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"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 25th Nov 2021

Lockdown Exit
New Botswana variant with 32 'horrific' mutations is the most evolved Covid strain EVER
Only 10 cases of the strain — dubbed B.1.1.529 — have been spotted to date so far. The variant has 32 mutations, many of which suggest it is more vaccine resistant. Scientists warn the variant could be worse 'than nearly anything else about.' Dr Tom Peacock, a virologist at Imperial College who first picked up on its spread, described the variant's combination of mutations as 'horrific'. He warned that B.1.1.529, its scientific name, had the potential to be 'worse than nearly anything else about' — including the world-dominant Delta strain. Scientists told MailOnline, however, that its unprecedented number of mutations might work against it and make it 'unstable', preventing it from becoming widespread. They said there was 'no need to be overly concerned' because there were no signs yet that it was spreading rapidly.
Non-profit groups tell WTO to reverse 'vaccine apartheid' before any meeting
More than 130 civil society groups largely from developing countries are calling for the World Trade Organization to cancel a ministerial conference next week and instead concentrate on approving an intellectual property waiver for COVID-19 vaccines. The groups, organized under a loose coalition called "Our World is Not For Sale," said in a letter on Wednesday to WTO members that "vaccine apartheid" caused by WTO intellectual property rules must be resolved first. The meeting would otherwise "lack any pretence of legitimacy," especially when some ministers may not be able to travel to Geneva, it said.
Germany mulls full lockdown, vaccine mandate
German officials are mulling the possibility of enacting stricter coronavirus restrictions across the country amid a surge in daily infections. Chancellor Angela Merkel called on German state heads to decide whether to opt in to a full lockdown and vaccine mandate by Wednesday, according to CNBC. On Tuesday, health minister Jens Spahn starkly warned citizens that “pretty much everyone in Germany will be vaccinated, recovered or dead" by the end of this winter while calling for more restrictions to be put in place. He also called for more public places to implement the "3G rule," or to limit access to only those who are vaccinated, have had a negative COVID-19 test or recently recovered from the virus, CNBC reported.
Germany faces grim COVID milestone with leadership in flux
As Germany inches toward the mark of 100,000 deaths from COVID-19, the country’s leader-in-waiting announced plans Wednesday to create an expert team at the heart of the next government to provide daily scientific advice on tackling the coronavirus pandemic. Olaf Scholz of the center-left Social Democrats announced the measure, along with the creation of a standing emergency committee, at the start of a news conference laying out the deal his party and two others have agreed to form a new government. “Sadly, the coronavirus still hasn’t been beaten,” Scholz said. “Every day we see new records as far as the number of infections are concerned.” German officials — from outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel to state governors and the three parties now poised for power — have been criticized for failing to take decisive steps to flatten the curve of infections during the transition period since September’s nation election.
Unvaccinated Russian minors won't have to quarantine for Beijing
Russia's Olympic Committee chief said on Wednesday it had received assurances from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that its Under-18 athletes would not be subjected to three weeks of quarantine ahead of next year's Beijing Winter Games. China requires athletes and team officials to be vaccinated to avoid 21 days in quarantine ahead of the Games, which run from Feb. 4 to Feb. 20. Some exceptions for medical reasons can be granted on a case-by-case basis.
France to announce COVID-19 booster shots for all adults - media
France is expected to announce that COVID-19 booster shots will be made available to all adults as well as stricter rules on wearing face masks and more stringent health pass checks to curb a new wave of infections, French media reported. Health Minister Olivier Veran is due to hold a press conference at midday on Thursday. President Emmanuel Macron's government on Wednesday said it would focus on tougher social distancing rules and a faster booster shot programme and that it wanted to avoid the lockdowns being imposed once more by some other European countries.
Here’s what the UK can learn from other countries’ responses to Covid-19
Looking at how health services in different countries have responded to Covid, we can see some common ground. Many countries are increasing funding for health services, expanding the number of frontline clinical staff, providing separate areas to care for patients with confirmed or suspected Covid-19, and using digital technology to deliver virtual rather than face-to-face appointments. But there are some distinctions: peer a bit closer and it is clear that we have something to teach and something to learn from every healthcare system. The UK has its achievements to share, from a nationalised (and devolved) system that can pool surgical resources in local areas and support mass trials to test new treatments, to a historically strong primary care model that played a key role in delivering the largest vaccination programme in British history while continuing to deliver daily care to patients.
