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"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 9th Aug 2022

Lockdown Exit
Why K-12 schools aren’t requiring students to get Covid-19 vaccines
For the third summer in a row, school leaders are facing the question of what — if anything — they’re going to do to stop the spread of Covid-19 when students return to classrooms. One thing is clear: Almost none of them will be requiring vaccines. Just 31 percent of children between 5 and 11 in the US have been fully vaccinated, and 61 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds have been. (Only about 3 percent of children under 5 had received a first dose by July 20.) Still, no state in the country is planning to require student vaccinations, a marked turnaround from where things seemed to be headed last winter, when multiple states and school districts suggested vaccine mandates were coming soon.
What it would mean for Japan to downgrade its COVID classification
Calls are growing once more to consider downgrading Covid-19 to a level of disease classification similar to that of influenza, despite cases surging,
Thailand to Lower Covid-19 to Same Disease Category as Influenza
Thailand will downgrade Covid-19 from a “dangerous” communicable disease to one that “needs monitoring” starting from October, as the country’s virus situation has started to stabilize, according to the Ministry of Public Health. The move, which will remove Covid-19 from the same category as plague and smallpox to the same level as influenza and dengue, is to reflect the reality of the situation in Thailand, said Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul. The move reflects Thailand’s health-system readiness, availability of treatments and “appropriate self-protection behavior” of people around the country, Anutin said in a statement.
Chile's Easter Island reopens to tourists after pandemic shutdown
Chile's Easter Island received its first group of tourists on Thursday after closing its borders for more than two years due to the coronavirus pandemic. Easter Island, over 2,000 miles (3,219 km) from the coast of Chile, has over a thousand stone statues -- giant heads that were carved centuries ago by the island's inhabitants -- which have brought it fame and UNESCO World Heritage Site status. "(Easter Island) is the biggest open air museum in the world," said Pedro Edmunds, the mayor of Easter Island, adding that it was time to open the island after it shut its borders 868 days ago.
Colleges, Parents Fight in Court Over Tuition Charged During Pandemic Closures
Colleges and universities faced a barrage of lawsuits in the peak pandemic days of 2020 after schools shut down their campuses and moved classes online while charging students their usual tuition rates. Two years later, the Covid-19 tuition wars are building toward a decisive phase. A number of courts have issued rulings that provided a boost to students and parents seeking refunds, including last week in a case against a small private university in California. That decision followed a recent federal appeals court ruling that allowed claims to proceed against Loyola University Chicago. But those rulings stand in tension with other decisions for schools that said students don’t have valid claims. Pending cases from higher-level courts could bring more clarity.
COVID lockdown turns Chinese tourist hotspot Sanya into nightmare for stranded tourists
When Chinese businesswoman Yang Jing was planning this year's summer holiday in 2021, she chose the tropical southern island of Hainan because of its nigh-perfect COVID track record. The island in the South China Sea recorded just two positive symptomatic COVID-19 cases in the whole of last year. Fast forward to this month, however, and the number of cases has suddenly soared, prompting a lockdown in the city of Sanya and leaving tens of thousands of tourists like Yang stuck on the island
BioNTech reports strong first half, expects demand to grow
BioNTech, which teamed with Pfizer to develop a powerful COVID-19 vaccine, has reported higher revenue and net profit in the first half of the year and expects demand to grow as it releases updated vaccines to target new omicron strains. The German pharmaceutical company said Monday that revenue hit about 9.57 billion euros ($9.76 billion) in the first six months of 2022, up from nearly 7.36 billion euros in the same period a year earlier. But revenue dropped to about 3.2 billion euros in the second quarter from 5.31 billion euros in April through June of last year. BioNTech said the dynamic nature of the pandemic has led to changes in orders and revenue but that it expects a strong end to the year. It said it plans to release revamped vaccines tailored to the latest omicron variants as early as October, which could lead to a fall booster campaign.
Exit Strategies
'People are underprotected': Dr Norman Swan on COVID booster shots
It looks like the latest COVID wave has peaked nationally although cases in NSW are still higher than elsewhere in the country. Dr Swan talks about the monkeypox vaccine rollout and the new COVID sub-variant.
