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"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 20th Jan 2021

News Highlights

China defends early response to Covid-19

Following criticism of its response at the start of the pandemic from an independent panel, the Chinese government has said its response was 'prompt and decisive' in acting against the Covid-19 outbreak. The independent panel had said the country could have acted 'more rapidly' and imposed measures 'more forcefully.' Chinese state-backed media also defended the response. The country is battling its worst outbreak of Covid-19 since March 2002.

Most Americans want a vaccine - but the political divide over Covid-19 remains

As deaths in the U.S. top 400,000, a Washington Post/ABC News poll found forty percent of Americans would definitely accept a vaccine once available to them and 23 percent will probably do the same. Fifty-two percent said they thought the pandemic is out of control in the country. The poll showed a partisan divide over willingness to be inoculated. Half of Democrats polled said they definitely would, compared to just a quarter of Republicans.

Further doubt over delaying second dose after real-world analysis in Israel

The first real-world analysis of the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid vaccine in Israel has cast doubt on the UK strategy of delaying the second dose to maximise availability of doses, a strategy since adopted by other countries. Scientists on the ground said the vaccine matches its performance in clinical trials, but the first dose does not offer protection at a high enough level to justify delaying the second dose. The UK earlier claimed the first dose offered 89% protection but the Israeli analysis indicated it to be markedly lower.

Higher risk of death in a crowded ICU

Research has linked crowded intensive care units (ICUs) to a higher risk of death due to Covid-19. The study of Department of Veteran Affairs hospitals in the U.S. indicated that patients admitted at peak Covid-19 surges were twice as likely to die than those admitted when demand was lower. It said 'strains on critical care were associated' with the finding and called for tracking intensive care demand to triage patients with severe illness to other facilities with increased capacity.

Lockdown Exit
China defends COVID-19 response after criticism by experts
China has defended its actions as “prompt and decisive” in containing the coronavirus outbreak during its early days, rebuking criticism made by an independent panel of experts over Beijing’s handling of the outbreak. “As the first country to sound the alarm against the pandemic, we took prompt and decisive measures even though we had incomplete information at the time,” the Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, said on Tuesday. Hua said Beijing imposed early measures – including the announcement of a hard lockdown on Wuhan weeks after the virus was detected – that “reduced infections and deaths”. Her comments came after the release of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response’s interim report that highlighted how China could have acted “more rapidly” against a virus that has now killed more than two million people worldwide. The panel was formed last year following a request by member countries of the Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) to identify new information on the spread of COVID-19.
Fang Fang: Author vilified for Wuhan Diary speaks out a year on
She has faced a nationalist backlash for her diaries documenting life in Wuhan in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, but Chinese author Fang Fang she says she will not be silenced. "When facing a catastrophe, it's vital to voice your opinion and give your advice," she told BBC Chinese in a rare email interview with international media. In late January, when Wuhan became the first place in the world to enter a state of complete lockdown, many of the city's 11 million residents found solace in reading Fang Fang's online diaries. They also provided a revealing glimpse into the city where the virus first emerged.
The massive logistical exercise behind Australian Open players' COVID hotel quarantine
Burying into the numbers of what has already happened without a single ball being served provides a unique perspective on what's required to run an event in the COVID-19 era where players and officials are already being stretched to their limits.
Australian Open players trapped in hard hotel lockdown could see strict rules eased EARLY
Australian Open players and staff in hard quarantine may be released early Three of four new cases in Victoria announced on Tuesday are linked to the Open Daniel Andrews said there are now nine Covid-19 cases linked to the Grand Slam Mr Andrews said the cases may be reclassified as non-infectious shedding Players in hard quarantine would then be able to train for five hours like others
New Zealand looks to secure small batch of vaccines early as pressure mounts
New Zealand said on Tuesday that it was looking to secure a small batch of COVID-19 vaccines early to protect its high-risk workers, as pressure mounts on the government to vaccinate its population. A tough lockdown and the geographic advantage of being at the bottom of the world helped New Zealand virtually eliminate the novel coronavirus within its borders. But with the pandemic raging globally, more people are returning to New Zealand with infections including the new variants from the U.K. and South Africa, raising concerns the virus may spread in the community again.
New Zealand women taking leap into entrepreneurship during Covid-19 era
Many women are starting their own small businesses after a wave of Covid-19-related redundancies, according to Chooice NZ founder Sarah Colcord. More than 5000 new businesses registered with the companies office in 2020, the only rise in the number of companies in New Zealand in the past five years. The novel coronavirus has changed how many people work and live, with side-hustles often transformed into a main income source - a trend that is tipped to grow. Small businesses have long been the backbone of New Zealand. There are 546,732 small enterprises in Aotearoa - making up over 97 percent of all companies. Sarah Colcord founded New Zealand's largest Facebook Group, Chooice (formerly NZ Made Products) and co-founded its e-commerce partner Chooice.co.nz.
