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"COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis" 1st Sep 2020

News Highlights

Schools to reopen in Lagos, Wuhan, UK

After months of school closures, many cities and countries are reopening this month. Wuhan, Covid-19 Ground Zero, is reopening schools as of Tuesday. Up to 2,842 educational institutions across the city are reopening, covering almost 1.4 million students. In Lagos, Nigeria, a decline in cases has led to the State Governor announcing plans to reopen colleges on September 14 and primary and secondary schools on September 21. And in the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged parents to return their children to school as they reopen for the autumn term.

France facing a second wave in November, government adviser warns

An adviser to the French government has warned that the country is facing a second wave of Covid-19 cases in November, following an outbreak in Marseille that led to the city tightening restrictions. Professor Jean-Francois Delfraissy, head of the scientific council that advises the government on the pandemic, said a second wave in November was feared. The government is reportedly monitoring the situation to assess whether lockdown or other restrictions are warranted. In Paris, a rule making the wearing of face masks compulsory to fight the pandemic has come into force. The French government is reportedly mulling a second lockdown to combat the 'exponential' rise in cases.

Pakistan sees lowest daily count in months

Pakistan reported 213 cases of Covid-19 on Sunday, marking its lowest daily number of cases in four months. Six deaths were reported on the same day. This followed months of turmoil in the country, as it imposed a three-week lockdown in March following its first case of the novel coronavirus in late February. Cases surged, peaking at 6,825 new cases on June 13. While having recorded its lowest case count in four months, the country's most senior health official Dr Faisal Sultan has urged caution as 'the embers are there. You provide them with fuel and a little bit of oxygen and they will flare up.'

Spain has seen 23,000 cases since Friday

Spain, one of Europe's worst-affected countries by the pandemic, has seen more than 23,000 new cases since Friday, the country's health emergency chief announced Monday. Yet there is some good news in the announcement, as the number of new cases suggests the infection rate has fallen since its August 21 peak. Reuters cited 'health ministry data (showing) 2,489 new cases were diagnosed in the past 24 hours, bringing the total since the onset of the pandemic to 462,858.' Salvador Illa, the country's health minister, said they remain 'worried' but stressed that the current situation isn't akin to the country's initial peak of the virus.'

Lockdown Exit
Capita plans to shut offices as staff work from home
One of Britain’s leading government contractors is planning to close more than a third of its 250 offices after concluding that staff are working just as effectively from home. Almost 100 sites are set to be closed as Capita, which has 45,000 staff in the UK, prepares to transform its operations permanently.
Spain reports more than 23,000 new COVID-19 cases since Friday
Spain has registered more than 23,000 new COVID-19 cases since Friday, health emergency chief Fernando Simon told a news conference on Monday, suggesting the infection rate had declined slightly from an Aug. 21 peak. Health ministry data showed 2,489 new cases were diagnosed in the past 24 hours, bringing the total since the onset of the pandemic to 462,858. “Of course we are worried because we have to stabilize and bring down the infection chain,” Health Minister Salvador Illa told Catalonia’s regional TV channel 324 late on Monday, adding that the goal is to avoid pressuring hospitals. Illa said that the situation is not comparable to the pandemic’s first peak in March and April, noting hospitals now have greater capacity. He said that nothing can be ruled out but it would be unlikely Spain would need to close schools again or impose a new state of emergency to try to tackle the virus.
Pakistan records lowest daily count of COVID-19 in four months
Pakistan on Sunday reported 213 new coronavirus cases, its lowest daily count in more than four months. The country reported its first case of the deadly virus on February 26 and went into a three-week lockdown in late March. In the subsequent months, the caseload kept climbing, peaking at 6,825 new cases in a single day on June 13. While it recorded 153 deaths, its highest to date, on June 19. However, in the last month, Pakistan's daily infections and fatalities have dropped significantly. On August 30, it recorded only 213 new cases in a day, and six deaths across the country, while it sampled 18,017 tests.
Coronavirus 'super-spreader' has 'infected at least 140 people' at Brit hotspot
A coronavirus "super-spreader" could be responsible for at least 140 positive cases on the holiday island of Gran Canaria, which is facing the threat of a new lockdown. Health experts believe the virus was introduced via the nightlife scene in the Guanarteme district of the popular Playa de las Canteras resort. While mainland Spain struggles with a second wave, Gran Canaria is battling escalating outbreaks of coronavirus which have put the island on the brink of a new lockdown unlesss the situation drastically improves in the next 14 days. The Canary government says it is watching the evolution of the virus very carefully and monitoring what action to take on a day to day basis.
France Covid-19: Paris compulsory face-mask rule comes into force
Wearing a face mask in public has become mandatory across Paris and several surrounding areas, amid a surge in Covid-19 cases in France. On Friday the country recorded 7,379 new infections - its highest number since early May. The number of "red zones" where the virus is in active circulation has risen from two to 21. Announcing new local curbs on Thursday, PM Jean Castex said he wanted to avoid another general lockdown. He said the coronavirus was "gaining ground" across France, and that if the government did not act fast infection growth could become "exponential". Despite a sharp rise in cases in recent weeks, daily death tolls have remained low. Overall, more than 3
Coronavirus: It would be a miracle if Tour de France finishes, UCI president admits
It would be a "miracle" if this year's Tour de France finishes, the head of the world governing body for competitive cycling has warned, after a surge in coronavirus cases prompted a rule change. There was an unusually subdued atmosphere as the race began in Nice on Saturday amid fears the 176 riders may not make it to the finishing line in Paris. Union Cycliste Internationale president David Lappartient said it was "a first miracle that we are able to start this race".
