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

Lockdown Exit
Shanghai to reopen all schools Sept. 1 with daily COVID testing
China's financial hub Shanghai said on Sunday it would reopen all schools including kindergartens, primary and middle schools on Sept. 1 after months of COVID-19 closures. The city will require all teachers and students to take nucleic acid tests for the coronavirus every day before leaving campus, the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission said. It also called for teachers and students to carry out a 14-day "self health management" within the city ahead of the school reopening, the commission said in a statement.
China Local Covid-19 Cases Top 2000 as More Lockdowns Imposed
China reported more than 2,000 local Covid-19 cases on Friday as infections in the southern Hainan island edged higher despite stricter curbs imposed earlier this week. The southern province, a popular tourist destination, reported 1,426 cases. More than 1,230 of them were in the beach resort city of Sanya, where more restrictions were added on Thursday. Hainan’s authorities had aimed to eliminate community transmission by Aug. 12.
China's ex-COVID patients live under 'dark shadow' of stigma
When Zuo tested positive for COVID-19 while working as a cleaner in one of Shanghai's largest quarantine centres, she hoped it wouldn't be long before she could pick up the mop and start earning again. But four months on, she is still fighting to get her job back - one of scores of recovering COVID-19 patients facing what labour rights activists and health experts say is a widespread form of discrimination in zero-COVID China. Using snap lockdowns and mass testing, China is the last major economy still pursuing the goal of stamping out the virus completely.
U.S. Schools Put Covid-19 Safety Measures in Rearview, Dividing Some Parents
Schools nationwide are eliminating Covid-19 protocols as students return for fall, shifting resources from combating the waning virus to addressing academic crises that cropped up during the pandemic. Districts across the country are reducing testing, de-emphasizing social distancing and dropping mask mandates that were in place for the start of classes last year. A handful are still requiring masks or attempting vaccine directives. With deaths and hospitalizations linked to the current subvariants largely stabilizing, school officials say they have other pressing matters to attend to, such as learning loss, enrollment declines and staffing shortages. Los Angeles will discontinue its weekly testing program when classes begin Aug. 15, and officials in New York City say they are considering the same. Districts in Illinois, Washington, Colorado and Texas are also loosening Covid-19 rules.
CDC relaxing its COVID-19 guidelines
The nation's top public health agency relaxed its COVID-19 guidelines Thursday, dropping the recommendation that Americans quarantine themselves if they come into close contact with an infected person.
'Eligibility criteria' required for free Covid-19 Lateral Flow Kits as Manx care to stop PCR tests
The Isle of Man is changing its Covid-19 testing providers and policies. From 31 August Manx Care will no longer deliver PCR testing as part of the Island's approach to "living with the virus". People may still get a PCR test, for example if needed for travel, through private providers on Island. In addition, from 15 August Lateral Flow Tests will no longer be free for all. From Monday people will also no longer be required to perform a Lateral Flow Test before entering a health and social care setting. This includes patients attending day clinics, visitors to Noble's Hospital and visitors to residential or care homes operated by Manx Care.
Carnival drops mandatory COVID-19 testing for vaccinated passengers
Carnival Corp's major cruise lines will drop mandatory COVID-19 testing for vaccinated guests and allow unvaccinated passengers to travel without an exemption in some cases, the company said on Friday. The decision affects Carnival Cruise, Princess Cruises and Cunard and follows a similar move by rival Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd (NCLH.N) earlier this week. Unvaccinated guests - who still have to present a negative COVID-19 result - no longer need to apply for an exemption except for Carnival Cruise's sailings in Australia or on its voyages 16 nights and longer.
Years of Covid School Closures Leave Philippines With Deep Scars
On Aug. 22, schools in the Philippines will finally reopen their doors to students after two and a half years – one of the longest pandemic-induced school closures in the world. As well as devastating the individual prospects of countless children, the extended hiatus is threatening to leave long-term scars on an economy historically reliant on sending high-skilled workers abroad. Protracted school closures worsen basic literacy standards and will likely reduce the productivity and earnings of children once they enter the workforce, the World Bank warned in a recent report. About 10% of Filipinos work abroad and the economy is dependent on remittances sent back by its overseas nurses, teachers and engineers, among other workers.
