"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 8th Mar 2022
Bali welcomes first foreign tourists after COVID quarantine rule lifted
Indonesia's resort island of Bali on Monday welcomed its first foreign tourists under relaxed coronavirus rules that no longer require arrivals to quarantine, part of a broader easing of curbs in the Southeast Asian country after infections declined.
Florida breaks with CDC, recommends no COVID vaccine for healthy children
Florida's top health official said on Monday the state would recommend against the COVID-19 vaccine for healthy children, breaking with guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In announcing the move during press briefing convened by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, the state's surgeon general Dr. Joseph Lapado cited studies that showed few COVID fatalities among healthy children and elevated risk among young boys receiving the vaccine of side effects such as myocarditis.
Moderna Signals It May Enforce Covid-19 Vaccine Patents in Wealthy Nations
Moderna Inc. said it will never use its Covid-19 vaccine-related patents to stop others from manufacturing its vaccine in more than 90 low- and middle-income countries, but signaled it was prepared to begin enforcing patents in wealthier countries. The drugmaker said Monday it now expects anyone in higher-income countries that want to use its patented technologies to respect the company’s intellectual property. It also said it is willing to license its patents to others in those countries on “commercially reasonable terms.” Such terms usually involve royalties on the sales of products using the licensed technology. The new stance opens up the possibility of Moderna filing patent-infringement suits against companies in wealthier countries that don’t reach agreements on using Moderna’s technology, though it didn’t say when it might begin seeking to enforce its patents.
Moderna Starts Human Trials of 15 Vaccines as Prepares for Next Pandemic
Moderna Inc. plans to start human trials for vaccines against 15 threatening viruses and other pathogens by 2025, part of a strategy to develop shots that could be made quickly in response to a future pandemic. The effort will include prototype vaccines against the virus that causes Middle East respiratory syndrome, a cousin of Covid-19; the Ebola and Marburg viruses; a tick-borne virus that causes Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever; and mosquito-borne viruses such as chikungunya and dengue fever, according to a company statement Tuesday. Moderna has come under criticism from vaccine advocates who say the company has been slow to ship doses of its Covid vaccine to poor countries and that patents it is pursuing in South Africa threaten access to shots. The company is rowing back, announcing an agreement Monday to open a vaccine plant in Kenya that will make as many as 500 million doses annually, although it didn’t specify which vaccines might be produced there.
Hard for China to Exit Covid Zero With Unprepared Hospitals
When Covid-19 flared in the northern Chinese border region of Ejin late last year, it revealed a key impediment to the country charting an exit from its zero-tolerance pandemic strategy. The healthcare system is so unprepared that any major shift away from Covid Zero -- which in China has meant frequent mass testing, swift quarantines, lockdowns and sealed international borders -- risks a public health crisis. In Ejin, home to about 30,000 in the Chinese province that borders Mongolia, several dozen infections in mid-October quickly overwhelmed the two local hospitals. Authorities had to transfer more than 140 patients by train to the provincial capital of Hohhot, over 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) away, according to local media.
Covid Cases Linked to Brain Shrinkage, Cognitive Decline Months Later
Even a mild case of Covid-19 can damage the brain and addle thinking, scientists found in a study that highlights the illness’s alarming impact on mental function. Researchers identified Covid-associated brain damage months after infection, including in the region linked to smell, and shrinkage in size equivalent to as much as a decade of normal aging. The changes were linked to cognitive decline in the study, which was published Monday in the journal Nature. The findings represent striking evidence of the virus’s impact on the central nervous system. More research will be required to understand whether the evidence from the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging at the University of Oxford means Covid-19 will exacerbate the global burden of dementia -- which cost an estimated $1.3 trillion in the year the pandemic began -- and other neurodegenerative conditions.
HK Ponders New Strategy; China Reports 505 Cases: Virus Update
Hong Kong is considering prioritizing reducing Covid-19 deaths over a compulsory citywide test as authorities struggle to contain its worst wave of virus cases in the pandemic, a local newspaper reported. The U.S. raised its Covid travel advisory for the city by one step to Level 4, or Very High. China reported 505 local covid cases for March 7, down slightly from 526 cases the previous day -- its biggest one-day tally of coronavirus infections since the Wuhan outbreak at the start of the pandemic. More than 6 million people worldwide have died from Covid-19 two years after the novel pathogen started spreading globally.
