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"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 27th Nov 2020

News Highlights

Lockdown extended in Greece as cases rise

Hospitals in Greece are operating at close to full capacity with the number of daily infections increasing steadily even as the government extended the nationwide lockdown in the country till December 7. To date, almost 10,000 people have been infected with the coronavirus and about 1,900 people have died of the disease in Greece.

Hydroxychloroquine or convalescent plasma does not provide Covid-protection, studies say

Two studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine indicate that two Covid-19 treatments, hydroxychloroquine and convalescent plasma, did not help with clinical improvement in patients or provide protection from the virus. Both hydroxychloroquine and convalescent plasma therapy had been touted as potential game changers in coronavirus treatment and prevention but the studies seem to indicate that this is not the case.

U.S. Supreme Court shoots down NY proposal to impose attendance limits on worshippers

As close to 200,000 new daily infections continue to be reported from all over the U.S., the state of New York tried to impose attendance limits at certain churches and synagogues in hard-hit areas. However, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to bar the state from enforcing these limits, with newly-confirmed Justice Amy Coney Barrett casting the deciding vote in the majority.

London placed under tier 2 of restrictions, pubs can reopen if they serve food as well

Most cities in the North and Midlands in the UK continue to remain under harsh tier 3 restrictions but London and Liverpool have been moved into less restrictive tier 2, meaning that pubs will be allowed to open in London if they serve food. Manchester continues to face tough restrictions, with pubs and restaurants closed except for takeaway.

Lockdown Exit
WHO's Ryan sees progressive control of COVID-19 in 2021, cautions on Christmas
The World Health Organization's top emergency expert said on Thursday the introduction of a COVID-19 vaccine should allow the world to gain progressive control over the disease next year. "Life as we used to know it, I think that's very, very possible but we will have to continue with the hygiene, physical distancing. Vaccines do not equal zero COVID. Adding vaccines to our current measures will allow us to really crush the curve, avoid lockdowns and gain progressive control over the disease," Mike Ryan told RTE television in his native Ireland. "We need to be absolutely aware that we need to reduce the chance that we could infect someone else in just organising households carefully around the Christmas festivities. The usual thing in Ireland of 15 people in the kitchen peeling potatoes and basting turkeys, that's not what we should be doing."
Queensland police officers forced to isolate after contact with Covid-infected man at hotel
Almost a dozen Queensland police officers have been forced into Covid-19 isolation after they came into close contact with an infected man in hotel quarantine. The incident happened at the Rydges Hotel in South Brisbane on Sunday when police were called to check on a 41-year-old-man’s welfare, police say. The man was later tested for the virus and returned a positive result, a spokeswoman said. All 11 officers are in either home isolation or hotel quarantine and have tested negative for the virus.
Coronavirus spread to a teenager picking up a pizza — so why isn't SA back in lockdown?
South Australia went into a brief but drastic lockdown last week over fears a medi-hotel worker had contracted coronavirus merely by picking up takeaway at a suburban pizza shop. On Thursday a similar scenario was revealed as the likely cause of one of the state's two new COVID-19 cases, both of which are part of a growing cluster. SA Health suspects a year 9 student picked up a pizza from the shop 12 days ago, on Saturday, November 14. Authorities were quizzed about why the girl's case had not triggered a wider lockdown like last week's, and replied that circumstances were different, with SA better placed to respond.
EasyJet says domestic bookings rise as England lockdown ends
British airline easyJet said domestic bookings for December had risen significantly this week compared to last week after news that some COVID-19 restrictions in its home market would be eased. England’s current lockdown bans most international travel, but when it ends on Dec. 2 people will be free to go abroad. Over Christmas, COVID-19 restrictions across the UK will be relaxed to allow families to mix for five days.
Cleaning up: COVID-19 vaccine will not derail disinfectants market, industry exec says
Vaccines against COVID-19 will take some steam out of the market for hygiene products, but demand will remain above pre-pandemic levels as frequent hand-cleaning is here to stay, an executive at Ecolab, a leading firm in the sector, said on Thursday.
Rapid COVID-19 tests provide lifeline for London orchestra
Maxine Kwok, a violinist in London’s oldest symphony orchestra, is delighted that rehearsals have resumed thanks to a rapid, lab-free COVID-19 test that gives the musicians the confidence to work together again. “It was so difficult not to play for months,” Kwok, a member of the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO), said after being tested. “But the moment that we were able to have this kind of testing at this regularity, meaning we could just come back to work and feel comfortable and safe, really made a huge difference for us,” Kwok told Reuters. “I was so thrilled. I can’t describe it really,” she added ahead of a rehearsal attended by around 40 musicians, all masked and still observing social distancing rules.
Exit Strategies
Covid-19: Preparation for NI vaccination programme in December
Plans are under way to allow Northern Ireland's vaccination programme to begin next month, according to the Health Minister Robin Swann. Without regulatory approval any plans at this stage are provisional. According to the Department of Health, the vaccination programme will be on a phased basis, and will run well into 2021. Plans include a public information campaign to encourage take up among the public.
