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"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 2nd Feb 2021

News Highlights

Additional doses per vial proposed by Moderna

Vaccine manufacturer Moderna has proposed 'filling vials with additional doses of vaccine, up to fifteen doses versus the current ten doses' according to a company statement. This comes as Moderna scales up manufacturing, nearing almost a million vaccines produced a day, but seeks to avoid a manufacturing crunch with the new strategy. 'Beyond the amount of drug product available, is how many vials you can fill in a given period of time,' Moderna president Stephen Hoge said.

Pakistan secures vaccine shipments from China

Half a million doses of the Chinese-manufactured Sinopharm vaccine have arrived in Pakistan, according to the country's health minister. 'We are grateful to China and everyone who made this happen,' Dr Faisal Sultan said. The Sinopharm doses were couriered to the national capital Islamabad via Pakistani military aircraft. Pakistan is also the site of Phase-III trials of China's other indigenously-manufactured Covid-19 vaccine, CanSino, which are still ongoing.

White House invests heavily in testing

The Biden administration has prioritised its response to COVID-19. It is funding swift, over-the-counter tests for the novel coronavirus to the tune of U.S.$230 million. In awarding the contract to the Australian firm Ellume which was awarded product authorisation from U.S. regulators in December of last year, Biden COVID-19 adviser Andy Slavitt said; 'Thanks to this contract, the company will be able to scale up their production and manufacture more than nineteen million test kits by the end of this year.'

India boosts healthcare spending in annual budget

The newly-unveiled Indian government budget has increased funds for healthcare to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crunch that it brings. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the government intended to spend U.S.$30.2 billion on health over the course of the next six years. The country spends considerably less on health compared to most other major economies. U.S.$4.81 billion is earmarked in the budget for the production of vaccines against COVID-19.

Lockdown Exit
Thousands in England to be tested in 'sprint' to halt South African Covid variant
Tens of thousands of people will be tested in a door-to-door “two-week sprint” to halt the spread of the South African coronavirus variant as cases were found across England. Squads of health officials, firefighters and volunteers have been established to deliver and collect PCR test kits door-to-door and mobile testing units will be sent to each area. Wastewater could also be tested to determined the prevalence of the strain. The new South Africa variant, which is more transmissible than the original virus, appears to show a slightly “diminished” response to vaccines, and may eventually require a booster shot, Public Health England (PHE) said.
After the dire predictions, does India really have a handle on Covid-19?
Just days after India marked a year since its first reported Covid-19 case, the country seems to be hurtling into the light after a long spell inside a dark tunnel. Some hospitals in the capital, New Delhi, have no coronavirus patients. Markets are full of masked shoppers. People meet in cafes and restaurants, at tables set a cautious distance apart. The more risk-averse socialise outdoors, on their terraces and balconies. Students are returning in batches to universities, and some classes in schools have begun again. Cinemas, with protocols in place, reopened on Monday at full capacity. Wedding planners, hung out to dry for a year, have swung back into action. Flights to most parts of the country are full.
Moderna proposes filling vials with additional doses of COVID-19 vaccine
Moderna Inc said on Monday it is proposing filling vials with additional doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to ease a crunch in manufacturing as the company approaches the manufacturing of almost a million doses a day. “The company is proposing filling vials with additional doses of vaccine, up to 15 doses versus the current 10 doses,” Moderna said in an emailed statement. “Moderna would need to have further discussions with the FDA to assure the agency’s comfort with this approach before implementing,” the company said, referring to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
'We’re in fine fettle': joy on Isle of Man as Covid lockdown ends
The Isle of Man brought in a “circuit-breaker” lockdown on 7 January following a cluster of Covid cases. On Monday, the restrictions were lifted after the government declared no community transmission was taking place. Social distancing measures have been lifted and face coverings are no longer required. There are no time limits for exercise or leisure activities and non-essential shops have reopened, as have schools, nurseries, colleges and entertainment venues. The island, a self-governing British crown dependency, has not been untouched by Covid-19: there have been more than 400 cases and 25 deaths. But it maintains strict border controls and, most agree, has reacted nimbly to challenges posed by the virus.
A year after the pandemic struck, Italians reflect on their grief
On February 21, 2020, Italy’s “patient one” tested positive for COVID-19 at a hospital in Codogno, a town in Lombardy – and that was the day the lives of millions of people across the world changed beyond imagination. It took another 20 days for Italy to announce a blanket lockdown, on March 9, closing all commercial activities and confining citizens to their homes. The lives Europeans had taken for granted in peacetime changed almost overnight: Access to healthcare, free movement and seeing friends and family were no longer a given. A year later, more than 88,000 people have died after contracting the virus in Italy, the second-highest death toll in Europe after the United Kingdom.
Australia will have enough Covid-19 vaccine to cover its population 'several times over', Scott Morrison says
Australia will spend more than $2 billion (A$1.9b) on equipping hospitals and other health centres to administer coronavirus vaccines that will see 26 million Australians vaccinated by the end of the year in one of the country's largest-ever logistical exercises. Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the funding commitment during a major speech to the National Press Club in Canberra on Monday. “Our aim is to give Australians the opportunity to be vaccinated by October of this year, commencing in just a few weeks’ time.”
Covid-19 update: No new cases in community or at border
In New Zealand, there have been no new cases of Covid-19 in the community or managed isolation reported today, Covid-19 Response minister Chris Hipkins says. No new community cases were reported in New Zealand on Sunday, following last week's three confirmed border-related infections. One new case was confirmed in managed isolation.
