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"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 21st Nov 2022

Lockdown Exit
Covid cases fall across the UK for second week in a row, with less than a million infections in England
Covid levels have fallen in all four UK nations for the second week in a row, with infections in England dropping below one million for the first time since mid-September. Hospital numbers are also continuing to decrease, in fresh evidence the latest wave of the virus has peaked. Health experts hailed the autumn booster vaccine programme as helping drive down infections – though nearly a quarter of over-70s have yet to receive a fresh jab.
Covid rise: Hong Kong close to cutting non-emergency services at public hospitals again
Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority chief has warned that a rapid rise in Covid-19 cases has put the city on the verge of cutting non-emergency services to meet increasing demand from patients infected with the virus. Dr Tony Ko Pat-sing on Saturday said public hospitals were also treating more elderly patients suffering from long-Covid symptoms, urging older residents to get vaccinated as soon as possible. “We observed that in the last two weeks, there has been a significant increase in the number of patients diagnosed with Covid-19,” Ko said, adding the surge was more rapid than what was recorded in September.
Taiwan reports 16571 new COVID-19 cases, 59 deaths
Taiwan's Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) reported 16,571 new COVID-19 infections on Saturday, all but 57 of which were locally transmitted, and 59 deaths from the disease. The deceased ranged in age from their 50s to their 90s, and all of them had underlying health issues, while 29 were unvaccinated against COVID-19, the CECC said. Meanwhile, the CECC also reported 82 new cases classified as moderate and 56 as severe.
Beijing district urges staying home for weekend as COVID cases rise
Beijing's biggest district urged people to stay home during the weekend and COVID-19 outbreaks grew in numerous Chinese cities on Friday, even as China further fine-tuned its COVID rules by removing capacity limits at entertainment venues. Under a series of measures unveiled last week, authorities have sought to be more targeted in applying COVID-19 curbs that are taking a heavy toll on the economy and fuelling public frustration and anger, sparking investor hopes this week for more significant easing.
China's COVID cases rise, record daily numbers seen in Beijing and other cities
China reported 14,878 new COVID-19 infections for Nov. 12, including a record number of new daily cases in capital city Beijing, as well as in manufacturing hubs Guangzhou and Zhengzhou. The new cases come as industrial activity in Guangzhou and Zhengzhou has been disrupted by restrictions aimed at controlling outbreaks. The number of daily cases in China rose from 11,950 on Nov. 11, the National Health Commission (NHC) said on Sunday. Excluding imported infections, China reported 14,761 new local cases, up from 11,803 a day earlier.
Exit Strategies
Guernsey's Covid autumn booster programme to end in December
Eligible islanders in Guernsey have until 21 December to have their Covid autumn booster. Those entitled to a vaccine include people over 50, frontline health workers, and anyone who is clinically at risk. Anyone eligible but yet to receive an invite will be sent a letter between now and the end of the month. This gives them around four weeks to make an appointment before the programme ends. If Covid or another illness stops someone from getting the jab before that date, temporary clinics will cater for them in the new year.
China eases coronavirus restrictions, causing confusion and angst
Lockdown arrived in Shijiazhuang with little warning this month. At the time, the northern Chinese city had only a handful of covid cases. Then 12 days later — just as abruptly, even as infections continued to rise — the restrictions were lifted. The reaction to China’s most significant easing of coronavirus controls has been a jumble of conflicted priorities and public sentiment since Beijing announced the changes a week ago. City governments are facing renewed demands that they not respond in ways that disrupt daily life. At the same time, months of official warnings about disastrous consequences should the virus run wild have many people fearful of the country’s soaring case numbers.
Majestic Princess: cruise ship passengers disembark in Sydney after mass Covid outbreak
The Majestic Princess cruise ship – carrying about 800 Covid-19 positive passengers – has docked in Sydney and passengers have disembarked in the city. The ship docked at Circular Quay early Saturday morning, having sailed from New Zealand. It will depart Sydney for Melbourne on Saturday afternoon. The docking of the ship has raised the spectre of the arrival in Sydney of the Ruby Princess in March 2020 – early in Australia’s pandemic – which was ultimately linked to 28 deaths and more than 600 infections, sparking a NSW government special commission of inquiry and a class action case against the operator.
