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"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 28th Feb 2022

Lockdown Exit
Community Workers Push to Get Covid-19 Tests to the Vulnerable
As the Biden administration distributes hundreds of millions of Covid-19 tests, some public-health workers are moving to deliver the kits a final mile to some of the people most vulnerable to the virus. In some places, including low-income areas, rural parts of the country and some communities of color, a more local effort from health providers and community organizations is needed to get tests into people’s hands, officials and providers said. That work echoes efforts to bring Covid-19 vaccines to people who struggled to reach vaccination sites or were hesitant to get a shot.
UAE drops face masks outdoors, quarantine for COVID contact cases
The United Arab Emirates, the Middle East tourism and commercial hub, over the weekend ended a requirement to wear face masks outdoors and obligatory quarantine for COVID-19 contact cases. Fully-vaccinated passengers arriving in the country will no longer require PCR tests, said the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority in updated guidance that went into effect on Saturday.
Sweden's COVID response was flawed but allowed freedoms - commission
Sweden should have shut venues and taken other tougher measures early in the COVID-19 pandemic, though its no-lockdown strategy was broadly beneficial, a commission said on Friday. Sweden polarised opinion at home and abroad when it chose not to follow most of the rest of the world in ordering lockdowns and adopted a largely voluntary approach of promoting social distancing and good hygiene. The commission - set up by the government under pressure from parliament - said Sweden's broad policy was "fundamentally correct".
Perth's homeless population remains vulnerable to COVID-19, with many unvaccinated
As one of Perth's 1,000 or so rough sleepers, Des is particularly vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19. Getting vaccinated would almost certainly protect him against the worst of the virus, but he is just not comfortable taking that step yet. "People just not gonna put something in their body without the information," he said. "Information don't just go straight to the streets. "We need to look at TVs, we need to look at internet for information, which none of our mob have." His experience highlights something hidden in WA's high vaccination rates – a group of about 50,000 people who remain unvaccinated for various reasons.
Names of firms given huge Covid loans will be secret
The names of thousands of companies which benefited from billions of pounds of Covid-19 loans schemes are to be kept confidential under new government rules to only publish state subsidies of £500,000 or more. The higher threshold has been brought in after Brexit despite warnings that it may hamper the fight against fraudsters believed to have plundered billions from the schemes. The loan schemes have been called a “bonanza for fraudsters”. Under the EU rules in force until the end of 2020, all pandemic business loans above €100,000 were required to be publicly disclosed with details of the recipients.
Hong Kong's success in fending off COVID comes back to haunt
For two years, Hong Kong successfully insulated most of its residents from COVID-19 and often went months without a single locally spread case. Then the omicron variant showed up. The fast-spreading mutation breached Hong Kong’s defenses and has been spreading rapidly through one of the world’s most densely populated places, overflowing hospitals and isolation wards and prompting measures to test the entire 7.4 million population and hastily build six isolation and treatment centers. The surge shows what happens when COVID-19 strikes a population unprotected by immunity from previous infections, and has exposed a low vaccination rate among elderly citizens who are bearing the brunt of the crisis.
S. Korea has deadliest day of pandemic amid omicron surge
South Korea saw its deadliest day of the pandemic on Saturday, reporting 112 fatalities in the latest 24-hour period, as it grapples with a wave of coronavirus infections driven by the fast-moving omicron variant. Health workers diagnosed 166,209 new cases, which came close to Wednesday’s one-day record of 171,451 and represented more than a 37-fold increase from daily levels in mid-January, when omicron first emerged as the country’s dominant strain. Omicron has so far seemed less likely to cause serious illness or death than the delta strain that hit the country hard in December and early January. But hospitalizations and deaths are beginning to creep up amid a growing outbreak that is stretching worn-out health and public workers.
Hong Kong allows COVID home testing as daily cases soar
Hong Kong health authorities said on Saturday they would adjust COVID testing procedures to allow some people to test from home to ease long queues at designated testing centers, as the city's outbreak proves increasingly hard to control. Health secretary Sophia Chan said a record 17,063 new COVID-19 daily cases had been recorded, and 66 deaths in the past 24-hours in the city of 7.4 million. "We're in a very dire situation," she told reporters.
