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"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 13th Oct 2020

News Highlights

Czech Republic on brink of second lockdown as cases surge

After garnering global praise for having managed the epidemic in the early months, the Czech Republic now stands on the verge of a second lockdown to counter a rapid surge in coronavirus cases. The country recorded a new peak of 8,618 cases on Friday, up by more than 3,000 from the previous day, and currently has significantly more positive cases per capita than any other European state.

France ICU's see highest number of Covid-19 cases in months

France is seeing a rapid increase in the number of coronavirus cases, with the number of people being treated in intensive care units for Covid-19 exceeding 1,500 for the first time in five months, raising fears of lockdowns being imposed again throughout the country. While the number of cases in ICU's are lower than the April 8 high figure of 7,148, authorities fear the health system will become overwhelmed if the spread is not controlled soon.

Australian study shows coronavirus can last for 28 days on glass, currency

Australian researchers have found that under a very controlled environment, the novel coronavirus remains infectious for far longer than previously found. The study conducted by Australia's national science agency found that at 20 degrees celsius, the virus remains infectious for 28 days on smooth surfaces like banknotes and mobile phone screens, highlighting the need for frequent cleaning and handwashing.

WHO official is quoted as condemning lockdowns, even as several states seem prepared to back to them

Dr. David Nabarro, WHO's special envoy on Covid-19, seems to have backflipped on advice previously given by his organisation and called for world leaders to stop locking down their countries as the primary way to control the virus. This comes at a time when daily infection rates are soaring globally and countries around the world, from the UK to Slovakia, are imposing some form of lockdowns or restrictions.

Lockdown Exit
Covid-19: China's Qingdao to test nine million in five days
The Chinese city of Qingdao is testing its entire population of nine million people for Covid-19 over a period of five days. The mass testing comes after the discovery of a dozen cases linked to a hospital treating coronavirus patients arriving from abroad. In May, China tested the entire city of Wuhan - home to 11 million people and the epicentre of the global pandemic. The country has largely brought the virus under control. That is in stark contrast to other parts of the world, where there are still high case numbers and lockdown restrictions of varying severity.
Slovakia imposes new COVID-19 restrictions following surge in daily cases
Amid a huge surge in COVID-19 cases, Slovakia announced imposing new restrictions on Sunday, October 11. According to the reports, from Thursday, it will be mandatory to wear masks in the outdoors in all cities, towns, and villages. In addition, the Slovakia government has banned all public events including religious services in churches. Only weddings, funerals, and baptisms with a limited number of attendees have been exempted, as per reports.
It Looks Like The SARS 2 Pandemic Is Over In China
To hundreds of millions of Chinese, though, the pandemic is in the rearview mirror now. The virus itself is still alive and kicking (along with millions of others), but whatever China is doing to keep its hospitals safe and its death toll next to nothing at this point, it is working in spades. Life looks a lot better there than it does in the U.S. and the increasingly panicked U.K. The defamed Imperial College epidemiologist, Neil Ferguson, who forecasted a million deaths and favored strict lockdowns while he broke the rules to visit his girlfriend, recently warned of an “uptick” in cases and an “uptick in deaths”.
Some U.S. doctors flee to New Zealand where the coronavirus outbreak is under control and science is respected
Some U.S.-based doctors and nurses are fleeing the country because the lack of PPE and coordinated U.S. response made them feel unsafe during the coronavirus pandemic. Some have been feeling burned out for years due to the complex U.S. health system. New Zealand, which led with science, has declared victory over Covid-19 yet again and hasn’t reported a positive case in more than a week.
Coronavirus will cost the US $16 TRILLION - 90% of the GDP - study predicts
Researchers predict that the coronavirus pandemic will cost the US an estimated $16 trillion, or about 90% of the annual GDP. About $4.4 trillion will be due to the economic cost of 625,000 premature deaths. An estimated $2.6 trillion will be spent treating those who survived COVID-19 but have long-term complications and damage. Mental health treatment, for those dealing with the loss of a loved one or feelings of isolation, will cost $1.6 trillion. The remaining $7.6 trillion will be due to the economic toll of lost jobs and those filing new unemployment claims
Herd immunity as coronavirus solution ‘simply unethical’: WHO
The head of the World Health Organization warned against the idea that herd immunity might be a realistic strategy to stop the coronavirus pandemic, dismissing such proposals as “simply unethical.” At a media briefing on Monday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said health officials typically aim to achieve herd immunity by vaccination. Tedros noted that to obtain herd immunity from a highly infectious disease such as measles, for example, about 95% of the population must be immunized.
Coronavirus pandemic has exposed global leadership deficit, says report
Over 70 per cent of citizens around the globe say they are experiencing the lowest point in their nation's history, while nearly two-thirds say their leaders are out of touch
Coronavirus: 10 countries responsible for 70 per cent of global COVID-19 cases, WHO says
The director-general of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said on Monday that almost 70 per cent of COVID cases reported to WHO in the last week came from 10 countries, including the U.S. and India. He added that the last four days has seen the largest number of cases reported to WHO so far.
Exit Strategies
What step three out of lockdown could look like for Melbourne
Melbourne is likely to move to a variation of step three of its roadmap out of lockdown come Sunday, although restrictions are not expected to drastically ease as first planned. Premier Daniel Andrews today said Melburnians could expect greater freedoms for social gatherings, with some businesses also set to reopen after months of shut down. Restrictions may also be further eased for regional Victoria, despite the roadmap first detailing it could not move to the next step until there were zero cases in the state for 14 days.
