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Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 26th Feb 2021

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COVID-19: Major cities falling well behind in UK's bid to vaccinate its way out of lockdown

So, while it's clear that age is a major factor driving the different pace of vaccination locally, it isn't the only one. The reason for the difference is made more difficult to determine in affluent areas of central London which may be skewed by non-residents. Ethnicity and deprivation appear to be key in determining uptake and could mean some parts of England have less protection from COVID-19 than others.
26th Feb 2021 - Sky News

South Korea preps coronavirus vaccines after political scuffle over first shots

South Korean politicians won’t be the first in line when the county kicks off its coronavirus vaccination drive on Friday, despite calls from the opposition party for the president to roll up his sleeve and take a shot to reassure vaccine sceptics. Leading political figures spent the week trading rhetorical shots over who should be the first to take a literal jab, but in the end, health authorities said widespread acceptance of vaccines in South Korea means they would stick to plans to vaccinate healthcare workers and other at-risk individuals first. On Thursday, the first doses of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine were distributed to clinics in preparation for the initial inoculations.
25th Feb 2021 - Reuters

COVID-19: Lockdown easing risks 'cold wave' hospital pressure as non-COVID patients return to A&E

Senior hospital staff have admitted the prime minister's roadmap out of lockdown is making them "a bit anxious and nervous". Doctors and nurses at Warrington Hospital have weathered the first and second wave of the pandemic and are now bracing themselves for the "cold wave". This is the winter surge of patients coming into their emergency department with seasonal respiratory illnesses. This year the cold wave came late, but the sharp spike in A&E attendances means it is here now.
25th Feb 2021 - Sky News

New Zealand still candidate for Covid-19 'best responder' but slow vaccination a concern, Time magazine says

New Zealand remains a contender for the title of Covid-19 “best responder” but this country’s slow rate of vaccination is a cause for concern, according to an article in Time magazine. A year into the Covid-19 pandemic, the group took a second look at several countries it had considered to be standouts for their handling of the initial stages of the pandemic. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has explained the timing of New Zealand’s vaccination rollout, pointing out this country did not have the Covid-19 public health emergencies being experienced by some other countries where vaccine emergency use authorisations had been granted. The Government wanted to ensure vaccines being used in New Zealand were “safe for New Zealanders” and were approved by regulator Medsafe, Ardern said.
25th Feb 2021 - Stuff.co.nz

Covid 19 coronavirus in NZ: One year into the pandemic, five lessons for 2021 and beyond

Exactly one year ago tomorrow, the first confirmed case of Covid-19 arrived in Aotearoa New Zealand. What are some of the lessons we have learned about this pandemic? And what are the implications for improving our response in future? Arguably, New Zealand's greatest lesson is that an elimination strategy is the optimal response for a moderate to severe pandemic like Covid-19. The strategy provides a vivid example of how protecting public health also protects the economy when compared with mitigation or suppression strategies. This successful approach has required decisive science-backed government action and outstanding communication to create the social licence needed for an effective response.
25th Feb 2021 - New Zealand Herald

COVID-19: EU leaders divided over vaccine passports to allow European travel this summer

European Union leaders are divided over developing vaccine passports to open the continent up to tourism this summer. Some countries want an EU-wide approach instead of individual nations having their own certificates, while others are concerned such documentation could result in discrimination. Leaders of the EU's 27 countries met online on Thursday to start a two-day summit to discuss the pandemic, and while they agreed to work on vaccine certificates, they could not come up with a unified plan.
25th Feb 2021 - Sky News


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 25th Feb 2021

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Singapore's first Chinese COVID-19 vaccines arrive ahead of approval

Singapore received its first batch of the COVID-19 vaccine made by China’s Sinovac Biotech on Tuesday, its health ministry said, although the shot is still awaiting approval for use in the city-state. Sinovac has started submitting initial data but the Health Sciences Authority is currently awaiting all the necessary information to carry out a thorough assessment, the ministry said in a statement late on Wednesday.
25th Feb 2021 - Reuters

New coronavirus variant identified in New York: researchers

A new coronavirus variant that shares some similarities with a more transmissible and intractable variant discovered in South Africa is on the rise in New York City, researchers said on Wednesday. The new variant, known as B.1.526, was first identified in samples collected in New York in November, and by mid-February represented about 12% of cases, researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, said on Wednesday. The variant was also described in research published online this week by the California Institute of Technology. Neither study has been reviewed by outside experts.
25th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Madrid’s vaccination plan for teachers and over-80s mired in confusion

Healthcare centers in Madrid are facing a frenetic countdown to begin vaccinating 130,000 people aged over 80. This next phase of the ongoing Covid-19 inoculation program is due to start on Thursday, but professionals from the sector who will have to administer the injections did not get any details of the operation until yesterday. The situation was mired in confusion on Monday thanks to contradictory statements made by the regional government, which first stated that the campaign would begin next week before rectifying and setting the start date for tomorrow. Workers from the sector voiced their complaints on Tuesday about the lack of planning.
24th Feb 2021 - El País

Holidaymakers rush to book summer getaways to Greece, Spain and Turkey after PM announced aim to restart international travel from May 17 - but SAGE scientist warns don't book a trip abroad before 2023

Britons are rushing to book their summer getaways ahead of the return of international travel from May 17 - despite a SAGE professor warning holidaymakers not to go on foreign trips before 2023. Some of Britain's biggest airlines and travel firms revealed a surge in holiday bookings to destinations including Greece, Spain and Turkey in the hours after Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled the roadmap out of lockdown yesterday.
24th Feb 2021 - Daily Mail

After UK Lockdown, Brits Can Start Packing for Their Summer Holidays in Greece

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Monday announcement that international travel may restart as soon as May 17 prompted a surge in bookings at TUI AG, the world’s biggest package holiday company, and budget airline EasyJet Plc. But the government’s rules were only one obstacle keeping Brits from their favorite vacation spots. European countries are still discouraging or restricting foreign travelers. It’s far from clear when they’ll fully open their borders to holidaymakers again. Right now, Brits are betting they will be welcomed back in time for summer. TUI said U.K. bookings were up 500% after the prime minister spoke compared with a week ago. Greece, Turkey and the Balearic Islands were the most popular destinations.
24th Feb 2021 - Bloomberg

In boost for COVID-19 battle, Pfizer vaccine found 94% effective in real world

The first big real-world study of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to be independently reviewed shows the shot is highly effective at preventing COVID-19, in a potentially landmark moment for countries desperate to end lockdowns and reopen economies. Up until now, most data on the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines has come under controlled conditions in clinical trials, leaving an element of uncertainty over how results would translate into the real world with its unpredictable variables. The research in Israel - two months into one of the world’s fastest rollouts, providing a rich source of data - showed two doses of the Pfizer shot cut symptomatic COVID-19 cases by 94% across all age groups, and severe illnesses by nearly as much. The study of about 1.2 million people also showed a single shot was 57% effective in protecting against symptomatic infections after two weeks, according to the data published and peer-reviewed in the New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday. The results of the study for the Clalit Research Institute were close to those in clinical trials last year which found two doses were found to be 95% effective.
24th Feb 2021 - Reuters

New normal? 'Green Pass' opens music concert to vaccinated Israelis

It was an event that could set a precedent in a world longing for a return to normal - a music concert attended by scores of Israelis vaccinated against COVID-19. The open-air concert in Tel Aviv on Wednesday was one of the first in a programme to restart cultural events by restricting attendance to people who have been vaccinated or those with immunity after contracting the disease. Attendees were required to show a “Green Pass”, a government-validated certificate showing they had received both doses of the vaccine more than a week prior to the event or that they had recovered from COVID-19 and were presumed immune. The passes are valid for six months from the time of full vaccination.
24th Feb 2021 - Reuters

White House to roll out Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses next week, pending authorization

The United States expects to roll out three to four million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine next week, pending authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said on Wednesday. A Johnson & Johnson executive on Tuesday said the company expected to ship nearly 4 million doses of the vaccine once it gained authorization. The additional vaccine will help President Joe Biden’s administration in its goal of ramping up vaccination across the country as it seeks to control the pandemic that has cost more than 500,000 lives in the United States and pummeled the economy.
24th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Moderna developing booster shot for new coronavirus variants, increases vaccine production target

Moderna Inc said on Wednesday it is working with U.S. government scientists to study an experimental booster shot that targets a concerning new variant of the coronavirus, and has raised its global COVID-19 vaccine production goal for this year by 100 million doses. The U.S. biotech company has produced raw material for a booster shot aimed at addressing the virus variant first found in South Africa that may be more resistant to existing vaccines, it said. It has shipped the vaccine to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, which helped develop Moderna’s current vaccine, for additional study. Moderna is experimenting with several potential ways to combat new variants of the virus.
24th Feb 2021 - Reuters

EU mulls vaccination passports to resurrect tourism after COVID-19

European Union leaders will agree on Thursday to work on certificates of vaccination for EU citizens who have had an anti-COVID shot, with southern EU countries that depend heavily on tourism desperate to rescue this summer’s holiday season. Lockdowns to slow the pandemic caused the deepest ever economic recession in the 27-nation bloc last year, hitting the south of the EU, where economies are often much more dependent on visitors, disproportionately hard. With the rollout of vaccines against COVID-19 now gathering pace, some governments, like those of Greece and Spain, are pushing for a quick adoption of an EU-wide certificate for those already inoculated so that people can travel again. However, other countries, such as France and Germany, appear more reluctant, as officials there say it could create de facto vaccination obligation and would be discriminatory to those who cannot or will not take a jab.
24th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Johnson & Johnson COVID jab safe and effective, US FDA staff find

Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot COVID-19 vaccine appeared safe and effective in trials, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said in documents published on Wednesday, paving the way for the vaccine’s approval for emergency use later this week. The regulator’s panel of independent experts meets on Friday to decide whether to approve the shot. While it is not bound to follow the advice of its experts, the FDA usually does and has authorised vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.
24th Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

NHS Covid app could be used to prove status and access venues in England

People could use a revamped NHS app to prove their Covid status on entering pubs or theatres in England under plans being considered by ministers, as one major care provider said staff have two months to get jabbed or lose their jobs. Ministers are expected to give businesses in England the power to check Covid certification – whether people have been vaccinated or the result of recent tests. That will include small-scale venues like restaurants or bars. However, the equalities watchdog and trade unions have said that any move that relies solely on vaccine certification could be unlawful and that passes must not be used to relax Covid safety measures in workplaces.
24th Feb 2021 - The Guardian


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 24th Feb 2021

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World Bank threatens to halt funding for Lebanon’s COVID jabs

The World Bank has threatened to suspend financing for coronavirus vaccines in Lebanon over what it said were violations by legislators who were vaccinated inside Parliament. The comments by the international lender on Tuesday came as frustration grew among some residents and doctors that the national plan that requires people to get vaccinated at predetermined centres could be riddled with violations and favouritism.
24th Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Even the World's Most-Vaccinated Economy Faces a Tough Reopening

But even as that brings hope for businesses shuttered for months, and for economies across the globe that have spent trillions of dollars to support people during lockdowns, the Israel experience shows that an emerging new normal that may not look much like the pre-pandemic world for some time to come.
24th Feb 2021 - Bloomberg

'Closer to normality': New York City arenas open doors to elated fans

On Tuesday, standing outside Madison Square Garden in the chilly February air, Cumello was grateful her long-awaited game had finally arrived. “I’m really excited that we finally got to go because I was really upset when it got canceled,” said Cumello, who plays point guard in her youth league in Fairfield, Connecticut. “I’m excited that we just get to be here and get to watch.” Cumello and her mother were among the 2,000 fans ready to watch the New York Knicks take on the Warriors, as New York City welcomed ticketholders at live sports events for the first time since the pandemic brought sports to a halt nearly a year ago.
24th Feb 2021 - Reuters

COVID-19: Is work from home here to stay? What UK businesses are planning post-lockdown

Businesses have started preparing plans to get their employees back to the office, although some suggest office culture may look different post-pandemic. The government's work-from-home (WFH) guidance has been in place now for almost a year, and under Boris Johnson's roadmap out of lockdown it could remain until summer.
23rd Feb 2021 - Sky News

South Korea coronavirus: PM aims for 'herd immunity by autumn'

Health officials will start inoculating medical staff in hospitals and care homes later this week. The aim is to give some 800,000 people the jab over the next month using vaccines produced by AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech. In an interview one year since he became the country's coronavirus figurehead, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun defended the later rollout and said it allowed South Korean officials to see how the vaccine had fared elsewhere. "You know that Koreans are the master of speed," said Mr Chung.
23rd Feb 2021 - BBC News

Holiday bookings surge in UK after lockdown exit plans revealed

Airlines and travel companies have reported a surge in holiday bookings after the Boris Johnson announced his roadmap out of lockdown. EasyJet, Ryanair, Tui and Thomas Cook reported a jump in bookings to destinations including Spain and Greece after the prime minister said international trips could potentially resume from 17 May, subject to review and assuming there was no resurgence in coronavirus and vaccination programmes went well. The increase bolstered shares in airlines and travel companies on Tuesday. EasyJet and Tui were among the top risers on the FTSE 250, up 7% and 3% respectively. On the FTSE 100, British Airways’ owner International Airlines Group, was up 3.5%.
23rd Feb 2021 - The Guardian

New Zealand coronavirus cluster grows with three new cases

New Zealand reported three new locally transmitted cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, as the cluster in its biggest city of Auckland expanded just days after authorities were forced to impose fresh curbs. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern lifted a brief COVID-19 lockdown in Auckland last week, saying the measures had helped limit the spread of the infection to a family of three. However, a student from Papatoetoe High School in Auckland was reported to have tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the day. Health authorities later said that two siblings of the student were also infected with the virus, and have asked everyone linked to the school to get re-tested.
23rd Feb 2021 - Reuters

Britons rush to book holidays amid plans to end lockdown

Stir-crazy Britons rushed to book overseas vacations after Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled plans to slowly ease a national lockdown, boosting optimism that travel restrictions will be removed in time for the summer holiday season. TUI, the U.K.’s largest tour operator said bookings increased six-fold on Monday, the company’s busiest day in more than a month. Discount airline easyJet said demand for flights more than tripled, and package holiday company Thomas Cook said traffic on its website increased 75%. International travel has nearly ground to a halt globally, so the increases are a sign of hope for the beleaguered industry.
23rd Feb 2021 - Associated Press

Executives with Pfizer, Moderna say they're ramping up vaccine supplies

Executives with Pfizer and Moderna said the companies are ramping up their supply of coronavirus vaccines, with shipments expected to double and possibly triple in the coming weeks, in congressional testimony Tuesday. In a prepared statement before a House subcommittee Tuesday, John Young, Pfizer's chief business officer, is expected to say the company plans to increase its delivery capacity of 4 million to 5 million doses a week to more than 13 million by mid-March. Richard Nettles, the vice president of medical affairs at Johnson & Johnson, said the company plans to have enough of their single-dose Covid-19 vaccine for 20 million Americans by the end of March.
23rd Feb 2021 - Yahoo News

States rush to catch up on delayed vaccines, expand access

A giant vaccination center is opening in Houston to administer 126,000 coronavirus doses in the next three weeks. Nevada health officials are working overtime to distribute delayed shots. And Rhode Island is rescheduling appointments after a vaccine shipment failed to arrive as scheduled earlier in the week. From coast to coast, states were scrambling Tuesday to catch up on vaccinations a week after winter storms battered a large swath of the U.S. and led to clinic closures, canceled appointments and shipment backlogs nationwide. But limited supply of the two approved COVID-19 vaccines hampered the pace of vaccinations even before extreme weather delayed the delivery of about 6 million doses.
23rd Feb 2021 - The Associated Press

Exclusive: AstraZeneca to miss second-quarter EU vaccine supply target by half - EU official

AstraZeneca Plc has told the European Union it expects to deliver less than half the COVID-19 vaccines it was contracted to supply in the second quarter, an EU official told Reuters on Tuesday. Contacted by Reuters, AstraZeneca did not deny what the official said, but a statement late in the day said the company was striving to increase productivity to deliver the promised 180 million doses. The expected shortfall, which has not previously been reported, follows a big reduction in supplies in the first quarter and could hit the EU’s ability to meet its target of vaccinating 70% of adults by summer.
23rd Feb 2021 - Reuters


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 23rd Feb 2021

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Pfizer set to double weekly production of coronavirus vaccine

Pfizer expects to roughly double the number of coronavirus vaccine doses it makes per week for use in the U.S, CEO Albert Bourla said Friday at an event with President Joe Biden held at the company's plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The boost in production should take effect in the next "couple weeks," Bourla said, noting the drugmaker currently manufactures about 5 million doses each week. Pfizer has supplied approximately 40 million doses to the U.S. government through February 17, some 29 million of which have been administered since the vaccine's emergency authorization last December. Pfizer's stepped-up manufacturing is a result of improvements the company's made in reducing by half the time it takes to make and do quality checks on each vaccine lot. The pharma is also expanding its production network, tapping a site in Kansas to aid in the fill and finish of vaccine vials.
23rd Feb 2021 - BioPharma Dive

Australia to ramp up COVID-19 vaccination drive as more doses arrive

Australia will ramp up its COVID-19 immunisation drive with more shots to be rolled out from next week, federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said on Tuesday, after a second shipment of the vaccine reached the country overnight. About 166,000 doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc and Germany’s BioNtech arrived late Monday, authorities said, as the country entered the second day of a nationwide inoculation programme. Total weekly doses will be raised to 80,000 next week from 60,000 doses this week, with the number expected to reach 1 million a week by the end of March when CSL Ltd begins to locally produce the AstraZeneca vaccine.
23rd Feb 2021 - Reuters

Coronavirus vaccine rollout begins in Western Australia with two hotel quarantine nurses

Two hotel quarantine nurses have become the first people in Western Australia to be given the COVID-19 vaccine. Four thousand five hundred doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine arrived at Perth Airport yesterday and were stored overnight in a Perth Children's Hospital (PCH) pharmacy freezer at minus 80 degrees Celsius. It is the first COVID vaccine approved for use in Australia by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
22nd Feb 2021 - ABC.Net.au

A year after its 1st COVID-19 cases were discovered, Italy is cautiously bouncing back

Italy discovered its first COVID-19 infections one year ago. The outbreak led to the first nationwide lockdown outside of China, and it has claimed more than 95,000 lives across the country. But as CBS News correspondent Chris Livesay reports, it's a very different story there now. Life has slowly been returning to normal, and Italians packed the streets over the weekend – even in the country's north, which was once the epicenter of its coronavirus epidemic. Old traditions are bouncing back across Italy, but with some differences. A year ago, something as simple as drinking a cappuccino out in the open had become unthinkable. Life is hardly back to normal; the law still requires that you to wear a mask at all times in public, even outside, except when you're eating or drinking.
22nd Feb 2021 - CBS News

Air New Zealand to trial digital Covid `vaccination passport`

Air New Zealand will trial a digital travel pass to give airlines and border authorities access to passenger health information, including their Covid-19 vaccination status, the carrier said Monday. The scheme, dubbed a "vaccination passport" by industry observers, is intended to streamline travel once borders reopen by allowing passengers to store their health credentials in one place.
22nd Feb 2021 - WION

Covid 19 coronavirus: Auckland lockdown was 'frustrating' but justified, says expert

Auckland's latest Covid-19 episode will have proven "frustrating" to many - but the snap lockdown was nonetheless ultimately justified, an expert says. Scientists today welcomed Cabinet's call to move Auckland to alert level 1, and to require masks on public transport across the whole country, at all alert levels. Covid-19 modeller Professor Michael Plank said the drop down made sense, with a vast number of negative tests now giving officials "good confidence" there wasn't an undetected community outbreak.
22nd Feb 2021 - New Zealand Herald

WHO calls for other steps to ease COVAX vaccine access

At a press briefing today, the World Health Organization's (WHO) top official said money isn't the only obstacle to getting vaccines to lower income countries through the COVAX program, designed to offer equitable access to tamp down the COVID-19 activity across the globe. In other developments, the WHO pleaded with Tanzania to report on its COVID-19 situation and describe measures it's taking, as some countries in Europe looked toward easing measures, while a few other nations tracked rising cases.
22nd Feb 2021 - CIDRAP

Pfizer to ship 13 million COVID-19 vaccine doses per week to U.S. by mid-March, says executive

Pfizer Inc expects to deliver more than 13 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine per week to the United States by the middle of March, more than doubling its shipments from early February, a top Pfizer executive said in prepared testimony ahead of a Tuesday congressional hearing. Pfizer has shipped around 40 million doses to locations across the United States so far and is on track to deliver 120 million doses of its two-dose regimen by the end of March, said John Young, Pfizer’s chief business officer.
22nd Feb 2021 - Reuters

New pledges boost COVAX, but critics say more is needed to ensure global vaccine access

After months of uncertainty and frustration, a World Health Organization program designed to ensure access to Covid-19 vaccines in dozens of low-income countries late last week received a spate of good news. First, Novavax pledged 1.1 billion doses of its shot to the WHO effort, which is known as COVAX. Meanwhile, the U.S. agreed to contribute $4 billion in aid over the next two years, with Germany adding $1.2 billion and the European Commission providing $600 million. Collectively, the G7 countries have now committed a total $7.5 billion. And the U.K. promised to provide surplus vaccines to low-income countries. The sudden rush of announcements was in stark contrast to increasing concerns that COVAX was faltering. For much of the past year, wealthy nations and drug makers reached deals that critics argued would leave low-income nations with little access to vaccines. As a result, the vast majority of vaccinations have so far occurred in high-income countries.
22nd Feb 2021 - STAT News

On the Post-Pandemic Horizon, Could That Be an Economic Boom?

The growing optimism stems from the confluence of several factors. Coronavirus cases are falling in the United States. The vaccine rollout, though slower than hoped, is gaining steam. And largely because of trillions of dollars in federal help, the economy appears to have made it through last year with less structural damage — in the form of business failures, home foreclosures and personal bankruptcies — than many people feared last spring
21st Feb 2021 - The New York Times


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 22nd Feb 2021

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South Korea to begin using Pfizer coronavirus vaccines on Feb. 27, PM says

South Korea will begin administering the first of 117,000 doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine on Feb. 27, a day after the country begins its first vaccinations with AstraZeneca’s products, the prime minister announced on Sunday. Plans call for about 10 million high-risk people, including health care workers and staffers and some residents of assisted care facilities and nursing homes, to be inoculated by July. The first AstraZeneca vaccines are scheduled to be administered on Friday, with Pfizer’s shots being deployed the next day, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said
21st Feb 2021 - Reuters

Scott Morrison reveals who his priorities for the coronavirus vaccine are

Scott Morrison has revealed who his priorities are for the Covid vaccine, after being one of the first people in Australia to receive the jab. The prime minister said the 'average Joes and Jills' who work in aged care and hotel quarantine will come first. 'There are many average Joes and Jills who work in aged care and disability care and who have disabilities and live in aged care facilities or who do hotel quarantine - they are the priorities,' he said.
21st Feb 2021 - Daily Mail

Covid-19 vaccinations begin in Australia with Scott Morrison among first group

The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, has received the Pfizer vaccine, as he joined a small first group to be vaccinated against Covid-19 on Sunday – a step the government says is intended to build public confidence in the safety of the vaccines. Morrison – the 12th member of the group to receive the vaccine at a televised event in Sydney – described it as a “curtain raiser” for the formal start of the vaccine rollout on Monday. He said the initial jabs were designed to show “that it’s safe, that it’s important, and we need to start with those who are most vulnerable and on the front line”.
21st Feb 2021 - The Guardian

How is Sweden coping with Covid-19? The hands-off strategy hasn't changed, officials insist

Now, in the short, gloomy days of February, Sweden’s laissez-faire approach has changed. The government has overruled the public health agency, which has primacy in deciding how to tackle the pandemic, in a number of areas. Commuters are advised to wear masks at rush hour, and bars stop serving alcohol at 10pm. Gatherings of more than eight people are banned. While the restrictions are still not as tight as in the UK, perhaps the biggest change is in the public’s perception of the pandemic. Trust in the authorities has dipped: according to a poll published last month only half of Swedes think that the public health agency is doing a good job, compared with 70 per cent last spring. Other agencies have fared far worse — with trust plunging to record lows. A year after the pandemic came to Sweden, more than 12,500 people have died of Covid-19 in a country of 10.2 million. In Norway, Denmark and Finland — which have a total population of 16.5 million — there have been 3,600 deaths.
21st Feb 2021 - The Times

COVID sickness dropped 95.8% after both Pfizer shots: Israeli Health Ministry

The risk of illness from COVID-19 dropped 95.8% among people who received both shots of Pfizer’s vaccine, Israel’s Health Ministry said. The vaccine was also 98% effective in preventing fever or breathing problems and 98.9% effective in preventing hospitalizations and death, the ministry said. The findings were based on data collected nationally through Feb. 13 from Israelis who had received their second shot at least two weeks previously. Previous reports from individual health care providers also showed positive results, spurring Israel to remove restrictions on the economy after weeks of lockdown. On Sunday, schools and many stores will be allowed to reopen.
21st Feb 2021 - Reuters

G-7 vows 'equitable' world vaccine access, but details scant

Leaders of the Group of Seven economic powers promised Friday to immunize the world’s neediest people against the coronavirus by giving money, and precious vaccine doses, to a U.N.-backed vaccine distribution effort. But the leaders, under pressure over their vaccination campaigns at home, were unwilling to say exactly how much vaccine they were willing to share with the developing world, or when. Chancellor Angela Merkel said after the G-7 leaders held a virtual meeting that fair distribution of vaccines was “an elementary question of fairness.” But she added, “No vaccination appointment in Germany is going to be endangered.”
20th Feb 2021 - The Associated Press

Victorian family tests positive to Covid a day after state emerges from lockdown

Three members of a Victorian family, two of whom quarantined at the Melbourne airport Holiday Inn, have tested positive to coronavirus a day after the state’s five-day lockdown was lifted. Health authorities were confident the new cases, which came after two days of zero cases in Victoria, will not spark further infections as they were isolating at home during their infectious period. The health minister, Martin Foley, said the cases involved two parents and a child, two of whom were classified as primary close contacts because they had been in quarantine on the third floor of the quarantine hotel at Tullamarine. The other family member was deemed a secondary contact. Foley said the trio had multiple negative tests between 10 February and 12 February after returning from overseas in early Februrary.
20th Feb 2021 - The Guardian

Australia's travel bubble with New Zealand to restart as Victoria records no new Covid cases

Australia’s coronavirus travel bubble with New Zealand will recommence on Sunday, the Department of Health has announced. In a statement issued on Saturday afternoon, the department said “green zone” flights from New Zealand could resume at 12.01am on Sunday, subject to some conditions. “The AHPPC monitors the situation in many locations and will continue to advise on a range of decisions in the interest of the health of all Australians,” said the chief medical officer, Prof Paul Kelly. “These decisions are not easy and we do not take them lightly – and all AHPPC members appreciate the ongoing patience and flexibility of Australians and New Zealanders, including those in the tourism and travel industry."
20th Feb 2021 - The Guardian

After snap lockdown, New Zealand begins vaccine programme

A few days after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ended the snap lockdown in Auckland, New Zealand has launched its first COVID-19 vaccination programme. The country is using Pfizer-BioNtech's vaccine against the deadly coronavirus. On Saturday, a small group of medical professionals were injected with the approved vaccine in Auckland. Following this, border staff and so-called Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) workers will initiate a bigger and wider rollout of the vaccine.
20th Feb 2021 - WION

Escaping lockdown: when will life return to normal?

Governments and societies will have to learn how to manage a complex series of risks, both in the short term while only part of the population has been vaccinated, and in the long term as the disease lingers even after most people have received the jab. International travel could face restrictions for some time to come. Some scientists describe a long drawn-out battle with an endemic virus that constantly evolves — with new vaccines and treatments being deployed in a way that they hope will allow much but not all of normal life to return. “The challenge is to find a way to live with it without keeping huge restrictions in place,” says Azra Ghani, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at Imperial College London.
20th Feb 2021 - The Financial Times

Covid-19: Which countries in Africa are administering vaccines?