France Tightens Mask Protocols Amid Gain in Virus Infections
The French government isn’t taking any chances. From Tuesday, masks will be mandatory for companies with groups working in enclosed spaces, Labor Minister Elisabeth Borne said Sunday on BFM TV. While opera singers are among those who can be granted exemptions, mask-wearing is becoming entrenched in daily life. Cities from Paris to Marseilles are making masks compulsory, even outside, while students over 11 years old will have to cover their faces when returning to school next month.
Island paradise off Brazil reopens to welcome tourists, but only if they’ve had Covid-19
Fernando de Noronha has reopened for visitors after a five-month shutdown, but with one stipulation. Tourists have to have contracted and recovered from Covid-19 before being allowed on the island
Merkel Calls on Germans to Avoid Virus-Hit Areas Like U.S.
Chancellor Angela Merkel called on Germans to refrain from non-essential travel to areas with severe coronavirus outbreaks, including the U.S. Merkel’s warning to people in Europe’s biggest economy reflects growing concern among European leaders faced with a summer surge of Covid-19. Paris is expanding its mask-wearing mandate to public spaces citywide, Spain reported the most new infections since late April and Italy had the most since early May.
Coronavirus Australia: Free mental health and wellbeing support during the COVID-19 pandemic
When we’re not coping, it’s not always possible to see a psychologist for help. Sometimes there are barriers to professional support services – cost, distance, availability and, more recently, coronavirus lockdowns. If you’re struggling during COVID-19, there are a number of free and accessible tools available.
'The reversal of gentrification': how Covid-19 could remake Australia's cities
Office buildings in Australian CBDs could be converted into residential living spaces, as a tanking commercial property market leads to a potential reversal of gentrification. The prediction of drastically different city centres, made by property experts and architects, follows the Covid-19 shift in work habits that have forced employers to allow staff to work from home, with expectations the flexibility afforded to them as a result of coronavirus will remain in some capacity into the post-pandemic future. Urban planning thinktanks believe that as businesses require less floor space and less commercial property is used, state and local governments will have to do more to draw people into the city centres in which they have already invested heavily.
Exit Strategies
Pandemic exposes 'severe stress' in commercial property financing
The fate of the property is not only emblematic of the severity of the crisis emerging for the hotel industry but also of the pressure building across the commercial real estate sector — from small-town malls to sky-high office blocks — hitting one of its primary sources of financing; the $1.4tn market for commercial mortgage-backed securities. “I don’t think anyone foresaw the devastation that Covid would wreak on commercial real estate and the CMBS market,” says Lea Overby, an analyst at Wells Fargo who has covered the sector for almost two decades.
'You just feel disconnected': how Covid has upturned uni students' lives
University students are returning to (mostly virtual) class at a time of tumult and disruption due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The coronavirus has hit Australian universities hard, with a slew of academic institutions recently announcing severe job cuts – among them the University of Sydney, RMIT University, the University of Melbourne, and the University of New South Wales. The staff cuts, coupled with distant learning, have dramatically altered the university experience for tens of thousands of Australian students. Unions and academics have sounded the alarm that this could lead to degrees of lower quality. Enrolments for next year are set to balloon, which could result in a challenging environment of more students and fewer teachers. Guardian Australia spoke to several students – some at universities that have announced staff cuts, others learning under lockdown – about their experiences during the pandemic.
Schools to reopen in Nigeria's Lagos as COVID-19 cases decline
Schools will reopen in Nigeria’s commercial hub of Lagos next month as part of plans to revive the economy as COVID-19 cases decline, the state governor said on Saturday. Lagos, the epicentre of the pandemic in Nigeria, plans to reopen colleges on Sept. 14, and primary and secondary schools on Sept. 21, Babajide Sanwo-Olu said. “The gradual easing doesn’t mean the pandemic is over,” he said in a tweet. “It is not an invitation to carelessness or nonchalance.” The Lagos governor said restaurants, social clubs and recreational centers would also be allowed to reopen as long as they followed safety rules. Nigeria has reported 53,727 infections in total - including 18,104 in Lagos - and 1,011 deaths
China's Wuhan says all schools to reopen on Tuesday
Wuhan, Ground Zero for the COVID-19 pandemic and the Chinese city hardest hit by the coronavirus, will reopen all its schools and kindergartens on Tuesday, local authorities said. As many as 2,842 educational institutions across the city are set to open their doors to almost 1.4 million students when the autumn semester gets underway, the local government announced on Friday. Wuhan University reopened on Monday. The city said it has drawn up emergency plans to switch back to online teaching should risk levels change. It advised students to wear masks to and from school and avoid public transportation if possible. Schools have been ordered to stock up on disease control equipment and to carry out drills and training sessions to help prepare for new outbreaks. They must also restrict unnecessary mass gatherings, and submit daily reports to health authorities
In Brazil's Javari Valley, isolated communities fear Covid-19 'catastrophe'
Remote indigenous communities in Brazil, who have little or no contact with the outside world, are facing a grave threat from Covid-19 -- and advocates accuse the government of failing to protect these vulnerable groups. The virus has already killed a member of the Marubo and a member of the Tikuna indigenous people living in the remote Javari Valley, and more than 450 people have been infected, according to the Brazilian government. "The situation in the Javari Valley is critical," said Douglas Rodrigues, a physician who has worked with recently contacted indigenous groups over the past 40 years. "We are preparing for a catastrophe," he told CNN. Overall, some 800,000 indigenous people live in villages throughout Brazil. The largest concentration of isolated communities is based in the Javari Valley, a region the size of Austria, located in southwest Amazonas state, near the border with Peru.
