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"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 16th Dec 2020

News Highlights

Child marriage on the rise as Covid-inflicted poverty hammers Asia and Africa

Of the many indirect effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, a rise in child marriage is among the most disturbing. The United Nations warns that thirteen million girls under the age of eighteen could be forced into marriage because of economic hardship in their families, particularly in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The news threatens to undo decades of progress in combating child marriage.

State aid: 2.7 billion people missed out, Oxfam warns

Oxfam has said that 2.7bn people worldwide have not received financial aid to support them during the economic fallout from Covid-19. It warns that poverty could rise significantly in almost every country for the first time in decades unless action is taken, with major disparities between high-income and low and middle income countries - the former accounting for the overwhelming majority of capital raised to cope with the financial devastation of the Covid-19 crisis.

Mutated strain spreading in the UK?

The UK is witnessing a new variant of the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19. Scientists are working to ascertain whether or not this new strain's rapid transmission is linked to mutations detected. The spread of what has been dubbed 'VUI - 202012/01' has forced many areas of southern England, including London, into the most restrictive tier of lockdown restrictions.

Many countries tightening restrictions amidst cases surging

Numerous nations are upping the ante on measures to contain Covid-19 cases. Strict lockdown measures are to be enforced over the Christmas period in the Czech Republic and the Netherlands. South Korea has warned of potentially tighter measures if existing ones are not followed. And South Africa has imposed even more stringent restrictions to keep the novel coronavirus in check.

Lockdown Exit
New Covid-19 case in Western Australia as a teenager catches virus from his younger brother after entering hotel quarantine to take care of his sibling
An Australian teenager has tested positive for COVID-19 after entering hotel quarantine to take care of his younger brother. The 18-year-old boy went into quarantine at a Perth hotel to look after his younger brother, who had returned to Western Australia from overseas. The younger brother, who is under 18, tested positive for COVID-19 before the older brother also tested positive to the disease on Monday. 'The brothers remain in hotel quarantine,' a WA Health spokeswoman said on Tuesday.
Parisians enjoy taste of lockdown freedom ahead of Christmas, while hospitality workers protest bar and restaurant ban set to last until January 20
Parisians last night enjoyed a taste of lockdown freedom ahead of Christmas, while hospitality workers took to the streets in protest at a festive season ban. In a Christmas Village at Hotel de Ville in the heart of the French capital last night, masked revellers were seen enjoying fairground rides and market stalls. But while some enjoyed the festivities, just a short distance away, near the Arc de Triomphe, face mask-wearing police officers protested their working conditions. Hospitality workers also protested a possible ban on reopening bars and restaurants until January 20. It comes as France plans to ease measures from its second national lockdown today.
Child marriage revived across Asia and Africa as pandemic deepens poverty
Many countries had made progress against traditional and transactional marriages of girls in recent decades, but the economic havoc amid COVID-19 has caused significant backsliding. The United Nations estimates that hardships resulting from COVID-19 will drive 13 million more girls to marry before the age of 18. Though most such marriages take place in secret, Save the Children estimates that this year alone nearly half a million more girls under 18 are at risk of being married off worldwide — most in Africa and Asia, but also in the Middle East. One aid organization said staffers in a remote corner of Sierra Leone overheard a relative offering up a girl as young as 8 for marriage earlier this year. When chastised, the grandmother later denied doing so.
Covid-19: New Zealand and Australia agree on quarantine-free travel bubble
New Zealand has agreed to a quarantine-free travel bubble with Australia "in principle". The country's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said trips under the agreement could begin early next year. However, the much-anticipated deal will depend on the Covid-19 situation in both counties remaining as it is now.
Auckland Council staff struggling with post-lockdown stress at work - report
A new report shows Auckland Council staff have been struggling with the pressures of the post-lockdown work environment, with concerns about their stress levels and wellbeing. The report's findings were taken from two staff surveys, conducted in May and September. "The aim of each was to highlight issues and trends in wellbeing, especially given the change for many staff to more remote working," it said. The report showed the stress staff are feeling in relation to Covid-19 has increased, while their feelings of health and wellbeing have decreased
Prepare for a short lockdown while on holiday, pack a 'Covid kit', Government warns
Holidaymakers in New Zealand are being asked to pack a “Covid kit” and stay put at their campgrounds if Covid-19 emerges during the summer break. The Government has assembled a Covid-19 resurgence plan aimed at giving the country an unrestricted holiday, as Britons arrange “Christmas bubbles”, the Netherlands and Germany enter lockdowns, and the pandemic death toll in the United States eclipses 300,000 people. The resurgence plan largely resembles the existing response, with loosely mapped out summer scenarios providing some guide to travellers about how to respond to Covid-19 cases. Holidaymakers may be asked to return home if an alert level change occurs, and events may be cancelled.
Europe wanted to keep schools open this winter. Coronavirus surges have disrupted those plans.
