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

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Coronavirus breakthrough: Stunned scientists discover uncommon antibody in 45-year old man that halts most Covid variants

Scientists were left stunned after they discovered a natural Covid antibody that seems to neutralise multiple Coronavirus variants. The ‘potent’ antibody was reportedly found in a 45-year old man who recovered from Covid-19 more than three months ago. One of the antibodies, labelled as ‘54042-4’, seemed to be able to halt multiple mutations, including the Delta and Alpha variants. The researchers wrote in Cell Reports that the antibodies have ‘uncommon genetic and structural characteristics’ thereby setting themselves apart from others. They are now looking into developing the antibody with the aim of protecting more people against a range of viruses.
14th Oct 2021 - City A.M.

Indonesia Covid: Slow start as Bali re-opens to foreign tourists

The much anticipated re-opening of Indonesia's famed tourist island Bali has seen a slow start, with no international flights scheduled. As of Thursday, fully vaccinated travellers from 19 countries including China, India, and France can enter Bali. The UK is not on the list. But visitors must first serve a five-day quarantine in a hotel. Officials had closed the international airport in April last year to stop the coronavirus from spreading. In July, Indonesia became the epicentre of Covid in Asia, but daily cases have since reduced significantly.
14th Oct 2021 - BBC News

Australians can test themselves for Covid-19 at home in two weeks

Rapid antigen tests have been used extensively in countries around the world They have finally been approved for use at home in Australia from November 1 States and territories will decide how residents can use the tests
14th Oct 2021 - Daily Mail

Covid-19: NHS facing exceptionally difficult winter - Chris Whitty

The NHS faces an "exceptionally difficult" winter whether there is a Covid surge or not, England's chief medial officer Prof Chris Whitty says. GPs in England are being told to see more patients face-to-face as ministers unveil a £250m winter rescue package. But the doctors' union says the package shows "a government out of touch with the scale of the crisis." The British Medical Association adds doctors will be "horrified" by the idea the plan will save them when it could "sink the ship altogether"
14th Oct 2021 - BBC News

Covid-19: More restrictions are relaxed in Northern Ireland

More relaxations to Northern Ireland's Covid-19 restrictions have taken effect. The decision by Stormont last week allows up to 30 people from an unlimited number of households to meet indoors at a private home. Audiences at indoor venues will also no longer have to stay seated during performances. Nightclubs are due to reopen on 31 October, with the end of indoor social distancing rules for hospitality. From then, the need to be socially distanced will also move to guidance, with people asked to minimise face-to-face contact.
14th Oct 2021 - BBC News

Bayer, CureVac terminate COVID-19 shot production partnership

Bayer AG has terminated a vaccine manufacturing partnership under which it would have helped produce CureVac's COVID-19 shot, a spokesperson for Bayer told a German newspaper. The news comes after CureVac earlier this week said it will give up on its first-generation COVID-19 vaccine candidate and instead focus on collaborating with GSK (GSK.L) to develop improved mRNA vaccine technology. "Jointly with CureVac we have decided by mutual agreement to not continue the cooperation," the Bayer spokesperson told Rheinische Post.
14th Oct 2021 - Reuters

Italy: Fresh pandemic woes for those jabbed with ‘wrong’ vaccines

When Duccio Armenise, an Italian, decided to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in Russia, the only jab he could receive was Sputnik. “We were in the middle of an outbreak, and I had seen what COVID had done to a few friends, so I was really scared,” he told Al Jazeera. “I didn’t want to face COVID without antibodies, so I got the shots.” He expected some problems once he returned to Italy, since Sputnik was not in use in the European Union, “but I was confident that by the time I came back they would be solved.” But months later, Sputnik is yet to receive approval from the World Health Organization (WHO), it is still being evaluated by the European Union, and Italy will not hand out a Green Pass to anyone who got the Russian shot.
14th Oct 2021 - AlJazeera

Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 14th Oct 2021

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English school return spurred COVID in children, but cases fell in adults - study

COVID-19 infections in children in England rose in September after schools returned from summer holidays, helping to keep cases high even as there was a fall among adults, a large prevalence study showed on Thursday. The REACT-1 study, led by Imperial College London, is the latest to find that more children are getting infected with COVID-19 following the reopening of schools at the start of September. Infection numbers in Britain are currently much higher than in other western European countries, with more than 30,000 new cases reported every day this month, but have not risen above summer levels following the return of schools in England despite the higher infection rates in children.
14th Oct 2021 - Reuters UK

The Covid report lays bare Test and Trace failings – Dido Harding’s mistakes won’t be forgotten

When the damning Parliamentary report into the Covid pandemic was published today, there was quiet pride within the NHS that its own performance was largely the subject of praise. Many of the best things about the state’s response to the virus, from the vaccine rollout to new treatments to agile management, were down to the health service. But there was also a sense of relief, as most of the heaviest criticism was directed at not just the government and scientific advisers but also at ‘NHS Test and Trace’ (which should really have been called ‘DHSC Test and Trace’, as Matt Hancock’s Department of Health and Social Care ran it, not the NHS). Some in the health service, who have long resented their brand being used and abused by Dido Harding’s controversial unit, pointedly remarked today that she had tried – and failed – this summer to become chief executive of the NHS itself. Or, as one insider put it: “We dodged a bullet there.”
13th Oct 2021 - iNews

Blackstone in London Sets Vaccine Rule to Work in Office

Blackstone, the giant private equity firm, will require employees who want to work in its London office to be vaccinated beginning next week, as the American company takes a more forceful approach to vaccinations than many other businesses in Britain. Across the United States, vaccine mandates, which require employees to be inoculated to remain in their jobs, are becoming increasingly common ahead of a rule by President Biden that will apply to companies with more than 100 employees. But in Britain, data protection and employment discrimination laws have prevented companies from mandating their own “no jab, no job” policies and have made it harder to physically separate unvaccinated workers. Instead, companies have been advised to encourage vaccinations rather than enforce them.
13th Oct 2021 - The New York Times

WHO Creates New Team to Study Covid-19 Origins

The World Health Organization established a new panel of scientists whose mandate will include attempting to revive a stalled inquiry into the origins of the coronavirus that caused a global pandemic. The 26-member team, drawn from countries including the U.S., China, India, Nigeria and Cambodia, is larger than a 10-member international group of scientists sent earlier this year to Wuhan, the Chinese city that was the site of the first confirmed Covid-19 outbreak in December 2019. The team will also have a broader mandate to lead investigations of future epidemics as well as Covid-19. It may encounter some of the same difficulties that hampered the first team’s efforts earlier this year, global health experts have said, including blocked access to data on possible early Covid-19 cases and other potential evidence. WHO officials have said that time is running out to examine blood samples and other important clues in China regarding when, how and where the pandemic started.
13th Oct 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

Bill Gates Says World Must Increase Vaccine-Making Capacity

Bill Gates, whose foundation has focused efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic, said Wednesday that government and industry leaders around the world need to “get serious” about increasing vaccine-making capacity so that they can respond faster in the future. While changes to how the world allocates and shares doses can help, the ability to quickly make large volumes of mRNA vaccines can lesson the political tensions that can arise from scarcity, Gates wrote in his blog. “The world should have the goal of being able to make and deliver enough vaccines for everyone on the planet within six months of detecting a potential pandemic,” Gates said. “If we could do that, then the supply of doses would not be a limiting factor, and the way they were allocated would no longer be a matter of life and death.”
13th Oct 2021 - Bloomberg

U.K.'s Vaccine Passport App Fails, Spoiling Trips From Heathrow

The U.K.’s vaccine-passport app temporarily failed on Wednesday, in the latest outage of government-run technology to disrupt travel. “There are currently issues with accessing the Covid Pass on the NHS App and website,” the National Health Service said in a tweet. “We are investigating the issue and will update as soon as we can.” Two hours later, the app was up and running again, according to a subsequent tweet sent just after 4 p.m. London time. Officials at London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports said they saw no repeat of the backups that occurred twice in the past three weeks, when automated Border Force gates failed.
13th Oct 2021 - Bloomberg

Honeywell mandates COVID-19 shots at all U.S. offices

Honeywell International Inc said on Wednesday it will require employees at all its U.S. offices and some manufacturing locations to be vaccinated against COVID-19 under an executive order from President Joe Biden for federal contractors. Other government contractors including Boeing Co, International Business Machines Corp (IBM.N) and Raytheon Technologies Corp have also mandated vaccines, with the White House last month setting Dec. 8 as the vaccination deadline for millions of employees of federal contractors. "The vaccination mandate applies to all Honeywell locations within the U.S. and its territories that support U.S. government contract work.
13th Oct 2021 - Reuters

Union Pacific to comply with COVID vaccine deadline for U.S. workers

Union Pacific Corp said on Wednesday it will require its 31,000 U.S. employees to be vaccinated under President Joe Biden's executive order requiring that federal contractors mandate vaccines by Dec. 8, except for employees who receive an approved exemption. "As a federal contractor who ships goods supporting our nation's armed services, ... all employees are required to report their vaccination status or have an approved medical or religious accommodation by the federally mandated deadline," Union Pacific, the top U.S. railroad operator, said in a statement.
13th Oct 2021 - Reuters

U.S. COVID-19 vaccine rates up thanks to mandates; cases and deaths down -officials

Vaccination rates against COVID-19 in the United States have risen by more than 20 percentage points after multiple institutions adopted vaccine requirements, while case numbers and deaths from the virus are down, Biden administration officials said on Wednesday. White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients told reporters that 77% of eligible Americans had received at least one shot of a vaccine. Vaccination rates went up thanks to mandates put into place by private businesses, healthcare systems, social institutions and state and local governments, he said in a briefing.
13th Oct 2021 - Reuters

Malfunctioning NHS app for Covid vaccine status causes travel delays

Travellers have been blocked from boarding flights and ferries for trips abroad after a four-hour outage of England’s NHS app left people unable to access a Covid pass to prove their vaccine status. Hundreds tried to download information that many countries require before departure – including a QR code and details about the jabs they have had – but were told to “try again later”, sparking chaos and fury. The app and nhs.uk website began malfunctioning just before noon on Wednesday, and NHS Digital said the problem had been resolved by 4.30pm. It blamed the outage on “a technical issue with a global service provider that affected many different organisations”.
13th Oct 2021 - The Guardian

US ramps up vaccine diplomacy, China ramps up donations. What happens next?

Washington is ramping up international contributions but competition may not ease shortages in all developing countries. Poorer nations may receive vaccines from Beijing but not necessarily its influence, analysts say
13th Oct 2021 - South China Morning Post

Back from the brink: how Japan became a surprise Covid success story

Just days after the Tokyo Olympics drew to a close, Japan appeared to be hurtling towards a coronavirus disaster. On 13 August, the host city reported a record 5,773 new Covid-19 cases, driven by the Delta variant. Nationwide the total exceeded 25,000. Soaring infections added to resentment felt by a public that had opposed the Olympics, only to be told they could not watch events in person due to the pandemic. Hospitals were under unprecedented strain, the shortage of beds forcing thousands who had tested positive to recuperate – and in some cases die – at home. The then prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, who had ignored his own chief health adviser in pushing ahead with the Games, was forced to step down amid stubbornly low approval ratings. A state of emergency in the capital and other regions that had been in place for almost six months looked likely to be extended yet again.
13th Oct 2021 - The Guardian

South Korea launches panel to debate 'living with COVID-19'

South Korea established a panel on Wednesday to debate a strategy on how to "live with COVID-19" in the long-term, as the country seeks to phase out coronavirus restrictions and reopen the economy amid rising vaccination levels. Under the strategy, the government aims to relax coronavirus restrictions for citizens who can prove they have been fully vaccinated, while encouraging asymptomatic and mild COVID-19 patients aged below 70 to recover at home, the health ministry said last week. The government will also focus on the number of hospitalisations and deaths rather than new daily infections, and will consider not publishing the latter on a daily basis, Yonhap news agency has reported.
13th Oct 2021 - Reuters

US to reopen land borders in November for fully vaccinated

Beleaguered business owners and families separated by COVID-19 restrictions rejoiced Wednesday after the U.S. said it will reopen its land borders to nonessential travel next month, ending a 19-month freeze. Travel across land borders from Canada and Mexico has been largely restricted to workers whose jobs are deemed essential. New rules will allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals to enter the U.S. regardless of the reason starting in early November, when a similar easing of restrictions is set for air travel. By mid-January, even essential travelers seeking to enter the U.S., such as truck drivers, will need to be fully vaccinated. Shopping malls and big box retailers in U.S. border towns whose parking spaces had been filled by cars with Mexican license plates were hit hard by travel restrictions.
13th Oct 2021 - The Associated Press

Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 13th Oct 2021

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Australians Planning to Get Covid Vaccine More Optimistic: Westpac

Australian consumers who intend to get vaccinated are far more optimistic than those who don’t intend to have a jab, Westpac Banking Corp.’s October household sentiment survey showed. Respondents who are not vaccinated but intend to be recorded an index reading of 122 points, while those who aren’t vaccinated and don’t intend to be posted a reading of 84.8, Westpac’s monthly survey showed Wednesday. The overall consumer sentiment index slid 1.5% from last month to 104.6. “The confidence level of those not intending to get vaccinated has also fallen quite sharply in the last month,” said Bill Evans, chief economist at Westpac. “Encouragingly, the size of this group has fallen as well, accounting for only 6% of respondents in the October survey compared to 9% in September and just under 20% at the start of the year.”
13th Oct 2021 - Bloomberg

Covid: UK's early response worst public health failure ever, MPs say

The UK's failure to do more to stop Covid spreading early in the pandemic was one of the country's worst public health failures, a report by MPs says. The government approach - backed by its scientists - was to try to manage the situation and in effect achieve herd immunity by infection, it said. This led to a delay in introducing the first lockdown, costing thousands of lives, the MPs found. But their report highlighted successes too, including the vaccination rollout. It described the approach to vaccination - from the research and development through to the rollout of the jabs - as "one of the most effective initiatives in UK history".
12th Oct 2021 - BBC News

EU may consider deal on Merck's COVID pill after approval procedure begins -source

The European Union may consider signing a supply deal with U.S. drugmaker Merck for its experimental COVID-19 pill, but only after the company starts the process of seeking approval for the drug in the bloc, a senior EU official said on Tuesday. The oral antiviral treatment molnupiravir has been developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics.
12th Oct 2021 - Reuters

Moderna's search for African site set to intensify - chairman

Rwanda, Senegal and South Africa could be potential locations for Moderna's planned vaccine factory in Africa, the U.S. drugmaker's co-founder and chairman said as it steps up its search for a site on the continent. Moderna said last week it would build a plant in Africa to produce up to 500 million doses of vaccines a year, including its COVID-19 shot, as pressure grows on pharmaceutical companies to manufacture drugs in lower-income countries.
12th Oct 2021 - Reuters

Covid Spread Was 8% Lower In Democrat-Led States Than GOP Because Of Stricter Restrictions, Study Finds

The peer-reviewed study, led by researchers at Binghamton University, determined a Public Health Protective Policy Index (PPI) that measured the “stringency” of states’ public health policies and analyzed those findings in relation to states’ Covid-19 transmission and the governors’ partisan affiliation. The researchers looked at Covid-19 rates and policies between March and November 2020, as well as when specific states’ Covid-19 cases peaked. Democratic-led states had a PPI that was approximately 10 points higher on average than states with GOP governors, though the study notes some Republican-led states like Maryland, Vermont and Massachusetts had stricter measures that were closer to the Democratic states.
12th Oct 2021 - Forbes

Thailand to reopen for some vaccinated tourists from November

Thailand plans to fully re-open to vaccinated tourists from countries deemed low risk from 1 November, the country’s leader said, citing the urgent need to save the kingdom’s ailing economy. Before the pandemic, Thailand attracted nearly 40 million visitors a year drawn to its picturesque beaches and robust nightlife, with tourism making up almost 20% of its national income. But Covid-related travel restrictions have left the economy battered, contributing to its worst performance in more than 20 years.
12th Oct 2021 - The Guardian

COVID-19: Thailand reopens to vaccinated UK travellers, as visiting dozens of destinations now easier after red list cut to just seven countries

Thailand will end quarantine for fully vaccinated UK travellers, as British COVID advice has been relaxed making it easier to visit almost 90 countries. Forty-seven nations were taken off the red list at 4am, meaning anyone arriving from places including South Africa, Brazil and Argentina no longer need to quarantine in a hotel.
12th Oct 2021 - Sky News

Covid and Age

Emily Oster, an economist at Brown University who frequently writes about parenting, published an article in The Atlantic in March that made a lot of people angry. The headline was, “Your Unvaccinated Kid Is Like a Vaccinated Grandma.” The article argued that Covid-19 tended to be so mild in children that vaccinated parents could feel comfortable going out in the world with their unvaccinated children.
12th Oct 2021 - The New York Times

COVID-19 curbs in Sydney could ease early amid surge in vaccinations

New South Wales could ease more restrictions in Sydney a week earlier than planned on Oct. 18 as Australia's most populous state races towards its 80% double-dose vaccination target, the government said on Wednesday. The southeastern state is expected to hit the mark over the weekend, beating forecasts, and officials previously promised to relax further restrictions on vaccinated residents on the first Monday after reaching that milestone. "If we hit 80%, we've always said it will be the Monday following," state Premier Dominic Perrottet told ABC Radio. "We will have this discussion with our team on Thursday and we will make a decision to be announced on Friday."
12th Oct 2021 - Reuters

COVID-19: 'A slap in the face' - Families of pandemic victims attack MPs' report and call for judge-led inquiry

Families of COVID-19 victims have attacked an MPs' report into government failings during the pandemic as "laughable" and a "slap in the face" - and say a judicial inquiry is needed to get to the truth. The report said decisions on lockdowns and social distancing early in the pandemic were "one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced" and cost thousands of lives. It said "groupthink" among officials meant chances to delay the spread of the virus were missed, and it was a "serious early error" not to lock down sooner.
12th Oct 2021 - Sky News

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

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Russian spy ‘stole Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine blueprint and used it to develop Sputnik jab’

Russian spies stole the blueprint for the Oxford/AstraZenecacoronavirus vaccine and used it to create their own Sputnik V jab, according to reports. UK security services have allegedly told ministers they now have solid proof an agent stole vital information from the pharmaceutical company, including the blueprint, according to The Sun. The late security minister James Brokenshire last year said Britain was “more than 95 per cent sure” Russian state-sponsored hackers had targeted the UK, US and Canada in attacks on drug companies.
12th Oct 2021 - The Independent

Covid response ‘one of UK’s worst ever public health failures’

Britain’s early handling of the coronavirus pandemic was one of the worst public health failures in UK history, with ministers and scientists taking a “fatalistic” approach that exacerbated the death toll, a landmark inquiry has found. “Groupthink”, evidence of British exceptionalism and a deliberately “slow and gradualist” approach meant the UK fared “significantly worse” than other countries, according to the 151-page “Coronavirus: lessons learned to date” report led by two former Conservative ministers. The crisis exposed “major deficiencies in the machinery of government”, with public bodies unable to share vital information and scientific advice impaired by a lack of transparency, input from international experts and meaningful challenge. Despite being one of the first countries to develop a test for Covid in January 2020, the UK “squandered” its lead and “converted it into one of permanent crisis”. The consequences were profound, the report says. “For a country with a world-class expertise in data analysis, to face the biggest health crisis in 100 years with virtually no data to analyse was an almost unimaginable setback.”
12th Oct 2021 - The Guardian

‘Extraordinary omission’: key findings in scathing UK Covid report

The joint report by the Commons health and science committees on lessons to be learned from the UK’s response to Covid spans 150 pages and is divided into six themes. Here are the main findings from each. The findings are damning
12th Oct 2021 - The Guardian

COVID-19: Report shows despite UK's vaccine success massive mistakes were made

The UK's independent inquiry into COVID-19 is due to launch in Spring 2022. Until then, this parliamentary report is the best assessment we are likely to get into the government's pandemic response. And putting aside the success of the vaccine and former health secretary Matt Hancock's "100,000 tests target", the cross-party committee's conclusions are damning. The government's initial "fatalistic" approach was "a serious early error". The test, trace and isolate system was "often chaotic" and "ultimately failed". Thousands of care home deaths "could have been avoided".
12th Oct 2021 - Sky News

Coronavirus: Can the flu and dengue case spike impact the third COVID wave?

Over the course of past weeks, the rising cases of flu, viral ailments, dengue have overtaken COVID to be the current prevailing health threats in the country. While COVID-19 remains to be a problem which we'll continue to face, bleak awareness about the flu vaccination, newer, potentially severe variants of the dengue causing DENV virus, reports of serious infections and lax measures have made us fear the ill-effects of twindemic, i.e., if two or more infectious diseases are to strike us together.
11th Oct 2021 - Times of India

Indonesia cuts quarantine to 5 days as borders reopen further

Southeast Asia’s largest economy will allow arrivals from 18 countries and reduce the minimum quarantine period to five days, from eight previously, said Luhut Panjaitan, coordinating minister for maritime and investment affairs who’s overseeing the pandemic response. He didn’t specify which are the 18 countries. The country has gradually eased border restrictions, starting with the resumption of offshore visa applications and followed by the reopening of tourist spot Bali to foreign visitors this week. People’s mobility has started to bounce back as cinemas and gyms are reopened, with daily Covid-19 case and fatality numbers continuing to ease to the lowest since June 2020.
11th Oct 2021 - Bangkok Post

Coronavirus: Moderna has no plans to share its Covid-19 vaccine recipe

Moderna has no plans to share the recipe for its Covid-19 vaccine because executives have concluded that scaling up the company’s own production is the best way to increase the global supply, the company’s chairman said Monday. In an interview with Associated Press, Noubar Afeyan also reiterated a pledge Moderna made a year ago not to enforce patent infringement on anyone else making a coronavirus vaccine during the pandemic. “We didn’t have to do that,” Afeyan said. “We think that was the responsible thing to do.” He added: “We want that to be helping the world.” The United Nations health agency has pressed US-based Moderna to share its vaccine formula. Afeyan said the company analysed whether it would be better to share the messenger RNA technology and determined that it could expand production and deliver billions of additional doses in 2022.
11th Oct 2021 - South China Morning Post

Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 Vaccine Is World’s Preferred Shot

Countries from Latin America to the Middle East have lined up for the shot, driven by its effectiveness and ample supply, especially compared with Chinese and Russian rivals.
11th Oct 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

Covid 19: 'Almost no one' in Australia medically exempt from coronavirus vaccinations - health expert

Australia's body for GPs has revealed just how tricky it will be for people to attain a legitimate digital Covid-19 vaccine exemption certificate, set to launch this month. Despite popular belief among vaccine-hesitant circles, they won't be handed out to people with chronic illnesses, auto-immune conditions, blood clotting disorders, allergies, or histories of strokes or heart attacks. In fact, "almost no one" in Australia will be eligible for an exemption, according to Professor Kristine Macartney, director of the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS). The only people the three Covid vaccines available in Australia could be dangerous for are those with allergies to both polyethylene glycol (PEG) – contained in the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines – and polysorbate 80, an ingredient of the AstraZeneca vaccine, Macartney told The Age newspaper.
11th Oct 2021 - New Zealand Herald

It's too soon to declare victory against Covid-19 ahead of the holidays, but these festivities are safe to resume, experts say

With holidays approaching, health experts said some festivities can start to return to a sense of normalcy -- but they also warned that Covid-19 isn't defeated yet. Experts said Sunday that outdoor trick-or-treating -- particularly for children who are vaccinated -- should be fine this year. "It's a good time to reflect on why it's important to get vaccinated. But go out there and enjoy Halloween as well as the other holidays that will be coming up," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN's Dana Bash Sunday.
11th Oct 2021 - CNN

COVID-19: Travel between UK and dozens of destinations now easier after red list cut to just seven countries

Forty-seven nations were taken off the red list at 4am, meaning anyone arriving from places including South Africa, Brazil and Argentina no longer need to quarantine in a hotel. In addition, advice against non-essential travel to a further 42 countries and territories has been lifted too. Now Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha said the country will gradually reopen, with quarantine requirements lifted for vaccinated visitors from ten low-risk countries -
11th Oct 2021 - Sky News

Sydney celebrates 'Freedom Day' after lockdown

Sydney's cafes, gyms and restaurants welcomed back fully vaccinated customers on Monday after nearly four months of lockdown, as Australia aims to begin living with the coronavirus and gradually reopen with high rates of inoculation. Gloria Tso reports.
11th Oct 2021 - Reuters

Sydney emerges from pandemic lockdown, beer in hand

The Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE BNTX -1.19% has emerged as the world’s vaccine of choice. From Latin America to the Middle East, dozens of governments are turning to the shot. Australia is now offering the vaccine, after shifting away from competitors. Turkey, the U.K. and Chile are providing the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to people who took other shots. Demand rose so high in Argentina that the country rewrote a new vaccine-purchasing law so it could reach a deal with Pfizer.
11th Oct 2021 - Reuters

Sydney opens to vaccinated after 100-plus days of lockdown

Sydney hairdressers, gyms, cafés and bars reopened to fully vaccinated customers on Monday for the first time in more than 100 days after Australia’s largest city achieved a vaccination benchmark. Sydney planned to reopen on the Monday after 70% of the New South Wales state population aged 16 and older were fully vaccinated. By Monday, 73.5% of the target population was fully vaccinated and more than 90% have received at least one dose. Some businesses opened at midnight due to demand from people impatient to enjoy their freedom. More pandemic restrictions will be removed at the 80% benchmark, and New South Wales residents will be free to travel overseas for the first time since March last year.
11th Oct 2021 - The Associated Press

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

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As International Travel Returns, Confusion Over Coronavirus Vaccines Reigns

When Turkey was taken off Britain’s red list for travel last month, Sally Morrow, an English expatriate living in the Turkish capital of Ankara, rushed to her computer and booked flights to London, so that she could reunite with her ailing parents after more than six months apart. But soon after her ticket confirmation came through, Ms. Morrow, 47, read that the certificate she received when she was vaccinated in Turkey — with the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine — would not be accepted in Britain. As a result, Ms. Morrow would be required to quarantine for 10 days and take at least three negative coronavirus tests before being permitted to leave isolation there. “I had the Pfizer jab, the Rolls-Royce of vaccines, the exact same one as millions of Brits, yet I’m considered unvaccinated simply because I got my vaccine abroad,” Ms. Morrow said.
9th Oct 2021 - The New York Times

COVID-19 Special: Bolsonaro's Pandemic Failure

Brazilian President Bolsonaro called it "a little flu". Now his country has the highest coronavirus death toll after the United States. Infection and death rates are slowly easing but that's little consolation for the bereaved.
9th Oct 2021 - Deutsche Welle

The coronavirus pandemic is far from over

The goal for all countries is to make it to the blue section of the chart and stay there. Countries and territories in this section have reported no new cases for four weeks in a row. Currently, that is the case for five out of 188 countries and territories. How has the COVID-19 trend evolved over the past weeks? The situation has deteriorated slightly: 65 countries have reported more cases in the past two weeks compared with the previous 14 days. What is the current COVID-19 trend in my country? Based on the newly reported case numbers — which can reflect local outbreaks as well as the countrywide spread — in the past 28 days, countries and territories classify as follows:
9th Oct 2021 - DW (English)

New FDA chief can't come soon enough for beleaguered agency

Straining under a pandemic workload and battered by a string of public controversies, one of the leading agencies in the government’s fight against COVID-19 is finally on the verge of getting a new commissioner. After nearly nine months of searching, President Joe Biden says he’s close to naming his choice to lead the Food and Drug Administration, which oversees vaccines, drugs and tests. Former FDA officials and other experts say the decision cannot come soon enough for the agency’s beleaguered regulators. Thousands of FDA staffers are exhausted after racing for more than a year and a half to review products to battle the coronavirus, and the agency’s reputation for rigorous, science-based regulation has been threatened by contentious disputes over COVID-19 booster shots and an unproven new Alzheimer’s drug.
9th Oct 2021 - Associated Press

The Pandemic’s Toll on Women’s Careers

For all the change brought on by the pandemic, women in white-collar roles still made strides at nearly every level of U.S. companies last year, a comprehensive new study shows. The proportion of women in the corporate workforce didn’t decline significantly last year, and the number of women holding some senior roles increased, according to data from the 2021 Women in the Workplace report by McKinsey & Co. and LeanIn.Org. But the report also found that women are experiencing higher rates of burnout than men, and are questioning whether they want to remain with their companies and on their existing career paths. Lareina Yee, a senior partner at McKinsey who previously served as the firm’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, and Rachel Thomas, Lean In’s co-founder and CEO, spoke separately with the Journal about some of the takeaways from this year’s report. Here are edited excerpts of the conversations.
9th Oct 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

Latvia Declares Three-Month Covid State of Emergency

The Latvian government declared a three-month state of emergency after coronavirus infections hit a record and hospitalizations rose, the country’s public broadcaster reported. The state of emergency will start on Oct. 11, and will mandate vaccinations for public sector workers, restrictions on retail and bars and push more people to work from home. Latvia recorded a record 1,752 new Covid cases on Thursday, with more than 700 in the hospital.
9th Oct 2021 - Bloomberg

U.S. will accept WHO-approved COVID-19 vaccines for international visitors

The United States will accept the use by international visitors of COVID-19 vaccines authorized by U.S. regulators or the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said late on Friday. On Sept. 20, the White House announced the United States in November would lift travel restrictions on air travelers from 33 countries including China, India, Brazil and most of Europe who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. It did not specify then which vaccines would be accepted. A CDC spokeswoman told Reuters Friday, "Six vaccines that are FDA authorized/approved or listed for emergency use by WHO will meet the criteria for travel to the U.S."
9th Oct 2021 - Reuters

Anxiety surged during pandemic, particularly among women - study

The COVID-19 pandemic led to a surge in anxiety and major depressive disorders across the world, particularly among women and young people, a study published in the Lancet on Friday found. Young people suffered as school closures kept them away from friends, and many women found themselves bearing the brunt of household work and facing an increased risk of domestic violence, the researchers said. The study, led by academics at the University of Queensland, Australia, recorded 76 million additional cases of anxiety disorders and 53 million of major depressive disorder as COVID-19 spread in 2020.
8th Oct 2021 - Reuters

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Explainer: What researchers say about the long-term effects of COVID-19

The World Health Organization (WHO) this week issued a definition for "long COVID," a term used to describe the persistent health problems that affect some survivors of COVID-19. Scientists are still working to understand the syndrome. Here is what they know so far.
7th Oct 2021 - Reuters

Companies face pressure to act on vaccine mandates even as they wait for clear rules.

Last month, President Biden asked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to write rules that would require companies with more than 100 employees to mandate coronavirus vaccinations or weekly testing. But with OSHA still going through a lengthy rule-making process, which could take several more weeks, the White House is urging companies to act now. Several big employers have imposed mandates since Biden’s announcement, including 3M, Procter & Gamble and the airlines American, Alaska and JetBlue. IBM said on Thursday that it will require all of its U.S. employees to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 8, regardless of how often they come into the office. It will allow for “limited” medical or religious exceptions.
7th Oct 2021 - The New York Times

How a Vaccine Mandate Could Worsen a Shortage of Home Care Aides

In the upstate city of Johnstown, north of Albany, two-thirds of the home health aides at one small agency have notified their director that they intend to quit rather than get vaccinated against the coronavirus, as they are required to do this week under a state mandate. At the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, the state’s largest home health care organization, about 400 workers are expected to be unable to work after the mandate takes effect. And in the New York City area, a union leader for home health care workers says he expects thousands of his members will be put on leave. “We need more time,” said Joe Pecora, the vice president of Home Healthcare Workers of America, a union that represents about 32,000 home health care workers in New York City and its suburbs. “It’s unrealistic to get all these people vaccinated by the deadline.”
7th Oct 2021 - The New York Times

Pfizer Asks F.D.A. to Authorize Its Covid-19 Vaccine for Children 5 to 11

Pfizer and BioNTech said on Thursday morning that they had asked federal regulators to authorize emergency use of their coronavirus vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, a move that could help protect more than 28 million people in the United States. The companies have said they were submitting data supporting the change to the Food and Drug Administration. The agency has promised to move quickly on the request and has tentatively scheduled a meeting on Oct. 26 to consider it. A ruling is expected between Halloween and Thanksgiving. “With new cases in children in the U.S. continuing to be at a high level, this submission is an important step in our ongoing effort against Covid-19,” Pfizer said on Thursday.
7th Oct 2021 - The New York Times

With Masks On or Off, Schools Try to Find the New Normal

Despite some turmoil, the vast majority of students have been in classrooms full-time and mostly uninterrupted this fall. Now, educators debate what’s next. Coronavirus infection rates declined 35 percent nationally through the month of September, as many schools opened their doors.Credit.
7th Oct 2021 - The New York Times

Covid Hospital Traffic in Some States Drops to Pre-Delta Levels

The U.S. is far from a full recovery from the latest Covid-19 wave, but some recent hot spots are getting close. In Florida, the seven-day average of new adult hospital admissions with Covid is about 469 a day. That’s just slightly above the level on May 13, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention significantly relaxed its masking guidance for fully vaccinated people -- a change that it reversed when the highly contagious delta variant ripped through the U.S. In at least eight other states and the nation’s capital, the numbers are below or close to May levels. There are other positive signs. The one-week average of new cases nationally has dropped 40% from its Sept. 21 peak, according to CDC data.
7th Oct 2021 - Bloomberg

IBM Vaccine Mandate: Unvaxxed Employees Will Be Suspended in December

International Business Machines Corp. said all of its U.S.-based employees must be vaccinated by Dec. 8 or be put on unpaid suspension. The Armonk, New York-based company told workers that because it’s a government contractor, it’s required to adhere to President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors. IBM said the new mandate will apply to all U.S. employees regardless of where they work or how often they go into a company office and will offer “limited” medical or religious exemptions. The decision was prompted by “the continued spread of Covid-19, local clinical conditions around IBM sites, and the reality that vaccines are readily available nationwide,” a company spokeswoman said in a statement.
7th Oct 2021 - Bloomberg

WHO Wants Less Talk, More Action From Rich Nations on Doses

The World Health Organization called on countries with high vaccination rates to swap their places in line and prioritize the delivery of Covid-19 shots to lower-income nations. The WHO set out a strategy for countries to follow to reach a goal to inoculate 40% of the population in every nation in the world by the end of the year, and 70% by mid-2022. The health body urged countries with high vaccine coverage to change their vaccine delivery schedules for the coming months to make room for Covax, which will ensure countries in need can receive doses and catch up. Manufacturers should be transparent on total monthly production and schedules for supplies to Covax.
7th Oct 2021 - Bloomberg

Biden to tout vaccine mandates for large companies in Chicago trip

President Joe Biden on Thursday said more U.S. businesses should obligate workers to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, calling the move vital to ending the pandemic and sustaining the economy. "Today I'm calling on more employers to act," Biden said. "My message is: Require your employees to get vaccinated. With vaccinations, we're going to beat this pandemic finally. Without them, we face endless months of chaos in our hospitals, damage to our economy and anxiety in our schools."
7th Oct 2021 - Reuters

Malaysia’s vaccine roll-out success lifts coronavirus gloom

After 150 days in operation, one of Malaysia’s biggest Covid-19 vaccination centres shut its doors on Sunday, with over 1.2 million doses having been administered there. At its peak, the World Trade Centre Kuala Lumpur – the country’s first mega Pusat Pemberian Vaksin (PPV or vaccination centre) was seeing some 18,000 doses administered daily. Vaccine tsar and health minister Khairy Jamaluddin wrote on Twitter that the centre was the “biggest workhorse” in the country’s national vaccination programme.
7th Oct 2021 - South China Morning Post

‘Reaching a detente’ with SARS-CoV-2: Helen Branswell on covering Covid-19, misinformation and more

On Wednesday, STAT senior writer Helen Branswell spoke with Seth Mnookin, director of the MIT Graduate Program in Science Writing. The AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards sponsored the talk as part of its annual fall lecture series and in honor of Sharon Begley. Branswell spoke about Begley’s legacy, reporting on infectious diseases, and the past and future of the Covid-19 pandemic. Highlights from the conversation have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
6th Oct 2021 - STAT News

A New Vaccine Strategy for Children: Just One Dose, for Now

Even as parents in the United States wrestle with difficult questions over vaccinating their children against the coronavirus, families in other countries have been offered a novel option: giving children just one dose of the vaccine. Officials in Hong Kong as well as in Britain, Norway and other countries have recommended a single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 12 and older — providing partial protection from the virus, but without the potential harms occasionally observed after two doses. Health officials in those countries are particularly worried about increasing data suggesting that myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart, may be more common among adolescents and young adults after vaccination than had been thought.
6th Oct 2021 - The New York Times

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UK readying payment systems to charge for rapid COVID-19 testing -sources

Britain is aiming early next year to be ready to start charging for some previously free COVID-19 tests, two sources close to the health service said, a step one described as driven by the finance ministry's desire to rein in spending. The government and health officials have said that rapid testing, via easy-to-use lateral flow tests, is crucial for tracking the spread of COVID-19, with regular testing of those without symptoms identifying around a quarter of all cases.
7th Oct 2021 - Reuters

China Is Last Holdout on Covid-Zero Strategy

For much of the pandemic, a group of places in the Asia-Pacific brought infections to zero, becoming virus-free havens in a world ravaged by the pathogen. Now, with the rise of the delta variant and the proliferation of vaccines, only one is still holding fast to that goal of eliminating Covid-19: China. With New Zealand preparing to shift away from the zero-tolerance strategy, China’s isolation is complete, raising the stakes on how long it can stick to a playbook that requires closed borders, abrupt lockdowns, and repeated disruption of social and economic activity. One by one, Covid Zero places like Singapore and Australia have decided that the approach is unsustainable, pivoting instead to vaccination to protect people from serious illness and death while easing off on attempts to control the number of infections.
6th Oct 2021 - Bloomberg

BofA Gives $200 to Merrill Staff Who Confirm Vaccination Status

Bank of America Corp. is offering $200 awards to Merrill Lynch Wealth Management branch employees who return to the workplace and confirm they’re fully vaccinated against Covid-19. The company will give the award to client associates, administrative support and operations staff “in recognition of the important work they are doing as the business has transitioned back into the office,” a Merrill spokesman said in a statement to Bloomberg News. While the new policy stops short of being a mandate like those put in place by United Airlines Holdings Inc. and Microsoft Corp., Bank of America is following other U.S. companies in providing a financial incentive to get the shots. Delta Air Lines Inc. is imposing a $200 monthly surcharge on employees who aren’t vaccinated.
6th Oct 2021 - Bloomberg

Sweden, Denmark pause Moderna COVID jabs for younger age groups

Sweden and Denmark have said they will pause the use of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for younger age groups after reports of possible rare side effects, such as myocarditis. The Swedish health agency said on Wednesday it would pause using the shot for people born in 1991 and after as data pointed to an increase of myocarditis and pericarditis among youths and young adults that had been vaccinated. Those conditions involve an inflammation of the heart or its lining. “The connection is especially clear when it comes to Moderna’s vaccine Spikevax, especially after the second dose,” the health agency said in a statement, adding the risk of being affected was very small. Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s chief epidemiologist, said the health agency would continue to “follow the situation closely and act quickly to ensure that vaccinations against COVID-19 are always as safe as possible and at the same time provide effective protection” against the disease.
6th Oct 2021 - AlJazeera

The stages of pandemic emotion: from horror to hope to rage — and now, an anxious optimism

The first days of summer this year saw Americans jubilant, as Covid-19 cases plummeted across the country. The sentiment morphed to anger as the Delta variant exploded, and as vaccine holdouts prolonged the pain of the pandemic — and then to despair, that even with remarkably protective shots, some communities with low vaccine coverage endured their worst stretches of the crisis. Now, with trend lines heading in the right direction, we’re moving toward a kind of timid optimism. “People are almost holding their breath,” said Columbia University epidemiologist Wafaa El-Sadr. “They’re encouraged, but at the same time, they’re hypervigilant. It’s really a result of prior experiences.” There are reasons to allow, at least partially, for an exhale. The Southern states that witnessed horrific summertime waves have seen them subside, after the Delta variant swept through so many of the people who remained susceptible. Nationally, cases have fallen by a third in recent weeks, and have been dropping for enough time that now deaths are coming down. Hospitalizations have declined to below 75,000 for the first time in weeks. All those metrics got so high, however, that they have quite a ways to plunge to reach the levels of June.
6th Oct 2021 - STAT News

Los Angeles requires proof of vaccination to enter many businesses, one of the nation’s strictest rules.

