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"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 4th May 2022

Lockdown Exit
China Covid News: Shanghai Lockdown End Delayed by Community Cases
Shanghai’s final exit from a punishing five-week lockdown is being delayed by Covid-19 infections persistently appearing in the community, despite China’s hardline strategy of isolating all positive cases and their close contacts. While total cases in the financial hub keep falling -- 4,982 infections were reported for Tuesday, down from 5,669 on Monday -- community spread remains stubbornly present. After briefly hitting zero late last week, the count has bounced back to more than 50 a day this month. Shanghai authorities have indicated the lockdown will only be lifted once community transmission reaches zero -- the same path taken in Jilin province in the northeast, where a lockdown gradually started to ease once there was no more community transmission.
Taiwan won’t go into lockdown like Shanghai despite Covid surge, premier says
Taiwan will not go into a Shanghai-like lockdown to control a rise in Covid-19 cases as the vast majority of those infected have no symptoms or show only minor symptoms, the premier, Su Tseng-chang, has said. Taiwan has been dealing with a spike in local cases since the start of the year, but the numbers overall remain small – 18,436 since 1 January for a population of some 23 million – and just four people have died. Backed by a high vaccination rate, the government has been promoting the “new Taiwan model”, learning to gradually live with the virus and avoiding shutting down the economy, unlike in Shanghai, which is in its third week of a lockdown to control the pandemic.
Beijing 'preparing 1000-bed hospital for new Covid spike'
Beijing is preparing thousands of hospital beds to deal with a spike in Covid-19 cases, according to local reports. A 1,000-bed hospital at Xiaotangshan in the northeastern suburbs, built for the 2003 Sars outbreak, has been refurbished in case it is needed,
India releases 2020 death data ahead of WHO COVID mortality study it objects
India registered about 475,000 more total deaths in 2020 than the previous year, government data released months ahead of schedule on Tuesday showed, as the World Health Organization readies its estimates of excess COVID-19 deaths whose methodology New Delhi has opposed. Some experts estimate India's actual COVID death toll is as high as 4 million, about eight times the official figure, especially as a record wave driven by the Delta variant killed many people in April and May of last year. The WHO's estimate will be published on Thursday.
Main negotiators reach 'outcome' on COVID vaccine IP waiver, WTO says
The four main parties to negotiations on an intellectual property waiver for COVID-19 vaccines have prepared an "outcome document" for approval by the broader membership, the WTO said on Tuesday, with its chief hoping for a final deal by June. WTO director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who has made vaccine equity her top priority since taking office in 2021, has been working for months to broker a compromise between the United States, the European Union, India and South Africa to break an 18-month-long impasse. "What the discussions were aiming at was coming up with something workable," Okonjo-Iweala told Reuters, saying she hoped the WTO's 164 members would finalise and approve the proposal by a major conference in June. "This will advance the discussion and dialogue. For the next pandemic or a flare up of this one, this is hugely important," she said. The document showed that there were still unresolved areas in the draft deal, including on the duration of the waiver's application which could be either three or five years.
Vietnam Reports First Day Without a Covid Death Since Aug. 21
Vietnam on Tuesday reported its first day without an official death from Covid-19 since Aug. 21 as recorded daily infections have dropped significantly in recent weeks, the health ministry’s publication Suc Khoe Doi Song said on Wednesday. Vietnam’s seven-day local infection average dropped to 5,121 a day on Tuesday, down from a seven-day average of 75,319 reported on April 3, according to the health ministry. The nation’s seven-day average of deaths dropped to two a day from 42 a day a month earlier.
