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"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 8th Apr 2022

Lockdown Exit
Shanghai, in Lockdown, Struggles to Feed Itself
A citywide Covid-19 lockdown in China’s financial capital of Shanghai has badly disrupted food supplies, causing a wave of anxiety as residents ration dwindling stores of vegetables and staples. Covid-test requirements for truckers entering Shanghai have caused delays in the delivery of foods and other commodities. Within the city, many food delivery workers have been confined to their homes or choose not to work for fear of catching the virus, leaving fewer people to distribute food once it makes it into the city. Dai Yuanyuan, a 33-year-old Shanghai resident who has been locked down in her apartment for more than three weeks, said she was running low on groceries from two government-organized deliveries. She has cut her egg consumption down from a few a day to just one. “I’m not sure if I can last for longer than five more days,” Ms. Dai said. Local authorities have banned private deliveries because they fear infected drivers might spread the virus in her residential compound, she said.
Shanghai Racing to Build Hundreds of Thousands of Isolation Beds
Shanghai is transforming conference centers and conscripting neighboring provinces to create isolation facilities for hundreds of thousands of people, a sign of its commitment to a zero tolerance approach to Covid-19 amid China’s worst outbreak to date. The Chinese financial hub is adding tens of thousands of beds to what are already some of the world’s biggest isolation sites as it sticks to a policy of quarantining all those positive for the virus, regardless of severity, plus everyone they interacted with while infected. Nearly 150,000 people have been identified as close contacts and put into isolation. More than 100,000 others are considered secondary contacts and are being monitored, according to the government. It’s a strategy that grew out of the original outbreak in Wuhan, which China successfully quelled, but is proving more challenging to maintain in the face of ongoing outbreaks and more transmissible variants.
U.S. House passes $55 billion in COVID aid for restaurants, other hard-hit firms
The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved a $55 billion COVID-19 aid bill aimed at helping restaurants, bars and other businesses that are still struggling through the pandemic. By a vote of 223-203, the House approved the measure earmarking $42 billion for restaurants that have applied for aid but not received it because a $28.6 billion fund is depleted. The measure, which has not yet been considered by the Senate, was moving through the House as Congress was about to embark on a nearly three-week spring recess. The legislation was supported by only a handful of Republicans.
How many Americans are actually vaccinated against covid-19?
Millions of Americans are now eligible for a second covid-19 booster shot. By all accounts, efforts to vaccinate older people in many states have gone well — unbelievably well, in fact. According to official Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) counts of vaccinations among those above age 65 as compared with census data, 117 percent of those in that demographic in Massachusetts have had at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine. New Hampshire would show that no less than 140 percent of that group are vaccinated. Buried deeper in the CDC website is an explanation of why the figures are so weird: Sometimes the data that the CDC has access to fail to link individuals to doses. This means that first doses are overestimated, because second and third doses are attributed as being a first dose for someone else. These reporting challenges will only get worse as people line up for a second booster shot. Very likely, the CDC’s underlying figures will soon show that more than 100 percent of those above age 65 across every U.S. state have had at least one shot. The bigger issue here is that all the data we have on U.S. vaccinations are subject to these distortions.
GPs diagnosing 'in the dark' after end of free COVID-19 testing
Speaking at a Royal Society of Medicine webinar, Professor Dame Clare Gerada said it was important that patients could continue to do home tests to allow GPs to rule out COVID-19 among other conditions, such as the common cold and hayfever. The London GP admitted that family doctors worked ‘completely in the dark’ during the early stages of the pandemic when widespread COVID-19 testing was unavailable. Professor Gerada added that the virus was a ‘community-based’ disease, often managed first by primary care teams. Maintaining a robust testing programme to help GPs was vital to support primary care, she warned.
Almost 3,000 Covid deaths added to UK total after discovery of data error
Almost 3,000 Covid-19 deaths have been added to the UK’s official figures after the discovery of a data error. The cumulative number of people who have died within 28 days of testing positive for coronavirus rose by an extra 2,714 on Wednesday, in addition to 233 newly reported deaths. It means the total number of deaths in the UK within 28 days of a positive test is 169,095.