Japan to offer omicron COVID shots to people vaccinated at least twice
New COVID-19 vaccines considered effective against the omicron variant will be available to all people who have completed at least two inoculations from as early as mid-October, the government said Monday. The bivalent vaccines, so named for their combination of ingredients deriving from existing COVID-19 shots and from omicron's BA.1 subvariant, have been reported to provide some increase in neutralizing antibodies against the BA.5 subtype currently prevalent across the country. The plan, which has received approval from a health ministry panel, comes at a time when Japan is experiencing a seventh wave of infections fueled by the highly transmissible BA.5 subvariant, with its daily cases hitting an all-time high of about 250,000 last Wednesday.
Hong Kong ‘may lower age threshold’ for getting fourth shot of Covid vaccine
Professor David Hui says expert panel will consider advising government to lower the age threshold for getting the fourth shot in autumn. City needs to stay on guard in case a new coronavirus strain surfaces in winter, he warns
What's the U.S. Plan for Updated COVID Vaccine Boosters?
While the U.S. may have led the charge to develop and deploy COVID vaccines, our efforts to get and stay fully vaccinated have not gone well. As the two-year anniversary of the country’s vaccine rollout fast approaches, the U.S. pandemic response seems stuck at a standstill while the coronavirus keeps adapting and spreading at a startling pace. The U.S. booster-shot drive has been a confusing mess from the start, and as of now, far too many Americans who are eligible for either their first or second booster have not gotten them, weakening the country’s wall of immunity that has so far prevented a big wave of hospitalizations and deaths despite a surge of new cases from more transmissible Omicron subvariants like BA.5. Increasing booster uptake, and expanding the protection those boosters offer by tweaking them for the new variants, is one way to reinforce the wall.
BioNTech Promises Omicron Covid Vaccines for Fall Booster Campaigns
BioNTech SE dropped the most in more than three months as lagging Covid-19 vaccine orders held sales and profit short of analysts’ expectations. Revenue in the second quarter dropped by about 40%, BioNTech said on Monday. Diluted earnings per share were 6.45 euros, below the 7.44-euro average estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. BioNTech and partner Pfizer Inc. are counting on an omicron-adapted vaccine to reinvigorate sales for the rest of the year. The first doses of a shot tailored for both the original coronavirus and the fast-spreading omicron BA.4/5 variant should be ready in October, in time for fall booster campaigns, BioNTech said. The companies will begin a clinical trial this month and manufacturing has already started. The biotech’s American depositary receipts fell as much as 9.4% in Germany, the most since April 19.
Hong Kong Cuts Covid-19 Quarantine to 3 Days
The city’s government cut the Covid-19 quarantine period for inbound travelers to three days from seven, easing a restriction many saw as excessive but falling short of what businesses say is needed to restore the connectivity vital to its role as Asia’s leading global financial center. From Friday, travelers arriving in Hong Kong will be allowed to leave their quarantine hotels after three days, officials said at a briefing Monday. Over the following four days, they won’t be allowed into places now requiring a vaccine pass, such as gyms, bars and restaurants, but they will be able to go to work, shop at supermarkets and use public transport, provided they test negative for the coronavirus. The city has been caught between sticking to stringent antivirus controls in line with Beijing’s zero-Covid policy and trying to retain its appeal as an open and globally connected base for business.
Macau returns to mass COVID testing after case in neighbouring Chinese city Zhuhai
Authorities in Macau instructed residents to conduct at least two days of COVID-19 tests after a person who travelled from the Chinese special administrative region to neighbouring city Zhuhai was found to have been infected with the virus. The move comes days after Macau started to unwind stringent anti-COVID rules, including the resumption of travel to Zhuhai without quarantine from Aug. 3. The Macau government said in a statement on Sunday that all of the city's 700,000 residents should take rapid antigen tests on Sunday and Monday and upload the results to a government website
Hong Kong cuts COVID quarantine stay for incoming travellers
Hong Kong will shorten the COVID-19 hotel quarantine period for all arrivals to three days from seven, taking another step to gradually unwind stringent pandemic rules that have isolated the Asian financial hub. The measures will be effective from Friday, the city's leader, John Lee, told a news conference on Monday. Arrivals will need to self monitor for a further four days, during which they will be forbidden to enter such premises as restaurants and bars.
