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"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 7th Jun 2022

Lockdown Exit
Covid-19: Hong Kong steps up checks on bars and restaurants as cases linked to nightlife area rise
Hong Kong has seen an uptick in Covid-19 infections amid the recent easing of social distancing rules, with clusters linked to a number of bars in Central. In the seven-day period from last Monday to Sunday, authorities confirmed an average of 153 positive nucleic acid tests per day, up from 103.9 the week before.
Beijing Cautiously Reopens After Covid-19 Wave
China’s capital took tentative steps toward reopening on Monday as much of Beijing lifted restrictions on dining in restaurants and many workers returned to their offices. But new flare-ups of Covid-19 clusters around the country and fresh lockdowns in parts of Shanghai continued to pose major risks for China’s economy. For more than a month, Beijing health authorities imposed increasingly stringent measures on the city’s businesses and residents’ personal movements in a bid to stamp out the Chinese capital’s worst Covid-19 outbreak since the early days of the pandemic. City officials say those efforts are working as new daily infections have dipped to around a dozen cases or fewer in recent days, following weeks of mass testing of much of the city’s more than 20 million residents. By allowing restaurants, gyms and other businesses to reopen, Beijing authorities are signaling that they believe they have managed to control the latest outbreak without having to resort to the sorts of harsh lockdown measures experienced recently in Shanghai and elsewhere.
Beijing reopens restaurants as new COVID-19 cases drop
Diners returned to restaurants in most of Beijing for the first time in more than a month Monday as authorities further eased pandemic-related restrictions after largely eradicating a small COVID-19 outbreak in the capital under China's strict “zero-COVID” approach. Museums, cinemas and gyms were allowed to operate at up to 75% of capacity and delivery drivers could once again bring packages to a customer's door, rather than leave them to be picked up at the entrances to apartment compounds. The return to near-normal applied everywhere in Beijing except for one district and part of another, where the outbreak lingered. Schools, which partially reopened earlier, will fully do so on June 13, followed by kindergartens on June 20. Authorities conducted multiple rounds of mass testing and locked down buildings and complexes when infections were discovered to stamp out an outbreak that infected about 1,800 people over six weeks in a city of 22 million. The number of new cases dropped to six on Sunday. The ruling Communist Party remains wedded to a “zero-COVID” strategy that exacts an economic cost and inconveniences millions of people, even as many other countries adopt a more relaxed approach as vaccination rates rise and treatments become more widely available.
Beijing to allow indoor dining, further easing COVID curbs
Beijing will further relax COVID-19 curbs by allowing indoor dining, as China's capital steadily returns to normal with inflections falling, state media said on Sunday. Beijing and the commercial hub Shanghai have been returning to normal in recent days after two months of painful lockdowns to crush outbreaks of the Omicron variant. Dine-in service in Beijing will resume on Monday, except for the Fengtai district and some parts of the Changping district, the Beijing Daily said. Restaurants and bars have been restricted to takeaway since early May. Normal work will resume and traffic bans will be lifted on Monday in most areas of Beijing, the newspaper reported. Employees in some areas have been required to work from home.
Turkey removes all Covid-related restrictions for Indian travellers
Turkey has relaxed all the conditions for travellers entering the country and is expecting to welcome the highest-ever number of Indian tourists this year, Turkiye Tourism Board said on Monday. Earlier, Indian travellers were required to submit either a vaccination certificate or an RT-PCR test report to visit Turkey, according to a statement. Now, Indian travellers no longer have to show proof of vaccination against coronavirus or proof of recovery from the disease or a negative RT-PCR test result, it added. With both Indigo and Turkish Airlines resuming direct international flights to Turkiye, the country is expecting to welcome the highest-ever number of Indian tourists this year, it said.
U.S. aims to ramp up international tourism hit hard by COVID
The U.S. Commerce Department on Monday will unveil a new strategy aimed at boosting international tourism hit hard by COVID-19 and government travel restrictions by streamlining the entry process and promoting more diverse destinations. The "National Travel and Tourism Strategy" sets a goal of 90 million international visitors by 2027 who will spend an estimated $279 billion annually, topping pre-pandemic levels, the department told Reuters.
