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"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 26th Sep 2022

Lockdown Exit
Grim milestone as Australia’s aged care homes mark 4,000 Covid deaths
The Covid-19 pandemic may have slipped from the forefront of most Australians’ minds. But in aged care, another grim milestone has just been recorded. This week, Australia marked its 4,000th death in residential aged care since the pandemic began. Data released Friday shows the aged care death toll now sits at 4,012, after another 32 Covid-related deaths were recorded last week. Aged care has been the pandemic’s epicentre in Australia and 2022 has been the most deadly year by far. Nine months into the year, and the death toll in 2022 is already well above 3,000. The toll was greater than the first two years (231 in 2021 and 686 in 2020) of the pandemic combined.
Patients Suffered at For-Profit Nursing Homes Early in Pandemic, Congress Says
One nurse caring for more than 30 patients. Hours- or even days-long waits for basic care. Threats against sick staff. These are some of the conditions described in a new congressional report examining several for-profit nursing-home chains in the early days of the pandemic. The report by the House of Representatives’ Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis examined five for-profit chains operating about 850 homes with 80,000 residents during the early months of the pandemic, drawing on complaints filed against the companies. About 70% of nursing homes in the US are run by for-profit operators.
Japan to Restore Visa-Free Travel From Oct. 11 as Covid Pandemic Recedes
Japan will abolish a slew of Covid border controls from Oct. 11, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said in New York, in a move that looks set to revive the tourism industry. Individual visitors will be allowed to enter, and Japan will reinstate visa waivers, Kishida said at a news conference Thursday morning in New York. The cap on daily arrivals in Japan will also be ended, he said. Later in the day, at the New York Stock Exchange, Kishida said Japan “will relax border control measures to be on par with the US,” spurring applause from the audience.
Goldman Sachs Will End Covid Vaccination Requirements in Its New York Office
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. will drop vaccination requirements for staff at its New York City office, as the waning pandemic prompts Wall Street banks eager for employees to return to their desks to scrap remaining restrictions. The bank will end the requirement beginning Tuesday Nov. 1, according to a memo to staff seen by Bloomberg News. It follows the announcement by New York City Mayor Eric Adams that the city will no longer mandate that private employers require all of their workers to be vaccinated for Covid-19. Goldman Sachs had previously removed vaccine requirements in other US locations
Pfizer to supply up to 6 mln COVID pill courses for lower income countries
Pfizer Inc said on Thursday it would supply up to 6 million courses of its COVID-19 antiviral treatment to NGO Global Fund for low- and middle-income countries that seeks to address worldwide disparities in COVID response. The company said Paxlovid treatment courses will be available for procurement through Global Fund's COVID-19 Response Mechanism to 132 low- and middle-income countries this year, subject to local regulatory clearances.
COVID complications push Australian deaths to highest numbers in 40 years
The alarm has been sounded about COVID-19’s hidden impact as new data shows that the highest number of people have died in the March quarter of 2022 than in any of the past 41 years. Australian Bureau of Statistics population data published on Wednesday shows an 18 per cent increase in deaths in the quarter compared with the same period a year earlier, rising from 36,100 to 46,200 deaths.
Zero-COVID policy has cost Hong Kong its aviation hub status - IATA
Hong Kong has lost its position as a global aviation hub due to China's zero-COVID policy, the head of airlines group IATA said on Wednesday, warning the industry's recovery from the pandemic would be slowed if Beijing continued its restrictions next year. Attending an International Air Transport Association (IATA) conference in the Qatari capital Doha, IATA Director General Willie Walsh said China's zero-COVID policy had "devastated" Hong Kong and hit airline Cathay Pacific hard.
Covid hospitalisations rise by nearly 20% in a week in England
Coronavirus cases and hospitalisations are rising once again in England after declining since early July, data suggests, with experts warning people should stay at home if ill and get a Covid booster if eligible. According to the latest figures on the government coronavirus dashboard, both the number of cases detected through mass community testing, and patients admitted to hospital with Covid have risen in the past seven days, suggesting the country could be facing a resurgence of the virus. On Monday, 781 Covid patients were admitted to hospital in England, up from 519 the week before, with the seven day total rising 17%, from 3,434 in the week ending 12 September to 4,015 in the week ending 19 September.
