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

Lockdown Exit
Spanish response to Covid poverty was too little, too late, report says
The Spanish government’s efforts to tackle the economic turmoil unleashed by the Covid pandemic were “too little, too late and too few”, according to a report that finds thousands of people are still reliant on emergency food aid and facing even greater hardship as prices soar. The Human Rights Watch study, which documents cases of parents skipping meals so their children can eat, says the pandemic has revealed and exacerbated weaknesses in Spain’s social security system. All too often, food banks, community groups and NGOs have had to step in and help people in need – particularly those in informal work who were not eligible for state help. According to the report, which comes as a seventh wave of Covid sweeps across Spain, pandemic poverty has disproportionately affected families with children, older people dependent on state pensions, migrants and asylum seekers, and people working in the hospitality, cleaning, care and construction sectors.
Doctor warns COVID becoming 'too clever' and 'breaking past immune defences'
Dr David Nabarro, the World Health Organisation's special envoy on COVID, urged people to "respect the virus" and warned that precautions still matter, a day after the UK death toll passed 200,000.
IMF says China needs more fiscal, monetary support to fight COVID slowdown
The International Monetary Fund said on Thursday that China needs to add more fiscal and monetary policy support to combat an economic slowdown brought on by continued COVID-19 lockdowns, but less-restrictive pandemic containment policies also were needed. "We welcome the shift to a more expansionary fiscal policy this year, but even more support would help counter the ongoing growth slowdown," IMF spokesman Gerry Rice told a news briefing when asked about the Fund's policy advice for China.
AFL lifts COVID-19 vaccine mandate for players and club staff
In Australia, the AFL has removed its COVID-19 vaccine mandate, paving the way for exiled players to return to the top level. Players, coaches and club staff will no longer need two doses of an approved vaccine in order to train and play. The move brings the league into line with government requirements that legislate only specific industries need employees to be fully vaccinated.
Covid-19: MPs call for greater efforts to reach the unvaccinated and partially vaccinated
MPs have called on NHS England and the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) to redouble efforts to reach the almost three million adults in England who remain unvaccinated against covid-19 as well as those who are only partially vaccinated. The Public Accounts Committee has challenged the government to reduce the overall number of unvaccinated people to 2.5 million and achieve an 80% uptake for first boosters within four months. The committee’s report on the rollout of the covid-19 vaccine programme acknowledged its early success but said low vaccination rates persist in many vulnerable groups including pregnant women and minority ethnic groups
Australia athletes barred from other Commonwealth Games venues over COVID risk
Australian athletes will be banned from supporting their team mates at other Commonwealth Games events at Birmingham due to the risk of COVID-19 transmission, team chef de mission Petria Thomas said. They will also have to wear face masks when not in their rooms or exercising at the July 28 - Aug. 8 Games as part of team health protocols.
Japan warns of COVID surge, Tokyo raises alert level
Japan warned on Thursday that a new wave of COVID infections appeared to be spreading rapidly and urged people to take special care ahead of an approaching long weekend and school summer vacations. Tokyo's 16,878 new cases on Wednesday were the highest since February, while the nationwide tally rose above 90,000, in a recent surge of COVID-19 infections to levels unseen since early this year. The Japanese capital marked 16,662 new cases on Thursday.
Analysis: China makes tweaks, but tough COVID policy still drags on economy,
China has been tweaking its stringent COVID curbs but shows no sign of backing off from its "dynamic zero" policy, and has lagged in vaccination efforts that would enable it to do so, casting a heavy shadow over the world's second-largest economy. The absence of a roadmap out of zero-COVID and expectations that it will persist well into 2023 leaves residents and businesses facing a prolonged period of uncertainty.
Exit Strategies
Masks could return to Los Angeles as COVID surges nationwide
Nick Barragan is used to wearing a mask because his job in the Los Angeles film industry has long required it, so he won't be fazed if the nation's most populous county reinstates rules requiring face coverings because of another spike in coronavirus cases across the country. “I feel fine about it because I’ve worn one pretty much constantly for the last few years. It’s become a habit,” said Barragan, masked up while out running errands Wednesday. Los Angeles County, home to 10 million residents, is facing a return to a broad indoor mask mandate later this month if current trends in hospital admissions continue, county health Director Barbara Ferrer said this week.
U.S. FDA classifies recall of GE's ventilator batteries as most serious
U.S. health regulators on Tuesday classified the recall of some backup batteries of GE Healthcare's ventilators, which the company had initiated in mid-April, as the most serious type, saying that their use could lead to injuries or death. The CARESCAPE R860 ventilator's backup batteries, including replacement backup batteries, were recalled as they were running out earlier-than-expected, which could cause the device to shut down preventing the patient from receiving breathing support, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said.