CDC restates recommendation for masks on planes, trains
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended on Tuesday that Americans age two and older wear masks while on planes, trains and buses. It comes after the Department of Justice filed an appeal at the request of the CDC over a Florida judge's decision to strike down the mandate on April 18. The CDC's recommendation does not have to be enforced after many airlines opted to drop the masking and let passengers and employees do as they please. United Airlines said it would not reimpose its masking requirements following the CDC's latest recommendation. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg suggested on Tuesday that the administration may not want to bring back the mask mandate
Harris negative for COVID-19 after taking antiviral pill
US Vice President Kamala Harris tested negative on Monday for COVID-19, six days after she tested positive for the virus, and has been cleared to return to the White House on Tuesday. Harris press secretary Kirsten Allen said Harris, who was prescribed the antiviral treatment Paxlovid last week, was negative on a rapid antigen test. Allen said Harris would continue to wear a “well-fitting mask while around others” in accordance with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines until through her tenth day after her positive test.
Costa Rica to roll out fourth COVID shot for some
Costa Rica will offer a fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to the immunocompromised and to those over 50, the country's Health Ministry said. The fourth dose will be optional and can be applied three months after the third shot, said Dr. Roberto Arroba, secretary of the National Commission for Vaccination and Epidemiology at the Ministry of Health. More than 85% of the Central American country's population has received at least one shot, while 79% have had two doses, and 41% have received a third vaccine, according to official data.
Exit Strategies
Some in Shanghai Come Out for Air as Beijing Resumes Mass COVID Tests
Some of Shanghai's 25 million people managed to get out on Tuesday for short walks and shopping after enduring more than a month under a COVID-19 lockdown, while China's capital, Beijing, focused on mass tests and said it would keep schools closed.
NHS to consider closing hundreds of COVID-19 vaccination sites
NHS commissioners will consider closing or 'pausing' hundreds of COVID-19 vaccination sites across England as the pandemic jab programme winds down.
Time for a fourth Covid vaccine dose? Here's why medical professionals are skeptical
Countries are beginning to offer a fourth dose of the Covid-19 vaccine to vulnerable groups, but medical professionals are undecided on whether it would benefit the wider population. The U.S. FDA has so far authorized a fourth shot only for those aged 50 and above, as well as those who are immunocompromised. And the U.S. CDC was skeptical of the need for a fourth dose for healthy adults in the absence of a clearer public health strategy. Those decisions came as a study from Israel found that although a fourth dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine offers protection against serious illness for at least six weeks after the shot, it provides only short-lived protection against infection, which wanes after just four weeks.
ACT to drop COVID-19 vaccine mandates for healthcare workers, teachers in Canberra
Workers in healthcare and education settings across Canberra will soon no longer be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the ACT Health Minister has announced. Speaking in the ACT Legislative Assembly, Rachel Stephen-Smith flagged the changes would come into place on May 13, and would no longer require healthcare workers or teachers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. She said the move was based on advice provided by Chief Health Officer Kerryn Coleman. But Ms Stephen-Smith said the mandatory vaccination requirements would still remain in place for workers in aged care and disability settings.
Serbia lifts COVID-19 entry restrictions – EURACTIV.com
Serbia will lift all pandemic-related entry restrictions for all travellers from Tuesday, the government has announced. Travellers will no longer be required to present a negative PCR, rapid antigen test, proof they had COVID-19, or a vaccination certificate when entering the country from Tuesday (3 May), the government’s statement reads.
CDC moves tourism hot spot out of 'high' risk level for Covid-19
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lowered the Covid-19 travel risk for one of the most popular destinations in the Western Hemisphere. Mexico was moved down a level on the CDC's scale from "high" risk to "moderate" risk on May 2, along with four other places around the world. Tourism is an important segment of the nation's economy, and Mexico has had some of the world's loosest border restrictions throughout the pandemic. There are no vaccination or testing requirements to visit.
Denmark to destroy 1.1 million excess COVID-19 vaccines
Danish health officials say that 1.1 million excess COVID-19 vaccines will be discarded in the coming weeks because their expiration date is near, and efforts to donate them to developing countries have failed. Statens Serum Institut (SSI), a government agency that maps the spread of infectious diseases including COVID-19 in Denmark, said the epidemic in the Scandinavian country “is currently under control, and the vaccine coverage in the Danish population is high”.