Ireland entry requirements: All Covid restrictions scrapped for arrivals, regardless of vaccination status
Ireland has dropped all Covid entry restrictions on arrivals, regardless of vaccination status. The relaxation of border rules came into force on Sunday 6 March and includes the end of Passenger Locator Forms. Travellers are no longer required to show proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative Covid test on arrival.
Americans significantly less worried about contracting COVID-19: Gallup
A new Gallup poll shows that concerns about the pandemic have fallen, with just over a third of respondents saying they are now worried about contracting COVID-19. Americans questioned in the survey released Monday are more optimistic about the state of the pandemic than they have been since June, before the pandemic's delta and omicron variants contributed to a significant uptick in infections, according to the survey giant. For example, just 34 percent of people said they are worried about contracting COVID-19, compared to 50 percent in January.
Belgium scraps almost all COVID-19 measures as crisis eases
Belgium began easing most COVID-19 restrictions Monday in the biggest move to relax measures since the onset of the crisis some two years ago. Gone are the coronavirus passport that allows entry into bars, restaurants, theater and cinemas as well as capacity limits. The government announced last week that the nation of 11 million will go from code orange - the second-toughest for virus measures - to code yellow as of Monday.
Bali welcomes first foreign tourists after COVID quarantine rule lifted
Indonesia's resort island of Bali on Monday welcomed its first foreign tourists under relaxed coronavirus rules that no longer require arrivals to quarantine, part of a broader easing of curbs in the Southeast Asian country after infections declined. Known for its surfing, temples, waterfalls and nightlife, Bali drew 6.2 million foreign visitors in 2019, the year before COVID-19 struck. But only a trickle of visitors have returned since Bali started opening up to foreign tourists last October, discouraged by the need to quarantine and other rules.
Public health experts sketch a roadmap to get from the Covid pandemic to the ‘next normal’
A new report released Monday charts a path for the transition out of the Covid-19 pandemic, one that outlines both how the country can deal with the challenge of endemic Covid disease and how to prepare for future biosecurity threats. The report plots a course to what its authors call the “next normal” — living with the SARS-CoV-2 virus as a continuing threat that needs to be managed. Doing so will require improvements on a number of fronts, from better surveillance for Covid and other pathogens to keeping tabs on how taxed hospitals are; and from efforts to address the air quality in buildings to continued investment in antiviral drugs and better vaccines. The authors also call for offering people sick with respiratory symptoms easy access to testing and, if they are positive for Covid or influenza, a quick prescription for the relevant antiviral drug.
U.S. CDC urges Americans to avoid travel to Hong Kong, New Zealand
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday urged Americans to avoid travel to Hong Kong, New Zealand and Thailand over COVID-19 cases. The CDC elevated its travel recommendation to "Level Four: Very High" for the three destinations. In total, the CDC urges Americans to avoid travel to about 135 countries and territories. The CDC lists another 33 destinations as "Level 3: High" and recommends unvaccinated Americans avoid travel. It lowered six destinations on Monday to Level 3: Anguilla, Cape Verde, Fiji, Mexico, Philippines and United Arab Emirates.
Covid Scotland: Spring booster marks new era in vaccine programme
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) describes the Spring booster as a “precautionary” measure, and has already hinted at plans for another round in Autumn 2022. It will remain to be seen what effect this has on vaccine uptake. There may be none, given the only groups currently invited are most at risk, either through age or immunity. But these are the same invited each year for the flu vaccine, which has a lower uptake.
Covid-19 vaccine: More than 1500 people affected by incorrect storage
In New Zealand, more than 1500 people who received a Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine in Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago may not be fully protected after the doses were stored at an incorrect temperature. The issue mainly affected booster shots but some were of first and second doses of the vaccine. SDHB medical officer of health Susan Jack said: "There is no risk of harm to individuals that have received a vaccine stored at an incorrect temperature. However, in these circumstances the vaccine is not considered to be potent nor to produce a reliable level of immunity".
