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"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 3rd Oct 2022

Lockdown Exit
First on CNN: US government to provide $266 million to build community, public health work force
The US government is awarding more than $266 million from the American Rescue Plan to expand the nation’s community and public health work force, officials will announce Friday. The plan’s overall investment in community health, outreach and health education workers – totaling more than $1.1 billion – is one of its “crown jewels,” said Gene Sperling, coordinator of the American Rescue Plan and a senior adviser to President Joe Biden. The funding comes as some public and community health workers have faced intense workloads, backlash and burnout during the Covid-19 pandemic and throughout other overlapping health emergencies, including record-high drug overdose deaths, the monkeypox outbreak and the re-emergence of polio.
Ending mandatory isolation does not mean Covid is over. But we need to move beyond short-term fixes
Changes in Covid-19 policy settings always invoke mixed reactions, and the national cabinet decision to stop isolation requirements for most people is one of the more substantial announcements since the opening of international borders, and the end to supervised quarantine. Some of us have felt protected by rules, others frustrated by them, while the majority probably sit somewhere in the middle – being reassured that they were there when needed, and relieved when we can ease them safely. This is not about “giving up”, or “letting it rip”, it is about handing over to sustainable measures that will take us forward.
Bereaved families fear Covid inquiry cover-up after ban on testimony
Families of those who died from Covid-19 have been barred from submitting individual testimony to the official public inquiry about the standard of care received by their loved ones during the pandemic, the Observer can reveal. Instead, the inquiry chair, Lady Hallett, is proposing they submit “pen portraits” to a private research company as part of a parallel “Listening Project” that will not have the power to demand the disclosure of documents or investigate claims about their relatives’ care. “It would appear that Lady Hallett would rather outsource the grief of bereaved families to the Listening Project than engage with us constructively,” said John Sullivan, whose daughter, Susan, died in March 2020 at Barnet hospital after being denied access to an intensive therapy unit because of her Down’s syndrome and supposed cardiac comorbidities. “The inquiry is becoming a farce and an exercise in cover-up,” he said, ahead of the first hearing on Tuesday.
China's Covid Rules Wreak Havoc With Holidays in Blow to Economy
Chinese holidaymakers are bracing for more disruption during a weeklong break as the government tightens controls to contain Covid outbreaks before the Communist Party’s top leaders meet in Beijing for a crucial political meeting. Passenger trips by road are expected to plunge by about 30% from a year ago during the National Day break, according to government data. Prices of air tickets for the period are lower compared to last year and travelers are taking shorter journeys, figures from hotel booking sites show. Cinema box office takings are expected to decline by more than 20%.
Hong Kong's Abrupt Quarantine End Triggers New Crisis for Hotels
Hong Kong’s former quarantine hotels are awash with empty rooms, after the city axed its dreaded mandatory isolation rule for arrivals but kept other virus curbs likely to repel inbound tourists. The Ovolo group’s Southside and Central properties had just four bookings left on Monday after logging some 1,500 quarantine cancellations over the weekend, said Mael Vastine, director of operations in Hong Kong. “Business has been impacted and it will take some time to recover,” he added, noting that neither hotel had taken a new reservation in recent days.
Australia draws flak over plan to end home quarantine for Covid patients
Australia will end the mandatory five-day home quarantine for Covid-infected people on Oct. 14, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Friday, even as some doctors warned the move would put the public at risk. The decision to let Covid-infected Australians decide whether they need to isolate or not removes one of country’s last remaining restrictions from the pandemic era, and comes about a month after the quarantine period was cut to five days from seven. “We want a policy that promotes resilience and capacity-building and reduces a reliance on government intervention,” Albanese told reporters after a meeting of the national cabinet.