Exit Strategies
COVID-19 cases rise in England and Wales for first time in two months
COVID cases in England and Wales have risen for the first time in two months - marking an end to a steady fall since early July. The increase means the total number of infections in the UK has also gone up, but levels are estimated to have fallen in Scotland and Northern Ireland. About 927,900 people in private households across the country are likely to have tested positive for coronavirus in the week ending 14 September, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). That is up 5% from 881,200 for the week before
NZ now flying blind on new Covid-19 variants - experts
University of Auckland microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles said while the reported numbers were murky due to reporting changes, it was doubtful only 94 people out of almost 70,000 travellers who arrived in New Zealand, had Covid-19. "I'm not a statistician, but that seems highly unlikely, versus a change in our protocol to require people to be tested." Wiles said border testing provided an early warning system of new variants entering New Zealand, and without this, variants would spread in the community before being noticed. "We'll be reliant on the tests that have been done in the community, or more increasingly the wastewater testing, looking for variants." A Ministry of Health spokesperson said arrivals are still given RAT kits on arrival and encouraged to test and report their results by phone.
Two-in-one jab for Covid-19 and flu could be available in late 2023: Moderna
Speaking during a virtual media roundtable event on Wednesday night, Moderna's chief medical officer Paul Burton said the quick turnaround is possible because of the flexibility of the messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) platform. He said the mRNA platform allows the company to pivot to other diseases and produce new vaccines quickly, adding: "You can expect it (the jab for flu and Covid-19) in late 2023." Dr Burton also provided an update on Moderna's plans to set up a new subsidiary in Singapore, revealing that job offers for the team have been sent out and more will be disclosed in the coming weeks. Moderna had announced in February 2022 plans to set up a subsidiary here, which it said will add to the Covid-19 vaccine manufacturer's presence in the Asia-Pacific region.
Covid-19 Unemployment Fraud May Have Topped $45 Billion, Watchdog Estimates
Criminals potentially stole an estimated $45.6 billion by making fraudulent unemployment insurance claims meant for people laid off during the Covid-19 pandemic, a government watchdog said. The new tally is nearly three times last summer’s estimate of over $16 billion in fraudulent payments. More than half of the potential fraud identified between March 2020 and April 2022 stemmed from individuals filing for benefits in multiple states. Fraudsters also used the Social Security numbers of people who were dead or in prison, as well as suspicious email addresses, the Labor Department’s inspector general’s office said in a report released Thursday. More than 1,000 people have been charged with crimes involving unemployment insurance fraud since March 2020, the report said.
Hong Kong Won't Return to Zero Covid Cases as City Weighs Easing
A Hong Kong health official said the Asian financial hub is unlikely to again see a day without any Covid-19 infections after keeping the virus largely at bay for the first two years of the pandemic. While cases won’t return to zero -- a feat the city managed for most of last year due to some of the world’s strictest quarantine policies -- the daily tally is likely to continue its downward trend, health official Albert Au said at a briefing on Thursday. “We expect coronavirus will linger in the community and will have certain transmissions,” he said. “Before the fifth wave, we could do Covid Zero. After the fifth wave, this is not necessarily feasible.”
Hong Kong Reaches Consensus on Ending Hotel Quarantine
Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee and his officials have reached a consensus on ending mandatory hotel quarantine for arrivals, the South China Morning Post reported. The government plans to replace it with seven-day home monitoring, according to the report, citing unidentified people. The new arrangements would be announced after thorough preparation by government agencies, the report added.
U.S. delivers over 25 mln COVID boosters; Moderna's shot in limited supply
The United States government has sent out over 25 million of the updated COVID-19 booster shots, mostly from Pfizer/BioNTech, as production of the Moderna shot continues to ramp up, a federal health agency said on Tuesday. Some U.S. pharmacies like CVS Health and Walgreens Boots Alliance also reported on Tuesday that government supply of Moderna's updated shot remains limited, causing appointments for the product to vary across the country.