COVID-19: Experts warn against waiting for Omicron vaccines
Following the emergence of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, several pharmaceutical companies have announced that they will be manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines that specifically target the latest variant of concern. In January, Pfizer and its partner, BioNTech, announced that studies were being done to compare its original COVID-19 vaccine with doses designed to match Omicron. At the beginning of the year, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said the redesigned vaccine could be ready to launch as soon as March. Moderna made a similar announcement, revealing that the company has begun testing its own Omicron-specific vaccine and that clinical data should be available by March as well.
Convoy protesting COVID-19 mandates begins beltway circuit
A large group of truck drivers and their supporters who object to COVID-19 mandates began their mobile protest in the Washington, D.C., area Sunday, embarking on a drive designed to snarl traffic and make their objections known to lawmakers. The “People’s Convoy” follows similar demonstrations by truckers in Canada upset at vaccine requirements to cross the Canadian border. The Washington Post reported that convoy organizer Brian Brase intends for protesters to travel on the beltway every day during the upcoming week until its demands are met.
COVID-19 expert claims he was told to 'correct his views' after criticising 'implausible graph' shown during official briefing
In England, a senior epidemiologist who advised the government during the coronavirus pandemic claims he was told to "correct" his views after he criticised what he thought was an "implausible" graph shown at an official briefing. Professor Mark Woolhouse has also apologised to his daughter, whose generation "has been so badly served by mine", and believes that closing schools was "morally wrong". The Edinburgh University academic is deeply critical of the use of lockdown measures and says "plain common sense" was a "casualty of the crisis".
Russia revives COVID support programme to help firms hit by Ukraine sanctions
Russia is resuming a support programme for critically important firms, hoping to protect companies from the effects of international sanctions by reviving measures first introduced in 2020 to shield them from the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Omicron infections contagious for at least 6 days; Takeda drug shows promise as COVID treatment
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. Omicron infections are contagious for at least 6 days Patients infected with the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 remain contagious for just as long as patients infected with earlier variants, according to a small study. Researchers took blood samples from 56 newly-diagnosed patients, including 37 with Delta infections and 19 with Omicron infections. All were mildly ill, such as with flu-like symptoms, but none were hospitalized. Regardless of which variant or whether or not they had been vaccinated or boosted, study participants "shed live virus for, on average, about 6 days after symptoms (began), and... about one in four people shed live virus for over 8 days," said Dr. Amy Barczak of the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, who coauthored a report posted on medRxiv ahead of peer review.
Scans reveal how Covid may change the brain
Catching Covid may cause changes to the brain, a study suggests. Scientists found significant differences in MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans before and after infection. Even after a mild infection, the overall size of the brain had shrunk slightly, with less grey matter in the parts related to smell and memory. The researchers do not know whether the changes are permanent but stressed the brain could heal. The study is published in the journal Nature.
Behind the scenes of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine
At the New York labs of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, chairman and CEO Dr. Albert Bourla showed correspondent Alina Cho where scientists are working on the next generation of COVID vaccines, testing vaccinated and unvaccinated cell samples against new variants. These are the same labs where they helped pioneer the original vaccine. Think back to two years ago, as COVID-19 spread across the world, when the normal timeline for the development of a vaccine was eight to ten years. "You went to your team and you said, 'Get one in eight months,'" said Cho. "Did you honestly believe you could get it done?" "I felt that we don't have option to fail," Bourla replied.
Omicron doesn't need its own custom COVID vaccine: here's why
The Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was discovered in South Africa and emerged in November 2021. Scientists have already learned a lot about Omicron. One of the key questions that remains is how well our immune systems deal with infection by this variant. This is important for two reasons. Firstly, Omicron is highly infectious and has swept across the world. Thus, many people have been exposed to Omicron and we need to define how well such people are protected from future re-infections by emerging variants. Secondly, several vaccine manufacturers have started to incorporate Omicron into their vaccines.