Africa has now recorded more than 100,000 deaths from coronavirus, and there's been concern over the delay in rolling out Covid-19 vaccinations there. There has been global competition to get hold of vaccines, and African countries have generally not been as successful as richer countries in securing supplies. "It is deeply unjust that the most vulnerable Africans are forced to wait for vaccines while lower-risk groups in rich countries are made safe," says Matshidiso Moeti, the World Health Organization regional director for Africa. France President Emmanuel Macron has proposed that rich countries in Europe and the US share their vaccines with Africa.
20th Feb 2021 - BBC News

New G7 support gives COVAX program a shot in the arm

COVAX, the push to equitably distribute COVID-19 vaccine throughout the world, got a major boost with a fresh infusion of pledges, as G7 leaders gathered virtually at a security conference. In other international developments, Johnson & Johnson submitted its COVID-19 vaccine for World Health Organization (WHO) assessment, and two researchers published more promising findings for already listed vaccines, AstraZeneca-Oxford and Pfizer-BioNTech.
19th Feb 2021 - CIDRAP


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 19th Feb 2021

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Rich nations stockpiling a billion more COVID-19 shots than needed: report

Rich countries are on course to have over a billion more doses of COVID-19 vaccines than they need, leaving poorer nations scrambling for leftover supplies as the world seeks to curb the coronavirus pandemic, a report by anti-poverty campaigners found on Friday. In an analysis of current supply deals for COVID-19 vaccines, the ONE Campaign said wealthy countries, such as the United States and Britain, should share the excess doses to “supercharge” a fully global response to the pandemic. The advocacy group, which campaigns against poverty and preventable diseases, said a failure to do so would deny billions of people essential protection from the COVID-19-causing virus and likely prolong the pandemic. The report looked specifically at contracts with the five leading COVID-19 vaccine makers - Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Novavax.
19th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Experts warn against COVID-19 variants as states reopen

As states lift mask rules and ease restrictions on restaurants and other businesses because of falling case numbers, public health officials say authorities are overlooking potentially more dangerous COVID-19 variants that are quietly spreading through the U.S. Scientists widely agree that the U.S. simply doesn’t have enough of a handle on the variants to roll back public health measures and is at risk of fumbling yet another phase of the pandemic after letting the virus rage through the country over the last year and kill nearly 500,000 people. “Now is not the time to fully open up," said Karthik Gangavarapu, a researcher at Scripps Research Institute whose team works closely with San Diego health officials to watch for mutant versions of the coronavirus. “We need to still be vigilant.”
18th Feb 2021 - The Independent

Victoria's statewide lockdown ends. Data can tell us what to do next time

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced today the state’s five-day circuit-breaker lockdown would end at midnight tonight. The state’s health department reported zero new cases overnight from nearly 40,000 tests — the highest number of daily tests recorded in Victoria since the start of the pandemic. Andrews said a five-day lockdown is “infinitely better” than taking a chance and ending up with a five-week lockdown or worse. But in truth, we don’t know for sure what that chance is. The fact Victoria uses comprehensive “contacts of contacts” tracing means we have rich data to explore how testing and tracing would stand up under more dire transmission scenarios involving the UK variant and a multi-case seeding event.
18th Feb 2021 - The Conversation AU

Victoria's snap lockdown is over but it comes at a political cost for Daniel Andrews

Victoria has survived its third lockdown. Cases are contained and restrictions have eased. There has been untold economic damage and fresh concerns for the mental health of Victorians already doing it tough. The snap lockdown was a last resort, the Premier says, but that does not necessarily mean it won't happen again if the virus gets out of control.
18th Feb 2021 - ABC News

Covid 19 coronavirus: Auckland out of lockdown - Jacinda Ardern sounds warning, Professor Des Gorman criticises alert-level response

Staff at a South Auckland workplace where a woman tested positive for Covid-19 have all tested negative for the virus. LSG Sky Chefs, based in Māngere, made the announcement in a statement to media just before 10.30am. "A comprehensive test of all LSG Sky Chefs employees - conducted mainly on site by a task force from the local health authority - showed that no other member of the workforce is infected," a spokeswoman for the company said.
18th Feb 2021 - New Zealand Herald

Lockdown over, tennis fans back as Australia says no new virus cases for over 48 hours

Australia said on Thursday it had gone more than 48 hours since detecting the last locally acquired case of COVID-19, as Victoria state ended a lockdown letting thousands of tennis fans back in Melbourne Park for the last days of the Australian Open. Jack Barber, a 25-year-old student, was among 7,477 spectators in the stadium watching Japan’s Naomi Osaka defeat the United States’ Serena Williams to go through to the ladies final. “Yeah, it’s awesome. I wasn’t sure if they were going to put the event on. It’s been really nice to be here. I actually kind of like the lower crowds,” said Barber, with the Rod Laver Arena limited by social distancing restrictions to half its capacity. “It’s kind of nice to be able to walk around and go wherever you want.”
18th Feb 2021 - Reuters Australia

White House announces plans to ramp up COVID testing

The White House announced new efforts on Wednesday to expand and improve testing for the coronavirus, as the United States ramps up efforts to vaccinate Americans. In a news briefing, Carole Johnson, the nation’s new COVID-19 testing coordinator, announced that the federal government would invest $1.6bn to increase nationwide testing. “We need to test broadly and rapidly to turn the tide of this pandemic but we still don’t have enough testing and we don’t have enough testing in all the places it needs to be,” Johnson said during a news briefing. She said the funds would support testing in schools and in underserved populations, increase manufacturing of critical testing supplies, as well as increase genomic sequencing – key to studying virus variants. According to a White House factsheet, $650m will go towards expanding testing capacity for schools, which will assist them in reopening.
18th Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 18th Feb 2021

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Brazil’s coronavirus vaccine rollout beset by supply problems

Authorities in Rio de Janeiro and several other Brazilian cities have said they would pause some coronavirus jabs because of a shortage of vaccines, as supply bottlenecks threaten to slow the inoculation programme in Latin America’s largest nation. A number of municipalities including Rio, home to 6.7m people, have in recent days paused first injections — or said they intend to — because of a lack of supply, with priority given to those waiting for a second shot. Salvador, home to almost 3m residents, has suspended first vaccine doses for health workers and the elderly. “We are waiting for a new delivery from the federal government so we can proceed with the vaccination schedule in our city,” Bruno Reis, Salvador’s mayor, tweeted this week.
17th Feb 2021 - Financial Times

In Naples, Muslim families struggle to bury coronavirus victims

When Ahmed Aden Mohamed brought his mother, Zahra Gassim Alio, to the hospital with knee pain, he never imagined that it would be the last time he saw her alive. After a series of complications, Alio was exposed to the coronavirus and she died soon after. When he went to the hospital to collect her body, Mohamed realised how complicated it would be to lay her to rest. Since his city of Naples, in southern Italy, did not have a Muslim cemetery, he was faced with a difficult decision: have his mother’s body cremated, which is forbidden in Islam, or bury her in one of the two closest Muslim cemeteries, both of which are about 150km (93 miles) away. The lack of a Muslim cemetery in Naples, Italy’s third-largest city, and one with a fast-growing Muslim community, has been a challenge for many families for several years. But the coronavirus pandemic has made things even harder.
17th Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

‘Wildly unfair’: UN boss says 10 nations used 75% of all vaccines

The United Nations chief has sharply criticised the “wildly uneven and unfair” distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, pointing out that just 10 countries have administered 75 percent of all vaccinations. Addressing a high-level meeting of the UN Security Council on Wednesday, Antonio Guterres said 130 countries have not received a single dose of vaccine. “At this critical moment, vaccine equity is the biggest moral test before the global community,” he said. Guterres called for an urgent Global Vaccination Plan to bring together those with the power to ensure fair vaccine distribution – scientists, vaccine producers and those who can fund the effort – to ensure all people in every nation get inoculated as soon as possible. The secretary-general further called on the world’s leading economic powers in the Group of 20 to establish an emergency task force that should have the capacity to bring together “the pharmaceutical companies and key industry and logistics actors”. Guterres said a meeting on Friday of the Group of Seven top industrialised nations “can create the momentum to mobilise the necessary financial resources”.
17th Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Slovakia and Croatia in talks with Russia over Sputnik coronavirus vaccine

Croatia and Slovakia are in talks with Russia about buying its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, local media reported Wednesday. “It is timely for the government to start talks with the Russian side about supplies of Sputnik V,” Slovakian Prime Minister Igor Matovič said on Facebook, adding that his government will discuss the matter Thursday and that he's in favor of the jab. Sputnik is a "great vaccine with great efficiency," he said.
17th Feb 2021 - POLITICO.eu

Brussels gives vaccine strategy an injection

The European Commission on Wednesday moved to give its slow-rolling vaccine strategy a booster shot. Battered after weeks of criticism over production delays and other missteps, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen laid out her long-term vaccine promises. She vowed to speed up the approval of vaccines to fight new coronavirus variants and expand genomic sequencing of those variants. She pledged to look into an EU-wide emergency authorization process to more swiftly approve other vaccines. She talked about a new “clinical trial network” and said the EU would buy more vaccines overall through the bloc’s joint procurement program. But what von der Leyen could not — and did not — promise was to immediately make more vaccines available to citizens whom she admitted were rightly frustrated that other countries like the U.K. and Israel have raced ahead.
17th Feb 2021 - POLITICO.eu

Johnson & Johnson has only a few million COVID vaccine doses in stock as likely launch nears

Johnson & Johnson has only a few million doses of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine in its inventory even as likely U.S. regulatory authorization is only a few weeks away, White House officials said on Wednesday. J&J remains committed to providing 100 million doses by June but deliveries are likely to be “back-end loaded” as J&J works with the U.S. government to boost supply, Jeffrey Zients, the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator, said during a press call. “Across the last few weeks we’ve learned that there is not a big inventory of Johnson and Johnson. There’s a few million doses that we’ll start with,” Zients said.
17th Feb 2021 - Reuters

New Zealand releasing Auckland from brief COVID-19 lockdown

New Zealand will lift a COVID-19 lockdown of its largest city of Auckland and ease restrictions across the rest of the country from midnight on Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said. Auckland’s nearly 2 million residents were plunged into a snap three-day lockdown on Monday, after a more contagious COVID-19 variant that first emerged in Britain was detected in a family of three. Health authorities reported three new locally transmitted cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, all of them from the same home as the child who tested positive on Sunday.
17th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Victoria state to end snap lockdown, allow fans at Australian Open

A five-day snap lockdown in Australia’s Victoria state will end on Wednesday, officials said as they reported no new cases in a cluster linked to a quarantine hotel in the city of Melbourne. State Premier Daniel Andrews said most mobility restrictions will be lifted at midnight, but masks will remain mandatory both indoors and outdoors when social distancing rules cannot be followed. “In a broader sense, we are safe and open,” Andrews said in a televised media conference, but cautioned the latest outbreak had not yet been fully contained. The lifting of restrictions will allow at least some spectators at the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne, where players have competed in empty stadiums during the lockdown.
17th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Scottish pupils to begin returning to school from Monday

Pupils in Scotland will begin returning to schools from Monday, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said, but the move would mean wider COVID-19 lockdown restrictions may have to stay in place longer. Sturgeon announced that a phased return would go ahead as previously planned with some age groups allowed to return next week, and others dependent on the success of that move and data on overall infection rates. “We are very deliberately choosing to use the very limited headroom we have right now to get at least some children back to school, because children’s education and wellbeing is such an overriding priority,” she told the Scottish parliament on Tuesday.
17th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Covid: Melbourne and Auckland snap lockdowns to end

The Australian state of Victoria and the New Zealand city of Auckland will both exit snap lockdowns on Thursday. Authorities in Australia said they had gained control of a hotel quarantine cluster in Melbourne, which prompted a five-day lockdown. New Zealand will lift curbs put in place in Auckland three days ago, despite three new local cases. Both countries, known for their strict measures, have seen relatively few deaths and cases during the pandemic.
17th Feb 2021 - BBC News

New Zealand ends lockdown after deciding outbreak contained

A lockdown in the New Zealand city of Auckland will end at midnight, the government announced Wednesday after concluding a coronavirus outbreak had been contained. “This is good news,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said. The move to end the lockdown came as health authorities said the outbreak had grown by three cases to six in total. But Ardern said the additional cases were to be expected because they involved close contacts. Ramped-up testing indicates the outbreak hasn’t spread far.
17th Feb 2021 - Associated Press

Calls to overhaul Victoria’s hotel quarantine system ramp up

Victoria’s latest COVID-19 leak from hotel quarantine has ramped up calls to completely overhaul the system, with one expert warning the current system put in place by Premier Daniel Andrews can’t be trusted to keep the community safe from future breaches. Leading infectious disease expert Professor Lindsay Grayson said Mr Andrews’ current approach to hotel quarantine is “placing the rest of the country at risk”. “It should be removed from the national quarantine program until proven safe,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
17th Feb 2021 - News.com.au

Australia's second-largest city comes out of 3rd lockdown

Melbourne will relax its third lockdown on Wednesday after authorities contained the spread of a COVID-19 cluster centered on hotel quarantine. The Victoria state government has yet to say whether spectators will be allowed to return to the Australian Open tennis tournament under the same conditions as before the five-day lockdown. Health authorities will soon settle on a final crowd figure for the final days of the tournament, Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said.
17th Feb 2021 - The Independent

Auckland lockdown to end despite three new cases of Covid-19

New Zealand has reported three new locally transmitted cases of Covid-19, as prime minister Jacinda Ardern surprised many by announcing Auckland’s three-day lockdown would end at midnight. Ardern said she did not believe community transmission was “widespread”, as new cases were minimal, and wastewater testing had reported negative results in the country’s largest city. The rest of the country will drop to Level 1 restrictions. “I wanted enough time at a cautious level to give us reassurance,” Ardern said. “Much better to have 72 hours in [lockdown]… than have 72 hours of unchecked spread.”
17th Feb 2021 - MSN.com


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 17th Feb 2021

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Peru’s ex-president sought COVID jab out of turn, doctor says

The doctor leading a coronavirus vaccine trial in Peru has said former President Martin Vizcarra got a COVID-19 jab out of turn, as a scandal over government officials receiving vaccines before the general public continues to roil the South American nation. Dr German Malaga testified in parliament on Tuesday that Vizcarra, who previously said he had been inoculated as a clinical trial volunteer, was not, in fact, a volunteer. “He asked me for two vaccines,” Malaga, of the Cayetano Heredia University in Lima running the trial, told a virtual session of a congressional commission. Vizcarra’s wife also received a shot. Malaga said Vizcarra had approached him about being vaccinated on October 1, when the drug was being rolled out to 12,000 trial volunteers. Vizcarra knew he would be getting the real vaccine from Chinese company Sinopharm, the doctor added.
16th Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Mexico surpasses 2 million coronavirus cases; more than 175,000 deaths

Mexico’s total number of coronavirus cases crossed 2 million with another 8,683 cases recorded on Tuesday, the health ministry said. The country’s tally of infections now stands at 2,004,575. Mexico also reported 1,329 additional fatalities, bringing the total to 175,986 deaths. The government says the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.
16th Feb 2021 - Reuters

UK retail must stay open when third lockdown ends - Ocado chairman

Britain’s retail sector must stay open when it emerges from the latest coronavirus lockdown, sector veteran Stuart Rose said on Tuesday. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to set the path out of a third lockdown which has closed all non-essential shops on Feb. 22. “The short term need is for us to have some clarity. We need to have confidence that when we re-open again we will stay open,” Rose, the current chairman of Ocado and a former boss of Marks & Spencer, told BBC radio.
16th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Australia approves AstraZeneca vaccine, bolstering inoculation programme

Australia’s medical regulator granted provisional approval for AstraZeneca Plc’s COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, bolstering a national inoculation programme it plans to begin rolling out next week. The vaccine boost came as Australia’s second-most populous state neared the likely end of a five-day snap lockdown sparked by a fresh cluster of cases. The federal government says it has ordered enough of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which will mostly be manufactured in Australia, to cover the country’s population of 25 million people. It has also ordered enough doses of a vaccine jointly developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech, which is being manufactured offshore, for a fifth of the population.
16th Feb 2021 - Reuters Australia

French unemployment falls to pre-crisis levels in fourth-quarter, skewed by lockdown

Unemployment in France fell to pre-pandemic levels in the fourth quarter of 2020, though the data was partially skewed by a six-week COVID-19 lockdown during which jobseekers were unable to register as jobless, the INSEE statistics office said. Unemployment in the euro zone’s second biggest economy fell 1.1 percentage points to 8%, official data showed on Tuesday. That compared with a revised 9.1% in the third quarter and 8.1% in the last three months of 2019.
16th Feb 2021 - Reuters

What will life look like after lockdown?

British prime minister Boris Johnson has said he is “optimistic” about the prospect of lifting the current national lockdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic while also pleading with the public to remain “patient”. Mr Johnson is due to unveil a “roadmap to recovery” on 22 February, laying out a timeline for the easing of the social restrictions his government introduced in early January to quell the spread of Covid-19, which has claimed 117,000 lives in the UK since March 2020 and worsened when the country was hit by a brutal second wave of infections towards the end of the year.
16th Feb 2021 - The Independent

South Korea warns against lax distancing as daily COVID-19 count hits one-month high

South Korea’s Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun on Wednesday warned against the loosening enforcement of social distancing rules after the number of new coronavirus cases hit the highest levels in nearly 40 days. The government relaxed distancing curbs on Saturday to take effect starting this week, after getting on top of a third wave of COVID-19 outbreaks that peaked at around 1,200 daily cases in late December. But the numbers shot back up in just three days, topping 600 for the first time in 39 days on Tuesday, after a ban on nighttime entertainment facilities was lifted and a restaurant curfew extended by one hour to 10 p.m.
17th Feb 2021 - Reuters


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 16th Feb 2021

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Kent variant may be 70 percent more deadly: UK study

The highly infectious variant of the novel coronavirus that is predominant in the United Kingdom may be up to 70 percent more deadly than previous strains, according to a report by the government’s scientific advisers. The findings from the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG), published on Friday on the government’s website, underscored concerns about how mutations may change the characteristics of SARS-CoV2 – the virus that causes COVID-19 – and alter the course of the pandemic. Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said the negative test results since the first three were found was an encouraging start, but cautioned a fuller picture of the outbreak wouldn’t emerge until Tuesday, when the results from an expanded testing regimen would be known.
15th Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

'It's been scary’: getting vaccinated akin to lottery for US teachers

Keeping teachers safe is not easy – or consistent. Across the US the availability of vaccines to teachers and other workers in American schools has become something of a lottery, with it being available in some areas, and not in many others even as public schools are being reopened. For many American teachers, access to the vaccine seems to depend less on what you do as a frontline educator and more on where you do it. As more schools around the US have started to reopen to in-person learning, teachers and staff are pushing back on doing so without vaccinations for employees. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is expected to issue new guidance on school reopenings during the pandemic.
15th Feb 2021 - The Guardian

Pfizer coronavirus vaccine doses arrives in Australia, ahead of first jabs next week

The first doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine have touched down in Australia as preparations continue for the first stage of the national rollout, Health Minister Greg Hunt says. People will begin receiving the vaccine from Monday, February 22, with more than 142,000 doses arriving in Sydney from Europe just after midday on Monday. "They will now be subject to security, quality assurance, in particular to ensure that temperature maintenance has been preserved throughout the course of the flight, to ensure the integrity of the doses, and to ensure there has been no damage," Mr Hunt said. Mr Hunt said the doses would be split up among the states based on their populations, and more information would be released later this week.
15th Feb 2021 - ABC.Net.au

Imperial College expert warns new coronavirus wave could kill tens of thousands of Britons by late summer if lockdown is completely lifted too early

Professor Azra Ghani revealed how a model forecasts significant wave of deaths by summer 2021 if restrictions are eased in July - even despite a vaccine rollout. The government has vowed to release its plan to exit lockdown on February 22. Government is seemingly taking a cautious approach to returning to normality
16th Feb 2021 - Daily Mail

Incoming WTO head warns 'vaccine nationalism' could slow pandemic recovery

The World Trade Organization’s incoming chief on Monday warned against “vaccine nationalism’ that would slow progress in ending the COVID-19 pandemic and could erode economic growth for all countries - rich and poor. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala told Reuters her top priority was to ensure the WTO does more to address the pandemic, saying members should accelerate efforts to lift export restrictions slowing trade in needed medicines and supplies. The former Nigerian finance minister and senior World Bank executive was appointed on Monday in a consensus process and starts her new job on March 1. “The WTO can contribute so much more to helping stop the pandemic,” Okonjo-Iweala said in an interview at her home in a suburb of Washington.
16th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Australia medical regulator approves AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine

Australia's medical regulator said on Tuesday it had granted provisional approval for the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca, making it the second vaccine to get regulatory approval in Australia.
16th Feb 2021 - Reuters on MSN.com

South Korea reaches deals to buy more COVID-19 vaccines for 23 million people

South Korea has arranged to buy coronavirus vaccines for 23 million more people, its prime minister said on Tuesday, a day after authorities decided to scale back initial vaccination plans, citing delays and efficacy concerns. The deals include vaccines from Novavax Inc for 20 million people and Pfizer products for 3 million, bringing the total number of people to be covered to 79 million, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said. “The government has been working to bring in sufficient early supplies, but there is growing uncertainty over our plan for the first half due to production issues with global drugmakers and international competition to adopt more vaccines,” he told a televised meeting.
16th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Syringe shortage hampers Japan's COVID-19 vaccination roll out

Japan is scrambling to secure special syringes to maximise the number of COVID-19 vaccine shots used from each vial, but manufacturers are struggling to ramp up production quickly, raising fears that millions of doses could go waste. Japan, with a population of 126 million, last month signed a contract with Pfizer Inc to procure 144 million doses of its vaccine, or enough for 72 million people, with the vaccination campaign set to start on Wednesday. One vial is meant for six shots, Pfizer says, but it takes special syringes that retain a low volume of solution after an injection to extract six doses, while only five shots can be taken with standard syringes that the government has stored up in preparation for the inoculation drive.
16th Feb 2021 - Reuters on MSN.com

Mexico begins vaccinating elderly against COVID-19

Mexico began vaccinating senior citizens in more than 300 municipalities across the country on Monday, after receiving approximately 870,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine. The effort was largely concentrated in remote rural communities, but hundreds of people over the age of 60 also lined up before dawn in a few far-flung corners of the sprawling capital, Mexico City, for the chance to get vaccinated. Officials encouraged people to not come all at once, but with shots distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, the demand was immediate. The government has designated 1,000 vaccination sites, including schools and health centres, mostly in the country’s poorest communities.
16th Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Zimbabwe receives first batch of Sinopharm vaccines

Zimbabwe has received its first 200,000 coronavirus vaccines, a donation by the Chinese government. Vice President and Health Minister Constantino Chiwenga was at the Robert Mugabe International Airport in the capital, Harare, in the early hours of Monday for the arrival of the doses of the Sinopharm vaccine from China.
16th Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 15th Feb 2021

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Israeli study finds 94% drop in symptomatic COVID-19 cases with Pfizer vaccine

Israel’s largest healthcare provider on Sunday reported a 94% drop in symptomatic COVID-19 infections among 600,000 people who received two doses of the Pfizer’s vaccine in the country’s biggest study to date. Health maintenance organization (HMO) Clalit, which covers more than half of all Israelis, said the same group was also 92% less likely to develop severe illness from the virus. The comparison was against a group of the same size, with matching medical histories, who had not received the vaccine.
14th Feb 2021 - Reuters

The show goes on in Madrid as cultural life continues despite pandemic

Madrid’s Teatro Real opera house is busy preparing its latest productions in what at any time would be an ambitious season. With Spain battling some of Europe’s worst coronavirus infection rates, its plans are all the more remarkable. The Real’s premiere of a production of Wagner’s four hour-long Siegfried takes place on Saturday while two other operas with largely foreign casts — Bellini’s Norma and Britten’s Peter Grimes — will be staged this month. The performances are part of a flurry of artistic activity that has continued in the Spanish capital despite the pandemic, as Madrid gives its answer to the question: how much should cultural life be closed down to keep the virus in check?
13th Feb 2021 - Financial Times

China’s Lunar New Year plan shows what living with Covid really means

One year ago, things in China were very different. Around the time of the 2020 Lunar New Year people had already brought Covid-19 back to their families, hospitals in Wuhan were overwhelmed and doctor Li Wenliang, who tried to warn his the world of the virus, had passed away. This year, China’s central government in Beijing has advised people to stay where they are for the holiday. The government hasn’t banned travel but people are following official guidance. The number of passengers travelling during the three-day pre-festival rush fell 70 per cent year on year. Usually billions of trips are made across China for the Lunar New Year period. Train tickets sell out weeks in advance. Stations are mobbed in the days running up to the holiday. This year, they're not.
13th Feb 2021 - Wired UK

Masks no longer mandatory in Perth, as final lockdown measures lift

The last of Perth and WA's lock lockdown measures lifted at midnight (3am AEDT), meaning masks are no longer mandatory. It means the city — which was put into a five day lockdown alongside Peel and parts of the state's south-west on January 31 after a single virus case in a hotel quarantine worker — returns to pre-lockdown conditions. No new cases were reported yesterday.
13th Feb 2021 - 9News

Coronavirus: in Wuhan, a Lunar New Year rush to pay tribute to Covid-19’s victims

Early on Friday, the first day of the Lunar New Year, shops in the central Chinese city of Wuhan were selling out of chrysanthemums as residents bought them to take to the grave or home of a deceased family member. Throughout Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, it is a tradition to visit the household of a person who has died in the last lunar year to offer flowers and burn incense soon after midnight. This year, demand for the flowers for shao qing xiang or “burning incense” was particularly high, with many residents buying the yellow and white chrysanthemums to remember those who died from the coronavirus.
13th Feb 2021 - South China Morning Post

New Zealand to start coronavirus vaccinations on February 20

New Zealand's COVID-19 inoculation program will begin on February 20, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced, bringing forward the schedule after the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was received earlier than anticipated. Pressure has been mounting on Ms Ardern to start vaccinations for the country's five million people in order to take advantage of its rare position of having virtually eliminated the virus domestically. "Last year we indicated the vaccine would arrive in quarter two, and earlier this year we updated that to quarter one," Ms Ardern said.
13th Feb 2021 - ABC News

Patient diagnosed with Covid-19 dies in New Zealand hospital

A patient diagnosed with Covid-19 has died at a New Zealand hospital, the Ministry of Health has confirmed, after being transferred from a managed isolation facility for treatment of a separate, serious health condition last week. The person, whose death was not yet being included in New Zealand’s official Covid-related death toll, was diagnosed with the virus after their admission to North Shore hospital in Auckland. The ministry said more information on the case would be provided on Monday, pending further investigations.
13th Feb 2021 - The Guardian

Covaxin not finding international takers even when supplied free of cost by India

According to sources, of the 64.7 lakh Covid vaccine doses that have been sent out by India pro bono as part, only 2 lakh are doses of India’s Covaxin. The rest are doses of Serum Institute's Covishield.
13th Feb 2021 - India Today


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 12th Feb 2021

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AstraZeneca expects COVID variant vaccine by mid to late 2021

AstraZeneca has said it expects to have a new version of its COVID-19 vaccine ready for use by mid to late 2021, responding to concerns about emerging variants of the disease that may be more transmissible or resistant to existing vaccines. The Anglo-Swedish company, which makes a vaccine developed by the University of Oxford, said on Thursday that researchers began the work on the updates months ago when the new variants were first detected. “We’re moving fast and we’ve got a number of variant versions in the works that we will be picking from as we move into the clinic,” Mene Pangalos, head of biopharmaceuticals research for AstraZeneca, said on a conference call with reporters. The comments came as CEO Pascal Soriot defended the company’s efforts to develop and ramp up production of the shot amid criticism from the European Union and a preliminary study that raised concerns about the vaccine’s ability to combat a variant of COVID-19 first discovered in South Africa.
12th Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Indigenous leaders warn of missionaries turning Amazon villages against vaccines

Medical teams working to immunize Brazil’s remote indigenous villages against the coronavirus have encountered fierce resistance in some communities where evangelical missionaries are stoking fears of the vaccine, say tribal leaders and advocates. On the São Francisco reservation in the state of Amazonas, Jamamadi villagers sent health workers packing with bows and arrows when they visited by helicopter this month, said Claudemir da Silva, an Apurinã leader representing indigenous communities on the Purus river, a tributary of the Xingú. “It’s not happening in all villages, just in those that have missionaries or evangelical chapels where pastors are convincing the people not to receive the vaccine, that they will turn into an alligator and other crazy ideas,” he said by phone.
12th Feb 2021 - Reuters India

Over 100,000 people from Mumbai got Covid-19 vaccine shots

After vaccinating 5,707 beneficiaries on the 20th day of the vaccination drive, Mumbai crossed the milestone of 100,000 beneficiaries on Thursday. A total of 1,01,364 beneficiaries have been vaccinated in Mumbai since January 16, when the vaccination drive began. Of these, 85,034 are healthcare workers (HCWs) and 16,330 are frontline workers (FLWs). On Thursday, the turnout was 61%, but the average turnout over the past 20 days is over 70%.
11th Feb 2021 - Hindustan Times

France is seeing a baby bust nine months after its first covid lockdown

When France confined more than 64 million people under one of the world's strictest coronavirus lockdowns last spring, there was widespread speculation that a baby boom would follow. Nine months on, though, instead of a boom, France is witnessing a sharp decline in births. Economic uncertainty, social stress and in some cases anxieties about the virus itself appear to have prompted families to abandon or postpone plans to have a baby. The number of babies born at the Saint-Denis hospital plummeted by about 20 percent between mid-December and mid-January and is expected to remain below 2020 levels for at least the first half of the year. While the coronavirus wards were hives of activity last week, lights in the maternity ward were dimmed and the corridors empty.
11th Feb 2021 - The Washington Post

People getting slack about protecting themselves from Covid risk, government survey shows

In New Zealand, a government survey suggests people are becoming increasingly relaxed about protecting themselves from the risk of Covid-19. Use of the Tracer app, wearing masks, washing hands, and taking precaution when coughing or sneezing are all being reviewed on a monthly basis by the Ministry of Health. Other survey questions focus on mental health and how worried people are about catching the virus. The Ministry of Health's latest Health Survey shows that in January 27.5 percent of people recorded where they had been and who they were with. That marks a sharp fall from 45.6 percent of respondents questioned in September last year who said they were doing this.
11th Feb 2021 - RNZ

South Africa to use J&J, Pfizer COVID vaccines, says Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa says country has secured 9 million Johnson & Johnson and 20 million Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses. South Africa has secured millions of doses of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines to fight a highly infectious variant of the coronavirus that is dominant in the country, according to President Cyril Ramaphosa. During a televised annual state of the nation address, Ramaphosa said on Thursday the continent’s hardest-hit country had secured nine million doses of the yet-to-be approved J&J vaccine, of which 500,000 would arrive over the next four weeks so authorities could start vaccinating health workers. Another 20 million Pfizer doses have also been secured, he added, with deliveries expected to begin at the end of March.
11th Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English


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WA bans COVID hotel staff from second jobs

A ban on hotel quarantine security guards and other staff working second jobs in Western Australia is set to come into effect from next week. It comes as WA again recorded no new local COVID-19 cases after a breach involving a hotel guard plunged more than two million people into lockdown last week. The guard, who unwittingly roamed the streets of Perth while infectious, had also been employed as a rideshare driver, although authorities soon established that he had not worked in that job since becoming infected.
10th Feb 2021 - 7NEWS.com.au

Australia considers plan to quarantine arrivals in isolated rural camps

Australia is considering controversial plans to set up isolated rural quarantine camps for people entering from overseas as the country tries to plug the final gap in its efforts to combat Covid-19. The proposal to relocate quarantine facilities away from hotels in dense city centres was first raised by the state of Queensland, which imposed a three-day lockdown in Brisbane, after a cleaner at a quarantine hotel in the capital was infected with the contagious British strain of the virus. Following the lockdown, the state's Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk proposed setting up quarantine accommodation at mining camps in regional centres such as Toowoomba and Gladstone.
10th Feb 2021 - The Straits Times

Coronavirus lockdowns costing Australian economy millions

Australia’s COVID-19 success is the envy of the world, with just 909 deaths more than 12 months after the deadly pandemic first reached our shores. That feat has been breathlessly praised by the international media, with the Washington Post reporting in November that we had “almost eliminated the coronavirus by putting faith in science” and The New York Times celebrating the fact our “short, sharp responses have repeatedly subdued the virus and allowed a return to near normalcy”. It is undeniably a cause for celebration given how seriously the pandemic has devastated other nations, with the death toll in the US alone rapidly approaching 465,000.
10th Feb 2021 - NEWS.com.au

New Zealand approves use of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

New Zealand announced Wednesday it has approved use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Chris Hipkins, the COVID-19 response minister, told reporters during a press conference that the New Zealand Cabinet has confirmed formal approval for the administration of the vaccine developed jointing between U.S. pharmaceutical Pfizer and German biotech BioNTech. The approval came a week after Medsafe, the archipelago nation's medical regulator, gave the vaccine provisional approval. Hipkins said the Cabinet signed off for the vaccine to be administered to those 16 years of age and older and that information about the vaccine, including common side effects such as fever, muscle pain and fatigue, be provided. Patients undergoing some therapies should not receive the inoculation while pregnant women are being advised to discuss the vaccine's pros and cons with their physician, he said.
10th Feb 2021 - koreatimes.co.kr

New Zealand to inoculate high-risk people first as COVID-19 vaccine gets full approval

New Zealand will first administer COVID-19 vaccines to quarantine personnel, front line health workers and airline staff, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said, as the government formally approved its use on Wednesday. New Zealand’s medicines regulator last week provisionally approved the use of the COVID-19 vaccine jointly developed by U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc and Germany’s BioNTech. “Now we’ve reached the crucial stage of approval for the first vaccine, we are in a much better position to start having a conversation with New Zealanders about how we plan to proceed,” Hipkins said in a statement. Authorities expect the Pfizer vaccine to arrive in the country by end-March but they had expressed concerns about export curbs.
10th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Australia tennis chief urges strict quarantine for Tokyo Olympics

Making the Olympics safe from coronavirus will be difficult for Tokyo without stiff quarantine measures that will also inspire athletes and spectators with the confidence to attend events, Australia’s top tennis official said on Wednesday. The Japanese capital is expected to welcome 11,000 athletes at the end of July, when it holds the summer Games postponed from last year because of the virus, but is not currently considering wholesale quarantine for them. Speaking on the sidelines of the Australian Open, the first major Grand Slam event to host crowds, the chief executive of Tennis Australia said his experience of organising the contest suggested the Olympics needed rigorous quarantine measures.
10th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Australia's Victoria keeps cap on arrivals after cluster at quarantine hotel

The Australian state of Victoria stepped back on Wednesday from plans to let more people return from abroad each week, following a cluster of cases linked to a hotel at Melbourne Airport used for quarantining arrivals from overseas. Eight COVID-19 infections were linked the hotel after two more people - one a guest in quarantine and the other a worker -tested positive in the past 24 hours, state authorities said. The remaining guests were transferred to another hotel to serve their quarantine and more than 100 workers were also placed in quarantine, authorities said. Everyone arriving in Australia has faced a mandatory 14-day quarantine period at a hotel, including tennis players competing in the Australian Open tournament that got underway in Melbourne earlier this week.
10th Feb 2021 - Reuters

International CEO avoids medi-hotel lockdown in Adelaide

A high-powered international businessman who landed in Adelaide from COVID-stricken France will quarantine at a suburban home instead of a medi-hotel. He has been granted an exemption by authorities. Pierre-Eric Pommellet is the global CEO of Naval Group, the company contracted to build Australia's submarines in South Australia.
10th Feb 2021 - 9News.com.au


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European Union will not block Pfizer coronavirus vaccine doses bound for Australia, ambassador says

Millions of doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine bound for Australia will be allowed to leave the European Union (EU), its ambassador has confirmed. Australia has secured 20 million doses of the vaccine, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison previously saying the goal was to vaccinate 80,000 people a week from the end of February. Concerns were raised about whether Australia would receive its order after the EU introduced new rules on exports of COVID-19 vaccines produced within the bloc, including Pfizer.
9th Feb 2021 - ABC.Net.au

South Korea’s Seoul to test pet cats, dogs for COVID

Several weeks after South Korea reported its first COVID-19 case involving a pet cat, Seoul will start testing cats and dogs for coronavirus infection if they show symptoms of the illness, an official from the country’s capital said on Tuesday. While the disease mostly spreads from person to person, it can also spread from people to animals, or from animals to human – although that is much less significant – according to health experts. A number of pet cats and dogs have been reported to be infected with the virus in several countries. Other animals including mink, gorillas, and tigers were also reported to have tested positive. The Seoul metropolitan government rolled out the test on Monday, the Yonhap news agency reported.
10th Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Can Spanish tourism survive a second Covid summer?