North Korea to convene parliament, anti-epidemic meeting amid zero-COVID claim
North Korea will convene two key meetings, including one to review the country's anti-epidemic policy, in coming weeks, state media said on Monday, as it claims no new COVID-19 cases since late July. The North Korean Supreme People's Assembly (SPA), the isolated state's rubber-stamp parliament, will meet on Sept. 7 to discuss law on rural development and organizational matters, according to the official KCNA.
Partisan Exits
Sperm not affected nine months after COVID-19 mRNA vaccination
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccines are effective in reducing deaths due to infection with the causative severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Furthermore, widespread vaccination against COVID-19 has successfully reduced infection rates and severe COVID-19 outcomes. SARS-CoV-2 infection has previously been reported to adversely affect male fertility, as demonstrated by a temporary reduction in sperm production. Although current COVID-19 messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccines have been associated with minimal or no effect on male fertility, concerns regarding their potential reproductive toxicity remain a major cause of vaccine hesitancy.
Most Parents Are Saying No to Covid-19 Vaccines for Toddlers
Parents are having their say about the Covid-19 vaccines for children under 5, and for most, the answer so far is no. More than a month after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended shots for about 17.4 million children ages 6 months through 4 years, about 4% to 5% of them have received a shot, according to the most recent agency data and population estimates from the American Academy of Pediatrics. By contrast, the vaccination rate for children 5 to 11 years reached about 18% a month after the CDC first recommended shots last November. The rate now stands at about 38%. “The rates of uptake are just not what we would hope,” said Brannon Traxler, director of public health for the Department of Health and Environmental Control in South Carolina, where recent data show about 2% of the state’s babies and toddlers have received at least one dose. “This is a common theme across the country in many places.”
Scientific Viewpoint
Immunity for common cold coronaviruses may ward off severe covid-19
People with a stronger immune response to the coronaviruses that cause common cold-like symptoms may be better protected against covid-19, raising hopes that a pan-coronavirus vaccine could be achieved. Ricardo da Silva Antunes at La Jolla Institute for Immunology in California and his colleagues analysed blood samples collected from 32 people between 2016 and 2019, before covid-19 emerged. Multiple samples were taken from each person over six months to three years. The team wanted to see how the immune cells in these samples responded to four coronaviruses that cause common cold-like symptoms as well as the original SARS-CoV-2 strain, which emerged in Wuhan, China, at the end of 2019.
Study: COVID campus vaccine mandates saved lives. Are they still in place?
A new study of coronavirus vaccine mandates for students at U.S. colleges and universities suggests the mandates saved about 7,300 lives last fall. "I thought the study that came out (last month) was telling," said Daniel Hurley, CEO of the Michigan Association of State Universities, which represents all 15 public universities in Michigan. "Likely those policies, collectively, saved thousands of lives in this country ... When you put it in those terms, that's significant." A Free Press spot check showed that many Michigan colleges and universities plan to keep their vaccine policies in place for the new school year.
EU regulator awaits trial data before decision on Covid jab targeting Omicron
The European drugs regulator is holding firm with plans to review Covid-19 vaccines designed to tackle the original coronavirus
BioNTech and Pfizer to begin clinical trial of vaccine for new Covid variants
BioNTech and Pfizer will start a clinical trial of a Covid-19 vaccine adapted to the BA.4 and BA.5 variants of Omicron this month
COVID-19 Vaccines Induce Better Long-Term Immunity than Infection
To answer these questions, Shane Crotty and his group at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology performed a head-to-head comparison of four currently used COVID-19 vaccines that target the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein: Pfizer/BioNtech (mRNA), Moderna (mRNA), Janssen/J&J (adenovirus), and Novavax (recombinant protein). In a six-month longitudinal study published in Cell, the researchers examined blood samples from vaccinated and recently infected people for SARS-CoV-2 spike-specific immune responses.
