"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 21st May 2021
Britain to work with WHO on 'pandemic radar' to track diseases
- Britain will work with the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop a 'pandemic radar' system to identify new coronavirus variants quickly and track emerging diseases globally to ensure the world is never 'caught unawares again.'
- Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the plan for a new 'Global Pandemic Radar' ahead of a G20 Global Health summit on Friday in Rome, where he will speak.
- Johnson's office said it would involve a network of surveillance hubs that could watch out for outbreaks and share data on variants and vaccine resistance.
- He is using Britain's presidency of the G7 to highlight the need to be prepared for future pandemics, launching an expert group to examine how the development of vaccines against future diseases can be expedited.
- Britain has extensive virus-sequencing capabilities that have come to the fore as coronavirus variants increasingly raise the risk of new waves of infections.
- WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Britain had 'set a strong example for pathogen surveillance and sequencing, as well as vaccine development.'
- 'I am delighted that under PM Johnson, and the UK, will partner with WHO to contribute to stronger global surveillance and a safer world,' he said.
- At Friday's summit, leaders of the world's largest economies will adopt a declaration recommending voluntary actions to boost COVID-19 vaccine production, snubbing a push from the United States and other nations on patent waivers, the final text shows.
- Drugmakers are also set to announce they will provide large supplies of at cost COVID-19 vaccines to poor nations this year to try to redress a global imbalance, an EU official said.
Britain to work with WHO on 'pandemic radar' to track diseases
Britain will work with the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop a "pandemic radar" system to identify new coronavirus variants quickly and track emerging diseases globally to ensure the world is never "caught unawares again". Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the plan for a new "Global Pandemic Radar" ahead of a G20 Global Health summit on Friday in Rome, where he will speak. Johnson's office said it would involve a network of surveillance hubs that could watch out for outbreaks and share data on variants and vaccine resistance.
WTO chief calls for diversification of vaccine production
The head of the World Trade Organization said Thursday it is of paramount importance to diversify vaccine manufacturing and to have more production taking place in Africa and Latin America to contain the pandemic. On the eve of a global health summit in Rome, WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told European Union legislators that normal market forces for exports and imports couldn’t apply when it comes to the life-or-death issue of COVID-19 vaccines, as many of the world’s wealthiest nations were hoarding the shots for their own population when the crisis hit their home turf. She said the world has the capacity to manufacture some 5 billion vaccine doses overall but that as the virus has spread “we require twice and three times that. So the capacity was not there.”
EU presents WTO plan to boost COVID vaccine output
The European Union has put forward a plan it believes will help boost the production and availability of COVID-19 vaccines more effectively than a proposed waiver of patent rights now backed by the United States. Under pressure from developing countries demanding a waiver of intellectual property (IP) rights for vaccines and treatments, the EU presented on Wednesday an alternative focused on export restrictions, pledges from vaccine developers and the flexibility of existing World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.
China says providing vaccines to almost 40 African nations
China said Thursday it is providing COVID-19 vaccines to nearly 40 African countries, describing its actions as purely altruistic in an apparent intensification of what has been described as “vaccine diplomacy.” The vaccines were donated or sold at “favorable prices,” Foreign Ministry official Wu Peng told reporters. Wu compared China’s outreach to the actions of “some countries that have said they have to wait for their own people to finish the vaccination before they could supply the vaccines to foreign countries,” in an apparent dig at the United States. “We believe that it is, of course, necessary to ensure that the Chinese people get vaccinated as soon as possible, but for other countries in need, we also try our best to provide vaccine help,” said Wu, who is director of the ministry’s Africa department.
Latin America poised to benefit as U.S. raises exports of COVID-19 shots -sources
Latin America is poised to receive millions of U.S.-made COVID-19 shots in the coming weeks as the United States emerges as a top exporter of vaccines against the novel coronavirus, according to two people familiar with the matter. The United States is considering prioritizing countries within its own hemisphere for the 80 million domestically-made vaccine doses it has pledged to send abroad, one person familiar with the matter said. Meanwhile, Pfizer Inc has begun exporting millions of its U.S.-made shots largely to countries in Central and South America, a second person familiar with the matter said.
