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"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 14th Nov 2022

Lockdown Exit
China's Xi, out of COVID bubble, faces changed world at G-20
After a lengthy absence from major international gatherings, Chinese leader Xi Jinping is leaving his country’s COVID-19 bubble and venturing abroad next week into a dramatically changed world marked by rising confrontation. Xi will attend the G-20 meeting of industrial and emerging market nations in Indonesia followed by the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Thailand. He will meet individually with other leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday in their first in-person talks since Biden took office in January 2021. The Chinese leader has relied mainly on speeches by video to deliver China’s message at the U.N. and other forums since 2020. The period has seen a sharp deterioration in China’s relations with the West over the COVID-19 pandemic, a crackdown on civil rights in Hong Kong, military threats against Taiwan and Beijing’s tacit support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
AstraZeneca drops submission to US regulators for Covid-19 vaccine approval
AstraZeneca has abandoned its submission for US regulatory approval for the Covid-19 vaccine it developed with Oxford university, almost two years after it was initially approved in the UK and Europe. Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca’s chief executive, said the company had decided to focus its regulatory team’s efforts on areas with larger unmet medical need, pointing to 19 regulatory approvals since the last earnings call. “We have decided to withdraw application in the United States simply because the US marketplace is well supplied and in fact, the demand for vaccine in the US and elsewhere in the world is declining,” he said.
Visiting curbs at hospitals, residential care homes to be extended 2 weeks due to COVID-19 situation
The Ministry of Health (MOH) will extend current visiting restrictions at all hospital wards and residential care homes for two weeks until Nov 23. This is to relieve pressure on hospitals and homes and to protect vulnerable patients and residents, said the ministry in a press release on Wednesday (Nov 9).
China Eases Zero-Covid Rules as Economic Toll and Frustrations Mount
China eased pandemic controls on Friday, as the country’s leaders seek to lessen the pain of a stringent zero-Covid policy that has exacted a heavy economic toll and stoked rising public resentment. The newly appointed Politburo Standing Committee of the nation’s top leaders, in one of its first major decisions, set out new rules to “optimize and adjust” the policy to minimize its impact on economic growth and people’s lives, as well as further open the country’s borders to foreign visitors, according to a release Friday by the National Health Commission. The new guidance shortened the mandatory quarantine time for inbound travelers and for those identified as close contacts, but notably didn’t declare an end to policies intended to completely vanquish Covid, insisting that the country “firmly stick to the dynamic zero-Covid policy.”
China's COVID curbs intensify as cases surge to highest since Shanghai lockdown
China on Friday eased some of its strict COVID rules, including shortening quarantines by two days for close contacts of infected people and for inbound travellers, and removing a penalty for airlines for bringing in too many cases. The loosening of curbs, a day after President Xi Jinping led his new Politburo Standing Committee in a meeting on COVID, cheered markets even as many experts warned that the measures were incremental and reopening probably remained a long way off.
U.S. COVID public health emergency to stay in place
The United States will keep in place the public health emergency status of the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing millions of Americans to still receive free tests, vaccines and treatments, two Biden administration officials said on Friday. The possibility of a winter surge in COVID cases and the need for more time to transition out of the public health emergency to a private market were two factors that contributed to the decision not to end the emergency status in January, one of the officials said.
'Hellhound': the delightfully-names new Covid variant sweeping across Spain
The new Covid variant that is sweeping through Spain has unofficially been given the delightful moniker of 'Hellhound' by social media users. It is certainly easier to remember than its official designation - technically referring to two separate Omicron subvariants as BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 -while they are only 2.7% of the cases at this moment they are expected be dominant in just a few weeks
Covid Hospitalizations Are Rising in Kids Under 6 Months, CDC Director Walensky Says
Covid-19 hospitalizations are rising among babies under 6 months old, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging mothers to get vaccinated to reduce the risk of infection in those not yet eligible for shots, Director Rochelle Walensky said. “We’re seeing more and more of those younger babies getting hospitalized,” Walensky said in an exclusive interview at CDC’s headquarters in Atlanta. “That’s really where we’re trying to do some work now because we think we can prevent those by getting mom vaccinated.”
