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"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 21st Apr 2022

Lockdown Exit
Brazil meat exporters face hurdles shipping product via COVID-hit Shanghai -lobby group
Brazil's ABPA, a lobby group representing large pork and chicken processors like JBS SA and BRF SA, said on Wednesday its member companies are facing difficulties shipping products through the Port of Shanghai. The statement, sent in response to a question from Reuters about the effects of the COVID lockdown in the Chinese city, said cargoes are being redirected to other ports, such as Yantian. "There are no reports of suspension of sales," the statement said, referring to rumors about potential contract cancellations.
Should I still wear a mask on a plane?
The abrupt end of the federal mask mandate for public transportation and an uptick in coronavirus cases across the country have left some Americans wondering: Should I still wear a mask in certain situations or places? The confusion comes after a federal judge struck down the transportation mandate, prompting airlines and transportation agencies to lift their mask rules just as cases are starting to tick up again. Most states and cities that still had indoor mask mandates lifted them weeks ago. President Biden said Tuesday that people should decide for themselves if they want to wear masks or not. Here’s what we know about the science of masking to help you make decisions about if, when and where to cover your face.
COVID-19: Social distancing requirement scrapped in hospital and GP waiting rooms in England
Social distancing rules in the NHS have been scrapped, according to new guidance issued by the health service. Patients in England will no longer need to be distanced from one another in GP and hospital waiting rooms. NHS organisations have been told to return to "pre-pandemic physical distancing in all areas", but people will still be encouraged to wear face coverings. The new guidance covers "all areas" including emergency departments and other hospital settings, ambulances, patient transport services and GP surgeries.
Close contacts of COVID-19 cases in NSW no longer required to isolate at home for seven days
The NSW government has scrapped the requirement for close contacts of COVID-19 cases to isolate at home for seven days. Those deemed a close contact of a positive case will have to undertake a daily rapid antigen test and wear a face mask in indoor settings. Close contacts are urged to work from home where possible and will have to notify their employer that they are a close contact and stay away from hospitals and aged care settings.
Sharp fall in people fully self-isolating since Covid-19 rules scrapped
The proportion of people who fully self-isolate after testing positive for Covid-19 has fallen sharply since the rules were scrapped in England at the end of February, a new survey suggests. Just over half (53%) of people questioned said they had followed the full advice for self-isolating, down from four in five (80%) in February when isolation was a legal requirement. The survey was carried out by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) between March 17 and 26, nearly a month since the Government removed all rules for self-isolation in England on February 24.
America's mask manufacturers take it on the chin
A U.S. judge's ruling this week that the Biden administration's mask mandate for public transportation was unlawful dealt another blow to an industry that built dozens of small U.S. mask factories during the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Just a year ago, 26 of these upstart producers signed a letter to the administration, urging a crackdown on an influx of low-priced Chinese masks that was undermining their new operations, all of which were opened in response to a health crisis that highlighted U.S. dependence on foreign producers of all types of medical safety gear.
Israel scraps indoor COVID-19 mask order for second time
Israel told its citizens on Wednesday they could stop wearing COVID-19 masks indoors, its second such revision after the measure was briefly dropped and then restored last year in response to a rise in cases. The scrapping of mandatory masks in closed public venues will go into force on Saturday, subject to approval by a parliament oversight committee, a government statement said.
Uber, Lyft and Disney end mask mandates as COVID cases fall
Uber and Lyft have scrapped face mask mandates for their riders and drivers in the United States, the ride-hailing companies said on Tuesday, as COVID cases have fallen sharply from their January peak. Walt Disney also said that wearing masks would be optional for fully vaccinated visitors at its indoor and outdoor locations and transport facilities. It recommended guests who are not fully vaccinated to continue wearing face coverings at all indoor locations and enclosed transportation
IMF's Georgieva says China should stimulate consumption as lockdowns mount
International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said on Wednesday that China should use fiscal space to stimulate consumption as it faces an economic slowdown prompted by renewed COVID-19 lockdowns. Georgieva said that China had ample fiscal and monetary policy space to counteract this, but it would be better to stimulate consumption. "What we see in China is that consumption is falling short, it is not recovering as strongly as necessary," Georgieva told a news conference at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank spring meetings.