Reimagining education to beat the constraints of lockdown
Firki, an initiative by Teach For India, is a blended online and offline learning model. It recently launched inspirED 2020, the first of its kind virtual conference that brought together students, educators, policymakers, parents, and investors under one roof to reimagine education. For Bharath, the event developed a unique platform for all voices – teachers, students, and parents – to share their perspectives on the NEP and map the possibilities on the ground.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb: U.S. could never test for Covid as much as China but it must get better
The U.S. may never be able to test for coronavirus and trace contacts at the same level as China, but America still must improve its public health response, Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC. “We don’t need to have their level of surveillance state to have better testing and tracing in place,” the former FDA chief said. “We could be doing a lot better at calling on collective action for people to wear masks on a more routine basis,” he added.
Victoria's premier says Melbourne roadmap out of Covid lockdown likely to be redrawn
Victorian premier Daniel Andrews concedes Melbourne’s roadmap out of lockdown will likely be redrawn, suggesting case numbers could reach a point where they are “as good as they are going to get”. Victoria recorded 15 new coronavirus cases on Monday, the latest in a stream of stubborn double-digit days. The state’s death toll remains at 810 and the national figure at 898. This brings Melbourne’s rolling 14-day average to 9.9, still significantly above the five daily cases average notionally required to lift restrictions on Sunday. This date was originally set at 26 October, but was brought forward when Melbourne was racing ahead of schedule in the battle to bring down case numbers.
Covid: Australia in talks over quarantine-free travel
Australia's government says it is in talks with several nations about quarantine-free travel, but warns that Europe and the US will not be on the list. The first agreement would be with New Zealand, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said. Other nations that could follow suit are Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Pacific Island nations. Australia closed its borders in March, early into the pandemic. To date, it has recorded 27,263 cases and 898 deaths. It has fared better than other nations but recently saw a second wave in the state of Victoria, forcing Melbourne and its surrounding areas into another lockdown. Infections have fallen dramatically since.
Australia in travel talks with Japan, Korea as coronavirus cases ease
Australia is in talks with Japan, South Korea, Singapore and South Pacific nations on reopening travel as coronavirus infections ease, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Sunday. Australia shut its borders in March to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus and is looking to revive tourism to help pull the country out of its first recession in nearly three decades. While Australia has managed to contain the outbreak better than others, it is facing a second wave in the state of Victoria, where Melbourne remains under a tight lockdown. But infections there have been falling since early August. Morrison said he had spoken to his counterparts in Japan, South Korea and some Pacific nations, while Foreign Minister Marise Payne had held talks in Singapore this week on resuming travel.
The coronavirus pandemic: A threat to food security
For years, the Global Hunger Index has shown global advances in combating malnutrition. But the coronavirus pandemic could undo them, according to the latest report for German aid organization Welthungerhilfe.
Partisan Exits
Trump claims Covid-19 will ‘run its course’ as US nears 215,000 deaths
Donald Trump has told the United States that Covid-19 “will run its course”, as the country’s death toll approaches 215,000. With the US accounting for well over a fifth of all deaths worldwide, the president’s comments on Monday morning jarred. “Big spike in the China Plague in Europe and other places that the Fake News used to hold up as examples of places that are doing well, in order to make the U.S look bad,” he tweeted. “Be strong and vigilant, it will run its course. Vaccines and cures are coming fast!”
Leader of Brooklyn protest against Covid lockdowns arrested on riot charge
A leader of protests against new coronavirus restrictions in Brooklyn has been arrested on charges of incitement to riot and unlawful imprisonment of a journalist who was chased and trapped by a crowd, police said. Heshy Tischler, a city council candidate and activist in the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Borough Park, was taken into custody on Sunday evening in connection with his actions during a 7 October street protest. Video shows a crowd of men surrounding, jostling and taunting Jewish Insider reporter Jacob Kornbluh, who has been covering resistance to social distancing in the neighborhood.
Legal case to challenge validity of Melbourne's lockdown in High Court
A legal case challenging the validity of Melbourne's coronavirus lockdown is set to be filed in the High Court of Australia today as the state remains under some of strictest restrictions in the world. Business owner Julian Gerner, who owns a restaurant and bar in Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula, is the plaintiff behind the legal action, arguing the state's "unnecessary" lockdown breached the constitutional right of the freedom of movement. Senior counsels Bret Walker, SC, and Michael Wyles, QC, will represent Mr Gerner as a writ of summons is filed against the state of Victoria in Melbourne's High Court registry.
English pub, night club group plans legal action over any new shutdowns
A group of English pub and night club owners have paused plans for a legal challenge against new COVID-19 shutdowns after the government limited closures to the Merseyside region. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out new measures on Monday, but so far Liverpool and the surrounding area is the only one that will have to close pubs, clubs, gyms, leisure centres, betting shops, adult gaming centres and casinos. Britain’s pub, restaurant, night club and event industry has been hammered by the coronavirus crisis and after months of lockdown in the spring, a second wave and new measures limiting socialising now threaten hundreds of thousands more jobs.
