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"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 5th May 2022

Lockdown Exit
Novavax files for authorization of COVID-19 shot among adolescents in Britain
Novavax Inc said on Wednesday it had filed an application with Britain's drugs regulator for the authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine among adolescents aged 12 and older. Britain had in February cleared the two-dose vaccine, Nuvaxovid, for use in adults amid a spike in cases fueled by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. Novavax's submission includes data from a late-stage trial in the United States, where the vaccine showed 80% efficacy among adolescents when Delta was the dominant variant in the country.
U.S. CDC says travelers should still wear masks on airplanes
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday recommended travelers continue to wear masks in airplanes, trains and airports despite a judge's April 18 order declaring the 14-month-old transportation mask mandate unlawful. The CDC said it based its recommendation on current COVID-19 conditions and spread as well as the protective value of masks.
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.
Fewer than 1 in 5 US parents say they'll get Covid-19 vaccines for kids under 5 as soon as they can, survey finds
US children under 5 are getting closer to authorized Covid-19 vaccines, but most parents may be reluctant to actually get them when they become available, a new survey found. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation's Vaccine Monitor survey, published Wednesday, only 18% of parents of children under 5 said they would vaccinate their child against Covid-19 as soon as a vaccine was available.
FDA officials say annual Covid-19 shots may be needed in the future
The United States might need to update its Covid-19 vaccines each year, according to a trio of top US Food and Drug Administration officials, and "a new normal" may include an annual Covid-19 vaccine alongside a seasonal flu shot. "Widespread vaccine- and infection-induced immunity, combined with the availability of effective therapeutics, could blunt the effects of future outbreaks. Nonetheless, it is time to accept that the presence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is the new normal. It will likely circulate globally for the foreseeable future, taking its place alongside other common respiratory viruses such as influenza. And it likely will require similar annual consideration for vaccine composition updates,"
Sleeping pods being trialled in Yorkshire to keep homeless safe from Covid-19
Sheffield Council has received Government funding to help increase vaccination uptake among the homeless population and to provide Covid secure accommodation. The Salvation Army has already trialled two rough sleeping pods as a Covid safe alternative. The small self-sufficient insulated structures can be moved around depending on the most appropriate locations.
1 in 3 new COVID cases caused by new omicron subvariant, CDC data shows
There is new information on a variation of omicron that is causing more COVID-19 cases in the U.S. The omicron variant offshoot, a highly contagious spinoff of BA.2, is gaining steam in the U.S., caused more than one in three new COVID-19 cases in the U.S. last week. That is up from one in four the week before, according to the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We’re set up for another big wave in the summer. I think that’s quite possible,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College School of Medicine. Cases of the variant spinoff are not evenly spread through the U.S. Last week, the CDC estimated it caused around 62% of cases in the region that includes New York and New Jersey, as well as in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.The CDC estimated it caused about 40% of cases in the mid-Atlantic states and more than 36% of cases in the South. It’s least common in the Pacific Northwest.
Covid's toll in the U.S. reaches a once unfathomable number: 1 million deaths
The U.S. on Wednesday surpassed 1 million Covid-19 deaths, according to data compiled by NBC News — a once unthinkable scale of loss even for the country with the world's highest recorded toll from the virus. The number — equivalent to the population of San Jose, California, the 10th largest city in the U.S. — was reached at stunning speed: 27 months after the country confirmed its first case of the virus. "Each of those people touched hundreds of other people," said Diana Ordonez, whose husband, Juan Ordonez, died in April 2020 at age 40, five days before their daughter Mia's fifth birthday. "It's an exponential number of other people that are walking around with a small hole in their heart."
Exit Strategies
Beijing reports 42 new symptomatic COVID cases, 8 asymptomatic for May 4
Beijing reported 42 new symptomatic coronavirus cases for May 4, down from 46 cases a day earlier, state television said on Thursday.
Regeneron's COVID drug sales outside U.S. help revenue beat
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals reported better-than-expected revenue aided by sales from its COVID-19 antibody outside the United States and strong demand for its blockbuster drugs Dupixent and Eylea.