Some People Are Finally Getting Their First Dose of a Covid-19 Vaccine
All together, the seven-day average for adults getting first shots each day ranged between roughly 15,000 and 18,000 in late August, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The data can overestimate first-shot recipients, because there are times where the agency can’t link follow-up shots, including boosters, to people who received an initial series. The same effect can lead to an undercount of booster shots, according to the CDC. People who recently got the first jab cited a range of reasons. Some said they were ordered to do so, such as to start a new job or travel for a vacation. Others waited until a vaccine using a more-traditional technology, instead of the newer mRNA versions, became available. Some went ahead after getting sick with Covid-19, or after a family member vouched that the shots worked.
Cost of Covid Zero Is Straining Municipal Finances Across China
China’s doubling down on its zero-tolerance stance toward Covid-19 is draining local-government coffers, posing a fresh threat to the economy and bond investors. Jilin province, in the northeast of the country, has warned of “increasingly outstanding conflicts” between spending and income. Finances at almost half of of its 60 county and district level governments are so tight they are exposed to “operational risks,” the provincial finance department said in its first-half budget execution report released last month
Partisan Exits
COVID-19 cases rise in England and Wales for first time in two months
COVID cases in England and Wales have risen for the first time in two months - marking an end to a steady fall since early July. The increase means the total number of infections in the UK has also gone up, but levels are estimated to have fallen in Scotland and Northern Ireland. About 927,900 people in private households across the country are likely to have tested positive for coronavirus in the week ending 14 September, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). That is up 5% from 881,200 for the week before
PM agrees to lift pandemic border measures, source says
The federal government has decided to drop the vaccination requirement for people entering Canada, end random COVID-19 testing at airports and make the use of the ArriveCan app optional by the end of this month, a senior government source told CBC News. Earlier this week, sources told CBC that Ottawa was leaning toward ending the measures but a final decision hadn't been made because it was awaiting the approval of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The current COVID-19 Emergency Order-in-Council relating to border measures was set to expire on Sept. 30. The government had the option of extending the measures. The government is expected to make an official announcement on Monday, the source said.
Fraudsters likely stole $45.6 billion from U.S. COVID unemployment insurance program
Fraudsters likely stole $45.6 billion from the United States' unemployment insurance program during the COVID-19 pandemic by applying tactics like using Social Security numbers of deceased individuals, a federal watchdog said on Thursday.
Danish queen tests positive for Covid day after Queen Elizabeth II's funeral
Queen Margrethe II has cancelled her appointments for this week after the diagnosis on Tuesday evening. The 82-year-old monarch was one of 2,000 guests who attended Queen Elizabeth II's state funeral on Monday.
Beijing’s Zero-COVID Policy Draws New Anger After Fatal Bus Crash
Commenters in China’s tightly controlled online communities are raising an angry howl at what they see as the latest outrage stemming from President Xi Jinping’s draconian zero-COVID policy. After at least 27 people died when a bus in southwest China’s Guizhou Province crashed while transporting them to a coronavirus quarantine facility, online comments revealed the magnitude of frustration of ordinary citizens enduring a policy that forces them into lengthy lockdowns and daily testing in the effort to contain COVID.
What Good Leadership Looks Like Now vs. Pre-Covid
Just as in the first study, among the 20 traits that Korn Ferry tested, “tolerance of ambiguity” had the strongest positive correlation this time with the Drucker Institute’s best-scoring companies. “Trust,” “risk-taking” and adaptability” all remained in the top five, as well. Given how deep-seated traits tend to be, this isn’t surprising. “It’s not that leaders have changed their spots,” says Stephen Lams, the vice president of data and analytics at the Korn Ferry Institute.
Scientific Viewpoint
Covid-19: China reopens borders to medical students, but problems remain
Medical students from India who have been studying in China have been heartened by the decision to allow them to return to resume their studies in person, although they admit that many obstacles remain including exorbitant air fares and “zero covid” policies. The Chinese government updated its visa policies for international students on 22 August, allowing them to return. China’s borders were sealed off to international travellers in January 2020, shortly after covid-19 struck. More than 23 000 Indian students and 28 000 Pakistani students are thought to be affected by pandemic quarantines and unable to return to China even after two years. The decision by the Chinese government to start issuing visas to international students comes after months of unrest for Indian medical students in particular.