Exit Strategies
Grandmother given vaccine exemption now facing possible deportation from WA over jab status
A grandmother is facing possible deportation after her entry into Western Australia was denied over her COVID-19 vaccination status. Claire Henderson travelled to Perth from the UK to see her family after not seeing them for almost three years because of the pandemic. The 64-year-old's son Michael said her visa, G2G pass and vaccination exemption were all approved in November last year.
Awash in Covid Vaccines, Romania Faces Storage Headache
Romania is struggling to find storage for millions of Covid vaccine doses it hasn’t used, even as more are slated to arrive this year. More than two years into the pandemic, the country remains one of the European Union’s least vaccinated. Now the government is asking the EU for help and trying to sell or donate doses from Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. to resolve a storage headache that’s set to worsen while avoiding wasting the shots. About 6.5 million doses delivered in January and February have been sold to Germany and Hungary, but another 39 million are scheduled to arrive this year and next, according to Health Minister Alexandru Rafila. One country was offered 1.1 million doses for free and has “yet to show interest in picking them up.”
Japan mulls 4th vaccine shots for elderly, chronically ill patients
Japan is considering making the elderly and people with underlying medical conditions eligible for fourth coronavirus vaccine shots, in line with recommendations by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, government sources said Tuesday. The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare will also consider whether to make medical staff eligible for the shots after some experts voiced support for the move, the sources said. The ministry will finalize the plan after hearing views from experts in a vaccine panel meeting slated for April 27, the sources said.
Boost now? Boost later? Tricky calculation for a 4th coronavirus shot.
Even highly informed consumers of pandemic news may struggle to sift through the latest US government guidance and newest scientific studies. And even at this stage in the crisis, they may be unclear on what additional boosters can and can’t do. Public health officials who authorized a second booster shot last month for people 50 and older and for immunocompromised people 12 and older have insisted it’s a stopgap, aimed primarily at keeping the most vulnerable people out of the hospital or the cemetery. A second booster appears to add to protection against severe illness in people 60 and older but offers only a modest, temporary shield against infection.
Fourth COVID-19 vaccine shot possible for some in Mexico, official says
Certain groups of people in Mexico may be able to receive a fourth COVID-19 vaccine shot, a senior government official said on Tuesday. Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell told reporters at a regular news conference that while the government does not currently have plans to roll out a second booster shot nationally, certain people may be eligible to receive one.
Norway offers 4th COVID vaccine dose to those aged 80 and over
Norway will offer a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose to those aged 80 and over, the country's Institute of Public Health said on Wednesday.
Taiwan firms in China hub make uneven restart from COVID curbs
Taiwan firms making chip and electronic components reported a mixed picture on Wednesday on work resumption in the eastern Chinese city of Kunshan after COVID-19 curbs, with some warning deliveries would be postponed until next month. China has put Shanghai under a tight lockdown since late March and neighbouring Kunshan has also tightened curbs to control the country's biggest COVID-19 outbreak since the coronavirus was discovered in late 2019 in the city of Wuhan
Shanghai hopes COVID tide turning, with fewer cases outside quarantine areas
China's commercial capital of Shanghai reported no new COVID-19 infections outside quarantine areas in two districts on Wednesday, fanning hopes that the tide is turning in its pandemic battle, as some factories began to return to work. State media trumpeted the resumption of production by electric car company Tesla Inc at its Shanghai plant on Tuesday, after a halt of more than three weeks. The U.S. carmaker was on a list of 666 firms the Chinese government said last week would get priority to reopen, or keep operations running, in Shanghai.
For China investors, COVID lockdowns are the clear and present danger
Prolonged lockdowns in Shanghai, as China doubles down on its zero-COVID policy, have become the predominant risk to its economy and markets, forcing money managers to cut holdings or turn defensive on stocks. Global fund managers such as Pictet Wealth Management and Principal Global Investors and China-focused managers such as MegaTrust Investment and Water Wisdom Asset Management point to the worrying toll that weeks of tough anti-virus measures in many major cities have taken on people and businesses. "The city-wide lockdown in Shanghai is a big deal," said Qi Wang, chief executive officer of MegaTrust Investment (HK).