UK decision not to buy Covid drug Evusheld disappoints charities
The UK will not buy the drug Evusheld, which can help prevent Covid infections in people with weakened immune systems, the government has said. The decision, revealed on Friday in an official statement to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, has been met with criticism from a host of charities who say it means many people who are immunocompromised will be left with no option but to avoid contact with loved ones for fear of catching Covid. “We’re deeply disappointed to hear that today the government has announced that they have no plans to buy Evusheld. Many of our community will be left feeling let down and vulnerable,” said Helen Rowntree, the director of research at Blood Cancer UK. She said the charity was calling on the government to outline its rationale and review the decision.
Years of Covid School Closures Leave Philippines With Deep Scars
On Aug. 22, schools in the Philippines will finally reopen their doors to students after two and a half years – one of the longest pandemic-induced school closures in the world. As well as devastating the individual prospects of countless children, the extended hiatus is threatening to leave long-term scars on an economy historically reliant on sending high-skilled workers abroad. Protracted school closures worsen basic literacy standards and will likely reduce the productivity and earnings of children once they enter the workforce, the World Bank warned in a recent report.
Exit Strategies
Shanghai Schools to Reopen After Classes Suspended in March
Shanghai will reopen kindergartens, primary and secondary schools in September, almost six months after in-person classes were suspended, with strict measures in place to avoid the spread of Covid-19. Students and teachers must be in Shanghai for two weeks before schools start on Sept. 1, and take two nucleic acid, or PCR, Covid tests within three days before returning to campuses, the city’s education authority said in a statement on Sunday. They will also need to produce a negative test result everyday to attend classes as China continues to pursue a Covid Zero policy.
Indoor mask rule stays as Covid-19 cases remain high even though peak of current wave has passed
There are no plans for now to relax Covid-19 rules, including the requirement that people wear a mask indoors, said the Ministry of Health (MOH). In response to queries, MOH on Thursday (Aug 11) said existing safe management measures will continue to stay in place, as the number of cases remain high. This is even as the latest wave of infections has passed its peak. An MOH spokesman said: "Cases are falling but remain high and pose risks. The Ministry of Health will continue to calibrate measures depending on the situation." On Thursday, 7,776 new Covid-19 cases were reported, down from a high of 16,870 on July 13, in cases largely fuelled by the BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants.
Germany: EU could OK combined COVID-19 vaccines next month
Germany's health minister said Friday that European Union drug regulators may authorize the use of vaccines that are each effective against two variants of the coronavirus. German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said he expected the European Medicines Agency to meet Sept. 1 to consider a vaccine that would provide protection against the original virus and the omicron variant, also known as BA.1.
CDC ends recommendations for social distancing and quarantine for Covid-19 control, no longer recommends test-to-stay in schools
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the nation should move away from restrictive measures such as quarantines and social distancing and focus on reducing severe disease from Covid-19. In new guidelines released Thursday, the agency no longer recommends staying at least 6 feet away from other people to reduce the risk of exposure -- a shift from guidance that had been in place since the early days of the pandemic. The shift is a sign of how much has changed since the beginning of the pandemic more than two years ago. Nearly the entire US population has at least some immunity through vaccination, previous infection or, in some cases, both. "The current conditions of this pandemic are very different from those of the last two years," Greta Massetti, who leads the Field Epidemiology and Prevention Branch at the CDC, said Thursday.
UK not buying AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 antibody drug over lack of data
The U.K. has no plans to buy doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 antibody therapy Evusheld that is designed to protect vulnerable people, arguing that the data for the drug is insufficient. “Following a robust review of the available data, our clinical experts advise there is currently insufficient data on the duration of protection offered by Evusheld in relation to the Omicron variant and the government will not be procuring any doses at this time,” a government spokesperson said. The injection is a combination of two antibodies and is designed to provide long-lasting protection against COVID-19. It was billed as a potential therapy to protect immunocompromised people, since they are unable to generate a strong immune response through vaccination.