XpresSpa and Ginkgo Bioworks Are Hunting For New Covid Variants at Airports
As the pandemic engulfed the world in March 2020, no one was thinking much about getting a manicure. So XpresSpa Group Inc., an airport chain that offers mani-pedis and massages to travelers, closed all 50 of its locations. To survive the next two years, it would have to pivot. It turned to the most obvious next market: Covid testing. Through a partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and synthetic biology firm Ginkgo Bioworks Inc., XpresSpa launched a surveillance operation to hunt for new and emerging Covid variants among international travelers. Over the last eight months, the trio has tested tens of thousands of passengers arriving from more than 15 countries around the globe
Exit Strategies
UK shoppers cut spending by most since COVID lockdown in 2021
British shoppers facing a surge in inflation cut their spending in May by the most since the country was in a coronavirus lockdown in early 2021, according to a survey published on Tuesday. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said total retail spending was 1.1% lower than a year earlier, the biggest fall since January last year and representing an acceleration from April's 0.3% decline.
J&J Says It Plans to End Covid-19 Vaccine Supply Deal With Emergent BioSolutions
Johnson & Johnson said Monday it planned to terminate its Covid-19 vaccine supply deal with contract manufacturer Emergent BioSolutions Inc., as both companies accused each other of breaching the agreement. J&J informed Emergent last week of its plan to terminate the 2020 manufacturing agreement “based on Emergent’s breaches, including failure to supply Covid-19 vaccine drug substance,” J&J said in a written statement. J&J provided a formal notice of termination and breach to Emergent on Monday, J&J said. The contract disclosure Monday came after Emergent BioSolutions said in a securities filing that it had sent a notice of material breach of the agreement to J&J.
COVID-19 increases risk of psychiatric diagnoses in the months after infection, OSU study finds
A recent Oregon State University study found that COVID-19 patients had a roughly 25% increased risk of developing a psychiatric disorder in the four months following their infection, compared with people who had other types of respiratory tract infections. The findings support previous research on psychiatric disorders among post-COVID patients, though the current study found a smaller effect than the earlier studies, said co-author Lauren Chan, a Ph.D. student in nutrition in OSU’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences. For the current study, published in World Psychiatry, researchers used data from the National COVID Cohort Collaborative (N3C) to match 46,610 COVID-19 positive individuals with control patients who were diagnosed with a different respiratory tract infection so they could compare how COVID specifically affected patients’ mental health.
Pfizer to spend $120 mln to boost U.S. COVID pill manufacturing
Pfizer Inc said on Monday it would spend $120 million to expand manufacturing of its COVID-19 antiviral treatment at its Michigan plant, as demand ramps up. Use of the pill, Paxlovid, authorized to treat newly infected, at-risk people to prevent severe illness, has soared recently as infections rise. Biden administration officials have pushed for the wider use of Paxlovid, which the government distributes for free
Egypt to provide 30 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to African nations: Sisi
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Sunday announced an initiative to grant 30 million doses of coronavirus vaccine to African countries, as part of cooperation efforts between Egypt and African countries. Sisi’s statement came during the opening activities of the first African medical conference and exhibition – “Africa Health ExCon” – held at Egypt International Exhibition Center (EIEC) in al-Manara International Conference Center. The conference was launched in the presence of the Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and Acting Minister of Health and Population Khaled Abdel-Ghaffar, and some ministers and senior statesmen.
COVID mRNA vaccines can be quickly updated for new variants. So, where's my Omicron booster?
Since Omicron was declared a variant of concern at the end of November, it quickly swept the globe, becoming the dominant COVID variant in many countries including Australia. It's the latest in a growing line of variants, and probably not going to be the last. Yet every one of the hundreds of millions of approved mRNA vaccines administered around the globe were made to their original recipe, which was based on the COVID virus that first emerged in Wuhan. One of the most promising aspects of the new mRNA COVID vaccines is their ability to be rapidly adjusted for maximum protection in the face of new variants. So where's my Omicron booster?
East European countries ask EU to reopen vaccine contracts
A group of ten Eastern European countries have petitioned the European Commission to renegotiate coronavirus vaccine contracts, in a letter seen by POLITICO that cites an oversupply of doses and the need to protect state finances. Contracts should be able to be terminated "if they are no longer needed from a health and epidemiological perspective," reads one of the letter's demands. In other cases, it should be possible to reduce the number of doses that are ordered so that they better reflect the demand for shots. The letter was sent Friday night and is addressed to EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides. Poland led the initiative, and the letter was also signed by Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. A number of countries in Eastern Europe had previously raised concerns that existing coronavirus vaccine contracts, signed at the height of the pandemic when the EU was under intense public pressure to procure jabs, have locked them into buying too many doses that are now not needed.