Alleged Covid-19 Fraud Schemes Totaling $150 Million Draw Criminal Charges
Federal prosecutors have charged about 20 people in the past two weeks with allegedly engaging in various fraud schemes related to the Covid-19 pandemic that amounted to about $150 million in improper government claims, around $20 million of which have been paid, officials said. The Justice Department has stepped up efforts to uncover theft from programs that were pumping billions of dollars into the healthcare system after the outbreak of the pandemic in 2020. The new cases are filed in districts around the country, and provide a sweeping look at how some healthcare providers allegedly sought to cheat Medicare and other programs by bundling charges for unnecessary services—or those that weren’t ever provided—with the delivery of relatively inexpensive Covid-19 tests.
Partisan Exits
US supreme court rules against air force officer who refused Covid vaccine
The supreme court has allowed the US Department of Defense to take disciplinary action against an air force lieutenant colonel who refuses to get a Covid-19 vaccine. In a brief, two-sentence ruling on Monday, a majority of the court sided with the Pentagon. Three justices in the conservative majority – Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch – dissented. The ruling was merely the court’s latest on challenges to Covid-19 vaccine mandates. In January, the court blocked a Biden administration requirement that employees of large businesses be vaccinated and wear masks on the job.
The impact of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and resistance on the population of England
The study findings highlight that hesitancy to COVID-19 vaccination can significantly increase the rate of COVID-19-related hospitalizations and deaths in England. Importantly, the study predicts that the observed severity of COVID-19 could be reduced significantly if the majority of unvaccinated people, who are resistant to COVID-19 vaccination, agree to receive full vaccination.
Biden administration will appeal lifting of mask mandate, if CDC agrees
U.S. President Joe Biden's administration said on Tuesday it would appeal a judge's ruling ending a mask mandate on airplanes if public health officials deem it necessary to stem the spread of COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to whom the administration was deferring, said that it would continue to study whether the mandates were still needed. The mandates apply to planes, trains and other public transportation and, prior to Monday's ruling, had been due to expire on May 3.
U.S. Justice Department appeals transportation mask ruling
The U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday appealed a judge's ruling ending a mask mandate on public transportation and airplanes, a spokesman said, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the measure was still needed. A U.S. district judge ruled on Monday that the mandates, which apply to planes, trains and other public transportation, were unlawful. The Justice Department said it would appeal the ruling if the CDC determined the 14-month-old mandate was still needed.
Continued Lockdown
In Shanghai lockdown, Carrefour staff sleeps at store to keep residents supplied
To prepare the 3,000-plus orders of vegetables, meat and essentials her Carrefour supermarket sends out every day to locked-in Shanghai residents, manager Zhang Wei wakes at 5 a.m. after a night in a sleeping bag on her office floor. Zhang and 43 colleagues have been hunkered down inside the store in Shanghai's western Xujing suburb since April 1, isolated from the outside world while working long days to fill online orders from neighbouring housing compounds. Her Carrefour branch is one of more than 1,000 grocery stores open during Shanghai's lockdown, albeit under stringent requirements to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The city government is trying to increase the number of stores open.
For China investors, COVID lockdowns are the clear and present danger
Prolonged lockdowns in Shanghai, as China doubles down on its zero-COVID policy, have become the predominant risk to its economy and markets, forcing money managers to cut holdings or turn defensive on stocks. Global fund managers such as Pictet Wealth Management and Principal Global Investors and China-focused managers such as MegaTrust Investment and Water Wisdom Asset Management point to the worrying toll that weeks of tough anti-virus measures in many major cities have taken on people and businesses.
Scientific Viewpoint
Moderna and Pfizer urged to share vaccine technology with developing world
Pressure is mounting on Moderna and Pfizer to share vaccine technology with the developing world after the two biggest proxy advisers lent support to shareholder resolutions. Institutional Shareholder Services has recommended that investors vote in favour of proposals by Oxfam America that would compel Moderna and Pfizer to commission third-party reports about transferring their vaccine technology. The drive to expand access to the well-performing mRNA vaccines comes as Moderna unveiled strong trial results for a new “bivalent” vaccine. Oxfam is lobbying to create a more equal distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, arguing that not sharing the IP and technical knowhow creates reputational risks and could slow the end of the pandemic.
