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

Lockdown Exit
Doctors let down by Government during Covid-19 pandemic, says BMA
The Government “failed in its duty of care” to doctors during the coronavirus crisis, a union has said. The British Medical Association (BMA) launched a scathing attack on the ministerial response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The union, which has conducted its own review of the Government’s handling of the crisis, highlighted the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the early stages of the pandemic. It also pointed to the mental and physical exhaustion felt by most doctors as they cared for hundreds of thousands of patients with Covid – all while working in a “dystopian reality”, the union said.
North Korea's suspected COVID-19 caseload nears 2 million
North Korea on Thursday reported 262,270 more cases of people with suspected symptoms of COVID-19 as its pandemic caseload neared 2 million — a week after the country acknowledged the outbreak and scrambled to slow the rate of infections despite a lack of health care resources. The country is also trying to prevent its fragile economy from deteriorating, but the outbreak could be worse than officially reported because of scarce resources for virus testing and the possibility that North Korea could be deliberately underreporting deaths to soften the political impact on authoritarian leader Kim Jong Un. North Korea’s anti-virus headquarters reported a single death in the 24 hours to 6 p.m. Wednesday to bring its death toll to 63, which experts have said is abnormally small compared to the suspected number of infections.
A third of US should be considering masks, officials say
COVID-19 cases are increasing in the United States — and could get even worse over the coming months, federal health officials warned Wednesday in urging areas hardest hit to consider reissuing calls for indoor masking. Increasing numbers of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are putting more of the country under guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that call for masking and other infection precautions. Right now, about a third of the U.S. population lives in areas that are considered at higher risk — mostly in the Northeast and Midwest. Those are areas where people should already be considering wearing masks indoors — but Americans elsewhere should also take notice, officials said.
Other People Are Working Through Covid. Do You Have To?
As the disease and corporate sick policies evolve, a number of factors have made it less clear-cut when workers can, or should, take a break to recover. Employers such as Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc. have recently cut back the expanded sick leaves they introduced in the early days of the pandemic. The Omicron variant’s often milder symptoms are also prompting many employees with remote-work options to simply power through their illness from home. As cases rise in places with high vaccination rates, many say they feel the same pressure to minimize sick days as they did in prepandemic times. A survey of 3,600 hourly workers by The Shift Project at Harvard University’s Kennedy School this spring found that two-thirds of those who reported getting sick with Covid-19 or otherwise worked through their illness. People cited financial responsibilities as the top reason, followed by being afraid they would get in trouble for calling in sick and not being able to get their shifts covered.
Latest Covid-19 Wave Expands to More of U.S.
The latest Covid-19 case surge is expanding beyond the Northeast, with places from the Midwest to Florida and California under rising pressure. Fueled by highly contagious versions of the Omicron variant, the tide is posing a test of how much new infections matter in a changing pandemic. Though built-up immunity in the population has kept more people out of hospitals, federal health officials on Wednesday urged people in hot spots to take precautions, from booster shots to pre-gathering tests and masks, to limit the virus’ spread. “We’ve got to do what we can to prevent infections,” said Ashish Jha, the White House Covid-19 response coordinator. “We’ve got to do what we can to ensure that infections don’t turn into severe illness.”
N.Korea boosts production of drugs, medical supplies to battle COVID
North Korea is ramping up production of drugs and medical supplies including sterilisers and thermometers as it battles an unprecedented coronavirus outbreak, state media KCNA said on Thursday. The isolated country, which has imposed a nationwide lockdown, is also increasing production of traditional Korean medicines used to reduce fever and pain, KCNA said, calling them "effective in prevention and cure of the malicious disease."
Germany OKs more COVID-19 vaccine spending for this fall
Germany plans to spend another 830 million euros ($872 million) to buy new coronavirus vaccines that will allow the country to deal with a series of possible variants this fall, the health minister said Wednesday. Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said that the government, via the European Union, already has ordered enough of the existing vaccines and of one that has been developed by Germany’s BioNTech to counter the omicron variant. He said the new funding is earmarked for a vaccine being developed by Moderna to tackle both omicron and other variants. “We are betting on a broad portfolio of vaccines; we must be prepared for all eventualities,” Lauterbach said. “We don't know what variants will confront us in the fall.” “One lesson from the pandemic is that we never again want to have too little vaccine,” he added, alluding to the sluggish start early last year of the EU's and Germany's COVID-19 vaccination campaign. “We want to be able to offer all those who need or want it a fourth shot.”