Reopening schools: how different countries are tackling Covid dilemma
Research on the ability of children of different ages to catch and transmit the virus is contradictory, and differences in education systems and social conventions make comparisons difficult. One complicating factor is what epidemiologists call contact matrices: the degree to which different age groups mix, particularly within extended multigenerational families, which can vary from society to society and from group to group within a society. Countries have taken different approaches but some of the questions are broadly familiar. Should all children and staff be required to wear masks, or only some age groups? Should children be tested for the virus? How should social distancing be managed in the classroom and playground? And finally, should schools be reopening at all?
New Zealand's Ardern takes mask making into her own hands ahead of virus measure
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday she was making her own face covering to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, raising the profile of a public health measure which will become mandatory across the country next week. The Pacific nation of 5 million people had seemed to stop community transmission of COVID-19 due to tough lockdown measures but reintroduced restrictions in its largest city, Auckland, this month following a fresh outbreak. With restrictions to scale back on Sunday, Ardern said in a Facebook post she was taking matters into her own hands before masks become compulsory on public transport across the country the following day
Payments for English self-isolating on low incomes to be trialled
Regional leaders in England have called on the government to increase the level of support under a new scheme launched on Thursday for people on low incomes who are required to self-isolate and are unable to work from home. Health secretary Matt Hancock announced plans to trial the scheme in some parts of the north-west of England lockdown area. Those who test positive will be entitled to access £130 over their 10-day self-isolation period, while members of their household will be entitled to a payment of £182 when they self-isolate for 14 days. Any non-household contacts reached via the government’s NHS test-and-trace programme will be able to claim a similar amount, depending on the length of their isolation period.
Second wave of coronavirus could hit France in November: government advisor
A second wave of the coronavirus pandemic could hit France in November, a government advisor told local media on Wednesday, as the city of Marseille tightened restrictions to fight the outbreak. Authorities in Marseille said late on Tuesday that bars and restaurants would have shorter opening times, and they also broadened mandatory mask-wearing in the southern port city between Aug. 26 and Sept. 30. “There are fears of a second wave in November,” Professor Jean-François Delfraissy, who heads the scientific council that advises the government on the pandemic, told France 2 television on Wednesday.
Partisan Exits
Oxford University's COVID-19 vaccine might be dividing Christians, but many resist the 'anti-vaxxer' label
The Catholic Church obviously teaches against abortion, and I agree with the Church in that stance," he says. "If the child was killed yesterday or 50 years ago, it was still a horrible situation. Morality isn't defined by how long ago something happened, it's a constant." Hieu's concerns about the Oxford University vaccine are shared by many Christians and religious leaders.
Coronavirus: COVID-19 vaccine a 'fantasy' - controversial epidemiologist Simon Thornley
A Kiwi epidemiologist who thinks the country should give up trying to eliminate COVID-19 says we shouldn't be pinning our hopes on a vaccine. New Zealand's strategy of elimination - clamping down wherever the virus rears its head in an effort to prevent wider outbreaks - has been hailed by global health officials, and seen us record some of the lowest per capita infection and mortality rates in the world. For more than 100 days there were no detected cases of the virus in the community, a golden run that had New Zealanders enjoying more freedoms than most others. That all came to a screeching halt earlier this month, with the detection of four new cases in Auckland that couldn't be - and still haven't been - linked to a known source. University of Auckland specialist Simon Thornley, who has long advocated against locking down to stop the virus, says it's time to accept it's here to stay and ditch the lockdowns. He praised the few hundred people who at the weekend who gathered in downtown Auckland - mostly without masks - to protest against the level 3 restrictions.
Coronavirus recession risks homelessness on a 'scale unseen' before
Homelessness in Australia had spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic and might reach unprecedented levels in a deep recession, according to community groups calling for a multibillion-dollar social housing building program that would also stimulate the economy. Peak body Homelessness Australia says the severity of the recession's impact on the vulnerable will hinge on the federal government's intervention. It said support services were already "inundated" as surging unemployment and family violence took a toll on people's living arrangements.
Australian diplomatic cables from China detail early confused weeks of coronavirus emergency
Previously unseen diplomatic correspondence has given new insights into how little Australian officials knew of the COVID-19 emergency as it unfolded in China's Hubei province at the beginning of the year. The partly redacted cables suggest Australia's missions in China did not begin sending detailed situational reports back to Canberra until late January, with the updates largely based on local official statements.
Australian Religious Leaders Criticize ‘Immoral’ COVID-19 Vaccine Deal
A coronavirus deal signed by Australia with an international drug company is raising ethical concerns among prominent church leaders. Australia has signed a deal with the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to produce and distribute a vaccine being developed by Britain's Oxford University... if the treatment works. But three of Australia's most senior archbishops have written to Prime Minister Scott Morrison urging him to reconsider the agreement, saying the use of "fetal tissue” in the research is “deeply immoral.” “To use that tissue then for science is reprehensible,” said Glenn Davies, Anglican Archbishop of Sydney. “Once I know something that is morally compromised, it is my job to speak out about it.” The Oxford University study uses embryonic kidney cells harvested from a female fetus in the Netherlands in 1973.
Germany coronavirus: Anger after attempt to storm parliament
Demonstrators, many with far-right sympathies, broke through a cordon and ran up the steps of the parliament building before police dispersed them. The interior minister said there should be "zero tolerance" for such behaviour. Some 38,000 turned out for the wider, largely peaceful Berlin demonstration. Demonstrators bearing the flag of former imperial Germany - used by the Reichsbürger (Reich Citizens) far-right group - overcame a handful of police to run to the entrance of the Reichstag Building in Berlin. Police put the number involved at several hundred.