Surging coronavirus outbreaks in a number of nations are forcing governments to close schools, despite initial promises to keep them open this winter. The latest country to change course is Germany, where most schools will move to distance learning Wednesday as part of tougher new lockdown rules. Widening outbreaks have also triggered the closure of schools in the Netherlands and in Asia, where the South Korean capital, Seoul, opted for similar measures this week.
Covid safety advice at Christmas ‘set to be significantly strengthened’
Guidance from the Government about how to safely celebrate Christmas across the UK is expected to be strengthened, it has been reported. Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove held talks with leaders of the four devolved nations on Tuesday night about the plans to ease coronavirus restrictions over a four day period for Christmas. And following the discussions the Government’s advice on how to safely celebrate over the festive period will be “significantly strengthened” in the coming days, reports BBC News. However, the broadcaster added that plans to allow up to three households to form a bubble from December 23 to 27 is not expected to change.
Northern Ireland hospital treating patients in parked ambulances
Patients were being treated in the back of ambulances in a Northern Ireland hospital car park on Tuesday, a health official said, a day after a warning that COVID-19 was putting healthcare under “unbearable pressures”. The British-run region has been in and out of some form of lockdown since mid-October when it was one of Europe’s worst COVID-19 hotbeds. The most recent curbs were lifted last week, when all shops, restaurants and pubs serving food reopened.
Mental health tech startups fetch record investments with COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has put the spotlight on mental health tech startups, globally marking a record year for venture capital investment in the sector, according to data firm PitchBook. PitchBook data showed 146 deals raked in nearly $1.6 billion in venture capital investments as of Dec. 10. Last year the total was $893 million from 111 deals. A decade ago there were only 3 deals, worth $6.6 million. The investments come as employers are increasingly seen as customers for these startups. Consulting firm McKinsey reported last month that 52% of companies offer mental-health and bereavement counseling.
Exit Strategies
U.S. Government Begins Covid-19 Education Campaign
The U.S. government is hurrying to start a messaging campaign on social media, TV and radio this week to motivate the public to get inoculated with Covid-19 vaccines once supply increases and they become available, likely next year. The $250 million effort aims to increase vaccine acceptance by focusing on the science behind Covid-19 vaccines, including one from Pfizer and BioNTech. It is the government's second try after officials scrapped a previous one that sought to pair doctors with celebrities. Set to run through August, the aim is to appeal to ethnic and minority groups, older Americans and others who may be skeptical about taking the shots, said Mark Weber, deputy assistant secretary for public affairs at Health and Human Services
US vaccinations ramp up as feds weigh 2nd COVID-19 shot
Hundreds more U.S. hospitals will begin vaccinating their workers Tuesday as federal health officials review a second COVID-19 shot needed to boost the nation’s largest vaccination campaign. Packed in dry ice to stay at ultra-frozen temperatures, shipments of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine are set to arrive at 400 additional hospitals and other distribution sites, one day after the nation’s death toll surpassed a staggering 300,000. The first 3 million shots are being strictly rationed to front-line health workers and elder-care patients, with hundreds of millions more shots needed over the coming months to protect most Americans. The FDA is set to publish its analysis of a second rigorously studied COVID-19 vaccine, which could soon join Pfizer-BioNTech’s in the fight against the pandemic. If FDA advisers give it a positive recommendation on Thursday, the agency could greenlight the vaccine from drugmaker Moderna later this week.
Lebanon to get first batch of COVID-19 vaccines in two months, minister says
Lebanon is expected to sign a deal this week for supplies of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine and is set to receive the first batch eight weeks after that, the caretaker health minister said. A surge in infections is straining Lebanon’s healthcare system which has been struggling amid a financial crisis and after a huge port explosion in August smashed up hospitals in Beirut. Despite the nation’s dire shortage of foreign exchange, the government expects to sign the $18 million deal for supplies of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine this week, Health Minister Hamad Hassan told Reuters
Challenges Related To The COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout
The first COVID-19 vaccines are being administered. There are, however, still great challenges ahead when it comes to making sure that people receive the vaccine sooner rather than later. "One big decision that's coming this week could really increase the supply of vaccines. The Food and Drug Administration is considering a second vaccine made by the drug company Moderna for authorization this week. And if that one gets authorized, the government says they have 6 million doses of that ready to ship out. And, in fact, that's actually something that the federal government is banking on in their estimates."
Spanish bars hope vaccines will help them back on their feet in year
Spanish bars and restaurants - hallowed institutions in the nation’s life - hope that coronavirus vaccinations can help restore their revenues by the end of next year to 2019 levels after sales dropped by half this year amid the pandemic. In its annual report released on Tuesday, the Spanish Hospitality Industry Association (HDE) said however that if vaccines fail to prevent new waves of contagion and tighter restrictions next year, sales would continue at 2020 levels, putting more businesses in jeopardy. About 85,000 establishments have been wiped out this year.