Los Angeles will require most people to provide proof of full coronavirus vaccination to enter a range of indoor businesses, including restaurants, gyms, museums, movie theaters and salons, in one of the nation’s strictest vaccine rules. The new law, which was approved by the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday, will allow people with medical conditions that do not allow them to be vaccinated, or who have a sincerely held religious objection, to instead show proof of a negative coronavirus test taken within the preceding 72 hours. It will take effect on Nov. 4, which city officials have said should give the city and businesses enough time to figure out how the rule should be enforced.
6th Oct 2021 - The New York Times

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Arizona can't use COVID money for anti-mask grants, feds say

The Biden administration on Tuesday ordered Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to stop using the state’s federal pandemic funding on a pair of new education grants that can only be directed to schools without mask mandates. In a letter to Ducey, the Treasury Department said the grant programs are “not a permissible use” of the federal funding. It’s the latest attempt by the Biden administration to push back against Republican governors who have opposed mask mandates and otherwise sought to use federal pandemic funding to advance their own agendas. Ducey, a Republican, created the grant programs in August to put pressure on school districts that have defied the state’s ban on mask mandates.
5th Oct 2021 - The Associated Press

How has COVID-19 affected Australia’s homeless?

When Melbourne went into lockdown between March and October last year, the city’s rough sleepers were considered to be at high risk. Without a secure and isolated place in which to lock down, the concern was that they could easily catch and transmit COVID-19. The Victorian government responded by providing funding for people experiencing homelessness to access hotel rooms across the city, which were empty due to the lack of tourists. Dave Lovelock is an outreach worker at Launch Housing, a not-for-profit organisation that assists people experiencing homelessness. Launch Housing are one of a number of similar organisations who were involved with the government hotel programme due to their close connections with rough sleepers. Dave Lovelock’s job was to scour the streets to find people who were at risk of rough sleeping during the pandemic and offer them a place to stay at one of the designated hotels.
5th Oct 2021 - Al Jazeera English

AstraZeneca Submits Preventive Covid-19 Treatment for FDA Authorization

The company asked U.S. regulators for emergency-use authorization for an antibody drug that earlier this year showed strong efficacy in preventing symptomatic Covid-19, offering a potential alternative in evading the disease.
5th Oct 2021 - Wall Street Journal

English Schools Drop Mask Mandates, but Questions Rise Along With Cases

England took a high-stakes gamble when it sent millions of students back to school last month with neither vaccines nor a requirement to wear face masks, even as the coronavirus continued to course through the population. On Tuesday, the country’s Education Department issued its latest report card on how the plan is working: 186,000 students were absent from school on Sept. 30 with confirmed or suspected cases of the virus, 78 percent more than the number reported on Sept. 16, and the highest number since the pandemic began. Yet to hear many parents tell it, the bigger risk would have been to force the students to keep wearing masks or, worse, to keep them home.
5th Oct 2021 - The New York Times

EU Panel May Start Accelerated Review of Merck's Covid Pill

A European Union advisory committee will consider starting an accelerated review for Merck & Co.’s experimental antiviral pill against Covid-19 following the company’s announcement last week that it will seek emergency-use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as soon as possible. The panel will consider starting a “rolling review” in coming days, Marco Cavaleri, the head of biological health threats and vaccines strategy at the European Medicines Agency, said at a press briefing Tuesday. That’s a procedure where data is evaluated as it becomes available to speed up the process. Merck’s new drug, molnupiravir, has led to optimism about the course of the pandemic after early studies show the drug has the potential to cut the rate of hospitalization and death by around 50% in mild to moderate Covid patients.
5th Oct 2021 - Bloomberg

'It's Like There's No Covid': Booster Shots Bring Tel Aviv Back to Life

Tel Aviv’s mayor has a message for cities struggling to reopen: Covid booster shots are allowing his city to roar back to life. The mass distribution of third shots in Israel has driven down new cases and hospital admissions, allowing restaurants and shops to fill up with customers. New variants of the disease could change the pandemic’s trajectory again, but for now, the boosters are working, Mayor Ron Huldai said in an interview with Bloomberg News. “On the streets of Tel Aviv now, it’s like there’s no Covid,” said Huldai, 77, who has run Tel Aviv for more than two decades since he was elected in 1998. He said 99% of city workers are vaccinated.
5th Oct 2021 - Bloomberg

Australia won’t welcome foreign tourists until at least 2022

Foreign tourists won’t be welcomed back to Australia until at least next year, the prime minister said Tuesday as he outlined plans for lifting some of the toughest and longest COVID-19 travel restrictions imposed by any democracy. The country will instead prioritize the return of skilled migrants and students after it hits Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s benchmark for reopening its external borders: the full vaccination of 80% of the population aged 16 and older. It is expected to reach that point Tuesday. The news comes just days after Morrison announced plans to allow vaccinated citizens and permanent residents to fly overseas from November for the first time since March 2020.
5th Oct 2021 - The Associated Press

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Italian studies show COVID-19 shots less effective in immunocompromised

COVID-19 vaccines are less effective on people with weakened immune systems, three small Italian studies show, which the studies' researchers say highlight the need to deploy booster shots for this group of vulnerable people. The studies show that, on average, 30% of immunocompromised patients do not develop immunity to the virus after vaccination. The remaining 70% respond to the vaccine, especially after the second dose, but to a lesser extent than healthy people and with differences from group to group, the Bambino Gesu Hospital in Rome, which conducted the three small studies, said in a statement on Monday.
4th Oct 2021 - Reuters

In Alaska’s Covid Crisis, Doctors Must Decide Who Lives and Who Dies

There was one bed coming available in the intensive care unit in Alaska’s largest hospital. It was the middle of the night, and the hospital, Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, had been hit with a deluge of coronavirus patients. Doctors now had a choice to make: Several more patients at the hospital, most of them with Covid-19, were in line to take that last I.C.U. spot. But there was also someone from one of the state’s isolated rural communities who needed to be flown in for emergency surgery. Who should get the final bed? Dr. ​​Steven Floerchinger gathered with his colleagues for an agonizing discussion. They had a better chance of saving one of the patients in the emergency room, they determined. The other person would have to wait.
4th Oct 2021 - The New York Times

Thailand joins Asian nations in rush to buy Merck's COVID-19 pill

Thailand's government is in talks with Merck & Co (MRK.N) to buy 200,000 courses of its experimental antiviral pill for COVID-19 treatment, the latest Asian nation to scramble for supplies of the drug after lagging behind Western countries for vaccines. Somsak Akksilp, director-general of the Department of Medical Services, told Reuters that Thailand is currently working on a purchasing agreement for the antiviral drug, known as molnupiravir. South Korea, Taiwan and Malaysia said they are alsoin talks to buy the potential treatment, while the Philippines, which is running a trial on the pill, said it hopes its domestic study would allow access to the treatment.
4th Oct 2021 - Reuters

COVID-19: Amber list and UK's traffic light system for international travel scrapped as rules simplified

The UK's traffic light system for travel has been scrapped and replaced with just two categories - countries on the red list and everywhere else. The number of countries on the red list - currently 54 - is expected to be cut to as few as nine, with places such as South Africa, and Mexico expected to become available to quarantine-free travel. People arriving in the UK fully vaccinated against COVID-19 - and everyone under 18 - will also see changes.
4th Oct 2021 - Sky News

New Zealand drops COVID-19 elimination strategy under pressure from Delta

New Zealand on Monday abandoned its long-standing strategy of eliminating coronavirus amid a persistent Delta outbreak, and will instead look to live with the virus and control its spread as its vaccination rate rises. The Pacific nation was among just a handful of countries to bring COVID-19 cases down to zero last year and largely stayed virus-free until an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant in mid-August frustrated efforts to stamp out transmission. "With this outbreak and Delta the return to zero is incredibly difficult," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a news conference in a major policy shift.
4th Oct 2021 - Reuters

How Merck's antiviral pill could change the game for COVID-19

A new drug by Merck significantly reduces the risk of hospitalisation and death in people who take it early in the course of their COVID-19 illness, according to the interim results of a major U.S. study released last week. It is the first oral antiviral found to be effective against this coronavirus. People who took this drug, called molnupiravir—four pills twice a day for five days—within five days of showing symptoms were about half as likely to be hospitalised as those taking the placebo. They were also less likely to die, with eight deaths in the placebo group reported within a month of treatment and none in those who received the medicine.
4th Oct 2021 - National Geographic

MUSC says COVID-19 hospitalizations in children is higher than it's ever been

On Oct. 4, the Medical University of South Carolina’s Shawn Jenkins Children Hospital reported that the number of children admitted with COVID-19 in August and September proved to be the highest two-month total of the pandemic. In that time frame, 74 kids were admitted, making up 40 percent of all coronavirus-related admissions since the start of the pandemic. The surge doesn’t stop there. In September, the hospital reported the number of kids suffering from multisystem inflammatory syndrome, an often life-threatening COVID complication, nearly doubled the previous monthly high for the pandemic. Cases during that month accounted for nearly 25 percent of all total cases at MUSC Children’s Health since the start of the pandemic.
4th Oct 2021 - Charleston Post Courier

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BioNTech chief predicts need for updated Covid vaccines next year

In an interview with the FT, Ugur Sahin, chief executive of BioNTech, told the Financial Times the Covid-19 variants currently in circulation, particularly the Delta strain, were more contagious but not different enough to undermine the effectiveness of current vaccines. Booster shots seem able to tackle the main variants, Sahin said. But the virus will eventually develop mutations that can escape the immune response bestowed by the vaccine, he said, necessitating a “tailored” version to specifically target the new strain. “This virus will stay, and the virus will further adapt,” he said. “We have no reason to assume that the next generation virus will be easier to handle for the immune system than the existing generation. This is a continuous evolution, and that evolution has just started.”
3rd Oct 2021 - Bloomberg

Britain’s Covid infection rate is one of the worst in the world, data reveals

Britain’s current Covid infection rate is by far the highest in western Europe and is only exceeded by a handful of countries around the world, latest research reveals. The UK’s average daily reported cases on stood at 52 per 100,000 population on Friday, according to the respected Johns Hopkins University in the US. That puts the country 14th out of more than 200 states in a global list of Covid infection rates – well above the likes of the US, Canada and the whole of western Europe, as well as other former global “hotspots” such as India and Brazil. A total of 191,771 people tested positive for Covid in England in the week to 22 September, a rise of 18 per cent on the week before, it was revealed on Thursday.
2nd Oct 2021 - Evening Standard

In Portugal, There Is Virtually No One Left to Vaccinate

Portugal’s health care system was on the verge of collapse. Hospitals in the capital, Lisbon, were overflowing and the authorities were asking people to treat themselves at home. In the last week of January, nearly 2,000 people died as the virus spread. The country’s vaccine program was in a shambles, so the government turned to Vice Adm. Henrique Gouveia e Melo, a former submarine squadron commander, to right the ship. Eight months later, Portugal is among the world’s leaders in vaccinations, with roughly 86 percent of its population of 10.3 million fully vaccinated. About 98 percent of all of those eligible for vaccines — meaning anyone over 12 — have been fully vaccinated, Admiral Gouveia e Melo said.
2nd Oct 2021 - The New York Times

Return to Covid restrictions as hundreds of schools told to ‘prepare for bubbles’

At least two councils have told schools to reintroduce some Covid measures as cases threaten to spiral out of control. Schools in Staffordshire have been issued with new guidance including the reintroduction of classroom bubbles and face coverings in crowded places after infections increased by nearly a third in the past week. Wolverhampton secondary school pupils have also been told to wear masks in communal areas as councils take it upon themselves to tackle the latest outbreaks. All compulsory measures were scrapped by the government for the start of the latest term, with schools able to operate mostly as normal.
2nd Oct 2021 - Metro

Indonesia Eyes 10000-Strong Event in Test of Life With Virus

As many as 10,000 people attended the opening ceremony of Indonesia’s first major sports event since its worst Covid-19 outbreak -- a test of its strategy of living with the virus. The national sporting week called PON started Saturday at the newly renovated stadium in the eastern city of Jayapura, with the number of spectators meeting the 25% maximum capacity set by the domestic affairs ministry. Spectators have to be tested before entering the venue, wear masks and maintain social distancing, according to the ministry. Normal activities are starting to return in Southeast Asia’s biggest economy as its coronavirus cases and deaths are brought under control. That’s a stark contrast to just a month ago, when the country was reporting the world’s highest number of coronavirus deaths each day. The country added 1,414 cases on Saturday and 89 deaths from the virus.
2nd Oct 2021 - Bloomberg

Anti-Vaxxers Aren't Quitting Over Vaccine Mandates

It turns out most of them would rather be inoculated than unemployed.
1st Oct 2021 - Bloomberg

S.African president Ramaphosa eases COVID-19 restrictions to lowest level

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has eased restrictions aimed at combating the coronavirus pandemic to the country's lowest alert level, the second such loosening this month as the country looks to open up its economy ahead of the summer holiday season. In a televised address, Ramaphosa announced the country would move down one level in a five-tier system of restrictions, where five is the highest, to an 'adjusted level 1' as South Africa emerges from its third wave dominated by the Delta variant of the virus.
1st Oct 2021 - Reuters

New Zealand's Auckland logs more Delta cases ahead of key decision on restrictions

New Zealand logged 19 more cases of the highly infectious Delta coronavirus variant on Friday - all in Auckland, making it highly likely that the country's biggest city will continue to be sealed off even if some restrictions are eased next week. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern enforced what was meant to be a "short and sharp" nationwide lockdown nationwide in mid-August after the Delta outbreak. But while the rest of the country has largely returned to normal life, Auckland's population of 1.7 million has now been in lockdown for about seven weeks.
1st Oct 2021 - Reuters

Fire at Romanian COVID-19 hospital kills seven people

Seven people died on Friday when a fire broke out in a Romanian intensive care unit treating COVID-19 patients, officials said, the country's third deadly hospital fire in less than a year. Video footage showed patients jumping out of windows from the hospital's lower levels and firefighters carrying people out. The country's emergency response unit had initially said nine people had died, but Transport Minister Lucian Bode later said there had been a miscommunication between firefighters and hospital staff.
1st Oct 2021 - Reuters

Get a friend vaccinated and eat out on us, Swiss govt tells citizens

Swiss citizens who persuade their friends to get COVID-19 shots can look forward to a free restaurant meal or cinema outing courtesy of the state, under a scheme aimed at boosting the country's low vaccination rate. Switzerland has witnessed numerous anti-vaxxer protests and 42% of its 8.7 million population are not yet fully vaccinated, relatively high by European standards. Announcing what he admitted was an unusual incentive scheme to bring that number down, Health Minister Alain Berset told a news conference in Bern: "The immunisation rate ...remains very low and this means we cannot end containment measures."
1st Oct 2021 - Reuters

Global COVID-19 deaths hit 5 million as Delta variant sweeps the world

Worldwide deaths related to COVID-19 surpassed 5 million on Friday, according to a Reuters tally, with unvaccinated people particularly exposed to the virulent Delta strain. The variant has exposed the wide disparities in vaccination rates between rich and poor nations, and the upshot of vaccine hesitancy in some western nations. More than half of all global deaths reported on a seven-day average were in the United States, Russia, Brazil, Mexico and India.
1st Oct 2021 - Reuters

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My patients in Melbourne tell me how they caught Covid, and the reasons leave me sad and frustrated

When I do my ward round on my patients with Covid, I don’t ask them why they aren’t vaccinated. I don’t ask them how they caught Covid. My role is to provide caring, compassionate non-judgmental care. But sometimes people tell me unprompted and the reasons leave me feeling sad and frustrated for the inequality in our health system. Many of my patients don’t speak much English, and since I am monolingual, we rely on phone calls with family members to help us communicate. We always ask how everyone else in the household is. One patient told me they live with seven people and all have Covid. In our hospital, there are multiple families with more than one person who has been admitted.
30th Sep 2021 - The Guardian

AP-NORC poll: Virus fears linger for vaccinated older adults

Bronwyn Russell wears a mask anytime she leaves her Illinois home, though she wouldn’t dream of going out to eat or to hear a band play, much less setting foot on a plane. In Virginia, Oliver Midgette rarely dons a mask, never lets COVID-19 rouse any worry and happily finds himself in restaurants and among crowds. She is vaccinated. He is not. In a sign of the starkly different way Americans view the coronavirus pandemic, vaccinated older adults are far more worried about the virus than the unvaccinated and far likelier to take precautions despite the protection afforded by their shots, according to a new poll out Wednesday from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
30th Sep 2021 - The Associated Press

Vaccine apartheid: The Global South fights back

Could the rich world’s obscene selfishness on vaccine equality ultimately help bring about a fairer economy? If we fight for it. When diplomats start speaking like campaigners, you know geopolitics is starting to shift. This week United Nations chief Antonio Guterres lectured world leaders on the disgraceful state of vaccine inequality, calling it “a moral indictment of the state of our world. It is an obscenity.” A fortnight earlier, World Health Organization head Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the press: “I will not stay silent when the companies and countries that control the global supply of vaccines think the world’s poor should be satisfied with leftovers.”
30th Sep 2021 - Al Jazeera English

France orders anyone aged 12 and older to show Covid 'health pass' to enter public sites in bid to stave off winter coronavirus flare-up

Policy is an extension of 'health pass' already in place for adults for two months The pass proves vaccination, a recent negative test or a recovery from the virus French President Macron introduced the pass for adults in July, sparking rallies But it also triggered millions of people to get the jab after holding out for months
30th Sep 2021 - Daily Mail

Beijing 2022 presents COVID-19 protocol to IOC

International spectators will be barred from the Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics, while all the Games' participants are encouraged to be fully vaccinated, according to Beijing 2022's COVID-19-prevention policies. The Beijing 2022 Organizing Committee on Wednesday presented its key COVID-19 countermeasures for the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) during an IOC executive board meeting chaired by President Thomas Bach, in the presence of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Andrew Parsons, outlining its principles regarding key policies, including vaccination, Games-time closed-loop management, spectators and ticketing. All athletes and Games participants who are fully vaccinated will enter the closed-loop management system, or known as "bio-secure bubbles", upon arrival, according to a press release from Beijing 2022. Games participants who are not fully vaccinated will have to enter a 21-day quarantine upon arrival in Beijing.
30th Sep 2021 - China Daily

How Denmark beat Covid and lifted all restrictions, and the lessons the UK can learn

Denmark appears to have defeated Covid-19, with low infection rates, 75 per cent of the population fully vaccinated and normality returning after all restrictions were lifted this month. The country is recording 367 new infections on average each day compared with 34,241 in the UK. Crucially, the Danes had the “highest level of optimism” and “lowest levels of concern” of eight countries including the UK surveyed in the Hope Project, a global initiative led by Danish universities.
30th Sep 2021 - iNews

End of Covid-19 Jobs Program to Test U.K. Recovery

European capitals spent big on wage subsidies to prevent job losses at the start of the pandemic. A U.K. experiment in preventing mass layoffs is coming to an end, in a test of how quickly economies can reabsorb workers idled by the pandemic and wean companies off government support. The closure Thursday of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme marks the first big move by a European government to step back from the emergency economic policies in place since the virus swept the continent last year.
30th Sep 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

EU wants to extend looser state aid rules for virus-hit companies to mid-2022

The European Commission on Thursday proposed extending looser state aid rules for virus-hit companies for six months to June 2022 in a bid to slowly wean them off the billions of euros provided by governments across the European Union. The EU executive, tasked with ensuring a level playing field in the 27-country bloc, also proposed two new measures to encourage investment support and solvency support for a limited time to help Europe rebound from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The so-called Temporary Framework, adopted in March last year and due to expire at the end of this year, has allowed EU countries to pump in more than 3 trillion euros to thousands of companies across the bloc.
30th Sep 2021 - Reuters

European Countries Are at Risk of Autumn Covid Surge, ECDC Says

European countries with lower vaccination rates could see a surge in Covid-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths over the next two months, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. The EU agency, in its latest Rapid Risk Assessment, said the virus’s high level of circulation within the population puts poorly inoculated countries in the EU and European Economic Area at risk between now and the end of November. The group also cited the concern that even vaccinated people can experience severe outcomes from infection.
30th Sep 2021 - Bloomberg

Vaccine Mandates Reach 25% of U.S. Companies After Biden Order

One in four companies has instituted a vaccine mandate for U.S. workers, a sharp increase from last month, following President Joe Biden’s directive ordering large employers to require shots or weekly testing. Another 13% of companies plan to put a mandate in place, Brian Kropp, chief of human-resources research at consultant Gartner, said in a panel discussion Thursday. The firm’s findings are based off a survey of roughly 400 organizations.
30th Sep 2021 - Bloomberg

How Asia, Once a Vaccination Laggard, Is Revving Up Inoculations

The turnabout is as much a testament to the region’s success in securing supplies and working out the kinks in their programs as it is to vaccine hesitancy and political opposition in the United States. South Korea, Japan and Malaysia have even pulled ahead of the United States in the number of vaccine doses administered per 100 people — a pace that seemed unthinkable in the spring. Several have surpassed the United States in fully vaccinating their populations or are on track to do so, limiting the perniciousness of the Delta variant of the coronavirus
30th Sep 2021 - The New York Times

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PAHO says in advanced talks to buy more COVID vaccines

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday it is in advanced talks with vaccine makers to buy additional COVID-19 shots for its member states to complement bilateral deals, donations, and doses they are receiving via the COVAX mechanism. PAHO has reached an agreement with Chinese vaccine maker Sinovac, and is expecting to sign new accords soon to buy vaccines with emergency use listing approval from other suppliers for 2021 and 2022, PAHO Director Carissa Etienne said.
29th Sep 2021 - Reuters

Floundering private sales of vaccines in India deal blow to Russia's Sputnik V

Some of India's private hospitals have cancelled orders for Russia's Sputnik V vaccine as they struggle to sell COVID-19 shots amid surging supplies of free doses of other vaccines offered by the government. Industry officials said low demand and the extremely cold storage temperatures required have spurred at least three big hospitals to cancel orders for Sputnik V, sold only on the private market in the world's biggest vaccine-producing country. "With storage and everything, we have cancelled our order for 2,500 doses," said Jitendra Oswal, a senior medical official at Bharati Vidyapeeth Medical College and Hospital in the western city of Pune
29th Sep 2021 - Reuters

Covid-19 in South America: Vaccine Rollout Led to Big Drop in Cases

South America, exceptionally hard-hit by Covid-19, is seeing a sudden drop in cases and deaths, apparently from rapid and thorough vaccines on the heels of a horrific wave that provided antibodies to those it didn’t kill. Over a seven-day period, the continent now makes up 6% of cases and 9% of deaths, the lowest since the start of the pandemic. At its peak in June, it represented 38% of global infections and 44% of fatalities. One peculiarity of the continent is that the delta variant upending plans from Asia to the U.S. hasn’t found traction there. It had similarly contagious mutations, known as gamma and lambda, and their presence may be keeping delta at bay and extending immunity. This is distinct from Mexico, Central America and Cuba, where delta has taken hold and the other two hadn’t.
29th Sep 2021 - Bloomberg

A winter with twin threats of Covid-19 and flu will require adjustments to daily life, says former FDA commissioner

The US is bracing for a combination of threats this winter as both the flu and Covid-19 spread, and the country will likely have to change daily life to cope with both, an expert said. "I think the twin threats of this pathogen and the flu circulating every winter, as coronaviruses settle into a more seasonal pattern, is going to be too much for society to bear," former US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, told CNN's Jake Tapper. "I think we're going to have to readjust how we live our lives." Covid-19 cases have been driven up by the more transmissible Delta variant, but Gottlieb said last week that this could be the last major wave of infection the country sees. But that depends on enough people obtaining protection from either infection or vaccination, he added.
29th Sep 2021 - CNN

COVID-19: Cruise ship industry faces calls to prevent spread of infectious diseases after pandemic

The billion dollar industry is being urged to carry out "more monitoring" of the major health impacts that cruising can potentially cause for passengers.
29th Sep 2021 - Sky

COVID-19: Boris Johnson commits to appointing chair of public inquiry by Christmas as he meets bereaved families

Boris Johnson has promised families who lost loved ones to coronavirus that a chair of the public inquiry will be appointed by Christmas, as he was accused of adding "insult to injury" by delaying meeting them for more than a year. The prime minister held talks with members of COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice in Downing Street on Tuesday. In May, he announced an independent public inquiry into the government's handling of the pandemic will begin in the spring of next year.
29th Sep 2021 - Sky News

UK’s Johnson says COVID bereaved will have role in inquiry

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Tuesday he will appoint a chair this year to the planned public inquiry into the coronavirus pandemic and that bereaved families will have a role in the proceedings. Following a “very emotional” meeting with the COVID-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group, Johnson said the experiences of those who have suffered a loss during the pandemic would form a major part of the public inquiry. “And obviously, there’s very little I could say to mitigate their own suffering,” he said. “But what I did say was that we were determined to make sure that the experience of the bereaved was something we took account of.” The event, which took place more than a year after the prime minister promised to meet the bereaved, lasted just over an hour and took place outside at the request of the families. Five members of the group, which included co-founder Jo Goodman, shared how their loved ones caught the virus and died.
28th Sep 2021 - The Associated Press

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Vaccine Mandate Leads Thousands of New York Health Workers to Get Vaccinated

When New York State officials issued a sweeping coronavirus vaccine mandate for health care workers in August, they expressed confidence that it would pressure reluctant doctors, nurses and support staff to get the shot. On Monday, as the deadline for vaccinations for about 600,000 nursing home and hospital workers arrived, it seemed that bet had proved to be at least partially correct. With just days or even hours to spare, thousands of health care workers got inoculated, according to health officials across the state.
28th Sep 2021 - New York Times

Behind Israel’s Swift Rollout of Covid-19 Vaccine Boosters

In late July, dozens of Israeli scientists and government health officials were locked in a marathon video call where they examined new data indicating that the effectiveness of the Covid vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE was waning. Infections from the new Delta variant were increasing, and growing numbers of people were falling seriously ill, even those who had had both shots of the vaccine. Lives were potentially on the line. Within days of the midnight vote that decided to distribute a third shot, the first of millions of booster shots were administered, months before the U.S. or any other country would take the same step. “It was a really tough discussion,” said epidemiologist Gili Regev-Yochay, who presented key research on the effectiveness of booster shots. “[But] it was a decision that was reached essentially with one voice.”
28th Sep 2021 - Wall Street Journal

New York's Covid-19 Vaccine Mandates Are Working, Officials Say

New York Governor Kathy Hochul says a Covid-19 vaccine mandate for health workers that went into effect this week is working to boost vaccination rates, providing a road map to other states that are trying to fight the highly transmissible delta variant. About 92% of nursing home staff in New York had received at least one vaccine dose as of Monday evening, up from 82% on Sept. 20 and 71% when Hochul was sworn in on Aug. 24, according to the governor’s office. And 85% of hospital staff were fully inoculated, up from 84% on Sept. 22 and 77% on Aug. 24, according to state data.
28th Sep 2021 - Bloomberg

Defying Delta: Back to school goes better than feared

School for children in many nations has been underway for more than a month and fears the Delta coronavirus variant would derail in-person learning have largely proven unfounded. In a dozen countries with high vaccination rates in Asia, Europe and the United States, case rates that surged in August have mostly fallen back, according to local data and officials. The jury is out on how much this is due to seasonal factors amid a global decline in cases, and how much it is linked to vaccinations and other preventative measures. Public health experts say they will continue to watch for signs of an increase in cases as winter approaches.
28th Sep 2021 - Reuters

COVID-19: Scotland delays enforcement of vaccine passport scheme

Scotland's new vaccine passport scheme for entry into nightclubs and large events will not be enforced until two weeks after it is introduced. From 5am on Friday, people going to venues open after midnight with alcohol, music and dancing will need proof they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. But First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said venues which fail to obey the new rules will not face punishment for another 17 days. Ms Sturgeon said she had made the change after listening to the "reasonable concerns of business".
28th Sep 2021 - Sky News

Covid-19: Unlocking options 'limited' by jab passport delay

In Northern Ireland, a delay by the executive in agreeing a Covid-19 vaccine certification policy has "significantly limited" the options for easing restrictions, the health minister has said. In a letter to the first and deputy first ministers, Robin Swann said he was frustrated by the lack of progress. He asked as a "matter of urgency" that the Executive Office brings forward a paper "without further delay". He said people would lose out if that did not happen. The absence of vaccine certification could leave them disadvantaged "when they travel to neighbouring jurisdictions where such schemes are mandatory", he said
28th Sep 2021 - BBC News

Boris Johnson meets with members of the Covid-19 Bereaved Families group for first time... 18 months after first death to the virus was recorded in UK

Boris Johnson is meeting a group of families bereaved by coronavirus - more than a year after he first promised to do so - with the PM to be told by campaigners: 'If we'd been listened to - other lives might have been spared'. The Prime Minister held a private meeting with members of the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice group in the Downing Street garden this afternoon, with each person attending carrying an A4 photo of the loved-one they lost. Families have asked for it to take place outdoors with social distancing and said they would tell Mr Johnson how their loved ones caught the virus and died, and repeat their calls for a public inquiry to start.
28th Sep 2021 - Daily Mail

Sydney's unvaccinated warned of social isolation when COVID-19 lockdown ends

Sydney residents who are not vaccinated against COVID-19 risk being barred from various social activities even when they are freed from stay-at-home orders in December, New South Wales state Premier Gladys Berejiklian warned. Under a roadmap to exit lockdown in Australia's biggest city, unvaccinated people are already subject to delays in freedoms that will be gradually granted to inoculated residents between Oct. 11 and Dec. 1. Berejiklian said people who choose not to be vaccinated could be barred entry to shops, restaurants and entertainment venues even after the state lifts all restrictions against them on Dec. 1.
28th Sep 2021 - Reuters

Brazil hospital chain hid COVID-19 deaths, whistleblowers' lawyer tells Senate

A Brazilian hospital chain tested unproven drugs on elderly COVID-19 patients without their knowledge as part of an effort to validate President Jair Bolsonaro's preferred 'miracle cure,' a lawyer for whistleblowing doctors told senators on Tuesday. At least nine people died of COVID-19 during the trials at the Prevent Senior hospital chain from March to April 2020, but their charts were altered to hide the cause of death, lawyer Bruna Morato told a Senate inquiry. Prevent Senior rejected the accusations as unfounded and said it had "rigorously reported" all deaths. It added in a statement that 7% of the 56,000 COVID-19 patients it treated had died, a better record that other public and private hospitals.
28th Sep 2021 - Reuters

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How France Overcame Covid-19 Vaccine Hesitancy

The French have long been wary of vaccines, but a mixture of mandates and inducements encouraged millions to get the shot as the Delta variant spread.
27th Sep 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

Crowdsourced Covid Antiviral Project Gets $11 Million in Funding

A crowdsourced effort to design a Covid-19 pill won 8 million pounds ($11 million) in funding from the Wellcome Trust, a significant boost for a project that aims to make a low-cost antiviral broadly available. The project, called Covid Moonshot, started with locked-down scientists around the world sharing data and ideas online in March 2020. Some 250 people eventually submitted more than 4,500 potential molecular designs intended to block the virus’s main protease -- the key protein that helps it replicate. The Wellcome funding will help pay for the expensive last step of research needed to bring the project into human clinical trials.
27th Sep 2021 - Bloomberg

How Much Covid Has Reduced Life Expectancy Around the World

American men lost 2.2 years of life expectancy last year because of Covid-19, the biggest decline among 29 nations in a study of the pandemic’s impact on longevity. Deaths among working-age men contributed the most to declining lifespans in the U.S., according to research led by demographers at the U.K.’s University of Oxford. Only Denmark and Norway, who have excelled at controlling their outbreaks, avoided drops in life expectancy across both sexes, the study published Sunday in the International Journal of Epidemiology found.
27th Sep 2021 - Bloomberg

Chile Begins Vaccinating Young Children With Sinovac Vaccine

The Chilean government began vaccinating children ages 6 to 11 as it moves forward with one of the most advanced Covid-19 prevention campaigns in Latin America. Children will get shots made by Sinovac Biotech Ltd following Chile’s approval for emergency use earlier this month. The government will begin giving shots in schools, and Health Undersecretary Paula Daza attended a ceremony in Santiago to mark the beginning of the vaccination campaign.
27th Sep 2021 - Bloomberg

EU Commission proposes extending vaccine export-control scheme

The European Commission has proposed extending the period of its scheme for monitoring and potentially limiting exports of COVID-19 vaccines from the bloc, a European Commission spokesperson told Reuters on Monday. If not prolonged, the scheme would expire this week. It is unclear whether the 27 EU states will support the proposal, which requires a qualified majority to be adopted. "Discussions are ongoing with member states, so we cannot comment further," the spokesperson said. If extended, the scheme would remain in place until the end of the year.
27th Sep 2021 - Reuters

Global vaccines project to revamp rules after Britain got more than Botswana

In March, as wealthy Britain led the world in vaccination rates and almost half its people had received a shot, the organisation meant to ensure fair global access to COVID-19 vaccines allotted the country over half a million doses from its supplies.
27th Sep 2021 - Reuters on MSN.com

New York may tap National Guard to replace unvaccinated healthcare workers

New York Governor Kathy Hochul is considering employing the National Guard and out-of-state medical workers to fill hospital staffing shortages with tens of thousands of workers possibly losing their jobs for not meeting a Monday deadline for mandated COVID-19 vaccination. The plan, outlined in a statement from Hochul on Saturday, would allow her to declare a state of emergency to increase the supply of healthcare workers to include licensed professionals from other states and countries as well as retired nurses.
27th Sep 2021 - Reuters

Biden to get COVID-19 booster on Monday as additional doses roll out

U.S. President Joe Biden rolled up his shirt sleeve and received a COVID-19 vaccine booster inoculation on Monday, hoping to provide a powerful example for Americans on the need to get the extra shot even as millions go without their first. "Boosters are important, but the most important thing we need to do is get more people vaccinated," he said, noting that about 23% of people in the United States have not received a shot.
27th Sep 2021 - Reuters

Thailand to reopen to more vaccinated visitors from November

Thailand will waive its mandatory quarantine requirement in Bangkok and nine regions from Nov. 1 to vaccinated arrivals, authorities said on Monday, as the country tries to boost its immunisation rate and revive its battered tourism sector. The regions include popular tourist areas Chiang Mai, Phangnga, Krabi, Hua Hin, Pattaya, and Cha-am, and follow the successful reopening of Phuket and Samui islands to vaccinated people in pilot schemes since July. The regions include popular tourist areas Chiang Mai, Phangnga, Krabi, Hua Hin, Pattaya, and Cha-am, and follow the successful reopening of Phuket and Samui islands to vaccinated people in pilot schemes since July.
27th Sep 2021 - Reuters

Sydney's COVID-19 lockdown to end sooner for the vaccinated

Australian authorities announced plans on Monday to gradually reopen locked-down Sydney, unveiling a two-tiered system that will give citizens inoculated for COVID-19 more freedoms than their unvaccinated neighbours for several weeks. Movement restrictions across New South Wales, the country's most populous state and home to Sydney, will be lifted gradually between Oct. 11 and Dec. 1 as vaccination rates push through 70%, 80% and 90%. However, people who are not fully inoculated will be barred from joining the vaccinated to resume community sports, dining out, shopping and other activities until the final date.
27th Sep 2021 - Reuters

Venezuelan academy of medicine expresses concern over use of Cuban vaccine

Venezuela’s National Academy of Medicine on Monday expressed concern over the use of Cuba’s Abdala coronavirus vaccine due to a lack of scientific research on its safety and efficacy. Cuba said on Saturday it had exported the three-shot vaccine for the first time, sending an initial shipment to Vietnam as part of a contract to supply five million doses to the Southeast Asian country. The government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has so far been relying on the Russian Sputnik V and the Chinese Sinopharm vaccines, and in recent months received its first shipment of doses via the global COVAX program.
27th Sep 2021 - Reuters

New U.S. travel rules close door on those fully vaccinated with Russia's Sputnik V

The United States announced last week that it would soon open its doors to foreign travelers vaccinated against the coronavirus, loosening restrictions for broad swaths of global visitors for the first time since the pandemic began. But the new rules, set to take effect in November, appear to also shut out many people who consider themselves to be fully immunized — including millions who have received two doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. Hundreds of thousands of Russians could be directly affected. Despite frosty diplomatic relations and limited demand for international travel, roughly 300,000 Russians visited the United States in 2019, the last year for which figures are available, according to the U.S. Travel Association.
27th Sep 2021 - The Washington Post

‘Covid hit us like a cyclone’: An Aboriginal town in the Australian Outback is overwhelmed

In two weeks, more than one-tenth of the town of 600 people had been infected, making Wilcannia the hardest-hit place in Australia. Soon, the number of cases would approach 150, with about 90 percent of them Aboriginal people. The remote community’s crisis reflects not only the recent collapse of “covid zero” in Australia but also the country’s historical failings. For 18 months, state and federal leaders had been promising to protect Indigenous Australians, who have higher rates of chronic disease and shorter life expectancies. They were declared a priority for vaccination
27th Sep 2021 - The Washington Post

Rowdy celebrations erupt in Norway as COVID restrictions end

Police in Norway on Sunday reported dozens of disturbances and violent clashes including mass brawls in the Nordic country’s big cities after streets, bars, restaurants and nightclubs were filled with people celebrating the end of COVID-19 restrictions that lasted for more than a year. The Norwegian government abruptly announced Friday that most of the remaining coronavirus restrictions would be scrapped beginning Saturday and that life in the nation of 5.3 million would return to normal. The unexpected announcement by outgoing Prime Minister Erna Solberg to drop coronavirus restrictions the next day took many Norwegians by surprise and led to chaotic scenes in the capital, Oslo, and elsewhere in the country.
26th Sep 2021 - The Associated Press

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Pfizer CEO predicts 'normal life' within a year

Pfizer's CEO Albert Bourla said on Sunday he anticipates a return to normal life post-pandemic within the year."I agree that, within a year, I think will we able to come back to normal life," Bourla said on ABC's "This Week. Bourla added that he does not think that this means variants will no longer exist or that vaccines would be unnecessary. Bourla said that the "most likely scenario" was that the world would continue to see new variants and have vaccines that would last "at least a year." "I think the most likely scenario is annual revaccination, but we don't know really. We need to wait and see the data," Bourla said.
26th Sep 2021 - The Hill on MSN.com

'Is my child going to die?' This is Covid-19 as a pediatric doctor

Dr. Sarah Ash Combs' first step of treatment for children brought into her emergency room with Covid-19 usually begins with a question: "What socks are you wearing today?" As her school-aged young patients look up at indistinguishable faces covered by PPE, Combs pulls up a pant leg of her scrub to show her own socks. Sometimes they're mismatched, sometimes they're covered in animals. And if she's wearing her favorite, they have sushi. The surge in Covid-19 cases brought on by the highly transmissible Delta variant has meant an increase in hospitalizations among children -- many of whom are not eligible for a vaccine yet. Nearly 26% of all Covid-19 cases nationwide are reported in children, according to recent data published by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
26th Sep 2021 - CNN

One in five psychologists close books to new patients under pandemic strain

Psychologists are struggling to keep up with the mental health demands of the pandemic, with a survey showing one in five were forced to close their books to new patients and others have wait times of up to three months as ongoing restrictions take their toll. Clinical psychologist Dr Lee Cubis, who works in a two-person practice in inner Melbourne, said demand has been huge.
26th Sep 2021 - Sydney Morning Herald

NYC Temporarily Blocked From Imposing School Vaccine Mandate

New York City’s school system, the largest in the U.S., has been temporarily blocked from imposing a mandate forcing teachers and other staff from getting vaccinated against Covid-19, according to a ruling from a federal judge. That mandate is scheduled to go into effect on Monday at midnight. Late Friday, a judge from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit referred the case to a three-judge panel “on an expedited basis.” The hearing will take place on Wednesday, Reuters reported.
26th Sep 2021 - Bloomberg

Logistics, Staff Shortage Hurt Indonesia's Vaccination Progress

A shortage of healthcare workers and logistical flaws are hampering Indonesia’s efforts to inoculate its people against Covid-19, leaving the world’s largest archipelago trailing its neighbors despite being among the first in Southeast Asia to start the program. Only 17.9% of Indonesia’s 270 million people are fully vaccinated, behind almost every major economy in the region, according to Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. About 32% have received their first dose, placing the nation among the bottom four on the list.
26th Sep 2021 - Bloomberg

India tells Quad will allow export of 8 mln Indo-Pacific vaccine doses

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told fellow leaders of the Quad partnership on Friday India will allow the export of 8 million COVID-19 vaccines by end of October in line with a deal reached by the grouping of Australia, India, Japan and the United States in March, India's foreign secretary said on Friday.
24th Sep 2021 - Reuters

Rochelle Walensky’s Finest Hour

The Biden Administration’s booster vaccine plan has been messy and confusing, but at least it arrived at the right outcome. Credit to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky late Thursday for overruling the agency’s outside advisers and backing a broad booster rollout. Last month White House officials and agency heads said they planned to make boosters available on Sept. 20. They were right to prepare, but boosters hadn’t been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration. Two senior career FDA officials told reporters they are leaving the agency because they disagreed with the White House booster plan.
24th Sep 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

White House says millions of government contractors must be vaccinated by Dec. 8

The White House said on Friday that millions of federal contractors must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 8 and that the administration will add clauses to future government contracts mandating inoculations. President Joe Biden signed an executive order on Sept. 9 requiring federal contractors to mandate vaccinations, but many U.S. companies with federal contracts have awaited formal guidance from the White House before moving forward.
24th Sep 2021 - Reuters

2021 Lasker Awards Honor Work in mRNA Vaccines, Neuroscience and More

Katalin Kariko, a senior vice president at BioNTech, and Dr. Drew Weissman, a professor in vaccine research at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, shared this year’s Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award. In retrospect, their 2005 breakthrough was apparent when Dr. Kariko and Dr. Weissman proudly published a surprising finding they had made about messenger RNA, also known as mRNA, which provides instructions to cells to make proteins. The scientists noticed that when they added mRNA to cells, the cells instantly destroyed it. But they could prevent that destruction by slightly modifying the mRNA. When they added the altered mRNA to cells, it could briefly prompt cells to make any protein they chose.
24th Sep 2021 - The New York Times

Beijing Olympics Is on Course to Have Stricter Covid-19 Rules Than Tokyo

With just over four months to go until the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, the developing picture of the Games is one of severe Covid-19 restrictions for outsiders, and possible advantages for domestic athletes. The U.S. will require vaccinations for its participants—something it stopped short of for the Tokyo Games, and which some observers say could be a precursor to a requirement imposed by China. Early steps taken last week by China to safeguard its “National Games,” a major multisport domestic event, have also raised the prospect of intense measures for people arriving in the country as athletes, officials and media. Those measures could potentially include pre-event quarantines that could disrupt training at the most critical moment for many Olympians.
24th Sep 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

Covid-19 Australia: Prime Minister makes bold promise to Aussies stranded overseas

Australian PM says stranded Australian expats are able to return once vaccination hits 80%. 80% of Australia's population are expected to be double jabbed by December. There are currently 45,000 Aussies stuck overseas waiting to return back home.
24th Sep 2021 - Daily Mail

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Covid variant that originated in Japan should be watched closely, expert says

Covid variant R.1 is a variant 'to watch', according to disease expert Dr Haseltine. He claimed it had established a foothold in both Japan and the US. But figures show it has been displaced in both countries by the Delta variant
24th Sep 2021 - Daily Mail

Delta Air says employee vaccination rate against COVID-19 rises to 82%

Delta Air Lines said on Thursday its employee vaccination rate against COVID-19 had risen to 82%, weeks after announcing a monthly health insurance surcharge for unvaccinated workers. The U.S. airline last month said employees will have to pay $200 more every month for their company-sponsored healthcare plan if they choose to not be vaccinated against COVID-19.
24th Sep 2021 - Reuters

Uganda loosens anti-coronavirus restrictions as pandemic ebbs

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni on Wednesday eased anti-coronavirus restrictions, including allowing resumption of education for universities and other post-secondary institutions, citing a decline in infections in the country. The east African country started experiencing a second wave of the pandemic around May, shortly after authorities announced detection of the highly transmissible Delta variant.
23rd Sep 2021 - Reuters

Olympics-USOPC will require COVID-19 vaccine for all US athletes at Beijing Games

The United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee on Wednesday said all U.S. athletes hoping to compete at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19. "Effective Nov. 1, 2021, the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee will require all USOPC staff, athletes and those utilizing USOPC facilities – including the training centers – to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19," USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland wrote in a letter reviewed by Reuters. "This requirement will also apply to our full Team USA delegation at future Olympic and Paralympic Games." Athletes and staff would have to opportunity to obtain a medical or religious exemption to the mandate, the USOPC said.
23rd Sep 2021 - Reuters on MSN.com

School Reopenings Falter on Rising Delta Variant Cases

Over the past month, with kindergarten through 12th grade in session, the country has reported almost 1 million cases among those under 18. Though kids typically are less likely than adults to become severely ill with Covid, they increasingly are contracting the highly contagious delta variant. As of Sunday, 2,000 schools nationwide had closed — 18% more than a week earlier, according to the Burbio tracker.
23rd Sep 2021 - Bloomberg

The World Is at War With Covid. Covid Is Winning.