The impact of government-mandated proof of vaccination requirements on COVID-19 vaccine uptake
Vaccination has proven to be particularly effective in decreasing the transmission and severity of SARS-CoV-2 infection, with vaccinated individuals having a significantly lower chance of severe consequences. Nonetheless, CoV disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccinations in several countries noticeably dropped in the summer months after a high surge in early 2021. Due to the enhanced reproduction rate of the SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant, even regions with heightened vaccination rates witnessed elevated viral spread or had to continue or reinstate non-pharmaceutical measures such as indoor capacity restrictions or mask-wearing in fall 2021.
China Covid-Zero: Beijing Restrictions to Loosen Soon
Beijing will continue to roll back its Covid-19 restrictions on Monday, as China’s capital eyes a return to normality after declaring at the end of last month that the latest outbreak of the virus was under control. The city will resume public transport in most districts, except Fengtai and some parts of Changping, allowing workers to return to their offices and restaurants to restart dine-in services, the local authorities said in a statement on Sunday.
Partisan Exits
Russian man accused of Alexander Litvinenko killing dies of Covid-19
One of the main suspects in the murder of the former Russian spy and Kremlin critic, Alexander Litvinenko, has died of Covid-19. Dmitry Kovtun was one of two men UK authorities say fatally poisoned Mr Litvinenko in London in 2006.
Princess Charlene becomes latest royal to test positive for Covid-19
Princess Charlene has been back to royal duties for some weeks now, making appearances at the Monaco E-Prix, the Sainte Dévote Rugby Tournament and Monte-Carlo Fashion Week. These days, as we all well know, with a busy schedule comes the ever-pressing threat of contracting Covid-19. Now, after returning to a mixture of events which involve interacting with a variety of people, Princess Charlene has become the latest royal to catch the virus. According to the palace, the princess tested positive for Covid-19 this weekend. A statement released by royal officials divulged that Charlene was ‘presenting some symptoms’ and that the princess would 'observe a period of isolation of several days’.
Uruguay president says COVID-19 positive, will not attend U.S.-hosted Americas Summit
Uruguay President Luis Lacalle Pou said Monday on Twitter that he will not attend the U.S.-hosted Summit of the Americas and was "cancelling all of his activities for the coming days" after testing positive for COVID-19. Lacalle Pou was scheduled to travel to the United States Tuesday.
Alleged COVID-19 aid fraudsters targeted youths, Japanese police say
Police believe that individuals who were arrested over alleged fraud related to a government COVID-19 relief aid program, including a Tokyo Regional Taxation Bureau official, falsified tax return documents and abused their taxation expertise while taking advantage of young people who were not familiar with the tax system.
Covid-19: Doctor who sold hydroxychloroquine as “magic bullet” treatment is jailed
A doctor in California who sold hydroxychloroquine online and told an FBI agent that it was a “magic bullet” for covid-19 has been sentenced to 30 days in prison and a year of home confinement. Jennings Ryan Staley of San Diego offered hydroxychloroquine online in “covid-19 treatment kits” that also contained azithromycin, intravenous drips, and anti-anxiety drugs. Staley’s Skinny Beach Med Spa normally offered what it described as “world class beauty innovations at affordable prices,” including Botox, fat transfer, hair removal, and tattoo removal. But in March 2020, as the pandemic began to claim lives in the US, he moved to capitalise on a surge in demand for hydroxychloroquine, just days after President Donald Trump called the drug a “game changer.” The treatment kits he advertised online came with a 30 day “concierge medical experience,” including a promise of access to medical hyperbaric oxygen for an additional fee. Within a week of starting his new service, Staley had an email from an undercover FBI agent posing as a customer. The agent rang Staley and bought six kits for his family, costing $4000.
Angry UK lawmakers trigger confidence vote in Boris Johnson
Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced a confidence vote on Monday after a growing number of lawmakers in his Conservative Party questioned the British leader's authority over what has been dubbed the "partygate" scandal. Johnson, who scored a sweeping election victory in 2019, has been under increasing pressure after he and staff held alcohol-fuelled parties in his Downing Street office and residence when Britain was under strict lockdowns due to COVID-19.
Scientific Viewpoint
N.S. researchers receive nearly $1.5M to study impacts of COVID-19
Three teams of researchers from Nova Scotia have received almost $500,00 each from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to examine how the pandemic is affecting the lives of children with complex needs, woman who face violence and equity-deserving groups. The studies are among 965 research projects related to the COVID-19 pandemic funded by the national funding organization to date. They are designed to offer recommendations on how to better serve those specific groups when public health safeguards are imposed.