Studying the immune response after COVID-19 vaccination using smartwatches and fitness bands
This was an observational, longitudinal, prospective, direct-to-participant, app-based study titled Digital Engagement and Tracking for Early Control and Treatment (DETECT) study. Daily data were collected from smart wearable devices. The data collection period included the two weeks before and after each vaccination dose. Data was collected from 7,298 participants who reported receiving at least one dose of the vaccine. A total of 6,803 participants received both doses of an mRNA vaccine. Only 437 participants received the Johnson & Johnson single-dose adenovirus-based vaccine and therefore, were excluded from this study.
6 Covid mysteries experts hope to unravel
1. How will the virus evolve next? 2. What will future waves look like? 3. If you’ve never had Covid, how worried should you be right now? 4. How, exactly, does the virus transmit from person to person? 5. Will we get a new, better generation of vaccines, therapeutics, and tests? 6. How long before we understand long Covid?
Pregnant women 'afterthought' in Covid jab rollout
Pregnant women have been an "afterthought" during the coronavirus pandemic and some of their deaths were "preventable", a leading scientist has told Newsnight. Data shows there have been at least 40 maternal deaths from Covid in the UK. Almost all were unvaccinated and more than half happened after pregnant women were advised to take-up the vaccine. The regulator says vaccines during pregnancy are "safe". Professor Marian Knight, who investigates every maternal death in the UK, said lifesaving messaging is still "struggling" to reach
Scientists urge China to replace its faltering Covid vaccines
Scientists are urging China to look for alternatives to its two homegrown Covid-19 vaccines to tackle its Omicron outbreak, amid mounting concerns about the jabs’ efficacy against the variant. The country is struggling with two problems as it faces its worst Covid-19 surge since the start of the pandemic: the sluggish take-up of booster doses — authorities said this week that only 57 per cent of people over 60 have been fully vaccinated with three jabs — and homegrown vaccines that are much less effective than foreign-produced jabs.
Novavax, fashionably late to the COVID-19 vaccine party, could still reap $5B in 2022: analyst
After a winding path to a coronavirus vaccine launch that still hasn’t reached the U.S., Novavax's program could be destined to reap billions of dollars in sales this year, one group of analysts predicts. Chalk it up to what’s looking like a strong first-quarter revenue haul for the Gaithersburg, Maryland-based biotech, Jefferies analysts wrote in a note to clients Tuesday following a chat with Novavax’s chief financial officer Jim Kelly. The company’s only marketed product is its protein-based coronavirus vaccine Nuvaxovid, which is slowly racking up green lights in places like the EU, the U.K., Australia and South Korea.
MSD obtains Singapore HSA interim authorisation for Covid-19 antiviral
MSD (Merck in North America) has obtained interim authorisation under the Pandemic Special Access Route (PSAR) from Singapore Health Sciences Authority (HSA) for its antiviral medicine Lagevrio (molnupiravir) to treat Covid-19. Lagevrio is the second oral antiviral therapy to obtain authorisation in the region to treat mild to moderate Covid-19 in people of the age 18 years and above. It is intended for patients who are at risk of disease progression to severe Covid-19 and/or hospital admission and for those with no clinically appropriate substitute Covid-19 treatment options available.
Hong Kong launches new platform for recovered Covid-19 patients
From April 19, people who've recovered from Covid-19 can now download a QR code issued by the government via the Covid-19 Electronic Vaccination and Testing Record System and use the electronic record when entering designated premises like restaurants, shopping malls, and supermarkets instead of the vaccine pass. The QR code is valid within six months from the date of recovery. Downloading the recovery record QR code will require recovered Covid-19 patients to provide the number and date of issue of their Hong Kong identity card, discharge date from the hospital, or positive test result for identification. The recovery QR code may also be downloaded using the iAM Smart app and the latest version of the eHealth app. Those who received isolation orders issued by the Department of Health (DH) will instantly get the recovery record QR code. The QR code may be saved in the LeaveHomeSafe mobile application to facilitate scanning when entering a Vaccine Pass premises.
