots.
19th Dec 2021 - Bloomberg

France Curbs New Year's Eve Partying in a Bid to Shield Hospitals

French officials will curb outdoor revelry on New Year’s Eve in a bid to limit Covid-19 infections that risk overwhelming hospitals, Prime Minister Jean Castex said. “I’m appealing to everyone’s responsibility to find other ways to celebrate than large gatherings, and avoiding moments of conviviality,” Castex said in a televised speech on Friday, as many people in France began their winter vacations. Regional prefects will ban spontaneous parties and ask cities to hold off on fireworks and other celebrations, he said. “I understand the frustration to limit yourselves in such festive moments, but we owe that to our health-care personnel,” Castex said. France closed nightclubs this month, though not bars.
19th Dec 2021 - Bloomberg

Omicron may sideline two leading drugs against COVID-19

As strained U.S. hospitals brace for a new surge of COVID-19 cases caused by the fast-spreading omicron variant, doctors are warning of yet another challenge: the two standard drugs they’ve used to fight infections are unlikely to work against the new strain. For more than a year antibody drugs from Regeneron and Eli Lilly have been the go-to treatments for early COVID-19, thanks to their ability to head off severe disease and keep patients out of the hospital. But both drugmakers recently warned that laboratory testing suggests their therapies will be much less potent against omicron, which contains dozens of mutations that make it harder for antibodies to attack the virus. And while the companies say they can quickly develop new omicron-targeting antibodies, those aren’t expected to launch for at least several months.
19th Dec 2021 - The Associated Press

England Has Hundreds of Thousands of New Omicron Cases Daily

Article reports that England is “almost certain” to be suffering hundreds of thousands of omicron variant cases a day, the U.K.’s top scientific advisers said as they urged the government to act within days to prevent hospitals being overrun. “The earlier interventions happen, the greater the effect they will have,” the scientists said. Levels of infection from the new strain are at their highest in London, the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies, or SAGE, said in the minutes of its Dec. 16 meeting, released on Saturday.
18th Dec 2021 - Bloomberg

CNN Closes Offices as Covid-19 Cases Spike

CNN is closing its offices to nonessential employees, network President Jeff Zucker told employees in a memo Saturday, as Covid-19 cases rise at the network and nationwide. Employees who don’t need to be in the office to produce shows or provide other essential functions for the network’s broadcast operations will be asked to work from home, Mr. Zucker said, citing a surge of cases of Covid-19 at CNN. “If your job does not require you to be in the office in order to do it, please work from elsewhere,” Mr. Zucker said in the memo. Mr. Zucker said the network would be making changes to studios and control rooms to “minimize the number of people in our spaces.”
18th Dec 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

France brings forward third COVID-19 vaccine shot

France will from next month reduce the time between second and third COVID-19 vaccination injections to four months and require people to show proof of vaccination to enter some venues, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Friday. The gap between shots is currently five months but the French government is concerned about the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant. Castex said that big public parties and fireworks would be banned on New Year's Eve and recommended that people - even if vaccinated - test themselves before attending year-end parties.
17th Dec 2021 - Reuters

Pfizer says pandemic could extend to 2024, vaccine data for younger children delayed

Pfizer Inc on Friday forecast that the COVID-19 pandemic would not be behind us until 2024 and said a lower-dose version of its vaccine for 2- to 4-year-olds generated a weaker immune response than expected, potentially delaying authorization. Pfizer Chief Scientific Officer Mikael Dolsten said in a presentation to investors that the company expects some regions to continue to see pandemic levels of COVID-19 cases over the next year or two. Other countries will transition to "endemic" with low, manageable caseloads during that same time period.
17th Dec 2021 - Reuters

Omicron rewrites the COVID plan for 2022

As the Omicron variant gains momentum in Europe and the United States, scientists are rewriting their expectations for the COVID-19 pandemic next year. Just weeks ago, disease experts were predicting that countries would begin to emerge from the pandemic in 2022 after enduring a series of surges driven by the Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta variants. First among them would be populations with a significant amount of exposure to the coronavirus, through a combination of infections and vaccination.
17th Dec 2021 - Reuters


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COVID SCIENCE-Omicron thrives in airways, not lungs; new data on asymptomatic cases

The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that has yet to be certified by peer review. Omicron multiplies faster in airways, slower in lungs Major differences in how efficiently Omicron and other variants of the coronavirus multiply may help predict Omicron's effects, researchers said on Wednesday. Compared to the earlier Delta variant, Omicron multiplies itself 70 times more quickly in tissues that line airway passages, which may facilitate person-to-person spread, they said. But in lung tissues, Omicron replicates 10 times more slowly than the original version of the coronavirus, which might contribute to less-severe illness.
16th Dec 2021 - Yahoo News

CDC Advisers Back Use of Pfizer, Moderna Covid Shots Over J&J’s

Messenger RNA vaccines made by Moderna Inc. and Pfizer Inc. are preferable for use in adults over Johnson & Johnson’s, U.S. public health advisers said. All 15 members of an outside panel of experts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted to make the recommendation on J&J’s vaccine. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices met Thursday after U.S. regulators announced revisions to the shot’s fact sheet to warn of a rare clotting syndrome linked to the shot. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky still must sign off on the recommendation before any changes to vaccinations can be implemented.
16th Dec 2021 - Bloomberg on MSN.com

Sweden extends COVID vaccination rules as hospitalisations rise

Sweden will require visitors from other Nordic nations to have a vaccine pass to cross the border as it tightens restrictions in the face of rising number of COVID-19 infections and worries about the Omicron variant, the government said on Thursday. Sweden has seen new infections jump in recent days, if from levels below most European countries. It has reintroduced a limited number of measures and authorities said further steps would be needed if infections kept rising.
16th Dec 2021 - Reuters

Britain's hospital admissions could hit new high with Omicron - chief medic

New cases of COVID-19 in Britain hit a record high for the second day running on Thursday, as England's Chief Medical Officer warned daily hospital admissions could also hit new peaks due to the fast-spreading Omicron coronavirus variant.
16th Dec 2021 - Reuters

France halts British visitors, EU nations tighten borders as Omicron rises

France imposed travel restrictions on travellers from Britain on Thursday due to surging COVID-19 cases there, and several European countries also strengthened border controls on visitors from other EU states. Plans for Christmas celebrations in Europe and many countries across the globe have been thrown into disarray by the rapid spread of the highly infectious Omicron variant, which emerged in Hong Kong and Southern Africa last month.
16th Dec 2021 - Reuters

France hardens travel curbs with Britain over Omicron concerns

France announced on Thursday that because of surging COVID-19 cases in Britain only designated categories of people would be allowed to travel between the two countries, and anyone arriving from Britain would have to self-isolate. Truck drivers will though be exempt from the new rules, the French government said, easing British concerns the restrictions could cause supply chain disruptions. France said it was acting now because the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus, which scientists say appears to be highly infectious, is spreading rapidly in Britain.
16th Dec 2021 - Reuters


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U.S. universities move final exams online as COVID-19 spreads anew

A growing number of U.S. colleges and universities were moving final exams online and cancelling non-essential gatherings as the rapidly spreading Omicron coronavirus variant sent people in droves to medical clinics to be tested in scenes reminiscent of the early days of the pandemic. Many schools were reassessing campus policies as confirmed cases of the Omicron variant turned up in at least 36 states, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said at a briefing on Wednesday. The Delta variant remains responsible for the vast majority of cases, she added
15th Dec 2021 - Reuters

Shortage of vaccinated nannies adds fuel to US childcare crisis

As if working parents didn’t have it hard enough during the pandemic, now a shortage of vaccinated nannies, babysitters and day-care workers is making the seemingly impossible quest to find child care even harder. Almost every parent who comes to Tiny Treasures Nanny Agency, which makes nationwide placements, are seeking vaccinated providers. Yet, just 60% of the nannies looking to get work through the company have gotten the shots, according to founder Ruka Curate. The mismatch is creating a feeding frenzy for fully vaccinated, qualified nannies, driving hourly rates to eye-poppingly high levels. Six-figure jobs that two years ago would have been filled in a day are now met with resistance from inoculated child-care workers who realize they can ask for more money, Curate said.
15th Dec 2021 - Al Jazeera English

UK reports highest daily COVID cases, ‘staggering’ rise feared

The United Kingdom has recorded its highest daily coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic as a further 78,610 COVID-19 infections were reported, about 10,000 more than the previous high reported in January.
15th Dec 2021 - Al Jazeera English on MSN.com

Inside the Botswana lab that discovered Omicron

The day that Dr Sikhulile Moyo ruefully calls “Omicron Day” started like any normal day, or as normal as one can be for a medical virologist in the middle of a global coronavirus pandemic. That Friday morning, November 19, the 48-year-old Zimbabwean prayed as usual with his wife and children, wolfed down some cereal and then raced to beat the traffic in Botswana’s capital Gaborone. Later that day...“There were four sequences showing very strange patterns that we had never seen before. I felt a lot of emotions in my heart,” says Dr Moyo, recalling rising feelings of concern. On the computer, mismatches in the samples’ genetic code against the original SARS-CoV-2 virus had been flagged across rows of multicoloured letters. The discrepancies were so great that Dr Moyo worried there was some kind of mistake. But after the team ran thorough quality checks, they still came up with the same results. “It was quite alarming to us simply because we’d never seen such a lineage in Botswana,” adds Choga. “It was heavily mutated.”
15th Dec 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Omicron spreading so fast it threatens Britain's hospitals

The omicron variant is spreading so rapidly it has the potential to overwhelm Britain’s hospitals, highlighting the need to strengthen coronavirus restrictions and speed up the delivery of booster vaccine shots, the country’s health minister said Tuesday. Omicron is so transmissible that even if it proves to be less severe than other variants, there is still likely to be a surge in hospital admissions if it goes unchecked, U.K. Health Secretary Sajid Javid told lawmakers. His comments came as the government rushed to accelerate the national vaccination program, with a goal of offering a booster dose to every adult by the end of December.
15th Dec 2021 - The Associated Press

UK COVID cases hit record; Top doctor warns of worse to come

Professor Chris Whitty described the current situation as two epidemics in one — with omicron infections rising rapidly even as the country continues to grapple with the older delta variant, which is still causing a large number of infections. Public health officials expect omicron to become the dominant variant across the U.K. within days. Omicron already accounts for a majority of cases in London. The U.K. recorded 78,610 new infections on Wednesday, 16% higher than the previous record set in January. While scientists are still studying the risks posed by the highly transmissible omicron variant, Witty said the public should be braced for the figures to continue rising in coming weeks. “There are several things we don’t know,” Whitty said. “But all the things we do know are bad, the principal one being the speed at which this is moving. It is moving at an absolutely phenomenal pace.”
15th Dec 2021 - The Associated Press

US faces a double coronavirus surge as omicron advances

The new omicron coronavirus mutant speeding around the world may bring another wave of chaos, threatening to further stretch hospital workers already struggling with a surge of delta cases and upend holiday plans for the second year in a row. The White House on Wednesday insisted there is no need for a lockdown because vaccines are widely available and appear to offer protection against the worst consequences of the virus. But even if omicron proves milder on the whole than delta, it may disarm some of the life-saving tools available and put immune-compromised and elderly people at particular risk as it begins a rapid assault on the United States. “Our delta surge is ongoing and, in fact, accelerating. And on top of that, we’re going to add an omicron surge,” said Dr. Jacob Lemieux, who monitors variants for a research collaboration led by Harvard Medical School.
15th Dec 2021 - The Associated Press

Germany scrambles to buy millions of coronavirus vaccine doses

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach and Finance Minister Christian Lindner on Wednesday announced that Germany is prepared to shell out an extra €2.2 billion ($2.48 billion) of its budget to secure 92 million doses of coronavirus vaccines as the omicron variant spreads and Germany's new government sounds the alarm over dangerously depleted vaccine stocks. The order will see Berlin purchase 80 million doses of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine through EU programs and another 12 million doses on the open market. Lauterbach said, "We need more vaccines quickly for speedy booster shots and possible omicron vaccinations."
15th Dec 2021 - Deutsche Welle

Norway faces Omicron 'contagion bomb' with up to 300,000 infected daily, health chiefs warn while strain is set to become most dominant in Denmark in days as Europe faces new ...

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health said restrictions must be imposed or up to 300,000 people will be infected with Covid every day. Norway's PM set to announce the country will further tighten Covid restrictions. Denmark is second worldwide only to the UK in confirmed cases of Omicron, with the Nordic country reporting a total of 3,437 cases since variant emerged. France set to be hit by a sixth Covid wave in January due to the Omicron variant.
15th Dec 2021 - Daily Mail

U.K. Faces Inevitable Surge in Hospital Cases From Omicron

The “phenomenal pace” at which the new Covid-19 omicron strain is spreading across the U.K. will trigger a surge in hospital admissions over the holiday period, according to Boris Johnson’s top medical adviser. “Substantial numbers” of people will be hospitalized and that will “become apparent soon after Christmas, Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, said at a televised press conference alongside the prime minister Wednesday. That is a “reasonably nailed on prospect,” he added, using a Britishism to refer to an outcome being certain. The stark assessment of the threat posed by omicron, on the day the U.K. reported a record number of new coronavirus cases, will raise further questions about the steps taken by Johnson’s government to tackle the variant and whether the National Health Service can withstand the surge in infections.
15th Dec 2021 - Bloomberg

Whitty calls for caution over promising hospital data in South Africa

Professor Chris Whitty today called for 'serious caution' over a raft of promising data which suggests Omicron may cause milder disease. Fewer Covid-infected patients are being admitted to hospital wards in South Africa now compared to previous waves, sparking hopes that the strain is less lethal than the rivals it has outcompeted. But England's chief medical officer told a Downing Street press briefing that the figures were to be expected, simply because the country had higher levels of immunity going into the wave than during the summer, when Delta struck. Professor Whitty warned the same pattern may not be replicated in the UK because it wasn't hit as badly by the variant it took over from, warning that South Africa's most recent wave was more recent so its population-wide immunity was fresher.
15th Dec 2021 - Daily Mail

Omicron is responsible for 60% of COVID cases in London - minister

Britain's health minister Sajid Javid said on Wednesday that the Omicron variant of the coronavirus was now responsible for about 60% of cases of COVID-19 in London. "No one wants to see any more restrictions," Javid told BBC television when asked if the government planned to tighten its rules to slow the spread. "At the same time, people want to be safe, for themselves, for their family for their friends." The United Kingdom recorded its highest daily coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic earlier on Wednesday.
15th Dec 2021 - Reuters

Australia re-opens borders to non-citizens despite Omicron worries

Australia on Wednesday reopened borders to vaccinated skilled migrants and foreign students after a nearly two-year ban on their entry, in a bid to boost an economy hit by stop-start COVID-19 lockdowns. The emergence of the new Omicron variant forced officials to delay the reopening of international travel by two weeks after health officials sought a pause to get more information about the strain, which appears to show milder symptoms than other coronavirus variants. "I just met my mum for the first time in four years, I'm so happy and thankful borders have opened," Kang Jin, a traveller from South Korea, told reporters in Sydney.
15th Dec 2021 - Reuters


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Kroger to End Some Covid-19 Benefits for Unvaccinated Workers

Kroger Co. is eliminating some Covid-19 benefits for unvaccinated employees, a move to encourage inoculations as the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate faces legal challenges. The Cincinnati-based grocery chain told employees last week that it will no longer provide two weeks of paid emergency leave for unvaccinated employees who contract Covid-19, unless local jurisdictions require otherwise. Kroger will also add a $50 monthly surcharge to company health plans for unvaccinated managers and other nonunion employees, according to a memo viewed by The Wall Street Journal. Both policies are effective Jan. 1, the memo said.
15th Dec 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

When Two Nations Are Divided by a Common Pandemic

Covid is possibly even more political in the U.S. than it is in the U.K., and the federal system allows for far greater differences in response between states. But Covid fatigue is universal and a political tripwire at this point. So is the U.K. right to regard omicron as such a serious danger? Let’s look at the evidence from South Africa, where the variant was first identified and provides the most data. Capital Economics Ltd. of London has produced these excellent charts.
15th Dec 2021 - Bloomberg

U.K.'s 'Warp Speed' Booster Rollout Is Already Struggling

Boris Johnson’s strategy for tackling a U.K. surge in omicron infections is already facing setbacks, as medics warn of bottlenecks and staffing shortages in the vaccine booster program. The British prime minister promised to ramp up delivery of boosters to “warp speed” to achieve its target of reaching all adults by the end of December, and late Monday announced that hundreds of new vaccine sites would open across the country, including at soccer stadiums and racecourses.
15th Dec 2021 - Bloomberg

Conservative revolt over COVID curbs deals stinging blow to UK PM Johnson

Almost 100 Conservative lawmakers voted on Tuesday against new coronavirus restrictions, dealing a major blow to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's authority and raising questions about his leadership. After a day of frenzied failed lobbying, Johnson was handed the biggest rebellion against his government so far by his party over measures he said were necessary to curb the spread of the new Omicron variant. The new rules, which included ordering people to wear masks in public places and use COVID-19 passes for some venues, passed thanks largely to the main opposition Labour Party.
15th Dec 2021 - Reuters

Google says employees flouting vaccination rules will eventually be fired - CNBC

Alphabet Inc's Google told its employees they would lose pay and eventually be fired if they do not follow its COVID-19 vaccination rules, CNBC reported on Tuesday, citing internal documents. A memo circulated by Google's leadership said employees had until Dec. 3 to declare their vaccination status and upload documentation showing proof, or to apply for a medical or religious exemption, according to the report. After that date, Google said it would start contacting employees who had not uploaded their status or were unvaccinated and those whose exemption requests were not approved, CNBC reported.
15th Dec 2021 - Reuters

Finland to Tighten Travel Restrictions to Slow Omicron Spread

Finland is considering tightening travel restrictions to stop passengers from bringing in the coronavirus, particularly the new omicron variant, said Krista Kiuru, the minister overseeing the pandemic response. The Nordic country will require travelers from outside the European Union and the Schengen area to present a negative test result from the prior 48 hours, Kiuru told broadcaster YLE on Tuesday. The government is still discussing when to begin enforcing the rule, she said. Finland will also recommend all travelers, including from the EU, take a test before arrival and a home test afterward. Arrivals from certain countries, such as Denmark, Norway and the U.K., are likely to be subject to compulsory health checks, Kiuru said.
14th Dec 2021 - Bloomberg

WHO Warns Against Underestimating the Omicron Threat

The World Health Organization is concerned that the omicron variant is being dismissed as mild, even as it spreads at a faster rate than any previous strain of Covid-19. The recently detected variant has been reported in some 77 nations, though it’s probably in most countries already, said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “We’re concerned that people are jumping to a conclusion that this is a mild disease,” Bruce Aylward, senior adviser at the WHO, told journalists at a briefing on Tuesday. “A more transmissible virus can do just as much damage -- or more -- than one which is more severe but less transmissible.”
14th Dec 2021 - Bloomberg

U.S. government may request more COVID-19 testing funds

President Joe Biden's administration may request additional funds from Congress for COVID-19 testing, depending on the severity of the Omicron variant, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra said on Tuesday. The department has $10 billion left in federal relief funds for testing from the $50 billion made available by Congress back in March, but might need more, Becerra said at a meeting with reporters.
14th Dec 2021 - Reuters

Apple makes masks mandatory at U.S. retail stores as COVID-19 cases rise

Apple Inc will require all customers and employees to wear masks at its U.S. retail stores, the iPhone maker said on Tuesday, as COVID-19 cases surge in the country. Last month, Apple had scrapped its mask mandate for customers at more than 100 of the company's about 270 stores across the United States, according to Bloomberg News, as coronavirus cases declined. "We regularly monitor conditions and we will adjust our health measures in stores to support the wellbeing of customers and employees," the company said on Tuesday.
14th Dec 2021 - Reuters


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Canada could see surge in COVID-19 cases as Omicron spreads - health official

COVID-19 cases in Canada may rapidly rise in the coming days due to community spread of the Omicron variant, mirroring the situation in the country's most populous province of Ontario, Canada's top health official said on Monday. The surge of COVID-19 cases in Ontario, which accounts for almost 40% of Canada's population of 39 million people, has prompted the provincial government to suspend easing of restrictions that were planned to be lifted ahead of the holiday season
14th Dec 2021 - Reuters

Norway in partial lockdown as Omicron 'changes the rules', PM says

Norway will further tighten restrictions and speed up vaccination in a bid to limit an expected surge of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere said on Monday. Presenting its fourth round of measures in two weeks, the government announced a ban on serving alcohol in bars and restaurants, a closing of gyms and swimming pools to most users and stricter rules in schools, among other things.
14th Dec 2021 - Reuters

Masks come off, rallies begin as India's COVID-19 patient load falls

India reported its lowest tally of active COVID-19 cases in 18 months on Monday, but a sharp drop in the use of protective face masks is causing concern after a rise in the number of infections with the Omicron variant. Many people have been standing or sitting close to each other without masks, or covering only their chins, at big rallies held by political parties in several states before elections. Something similar happened before the Delta variant ravaged India from April.
13th Dec 2021 - Reuters

Chinese manufacturing hub fights its first 2021 COVID-19 outbreak

Major Chinese manufacturing province Zhejiang is fighting its first COVID-19 cluster this year, with tens of thousands of citizens in quarantine and virus-hit areas suspending business operations, cutting flights and cancelling events. The province reported 74 locally transmitted cases with confirmed symptoms on Dec. 12, official data showed on Monday, almost double the previous day's 38 cases, lifting to 173 the total since the province started to report cases for the latest outbreak. The outbreak in three Zhejiang cities - Ningbo, Shaoxing and Hangzhou - was developing at a "relatively rapid" speed, while the situation nationwide was largely stable, National Health Commission official Wu Liangyou said on Saturday.
13th Dec 2021 - Reuters

Exclusive: Senegal expects 400000 COVID-19 vaccines to expire by year-end

At least 200,000 COVID-19 vaccines have expired in Senegal without being used in the past two months and another 200,000 are set to expire at the end of December because demand is too slow, the head of its immunisation programme said on Monday. African governments have been calling for more COVID-19 vaccines to help catch up with richer regions, where vaccine rollouts have been humming along for more than a year. Yet, as the pace of supply has picked up in recent weeks some countries have struggled to keep pace. Logistical problems, the short shelf life of vaccines that arrive from donors, and vaccine hesitancy have all kept doses from reaching arms.
13th Dec 2021 - Reuters

Virus Cases Surge in Australia's Most Populous State as Curbs Eased

Australia’s most-populous state has recorded its highest daily Covid-19 infection tally in more than two months as authorities battle the fast-spreading omicron variant, even as New South Wales readies to remove almost all restrictions. The state recorded 804 new virus infections in the 24 hours to 8 p.m. Monday, a 50% jump from the day before, officials said in statement Tuesday. It’s the largest tally since Oct. 2, when its largest city Sydney was in the midst of a months-long lockdown to combat the delta variant.
13th Dec 2021 - Bloomberg

Some Hospitals Drop Covid-19 Vaccine Mandates to Ease Labor Shortages

Some of the largest U.S. hospital systems have dropped Covid-19 vaccine mandates for staff after a federal judge temporarily halted a Biden administration mandate that healthcare workers get the shots.
13th Dec 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

Omicron Oil Demand Impact Will Be ‘Mild and Short-Lived,’ OPEC Says

The new variant’s impact on global oil markets won’t be as seismic as initially feared, because governments and businesses are now better adapted to dealing with the coronavirus. the cartel said.
13th Dec 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

How Covid Increased the Cybersecurity Threat to Healthcare Companies

The healthcare industry has long been a prime target of cybercriminals looking to mine patients’ personal information or disrupt facilities’ operations in ransomware attacks. The Covid-19 pandemic has made matters much worse, as the adoption of new technologies to enhance remote care and increased remote work has created a multitude of new potential targets for hackers. Wall Street Journal news editor Sara Castellanos spoke with Kathy Hughes, chief information security officer at Northwell Health, and Joey Johnson, chief information security officer at Premise Health, at the WSJ Pro Cybersecurity Executive Forum, about the cybersecurity threat and how the industry can protect itself. Edited excerpts of the conversation follow.
13th Dec 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