Paris Opera singers go digital after COVID keeps theatres closed
Just five days before they were due to perform before a live audience for the first time in almost two months, the singers of the Paris Opera learned they could not re-open before January as France’s coronavirus cases remained stubbornly high. So they decided to film their performance of works by a young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and 18th century French composers Chevalier de Saint-Georges and Andre Gretry and offer it on a new video-on-demand portal launched last week by the Opera de Paris, which runs the Garnier and the Bastille opera venues. “Of course it is sad, but we’re very lucky to be able to film this concert, especially because some pieces of music that will be played have never been recorded”, said French soprano Pauline Texier.
France's culture sector mobilises over continued closures as Covid-19 lockdown lifts
France emerges from its second Covid-19 lockdown on Tuesday. But with new daily coronavirus infections still high above the government's 5,000-a-day objective, the easing will not look like it did in May. An 8pm-to-6am curfew goes into effect, except for Christmas Eve, and cultural venues remain closed, sparking anger in the sector. As the second lockdown lifts, theatres, concert halls, cinemas, museums and sporting venues remain closed, at least until January 7 – after a holiday season that, while normally lucrative for the culture sector, has authorities concerned festive gatherings this year will spur further the spread of the novel coronavirus. French authorities justified keeping the venues shuttered in order to "avoid increasing public crowd flows, concentrations, and intermingling", but the decision has irked the culture sector in France after a difficult year.
Coronavirus pandemic: France imposes 8pm curfew after lifting lockdown
As Europe's surge eases off slightly, France is planning to lift a six-week lockdown from Tuesday but impose a curfew from 8pm, including on New Year's Eve.
UK sees record number of job losses during 3- month period
The number of people in the U.K. who lost their jobs hit a record high in the three months through October during the run-up to the planned ending of a government salary support scheme, official figures showed Tuesday. The Office for National Statistics said redundancies reached 370,000 in the August to October period, a record for a three-month period. At the end of October, the British government had been planning to end the Job Retention Scheme, which saw it pay the majority of the salaries of people who had become idle due to the coronavirus pandemic but were kept on payroll by firms.
Singapore announces plans to allow entry to business travellers from all countries
Singapore is set to launch a new segregated travel lane for business travellers on short-term stays, Chan Chun Sing, the country's Minister for Trade and Industry announced on Tuesday via a post on his verified Facebook account. The special travel lane, called the Connect@Singapore initiative, "will be open to a limited number of business, official, and high economic value travelers from all countries who are coming to Singapore for short-term stays of up to 14 days," Chan said. The applications for this initiative will open in mid-January of 2021.
Ex-FDA chief Gottlieb pushes for antibody manufacturing scale up as 2021 pandemic 'insurance policy'
Even as COVID-19 vaccines start to creep across the regulatory finish line, supplies will be limited for months at least. Meanwhile, antibody drugs, hailed as a crucial stopgap treatment since the pandemic's early days, are scarce, thanks to federal manufacturing missteps earlier this year. But the U.S. government has the power to ratchet up production of COVID-19 antibody therapies—a move it should pursue if it hopes to snare an “insurance policy” against the pandemic in 2021, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., wrote in The Wall Street Journal. The two antibodies sporting an emergency nod in the U.S.—Regeneron’s cocktail REGN-COV2 and Eli Lilly’s bamlanivimab—aren’t that difficult to make, but supplies are tight because the government failed to lock down sufficient manufacturing space in the spring, Gottlieb said.
Partisan Exits
COVID-19 vaccine costs could reach £12bn, as drug companies demand immunity from potential legal cases
Up to 267 million doses of COVID vaccines were purchased by the government at a cost of £2.9 billion, according to the public spending watchdog. And the National Audit Office (NAO) estimates the total cost of buying and deploying vaccines - and investing in global access schemes - could reach £11.7bn.
France’s culture sector protests as theatres, museums remain in lockdown
French cultural actors and organisations have protested after the government's decision to leave venues such as theatres, cinemas and museums closed for another three weeks, at least until 7 January, despite lifting the second Covid-19 lockdown on Tuesday. In France, 15 December marks the lifting of the six-week-long second lockdown. But cultural venues have been left out. The decision provoked anger across the sector, with the CGT-spectacle union calling a demonstration at Paris's Place de la Bastille on Tuesday. Demonstrators chanted "open up theatres", "open cinemas" and "lift the lockdown on culture".
Many African, Asian families marry off daughters amid virus
The man first caught a glimpse of Marie Kamara as she ran with her friends past his house near the village primary school. Soon after, he proposed to the fifth-grader. “I’m going to school now. I don’t want to get married and stay in the house,” she told him. But the pressures of a global pandemic on this remote corner of Sierra Leone were greater than the wishes of a schoolgirl. Nearby mining operations had slowed with the global economy. Business fell off at her stepfather’s tailoring shop, where outfits he had sewn now gathered dust. The family needed money. Her suitor was a small-scale miner in his mid-20s, but his parents could provide rice for Marie’s four younger sisters and access to their watering hole. They could pay cash. Before long, Marie was seated on a floor mat in a new dress as his family presented hers with 500,000 leones ($50) inside a calabash bowl along with the traditional kola nut
California orders 5,000 body bags amid "most intense" coronavirus surge
California has ordered 5,000 body bags as the state undergoes its "most intense" COVID-19 surge to date, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday. Why it matters: California saw 32,326 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday and has reached a 14-day average positivity rate of 10.7%, its highest since the pandemic began. With daily COVID deaths four times higher than they were just a month ago, the state has placed 60 53-foot refrigerated storage units on standby and activated its coroner mutual aid and mass fatality program.