Moderna reaches preliminary agreement to build Covid vaccine manufacturing plant in Africa
Moderna plans to invest $500 million to produce messenger RNA, the technology underlying its Covid vaccines, at the facility in Kenya. It could fill Covid vaccine doses at the Kenya facility as early as 2023 subject to demand, according to the company. Moderna has faced criticism from groups such as Oxfam International and Doctors Without Borders for not sharing its vaccine technology with middle and lower income countries.
Why have some people never caught Covid? The answers could help protect us all
I’m one of the fortunate people who is yet to test positive for Covid. This is despite the fact that I work with live replicating Sars-CoV-2 (the virus that causes Covid) for my research, teach face-to-face at university, and have school-age children. My fully vaccinated healthy friends of the same age were not so lucky, and some have suffered from more than one case of Covid in the past couple of years. What does this reveal about my immune system? First, we have to consider a number of scenarios. There is a very small chance that I have never come into contact with the virus. But given the duration of the pandemic, and the number of highly transmissible variants, this is unlikely. Then there is the chance that I have come into contact with Sars-CoV-2, but it was cleared from my body quickly before it developed into the disease Covid (abortive infection). At the start of the pandemic, and before I was vaccinated, I could have caught the virus but I could have been one of the small number of people who did not display symptoms and therefore did not test for it.
Myocarditis and pericarditis in COVID-19 vaccine recipients
Are the cardiac complications associated with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines worse than the disease itself? In order to answer this question, it is necessary to understand their true incidence and association with the vaccine. A new study published on the preprint server medRxiv* provides valuable evidence towards this end, using surveillance data to provide the best estimates of these outcomes. The onset of COVID-19, caused by infection with the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), led to a worldwide outbreak of infections, sickness, and death. The emergence and rapid transmission of SARS-CoV-2 prompted the development of vaccines to potentially create herd immunity and limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2. However, doubts raised by the unprecedented speed of vaccine approval, the novel platforms used for their development, and the rapid spread of conspiracy theories, accompanied by a severe shortfall of vaccine supplies to developing areas of the world, hindered the expected speed of vaccine coverage. During this lag period, attention shifted to the potential adverse effects associated with COVID-19 vaccines.
COVID-19 vaccine rollout worsened existing health inequalities, study finds
The wide inequalities in COVID-19 vaccine uptake between people from ethnic minority groups and White British people are far greater than for the pre-pandemic flu jab, a study by University of Manchester health researchers has found. The findings, published in PLOS Medicine, overturns the prevailing view that ethnic inequalities in COVID-19 vaccine uptake simply follow previous trends in people's willingness to take up vaccination. Instead, the researchers suggest, the COVID-19 vaccination program has created additional and different inequalities beyond pre-existing inequalities in vaccine uptake.
Greater Boston COVID recovery cohort joins national effort to study long-term effects of COVID-19
A consortium of six sites in the Boston area led by Mass General Brigham’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital will together recruit participants as part of a nationwide study of the long-term effects and prolonged symptoms of COVID-19. Together, the sites will recruit 909 participants over the next year to be part of the greater Boston COVID Recovery Cohort (BCRC). Participants will be followed for the next three years. As part of the National Institutes of Health “Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery” (RECOVER) Initiative, the cohort will help researchers to better understand and define the constellation of long-term complications that can occur after infection and lay the groundwork for preventing and treating symptoms. The six Boston area sites include Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Medical Center, Cambridge Health Alliance, Tufts Medical Center and Mass General Brigham founding hospitals Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital.
Severity of COVID-19 cases in the months of Alpha variant predominance compared to the Delta variant
The findings of the study demonstrated the higher occurrence of more severe cases during the predominance of the Alpha variant as compared to the Delta wave after adjusting the regression model for effects like age and status of vaccination.
Oxford COVID-19 Vaccine Effective in Protecting Socially Vulnerable Populations
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is also effective in reducing symptomatic COVID-19 in a socially vulnerable community, where viral transmission is high and access to healthcare might be limited. This is the conclusion of a study performed in a group of favelas in Brazil, and co-led by ISGlobal, a centre supported by the ”la Caixa” Foundation, and the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Brazil (Fiocruz). A large number of people in low- and middle-income countries live in densely populated slums or favelas, often with limited resources to respond to the stress caused by a pandemic such as COVID-19. “We know that socially vulnerable populations have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic – they are more exposed to the virus and are more likely to die if they get sick” says ISGlobal researcher Otavio Ranzani, “but studies estimating vaccine effectiveness in these populations are lacking,” he adds. Moreover, few studies have assessed vaccine effectiveness against the Gamma variant, which circulated mainly in Brazil and Latin America, and is able to partially escape recognition by vaccine-induced antibodies.