Covid becomes equal leading cause of death in New Zealand for first time
Covid-19 became the equal leading cause of death in New Zealand for the first time in July, overtaking stroke and drawing even with ischaemic heart disease as the country’s No 1 killer. Michael Baker, an epidemiologist and public health professor, said that for a period in July-August Covid appeared to be causing at least as many deaths as heart disease. Baker said that in mid-July, Covid deaths made up almost 15% of deaths overall, referring to data analysis by the New Zealand Herald that compared confirmed Covid deaths against overall deaths in July. Baker said those deaths were likely a slight undercount, as some people would have died of Covid-19 without being tested.
SyneuRx reveals results of COVID-19 candidate trial
Positive data show Pentarlandir is safe and effective in patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19. SyneuRx – a company focused on the development of drugs for COVID-19 and multiple central nervous system disorders – has announced results from its phase 2 clinical trial evaluating the efficacy and safety of SNB01, a novel COVID-19 oral antiviral candidate. 89 participants suffering from breakthrough or unvaccinated cases of COVID-19 were randomised evenly into high-dose, low-dose and placebo groups. The phase 2 study showed that SNB01 – also known as Pentarlandir – can reduce the inflammation caused by COVID and improve overall health
Cellex drops patent case over Siemens COVID-19 tests
North Carolina biotech company Cellex Inc has dropped a patent lawsuit against Siemens Healthineers AG over the design of its rapid COVID-19 self-tests less than a week after bringing the case in Delaware, according to a court filing. Cellex told the Delaware federal court Thursday that it would dismiss the case without prejudice, which means it could be refiled in Delaware or elsewhere. The filing did not provide further details. A spokesperson for Siemens said on Saturday that the companies had not settled.
BioNTech expects Omicron-adapted vaccine deliveries as soon as October
BioNTech expects to begin deliveries of two Omicron-adapted vaccines as soon as October, which will help spur demand in the fourth quarter, the German biotech firm said on Monday as it reaffirmed its vaccine-revenue forecast for the year. Demand for the vaccine, 3.6 billion doses of which have been shipped globally, is waning as most people in the Western world have received three or four shots already.
Coronavirus Resurgence
COVID-19 nation's third biggest killer
More Australians are expected to have died from COVID-19 so far this year than some of the country's traditionally largest killers, such as cardiovascular disease and lung cancer. New analysis by the Actuaries Institute has shown the COVID-19 death toll to the end of July to be 7100, making it the third largest cause of death in 2022. Only ischaemic heart diseases and dementia are expected to be a bigger cause of death than COVID-10, with each responsible for about 10,000 fatalities. The analysis revealed deaths from cardiovascular disease, such as strokes, and lung cancer were expected to be about 5500 and 5400 respectively this year. In the year to the end of April, excess mortality was 13 per cent, or 6800 deaths, with more than half of that due to COVID-19.
Omicron outbreak: Child among 13 Covid-related deaths, 4006 new cases today
A child under the age of 10 is among 13 deaths linked to Covid in today's Ministry of Health update. There are 4006 new community cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand today. There are 654 people in hospital with the virus, including 16 in intensive care. Health officials have reported a further 13 Covid-related deaths - including a child under the age of 10.
Queensland's latest COVID-19 wave has passed, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says
Queensland has passed the peak of the third COVID-19 wave with it expected to end in the coming weeks, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says. Ms Palaszczuk made the announcement at the Ekka on Monday with hospitalisation numbers falling steadily since last month. "We actually peaked around July 25 … that's excellent news," she said. Chief Health Officer John Gerrard said the news came much earlier than national modelling had predicted. "We believe this fantastic result is because Queenslanders have responded to national advice. Namely to get heir boosters, stay at home when sick, take anti-viral medicines and wear a mask in indoor crowded environments," he said.