So when vaccine developers were figuring out how to produce billions of Covid-19 vaccine shots as quickly as possible, they decided to use an alternative: disposable bioreactor bags. At first, it was a win-win. The bags are quicker and cheaper to make than the tanks, and using them can shave precious hours off manufacturing times because they don’t have to be cleaned and sterilized after each use. But before long, even this innovation became an obstacle in the quest to end the Covid pandemic. First, larger vaccine makers bought up many more bags than they could use, leaving smaller vaccine makers with no recourse and potential manufacturing sites underutilized. Then as the vaccination campaign wore on, supplies began drying up altogether. Only a few companies make the bags, and they have little incentive to ramp up their manufacturing efforts because there’s no telling how long the uptick in demand will last.
21st Sep 2021 - The New York Times

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

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'Soul-crushing': US COVID-19 deaths are topping 1900 a day

COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have climbed to an average of more than 1,900 a day for the first time since early March, with experts saying the virus is preying largely on a distinct group: 71 million unvaccinated Americans. The increasingly lethal turn has filled hospitals, complicated the start of the school year, delayed the return to offices and demoralized health care workers. “It is devastating,” said Dr. Dena Hubbard, a pediatrician in the Kansas City, Missouri, area who has cared for babies delivered prematurely by cesarean section in a last-ditch effort to save their mothers, some of whom died. For health workers, the deaths, combined with misinformation and disbelief about the virus, have been “heart-wrenching, soul-crushing.”
23rd Sep 2021 - The Associated Press

COVID-19 creates dire US shortage of teachers, school staff

One desperate California school district is sending flyers home in students’ lunchboxes, telling parents it’s “now hiring.” Elsewhere, principals are filling in as crossing guards, teachers are being offered signing bonuses and schools are moving back to online learning. Now that schools have welcomed students back to classrooms, they face a new challenge: a shortage of teachers and staff the likes of which some districts say they have never seen. Public schools have struggled for years with teacher shortages, particularly in math, science, special education and languages. But the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the problem. The stress of teaching in the COVID-19 era has triggered a spike in retirements and resignations.
23rd Sep 2021 - The Associated Press

U.N. Climate Summit Attendees Push U.K. for Vaccines

Known as COP26, the climate summit will be one of the largest in-person international gatherings since the start of the pandemic. The British government says it’s on track to provide promised shots for attendees,
22nd Sep 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

United says more than 97% of U.S. employees are vaccinated

United Airlines said more than 97% of its U.S. employees have been vaccinated ahead of the company's Sept. 27 deadline for staff vaccination. The airline has taken a tough stance on employees who decline to get vaccinated and became the first U.S. carrier in early August to announce it would mandate vaccines for employees.
22nd Sep 2021 - Reuters

Under pressure, U.S. donates half billion more COVID-19 vaccine doses to world

The United States promised to buy 500 million more COVID-19 vaccine doses to donate to other countries as it comes under increasing pressure to share its supply with the rest of the world. President Joe Biden made the announcement during a virtual summit aimed at boosting global vaccination rates against the coronavirus and rallying world leaders to do more. "To beat the pandemic here we need to beat it everywhere," Biden said as he kicked off the summit, which included leaders from Britain, Canada, Indonesia and South Africa as well as World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
22nd Sep 2021 - Reuters

Global coronavirus vaccine inequity is 'an obscenity', UN chief says

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has reprimanded the world for the inequitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, describing it as an "obscenity" and giving the globe an "F in ethics". Addressing the annual UN gathering of world leaders in New York, Mr Guterres said images from some parts of the world of expired and unused vaccines in rubbish told "the tale of our times" - with the majority of the wealthier world immunised while more than 90 per cent of Africa has not even received one dose. "This is a moral indictment of the state of our world. It is an obscenity. We passed the science test. But we are getting an F in ethics," Mr Guterres told the UN General Assembly.
22nd Sep 2021 - SBS News

UK to send 1m Pfizer vaccine doses to South Korea in swap deal

One million doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine are being sent from the UK to South Korea as part of a swap deal. South Korea will return the same “overall volume of doses” before the end of the year, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said. The initiative will help South Korea hit its target of administering a second dose to 70% of its population by the end of October, the DHSC said. The first batch of doses is due to be shipped within weeks.
22nd Sep 2021 - The Guardian

IMF calls for coordinated action, accountability in COVID-19 battle

The chief economist of the International Monetary Fund called for coordinated action and greater accountability to ensure that the world meets a target of vaccinating 40% of people in every country against COVID-19 by the end of 2021. India's decision this week to resume vaccine exports was "a very important part of the solution," but major economies also had to ratchet up vaccine deliveries to honor their pledges, Gita Gopinath told Reuters in an interview. The pandemic has killed nearly 5 million people across the world, and the IMF has warned that highly unequal health prospects - with just 2% of people in low-income countries vaccinated to date - poses "severe risks".
22nd Sep 2021 - Reuters

Argentina talks up 'last stage' of pandemic as controls loosened

Argentina unveiled plans to ease coronavirus pandemic restrictions, including loosening strict border controls, allowing more commercial activities and getting rid of the mandatory wearing of face masks outdoors. Health Minister Carla Vizzotti said the easing of rules would allow more economic, industrial and commercial activities in closed places, while borders would gradually reopen from this month, with all tourists allowed back in from November. "We are in a very positive moment, we know that the pandemic has not ended, we have to maintain care," Vizzotti said in a news conference in Buenos Aires. "We are moving toward the full recovery of activities."
22nd Sep 2021 - Reuters

Pressure Grows on U.S. Companies to Share Covid Vaccine Technology

Moderna accepted $2.5 billion in taxpayer money to develop its Covid-19 vaccine. But officials in the U.S. and overseas are having trouble persuading the company to license its technology. The discussions with Moderna have not been fruitful, said the official, who expressed deep frustration with the company but requested anonymity to discuss sensitive information.
22nd Sep 2021 - The New York Times

‘It’s scary’: record Covid absences cause concern in England’s schools

Last week more than 100,000 children were absent from school in England with confirmed or suspected Covid infections, the highest number during the pandemic, according to the Department for Education. Five parents and teachers in England share their experiences since the start of the new school year, including how they, their families and their pupils have been affected.
22nd Sep 2021 - The Guardian

FDA backs Pfizer COVID-19 boosters for seniors, high-risk

The U.S. moved a step closer Wednesday to offering booster doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to senior citizens and others at high risk from the virus as the Food and Drug Administration signed off on the targeted use of the extra shots. The FDA authorized booster doses for Americans who are 65 and older, younger people with underlying health conditions and those in jobs that put them at high-risk for COVID-19. The ruling represents a drastically scaled back version of the Biden administration’s sweeping plan to give third doses to nearly all American adults to shore up their protection amid the spread of the highly contagious delta variant.
22nd Sep 2021 - The Associated Press

Ravaged by war, Syrian rebel area struggles with virus surge

Coronavirus cases are surging to the worst levels of the pandemic in a rebel stronghold in Syria — a particularly devastating development in a region where scores of hospitals have been bombed and that doctors and nurses have fled in droves during a decade of war. The total number of cases seen in Idlib province — an overcrowded enclave with a population of 4 million, many of them internally displaced — has more than doubled since the beginning of August to more than 61,000. In recent weeks, daily new infections have repeatedly shot past 1,500, and authorities reported 34 deaths on Sunday alone — figures that are still believed to be undercounts because many infected people don’t report to authorities.
22nd Sep 2021 - The Associated Press

Amnesty blames top COVID jab makers for vaccine inequality

Six top manufacturers of the COVID-19 vaccine “are fuelling an unprecedented human rights crisis through their refusal to waive intellectual property rights and share vaccine technology”, Amnesty International said in a report. In the report titled “A Double Dose of Inequality”, the rights group denounced AstraZeneca, BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Novavax and Pfizer for “wheeling and dealing in favour of wealthy states”. “Vaccinating the world is our only pathway out of this crisis,” said Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary general. “It should be time to hail these companies, who created vaccines so quickly, as heroes. But instead, to their shame and our collective grief, Big Pharma’s intentional blocking of knowledge transfer and their  wheeling and dealing in favour of wealthy states has brewed an utterly predictable and utterly devastating vaccine scarcity for so many others.”
22nd Sep 2021 - AlJazeera

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John Nkengasong, of the Africa C.D.C., Will Lead PEPFAR

The Biden administration plans to nominate John Nkengasong, a virologist and director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to lead the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, according to several sources familiar with the matter. President Biden is expected to make the announcement in the coming days. PEPFAR is a $7 billion operation that funds and sets goals for AIDS care in many nations, most of them in Africa. Dr. Nkengasong, who was born in Cameroon, is the first person of African origin to head the program, which is housed in the Department of State.
21st Sep 2021 - The New York Times

Opinion | I Ran the CDC. Here’s How to Prove That Americans Are Vaccinated.

This month, President Biden announced a comprehensive plan to reinvigorate America’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. A big part of this plan hinges on mandating the vaccination of millions of federal workers. Employees of companies with more than 100 staff members will have to provide proof of vaccination or test negative for the coronavirus at least once a week. The businesses and other institutions that must enforce these mandates will have to verify vaccination status and test results to make this system work. Even before the plan was announced, a number of state and local governments and school districts and more than 1,000 colleges and universities adopted at least some vaccination requirements for employees and students. But without a unified approach to verify compliance, ideally through federal leadership, verification will be inaccurate, inconsistent and potentially insecure.
21st Sep 2021 - The New York Times

The Covid-19 Pandemic Put Many Pregnancy Plans on Hold. Some Women Aren’t Waiting Anymore.

On a Thursday morning in May, Kristyn Hodgdon entered a doctor’s office and laid eyes on the nitrogen tank containing the embryos that might one day become her babies. Pandemic restrictions in her Long Island town were easing at the time and vaccination rates were climbing. But at that moment, the 32-year-old still wasn’t ready. She decided to postpone trying for her third baby. “I had been working from home with my two toddlers for about a year with no child care,” Mrs. Hodgdon said of her decision. “It just felt like a mental overload that I couldn’t put myself through.”
21st Sep 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

U.S. Pledge to Vaccinate Poor Countries Stumbles Amid Logistical Challenges

A White House plan to donate hundreds of millions of doses of Covid-19 vaccines has been hampered in many developing countries by a lack of infrastructure to handle storage and distribution, leaving poorer nations far behind the developed world in vaccination rates. After a delayed start—the U.S. missed its first donation target—the Biden administration has been ramping up overseas donations, shipping around 137 million doses, most of them Moderna Inc. and Johnson & Johnson. It expects to send 500 million doses of a shot developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE by the end of June 2022, the largest donation total of any country.
21st Sep 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

Argentine Economy Shrank in Second Quarter Amid Worst Covid Wave

Argentina’s economy contracted in the second quarter as the country’s worst wave of the pandemic reduced activity and government trade restrictions cooled relations with the private sector. Gross domestic product fell 1.4% in the second quarter compared to the previous period, compared with economists’ expectations of a 1.6% decline. From a year ago, GDP rose 17.9% as a result of the base effect from the beginning of the pandemic in Argentina, according to government data published Tuesday
21st Sep 2021 - Bloomberg

U.S. to donate an additional 500 mln COVID-19 vaccines to the world

The United States plans to donate an additional 500 million COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE to nations around the world, lifting the total the country is sharing to more than 1 billion doses, according to a source familiar with the plans.
21st Sep 2021 - Reuters

Covid: US opens up to fully vaccinated travellers

The US is easing its coronavirus travel restrictions, reopening to passengers from the UK, EU and other nations. From November, foreign travellers will be allowed to fly into the US if they are fully vaccinated, and undergo testing and contact tracing. The US has had tough restrictions on travel in place since early last year. The move answers a major demand from European allies, and means that families and friends separated by the restrictions can be reunited.
21st Sep 2021 - BBC News

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India to resume exports of coronavirus vaccines in October

India, the world’s largest vaccine producer, will resume exports and donations of surplus coronavirus vaccines in October after halting them during a devastating surge in domestic infections in April, the health minister said Monday. Mansukh Mandaviya said the surplus vaccines will be used to fulfill India’s “commitment towards the world for the collective fight against COVID-19,” but vaccinating Indians will remain the government’s “topmost priority.” India was expected to be a key supplier for the world and for the U.N.-backed initiative aimed at vaccine equity known as COVAX. It began exporting doses in January but stopped doing so to inoculate its own population during a massive surge in infections in April that pushed India’s health system to the breaking point
21st Sep 2021 - The Associated Press

COVID has killed about as many Americans as the 1918-19 flu

COVID-19 has now killed about as many Americans as the 1918-19 Spanish flu pandemic did — approximately 675,000. The U.S. population a century ago was just one-third of what it is today, meaning the flu cut a much bigger, more lethal swath through the country. But the COVID-19 crisis is by any measure a colossal tragedy in its own right, especially given the incredible advances in scientific knowledge since then and the failure to take maximum advantage of the vaccines available this time. “Big pockets of American society — and, worse, their leaders — have thrown this away,” medical historian Dr. Howard Markel of the University of Michigan said of the opportunity to vaccinate everyone eligible by now.
21st Sep 2021 - The Associated Press

U.S. to Require Most Foreign Travelers Be Vaccinated for Entry

The U.S. will soon allow entry to most foreign air travelers as long as they’re fully vaccinated against Covid-19 -- while adding a testing requirement for unvaccinated Americans and barring entry for foreigners who haven’t gotten shots. The measures announced Monday by the White House are the most sweeping change to U.S. travel policies in months, and widen the gap in rules between vaccinated people -- who will see restrictions relaxed -- and the unvaccinated. The new rules will replace existing bans on foreigners’ travel to the U.S. from certain regions, including Europe.
20th Sep 2021 - Bloomberg

New Zealand eases coronavirus curbs in Auckland amid hope Delta variant outbreak now under control

New Zealand eased coronavirus curbs slightly in Auckland on Monday, as the government expressed confidence that there was no widespread regional transmission of the Delta variant of the coronavirus. But tough restrictions will continue even after midnight on Tuesday, when the alert level drops to 3 from 4 in the city of about 1.7 million at the centre of the latest Delta outbreak. Schools and offices must still keep closed, for instance, with businesses limited to offering only contactless services.
20th Sep 2021 - Evening Standard

Qatar wants mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations for all World Cup footballers

World Cup 2022 hosts Qatar are pushing to make it mandatory for all players who compete at next year’s tournament to have had both Covid-19 vaccinations. The Qatari government has already announced that any fans who attend the tournament next November will need to be fully vaccinated, and now that ruling could also extend to the players – and coaching staffs – taking part too. According to The Athletic, Qatari medical authorities have been in talks with FIFA and other stakeholders in an effort to ensure all participating players are double jabbed.
20th Sep 2021 - Metro.co.uk

Can we live with COVID-19? Singapore tries to blaze a path

Only 60 people in Singapore have died from COVID-19 since the pandemic first emerged, and some 82 percent of its population is now fully vaccinated against the disease. In June, the government announced it would move towards a “living with COVID-19” strategy, focusing on tracking and treating outbreak clusters with vaccinations and hospital admissions – but without the strict lockdowns, border closures, and work-from-home orders that have been the defining feature of much of the pandemic across the world.
20th Sep 2021 - Al Jazeera English

US Lifts Ban For Fully Vaccinated Travellers From UK And Europe

The White House is to lift the US travel Covid ban and allow fully vaccinated arrivals from the UK and Europe to enter the country from early November. Other countries including Brazil, China, India, Iran, Ireland and South Africa will also be included in the new policy. Passengers will not need to quarantine upon arrival but will need to prove they were vaccinated before boarding a flight and provide a negative Covid test which was taken within the last three days.
20th Sep 2021 - Huffington Post

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Covid-19 Vaccinations Boost the Global Economy, but May Not Cure It Alone

The global recovery is slowing as Covid-19 resurges, spurring governments to try to raise vaccination rates in hopes of fueling stronger economic growth. The thinking is, first, that vaccinations will ease consumers’ worries about infection, prompting them to spend more on travel, dining out, going to concerts and other activities that involve proximity to other people. Second, reduced Covid-19 case counts would mean fewer government shutdowns of ports, factories and other operations critical to global supply chains.
19th Sep 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

Melbourne Expects to Exit Its Sixth Lockdown in Late October

Melbourne will exit its sixth lockdown since the pandemic began once 70% of Australia’s Victoria state is fully vaccinated, authorities said Sunday as they outlined plans to unwind virus measures next month. Limits on “reasons to leave your home and the curfew will no longer be in place” once that target is met around Oct. 26, Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters. “Lockdown will be off.” Pubs, clubs and entertainment venues in the nation’s second-most populous city will be allowed to operate outdoors with up to 50 people who have received two shots. Schools are expected to start reopening on Oct. 5.
19th Sep 2021 - Bloomberg

The Delta Wave Is Tough on Kids, But Deadly for the Middle-Aged

A lot of kids have been getting Covid-19 in the U.S. this summer, thanks to the more-transmissible delta variant, the full return to in-person schooling and the unvaccinated status of virtually every American under 12. Those under 18 accounted for 28.9% of reported Covid cases in the first week of September, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than their 22.2% share of the population and much more than their 15.5% share of cumulative cases since the beginning of the pandemic.
19th Sep 2021 - Bloomberg

Led by the nose: Meet the UAE's COVID-19 sniffer dogs

Police in Dubai have built up a special unit of 38 sniffer dogs that can detect COVID-19 from human sweat samples with 92% accuracy, the supervisor of the training programme told Reuters. Dubai Police trained the cohort, which includes German Shepherds, Labradors, Cocker Spaniels and Border Collies, to recognise the scent of COVID-19 using samples of sweat from people with confirmed infections, collected by holding a swab in an armpit for a few minutes.
19th Sep 2021 - Reuters

Supply fears lead EU vaccine industry to seek home comforts

European companies playing key supporting roles in COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing are working to move production and supply chains closer to their customers to guard against trade restrictions that have interrupted supplies during the pandemic. Germany's Merck, whose Life Science unit is one of the world's largest makers of bioreactor gear and supplies, told Reuters it is pushing to spread its production network geographically so that fewer shipments have to cross customs borders.
19th Sep 2021 - Reuters

Australia reports 1607 COVID-19 cases as states learn to live with virus

Australia reported 1,607 new coronavirus cases on Sunday as states and territories gradually shift from trying to eliminate outbreaks to living with the virus. Victoria, home to about a quarter of Australia's 25 million people, recorded 507 cases as its premier said a weeks-long lockdown will end once 70% of those 16 and older are fully vaccinated, whether or not there are new cases. Premier Daniel Andrews said the state might reach that vaccination threshold around Oct. 26. About 43% Victorians have been fully vaccinated and just over 46% people nationwide.
19th Sep 2021 - Reuters

Abu Dhabi cancels COVID-19 entry testing for UAE travellers

Abu Dhabi will cancel COVID-19 testing requirements to enter the emirate for travellers from the UAE starting on Sunday, the United Arab Emirates' state news agency WAM said on Saturday. The UAE's capital had restricted entry into the emirate to those with a negative PCR test. Earlier this month, Abu Dhabi removed the need to quarantine for all vaccinated travellers arriving from international destinations.
18th Sep 2021 - Reuters

Beijing 2022 Games to have rigorous COVID-19 measures-IOC

The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics will have tight COVID-19 countermeasures in place to ensure the safety of all participants, the International Olympic Committee said on Friday.
17th Sep 2021 - Reuters

Denmark returns to pre-pandemic life with a huge pop concert

While many in Europe fretted over the Delta variant, university student and care worker Sofie Mari Jensen joined tens of thousands of people at Copenhagen’s Parken Stadium to watch the pop-rock band The Minds of 99. The event on September 11, a day after Denmark dropped all coronavirus restrictions, was Europe’s first concert hosting more than 50,000 people since the pandemic began.
17th Sep 2021 - AlJazeera

How Facebook Hobbled Mark Zuckerberg’s Bid to Get America Vaccinated

Company documents show antivaccine activists undermined the CEO’s ambition to support the rollout by flooding the site and using Facebook’s own tools to sow doubt about the Covid-19 vaccine
17th Sep 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

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IMF, World Bank urge more COVID-19 vaccination doses to go to poor countries

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva and other multilateral-organization leaders on Thursday urged countries with high COVID-19 vaccination rates to boost efforts to send doses to low- and middle-income countries. Georgieva and the heads of the World Bank Group, World Health Organization and World Trade Organization expressed concern in a joint statement that it would not be possible to vaccinate at least 40% of the population in all countries by the end of 2021 without urgent action.
17th Sep 2021 - Reuters UK

Mississippi Surpasses New Jersey as Worst State for Covid Deaths

Mississippi has overtaken New Jersey as the state with the highest per-capita death toll from Covid-19. Since the end of June, Mississippi has been among the states hardest-hit by the latest wave of infections, fueled by the fast-spreading delta variant. In that period, Mississippi’s cumulative deaths rose by about 22% to 306 per 100,000 residents, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
16th Sep 2021 - Bloomberg

EU launches health crisis body to prepare for future pandemic

The European Commission launched on Thursday a health crisis body that will coordinate EU spending of almost 30 billion euros ($35.3 billion) to prepare for a future pandemic. The new health emergency preparedness and response authority (HERA) will assess potential health threats, promote research, ensure the availability of critical production and help build stockpiles. If a new health crisis struck, it would activate emergency funding and help coordinate monitoring, procurement and purchase of medical equipment or treatments.
16th Sep 2021 - Reuters

France suspends 3000 health staff as Europe targets vaccine refusal

Hospitals, care homes and health centres have suspended around 3,000 workers across France for failing to comply with mandatory COVID vaccination, the government said on Thursday, as countries around Europe weigh how far to go to combat the pandemic. While Italy is set to announce later on Thursday that proof of vaccination or a negative test will be compulsory for all workers, going further than any other country in the region, the Netherlands plans a similar step - but only to go to bars or clubs.
16th Sep 2021 - Reuters

Malaysians enjoy taste of travel after lockdown in tourism restart

The first plane carrying tourists in more than four months touched down on the Malaysian island of Langkawi on Thursday and was greeted by a twin water cannon "salute", in the launch of a programme to revive a travel sector frozen by the pandemic. The first batch of 159 travellers from the capital, Kuala Lumpur, arrived eager for a vacation after a monthslong, nationwide lockdown imposed to address one of Asia's highest per-capital coronavirus infection rates.
16th Sep 2021 - Reuters

Majorities in new poll support requiring proof of vaccine to fly, enter arenas

A majority of people in the U.S. support requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination in order to board airplanes or enter indoor arenas, a new Monmouth University poll shows. The poll found 59 percent of Americans said people should need to show proof of vaccination to be able to get on an airplane, while 55 percent say they support the measure for indoor arenas. Forty-six percent of people support requiring proof of vaccination to attend events at outdoor arenas.
16th Sep 2021 - The Hill

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Pope urges COVID inoculations, says vaccines are humanity's friends

Pope Francis said on Wednesday he was puzzled why so many people, including some cardinals in Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, have refused to get inoculated against COVID-19. "It is a bit strange because humanity has a history of friendship with vaccines," he said aboard the plane returning from Slovakia, responding to a question from a reporter about the reasons for vaccine hesitancy. "As children (we were vaccinated) for measles, polio. All the children were vaccinated and no one said anything," he said.
16th Sep 2021 - Reuters

Opinion | The Delta Variant's Economic Damage Isn't Over

Without more immigration, businesses won’t come close to filling the record number of open job positions. Endemic labor shortages were businesses’ No. 1 problem before the pandemic. It is even more serious now as many baby boomers have stopped working. Until the pandemic winds down and immigration of both skilled and unskilled workers revives, businesses, especially in big cities, will be unable to get the help they need.
15th Sep 2021 - New York Times

Moderna says COVID-19 vaccine protection wanes, makes case for booster

New data from Moderna Inc's large COVID-19 vaccine trial shows that the protection it offers declines over time, supporting the case for booster doses, the company said in a news release on Wednesday. Several recent studies have suggested that its vaccine may have an edge over a similar shot from Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech SE in terms of maintaining efficacy over time.
15th Sep 2021 - Reuters

India considers resuming vaccine exports soon, focus on Africa, says source

India is considering resuming exports of COVID-19 vaccines soon, mainly to Africa, as it has partly immunised a majority of its adults and supplies have surged, a source with knowledge of the matter told Reuters. India, the world's biggest maker of vaccines overall, stopped vaccine exports in April to focus on inoculating its own population as infections exploded.
15th Sep 2021 - Reuters India

Unvaccinated children suffering COVID impact, Americas health agency warns

As more adults get their COVID-19 vaccines, children who are not yet eligible for vaccination in most countries are representing a larger percentage of hospitalizations and even deaths, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) warned on Wednesday. Nine months in to this year, infections among children and adolescents in the Americas have surpassed 1.9 million cases, and they face significant health risks, the regional branch of the World Health Organization (WHO) said.
15th Sep 2021 - Reuters

Alberta’s top doctor says COVID-19 surge stems from removal of restrictions

Alberta’s top health official says the fourth wave of COVID-19 that has swamped intensive-care units and forced the widespread cancellations of surgeries was set in motion when the province dropped all public-health restrictions over the summer. Deena Hinshaw, the Chief Medical Officer of Health, also said she regretted her announcement in late July that the province would treat COVID-19 as an “endemic” respiratory illness like influenza. She said it wrongly gave some people the impression that the pandemic was over, which she added has made it more difficult to make the case for additional public-health measures. She made the comments in a presentation to family doctors that was recorded Monday evening and then posted to social media.
15th Sep 2021 - The Globe and Mail

1 in every 500 US residents have died of Covid-19

The United States has reached another grim milestone in its fight against the devastating Covid-19 pandemic: 1 in 500 Americans have died from coronavirus since the nation's first reported infection. As of Tuesday night, 663,913 people in the US have died of Covid-19, according to Johns Hopkins University data. According to the US Census Bureau, the US population as of April 2020 was 331.4 million.
15th Sep 2021 - CNN

U.S. pushes world leaders to embrace 70% global COVID-19 vaccination target

The United States is pushing global leaders to endorse what it calls ambitious targets for ending the COVID-19 pandemic, including ensuring 70% of the world's population is vaccinated against the virus by the 2022, according to a draft U.S. document viewed by Reuters on Tuesday.
15th Sep 2021 - Reuters

Dutch PM Rutte: Netherlands to ease COVID-19 restrictions

The Dutch government on Tuesday announced they are easing COVID-19 restrictions and will introduce a "corona" pass showing proof of vaccination to go to bars, restaurants, clubs or cultural events. Prime Minister Mark Rutte said most social distancing requirements will be dropped from Sept. 25.
15th Sep 2021 - Reuters

EU pledges 200 million vaccine doses to low-income nations

The European Union’s top official said Wednesday that ramping up COVID-19 vaccinations around the world was the bloc’s No. 1 priority right now and committed another 200 million vaccine doses to Africa and low-income nations. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen used her State of the European Union speech on Wednesday to announce the new donation that will be fully delivered by the middle of next year and comes on top of 250 million vaccine doses already pledged.
15th Sep 2021 - The Associated Press

As rich-poor divide widens between nations, UN urges reform

A new report from the United Nations on Wednesday highlights divergent economic recoveries between nations and throws fresh urgency behind warnings that richer nations are not doing enough to help poorer countries from falling further behind as the world recovers from COVID-19 disruptions. “It’s really frustrating to see how responses to the pandemic have panned out rather disjointedly,” said Inu Manak, an expert in international political economy at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank based in Washington, DC in the United States.
15th Sep 2021 - AlJazeera

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England Unveils Winter Covid Strategy

Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain announced a plan on Tuesday to offer all those age 50 and older a booster vaccine as part of a winter coronavirus strategy — plunging Britain into a growing debate over whether lower-income countries should get shots first. The prime minister is taking the step to try to prevent a new surge in cases from overwhelming the National Health Service, and to avoid another lockdown in a country wearied by the pandemic and earlier measures that included some of the strictest restrictions in the world.
14th Sep 2021 - The New York Times

Johnson Doubles Down on Vaccine Strategy as His Popularity Wanes

When Prime Minister Boris Johnson fumbled his initial response to the coronavirus pandemic, his political fortunes faltered, only to rebound quickly thanks to Britain’s surprisingly effective vaccine rollout. With his popularity now waning again — this time following a broken promise not to raise taxes — Mr. Johnson is hoping that history will repeat itself. On Tuesday, he announced a campaign to offer vaccine booster shots to people aged 50 and over, as well as first shots to three million children, aged 12 to 15 — all while reiterating his vow to avoid future lockdowns.
14th Sep 2021 - The New York Times

WHO Says India May Resume Covid-19 Vaccines to Africa This Year

The World Health Organization said talks are underway with India for a resumption of Covid-19 vaccine exports to African countries following a pause during a deadly wave of infections earlier this year. “Be assured the conversation is ongoing, be assured that supply will restart this year,” Bruce Aylward, a senior WHO official, said at a briefing Tuesday. “We are hoping we can get assurance it can start even faster than later this year and in the coming weeks.”
14th Sep 2021 - Bloomberg

Biden gathers support for global pandemic summit

Yesterday, President Biden invited world leaders to a virtual summit on ending the pandemic, with a goal of vaccinating at least 70% of the world by next September, according to the Washington Post. At a World Health Organization (WHO) briefing today, health officials—including several from African groups—welcomed the partnership, but said there are urgent steps countries can take now to free up more vaccine doses for countries that don't have enough access.
14th Sep 2021 - CIDRAP

UK would not have approved Valneva COVID vaccine, health secretary says

Britain cancelled its contract for about 100 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine being developed by France's Valneva (VLS.PA) in part because it was clear it would not be approved for use in the country, UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid said on Tuesday. "There are commercial reasons that we have cancelled the contract, but what I can tell her is that it was also clear to us that the vaccine in question that the company was developing would not get approval by the MHRA here in the UK," he said in response to a question from a Scottish lawmaker.
14th Sep 2021 - Reuters

Covid: Significant return to office could see ‘rapid’ rise in hospitalisations, Sage warns

It is “highly likely” that a decrease in the number of people working from home in the next couple of months would lead to a “rapid” rise in hospital admissions for Covid, scientific advisers to the government have warned. Millions of Britons have been heading back to the office this month, coinciding with the return of schools and universities. Last week, London saw its busiest morning rush-hour since the pandemic hit, with hundreds of thousands of journeys made across the city, according to official data. But modelling published on Tuesday by a sub-group of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) suggests there is the “potential” for another large wave of hospitalisations in the coming months.
14th Sep 2021 - The Independent

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Manulife Joins Banks With Vaccine Mandate for Canadian Employees

Manulife Financial Corp. will require employees in Canada to provide proof of their vaccination status by the end of October and will force unvaccinated staff to undergo regular Covid-19 testing before they work in its offices. Employees who can’t be vaccinated for medical reasons must provide a note from a licensed health care professional, Manulife Canada Chief Executive Officer Mike Doughty said in a memo Monday. Those refusing the shots for religious reasons must make a written attestation.
13th Sep 2021 - Bloomberg

Even the Swiss Are Tightening the Screws on the Unvaccinated

Switzerland, which has stood out among European neighbors for its generally more laissez-faire approach to the pandemic, is joining the ranks of countries now increasing pressure on the unvaccinated. With hospitals filling up and inoculations lagging the rest of Western Europe, the government is doing what just a few weeks ago one of its members termed “bizarre” by requiring vaccine certificates for public activities. As of Monday, residents of one of the world’s wealthiest countries will have to show passes to enter restaurants, cinemas and fitness centers. They must attest to having been jabbed, tested or recovered from the virus.
13th Sep 2021 - Bloomberg

Pfizer Supplies Jordan, Lebanon With Covid Vaccines for Refugees

Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE are donating hundreds of thousands of Covid-19 vaccine doses to Jordan and Lebanon as a part of a broader push to aid refugees during the pandemic. On Monday, 100,000 doses of the companies’ coronavirus vaccine arrived at the coastal Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport. There, the donated doses are being loaded into UPS trucks and delivered to nearby warehouses at the Rafic Hariri Hospital, the largest Lebanese public hospital located on the outskirts of Beirut.
13th Sep 2021 - Bloomberg

Australia Plans Digital Border Pass for Vaccinated Travelers

Australia is developing a digital border pass to show the vaccination status of travelers in a step toward further reopening its international border. The government awarded Accenture Plc the tender to deliver the pass that will replace the current Covid-19 travel declaration form and incoming passenger card. It “will support the safe re-opening of Australia’s international borders” Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews said in a statement.
13th Sep 2021 - Bloomberg

School starts for 1 million NYC kids amid new vaccine rules

School started Monday for about a million New York City public school students in the nation’s largest experiment of in-person learning during the coronavirus pandemic. The first day of school coincided with several milestones in the city’s pandemic recovery that hinge on vaccine mandates. Nearly all of the city’s 300,000 employees were required to be back in their workplaces, in person, Monday as the city ended remote work. Most will either need to be vaccinated, or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing to remain in their jobs.
13th Sep 2021 - The Associated Press

Bangladesh reopens schools after 18-month COVID shutdown

In a report last week, UNICEF warned that prolonged school closures during the COVID crisis accentuated “alarming inequities” for more than 430 million children in South Asia. “School closures in South Asia have forced hundreds of millions of children and their teachers to transition to remote learning in a region with low connectivity and device affordability,” UNICEF’s regional director, George Laryea-Adjei, said in a statement. “As a result, children have suffered enormous setbacks in their learning journey.”
13th Sep 2021 - AlJazeera

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How Outrage Over Vaccine Mandates Became a Mainstream G.O.P. Stance

Resistance to vaccine mandates, once a fringe position, has entered the Republican mainstream. But the governors fighting President Biden’s Covid-19 vaccine requirements impose mandates of their own.
12th Sep 2021 - The New York Times

Spread of 'Delta' COVID-19 knocks wind out of UK economy in July

Britain's economy unexpectedly slowed to a crawl in July as the Delta variant of COVID-19 spread rapidly after lockdown restrictions were eased and as many workers stayed at home self-isolating as the virus spread
11th Sep 2021 - Reuters

Biden’s Covid-19 Vaccine Push Aligns Him With a Fed-Up, Vaccinated Majority

After President Biden resisted comprehensive vaccine mandates for months, his forceful steps on Thursday to pressure the 80 million unvaccinated Americans to get their shots put him squarely on the side of what had been a fairly quiet but increasingly frustrated majority: vaccinated Americans who see the unvaccinated as selfishly endangering others and holding the country back.
11th Sep 2021 - The New York Times

Denmark lifts all Covid restrictions as vaccinations top 80%

Denmark’s high vaccination rate has enabled it to become one of the first EU countries to lift all domestic restrictions, after 548 days with curbs in place to limit the spread of Covid-19. The return to normality has been gradual, but as of Friday, the digital pass – a proof of having been vaccinated – is no longer required when entering nightclubs, making it the last virus safeguard to fall. More than 80% of people above the age of 12 in the Scandinavian country have had the two shots, leading the Danish government to declare as of midnight it no longer considers Covid-19 a “socially critical” disease.
11th Sep 2021 - The Guardian

Poor countries say lack of vaccines may exclude them from climate talks

The world's poorest countries asked for more help on Friday to meet vaccination and quarantine requirements and costs to ensure they can take part in next month's global climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland. The talks aim to spur bigger commitments to start reducing manmade greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and keep the rise in the global average temperature since pre-industrial times to well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit), to stave off the worst effects of climate change.
11th Sep 2021 - Reuters

No proof of vaccines or tests required to enter Dubai Expo

The Dubai World Expo, which is expected to attract 25 million visitors over the course of six months, won’t require visitors to present coronavirus vaccination certificates or COVID-19 tests, a spokesperson tells Bloomberg News.
11th Sep 2021 - Aljazeera.com

Denmark becomes only European country with no COVID curbs

Denmark has become the only European country with no coronavirus-related restrictions in place, as vaccine rates have reached more than 70 percent of the population. The return to normality has been gradual, but as of Friday, the digital pass – proof of having been vaccinated – is no longer required when entering nightclubs, making it the last COVID-19 safeguard to fall.
11th Sep 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Covid-19: Pupils will not have to 'routinely self-isolate'

Pupils in the same class as a positive Covid case "will not routinely be asked to isolate and book a test", ministers have said. Health Minister Robin Swann and Education Minister Michelle McIlveen said the Public Health Agency (PHA) would take a "more targeted approach" to contract tracing.
11th Sep 2021 - BBC News

Covid-19: Rules ease on dining, dancing and live shows in NI

Covid-19 rules for hospitality businesses in Northern Ireland have been eased, with table service restrictions now removed. The measure took effect from 17:00 BST on Friday. Customers can now queue for service in bars and pubs for the first time since pandemic measures were introduced. It is one in a series of relaxations to Covid-19 rules in Northern Ireland taking effect after agreement by Stormont ministers this week.
11th Sep 2021 - BBC News

Officials: Health care rationing could spread across Idaho

Amid the Idaho coronavirus surge that prompted officials to authorize hospitals to ration health care, Army soldiers sent to one hospital have traded their fatigues for personal protective equipment to help treat a flood of infected patients.
11th Sep 2021 - Associated Press on MSN.com

Vietnam to reopen resort island to foreign tourists to boost economy

Vietnam plans to reopen the beach-fringed island of Phu Quoc to foreign tourists from next month, authorities said, as the country looks at ways to revive an economy suffering from extended lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic. The island, 10 km (6 miles) off the coast of Cambodia, is expected to open for a trial period of six months, the government said in a statement issued late on Thursday
11th Sep 2021 - Reuters

Australia's Queensland state warns of possible COVID-19 lockdown

Australia's third most populous state said on Saturday it may order a snap lockdown after a cluster of COVID-19 cases, as the country posted a record one-day rise in daily infections. Queensland state, home to more than 5 million people, said it had detected five new infections in the past 24 hours after a family tested positive. The next few days would be critical to see if a lockdown was warranted, authorities said.
11th Sep 2021 - Reuters

Cricket: England-India 5th test cancelled after COVID outbreak

The fifth and final cricket test of the series was cancelled just hours before play was due to start, following a coronavirus outbreak in Indian camp.
10th Sep 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Biden Is Right: Vaccine Refusal ‘Has Cost All of Us’

As Americans contemplate the prospect of a second winter trapped in the grip of Covid-19, remember that it didn’t need to be this way. Vaccines were developed in record time, and have proved to be both incredibly safe and stunningly effective. Nearly two-thirds of eligible Americans have accepted these facts and done their part by getting fully vaccinated.
10th Sep 2021 - The New York Times

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The Pandemic Has Set Back the Fight Against H.I.V., TB and Malaria

The Covid-19 pandemic has severely set back the fight against other global scourges like H.I.V., tuberculosis and malaria, according to a sobering new report released on Tuesday. Before the pandemic, the world had been making strides against these illnesses. Overall, deaths from those diseases have dropped by about half since 2004. “The advent of a fourth pandemic, in Covid, puts these hard-fought gains in great jeopardy,” said Mitchell Warren, executive director of AVAC, a nonprofit organization promoting H.I.V. treatment worldwide.
9th Sep 2021 - The New York Times

Covax, a global program to distribute Covid vaccines, cuts its 2021 forecast for available doses by a quarter.

