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"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 12th May 2022

Lockdown Exit
Shanghai Covid Spread Damps Prospect of Easing China Lockdown Curbs
Shanghai continued to find Covid-19 cases in the community Wednesday, damping prospects for an easing of a punishing lockdown that has hampered business activity and confined millions of people to their homes for more than a month. Shanghai reported a total of 1,449 new Covid cases for Wednesday, down slightly from 1,487 on Tuesday. While the daily total has steadily fallen, two cases were found in the community Wednesday, CCTV reported, after none were detected on Tuesday. Shanghai officials have said that three days of zero community transmission is required before they can start to ease restrictions.
Western Australia records more than 17,000 new COVID-19 cases, sparking fears for hospitals
Western Australia has experienced an explosion of COVID-19, recording 17,033 new daily cases — the highest since the beginning of the pandemic. Medical experts are concerned the already stressed health system is in danger of being overrun over the next week, saying it would be "unforgiveable" not to reintroduce restrictions. The state's latest coronavirus figures are higher than any other state or territory at the moment.
Half of Covid-hospitalised still symptomatic two years on, study finds
More than half of people hospitalised with Covid-19 still have at least one symptom two years after they were first infected, according to the longest follow-up study of its kind. While physical and mental health generally improve over time, the analysis suggests that coronavirus patients discharged from hospital still tend to experience poorer health and quality of life than the general population. The research was published in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine. “Our findings indicate that for a certain proportion of hospitalised Covid-19 survivors, while they may have cleared the initial infection, more than two years is needed to recover fully,” said the lead author, Prof Bin Cao, of the in China.
Failure to address a global surplus of COVID vaccines raises the risk of new variants emerging, health experts warn
The world finds itself awash in COVID-19 vaccines, but governments can’t get them into arms fast enough, as hesitancy and logistical hurdles threaten to indefinitely extend the pandemic. Advocates for widespread inoculation say participants at the second global COVID-19 summit need to come up with a plan to shift focus from producing vaccines to administering shots. They warn that failure raises the risk of new variants arising, potentially with the ability to evade vaccine immunity and spark yet another wave of infections and deaths.
China Censors WHO Chief’s Call to End Covid-19 Strategy Dubbed Unsustainable
China’s censors blocked rare public criticism of its zero-Covid strategy by the World Health Organization from social media Wednesday, as officials in Shanghai insisted there would be no change to policies that have locked tens of millions of people in their homes for weeks. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said China’s inflexible approach to Covid-19 needs to adapt to the evolving nature of the virus.
China CPI Exceeds Forecasts as Covid Lockdowns Roil Supplies
China’s factory and consumer prices rose faster than expected in April as Covid lockdowns battered supply chains and pushed people to stockpile food. The producer price index rose 8% from a year earlier compared to 8.3% in March, official data showed Wednesday, above the median estimate of a 7.8% increase in a Bloomberg survey of economists. Consumer-price growth accelerated to 2.1% from 1.5% in the previous month, faster than a projected 1.8% gain.
China Risks 1.6 Million Deaths in Virus 'Tsunami' If Covid Zero Is Abandoned: Study
China risks a “tsunami” of coronavirus infections resulting in 1.6 million deaths if the government abandons its long-held Covid Zero policy and allows the highly-infectious omicron variant to spread unchecked, according to researchers at Shanghai’s Fudan University. The peer-reviewed study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, found that the level of immunity induced by China’s March vaccination campaign would be “insufficient” to prevent an omicron wave that would swamp intensive care capacity, given low vaccine rates among the elderly and the virus’s ability to evade immunity from existing shots.
Tourists return to Paris post-pandemic but Asians, Americans stay away
The Paris tourist office is forecasting that foreign visits will increase more than five-fold in May-July compared to the same period last year, mainly thanks to tourists from Spain, Germany, Britain and Italy. That will, however, still be a third less than pre-pandemic levels, partly because U.S. and Asian tourists are not expected to be back in large numbers yet.