India's daily COVID-19 caseload falls to 16167
India reported 16,167 new cases of COVID-19 during the past 24 hours, taking the total tally to 44,161,899 in the country, according to federal health ministry data released on Monday morning. Monday's new cases marked a decrease in comparison to the daily caseload of Sunday which was 18,738. Currently, India's active caseload stands at 135,510. The country also logged 41 related deaths during the past 24 hours, pushing the overall death toll to 526,730 since the beginning of the pandemic, the ministry said.
ONS records a continued fall in UK COVID-19 infections
Around 2.6 million people reported that they had the virus in the week to 26 July, while the previous week had recorded 3.2 million cases. The number of those in hospital with COVID-19 has also seen a significant decrease. Despite the considerable fall in infections, experts are still cautioning against complacency, warning that COVID-19 cases are still prevalent, with one in 25 people in England currently having the virus. However, vaccines are still helping protect people from severe illness. The COVID-19 infection rates from the ONS come from data collated by testing thousands of people from UK households – regardless of whether they have symptoms or not – in order to gauge how much of the virus is circulating.
China's Tibet region faces rare COVID flareup, fresh curbs imposed
The Chinese autonomous region of Tibet, which had barely reported COVID patients for more than two years, is facing a spate of new infections, forcing it to impose various restriction in its second largest city. Tibet reported one infection with confirmed symptoms in January 2020, and then remained clear of cases for over 900 days, the best record among Chinese regions and provinces under China's "dynamic zero COVID" policy. Its disclosure of asymptomatic infections, which China counts separately, was less clear.
China reports 940 new COVID cases for Aug 7 vs 868 a day earlier
China's Hainan, an island province dependent on tourism, locked down more areas on Monday, state media reported, as it battles its worst COVID-19 outbreak after seeing very few cases in the past two years compared with many other regions in the country. The province, which recorded just two local symptomatic COVID cases last year, has reported more than 1,500 domestically transmitted infections this month, including over 1,000 symptomatic ones. Although that is low by global standards, it is Hainan's biggest outbreak since the virus was first reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.
New Lockdown
Over 80,000 tourists stranded in ‘China’s Hawaii’ after Covid-19 flare-up
About 80,000 tourists were left stranded in the southern Chinese beach resort city of Sanya located in the tropical Hainan island after authorities declared it a Covid-19 hotspot and imposed a lockdown. The restrictions came into effect over the weekend after officials confirmed 129 positive cases on Saturday and 229 on Friday. Public transportation was suspended on the island city, often referred to as the “Hawaii of China”, as railway authorities banned all ticket sales in Sanya.
China's Hainan expands COVID lockdowns to quell outbreak
China's Hainan, an island province dependent on tourism, locked down more areas on Monday, state media reported, as it battles its worst COVID-19 outbreak after seeing very few cases in the past two years compared with many other regions in the country. The province, which recorded just two local symptomatic COVID cases last year, has reported more than 1,500 domestically transmitted infections this month, including over 1,000 symptomatic ones. Although that is low by global standards, it is Hainan's biggest outbreak since the virus was first reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.
China's Hainan Orders More Covid Lockdowns Stranding Tourists
The Chinese resort island of Hainan has placed more cities, including the provincial capital, into lockdown as a Covid-19 outbreak spreads, stranding tens of thousands of tourists in one of the nation’s most popular holiday destinations. The province reported 504 cases on Sunday, taking the current outbreak to almost 1,500 since the first infection was detected a week ago. The provincial capital Haikou -- a major flight hub for the island -- and the beachside resort city of Sanya have been placed into lockdown, while Wanning and Qionghai are under “static management,” a term commonly used when referring to lockdowns.
COVID lockdown turns Chinese tourist hotspot Sanya into nightmare for stranded tourists
When Chinese businesswoman Yang Jing was planning this year's summer holiday in 2021, she chose the tropical southern island of Hainan because of its nigh-perfect COVID track record. The island in the South China Sea recorded just two positive symptomatic COVID-19 cases in the whole of last year. Fast forward to this month, however, and the number of cases has suddenly soared, prompting a lockdown in the city of Sanya and leaving tens of thousands of tourists like Yang stuck on the island