Covid-19: Hong Kong to reopen beaches, pools on Thur, no masks for outdoor exercise; bars to reopen May 19
Hong Kong will reopen beaches and pools, masks will no longer be required during outdoor exercise, and restaurants will be allowed to sit eight people to a table from Thursday, as the city prepares to further ease Covid-related restrictions. Bars and clubs will also be allowed to reopen on May 19, Chief Executive Carrie Lam announced during a press conference on Tuesday.
Hong Kong to further ease COVID curbs, bars to stay open until 2 a.m.
Hong Kong will further ease COVID-19 restrictions, allowing bars to open until 2 a.m. and raising the number of diners permitted at a table to eight from four, as cases in the global financial hub continue to ease, leader Carrie Lam said. Beaches and swimming pools would reopen from Thursday, when restaurants could also cater to four more people at each table, Lam said at a regular news briefing.
Taiwan cuts COVID quarantine for arrivals even as cases rise
Taiwan announced on Tuesday it was cutting to seven days from 10 mandatory quarantine for all arrivals, its latest relaxation of the rules to try to live with COVID-19 and resume normal life even as the number of domestic infections spikes. Taiwan has kept its quarantine rules in place as large parts of the rest of Asia have relaxed or lifted them completely, though it had already reduced the time spent in isolation from two weeks to 10 days in March.
Partisan Exits
Christiane Northrup, once a New Age health guru, now spreads covid disinformation
For much of the pandemic, there has been a tidy pattern to Christiane Northrup’s days. A retired celebrity doctor with a New Age fandom, she would take her position at a sunny desk in coastal Maine, snap on a camera, and hold forth on spiritual topics such as chakra alignment and energy fields. With a flowery dress and glittering jewelry, she sometimes serenaded her online audience of half a million or so by plucking an enormous harp. Then Northrup would land on a gloomier theme: covid-19. Northrup would claim that the virus was part of a plot involving Deep State brainwashing and treacherous depopulation schemes. She encouraged fans to check out QAnon, called the Centers for Disease Control a “covid death cult,” and described the vaccines as crimes against humanity.
Japan to review official COVID-19 response, with report expected from June
In Japan, a panel of experts set up by the central government will begin discussions shortly to review its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with a report expected as early as June. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said he plans to use the outcome of the review by the the eight-member panel to make improvements on the government’s strategy in the fight against the deadly virus. High on the panel’s agenda will be how authorities and hospitals should cooperate. Health care systems have been strained across the country at times during the pandemic, though Japan is among countries with large numbers of hospitals and hospital beds.
How to Change Your Mind About COVID-19
Dylan Smith watched in dismay. Was everyone else ignoring reality? That March, New York City hesitated to close its schools during the city’s first COVID wave. Smith was horrified. A major pandemic was arriving, and softening its blow would require closing schools, which he believed was the best way to protect kids. “There were a lot of suggestions that kids would be these super–carrier vectors,” he says, “where they would come home and they would infect Mom and Dad and Grandma and Grandpa, and they would infect teachers at school.” Now, two years later, Smith has changed his mind. He thinks schools should’ve reopened much sooner—by early 2021 at the latest. In other words, Smith admits to rethinking one of his positions on COVID-19, an act that sometimes feels as risky as telling 17th-century Florentines that Earth revolves around the sun. Not everyone will agree with Smith’s reassessment. But maybe we can learn something from his willingness to do it.
Woman says Amazon.com fired her because she got 'long COVID' - lawsuit
A former Amazon.com Inc employee sued the online retailer on Monday, saying it wrongly fired her and demanded she repay wages after she contracted "long COVID." Brittany Hope, 29, a former brand manager for Amazon's fashion line The Drop in Manhattan, is seeking damages for alleged violations of federal, state and New York City disability laws. The Brooklyn resident said she was hospitalized after being diagnosed with the flu on Feb. 3, 2020, four months after being hired, and a few weeks before the coronavirus started taking hold in the United States
Continued Lockdown
Central Chinese city of Zhengzhou imposes new COVID movement curbs for May 4-10
The central Chinese city of Zhengzhou announced on Tuesday it would impose new COVID-related movement curbs for May 4-10. Schools in the main city district will go online, while employees with government organisations and companies in the area must work from home during that period, according to a statement on the city's official WeChat account. The new measures would be subject to adjustment after May 10, in accordance with the COVID-19 outbreak situation, the notice said.