Italians flock back to coffee bars as COVID-19 restrictions eased
The familiar tinkling of ceramic cups and chatter returned to coffee bars across most of Italy on Monday, as rigid COVID-19 restrictions were eased. After severe curbs over the Christmas and New Year period, two-thirds of Italy was declared a “yellow zone” allowing bars in those less risky areas to serve customers at counters and tables again instead of offering only take-away in plastic cups. The Health Ministry eased restrictions in 15 of Italy’s 20 regions, as the number of people infected continued to fall. Five regions remain red zones and travelling between regions of any colour remains prohibited until mid-February.
Mumbai's suburban train services restored after 11 months
One of the world’s busiest urban rail systems situated in India’s financial capital Mumbai was restarted for all commuters on Monday, 11 months after it was shut down to prevent the spread of coronavirus infection in the city. An average of eight million people were using the train services daily before the pandemic. Operations were stopped in March last year, as part of a strict lockdown imposed by the government. On Monday, commuters trickled into still empty train coaches, wearing masks and armed with sanitisers.
COVAX to send millions of AstraZeneca shots to Latin America
The COVAX global vaccine sharing scheme expects to deliver 35.3 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine to 36 Caribbean and Latin American states from mid-February to the end of June, the World Health Organization’s regional office said. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said the Americas region needed to immunise about 500 million people to control the pandemic. It said WHO would complete its review in a few days of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use listing (EUL). “The number of doses and delivery schedule are still subject to EUL and manufacturing production capacity,” PAHO said, adding that supply deals also had to be agreed with producers. Of the 36 nations receiving AstraZeneca’s shot, it said four countries, namely Bolivia, Colombia, El Salvador and Peru, would also receive a total of 377,910 doses of the PfizerBioNTech vaccine from mid-February.
Pakistan receives first COVID vaccine shipment from China
Pakistan has received its first doses of the coronavirus vaccine, with China donating half a million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine to the country, the health minister says. A Pakistani military aircraft carrying the shipment landed in the Pakistani capital Islamabad early on Monday, Dr Faisal Sultan said. “Praise be to Allah, the first batch of Sinopharm vaccine has arrived! Grateful to China and everyone who made this happen,” he said. Video footage showed a forklift unloading boxes of the vaccine from a military transport plane. Sinopharm, a Chinese state-owned company, has developed one of two major Chinese vaccines to have been rolled out around the globe, alongside Sinovac’s Coronavac vaccine. Phase three trials for the Chinese CanSino vaccine are also ongoing in Pakistan, which granted emergency use authorisation for the Sinopharm, AstraZeneca and Sputnik V vaccines last month.
Exit Strategies
How Brazil missed its chance to secure Covid-19 vaccines
Only about one million doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered in Brazil -- a stunningly low number given Brazil's decades-long success in vaccinating its population. CNN's Matt Rivers reports.
Coronavirus: Flow of Pfizer-Biontech vaccine from EU now guaranteed, says minister
The flow of Pfizer-Biontech vaccines into Britain is “absolutely guaranteed”, according to a cabinet minister who also suggested that doses may be shared with other countries later on. Liz Truss, the international trade secretary, promised that the UK’s order of 40 million jabs would make its way into the country after Brussels backed down in an extraordinary row over supplies
Coronavirus in Scotland: Over 575,000 people have had first dose of vaccine, says Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon has said over 575,000 people have had first dose of the coronavirus vaccine in Scotland. Speaking at the Scottish Government daily coronavirus briefing on Monday, the First Minister added this included 98% of those living in care homes for older people, and 88% of staff in these homes. Ms Sturgeon also said that vaccinations for the over-70s have begun – with two mass vaccination centres opening in Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Already 14% of the over-75s have been vaccinated.
Covid-19: UK orders extra 40m doses of Valneva vaccine
The UK has ordered an extra 40 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine from the French pharmaceutical company Valneva, that should become available later in the year and into 2022. The government says it will give flexibility should people need revaccinating next winter or beyond. The UK has secured 407 million doses of different coronavirus vaccines - more than enough for the entire population. Valneva's jab is still being tested in trials. Although those will take time to satisfy regulators before it can be rolled out, manufacturing at a site in West Lothian, Scotland, has already begun. The site is already supporting 100 new highly-skilled local jobs for scientists and technicians.
Israel to give 5,000 coronavirus vaccines to Palestinian doctors
Israel has agreed to transfer 5,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine to the Palestinians to immunize frontline medical workers, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz's office announced Sunday. It was the first time that Israel has confirmed the transfer of vaccines to the Palestinians, who lag far behind Israel's aggressive vaccination campaign and have not yet received any vaccines.
COVID-19: Every care home resident in England has been offered a coronavirus jab
Every care home resident in England has been offered a COVID-19 jab, the NHS has confirmed, just hours after a new record was set for vaccinations in the UK. Older people living in more than 10,000 care homes across England have either been vaccinated or offered the jab and those forced to wait because of an outbreak of the virus will be treated as soon as possible, health professionals said.
Over 80% of Northern Ireland people will take the coronavirus vaccine
The vast majority of people in Northern Ireland will accept the Covid-19 vaccine when offered - but a hefty minority will not or are still unsure, the new LucidTalk poll has indicated. More than 80% of the population here will definitely get the jabs, 7% said they will not, and 10% do not know, are unsure or have no opinion. The percentage of vaccine supporters is similar to the UK as a whole and also the Republic of Ireland, but it is much higher than some other European countries.