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.”
Exit Strategies
WHO reports 90% drop in global COVID-19 deaths since February
The head of the World Health Organization said Wednesday that there has been a 90% drop in global COVID-19 deaths since February, which he called a "cause for optimism" but still urged "caution" amid the ongoing pandemic. "Just over 9,400 COVID-19 deaths were reported to WHO last week -- almost 90% less than in February of this year, when weekly deaths topped 75,000," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a virtual press briefing from the U.N. agency's Geneva headquarters. "We have come a long way, and this is definitely cause for optimism, but we continue to call on all governments, communities and individuals to remain vigilant," he added. "Almost 10,000 deaths a week is 10,000 too many, for a disease that can be prevented and treated."
French medics say face masks are needed again, especially on transport
The French Académie de Médecine states that masks would protect against Covid, seasonal flu and bronchiolitis but stopped short of saying they should be ‘mandatory’
Call to raise daily cross-border quota of 1,000 for Hong Kong travellers
Hong Kong businesses could reap the benefits of Beijing’s latest easing of Covid-19 arrival curbs if the Shenzhen quarantine quota for cross-border travellers from the financial hub is raised from the current 1,000, according to a government adviser. Executive councillor Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung pushed for an alignment in policies on Saturday after mainland China cut its week-long hotel quarantine for inbound travellers to five days. Lam and others also urged authorities to allow business owners and those needing to visit their families across the border to travel under a “closed-loop bubble” arrangement without isolation. Under the latest rule changes unveiled by the National Health Commission on Friday, incoming visitors will serve five days of hotel quarantine followed by three in home isolation according to a “5+3” model, applicable also to those from Hong Kong.
Covid infections fall across UK for first time in nearly three months
Covid-19 infections have fallen in all four UK countries for the first time in nearly three months, official figures show, while the number of people hospitalised continues to fall. The news provides fresh evidence the latest wave of the virus has peaked, while health experts have praised the autumn booster campaign for helping to prevent high levels of serious illness. “It is hugely encouraging that Covid-19 cases and hospitalisations are still in decline across the UK. This goes to show how effective the vaccine programme continues to be and we thank everyone who has come forward for their latest vaccination so far,” said Dr Mary Ramsay, the director of public health programmes at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
CanSino's inhalable COVID-19 vaccines to be available in Tianjin from Nov 10
Beijing residents can start making appointments for an inhalable COVID booster made by CanSino Biologics, media reported on Thursday, while those in Tianjin city can now get it as the Chinese pharmaceutical firm distributes more supplies. CanSino's vaccine, called Convidecia Air, is an aerosol version of an inactive shot and was approved as an emergency-use booster by Chinese health authorities in September
China's Covid Zero and Lockdown Policy Struggle to Contain Growing Outbreaks
Some of China’s most persistent virus hotspots have been locked down for weeks, and in some cases months, showing the limitations of the country’s contentious Covid Zero policy. Xinjiang reported the fourth-highest number of new cases nationally for Monday, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, despite some cities in the region in China’s northwest locked down for 90 days. Inner Mongolia, which was sealed off in early October, saw cases jump to almost 1,800 from 1,033 a day earlier, while Henan province’s infections more than doubled in a day to 747.
China's COVID epicentre shifts to Guangzhou as outbreaks widen
New coronavirus cases surged in Guangzhou and other Chinese cities, official data showed on Tuesday, with the global manufacturing hub becoming China's latest COVID-19 epicentre and testing the city's ability to avoid a Shanghai-style lockdown. Nationwide, new locally transmitted infections climbed to 7,475 on Nov. 7, according to China's health authority, up from 5,496 the day before and the highest since May 1. Guangzhou accounted for nearly a third of the new infections.