Some in Shanghai get out for a rare stroll; Beijing tightens COVID curbs
Some of Shanghai's 25 million people managed to get out on Tuesday for short walks and shopping after enduring more than a month under a COVID-19 lockdown, while China's capital, Beijing, focused on mass tests and said it would keep schools closed. Beijing is desperate to prevent an outbreak now numbering in the dozens of new cases a day from spiralling into a crisis like the one in Shanghai. Most people in the financial hub of Shanghai are still unable to leave their homes after more than a month of confinement
Scientific Viewpoint
Pfizer maintains sales forecasts for its COVID-19 vaccine, pill in sign that demand has slowed
Pfizer Inc's increase maintained its sales forecasts for its pandemic products on Tuesday after a series of hikes to revenue projections for its COVID-19 vaccine last year, in a sign that dizzying growth has slowed. Several countries have eased pandemic restrictions, relaxing rules on masking and quarantines, even as cases rise in some regions. The company said it expects $22-billion in sales from its COVID-19 treatment Paxlovid this year, compared with analysts’ average expectation of $26.1-billion, according to Refinitiv. Pfizer had previously said its $22-billion forecast for sales of the pills only represents a fraction of the 120 million courses the company is able to manufacture this year.
Moderna COVID vaccine may have slight edge over Pfizer in infections only
Relative to the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, the Moderna version confers slightly more protection against infection—but not hospitalization, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, or death—90 days after the second dose, suggests a modeling study of more than 3.5 million fully vaccinated Americans published today in Nature Communications. Optum Labs scientists in Minnesota compared the effectiveness of the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines by analyzing healthcare claims from fully vaccinated Americans insured by a single US insurer (Medicare Advantage and commercial insurance). Among 8,848 infected participants, 35% had received the Moderna vaccine, and 65% had received Pfizer. Follow-up was 14 to 151 days after the second vaccine dose. The researchers also analyzed data from those younger and older than 65 years who had never been infected.
Effectiveness of ChAdOx1-S COVID-19 booster vaccine
In the present study, researchers estimated the ChAdOx1-S booster vaccine effectiveness (VE) against SARS-CoV-2 symptomatic disease and related hospitalization post-infection with the SARS-CoV-2 Delta or Omicron variants. A negative case-control design was employed to estimate the VE of the ChAdOx1-S booster vaccine. The team compared the likelihood of vaccination in symptomatic polymerase chain reaction (PCR) positive cases to that in symptomatic individuals who tested SARS-CoV-2 negative. Data related to all positive PCR and liver function tests (LFTs) and negative PCR tests were obtained from symptomatic persons with a diagnosis reported between 25 November 2020 and 17 February 2022. For individuals who reported more than one negative test result, one was selected for further analysis.
Nose Spray Vaccines Could Quash COVID Virus Variants
The relentless evolution of the COVID-causing coronavirus has taken a bit of the shine off the vaccines developed during the first year of the pandemic. Versions of the virus that now dominate circulation—Omicron and its subvariants—are more transmissible and adept at evading the body’s immune defenses than its original form. The current shots to the arm can still prevent serious illness, but their ability to ward off infection completely has been diminished. And part of the reason may be the location of the jabs, which some scientists now want to change. To block infections entirely, scientists want to deliver inoculations to the site where the virus first makes contact: the nose. People could simply spray the vaccines up their nostrils at home, making the preparation much easier to administer.