Austria ends Covid lockdown restrictions for vaccinated people

Austria has ended lockdown restrictions for vaccinated people across most of the country, three weeks after reimposing strict rules to combat a rising wave of coronavirus infections. The rules, which vary by region within the country, largely allow for the reopening of theatres, museums and other cultural and entertainment venues on Sunday. Shops will follow on Monday. Some regions are reopening restaurants and hotels on Sunday, while others will wait until later in the month. In all cases, there will be an 11pm curfew for restaurants, and masks will still be required on public transport and inside stores and public spaces.
12th Dec 2021 - The Guardian


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NHS website hit by technical problems amid rush to book COVID-19 booster doses - The Independent

The UK's NHS website crashed as people rushed to book COVID-19 booster doses after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said everyone above the age of 18 could get booster shots from Monday, The Independent reported on Sunday. "The NHS website is currently experiencing technical difficulties. We are working to resolve these issues. Thank you for your patience," the report said, citing a statement on the NHS website. The NHS did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
13th Dec 2021 - Reuters

Boris Johnson Warns of `Tidal Wave' of Omicron Infections, Pushes Boosters

Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned the U.K. is facing a “tidal wave” of omicron infections and set an end-of-year deadline for the country’s booster vaccination program. “Everyone eligible aged 18 and over in England will have the chance to get their booster before the New Year,”Johnson told the nation in a hastily-arranged address on Sunday night. Johnson, who has been the subject of scathing headlines over his handling of the pandemic, tried to change the narrative in a somber address. While he is accelerating a plan to deliver booster jabs, in practice he’s bringing the deadline forward by a month.
12th Dec 2021 - Bloomberg

Australia shortens wait time for COVID-19 booster doses as Omicron cases rise

Australia said on Sunday it will shorten the wait time for people to receive a COVID-19 booster following a rise in cases of the Omicron variant. Australia had previously said it would offer the booster to everyone over 18 who had had their second dose of the vaccine six months earlier. But with rising cases of the Omicron variant, Health Minister Greg Hunt said the time interval will be shortened to five months after the second dose.
12th Dec 2021 - Reuters

UK's Johnson warns of Omicron 'tidal wave', says two doses not enough

Britain faces a "tidal wave" of the Omicron variant of coronavirus and two vaccine doses will not be enough to contain it, Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned on Sunday, as he accelerated the booster rollout programme. Speaking hours after government scientists lifted the COVID alert level to 4 on a 5-point scale, Johnson said the booster programme must go faster because scientists did not yet know if Omicron was less severe than other variants. "A tidal wave of Omicron is coming," Johnson said in a televised statement on Sunday evening. "And I'm afraid it is now clear that two doses of vaccine are simply not enough to give the level of protection we all need."
12th Dec 2021 - Reuters

Pfizer Booster Shots Are Effective Against Omicron Variant, Israeli Study Says

Researchers at the Sheba Medical Center and from the Israeli Health Ministry examined the blood samples of 20 Sheba employees who received a booster at least a month ago, and 20 employees who are five or six months past their second shot and haven’t received a third shot. Employees with a booster were much more likely to neutralize the Omicron variant than the two-shot group, the study showed. But the booster shots were still less effective against preventing Omicron than other variants, including Delta, still the most prevalent strain of the virus circulating globally.
12th Dec 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

US COVID-19 deaths reach 800,000

The U.S. has reached the grim milestone of 800,000 deaths related to COVID-19, Reuters reported. More than 450,000 people in the United States have died after contracting COVID-19 so far in 2021, according to the news service, which added that the total accounts for 57 percent of all U.S. deaths from the illness since the pandemic started.
12th Dec 2021 - The Hill

Preparing for Omicron as a covid veteran

Now I’m disillusioned. I’ve seen how our medical trends with how to treat covid-19 can change by the hour, with self-declared experts always ready to criticise decisions and cherry pick evidence to follow. I’ve watched how systematically hospital systems continue to prioritise efficiency, rankings, and profits over patient centred care. I’ve learnt that I am nothing but one of millions of healthcare workers expected to come to work every day based solely on my own goodwill. The calls for the protection of healthcare workers with life insurance, disability insurance, and student debt forgiveness have been forgotten just as quickly as they were proposed. Lacking these investments in my personhood, it’s hard to feel like more than another faceless number in the system. My patients are now jaded too, as politics has entered their hospital bed. Some ask for ivermectin and refuse to have conversations about quarantine for family members they have exposed to the virus. They “other” me, seeing me as part of the healthcare system that mocks the political right, rather than as another human being at their bedside feeling just as vulnerable as they are to the pandemic. My vaccinated patients remind me of their status over and over again, as if trying to clue me in to give them preferential treatment or empathy for having a breakthrough infection. I empathise with both my patients who are vaccinated and unvaccinated, but I still leave each room feeling a sense of defeat, powerlessness, and anger that the pandemic persists.
11th Dec 2021 - The BMJ

Pfizer Omicron Efficacy at 22.5% in South Africa Lab Experiments

A two-shot course of Pfizer Inc.’s vaccine has just 22.5% efficacy against symptomatic infection with the omicron variant, but can thwart severe disease, according to laboratory experiments in South Africa. Researchers at the Africa Health Research Institute in Durban issued additional data on a small study released earlier this week. The research considered blood plasma samples from 12 participants. Scientists found omicron resulted in about a 41-fold reduction in levels of neutralizing antibodies produced by people who had received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech SE shot, compared with the strain detected in China almost two years ago.
11th Dec 2021 - Bloomberg

England Deaths Estimated at 75,000 This Winter on Omicron: Study

The omicron variant has the potential to cause a wave of Covid infections in England and fuel almost 75,000 deaths this winter, if the government doesn’t impose additional precautionary control measures, according to a research report by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Under the government’s ‘Plan B’ rules imposed last week in response to omicron, the most optimistic scenario for England indicates about 175,000 hospital admissions and 24,700 deaths for the five-month period from December to April. The worst-case projection is for 74,800 deaths. That is more than half the 127,154 fatalities registered in England since the start of the pandemic. England accounts for more than two thirds of almost 172,000 deaths in all of the United Kingdom, which includes Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The research is not yet peer reviewed, LSHTM said on its website.
11th Dec 2021 - Bloomberg

Early U.S. Omicron Cases Caused Mild Illness in Vaccinated

The first omicron cases in the U.S. were detected mostly in vaccinated people who experienced mild illnesses, with only one hospitalization and no deaths reported so far, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. As of Dec. 8, the U.S. had investigated 43 cases of the Covid-19 variant that set the world on high alert last month because of mutations that may make it spread more easily. About four-fifths of those cases occurred in people who had been fully vaccinated, the CDC said on Friday, including one who was in the hospital for two days. Common symptoms included cough, tiredness and congestion or runny nose, according to the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
11th Dec 2021 - Bloomberg

Brazil health ministry website hit by hackers, vaccination data targeted

Brazil's health ministry said its website was hit on Friday by a hacker attack that took several systems down, including one with information about the national immunization program and another used to issue digital vaccination certificates. The government put off for a week implementing new health requirements for travelers arriving in Brazil due to the attack. "The health ministry reports that in the early hours of Friday it suffered an incident that temporarily compromised some of its systems ... which are currently unavailable," it said in a statement.
11th Dec 2021 - Reuters

India's top syringe maker asks PM Modi to lift factory shutdown order

Hindustan Syringes and Medical Devices (HMD) has shuttered its factories on the outskirts of New Delhi following the directive from a state pollution control board, triggering concerns of an acute shortage of syringes and needles in India just as its COVID-19 vaccination programme is in full swing. "The closure of needles and syringes manufacturing factories will create disruption in the supply chain," said Rajiv Nath, managing director of HMD, in a letter to Modi's office which was released to media.
11th Dec 2021 - Reuters

Global shortage of nurses set to grow as pandemic enters third year - group

The numbers of nurses around the world are falling further just as the Omicron coronavirus spreads, and there is a also an imbalance as Western countries step up recruitment of healthcare workers from African and other poorer countries, the International Council of Nurses said on Friday. Many nurses are burned out from the COVID-19 pandemic and rates of "intention to leave" within a year have doubled to 20-30%, said Howard Catton, CEO of the Geneva-based group that represent 27 million nurses in 130 national associations.
11th Dec 2021 - Reuters

England could face Omicron wave without further restrictions- report

England could face a wave of COVID-19 infections caused by the Omicron variant leading to as many as 75,000 deaths by the end of April if no new control measures are brought in, according to modelling research published on Saturday. Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government has already brought in new rules for England to slow the spread of Omicron with orders for people to work at home if possible, to wear masks in public and for entertainment venues to use vaccine passports.
11th Dec 2021 - Reuters

China vaccinates over 80% of its people against COVID-19

China has vaccinated 82.5% of its population of 1.41 billion against COVID-19, a health official said on Saturday. A total of 1.162 billion have received the required number of doses to complete vaccinations, Wu Liangyou, an official of the National Health Commission (NHC) told a news briefing, adding that 120.6 million had received a booster shot. Despite the high national rate, vaccination coverage was patchy among the elderly, a vulnerable group facing a high risk of severe cases and death after infection.
11th Dec 2021 - Reuters

Vaccinated, maskless crowds enjoy Christmas markets in Budapest

Traditional Christmas markets have opened in Budapest's main squares only for people vaccinated against COVID-19, but have drawn many tourists and locals alike even as central Europe battles a renewed surge of the coronavirus. There were no festive outdoor markets in Budapest a year ago as Hungary was in complete lockdown against the virus, before any vaccines were available. "It's great to have the market back. It was very depressing when I visited the square last year - it was decorated but there were no people," said Adrienn, bundled up in a black fur coat against the subzero cold in front of the Hungarian capital's neo-classical St. Stephen's Basilica.
11th Dec 2021 - Reuters

South African Covid Hospitalizations at 5,344, 7.6% in ICU

South African hospitals have 5,344 Covid-19 patients of which 7.6% are in intensive care units, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases said in a report on Friday. Of the 404 people in ICU, 144 are on ventilators, the institute said. Almost half of the admissions are in Gauteng, the province that includes Johannesburg and Pretoria. The numbers compare with the 4,795 who were in the hospital a day earlier, with 8.3% of those in ICU.
10th Dec 2021 - Bloomberg

Denmark’s Omicron Surge Is a Warning to the Rest of World

Denmark is seeing the number of people infected with the omicron variant of Covid-19 double every second day, offering a glimpse of a development that is probably unfolding throughout Europe. The Nordic country can offer valuable insights into what to expect from omicron, as it has Europe’s most rigorous screening program, with a high level of testing, and variant-screening of all positive PCR tests. That explains why Denmark has reported the highest number of omicron cases in the European Union, Troels Lillebaek, chair of the Danish SARS-CoV-2 variant assessment committee, said.
10th Dec 2021 - Bloomberg


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India’s Serum Institute let Africa down on vaccines: Africa CDC

The Serum Institute of India, the world’s biggest vaccine maker, let Africa down by pulling out of talks to supply COVID-19 vaccines, creating distrust that has affected demand, according to the head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control. John Nkengasong on Thursday denounced recent comments from Serum that uptake of its COVID-19 shots had slowed because of low demand from Africa and vaccine hesitancy, saying the real problem was that Serum had acted unprofessionally. Nkengasong said Serum had engaged in discussions last year with the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Task Team (AVATT), and that at one point he had believed a deal was very close, but then Serum abruptly ended the talks. “Serum just decided to act in a very unprofessional manner and stop communicating with AVATT team, so that created a situation where we found ourselves extremely unhappy … and then engaged with Johnson & Johnson,” he said.
9th Dec 2021 - Al Jazeera English on MSN.com

Austria plans to fine vaccine holdouts up to 3600 euros a quarter

Austria's conservative-led government on Thursday gave details of its plan to make coronavirus vaccines compulsory, saying it will apply to people 14 and over and holdouts face fines of up to 3,600 euros ($4,071) every three months. Roughly 68% of Austria's population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, one of the lowest rates in western Europe. Many Austrians are sceptical about vaccines, a view encouraged by the far-right Freedom Party, the third biggest in parliament.
9th Dec 2021 - Reuters

How will the world decide when the pandemic is over?

The pandemic may be widely considered over when WHO decides the virus is no longer an emergency of international concern, a designation its expert committee has been reassessing every three months. But when the most acute phases of the crisis ease within countries could vary. “There is not going to be one day when someone says, ‘OK, the pandemic is over,’” says Dr. Chris Woods, an infectious disease expert at Duke University. Although there’s no universally agreed-upon criteria, he said countries will likely look for sustained reduction in cases over time. Scientists expect COVID-19 will eventually settle into becoming a more predictable virus like the flu, meaning it will cause seasonal outbreaks but not the huge surges we’re seeing right now. But even then, Woods says some habits, such as wearing masks in public places, might continue. “Even after the pandemic ends, COVID will still be with us,” he says.
9th Dec 2021 - The Associated Press

Vaccine equity is essential. Vaccine makers need to drop barriers to reaching refugees and other displaced people

It is estimated that 167 million people, concentrated in low- and middle-income countries, are at risk of outright exclusion from Covid-19 vaccination campaigns. That number is subject to sudden shifts: overnight, a storm, a flood, an intensifying conflict, a toppled government, disputed boundary, or shifted frontline can push hundreds of thousands of people out of health systems’ oversight. More people have been forcibly displaced in the last decade than ever before, because the weather is both more extreme and less predictable and violent conflict is increasingly common. For everyone, but most starkly for the most vulnerable people, the pandemic has had a compounding effect on insecurity. Not only are these individuals omitted from vaccination campaigns, but many of them are at extra-high risk of contracting the disease because they live in close quarters with limited ability to physically distance or self-isolate and often with poor sanitation.
9th Dec 2021 - STAT News

Ending the pandemic requires global solidarity, not blame

When historians write about the Covid-19 pandemic, they will certainly highlight the essential research behind safe and effective vaccines, the remarkable pace of vaccine development, and the sacrifices made by clinicians and clinical trial participants. They will also write about the gross neglect of global partners when designing a worldwide public health strategy, which has been plagued by vaccine inequity, nationalism, and fear. The latest misguided response by the U.S. government bans incoming travel from a number of southern African countries — some which have no known cases of Covid-19 caused by the Omicron variant — but not from European ones where the variant has already been detected. Moreover, the ban does not apply to U.S. nationals flying into the U.S., who need show only proof of a negative Covid-19 test.
9th Dec 2021 - STAT News


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Act now to curb Omicron's spread, WHO's Tedros tells world

Governments need to reassess national responses to COVID-19 and speed up vaccination programmes to tackle Omicron, though it is it too early to say how well existing shots will protect against the new variant, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday. The variant's global spread suggests it could have a major impact on the COVID-19 pandemic, and the time to contain it is now before more Omicron patients are hospitalised, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. "We call on all countries to increase surveillance, testing and sequencing," he told a media briefing. "... Any complacency now will cost lives."
8th Dec 2021 - Reuters

Record COVID cases in S Korea as ‘immunity wanes among elderly’

South Korea’s daily count of COVID-19 cases has surpassed 7,000 for the first time, with experts attributing the record jump to waning immunity among older people. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KCDA) reported 7,175 new cases on Wednesday, 2,221 more than the previous day. It said infections were rising particularly among older adults who had “suffered a drop in vaccine efficacy, and children who have yet to receive their first doses”, according to the Yonhap news agency. The number of critically ill patients also reached an all-time high of 840, up from 66 the previous day.
8th Dec 2021 - Al Jazeera English on MSN.com

UK's Johnson orders probe of staff party during lockdown

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday ordered an inquiry and said he was “furious” after a leaked video showed senior members of his staff joking about holding a lockdown-breaching Christmas party. The video has poured fuel on allegations that officials in the Conservative government flouted coronavirus rules they imposed on everyone else. It release came as Johnson urged people to work from home and introduced vaccine passes for crowded venues to try and slow the spread of the new omicron variant. “I understand and share the anger up and down the country” at officials seeming to make light of lockdown rules, Johnson said. “I was also furious to see that clip,” he told lawmakers in the House of Commons. “I apologize unreservedly for the offense that it has caused up and down the country, and I apologize for the impression it gives.”
8th Dec 2021 - The Associated Press

Work from home again: UK tightens rules amid omicron spread

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced tighter restrictions Wednesday to stem the spread of the omicron variant, urging people in England to again work from home and mandating COVID-19 passes for entrance into nightclubs and large events. Johnson said it was time to impose stricter measures to prevent a spike of hospitalizations and deaths as the new coronavirus variant spreads rapidly in the community. “It has become increasingly clear that omicron is growing much faster than the previous delta variant and is spreading rapidly all around the world,” he said in a press conference. “Most worryingly, there is evidence that the doubling time of omicron could currently be between two and three days.”
8th Dec 2021 - The Associated Press on MSN.com

Fans must show vaccine pass to attend top-level games in England

Fans in England will need to show proof of double vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative test to attend top-level sport after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed tougher COVID-19 restrictions in the country on Wednesday. The British government has made the NHS COVID Pass mandatory for any event with more than 10,000 people in a bid to slow the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.
8th Dec 2021 - Reuters

South Africa's Covid cases hit highest level in five MONTHS

Covid cases in Omicron-stricken South Africa spiralled to their highest level in five months today — but early data suggests the mutant strain is milder than Delta. The country's National Institute for Communicable Diseases has recorded another 19,842 infections over the past 24 hours, more than double the number last Wednesday. This was also the highest number of infections detected on a single day since early July, when the nation's Delta wave was dying down. Despite doctors on the ground in South Africa insisting that Omicron is causing only mild illness, today's 374 hospital admissions are up 170 per cent in a week.
8th Dec 2021 - Daily Mail

Pfizer booster vaccine CAN beat Omicron: Company says top-up dose bolsters protection from two jabs

Pfizer's Covid booster jab triggers a 25-fold increase in antibody levels against Omicron, company said today. The vaccine-maker said three injections provide a 'more robust' defence against the variant. Third dose triggers antibody response against Omicron similar to that seen against older strains after two jabs. South Africa study shows 40-times less Pfizer-triggered antibodies can fight against Omicron infection. Sweden found that drop in the body's ability to neutralise Omicron, but decline is smaller than feared. WHO official said Omicron is likely more transmissible than other variants, but data suggests it is less severe But Germany study found double-jabbed people do not produce any neutralising antibodies against Omicron
8th Dec 2021 - Daily Mail

COVID cases spike even as US hits 200M vaccine milestone

The number of Americans fully vaccinated against COVID-19 reached 200 million Wednesday amid a dispiriting holiday-season spike in cases and hospitalizations that has hit even New England, one of the most highly inoculated corners of the country. New cases in the U.S. climbed from an average of nearly 95,000 a day on Nov. 22 to almost 119,000 a day this week, and hospitalizations are up 25% from a month ago. The increases are due almost entirely to the delta variant, though the omicron mutation has been detected in about 20 states and is sure to spread even more. Deaths are running close to 1,600 a day on average, back up to where they were in October. And the overall U.S. death toll less than two years into the crisis could hit another heartbreaking milestone, 800,000, in a matter of days.
8th Dec 2021 - The Associated Press


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Norway Tightens Restrictions on Omicron Spread

Norway is tightening restrictions again to try to regain control of the spread of the omicron variant and prevent an overloading of an hospital system already struggling with other types of illness as winter sets in. Social distancing and limiting the number of guests in private homes to 10 is recommended again, while bars and restaurants must stop selling alcohol at midnight and face masks are now mandatory where a meter’s distance can’t be maintained, Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store told reporters on Tuesday.
7th Dec 2021 - Bloomberg

Bill Gates Thinks 'Acute Phase' of Pandemic Will End in 2022 Despite Omicron

To Bill Gates, 2021 did not bring as much improvement to the pandemic as he had hoped. With more Covid-19 deaths this year than in 2020, the delta variant and challenges with vaccine uptake, progress has been underwhelming, the billionaire indicated in a year in review post on his blog Tuesday. “I underestimated how tough it would be to convince people to take the vaccine and continue to use masks,” Gates said. But the Microsoft Corp. co-founder is optimistic about 2022. “I think the acute phase of the pandemic will come to a close some time in 2022,” Gates said. His prediction comes as the world deals with a new variant and in the U.S. cases are are approaching 50 million.
7th Dec 2021 - Bloomberg

U.S. judge blocks last remaining Biden admin COVID-19 vaccine rule

A federal judge on Tuesday blocked the last of the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine mandates for businesses, saying the government exceeded it authority with a requirement that millions of employees of federal contractors be inoculated. The ruling was the latest setback for President Joe Biden, a Democrat, who announced a series of measures in September aimed at increasing vaccination rates to fight the pandemic that continues to kill more than 1,000 Americans daily. "Abuse of power by the Biden administration has been stopped cold again," Republican South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, who joined the lawsuit, said in a statement. U.S. District Judge Stan Baker in Savannah, Georgia, said Congress did not clearly authorize the president to use procurement to impose a vaccine requirement on contractors that will have "vast economic and political significance."
7th Dec 2021 - Reuters

Africa needs to make own vaccines but hurdles are high, experts say

Africa needs to make its own vaccines to avoid a repeat of its supply problems in the COVID-19 pandemic but faces big obstacles in turning itself from a pharmaceutical testing ground into a place where vaccines are created, experts said on Tuesday. The Partnership for African Vaccine Manufacturing (PAVM) has set as a target that 60% of the continent's routine vaccine needs, or between 1.4 and 1.7 billion doses yearly, should be met by local manufacturing by 2040, up from about 1% now. Experts meeting at a PAVM conference in Rwanda said the pandemic had shown Africa urgently needed to tackle its dependence on imported vaccines. But they outlined daunting obstacles, from brain drain to power shortages.
7th Dec 2021 - Reuters

The world has the tools to end the coronavirus pandemic. They're not being used properly

The Covid-19 pandemic will not last forever. It will likely continue to fizzle and fade as it heads towards its third year, resurging with new variants and then waning in the face of vaccines, mitigation measures and human behavior. But even if the virus is never stamped out, immunity will improve and the world will eventually be able to live with Covid. On that, experts generally agree. "The large majority of infectious disease specialists think, and have thought for many months, that SARS-CoV-2 is here to stay," said Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia in the UK. "Our grandchildren's grandchildren will still be catching (the virus)," he said. But "Covid, the disease, will become part of our history as the infection morphs into just another cause of the common cold."
7th Dec 2021 - CNN


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Nearly 70 ICU medics at Spanish hospital COVID-19 positive after Christmas party

Nearly 70 nurses and doctors working in the intensive care unit at a Spanish hospital have tested positive for COVID-19 after attending a Christmas party, health authorities said on Monday. Sixty-eight medics at the University Regional Hospital in Malaga had been diagnosed with the coronavirus, the Andalusian regional government said. Health authorities said they were investigating the source of the infection but added all 68 attended a Christmas party on Dec. 1 at which 173 people were present.
7th Dec 2021 - Reuters

Philippines tentatively reopens schools as COVID-19 cases ease

Some children in the Philippines' capital Manila returned to school on Monday after a near two-year suspension as the country, which has imposed some of the world's toughest coronavirus curbs, tries to get life back to normal. Wearing face masks and sitting at desks fitted with plastic screens, the children are part of a trial at 28 schools in the capital region. The government aims to reopen all schools in January. Against the backdrop of mass vaccination drives and falling virus cases, parents cautiously welcomed the move.
6th Dec 2021 - Reuters

England has community transmission of Omicron variant, health minister says

Britain's health minister said on Monday there is now community transmission of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus across regions of England but it is too early to say if this will "knock us off our road to recovery". Defending the introduction of stricter rules to slow the spread of the virus, Sajid Javid told parliament the government was "leaving nothing to chance" while scientists assessed the variant, which was first reported in South Africa last month. Javid said there are now 261 Omicron cases in England, 71 in Scotland and four in Wales - a total of 336.
6th Dec 2021 - Reuters


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Omicron’s Spread Exposes South Africa’s Vaccination Struggles, Public Distrust

South Africa’s sputtering Covid-19 vaccine rollout, hampered first by dose shortages and more recently public distrust, has left many of its 60 million people potentially exposed as the new Omicron variant spreads across the country. In recent days, more people have turned out to get their shots amid warnings from scientists and the World Health Organization about Omicron, which has driven a sharp increase in Covid-19 infections in the country’s most populous province of Gauteng, home to Johannesburg, over the past two weeks.
5th Dec 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