Long Covid numbers rise to 1.7m in UK as MPs warn of economic impact
More than three-quarters of a million people in the UK have had long Covid for at least a year, figures show. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates 1.7 million people were likely to be experiencing symptoms of long Covid in the four weeks to March 5, the equivalent of 2.7 per cent of the population. This is up by 13 per cent from 1.5 million people a month earlier, and includes 784,000 people who first had Covid-19, or suspected they had the virus, at least one year ago – the highest number so far.
NHS under huge strain as A&Es turn away ambulances
Hospitals are under "enormous strain", with growing numbers so busy they are having to divert ambulances to other sites because they are unable to cope. Over the past week, 20 NHS Accident and Emergency departments in England issued diverts, with patients taken elsewhere. Those A&E departments still taking new patients have seen long delays, with more than 25% of ambulances waiting at least 30 minutes to handover patients. Hospital bosses said they were "very concerned" about the situation. All areas of the country are facing huge pressures, but NHS bosses in West Yorkshire and the south central area of England - covering Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Oxfordshire and Berkshire - have reported particularly severe strain.
Exit Strategies
As Queensland's COVID-19 vaccine mandates ease in social settings, they still apply to many workers
In Queensland, changes from 14 April will allow unvaccinated people to go to restaurants, clubs, museums, and stadiums. Vaccine mandates will remain for the health sector, prisons, schools and childcare centres. According to Acting Premier Cameron Dick there is not going to be any move made to get rid of vaccine mandates entirely at this stage. "We will take the advice of the Chief Health Officer and of course that's also the agreed position I understand it nationally," he said. Infectious diseases physician Dr Paul Griffin said easing the mandates in certain settings makes sense.
German parliament rejects mandatory coronavirus vaccination
The German parliament on Thursday rejected a draft bill that would have made coronavirus vaccination compulsory from the age of 60 in a defeat for Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his attempt to build a cross-party consensus on the issue. Of the 683 who voted on the bill, 378 rejected it and only 296 supported it, among them Scholz and Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, who looked visibly disappointed when the result was announced in the plenary.
FDA vaccine advisers say a plan for updating Covid-19 shots is needed
The future of Covid-19 vaccines -- including when and how often booster doses might be needed -- remains unclear and "complex," according to advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration. The FDA's Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC) detailed in a meeting Wednesday how emerging coronavirus variants and the future use of Covid-19 booster shots would be approached and coordinated -- and the advisers plan to continue their conversation in the coming months.
Airlines cancel hundreds of flights due to COVID-19 after dropping mask rules
Overseas airlines are having to cancel hundreds of flights as they grapple with coronavirus-related staffing shortages weeks after they ditched rules requiring passengers and staff to mask up in the air. The disruptions also come as the CEOs of leading U.S. airlines urge the Biden administration to roll back a federal rule requiring that masks be worn in the sky.
Japan to lift COVID entry ban for 106 countries including U.S.
Japan plans to ease COVID 19-related border restrictions by lifting its entry ban for foreignnationals from 106 countries including the United States, Britain and France on Friday, the government said. Tokyo has been gradually relaxing pandemic-induced curbs but the loosened border regime does not mean a full reopening to tourists. The foreign ministry said in an update on Wednesday that foreigners from the 106 countries would not be subject to denial of permission to enter Japan from Friday, but foreigners with tourist purposes were still not allowed into the country.
