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"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 7th Nov 2022

Lockdown Exit
Chinese officials signal no change to 'zero-COVID' policy
Chinese health officials are giving no indication of any relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions following several days of speculation that the government was considering changes to a “zero-COVID” approach that has stymied economic growth and disrupted daily life
China to 'Unswervingly' Keep to Covid Zero Policy, Dashing Hopes
China will “unswervingly” adhere to its current Covid controls as the country faces increasingly serious outbreaks, health officials said, damping hopes that Beijing will ease its stringent policies that have put cities and factories under prolonged lockdowns. “Previous practices have proved that our prevention and control plans and a series of strategic measures are completely correct,” Hu Xiang, an official at National Health Commission’s disease prevention and control bureau, said at a briefing Saturday. “The policies are also the most economical and effective.”
Rise in RSV, Flu and Other Respiratory Viruses Could Result in Tripledemic
The fall is shaping up as a rough and unpredictable one for respiratory viruses, as federal health officials warn of an early increase in activity this season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Friday recommended that healthcare providers offer flu and Covid-19 shots to patients, use diagnostics to guide patient management and provide treatments as early as possible. Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations are simmering at a sustained level, with new Omicron subvariants and the coming holiday season threatening to drive them higher. Other viruses including influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, are surging earlier than usual, after two years of unusually low or sporadic transmission.
China vows to continue with 'dynamic-clearing' COVID strategy
China will persevere with its "dynamic-clearing" approach to COVID-19 cases as soon as they emerge, health officials said on Saturday, adding that measures must be implemented more precisely and meet the needs of vulnerable people. The country's strict COVID containment approach is still able to control the virus, despite the high transmissibility of COVID variants and asymptomatic carriers, an official from the China National Health Commission told a news conference.
China Plans Easing Covid Restrictions, Canceling Flight Suspensions
China is working on plans to scrap a system that penalizes airlines for bringing virus cases into the country, according to people familiar with the matter, a sign authorities are looking for ways to ease the impact of the Covid Zero policy. The State Council, which oversees China’s bureaucracy, recently asked government agencies including the civil aviation regulator to prepare for ending the so-called circuit-breaker mechanism, said the people, asking not to be identified because the matter is sensitive. The system sees airlines banned temporarily from specific routes into China for one-to-two weeks, depending on how many Covid-positive passengers they bring in to the country. A similar mechanism for Hong Kong was halted in July. The request is part of a broader three-step plan devised mid-year to normalize China’s aviation industry, the people said, with the country effectively cut off from the rest of the world by its pandemic border curbs.
China vows commitment to growth as investors bet on easier COVID policy
Chinese policymakers pledged on Wednesday that growth was still a priority and they would press on with reforms, helping further boost stock markets buoyed by hopes that Beijing will ease off on its strict COVID-19 measures. The policymakers' comments came in an apparent bid to soothe fears that ideology could take precedence as Xi Jinping began a new leadership term and strict COVID curbs exact a growing toll on the world's second-largest economy.
China Covertly Locks Down Cities as Covid Zero Pushback Rises
It’s nearly impossible to eat in a restaurant in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where Covid-19 was first detected nearly three years ago. There are few flights out of Zhengzhou, home to the country’s largest iPhone factory. And many children in the tech hub of Shenzhen haven’t been inside a classroom in weeks. Sweeping lockdown orders like that deployed in Shanghai earlier this year haven’t been announced in any of these places, yet people, businesses and entertainment venues are operating as if they’re in place.
Macau reimposes COVID curbs as China loosens visa rules for gambling hub
Macau authorities reinstated tough COVID-19 curbs including locking down a major casino over the weekend after a handful of cases were detected, even as China announced a loosening of visa rules for visitors to the world's biggest gambling hub. Authorities locked down the MGM Cotai casino resort owned by MGM China on Sunday, with staff and guests ordered to stay inside until Nov. 1. More than 1,500 people are sealed inside the property, the government said on Monday.
Exit Strategies
China to make 'substantial' COVID policy changes soon - ex-govt expert
China will make substantial changes to its "dynamic-zero" COVID-19 policy in coming months, a former Chinese disease control official told a conference hosted by Citi on Friday, according to a recording of the session heard by Reuters. Separately, three sources familiar with the matter said China may soon further shorten quarantine requirements for inbound travellers. Zeng Guang, former chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention who has remained outspoken on China's COVID fight, said the conditions for China opening up were "accumulating", citing new vaccines and progress the country had made in antiviral drug research.