China's Big Pledges Set to Test Covid-Weary Markets in Reopening
Article reports that Chinese markets will return to action Thursday after a three-day break, putting to test whether Beijing has done enough to convince investors that strict Covid lockdowns won’t hamper efforts to boost economic growth and pledges to go gentle on Big Tech are genuine. Stocks may come under pressure following losses in Hong Kong shares earlier this week, a reversal of Friday’s rally after Chinese leaders vowed to spur a faltering economy and signaled a softening stance toward private enterprise. Economic pessimism means the yuan will likely continue to struggle and bonds may be supported, although the outcome of a key Federal Reserve meeting Wednesday also will help shape their directions.
Hong Kong to Open Up as Shanghai, Beijing Stick to China's Covid Zero Plan
Article reports that as Chinese cities such as Shanghai and Beijing stick ever more closely to Covid Zero principles, no matter the economic cost, Hong Kong is methodically moving toward opening up to the rest of the world. On Tuesday, the government brought forward a plan to ease social distancing rules, allowing people to go mask-free when exercising outdoors and doubling the maximum number of diners per table to eight. That came two days after Hong Kong ended a two-year ban on visits by all non-residents and eased some restrictions on inbound flights. The moves reflect a broader push by influential figures in the city to focus on retaining Hong Kong’s appeal as an international financial hub, particularly as President Xi Jinping’s rigid Covid Zero strategy leaves little prospect of opening the land border with the mainland.
Coronavirus: Beijing outbreak ramps up pressure on China’s economic momentum
China’s economy is expected to take a further hit as authorities in Beijing rush to contain a coronavirus outbreak with mass testing and tough restrictions that have left streets and shops empty in the capital during the five-day Labour Day holiday. Activity in both China’s manufacturing and services sectors fell to its lowest point in more than two years last month, data released on Saturday showed, in the latest sign that the government’s hardline zero-Covid policy is wreaking significant damage to the world’s second biggest economy.
Six Signs That Will Tell Us When Secretive China Is Abandoning Covid Zero
China’s staunch defense of its Covid Zero policy has meant the country won’t join the global pivot toward living with the virus anytime soon. But authorities won’t cling to their unwavering adherence to that approach forever either. The rigid strategy, which has pummeled the world’s second-biggest economy, disrupted supply chains and brought the lives of millions in many mainland cities to a miserable standstill, has been undergoing minor adjustments as the virus mutates. Its eventual dismantling, however, will be gradual, involving step-by-step easing rather than a sudden end to all curbs in one fell swoop, experts say. Though the government is ramping up the rhetoric on how it won’t back down from aggressive and sweeping curbs — ranging from mass testing and lockdowns to contact tracing and border restrictions in the near term — officials have also started talking about what it would take to claim “triumph” over Covid-19.
Partisan Exits
China censors more economists after critical takes on zero-Covid
More outspoken economists and prominent investors are being silenced on social media in China as Beijing tightens its grip on online speech amid mounting economic pressure and growing controversies surrounding its zero-Covid policy. The public accounts of Hong Hao, who was head of research at Bank of Communications (Bocom) International Holdings were removed from both WeChat and the Twitter-like Weibo service on Saturday. Hong had more than 3 million followers on Weibo. It was unclear which red line the economist had crossed.
Shanghai residents turn to NFTs to record COVID-19 lockdown, combat censorship
Shanghai residents are turning to the blockchain to preserve memories of the city's month-long COVID-19 lockdown, minting videos, photos and artworks capturing their ordeal as non-fungible tokens to ensure they can be shared and avoid deletion. Unable to leave their homes for weeks at a time, many of the city's 25 million residents have been unleashing their frustrations online, venting about draconian lockdown curbs and difficulties procuring food, and sharing stories of hardship, such as patients unable to get medical treatment.