Cyprus to lift COVID-19 travel conditions from April 18
Cyprus will lift COVID-19 conditions for travel to the island from April 18, authorities said on Thursday, ending two years of rules imposed by the pandemic. The island said it was scrapping a colour-coded assessment of other countries based on epidemiological risk, an inbound flight permission to travel and PCR or rapid lateral flow tests for those who were fully vaccinated against COVID-19. People who have not been vaccinated, or not completed their booster shots would still need a PCR test or a lateral flow test, the transport ministry said
Partisan Exits
U.S. House Speaker Pelosi is latest U.S. official to test positive for COVID
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi has COVID-19 and is currently asymptomatic, her spokesman said on Thursday, after more than half a dozen other federal officials tested positive in recent days. The Democratic leader tested positive after a negative test result earlier in the week, spokesman Drew Hammill said in a statement. "The speaker is fully vaccinated and boosted, and is thankful for the robust protection the vaccine has provided," Hammill said, adding that she will quarantine according to federal health guidelines. President Joe Biden, 79, tested negative on Wednesday night, the White House said.
Japan arrests four of 'QAnon'-style group for Covid-19 vaccine protest: Media
Four members of a group said to be a Japanese version of QAnon, which has frequently protested against Covid-19 vaccinations, were arrested on Thursday (April 7) for intruding on a clinic where vaccinations were taking place, media reports said. Japan is conducting booster shots against the virus that causes Covid-19, with about 44 per cent of the population having received a third dose. About 80 per cent of the general public have had the first two shots. Four members of "YamatoQ," a version of the US QAnon group, were arrested on charges they intruded into a Tokyo clinic, police were quoted by media as saying. The group's website says vaccines are untested and "a number" of people have died after receiving them. It also lists anti-vaccine protests around Japan.
Trump's endorsement of Covid-19 vaccines increased uptake in counties with low vaccination rates
Watching an ad in which former President Donald Trump promoted Covid-19 vaccines was linked to increased vaccinations in US counties with low immunization rates, according to a new study. The study was released Monday as a working paper in the National Bureau of Economic Research that has not yet been peer-reviewed. Researchers created a 27-second ad designed to serve as a public service announcement from Trump encouraging people to get vaccinated. Through a randomized control trial, the ad was featured on different YouTube channels across more than 1,000 counties with populations of less than 1 million and in which more than half of the population was still unvaccinated. When compared to counties that did not receive the ads, those that did receive the ads had more than 100 additional vaccinations on average. In total, treatment counties received an estimated 104,036 more vaccines than control counties. The analysis also found that for every 1,000 more ads presented, there were nearly nine additional vaccinations, on average, per county.
They got illicit Covid-19 vaccine doses -- and say they'd do it again in a heartbeat
Last July, Andrea Ogg stood outside a pharmacy in Castle Rock, Colorado, fully prepared to lie to get herself a Covid-19 vaccine. Her stomach knotted in anxiety, Ogg was ready to say she was getting her first shot when actually she was getting her third. At the time, government rules didn't allow for third shots, even for immune-compromised people like her who failed to develop antibodies after two doses. "I was very nervous, because I am typically an honest person, but I wasn't going to tell them the truth if they asked me. There was just no way," said Ogg, 55, who was born with a cardiac defect and takes medicine to suppress her immune system so she won't reject the heart transplant she received four years ago.
Naturopathic doctor admits selling fake COVID vaccine cards
A naturopathic doctor in Northern California on Wednesday pleaded guilty to selling fake COVID-19 immunization treatments and hundreds of fraudulent vaccination cards that made it seem like customers received Moderna vaccines, federal prosecutors said. Juli A. Mazi, 41, of Napa, plead guilty in federal court in San Francisco to one count of wire fraud and one count of false statements related to health care matters, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement. The case was the first federal criminal fraud prosecution related to fraudulent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccination cards for COVID-19, the department said. Mazi provided fake CDC vaccination cards for COVID-19 to at least 200 people with instructions on how to complete the cards to make them look like they had received a Moderna vaccine, federal prosecutors said.
Could text messages nudge people toward COVID vaccines? Not here, but it might be bad timing
Text messages to people who are reluctant to get their flu shots—or simply forget—have helped boost uptake in the past, but these “nudges” didn't move the needle when it came to COVID vaccines. That’s the conclusion in a new report from Brown University’s Policy Lab, published in Nature on Wednesday. Researchers found that text message reminders sent out to unvaccinated Rhode Islanders in late spring 2021 didn’t increase COVID-19 vaccine uptake. The problem was not the texts themselves, however, the report’s authors argue. It was bad timing: By the time unvaccinated people in the Ocean State received the nudges in May 2021, most state residents had been able to get a shot for months.