Exploring the ethics of genetic prioritisation for COVID-19 vaccines
There is evidence to suggest that host genomic factors may account for disease response variability in COVID-19 infection. In this paper, we consider if and how host genomics should influence decisions about vaccine allocation. Three potential host genetic factors are explored: vulnerability to infection, resistance to infection, and increased infectivity. We argue for the prioritisation of the genetically vulnerable in vaccination schemes, and evaluate the potential for ethical de-prioritisation of individuals with genetic markers for resistance. Lastly, we discuss ethical prioritisation of individuals with genetic markers for increased infectivity (those more likely to spread COVID-19).
SII receives EUA grant recommendation from SEC for Covid-19 vaccine
Serum Institute of India (SII) has received an emergency use authorisation (EUA) grant recommendation from the Subject Expert Committee (SEC) of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) for its Covid-19 vaccine, Covovax, for people aged 12 to 17 years. The recommendation comes after the panel held a meeting for Covid-19 associated proposals, ANI reported. The vaccine is produced by the transfer of technology from Novavax.
Moderna taps Kenya as site for $500M mRNA manufacturing facility
Moderna tapped Kenya as the country for its $500 million mRNA vaccine manufacturing push on the African continent. The drugmaker said it inked a memorandum of understanding with Kenyan officials to build a state-of-the-art mRNA facility, which was first announced in October 2021. The site will focus on producing up to 500 million vaccine doses a year. The company said the plant will benefit all of Africa and in the future could be expanded to include fill-finish and packaging capabilities at the site. Additionally, Moderna said it is working toward getting the plant built and operational to fill doses of its COVID-19 vaccines in Africa by 2023 depending on demand for the shots. The exact location and square footage of the proposed manufacturing plant within Kenya weren’t disclosed.
‘We’re all in this together’: As long Covid studies continue, researchers cast a wider net
There are almost as many questions about long Covid as there are symptoms. From the pandemic’s early days, a significant share of people have been troubled by problems that persist for weeks or even years after their acute infection clears, or find they’ve developed new issues that range from bothersome to debilitating. These difficulties span the mind and the body, and so far they resist explanation. Current treatments focus on easing brain fog, bone-wearying fatigue, shortness of breath, muscle pain, loss of smell, anxiety and depression, and sleep problems, but two burning questions remain unanswered: Who gets long Covid and how can it be prevented?
COVID-only Minnesota hospitals had lower death rates
A Minnesota health system that established two COVID-19 patient-only hospitals early in the pandemic had lower rates of coronavirus-related death than hospitals with mixed patient cohorts, according to a study published yesterday in JAMA Network Open. University of Minnesota at Minneapolis researchers studied the outcomes of 5,504 adult COVID-19 patients treated at M Health Fairview from Mar 1, 2020, to Jun 30, 2021, from 11 hospitals, including 2 reserved for the treatment of COVID-19 patients. Median patient age in the entire cohort was 62.5 years, and 51.9% were women. Of the 5,504 patients, 2,077 (37.7%) were treated at one of the two dedicated hospitals in St. Paul, and 3,427 (62.3%) were cared for at the other hospitals.
Pandemic on the wane: Mumbai sees just 38 Covid-19 cases, no death
Mumbai on Monday recorded 38 COVID-19 cases, which took the tally to 10,56,956, while the death toll remained unchanged at 16,692, a civic official said.
Philippines logs 6,297 new Covid-19 cases in a week (Feb 28-March 6)
The Philippines' Department of Health (DOH) reported a total of 6,297 new Covid-19 infections and 615 deaths from March 1 to 7, according to its first weekly bulletin released on Monday. The daily case average was 899, 30 percent lower than the cases reported in the previous week in February. The DOH will release the weekly bulletin every Monday instead of reporting daily cases. The new format does not include the total number of cases. On Sunday, the DOH said 3,667,542 confirmed cases had been reported in the South-East Asian country.
