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"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 7th Jan 2022

Lockdown Exit
India: New COVID cases jump nearly four times since start of year
India’s new COVID-19 cases have soared by 90,928 in the past 24 hours, up nearly four-fold since the start of the year, mostly from cities where health officials say the Omicron variant has overtaken Delta. Cities such as capital New Delhi, Mumbai in the west and Kolkata in the east are experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, although without a corresponding rise in hospitalisations.
Scepticism grips Romania, the EU’s second-least vaccinated nation
“There is a quote attributed to Mark Twain: it’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled,” says Marius Mioc, a self-published Romanian author, as he clutches two copies of his latest book: Covid, The Lie of The Century. “This is not a real pandemic, but hysteria, and it is driven by politics and the want to make money.” Despite having previously sold his books about Romania’s 1989 revolution against the former Communist regime in local bookshops, Mioc found retailers did not want to stock his latest work, which was first published in 2020 and costs 45 RON (just more than $10). That, he says, is all part of the conspiracy. In Romania, which has among the lowest spending on healthcare in Europe and a health system that is consistently ranked the worst in the European Union, doctors are bracing for a surge of the fast-spreading Omicron variant. Head of the communicable disease centre, Adriana Pistol, recently warned a peak of 25,000 daily cases was soon possible – a significant jump from the current 1,800 or so cases per day now in the country of 20 million.
Chicago schools shut for 2nd day over virus safety protocols
Hundreds of thousands of Chicago students remained out of school for a second straight day Thursday after leaders of the nation’s third-largest school district failed to resolve a deepening clash with the influential teachers union over COVID-19 safety protocols. The Chicago Teachers Union, which voted to revert to online instruction, told teachers to stay home starting Wednesday during the latest COVID-19 surge while both sides negotiate. The move just two days after students returned from winter break prompted district officials to cancel classes. Chicago Public Schools, like most other districts, has rejected a return to remote learning, saying it worsens racial inequities and is detrimental to academic performance, mental health and attendance. District officials insist schools can safely remain open with protocols in place.
Omicron surge vexes parents of children too young for shots
Afternoons with Grammy. Birthday parties. Meeting other toddlers at the park. Parents of children too young to be vaccinated are facing difficult choices as an omicron variant-fueled surge in COVID-19 cases makes every encounter seem risky. For Maine business owner Erin Connolly, the most wrenching decision involves Madeleine, her 3-year-old daughter, and Connolly’s mother, who cares for the girl on the one day a week she isn’t in preschool. It’s a treasured time of making cookies, going to the library, or just hanging out. But the spirited little girl resists wearing a mask, and with the highly contagious variant spreading at a furious pace, Connolly says she’s wondering how long that can continue “and when does it feel too unsafe.”
Schools sticking with in-person learning scramble for subs
Principals, superintendents and counselors are filling in as substitutes in classrooms as the surge in coronavirus infections further strains schools that already had been struggling with staffing shortages. In Cincinnati, dozens of employees from the central office were dispatched this week to schools that were at risk of having to close because of low staffing. The superintendent of Boston schools, Brenda Cassellius, tweeted she was filling in for a fifth grade teacher. San Francisco’s superintendent, Vince Matthews, has called on all employees with teaching credentials to take a class.
French parliament approves Macron's vaccine pass
France's parliament on Thursday approved President Emmanuel Macron's plans for a vaccine pass to help curb the spread of the Omicron variant after a tumultuous debate whipped up by Macron's comments that he wanted to "piss off" the unvaccinated. Macron told Le Parisien newspaper earlier this week that he wanted to make the lives of those refusing the COVID-19 vaccine so complicated by squeezing them out of public places that they would end up getting jabbed. read more. Macron's coarse language barely three months before a presidential election was widely seen as a politically calculated, tapping into a intensifying public frustration against the unvaccinated.
French Prime Minister not in favour of compulsory COVID vaccination
French Prime Minister Jean Castex said on Thursday that making vaccination compulsory to rein in the new coronavirus would not be very helpful, as that move would bring more problems than solutions. "We already have some difficulties to control the health pass compliance. Those difficulties would be even bigger if we made vaccination compulsory," Castex told BFM TV and RMC Radio.