Big Pharma may have to reveal government deals in WHO's draft pandemic rules
Pharmaceutical companies could be made to disclose prices and deals agreed for any products they make to fight future global health emergencies, under new rules that would govern a World Health Organization-backed pandemic accord reviewed by Reuters. A draft version of the WHO accord, which is being negotiated by the U.N. health agency's 194 member countries, calls for it to be compulsory for companies to reveal the terms of any public procurement contracts.
Breakingviews - Investors ignore China Covid spike at their peril
The blistering relief rally underway in Chinese equities is understandable. President Xi Jinping had implemented a mixture of harsh policies targeting Covid-19, technology entrepreneurs and real estate developers that kept equity indexes in the basement and aggravated capital flight – roughly $101 billion was pulled out the country, reading between the lines of official balance of payments data for the first six months of the year. Tentative relaxations on all the main fronts have investors cheering; the Golden Dragon index (.HXC) of New York-listed Chinese companies is up 37% since late October. Yet biology could ruin this party yet.
Flu, RSV and Covid-19 Add to Crunch on Pediatric Hospitals
Flu activity continued to rise across the U.S. in the past week, adding to a crunch on emergency departments and pediatric hospitals from an early surge in respiratory viruses. Flu has caused an estimated 4.4 million illnesses, 38,000 hospitalizations and 2,100 deaths so far this season including seven pediatric deaths, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday. The highest flu hospitalization rates are among adults ages 65 and older, followed by children under the age of 5, the CDC said. Pediatric hospitals across the U.S. have been under strain for weeks from a rush of patients with RSV and other respiratory viruses. RSV amounts to a cold in most people, but the virus can be dangerous for younger children and older adults, especially those with other health concerns. 
Partisan Exits
‘There’s no protection’: South Africa faces Covid legacy of sex for money
A couple of months into the Covid lockdown in South Africa, Dimakatso, 25, resorted to sleeping with an older, married man for 1,000 rand (£50). It was the first time she had had sex for money. She did it because she needed to feed her two children, aged five and eight; she was unemployed, and her mother, the sole earner in the household, had lost her job. “I was desperate and thought I was safe, even though it’s super risky,” says Dimakatso. “It was because of Covid. There were no jobs. If you didn’t do it, you would starve with your children.” Dimakatso is not alone. The latest UN Aids report, which surveyed 2,812 South African women who are either HIV positive or live in high-risk areas, found that since the start of the Covid pandemic in 2020, 15% more women reported using sex work or transactional sex – where money, gifts or services are given in exchange for sex – to sustain their livelihoods.
World Leaders Sign Declaration to Introduce COVID Vaccine Passports
While the details are scant at this stage, the statement says this will be done under the framework of the International Health Regulations to “facilitate seamless international travel, interoperability, and recognizing digital solutions and non-digital solutions, including proof of vaccinations.” Indonesia’s Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said that a Digital Health Certificate using World Health Organization standards would be introduced during the next World Health Assembly in Geneva, in May next year. “If you have been vaccinated or tested properly, you can move around. So for the next pandemic, instead of stopping the movement of people 100%, you can still provide some movement of the people,” Mr Sadikin said. Surprisingly, this news has not really grabbed the attention of mainstream media, despite its very serious implications for freedom of personal choice and freedom of movement.
FEMA grants $5 million to National Guard for COVID work at Holyoke Soldiers Home
FEMA will grant the Massachusetts National Guard more than $5 million for the cost of providing medical staff and setting up temporary hospitals to handle COVID patients between March and September 2020. That includes, according to a Federal Emergency Management Agency news release Friday, the Guard’s response to the Holyoke Soldiers Home where a COVID outbreak in early 2020 cost 84 elderly veterans their lives. It was the largest outbreak of its kind in the country. The guard also planned, coordinated, and performed large scale mobile COVID-19 sample collection; and to provide care at long-term care facilities, rest homes, and assisted living facilities and warehoused and distributed personal protective equipment.