International arrivals to New Zealand must return negative Covid test before flight
New Zealand has imposed a blanket testing regime for all flights arriving internationally, with passengers now required to return a negative Covid test result before departure. The Covid-19 response minister, Chris Hipkins, said while New Zealand already had tight border controls in place, the rising number of cases around the globe meant further protections were called for. Australia, Antarctica and most Pacific Islands will be exempt from the new requirement. “As we signalled last week, given the high rates of infection in many countries, most global air routes are of critical concern for the foreseeable future,” Hipkins said.
Exit Strategies
Ireland’s first Covid-19 vaccine recipient receives second dose
The first person in Ireland to receive the Covid-19 vaccine has been given her second dose today. Dublin woman Annie Lynch (79) received the first round of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in St James’s Hospital on December 29, making her the first person in the country to be given the Covid-19 jab outside of clinical trials. The mother of three, who has 10 grandchildren, returned to St James Hospital to receive her second round of the vaccine.
Coronavirus: India to provide vaccines to six countries from Wednesday
India will provide coronavirus vaccines made in the country to six nations - Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles - from Wednesday, the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement. Vaccines will be sent to Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius as well, once necessary regulatory clearances are received, the ministry added. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said it was a matter of honour and that vaccines will be sent to more countries. “India is deeply honoured to be a long-trusted partner in meeting the healthcare needs of the global community,” he tweeted. “Supplies of Covid vaccines to several countries will commence tomorrow, and more will follow in the days ahead.”
More than 45,000 people in Florida are overdue for their second coronavirus vaccine dose
Of the 1.03 million people in Florida who have received at least one shot of the coronavirus vaccine, 45,056 are overdue for their second dose. Florida's Department of Health has refused to answer questions about whether officials are concerned and reasons for why people have missed their second jab. Health experts say some might be worried about the side effects of getting the second dose, which is known to be stronger than the first. In a statement on Thursday, Gov Ron DeSantis urged Floridians being vaccinated to not forego their second shot
Covid in Scotland: Concerns about vaccine supply amid GP frustration
Opposition parties have voiced concerns about vaccine supplies after "frustrated" GPs said they were still waiting for deliveries. At Holyrood on Tuesday, the first minister was pressed on why the rollout was going "so slowly" and on whether there was a problem with distribution. Dr Andrew Buist, of BMA Scotland, told the BBC that patients were getting anxious and practices could not plan. Nicola Sturgeon said there were ongoing challenges but targets would be met. Dr Buist claimed that as of Monday, the Scottish government had taken receipt of more than 700,000 vaccines - but only used 264,991.
Covid vaccine: New York to run out of doses by Thursday, warns mayor
New York City could run out of Covid-19 vaccine doses by Thursday, warned Mayor Bill de Blasio, which could force the city to cancel vaccination appointments. “We will have literally nothing left to give as of Friday,” Mr de Blasio said. “What does that mean? It means that if we do not get more vaccine quickly, a new supply of vaccine, we will have to cancel appointments and no longer give shots after Thursday for the reminder of the week at a lot of our sites.” The warning came during the mayor’s coronavirus press briefing on Tuesday morning.
Many health care workers are refusing to get a COVID-19 vaccine
A significant percentage of doctors, nurses, EMS workers, support staff and other health care employees said they turned down the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines over concerns they may not be safe or effective, according to a recent survey by Surgo Ventures, a non-profit group focused on solving health and social problems. Others in the health field worried the development of the vaccine had been rushed. "We have a lot more work to do to get health care workers to take the vaccine. Simply making it available is not enough — we have to take a more precise, targeted approach to reach different segments of population to overcome hesitancy," Hannah Kemp, director of programs for Surgo Ventures, told CBS MoneyWatch.
COVID-19: 'Vast majority' of over-80s should be vaccinated before jabs offered to over-70s, minister says
The "vast majority" of over-80s and care home residents should be vaccinated before local areas move on to giving jabs to lower priority groups, a cabinet minister has told Sky News. From this week, those aged over 70 and those listed as clinically extremely vulnerable will be invited to receive coronavirus vaccinations.
Outcry in Italy at call for more vaccines for rich regions
The idea that richer areas should get a bigger share of coronavirus vaccines sparked an outcry on Tuesday (19 January) in Italy, one of the countries worst hit by the pandemic. The proposal came from Letizia Moratti, the aristocrat wife of a late oil baron, who this month was appointed health chief of the northern Lombardy region, which includes Milan. Writing to the government coronavirus crisis commissioner, she said vaccines should be allocated to regions based not only on population density, but also on gross domestic product (GDP), local impact of the pandemic and levels of mobility. “It is not about giving more vaccines to richer regions… but in helping Lombardy’s recovery you would automatically help the recovery of the whole country,” she said in the letter, parts of which media published.