Dogs to visit 3 school districts to sniff out COVID-19
Two dogs trained to detect an odor distinct to people who are sick with COVID-19 will visit three school districts in Bristol County this week. A black Labrador named Huntah and a golden Lab called Duke can detect the smell of the virus on surfaces and will sit to indicate when they pick up the scent. The dogs will visit schools in the Freetown, Lakeville and Norton school districts, WBZ-TV reported Tuesday. “With COVID, whether it’s the omicron, whether it’s the delta, our dogs will hit on it,” said Bristol County Capt. Paul Douglas. “And if there’s a new variant that comes out in six months, hopefully there isn’t, but if there is one, COVID is COVID.” Fairhaven School Superintendent Tara Kohler welcomed the dogs saying their presence shows students, “we are doing everything we can to mitigate the risk and I want them to feel secure and safe and not anxious about their surroundings.”
Exit Strategies
We're all in danger of new Covid variants until the world is vaccinated, experts warn
New Covid-19 variants are likely to keep on emerging until the globe has been vaccinated against the virus, experts warn, saying that the sharing of vaccines is not just an altruistic act but a pragmatic one. “Until the whole world is vaccinated, not just rich Western countries, I think we are going to remain in danger of new variants coming along and some of those could be more virulent than omicron,” Dr. Andrew Freedman, an academic in infectious diseases at Cardiff University Medical School, told CNBC on Thursday. Viruses “tend to become milder” as they evolve, Freedman noted, but he cautioned that this “isn’t always the case.” “It may well be with future variants that they are even more contagious."
Italy makes Covid vaccinations compulsory for over-50s
Italy has made it obligatory for people aged 50 or more to be vaccinated against Covid-19 as the country scrambles to ease pressure on hospitals and reduce deaths amid a dramatic surge in infections. The measure is among the toughest vaccine mandates in Europe and takes effect immediately. The move was unanimously supported by ministers despite divisions between the parties that make up prime minister Mario Draghi’s broad coalition before the cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
Philippines' Duterte threatens unvaccinated people with arrest
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday people who have not taken COVID-19 shots will be arrested if they disobeyed stay-at-home orders as infections hit a three-month high. Duterte in an televised address to the nation said he was asking community leaders to look for unvaccinated people and make sure they were confined to their homes. "If he refuses, if he goes out his house and goes around the community, he can be restrained. If he refuses, the captain is empowered now to arrest recalcitrant persons," Duterte said.
Malaysia approves Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11
Malaysia has granted conditional approval for the use of Pfizer Inc.'s COVID-19 vaccine for children aged between 5 and 11 years old, the health ministry said on Thursday. The country's drugs regulator has also cleared a vaccine made by Chinese firm CanSino Biologics to be used as a booster shot for adults over the age of 18, health minister Khairy Jamaluddin said in a statement. Malaysia, which has one of the highest vaccination rates in Southeast Asia, last week cut waiting times to encourage more people to take a booster jab, in a bid to stem the spread of the highly infectious Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Brazil to vaccinate children aged 5-11 against COVID-19 - minister
Brazil's Health Ministry said on Wednesday that it will go ahead with the voluntary vaccination of children aged 5 to 11 years old against COVID-19 and dropped plans to require a doctor's prescription. While vaccination will not be mandatory, state governments have the final word on public health decisions and could require that children be vaccinated to be able to attend school. "Children have unfortunately died of COVID-19, not many, but every child's life is important," Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga said in a news conference.
Ukraine offers booster COVID-19 shots to all adults
Ukraine is now offering booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines to all adults as the Omicron variant is spreading and is likely to lead to a spike in coronavirus infections next month, Health Minister Viktor Lyashko said on Thursday. Following several periods of strict restrictions, the average daily number of coronavirus cases in Ukraine fell in early January to about 4,000 from above 10,000 in early December. "The medical system is preparing for another increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in Ukraine," Lyashko said in a post on Facebook.
Frustrated German towns urge leaders to plan for fourth COVID dose
German towns have appealed to authorities for less "flying by the seat of your pants" and more "forward-thinking," as the country looks likely to miss its vaccination target for January. Local leaders have described the vaccine rollout as chaotic, complaining of a lack of communication about when and how much vaccine they would receive, which made it difficult to plan. The complaints came as the government considered a proposal to further tighten restrictions on going out and gathering socially for those who have not yet received a booster shot.
Portugal eases COVID-19 rules as infections soar, hospitalisations still low
Portugal will allow students to return to school from next week and nightclubs to reopen on Jan. 14 despite a record surge in COVID-19 cases, with hospital admissions still well below levels seen earlier in the pandemic, the government said on Thursday. "It is evident that the Omicron variant is less severe ... vaccination has been effective against it," Prime Minister Antonio Costa told a news conference, referring to the fast-spreading variant that emerged in late 2021. "That's why we have a much lower number of hospitalisations, fewer people in ICU and deaths."