Australia is now living with COVID-19, but in aged care, thousands are dying with it
They're known as the Silent Generation: Australia's elders often have a reputation for copping hard knocks on the chin without complaint – but they’re also among our most vulnerable. While the COVID death rate in aged care has significantly decreased in 2022, the number of total deaths has increased exponentially Advocates say not enough people are aware of the trauma still happening in aged care. Residents are torn between fearing the outside world and wanting to be a part of it. It's because of that vulnerability many of their lives have been slower to return to a pre-COVID 'normal'. When the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, Australians united to protect each other. During the first two years, the country was devastated to see almost 900 deaths from the illness in aged care. That figure made up about 40 per cent of the 2,220 deaths recorded during the same time frame. Floral tributes and homemade signs of hope were tied to fences of locked-down aged care facilities, where residents could only peer through the windows.
Physician Burnout Has Reached Distressing Levels, New Research Finds
Physician Burnout in the United States Has Reached Distressing Levels, New Research Finds
Hong Kong Scraps Hotel Quarantine Requirement
Hong Kong has scrapped hotel quaratine stays as a requirement of its Covid-19 quarantine practice.
Exit Strategies
‘Large disruptor’: Moderna’s promise of vaccine ‘cocktail’ could be headache for CSL
Moderna’s promise of a combined coronavirus-influenza shot throws down a challenge to Australian biotech giant CSL as the next heat of the vaccine race threatens to be a “disruptor”. The chief of US pharmaceutical Moderna, Stephane Bancel, says CSL is at risk of losing its competitive edge in the influenza vaccine market once Messenger-RNA technology takes hold in the industry and a “cocktail of mRNAs” becomes available. Bancel, who was in Melbourne this week to visit the site of his company’s planned vaccine manufacturing plant at Monash University, said Moderna’s vision for the Australian market went well beyond its current coronavirus vaccines.
UK ‘blind’ to devastating wave of new Covid variants, experts warn
The UK is “blind” to new Covid variants which could cause a devastating new wave, health experts have warned. Covid infections in the UK have risen by 14 per cent in a week, according to the Office for National Statistics, in a sign that the autumn wave of infections is underway. More than 1.1 million people in the UK tested positive for the virus in the week ending September 20, up from 927,000 in the previous week.
‘10 per cent of corporations in Hong Kong have left, and they aren’t looking back’
Companies that have left Hong Kong may not return soon even if all coronavirus travel curbs are scrapped, one of the city’s biggest business chambers has warned after a survey it conducted revealed 10 per cent of responding firms have permanently relocated. Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce CEO George Leung Siu-kay on Sunday urged the government to promptly lift all Covid-19 entry restrictions and called for lowering thresholds for talent schemes to avoid further losing out to Singapore.
Two thirds of U.S. adults don't plan on getting COVID boosters soon -poll
Around two-thirds of adults in the United States do not plan to get updated COVID-19 booster shots soon, according to a survey conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), a health policy nonprofit organization. Only a third of adults polled said they either already received the updated shots or plan to get the booster as soon as possible, the poll found. The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna Inc shots, updated to target more recently circulating Omicron subvariants of the coronavirus as well as the original strain, were authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration late last month.
Australia’s Covid vaccine review recommends expansion of Novavax eligibility amid fears of Moderna shortfall
Australia’s vaccination advisory body is investigating whether to expand the availability of the Novavax Covid jab, amid concerns tens of millions of doses could be wasted due to recommendations it not be used as a general booster shot. It comes as a review of Australia’s Covid vaccine procurement found the former Coalition government’s actions were “consistent with other high-income countries”, but warned of a potential shortfall in Moderna unless the Labor government orders more supply. The review, by respected public servant Prof Jane Halton, said Australia had not reached what she called “Covid-stable”, where regular ebbs and flows of the virus could be predicted
Covid testing rules in Northern Ireland to change for healthcare workers and hospital visitors
Covid-19 testing to identify asymptomatic healthcare workers and hospital visitors is set to be paused in Northern Ireland. Relatives of care home residents and hospice patients will no longer be automatically required to take a test as of Monday. However, those who are displaying symptoms will still have to take a test and are not permitted to visit a care setting. The Department of Health said the move is in line with the Test, Trace and Protect Transition plan. The strategy, published in March 2022, committing to keeping arrangements under review and focused on introducing proportionate and targeted rules.