Gabriel Escarrer hopes that foreign tourists will come back to Spain this year — but he knows how much his company and his industry will suffer if they do not. As chief executive of Meliá Hotels International, the 326-hotel, €1.4bn-valued group that takes pride in its beach resort roots, Escarrer is all too aware of the wounds left by last year’s drastically shortened summer season. “If we lose this summer, we would be talking about practically zero activity from October 2019, when [travel agent] Thomas Cook collapsed, to June of 2022,” he said, noting that about half of Spanish tourism revenues normally come between June and September. “It would be devastating for the fabric of the tourist industry.”
9th Feb 2021 - Financial Times

One year after lockdown, Wuhan tones down Lunar New Year celebrations

The 2020 Spring Festival did not go as Wuhan people had expected. On Chinese New Year's eve last year, the 11-million-population city was put into a lockdown unparalleled in modern society that lasted for 76 days. A year on, the most important festival for Chinese people is approaching again. How are people in Wuhan, still reeling from the pain brought by the coronavirus, celebrating this time round? After suffering the panic and agony of the virus, emerging from lockdown in a swoon and then moving on cautiously after life returned to normal, many Wuhan people reached by the Global Times said they will "stay put, and quietly celebrate the Spring Festival this year… We don't want to bring trouble to others or to our country."
9th Feb 2021 - Global Times

No Covid-19 lockdowns in Hong Kong over holiday but residents told to stay vigilant

Hong Kong’s leader has said the government will suspend its controversial “ambush-style” lockdown operations over the Lunar New Year holiday, even as a government adviser urged the public to remain vigilant or risk going “back to square one” after the festivities. Speaking ahead of her Executive Council meeting, Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said on Tuesday the “very staff intensive” operations involving more than 10,000 workers would temporarily stop as the pandemic had started to ease, with the number of new infections – including untraceable ones – decreasing.
9th Feb 2021 - South China Morning Post

After Outbreak, Trains Start Running Again in North China City as Lockdown Loosens

Travel curbs on Shijiazhuang, the capital of North China’s Hebei province and center of a recent flare-up of Covid-19, were eased on Monday, with trains to and from the city resuming after a 34-day suspension. However, travel by highway and air remains banned. Operators of the city’s highways said business will “be resumed in an orderly manner” without giving a specific timeline, while intercity bus services will also stay suspended.
9th Feb 2021 - Caixin Global

WA Premier Mark McGowan would consider alternative health advice on borders from CHO

WA Premier Mark McGowan says he will consider any alternative advice to the current benchmark for lifting interstate borders, if it is provided by the state's Chief Health Officer. The WA Government has continued to rely on health advice that required states and territories to record 28 days of no community cases of COVID-19 before it considered lifting the border entirely to allow quarantine-free travel. In his latest advice, provided on January 29, Dr Andrew Robertson said health officials were reviewing a 14, 21, or 28-day policy, to determine the best option moving forward
9th Feb 2021 - ABC.Net.au

Covid: Why Australia's 'world-class' quarantine system has seen breaches

Australia's hotel quarantine system has been an extremely effective first line of defence against Covid-19. The country has largely eliminated the virus, often going weeks without a locally acquired infection. Hotel quarantine is credited a huge part of that success. But a series of isolated local cases in recent months - all from hotel quarantine leaks - have caused alarm. Since November, three cities have entered snap lockdowns on the back of such infections, aiming to halt outbreaks at their source. But how does the virus keep slipping through what officials hail as a "world-class" first defence?
9th Feb 2021 - BBC News

Covid-19: Study says clearer information needed from Government in event of future lockdowns

Greater flexibility of bubble rules and more concise information from the Government is needed if New Zealand was to go back into a coronavirus lockdown, a new study has found. New Zealand spent 49 days at Covid-19 alert levels 4 and 3 after cases of the virus were reported in the community. People were asked to stay home and only leave in order to access essential services.
9th Feb 2021 - Stuff.co.nz

Austrian hairdressers reopen but COVID-19 rules ruffle some

Austrian hairdressers reopened for the first time in more than six weeks on Monday as a national lockdown loosened, but new rules including a coronavirus test requirement for customers ruffled some. Despite stubbornly high infection numbers, the conservative-led government let schools and non-essential shops reopen on Monday, arguing that the economic and social toll of lockdown would otherwise be too great. With the lockdown loosening came new rules aimed at slowing the spread of the virus. Shops can only have one customer for every 20 square metres of floor space at a time. For hairdressers it is half that, but customers must show a negative coronavirus test no more than 48 hours old.
9th Feb 2021 - Reuters


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Global health officials back AstraZeneca vaccine after South Africa study rings alarm

Health officials around the world gave their backing to the AstraZeneca vaccine against COVID-19, after a study showing it had little effect against mild disease caused by the variant now spreading quickly in South Africa rang global alarm. The prospect that new virus variants could evolve the ability to elude vaccines is one of the main risks hanging over the global strategy to emerge from the pandemic by rolling out vaccines this year. South Africa, where a new variant now accounts for the vast bulk of cases, initially announced a pause in its rollout of a million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. But it said on Monday it could still roll it out in a “stepped manner”, giving out 100,000 doses and monitoring it to see if it prevents hospitalisations and deaths.
9th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Britons set for a post-Covid spending binge, says Bank chief

The Bank of England is braced for the possibility that a mood of national depression that engulfed Britain as it plunged into a third national lockdown will end with a spending spree when restrictions are lifted. In an interview with the Observer, the Bank’s governor, Andrew Bailey, said there was a chance after being cooped up for so long people would “go for it” once the vaccine programme allowed the economy to reopen. Bailey said that while the crisis of the past 12 months had accelerated the shift to online shopping and would change working patterns, the long-term structural impact on the economy would be less pronounced than the shift from manufacturing to services in the 1980s and 1990s. “It won’t be as fundamental as that”, he added.
8th Feb 2021 - The Guardian

Bad online experiences for children ‘invisible’ to parents during lockdown

When Australia’s online safety investigators are investigating coercive child sex abuse material, which involves children being urged to perform sexual acts for the camera, there is often a concerning common factor: parents are having a conversation just metres away. “Our investigators can hear the parents’ voices in the next room,” said Julie Inman Grant, the country’s eSafety commissioner. “This is happening under parents’ noses, in the home.” The commissioner is ramping up calls for parents to improve awareness of their children’s digital lives, as young people’s reports of negative online experiences – including unwanted contact, cyberbullying and harassment – have spiked during the coronavirus pandemic.
8th Feb 2021 - Sydney Morning Herald

Man arrested for allegedly threatening to spit on Perth coronavirus hotel quarantine guard

Police in Western Australia have charged a returning overseas traveller with failing to comply with a COVID-19 quarantine direction and threatening to spit on security staff. South Australian man Dariusz Tarnowski allegedly left his quarantine hotel room last night and entered the emergency stairwell where he threatened to spit in the face of a security guard. The 48-year-old travelled into Perth from Poland via Doha on January 28 and was ordered to quarantine in the hotel for 14 days. WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said he was arrested after security allegedly saw him leave his room.
8th Feb 2021 - ABC.Net.au

Sharp rise in smoking linked to loneliness in lockdown

People who felt distressed and lonely during the country's lockdown last autumn were three times more likely to smoke more, a new study has found. The results of the survey, undertaken by University of Otago, Wellington researchers professor Janet Hoek, Dr Philip Gendall, associate professor James Stanley, Dr Matthew Jenkins and Dr Susanna Every-Palmer, have been published in the international journal, Nicotine and Tobacco Research. Dr Every-Palmer said people who felt lonely or isolated almost all the time were more than three times more likely to increase their cigarette intake than those who were never lonely
8th Feb 2021 - New Zealand Herald

New Zealand's Māori tribes deserve recognition for their part in vanquishing Covid-19

Global business leaders and others rightly rate New Zealand’s Covid-19 response as the best in the world. But is it equally right to simply credit Ardern and her government for this success? Partly, of course, but another group deserve credit too – iwi. When the country went into lockdown in March 2020 iwi on the East Coast of the North Island, its west coast, and its northerly tip swung into action distributing masks, sanitizer, written advice, and food parcels to vulnerable people in their region. Crucially, they also set up checkpoints to regulate movement in and out of their territory, ensuring the virus had no chance to transmit as the country went about its restrictions. In the early days some New Zealanders were furious with that particular intrusion on their movements. But despite the small yet vocal backlash, the government came around to the iwi initiatives.
8th Feb 2021 - The Guardian

What recovery? Clothes retailers cut orders while factories fight to survive

Clothes retailers in Europe and America sit on excess inventory and cut back on spring orders. Sourcing agents face late payments. Garment factories in Bangladesh are on the rack. The global apparel industry, reeling from a punishing 2020, is seeing its hopes of recovery punctured by a new wave of COVID-19 lockdowns and patchy national vaccine rollouts. The pain is consequently flowing to  major garment manufacturing centres like Bangladesh, whose economies rely on textile exports. Factories are struggling to stay open.
8th Feb 2021 - Reuters

'It's all open!': French flock to Madrid cafes for pandemic reprieve

French tourists weary of their strict national lockdown are flocking over the border to Madrid, where bars and restaurants are open and people can stay outdoors until 10 p.m., even as COVID-19 batters Europe in a virulent third wave. Though it made mask-wearing mandatory and slashed occupancy of public spaces by half, Madrid’s conservative regional government has set one of Spain’s loosest curfews, defying national recommendations to shut hospitality venues and non-essential shops. The city’s counter-current policies stand out in Spain which, like France, is being pummelled by a third infection wave.
8th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Pfizer expects to cut COVID-19 vaccine production time by close to 50% as production ramps up, efficiencies increase

Pfizer expects to nearly cut in half the amount of time it takes to produce a batch of COVID-19 vaccine from 110 days to an average of 60 as it makes the process more efficient and production is built out, the company told USA TODAY. As the nation revs up its vaccination programs, the increase could help relieve bottlenecks caused by vaccine shortages. "We call this 'Project Light Speed,' and it's called that for a reason," said Chaz Calitri, Pfizer's vice president for operations for sterile injectables, who runs the company's plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan. "Just in the last month we've doubled output."
8th Feb 2021 - USA Today on MSN.com

WHO backs AstraZeneca vaccine after South Africa delays jabs

The AstraZeneca shot has run into several setbacks, including concerns about its efficacy against a Covid-19 variant, and its suitability for people over 65. The vaccine accounts for almost all of the 337.2 million vaccine doses the WHO-led Covax scheme is preparing to begin shipping to some 145 countries
8th Feb 2021 - South China Morning Post

AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 Vaccine Defended by World Health Officials

World Health Organization officials expressed confidence that AstraZeneca PLC’s Covid-19 vaccine can prevent severe cases of the disease, as well as hospitalizations and deaths, despite questions about the protection it offers against a fast-spreading strain of the virus first detected in South Africa. The remarks followed a release of information over the weekend about a small clinical trial of the vaccine in South Africa, which prompted the government there to halt a planned rollout of the shot. The preliminary data, which hasn’t been published in detail, suggested the vaccine may not prevent mild and moderate cases of Covid-19 from a new variant that has become the dominant version of the virus in South Africa and the broader southern African region. The WHO’s director-general, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said the trial’s findings were “clearly concerning news,” but stressed that they came with “important caveats.”
8th Feb 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

UK defends AstraZeneca vaccine after South Africa halts roll-out

The Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID vaccine prevents death and serious illness and is effective against the main variants of the virus in the United Kingdom, a government official has said after South Africa suspended its roll-out of the shots. Pointing out that the dominant strains in the UK were not the so-called South African variant, junior health minister Edward Argar told UK broadcaster Sky News on Monday that the vaccine was highly effective and there was no evidence that it was not preventing hospitalisations and severe illness in the country.
8th Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English


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World is on course for a coronavirus vaccine ‘apartheid’, experts warn

Senam Agbesi has been trying to make the best of lockdown in London. “I’ve done lots of Zooms, lots of walks,” he said. The 34-year-old NHS manager believes he could get the vaccine this month, as he is starting a new job that would mean visiting hospitals regularly. Despite the good news about his own vaccine, he worries about his father, Yao, who lives in Accra, Ghana. Yao is 65 and has sickle cell trait, a condition that puts him at higher risk of suffering severe illness if he catches Covid-19. A close family friend recently died of the virus and Senam wishes his father would be more careful. “He thinks he’s invincible. He drinks his little tea of lime juice and ginger in the mornings and thinks he has an invisible fortress around him,” he told The Bureau of Investigative Journalism for this report.
6th Feb 2021 - The Independent

South Africa's Ramaphosa says access to concessional loans key to Africa's recovery

Access to loans on favourable terms will be crucial to Africa’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Saturday. Ramaphosa, who is the outgoing chair of the African Union (AU), told the bloc’s summit that even though the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank have deployed significant financial resources for the coronavirus outbreak response, more needed to be done. “Assess to concessional finance will remain crucial as countries rebuild their economies,” Ramaphosa told the virtual summit.
6th Feb 2021 - Reuters

First doses of AstraZeneca to be given next week as 190,000 shots to arrive this month

Ireland will receive 190,000 AstraZeneca shots this month with an early delivery of 21,000 doses arriving this weekend, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said. Frontline healthcare workers who have not yet received their first dose will be first in the queue for these shots, Minister Donnelly confirmed. “Now, there aren’t 190,000 people [in this category] so the rest of these will be scheduled accordingly, and we will begin looking at cohorts 4,5,6 and 7,” Minister Donnelly said on RTÉ News at One.
6th Feb 2021 - Independent.ie

Calls grow for US to rely on rapid tests to fight pandemic

When a Halloween party sparked a COVID-19 outbreak at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, school officials conducted rapid screening on more than 1,000 students in a week, including many who didn’t have symptoms. Although such asymptomatic screening isn’t approved by regulators and the 15-minute tests aren’t as sensitive as the genetic one that can take days to yield results, the testing director at the historically Black college credits the approach with quickly containing the infections and allowing the campus to remain open. “Within the span of a week, we had crushed the spread. If we had had to stick with the PCR test, we would have been dead in the water,” said Dr. Robert Doolittle, referring to the polymerase chain reaction test that is considered the gold standard by many doctors and Food and Drug Administration regulators.
6th Feb 2021 - The Associated Press

How AstraZeneca’s vaccine was hit by flawed trials, defects and politics — but might still save the world

This account of a turbulent period for the Anglo-Swedish company is based on interviews with more than 30 executives, scientists and government officials in the UK, US and EU. Even before selecting their partner in April, the university scientists had made a head start — but took a route that would cause trouble later. The scientists decided not to test the vaccine among large groups of over-65s, until they had plenty of evidence that it was safe in younger people. Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, told the FT the decision was “cautious — and at the time, that was right”.
5th Feb 2021 - Financial Times

The Latest: Sri Lankan officials say vaccinations advancing

Sri Lankan health officials said on Saturday that more than half of the health workers and frontline military and police officers have so far been vaccinated against COVID-19. Sri Lanka last week began inoculating it’s frontline health workers, military troops and police officers against COVID-19 amid warnings that the sector faces a collapse with a number of health staff being infected with the new coronavirus. The ministry had planned to first vaccinate 150,000 health workers and selected 115,000 military and police personnel. By Saturday, 156,310 had been given with COVISHIELD vaccine. India had donated 500,000 does of Oxford-AstraZenica vaccine also known as the COVISHIELD which is the only vaccine approved by the regulatory body in Sri Lanka. Health ministry says Sri Lanka has ordered 18 millions doses of COVISHIELD vaccines and also had asked to allocate 2 million doses of Pfizer-BioNtech. Besides, China has promised to provide 300,000 shots of Sinopharm vaccine this month.
5th Feb 2021 - The Associated Press

Europe moves toward COVID-19 vaccine passports but not every country is on board

A few European Union countries have taken steps to distribute special passes to allow citizens inoculated against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 to travel freely. Others countries, including the U.K., are considering such a measure.
5th Feb 2021 - MarketWatch

Governor Cuomo Announces List of Comorbidities and Underlying Conditions Eligible for COVID-19 Vaccine Starting February 15

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today released the list of comorbidities and underlying conditions that New York State will use to determine eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine. New Yorkers who have one of the comorbidities on the list will be eligible for the vaccine beginning February 15. "New Yorkers with comorbidities and underlying conditions exist throughout the state's population—they're our teachers, lawyers and carpenters, in addition to the doctors who keep us safe every day, and they are a highly affected population," Governor Cuomo said. "We're committed to vaccinating vulnerable populations that have suffered the most as we distribute a strictly limited supply of vaccines, and people with comorbidities are 94 percent of the state's COVID deaths. That's why we'll open eligibility to people with comorbidities starting February 15 and give hospitals the ability to use extra doses they have to address that population. Local governments have a week to prepare for the new change—they need to get ready now."
5th Feb 2021 - ny.gov


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Sixteen African nations show interest in AU COVID vaccine plan

Africa CDC director says countries asked for 114 million doses in total and allocations could be announced within three weeks. Sixteen African countries have shown interest in securing COVID-19 vaccines under an African Union (AU) plan, and allocations could be announced in the next three weeks, the head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said. While many rich nations have already begun mass inoculation drives, only a few African countries have started vaccinations, and the 55-member African Union hopes to see 60 percent of the continent’s 1.3 billion people immunised in the next three years.
5th Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

New Covid strains ‘may even escape the immune response,’ says Biden Covid advisor

Three highly contagious mutations of Covid have been detected in at least 33 states across the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “They’re more virulent, can cause more death, and some of them may even escape the immune response, whether it’s natural or from the vaccine,” said Dr. Celine Gounder. Gounder said that she’s “concerned” that people will let their guards down in March and that it could potentially lead to another surge.
5th Feb 2021 - CNBC

How to heal the 'mass trauma' of Covid-19

When the pandemic is over, how should we process the memories of what happened? Ed Prideaux discovers counter-intuitive answers from the science of trauma. "After the pandemic ends, the effects of the mass trauma it has inflicted will linger across societies for years. How might we understand this mental fallout? And what does the science of trauma suggest that we should – and shouldn't – do in order to heal?" "Covid-19 is a mass trauma the likes of which we've never seen before. Our most complex social extensions, and the building-blocks of our personal realities, have been coloured indelibly. The ways we live and work together, and view each other as common citizens: everything means something different in the viral era, and with potentially traumatic effect. All pandemics end, however. And this one will. But to forget the trauma, move on, and pay it no mind, won't help. It'd be a disservice to history and our own minds. Maybe to the future, too. "
4th Feb 2021 - BBC News

Restaurants face 'wave of bankruptcies' after lockdowns

The food services sector has been hit hard by the Coronavirus pandemic, but governments are struggling to find ways to reopen safely. On Monday, Italy eased restrictions in sixteen regions, allowing restaurants and museums to reopen after months of closure. But the country remains an exception in Europe. In Brussels, the streets of the normally lively city centre have been eerily empty for more than three months now. To make matters worse, the sector has had to adjust to wildly zig-zagging policy decisions over the past year that have varied enormously between different countries.
4th Feb 2021 - EURACTIV

Macron's Lockdown Conundrum Will Decide France's Recession Fate

The French economy is on the brink of tipping into another recession, depending on President Emmanuel Macron’s next move to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. If the government replaces the current curfew with a seven-week nationwide lockdown similar to November’s, the economy would shrink 1% in the first quarter after a 1.3% contraction at the end of last year, national statistics agency Insee estimates. If France keeps current restrictions unchanged, the economy would grow 1.5%.
4th Feb 2021 - Bloomberg

Face masks mandatory beyond WA lockdown

West Australians will be required to wear face masks while out in public and be restricted to seated service at bars and restaurants for another week when the state emerges from lockdown. WA has posted four consecutive days of no new community COVID-19 cases, paving the way for metropolitan Perth, the Peel region and South West to exit lockdown at 6pm on Friday. But Premier Mark McGowan has announced a range of restrictions will remain in place for Perth and Peel until 1201am on Sunday February 14.
4th Feb 2021 - The Canberra Times

‘Dodged a bullet’: Expert explains why WA may have escaped COVID spread

Amid questions of how Western Australia could have escaped further community spread, an infectious disease expert has dispelled suggestions the security guard dubbed Case 903 might have been a false positive. Senior Australian infectious disease experts are also at odds over the effectiveness or benefit of WA’s short, sharp lockdown. A security guard who worked at one of Perth’s quarantine hotels tested positive to the highly infectious UK strain of COVID-19 on Saturday and dozens of locations around the city have been established as possible exposure sites. But extensive testing over the past three days has not produced any further cases of community spread. Professor Adrian Esterman from the University of South Australia told 6PR’s Gareth Parker the reason might be that Case 903 was one of those people who was not very infectious.
4th Feb 2021 - WAtoday

Britain's COVID-19 hotel quarantine policy to start Feb. 15

Britain’s hotel quarantine policy for travellers arriving from COVID-19 hot spots will start on Feb. 15, the government announced on Thursday after critics said it was not moving fast enough to bring in the measures. The mandatory 10-day stay in government-provided accommodation, first announced last month, is designed to tighten borders against new variants of the coronavirus which could endanger Britain’s vaccination programme. Opposition lawmakers have criticised Boris Johnson’s government for not implementing the plan more quickly, saying the delay was putting lives at risk. The prime minister said on Wednesday details would be announced on Thursday, only to be contradicted by his spokesman less than 24 hours later.
4th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Why Israel Can't Celebrate Its Vaccine Success Yet

Israel is still struggling to contain the virus. This isn’t because the vaccine is failing, but because many Israelis still refuse to follow restrictions imposed to limit the spread of infections. Israel began its vaccination program by inoculating its oldest citizens and those with serious underlying conditions. In cities with high levels of vaccination, there’s been a 50% drop in confirmed cases, a 40% decrease in hospitalizations and there are 15% fewer serious patients. “The vaccine's effect is profound,” says Professor Eran Segal of the Weizmann Institute. The virus’s reproduction rate is under the magic number of one, meaning infection rates should continue to decline. Even so, January has been a cruel month in which Covid-19 claimed 1,400 fatalities, about a third of total deaths since the start of the pandemic. Most of these were elderly patients for whom the vaccine didn’t arrive in time. If Israel is bending the curve, it isn’t doing it as fast as it could be.
4th Feb 2021 - Bloomberg


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Denmark: ‘Digital corona passport’ will be ready in months

Denmark’s government has said it is joining forces with businesses to develop a digital passport that would show whether people have been vaccinated against the coronavirus, allowing them to travel and help ease restrictions on public life. Finance Minister Morten Boedskov told a news conference on Wednesday that “in three, four months, a digital corona passport will be ready for use in, for example, business travel.” “It is absolutely crucial for us to be able to restart Danish society so that companies can get back on track. Many Danish companies are global companies with the whole world as a market,” he added. As a first step, before the end of February, citizens in Denmark would be able to see on a Danish health website the official confirmation of whether they have been vaccinated.
3rd Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Covid is the greatest test of global solidarity in decades – we have to work with, not against, each other

In September 2000, 189 countries signed the Millennium Declaration, shaping the principles of international cooperation for a new era of progress towards common goals. Emerging from the Cold War, we were confident about our capacity to build a multilateral order capable of tackling the big challenges of the time: hunger and extreme poverty, environmental degradation, diseases, economic shocks, and the prevention of conflicts. In September 2015, all countries again committed to an ambitious agenda to tackle global challenges together: the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
3rd Feb 2021 - The Independent

Travellers at Perth hotel at centre of WA coronavirus lockdown 'shocked' by poor communication and PPE use

They might be quarantining at the same hotel that produced Western Australia's first COVID-19 case in 10 months, but returned travellers at the Four Points by Sheraton say they are being left in the dark on key issues. An unknown number were due to leave the hotel yesterday after undergoing 14 days of quarantine but — only a short time before they were due to leave — they learned the plan had changed when they saw a press conference broadcast live on television. At the media briefing, WA Premier Mark McGowan said the travellers would have to produce another negative test before they could be released.
3rd Feb 2021 - ABC.Net.au

Global vaccine trust rising, but France, Japan, others sceptical

People’s willingness to get vaccinated against COVID-19 is rising around the world and more than half of those questioned said they would take the shot if it were offered next week, an updated survey of global vaccine confidence found on Thursday. But attitudes and confidence vary widely in the 15 countries covered in the survey, with France showing high levels of scepticism and some Asian countries showing declining trust in vaccines, while some European nations see rising confidence. Overall, vaccine confidence is higher than in November, when the same survey - conducted in 15 countries and covering 13,500 people each time - found that only 40% would be willing to get vaccinated.
4th Feb 2021 - Reuters

Vaccination sites opening in hard-hit California communities to tackle COVID disparities

New vaccination centers are due to open this month in the heart of two California communities especially hard hit by the coronavirus, as state and federal officials try to tackle racial and economic disparities hindering U.S. immunization efforts. Joint plans to launch the two sites on Feb. 16, at the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum in Oakland and the California State University campus in east Los Angeles, were detailed separately on Wednesday by Governor Gavin Newsom and the Biden administration’s COVID-19 response coordinator, Jeff Zients.
4th Feb 2021 - Reuters


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UK coronavirus variant develops vaccine-evading mutation

In a handful of instances, the U.K. coronavirus variant has developed a mutation that may help it evade current vaccines, according to news reports. The variant, called B.1.1.7, was first identified in the U.K. in September 2020 and has since spread around the world, Live Science previously reported. This variant is more contagious than earlier versions of the coronavirus. On Monday (Feb. 1), officials in the United Kingdom revealed that, out of about 214,000 samples of the variant that underwent genetic sequencing, they had identified 11 samples that had acquired a mutation known as E484K, according to government documents. This mutation has been seen before — notably, in another coronavirus variant called B.1.351, which was first identified in South Africa in October 2020. Officials are concerned about this mutation because it could impact the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. Indeed, data from several vaccine makers, including Johnson & Johnson and Novavax, have found that their COVID-19 vaccines were less effective in South Africa, where B.1.351 is dominant.
2nd Feb 2021 - Livescience.com

Biden administration to provide COVID-19 vaccines to pharmacies

The Biden administration announced on Tuesday that it will begin providing COVID-19 vaccines to US pharmacies, part of its plan to ramp up vaccinations as new and potentially more serious virus strains are starting to appear. Coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients said starting from next week some 6,500 pharmacies around the country will receive one million doses of vaccine. The number of participating pharmacies, and the allocation of vaccines, are expected to accelerate as drugmakers increase production. “This is a key component of president Biden’s national strategy: offering vaccination in America’s pharmacies,” Zients said during a White House virtual briefing.
3rd Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

China arrests suspects in fake COVID-19 vaccine ring

Chinese police have arrested more than 80 suspected members of a criminal group that was manufacturing and selling fake COVID-19 vaccines, including to other countries. Police in Beijing and in Jiangsu and Shandong provinces broke up the group led by a suspect surnamed Kong that was producing the fake vaccines, which consisted of a simple saline solution, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. The vaccines were sold in China and to other countries although it was unclear which ones. The group had been active since last September, according to state media.
2nd Feb 2021 - The Independent

Covid: 'Mutations of concern' prompt government to look at vaccine effectiveness

A coronavirus "mutation of concern" has been identified in England, prompting the government to work with vaccine firms to assess the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines on new strains of the virus. Scientists have described the discovery of the mutation, which has been shown to reduce the effectiveness of vaccines in preventing people contracting Covid-19, as a "worrying development”. The mutation - known as E484K, which is found on the South African and Brazilian variants - has now been identified on some samples of the UK variant of Covid-19 which was first found in Kent. A door-to-door testing blitz is underway in eight postcode areas in England, after 105 cases of the South African variant were found, to contain the strain and ensure it does not interfere with the vaccine rollout. Public health experts still believe current vaccines will still be effective against these strains and are good at preventing severe disease. But laboratory studies have shown that antibodies – which are produced by the body to counteract infection – are less able to bind to a part of the virus known as the spike protein, in order to stop it from unlocking human cells to gain entry.
2nd Feb 2021 - ITV News

Palestinians begin COVID vaccinations in occupied West Bank

The Palestinian Authority (PA) has started COVID vaccination in the occupied West Bank after receiving 2,000 doses from Israel, Palestinian officials said. The Moderna vaccines are the first batch of the promised 5,000 shots to be delivered by Israel to inoculate medical workers. In recent weeks, Israel has faced mounting global pressure, including from the United Nations, to help Palestinians living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip to gain access to vaccines. “We started today,” Palestinian Health Minister Mai al-Kaila said on Tuesday, adding that a supply of doses would be sent to Gaza, an Israeli-blockaded territory controlled by the Palestinian group Hamas, so that inoculation of front-line workers could begin in the enclave. “We have given highest priority to health personnel … and those working in intensive care units,” she said in a video distributed by Palestinian television.
2nd Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English


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Thousands in England to be tested in 'sprint' to halt South African Covid variant

Tens of thousands of people will be tested in a door-to-door “two-week sprint” to halt the spread of the South African coronavirus variant as cases were found across England. Squads of health officials, firefighters and volunteers have been established to deliver and collect PCR test kits door-to-door and mobile testing units will be sent to each area. Wastewater could also be tested to determined the prevalence of the strain. The new South Africa variant, which is more transmissible than the original virus, appears to show a slightly “diminished” response to vaccines, and may eventually require a booster shot, Public Health England (PHE) said.
2nd Feb 2021 - The Guardian

After the dire predictions, does India really have a handle on Covid-19?

Just days after India marked a year since its first reported Covid-19 case, the country seems to be hurtling into the light after a long spell inside a dark tunnel. Some hospitals in the capital, New Delhi, have no coronavirus patients. Markets are full of masked shoppers. People meet in cafes and restaurants, at tables set a cautious distance apart. The more risk-averse socialise outdoors, on their terraces and balconies. Students are returning in batches to universities, and some classes in schools have begun again. Cinemas, with protocols in place, reopened on Monday at full capacity. Wedding planners, hung out to dry for a year, have swung back into action. Flights to most parts of the country are full.
2nd Feb 2021 - South China Morning Post

Moderna proposes filling vials with additional doses of COVID-19 vaccine

Moderna Inc said on Monday it is proposing filling vials with additional doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to ease a crunch in manufacturing as the company approaches the manufacturing of almost a million doses a day. “The company is proposing filling vials with additional doses of vaccine, up to 15 doses versus the current 10 doses,” Moderna said in an emailed statement. “Moderna would need to have further discussions with the FDA to assure the agency’s comfort with this approach before implementing,” the company said, referring to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
2nd Feb 2021 - Reuters

'We’re in fine fettle': joy on Isle of Man as Covid lockdown ends

The Isle of Man brought in a “circuit-breaker” lockdown on 7 January following a cluster of Covid cases. On Monday, the restrictions were lifted after the government declared no community transmission was taking place. Social distancing measures have been lifted and face coverings are no longer required. There are no time limits for exercise or leisure activities and non-essential shops have reopened, as have schools, nurseries, colleges and entertainment venues. The island, a self-governing British crown dependency, has not been untouched by Covid-19: there have been more than 400 cases and 25 deaths. But it maintains strict border controls and, most agree, has reacted nimbly to challenges posed by the virus.
1st Feb 2021 - The Guardian

A year after the pandemic struck, Italians reflect on their grief

On February 21, 2020, Italy’s “patient one” tested positive for COVID-19 at a hospital in Codogno, a town in Lombardy – and that was the day the lives of millions of people across the world changed beyond imagination. It took another 20 days for Italy to announce a blanket lockdown, on March 9, closing all commercial activities and confining citizens to their homes. The lives Europeans had taken for granted in peacetime changed almost overnight: Access to healthcare, free movement and seeing friends and family were no longer a given. A year later, more than 88,000 people have died after contracting the virus in Italy, the second-highest death toll in Europe after the United Kingdom.
1st Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Australia will have enough Covid-19 vaccine to cover its population 'several times over', Scott Morrison says

Australia will spend more than $2 billion (A$1.9b) on equipping hospitals and other health centres to administer coronavirus vaccines that will see 26 million Australians vaccinated by the end of the year in one of the country's largest-ever logistical exercises. Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the funding commitment during a major speech to the National Press Club in Canberra on Monday. “Our aim is to give Australians the opportunity to be vaccinated by October of this year, commencing in just a few weeks’ time.”
1st Feb 2021 - Stuff.co.nz

Covid-19 update: No new cases in community or at border

In New Zealand, there have been no new cases of Covid-19 in the community or managed isolation reported today, Covid-19 Response minister Chris Hipkins says. No new community cases were reported in New Zealand on Sunday, following last week's three confirmed border-related infections. One new case was confirmed in managed isolation.
1st Feb 2021 - RNZ

Italians flock back to coffee bars as COVID-19 restrictions eased

The familiar tinkling of ceramic cups and chatter returned to coffee bars across most of Italy on Monday, as rigid COVID-19 restrictions were eased. After severe curbs over the Christmas and New Year period, two-thirds of Italy was declared a “yellow zone” allowing bars in those less risky areas to serve customers at counters and tables again instead of offering only take-away in plastic cups. The Health Ministry eased restrictions in 15 of Italy’s 20 regions, as the number of people infected continued to fall. Five regions remain red zones and travelling between regions of any colour remains prohibited until mid-February.
1st Feb 2021 - Reuters

Mumbai's suburban train services restored after 11 months

One of the world’s busiest urban rail systems situated in India’s financial capital Mumbai was restarted for all commuters on Monday, 11 months after it was shut down to prevent the spread of coronavirus infection in the city. An average of eight million people were using the train services daily before the pandemic. Operations were stopped in March last year, as part of a strict lockdown imposed by the government. On Monday, commuters trickled into still empty train coaches, wearing masks and armed with sanitisers.
1st Feb 2021 - Reuters

COVAX to send millions of AstraZeneca shots to Latin America

The COVAX global vaccine sharing scheme expects to deliver 35.3 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine to 36 Caribbean and Latin American states from mid-February to the end of June, the World Health Organization’s regional office said. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said the Americas region needed to immunise about 500 million people to control the pandemic. It said WHO would complete its review in a few days of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine for emergency use listing (EUL). “The number of doses and delivery schedule are still subject to EUL and manufacturing production capacity,” PAHO said, adding that supply deals also had to be agreed with producers. Of the 36 nations receiving AstraZeneca’s shot, it said four countries, namely Bolivia, Colombia, El Salvador and Peru, would also receive a total of 377,910 doses of the PfizerBioNTech vaccine from mid-February.
1st Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Pakistan receives first COVID vaccine shipment from China

Pakistan has received its first doses of the coronavirus vaccine, with China donating half a million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine to the country, the health minister says. A Pakistani military aircraft carrying the shipment landed in the Pakistani capital Islamabad early on Monday, Dr Faisal Sultan said. “Praise be to Allah, the first batch of Sinopharm vaccine has arrived! Grateful to China and everyone who made this happen,” he said. Video footage showed a forklift unloading boxes of the vaccine from a military transport plane. Sinopharm, a Chinese state-owned company, has developed one of two major Chinese vaccines to have been rolled out around the globe, alongside Sinovac’s Coronavac vaccine. Phase three trials for the Chinese CanSino vaccine are also ongoing in Pakistan, which granted emergency use authorisation for the Sinopharm, AstraZeneca and Sputnik V vaccines last month.
1st Feb 2021 - Al Jazeera English


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Will ‘vaccine nationalism’ prolong the pandemic?