Many who have received the coronavirus vaccine wonder: What can I safely do?
Soon after Marc Wilson gets his second dose of coronavirus vaccine, he plans to resume one of his pre-pandemic joys: swimming laps with his friends. But most other activities — including volunteering at a food pantry and homeless shelter — will be off-limits until the outbreak is curbed and scientists know more about the threat of emerging variants. “I can definitely broaden the things I do, but I still have to be quite cautious,” said Wilson, 70, a retired accountant in Norman, Okla., who has diabetes and other health problems. “When your doctor tells you, ‘If you get covid, you’re dead,’ that gets your attention real good.”
More than HALF of Americans say they'll delay getting coronavirus vaccine or REFUSE it altogether
Only 41 per cent of people surveyed said they are happy to be vaccinated now 13 per cent will refuse vaccinations while 31 per cent want to 'wait and see.' Survey also found divisions on political, racial and economic lines in the US. Many are reluctant to get the shots because of myths spread by anti-vaxxers. President Biden plans to roll out 100million doses in 100 days in office
South Africa welcomes first delivery of COVID-19 vaccines
South Africa gave a hero’s welcome Monday to the delivery of its first COVID-19 vaccines — 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa greeted the crates of vaccine that arrived at Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport. The shipment will be followed up later this month by another 500,000 doses. The vaccine will be effective in preventing severe disease and death from the variant that has become dominant in South Africa, a vaccine expert says. The AstraZeneca vaccines will be used to inoculate South Africa’s front-line health workers, which will kickstart the country’s vaccination campaign. The first jabs are expected to be administered in mid-February, after the vaccines are tested and approved by South Africa’s drug regulatory authorities.
White House awards $230M to help produce over-the-counter, rapid COVID-19 tests
Andy Slavitt, White House COVID-19 adviser, said the administration will provide nearly $232 million to an Australian company called Ellume, which received authorization for the test in December. The company was part of the National Institutes of Health's RADx initiative to spur test development, and received $30 million from the program. "Thanks to this contract, they'll be able to scale their production to manufacture more than 19 million test kits per month by the end of this year," Slavitt told reporters.
England hits 'monumental milestone' as all eligible care homes offered Covid-19 jab
Tributes have been paid to “dedicated” health and care staff for their efforts in rolling out the Covid-19 vaccine to the most vulnerable, as NHS England claims jabs have now been offered to all eligible care homes for older adults.
Covid-19: Volunteers step forward as vaccination taxis
With the Covid-19 vaccination rollout in full swing, people are stepping forward to volunteer to take people for their jabs. But this service can be more than just a car journey, a connection is being made with some of the most vulnerable in our communities. Carolyn Carter, 56, chairwoman of Chippenham Link Transport in Wiltshire, regularly drives clients to their medical appointments and is now helping with vaccination runs. She said: "I thought long an hard about doing it, but...I can do good by doing this. "Wednesday we were all just backwards and forwards to the surgery. Between the 11 of us we did about 40 trips over two days. "Everyone has been fantastic. They are just helping with whatever they can to get this done."
Covid: Regional tier system may not return after lockdown, Boris Johnson says
The regional tier system for England's coronavirus measures may not return after lockdown ends, the prime minister has said. Boris Johnson said it may be more appropriate to ease measures on a national basis "this time around", rather than locally as had been the plan, due to the way Covid-19 is currently "behaving". In a few weeks he will set out a "road map" for exiting lockdown, with March 8 targeted as the earliest possible date for reopening schools and easing other measures. Following the last lockdown, England returned to tiered arrangements which restricted activities permitted in an area depending on various criteria, such as pressure on local NHS services and levels of coronavirus.
Covid: Boris Johnson 'optimistic' about summer holiday prospects
Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he is "optimistic" people will be able to have summer holidays this year - but it depends on certain things going well. Asked about tourism in the UK, he said he did not want to give "concrete" dates for such trips but would set out more details on 22 February. The success of the vaccine rollout and level of Covid cases would be factors taken into consideration, he added. Nearly 9.3 million people in the UK have had their first dose of a vaccine. A vaccine has been offered to all older residents at eligible care homes in England, the NHS announced earlier - an achievement Mr Johnson described as a "crucial milestone".
UK Covid-19 lockdown will end in time for ‘great British summer’, Matt Hancock promises
The nationwide lockdown will be over in time for a “great British summer”, Matt Hancock has predicted as he said the “vast majority” of adults would be vaccinated against Covid-19 within the next six months. Data on the effects that vaccinations have on the spread of coronavirus in Britain should be available within a fortnight, according to the Covid-19 response director at Public Health England (PHE) – but she warned that the end of lockdown should be done “very slowly, very cautiously” to avoid a resurgence in cases.
Germany looking to accelerate sluggish distribution of vaccines
Chancellor Angela Merkel and German state governors were planning to talk with representatives of the pharmaceutical industry on ways to beef up the country’s sluggish vaccination campaign. Monday’s videoconference, which also will involve the European Union’s Executive Commission, comes as finger-pointing in the bloc’s most populous country mounts over who is to blame for the slow vaccine rollout. By Friday, 1.85 million people had received a first vaccine dose in Germany, a country of 83 million, and more than 461,000 had a second dose.
Boris Johnson says lockdown is working and vaccines ARE effective against Covid variants as internal report hails 'stabilising' cases - but PM warns it is too early to take ...