Free Covid Booster Dose For All Adults From Friday For The Next 75 Days
In India, all adults will be able to get free booster doses of the coronavirus vaccine at government centres under a special drive over the next 75 days from Friday, officials said on Wednesday. Aimed at improving the third-dose coverage, the drive will be held as part of the government's 'Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav' celebrations to mark the 75th anniversary of India's Independence.
Canada's Ontario to offer second COVID booster dose to all adults
Ontario, Canada's most populous province, said on Wednesday that it would offer a second COVID-19 vaccine booster dose to everyone aged 18 and older from Thursday. "As we continue to manage COVID-19 for the long term, we're expanding second booster doses and extending the availability of free rapid antigen tests to give people the tools they need to stay safe and to ensure Ontario stays open," Ontario's Health Minister Sylvia Jones said in a statement.
Some Chinese cities order more frequent COVID testing as cases creep higher
Several Chinese cities have doubled down on COVID-19 testing, ordering residents to have their mouths swabbed more often, with some punishing people who skip tests, as authorities try to stop the virus from spreading while the case numbers are still small. In June, several cities had relaxed testing requirements as the outbreaks suffered in spring began to subside, but an uptick in infections this month, fuelled by an Omicron subvariant, have forced a few areas to quickly tighten rules
Some Beijing travelers asked to wear COVID monitoring bracelets, sparking outcry
Some Beijing residents returning from domestic travel were asked by local authorities to wear COVID-19 monitoring bracelets, prompting widespread criticism on Chinese social media by users concerned about excessive government surveillance. According to posts published on Wednesday evening and Thursday morning on microblogging platform Weibo, some Beijing residents returning to the capital were asked by their neighbourhood committees to wear an electronic bracelet throughout the mandatory home quarantine period.
Colleges Serving Low-Income Students, HBCUs Get $198 Million in Covid-Relief Funds
In the US, the Education Department awarded nearly $198 million in Covid-19 relief funds to 244 colleges and universities serving large numbers of students who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Almost 90 percent of the money will go toward historically Black colleges and universities, universities with high rates of minority enrollment and institutions serving large populations of low-income students, including community colleges.
New Zealand announces free masks, tests as health system struggles with COVID
The New Zealand government on Thursday announced free masks and rapid antigen tests as it tries to stem the spread of COVID-19 and relieve pressure on the country's health system which is dealing with an influx of COVID and influenza patients. There has been a significant jump in the number of new COVID cases in New Zealand in the past couple of week and authorities are forecasting that this wave of Omicron might be worst than the first
Partisan Exits
Ombudswoman says missing EU Pfizer vaccine deal texts are "wake-up call"
The European Union's ombudswoman criticised the European Commission for failing to find and publish text messages between the executive's president, Ursula von der Leyen, and the head of Pfizer negotiating a massive COVID-19 vaccine deal. The Commission said last month that it no longer has the texts that led to the biggest contract ever for COVID vaccines in which the EU committed to buying 900 million Pfizer-BioNTech shots, with an option for another 900 million.
4,000 lockdown fines are dropped by Met
About 4,000 Covid fines handed out by the Metropolitan police during the pandemic were abandoned before cases were brought to court. The Met used the emergency laws more than any other force in the past two years, issuing over 16,500 fixed penalty notices to Londoners suspected of attending illegal gatherings, breaking lockdown rules, not wearing a mask or ignoring the need to self-isolate. Scotland Yard said 56 per cent of the fines were paid up front, leaving several thousand people at risk of criminal prosecution.
For China’s nightlife scene, ‘zero COVID’ an unceasing ordeal
Ai Jing, a concert booker in Beijing, often feels like business never has a chance to pick up from the latest COVID-19 curbs before another round of restrictions brings operations grinding to a halt. Ai, who runs the concert booking agency Haze Sounds, struggles to find musicians these days since a ban on live events in the capital introduced in April forced many of them out of the business.
Trump's credibility 'unravelled' after claiming bleach could cure COVID, top US doctor says
The leader of the US COVID taskforce has revealed how the government's credibility "unravelled" after President Donald Trump claimed bleach could combat the virus. Dr Deborah Birx, who served as White House coronavirus response coordinator in the Trump administration between 2020 to 2021, told Sky News there was a "failure" in providing "clear and consistent communication" to the American public during the pandemic. Mr Trump made the widely condemned remark after a study was conducted to establish the effect of sunlight compared to disinfectant on playground equipment.