2.7 billion people did not get state aid during pandemic: Oxfam
The COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown measures to contain it have hit millions of people hard, with poverty set to increase sharply in almost every country for the first time in decades unless action is taken now, according to a new report by Oxfam. Hundreds of millions of people have lost their jobs and income, and 2.7 billion people have not received any public financial support to deal with the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Oxfam said in the report published on Tuesday.
Continued Lockdown
Supreme Court continues to block state COVID-19 restrictions on religious gatherings
The Supreme Court continued its solicitude toward religious freedom in the face of a pandemic Tuesday by giving religious leaders in New Jersey and Colorado another chance to block strict limits on houses of worship. The action followed similar ones affecting religious institutions in New York and California. In all four cases, the high court indicated that states may not impose stricter standards on churches, synagogues and mosques than they do on most commercial establishments.
Pets Help Counter Lockdown Blues
The UK’s reputation as a nation of animal lovers has strengthened even further over the course of 2020, with a surge of new pets helping to comfort owners against a backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Sainsbury’s Bank, almost a quarter (24%) of UK adults say they have either welcomed a new pet into their home since March 2020 or are planning to do so before Easter 2021. Findings from the bank revealed that around half (47%) of those people who have taken in a new pet have done so for reasons of companionship and improved mental health support. Other positive advantages also emerged from the research. In addition to lifting the spirits through lockdown, about a fifth of owners (22%) pointed out that their health had improved thanks to exercising with their pet.
Scientific Viewpoint
Britain to spend $5 billion on vaccines and bear liability, watchdog says
Britain has agreed to spend 3.7 billion pounds ($4.93 billion) on COVID-19 vaccines and in most cases will bear the liability if claims are made against the pharmaceutical firms involved, the National Audit Office (NAO) said on Wednesday. The government has agreed supply deals for 357 million doses of seven different candidate shots, but has not gone into detail about how much it has spent or indemnity agreements, citing commercial confidentiality around the contracts. The NAO said the business ministry had signed firm deals for five of the candidates, including the Pfizer/BioNTech shot which has already been approved and is being rolled out, as well as those developed by Oxford/AstraZeneca, France’s Valneva, Novavax and Moderna. Britain also has deals in principle for Sanofi/GlaxoSmithKline’s shot as well as Johnson & Johnson’s candidate.
Valneva to start clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccine candidate in UK
French pharmaceutical firm Valneva will start the first clinical trials of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate at four sites in England, Britain’s business ministry said on Wednesday. The Phase I and Phase II trials involve 150 volunteers in Bristol, Birmingham, Southampton and Newcastle, and will be designed to show whether the vaccine is safe and produces an immune response. If these are successful, larger trials are planned for April 2021 to determine efficacy. There are four other vaccine candidates undergoing clinical trials in the United Kingdom.
Peru says negotiations to secure Sinopharm vaccine 'well advanced'
Negotiations between Peru and China’s Sinopharm to purchase COVID-19 vaccines are “well advanced,” the government said on Tuesday, as the hard-hit Andean nation scrambles to lock down supplies to combat the virus. The announcement comes just days after local authorities temporarily suspended a 12,000 participant trial for the Chinese firm´s vaccine after a volunteer fell ill. The case is still under investigation. “The negotiations with ... Sinopharm are well advanced, with {only} minor details to be verified,” Peruvian Foreign Minister Elizabeth Astete told a legislative commission.
Ethnic minorities more likely than Irish to get Covid-19
Ethic minorities are more likely to contract Covid-19 than white Irish people while Eastern Europeans are most likely to suffer job losses amid the pandemic, research has found. The study found that those of black or black-Irish ethnicity, Asian ethnicity, and particularly Irish Travellers were over-represented in Covid-19 cases compared with their proportion in the total population. Those of Asian ethnicity were 2.3 times as likely to contract Covid-19 as white Irish people; black people were 1.9 times as likely; and Irish Travelers 2.6 times as likely.
FDA Clears First At-Home, Over-the-Counter Covid-19 Test
The first Covid-19 test that can be performed entirely at home was cleared by U.S. regulators on Tuesday, and it can be acquired without a prescription. While availability will be limited initially, the new test and others in development could make virus screenings as accessible as over-the-counter pregnancy tests in the U.S. for the first time. The advance follows months of criticism that the Food and Drug Administration has been too slow to approve rapid home tests for the virus. Manufactured by East Brisbane, Australia-based Ellume, the self-administered, single-use nasal swab test is small enough to fit in the palm of a person’s hand. It detects proteins on the virus’s surface in 15 minutes and delivers results to an app.