Waving Spanish flags, Vox supporters protest against Madrid lockdown
Waving flags from cars and honking horns, supporters of Spain’s far-right Vox party protested on Monday against a partial lockdown imposed on Madrid to contain one of Europe’s worst coronavirus outbreaks. “Viva España! Government resign!”, cried hundreds of supporters as they filled Madrid’s main thoroughfare and the party staged smaller demonstrations in Barcelona and Seville. Sunday’s protest escalated a standoff between Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and the conservative-led Madrid regional government, on which Vox holds 12 of 132 seats, and which argues that the government’s curbs are illegal and excessive and will spell disaster for the local economy.
Resistance to lockdown rules is not just ‘fatigue’
The use of the term “pandemic fatigue” in the World Health Organization report is misleading (While Sturgeon takes decisive action on Covid, Johnson just blusters, 8 October). The report is concerned with the increase in non-compliance with regulations designed to counter Covid-19. It lists many putative reasons for non-compliance, including reduced trust in authorities, decreases in perceptions of risk, increased complacency and changes in values (eg, an increased emphasis on libertarianism). This matters because different reasons for non-compliance must be countered with different policies: increased libertarianism requires government information to emphasise our interdependence, increased complacency requires incentives to abide by regulations, errors in risk perception require better risk communication. Referring to every one of these very different phenomena as fatigue implies that the same policy is appropriate for dealing with them all.
Spain's PM defends Covid emergency lockdown in Madrid
The Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has said he hopes to bring the coronavirus outbreak in the capital under control within the next two weeks, as he defended the government’s decision to declare a state of emergency to keep the Madrid region in partial lockdown. Sánchez’s Socialist-led coalition invoked emergency powers on Friday after the Madrid regional government failed to respond to an ultimatum and a court struck down the central government’s original lockdown order. “We have always put public health and saving lives above any other consideration and we’ve asked regional governments to do the same,” he told reporters during a visit to Portugal on Saturday.
Continued Lockdown
COVID lockdown 'fatigue' is rapidly developing
Recent polls have shown a “real lockdown fatigue” is developing across the nation with people becoming more disillusioned with the pace of restrictions being eased, according to Sky News contributor Catherine McGregor. A Newspoll conducted exclusively for The Australian shows “the once strong support for stopping the spread of the virus as a priority over economic recovery has swung significantly over the past few months,” The Australian’s Simon Benson writes. Falling from 76 per cent, now only 54 per cent of voters claim to be “most concerned” about governments moving “too quickly” to relax state-imposed restrictions.
Victoria should ease lockdown, epidemiologist says
Victoria does not need to get down to just five cases a day to ease its three-month lockdown which residents are fed up with, says a leading epidemiologist. Premier Daniel Andrews said yesterday that Victoria would take a step towards opening up next Sunday, but it would not be as big as was originally hoped. "It is in no way warranted for people to be despondent, or for people to lose any sense of hope," he said. This strategy is working, but you have got to do it properly." The state announced 14 new coronavirus cases yesterday, and a third day in a row of no deaths. The premier said he understood the frustrations with people wanting to get back to a normal way of life, but said any next steps "had to be safe". Professor Tony Blakely who lives in Melbourne is one of four epidemiologists who has carried out modelling for the state government. He said a reduction to five cases a day was based on an elimination strategy but that was becoming very unlikely.
'Not scared of the virus', Myanmar taxi driver's pilgrimage to a sacred pagoda
Defying the threat of contracting coronavirus and a citywide lockdown, Myanmar taxi driver Ko Naing, 50, still travels each day to pray outside the sacred Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, the country’s holiest Buddhist site. “I’m not scared of the virus because I feel protected by my religion and regular praying at the pagoda,” he told Reuters, kneeling at the front gate of the pagoda. The number of COVID-19 infections in Myanmar, which has one of the world’s weakest health systems, has surged from a few hundred in mid-August to more than 27,000 cases and 646 deaths as of Monday.
Covid-19: Worldwide airport passenger numbers plummeted 58% in the first half of 2020, says report
Data was released by Airports Council International in its airport traffic report. In the first half of 2020, overall aircraft movements globally fell by 41.6 per cent. Atlanta, the world's busiest airport, saw passenger numbers drop 56.6 per cent
Doctors petition for Victorian premier Daniel Andrews to lift lockdown
A group of 500 doctors have warned in an open letter that more people will be killed than saved if Victoria's lockdowns are not lifted. The letter urges State Premier Daniel Andrews to immediately rollback the harsh restrictions for the sake of residents and their mental wellbeing. The response to the virus will cause more deaths and result in far more negative health effects than the virus itself,' the letter reads.
Street cricket with beer: Londoners defy COVID rules
With cricket bat, bowler and beer, Londoners set up an impromptu game of night cricket on the high street in Peckham this week as fatigue and frustration with the British government’s lockdown rules rise. Revellers lined the street as a batsman before what appears to be a cardboard box faced a bowler racing down the street. The batsman cracks the ball with a cut shot to cheers while some spill beer and smile.
UK watchdog warns banks over remote working conduct rules
Banks must apply the same standards of surveillance and conduct to staff working from home or in the office during the pandemic and in future as working practices change, Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority said on Monday. The FCA is paying particular attention to how inside or sensitive information is handled at a time when the volume of mergers, and issuance of shares and debt is rising sharply to keep companies afloat. There is a risk of less self-policing among front office staff working from home, said Julia Hoggett, the FCA’s director for market oversight.