Continued Lockdown
Shanghai COVID measures target international flights - sources
Chinese authorities are telling foreign airlines they must have more empty seats on international flights when they arrive at Shanghai's Pudong airport, sources said on Thursday, as part of measures to prevent the importation of COVID-19 cases. Shanghai, China's financial hub and its most populous urban centre, is grappling with the country's largest COVID outbreak, locking down nearly all of its 26 million residents and massively disrupting daily life and business.
Shanghai: Residents 'running out of food' in Covid lockdown
Some residents under lockdown in Shanghai say they are running out of food, amid the city's biggest-ever Covid outbreak. Residents are confined to their homes, banned from leaving for even essential reasons such as grocery shopping. Nearly 20,000 cases were reported on Thursday in China's biggest city - another near-record high. Officials have admitted the city is facing "difficulties" but say they are trying to improve this.
Shanghai Residents Plead for Help Online as Daily Covid-19 Count Nears 20,000
Nearly a week into a citywide lockdown to combat a Covid-19 outbreak, many of Shanghai’s 25 million residents turned to social media for help to get food, medicine or, if they are taken away for quarantine, advice on what to do with their pets. Cases continued to rise, and neighboring provinces were preparing to take some of the overflow of Shanghai residents needing to go into quarantine. Shanghai reported nearly 20,000 new local infections Wednesday compared with a little over 17,000 the previous day, according to the city’s health commission. Over 98% of the new cases are asymptomatic, authorities said. Nationwide, the country reported almost 23,000 new cases. A top Chinese health official acknowledged that the Shanghai situation has “far exceeded what the capacity of the local medical system can handle.” In a post on his social-media account Thursday, Wu Zunyou, chief medical expert of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said that in theory a megacity should be able to bring community spread under control in 10-14 days with repeated rounds of mass testing.
Scientific Viewpoint
EMA and ECDC publish advice on fourth doses of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines
The European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) COVID-19 task force (ETF) has decided not to recommend a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose for the general population of the EU at this time. This decision was made in conjunction with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). The fourth doses that were being considered are Pfizer’s Comirnaty and Moderna’s Spikevax – both mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. However, both agencies agreed that adults aged 80 years and above can be given a fourth dose – or second booster – following data reviews. These reviews would evaluate the higher risk of severe COVID-19 in this particular age group and the protection benefits offered from a fourth dose
Study finds vaccines effectively reduce deaths from COVID-19 but not the prevalence of infections
Researchers in Australia have investigated coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine effectiveness on the prevalence and mortality of the Delta variant. They found that countries with more vaccine coverage suffer from less mortality. However, the case numbers remain high, eventually leading to outbreaks. The team attributes the scenario to the fact that the countries with more vaccine coverage are at the same time the most vulnerable to COVID-19 infection.
An assessment of COVID-19 vaccine safety during pregnancy
In a recent study posted to the Preprints with The Lancet* SSRN preprint server, researchers evaluated the safety of currently administered coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines in child-bearing women. The distinct physiological changes in the cardiopulmonary and immune systems occurring in pregnancy increase the susceptibility of pregnant women to severe outcomes [intensive care unit (ICU) admissions and ventilation requirements) following severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections. However, the safety data of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines during pregnancy is lacking and needs to be further evaluated to guide advisory and public committees and aid in developing health policies.
COVID vaccine plus infection can lead to months of immunity
Even people who have had COVID-19 receive long-lasting benefits from a full course of vaccination, according to three recent studies1–3. What's more, one of the studies3 found that the ‘hybrid’ immunity caused by vaccination and infection is long-lasting, conferring highly effective protection against symptomatic disease for at least six to eight months after vaccination. The data were collected before the Omicron variant emerged, casting some doubt on the studies’ relevance today. But if the findings hold up, they could inform vaccination schemes and vaccine passports, which some countries require for entry to places such as restaurants. The work also counters high-profile claims that people who have had COVID-19 don’t benefit from vaccination.