Coronavirus: Limit contacts before Christmas bubbling, executive urges
People should limit their contact with others before Covid-19 restrictions are relaxed at Christmas, Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill has said. Across the UK, three households can mix for five days from 23-27 December. However, Ms O'Neill said it was important to reduce Covid-19 transmission "as low as possible". First Minister Arlene Foster said the next two weeks "are crucial... so that we can all have the safest and the happiest Christmas possible".
Boris Johnson warns of ‘new year national lockdown’ if Covid-19 tier system not enforced
Boris Johnson has warned of a “new year national lockdown” if coronavirus restrictions are not enforced over the winter months. The Prime Minister said the new tiered measures for England, which will see millions of people living under the toughest curbs from next Wednesday, are essential to keep the disease under control. He told a Number 10 news conference that he was “sorry” about the effect the tier system would have. But he said there was an “escape” route from the restrictions, adding: “Your tier is not your destiny.”
Britain will 'spend its way out of crisis' with lockdown savings
Britain’s coronavirus recovery could be better than expected as households spend their pent-up savings having a good time like in “the Roaring Twenties”, experts have said. Official forecasts that the pandemic may cost the UK three years of economic growth may be too gloomy, economists believe. Households have been saving during the crisis and the promise of a vaccine may allow life to return to normal faster than expected.
No ski resorts and no fireworks: How Europeans will spend Christmas this year
Governments across Europe have been holding meetings in recent days to work out how they can allow families to get together at Christmas without risking a dreaded third spike in coronavirus cases. It comes as mini-lockdowns appear to be putting a cap on a second wave of infections that began after a summer of relaxed restrictions in the region. From family “bubbles” to no fireworks, the U.K., France, Italy and now Germany have released further details of what will, and will not, be allowed this Christmas and New Year.
Pandemic weakening more in France than elsewhere in Europe, says PM
France has done a better job of flattening a second wave of COVID-19 infections that some of its European neighbours but it would be premature to talk about an end to the lockdown, Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Thursday. Castex said the 'R' rate that measures the spread was now at 0.65 countrywide, the same level France reached at the end of a three-month confinement in the spring, but that citizens must not lower their guard over the festive holidays.
India Coronavirus: How do you vaccinate a billion people?
When it comes to vaccine making, India is a powerhouse. It runs a massive immunisation programme, makes 60% of the world's vaccines and is home to half a dozen major manufacturers, including Serum Institute of India - the largest in the world. Not surprisingly, there's no lack of ambition when it comes to vaccinating a billion people against Covid-19. India plans to receive and utilise some 500 million doses of vaccines against the disease and immunise up to 250 million people by July next year.
Mike Ryan says there's a 'genuine desire to offer people the hope of Christmas' but risks remain
Easing Covid-19 restrictions in the coming weeks so people can spend Christmas with their families presents Ireland with “genuine dilemmas”, Dr Mike Ryan of the World Health Organization (WHO) has said. “There’s a genuine desire to offer people the hope of a celebration of Christmas and ensure that people have the opportunity to celebrate that to the extent possible with family, but recognising movements and large gatherings can drive transmission,” the Executive Director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme said.
French PM details plan to lift coronavirus lockdown
France aims to lift a nationwide lockdown on December 15, Prime Minister Castex said, with shops authorised to reopen as early as Saturday after weeks of closure.
London pubs to reopen if they serve food as capital placed in tier 2
Pubs in London will be allowed to open next week if they serve food, after the capital was placed in tier 2 of the new restrictions. The move will delight MPs and businesses in London – but is likely to kick off a political row as most cities in the North and Midlands face the harshest tier 3 curbs. Success in curbing Covid-19 infections in Liverpool means it will drop into tier 2, but Manchester faces the toughest restrictions after lockdown ends on 2 December – shutting pubs and restaurants except for takeaways.
As France eases lockdown, ski resorts left out in the cold
Megeve, in the foothills of Mont Blanc, was gearing up to welcome back skiers before Christmas after a COVID-19 lockdown was eased. But France’s government - while allowing cinemas, museums and theatres to reopen from Dec. 15 - says its ski slopes must stay off limits until 2021, leaving those who make their living in the Alpine village frustrated and, in some cases, perplexed.
Most of England to enter two toughest tiers when lockdown is lifted
The majority of England will enter the two toughest tiers of Covid restrictions from next week, ministers are set to announce, amid signs of a growing parliamentary rebellion and fears that the measures could remain unchanged until spring. On Thursday Matt Hancock, the health secretary, is expected to say that most of the country will be placed into tiers 2 or 3, which imply significant restrictions on hospitality, after the national lockdown ends on 2 December. As ministers grappled with the backlash, a further 696 coronavirus deaths were announced on Wednesday – the highest UK daily total since 5 May. Lockdown-sceptic Tory MPs have seized on a newly published forecast from the independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), which assumes months more of struggle to get to grips with the virus.