India’s schoolchildren pay the price for coronavirus lockdown
Outside the locked and deserted Vidya Sagar Public School, the eight-year-old daughter of a snack vendor sits forlornly on her father’s disused pushcart. Before coronavirus, Rachna Kashyap was one of 200 pupils whose working-class parents paid Rs400 ($5.40) in monthly tuition to send their children to the no-frills, English-medium private school instead of overcrowded and underperforming state schools. But the school, which employed nine teachers, collapsed during India’s lockdown that cost millions of jobs. Parents could no longer afford the fees and the school lacked the wherewithal to transition to online learning.
Scientific Viewpoint
Johnson & Johnson pauses Covid-19 vaccine trial after 'unexplained illness'
Drugmaker Johnson & Johnson said Monday it has paused the advanced clinical trial of its experimental coronavirus vaccine because of an unexplained illness in one of the volunteers. "Following our guidelines, the participant's illness is being reviewed and evaluated by the ENSEMBLE independent Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) as well as our internal clinical and safety physicians," the company said in a statement. ENSEMBLE is the name of the study. "Adverse events -- illnesses, accidents, etc. -- even those that are serious, are an expected part of any clinical study, especially large studies."
Nevada man, 25, contracted coronavirus twice in 48 days and was SICKER during his second bout
An unnamed 25-year-old man from Washoe County, Nevada, tested positive for the coronavirus on April 18 after developing mild symptoms. He recovered during isolation and received two negative test results in May. On May 28, he started feeling the same symptoms and went to a primary care doctor, who recommended he go the hospital. He tested positive again at the hospital, 48 days after his initial test, and needed oxygen support. Genetic testing showed that the strains of virus from each bout were different, indicating a true reinfection. The Nevada man is the fifth person worldwide to be reinfected and other cases have been reported in Hong Kong, Belgium, the Netherlands and Ecuador
Coronavirus: COVID-19 survivors may have protective antibodies for up to four months, study suggests
People who recover from COVID-19 may have protective antibodies for up to four months, according to a new study. Researchers at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital aimed to determine how long immunity lasts in coronavirus survivors, and whether those infected with COVID-19 will develop lasting protection from the virus. The study, published in Science Immunology, also focused on the body's immune response to COVID-19 and the team's findings suggested antibodies can be an accurate tool for tracking the spread of the infection in the community.
E-Therapeutics boasts 'encouraging results' for Covid-19 treatment
Work to find new drugs that can be used to treat coronavirus has yielded good results, according to a Tyneside drug discovery company. Earlier this year Newcastle's e-Therapeutics turned its computer modelling technology towards the Covid-19 pandemic, with the aim of finding drugs that could help treat the virus. The company specialises in discovering new drugs in silico (using computers) and in the past has used its technology to find compounds that can protect human cells from influenza. It now believes its technology could help the fight against coronavirus. Speaking in the company's interim results, CEO Ali Mortazavi said: "Our project to find compounds for the treatment of Covid-19 using our proprietary NDD (Network-drive Drug Discovery) platform has generated encouraging results. "We await the final read outs in SARS-COV2 assays from WuXi AppTec to decide next steps.
Kids struggle with Covid-19 and its months of aftermath
Veronica Richmond is just 15, but she's skipped three grades and is about to graduate from high school in Boise, Idaho. But the self-described photographer, biologist, poet, graphic designer and debater now has a new identity she never wanted. She is a Covid-19 long hauler, along with her sister Audrey and mother Jamie. One of her friends came home in March after spending two years in Wuhan, China. That may have been the source of the virus that would cut across the whole Richmond family and leave them with six months — and counting — of fatigue, pain and uncertainty in its wake.
Most people try to avoid Covid-19. But thousands are signing up to be deliberately exposed
As most of us obsess with avoiding Covid-19 at all costs, a rapidly growing group of people around the world say they are prepared to deliberately take on the virus. Tens of thousands of people have signed up to a campaign by a group called 1 Day Sooner to take an experimental vaccine candidate and then face coronavirus in a controlled setting. Among them is Estefania Hidalgo, 32, a photography student in Bristol, England, who works at a gas station to pay the bills.
BCG: Can a vaccine from 1921 save lives from Covid-19?
Scientists in the UK have begun testing the BCG vaccine, developed in 1921, to see if it can save lives from Covid. The vaccine was designed to stop tuberculosis, but there is some evidence it can protect against other infections as well. Around 1,000 people will take part in the trial at the University of Exeter. But while millions of people in the UK will have had the BCG jab as a child, it is thought they would need to be vaccinated again to benefit. Vaccines are designed to train the immune system in a highly targeted way that leaves lasting protection against one particular infection.
Spotlight on COVID-19 antibody therapies after Trump's recovery -
The spotlight remains on the potential of antibody therapies as a possible way out of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, with the US government investing millions in a hopeful from AstraZeneca and president Donald Trump recovering from coronavirus after receiving a rival therapy from Regeneron. Thanks to a drug cocktail including Regeneron’s antibody therapy, Trump says he is back on his feet after becoming infected with the virus around the end of last month. Trump has hailed the Regeneron therapy as a cure for the virus, but the company’s CEO Leonard Schleifer was quick to point out that the scientific evidence is not there to support the claim.
