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"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 15th Nov 2021

Lockdown Exit
Austria brings back COVID-19 lockdown, this time for the unvaccinated
Austria is the first European country to reinstate the same restrictions on daily movements that applied during national lockdowns before vaccines were rolled out, though this time they only affect a minority of the population. "We are not taking this step lightly but it is necessary," Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg told a news conference announcing the new measure, under which the unvaccinated can only leave their homes for a limited number of reasons like going to work or shopping for essentials.
As the U.S. Races to Vaccinate Kids Against Covid-19, Some Countries Hold Back
The U.S. is at the forefront of the race to vaccinate young children. Many governments elsewhere are treading more cautiously. In Mexico, the president says he won’t be held hostage by vaccine makers and there are no plans to inoculate under-18s except those at risk. In many parts of Africa, rollouts are going so slowly that vaccinating children is a distant ambition. Some governments are waiting to see how the campaign in the U.S. goes before moving ahead. The U.S., where children between 5 and 11 are getting shots for the first time this month, isn’t alone: Children as young as 3 are being vaccinated in countries such as Colombia, Argentina and China.
Brazil's top court rules that companies can require employee vaccination
Brazil's Supreme Court on Friday suspended a government order that prevented companies from requiring employees to provide proof that they have been vaccinate against COVID-19 and stopped dismissals of those not immunized. Brazil's far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, a vaccine skeptic, has criticized vaccine passports required in other countries. Brazil has suffered the second-deadliest coronavirus pandemic outside of the United States. Justice Luis Roberto Barroso said the pandemic had killed 610,000 Brazilians and it was reasonable to surmise that the presence of unvaccinated employees poses a threat to the health of the others.
U.S. FDA may approve COVID-19 booster without outside advisory panel opinion -CNN
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is unlikely to ask its outside vaccine advisers to weigh in on whether the agency should authorize Pfizer (PFE.N) COVID-19 boosters for all adults, CNN reported on Friday, citing a source. The source told CNN "it's unlikely there is going to be a meeting" of the outside advisers and "there has been no discussion of a meeting" to discuss Pfizer's application. The FDA said the agency "will determine whether to hold a meeting of the advisory committee ... following its initial review of the information submitted," CNN added.
As Merkel urges unvaccinated to reconsider, German army prepares to step in
Three German state health ministers urged parties negotiating to form a new government to prolong states' power to implement stricter pandemic measures such as lockdowns or school closures as the country's seven-day COVID incidence rate hit record highs. The number of people per 100,000 infected last week rose to 277.4, data from the Robert Koch Institute showed on Saturday, and has risen to over 500 in some regions of the country. The head of Germany's largest doctors association Marburger Bund told German media group Funke Mediengruppe that overburdened intensive care units may need to move patients between regions to find beds in coming weeks.
Government ordered to release Covid lockdown impact assessments after refusing to make documents public
The government has been ordered to publish its assessments on the impact of national lockdowns and Covid restrictions after resisting making them public, The Independent can reveal. Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) officials drew up documents predicting how changing coronavirus rules would affect different groups but they have so far been kept secret. The Liberty human rights group requested the equality impact assessments under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, but was refused and told releasing them would “not be in the public interest”.
German Vaccines Lag, Cases Spike, With Troops on Standby to Help
Germany is being battered by a fourth Covid wave, with low vaccination rates in its eastern states a big reason the virus has regained a foothold. The four regions registering the lowest vaccination rates -- Saxony, Thuringia, Brandenburg, and Saxony-Anhalt -- are all in the formerly communist East. No state in eastern Germany has an inoculation level that exceeds the nationwide rate of 67.5% fully vaccinated, with the exception of once-divided Berlin, according to health ministry data. Germany’s military will put as many as 12,000 troops on standby to help overburdened health clinics and to speed the rollout of booster vaccines, Der Spiegel reported Saturday
Dutch return to partial lockdown as Covid surges
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Friday announced Western Europe's first partial lockdown of the winter, with three weeks of Covid curbs on restaurants, shops and sporting events. Protesters set off fireworks in The Hague after Rutte unveiled the "annoying and far-reaching" measures following a record spike of infections to more than 16,000 a day. At a news conference, Rutte said the situation required a "hard blow of a few weeks because the virus is everywhere, throughout the country, in all sectors and all ages". "Fortunately, the vast majority have been vaccinated, otherwise the misery in the hospitals would be incalculable at the moment."