WHO warns wealthy countries against blocking supply of COVID vaccines to the developing world. At least 50 countries have now begun vaccination programmes against the coronavirus. But it is a slow process in many places, and drug makers are struggling to keep up with deliveries.
1st Feb 2021 - Aljazeera.com

EU offers UK ‘reassurances’ over vaccine supply after Irish border row

The EU has moved to assure Britain that vaccine exports into the country won’t be stopped by the bloc’s new trade restrictions, British Trade Secretary Liz Truss said. “We have received reassurance from the European Union that those contracts will not be disrupted,” Truss told Sky News on Sunday. “Vaccine protectionism is fundamentally problematic,” she later told BBC presenter Andrew Marr, reiterating that the U.K. government has “had reassurances about our contracted supply” coming from the EU.
31st Jan 2021 - POLITICO.eu

Germany is already ordering vaccines for 2022, minister says

Germany is ordering vaccines for 2022 in case regular or booster doses are needed to keep the population immune against variants of COVID-19, Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Saturday, amid growing frustration in Europe at the slow pace of vaccination. Speaking at an online town hall of healthcare workers, Spahn defended the progress made on procuring and administering vaccines, saying 2.3 million of Germany’s 83 million people had already received a dose. European governments have faced criticism over supply and production bottlenecks as vaccine makers AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna have all announced cuts to delivery volumes just as they were expected to ramp up production
31st Jan 2021 - Reuters

COVID-19: Life won't return to normal for at least two years, expert warns, saying pandemic 'isn't over until it's over globally'

Life globally will not return to normal for two or three years based on the rate of the current vaccination rollout, it has been warned - but there are early signs jabs are reducing cases in the UK. Speaking to Sky News, Dr Clare Wenham, assistant professor of global health policy at London School of Economics, said the COVID-19 pandemic will not be over until the world's population is protected. "At the moment, the data is showing it's going to be 2023/24 before the global vaccines are distributed to everybody," she said. "That's a long time. And distributing some now might be able to get us back to normal life sooner."
31st Jan 2021 - Sky News

COVID-19: 'People in their 30s are dying' - exhausted ITU staff reveal brutal truth of coronavirus frontline

Hope and agony on the COVID wards. It's around 4 o'clock when seven ambulances arrive all at once. COVID-19 hospital admissions may have dipped slightly this week, but glimpse into Barnet Hospital's emergency department for a reality check. You will see we are still in the thick of a crisis. Domestic cleaner Larisa Atanasova, renowned in the hospital for her machine-like efficiency, can barely wipe down the bays quickly enough. She wipes and wipes and wipes; beds, rails, sinks and taps.
31st Jan 2021 - Sky News

Pakistan battles tsunami of Covid-19 patients with few vaccines in sight

Keeping vigil outside the hospital ward in Karachi, Daniyal Ameen watched his father breathing through a ventilator via a live video link from the intensive care unit (ICU). He came every day to see his father, 73-year-old Muhammad Ameen, as he spent weeks on oxygen battling Covid-19. The video link was set up at the private South City Hospital in Karachi to enable relatives to feel closer to their loved ones in the ICU, as visits inside that facility are prohibited. The screen is the closest Ameen has come to seeing his father for about 18 months. The 33-year-old flew back to Pakistan from his home in Melbourne, Australia, when his dad was hospitalized. "Seeing him on a screen like that was pretty traumatizing for me," said Ameen. "We told him that yes, I am here, and I want to see him healthy and smiling back again." But Ameen's father didn't survive. Instead, he became one of thousands of Pakistanis to die from the virus.
31st Jan 2021 - CNN

AstraZeneca pledges EU 9 million extra doses of COVID vaccine

EU Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen says AstraZeneca will deliver 9 million additional COVID-19 vaccine doses making a total of 40 million doses to Europe. World Health Organization experts have visited the market in Wuhan, central China, linked to the first known COVID-19 cluster, seeking clues about the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak as a number of nations further tightened restrictions in a bid to slow the spread of the pandemic. France has closed its borders to non-European countries except for essential travel, a day after Germany imposed a ban on most travellers from nations hit by new, more contagious coronavirus variants. Globally more than two million people have died from the virus, with nearly 102 million cases recorded and 56 million recoveries.
31st Jan 2021 - AlJazeera

Australian Open to be allowed 30,000 fans a day

The Australian Open will be allowed to admit up to 30,000 fans a day, around 50% of the usual attendance, when the Grand Slam gets underway on Feb. 8, Victoria state sports minister Martin Pakula said on Saturday. The limit will be reduced to 25,000 over the last five days of the tournament when there are fewer matches, but Pakula said the announcement would ensure some of the biggest crowds for a sporting event since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’ll mean that over the 14 days, we will have up to 390,000 people here at Melbourne Park and that’s about 50% of the average over the last three years,” he told reporters at the venue for the tournament.
30th Jan 2021 - Reuters

'Simple is beautiful': One-shot vaccine proves effective

The first one-shot COVID-19 vaccine provides good protection against the illness, Johnson & Johnson reported in a key study released Friday, offering the world a potentially important new tool as it races to stay ahead of the rapidly mutating virus. The pharmaceutical giant’s preliminary findings suggest the single-dose option may not be as strong as Pfizer’s or Moderna’s two-dose formula, and was markedly weaker against a worrisome mutated version of the virus in South Africa. But amid a rocky start to vaccinations worldwide, that may be an acceptable trade-off to get more people inoculated faster with an easier-to-handle shot that, unlike rival vaccines that must be kept frozen, can last months in the refrigerator. “Frankly, simple is beautiful,” said Dr. Matt Hepburn, the U.S. government’s COVID-19 vaccine response leader.
29th Jan 2021 - The Associated Press

The west’s vaccine myopia

In the past few days, we have heard increasingly urgent warnings about vaccine nationalism. A better term would be vaccine myopia. In theory, nationalists are putting their own country first — or continent, in the case of the EU. In a global pandemic that approach makes no sense. If protecting your people is a priority, as it must be, nationalist logic should endorse global vaccine equity. Either the west tackles coronavirus globally, or we totally wall ourselves off. “The prevailing combination of vaccine nationalism and half-open borders is a losing strategy,” argues Jean Pisani-Ferry. “There is no effective middle way.”
29th Jan 2021 - Financial Times

We asked coronavirus experts what summer 2021 will be like

From the midst of England’s third lockdown, it’s clear that any return to normality is not coming soon. It may still be several weeks before we see significant drops in the number of daily deaths and schools will not reopen until March 8 at the earliest. But if you look beyond the bleak winter and into the spring and summer, there are reasons for cautious optimism. Over 11 per cent of the UK’s population have received a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and the number of new infections is falling. That doesn’t mean that summer will be normal. With Glastonbury cancelled for a second year running and Wimbledon hedging its bets by planning for multiple different scenarios, the shadow of the pandemic will loom large over the coming months. When an uptick in Covid-19 cases could see even the most modest holiday plans go awry, it’s clear there is plenty more uncertainty in store
29th Jan 2021 - Wired.co.uk

The pandemic will not end unless every country gets the vaccine

We can all see the outlines of a post-pandemic world. With vaccinations ramping up in the United States and Britain, and with Israel and the United Arab Emirates racing toward herd immunity, it is easy to imagine that a return to normalcy is on the horizon. The only question seems to be: How long will it take? But we might be seeing a false dawn. Despite the amazing progress we’ve made with vaccines, the truth is that our current trajectory virtually guarantees that we will never really defeat the coronavirus. It will stay alive and keep mutating and surging across the globe. Years from now, countries could be facing new outbreaks that will force hard choices between new lockdowns or new waves of disease and death.
28th Jan 2021 - The Washington Post


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 29th Jan 2021

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Covid-19: How to break the cycle of lockdowns

The dominance of new, more transmissible variants means that a policy of trying to “live with” the virus will fail, certainly in the UK where the new B.1.1.7 variant is now the most common. I know of no country that is successfully living with the virus while avoiding lockdown and restriction cycles, a high death toll, or—as in the UK—both. We need to set our sights instead on where we want to be and then work out how to get there. The role models we have are Vietnam (35 deaths, 98 million population), Thailand (73 deaths, 70 million population), South Korea (1371 deaths, 51 million population), and New Zealand (25 deaths, 5 million population) where people have been living much more normal lives for months. Following their example, the way out is for the UK to pursue a national suppression strategy—zero tolerance for any community transmission—which comes with the added benefit of protecting ourselves from homegrown vaccine resistant variants.
29th Jan 2021 - The BMJ

Behind AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 Vaccine Stumble

The setbacks, which come on the eve of a decision from regulators whether to recommend the shot for use in Europe, suggest AstraZeneca is falling behind in the vaccine arms race. The company has relatively little experience in vaccines, a tricky, typically low-margin niche in the global pharmaceuticals industry. The manufacturing process the company uses, piggybacking on a chimpanzee cold virus, can be more difficult to quickly scale up than the one employed by Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc., both of which use a new genetic technology. The company has also proved maladroit politically. After learning of the glitches early this month, AstraZeneca deployed engineers to troubleshoot but didn’t warn European officials, hoping the company could fix the problems to minimize the dent in production, according to a person familiar with the matter. Lower output of raw vaccine substance had first been spotted in December, but worsened in January, with the clock ticking. When production didn’t improve, AstraZeneca’s bad news hit like a bombshell. Now it is grappling with a political backlash just when the pandemic seems to be entering a more dangerous phase.
29th Jan 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

Covid: Social workers 'braced for tsunami of needs' after lockdown

Social workers say they are braced for a "tsunami of needs" as the UK recovers from the pandemic. The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) expects workloads to increase as restrictions are lifted. One worker described a "big surge" in referrals after the first lockdown and the fears of missing something wrong. Officials in all four nations praised the efforts of social workers and highlighted schemes to help vulnerable children set up in the pandemic.
28th Jan 2021 - BBC News

Opinion | Inside the U.K.'s Second Covid Wave

Nearly a year into the pandemic, the situation in Britain is dire. A vicious first wave has given way to an even more deadly second one. On Tuesday, the country passed a milestone of 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus — which amounts to one of the worst fatality rates in the world. A national lockdown, in place since Jan. 4, has only recently begun to lower the eye-wateringly high number of cases, fueled in part by the emergence of a new, apparently more contagious strain of the virus. The toll on the National Health Service is close to unbearable: Nearly 40,000 Covid-19 patients are in hospitals, almost double the peak last year.
28th Jan 2021 - The New York Times

Australia extends Trans-Tasman travel bubble suspension for a further 72 hours, after New Zealand detects two new coronavirus cases

Australia has extended its suspension of the safe travel bubble with New Zealand for a further 72 hours. The decision was made after another two cases of the South African strain of coronavirus were detected in returned travellers in Auckland. "This recommendation has been made to the Australian Government," Acting Chief Medical Officer Professor Michael Kidd said. "The government has accepted the advice, and so the travel pause on green zone flights from New Zealand to Australia has been extended for a further 72 hours until 2pm on Sunday, 31 January."
28th Jan 2021 - 9News.com.au

Covid: Australian states to reopen to Sydney after outbreak contained

Two Australian states will reopen their borders to New South Wales (NSW) after it managed to control a Covid-19 outbreak in Sydney. South Australia and Queensland will remove their travel restrictions on Sunday and Monday respectively. It comes after NSW reported 11 days without a locally acquired infection. About 180 cases were tied to the Sydney cluster, which emerged just before Christmas and prompted nationwide travel bans on the city's residents. "Credit to New South Wales. They got on top of their cases," said Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk
28th Jan 2021 - BBC News


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 28th Jan 2021

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All countries should pursue a Covid-19 elimination strategy: here are 16 reasons why

The past year of Covid-19 has taught us that it is the behaviour of governments, more than the behaviour of the virus or individuals, that shapes countries’ experience of the crisis. Talking about pandemic waves has given the virus far too much agency: until quite recently the apparent waves of infection were driven by government action and inaction. It is only now with the emergence of more infectious variants that it might be appropriate to talk about a true second wave. As governments draw up their battle plans for year two, we might expect them to base their strategies on the wealth of data about what works best. And the evidence to date suggests that countries pursuing elimination of Covid-19 are performing much better than those trying to suppress the virus. Aiming for zero-Covid is producing more positive results than trying to “live with the virus”.
28th Jan 2021 - The Guardian

Lucky break or gold standard? How NSW got Covid under control

After weeks of no reported community cases of the virus, a man from south-west Sydney tested positive on 16 December. By the end of that day, two further cases were announced, affecting Sydney’s northern beaches. By mid-January, the summer outbreaks had reached a total of 217 cases. But not long after, on 26 January, NSW marked nine days in a row without any new cases of the virus in the community. NSW’s containment was achieved without the premier, Gladys Berejikian, resorting to the drastic statewide lockdowns or business closures that many called for. Instead, the NSW approach was to focus lockdowns on the most affected suburbs and to reintroduce limits on indoor and outdoor gatherings without banning them altogether. It is not the first time NSW has contained an outbreak with potential to spiral beyond control.
27th Jan 2021 - The Guardian

Mexico’s pandemic policy: No police. No curfews. No fines. No regrets.

As the coronavirus swept the globe early last year, Mexican officials made an unusual decision: They would not impose "coercive" measures to force citizens to obey pandemic restrictions. No curfews. No arrests. No fines. Mexico had lived through 70 years of authoritarian rule. The country had “a sad, unfortunate, shameful history” of abuse by security forces, said Hugo López-Gatell, the coronavirus czar. Nearly a year later, Mexico is battling a severe epidemic. Hospitals are at the breaking point. Residents flouting stay-at-home messages fueled a new explosion of cases during the Christmas holidays. Deaths have soared past 150,000 — the fourth-highest total in the world and 19th-highest based on population. So was Mexico wrong? The answer is nuanced, say health experts and human rights advocates, and reflects the difficulty of balancing public health and civil rights.
27th Jan 2021 - The Washington Post

One year after lockdown, Wuhan clubbers hit the dancefloor

Glow-in-the-dark rabbit ears, pulsating beats, and a flexible attitude to masks: nightlife in China's Wuhan is back with a vengeance almost a year after a lockdown brought life to a standstill in the city of 11 million. As the rest of the world continues to grapple with lockdowns and soaring infections, young people in the city, once the epicentre of the novel coronavirus, are enjoying their hard-earned freedom. The hedonistic vibes and champagne on ice are far from the austerity preached by authorities in Beijing. But Chen Qiang, a man in his 20s, praised the Communist Party for having practically eliminated the epidemic, despite a recent surge in cases in other parts of the country in the past few days.
27th Jan 2021 - Times of India

Serena Williams praises 'super intense' Australian Open coronavirus quarantine rules

Seven-time Australian Open singles champion Serena Williams has backed Tennis Australia's quarantine rules ahead of the season-opening major amid criticism of the arrangements from other players. Williams has been quarantining in Adelaide, as have the likes of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, and has been spared the hard 14-day lockdown that has affected 72 players who arrived in Melbourne almost a fortnight ago. Several players based in Melbourne have publicly voiced their frustration about being confined to their rooms after passengers on the charter flights that carried them to Australia tested positive for COVID-19.
27th Jan 2021 - ABC.Net.au

South Auckland GPs 'burnt out and tired' after Covid-19 outbreak, lockdown

South Auckland GPs and medical practices are still feeling the pressure after the 2020 Covid-19 lockdown, according to a new report. The report, to the Counties Manukau District Health Board's Community and Public Health Advisory Committee, shows low staff morale and burnout are exacerbating the problem. “The overall morale in general practice is low at the moment. People are feeling burnt out and tired and the stress levels are probably at a greater level than in the general population,” it said.
27th Jan 2021 - Stuff.co.nz

New Zealand borders to stay closed until citizens are 'vaccinated and protected'

Jacinda Ardern has said New Zealand and “the world” need to return to some semblance of normality before she opens the country’s borders to foreign nationals. The prime minister shut the border in mid-March and said on Tuesday she would not open it again until New Zealanders were “vaccinated and protected” – a process that will not start for the general population until the middle of this year. Ardern also cast doubt on the prospects for a travel bubble with Australia in the near future, and said she was “disappointed” with the Australian government’s decision to suspend quarantine-free access for New Zealanders for three days in the light of the case of community transition in Northland.
27th Jan 2021 - The Guardian

Positive COVID-19 tests linked to Australian Open downgraded to eight

The number of positive COVID-19 tests linked to the Australian Open has been downgraded to eight after authorities reclassified one of the results as a previous infection, health officials said on Wednesday. “One case has been reclassified due to evidence of previous infection, meaning there is now a total of eight positive cases related to the AO cohort,” COVID-19 Quarantine Victoria (CQV) said. The agency confirmed that another positive case had been “medically cleared” to leave isolation, leaving the total number of active cases at seven.
27th Jan 2021 - Reuters


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 27th Jan 2021

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California ends wide lockdown as Covid hospital strain eases

California lifted blanket "stay-at-home" orders across the US state Monday, paving the way for activities including outdoor dining to return even in worst-hit regions as the pandemic's strain on hospitals begins to ease. The western state has suffered one of the nation's worst winter Covid spikes, with hospital intensive care units overwhelmed, ambulances backed up for hours at a time, and cases more than doubling since December to over three million. The "stay-at-home" measures were ordered for some 20 million people in southern and central California since December 3, but public health director Tomas Aragon said the state was now "turning a critical corner."
26th Jan 2021 - FRANCE 24

New Zealand may approve COVID-19 vaccine next week, start general vaccinations mid-year

New Zealand may approve a COVID-19 vaccine as early as next week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday, a day after the country confirmed its first case of the new coronavirus in the community in months. “We’re making swift progress towards vaccinating New Zealanders against the virus, but we’re also absolutely committed to ensuring the vaccines are safe and effective,” Ardern said in a statement. The recent community case, in a woman who returned to New Zealand on Dec. 30 and had tested positive for the South African strain of the virus after leaving a two-week mandatory quarantine, led Australia to immediately suspend a travel bubble with New Zealand for 72 hours. Pressure has been mounting on Ardern’s government to vaccinate the population, but New Zealand has repeatedly said the process will not start for months.
26th Jan 2021 - Reuters

New Zealand's borders may stay shut for most of the year as Covid-19 rages on, PM Ardern says

New Zealand's borders will remain closed for most of this year as the Covid-19 pandemic rages on, but the country will pursue travel arrangements with neighbouring Australia and other Pacific nations, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday. Medical authorities, meanwhile, may approve a Covid-19 vaccine as early as next week, Ardern said, as pressure mounts for a start to vaccinations after the country confirmed its first case of the new coronavirus in the community in months. "Given the risks in the world around us and the uncertainty of the global rollout of the vaccine, we can expect our borders to be impacted for much of this year," Ardern said
26th Jan 2021 - MSN.com

The help firms will get if there is another Covid lockdown

In New Zealand, most businesses would dread going into another Covid lockdown, but the Government has planned ahead what financial support would be available if the worst happens. Finance Minister Grant Robertson set out the assistance that would be offered “next time around” before Christmas. And while wage subsidies would again do the heavy lifting when it came to propping up the economy, some of the help would be new.
26th Jan 2021 - Stuff.co.nz

'Treat every case like a murder': How New Zealand-like Zero Covid approach could work in Ireland

The calls for a zero-Covid approach in Ireland are growing louder, and the Government may soon be forced to act. As images from packed festivals and sports events in New Zealand made their way to Ireland, where it is illegal to travel further than 5km from home and household visits are banned, the calls to put an end to rolling lockdowns have grown more desperate. Public health expert Dr Tomás Ryan explained how a Zero Covid approach could work in Ireland should it be brought in. Stating that the approach is "perfectly realistic", Dr Ryan said we have a choice of "taking control of our situation or [choosing] to live in rolling lockdowns or permanent lockdown for the rest of 2021". In order for Ireland to live Covid-free, Dr Ryan said, "We need three things. We need to chase, we need to crush, and we need to contain the virus."
26th Jan 2021 - Irish Post

Coronavirus Covid 19: Auckland Mayor Phil Goff calls for council involvement in local lockdowns

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff does not want Wellington running the whole show when local lockdowns are imposed for Covid-19. The former Labour MP is urging his colleagues in Parliament to break the shackles of centralised bureaucracy and bring local councils to the table. He would like to see a multi-agency "command centre" set up working with Cabinet ministers and local councils when a local outbreak occurs.
26th Jan 2021 - New Zealand Herald

'No system is perfect': Siouxsie Wiles on New Zealand's fight against Covid complacency

Last January Siouxsie Wiles was a microbiologist at the University of Auckland, specialising in the scientific possibilities of bioluminescence, as well as a widely awarded media commentator. Twelve months later, Wiles is New Zealand’s most famous scientist (at least its most visible, thanks to her trademark pink hair) and a lynchpin of its pandemic success, having been tireless and ever-present in her efforts to explain how the virus spreads. At her peak she was doing 20 to 30 interviews a day. But while many might see her as a figure of 2020, for Wiles the threat remains very much at hand. Though New Zealand’s border restrictions have been bolstered since the new variant of coronavirus took off in December, a steady stream of cases have been confirmed in arrivals in quarantine.
26th Jan 2021 - The Guardian

Johnson & Johnson on track for 100 million vaccine doses by end of June, bolstering US supply | TheHill

Johnson & Johnson said Tuesday that it is on track to meet its target of 100 million coronavirus vaccine doses for the United States by the end of June, one of a string of confident announcements on vaccine supply. Johnson & Johnson's vaccine trial is being closely watched as it has the potential to produce a third vaccine for the U.S., helping further an increase in available doses. The company said Tuesday that it expects results from its Phase 3 trial “by early next week.” If the vaccine proves to be safe and effective and is authorized in the coming weeks, the company’s chief financial officer, Joseph Wolk, told CNBC, “We're very confident and on track to meet all of our commitments, which would include 100 million doses to the U.S. by the end of June.”
26th Jan 2021 - The Hill


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 26th Jan 2021

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Foreign workers flee UK as pandemic and Brexit bite

An estimated 1.3m have gone home, with hospitality and retail the sectors most heavily affected. Lorenzo di Cretico, a manager at the central London restaurant and club 100 Wardour Street, moved to the UK 12 years ago with high hopes. He had been a manager at a trattoria in Rome but wanted to learn English and said London “had always been my dream”. He found a waiting job within a week. Now, however, Mr di Cretico is returning home. He has only worked for four months of the past year because of restaurant closures during the pandemic and, with little hope of venues reopening soon, decided to start his own delicatessen in Rome.
26th Jan 2021 - Financial Times

Australia approves Pfizer vaccine amid concerns over global supply of Oxford jab

Australia became one of the first countries in the world to complete a comprehensive process to approve the rollout of Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine after AstraZeneca announced a delay in its initial global supply. The inoculation drive is expected to start in late February with a target of 80,000 doses per week initially, health minister Greg Hunt told reporters. The vaccine has been approved for people aged 16 years and above and would be given in two doses to each recipient. The country approved Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine after AstraZeneca suggested to the Australian government that it is experiencing a significant “supply shock”.
25th Jan 2021 - The Independent

What life is like in Wuhan 1 year after the lockdown

One year after China imposed a harsh lockdown in Wuhan, CNN returns to the original epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. The city of 11 million has emerged from a crippling lockdown attempting to portray a renewed, vibrant image, but there are deep wounds yet to heal.
25th Jan 2021 - CNN

'I can't save money for potential emergencies': COVID lockdowns drove older Australians into energy poverty

Many of us who endured lockdowns in Australia are familiar with the surge in energy bills at home. But for older Australians who depend on the Age Pension for income, lockdowns drove many deeper into “energy poverty”. Some faced up to 50% higher bills than in 2019, as a result of COVID. Energy poverty involves low-income households restricting their energy consumption by avoiding certain activities like showering, spending high proportions of their income on energy and, sometimes, being unable to pay bills.
25th Jan 2021 - The Conversation AU

New Zealand probes first 'probable' community COVID-19 case in months

New Zealand health officials said on Sunday they were investigating what they said was probably the country’s first community coronavirus case, in months in a woman who recently returned from overseas. The 56-year-old, who returned to New Zealand on Dec. 30, tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 days after leaving a two-week mandatory quarantine at the border where she had twice tested negative. “We are working under the assumptions that this is a positive case and that it is a more transmissible variant, either the one identified first in South Africa or the UK, or potentially Brazil - or another transmissible variant,” Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield told a news conference.
25th Jan 2021 - Reuters

New Zealand Covid case appears to be South African variant, officials say

New Zealand authorities have said a new case of Covid-19 that emerged outside quarantine appeared to be the South African variant. Health officials said on Monday that they believed the infected woman, aged 56, contracted the virus from an infected person on the same floor of the Pullman hotel in Auckland where they were both quarantining. She had left the hotel isolation regime after producing two negative tests, as is standard, but then developed muscle aches and reported her symptoms to health workers in follow-up interviews. While surface or airborne infection was still a possibility, person-to-person infection looked the most likely, said the director general of health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield.
25th Jan 2021 - The Guardian

Australia halts New Zealand travel bubble amid fears of South African coronavirus strain

The Federal Government has suspended quarantine-free travel for New Zealanders arriving in Australia for 72 hours amid fears of a South African strain of COVID-19 across the Tasman. A New Zealand woman infected with the highly infectious variant of COVID-19 first detected in South Africa visited around 30 sites before her case was detected. Travellers coming from New Zealand to Australia in the next 72 hours will have to go into mandatory hotel quarantine. "This will be done out of an abundance of caution whilst more is learnt about the event and the case," Mr Hunt said.
25th Jan 2021 - ABC.Net.au

The daily grind never felt sweeter: New Zealanders should enjoy their Covid-free liberties

Most working New Zealanders are back to the grind after the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. Schools start next week. Parliament resumes on 7 February. Business as usual, but there’s something light-hearted about it in 2021. The tedium and drab necessity of returning to work is tempered by the knowledge that it’s not that bad, that it could be a lot worse. The mere fact we can move around the towns and cities, squeeze into elevators, and mooch around with each other in offices and cafes and doctor’s waiting rooms and any confined space you care to name, is a joy. Freedom isn’t just the open road; freedom is also a day measured in paperclips and paper jams. It’s a freedom denied other countries in lockdown.
25th Jan 2021 - The Guardian

Hong Kong lifts lockdown in Kowloon district after testing 7,000 people

The Hong Kong government lifted a lockdown in an area of Kowloon district in the early hours of Monday after testing about 7,000 people for coronavirus to curb an outbreak in the densely populated area. The government set up 51 temporary testing stations on Saturday and found 13 confirmed cases in the restricted area that is home to many ageing, subdivided flats in which the disease could spread more quickly. “Businesses in the area have been hit hard and brought to a standstill,” the government said in a statement. “The government hopes this temporary inconvenience will completely cut the local transmission chains in the district and ease residents’ worries and fear, so that they will regain confidence in resuming social and business activities in the area, and return to a normal life.”
25th Jan 2021 - Reuters

Ukraine completes tough COVID lockdown with optimistic expectations

Ukraine reopens schools, restaurants and gyms on Monday, ending a tough lockdown introduced on Jan. 8 to prevent a new wave of coronavirus infections, Ukrainian authorities said. The number of new cases of coronavirus infection in Ukraine has significantly decreased from 6,000 to 9,000 cases a day at the beginning of January to 2,516 new cases on January 25, the fewest since early September. “Such statistics, which indicate the stabilisation of the situation, the improvement of the situation could be obtained only thanks to you, Ukrainians,” health minister Maksym Stepanov told a televised briefing.
25th Jan 2021 - Reuters

As this second Covid wave rips through minorities, inequalities are becoming even more apparent

Within months of Britain’s first wave of the coronavirus pandemic, it grew clear that the virus attacked fiercely along pre-existing pathways of inequality. By May last year, studies showed that the virus discriminates in the same way as society: along racial, class and regional lines, causing twice as many tragic deaths among Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities and in the most deprived areas. Many wondered if the UK’s inequality epidemic, at last so viscerally exposed, might finally be addressed.
25th Jan 2021 - iNews


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Sorry, Europe: AstraZeneca follows Pfizer/BioNTech in cutting back EU vaccine delivery plans

As AstraZeneca nears European authorization for its highly anticipated COVID-19 vaccine, the drugmaker has notified officials that initial shipments will come in lighter than originally expected. Two German-language publications, Bild and oe24, report that AZ notified EU officials this week that its first-quarter deliveries will come in lower than originally expected. An AstraZeneca spokesperson attributed the dip to "reduced yields at a manufacturing site within our European supply chain." "We will be supplying tens of millions of doses in February and March to the European Union, as we continue to ramp up production volumes," she said.
23rd Jan 2021 - FiercePharma

Why did the world's pandemic warning system fail when COVID hit?