Clues to Omicron Variant’s U.S. Spread Include Test Samples, Sewage

Covid-19 test samples and wastewater are helping researchers across the U.S. figure out how widespread the Omicron variant might be. Surveillance is more robust in the U.S. than when the Alpha or Delta variants of the Covid-19 virus emerged, public-health officials and experts say. A fault in some commonly used Covid-19 tests also helps scientists flag potential Omicron cases. But gaps remain, particularly from one part of the country to another. Nearly 30% of known Covid-19 cases were sequenced and shared online in Vermont during the past three months, according to an international database of genetic sequences called GISAID, compared with some 1% in Oklahoma. “We’ve greatly increased the number that we have been sequencing, but they’re not equally distributed,” said Julie Swann, department head of Industrial and Systems Engineering at North Carolina S
5th Dec 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

COVID-19 curbs China's power in Indo-Pacific, risks of war 'significant' - report

The coronavirus pandemic has weakened China's power in the Indo-Pacific, and the region's deepening security uncertainties present a "significant" risk of war, the Lowy Institute said in a report on Sunday. U.S. allies in the region and key balancing powers such as India have never been more dependent on American capacity and willingness to sustain a military and strategic counterweight in response to China's rise, said the Sydney-based foreign policy think tank.
5th Dec 2021 - Reuters

We Have to Live With Covid. Here's How We Get Our Lives Back

Two years into the pandemic, the emergence of yet another Covid-19 variant has brought home the fact that the virus is here to stay. That means the world will need to find long-term strategies to co-exist with delta, omicron and the strains to come. As governments reopen at varying paces, there are things individuals and companies can do to navigate a careful return to some kind of normalcy. Simple but permanent changes in how people live and work can limit the risks. “So far, the governments have been responsible for people’s behavior but I don’t think they will intervene so much anymore, and it’s becoming individual choice,” said Benjamin Cowling, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Hong Kong.
5th Dec 2021 - Bloomberg

Covid Vaccine Inequity Could Get Worse With Omicron Emergence

“Inequity derives from scarcity, and when there’s scarcity those with resources will use their resources to meet their own needs first,” said Richard Hatchett, head of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations. “So the question would be -- if this proves to be a really dangerous variant -- will countries rush to secure supplies?” CEPI is discussing the potential deployment of modified vaccines with other partners in Covax, the global vaccine distribution program, he said. Covax is in a more advantageous position than it was early in the crisis when it was still being formed, and any shortage of shots shouldn’t last as long this time, but the concern “is real,” he said. “If the data suggests we really do need to be introducing an omicron vaccine, we’re going to be wanting to move as quickly as we can to secure doses to reduce the inequity that could otherwise potentially emerge,” he said.
4th Dec 2021 - Bloomberg

Omicron Leaves Britons Stranded Due to Lack of Quarantine Space

The U.K.’s sudden decision to quarantine Britons returning from southern Africa due to the omicron Covid variant has left travelers stranded because rooms are unavailable in the government booking system. South Africa and nine other nations were placed on the U.K.’s so-called pandemic red list last week, meaning Britons already in those countries must quarantine in designated hotels for 10 days on their return to the U.K. -- at a cost of 2,285 pounds ($3,030) per person or 3,715 per couple. But travelers are struggling to book rooms due to high demand, leading many to fear they won’t be able to get home in time for Christmas. Boris Johnson’s government is facing accusations it wasn’t prepared for the policy change.
3rd Dec 2021 - Bloomberg

Special Report: U.S. rushed contracts to COVID-19 suppliers with troubled plants

In all, less than 20% of the companies awarded fast-track contracts examined by Reuters were experienced manufacturers with a clean FDA record for their U.S. plants in the two years prior. Four of every five either had no U.S. manufacturing experience, poor domestic inspection results or serious recalls before their COVID contract awards, Reuters found. “These are red flags,” said Peter Lurie, a former FDA associate commissioner who is now president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “The government ought to be able to find companies in this country that aren’t tainted by previous poor performance.”
3rd Dec 2021 - Reuters

African Union health watchdog CDC appeals for calm over Omicron

The African Union’s health watchdog has appealed for calm over Omicron, the new, heavily mutated coronavirus variant which has prompted many countries to impose new restrictions. The variant was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) by South Africa a week ago, and has quickly showed up across continents, deepening fears of another deadly wave of infections and signalling that the nearly two-year battle against the pandemic is not over.
3rd Dec 2021 - Aljazeera.com

South Korea tightens social distancing to fight virus wave

Starting next week, private social gatherings of seven or more people will be banned in the densely populated capital Seoul and nearby metropolitan areas, which have been hit hardest by a delta-driven spread that threatens to overwhelm hospital capacities. Gatherings will be limited to eight people in areas outside the capital region, officials said Friday. Adults will also be required to verify their vaccination status through apps to use restaurants, movie theaters, museums, libraries and other indoor venues. Most of these venues will admit only fully vaccinated adults, while restaurants and coffee shops will be allowed to accept one adult in each group who isn’t fully vaccinated or vaccinated at all.
3rd Dec 2021 - The Associated Press

WHO says vaccine makers right to adjust COVID jabs

The World Health Organisation said Omicron has been detected in 38 countries but there are no reported deaths so far from the new COVID-19 variant. WHO spokesperson Christian Lindmeier also said it is “commendable” that makers of COVID-19 vaccines are planning for the “likelihood” of needing to adjust their products to protect against the Omicron variant. WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan urged people not to panic over the emergence of the Omicron coronavirus variant and said it was too early to say if COVID-19 vaccines would have to be modified to fight it. Swaminathan said during an interview at the Reuters Next conference on Friday that the right response was to be prepared and cautious and not to panic in face of the new variant.
3rd Dec 2021 - AlJazeera

Germany imposes curbs on unvaccinated, considers jab mandate

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said unvaccinated people will be excluded from non-essential shops, and cultural and recreational venues in Germany, and parliament will consider imposing a general vaccine mandate. Speaking on Thursday after a meeting with federal and state leaders, Merkel said the measures were necessary in light of concerns that hospitals in Germany could become overloaded amid a surge in COVID-19 infections, which are more likely to be serious in those who have not been vaccinated. “The situation in our country is serious,” Merkel told reporters in Berlin, calling the measures an “act of national solidarity”. She said officials agreed to require masks in schools, impose new limits on private meetings and aim for 30 million vaccinations by the end of the year. The plans include a blanket ban on entering venues, including bars, restaurants and cinemas for anyone who has not been vaccinated or recovered from COVID, according to a document signed off by the leaders.
2nd Dec 2021 - Aljazeera.com


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UK Covid cases soar past 50,000 for a second time in seven days as numbers reach the highest since October

The UK has reported a further 53,945 daily Covid infections, with cases passing the 50,000 mark for the second time in the last seven days and reaching the highest daily total since mid-October. A further 45,880 people in England tested positive in the last 24-hour period, while 3,002 cases were recorded in Scotland, 2,791 in Wales and 2,272 in Northern Ireland. It marks the highest number of daily infections since 18 October, when there were 56,710 daily cases, amid concerns that the UK could see a surge in infections this winter.
3rd Dec 2021 - iNews

New Zealand's COVID-19 re-opening plans leave Maori feeling exposed

As New Zealand prepares to ease its COVID-19 pandemic controls and global isolation after nearly two years, health risks for its under-vaccinated indigenous Maori are posing a challenge for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Some of the world's toughest pandemic measures enforced by the South Pacific nation are easing on Friday, with businesses reopening nationwide after Ardern's government abandoned its elimination strategy in the face of the contagious Delta variant. Domestic border curbs in the pandemic epicentre Auckland are due to end mid-December and international borders restrictions will loosen progressively from January.
2nd Dec 2021 - Reuters

UK study finds mRNA COVID-19 vaccines provide biggest booster impact

COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna that use mRNA technology provide the biggest boost to antibody levels when given 10-12 weeks after the second dose, a British study published on Thursday has found. The "COV-Boost" study was cited by British officials when they announced that Pfizer and Moderna were preferred for use in the country's booster campaign, but the data has only been made publicly available now. The study found that six out of the seven boosters examined enhanced immunity after initial vaccination with Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine, while all seven increased immunity when given after two doses of AstraZeneca's (AZN.L) vaccine. "A third dose will be effective for many of the vaccines we've tested and in many different combinations," Professor Saul Faust, an immunologist at the University of Southampton and the trial's lead, told reporters.
2nd Dec 2021 - Reuters


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 2nd Dec 2021

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COVID-19: Emerging picture from South Africa suggests Omicron variant could be real cause for concern

These graphs are showing a "sustained increase" in cases in recent days in most of South Africa's provinces. Out in front, is Gauteng province, home to Johannesburg and South Africa's capital Pretoria. This is where the Omicron was first documented. I've been told that data being published later this week will shows that nearly all this increase is likely due to cases of the Omicron variant. Like labs here in the UK, a PCR test for Omicron looks clearly different to the previously dominant Delta variant due to the "S-gene dropout". This is now the typical feature of cases in South Africa's fourth wave.
2nd Dec 2021 - Sky News


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 1st Dec 2021

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Austria extends COVID-19 lockdown by 10 days

An Austrian parliamentary committee on Tuesday, as widely expected, approved a decree extending the country's COVID-19 lockdown by 10 days, bringing its total duration to 20 days, which the government has said is the longest it will last. Faced with surging daily coronavirus infections, the conservative-led government introduced the lockdown on Monday of last week, the first country in Western Europe to reimpose a lockdown this autumn.
1st Dec 2021 - Reuters

The race is on to trace the new COVID-19 variant

Governments around the world are urgently scouring databases for recent cases of COVID-19 infections, screening travellers and decoding the viral genomes of the new variant as they try to measure how far it has spread. The pace of the work highlights the pressure on governments and public health authorities to decide quickly whether they need to take unpopular, economically damaging steps to curb Omicron's spread. Data shows it was circulating before it was officially identified in southern Africa last week and it has since been detected in more than a dozen countries read more . Work to establish if it is more infectious, deadly or evades vaccines will take weeks.
1st Dec 2021 - Reuters

Singapore close to vaccinating all eligible people against COVID-19

Singapore's COVID-19 vaccination rate has risen to 96% of the eligible population and authorities are now racing ahead to administer booster shots amid concerns over the Omicron variant. The health ministry of the city-state, which has among the highest vaccination rates in the world, said late on Tuesday that it had updated the official vaccination rate to account for a small drop in the population. As of Nov. 29, 96% of the eligible population had completed the full vaccination regimen, updated from 94%, the ministry said. That translates to about 86% of the total population of about 5.5 million.
1st Dec 2021 - Reuters

CDC says it is moving to tighten international COVID-19 testing rules

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed late Tuesday it is working to impose stricter COVID-19 testing rules for air travelers entering the United States amid concerns about a new COVID-19 variant. The CDC confirmed in a statement it is working to revise its current Global Testing Order "for travel as we learn more about the Omicron variant; a revised order would shorten the timeline for required testing for all international air travelers to one day before departure to the United States."
1st Dec 2021 - Reuters

UK PM Johnson says boosters should give higher protection from Omicron

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday said that it was likely booster COVID-19 vaccinations would increase protection against severe disease from the new Omicron variant even if effectiveness against infection was reduced. "The answer is everywhere and always to get the booster because we think it's overwhelmingly likely that the booster (and) getting vaccinated will give you more protection," he told broadcasters.
30th Nov 2021 - Reuters UK

How South African scientists spotted the Omicron COVID variant

On Friday Nov. 19, Raquel Viana, Head of Science at one of South Africa's biggest private testing labs, sequenced the genes on eight coronavirus samples - and got the shock of her life. The samples, tested in the Lancet laboratory, all bore a large number of mutations, especially on the spike protein that the virus uses to enter human cells. "I was quite shocked at what I was seeing. I questioned whether something had gone wrong in the process," she told Reuters, a thought that quickly gave way to "a sinking feeling that the samples were going to have huge ramifications".
30th Nov 2021 - Reuters


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 30th Nov 2021

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Omicron: Are gov’ts prepared to deal with a new COVID variant?

Countries around the world reimpose travel restrictions in response to new Omicron variant. Countries around the world were starting to reopen their borders and lift COVID-19 restrictions. But a new variant is now threatening to derail the progress made in the past few months. Several nations have already imposed travel restrictions to and from Southern Africa, where the Omicron variant was first detected.
29th Nov 2021 - Aljazeera.com

WHO warns that new virus variant poses ‘very high’ risk

The World Health Organization warned Monday that the global risk from the omicron variant is “very high” based on the early evidence, saying the mutated coronavirus could lead to surges with “severe consequences.” The assessment from the U.N. health agency, contained in a technical paper issued to member states, amounted to WHO’s strongest, most explicit warning yet about the new version that was first identified days ago by researchers in South Africa. It came as a widening circle of countries around the world reported cases of the variant and moved to slam their doors in an act-now-ask-questions-later approach while scientists race to figure out just how dangerous the mutant version might be.
29th Nov 2021 - The Associated Press

Pilots union asks Britain to set up winter fund amid Omicron concerns

The British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) on Monday urged the government to establish a "winter resilience fund" to support the ailing aviation industry, after some travel curbs were brought back to contain the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant. "The latest changes have shattered the fledgling confidence in air travel including for Christmas and new year bookings," said BALPA in a statement. Britain, which has so far reported 11 cases of the variant, has said arrivals from all countries would have to self-isolate until they receive a negative result from a PCR test and that face masks must be worn in retail settings.
29th Nov 2021 - Reuters

Omicron COVID-19 variant poses risks to global growth, inflation -rating agencies

The Omicron COVID-19 variant could hurt global growth prospects while also pushing prices higher, rating agencies Fitch Ratings and Moody's Investors Service said on Monday, after the World Health Organization said the variant carried a very high risk of infection surges. "The Omicron variant poses risks to global growth and inflation, especially as it comes during a period of already stretched supply chains, elevated inflation and labor market shortages," Elena Duggar, Associate Managing Director at Moody's, told Reuters in emailed comments.
29th Nov 2021 - Reuters

White House says U.S. agencies can delay punishing unvaccinated federal workers

The White House told federal agencies on Monday they can delay punishing thousands of federal workers who failed to comply with a Nov. 22 COVID-19 vaccination deadline. On Wednesday, the Biden administration said a total of 92% of U.S. federal workers have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Overall, 96.5% of the 3.5 million federal workers were considered to be in compliance with the administration's mandate announced in September because they either were vaccinated or had an exemption request granted or under consideration.
29th Nov 2021 - Reuters

Analysis: How fast does it spread?: Scientists ask whether Omicron can outrun Delta

As scientists race to understand the consequences of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, one of the most important questions is whether this new version of the coronavirus can outrun the globally dominant Delta variant. The World Health Organization on Friday designated Omicron a "variant of concern" just days after the variant was first reported in southern Africa. The WHO said it is coordinating with many researchers worldwide to better understand how the variant will impact the COVID-19 pandemic, with new findings expected within "days and weeks."
29th Nov 2021 - Reuters

Singapore, Malaysia reopen land border amid worries over the Omicron variant

Singapore and Malaysia reopened one of the world's busiest land borders on Monday, allowing vaccinated travellers to cross after nearly two years of being shut due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although travellers welcomed the chance to reunite with family and friends, there were concerns the border might be closed again due to the new Omicron coronavirus variant. As many as 300,000 Malaysians commuted daily to Singapore before the pandemic. The sudden closing of the border in March 2020 left tens of thousands stranded on both sides, separated from families and fearing for their jobs.
29th Nov 2021 - Reuters

New Zealand to ease COVID measures this week despite Omicron threat - PM

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday the country will move into a system of living with the COVID-19 virus later this week despite the new Omicron variant posing a fresh health threat to the world. There were no cases of the Omicron variant in New Zealand at this stage but the developing global situation showed why a cautious approach was needed at the borders, she said.
29th Nov 2021 - Reuters

COVID passports, vaccines helped EU tourism recovery - U.N.

Widespread use of COVID-19 "passports" and vaccines helped tourism recover faster in the European Union than in other parts of the world in the third quarter of 2021, a U.N. report said on Monday. Globally, international tourist arrivals rose 58% between July and September compared with the same period in 2020, the U.N. World Tourism Organisation barometer said. That was still 64% below the same period in 2019, before the pandemic.
29th Nov 2021 - Reuters


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 29th Nov 2021

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WHO reaches draft consensus on future pandemic treaty

Member states of the World Health Organization have reached a tentative consensus to negotiate a future agreement on preventing pandemics, bridging the gap between sides led by the European Union and United States, diplomats said on Sunday. The draft resolution, hammered out in negotiations over the weekend, will be presented for adoption to health ministers at the WHO's three-day special assembly that opens on Monday, they said.
28th Nov 2021 - Reuters

China study warns of 'colossal' COVID outbreak if it opens up like U.S., France

China could face more than 630,000 COVID-19 infections a day if it dropped its zero-tolerance policies by lifting travel curbs, according to a study by Peking University mathematicians. In the report published in China CDC Weekly by the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, the mathematicians said China could not afford to lift travel restrictions without more efficient vaccinations or specific treatments. Using data for August from the United States, Britain, Spain, France and Israel, the mathematicians assessed the potential results if China adopted the same pandemic control tactics as those countries.
28th Nov 2021 - Reuters

Aussie vaccine researchers rush to include Omicron in jab development

Australian vaccine researchers will be putting the Omicron coronavirus variant under the microscope, with experts saying the rise of the new strain highlights the urgent need for sovereign vaccine manufacturing. The emergence of Omicron has prompted the companies that make COVID-19 vaccines for Australia, including Pfizer and BioNTech and Moderna, to evaluate the efficacy of their products against the variant. Pfizer said it expects new data on the variant within a fortnight and would be able to tailor a new vaccine-specific variant within 100 days if it is found to be necessary. Nasdaq-listed Moderna, which is planning to set up operations in Australia, has said it is using a three-pronged strategy against Omicron. The company will evaluate data from a stronger booster shot of its original vaccine to see whether it is effective against the new strain. It is also studying two multi-variant booster candidates and will start work on an Omicron-specific booster in coming weeks.
28th Nov 2021 - The Age

Covid: Two cases of new variant Omicron detected in UK

Two people in the UK have been found to be infected with the new Covid variant, Omicron, the health secretary has said. Sajid Javid said the cases in Brentwood, Essex, and Nottingham were confirmed by the UK Health Security Agency after genomic sequencing. They are linked and connected to travel in southern Africa, and both cases and their households were self-isolating. The new variant has also been identified in South Africa, Botswana, Belgium, Hong Kong and Israel. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is holding a press conference at Downing Street with the chief scientific adviser to the government, Sir Patrick Vallance, and the UK's chief medical adviser Prof Chris Whitty.
27th Nov 2021 - BBC News

Covid Will Keep Spawning Variants Till the World Is Immune

So far, SARS-CoV-2’s most devastating impacts have been in developed countries. The U.S., U.K. and European Union have accounted for about a third of deaths, compared to their roughly 10% share of the world’s population. However, it’s been in the BRICS grouping of fast-growing middle- income nations where an outsized share of new variants of concern have been isolated and analyzed for the first time. From the original strain in China, to the Delta lineage picked up in India, the Gamma variety isolated in Brazil and the Beta and latest Omicron strains from South Africa, only the U.K.-related Alpha variant has emerged outside these countries.
27th Nov 2021 - Bloomberg

Israel to close borders to all foreigners due to omicron variant

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement that the country's borders would be closed to all foreigners due to concerns about the omicron variant and that Israeli citizens coming into the country would have to quarantine, regardless of their vaccination status. The statement, issued on Saturday, said that beginning at midnight between Sunday and Monday, the country’s borders would be closed to international travelers for two weeks pending approval from the government, Reuters reported. One case of the omicron variant has been confirmed in Israel and seven others in the country are suspected to have the variant, according to the news outlet.
27th Nov 2021 - The Hill

Israel Finds Case of New Covid Variant Discovered in South Africa

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said Israel was “on the verge of an emergency situation” after the new Covid-19 variant discovered in southern Africa was detected in a passenger arriving from Malawi. “Our cardinal principle is to act now forcefully and quickly,” Bennett said at a meeting with health officials, according to a statement from his office. “We are in a new situation now. This new variant is very worrying.” Scientists are still trying to determine whether the new strain, called B.1.1529, is more transmissible or more lethal than previous ones. What’s clear is that it has the most mutations of any strain yet identified. That’s raised concerns in South Africa and internationally, with authorities fearing a wave of cases that could increase pressure on already strained health-care systems.
26th Nov 2021 - Bloomberg

New Covid-19 variant raises risk of recovery limbo

A new Covid-19 mutation is threatening to suspend the world in coronavirus limbo. Countries including Britain and Singapore have imposed bans on travellers from South Africa and other nations where a concerning new variant has been detected. A highly infectious strain is a particular problem for economies with low vaccination rates. If it evades vaccines, another round of lockdowns could be on the cards at a time when governments and central banks have depleted firepower.
26th Nov 2021 - Reuters

WTO postpones major meeting over COVID-19 concerns -sources

The World Trade Organization (WTO) became the first major diplomatic casualty of the new coronavirus variant on Friday when it postponed its first ministerial meeting in four years due to the deteriorating health situation. Ministers from WTO members were due to have gathered next week for a meeting widely seen as a test of the WTO's relevance. The WTO said that its members had agreed late on Friday to postpone the ministerial conference after the new variant outbreak led to travel restrictions that would have prevented many ministers from reaching Geneva.
26th Nov 2021 - Reuters

U.S. President Biden calls for intellectual property protection waivers on COVID-19 vaccines

U.S. President Joe Biden on Friday called on nations expected to meet at the World Trade Organization next week to agree to waive intellectual property protections for COVID-19 vaccines in the wake of the identification of a new coronavirus variant in South Africa. However, the meeting he was referring to was later postponed after the new variant led to travel restrictions that would have prevented many participants from reaching Geneva
26th Nov 2021 - Reuters

New COVID variant Omicron triggers global alarm, market sell-off

The discovery of a new coronavirus variant named Omicron triggered global alarm on Friday as countries rushed to suspend travel from southern Africa and stock markets on both sides of the Atlantic suffered their biggest falls in more than a year. The World Health Organisation (WHO) said Omicron may spread more quickly than other forms, and preliminary evidence suggested there is an increased risk of reinfection. Epidemiologists warned travel curbs may be too late to stop Omicron from circulating globally. The new mutations were first discovered in South Africa and have since been detected in Belgium, Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong.
26th Nov 2021 - Reuters

Hong Kong finds two cases of new Covid variant identified in Africa

Two cases of the new Covid-19 strain raising alarm in parts of southern Africa have been found in travelers arriving in Hong Kong. A traveler from South Africa was found to have the variant—currently known as B.1.1.529—while the other case was identified in a person quarantined in the hotel room opposite them, the Hong Kong government said late Thursday. That person may have been infected as air flowed between the rooms, according to the government. B.1.1.529 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.
26th Nov 2021 - BusinessMirror

WHO Says New Strain Is a Variant of Concern, Names It Omicron

The World Health Organization said that a strain of coronavirus recently discovered by South African researchers is a variant of concern, posing a threat that could confound countries’ efforts to slow the spread of Covid-19. The WHO assigned the Greek letter omicron to the variant, which had been known as B.1.1.529, following a meeting by a panel of experts Friday. Scientists say the variant carries a high number of mutations in its spike protein, which plays a key role in the virus’s entry into cells in the body. It’s also what is targeted by vaccines, so if the protein changes enough, it raises concern that the mutations could make immunizations less effective.
26th Nov 2021 - Bloomberg

Dozens of COVID-19 cases on flight from South Africa, Dutch authorities say

Dutch health authorities said that dozens of people who arrived in Amsterdam on two flights from South Africa on Friday are likely infected with COVID-19, and they are conducting further testing to see if people are infected with the recently discovered Omicron coronavirus variant. Around 600 passengers arrived at Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport on the two KLM flights on Friday and then faced hours of delays and testing due to concerns over thenew virus variant. On the basis of initial testing, the Dutch health ministry estimated there may be around 85 positive cases among the passengers.
26th Nov 2021 - Reuters

Chris Whitty: I worry people won't accept more Covid curbs

England's chief medical officer Chris Whitty has said his "greatest worry" is whether people will accept fresh curbs on activities to tackle Covid variants. His comments came after the government announced quarantines on travellers from some African countries following the emergence of a new strain. Prof Whitty said he questioned whether "we could take people with us" if restrictions had to be imposed. England has been through three national lockdowns since Covid first struck. There have also been many local restrictions imposed at various points during the past 20 months.
26th Nov 2021 - BBC News

New Covid variant: World could be dealing with a ‘totally new pandemic,’ WHO envoy David Nabarro says