Partisan Exits
Here's how to tackle the Covid-19 anti-vaxxers
If we are talking to someone who’s uncertain about the vaccine we should try to be empathetic, actively listen, and focus on the benefits of taking it. And rather than contradicting them, we should suggest places where they can find out additional information. If people feel respected and trusted they are more likely to listen; and if they can find out on their own, then they will have time to process and engage with it without feeling defensive. And there are broader behavioural science tactics that the government can use to improve the uptake of vaccines, including making it seem like the default and showing it to be a social norm. This means using language that inherently assumes everyone will take the vaccines, making people feel they are actively opting out, rather than opting in.
Lockdown tiers will mean hospitality ‘never recovers’
The hospitality industry has responded with fierce criticism of the new tier system, warning that it will wipe out billions of pounds of trading and lead to huge numbers of job losses.The new tier
Midwestern Governors Seek More Federal Covid-19 Aid for Businesses
A growing number of governors are calling for another round of coronavirus-relief legislation from Washington, saying they are unable to provide additional funds to small businesses amid budget shortfalls. The issue is gaining urgency as money from federal relief passed earlier this year runs out ahead of a year-end deadline to spend it. States have funneled hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid into everything from personal-protective equipment and hazard pay for front-line health-care workers to schools and food banks.
Italy’s doctors face new threat: Conspiracy theories
From “heroes” to “terrorists.” In Italy, the doctors and nurses lauded for their exhausting, dangerous work in the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic are facing a new challenge: conspiracy theories accusing them of faking the emergency. In one social media video, two women tell the camera they are in the emergency room at Sacco Hospital in Milan, one of the hardest-hit cities in Italy. They want to prove that the ER is empty, contrary to what is being reported by journalists, who have sounded the alarm about a drastic uptick in cases. The women go inside the building, showing viewers a calm, empty interior. Next, they walk back outside to demonstrate there are no ambulances lined up. Doctors, journalists, and politicians have been lying, they say. “They are terrorists.”
Never mind what antivaxxers say — just watch what they do
Antivax talk is worrying. However, it is only talk. Social media has made this the wordiest era in history. Sharing conspiracy theories online is excitingly subversive, making people feel they have taken the “red pill” and seen the truth. More telling, though, is their behaviour. In real life, when things get serious, almost everyone chooses vaccination. “If Covid-19 vaccines are found to be efficacious and safe and widely available, my guess is that a very large proportion of people will ultimately take them,” says Vish Viswanath of Harvard’s School of Public Health. Even French behaviour is reassuring. Vaccination rates here have been rising: 98.6 per cent of babies born in early 2018 received the “hexavalent” vaccine that protects against six illnesses, including hepatitis B and tetanus. True, it’s compulsory, but parents still have to bring in their kids. Even in the US, where parents can more easily refuse vaccinations, only about 7 per cent or fewer adamantly oppose them, depending on the vaccine, says Viswanath. He adds: “This small group gets a disproportionate share of attention.”
Top US court blocks NY coronavirus limits on houses of worship
As coronavirus cases surge again nationwide, the United States Supreme Court has barred New York from enforcing certain limits on attendance at churches and synagogues in areas designated as hard hit by the virus. The justices split 5-4 for Wednesday’s vote, with new Justice Amy Coney Barrett in the majority. It was the conservative’s first publicly discernible vote as a justice. The court’s three liberal justices and Chief Justice John Roberts dissented.
Wetherspoon boss accuses UK government of 'stealth' lockdown
The boss of JD Wetherspoon has accused the government of introducing a “stealth” lockdown in England through its tough new tier system. Tim Martin, the founder and chair of the pub chain, said almost half of his pubs would be forced to remain shut under new rules that come into force when lockdown ends on 2 December. “The company has campaigned for pubs to revert to the rules agreed between the pub industry, civil servants, local authorities and health officials, which were introduced when pubs reopened in July,” Martin said in a statement emailed to media.
Continued Lockdown
This Lockdown, England’s Theaters Know What to Do Online
The first coronavirus shutdown caught playhouses unawares, but they learned lessons that stood them in good stead when the shutters came down again. What a difference a lockdown makes. By way of proof, consider the terrific lineup of actresses brought together for “Little Wars,” an imaginative if overly arch play by the American writer Stephen Carl McCasland that is streaming online through Dec. 3. Its run finishes the day after England’s second coronavirus shutdown is scheduled to be lifted, at which point theaters in most regions will, with luck, be open again. Whereas streaming prospects during the first lockdown relied largely on recordings from theaters’ archives, the preference now is for material fashioned for the strange era in which we find ourselves. The digital premiere of “Little Wars” testifies to the abundance of talented performers who can be drawn upon during the pandemic, and to their desire to practice their craft against difficult odds. I’m not sure McCasland’s conceit would amount to as much as it does without the collectively hefty presence of such actresses as Linda Bassett, Juliet Stevenson and Sophie Thompson, all established theatrical names here.
Students may be compensated for lost teaching during UK lockdown
Students could be awarded financial compensation for lost teaching time during the Covid-19 lockdown after the higher education complaints watchdog told an institution to pay £1,000 to an international student. However, the National Union of Students (NUS) described the process for dealing with complaints about university disruption during the pandemic as “farcical” and “inadequate” as the Office of the Independent Adjudicator published details of a handful of individual cases. About 200 complaints have been submitted to the ombudsman so far. Many more are expected, as students can only take their case to the OIA if they have exhausted the internal complaints procedure at their own university. The NUS says the system must be simplified to speed up redress.