Washington state COVID safety rule for farmworkers upheld by appeals court
A U.S. appeals court on Thursday rejected a flower nursery's claim that a 2020 Washington state rule requiring agricultural businesses to take various steps to protect workers from COVID-19 was invalid. A unanimous three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the state's rule, which required farms to provide face masks, conduct temperature checks and enforce social distancing, did not conflict with any federal regulations enforced by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. (The rule was withdrawn last year.)
Relaxed CDC Covid Guidelines Seen as Boost for Return to the Workplace
Federal health officials’ move this week to relax pandemic precautions gave business leaders the momentum many have been looking for to return to pre-Covid behaviors. The new guidelines, issued Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, generally bring the federal guidance in line with policies that had already shifted at companies, schools and public transportation, among other settings. The agency said it no longer recommends that people quarantine after being exposed to the virus, as long as they don’t feel sick, get tested after five days and wear a high-quality mask around others for 10 days. Many executives and city leaders who had been struggling to break pandemic work-from-home habits see this as a boost to their halting efforts to bring people back into the workplace. They say that previous CDC recommendations made it difficult to enforce their policies, since one exposure could send an entire team home.
Hong Kong Population Drops by Record as People Flee Covid Curbs
Hong Kong’s population dropped by a record as people fled strict Covid-19 restrictions that have hobbled the city as most other regions move on from the pandemic. The city saw a decline of 121,500 residents in the year ended June 30, leaving the population at about 7.29 million, according to government data released Thursday. That means the population fell 1.6%, marking the third straight year of declines and the biggest drop in at least six decades. A wide-reaching national security law may have also been a contributing factor.
Partisan Exits
China Removes Three Tibet Health Officials From Posts Over Covid
China removed three health officials in Tibet from their posts for failing to prevent the spread of the recent Covid outbreak. The sacked officials include the party secretary and director of the municipal health commission of Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, as well as the party secretary of the city’s center for disease control and prevention, according to a statement published by the local government Sunday. The dismissals were the result of the officials “failing to implement Covid prevention and control work well,” according to the statement. Tibet last Monday reported four Covid-19 infections, the first sign of the virus in the isolated region since a single case was found at the start of the pandemic in January 2020. On Friday, Lhasa -- currently under partial lockdown -- logged 81 local cases.
Creighton students' COVID vaccine mandate appeal dismissed
The Nebraska Supreme Court on Friday dismissed an appeal by a handful of Creighton University students who sought to be exempt from the private Catholic school’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate last year, arguing that getting the shots would violate their religious beliefs against abortion. The state’s high court said it didn’t have jurisdiction, citing its 150-year stance that people can’t appeal orders denying or granting temporary injunctions. In this case, a judge last year declined to issue a temporary injunction that would have blocked Creighton University’s requirement that all students get the COVID-19 vaccination.
Emergent receives FDA warning letter over quality control issues
Emergent BioSolutions Inc said on Friday it had received a warning letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, citing certain deficiencies at the contract drugmaker's manufacturing facility in Baltimore, Maryland.
North Korea lifts mask mandate, distancing rules after declaring COVID victory
North Korea has dropped a face mask mandate and other social distancing rules as leader Kim Jong Un declared victory over COVID-19 this week, state media said on Saturday, three months after its first acknowledgement of the virus outbreak in the isolated country.
A scientist in the public eye has taken her own life. This has to be a wake-up call
Lisa-Maria Kellermayr, an Austrian GP, was a doctor who dedicated her life to her patients and was vocal about the risks of Covid-19 on Twitter and in the media. She had endured months of death threats from Covid conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers. Colleagues expressed frustration with the lack of support she received for dealing with the daily abuse. Last month, Kellermayr took her own life. When the news of Kellermayr’s death was shared among the medical community, the reaction was one of sadness but little surprise. During the pandemic, scientists have suffered huge amounts of abuse and blame while just trying to do their jobs. I suffered far less than many of my colleagues, but still got my share of online attacks during the pandemic.
Hacker offers to sell data of 48.5 million users of Shanghai's COVID app
A hacker has claimed to have obtained the personal information of 48.5 million users of a COVID health code mobile app run by the city of Shanghai, the second claim of a breach of the Chinese financial hub's data in just over a month. The hacker with the username as "XJP" posted an offer to sell the data for $4,000 on the hacker forum Breach Forums on Wednesday. The hacker provided a sample of the data including the phone numbers, names and Chinese identification numbers and health code status of 47 people.