The United Nations-backed program to vaccinate the world against the coronavirus slashed its forecast for doses available in 2021 by roughly a quarter on Wednesday, another setback for an effort that has been hampered by production problems, export bans and vaccine hoarding by wealthy nations. Shortly after the forecast was released, the World Health Organization asked wealthy countries to hold off on administering booster shots for healthy patients until at least the end of the year as a way of enabling every country to vaccinate at least 40 percent of their populations. The organization had previously called for a booster shot moratorium until the end of September.
9th Sep 2021 - New York Times

Africa’s C.D.C. director urges wealthy nations to forego Covid vaccine boosters and donate them instead.

The decision by some rich nations to offer booster shots will hinder coronavirus vaccine access for low-income countries, the director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday, arguing there is no conclusive evidence healthy people who are not immunocompromised need an extra shot. In wealthy countries — including Germany, France, Israel and the United States — there has been growing momentum to offer additional doses to certain vulnerable populations, including older citizens, and to the general public.
9th Sep 2021 - New York Times

Least Vaccinated States Lead Spike in Children’s Cases, Leaving Some Hospitals Stretched

Just as millions of families around the United States navigate sending their children back to school at an uncertain moment in the pandemic, the number of children admitted to the hospital with Covid-19 has risen to the highest levels reported to date. Nearly 30,000 of them entered hospitals in August. Pediatric hospitalizations, driven by a record rise in coronavirus infections among children, have swelled across the country, overwhelming children’s hospitals and intensive care units in states like Louisiana and Texas.
9th Sep 2021 - New York Times

Biden to Require All Federal Workers, Government Contractors Be Vaccinated Against Covid-19

All employers with 100 or more employees would have to require their workers to be vaccinated or undergo at least weekly Covid-19 testing under a new plan by President Biden to curb the spread of the pandemic, senior administration officials said. The Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the coming weeks plans to issue an emergency temporary standard implementing the new requirement, which will cover 80 million private-sector workers, officials said. Businesses that don’t comply can face fines of up to $14,000 per violation, they said. The employers will also have to give workers paid time off to get vaccinated or to recover from any side effects of getting vaccinated.
9th Sep 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

Covid-19 Vaccine Mandate Guide: Which US Employers Are Requiring Inoculation

To mandate, or not to mandate? That is the question facing corporations right now as they weigh the pros and cons of requiring a Covid-19 vaccine for employees. The answers, so far, are all over the place. A Bloomberg compilation of policies of more than 100 big companies found that about half have implemented a vaccine mandate for at least some of their U.S. staff, but the requirements vary widely. For many, the measure applies to anyone entering a U.S. office—but that can leave wide swaths of the workforce unaffected. Walmart Inc., for instance, hasn’t required its more than 1 million store and warehouse workers to get jabbed. For roughnecks on oil rigs, it might depend where they’re drilling.
9th Sep 2021 - Bloomberg

Shell weighs 'jab or job' policy for employees -document

Royal Dutch Shell is considering making it mandatory for workers in some operations to get COVID-19 vaccinations or risk being fired, an internal company document seen by Reuters shows. Shell, which employs some 86,000 workers in more than 70 countries, will weigh the pros and cons of the policy at an executive committee meeting on Friday, said two sources who declined to be identified. Shell declined to comment.
9th Sep 2021 - Reuters

Vaccine passports planned to be used for some events in Scotland from October 1

The new SNP-Green government clinched its first major parliamentary victory when a controversial scheme to introduce vaccine passports for nightclubs and large scale events was passed by its coalition majority.
9th Sep 2021 - The Scotsman

Biden requiring federal workers to get COVID shot

President Joe Biden on Thursday is announcing sweeping new federal vaccine requirements affecting as many as 100 million Americans in an all-out effort to increase COVID-19 vaccinations and curb the surging delta variant that is killing thousands each week and jeopardizing the nation’s economic recovery. The expansive rules mandate that all employers with more than 100 workers require them to be vaccinated or test for the virus weekly, affecting about 80 million Americans. And the roughly 17 million workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid also will have to be fully vaccinated.
9th Sep 2021 - The Associated Press

COVID-19 disruption causing many deaths from TB, AIDS in poorest countries, fund says

Hundreds of thousands of people will die of tuberculosis left untreated because of disruption to healthcare systems in poor countries caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a global aid fund said. In a few of the world's poorest countries, excess deaths from AIDS and tuberculosis (TB) could even exceed those from the coronavirus itself, said the head of the Geneva-based aid body, known as the Global Fund.
9th Sep 2021 - Reuters

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Brazilian regulator still unsatisfied with safety of 12 mln Coronavac doses

Brazil's federal health regulator said on Wednesday that documents provided by a Sao Paulo biomedical center attesting to the safety of over 12 million doses of the Coronavac COVID-19 vaccine were insufficient to ensure their safety. Last week, the regulator, known as Anvisa, suspended the use of millions doses of the vaccine developed by China's Sinovac Biotech Ltd, as they were produced in a plant that had not been authorized by the authority.
9th Sep 2021 - Reuters

Number of children and teens with COVID-19 exceeds 250000 for first time since start of pandemic, as mask and vaccination fights continue

The number of children and teens suffering from the coronavirus-borne illness COVID-19 exceeded 250,000 for the first time since the start of the pandemic in the week through Sept. 2, a worrying trend coming just as they return to school in person. Data published by the American Academy of Pediatrics showed the number of child cases has been climbing fast through the summer months after declining at the start of the season, with more than 750,000 cases being added between Aug. 5 and Sept. 2. Children accounted for 26.8% of reported cases in the latest week.
8th Sep 2021 - MarketWatch

WHO seeks COVID-19 vaccines for poor nations, 'not empty promises'

The World Health Organization on Wednesday said low-income countries were ready to run effective COVID-19 vaccination campaigns and it was now down to manufacturers and rich countries to deliver the pledged doses to ease global health inequalities. About 80% of the 5.5 billion vaccines doses that have been administered globally went to high and upper-middle income countries, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news briefing on Wednesday
8th Sep 2021 - Reuters

COVID-19 cases among minors reach record 250,000 cases, youth account for 25% of active infections

More than 250,000 COVID-19 cases were recorded among children and teens during the week that ended September 2. The new case count is the highest total during the pandemic and 25% higher than the previous week. There have been 444 Covid deaths among children, meaning kids make up less than 0.1% of all deaths in the U.S. More than half of COVID-19 cases among children are in the South in states such as Florida and Texas
8th Sep 2021 - Daily Mail

WHO urges rich countries to hold off on booster shots until 2022

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has called on wealthy countries with large supplies of coronavirus vaccines to refrain from offering booster shots through the end of the year, expanding an earlier request that has been largely ignored. Speaking to journalists on Wednesday in Geneva, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also said he was “appalled” at comments by a leading association of pharmaceutical manufacturers a day earlier who said vaccine supplies are high enough to allow for both booster shots and vaccinations in countries in dire need of jabs but facing shortages.
8th Sep 2021 - AlJazeera

Judge: Florida can't enforce ban on school mask mandates

A Florida judge ruled Wednesday that the state cannot enforce a ban on public schools mandating the use of masks to guard against the coronavirus, while an appeals court sorts out whether the ban is ultimately legal. Leon County Circuit Judge John C. Cooper lifted an automatic stay of his decision last week that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and state education officials exceeded their authority by imposing the blanket ban through executive order and tagging defiant pro-mask local school boards with financial penalties.
8th Sep 2021 - The Associated Press

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Getting a Covid-19 Vaccine Can Still Save Your Life

News stories tend to freak people out by focusing on “breakthrough cases,” in which people get Covid despite vaccines. Most official data cover the whole period since vaccinations began, so they obscure the more recent effect of delta. Just looking at the share of vaccinated among the hospitalized and dead isn’t great, either: If everyone were vaccinated, it would be 100%. In the absence of good data, the message about vaccines keeps getting foggier. The information that filters through often ends up providing fodder for anti-vaxxers. What people hear is, don’t bother getting vaccinated because you can still get Covid and even die.
7th Sep 2021 - Bloomberg

U.K. Is Among First Western Nations to Increase Taxes to Cover Covid-19 Costs

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Tuesday announced tax increases to support the country’s state-funded National Health Service as it struggles to manage a backlog of millions of patients in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. With the announcement, Mr. Johnson is renouncing an election pledge not to raise payroll taxes, a move that sparked criticism from within his own Conservative Party and underscored the pressure the pandemic has put on governments to find funding for social services stretched by Covid-19 and aging populations.
7th Sep 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

Vaccines Versus Covid-19: The Great Immunity Debate

There’s emerging evidence that getting sick provides better protection than at least one brand of shots. That’s scientifically significant. But it’s not an excuse to avoid the jab.
7th Sep 2021 - Bloomberg

Israel's Covid Surge Shows the World What's Coming Next

Epidemiologists say cases among the over 30s are already declining thanks to the boosters and restrictions on bars and restaurants to the fully vaccinated. The highest rate of new cases in recent weeks is among children under the age of 12, according to Ran Balicer, chair of the expert advisory panel to the government. There’s also a record level of testing. “Waning immunity is a real challenge that every country needs to prepare a contingency plan to tackle,” said Balicer, who is also chief innovation officer for Israeli health maintenance organization Clalit. The data coming from Israel in the coming weeks will allow the world to assess the efficacy of the booster shot program, he said.
7th Sep 2021 - Bloomberg

Biden's Covid booster shot plan mired in confusion amid regulatory hold-ups

The Biden administration’s plans to widely administer Covid-19 vaccine booster shots later this month have become mired in confusion over regulatory approvals, eligibility and logistics, in the latest blow to its efforts to curb the pandemic. US health officials announced last month that they planned to start offering Americans another round of Covid jabs from September 20, following evidence that the effectiveness of some vaccines starts to wane after a few months.
7th Sep 2021 - Financial Times

Boris Johnson faces a battle to achieve buy-in for vaccine passports

The pandemic is far from over. The UK is in the throes of a wave that could overwhelm the NHS if hospitalisations rise too rapidly. Newly reported Covid cases are running above 35,000 a day, with daily patient admissions close to 1,000 every 24 hours. The optimists hope that the wave is peaking and will eventually fizzle out. The pessimists fear worse is to come. Discussions in Whitehall focus on how to get through the winter under the combined pressure of coronavirus, flu and long NHS waiting lists. The mooted idea of an October “firebreak” lockdown to ease the pressure has “almost zero chance”, says one minister. If the situation worsens, Johnson would first try everything else, starting with mandatory masks, then social distancing, then restrictions on indoor gatherings.
7th Sep 2021 - Financial Times

Sweden to lift most remaining restrictions this month

Sweden will push ahead with easing Covid-19 restrictions at the end of this month, removing most curbs and limits on public venues such as restaurants, theatres and stadiums, the government said. With most adults vaccinated, Sweden has gradually eased some restrictions during a summer lull in the pandemic. While it has seen infections mount in recent weeks amid the rapid spread of the more contagious Delta variant, deaths from the disease have remained low.
7th Sep 2021 - RTE.ie

Malaysia will start treating Covid as 'endemic' around end-October, trade minister says

Malaysia will start treating Covid-19 as an endemic disease around the end of October, said International Trade and Industry Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali. More than 75% of Malaysia’s adult population is expected to be fully vaccinated by then, said Azmin. Malaysia’s Southeast Asian neighbors including Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines have also experienced a resurgence in Covid cases caused by the more transmissible delta variant.
7th Sep 2021 - CNBC

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Overwhelmed Morgues Belie U.S. Illusion of a Defanged Pandemic

The fast-spreading delta variant has flooded hospitals across the South. It’s killed more people in Florida and Louisiana than the darkest days of the pandemic winter, and left so many Covid-19 patients gasping for breath that some places face shortages of medical oxygen. This harsh reality, likely fueled by a failure to adequately vaccinate the most vulnerable, has undercut the best efforts of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and other Republican leaders to simply move past Covid.
6th Sep 2021 - Bloomberg

Vaccination of young linked to downward Covid trend

The impact of vaccination among young people is driving optimism among senior Government figures and health chiefs that the level of Covid-19 infection in the country is on a downward trajectory. Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said on Sunday night that the number of cases among 15-24 year olds had been “coming down significantly and coming down for quite a while”. He told The Irish Times that cases in these groups, “which were very, very high, have been falling markedly”.
6th Sep 2021 - The Irish Times

India's Hetero gets emergency use nod to make Roche's COVID-19 drug

Indian drug developer Hetero said on Monday it has received emergency use approval from the country's health authorities to make a generic version of Roche Holding AG's COVID-19 drug.
6th Sep 2021 - Reuters

Florida doctor says she will no longer accept in-person visits from unvaccinated patients

A Florida doctor says she will no longer accept in-person visits from patients who are not vaccinated against the coronavirus. In a letter to her patients, Lisa Marracini said she will no longer continue in-person services for unvaccinated patients beginning Sept. 15, NBC Miami reported. Marracini wrote that her practice will “no longer subject our patients and staff to unnecessary risks.” “This is a public health emergency — the health of the public takes priority over the rights of any given individual in this situation,” Marracini wrote, according to the news outlet.
6th Sep 2021 - The Hill

Covid: School attendance fines 'could be unlawful'

The government is facing mounting legal pressure over its decision to continue fining medically vulnerable families for poor school attendance during the pandemic. The Good Law Project has said that education secretary Gavin Williamson could be "in breach of the law" over the issue.
6th Sep 2021 - TES News

Europe Denmark cancels tender for domestic coronavirus vaccine production

Denmark has cancelled its previously announced plans for a public tender to establish a national COVID-19 vaccine production facility as it bets on a vaccine already under development by a Danish firm, the Business Ministry said on Monday. Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced in April that Denmark aimed to produce COVID-19 mRNA-vaccines by 2022, and that a tendering process would be initiated within a few weeks.
6th Sep 2021 - Reuters

Getting jabbed in New York: Vaccines for a sick system?

Though I was born and raised in the US, I had abandoned it in 2003 in favour of global meandering through countries that, unlike my homeland, did not give me panic attacks – and where people behaved like human beings rather than alienated automatons. I had not so much as set foot in the US since 2015, in the interest of my mental health and of avoiding eternal debt in the event of some sort of medical emergency – such being the perils of life in capitalist civilisations where basic rights like healthcare are converted into punitive, for-profit enterprises. At the start of the pandemic in 2020, I had gotten stuck in a village on Mexico’s Oaxacan coast (not complaining), from where I had planned to travel to Cuba as soon as the Cuban government had finished vaccinating its domestic population and embarked on its promise to jab all foreign visitors to the island.
6th Sep 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Two anchors of COVID safety net ending, affecting millions

Mary Taboniar went 15 months without a paycheck, thanks to the COVID pandemic. A housekeeper at the Hilton Hawaiian Village resort in Honolulu, the single mother of two saw her income completely vanish as the virus devastated the hospitality industry. For more than a year, Taboniar depended entirely on boosted unemployment benefits and a network of local foodbanks to feed her family. Even this summer as the vaccine rollout took hold and tourists began to travel again, her work was slow to return, peaking at 11 days in August — about half her pre-pandemic workload.
6th Sep 2021 - The Associated Press

Rich countries to have 1.2bn surplus COVID vaccine doses

Wealthy countries could potentially have a surplus of more than one billion COVID-19 vaccine doses available by the end of the year that are not designated as donations to poorer nations, according to a new analysis Vaccine stock in Western countries has reached 500 million doses this month, with 360 million not earmarked for donations, according to new research by data analytics firm Airfinity. By the end of the year, these countries will have a potential of 1.2 billion surplus vaccine shots, with the overwhelming majority – 1.06 billion – not marked for donations, it said.
5th Sep 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Virus pummels French Polynesia, straining ties with Paris

France’s worst coronavirus outbreak is unfolding 12 time zones away from Paris, devastating Tahiti and other idyllic islands of French Polynesia. The South Pacific archipelagos lack enough oxygen, ICU beds and morgue space – and their vaccination rate is barely half the national average. Simultaneous outbreaks on remote islands and atolls are straining the ability of local authorities to evacuate patients to the territory’s few hospitals. “The problem is, there are a lot of deaths before we get there,” lamented Vincent Simon, the head of the regional emergency service.
4th Sep 2021 - Associated Press

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Brazil-Argentina Match Stopped When Health Officials Storm Field

A World Cup qualification game between Brazil and Argentina, South America’s most successful soccer teams, was halted after only a few minutes on Sunday after Brazilian health authorities walked onto the field during play in an apparent dispute about coronavirus quarantine regulations. In chaotic scenes in São Paulo, a group of Brazilian public health officials entered the field minutes into the highly anticipated showdown and ordered Argentina’s players off the field as officials from both sides, a small crowd allowed inside the stadium and a global television audience struggled to comprehend just what was taking place.
5th Sep 2021 - The New York Times

Ex-UK PM Brown accuses West of 'moral outrage' over COVID vaccine stockpiling

Former British prime minister Gordon Brown accused rich countries of committing a "moral outrage" by stockpiling COVID-19 doses while poor countries are struggling to get supplies. Brown, who is a United Nations special envoy, called on U.S. President Joe Biden and other Group of Seven leaders to urgently ship vaccines from warehouses in America and Europe to Africa. Western countries are hoarding nearly 300 million shots while only 70 million people in Africa have so far been vaccinated, Brown said in an opinion piece published in the Sunday Mirror newspaper, citing research by data firm Airfinity.
4th Sep 2021 - Reuters

Each COVID-19 surge poses a risk for healthcare workers: PTSD

Nurse Chris Prott's knees jump, his heart races, his mouth goes dry and his mind floods with dark memories when he talks about working in the Milwaukee VA Medical Center's intensive care unit (ICU) during pandemic surges. Prott shares a struggle common to many of the military veterans for whom he has cared for years: symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
5th Sep 2021 - Reuters

Child Covid-19 Cases Rise in States Where Schools Opened Earliest

The recent spread of the highly contagious Delta variant has thrown back-to-school plans into disarray, temporarily driving tens of thousands of students back to virtual learning or pausing instruction altogether. Since the school year kicked off in late July, at least 1,000 schools across 31 states have closed because of Covid-19, according to Burbio, a Pelham, N.Y., data service that is monitoring school closures at 1,200 districts nationwide, including the 200 largest. The shutdowns are hitting classrooms especially hard in the Deep South, where most schools were among the first to open, a possible warning of what’s to come as the rest of the nation’s students start school this month.
5th Sep 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

Italy to Decide on Compulsory Vaccine This Month, Minister Says

Italy will decide by the end of September whether Covid-19 vaccines will become mandatory for all people aged 12 and over, according to a minister in Mario Draghi’s coalition. “If we will not have reached a vaccination level between 80% and 90% we will pass a law to impose the Covid-19 vaccine to all people against it,” Public Administration Minister Renato Brunetta said Sunday in an interview at the Ambrosetti Forum in Cernobbio, Italy. “We will decide by the end of the month.”
5th Sep 2021 - Bloomberg

Fauci Cites Possible Delay for Moderna Booster

Anthony Fauci said U.S. booster shots against Covid-19 are likely to start only with the vaccine by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, while the Moderna Inc. shot may be delayed. White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain pushed back against criticism that the Biden administration is rushing booster shots ahead of scientific evidence. The Group of 20 are set to pledge to do more to tackle the impact of the pandemic on mental health as ministers meet in Rome this weekend.
5th Sep 2021 - Bloomberg

White House Unveils $65 Billion Plan to Combat New Pandemics

The Biden administration unveiled a $65.3 billion plan to prepare for future pandemics threats, likening the ambitious proposal to the Apollo mission to the moon. The proposal announced Friday by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and National Security Council focuses on protecting the U.S. against potentially catastrophic biological threats, including those that are naturally occurring, accidental or deliberately set in motion by bad actors.
4th Sep 2021 - Bloomberg

A generation of young people is at risk from the UK’s latest Covid experiment

The country is an international outlier in restoring in-person learning without mitigations or vaccination of 12 to 15-year-olds. Neurologists warned that Covid-19 could fuel a pandemic of dementia, because of long-term brain damage wrought in some patients. Second, a paper in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology noted that “long Covid” sufferers are at increased risk of kidney damage. Millions may need dialysis for years to come, a costly tragedy for patients and creaking healthcare systems.
3rd Sep 2021 - Financial Times

China administered total of 2.092 bln doses of covid-19 vaccines as of Sept 3

China had administered a total of around 7.5 million COVID-19 vaccines on Friday Sept. 3, bringing the accumulated total to 2.092 billion doses, data from the National Health Commission showed on Saturday.
4th Sep 2021 - Reuters

England's schools must be made safe: An open letter to the education secretary

We write as researchers, parents, and educators concerned about the impact of the pandemic on children’s education. Like you, and in agreement with the World Health Organization (WHO), we recognise the importance of schools staying open over the autumn and in the longer term. However, as the WHO also notes, schools must be made safe by adopting measures to minimise transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. We are therefore writing to express our concerns about the lack of mitigations for children and educational staff, and the subsequent risk to children from covid-19 as schools reopen in England this September. We offer nine evidence based recommendations to reduce new infections in children.
4th Sep 2021 - The BMJ

Tyson Foods Offers Vaccinated Workers More Paid Time Off

Tyson Foods said it would provide 20 hours of paid sick time a year to fully vaccinated employees to enhance benefits for workers willing to receive coronavirus vaccinations. The new benefit, announced on Friday, followed discussions with the United Food & Commercial Workers, which represents several thousand Tyson workers, over the company’s requirement that all its U.S. workers be vaccinated “as a condition of employment” by Nov. 1. The paid sick leave policy takes effect on Jan. 1, and also applies to all nonunion employees.
3rd Sep 2021 - The New York Times

More Companies Weigh Penalizing Employees Without Covid-19 Vaccinations

Companies unwilling to require employees to get vaccinations are increasingly considering healthcare-benefit surcharges and other more aggressive measures to make their workplaces safer from Covid-19, employment and benefit experts say. What started as a campaign of encouragement and lobbying by many employers is now turning into a more forceful effort, with businesses considering measures that penalize employees who remain unvaccinated.
3rd Sep 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

Opinion | Doctors should be allowed to give priority to vaccinated patients when resources are scarce

I’m going to come right out and say it: In situations where hospitals are overwhelmed and resources such as intensive care beds or ventilators are scarce, vaccinated patients should be given priority over those who have refused vaccination without a legitimate medical or religious reason.
3rd Sep 2021 - The Washington Post

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Australia's Perth to exit COVID-19 lockdown

The government of Western Australia state said it will lift a three-day COVID-19 lockdown in Perth and neighbouring Peel region as planned from midnight on Monday after no new cases were found in the past two days. Perth and the Peel region were placed into a hard lockdown from Saturday after an infected traveller from overseas, who likely contracted the novel coronavirus during his two-week quarantine in a Perth hotel, visited several venues while unknowingly infectious.
27th Apr 2021 - Reuters Australia

Vienna easing lockdown cautiously, with swipe at government plans

Vienna will cautiously loosen its coronavirus lockdown next week a month after it was introduced, its left-wing mayor said on Tuesday, criticising the conservative-led government's plans for a broad easing of restrictions nationally next month. Austria has had three national lockdowns, the last of which eased in February. Vienna, however, reintroduced a full lockdown on April 1 to help hospitals facing rising cases, particularly of the more dangerous so-called British variant. Infections nationally have eased this month but remain stubbornly high at more than 1,500 a day. Despite that, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz last week said restaurants, hotels and theatres will reopen nationally on May 19, though provinces can have stricter rules locally if needed.
27th Apr 2021 - Reuters

France's Macron expected to announce easing of COVID rules in coming days - minister

French President Emmanuel Macron will probably make an announcement on plans to relax COVID-19 restrictions in the next few days, employment minister Elisabeth Borne told BFM TV on Tuesday. France, the euro zone's second biggest economy, started its third national lockdown at the end of March after suffering a spike in COVID-19 deaths and case numbers. Macron is hoping the effects of that lockdown, along with an accelerated vaccination campaign, will improve France's COVID-19 figures, which would then allow certain businesses and leisure activities - such as outdoors dining - to reopen in mid May.
27th Apr 2021 - Reuters

Amid green shoots, Chile keeps borders closed but eases capital's lockdowns

Chilean authorities announced that they would extend the closure of the country’s borders for another 30 days as hospitals remain near-full and COVID-19 cases high despite a gradual improvement in recent weeks. Health Minister Enrique Paris said seven and 14-day averages each showed a 7% decrease in confirmed cases and COVID-19 positivity test rates were down. On Monday, 6,078 new infections were identified, compared to a record high of 9,171 cases on April 9. “The health situation is showing some signs of improvement. We are seeing changes but that doesn’t mean we can stop fighting,” Paris said. Chile is running one of the world’s fastest vaccination campaigns, with half of its target population already inoculated with one shot and 38.8% with two
27th Apr 2021 - Reuters

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COVID-19: Major cities falling well behind in UK's bid to vaccinate its way out of lockdown

So, while it's clear that age is a major factor driving the different pace of vaccination locally, it isn't the only one. The reason for the difference is made more difficult to determine in affluent areas of central London which may be skewed by non-residents. Ethnicity and deprivation appear to be key in determining uptake and could mean some parts of England have less protection from COVID-19 than others.
26th Feb 2021 - Sky News

South Korea preps coronavirus vaccines after political scuffle over first shots

South Korean politicians won’t be the first in line when the county kicks off its coronavirus vaccination drive on Friday, despite calls from the opposition party for the president to roll up his sleeve and take a shot to reassure vaccine sceptics. Leading political figures spent the week trading rhetorical shots over who should be the first to take a literal jab, but in the end, health authorities said widespread acceptance of vaccines in South Korea means they would stick to plans to vaccinate healthcare workers and other at-risk individuals first. On Thursday, the first doses of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine were distributed to clinics in preparation for the initial inoculations.
25th Feb 2021 - Reuters

COVID-19: Lockdown easing risks 'cold wave' hospital pressure as non-COVID patients return to A&E

Senior hospital staff have admitted the prime minister's roadmap out of lockdown is making them "a bit anxious and nervous". Doctors and nurses at Warrington Hospital have weathered the first and second wave of the pandemic and are now bracing themselves for the "cold wave". This is the winter surge of patients coming into their emergency department with seasonal respiratory illnesses. This year the cold wave came late, but the sharp spike in A&E attendances means it is here now.
25th Feb 2021 - Sky News

New Zealand still candidate for Covid-19 'best responder' but slow vaccination a concern, Time magazine says

New Zealand remains a contender for the title of Covid-19 “best responder” but this country’s slow rate of vaccination is a cause for concern, according to an article in Time magazine. A year into the Covid-19 pandemic, the group took a second look at several countries it had considered to be standouts for their handling of the initial stages of the pandemic. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has explained the timing of New Zealand’s vaccination rollout, pointing out this country did not have the Covid-19 public health emergencies being experienced by some other countries where vaccine emergency use authorisations had been granted. The Government wanted to ensure vaccines being used in New Zealand were “safe for New Zealanders” and were approved by regulator Medsafe, Ardern said.
25th Feb 2021 - Stuff.co.nz

Covid 19 coronavirus in NZ: One year into the pandemic, five lessons for 2021 and beyond

Exactly one year ago tomorrow, the first confirmed case of Covid-19 arrived in Aotearoa New Zealand. What are some of the lessons we have learned about this pandemic? And what are the implications for improving our response in future? Arguably, New Zealand's greatest lesson is that an elimination strategy is the optimal response for a moderate to severe pandemic like Covid-19. The strategy provides a vivid example of how protecting public health also protects the economy when compared with mitigation or suppression strategies. This successful approach has required decisive science-backed government action and outstanding communication to create the social licence needed for an effective response.
25th Feb 2021 - New Zealand Herald

COVID-19: EU leaders divided over vaccine passports to allow European travel this summer

European Union leaders are divided over developing vaccine passports to open the continent up to tourism this summer. Some countries want an EU-wide approach instead of individual nations having their own certificates, while others are concerned such documentation could result in discrimination. Leaders of the EU's 27 countries met online on Thursday to start a two-day summit to discuss the pandemic, and while they agreed to work on vaccine certificates, they could not come up with a unified plan.
25th Feb 2021 - Sky News

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Singapore's first Chinese COVID-19 vaccines arrive ahead of approval

Singapore received its first batch of the COVID-19 vaccine made by China’s Sinovac Biotech on Tuesday, its health ministry said, although the shot is still awaiting approval for use in the city-state. Sinovac has started submitting initial data but the Health Sciences Authority is currently awaiting all the necessary information to carry out a thorough assessment, the ministry said in a statement late on Wednesday.
25th Feb 2021 - Reuters

New coronavirus variant identified in New York: researchers

A new coronavirus variant that shares some similarities with a more transmissible and intractable variant discovered in South Africa is on the rise in New York City, researchers said on Wednesday. The new variant, known as B.1.526, was first identified in samples collected in New York in November, and by mid-February represented about 12% of cases, researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, said on Wednesday. The variant was also described in research published online this week by the California Institute of Technology. Neither study has been reviewed by outside experts.
25th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Madrid’s vaccination plan for teachers and over-80s mired in confusion

Healthcare centers in Madrid are facing a frenetic countdown to begin vaccinating 130,000 people aged over 80. This next phase of the ongoing Covid-19 inoculation program is due to start on Thursday, but professionals from the sector who will have to administer the injections did not get any details of the operation until yesterday. The situation was mired in confusion on Monday thanks to contradictory statements made by the regional government, which first stated that the campaign would begin next week before rectifying and setting the start date for tomorrow. Workers from the sector voiced their complaints on Tuesday about the lack of planning.
24th Feb 2021 - El País

Holidaymakers rush to book summer getaways to Greece, Spain and Turkey after PM announced aim to restart international travel from May 17 - but SAGE scientist warns don't book a trip abroad before 2023

Britons are rushing to book their summer getaways ahead of the return of international travel from May 17 - despite a SAGE professor warning holidaymakers not to go on foreign trips before 2023. Some of Britain's biggest airlines and travel firms revealed a surge in holiday bookings to destinations including Greece, Spain and Turkey in the hours after Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled the roadmap out of lockdown yesterday.
24th Feb 2021 - Daily Mail

After UK Lockdown, Brits Can Start Packing for Their Summer Holidays in Greece

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Monday announcement that international travel may restart as soon as May 17 prompted a surge in bookings at TUI AG, the world’s biggest package holiday company, and budget airline EasyJet Plc. But the government’s rules were only one obstacle keeping Brits from their favorite vacation spots. European countries are still discouraging or restricting foreign travelers. It’s far from clear when they’ll fully open their borders to holidaymakers again. Right now, Brits are betting they will be welcomed back in time for summer. TUI said U.K. bookings were up 500% after the prime minister spoke compared with a week ago. Greece, Turkey and the Balearic Islands were the most popular destinations.
24th Feb 2021 - Bloomberg

In boost for COVID-19 battle, Pfizer vaccine found 94% effective in real world

The first big real-world study of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to be independently reviewed shows the shot is highly effective at preventing COVID-19, in a potentially landmark moment for countries desperate to end lockdowns and reopen economies. Up until now, most data on the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines has come under controlled conditions in clinical trials, leaving an element of uncertainty over how results would translate into the real world with its unpredictable variables. The research in Israel - two months into one of the world’s fastest rollouts, providing a rich source of data - showed two doses of the Pfizer shot cut symptomatic COVID-19 cases by 94% across all age groups, and severe illnesses by nearly as much. The study of about 1.2 million people also showed a single shot was 57% effective in protecting against symptomatic infections after two weeks, according to the data published and peer-reviewed in the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday. The results of the study for the Clalit Research Institute were close to those in clinical trials last year which found two doses were found to be 95% effective.
24th Feb 2021 - Reuters

New normal? 'Green Pass' opens music concert to vaccinated Israelis

It was an event that could set a precedent in a world longing for a return to normal - a music concert attended by scores of Israelis vaccinated against COVID-19. The open-air concert in Tel Aviv on Wednesday was one of the first in a programme to restart cultural events by restricting attendance to people who have been vaccinated or those with immunity after contracting the disease. Attendees were required to show a “Green Pass”, a government-validated certificate showing they had received both doses of the vaccine more than a week prior to the event or that they had recovered from COVID-19 and were presumed immune. The passes are valid for six months from the time of full vaccination.
24th Feb 2021 - Reuters

White House to roll out Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses next week, pending authorization

The United States expects to roll out three to four million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine next week, pending authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said on Wednesday. A Johnson & Johnson executive on Tuesday said the company expected to ship nearly 4 million doses of the vaccine once it gained authorization. The additional vaccine will help President Joe Biden’s administration in its goal of ramping up vaccination across the country as it seeks to control the pandemic that has cost more than 500,000 lives in the United States and pummeled the economy.
24th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Moderna developing booster shot for new coronavirus variants, increases vaccine production target

Moderna Inc said on Wednesday it is working with U.S. government scientists to study an experimental booster shot that targets a concerning new variant of the coronavirus, and has raised its global COVID-19 vaccine production goal for this year by 100 million doses. The U.S. biotech company has produced raw material for a booster shot aimed at addressing the virus variant first found in South Africa that may be more resistant to existing vaccines, it said. It has shipped the vaccine to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, which helped develop Moderna’s current vaccine, for additional study. Moderna is experimenting with several potential ways to combat new variants of the virus.
24th Feb 2021 - Reuters

EU mulls vaccination passports to resurrect tourism after COVID-19

European Union leaders will agree on Thursday to work on certificates of vaccination for EU citizens who have had an anti-COVID shot, with southern EU countries that depend heavily on tourism desperate to rescue this summer’s holiday season. Lockdowns to slow the pandemic caused the deepest ever economic recession in the 27-nation bloc last year, hitting the south of the EU, where economies are often much more dependent on visitors, disproportionately hard. With the rollout of vaccines against COVID-19 now gathering pace, some governments, like those of Greece and Spain, are pushing for a quick adoption of an EU-wide certificate for those already inoculated so that people can travel again. However, other countries, such as France and Germany, appear more reluctant, as officials there say it could create de facto vaccination obligation and would be discriminatory to those who cannot or will not take a jab.
24th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Johnson & Johnson COVID jab safe and effective, US FDA staff find

Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot COVID-19 vaccine appeared safe and effective in trials, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said in documents published on Wednesday, paving the way for the vaccine’s approval for emergency use later this week. The regulator’s panel of independent experts meets on Friday to decide whether to approve the shot. While it is not bound to follow the advice of its experts, the FDA usually does and has authorised vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.
24th Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

NHS Covid app could be used to prove status and access venues in England

People could use a revamped NHS app to prove their Covid status on entering pubs or theatres in England under plans being considered by ministers, as one major care provider said staff have two months to get jabbed or lose their jobs. Ministers are expected to give businesses in England the power to check Covid certification – whether people have been vaccinated or the result of recent tests. That will include small-scale venues like restaurants or bars. However, the equalities watchdog and trade unions have said that any move that relies solely on vaccine certification could be unlawful and that passes must not be used to relax Covid safety measures in workplaces.
24th Feb 2021 - The Guardian

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World Bank threatens to halt funding for Lebanon’s COVID jabs

The World Bank has threatened to suspend financing for coronavirus vaccines in Lebanon over what it said were violations by legislators who were vaccinated inside Parliament. The comments by the international lender on Tuesday came as frustration grew among some residents and doctors that the national plan that requires people to get vaccinated at predetermined centres could be riddled with violations and favouritism.
24th Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Even the World's Most-Vaccinated Economy Faces a Tough Reopening

But even as that brings hope for businesses shuttered for months, and for economies across the globe that have spent trillions of dollars to support people during lockdowns, the Israel experience shows that an emerging new normal that may not look much like the pre-pandemic world for some time to come.
24th Feb 2021 - Bloomberg

'Closer to normality': New York City arenas open doors to elated fans

On Tuesday, standing outside Madison Square Garden in the chilly February air, Cumello was grateful her long-awaited game had finally arrived. “I’m really excited that we finally got to go because I was really upset when it got canceled,” said Cumello, who plays point guard in her youth league in Fairfield, Connecticut. “I’m excited that we just get to be here and get to watch.” Cumello and her mother were among the 2,000 fans ready to watch the New York Knicks take on the Warriors, as New York City welcomed ticketholders at live sports events for the first time since the pandemic brought sports to a halt nearly a year ago.
24th Feb 2021 - Reuters

COVID-19: Is work from home here to stay? What UK businesses are planning post-lockdown

Businesses have started preparing plans to get their employees back to the office, although some suggest office culture may look different post-pandemic. The government's work-from-home (WFH) guidance has been in place now for almost a year, and under Boris Johnson's roadmap out of lockdown it could remain until summer.
23rd Feb 2021 - Sky News

South Korea coronavirus: PM aims for 'herd immunity by autumn'

Health officials will start inoculating medical staff in hospitals and care homes later this week. The aim is to give some 800,000 people the jab over the next month using vaccines produced by AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech. In an interview one year since he became the country's coronavirus figurehead, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun defended the later rollout and said it allowed South Korean officials to see how the vaccine had fared elsewhere. "You know that Koreans are the master of speed," said Mr Chung.
23rd Feb 2021 - BBC News

Holiday bookings surge in UK after lockdown exit plans revealed

Airlines and travel companies have reported a surge in holiday bookings after the Boris Johnson announced his roadmap out of lockdown. EasyJet, Ryanair, Tui and Thomas Cook reported a jump in bookings to destinations including Spain and Greece after the prime minister said international trips could potentially resume from 17 May, subject to review and assuming there was no resurgence in coronavirus and vaccination programmes went well. The increase bolstered shares in airlines and travel companies on Tuesday. EasyJet and Tui were among the top risers on the FTSE 250, up 7% and 3% respectively. On the FTSE 100, British Airways’ owner International Airlines Group, was up 3.5%.
23rd Feb 2021 - The Guardian

New Zealand coronavirus cluster grows with three new cases

New Zealand reported three new locally transmitted cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, as the cluster in its biggest city of Auckland expanded just days after authorities were forced to impose fresh curbs. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern lifted a brief COVID-19 lockdown in Auckland last week, saying the measures had helped limit the spread of the infection to a family of three. However, a student from Papatoetoe High School in Auckland was reported to have tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the day. Health authorities later said that two siblings of the student were also infected with the virus, and have asked everyone linked to the school to get re-tested.
23rd Feb 2021 - Reuters

Britons rush to book holidays amid plans to end lockdown

Stir-crazy Britons rushed to book overseas vacations after Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled plans to slowly ease a national lockdown, boosting optimism that travel restrictions will be removed in time for the summer holiday season. TUI, the U.K.’s largest tour operator said bookings increased six-fold on Monday, the company’s busiest day in more than a month. Discount airline easyJet said demand for flights more than tripled, and package holiday company Thomas Cook said traffic on its website increased 75%. International travel has nearly ground to a halt globally, so the increases are a sign of hope for the beleaguered industry.
23rd Feb 2021 - Associated Press