EU lifts mask requirement for air travel as pandemic ebbs
The European Union will no longer require masks to be worn at airports and on planes starting next week amid the easing of coronavirus restrictions across the bloc, authorities said Wednesday. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency said it hoped the joint decision, made with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, would mark “a big step forward in the normalization of air travel” for passengers and crews. The new guideline “takes account of the latest developments in the pandemic, in particular the levels of vaccination and naturally acquired immunity, and the accompanying lifting of restrictions in a growing number of European countries,” the two agencies said
Untapped Global Vaccine Stash Raises Risks of New Covid Variants
The world finds itself awash in Covid-19 vaccines, but governments can’t get them into arms fast enough, as hesitancy and logistical hurdles threaten to indefinitely extend the pandemic. Shots that were once rare are now piling up and even expiring, a problem on the agenda of a second global Covid-19 summit the US is co-hosting on Thursday. President Joe Biden kicked off the first summit eight months ago by announcing the US would donate another 500 million doses to the international vaccination campaign, nearly doubling its total pledge. But now, vaccine makers are idling production or face shutdowns as demand for shots wanes, even with the world still far from a target of inoculating 70% of humanity. Republicans in Congress have so far blocked additional funding for the US and international vaccination campaigns.
Exit Strategies
Hong Kong health experts call for shorter grace period for third Covid jab
Hong Kong authorities should shorten the grace period residents have to get their third Covid-19 jab as required by the vaccine pass to encourage faster uptake, health experts have said. Official figures found that close to 50 per cent of the population has been vaccinated with a third dose, but the figure for residents aged 70 or above is only 31.3 per cent and the rate for those 80 or above is just 18.2 per cent.
Lifting zero-Covid policies in China could risk 1.6m deaths, says study
The lifting of zero-Covid policies in China would see a “tsunami” of infections and almost 1.6 million deaths, a study claims, citing in part China’s low vaccination rate of elderly residents. China’s government remains committed to a zero-Covid policy, employing resource intensive mass testing and case surveillance, and enforcing lockdowns, strict quarantine and isolation. A speech last week by the president, Xi Jinping, reaffirmed the commitment, despite the challenge posed by the Omicron variant which has already overwhelmed other countries’ zero-Covid policies. The peer reviewed study by Shanghai’s Fudan University, published in the Nature journal, said a decision by Chinese authorities to lift such measures could see more than 112 million symptomatic cases of Covid-19, five million hospitalisations, and 1.55 million deaths.
Africa's COVID vaccine production line in jeopardy
A year ago, South Africa celebrated the opening of the continent's first COVID-19 vaccine production line. Now it's at risk of being shut down due to low demand. About 40% of adult South Africans are fully vaccinated. On the whole continent, just 15%. The World Health Organization has set a target of 70% coverage for all countries by June 2022. So far, only Mauritius and Seychelles reached that number in Africa. Most countries will likely miss it.
Govt may not allow different Covid vaccine as booster shot: Report
In India, the Ministry of Health may not allow a coronavirus vaccine as booster shot different than the primary jab following a study on mixing different vaccines, according to a news report on Wednesday. A study published by Christian Medical College in Vellore (CMC), found that a booster shot different from the primary vaccines, such as Covishield or Covaxin, did not produce satisfactory results, the Economic Times reported. The study was carried out on 200 participants to determine how a fully vaccinated person reacts to a booster dose different than the primary vaccine.
Biden likely to arrive at his own Covid-19 summit empty-handed, as he struggles to secure funding at home and abroad
President Joe Biden is co-hosting the second global Covid-19 summit on Thursday, where he will ask wealthy countries to ramp up their financial contributions to vaccinations, testing and treatments -- even as he is struggling to secure funding to fight the virus at home and abroad. The Biden administration asked Congress in March to authorize $22.5 billion in additional Covid-19 assistance, including $5 billion for the global pandemic, but the package has been repeatedly waylaid. The Senate reached a bipartisan deal in April to approve $10 billion in aid, but it stripped out global Covid-19 financing entirely. This has put the President in an awkward position: He will probably show up to his own summit empty-handed.