US regulator deems Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine ‘highly effective’
The US regulator has found Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine to be safe and “highly effective”, clearing the way for a second jab to receive emergency use authorisation later this week. The US Food and Drug Administration report on Moderna’s vaccine trials on Tuesday suggested that immunity starts about 10 days after the first of two injections, much like the one made by Pfizer and BioNTech, which received emergency use authorisation last week. A second approval could significantly expand access to Covid-19 vaccines in the US, where the pandemic has now killed more than 300,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins University data. While the US government has been offering to help Pfizer expand manufacturing capacity, it secured another pre-order for 100m Moderna vaccines last week, bringing its total to 200m.
Why India's doctors differ on Covid-19 plasma therapy
Desperate calls for blood plasma to treat Covid-19 patients continue to appear on India's social media platforms even as doctors have mixed views about the experimental therapy. When people have Covid-19 or other viral diseases, their immune system responds by creating antibodies, which attack the virus. Over time the antibodies build up and can be found in plasma - the liquid portion of the blood. India's health authorities, like many around the world, have allowed the use of plasma to treat severely ill patients as Covid-19 continues to claim lives. The therapy also requires the consent of patients and their families.
New coronavirus strain spreading in U.K. has key mutations, scientists say
British scientists are trying to establish whether the rapid spread in southern England of a new variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 is linked to key mutations they have detected in the strain, they said on Tuesday. The mutations include changes to the important "spike" protein that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus uses to infect human cells, a group of scientists tracking the genetics of the virus said, but it is not yet clear whether these are making it more infectious. "Efforts are under way to confirm whether or not any of these mutations are contributing to increased transmission," the scientists, from the COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) Consortium, said in a statement.
Covid: Christmas coronavirus rules easing 'makes no sense'
The Christmas relaxation of lockdown rules "makes no sense" as Covid-19 cases continue to rise in Wales, doctors have warned. The Welsh Intensive Care Society also wants an "urgent" lockdown across Wales before Christmas, warning critical care would be unable to cope without urgent action. It comes after the number of positive Covid-19 tests passed 100,000 in Wales. Wales' health minister Vaughan Gething has said "nothing is off the table". But Mr Gething fears people would "make up their own rules" if meeting up over Christmas was banned.
EU regulator brings forward Covid vaccine ruling after German pressure
The EU drug regulator has brought forward its ruling on the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine after Germany made it clear it wanted approval before Christmas. The Amsterdam-based European Medicines Agency’s announcement that it will meet on 21 December instead of 29 December to decide whether to authorise the shot followed a growing backlash from desperate EU countries, with the German health minister, Jens Spahn, saying that the agency risked losing the trust of EU citizens if it did not act fast. “The goal is to get approval before Christmas,” he told a press conference in Berlin. “We want to start vaccinating in Germany before the end of the year.” Italy’s health minister, Roberto Speranza, said he hoped the EMA “will be able to approve the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine ahead of schedule”.
Hotel quarantine ventilation may have triggered coronavirus cluster that sent SA into lockdown
South Australia's public health chief says poor ventilation, not security breaches, at an Adelaide quarantine hotel may have triggered the coronavirus cluster that sent the state into lockdown last month. Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier said a review of CCTV vision from the Peppers Waymouth Hotel found no "significant breaches of infection control". South Australia's medi-hotel system came under intense scrutiny after it was linked to the Parafield cluster, which was identified last month.
New coronavirus strain spreading in UK has key mutations, scientists say
British scientists are trying to establish whether the rapid spread in southern England of a new variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 is linked to key mutations they have detected in the strain, they said on Tuesday. The mutations include changes to the important “spike” protein that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus uses to infect human cells, a group of scientists tracking the genetics of the virus said, but it is not yet clear whether these are making it more infectious. "Efforts are under way to confirm whether or not any of these mutations are contributing to increased transmission," the scientists, from the COVID-19 Genomics UK (COG-UK) Consortium, said in a statement
COVID-19 cases skyrocket in Brazil with no vaccination start date
Even in the private healthcare centres, 98 percent of the COVID-19 intensive care beds had been occupied for two consecutive weeks, said the Association of Private Hospitals of Rio state. The number jumped from 81 percent to 98 percent during the first week of December. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has been at odds with health officials over how to respond to the pandemic. Bolsonaro has consistently downplayed the novel coronavirus as a “little flu” and said on Thursday Brazil was at the “tail end of the pandemic”.
Pfizer/BioNTech weren't alone: Moderna COVID-19 vaccine data targeted in EMA cyberattack
Looks like Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine was not the sole target of a recent cyberattack at the European Medicines Agency. Moderna said Monday that documents from its pre-submission discussions with EMA about its shot, mRNA-1273, were “unlawfully accessed” by hackers, citing a notification from the agency. The attackers didn't obtain personal information about trial participants, Moderna said. The company's EMA submission didn’t include any data identifying individuals in the study.