Boris Johnson insisted the coronavirus lockdown is working and vaccines are effective on current variants. The PM warned that it is still too early to take our 'foot off the throat of the beast' by easing curbs at this stage. He said he was 'optimistic' Britons will be able to go on summer holidays this year but did not give schedule Two cases of South African strain not linked to travel found in Surrey with 'surge' testing scheme under way. Dr Mike Tildesley said vaccination rollout could mean lockdown starting to be eased sometime next month
Not Yet Desperate, Japan and South Korea Plod Toward Vaccinations
Japan’s biggest cities are under a state of emergency as coronavirus deaths rise, even while the country tries to convince the world it can safely hold the Summer Olympics. South Korea is prohibiting gatherings of five or more people to keep a recent surge in cases under control. Hong Kong imposed stringent lockdowns on some of its poorest neighborhoods to stop an uptick. And yet none of these places have begun to carry out the only solution with any hope of putting the pandemic behind them: vaccinations.
India pandemic-fighting budget to boost health care spending
India’s government has proposed to increase spending on health care in a $477 billion budget for 2021-22 that promises extra help for weathering the coronavirus pandemic. India is in its worst economic slowdown in a decade. The budget proposal presented to parliament by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Monday also focuses on developing financial institutions and shoring up of infrastructure to get the pandemic-ravaged nation back on track as the world’s fastest-growing major economy. “India is well well-poised to be the land of promise and hope,” she said in explaining the budget for the fiscal year that begins April 1.
Covid: Lockdown easing must happen 'very slowly', adviser says
Ending the current coronavirus lockdown must happen "very slowly, very cautiously", Public Health England's Covid strategy chief has said. Dr Susan Hopkins said the focus should be on getting people vaccinated and preventing another wave of infections. She told the BBC's Andrew Marr: "I hope that this summer will be similar to last summer... and that will allow us to do things that feel more normal." Meanwhile, Matt Hancock predicted "a happy and free Great British summer". But the health secretary warned of a "a tough few months" as national restrictions continue across the UK while vaccinations are administered. "We have to follow the data, we have to see the impact of the vaccine on the ground. It's a difficult balance: we've got to move as fast as we can but in such a way that keeps people safe," he told BBC Politics East.
How are delays in vaccine deliveries really affecting Spain’s campaign?
At the current rate, it would take years to vaccinate the entire population of Spain against Covid-19. This assertion, which is being touted by a number of political leaders in the country, is true. But it doesn’t provide any information that we haven’t already known for more than a month now. Barring a few deviations from the plan, this was the expected speed for the early stage of the campaign. The government is planning for a ramping up of the inoculations once laboratories are able to produce more doses and new vaccines are approved. The delay in the arrival of the available vaccines has, up to now, prompted the reorganization of schedules. But it has not significantly changed the forecasts that were put in place at the end of December, when announcements were made about how many doses would be arriving in the country during the first quarter of the year. Whether or not the government’s objectives are met – i.e. vaccinating the majority of the population by the summer – will not depend on the number of doses that arrive before the spring, which was always due to be very limited, but rather those that start to arrive from that moment onward.
Partisan Exits
Brazil’s COVID-19 catastrophe: nothing less than criminal
On January 17, weeks after other countries in Latin America and around the world began their mass inoculation campaigns, Brazil finally administered its first COVID-19 jab in the state of Sao Paulo using the CoronaVac vaccine developed by the Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac. That first jab was one of the 6 million doses imported by the state-funded Butantan Institute in Sao Paulo, which helped develop the vaccine. A few days later on January 23, the federally funded Fiocruz Institute announced that it received two million ready-to-use doses of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines from India and started distributing them across the country. Since then, over one million Brazilians have been vaccinated against the deadly virus.
For France's lockdown rebels, defiance is a dish best served to many
Mask tucked under his chin, France’s lockdown rebel seems a touch overwhelmed by all the attention. Since defying the law and serving lunch to more than 50 diners at his Nice restaurant last week, Christophe Wilson has been inundated with messages on social media from supporters hailing him as a hero. On the downside, however, he had to spend a night in the cells after police found irregularities with the papers of Moussa, the chef from the Ivory Coast who cooked the lockdown-busting déjeuner. As I enter the scene of the crime — the terrace of Poppies restaurant brasserie, now deserted — I find Wilson, 50, behind the bar, serving only takeaways.
'We've had enough': In France, Spain and Denmark, anti-lockdown protests continue
Marches to denounce COVID-19 restrictions put in place by various government have been taking place in cities across Europe. An authorized protest in support of culture workers quickly turned into a rave in the centre of Perpignan on Saturday, with about 200 maskless party-goers at the height of the demonstration. The open-air disco, which even had a sound system installed on a podium, was over by the early evening. The group "Men in Black" chanted "Freedom for Denmark. We`ve had enough," as they protested in Aarhus.
Dutch police disperse crowd, arrest 30 in bid to prevent repeat of anti-lockdown riots
Around 30 people were arrested in Amsterdam when police disbursed a protest against coronavirus lockdown measures on Sunday, as authorities sought to prevent a repeat of riots that raged across Dutch cities for three days last week. Police said they had sent home around 600 people who had flouted social distancing rules and ignored a nationwide ban on public gatherings by assembling in Amsterdam’s central Museumplein on Sunday afternoon. There were no reports of violent incidents by late afternoon on Sunday. The addition of a nighttime curfew to an already broad lockdown triggered last week’s violent demonstrations. Shops were looted in several cities and 500 people were arrested.