The new super-variant could pose such a risk to vaccines that the world could be dealing with a “totally new pandemic”, a covid expert has said. David Nabarro, special envoy on Covid-19 for the World Health Organisation, said the variant B.1.1.529 that has been found in South Africa has been provisionally labelled with the Greek letter Nu. He said the variant posed a serious threat because the extent of its 32 mutations suggested it had a greater capacity to evade immunity from vaccines.
26th Nov 2021 - iNews


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

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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.
26th Nov 2021 - Reuters

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.
26th Nov 2021 - The Times of Israel

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.”
25th Nov 2021 - Bloomberg

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.
25th Nov 2021 - Reuters

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.
25th Nov 2021 - Reuters on MSN.com

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."
25th Nov 2021 - Reuters

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
25th Nov 2021 - The Associated Press

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
25th Nov 2021 - Github.com


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 25th Nov 2021

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New Botswana variant with 32 'horrific' mutations is the most evolved Covid strain EVER

Only 10 cases of the strain — dubbed B.1.1.529 — have been spotted to date so far. The variant has 32 mutations, many of which suggest it is more vaccine resistant. Scientists warn the variant could be worse 'than nearly anything else about.' Dr Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College who first picked up on its spread, described the variant's combination of mutations as 'horrific'. He warned that B.1.1.529, its scientific name, had the potential to be 'worse than nearly anything else about' — including the world-dominant Delta strain. Scientists told MailOnline, however, that its unprecedented number of mutations might work against it and make it 'unstable', preventing it from becoming widespread. They said there was 'no need to be overly concerned' because there were no signs yet that it was spreading rapidly.
24th Nov 2021 - Daily Mail

Non-profit groups tell WTO to reverse 'vaccine apartheid' before any meeting

More than 130 civil society groups largely from developing countries are calling for the World Trade Organization to cancel a ministerial conference next week and instead concentrate on approving an intellectual property waiver for COVID-19 vaccines. The groups, organized under a loose coalition called "Our World is Not For Sale," said in a letter on Wednesday to WTO members that "vaccine apartheid" caused by WTO intellectual property rules must be resolved first. The meeting would otherwise "lack any pretence of legitimacy," especially when some ministers may not be able to travel to Geneva, it said.
25th Nov 2021 - Reuters

Germany mulls full lockdown, vaccine mandate

German officials are mulling the possibility of enacting stricter coronavirus restrictions across the country amid a surge in daily infections. Chancellor Angela Merkel called on German state heads to decide whether to opt in to a full lockdown and vaccine mandate by Wednesday, according to CNBC. On Tuesday, health minister Jens Spahn starkly warned citizens that “pretty much everyone in Germany will be vaccinated, recovered or dead" by the end of this winter while calling for more restrictions to be put in place. He also called for more public places to implement the "3G rule," or to limit access to only those who are vaccinated, have had a negative COVID-19 test or recently recovered from the virus, CNBC reported.
24th Nov 2021 - The Hill

Germany faces grim COVID milestone with leadership in flux

As Germany inches toward the mark of 100,000 deaths from COVID-19, the country’s leader-in-waiting announced plans Wednesday to create an expert team at the heart of the next government to provide daily scientific advice on tackling the coronavirus pandemic. Olaf Scholz of the center-left Social Democrats announced the measure, along with the creation of a standing emergency committee, at the start of a news conference laying out the deal his party and two others have agreed to form a new government. “Sadly, the coronavirus still hasn’t been beaten,” Scholz said. “Every day we see new records as far as the number of infections are concerned.” German officials — from outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel to state governors and the three parties now poised for power — have been criticized for failing to take decisive steps to flatten the curve of infections during the transition period since September’s nation election.
24th Nov 2021 - The Associated Press

Unvaccinated Russian minors won't have to quarantine for Beijing

Russia's Olympic Committee chief said on Wednesday it had received assurances from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that its Under-18 athletes would not be subjected to three weeks of quarantine ahead of next year's Beijing Winter Games. China requires athletes and team officials to be vaccinated to avoid 21 days in quarantine ahead of the Games, which run from Feb. 4 to Feb. 20. Some exceptions for medical reasons can be granted on a case-by-case basis.
25th Nov 2021 - Reuters

France to announce COVID-19 booster shots for all adults - media

France is expected to announce that COVID-19 booster shots will be made available to all adults as well as stricter rules on wearing face masks and more stringent health pass checks to curb a new wave of infections, French media reported. Health Minister Olivier Veran is due to hold a press conference at midday on Thursday. President Emmanuel Macron's government on Wednesday said it would focus on tougher social distancing rules and a faster booster shot programme and that it wanted to avoid the lockdowns being imposed once more by some other European countries.
25th Nov 2021 - Reuters

Here’s what the UK can learn from other countries’ responses to Covid-19

Looking at how health services in different countries have responded to Covid, we can see some common ground. Many countries are increasing funding for health services, expanding the number of frontline clinical staff, providing separate areas to care for patients with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, and using digital technology to deliver virtual rather than face-to-face appointments. But there are some distinctions: peer a bit closer and it is clear that we have something to teach and something to learn from every healthcare system. The UK has its achievements to share, from a nationalised (and devolved) system that can pool surgical resources in local areas and support mass trials to test new treatments, to a historically strong primary care model that played a key role in delivering the largest vaccination programme in British history while continuing to deliver daily care to patients.
24th Nov 2021 - The Guardian

EU should make COVID booster shot a condition for free travel, Greek PM says

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis proposed on Wednesday that the EU's executive arm make having a booster shot against COVID-19 a condition for some Europeans to travel freely across the bloc, amid a resurgence in infections. Data from a large study released by Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech SE has shown that a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by them was 95.6% effective against the coronavirus when compared with a vaccinated group that did not get the third shot
24th Nov 2021 - Reuters


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Covid jab wait for 12- to 15-year-olds in England could be up to five months

Delays to the vaccination rollout mean some 12- to 15-year-olds may not get their Covid jab until February next year – 15 weeks after the government’s original target for offering the jab to all eligible teenagers, according to Labour. Officials originally set October half-term as the target to invite those in the age group to receive the vaccine in schools after criticism that England was slow to approve it for children compared to other countries. New analysis by Labour suggests however that if the vaccination of the 2.8m eligible 12- to 15-year-olds continues at the current rate, it could take until 7 February for some teenagers to be jabbed – a five-month wait for some.
24th Nov 2021 - The Guardian

Germans Line Up at Vaccine Centers as Booster Push Accelerates

Germany’s sluggish Covid vaccine campaign is rattling back to life, with many snapping up online appointments for shots and others enduring hours of lines in the cold to receive more protection against the coronavirus. Some are taking to Twitter to voice frustration, elation or both at the surge in demand for Covid shots. Comments thanked those hardy enough to brave the elements for a shot, while others criticized authorities for not better organizing the latest inoculation push.
23rd Nov 2021 - Bloomberg

COVID-19: Take a lateral flow test before you visit busy places this Christmas, says government

The government is advising people to take a COVID-19 test before they spend time in "crowded and enclosed spaces" this winter. The Cabinet Office had previously advised people to take two lateral flow tests a week, especially if they have school-age children or are meeting clinically vulnerable people. Now the public is being told to take rapid lateral flow tests "if it is expected that there will be a period of high risk that day". It does not state what a high-risk scenario may be, but it could be an activity such as Christmas shopping in busy high streets or shopping centres. The Cabinet Office website says: "You are at higher risk of catching or passing on COVID-19 in crowded and enclosed spaces, where there are more people who might be infectious and where there is limited fresh air
23rd Nov 2021 - Sky News

Covid Curbs, Vaccine Mandates Spark Unrest in French Caribbean

Week-long protests on the French-Caribbean island of Guadeloupe spilled over into nearby Martinique this week, as residents rebel against Covid-19 restrictions and vaccine mandates for healthcare workers. The unrest comes as the two French jurisdictions have seen their tourism-based economies throttled by the pandemic and where distrust of politicians in Paris runs high, as does the unemployment rate. French Prime Minister Jean Castex held a video conference with Guadeloupe officials late Monday to discuss ways to end the crisis, his office said in an e-mailed statement. That meeting was supposed to happen in person but was held online after Castex tested positive for Covid-19.
23rd Nov 2021 - Bloomberg

U.S. Has Lost More Lives to Covid This Year Than Last

This was supposed to be the year vaccines brought the pandemic under control. Instead, more people in the United States have died from Covid-19 this year than died last year, before vaccines were available. As of Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had recorded 386,233 deaths involving Covid-19 in 2021, compared with 385,343 in 2020. The final number for this year will be higher, not only because there is more than a month left but because it takes time for local agencies to report deaths to the C.D.C. Covid-19 has also accounted for a higher percentage of U.S. deaths this year than it did last year: about 13 percent compared with 11 percent.
23rd Nov 2021 - The New York Times

As Virus Cases Rise in Europe, an Economic Toll Returns

Europe’s already fragile economic recovery is at risk of being undermined by a fourth wave of coronavirus infections now dousing the continent, as governments impose increasingly stringent health restrictions that could reduce foot traffic in shopping centers, discourage travel and thin crowds in restaurants, bars and ski resorts. Austria has imposed the strictest measures, mandating vaccinations and imposing a nationwide lockdown that began on Monday. But economic activity will also be dampened by other safety measures — from vaccine passports in France and Switzerland to a requirement to work from home four days a week in Belgium.
23rd Nov 2021 - The New York Times


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Official: More than 90% of fed workers got shots by deadline

More than 90% of federal workers received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Monday’s deadline set by President Joe Biden. Biden announced in September that more than 3.5 million federal workers were required to undergo vaccination, with no option to get regularly tested instead, unless they secured an approved medical or religious exemption. A U.S. official said the vast majority of federal workers are fully vaccinated, and that a smaller number have pending or approved exceptions to the mandate. In all, more than 95% of federal workers are in compliance with the Biden mandate, the official said, either by being vaccinated or having requested an exemption. Workers who are not in compliance are set to begin a “counseling” process that could ultimately result in their termination if they don’t get a shot or secure an approved exception to vaccination.
23rd Nov 2021 - The Associated Press

Canada ends COVID-19 policy turning back asylum-seekers between border crossings

Canada is ending its pandemic-era policy of turning back asylum-seekers trying to cross into the country between ports of entry, according to a revised policy document released on Sunday. Canada turned at least 544 would-be refugees back to the Unites States between March 2020 and mid-October. The government did not immediately respond to questions regarding why it was ending the policy now and what if any quarantine rules would apply to asylum-seekers who are not vaccinated.
23rd Nov 2021 - Reuters

Israel starts vaccinating young children as coronavirus cases rise

Israel began rolling out Pfizer/BioNtech COVID-19 vaccinations for 5- to 11-year-olds on Monday hoping to beat down a recent rise in coronavirus infections. A fourth wave of infections that hit Israel in June began subsiding in September. But over the past two weeks the "R", or reproduction rate of the virus, that had remained below one for two months began climbing and has now crossed that threshold, indicating the virus could again be spreading exponentially. Daily cases have also crept up over the past few days, with half the confirmed infections presently among children age 11 and younger.
23rd Nov 2021 - Reuters

U.S. issues 'Do Not Travel' COVID-19 warning for Germany, Denmark

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the State Department on Monday advised against travel to Germany and Denmark because of a rising number of COVID-19 cases in those countries. The CDC elevated its travel recommendation to "Level Four: Very High" for the two European countries, telling Americans they should avoid travel there, while the State Department issued parallel "Do Not Travel" advisories for both countries.
23rd Nov 2021 - Reuters

Experimental chewing gum may reduce virus spread; Booster shot protection may be longer lasting

An experimental chewing gum containing a protein that "traps" coronavirus particles could limit the amount of virus in saliva and help curb transmission when infected people are talking, breathing or coughing, researchers believe. The gum contains copies of the ACE2 protein found on cell surfaces, which the virus uses as a gateway to break into cells and infect them. In test-tube experiments using saliva and swab samples from infected individuals, virus particles attached themselves to the ACE2 "receptors" in the chewing gum. As a result, the viral load in the samples fell by more than 95%, the research team from the University of Pennsylvania reported in Molecular Therapy. The gum feels and tastes like conventional chewing gum, can be stored for years at normal temperatures, and chewing it does not damage the ACE2 protein molecules, the researchers said. Using gum to reduce viral loads in saliva , they suggest, would add to the benefit of vaccines and would be particularly useful in countries where vaccines are not yet available or affordable.
22nd Nov 2021 - Reuters

90% of U.S. federal employees have received at least one COVID-19 dose - White House

The White House confirmed Monday that more than 90% of 3.5 million federal employees covered by a presidential COVID-19 vaccine mandate have received at least one vaccine dose ahead of a Monday deadline. In total, the administration has deemed 95% of federal workers comply with its requirements in that either they have been vaccinated, are completing vaccinations or have a pending religious or medical exemption request, the White House said. Officials declined to disclose to Reuters the total number of fully vaccinated federal employees, but said the "vast majority" of the 90% have received both doses.
22nd Nov 2021 - Reuters

U.S. families plan big holiday celebrations with COVID-19 shots in arms

Tanya Primiani will host 12 people around a long Thanksgiving table in her Silver Spring, Maryland home on Thursday, a boisterous scene she looks forward to welcoming after the COVID-19 pandemic limited the size of last year's gathering. Her parents are coming from Montreal, driving across the recently reopened U.S.-Canada border. Her sons, ages 7 and 10, have gotten their first round of COVID-19 vaccinations, and all the other guests are fully vaccinated against the virus
22nd Nov 2021 - Reuters

New Zealand to end tough COVID curbs, adopt new virus-fighting system

New Zealand will adopt a new system of living with the coronavirus virus from Dec. 3, which will end tough restrictions and allow businesses to operate in its biggest city, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday. New Zealand remained largely COVID-19 free until August but has been unable to beat an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant, forcing Ardern to abandon an elimination strategy and switch to treating the virus as endemic.
22nd Nov 2021 - Reuters

EU wants to harmonize validity period of vaccination certificate

The European Commission aims to harmonize the duration of the validity of the COVID-19 vaccination certificate, including the effects of booster shots, Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said on Monday, amid record infection numbers in some EU states. "I fully agree with the urgency, and this is why the European Commission is working with the utmost urgency to strengthen the coordination of free movement, including the length of validity and the role of boosters in the vaccination campaign," she told European lawmakers in Strasbourg
22nd Nov 2021 - Reuters


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Singapore relaxes tight COVID-19 social curbs from Monday

Singapore's government is easing some of the tight social curbs it imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19, after infections stabilised in the city-state over the past month. From Monday, limits on social interactions and dining out will be expanded to five people from the current rule of up to two vaccinated people, government ministers told a news conference on Saturday.
20th Nov 2021 - Reuters

COVID surge in Europe shows 'critical' need to vaccinate millions still not jabbed in UK, SAGE expert warns

Spiking coronavirus infections across Europe show the "critical" need for people in the UK get vaccinated, a government scientific adviser has told Sky News. Soaring cases on the continent underlined "how quickly things can go wrong", said Professor John Edmunds, who pointed out there were still "many millions" across Britain, who were still not fully vaccinated while some had not had any COVID-19 shots. His comments came as a number of European countries wrestle with a resurgence of the coronavirus.
20th Nov 2021 - Sky News

Austria imposes full COVID lockdown, makes vaccination mandatory

Austria will become the first country in Western Europe to reimpose a full coronavirus lockdown to tackle a new wave of infections and will require its whole population to be vaccinated by February, its government has said. Friday’s announcement came as roughly two-thirds of Austria’s population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, one of the lowest rates in western Europe. The country’s infection rate is among the highest on the continent, with a seven-day incidence of 991 per 100,000 people. Austria had introduced a lockdown for all those who were unvaccinated on Monday but since then, infections have set new records.
20th Nov 2021 - Aljazeera.com

Scientists mystified, wary, as Africa avoids COVID disaster

There is something “mysterious” going on in Africa that is puzzling scientists, said Wafaa El-Sadr, chair of global health at Columbia University. “Africa doesn’t have the vaccines and the resources to fight COVID-19 that they have in Europe and the U.S., but somehow they seem to be doing better,” she said. Fewer than 6% of people in Africa are vaccinated. For months, the WHO has described Africa as “one of the least affected regions in the world” in its weekly pandemic reports.
20th Nov 2021 - The Associated Press

Covid Surge May Be New Year Market Risk Missed by Strategists

A fresh blast of the pandemic may be catching traders and investment strategists off guard. As countries throughout Europe announce new restrictions going as far as full lockdowns, research notes outlining risks and opportunities for 2022 appear to completely ignore the virus. The word “lockdown” isn’t even mentioned in year-ahead outlooks for Europe circulated by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley. Meanwhile, in a Bank of America Corp. survey this week, fund managers saw Covid-19 as only the fifth-biggest tail risk, with just 5% expressing concern about its potential impact on markets. Inflation, central bank rate hikes, stalling Chinese growth and asset bubbles topped the list.
20th Nov 2021 - Bloomberg

COVID comeback threatens fresh setback for European market bulls

COVID-19 lockdowns have returned anew to haunt Europe's economic prospects, forcing investors on Friday to reassess portfolios and sell vulnerable assets such as the euro and bank stocks. Days after the Netherlands, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic reimposed curbs, Austria put itself back under lockdown and Germany's health minister refused to rule out one.
20th Nov 2021 - Reuters

Philippines to reopen 'soon' to vaccinated foreign tourists

The Philippines has approved a plan to allow entry soon to foreign tourists vaccinated against COVID-19, its tourism ministry said on Friday, following moves by other Southeast Asian countries to relax travel curbs. The coronavirus task force "approved in principle the entry of fully vaccinated tourists" from countries with low COVID-19 cases, the ministry said, adding that guidelines must be finalised.
20th Nov 2021 - Reuters


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Australia's Political Capital Is Almost Completely Vaccinated

Almost all eligible citizens in Australia’s “Bush Capital” have had at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine and it is expected to reach full inoculation next month, a milestone that shows just how fast the nation has overcome a slow start to its vaccination rollout. Canberra, one of a number of highly vaccinated cities in the Asia-Pacific region, achieved the feat by relying on education and access to get its citizens to embrace the rollout, according to Andrew Barr, the chief minister of the Australian Capital Territory which oversees the city. Data show the city’s vaccination rate is at 96.8% for eligible people aged 12 and over. In terms of first doses, it’s given more than its population size as estimated by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Barr says the real figure is likely to be around 99.9%, with just a few hundred people remaining unvaccinated. He expects a similar threshold for full inoculation to be reached by mid-December.
19th Nov 2021 - Bloomberg

Bill Gates Says Covid Deaths May Drop to Flu Levels by Mid-2022

Covid deaths and infection rates may dip below seasonal flu levels by the middle of next year assuming new dangerous variants don’t emerge in the meantime, Bill Gates said. Between natural and vaccine immunity and emerging oral treatments, “the death rate and the disease rate ought to be coming down pretty dramatically,” the billionaire founder of Microsoft Corp. said Thursday at the Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore. The constraints on vaccinating the world against Covid-19 will shift next year, Gates said, as supply issues are resolved and replaced by questions of how to logistically distribute them all. “The vaccines are very good news, and the supply constraints will be largely solved as we get out in the middle of next year, and so we’ll be limited by the logistics and the demand,” Gates said in a virtual interview with Bloomberg News Editor-in-Chief John Micklethwait.
19th Nov 2021 - Bloomberg

Prospects of Intellectual-Property Waiver on Covid-19 Vaccines Fade

An agreement to waive the intellectual-property rights underpinning Covid-19 vaccines—a prospect poor countries have hoped would ease supplies to the developing world—is becoming increasingly unlikely, say people familiar with the situation, with the U.S. not acting to bridge disagreements between developing world countries and those opposing such a measure. In May, the Biden administration said it would support temporarily suspending patents and other IP linked to the shots to allow developing countries to produce the Covid-19 vaccines created by big drug companies. The U.S. was under pressure to help get vaccines to poor countries, which have suffered severe shortages. Confirmed deaths from Covid-19 in the developing world have far outstripped those in rich countries this year.
18th Nov 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

New Reconstruction Points to Animal Origins for Covid-19

A scientist known for investigating viral origins has reconstructed the first known weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic, adding to a growing body of evidence that the virus behind it jumped from infected animals to humans rather than emerging from laboratory research. In a paper published Thursday in the academic journal Science, Michael Worobey concludes a wholesale seafood market in Wuhan, China, where live mammals were sold is very likely to be the site of the origin of the pandemic. The precise role of the Huanan market in the pandemic has been debated by scientists. Dr. Worobey, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Arizona who previously unearthed clues about the origins of the 1918 pandemic flu and HIV, showed that most of the known Covid-19 cases in December 2019 had a direct or indirect link to the Huanan market. These infected people worked at the market, visited it, had contact with someone who was there or lived nearby, he found by piecing together genetic data, reports and accounts of early patients.
18th Nov 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

Germany to limit public life for the unvaccinated

Germany will limit large parts of public life in areas where hospitals are becoming dangerously full of COVID-19 patients to those who have either been vaccinated or have recovered from the illness, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday. The move is necessary to tackle a "very worrying" fourth wave of the pandemic that is overburdening hospitals, she said. "Many of the measures that are now needed would not have been needed if more people were vaccinated. And it isn't too late to get vaccinated now," Merkel said.
18th Nov 2021 - Reuters

India allows export of 20 mln Novavax vaccine doses to Indonesia -document, source

India has approved the export of 20 million doses of the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine made by the Serum Institute of India (SII) to Indonesia, according to a government document seen by Reuters and a government source.
18th Nov 2021 - Reuters

Macron says France will not need to lockdown non-vaccinated people as COVID spreads

France does not need to follow those European countries imposing COVID-19 lockdowns on unvaccinated people, because of the success of its health pass in curbing the virus' spread, President Emmanuel Macron said. Europe has again become the epicentre of the pandemic, prompting some countries including Germany and Austria to reintroduce restrictions in the run-up to Christmas and causing debate over whether vaccines alone are enough to tame COVID-19.
18th Nov 2021 - Reuters

Ardern’s Covid lockdown finds favour as New Zealand watches Sydney’s Delta disaster

The loudest overseas critics of its elimination approach have been mostly greeted with bemusement or defiance. New Zealanders have consistently supported even the toughest anti-Covid measures. About 80% rated the government’s Covid-19 response as overall good, according to polling commissioned by the Spinoff in February, and 59% rated the response as “excellent”. The satirical hashtag #NZhellhole, which pokes fun at some of the more hysterical reactions to NZ lockdowns, was again trending on Wednesday. “If [overseas commentators] are surprised then they haven’t been paying attention,” says Dr Siouxsie Wiles, one of the country’s prominent epidemic communicators. In New Zealand, Wiles says, “the vast majority of people understand what we are up against, and are supportive of our response.”
18th Nov 2021 - The Guardian

'Life back to normal': More COVID-19 curbs eased in Melbourne

Melbourne's pubs and cafes can have unlimited patrons from Thursday night, while stadiums can return to full capacity as authorities lifted nearly all remaining COVID-19 restrictions for the vaccinated residents in Australia's second-largest city. Victoria, the state that is home to Melbourne, has been gradually easing curbs when dual-dose inoculations reached 70%, 80% and 90%, with the latest relaxations part of a shift in strategy towards living with the coronavirus. The full vaccination level for the eligible population is expected to reach 90% over the weekend.
18th Nov 2021 - Reuters

Mask-wearing cuts Covid incidence by 53%, says global study

Mask-wearing is the single most effective public health measure at tackling Covid, reducing incidence by 53%, the first global study of its kind shows.Vaccines are safe and effective and saving lives around the world. But most do not confer 100% protection, most countries have not vaccinated everyone, and it is not yet known if jabs will prevent future transmission of emerging coronavirus variants. Globally, Covid cases exceeded 250 million this month. The virus is still infecting 50 million people worldwide every 90 days due to the highly transmissible Delta variant, with thousands dying each day. Now a systematic review and meta analysis of non-pharmaceutical interventions has found for the first time that mask wearing, social distancing and handwashing are all effective measures at curbing cases – with mask wearing the most effective.
18th Nov 2021 - The Guardian

Portugal's Madeira Island Imposes Curbs on Unvaccinated People

The Portuguese island of Madeira will impose new restrictions on unvaccinated residents and visitors amid a surge in coronavirus cases across Europe. People who have not been vaccinated will be banned from attending public events such as concerts from Saturday, Miguel Albuquerque, the president of Madeira’s regional government, said in a televised press conference on Thursday. Unvaccinated people are allowed to attend mass or go to the supermarket as long as they show a negative Covid-19 test. The use of masks will become mandatory in public spaces. Mass testing will also be carried out on a weekly basis to try to contain the spread of the virus, Albuquerque said.
18th Nov 2021 - Bloomberg

