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"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 22nd Mar 2022

Lockdown Exit
India considers widening COVID booster effort to all adults, sources say
Article reports that India is considering making all adults eligible for booster doses of COVID-19 vaccine, two sources with knowledge of the matter said on Monday, as infections grow in some countries and some Indians find it hard to travel abroad without a third dose. Only frontline workers and those older than 60 are currently allowed to take booster doses in India, whether free in government centres or paid for in private hospitals. The government is debating whether to provide boosters to other groups for free, said one of the sources, who both sought anonymity as the government has yet to make a decision.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA to Hold Advisory Committee Meeting on COVID-19 Vaccines to Discuss Future Boosters
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a virtual meeting of its Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) on Wed., April 6, to discuss considerations for future COVID-19 vaccine booster doses and the process for selecting specific strains of the SARS-CoV-2 virus for COVID-19 vaccines to address current and emerging variants. Along with the independent experts of the advisory committee, representatives from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health will participate in the meeting.
The Covid-19 vaccine market is getting crowded — as demand begins to wane
CureVac, a pioneer in the effort to use messenger RNA as a vaccine platform, and its partner, GSK, saw the writing on the wall last fall. When CureVac’s Covid-19 mRNA vaccine candidate underwhelmed in a Phase 2b/3 trial, the pair shifted plans. Too many other vaccines had already proven superior and been cleared by regulators. Rather than spend months tweaking a candidate that would end up battling for a rapidly shrinking share of the Covid vaccine market, they would focus instead on a second-generation product. Soon, other would-be Covid vaccine manufacturers are set to confront the same kinds of hard reality. With two new players — Novavax and a Sanofi-GSK partnership — making or about to make their way into the already crowded global Covid vaccine market, the prospects for those still struggling to prove their vaccines are protective are becoming ever slimmer.
Scots could be given different covid vaccine to protect against 'multiple variants' in future
Scots may be given different covid vaccines if new variants emerge in the future, according to a leading health expert. Linda Bauld, professor in public health at the University of Edinburgh and adviser to the Scottish Government, said there were signs the protection from coronavirus was starting to wane in the population. The surge in infections prompted the First Minister to row back on plans to scrap the legal requirement to wear face coverings on public transport and other indoor settings.
Charities call for annual Covid-19 memorial day in recognition of pandemic death toll
In the UK, charities are calling for an annual memorial day ahead of the second anniversary of lockdown this week as Covid cases and hospitalisations continue to rise. Marie Curie is among the charities taking part in a National Day of Reflection on Wednesday to support the millions of people who are grieving, and remembering the family, friends, neighbours and colleagues lost to the virus over the last two years. People can join a minute’s silence at noon or visit a local centre to see a “wall of reflection”, the charity said.
South Korea to buy 10 million doses of SK Bioscience's COVID vaccine
South Korea has reached a deal to buy 10 million doses of the country's first experimental coronavirus vaccine, developed by SK Bioscience Co Ltd, authorities said on Monday. The South Korean company has since August conducted Phase 3 trials of its vaccine candidate, codenamed "GBP510", jointly developed with the University of Washington's Institute for Protein Design and aided by global drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). "They aim to secure formal approval in the first half of this year, and public distribution is expected to begin in the latter half," Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) director Jeong Eun-kyeong told a briefing.
Gordon Ramsay Says Covid Lockdowns Got Rid of Bad Restaurants With Good Locations
Covid lockdowns have eliminated bad restaurants taking advantage of their "prime locations", Gordon Ramsay said. The celebrity chef said the past two years have been "devastating" for the hospitality industry - but said the upside is "the crap's gone" now. Asked if he meant any particular chains, the 55-year-old told the Radio Times: "Well, just shitholes in a prime position and taking advantage because they're in a great location and they've got the footfall. "But now we've wiped the slate clean, which is good."
The Future of Boosters Is Somewhere Between Unnecessary and Urgent
The omicron wave is finally on the decline in the U.S. Workers are returning to offices again, hospital wards are emptying, and states have lifted mask mandates. But a new strain, BA.2, has spread widely in Europe and is growing in prevalence in the U.S. And Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. have now asked U.S. regulators to clear an additional Covid-19 booster as protection provided by the first three shots fades. While the vaccines at first were remarkably good at preventing Covid infections, successive mutations and the passage of time have rendered the shots less effective. The boosters people received late last year did help ward off some Covid infections during the most recent surge, but those may not end up being the final shots for those who want to stay ahead of this virus.