China calls WHO chief 'irresponsible' for saying zero-COVID strategy 'not sustainable'
China hit back on Wednesday against what it called "irresponsible" comments by the head of the World Health Organization, who described the country's uncompromising and increasingly painful "zero COVID" policy as "not sustainable." The policy has placed hundreds of millions of people across dozens of cities under various degrees of movement restrictions, most dramatically in Shanghai, causing significant economic damage in China and beyond and fuelling wide-spread frustration.
Moderna Ousts New Finance Chief Jorge Gomez Amid Probe at Dentsply
On Monday, Jorge Gomez took the reins as the finance chief of Moderna, leaving behind the less flashy world of dental products at his previous employer, Dentsply Sirona. A day later, Mr. Gomez was out. Moderna, maker of a leading Covid-19 vaccine, said its newly hired chief financial officer left the company on Tuesday, citing a newly revealed internal investigation by Dentsply into matters that include financial reporting. David Meline, who had just retired as Moderna’s finance chief after a two-year stint, will retake the post while the company reopens its search for a successor.
China berates WHO chief for 'irresponsible' remarks on its zero-COVID policy
China's foreign ministry called on World Health Organization (WHO) head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to avoid making "irresponsible" remarks, after he said China's zero-COVID policy was not sustainable. Speaking at a regular news conference in Beijing on Wednesday, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian defended China's measures on fighting the pandemic and said China hopes the WHO Director-General can view China's COVID policies objectively.
After 65 days in limbo, American finally waves goodbye to China's COVID lockdown
For the last 65 days Laura Hudson has been on a mission to leave China, navigating through all of its COVID restrictions to get back to the United States. On Wednesday, she finally boarded an Air China plane at Beijing's international airport that would take her home. As an airport official checked her temperature was normal, the 41-year-old from Arizona began to cry.
Lucid CEO concerned about chip supplies from China due to COVID-19
The chief executive of Lucid Group Inc on Wednesday expressed concern about chip supplies from China due to COVID-19 pandemic-related lockdowns, adding that the U.S. electric vehicle startup is taking measures to mitigate the impact. "My biggest concern probably is semiconductors from China and the impact of COVID in that part of the world," Lucid CEO Peter Rawlinson said at a conference held by the Financial Times.
Partisan Exits
China criticises ‘irresponsible' WHO remarks on zero-Covid approach
China has defended sticking to its strict zero-Covid approach, calling critical remarks from the head of the World Health Organisation “irresponsible”. The response from the Foreign Ministry came after WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he had been discussing with Chinese experts the need for a different approach in light of new knowledge about the virus. “When we talk about the ‘zero-Covid’, we don’t think that it’s sustainable, considering the behaviour of the virus now and what we anticipate in the future,” Mr Tedros said. Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a daily briefing on Wednesday: “We hope that relevant people can view China’s policy of epidemic prevention and control objectively and rationally, get more knowledge about the facts and refrain from making irresponsible remarks.”
China calls WHO chief 'irresponsible' for saying zero-COVID strategy 'not sustainable'
China hit back on Wednesday against what it called "irresponsible" comments by the head of the World Health Organization, who described the country's uncompromising and increasingly painful "zero COVID" policy as "not sustainable." The policy has placed hundreds of millions of people across dozens of cities under various degrees of movement restrictions, most dramatically in Shanghai, causing significant economic damage in China and beyond and fuelling wide-spread frustration.
Continued Lockdown
New Zealand to Fully Reopen Its Border At The End of July
New Zealand will fully reopen its border two months early, allowing the arrival of tourists, students and migrants from non visa-waiver countries like China and India. The border will be accessible to all from 11:59 p.m. on July 31, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Wednesday. Previously, the government had said the final re-opening step would occur in October, though it signaled the date would likely be brought forward. The maritime border will also open for cruise ships on July 31. New Zealand has been progressively allowing foreign visitors to return this year, hoping to revive a decimated tourist industry and add workers to a labor market battling with skills shortages. Visitors from visa-waiver countries such as the US, UK, Canada and Germany were able to enter from May 2, while Australians could arrive from April 13.