Blinken Tests Positive for Covid-19, Delays China Policy Speech
Secretary of State Antony Blinken tested positive for Covid-19 and will work from home in the coming days, prompting him to postpone a key China policy speech that had been scheduled for Thursday. Blinken, who attended the White House Correspondents Association dinner on Saturday, is fully vaccinated and boosted and is experiencing only mild symptoms, according to a statement Wednesday from State Department spokesman Ned Price. The top U.S. diplomat “has not seen President Biden in person for several days, and the President is not considered a close contact according to guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” Price said. “He tested negative on Tuesday and again as recently as this morning.
Continued Lockdown
Beijing Shuts Down Subway Stations to Slow Spread of COVID-19
Authorities in Beijing have shut down dozens of subway stations as part of its efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. The Chinese capital announced Wednesday that it was closing more than 40 subway stations, amounting to about 10% of its system, along with hundreds of bus routes. Beijing has been on alert since mid-April after 10 middle school students tested positive for COVID-19, sparking widespread panic buying of groceries and other supplies in anticipation of a possible citywide lockdown similar to the one imposed on the financial hub of Shanghai. Authorities have begun a mass testing campaign for most of its 21 million residents, while shutting down schools and businesses, including such venues as gyms and theaters.
Hong Kong GDP falls more than expected as COVID curbs bite
Hong Kong’s economy contracted last quarter for the first time in more than a year as local restrictions to curb Covid hit activity and China’s own omicron outbreak disrupted trade. Gross domestic product fell 4% in the January-to-March period from a year earlier, according to advance estimates released by the government on Tuesday. The number — Hong Kong’s first since the end of 2020 — was far worse than a median estimate of a 1.3% contraction in a Bloomberg survey. It was also the biggest contraction since the third quarter of 2020. The city faced “immense pressure” in the first quarter of 2022, a government spokesperson was quoted as saying in a release from the Census and Statistics Department accompanying the data. The city’s fifth coronavirus wave, along with moderating global demand growth and “epidemic-induced cross boundary transportation disruptions,” all dragged on the economy, the person said.
Beijing Halts Public Transport As China Continues To Fight Covid
Dozens of metro stations and bus routes in Beijing have been shut down as COVID continues to spread and millions of residents in Shanghai still remain under strict lockdown even after more than a month. China's capital city Beijing has shut more than 40 subway stations, about a tenth of the network, and 158 bus routes, service providers said. Most of the suspended stations and routes are in the Chaoyang district, the epicentre of Beijing's outbreak, reported The Express Tribune. Beijing is also resorting to mass testing. Twelve out of 16 Beijing districts were conducting the second of three rounds of tests this week, having done three mass screenings last week.
Beijing reopens mass isolation centre in fight against Covid
Beijing has reopened a mass isolation centre as authorities seek to contain an outbreak of Covid-19 in the city. The Xiaotangshan Fangcai hospital, which holds at least 1,200 beds and testing facilities, was first opened during the 2003 Sars epidemic, and used again in early 2020 to treat Covid patients. Its reopening signals a ramp up in efforts by China’s capital to manage the rising number of cases without going into a city-wide lockdown. On Wednesday, China reported 5,489 cases, including 353 symptomatic. Most (4,982) were in Shanghai, which has been under a weeks-long lockdown sparking widespread complaints and protests over food shortages and overzealous enforcement. Beijing reported 46 symptomatic cases and five asymptomatic on Wednesday, bringing the city’s total since the start of its Omicron outbreak to about 400.
Beijing closes 10% of its subway stations to curb coronavirus outbreak
Beijing on Wednesday closed around 10% of the stations in its vast subway system as an additional measure against the spread of the coronavirus. The subway authority said in a brief message that the measure to shut 40 stations, mostly in downtown Beijing, was being taken as part of epidemic-control measures. No date for the resumption of service was given. Beijing has been on high alert for the spread of COVID-19, with restaurants and bars limited to takeout, gyms closed and classes suspended indefinitely. Major tourist sites in the city, including the Forbidden City and the Beijing Zoo, have closed their indoor exhibition halls and are operating at only partial capacity. A few communities where cases were discovered have been isolated.