Executives with Pfizer, Moderna say they're ramping up vaccine supplies

Executives with Pfizer and Moderna said the companies are ramping up their supply of coronavirus vaccines, with shipments expected to double and possibly triple in the coming weeks, in congressional testimony Tuesday. In a prepared statement before a House subcommittee Tuesday, John Young, Pfizer's chief business officer, is expected to say the company plans to increase its delivery capacity of 4 million to 5 million doses a week to more than 13 million by mid-March. Richard Nettles, the vice president of medical affairs at Johnson & Johnson, said the company plans to have enough of their single-dose Covid-19 vaccine for 20 million Americans by the end of March.
23rd Feb 2021 - Yahoo News

States rush to catch up on delayed vaccines, expand access

A giant vaccination center is opening in Houston to administer 126,000 coronavirus doses in the next three weeks. Nevada health officials are working overtime to distribute delayed shots. And Rhode Island is rescheduling appointments after a vaccine shipment failed to arrive as scheduled earlier in the week. From coast to coast, states were scrambling Tuesday to catch up on vaccinations a week after winter storms battered a large swath of the U.S. and led to clinic closures, canceled appointments and shipment backlogs nationwide. But limited supply of the two approved COVID-19 vaccines hampered the pace of vaccinations even before extreme weather delayed the delivery of about 6 million doses.
23rd Feb 2021 - The Associated Press

Exclusive: AstraZeneca to miss second-quarter EU vaccine supply target by half - EU official

AstraZeneca Plc has told the European Union it expects to deliver less than half the COVID-19 vaccines it was contracted to supply in the second quarter, an EU official told Reuters on Tuesday. Contacted by Reuters, AstraZeneca did not deny what the official said, but a statement late in the day said the company was striving to increase productivity to deliver the promised 180 million doses. The expected shortfall, which has not previously been reported, follows a big reduction in supplies in the first quarter and could hit the EU’s ability to meet its target of vaccinating 70% of adults by summer.
23rd Feb 2021 - Reuters

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Pfizer set to double weekly production of coronavirus vaccine

Pfizer expects to roughly double the number of coronavirus vaccine doses it makes per week for use in the U.S, CEO Albert Bourla said Friday at an event with President Joe Biden held at the company's plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The boost in production should take effect in the next "couple weeks," Bourla said, noting the drugmaker currently manufactures about 5 million doses each week. Pfizer has supplied approximately 40 million doses to the U.S. government through February 17, some 29 million of which have been administered since the vaccine's emergency authorization last December. Pfizer's stepped-up manufacturing is a result of improvements the company's made in reducing by half the time it takes to make and do quality checks on each vaccine lot. The pharma is also expanding its production network, tapping a site in Kansas to aid in the fill and finish of vaccine vials.
23rd Feb 2021 - BioPharma Dive

Australia to ramp up COVID-19 vaccination drive as more doses arrive

Australia will ramp up its COVID-19 immunisation drive with more shots to be rolled out from next week, federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Tuesday, after a second shipment of the vaccine reached the country overnight. About 166,000 doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc and Germany’s BioNtech arrived late Monday, authorities said, as the country entered the second day of a nationwide inoculation programme. Total weekly doses will be raised to 80,000 next week from 60,000 doses this week, with the number expected to reach 1 million a week by the end of March when CSL Ltd begins to locally produce the AstraZeneca vaccine.
23rd Feb 2021 - Reuters

Coronavirus vaccine rollout begins in Western Australia with two hotel quarantine nurses

Two hotel quarantine nurses have become the first people in Western Australia to be given the COVID-19 vaccine. Four thousand five hundred doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine arrived at Perth Airport yesterday and were stored overnight in a Perth Children's Hospital (PCH) pharmacy freezer at minus 80 degrees Celsius. It is the first COVID vaccine approved for use in Australia by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
22nd Feb 2021 - ABC.Net.au

A year after its 1st COVID-19 cases were discovered, Italy is cautiously bouncing back

Italy discovered its first COVID-19 infections one year ago. The outbreak led to the first nationwide lockdown outside of China, and it has claimed more than 95,000 lives across the country. But as CBS News correspondent Chris Livesay reports, it's a very different story there now. Life has slowly been returning to normal, and Italians packed the streets over the weekend – even in the country's north, which was once the epicenter of its coronavirus epidemic. Old traditions are bouncing back across Italy, but with some differences. A year ago, something as simple as drinking a cappuccino out in the open had become unthinkable. Life is hardly back to normal; the law still requires that you to wear a mask at all times in public, even outside, except when you're eating or drinking.
22nd Feb 2021 - CBS News

Air New Zealand to trial digital Covid `vaccination passport`

Air New Zealand will trial a digital travel pass to give airlines and border authorities access to passenger health information, including their Covid-19 vaccination status, the carrier said Monday. The scheme, dubbed a "vaccination passport" by industry observers, is intended to streamline travel once borders reopen by allowing passengers to store their health credentials in one place.
22nd Feb 2021 - WION

Covid 19 coronavirus: Auckland lockdown was 'frustrating' but justified, says expert

Auckland's latest Covid-19 episode will have proven "frustrating" to many - but the snap lockdown was nonetheless ultimately justified, an expert says. Scientists today welcomed Cabinet's call to move Auckland to alert level 1, and to require masks on public transport across the whole country, at all alert levels. Covid-19 modeller Professor Michael Plank said the drop down made sense, with a vast number of negative tests now giving officials "good confidence" there wasn't an undetected community outbreak.
22nd Feb 2021 - New Zealand Herald

WHO calls for other steps to ease COVAX vaccine access

At a press briefing today, the World Health Organization's (WHO) top official said money isn't the only obstacle to getting vaccines to lower income countries through the COVAX program, designed to offer equitable access to tamp down the COVID-19 activity across the globe. In other developments, the WHO pleaded with Tanzania to report on its COVID-19 situation and describe measures it's taking, as some countries in Europe looked toward easing measures, while a few other nations tracked rising cases.
22nd Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

Pfizer to ship 13 million COVID-19 vaccine doses per week to U.S. by mid-March, says executive

Pfizer Inc expects to deliver more than 13 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine per week to the United States by the middle of March, more than doubling its shipments from early February, a top Pfizer executive said in prepared testimony ahead of a Tuesday congressional hearing. Pfizer has shipped around 40 million doses to locations across the United States so far and is on track to deliver 120 million doses of its two-dose regimen by the end of March, said John Young, Pfizer’s chief business officer.
22nd Feb 2021 - Reuters

New pledges boost COVAX, but critics say more is needed to ensure global vaccine access

After months of uncertainty and frustration, a World Health Organization program designed to ensure access to Covid-19 vaccines in dozens of low-income countries late last week received a spate of good news. First, Novavax pledged 1.1 billion doses of its shot to the WHO effort, which is known as COVAX. Meanwhile, the U.S. agreed to contribute $4 billion in aid over the next two years, with Germany adding $1.2 billion and the European Commission providing $600 million. Collectively, the G7 countries have now committed a total $7.5 billion. And the U.K. promised to provide surplus vaccines to low-income countries. The sudden rush of announcements was in stark contrast to increasing concerns that COVAX was faltering. For much of the past year, wealthy nations and drug makers reached deals that critics argued would leave low-income nations with little access to vaccines. As a result, the vast majority of vaccinations have so far occurred in high-income countries.
22nd Feb 2021 - STAT News

On the Post-Pandemic Horizon, Could That Be an Economic Boom?

The growing optimism stems from the confluence of several factors. Coronavirus cases are falling in the United States. The vaccine rollout, though slower than hoped, is gaining steam. And largely because of trillions of dollars in federal help, the economy appears to have made it through last year with less structural damage — in the form of business failures, home foreclosures and personal bankruptcies — than many people feared last spring
21st Feb 2021 - The New York Times

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

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South Korea to begin using Pfizer coronavirus vaccines on Feb. 27, PM says

South Korea will begin administering the first of 117,000 doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine on Feb. 27, a day after the country begins its first vaccinations with AstraZeneca’s products, the prime minister announced on Sunday. Plans call for about 10 million high-risk people, including health care workers and staffers and some residents of assisted care facilities and nursing homes, to be inoculated by July. The first AstraZeneca vaccines are scheduled to be administered on Friday, with Pfizer’s shots being deployed the next day, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said
21st Feb 2021 - Reuters

Scott Morrison reveals who his priorities for the coronavirus vaccine are

Scott Morrison has revealed who his priorities are for the Covid vaccine, after being one of the first people in Australia to receive the jab. The prime minister said the 'average Joes and Jills' who work in aged care and hotel quarantine will come first. 'There are many average Joes and Jills who work in aged care and disability care and who have disabilities and live in aged care facilities or who do hotel quarantine - they are the priorities,' he said.
21st Feb 2021 - Daily Mail

Covid-19 vaccinations begin in Australia with Scott Morrison among first group

The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, has received the Pfizer vaccine, as he joined a small first group to be vaccinated against Covid-19 on Sunday – a step the government says is intended to build public confidence in the safety of the vaccines. Morrison – the 12th member of the group to receive the vaccine at a televised event in Sydney – described it as a “curtain raiser” for the formal start of the vaccine rollout on Monday. He said the initial jabs were designed to show “that it’s safe, that it’s important, and we need to start with those who are most vulnerable and on the front line”.
21st Feb 2021 - The Guardian

How is Sweden coping with Covid-19? The hands-off strategy hasn't changed, officials insist

Now, in the short, gloomy days of February, Sweden’s laissez-faire approach has changed. The government has overruled the public health agency, which has primacy in deciding how to tackle the pandemic, in a number of areas. Commuters are advised to wear masks at rush hour, and bars stop serving alcohol at 10pm. Gatherings of more than eight people are banned. While the restrictions are still not as tight as in the UK, perhaps the biggest change is in the public’s perception of the pandemic. Trust in the authorities has dipped: according to a poll published last month only half of Swedes think that the public health agency is doing a good job, compared with 70 per cent last spring. Other agencies have fared far worse — with trust plunging to record lows. A year after the pandemic came to Sweden, more than 12,500 people have died of Covid-19 in a country of 10.2 million. In Norway, Denmark and Finland — which have a total population of 16.5 million — there have been 3,600 deaths.
21st Feb 2021 - The Times

COVID sickness dropped 95.8% after both Pfizer shots: Israeli Health Ministry

The risk of illness from COVID-19 dropped 95.8% among people who received both shots of Pfizer’s vaccine, Israel’s Health Ministry said. The vaccine was also 98% effective in preventing fever or breathing problems and 98.9% effective in preventing hospitalizations and death, the ministry said. The findings were based on data collected nationally through Feb. 13 from Israelis who had received their second shot at least two weeks previously. Previous reports from individual health care providers also showed positive results, spurring Israel to remove restrictions on the economy after weeks of lockdown. On Sunday, schools and many stores will be allowed to reopen.
21st Feb 2021 - Reuters

G-7 vows 'equitable' world vaccine access, but details scant

Leaders of the Group of Seven economic powers promised Friday to immunize the world’s neediest people against the coronavirus by giving money, and precious vaccine doses, to a U.N.-backed vaccine distribution effort. But the leaders, under pressure over their vaccination campaigns at home, were unwilling to say exactly how much vaccine they were willing to share with the developing world, or when. Chancellor Angela Merkel said after the G-7 leaders held a virtual meeting that fair distribution of vaccines was “an elementary question of fairness.” But she added, “No vaccination appointment in Germany is going to be endangered.”
20th Feb 2021 - The Associated Press

Victorian family tests positive to Covid a day after state emerges from lockdown

Three members of a Victorian family, two of whom quarantined at the Melbourne airport Holiday Inn, have tested positive to coronavirus a day after the state’s five-day lockdown was lifted. Health authorities were confident the new cases, which came after two days of zero cases in Victoria, will not spark further infections as they were isolating at home during their infectious period. The health minister, Martin Foley, said the cases involved two parents and a child, two of whom were classified as primary close contacts because they had been in quarantine on the third floor of the quarantine hotel at Tullamarine. The other family member was deemed a secondary contact. Foley said the trio had multiple negative tests between 10 February and 12 February after returning from overseas in early Februrary.
20th Feb 2021 - The Guardian

Australia's travel bubble with New Zealand to restart as Victoria records no new Covid cases

Australia’s coronavirus travel bubble with New Zealand will recommence on Sunday, the Department of Health has announced. In a statement issued on Saturday afternoon, the department said “green zone” flights from New Zealand could resume at 12.01am on Sunday, subject to some conditions. “The AHPPC monitors the situation in many locations and will continue to advise on a range of decisions in the interest of the health of all Australians,” said the chief medical officer, Prof Paul Kelly. “These decisions are not easy and we do not take them lightly – and all AHPPC members appreciate the ongoing patience and flexibility of Australians and New Zealanders, including those in the tourism and travel industry."
20th Feb 2021 - The Guardian

After snap lockdown, New Zealand begins vaccine programme

A few days after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ended the snap lockdown in Auckland, New Zealand has launched its first COVID-19 vaccination programme. The country is using Pfizer-BioNtech's vaccine against the deadly coronavirus. On Saturday, a small group of medical professionals were injected with the approved vaccine in Auckland. Following this, border staff and so-called Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) workers will initiate a bigger and wider rollout of the vaccine.
20th Feb 2021 - WION

Escaping lockdown: when will life return to normal?

Governments and societies will have to learn how to manage a complex series of risks, both in the short term while only part of the population has been vaccinated, and in the long term as the disease lingers even after most people have received the jab. International travel could face restrictions for some time to come. Some scientists describe a long drawn-out battle with an endemic virus that constantly evolves — with new vaccines and treatments being deployed in a way that they hope will allow much but not all of normal life to return. “The challenge is to find a way to live with it without keeping huge restrictions in place,” says Azra Ghani, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at Imperial College London.
20th Feb 2021 - The Financial Times

Covid-19: Which countries in Africa are administering vaccines?

Africa has now recorded more than 100,000 deaths from coronavirus, and there's been concern over the delay in rolling out Covid-19 vaccinations there. There has been global competition to get hold of vaccines, and African countries have generally not been as successful as richer countries in securing supplies. "It is deeply unjust that the most vulnerable Africans are forced to wait for vaccines while lower-risk groups in rich countries are made safe," says Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization regional director for Africa. France President Emmanuel Macron has proposed that rich countries in Europe and the US share their vaccines with Africa.
20th Feb 2021 - BBC News

New G7 support gives COVAX program a shot in the arm

COVAX, the push to equitably distribute COVID-19 vaccine throughout the world, got a major boost with a fresh infusion of pledges, as G7 leaders gathered virtually at a security conference. In other international developments, Johnson & Johnson submitted its COVID-19 vaccine for World Health Organization (WHO) assessment, and two researchers published more promising findings for already listed vaccines, AstraZeneca-Oxford and Pfizer-BioNTech.
19th Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 19th Feb 2021

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Rich nations stockpiling a billion more COVID-19 shots than needed: report

Rich countries are on course to have over a billion more doses of COVID-19 vaccines than they need, leaving poorer nations scrambling for leftover supplies as the world seeks to curb the coronavirus pandemic, a report by anti-poverty campaigners found on Friday. In an analysis of current supply deals for COVID-19 vaccines, the ONE Campaign said wealthy countries, such as the United States and Britain, should share the excess doses to “supercharge” a fully global response to the pandemic. The advocacy group, which campaigns against poverty and preventable diseases, said a failure to do so would deny billions of people essential protection from the COVID-19-causing virus and likely prolong the pandemic. The report looked specifically at contracts with the five leading COVID-19 vaccine makers - Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Novavax.
19th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Experts warn against COVID-19 variants as states reopen

As states lift mask rules and ease restrictions on restaurants and other businesses because of falling case numbers, public health officials say authorities are overlooking potentially more dangerous COVID-19 variants that are quietly spreading through the U.S. Scientists widely agree that the U.S. simply doesn’t have enough of a handle on the variants to roll back public health measures and is at risk of fumbling yet another phase of the pandemic after letting the virus rage through the country over the last year and kill nearly 500,000 people. “Now is not the time to fully open up," said Karthik Gangavarapu, a researcher at Scripps Research Institute whose team works closely with San Diego health officials to watch for mutant versions of the coronavirus. “We need to still be vigilant.”
18th Feb 2021 - The Independent

Victoria's statewide lockdown ends. Data can tell us what to do next time

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced today the state’s five-day circuit-breaker lockdown would end at midnight tonight. The state’s health department reported zero new cases overnight from nearly 40,000 tests — the highest number of daily tests recorded in Victoria since the start of the pandemic. Andrews said a five-day lockdown is “infinitely better” than taking a chance and ending up with a five-week lockdown or worse. But in truth, we don’t know for sure what that chance is. The fact Victoria uses comprehensive “contacts of contacts” tracing means we have rich data to explore how testing and tracing would stand up under more dire transmission scenarios involving the UK variant and a multi-case seeding event.
18th Feb 2021 - The Conversation AU

Victoria's snap lockdown is over but it comes at a political cost for Daniel Andrews

Victoria has survived its third lockdown. Cases are contained and restrictions have eased. There has been untold economic damage and fresh concerns for the mental health of Victorians already doing it tough. The snap lockdown was a last resort, the Premier says, but that does not necessarily mean it won't happen again if the virus gets out of control.
18th Feb 2021 - ABC News

Covid 19 coronavirus: Auckland out of lockdown - Jacinda Ardern sounds warning, Professor Des Gorman criticises alert-level response

Staff at a South Auckland workplace where a woman tested positive for Covid-19 have all tested negative for the virus. LSG Sky Chefs, based in Māngere, made the announcement in a statement to media just before 10.30am. "A comprehensive test of all LSG Sky Chefs employees - conducted mainly on site by a task force from the local health authority - showed that no other member of the workforce is infected," a spokeswoman for the company said.
18th Feb 2021 - New Zealand Herald

Lockdown over, tennis fans back as Australia says no new virus cases for over 48 hours

Australia said on Thursday it had gone more than 48 hours since detecting the last locally acquired case of COVID-19, as Victoria state ended a lockdown letting thousands of tennis fans back in Melbourne Park for the last days of the Australian Open. Jack Barber, a 25-year-old student, was among 7,477 spectators in the stadium watching Japan’s Naomi Osaka defeat the United States’ Serena Williams to go through to the ladies final. “Yeah, it’s awesome. I wasn’t sure if they were going to put the event on. It’s been really nice to be here. I actually kind of like the lower crowds,” said Barber, with the Rod Laver Arena limited by social distancing restrictions to half its capacity. “It’s kind of nice to be able to walk around and go wherever you want.”
18th Feb 2021 - Reuters Australia

White House announces plans to ramp up COVID testing

The White House announced new efforts on Wednesday to expand and improve testing for the coronavirus, as the United States ramps up efforts to vaccinate Americans. In a news briefing, Carole Johnson, the nation’s new COVID-19 testing coordinator, announced that the federal government would invest $1.6bn to increase nationwide testing. “We need to test broadly and rapidly to turn the tide of this pandemic but we still don’t have enough testing and we don’t have enough testing in all the places it needs to be,” Johnson said during a news briefing. She said the funds would support testing in schools and in underserved populations, increase manufacturing of critical testing supplies, as well as increase genomic sequencing – key to studying virus variants. According to a White House factsheet, $650m will go towards expanding testing capacity for schools, which will assist them in reopening.
18th Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

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Brazil’s coronavirus vaccine rollout beset by supply problems

Authorities in Rio de Janeiro and several other Brazilian cities have said they would pause some coronavirus jabs because of a shortage of vaccines, as supply bottlenecks threaten to slow the inoculation programme in Latin America’s largest nation. A number of municipalities including Rio, home to 6.7m people, have in recent days paused first injections — or said they intend to — because of a lack of supply, with priority given to those waiting for a second shot. Salvador, home to almost 3m residents, has suspended first vaccine doses for health workers and the elderly. “We are waiting for a new delivery from the federal government so we can proceed with the vaccination schedule in our city,” Bruno Reis, Salvador’s mayor, tweeted this week.
17th Feb 2021 - Financial Times

In Naples, Muslim families struggle to bury coronavirus victims

When Ahmed Aden Mohamed brought his mother, Zahra Gassim Alio, to the hospital with knee pain, he never imagined that it would be the last time he saw her alive. After a series of complications, Alio was exposed to the coronavirus and she died soon after. When he went to the hospital to collect her body, Mohamed realised how complicated it would be to lay her to rest. Since his city of Naples, in southern Italy, did not have a Muslim cemetery, he was faced with a difficult decision: have his mother’s body cremated, which is forbidden in Islam, or bury her in one of the two closest Muslim cemeteries, both of which are about 150km (93 miles) away. The lack of a Muslim cemetery in Naples, Italy’s third-largest city, and one with a fast-growing Muslim community, has been a challenge for many families for several years. But the coronavirus pandemic has made things even harder.
17th Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

‘Wildly unfair’: UN boss says 10 nations used 75% of all vaccines

The United Nations chief has sharply criticised the “wildly uneven and unfair” distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, pointing out that just 10 countries have administered 75 percent of all vaccinations. Addressing a high-level meeting of the UN Security Council on Wednesday, Antonio Guterres said 130 countries have not received a single dose of vaccine. “At this critical moment, vaccine equity is the biggest moral test before the global community,” he said. Guterres called for an urgent Global Vaccination Plan to bring together those with the power to ensure fair vaccine distribution – scientists, vaccine producers and those who can fund the effort – to ensure all people in every nation get inoculated as soon as possible. The secretary-general further called on the world’s leading economic powers in the Group of 20 to establish an emergency task force that should have the capacity to bring together “the pharmaceutical companies and key industry and logistics actors”. Guterres said a meeting on Friday of the Group of Seven top industrialised nations “can create the momentum to mobilise the necessary financial resources”.
17th Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Slovakia and Croatia in talks with Russia over Sputnik coronavirus vaccine

Croatia and Slovakia are in talks with Russia about buying its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, local media reported Wednesday. “It is timely for the government to start talks with the Russian side about supplies of Sputnik V,” Slovakian Prime Minister Igor Matovič said on Facebook, adding that his government will discuss the matter Thursday and that he's in favor of the jab. Sputnik is a "great vaccine with great efficiency," he said.
17th Feb 2021 - POLITICO.eu

Brussels gives vaccine strategy an injection

The European Commission on Wednesday moved to give its slow-rolling vaccine strategy a booster shot. Battered after weeks of criticism over production delays and other missteps, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen laid out her long-term vaccine promises. She vowed to speed up the approval of vaccines to fight new coronavirus variants and expand genomic sequencing of those variants. She pledged to look into an EU-wide emergency authorization process to more swiftly approve other vaccines. She talked about a new “clinical trial network” and said the EU would buy more vaccines overall through the bloc’s joint procurement program. But what von der Leyen could not — and did not — promise was to immediately make more vaccines available to citizens whom she admitted were rightly frustrated that other countries like the U.K. and Israel have raced ahead.
17th Feb 2021 - POLITICO.eu

Johnson & Johnson has only a few million COVID vaccine doses in stock as likely launch nears

Johnson & Johnson has only a few million doses of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine in its inventory even as likely U.S. regulatory authorization is only a few weeks away, White House officials said on Wednesday. J&J remains committed to providing 100 million doses by June but deliveries are likely to be “back-end loaded” as J&J works with the U.S. government to boost supply, Jeffrey Zients, the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator, said during a press call. “Across the last few weeks we’ve learned that there is not a big inventory of Johnson and Johnson. There’s a few million doses that we’ll start with,” Zients said.
17th Feb 2021 - Reuters

New Zealand releasing Auckland from brief COVID-19 lockdown

New Zealand will lift a COVID-19 lockdown of its largest city of Auckland and ease restrictions across the rest of the country from midnight on Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said. Auckland’s nearly 2 million residents were plunged into a snap three-day lockdown on Monday, after a more contagious COVID-19 variant that first emerged in Britain was detected in a family of three. Health authorities reported three new locally transmitted cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, all of them from the same home as the child who tested positive on Sunday.
17th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Victoria state to end snap lockdown, allow fans at Australian Open

A five-day snap lockdown in Australia’s Victoria state will end on Wednesday, officials said as they reported no new cases in a cluster linked to a quarantine hotel in the city of Melbourne. State Premier Daniel Andrews said most mobility restrictions will be lifted at midnight, but masks will remain mandatory both indoors and outdoors when social distancing rules cannot be followed. “In a broader sense, we are safe and open,” Andrews said in a televised media conference, but cautioned the latest outbreak had not yet been fully contained. The lifting of restrictions will allow at least some spectators at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, where players have competed in empty stadiums during the lockdown.
17th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Scottish pupils to begin returning to school from Monday

Pupils in Scotland will begin returning to schools from Monday, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said, but the move would mean wider COVID-19 lockdown restrictions may have to stay in place longer. Sturgeon announced that a phased return would go ahead as previously planned with some age groups allowed to return next week, and others dependent on the success of that move and data on overall infection rates. “We are very deliberately choosing to use the very limited headroom we have right now to get at least some children back to school, because children’s education and wellbeing is such an overriding priority,” she told the Scottish parliament on Tuesday.
17th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Covid: Melbourne and Auckland snap lockdowns to end

The Australian state of Victoria and the New Zealand city of Auckland will both exit snap lockdowns on Thursday. Authorities in Australia said they had gained control of a hotel quarantine cluster in Melbourne, which prompted a five-day lockdown. New Zealand will lift curbs put in place in Auckland three days ago, despite three new local cases. Both countries, known for their strict measures, have seen relatively few deaths and cases during the pandemic.
17th Feb 2021 - BBC News

New Zealand ends lockdown after deciding outbreak contained

A lockdown in the New Zealand city of Auckland will end at midnight, the government announced Wednesday after concluding a coronavirus outbreak had been contained. “This is good news,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said. The move to end the lockdown came as health authorities said the outbreak had grown by three cases to six in total. But Ardern said the additional cases were to be expected because they involved close contacts. Ramped-up testing indicates the outbreak hasn’t spread far.
17th Feb 2021 - Associated Press

Calls to overhaul Victoria’s hotel quarantine system ramp up

Victoria’s latest COVID-19 leak from hotel quarantine has ramped up calls to completely overhaul the system, with one expert warning the current system put in place by Premier Daniel Andrews can’t be trusted to keep the community safe from future breaches. Leading infectious disease expert Professor Lindsay Grayson said Mr Andrews’ current approach to hotel quarantine is “placing the rest of the country at risk”. “It should be removed from the national quarantine program until proven safe,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
17th Feb 2021 - News.com.au

Australia's second-largest city comes out of 3rd lockdown

Melbourne will relax its third lockdown on Wednesday after authorities contained the spread of a COVID-19 cluster centered on hotel quarantine. The Victoria state government has yet to say whether spectators will be allowed to return to the Australian Open tennis tournament under the same conditions as before the five-day lockdown. Health authorities will soon settle on a final crowd figure for the final days of the tournament, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said.
17th Feb 2021 - The Independent

Auckland lockdown to end despite three new cases of Covid-19

New Zealand has reported three new locally transmitted cases of Covid-19, as prime minister Jacinda Ardern surprised many by announcing Auckland’s three-day lockdown would end at midnight. Ardern said she did not believe community transmission was “widespread”, as new cases were minimal, and wastewater testing had reported negative results in the country’s largest city. The rest of the country will drop to Level 1 restrictions. “I wanted enough time at a cautious level to give us reassurance,” Ardern said. “Much better to have 72 hours in [lockdown]… than have 72 hours of unchecked spread.”
17th Feb 2021 - MSN.com

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Peru’s ex-president sought COVID jab out of turn, doctor says

The doctor leading a coronavirus vaccine trial in Peru has said former President Martin Vizcarra got a COVID-19 jab out of turn, as a scandal over government officials receiving vaccines before the general public continues to roil the South American nation. Dr German Malaga testified in parliament on Tuesday that Vizcarra, who previously said he had been inoculated as a clinical trial volunteer, was not, in fact, a volunteer. “He asked me for two vaccines,” Malaga, of the Cayetano Heredia University in Lima running the trial, told a virtual session of a congressional commission. Vizcarra’s wife also received a shot. Malaga said Vizcarra had approached him about being vaccinated on October 1, when the drug was being rolled out to 12,000 trial volunteers. Vizcarra knew he would be getting the real vaccine from Chinese company Sinopharm, the doctor added.
16th Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Mexico surpasses 2 million coronavirus cases; more than 175,000 deaths

Mexico’s total number of coronavirus cases crossed 2 million with another 8,683 cases recorded on Tuesday, the health ministry said. The country’s tally of infections now stands at 2,004,575. Mexico also reported 1,329 additional fatalities, bringing the total to 175,986 deaths. The government says the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.
16th Feb 2021 - Reuters

UK retail must stay open when third lockdown ends - Ocado chairman

Britain’s retail sector must stay open when it emerges from the latest coronavirus lockdown, sector veteran Stuart Rose said on Tuesday. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to set the path out of a third lockdown which has closed all non-essential shops on Feb. 22. “The short term need is for us to have some clarity. We need to have confidence that when we re-open again we will stay open,” Rose, the current chairman of Ocado and a former boss of Marks & Spencer, told BBC radio.
16th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Australia approves AstraZeneca vaccine, bolstering inoculation programme

Australia’s medical regulator granted provisional approval for AstraZeneca Plc’s COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, bolstering a national inoculation programme it plans to begin rolling out next week. The vaccine boost came as Australia’s second-most populous state neared the likely end of a five-day snap lockdown sparked by a fresh cluster of cases. The federal government says it has ordered enough of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which will mostly be manufactured in Australia, to cover the country’s population of 25 million people. It has also ordered enough doses of a vaccine jointly developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech, which is being manufactured offshore, for a fifth of the population.
16th Feb 2021 - Reuters Australia

French unemployment falls to pre-crisis levels in fourth-quarter, skewed by lockdown

Unemployment in France fell to pre-pandemic levels in the fourth quarter of 2020, though the data was partially skewed by a six-week COVID-19 lockdown during which jobseekers were unable to register as jobless, the INSEE statistics office said. Unemployment in the euro zone’s second biggest economy fell 1.1 percentage points to 8%, official data showed on Tuesday. That compared with a revised 9.1% in the third quarter and 8.1% in the last three months of 2019.
16th Feb 2021 - Reuters

What will life look like after lockdown?

British prime minister Boris Johnson has said he is “optimistic” about the prospect of lifting the current national lockdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic while also pleading with the public to remain “patient”. Mr Johnson is due to unveil a “roadmap to recovery” on 22 February, laying out a timeline for the easing of the social restrictions his government introduced in early January to quell the spread of Covid-19, which has claimed 117,000 lives in the UK since March 2020 and worsened when the country was hit by a brutal second wave of infections towards the end of the year.
16th Feb 2021 - The Independent

South Korea warns against lax distancing as daily COVID-19 count hits one-month high

South Korea’s Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun on Wednesday warned against the loosening enforcement of social distancing rules after the number of new coronavirus cases hit the highest levels in nearly 40 days. The government relaxed distancing curbs on Saturday to take effect starting this week, after getting on top of a third wave of COVID-19 outbreaks that peaked at around 1,200 daily cases in late December. But the numbers shot back up in just three days, topping 600 for the first time in 39 days on Tuesday, after a ban on nighttime entertainment facilities was lifted and a restaurant curfew extended by one hour to 10 p.m.
17th Feb 2021 - Reuters

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Kent variant may be 70 percent more deadly: UK study

The highly infectious variant of the novel coronavirus that is predominant in the United Kingdom may be up to 70 percent more deadly than previous strains, according to a report by the government’s scientific advisers. The findings from the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG), published on Friday on the government’s website, underscored concerns about how mutations may change the characteristics of SARS-CoV2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – and alter the course of the pandemic. Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the negative test results since the first three were found was an encouraging start, but cautioned a fuller picture of the outbreak wouldn’t emerge until Tuesday, when the results from an expanded testing regimen would be known.
15th Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

'It's been scary’: getting vaccinated akin to lottery for US teachers

Keeping teachers safe is not easy – or consistent. Across the US the availability of vaccines to teachers and other workers in American schools has become something of a lottery, with it being available in some areas, and not in many others even as public schools are being reopened. For many American teachers, access to the vaccine seems to depend less on what you do as a frontline educator and more on where you do it. As more schools around the US have started to reopen to in-person learning, teachers and staff are pushing back on doing so without vaccinations for employees. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is expected to issue new guidance on school reopenings during the pandemic.
15th Feb 2021 - The Guardian

Pfizer coronavirus vaccine doses arrives in Australia, ahead of first jabs next week

The first doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine have touched down in Australia as preparations continue for the first stage of the national rollout, Health Minister Greg Hunt says. People will begin receiving the vaccine from Monday, February 22, with more than 142,000 doses arriving in Sydney from Europe just after midday on Monday. "They will now be subject to security, quality assurance, in particular to ensure that temperature maintenance has been preserved throughout the course of the flight, to ensure the integrity of the doses, and to ensure there has been no damage," Mr Hunt said. Mr Hunt said the doses would be split up among the states based on their populations, and more information would be released later this week.
15th Feb 2021 - ABC.Net.au

Imperial College expert warns new coronavirus wave could kill tens of thousands of Britons by late summer if lockdown is completely lifted too early

Professor Azra Ghani revealed how a model forecasts significant wave of deaths by summer 2021 if restrictions are eased in July - even despite a vaccine rollout. The government has vowed to release its plan to exit lockdown on February 22. Government is seemingly taking a cautious approach to returning to normality
16th Feb 2021 - Daily Mail

Incoming WTO head warns 'vaccine nationalism' could slow pandemic recovery

The World Trade Organization’s incoming chief on Monday warned against “vaccine nationalism’ that would slow progress in ending the COVID-19 pandemic and could erode economic growth for all countries - rich and poor. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told Reuters her top priority was to ensure the WTO does more to address the pandemic, saying members should accelerate efforts to lift export restrictions slowing trade in needed medicines and supplies. The former Nigerian finance minister and senior World Bank executive was appointed on Monday in a consensus process and starts her new job on March 1. “The WTO can contribute so much more to helping stop the pandemic,” Okonjo-Iweala said in an interview at her home in a suburb of Washington.
16th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Australia medical regulator approves AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine

Australia's medical regulator said on Tuesday it had granted provisional approval for the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca, making it the second vaccine to get regulatory approval in Australia.
16th Feb 2021 - Reuters on MSN.com

South Korea reaches deals to buy more COVID-19 vaccines for 23 million people

South Korea has arranged to buy coronavirus vaccines for 23 million more people, its prime minister said on Tuesday, a day after authorities decided to scale back initial vaccination plans, citing delays and efficacy concerns. The deals include vaccines from Novavax Inc for 20 million people and Pfizer products for 3 million, bringing the total number of people to be covered to 79 million, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said. “The government has been working to bring in sufficient early supplies, but there is growing uncertainty over our plan for the first half due to production issues with global drugmakers and international competition to adopt more vaccines,” he told a televised meeting.
16th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Syringe shortage hampers Japan's COVID-19 vaccination roll out

Japan is scrambling to secure special syringes to maximise the number of COVID-19 vaccine shots used from each vial, but manufacturers are struggling to ramp up production quickly, raising fears that millions of doses could go waste. Japan, with a population of 126 million, last month signed a contract with Pfizer Inc to procure 144 million doses of its vaccine, or enough for 72 million people, with the vaccination campaign set to start on Wednesday. One vial is meant for six shots, Pfizer says, but it takes special syringes that retain a low volume of solution after an injection to extract six doses, while only five shots can be taken with standard syringes that the government has stored up in preparation for the inoculation drive.
16th Feb 2021 - Reuters on MSN.com

Mexico begins vaccinating elderly against COVID-19

Mexico began vaccinating senior citizens in more than 300 municipalities across the country on Monday, after receiving approximately 870,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. The effort was largely concentrated in remote rural communities, but hundreds of people over the age of 60 also lined up before dawn in a few far-flung corners of the sprawling capital, Mexico City, for the chance to get vaccinated. Officials encouraged people to not come all at once, but with shots distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, the demand was immediate. The government has designated 1,000 vaccination sites, including schools and health centres, mostly in the country’s poorest communities.
16th Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Zimbabwe receives first batch of Sinopharm vaccines

Zimbabwe has received its first 200,000 coronavirus vaccines, a donation by the Chinese government. Vice President and Health Minister Constantino Chiwenga was at the Robert Mugabe International Airport in the capital, Harare, in the early hours of Monday for the arrival of the doses of the Sinopharm vaccine from China.
16th Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

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Israeli study finds 94% drop in symptomatic COVID-19 cases with Pfizer vaccine

Israel’s largest healthcare provider on Sunday reported a 94% drop in symptomatic COVID-19 infections among 600,000 people who received two doses of the Pfizer’s vaccine in the country’s biggest study to date. Health maintenance organization (HMO) Clalit, which covers more than half of all Israelis, said the same group was also 92% less likely to develop severe illness from the virus. The comparison was against a group of the same size, with matching medical histories, who had not received the vaccine.
14th Feb 2021 - Reuters

The show goes on in Madrid as cultural life continues despite pandemic

Madrid’s Teatro Real opera house is busy preparing its latest productions in what at any time would be an ambitious season. With Spain battling some of Europe’s worst coronavirus infection rates, its plans are all the more remarkable. The Real’s premiere of a production of Wagner’s four hour-long Siegfried takes place on Saturday while two other operas with largely foreign casts — Bellini’s Norma and Britten’s Peter Grimes — will be staged this month. The performances are part of a flurry of artistic activity that has continued in the Spanish capital despite the pandemic, as Madrid gives its answer to the question: how much should cultural life be closed down to keep the virus in check?
13th Feb 2021 - Financial Times

China’s Lunar New Year plan shows what living with Covid really means

One year ago, things in China were very different. Around the time of the 2020 Lunar New Year people had already brought Covid-19 back to their families, hospitals in Wuhan were overwhelmed and doctor Li Wenliang, who tried to warn his the world of the virus, had passed away. This year, China’s central government in Beijing has advised people to stay where they are for the holiday. The government hasn’t banned travel but people are following official guidance. The number of passengers travelling during the three-day pre-festival rush fell 70 per cent year on year. Usually billions of trips are made across China for the Lunar New Year period. Train tickets sell out weeks in advance. Stations are mobbed in the days running up to the holiday. This year, they're not.
13th Feb 2021 - Wired UK

Masks no longer mandatory in Perth, as final lockdown measures lift

The last of Perth and WA's lock lockdown measures lifted at midnight (3am AEDT), meaning masks are no longer mandatory. It means the city — which was put into a five day lockdown alongside Peel and parts of the state's south-west on January 31 after a single virus case in a hotel quarantine worker — returns to pre-lockdown conditions. No new cases were reported yesterday.
13th Feb 2021 - 9News

Coronavirus: in Wuhan, a Lunar New Year rush to pay tribute to Covid-19’s victims

Early on Friday, the first day of the Lunar New Year, shops in the central Chinese city of Wuhan were selling out of chrysanthemums as residents bought them to take to the grave or home of a deceased family member. Throughout Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, it is a tradition to visit the household of a person who has died in the last lunar year to offer flowers and burn incense soon after midnight. This year, demand for the flowers for shao qing xiang or “burning incense” was particularly high, with many residents buying the yellow and white chrysanthemums to remember those who died from the coronavirus.
13th Feb 2021 - South China Morning Post

New Zealand to start coronavirus vaccinations on February 20

New Zealand's COVID-19 inoculation program will begin on February 20, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced, bringing forward the schedule after the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was received earlier than anticipated. Pressure has been mounting on Ms Ardern to start vaccinations for the country's five million people in order to take advantage of its rare position of having virtually eliminated the virus domestically. "Last year we indicated the vaccine would arrive in quarter two, and earlier this year we updated that to quarter one," Ms Ardern said.
13th Feb 2021 - ABC News

Patient diagnosed with Covid-19 dies in New Zealand hospital

A patient diagnosed with Covid-19 has died at a New Zealand hospital, the Ministry of Health has confirmed, after being transferred from a managed isolation facility for treatment of a separate, serious health condition last week. The person, whose death was not yet being included in New Zealand’s official Covid-related death toll, was diagnosed with the virus after their admission to North Shore hospital in Auckland. The ministry said more information on the case would be provided on Monday, pending further investigations.
13th Feb 2021 - The Guardian

Covaxin not finding international takers even when supplied free of cost by India

According to sources, of the 64.7 lakh Covid vaccine doses that have been sent out by India pro bono as part, only 2 lakh are doses of India’s Covaxin. The rest are doses of Serum Institute's Covishield.
13th Feb 2021 - India Today

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AstraZeneca expects COVID variant vaccine by mid to late 2021