COVID-19: Ursula von der Leyen says EU will reach vaccination targets 'without sealing itself off from the world'
The EU will reach its vaccination targets "without sealing itself off from the world", the EU Commission president has said - in what has been interpreted as a snipe at the UK and US. Ursula von der Leyen said critics of the EU vaccination campaign should keep in mind that the EU had exported 220 million jabs, almost as many as it has used for its own citizens. She added: "Others are keeping their entire vaccine production all to themselves, but the EU will reach its vaccination targets without sealing itself off from the world."
EU grapples over COVID-19 passes for summer travel
The European Union reached a deal on Thursday on COVID-19 certificates designed to open up tourism across the 27-nation bloc this summer, the centre-right European People's Party (EPP) said. European Parliament lawmakers and current EU president Portugal representing the bloc's 27 members sealed the agreement after a fourth round of negotiations on Thursday afternoon. The certificate will take the form of a QR code on a smartphone or paper, letting authorities determine the status of a visitor based on records in their home EU country. The certificate would show if a person had received a vaccine, had a recent negative test or had immunity based on recovery.
UAE and Bahrain offer Sinopharm coronavirus booster shots amid questions on Chinese vaccine efficacy
The United Arab Emirates said that it will offer an additional dose of the Chinese-developed Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine to people who have already received two shots of the vaccine more than six months ago. The decision marks a significant expansion in the UAE’s booster shot program, which is among the first in the world. The country had previously administered a third Sinopharm shot to some people whose immune systems did not create enough antibodies after vaccination. In March, a top researcher at G42, an Abu Dhabi-based firm that held late-stage trials of the Sinopharm vaccine, said very few people would be likely to need the booster.
Egyptian gov't mulls giving 3rd coronavirus vaccine dose
Egypt is considering administering a third dose of coronavirus vaccination, in anticipation of virus mutations that have appeared in other countries, Advisor to the Egyptian President for Health Affairs Mohamed Awad Tag Eddin. Tag Eddin added, in a telephone interview on MBC Masr on Wednesday evening, that China has announced that those who received two doses of its Sinopharm vaccine must receive a third dose. The United Arab Emirates, one of the first countries to use Sinopharm, announced earlier this week that it will be administering booster shots of the vaccine.
UK’s Indian Covid variant surge fuelled by test-and-trace failures, report finds
The surge in the Indian Covid-19 variant was fuelled by failures in England’s test-and-trace system, a report has found. Eight local authorities did not have access to the full data on positive tests in their areas for three weeks in April and May, it says. The number of missing cases was highest in Blackburn with Darwen, in Lancashire – where a recent surge in infections was linked to the Indian variant. The other areas affected by the apparent technical glitch were Blackpool, York, Bath and North East Somerset, Bristol, North Somerset, Southend-on-Sea and Thurrock, the BBC revealed.
Biden, saying 'silence is complicity,' signs COVID hate crimes bill into law
President Joe Biden on Thursday signed into law the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act that overwhelmingly passed Congress in a rare show of bipartisanship following a spate of high-profile attacks on Asian Americans in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. "Silence is complicity and we cannot be complicit. We have to speak out. We have to act," Biden told lawmakers. "That's what you've done. And I can't thank you enough. I'm proud today."
'Herculean efforts' to roll out Novavax jab, vaccine maker says
Vaccine manufacturer Novavax is making "Herculean efforts" to have its COVID-19 shot ready for Australia, the company's chief commercial officer says. John Trizzino told Today the two-dose vaccine should be ready for approval by Australian regulators later this year. "We're working diligently and have been for over one-and-a-half years now. It has been a Herculean effort to get to this point," Mr Trizzino said.