Taiwan's Foxconn says no change to production in China's COVID-hit Zhengzhou
Major Taiwanese Apple Inc supplier Foxconn said on Wednesday that it is continuing production in China's Zhengzhou, which announced on Tuesday it would impose new COVID-19-related movement curbs for May 4-10. "Our park has maintained production unchanged," it said in a statement, referring to the industrial area where its facilities are located in the central Chinese city.
Scientific Viewpoint
Valneva to launch trial for booster use of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate
French drugmaker Valneva said on Wednesday it will conduct a trial about the use of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate VLA2001 as a booster jab following a mRNA vaccination or natural infection.
Moderna sees higher COVID vaccine sales later this year
Moderna Inc on Wednesday forecast higher vaccine sales for the second half of the year than in the first six months, as it expects the virus that causes COVID-19 to follow a more seasonal pattern requiring booster shots in the fall.
Long Covid in Kids Has Effects That Last Beyond Hospital
As the world pretends the pandemic is over, at least a half-million children in the U.S. are struggling with the mysterious disease.
Severe Covid May Lower Survivor's IQ By 10 Points, Study Finds
Severe Covid-19 may cause long-lasting cognitive impairment, similar to how much brainpower 70-year-olds typically have lost compared to age 50, a new study found, adding to preliminary evidence that infections may inhibit survivors’ intellectual capabilities. The study of 46 patients, who were assessed six to ten months after being hospitalized, showed slower and less accurate responses than what was expected for their age and demographic profile. Those patients who required ventilators and organ support scored even worse. The effect was sudden, as it was the equivalent of aging 20 years intellectually within the span of a few months. The impairment is equivalent to losing about 10 IQ points, said co-author Adam Hampshire, a professor of restorative neurosciences at Imperial College London, in an interview.
Covid 19 Omicron outbreak: Siouxsie Wiles - what we know about BA.4 and BA.5 variants
BA.4 and BA.5 are responsible for a new wave of Covid-19 cases in South Africa. At least one of them has arrived on our shores. So what does the science tell us about these new Omicron variants? While most countries are winding down their testing and sequencing efforts, South Africa has been doing an absolutely stellar job of detecting new Covid-19 virus variants. It was the country that first identified the three original Omicron lineages (BA.1, BA.2, and BA.3) back in November last year. Once other countries started to look, they found Omicron everywhere. BA.1 started the initial global Omicron wave, followed by the more infectious BA.2. In South Africa they only had one large BA.1 wave. Here in New Zealand, BA.1 and BA.2 arrived and seeded into the community very close together, so we had both at the same time – though BA.2 became the dominant lineage. BA.3 never really took off anywhere.
Taiwan records first death of someone in their 20s from COVID-19
A woman in her 20s with no known underlying medical conditions died of COVID-19 this week despite being vaccinated with a booster, according to the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) Wednesday. The woman is the first person in their 20s to die from the disease in Taiwan since the beginning of the pandemic. Lo Yi-chun (羅一鈞), a CECC official and Centers for Disease Control deputy director-general, said at a daily press briefing that the woman, who had been vaccinated with three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, first displayed symptoms of fever and diarrhea on April 26. Her rapid test was positive that day and she took a PCR that evening with the results coming back the next day, confirming her to be positive, Lo said, adding that she then went into home quarantine.
Three new Covid Omicron subvariants detected in Australia
Three new Omicron subvariants have reached Australia and health authorities say people who contract the virus should wait three months before getting their next Covid-19 vaccination. Assoc Prof Stuart Turville from the University of New South Wales’ Kirby Institute says Omicron subvariants BA.2.12.1, BA.4 and BA.5 have been detected in the country. Authorities are warning this winter season is likely to see a spike in Covid-19 cases and flu as restrictions which have suppressed the circulation of both viruses are phased out.