Covid tiers: large parts of England in tier 3 restrictions after lockdown
Significant sections of England including much of the north and Midlands have been placed in the top tier of new coronavirus restrictions, the government has announced, potentially putting ministers on a collision course with Conservative MPs. Only three areas – Cornwall, the Isle of Wight and Isles of Scilly – are in the lowest level of the new rules, which come into force when the England-wide lockdown ends on 2 December and are intended to stay in force to the spring. This means that, by population, almost 99% of England will be in the top two tiers.
Coronavirus pandemic: Germany seeks EU deal to close ski resorts
Germany is seeking an agreement with EU countries to keep ski resorts closed until early January, in an attempt to curb the spread of coronavirus. Chancellor Angela Merkel told parliament that efforts were being made to reach a Europe-wide decision. Italy and France have expressed support for a co-ordinated approach. But Austria has voiced concern. Some of the early European coronavirus hotspots were at ski resorts, helping spread infections across the continent. Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that Europe faced a "tough" six months , amid mounting cases. Renewed restrictions have led to a reduction in new infections in some countries, but there are fears the pandemic could worsen over the winter.
Merkel extends Germany’s partial lockdown until Christmas
Germany will extend its current measures to curb the coronavirus spread until 20 December. Unless there is a dramatic drop in infections, they will likely go through early January, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday. Merkel said the measures introduced in early November, including limits on private gatherings and the closure of restaurants, leisure and cultural facilities, cannot be lifted given current infection rates. The number of new infections in Germany has plateaued over the past two weeks, with October's exponential growth brought to a halt. "The steeply rising curve has become a flat one, but this is only a partial success. We can by no means be satisfied," she said.
Germany Extends Strict Lockdown Measures With Eye Towards Reopening Ski Slopes
Germany is extending its current coronavirus lockdown measures through mid-December, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced this week. The country will remain under measures introduced in early November that include limits on private gatherings and it will keep bars, restaurants, and museums closed. Residents will be given some leeway around the Christmas holiday. Members of one household can meet up with 10 people between Dec. 23 to Jan. 1. Children under 14 are exempt. The overall restrictions are set to continue until Dec. 20, but it's expected, with the continued surge in infections, that these rules will stay in place until early January, Merkel said.
Greece extends nationwide coronavirus lockdown by a week
Greece will extend its nationwide lockdown by a week until Dec. 7 as COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the country, a government spokesman said on Thursday. An increase in infections since October has forced the government to impose Greece’s second national shutdown since the pandemic began. The country has registered a total of 97,288 COVID-19 cases and 1,902 deaths during the pandemic, with northern Greece hardest hit and hospitals operating at almost full capacity.
Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol in 'very high' tier 3
Greater Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol will fall under “very high” Tier 3 restrictions when England’s national lockdown ends in six days’ time, the government has announced. It follows Boris Johnson’s announcement earlier this week that while nationwide restrictions will expire on 2 December, a tougher version of the regional tiered system will be re-introduced. Other areas that will be placed under the highest levels of coronavirus restrictions are vast areas of the north-east, including Middlesbrough, Darlington, Newcastle upon Tyne and County Durham.
Angela Merkel extends Germany’s Covid lockdown through Christmas
Germany’s national shutdown is likely to extend into New Year to dampen the coronavirus pandemic, Chancellor Angela Merkel has said. "Given the high number of infections, we assume that the restrictions which are in place before Christmas will continue to be valid until the start of January, certainly for most parts of Germany," Ms Merkel told parliament on Thursday. She added the increase in coronavirus cases was still much too high and the number of deaths a reason for concern. The country embarked on a so-called "wave-breaker" shutdown on November 2 - shutting restaurants, bars and, leisure facilities, but schools, hair salons and shops remained open.
Greece extends nationwide coronavirus lockdown
Greece will extend its nationwide lockdown until Dec. 7 as COVID-19 cases continued to surge across the country, government spokesman Stelios Petsas said on Thursday. Greece has registered a total of 97,288 COVID-19 cases and 1,902 deaths, with the hardest hit area being northern Greece. Hospitals are operating at almost full capacity, according to health ministry data.
New lockdowns crush French, German consumer confidence in November
French and German consumer confidence plunged in November as new coronavirus restrictions crushed any prospect of a quick return to normal in the euro zone’s two biggest economies, data published on Thursday showed. Restaurants, bars, hotels and entertainment venues have had to shutter up this month in both countries under new restrictions to contain a new wave of COVID-19 infections. While retail shops have remained open in Germany, non-essential stores had to close in France. They will be able to reopen on Saturday under strict sanitary protocols.
