| |

"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 15th Jun 2022

Lockdown Exit
Beijing's Virus Cases Remain Elevated in Threat to Covid Zero
Beijing recorded more than 50 Covid cases for the fifth day in a row as authorities crack down on venues linked to the outbreak, including starting a criminal probe into management of a bar at the center of the latest flareup. The capital reported 63 infections for Tuesday, following 74 on Monday. Cases have spiked in recent days, having dropped to single-digits last week. The management of a bar that has been linked to at least 287 cases is under criminal investigation for potentially breaching Covid control and prevention protocols.
'Inspirational' teachers awarded in Perth for their efforts during Covid-19 pandemic
Teachers who were at the forefront of providing free virtual geography lessons for secondary school pupils stuck at home during the Covid-19 pandemic have been awarded medals by the Perth-based Royal Scottish Geographical Society. The Tivy Education Medal has been presented to a group of volunteers and inspirational teachers, for their collective work during the pandemic. When Covid-19 struck, there were very limited learning resources for students during lockdown. RSGS pulled together a small team of teachers and film makers to try and help. The team created 26 virtual Chalk Talks lessons covering the entire National 5 and Higher Geography curriculum, from glaciers to coasts, cities to deserts, and everything in between.
South Africa Covid-19 Hospital Admissions Show Story of Inequality
The confluence between race and inequality in South Africa has been starkly illustrated through hospital admissions over the course of the coronavirus pandemic. Black people living in the country were likely to be hospitalized at a younger age, less likely to have access to intensive care units and ventilators and had higher mortality from the disease than White residents, according to a study led by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases. Indian and mixed race South Africans, locally known as Colored, also fared worse. “Blacks, Indians and Coloreds were more likely to die,” Waasila Jassat, a researcher with the NICD and one of the authors of the study, said in an interview on Tuesday. The study shows “the interplay between race, age, sex and socio-economic status” and how different groups experienced Covid-19, she said.
Saudi Arabia ends COVID protective measures
Saudi Arabia announced on Monday the lifting of measures that had been taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the state news agency (SPA) reported, citing an official in the interior ministry. The measures lifted include the requirement to wear face masks in closed places, with the exception of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet's Mosque.
Canada to end COVID vaccine mandate for domestic travel -CBC News
The Canadian government on Tuesday will announce an end to COVID-19 vaccine mandates for domestic travel on planes and trains and outgoing international travel, CBC News reported on Monday, citing unidentified sources familiar with the matter. The government, which has faced criticism over ongoing pandemic restrictions, may bring back the vaccine mandate if a new variant of the virus is discovered, the report added.
Shanghai Disney Resort to reopen Disneytown, hotel on June 16
Shanghai Disney Resort said on Tuesday it will reopen Disneytown and Shanghai Disneyland hotel on June 16 but the main Disneyland park will remain closed until further notice. Toy Story Hotel, one of its two resort hotels will also remain closed, the resort operator said in a statement. The Shanghai Disney Resort reopened some retail and park areas last week.
Pfizer stops enrollment in Paxlovid trial in standard-risk population
Pfizer Inc said it would halt enrollment in a trial for its COVID-19 antiviral drug, Paxlovid, in standard-risk patients after a study revealed the treatment was not effective in reducing symptoms in that group. The drug has emergency use authorization for high-risk groups in which it has been effective in reducing hospitalizations and deaths. The new data, however, showed a 51% relative risk reduction in standard-risk groups, which the company said was not statistically significant.
U.S. FDA advisers back authorization of Moderna COVID vaccine for ages 6-17
Advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday recommended the authorization of Moderna Inc's COVID-19 vaccine for children and teens aged 6 to 17 years of age.
Exit Strategies
Israel offers third COVID vaccine for children 5 to 11
Only a small percentage of children aged 5 to 11 will actually be eligible to receive the additional dose, as 76 percent of children this age have not been vaccinated at all. In addition, among those who were vaccinated, many have received the second dose in the last three months. Children from 5 to 11 have the lowest vaccination rate among the Israeli population, much more so than children age 12 to 15 – of which 42 percent have yet to be vaccinated. Among teenagers aged 16 to 19, 22 percent are unvaccinated.