Coronavirus: Canada-wide study to investigate mix-and-matching vaccine doses
A new Canada-wide study will look at the effect of using different COVID-19 vaccine doses in Canadian adults to determine if mixing and matching vaccines yields a strong immune response and how long the response lasts. The study, announced Thursday, will investigate the use of different vaccines for first and second doses in 1,300 adult participants. The study will be conducted in conjunction with the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force, Vaccine Surveillance Reference Group, Canadian Immunization Research Network and Dalhousie University. "As questions of vaccine interchangeability arise and alternative dosing intervals are being used in public health programs, our objective is to determine: what are the effects of different dosing intervals of the vaccines on immunity and safety?" said Dr. Joanne Langley, co-principal investigator of the study and professor at Dalhousie University, said in a press release.
Pfizer, BioNTech to deliver 60 million more COVID-19 vaccine doses to Turkey
U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc and its German partner BioNTech SE said on Thursday they would supply Turkey with 60 million additional doses of their COVID-19 vaccine. The latest agreement includes an option for 30 million extra doses, which would bring the total number of doses to be supplied to Turkey to 120 million, the drugmakers said in a joint statement. All of the doses will be delivered in 2021, the companies added.
S.Korea says to run mix-and-match trial of COVID-19 vaccines
South Korea on Thursday said it will conduct a clinical trial that mixes COVID-19 vaccine doses developed by AstraZeneca Plc with those from Pfizer Inc and others. The decision comes as a growing number of countries look into using different COVID-19 vaccines for first and second doses amid supply delays and safety concerns that have slowed their vaccination campaigns.
Italy to introduce 20% tax break for R&D of drugs including COVID-19 vaccines - draft
Italy will introduce tax breaks of 20% for companies conducting research and development for innovative drugs, including COVID-19 vaccines, provided they grant non exclusive licenses, according to a draft decree seen by Reuters. These companies will be entitled to a tax credit equal to 20% of the costs they incurred from June 1, 2021 to Dec. 31, 2030 on condition they commit to grant licenses to third parties in the European Economic Area “on non-discriminatory market terms”, the draft showed.
BioNTech says vaccine likely to be effective against India variant
BioNTech SE said on Thursday the COVID-19 vaccine it developed with Pfizer should be roughly as effective against the new coronavirus variant first detected in India as it has been shown to be against the South African variant. The company said in a statement Chief Executive Ugur Sahin felt encouraged by recent findings in a scientific paper based on blood analysis of vaccinated individuals, which showed that the antibodies elicited by the vaccine were able to neutralise the Indian variant.
FDA recommends not using syringes from Chinese firm after safety issues with vaccine injections
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday asked healthcare providers to stop using certain syringes and needles manufactured by Chinese medical device maker Guangdong Haiou Medical Apparatus Co. At least one pharmacist that Reuters spoke to said the syringes had been shipped for use with the Pfizer Inc /BioNTech SE COVID-19 vaccine. An FDA spokesperson said the devices stopped being shipped in COVID-19 vaccination kits as of March 22. The agency does not believe that stopping use of these syringes will cause vaccination delays.
UK increasingly confident COVID-19 vaccines work against Indian variant
Britain is increasingly confident that vaccines work against the coronavirus variant first found in India, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday, with a leading epidemiologist saying it may be spreading less quickly than first feared. Johnson has warned that the emergence of the B.1.617.2 variant might derail his plans to lift England's lockdown fully on June 21, but on Wednesday he said the latest data had been encouraging. "We have increasing confidence vaccines are effective against all variants, including the Indian variant," he told parliament
Covid-19: Why prioritising prevention matters in a pandemic of cures
Prevention is better than cure. Simple. Clear. Logical. Except that it is easily overcomplicated, clouded, and misplaced. When we forget that prevention is better than cure, primary care becomes an easy scapegoat, even though the pandemic has reinforced its importance in improving baseline population health, reducing health inequalities, delivering a vaccination strategy, and keeping people out of hospital. We might forget the mammoth efforts of general practice to reconfigure care—and then reverse some of that reconfiguration—the extra burden and complexity created by limitless digital access of patients to health professionals,3 and the ingenuity and partnership now needed between primary and secondary care to clear a 4.7 million person waiting list with £160m of innovation funding. Or that preventing racism in general practice and in hospitals, in doctors’ education, training, assessment, and disciplinary procedures, is better for patients, an issue that the UK’s General Medical Council is now promising to tackle head on.