Millions urged to get flu and Covid jabs amid fears of winter ‘twindemic’ in UK
Tens of millions of people in the UK are being urged to have flu and Covid vaccines as soon as possible amid fears of a winter “twindemic” that poses a serious risk to public health. UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) officials are braced for a resurgence in flu infections capable of causing severe disease in the coming months, and are concerned it will coincide with the major wave of coronavirus that is already building. While Covid restrictions kept influenza at extremely low levels in the past three years, the return to almost pre-pandemic levels of mixing in the UK means the virus is ripe to bounce back this season, when immunity in the population is low.
Canada to remove all COVID travel restrictions from Oct 1
Canada will drop all COVID-19 restrictions for travelers from Oct. 1, including vaccination and masking requirements for flights and trains, the government said on Monday. The move is likely to boost the Canadian travel industry, already booming after months of lull during the pandemic. Canadian carriers were also pressing for an end to mask mandates on flights, citing thousands of incidents of non-compliance this year alone.
Partisan Exits
China's Tibet COVID-19 lockdown causing 'extreme hardships': campaigners
A weeks-long COVID-19 lockdown in Tibet has brought an "expansion of already suffocating living conditions", a rights group has said, after a top regional official issued a rare apology this month over virus restrictions. Cities across Tibet have been under Covid curbs since the start of August, with authorities mandating mass testing and keeping locals at home as China sticks to its strict zero-Covid policy. Complaints of chaotic transfers to mass quarantine facilities, lack of supplies and poor quarantine conditions have surfaced on Chinese social media in recent weeks. The vice mayor of Tibet's capital Lhasa issued a public apology earlier this month admitting to problems with how Covid had been handled, pinning the blame on individual officials. But "no meaningful remedial measures have been implemented to ameliorate the harsh lockdown and quarantine conditions", the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said in a report Thursday.
If you think scrapping COVID isolation periods will get us back to work and past the pandemic, think again
COVID is an exceptional disease and was at its deadliest this year, causing more deaths in Australia between June and August 2022 than at any other time. There have been 288 deaths from influenza so far this year compared to more than 12,000 deaths from COVID. The number of deaths from COVID in Australia in the first nine months of 2022 is more than ten times the annual national road toll of just over 1,000 – but we are not rushing to remove seat belts or drink-driving laws so people can have more freedom. Isolation flattens the COVID curve by stopping infectious people from infecting others, and is a key pillar of COVID control.
Mandatory COVID-19 isolation periods scrapped by National Cabinet from October 14
Rules forcing people to isolate for five days if they test positive to COVID-19 will end from October 14 for everyone, with support for some workers to be able to continue isolation if needed. Mandatory COVID isolation will end from October 14 Financial support will be continued for some workers to be able to isolate if needed The chief medical officer says it marks the likely end of the emergency pandemic response. States will determine how to implement the change, but national cabinet agreed to continue targeted financial support for casual workers in aged care, disability care, Aboriginal health care and hospital care.
Covid-19 inspired people to circumvent censorship in China
A paper published in PNAS, an academic journal, argues that covid-19 inspired Chinese citizens to circumvent censorship and access sensitive content on banned websites. Although most VPN applications are blocked in China, the researchers found one available on China’s Apple App Store. They noted a sharp increase in downloads of the app, sending its App Store ranking higher, just as Wuhan, and the wider Hubei province of which it is part, went into lockdown
Continued Lockdown
Protests in Shenzhen as China puts it into snap lockdown over Covid cases
Hundreds of Chinese residents in the southern city of Shenzhen have taken to the streets to demand an end to coronavirus lockdowns in a rare public protest against the zero-tolerance Covid policies imposed by Beijing. Video from Shenzhen in southern Guangdong province showed angry citizens confronting police officers wearing blue medical protective gear, including gowns, face masks and plastic visors. Protesters chanted “lift the lockdown” and verbally and physically clashed with the police, who attempted to contain them with metal barriers. Some threw water bottles at officers who made several arrests.