Greece Is the Latest European Country to Restrict the Unvaccinated

Greece will tighten restrictions on people unvaccinated against the coronavirus as rising cases and hospitalizations strain the nation’s health systems. It joins Germany, Austria and other European countries in attempting to pressure more people into getting their inoculations. "Even those who are still hesitant can change their minds by listening to what the unvaccinated who get sick have to say,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a televised national address on Thursday. Almost nine out of every 10 people in Greek ICUs with Covid-19 are unvaccinated, he said.
18th Nov 2021 - Bloomberg


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Spain Plans Booster Shots for Health Workers, Elderly as Covid Cases Rise

Spain will roll out Covid-19 booster shots to health workers and people older than 60, as the country seeks to contain a surge in infections that’s hitting across Europe. The move, which will be discussed with authorities in autonomous regions, aims to protect vulnerable groups, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Wednesday. He said the country’s high vaccination rates of about 80% has so far shielded the former hot spot from the worst of the latest wave of the pandemic. Spain’s 14-day average infection rate has climbed 67% in two weeks to 82 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, but it remains well below countries like Germany and Austria, where less than 70% of the people are vaccinated.
18th Nov 2021 - Bloomberg

Germany Pushes Work From Home to Counter Europe’s Covid Surge

Germany’s likely next ruling coalition is pushing ahead with tougher measures to tackle record increases in coronavirus cases, including requiring companies to let employees work from home where possible. The proposed law also in some cases limits access to the workplace to people who are vaccinated, recovered or provide a negative test, according to parliamentary documents published Wednesday. The Social Democrats, Greens and Free Democrats aim to use their Bundestag majority to get it through the lower house of parliament on Thursday. “The current pandemic situation in Germany is dramatic,” Chancellor Angela Merkel told a conference of municipal leaders on Wednesday. “The fourth wave is hitting our country with full force.”
18th Nov 2021 - Yahoo Finance

Europe Fights Winter Covid Surge With New Restrictions for Unvaccinated

It’s getting harder to be a vaccine holdout in Europe and continue with life as usual. As governments battle another wave of the outbreak, new restrictions are being introduced, many aimed at the unvaccinated. That’s adding to the pressure on those who’ve resisted the shot so far. Germany is proposing to limit access to the workplace to people who are inoculated, recovered or provide a negative test, and those who have refused shots are increasingly banned from cafes and hairdressers. The country, which has seen a surge in cases, has a vaccination rate below that of Italy, Spain and Portugal.
18th Nov 2021 - Bloomberg

UK health agency extends gap between infection and shots for children

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said on Wednesday that children aged between 12 and 15 should delay getting a COVID-19 vaccine if they've recently had COVID to at least 12 weeks after they were infected. The advice brings guidance for 12 to 15-year-olds into line with that for 16 and 17-year-olds, who were advised to wait 12 weeks after infection before getting a shot when officials gave a go ahead for second doses for that age group. Currently, 12 to 15-year-olds are only advised to get an initial shot of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine, which has been associated with rare, mild and usually short-lived side effect of heart inflammation known as myocarditis.
18th Nov 2021 - Reuters

Defense Department will help relieve 2 Minnesota hospitals

The Department of Defense will send medical teams to two major Minnesota hospitals to relieve doctors and nurses who are swamped by a growing wave of COVID-19 patients, Gov. Tim Walz announced Wednesday. The teams, each comprising 22 people, will arrive at Hennepin County Medical Center and St. Cloud Hospital next week and begin treating patients immediately, Walz said in a conference call from the Finnish capital of Helsinki. the latest stop on his European trade mission. Minnesota has become one of the country’s worst hotspots for new COVID-19 infections. Hospital beds are filling up with unvaccinated people, and staffers are being worn down by the surge. Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said Tuesday that she’s ready to expand access to booster vaccines to all adults by the end of the week if the federal government doesn’t act first. “Our best defense against this is the vaccine,” Walz told reporters. He noted that Minnesota is No. 2 in the county for the number of booster shots given, behind only Vermont, and that first doses have risen 60% over the last week. “And we know that that is our way out of this. ... I need Minnesotans to recognize, as we’ve been saying, this is a dangerous time.”
18th Nov 2021 - The Associated Press

Sweden to introduce COVID vaccine passes for indoors events

The Swedish government plans to introduce a requirement for COVID-19 vaccine passes at indoor events where more than 100 people attend, a step recommended by health officials warning of a rising tide of infections in coming weeks. Infection rates have soared across large swaths of Europe in recent weeks and while Sweden - hard hit at times earlier in the pandemic - has yet to record a similar surge, healthy agency modelling suggests infections will reach a peak in mid-December. The centre-left government was preparing a bill to be put forward to parliament with the aim to having the vaccination passes in effect from Dec. 1, Health Minister Lena Hallengren said.
17th Nov 2021 - Reuters

Mulled wine only for vaccinated at some German Christmas markets

At the Christmas market on Hamburg's main square this year, only revellers who are vaccinated against COVID-19 or recently recovered will be able to indulge in steaming hot mulled wine and candied almonds or gingerbread under festive fairy lights. The unvaccinated will still be able to peruse the bottle-green stalls selling handicrafts, listen to carols, ride on the merry-go-round or admire the nativity scenes.
17th Nov 2021 - Reuters

Merck's Covid Pill Partner in India Sees a Short-Lived Boom

For a drugmaker licensed to produce Merck & Co.’s promising Covid-19 pill and sell Russia’s Sputnik V shot, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd. is surprisingly mellow about the rewards it expects from these medical breakthroughs even as virus waves continue to hit parts of the world. “Covid portfolios are going to be short-lived,” G.V. Prasad, its co-chairman and managing director said in an interview at the company’s headquarters in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad. “Life-cycles tend to be shorter, the opportunity will be very competitive, so I don’t see Covid medicines as a driver of profit.”
17th Nov 2021 - Bloomberg


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Dutch plan to drop 'corona pass' for unvaccinated faces political push back

The Dutch government's plan to scrap the "corona pass" for people not vaccinated against COVID-19 faced strong opposition in parliament on Tuesday, including from within the ruling coalition. The pass, which grants access to indoor public venues, is now available to people who have been vaccinated, have recovered from COVID-19 or have tested negative for the virus. Under a proposal put forward by caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Friday, the last option would be dropped. But in an evening debate, even one of Rutte's own four-party coalition government partners expressed concerns that it would cause social division.
16th Nov 2021 - Reuters

Pfizer Will Allow Its Covid Pill to Be Made and Sold Cheaply in Poor Countries

Pfizer announced a deal on Tuesday to allow its promising Covid-19 treatment to be made and sold inexpensively in 95 poorer nations that are home to more than half of the world’s population. The agreement follows a similar arrangement negotiated by Merck last month, and together the deals have the potential to vastly expand global production of two simple antiviral pills that could alter the course of the pandemic by preventing severe illness from the coronavirus.
16th Nov 2021 - The New York Times

U.K. Missing 465000 People From Workforce Since Covid Hit

Britain continues to face severe labor market shortages despite the end of the furlough program because 465,000 people have disappeared from the workforce since the start of the pandemic, according to Bank of America. Ending the benefit on Sept. 30 for those out of work during lockdowns was expected to bring people who had given up on job hunting back into employment. “That has not happened yet,” Bank of America economist Rob Wood said in a note on Tuesday. U.K. payroll numbers jumped by 160,000 to a new high in October, suggesting the economy can absorb many of the 1 million workers who were on furlough when the program closed. Official unemployment for the month of September dropped to 3.9%, lower than immediate pre-pandemic levels.
16th Nov 2021 - Bloomberg

Germany Plans Stricter Covid Restrictions for Unvaccinated People

Germany is heading toward stiffer restrictions on people who have refused a Covid-19 vaccine, as authorities across Europe seek to rein in a renewed surge of the disease. Europe’s largest economy is grappling with its worst outbreak in the pandemic, posting a fresh record in its contagion rate on Tuesday. The country’s response has been complicated by a change in power, with Chancellor Angela Merkel in a caretaker role while negotiations to form a new government proceed. Under pressure to act, lawmakers from the potential ruling coalition are planning to introduce legislation later this week that would impose tougher curbs on people who haven’t been inoculated, including requiring tests to go to work and take public transportation.
16th Nov 2021 - Bloomberg

Pfizer Covid Pill: US to Buy Enough for 10 Million Patients

The Biden administration plans to buy enough of Pfizer Inc.’s new Covid-19 pill to treat 10 million patients, people familiar with the matter say. Pfizer’s pill to treat the disease caused by the coronavirus showed extraordinary results in a clinical trial, reducing hospitalization and death by 89% among high-risk Covid-19 patients. The company said Tuesday it asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency-use authorization for the pill, administered twice a day for five days. The administration has also ordered about 3.1 million courses of a pill from Merck & Co., and has an option in its contract to purchase more than 2 million additional courses.
16th Nov 2021 - Bloomberg

Slovakia plans curbs on those unvaccinated for COVID-19 as hospitals fill up

Slovakia's hospitals are in a critical situation dealing with a surge in coronavirus infections and the government will approve measures on Thursday to limit access to services for unvaccinated people, Prime Minister Eduard Heger said. Europe has again become the epicentre of the pandemic, prompting countries like Slovakia and neighbouring Austria to re-introduce restrictions in the run-up to Christmas.
16th Nov 2021 - Reuters

Germany to follow Austria's lockdown apartheid: Berlin considers rules for 14m unvaccinated citizens

Incoming government recommending unvaccinated citizens be banned from public transport. It will also bar the unvaccinated from going to work and recommend WFH for all. Comes amid soaring infections and sluggish vaccine rollout across country States are warning that their hospitals will hit capacity by early December
16th Nov 2021 - Daily Mail

India opens borders to vaccinated foreign tourists

India opened its borders to fully vaccinated foreign tourists entering the country on commercial flights for the first time in nearly two years on Monday. Tourists entering the country must be fully vaccinated, test negative for the virus within 72 hours of their flight and follow all Covid-19 protocols, according to the health ministry. Travelers from countries that have mutual agreements with India on the recognition of vaccination certificates, including the United States, United Kingdom and multiple European nations, can leave the airport without undergoing a Covid-19 test. However, they must monitor their health for 14 days after their arrival.
16th Nov 2021 - CNN

Russia to lift COVID-19 ban on flights to Brazil, Argentina, other countries from Dec. 1

Russia will lift its COVID-19 ban on flights to countries including Bangladesh, Brazil, Mongolia, Costa Rica and Argentina from Dec. 1, the government coronavirus task force said on Tuesday. The government stopped normal commercial flights abroad when the pandemic struck last year, but it has since been gradually relaxing the restrictions. The flight bans dealt a heavy blow to Russia's airlines.
16th Nov 2021 - Reuters


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No 10 plans booster jab requirement for people to obtain Covid pass

Ministers are set to require three vaccinations from those eligible for booster jabs in order to qualify as being fully vaccinated in areas where people must prove their status, such as travel or avoiding mandatory isolation. Downing Street sources said the intention was to end up in a place where three jabs, rather than two, was the requirement to obtain a Covid pass showing full vaccination – though currently only over-40s are eligible for the booster. If the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) continues to recommend boosters for all adults six months after their second jab, then the requirement could be in place in England by the early spring.
16th Nov 2021 - The Guardian

Europe Toughens Rules for Unvaccinated as Fourth Covid Wave Swells

As temperatures drop and coronavirus infections spike across Europe, some countries are introducing increasingly targeted restrictions against the unvaccinated who are driving another wave of contagion and putting economic recoveries, public health and an eventual return to prepandemic freedoms at risk. On Monday, Austria set a new bar for such measures in the West. Facing a 134 percent increase in cases in the last two weeks, the Austrian government cracked down on its unvaccinated population over the age of 12, restricting their movement to traveling for work, school, buying groceries and medical care.
16th Nov 2021 - The New York Times

U.S. CDC raises COVID-19 travel warnings for Czech Republic, Hungary

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advised against travel to the Czech Republic, Hungary and Iceland because of a rising number of COVID-19 cases in those countries. The CDC raised its travel recommendation to "Level Four: Very High" for the three countries, telling Americans they should avoid travel there. The CDC separately lowered its COVID-19 travel advisory to "Level One: Low" for Japan, India, Pakistan, Liberia, Gambia and Mozambique.
15th Nov 2021 - Reuters

Boris Johnson Warns New U.K. Lockdown Is Possible With NHS Struggling

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson left the door open to another coronavirus lockdown this winter, warning that people must get their Covid-19 vaccinations and booster doses to avoid fresh restrictions. A “new wave” of Covid-19 is spreading across Europe and forcing governments to reimpose tougher rules, Johnson said at a televised press conference on Monday. “History shows we cannot afford to be complacent.” Asked directly about the possibility of another lockdown this Christmas, Johnson replied that there is nothing in the current data that signaled the need for restrictions, but warned: “clearly we cannot rule anything out.”
15th Nov 2021 - Bloomberg

Racial disparities in kids’ vaccinations are hard to track

The rollout of COVID-19 shots for elementary-age children has exposed another blind spot in the nation’s efforts to address pandemic inequalities: Health systems have released little data on the racial breakdown of youth vaccinations, and community leaders fear that Black and Latino kids are falling behind. Only a handful of states have made public data on COVID-19 vaccinations by race and age, and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not compile racial breakdowns either. Despite the lack of hard data, public health officials and medical professionals are mindful of disparities and have been reaching out to communities of color to overcome vaccine hesitancy. That includes going into schools, messaging in other languages, deploying mobile vaccine units and emphasizing to skeptical parents that the shots are safe and powerfully effective.
15th Nov 2021 - The Associated Press

COVID-19: Vaccine certificates now needed to visit theatres, cinemas and concert halls in Wales

People in Wales will now have to prove they are fully vaccinated or have had a negative lateral flow test to visit theatres, cinemas and concert halls after the existing NHS COVID Pass scheme was widened. Proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test in the previous 48 hours has been a requirement to enter nightclubs and similar venues in the nation since 11 October. But the Welsh Parliament has now extended the rules to cover cinemas, theatres and concert halls in response to a high level of COVID-19 cases across the country. The guidance on self-isolation had also changed and people are being encouraged to work from home to help bring the coronavirus under control.
15th Nov 2021 - Sky News

Philippines starts to reopen schools after 20-month coronavirus closure

Thousands of children in the Philippines returned to school on Monday for the first time in nearly two years, kicking off a pilot scheme to resume face-to-face learning after the pandemic disrupted the education of 27 million students. A hundred public schools in lower-risk areas are holding classes in person for a two-month pilot run, with the reopening of more dependent on vaccination rates and a sustained decline in COVID-19 cases. The Philippines, which had imposed some of the world's longest lockdowns, is among the last countries to reopen schools, in stark contrast to many western countries.
15th Nov 2021 - Reuters

India opens to fully vaccinated foreign tourists

India began allowing fully vaccinated foreign tourists to enter the country on regular commercial flights, in the latest easing of coronavirus restrictions as infections fall and vaccinations rise. Tourists entering India, starting on Monday, must be fully vaccinated, follow all COVID-19 protocols and test negative for the virus within 72 hours of their flight, according to the health ministry. Many will also need to undergo a post-arrival COVID-19 test at the airport.
15th Nov 2021 - AlJazeera


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 15th Nov 2021

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Austria brings back COVID-19 lockdown, this time for the unvaccinated

Austria is the first European country to reinstate the same restrictions on daily movements that applied during national lockdowns before vaccines were rolled out, though this time they only affect a minority of the population. "We are not taking this step lightly but it is necessary," Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg told a news conference announcing the new measure, under which the unvaccinated can only leave their homes for a limited number of reasons like going to work or shopping for essentials.
14th Nov 2021 - Reuters

As the U.S. Races to Vaccinate Kids Against Covid-19, Some Countries Hold Back

The U.S. is at the forefront of the race to vaccinate young children. Many governments elsewhere are treading more cautiously. In Mexico, the president says he won’t be held hostage by vaccine makers and there are no plans to inoculate under-18s except those at risk. In many parts of Africa, rollouts are going so slowly that vaccinating children is a distant ambition. Some governments are waiting to see how the campaign in the U.S. goes before moving ahead. The U.S., where children between 5 and 11 are getting shots for the first time this month, isn’t alone: Children as young as 3 are being vaccinated in countries such as Colombia, Argentina and China.
13th Nov 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

Brazil's top court rules that companies can require employee vaccination

Brazil's Supreme Court on Friday suspended a government order that prevented companies from requiring employees to provide proof that they have been vaccinate against COVID-19 and stopped dismissals of those not immunized. Brazil's far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, a vaccine skeptic, has criticized vaccine passports required in other countries. Brazil has suffered the second-deadliest coronavirus pandemic outside of the United States. Justice Luis Roberto Barroso said the pandemic had killed 610,000 Brazilians and it was reasonable to surmise that the presence of unvaccinated employees poses a threat to the health of the others.
13th Nov 2021 - Reuters

U.S. FDA may approve COVID-19 booster without outside advisory panel opinion -CNN

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is unlikely to ask its outside vaccine advisers to weigh in on whether the agency should authorize Pfizer (PFE.N) COVID-19 boosters for all adults, CNN reported on Friday, citing a source. The source told CNN "it's unlikely there is going to be a meeting" of the outside advisers and "there has been no discussion of a meeting" to discuss Pfizer's application. The FDA said the agency "will determine whether to hold a meeting of the advisory committee ... following its initial review of the information submitted," CNN added.
13th Nov 2021 - Reuters

As Merkel urges unvaccinated to reconsider, German army prepares to step in

Three German state health ministers urged parties negotiating to form a new government to prolong states' power to implement stricter pandemic measures such as lockdowns or school closures as the country's seven-day COVID incidence rate hit record highs. The number of people per 100,000 infected last week rose to 277.4, data from the Robert Koch Institute showed on Saturday, and has risen to over 500 in some regions of the country. The head of Germany's largest doctors association Marburger Bund told German media group Funke Mediengruppe that overburdened intensive care units may need to move patients between regions to find beds in coming weeks.
13th Nov 2021 - Reuters

Government ordered to release Covid lockdown impact assessments after refusing to make documents public

The government has been ordered to publish its assessments on the impact of national lockdowns and Covid restrictions after resisting making them public, The Independent can reveal. Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) officials drew up documents predicting how changing coronavirus rules would affect different groups but they have so far been kept secret. The Liberty human rights group requested the equality impact assessments under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, but was refused and told releasing them would “not be in the public interest”.
13th Nov 2021 - The Independent

German Vaccines Lag, Cases Spike, With Troops on Standby to Help

Germany is being battered by a fourth Covid wave, with low vaccination rates in its eastern states a big reason the virus has regained a foothold. The four regions registering the lowest vaccination rates -- Saxony, Thuringia, Brandenburg, and Saxony-Anhalt -- are all in the formerly communist East. No state in eastern Germany has an inoculation level that exceeds the nationwide rate of 67.5% fully vaccinated, with the exception of once-divided Berlin, according to health ministry data. Germany’s military will put as many as 12,000 troops on standby to help overburdened health clinics and to speed the rollout of booster vaccines, Der Spiegel reported Saturday
13th Nov 2021 - Bloomberg

Dutch return to partial lockdown as Covid surges

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Friday announced Western Europe's first partial lockdown of the winter, with three weeks of Covid curbs on restaurants, shops and sporting events. Protesters set off fireworks in The Hague after Rutte unveiled the "annoying and far-reaching" measures following a record spike of infections to more than 16,000 a day. At a news conference, Rutte said the situation required a "hard blow of a few weeks because the virus is everywhere, throughout the country, in all sectors and all ages". "Fortunately, the vast majority have been vaccinated, otherwise the misery in the hospitals would be incalculable at the moment."
12th Nov 2021 - Yahoo News

Dutch gov’t orders partial lockdown amid COVID surge

The lockdown that begins Saturday night is the first to start in Western Europe since a new wave of infections began surging across parts of the continent. Under the lockdown, bars, restaurants and supermarkets will have to close at 8pm (19:00 GMT), professional sports matches will be played in empty stadiums and people are being urged to work from home as much as possible. Stores selling non-essential items will have to close at 6pm. “Tonight we have a very unpleasant message with very unpleasant and far-reaching decisions,” Rutte said on Friday.
12th Nov 2021 - Al Jazeera English on MSN.com

Dutch Are Back to Partial Lockdown After Record Infections

The Netherlands is entering another lockdown after coronavirus infections hit records in recent days, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said. “We have a very difficult message tonight combined with drastic measures,” Rutte said at a press conference in The Hague on Friday. The country will enter a partial lockdown with bars and restaurants that need to shut down effective from Saturday 8 p.m. local time, Rutte added. Non-essential shops must close at 6 p.m. He strongly urged people to work from home as much as possible while there also will be a limit to invite a maximum amount of 4 people to socialize at home. The package will be reviewed Dec. 3, Rutte said.
12th Nov 2021 - Bloomberg

Austria set to place millions of unvaccinated people in lockdown, as chancellor slams 'shameful' shot uptake

Austria is days away from ordering millions of unvaccinated people to stay at home, its chancellor has said, in a rare move that underscores the increasing exasperation of European leaders towards those who have not yet been inoculated against Covid-19. Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg told reporters on Friday that the government should give the "green light" for the move this weekend. "The aim is clear: we want on Sunday to give the green light for a nationwide lockdown for the unvaccinated," Schallenberg said at a news conference in Innsbruck. He had earlier called the country's vaccination rate "shamefully low," and hinted that the measure would be triggered within days. "In other states that rate is a lot higher -- it is shameful as we have enough vaccines available,"
12th Nov 2021 - CNN

Austria plans to approve lockdown for the unvaccinated on Sunday

Austria's government is likely to decide on Sunday to impose a lockdown on people who are not fully vaccinated against the coronavirus as daily infections have surged to record levels, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said on Friday. Schallenberg did not say when the lockdown would take effect, but the two provinces hardest-hit by this wave of infections, Upper Austria and Salzburg, will introduce the measure for themselves on Monday.
12th Nov 2021 - Reuters

An Interview With Dr. Anthony Fauci

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, described the current status of the pandemic in the United States as a “mixed bag” that is leaning more toward the positive than the negative. But there is still work to do, he said, including dealing with complicated factors such as vaccination rates, contagious variants of the virus and waning immunity to infection. In our conversation, Dr. Fauci weighed in on vaccine mandates, booster shots and the end of the pandemic. “Ultimately, all pandemics burn themselves out,” he told us, adding: “So you have a choice. Do you want it to burn itself out and kill a lot more people and make a lot more people sick? Or do you want to do something about it to prevent further deaths and further illness?”
12th Nov 2021 - The New York Times

Ten EU Nations Causing 'Very High Concern' Over Covid

Ten countries in the 27-member European Union face a Covid situation of "very high concern", the bloc's diseases agency said Friday, warning the pandemic was worsening across the continent. "The overall epidemiological situation... was characterised by a high and rapidly increasing overall case notification rate and a low but slowly increasing death rate," the European Centre for Disease Control said. "Case notification rates, death rates, and hospital and ICU admissions are all forecast to increase over the next two weeks." In its latest weekly risk assessment, the agency listed 10 EU countries in its highest category of concern -- Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Netherlands, Poland and Slovenia.
12th Nov 2021 - Barrons

Experts optimistic Spain will avoid sixth coronavirus wave despite surge in cases across Europe

Despite the success of Spain’s Covid-19 vaccination drive – 88.9% of the over-12 population is fully vaccinated, according to the Health Ministry – there are growing concerns about the delicate situation in many other European countries. Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, which have lower vaccination rates than Spain, on Thursday reported the highest daily number of coronavirus cases seen since the beginning of the pandemic. Fatalities for Covid-19 are also rising in these countries. The question many are asking now is if Spain is on the brink of a sixth wave.
12th Nov 2021 - EL PAÍS


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 12th Nov 2021

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Unvaccinated should reflect on their duty to society, Merkel says

People who are still not vaccinated as the fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic takes hold in Germany must understand they have a duty to the rest of society to protect others, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday.
12th Nov 2021 - Reuters

Austrian Covid Hotspot to Impose Lockdown for Unvaccinated

The Austrian region with the highest coronavirus infection rate plans to impose a lockdown for unvaccinated people, as worsening outbreaks force authorities across central Europe to seek stronger incentives to get inoculated. Upper Austrians who haven’t taken the vaccine will only be allowed to leave home for work and to buy everyday goods from Monday, several newspapers said Thursday, citing state leader Thomas Stelzer. The national Covid task force has also recommended a similar measure for Salzburg.
11th Nov 2021 - Bloomberg