Spain to extend COVID furlough scheme until May, PM says
Spain will extend its scheme supporting hundreds of thousands of workers furloughed due to COVID-19 until May, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Tuesday after the government, unions and business groups reached an agreement on the issue. The ERTE furlough scheme, which has benefitted millions of workers since the beginning of the pandemic, had been due to expire on Jan. 31 under a previous such agreement. As most of business restrictions were lifted during the past months following a nationwide lockdown, many furloughed workers returned to work though 755,000 were still on the state-supported furlough scheme in December.
Japan scrambles to roll out vaccine, but how many people will get the shot?
The government is scrambling to begin the rollout of coronavirus vaccinations as early as the end of February. But in a nation where many people are skeptical about vaccines in general, Japan may face a daunting challenge in trying to convince people to get the shots even when they are available. There is a scientific consensus worldwide that the COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective and that they will help achieve herd immunity — a light at the end of the tunnel. Polls have shown recently that nearly 70% of Japanese are willing to get a coronavirus vaccine. But still, skepticism against vaccines is deeply rooted in the country. In a 2016 EBioMedicine study of 67 countries, 31% of Japanese were skeptical of vaccine safety, ranking third-highest following France (45.2%) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (38.3%). The global average was 13%.
COVID-19: Schools might not all reopen at the same time across England, suggests Dr Jenny Harries
Schools might not all reopen at the same time across England as lockdown restrictions are eased, MPs have been told. Dr Jenny Harries, one of England's deputy chief medical officers, said there was "likely" to be regional differences in COVID measures once the national shutdown ends.
UK still looking at mid-Feb for COVID lockdown review: minister
Britain’s government is still aiming to review COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in mid-February, Northern Ireland minister Brandon Lewis said on Tuesday. “When we put these current restrictions in place we said we would do a review in mid-February ... and that’s still the case,” Lewis told Sky News.
Africa's fears over Covid-19 vaccine shortage
One of Africa's top public health officials, virologist Dr John Nkengasong has spoken of his concern that countries in the continent will not be getting the vaccines they need. The director of the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention told BBC World News: "We are truly headed towards a moral catastrophe if this situation isn't addressed." When the pandemic first hit the world it was agreed everyone needed equitable and timely access to vaccines, Dr Nkengasong said. Now that the vaccines are here it was time to translate those words into action he said, explaining that the second wave of the virus in the continent was much more aggressive and devastating.
Most Americans want vaccine as nation tops 400,000 COVID deaths
One day before Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, a new poll from Washington Post-ABC News shows that 52% of Americans think the coronavirus outbreak is out of control, and 62% say trying to control the pandemic is more important than restarting the economy. The numbers come as a national vaccine campaign has rolled out in fits and starts across the country. Though the new poll still shows a political divide, most Americans said they will (40%) or probably will (23%) get a COVID-19 vaccine when one is made available to them. Half of Democrats polled said they would definitely get a vaccine, while only 25% of Republicans said the same.
Coronavirus: Why South Africa has yet to roll out vaccines
More than a third of all Covid-19 cases in Africa have been in South Africa and numbers are surging with the emergence of a new variant of the virus. But unlike some other badly hit countries in the world, South Africa is yet to start its vaccination programme.
Partisan Exits
Jab complacency ‘could see cases spike’ as PM faces lockdown pressures
Britons should not rely on coronavirus vaccines “coming to our rescue”, health leaders have warned, as it remains “absolutely critical” that lockdown rules continue to be observed. Prof David Halpern, the chair of the Behavioural Insights Team, stressed that vaccinated people are not “good to go” and socialise with others, as he warned that any jab recipients who do mix with families and friends risk sparking another surge in cases. His comments to MPs earlier today come after Matt Hancock revealed he was self-isolating at home after being “pinged” by the NHS Covid-19 app. The Health Secretary urged Britons to follow his lead and stick to the rules.
Experts unconvinced by Lord Sumption's lockdown ethics
Eleven years before Lord Sumption found himself at the centre of a media storm over his apparent suggestion that the life of a woman with stage 4 cancer was “less valuable”, the former supreme court justice wrote a judgment that seemed to take a very different view. In 2014, addressing the Tony Nicklinson case in a decision which upheld a ban on doctors helping patients to end their lives, he called the sanctity of life a “fundamental moral value”. “A reverence for human life for its own sake is probably the most fundamental of all human social values,” he went on, before quoting another judgment approvingly: “In a case like this we should not try to analyse the rationality of such feelings. What matters is that, in one form or another, they form part of almost everyone’s intuitive values.”