Singapore reports 13,520 COVID-19 cases, 6 deaths
Singapore reported 13,520 new COVID-19 cases as of noon on Monday (Mar 7), comprising 13,371 local infections and 149 imported cases. There were six fatalities, taking the death toll from coronavirus complications to 1,084. There are 1,477 patients in hospital, according to the latest infection statistics on the Ministry of Health's (MOH) website. A total of 198 patients require oxygen supplementation. Fifty-four patients are in the intensive care unit, compared to 47 on Sunday.
Taiwan reports 29 new COVID-19 cases-Xinhua
Taiwan reported 29 new COVID-19 cases, including two locally transmitted infections and 27 imported ones, the island's disease monitoring agency said Monday. Taiwan has relaxed several of its COVID-19 prevention measures from March 1, given that the local epidemic situation is stable and under control. Starting Monday, Taiwan will further shorten the duration of home quarantine for all arrivals from overseas, as well as close contacts of confirmed cases, from 14 to 10 days.
China’s Covid-19 Cases Hit Highest Daily Total Since 2020 Wuhan Outbreak
China logged its highest daily total of locally transmitted Covid-19 infections in more than two years, with the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the coronavirus posing a fresh test to China’s ability to quickly smother outbreaks. China’s National Health Commission said Monday that it had detected 526 domestic infection cases, 214 of which were symptomatic, on the prior day, marking the single highest daily tally by either measure since the initial pandemic outbreak in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in early 2020. Most of those who tested positive on Sunday were in the eastern port cities of Qingdao and Shanghai, with others detected in the southern province of Guangdong and the northeastern province of Jilin.
COVID-19: Global death toll from coronavirus reaches six million, new figures show
Six million people have now died of coronavirus since the pandemic began, new figures have shown. The global milestone has been recorded by Johns Hopkins University, suggesting the pandemic is far from over despite restrictions being eased in the UK following a surge in Omicron cases over the winter period last year. The death rates worldwide are still highest among people who are unvaccinated against the virus, said Tikki Pang, a visiting professor at the National University of Singapore's medical school and co-chair of the Asia Pacific Immunisation Coalition.
Vaccination disparity still significant as official COVID-19 death toll hits 6 million globally
The official global death toll from COVID-19 eclipsed six million on Monday — underscoring that the pandemic, which officially enters its third year at the end of this week, is far from over. The milestone, recorded by Johns Hopkins University, is the latest tragic reminder of the unrelenting nature of the pandemic even as people are shedding masks, travel is resuming and businesses are reopening around the globe. As death rates remain high in Poland, Hungary, Romania and other eastern European countries, the region has seen more than 1.5 million refugees arrive from war-torn Ukraine, a country with poor vaccination coverage and high rates of cases and deaths. Meanwhile, despite its wealth and vaccine availability, the United States will hit one million reported deaths sometime this spring.
Hong Kong reports 25150 new daily coronavirus infections
Hong Kong reported 25,150 new coronavirus infections and 280 deaths on Monday, as authorities struggle to contain a worsening COVID-19 outbreak which has torn through hundreds of nursing homes and hit many of the city's unvaccinated elderly. While Hong Kong was successful in controlling the virus in 2021, it has recently seen COVID-19 infections soar to a total of around 500,000. Most of the Chinese-ruled city's more than 2,200 deaths have been in the past two weeks. Health authorities said 161 of the deaths reported on Monday were in the past 24 hours while 119 were older fatalities processed with a delay.
Mainland China daily local COVID cases climb to 2-year high
Mainland China has logged its highest number of daily new local symptomatic COVID-19 infections in about two years, with the highly transmissible Omicron variant putting pressure on the government's strict policy of curbing each outbreak quickly. China reported 214 domestically transmitted cases with confirmed symptoms for Sunday, the majority in the provinces of Guangdong, Jilin and Shandong. It's the highest daily caseload since early March 2020 when authorities began to count locally found infections and cases arriving from outside the mainland separately.