Austria decides new COVID-19 measures including shorter quarantine
Austria will impose new COVID-19 measures from Saturday and the government is still working on a draft law to make vaccinations compulsory from Feb. 1 as the highly contagious Omicron variant spreads, Chancellor Karl Nehammer said on Thursday. Austria managed to slash daily COVID-19 cases with its fourth full coronavirus lockdown between November and December last year, but Omicron is pushing the numbers up again. "We need to do everything we can possibly do together to prevent another lockdown," Nehammer told a news conference after the federal government met provincial leaders and pandemic task force experts.
Japan Calls on U.S. to Limit Troop Movements Over Covid Spread
Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi called on the U.S. to impose restrictions on troops stationed in Japan amid virus outbreaks thought to have stemmed from bases, which have strained ties between the allies. In a phone conversation Thursday with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Hayashi called for stronger virus measures, including limits on excursions off base, to relieve anxiety among local people, according to a statement issued by Japan’s Foreign Ministry. Blinken responded that the health and safety of local people was extremely important and said he would convey the message to the Defense Department, the ministry said.
Partisan Exits
Covid ‘vaccination doubt line’ receiving up to 1,000 calls a day in Netherlands
A “vaccination doubt line” set up by doctors in the Netherlands is receiving up to 1,000 calls a day from people who are still unsure whether or not they should get jabbed against the coronavirus. The helpline, originally launched as a local service in November by Robin Peeters, an endocrinologist at the Erasmus medical centre in Rotterdam, and Shakib Sana, a GP, was given a national number last month and has been inundated with inquiries. Staffed mainly by volunteer medical students from rooms made available in the university hospitals of Utrecht, Amsterdam, Nijmegen, Maastricht and Rotterdam, the service has met “an extraordinary response”, Peeters said.
Covid: Anti-vaccine campaigns are mumbo jumbo, says PM
Boris Johnson has accused anti-vaccine campaigners of speaking "mumbo jumbo" when it comes to coronavirus jabs. The prime minister said those spreading false information on social media were "totally wrong" and it was time for him "to call them out". Some European countries are making vaccination mandatory, but Mr Johnson stressed it was important for the UK to maintain its voluntary approach. In the UK, 90% of over-12s have now had at least one dose of a Covid vaccine. And nearly 83% have had a second dose, while 60% have had their booster or third primary dose. Thursday's coronavirus figures showed 179,756 new cases had been reported in the UK and 231 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.
Covid-19: Hundreds of maskless London Underground passengers fined
Hundreds of passengers have been issued fines for not wearing face coverings on London's transport network since it was made mandatory. Compulsory face coverings were reinstated amid rising concerns about the Omicron variant of Covid-19. Penalty notices up to £200 were issued to 536 people between 30 November and 21 December, the Mayor of London said. Figures showed a further 287 passengers have penalties being processed by Transport for London (TfL).
Djokovic in limbo as his lawyers fight to overturn Australia entry ban
Novak Djokovic faced at least 72 hours holed up in a Melbourne hotel for immigration detainees after he was denied entry into Australia on Thursday amid a political firestorm over hismedical exemption from COVID-19 vaccination requirements. The tennis star, who is chasing a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam at the Australian Open, remained in the country after his lawyers launched an appeal seeking to overturn the federal government decision. A court agreed not to deport him before a full hearing scheduled for Monday.
Novak Djokovic Denied Entry to Australia Over Vaccine Fight
The family of Novak Djokovic accused Australia of trying to deny the top world tennis star a record 10th Grand Slam victory there, and his country’s president denounced what he called a “political campaign” over Covid-19 protocols. Djokovic’s lawyers mounted a legal challenge against Australia’s decision to hold him at a hotel used for detaining refugees and expel him after federal officials overruled a state vaccine exemption for the tennis star that sparked a national uproar. Due to compete in the Australian Open this month, the Serbian player offered insufficient proof to enter the country under current pandemic rules, the Australian Border Force said Thursday. While he was earlier granted a medical exemption to enter the state of Victoria, the federal government revoked that after officials questioned the athlete for hours at Melbourne Airport.