Failures at Austrian ski resort ‘helped speed up spread' of Covid-19 in Europe
An independent commission has found that Austrian national and local authorities made “momentous miscalculations” by first hesitating and then rushing to evacuate an Alpine ski resort that has been described as the “ground zero” of the coronavirus first wave in Europe. Ischgl, a town of 1,600 inhabitants in the Tirolean Paznaun valley and one of Europe’s premium skiing destinations, has been in the spotlight since the middle of March, after thousands of tourists, including at least 180 Britons, caught the virus there during the spring holidays and carried it back to their home countries.
Covid-19 forecasting app for colleges launched
A new app that forecasts the spread of Covid-19 in colleges has been launched. Developed by the University of Exeter in collaboration with colleges, the free online tool is said to analyse individual college data according to various inputs such as class-based bubbles, larger year group bubbles and attendance on different days. It also allows the user to input community infection rates as well as information about how they are running their college to forecast how many people may need to self-isolate and other steps they can take to minimise disruption.
Soon Covid-19 will be treatable, but it shouldn't just be the rich who benefit
We all want a cure for Covid-19, but it won’t come in a single drug. Neither can we expect to escape this global crisis if treatments, tests or vaccines are not made available to those most vulnerable worldwide. There’s a long way yet to go. Robust research has shown that hydroxychloroquine, the drug once heavily promoted by Donald Trump, doesn’t work as a treatment. We wait in hope for the first vaccines but must be realistic: they may only provide partial protection, important as that will be. Now, as the US president pins his hopes on Regeneron’s antibody cocktail, it must be made clear: life can only return to normal with a range of clinically proven, effective treatments, tests and vaccines; the resilient health systems to deliver them; and the trust of the public.
Germany's BioNTech signs deal with New Zealand for 1.5 million vaccine doses
New Zealand is the latest country to pre-order bulk doses of the COVID-19 vaccine currently under development by Germany-based BioNTech (BNTX) and its partner Pfizer (PFE). The German biotech company, one of the frontrunners in the race to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus, has signed an agreement to supply New Zealand with 1.5 million doses of its vaccine, which should be available in the first quarter of 2021.
Major regional discrepancies in Covid-19 response, report finds
EU regions were unevenly hit by the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report published on Monday (12 October) by the European Committee of the Regions (CoR). The most economically hard-hit regions were those under strict lockdown measures for the longest - not necessarily those with the highest death-rates or most cases detected, it finds.
World Health Organisation has 'reversed its position on lockdowns'
Sky News host Paul Murray says the World Health Organisation has reversed its position on lockdowns, which follows their reversal on masks, and their reversal on how deadly COVID was going to be. “The World Health Organisation is often used by people as the ultimate body to justify some of the worst lockdowns and behaviours of this whole thing,” he said. “I want to introduce you to a person from the World Health Organisation who says, guess what, lockdowns are a bad idea. “This is a reversal of the position of the World Health Organisation. Which of course followed their reversal on mask, their reversal on how deadly this thing was going to be - their endless reversals.”
WHO doctor says lockdowns should not be main coronavirus defence
Recent commentary from the World Health Organization's (WHO) special envoy on COVID-19 has sparked questions about the legitimacy of lockdowns to stop the spread of coronavirus. "We in the World Health Organization do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus." This statement from Dr David Nabarro has also prompted questions about whether the WHO has backflipped on its advice, months after the pandemic was declared. So, when should lockdowns be considered, what is the WHO's advice on them and how does this affect Australia?
New Zealand Signs Deal To Secure 1.5 Mn Doses Of Pfizer, BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine
The New Zealand government has reportedly signed a deal with Pfizer Inc and Germany’s BioNTech to secure 1.5 million doses of potential COVID-19 vaccine. Research, Science & Innovation Minister Megan Woods said in a statement that the government is in talks with other drug companies as well to ensure sufficient COVID-19 vaccines for the whole population. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, BNT162b2, is one of the leading COVID-19 vaccine candidates in the race to get regulatory approval in the United States, Canada, and Europe. The UK government had announced on July 20 that it has signed a binding agreement with BioNTech/Pfizer to secure 30 million doses of vaccine. The vaccine candidate is based on BioNTech’s proprietary mRNA technology and supported by Pfizer’s global vaccine development and manufacturing capabilities. The vaccine candidate is being evaluated in a global Phase 3 study which is currently underway at more than 120 clinical sites worldwide. The trial has enrolled around 37,000 participants with more than 28,000 volunteers have received their second vaccination.
New Zealand signs deal with Pfizer, BioNTech for COVID-19 vaccine
The New Zealand government signed a deal on Monday to buy 1.5 million COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer Inc and Germany's BioNTech, with delivery potentially as early as the first quarter of 2021. The government did not disclose financial terms of the deal, its first vaccine purchase, which will provide enough doses to vaccinate 750,000 people. Officials said talks were continuing with other drug companies to secure more vaccine supplies for the country of 5 million people and further announcements were expected next month. "The additional agreements will ensure that once the portfolio is completed, we will have sufficient COVID-19 vaccines for the whole population," Research Minister Megan Woods said in a statement.
Covid 19 coronavirus: World Health Organisation backflips on virus stance by condemning lockdowns
A World Health Organisation doctor has backflipped on the organisation's original Covid-19 stance, calling for world leaders to stop locking down their countries and economies as a "primary control method". Dr David Nabarro from the WHO appealed to world leaders yesterday, telling them to stop "using lockdowns as your primary control method" of the coronavirus. He also claimed that the only thing lockdowns achieved was poverty – with no mention of the potential lives saved.