Dutch gov’t orders partial lockdown amid COVID surge
The lockdown that begins Saturday night is the first to start in Western Europe since a new wave of infections began surging across parts of the continent. Under the lockdown, bars, restaurants and supermarkets will have to close at 8pm (19:00 GMT), professional sports matches will be played in empty stadiums and people are being urged to work from home as much as possible. Stores selling non-essential items will have to close at 6pm. “Tonight we have a very unpleasant message with very unpleasant and far-reaching decisions,” Rutte said on Friday.
Dutch Are Back to Partial Lockdown After Record Infections
The Netherlands is entering another lockdown after coronavirus infections hit records in recent days, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said. “We have a very difficult message tonight combined with drastic measures,” Rutte said at a press conference in The Hague on Friday. The country will enter a partial lockdown with bars and restaurants that need to shut down effective from Saturday 8 p.m. local time, Rutte added. Non-essential shops must close at 6 p.m. He strongly urged people to work from home as much as possible while there also will be a limit to invite a maximum amount of 4 people to socialize at home. The package will be reviewed Dec. 3, Rutte said.
Austria set to place millions of unvaccinated people in lockdown, as chancellor slams 'shameful' shot uptake
Austria is days away from ordering millions of unvaccinated people to stay at home, its chancellor has said, in a rare move that underscores the increasing exasperation of European leaders towards those who have not yet been inoculated against Covid-19. Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg told reporters on Friday that the government should give the "green light" for the move this weekend. "The aim is clear: we want on Sunday to give the green light for a nationwide lockdown for the unvaccinated," Schallenberg said at a news conference in Innsbruck. He had earlier called the country's vaccination rate "shamefully low," and hinted that the measure would be triggered within days. "In other states that rate is a lot higher -- it is shameful as we have enough vaccines available,"
Austria plans to approve lockdown for the unvaccinated on Sunday
Austria's government is likely to decide on Sunday to impose a lockdown on people who are not fully vaccinated against the coronavirus as daily infections have surged to record levels, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said on Friday. Schallenberg did not say when the lockdown would take effect, but the two provinces hardest-hit by this wave of infections, Upper Austria and Salzburg, will introduce the measure for themselves on Monday.
An Interview With Dr. Anthony Fauci
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, described the current status of the pandemic in the United States as a “mixed bag” that is leaning more toward the positive than the negative. But there is still work to do, he said, including dealing with complicated factors such as vaccination rates, contagious variants of the virus and waning immunity to infection. In our conversation, Dr. Fauci weighed in on vaccine mandates, booster shots and the end of the pandemic. “Ultimately, all pandemics burn themselves out,” he told us, adding: “So you have a choice. Do you want it to burn itself out and kill a lot more people and make a lot more people sick? Or do you want to do something about it to prevent further deaths and further illness?”
Ten EU Nations Causing 'Very High Concern' Over Covid
Ten countries in the 27-member European Union face a Covid situation of "very high concern", the bloc's diseases agency said Friday, warning the pandemic was worsening across the continent. "The overall epidemiological situation... was characterised by a high and rapidly increasing overall case notification rate and a low but slowly increasing death rate," the European Centre for Disease Control said. "Case notification rates, death rates, and hospital and ICU admissions are all forecast to increase over the next two weeks." In its latest weekly risk assessment, the agency listed 10 EU countries in its highest category of concern -- Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Netherlands, Poland and Slovenia.
Experts optimistic Spain will avoid sixth coronavirus wave despite surge in cases across Europe
Despite the success of Spain’s Covid-19 vaccination drive – 88.9% of the over-12 population is fully vaccinated, according to the Health Ministry – there are growing concerns about the delicate situation in many other European countries. Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, which have lower vaccination rates than Spain, on Thursday reported the highest daily number of coronavirus cases seen since the beginning of the pandemic. Fatalities for Covid-19 are also rising in these countries. The question many are asking now is if Spain is on the brink of a sixth wave.