Scientific Viewpoint
Gavi and India's Bharat discuss possible COVAX use of Covaxin
The Gavi vaccine alliance is in talks with India's Bharat Biotech over potential procurement of the company's Covaxin COVID-19 shot for the COVAX global vaccine distribution programme, a Gavi spokesperson told Reuters on Thursday. "We are in discussion with (Bharat Biotech) as we consider the overall needs of the COVAX portfolio in 2022. However, we have no agreement for supply of Covaxin to COVAX at this time," the spokesperson said in an email.
Indonesia survey finds 85% of population have COVID-19 antibodies
More than 85% of Indonesia's population has antibodies against COVID-19, a government-commissioned survey showed, but epidemiologists warned it was not clear whether this immunity could help contain a fresh wave of coronavirus infections. The survey, conducted between October and December by researchers at the University of Indonesia, found Indonesians had developed antibodies from a combination of COVID-19 infections and vaccinations.
Pandemic may affect infants' brain development; coronavirus can trigger kidney scarring
The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that has yet to be certified by peer review. Pandemic may be affecting infants' brains Coronavirus infection during pregnancy does not appear to affect infants' brain function, but the pandemic itself may be having an impact, a study published on Tuesday in JAMA Pediatrics suggests.
Vaccines company Valneva sticks to goal of COVID vaccine approvals in Q1
Speciality vaccines company Valneva (VLS.PA) said it was keeping its previous timetable on clinical trials and regulatory submissions for its VLA2001 COVID-19 vaccine candidate, with regulatory approvals targeted in the first quarter of this year. "We continue to believe that our inactivated vaccine candidate could be an important component of the fight against COVID-19, and Valneva remains fully committed to bringing VLA2001 to people who need it as soon as we can," said Valneva chief executive Thomas Lingelbach.
CDC recommends Pfizer's COVID-19 booster for ages 12 to 15
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Wednesday it expanded the eligibility of Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE's booster doses to those 12 to 15 years old. The move came after a panel of outside experts advising the CDC voted earlier to recommend booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccine be made available for ages 12 to 15.
Pfizer Covid Booster Gets CDC Panel’s Backing for Use in Teens
U.S. public health advisers said vaccinated teens should get a Covid-19 booster shot from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, an important step in efforts to expand immunizations and keep schools open. The panel of outside experts convened by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention voted to 13 to 1 to recommend the booster shot for people ages 12 to 17 who received their second dose at least five months earlier. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky endorsed the recommendation, making it official.
Containing Covid-19 requires rapid tests that are highly sensitive to infections. Why is the FDA asking for something different?
With rapid testing becoming a key tool in the fight against Covid-19, in a mid-October call with the White House I offered to sell my Covid testing company — recently valued at $99.8 million — to the government for just $1. As an alternative, I also offered to sell the government our test at cost. My company, Global Diagnostic Systems, had just completed clinical trials showing our rapid Covid-19 home test had 100% sensitivity (meaning no false negatives) and 95% specificity (meaning just 5% false positives). On hearing about this performance, a senior White House official told me, “Apply to the FDA ASAP.”
Study raises doubts about rapid Covid tests’ reliability in early days after infection
A new study raises significant doubts about whether at-home rapid antigen tests can detect the Omicron variant before infected people can transmit the virus to others. The study looks at 30 people from settings including Broadway theaters and offices in New York and San Francisco where some workers were not only being tested daily but were, because of rules at their workplaces, receiving both the antigen tests and a daily test that used the polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, which is believed to be more reliable. On days 0 and 1 following a positive PCR test, all of the antigen tests used produced false-negative results, even though in 28 of the 30 cases, levels of virus detected by the PCR test were high enough to infect other people. In four cases, researchers were able to confirm that infected people transmitted the virus to others during the period before they had a positive result on the rapid antigen test.
Coronavirus Resurgence
An 'awful' month of Covid-19 lies ahead, doctor says, but preventative measures will still be key
While the highly transmissible Omicron variant continues to drive up Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations -- and the numbers are likely to get worse before they get better -- health experts say it's critical Americans continue safe practices to prevent infections. "I don't buy the idea that we are all going to get Omicron and, therefore, just give up trying. I think that's wrong," Dr. Robert Wachter, chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, told CNN's Erin Burnett on Wednesday. It's likely that "the next month is going to be awful," he said. But this does not mean that everyone should assume they will catch the virus, he said, noting the pattern of Omicron infections in the UK and South Africa.