China's Guangzhou Warns of Covid-Spread Risks as Cases Climb
China’s southern city of Guangzhou reported 1,325 local Covid-19 cases for Saturday, compared with 746 a day earlier, and officials warned of risks of community spread in some areas of the factory hub. Most new infections were found in the Haizhu district of the Guangdong province capital, the municipal government said at a briefing on Sunday. Some residents in middle- and high-risk areas for Covid had violated movement restrictions, causing the virus to spread to nearly districts, officials said.
Partisan Exits
North Macedonia to pardon violators of pandemic measures
North Macedonia is planning to pardon more than 1,200 people who face prison sentences because they have failed to pay fines for violating restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Justice Minister Nikola Tupancheski said the criminal court in the capital of Skopje has proposed the amnesty, noting that there’s not enough room in jails for those people. “People who violated the COVID-19 measures were usually fined, as our criminal code stipulates. We are talking about more than 1,200 people for whom, if they do not pay the fine, in a short time the punishment will be transformed into a prison sentence,” Tupancheski said. He said the criminal court’s amnesty proposal has been passed on to North Macedonia’s parliament.
U.S. hotels reel from China COVID curbs amid travel boom
U.S. hotel operators expect more pain from China's strict COVID-19 lockdowns which have halted construction of some luxury properties and impeded travel to one of the world's key tourism markets. Growth in China has been stuttering at a time when companies are rushing to open hotels and capitalise on pent up travel demand, with construction of new properties picking up pace in the United States after the pandemic halted expansion plans.
Biden wants to extend the COVID emergency into Spring
Biden's administration will extend COVID-19's status as a health emergency past January and possibly through the spring. Extension comes amid fears of a resurgence of cases this winter with some worried about a 'tripledemic' of COVID, flu, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Public emergency order allows makes it easier to stay on Medicaid and allows for controlled substances to be prescribed via telehealth. President Biden previously said the pandemic was over
U.S. Supreme Court's Sotomayor rejects challenge to N.Y. COVID vaccine mandate
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Thursday rejected a bid to prevent New York City from enforcing its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for municipal workers against a group teachers, firefighters and others who challenged the policy. The justice denied an emergency request, received by the court on Nov. 4, to block the policy by individual municipal workers, as well as a group called New Yorkers For Religious Liberty, while their appeal of lower court decisions siding with the city proceeds.
NYC Public School Enrollment Drops as Pandemic Exodus Continues
New York City is continuing to bleed students in its public school system even as pandemic restrictions are lifted. Enrollment in the largest school district in the US is down 1.8% in 2022 from a year ago, representing 16,000 students in 3K through 12th grade, according to preliminary estimates released Monday by the city’s Department of Education. The drop marks the continuation of a years-long trend that rapidly accelerated during Covid lockdowns and remote schooling. The exodus has begun to slow, though, and this year’s dip is the smallest decline since the onset of the pandemic. Public schools have lost nearly 100,000 pupils, or about 10% of enrollment since the 2019-2020 school year, the data show. The data includes the 7,000 kids that officials have said enrolled in public schools amid an influx of migrants from Central and South America.
Scientific Viewpoint
COVID-19 and diabetes — where are we now?
At the same time, evidence for a connection of COVID-19 with new-onset T2D appears more robust. Surveys of electronic patient records suggest an overall increased risk of new-onset DM up to 12 weeks post infection3, an increased likelihood of being prescribed insulin within 91 days of COVID-19 diagnosis3 and an excess burden of incident diabetes and hyperglycaemia (where > 77% were stratified as T2D) at 12-month follow up4. If and when glycaemic control is re-established after recovery from COVID-19 in those patients remains unclear. In some cohorts, glucose control had improved in 63–79% of patients 6 months after recovery5,8 and improved in 41–79% of patients 10 months after recovery5,6. Up to 56% of patients remained hyperglycaemic6. A separate cohort of hospitalized COVID-19 patients with dysglycaemia during acute infection displayed reversion to physiological glycaemic control in the post-acute phase in a 7 month follow-up9.
