"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 18th May 2021
Singapore warns children susceptible to virus variants, shuts schools
- Singapore warned that the new coronavirus variants, such as the one first detected in India, were affecting more children, as the city-state prepares to shut most schools from this week and draws up plans to vaccinate youngsters. All primary, secondary and junior colleges will shift to full home-based learning from Wednesday until the end of the school term on May 28.
- 'Some of these virus mutations are much more virulent, and they seem to attack the younger children,' said Education Minister Chan Chun Sing. None of the children who have contracted the virus are seriously ill and a few have mild symptoms, he added.
- On Sunday, Singapore confirmed 38 locally transmtted COVID-19 cases, the highest daily number since mid-September, with 17 currently unlinked. The cases included four children linked to a cluster at a tuition centre.
- The B1617 strain appeared to affect children more, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, citing the ministry's director of medical Kenneth Mak. It was not clear how many children had contracted the strain.
- Singapore has reported more than 61,000 virus cases, with the bulk linked to outbreaks last year in foreign worker dormitories, and 31 deaths. Sunday's new cases were the highest number of local infections outside of the dormitories in a year.
- 'The sharp rise in the number of community cases today requires for us to significantly reduce our movements and interactions in the coming days,' Chan added.
Singapore warns children susceptible to virus variants, shuts schools
Singapore warned on Sunday that the new coronavirus variants, such as the one first detected in India, were affecting more children, as the city-state prepares to shut most schools from this week and draws up plans to vaccinate youngsters. All primary, secondary and junior colleges will shift to full home-based learning from Wednesday until the end of the school term on May 28. "Some of these (virus) mutations are much more virulent, and they seem to attack the younger children," said Education Minister Chan Chun Sing.
Biden boosting world vaccine sharing commitment to 80M doses
President Joe Biden said Monday that the U.S. will share an additional 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines with the world in the coming six weeks as domestic demand for shots drops and global disparities in distribution have grown more evident. The doses will come from existing production of Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccine stocks, marking the first time that U.S.-controlled doses of vaccines authorized for use in the country will be shared overseas. It will boost the global vaccine sharing commitment from the U.S. to 80 million. “We know America will never be fully safe until the pandemic that’s raging globally is under control,” Biden said at the White House.
California will stay masked for another month
California won’t lift its mask requirement until June 15 to give the public and businesses time to prepare and ensure cases stay low, the state health director said Monday, a decision that runs counter to many other states including Oregon and Washington that quickly aligned with last week’s new federal guidelines. “This four-week period will give Californians time to prepare for this change, while we continue the relentless focus on delivering vaccines particularly to underserved communities and those that were hard hit throughout this pandemic,” Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said. The timing aligns with California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s earlier announcement that if cases remain low, the state will drop nearly all COVID-19 restrictions on June 15.
UK ministers considering contingency plans for local lockdowns -the Times
British ministers are considering contingency plans for local lockdowns or a delay to reopening after June 21 in response to concern about the spread of the coronavirus variant first detected in India, The Times newspaper reported on Monday. Officials have drawn up plans modelled on the Tier 4 restrictions introduced last year, the paper said. People would be advised to stay at home and non-essential shops and hospitality would be closed if the variant was not brought under control, it added.
China backs developing countries' call to waive IP rights on COVID-19 vaccines
China supports developing countries' appeal for the waiving of intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, the Chinese foreign ministry said on Monday. Zhao Lijian, a spokesman at the foreign ministry, was speaking at a regular news conference.
More COVID-19 vaccines coming to Taiwan as cases spike
Much-needed COVID-19 vaccines should be coming to Taiwan soon, the GAVI Vaccine Alliance said on Monday, as the chip-producing island's limited supplies run short during a spike in cases that has left the government scrambling for supplies. A surge of coronavirus infections in Taiwan, one of the world's COVID-19 mitigation success stories, has led to its stock of 300,000 doses rapidly running out, with only about 1% of its 23 million people vaccinated.
COVID-19: Concerns raised over extension of vaccine rollout to younger age groups to tackle Indian variant
A government minister has said he did not approve of moves to break from government guidelines on the rollout of vaccines in areas where the Indian variant has been found - as London's mayor called for more flexibility. Asked whether he approved of authorities in Bolton vaccinating "anyone who wants it", Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told Sky News: "No, I think the government has very clear guidelines in terms of the ordered way in which we roll out the vaccine." But it came as Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said he had asked Health Secretary Matt Hancock to give city authorities "the flexibility to give younger people the vaccine, in those parts of London who are concerned about this strain".