Covid-19 wastewater surveillance is promising tool, but critical challenges remain
Covid-19 surveillance is at a crossroads in the United States. With at-home tests now outnumbering those done in laboratories, official case counts are more incomplete than ever as the nation -- and world -- faces down increasingly transmissible coronavirus variants. Wastewater surveillance is poised to fill in the gaps and help avoid the threats that an invisible wave of the virus could bring. This surveillance can help identify trends in transmission a week or two earlier than clinical testing, giving public health leaders the chance to focus messaging and resources. It can be used as a tool to sequence the virus and find new variants sooner, too. But eagerness to use this tool is stifled by uncertainty about exactly how to do so, along with a lack of resources and support to learn. Testing sewage for virus particles can provide early warning signs of increased transmission in a community, capturing even those who have asymptomatic infections or aren't being tested.
What to do if you test positive for Covid-19 now
Covid-19 infections are on the rise, with most US states reporting an increase in cases. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the highly contagious BA.2.1.21 subvariant of Omicron is now the dominant strain of coronavirus nationwide. Two years into the pandemic, many aren't sure what to do after testing positive for Covid-19. Should they isolate, and if so, for how long? How important is it to see a doctor? What therapies are available, and who is eligible? To help answer these and other questions, I spoke with CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. She is also author of "Lifelines: A Doctor's Journey in the Fight for Public Health" and the mother of two young children.
Exit Strategies
China is going big on Covid testing, so why not include vaccination too?
In the past two weeks, nucleic acid test booths have sprung up in big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, part of China’s plan to make tests routine and require residents to show negative Covid-19 test results when they go to work, school or use public transport. It involves enormous resources. These test booths are open long hours and there are many because the authorities want to ensure every citizen has access within a 15-minute walk. Ma Xiaowei, head of National Health Commission (NHC), wrote in Qiushi journal this week the government planned to set up separate teams to do nucleic acid tests so healthcare workers would not be called on to do the task, but it would take time to form the teams.
From storage to transport, hurdles to getting COVID vaccine to North Koreans
As North Korea battles its first known COVID outbreak, a lack of storage, chronic power shortages and inadequately trained medical staff pose acute challenges to inoculating its 25 million people - even with outside help, analysts said. North Korea has not responded to offers of aid from South Korea and international vaccine-sharing programmes, but prefers U.S.-made Moderna and Pfizer over China's Sinovac or British-Swedish Astrazeneca shots, according to South Korean officials.
Coronavirus vaccine booster for children authorized in the USA
Extending its leadership in coronavirus vaccines, New York’s Pfizer has widened its emergency authorization for Comirnaty in 5-11 year olds, to include a booster dose. Discovered and developed by German firm BioNTech, Comirnaty is an innovative mRNA-based vaccine, and by far the most commercially successful coronavirus jab available.
'Huge' pressure for Shanghai to stay COVID-free as lockdown end nears
Shanghai health authorities warn of risks of COVID rebound. Some migrant workers looking to leave Shanghai. Goldman cuts China GDP forecast, warns of further slip E-commerce giant JD.com says consumers losing
China relaxes some COVID test rules for U.S., other travellers
China has removed certain COVID-19 test requirements for people flying in from countries like the United States and shortened the pre-departure quarantine period for some inbound travellers, as it finetunes its stringent measures to cope with the Omicron variant. The slight relaxations were made in response to factors including the "characteristics of coronavirus variants", according to notices from Chinese embassies and consulates that did not provide further details.