UK pub operators report losses, job cuts as lockdown pain builds
British pub operators Mitchells & Butlers and Fuller, Smith & Turner said on Thursday they had cut around 1,650 jobs and suffered millions in financial losses as the hospitality industry reels from new lockdowns. The British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) has warned of thousands, if not tens of thousands, of job losses if the government does not give pubs more freedom or grants to help them cover fixed costs in order to survive winter. M&B, which owns All Bar One, Harvester and Browns, said it had cut 1,300 jobs. Smaller rival Fuller’s said its total number of employees had been reduced by 20% following about 350 job cuts, the sale of its pizza chain The Stable and through natural attrition. The companies said they have enough resources to operate in the foreseeable future, but the downside scenarios cast doubts about their ability to continue as going concerns.
Share of UK workers on furlough at highest since June, as second lockdown hits
The proportion of British workers on furlough has jumped to its highest level since late June following the introduction of a temporary four-week lockdown across England to reverse a second wave of COVID cases, official figures showed on Thursday. Businesses reported that 15% of staff on average were on furlough between Nov. 2 and Nov. 15, up from 9% in the previous survey which covered the second half of October, the Office for National Statistics said.
Germany's second partial lockdown weighs on consumer morale
German consumer morale fell further heading into December as a partial lockdown to curb a second coronavirus wave in Europe’s largest economy hit households’ income expectations as well as their willingness to buy, a survey showed on Thursday. The GfK institute said its consumer sentiment index, based on a survey of around 2,000 Germans, dropped to -6.7 in November from a revised -3.2 in the previous month. The reading missed a Reuters forecast for a narrower drop to -5.0. GfK consumer expert Rolf Buerkl said although retail shops had been kept open so far, the closure of restaurants, bars, hotels and entertainment venues since Nov. 2 clouded consumers’ mood.
Scientific Viewpoint
Covaxx inks supply deals worth $2.8B in lead-up to coronavirus vaccine midstage trials
While some of the leading players in the race for a COVID-19 vaccine are racing toward the finish line, a range of smaller challengers is still hoping to carve out a market niche in the coming months. One of those, New York's Covaxx, is rolling out its first swath of supply deals—and touting its shot's logistics advantage. Covaxx has inked a trio of deals with three South American nations to provide up to 140 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine at a price tag of $2.8 billion as the drugmaker prepares to enter phase 2/3 testing later this year. Brazil, Ecuador and Peru have all signed on to receive Covaxx's shot, dubbed UB-612, pending regulatory approval. Covaxx is ramping up production to produce 100 million doses in the first half of 2021 and then make a massive leap to churn out 1 billion doses by the end of the year.
Britain asks regulator to assess Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine
Britain on Friday asked its medicine regulator to assess Oxford University and AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate for temporary supply, a step towards beginning a roll-out before the end of the year. AstraZeneca expects 4 million doses to be available in Britain by the end of next month, and health minister Hancock is targeting the roll-out to begin before Christmas. “We have formally asked the regulator to assess the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, to understand the data and determine whether it meets rigorous safety standards,” Hancock said in a statement. “This letter is an important step towards deploying a vaccine as quickly as safely possible.”
Volunteers discuss side-effects after receiving Moderna and Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines
Volunteers who received two of the potential coronavirus vaccines in the US have spoken out about the side-effects they experienced following their jabs. This month, Moderna and Pfizer announced their vaccine candidates had been tested to 94.5 per cent and 95 per cent efficacy respectively. Jennifer Haller, who was injected on 16 March with Moderna’s experimental vaccine in Seattle, told WVPI-TV she only experienced mild side-effects as a result. "I had two doses of the vaccine four weeks apart,” she told the broadcaster. “Each time my arm was pretty sore the next day but besides that I personally didn't experience any other side effects." Ms Haller was the first person to receive a shot of Moderna’s candidate at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute as part of the first human trial of a vaccine to prevent the virus.
AstraZeneca CEO says co likely to run new global trial on COVID-19 vaccine - Bloomberg News
AstraZeneca is likely to run an additional global trial to assess the efficacy of its COVID-19 vaccine, its chief executive Pascal Soriot was quoted as saying on Thursday after questions over the results from its late-stage study. Instead of adding the trial arm to an ongoing U.S. process, a new study would be run to evaluate a lower dosage that performed better than a full amount in AstraZeneca's studies, Soriot was quoted as saying in a Bloomberg News report. "Now that we've found what looks like a better efficacy we have to validate this, so we need to do an additional study," Soriot was quoted as saying.
Africa CDC sees COVID-19 vaccinations in 2nd quarter of 2021
Vaccinations against COVID-19 in Africa might not start until the second quarter of next year, the continent's top public health official said Thursday, adding that it will be “extremely dangerous” if more developed parts of the world vaccinate themselves and then restrict travel to people with proof of a vaccination. The director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, John Nkengasong, told reporters that “I have seen how Africa is neglected when drugs are available” in the past. And he warned that “it’s clear the second wave (of infections) is here on the continent” of 1.3 billion people. Africa last week surpassed 2 million confirmed coronavirus infections.