Oxford-AstraZeneca volunteers kept in dark about dosing error
About 1,500 of the initial volunteers in a late-stage clinical trial of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine were given the wrong dose, but were not informed that a mistake had been made after the blunder was discovered, documents obtained by Reuters news agency show. Instead, the dosing mishap was presented to the trial participants in a letter dated June 8 as an opportunity for University of Oxford researchers to learn how well the vaccine works at different doses. The letter was signed by the trial’s chief investigator, Oxford professor Andrew Pollard, and sent to the trial subjects. As Reuters reported on December 24, participants were given about a half-dose due to a measuring mistake by Oxford researchers. The Pollard letter did not acknowledge any error. Nor did it disclose that researchers had reported the issue to British medical regulators, who then told Oxford to add another test group to receive the full dose, in line with the trial’s original plan. There is no suggestion there was any risk to the health of trial participants. Much is riding on the British-developed vaccine, which is being rolled out across the UK and has been touted as a low-cost weapon against the pandemic. The jab has come under scrutiny because of the dosing error in the Oxford trial and a paucity of data about its efficacy in older people who are most vulnerable to the virus.
Continued Lockdown
Covid: Suicide prevention help calls during lockdown
A man whose father took his own life is calling for more mental health support amid fears more people are struggling because of Covid restrictions. Dion Davies' father Terry took his own life in 2018. Suicide rates in England and Wales remain at a 20-year high with fears lockdowns are increasing known risk factors like loneliness. Official figures show more people have reported symptoms of depression since the pandemic began.
Growing Number of U.K. Firms Face Bankruptcy as Lockdown Drags
The number of U.K. listed companies at risk of insolvency has doubled as restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus continue to ravage the economy. A record 35% of U.K. companies issued profit warnings last year, according to a report by the consulting firm EY. There was also a surge in the number of companies issuing three or more profit warnings in a 12-month period, a warning sign for insolvency
Israel extends nationwide coronavirus lockdown
Israel's nationwide lockdown was extended Monday to contain the coronavirus which has continued to spread rapidly as the country presses ahead with an aggressive vaccination campaign. The current lockdown, declared on December 27, is the third in the Jewish state since pandemic began last year. The cabinet prolonged the closure until Friday morning, but scheduled a fresh meeting for Wednesday to assess whether a further extension was required, a statement from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the health ministry said.
Japan may extend Covid-19 emergency in 10 prefectures until March 7
Japan is planning to extend the state of emergency over the COVID-19 pandemic in 10 prefectures, including Tokyo, until March 7, Japanese media reported. According to the Kyodo news agency, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will make a final decision after consulting with an expert panel on Tuesday. The prefecture of Tochigi, where the number of new infections has been declining, is about to have its state of emergency removed. Meanwhile, Okinawa, which was under consideration for inclusion in the list, is off the hook for the time being.
Germany's stricter lockdown sinks retail sales in December
German retail sales plunged more than expected in December as a decision to tighten lockdowns to curb the spread of COVID-19 choked consumer spending in Europe's largest economy at the end of the year, data showed on Monday. The stricter lockdown, which included schools and kindergartens but excluded factories and offices, has been extended until mid-February. The Federal Statistics Office said retail sales fell by an unprecedented 9.6% on the month in real terms after a downwardly revised increase of 1.1% in November.
Scientific Viewpoint
Bayer agrees to help CureVac produce coronavirus vaccine
German drug conglomerate Bayer will help CureVac manufacture tens of millions more doses of the biotech's experimental coronavirus vaccine beginning as soon as the end of this year, company executives said in a Monday briefing with the German health minister. Bayer and CureVac are already co-developing the vaccine, with the large pharma providing support for clinical testing and regulatory discussions in other countries. Now, after discussions with the German government, Bayer has also agreed to make 160 million doses of CureVac's shot in 2022 CureVac recently began a Phase 2/3 study testing whether its vaccine prevents COVID-19. The company aims to enroll into the trial some 36,000 volunteers in Europe and South America. Early results could be available by the end of March, CureVac's CFO Pierre Kemula recently told BioPharma Dive.
Potential side effects of coronavirus vaccine listed by NHS Scotland
NHS Scotland has listed a number of side effects Scots may experience after receiving the coronavirus jab. More than half a million Scots have received their first dose of the vaccine, according to the latest Scottish Government data. Officials are hoping to vaccinate around 400,000 Scots per week by the end of this month. The most vulnerable people in Scotland will be vaccinated during the first wave of the vaccination programme. Those included in the groups listed have been advised of the side effects they may have once they get the jab. Side effects experienced are usually mild and are much less serious than contacting Covid-19 itself. Any conditions that arise following the vaccine should “go away within a few days”, according to NHS Scotland.
The Coronavirus Vaccine Presents a Dilemma for Pregnant Women
Amanda, a nurse in Sacramento, and her husband have been trying to have a baby for more than two years. For the majority of that time, they’ve been attempting in-vitro fertilization. Last March, the pandemic shuttered most fertility clinics across the U.S., including hers, but treatment resumed in May, and, by December, Amanda, who is forty-one, was ready to transfer one of three frozen embryos into her uterus in the hopes of finally getting pregnant. In the weeks leading up to the transfer, Amanda and her husband followed the news of promising vaccine-trial results and debated whether they should postpone the procedure so that she could get vaccinated. The large hospital system where Amanda works received an influx of covid-19 cases in the weeks around Thanksgiving. At one point, she estimated, more than a hundred of its three hundred and fifty beds were taken up by coronavirus patients.