COVID-19 cases drop slightly in Florida, but positivity rate creeps up
Florida saw a slight decline in COVID-19 cases last week, though the positivity rate for new cases rose slightly, state data showed Friday. Between Nov. 11 through Nov. 17, there were 11,632 new cases of COVID-19 throughout the state, according to Florida Department of Health statistics. That's a small drop from the previous week, when there were 11,783 cases statewide. Despite the small drop in cases, the new case positivity rate rose slightly, going from 7.8% the previous week to 8% this week, the department reported.
John Kerry Sidelined by Positive Covid Test at Climate Summit
US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry is isolating in Egypt after testing positive for Covid-19, complicating efforts by nearly 200 nations to reach a new international agreement on global warming. Kerry’s positive test was disclosed late Friday, which was meant to be the official end date for two weeks of UN negotiations in Sharm El-Sheikh over how to mitigate climate change and compensate countries bearing the brunt.
Hong Kong’s Bananas-Only Rule Shows Struggle to Exit Covid Curbs
As Hong Kong lifts most pandemic curbs, officials are maintaining a web of confusing rules. Take trail running. The government just removed a ban on race organizers providing food to competitors. Yet the easing came with a strict provision at a race last weekend: Only bananas could be served and runners had to eat them on their own, in silence, away from checkpoints. Participants also needed to put on a mask two minutes after crossing the finish line.
Covid Lockdowns Spark Violent Protests in China's Guangzhou City
China’s ongoing Covid lockdowns are fueling increasing public anger, with some residents in Guangzhou, one of the country’s biggest cities, staging rare protests against the stringent rules. In videos circulating on social media, hundreds of people can be seen marching in the streets and pushing over police barriers in Guangzhou’s Haizhu district, which has been in lockdown since late last month. The demonstrations took place in several “urban villages,” mainly poorer neighborhoods where migrant workers live, Hong Kong Economic Journal reported. The local government sent multiple police vehicles to the protests, according to the report.
China Reopening Stocks Rally; Street Cautiously Optimistic
Shares of Chinese firms tied to reopening rallied after China’s top leaders called for a more targeted approach, while reinforced the need to stick with the Covid Zero policy. Market watchers are cautiously optimistic that such policy fine-tuning could spur appetite for battered Chinese assets. The following is a selection of reactions from market participants and economists. 
Scientific Viewpoint
COVID-19 vaccine developed in Thailand can be stored in refrigerator for three months
A team of researchers affiliated with several entities in Thailand, working with two colleagues from the U.S. and two from Canada, has developed a mRNA COVID-19 vaccine that can be safely refrigerated for up to three months before use. The team has named it ChulaCov19. In their paper published in the journal Nature Microbiology, the group describes the differences between their vaccine and other mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. Amid the global pandemic, groups around the world have developed vaccines to protect or lessen symptoms of people from/with COVID-19. And of the 172 vaccines developed to date, 40 are RNA-based. The most well-known vaccines have been developed by Pfizer and Moderna, and both have been shown to be effective in preventing serious symptoms.
Over two thirds of first-wave Covid infections led to long Covid, finds study
Over two-thirds of non-hospitalised patients infected with Covid in the first wave of the pandemic developed long Covid, according to a new study. In the first study to directly compare patients who were hospitalised or well enough to remain at home, researchers found fatigue to be the most long-lasting and prevalent symptom. The study of more than 650 patients in Spain found that 59.7% of hospitalised patients and 67.5% of non-hospitalised patients had at least one post-Covid-19 symptom two years later.
Safety of the fourth COVID-19 BNT162b2 mRNA (second booster) vaccine: a prospective and retrospective cohort study
The effectiveness of the second BNT162b2 (Pfizer–BioNTech) mRNA COVID-19 booster vaccine dose (ie, fourth inoculation) is well established, but its safety has yet to be fully understood. The absence of sufficient vaccine safety information is one of the key contributors to vaccine hesitancy. In this study, we aimed to evaluate the safety profile of the second BNT162b2 mRNA COVID-19 booster vaccine using data from a retrospective cohort and a prospective cohort.