Bells and candlelight to honor 400,000 COVID-19 dead on eve of Trump's White House departure
President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday led a national memorial observance on the eve of his inauguration to honor the 400,000 Americans who have perished from COVID-19 during the 11 months since the novel coronavirus claimed its first U.S. life. The sundown commemoration came hours before President Donald Trump was due to depart the White House for the last time and hand over a country wracked by the greatest public health crisis in a century, economic devastation and violent political upheaval. Ceremonies spearheaded by Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris from the base of the Lincoln Memorial marked the federal government’s first official nod to the staggering death toll from the pandemic.
U.S. exceeds 400,000 coronavirus deaths
The U.S. coronavirus death toll topped 400,000 on Tuesday, according to a Reuters tally, as the country hardest hit by the pandemic struggled to meet the demand for vaccines to stem the spread of infection. States including Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, South Carolina and Vermont have shown signs of vaccine supply strain and are asking for more doses of both approved vaccines, one from Pfizer-BioNTech and the other from Moderna. The number of deaths has spiked since Christmas. During the past three weeks, U.S. coronavirus fatalities have totaled 63,793 compared with 52,715 deaths in the three weeks prior to Christmas, an increase of 21%, according to a Reuters analysis.
Continued Lockdown
China's capital steps up COVID-19 measures as outbreak persists
China’s capital Beijing said on Wednesday it will investigate all individuals who entered the city from abroad from Dec. 10 and shut down a subway station after reporting the biggest daily jump in new COVID-19 cases in more than three weeks. The measures come amid what has become the country’s most severe COVID-19 outbreak since March 2020 ahead of the key Chinese Lunar New Year holiday season, when hundreds of millions travel, raising fears of another major COVID-19 wave that could bring the country back into a debilitating standstill. The National Health Commission said on Wednesday that a total of 103 new COVID-19 cases were reported on Jan. 19, down from 118 a day earlier. Northeastern Jilin province reported 46 new cases, however, setting another record in daily cases, while Hebei province surrounding Beijing reported 19 new cases.
Covid-19 in Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon extends lockdown to at least mid-February
Schools will remain closed to most pupils for at least another month after Nicola Sturgeon extended lockdown in Scotland. Cases of Covid-19 are stabilising but the first minister warned that any relaxation risks sending “the situation into reverse”. The first minister said that ministers had agreed to extend the current curbs — which came into force on December 26 and have since been tightened — until at least the middle of February.
COVID-19: Scotland lockdown extended until at least the middle of February, Nicola Sturgeon announces
Scotland's lockdown will be extended until at least the middle of February, Nicola Sturgeon has announced. The first minister said that despite COVID-19 case numbers having "stabilised and even declined", any relaxation of the rules while infection rates remain high could "quickly send the situation into reverse". Schools, which were meant to emerge from lockdown at the start of next month, will also remain closed along with nurseries to all those apart from vulnerable children and those of key workers until mid-February.
Dutch govt to beef up lockdown amid fears about new variants
The Dutch government said Tuesday it needs to beef up lockdown measures “as soon as possible” to rein in the spread of the coronavirus amid fears about more transmissible variants. Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said in a letter to parliament that the government will announce extra measures on Wednesday afternoon. The Netherlands has been in a tough lockdown for a month and will remain that way at least until at least Feb. 9, but the slow decrease in the number of new infections and the threat posed by new variants have prompted the government to consider a tightening that is expected to include a curfew for the first time since the pandemic began.
Germany extends lockdown to Feb. 14 on fears of COVID variants, sources say
German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that Germany may need to consider border crossing curbs if other European countries do not act to halt the spread of the coronavirus, particularly its new, more transmissible variants. “We can do anything we like, but we will not succeed if others are not working in parallel,” Merkel told journalists on Tuesday, two days ahead of a videoconference of European leaders. “We need to make sure that everyone around us is doing the same. Otherwise we have to look at measures such as entry restrictions.”
Europe, Struggling to Exit the Pandemic, Faces Bleak 2021
Covid-19 infections and deaths remain stubbornly high across much of Europe while vaccination efforts are moving so slowly that widespread immunity is unlikely in the region before the fall, raising the prospect of a bleak 2021 for hundreds of millions of Europeans. With between 3,000 and 4,000 people dying from the disease every day across the European Union in recent weeks, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, governments are prolonging and tightening antivirus measures such as curfews, remote learning and restaurant closures. Fears are growing, too, of more contagious variants of the virus taking hold before governments can scale up their vaccination programs.
Lebanon doctors urge lockdown extension
The head of Lebanon's main coronavirus hospital Tuesday backed the extension of a total lockdown to curb soaring infection figures and save a fragile healthcare system from collapse. "Easing the lockdown cannot occur if the virus is spreading unchecked in the community," Firas Abiad said on social media. "The infection is not under control." The country of more than six million has recorded 255,956 coronavirus cases and 1,959 deaths since its outbreak started in February. It entered a strict 11-day lockdown last Thursday after recording a 70% uptick in infections in one of the steepest increases in transmission worldwide.