Dutch experts recommend Western Europe's first lockdown since summer

An advisory panel of pandemic experts in the Netherlands recommended on Thursday imposing western Europe's first partial lockdown since the summer, putting pressure on the government to take drastic and unpopular action to fight a COVID-19 surge. Caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte's cabinet is expected to take a decision on Friday on new measures following the recommendation of the Outbreak Management Team, a panel of experts, broadcaster NOS reported. Among measures under consideration are the cancellation of events, closing theatres and cinemas, and earlier closing times for cafes and restaurants, the NOS report said. Schools would remain open.
11th Nov 2021 - Reuters on MSN.com

Covid: Austrians heading towards lockdown for unvaccinated

Austrians are days away from a first lockdown for anyone not fully vaccinated, after record infections were reported across the country. Upper Austria province will impose restrictions from Monday if it gets the go-ahead from the federal government. Salzburg also plans new measures. Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said a national lockdown for the unvaccinated was "probably inevitable". Two-thirds of people should not suffer because others were hesitant, he said. Upper Austria, which borders Germany and the Czech Republic and has a population of 1.5 million, has the country's highest level of infection and the lowest vaccination rate.
11th Nov 2021 - BBC News

Taiwanese families say COVID-19 deaths didn't have to happen

It is at lunchtime that Nancy Chen misses her father the most. For 30 years, she ate every day with her parents at their apartment. Her father, despite being partially impaired by a stroke, would buy her a box lunch with cod. If she were 15 minutes late, he would worry and ask if she was working too hard. For the first year and a half of the coronavirus pandemic, it seemed that Taiwan would remain largely unscathed by the devastation playing out elsewhere. Aside from near-universal mask wearing, people went about their lives as normal. But Taiwan was caught off guard when the virus came. The health system couldn't handle the number of COVID tests needed and doctors lacked the right medications. The death toll rose quickly from just 12 to more than 800.
11th Nov 2021 - The Independent

Malaysia to reopen to international visitors by Jan. 1 - govt council

Malaysia will reopen its borders to international visitors by Jan. 1 at the latest, a government advisory council said on Thursday, as the country seeks to revive its ailing tourism sector. The Southeast Asian country has gradually reopened its economy in recent weeks as coronavirus infection rates have slowed amid a ramped-up vaccination programme. More than three-quarters of Malaysia's 32 million population are vaccinated, government statistics show.
11th Nov 2021 - Reuters

Diabetes problem makes Africa more vulernable to COVID-19 death, says WHO

Death rates from COVID-19 infections are much higher in patients with diabetes in Africa, where the number of people with diabetes is growing rapidly, the World Health Organization said on Thursday. A WHO analysis of data from 13 African countries found a 10.2% case fatality rate in COVID-19 patients with diabetes, compared with 2.5% for COVID-19 patients overall. "COVID-19 is delivering a clear message: fighting the diabetes epidemic in Africa is in many ways as critical as the battle against the current pandemic," said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, in a statement.
11th Nov 2021 - Reuters


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 11th Nov 2021

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France experiencing start of fifth wave of COVID epidemic -minister

France is at the beginning of a fifth wave of the coronavirus epidemic, Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Wednesday. "Several neighboring countries are already in a fifth wave of the COVID epidemic, what we are experiencing in France clearly looks like the beginning of a fifth wave," Veran said on TF1 television, adding the circulation of the virus was accelerating. The health ministry registered 11,883 new cases on Wednesday, the second day in a row with a new case tally over 10,000. New cases have seen double-digit percentage increases week-on-week since around mid-October.
11th Nov 2021 - Reuters

Denmark revisits its 'corona pass' as third wave of epidemic looms

Denmark's government on Monday proposed reinstating the use of a digital "corona pass" to be presented when Danes visit indoor bars and restaurants, as the country is entering a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Denmark was one of few countries to lift almost all remaining restrictions in September after having avoided a third wave of infections over spring and summer due to broad lockdown measures imposed since Christmas.
10th Nov 2021 - Reuters

Denmark to reintroduce Covid restrictions just two months after dropping them

Denmark is to reintroduce its coronavirus passport amid rising case numbers in the Nordic country. Parliament is preparing to designate the virus a “critical threat to society” just two months after almost all of Covid-19 restrictions were dropped, on September 10. It comes amid growing concerns about the pandemic’s resurgence in Europe as winter arrives. The Covid passport will be reintroduced in indoor bars and restaurants, as well as nightclubs. The digital “corona pass” indicates whether a person has been vaccinated, has had a recent negative test, or has recently recovered from Covid.
10th Nov 2021 - Evening Standard

The US and Europe have finally reconnected, but they're moving in different directions on Covid-19

In September, when the White House announced its long-awaited plan to welcome vaccinated European travelers, the United States was consumed by a Covid-19 surge that far outpaced Europe's. At that point the US rate of new cases per capita dwarfed Europe's by nearly three to one. While European governments were plotting their roadmaps towards normality, America was battling a rise in infections and warning of pressure on hospitals. But by Monday, when the new rules came into effect and thousands of tourists jetted across the Atlantic to American cities, the two regions had experienced a dramatic reversal in fortunes.
10th Nov 2021 - CNN

Aucklanders return to malls as New Zealand eases lockdown in biggest city

Article reports that sShops and malls in New Zealand's biggest city Auckland flung their doors open for the first time in three months on Wednesday as the city, which is at the epicentre of the country's coronavirus outbreak, gradually reopened. Retail stores filled up within hours of reopening due to pent up demand while some shoppers reportedly queued up outside malls overnight to take advantage of early bird offers at some stores.
10th Nov 2021 - Reuters


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 10th Nov 2021

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New data from Texas suggests unvaccinated people are 20 times more likely to die from COVID-19

The Texas Department of State Health Services released a report that analyzed COVID-19 cases and deaths starting from Jan. 15 through Oct. 1. The report initially found that unvaccinated people were 40 times more likely to die from COVID-19 between Jan. 15 and Oct. 1. But as the unvaccinated population shrunk, between Sept. 4 and Oct. 1 that number dropped to 20 times more likely to die.
10th Nov 2021 - The Hill

In vaccine-wary Latvia, bodies pile up in hospital morgue

In an inconspicuous building of the main hospital in the Latvian city of Daugavpils, bags containing the bodies of dead COVID-19 patients lie on the ground of a makeshift morgue, held here as city gravediggers clear space for new graves. Latvia, one of the least vaccinated countries in the European Union, is facing its most severe outbreak of COVID-19 yet. In Daugavpils, where vaccine uptake is especially low, deaths have soared.
9th Nov 2021 - Reuters

AstraZeneca to create separate division for vaccines, antibody therapies

AstraZeneca is creating a separate division for vaccines and antibody therapies to be led by senior executive Iskra Reić, the drugmaker said on Tuesday, as it builds focus on its COVID-19 shot and development of coronavirus treatments. News comes after review of vaccine operations. COVID-19 shot has suffered setbacks during pandemic. Company has antibody therapy proven to prevent infection Move shows company sees future for COVID-19 vaccine beyond pandemic - analyst.
9th Nov 2021 - Reuters

French president Macron: rise of Covid incidence rate is worrying

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday that those aged 65 and older will need to present proof of a COVID-19 booster shot from mid-December for health passes that give access to restaurants, trains and planes to remain valid. Besides, the third shot, so far available only for people older than 65 and the vulnerable, will from early December also be available for the 50-64 age group, Macron said in a televised address.
9th Nov 2021 - Reuters

India’s Race to Vaccinate Its Villages Meets With Rural Resistance

The stakes could hardly be higher, both for India and for the world. Public-health experts fear that a third wave of infections could soon wash over the subcontinent, shattering the uneasy calm that’s prevailed since the end of the second, which crested in May. Then, medical resources were so overwhelmed that some Delhi parks were converted into open-air crematoriums; in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, the bodies of victims were left to float down the Ganges. Now, with most urban residents either vaccinated or previously exposed to infection, it’s in rural areas where the virus will find the largest pool of immunologically naive targets.
9th Nov 2021 - Bloomberg

AstraZeneca Creates New Vaccines Unit for Its Covid-19 Assets

AstraZeneca Plc is creating a new unit to house its coronavirus assets, after the pandemic spurred the British pharmaceutical giant to move into the vaccines space. The company’s Covid-19 shot and antibody therapy will be placed in the new division, which will be run by executive Iskra Reic, Astra said in a statement Tuesday. The unit will house teams from the research, manufacturing and commercial departments. “In order to optimize the management of our existing portfolio of vaccines and antibodies for viral respiratory infections, we are creating a dedicated vaccines and immune therapies unit,” Astra said. “The team will be dedicated to our Covid-19 vaccine, our long-acting antibody combination and our developmental vaccine addressing multiple variants of concern.”
9th Nov 2021 - Bloomberg

The death rates from Covid in red America and blue America are growing further apart | TheHill

A partisan gap in COVID-19 deaths is widening, with just 40 percent of people in counties that had voted for Trump vaccinated compared to 53 percent of people in counties that had voted for Biden. The White House said last month that unvaccinated Americans face a more than 18 times higher risk of being hospitalized with COVID-19 than those who are vaccinated. Though former President Trump has received a COVID-19 vaccine and has encouraged other adults to do the same, other conservative leaders continue to make dubious or false claims about the vaccines.
9th Nov 2021 - The Hill

The US is reopening its borders to Europe, the global epicenter of Covid-19

The United States has reopened its borders to vaccinated international travelers, ending a 20-month travel ban at the same moment Europe is battling a surge of Covid-19 cases that has pushed the continent back into the epicenter of the pandemic.Fully vaccinated travelers from 33 countries -- including the United Kingdom and much of Europe -- can now enter the US without needing to quarantine, provided they have proof of vaccination and a negative viral test. Families and friends separated since the start of the pandemic streamed into airports across major European cities on Monday morning, excited to see loved ones for the first time since former President Donald Trump imposed tough travel restrictions at the outset of the pandemic in an effort to control the virus.
9th Nov 2021 - CNN

Covid-19: Majority in NI 'want to keep working from home'

A majority of workers in Northern Ireland would like to work from home even after pandemic restrictions are fully lifted, a survey has suggested. YouGov surveyed 1,000 local workers online during August, weighted to give a representative sample of adults in work. It was carried out for the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development. The survey suggests that of those working fully from home, only 3% wanted to return to their office full time.
9th Nov 2021 - BBC News

U.S.-Mexico border reopens after 20 months of COVID shutdown

There were fewer crossings at the Mexico-United States border than expected on Monday as it reopened to nonessential travel following a 20-month closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with many residents staying home to avoid potential chaos. Officials in the Mexican border city of Tijuana said people did not make the most of restrictions being lifted along the 2,000-mile (3,200-km) border due to fears of being caught in traffic.
9th Nov 2021 - Reuters

WHO warns of shortage of 1-2 bln COVID vaccine syringes

There could be a shortage of one to two billion syringes needed to administer COVID-19 vaccinations in 2022 which could also impact routine immunisations and undermine needle safety, the World Health Organisation warned on Tuesday. National health authorities should plan their needs well in advance to avoid the "hoarding, panic buying and type of situation" seen early in the pandemic with the lack of personal protective equipment, WHO expert Lisa Hedman said.
9th Nov 2021 - Reuters


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 9th Nov 2021

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Denmark Will Bring Back Some Restrictions as Covid-19 Cases Soar

Denmark, which has one of Europe’s highest vaccination rates, plans to re-introduce some restrictions to halt a recent spike in Covid-19 contamination cases. Danes will have to again present so-called corona passports to attend public events, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said at a press conference late on Monday. The move follows a recommendation from health authorities that the country reclassifies the virus as a disease that poses a critical threat to society.
8th Nov 2021 - Bloomberg

Chinese city orders COVID tests for visitors to sprawling commercial centre

China's southwestern city of Chengdu on Monday required visitors at a mega entertainment centre to undergo COVID tests, in the country's second mass screening for the coronavirus at a large venue in days. Those who were tested for COVID-19 were required to return home to await their results and not venture outdoors until advised, local authorities in Chengdu said in a notice. It was unclear how many visitors were at the New Century Global Center, which houses numerous shops, offices, a massive water park, and a university.
8th Nov 2021 - Reuters

Eager travellers line up for U.S. flights as COVID travel curbs are lifted

Paul Campbell had waited nearly two years to reunite with his German fiancée at Boston's Logan airport on Monday, the day the United States eased travel restrictions imposed on much of the world since the COVID-19 pandemic began. "I'm just ecstatic that she's here, I'm happy," said Campbell, 63, a retired firefighter from Vermont who greeted her with a heart-shaped balloon. "Our relationship is still thriving even though we've been apart for two years." At John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, a child held a sign reading, "Do I look bigger?" as he waited for the first British Airways flight from London's Heathrow. "730 days missed u! Aunty Jill + Uncle Mark," his sign said.
8th Nov 2021 - Reuters

Fully vaccinated South Africans can travel to the US from today – with a negative test

Travel between South Africa and the United States has been severely disrupted throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. But from Monday, fully vaccinated travellers will be allowed to enter the United States, regardless of where they’re coming from. Travellers will still need to provide a negative Covid-19 test result before departing. Children under 18 can enter even if they’re not fully vaccinated but will be subject to further testing and self-quarantine.
8th Nov 2021 - Business Insider South Africa

Singapore eases some virus curbs as music returns to restaurants

Singapore is easing some tough Covid restrictions put in place more than a month ago to tackle a surge in infections, with five people from the same residence allowed to dine at restaurants starting from Wednesday. The changes mark some relaxation of restrictive curbs that were reimposed in late September on one of the most vaccinated countries in the world amid a jump in infections that have tested its health-care system. “We are easing off slightly on the bicycle brakes, but we must not let our guard down and lose control as we go down slow,” finance minister Lawrence Wong, who also co-chairs the business hub’s virus task force, said in a briefing on Monday.
8th Nov 2021 - Bangkok Post

Proof of vax required as strict mandate takes effect in LA

Yoga studio owner David Gross felt relieved after Los Angeles passed a vaccine mandate that is among the strictest in the country, a measure taking effect Monday that requires proof of shots for everyone entering a wide variety of businesses from restaurants to shopping malls and theaters to nail and hair salons. For Gross, the relief came from knowing he and his co-owner don’t have to unilaterally decide whether to verify their customers are vaccinated. In another part of town, the manager of a struggling nail salon feels trepidation and expects to lose customers. “This is going to be hard for us,” Lucila Vazquez said.
8th Nov 2021 - The Associated Press

Schools take lead role in promoting vaccines for youngsters

With the approval of the COVID-19 vaccine for younger children, many elementary schools around the U.S. are preparing to offer the shots, which educators see as key to keeping students learning in person and making the classroom experience closer to what it once was. Some district leaders say offering vaccine clinics on campus, with the involvement of trusted school staff, is key to improving access and helping overcome hesitancy — particularly in communities with low overall vaccination rates. Still, many school systems are choosing not to offer elementary schools as hosts for vaccination sites after some middle and high schools that offered shots received pushback.
8th Nov 2021 - The Associated Press

COVID: Austria restricts unvaccinated people from public spaces

Austria, which has a rising coronavirus caseload and is struggling to convince a significant number of people to get vaccinated, has rolled out new physical distancing measures. From Monday, unvaccinated people are barred from entering restaurants, cafes and hairdressers and will not be able to attend large public events.
8th Nov 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Whistleblowers and fears of losing funds key to enforcing U.S. vaccine rules

Workplace whistleblowers and a fear of losing federal funds are expected to play vital roles in ensuring compliance with COVID-19 vaccine mandates ordered by President Joe Biden's administration for U.S. businesses, nursing homes and hospitals, according to experts. Biden announced last Thursday that his administration will enforce the vaccine mandates starting on Jan. 4. The rules apply to employers with at least 100 workers, federal contractors and employees of nursing homes and other healthcare facilities that receive reimbursements under the Medicare and Medicaid government healthcare programs.
8th Nov 2021 - Reuters

Vaccinated patients are dying of Covid due to waning immunity, says Dr Susan Hopkins

Double-jabbed vulnerable and elderly people are dying from Covid-19 due to the efficacy of the vaccine waning, a senior adviser has said. The effects of coronavirus vaccines are known to wane some five or six months after the second dose, as discovered in multiple studies during the pandemic. It comes as the government launches a campaign to encourage take-up of booster jabs this autumn. While most of those dying with Covid-19 are unvaccinated, reports last week said Number 10 was concerned about hospital admissions and deaths among double-vaccinated people rising due to waning immunity.
8th Nov 2021 - The Independent


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Healthy buildings can help stop Covid-19 spread and boost worker productivity

Healthy buildings have become the latest enticement to bring employees back into the office, and the first step is to make sure ventilation systems are working the way they are supposed to. Improving indoor air quality in offices could add as much as $20 billion annually to the U.S. economy, according to estimates from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. “I don’t think business people realize the power of buildings to not only keep people safe from disease but to lead to better performance,” said Joseph G. Allen, Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health associate professor.
6th Nov 2021 - CNBC

U.S. braces for surge of vaccinated international travelers

The United States is expecting a flood of international visitors crossing its borders by air and by land on Monday after lifting travel restrictions for much of the world's population first imposed in early 2020 to address the spread of COVID-19. United Airlines is expecting about 50% more total international inbound passengers Monday compared to last Monday when it had about 20,000. And Delta Air Lines Chief Executive Ed Bastian has warned travelers should be prepared for initial long lines.
7th Nov 2021 - Reuters

Sydney to further ease COVID-19 curbs on Monday as vaccinations pick up

Australia's largest city of Sydney will further ease social distancing curbs on Monday, a month after emerging from a coronavirus lockdown that lasted nearly 100 days, as close to 90% of people have got both doses of vaccine, officials said. Although limited to people who are fully inoculated, the relaxation in the state of New South Wales, home to Sydney, lifts limits on house guests or outdoor gatherings, among other measures. "We're leading the nation out of the pandemic," said state premier Dominic Perrottet, as he called for a "final push" to reach, and even surpass, a milestone of 95% vaccinations.
7th Nov 2021 - Reuters

U.S. to convene foreign ministers on COVID-19 next week, pledges to talk vaccine equity

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday he would convene a virtual meeting of foreign ministers from around the globe to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic next week, pledging to work to address global inequalities in access to vaccines. "Despite progress in worldwide vaccination, we are not where we need to be," Blinken said in a statement announcing the meeting on Nov. 10.
6th Nov 2021 - Reuters

More proof England's Covid outbreak has 'peaked'

The Office for National Statistics' (ONS) weekly surveillance report estimated 1.1million people were infected with the virus at any time in the week to October 30 — the equivalent of one in 50. This was approximately the same as the previous seven-day spell, bringing an end to nearly three months of rising cases which began in August. Experts say the levelling off suggests the latest wave of Covid triggered by the return of schoolchildren has 'likely' come to a natural peak, due to a combination of vaccine immunity and previous infection. But the ONS data suggests the outbreak is still as big as it was at the peak of the second wave in January and the weekly total is the third highest ever recorded, even though deaths are just a fraction of levels seen during the darkest days of the crisis.
6th Nov 2021 - Daily Mail

AIIB to continue vaccine funding for developing nations in 2022

China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) will continue to finance developing countries acquire COVID-19 vaccines, a senior executive said on Thursday. Last year, AIIB had set up a funding facility to help public and private sectors fight the pandemic. The investment bank has approved 42 projects amounting to over $10.3 billion, as of Nov. 5. Its Crisis Recovery Facility has up to $13 billion allocated to support AIIB members and clients in withstanding economic and health impacts of the health crisis.
5th Nov 2021 - Reuters


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Biden’s Vaccine Mandate Means Millions of Workers Must Get Shots by Jan. 4 or Test Weekly

Many employers will have to ensure by Jan. 4 that their workers are vaccinated or tested weekly for Covid-19 under a set of new vaccine requirements. by the Biden administration that will cover more than 80 million employees. The requirements released Thursday by the Labor Department implement a vaccine directive that President Biden announced in September. They apply to employers with 100 or more employees. While the administration has said the requirements are necessary to curb the Covid-19 pandemic, they have drawn opposition from many Republicans.
4th Nov 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

Inside the World’s Most Blatant Covid-19 Coverup: Secret Burials, a Dead President

Last year, President John Magufuli declared the virus a “satanic myth” propagated by imperialist powers. While his neighbors sealed borders and locked down, his country of 58 million stayed open. His government barred doctors from registering coronavirus as the cause of death and labeled those who wore masks unpatriotic. Seeking to keep the economy open and rally nationalist sentiment ahead of elections, he blocked foreign journalists from entering the country, rejected vaccines and refused to provide data to the World Health Organization. News organizations reporting on Covid-19 were shut down for “scaremongering,” and reporters threatened with jail. By this spring, the president was dead, along with six other senior politicians and several of the country’s generals. The official cause of Mr. Magufuli’s death was heart failure. The details remain secret. Diplomats, analysts and opposition leaders say he had Covid-19.
4th Nov 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

Philippines Eases Virus Restrictions in Manila Capital Region

The Philippines will ease coronavirus restrictions in the Manila capital region from Friday until Nov. 21 as infections eased. The Southeast Asian nation’s virus task force decided to place the capital -- which accounts for a third of economic output -- under Alert Level 2 where businesses can operate at higher capacities, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement late Thursday.
4th Nov 2021 - Bloomberg

Europe Is Covid Epicenter Once Again As Cases Surge, WHO Says

The World Health Organization warned that a surge of coronavirus cases in Europe and Central Asia has pushed the region back as the epicenter of the pandemic. There are now 78 million cases in the European region, which is more than infections reported in Southeast Asia, the Eastern Mediterranean, the Western Pacific and Africa combined, according to the WHO. Last week, Europe and Central Asia accounted for almost half of the world’s reported deaths from Covid-19. The outbreak has accelerating in Europe over the last four weeks as colder temperatures lead to more socializing indoors, while many countries have eased restrictions. The WHO has repeatedly said that the pandemic is not yet over, and that governments should keep public-health measures such as mask-wearing along with vaccinations.
4th Nov 2021 - Bloomberg

New York City, union reach agreement on vaccine mandate

New York City's public-sector employee union District Council 37 and the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday reached an agreement on a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for over 55,000 city workers. District Council 37 members who have not provided proof of at least one dose of the vaccine will have the option to resign or take a leave of absence and in both cases, employees will maintain their health benefits, the union said in a statement. Employees without proof of vaccination who have either not submitted an application for an exemption or who have been denied an exemption may be placed on unpaid leave beginning Nov. 1 through Nov. 30, the union said.
4th Nov 2021 - Reuters

Chile's campaign trail goes virtual as all but two candidates forced into COVID lockdown

Chile's presidential candidates had to host news conferences from home and cancel travel plans on Thursday as five out of seven candidates were forced to isolate for a week after left-wing hopeful Gabriel Boric tested positive for COVID-19. In addition to Boric, four candidates had all been in close contact with him recently and have since tested negative for the virus, they said on social media. But Chile's regulations mandate that any close contacts isolate for at least seven days regardless of test result.
4th Nov 2021 - Reuters

COVID cases break records across Europe as winter takes hold

Coronavirus infections are hitting record levels in many countries across Europe as winter takes hold, prompting a call for action from the World Health Organization which described the new wave as a "grave concern". Soaring numbers of cases, especially in Eastern Europe, have prompted debate on whether to reintroduce curbs on movement before the Christmas holiday season and on how to persuade more people to get vaccinated. That conversation comes as some countries in Asia, with the notable exception of China, reopen their tourism sectors to the rest of the world
4th Nov 2021 - Reuters


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Some Parents Rush to Get Covid-19 Vaccines for Young Kids

Younger children began to get vaccinated against Covid-19, adding to the nation’s defenses against a pandemic that has upended learning and life for kids across three school years. Some hospitals and pediatrician’s offices started giving shots to children between the ages of 5 and 11 on Wednesday, a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended use of Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE’s vaccine for that age group. The Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized a two-dose regimen of the vaccine, in a smaller dosage and different packaging than that used on adults.
3rd Nov 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

China’s Vaccine Diplomacy Could Have a Big Payoff Beyond Covid

Studies have found the Chinese Covid shots to be less effective than some Western ones, such as the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna Inc., and there have been repeated questions about the transparency and data standards of its vaccine makers. Even so, developing nations that have had little access to other coronavirus vaccines are poised to grow more dependent on Chinese companies for shots against other ailments.
3rd Nov 2021 - Bloomberg