Russians Inoculated With Expired Coronavirus Vaccine
Patients in Moscow are being inoculated with expired Russian coronavirus vaccines, The Moscow Times’ Russian service reported, citing sources and eyewitnesses. Epidemiologists say that the expired vaccines aren’t dangerous, but are ineffective against Covid-19. Russia has about 30 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines that are currently past their use-by date and worth more than 23 billion rubles ($398 million), sources at the country’s Health Ministry told The Moscow Times’ Russian service. The Health Ministry has not officially commented on the reports, although it has previously issued orders to extend vaccine shelf life and approve the use of these doses.
Canada poised to lift COVID-19 vaccine mandates for planes, trains: sources
Unvaccinated Canadians can board a plane or passenger train in the country once again. Ottawa announced Tuesday it is suspending its mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy for air and rail travellers with infections rapidly declining across Canada. It will take effect on June 20. Since Oct. 30, 2021, those over the age of 12 who were not inoculated were barred from boarding a plane or train, and most of them were no longer allowed to show a negative COVID-19 test as a substitute for vaccination. Roughly 81 per cent of the entire population is vaccinated against COVID-19, government data shows.
FDA advisers to weigh expanding Covid-19 vaccines to younger children
Several months after older children became eligible to get vaccinated against Covid-19, the United States might be just days away from offering vaccines to those younger than 5. The US Food and Drug Administration's independent Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee is set to meet Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss amending the emergency use authorization (EUA) of Moderna's and Pfizer/BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccines to include younger ages. Children under 5 -- about 18 million people -- are the only US age group that isn't eligible to get a Covid-19 vaccine.
EU states step up pressure on Pfizer to cut unneeded COVID vaccine supplies
European Union governments are intensifying pressure on Pfizer and other COVID-19 vaccine makers to renegotiate contracts, warning millions of shots that are no longer needed could go to waste, according to EU officials and a document. During the most acute phase of the pandemic, the European Commission and EU governments agreed to buy huge volumes of vaccines, mostly from Pfizer and its partner BioNTech amid fears of insufficient supplies.
World Bank approves $474 million loan to South Africa for COVID vaccines
The World Bank has approved a loan of 454.4 million euros ($474.4 million) to help South Africa fund COVID-19 vaccine purchases, the bank and South Africa's National Treasury said in a statement. South Africa has recorded the most coronavirus cases and deaths on the African continent, with over 3.9 million confirmed cases and more than 101,000 deaths. It initially struggled to secure vaccines due to limited supplies and protracted negotiations, but it is now well-supplied with doses.
China's '618' shopping festival to test COVID-hit shoppers' urge to splurge
China is set to get a picture of how the country's zero-COVID-19 policy and slowing economy have impacted shoppers' urge to splurge, as e-commerce platforms gear up to report takings from the mid-year "618" shopping festival this weekend. Held in the run-up to June 18, 618 is China's second-largest shopping event by sales after Nov. 11's Singles Day, with bargain-hunters holding off purchases in anticipation of discounts spanning a range of brands.
Moderna to invest 500 mln euros in Spain, PM Sanchez says
Moderna plans to invest around 500 million euros ($520.60 million) in a new laboratory in Spain to boost its production of vaccines, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Tuesday. Sanchez wrote on his Twitter account that he had a meeting with Moderna vice president, Dan Staner, and heard about the drugmaker's expansion plans in the country. Spanish pharmaceutical group Rovi agreed early in the year a 10-year extension to its deal with Moderna to manufacture future drugs developed with the mRNA technology used for the U.S. company's coronavirus vaccine.