Newer, fitter descendants of Omicron variant begin to drive their own coronavirus waves
Average daily hospitalizations are up about 10% since last week, according to data collected by the US Department of Health and Human Services. The culprit this time appears to be a spinoff of Omicron's BA.2 subvariant called BA.2.12.1, which was first flagged by New York state health officials in April. BA.2.12.1, which is growing about 25% faster than its parent virus, BA.2, accounts for nearly 37% all Covid-19 cases across the US, according to new estimates from the CDC. BA.2 caused an estimated 62% of all Covid-19 cases last week, down from 70% the week before.
Covid-19 worsens asthma in children, finds study
The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine , looked at almost 49,000 unvaccinated patients in total, and identified multiple predictors of more severe Covid-19 and worse outcomes in them compared to vaccinated individuals. It found that evidence of heart muscle damage (myocardial injury) at the time of admission to hospital was associated with a nine-fold increase in likelihood of death. Patients found to have such heart issues also had higher chances of developing other complications, including severe lung failure (acute respiratory distress syndrome) and acute kidney injury, and required higher rates of intensive care admission and invasive mechanical ventilation.
Unvaccinated individuals with heart problems up to 9 times more likely to die or suffer serious complications from COVID-19
Researchers from Queen Mary University of London have combined evidence from 110 previous Covid-19 studies and found that unvaccinated individuals who contract the virus when they already have high blood pressure, diabetes or major heart damage are up to nine times more likely to suffer serious outcomes - including death, lung failure, admission to intensive care and kidney problems.
Covid-19: Remdesivir has “small effect” against death or progression to ventilation, WHO trial finds
Remdesivir has no significant effect on patients with covid-19 who are already being ventilated but has a small effect against death or progression to ventilation among other patients admitted to hospital, the World Health Organization’s Solidarity trial has found.1 This appears to be a change from findings reported in February 2021, when preliminary trial data suggested that remdesivir “had little or no effect on patients admitted to hospital with covid-19.”2 The Solidarity trial recruited over 14 000 patients from 454 hospitals across 35 countries between March 2020 and January 2021, of which over 8000 were allocated 1:1 to remdesivir (10 daily infusions) or control (no drug). The updated results, published in the Lancet, reported that overall 14.5% (602 of 4146) of patients assigned to remdesivir died compared with 15.6% (643 of 4129) assigned to the control group (mortality rate ratio 0.91, 95% confidence interval 0.82 to 1.02, P=0.12).
Lasting brain impacts of severe COVID-19 equivalent to 20 years of ageing
The lasting mental impacts of severe COVID-19 on areas like memory, attention, or problem solving, may be equivalent to 20 years of ageing. These are the findings of a new study, led by a team of scientists from the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London, which suggest that cognitive impairment as a result of severe COVID-19 is similar to that sustained between 50 and 70 years of age and is the equivalent to losing 10 IQ points. The research, published in the journal eClinicalMedicine, indicates the effects are still detectable more than six months after acute illness and that any recovery is at best gradual. According to the researchers, this is the first time that such rigorous assessment and comparison has been carried out in relation to the after-effects of severe COVID-19.
Patterns in Olfactory Injury Among Patients Who Died From COVID-19
Article reports that among patients who died with COVID-19 infection, more severe axon pathology, axon losses, and microvasculopathy were found in the olfactory tissue than in those who died without COVID-19 infection, suggesting COVID-19 olfactory dysfunction may be permanent. These are the findings of a postmortem study published in JAMA Neurology. SARS-CoV-2 is associated with a range of symptoms with the most common nonrespiratory symptom presenting as olfactory dysfunction. As the pandemic is still recent, it remains unclear how long COVID-19 symptoms may persist.
Coronavirus Resurgence
COVID Americas cases up, N. American cases up for 5th week -PAHO
COVID-19 cases in the Americas increased by 12.7% last week from the prior week, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday, as infections continued to rise in Central and North America. The Americas reported more than 616,000 new cases last week, while the death toll was down by less than 1% in the same comparison to 4,200, the organization said. PAHO's director, Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, called for stronger measures to tackle the pandemic as cases and hospitalizations rise.