Covid-19: 'Near extinction' of influenza in NZ due to lockdown - epidemiologist
Mask wearing and social distancing for Covid-19 has all but cut influenza cases in New Zealand this year, with only six flu isolates detected in this country from April to August. Public health physician and epidemiologist Professor Michael Baker offered RNZ National’s Sunday Morning programme his analysis on the flu season numbers and why masks continue to be so important. He said there has been "near extinction of influenza in New Zealand following our very effective Covid-19 response", as numbers vanished from the two standard systems for surveillance - resulting in a 99.8 percent reduction in flu cases.
COVID-19: WHO official's lockdown criticism probably doesn't apply to New Zealand - Dr Siouxsie Wiles
A senior World Health Organization (WHO) official has condemned the use of lockdowns to restrict the spread of COVID-19 - but prominent Kiwi experts say the comments may not be directly applicable to New Zealand. Dr David Nabarro, the WHO's special envoy for coronavirus, is appealing to world leaders to stop applying lockdowns as their primary control method and to instead "develop better systems". He told British magazine The Spectator that lockdowns have a major consequence that is not being widely considered - they are "making poor people an awful lot poorer".
Novel coronavirus can last 28 days on glass, currency, Australian study finds
The virus that causes COVID-19 can survive on banknotes, glass and stainless steel for up to 28 days, much longer than the flu virus, Australian researchers said on Monday, highlighting the need for frequent cleaning and handwashing. Findings from the study by Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO, appear to show that in a very controlled environment the virus remained infectious for longer than other studies have found. CSIRO researchers found that at 20 degrees Celsius (68 Fahrenheit), the SARS-CoV-2 virus remained infectious for 28 days on smooth surfaces such as plastic banknotes and the glass found on mobile phone screens. The study was published in Virology Journal.
Coronavirus: Sage asked for swathe of urgent lockdown measures three weeks ago, new documents show
The government’s scientific advisers recommended a two-week ‘circuit break’ lockdown three weeks ago in a bid to curtail the spread of Covid -19, official documents show. Sage told ministers a swathe of interventions would be required to reverse the exponential rise in cases. The minutes from the 21 September meeting of the group were quietly published just hours after Boris Johnson announced new restrictions, including a a new three tier system for local ockdowns, that appeared to fall short of what Sage suggested. Even Mr Johnson’s own chief medical officer warned the new measures to be introduced in the most severe cases will not work on their own.
Coronavirus Resurgence
Number of COVID patients in French intensive care units highest in nearly five months
The number of people being treated in French intensive care units for COVID-19 exceeded 1,500 on Monday for the first time since May 27, authorities said, raising fears of local lockdowns being imposed across the country. The new figure of 1,539 is still almost five times lower than an April 8 high of 7,148 but also four times higher than a July 31 low of 371. And as there are normally more people hospitalised with varios illnesses in the autumn than in the spring, health experts fear the hospital system will be quickly overwhelmed if nothing is done to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.
Covid-19 cases rise by 13,972 as 50 people die after testing positive for coronavirus
A further 13,972 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the UK, bringing the total number of Covid cases to 617,688. The Government also said a further 50 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Monday. The UK's official coronavirus death toll now stands at 42,875. Separate figures published by the UK’s statistics agencies show there have now been 58,000 deaths registered in the UK where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
Current lockdown measures may not be enough to help us through the winter, says Welsh Government
Current lockdown measures in place in Wales may not be enough to get us through the winter, health minister Vaughan Gething said today. During the Welsh Government briefing on how Wales is coping with the spread of coronavirus, Mr Gething also said infections in Wales could reach the same level as they were at the spring peak in just two weeks. The briefing came after one given by England's leading medical experts who said there are more people in English hospitals with Covid-19 now than there were on the day Boris Johnson first announced lockdown on March 23.
Covid: Nightingale hospitals in northern England told to get ready
NHS Nightingale hospitals in Manchester, Sunderland and Harrogate are being asked to get ready to take patients. Government advisers say admissions are rising, with more elderly people needing urgent treatment for Covid. More people are now in hospital with Covid than before restrictions were announced in March. It comes as a new three-tier system of lockdown rules for England has been announced.
Coronavirus: Germany's confusing patchwork of restrictions
Residents from Germany's increasing number of high-infection areas are banned from staying in hotels in parts of the country — but not everywhere. The patchwork of regulations is leading to more and more confusion.
Restrictions tightened, but no new lockdown in Italy
Though Italy is tightening its COVID-19 restrictions by imposing the mandatory use of face masks indoors and outdoors even while walking but not running or jogging, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said that “Italy cannot face another lockdown. Its economic and commercial systems could not sustain it.” “In February we were all unprepared, now we can face the emergency situation. Intensive care units are ready,” said the foreign minister, adding that the first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine could be ready before the end of the year. The government is also considering a limitation on private gatherings and parties and a ban of team sports at recreational and amateur levels.
Italy prepares new restrictions to fight spike in coronavirus cases
Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza said on Sunday (October 11) that Italy needed to add restrictions after having eased them for several weeks, as it aims to avoid a new national lockdown. Italy on Friday (October 9) topped 5,000 new COVID-19 cases in a single day for the first time since March. Daily infections remained over 5,000 both on Saturday and Sunday. Deaths linked to COVID-19 are far fewer, however, than at the height of the pandemic in the country in March and April. Speranza said he proposed a ban on private parties, involving both children and adults, while Rome would also target hours for bars and restaurants to reduce people's contagion risks.