Japan health panel approves Moderna, AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines
Japanese regulators recommended the approval of COVID-19 vaccines developed by Moderna Inc and AstraZeneca PLC on Thursday, paving the way for the country to speed up its slow-moving vaccination campaign. The recommendations by a health ministry panel precede official approval by the government as early as Friday, health minister Norihisa Tamura said on Thursday. Tamura likened the approval of the new vaccines to building extra railway tracks, telling reporters: "It means that the vaccination roll-out will be smoother."
Contact Tracing for Covid-19 — A Digital Inoculation against Future Pandemics
Outbreaks of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) emerged in the United States and in European countries in February 2020. Urgent action was called for, since experts estimated that 30 to 70% of people in these Western countries could become infected — a frightening projection at a time when the Covid-19 mortality rate was estimated to be substantially higher than we now know it to be. In March 2020, Michael Ryan, executive director of the Health Emergencies Program of the World Health Organization (WHO), implored countries to act, noting that when it comes to epidemic response, “speed trumps perfection” but “the greatest error is not to move.” At the time, the only tools for containing Covid-19 were social distancing, testing, case isolation, and contact tracing.
India battles rash of "black fungus" cases hitting COVID-19 patients
India has ordered tighter surveillance of a rare fungal disease hitting COVID-19 patients, officials said on Thursday, piling pressure on hospitals struggling with the world's highest number of daily infections of the novel coronavirus. Mucormycosis, or "black fungus" usually infects people whose immune system has been compromised, causing blackening or discolouration over the nose, blurred or double vision, chest pain, breathing difficulties and coughing blood.
India's largest vial maker expects sales to triple on COVID-19 vaccine ramp up
Indian drug vial maker Schott Kaisha is expecting annual vial sales for COVID-19 shots to more than triple as vaccine production, including by one of its top customers Serum Institute, increases in response to a monster second wave of infections. An Indo-German joint venture between specialty glass makers Schott AG and Kaisha, the company expects to sell 380 million vials for COVID-19 vaccines in 2021-22, up from 113 million a year earlier, Director Rishad Dadachanji said in an interview.
COVID-19: EU Commission signs third contract with Pfizer-BioNTech
The European Commission today announced that It has reserved an additional 1.8 billion doses of the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, on behalf of all 27 EU countries, from the end of 2021 to 2023.
COVID causes orphan crisis in India; experts fear neglect, abuse
Three days after their father died of coronavirus, six-year-old twins Tripti and Pari were found sleeping next to their mother, unaware that she had also become a victim. Thousands of children have lost one or both parents in the new pandemic wave ravaging India, where there were already millions of orphans. The prospect of a surge of abandoned minors worries many.
Many deaths in India’s Goa as gov’t fails to ensure oxygen supply
In the early hours of May 12, Yunus Khan’s family watched helplessly as the 30-year-old coronavirus patient choked for breath while on a ventilator at the government-run Goa Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) in the coastal state’s Bambolim town. According to his 21-year-old brother Abdul Khan, Yunus had been making progress.
Nearly 1 million excess deaths in 29 nations during pandemic
Nearly 1 million more people than normal died in 29 high-income countries during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, according to a time series study yesterday in BMJ. University of Oxford researchers led the study, which involved calculating weekly excess deaths for each included country in 2020, adjusting for age, sex, and seasonal and annual mortality trends in the previous 5 years. They estimated that 979,000 more people than expected died of all causes during the pandemic, with rates generally increasing with advancing age. All countries, except for Demark, New Zealand, and Norway, had more deaths than expected, especially in men. But the excess death rate in the United States was higher among women than men in the 85 and older age-group.