AstraZeneca has said it expects to have a new version of its COVID-19 vaccine ready for use by mid to late 2021, responding to concerns about emerging variants of the disease that may be more transmissible or resistant to existing vaccines. The Anglo-Swedish company, which makes a vaccine developed by the University of Oxford, said on Thursday that researchers began the work on the updates months ago when the new variants were first detected. “We’re moving fast and we’ve got a number of variant versions in the works that we will be picking from as we move into the clinic,” Mene Pangalos, head of biopharmaceuticals research for AstraZeneca, said on a conference call with reporters. The comments came as CEO Pascal Soriot defended the company’s efforts to develop and ramp up production of the shot amid criticism from the European Union and a preliminary study that raised concerns about the vaccine’s ability to combat a variant of COVID-19 first discovered in South Africa.
12th Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Indigenous leaders warn of missionaries turning Amazon villages against vaccines

Medical teams working to immunize Brazil’s remote indigenous villages against the coronavirus have encountered fierce resistance in some communities where evangelical missionaries are stoking fears of the vaccine, say tribal leaders and advocates. On the São Francisco reservation in the state of Amazonas, Jamamadi villagers sent health workers packing with bows and arrows when they visited by helicopter this month, said Claudemir da Silva, an Apurinã leader representing indigenous communities on the Purus river, a tributary of the Xingú. “It’s not happening in all villages, just in those that have missionaries or evangelical chapels where pastors are convincing the people not to receive the vaccine, that they will turn into an alligator and other crazy ideas,” he said by phone.
12th Feb 2021 - Reuters India

Over 100,000 people from Mumbai got Covid-19 vaccine shots

After vaccinating 5,707 beneficiaries on the 20th day of the vaccination drive, Mumbai crossed the milestone of 100,000 beneficiaries on Thursday. A total of 1,01,364 beneficiaries have been vaccinated in Mumbai since January 16, when the vaccination drive began. Of these, 85,034 are healthcare workers (HCWs) and 16,330 are frontline workers (FLWs). On Thursday, the turnout was 61%, but the average turnout over the past 20 days is over 70%.
11th Feb 2021 - Hindustan Times

France is seeing a baby bust nine months after its first covid lockdown

When France confined more than 64 million people under one of the world's strictest coronavirus lockdowns last spring, there was widespread speculation that a baby boom would follow. Nine months on, though, instead of a boom, France is witnessing a sharp decline in births. Economic uncertainty, social stress and in some cases anxieties about the virus itself appear to have prompted families to abandon or postpone plans to have a baby. The number of babies born at the Saint-Denis hospital plummeted by about 20 percent between mid-December and mid-January and is expected to remain below 2020 levels for at least the first half of the year. While the coronavirus wards were hives of activity last week, lights in the maternity ward were dimmed and the corridors empty.
11th Feb 2021 - The Washington Post

People getting slack about protecting themselves from Covid risk, government survey shows

In New Zealand, a government survey suggests people are becoming increasingly relaxed about protecting themselves from the risk of Covid-19. Use of the Tracer app, wearing masks, washing hands, and taking precaution when coughing or sneezing are all being reviewed on a monthly basis by the Ministry of Health. Other survey questions focus on mental health and how worried people are about catching the virus. The Ministry of Health's latest Health Survey shows that in January 27.5 percent of people recorded where they had been and who they were with. That marks a sharp fall from 45.6 percent of respondents questioned in September last year who said they were doing this.
11th Feb 2021 - RNZ

South Africa to use J&J, Pfizer COVID vaccines, says Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa says country has secured 9 million Johnson & Johnson and 20 million Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses. South Africa has secured millions of doses of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to fight a highly infectious variant of the coronavirus that is dominant in the country, according to President Cyril Ramaphosa. During a televised annual state of the nation address, Ramaphosa said on Thursday the continent’s hardest-hit country had secured nine million doses of the yet-to-be approved J&J vaccine, of which 500,000 would arrive over the next four weeks so authorities could start vaccinating health workers. Another 20 million Pfizer doses have also been secured, he added, with deliveries expected to begin at the end of March.
11th Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

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WA bans COVID hotel staff from second jobs

A ban on hotel quarantine security guards and other staff working second jobs in Western Australia is set to come into effect from next week. It comes as WA again recorded no new local COVID-19 cases after a breach involving a hotel guard plunged more than two million people into lockdown last week. The guard, who unwittingly roamed the streets of Perth while infectious, had also been employed as a rideshare driver, although authorities soon established that he had not worked in that job since becoming infected.
10th Feb 2021 - 7NEWS.com.au

Australia considers plan to quarantine arrivals in isolated rural camps

Australia is considering controversial plans to set up isolated rural quarantine camps for people entering from overseas as the country tries to plug the final gap in its efforts to combat Covid-19. The proposal to relocate quarantine facilities away from hotels in dense city centres was first raised by the state of Queensland, which imposed a three-day lockdown in Brisbane, after a cleaner at a quarantine hotel in the capital was infected with the contagious British strain of the virus. Following the lockdown, the state's Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk proposed setting up quarantine accommodation at mining camps in regional centres such as Toowoomba and Gladstone.
10th Feb 2021 - The Straits Times

Coronavirus lockdowns costing Australian economy millions

Australia’s COVID-19 success is the envy of the world, with just 909 deaths more than 12 months after the deadly pandemic first reached our shores. That feat has been breathlessly praised by the international media, with the Washington Post reporting in November that we had “almost eliminated the coronavirus by putting faith in science” and The New York Times celebrating the fact our “short, sharp responses have repeatedly subdued the virus and allowed a return to near normalcy”. It is undeniably a cause for celebration given how seriously the pandemic has devastated other nations, with the death toll in the US alone rapidly approaching 465,000.
10th Feb 2021 - NEWS.com.au

New Zealand approves use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

New Zealand announced Wednesday it has approved use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Chris Hipkins, the COVID-19 response minister, told reporters during a press conference that the New Zealand Cabinet has confirmed formal approval for the administration of the vaccine developed jointing between U.S. pharmaceutical Pfizer and German biotech BioNTech. The approval came a week after Medsafe, the archipelago nation's medical regulator, gave the vaccine provisional approval. Hipkins said the Cabinet signed off for the vaccine to be administered to those 16 years of age and older and that information about the vaccine, including common side effects such as fever, muscle pain and fatigue, be provided. Patients undergoing some therapies should not receive the inoculation while pregnant women are being advised to discuss the vaccine's pros and cons with their physician, he said.
10th Feb 2021 - koreatimes.co.kr

New Zealand to inoculate high-risk people first as COVID-19 vaccine gets full approval

New Zealand will first administer COVID-19 vaccines to quarantine personnel, front line health workers and airline staff, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said, as the government formally approved its use on Wednesday. New Zealand’s medicines regulator last week provisionally approved the use of the COVID-19 vaccine jointly developed by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc and Germany’s BioNTech. “Now we’ve reached the crucial stage of approval for the first vaccine, we are in a much better position to start having a conversation with New Zealanders about how we plan to proceed,” Hipkins said in a statement. Authorities expect the Pfizer vaccine to arrive in the country by end-March but they had expressed concerns about export curbs.
10th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Australia tennis chief urges strict quarantine for Tokyo Olympics

Making the Olympics safe from coronavirus will be difficult for Tokyo without stiff quarantine measures that will also inspire athletes and spectators with the confidence to attend events, Australia’s top tennis official said on Wednesday. The Japanese capital is expected to welcome 11,000 athletes at the end of July, when it holds the summer Games postponed from last year because of the virus, but is not currently considering wholesale quarantine for them. Speaking on the sidelines of the Australian Open, the first major Grand Slam event to host crowds, the chief executive of Tennis Australia said his experience of organising the contest suggested the Olympics needed rigorous quarantine measures.
10th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Australia's Victoria keeps cap on arrivals after cluster at quarantine hotel

The Australian state of Victoria stepped back on Wednesday from plans to let more people return from abroad each week, following a cluster of cases linked to a hotel at Melbourne Airport used for quarantining arrivals from overseas. Eight COVID-19 infections were linked the hotel after two more people - one a guest in quarantine and the other a worker -tested positive in the past 24 hours, state authorities said. The remaining guests were transferred to another hotel to serve their quarantine and more than 100 workers were also placed in quarantine, authorities said. Everyone arriving in Australia has faced a mandatory 14-day quarantine period at a hotel, including tennis players competing in the Australian Open tournament that got underway in Melbourne earlier this week.
10th Feb 2021 - Reuters

International CEO avoids medi-hotel lockdown in Adelaide

A high-powered international businessman who landed in Adelaide from COVID-stricken France will quarantine at a suburban home instead of a medi-hotel. He has been granted an exemption by authorities. Pierre-Eric Pommellet is the global CEO of Naval Group, the company contracted to build Australia's submarines in South Australia.
10th Feb 2021 - 9News.com.au

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European Union will not block Pfizer coronavirus vaccine doses bound for Australia, ambassador says

Millions of doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine bound for Australia will be allowed to leave the European Union (EU), its ambassador has confirmed. Australia has secured 20 million doses of the vaccine, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison previously saying the goal was to vaccinate 80,000 people a week from the end of February. Concerns were raised about whether Australia would receive its order after the EU introduced new rules on exports of COVID-19 vaccines produced within the bloc, including Pfizer.
9th Feb 2021 - ABC.Net.au

South Korea’s Seoul to test pet cats, dogs for COVID

Several weeks after South Korea reported its first COVID-19 case involving a pet cat, Seoul will start testing cats and dogs for coronavirus infection if they show symptoms of the illness, an official from the country’s capital said on Tuesday. While the disease mostly spreads from person to person, it can also spread from people to animals, or from animals to human – although that is much less significant – according to health experts. A number of pet cats and dogs have been reported to be infected with the virus in several countries. Other animals including mink, gorillas, and tigers were also reported to have tested positive. The Seoul metropolitan government rolled out the test on Monday, the Yonhap news agency reported.
10th Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Can Spanish tourism survive a second Covid summer?

Gabriel Escarrer hopes that foreign tourists will come back to Spain this year — but he knows how much his company and his industry will suffer if they do not. As chief executive of Meliá Hotels International, the 326-hotel, €1.4bn-valued group that takes pride in its beach resort roots, Escarrer is all too aware of the wounds left by last year’s drastically shortened summer season. “If we lose this summer, we would be talking about practically zero activity from October 2019, when [travel agent] Thomas Cook collapsed, to June of 2022,” he said, noting that about half of Spanish tourism revenues normally come between June and September. “It would be devastating for the fabric of the tourist industry.”
9th Feb 2021 - Financial Times

One year after lockdown, Wuhan tones down Lunar New Year celebrations

The 2020 Spring Festival did not go as Wuhan people had expected. On Chinese New Year's eve last year, the 11-million-population city was put into a lockdown unparalleled in modern society that lasted for 76 days. A year on, the most important festival for Chinese people is approaching again. How are people in Wuhan, still reeling from the pain brought by the coronavirus, celebrating this time round? After suffering the panic and agony of the virus, emerging from lockdown in a swoon and then moving on cautiously after life returned to normal, many Wuhan people reached by the Global Times said they will "stay put, and quietly celebrate the Spring Festival this year… We don't want to bring trouble to others or to our country."
9th Feb 2021 - Global Times

No Covid-19 lockdowns in Hong Kong over holiday but residents told to stay vigilant

Hong Kong’s leader has said the government will suspend its controversial “ambush-style” lockdown operations over the Lunar New Year holiday, even as a government adviser urged the public to remain vigilant or risk going “back to square one” after the festivities. Speaking ahead of her Executive Council meeting, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said on Tuesday the “very staff intensive” operations involving more than 10,000 workers would temporarily stop as the pandemic had started to ease, with the number of new infections – including untraceable ones – decreasing.
9th Feb 2021 - South China Morning Post

After Outbreak, Trains Start Running Again in North China City as Lockdown Loosens

Travel curbs on Shijiazhuang, the capital of North China’s Hebei province and center of a recent flare-up of Covid-19, were eased on Monday, with trains to and from the city resuming after a 34-day suspension. However, travel by highway and air remains banned. Operators of the city’s highways said business will “be resumed in an orderly manner” without giving a specific timeline, while intercity bus services will also stay suspended.
9th Feb 2021 - Caixin Global

WA Premier Mark McGowan would consider alternative health advice on borders from CHO

WA Premier Mark McGowan says he will consider any alternative advice to the current benchmark for lifting interstate borders, if it is provided by the state's Chief Health Officer. The WA Government has continued to rely on health advice that required states and territories to record 28 days of no community cases of COVID-19 before it considered lifting the border entirely to allow quarantine-free travel. In his latest advice, provided on January 29, Dr Andrew Robertson said health officials were reviewing a 14, 21, or 28-day policy, to determine the best option moving forward
9th Feb 2021 - ABC.Net.au

Covid: Why Australia's 'world-class' quarantine system has seen breaches

Australia's hotel quarantine system has been an extremely effective first line of defence against Covid-19. The country has largely eliminated the virus, often going weeks without a locally acquired infection. Hotel quarantine is credited a huge part of that success. But a series of isolated local cases in recent months - all from hotel quarantine leaks - have caused alarm. Since November, three cities have entered snap lockdowns on the back of such infections, aiming to halt outbreaks at their source. But how does the virus keep slipping through what officials hail as a "world-class" first defence?
9th Feb 2021 - BBC News

Covid-19: Study says clearer information needed from Government in event of future lockdowns

Greater flexibility of bubble rules and more concise information from the Government is needed if New Zealand was to go back into a coronavirus lockdown, a new study has found. New Zealand spent 49 days at Covid-19 alert levels 4 and 3 after cases of the virus were reported in the community. People were asked to stay home and only leave in order to access essential services.
9th Feb 2021 - Stuff.co.nz

Austrian hairdressers reopen but COVID-19 rules ruffle some

Austrian hairdressers reopened for the first time in more than six weeks on Monday as a national lockdown loosened, but new rules including a coronavirus test requirement for customers ruffled some. Despite stubbornly high infection numbers, the conservative-led government let schools and non-essential shops reopen on Monday, arguing that the economic and social toll of lockdown would otherwise be too great. With the lockdown loosening came new rules aimed at slowing the spread of the virus. Shops can only have one customer for every 20 square metres of floor space at a time. For hairdressers it is half that, but customers must show a negative coronavirus test no more than 48 hours old.
9th Feb 2021 - Reuters

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Global health officials back AstraZeneca vaccine after South Africa study rings alarm

Health officials around the world gave their backing to the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19, after a study showing it had little effect against mild disease caused by the variant now spreading quickly in South Africa rang global alarm. The prospect that new virus variants could evolve the ability to elude vaccines is one of the main risks hanging over the global strategy to emerge from the pandemic by rolling out vaccines this year. South Africa, where a new variant now accounts for the vast bulk of cases, initially announced a pause in its rollout of a million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. But it said on Monday it could still roll it out in a “stepped manner”, giving out 100,000 doses and monitoring it to see if it prevents hospitalisations and deaths.
9th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Britons set for a post-Covid spending binge, says Bank chief

The Bank of England is braced for the possibility that a mood of national depression that engulfed Britain as it plunged into a third national lockdown will end with a spending spree when restrictions are lifted. In an interview with the Observer, the Bank’s governor, Andrew Bailey, said there was a chance after being cooped up for so long people would “go for it” once the vaccine programme allowed the economy to reopen. Bailey said that while the crisis of the past 12 months had accelerated the shift to online shopping and would change working patterns, the long-term structural impact on the economy would be less pronounced than the shift from manufacturing to services in the 1980s and 1990s. “It won’t be as fundamental as that”, he added.
8th Feb 2021 - The Guardian

Bad online experiences for children ‘invisible’ to parents during lockdown

When Australia’s online safety investigators are investigating coercive child sex abuse material, which involves children being urged to perform sexual acts for the camera, there is often a concerning common factor: parents are having a conversation just metres away. “Our investigators can hear the parents’ voices in the next room,” said Julie Inman Grant, the country’s eSafety commissioner. “This is happening under parents’ noses, in the home.” The commissioner is ramping up calls for parents to improve awareness of their children’s digital lives, as young people’s reports of negative online experiences – including unwanted contact, cyberbullying and harassment – have spiked during the coronavirus pandemic.
8th Feb 2021 - Sydney Morning Herald

Man arrested for allegedly threatening to spit on Perth coronavirus hotel quarantine guard

Police in Western Australia have charged a returning overseas traveller with failing to comply with a COVID-19 quarantine direction and threatening to spit on security staff. South Australian man Dariusz Tarnowski allegedly left his quarantine hotel room last night and entered the emergency stairwell where he threatened to spit in the face of a security guard. The 48-year-old travelled into Perth from Poland via Doha on January 28 and was ordered to quarantine in the hotel for 14 days. WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said he was arrested after security allegedly saw him leave his room.
8th Feb 2021 - ABC.Net.au

Sharp rise in smoking linked to loneliness in lockdown

People who felt distressed and lonely during the country's lockdown last autumn were three times more likely to smoke more, a new study has found. The results of the survey, undertaken by University of Otago, Wellington researchers professor Janet Hoek, Dr Philip Gendall, associate professor James Stanley, Dr Matthew Jenkins and Dr Susanna Every-Palmer, have been published in the international journal, Nicotine and Tobacco Research. Dr Every-Palmer said people who felt lonely or isolated almost all the time were more than three times more likely to increase their cigarette intake than those who were never lonely
8th Feb 2021 - New Zealand Herald

New Zealand's Māori tribes deserve recognition for their part in vanquishing Covid-19

Global business leaders and others rightly rate New Zealand’s Covid-19 response as the best in the world. But is it equally right to simply credit Ardern and her government for this success? Partly, of course, but another group deserve credit too – iwi. When the country went into lockdown in March 2020 iwi on the East Coast of the North Island, its west coast, and its northerly tip swung into action distributing masks, sanitizer, written advice, and food parcels to vulnerable people in their region. Crucially, they also set up checkpoints to regulate movement in and out of their territory, ensuring the virus had no chance to transmit as the country went about its restrictions. In the early days some New Zealanders were furious with that particular intrusion on their movements. But despite the small yet vocal backlash, the government came around to the iwi initiatives.
8th Feb 2021 - The Guardian

What recovery? Clothes retailers cut orders while factories fight to survive

Clothes retailers in Europe and America sit on excess inventory and cut back on spring orders. Sourcing agents face late payments. Garment factories in Bangladesh are on the rack. The global apparel industry, reeling from a punishing 2020, is seeing its hopes of recovery punctured by a new wave of COVID-19 lockdowns and patchy national vaccine rollouts. The pain is consequently flowing to  major garment manufacturing centres like Bangladesh, whose economies rely on textile exports. Factories are struggling to stay open.
8th Feb 2021 - Reuters

'It's all open!': French flock to Madrid cafes for pandemic reprieve

French tourists weary of their strict national lockdown are flocking over the border to Madrid, where bars and restaurants are open and people can stay outdoors until 10 p.m., even as COVID-19 batters Europe in a virulent third wave. Though it made mask-wearing mandatory and slashed occupancy of public spaces by half, Madrid’s conservative regional government has set one of Spain’s loosest curfews, defying national recommendations to shut hospitality venues and non-essential shops. The city’s counter-current policies stand out in Spain which, like France, is being pummelled by a third infection wave.
8th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Pfizer expects to cut COVID-19 vaccine production time by close to 50% as production ramps up, efficiencies increase

Pfizer expects to nearly cut in half the amount of time it takes to produce a batch of COVID-19 vaccine from 110 days to an average of 60 as it makes the process more efficient and production is built out, the company told USA TODAY. As the nation revs up its vaccination programs, the increase could help relieve bottlenecks caused by vaccine shortages. "We call this 'Project Light Speed,' and it's called that for a reason," said Chaz Calitri, Pfizer's vice president for operations for sterile injectables, who runs the company's plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan. "Just in the last month we've doubled output."
8th Feb 2021 - USA Today on MSN.com

WHO backs AstraZeneca vaccine after South Africa delays jabs

The AstraZeneca shot has run into several setbacks, including concerns about its efficacy against a Covid-19 variant, and its suitability for people over 65. The vaccine accounts for almost all of the 337.2 million vaccine doses the WHO-led Covax scheme is preparing to begin shipping to some 145 countries
8th Feb 2021 - South China Morning Post

AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 Vaccine Defended by World Health Officials

World Health Organization officials expressed confidence that AstraZeneca PLC’s Covid-19 vaccine can prevent severe cases of the disease, as well as hospitalizations and deaths, despite questions about the protection it offers against a fast-spreading strain of the virus first detected in South Africa. The remarks followed a release of information over the weekend about a small clinical trial of the vaccine in South Africa, which prompted the government there to halt a planned rollout of the shot. The preliminary data, which hasn’t been published in detail, suggested the vaccine may not prevent mild and moderate cases of Covid-19 from a new variant that has become the dominant version of the virus in South Africa and the broader southern African region. The WHO’s director-general, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said the trial’s findings were “clearly concerning news,” but stressed that they came with “important caveats.”
8th Feb 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

UK defends AstraZeneca vaccine after South Africa halts roll-out

The Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID vaccine prevents death and serious illness and is effective against the main variants of the virus in the United Kingdom, a government official has said after South Africa suspended its roll-out of the shots. Pointing out that the dominant strains in the UK were not the so-called South African variant, junior health minister Edward Argar told UK broadcaster Sky News on Monday that the vaccine was highly effective and there was no evidence that it was not preventing hospitalisations and severe illness in the country.
8th Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

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World is on course for a coronavirus vaccine ‘apartheid’, experts warn

Senam Agbesi has been trying to make the best of lockdown in London. “I’ve done lots of Zooms, lots of walks,” he said. The 34-year-old NHS manager believes he could get the vaccine this month, as he is starting a new job that would mean visiting hospitals regularly. Despite the good news about his own vaccine, he worries about his father, Yao, who lives in Accra, Ghana. Yao is 65 and has sickle cell trait, a condition that puts him at higher risk of suffering severe illness if he catches Covid-19. A close family friend recently died of the virus and Senam wishes his father would be more careful. “He thinks he’s invincible. He drinks his little tea of lime juice and ginger in the mornings and thinks he has an invisible fortress around him,” he told The Bureau of Investigative Journalism for this report.
6th Feb 2021 - The Independent

South Africa's Ramaphosa says access to concessional loans key to Africa's recovery

Access to loans on favourable terms will be crucial to Africa’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Saturday. Ramaphosa, who is the outgoing chair of the African Union (AU), told the bloc’s summit that even though the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank have deployed significant financial resources for the coronavirus outbreak response, more needed to be done. “Assess to concessional finance will remain crucial as countries rebuild their economies,” Ramaphosa told the virtual summit.
6th Feb 2021 - Reuters

First doses of AstraZeneca to be given next week as 190,000 shots to arrive this month

Ireland will receive 190,000 AstraZeneca shots this month with an early delivery of 21,000 doses arriving this weekend, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said. Frontline healthcare workers who have not yet received their first dose will be first in the queue for these shots, Minister Donnelly confirmed. “Now, there aren’t 190,000 people [in this category] so the rest of these will be scheduled accordingly, and we will begin looking at cohorts 4,5,6 and 7,” Minister Donnelly said on RTÉ News at One.
6th Feb 2021 - Independent.ie

Calls grow for US to rely on rapid tests to fight pandemic

When a Halloween party sparked a COVID-19 outbreak at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, school officials conducted rapid screening on more than 1,000 students in a week, including many who didn’t have symptoms. Although such asymptomatic screening isn’t approved by regulators and the 15-minute tests aren’t as sensitive as the genetic one that can take days to yield results, the testing director at the historically Black college credits the approach with quickly containing the infections and allowing the campus to remain open. “Within the span of a week, we had crushed the spread. If we had had to stick with the PCR test, we would have been dead in the water,” said Dr. Robert Doolittle, referring to the polymerase chain reaction test that is considered the gold standard by many doctors and Food and Drug Administration regulators.
6th Feb 2021 - The Associated Press

How AstraZeneca’s vaccine was hit by flawed trials, defects and politics — but might still save the world

This account of a turbulent period for the Anglo-Swedish company is based on interviews with more than 30 executives, scientists and government officials in the UK, US and EU. Even before selecting their partner in April, the university scientists had made a head start — but took a route that would cause trouble later. The scientists decided not to test the vaccine among large groups of over-65s, until they had plenty of evidence that it was safe in younger people. Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, told the FT the decision was “cautious — and at the time, that was right”.
5th Feb 2021 - Financial Times

The Latest: Sri Lankan officials say vaccinations advancing

Sri Lankan health officials said on Saturday that more than half of the health workers and frontline military and police officers have so far been vaccinated against COVID-19. Sri Lanka last week began inoculating it’s frontline health workers, military troops and police officers against COVID-19 amid warnings that the sector faces a collapse with a number of health staff being infected with the new coronavirus. The ministry had planned to first vaccinate 150,000 health workers and selected 115,000 military and police personnel. By Saturday, 156,310 had been given with COVISHIELD vaccine. India had donated 500,000 does of Oxford-AstraZenica vaccine also known as the COVISHIELD which is the only vaccine approved by the regulatory body in Sri Lanka. Health ministry says Sri Lanka has ordered 18 millions doses of COVISHIELD vaccines and also had asked to allocate 2 million doses of Pfizer-BioNtech. Besides, China has promised to provide 300,000 shots of Sinopharm vaccine this month.
5th Feb 2021 - The Associated Press

Europe moves toward COVID-19 vaccine passports but not every country is on board

A few European Union countries have taken steps to distribute special passes to allow citizens inoculated against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 to travel freely. Others countries, including the U.K., are considering such a measure.
5th Feb 2021 - MarketWatch

Governor Cuomo Announces List of Comorbidities and Underlying Conditions Eligible for COVID-19 Vaccine Starting February 15

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today released the list of comorbidities and underlying conditions that New York State will use to determine eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine. New Yorkers who have one of the comorbidities on the list will be eligible for the vaccine beginning February 15. "New Yorkers with comorbidities and underlying conditions exist throughout the state's population—they're our teachers, lawyers and carpenters, in addition to the doctors who keep us safe every day, and they are a highly affected population," Governor Cuomo said. "We're committed to vaccinating vulnerable populations that have suffered the most as we distribute a strictly limited supply of vaccines, and people with comorbidities are 94 percent of the state's COVID deaths. That's why we'll open eligibility to people with comorbidities starting February 15 and give hospitals the ability to use extra doses they have to address that population. Local governments have a week to prepare for the new change—they need to get ready now."
5th Feb 2021 - ny.gov

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Sixteen African nations show interest in AU COVID vaccine plan

Africa CDC director says countries asked for 114 million doses in total and allocations could be announced within three weeks. Sixteen African countries have shown interest in securing COVID-19 vaccines under an African Union (AU) plan, and allocations could be announced in the next three weeks, the head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said. While many rich nations have already begun mass inoculation drives, only a few African countries have started vaccinations, and the 55-member African Union hopes to see 60 percent of the continent’s 1.3 billion people immunised in the next three years.
5th Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

New Covid strains ‘may even escape the immune response,’ says Biden Covid advisor

Three highly contagious mutations of Covid have been detected in at least 33 states across the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “They’re more virulent, can cause more death, and some of them may even escape the immune response, whether it’s natural or from the vaccine,” said Dr. Celine Gounder. Gounder said that she’s “concerned” that people will let their guards down in March and that it could potentially lead to another surge.
5th Feb 2021 - CNBC

How to heal the 'mass trauma' of Covid-19

When the pandemic is over, how should we process the memories of what happened? Ed Prideaux discovers counter-intuitive answers from the science of trauma. "After the pandemic ends, the effects of the mass trauma it has inflicted will linger across societies for years. How might we understand this mental fallout? And what does the science of trauma suggest that we should – and shouldn't – do in order to heal?" "Covid-19 is a mass trauma the likes of which we've never seen before. Our most complex social extensions, and the building-blocks of our personal realities, have been coloured indelibly. The ways we live and work together, and view each other as common citizens: everything means something different in the viral era, and with potentially traumatic effect. All pandemics end, however. And this one will. But to forget the trauma, move on, and pay it no mind, won't help. It'd be a disservice to history and our own minds. Maybe to the future, too. "
4th Feb 2021 - BBC News

Restaurants face 'wave of bankruptcies' after lockdowns

The food services sector has been hit hard by the Coronavirus pandemic, but governments are struggling to find ways to reopen safely. On Monday, Italy eased restrictions in sixteen regions, allowing restaurants and museums to reopen after months of closure. But the country remains an exception in Europe. In Brussels, the streets of the normally lively city centre have been eerily empty for more than three months now. To make matters worse, the sector has had to adjust to wildly zig-zagging policy decisions over the past year that have varied enormously between different countries.
4th Feb 2021 - EURACTIV

Macron's Lockdown Conundrum Will Decide France's Recession Fate

The French economy is on the brink of tipping into another recession, depending on President Emmanuel Macron’s next move to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. If the government replaces the current curfew with a seven-week nationwide lockdown similar to November’s, the economy would shrink 1% in the first quarter after a 1.3% contraction at the end of last year, national statistics agency Insee estimates. If France keeps current restrictions unchanged, the economy would grow 1.5%.
4th Feb 2021 - Bloomberg

Face masks mandatory beyond WA lockdown

West Australians will be required to wear face masks while out in public and be restricted to seated service at bars and restaurants for another week when the state emerges from lockdown. WA has posted four consecutive days of no new community COVID-19 cases, paving the way for metropolitan Perth, the Peel region and South West to exit lockdown at 6pm on Friday. But Premier Mark McGowan has announced a range of restrictions will remain in place for Perth and Peel until 1201am on Sunday February 14.
4th Feb 2021 - The Canberra Times

‘Dodged a bullet’: Expert explains why WA may have escaped COVID spread

Amid questions of how Western Australia could have escaped further community spread, an infectious disease expert has dispelled suggestions the security guard dubbed Case 903 might have been a false positive. Senior Australian infectious disease experts are also at odds over the effectiveness or benefit of WA’s short, sharp lockdown. A security guard who worked at one of Perth’s quarantine hotels tested positive to the highly infectious UK strain of COVID-19 on Saturday and dozens of locations around the city have been established as possible exposure sites. But extensive testing over the past three days has not produced any further cases of community spread. Professor Adrian Esterman from the University of South Australia told 6PR’s Gareth Parker the reason might be that Case 903 was one of those people who was not very infectious.
4th Feb 2021 - WAtoday

Britain's COVID-19 hotel quarantine policy to start Feb. 15

Britain’s hotel quarantine policy for travellers arriving from COVID-19 hot spots will start on Feb. 15, the government announced on Thursday after critics said it was not moving fast enough to bring in the measures. The mandatory 10-day stay in government-provided accommodation, first announced last month, is designed to tighten borders against new variants of the coronavirus which could endanger Britain’s vaccination programme. Opposition lawmakers have criticised Boris Johnson’s government for not implementing the plan more quickly, saying the delay was putting lives at risk. The prime minister said on Wednesday details would be announced on Thursday, only to be contradicted by his spokesman less than 24 hours later.
4th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Why Israel Can't Celebrate Its Vaccine Success Yet

Israel is still struggling to contain the virus. This isn’t because the vaccine is failing, but because many Israelis still refuse to follow restrictions imposed to limit the spread of infections. Israel began its vaccination program by inoculating its oldest citizens and those with serious underlying conditions. In cities with high levels of vaccination, there’s been a 50% drop in confirmed cases, a 40% decrease in hospitalizations and there are 15% fewer serious patients. “The vaccine's effect is profound,” says Professor Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute. The virus’s reproduction rate is under the magic number of one, meaning infection rates should continue to decline. Even so, January has been a cruel month in which Covid-19 claimed 1,400 fatalities, about a third of total deaths since the start of the pandemic. Most of these were elderly patients for whom the vaccine didn’t arrive in time. If Israel is bending the curve, it isn’t doing it as fast as it could be.
4th Feb 2021 - Bloomberg

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Denmark: ‘Digital corona passport’ will be ready in months

Denmark’s government has said it is joining forces with businesses to develop a digital passport that would show whether people have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, allowing them to travel and help ease restrictions on public life. Finance Minister Morten Boedskov told a news conference on Wednesday that “in three, four months, a digital corona passport will be ready for use in, for example, business travel.” “It is absolutely crucial for us to be able to restart Danish society so that companies can get back on track. Many Danish companies are global companies with the whole world as a market,” he added. As a first step, before the end of February, citizens in Denmark would be able to see on a Danish health website the official confirmation of whether they have been vaccinated.
3rd Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Covid is the greatest test of global solidarity in decades – we have to work with, not against, each other

In September 2000, 189 countries signed the Millennium Declaration, shaping the principles of international cooperation for a new era of progress towards common goals. Emerging from the Cold War, we were confident about our capacity to build a multilateral order capable of tackling the big challenges of the time: hunger and extreme poverty, environmental degradation, diseases, economic shocks, and the prevention of conflicts. In September 2015, all countries again committed to an ambitious agenda to tackle global challenges together: the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
3rd Feb 2021 - The Independent

Travellers at Perth hotel at centre of WA coronavirus lockdown 'shocked' by poor communication and PPE use

They might be quarantining at the same hotel that produced Western Australia's first COVID-19 case in 10 months, but returned travellers at the Four Points by Sheraton say they are being left in the dark on key issues. An unknown number were due to leave the hotel yesterday after undergoing 14 days of quarantine but — only a short time before they were due to leave — they learned the plan had changed when they saw a press conference broadcast live on television. At the media briefing, WA Premier Mark McGowan said the travellers would have to produce another negative test before they could be released.
3rd Feb 2021 - ABC.Net.au

Global vaccine trust rising, but France, Japan, others sceptical

People’s willingness to get vaccinated against COVID-19 is rising around the world and more than half of those questioned said they would take the shot if it were offered next week, an updated survey of global vaccine confidence found on Thursday. But attitudes and confidence vary widely in the 15 countries covered in the survey, with France showing high levels of scepticism and some Asian countries showing declining trust in vaccines, while some European nations see rising confidence. Overall, vaccine confidence is higher than in November, when the same survey - conducted in 15 countries and covering 13,500 people each time - found that only 40% would be willing to get vaccinated.
4th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Vaccination sites opening in hard-hit California communities to tackle COVID disparities

New vaccination centers are due to open this month in the heart of two California communities especially hard hit by the coronavirus, as state and federal officials try to tackle racial and economic disparities hindering U.S. immunization efforts. Joint plans to launch the two sites on Feb. 16, at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum in Oakland and the California State University campus in east Los Angeles, were detailed separately on Wednesday by Governor Gavin Newsom and the Biden administration’s COVID-19 response coordinator, Jeff Zients.
4th Feb 2021 - Reuters

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UK coronavirus variant develops vaccine-evading mutation

In a handful of instances, the U.K. coronavirus variant has developed a mutation that may help it evade current vaccines, according to news reports. The variant, called B.1.1.7, was first identified in the U.K. in September 2020 and has since spread around the world, Live Science previously reported. This variant is more contagious than earlier versions of the coronavirus. On Monday (Feb. 1), officials in the United Kingdom revealed that, out of about 214,000 samples of the variant that underwent genetic sequencing, they had identified 11 samples that had acquired a mutation known as E484K, according to government documents. This mutation has been seen before — notably, in another coronavirus variant called B.1.351, which was first identified in South Africa in October 2020. Officials are concerned about this mutation because it could impact the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. Indeed, data from several vaccine makers, including Johnson & Johnson and Novavax, have found that their COVID-19 vaccines were less effective in South Africa, where B.1.351 is dominant.
2nd Feb 2021 - Livescience.com

Biden administration to provide COVID-19 vaccines to pharmacies

The Biden administration announced on Tuesday that it will begin providing COVID-19 vaccines to US pharmacies, part of its plan to ramp up vaccinations as new and potentially more serious virus strains are starting to appear. Coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients said starting from next week some 6,500 pharmacies around the country will receive one million doses of vaccine. The number of participating pharmacies, and the allocation of vaccines, are expected to accelerate as drugmakers increase production. “This is a key component of president Biden’s national strategy: offering vaccination in America’s pharmacies,” Zients said during a White House virtual briefing.
3rd Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

China arrests suspects in fake COVID-19 vaccine ring

Chinese police have arrested more than 80 suspected members of a criminal group that was manufacturing and selling fake COVID-19 vaccines, including to other countries. Police in Beijing and in Jiangsu and Shandong provinces broke up the group led by a suspect surnamed Kong that was producing the fake vaccines, which consisted of a simple saline solution, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. The vaccines were sold in China and to other countries although it was unclear which ones. The group had been active since last September, according to state media.
2nd Feb 2021 - The Independent

Covid: 'Mutations of concern' prompt government to look at vaccine effectiveness

A coronavirus "mutation of concern" has been identified in England, prompting the government to work with vaccine firms to assess the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines on new strains of the virus. Scientists have described the discovery of the mutation, which has been shown to reduce the effectiveness of vaccines in preventing people contracting Covid-19, as a "worrying development”. The mutation - known as E484K, which is found on the South African and Brazilian variants - has now been identified on some samples of the UK variant of Covid-19 which was first found in Kent. A door-to-door testing blitz is underway in eight postcode areas in England, after 105 cases of the South African variant were found, to contain the strain and ensure it does not interfere with the vaccine rollout. Public health experts still believe current vaccines will still be effective against these strains and are good at preventing severe disease. But laboratory studies have shown that antibodies – which are produced by the body to counteract infection – are less able to bind to a part of the virus known as the spike protein, in order to stop it from unlocking human cells to gain entry.
2nd Feb 2021 - ITV News

Palestinians begin COVID vaccinations in occupied West Bank

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has started COVID vaccination in the occupied West Bank after receiving 2,000 doses from Israel, Palestinian officials said. The Moderna vaccines are the first batch of the promised 5,000 shots to be delivered by Israel to inoculate medical workers. In recent weeks, Israel has faced mounting global pressure, including from the United Nations, to help Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip to gain access to vaccines. “We started today,” Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kaila said on Tuesday, adding that a supply of doses would be sent to Gaza, an Israeli-blockaded territory controlled by the Palestinian group Hamas, so that inoculation of front-line workers could begin in the enclave. “We have given highest priority to health personnel … and those working in intensive care units,” she said in a video distributed by Palestinian television.
2nd Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

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Thousands in England to be tested in 'sprint' to halt South African Covid variant

Tens of thousands of people will be tested in a door-to-door “two-week sprint” to halt the spread of the South African coronavirus variant as cases were found across England. Squads of health officials, firefighters and volunteers have been established to deliver and collect PCR test kits door-to-door and mobile testing units will be sent to each area. Wastewater could also be tested to determined the prevalence of the strain. The new South Africa variant, which is more transmissible than the original virus, appears to show a slightly “diminished” response to vaccines, and may eventually require a booster shot, Public Health England (PHE) said.
2nd Feb 2021 - The Guardian

After the dire predictions, does India really have a handle on Covid-19?