Pakistan reports 39 new COVID-19 cases
Pakistan recorded 39 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, the country's ministry of health said on Wednesday. The tally of infected people increased to 1,528,603 across the country after adding the new cases, according to the data released by the ministry. A total of 30,372 people have died due to COVID-19 in Pakistan so far, with no death recorded on Tuesday. On Tuesday, 9,712 tests were conducted in Pakistan while the positivity rate stood at 0.40 percent. Currently there are 108 active cases who are in critical condition in the South Asian country.
Iran reveals COVID-19 data for May 4
As many as 252 people have been infected with the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the past 24 hours in Iran, reads the statement of the Ministry of Health and Medical Education of Iran, Trend reports. In addition, 7 people have died from the coronavirus over the past day. At the same time, the condition of 1,024 people remains critical. So far, more than 51.3 million tests have been conducted in Iran for the diagnosis of coronavirus. In total, over 149 million doses of vaccines have been used in Iran so far. A total of 64.4 million doses have been used in the first stage, 57.6 million doses - in the second stage, and 27 million doses – in the third stage
Chinese Gen-Z carries on Long March spirit to fight COVID-19 epidemic
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist Youth League of China (CYLC) and the Chinese youth today, mostly comprising of Gen-Z, are also making great contributions and sacrifices toward overcoming the serious challenge of their time - the COVID-19 epidemic. Since the coronavirus disease hit Wuhan in 2020, numerous Chinese young have proven themselves as fully capable and qualified of playing a key role in safeguarding the country and its people from the epidemic. These are just some of the stories received recounting how China's youth are so valiantly fighting against the epidemic.
Factory in China tests North Korean workers for COVID after 20 show symptoms
Around 800 North Korean workers in the northeastern Chinese city of Dandong spent their May Day holiday getting tested for COVID-19 after about 20 of their coworkers began showing symptoms for the disease and were quarantined, sources in China told RFA. The North Korean women are employed by a clothing company in the city’s Zhenan district. They are among the 80,000 to 100,000 North Koreans dispatched to China’s three northeastern provinces to earn foreign currency for their cash-strapped government. Dandong has been locked down as part of China’s zero-COVID policy since last week. Workers would typically have off for May Day, an annual celebration of the fight for labor rights and an important holiday in communist countries. But workers were instead called into the factory for testing, a source in the city told RFA’s Korean Service on condition of anonymity for security reasons.
Covid-19 now endemic in Hong Kong, expert says; city reports 313 new infections
Although infections continue to drop, completely eradicating virus is difficult, notes Professor David Hui from Chinese University. If Covid-19 is bound to persist in Hong Kong, what does that mean for city’s containment approach modelled on mainland China’s, they ask
Covid-19 update: 24 deaths and 8454 new community cases today
One of those deaths included a child under 10 years old and another young person between the age of 10 and 19. In a statement, the Ministry of Health said 481 people were in hospital, including 14 in ICU. The deaths include 12 people died over the past three days and an additional 12 people died since 5 March. Delays to reporting can be associated with people dying with Covid-19, rather than from Covid-19, and the virus being discovered only after they have died. The deaths take the total number of publicly-reported deaths with Covid-19 to 801 and the seven-day rolling average of reported deaths is 13. Nine people who died were from Auckland, four from Waikato, two from Bay of Plenty, one from Whanganui, one from MidCentral, two from the Greater Wellington region, three from Canterbury and two from Southern.
Kids' COVID-19 cases rise in US as Shanghai eases restrictions
Globally, some of the stricter lockdown measures are easing in Shanghai, China's most populous city, with restrictions lessening in 5 of its 16 districts. Residents there have been in a tightly controlled lockdown for weeks as the country attempts to maintain a zero-COVID policy. Reuters reports that some residents were briefly allowed to leave their homes for walks and to buy groceries. Elsewhere in China, the city of Zhengzhou—population 12.5 million—was put on a week-long restriction, and Beijing officials announced they will keep schools closed another week after the Labor Day (May Day) holiday ends tomorrow. Visitors to that city will also be required to show a negative COVID-19 test taken within 48 hours of arrival.