Why China Is Sticking With Its 'Covid Zero' Strategy
Two years ago, China was being lauded by the World Health Organization for its success in beating the coronavirus. But its insistence on adhering to a so-called Covid Zero policy is leaving it increasingly isolated as other countries, most of which suffered far worse outbreaks and higher death tolls, wean themselves off harsh countermeasures and return to a semblance of pre-pandemic life. Their populations have built up a large degree of protection through previous infections and more effective vaccines. Chinese officials have said vaccines alone aren’t enough and stringent curbs aimed at wiping out the virus are needed to avoid a health care calamity. But President Xi Jinping has pledged to try to reduce the economic impact of the longstanding strategy, which Hong Kong also follows.
Why China's Covid-Zero Policy Has Found Success While Hong Kong's Falters
Hong Kong appears to have accepted defeat. On Monday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam set out a blueprint for undoing the stringent social distancing measures and border curbs that severely curtailed residents’ daily lives for the past two years. Despite the government’s Covid-zero measures, 3.6 million of the city’s 7.3 million residents may have been infected. The statistic reflects badly on Hong Kong. But that doesn’t mean that the same policy in China has failed. To most of the world, there is a simple reason for why Hong Kong is a pandemic shambles: The territory is acting on guidance from Beijing. But the mainland has been far more clever and dynamic with the implementation of its Covid-zero agenda. While the territory has been reactive and prone to slapping down panicky measures, the mainland’s economically important metropolises, such as Shanghai and Shenzhen, have been efficient and resilient.
Exit Strategies
Covid Tests Show the Omicron BA.2 Subvariant Is Gaining Ground in U.S.
The omicron subvariant BA.2 is continuing to gain ground in the U.S., according to Covid-19 tests sequenced over the last two weeks. Helix, a San Diego-based genomics firm, has been watching the BA.2 variant since it first popped up in the U.S. in early January. Although it was initially slow to take hold, Helix now estimates that 50% to 70% of all Covid cases nationwide are BA.2. Will Lee, Helix’s chief science officer, said this type of surveillance is essential and can help arm the U.S. health care system against future variants.
Spring Covid-19 booster campaign to get underway in a matter of weeks
Northern Ireland's spring Covid booster campaign is set to get underway within a matter of weeks. A further dose of the vaccine is to be made available to over 75s, immunosuppressed over the age of 12 and care home residents. Community pharmacies are due to administer the vaccine to care home residents, trusts will run clinics for immunocompromised patients and GP surgeries will run clinics for all patients over the age of 75. While appointments have not yet opened to the public, they are to coincide with the same timetable across the UK.
Kenya aims to inoculate 19 mln adults against COVID-19 by June
Kenya has so far vaccinated 15.9 million adults against COVID-19, the Ministry of Health said on Monday in a report, putting the country on course to achieve its target of wholly vaccinating 70 percent of its adult population by June. According to the ministry, 7.9 million people are fully vaccinated with two doses. Kenya plans to fully vaccinate 19 million adults by mid-year and an entire adult population of 27 million people by the end of the year. The 7.9 million vaccinations mean the east African nation has achieved 42 percent of its target of vaccinating the 19 million adults, the ministry said in a statement. The ministry said the country's total vaccination of both adults and teenagers stood at 17.3 million. Out of the number, 8.96 million are partially vaccinated.
U.S. FDA advisers to discuss second COVID vaccine boosters in April
A panel of independent advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is set to meet on April 6 to discuss considerations for use of COVID-19 vaccine booster doses from Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc. The panel will also discuss the process for selecting COVID-19 vaccine strain to address current and emerging variants, the U.S. FDA said.
Moderna to supply additional 7 mln doses of COVID booster vaccine to Switzerland
Moderna has signed a new agreement with Switzerland for the supply of another seven million doses of its COVID-19 booster vaccine for delivery in 2023. The agreement also includes an option of seven million doses for delivery in 2023 and 2024. These doses are in addition to the seven million doses of booster vaccine that Switzerland previously secured.