I am an epidemiologist with COVID-19 and I want to be counted
I am an epidemiologist who is home sick with COVID-19. Upon a positive self-test, I contacted my primary care physician to ask about treatment and report my case. As my symptoms worsened and more of my family members tested positive on a self-test, I turned to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to find out how to report our cases. CDC guidance suggests that I tell my health care provider that I have tested positive, but the health care system has no means of reporting self-tests for COVID-19 surveillance. I cannot report the cases of COVID-19 in my family and we, like so many Americans suffering during this current wave, will go uncounted.
Strong T-cell response for blood cancer patients after vaccine; COVID breakthrough often serious for cancer patients
The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19 and cancer presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago. Blood cancer patients show strong T-cell response to COVID vaccines. Patients with blood cancers have a significantly weaker antibody response to COVID-19 vaccines than patients with solid tumors, but they may still be well protected against severe illness from the virus, new data suggests.
Pfizer to Invest $120 Million to Produce COVID-19 Oral Treatment in the US
Pfizer Inc.announced today that it will further strengthen its commitment to United States manufacturing with a $120 million investment at its Kalamazoo, Michigan, facility, enabling U.S.-based production in support of its COVID-19 oral treatment, PAXLOVIDTM (nirmatrelvir [PF-07321332] tablets and ritonavir tablets). The investment will expand the production of active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) and registered starting materials (RSMs) used in the manufacture of nirmatrelvir, a novel main protease (Mpro) inhibitor originating in Pfizer’s laboratories, which will create more than 250 additional high-skilled jobs at Pfizer’s Kalamazoo site. This investment is another major step in Pfizer’s effort to bring more key biopharmaceutical manufacturing to the U.S., increasing Pfizer’s capability to produce and supply treatments and medicines for patients in the U.S. and around the world.
FDA to rule on long-awaited 'protein based' COVID-19 vaccine this week
The FDA's lead vaccine advisory panel, VRBPAC, will meet this week to discuss approval for the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine. Novavax's shot has been heralded by some experts for its effectiveness and because it is a protein-based shot similar to the standard flu shot. The jab was expected to become available last year, but supply issues faced by Novavax delayed its application. The review comes as an NBC report finds that more than 10% of the nation's purchased vaccines since they first became available in late 2020 have been discarded
Ofatumumab for Multiple Sclerosis Does Not Increase COVID-19 Severity
No increased risk for breakthrough COVID-19 infection, severe COVID-19, or fatal outcomes among patients receiving ofatumumab for relapsing multiple sclerosis (MS) was found in an updated analysis presented at the 2022 Annual Meeting of the Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers (CMSC) held from June 1-4, in National Harbor, Maryland. SARS-CoV-2 is associated with a severe respiratory infection which can be fatal. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been concern and uncertainty about specific risks for patients receiving disease-modifying therapy (DMT).
Safety and efficacy of SCB-2019 COVID vaccine candidate as a ChAdOx1-S booster
The standard formulation containing 30 μg SCB-2019 with the toll-like receptor 9 (TLR-9) agonist CpG-1018 and alum showed the best booster response. This formulation demonstrated acceptable reactogenicity, comparable to that observed in the SPECTRA study. Moreover, it was safe and highly efficacious as a heterologous booster following primary vaccination.
Why Variants Keep Covid-19 Cases Simmering in the U.S.
In recent weeks, a new version of the Covid-19 virus—named BA.2.12.1—became the dominant variety in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The variant’s rapid spread, coupled with growing case counts, raised concern among health officials, who last month strengthened their recommendations for Covid-19 boosters.
Long-term exposure to air pollution associated with greater risk of severe COVID-19
Long-term exposure to air pollution is linked to a greater risk of severe COVID-19, new research being presented at Euroanaesthesia, the annual meeting of the European Society of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care (ESAIC) in Milan, Italy (4-6 June), finds. The German study found that people living in counties with higher levels of the pollutant nitrogen dioxide (NO2) were more likely to need ICU care and mechanical ventilation if they had COVID-19. Long-term exposure to NO2, a gas released into the atmosphere when fossil fuels are burned, can have harmful effects on the lungs. This includes damage to the endothelial cells, which play a key role in oxygen transfer – the transfer of oxygen from inhaled air to the blood.
Contract manufacturer Emergent says J&J breached vaccine contract
Contract manufacturer Emergent BioSolutions Inc said on Monday U.S. drugmaker Johnson & Johnson had breached an agreement by failing to buy the minimum quantity of COVID-19 vaccines made by the company. Emergent said J&J had failed to provide required forecasts for the amount of vaccines it needed and had wound down the agreement instead of fulfilling minimum requirements. If the agreement is terminated, Emergent said J&J would owe it roughly $125 million to $420 million.