AstraZeneca will likely re-test its COVID-19 vaccine, CEO says after admitting an error in the first trial that led to skewed results
The UK pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is likely to run a second global trial to assess its COVID-19 vaccine's efficacy, its CEO told Bloomberg News on Thursday. AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford announced Monday that preliminary results indicated their two-dose vaccine could be up to 90% effective at preventing COVID-19. But the team later said an error in the trial left some participants with half-doses instead of full doses. Experts said that error cast doubt on the validity of the efficacy rate and warranted further study.
Could Covid-19 Cause Your Teeth to Fall Out?
Earlier this month, Farah Khemili popped a wintergreen breath mint in her mouth and noticed a strange sensation: a bottom tooth wiggling against her tongue. Ms. Khemili, 43, of Voorheesville, N.Y., had never lost an adult tooth. She touched the tooth to confirm it was loose, initially thinking the problem might be the mint. The next day, the tooth flew out of her mouth and into her hand. There was neither blood nor pain. Ms. Khemili survived a bout with Covid-19 this spring, and has joined an online support group as she has endured a slew of symptoms experienced by many other “long haulers”: brain fog, muscle aches and nerve pain.
AstraZeneca manufacturing error clouds vaccine study results
AstraZeneca and Oxford University have acknowledged a manufacturing error that is raising questions about preliminary results of their experimental COVID-19 vaccine. A statement describing the error on Wednesday came days after the company and the university described the shots as "highly effective" and made no mention of why some study participants didn't receive as much vaccine in the first of two shots as expected. In a surprise, the group of volunteers that got a lower dose seemed to be much better protected than the volunteers who got two full doses. In the low-dose group, AstraZeneca said, the vaccine appeared to be 90 per cent effective. In the group that got two full doses, the vaccine appeared to be 62 per cent effective. Combined, the drugmakers said the vaccine appeared to be 70 per cent effective.
Covid-19: African Union in talks with China and Russia over vaccine |
The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the African Union announced they have been in talks with China and Russia over the possibility of vaccine partnerships to ensure that Africa is not left behind when vaccines become available. This was disclosed by John Nkengasong, Africa CDC Chief, at the Bloomberg Invest Africa online conference.
Coronavirus lockdowns contributing to faster deterioration in dementia patients, research finds
Forced into lockdowns to prevent the spread of coronavirus, families of people with dementia have been left heartbroken that being isolated appears to have contributed to the deterioration of their loved ones. For Verity Jausnik, coronavirus restrictions meant she was unable to spend quality time with her elderly mother, Vivien "Viv" Russell. Ms Russell, 72, has lived with early onset dementia for a decade but an accelerated deterioration of her condition during the lockdown of her aged care home has meant she has lost her ability to remember her family, particularly her grandchildren.
Scientists ask to see evidence behind relaxing UK's Christmas Covid rules
Ministers are facing calls to publish scientific advice on the relaxing of Covid-19 rules over Christmas amid warnings that a single infectious guest could infect a third of those at a household gathering. Under rules revealed by the prime minister on Tuesday, up to three households can form a “bubble” for five days over Christmas. It prompted some scientists to speak out, warning that mixing will inevitably lead to an increase in infections come the new year, leading to deaths. Some said the government should have put greater emphasis on the dangers and potential control measures. Now experts have called for the government to release advice given by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage).
Doubts raised over AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine data
Disquiet is growing over the way that Oxford university and AstraZeneca have handled the early readout from trials of their coronavirus vaccine, which much of the developing world may rely on to emerge from the pandemic. The results were hailed a success for showing an average efficacy of 70 per cent — a figure reached by pooling the results from cohorts on two different dosing regimens. One set of participants received two identical doses a month apart, while the other group received a half-dose, and then a full dose. The efficacy for the first, larger group was 62 per cent. In the second subgroup, it was 90 per cent. It has emerged that administration of the half-dose started with a mistake. It was then given to a smaller number of participants than those who received two full doses, making the discovery of its greater effectiveness look like a lucky break.
Untested, untraced: how three-quarters of Covid contacts slip through cracks
Statistics show how ‘world-beating’ tracing scheme fails to follow up on Covid-19 cases at every step. It was in May that Boris Johnson promised the UK would have a “world-beating” test-and-trace operation in place within weeks. “Our test-and-trace system is as good as, or better than, any other system anywhere in the world,” he doubled down in July. But nearly half a year after the system was established, thousands of Covid-19 cases still go undetected each week, leaving severe lockdown restrictions as the only option to prevent hospitals across the country from collapsing. The Guardian has analysed the latest figures on the performance of test and trace to show how people at risk of spreading the virus go missing at every step of the process.
NHS Test and Trace misses 40% of contacts in a week - just above all-time low
The widely criticised NHS Test and Trace system is still failing to reach two in five coronavirus contacts and remains near a record low, new figures show. Of the 347,575 close contacts of someone who has tested positive in the week to November 18, only 60.3% were reached and told to self-isolate. This is down slightly from 60.7% in the previous week, and is also just above the all-time low of 60.1% for the week to October 14. It is well below the 80% target. Positive Covid-19 cases in England fell 9% in the latest week, the first week-on-week drop since the summer. For cases managed by local health protection teams, 99.0% of contacts were reached and asked to self-isolate in the week to November 18.