Pfizer, Moderna and Other Drugmakers Make Billions Responding to Covid-19 Pandemic
Healthcare companies that came up with effective Covid-19 vaccines, treatments and tests are seeing a huge financial payoff and are starting to spend their cash, while grappling with questions about whether the growth is sustainable. Companies including Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. so far have reported at least $79 billion in combined global sales of Covid-19 vaccines and treatments for 2021, according to a Wall Street Journal review of recent earnings reports. Diagnostic sales also have been strong for companies including Abbott Laboratories, which had $7.7 billion in Covid-19 test sales last year. It’s a market that didn’t exist prior to the pandemic. Many companies attempted to find pandemic countermeasures during 2020 but only some were successful.
U.S. eases COVID indoor mask guidelines for most of country
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday dramatically eased its COVID-19 guidelines for masks, including in schools, a move that means 72% of the population reside in communities where indoor face coverings are no longer recommended. The new masking guidelines shift from a focus on the rate of COVID-19 transmission to monitoring local hospitalizations, hospital capacity and infection rates. Under the prior guidelines, 95% of U.S. counties were considered to be experiencing high transmission, leaving just 5% of U.S. counties meeting the agency's criteria for dropping indoor mask requirements.
Exit Strategies
Italy reports 38,375 coronavirus cases on Saturday, 210 deaths
Italy reported 38,375 COVID-19 related cases on Saturday, against 40,948 the day before, the health ministry said, while the number of deaths rose to 210 from 193. Italy has registered 154,416 deaths linked to COVID-19 since its outbreak emerged in February 2020, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the eighth highest in the world. The country has reported 12.7 million cases to date. Patients in hospital with COVID-19 - not including those in intensive care - stood at 11,103 on Saturday, from 11,706 a day earlier.
Hong Kong Delays First Retail Green Bond Launch Due to Covid-19
Hong Kong’s government is delaying the launch of its inaugural retail green bond due to the spread of coronavirus cases in the city. The government postponed the subscription period and issuance of the bond in order to “avoid the social contact arising from the application process and reduce the risk of the spread of the disease,” according to a statement posted on Hong Kong’s government website on Saturday. The subscription period was originally scheduled for March 1 to 11. The government plans to sell up to HK$6 billion ($768 million) in green debt directly to investors for the first time, with proceeds used to back nine types of sustainable projects run by the city, Bloomberg News reported earlier this month.
CDC Eases Mask Guidelines, Reflecting Covid-19’s Retreat
Federal officials eased their guidelines on Covid-19 masking, including at schools, in a shift that reflects decreased risks from the Omicron variant, a steep drop in cases and mitigation efforts nationwide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday changed the metrics it uses to assess Covid-19 risk by county across the U.S. Risk will now be assessed based on three factors, the CDC said: new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the past seven days; new Covid-19-related hospital admissions; and the percentage of hospital beds occupied by Covid-19 patients. Before Friday, the CDC sorted counties into one of four risk categories based on Covid-19 case numbers and test positivity rates. Now, the agency is breaking counties down into three different groups: high, medium or low local Covid-19 risk. The CDC’s assessment of Covid-19 levels by county will be available on the agency’s website.
Some Americans welcome new CDC mask guidance, others wary
Grace Thomas is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 but still not ready to take off her mask, especially around the kids at the home day care she runs in Chicago. But whether the children continue to wear masks remains to be seen after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that healthy people in most areas of the country can safely stop wearing masks as cases continue to fall. Thomas, 62, plans to ask parents to have their children wear masks to prevent the day care from being a potential source of transmission, but “you can’t make them wear masks if they don’t want to,” she said. Many Americans, including parents of school children, have been clamoring for an end to masking while others remain wary that the pandemic could throw a new curveball. Now, states, cities and school districts are assessing Friday’s guidance to determine whether it’s safe to stop mask-wearing — long after others threw out such mandates and many Americans ignored them.
EXCLUSIVE Sartorius in $11 bln bid for COVID vaccine reagent vendor Maravai -sources
Laboratory supplies vendor Sartorius AG has approached Maravai LifeSciences Holdings Inc , a U.S. provider of capping reagents for COVID-19 vaccines, with an $11 billion acquisition offer, people familiar with the matter said. Maravai rejected the $42 per share all-cash offer from Goettingen, Germany-based Sartorius earlier this month as inadequate, the sources said. It is not clear whether Sartorius will return with a new offer or whether Maravai will attract acquisition interest from other laboratory equipment and supplies providers.