Scientific Viewpoint
Health Canada approves first COVID-19 vaccine for youngest kids
Canada's drug regulator approved Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine for infants and preschoolers Thursday, making it the first vaccine approved for that age group in the country. Health Canada now says the Moderna vaccine can be given to young children between the ages of six months and five years old in doses one-quarter the size of that approved for adults. “After a thorough and independent scientific review of the evidence, the department has determined that the vaccine is safe and effective at preventing COVID-19 in children between 6 months and 5 years of age,” the department said in a statement.
Alnylam accuses Pfizer, Moderna of infringing a second patent
Alnylam is adding more fuel to the fire in its infringement lawsuits against Pfizer and Moderna, claiming both companies violated a patent that was just granted to the company on Tuesday. The fight is over mRNA technology Pfizer and Moderna used in developing their respective COVID-19 vaccines, Alnylam says. Alnylam originally filed lawsuits against each in March. On Tuesday in lawsuits filed in U.S. district court in Delaware, Alnylam said that its newly granted patent covers a specific class of lipid nanoparticles (LNPs) and how they are manufactured. LPLs deliver genetic material into cells.
FDA delays decision on BeiGene's cancer drug on China COVID curbs
China-based drug developer BeiGene said on Thursday the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has delayed a decision on its cancer drug as COVID-19 curbs in the country prevented the regulator from conducting inspections. The FDA was expected to decide on the drug, tislelizumab, by July 12 but has now delayed its move until the inspections are complete, the company said. The delay makes BeiGene the latest China-based company for which the FDA has cited pandemic travel restrictions as an issue following similar problems with Hutchmed Ltd , as well as U.S.-based Coherus BioSciences Inc and its Chinese partner Shanghai Junshi Biosciences Co Ltd
AstraZeneca says COVID vaccine as effective as mRNA shots in review
AstraZeneca said on Wednesday a review of real-world data showed its COVID-19 vaccine provided equally effective protection against hospitalisation and death after two doses as with current mRNA shots from Pfizer and Moderna
Pfizer, Biontech seek Japan regulatory approval of COVID shot for young children
Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE have sought approval from Japan's health ministry for use of their COVID-19 vaccine for use in children aged six months to four years, the companies said in a statement on Thursday. The filing follows approval last month by U.S. regulators for Moderna Inc's two-dose vaccine and the Pfizer-BioNTech three-shot regimen for children in the same age group. The majority of COVID vaccinations in Japan have used the Pfizer vaccine, authorised by regulators for children aged five to 11 in January
WHO Panel Advises Against Generic Antidepressant to Treat Covid
A generic antidepressant and a gout medicine that garnered some popularity as Covid-19 treatments shouldn’t be used for mild infection because there’s no evidence they help, according to a panel of experts advising the World Health Organization. The drugs, fluvoxamine and colchicine, could potentially cause harm, the group of experts said in the BMJ medical journal Thursday. The panel didn’t give advice for severe illness, saying there was a lack of data.
How long after exposure you can test positive and early signs to look for
Covid rates are continuing to increase, and more and more people are testing positive across the UK. The Zoe Health Study produced data this week showing that there were over 350,000 daily Covid cases – a new record for the UK. Professor Tim Spector, Zoe scientific co-founder and lead scientist on the Zoe Health Study, said: “Covid is still rampant in the population. “So much so that if you have any cold-like symptoms at the moment it’s nearly twice as likely to be Covid as a cold. “Even if people have had a past infection and are fully vaccinated, people are still catching it.” Here’s everything you need to know about how quickly you will show symptoms.
Study: Kids have stronger COVID-19 antibody response than adults
A new prospective study of 252 families with members diagnosed as having mild COVID-19 in Italy finds that, while all age-groups had detectable SARS-CoV-2 antibodies up to 1 year after infection, children—especially those younger than 3 years—had higher antibody levels than adults at all intervals tested. In the study, published today in JAMA Network Open, a team led by University of Padua researchers enrolled 902 unvaccinated patients at a COVID follow-up clinic from Apr 1, 2020, to Aug 31, 2021. Families were included in the study if they had children younger than 15 years and at least one member who had tested positive for COVID-19 at least 4 weeks earlier.
Novavax, at long last, clinches FDA emergency nod for protein-based COVID shot
The U.S. FDA gave the all-clear to Novavax’s adjuvanted, protein-based shot, teeing up the nation’s fourth pandemic prophylactic behind those from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. The FDA’s emergency use authorization covers the prevention of COVID-19 caused by SARS-CoV-2 among adults ages 18 and up. The company aims to file a full biologics license application by year-end and figures it will be the last COVID vaccine player blessed with an emergency nod, Novavax’s John Trizzino, executive vice president, chief commercial officer and chief business officer, told Fierce Biotech at this year’s BIO International Convention.