'Huge' pressure for Shanghai to stay COVID-free as end to lockdown looms
Shanghai health authorities warn of risks of COVID-19 rebound. Some migrant workers are looking to leave Shanghai. E-commerce giant warns consumers losing income and confidence
When Africans asked for COVID shots, they didn't get them. Now they don't want them
It's noisy inside the Mamprobi clinic in Accra as kids clamber over their mothers while they wait to get their measles vaccines. Outside, an area reserved for COVID-19 shots is empty. A health worker leans back in his chair and scrolls on a tablet. One woman, waiting to get her daughter inoculated, is fully aware of the dangers of measles: the high fever, the rash, the risk to eyesight. But COVID-19? She has never heard of a single case. The perception that COVID-19 doesn't pose a significant threat is common in Ghana's capital and elsewhere in Africa, whose youthful populace has suffered a fraction of the casualties that have driven vaccine uptake in places like Europe and America, where the disease tore through elderly populations. "I mean, Ghana has been spared up until now doing just what we're doing," said Nana Kwaku Addo, a 28-year-old construction worker in Accra. "I've heard people say it's common sense (to get vaccinated), but what about all the other countries that have taken it and still put people in lockdown."
Shanghai lets financial firms resume work as COVID curb ease - sources
Shanghai authorities have granted approval to 864 of the city's financial institutions to resume work, three sources with direct knowledge of the matter said on Wednesday, as it gradually eases a city-wide lockdown that began seven weeks ago. The move is part of the financial hub's plan to reopen broadly and allow normal life to resume after the lockdown was enacted to curb China's worst outbreak since the coronavirus was discovered in Wuhan in late 2019 halted most economic activity.
Partisan Exits
‘One million empty chairs’: The US families torn apart by COVID
The United States has become the first country in the world to surpass one million deaths from COVID-19. The nation hit the tragic mark on Tuesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, renewing a deep sense of grief felt by countless families that have lost loved ones during the pandemic.
Inside the US communities where many are still unvaccinated
Holmes County in northeastern Ohio is a typical Midwestern community in the United States. Large red barns dot the rolling landscape. Trucks carrying freshly cut lumber boom through village streets. Woods and lakes dominate the landscape between villages named Berlin, Strasburg and Dresden. But in many ways, this is a place far from typical: At a time when approximately 77 percent of the wider United States population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, only about 19 percent of Holmes County residents have – one of the lowest county-level rates in the country. Approximately half of Holmes County’s 50,000 residents are members of the Amish community, a traditional Christian group that largely eschews modern technology and farms land in rural areas mainly in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.
North Korean leader Kim slams officials' 'immaturity' in response to COVID outbreak
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un slammed his country's response to its first confirmed COVID-19 outbreak as immature, accusing government officials of inadequacies and inertia as fever cases swept the country, state media reported on Wednesday. North Korea reported 232,880 more people with fever symptoms, and six more deaths after country revealed the COVID outbreak last week. It did not say how many people had tested positive for COVID-19.
Continued Lockdown
Shanghai residents leverage Excel skills, management savvy to navigate lockdown
Li Di, a senior executive with a global bank, knew he had to help when he was admitted to the Nanhui quarantine site in April, after testing positive for COVID, and was confronted by chaos. "There were only 120 to 150 staff to take care of 10,000 patients. The staff literally had their hands full," said Li. Li set up a team of more than a dozen volunteers to arrange meals, distribute various supplies and help elderly patients who were struggling with various quarantine centre requirements.
Scientific Viewpoint
Where to Find Paxlovid Once You've Tested Positive for Covid
As Covid-19 again surges across the US, many people are going without time-sensitive therapeutics like Paxlovid because doctors worried about shortages are reluctant to prescribe the drugs. But the situation has changed and supplies are now abundant. Paxlovid, a combination of pills taken for five days, cuts the risk of hospitalization by nearly 90%, according to the manufacturer, Pfizer Inc. But to be effective, it must be taken within five days of the onset of symptoms—which include everything from a scratchy throat, runny nose, cough and chills to fever, body aches, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing and loss of taste or smell. The Food and Drug Administration has issued emergency-use authorizations for the drug to treat mild to moderate Covid-19 in people who are at high risk.