Covid-19: More than 100 test positive on an Italy-India flight
A total of 125 passengers who arrived in the northern Indian city of Amritsar on a chartered flight from Italy have tested positive for Covid-19. They will be placed in isolation, health officials said. They were among 179 passengers on the flight from Milan which landed in Amritsar on Wednesday afternoon. India reported more than 90,000 cases on Thursday - a nearly six-fold rise over the past week that experts say is fuelled by the Omicron variant. The country recorded 325 deaths in the 24 hours but only one has been linked to Omicron, officials said.
Thailand raises COVID-19 alert level due to Omicron spread
Thailand on Thursday raised its COVID-19 alert level following rising infections driven by the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, a senior health official said. The change, from level three to four, sets a pretext for possible measures that could follow, such as closing high-risk areas and placing restrictions on domestic travel or public gatherings. "Thailand has entered a new wave of infections, where new cases will be rising fast," said Kiattiphum Wongrajit, permanent secretary of the health ministry.
Australia suffers record COVID cases, straining businesses and supply chains
Fuelled by the highly transmissible Omicron variant, Australia's daily coronavirus infections soared to a fresh peak on Thursday, overwhelming hospitals, while isolation rules caused labour shortages, putting a strain on businesses and supply chains. With Thursday's count still incomplete, Australia so far has reported 72,392 new infections easily exceeding the high of 64,774 set a day earlier. Western Australia is due to post its new cases later. Prime Minister Scott Morrison, facing a federal election before May, is under pressure over his handling of the Omicron outbreak due to stock shortages of antigen tests and hours-long wait times at testing centres.
Mexico nears 300000 deaths from COVID-19 as cases surge after holidays
Mexico is likely to surpass 300,000 deaths from COVID-19 this week - the fifth highest death toll worldwide - as infections rise after the holiday season, fueled by the Omicron coronavirus variant and largely unrestricted tourism.Infections have more than doubled to 20,000 during the last week when many tourists visited Mexico from the United States and Canada. Eleven of Mexico's 32 states decided not to resume in-person school classes this week with cases climbing fast.
Belgium suffers record COVID cases, adapts quarantine strategy
Fuelled by the highly transmissible Omicron variant, Belgium's daily cases of COVID-19 reached a new peak this week, with health experts warning of between 30,000 and 125,000 cases a day by mid-January in the nation of 11 million. "The fifth wave has started. The weekly average has risen by 82%," virologist Steven Van Gucht told a news conference following a government meeting on the coronavirus situation. Home to the European Union institutions and NATO, Belgium registered 27,199 new COVID-19 cases on Jan. 3, beating a record set in Nov. 2020, and hit a fresh high of over 28,000 on Jan. 4, as Omicron hit the country a little later than Britain, Spain and France.
Argentina breaks COVID-19 case record as daily infections near 100000
Argentina broke its record for COVID-19 infections on Wednesday, approaching 100,000 daily cases as it faces a third wave of the pandemic, driven by the highly infectious Omicron variant. But the record of 95,159 officially confirmed cases, coming in the middle of the Southern Hemisphere summer holiday season with tourist centers full of travelers, has not translated into a similar exponential rise in COVID-related deaths, which totaled 52. "We do not have a strong impact on intensive therapy units and less in terms of deaths," the chief of staff of the Ministry of Health, Sonia Tarragona, told local radio station Urbana Play. "The cases are mild or moderate and they are not putting stress on the health system."
India confirms first Omicron-related death as COVID-19 cases jump
A diabetic man who died in the western state of Rajasthan was India's first fatality from the Omicron COVID-19 variant, the health ministry said on Wednesday, adding that overall infections had doubled to 58,097 over the past four days. The health ministry reported that total Omicron infections had risen to at least 2,135, just over a month since the first case was detected in the country. Government officials privately say daily cases in the country's third wave of infections could surpass the record of more than 414,000 hit last May. They also warn that many people are taking the Omicron variant lightly and not wearing masks as most cases have been mild.
Britain reports record COVID-19 prevalence as Omicron surges
Britain on Wednesday reported record COVID-19 prevalence for the last week of 2021, with one in 15 people in England infected, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson said cases were increasing at the fastest rate ever. The increasing number of cases has put huge strains on public services such as hospitals, which face staff shortages and growing admissions. Johnson has resisted imposing stringent lockdown measures in England. Instead, he has bet that a vaccine booster drive and caution among the population will be enough to constrain the latest wave of infections, despite the arrival of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
Dutch coronavirus cases reach new record amid Omicron wave
New coronavirus cases in the Netherlands jumped to a record high of around 24,500 on Wednesday as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus has become dominant in the country, official data showed. Infections were up almost 60% from last week despite a strict lockdownthat has closed all but essential stores as well as restaurants, hairdressers, gyms, museums and other public places since Dec 19. The previous record of just under 24,000 cases in 24 hours was set during the wave of infections caused by the Delta variant of the virus that swamped hospitals throughout the country in late November.