Antibody testing likely undercounts the number of people who have had COVID-19: More than 25% of infected health care workers had NO signs of it in their blood work 60 days later
CDC researchers found that 6% of more than 3,000 health care workers they tested had antibodies to coronavirus. Within 60 days, when they were retested 28% of the health care workers had antibody levels so low that they could no longer be detected. Researchers warn this suggests that using antibody testing likely undercounts how many people have had COVID-19 and that plasma has a short shelf life
Analysis: Questions over AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine data risk delaying approval
Days after grabbing headlines with its COVID-19 “vaccine for the world”, AstraZeneca is facing tricky questions about its success rate that some experts say could hinder its chances of getting speedy U.S. and EU regulatory approval. Several scientists have raised doubts about the robustness of results showing the shot was 90% effective in a sub-group of trial participants who, by error initially, received a half dose followed by a full dose. “All we have to go on is a limited data release,” said Peter Openshaw, a professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London. “We have to wait for the full data and to see how the regulators view the results,” he said, adding that U.S. and European regulators “might possibly take a different view” from each other.
Feds on COVID-19 mRNA vaccine distribution: Pfizer's dry runs predict a 'very doable process'
What will it take to distribute the first 6.4 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 mRNA vaccine, if all goes according to plan and they ship in mid-December? Alex Azar, secretary of health and human services, acknowledged during a press conference Tuesday that the logistics—which include the need for ultra-cold storage—will be far from easy. But Azar and two other top officials running the government’s Operation Warp Speed effort to speed COVID-19 vaccine distribution did their best to boost the public’s confidence. The FDA has scheduled a meeting to review Pfizer’s vaccine on December 10, and if it’s authorized as expected, it could start shipping within 24 hours, Azar said. In addition to speeding the vaccine to healthcare workers, “CVS Health has said they expect to be vaccinating residents of nursing homes, one of the top priority groups, within 48 hours of FDA authorization,” he said.
CureVac ties up Wacker to churn out more than 100M doses of mRNA coronavirus vaccine
Riding a wave of interest in mRNA-based vaccines, Germany's CureVac is looking to rapidly drive manufacturing of its own shot candidate. After announcing a plan to bring more partners on board, CureVac has knotted the first of those deals to the tune of 100 million doses. CureVac has tagged German chemical company Wacker to churn out drug substance for its mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine with the goal of adding 100 million doses per year to the biotech's stockpile, the partners said this week. Wacker will produce those doses at its Amsterdam facility starting in the first half of 2021, the companies said. The firm plans to "ramp up" its manufacturing capacity to meet that demand and is prepared to expand in the future to add more doses.
Less than 10% of Americans had COVID by September, study finds
Large-scale seroprevalence studies conducted over the summer show that, through September, less than 1 in 10 of Americans had evidence of previous coronavirus infection, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported yesterday in JAMA Internal Medicine. In the nationwide seroprevalence survey, researchers from the CDC's COVID-19 Response Team tested blood serum samples from people in 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico during four periods from July through September, looking for the presence of detectable antibodies for SARS-CoV-2, (the virus that causes COVID-19.
What the biopharma industry is doing to build confidence in Covid-19 vaccines
Over the last few weeks, the United States has surpassed 100,000 Covid-19 cases a day and reached the staggering milestone of 10 million cases. This is both sobering and humbling. While there has been encouraging news about progress in the development of Covid-19 vaccines, making sure that Americans have confidence in these vaccines is crucial to helping bend the curve of infections and getting us back to some semblance of normalcy. According to researchers writing in The Lancet, we will need a majority of Americans to have the confidence to get vaccinated for Covid-19 vaccines to be effective in moving the U.S. toward population-level control of viral spread. As Anthony Fauci has noted, “If you have a vaccine that is highly effective and not enough people get vaccinated, you’re not going to realize the full, important effect of having a vaccine.”
Studies find no COVID benefit for preventive hydroxychloroquine or for convalescent plasma
Two studies published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine found that two once-promising but largely discredited COVID-19 treatments —hydroxychloroquine and convalescent plasma—didn't prevent infection or lead to clinical improvement. 'No compelling data' - The first study, an open-label trial led by researchers at Hospital Germans Trias i Pujol in Barcelona, Spain, involved randomly assigning clusters of healthy adults with high-risk, close-contact exposure to a COVID-19 patient to either 800 milligrams (mg) of hydroxychloroquine followed by 6 days of 400-mg doses or usual care.
Coronavirus Resurgence
In Italy’s South, War Zone Doctors Are Called to the Rescue Amid Covid-19 Upsurge
Italy’s troubled south, which was largely spared earlier on in the pandemic, is now struggling to cope—so much so that the government is turning for help to a medical charity used to working in war zones. The Milan-based nongovernmental organization Emergency is best known for assisting war victims in countries such as Afghanistan, or Ebola patients in Sierra Leone. It has now agreed to help confront the crisis in Italy’s poorest region of Calabria, where the dysfunctional health care system is ill-equipped to deal with a viral outbreak.