Exit Strategies
Morocco plans additional airport COVID testing amid Europe surge
Morocco will conduct rapid COVID-19 tests to passengers arriving in its airports and ports, and will deny access to any visitor with a positive result, the government said on Saturday. The measure, which strengthens an existing requirement of a negative PCR test 48 hours before departure, aims to protect the country amid a surge of cases in Europe, the government said in a statement. Travelers with positive test must be returned at the cost of the airline that brought them into the country, unless they have a permanent residency document, it said.
Boy, 4, with rare inflammatory syndrome linked to Covid-19 out of ICU
A four-year-old boy who is suffering from a rare and severe inflammatory syndrome linked to Covid-19 in children has been discharged from the intensive care unit (ICU) on Tuesday afternoon (Nov 9), after spending more than a week in there. His mother, Ms Marilyn Cacanindin, 39, told The Straits Times that Muhammad Ali Zafir Mohamed Azmi has been transferred to a high dependency ward in KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH). ST previously reported that Ali Zafir was placed in the ICU on Nov 1, the same day he was admitted to KKH for symptoms including a persistent high fever, chills and vomiting. Other symptoms he had included involuntary jerking in his sleep, bruising on his limbs and intense stomach pain. He was diagnosed with multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), which can affect various organs including the brain and kidneys
CCSA extends nightlife curbs
Nightlife venues such as pubs will remain closed until at least Jan 16 to avoid a possible surge of infections during New Year. Taweesilp Visanuyothin, spokesman for the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA), on Friday said a CCSA meeting chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha decided to defer the reopening of clubs, pubs and karaoke venues. The CCSA originally planned to reopen these venues on Dec 1, according to Dr Taweesilp. However, it has set the new tentative reopening date to Jan 16 and only in some areas, depending on the Covid-19 situation, he said.
Japan adding more hospital beds in plan for next virus surge
The Japanese government’s preparations for the next virus surge include adding thousands more hospital beds to avoid a situation like last summer when many COVID-19 patients were forced to stay home, even while dependent on oxygen deliveries. Even though Japan has a reasonable health insurance system and the world’s largest number of beds per capita, COVID-19 patients were admitted to only a fraction of the beds, mostly at public, university and major private hospitals. The government has provided subsidies to lure more hospitals to treat such patients, but progress is slow, triggering calls for tougher measures in an emergency.
AstraZeneca Plans to Start Selling Covid-19 Vaccines at Profit
AstraZeneca PLC said it would start pricing its Covid-19 vaccine to make it profitable, ending a period in which it had pledged to roll out the shots at cost during the pandemic. The Anglo-Swedish pharmaceuticals giant said it would shift away from a nonprofit approach to the vaccine starting in 2022, signing new contracts that will allow it to make money off the shot. The company expects some earnings contribution from new orders in the fourth quarter of this year. The company said the shot generated $1.05 billion in revenue in the third quarter.
APEC leaders vow to tackle economic recovery, COVID-19, climate
Leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum vowed to address economic recovery in the region by shoring up supply chains, tackling labor issues and continuing to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. They also pledged to work together to address climate and environmental challenges, they said in a statement following their meeting in Wellington, New Zealand.
Aegon's U.S. COVID-related mortality claims hit its profit
Dutch insurer Aegon NV reported a 16% fall in third- quarter operating profit on Thursday due to higher COVID-19 related mortality claims in the Americas, the latest European insurer to suffer from new waves of the pandemic. Aegon, which does two-thirds of its business in the United States, said "unfavourable mortality claims" in the Americas in the third quarter were $111 million, up from $31 million a year earlier. "Performance improvements across most of our businesses ... were offset by elevated mortality in the United States," Aegon Chief Executive Lard Friese in a statement.