Hong Kong Has First Covid Case From Unknown Source in Months
Officials in Hong Kong have disclosed the first preliminary positive case of Covid-19 from an unknown source in almost three months, a worrying sign as the city works to contain an omicron cluster. The city’s health department suspects that the patient, an unvaccinated worker in the North Point area of the city, carries the omicron variant, although whole genome sequencing still needs to be conducted to confirm if that’s the case, according to a government statement on Tuesday. The highly contagious variant has already scuttled the border reopening with China and sent hundreds of city residents to the government-run quarantine facility in an effort to contain the outbreak before it spreads. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced a vaccine requirement for restaurants and public leisure facilities will be imposed from February 24.
US Sets Covid Global Daily Record of Over 1 Million Virus Cases
The U.S. added more than 1 million people to its Covid-19 case count on Monday as the true scope of a surge in infections over the holidays began to round into view. The highly mutated variant, combined with delayed reporting by local governments over the holidays, led to a single-day record for new cases for any country in the world. Monday’s number is almost double the previous mark of about 590,000 set just four days ago in the U.S., which itself was a doubling from the prior week. Using a seven-day average, which smooths out the unevenness of data across the country, cases climbed to 485,363 a day on Monday, more than doubling in the span of a week. The data is compiled by Johns Hopkins University, which relies on local governments, some of which may take more time than others to update their figures.
Staffing Crisis Threatens Plan to Clear U.K. Hospital Backlogs
England’s National Health Service faces an “unquantifiable” challenge to clear a record backlog of patients as a result of the pandemic, rising pressure on emergency departments, and a failure to hire and train enough staff, a committee of U.K. lawmakers said. Close to 6 million patients are waiting for elective care -- a figure that could double by 2025 -- as the crisis caused by Covid-19 weighs heavily on the NHS, according to a report published Thursday by Parliament’s Health and Social Care Committee. Waiting times in emergency departments have also hit the worst levels since records began, with one in four patients waiting longer than four hours to be admitted, transferred, or discharged in October. That’s despite about 4,800 extra doctors and 1,200 more nurses working in the NHS in October 2021 compared to the previous year, according to the latest NHS workforce statistics.
US hospitals seeing different kind of COVID surge this time
Hospitals across the U.S. are feeling the wrath of the omicron variant and getting thrown into disarray that is different from earlier COVID-19 surges. This time, they are dealing with serious staff shortages because so many health care workers are getting sick with the fast-spreading variant. People are showing up at emergency rooms in large numbers in hopes of getting tested for COVID-19, putting more strain on the system. And a surprising share of patients — two-thirds in some places — are testing positive while in the hospital for other reasons. At the same time, hospitals say the patients aren’t as sick as those who came in during the last surge. Intensive care units aren’t as full, and ventilators aren’t needed as much as they were before. The pressures are neverthless prompting hospitals to scale back non-emergency surgeries and close wards, while National Guard troops have been sent in in several states to help at medical centers and testing sites.
Spike in California virus cases hitting hospitals, schools
California is struggling to staff hospitals and classrooms as an astonishing spike in coronavirus infections sweeps through the state. The fast-spreading omicron variant of COVID-19 is sidelining exposed or infected health care workers even as hospital beds fill with patients and “some facilities are going to be strapped,” Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said Wednesday. Some 40% of hospitals are expecting to face critical staff shortages and some are reporting as much as one quarter of their staff out for virus-related reasons, said Kiyomi Burchill of the California Hospital Association. In Fresno County, more than 300 workers at area hospitals were either isolating because of exposure or recovering, said Dan Lynch, the county’s emergency medical services director.
New Lockdown
China's Henan adds COVID curbs as cases rise, Xian official apologises
More cities in central China's Henan province imposed COVID restrictions as infections there rose sharply, while authorities in the northwestern city of Xian apologised on Thursday to a woman whose miscarriage during lockdown stirred public outrage. Henan reported 64 domestically transmitted infections with confirmed symptoms for Wednesday, up from just four a day earlier, official data showed on Thursday. While those numbers are small by global standards, and no cases of the highly transmissible Omicron variant have been reported so far in Henan, several cities there imposed new limits on travel and other activities in response.