Poland changes judiciary law, demands EU release COVID funds
Poland has replaced a controversial body that disciplined judges with a new accountability panel to resolve a long-running dispute with the European Union over the country’s judicial independence. Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of Poland’s ruling party, said on Tuesday that he hoped the bloc would have a “proper” reaction to the move. The EU has frozen billions of euros of pandemic funds for Poland over criticism of its rule of law record. Kaczynski insisted that Poland has met the EU’s demands for changes to the regulations on the judiciary. “I hope the reaction will be proper and in line with the [EU] treaties,” Kaczynski said, reiterating his long-term view that EU bodies have been violating the bloc’s treaties in their approach to Poland.
Partisan Exits
UK pubs giant takes on insurer trio in $1.2 bln COVID trial
Britain's biggest pubs group Stonegate, which is suing Zurich Insurance and two peers for 1 billion pounds ($1.2 billion) over lockdown losses, battled the COVID-19 pandemic "day by day, venue by venue", a London trial heard on Monday. Ben Lynch, a lawyer for Stonegate, said the company's 760 insured pubs, bars and night clubs at the centre of the case had each faced separate challenges, opening and shutting at differing times according to regional rules - and seeing business drop by up to 90% below projections.
Congress examines fraud in pandemic aid for small businesses
The U.S. failed to take basic steps at the start of the coronavirus pandemic to prevent fraud in a federal aid program intended to help small businesses, depleting the funds and making people more vulnerable to identity theft, the chairman of a House panel examining the payouts said Tuesday. Democratic Rep. James Clyburn blamed the Trump administration for the problems in the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, overseen by the U.S. Small Business Administration, amid revelations that as much as 20% of the money — tens of billions of dollars — may have been awarded to fraudsters. Clyburn said the Biden administration has implemented measures to identify potential fraud and directed loan officers to address indications of fraud before approving loans, while Congress has invested in fraud prevention and accountability.
Scientific Viewpoint
The next virus pandemic threat (and what the experts are doing about it)
Two years ago the first human trials of the University of Oxford’s game-changing Covid-19 vaccine were just under way, only five months after the pandemic virus was identified. Bill Gates has hailed this super-rapid progress as “miraculous”. The scientists responsible prefer to put it down to preparation. Back then no one was even sure that a vaccine against Covid-19 could work. Now, having succeeded in creating several of them, the knowledge accrued when developing such drugs is being put to good use on new projects. In America, for instance, scientists in collaboration with BioNTech, the German firm behind the Pfizer coronavirus jab, are trialling a vaccine to treat pancreatic cancer, the deadliest common cancer, using the same mRNA technology as was used in Covid jabs.
Covid vaccine protection wanes more quickly for cancer patients, finds study
The level of protection offered by Covid vaccination is lower for cancer patients than those in the general population, according to the UK Coronavirus Cancer Evaluation Project. The study, co-led by the Universities of Oxford, Birmingham and Southampton and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), published in The Lancet Oncology, represents the first time that Covid vaccine effectiveness had been examined in people with cancer on this scale. It found that Covid vaccination was effective in most cancer patients, but the level of protection against Covid infection, hospitalisation and death was reduced over time. Three to six months after a second vaccination, protection was found to be reduced by nearly a third in cancer patients compared to people with no active or recent cancer.
U.S. FDA advisers weigh Moderna COVID vaccine heart risk for young men
Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine may have a higher risk of heart inflammation in young men than the Pfizer/BioNTech shot, according to data presented on Tuesday to U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisers weighing its use for those aged 6 to 17. An FDA official told the expert panel that while the data showed a higher risk for the Moderna shot, the findings were not consistent across various safety databases and were not statistically significant, meaning they might be due to chance.
Moderna COVID-19 vaccine's safety slightly bests Pfizer's
An observational study today in JAMA Internal Medicine reports a slightly better safety profile for the Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccine than for the Pfizer/BioNTech version in US veterans, but both vaccines had very good safety profiles. A team led by Harvard University researchers reviewed the electronic health records of 433,672 US Department of Veterans Affairs patients across the country who received their first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from Jan 4 to Sep 20, 2021, with a second dose scheduled for 21 to 28 days later, depending on the vaccine. Median patient age was 69 years, 93% were men, 20% were Black, and 8% were Hispanic. Median follow-up was 223 days.