COVID is rising in the Americas, virus 'not going away anytime soon' -PAHO
COVID-19 is on the rise again in the Americas as many countries have abandoned measures like masking and social distancing and many lag in vaccination rates, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday. Cases in the Americas surged 27.2% last week from the prior one, driven primarily by a spike in infections in the United States, according to PAHO. More than half of a total 918,000 infections came from North America as U.S. cases jumped by 33% to 605,000 in the last week. Infections in North America have now been climbing for the past seven weeks.
As COVID cases rise, U.S. health officials mull widening additional booster eligibility
Health officials are considering extending the eligibility for a second COVID-19 vaccine booster dose to people under 50 amid a steady rise in cases, with the United States seeing a threefold increase over the past month. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration had in late March authorized a second booster dose of the Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech SE vaccines for people aged 50 and older, citing data showing waning immunity and the risks posed by Omicron variants of the virus.
New FDA approved COVID-19 test
"New FDA approved COVID-19 test detects multiple viruses", a video on CBSNews.com.
Pandemic science hub will develop drugs for lung infections such as Covid-19
A new pandemic science hub is being created to develop treatments for lung infections such as Covid-19. The hub at the University of Edinburgh will use translational genomics – following clues from the human genome to identify and rapidly test new treatments – along with experimental medicine methods to quickly evaluate and develop drugs for lung inflammation and injury caused by infection. Independent investment partnership Baillie Gifford is supporting the launch with a philanthropic gift of £14.7 million and the university aims to secure £100 million worth of investment in total. As well as accelerating discoveries of treatments for Covid-19 and other human lung diseases, the Baillie Gifford Pandemic Science Hub aims to help prepare for future pandemics.
Estrogen treatment linked to reduced COVID-19 mortality
Women who received prescriptions for hormone replacement therapy (HRT) with estrogen within 6 months of a COVID-19 diagnosis had reduced mortality, according to a new study in Family Practice. The findings, coupled with data on sex differences between male and female COVID-19 severity, suggest estrogen may have a protective role against the virus. The study was based on medical records gathered from the Oxford-Royal College of General Practitioners Research and Surveillance Centre primary care database. Researchers looked at women ages 18 and older who received prescriptions for HRT or combined oral contraceptive pill, which contains estrogen. A total of 1,863,478 women from 465 general practices in England were included in the study. The main outcome was mortality among those with confirmed COVID-19 during the first 6 months of the pandemic in 2020.
Does Paxlovid work in people vaccinated against Covid-19?
As a primary care doctor in New York City, I am grateful to drug companies for providing effective Covid-19 therapies for my patients. But I am also frustrated that these companies appear to be completely running the show, and believe that Americans could get more from Big Pharma if only our regulators dared to ask for it. This dynamic is on display with Paxlovid, which was approved based on a study that seems designed to exaggerate the benefit most Americans can expect from this drug rather than provide us with relevant information about it. Among antiviral agents for Covid-19, Pfizer’s Paxlovid has emerged as the clear winner for two reasons: First, as a pill, Paxlovid is easy to administer, compared to the infusions required for monoclonal antibodies and remdesivir. Second, Paxlovid appears to be highly effective, with a clinical trial showing an 89% relative reduction in hospitalizations or death among high-risk patients who receive it.
A million have died of Covid-19 in America. How did this happen?
How did we get it here? How much of this mass death was preventable? These are questions that we will be sorting out for many years to come. There are no simple answers. In order to have a fighting chance in the next pandemic, though, it’s incumbent to consider just what went horrifically wrong. First, it must be noted that America, among advanced nations, was not alone in enduring terrible loss from Covid. Both the United Kingdom and Italy have comparable death rates. Multiple waves have overwhelmed other European nations with superior healthcare apparatuses. Taming a pandemic is incredibly difficult and few countries emerged unscathed.
COVID-19: Scientists receive £15m boost to tackle deadly respiratory illnesses following COVID study
Goutam Das doesn't remember much about his five weeks in intensive care with COVID-19. Mainly the nightmares, and struggling to breathe. "It's almost like if somebody puts you underwater. It's that kind of feeling... you're just desperate for oxygen." He's now back at work and putting his ordeal behind him. But while he was in the ICU, Goutam did not suffer entirely in vain. He's one of the thousands of people who became severely ill with COVID who gave a sample of their DNA to researchers based at the University of Edinburgh. It's now become a genetic resource that could be a goldmine for discovering new drugs - not just to treat COVID - but other forms of severe lung inflammation, one of the leading causes of death in intensive care.