New SA Premier Peter Malinauskas meets with COVID leadership team to discuss announcement expected tomorrow
New South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas is expected to make an announcement tomorrow after a lengthy meeting with the leadership team behind the state's COVID-19 strategy. Police Commissioner Grant Stevens and Chief Public Health Officer Nicola Spurrier sat down with Mr Malinauskas for a lengthy briefing on the COVID-19 situation in South Australia today.
Hong Kong to ease strict COVID measures from April, lifts flight ban
Hong Kong plans to relax some anti-COVID-19 measures next month, lifting a ban on flights from nine countries, reducing quarantine time for arrivals from abroad and reopening schools. The moves, announced on Monday by Chief Executive Carrie Lam, could quieten some criticism from residents who have become increasingly frustrated with the city's stringent measures, some of which have been in place for over two years.
Indonesia set to lift quarantine rules for overseas tourists
Indonesia will lift all quarantine requirements for overseas visitors entering the country, its tourism minister said Monday, two years after it imposed border restrictions due to COVID-19. Tourism and Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno told reporters that foreign tourists will still be required to have a negative PCR test before entering the country. Quarantine requirements will be lifted from Tuesday, he added. Indonesia had already implemented a two-week trial of quarantine-free travel in Bali, Batam and Bintan islands, where coronavirus numbers have been falling. The government is hoping the easing of travel restrictions will boost the number of foreign tourist this year to over 3 million.
Shanghai Disneyland closes as virus rises, Shenzhen reopens
Shanghai Disneyland closed Monday as China’s most populous city tried to contain its biggest coronavirus flareup in two years, while the southern business center of Shenzhen allowed shops and offices to reopen after a weeklong closure. Meanwhile, the cities of Changchun and Jilin in the northeast began another round of citywide virus testing following a surge in infections. Jilin tightened anti-disease curbs, ordering its 2 million residents to stay home. China’s case numbers in its latest infection wave are low compared with other major countries, but authorities are enforcing a “zero tolerance” strategy that has suspended access to some major cities.
Hong Kong eases quarantine amid angst over ‘zero COVID’ isolation
Hong Kong will scrap flight bans and reduce quarantine for arrivals, amid mounting frustration with a strict “zero COVID” policy that has turned the financial centre into one of the world’s most isolated cities. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Monday authorities will lift flight bans on nine countries including the United Kingdom and the United States and cut hotel quarantine for incoming travellers with a negative COVID-19 test result from 14 days to seven. Lam also said plans for compulsory COVID-19 testing for the entire city will be put on hold. The announcement comes days after Lam acknowledged that tolerance for the city’s pandemic strategy was “fading” among the general public and businesses.
Partisan Exits
British police begin interviews over lockdown Downing Street party investigation
Police have begun to interview witnesses as part of their investigation into alleged breaches of lockdown rules at gatherings in British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's office and residence, the Metropolitan Police said on Monday. Police are investigating 12 gatherings held at Downing Street after an internal inquiry found Johnson's staff had enjoyed alcohol-fuelled parties, with the British leader attending a few of the events himself.
Baseless coronavirus rumors damaging families, relationships in Japan
Two years have already passed since the first coronavirus case was confirmed in Japan, and measures such as multiple state of emergency declarations have been taken intermittently. But misinformation and false rumors about the virus and vaccines have been spreading as if to take advantage of people under stress and anxiety, and have damaged relationships and family ties. One example is a woman in her 30s residing in the Kanto region in east Japan, who married her husband about 10 years ago and now lives with their two children. When infections began to spread in Japan for the first time in the spring of 2020, her partner often washed his hands and always wore a face mask when going out.
UK Covid case numbers ‘no particular cause for concern’, says Javid
There is “no particular cause for concern” about the UK’s rapidly rising number of Covid cases, Sajid Javid, the health secretary, has said, saying that England was demonstrating to the world a successful model for living with the virus. Despite survey data showing almost 5% of the population in England had Covid earlier this month, and record infection levels among the over-70s, Javid said the “wall of defence” from vaccines was keeping the situation stable. From Monday, 5 million people across England at higher risk from Covid – the over-75s, care home residents and those who are immunocompromised – will be able to book a second booster jab in the coming weeks.