Elites are flouting coronavirus restrictions -- and that could hurt us all
When countries impose restrictions to combat coronavirus, there's an implicit pact between the government and people: we're all in this together. So when the powerful or influential break the rules, it provokes fierce public anger and puts society's inequalities on full view. EU Commissioner Phil Hogan, who resigned from his post Wednesday for breaking Ireland's coronavirus restrictions by attending a political golf society event with 80 other people, was just the latest member of the political elites to be caught flouting the rules. Ireland's Minister for Agriculture Dara Calleary had already resigned over the so-called Golfgate scandal. The dinner was held a day after the government in which he served, facing a surge in cases, imposed restrictions -- effective immediately -- that limited indoor gatherings to six people, down from the 50 previously allowed.
‘Nobody has anything for people like me’: Coronavirus has brought caste discrimination back to India
Millions of migrant workers made arduous journeys to their villages after India imposed the world’s largest lockdown in March. Back in the rural hinterland, many say caste discrimination is reversing even the small economic and social gains they eked out in the cities. In the village of Aston, in the central state of Madhya Pradesh, Raju Banskar, 33, says the double stigma of coming from a lower caste and having travelled from New Delhi where the coronavirus is spreading has made it impossible to find a job. In the city, construction work fuelled by India’s decades-long economic boom brought him 250 rupees to 300 rupees (£2.50-£3) a day, and few paid attention to his caste.
Why are Australian church leaders opposing the Oxford coronavirus vaccine?
Australian church leaders have raised objections to a potential Covid-19 vaccine under development at the University of Oxford over concerns it contains cell lines “from an electively aborted human foetus.” The objections were sent in a letter to the prime minister, Scott Morrison, last week, cosigned by Catholic archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher, Anglican archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies, and Greek Orthodox archbishop of Australia Makarios Griniezakis. However, scientists say the development process is a proven method and church priorities should be on ensuring public health against the coronavirus. The Vatican itself has in the past released statements permitting the use of vaccines drawn from foetal cell lines if no alternatives are available.
Continued Lockdown
Philippines extends partial coronavirus curbs in Manila until Sept. 30
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said on Monday partial restrictions in and around the capital Manila will be kept for another month starting Sept. 1 to tackle a rising number of coronavirus cases and further expand hospital capacity.
Brazil coronavirus deaths rise above 120,000
Brazil has registered another 758 novel coronavirus deaths over the last 24 hours and 41,350 new cases, the Health Ministry said on Saturday. The nation has now registered 120,262 coronavirus deaths and 3,846,153 confirmed cases. In terms of total deaths, Brazil is the hardest hit country in the world outside of the United States. However, daily new cases and deaths have begun to stabilize in recent weeks.
Coronavirus New Zealand: Jacinda Ardern announces ‘level 2.5’ for Auckland
New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, left lockdown overnight and moved into what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern described as “level 2.5” after just two new cases were announced on Sunday. Ms Ardern on Sunday thanked residents in the city after living through two and a half weeks of lockdown, but she has warned the government would raise levels again “if we need to”. “For Auckland, you are at a form of level two that I am going to call level 2.5,” Ms Ardern said. “It is designed to keep us on track with our elimination strategy at level two in the scenario we now have, but it will only work if people follow the guidance, I understand it is easy to become complacent.”
Scientific Viewpoint
Canada to buy millions of doses of Novavax and Johnson & Johnson's potential Covid-19 vaccines
Canada reached an agreement in principle on Monday (Aug 31) with both Novavax and Johnson & Johnson for millions of doses of their experimental coronavirus vaccines, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said. Canada's two agreements follow separate deals with Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc announced weeks ago, and are the latest example of countries rushing to secure access to vaccines. Last week, Canada's National Research Council said it had ended its partnership on a coronavirus vaccine with China's CanSino Biologics because the company lacked the authority to ship the vaccine. Novavax said it expects to finalize an advance purchase agreement to supply doses of the vaccine, beginning as early as the second quarter of next year. Novavax has agreed to supply up to 76 million doses of its experimental vaccine, while Johnson & Johnson will supply up to 38 million doses of its vaccine candidate. Both agreements are subject to the vaccines obtaining licenses from Health Canada, the companies said
Emergency authorisation of COVID-19 vaccines needs great care - WHO
The emergency authorisation of COVID-19 vaccines requires a “great deal of seriousness and reflection”, the World Health Organization said on Monday after the United States announced it was considering fast-tracking candidate drugs. Although every country had the right to approve drugs without completing full trials, “it is not something that you do very lightly”, WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan told a news conference. The head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said he would be willing to bypass the normal approval process to authorise a COVID-19 vaccine as long as officials were convinced the benefits outweigh the risks.
Opening up without control of COVID-19 is recipe for disaster, says WHO
Countries with significant active spread of coronavirus must prevent amplifying events, as opening up without the virus being under control would be a "recipe for disaster", the World Health Organization said on Monday.
Covid-19 vaccine diplomacy in India’s outreach plan
The Union government is working on at least five distinct ways, ranging from free vaccines to guaranteed supply, in which it can help its immediate neighbours as well as countries in West Asia, Africa and even Latin America, officials familiar with the plan said on condition of anonymity. The idea is to leverage the country’s standing as the world’s vaccine factory to consolidate diplomatic ties. Indian companies are working on two vaccines which are currently in clinical trials. Though the arrangement will be largely for these vaccines, it might also include vaccines manufactured by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII), the world’s largest vaccine maker, which has partnerships with three companies, including AstraZeneca.
Man Hospitalised in the U.S. After Apparent Coronavirus Reinfection
Scientists in Nevada are the latest to report a likely case of reinfection from the coronavirus that causes Covid-19, with genetic evidence backing up their claim. While it remains to be seen whether reinfection will be a common phenomenon, this newest case suggests that a second infection can cause more severe illness than the first, even in young and seemingly healthy people. The report was released as a preprint by The Lancet on Thursday, meaning that it hasn’t undergone the typical peer-review process as of yet. According to the report, the patient is a 25-year-old resident of Reno, Nevada who tested positive for the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, in mid-April via a standard RT-PCR test. In late March, the man began feeling symptoms consistent with Covid-19, such as sore throat, cough, headache, nausea and diarrhoea. He isolated and reported feeling better by April 27; he also tested negative for the virus twice over the next month.