Europe Readies New Virus Curbs as Leaders Weigh Economic Hit
European nations are preparing tougher measures to contain the coronavirus as infections surge toward a “tipping point,” even as leaders express concerns that new restraints will decimate the region’s already fragile economy. The continent has again emerged as a global hotspot, with countries from Spain to Ukraine posting record increases in recent days. Authorities are struggling to devise restrictions that slow the spread while not pushing the economy over the edge and sparking public unrest.
Belgium: Second worst country in Europe for coronavirus infections
Belgium is now the second-worst country in Europe in terms of coronavirus infections per 100,000 inhabitants in the last fortnight, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). The latest update to the ECDC map on infections shows a total of 16 countries in the hardest-hit category, meaning they have had more than 120 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in the last two weeks.
French PM does not rule out local lockdown due to COVID-19 spike
French Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Monday he did not rule out local lockdowns in France due to a resurgence of new coronavirus infections. “Nothing must be ruled out,” Castex told franceinfo radio after being asked about potential local lockdowns. Castex said France was facing a “strong” second wave of new infections. President Emmanuel Macron will speak about the epidemic in television interviews on Wednesday evening, franceinfo radio and BFM TV said.
Health Minister warns next days are 'crucial' as national lockdown for Wales is considered
The Wales Health Minister has warned that the next days are "crucial" as they look at whether to introduce a national lockdown. Vaughan Gething said that Welsh Government might have to "make a different decision to what we are doing" as coronavirus rates continue to rise. Latest figures released on Sunday, October 11, show there were 467 confirmed cases of coronavirus reported in the last 24 hours, and two more deaths. For the third day in a row the overall infection rate in Wales is above 100 cases per 100,000 population over a rolling seven-day period. Some areas are far higher than that, with Merthyr Tydfil having 220.5 new cases per 100,000. First Minister Mark Drakeford said on Sunday that Wales is close to a 'tipping point' with coronavirus as cases continue to rise.
Covid in Europe: second wave gathers pace across continent
France has said it may be forced to impose new lockdowns, Italy is expected to ban private parties, and the Czech Republic announced that it would close bars and shift most schools to distance learning as Europe’s second wave of Covid-19 continues to gather pace. The moves came as the World Health Organization director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned that allowing coronavirus to spread in the hope of achieving so-called herd immunity would be “scientifically and ethically problematic”. Last week, an international group of scientists called on governments to allow young and healthy people to return to normal life while protecting the most vulnerable. It later emerged that several supposedly expert signatories of the “Great Barrington declaration” were fake names.
France Must Avoid General Lockdown by All Means, Castex Says
France must avoid another general lockdown by all means possible in the face of a “very strong” resurgence of Covid-19, said Prime Minister Jean Castex. Speaking Monday on France Info radio, Castex urged the public to wear face coverings as much as possible, keep contacts to a minimum and take other basic sanitary measures to avoid infection. “I’m not asking anything revolutionary,” Castex said. It’s essential for companies to keep working, and children to keep going to school, he said. France has emphasized local measures to combat a surge in coronavirus cases in recent weeks after a two-month national lockdown in the spring devastated the economy. With new infections spiking to fresh highs, there’s little evidence the piecemeal approach is working.
As UK prepares for new lockdowns, Europe too is struggling
Just as Europe was hoping it could put Covid to rest, the virus has risen again, with renewed venom. Case numbers have been rising and in their wake, hospital admissions too. Each country is trying to find the right combination of measures - local lockdowns, test-and-trace initiatives, economic support and public communication - to drive down numbers as winter approaches. As the UK government prepares to unveil a range of new lockdown rules, BBC reporters from France, Germany and other European capitals explain how their countries are managing. At the bottom of the article, we show how two key nations in Asia have seen a different trajectory.
Kremlin says Russia able to be flexible in COVID-19 response despite surge
The Kremlin said on Monday that Russia could afford to be more flexible in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic than earlier this year when it imposed a lockdown. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia had more room for manoeuvre this time round because of better available treatment methods, more hospital beds, and a tried and tested system in place to tackle the virus. Russia, which has no lockdown currently, recorded a new record increase in coronavirus cases on Sunday. Earlier on Monday, new cases remained close to that level.
Coronavirus: China to test nine million people in just five days after 12 new cases in Qingdao city
An entire city of nine million people in China will be tested for COVID-19 in just five days after a small number of new cases emerged. People in Qingdao have been joining long queues for test centres following the confirmation of 12 infections, mostly linked to a hospital in the city, the state-run Global Times newspaper reported. Qingdao Chest Hospital, which treats coronavirus patients who have returned from overseas, has been locked down along with buildings where the infected individuals live.
Confidential data shows many Illinois coronavirus outbreaks have been undisclosed: report | TheHill
Outbreaks of coronavirus in schools, workplaces and other facilities are driving the surge of new COVID-19 cases in Illinois, some of which have not been publicly identified, according to a new study. The study from journalists at the Brown Institute for Media Innovation and the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting published in USA Today indicates that individual clusters of coronavirus infections are primarily responsible for the latest wave of new COVID-19 cases vexing public health officials in the state, with several outbreaks occurring at correctional facilities and a major military base. The second-largest outbreak identified by the study, which until now has not been reported to news organizations, is occurring at the Great Lakes Naval Base in Lake County, Ill., where 228 new cases of COVID-19 have been identified over the past month according to confidential data recorded by Illinois officials and obtained by the study.