Moderna Cuts Forecast, Misses Estimates as Orders Delayed
Moderna Inc. earnings offered a preview into the future of Covid-19 vaccine sales, and so far it doesn’t look pretty. The company cut its vaccine sales forecast for the year and gave its first hint at 2023 as interest in immunization fades amid the fading pandemic concerns. While analysts were largely anticipating a disappointing quarter, the miss comes only days after rival Pfizer Inc. raised its vaccine guidance for the year.
New Covid variants are circulating. What do we know and will the Omicron-specific booster be effective?
Despite driving an increase in cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) says XBB and BQ.1 are not different enough from each other, or from other Omicron lineages, to warrant labelling them new variants of concern. Variants of concern are those that show increased transmissibility, virulence or change in clinical disease, and a decreased effectiveness of public health and social measures. XBB and BQ.1 are subvariants of Omicron, which continues to be a variant of concern. Examining global data available to date, WHO said there is early evidence that there is a higher risk of Covid-19 reinfection from XBB and BQ.1 compared to other circulating Omicron subvariants. However, cases of reinfection appear to be largely occurring in those previously infected with pre-Omicron strains, such as Delta, WHO says.
‘Vaccine apathy’ slowing down London’s Covid booster rollout
Vaccine “apathy” is slowing down the rollout of London's Covid-19 booster jab, a top health professor has warned, as figures revealed that the capital continues to lag behind other regions on vaccination. Just over a third (33.2 per cent) of people aged 50 and over had received their autumn booster jab in London as of October 26, by far the lowest proportion in England. In comparison, over half of adults aged over 50 in the South West had received their booster. London was at least ten per cent behind every other region, according to Government statistics. Azeem Majeed, professor of primary care and public health at Imperial College London, warned that patients were displaying signs of “vaccine apathy” and had complained they have “already had enough” Covid-19 jabs.
Father blames China's COVID policy for son's death that sparked online anger
The father of a 3-year-old boy who died on Tuesday from carbon monoxide poisoning in northwest China said strict COVID-19 policies "indirectly killed" his son by causing delays obtaining treatment, in a case that has sparked social media outrage. The boy's death is the latest incident to trigger blowback over China's strict zero-COVID policy, with one critical hashtag racking up 380 million reads on Wednesday on the Twitter-like Weibo platform.
Covid inquiry promises to cover key Welsh issues
The UK Covid public inquiry will do all it can to ensure all issues the people of Wales want covered are investigated, its chair has said.Baroness Hallett made the pledge as it was revealed the inquiry will hold public hearings in Wales next autumn.
Covid remains deadly for half a million Britons, and the government isn’t talking about it
As immunocompromised people and their families face a third housebound winter, Charlotte Lytton asks why the government is dragging its feet when it comes to the possibly life-altering drug Evusheld. It remains punishingly out of reach… unless you cough up the money for it
Aid spending soared to record level in Pacific islands as COVID hit
A record $3.3 billion in aid flowed to the Pacific islands in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, a 33% increase on the previous year, according to a report released by the Lowy Institute think-tank on Monday. The pandemic led to border closures, confronting governments reliant on tourism with economic crisis. It also brought a shift in how aid was delivered, with more loans than grants made, and more direct funding to help deliver critical services.
Partisan Exits
The Beijing Marathon Returns, With Some Covid-Zero Conditions
The Beijing marathon is back. Probably. No one will really be certain until the starting gun goes off on Nov. 6. The race, once one of the world’s top city marathons, has been on hiatus for two years, and with China sticking to its Covid-Zero policies, the marathon’s return has been marked with delays and uncertainty. Runners didn’t even know if they’d be competing until results of the entrance lottery were announced a week ago. “Even though there’s a short time to prepare, and my condition may not be as good as before, it’s good for it to be held,” said Tao Zhan, 49, an office worker who started running marathons six years ago and broke the three-hour mark in the 2019 Chicago Marathon. “This is very good news for runners.”