Computer model makes strides in search for COVID-19 treatments
A new deep-learning model that can predict how human genes and medicines will interact has identified at least 10 compounds that may hold promise as treatments for COVID-19. All but two of the drugs are still considered investigational and are being tested for effectiveness against hepatitis C, fungal disease, cancer and heart disease. The list also includes the approved drugs cyclosporine, an immunosuppressant that prevents transplant organ rejection, and anidulafungin, an antifungal agent. The discovery was made by computer scientists, meaning much more work needs to be done before any of these medications would be confirmed as safe and effective treatments for people infected with SARS-CoV-2. But by using artificial intelligence to arrive at these options, the scientists have saved pharmaceutical and clinical researchers the time and money it would take to search for potential COVID-19 drugs on a piecemeal basis.
Everyone entering care homes should be tested for Covid-19, report urges
Everyone entering care homes should be tested for Covid-19, a report has recommended. Care home workers should be tested every day and those moving between homes should be tested before entry to every home, a report by the Stormont Health Committee has also urged. The report was published on Monday following a committee inquiry into coronavirus in care homes across Northern Ireland. It heard that about 40% of those who died with coronavirus in Northern Ireland last year were care home residents, according to Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency figures. As of October 2020 there were 16,110 registered care home beds across 434 independent homes and 48 that are publicly owned and operated.
Fauci: Covid Vaccines Are Less Effective Against New Strains — But Still Worth Taking
Even though new strains of the coronavirus have dented some vaccines’ effectiveness, existing vaccines can still prevent serious illness and slow the virus’ spread, White House medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday, responding to fears that the coronavirus will become more contagious and less susceptible to vaccines as it mutates. “Even when you have a variant circulating in which you may not have a 95% efficacy to prevent infection, it is very important that you might very very positively prevent serious illness and serious disease,” Fauci said. “You need to get vaccinated when it becomes available, as quickly and as expeditiously as possible throughout the country.”
Routine vaccinations in India disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic
In less than three months from its detection, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) a pandemic. COVID-19’s causative agent, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), is highly infective. To date, over 103 million cases have been reported, with over 2.23 million deaths. At various points in the pandemic’s trajectory, the rapid spread of COVID-19 across many parts of the world have forced numerous nations into a string of lockdowns. In India, lockdown measures have resulted in major disruptions to essential health services, including routine immunization drives for children. Such interruptions during previous epidemics have led to outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, amplifying morbidity and mortality.
Experts tout delaying 2nd COVID vaccine dose as US deaths mount
Following record COVID-19 deaths in January, several US experts extolled the benefits of vaccinating as many people as possible with one dose of COVID vaccine before ensuring people receive the recommended second dose. Some public health experts are urging the federal government via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), to immediately review data from Pfizer and Moderna, which are approved for use as two doses given 3 to 4 weeks apart, and consider giving as many first doses to people 65 and older as quickly as possible, and not withhold vaccines for planned second doses.
Two more studies trace COVID burden to racial, social inequality
Race and low socioeconomic status once again factor high on the list of vulnerabilities to COVID-19 infection and death in two US studies published late last week, one finding county-level inequalities and one linking ethnicity and community exposure to infections among healthcare workers (HCWs). In the first study, published in JAMA Network Open, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor researchers used the Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) to analyze the sociodemographic factors of 4,289,283 coronavirus-related infections and 147,074 deaths in 3,137 US counties from late March to Jul 29, 2020.
Despite drop in global COVID-19 cases, WHO says keep guard up
Global COVID-19 cases declined last week for the third week in a row, but cases are rising in some countries, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said today, urging nations to keep their guard up, especially with the threat of variant viruses. At a briefing today, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said the drop in cases is encouraging, because it shows that the virus can be controlled, even with new variants circulating that are thought to be more transmissible.
Vaccine manufacturing greenhorn Bayer to make 160M doses of CureVac's COVID-19 shot
In its nearly 160-year history, Bayer has never produced vaccines for humans. But the COVID-19 pandemic is changing that. As part of a recently penned collaboration, Bayer will help manufacture German compatriot CureVac’s mRNA-based coronavirus vaccine, CVnCOV, in addition to aiding in R&D, regulatory affairs, supply chain management and potential marketing operations, Stefan Oelrich, Bayer’s pharma chief, said in a press briefing Monday. To that end, Bayer plans to make 160 million doses of the CureVac shot in 2022, with the first commercial product expected to be made available at the end of this year. The vaccine entered phase 3 testing in December. The work will be done at Bayer’s Wuppertal site in Germany, Oelrich said. The company recently inked a deal to sell a plant at the site to Chinese CDMO WuXi Biologics for €150 million, with COVID-19 vaccine production also featured as part of WuXi’s plan for use of the facility.
Lilly drives more access to COVID-19 antibodies with new infusion centers
Eli Lilly's COVID-19 monoclonal antibody isn't getting as much use as it could, thanks to logistical hurdles. So the drugmaker is taking matters into its own hands. The pharma, in partnership with local health systems, is setting up dedicated local infusion centers across its home state of Indiana, with centers already up and running in the central, northern and southern parts of the state. So far, the infusion centers have delivered antibody therapy to more than 1,700 high-risk Hoosiers with COVID-19, Lilly reported. Lilly’s antibody treatment bamlanivimab, along with Regeneron’s combination imdevimab and casirivimab, both have FDA emergency use authorization to treat high-risk patients with mild to moderate cases of COVID-19 who aren’t hospitalized. But that’s also part of the problem. Infusions must be prescribed and administered in a hospital or clinic setting, but patients already admitted to the hospital with more severe cases of COVID-19 aren’t eligible.