Portugal tightens Covid-19 lockdown amid record numbers of new cases, deaths
Stricter lockdown rules are being enacted in Portugal, the government announced Monday, as a surging Covid-19 pandemic sets grim records and pushes hospitals to the limit of their capacity. Prime Minister António Costa said too many people had taken advantage of exceptions included in the lockdown that began last Friday, with authorities reporting 70% of normal movement over the weekend. “We are going through the most serious phase of the pandemic” so far, Costa said, urging people to comply with the rules. “This is no time for finding loopholes in the law.”
British firms call for immediate $10.3 billion in COVID aid
British firms called on Tuesday for another 7.6 billion pounds ($10.3 billion) of emergency government help, saying they cannot wait until finance minister Rishi Sunak’s March budget to learn if they will get more pandemic support. With Britain back under lockdown and companies adjusting to life after Brexit, firms are taking big decisions about jobs and investment and need to know if their financial lifelines will be extended, the Confederation of British Industry said. “We just have to finish the job. Now would be a very odd time to end that support,” CBI Director-General Tony Danker said in a statement.
Scientific Viewpoint
How to reduce the risk of catching Covid-19 when travelling by car
Experts outline the best way to prevent coronavirus infection when sharing a car Sanitising high touch-points and sticking to essential travel only are also advised Government currently prohibits travel with other people with some exceptions
Wearing face masks DOES stop spread of Covid-19 and reduces R rate
US researchers gave a questionnaire to more than 300,000 people in 50 states Increase of 10% in people wearing masks makes it 3x more likely R is less than 1 Experts add that wearing a mask does not mean social distancing is not needed
SAGE papers reveal three key fears experts have about Covid vaccine rollout
Many Brits will "probably no longer follow the rules" once vaccinated and this may outweigh the benefits of the jabs, the Government's scientific advisers fear. Minutes from a Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) meeting reveal three key fears experts have about Covid vaccine rollout, the Telegraph reports. They are an increase in social mixing, the country being divided into a two tier system and black and ethnic minority group members refusing to get inoculated. There are growing concerns people will ignore distancing and begin meeting up with those outside their households, including non-vaccinated family members visiting elderly relatives who have had the inoculation, assuming they are safe.
A New COVID-19 Challenge: Mutations Rise Along With Cases
The race against the virus that causes COVID-19 has taken a new turn: Mutations are rapidly popping up, and the longer it takes to vaccinate people, the more likely it is that a variant that can elude current tests, treatments and vaccines could emerge. The coronavirus is becoming more genetically diverse, and health officials say the high rate of new cases is the main reason. Each new infection gives the virus a chance to mutate as it makes copies of itself, threatening to undo the progress made so far to control the pandemic.
Pfizer's Covid vaccine COULD stop people spreading the virus as well as preventing serious illness, Israeli doctor claims after finding antibody levels surged after second dose
Patients who received the Pfizer vaccine may prevent transmission of Covid-19 The Israeli study found only two subjects developed low amounts of antibodies Elderly people have been the priority since the vaccine programme started
US needs national COVID 'smart testing' strategy, APHL says
As the United States starts off 2021 with COVID-19 vaccines as well as variants, the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) reasserts the importance of strategic COVID-19 testing strategies with a report published late last week. In the report, "Smart Testing for Optimizing Pandemic Response," the group recommends a coordinated national approach, supply chain management, and a focus on using test results as a means to improve public health surveillance.
Crowded ICUs tied to higher risk of COVID-19 death
COVID-19 patients admitted to intensive care units (ICUs) at US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals during peak coronavirus patient surges were twice as likely to die than those treated during low-demand periods, an observational study published today in JAMA Network Open suggests. VA researchers studied 8,516 COVID-19 patients, 94.1% of them men, admitted to ICUs at 88 veterans hospitals from Mar 1 to Aug 31, 2020, with 30 days of follow-up.
Pfizer and BioNTech, scaling up for 2B coronavirus vaccine doses, temporarily cut deliveries in EU, Canada
Last week, Pfizer and BioNTech said they were boosting vaccine production to 2 billion doses this year. There's a catch, though: Scaling up a factory in Belgium to help meet that goal means supplies will run short temporarily in Europe, Canada and other places. BioNTech late last week unveiled a factory upgrade that’ll allow the company and Pfizer to deliver "significantly more doses in the second quarter" but require a short-term disruption of supply. The disruption will affect Europe, Canada and a few other countries, The Wall Street Journal reports. The companies say deliveries will return to normal starting next week. The manufacturing upgrade will start to boost output in mid-February, BioNTech said, leading to more deliveries in the first quarter and “significantly more in the second quarter.” The companies last week hiked their 2021 output target to 2 billion doses from a prior goal of 1.3 billion doses.