Canadian employers shed unvaccinated workers, labor lawyers in demand

Canadian employers are firing or putting on unpaid leave thousands of workers who refused to get COVID-19 shots, squeezing an already tight labor market and raising prospects of potentially disruptive legal challenges. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised vaccine mandates as a central part of his successful campaign for re-election in September, setting a precedent that has spread from the public to the private sector.
3rd Nov 2021 - Reuters

Netherlands reintroduces face masks to curb spike in COVID-19 cases

The Dutch government on Tuesday decided to re-impose measures aimed at slowing the latest spike in COVID-19 infections, including the wearing of face masks, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said. The use of a "corona pass", showing proof of a COVID-19 vaccination or recent negative coronavirus test, will be broadened as of Nov. 6 to public places including museums, gyms and outdoor terraces.
3rd Nov 2021 - Reuters

COVID: Face masks compulsory again in some French schools next week

Face masks will again become compulsory from next week for French school kids in 39 regional departments where the COVID-19 virus has been ramping up, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday. French health authorities reported 7,360 daily new COVID-19 infections on October 30, the first time the tally has topped 7,000 since Sept 21
3rd Nov 2021 - Reuters

China suffering its most widespread Covid-19 outbreak since Wuhan with 19 provinces seeing new cases

More than 600 locally-transmitted cases have been found in 19 of China's 31 provinces amid what the government called a 'serious' new outbreak of the infectious Delta variant.
3rd Nov 2021 - Daily Mail on MSN.com


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Greek Covid Restrictions Target Unvaccinated as Daily Cases Hit Record

Greece announced new Covid-19 measures targeting the unvaccinated as daily infections hit their highest level since the pandemic began. From Nov. 6, those who haven’t been jabbed but want to attend their place of work must undergo two rapid tests a week instead of one -- paid for themselves. To enter most stores, banks and restaurants, they’ll need to present a negative rapid or PCR test. Fines for businesses that don’t comply will double, starting at 5,000 euros ($5,791) and a 15-day suspension of operations. Tests won’t be needed for supermarkets and pharmacies. “The restrictions will apply to unvaccinated people because they’re much more at risk than the vaccinated,” Health Minister Athanasios Plevris said Tuesday in a televised statement.
2nd Nov 2021 - Bloomberg

Pfizer expects 2021, 2022 COVID-19 vaccine sales to total at least $65 bln

Pfizer Inc said it expected 2021 sales of the COVID-19 vaccine it developed with German partner BioNTech SE to reach $36 billion and forecast another $29 billion from the shot in 2022, topping analyst estimates for both years. The U.S. drugmaker said it is seeking to sign more vaccine deals with countries, which could drive sales even higher next year. It has the capacity to produce 4 billion doses in 2022 and has based its projections on sales of 1.7 billion doses. Still, Chief Executive Albert Bourla said he was concerned that low- and middle-income countries would not place orders for next year's vaccine doses early enough, and could again end up behind wealthier countries.
2nd Nov 2021 - Reuters

Covid-19 Australia: Overseas travellers banned from shops pubs and schools

Australia's international borders finally reopened on Monday, November 1. Victoria, NSW allowing vaxxed overseas travellers to land 'quarantine-free.' Vaxxed NSW arrivals had movement limited for 7 days but restrictions eased
2nd Nov 2021 - Daily Mail

Japan eases COVID-19 border curbs, trails major partners

Japan confirmed on Tuesday plans to gradually ease COVID-19 border curbs, but fell short of demands by business lobbies to open up in line with major trading partners. In relaxing its controls, Japan will take a phased approach, chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno told reporters, responding to media reports that quarantine periods for business travellers would be cut to three days from 10. The easing could start next Monday, while daily limits on the numbers of border entrants would be raised to 5,000 people later this month from 3,500, national broadcaster NHK said.
2nd Nov 2021 - Reuters


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US prepares to roll out COVID vaccines for children aged 5 to 11

The United States’s COVID-19 vaccination programme for children between the ages of five and 11 will be “running at full strength” as of next week, the White House has announced, a significant milestone in the country’s fight against the virus. Children in the age group will be able to get Pfizer-BioNTech jabs at paediatricians’ offices, medical clinics, pharmacies and community health centres, White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said during a news briefing on Monday.
1st Nov 2021 - Aljazeera.com

China Locks 30,000 Visitors Inside Shanghai Disneyland After One Guest Got Covid-19

Shanghai Disneyland was temporarily shut down from Sunday after a visitor was found to be Covid-19-positive, underscoring the economic disruption businesses in China face as the country strives to stamp out infections. The world’s most populous nation has committed to maintaining “zero tolerance” for the virus despite criticism from business groups, a close to 80% vaccination rate, and a world which is gradually learning to live with Covid-19. China is taking stringent measures to contain pockets of the coronavirus in the country. It recorded 48 domestic cases on Saturday across several provinces.
1st Nov 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

Thai capital welcomes first tourists for quarantine-free holiday

More than a thousand foreign tourists arrived in Bangkok on Monday, the first wave of travellers to the Thai capital in 18 months, as part of a quarantine waiver for visitors vaccinated against COVID-19. There were 1,534 foreign arrivals and 890 Thais on 40 international flights on the opening day on Monday, senior health official Kiattiphum Wongraijit said. The waiver covers more than 60 countries, including the United States and China, plus several places in Europe, from where some were escaping the winter blues.
1st Nov 2021 - Reuters

Australia eases international border restrictions for first time in pandemic

Australia eased its international border restrictions on Monday for the first time during the coronavirus pandemic, allowing some of its vaccinated public to travel freely and many families to reunite, sparking emotional embraces at airports. After more than 18 months of some of the world's strictest coronavirus border policies, millions of Australians are now free to travel without a permit or the need to quarantine on arrival in the country. While travel is initially limited to Australian citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families, it sets in motion a plan to reopen the country to international tourists and workers, both much needed to reinvigorate a fatigued nation
1st Nov 2021 - Reuters

Thailand, Australia, Israel ease travel curbs as lockdowns bite elsewhere

Thailand, Australia and Israel eased international border restrictions significantly on Monday for the first time in 18 months, offering a broad test of demand for travel worldwide amid the coronavirus pandemic. The relaxation contrasts with tightening lockdowns elsewhere, notably in eastern Europe where infections have hit record numbers, and in parts of China, which has taken a zero-tolerance approach to COVID-19 despite relatively few cases. Hundreds of vaccinated foreign tourists arrived in the Thai capital for quarantine-free travel after the Southeast Asian nation approved visitors from more than 60 countries, including China and the United States.
1st Nov 2021 - Reuters

WHO Calls for More Experts to Study Covid's Disputed Origins

The World Health Organization reopened a search for experts to join a committee to study Covid-19’s origins to add more specialists in areas such as biosecurity. Applicants have until Wednesday to express interest, and the WHO said Monday it’s looking for experts in social science, anthropology, ethics, political science and biosafety. In October, the WHO proposed a fresh team of 26 experts to lead an investigation into the origins of Covid-19 and other diseases after an earlier effort was beset by controversy. The list was subject to a two-week public consultation process. The agency is still reviewing comments from the consultation and is seeking more diversity in the areas the members focus on, a spokesman said by e-mail.
1st Nov 2021 - Bloomberg

How Many People Have Died From Covid? More Than 5 Million Covid Deaths Worldwide

More than 5 million people worldwide have died from Covid-19 less than two years after the novel pathogen was first documented, despite the arrival of vaccines that have slashed fatality rates across the globe. The latest 1 million recorded deaths came slower than the previous two. It took more than 110 days to go from 4 million deaths to 5 million, compared to less than 90 days each to reach the 3- and 4-million marks. The rate has returned to what was seen during the first year of the pandemic, when the virus was still taking hold.
1st Nov 2021 - Bloomberg

Cambodia reopens to 'new way of life' after beating COVID-19 vaccine target

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen declared his country reopen and ready for a new way of life on Monday, having surpassed its COVID-19 vaccination target and recorded one of Asia's highest inoculation rates. Cambodia has vaccinated nearly 86% if its more than 16 million people, with two million given booster shots already and 300,000 school children age 5 set to be inoculated on Monday alone. The ratio is similar to that of Singapore.
1st Nov 2021 - Reuters

COVID-19: Christmas will be lockdown-free despite rising coronavirus cases, prime minister says

There is "no evidence" to suggest that England would be forced into a Christmas lockdown, according to the prime minister. Boris Johnson said that, despite rising COVID-19 cases, he has seen no evidence to indicate a Christmas lockdown is "on the cards". Speaking to reporters during his trip to Rome for the G20 summit, Mr Johnson once again insisted ministers are sticking with the current plan to tackle coronavirus and there is no reason to activate the government's Plan B.
1st Nov 2021 - Sky News

COVID-19: Tears, hugs and laughter at Sydney airport as Australia reopens border

There have been tears, laughter and warm embraces at Sydney's international airport after Australia's border opened for the first time in 20 months. Travellers tore off their face masks as they saw their loved ones for the first time in almost two years. The airport, Australia's busiest international hub, has been almost deserted during the pandemic, but now the country is hoping its vaccination rates are high enough to mitigate the danger of allowing international visitors again
1st Nov 2021 - Sky News


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Vote, vaccinate and get vouchers: Government incentivises voter turnout

Voters who turnout to cast their ballot can also receive their Covid-19 vaccine and if they are over the age of 60, receive a R100 grocery voucher. Health Minister Joe Phaahla said in a media briefing on Friday that there would be 1 000 vaccination pop-ups at voting stations across the country. “We are very pleased with the partnership with which we've agreed on with the Independent Electoral Commission to vaccinate on election day. The sites will be set up in the voting precinct but outside the area demarcated strictly for voting so that the vaccination site will not interfere with the main purpose of the day,” he said. The vaccination pop-ups will mainly be set up in areas where the uptake of vaccination has not been very good up to now. The list of vaccination sites can be found on the SA Coronavirus website.
30th Oct 2021 - Independent Online

Gordon Brown’s Covid vaccine plea to help developing countries

Gordon Brown on Friday called on the Government to urgently speed up plans to fund covid vaccination programmes in developing countries. The former prime minister and chancellor said wealthier countries are being “too slow” in sending unused jabs overseas. He has organised a letter signed by 160 global leaders calling on richer countries to share their surplus doses. It argues unless action is taken at the G20 summit, hundreds of thousands of lives could be lost.
29th Oct 2021 - Evening Standard

New Delta variant spotted in Australia for first time

The first case of a new COVID-19 variant that is now the fastest-growing coronavirus strain in the UK has been detected in Australia, but virologists say there is no reason to slow reopening plans. The variant, known as AY.4.2., was uncovered in hotel quarantine in NSW and is so far the only case detected. But experts expect more to follow as Australia prepares to open its international borders.
29th Oct 2021 - Sydney Morning Herald

Denmark Will More Than Double Testing as Virus Numbers Rise

Denmark, which has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world, will more than double its testing capacity after the number of virus infections has jumped in recent weeks. Denmark will increase so-called PCR tests to about 150,000 a day from currently 100,000 and will also re-introduce private quick-test facilities, which will be able handle about 100,000 tests daily, health authorities said in a statement on Friday.
29th Oct 2021 - Bloomberg

Russia Suffers Deadliest September Since World War II With Covid Untamed

Russia suffered its deadliest September since World War II, according to figures published Friday, even before the peak of its current wave of the Covid-19 pandemic forced authorities to order non-working days for the first week of November. There were 44,265 deaths associated with the virus last month, bringing the pandemic’s total to nearly half a million, according to Federal Statistics Service data published late Friday. That contributed to the highest number of September fatalities since the war, said Alexei Raksha, a demographer who left the agency last year after a dispute over its coronavirus numbers.
29th Oct 2021 - Bloomberg

England's COVID prevalence rises to highest since start of year, ONS says

The prevalence of COVID-19 infections in England hit its highest level since the start of the year, reaching around 1 in 50 people in the week ending Oct. 22, Britain's Office for National Statistics said on Friday. The prevalence of infections rose for a fifth straight week, having been at 1 in 55 people in the previous week, the ONS said. Prevalence was last at 1 in 50 people in the week ending Jan. 2, shortly before England began a third national lockdown. The reproduction "R" number was also estimated to be slightly higher.
29th Oct 2021 - Reuters UK

Covid booster jabs offered a month earlier for UK care home residents

Care home residents and some vulnerable people will be able to get their Covid booster vaccine a month early, ministers have announced, in an effort to boost immunity during the winter. Currently the wait between second and third doses is six months, but medics will be able to decide to reduce it to five for care home residents and people who are housebound who are offered their flu jab at that point, so they can receive both vaccines together. For people who are about to receive immunosuppressive treatment that would hinder their immune system, the wait for a booster will be cut even further, to four months.
29th Oct 2021 - The Guardian

Australia's Melbourne Back to the Races, Shops as Vaccination Rate Hits 80% | World News | US News

Melbourne, Australia's second-largest city which has endured nearly nine months of lockdowns since the start of the pandemic, saw people flocking to shops and gigs for the first time in months on Saturday as public health curbs eased.
29th Oct 2021 - U.S. News & World Report


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Covid Vaccination Rates: How Black Doctors Increased Shots in Philadelphia

Earlier this year, Philadelphia’s partnership with the student-led group Philly Fighting Covid Inc. abandoned testing sites in Black neighborhoods. It seemed like the latest affront in a long legacy of racism that has fueled distrust in the medical system, dating back to the infamous Tuskegee experiments in the 1930s. But Philadelphia, after a slow start, is closing out the year with one of the highest Black vaccination rates in a major U.S. city. In Philadelphia, 54% of Black citizens are now vaccinated. That puts it at the top of a group of the country’s 10 most Black cities, with populations of 500,000 or more and with Black people making up anywhere from 77% to 28% of the population. (The country’s second-largest city, Los Angeles, has vaccinated 55% of its Black residents, but they’re just 8% of the population.)
28th Oct 2021 - Bloomberg

Hungary to require COVID-19 vaccinations at state institutions

Hungary's government will require employees at state institutions to be vaccinated against COVID-19 after a jump in new coronavirus cases, Prime Minister Viktor Orban's chief of staff told a briefing on Thursday. Gergely Gulyas also said that private company employers will also be empowered to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for employees if they believe that is necessary and mask wearing will be mandatory on public transport from November 1.
28th Oct 2021 - Reuters

New Zealand to start easing COVID-19 border restrictions

New Zealand said on Thursday it would ease coronavirus border restrictions that have been in place since March 2020, and move to a system of home isolation for fully vaccinated overseas arrivals from early next year. The country was the among the first to shut down its borders in response to the pandemic last year, and has retained these tough border restrictions - leaving many expatriate citizens and residents stranded for months.
28th Oct 2021 - Reuters

Indonesia warily weighs holiday travel with virus concerns

Indonesians are looking ahead warily toward the holiday travel season, anxious for crucial tourist spending but worried an influx of visitors could spread the coronavirus just as its pandemic situation seems to be subsiding. After seeing infection and death rates soar in July and August, officials said this week they are sticking to plans to allow travel with some limitations. They expect nearly 20 million people to vacation in the popular islands of Java and Bali.
28th Oct 2021 - The Associated Press

Australia advises caution overseas when border opens Monday

Australia advised its nationals traveling overseas on Thursday to “exercise a high degree of caution” as it prepares to open its borders for the first time in 19 months. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade reinstated its travel advice for 177 countries and territories ahead of fully vaccinated Australians becoming free to travel from Monday. No destination has been given a risk assessment lower than the second-tier warning: “Exercise a high degree of caution.”
28th Oct 2021 - The Associated Press


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WHO: Europe had most COVID-19 cases, deaths over last week

Europe stood out as the only major region worldwide to report an increase in both coronavirus cases and deaths over the last week, with double-digit percentage increases in each, the U.N. health agency said Wednesday. The World Health Organization said new COVID-19 cases in its 53-country European region, which stretches as far east as former Soviet republics in Central Asia, recorded an 18% increase in COVID-19 cases over the last week — a fourth straight weekly increase for the area. In WHO’s weekly epidemiological report on COVID-19, Europe also saw a 14% increase in virus-related deaths. That amounted to more than 1.6 million new cases and over 21,000 new deaths.
28th Oct 2021 - The Associated Press

Slovenia eyes possible lockdown as COVID-19 infections surge

Slovenia’s health minister on Wednesday warned that the country could face a nightmare scenario if it does not contain the virus outbreak raging in the small Alpine nation and other low-vaccination countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Health Minister Janez Poklukar said hospital beds have been filling up as the country logged the highest number of daily cases since January. With more than 3,000 confirmed infections in the past 24 hours, Poklukar said a lockdown is looming. “While we watched with fear at neighboring Italy at the start of the epidemic, we are now at a turning point because of low vaccination rates and we could easily have a Bergamo scenario,” Poklukar said, evoking the hardest-hit Italian city last year.
28th Oct 2021 - Associated Press

Romanian senate rejects COVID-19 health pass, lower house votes next

Romanian senators narrowly rejected a bill on Wednesday requiring medical staff, public sector workers and those of large privately-owned firms to hold a COVID-19 health pass, but parliament's lower house has the final say and could revive it. The bill, introduced by centrist lawmakers and designed to boost vaccine uptake, was two votes short of the required majority to pass.
27th Oct 2021 - Reuters

Sweden to extend COVID booster shots to all aged 65 or above

Sweden will start offering COVID-19 booster shots to people aged 65 or older as well as many care workers and plans to gradually extend the third jabs to most Swedes in the coming months, the government said on Wednesday. The booster shots of mRNA vaccine will be gradually extended to cover all people in the Nordic country aged 16 or older during the winter and spring, Health Minister Lena Hallengren told a news conference.
27th Oct 2021 - Reuters

Covid-19 UK: Top Government adviser hints No10 could drop mass testing from January

Professor Lucy Chappell says mass testing could be ditched in January next year Department of Health chief scientific adviser says system is being reconsidered Professor Andrew Pollard called for testing in schools to be ditch this winter. But with 74.8 per cent of over 16s now fully vaccinated, the Prime Minister has revealed when the borders will finally come down. He told Parliament on Wednesday: 'By the end of the year, Mr Speaker, I fully anticipate that we'll be able to achieve seeing international visitors, including backpackers, Mr Speaker, who are double-vaccinated, being able to come back to Australia.'
27th Oct 2021 - Daily Mail

Covid-19 borders: Tourists WILL be back to Australia before the end of year, says Scott Morrison

Tourists will be able to enter Australia without quarantine by the end of the year - but they must be double vaccinated, Scott Morrison has announced. Australia's international border has been closed since March 2020 to reduce the spread of coronavirus and the country has been alone among democratic nations in banning its own citizens from leaving. The move has helped reduce the impact of Covid-19, which has only claimed 1,669 lives in Australia, compared with 140,000 in the UK and 739,000 in the US.
27th Oct 2021 - Daily Mail

Plan C strategy to tackle Covid-19 has been discussed, Government adviser says

A potential “Plan C” Covid-19 lockdown has “been mentioned” in Government but no details have been confirmed, a scientific advisor said. Boris Johnson has set out a winter strategy for tackling Covid-19, should the number of cases rise to a point of concern , known as Plan B. This would see the reintroduction of compulsory face masks in indoor public places, a return to working from home and the use of vaccine passports to get into certain events.
27th Oct 2021 - iNews

COVID-19: NHS Test and Trace failed in its 'main objective', highly-critical report from committee of MPs finds

NHS Test and Trace has failed to achieve its "main objective" of helping break chains of COVID transmission and allowing people to return to normality despite being given an "eye-watering" amount of money, a highly-critical report from MPs has said. According to the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), the programme's outcomes have been "muddled" and a number of its goals have been "overstated or not achieved". Test and Trace was developed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to test the public and trace the contacts of positive coronavirus cases.
27th Oct 2021 - Sky News

Americas COVID cases are down, vaccine inequity still a problem

New coronavirus cases and deaths in the Americas have reached the lowest levels in more than a year, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said, but access to COVID-19 vaccines, remains a challenge. PAHO Assistant Director Jarbas Barbosa on Wednesday said the Americas reported more than 800,000 new infections and 18,000 deaths during the past seven days – a drastic decrease from previous weeks. “We have reason to be optimistic, but we must remain vigilant,” Barbosa said during a regular virtual news briefing. Many of the Caribbean islands are seeing decreases in new infections, Barbosa said, including Cuba, a nation that had for months been battling an intense outbreak of the disease. The downward trend in COVID-19 infections comes amid advances in vaccination campaigns across the region. But, PAHO officials said, gaps remain and many countries especially, those with low vaccination rates, remain at risk of more outbreaks.
27th Oct 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Coronavirus infections at U.S. meat plants far higher than previous estimates -House subcommittee

Cases and deaths from COVID-19 among workers at the leading U.S. meatpacking plants were three times as high as previously estimated, according to a report by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis seen by Reuters. The subcommittee surveyed major meatpackers Tyson Foods, JBS USA, Cargill, National Beef, and Smithfield Foods, which together control over 80% of the beef market and 60% of the pork market in the United States. At those companies’ plants, worker cases of COVID-19 totaled 59,147 and deaths totaled 269, based on counts through January of this year, according to the report which was expected to be released later on Wednesday.
27th Oct 2021 - Yahoo News


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New York City Inches Toward Covid-19 Becoming Endemic

Each wave of Covid-19 patients that has crashed through the doors of Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens has been more manageable than the last. In the spring of 2020 and the following winter, the hospital needed extra spaces to care for Covid-19 patients in need of oxygen and struggling to breathe. At the height of the Delta surge this summer and fall, Covid-19 patients didn’t fill its ICU. “We’re seeing it more as a chronic problem than as an immediate, huge pandemic problem like we were before,” said Mangala Narasimhan, a critical-care pulmonologist and director of critical-care services at Northwell Health, a large health system in the New York region that includes Long Island Jewish Medical Center.
26th Oct 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

BioNTech to Start Building Vaccine Plant in Africa Next Year

BioNTech SE said it plans to start construction on its first start-to-finish vaccine plant in Africa in the middle of next year, aiming to build a manufacturing network that would eventually supply hundreds of millions of doses to the continent. The German company said it’s developing the plans with the governments of Rwanda and Senegal, and initially the factory will have annual capacity of 50 million messenger RNA vaccine doses. The location hasn’t been decided yet, and the company didn’t announce a timeline for completion. The news comes as Moderna Inc. said Tuesday it agreed to sell as many as 110 million doses of its Covid-19 shot to the African Union following months of pressure, though most of the shipments won’t arrive until the second quarter of next year. The purchase was made possible by the U.S. government giving up its place in the supply queue, African Union coronavirus envoy Strive Masiyiwa said at a briefing.
26th Oct 2021 - Bloomberg

Thousands of Nicaraguans go to Honduras border for vaccines

Nearly 8,000 Nicaraguans received COVID-19 vaccines at two customs border crossings with neighboring Honduras in recent days, Honduran health authorities said on Monday, as supplies of the inoculations in Nicaragua have run low. Promoting the vaccines for Nicaraguans, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez wrote in a post on Twitter that "the solidarity and brotherhood of Hondurans crosses borders." He added that up to 500 doses were being given out daily to Nicaraguans. Honduran health authorities also pitched the cross-border assistance as a way to help beat back the risk of more infections at home.
26th Oct 2021 - Reuters

Beijing Marathon postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19

The Beijing Marathon has been postponed indefinitely after Sunday's race was called off amid rising COVID-19 cases in China, the BBC quoted organisers as saying. Organisers said they were cancelling next weekend's race "in order to prevent the risk of the epidemic spreading (and) effectively protect the health and safety of the majority of runners, staff and residents," the BBC reported. The marathon was set to return this year after it was suspended in 2020 due to COVID-19. The Wuhan Marathon, which was due to be held last Sunday, was also called off with a new date yet to be determined.
26th Oct 2021 - Reuters

Exclusive: African Union to buy up to 110 million Moderna vaccines -officials

The African Union (AU) intends to buy up to 110 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna Inc in an arrangement brokered in part by the White House, which will defer delivery of some doses intended for the United States to facilitate the deal, officials told Reuters. The AU's doses will be delivered over the coming months, with 15 million arriving before the end of 2021, 35 million in the first quarter of next year and up to 60 million in the second quarter. "This is important as it allows us to increase the number of vaccines available immediately," AU coronavirus envoy Strive Masiyiwa said in an email. "We urge other vaccine producing countries to follow the lead of the (U.S. government) and give us similar access to buy this and other vaccines."
26th Oct 2021 - Reuters