Scientific Viewpoint
New Research Shows Higher Risk of Developing Diabetes After Covid-19 Infection
A large new study found that people who recovered from Covid-19 within the past year are 40% more likely to receive a new diagnosis of diabetes compared to those who weren’t infected. The increased risk translates into 1% of people who have had Covid-19 developing diabetes who otherwise wouldn’t have, the study’s author says, resulting in potentially millions of new cases world-wide. Most of the people with diabetes in the study, published online Monday in the journal Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, were diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, not Type 1. Some researchers say Covid-19 could also be triggering an entirely new type of diabetes in which certain cells mistakenly start to raise, rather than lower, blood sugar. The study adds to evidence showing an increased post-Covid-19 risk of cardiometabolic conditions, such as diabetes as well as heart and kidney complications. Normally when people think of long-term Covid-19 symptoms, they think of problems such as cognitive issues, fatigue or shortness of breath.
CDC studies show COVID-19 vaccines remained effective during omicron surge
Two new studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show COVID-19 vaccines remained highly effective even during the omicron surge. They report vaccines still protected well against hospitalization, ventilation and death from COVID-19. At the peak of the omicron variant, data showed unvaccinated adults were 12 times more likely to be hospitalized.
Beijing developed new Omicron vaccines to defend against China’s worst COVID outbreak in two years—but it still has no mRNA shots
China’s domestic vaccine makers have reportedly developed new COVID shots that can better protect against Omicron, as the country battles its worst coronavirus outbreak since 2020. But despite evidence that mRNA vaccines—like the Comirnaty vaccine produced by BioNTech—offer better protection against Omicron infection, China is still relying on traditional inactive vaccines to guard against COVID. “As we expedite development of an Omicron vaccine, we consistently make safety and efficacy our No. 1 priority,” Zheng Zhongwei, an official who oversees COVID vaccine development at the National Health Commission, said during a media briefing on Saturday.
Moderna inks COVID-19 booster supply deals, asks FDA to approve fourth shot for all adults
Moderna announced a new supply agreement with the Swiss federal government today for seven million doses of its COVID-19 booster vaccine for anticipated delivery in 2023.
Cambodia ready to set up COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing plant
Cambodia is making all preparations to cooperate with China to set up a COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing plant, either by end of this year or 2023, said Secretary of State of the Cambodian Ministry of Health Youk Sambath. Khmer Times cited the official as saying that the ministry recently had a teleconference with the China National Pharmaceutical company (Sinopharm) and the Chinese Government on the plant establishment in Cambodia. The first round of discussion was fruitful and positive, she added. On late March 15, Cambodia received 523,100 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine donated by the Hungarian Government at Phnom Penh International Airport.
Safety and antibody responses to COVID-19 vaccines in an older community
Clinical trials and population-based studies of COVID-19 vaccines reveal exceptional safety and short-term efficacy. While clinical trials included older people aged over 70 years, the COVID-19 mortality rate was higher, particularly in those with comorbid conditions. In Canada, the interval between two vaccine doses was extended to allow immunization of more people, which raised concerns regarding the efficacy of vaccines. While studies noted the benefits of extended duration, little is known about that in the older population.
Coronavirus may double severe complications in pregnancy
A Kaiser Permanente analysis of pregnant patients who tested positive for the coronavirus found more than double the risk of poor outcomes including preterm birth, venous thromboembolism (blood clot), and severe maternal morbidity, which includes conditions such as acute respiratory distress syndrome and sepsis. The study was published in JAMA Internal Medicine on March 21. An analysis of records for 43,886 pregnant individuals during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic found that the 1,332 who had a coronavirus infection during pregnancy had more than double the risk of negative outcomes compared with individuals without the virus. “These findings add to the growing evidence that having COVID-19 during pregnancy raises risks of serious complications,” explained lead author Assiamira Ferrara, MD, PhD, a senior research scientist and associate director of the women’s and children health section in the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research.
'Reassuring' data suggests Johnson & Johnson vaccine may still have a role to play against Covid-19
The US public and even some health experts may have underestimated the Covid-19 vaccine made by Janssen, a division of Johnson & Johnson, new data shows. And there's emerging evidence that it could still play an important role ahead. A study published Thursday in the medical journal JAMA Network Open found that the J&J vaccine remains durable and effective, even through the surge of cases caused by the Delta variant. It was 76% effective overall in preventing Covid-19 infections and 81% effective in preventing Covid-related hospitalizations. The study also showed that it provided lasting immunity at least six months after the shots.