Covid-19 vaccine guidance for those who are lactating is based on faulty assumptions, experts say
Maggie Anthony didn’t have much time to deliberate before getting her Covid-19 vaccine. A labor and delivery nurse at Cambridge Hospital in Massachusetts, she suddenly heard from her manager that shots would be available the next day. But with an 8-month-old breastfeeding baby at home, she wasn’t sure whether to accept. Those who are pregnant and lactating haven’t been included in clinical trials for the Covid vaccines, so there’s no data on the vaccines’ safety for these groups. At first, Anthony thought she would decline. She knew that in the United Kingdom, the National Health Service had said people who are pregnant and breastfeeding shouldn’t be vaccinated. The Food and Drug Administration simply advises, “If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, discuss your options with your healthcare provider.” But Anthony had another factor to consider: She regularly cares for Covid-positive women. “During labor, in the operating room, in their faces — there is no distance,” she said. “So I know that I am definitely exposed.”
Small biotech launches human trials of a potential ‘backstop’ for Covid-19 vaccines
A small biotechnology firm said that it will start human testing of an experimental Covid-19 vaccine it hopes can target potential strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that could evade current vaccines — if such strains ever exist and become a problem. “We all hope that this will not be necessary,” said Andrew Allen, the CEO of the firm, Gritstone Oncology, in an interview with STAT. “I think it’s prudent to have it developed as a backstop. We all talk about pandemic preparedness. So that’s what this is about.” “We have a good vaccine that is delivering benefit in the short term, but we need to be ready for scenarios where those vaccines lose effectiveness, because that historically has been seen many times and we should be ready for that and not be caught short again,” Allen said.
COVID-19: Study shows one vaccine dose leaves UK's over 60s 'seriously vulnerable'
Vaccines have to work in the real world, not in the artificial bubble of a clinical trial. So the findings from Israel's impressively-rapid rollout of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are troubling. They suggest the UK's decision to delay the second dose exposes the elderly and vulnerable to a significantly higher risk of infection than we were told by the government's vaccines advisers.
Israel’s virus czar says 1st dose less effective than Pfizer indicated — report
Israel’s coronavirus czar Nachman Ash has reportedly said the first dose of Pfizer’s vaccine provides less protection against COVID-19 than the US pharmaceutical firm had initially indicated it would, and cautioned that it may not protect against new strains of the virus. During talks among Health Ministry officials ahead of Tuesday’s cabinet meeting on the possibility of extending the nationwide lockdown, Ash questioned the effectiveness of the vaccine after just one dose, Army Radio reported Tuesday afternoon.
COVID-19: 'Real-world' analysis of vaccine in Israel raises questions about UK strategy
The first real-world analysis of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine suggests it is matching its performance in clinical trials, but raises serious questions about the UK's decision to delay the second dose. Scientists in Israel - which is leading the COVID-19 vaccination race - have told Sky News that they are "very hopeful" having studied preliminary data from 200,000 vaccinated people. But crucially they say their results do not show efficacy at a level close to that used by the UK to justify delaying the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNtech jab.
Moderna says possible allergic reactions to COVID-19 vaccine under investigation
Moderna Inc said on Tuesday it had received a report from California’s health department that several people at a center in San Diego were treated for possible allergic reactions to its COVID-19 vaccine from a particular batch. The company’s comments come after California’s top epidemiologist on Sunday issued a statement recommending providers pause vaccination from lot no. 41L20A due to possible allergic reactions that are under investigation. "A higher-than-usual number of possible allergic reactions were reported with a specific lot of Moderna vaccine administered at one community vaccination clinic. Fewer than 10 individuals required medical attention over the span of 24 hours," the epidemiologist said in a statement here. The vaccine maker said it was unaware of comparable cases of adverse events from other vaccination centers which may have administered vaccines from the same lot or from other lots of its vaccine.
Allergy cases emerge in California with batch of Moderna’s Covid vaccine
Moderna is co-operating with California’s investigation into several cases of possible allergic reactions among people who received its Covid-19 vaccine, the company said Tuesday. California State Epidemiologist Erica Pan recommended providers withhold shots from one batch of Moderna’s vaccine “out of an extreme abundance of caution”. The recommendation came after the state received reports of several people experiencing serious allergic reactions following immunisation from the same batch, a higher-than-usual number, Pan said in a statement. About 1 in 100,000 people have had a severe allergic reaction to Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine, which uses similar technology as Moderna’s shot, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this month.