Matt Hancock – live: I’m A Celebrity deal ‘cashes in on Covid misery’, say bereaved
Matt Hancock is coming under fire for a deal worth a reported £400,000 to appear on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here during the cost of living crisis. The West Suffolk MP and former health secretary has landed in Australia for the reality TV show, which starts on Sunday. Reports say Mr Hancock will pocket around £400,000 to appear on the popular show and the payday has sparked a backlash among some of the constituents facing higher food and energy bills. Sharon Twite, 50, landlady of The White Swan, in Exning, in Hancock’s constituency, voted for him at the last election but hit out at him for “letting us all down”. “He’s getting £400,000 to go and eat grubs in the jungle, Jesus Christ,” the mum-of-four told The Sun.
Wuhan lab at centre of Covid claims 'worked on a shoestring budget'
Wuhan lab at centre of Covid leak theories was run on a shoestring budget under huge pressure to deliver results quickly, new analysis suggests. Staff complained of lack of expertise running such a high-security environment. Reports suggest they also had problems with disinfectant corroding equipment. Lab may have suffered a broken air filter just before Covid emerged, expert said
Covid: Boris Johnson WhatsApp messages requested by inquiry
The Covid public inquiry has asked to see Boris Johnson's WhatsApp messages during his time as prime minister as part of its probe into decision-making. Counsel for the inquiry, Hugo Keith KC, said the messages had been requested alongside thousands of other documents. He said a major focus of this part of the inquiry was understanding how the "momentous" decisions to impose lockdowns and restrictions were taken. The revelations came as he set out the details of how this module will work. The inquiry is being broken down into different sections - or modules as they are being called.
China Dismisses 'Fabricated' Virus Leak Theory Vanity Fair, ProPublica Revived
China lashed out at a report about a lab in the city of Wuhan where the coronavirus first appeared, saying it was driven by politics in the US. “US politicians are rehashing the lab-leak theory to smear China in disregard of facts,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Monday at a regular press briefing in Beijing. “Such acts are driven by ill-intentions. This will only hamper science-based origins tracing and undermine international anti-Covid cooperation.”
China reports 2105 new COVID cases for Oct 29 vs 1658 a day earlier
China reported 2,105 new COVID-19 infections on Oct. 29, of which 401 were symptomatic and 1,704 were asymptomatic, the National Health Commission said on Sunday. That compared with 1,658 new infections on Oct. 28, of which 377 were symptomatic and 1,281 were asymptomatic, which China counts separately. There were no new deaths, the same as a day earlier, keeping fatalities at 5,226. As of Oct. 29, mainland China had confirmed 259,438 cases with symptoms.
Scientific Viewpoint
COVID variants BQ.1/BQ.1.1 make up 35% of U.S. cases
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday estimated that Omicron subvariants BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 accounted for about 35% of coronavirus cases in the country in the week ending Nov.5 compared with 23.2% in the previous week. The subvariants made up nearly 9% of total cases in the week of Oct. 15 and their proportion has been rising steadily among circulating cases since then. The two variants are descendants of Omicron's BA.5 subvariant and have been spreading rapidly in Europe.
U.S. faces pandemic crossroads with Covid deaths still too high and new omicron variants emerging, Fauci says
White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci on Thursday said the U.S. is at a crossroads in the Covid-19 pandemic as new omicron subvariants are gaining ground across the country. Fauci, in a radio interview Thursday, said the pandemic has clearly eased since last winter, but deaths, which average more than 2,600 per week, remain far too high. At the same time, the new omicron variants are knocking out key tools used to protect the most vulnerable. “We’re really at a point that may be a crossroads here. As we’re entering into the cooler months, we are starting to see the emergence of sublineage variants of omicron,” Fauci said on the “Conversations on Health Care” radio show.
Sweden against giving EU-approved COVID jab to under-30s
The EU-approved COVID-19 vaccine Nuvaxovid should not be administered to people aged 30, and below due to increased health risks posed by it, the Swedish Public Health Agency announced this week. Nuvaxovid was the fifth COVID-19 vaccine to be approved by the EU. After initially approving the vaccine for people aged 18 and over, the Public Health Agency announced on Tuesday that the vaccine presented a danger for people aged 30 and below as it increases the risk of heart muscle inflammation and pericarditis – more commonly known as heart muscle inflammation and pericardial effusion – even though the risk remains “very low”. “We are monitoring the situation closely and awaiting more data. But anyone who is younger and has recently been vaccinated with Nuvaxovid need not be concerned.