COVID vaccines: “We flew the aeroplane while we were still building it”
Over the years we had built a strong infrastructure, particularly through the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine programmes. But COVID changed everything in terms of how to approach the end-to-end vaccine R&D concept, driven by the enormous urgency. [In March 2020] when our CEO said, “Get it done before the end of the year,” I said, “This is crazy!” But money was not an issue — and, then, you can do amazing things in an amazing amount of time. We got creative — we couldn’t wait for data, we had to do so much ‘at risk’. We flew the aeroplane while we were still building it.
Africa CDC Saving Lives and Livelihoods Initiative Expands Implementation in Southern Africa – Africa CDC
The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) and Mastercard Foundation today rolled out a large-scale, multi-country COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Southern Africa under the Saving Lives and Livelihoods initiative. The Saving Lives and Livelihood is a $1.5 billion partnership between the Mastercard Foundation and the Africa CDC designed to purchase COVID-19 vaccines for nearly 65 million people, enable vaccine delivery and administration to vaccinate millions more, develop a workforce to support continental vaccine manufacturing, and strengthen the Africa CDC. To date, the Saving Lives and Livelihoods initiative has enabled over 6 million people in Africa to access COVID-19 vaccines, while helping to accelerate vaccine uptake in countries facing the risk of mass vaccine expiration.
Africa CDC commends China over partnership in vaccine manufacturing
The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) on Friday commended China for partnering with African countries in the manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines on the continent. Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, the acting director of Africa CDC, said the partnership with countries such as Egypt, Algeria and Morocco has provided the continent with alternative sources of COVID-19 vaccines, particularly at the height of the pandemic in the middle of 2021.
‘It’s becoming a contortionist’: New COVID-19 subvariants drive wave of infections
A swarm of new subvariants is driving the latest COVID-19 wave in NSW as the virus comes under increasing pressure to find new ways of evading the population’s immunity. One of the new variants – BR.2.1 – has established a base in NSW, with the state home to the vast majority of cases globally. Since the BR.2.1 subvariant was first detected in September, there have been 162 cases detected worldwide, of which 161 were from Australia and 144 were from NSW, the majority of whom had not recently travelled overseas, NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said. Chant said a mix of subvariants – XBB.1, BQ.1.1 as well as BR.2.1 – were gaining a foothold in the state by evolving in strikingly similar ways that gave them a “competitive advantage” over the COVID-fighting antibodies.
Sanofi, GSK score late win with EU COVID booster approval
Sanofi said on Thursday it won European Union approval for its COVID-19 vaccine booster, jointly made with British partner GSK, after a drawn-out development effort that saw the pair fall behind now-dominant vaccine suppliers. The shot with the brand name VidPrevtyn Beta can be given to people who have already had a primary course of vaccination from other approved shots, the French drugmaker and the European Medicines Agency said in separate statements.
Three quarters of UK long COVID sufferers working less -survey
More than three quarters of British people who have suffered persistent ill health following a COVID-19 infection have had to cut back or change the work they do, according to a survey on the impact of long COVID published on Wednesday. The survey of 1,002 people, conducted by market research company Censuswide in October for recruitment website Indeed, adds to signs that long COVID continues to be a factor behind widespread labour shortages in Britain.
Repeat COVID is riskier than first infection, study finds
The risk of death, hospitalization and serious health issues from COVID-19 jumps significantly with reinfection compared with a first bout with the virus, regardless of vaccination status, a study published on Thursday suggests. "Reinfection with COVID-19 increases the risk of both acute outcomes and long COVID," said Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. "This was evident in unvaccinated, vaccinated and boosted people."
European regulator recommends Pfizer's Omicron booster for children
Pfizer Inc and its partner BioNTech said on Thursday the EU health regulator has recommended authorising the use of their bivalent COVID-19 shot as a booster in children aged 5 through 11. The Omicron-tailored vaccine is already authorised by the European Commission for individuals aged 12 years and above. The updated bivalent booster shot targets the original coronavirus strain as well as the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants of Omicron.