Pfizer accused of Covid profiteering as first-quarter sales hit $26bn
Pfizer has made nearly $26bn (£21bn) in revenues in the first three months of the year, the bulk from its Covid-19 vaccine and new pill to treat the virus, prompting fresh accusations of pandemic profiteering. Covid vaccines have saved many lives around the world and relieved the pressure on health systems, but Pfizer has faced criticism over its vaccine pricing and its refusal to waive patent protection to enable others to make the jab. Last week 35 campaigners from Global Justice Now, Act-Up London, Just Treatment and Stop Aids protested against what they call pandemic profiteering, and delivered wheelbarrows full of fake money to Pfizer’s UK headquarters in Surrey on the day of the company’s annual shareholder meeting.
Pfizer Sales Soar on Covid-19 Vaccine Sales
Pfizer Inc. expects demand for its Covid-19 antiviral drug to increase as governments return to replenish their supplies and seek to thwart surges as the pandemic virus continues to evolve. The treatment, a pill called Paxlovid, brought in $1.5 billion in sales during Pfizer’s first quarter, while its vaccine totaled $13.2 billion, reflecting the need for tools to combat the virus despite a slowdown in cases and a growing sense of life trying to return to normal. The company said Tuesday it is on track to deliver between $98 billion and $102 billion in revenue for the year, with $32 billion coming from its Covid-19 vaccine Comirnaty and $22 billion from Paxlovid. “We remain bullish on Paxlovid” said Chief Financial Officer Frank D’Amelio on a call discussing earnings with analysts. “The rhythm of that product looks very good.”
Most Americans have now had Covid-19 -- but experts are predicting the next surge
While it's tempting to say much of life is getting back to normal, it's probably more accurate to say it feels more comfortable and normal living alongside Covid-19. For many of those who are vaccinated or were previously infected, learning of a close contact with the disease is less frightening than frustrating.
Covid-19 news: Cognitive impairment equivalent to 20 years of ageing
People hospitalised with covid-19 may lose 10 IQ points, equivalent to the natural cognitive decline that occurs between 50 and 70 years old. Covid-19 can cause lasting cognitive and mental health issues, including brain fog, fatigue and even post-traumatic stress disorder. To better understand the scale of the problem, researchers at the University of Cambridge analysed 46 people who were hospitalised due to the infection between March and July 2020. The participants underwent cognitive tests on average six months after their initial illness. These results were compared against those of more than 66,000 people from the general population.
Pfizer keeps sales forecast for COVID-19 antiviral pill unchanged
Pfizer Inc maintained sales forecasts for its pandemic products on Tuesday after a series of hikes to revenue projections for its COVID-19 vaccine last year, in a sign that dizzying growth has slowed. Several countries have eased pandemic restrictions, relaxing rules on masking and quarantines, even as cases rise in some regions. The company said it expects $22 billion in sales from its COVID treatment Paxlovid this year, compared with analysts' average expectation of $26.1 billion, according to Refinitiv.
Pfizer sticks to 2022 sales forecasts for COVID pill, vaccine
Pfizer Inc maintained sales forecasts for its pandemic products on Tuesday after a series of hikes to revenue projections for its COVID-19 vaccine last year, in a sign that dizzying growth has slowed. Several countries have eased pandemic restrictions, relaxing rules on masking and quarantines, even as cases rise in some regions. The company said it expects $22 billion in sales from its COVID treatment Paxlovid this year, compared with analysts' average expectation of $26.1 billion, according to Refinitiv.
More uniformly infectious, more treatable, more genetically predictable: How coronavirus is getting closer to flu
Hours after a federal judge struck down the federal mask mandate covering air travel and other public transportation last month, Delta Airlines celebrated the move in a statement saying that Covid-19 “has transitioned to an ordinary seasonal virus.” By the next day, after an intense backlash from public health experts, Delta had taken the offending language down. “‘Ordinary viruses don’t cause 1 million deaths in one country in just 2 years,” tweeted epidemiologist Jessica Malaty Rivera, a senior adviser at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Pandemic Prevention Institute. SARS-CoV-2 remains a long way from being ordinary. It has not yet found seasonal cadence — take the recent surge in Europe and the U.K., which comes just weeks after the initial Omicron wave subsided — and it’s still capable of inflicting mass death and disability (see Hong Kong’s lethal last few months).