How China's lockdowns are taking a toll on global companies
International brands are revealing the damage to their bottom lines from China's "zero Covid" policy, where tens of millions of people remain in lockdown and almost every major business has been disrupted. In recent weeks, dozens of mainland Chinese cities, including the financial hub of Shanghai, have been locked down as authorities work to stamp out the coronavirus. For industries ranging from Big Tech to consumer goods, that's destroying both supply and demand — and giving executives another major headache. Many companies had just run up millions, or billions, of dollars in losses due to the war in Ukraine, which led to a massive — and costly — corporate exodus from Russia.
Scientific Viewpoint
Covid: EU lifts face mask requirement for air travel as pandemic ebbs
The European Union will no longer require masks to be worn at airports and on planes starting next week amid the easing of coronavirus restrictions across the bloc, authorities said.
India records single-day rise of 2,897 cases; UP death registrations fell in pandemic year
India records single-day rise of 2,897 Covid-19 cases With 2,897 coronavirus infections being reported in a day, India’s tally of cases rose to 4,31,10,586, even as active cases have decreased to 19,494, according to Union health ministry data updated on Tuesday. The death toll has climbed to 5,24,157 with 54 fatalities, the data updated at 8 am stated. The active cases comprise 0.05 per cent of the total infections, while the national Covid-19 recovery rate has been recorded at 98.74 per cent, it said. The data showed that a decrease of 143 cases has been recorded in the active caseload in a span of 24 hours. While the trend of increasing registrations of deaths in India continued in 2020 as well, Uttar Pradesh, the country’s most populous state, saw a big drop, despite the fact that the total number of deaths would probably have risen due to the Covid-19 pandemic. According to data from the Civil Registration System (CRS), Uttar Pradesh registered 8.73 lakh deaths in 2020, down from 9.44 lakh deaths registered in 2019.
API and University of Waterloo to develop coronavirus drugs
Applied Pharmaceutical Innovation (API) and a team of researchers from the University of Waterloo in Canada have collaborated on the development of potential therapies and drugs to prevent and treat coronaviruses. The alliance will carry out research to develop potent small molecule therapies that can act on a protease enzyme essential for viral replication machinery in coronaviruses. This team of industry specialists and researchers focuses on designing structure-based solutions against a wide spectrum of coronavirus variants that will aid in alleviating any pandemic caused by such viruses in the future.
Coronavirus 'ghosts' found lingering in the gut
In the chaos of the first months of the coronavirus pandemic, oncologist and geneticist Ami Bhatt was intrigued by widespread reports of vomiting and diarrhoea in people infected with SARS-CoV-2. “At that time, this was thought to be a respiratory virus,” she says. Bhatt and her colleagues, curious about a possible link between the virus and the gastrointestinal symptoms, began to collect stool samples from people with COVID-19. Thousands of miles away from Bhatt’s lab at Stanford Medicine in California, gastroenterology internist Timon Adolph was puzzled by accounts of gut symptoms in infected people. Adolph and his colleagues at the Medical University of Innsbruck in Austria started to assemble specimens, too — gastrointestinal-tissue biopsies.
Fourth Covid-19 vaccine provides stronger immunity than third dose, study reveals
A fourth Covid-19 vaccine offers stronger immunity protection, a recent study has found. The latest results from the Cov-boost trial, which ran at University Hospitals Sussex NHS Foundation Trust, show that a fourth dose is “safe and boosts antibody levels - higher than that of a third dose”. A fourth dose of the vaccine has been offered as a spring booster to the most vulnerable people in the UK as a precautionary strategy.