How can Covid-19 affect the human brain?
A study from Oxford university researchers published in March found tissue damage and shrinkage in parts of the brain related to smell in people. These effects could be associated with a pre-existing increased brain vulnerability to the deleterious effects of COVID-19.
AstraZeneca boosts COVID portfolio with RQ Bio deal
AstraZeneca moved to bolster its COVID-19 portfolio of antibodies on Tuesday with a $157 million licensing deal for experimental therapies developed by newly-launched biotech RQ Bio. In addition to the initial sum, the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker faces possible royalty payments as part of the exclusive licence to develop pre-clinical COVID antibodies engineered by RQ Bio, the start-up said. AstraZeneca announced the deal but not its size.
World in no better place to fight pandemics than before COVID - review
The world is no better prepared for a new pandemic than it was when coronavirus emerged in 2019 and may actually be in a worse place given the economic toll, according to a panel set up by the World Health Organization (WHO) to evaluate the global response. A lack of progress on reforms such as international health regulations means the world is as vulnerable as ever, the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response said in its report.
China Junshi's potential COVID drug shows promise in small trial
An antiviral oral drug being co-developed by Shanghai Junshi Biosciences' subsidiary and other Chinese institutes showed early promise in speeding the clearing of virus in COVID-19 patients, according to a small clinical trial. The drug, called VV116, is a derivative of Gilead Sciences Inc's COVID drug remdesivir and was approved for use in moderate to severe cases in Uzbekistan last year.
Coronavirus Resurgence
Deaths of people with Covid-19 top 1000, 32 reported on Wednesday
New Zealand has now surpassed more than 1000 deaths of people with Covid-19. The Ministry of Health reported 32 new deaths in a statement released at 1pm on Wednesday, with the total number of reported Covid deaths now sitting at 1017. The rolling seven-day average is 17. It comes as the Ministry announced a new way of reporting deaths with Covid. There were also 9570 new community cases and 425 hospitalisations, including nine in ICU.
Victorian schools hit with staff shortages amid COVID-19 and flu outbreaks
One government and one private school have had to return to remote learning because of staff shortages. Some schools have experienced a doubling in absenteeism among students because of illness. An infectious diseases expert says schools should remain open.
China reports 1305 new COVID cases for May 17 vs 1100 a day earlier
Mainland China reported 1,305 new coronavirus cases on May 17, of which 240 were symptomatic and 1,065 were asymptomatic, the National Health Commission said on Wednesday. That compares with 1,100 new cases a day earlier, consisting of 175 symptomatic and 925 asymptomatic infections, which China counts separately. There were three new deaths, bringing the death toll to 5,217. As of May 17, mainland China had confirmed 222,370 coronavirus cases.
As U.S. COVID-19 cases rise, so does demand for antivirals
Rising COVID-19 cases are driving up the use of therapeutics, with Pfizer Inc's oral antiviral treatment Paxlovid seeing a 315% jump over the past four weeks, U.S. health officials said on Tuesday. The increase in U.S. cases and hospitalizations is starting to affect recommendations on behavior, with New York City, the nation's most populous city, advising stricter mask usage but stopping short of new mandates. Apple has scrapped return to office plans
North Korea boasts recovery as WHO worries over missing data
North Korea on Wednesday added hundreds of thousands of infections to its growing pandemic caseload but also said that a million people have already recovered from suspected COVID-19 just a week after disclosing an outbreak, a public health crisis it appears to be trying to manage in isolation as global experts express deep concern about dire consequences. The country’s anti-virus headquarters announced 232,880 new cases of fever and another six deaths in state media Wednesday. Those figures raise its totals to 62 deaths and more than 1.7 million fever cases since late April. It said more than a million people recovered but at least 691,170 remain in quarantine. Outside experts believe most of the fevers are from COVID-19 but North Korea lacks tests to confirm so many. The outbreak is almost certainly larger than the fever tally, since some virus carriers may not develop fevers or other symptoms.