Just days after India marked a year since its first reported Covid-19 case, the country seems to be hurtling into the light after a long spell inside a dark tunnel. Some hospitals in the capital, New Delhi, have no coronavirus patients. Markets are full of masked shoppers. People meet in cafes and restaurants, at tables set a cautious distance apart. The more risk-averse socialise outdoors, on their terraces and balconies. Students are returning in batches to universities, and some classes in schools have begun again. Cinemas, with protocols in place, reopened on Monday at full capacity. Wedding planners, hung out to dry for a year, have swung back into action. Flights to most parts of the country are full.
2nd Feb 2021 - South China Morning Post

Moderna proposes filling vials with additional doses of COVID-19 vaccine

Moderna Inc said on Monday it is proposing filling vials with additional doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to ease a crunch in manufacturing as the company approaches the manufacturing of almost a million doses a day. “The company is proposing filling vials with additional doses of vaccine, up to 15 doses versus the current 10 doses,” Moderna said in an emailed statement. “Moderna would need to have further discussions with the FDA to assure the agency’s comfort with this approach before implementing,” the company said, referring to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
2nd Feb 2021 - Reuters

'We’re in fine fettle': joy on Isle of Man as Covid lockdown ends

The Isle of Man brought in a “circuit-breaker” lockdown on 7 January following a cluster of Covid cases. On Monday, the restrictions were lifted after the government declared no community transmission was taking place. Social distancing measures have been lifted and face coverings are no longer required. There are no time limits for exercise or leisure activities and non-essential shops have reopened, as have schools, nurseries, colleges and entertainment venues. The island, a self-governing British crown dependency, has not been untouched by Covid-19: there have been more than 400 cases and 25 deaths. But it maintains strict border controls and, most agree, has reacted nimbly to challenges posed by the virus.
1st Feb 2021 - The Guardian

A year after the pandemic struck, Italians reflect on their grief

On February 21, 2020, Italy’s “patient one” tested positive for COVID-19 at a hospital in Codogno, a town in Lombardy – and that was the day the lives of millions of people across the world changed beyond imagination. It took another 20 days for Italy to announce a blanket lockdown, on March 9, closing all commercial activities and confining citizens to their homes. The lives Europeans had taken for granted in peacetime changed almost overnight: Access to healthcare, free movement and seeing friends and family were no longer a given. A year later, more than 88,000 people have died after contracting the virus in Italy, the second-highest death toll in Europe after the United Kingdom.
1st Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Australia will have enough Covid-19 vaccine to cover its population 'several times over', Scott Morrison says

Australia will spend more than $2 billion (A$1.9b) on equipping hospitals and other health centres to administer coronavirus vaccines that will see 26 million Australians vaccinated by the end of the year in one of the country's largest-ever logistical exercises. Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the funding commitment during a major speech to the National Press Club in Canberra on Monday. “Our aim is to give Australians the opportunity to be vaccinated by October of this year, commencing in just a few weeks’ time.”
1st Feb 2021 - Stuff.co.nz

Covid-19 update: No new cases in community or at border

In New Zealand, there have been no new cases of Covid-19 in the community or managed isolation reported today, Covid-19 Response minister Chris Hipkins says. No new community cases were reported in New Zealand on Sunday, following last week's three confirmed border-related infections. One new case was confirmed in managed isolation.
1st Feb 2021 - RNZ

Italians flock back to coffee bars as COVID-19 restrictions eased

The familiar tinkling of ceramic cups and chatter returned to coffee bars across most of Italy on Monday, as rigid COVID-19 restrictions were eased. After severe curbs over the Christmas and New Year period, two-thirds of Italy was declared a “yellow zone” allowing bars in those less risky areas to serve customers at counters and tables again instead of offering only take-away in plastic cups. The Health Ministry eased restrictions in 15 of Italy’s 20 regions, as the number of people infected continued to fall. Five regions remain red zones and travelling between regions of any colour remains prohibited until mid-February.
1st Feb 2021 - Reuters

Mumbai's suburban train services restored after 11 months

One of the world’s busiest urban rail systems situated in India’s financial capital Mumbai was restarted for all commuters on Monday, 11 months after it was shut down to prevent the spread of coronavirus infection in the city. An average of eight million people were using the train services daily before the pandemic. Operations were stopped in March last year, as part of a strict lockdown imposed by the government. On Monday, commuters trickled into still empty train coaches, wearing masks and armed with sanitisers.
1st Feb 2021 - Reuters

COVAX to send millions of AstraZeneca shots to Latin America

The COVAX global vaccine sharing scheme expects to deliver 35.3 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine to 36 Caribbean and Latin American states from mid-February to the end of June, the World Health Organization’s regional office said. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said the Americas region needed to immunise about 500 million people to control the pandemic. It said WHO would complete its review in a few days of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use listing (EUL). “The number of doses and delivery schedule are still subject to EUL and manufacturing production capacity,” PAHO said, adding that supply deals also had to be agreed with producers. Of the 36 nations receiving AstraZeneca’s shot, it said four countries, namely Bolivia, Colombia, El Salvador and Peru, would also receive a total of 377,910 doses of the PfizerBioNTech vaccine from mid-February.
1st Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Pakistan receives first COVID vaccine shipment from China

Pakistan has received its first doses of the coronavirus vaccine, with China donating half a million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine to the country, the health minister says. A Pakistani military aircraft carrying the shipment landed in the Pakistani capital Islamabad early on Monday, Dr Faisal Sultan said. “Praise be to Allah, the first batch of Sinopharm vaccine has arrived! Grateful to China and everyone who made this happen,” he said. Video footage showed a forklift unloading boxes of the vaccine from a military transport plane. Sinopharm, a Chinese state-owned company, has developed one of two major Chinese vaccines to have been rolled out around the globe, alongside Sinovac’s Coronavac vaccine. Phase three trials for the Chinese CanSino vaccine are also ongoing in Pakistan, which granted emergency use authorisation for the Sinopharm, AstraZeneca and Sputnik V vaccines last month.
1st Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

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Will ‘vaccine nationalism’ prolong the pandemic?

WHO warns wealthy countries against blocking supply of COVID vaccines to the developing world. At least 50 countries have now begun vaccination programmes against the coronavirus. But it is a slow process in many places, and drug makers are struggling to keep up with deliveries.
1st Feb 2021 - Aljazeera.com

EU offers UK ‘reassurances’ over vaccine supply after Irish border row

The EU has moved to assure Britain that vaccine exports into the country won’t be stopped by the bloc’s new trade restrictions, British Trade Secretary Liz Truss said. “We have received reassurance from the European Union that those contracts will not be disrupted,” Truss told Sky News on Sunday. “Vaccine protectionism is fundamentally problematic,” she later told BBC presenter Andrew Marr, reiterating that the U.K. government has “had reassurances about our contracted supply” coming from the EU.
31st Jan 2021 - POLITICO.eu

Germany is already ordering vaccines for 2022, minister says

Germany is ordering vaccines for 2022 in case regular or booster doses are needed to keep the population immune against variants of COVID-19, Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Saturday, amid growing frustration in Europe at the slow pace of vaccination. Speaking at an online town hall of healthcare workers, Spahn defended the progress made on procuring and administering vaccines, saying 2.3 million of Germany’s 83 million people had already received a dose. European governments have faced criticism over supply and production bottlenecks as vaccine makers AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna have all announced cuts to delivery volumes just as they were expected to ramp up production
31st Jan 2021 - Reuters

COVID-19: Life won't return to normal for at least two years, expert warns, saying pandemic 'isn't over until it's over globally'

Life globally will not return to normal for two or three years based on the rate of the current vaccination rollout, it has been warned - but there are early signs jabs are reducing cases in the UK. Speaking to Sky News, Dr Clare Wenham, assistant professor of global health policy at London School of Economics, said the COVID-19 pandemic will not be over until the world's population is protected. "At the moment, the data is showing it's going to be 2023/24 before the global vaccines are distributed to everybody," she said. "That's a long time. And distributing some now might be able to get us back to normal life sooner."
31st Jan 2021 - Sky News

COVID-19: 'People in their 30s are dying' - exhausted ITU staff reveal brutal truth of coronavirus frontline

Hope and agony on the COVID wards. It's around 4 o'clock when seven ambulances arrive all at once. COVID-19 hospital admissions may have dipped slightly this week, but glimpse into Barnet Hospital's emergency department for a reality check. You will see we are still in the thick of a crisis. Domestic cleaner Larisa Atanasova, renowned in the hospital for her machine-like efficiency, can barely wipe down the bays quickly enough. She wipes and wipes and wipes; beds, rails, sinks and taps.
31st Jan 2021 - Sky News

Pakistan battles tsunami of Covid-19 patients with few vaccines in sight

Keeping vigil outside the hospital ward in Karachi, Daniyal Ameen watched his father breathing through a ventilator via a live video link from the intensive care unit (ICU). He came every day to see his father, 73-year-old Muhammad Ameen, as he spent weeks on oxygen battling Covid-19. The video link was set up at the private South City Hospital in Karachi to enable relatives to feel closer to their loved ones in the ICU, as visits inside that facility are prohibited. The screen is the closest Ameen has come to seeing his father for about 18 months. The 33-year-old flew back to Pakistan from his home in Melbourne, Australia, when his dad was hospitalized. "Seeing him on a screen like that was pretty traumatizing for me," said Ameen. "We told him that yes, I am here, and I want to see him healthy and smiling back again." But Ameen's father didn't survive. Instead, he became one of thousands of Pakistanis to die from the virus.
31st Jan 2021 - CNN

AstraZeneca pledges EU 9 million extra doses of COVID vaccine

EU Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen says AstraZeneca will deliver 9 million additional COVID-19 vaccine doses making a total of 40 million doses to Europe. World Health Organization experts have visited the market in Wuhan, central China, linked to the first known COVID-19 cluster, seeking clues about the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak as a number of nations further tightened restrictions in a bid to slow the spread of the pandemic. France has closed its borders to non-European countries except for essential travel, a day after Germany imposed a ban on most travellers from nations hit by new, more contagious coronavirus variants. Globally more than two million people have died from the virus, with nearly 102 million cases recorded and 56 million recoveries.
31st Jan 2021 - AlJazeera

Australian Open to be allowed 30,000 fans a day

The Australian Open will be allowed to admit up to 30,000 fans a day, around 50% of the usual attendance, when the Grand Slam gets underway on Feb. 8, Victoria state sports minister Martin Pakula said on Saturday. The limit will be reduced to 25,000 over the last five days of the tournament when there are fewer matches, but Pakula said the announcement would ensure some of the biggest crowds for a sporting event since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’ll mean that over the 14 days, we will have up to 390,000 people here at Melbourne Park and that’s about 50% of the average over the last three years,” he told reporters at the venue for the tournament.
30th Jan 2021 - Reuters

'Simple is beautiful': One-shot vaccine proves effective

The first one-shot COVID-19 vaccine provides good protection against the illness, Johnson & Johnson reported in a key study released Friday, offering the world a potentially important new tool as it races to stay ahead of the rapidly mutating virus. The pharmaceutical giant’s preliminary findings suggest the single-dose option may not be as strong as Pfizer’s or Moderna’s two-dose formula, and was markedly weaker against a worrisome mutated version of the virus in South Africa. But amid a rocky start to vaccinations worldwide, that may be an acceptable trade-off to get more people inoculated faster with an easier-to-handle shot that, unlike rival vaccines that must be kept frozen, can last months in the refrigerator. “Frankly, simple is beautiful,” said Dr. Matt Hepburn, the U.S. government’s COVID-19 vaccine response leader.
29th Jan 2021 - The Associated Press

The west’s vaccine myopia

In the past few days, we have heard increasingly urgent warnings about vaccine nationalism. A better term would be vaccine myopia. In theory, nationalists are putting their own country first — or continent, in the case of the EU. In a global pandemic that approach makes no sense. If protecting your people is a priority, as it must be, nationalist logic should endorse global vaccine equity. Either the west tackles coronavirus globally, or we totally wall ourselves off. “The prevailing combination of vaccine nationalism and half-open borders is a losing strategy,” argues Jean Pisani-Ferry. “There is no effective middle way.”
29th Jan 2021 - Financial Times

We asked coronavirus experts what summer 2021 will be like

From the midst of England’s third lockdown, it’s clear that any return to normality is not coming soon. It may still be several weeks before we see significant drops in the number of daily deaths and schools will not reopen until March 8 at the earliest. But if you look beyond the bleak winter and into the spring and summer, there are reasons for cautious optimism. Over 11 per cent of the UK’s population have received a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and the number of new infections is falling. That doesn’t mean that summer will be normal. With Glastonbury cancelled for a second year running and Wimbledon hedging its bets by planning for multiple different scenarios, the shadow of the pandemic will loom large over the coming months. When an uptick in Covid-19 cases could see even the most modest holiday plans go awry, it’s clear there is plenty more uncertainty in store
29th Jan 2021 - Wired.co.uk

The pandemic will not end unless every country gets the vaccine

We can all see the outlines of a post-pandemic world. With vaccinations ramping up in the United States and Britain, and with Israel and the United Arab Emirates racing toward herd immunity, it is easy to imagine that a return to normalcy is on the horizon. The only question seems to be: How long will it take? But we might be seeing a false dawn. Despite the amazing progress we’ve made with vaccines, the truth is that our current trajectory virtually guarantees that we will never really defeat the coronavirus. It will stay alive and keep mutating and surging across the globe. Years from now, countries could be facing new outbreaks that will force hard choices between new lockdowns or new waves of disease and death.
28th Jan 2021 - The Washington Post

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Covid-19: How to break the cycle of lockdowns

The dominance of new, more transmissible variants means that a policy of trying to “live with” the virus will fail, certainly in the UK where the new B.1.1.7 variant is now the most common. I know of no country that is successfully living with the virus while avoiding lockdown and restriction cycles, a high death toll, or—as in the UK—both. We need to set our sights instead on where we want to be and then work out how to get there. The role models we have are Vietnam (35 deaths, 98 million population), Thailand (73 deaths, 70 million population), South Korea (1371 deaths, 51 million population), and New Zealand (25 deaths, 5 million population) where people have been living much more normal lives for months. Following their example, the way out is for the UK to pursue a national suppression strategy—zero tolerance for any community transmission—which comes with the added benefit of protecting ourselves from homegrown vaccine resistant variants.
29th Jan 2021 - The BMJ

Behind AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 Vaccine Stumble

The setbacks, which come on the eve of a decision from regulators whether to recommend the shot for use in Europe, suggest AstraZeneca is falling behind in the vaccine arms race. The company has relatively little experience in vaccines, a tricky, typically low-margin niche in the global pharmaceuticals industry. The manufacturing process the company uses, piggybacking on a chimpanzee cold virus, can be more difficult to quickly scale up than the one employed by Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc., both of which use a new genetic technology. The company has also proved maladroit politically. After learning of the glitches early this month, AstraZeneca deployed engineers to troubleshoot but didn’t warn European officials, hoping the company could fix the problems to minimize the dent in production, according to a person familiar with the matter. Lower output of raw vaccine substance had first been spotted in December, but worsened in January, with the clock ticking. When production didn’t improve, AstraZeneca’s bad news hit like a bombshell. Now it is grappling with a political backlash just when the pandemic seems to be entering a more dangerous phase.
29th Jan 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

Covid: Social workers 'braced for tsunami of needs' after lockdown

Social workers say they are braced for a "tsunami of needs" as the UK recovers from the pandemic. The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) expects workloads to increase as restrictions are lifted. One worker described a "big surge" in referrals after the first lockdown and the fears of missing something wrong. Officials in all four nations praised the efforts of social workers and highlighted schemes to help vulnerable children set up in the pandemic.
28th Jan 2021 - BBC News

Opinion | Inside the U.K.'s Second Covid Wave

Nearly a year into the pandemic, the situation in Britain is dire. A vicious first wave has given way to an even more deadly second one. On Tuesday, the country passed a milestone of 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus — which amounts to one of the worst fatality rates in the world. A national lockdown, in place since Jan. 4, has only recently begun to lower the eye-wateringly high number of cases, fueled in part by the emergence of a new, apparently more contagious strain of the virus. The toll on the National Health Service is close to unbearable: Nearly 40,000 Covid-19 patients are in hospitals, almost double the peak last year.
28th Jan 2021 - The New York Times

Australia extends Trans-Tasman travel bubble suspension for a further 72 hours, after New Zealand detects two new coronavirus cases

Australia has extended its suspension of the safe travel bubble with New Zealand for a further 72 hours. The decision was made after another two cases of the South African strain of coronavirus were detected in returned travellers in Auckland. "This recommendation has been made to the Australian Government," Acting Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael Kidd said. "The government has accepted the advice, and so the travel pause on green zone flights from New Zealand to Australia has been extended for a further 72 hours until 2pm on Sunday, 31 January."
28th Jan 2021 - 9News.com.au

Covid: Australian states to reopen to Sydney after outbreak contained

Two Australian states will reopen their borders to New South Wales (NSW) after it managed to control a Covid-19 outbreak in Sydney. South Australia and Queensland will remove their travel restrictions on Sunday and Monday respectively. It comes after NSW reported 11 days without a locally acquired infection. About 180 cases were tied to the Sydney cluster, which emerged just before Christmas and prompted nationwide travel bans on the city's residents. "Credit to New South Wales. They got on top of their cases," said Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk
28th Jan 2021 - BBC News

Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 28th Jan 2021

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All countries should pursue a Covid-19 elimination strategy: here are 16 reasons why

The past year of Covid-19 has taught us that it is the behaviour of governments, more than the behaviour of the virus or individuals, that shapes countries’ experience of the crisis. Talking about pandemic waves has given the virus far too much agency: until quite recently the apparent waves of infection were driven by government action and inaction. It is only now with the emergence of more infectious variants that it might be appropriate to talk about a true second wave. As governments draw up their battle plans for year two, we might expect them to base their strategies on the wealth of data about what works best. And the evidence to date suggests that countries pursuing elimination of Covid-19 are performing much better than those trying to suppress the virus. Aiming for zero-Covid is producing more positive results than trying to “live with the virus”.
28th Jan 2021 - The Guardian

Lucky break or gold standard? How NSW got Covid under control

After weeks of no reported community cases of the virus, a man from south-west Sydney tested positive on 16 December. By the end of that day, two further cases were announced, affecting Sydney’s northern beaches. By mid-January, the summer outbreaks had reached a total of 217 cases. But not long after, on 26 January, NSW marked nine days in a row without any new cases of the virus in the community. NSW’s containment was achieved without the premier, Gladys Berejikian, resorting to the drastic statewide lockdowns or business closures that many called for. Instead, the NSW approach was to focus lockdowns on the most affected suburbs and to reintroduce limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings without banning them altogether. It is not the first time NSW has contained an outbreak with potential to spiral beyond control.
27th Jan 2021 - The Guardian

Mexico’s pandemic policy: No police. No curfews. No fines. No regrets.

As the coronavirus swept the globe early last year, Mexican officials made an unusual decision: They would not impose "coercive" measures to force citizens to obey pandemic restrictions. No curfews. No arrests. No fines. Mexico had lived through 70 years of authoritarian rule. The country had “a sad, unfortunate, shameful history” of abuse by security forces, said Hugo López-Gatell, the coronavirus czar. Nearly a year later, Mexico is battling a severe epidemic. Hospitals are at the breaking point. Residents flouting stay-at-home messages fueled a new explosion of cases during the Christmas holidays. Deaths have soared past 150,000 — the fourth-highest total in the world and 19th-highest based on population. So was Mexico wrong? The answer is nuanced, say health experts and human rights advocates, and reflects the difficulty of balancing public health and civil rights.
27th Jan 2021 - The Washington Post

One year after lockdown, Wuhan clubbers hit the dancefloor

Glow-in-the-dark rabbit ears, pulsating beats, and a flexible attitude to masks: nightlife in China's Wuhan is back with a vengeance almost a year after a lockdown brought life to a standstill in the city of 11 million. As the rest of the world continues to grapple with lockdowns and soaring infections, young people in the city, once the epicentre of the novel coronavirus, are enjoying their hard-earned freedom. The hedonistic vibes and champagne on ice are far from the austerity preached by authorities in Beijing. But Chen Qiang, a man in his 20s, praised the Communist Party for having practically eliminated the epidemic, despite a recent surge in cases in other parts of the country in the past few days.
27th Jan 2021 - Times of India

Serena Williams praises 'super intense' Australian Open coronavirus quarantine rules

Seven-time Australian Open singles champion Serena Williams has backed Tennis Australia's quarantine rules ahead of the season-opening major amid criticism of the arrangements from other players. Williams has been quarantining in Adelaide, as have the likes of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, and has been spared the hard 14-day lockdown that has affected 72 players who arrived in Melbourne almost a fortnight ago. Several players based in Melbourne have publicly voiced their frustration about being confined to their rooms after passengers on the charter flights that carried them to Australia tested positive for COVID-19.
27th Jan 2021 - ABC.Net.au

South Auckland GPs 'burnt out and tired' after Covid-19 outbreak, lockdown

South Auckland GPs and medical practices are still feeling the pressure after the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown, according to a new report. The report, to the Counties Manukau District Health Board's Community and Public Health Advisory Committee, shows low staff morale and burnout are exacerbating the problem. “The overall morale in general practice is low at the moment. People are feeling burnt out and tired and the stress levels are probably at a greater level than in the general population,” it said.
27th Jan 2021 - Stuff.co.nz

New Zealand borders to stay closed until citizens are 'vaccinated and protected'

Jacinda Ardern has said New Zealand and “the world” need to return to some semblance of normality before she opens the country’s borders to foreign nationals. The prime minister shut the border in mid-March and said on Tuesday she would not open it again until New Zealanders were “vaccinated and protected” – a process that will not start for the general population until the middle of this year. Ardern also cast doubt on the prospects for a travel bubble with Australia in the near future, and said she was “disappointed” with the Australian government’s decision to suspend quarantine-free access for New Zealanders for three days in the light of the case of community transition in Northland.
27th Jan 2021 - The Guardian

Positive COVID-19 tests linked to Australian Open downgraded to eight

The number of positive COVID-19 tests linked to the Australian Open has been downgraded to eight after authorities reclassified one of the results as a previous infection, health officials said on Wednesday. “One case has been reclassified due to evidence of previous infection, meaning there is now a total of eight positive cases related to the AO cohort,” COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria (CQV) said. The agency confirmed that another positive case had been “medically cleared” to leave isolation, leaving the total number of active cases at seven.
27th Jan 2021 - Reuters

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California ends wide lockdown as Covid hospital strain eases

California lifted blanket "stay-at-home" orders across the US state Monday, paving the way for activities including outdoor dining to return even in worst-hit regions as the pandemic's strain on hospitals begins to ease. The western state has suffered one of the nation's worst winter Covid spikes, with hospital intensive care units overwhelmed, ambulances backed up for hours at a time, and cases more than doubling since December to over three million. The "stay-at-home" measures were ordered for some 20 million people in southern and central California since December 3, but public health director Tomas Aragon said the state was now "turning a critical corner."
26th Jan 2021 - FRANCE 24

New Zealand may approve COVID-19 vaccine next week, start general vaccinations mid-year

New Zealand may approve a COVID-19 vaccine as early as next week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday, a day after the country confirmed its first case of the new coronavirus in the community in months. “We’re making swift progress towards vaccinating New Zealanders against the virus, but we’re also absolutely committed to ensuring the vaccines are safe and effective,” Ardern said in a statement. The recent community case, in a woman who returned to New Zealand on Dec. 30 and had tested positive for the South African strain of the virus after leaving a two-week mandatory quarantine, led Australia to immediately suspend a travel bubble with New Zealand for 72 hours. Pressure has been mounting on Ardern’s government to vaccinate the population, but New Zealand has repeatedly said the process will not start for months.
26th Jan 2021 - Reuters

New Zealand's borders may stay shut for most of the year as Covid-19 rages on, PM Ardern says

New Zealand's borders will remain closed for most of this year as the Covid-19 pandemic rages on, but the country will pursue travel arrangements with neighbouring Australia and other Pacific nations, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday. Medical authorities, meanwhile, may approve a Covid-19 vaccine as early as next week, Ardern said, as pressure mounts for a start to vaccinations after the country confirmed its first case of the new coronavirus in the community in months. "Given the risks in the world around us and the uncertainty of the global rollout of the vaccine, we can expect our borders to be impacted for much of this year," Ardern said
26th Jan 2021 - MSN.com

The help firms will get if there is another Covid lockdown

In New Zealand, most businesses would dread going into another Covid lockdown, but the Government has planned ahead what financial support would be available if the worst happens. Finance Minister Grant Robertson set out the assistance that would be offered “next time around” before Christmas. And while wage subsidies would again do the heavy lifting when it came to propping up the economy, some of the help would be new.
26th Jan 2021 - Stuff.co.nz

'Treat every case like a murder': How New Zealand-like Zero Covid approach could work in Ireland

The calls for a zero-Covid approach in Ireland are growing louder, and the Government may soon be forced to act. As images from packed festivals and sports events in New Zealand made their way to Ireland, where it is illegal to travel further than 5km from home and household visits are banned, the calls to put an end to rolling lockdowns have grown more desperate. Public health expert Dr Tomás Ryan explained how a Zero Covid approach could work in Ireland should it be brought in. Stating that the approach is "perfectly realistic", Dr Ryan said we have a choice of "taking control of our situation or [choosing] to live in rolling lockdowns or permanent lockdown for the rest of 2021". In order for Ireland to live Covid-free, Dr Ryan said, "We need three things. We need to chase, we need to crush, and we need to contain the virus."
26th Jan 2021 - Irish Post

Coronavirus Covid 19: Auckland Mayor Phil Goff calls for council involvement in local lockdowns

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff does not want Wellington running the whole show when local lockdowns are imposed for Covid-19. The former Labour MP is urging his colleagues in Parliament to break the shackles of centralised bureaucracy and bring local councils to the table. He would like to see a multi-agency "command centre" set up working with Cabinet ministers and local councils when a local outbreak occurs.
26th Jan 2021 - New Zealand Herald

'No system is perfect': Siouxsie Wiles on New Zealand's fight against Covid complacency

Last January Siouxsie Wiles was a microbiologist at the University of Auckland, specialising in the scientific possibilities of bioluminescence, as well as a widely awarded media commentator. Twelve months later, Wiles is New Zealand’s most famous scientist (at least its most visible, thanks to her trademark pink hair) and a lynchpin of its pandemic success, having been tireless and ever-present in her efforts to explain how the virus spreads. At her peak she was doing 20 to 30 interviews a day. But while many might see her as a figure of 2020, for Wiles the threat remains very much at hand. Though New Zealand’s border restrictions have been bolstered since the new variant of coronavirus took off in December, a steady stream of cases have been confirmed in arrivals in quarantine.
26th Jan 2021 - The Guardian

Johnson & Johnson on track for 100 million vaccine doses by end of June, bolstering US supply | TheHill

Johnson & Johnson said Tuesday that it is on track to meet its target of 100 million coronavirus vaccine doses for the United States by the end of June, one of a string of confident announcements on vaccine supply. Johnson & Johnson's vaccine trial is being closely watched as it has the potential to produce a third vaccine for the U.S., helping further an increase in available doses. The company said Tuesday that it expects results from its Phase 3 trial “by early next week.” If the vaccine proves to be safe and effective and is authorized in the coming weeks, the company’s chief financial officer, Joseph Wolk, told CNBC, “We're very confident and on track to meet all of our commitments, which would include 100 million doses to the U.S. by the end of June.”
26th Jan 2021 - The Hill

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Foreign workers flee UK as pandemic and Brexit bite

An estimated 1.3m have gone home, with hospitality and retail the sectors most heavily affected. Lorenzo di Cretico, a manager at the central London restaurant and club 100 Wardour Street, moved to the UK 12 years ago with high hopes. He had been a manager at a trattoria in Rome but wanted to learn English and said London “had always been my dream”. He found a waiting job within a week. Now, however, Mr di Cretico is returning home. He has only worked for four months of the past year because of restaurant closures during the pandemic and, with little hope of venues reopening soon, decided to start his own delicatessen in Rome.
26th Jan 2021 - Financial Times

Australia approves Pfizer vaccine amid concerns over global supply of Oxford jab

Australia became one of the first countries in the world to complete a comprehensive process to approve the rollout of Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine after AstraZeneca announced a delay in its initial global supply. The inoculation drive is expected to start in late February with a target of 80,000 doses per week initially, health minister Greg Hunt told reporters. The vaccine has been approved for people aged 16 years and above and would be given in two doses to each recipient. The country approved Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine after AstraZeneca suggested to the Australian government that it is experiencing a significant “supply shock”.
25th Jan 2021 - The Independent

What life is like in Wuhan 1 year after the lockdown

One year after China imposed a harsh lockdown in Wuhan, CNN returns to the original epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. The city of 11 million has emerged from a crippling lockdown attempting to portray a renewed, vibrant image, but there are deep wounds yet to heal.
25th Jan 2021 - CNN

'I can't save money for potential emergencies': COVID lockdowns drove older Australians into energy poverty

Many of us who endured lockdowns in Australia are familiar with the surge in energy bills at home. But for older Australians who depend on the Age Pension for income, lockdowns drove many deeper into “energy poverty”. Some faced up to 50% higher bills than in 2019, as a result of COVID. Energy poverty involves low-income households restricting their energy consumption by avoiding certain activities like showering, spending high proportions of their income on energy and, sometimes, being unable to pay bills.
25th Jan 2021 - The Conversation AU

New Zealand probes first 'probable' community COVID-19 case in months

New Zealand health officials said on Sunday they were investigating what they said was probably the country’s first community coronavirus case, in months in a woman who recently returned from overseas. The 56-year-old, who returned to New Zealand on Dec. 30, tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 days after leaving a two-week mandatory quarantine at the border where she had twice tested negative. “We are working under the assumptions that this is a positive case and that it is a more transmissible variant, either the one identified first in South Africa or the UK, or potentially Brazil - or another transmissible variant,” Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield told a news conference.
25th Jan 2021 - Reuters

New Zealand Covid case appears to be South African variant, officials say

New Zealand authorities have said a new case of Covid-19 that emerged outside quarantine appeared to be the South African variant. Health officials said on Monday that they believed the infected woman, aged 56, contracted the virus from an infected person on the same floor of the Pullman hotel in Auckland where they were both quarantining. She had left the hotel isolation regime after producing two negative tests, as is standard, but then developed muscle aches and reported her symptoms to health workers in follow-up interviews. While surface or airborne infection was still a possibility, person-to-person infection looked the most likely, said the director general of health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield.
25th Jan 2021 - The Guardian

Australia halts New Zealand travel bubble amid fears of South African coronavirus strain

The Federal Government has suspended quarantine-free travel for New Zealanders arriving in Australia for 72 hours amid fears of a South African strain of COVID-19 across the Tasman. A New Zealand woman infected with the highly infectious variant of COVID-19 first detected in South Africa visited around 30 sites before her case was detected. Travellers coming from New Zealand to Australia in the next 72 hours will have to go into mandatory hotel quarantine. "This will be done out of an abundance of caution whilst more is learnt about the event and the case," Mr Hunt said.
25th Jan 2021 - ABC.Net.au

The daily grind never felt sweeter: New Zealanders should enjoy their Covid-free liberties

Most working New Zealanders are back to the grind after the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. Schools start next week. Parliament resumes on 7 February. Business as usual, but there’s something light-hearted about it in 2021. The tedium and drab necessity of returning to work is tempered by the knowledge that it’s not that bad, that it could be a lot worse. The mere fact we can move around the towns and cities, squeeze into elevators, and mooch around with each other in offices and cafes and doctor’s waiting rooms and any confined space you care to name, is a joy. Freedom isn’t just the open road; freedom is also a day measured in paperclips and paper jams. It’s a freedom denied other countries in lockdown.
25th Jan 2021 - The Guardian

Hong Kong lifts lockdown in Kowloon district after testing 7,000 people

The Hong Kong government lifted a lockdown in an area of Kowloon district in the early hours of Monday after testing about 7,000 people for coronavirus to curb an outbreak in the densely populated area. The government set up 51 temporary testing stations on Saturday and found 13 confirmed cases in the restricted area that is home to many ageing, subdivided flats in which the disease could spread more quickly. “Businesses in the area have been hit hard and brought to a standstill,” the government said in a statement. “The government hopes this temporary inconvenience will completely cut the local transmission chains in the district and ease residents’ worries and fear, so that they will regain confidence in resuming social and business activities in the area, and return to a normal life.”
25th Jan 2021 - Reuters

Ukraine completes tough COVID lockdown with optimistic expectations

Ukraine reopens schools, restaurants and gyms on Monday, ending a tough lockdown introduced on Jan. 8 to prevent a new wave of coronavirus infections, Ukrainian authorities said. The number of new cases of coronavirus infection in Ukraine has significantly decreased from 6,000 to 9,000 cases a day at the beginning of January to 2,516 new cases on January 25, the fewest since early September. “Such statistics, which indicate the stabilisation of the situation, the improvement of the situation could be obtained only thanks to you, Ukrainians,” health minister Maksym Stepanov told a televised briefing.
25th Jan 2021 - Reuters

As this second Covid wave rips through minorities, inequalities are becoming even more apparent

Within months of Britain’s first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, it grew clear that the virus attacked fiercely along pre-existing pathways of inequality. By May last year, studies showed that the virus discriminates in the same way as society: along racial, class and regional lines, causing twice as many tragic deaths among Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities and in the most deprived areas. Many wondered if the UK’s inequality epidemic, at last so viscerally exposed, might finally be addressed.
25th Jan 2021 - iNews

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Sorry, Europe: AstraZeneca follows Pfizer/BioNTech in cutting back EU vaccine delivery plans

As AstraZeneca nears European authorization for its highly anticipated COVID-19 vaccine, the drugmaker has notified officials that initial shipments will come in lighter than originally expected. Two German-language publications, Bild and oe24, report that AZ notified EU officials this week that its first-quarter deliveries will come in lower than originally expected. An AstraZeneca spokesperson attributed the dip to "reduced yields at a manufacturing site within our European supply chain." "We will be supplying tens of millions of doses in February and March to the European Union, as we continue to ramp up production volumes," she said.
23rd Jan 2021 - FiercePharma

Why did the world's pandemic warning system fail when COVID hit?

The World Health Organization (WHO) sounded its highest alarm on 30 January 2020 — a declaration called a ‘public health emergency of international concern’, or PHEIC, signalling that a pandemic might be imminent. Few countries heeded the WHO’s call for testing, tracing and social distancing to curb the coronavirus. By mid-March, it had spread around the world. Now, health officials and researchers are evaluating why the organization’s warning system failed and how to overhaul it. Many say the organization should have declared a PHEIC about a week earlier than it did. But the largest failing, researchers agree, is that so many countries ignored it. “The biggest issue to me is that for six to eight weeks after the PHEIC declaration, countries, except for in Asia, sat on their hands,” says Joanne Liu, a former president of Médecins Sans Frontiérs (also known as Doctors without Borders), who serves on an independent panel tasked with assessing and improving the WHO’s alarm system. World health officials are evaluating potential improvements to the system during the WHO's executive board meeting, being held 18–26 January. Talks will continue in advance of the annual World Health Assembly in May, when any changes would occur. Some of the proposals include modifying the PHEIC alarm to have colour-coded warning levels, and having countries sign on to a new treaty on preparing for pandemics.
23rd Jan 2021 - Nature.com

Covid: Vaccinated people may spread virus, says Van-Tam

People who have received a Covid-19 vaccine could still pass the virus on to others and should continue following lockdown rules, England's deputy chief medical officer has warned. Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Prof Jonathan Van-Tam stressed that scientists "do not yet know the impact of the vaccine on transmission". He said vaccines offer "hope" but infection rates must come down quickly. A further 32 vaccine sites are set to open across England this week. Prof Van-Tam said "no vaccine has ever been" 100% effective, so there is no guaranteed protection. It is possible to contract the virus in the two- to three-week period after receiving a jab, he said - and it is "better" to allow "at least three weeks" for an immune response to fully develop in older people.
23rd Jan 2021 - BBC News

Belgium sees large initial shortfall of AstraZeneca vaccine

Belgium will receive less than half the number of COVID-19 vaccines it had expected from AstraZeneca in the first quarter, the country’s vaccine taskforce said on Saturday. Belgium had been expecting 1.5 million doses of the vaccine, which has still to be approved, by March, but would instead get around 650,000 doses. Reuters reported on Friday that AstraZeneca had informed European Union officials it would cut deliveries of the vaccine by 60% to a total 31 million doses in the first quarter due to production problems. Belgium had been expecting 1.5 million doses of the vaccine, which has still to be approved, by March, but would instead get around 650,000 doses. Reuters reported on Friday that AstraZeneca had informed European Union officials it would cut deliveries of the vaccine by 60% to a total 31 million doses in the first quarter due to production problems. The EU has a deal to purchase at least 300 million doses from AstraZeneca, with an option for an additional 100 million. The EU drug regulator is due to decide on approving the vaccine on Jan. 29.
23rd Jan 2021 - The Guardian

India’s female health workers on rural front line get COVID shot

Jyoti Bhambure is usually the one dispensing medicine – this week she was at the receiving end, among the first in India’s million-strong force of women health workers to win a COVID-19 vaccine. Dressed in a bright green sari with a gold border, Bhambure visited the small, rural hospital in western India at the time allotted and said the jab had lifted a weight off her shoulders. “I no longer fear the coronavirus,” said Bhambure, after getting her initial dose on Tuesday, one of the first tranche of front line workers to win protection in the pandemic. “We handle children and interact with mothers,” she said. “So I am glad I am vaccinated. I have no fear left in my mind.” India has suffered 152,000 deaths due to the virus and has prioritised about 30 million front-line workers in the first phase of an inoculation drive that began on January 16.
22nd Jan 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Covid vaccine: 'Over my dead body are we wasting a drop of this'

There was nervous anticipation at Saxonbury House surgery as doctors and staff prepared for their first coronavirus vaccination clinic last weekend. The seven surgeries that combined for the vaccination programme on the Sussex High Weald had been cautious, waiting for the national roll-out to be well under way before joining “wave six”. Then last Friday afternoon, the eve of their local V Day, months of careful planning were thrown up in the air. The white refrigerated van carrying their vaccines arrived as scheduled at Saxonbury House, Crowborough, around 2pm. The driver carefully unloaded the consignment and drove off. Mistakenly, however, he left two boxes of Pfizer vaccine rather than the one that had been promised and planned for.
23rd Jan 2021 - The Times

West Virginia touts COVID-19 vaccination success story as national rollout sputters

Even as President Joe Biden laments the nation’s sluggish COVID-19 immunization launch for a pace he calls “dismal,” West Virginia is touting its relative success in making the most of vaccine supplies it has received so far. Fewer than half of the nearly 38 million vaccine doses shipped to date by the federal government have actually made it into the arms of Americans, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on Thursday. Some individual states have lagged behind with just a third or 40% of their vaccine allotments being administered as of Thursday, marking the one-year anniversary of the first locally transmitted COVID-19 case documented in the United States.
21st Jan 2021 - Reuters

'Heroic hymn of the people': Chinese government film marks year since Wuhan lockdown

China premiered a patriotic documentary film on Friday to mark the one-year anniversary of Wuhan’s coronavirus lockdown, part of a broader effort by authorities to cast the government’s early response to COVID-19 in a positive light. Small numbers of viewers gathered in Beijing to watch the film “Wuhan Days and Nights” as it opened to the public exactly a year after Wuhan went into a surprise 76-day lockdown in the early hours of Jan. 23, 2020. Wuhan, in the central province of Hubei, is believed to be the epicentre of the global pandemic that has infected nearly 100 million people and killed over two million so far. China managed to quash the virus months later with strict control measures and life in Wuhan has largely returned to normal, but the government’s early response drew widespread public criticism.
23rd Jan 2021 - Reuters

Phnom Penh yoga fans return to mat after lockdown - with a beer

For some, a post-lockdown group activity that combines exercise with alcohol may seem like the ideal coronavirus stress-buster - though yoga purists should probably avoid Phnom Penh’s TwoBirds Craft Beer brewery while it’s taking place. The brewery’s yoga classes, resumed after a six-week lockdown across Cambodia - which has officially recorded not a single COVID death - was lifted on Jan. 1, combine holding a pose with clutching a beer, and they’re attracting devotees. “I have more fun with beer yoga. It’s not as serious as traditional yoga,” said Sreyline Bacha, 25, as she reached for a beer glass, wobbling just a little to maintain her balance in a pose.
23rd Jan 2021 - Reuters

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

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U.K. Hospitals Struggle to Cope With a New Coronavirus Variant

As a new and more contagious variant of the coronavirus pounds Britain’s overstretched National Health Service, health care workers say the government’s failure to anticipate a wintertime crush of infections has left them resorting to ever more desperate measures. Hundreds of soldiers have been dispatched to move patients and equipment around London hospitals. Organ transplant centers have stopped performing urgent operations. Doctors have trimmed back the level of oxygen being given to patients to save overloaded pipes.
22nd Jan 2021 - The New York Times

This is what will happen to Covid-19 when the pandemic is over

After months of not knowing how the Covid-19 pandemic would end, we now have some answers. Vaccines that came even faster and work even better than anticipated are the light at the end of this very dark, long tunnel – the beginning of the end is in sight. But the virus is unlikely to go away for good. The global race to vaccinate as many people as possible will usher in a new phase of our fight against Covid-19, yet there is little chance it will deliver a knockout blow. In the long run, what started as a global pandemic may become yet another example of humankind learning to live alongside a deadly virus.
21st Jan 2021 - Wired.co.uk

Australia posts zero virus cases; state premier calls for 'Pacific bubble'

Australia recorded a fourth day of zero coronavirus cases on Thursday, prompting the chief of the country's most populous state to call for a special travel "bubble" with Pacific island nations. New South Wales has reined in an outbreak in mid-December that prompted a strict lockdown in Sydney's Northern Beaches, while broader social distancing rules and mandatory mask wearing were imposed for the rest of the city. Signaling those restrictions were set to be eased next week, Premier Gladys Berejiklien told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper the federal government should consider establishing a travel arrangement with the Pacific. "There is no reason why we shouldn't aim to travel to New Zealand or some of the Pacific Islands well within the next 12 months," Berejiklian said. The comments come after Australia's chief medical officer Paul Kelly cautioned about restarting international travel, given the country was in an "envious position" compared to most of the world.
21st Jan 2021 - Japan Today

Wuhan bustles a year after world's first coronavirus lockdown

Barriers still enclose Wuhan's notorious seafood market -- one of the few immediate reminders the city was once the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic that has transformed the world. Otherwise, the new normal in the central Chinese city of 11 million is much like the old reality; cars buzz down highways, sideways bustle with shoppers and public transport and parks are busy
21st Jan 2021 - Times of India

New Covid strain: Australian city lifts ban on wearing mask indoors

People living in Australia's third-largest city of Brisbane will no longer need to wear a mask in indoor venues from Friday onwards as the state of Queensland announced that it has managed to bring the local spread of a mutant Covid-19 strain under control. "From 1 am tomorrow we will be back to having amongst the lowest restrictions in our economy in the country - this is great news for business, great news for tourism, and great for the people of Queensland to celebrate," Xinhua news agency quoted the state's Health Minister Yvette D'Ath as saying on Thursday. As of Thursday, Queensland continues to record zero local cases, allowing the authorities to further ease the pandemic restrictions. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk attributed the result to the state's "go hard and go quickly" strategy.
21st Jan 2021 - Khaleej Times on MSN.com

Tennis-Anderson urges players to show more respect for Australia's COVID-19 fight

Former U.S. Open and Wimbledon finalist Kevin Anderson appealed to players at the Australian Open to show more respect for the local community’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, following a chorus of complaints about quarantine conditions in Melbourne. As many as 72 players are confined to their hotel rooms for two weeks and unable to train for the Feb. 8-21 Grand Slam after passengers on three charter flights tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Complaints by some players over the severity of the health measures, food quality and even mice infestations in their rooms have sparked a backlash in Australia, which has many citizens stranded overseas due to pandemic-linked border restrictions. Novak Djokovic was panned after writing to Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley to ask for reduced isolation periods and having players moved to “private houses with tennis courts”.
21st Jan 2021 - Reuters

Air New Zealand's first quarantine-free flight lands in Auckland

The first quarantine-free flight in 10 months has landed in Auckland with friends and family ready to greet passengers from the Cook Islands with an emotional welcome. The Air New Zealand flight landed at Auckland Airport shortly after 11am with a small gathering of family and friends waiting in the arrivals area.
21st Jan 2021 - The New Zealand Herald

Emotional scenes as first quarantine-free flight from Rarotonga lands in Auckland

It was an emotional and cheerful reunion for those that gathered at Auckland Airport arrivals on Thursday, to greet friends and families who arrived in the first quarantine-free flight from Rarotonga. Air New Zealand Flight NZ941 departed at 7.43am local time from the Cook Islands and landed in Auckland at 11.06am. It is the first flight out of Rarotonga in New Zealand’s first travel bubble since the coronavirus lockdown. The bubble, although one way for now with New Zealanders still expected to undergo managed isolation on the island, is the first quarantine-free travel from the Pacific.
21st Jan 2021 - Stuff.co.nz

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

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Brazil lacks timeline on when coronavirus vaccines will arrive from India and China

Brazil’s foreign minister, Ernesto Araujo, said on Wednesday he still could not provide a timeline when new coronavirus vaccine doses would arrive from India and China, raising concern in a country that is lagging others in vaccinating its people. Brazil is waiting for a shipment of AstraZeneca vaccines from India and a shipment of Sinovac vaccines from China. Brazil’s right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro, has repeatedly antagonized China in recent years for political reasons.
21st Jan 2021 - Reuters

China triumphant one year after Wuhan lockdown

"People Supremacy, Life Supremacy" reads the sign at a Wuhan exhibition, where visitors are greeted by a paean to China's triumph over the pandemic and the agility of its communist leadership in a crisis. Saturday marks one year since the start of a 76-day lockdown of Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the coronavirus was first detected before sweeping across the world and killing more than two million people. With China's official death toll from the virus under 5,000, Beijing is on a prolonged victory lap to promote its narrative of how it contained Covid-19, engineered vaccines and rebooted its economy.
20th Jan 2021 - FRANCE 24

Australian Open linked to more coronavirus cases after arrivals for grand slam

Ten people who have flown to Melbourne for the Australian Open have tested positive to coronavirus, authorities said. Lisa Neville, police minister for the state of Victoria, reported three new cases on Wednesday, adding one of the cases was a player who has been in "hard lockdown" since arrival into Australia as he came in on a flight where positive cases had been recorded. The second case related to another player and the third is a support person with the player, she added. Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley said the safety of the Victorian community will not be compromised, but added the body was walking a "tightrope"
20th Jan 2021 - The Independent

Why is Australia risking everything for tennis?