First real-world data from Africa on immune response to AZ/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine
Scientists have released the first real-world data from Africa on the effectiveness of two doses of AstraZeneca/ChaAd0x-1 COVID-19 vaccination, showing that while protective against SARS-CoV-2, immunity against the delta and omicron variants was lower, even in the context of prior infection or infection after vaccination. In a pre-print—which has yet to be peer-reviewed—scientists from Nigeria and the U.K. analyzed data from 140 healthcare workers at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research and Federal Medical Center, Ebute Metta, and two private hospitals in Lagos. All participants had received two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine administered between Jan and July 2021, with 12 weeks between doses.
Coronavirus pill: Researchers develop COVID-19 vaccine pill, protects against disease and transmission
An investigational COVID vaccine designed to be taken orally has been found not only to protect the host, but also to decrease the airborne transmission of the virus to the unvaccinated people. The pill-based COVID vaccine has shown promise in preliminary trials - both helping to protect against severe infections and reduce transmission in hamsters. Dr Langel and colleagues experimented with a vaccine candidate that uses an adenovirus as a vector to express the spike protein that SARS-CoV-2 uses to gain access to cells. Adenoviruses are a broad family of some 50 viruses known to cause a wide variety of illnesses such as the common cold, conjunctivitis, gastroenteritis, bladder infection, life-threatening multi-organ diseases in the clinically vulnerable. The team developed both intranasal and oral formulations of their vaccine candidate and tested it on hamsters. An advantage of the latter is that it is easy to administer.
Emergent destroyed up to 400M COVID-19 vaccines, far more than previously known: report
Emergent's manufacturing setbacks forced the company to toss vaccine materials equivalent to nearly 400 million doses, according to a Tuesday report from the House of Representatives' Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. That's much more than the 85 million doses the company and U.S. officials previously disclosed, The Wall Street Journal reports. The report says Emergent had to toss 240 million doses in late 2020 and early 2021—before its COVID vaccine production issues became public knowledge. After Emergent's production pause in April 2021 through July 2021, the company tossed another 90 million doses. Expirations have forced the company to discard another 60 million doses, the report says.
Inovio to discontinue COVID vaccine trial, appoints Jacqueline Shea as CEO
Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc will discontinue a late-stage study of its COVID-19 vaccine, the company said on Tuesday, and appointed its operating chief as the new chief executive, sending the company's shares down nearly 20% after the bell. The decision on the trial comes after emerging global data showed a lower incidence of severe COVID cases, which would lead to an increase in trial size and costs, the company said.
Shanghai firm says affiliate carrying out checks after COVID test accuracy questioned
Shanghai Runda Medical Technology said it has ordered its COVID testing affiliate to carry out checks after Shanghai residents whose samples were processed by the lab questioned the accuracy of results. Residents in the Chinese economic hub have over the past six weeks had to undergo multiple rounds of self-testing via antigen kits, as well as PCR tests, during the city's lockdown as China tries to curb COVID-19 transmission
Explainer: Some patients reporting COVID rebounds after taking Pfizer pills
More than 2.8 million courses of Pfizer Inc’s (PFE.N) COVID-19 oral antiviral treatment Paxlovid have been made available at pharmacies around the United States, with the Biden administration working to improve access to the drug. As Paxlovid has become more widely used, some patients have reported that COVID-19 symptoms recurred after completing treatment and experiencing improvement. Here is the latest information on these rebounds:
WHO calls on Pfizer to make its COVID pill more available
The head of the World Health Organization called on Pfizer to make its COVID-19 treatment more widely available in poorer countries, saying Tuesday that the pharmaceutical company’s deal allowing generic producers to make the drug was insufficient. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a news briefing that Pfizer’s treatment was still too expensive. He noted that most countries in Latin America had no access to Pfizer’s drug, Paxlovid, which has been shown to cut the risk of COVID-19 hospitalization or death by up to 90%. “We remain concerned that low- and middle-income countries remain unable to access antivirals,” Tedros said, The WHO chief warned that the unequal distribution of COVID-19 drugs could ultimately mirror the grossly disproportionate distribution of coronavirus vaccines.