What we now know — and don’t know — about the coronavirus variants
The coronavirus variants are, in a word, confusing. By now, you have likely heard about different variants that first raised trouble in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Brazil, and now maybe California — though the jury is very much out on whether that last one is cause for concern. To make a messy alphabet soup even more jumbled, these variants have unwieldy names, and they each contain mutations with unwieldy names of their own. The result is that people are left trying to differentiate among B.1.1.7 and N501Y and E484K and C-3PO.
Up to HALF of people who've already had Covid may still be vulnerable to South African variant because it can 'escape' the immune system, scientists warn - and it could also evade vaccines
South African researcher Professor Penny Moore warned of 'immune escape' She said people with milder first illnesses had less immunity to reinfection Separate study in US found mutation on South African variant reduced immunity Antibodies from older versions of virus struggle to bind to mutated version
Almost 30% of Covid patients in England readmitted to hospital after discharge – study
Nearly a third of people who were discharged from hospitals in England after being treated for Covid-19 were readmitted within five months – and almost one in eight died, a study suggests. The research, which is still to be peer-reviewed, also found a higher risk of problems developing in a range of organs after hospital discharge in those younger than 70 and ethnic minority individuals. “There’s been so much talk about all these people dying from Covid … but death is not the only outcome that matters,” said Dr Charlotte Summers, a lecturer in intensive care medicine at the University of Cambridge who was not involved in this study.
Coronavirus Resurgence
Third wave hits Spain in record rise
Joe Biden’s team announced that he plans to extend travel restrictions barring people from much of Europe and Brazil from travelling to the US, shortly after President Trump said he would lift the restrictions on January 26. Mr Trump signed an order yesterday ending the ban, which he imposed early last year in response to the pandemic, after securing support from his coronavirus task force and public health officials.
Spain reports 84,287 new coronavirus cases on Monday, the highest weekend figure so far
The third wave of the coronavirus is continuing to break records in Spain. The Spanish Health Ministry reported that 84,287 new cases had been detected since Friday, the biggest increase recorded on a Monday – when weekend data is also included – since the start of the pandemic. The previous record was set last Monday, when 61,422 new infections were reported. “We could be reaching the peak of the third wave,” said Fernando Simón, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts (CCAES), at a government press conference on Monday. But, he warned, it may be some time before the figures are consolidated, as there is typically underreporting over the weekends. Spain also recorded its highest incidence rate of the pandemic on Monday. The 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants is now 689 – nearly triple the 250-threshold considered to be an indicator of extreme risk.
France sticks to Covid plans in race between vaccines and contagious variant
France’s government said Tuesday it would avoid the strictest lockdown measures despite gradually increasing Covid-19 cases and hospital admissions, preferring to bank on vaccinations. The spread of a more contagious variant of the new coronavirus seems to have prompted many to get the jab and there are now concerns over delays in delivery. Despite laboratory delays and reports of shortages and logistical problems in its vaccine campaign, France’s government said it would avoid toughening health restrictions even as case numbers and hospital admissions continued to increase. “We already took a tough decision last week to impose a 6pm curfew on the country as a whole,” health minister Olivier Véran told France Inter radio. “I cannot say we will impose a confinement but the circulation of the virus remains worrying.”
COVID-19 still circulating at a 'worrying' level in France, says minister
French Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Tuesday the coronavirus was still circulating at a “worrying” level in France, but stopped short of recommending a third national lockdown. “We already took a tough decision last week to impose a 6 p.m. curfew on the country as a whole,” Veran told France Inter radio. “I cannot say we will impose a confinement but the circulation of the virus remains worrying.”
Hospitals in Japan close to collapse as serious Covid cases soar
Hospitals in Covid-hit regions of Japan are on the brink of collapse, medical experts have warned, as the country battles a third wave of infections that has caused record numbers of people to fall seriously ill. Japan reported more than 4,900 coronavirus infections on Monday, with serious cases rising to a record high of 973, local media reported. Although Japan has avoided the huge caseloads and death tolls seen in some other countries, infections have doubled over the past six weeks to about 338,000, according to the public broadcaster NHK, with 4,623 deaths. The increase, coupled with the discovery of the first recorded community transmissions of a fast-spreading strain of Covid-19 initially identified in Britain, is adding to pressure on the prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, to move quickly to protect stretched medical services.
COVID-19: Deaths registered in England and Wales soar as coronavirus rates climb
There were 17,751 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending 8 January - up 7,682 on the preceding week, new figures show. Of the deaths registered, 6,057 mentioned "novel coronavirus", accounting for 34.1% of all deaths in England and Wales, according to figures from Office for National Statistics. This nearly doubled on the previous week when 3,144 coronavirus-related deaths occurred and represents a 92.7% increase.