Novavax says Omicron shot shows strong immune response as second booster
Vaccine maker Novavax Inc (NVAX.O) said on Tuesday its COVID-19 shot retooled against the Omicron BA.1 variant showed a strong immune response as the fourth dose and met the main goal of strain change in a late-stage study. Data showed the shot, NVX-CoV2515, produced 1.6 times the amount of neutralizing antibodies in people who had previously not been exposed to COVID-19 compared to Novavax's original coronavirus vaccine.
UK approves Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID booster targeting Omicron BA.4/5
Britain's health regulator on Wednesday approved the country's first two-pronged COVID-19 booster targeting the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants and the original coronavirus strain. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said the vaccine from Pfizer and partner BioNTech was approved for use as a booster in people 12 years and older after it was found to meet safety, quality and effectiveness standards.
Covid's Drag on the Workforce Proves Persistent. 'It Sets Us Back.'
Researchers say the virus is having a persistent effect, keeping millions out of work and reducing the productivity and hours of millions more, disrupting business operations and raising costs. In the average month this year, nearly 630,000 more workers missed at least a week of work because of illness than in the years before the pandemic, according to Labor Department data. That is a reduction in workers equal to about 0.4 percent of the labor force, a significant amount in a tight labor market. That share is up about 0.1 percentage point from the same period last year, the data show. “That may sound tiny, but having that persistent difference over a period of two-and-a-half years is a big deal,” said Jason Faberman, senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
Coronavirus Resurgence
New York is becoming an 'emerging hotspot' for the XBB family of COVID variants that hit Singapore, as BQ closes in on U.S. dominance
A wave of infections involving an extremely immune-evasive COVID strain that started spreading in New York and recently reached California is about to engulf the rest of the U.S., according to a report from federal health officials released Friday. Two variants of the BQ strain are projected to comprise 35% of U.S. infections, according to a COVID forecast from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That puts the variant family just slightly behind BA.5, which still led U.S. cases on Friday, at an estimated 39%.
Cruise ship with 800 Covid cases docks in Sydney after touring NZ
The Majestic Princess cruise liner docked in Sydney this morning with hundreds infected after departing from the same port two weeks ago, Nine News reports. The ship had just finished a 12-day tour of New Zealand - having dropped anchor in ports around Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin, Bay of Islands, and Fiordland National Park. In a joint statement, the Ministry of Health and Te Whatu Ora told 1News that health officials were aware of cases onboard when the ship visited Auckland on Tuesday. "The last port visited in New Zealand was Auckland on 8 November when 180 cases on board were reported before the ship departed for Australia," it said.
Australia seeks to reassure citizens on COVID after cruise ship outbreak
Australia's Home Affairs Minister on Saturday sought to reassure the public that COVID-19 protocols were adequate after a cruise ship with hundreds of infected passengers docked in Sydney. Carnival Australia's Majestic Princess cruise ship was docked in Sydney, the capital of the most populous state, New South Wales, with "in the vicinity" of 800 passengers on board testing positive to the virus, the company said.
Covid-19 case numbers exploding across Australia as fourth wave takes off
The number of active Covid cases has exploded across the country as Australia enters its fourth wave, prompting renewed warnings to protect vulnerable aged care residents. Jurisdictions collectively recorded more than 58,000 new cases of Covid in the past week, with some states reporting a doubling in the number of people hospitalised with the virus. New South Wales recorded 19,800 new cases in the past seven days, Victoria had 16,636 new cases, and Western Australia recorded more than 8,000. South Australia had 6,867 new cases in the past week, Queensland recorded 5,828, and the ACT and NT had 1,194 and 369 new cases respectively. Tasmania was yet to publish its weekly case numbers by 3.30pm on Friday.
China’s manufacturing hub Guangzhou partially locked down as Covid outbreak widens
China's southern metropolis of Guangzhou has locked down a third district, as authorities rush to stamp out a widening Covid outbreak and avoid activating the kind of citywide lockdown that devastated Shanghai earlier this year.