Study finds vitamin D status and COVID-19 diagnosis shows inconsistent associations
A large study revealed no consistent associations between vitamin D status and COVID-19 outcomes such as infection, hospitalisation and death. There are inconsistent associations between vitamin D status and the diagnosis of COVID-19, hospitalisations and mortality according to the findings of a large cohort study by researchers from Faculty of Epidemiology & Population Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom.
The severity of COVID-19 compared to seasonal influenza
In a recent study under review at the Archives of Virology journal and currently posted to the Research Square* preprint server, investigators in Israel assessed the disparities and similarities between seasonal influenza and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections.
Moderna COVID vaccine may pose higher heart inflammation risk - U.S. CDC
Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine may have a higher risk of heart inflammation in young men than the Pfizer/BioNTech shot, according to data presented on Tuesday to U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisers weighing its use for those aged 6 to 17. An FDA official told the expert panel that while the data showed a higher risk for the Moderna shot, the findings were not consistent across various safety databases and were not statistically significant, meaning they might be due to chance.
FDA advisers consider Moderna’s COVID shots for older kids
A government advisory panel met Tuesday to decide whether to recommend a second brand of COVID-19 vaccine for school-age children and teens. The Food and Drug Administration’s outside experts will vote on whether Moderna’s vaccine is safe and effective enough to give kids ages 6 to 17. If the panel endorses the shot and the FDA agrees, it would become the second option for those children, joining Pfizer’s vaccine. The same expert panel will meet Wednesday to consider tot-sized shots from Moderna and Pfizer for the littlest kids, those under 5. Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine has long been available for adults in the U.S. and elsewhere and dozens of countries offer it to children, too. In the U.S., children ages 12 to 17 would get two full-strength doses; ages 6 to 11 would get half-sized doses. The FDA held up Moderna’s teen vaccine for months while it investigated a rare side effect, heart inflammation. That’s mostly a risk for teen boys and young men, and also can occur with the Pfizer vaccine. Moderna got extra scrutiny because its shots are a far higher dose..
U.S. FDA advisers overwhelmingly back Moderna COVID vaccine for ages 6-17
Advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday unanimously recommended that the agency authorize Moderna Inc's COVID-19 vaccine for children and teens aged 6 to 17 years of age. Around 77 million people in the United States have received at least a two-dose course of Moderna's vaccine, which has long been available for people aged 18 and older. The committee of outside experts is scheduled on Wednesday to consider the Moderna shot for children under 6, and Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID vaccine for children under 5 - and in both cases as young as 6 months.
FDA Should Authorize Moderna’s Vaccine for Ages 6 to 17, Advisers Say
A panel of advisers to the Food and Drug Administration recommended the agency expand use of Moderna Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine to children ages 6 through 17. The advisory committee voted 22-0 on Tuesday that the benefits of vaccinating children in this age group outweigh the risks. The FDA will consider the vote in making a final decision on whether to clear the vaccine for use in children 6 years and older. “This vote is standing up for vulnerable populations that merit consideration in terms of protection against this virus,” said FDA committee member Ofer Levy, director of the precision vaccines program at Boston Children’s Hospital. “I believe this will provide families an important option.”
To save global health, we need vaccine patent waivers now
Global health is on its deathbed. For almost two years, a handful of rich countries have resisted a life-saving proposal tabled by India and South Africa that could speed up global COVID-19 vaccination, but the new vaccine patent waiver proposal pushed by the European Union and the head of the World Trade Organization is worse than no deal at all, says Hugo López-Gatell.