No evidence to support widespread use of fourth COVID shot - EU agencies
EU health agencies said on Wednesday there was no evidence to support the use of a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer (PFE.N) and Moderna (MRNA.O) in the general population, but they recommend a second booster for people aged 80 and above. There is no clear evidence in the European Union that vaccine protection against severe disease is waning substantially in adults with normal immune systems aged 60-79, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said in a joint statement.
U.S. FDA aims to decide on strain selection for COVID boosters by June
Top U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials on Wednesday said the agency is aiming to decide by June whether to change the design of COVID-19 vaccines in order to combat future variants, even if it does not have all the necessary information to measure their effectiveness. "We're going to have to think about this in a way that is less than optimal because we're not going to have all the data that we'd like to have," Peter Marks, director of FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said at a meeting of the agency's scientific advisers to discuss the issue.
Covid-19 Variant Strategy for Long Haul Is Needed, FDA Official Says
A top U.S. health regulator said that asking people to frequently get Covid-19 boosters wasn’t sustainable because of vaccine fatigue and that authorities needed to develop a long-term strategy for protecting the public from the virus as it evolves. Dr. Peter Marks, who heads the Food and Drug Administration’s vaccines division, said that last week’s authorization of a second booster dose for people 50 years and older and for people 12 and older with weakened immune systems was a stopgap. “This is really trying to do the best we can with the knowledge we have at hand, which is something that we’ve had to do a fair amount of over the past two years as a public-health agency,” Dr. Marks on Wednesday told vaccine experts advising the agency.
US experts wrestle with how to update COVID-19 vaccines
More than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. health officials are beginning to grapple with how to keep the vaccines updated to best protect Americans from the ever-changing coronavirus. On Wednesday, a panel of vaccine advisers to the Food and Drug Administration spent hours debating key questions for revamping the shots and conducting future booster campaigns. They didn’t reach any firm conclusions. The questions facing the experts included: How often to update the vaccines against new strains, how effective they should be to warrant approval and whether updates should be coordinated with global health authorities. Last week, the FDA authorized a fourth dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines for anyone 50 or older and for some younger people with severely weakened immune systems. It’s an effort to get ahead of another possible surge.
A seasonal COVID-19 booster shot? Don't count on it in the U.S. or Europe
People in the U.S. and Europe hoping to receive COVID-19 vaccine booster shots every four to six months are in for a rude awakening. On Wednesday, experts on both sides of the Atlantic tossed cold water on the idea of seasonal boosting. In Europe, regulators concluded that it is too early to consider allowing a fourth dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine. Meanwhile in the U.S., a panel of experts has directed the FDA to devise a plan for annual boosting against COVID-19.
COVID-19 health workers suffer combat-type moral trauma
A Duke University study shows that, amid COVID-19, US healthcare workers (HCWs) had similar rates of potential moral injury (PMI)—a type of trauma-induced wound to the psyche—as military combat veterans. The study, published yesterday in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, surveyed 2,099 HCWs in 2020 and 2021 and 618 military veterans deployed to a combat zone after the Sep 11, 2001, US terrorist attacks about PMIs they may have experienced. PMI is a distressing reaction to exposure to traumatic events that may have psychological, behavioral, social, and spiritual effects.
Coronavirus Resurgence
The five states with the highest number of COVID-19 cases
The rate of new COVID-19 cases is at the lowest it’s been since last summer as the omicron wave subsides. As state governments have begun to move past pandemic-era restrictions, some health experts have said that another surge is unlikely until at least the fall and winter of this year, and are hopeful new cases will continue dropping throughout the summer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 95 percent of the country currently has low COVID-19 community levels. While case rates remain low across the country, a handful of states still have elevated risk levels. Here are the five states with the highest levels of new cases per 100,000:
French hospital system not in danger as current COVID-19 wave reached peak - Veran
The current COVID-19 wave hitting France has now reached its peak, which means the country's hospital system is not in danger, Health Minister Olivier Veran said in an interview with RTL radio on Thursday. "We are still at a high level, with 150,000 new cases per day, but the trend is going down since five days," Veran said.