‘I haven’t even told my wife’: Inside the frantic and secretive sprint to name the Covid-19 vaccines
The United States has a Covid-19 vaccine, the result of science carried out at breakneck speed. Now, whether the country knows it or not, it’s awaiting the results of another whirlwind effort: one to come up with brand names for products that will literally change the world. Naming a vaccine is almost always a matter of threading semantic needles, branding experts said, where the goal is to evoke positive vibes without irking the world’s ever more conservative regulatory bodies. And it takes time. The process of christening a new medicine typically involves about two years of semiotic labor. But in 2020, just as drug companies collapsed their standard development timelines to fight a global pandemic, the naming process has been condensed into a six-month sprint, said Scott Piergrossi​, president of operations and communications at the Miami-based Brand Institute, which has worked on Covid-19 vaccine naming projects. (Citing the confidentiality of client agreements, Piergrossi​ wouldn’t say which ones.)
FDA scientists endorse Moderna Covid-19 vaccine, as documents provide new hints on efficacy
Scientists at the Food and Drug Administration endorsed the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Moderna as safe and efficacious on Tuesday, one day after the first doses of a competing vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech were delivered across the United States. The FDA reviewers said that the two-dose vaccine “was highly effective” in preventing symptomatic Covid-19 from occurring “at least 14 days after the receipt of the second dose.” Vaccine-related side effects, such as aches and pains, appeared more severe than with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, though such comparisons should be made with caution and are in no way expected to slow the clearance of the vaccine or present major concerns. There was also preliminary evidence that the vaccine has some efficacy after one dose, and that it prevents asymptomatic Covid-19 cases — those that occur without a person ever feeling ill
Australia's initial vaccine rollout unlikely to stop Covid transmission, study finds
It is unlikely that the first generation of Covid-19 vaccines rolled out in Australia in 2021 will prevent virus transmission, making ongoing high levels of testing, strong contact tracing, isolation, and quarantine crucial, a review commissioned by the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences has found. The academy comprises more than 400 senior researchers, and the review outlines steps for Australia’s pandemic response into the new year. It was authored by the director of the Marie Bashir Institute for Infectious Diseases Prof Tania Sorrell and University of Queensland immunologist Prof Ian Frazer.
BAME groups hit by Covid 'triple whammy', official UK study finds
Black and minority ethnic groups suffered a “triple whammy of threats” to their mental health, incomes and life expectancy that left them more vulnerable to the coronavirus pandemic when it took hold earlier this year, according to the UK government’s official statistics body. Research from the Office for National Statistics into the wellbeing of different ethnic groups in the UK showed that 27% of people from black backgrounds reported in April finding it difficult to make financial ends meet, compared with fewer than 10% among most white groups.
Study finds no link between COVID-19, Guillain-Barré syndrome
A large epidemiologic study in the United Kingdom today finds no association between COVID-19 and Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), an autoimmune condition linked to other bacterial and viral infections. GBS is a rare neurologic disease that attacks the peripheral nervous system—typically the feet, hands, and limbs—causing numbness, weakness, pain, and occasionally, fatal paralysis or permanent neurological effects. The most common trigger for GBS is infection with Campylobacter jejuni, a bacterial strain that causes gastroenteritis, or infection of the digestive tract.
Coronavirus Resurgence
Arizona averages of COVID-19 deaths, cases double in 2 weeks
Arizona on Tuesday reported more than 60 new known deaths as the current coronavirus surge set another record for hospitalizations and saw the rolling seven-day averages of additional cases and deaths more than double over the past two weeks. The state Department of Health Services on Tuesday reported 4,134 additional known cases and 64 deaths, increasing the state’s totals to 424,382 cases and 7,422 deaths. The rolling average of daily new cases rose from 3,499 on Nov. 30 to 7,772.1 on Monday while the rolling average of daily deaths rose from 25 to 58.3, according to data from Johns Hopkins University and The COVID Tracking Project.
UK reports 18,450 new cases of COVID-19, 506 deaths
Britain reported 18,450 new cases of COVID 19 on Tuesday, alongside 506 new deaths within 28 days of a positive test.
Covid in Scotland: Pre-Christmas review of restriction levels
The latest review of Scotland's Covid-19 restriction levels will be announced at Holyrood later. All 32 local authority areas will have their situation assessed by politicians and public health officials. It could be the last review before the five-day Christmas easing of restrictions begins on 23 December. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said levels for all areas including Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire would be considered. Ms Sturgeon said last week she expected it to be the last review until 5 January although a parliamentary update on levels is scheduled for next week
COVID-19: UK reports 506 coronavirus deaths and 18,450 cases
The UK has reported a further 506 coronavirus deaths and 18,450 confirmed cases, government figures show. This is up from the 12,282 cases and 385 deaths reported last Tuesday. The number of cases and deaths per nation are as follows: Wales - 615 cases, nine deaths - Scotland - 845 cases, 24 deaths - Northern Ireland - 486 cases, six deaths - England - 16,504 cases, 467
Nicola Sturgeon considering tightening Christmas lockdown as fears grow over virus
Nicola Sturgeon is considering tightening the Christmas lockdown restrictions after fears the virus is spreading too fast. Under the current UK-wide plans eight people from three households will be able to mix indoors between December 23 and 27. However, government leaders across the UK are under pressure after public health and medical experts warned about the impact of the temporary easing. Following a joint call from the British Medical Journal and Health Service Journal, the leaders of the devolved administrations and the UK Government agreed to discuss the changes today.