Gottlieb says "full approval" of coronavirus vaccine for general population unlikely before 2021
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said Sunday he does not believe there will be "full approval" of a coronavirus vaccine for the general population until early 2021. "We're likely to see a stepwise progression of authorization of this vaccine for certain select populations that are at higher risk of either contracting it or having a bad outcome before we see a full approval for the general population," Gottlieb said on "Face the Nation." "I think, again, full approval for the general population, where people can go to CVS and get a shot — that's really a 2021 event, maybe the first quarter of 2021, probably more likely the first half."
Australian coronavirus antibody therapy aims for trial in early 2021
Australian researchers hope to start human trials of a coronavirus antibody therapy in early 2021, while a large-scale trial of a vaccine could begin by the end of this year, scientists said on Wednesday.
Indonesia: Chinese vaccine to be tested as COVID-19 cases rise
Advanced trials of a potential COVID-19 vaccine developed in China are under way in Indonesia. More than 2000 Indonesians signed up for the trial of the vaccine developed by Chinese pharmaceutical manufacturer Sinovac. This week, some candidates were given a second dose of the trial vaccine - as Jessica Washington reports from Bandung, Indonesia.
Covid vaccine rush could make pandemic worse, say scientists
The rush to immunise populations against Covid-19 could lead to the rollout of a vaccine that is not very effective and risk worsening the pandemic, leading scientists have said. Politicians and commercial companies are competing to be the first to license a vaccine, but experts say the world would be better served by waiting until comprehensive results showed at least 30-50% effectiveness. Ministers announced on Friday that the UK would take emergency powers to push any vaccine through the regulatory processes with unprecedented speed before the end of the year. Donald Trump wants to be able to announce the US has a vaccine before tthe presidential election on 3 November. A vaccine is vital to stopping the pandemic, but Prof Sir Richard Peto of Oxford University and an adviser to the World Health Organization, said the first vaccine would be bought and used all over the world even if it had low efficacy. Even if it protected only a minority of the population, it would be regarded as the standard by which later vaccines would be measured. That could even lead to inferior vaccines being approved, because they would not have to show that they were any better.
U.S. Will Revive Global Virus-Hunting Effort Ended Last Year
A worldwide virus-hunting program allowed to expire last year by the Trump administration, just before the coronavirus pandemic broke out, will have a second life — whatever the outcome of the presidential election. Joseph R. Biden Jr. has promised that, if elected, he will restore the program, called Predict, which searched for dangerous new animal viruses in bat caves, camel pens, wet markets and wildlife-smuggling routes around the globe. The expiration of Predict just weeks before the advent of the pandemic prompted wide criticism among scientists, who noted that the coronavirus is exactly the sort of catastrophic animal virus the program was designed to head off.
Obese, diabetics over 3 times more likely to die of COVID: Study
COVID-19 patients hospitalised with high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes were over three times more likely to die from the viral disease, say researchers. The study, published in the journal Diabetes Care, looked at the impact of metabolic syndrome on outcomes for COVID-19 patients. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of at least three of five conditions - hypertension, high blood sugar, obesity, high triglycerides, and low HDL cholesterol - that increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. "Together, obesity, diabetes, and pre-diabetes, high blood pressure, and abnormal cholesterol levels are all predictive of higher incidents of death in these patients," said the study lead author Joshua Denson from the Tulane University in the US.
FDA willing to fast track coronavirus vaccine before phase three trials end
FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn told the Financial Times he’s willing to consider granting emergency authorization for a Covid-19 vaccine before clinical trials have been completed. The comments come about a week after President Trump accused the FDA for intentionally moving slowly to hurt him politically.
Zante flight to Cardiff told to self isolate after COVID cases found
Passengers who were on a flight from Zante on the Greek island of Zakynthos to Cardiff in Wales last week have been told to isolate after it was identified as the source of at least seven confirmed coronavirus cases, Public Health Wales said on Sunday. Greece, which is not on the list of countries under British quarantine rules, is a popular holiday destination and more tourists are expected to have visited this year after several other favourites, such as Spain, were put under restrictions. “Cardiff and Vale Test Trace Protect and Public Health Wales have identified at least seven confirmed cases of COVID-19 from three different parties who were infectious on TUI Flight 6215 from Zante to Cardiff on 25 August,” said Giri Shankar, incident director for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak response at Public Health Wales.
Mutated coronavirus strain found in Indonesia as cases jump
A more infectious mutation of the new coronavirus has been found in Indonesia, the Jakarta-based Eijkman Institute for Molecular Biology said on Sunday, as the Southeast Asian country's caseload surges. Indonesia reported 2,858 new infections on Sunday, data by the health ministry showed, below the previous day's record 3,308 but above the past month's daily average. Its total number of cases was 172,053, with 7,343 Covid-19 fatalities. The "infectious but milder" D614G mutation of the virus has been found in genome sequencing data from samples collected by the institute, deputy director Herawati Sudoyo told Reuters, adding that more study is required to determine whether that was behind the recent rise in cases.
FDA head says he is willing to fast-track Covid-19 vaccine
The head of the US Food and Drug Administration has said he is willing to bypass the normal approval process to authorise a Covid-19 vaccine as soon as possible — but has insisted he will not do so to please President Donald Trump. In an interview with the Financial Times, Stephen Hahn said his agency was prepared to authorise a vaccine before Phase Three clinical trials were complete, as long as officials believed the benefits outweighed the risks. But he defended his embattled organisation against accusations that it was rushing the process to boost Mr Trump’s re-election prospects. “It is up to the sponsor [vaccine developer] to apply for authorisation or approval, and we make an adjudication of their application,” Dr Hahn said. “If they do that before the end of Phase Three, we may find that appropriate. We may find that inappropriate, we will make a determination.”