Vaccine maker Oxford Biomedica pauses production as AstraZeneca partnership reviewed
The chief executive of Oxford Biomedica has hailed an “exceptional” year as a deal to manufacture Britain’s Covid-19 vaccine boosted revenues and led to a string of deals. Revenues jumped 63% last year to £142 million, as a partnership with AstraZeneca led to surging business. Operating profits rose from £7.3 million to £35.9 million in 2021. Chair and interim CEO Dr Roch Doliveux said: “I am delighted with our performance in 2021 which was a true testament to the hard work of all our employees. “2021 financial performance was exceptional due to large-scale manufacture of the adenovirus-based Oxford AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, and we have successfully manufactured over 100 million doses since the partnership began. “
North Wales company to stop producing Covid-19 Vaccine
A pharmaceutical company that has helped in the production of the Covid-19 vaccine will 'right size' business as the wide-scale rollout comes to an end. Wockhardt, based on the Wrexham Industrial Estate, is a global pharmaceutical and biotechnology organisation that had a contract with the UK Government to help produce Covid- 19 vaccines during the mass roll-out. Now, the rollout is coming to an end, and the company will be scaling back the work, leading to job losses. A spokesperson for the company said: “Wockhardt is incredibly proud to have played a vital role in mitigating the global impact of COVID-19.
Arcturus' self-amplifying COVID-19 mRNA vaccine meets Phase 3 primary efficacy endpoint
Arcturus Therapeutics Holdings Inc. has reported topline data from an ongoing Phase 1/2/3 trial evaluating ARCT-154, its self-amplifying mRNA COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
Nearly every adult in Scotland has Covid-19 antibodies, Office for National Statistics estimates say
Nearly every adult in Scotland would have tested positive for Covid-19 antibodies, official estimates have found. At the end of March, 99% of those over 15 years old are estimated to have developed the infection-fighting molecules, the Office for National Statistics said. This is higher than in both England and Wales. The measurement shows the impact of coronavirus infections and the vaccine programme.
J&J pulls COVID vaccine sales forecast due to low demand, supply glut
Johnson & Johnson rescinded its forecast for sales of its COVID-19 vaccine, as hesitancy in low income countries has led to a glut of supply of a shot once hoped to be the inoculation of choice for the developing world. The company had previously predicted as much as $3.5 billion in 2022 sales from the single-dose vaccine, but demand has withered. Still, the company reported strong results for its medical devices business and raised its dividend, driving shares up around 3%.
Coronavirus Resurgence
Delhi makes masks mandatory again after COVID cases rise
New Delhi authorities on Wednesday made the wearing of masks compulsory again after COVID-19 infections rose in the Indian capital in recent days. "In view of the rise in COVID positive cases recently and as advised by the experts, it was decided to enhance testing, focus on vaccination coverage of targeted population and ensure strict enforcement of COVID appropriate behaviour," Delhi's Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal said on Twitter.
Taiwan may see 10000 daily COVID cases by month-end
Taiwan may see domestic COVID-19 infections top 10,000 a day by the end of the month, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said on Wednesday, calling on people to exercise caution and stick to wearing face masks. The island of 23 million people moved early to control the pandemic, adopting measures such as largely closing its borders and tracing contacts of those infected, but it has seen a rise in infections since the beginning of the year. The 13,164 domestic cases since Jan. 1 have been driven by the more infectious Omicron variant, though more than 99% have shown only mild symptoms or none at all.
Shanghai hopes COVID tide turning, with fewer cases outside quarantine areas
China's commercial capital of Shanghai reported no new COVID-19 infections outside quarantine areas in two districts on Wednesday, fanning hopes that the tide is turning in its pandemic battle, as some factories began to return to work. State media trumpeted the resumption of production by electric car company Tesla Inc at its Shanghai plant, after a halt of more than three weeks. The U.S. carmaker was on a list of 666 firms the Chinese government said last week would get priority to reopen, or keep operations running, in Shanghai.
Omicron BA.2 overall makes up more than 90% of COVID variants in U.S. - CDC
The BA.2 sub-variant of Omicron and its sublineage BA.2.12.1 is estimated to make up more than 90% of the coronavirus variants in the United States as of April 16, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Tuesday. Overall cases have dropped sharply nationally since hitting record levels in January, but COVID-19 infections have been on the rise during the last few weeks, particularly in Northeast states like New York, and Connecticut. A resurgence in COVID-19 cases in parts of Asia and Europe has raised concerns that another wave could follow in the U.S, as has been the case with previous surges during the pandemic