AstraZeneca starts to make modest profit from COVID-19 vaccine
AstraZeneca said it would begin to earn a modest profit from its coronavirus vaccine as the world learns to live with the virus and the drugmaker is in talks with several countries about new orders for delivery next year. AstraZeneca made a commitment to sell the shot developed with Oxford University at cost during the pandemic and in a press conference on Friday said low-income nations would continue to receive the vaccine on a no-profit basis, while a post-pandemic commercial approach would apply to other new orders even as infections in Europe rise again
Biden vaccine rules are boosting first-time COVID-19 shots - White House
U.S. President Joe Biden's vaccine requirements are prompting more Americans to get COVID-19 shots, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Friday. "In the past week, we’re averaging nearly 300,000 first shots" per day for people aged 12 and over, Psaki said, up from less than 250,000 first shots per day in mid-July, before Biden first discussed vaccine requirements. Biden announced on Sept. 9 vaccination mandates for workers at federal contractors and said workers at big private employers need to be vaccinated or tested.
No takers for second dose? Adopt the Singapore model
With many yet to take the second dose of vaccine even after completing the mandatory gap of 84 days after the first dose, health experts are clamouring for adopting the Singapore model where particllay vaccinated citizens are not allowed to visit public places.
Partisan Exits
Biden's Shot-or-Test Mandate Dealt Another Blow by Fifth Circuit
A U.S. appeals court has extended its Nov. 6 order pausing President Joe Biden’s shot-or-test mandate for businesses with 100 or more employees. The ruling, issued today by the New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, solidifies its earlier order blocking implementation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s emergency regulation. Its ruling comes ahead of a Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation lottery to determine which federal appeals court will be assigned to adjudicate the many legal challenges to the measure now pending across the country. The lottery is slated for Nov. 16. In a 22-page opinion, the court had harsh words for the vaccine mandate. The mandate “threatens to substantially burden the liberty interests of reluctant individual recipients put to a choice between their job(s) and their jab(s),” the court said.
'Caregivers are getting burned out by the pandemic': Labor shortages are taking a huge toll on nursing homes
The U.S. is experiencing one of its worst labor shortages in decades. It’s likely the reason why your pizza took longer than usual to get delivered or why your flight may have been canceled. And it’s also the reason why you’re probably going to have a tough time getting a friend or loved one into an assisted living facility or nursing home, and why you may be more concerned about a vulnerable family member currently residing in one. Since the beginning of the pandemic, some 221,000 people have left the industry. That amounts to a 14% drop in employment, according to a report published by the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living, trade organizations that collectively represent some 14,000 nursing homes and assisted living communities across the country. Among all health-care sectors, nursing homes have lost the most jobs since before the pandemic, according to the report, which is based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
Covid-19 Vaccines Are Now Reaching Poor Countries, but Not People’s Arms
After months of severe shortages, Covid-19 vaccine supplies for the world’s poorest nations are finally ramping up. But many countries say they will struggle to get them into people’s arms, as they grapple with the potential delivery of more vaccines in the coming weeks than they have received so far this year. Authorities lack funds to conduct public awareness campaigns and set up more vaccination sites, including the necessary fridges and freezers to store the shots. Misinformation and low case numbers have also left many in poor countries skeptical of the shots. Just 4.2% of people in low-income countries have received a first dose. Across Africa, only 6.3% of people are fully vaccinated, according to Our World in Data, a project based at Oxford University.
Continued Lockdown
Philippines Keeps Loose Virus Curbs in Capital Region
The Philippines is keeping its loose coronavirus restrictions in the Manila capital region until Nov. 30 as daily cases decline and vaccination picks up. The capital, which accounts for a third of economic output, will remain under Alert Level 2, the second-lowest under a five-tiered system, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said in a statement on Saturday. Provinces near Metro Manila will also be under the same level. Relaxed restrictions on public movement have been in placed since Nov. 5, and minors have been allowed in indoor establishments. Under Alert Level 2, indoor restaurants, gyms and cinemas can operate at half capacity, while outdoor establishments can open at 70% capacity.