The World Health Organization (WHO) sounded its highest alarm on 30 January 2020 — a declaration called a ‘public health emergency of international concern’, or PHEIC, signalling that a pandemic might be imminent. Few countries heeded the WHO’s call for testing, tracing and social distancing to curb the coronavirus. By mid-March, it had spread around the world. Now, health officials and researchers are evaluating why the organization’s warning system failed and how to overhaul it. Many say the organization should have declared a PHEIC about a week earlier than it did. But the largest failing, researchers agree, is that so many countries ignored it. “The biggest issue to me is that for six to eight weeks after the PHEIC declaration, countries, except for in Asia, sat on their hands,” says Joanne Liu, a former president of Médecins Sans Frontiérs (also known as Doctors without Borders), who serves on an independent panel tasked with assessing and improving the WHO’s alarm system. World health officials are evaluating potential improvements to the system during the WHO's executive board meeting, being held 18–26 January. Talks will continue in advance of the annual World Health Assembly in May, when any changes would occur. Some of the proposals include modifying the PHEIC alarm to have colour-coded warning levels, and having countries sign on to a new treaty on preparing for pandemics.
23rd Jan 2021 - Nature.com

Covid: Vaccinated people may spread virus, says Van-Tam

People who have received a Covid-19 vaccine could still pass the virus on to others and should continue following lockdown rules, England's deputy chief medical officer has warned. Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Prof Jonathan Van-Tam stressed that scientists "do not yet know the impact of the vaccine on transmission". He said vaccines offer "hope" but infection rates must come down quickly. A further 32 vaccine sites are set to open across England this week. Prof Van-Tam said "no vaccine has ever been" 100% effective, so there is no guaranteed protection. It is possible to contract the virus in the two- to three-week period after receiving a jab, he said - and it is "better" to allow "at least three weeks" for an immune response to fully develop in older people.
23rd Jan 2021 - BBC News

Belgium sees large initial shortfall of AstraZeneca vaccine

Belgium will receive less than half the number of COVID-19 vaccines it had expected from AstraZeneca in the first quarter, the country’s vaccine taskforce said on Saturday. Belgium had been expecting 1.5 million doses of the vaccine, which has still to be approved, by March, but would instead get around 650,000 doses. Reuters reported on Friday that AstraZeneca had informed European Union officials it would cut deliveries of the vaccine by 60% to a total 31 million doses in the first quarter due to production problems. Belgium had been expecting 1.5 million doses of the vaccine, which has still to be approved, by March, but would instead get around 650,000 doses. Reuters reported on Friday that AstraZeneca had informed European Union officials it would cut deliveries of the vaccine by 60% to a total 31 million doses in the first quarter due to production problems. The EU has a deal to purchase at least 300 million doses from AstraZeneca, with an option for an additional 100 million. The EU drug regulator is due to decide on approving the vaccine on Jan. 29.
23rd Jan 2021 - The Guardian

India’s female health workers on rural front line get COVID shot

Jyoti Bhambure is usually the one dispensing medicine – this week she was at the receiving end, among the first in India’s million-strong force of women health workers to win a COVID-19 vaccine. Dressed in a bright green sari with a gold border, Bhambure visited the small, rural hospital in western India at the time allotted and said the jab had lifted a weight off her shoulders. “I no longer fear the coronavirus,” said Bhambure, after getting her initial dose on Tuesday, one of the first tranche of front line workers to win protection in the pandemic. “We handle children and interact with mothers,” she said. “So I am glad I am vaccinated. I have no fear left in my mind.” India has suffered 152,000 deaths due to the virus and has prioritised about 30 million front-line workers in the first phase of an inoculation drive that began on January 16.
22nd Jan 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Covid vaccine: 'Over my dead body are we wasting a drop of this'

There was nervous anticipation at Saxonbury House surgery as doctors and staff prepared for their first coronavirus vaccination clinic last weekend. The seven surgeries that combined for the vaccination programme on the Sussex High Weald had been cautious, waiting for the national roll-out to be well under way before joining “wave six”. Then last Friday afternoon, the eve of their local V Day, months of careful planning were thrown up in the air. The white refrigerated van carrying their vaccines arrived as scheduled at Saxonbury House, Crowborough, around 2pm. The driver carefully unloaded the consignment and drove off. Mistakenly, however, he left two boxes of Pfizer vaccine rather than the one that had been promised and planned for.
23rd Jan 2021 - The Times

West Virginia touts COVID-19 vaccination success story as national rollout sputters

Even as President Joe Biden laments the nation’s sluggish COVID-19 immunization launch for a pace he calls “dismal,” West Virginia is touting its relative success in making the most of vaccine supplies it has received so far. Fewer than half of the nearly 38 million vaccine doses shipped to date by the federal government have actually made it into the arms of Americans, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on Thursday. Some individual states have lagged behind with just a third or 40% of their vaccine allotments being administered as of Thursday, marking the one-year anniversary of the first locally transmitted COVID-19 case documented in the United States.
21st Jan 2021 - Reuters

'Heroic hymn of the people': Chinese government film marks year since Wuhan lockdown

China premiered a patriotic documentary film on Friday to mark the one-year anniversary of Wuhan’s coronavirus lockdown, part of a broader effort by authorities to cast the government’s early response to COVID-19 in a positive light. Small numbers of viewers gathered in Beijing to watch the film “Wuhan Days and Nights” as it opened to the public exactly a year after Wuhan went into a surprise 76-day lockdown in the early hours of Jan. 23, 2020. Wuhan, in the central province of Hubei, is believed to be the epicentre of the global pandemic that has infected nearly 100 million people and killed over two million so far. China managed to quash the virus months later with strict control measures and life in Wuhan has largely returned to normal, but the government’s early response drew widespread public criticism.
23rd Jan 2021 - Reuters

Phnom Penh yoga fans return to mat after lockdown - with a beer

For some, a post-lockdown group activity that combines exercise with alcohol may seem like the ideal coronavirus stress-buster - though yoga purists should probably avoid Phnom Penh’s TwoBirds Craft Beer brewery while it’s taking place. The brewery’s yoga classes, resumed after a six-week lockdown across Cambodia - which has officially recorded not a single COVID death - was lifted on Jan. 1, combine holding a pose with clutching a beer, and they’re attracting devotees. “I have more fun with beer yoga. It’s not as serious as traditional yoga,” said Sreyline Bacha, 25, as she reached for a beer glass, wobbling just a little to maintain her balance in a pose.
23rd Jan 2021 - Reuters


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 22nd Jan 2021

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U.K. Hospitals Struggle to Cope With a New Coronavirus Variant

As a new and more contagious variant of the coronavirus pounds Britain’s overstretched National Health Service, health care workers say the government’s failure to anticipate a wintertime crush of infections has left them resorting to ever more desperate measures. Hundreds of soldiers have been dispatched to move patients and equipment around London hospitals. Organ transplant centers have stopped performing urgent operations. Doctors have trimmed back the level of oxygen being given to patients to save overloaded pipes.
22nd Jan 2021 - The New York Times

This is what will happen to Covid-19 when the pandemic is over

After months of not knowing how the Covid-19 pandemic would end, we now have some answers. Vaccines that came even faster and work even better than anticipated are the light at the end of this very dark, long tunnel – the beginning of the end is in sight. But the virus is unlikely to go away for good. The global race to vaccinate as many people as possible will usher in a new phase of our fight against Covid-19, yet there is little chance it will deliver a knockout blow. In the long run, what started as a global pandemic may become yet another example of humankind learning to live alongside a deadly virus.
21st Jan 2021 - Wired.co.uk

Australia posts zero virus cases; state premier calls for 'Pacific bubble'

Australia recorded a fourth day of zero coronavirus cases on Thursday, prompting the chief of the country's most populous state to call for a special travel "bubble" with Pacific island nations. New South Wales has reined in an outbreak in mid-December that prompted a strict lockdown in Sydney's Northern Beaches, while broader social distancing rules and mandatory mask wearing were imposed for the rest of the city. Signaling those restrictions were set to be eased next week, Premier Gladys Berejiklien told the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper the federal government should consider establishing a travel arrangement with the Pacific. "There is no reason why we shouldn't aim to travel to New Zealand or some of the Pacific Islands well within the next 12 months," Berejiklian said. The comments come after Australia's chief medical officer Paul Kelly cautioned about restarting international travel, given the country was in an "envious position" compared to most of the world.
21st Jan 2021 - Japan Today

Wuhan bustles a year after world's first coronavirus lockdown

Barriers still enclose Wuhan's notorious seafood market -- one of the few immediate reminders the city was once the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic that has transformed the world. Otherwise, the new normal in the central Chinese city of 11 million is much like the old reality; cars buzz down highways, sideways bustle with shoppers and public transport and parks are busy
21st Jan 2021 - Times of India

New Covid strain: Australian city lifts ban on wearing mask indoors

People living in Australia's third-largest city of Brisbane will no longer need to wear a mask in indoor venues from Friday onwards as the state of Queensland announced that it has managed to bring the local spread of a mutant Covid-19 strain under control. "From 1 am tomorrow we will be back to having amongst the lowest restrictions in our economy in the country - this is great news for business, great news for tourism, and great for the people of Queensland to celebrate," Xinhua news agency quoted the state's Health Minister Yvette D'Ath as saying on Thursday. As of Thursday, Queensland continues to record zero local cases, allowing the authorities to further ease the pandemic restrictions. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk attributed the result to the state's "go hard and go quickly" strategy.
21st Jan 2021 - Khaleej Times on MSN.com

Tennis-Anderson urges players to show more respect for Australia's COVID-19 fight

Former U.S. Open and Wimbledon finalist Kevin Anderson appealed to players at the Australian Open to show more respect for the local community’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, following a chorus of complaints about quarantine conditions in Melbourne. As many as 72 players are confined to their hotel rooms for two weeks and unable to train for the Feb. 8-21 Grand Slam after passengers on three charter flights tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Complaints by some players over the severity of the health measures, food quality and even mice infestations in their rooms have sparked a backlash in Australia, which has many citizens stranded overseas due to pandemic-linked border restrictions. Novak Djokovic was panned after writing to Tennis Australia chief Craig Tiley to ask for reduced isolation periods and having players moved to “private houses with tennis courts”.
21st Jan 2021 - Reuters

Air New Zealand's first quarantine-free flight lands in Auckland

The first quarantine-free flight in 10 months has landed in Auckland with friends and family ready to greet passengers from the Cook Islands with an emotional welcome. The Air New Zealand flight landed at Auckland Airport shortly after 11am with a small gathering of family and friends waiting in the arrivals area.
21st Jan 2021 - The New Zealand Herald

Emotional scenes as first quarantine-free flight from Rarotonga lands in Auckland

It was an emotional and cheerful reunion for those that gathered at Auckland Airport arrivals on Thursday, to greet friends and families who arrived in the first quarantine-free flight from Rarotonga. Air New Zealand Flight NZ941 departed at 7.43am local time from the Cook Islands and landed in Auckland at 11.06am. It is the first flight out of Rarotonga in New Zealand’s first travel bubble since the coronavirus lockdown. The bubble, although one way for now with New Zealanders still expected to undergo managed isolation on the island, is the first quarantine-free travel from the Pacific.
21st Jan 2021 - Stuff.co.nz


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 21st Jan 2021

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Brazil lacks timeline on when coronavirus vaccines will arrive from India and China

Brazil’s foreign minister, Ernesto Araujo, said on Wednesday he still could not provide a timeline when new coronavirus vaccine doses would arrive from India and China, raising concern in a country that is lagging others in vaccinating its people. Brazil is waiting for a shipment of AstraZeneca vaccines from India and a shipment of Sinovac vaccines from China. Brazil’s right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro, has repeatedly antagonized China in recent years for political reasons.
21st Jan 2021 - Reuters

China triumphant one year after Wuhan lockdown

"People Supremacy, Life Supremacy" reads the sign at a Wuhan exhibition, where visitors are greeted by a paean to China's triumph over the pandemic and the agility of its communist leadership in a crisis. Saturday marks one year since the start of a 76-day lockdown of Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the coronavirus was first detected before sweeping across the world and killing more than two million people. With China's official death toll from the virus under 5,000, Beijing is on a prolonged victory lap to promote its narrative of how it contained Covid-19, engineered vaccines and rebooted its economy.
20th Jan 2021 - FRANCE 24

Australian Open linked to more coronavirus cases after arrivals for grand slam

Ten people who have flown to Melbourne for the Australian Open have tested positive to coronavirus, authorities said. Lisa Neville, police minister for the state of Victoria, reported three new cases on Wednesday, adding one of the cases was a player who has been in "hard lockdown" since arrival into Australia as he came in on a flight where positive cases had been recorded. The second case related to another player and the third is a support person with the player, she added. Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley said the safety of the Victorian community will not be compromised, but added the body was walking a "tightrope"
20th Jan 2021 - The Independent

Why is Australia risking everything for tennis?

Following fraught negotiations between Tennis Australia and the Victorian government, the Australian Open is set to take place next month. Like all arrivals to Australia, the players must quarantine for 14 days. However, they have been granted five hours a day of leave to practise. That is, unless they come into contact with a positive case. Despite the best efforts of Tennis Australia, which put on socially-distanced chartered flights, a handful of positive tests have forced over 70 players to ‘hard’ quarantine - unable to leave their rooms.
20th Jan 2021 - Evening Standard

Tennis Australia confirms it will pay for players' quarantine as cases linked to Australian Open rise

Tennis Australia has backtracked from comments made by its chief executive, Craig Tiley, that the Victorian government would foot part of the bill for quarantining Australian Open players, coaches and officials. The organisation was forced to clarify the details after Tiley told radio station 3AW on Wednesday morning that the state government was contributing to an expected $40m in quarantine costs. The comments prompted a sharp rebuke from the Victorian police minister Lisa Neville, who insisted Tennis Australia – and not taxpayers – would foot the entire bill for quarantining those associated with the Australian Open, as the number of positive Covid-19 cases linked to the tennis tournament grew to 10.
20th Jan 2021 - The Guardian

Why a trans-Tasman bubble by April is still on the cards

The border is still up. Kiwis returning from anywhere in the world – with the exception of Australia and some Pacific nations – will have to get a Covid-19 test before boarding their planes from Monday. Australia is recovering from another Covid outbreak that hit New South Wales just before Christmas. So what, realistically, are the odds of a trans-Tasman​ bubble opening by the end of March, as the Government signalled in December? Still pretty good.
20th Jan 2021 - Stuff.co.nz

Covid unlikely to die out, says New Zealand health chief Ashley Bloomfield

Covid-19 is unlikely to ever die out, even with vaccination efforts, but it could become more transmissible and less deadly, New Zealand’s director general of health has warned. “If you think about influenza, which was first recorded in 1172 I think, in Europe … these viruses don’t tend to die out … They change over time and in fact what we are seeing with these new variants with the Covid-19 virus is that they tend become more transmissible and less deadly over time,” Dr Ashley Bloomfield said. However, Bloomfield said that vaccines would help humans develop immunity, adding to the natural immunity that people who have been infected will also develop. He also warned if some of the new variants of Covid-19 escape managed isolation and quarantine, the impact could be greater than it was last year.
20th Jan 2021 - The Guardian

New Zealand Hosts 20,000-Person Concert as Country Marks 2 Months Without COVID in Community

On January 16, New Zealand held a 20,000-person outdoor concert where attendees neither had to wear face masks nor observe social distancing measures. The concert occurred as the country marked its second month without any new COVID-19 transmissions occurring between citizens. The concert was the first stop in the six-stop summer tour of the native soul-pop band Six60. Before Six60's concert, the country had hosted various New Year's Eve music festivals that also had massive crowds, including Rhythm and Vines, Rhythm & Alps and the Northern Bass festivals, each held in different parts of the nation, according to NME
20th Jan 2021 - Newsweek


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 20th Jan 2021

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China defends COVID-19 response after criticism by experts

China has defended its actions as “prompt and decisive” in containing the coronavirus outbreak during its early days, rebuking criticism made by an independent panel of experts over Beijing’s handling of the outbreak. “As the first country to sound the alarm against the pandemic, we took prompt and decisive measures even though we had incomplete information at the time,” the Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, said on Tuesday. Hua said Beijing imposed early measures – including the announcement of a hard lockdown on Wuhan weeks after the virus was detected – that “reduced infections and deaths”. Her comments came after the release of the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response’s interim report that highlighted how China could have acted “more rapidly” against a virus that has now killed more than two million people worldwide. The panel was formed last year following a request by member countries of the Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) to identify new information on the spread of COVID-19.
19th Jan 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Fang Fang: Author vilified for Wuhan Diary speaks out a year on

She has faced a nationalist backlash for her diaries documenting life in Wuhan in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak, but Chinese author Fang Fang she says she will not be silenced. "When facing a catastrophe, it's vital to voice your opinion and give your advice," she told BBC Chinese in a rare email interview with international media. In late January, when Wuhan became the first place in the world to enter a state of complete lockdown, many of the city's 11 million residents found solace in reading Fang Fang's online diaries. They also provided a revealing glimpse into the city where the virus first emerged.
19th Jan 2021 - BBC News

The massive logistical exercise behind Australian Open players' COVID hotel quarantine

Burying into the numbers of what has already happened without a single ball being served provides a unique perspective on what's required to run an event in the COVID-19 era where players and officials are already being stretched to their limits.
19th Jan 2021 - Australian Broadcasting Corporation on MSN.com

Australian Open players trapped in hard hotel lockdown could see strict rules eased EARLY

Australian Open players and staff in hard quarantine may be released early Three of four new cases in Victoria announced on Tuesday are linked to the Open Daniel Andrews said there are now nine Covid-19 cases linked to the Grand Slam Mr Andrews said the cases may be reclassified as non-infectious shedding Players in hard quarantine would then be able to train for five hours like others
19th Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

New Zealand looks to secure small batch of vaccines early as pressure mounts

New Zealand said on Tuesday that it was looking to secure a small batch of COVID-19 vaccines early to protect its high-risk workers, as pressure mounts on the government to vaccinate its population. A tough lockdown and the geographic advantage of being at the bottom of the world helped New Zealand virtually eliminate the novel coronavirus within its borders. But with the pandemic raging globally, more people are returning to New Zealand with infections including the new variants from the U.K. and South Africa, raising concerns the virus may spread in the community again.
19th Jan 2021 - Reuters on MSN.com

New Zealand women taking leap into entrepreneurship during Covid-19 era

Many women are starting their own small businesses after a wave of Covid-19-related redundancies, according to Chooice NZ founder Sarah Colcord. More than 5000 new businesses registered with the companies office in 2020, the only rise in the number of companies in New Zealand in the past five years. The novel coronavirus has changed how many people work and live, with side-hustles often transformed into a main income source - a trend that is tipped to grow. Small businesses have long been the backbone of New Zealand. There are 546,732 small enterprises in Aotearoa - making up over 97 percent of all companies. Sarah Colcord founded New Zealand's largest Facebook Group, Chooice (formerly NZ Made Products) and co-founded its e-commerce partner Chooice.co.nz.
19th Jan 2021 - RNZ

International arrivals to New Zealand must return negative Covid test before flight

New Zealand has imposed a blanket testing regime for all flights arriving internationally, with passengers now required to return a negative Covid test result before departure. The Covid-19 response minister, Chris Hipkins, said while New Zealand already had tight border controls in place, the rising number of cases around the globe meant further protections were called for. Australia, Antarctica and most Pacific Islands will be exempt from the new requirement. “As we signalled last week, given the high rates of infection in many countries, most global air routes are of critical concern for the foreseeable future,” Hipkins said.
19th Jan 2021 - The Guardian


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New York governor asks Pfizer to directly sell COVID-19 vaccine doses

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo asked Pfizer Inc Chief Executive Albert Bourla on Monday if the state could buy COVID-19 vaccine doses directly from the U.S. drugmaker. Pfizer, however, told Reuters that such a proposal would first require approval by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “With hospitalizations and deaths increasing across the country this winter, we are in a footrace with the virus, and we will lose unless we dramatically increase the number of doses getting to New Yorkers”, Cuomo said in a letter to Pfizer’s CEO.
18th Jan 2021 - Reuters

Timeline: Wuhan, one year after coronavirus lockdown

China locked down the central city of Wuhan a year ago at the start of the Lunar New Year, the country’s biggest holiday, as it battled to contain the spread of a novel coronavirus. Following is a timeline of key events since the first cases of the virus were detected in the city of 11 million residents in Hubei province.
18th Jan 2021 - Reuters

Covid: New Zealanders attend largest ever concert since pandemic began

Thousands of New Zealanders flocked to a music concert on Saturday, in stark contrast to the UK which remains under lockdown. Huge crowds gathered to watch the nation’s most famous band, Six60, perform at a sports grounds in Waitangi – the largest outdoor show allowed to go ahead in the country since the pandemic began. People were pictured brushing against each other and coming into close contact without wearing masks. Guitarist Chris Mac even interacted with the crowd, which did not have to abide by social distancing rules. As of January 15, New Zealand had 76 active cases of the virus, raising its overall total to 2,246 infections since the start of the outbreak. Residents are no longer required to social distance due to low rates of transmission and are only encouraged to wear face masks on public transport except for in Auckland, where it is a legal requirement.
18th Jan 2021 - Metro.co.uk

Lockdown: Tennis players getting on with life in Australia

With no way out, tennis players in lockdown are figuring out ways to keep themselves fit within the confines of their Melbourne hotel rooms as they prepare for the Australian Open. Victoria state, which has Melbourne as its capital, accounted for 810 of Australia’s 909 deaths from COVID-19, most of those during a deadly second wave three months ago which resulted in curfews and lockdowns for the city. So there's been some debate locally about whether it's right to stage a Grand Slam tournament bringing in people from parts of the world where the coronavirus is still taking a big toll. With that in mind, Australian health and government officials aren't taking any chances.
18th Jan 2021 - The Independent

72 Australian Open tennis players in lockdown; reports of Novak Djokovic ideas for changes

The number of players in hard quarantine swelled to 72 ahead of the Australian Open after a fifth positive coronavirus test was returned from the charter flights bringing players, coaches, officials and media to Melbourne for the season-opening tennis major. That means they won’t be allowed to leave their hotel rooms or practice for 14 days, creating a two-speed preparation period for the tournament. Other players in less rigorous quarantine will be allowed to practice for five hours daily. Australian Open organizers confirmed late Sunday that the latest case involved a passenger on the flight from Doha, Qatar to Melbourne who was not a member of the playing contingent, But all 58 passengers, including the 25 players, now cannot leave their hotel rooms for 14 days.
18th Jan 2021 - NBC Sports

China's economy expands at faster rate than before coronavirus

China’s gross domestic product expanded 6.5 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2020, beating forecasts and making the country one of the few in the world to register positive growth for the year. Year-on-year GDP growth for the final quarter beat expectations, according to official data released on Monday, with the Chinese economy expanding 2.3 per cent over the course of the full year as industrial production continued to drive the country’s recovery. The new data underlined a rapid turnround in the world’s second-largest economy, which declined in early 2020 for the first time in more than four decades after authorities imposed an extensive lockdown to stem the pandemic’s initial outbreak.
18th Jan 2021 - Financial Times

China silenced doctors to cover up Covid outbreak, new documentary claims

New evidence uncovered by a TV programme about coronavirus suggests China covered up the outbreak and stopped medics from speaking out. An ITV documentary, called ‘Outbreak: The Virus That Shook The World’ and airing tomorrow, shows a secret interview with some of the Chinese doctors who were silenced. Leaks of Chinese official data show the first confirmed case of Covid-19 in Wuhan can be traced back to November 17, 2019. By late December, increasing numbers of people were in hospital with unexplained pneumonia, and medical professionals had discovered a new coronavirus similar to SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in samples. The provincial leaders told the hospitals not to tell the truth.’ Despite the risk of being caught, the medics revealed shocking claims of how they were silenced, had their passports removed and their access to the internet was restricted
18th Jan 2021 - Metro

Covid-19: China's economy grows in fourth quarter, bucking global trend

China's economy grew at the slowest pace in more than four decades last year, official figures show, but remains on course to be the only major economy to have expanded in 2020. The economy grew 2.3% last year, despite Covid-19 shutdowns causing output to slump in early 2020. Strict virus containment measures and emergency relief for businesses helped the economy recover. Growth in the final three months of the year picked up to 6.5%.
18th Jan 2021 - BBC News

S Korea leader urges businesses thriving in pandemic to share profits

South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in has called on companies prospering during the coronavirus pandemic to share their profits with struggling people and businesses, as fears rise over worsening economic inequality. The call from the leader of Asia’s fourth-biggest economy highlights the pressure on many world leaders amid surging stock and property prices coupled with rising unemployment and slow wage growth. “Whether it is called profit sharing, or whatever . . . I think it is the right way to go,” Mr Moon said at a rare press conference on Monday.
18th Jan 2021 - Financial Times

Five Countries, Five Experiences of the Coronavirus Pandemic

Adam Oliver, a professor at the London School of Economics, is one of many researchers who have tracked how different countries have responded to the pandemic. Oliver thinks that our usual back-of-the-envelope way of comparing countries, using a snapshot of covid cases and deaths, is of limited value. “We have to think about the non-health implications of pandemic response, too,” he told me. “Those are much more difficult to gauge at the moment. When you lock down businesses and citizens, there are many downstream consequences. There’s an economic impact. There’s social damage. There’s loss of freedom—which, especially in countries already bordering on authoritarianism, could be hard to roll back. If you consider these broader implications, I don’t think we’ll know the best path for years, if ever.” Oliver classifies pandemic responses into three broad, sometimes overlapping categories: the quick approach, the soft approach, and the hard approach.
18th Jan 2021 - The New Yorker

What India Can Learn From Covid-19 To Build A Healthier Nation

2020 was a terrible year, especially for India. Covid-19 had a devastating impact on people’s health and healthcare, and the economy took a beating. India finished the year with the second highest number of Covid-19 cases (currently over 10.5 million reported cases, with over 152,000 deaths, which is likely to be an under-estimate). With the Covid-19 incidence declining over the past few weeks, and with the launch of an ambitious vaccination campaign, 2021 could, hopefully, be a better year. But only if the country learnt from the experience of Covid-19 and rebuilt the foundations of it’s public health system.
18th Jan 2021 - Forbes

UK facing ‘gonorrhoea outbreak’ when lockdown ends

The UK could face a gonorrhoea outbreak once lockdown comes to an end, as high rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) return, medics have claimed. Before the pandemic, Britain was experiencing the worst rates of STDs since the Second World War. In February last year a Station of the Nation report found gonorrhea had risen by 249% and syphilis by 165% over the last decade. Since then, Covid restrictions have prevented people from socialising and meeting up with others from outside their homes. The number of people visiting sexual health clinics dropped by 85% due to lockdown, data revealed. Experts fear this will rise suddenly once restrictions are changed.
18th Jan 2021 - Metro


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Despite Trump administration promise, government has no more 'reserve' 2nd vaccine doses

Hopes of a surge in Covid-19 vaccine shipments under a new policy to release second doses held in reserve appear to be evaporating -- with the revelation that those doses have already been distributed, contrary to recent indications by the Trump administration. A senior administration official told CNN that when the administration announced that it would be releasing reserved doses Friday, many of those reserves had already been released into the system starting last year as production was ramping up. When Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar was asked Friday whether there is in fact a reserve of second doses left to release, he said, "No. There's not a reserve stockpile."
17th Jan 2021 - CNN

Coronavirus in London: 1,300-body mortuary opens

A temporary mortuary that can hold up to 1,300 bodies has been opened in Ruislip, west London, as the capital faces a growing coronavirus death toll. London recently exceeded 10,000 Covid-related deaths, a figure mayor Sadiq Khan described as "heartbreaking". Four temporary mortuary sites were set up in London during the first wave of coronavirus, but were put on standby. The use of the Ruislip site has been called "a visual, sobering reminder" of the continuing cost of the pandemic. Westminster City Council chief executive Stuart Love, who is leading the London-wide response, added: "We want to give people hope but we are not there yet. "From my point of view, we have built this really hoping it doesn't get used to its capacity.
16th Jan 2021 - BBC News

African Union vaccines to be allocated according to population

Millions of coronavirus vaccine doses secured by the African Union (AU) will be allocated according to countries’ population size, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Friday. Ramaphosa, who is the current AU chairman, said on Wednesday that vaccines from Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca would be available this year, but he did not specify how much each African country would get. No African countries have begun large-scale coronavirus vaccination campaigns and the AU’s 270 million shots, if administered two per person, would still only cover around 10% of the continent’s 1.3 billion people.
15th Jan 2021 - CNBC Africa

Scotland Covid vaccine plan that included exact numbers taken offline

Scotland’s plan for the distribution of coronavirus vaccinations has been taken offline after the UK government raised concerns that the document included sensitive details about vaccine supply. The plan, which was published on Wednesday evening but removed by Thursday morning, set out the exact numbers of vaccines from Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna the Scottish government expected to receive on a weekly basis up to the end of May, revealing two weeks when no AstraZeneca vaccine would be available. The UK government is reportedly furious at the publication of such detailed figures, amid anxieties it could lead to suppliers coming under pressure from other countries.
17th Jan 2021 - The Guardian

India launches vaccine drive as scepticism mounts

Narendra Modi has kicked off one of the world’s most ambitious inoculation drives in the midst of growing vaccine scepticism over the contentious approval of an indigenously developed jab. The Indian prime minister launched the campaign with an emotional live address on Saturday, saying “the nation has been desperately waiting for this moment” and warned against “false propaganda” about vaccine safety. India, a country of 1.4bn people, has the world’s second-highest number of coronavirus infections at 10.5m. Lockdowns have had limited effect in controlling the spread of the virus and contact tracing has faltered, making a successful inoculation programme essential. The first phase of the vaccination rollout targets 30m healthcare and frontline workers, with the goal of inoculating 300m people by July.
17th Jan 2021 - Financial Times

Covid: 10 new mass vaccination centres to open in England

Ten new mass Covid vaccination centres are to open in England from Monday, as the government bids to meet its target of offering 15 million people in the UK a dose by 15 February. Blackburn Cathedral and St Helens Rugby Ground are among the venues chosen to join the seven hubs already in use. NHS England said the new centres would offer "thousands" of jabs a week. It comes as a further 324,233 vaccine doses were administered across the UK, taking the total above 3.5 million. As the latest figures were announced on Sunday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted his thanks to "everyone who is helping in this fantastic national effort".
17th Jan 2021 - BBC News

COVID-19: Every UK adult could be offered a vaccine by mid-July - if these figures are anything to go by

For a few hours this week, we were given an insight into the closely-guarded secret at the centre of the UK's vaccination programme. It came courtesy of the Scottish government, which published its vaccination plan on Wednesday. The plan included detailed figures for the number of vaccines that would be supplied to Scotland by the UK each week until the end of May. The UK government objected, saying the publication of the figures would create difficulties for the pharmaceutical companies, and the offending page was quickly removed - but not before some clever internet users were able to save a copy.
16th Jan 2021 - Sky News

Spain rejects virus confinement as most of Europe stays home

While most of Europe kicked off 2021 with earlier curfews or stay-at-home orders, authorities in Spain insist the new coronavirus variant causing havoc elsewhere is not to blame for a sharp resurgence of cases and that the country can avoid a full lockdown even as its hospitals fill up. The government has been tirelessly fending off drastic home confinement like the one that paralyzed the economy for nearly three months in the spring of 2020, the last time Spain could claim victory over the stubborn rising curve of cases. Infection rates ebbed in October but never completely flattened the surge from summer. Cases started climbing again before the end of the year. In the past month, 14-day rates more than doubled, from 188 cases per 100,000 residents on Dec. 10 to 522 per 100,000 on Thursday.
15th Jan 2021 - Associated Press

Coronavirus: Texas becomes first US state to administer 1m vaccine doses

Germany’s 2020 contraction shows economy in better shape than thought. Norwegian to abandon long-haul market as it fights for survival. France tightens Covid curfew and border controls.
15th Jan 2021 - MSN.com


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Three dozen mayors ask Biden for direct shipments of COVID-19 vaccine

Mayors of some three-dozen U.S. cities have asked the incoming Biden administration to send COVID-19 vaccine shipments directly to them, bypassing state governments, saying local officials were best positioned to ramp up lagging inoculations.
15th Jan 2021 - Reuters

Returning Australians could be sent to remote mining camps

Remote mining camps have been earmarked as possible quarantine facilities for Australians returning from overseas, after a COVID outbreak at a Brisbane hotel put millions at risk of contracting the disease. Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is pushing the national cabinet to consider shifting quarantine sites out of capital cities to avoid a widespread outbreak. Ms Palaszczuk said her government would investigate whether sending returning Australians to quarantine in mining camps "stacks up" before putting forward a model for other states to copy.
14th Jan 2021 - Brisbane Times

Brazil's Amazonas state running out of oxygen as COVID-19 surges

The Brazilian state of Amazonas is running out of oxygen during a renewed surge in COVID-19 deaths, its government said on Thursday, with media reporting that people on respirators were dying of suffocation in hospitals. The state has made a dramatic appeal to the United States to send a military transport plane to the capital city Manaus with oxygen cylinders, Amazonas Congressman Marcelo Ramos said. “They took my father off the oxygen,” Raissa Floriano said outside the 28 de Agosto hospital in Manaus, where people protested that relatives suffering serious cases of COVID-19 were being unhooked from ventilators for lack of oxygen.
14th Jan 2021 - Reuters

Siouxsie Wiles: Any new Covid variants 'would spread like wildfire'

The new variants of the virus can spread like wildfire, and all of us have a role to play in keeping them out of the community. I have to admit, when I first heard UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson talking about a new, more transmissible strain of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for Covid-19, part of me did wonder whether he was doing a bit of his trademark exaggerating to help explain away he and his government's woeful pandemic response. Within days many countries were restricting travel from the UK to stop the new variant from spreading. But the horse had already bolted. The B1.1.7/501Y.V1 variant has now been reported in over 50 countries. It's all well and good expecting everyone working in MIQ to be doing their bit to keep New Zealand safe from Covid-19. But the rest of us have a role to play in this too. If any variants of the virus got out, never mind these more infectious ones, they would spread like wildfire. The cost of living at alert level one is that we still need to be doing all we can to ensure that any outbreak can be contained as quickly as possible.
14th Jan 2021 - New Zealand Herald

Covid-19: Mysterious cluster in Brisbane a warning to stop using hotels for managed isolation, experts say

Australian health authorities have evacuated a Queensland hotel and are considering alternative isolation facilities – including mining camps – following an outbreak of the highly contagious UK strain of Covid-19, prompting questions about New Zealand's response. On Wednesday 129 hotel guests were transferred from the Hotel Grand Chancellor in Brisbane to an undisclosed facility and required to isolate for another 14 days after six previously identified cases from the hotel were found to be linked. Australian-based New Zealand epidemiologist professor Tony Blakely said the guests were moved from the building because the cause of the outbreak had not been confirmed. The further isolation was needed because they could have been exposed to the virus through the hotel’s ventilation system.
14th Jan 2021 - Stuff.co.nz


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New COVID-19 lockdowns imperil global economy’s recovery

A major chunk of the global recovery in companies’ earnings – recovery expected in the first quarter of 2021 – is at risk of being pushed back further as coronavirus lockdowns and mobility restrictions in several countries cloud hopes of a swifter economic rebound, investment banks said. China announced lockdowns in four cities and European countries unveiled tighter and longer coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday, denting back-to-normal hopes and sparking worries about further economic damage in 2021.
14th Jan 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Will poorer nations miss out on COVID-19 vaccine?