EU should make COVID booster shot a condition for free travel, Greek PM says
Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis proposed on Wednesday that the EU's executive arm make having a booster shot against COVID-19 a condition for some Europeans to travel freely across the bloc, amid a resurgence in infections. Data from a large study released by Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech SE has shown that a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by them was 95.6% effective against the coronavirus when compared with a vaccinated group that did not get the third shot
Exit Strategies
Covid-19: More than 75000 people are overdue for their second vaccination
Nine in every 500 New Zealanders eligible for the Covid-19 jab are overdue for their second dose, according to data from the Ministry of Health. A total of 75,585 people – or 1.8 per cent of the eligible population, are still yet to get their second dose more than six weeks after their first, based on data to November 21. Thirty-seven per cent of them had their first vaccine more than 10 weeks ago. The lion’s share – 43 per cent – were first vaccinated seven or eight weeks ago, and the remaining 20 per cent nine or 10 weeks ago. The numbers come as the Director-General of Health announced on Wednesday 10 out of 15 deaths in the Delta outbreak were unvaccinated, and two were partially vaccinated.
What the world could learn from Israel's Covid-19 vaccine booster rollout
When it comes to Covid-19, it seems where Israel leads, the rest of the world follows. For almost a year, the country has offered other nations a glimpse into the pandemic's future. Israel has been at the forefront of vaccination rollouts for adults and teenagers, pioneered a vaccine passport and, in recent months, has spearheaded the use of booster shots. At the end of July, the country began offering boosters to those over the age of 60; since late August, boosters have been available to anyone over the age of 16, five months after their second dose of the vaccine. Now, a person is not considered fully vaccinated in Israel until they have received a third dose of the vaccine, once they are eligible for it.
COVID-19: WHO says it's time for countries to have 'healthy debate' about mandatory vaccination
The World Health Organisation has suggested it is time for countries to have a conversation about mandatory COVID-19 vaccines, saying: "It's a healthy debate to have." Robb Butler, executive director for WHO Europe, told Kay Burley on Sky News: "Mandatory vaccination can, but doesn't always increase uptake." However, he suggested countries - and individuals - should now be thinking about the issue.
Cyprus to screen children for COVID-19 to 'save Christmas'
Cyprus will include children as young as six in its COVID-19 screening programme and introduce mandatory masks in schools to ward off a surge in the virus, authorities said on Wednesday. Cases of the Delta variant of the coronavirus have been ticking up on the eastern Mediterranean island, like elsewhere in Europe, over the past month. By late Tuesday, authorities had recorded 131,028 cases since the pandemic broke out in March 2020, along with 590 deaths.
Children at lower risk from COVID, vaccines should go to poor - WHO
As children and adolescents are at lower risk of severe COVID-19 disease, countries should prioritise adults and sharing vaccine doses with the COVAX programme to bring supplies to poorer countries, the World Health Organisation said on Wednesday. Some rare cases of heart inflammation called myocarditis have been reported in younger men who received vaccines based on mRNA technoloy - Pfizer BioNtech and Moderna - but these were generally mild and responded to treatment, it said. Although that risk had not been fully determined, it was less than the risk of myocarditis linked to SARS-CoV-2 infection, it said.
France plans tighter social distancing rules, booster ramp-up to fight COVID wave
France will announce new COVID-19 containment measures on Thursday as infection rates surge nationwide, but does not plan a new lockdown like some other European Union countries. Government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday that the government wants to avoid major curbs on public life, preferring stricter social distancing, speeding up its vaccination booster campaign and tightening rules on using health passes. "We must protect the French people by building on what we have, to save the end-of-year festivities and get through the winter as well as possible," Attal told a news conference.
In major shift, EU says vaccine boosters should be considered for all adults
The head of the European Union's public health agency Andrea Ammon said on Wednesday that COVID-19 vaccine boosters should be considered for all adults, with priority for those above 40 years, in a major change to the agency's guidance. Recommendations issued by the European Centre for Disease prevention and Control (ECDC) are not binding on EU governments but are used to make health policy decisions.
New Zealand to stay closed to visitors until April 2022
New Zealand will keep its borders closed to most international travellers for a further five months, the government said on Wednesday, outlining a cautious easing of border curbs that have been in place since COVID-19 hit in March 2020. Along with its geographic isolation, the South Pacific country enforced some of the tightest pandemic restrictions among OECD nations, limiting the spread of COVID-19 and helping its economy bounce back faster than many of its peers. But an outbreak of the highly contagious Delta variant earlier this year has forced a shift in strategy, with the main city of Auckland now only gradually opening up as vaccination rates climb. Fully vaccinated international travellers will be allowed to enter the country from April 30, 2022, onwards with the re-opening staged over time, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins told a news conference. Fully vaccinated New Zealanders and residence visa holders in neighbouring Australia can travel to New Zealand from January 16, while vaccinated New Zealanders and residence visa holders from most other countries will be allowed in from February 13.