Scientific Viewpoint
Bahrain authorizes AstraZeneca's anti-COVID drug for emergency use
Bahrain has approved the emergency use of AstraZeneca's (AZN.L) anti-COVID drug Evusheld, the state news agency reported on Sunday. Bahrain has become the first country to authorize the drug, which will be limited to adults who suffer from immunodeficiency or who are taking immunosuppressants, as well as individuals with occupations that put them at risk of transmission, the news agency said.
More than 10,000 COVID-19 booster breakthroughs - cause for concern?
The Pfizer vaccines were not evaluated for preventing infection, but rather symptomatic or severe disease and death. And when it comes to these statistics at least for now, the vaccines seem to be doing their job. The percentage of people testing positive for the virus has declined from an aveage of more than 5% to just 0.56%. And hospitalisations have gone down too, hitting only 200 people on Friday with 20% of the patients in only a mild condition.
Covaxin, India’s homegrown COVID jab, ‘highly efficacious’: Study
Covaxin, the first COVID-19 vaccine developed in India, is “highly efficacious” and presents no safety concerns, according to a study published in the medical journal Lancet. Covaxin gained emergency approval from the World Health Organization last week, the eighth jab to be given the green light by the health body. The vaccine has already been cleared for use in 17 countries. Known by the code BBV152, Covaxin is an inactivated virus-based COVID-19 vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research and the National Institute of Virology. The WHO has described it as “extremely suitable for low- and middle-income countries due to easy storage requirements”. Some of the other approved vaccines must be stored at very low temperatures, which throws up logistical and cost problems.
The Valneva COVID-19 vaccine: Why it might be a game-changer
French pharmaceutical company Valneva is throwing its hat into the vaccine ring, but it has a vaccine with a difference. Rather than induce an immune response that targets just the spike protein of the coronavirus, the Valneva vaccine, also known as VLA2001, stimulates an immune response to the entire virus, and that might just give it an edge over its competitors. It is different in that it uses the tried and tested method of taking the whole of the coronavirus and inactivating it so that it can no longer cause illness. It then combines with an adjuvant, a substance that helps it enter human cells effectively.
WHO eyes meeting to set guidelines on COVID-19 pills
World Health Organization (WHO) officials said on Friday they were hoping to convene a meeting soon to set guidelines on the use of COVID-19 antiviral pills, saying they offered "very attractive" new prospects for clinical care. Britain became the first country to approve one of the potentially game-changing pills earlier this month. Janet Diaz, the WHO's top official for clinical care responses, said that a meeting of its guidelines development group would consider the question of COVID pills in a forthcoming meeting in three weeks. Another WHO official Mike Ryan said preliminary findings on the pills was "very, very welcome", adding that a "careful process" was not required before the therapies should be expanded more broadly.
GSK-Vir COVID-19 antibody works as shot in the arm as well as infusion
Britain's GSK and partner Vir said on Friday their antibody-based COVID-19 drug was shown in a trial to work as well when given as a shot in the arm awhen administered via the standard infusion, potentially offering more convenience. GSK said it would now speak to global regulators, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, about potential approval for the new method of administration, known as intramuscular injection, which can be carried out by family doctors and spare patients a trip to hospital.
Patients with Covid history contributing to diabetes case burden, says hospital
Experts at the hospital said inflammatory reactions after Covid could include, hypoxia, weakness, weight loss, hair loss, myocarditis, thyroid and diabetes which is being reported as one of the most common diseases.
Coronavirus Resurgence
COVID-19: Active cases rise to 513, 50 new infections recorded
Malta recorded 50 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, figures published on the Health Ministry Facebook page show. Active have now risen to 513, after only 10 recoveries were registered. There are currently 16 patients currently being treated at Mater Dei Hospital, of whom three are in the ITU. Till yesterday, 901,238 doses were administered of which 70,036 are booster doses. No deaths were recorded. 462 total deaths have been recorded since the start of the pandemic.