G7 urged to donate excess COVID vaccines to global sharing scheme
The head of UNICEF, the United Nations children’s agency, has asked G7 countries to donate excess supplies of COVID-19 vaccines to the global COVAX sharing scheme as an emergency measure to address a severe shortfall following a curb on exports from India. India had pledged supplies of the AstraZeneca vaccine produced by its Serum Institute to COVAX but a devastating surge in cases at home has restricted exports. UNICEF, which is in charge of supplying coronavirus vaccines through COVAX, estimates the supply shortfall will reach 140 million doses by the end of May and about 190 million by the end of June. “Sharing immediately available excess doses is a minimum, essential and emergency stop-gap measure, and it is needed right now,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore on Monday
Under-40s could get AstraZeneca vaccine after all: Plan to offer alternative Covid jab could be reversed amid fears over Indian variant
The decision to offer under-40s an alternative jab to AstraZeneca could be reversed in light of the Indian variant, it emerged yesterday. Last month the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation decided those aged under 30 should get a different jab due to the slightly higher risk of a rare blood clot. This advice was later extended to those aged between 30 and 39 'if available and if it does not cause delays in having the vaccine'. But yesterday, for the first time, experts said this rule could be reversed to help speed up the rollout and protect more people against the Indian variant.
UN agencies make urgent appeal for COVAX vaccine doses
Ahead of the G7 summit next month in the United Kingdom, UNICEF today put out an urgent call for leaders to pool their excess COVID-19 vaccine capacity to make up for a 125-million-dose gap in the COVAX program. The plea, which comes as the B1617 and other variants are sparking fresh surges in several countries, was followed by an announcement from US President Joe Biden that the United States will donate 20 million doses of approved vaccine abroad.
Retailers, states grapple with shifting COVID-19 mask mandates
Major retailers across the country, including Target, Starbucks, and Walmart, are changing their in-store mask requirements following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) announcement last week that fully vaccinated Americans are now safe to resume almost all activities without wearing a mask. Starbucks, Walmart, Costco, and Trader Joe's have all said they will require masks for fully vaccinated patrons only if local law dictates it. Today Target and CVS said they will "strongly recommend" masks for unvaccinated customers and employees, but fully vaccinated shoppers are not expected to don masks. All businesses, however, have emphasized that they will follow local laws and regulations. Despite the new guidance from the CDC that vaccinated people don't need to wear masks for most activities, many vaccinated Americans remain reluctant to give up their masks, the Associated Press reports. The mask has acted as both a security measure and was a visible way to signal that a person took the pandemic seriously. As of yesterday, 18 states have lifted statewide mask mandates, meaning about one third of the country is now mask-free for the first time in roughly 1 year.
Virus testing strategies, opinions vary widely in US schools
Children are having their noses swabbed or saliva sampled at school to test for the coronavirus in cities such as Baltimore, New York and Chicago. In other parts of the U.S., school districts are reluctant to check even students showing signs of illness for COVID-19. Education and health officials around the country have taken different approaches to testing students and staff members — and widely varying positions or whether to test them at all as more children give up virtual classrooms for in-person learning. Some states have rejected their share of the billions of dollars the Biden administration made available for conducting virus tests in schools.
Brazil to receive ingredients from China for 25 million vaccine shots in coming days
Brazil will receive ingredients from China to produce up to 25 million doses of the AstraZeneca and Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines on Saturday and early next week, Health Ministry and political officials said on Monday. Rodrigo Cruz, executive secretary at the Health Ministry, said the Fiocruz biomedical center will receive two lots of ingredients for 18 million AstraZeneca shots on Saturday, while Sao Paulo governor Joao Doria said the state's Butantan biomedical institute will receive ingredients for 7 million shots on May 26.
Covid-19: Variant fears could delay England's 21 June easing review
The government's review of social distancing rules in England might have to be delayed because of the spread of the Indian Covid variant. Boris Johnson had hoped to give an update by the end of May ahead of the planned lifting of all remaining restrictions on 21 June. But No 10 said the government now "cannot be definitive at this point". It comes as millions of people can now enjoy new freedoms as lockdown is eased in England, Wales and most of Scotland.