U.S. FDA flags risk of heart inflammation after Novavax COVID vaccine
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration hasraised concerns about a possible risk of heart inflammation from Novavax Inc's COVID-19 vaccine, even as the company's data showed it could reduce the chances of mild-to-severe disease. In Novavax's nearly 30,000 patient trial, conducted between December 2020 and September 2021, there were four cases of a type of heart inflammation called myocarditis detected within 20 days of taking the protein-based shot. "These events raise the concern for a causal association with this vaccine, similar to the association documented with mRNA COVID-19 vaccines," FDA staff wrote in briefing documents released on Friday.
Coronavirus Resurgence
India reports 4,518 new Covid-19 cases, 9 deaths in last 24 hours
India reported 4,518 new Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours, according to the Union health ministry data. With this, the country's total tally of coronavirus cases rose to 4,31,81,335. It is for the second consecutive day that India reported over 4,000 coronavirus cases. India on Sunday reported 4,270 Covid-19 cases. With 9 fresh fatalities, India's Covid-19 death toll climbed to 5,24,701. The country's active coronavirus caseload currently stands at 25,782.
Egypt pledges 30 mln COVID-19 vaccine doses to African states
President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi says that Egypt would supply fellow African states with 30 million doses of anti-COVID-19 vaccines. The president made this announcement on Sunday during the maiden edition of Africa Health ExCon, online news portal, Egypt today reported. This is in fulfilment of the country's selection as one of six African states that would receive the mRNA technology used in the manufacturing of vaccines and other medical drugs necessary to confront many incurable diseases. Egypt was among Senegal, Kenya, South Africa, Tunisia and Nigeria that were selected for this purpose in early 2022. Africa Health ExCon is held by the Egyptian Authority for Unified Procurement (UPA) and is attended by participants from around 100 countries.
Delhi records 247 fresh COVID-19 cases, positivity rate rise to 3.47 pc
Delhi on Monday logged 247 fresh COVID-19 cases with a positivity rate of 3.47 per cent while no new death was reported due to the viral disease, according to data shared by the city health department. This is the highest positivity rate since May 12 when 3.47 per cent of those tested turned out positive. With this, the national capital's COVID-19 case tally increased to 19,08,977, while the death toll stood at 26,212.
Coronavirus: Hong Kong health experts warn of rebound in cases, as city logs 543 new infections
Dr Ho Pak-leung of the University of Hong Kong says trend in daily caseloads has been on the rise, but public need not to be too worried. Rise expected after easing of social-distancing measures; hospital admissions and number of patients with serious symptoms have not increased
Singapore could expect new Omicron COVID-19 wave in July or August as antibodies wane: Ong Ye Kung
Singapore could expect a new Omicron wave “possibly emerging” in July or August, as COVID-19 antibodies start to wane, said Health Minister Ong Ye Kung on Sunday (Jun 5). Speaking on the sidelines of a visit to an upcoming sports and community hub in Bukit Canberra on Sunday, Mr Ong said the Ministry of Health has detected some COVID-19 cases of the new BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants. However, it has not “overtaken” the BA.2 subvariant, said Mr Ong, referring to the Omicron variation which made up 99 per cent of the local COVID-19 infections sequenced in April. “The reason is because we all have very high antibodies, because of our vaccination, because of our recent Omicron wave.
Active COVID-19 cases rise to 25,782
India logged 4,518 new coronavirus infections taking the tally of COVID-19 cases to 4,31,81,335, while the active cases increased to 25,782, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Monday. The death toll climbed to 5,24,701 with nine fresh fatalities, the data updated at 8 am stated. The active cases comprise 0.06 per cent of the total infections, while the national COVID-19 recovery rate was recorded at 98.73 per cent, the ministry said.
Beijing city reports zero local COVID case during 15 hours to 3pm Monday
Beijing reported no new domestically transmitted COVID-19 infection cases during the 15 hours to 3 p.m. local time (0700 GMT) on Monday, a disease control official said on Monday. The Chinese capital Beijing has had 1,822 COVID infections as of 3 p.m. local time Monday since April 22, Pang Xinghuo, deputy director at Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control, told a news briefing.
North Korea reports some 73,780 people with fever amid COVID wave, KCNA says
North Korea reported some 73,780 more people with fever symptoms amid its first-ever coronavirus outbreak, North Korean state media KCNA said on Sunday.