How covid-19 has exposed the weaknesses in rural healthcare
Rural regions made vulnerable by limited healthcare infrastructure, lower rates of vaccination, and opposition to government policies are the new frontlines in the pandemic. Yet support systems have not adjusted to the growing rural needs for health education, testing, vaccination, and treatment. Michael Forster Rothbart, Kata Karáth, and Lungelo Ndhlovu report from the US, Ecuador, and Zimbabwe
Partisan Exits
Over 3300 fines meted out in S'pore for Covid-19 breaches by people last year
More than 3,300 fines were issued last year to people for breaching Covid-19 rules - an improvement from 2020 when more than 8,600 fines were handed out. The fines, which came up to more than $990,000, were for non-adherence to safe distancing and safe management measures, and non-wearing of masks. Of these, about 1,000 fines were for mask-wearing offences, while most of the remaining penalties were for gathering in groups larger than the permitted size, the Ministry of Sustainability and the Environment (MSE) said on Thursday (Feb 24). In 2020, more than 8,600 fines - totalling more than $2.5 million - were issued from April to December, with more than 1,700 fines imposed on those who did not wear masks.
Queen Elizabeth II's brush with COVID-19 presents a royal conundrum: is it time to retire 'The Firm'?
For more than 70 years, the Queen has been a steady hand steering the monarchy through wars, political upheaval and civil unrest. Her reign is often summed up in one word: stability. Her strength and constancy are inextricably tied to the monarchy. But with Queen Elizabeth II performing only "light duties" after testing positive to COVID-19, that symbol of fortitude has been put to the test. Since a brief hospital stint in October, the Queen's health has been under greater scrutiny than ever before.
Continued Lockdown
Hong Kong's Covid Crackdown Hits Domestic Helpers the Hardest
Hong Kong’s latest Covid containment campaign is taking its greatest toll on the hundreds of thousands of migrant women who work as live-in domestic workers in the city. Scores have been evicted or sacked after testing positive for Covid, by employers who don’t want the virus in their households, according to local rights groups. And some are facing steep fines for violating the two-person limit on gatherings -- a rule that’s upended the longstanding tradition of domestic workers meeting up with friends on their single day off.
Scientific Viewpoint
France's Valneva expects recommendation on COVID-19 vaccine by end-March
Valneva expects to start delivering its vaccine in Europe soon after it is recommended for conditional approval by the end of March, the French vaccine maker said on Friday as it received an initial regulatory assessment. Valneva has received a list of questions on its VLA2001 vaccine from the Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) and should respond in the coming days, it said
Japan's Shionogi seeks approval for COVID-19 pill
Drugmaker Shionogi & Co has applied for approval to make and sell its oral COVID-19 treatment in Japan, the firm said on Friday. Known as S-217622, the drug would become the country's third antiviral pill approved for coronavirus patients, following those developed by Pfizer and Merck
EMA advisory panel backs 3 month interval for Moderna booster
The advisory committee to the European Union's drug regulator on Friday said it has recommended reducing the interval between the second dose and booster dose of Moderna Inc's (MRNA.O) COVID-19 vaccine from six months to three months. Several countries including Greece and France have previously shortened the interval between the first two doses and the booster dose of COVID-19 vaccines, in the face of rising cases due to the Omicron variant. Some also authorised a fourth shot for the vulnerable
COVID-related diabetes may be temporary; racial disparities widen with Omicron infections
Patients with severe COVID-19 who develop diabetes while hospitalized may have only a temporary form of the disease and their blood sugar levels may return to normal afterward, according to new findings. Researchers studied 594 patients who showed signs of diabetes while hospitalized for COVID-19, including 78 with no previous diagnosis of diabetes. Compared to patients with pre-existing diabetes, many of the newly diagnosed patients had less severe blood sugar issues but more serious COVID-19. Roughly a year after leaving the hospital, 40% of the newly diagnosed patients had gone back to blood sugar levels below the cutoff for diabetes
Ontario could have 'really quiet summer' when it comes to COVID-19: Juni
As Ontario gets set to drop some of its COVID-19 mandates, the scientific director of the province's COVID-19 Science Advisory Table is suggesting seasonality and current immunity levels could help keep virus levels low in the spring and summer months. Speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA's CFRA Live with Andrew Pinsent, epidemiologist Dr. Peter Juni said the province might see a slight increase in viral activity as things open up, but the level of community immunity should keep the worst of it at bay.