Continued Lockdown
Parts of China's Hainan extend COVID lockdown, Lhasa in Tibet tightens curbs
A few cities in China's tourism hub Hainan extended lockdowns on Friday, with some of the measures expected to last through the weekend, while Lhasa in Tibet also tightened restrictions, among the latest curbs to contain COVID clusters in the country. Under the "dynamic COVID zero" policy that aims at quickly stopping each outbreak from spreading, local governments have imposed shorter lockdowns where people were barred from unnecessary movements for a few days or weeks until clusters were contained within narrower areas.
Scientific Viewpoint
ONS data reveals significant decrease in COVID-19 antibodies
New figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show the percentage of the UK population estimated to have COVID-19 antibodies is declining rapidly, prompting calls for the government to start its autumn booster vaccination campaigns as soon as possible. The latest ONS data revealed the estimated percentage of the population in England with an antibody level of at least 800ng/ml dropped from a peak of 82.4% in March 2022 to 71.9% by mid-July, a decline of 12.7%. The data was similar throughout the UK, with high antibody levels also declining in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Dr Quinton Fivelman, chief scientific officer at private testing company London Medical Laboratory, said: “This dramatic 12.7% decrease in the number of people in England with a significant number of antibodies to COVID-19 is obviously concerning.
Ceapro and McMaster extend partnership to develop Covid-19 therapy
Ceapro has extended a partnership underway to carry out a further research project with McMaster University for developing an inhalable immuno-therapeutic/-prophylactic for Covid-19-induced lung fibrosis. This project is intended to develop therapies for people suffering from Covid-19’s long-term effects. In August 2019, the parties entered a partnership for new drug delivery system development leveraging the disruptive Pressurized Gas eXpanded Liquid technology (PGX) to streamline drug formulations utilised in areas with unmet medical needs. The PGX technology has so far shown the potential for purifying and drying yeast beta glucan (YBG) into uniform inhalable particles that are capable of modifying the immune system using a certain mechanism of action. The new development is aimed at streamlining PGX-YBG delivery to the lung and establishing the anti-fibrotic properties to lower reducing lung fibrosis, both alone and given along with an anti-inflammatory drug used presently for Covid-19.
Covid-19: Study provides further evidence that mRNA vaccines are safe in pregnancy
Pregnant women experienced lower rates of significant adverse events after vaccination with a covid-19 mRNA vaccine than a group of similarly aged women who were not pregnant, a Canadian study has concluded. The researchers found that 7.3% of pregnant women experienced health events requiring time off work or school or needing medical attention within a week of the second dose of an mRNA vaccine, which compared with 11.3% of vaccinated non-pregnant women. The study, published in Lancet Infectious Diseases, adds to the growing body of evidence that mRNA covid vaccines are safe during pregnancy. In January a US study of 46 079 pregnancies found that vaccination against SARS-CoV-2 was safe and did not increase the risk of preterm birth or of babies who were small for their gestational age. Vaccine uptake during pregnancy has increased over the course of the pandemic but rates are still below those in the general population
Long COVID risk up for unvaccinated children; at-home antibody test shows promise
The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that has yet to be certified by peer review. Unvaccinated children have higher long COVID risk A small study is adding to evidence that children can develop long COVID-19 even if the virus did not make them seriously ill. Researchers in Texas who tracked 1,813 children infected with the virus between October 2020 and May 2022 - during the waves of the Delta and Omicron coronavirus variants - found that 4.5% had symptoms for up to 12 weeks and 3.3% had symptoms for longer than 12 weeks
Covid-19 Variants Keep Getting More Contagious. Here’s Why.