Who Is Dying from COVID Now, and Why
Older people were always especially vulnerable and now make up a higher proportion of COVID fatalities than ever before in the pandemic. While the total number of COVID deaths has fallen, the burden of mortality is shifting even more to people older than age 64. And deaths in nursing homes are ticking back up, even as COVID remains one of the top causes of death for all ages. COVID deaths among people age 65 and older more than doubled between April and July this year, rising by 125 percent, according to a recent analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation. This trend increased with age: more than a quarter of all COVID fatalities were among those age 85 and older throughout the pandemic, but that share has risen to at least 38 percent since May.
Covid Drug Treatments Aren't Keeping Up With Virus Mutations
Covid-19’s constant mutations have proven nearly impossible for drugmakers to keep up with. Omicron’s newest stepchildren threaten to render the last two antibody drugs on the market ineffective: Eli Lilly & Co.’s bebtelovimab, which is used to treat symptoms, and AstraZeneca Plc’s Evusheld, which helps prevent infections.  When Covid first hit, scientists quickly developed antibody drugs to protect people from the virus’s worst effects. It’s a straightforward premise: a targeted antibody can immediately neutralize a threat inside the body, preventing an infection from even starting.
Novavax Nuvaxovid COVID-19 Vaccine Receives Expanded Authorization in Canada as a Booster in Adults
Novavax Inc. today announced that Health Canada has granted expanded authorization for Nuvaxovid™ (COVID-19 Vaccine (Recombinant protein, Adjuvanted)) (NVX-CoV2373) for active immunization to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) as a homologous booster in adults aged 18 and older. "Canadians now have access to our protein-based Nuvaxovid COVID-19 vaccine as an adult booster," said Stanley C. Erck, President and Chief Executive Officer, Novavax. "With the winter months upon us, it's important to have options for vaccination to help protect against COVID-19."
Job strain and burnout in Spanish nurses during the COVID-19: resilience as a protective factor in a cross-sectional study
Nurses are frequently exposed to chronic stress in the workplace generating harmful effects such as job strain and burnout. On the contrary, resilience has been shown to be a beneficial variable. The objective of this study was to analyze the relationship between dimensions of the Job Demand Control-Support model, resilience and burnout in nurses, and examine the mediating role of resilience between job strain and burnout.
Stanford researchers launch first study on long-COVID treatment with Pfizer's Paxlovid
Researchers at Stanford University are launching a new study to see whether Pfizer's anti-viral drug Paxlovid, which is approved to treat COVID-19, might also be an effective cure for so-called "long COVID" that causes suffering in patients long after their initial SARS-CoV2 infection. More than 98 million Americans have had COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC estimates as many as 1 in 5 adults who have had COVID-19 later experience long COVID symptoms. "Fatigue, cognitive issues, shortness of breath, the list really goes on," said Dr. Linda Geng, who is Co-Director of Stanford's Post-COVID clinic. Dr. Geng says the study is the first in the nation to test Paxlovid on people with long COVID symptoms.
‘We’re not ready’: threat of Covid exit wave stymies China’s reopening
China’s doctors have a blunt message for Xi Jinping: the country’s healthcare system is not prepared to deal with a huge nationwide coronavirus outbreak that will inevitably follow any easing of strict measures to contain Covid-19. The warning for China’s leader was delivered by a dozen health professionals — including frontline doctors and nurses and local government health officials — interviewed by the Financial Times this month, and echoed by international experts. “The medical system will probably be paralysed when faced with mass cases,” said one doctor in a public hospital in Wuhan, central China, where the pandemic started nearly three years ago.
Masks mandated in NSW hospitals as COVID-19 cases rise in Australia's fourth wave
Masks will once again be mandatory in hospitals across New South Wales as the state goes through an increase in COVID-19 cases. Infections and hospitalisations are rising across the country as Australia's fourth wave continues to approach its peak. In New South Wales, confirmed cases rose from 19,800 last week to 27,869 this week, as of 4pm yesterday – a 52 per cent increase – leading to NSW Health mandating masks in hospitals across the state.