The social patterning of Covid-19 vaccine uptake in older adults: A register-based cross-sectional study in Sweden
A broad vaccination coverage is crucial for preventing the spread of Covid-19 and reduce serious illness or death. The aim of this study was to examine social inequalities in Covid-19 vaccination uptake as of 17th May 2021 among Swedish adults aged 60 years and over.
Urticaria, angioedema events account for 13% of COVID-19 vaccine reactions
Urticaria and/or angioedema events comprised 13% of the adverse reports from clinicians after mRNA vaccinations for COVID-19, according to a presentation at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Annual Meeting. Noting that hypersensitivity reactions were reported after mass COVID-19 vaccination events were implemented, evidence-based information about side effects can combat vaccine hesitancy, the researchers said.
Scientists are working on combo flu and COVID-19 shot, but don't expect one this fall
With more scientists predicting COVID-19 boosters will be needed each year, some are now working on combining those with the annual flu vaccine. The idea, experts say, is a single injection given each fall that protects against seasonal flu and COVID-19. Pharmaceutical companies Moderna and Novavax have already announced plans to work on a combo shot, but don't expect them to be available this upcoming flu season. Instead, Moderna's CEO saying a combo shot could be ready by 2023.
Could COVID-19 increase the risk of dementia?
For most, COVID-19 causes a few days of mild to moderate symptoms, but others feel the effects for months. Some of these effects are neurological, leading scientists to ask whether COVID-19 could increase the risk of dementia. Medical News Today looked at the evidence and spoke with experts to find out the latest views.
Coronavirus came from Wuhan market and not Chinese lab, twin studies say
International scientists on Saturday released two major studies which one participant said made it “extraordinarily clear” a market in Wuhan, China was the source of the coronavirus which fueled the Covid-19 pandemic – and not a Chinese government laboratory, a theory championed in the US by rightwing campaigners, columnists and politicians. The question of where Covid-19 came from and how it spread has proved divisive. According to Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore, after two years the global death toll stands at more than 5.9m, the caseload at 433.7m.
Arizona health agency reduces frequency of pandemic updates
Arizona’s public health agency on Saturday provided its last planned daily update of the state’s coronavirus dashboard of pandemic data such as additional COVID-19 cases, new deaths and hospitalization levels. The state Department of Health Services announced Feb. 18 that it would switch to weekly dashboard updates starting next Wednesday because the outbreak is slowing and to be consistent with other infectious disease that are reported. “It also will provide a clearer view of COVID-19 trends by smoothing the variability in daily reporting by labs and other sources,” the department’s announcement said.
Covid-19 Booster Shots Are Slowing as Omicron Surge Fades
Fewer people are getting vaccine booster shots in the U.S. as the Omicron Covid-19 surge fades and more Americans return to normal patterns of life, federal data show. The seven-day average for booster shots administered daily was about 149,000 on Feb. 19, down from a little more than a million in early December, when authorities expanded access and Omicron was first detected in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates. The agency says about half of booster-eligible people have gotten one so far, compared with about 69% of the eligible population who have completed a regular vaccine series.
New studies again target Wuhan market, not lab, for COVID-19 origin
Scientists released two extensive studies on Saturday that again point to a market in Wuhan, China, as the origin of the coronavirus pandemic, the New York Times reported. The two reports, totaling about 150 pages, have not yet been published in a scientific journal. The researchers analyzed data from a range of sources to uncover how the virus first took hold. They concluded that the coronavirus was present in live mammals sold in the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in late 2019.
Coronavirus Resurgence
Hong Kong reports record 26026 daily COVID cases
Hong Kong reported a record 26,026 daily COVID-19 infections on Sunday and 83 deaths, as an outbreak of the highly transmissible Omicron variant overwhelms healthcare facilities and proves hard to control. The global financial hub has imposed some of the most stringent COVID restrictions in the world to cope with the coronavirus spike, leading some executives to leave and frustrating some residents.