Italy prepares new restrictions to fight spike in coronavirus cases
Italy is preparing fresh nationwide restrictions, including on private parties, in response to a recent spike in new coronavirus cases, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said on Sunday. Speranza said Italy needed to add restrictions after having eased them for several weeks, as it aims to avoid a new national lockdown. “Now we need a change of pace, and to intervene with measures, not comparable to those adopted in the past, which could allow us to put the contagion under control and avoid tougher measures later on,” he said in an interview with RAI state TV. Italy on Friday topped 5,000 new COVID-19 cases in a single day for the first time since March. Daily infections remained over 5,000 both on Saturday and Sunday. Deaths linked to COVID-19 are far fewer, however, than at the height of the pandemic in the country in March and April.
Czechs to tighten coronavirus measures as infections soar: PM
The Czech government will tighten coronavirus measures from Wednesday to curb soaring infections and hospitalisations but will seek to avoid the kind of blanket lockdown imposed in the spring, government officials said on Sunday. The nation of 10.7 million has recorded Europe’s fastest rate of growth in new cases per capita in recent weeks after authorities eased most restrictions during the summer following a tough lockdown at the start of the pandemic. “We have to decide on further measures, that will happen on Monday at the government session, and the measures will be effective from Wednesday,” Prime Minister Andrej Babis said in a video message on YouTube.
Leo Varadkar says 'short, hard lockdown' may be needed 'to knock the virus on the head again'
Leo Varadkar says a “short, hard lockdown” or circuit break is being considered by the government in an attempt “to knock the virus on the head again”. The Tánaiste made the suggestion in an article for the Sunday Independent in which the Fine Gael leader insisted any and all options would be explored before a second lockdown was implemented. Varadkar’s comments come a week on from the National Public Health Emergency Team’s (NPHET) recommendation that Ireland go into a Level 5 lockdown – the strictest level of lockdown – to help curb Covid-19 case numbers. However, the government opted to implement Level 3 restrictions, with Varadkar later telling RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Live he didn’t believe the recommendations had been “thought through”.
Czech Republic goes from model Covid-19 response to brink of second lockdown
The Czech Republic could be set for a second lockdown following a dramatic rise in Covid-19 infections that has transformed it into Europe’s fastest growing outbreak just months after being hailed as one of the continent’s success stories in managing the pandemic. A new peak of 8,618 cases was recorded on Friday in the country of 10.7 million, up more than 3,000 on the previous day and significantly more per capita than any other European state. Spain, with a population of just under 47 million and currently the second worst-affected country, documented 12,788 infections on the same day.
New Lockdown
UK PM Johnson sets out three-tier system of lockdown measures
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out on Monday a three-tier system of local lockdown measures in England, including a ban on households mixing indoors in some areas, designed to curb the spread of coronavirus.
New lockdown will be 'very challenging' for furloughed staff, minister concedes
The UK culture secretary has conceded it will be “very challenging” for staff from hospitality businesses closed down under new lockdown rules to live on two-thirds of their wages, as leaders in Liverpool called for more generous support. Ahead of a Commons statement by Boris Johnson on Monday, where the prime minister will set out restrictions targeted particularly at parts of the north of England, Oliver Dowden defended the government’s new wage-support scheme for areas under new lockdown measures. Under plans unveiled by the Treasury on Friday, a replacement furlough scheme will pay two-thirds of workers’ wages in hospitality firms ordered to close their doors.
UK government to announce new Covid-19 lockdown restrictions on Liverpool
Liverpool City Region will go into the strictest "third tier" of new anti-coronavirus restrictions to be announced imminently by Britain, its leaders said late on Sunday after talks with the British government. The government has decided that further measures and closures will apply to Liverpool City Region, its leaders, including Mayor Steve Rotheram, said in a joint statement. "Pubs and bars; betting shops, casinos and adult gaming centres and gyms will close," the statement added
What is England's new COVID-19 lockdown system?
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new system of lockdown rules on Monday, classifying the risk level in regions to help tackle rising infection rates in parts of England and simplify existing regulations. Two reasons: 1. Because infection rates in parts of England, particularly in the north of the country, are rising fast. Health officials say data show infections are beginning to move from younger people to more vulnerable older age groups, and will continue to spread further across the country.
What is Tier 2 lockdown? Covid restrictions explained, and areas the rules will affect under new system
Boris Johnson has announced a new three-tier lockdown system, in a bid to curb the rapidly rising coronavirus cases across England. The Prime Minister set out his three-tier strategy in the Commons on Monday, with areas in England labelled as medium, high or very high risk, which will inform the “appropriate interventions” needed in each area. The worst affected areas of the country will be in tier three, where pubs and restaurants will be ordered to close from Wednesday.
Which areas will be tier 3? Regions at risk of new Covid lockdown restrictions, from Manchester to Nottingham
Areas in the north-east and north-west have largely seen the sharpest rises in new cases, but Nottingham currently leads the charge. The Midlands city has the highest rate of reported cases in England. In the seven days to 6 October, 2,532 cases were reported, the equivalent of 760.6 per 100,000 population. Liverpool is another badly affected areas with 2,987 cases reported in the week 30 September to 6 September. According to Liverpool City Council, the latest weekly rate in the city is 599.7 per 100,000 population. And in nearby Knowsley, this rises to over 657.6.