As the Omicron BA.5 subvariant is the latest to take over and dash the hopes of a summer Covid-19 lull, researchers have attempted to quantify and explain its edge over earlier versions of the virus. The BA.5 subvariant is estimated to be some 70% more transmissible than BA.2, which took over the landscape in the spring, said Trevor Bedford, a computational biologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center. That estimate is based on how quickly the BA.5 variant displaced its predecessor, he said. Comparing the BA.5 subvariant to earlier versions of the virus, such as Delta or even BA.1, however, is more of a challenge, Dr. Bedford and other infectious-disease experts said. Covid-19 vaccinations and infections have changed our immune defenses over time, making head-to-head matchups between past and present variants harder, including for characteristics like intrinsic severity of the disease.
COVID-19 neuro complications, long-term symptoms in kids
In a large, multicenter study published today in Pediatrics, a team led by Vanderbilt University researchers followed 15,137 COVID-19 patients aged 2 months to 17 years released from 52 US children's hospitals participating in the Pediatric Health Information System database from March 2020 to March 2022. Of the 15,137 patients, 82.1% had a primary COVID-19 diagnosis, and 17.9% had a secondary diagnosis of COVID-19 and a related complication. A total of 37.1% of children had a complex chronic condition (CCC), and 9.8% had at least one previously diagnosed neurologic CCC. Seven percent of patients developed a neurologic complication, the most common of which were fever-triggered seizures (3.9%), non–fever-related seizures (2.3%), and encephalopathy (brain damage or disease) (2.2%).
Pregnant Women Safe to Get Covid mRNA Vaccines, Study Shows
Covid-19 vaccines using messenger RNA technology were safe in pregnancy according to a large Canadian survey, further building the case for pregnant women to get the shots. Vaccinated women who weren’t pregnant reported higher rates of potential side effects than pregnant women, surprising researchers. In the survey, 7.3% of pregnant women who got an mRNA-based Covid shot reported potential side effects within a week after their second dose, most commonly feeling unwell, having a headache or migraine or a respiratory tract infection. About 11% of respondents who weren’t pregnant made similar reports.
Striking Drop in Stress Hormone Predicts Long Covid in Study
Striking decreases in the stress hormone cortisol were the strongest predictor for who develops long Covid in new research that identified several potential drivers of the lingering symptoms afflicting millions of survivors. Levels of cortisol in the blood of those with the so-called post Covid-19 condition were roughly half those found in healthy, uninfected people or individuals who fully recovered from the pandemic disease, researchers at Yale School of Medicine in Connecticut and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York found.
Coronavirus Resurgence
Covid reinfections: How likely are you to catch coronavirus again?
More than two years on from the first Covid case in the UK, millions of Britons have caught the virus and some have had it multiple times. Around one in 25 people in England are now testing positive for the virus,
COVID-19: WHO names disease caused by new coronavirus
The announcement came as the death toll in mainland China has now reached more than 1,000, after 108 people died from the virus on Monday – the highest daily toll since the outbreak began late last year in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. Tedros said that “CO” stands for “corona”, “VI” for “virus” and “D” for “disease”, while “19” was for the year, as the outbreak was first identified on December 31. The WHO chief said the name had been chosen to avoid references to a specific geographical location, animal species or group of people in line with international recommendations for naming aimed at preventing stigmatisation.
FDA says 3 negative rapid tests needed for asymptomatic Covid cases
The Food and Drug Administration now recommends that people who have been exposed to the coronavirus should have three negative at-home tests, even if they don’t have symptoms. The FDA made the change Thursday based on evidence that people with an omicron infection — but who are asymptomatic — need multiple negative rapid antigen tests over a number of days to be sure they don’t have Covid. Rapid at-home tests are more likely to give a false negative result in asymptomatic cases. “If repeat testing is not performed after a negative result, an infection may be missed and people may unknowingly spread the SARS-CoV-2 virus to others, especially if they are not experiencing symptoms,” the FDA tweeted.
People Exposed to Coronavirus May Need to Take as Many as Three At-Home Tests, F.D.A. Says
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a new recommendation on Thursday that asymptomatic people who are using coronavirus antigen tests take at least three tests, each spaced 48 hours apart, to reduce the odds of missing an infection. People who have Covid-19 symptoms should take at least two tests, 48 hours apart, according to the agency. The new guidelines come as the highly transmissible BA.5 subvariant of Omicron continues to spread, and after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention eased its recommendation for routine surveillance testing in most circumstances.