Vaccine passports could fuel spread of Covid, says leaked government report

A leaked government document suggests vaccine passports could be counterproductive and fuel the spread of Covid-19, it has been reported. The government’s impact assessment, seen by the Telegraph, suggests the passports could be “counterintuitive and potentially counterproductive” as they may push people from larger venues into poorly ventilated pubs. The newspaper also quoted the impact assessment as saying the policy would slash turnover for organisers of large events. It estimated one month of Covid certification, which Boris Johnson has said could be rolled out as part of his “plan B” if cases continue to rise, could see profits of venues where they would be required drop between £345m and £2.067bn.
26th Oct 2021 - The Independent

‘Plan B’ Covid measures could cost UK economy £18bn, documents suggest

Treasury documents have suggested that a return to home working, a key plank of Boris Johnson’s “plan B” proposal to deal with rising Covid-19 cases, would cause up to £18bn of damage to the UK economy over five months. A government source said there was no suggestion restrictions would be that length, if they were introduced at all. Johnson has so far resisted a move to plan B in England, which would also entail more widespread mask-wearing and the extended use of vaccine passports. Instead, the government has said it will focus on ramping up booster jabs for the over-50s and vulnerable adults, as well as the vaccine programme for over-12s. The documents, leaked to Politico, were drawn up by the Treasury and the Cabinet Office’s Covid-19 taskforce on the basis that a move to plan B would last until March 2022.
26th Oct 2021 - The Guardian


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 26th Oct 2021

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Vaccine Cash Incentives Don't Work, US Study Shows

Financial incentives and other nudges by local governments and employers have failed to increase Covid-19 vaccinations among Americans who are hesitant about getting the shot, a new study shows. What’s more, financial incentives and “negative messages” actually decreased vaccination rates among some groups, underscoring fears about a public backlash, according to the paper circulated by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The pace of Covid-19 vaccinations climbed rapidly earlier this year as availability increased, with millions of adults getting the jab each day. However, that pace has slowed sharply. In the last week in the U.S., an average of about 800,000 doses per day were administered.
25th Oct 2021 - Bloomberg

S.Africa's Aspen aims to sharply increase COVID-19 vaccine capacity

South Africa's Aspen Pharmacare is aiming to ramp up its COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing capacity to 1.3 billion doses a year by February 2024, up from a current annual output of around 250 million doses, the company's CEO told Reuters on Monday. Aspen is doing the final stages of manufacturing for Johnson & Johnson's (JNJ.N) COVID-19 vaccine under a so-called "fill and finish" deal, but CEO Stephen Saad said in an interview that the companies were close to announcing a broader deal for Aspen to produce J&J's COVID-19 shot under licence.
25th Oct 2021 - Reuters

Moderna says its COVID-19 vaccine protective, safe in young children

Moderna Inc said on Monday its COVID-19 vaccine generated a strong immune response in children aged six to 11 years and that it plans to submit the data to global regulators soon. Moderna said its two-dose vaccine generated virus-neutralizing antibodies in children and safety was comparable to what was previously seen in clinical trials of adolescents and adults. It cited interim data that has yet to be peer reviewed.
25th Oct 2021 - Reuters

Covid vaccines: Brits double-jabbed abroad still forced to self-isolate despite having UK approved shots

People who were double-jabbed abroad are still being forced to self-isolate after being pinged by Test and Trace, despite their vaccines being recognised by the UK Government, i can reveal. Self-isolation rules were scrapped on 16 August for people in England who have received both doses of a Covid vaccine and are identified as having come into contact with someone who has tested positive for coronavirus. However, the exemption does not apply to people who received both vaccine doses outside of the UK.
25th Oct 2021 - iNews

First weekend of enforcement of vaccine passport scheme was an 'unmitigated disaster' according to hospitality industry

The Scottish Hospitality Group (SHG) said that staff have faced “intolerable levels of abuse” and some venues saw a drop in footfall of up to 40 per cent. It is calling on the Scottish Government to scrap the scheme, which has been legally enforceable since October 18. Proof of full vaccination is required to enter nightclubs and large events as part of the Scottish Government’s efforts to limit the spread of coronavirus and increase vaccine take-up.
25th Oct 2021 - The Scotsman

Ministers to ramp up Covid vaccine rollout as hospitalisations rise

Two million people who are eligible for a Covid booster vaccine in England will receive their invitation this week as ministers seek to intensify the rollout. The government has launched a media blitz encouraging people to get a booster jab, amid mounting concern over the speed of the vaccination rollout as Covid hospitalisations rise. NHS England said on Sunday that more than 5 million people had had a third jab since the vaccination programme began administering them last month. About 7.5 million people have already been invited by text, email and letter, encouraging them to book through the national booking service. Two million more will receive invitations this week
25th Oct 2021 - The Guardian

COVID-19: Millions of booster jab invitations being sent out as government resists more calls for Plan B

Two million eligible people will be invited to receive a COVID-19 booster jab from the NHS this week, as the government seeks to see off a sharp rise in cases without introducing Plan B measures. Calls for the reintroduction of masks, social distancing and working from home continued over the weekend, but ministers have so far shown no sign of doing so despite fears over the pressure on hospitals.
25th Oct 2021 - Sky News


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 25th Oct 2021

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Endemic Covid-19 Has Arrived in Portugal. This Is What It Looks Like.

Close to 100% of people over the age of 50 have received at least one vaccine dose, according to the Portuguese government. For those between the ages of 25 and 49 it is 95% and from 12 to 17 it is 88%. Some 89% of Portugal’s entire population of 10 million has had at least one vaccine dose, not far behind the rate in the world-leading United Arab Emirates, compared with 65% in the U.S. and 73% in the U.K., according to Oxford University’s Our World in Data. Portugal has been averaging six deaths a day for the past month, compared with almost 300 at the peak in January. Adjusted for population, the current rate equates to about 200 in the U.S. The deaths plunged to one or two a day in May and June before rising to 20 in July. The number of new daily recorded infections and hospitalizations has been trending down since the summer. The country is now averaging about 750 new cases a day, compared with almost 13,000 in January. There are about 320 people hospitalized, down from almost 6,700 at the peak
24th Oct 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 Vaccine for Young Kids Satisfied FDA Criteria, Agency Says

The Food and Drug Administration said the Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer Inc. PFE 0.70% and BioNTech met the agency’s criteria for immune responses in a study in children ages 5 to 11 years. In a report released Friday, the agency flagged the risk of heart-inflammation conditions including myocarditis associated with the vaccine but said the overall benefits, in preventing Covid-19 disease and hospitalizations, would outweigh the risk of the heart conditions. The FDA assessment could support the agency’s authorization of the vaccine in children in the coming days or weeks, but the myocarditis risk is likely to be a topic of debate among advisers to the FDA who are scheduled to first review the application.
23rd Oct 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

The Unlikely Outsiders Who Won the Race for a Covid-19 Vaccine

Uğur Şahin and Stéphane Bancel were long underestimated by investors and scientists. But when Covid-19 threatened the globe, these two unknowns had a solution.
23rd Oct 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

Austria Threatens New Lockdown for Unvaccinated as Cases Spike

Austria has laid out a framework for potential new lockdown measures to apply only to unvaccinated people, as Covid-19 inoculations lag and cases rise sharply. “I will do everything I can to ensure that the health system in this country does not reach its limit and is not overloaded because we have too many procrastinators,” Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said in a statement Saturday. If the number of Covid patients in intensive care units hits 500, or 25% of the country’s capacity, unvaccinated people would be barred from hotels and restaurants. If ICU capacity reaches one-third, or 600 units, a lockdown would go into effect for the unvaccinated, who would only be allowed to leave their homes for certain reasons.
23rd Oct 2021 - Bloomberg

Adobe Sets Dec. 8 Vaccination Deadline for US Workers

Adobe Inc. warned its U.S. workers that they must be vaccinated against Covid-19 by Dec. 8. U.S. companies are giving notice to employees as they seek to comply with orders from President Joe Biden requiring federal contractors to have all staff vaccinated by the December deadline. The government is also drawing up rules for businesses with 100 or more employees to require vaccines or test unvaccinated staff at least once a week. The White House is set to issue additional guidelines in the near future. Adobe, the maker of Photoshop and Illustrator, said in a statement Friday that 94% of its U.S. workforce is “or will soon be fully vaccinated.” The San Jose, California-based company said it will consider accommodation requests for employees who aren’t vaccinated for religious or medical reasons.
22nd Oct 2021 - Bloomberg

Britain must control Covid now – or face a winter lockdown

It’s not surprising, then, that Germany is managing to control its Covid epidemic and bring down the numbers of cases and deaths. England (and the UK) by contrast is seeing a sharp rise in cases. Deaths are now on the increase too: this week’s daily reported toll was the highest since March. While the UK government continues to ask people to be vigilant and keep calm and carry on, the clock is ticking. Time is running out to put in some basic measures to prevent a further spike in cases, the NHS becoming overwhelmed, and very possibly another lockdown. Germany, meanwhile, is keeping its economy and society running, and looks in a strong position heading into the bumpy winter months.
22nd Oct 2021 - The Guardian


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 22nd Oct 2021

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Rise in Cases and Deaths Tests Britain’s Gamble on Few Virus Restrictions

For the last four months, Britain has run a grand epidemiological experiment, lifting virtually all coronavirus restrictions, even in the face of a high daily rate of infections. Its leaders justified the approach on the grounds that the country’s rapid rollout of vaccines had weakened the link between infection and serious illness. Now, with cases, hospital admissions and deaths all rising again; the effect of vaccines beginning to wear off; and winter looming, Britain’s strategy of learning to live with the virus is coming under its stiffest test yet. New cases surpassed 50,000 on Thursday, an 18 percent increase over the last week and the second time cases have broken that psychological barrier since July. The number of people admitted to hospitals rose 15.4 percent over the same period, reaching 959, while 115 people died of Covid-19, an increase of almost 11 percent.
22nd Oct 2021 - The New York Times

COVID-19: Health minister denies existence of Plan C to ban Christmas household mixing

A health minister has denied there is a "plan C" to control COVID-19 by restricting household gatherings in England at Christmas if hospital admissions get worse. Edward Argar told Sky News it is "not something I'm aware of" after reports claimed Whitehall officials are considering not allowing members of different households to meet in each other's homes - as was the case most of last year. The plan, the reports said, would be imposed if COVID-19 cases continue to rise towards Christmas and the government would want to minimise the economic impact by keeping shops, pubs and restaurants open.
21st Oct 2021 - Sky News

NHS Wales chief executive on Covid-19, winter, and whether restrictions could be reintroduced

The chief executive of the Welsh NHS has laid bare the significant challenges facing the health and social care system this winter. Dr Andrew Goodall, who is set to leave his role at the end of October, said the coming months could prove to be the most difficult in the careers of many frontline staff. His comments come following the publication of the NHS winter plan which focuses on protecting people against Covid-19 and other respiratory viruses while trying to cope with mounting demand for elective and emergency care. We sat down with Dr Goodall at the Welsh Government's offices in Cathays Park to talk about some of the biggest issues facing the Welsh NHS and how the plan will help.
21st Oct 2021 - Wales Online

Melbourne readies to exit world's longest COVID-19 lockdown

Millions in Melbourne are readying to come out of the world's longest COVID-19 lockdown later on Thursday even as cases hover near record levels, with pubs, restaurants and cafes rushing to restock supplies before opening their doors. Since early August, residents in Australia's second-largest city have been in lockdown - their sixth during the pandemic - to quell an outbreak fuelled by the highly infectious Delta strain.
21st Oct 2021 - Reuters

WHO estimate: 115,000 health workers have died from Covid-19, as calls for vaccine access grow

Some 115,000 health care workers died from Covid-19 from January 2020 to May of this year, according to a new World Health Organization estimate, as the agency pushed once again for efforts to address vaccine inequity. Globally, 2 in 5 health care workers are fully vaccinated, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a briefing Thursday. But, he added, “that average masks huge differences across regions and economic groupings.” In most high-income countries, more than 80% of health care workers are fully vaccinated, Tedros said. But in Africa, the rate is less than 1 in 10. “The backbone of every health system is its workforce — the people who deliver the services on which we rely at some point in our lives,” Tedros said. “The pandemic is a powerful demonstration of just how much we rely on health workers and how vulnerable we all are when the people who protect our health are themselves unprotected.”
21st Oct 2021 - STAT News

Covid-19 Herd Immunity Proves Elusive in U.K.

The U.K., in an experiment watched by the world, lifted most Covid-19 restrictions in the summer, wagering that immunity from vaccinations and prior infections would keep the virus at bay. Three months later, the British experience shows that, in the face of the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus, herd immunity is elusive. Covid-19 cases and deaths have risen in recent weeks as winter has begun to close in. The bottom line: Reliance on immunity, which is imperfect to begin with and wanes over time, doesn’t guarantee a quick victory over Delta. Lifting restrictions “was done on the hope that the vaccinations and natural immunity were going to win pretty quickly,” said Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London. “What it’s shown is that that alone doesn’t work.”
21st Oct 2021 - The Wall Street Journal


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 21st Oct 2021

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Novavax Shares Plunge on Report of Covid-19 Vaccine Manufacturing Problems

A new report in Politico cast further doubt on the Novavax vaccine’s effectiveness. Politico said the methods the company uses to test the purity of its vaccine have fallen short of regulators’ standards, with the publication citing multiple people familiar with Novavax’s difficulties. Novavax issued a statement Wednesday saying it expects to complete ongoing regulatory submissions over the next few weeks in the U.K., Europe and Canada. It said it has already filed for authorization in India and for emergency use with the World Health Organization. The company said it plans to file its vaccine for emergency-use authorization in the U.S. by the end of 2021.
20th Oct 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

As U.K. Covid Cases Surge, Israel Offers Lesson in Boosters

As Covid-19 cases soar again in the U.K., officials could look to a country that’s moved past a similar crisis for a possible roadmap. The search for answers in Israel may be useful, health experts say, because both countries were among the fastest in the world with their vaccination programs, yet were similarly quick to lift lockdown restrictions. And just as Israel experienced a spike in cases in June, so the U.K. is now, having just reported the biggest single daily jump in infections in three months. Israel’s response to its renewed outbreak was to roll out an aggressive booster program, a decision that appears to have quelled the worst of the outbreak within weeks.
20th Oct 2021 - Bloomberg

U.K. Rules Out Another Lockdown Even With Cases on the Rise

The U.K. will not yet be bringing back restrictions to help curb Covid cases, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said, despite a surge in infections and a rise in hospitalizations and deaths. Javid put the onus on the general public to get vaccinated and behave responsibly, such as by wearing masks in crowded spaces, to avoid the need for further restrictive measures in the winter. He made the plea as he warned that new daily virus cases could rise to 100,000.
20th Oct 2021 - Bloomberg

U.S. readies plan to vaccinate kids ages 5-11 against COVID-19

The Biden administration on Wednesday outlined its plan to vaccinate millions of U.S. children ages 5 to 11 as soon as the COVID-19 shot is authorized for them, readying doses and preparing locations ahead of the busy holiday season. Unlike the mass vaccination centers used in the initial COVID-19 vaccine rollout, the White House said it is working to set up clinics in more than 100 children's hospital systems nationwide as well as doctor's offices, pharmacies and potentially schools.
20th Oct 2021 - Reuters

Canada to require COVID-19 vaccinations for federal lawmakers, some MPs to miss out

Canada's House of Commons will require all 338 lawmakers to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 when they return to work next month, potentially locking out some members of parliament from the official opposition Conservatives. Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau narrowly won re-election last month, saying he would insist on vaccine mandates for federal workers, people traveling domestically, and his own candidates.
20th Oct 2021 - Reuters

UK cases may hit 100000 a day, no contingency measures for now, minister says

Britain's COVID-19 infection numbers could rise to 100,000 a day, but the government will not implement its so-called "plan B" contingency measures at this time, health minister Sajid Javid said on Wednesday. "We're looking closely at the data, and we won't be implementing our plan B of contingency measures at this point, but will be staying vigilant, preparing for all eventualities," he told a news conference.
20th Oct 2021 - Reuters UK

Restricting travel over vaccine type could be discrimination, PAHO warns

Countries should grant entry to vaccinated travelers regardless of which shot they received to prevent discrimination and facilitate business, a top official of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday. With vaccination rates on the rise, countries are facing fresh questions about how to contain the spread of COVID-19 while easing pandemic travel restrictions. The United States last week said it would reopen the land border with Mexico - the busiest in the world - but only allow people who have been inoculated with vaccines authorized by the World Health Organization (WHO), leaving out two shots heavily used in Mexico - Russia's Sputnik V and one from China's Cansino Biologic
20th Oct 2021 - Reuters

Premier League reveals 68% of players are fully vaccinated against Covid

The Premier League says that 68% of its players are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 after concerns over a lack of take-up. Estimates had earlier placed the number of double-jabbed players at less than 50%, with a number of managers, including Pep Guardiola and Jürgen Klopp, calling on top-flight players to comply. The Premier League has released official figures for the first time, which show 81% have had at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. The league said it would “continue to work with clubs to encourage vaccination among players and club staff”.
20th Oct 2021 - The Guardian

Kenya Lifts COVID-19 Curfew as Infection Rates Ease, President Says | World News | US News

Kenya lifted a nationwide curfew on Wednesday that has been in place since March 2020 to curb the spread of the coronavirus, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced. The East African nation, which has a population of 54 million, has recorded 252,199 infections since the pandemic erupted and 5,233 COVID-19 deaths, health ministry data shows.
20th Oct 2021 - U.S. News & World Report

Melbourne welcomes vaccinated Sydney residents without quarantine

Travel restrictions between Sydney and Melbourne, Australia's largest cities, eased on Wednesday as Victoria opened its borders to fully vaccinated residents from New South Wales amid a rapid rise in immunisation levels. With cases trending lower in New South Wales, including Sydney, residents will be allowed quarantine-free entry into Victoria for the first time in more than three months. Travellers from Melbourne who wish to enter Sydney, however, must undergo a two-week home quarantine.
20th Oct 2021 - Reuters

Iran braces for new COVID wave despite accelerated jab rollout

Iran is bracing for a sixth major wave of COVID-19 infections even as its nationwide vaccination efforts have accelerated in recent weeks. Health Minister Bahram Einollahi said on Tuesday it is “certain” the worst-hit country in the Middle East will face another surge in cases next month. “But we’re fully prepared to fight the disease in the sixth wave, and hospitals are now ready in terms of medicine and oxygen equipment so we can fight it,” he said. The virus has so far killed close to 125,000 people while more than 5.8 million cases have been reported in Iran since February 2020, according to health ministry figures. Daily deaths are significantly down from the peak of 709 registered in late August, but still more than 150 Iranians are falling victim to the virus as more than 10,000 new cases are detected each day.
20th Oct 2021 - AlJazeera

UK hospitals on the edge as government resists fresh COVID measures

British hospitals are on the edge and people should wear masks and come forward for vaccines to stop them being overwhelmed by a rising wave of COVID-19 cases, senior medical figures said on Wednesday, as the government resisted calls for new measures. Britain has the eighth biggest death toll globally from COVID-19, with nearly 139,000 fatalities. But it also had a quick start to its vaccine programme and Prime Minister Boris Johnson has lifted almost all COVID-19 restrictions in England, ending social distancing measures and mask mandates.
20th Oct 2021 - Reuters


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 20th Oct 2021

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Bolsonaro's Pandemic Handling Draws Explosive Allegation: Homicide

A Brazilian congressional panel is set to recommend mass homicide charges against President Jair Bolsonaro, asserting that he intentionally let the coronavirus rip through the country and kill hundreds of thousands in a failed bid to achieve herd immunity and revive Latin America’s largest economy. A report from the congressional panel’s investigation, excerpts from which were viewed by The New York Times ahead of its scheduled release this week, also recommends criminal charges against 69 other people, including three of Mr. Bolsonaro’s sons and numerous current and former government officials.
19th Oct 2021 - The New York Times

New York City Schools Data Shows Few Covid Cases

When roughly one million public school students returned to classrooms in New York City last month amid the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant, families and educators expressed profound concern. But for the past five weeks, case counts have remained low. The average weekly positive rate among students in public schools is 0.25 percent — well under the city’s daily average rate of 2.43 percent. Experts, however, say the city may not be testing enough students.
19th Oct 2021 - The New York Times

Covid Made London and Paris Cheaper — for the Rich

Yes, remote work has decreased demand for office space, and should eventually soften housing demand too, but it’s not happening yet. Plus, look at city streets and you’ll see how the splendid isolation of the elite, suburban “Zoomocracy” is already starting to backfire: The shift to “hybrid” home and office working has drivers commuting into town at ever more random times. Traffic congestion over the past month in Paris and London has been even worse than the comparable period in 2019, according to TomTom. Cities, after all, are still where the jobs are, especially when it comes to high-skill services — Google Inc. recently announced a 7 million square-foot campus in San Jose.
19th Oct 2021 - Bloomberg

200 Queenslanders may die of COVID-19 when borders reopen, modelling predicts

COVID-19 modelling suggests about 200 people in Queensland could die in just the first three months after borders reopen to New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT. The modelling by QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, based on vaccination levels of 80 per cent in those aged 16 and older, predicts deaths would be "heavily skewed" towards the elderly. Since the pandemic began more than 20 months ago, Queensland has recorded 2,071 known cases of the virus and seven deaths.
19th Oct 2021 - ABC News

No special deals to allow unvaccinated players at Australian Open: official

Australia's Victoria state will not do special deals with unvaccinated athletes to allow them to compete at major events, an official said on Tuesday, putting Novak Djokovic's Australian Open title defence and bid for the Grand Slam record in doubt. World number one Djokovic, level on 20 Grand Slam titles with Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal, declined to reveal his vaccination status again this week and said he was unsure if he would defend his Australian Open crown as authorities work out COVID-19 restrictions for the tournament. Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said he opposed special arrangements to let unvaccinated athletes compete in the state, which is scheduled to host the Grand Slam at Melbourne Park in January. "On the question of vaccination, no," he told a media briefing.
19th Oct 2021 - Reuters

‘Make a gesture of humanity’: Pope Francis urges drug makers to release Covid-19 vaccine patents

Amid controversy over global access to Covid-19 vaccines, Pope Francis lent his moral authority to the debate and urged drug makers to make their intellectual property available so that other companies can manufacture enough shots for low and middle-income countries. In a video address to the World Meeting of Popular Movements, the Pope made a simple, straightforward plea: “I ask all the great pharmaceutical laboratories to release the patents. Make a gesture of humanity and allow every country, every people, every human being, to have access to the vaccines. There are countries where only 3% or 4% of the inhabitants have been vaccinated.” His remarks came as the pharmaceutical industry continues to resist pressure at the World Trade Organization to agree to a temporary waiver of intellectual property for Covid-19 medical products. Despite support from the Biden administration, a proposal made a year ago has stalled amid objections from the European Union and some countries where several large drug makers are based.
18th Oct 2021 - STAT News


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 19th Oct 2021

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Why Are U.K. Covid Cases So High Compared to the Rest of Europe?

Surging Covid cases in the U.K. have left the country behind the rest of Europe with former U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb calling for urgent research into a mutation known as delta plus. Britain, faster to reopen and relax restrictions than other European countries, reported the highest daily jump in new cases on Sunday since mid-July. Weekly deaths from the virus topped 800 for each of the past six weeks, higher than in other major western European nations, according to Bloomberg’s tracker.
18th Oct 2021 - Bloomberg

UK government ordered to reveal firms awarded ‘VIP’ Covid contracts

The UK government has been ordered to reveal which companies were given “VIP” access to multimillion-pound contracts for the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the early months of the Covid pandemic, in a ruling from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has previously refused to disclose the names of 47 companies that had contracts awarded through the privileged, fast-track process allocated to firms with political connections. A report by the National Audit Office (NAO) last year found that companies referred as possible PPE suppliers by ministers, MPs or senior NHS officials were given high priority by the DHSC procurement process, which resulted in a 10 times greater success rate for securing contracts than companies whose bids were processed via normal channels. The Good Law Project (GLP), which first revealed the existence of a VIP lane, is together with fellow campaign group EveryDoctor challenging the DHSC over the lawfulness of the VIP lane and large contracts awarded to three companies: PestFix, Ayanda Capital and Clandeboye Agencies.
18th Oct 2021 - The Guardian

Russia's Low Vaccination Rates Leads to Record-Breaking Toll