Coronavirus Resurgence
St Lucia confirms first case of new Covid variant
St Lucia has confirmed its first case of the new Covid-19 variant. Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) confirmed the BA5 variant of the coronavirus has been detected on the island. The case has been confirmed in a 36-year-old woman from Vieux Fort, chief medical officer Dr Sharon Belmar George said. The woman, does not have a history of travelling. Experts now believe the BA5 variant could be spreading across the Eastern Caribbean nation. This comes as the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that the Covid-19 pandemic is not over.
Jersey in fifth wave of Covid infections as case numbers rise
Jersey's new Health Minister says the island is now in a fifth wave of Covid infections. There are just over 1,500 known active infections and Deputy Karen Wilson is encouraging everyone to take sensible steps this summer to curb the spread. She explained: “It is in this period of high infection rates that I would like to encourage islanders to continue to follow the current guidance, which includes wearing masks in recommended settings. “If islanders work together and follow the current guidance issued by Public Health, we will be able to move through the wave more quickly and ensure that we can enjoy a safe summer.”
Hospital staff absences due to Covid-19 highest for nearly three months
Staff absences at NHS hospitals in England due to Covid-19 have jumped to their highest level for nearly three months, putting further pressure on health teams struggling to clear a record backlog of treatment, new figures show. It comes as the number of patients testing positive for the virus continues to rise across the country, driven by the latest wave of infections. An average of 22,918 hospital staff in England were absent each day in the week to July 6, either because they were sick with Covid-19 or were self-isolating. This is up 30% on the previous week, and is the highest since 23,813 absences in the week to April 20.
COVID-19 cases in WA hospitals surpass previous peak amid calls for new mask mandate
There are now 329 people with COVID-19 in WA hospitals. The previous record of 327 hospital cases was recorded on May 18. The peak groups for doctors and nurses want broader mask rules
COVID-19’s fifth wave hits the Gaza Strip: health ministry
The Hamas-run Health Ministry said on Wednesday evening that the besieged impoverished coastal enclave has been involved in the fifth wave of the coronavirus pandemic. The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said Wednesday evening that the besieged and impoverished coastal enclave is officially experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic's fifth wave due to "the significant increase" of daily infections. In a press statement sent to The New Arab, the ministry said that “the significant increase in daily recorded infections with the coronavirus, mostly driven by the omicron variant BA.5, which spreads faster than the other variants.”
COVID cases down in Americas but Omicron subvariants driving new infections -PAHO
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) on Wednesday warned of the growing number of COVID-19 cases caused by the highly infectious BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron subvariants of the coronavirus even as overall cases dipped in the Americas. There were 1,562,967 new COVID-19 cases in the Americas last week, a 0.9% decrease, PAHO said at a news conference, while deaths fell 3.5% to 4,789. But PAHO Director Dr. Carissa Etienne cautioned that the Omicron subvariants, now dominant in the United States and several other countries, "is driving new infections across the Americas."
Explainer: What is the COVID BA.5 variant and why is it reinfecting so many people?
BA.5, part of the Omicron family, is the latest coronavirus variant to cause widespread waves of infection globally. According to the World Health Organization's most recent report, it was behind 52% of cases sequenced in late June, up from 37% in one week. In the United States, it is estimated to be causing around 65% of infections
Fresh COVID wave sweeps Asia; New Zealand warns of pressure on hospitals
A new wave of coronavirus infections is rapidly spreading through Asia, prompting warnings for residents from New Zealand to Japan to take precautions to slow the outbreak and help prevent healthcare systems from being overwhelmed. The renewed surge in cases, mostly of the BA.4/5 Omicron variants, provides a further challenge for authorities grappling with the economic fallout of earlier waves of the pandemic while trying to avoid extending or reintroducing unpopular restrictions.
Covid rise deepens Lake District staffing crisis
Tourism businesses in the Lake District say the rise in Covid infections is making their recruitment crisis even worse. More than 170,000 positions are thought to be unfilled in the UK. In May, for the first time ever, the number of vacancies across the UK was higher than the number of unemployed. It means businesses like The Lancrigg Hotel in Grasmere are trying to offer the same service with fewer staff. It is proving difficult for the manager, Paul Criscuolo-Wray.
Summer COVID spike is less severe - but relentless pressure on emergency departments is taking its toll
The North West has seen a rise of between 50% and 200% in COVID infections in recent weeks. And this comes at a time when the Royal Preston Hospital emergency department is struggling to cope with the sheer number of patients coming through its doors.