SA records 17 Covid-19 deaths, 393 new Covid-19 cases
South Africa recorded 393 new Covid-19 cases and 17 deaths on Friday, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has said. “Today the institute reports 393 new COVID-19 cases that have been identified in South Africa, which brings the total number of laboratory-confirmed cases to 2 925 371. “This increase represents a 1.3% positivity rate. “As per the National Department of Health, a further 17 COVID-19 related deaths have been reported, bringing total fatalities to 89 469 to date. “A total of 18 865 934 tests have been conducted in both public and private sectors,” the NICD said.
Concerns in Malaysia as Covid-19 cases exceed 6000 for third day running
Covid-19 cases are rising in Malaysia, hitting 6,517 on Friday (Nov 12), which is the highest number since Oct 22 and the third consecutive day the number has breached the 6,000 mark. The country's R0 (R-naught) value - or the average number of new infections generated by each case - has also risen to 1, which means Covid-19 is accelerating. It was 0.99 on Thursday. In a Facebook post on Friday, Health Ministry director-general Noor Hisham Abdullah disclosed that the infectivity rate in some states and territories were in fact above 1. The rate in Selangor was 1.03, Kelantan (1.02), Kuala Lumpur (1.04), Putrajaya (1.16), Negri Sembilan (1.01), and Pahang (1.01). Trending downwards since late July, the infectivity rate took a turn beginning Oct 20.
Disease center urges Germans to cancel or avoid big events
Germany's disease control center is calling for people to cancel or avoid large events and to reduce their contacts as the country's coronavirus infection rate hits the latest in a string of new highs. The center, the Robert Koch Institute, said Friday that Germany's infection rate climbed to 263.7 new cases per 100,000 residents over seven days, up from 249.1 the previous day. Germany reported 48,640 new cases Friday, a day after the daily total topped 50,000 for the first time. Another 191 COVID-19 deaths brought Germany's total in the pandemic so far to 97,389.
COVID-19 hot spots offer sign of what could be ahead for US
The contagious delta variant is driving up COVID-19 hospitalizations in the Mountain West and fueling disruptive outbreaks in the North, a worrisome sign of what could be ahead this winter in the U.S. While trends are improving in Florida, Texas and other Southern states that bore the worst of the summer surge, it’s clear that delta isn’t done with the United States. COVID-19 is moving north and west for the winter as people head indoors, close their windows and breathe stagnant air. “We’re going to see a lot of outbreaks in unvaccinated people that will result in serious illness, and it will be tragic,” said Dr. Donald Milton of the University of Maryland School of Public Health.
Europe becomes COVID-19's epicentre again, some countries look at fresh curbs
Europe has become the epicentre of the pandemic again, prompting some governments to consider re-imposing unpopular lockdowns in the run-up to Christmas and stirring debate over whether vaccines alone are enough to tame COVID-19. Europe accounts for more than half of the average 7-day infections globally and about half of latest deaths, according to a Reuters tally, the highest levels since April last year when the virus was at its initial peak in Italy. Governments and companies are worried the prolonged pandemic will derail a fragile economic recovery. Countries including the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic are taking or planning measures to curb the spread.
Can at-home COVID-19 tests make holiday gatherings safer?
Can at-home COVID-19 tests make holiday gatherings safer? Yes, combined with vaccination, home test kits for COVID-19 can add a layer of safety and reassurance by providing on-the-spot results during this second year of pandemic holidays. “We will be using rapid tests to doublecheck everybody before we gather together,” says Dr. Emily Volk, president of the College of American Pathologists, who is planning a holiday meal with six vaccinated family members. “We’ll be doing it as they come in the door.” Home kits are not as accurate as the PCR tests done in hospitals and at testing sites, Volk says. But they have the advantage of giving results within minutes instead of days.
New Lockdown
Dutch return to partial lockdown as COVID-19 cases soar
The Netherlands will return to a partial lockdown from Saturday after the government ordered restaurants and shops to close early and barred spectators from major sporting events in an effort to contain a rapid surge in COVID-19 cases. Caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte said restrictions that the Dutch people had thought had ended for good were being re-imposed for three weeks. Supermarkets and non-essential retailers will also close earlier and social distancing measures will be re-imposed. The government recommended that no more than four visitors be received at home, effective immediately.