Coronavirus: South Korea faces a third wave
South Korea on Thursday reported 583 new cases of Covid-19 infection, the highest daily number in eight months, and which authorities now call “the third wave” of the epidemic. The majority of new infections were recorded in Seoul (208 new infections), and in the surrounding province of Gyeonngi (177 new cases), according to data from the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).
South Korea virus cases hit highest level since March
South Korea reported its highest daily number of coronavirus cases since March on Thursday, with a surge of new infections sparking fears of a major third wave. Officials announced 583 new cases after several weeks of fresh infections ranging between around 100 and 300. The latest cases have mostly been clusters at offices, schools, gyms and small gatherings in the greater Seoul area, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said.
Coronavirus infections levelling during England lockdown
Coronavirus infection rates in England are continuing to show signs of levelling off - but the picture across the UK is mixed, according to data from the Office for National Statistics. In Wales and Northern Ireland, infections have been decreasing in recent weeks - but in Scotland, they seem to be rising. After lockdown ends in England, most areas face tougher tier restrictions
California, Texas set nationwide records for new coronavirus infections in a single day
The United States’ two largest states broke the nationwide record for most new coronavirus infections reported in a single day on Wednesday, with California tallying 18,350 and Texas nearly 16,100 — around 3,000 and 1,000 cases more than the previous high, respectively. The new records come amid a trio of surging metrics: infections, virus hospitalizations and deaths are all on the rise across the country. Wednesday was the 33rd consecutive day that the United States set a new record in its seven-day average of reported cases, according to data compiled and analyzed by The Washington Post. Nearly 90,000 people are currently in hospitals with covid-19, another record.
Covid: Pakistan cricket squad quarantined after positive tests in New Zealand
Six members of Pakistan's cricket team have tested positive for Covid-19 while on tour in New Zealand. All six have been moved from managed isolation into quarantine and the team's exemption from social-distancing rules for training has been suspended. Health officials said all 53 members of the visiting squad were tested on arrival in the country. New Zealand, widely praised for its pandemic response, had previously seen a total of 2,040 cases and 25 deaths.
Britain records 17,555 new Coronavirus cases, 498 new deaths
Britain recorded 17,555 new coronavirus cases on Thursday and 498 new deaths within 28 days of a positive COVID-19 test, official data showed. Both measures were lower than on Wednesday, when there were 18,213 new coronavirus infections and 696 deaths.
Pace of global COVID-19 rise slows, but deaths still climbing
The global surge in COVID-19 cases slowed a bit last week for the first time in months, though deaths from the virus continued a steady rise, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in its latest weekly situation report. Led mainly by continued levels in the Americas and Europe, the pandemic total topped 60 million cases. In the United States, hospitalizations continued to surge, with 88,080 Americans currently receiving inpatient care for COVID-19, up from 85,836 the day before, according to the COVID-19 Tracking Project.
A ‘bad case of déjà vu’: New Jersey hospitals brace for Covid-19 surge, but hope this time will be different
In New Jersey, doctors and nurses say that they feel better prepared to deal with the coronavirus than in the spring, when so little was known about it. Because it was hit so hard in the first wave, New Jersey’s per capita death rate remains the highest in the country. But the recent numbers are discouraging. On Sunday, the state reported 3,968 new cases of the coronavirus, more than double the 1,743 new cases reported on Nov. 1. And the state’s hospitalization rates have tripled in the past month, from 732 on Oct. 17 to 2,446 on Nov. 17. While they are far short of the 8,000 who were hospitalized in April, as the days shorten, the temperature drops, flu season deepens, and the holidays loom, many depleted frontline workers are preparing for another season of difficulty.
New Lockdown
Sunday lockdown to return in Dehradun from this week
Uttarakhand's Dehradun district will be locked down on Sundays from this week to contain the spread of COVID-19. Only shops selling essentials like medicines, fruits, vegetables, milk, petrol pumps and LPG agencies will be allowed to open. Weekend lockdown had been temporarily suspended in the district due to the festive season. COVID-19 cases have been on the rise in Uttarakhand with Dehradun district reporting the maximum number of infections in the state for several weeks.
No lockdown on weekends or border sealing: Minister
In Uttar Pradesh, State health minister Jai Pratap Singh ruled out night and weekend lockdowns or sealing of border areas in the state. Target and random sampling, he added, will continue in vulnerable areas. “There is no question of a night or weekend lockdown, or any steps towards sealing of borders. All rules of unlock will continue to apply. We will, however, continue with target sampling in designated areas, such as urban slums, jails, sweet shops, malls and (other) high-risk areas. Random testing at the borders will also continue,” Singh said.
Covid-19: Should Indian states consider lockdowns again – even as a last resort?
If there is a Covid-19 surge, can a lockdown be far behind? As a fresh wave of the coronavirus sweeps through North and West India again, speculation is rife that some states will once again go back to the blunt-force tool that people across the world have to come to associate with the virus: lockdowns. The Delhi government has shot down the possibility of a fresh lockdown, despite cases spiking and rumours in the city markets. But Maharashtra has kept the door open. A decision, deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar said, would be taken shortly. Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh, on the other hand, have already clamped down with night curfews and weekend lockdowns.