Number of COVID-19 patients in Irish hospitals falls
The number of patients being treated for COVID-19 in Irish hospitals fell on Tuesday from the highest level recorded since the pandemic began a day earlier, as a surge in infections that threatened to overwhelm the health system began to ease. Ireland had the fastest-growing incidence rate in Europe at the start of the year, fuelled by the relaxation of restrictions ahead of Christmas and the increasing prevalence of a new, more transmissible variant first detected in England. That led to 2,020 patients being admitted to hospital with COVID-19 by Monday, more than double the previous peak set in the first wave of infections in April. The total fell 3% to 1,954 on Tuesday as more patients were discharged than admitted.
COVID situation in UK is serious despite falling infections, PM tells ministers
Prime Minister Boris Johnson told his team of cabinet ministers on Tuesday the COVID situation in Britain was still “very serious” despite infection rates beginning to decline, urging others to follow the lockdown guidelines. “The prime minister opened cabinet with an update on the current COVID situation, noting that although we are beginning to see a decline in infection rates, the situation remains very serious and it remains as important as ever for people to follow the guidance to continue to suppress the spread of the virus,” his spokesman told reporters.
China's COVID outbreak worst since March 2020
China is battling the worst outbreak of COVID-19 since March 2020, with one province posting a record daily rise in cases, as an independent panel reviewing the global pandemic said China could have done more to curb the initial outbreak. State-backed tabloid the Global Times on Tuesday defended China’s early handling of COVID-19, saying no country had any experience in dealing with the virus. “Looking back, no country could perform perfectly in facing a novel virus... No country can guarantee they won’t make mistakes if a similar epidemic occurs again,” it said. China reported more than 100 new COVID-19 cases for a seventh day on Tuesday. It posted 118 new cases on Monday, up from 109 a day earlier, the national health authority said in a statement.
Portugal's daily COVID deaths hit record high as hospitals struggle
Portugal, initially praised for its swift response to the coronavirus pandemic, recorded a record number of COVID-19 related deaths on Monday as its hospitals struggled to cope. The Portuguese government, facing concerns over low compliance with lockdown measures brought in last week, also introduced further rules to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus among its population of 10 million people. Portugal posted 167 COVID-19 related deaths over the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 9,028 since the pandemic began. “After so many cases, and so many deaths, nobody can ... think COVID-19 only happens to others,” Portugal’s Prime Minister Antonio Costa told reporters.
France reports rising number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care
The French health ministry reported 3,736 new coronavirus infections over the previous 24 hours on Monday, a figure lower than Sunday’s 16,642 but higher than last Monday’s 3,582, raising fears the country might have to resort to a third lockdown. France’s cumulative total of cases now stands at 2,914,725, the sixth-highest in the world. The seven-day moving average of new infections, which averages out weekly data reporting irregularities, increased to 18,270, the highest since Nov. 24. The number of people being treated in intensive care units for the disease was up for the ninth consecutive day, going beyond the 2,800 threshold for the first time since Dec. 17.
Hospitals in Americas, Europe under growing strain of COVID-19
The world added more than 2 million new COVID-19 cases in the past 3 days, with health systems coming under pressure in the Americas and in more European countries and China reporting another pocket of local spread, triggering more strong measures. Over the past week, the World Health Organization (WHO) Americas region reported 2.5 million cases, making up more than half of the global total, Carissa Etienne, MBBS, MSc, who directs the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), said today at a briefing. She added that over the past week, 42,000 more people in the region died from their infections.
New Lockdown
As Chinese cities face new Covid-19 lockdowns, have 2020 lessons been learned?
Echoes in Hebei of measures a year ago in Wuhan, with students stranded in icy conditions and some people unable to get routine medical treatment. Residents complain of mistakes being repeated, as countries continue to struggle to balance a speedy response with the public’s wider needs
Rwanda re-imposes strict lockdown in capital after COVID-19 cases surge
Rwanda has re-introduced tough lockdown measures in its capital Kigali after a surge in coronavirus cases. The government has also banned movement into and out of the city, except for essential services and for tourists, it said, citing a jump in the number of cases found in a given sample of tests, known as the positivity rate. “All employees, public and private, shall work from home, except for those providing essential services,” the government said in a statement.
Malaysia expands lockdown measures to most states as virus spreads
Malaysia on Tuesday said it would extend lockdown restrictions across most of the country as it grappled with a rise in coronavirus infections. Last week, capital Kuala Lumpur and six states went into a two-week lockdown. Essential sectors including manufacturing, plantations and construction were allowed to stay open, but a nationwide travel ban was implemented. Security minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob on Tuesday said the lockdown will also be imposed on six other states from Friday for two weeks. Only the eastern state of Sarawak will not see a full lockdown, though some restrictions are in place. Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has said the lockdown measures were necessary as the healthcare system was at a breaking point.