Paxlovid’s failure as a preventative measure raises questions, but doctors still back it as a therapeutic
Pfizer released news late Friday that Paxlovid, the antiviral currently subject to a big push from the U.S. government, failed to prevent people living with Covid patients from catching the infection. The news is one of several bad headlines for the new Covid pill, but one experts say doesn’t affect the medicine’s primary use: treating people who are already sick. Paul Sax, clinical director of the division of infectious diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said he would “absolutely” prescribe Paxlovid to people at high risk of severe disease who have Covid. “Without hesitation,” he said. “Because the net benefit in the high risk study was extremely high.”
Coronavirus Resurgence
What might rising Covid cases in South Africa mean for the UK?
Dr Nicole Wolter of South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases, said the wave was possibly due to BA.4 and BA.5 having mutations in the spike protein, meaning the virus might be able to dodge the body’s immunity to some degree, as well as waning immunity from previous waves. “In addition, we have had a relaxing of restrictions, as well as moving into winter and therefore experiencing colder temperatures,” she said.
Covid-19 update: 20 deaths, 9109 new community cases
In a statement, the Ministy of Health said 481 people were in hospital, including 10 in ICU. The deaths reported today included people who have died over the previous eight days. These deaths take the total number of publicly reported deaths with Covid-19 to 777 and the seven-day rolling average of reported deaths is 13. Of the people whose deaths we are reporting today; one person was from Northland, one from Auckland, two from Waikato, two from Bay of Plenty, four from Tairawhiti, four from the Greater Wellington region, five from Canterbury and one from Southern. One person was in their 50s; three in their 60s; three in their 70s; eight in their 80s and five were aged over 90.
China's COVID-19 battle continues in 2 key hot spots
With Shanghai's lockdown in effect for about a month, cases are slowly declining, but health officials are alarmed about more infections reported outside of quarantine facilities. Meanwhile, cases are still rising in Beijing, where health officials continue to tighten measures. Meanwhile, in the United States, cases continue to grow, especially in the Northeast, though the level of hospitalizations and deaths are still low.
Big fall in Wirral’s Covid-19 numbers as pressure on hospitals eases
The number of people in Wirral’s hospitals with Covid-19 has fallen massively, with cases also down. In March, the picture looked worrying. At the start of the month the borough had just 15 patients, but by early April around 100 people were being treated for the virus in Wirral’s hospitals. In recent weeks, things have dramatically improved. On April 12, the borough had 98 covid patients, but on the most recent figures, for April 26, this had fallen to 58.
Beijing preps COVID-19 hospital spaces, though new cases low
Beijing is preparing new hospital facilities to deal with a spike in COVID-19 cases, even though the numbers of new cases remain low. State media reported Tuesday a 1,000-bed hospital at Xiaotangshan in the northeastern suburbs built for the 2003 SARS outbreak has been refurbished in case it's needed. Unofficial reports online say thousands of beds have been prepared in a centralized quarantine center near the airport, but state media has not confirmed those preparations in what could be an attempt to avoid stoking public fears. New cases in Beijing have remained steady, with another 62 recorded on Monday, 11 of them showing no symptoms, up just slightly from about 50 per day over the weekend. Beijing has reported about 450 cases in the two-week-old outbreak.
China reports 6074 new COVID cases on May 2, down from previous day
Mainland China reported 6,074 new COVID-19 cases on May 2, including 384 symptomatic cases and 5,690 asymptomatic infections, the National Health Commission said on Tuesday. That was down from 7,822 new cases a day earlier, of which 865 were symptomatic and 6,957 were asymptomatic. There were 20 new deaths, all in the financial hub of Shanghai, taking the toll to 5,112. Mainland China had 217,836 confirmed infections by May 2, authorities said.
Shanghai reports COVID cases outside lockdown areas
Article reports that China's commercial capital of Shanghai was dealt a blow on Monday (May 2) as authorities reported 58 new COVID-19 cases outside areas under lockdown, in a setback following news that no cases had been confirmed outside areas under lockdown for two days at the weekend