COVID variants BQ.1/BQ.1.1 make up nearly half of U.S. cases - CDC
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated on Friday that Omicron subvariants BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 account for nearly half of the COVID-19 cases in the country for the week ending Nov. 19, compared with 39.5% in the previous week. The proportion of the two variants, which are descendants of Omicron's BA.5 sub-variant, have risen to 49.7% of circulating coronavirus variants, around two months after they were initially detected.
Pfizer/BioNTech's updated COVID shot shows strong response against BQ.1.1
Pfizer Inc and its German partner BioNTech SE said on Friday their Omicron-tailored shot produced higher virus-neutralizing antibodies in older adults against the emerging subvariant BQ.1.1 than its original vaccine. Antibody levels against the subvariant rose nearly nine-fold in older adults, aged 55 and above, who received the Omicron shot compared to a roughly two-fold increase in participants with the original shot, according to data posted on online archive bioRxiv.
Hong Kong Eases Covid Restrictions, Only Requires 2 PCR Testing for Arrivals
Hong Kong will cut in half the number of laboratory Covid-19 tests new arrivals must undergo starting next week.  Travelers will be swabbed for testing at the airport, and then must arrange one additional nucleic acid test on their second day in the Asian financial hub, Under Secretary for Health Libby Lee said at a briefing on Thursday with reporters. The other two tests currently required, conducted on days four and six, will no longer be needed, she said.
Moderna's Omicron shots shows better immune response than original COVID vaccine
Moderna Inc said on Monday its Omicron-tailored vaccines produced a better immune response against the BA.4/5 subvariants in a mid-to-late stage study, when given as a booster dose, compared with its original shot. Data shows that both of Moderna's Omicron-tailored shots, mRNA-1273.214 and mRNA-1273.222, produced a higher antibody response against BA.4/5 subvariants than its original shot in vaccinated and boosted adults, the company said.
China Unveils 20 Measures to Guide Easing of Xi Jinping's Covid Zero Policy
China is relying on 20 key parameters to guide officials on the ground as it eases the contentious Covid Zero policy. Released on Friday, the measures detail what officials should be doing on everything from quarantine to testing, representing a sweeping pullback of the country’s punishing pandemic playbook. 
Coronavirus Resurgence
Covid cases double in NSW and Victoria in a fortnight as fourth wave surges across eastern states
Covid cases are continuing to surge, doubling in New South Wales and Victoria in just a fortnight. Hospitalisations and deaths have also risen sharply, prompting NSW health authorities to mandate a limited return to mask-wearing to curb the rise in cases. NSW Health updated its Covid risk rating to amber on Friday, requiring masks in all areas of public hospitals and health facilities along with limited visitor numbers.
China Reports First Covid Death Since May Amid Growing Outbreak
China reported its first Covid death in almost six months on Sunday as the virus outbreak in the country continues unabated. A 87-year-old man in Beijing died on Saturday after his condition worsened, the official Beijing Daily reported. He first displayed Covid symptoms on Nov. 11 and was confirmed infected two days later, according to the report. It was the first documented death from Covid since May 26, when officials in Shanghai reported one fatality.
Beijing district urges staying home for weekend as COVID cases rise
Beijing's biggest district urged people to stay home during the weekend and COVID-19 outbreaks grew in numerous Chinese cities on Friday, even as China further fine-tuned its COVID rules by removing capacity limits at entertainment venues. Under a series of measures unveiled last week, authorities have sought to be more targeted in applying COVID-19 curbs that are taking a heavy toll on the economy and fuelling public frustration and anger, sparking investor hopes this week for more significant easing.
China State Media Reinforce Covid Zero as Cases Jump in Cities
China’s state media reaffirmed the country’s commitment to Covid Zero, even as a spike in infections across major cities seemingly reflected a greater tolerance for outbreaks. Nationwide, there were 17,298 new cases on Monday, the highest since late-April. The southern manufacturing hub of Guangzhou accounts for the majority, with 5,124 cases despite lockdowns being extended in three of the city’s districts. The southwestern megacity of Chongqing has also seen a spike in infections, which climbed to 2,948.