Following fraught negotiations between Tennis Australia and the Victorian government, the Australian Open is set to take place next month. Like all arrivals to Australia, the players must quarantine for 14 days. However, they have been granted five hours a day of leave to practise. That is, unless they come into contact with a positive case. Despite the best efforts of Tennis Australia, which put on socially-distanced chartered flights, a handful of positive tests have forced over 70 players to ‘hard’ quarantine - unable to leave their rooms.
20th Jan 2021 - Evening Standard

Tennis Australia confirms it will pay for players' quarantine as cases linked to Australian Open rise

Tennis Australia has backtracked from comments made by its chief executive, Craig Tiley, that the Victorian government would foot part of the bill for quarantining Australian Open players, coaches and officials. The organisation was forced to clarify the details after Tiley told radio station 3AW on Wednesday morning that the state government was contributing to an expected $40m in quarantine costs. The comments prompted a sharp rebuke from the Victorian police minister Lisa Neville, who insisted Tennis Australia – and not taxpayers – would foot the entire bill for quarantining those associated with the Australian Open, as the number of positive Covid-19 cases linked to the tennis tournament grew to 10.
20th Jan 2021 - The Guardian

Why a trans-Tasman bubble by April is still on the cards

The border is still up. Kiwis returning from anywhere in the world – with the exception of Australia and some Pacific nations – will have to get a Covid-19 test before boarding their planes from Monday. Australia is recovering from another Covid outbreak that hit New South Wales just before Christmas. So what, realistically, are the odds of a trans-Tasman​ bubble opening by the end of March, as the Government signalled in December? Still pretty good.
20th Jan 2021 - Stuff.co.nz

Covid unlikely to die out, says New Zealand health chief Ashley Bloomfield

Covid-19 is unlikely to ever die out, even with vaccination efforts, but it could become more transmissible and less deadly, New Zealand’s director general of health has warned. “If you think about influenza, which was first recorded in 1172 I think, in Europe … these viruses don’t tend to die out … They change over time and in fact what we are seeing with these new variants with the Covid-19 virus is that they tend become more transmissible and less deadly over time,” Dr Ashley Bloomfield said. However, Bloomfield said that vaccines would help humans develop immunity, adding to the natural immunity that people who have been infected will also develop. He also warned if some of the new variants of Covid-19 escape managed isolation and quarantine, the impact could be greater than it was last year.
20th Jan 2021 - The Guardian

New Zealand Hosts 20,000-Person Concert as Country Marks 2 Months Without COVID in Community

On January 16, New Zealand held a 20,000-person outdoor concert where attendees neither had to wear face masks nor observe social distancing measures. The concert occurred as the country marked its second month without any new COVID-19 transmissions occurring between citizens. The concert was the first stop in the six-stop summer tour of the native soul-pop band Six60. Before Six60's concert, the country had hosted various New Year's Eve music festivals that also had massive crowds, including Rhythm and Vines, Rhythm & Alps and the Northern Bass festivals, each held in different parts of the nation, according to NME
20th Jan 2021 - Newsweek

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China defends COVID-19 response after criticism by experts

China has defended its actions as “prompt and decisive” in containing the coronavirus outbreak during its early days, rebuking criticism made by an independent panel of experts over Beijing’s handling of the outbreak. “As the first country to sound the alarm against the pandemic, we took prompt and decisive measures even though we had incomplete information at the time,” the Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, said on Tuesday. Hua said Beijing imposed early measures – including the announcement of a hard lockdown on Wuhan weeks after the virus was detected – that “reduced infections and deaths”. Her comments came after the release of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response’s interim report that highlighted how China could have acted “more rapidly” against a virus that has now killed more than two million people worldwide. The panel was formed last year following a request by member countries of the Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) to identify new information on the spread of COVID-19.
19th Jan 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Fang Fang: Author vilified for Wuhan Diary speaks out a year on

She has faced a nationalist backlash for her diaries documenting life in Wuhan in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, but Chinese author Fang Fang she says she will not be silenced. "When facing a catastrophe, it's vital to voice your opinion and give your advice," she told BBC Chinese in a rare email interview with international media. In late January, when Wuhan became the first place in the world to enter a state of complete lockdown, many of the city's 11 million residents found solace in reading Fang Fang's online diaries. They also provided a revealing glimpse into the city where the virus first emerged.
19th Jan 2021 - BBC News

The massive logistical exercise behind Australian Open players' COVID hotel quarantine

Burying into the numbers of what has already happened without a single ball being served provides a unique perspective on what's required to run an event in the COVID-19 era where players and officials are already being stretched to their limits.
19th Jan 2021 - Australian Broadcasting Corporation on MSN.com

Australian Open players trapped in hard hotel lockdown could see strict rules eased EARLY

Australian Open players and staff in hard quarantine may be released early Three of four new cases in Victoria announced on Tuesday are linked to the Open Daniel Andrews said there are now nine Covid-19 cases linked to the Grand Slam Mr Andrews said the cases may be reclassified as non-infectious shedding Players in hard quarantine would then be able to train for five hours like others
19th Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

New Zealand looks to secure small batch of vaccines early as pressure mounts

New Zealand said on Tuesday that it was looking to secure a small batch of COVID-19 vaccines early to protect its high-risk workers, as pressure mounts on the government to vaccinate its population. A tough lockdown and the geographic advantage of being at the bottom of the world helped New Zealand virtually eliminate the novel coronavirus within its borders. But with the pandemic raging globally, more people are returning to New Zealand with infections including the new variants from the U.K. and South Africa, raising concerns the virus may spread in the community again.
19th Jan 2021 - Reuters on MSN.com

New Zealand women taking leap into entrepreneurship during Covid-19 era

Many women are starting their own small businesses after a wave of Covid-19-related redundancies, according to Chooice NZ founder Sarah Colcord. More than 5000 new businesses registered with the companies office in 2020, the only rise in the number of companies in New Zealand in the past five years. The novel coronavirus has changed how many people work and live, with side-hustles often transformed into a main income source - a trend that is tipped to grow. Small businesses have long been the backbone of New Zealand. There are 546,732 small enterprises in Aotearoa - making up over 97 percent of all companies. Sarah Colcord founded New Zealand's largest Facebook Group, Chooice (formerly NZ Made Products) and co-founded its e-commerce partner Chooice.co.nz.
19th Jan 2021 - RNZ

International arrivals to New Zealand must return negative Covid test before flight

New Zealand has imposed a blanket testing regime for all flights arriving internationally, with passengers now required to return a negative Covid test result before departure. The Covid-19 response minister, Chris Hipkins, said while New Zealand already had tight border controls in place, the rising number of cases around the globe meant further protections were called for. Australia, Antarctica and most Pacific Islands will be exempt from the new requirement. “As we signalled last week, given the high rates of infection in many countries, most global air routes are of critical concern for the foreseeable future,” Hipkins said.
19th Jan 2021 - The Guardian

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New York governor asks Pfizer to directly sell COVID-19 vaccine doses

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo asked Pfizer Inc Chief Executive Albert Bourla on Monday if the state could buy COVID-19 vaccine doses directly from the U.S. drugmaker. Pfizer, however, told Reuters that such a proposal would first require approval by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “With hospitalizations and deaths increasing across the country this winter, we are in a footrace with the virus, and we will lose unless we dramatically increase the number of doses getting to New Yorkers”, Cuomo said in a letter to Pfizer’s CEO.
18th Jan 2021 - Reuters

Timeline: Wuhan, one year after coronavirus lockdown

China locked down the central city of Wuhan a year ago at the start of the Lunar New Year, the country’s biggest holiday, as it battled to contain the spread of a novel coronavirus. Following is a timeline of key events since the first cases of the virus were detected in the city of 11 million residents in Hubei province.
18th Jan 2021 - Reuters

Covid: New Zealanders attend largest ever concert since pandemic began

Thousands of New Zealanders flocked to a music concert on Saturday, in stark contrast to the UK which remains under lockdown. Huge crowds gathered to watch the nation’s most famous band, Six60, perform at a sports grounds in Waitangi – the largest outdoor show allowed to go ahead in the country since the pandemic began. People were pictured brushing against each other and coming into close contact without wearing masks. Guitarist Chris Mac even interacted with the crowd, which did not have to abide by social distancing rules. As of January 15, New Zealand had 76 active cases of the virus, raising its overall total to 2,246 infections since the start of the outbreak. Residents are no longer required to social distance due to low rates of transmission and are only encouraged to wear face masks on public transport except for in Auckland, where it is a legal requirement.
18th Jan 2021 - Metro.co.uk

Lockdown: Tennis players getting on with life in Australia

With no way out, tennis players in lockdown are figuring out ways to keep themselves fit within the confines of their Melbourne hotel rooms as they prepare for the Australian Open. Victoria state, which has Melbourne as its capital, accounted for 810 of Australia’s 909 deaths from COVID-19, most of those during a deadly second wave three months ago which resulted in curfews and lockdowns for the city. So there's been some debate locally about whether it's right to stage a Grand Slam tournament bringing in people from parts of the world where the coronavirus is still taking a big toll. With that in mind, Australian health and government officials aren't taking any chances.
18th Jan 2021 - The Independent

72 Australian Open tennis players in lockdown; reports of Novak Djokovic ideas for changes

The number of players in hard quarantine swelled to 72 ahead of the Australian Open after a fifth positive coronavirus test was returned from the charter flights bringing players, coaches, officials and media to Melbourne for the season-opening tennis major. That means they won’t be allowed to leave their hotel rooms or practice for 14 days, creating a two-speed preparation period for the tournament. Other players in less rigorous quarantine will be allowed to practice for five hours daily. Australian Open organizers confirmed late Sunday that the latest case involved a passenger on the flight from Doha, Qatar to Melbourne who was not a member of the playing contingent, But all 58 passengers, including the 25 players, now cannot leave their hotel rooms for 14 days.
18th Jan 2021 - NBC Sports

China's economy expands at faster rate than before coronavirus

China’s gross domestic product expanded 6.5 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2020, beating forecasts and making the country one of the few in the world to register positive growth for the year. Year-on-year GDP growth for the final quarter beat expectations, according to official data released on Monday, with the Chinese economy expanding 2.3 per cent over the course of the full year as industrial production continued to drive the country’s recovery. The new data underlined a rapid turnround in the world’s second-largest economy, which declined in early 2020 for the first time in more than four decades after authorities imposed an extensive lockdown to stem the pandemic’s initial outbreak.
18th Jan 2021 - Financial Times

China silenced doctors to cover up Covid outbreak, new documentary claims

New evidence uncovered by a TV programme about coronavirus suggests China covered up the outbreak and stopped medics from speaking out. An ITV documentary, called ‘Outbreak: The Virus That Shook The World’ and airing tomorrow, shows a secret interview with some of the Chinese doctors who were silenced. Leaks of Chinese official data show the first confirmed case of Covid-19 in Wuhan can be traced back to November 17, 2019. By late December, increasing numbers of people were in hospital with unexplained pneumonia, and medical professionals had discovered a new coronavirus similar to SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in samples. The provincial leaders told the hospitals not to tell the truth.’ Despite the risk of being caught, the medics revealed shocking claims of how they were silenced, had their passports removed and their access to the internet was restricted
18th Jan 2021 - Metro

Covid-19: China's economy grows in fourth quarter, bucking global trend

China's economy grew at the slowest pace in more than four decades last year, official figures show, but remains on course to be the only major economy to have expanded in 2020. The economy grew 2.3% last year, despite Covid-19 shutdowns causing output to slump in early 2020. Strict virus containment measures and emergency relief for businesses helped the economy recover. Growth in the final three months of the year picked up to 6.5%.
18th Jan 2021 - BBC News

S Korea leader urges businesses thriving in pandemic to share profits

South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in has called on companies prospering during the coronavirus pandemic to share their profits with struggling people and businesses, as fears rise over worsening economic inequality. The call from the leader of Asia’s fourth-biggest economy highlights the pressure on many world leaders amid surging stock and property prices coupled with rising unemployment and slow wage growth. “Whether it is called profit sharing, or whatever . . . I think it is the right way to go,” Mr Moon said at a rare press conference on Monday.
18th Jan 2021 - Financial Times

Five Countries, Five Experiences of the Coronavirus Pandemic

Adam Oliver, a professor at the London School of Economics, is one of many researchers who have tracked how different countries have responded to the pandemic. Oliver thinks that our usual back-of-the-envelope way of comparing countries, using a snapshot of covid cases and deaths, is of limited value. “We have to think about the non-health implications of pandemic response, too,” he told me. “Those are much more difficult to gauge at the moment. When you lock down businesses and citizens, there are many downstream consequences. There’s an economic impact. There’s social damage. There’s loss of freedom—which, especially in countries already bordering on authoritarianism, could be hard to roll back. If you consider these broader implications, I don’t think we’ll know the best path for years, if ever.” Oliver classifies pandemic responses into three broad, sometimes overlapping categories: the quick approach, the soft approach, and the hard approach.
18th Jan 2021 - The New Yorker

What India Can Learn From Covid-19 To Build A Healthier Nation

2020 was a terrible year, especially for India. Covid-19 had a devastating impact on people’s health and healthcare, and the economy took a beating. India finished the year with the second highest number of Covid-19 cases (currently over 10.5 million reported cases, with over 152,000 deaths, which is likely to be an under-estimate). With the Covid-19 incidence declining over the past few weeks, and with the launch of an ambitious vaccination campaign, 2021 could, hopefully, be a better year. But only if the country learnt from the experience of Covid-19 and rebuilt the foundations of it’s public health system.
18th Jan 2021 - Forbes

UK facing ‘gonorrhoea outbreak’ when lockdown ends

The UK could face a gonorrhoea outbreak once lockdown comes to an end, as high rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) return, medics have claimed. Before the pandemic, Britain was experiencing the worst rates of STDs since the Second World War. In February last year a Station of the Nation report found gonorrhea had risen by 249% and syphilis by 165% over the last decade. Since then, Covid restrictions have prevented people from socialising and meeting up with others from outside their homes. The number of people visiting sexual health clinics dropped by 85% due to lockdown, data revealed. Experts fear this will rise suddenly once restrictions are changed.
18th Jan 2021 - Metro

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Despite Trump administration promise, government has no more 'reserve' 2nd vaccine doses

Hopes of a surge in Covid-19 vaccine shipments under a new policy to release second doses held in reserve appear to be evaporating -- with the revelation that those doses have already been distributed, contrary to recent indications by the Trump administration. A senior administration official told CNN that when the administration announced that it would be releasing reserved doses Friday, many of those reserves had already been released into the system starting last year as production was ramping up. When Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar was asked Friday whether there is in fact a reserve of second doses left to release, he said, "No. There's not a reserve stockpile."
17th Jan 2021 - CNN

Coronavirus in London: 1,300-body mortuary opens

A temporary mortuary that can hold up to 1,300 bodies has been opened in Ruislip, west London, as the capital faces a growing coronavirus death toll. London recently exceeded 10,000 Covid-related deaths, a figure mayor Sadiq Khan described as "heartbreaking". Four temporary mortuary sites were set up in London during the first wave of coronavirus, but were put on standby. The use of the Ruislip site has been called "a visual, sobering reminder" of the continuing cost of the pandemic. Westminster City Council chief executive Stuart Love, who is leading the London-wide response, added: "We want to give people hope but we are not there yet. "From my point of view, we have built this really hoping it doesn't get used to its capacity.
16th Jan 2021 - BBC News

African Union vaccines to be allocated according to population

Millions of coronavirus vaccine doses secured by the African Union (AU) will be allocated according to countries’ population size, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Friday. Ramaphosa, who is the current AU chairman, said on Wednesday that vaccines from Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca would be available this year, but he did not specify how much each African country would get. No African countries have begun large-scale coronavirus vaccination campaigns and the AU’s 270 million shots, if administered two per person, would still only cover around 10% of the continent’s 1.3 billion people.
15th Jan 2021 - CNBC Africa

Scotland Covid vaccine plan that included exact numbers taken offline

Scotland’s plan for the distribution of coronavirus vaccinations has been taken offline after the UK government raised concerns that the document included sensitive details about vaccine supply. The plan, which was published on Wednesday evening but removed by Thursday morning, set out the exact numbers of vaccines from Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna the Scottish government expected to receive on a weekly basis up to the end of May, revealing two weeks when no AstraZeneca vaccine would be available. The UK government is reportedly furious at the publication of such detailed figures, amid anxieties it could lead to suppliers coming under pressure from other countries.
17th Jan 2021 - The Guardian

India launches vaccine drive as scepticism mounts

Narendra Modi has kicked off one of the world’s most ambitious inoculation drives in the midst of growing vaccine scepticism over the contentious approval of an indigenously developed jab. The Indian prime minister launched the campaign with an emotional live address on Saturday, saying “the nation has been desperately waiting for this moment” and warned against “false propaganda” about vaccine safety. India, a country of 1.4bn people, has the world’s second-highest number of coronavirus infections at 10.5m. Lockdowns have had limited effect in controlling the spread of the virus and contact tracing has faltered, making a successful inoculation programme essential. The first phase of the vaccination rollout targets 30m healthcare and frontline workers, with the goal of inoculating 300m people by July.
17th Jan 2021 - Financial Times

Covid: 10 new mass vaccination centres to open in England

Ten new mass Covid vaccination centres are to open in England from Monday, as the government bids to meet its target of offering 15 million people in the UK a dose by 15 February. Blackburn Cathedral and St Helens Rugby Ground are among the venues chosen to join the seven hubs already in use. NHS England said the new centres would offer "thousands" of jabs a week. It comes as a further 324,233 vaccine doses were administered across the UK, taking the total above 3.5 million. As the latest figures were announced on Sunday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted his thanks to "everyone who is helping in this fantastic national effort".
17th Jan 2021 - BBC News

COVID-19: Every UK adult could be offered a vaccine by mid-July - if these figures are anything to go by

For a few hours this week, we were given an insight into the closely-guarded secret at the centre of the UK's vaccination programme. It came courtesy of the Scottish government, which published its vaccination plan on Wednesday. The plan included detailed figures for the number of vaccines that would be supplied to Scotland by the UK each week until the end of May. The UK government objected, saying the publication of the figures would create difficulties for the pharmaceutical companies, and the offending page was quickly removed - but not before some clever internet users were able to save a copy.
16th Jan 2021 - Sky News

Spain rejects virus confinement as most of Europe stays home

While most of Europe kicked off 2021 with earlier curfews or stay-at-home orders, authorities in Spain insist the new coronavirus variant causing havoc elsewhere is not to blame for a sharp resurgence of cases and that the country can avoid a full lockdown even as its hospitals fill up. The government has been tirelessly fending off drastic home confinement like the one that paralyzed the economy for nearly three months in the spring of 2020, the last time Spain could claim victory over the stubborn rising curve of cases. Infection rates ebbed in October but never completely flattened the surge from summer. Cases started climbing again before the end of the year. In the past month, 14-day rates more than doubled, from 188 cases per 100,000 residents on Dec. 10 to 522 per 100,000 on Thursday.
15th Jan 2021 - Associated Press

Coronavirus: Texas becomes first US state to administer 1m vaccine doses

Germany’s 2020 contraction shows economy in better shape than thought. Norwegian to abandon long-haul market as it fights for survival. France tightens Covid curfew and border controls.
15th Jan 2021 - MSN.com

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Three dozen mayors ask Biden for direct shipments of COVID-19 vaccine

Mayors of some three-dozen U.S. cities have asked the incoming Biden administration to send COVID-19 vaccine shipments directly to them, bypassing state governments, saying local officials were best positioned to ramp up lagging inoculations.
15th Jan 2021 - Reuters

Returning Australians could be sent to remote mining camps

Remote mining camps have been earmarked as possible quarantine facilities for Australians returning from overseas, after a COVID outbreak at a Brisbane hotel put millions at risk of contracting the disease. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is pushing the national cabinet to consider shifting quarantine sites out of capital cities to avoid a widespread outbreak. Ms Palaszczuk said her government would investigate whether sending returning Australians to quarantine in mining camps "stacks up" before putting forward a model for other states to copy.
14th Jan 2021 - Brisbane Times

Brazil's Amazonas state running out of oxygen as COVID-19 surges

The Brazilian state of Amazonas is running out of oxygen during a renewed surge in COVID-19 deaths, its government said on Thursday, with media reporting that people on respirators were dying of suffocation in hospitals. The state has made a dramatic appeal to the United States to send a military transport plane to the capital city Manaus with oxygen cylinders, Amazonas Congressman Marcelo Ramos said. “They took my father off the oxygen,” Raissa Floriano said outside the 28 de Agosto hospital in Manaus, where people protested that relatives suffering serious cases of COVID-19 were being unhooked from ventilators for lack of oxygen.
14th Jan 2021 - Reuters

Siouxsie Wiles: Any new Covid variants 'would spread like wildfire'

The new variants of the virus can spread like wildfire, and all of us have a role to play in keeping them out of the community. I have to admit, when I first heard UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson talking about a new, more transmissible strain of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for Covid-19, part of me did wonder whether he was doing a bit of his trademark exaggerating to help explain away he and his government's woeful pandemic response. Within days many countries were restricting travel from the UK to stop the new variant from spreading. But the horse had already bolted. The B1.1.7/501Y.V1 variant has now been reported in over 50 countries. It's all well and good expecting everyone working in MIQ to be doing their bit to keep New Zealand safe from Covid-19. But the rest of us have a role to play in this too. If any variants of the virus got out, never mind these more infectious ones, they would spread like wildfire. The cost of living at alert level one is that we still need to be doing all we can to ensure that any outbreak can be contained as quickly as possible.
14th Jan 2021 - New Zealand Herald

Covid-19: Mysterious cluster in Brisbane a warning to stop using hotels for managed isolation, experts say

Australian health authorities have evacuated a Queensland hotel and are considering alternative isolation facilities – including mining camps – following an outbreak of the highly contagious UK strain of Covid-19, prompting questions about New Zealand's response. On Wednesday 129 hotel guests were transferred from the Hotel Grand Chancellor in Brisbane to an undisclosed facility and required to isolate for another 14 days after six previously identified cases from the hotel were found to be linked. Australian-based New Zealand epidemiologist professor Tony Blakely said the guests were moved from the building because the cause of the outbreak had not been confirmed. The further isolation was needed because they could have been exposed to the virus through the hotel’s ventilation system.
14th Jan 2021 - Stuff.co.nz

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New COVID-19 lockdowns imperil global economy’s recovery

A major chunk of the global recovery in companies’ earnings – recovery expected in the first quarter of 2021 – is at risk of being pushed back further as coronavirus lockdowns and mobility restrictions in several countries cloud hopes of a swifter economic rebound, investment banks said. China announced lockdowns in four cities and European countries unveiled tighter and longer coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday, denting back-to-normal hopes and sparking worries about further economic damage in 2021.
14th Jan 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Will poorer nations miss out on COVID-19 vaccine?

The WHO has urged countries to prioritise COVAX, an initiative to secure vaccines for low and middle-income nations. The global roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines is widening the divide between the world’s rich and poor. The United Nations warns “vaccine nationalism” is on the rise, as Europe, the United States and many wealthier countries buy up millions of potential doses. The World Health Organization urged countries to prioritise COVAX, an initiative to secure vaccines for low and middle-income nations. So how can we ensure protection for everyone? Presenter: Mohammed Jamjoom
14th Jan 2021 - Aljazeera.com

France’s Six Nations matches at risk without safety ‘guarantees’

The French sports minister has said she requires further government guarantees before France will be permitted to play in England and Ireland during the Six Nations. Roxana Maracineanu confirmed France would be given clearance to play their opening fixture of the championship, against Italy in Rome, on February 6. However she has concerns over Fabien Galthié’s squad travelling to face Ireland in Dublin on February 14 and England at Twickenham on March 13 because of the rapid rise in Covid-19 cases in both countries.
13th Jan 2021 - The Times

Return with confidence: Using tech to create safe offices, post-pandemic

How can technology help companies worldwide return to work safely when lockdown ends? At Siemens, Ruth Gratzke is overseeing a “Return with Confidence” campaign to create safe and healthy indoor office environments. “It addresses everything from elevators where you don’t have to touch the buttons, touchless interactions throughout the building or management of meeting rooms and desks around social distancing,” said Gratzke, who is president of Siemens Smart Infrastructure, U.S., a unit of Siemens AG. “It’s about using creative and new technologies, looking at what’s available in tech and giving people the confidence to return to the office.”
13th Jan 2021 - Reuters

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For many, COVID-19 has changed the world of work for good

The upheaval in global labour markets triggered by the coronavirus pandemic will transform the working lives of millions of employees for good, policymakers and business leaders told a Reuters virtual forum on Tuesday. Nearly a year after governments first imposed lockdowns to contain the virus, there is a growing consensus that more staff will in future be hired remotely, work from home and have an entirely different set of expectations of their managers. Yet such changes are also likely to be the preserve of white-collar workers, with new labour market entrants and the less well-educated set to face post-COVID-19 economies where most jobs growth is in low-wage sectors.
12th Jan 2021 - Reuters

Retailers remove product limits on groceries after Brisbane lockdown ends

Retailers have removed product limits for popular grocery items in Brisbane after the end of its three-day lockdown. Shoppers descended on stores in large numbers on Friday after the Queensland government confirmed five local government areas would shut down for 72 hours to stop the spread of the UK strain of COVID-19. Punches were thrown and supermarkets stripped bare as residents defied advice to raid shelves and stock up on supplies. It prompted major retailers like Coles and Woolworths to reintroduce product limits on multiple items
12th Jan 2021 - The Australian

Australia clamps down in response to cases of UK coronavirus variant

Authorities in Australia have responded swiftly to contain potential outbreaks of the UK variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes covid-19. On Thursday 7 January, a cleaner for a hotel quarantine facility in Brisbane tested positive for the more contagious B.1.1.7 variant, first sequenced in the UK in September, which has now reached at least 45 countries.The following morning, with no further positive cases, Queensland state Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced a short, citywide circuit-breaker lockdown affecting some 2 million residents. The city, where life has been normal for months, hadn’t locked down since the first wave in Australia in March. The lockdown began on Friday at 6pm Brisbane time, and ended on Monday 11 January at the same time. It included a strict mask mandate for anyone leaving their homes, including while driving and exercising.
12th Jan 2021 - New Scientist

New Zealand to ask international travellers for negative virus test before flying in

New Zealand will ask international travelers from most countries to show negative COVID-19 test results before boarding flights to the country as new contagious variants of COVID-19 spread across globally. “Given the high rates of infection in many countries and evidence of the global spread of more transmissible variants, it’s clear that most global air routes will be of critical concern for the foreseeable future,” COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said in a statement. Hipkins said the pre-departure test requirement would soon expand to all countries and territories excluding Australia, Antarctica and some Pacific Island nations.
12th Jan 2021 - Reuters

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The Lancet editor: UK ‘steadfastly refused to follow the science’

Richard Horton: The primary reason why the UK has struggled is because it has not learned the lessons of the first wave of the pandemic in 2020 and it has steadfastly refused to follow the science, despite claims that it is doing so. The lessons from the science have been that when there is a rise in infections, you need to clamp down immediately to suppress transmission to reduce the prevalence of infection in the community. But at every stage, the government has delayed and delayed and delayed locking down, with the result that the virus has got out of control. The result of that is increased hospitalisations and deaths. This has been entirely preventable if the government had acted with more decisiveness, and sooner.
12th Jan 2021 - Al Jazeera English

WHO: Won’t achieve ‘herd immunity in 2021’ despite vaccines

WHO stresses need for measures like physical distancing, hand washing and mask wearing to rein in the pandemic. Herd immunity will not be achieved this year despite COVID-19 vaccines being rolled out in a number of countries, the World Health Organization has warned. Last month, the United Kingdom became the first country in the world to start administrating its citizens with a fully trialled and tested COVID-19 vaccine. “We are not going to achieve any levels of population immunity or herd immunity in 2021,” WHO’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan told a briefing in Geneva on Monday. “Even if it happens in a couple of pockets in a few countries, it’s not going to protect people across the world.”
11th Jan 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Australia closes hospital emergency unit over virus case as city lockdown lifts

A hospital emergency department in Sydney was closed after a patient tested positive for COVID-19, Australian authorities said on Monday, as the city of Brisbane made face masks compulsory at public venues. A man in his 40s tested positive for the virus on Sunday after coming to Sydney’s Mount Druitt Hospital, prompting it to close its emergency unit for cleaning, with media reports saying ambulances were diverted to other hospitals. Although the unit reopened on Monday, health officials said they would investigate the man’s movements to determine where he contracted the illness and whether it was linked to a highly-contagious strain that was first detected in Britain.
11th Jan 2021 - Reuters

Covid 19 coronavirus: Spike in border cases, Brisbane lockdown shows need for 'extra vigilance' - expert

New Zealand might need to close its border to the United Kingdom if cases of the new Covid-19 variant there continue to skyrocket, says a leading public health expert. The comments come in response to news on Sunday of 31 new Covid-19 cases in managed isolation over the past 72 hours, with 11 of the new highly-infectious UK variant. One case is linked to the South African strain. "I am very concerned, and this is possibly the most dangerous phase we have been in since the August Auckland outbreak," epidemiologist Dr Michael Baker told the Herald.
11th Jan 2021 - New Zealand Herald

Partner of Queensland cleaner with UK Covid variant tests positive as Brisbane comes out of 72-hour lockdown

The partner of a Queensland cleaner who tested positive to the UK variant of Covid-19 has also tested positive, hours before a lockdown of greater Brisbane was lifted. The Queensland chief health officer, Dr Jeannette Young, said the partner had been in quarantine since 7 January. She said it was likely that genome sequencing would confirm it was the second case of the UK variant detected in the Australian community. Young said the result was unsurprising given the variant was more contagious. “However, it highlights the importance of why the greater Brisbane lockdown was so important to ensure any potential spread of the virus is contained,” she said on Monday evening.
11th Jan 2021 - The Guardian

The West should envy Japan's COVID-19 response

On Jan. 1, the world total of coronavirus cases was 83,748,593 and deaths 1,824,140. Japan’s corresponding figures were 230,304 and 3,414. Unusually, in Japan the disease killed more people in autumn-winter than spring. Still, for balance and perspective it’s worth noting that more Japanese died from 25 other causes in 2020. Japan attracted world notice for neither imposing a lockdown nor obsessively testing asymptomatic people. As Tomoya Saito put it in these pages, “Encouraging people with mild or no symptoms to take PCR tests would have revealed nothing but resulted in isolating false-positive cases.”
11th Jan 2021 - The Japan Times

COVID-19 pandemic puts Barcelona urban greening plan in the fast lane

One of Barcelona’s largest parks, named after Spanish painter Joan Miro, is just a stone’s throw from the busy crossroads between Consell de Cent and Rocafort streets, but here you could be mistaken for thinking nature is a million miles away. That could be about to change under an ambitious new 10-year plan, unveiled by Barcelona City Hall in November, aimed at drastically cutting traffic and expanding green spaces in the central district of Eixample. The 38 million-euro ($46.5-million) plan aims to turn one in three streets in the densely populated residential and commercial area into green zones. It responds to longstanding problems of air pollution and cramped living conditions in the Spanish region of Catalonia’s main city, brought to the fore by COVID-19, said Janet Sanz, Barcelona’s deputy mayor for ecology, urban planning and mobility. Lockdowns imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19 made urban residents realise how important nature is to them personally and to their wider communities, said Josep M. Pages, secretary general of the Belgium-based European Nurserystock Association
11th Jan 2021 - Reuters

Malaysia's king declares state of emergency to curb spread of COVID-19

Malaysia’s King Al-Sultan Abdullah declared a state of emergency across the country on Tuesday to curb the spread of COVID-19, after consenting to a request from Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who is facing a leadership challenge. An emergency would give the prime minister and his cabinet extraordinary powers, including allowing the government to introduce laws without the approval of parliament. It was not immediately clear how the emergency would impact day to day activities, but the constitution allows for parliament to be suspended during that period - which could for now put an end to political uncertainties faced by Muhyiddin.
12th Jan 2021 - Reuters

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

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WHO warns countries are helping Covid thrive through inequitable vaccine distribution

The coronavirus will continue to thrive if there isn’t a more equitable distribution of vaccines across the globe, the head of the World Health Organization said on Friday. There are 42 countries that are now rolling out their initial doses of Covid-19 vaccines, and a majority of them are high-income nations, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. No low-income countries have started their vaccine programs, he said, which is “a clear problem.”
9th Jan 2021 - CNBC

Thanks to deep pockets, Germany snaps up extra coronavirus jabs

When it comes to EU vaccine solidarity, Germany is looking to have its cake and eat it, too. While Berlin championed the bloc's joint purchasing of coronavirus vaccines while holding the European Union's rotating presidency in the second half of 2020, it simultaneously made additional agreements with vaccine producers — including BioNTech/Pfizer and CureVac — for extra doses. And it's now purchasing additional vaccines other EU countries didn't want. Germany, a country of 83 million people, said it's getting 94 million doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, 64 million from the EU and 30 million from a separate bilateral deal. On top of that, Berlin will buy doses that other countries don't buy, securing 50 million of 160 million Moderna doses — far more than its pro-rata allocation.
7th Jan 2021 - POLITICO.eu

Lockdown 3.0: an opportunity to join up thinking

As we embark on what may be the very early stages of Lockdown 3.0, our fears for the future are made darker both by a real uncertainty about the course of the next few months and by the knowledge that it did not have to be like this. It is tempting to attribute such comment to hindsight, but in fact we have been led by a government which has egregiously disregarded what is actually little more than common sense. A health emergency of this potential scale required a strategic and systems-based approach from the start. This approach should have led early on to the production of a coherent plan with clear purpose. It should throughout have shown itself nimble to adapt in real time to new circumstances and to new knowledge.
9th Jan 2021 - The BMJ

North Wales Police Federation rep says officers should get Covid vaccine 'as a priority'

A North Wales Police Federation rep has said officers should get the Covid vaccine as a priority. More than 9,000 people have signed a petition calling on the Welsh Government to change the fact that police are not on the priority list to be immunised for Covid-19. Police forces across the UK are currently experiencing high sickness rates as officers face a greater risk of contracting the virus due to the public facing nature of their jobs. Mark Jones, general secretary of the North Wales Police Federation, said his colleagues had even been spat at by offenders, raising the potential for them to catch the coronavirus even further.
8th Jan 2021 - Deeside.com

Biden to reverse Trump policy by speeding release of Covid-19 vaccines

US president-elect Joe Biden will rapidly release most available coronavirus vaccine doses to protect more people, his office has said, in a reversal of Trump administration policies.
8th Jan 2021 - Belfast Telegraph

Biden plans to release available COVID-19 vaccines instead of holding back for second doses

Biden's transition team said Friday that it doesn't make sense to hold back vaccine at a time when more American's are dying than at any point in the pandemic. Instead, they want to get shots into more arms, then follow up with second doses later. “The president-elect believes we must accelerate distribution of the vaccine while continuing to ensure the Americans who need it most get it as soon as possible," spokesman T.J. Ducklo said in a statement sent to USA TODAY. Biden “supports releasing available doses immediately, and believes the government should stop holding back vaccine supply so we can get more shots in Americans’ arms now.”
8th Jan 2021 - USA Today

Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 8th Jan 2021

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Rush to administer coronavirus vaccine to all hospital staff

Hospitals have been told by NHS England to immediately step up efforts to vaccinate all their staff.Yesterday GPs started administering the Oxford Astrazeneca vaccine to protect care home residents
8th Jan 2021 - The Times

Pharmacies set for role in Wales coronavirus vaccination plan

Pharmacies in Wales are set to become involved in the process of vaccinating people against coronavirus, with discussions going on over how that will happen, says Wales' Chief Medical Officer. Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, like its counterparts across Wales, has been checking the suitability of community and other venues across Gwent that might be suitable for use as mass vaccination centres, and GP surgeries will also play a central role. The challenge in Wales, as it is across the UK, is to provide sufficient vaccination sites to enable as many people in the priority groups to be vaccinated as quickly as possible - and Wales' CMO Dr Frank Atherton said all health boards in Wales are developing plans to "rapidly increase the vaccine coverage".
8th Jan 2021 - South Wales Argus

More than 1000 Swindon residents volunteer for coronavirus vaccine studies

The rollout of the coronavirus vaccine is under way across the UK, giving hope for a way out of the crisis which changed our lives nearly a year ago. But developing a vaccine wouldn't have been possible without a pool of volunteers from across the four nations, with more than 1,000 people from Swindon putting their name forward to be a part of the effort. Researchers need people to take part in studies to find out which potential vaccine is most effective, and those involved are required to visit a hospital or research site every few months.
8th Jan 2021 - Swindon Advertiser

Coronavirus vaccine will be rolled out in Australia in February

Australians will start getting vaccinated against Covid-19 in mid-February and the jab may be compulsory for some people, Scott Morrison announced on Thursday. The prime minister said he expects regulators to approve the Pfizer vaccine, which has already been rolled out around the world, before the end of January. The American company ships the vaccine two weeks after approval and then another week will be spent testing the batch when it arrives in Australia. Hotel quarantine workers, healthcare workers and aged care staff and residents will be vaccinated first. Elderly people, indigenous Australians over 55, people with clinical conditions and high-risk workers will be next.
7th Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

Australia's vaccine rollout will now start next month. Here's what we'll need

Australia’s COVID vaccine rollout will now begin in mid- to late February. Vaccination will commence with workers dealing with international arrivals or quarantine facilities, frontline health workers and those living in aged care or with a disability. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government “optimistically” aims to vaccinate 80,000 Australians a week, and four million by the end of March. The first vaccine doses were initially plan