The WHO has urged countries to prioritise COVAX, an initiative to secure vaccines for low and middle-income nations. The global roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines is widening the divide between the world’s rich and poor. The United Nations warns “vaccine nationalism” is on the rise, as Europe, the United States and many wealthier countries buy up millions of potential doses. The World Health Organization urged countries to prioritise COVAX, an initiative to secure vaccines for low and middle-income nations. So how can we ensure protection for everyone? Presenter: Mohammed Jamjoom
14th Jan 2021 - Aljazeera.com

France’s Six Nations matches at risk without safety ‘guarantees’

The French sports minister has said she requires further government guarantees before France will be permitted to play in England and Ireland during the Six Nations. Roxana Maracineanu confirmed France would be given clearance to play their opening fixture of the championship, against Italy in Rome, on February 6. However she has concerns over Fabien Galthié’s squad travelling to face Ireland in Dublin on February 14 and England at Twickenham on March 13 because of the rapid rise in Covid-19 cases in both countries.
13th Jan 2021 - The Times

Return with confidence: Using tech to create safe offices, post-pandemic

How can technology help companies worldwide return to work safely when lockdown ends? At Siemens, Ruth Gratzke is overseeing a “Return with Confidence” campaign to create safe and healthy indoor office environments. “It addresses everything from elevators where you don’t have to touch the buttons, touchless interactions throughout the building or management of meeting rooms and desks around social distancing,” said Gratzke, who is president of Siemens Smart Infrastructure, U.S., a unit of Siemens AG. “It’s about using creative and new technologies, looking at what’s available in tech and giving people the confidence to return to the office.”
13th Jan 2021 - Reuters


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For many, COVID-19 has changed the world of work for good

The upheaval in global labour markets triggered by the coronavirus pandemic will transform the working lives of millions of employees for good, policymakers and business leaders told a Reuters virtual forum on Tuesday. Nearly a year after governments first imposed lockdowns to contain the virus, there is a growing consensus that more staff will in future be hired remotely, work from home and have an entirely different set of expectations of their managers. Yet such changes are also likely to be the preserve of white-collar workers, with new labour market entrants and the less well-educated set to face post-COVID-19 economies where most jobs growth is in low-wage sectors.
12th Jan 2021 - Reuters

Retailers remove product limits on groceries after Brisbane lockdown ends

Retailers have removed product limits for popular grocery items in Brisbane after the end of its three-day lockdown. Shoppers descended on stores in large numbers on Friday after the Queensland government confirmed five local government areas would shut down for 72 hours to stop the spread of the UK strain of COVID-19. Punches were thrown and supermarkets stripped bare as residents defied advice to raid shelves and stock up on supplies. It prompted major retailers like Coles and Woolworths to reintroduce product limits on multiple items
12th Jan 2021 - The Australian

Australia clamps down in response to cases of UK coronavirus variant

Authorities in Australia have responded swiftly to contain potential outbreaks of the UK variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes covid-19. On Thursday 7 January, a cleaner for a hotel quarantine facility in Brisbane tested positive for the more contagious B.1.1.7 variant, first sequenced in the UK in September, which has now reached at least 45 countries.The following morning, with no further positive cases, Queensland state Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced a short, citywide circuit-breaker lockdown affecting some 2 million residents. The city, where life has been normal for months, hadn’t locked down since the first wave in Australia in March. The lockdown began on Friday at 6pm Brisbane time, and ended on Monday 11 January at the same time. It included a strict mask mandate for anyone leaving their homes, including while driving and exercising.
12th Jan 2021 - New Scientist

New Zealand to ask international travellers for negative virus test before flying in

New Zealand will ask international travelers from most countries to show negative COVID-19 test results before boarding flights to the country as new contagious variants of COVID-19 spread across globally. “Given the high rates of infection in many countries and evidence of the global spread of more transmissible variants, it’s clear that most global air routes will be of critical concern for the foreseeable future,” COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said in a statement. Hipkins said the pre-departure test requirement would soon expand to all countries and territories excluding Australia, Antarctica and some Pacific Island nations.
12th Jan 2021 - Reuters


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The Lancet editor: UK ‘steadfastly refused to follow the science’

Richard Horton: The primary reason why the UK has struggled is because it has not learned the lessons of the first wave of the pandemic in 2020 and it has steadfastly refused to follow the science, despite claims that it is doing so. The lessons from the science have been that when there is a rise in infections, you need to clamp down immediately to suppress transmission to reduce the prevalence of infection in the community. But at every stage, the government has delayed and delayed and delayed locking down, with the result that the virus has got out of control. The result of that is increased hospitalisations and deaths. This has been entirely preventable if the government had acted with more decisiveness, and sooner.
12th Jan 2021 - Al Jazeera English

WHO: Won’t achieve ‘herd immunity in 2021’ despite vaccines

WHO stresses need for measures like physical distancing, hand washing and mask wearing to rein in the pandemic. Herd immunity will not be achieved this year despite COVID-19 vaccines being rolled out in a number of countries, the World Health Organization has warned. Last month, the United Kingdom became the first country in the world to start administrating its citizens with a fully trialled and tested COVID-19 vaccine. “We are not going to achieve any levels of population immunity or herd immunity in 2021,” WHO’s chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan told a briefing in Geneva on Monday. “Even if it happens in a couple of pockets in a few countries, it’s not going to protect people across the world.”
11th Jan 2021 - Al Jazeera English

Australia closes hospital emergency unit over virus case as city lockdown lifts

A hospital emergency department in Sydney was closed after a patient tested positive for COVID-19, Australian authorities said on Monday, as the city of Brisbane made face masks compulsory at public venues. A man in his 40s tested positive for the virus on Sunday after coming to Sydney’s Mount Druitt Hospital, prompting it to close its emergency unit for cleaning, with media reports saying ambulances were diverted to other hospitals. Although the unit reopened on Monday, health officials said they would investigate the man’s movements to determine where he contracted the illness and whether it was linked to a highly-contagious strain that was first detected in Britain.
11th Jan 2021 - Reuters

Covid 19 coronavirus: Spike in border cases, Brisbane lockdown shows need for 'extra vigilance' - expert

New Zealand might need to close its border to the United Kingdom if cases of the new Covid-19 variant there continue to skyrocket, says a leading public health expert. The comments come in response to news on Sunday of 31 new Covid-19 cases in managed isolation over the past 72 hours, with 11 of the new highly-infectious UK variant. One case is linked to the South African strain. "I am very concerned, and this is possibly the most dangerous phase we have been in since the August Auckland outbreak," epidemiologist Dr Michael Baker told the Herald.
11th Jan 2021 - New Zealand Herald

Partner of Queensland cleaner with UK Covid variant tests positive as Brisbane comes out of 72-hour lockdown

The partner of a Queensland cleaner who tested positive to the UK variant of Covid-19 has also tested positive, hours before a lockdown of greater Brisbane was lifted. The Queensland chief health officer, Dr Jeannette Young, said the partner had been in quarantine since 7 January. She said it was likely that genome sequencing would confirm it was the second case of the UK variant detected in the Australian community. Young said the result was unsurprising given the variant was more contagious. “However, it highlights the importance of why the greater Brisbane lockdown was so important to ensure any potential spread of the virus is contained,” she said on Monday evening.
11th Jan 2021 - The Guardian

The West should envy Japan's COVID-19 response

On Jan. 1, the world total of coronavirus cases was 83,748,593 and deaths 1,824,140. Japan’s corresponding figures were 230,304 and 3,414. Unusually, in Japan the disease killed more people in autumn-winter than spring. Still, for balance and perspective it’s worth noting that more Japanese died from 25 other causes in 2020. Japan attracted world notice for neither imposing a lockdown nor obsessively testing asymptomatic people. As Tomoya Saito put it in these pages, “Encouraging people with mild or no symptoms to take PCR tests would have revealed nothing but resulted in isolating false-positive cases.”
11th Jan 2021 - The Japan Times

COVID-19 pandemic puts Barcelona urban greening plan in the fast lane

One of Barcelona’s largest parks, named after Spanish painter Joan Miro, is just a stone’s throw from the busy crossroads between Consell de Cent and Rocafort streets, but here you could be mistaken for thinking nature is a million miles away. That could be about to change under an ambitious new 10-year plan, unveiled by Barcelona City Hall in November, aimed at drastically cutting traffic and expanding green spaces in the central district of Eixample. The 38 million-euro ($46.5-million) plan aims to turn one in three streets in the densely populated residential and commercial area into green zones. It responds to longstanding problems of air pollution and cramped living conditions in the Spanish region of Catalonia’s main city, brought to the fore by COVID-19, said Janet Sanz, Barcelona’s deputy mayor for ecology, urban planning and mobility. Lockdowns imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19 made urban residents realise how important nature is to them personally and to their wider communities, said Josep M. Pages, secretary general of the Belgium-based European Nurserystock Association
11th Jan 2021 - Reuters

Malaysia's king declares state of emergency to curb spread of COVID-19

Malaysia’s King Al-Sultan Abdullah declared a state of emergency across the country on Tuesday to curb the spread of COVID-19, after consenting to a request from Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who is facing a leadership challenge. An emergency would give the prime minister and his cabinet extraordinary powers, including allowing the government to introduce laws without the approval of parliament. It was not immediately clear how the emergency would impact day to day activities, but the constitution allows for parliament to be suspended during that period - which could for now put an end to political uncertainties faced by Muhyiddin.
12th Jan 2021 - Reuters


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WHO warns countries are helping Covid thrive through inequitable vaccine distribution

The coronavirus will continue to thrive if there isn’t a more equitable distribution of vaccines across the globe, the head of the World Health Organization said on Friday. There are 42 countries that are now rolling out their initial doses of Covid-19 vaccines, and a majority of them are high-income nations, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. No low-income countries have started their vaccine programs, he said, which is “a clear problem.”
9th Jan 2021 - CNBC

Thanks to deep pockets, Germany snaps up extra coronavirus jabs

When it comes to EU vaccine solidarity, Germany is looking to have its cake and eat it, too. While Berlin championed the bloc's joint purchasing of coronavirus vaccines while holding the European Union's rotating presidency in the second half of 2020, it simultaneously made additional agreements with vaccine producers — including BioNTech/Pfizer and CureVac — for extra doses. And it's now purchasing additional vaccines other EU countries didn't want. Germany, a country of 83 million people, said it's getting 94 million doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, 64 million from the EU and 30 million from a separate bilateral deal. On top of that, Berlin will buy doses that other countries don't buy, securing 50 million of 160 million Moderna doses — far more than its pro-rata allocation.
7th Jan 2021 - POLITICO.eu

Lockdown 3.0: an opportunity to join up thinking

As we embark on what may be the very early stages of Lockdown 3.0, our fears for the future are made darker both by a real uncertainty about the course of the next few months and by the knowledge that it did not have to be like this. It is tempting to attribute such comment to hindsight, but in fact we have been led by a government which has egregiously disregarded what is actually little more than common sense. A health emergency of this potential scale required a strategic and systems-based approach from the start. This approach should have led early on to the production of a coherent plan with clear purpose. It should throughout have shown itself nimble to adapt in real time to new circumstances and to new knowledge.
9th Jan 2021 - The BMJ

North Wales Police Federation rep says officers should get Covid vaccine 'as a priority'

A North Wales Police Federation rep has said officers should get the Covid vaccine as a priority. More than 9,000 people have signed a petition calling on the Welsh Government to change the fact that police are not on the priority list to be immunised for Covid-19. Police forces across the UK are currently experiencing high sickness rates as officers face a greater risk of contracting the virus due to the public facing nature of their jobs. Mark Jones, general secretary of the North Wales Police Federation, said his colleagues had even been spat at by offenders, raising the potential for them to catch the coronavirus even further.
8th Jan 2021 - Deeside.com

Biden to reverse Trump policy by speeding release of Covid-19 vaccines

US president-elect Joe Biden will rapidly release most available coronavirus vaccine doses to protect more people, his office has said, in a reversal of Trump administration policies.
8th Jan 2021 - Belfast Telegraph

Biden plans to release available COVID-19 vaccines instead of holding back for second doses

Biden's transition team said Friday that it doesn't make sense to hold back vaccine at a time when more American's are dying than at any point in the pandemic. Instead, they want to get shots into more arms, then follow up with second doses later. “The president-elect believes we must accelerate distribution of the vaccine while continuing to ensure the Americans who need it most get it as soon as possible," spokesman T.J. Ducklo said in a statement sent to USA TODAY. Biden “supports releasing available doses immediately, and believes the government should stop holding back vaccine supply so we can get more shots in Americans’ arms now.”
8th Jan 2021 - USA Today


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Rush to administer coronavirus vaccine to all hospital staff

Hospitals have been told by NHS England to immediately step up efforts to vaccinate all their staff.Yesterday GPs started administering the Oxford Astrazeneca vaccine to protect care home residents
8th Jan 2021 - The Times

Pharmacies set for role in Wales coronavirus vaccination plan

Pharmacies in Wales are set to become involved in the process of vaccinating people against coronavirus, with discussions going on over how that will happen, says Wales' Chief Medical Officer. Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, like its counterparts across Wales, has been checking the suitability of community and other venues across Gwent that might be suitable for use as mass vaccination centres, and GP surgeries will also play a central role. The challenge in Wales, as it is across the UK, is to provide sufficient vaccination sites to enable as many people in the priority groups to be vaccinated as quickly as possible - and Wales' CMO Dr Frank Atherton said all health boards in Wales are developing plans to "rapidly increase the vaccine coverage".
8th Jan 2021 - South Wales Argus

More than 1000 Swindon residents volunteer for coronavirus vaccine studies

The rollout of the coronavirus vaccine is under way across the UK, giving hope for a way out of the crisis which changed our lives nearly a year ago. But developing a vaccine wouldn't have been possible without a pool of volunteers from across the four nations, with more than 1,000 people from Swindon putting their name forward to be a part of the effort. Researchers need people to take part in studies to find out which potential vaccine is most effective, and those involved are required to visit a hospital or research site every few months.
8th Jan 2021 - Swindon Advertiser

Coronavirus vaccine will be rolled out in Australia in February

Australians will start getting vaccinated against Covid-19 in mid-February and the jab may be compulsory for some people, Scott Morrison announced on Thursday. The prime minister said he expects regulators to approve the Pfizer vaccine, which has already been rolled out around the world, before the end of January. The American company ships the vaccine two weeks after approval and then another week will be spent testing the batch when it arrives in Australia. Hotel quarantine workers, healthcare workers and aged care staff and residents will be vaccinated first. Elderly people, indigenous Australians over 55, people with clinical conditions and high-risk workers will be next.
7th Jan 2021 - Daily Mail

Australia's vaccine rollout will now start next month. Here's what we'll need

Australia’s COVID vaccine rollout will now begin in mid- to late February. Vaccination will commence with workers dealing with international arrivals or quarantine facilities, frontline health workers and those living in aged care or with a disability. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government “optimistically” aims to vaccinate 80,000 Australians a week, and four million by the end of March. The first vaccine doses were initially planned for March, but the rollout has now been brought forward, pending the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine, anticipated by the end of January.
7th Jan 2021 - The Conversation Australia

Covid 19 coronavirus: Four new cases in managed isolation; 2 more infections linked to UK strain

There are four cases of Covid-19 in managed isolation in New Zealand - and officials have linked two more cases to the rapidly-spreading UK coronavirus strain. There are no new cases in the community, the Ministry of Health says. The total number of active Covid-19 cases in New Zealand is 62.
7th Jan 2021 - New Zealand Herald

Covid vaccine: National vaccination booking system will be launched in the UK

A new national system allowing the public to book a Covid-19 vaccination will be launched in the UK to make it easier to roll out the immunisation programme, Boris Johnson has announced. The Prime Minister said during a press conference on Thursday that nearly 1.5 million people have now been vaccinated against coronavirus in the UK, including 1.26 million in England. The process of getting a vaccination will be made easier, he said, by the launch of the new national appointment booking service – but did not reveal any further details about how it would work.
7th Jan 2021 - iNews

Pharmacies to roll out Covid vaccine in ‘Herculean effort’ to immunise Britain

High street pharmacies will form a major part of the “Herculean effort” to vaccinate the nation against coronavirus, the vaccines tsar has announced. Nadhim Zahawi, the minister for Covid Vaccine Deployment, told BBC’s Today programme that community pharmacy networks will be “very much involved” in plans to vaccinate 13.4m Brits by mid-February. Current government plans will see vaccines given to GPs to be rolled out to the public, then national vaccination centres, and then distributed across local pharmacies, Zahawi announced. “The NHS has a very clear plan and I’m confident that we can meet it,” he said, adding that it would require a “Herculean effort” to roll out the jab to the most vulnerable in just seven weeks’ time. It comes after ministers were yesterday accused of ignoring an army of trained vaccinators at pharmacies. Simon Dukes, the chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Negotiating Services Committee, told the Telegraph the NHS was “scrabbling around” for vaccinators while trained medics in the pharmaceutical industry were ready to help.
7th Jan 2021 - City A.M.

Coronavirus Northern Ireland: We may never return to normality despite success of vaccine, warns Professor Young

After almost a year living under the shadow of a pandemic, the approval of two Covid-19 vaccines finally brought some hope to a world weary of coronavirus. There isn't a part of our lives that hasn't been affected by Covid-19 - schools are closed for the third time, life-saving operations are being cancelled, the business community is on its knees, even the simple act of giving a loved one a hug is no longer acceptable. Throughout everything that Covid-19 has thrown at us, we've held on to the day when a vaccine would be rolled out and lives could finally return to normal.
7th Jan 2021 - Belfast Telegraph

England to require travellers to show negative COVID tests

Britain’s government will require people entering England to present a negative COVID-19 test result on arrival starting next week to protect against new strains of the coronavirus from other countries, the government said on Friday. Passengers arriving by boat, plane or train will have to take a test up to 72 hours before departing for England, the transport ministry said, mirroring measures taken by many other countries around the world. “We already have significant measures in place to prevent imported cases of COVID-19, but with new strains of the virus developing internationally we must take further precautions,” Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said in a statement. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered a new lockdown for England this week after a surge in cases linked to a new variant of the coronavirus believed to have originated in the country.
7th Jan 2021 - Reuters

UK extends England entry ban to travellers from 11 African countries for COVID variant

The United Kingdom said on Thursday it would extend a ban on travellers entering England to southern African countries in a measure to prevent the spread of a new COVID-19 variant identified in South Africa. “Entry into England will be banned to those who have travelled from or through any southern African country in the last 10 days, including Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Eswatini, Zambia, Malawi, Lesotho, Mozambique and Angola – as well as Seychelles and Mauritius,” the country’s Department for Transport said. In addition, it said, “Israel (and Jerusalem) would be removed from the list of travel corridors for England and people arriving from Jan. 9 from Botswana, Israel (and Jerusalem), Mauritius or Seychelles would need to self-isolate.”
7th Jan 2021 - Reuters


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David Oliver: 'I've seen five people die in 90 minutes - coronavirus isn't being exaggerated'

I've been an NHS doctor for 31 years and worked in some demanding jobs. But since last March I have looked after wards where all the patients have Covid-19 for months on end. I've never seen anything like it. Total UK Covid deaths hit 70,000 this week but many more infected people end up in hospital, get sick in care homes or have a rough few weeks at home. On call for emergency admissions, as I was this week, around half the patients I admit are sick due to Covid. Right now, a quarter of our beds are filled by Covid patients and our Intensive Care Units and High Dependency Units, have nearly doubled in size to cope with the surge in demand. The current peak is already as high as it was in April and the models suggest it will worsen through January
7th Jan 2021 - Mirror Online

Covid-19: New details revealed in government's vaccine distribution plan

New details have emerged in the government’s hunt for a Covid-19 vaccine distributor – including the requirement to be able to move doses through roadblocks during another lockdown. The exacting requirements for prospective distributors have emerged in a Ministry of Health procurement document obtained by Stuff. They include the ability to distribute dangerously large quantities of dry ice and transport items at ultra-cold temperatures, down to minus 70 Celsius. Interested companies are also asked about contingency plans for delivering a vaccine in another Covid-19 lockdown scenario, including whether they could handle disruptions to their networks such as roadblocks.
6th Jan 2021 - Stuff.co.nz

Covid-19 pre-departure tests and more lockdowns: Additional measures rolled out to battle new variant

Since the new Covid-19 variant began spreading rapidly around the world, new measures have been rolled out to slow it down. The B.1.1.7 strain, which was first identified in the UK on September 20, is more transmissible than other coronavirus variants. According to Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield, it is roughly one-and-a-half times more infectious than earlier versions of the virus. The new variant has since been found in more than 30 countries, including New Zealand.
6th Jan 2021 - Stuff.co.nz

Covid-19 scare: Hamilton District Court lockdown lifts, isolation worker tests negative

A worker at a managed isolation facility who sparked a lockdown at Hamilton District Court has tested negative for Covid-19. The lockdown was triggered shortly before 10am and was lifted around 11.20am, when members of the public were allowed out again. The court then closed for the rest of the day. People who were inside have been told they are only casual contacts so don't have to do any mandatory quarantine at home. A source has told the Herald that the lockdown was triggered because a woman who worked at a managed isolation facility had turned up at court and told a staff member she had a runny nose and was awaiting the result of a Covid-19 test.
6th Jan 2021 - New Zealand Herald

Life after lockdown: New Zealand creatives on navigating a post-Covid world

In a year that mostly felt devoid of hope, a light at the end of the tunnel emerged from a surprising source: the bottom of the world. Long-since illuminated for its history-making politics, 2020 saw New Zealand burn even brighter on the global stage for all but eliminating coronavirus (twice) with remarkable efficiency — announcing 95 percent probability of zero local transmissions — as other first-world nations confronted yet another surge. Perhaps it was the country’s dispersed population, borderless isolation or high governmental trust index, but once again a small island nation just North of Antarctica (and often confused with Australia) had set an undeniable precedent.
6th Jan 2021 - VICE

Operation Warp Speed’s Moncef Slaoui will stay on as a consultant for Biden

Moncef Slaoui, the controversial head of Operation Warp Speed, will serve as a consultant in the Biden administration, he confirmed Wednesday. He suggested it would be a less active role than his current position, as the initiative’s chief adviser. “I will continue to support as needed, I think we are getting close to the point where my value add is more limited and therefore I’ll expect my activity to decrease gradually after January 21,” Slaoui told STAT Wednesday during a briefing with reporters.
6th Jan 2021 - STAT News


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World risks ‘moral catastrophe’ if Covid vaccine delayed in Africa, its CDC chief says

The world risks a “moral catastrophe” if Covid-19 vaccinations are delayed in Africa while wealthier regions inoculate their entire populations, the head of the continent's disease control body said on Thursday. The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) hopes significant vaccination campaigns on the continent will begin in April, its head, John Nkengasong, told reporters. “That's a long way to go given that this virus transmits very quickly,” he said, adding that in Africa, “the second wave is here with a vengeance”. Cases of the new coronavirus increased by nearly 19% since last week and deaths increased by 26%, according to Africa CDC data. Africa has recorded 2.7 million coronavirus infections and 64,000 deaths as of Thursday, it says.
5th Jan 2021 - The Independent

Indonesia to start mass COVID vaccination drive on January 13

Indonesia will begin its nationwide COVID-19 vaccination programme on January 13, with President Joko Widodo set to be given the first jab, made by China’s Sinovac Biotech. The mass inoculation programme will begin in the capital, Jakarta, Indonesia’s Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin announced on Tuesday, while vaccinations in other regions will follow on January 14 and 15.
6th Jan 2021 - Al Jazeera English

China's latest potential culprit in its search for foreign coronavirus sources? Auto parts packaging

More than a year since the coronavirus pandemic began, while a surprising -- and frustrating -- number of points remain unclear, one thing is certain: the first major outbreak was in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. While scientists are still examining the exact origins of the virus, whether or not it came from bats or another animal, how it mutated to become so infectious and so deadly, and how long it was around before the initial outbreak, that Wuhan was the initial epicenter is undeniable. Equally undeniable, is how effectively the city has rebounded, just last week hosting a New Year's party as much of the world remains in effective lockdown -- a success that has become a major point of pride in China.
5th Jan 2021 - CNN

New UK coronavirus strain found in Perth hotel quarantine system as three arrivals test positive

Three people in Western Australia's hotel quarantine system tested positive for the new COVID-19 variant from the UK, Premier Mark McGowan has revealed. The cases all arrived from London between the 16th and 20th of December 2020, and have recovered and since left hotel quarantine. It comes after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new national lockdown for England to combat the fast-spreading mutant strain of coronavirus. "We've done testing of the most recent cases. Unfortunately, what we've found in our hotel quarantine system is three people have the new UK variant … a more rapidly spreading variant of the virus," he said.
5th Jan 2021 - ABC News

WHO's Tedros 'very disappointed' China hasn't granted entry to coronavirus experts

The head of the World Health Organization said on Tuesday he was "very disappointed" that China has still not authorised the entry of a team of international experts to examine the origins of the coronavirus.
5th Jan 2021 - Reuters

Watching New Zealand's Covid success from bungling Britain has been torture

Like most Britons this past year, I’ve spent more time than I care to admit doomscrolling social media. But in between the muted festive lockdown celebrations, I also saw photos of crowded house parties, family barbecues and road trips to baches and beaches. My social feeds have split into alternate realities. Because although I’m a British citizen living in Oxford, I’m also a resident of New Zealand, where things really couldn’t be more different. As a resident of two countries, with friends and family in each, I’m used to witnessing events and political developments in both places at once. Usually this experience is a rewarding one where new ideas and cultural differences cross-pollinate in my brain and expand the way I see the world. But in 2020 it’s been an exercise in frustration. The torture of watching how one country has handed the Covid pandemic so well, while living in another that has bungled it so badly, has been one of the defining characteristics of my past year.
5th Jan 2021 - The Guardian

Major concern at failure to tell over-65s in mental health facilities when they will get Covid-19 vaccine

Major concern has emerged that residents aged over 65 in mental health facilities have not yet been told when they will get the Covid-19 vaccine. The HSE has promised that all residents and staff in long-term care over-65 will be among the first to receive the jab. However, today the watchdog Mental Health Commission (MHC) said it has been contact with individuals in mental health centres over the Christmas and New Year period as part of its ongoing remit to monitor, risk-rate and support units in the management and mitigation of the virus. Many have confirmed that they are still to receive a timeline from the Health Service Executive (HSE) for the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine in their facility.
5th Jan 2021 - Independent.ie

China steps up COVID measures near Beijing as local infections rise

-Chinese authorities shut sections of highways running through Hebei province that surrounds Beijing on Wednesday and closed a key long distance bus terminal in the provincial capital Shijiazhuang in efforts to stave off another coronavirus wave. The province, which entered a “wartime mode” on Tuesday, accounted for 20 of the 23 new locally transmitted COVID-19 cases reported in mainland China on Jan. 5, more than the total of 19 cases in the province in the three previous days. The total number of new mainland cases, including those originating from overseas, fell to 32 from 33 a day earlier. Hebei also accounted for 43 of the 64 new asymptomatic cases - patients who have been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus but not yet showing symptoms of COVID-19.
5th Jan 2021 - Reuters

Large US airlines back global COVID-testing requirements: Report

A group representing airlines in the United States has backed a proposal by public health officials to implement a global testing programme requiring negative tests before most international air passengers return to the US, according to a letter seen by the Reuters news agency. Airlines for America, which represents American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and other large carriers, also urged the Trump administration in a letter to Vice President Mike Pence on Monday “to move ahead with recommendations to rescind current entry restrictions on travellers from Europe, the United Kingdom and Brazil as soon as possible … concurrently with the testing programme.”
5th Jan 2021 - Aljazeera.com


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Outpacing Trump’s Operation Warp Speed, China to give coronavirus vaccine to 50 million in a month

China has begun a nationwide drive to vaccinate some 50 million front-line workers against the coronavirus before the Lunar New Year travel rush next month, in hopes of avoiding a repeat of last year’s grim holiday season. Workers in a range of industries will receive their first of two vaccine shots by the middle of this month, with the next shot coming two to four weeks afterward, according to the national plan. The nine prioritized groups include health sector workers, delivery workers, people whose jobs require overseas travel, public servants and utilities employees. China’s target of vaccinating 50 million people in a month is an ambitious goal, more than the populations of California and Michigan combined. In the United States, where the Trump administration has touted its Operation Warp Speed to fast-track delivery of vaccines, 4.2 million people have received a first dose since distribution began on Dec. 14
4th Jan 2021 - Washington Post

Covid-19: New UK virus variant reaches NZ as Government introduces tougher testing rules for travellers

The mutant coronavirus strain that sent large parts of England into a “tier 4" lockdown earlier this month has reached New Zealand. There were 19 new cases of Covid-19 within New Zealand since the New Year. Of the new cases announced on Sunday, one was historical and the rest were in managed isolation. However, six cases of the mutant UK strain have also been found in New Zealand, the Ministry of Health confirmed. The six cases, five of whom travelled from the United Kingdom and one who travelled from South Africa, arrived into New Zealand between December 13 and 25.
4th Jan 2021 - Stuff.co.nz

New Zealand tightens border again amid fears over new Covid strain

Travellers from UK and US now required to test negative before departure and take an extra test on arrival as ‘extra precautionary steps’
4th Jan 2021 - The Guardian

Covid-19: What you need to know about UK coronavirus strain now in New Zealand

The arrival of a highly-transmissible Covid-19 strain on New Zealand shores from the United Kingdom has experts warning the country's quarantine process will be put to the test. On Sunday, health authorities announced six cases of Covid-19 have been found to match a newly identified variant of the disease, known as B.1.1.7, which spread rapidly and caused infection rates to soar in the UK. Six people carrying the new variant – thought to be 50 to 70 per cent more infectious than the regular coronavirus – arrived in New Zealand between December 13 and 25.
4th Jan 2021 - Stuff.co.nz

Five key milestones in the Covid-19 pandemic that we’re anticipating in 2021

If 2020 was defined by the explosion of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, 2021 could be about its dwindling. But how many people will fall ill, and die, as that happens is dependent on our leaders, individuals, vaccine makers, and public campaigns to encourage people to get the Covid-19 shots developed with unprecedented speed. STAT News publishes its forecast regarding what to anticipate for the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021
4th Jan 2021 - STAT News

How it started: A Q&A with Helen Branswell, one year after Covid-19 became a full-time job

Before the virus that causes Covid-19 had a name — before Covid-19 itself had a name — it was a medical mystery. It wasn’t even clear it was a virus. All the world knew, or the tiny sliver of the world that was paying attention, was that a handful of cases of unexplained pneumonia had been reported in central China. That is what STAT reported on this date, one year ago. The author of the story, infectious disease reporter Helen Branswell, has written 147 others in the hazy, horrible months that have followed. We took a break recently to mark today’s anniversary and look back at where we’ve been. Rest assured, reader, her wish at the end of this Q&A shall be granted.
4th Jan 2021 - STAT News

Why Indonesia is vaccinating its working population first, not elderly

As Indonesia prepares to begin mass inoculations against COVID-19, its plan to prioritise working age adults over the elderly, aiming to reach herd immunity fast and revive the economy, will be closely watched by other countries. Several countries such as the United States and Britain that have already begun vaccinations are giving priority to elderly people who are more vulnerable to the respiratory disease. The following are experts’ views on merits and risks of the Indonesian approach, under which working age adults will be vaccinated after frontline health workers and public servants.
4th Jan 2021 - Reuters


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Parents face week of uncertainty over school reopenings in England

Parents face more disruption and uncertainty as local authorities across the country scramble to delay schools reopening in the face of rising coronavirus infection rates and the UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, admitted that more could be shut in the coming weeks. On the day before millions of children were set to return to their classrooms, Essex council said it would unilaterally close schools to most pupils until at least Wednesday and Kent county council joined England’s largest education authority in Birmingham in asking the education secretary to allow primaries to stay closed. They said the argument for reopening amid high infection rates “does not stack up”.
3rd Jan 2021 - The Guardian

UK public transport downturn to continue after pandemic ends

Over half of public transport users in the UK say they will continue to avoid buses and trains after the pandemic is over in favour of cycling or walking, a study of consumer spending reveals. The Co-op’s annual ethical consumerism report, which has monitored ethical spending habits for over 20 years, this year singles out public transport as “the biggest loser” of changed spending priorities due to Covid-19, with users reluctant to jump back onto buses and trains because of the threat to their personal space. In other sectors, the study found that the “stay at or near home” culture which has led to a boom in online shopping and home deliveries is likely to stay, with 58% of shoppers determined to continue to support their local high street.
2nd Jan 2021 - The Guardian

Voice of the Mirror: Government must ensure the rollout of new Covid jab is efficient and fast

Our despair at the rising tide of Covid cases is at long last tinged with hope. The green light for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in such a short time is a tribute to the brilliance and ingenuity of our scientists. It is now imperative that the Government ensures the rollout is efficient and fast. Vaccination can save lives, reunite families and start to get life back to normal. So the approval of a second vaccine could not have come at a more needed time.
1st Jan 2021 - Mirror Online

A new year brings same problems with delayed vaccine distribution

The Trump administration enters 2021 well short of its goal to vaccinate 20 million people by January 1, leaving state health officials across the country scrambling to ramp up a massive vaccine distribution effort that is crucial to defeating the pandemic and yet faces critical delays. So far, just over 12.4 million doses have been distributed to states, yet only 2.8 million doses have actually been administered, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some states have expressed disappointment with the rollout, acknowledging their own issues but also seeking more federal resources amid concerns about the burden they now have to get vaccines into patients' arms. In several cases, local snafus on the ground have created their own delays, not to mention dangerous and costly mistakes. In West Virginia, for instance, 42 people were mistakenly given a Covid-19 antibody treatment instead of the coronavirus vaccine, according to the West Virginia National Guard. In Wisconsin, police have arrested a recently fired pharmacist who they say removed 57 vials of the Moderna vaccine from a local hospital's refrigerator and left them to sit out, leading to 500 doses being discarded.
1st Jan 2021 - CNN

Coronavirus in Ireland: Sluggish vaccine programme will hurt high street, sector warns

A retail group has expressed concern that a slow rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine in Ireland will lead to long-term closures for non-essential retail.Retail Excellence Ireland (REI), an industry group
31st Dec 2020 - The Times

'Vaccine diplomacy' sees Egypt roll out Chinese coronavirus jab

When Egypt’s health ministry sent out an invitation to doctors to be vaccinated against Covid-19, they neglected to make clear it was a clinical trial. Instead, it assured them that two Covid-19 vaccines developed by China’s National Biotec Group, part of a state-owned conglomerate known as Sinopharm, had no side-effects and that “the minister of health was vaccinated today, and orders were issued to vaccinate all doctors and workers who wish to be vaccinated”. Many were sceptical. “When my colleagues and I got that message, none of us participated, as we cannot trust it,” said one worker at a state hospital, who said there was a “lack of credibility” in the government’s approach to the pandemic and the vaccines. The doctor, who cannot be named to protect their safety, described Egypt’s extensive publicity campaign around the vaccines, featuring a well-known actor driving to a sunlit clinic to get his jab, as “government propaganda intended to boost people’s morale”.
31st Dec 2020 - The Guardian

Will I need a coronavirus vaccine to fly or travel in 2021? – Which? News

Qantas has said COVID-19 inoculation will be mandatory when it restarts international flights, with some other airlines and destinations likely to follow suit
31st Dec 2020 - Which?