COVID-19 Drug Targets Immune Aging, Enters Phase II
Severe COVID-19 infections are more likely in older people, which is likely due to a deterioration of the immune system over time. The need for the development of COVID-19 therapies, especially for aging populations, is of paramount importance. A new study investigated an oral drug that reverses multiple aspects of immune aging. In doing so, the drug effectively prevents death in a mouse model of COVID-19, suggesting that the medication could be used to protect the elderly patients who are at greatest risk. In the study, daily doses of BGE-175 (asapiprant) protected aged mice from a lethal dose of SARS-CoV-2.
Doctors finding hurdles to using pills to treat COVID-19
High-risk COVID-19 patients now have new treatments they can take at home to stay out of the hospital — if doctors get the pills to them fast enough. Health systems around the country are rushing out same-day prescription deliveries. Some clinics have started testing and treating patients in one visit, an initiative that President Joe Biden's administration recently touted. The goal is to get patients started on either Pfizer’s Paxlovid tablets or Merck’s molnupiravir capsules within five days of symptoms appearing. That can prevent people with big health risks from growing sicker and filling up hospitals if another surge develops. But the tight deadline has highlighted several challenges. Some patients are delaying testing, thinking they just had a cold. Others have been unwilling or unable to try the new drugs.
COVID-19 Vaccine Manufacturers Submit Appeals to FDA for Fourth Dose
The makers behind two of the largest COVID-19 vaccines, Pfizer, BioNTech, and Moderna, are seeking FDA approval for a fourth dose of their respective COVID-19 vaccines. Pfizer and BioNTech submitted an appeal to amend their Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) on March 15, 2022, while Moderna submitted one on March 17. Pfizer and BioNTech’s application is for a booster dose for adults 65 and older who have received an initial booster of any of the authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccines. According to a company press release, an analysis of Israeli Ministry of Health records found that confirmed infections were two times lower and rate of severe illness were four times lower among individuals who received an additional booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine administered at least four months after an initial booster dose relative to those who received only one booster dose.
Link found between severe Covid-19 and long-term mental health problems
Serious Covid-19 illness appears to be linked to an increase in the risk of long-term adverse mental health effects, according to researchers from Scandinavia and the UK. They said it was the first study to look at long-term mental health implications for patients who were bedridden for more than a week following a diagnosis of Covid-19. Overall, most mental health symptoms among recovering Covid-19 subsided within two months after diagnosis, said the study authors in the journal The Lancet Public Health. But patients who were bedridden for seven days or more were more likely to experience depression and anxiety over the 16-month duration of the study, which involved data from six countries. This study was conducted by researchers from Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Estonia, and the UK.
Covid-19 news: Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine treats covid for first time
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is thought to have helped an immunocompromised person clear the covid-19 virus. Two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are thought to have cleared the SARS-CoV-2 virus from a person who first tested positive more than 7 months earlier. This is the first known time a covid-19 vaccine has been used to treat, rather than prevent, the infection. Ian Lester has the rare genetic disease Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, which weakens the immune system. Lester, 37, first tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in December 2020. His immune system was unable to fight off the infection naturally for at least 218 days. “Given the persistent positive PCR tests and impact on his health and mental health, we decided on a unique therapeutic approach,” said Stephen Jolles at Cardiff University’s School of Medicine in a statement. “We administered two doses of the BioNTech Pfizer vaccine, one month apart, and very quickly saw a strong antibody response, much stronger than had been induced by the prolonged natural infection.” Lester was confirmed to have cleared SARS-CoV-2 72 days after the first vaccine dose and 218 days after his infection was detected.
Sinovac COVID vaccine shows modest efficacy against SARS-CoV-2 infection in children 3 to 5 years
In a new study under consideration at a Nature Portfolio Journal and published on the preprint server Research Square*, researchers investigated the efficacy of CoronaVac, a coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine developed by Sinovac Biotech, in children aged three to five years. The findings of this study reveal that a two-dose regimen of the vaccine is highly effective in preventing severe COVID-19, whereas this vaccine regimen is modestly effective in preventing infection.