Scientific Viewpoint
Spike-antibody responses to COVID-19 vaccination by demographic and clinical factors in a prospective community cohort study
We evaluate Spike-antibody responses following BNT162b2 or ChAdOx1-S vaccination amongst SARS-CoV2-naive adults across England and Wales enrolled in a prospective cohort study (Virus Watch). Here we show BNT162b2 recipients achieved higher peak antibody levels after two doses; however, both groups experience substantial antibody waning over time. In 8356 individuals submitting a sample ≥28 days after Dose 2, we observe significantly reduced Spike-antibody levels following two doses amongst individuals reporting conditions and therapies that cause immunosuppression. After adjusting for these, several common chronic conditions also appear to attenuate the antibody response. These findings suggest the need to continue prioritising vulnerable groups, who have been vaccinated earliest and have the most attenuated antibody responses, for future boosters.
Moderna rejects request from China for Covid-19 vaccine technology
Moderna has reportedly refused a request from China to reveal the technology behind its Covid-19 vaccine. The rejection prompted negotiations for its sale there to fall apart, the Financial Times reported, citing people familiar with the matter. The US pharmaceutical company remains “eager” to sell its product in China after negotiations between 2020 and 2021 dissolved. China has relied on domestically developed vaccines since the beginning of the outbreak in late 2019, and currently procures none of its jabs with foreign companies.
Australia scraps mandatory COVID isolation rules - but experts call the decision 'illogical'
Australia is lifting mandatory COVID isolation rules from next month, scrapping one of the last remaining pandemic restrictions. The current five-day home quarantine requirement for those who test positive for the virus will be lifted from 14 October. Announcing the move, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said: "We want a policy that promotes resilience and capacity-building and reduces a reliance on government intervention." Along with abolishing mandatory quarantine, they will also be scrapping pandemic payments for casual workers with the PM saying it "isn't sustainable for government to pay people's wages forever".
Prominent Chinese commentator urges COVID experts to 'speak out'
Prominent Chinese commentator Hu Xijin said on Sunday that as China ponders its COVID-19 policies, epidemic experts need to speak out and China ought to conduct comprehensive research and make any studies transparent to the public. Hu's unusual call on Chinese social media for candour and transparency earned him 34,000 likes on the popular Twitter-like microblog Weibo, as well as frank responses from netizens in a normally tightly policed internet quick to censor voices deemed a risk to social stability.
AWcorna: China Walvax mRNA Covid Vaccine Gets First Approval, in Indonesia
A Chinese-developed mRNA Covid vaccine got its first ever emergency use authorization from Indonesian authorities, a tentative step in China’s efforts to gain ground on Western inoculations widely used around the world. The shot, named AWcorna, was co-developed by Walvax Biotechnology Co, Suzhou Abogen Biosciences Co. and the Chinese military and has been cleared for use in people aged 18 and older, Walvax said in a statement. The halal-certified vaccine can be used as either a primary or booster dose, it said.
Children with COVID-19 more likely to develop type 1 diabetes, study finds
A small team of researchers with members from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and the MetroHealth System has found a link between children who contract COVID-19 and an increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes. In their paper published in the journal JAMA Network Open, the group describes their analysis of health records of children and adolescents during the pandemic.
Lingering cardiac involvement in previously well people after mild COVID-19
Serial heart MRI scans conducted in previously well people with mild initial COVID-19 illness suggest that lingering cardiac symptoms may be explained, at least in part, by ongoing mild cardiac inflammation.
Unlike flu, COVID-19 attacks DNA in the heart: new research
Direct research on the hearts of COVID-19 patients who have died from the disease has revealed they sustained DNA damage in a way completely unlike how influenza affects the body. The finding gives researchers clues about exactly how severe COVID-19 is affecting the body, and also a potential way to detect who will be seriously affected by the disease in the future.
These scientists traced a new coronavirus lineage to one office — through sewage
Virologist Dave O’Connor admits that he was getting desperate when he started asking dog owners for poo samples. For much of 2022, O’Connor, at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and his colleagues have been tracking a heavily mutated variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Early this year, they discovered the variant in Wisconsin waste water drawn from more than 100,000 people. Following the sewer system to ever-smaller watersheds, they narrowed the variant’s source to one particular area. O’Connor and his team thought that the variant might be circulating in dogs, in part because they found canine genetic material in the same wastewater samples. So they headed to the local dog park. “It was the strangest request you’re ever going to hear: ‘Hey, we’re scientists. Can we just have that bag of dog poop that you’re throwing away?’”