Americans scramble for appointments for second COVID-19 vaccine dose
As more Americans ready for their second COVID-19 vaccine shot, some patients are falling through the cracks of an increasingly complex web of providers and appointment systems. While many people are getting their required second doses, the process is taking a toll on some of the most vulnerable - older adults who in many cases rely on family members or friends to navigate complex sign-up systems and inconvenient locations. Available vaccines need to be given as two separate doses weeks apart, and confusion is further taxing an already challenged health care system. Houston’s health department on Friday told those seeking a second dose to be patient, saying the volume of calls was creating long wait times at its call center.
Herd Immunity in Sight for India’s Capital?
The latest antibody testing data conducted in Delhi, India suggests that the nation's capital may be very close to attaining herd immunity against COVID-19. The Delhi government has been regularly conducting antibody tests since August 2020 to assess the spread of the virus in the capital region. In the fifth and the largest survey so far, more than 28,000 samples were tested across 11 districts in Delhi between Jan. 11 and Jan. 22. Preliminary results show that more than 60% of residents in one district in Delhi had antibodies against the coronavirus. The antibody rate in other districts more than 50%. If these findings hold true, it would imply that half of the city's 20 million people has been exposed to the virus and recovered.
Coronavirus vaccine would have to be 85 percent effective to stop a surge in deaths
Social distancing may remain in place until the end of the year - while coronavirus vaccines would have to be 85 per cent effective to prevent a surge in deaths if restrictions were totally relaxed, scientists warned today. Modelling passed to Downing Street warns that the UK could see a large spike in deaths if inoculation fails to significantly cut transmission. A paper commissioned by SAGE subgroup SPI-M and produced by modellers at the University of Warwick showed a 'high uptake' was also vital to get the country back to normal without risking a third wave of Covid cases.
Coronavirus vaccine would have to be 85 percent effective to stop a surge in deaths
Social distancing may remain in place until the end of the year - while coronavirus vaccines would have to be 85 per cent effective to prevent a surge in deaths if restrictions were totally relaxed, scientists warned today. Modelling passed to Downing Street warns that the UK could see a large spike in deaths if inoculation fails to significantly cut transmission. A paper commissioned by SAGE subgroup SPI-M and produced by modellers at the University of Warwick showed a 'high uptake' was also vital to get the country back to normal without risking a third wave of Covid cases.
Coronavirus Resurgence
Critically-ill Covid-19 patients being sent to Bristol from Birmingham amid 'extreme' ICU pressure
A hospital in Bristol is taking critically ill coronavirus patients from as far away as Birmingham. Southmead Hospital is stepping in amid "extreme" pressure on intensive care units (ICUs) elsewhere, BristolLive has reported. The hospital in north Bristol is taking about five coronavirus -positive patients from other regions each week. And that number is expected to rise, according to a hospital chief. North Bristol NHS Trust's chief operating officer, Karen Brown, said: "We've had patients transferred to us from Kent and also Birmingham as well."
COVID-19: 9.3 million people have received first vaccine dose as UK records another 406 deaths
Over half of people in their 70s have now received a coronavirus jab, as UK vaccinations hit nearly 9.3 million. It comes as the UK recorded a further 406 coronavirus-related deaths, the lowest daily rise since 28 December, and another 18,607 confirmed cases, the lowest number of daily cases since 15 December. The figures bring the total number of UK deaths to 106,564 and total number of cases to 3,835,783.
Germany sees positive trend in COVID-19 infections after second lockdown
The number of new COVID-19 infections in Germany remained below the previous week’s levels, with another 14,022 cases reported within one day, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) said on Friday. So far, more than 2.19 million infections have been registered in Germany since the outbreak of the pandemic, according to the federal government agency for disease control and prevention. The death toll related to COVID-19 stood at 55,752. To stop the spread of infections in the country, Germany entered a second lockdown at the beginning of November. The lockdown, failing to reverse the trend in infections, was tightened and recently extended until mid-February. Non-essential shops, schools and restaurants in Germany were closed and strict contact restrictions imposed.
French police block passengers as new Covid rules kick in
French border police turned away some passengers bound for non-EU destinations Monday as new rules came into force banning flights to and from countries outside the bloc. Prime Minister Jean Castex announced the measure Friday as part of new efforts to contain Covid-19 infections and avoid another nationwide lockdown. Travellers must also present proof of a recent negative Covid test. Only urgent reasons for travel are accepted and border police require written proof before allowing passengers to board, as Toure, a Malian national, found out when he tried to leave France for Bamako without the necessary document. "I said that my mother, whom I hadn't seen in a while, was ill but they told me I needed proof," Toure, who withheld his last name, told AFP at Paris's main airport Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle.
Japan Set to Extend Covid Emergency as Economy Sputters
The use of masks by television personalities and news anchors on camera is sparking a debate among the public and within the entertainment industry in Japan after broadcasters on a major network began wearing them during a program. TV Tokyo Corp. began having its anchors wear masks from Jan. 18. After anchor Mariko Oe asked viewers for feedback, the network received over 1,000 comments, of which approximately 80% saw the move in a favorable light. Some of those who disliked the use of masks on camera remarked it was difficult to make out the anchor’s facial expressions. The network is planning to start using subtitles after viewers with hearing difficulties said the masks meant they were unable to lip-read.