Canada confirms Chinese vaccine trial has been scrapped
Canada has scrapped a Covid-19 vaccine development agreement with the Chinese pharmaceutical company CanSino citing delays in shipping the drugs. Earlier this week CanSino had denied that the collaboration had been dropped, but the National Research Council, a government-funded body, confirmed that clinical trials of vaccine candidate Ad5-nCoV would not go ahead in Canada. In response to queries, the council said: “Due to the delay in the shipment of the CanSino Covid-19 vaccine candidate doses to Canada and as CanSino has now completed phase 1 and phase 2 clinical trials elsewhere, this specific opportunity is over and the NRC is focusing its team and facilities on other Covid-19 priorities.”
How did COVID show up in the bathroom of a long-vacant apartment, and what does it mean?
The discovery of the coronavirus in the bathroom of a vacant apartment in southern China is being taken as evidence that the pathogen spread up through sewage pipes after a toilet was flushed in another unit. The finding is adding to concerns over the virus' ability to spread in tiny airborne particles in enclosed spaces, and not just in the same room, or even on the same floor.
Spain to participate in clinical trials of Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine
The Spanish Agency for Medicine and Health Products (AEMPS) has authorized the first clinical trial in Spain of an experimental vaccine against the novel coronavirus. That’s according to Health Minister Salvador Illa, who made the announcement on Friday at a government press conference. The testing will involve a vaccine from Janssen, a company that is owned by the US multinational Johnson & Johnson, with 190 healthy volunteers from Spain. There will be a further 400 participants of the trial in Germany and Belgium. The recruitment of volunteers – who will be aged between 18 and 55, and over 65 – will begin “immediately,” Illa stated, with three Spanish hospitals – La Paz and La Princesa in Madrid, and Marqués de Valdecilla in Santander – taking part.
Bangladesh's Beximco in coronavirus vaccine pact with India's Serum Institute
One of Bangladesh’s largest drugmakers, Beximco Pharmaceuticals, announced on Friday that it will invest with the Serum Institute of India (SII) to ensure Bangladesh gets access to vaccines it is developing for the novel coronavirus. The deal comes after Bangladesh said this month it was ready to hold trials of candidate vaccines developed by India as both countries seek to curb the spread of the virus. “The investment amount will be treated as an advance and once the vaccine receives regulatory approvals, SII will include Bangladesh among the countries who will be the first to receive an agreed quantity of this vaccine from SII on a priority basis,” Beximco said in a statement, citing the heads of both organisations. Beximco will also be the exclusive supplier for Bangladesh for a vaccine developed by the Serum Institute, it said.
Here's how the U.S. could release a COVID-19 vaccine before the election—and why that scares some
Peter Marks, who runs the FDA division that oversees vaccine approval, has vowed that he would resign if the Trump administration pushed through a vaccine that was not clearly safe and effective. And he insists that FDA will consult with the Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC), which Offit sits on, to publicly discuss data related to any approval request. “Approval should be something that we can make transparent, and to do anything less than that is really a disservice to people,” Marks says. VRBPAC’s next meeting is scheduled for 22 October, 12 days before the presidential and congressional elections. Science spoke with a range of researchers and regulators about how a COVID-19 vaccine approval might be accelerated and the potential consequences.
UK to fast-track Covid-19 vaccine approval if sought before end of Brexit transition
UK health officials suggested that, should a vaccine’s developers be ready to seek approval before the end of the year, the MHRA might be able to give a faster verdict than its European counterpart. The health department said: “If a vaccine is discovered before 2021, the proposals will bolster existing powers that allow the MHRA to consider approving its use, before a full product licence is granted, provided it is proven to be safe and effective during robust and extensive clinical trials.” The measures were necessary because during the transition period, a new potential Covid-19 vaccine must be granted a licence by the EMA, it said.
Coronavirus: Vaccine front-runner China already inoculating workers
Earlier this month, the head of a well-known, privately-owned Chinese conglomerate told his staff that a vaccine for Covid-19 was expected to come to market by November. The boss, whose firm has a healthcare division, said that he saw it as a portent of economic recovery; a chance for his firms to sell more, according to a person privy to the comments. Within a few weeks the Chinese government was forced to go public with its apparent progress. The novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19 originated in humans in China, before it spread ceaselessly across the world. Now China is using its global footprint in a relentless effort to win the race to develop and deploy an effective vaccine. Last week one of the developmental vaccines was pictured in state-run media; a small branded box was shown, held up by a smiling woman in a lab. Sinopharm said it hopes to have it ready to go on sale by December. It even named a price, equivalent to about $140 (£106).
Inside the Chinese companies vying to produce the world's first coronavirus vaccine
For all its innovative prowess, China has generally lagged other countries in developing vaccines. But that appears to be changing with the race for a coronavirus vaccine, with Chinese companies potentially even at the forefront. As often with China, the question is: who are we dealing with? Who are the main vaccine developers? How far are they in developing a vaccine? What is their approach? What is the connection to the Chinese state? And what is the outlook if China comes up with the vaccine first? Of the 32 vaccines that are in human trials around the world, a larger number are from Chinese companies than might have been expected. The three leading players are Sinovac, CanSino Biologics and Sinopharm.