China reports 1323 new COVID cases on April 6 vs 1415 a day earlier
Mainland China reported 1,323 new confirmed coronavirus cases on April 6, the country's national health authority said on Thursday, compared with 1,415 a day earlier. Of the new cases, 1,284 were locally transmitted, the National Health Commission said, compared with 1,383 a day earlier. The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China counts separately, stood at 21,784 compared with 19,199 a day earlier.
Hong Kong reports 2644 new COVID cases
Hong Kong health authorities reported 2,644 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, down from 2,777 the previous day, and 97 deaths as cases in the global financial centre continue to fall from daily highs of more than 58,000 in March.
Taiwan aims for zero serious COVID cases as infections edge up
Taiwan is aiming for zero serious COVID-19 infections and an "effective" control of the virus, President Tsai Ing-wen said on Wednesday, responding to a gradual increase in the number of domestic cases as it pledges to keep its reopening on track. Unlike large parts of the rest of the world, Taiwan has kept the pandemic well under control with strict and early control measures, including an efficient contact tracing system and largely closing its borders. Since the beginning of this year, Taiwan has reported 2,061 domestic cases, with only five people classified as being seriously ill and just one death.
Record COVID rates in England still rising in over-55s - study
England recorded its highest ever COVID-19 infection prevalence in March and cases were still increasing in the over-55s at the end of the month, an Imperial College London survey said on Wednesday, adding that Omicron subvariant BA.2 was now dominant. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has lifted all COVID-19 restrictions in England, citing the experience with a wave of Omicron infections over new year which saw record cases, but did not produce an equivalent wave of deaths in Britain's highly vaccinated population. Imperial's study showed that the peak in infections in March surpassed the highs of the BA.1 Omicron wave in January, reinforcing findings by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) that cases have hit an all time high
Shanghai Calls on China Communist Party Members to Fight Covid
China’s Communist Party issued a rare call imploring rank-and-file members to help contain the coronavirus in Shanghai, showing the strain the locked-down financial hub is under as its worst outbreak to date spreads. “We must dare to draw our swords and fight against all kinds of behaviors that interfere with and undermine the overall situation of the fight against the epidemic,” the top party branch in Shanghai wrote to members late Wednesday, the same day the number of new cases in the city rose to more than 19,900. “Wherever there is a need, there must be a Communist Party member,” it added in the open letter posted on an official government social media account.
U.K. Covid Cases at Highest Level as Immunity Wanes, Study Finds
Covid-19 infections in England reached their highest level in March since the pandemic began, driven by the omicron subvariant BA.2 and waning immunity among older adults, according to a new study. The overall Covid prevalence rate more than doubled last month from February when infection rates were falling from the omicron-led January peak, the React-1 study led by Imperial College London found. Since then the emergence of BA.2 -- a more-transmissible version of omicron- has accelerated new infections and become the dominant strain in England, accounting for about 90% of the samples that tested positive. The higher infection rates may result in an increase in hospitalizations despite the higher levels of vaccination among the population, said Paul Elliott, director of the React program, and chair in Epidemiology and Public Health Medicine, Imperial College London.
COVID cases falling in Americas, but risk of further surges remains - PAHO
COVID-19 infections and deaths have dropped across most countries and territories in the Americas over the past few weeks but the risk of further surges cannot be ignored as restrictions are relaxed and 240 million people remain unvaccinated, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday. "Many countries and territories in the Americas have scaled back public health measures, and some have done so prematurely," PAHO director Carissa Etienne said, noting that case counts have risen recently in places that rely on tourism, especially in parts of North America and the Caribbean where vaccination coverage is low.