US to require vaccines for all border crossers in January
President Joe Biden will require essential, nonresident travelers crossing U.S. land borders, such as truck drivers, government and emergency response officials, to be fully vaccinated beginning on Jan. 22, the administration planned to announce. A senior administration official said the requirement, which the White House previewed in October, brings the rules for essential travelers in line with those that took effect earlier this month for leisure travelers, when the U.S. reopened its borders to fully vaccinated individuals. Essential travelers entering by ferry will also be required to be fully vaccinated by the same date, the official said. The official spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity to preview the announcement.
Sweden says it will extend COVID-19 boosters to all adults
Sweden will begin gradually rolling out COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to all adult Swedes following the surge in cases elsewhere in Europe, government and health officials said on Wednesday. Booster shots of mRNA vaccine have been offered to people aged 65 or above in Sweden, with an eye to eventually extending the shots to other groups and trying to persuade a still sizable group of uninoculated people to get the vaccine.
Fall in COVID-19 testing worries Indian authorities
An alarming fall in testing for COVID-19 threatens to undermine India's efforts to contain the pandemic, the federal health ministry said in a letter to state governments, as worries grew over fresh waves of infection abroad. India reported on Wednesday 9,283 new COVID-19 cases, a day after recording 7,579 infections - the lowest in 543 days. But testing has hovered around 1 million per day for the past few weeks, less than half the capacity. "In the absence of sustained levels of sufficient testing, it is very difficult to determine the true level of infection spread in a geography," Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said in a letter sent to the northeastern state of Nagaland, which has reduced testing by more than a third in two months.
South Africa delays COVID vaccine deliveries as inoculations slow
South Africa has asked Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer to delay delivery of COVID-19 vaccines because it now has too much stock, health ministry officials said, as vaccine hesitancy slows an inoculation campaign. About 35% of South Africans are fully vaccinated, higher than in most other African nations, but half the government's year-end target. It has averaged 106,000 doses a day in the past 15 days in a nation of 60 million people. Earlier this year the programme was slowed by insufficient doses. Now deliveries have been delayed due to oversupply, making the country an outlier in the continent where most are still starved of vaccines. Nicholas Crisp, deputy director-general of the Health Department, told Reuters that South Africa had 16.8 million doses in stock and said deliveries had been deferred.
Biden Administration Asks Appeals Court to Reinstate Vaccine-or-Test Mandate for Big Companies
The Biden administration on Tuesday filed an emergency court motion that seeks the immediate reinstatement of its rules requiring many employers to ensure their workers are vaccinated or tested weekly for Covid-19. The Justice Department filed the request with the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, which last week was designated as the court that would decide legal challenges filed around the country to the vaccine-or-testing rules. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration earlier this month formally issued the requirements, which apply to businesses with 100 or more employees. The rules cover roughly 84 million workers and are scheduled to take effect Jan. 4.
Partisan Exits
Solomon Islands enters 36-hour lockdown after protests turn violent
The Solomon Islands imposed a 36-hour lockdown in the capital Honiara after protesters calling for the prime minister to resign looted stores and set fire to buildings, including in the Pacific nation's parliament. Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare called for the lockdown in an address that was broadcast late on Wednesday, after police had earlier deployed tear gas to break up protests. People from the country's most populous island, Malaita, had travelled to the capital in a spillover of anger about a host of domestic issues including unrealised infrastructure promises, media reported.
Seven doctors contract Covid after attending Florida anti-vaccine summit
Seven anti-vaccine doctors fell sick after gathering earlier this month for a Florida “summit” at which alternative treatments for Covid-19 were discussed. “I have been on ivermectin for 16 months, my wife and I,” Dr Bruce Boros told the audience at the event held at the World Equestrian Center in Ocala, adding: “I have never felt healthier in my life.” The 71-year-old cardiologist and staunch anti-vaccine advocate contracted Covid-19 two days later, according to the head event organizer, Dr John Littell. Littell, an Ocala family physician, also told the Daily Beast six other doctors among 800 to 900 participants at the event also tested positive or developed Covid-19 symptoms “within days of the conference”.
Former Trump adviser claims to ‘expose unvarnished truth’ of Covid in new book
In a new book, former Trump adviser Scott Atlas blames Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci for “headline-dominating debacles” about quack cures for Covid-19 – but omits to mention the chief proponent of snake-oil treatments, including hydroxychloroquine and disinfectant, was the US president he loyally served.