Grieving alone: Some Turks want lockdown to halt new virus wave
Siyar Guldiken, still short of breath from his own battle with the coronavirus, was not able to grieve after his grandmother and uncle died of the related disease, as one of the world’s worst second waves of the pandemic slammed Turkey. After 10 days in isolation in Diyarbakir last month, Guldiken said only a full lockdown could stop the pandemic from worsening in Turkey, which has registered the seventh most cases globally. Ankara has resisted such calls so far. But pressure for more stringent action is growing from medical bodies, opposition parties and Istanbul’s mayor, after daily cases jumped to more than 30,000 and deaths to 200, even as the country prepares for a vaccine to arrive shortly. President Tayyip Erdogan’s government has issued weekend stay-at-home orders to tackle the pandemic, and it plans a five-day lockdown over New Year.
Sweden’s Second Wave Offers Hard Reality Check
Every country has at one point dared to believe they’ve figured out how to beat SARS-CoV-2, until reality sets in. The U.K.’s misguided flirtation with a hands-off “herd immunity” strategy in March led quickly to a U-turn and tough restrictions. France and Spain promised they’d never repeat the draconian lockdowns they imposed early on — only to break their vow when test-and-trace systems failed to keep pace with summer vacation contagion. Israelis, who after a first lockdown were told to enjoy life and “have a beer,” are now facing a third one. Donald Trump recently claimed he’d ended the pandemic (he hadn’t).
In frozen north, a Japanese city's coronavirus crisis maps out winter vulnerability
A freezing Hokkaido city that has become a red flag for Japan’s winter vulnerability to the coronavirus pandemic is weathering the worst of its COVID-19 crisis, local medical officials say, as military nurses take the strain from drained hospital staff. The city of Asahikawa was hit by outbreaks at two major hospitals, exacerbated by subzero temperatures and restricted ventilation that can promote the virus’s spread. But a voluntary lockdown, combined with medical reinforcements sent by central government last week, have helped the city stabilize — for now. There are now signs the cluster crisis is “peaking out,” said Yasutaka Kakinoki, a hematologist at Asahikawa City Hospital. That’s a relief, he said by phone, as staff have been pushed to the brink fighting the steady rise in COVID-19 cases over the last two months. “The lack of health care workers is a big problem,” he said.
New York City May Go Back Into Lockdown, De Blasio Says
New York City may have to go back into a total lockdown in the coming weeks if coronavirus cases continue to rise, Mayor Bill de Blasio told CNN on Monday, noting the city’s hospitals will become overwhelmed if the surge doesn’t slow.
South Africa tightens restrictions further as COVID-19 infections rise
South Africa imposed further COVID-19 restrictions on Monday, closing down beaches on the eastern coast and limiting large public gatherings ahead of the festive season, as the country looks to slow a sharp rise in infections. South Africa, which has recorded 866,127 total coronavirus cases, has seen a sharp spike in infections since the start of December with reported cases hovering around 8,000 per day in last few days, from around 3,000 in November. The country’s reported daily cases in the first wave peaked at around 14,000 in July.
France's COVID-19 hospitalisations inch up before end of lockdown
The number of people hospitalised for COVID-19 rose in France for the third day running on Monday, a worrying trend with the country set to replace a second national lockdown with a more lenient 8 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew. The three-day steady rise in hospitalisations is also a sequence not seen since mid-November. Patients in intensive care - the most important measure of a health system’s ability to deal with the pandemic - went up by 35 to 2,906, increasing for the second straight day after a continuous decline since Nov. 17.
COVID-19 prevalence rose in London even as lockdown cut English cases, study finds
COVID-19 cases rose in London during the last weeks of a national lockdown even as prevalence in England as a whole fell, a study said on Tuesday, adding that a planned relaxation of rules over Christmas posed risks. London will move into England’s highest tier of coronavirus restrictions from midnight on Wednesday morning after an exponential rise in cases. When a national lockdown ended on Dec. 2, London was not placed under the strictest restrictions in the three-tier system. But while the prevalence of COVID-19 cases fell in England by around 30% during lockdown between Nov. 13 and Dec. 3, prevalence was rising in London, according to Imperial College London’s REACT-1 prevalence study.