Japan's super-spreader weekends
Recent COVID-19 cases in Japan have shot up sharply, leading to another round of partial lockdowns, but reported cases appear subdued compared to the United States or Europe. Total cases in the United States have surpassed 23,000,000 cumulative while the cumulative number for Japan passed 315,000 cases. That is 69 cases per 1,000 people in the United States compared with two cases per 1,000 in Japan. If Japan had the same ratio of cases per 1,000 people as the United States, Japan would have more than 8,700,000 cases. That approximates the population of metropolitan Tokyo. If the United States had the same ratio of cases per 1,000 people as Japan, the number of cases would be under 660,000. That is about the population of Oklahoma City. Much has been researched and written about this disparity, but we will probably not learn of meaningful factors that can explain it for several more years.
Britain's centenarian fundraiser Captain Tom in hospital with COVID-19
British centenarian Captain Tom Moore, who raised millions of pounds for the health service by walking laps of his garden in last year’s lockdown, has been admitted to hospital after testing positive for COVID-19, his daughter said on Sunday. The World War Two veteran caught the public’s imagination in April, just before his 100th birthday, when he was filmed doing laps with the help of a walking frame around his garden in the village of Marston Moretaine, north of London. He hoped to raise 1,000 pounds. Instead, he raised more than 30 million ($41 million) for the National Health Service, broke two Guinness world records, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth, scored a No. 1 single, wrote an autobiography and helped set up a charity.
Covid: Door-to-door testing to be introduced across parts of England in response to South Africa variant
Some 80,000 people across England are being encouraged to come forward for “surge” testing, regardless of whether they have symptoms, as part of efforts to contain the growing spread of the South African coronavirus variant. A total of 105 cases in the UK have so far been attributed to the new variant – 11 of which were recently found to be community-based and not linked to people who had travelled to South Africa, suggesting the virus is now circulating among local populations. These infections were detected in eight different English postcodes: in Hanwell, Tottenham and Mitcham in London; Walsall in the West Midlands; Broxbourne, Hertfordshire; Maidstone, Kent; Woking, Surrey; and Southport, Merseyside.
Why can't Ireland be more like New Zealand on Covid?
For the first time, how to confront the threat posed by Covid-19 has become political. On one side are the government and the National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet), pursuing a policy of suppressing the virus through intermittent lockdowns. On the opposing side is a “zero Covid” movement, initially led by scientists but now backed by several opposition parties, which wants much stricter controls to emulate the example of New Zealand and rid Ireland of the coronavirus. The most prominent advocate of zero Covid has been the Independent Scientific Advisory Group (Isag), a collective of scientists from both sides of the border. In order to eliminate community transmission, it suggests closing borders, imposing a mandatory 14-day quarantine on any new arrivals, and then rigorously tracking
COVID back in Australia as Perth enters lockdown
The Australian city of Perth was ordered into lockdown on Sunday after a security guard working in hotel quarantine tested positive for COVID-19, ending the country’s longest coronavirus-free run. Soraya Ali reports.
New Lockdown
New lockdown in France 'almost inevitable' says infectious diseases expert, as new measures begin
France's latest measures to curb the spread of the new coronavirus "may not be enough," according to the President of the French Society of Infectious Diseases, who believes the country will go into national lockdown very soon. President Emmanuel Macron has been resisting putting that measure in place. Instead, borders have closed to countries outside the European Union and those entering France from the EU now need a negative PCR test
'We are very frustrated': WA health expert wants overhaul of hotel quarantine system
Health experts in Western Australia say they are "frustrated" at the state's hotel quarantine system, where a security guard was able to contract COVID-19, feared to be the highly contagious UK variant. Parts of WA are now in a five-day lockdown, with nearly two million residents ordered to stay at home. President of the Australian Medical Association WA branch, Dr Andrew Miller, said the quarantine system needed an overhaul.
Single Covid case in Western Australia leads to 5-day lockdown for 2 million
Parts of Western Australia went into a five-day lockdown Sunday, after a hotel security guard tested positive for coronavirus. The Perth metropolitan area and the Peel and South West regions of the Australian state are now under "full lockdown," Premier Mark McGowan announced Sunday, with residents only able to leave their homes for essential shopping, medical needs, exercise, and for jobs that cannot be done at home or remotely. Schools, most businesses, entertainment venues and places of worship are all closed, and restaurants restricted to takeaway only.
Covid: Australian city of Perth goes into snap lockdown after guard tests positive
The Australian city of Perth has begun a snap five-day lockdown after a security guard working at a quarantine hotel tested positive for coronavirus. Western Australia - the state of which Perth is the capital - had not had a case of locally acquired coronavirus for 10 months. People in the city of two million - along with people living in the nearby Peel and South West regions - must stay at home, except for essential work, healthcare, food shopping or exercise, said Western Australia state Premier Mark McGowan. Mr McGowan said the guard may have the UK variant of the virus
One Case, Total Lockdown: Australia’s Lessons for a Pandemic World
One case. One young security guard at a quarantine hotel who tested positive for the coronavirus and experienced minor symptoms. That was all it took for Perth, Australia’s fourth-largest city, to snap into a complete lockdown on Sunday. One case and now two million people are staying home for at least the next five days. One case and now the top state leader, Mark McGowan, who is facing an election next month, is calling on his constituents to sacrifice for each other and the nation. The speed and severity of the response may be unthinkable to people in the United States or Europe, where far larger outbreaks have often been met with half measures. But to Australians, it looked familiar.