Top India scientist quits COVID panel over differences with gov’t
A top Indian virologist has resigned from a forum of scientific advisers set up by the government to detect variants of the coronavirus, days after questioning the authorities’ handling of the pandemic. Shahid Jameel, chair of the scientific advisory group of the forum known as INSACOG, declined to give a reason for his resignation. “I am not obliged to give a reason,” he told the Reuters news agency in a text message on Sunday, adding that he quit on Friday. A top government scientist who is part of the forum said, on the condition of anonymity, that he did not think the departure of Jameel would hamper INSACOG’s monitoring of virus variants. Reuters reported earlier this month that INSACOG, the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genetics Consortium, warned government officials in early March of a new and more contagious variant of the coronavirus taking hold in the country.
Backers of WTO vaccine waiver ask opponents to join talks - document
Supporters of a proposal to waive patent rights on COVID-19 vaccines at the World Trade Organization are set to call on opponents to join the negotiations, stressing the gravity of the pandemic, a draft document showed on Monday. Talks at the WTO on temporarily waiving IP rights have been deadlocked for months. But U.S. President Joe Biden's decision earlier this month to back talks for a waiver has raised hopes that the few remaining wealthy-country opponents could also switch camps
Western Countries Prevented African Nations From Having Their Own Vaccine
During pre-clinical evaluation and animal testing, the vaccine ACEGID developed, Happi claimed, showed 90 percent efficacy in treating multiple strains of COVID-19 circulating on the continent, but despite those results, it has not been able to secure either public or private funding to take the vaccine to human clinical trials. “We’ve submitted proposals and we still don’t have a response,” Happi told VICE World News over the phone. “If we were able to produce a vaccine on the continent, the issue of access would have been far less overwhelming, but African countries don’t want to invest and who else is going to come in and invest?”
Glasgow may be facing weeks more of tougher lockdown to stem Indian variant
Glasgow may be facing weeks more of tougher lockdown restrictions to tackle the spread of the Covid Indian variant, Scotland's national clinical director has warned ahead of lockdown being eased on Monday across most of the rest of the country. Jason Leitch said existing restrictions “may well” last longer than a week and the situation remained "fragile" as case rates continue to climb. He said Nicola Sturgeon's decision to keep Glasgow in Level 3 - only three days after stating it would go to Level 2 - was made due to past experience where delaying moves to halt the spread of Covid-19 “rarely works”. The latest weekly average Covid rate in the city is 94.5 cases per 100,000 people, nearly double the Level 2 benchmark of 50.
Sanofi, GSK announce positive results for Covid-19 vaccine candidate
Sanofi and GSK announced positive results on Monday from a Phase 2 clinical trial of their joint Covid-19 vaccine, saying it generated strong levels of neutralizing antibodies in recipients across all ages studied. The partners said a large international Phase 3 trial will begin in coming weeks. The duo, two of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturers, is far behind in the effort to produce a Covid vaccine and lock down markets for their product, having suffered a setback in an earlier Phase 1/2 trial last year. But with vaccine supplies expected to trail global need into the foreseeable future, the companies believe there is still a place for their vaccine. “Our Phase 2 data confirm the potential of this vaccine to play a role in addressing this ongoing global public health crisis, as we know multiple vaccines will be needed, especially as variants continue to emerge and the need for effective and booster vaccines, which can be stored at normal temperatures increases,” Thomas Triomphe, executive vice president and head of the vaccines division at Sanofi Pasteur, said in a statement.
SK bioscience's COVID-19 vaccine plant in South Korea gets European nod
South Korea's SK bioscience said on Monday its COVID-19 vaccine facility had received European Union Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) certification, paving the way for exports to the bloc. The certification approves the production and processing line and quality system of SK bioscience's Andong plant, which produces COVID-19 vaccines developed by AstraZeneca Plc and Novavax Inc. It will enable SK to export vaccines to the European markets. SK bioscience is also looking to obtain the Current Good Manufacturing Practice regulations enforced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it said in a statement.
Survey shows 3 in 4 Kiwis adopted COVID-19 protective behaviors
Research from Massey University shows an overwhelming majority of New Zealanders support regional (94 percent) or national lockdowns (81 percent) if there are new COVID-19 infections in New Zealand. In a national survey conducted by Senior Lecturer Dr. Jagadish Thaker (JT) of the School of Communication, Journalism & Marketing in February and March 2021, with nearly 1100 respondents, three in four Kiwis (77 percent) said they had used the contact tracing app to record visits to the office, supermarkets and other venues. Dr. Thaker says the results show why effective communication from trusted sources continue to matter during and after vaccination.