Can people in Guadeloupe be persuaded to get the COVID vaccine?
Infections and distrust are causing people on the French Caribbean archipelago of Guadeloupe to resist getting inoculated. Protests against COVID-19 containment measures have descended into violence on the streets of the French Caribbean archipelago of Guadeloupe. French President Emmanuel Macron has called the situation “explosive”. People have been angered by the government after it declared all healthcare workers must be vaccinated against the coronavirus, while everyone has to carry proof they have had the injections. However, people in Guadeloupe are resisting. They say they do not trust the vaccines, the authorities on the island or the French government.
Martinique: Shots fired at police as anger rises over COVID curbs
Gunshots have been fired at police in the French Caribbean island of Martinique in a sign that unrest triggered by COVID-19 restrictions that rocked the nearby island of Guadeloupe could be spreading. No police were injured and things have calmed since the unrest overnight, a Martinique police official said on Tuesday, but traffic was still slowed by barricades erected by demonstrators.
Scientific Viewpoint
Ecuador to administer COVID-19 booster shots to general population in 2022
Ecuador will administer booster shots against COVID-19 to the general population starting January 2022, the government said on Wednesday, acknowledging a rise in cases in the Amazon region due to difficulties in carrying out vaccinations.
Novavax expected to be approved as fourth Covid vaccine in UK
Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna. Britons have become so accustomed to the three Covid vaccines available in the UK that most have forgotten about another jab, Novavax – even though the government has ordered 60m doses and hundreds of British jobs depend on it. Late last month the US company, with a factory on Teesside primed to manufacture doses, submitted final data to UK regulators and a positive decision is anticipated within days or weeks. It will bring to an end what feels like a long wait compared with the speedy development and approval of the other jabs, including for those who took part in trials.
Canada gives full approval to J&J's single-shot COVID-19 vaccine
Johnson & Johnson said Canada gave full approval to its single-shot COVID-19 vaccine for people aged 18 years and older, making it the first full approval for the vaccine globally. The vaccine was previously authorised by the country under an interim order. Canada, which is reporting 2,563 infections on average each day and has administered at least 60,101,058 doses of COVID-19 vaccines so far, gave full approval to Moderna Inc and Pfizer Inc's coronavirus vaccines in September. The country authorised the use of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 and a booster dose for people aged 18 years and older this month
Russia's Putin took part in trials of nasal form of COVID vaccine
Russian President Vladimir Putin has been revaccinated against COVID-19, Russian news agencies quoted him as saying on Sunday. Putin said in June 2021 that he had been vaccinated with Sputnik V vaccine. "Today, on your recommendation and that of your colleagues, I got another vaccination, Sputnik Light. This is called revaccination," Putin said at a meeting with the deputy director of the Gamaleya Research Centre for Epidemiology and Microbiology, which developed both vaccines.
UK PM Johnson: disappointing that Valneva COVID-19 shot did not gain approval
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday he was disappointed that Valneva's COVID-19 vaccine had not gained approval in Britain, two months after the government cancelled a supply deal worth 1.4 billion euro ($1.57 billion) for the shot. Health minister Sajid Javid had said commercial considerations played into the decision, but added it was clear Valneva's shot would not be approved in Britain. His statement was later corrected to say that the shot had not gained approval and may not gain it. Valneva said in a statement it hoped for approval by the end of the year and was working with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the independent medicines regulator.
South Korea's Enzychem to make Indian drugmaker Cadila's COVID-19 shot
South Korea's Enzychem Lifesciences would make at least 80 million doses of India's homegrown DNA COVID-19 vaccine from Cadila Healthcare, the Indian drugmaker said on Wednesday. As part of the deal, Cadila will transfer the DNA vaccine technology to Enzychem, which will make and sell the vaccine, ZyCoV-D, within its territory under the Cadila trademark. Cadila will get license fees and royalty payments, the company said in a filing to stock exchanges.
Bharat's COVID-19 shot 50% effective at height of India infections - small study
Bharat Biotech's vaccine was only 50% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in a high-risk population during a devastating second wave of infections in India this year, data gleaned from hospital workers showed. The real world study for Covaxin, conducted April 15-May 15, compares with a 77.8% effectiveness rate in a late-stage trial of more than 25,000 participants that was conducted November 2020 to January 2021. The new data analysed just over 1,000 COVID-19 cases with a test-negative control case group, matching by age and gender, according to the study which was published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal.