Italy reports 40948 coronavirus cases on Friday, 193 deaths
Italy reported 40,948 COVID-19 related cases on Friday, against 46,169 the day before, the health ministry said, while the number of deaths fell to 193 from 249. Italy has registered 154,206 deaths linked to COVID-19 since its outbreak emerged in February 2020, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the eighth highest in the world. The country has reported 12.7 million cases to date. Patients in hospital with COVID-19 - not including those in intensive care - stood at 11,706 on Friday, down from 12,125 a day earlier.
China reports 249 new COVID cases for Feb 25 vs 224 a day earlier
Mainland China reported 249 new confirmed coronavirus infections for Feb 25, health officials said on Saturday, up from 224 a day earlier, with a record number of imported cases including dozens among arrivals from Hong Kong, where infections are surging. Of the new cases, 156 were imported and 93 were locally transmitted, the National Health Commission said. Among the locally transmitted cases, 32 were in Inner Mongolia, nearly all in its capital of Hohhot, while 30 were in the southern province of Guangdong, including 19 in Dongguan and 9 in the city of Shenzhen.
Singapore reports 16857 new COVID-19 cases, 13 deaths
Singapore reported 16,857 new COVID-19 cases as of noon on Saturday (Feb 26), comprising 16,714 local and 143 imported infections. There were 13 fatalities, taking the death toll from coronavirus complications to 999. There are 1,553 COVID-19 patients in hospital, according to the latest infection statistics on the Ministry of Health's (MOH) website. A total of 212 patients require oxygen supplementation. Fifty patients are in the intensive care unit, compared to 46 on Friday.
Victorian COVID-19 hospitalisations at 274 as 17 deaths, 5,052 cases reported
Victoria has reported a further 17 COVID-19 deaths, as more workers prepare to return to offices from tomorrow. There are 274 COVID-19 patients in Victorian hospitals, a decrease on the 281 reported on Saturday. There are 38 patients in intensive care units, five of whom are on ventilators. The state has recorded 5,052 new cases, taking the total number of active infections to 41,038.
Why Denmark’s Covid deaths and hospitalisations are going up after it lifts all pandemic restrictions
On 1 February, Denmark lifted all its Covid-19 restrictions. You could be diagnosed with coronavirus and walk lawfully (if not ethically) around a crowded shopping centre, coughing to your lungs’ content. That’s obviously of significant interest to the UK, which has made a similar decision: as of this week, we have our own remaining restrictions. And since Denmark changed its rules, some people have raised alarming concerns that the pandemic is out of control there. Eric Feigl-Ding, an American epidemiologist, was especially stark about it, tweeting: “MY GOD – Danish political leaders have completely lost their frigging minds releasing all #COVID19 mitigations – these are exponentially surging DEATHS not cases!!! This is what happens when a country’s leaders gaslights its own citizens.”
Wastewater data shows early signs of 'resurgence' of COVID-19 viral load in Ontario, expert says
Wastewater surveillance data suggests that there are "early signs of a resurgence" of COVID-19 viral load across Ontario, says a member of the province's COVID-19 science advisory table. Dr. Peter Juni, scientific director of the science advisory table, says that means it's vital for residents to get third doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. Juni is also a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Toronto. He said wastewater analysis shows that Ontario has reached the bottom of the trough, or valley, in terms of COVID-19 infections but there is a slight upward trend in the concentration of viral prevalence in wastewater across the province. "What we are seeing basically is the early signs of a resurgence," Juni told CBC Toronto on Saturday.
UK needs to realise we are not done with Covid-19, public health expert warns
The UK needs to be told “the job is not done” when it comes to the Covid pandemic according to a leading public health expert who called on the Government to capitalise on recent scientific breakthroughs. Dr Doug Brown, chief executive of the British Society of Immunology, said there is a danger of falling into pre-pandemic routine of taking up to 10 years to bring new vaccines to market and that it will be a “travesty” if all the research momentum built up over the last two years is lost. Dr Brown told i: “We’ve really transformed the way we carry out research over the last two years since March 2020, targeting Covid-19 and it has been an unprecedented, incredible effort, particularly in the UK where we were able to build on the country already being a world leader in immunology and vaccinology.