China Agrees to Approve BioNTech's Covid-19 Vaccine for Foreigners, German Chancellor Says
China agreed to approve BioNTech SE’s Covid-19 vaccines for foreign residents, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in Beijing on Friday, in what would mark the first approval of an mRNA vaccine for Covid-19 for use in China. Mr. Scholz and Chinese leader Xi Jinping also discussed a pathway for approving the BioNTech vaccine for the broader population in China, Mr. Scholz said in a news conference, suggesting that regulators at the European Medicines Agency would be involved. “There will be an acceleration of the approval process; that’s been promised to me,” Mr. Scholz told German journalists in a question-and-answer session afterward. He said that Europe would speed up applications made by Chinese companies.
Factbox: What are the new BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 coronavirus variants, and why it matters
BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 are among the more than 300 sublineages of the Omicron variant circulating globally, 95% of which are direct descendants of BA.5, according to the World Health Organization. In early July, BA.5 became the dominant subvariant of the coronavirus circulating in the United States, but in October it started giving way to BQ.1 and BQ.1.1. Both contain genetic mutations that make it harder for the immune system to recognize and neutralize the virus. That makes them better at infecting people in spite of immunity from vaccinations and prior infections. Evidence from France, however, where the variants caused a surge in cases, suggests they do not appear to be causing increased rates of hospitalizations and deaths, Dr. Eric Topol, a genomics expert and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in La Jolla, California, said on Twitter.
UK researchers cure man with persistent Covid for over a year
Researchers in Britain say they have used genetic sequencing to help cure a man who was infected with the coronavirus for more than 411 days. The 59-year-old patient, who had a weakened immune system due to a kidney transplant and the use of an immunosuppressant drug, initially tested positive in December 2020. After further tests in February 2021 and January 2022 came back positive, the team in London carried out a genetic analysis of the virus, which showed that the same strain was present at each stage, with only minor variations — meaning that the patient was suffering from a chronic coronavirus infection, rather than multiple new infections.
Could a nose spray a day keep COVID away?
During the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, Anne Moscona didn’t feel safe going to a restaurant or catching a flight. And she wished she could feel confident that she could see her immunocompromised relatives without inadvertently spreading the novel coronavirus to them. All this made her work personal: for the past decade, Moscona, a molecular virologist, had been hunting for compounds that could stop viruses in their tracks, before the pathogens infect even a single cell in a person’s body. Now Moscona, at Columbia University in New York City, and her colleagues have homed in on a compound that might foil SARS-CoV-2. Even better, it’s simply sprayed up the nose — no needle required1.
'A silent killer' -- COVID-19 shown to trigger inflammation in the brain
Research led by The University of Queensland has found COVID-19 activates the same inflammatory response in the brain as Parkinson's disease. The discovery identified a potential future risk for neurodegenerative conditions in people who've had COVID-19, but also a possible treatment. The UQ team was led by Professor Trent Woodruff and Dr Eduardo Albornoz Balmaceda from UQ's School of Biomedical Sciences, and virologists from the School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences. "We studied the effect of the virus on the brain's immune cells, 'microglia' which are the key cells involved in the progression of brain diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's," Professor Woodruff said.
Vaxzevria receives full Marketing Authorisation in the EU for the prevention of COVID-19
AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine, Vaxzevria (ChAdOx1-S [Recombinant]), has been granted full Marketing Authorisation (MA) in the European Union (EU). Vaxzevria was originally granted a conditional Marketing Authorisation (cMA) due to the urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic. As there continues to be sufficient evidence of safety and efficacy confirming the benefits of Vaxzevria, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has now granted a full MA. This decision follows positive recommendation for a full MA by The Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) of the EMA. The MA covers the use of Vaxzevria in both a primary vaccination series, and as both a heterologous (with an approved mRNA COVID-19 vaccine) or homologous (all the same vaccine) third dose booster. Iskra Reic, Executive Vice President, Vaccines and Immune Therapies, AstraZeneca, said: “The move from conditional to full marketing authorisation for Vaxzevria is an important confirmation by the EMA of the safety and efficacy of Vaxzevria, demonstrating that the benefits continue to outweigh the potential risks. Vaxzevria is estimated to have helped save over six million lives in the first year of vaccination, which reflects the strength of the evidence showing Vaxzevria’s protection against severe disease and death caused by COVID-19.”