Moderna seeks FDA nod for Omicron-targeted COVID shot for adolescents, younger kids
Moderna Inc said on Friday it has requested U.S. authorization for use of its Omicron-targeting COVID vaccine in adolescents and children. The company is seeking emergency use authorization of its updated vaccine in two age groups - adolescents aged 12 to 17 years and children aged six to 11. The application for the bivalent vaccine for children between the ages of six months and under six years is expected to be completed later this year, the company said in a tweet. Earlier this week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it expects COVID-19 vaccine boosters targeting circulating variants of the virus to be available for children aged 5-11 years by mid-October.
Covid-like virus lurking in bats deep in Russian caves 'could jump to humans'
A Covid-like virus lurking in Russian bats could jump to humans, scientists warned today. American virologists who carried out experiments on the pathogen — called Khosta-2 — fear it is 'completely resistant' to vaccines deployed during the pandemic. They found it was able to latch onto human cells with ease in the same way as the Covid virus.
COVID raises risk of long-term brain injury, large U.S. study finds
People who had COVID-19 are at higher risk for a host of brain injuries a year later compared with people who were never infected by the coronavirus, a finding that could affect millions of Americans, U.S. researchers reported on Thursday. The year-long study, published in Nature Medicine, assessed brain health across 44 different disorders using medical records without patient identifiers from millions of U.S. veterans. Brain and other neurological disorders occurred in 7% more of those who had been infected with COVID compared with a similar group of veterans who had never been infected. That translates into roughly 6.6 million Americans who had brain impairments linked with their COVID infections, the team said. "The results show the devastating long-term effects of COVID-19," senior author Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly of Washington University School of Medicine said in a statement.
COVID raises risk of long-term brain injury, large U.S. study finds
The year-long study, published in Nature Medicine, assessed brain health across 44 different disorders using medical records without patient identifiers from millions of U.S. veterans. Brain and other neurological disorders occurred in 7% more of those who had been infected with COVID compared with a similar group of veterans who had never been infected.
U.S. CDC expects Omicron COVID boosters for kids by mid-October
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects COVID-19 vaccine boosters targeting circulating variants of the virus to be available for children aged 5-11 years by mid-October. The CDC said in a document released on Tuesday that it expects to make a recommendation in early- to mid-October on the use of the new bivalent vaccines in the group, if they are authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Asia to Roll Out First Inhaled and Nasal-Spray Covid Vaccines
A new generation of Covid-19 vaccines that can be inhaled or sprayed up the nose—instead of taken by injection—will begin rolling out in Asia, though just how effective they are remains to be seen. Regulators in China and India have greenlighted distribution of vaccines delivered through the mouth or nose, a delivery that scientists say holds the promise of more potent protection against Covid-19 by better reducing infections and preventing the disease’s spread among vaccinated people because they work in the nose and lungs where transmission first happens. Existing vaccines have succeeded in reducing symptomatic disease and severe illness, but have fallen short when it comes to preventing mild infections or transmission.
AstraZeneca's Evusheld Gets EU Nod to Help Prevent Severe Covid
The European Union has recommended the use of AstraZeneca Plc’s Evusheld for treating Covid-19, and given the nod to another drug co-developed with Sanofi for preventing respiratory infection from a common virus in young children. Astra’s antibody cocktail Evusheld had already got the green light from authorities across the world to prevent Covid-19 for people with weakened immune systems. Now, it also has a positive recommendation from an expert panel under the European Medicines Agency for the drug to treat adults and adolescents at risk of progressing to severe Covid.
Chinese Scientists Develop Mask That Detects Covid, Flu Exposure
Chinese researchers have developed a mask that lets users know if they’ve been exposed to Covid-19 or the flu, a development that could help vulnerable populations even as the use of face coverings falls and more nations ease virus restrictions. A sensor built into a mask was able to detect the Covid-19, H5N1 and H1N1 influenza viruses in the air within 10 minutes and send notifications to a device, according to the study led by six scientists working with Tongji University in Shanghai. The peer-reviewed findings were published in the scientific journal Matter on Monday.