COVID-19 cases hit new record high in South Korea
South Korea has hit another record high of daily new coronavirus cases since the pandemic began, prompting health officials to consider even tougher measures to curb the spread of infection. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) reported 1,078 more COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, breaking the previous record of 1,030 only last Sunday. Of the new cases, most transmissions were reported from the capital, Seoul, the nearby Gyeonggi Province as well as the city of Incheon. Wednesday’s numbers were only the second time that new cases breached the 1,000 mark, according to Yonhap news agency.
Tourists in Turkey can roam freely, but locals are in lockdown
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. But when in Turkey, do whatever you please — but only if you are a tourist. According to some latest news reports, just like many other countries, Turkey has also been witnessing a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases, and to bring things under control, the country’s capital Istanbul instituted a lockdown, which is in force on weekends only — between 9.00 pm on Fridays and 5.00 am on Mondays. But, this lockdown does not apply to international tourists — it is for local residents only. According to a New York Times report, most museums stayed open for visitors, and hotel restaurants were allowed to remain open, but only for guests. In fact, the lockdown was monitored by police, who checked IDs to make sure locals stayed home. Anyone found flouting the norm was fined.
New Lockdown
London returns to strict lockdown, following a sharp rise in coronavirus cases
61% of England will be in toughest Tier 3 lockdown by TONIGHTDaily MailNew variant of coronavirus identified in UK; London in tier 3 lockdownWIONLondon to move into top tier of restrictions as UK identifies new Covid variantCNBCLondon placed in Tier 3 lockdown as new strain of Covid-19 feared to be driving up casesThe TimesView Full coverage on Google News
South Korea warns of tougher coronavirus restrictions if rules ignored
South Korea’s prime minister pleaded with residents on Tuesday to abide by social distancing rules to avoid even greater restrictions in the face of the country’s largest wave of coronavirus infections. Daily infection rates are hovering at record levels with another 880 new cases reported as of midnight Monday, up from 718 a day earlier, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said.
Delivery Workers in South Korea Say They’re Dying of ‘Overwork’
At a logistics depot the size of an airplane hangar in southern Seoul, couriers recently held a ritual at the start of another grueling work day: They stood for a moment of silence to remember more than a dozen fellow couriers who they say died this year from overwork. “We won’t be surprised here if one of us drops dead, too,” said Choi Ji-na, one of the couriers. Ms. Choi, 43, and other delivery workers in South Korea say they feel lucky to have jobs amid growing unemployment, and that they are proud to play an essential role in keeping the country’s Covid-19 cases down by delivering record numbers of packages to customers who prefer to stay safe at home.
South Korea among several nations eyeing lockdowns
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, South Korea has been hailed as a model for other countries, using extensive testing and tracing to keep COVID-19 cases low. But a surge in infections that began in October and is centered around the capital city of Seoul has the country on the verge of its first nationwide lockdown. "Our back is against the wall," South Korean President Moon Jae-in said yesterday during a meeting at the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters, according to Reuters. "This is a crucial moment to devote all our virus control capabilities and administrative power to stopping the coronavirus spread."
Netherlands set for five-week coronavirus lockdown with schools, shops and gyms closing until mid January
The Netherlands is set to enter a tough second lockdown for at least five weeks, the country's prime minister has announced. The tough new nationwide measures mean schools, non-essential shops, museums and gyms will close at midnight until January 19. In a rare televised address, Mark Rutte told the nation: "We have to bite through this very sour apple before things get better.” As he spoke from his office in The Hague, protesters could be heard blowing whistles outside. "The reality is that this is is not an innocent flu as some people - like the demonstrators outside - think," he said. "But a virus that can hit everybody hard.”
Dutch shopkeepers grapple with sudden Christmas lockdown
Shopkeepers in the Netherlands on Tuesday were grappling with the effects of a new lockdown, which meant they suddenly had to close their doors in what should have been the busiest and most lucrative part of the year. “Obviously it is a big loss, this time of year is extremely important to us”, said Robert Reuter, the owner of City Diamonds in the center of Amsterdam. “It is a very hard decision, it is bitter for us, but I think it is necessary.” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Monday night announced a tough second lockdown in the Netherlands, in a push to drive down the coronavirus infection rate, which has rapidly moved back to record levels in the past week.
Netherlands and Czech Republic to enforce strict Christmas lockdowns
The Netherlands and the Czech Republic have said they will follow Germany into strict second lockdowns over the holiday period, with Italy weighing similar measures to avoid a fresh surge in coronavirus infections over Christmas and new year. In a rare television address, the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, said non-essential shops and businesses, gyms, museums, cinemas and theatres would close for five weeks after the country’s seven-day new case average rose by more than 40% in the past week. Bars and restaurants in the Netherlands have been closed since mid-October but the partial lockdown has not slowed the spread of the virus enough, Rutte said, as anti-lockdown protesters booed and whistled outside his office.
Dutch shopkeepers grapple with sudden Christmas lockdown
Shopkeepers in the Netherlands on Tuesday were grappling with the effects of a new lockdown, which meant they suddenly had to close their doors in what should have been the busiest and most lucrative part of the year.