Covid-19 Variant Shot From Sanofi, GSK Shows Strong Response to Omicron in Studies
A Covid-19 vaccine developed by Sanofi SA and GSK PLC to target the Beta strain of the virus produced a stronger antibody response against variants of Omicron when given as a booster compared with certain first-generation shots, two studies have found. The results are the latest indication that tweaking vaccines can nudge antibody responses in the direction of new variants, possibly helping to shore up immunity as the virus mutates. The study results may also provide an opportunity for Sanofi and GSK, two vaccine giants that were late to develop Covid-19 immunizations, to play a role in providing booster shots. In the studies, the Beta-targeted vaccine induced a stronger antibody response to certain Omicron variants than first-generation vaccines, according to Sanofi. One study compared the Beta-targeted vaccine to the original vaccine produced by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE. Neither study has yet been peer-reviewed.
Coronavirus Resurgence
Covid back on the rise in Scotland — but vaccines should hold the line
Scotland faces another wave of coronavirus over the summer but vaccines are expected to hold out against serious illness, government advisers have predicted.Positive cases are rising again among people aged 30 to 40,
Beijing Investigates Bar Staff as Covid-19 Outbreak Worsens
Chinese police are investigating staff at a Beijing bar that has become a Covid-19 hot spot, authorities said Tuesday, as an outbreak traced to the venue spread citywide just a week after many businesses reopened in the capital. All of the 287 cases reported in Beijing over the past six days have been linked to the Heaven Supermarket Bar in the capital’s Sanlitun district, local health officials said Tuesday. The bar’s managers are under criminal investigation on suspicion of hindering Covid prevention measures, a Beijing Public Security Bureau spokesman told a news conference Tuesday. That bar and others in Sanlitun entertainment district, as well as shops and restaurants, have been forced to close again in recent days as Beijing struggles to contain a resurgence in new Covid cases to a three-week high.
Two-thirds of hospital patients with Covid-19 there because of the virus, amid heavy demand
The number of people in hospital with Covid-19 continues to be about twice as high as what was modelled – roughly two-thirds of whom are in hospital with the virus as the primary cause, officials say. It comes as respiratory viruses are putting a “very significant burden” on not just the country’s hospitals, but also primary care. The rate of reported Covid-19 cases continues to decrease, to 8.3 per 1000 people this week, down from 9.3 the week before. As of Tuesday, 377 people are in hospital with the virus, including seven in intensive care.
EU agency sees risk of COVID deaths rising as Omicron subvariants spread
Two new subvariants of Omicron, BA.4 and BA.5, are spreading more quickly than other corovanirus variants in Europe, which could lead to more hospitalisations and deaths as they become dominant,the EU's disease prevention agency said on Monday.
Beijing in 'race against time' to contain COVID surge
Authorities in China's capital warned on Tuesday that a COVID-19 surge in cases linked to a 24-hour bar was critical and the city of 22 million was in a "race against time" to get to grips with its most serious outbreak since the pandemic began. The flare-up means millions of people are facing mandatory testing and thousands are under targeted lockdowns, just days after the city started to lift widespread curbs that had run for more than a month to tackle a broader outbreak since late April.
United Airlines cites jump in global travel searches after U.S. ends COVID testing
United Airlines said on Monday searches for international travel have increased after the United States ended a 17-month-old requirement that air travelers arriving in the country test negative for COVID-19.
New Lockdown
China city mayor apologizes over COVID-19 lockdown response
The mayor of a northeastern Chinese city on the North Korean border that had been under lockdown for more than 50 days has apologized for failures in his administration’s work amid widespread — but often disguised — dissatisfaction over the government's heavy-handed approach to handling the pandemic.
COVID-19: Parts of Beijing placed under lockdown after spike in Omicron cases
Beijing has locked down parts of the city as it once again struggles to contain the Omicron COVID variant, with 74 new cases registered in the last 24-hour period. In Sanlitun, a popular shopping and nightlife area in the Chinese capital, all bars have been shut and restaurants have moved to takeaway only, while 123 non-essential stores have also been closed. Around the city, various residential neighbourhoods have been sealed off following the detection of cases, with those testing positive being taken away to quarantine centres. Chaoyang district, Beijing's biggest region and where Sanlitun is located, will continue to conduct daily mass testing of its 3.5 million residents until Wednesday at least.