Moderna Gives WHO's mRNA Hub Some Help, Pfizer Snubs Request
Moderna Inc. has allowed its Covid-19 vaccine to be used in a World Health Organization effort to develop mRNA shots that would increase production and access for poor countries. Afrigen Biologics & Vaccines, a South African biotechnology company working with the WHO, has used the Moderna vaccine in comparison studies in mice to test the effectiveness of its own shots, said Petro Terblanche, Afrigen’s managing director.
Singapore approves Moderna's first bivalent Covid-19 booster jab
The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) on Wednesday granted interim authorisation for the use of Moderna's Spikevax bivalent Covid-19 vaccine, which targets both the original Sars-CoV-2 strain and the Omicron BA.1 variant. The bivalent vaccine has been authorised for use as a booster for people aged 18 and above who have already received their primary series vaccination. HSA did not say when the new vaccine will be made available here. However, in a media release, Moderna said it is working with HSA and the Government to make its bivalent vaccine “available to people in Singapore during September”.
Coronavirus Resurgence
China's Anti-COVID Policies in Tibet Trigger Resentment, Rare Online Outcry
The harsh COVID-19 containment restrictions China is imposing across Tibet are leading to public resentment in the capital of Lhasa, where residents who have tested positive are being quarantined in empty stadiums, schools, warehouses and unfinished buildings. Beijing's actions in Tibet reflect the draconian "zero-covid" policy of President Xi Jinping that has caused discontent and even protests in major cities such as Shanghai and Chengdu. Social media videos from Lhasa show people waiting to be bused at night to an estimated 20 makeshift quarantine camps. For Lhasa residents the "midnight bus" represents their fears of what they may find once they arrive at crowded and locked quarantine sites.
Coronavirus: China sticks to zero-Covid as management failures and misery mount
Public apologies from government officials in China for mishandled duties are extraordinarily rare events. After all, career success is largely determined by their supervisors, not by the people they serve. But since the coronavirus pandemic began sweeping across China, public admissions of failures have become more frequent. From food shortages to denied hospital access for sick people or pregnant women during lockdowns, from the eastern financial hub of Shanghai to Lhasa in Tibet, several local government officials have claimed deep remorse for their blunders. In the latest case, officials from the Guiyang municipal government bowed to say sorry for the deaths of 27 people on a bus that had been making an early morning journey to a remote quarantine facility.
US Seeks to Secure Medical Supply Chain in Covid-19 Fight
The Biden administration will help set up a clearinghouse of medical supplies with other nations to fight Covid-19, and will expand a “test-to-treat” program in 10 countries to distribute therapeutic drugs, a senior State Department official said. Countries that back the Global Action Plan on Covid-19 will pledge to create a mechanism to secure and distribute the goods -- such as masks and oxygen -- and raw materials required to combat a pandemic, according to the official, who asked not to be identified discussing plans that still aren’t public.
Japan PM says to ease COVID border control requirements next month
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Thursday his country will ease COVID-19 border control requirements next month, a key step in fostering a recovery in Japan's tourism sector, which is eager to take advantage of the yen's slide to a 24-year low.
Covid: First rise in infections in UK since July
Covid infection rates have increased in the UK for the first time since the middle of July, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). One in 70 tested positive, with the largest rise in secondary school children in the week to 14 September. Infections increased in England and Wales while rates fell in Scotland and Northern Ireland. The ONS says it will closely monitor the data to see the impact of schools returning over the coming weeks. Infections rose by 5% in the most recent period covered by the survey, although the total number testing positive is still close to its lowest point of the year. Booster jabs are now being offered to the most vulnerable, to help protection over the winter.
Where to Get the Moderna Booster Shot? Some US Pharmacies See Shortages
Some pharmacies are reporting shortages of Moderna Inc.’s new bivalent booster shot for Covid-19 as one factory used in producing the vaccine remains offline following a safety inspection. The US government supply of Moderna’s shot is currently limited, causing appointments for the product to vary across the country, a Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. pharmacy spokesperson said in an emailed statement. Meanwhile, CVS Health Corp. says some of its drugstores have used all of the updated shots they received from the government, and the company is trying to get more doses.