Oxford AstraZeneca Coronavirus vaccine: What does approval mean for Scotland?

This development has been welcomed by many in Scotland, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon calling it “much needed good news” and adding that “spring will bring better times”. The approval of the Oxford AstraZeneca candidate is fundamental to Scotland’s vaccine rollout, as it will be the one received by the majority of Scots.
30th Dec 2020 - The Scotsman


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Care homes still waiting weeks for Covid vaccines - despite 'tsunami' of cases

Care homes are still waiting for coronavirus jabs, weeks after the Tories ­promised them. One boss warned they face a Covid “tsunami” as they battle the new virus variant. Raj Sehgal said: “We’ve had no vaccines at all.” And staff fear the growing crisis could leave them on their knees as they battle a worrying shortage of workers struck down by the virus. It comes as officials last night said approval of the Oxford vaccine was “imminent”, which would be a game-changer for care homes. Mr Sehgal, who runs homes in Norfolk, including Summerville House in Heacham, said he was still desperately waiting for jabs, despite those in care being identified as the most urgently in need of them.
30th Dec 2020 - Mirror Online

Wuhan's low-income workers struggle to find jobs eight months after Covid-19 lockdown lifted

Hundreds of low-income workers gather at a roadside in the central Chinese city of Wuhan at 4am each morning, waiting for employers to come and offer them odd jobs. Most are looking for construction work. But eight months after the city lifted lockdown measures put in place to stop the spread of Covid-19, many workers at the morning job market say there are still very few jobs, and they are struggling to make a living.
29th Dec 2020 - South China Morning Post

Greece hoping for tourism recovery from summer 2021 after pandemic slump

Greece’s tourism sector is expected to recover next summer following a dramatic fall in revenues due to the coronavirus pandemic this year, a senior industry official said on Tuesday. Tourism is the main driver of Greece’s economy, accounting for about 20% of its output and employing one in five workers. Yannis Retsos, head of the country’s tourism confederation, said tourism revenues this year had reached 4 billion euros, down from 18 billion in 2019, due to global travel restrictions to contain the spread of the coronavirus. “We need to wait for the second half of the year to see some sort of action in tourism,” Retsos told a Greek radio station.
29th Dec 2020 - Reuters UK

Britain to place more parts of country in tier 4 of COVID curbs

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has approved placing more parts of the country into tier 4 restrictions, as the country battles a new variant of COVID-19 which scientists say can spread more rapidly, The Times reported. Ministers were considering imposing the toughest measures on parts of southwest England and Cumbria, where the variant appears to be gaining ground even though cases remain relatively low, said the report.
29th Dec 2020 - Reuters UK

China meat association calls for exporters to disinfect shipments to prevent COVID-19

Chinese meat importers and processors have called on exporters in countries with COVID-19 outbreaks to step up checks on shipments before they are sent to the world’s biggest market, China’s top industry group said. “China has been importing a large quantity of meats this year, and has detected virus on the packaging of cold chain products many times, even as lots of disinfection has been done domestically,” Gao Guan, spokesman for the China Meat Association, said on Tuesday. It would be better to handle virus control at the point of origins and carry out disinfection at production plants as the cost would be lower and efficiency higher, Gao said. China has ramped up disinfection and virus testing on frozen food after it found coronavirus on imported products and packaging.
29th Dec 2020 - Reuters


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People with coronavirus are still getting on planes. No one knows how many.

In the days after a man on their flight stopped breathing, fellow passengers wondered if he was infected with coronavirus — and whether they might be at risk. The airline said it didn’t know, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wouldn’t say publicly. An answer didn’t come until a local coroner released a report a week later confirming that covid-19 was a cause of the 69-year-old man’s death on Dec. 14, along with acute respiratory failure. By Wednesday, three different passengers said they still hadn’t gotten official word from any public health authorities. The tale of United Flight 591 illustrates the challenges of keeping the novel coronavirus off planes — and informing travelers about possible exposure in a timely manner so they can take their own precautions.
28th Dec 2020 - The Washington Post

UK faces Covid third wave unless vaccination target is doubled, ministers warned

Britain must vaccinate two million people a week to avoid a third wave of the coronavirus outbreak, a new study claims. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) paper has issued ministers with the stark warning coming as hospital admissions surpassed the peak of the first wave of the pandemic. Around 200,000 people are being inoculated each week, which is expected to raise to one million by the middle of January, according to the Daily Telegraph. "The most stringent intervention scenario with tier 4 England-wide and schools closed during January and 2 million individuals vaccinated per week, is the only scenario we considered which reduces peak ICU burden below the levels seen during the first wave," the study said.
29th Dec 2020 - Mirror Online

Hospital Covid admissions are set to surge PAST first wave peak amid fears NHS is being 'overwhelmed' by highly infectious new strain - with ministers to decide in days if ...

The number of patients in hospital with the virus is likely to exceed the peak in the spring, with 21,286 coronavirus patients being treated on December 22. In comparison, the figure on April 12 was 21,
29th Dec 2020 - Daily Mail

Scarred by 2020, Gen Z looks to a COVID-free future

Lives that had been focussed on school, university, sports or even going to K-pop concerts vanished overnight for members of Gen Z as the global pandemic struck. While a lot was heard about older people at risk from COVID-19, this younger generation - born between the late 1990s and the early 2010s - also saw their worlds turned upside down in 2020. Reuters profiled 10 young people around the world to learn how their lives had been affected by the coronavirus. Shut up in bedrooms - many forced to live with their parents - some went from being students, athletes and workers to caring for sick relatives and doing whatever they could to earn money to support families. One teen even became a mother
27th Dec 2020 - Reuters UK

Russia admits COVID death toll is three times higher than reported

Russia has admitted its coronavirus death toll is more than three times higher than previously reported. New figures show that more than 186,000 Russians have died from the virus, up from the 55,265 the country officially reported. This means that Russia has the third-highest number of fatalities, moving ahead of India and sitting behind only the US and Brazil. Russia has reported more than three million infections since the beginning of the pandemic but its comparatively low fatality rate had raised eyebrows.
29th Dec 2020 - Sky News


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US California hospitals discuss rationing care as virus surges

With about 98 percent of intensive care beds full, California hospitals are making contingency treatment plans. On the West Coast of the United States, California’s overwhelmed hospitals are setting up makeshift extra beds for coronavirus patients, and a handful of facilities in hard-hit Los Angeles County are drawing up emergency plans in case they have to limit how many people receive life-saving care. The number of people hospitalised across California with confirmed COVID-19 infections is more than double the state’s previous peak, reached in July, and a state model forecasts the total could hit 75,000 patients by mid-January.
22nd Dec 2020 - Al Jazeera English

U.S. loses one life every 33 seconds to COVID-19 in deadliest week so far

In the United States last week, someone died from COVID-19 every 33 seconds. The disease claimed more than 18,000 lives in the seven days ended Dec. 20, up 6.7% from the prior week to hit another record high, according to a Reuters analysis of state and county reports. Despite pleas by health officials not to travel during the end-year holiday season, 3.2 million people were screened at U.S. airports on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Health officials are worried that a surge in infections from holiday gatherings could overwhelm hospitals, some of which are already at capacity after Thanksgiving celebrations.
22nd Dec 2020 - Reuters

New Covid-19 variant hasn't yet been identified in New Zealand, but expert says likely to get here

A new, more infectious, variant of the Covid-19 virus identified in the UK is highly likely to make it to New Zealand’s borders, says an expert. The new variant is being blamed for faster-than-expected spread of Covid-19 in London, the southeast and east of England, which have been placed into tighter restrictions over the Christmas holidays. Several other countries have halted flights from the UK in a bid to stop it spreading further. But the Ministry of Health said on Monday the specific new strain identified in the UK had not yet been seen in this country.
21st Dec 2020 - Stuff.co.nz

Top epidemiologist warns what Sydney's Covid-19 outbreak means for New Zealand

As Australian health officials scramble to contain the Covid-19 outbreak in Sydney, a top epidemiologist here is warning "that could be us". Professor Michael Baker says New Zealand is arguably entering "our most dangerous stage" since the August Auckland outbreak as the pandemic surges in the Northern Hemisphere. Baker, from the University of Otago's school of public health, is now calling for returnees from countries where the virus is "out of control" to take an additional step and isolate under supervision at a hotel and be tested before even stepping on the plane.
21st Dec 2020 - New Zealand Herald

New virus strain not out of control, says WHO as more nations ban UK travel

Roughly 30 countries have shut their borders to people coming from the UK or South Africa, where another variant has emerged. British PM Boris Johnson hopes to see border issues with France sorted out ‘within hours’ amid food shortage fears.
21st Dec 2020 - South China Morning Post

Austria will offer coronavirus tests to its entire population with those testing negative receiving 'more freedoms' as country prepares for third lockdown

Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced Austria will enter a third lockdown It will run between December 26 to January 24, but will see mass testing done Those who take part in the series of testing will be allowed more freedoms Such freedoms include visiting cultural events and restaurants, Kurz said It was also announced the country will be reopening ski lifts despite lockdown
19th Dec 2020 - Daily Mail


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Postcards from Wuhan: One year on, residents share lockdown memories, hopes for 2021

In China’s Wuhan, the original epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak, the city’s residents are returning to normal life, even as they continue to grapple with memories of the early outbreak, which struck fear in the city. It’s been almost seven months since the city recorded a locally transmitted case of the disease due to a strict city-wide lockdown and a mass testing event of almost all the city’s 11 million residents. Today, restaurants, shopping streets and bars are crowded, but locals are still experiencing the lasting impact of the lockdown on mental health and work.
20th Dec 2020 - Reuters UK

European states ban travel from UK as new Covid strain takes hold

European countries have banned flights and ferries carrying passengers from the UK in a desperate attempt to suppress the spread of a new variant of the coronavirus that has plunged south-east England into a tier 4 lockdown. In the most dramatic development, France announced it was suspending passenger and human-handled freight transport from the UK for 48 hours from 11pm GMT. The Road Haulage Association warned the move would have a “devastating effect” on supply chains already disrupted by Brexit stockpiling and pandemic restrictions. The UK government said it expected “significant disruption in Kent” as a result of the French move and was “urging everybody – including all hauliers” to avoid travelling to ports in the county until further notice.
20th Dec 2020 - The Guardian

Congress agrees to a Covid stimulus deal. Here’s who’s likely eligible for a $600 check and when you’ll get it

After months of failed negotiations, lawmakers have finally agreed to a new $900 billion coronavirus relief package. Congressional leaders have not yet released text of the more than $2 trillion legislation — which will include broader government spending measures — but the pandemic recovery bill was set to include direct payments of up to $600 to eligible adults, plus $600 per child dependent. While the adult benefit would be half the size of the first stimulus check, the amount earmarked for qualifying dependents was raised by $100.
20th Dec 2020 - CNBC

Stanford apologizes for coronavirus vaccine plan that left out many front-line doctors

Stanford Health Care apologized Friday for a plan that left nearly all of its young front-line doctors out of the first round of coronavirus vaccinations. The Palo Alto, Calif., medical center promised an immediate fix that would move the physicians into the first wave of inoculations. Stanford’s turnaround followed a raucous demonstration by some of those doctors, who demanded to know why other health-care workers — including pathologists and radiologists who do not attend to covid-19 patients — would be vaccinated before they are.
19th Dec 2020 - The Washington Post

Scott Morrison's economic humblebrag disproved by New Zealand comeback

Here’s some news I reckon some of you will have missed in a stressful week. New Zealand’s economy grew by 14% between July and September. Yep, 14%. Feel free to select your superlative of choice: stellar, extraordinary, remarkable. No rush, I’ll wait. While you are doing that, let me give you some context. The report card from across the ditch isn’t all brilliant. When assessed year-on-year, New Zealand’s economy shrank by 2.2%. Why? Because the pandemic isn’t over. The world remains mired in the biggest global economic crisis since the Great Depression.
18th Dec 2020 - The Guardian

President-Elect Biden Will Get Coronavirus Vaccine Monday

President-elect Joe Biden and first lady-elect Dr. Jill Biden will receive the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine on Monday, incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at a press briefing Friday, noting he is taking the vaccine publicly to show the American people it is safe.
18th Dec 2020 - Forbes


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States report confusion as feds reduce vaccine shipments, even as Pfizer says it has ‘millions’ of unclaimed doses

The changes prompted concern in health departments across the country about whether Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s vaccine accelerator, was capable of distributing doses quickly enough to meet the target of delivering first shots to 20 million people by year’s end. A senior administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal plans, said the revised estimates for next week were the result of states requesting an expedited timeline for locking in future shipments — from Friday to Tuesday — leaving less time for federal authorities to inspect and clear available supply.
18th Dec 2020 - The Washington Post

Covid: Sir Ian McKellen praises NHS after first dose of Pfizer vaccine

Sir Ian McKellen has praised the NHS saying he wants to "give them all a big hug" after having his first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine. The 81-year old also urged others to get the Covid-19 jab if they could. "I would encourage everybody to do the sensible thing, not just for themselves but for everybody else because if you're virus-free that helps everybody else, doesn't it?"
17th Dec 2020 - ITV News

New Zealand's 'go hard and early' Covid policy reaps economic rewards

New Zealand’s economy has accelerated out of a coronavirus induced recession to grow by a record 14 per cent in the third quarter, reflecting authorities’ adept handling of the pandemic. Figures published on Thursday showed a resurgence in household spending drove the country’s recovery. The easing of some of the world’s toughest social distancing restrictions prompted 11.1 per cent growth in service industries and 26 per cent growth in the goods producing sector. New Zealand’s statistics agency also revised the decline in gross domestic product in the June quarter to 11 per cent, from previous estimates of a 12.2 per cent contraction. However, the damage wrought by a nationwide lockdown remained evident in the annual growth figure, which shows economic activity fell 2.2 per cent in the year to the end of September.
17th Dec 2020 - Financial Times

Ardern unveils New Zealand Covid vaccine deals as economy rebounds

New Zealand has ordered 15m courses of Covid-19 vaccine from four providers as the country approaches the end of 2020 on a promising note, with a recovering economy and plans to open numerous travel corridors in the new year. On Thursday, the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, confirmed the treatment would be free for everyone, with health workers and border officials prioritised. The vaccine will be made available in the second quarter of next year. Ardern said readiness for New Zealand’s “largest-ever immunisation programme” was progressing well, and the country had now pre-ordered vaccines from four providers: 750,000 courses from Pfizer, 5m from Janssen, 3.8m from Oxford/AstraZeneca and 5.36m from Novavax. One course refers to all the doses needed for one person.
17th Dec 2020 - The Guardian

New Zealand economy bounces back with record growth as pandemic contained

New Zealand's economy grew a record 14% in the third quarter, bouncing back from a COVID-19 lockdown earlier in the year that shut businesses and brought activity to a standstill, official data showed on Thursday. Annual gross domestic product (GDP) rose 0.4%, Statistics New Zealand said, with both figures beating expectations in a Reuters poll for quarterly growth of 13.5% and an annual contraction of 1.3%. The GDP numbers also topped the Reserve Bank of New Zealand's November forecast of quarterly and annual growth of 13.4% and minus 1.3% respectively.
17th Dec 2020 - Reuters

NHS hospitals running out of beds as Covid cases continue to surge

Growing numbers of hospitals in England are running short of beds and having to divert patients elsewhere and cancel operations as the NHS struggles to cope with the resurgence of coronavirus, a Guardian analysis shows. According to the NHS figures, hospitals had to tell ambulance crews to divert patients elsewhere 44 times last week – the highest number for four years. With hospitals in London, Leicester and Northampton particularly hard hit, Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, warned: “It already feels like we’re in the grips of a really bad winter, and there’s a very long way to go.”
17th Dec 2020 - The Guardian

One night in Wuhan: COVID-19's original epicenter re-learns how to party

“After experiencing the first wave of epidemic in Wuhan and then the liberation, I feel like I’m living a second life,” says Zhang, 29, who works in a textiles shop in the central Chinese city that was the original epicenter of COVID-19. Outside, maskless partygoers spill onto the streets, smoking and playing street games with toy machine guns and balloons. Nightlife in Wuhan is back in full swing almost seven months after the city lifted its stringent lockdown and the city’s young partygoers are embracing the catharsis.
16th Dec 2020 - Reuters


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China embarks on campaign of Covid vaccine diplomacy

From the moment the first cases came to light in the Wuhan wet market last December, the coronavirus pandemic represented a profound loss of face for China. A superpower-in-waiting, proudly but defensively emerging on to the world stage, has inadvertently unleashed the worst global catastrophe since the Second World War. You didn’t need to talk about the “China virus” or believe in conspiracies about leaks from bio labs to recognise the humiliation for the communist government of Xi Jinping. But now Beijing is attempting to win back international prestige by providing the solution to the problem that it incubated in the first place. After effectively quelling the pandemic among its own people, China, and to a lesser extent Russia, are positioning themselves as benefactors to countries which are struggling to secure supplies of vaccine.
16th Dec 2020 - The Times

A pandemic atlas: China's state power crushes COVID-19

In many ways, normal life has resumed in China the country where COVID-19 first appeared one year ago. “It feels like life has recovered,” said moviegoer Meng Xiangyu, when Beijing theaters re-opened with 30 percent of their seating after a six-month hiatus. “Everything feels fresh.” China's ruling Communist Party has withdrawn some of the most sweeping anti-disease controls ever imposed, but remains on guard against fresh outbreaks and cases from abroad. Health authorities report a dozen or so imported cases every day.
16th Dec 2020 - The Independent

New Zealand Says Harsh Lockdown Paying Off as Economy Rebounds

New Zealand’s government said the fiscal and economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic will be less severe than first feared as its decision to impose one of the world’s strictest lockdowns pays off. Economic growth will recover more rapidly while budget deficits and net debt will be much lower than expected just three months ago, Finance Minister Grant Robertson said Wednesday in Wellington when presenting the half-year fiscal and economic update. Unemployment will now peak at 6.9% at the end of next year rather than the 7.8% predicted in September
16th Dec 2020 - Bloomberg

Jacinda Arden on how New Zealand eliminated Covid-19: 'You just have to get on with it'

New Zealand this year pulled off a moonshot that remains the envy of most other nations - it eliminated the coronavirus. But the goal was driven as much by fear as it was ambition, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealed in an interview with The Associated Press. Ms Ardern said the target grew from an early realisation the nation's health system simply could not cope with a big outbreak.
16th Dec 2020 - Irish Independent

Alaska health worker has serious allergic reaction to Pfizer’s COVID vaccine

A health worker in Alaska suffered a serious allergic reaction after getting Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine and is now hospitalized but stable, a report said Wednesday. The New York Times reported that the person received their shot on Tuesday, and Pfizer confirmed that the company was working with local authorities to investigate the incident.
16th Dec 2020 - The Times of Israel

Covid-19: Europeans urged to wear masks for family Christmas

The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged Europeans to wear masks during family gatherings at Christmas. It said Europe was at "high risk" of a new wave of coronavirus infections in the early part of 2021, as transmission of the virus remained high. Countries across the continent have been registering thousands of daily cases and hundreds of deaths. Germany was among countries tightening restrictions on Wednesday, closing schools and non-essential businesses. Meanwhile European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the first Covid vaccine would be authorised for use within a week.
16th Dec 2020 - BBC


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New Covid-19 case in Western Australia as a teenager catches virus from his younger brother after entering hotel quarantine to take care of his sibling

An Australian teenager has tested positive for COVID-19 after entering hotel quarantine to take care of his younger brother. The 18-year-old boy went into quarantine at a Perth hotel to look after his younger brother, who had returned to Western Australia from overseas. The younger brother, who is under 18, tested positive for COVID-19 before the older brother also tested positive to the disease on Monday. 'The brothers remain in hotel quarantine,' a WA Health spokeswoman said on Tuesday.
15th Dec 2020 - Daily Mail

Parisians enjoy taste of lockdown freedom ahead of Christmas, while hospitality workers protest bar and restaurant ban set to last until January 20

Parisians last night enjoyed a taste of lockdown freedom ahead of Christmas, while hospitality workers took to the streets in protest at a festive season ban. In a Christmas Village at Hotel de Ville in the heart of the French capital last night, masked revellers were seen enjoying fairground rides and market stalls. But while some enjoyed the festivities, just a short distance away, near the Arc de Triomphe, face mask-wearing police officers protested their working conditions. Hospitality workers also protested a possible ban on reopening bars and restaurants until January 20. It comes as France plans to ease measures from its second national lockdown today.
15th Dec 2020 - Daily Mail

Child marriage revived across Asia and Africa as pandemic deepens poverty

Many countries had made progress against traditional and transactional marriages of girls in recent decades, but the economic havoc amid COVID-19 has caused significant backsliding. The United Nations estimates that hardships resulting from COVID-19 will drive 13 million more girls to marry before the age of 18. Though most such marriages take place in secret, Save the Children estimates that this year alone nearly half a million more girls under 18 are at risk of being married off worldwide — most in Africa and Asia, but also in the Middle East. One aid organization said staffers in a remote corner of Sierra Leone overheard a relative offering up a girl as young as 8 for marriage earlier this year. When chastised, the grandmother later denied doing so.
15th Dec 2020 - The Japan Times

Covid-19: New Zealand and Australia agree on quarantine-free travel bubble

New Zealand has agreed to a quarantine-free travel bubble with Australia "in principle". The country's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said trips under the agreement could begin early next year. However, the much-anticipated deal will depend on the Covid-19 situation in both counties remaining as it is now.
15th Dec 2020 - BBC

Auckland Council staff struggling with post-lockdown stress at work - report

A new report shows Auckland Council staff have been struggling with the pressures of the post-lockdown work environment, with concerns about their stress levels and wellbeing. The report's findings were taken from two staff surveys, conducted in May and September. "The aim of each was to highlight issues and trends in wellbeing, especially given the change for many staff to more remote working," it said. The report showed the stress staff are feeling in relation to Covid-19 has increased, while their feelings of health and wellbeing have decreased
15th Dec 2020 - New Zealand Herald

Prepare for a short lockdown while on holiday, pack a 'Covid kit', Government warns

Holidaymakers in New Zealand are being asked to pack a “Covid kit” and stay put at their campgrounds if Covid-19 emerges during the summer break. The Government has assembled a Covid-19 resurgence plan aimed at giving the country an unrestricted holiday, as Britons arrange “Christmas bubbles”, the Netherlands and Germany enter lockdowns, and the pandemic death toll in the United States eclipses 300,000 people. The resurgence plan largely resembles the existing response, with loosely mapped out summer scenarios providing some guide to travellers about how to respond to Covid-19 cases. Holidaymakers may be asked to return home if an alert level change occurs, and events may be cancelled.
15th Dec 2020 - Stuff.co.nz

Europe wanted to keep schools open this winter. Coronavirus surges have disrupted those plans.

Surging coronavirus outbreaks in a number of nations are forcing governments to close schools, despite initial promises to keep them open this winter. The latest country to change course is Germany, where most schools will move to distance learning Wednesday as part of tougher new lockdown rules. Widening outbreaks have also triggered the closure of schools in the Netherlands and in Asia, where the South Korean capital, Seoul, opted for similar measures this week.
15th Dec 2020 - The Washington Post

Covid safety advice at Christmas ‘set to be significantly strengthened’

Guidance from the Government about how to safely celebrate Christmas across the UK is expected to be strengthened, it has been reported. Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove held talks with leaders of the four devolved nations on Tuesday night about the plans to ease coronavirus restrictions over a four day period for Christmas. And following the discussions the Government’s advice on how to safely celebrate over the festive period will be “significantly strengthened” in the coming days, reports BBC News. However, the broadcaster added that plans to allow up to three households to form a bubble from December 23 to 27 is not expected to change.
15th Dec 2020 - Evening Standard

Northern Ireland hospital treating patients in parked ambulances

Patients were being treated in the back of ambulances in a Northern Ireland hospital car park on Tuesday, a health official said, a day after a warning that COVID-19 was putting healthcare under “unbearable pressures”. The British-run region has been in and out of some form of lockdown since mid-October when it was one of Europe’s worst COVID-19 hotbeds. The most recent curbs were lifted last week, when all shops, restaurants and pubs serving food reopened.
15th Dec 2020 - Reuters UK

Mental health tech startups fetch record investments with COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has put the spotlight on mental health tech startups, globally marking a record year for venture capital investment in the sector, according to data firm PitchBook. PitchBook data showed 146 deals raked in nearly $1.6 billion in venture capital investments as of Dec. 10. Last year the total was $893 million from 111 deals. A decade ago there were only 3 deals, worth $6.6 million. The investments come as employers are increasingly seen as customers for these startups. Consulting firm McKinsey reported last month that 52% of companies offer mental-health and bereavement counseling.
15th Dec 2020 - Reuters


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The shift to working from home can outlast COVID-19

For the past eight months, office life has been transformed as – in the interest of social distancing – millions were told to work from home. The shift to remote working is surprisingly widespread. The percentage of people who work from home has of course climbed in tech-savvy sectors such as IT and finance. But it has risen significantly in some old economy sectors too. In construction, for instance, the share of work-from-home workers jumped from 15 per cent pre-COVID to 34 per cent in September, according to Fair Work Australia. Yet from Monday, the NSW Public Health Order requiring employers to allow all workers to work remotely lapsed. Bosses will now have the option of ordering staff back to the office. Yet the return to the pre-COVID status quo also poses problems because some Australian employers are more enthusiastic about returning to the old work arrangements than their workers, who have enjoyed the flexibility and the time saved from the daily commute.
14th Dec 2020 - The Sydney Morning Herald

Australia's Shops See Year-End Spending Boom as Optimism Returns

Australia’s retailers are preparing for a late-December spending splurge that could fuel the kind of recovery on the year-end wishlist of Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Philip Lowe. Consumer confidence rose for a fourth straight month in December, climbing to a 10-year high. Lowe said just two months ago that greater confidence was the catalyst needed to prompt households to part with the extra savings they squirreled away during the lockdown.
14th Dec 2020 - Bloomberg

New Zealand offers travel bubble with Australia if coronavirus cases stay low

Health Minister Greg Hunt says the Federal Government welcomes New Zealand's announcement of a travel bubble, describing it as the "second half of the equation". New Zealand's Cabinet agreed in principle to establish a trans-Tasman bubble with Australia early next year, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday. It would be conditional on coronavirus case levels staying low and pending approval by the Federal Government. Mr Hunt said the Federal Government would "absolutely" approve the agreement, and that increased travel between the two countries would benefit both economies.
14th Dec 2020 - ABC.Net.au

Covid 19 coronavirus update: Zero new cases today

There are no new Covid cases in New Zealand today. The total number of active cases in New Zealand is 56. Officials are still investigating how an Air NZ crew member caught Covid-19. The person flew into New Zealand from the United States. "Preliminary genome sequencing results suggest the source of their infection was in the United States," the Ministry of Health said. "The Air New Zealand aircrew member remains in the Auckland quarantine facility. Three other aircrew members who are close contacts are in isolation. All three close contacts will have a day 5 Covid test today," the ministry said.
14th Dec 2020 - New Zealand Herald

New Zealand agrees on 'travel bubble' with Australia in early 2021

New Zealand agreed on Monday to allow quarantine-free travel with Australia in the first quarter of 2021, nearly a year after it locked down its borders to protect its population from the novel coronavirus. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the cabinet had agreed in principle on a trans-Tasman, quarantine-free travel bubble pending confirmation by Australia’s cabinet and no significant change in circumstances in either country. “It is our intention to name a date ... in the New Year once remaining details are locked down,” Ardern said at a news conference in the capital, Wellington. New Zealand’s has virtually eliminated the novel coronavirus by enforcing a tough lockdown and keeping its borders shut to all foreigners for most of the year.
14th Dec 2020 - Reuters UK

US deaths from COVID-19 pass 300,000 as vaccine rolls out

The death toll from the coronavirus pandemic in the United States has topped 300,000 on the same day the first vaccines against COVID-19 were administered in the country, which has been the hardest hit globally in terms of cases and deaths. The number of dead is roughly five times the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War and equivalent to the number of people killed in the 2001 9/11 World Trade Center attacks times 100.
14th Dec 2020 - AlJazeera

Kids and COVID isolation & stress: What parents need to know

Experts voice concern over how children are relating to the world outside their homes during the pandemic, as well as the stress they are feeling from their parent’s COVID-related financial struggles.
14th Dec 2020 - AlJazeera


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When will COVID-19 vaccinations start in African countries?