China's offer of coronavirus tests for all in Hong Kong meets with public distrust
A Chinese government offer to test all Hong Kong residents for the novel coronavirus is meeting scepticism from the city’s medical community and public and is emerging as a politically charged issue ahead of the launch of the plan next week. A 60-person mainland Chinese team will carry out tests and build temporary hospitals in the first direct help from Chinese health officials for the semi-autonomous city in its battle with the epidemic. But it comes at a sensitive time for the former British colony, with anxiety running high about what many of its 7.5 million residents see as Beijing’s efforts to rein in their freedoms, in particular with a national security law imposed in June. Against this background, some democracy activists have suggested that people’s DNA will be collected and abused under the cover of testing. The city government has dismissed that saying no samples would be taken out of the city.
Covid-19 could be with us for next two to four years, expert warns
One of China’s leading experts on Covid-19 has told ITV News that the virus is likely to be with us for at least the next two to four years. In his first foreign television interview Dr Zhang Wenhong, the Director of Infectious Diseases at Huashan Hospital in Shanghai, predicts we will be living with this for some time to come and he believes there is a high chance of a second international outbreak this autumn or winter. His forecasts are based on his knowledge of the virus as one of the first to face it and the current situation in the rest of the world, not in China where this week, for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, there were no local infections. Dr Zhang points to the fact that the United States and India are still struggling to contain their first wave of the virus, and other parts of South America and Africa are only just at the beginning of their battle.
China says it found a new virus that’s even more deadly than the coronavirus
Chinese officials claim that the neighboring country of Kazakhstan is dealing with an outbreak of a new virus that’s even deadlier than the novel coronavirus. Kazakhstan officials say there is no new virus, though the country is dealing with a spike in COVID-19 cases. China’s handling of COVID-19 news has been sketchy since the early days of the pandemic, and it’s unclear why the country is making the claims.
India's use of less accurate coronavirus tests raise concerns
Health experts are concerned about the Indian government's decision to implement rapid tests - which screen for antigens, or viral proteins - as authorities ramp up coronavirus tests amid surging infections. India crossed the three-million-case milestone on Sunday, 17 days after it crossed the two-million mark. It is the worst-affected country in Asia, and third behind the United States and Brazil globally. In June, the world's second-most populous nation began using cheaper, faster, but less accurate tests to scale up testing - a strategy that the US is now considering.
Coronavirus Resurgence
Coronavirus in Scotland: Nicola Sturgeon 'concerned' over 160 new cases
Nicola Sturgeon has voiced concerns after 160 more people tested positive for coronavirus in Scotland. The latest increase in new cases follows 123 reported on Sunday, with a number of "clusters" across Scotland. The first minister said the rise in cases was "partly the result of a greater number of people being tested". But she said it was "undoubtedly a concern" and that any connection between cases was being "carefully considered" by health protection teams. A total of 69 of the new cases were reported in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area, with Ms Sturgeon saying "particularly close attention" was being paid to this. However, she stressed that the positive results "still represent less than 1% of people newly tested yesterday". The number of people in hospital with the virus has increased to 258, five of whom are in intensive care.
36 states report a total of 8,700 Covid-19 cases at colleges and universities; country nears 6 million
Since classes started on August 19, 1,200 students at the University of Alabama have tested positive for the virus, the university system's website showed Saturday. Classes at the University of Dayton will continue online for at least two weeks after the school reported 116 case on Thursday and then another 148 on Friday, according to the university's website. Outbreaks have been identified at four different sororities at Kansas State University, according to news releases from the college and the Riley County Health Department. Providence College in Rhode Island has implemented policies to prevent the virus' spread, but 17 students have been placed on "interim suspension" for violating those measures, meaning they will not be allowed on campus or in classes until they attend a hearing, college spokesperson Steven Maurano told CNN Saturday.
Covid 19 coronavirus: Sydney put on alert after worrying virus warnings
After a weekend of sunny weather in Sydney, the city has now been put on alert with a series of worrying virus warnings. Yesterday, new cases were confirmed at a childcare centre and shopping mall on Sydney's north shore and an urgent warning was issued for bus commuters to isolate immediately amid a growing cluster in the city's eastern suburbs. There are now warnings in place across the city after recorded cases visited shopping centres, pubs and gyms. A school and an early learning centre have also closed.
Pedro Sánchez throws Covid gauntlet down to Spain's regions
Mr Sánchez argues it is up to individual regions to ask the central government to grant them emergency powers if needed for specific areas. Regional politicians — reluctant to acknowledge particular problems on their watch — say a national response is required. “The central government cannot be absent,” said Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the centre-right leader of the government of Madrid. “Abandoning its functions will expand the pandemic.” As the handling of the crisis threatens to become a game of “chicken” between the centre and regions, with each calling on the other to act, one big question is whether Spain’s decentralised model puts the country at a disadvantage.
UK records 1,715 Covid cases in largest weekend figure since mid-May
More than 1,700 people in the UK have been reported to have tested positive for coronavirus, the largest weekend number since the middle of May. The government figures, published on Sunday, which showed 1,715 further positive tests, continue a worrying trend of a growing number of cases since the beginning of July, amid persistent concerns over a second spike in the autumn. The cases bring the total number to 334,467. There was just one new death, bringing the total to 41,499.
Brazil reports 566 coronavirus deaths on Sunday
Brazil registered 566 additional coronavirus deaths over the past 24 hours and 16,158 new cases, the Health Ministry said on Sunday evening. The nation has now registered 120,828 deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus and 3,862,311 confirmed cases. Sundays tend to have relatively low coronavirus numbers in Brazil because of delays in testing by the nation’s state government
India Sets World Record for Coronavirus Infections in 24 Hours
India reported 78,761 new coronavirus infections in 24 hours on Sunday, the highest single day rise in the world since the pandemic began, while the county is continuing to open its economy. It was the fourth consecutive day that India has registered more than 75,000 infections. With a population of 1.4 billion people, India is the third most infected nation in the world, behind the United States and Brazil, with 3.5 million cases and more than 63,000 deaths, according to official statistics provided by the country’s health ministry.