China's Homegrown Virus Pill Could Offer a Pivot From Covid Zero
Where will newly developed Covid pills be needed the most? Rather than pandemic hot spots, it’ll be a place where the virus has yet to gain a sustained foothold: China. That’s the take from Tong Youzhi, chief executive officer at Kintor Pharmaceutical Ltd., a Chinese company working on just such a product. After successfully containing the virus with mass testing, surveillance and rigid border curbs, China is now uniquely vulnerable to the novel pathogen and needs access to effective treatments if outbreaks worsen. “China is a virgin land for the virus, with so few people exposed,” Tong said in an interview with Bloomberg News. “The urgency for effective Covid drugs is no less in China than elsewhere if we want to regain our pre-pandemic life.”
African company works to replicate Moderna's COVID vaccine, without permission, to address unequal access
There are huge gaps in the availability of COVID-19 vaccines between different countries. Just 10% of people in Africa have received a single dose, compared to 63% across North America or 62% in Europe. CBS News correspondent Debora Patta found a start-up in South Africa that hopes to redress that imbalance by reverse engineering one of the major U.S.-made vaccines, making it easier to store, and then producing it independently. A pair of nondescript warehouses in a dusty part of Cape Town is the unlikely home of a medical revolution. Inside the airlocked, sterile rooms, Patta found a band of rebels in white lab coats who are passionate about using science to change the world.
Coronavirus Resurgence
Dutch set to impose stricter COVID-19 curbs by Friday
The Dutch government will announce new measures on Friday to tackle a surge in coronavirus infections that is putting pressure on hospitals, Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said. Although some 85% of the adult Dutch population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, new cases hit a record high of 23,709 in 24 hours on Wednesday, official data showed. Weekly figures released on Tuesday had already shown an almost 40% rise in cases in the past week.
Swiss gov't holds off on new measures despite "critical" COVID situation
Switzerland will hold off from new national restrictions to curb coronavirus infections, the government said on Wednesday, as it appealed to common sense and local measures to stem the rising tide of cases it described as "critical." Bern decided to go in a different direction to neighbouring Austria, which has reintroduced a lockdown this week, ahead of a Swiss vote to decide the fate of the national government's pandemic response powers
COVID cases hit records in Europe prompting booster shot rethink
Coronavirus infections broke records in parts of Europe on Wednesday, with the continent once again the epicentre of a pandemic that has prompted new curbs on movement and seen health experts push to widen the use of booster vaccination shots.
A little known cult is at the heart of S.Korea's latest COVID-19 outbreak
A little known sect led by a pastor who pokes eyes to heal is at the centre of a COVID-19 outbreak in South Korea, as the country reported a new daily record of 4,116 cases and battles a spike in serious cases straining hospitals. In a tiny rural church in a town of 427 residents in Cheonan city, south of Seoul, at least 241 people linked to the religious community had tested positive for coronavirus, a city official told Reuters on Wednesday. "We believe the scale of the outbreak is large...," the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said in a statement.
South Korea sets pandemic high with 4,000 new virus cases
New coronavirus infections in South Korea exceeded 4,000 in a day for the first time since the start of the pandemic as a delta-driven spread continues to rattle the country after it eased social distancing in recent weeks to improve its economy. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said most of the new 4,116 cases reported Wednesday came from the capital Seoul and its surrounding metropolitan region, where an increase in hospitalizations has created fears about possible shortages in intensive care units.
Hungary reports record daily COVID-19 cases
Hungary reported a record 12,637 new daily COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 1.045 million with 33,519 deaths, a government tally showed on Wednesday. Hungary, a country of 10 million whose vaccination rate lags the European Union average, imposed new curbs last Thursday, a day before a full lockdown was announced in neighbouring Austria, which also has a relatively low vaccine uptake.
New Lockdown
Slovakia's COVID cases rise by record as government prepares lockdown
Slovakia's government followed the example of neighbouring Austria on Wednesday and ordered a two-week lockdown to quell the world's fastest rise in COVID-19 cases as the number of people sick in hospital reached a critical level and vaccination levels remain low. Restaurants and non-essential shops will close as part of the measures and movement will be limited to trips for essential shopping, work, school or medical visits, along with walks in nature, government officials said.
Austria's lockdown is looking infectious
Austria’s lockdown may spread as quickly as Covid-19. On Friday, Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg announced a national lockdown beginning on Monday and introduced Europe’s first vaccine mandate. Austria and its neighbours had been hoping that a targeted lockdown for vaccine holdouts might avert blanket restrictions, however soaring infection rates have already stretched intensive care facilities to the brink.