Everything You Need to Know About the UK's Covid Booster Plan
Britain is in the midst of a fresh Covid-19 booster campaign with 26 million people in England alone being called to receive another dose. The so-called “autumn booster” is being administered at a time when flu cases are rising too and when a number of new omicron variants are circulating that could fuel resurgent waves of Covid infections as winter progresses.
China rolls out first inhalable COVID vaccine
In what is believed to be a world first, China's commerical capital of Shanghai this week introduced a new type of COVID-19 vaccine that is inhaled rather than administered via injection. Chinese regulators approved the vaccine, produced by Chinese pharmaceutical firm CanSino Biologics, for use as a booster in September. And now the first people are starting to receive the vaccine, which is inhaled via the mouth from a vessel that looks like a take-out coffee cup with a short mouthpiece.
Coronavirus Resurgence
China posts 6-month high COVID count as it sticks with strategy
China on Sunday reported its highest number of new COVID-19 infections in six months, a day after health officials said they were sticking with strict coronavirus curbs, likely disappointing recent investor hopes for an easing. China recorded 4,420 new locally transmitted COVID-19 infections on Saturday, the National Health Commission said, the most since May 6 and compared up from 3,659 new local cases a day earlier.
Rumours of zero-Covid easing spread in China amid anger at restrictions
Waves of outrage and frustration over China’s lockdown measures this week have demonstrated widening cracks in the general compliance with the government’s zero-Covid policy. Rising anger has been driven by the tragic death of a toddler, and highly public problematic lockdowns in the Henan capital, Zhengzhou. Officials were left scrambling to control the narrative, amid swirling rumours of imminent policy shifts and a former government health expert saying on Friday that “substantive changes will happen soon”. Chinese authorities have been trying to contain sporadic outbreaks across the country by using the same strict response measures that had been so successful early in the pandemic
Headteacher support plea as anxiety levels double amid Covid
Ministers must provide better support for headteachers to “shore up sustainable leadership”, experts said, after a report revealed their work-related anxiety more than doubled at the peak of the pandemic. UCL’s Institute of Education (IOE) researchers also said their study revealed “shocking” differences in anxiety between leaders and classroom teachers that exposed the “additional strain” on heads. A survey of more than 13,000 teachers and heads shows little difference in the anxiety levels of both during the run up to pandemic, between October 2019 and February 2020. One in four (25 per cent) of headteachers were “highly anxious” about work, while the level for teachers was 20 per cent.
Covid infections in the over-70s rise in UK after new 'nightmare' Omicron variant found
Coronavirus cases in the over-70s have risen slightly in the last week, as two new mutant variants have been discovered in the UK. More than 1,590,000 people, equivalent to one in 35, tested positive in England in the last week, the latest figures released by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) showed. The figures for Scotland are also equivalent to one in 35 with 141,400 positive cases. In Wales, one in 40 people (77,500 cases) have the infection, and in Northern Ireland one in 30 (61,200 cases) have Covid. The government data, released today, showed infections to the week ending Monday, October 24.
iPhone Factory Worker Walked 25 Miles to Escape Covid Lockdown in China
It was Sunday when Dong Wanwan decided to give up her job at the world’s largest iPhone factory and walk home. The 20-year-old had been working for the past three months on the production lines at Foxconn Technology Group’s plant in Zhengzhou, one of tens of thousands helping put together Apple Inc. iPhones that would be sent around the globe. It was a coveted job, among the country’s best-paid blue-collar gigs.
China COVID curbs hit iPhone output, shut Shanghai Disney
China's COVID-19 curbs forced the temporary closure of Disney's Shanghai resort on Monday, while production of Apple Inc iPhones at a major contract manufacturing facility could drop by 30% in November due to coronavirus restrictions, a source told Reuters. In Zhengzhou, a Foxconn plant that makes iPhones and employs about 200,000 people has been rocked by discontent over stringent measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, with numerous staff fleeing the facility, prompting nearby cities to draw up plans to isolate migrant workers returning to their home towns.
Chinese cities clamp down on COVID as cases rise before winter season
Officials in Chinese cities and provinces across the country are pulling no punches in stamping out sporadic COVID-19 outbreaks as winter nears, quickly closing venues and enforcing longer temporary lockdowns on millions of people. Cases in mainland China hit 2,898 on Sunday, topping 2,000 for a second straight day and pressuring the country's controversial zero-COVID policy, which has hamstrung the economy and exasperated its citizens.