Coronavirus: India surpasses US for highest single-day rise in Covid-19 cases
India has set a record for the world's highest single-day increase in coronavirus cases. The nation, the world's third-most infected, on Sunday reported 78,761 new cases in 24 hours, passing the number posted in the US on 17 July. The rise comes as the government continues to lift restrictions to try to boost an economy that lost millions of jobs when the virus hit in March. An upsurge of Covid-19 in many rural areas continues to be a major concern. On Sunday, global infections passed the 25 million mark, with 843,000 deaths. The US remains the most affected nation, closing in on six million infections, according to Johns Hopkins University research.
U.S. coronavirus cases top six million as Midwest, schools face outbreaks
U.S. cases of the novel coronavirus surpassed 6 million on Sunday as many states in the Midwest reported increasing infections, according to a Reuters tally. Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota have recently reported record one-day increases in new cases while Montana and Idaho are seeing record numbers of currently hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Nationally, metrics on new cases, deaths, hospitalizations and the positivity rates of tests are all declining, but there are emerging hotspots in the Midwest. Many of the new cases in Iowa are in the counties that are home to the University of Iowa and Iowa State University, which are holding some in-person classes. Colleges and universities around the country have seen outbreaks after students returned to campus, forcing some to switch to online-only learning.
France shows steady growth in new coronavirus cases
France reported 5,413 new confirmed coronavirus cases on Sunday, slightly down from the 5,453 seen on Saturday. The health ministry said the cumulative number of COVID-19 deaths rose to 30,606 from 30,602 reported on Saturday. The number of people in hospital with the disease was 4,535 versus 4,530 the day before and the number in intensive care rose to 402 from 400. “In mainland France, the progression of the COVID-19 epidemic is exponential. The strong growth dynamics of transmission is very worrying.” the ministry said in a statement.
Spanish health authorities support reopening of schools despite surge in coronavirus cases
The Spanish Health Ministry reported on Thursday that 9,658 new coronavirus cases had been detected by the regions. This is the largest spike in infections that Spain has seen since it entered a second wave of the virus, and confirms the upward trend of Covid-19 transmission, which has been rising since the beginning of August. The news came on the same day that Spain’s 17 regions and the Health and Education ministries met to establish protocols for how to safely reopen schools in September. According to Fernando Simón, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts, students will be able to return to class even if there is “community transmission” of the virus in Spain.
Florida shows 947.9% increase in COVID-19 cases since governor reopened state
In the roughly three months since Gov. Ron DeSantis greenlighted Phase Two of his plan to reopen Florida, the Sunshine State has seen a whopping 947.9 percent increase in the number of COVID-19 cases. As of Friday morning, 615,806 cases had been identified across the state. On June 3 when the governor made the announcement that bars and pubs could reopen at 50 percent capacity inside and full capacity outside, the state was reporting 58,764 COVID-19 cases – a difference of 557,042. Under Phase Two, bowling alleys, movie theaters, arcades and auditoriums also were allowed to reopen at 50 percent capacity. But a portion of that plan was short-lived, as DeSantis reversed his decision on bars and ordered them closed again on June 26 when the state was reporting 122,960 cases. The number of deaths and people hospitalized also are quite different today than when DeSantis decided to reopen the state. On June 3, the state was reporting 2,566 deaths and 10,525 people hospitalized. On Friday, those numbers had jumped to 11,099 deaths and 38,029 people being treated in area hospitals.
France coronavirus rates quadruple as authorities urged: 'Act quickly'
France’s coronavirus cases are surging, with the government declaring that the country’s rate of infection has quadrupled in a month. On Wednesday, France recorded 5,429 new cases of coronavirus, the country’s highest daily total since March and third-largest since the pandemic began. The nation’s R rate has also risen to 1.4, which is higher than the rate of 1 required to keep the curve of infection constant. Prime Minister Jean Castex has now changed Paris’ guidance on face coverings, with masks to become mandatory in the city from Friday morning. He warned that regional lockdowns could be on the horizon if the infection rates continue to climb.
Pressure on Madrid hospitals rising as Covid-19 cases surge in Spain once more
Of Spain’s regions, Madrid is currently under the most pressure when it comes to the number of coronavirus cases in its hospitals. That’s according to the latest data from the Spanish Health Ministry about the progress of the epidemic, and which was released on Wednesday evening. The regional healthcare centers are currently treating 1,800 patients, 175 of whom are in intensive care units (ICUs) – 13.6% of the hospital beds in the entire region. Until Tuesday, Aragón was the region that topped this list. As well as the rise in patients in Madrid, the figures released on Wednesday confirmed what is now a trend of rapidly rising cases throughout Spain. In fact, the country is already considered to be immersed in a second wave of the epidemic. For a week now, the Health Ministry has been reporting around 7,000 new cases every day, and there are no signs of this trend changing.
New Lockdown
British Universities Should Not Reopen Next Month, Says Union
British universities should scrap plans to reopen next month to prevent travelling students from fuelling the country's coronavirus pandemic, a union said, calling for courses to be taught online. Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government has come under fire over its moves to restart education, especially after a row over exam results for school students and a failed attempt to bring all pupils back to their classes earlier this year. Johnson has been calling on Britons to return to something more akin to normality after the coronavirus lockdown, calling on workers to return to offices to help the economy recover from a 20% contraction in the April-June period.
Coronavirus latest: France could face second lockdown amid ‘exponential’ rise in Covid-19 cases
President Emmanuel Macron has raised the possibility of another nationwide lockdown in France, after the country recorded its largest daily rise in coronavirus cases since March. On Friday, the number of infections recorded rose by a further 7,379, bringing the total in the country to 267,077. It latest figures mark the largest daily spike in cases since 31 March, at the peak of the first wave, when 7,578 cases were recorded.