Malaysia sees another record in COVID-19 infections, deaths
Malaysia reported a new daily record in coronavirus infections and deaths on Thursday, as the country deals with spike in the number and severity of new cases. It announced 59 COVID-19 fatalities on Thursday, a record toll for the third day this week, while its 6,806 new cases was the second straight day of record infections. The latest numbers pushed Malaysia's total cases to 492,302 - the third highest in Southeast Asia behind Indonesia and the Philippines.
Covid-19: What went wrong in Singapore and Taiwan?
They've been hailed as virus success stories - places that have seen virtually zero or single-digit Covid cases since the start of the year. But this month, Singapore and Taiwan have both seen a sudden and aggressive rise in cases - with Singapore logging 248 new cases just last week, and Taiwan 1,200 local infections. Both places have gone into a heightened state of restrictions, limiting the size of social gatherings and closing schools. By global standards, these numbers may seem small - but for these places, these figures would have been unthinkable just months ago. So what exactly went wrong?
UK at start of third wave of Covid-19, Sage expert says
The UK could be at the start of a third wave of coronavirus, a professor from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has said. Professor Andrew Hayward, an infectious diseases expert at University College London said he was “very concerned” about the Indian variant due to its ability to spread quickly. He also said the UK should not “waste the opportunity” offered by vaccination by allowing people to travel widely. Asked on BBC Breakfast if the country was at the start of the third wave, he said: “I think so."
Panama says will temporarily close border with Colombia over COVID-19 risk
Panama will temporarily close its border with Colombia beginning Thursday to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and tighten security, its government said, after Colombia reopened the land and maritime crossings on the border. Panama's government said Colombia's decision to reopen the borders "puts at risk the significant progress" that Panama made to control the COVID-19 pandemic and border security. "The national government has determined to temporarily suspend the entry into the national territory by land, sea and river routes of any person coming from the border with the Republic of Colombia, as of May 20, 2021," the foreign ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
Two German tower blocks in quarantine after Indian variant found
Residents of two tower blocks in western Germany have been put under quarantine after a woman was diagnosed with the infectious Indian variant of COVID-19, an official said on Tuesday. Several of the 179 residents have since been tested for the coronavirus, public health officer Marcus Kowalczyk said, adding that sequencing the samples to establish if they too had the Indian variant would take several days. Authorities around Europe are on high alert for the variant, which caused devastation in India before establishing a foothold in Britain. Infectious variants are a major threat to governments' ability to contain the pandemic.
Nervous workers struggle to adjust to new mask policies
An abrupt relaxation of mask policies has left workers at supermarkets and other stores reeling as they try to sort out what the new environment means for their own safety and relationship with customers. Kroger, the country’s largest grocery chain, became one of the latest to announce that, starting Thursday, workers and customers can stop wearing masks in states where mandates are no longer in effect. Other companies that have adopted similar changes include Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, Macy’s, Costco, Home Depot, Trader Joe’s and Target, following updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control. Some workers have taken to social media to cheer, but many others protested. Some don’t trust customers — or their co-workers — to be truthful about their vaccination status since most companies are not requiring proof.
'Vax & Scratch' lottery scheme aims to up New York COVID-19 shots
You gotta get poked to win, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday, unveiling a $5 million lottery prize incentive for New Yorkers who get their first COVID-19 vaccination shots next week. The "Vax & Scratch" program provides free state lottery scratch-off tickets to New Yorkers age 18 and older who get a first dose of the Moderna or Pfizer/BioNTech, shot or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine from May 24 to May 28.
Vietnam to set up $1.1 bln COVID-19 vaccine fund
Vietnam plans to set up a 25.2 trillion dong ($1.1 billion) fund to acquire 150 million COVID-19 vaccine doses for its population, the Ministry of Finance said in a statement on Thursday. The ministry had submitted the plan to the government for approval, it said, adding that the fund will use money mainly from the state budget. After successfully containing the coronavirus for most of last year, Vietnam is battling a new outbreak that is spreading more quickly, infecting 1,677 people since late April, including hundreds of factory workers in northern provinces.