The ‘five pandemics’ driving 1 million U.S. Covid deaths
Officially, the U.S. will almost certainly reach an awful milestone in the next two weeks: its one millionth recorded Covid-19 death. In reality, this milestone was likely unofficially crossed days or weeks ago, and we’ll never know the exact toll or the identity of the pandemic’s actual millionth victim. Nor are humans well-equipped to fully grasp loss on this scale, let alone the magnitude of a global toll estimated to be as high as 14.9 million. One way to start understanding how a country as advanced as the U.S. lost so many people is to look at the ocean of public health data that was gathered as 1 million individual tragedies rippled through civic life.
Telehealth aims to crack open Paxlovid’s prescription bottleneck
After months of shortages, pharmacies across the United States are being stocked with drugs to treat Covid-19. Now, the bottleneck has shifted to getting a prescription — and patients and public health agencies are looking to telehealth for help. Last week, Massachusetts launched free televisits for state residents who have tested positive for Covid-19, including home delivery of Paxlovid, Pfizer’s oral antiviral, if prescribed. New York City has filled more than 16,000 courses of the drug through its home delivery program, 2,100 of which started with a free telehealth visit with NYC Health + Hospitals. And a growing number of virtual care companies are promoting televisits as a first-line resource for patients who have tested positive, advertising against Google searches for “Paxlovid” and partnering with testing companies that route patients to their providers.
Coronavirus Resurgence
Some with positive rapid test results to be counted as COVID-19 cases
The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on Wednesday released more details on a new policy that will allow certain individuals in Taiwan who receive a positive result from a COVID-19 rapid antigen test to be counted as a confirmed case without having to undergo a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. Previously, all individuals in Taiwan were only listed as a COVID-19 case after a positive PCR test result. The new policy, which will be launched Thursday, applies only to people who are following the "3+4" isolation protocol for close contacts of people who test positive for COVID-19, as well as travelers who are in quarantine after arriving in Taiwan, the CECC said.
Growing share of Covid-19 deaths are among vaccinated people, but booster shots substantially lower the risk
Since Covid-19 vaccines became widely available, there has been a wide gap in deaths between the vaccinated and unvaccinated. But recent Covid deaths are much more evenly split as highly transmissible variants take hold, vaccine protection wanes and booster uptake stagnates. Breakthrough infections have become more common in recent months, putting vulnerable populations at increased risk of severe disease or death as more and more transmissible variants continue to spread. This seems to be especially true for seniors in the United States, who were among the first to get their initial vaccine series. In the second half of September -- the height of the Delta wave -- less than a quarter of all Covid-19 deaths were among vaccinated people, federal data shows. But in January and February, amid the Omicron surge, more than 40% of Covid-19 deaths were among vaccinated people
China reports 1927 new COVID cases on May 10 vs 3475 a day earlier
China reported 1,927 new coronavirus cases on May 10, of which 324 were symptomatic and 1,603 were asymptomatic, the National Health Commission said on Wednesday. That compares with 3,475 new cases a day earlier, consisting of 357 symptomatic and 3,118 asymptomatic infections, which China counts separately. There were seven new deaths, bringing the death toll to 5,198. As of May 10, mainland China had confirmed 220,721 coronavirus cases.
WHO: Subvariants fueling COVID rises in more than 50 countries
At a briefing today, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, the WHO's director-general, said the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants are driving South Africa's surge, with the BA.2 subvariant dominant across the world and COVID-19 cases rising in more than 50 nations. Relatively high population immunity from vaccination or previous infection are so far keeping hospitalizations and deaths at a lower levels than previous surges. "But this is not guaranteed for places where vaccination coverage is low." He said South African scientists are pushing more vaccination to blunt the impact of the next pandemic wave. Along with saving lives and protecting health systems, immunization has the potential to minimize long COVID, which can be devastating for individuals, communities, and economies, Tedros added.