Global Monkey Shortage for Experiments Boosts China’s Vaccine Development
Swedish scientist Karin Lore used to depend on China to keep her laboratory running. A professor at Stockholm’s Karolinska Institutet, Lore studies the immune system’s interaction with vaccines, and safety tests on monkeys are a critical part of her research. But after Covid-19 hit, Beijing halted exports of primates central to her work amid concerns that live animals could contribute to the virus’s spread. More than two years later, monkeys from China are in increasingly short supply, leaving Lore and scientists around the world struggling to complete their research.
Myocarditis Risk in Young People Following COVID-19 Infection
Risk of myocarditis is higher following a SARS-CoV-2 infection than it is following a COVID-19 vaccination and increases significantly in men under 40 years, particularly following a second dose of mRNA-1273 vaccine. The risk is still modest following sequential doses or a booster of BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine. These are among the study findings published in Circulation. Researchers sought to evaluate risk for myocarditis in younger people following sequential doses of COVID-19 vaccine vs risks of myocarditis in all individuals who develop SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Pfizer/BioNTech seek FDA nod for new COVID boosters for children
Pfizer Inc and its German partner BioNTech on Monday sought the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's authorization for an Omicron-tailored COVID-19 vaccine booster for children aged 5 through 11 years. The application comes just days after Moderna also applied for FDA authorization of its own Omicron-targeting shot in adolescents aged 12 to 17 years and children aged six to 11.
U.S. FDA clears additional lots of Moderna's Covid booster amid shortage
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Monday it has authorized an additional five batches of Moderna Inc's updated Covid booster shots made at a Catalent facility in Indiana, after it deemed them safe for use. Last week, the health regulator had allowed use of ten batches of Moderna's updated booster shots made at the Bloomington, Indiana facility, owned by a unit of Catalent Inc, which is currently not a part of the company's emergency use authorization.
Valneva in talks with potential partner on second-gen COVID-19 vaccines
French drugmaker Valneva said on Monday it is in talks with a potential partner on producing an updated version of its COVID-19 vaccine that targets new variants of the disease, sending its shares up. The French company has struggled to bring its COVID-19 vaccine to market to compete with rival products from drugmakers such as AstraZeneca, Moderna and BioNTech/Pfizer. Its shares have lost almost 80% since peaking at the end of 2021.
Long COVID Has Forced the U.S. to Take Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Seriously
ME/CFS involves a panoply of debilitating symptoms that affect many organ systems and that get worse with exertion. The Institute of Medicine estimates that it affects 836,000 to 2.5 million people in the U.S. alone, but is so misunderstood and stigmatized that about 90 percent of people who have it have never been diagnosed. At best, most medical professionals know nothing about ME/CFS; at worst, they tell patients that their symptoms are psychosomatic, anxiety-induced, or simply signs of laziness. While ME/CFS patients, their caregivers, and the few doctors who treat them have spent years fighting for medical legitimacy, the coronavirus pandemic has now forced the issue.
Coronavirus Resurgence
Covid infections rise by 14% in a week in UK
Covid infections in the UK are rising and have topped more than one million, according to official estimates. There has been a 14% rise in people testing positive - which is the biggest weekly increase since the summer.
Covid fourth wave fears as hospital admissions surge 48% in a week
The UK is feared to be in the midst of another Covid wave as hospital admissions have jumped almost double in a week. Latest figures show the number of patients testing positive for coronavirus is up 48%, compared to seven days ago. Fears have already been raised among the medical community the approaching colder weather could boost numbers. Now, a total of 7,024 people with coronavirus were in hospital as of 8am on September 28, according to NHS England. The number is half the 14,000 in mid-July at the peak of the wave of infections caused by the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of the virus.