The reasons why everyone has a different reaction to the coronavirus vaccine
Over three million people in Scotland have now received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine and restrictions continue to lift as things start to get back to 'normal'. Adults aged 18 and over are now being invited to get their covid jab in some areas of Glasgow amid fears over the so-called Indian variant. Glaswegians in areas most impacted by Covid have been receiving text messages outlining details of their appointment for their first dose - with some jabs taking place as early as next week.
Sanofi, GSK say revamped coronavirus vaccine is strong enough for final test
Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline on Monday reported a coronavirus vaccine they developed together met the goal of a mid-stage clinical trial, boosting the companies' research efforts five months after an earlier version of the shot disappointed in a costly setback. Results from the trial, which enrolled 722 volunteers in the U.S. and Honduras, showed the revamped vaccine spurred immune responses that were comparable to what researchers have observed following naturally occurring cases of COVID-19. Importantly, the companies said responses were strong across age groups, including in older adults whose immune systems tend to be weaker. Sanofi and GSK now plan to launch a Phase 3 study of the vaccine in the "coming weeks" and expect to enroll some 35,000 adult volunteers from a "broad range of countries." Doing so will be harder than six months ago, however, after multiple other vaccines have been made available in many countries in North America, Europe and the Middle East.
Can children get long COVID?
Children have been largely overlooked during the COVID-19 pandemic; thankfully the majority of them get mild or even no symptoms if they catch the virus. Much of the discussion around the role of children in the pandemic has been about how they may spread the virus. However, over time there has been a growing body of evidence that suggests that a proportion of children may develop long COVID, whether or not they had any symptoms when they actually contracted the virus.
Why Some Vaccinated People Still Get Covid
In this week's edition of the Covid Q&A, we look at when a person who has been fully vaccinated still develops Covid-19, or what’s known among epidemiologists as a “breakthrough” infection. In hopes of making this very confusing time just a little less so, each week Bloomberg Prognosis is picking one question sent in by readers and putting it to an expert in the field. This week's question is: Why do some people get Covid-19 infections even though they were recently vaccinated?
Sanofi, GSK announce positive early results for their Covid-19 vaccine candidate
Sanofi and GSK announced positive results on Monday from a Phase 2 clinical trial of their joint Covid-19 vaccine, saying it generated strong levels of neutralizing antibodies in recipients across all ages studied. The partners said a large international Phase 3 trial will begin in coming weeks. The duo, two of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturers, is far behind in the effort to produce a Covid vaccine and lock down markets for their product, having suffered a setback in an earlier Phase 1/2 trial last year. But with vaccine supplies expected to trail global need into the foreseeable future, the companies believe there is still a place for their vaccine.
India's virus cases decline but WHO expert says positive tests ominously high
India reported a further decline in new coronavirus cases on Monday but daily deaths remained above 4,000 and experts said the data was unreliable due to a lack of testing in rural areas where the virus is spreading fast. For months now, nowhere in the world has been hit harder than India by the pandemic, as a new strain of the virus fuelled a surge in infections that has risen to more than 400,000 daily. Even with a downturn over the past few days, experts said there was no certainty that infections had peaked, with alarm growing both at home and abroad over the highly contagious B.1.617 variant first found in India.
Thailand reports another COVID-19 record after prison clusters
Thailand reported on Monday a daily record of 9,635 new coronavirus cases, nearly three-quarters of which were prisoners infected in jail clusters, as the Southeast Asian country struggles with a third wave of infections. The combined cases bring its total infections to 111,082. Thailand also announced 25 new deaths on Monday, bringing its overall coronavirus fatalities to 614. The COVID-19 taskforce said 10,748 inmates had been infected with the coronavirus this month according to tests on 24,357 prisoners in eight jails.
Taiwan, Hailed For Its Pandemic Response, Now Faces A Covid-19 Surge Amid Slow Vaccine Rollout
An unexpected surge in Covid-19 cases over the past week has forced authorities in Taiwan to impose a partial lockdown for the first time during the pandemic as the island scrambles to secure more vaccine doses and speed up its sluggish rollout that has only seen about 1% of its entire population get fully inoculated.
Glimmer of hope seen in India, but virus crisis not over yet
For the first time in months, Izhaar Hussain Shaikh is feeling somewhat optimistic. The 30-year-old ambulance driver in India’s metropolis of Mumbai has been working tirelessly ever since the city became the epicenter of another catastrophic COVID-19 surge slashing through the country. Last month, he drove about 70 patients to the hospital, his cellphone constantly vibrating with calls. But two weeks into May, he’s only carried 10 patients. Cases are falling and so are the phone calls. “We used to be so busy before, we didn’t even have time to eat,” he said.