With the United Kingdom rolling out the world’s first approved coronavirus vaccine this week and other clinical trials showing promising results, the focus has swiftly turned towards the distribution of the doses worldwide and which countries will get them first – and which will be pushed to the back of the queue. On Thursday, Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director John Nkengasong warned “it will be extremely terrible to see” wealthy nations obtaining vaccines and African countries missing out, as he called on for an extraordinary United Nations session to discuss this “moral issue” and avoid a “North-South distrust in respect to vaccines, which is a common good”.
11th Dec 2020 - AlJazeera

Historic U.S. COVID vaccine campaign launches with convoy of trucks

Tractor trailers loaded with suitcase-sized containers of COVID-19 vaccine will leave Pfizer Inc’s manufacturing facility in Kalamazoo, Michigan, on Sunday morning - launching the largest and most complex vaccine distribution project in the United States, where the virus is raging. U.S. regulators late on Friday authorized the vaccine from Pfizer and partner BioNTech for use, and U.S. marshals will accompany the tightly secured shipments from factory to final destination. “We have spent months strategizing with Operation Warp Speed officials and our healthcare customers on efficient vaccine logistics, and the time has arrived to put the plan into action,” Wes Wheeler, president of UPS Healthcare, said on Saturday.
13th Dec 2020 - Reuters UK

Covid vaccine: Four Pfizer trial participants developed facial paralysis, FDA says

New documents have revealed that four participants in the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine trial developed Bell's palsy - a condition that causes a temporary weakness or paralysis of the muscles in the face. The patients were taking part in the US vaccine trial, which included 38,000 participants. The Bell’s palsy is believed to be unrelated to the vaccine, with cases in the trial occurring at the same rate as in the general population. A document by the FDA said: “Among non-serious unsolicited adverse events, there was a numerical imbalance of four cases of Bell’s palsy in the vaccine group compared with no cases in the placebo group, though the four cases in the vaccine group do not represent a frequency above that expected in the general population.”
11th Dec 2020 - Mirror Online

Covid-19 vaccine-distribution timeline will keep slipping, experts say

When Bruce Y. Lee was helping the U.S. government model delivery plans for H1N1 influenza vaccines, he came to expect one constant: The schedule would always change. “We’d constantly have to update the models as new production numbers came out,” said Lee, a professor at CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy, who developed computational models to guide the national response to the H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009. “That just became accepted.”
11th Dec 2020 - STAT

Africa's hurdles toward a COVID vaccine

Coronavirus vaccines are now being administered in Europe, while Africa hopes to start by mid-2021. Until then, the continent of 54 countries will need to put the necessary logistics, such as refrigeration, in place. On December 8, 2020, the United Kingdom became the first country to begin vaccinating its citizens with the new BioNTech-Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Canada and Bahrain have also greenlighted it. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) will meet on December 29 and is expected to approve the vaccine. But European Union countries are already putting modalities in place to receive and distribute the vaccine. Africa's hopes of receiving the vaccine are pinned on the global COVAX initiative, which aims to buy and deliver vaccines for the world's poorest people.
11th Dec 2020 - Deutsche Welle

UN chief warns 'vaccine nationalism' is moving at full speed

Director General Antonio Guterres warned Wednesday that “vaccine nationalism” is moving “at full speed,” leaving poor people around the globe watching preparations for inoculations against the coronavirus in some rich nations and wondering if and when they will be vaccinated.
11th Dec 2020 - Sun Star

Grief in the Covid era will weigh on the American psyche for years to come

The rituals of grief and mourning are as old as time: the swift Jewish burial and seven days of sitting shiva to honor the dead; the Muslim washing and three-sheeted shrouding of a body; the solemn Mass of Christian Burial with Holy Communion and the promise of an afterlife. All these — and other rites of faith and community across the globe — have been brutally curtailed by the Covid-19 pandemic, with effects on the mental and physical health of those left behind that have yet to be grasped.
12th Dec 2020 - STAT

Walgreens to hire 25,000 as part of plan to give COVID-19 vaccine to nursing home residents and staff

Walgreens expects to receive its first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine Dec. 21 and plans to inoculate nursing home residents and workers at more than 30,000 long-term care facilities nationwide. The company plans to hire about 25,000 people across the U.S., including up to 9,000 pharmacists and other health care workers, to administer the vaccine to long-term care facilities through a partnership with pharmacy service provider PharMerica, the companies said during a panel discussion Friday on the vaccine rollout.
12th Dec 2020 - Bangor Daily News

South Korea begins anti-coronavirus period ahead of college entrance exam

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in warned on Sunday that COVID-19 restrictions may be raised to the highest level after a second day of record increases in cases as the country battles a harsh third wave of infection. Presiding over an emergency meeting at the Central Disaster and Safety Countermeasures Headquarters for the first time since February, Moon urged vigilance and called for an all-out efforts to contain the virus. “Unless the outbreak can be contained now, it has come to the critical point of considering escalating social-distancing measures to the third level,” he said, referring to the tightest curbs under the country’s five-tier system.
13th Dec 2020 - Reuters


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Europe can’t ignore Global South in coronavirus vaccine race

The news of ground-breaking vaccines that could spell the end of the global coronavirus pandemic was met with a collective sigh of relief in the West. But in the Global South, the overwhelming feeling was one of dread and anger at the new social chasm on the horizon: between the vaccine haves and have-nots. We know that vaccinating populations that are most at-risk will be key to meeting the challenges of the long year ahead and getting the pandemic under control. But under current vaccine distribution mechanisms such as the World Health Organization’s COVAX initiative, which are commendable, there simply will not be enough vaccine doses to go around by the end of 2021. This is not only a moral issue. Failure to provide equitable access to the vaccine will have dire and long-lasting consequences for human health and make it more difficult to end the pandemic. The virus may even have a chance to mutate and become vaccine resistant, raising the possibility of new waves of infection.
10th Dec 2020 - POLITICO.eu

GPs across the country to start booking coronavirus vaccine appointments within days

GPs across England will be starting to book coronavirus vaccination appointments over the coming days. As a million more doses are set to arrive in Britain next week, the elderly and care home workers will begin to receive letters organising their appointments. The jabs will come just days after vaccinations began in hospitals this week. According to Mirror Online, details of the next stage of the staggered rollout emerged as Prof Chris Whitty said social distancing restrictions could start being lifted once 20 million vulnerable Brits have been vaccinated. The Chief Medical Officer also offered hope of a return to normality before Spring
10th Dec 2020 - Liverpool Echo

DOD Unveils Its Coronavirus Vaccine Distribution Plan

In the U.S., the Department of Defense aims to administer just under 44,000 doses of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine within 24 to 48 hours of authorization for emergency use. U.S. Food and Drug Administration officials have said they will make a decision soon after they hear from an advisory committee which meets Thursday. The vaccine will be distributed through 16 DOD installations, 13 in the U.S and three overseas. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Thomas McCaffery said some senior leaders will also receive the vaccine "as one way of helping to message the safety and efficacy, and underscore that we are encouraging all those eligible personnel to take the vaccine."
10th Dec 2020 - NPR

Few cases, outbreaks in UK schools reopened after lockdown

A study in The Lancet Infectious Diseases found low COVID-19 case rates and outbreaks in schools and childcare centers that reopened after lockdown. Researchers used data from HPZone—a national online database for events that require public health management—to estimate the rates of SARS-CoV-2 infection and outbreaks among staff and students in a total of 57,600 schools attended by a median of 928,000 students per day. The researchers identified 113 single cases of COVID-19 infection, nine coprimary cases—two confirmed cases within 48 hours of one another, typically within the same household—and 55 outbreaks, defined as two linked cases leading to secondary diagnosed cases within 14 days in the same educational setting. Outbreaks were strongly correlated with local infection rates, showing a 72% increase in the risk of an outbreak for every five cases per 100,000 population increase in community incidence
10th Dec 2020 - CIDRAP

Alarming levels of hunger in India even post-lockdown, says survey

In India, the hunger situation remains grave among the marginalised and vulnerable communities even five months after the lockdown has ended, with a large number of families going to bed without food, showed a ‘Hunger Watch’ survey conducted across 11 states. About 56 per cent of the respondents never had to skip meals before lockdown. In September and October, 27 per cent respondents went to bed without eating. About one in 20 households often went to bed without eating.
10th Dec 2020 - The New Indian Express

Why Australians are still waiting to come home

COVID-19 has exposed many weaknesses in Australia's federation but nowhere is this more glaring than the debate over the failure to get Australians home by Christmas. On September 18, Scott Morrison said he wanted to "get as many people home, if not all of them, by Christmas", a line that has stuck in people's mind. In truth, Morrison has not broken a promise. Since then, more than 32,000 Australian citizens and permanent residents have returned home - 8000 more than were registered at the time. But in that time the worsening international situation has increased the size of the problem. Three months ago there were about 24,000 Australians wanting to return home. Today that number has blown out to about 39,000.
10th Dec 2020 - The Sydney Morning Herald

UK economic activity picks up after November lockdown - ONS

More British people went out shopping and got in their cars over the past week following the end of a partial lockdown in England, official figures showed on Thursday. The proportion of British adults who went shopping for goods other than basic necessities rose by 5 percentage points to 18% in the week to Dec. 6, while traffic on Dec. 7 rose 7 percentage points from a week earlier, the Office for National Statistics said.
10th Dec 2020 - Reuters UK

Worldwide distribution of Covid-19 vaccines is crucial for the economy, Melinda Gates says

As coronavirus vaccines begin rolling out — a crucial step in ending the pandemic that has killed more than 1.5 million people and caused economic pain around the globe — Melinda Gates is urging leaders of wealthy countries not to forget about the rest of the world. "Everybody needs this vaccine," Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, told CNN's Poppy Harlow in a broadcast interview Thursday. "If we only get it to the high-income countries, this disease is going to bounce around. We're going to see twice as many deaths. And our recovery of our economies is going to be much slower than if we get the vaccine out to everybody." The Gates Foundation on Thursday said it plans to commit an additional $250 million to support the "research, development and equitable delivery" of tools to fight Covid-19, including tests, treatments and vaccines.
10th Dec 2020 - CNN


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Nine out of 10 in poor nations to miss out on inoculation as west buys up Covid vaccines

Nine out of 10 people in 70 low-income countries are unlikely to be vaccinated against Covid-19 next year because the majority of the most promising vaccines coming on-stream have been bought up by the west, campaigners have said. As the first people get vaccinated in the UK, the People’s Vaccine Alliance is warning that the deals done by rich countries’ governments will leave the poor at the mercy of the rampaging virus. Rich countries with 14% of the world’s population have secured 53% of the most promising vaccines. Canada has bought more doses per head of population than any other – enough to vaccinate each Canadian five times, said the alliance, which includes Amnesty International, Frontline AIDS, Global Justice Now and Oxfam.
9th Dec 2020 - The Guardian

Amnesty: rich countries have bought too many COVID-19 vaccines

Rich countries have secured enough coronavirus vaccines to protect their populations nearly three times over by the end of 2021, Amnesty International and other groups said on Wednesday, possibly depriving billions of people in poorer areas. Amnesty and other organisations including Frontline AIDS, Global Justice Now and Oxfam, urged governments and the pharmaceutical industry to take action to ensure intellectual property of vaccines is shared widely. The World Health Organization (WHO) has also called on governments repeatedly this year to make a vaccine protecting against COVID-19 a “public good”.
9th Dec 2020 - Reuters

British grandmother says she feels great after Pfizer vaccine

Margaret Keenan, the 90-year-old British grandmother who became the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine outside of a trial, said she feels great after being discharged from hospital on Wednesday. Pictures of Keenan went around the world on Tuesday as she received the shot during a short stay in her local hospital for heart checks. Video footage showed the former jewellery shop assistant wearing a light blue mask, a grey cardigan and a blue T-shirt with a penguin in snow and the message “Merry Christmas”
10th Dec 2020 - Reuters UK


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UK's chief science advisor says masks may be needed for another year - The Telegraph

People in the United Kingdom may have to wear face masks for another year despite the country’s national vaccination programme getting under way, The Telegraph reported, citing chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance. Restrictions may remain in place long after a full rollout of a vaccine, Vallance suggested, according to the report.
8th Dec 2020 - Reuters UK

UK retail sales growth slows as November lockdown hits non-food sales - BRC

British retail sales growth slowed in November when non-essential stores shut as part of a four-week lockdown in England, but online sales were able to fill more of the gap than in the first lockdown in March, industry data showed on Tuesday.
9th Dec 2020 - Reuters UK

Singapore 'cruise-to-nowhere' turns back after COVID-19 case aboard

A passenger aboard a Royal Caribbean ‘cruise-to-nowhere’ from Singapore has tested positive for COVID-19, forcing all guests to be quarantined in their cabins and the Quantum of the Seas ship to return to dock on Wednesday. Singapore has been piloting the trips, which are open only to residents, make no stops and sail in waters just off the city-state. There were around 2,000 passengers aboard at the time who have all been confined to their rooms. The global cruise industry has taken a major hit from the coronavirus pandemic, with some of the earliest big outbreaks found on cruise ships. In one case in February off the coast of Japan, passengers were stuck for weeks aboard the Diamond Princess with over 700 guests and crew infected.
9th Dec 2020 - Reuters UK

Tearful family reunions after WA ends border lockdown

Western Australia's hard border came down at midnight after a nine-month closure, marking another major milestone in Australia's fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Passengers were greeted by loved ones, some of whom told 9News they have not seen their family in over a year. "It's been 14 months since we have been together," one person said. Those who arrive in WA today will no longer need to complete the 14-day quarantine. However, visitors will need to complete a G2G declaration pass and undergo a health screening on arrival. Some may be asked to take a COVID-19 test.
8th Dec 2020 - 9News.com.au

A year on, markets bustling in Chinese city where COVID-19 emerged

Hundreds of shoppers pack a wet market on a December weekday morning in the Chinese city of Wuhan, jostling to buy fresh vegetables and live fish, frogs and turtles. Almost a year since the city reported the world’s first cases of COVID-19 in one of its handful of vast wet markets, and even as several other countries remain firmly in the grip of the subsequent pandemic, life in Wuhan has largely returned to normal. Wuhan has not recorded a new locally transmitted case in several months and is now indistinguishable from other Chinese cities with crowded shopping streets, traffic jams and tightly packed restaurants.
8th Dec 2020 - Reuters UK

Summer holidays and ‘normal life’ on horizon as health chiefs hail ‘historic’ Covid vaccine rollout

The UK’s coronavirus vaccine tsar has said she expects families will be able to go on holiday next summer as the Covid jab started its historic rollout. Kate Bingham, chair of the coronavirus vaccine taskforce, said she expects by the summer that people will be in a “better place” to get on planes. She made the comments just hours after Margaret Keenan, 90, became the first person in the world to receive the Pfizer jab on what has been dubbed “V-Day”. Ms Bingham told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "My gut feel is that we will all be going on summer holidays.
8th Dec 2020 - Evening Standard

Biden, introducing health teams, vows 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations in first 100 days

President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday laid out his plan to fight the coronavirus pandemic during his first 100 days in office, saying his administration would vaccinate 100 million Americans, push to reopen schools and strengthen mask mandates.
8th Dec 2020 - Reuters

Testing times: More work needed on Astra/Oxford vaccine trials

Detailed results from the AstraZeneca/Oxford trials have been eagerly awaited after some scientists criticised a lack of information in their initial announcement last month. However, the Lancet study gave few extra clues about why efficacy was 62% for trial participants given two full doses, but 90% for a smaller sub-group given a half, then a full dose. “(This) will require further research as more data becomes available from the trial,” the study said. Less than 6% of UK trial participants were given the lower dose regimen and none of them was aged over 55, meaning more research will be needed to investigate the vaccine’s efficacy in older people who are particularly susceptible to COVID-19. Pooling the results, overall efficacy was 70.4%, the data on Tuesday showed. That is above the 50% minimum set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
8th Dec 2020 - Reuters UK


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Austrian shops open after 3 weeks as lockdown loosened

Austrians lined up to enter stores on Monday as the country relaxed its coronavirus lockdown, allowing nonessential shops to reopen after three weeks. But many restrictions remain in place, and the country’s leader advised people against all rushing to the shops at once. Tough lockdown measures took effect Nov. 17. The government decided last week that enough progress had been made in cutting coronavirus infections to relax some restrictions. Schools were reopened, except for older students, as were museums, libraries and some other businesses such as hairdressers. But restaurants remain closed for all but takeout and deliveries, as do bars, and hotels are only open to business travelers
7th Dec 2020 - Washington Times

UK shops reopen after lockdown - but footfall still down 30% on 2019

Britons flocked to the High Street after for the first weekend following the lifting of the nationwide lockdown - but footfall remained lower than pre-pandemic levels. The number of shoppers out this weekend was down 30% on the same period in 2019. Crowds keen for a Christmas bargain flocked to shopping areas across the UK on Saturday with large numbers of shoppers photographed on London's Regent Street and in Manchester. Diane Wehrle, marketing director for Springboard who produced the figures, said the boost was partly down to people desperate to leave their homes after lockdown
7th Dec 2020 - Daily Mail

Christmas market closed as shopping crowds spark concern in Nottingham and London

Christmas shoppers hit the high streets in droves on the first weekend since lockdown was lifted in England, sparking concerns over social distancing. Queues formed in London’s West End as crowds flooded Oxford Street and Regent Street on Saturday to make the most of non-essential shops reopening under the new tiered system. The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, was out in the West End on Saturday as a show of support for retailers, but he warned people to continue following coronavirus rules, with the majority of England under tier 2 or tier 3 restrictions, which limit social contact between households.
7th Dec 2020 - The Independent

Covid-19: One new case in managed isolation, ministry cuts back on updates

In New Zealand, the Ministry of Healthy is reducing the frequency of its regular Covid-19 updates to four times a week. The news comes as the ministry announced one new case of Covid-19 in New Zealand on Monday, in managed isolation. Covid-19 updates, which had been published every day at 1pm, will now be scheduled for Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. On those days, the Ministry will report cases that have tested positive in managed isolation in the preceding days since the last update.
7th Dec 2020 - Stuff.co.nz

England's malls attract Christmas shoppers after lockdown ends

Footfall across all retail destinations in England rose by 81% compared to the previous week after a second lockdown ended on Wednesday, allowing non-essential shops to begin trading again, Springboard said on Monday. Shopping centres saw the biggest boost, with a 121.3% rise from Wednesday, while high streets saw a 79.8% rise and numbers in retail parks were up 40.7%, Springboard said.
7th Dec 2020 - Reuters UK

New Covid app reveals which areas could change tiers next week

A new app has revealed which areas are most likely to move into another tier next week. The ZOE Covid Symptom Study app shows how many cases there are per 100,000 people and the prevalence rate for each area in England. It also shows where these cases are rising, and which places are in tier two. This data helps experts at science company ZOE and King’s College London predict which parts of the country can expect new restrictions to be brought in soon. The dashboard’s most recent reports, which are presented to the Government every day, show most of England’s prevalence rate falling or staying the same.
7th Dec 2020 - Metro.co.uk

Every week coronavirus lockdowns drag on increases odds Americans will binge drink by nearly 20%

Researchers surveyed nearly 2,000 US adults between mid-March and mid-April They found that 34% of participants reported binge drinking during coronavirus pandemic lockdowns. About 60% of binge drinkers increased their alcohol consumption during the pandemic compared to non-binge drinkers. The odds of heavy alcohol consumption among binge drinkers increased 19% for every week of lockdown. Binge drinkers were more likely to have their job status 'negatively impacted,' to be essential workers or to have a history of depression
7th Dec 2020 - Daily Mail


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China begins huge COVID-19 vaccine rollout, with doses reportedly already administered to 1 million citizens

Health officials in China have begun giving at-risk citizens emergency access to vaccine doses, according to a report. More than a million healthcare workers and others in at-risk groups have already received vaccines, The Associated Press reported Sunday. It detailed millions of orders from the country's provinces. Health officials in world's most populous country, which is home to almost 1.4 billion people, haven't yet released a comprehensive plan. Chinese government researchers are testing several vaccines from about a dozen countries, with a domestic vaccine from China Pharmaceutical Group, or Sinopharm, nearing final approval
6th Dec 2020 - Business Insider

Covid-19: Children 'isolating three times in three months'

In Wales, there are calls for an alternative to school contact groups isolating for 14 days after a classmate tests positive. Some parents say their children have isolated three times in the past three months - and that it is detrimental to their wellbeing. A petition to the Senedd also says working parents are suffering, with employers not always sympathetic if they have to stay home with children. The Welsh Government said it was working hard on testing developments.
6th Dec 2020 - BBC

COVID-19: Christmas shoppers flood high streets in return after lockdown

Christmas shoppers flooded England's high streets for the first weekend since lockdown was lifted and non-essential stores were allowed to reopen. Despite the difficulties of the pandemic, retail experts predicted £1.5bn would be spent in shops nationwide on Saturday. Taking advantage of the first non-working day to do their Christmas shopping, people flooded London's Regent Street and city centres in Manchester and York. Shoppers visiting Westfield, east London and stores in central Birmingham had to contend with hundreds of anti-lockdown protesters staging demonstrations against more potential restrictions next year.
6th Dec 2020 - Sky News

China Gearing Up for COVID Vaccine Program

China is gearing up to roll out a huge coronavirus vaccine initiative. The Associated Press reports provincial governments across the country are placing orders for experimental, domestically made coronavirus vaccines, though health officials have yet to say how well they work or how they may reach the country’s 1.4 billion people. The AP says more than a million Chinese health care workers have already received experimental vaccines under emergency use permission, but there have been no indications about possible side effects.
6th Dec 2020 - Voice of America

First week of eased restrictions in SA as state records no new cases of COVID-19

Hospitality venues in South Australia are bracing for a busy weekend after restrictions were eased, allowing twice as many people to be seated in pubs, bars and restaurants. The state's top police officer, Police Commissioner Grant Stevens, overruled health advice to increase the capacity in venues to one patron per two square metres, to help the state's economy during the Christmas trading period. The easing of restrictions come as SA records another day of zero cases of locally acquired COVID-19.
6th Dec 2020 - 9News.com.au

How Melbourne and Victoria eliminated Covid-19 cases with a lockdown

In July and August, the Australian state of Victoria was going through a second Covid-19 wave. Local leaders set an improbable goal in the face of that challenge. They didn’t want to just get their Covid-19 numbers down. They wanted to eliminate the virus entirely.By the end of November, they’d done it. They have seen no active cases for a full four weeks. Melbourne, the state’s capital and a city with about as many people as the greater Washington, DC, area, is now completely coronavirus-free. Victoria’s Covid-19 restrictions were controversial with some residents, but Australia in general enjoys more political homogeny than the US does. That must make it easier to build solidarity for these extraordinary measures.
6th Dec 2020 - Vox.com

First COVID-19 vaccines may reach Poland in January: PM's top aide

The first coronavirus vaccines could reach Poland in January, the Polish prime minister’s top aide said on Friday, as emerging Europe’s biggest country prepares to roll out its COVID-19 vaccination programme. Poland has ordered 45 million COVID-19 vaccines, and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has said the country intended to start vaccinating health workers, security forces and the elderly in February. “Similarly to other countries, it looks like the first batches of vaccine will reach Poland in January, because the approval process will take place in late December and early January,” the prime minister’s chief of staff Michal Dworczyk told public broadcaster Polskie Radio Program 1. Dworczyk added there may be around 8,000 vaccination points in Poland. “We want there to be a vaccination point in every community,” he said. As of Thursday, Poland had reported 1,028,610 cases of the coronavirus and 18,828 deaths.
5th Dec 2020 - Reuters UK

Analysis: First U.S. delivery of COVID-19 vaccine will leave out many high-risk workers

The U.S. government’s first shipment of millions of coronavirus vaccine doses to be divided among states and federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, will fall far short of protecting high priority groups such as healthcare workers, a Reuters analysis has found. Across the country, state health departments are preparing local hospitals for the first shipments of Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorizes it, possibly as early as mid-December.
5th Dec 2020 - Reuters UK

Nursing home residents added to first wave of Texans eligible for COVID-19 vaccine

Residents at nursing homes and assisted living facilities will be among the first wave of Texans eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, joining the ranks of healthcare workers already at the front of the line. State officials announced the addition Friday, while also unveiling plans to send the state’s first 224,250 doses to hospitals, including nine in Dallas County.
4th Dec 2020 - Dallas Morning News

COVID-19 crisis: Fewer women than men feel they can ask for raise

Ginning up the courage to ask for a raise is tough in any labour market, let alone one ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic. But men are exhibiting more moxie than women when it comes to bargaining for better pay during the pandemic. That is the finding of a study released this week by Moody’s Analytics and Morning Consult that surveyed 5,000 adult workers in mid-September.
4th Dec 2020 - AlJazeera

WHO hopes to have 500 million vaccine doses via COVAX scheme in first quarter of 2021 - chief scientist

The World Health Organization hopes to have half a billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines available for distribution by the global COVAX initiative in the first quarter of 2021, its chief scientist said on Friday. To date 189 countries have joined the COVAX programme, which is backed by the WHO and seeks to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines. The United States is not among them, having secured bilateral deals. The initial COVAX plan is to vaccinate the 20% of populations at highest risk, including health workers and people aged over 65.
4th Dec 2020 - Reuters

COVID-19: Hackers targeted vaccine 'cold supply' chain network - state actors suspected

A cyber espionage campaign targeted at companies vital to the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines has been detected. According to an alert issued by the US government and a research blog published by IBM, the hacking campaign started in September. It targeted a range of organisations, including in government and across the energy and IT sectors, that are associated with the COVID-19 'cold supply' chain.
3rd Dec 2020 - Sky News

Q&A: Cold chains, COVID-19 vaccines and reaching low-income countries | Imperial News

Many low-income countries lack the infrastructure to deliver vaccines effectively, so how can we ensure COVID-19 vaccines are accessible for all? As COVID-19 vaccine candidates begin to show promising trial results, and as the Pfizer mRNA vaccine is approved for use in the UK, many are cautiously optimistic that they could hold the key to lower infection rates, fewer deaths, and at least a partial return to normalcy. However, many lower income countries lack the infrastructure and resources needed to distribute potential vaccines safely – with extra logistical challenges for vaccines stored at extremely cold temperatures – which could leave their populations just as vulnerable to COVID-19 as before.
3rd Dec 2020 - Imperial College London

COVID-19: India says entire population may not need vaccinating

India may not need to vaccinate all of its 1.3 billion people if it manages to inoculate a critical mass and break the transmission of the coronavirus, senior government officials said on Tuesday. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who toured the facilities of three vaccine makers over the weekend, has emphasised the importance of a vaccine to rein in COVID-19.
2nd Dec 2020 - AlJazeera


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Pfizer supply chain challenges led to slashing COVID-19 vaccine production target: WSJ

Challenges in Pfizer Inc’s supply chain for the raw materials used in its COVID-19 vaccine played a role in its decision to slash its 2020 production target, a Pfizer spokeswoman told Reuters. Pfizer has said in recent weeks that it anticipates producing 50 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine this year. That is down from an earlier target of 100 million doses. Pfizer’s vaccine relies on a two dose regimen, meaning 50 million doses is enough to inoculate 25 million people.
3rd Dec 2020 - Global News

Coronavirus: WHO considers e-vaccination certificates to ease travel

The WHO recommended that countries do not begin issuing immunity passports A number of governments have suggested they are a route back to normality British experts warned issuing immunity passports would lead to inequality WHO: Rich nations will lose hundreds of billions if vaccine isn't issued equally
3rd Dec 2020 - Daily Mail

Spain's government is studying a four-day work week

Spain's government is analysing shortening working hours as well as cutting the working-week to four days. According to Deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias, leader of the left-wing Unidas Podemos, the government is considering proposing shorter working hours to boost employment. The idea of a shorter working week has been around for years across the world, but the pandemic this year, and its impact on work, wellbeing and inequality, has led to a new push to think about economies and social structures.
3rd Dec 2020 - Luxembourg Times

Biden says he will join former presidents in publicly getting COVID vaccine

President-elect Joe Biden said he would publicly take a vaccine when it's available to encourage the public to get vaccinated, joining three former presidents who recently pledged to do the same. Biden said he'd "be happy" to join former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton in getting the vaccine in public to prove it is safe. "When Dr. Fauci says we have a vaccine that is safe, that's the moment in which I will stand before the public," Biden said during an interview on CNN Thursday night. “People have lost faith in the ability of the vaccine to work,” Biden told CNN, pointing to the high number of cases. "It matters what a president and vice president do. I think my three predecessors have set the model on what should be done."
4th Dec 2020 - USA Today

Biden asks Fauci to join COVID-19 team, stresses need for masks

Biden told CNN that he plans to ask the public to wear masks for 100 days to help drive down the spread of the novel coronavirus. “I’m going to ask the public for 100 days to mask,” Biden said. “Not forever, 100 days.” His office would issue a standing order for people to wear masks in federal buildings and on interstate transportation, including aeroplanes and buses, he added. Biden also said he would get the COVID-19 vaccine when Fauci says it is safe and would be happy to take it publicly. “It’s important to communicate to the American people it’s safe, safe to do this,” he said.
3rd Dec 2020 - AlJazeera

Bali struggles with ‘COVID-poor’ as Indonesian cases hit record

Chronic malnutrition that has long afflicted isolated communities in the remote eastern cape of Bali has ballooned as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and with a new wave of “COVID-poor” emerging in urban areas, NGOs have said thousands of people on the island are going hungry. With about 60 percent of Bali’s gross domestic product attributed to tourism before the coronavirus struck, the island’s economy has been the hardest hit in Indonesia by the pandemic – the central bank reported negative growth of just less than 11 percent for the province in September.
4th Dec 2020 - AlJazeera

Coronavirus claims 1.5 million lives globally with 10,000 dying each day

Over 1.5 million people have lost their lives due to COVID-19 with one death reported every nine seconds on a weekly average, as vaccinations are set to begin in December in a handful of developed nations. Half a million deaths occurred in just the last two months, indicating that the severity of the pandemic is far from over. Nearly 65 million people globally have been infected by the disease and the worst affected country, United States, is currently battling a third wave of coronavirus infections.
4th Dec 2020 - Reuters

Pizza bar worker linked to SA coronavirus lockdown 'in hiding', but Premier stands by comments

The lawyer for a pizza bar worker who was accused of causing South Australia's coronavirus lockdown by allegedly lying to contact tracers says his client is "worried about stepping outside" for fear of backlash. SA Police on Wednesday revealed they would not press charges against the man due to a lack of evidence, saying SA Health had not provided key information which was deemed "confidential and privileged".
3rd Dec 2020 - ABC.Net.au

Key test: South Koreans sit university exam amid COVID-19 surge

Nearly 500,000 high school students are sitting the test with stringent measures imposed to curb the virus. South Korea fell quiet on Thursday as hundreds of thousands of students sat for the country’s high-stakes national university entrance exam amid a surge in coronavirus cases that has prompted new measures to curb its spread, including for candidates sitting the test. Teenagers spend years preparing for the exam, which can mean a place in one of the elite colleges that are seen as key to future careers, incomes and even marriage prospects.
3rd Dec 2020 - AlJazeera

First batch of Pfizer's Covid vaccine will arrive in UK in 'HOURS' as military carry out dry run for Britain’s biggest-ever vaccination programme – but care homes will have ...

Initial batches of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab are already heading to Britain after it was approved by UK regulators. Vaccine will be distributed at hospitals first, and then GPs and city hubs in stadiums and conference centres. The UK has ordered 40million doses in total, with several millions due by end of 2020 and the rest next year
4th Dec 2020 - Daily Mail


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Covid-19: Traders hope shoppers return for Christmas after lockdown

Many businesses are getting ready to welcome back customers after four weeks of closure. When England's new tier system comes into force on Wednesday, shops, gyms and personal care services, like hairdressers, can reopen, if they are Covid-secure. But pubs and bars in tier three will be unable to open and only if they serve a "substantial meal" under tier two.
2nd Dec 2020 - BBC

Queues form as England's high streets reopen after lockdown

England’s high streets were back in business on Wednesday – but shoppers returned slowly, with queues outside only a few stores such as Primark and Debenhams, which had announced it was going into liquidation the day before. Non-essential stores in England reopened after the month-long lockdown brought in by the government in its latest effort to control the spread of Covid-19. The number of shoppers out and about on English high streets, retail parks and in shopping centres on Wednesday was up 85% on the same day a week before, but the expected rush to make up for lost time did not materialise: numbers were still down by 22% on last year.
2nd Dec 2020 - The Guardian

SA pizza bar worker who misled contact tracers will not be charged

The Woodville Pizza shop worker who misled contact tracers will not be charged. South Australia's Assistant Police Commissioner Peter Harvey said the facts of the original phone conversation between contact tracers and the man, a Spanish national, cannot be used in court. In short, the evidence compiled by police has been judged not to succeed if they took the case to court.
2nd Dec 2020 - 9News.com.au

No charges for pizza bar worker who 'misled' South Australian authorities, sparking coronavirus lockdown

No criminal charges will flow from misleading information given to South Australian health officials which sparked last month's short-lived statewide lockdown as a cluster of coronavirus case emerged in Adelaide. Police have conducted an investigation into a man who initially told contact tracers he had only picked up a takeaway meal from a venue, known to be a coronavirus hotspot, but later conceded he had worked at the business. His initial information prompted SA to be placed into a six-day lockdown amid fears of growing community transmission, with officials later cutting that short to just three days after the fresh information was revealed.
2nd Dec 2020 - SBS News

Australia's economy powers out of Covid-19 recession

Australia has exited its first recession in almost three decades, with the economy growing by a better than expected 3.3 per cent in the September quarter, reflecting authorities’ adept handling of the Covid-19 pandemic. A boom in household spending drove the recovery as the easing of social distancing restrictions prompted a 7.9 per cent jump in spending on goods and services in the third quarter. However, the damage wrought by stringent lockdowns was expressed in the annual growth figure, which showed economic activity fell 3.8 per cent in the year to end September.
2nd Dec 2020 - Financial Times

Covid-19: Economic effects expected to endure in New Zealand

In New Zealand, a global survey by HSBC bank showed nearly two-thirds of local firms were doubtful they would return to pre-Covid levels of profitability in the next year. That compared with 55 percent of businesses globally. The survey showed local firms were also less optimistic about the prospect of sales growth in the next 12 months. HSBC interim chief executive Rob Roughan said New Zealand businesses had performed well given that firms overseas were able to trade normally throughout the pandemic.
2nd Dec 2020 - RNZ

Ukraine scraps weekend lockdowns against COVID pandemic: PM

Ukraine has lifted weekend lockdown restrictions in place to fight the spread of the coronavirus pandemic but is still considering whether to introduce a tighter lockdown at a later stage, Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said on Wednesday. The government last month introduced a lockdown at weekends, closing or restricting most businesses except essential services such as grocery shops, pharmacies, hospitals and transport.
2nd Dec 2020 - Reuters India

Pfizer jab will be distributed at hospitals first, then GP surgeries and stadiums

Initial batches of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab are already heading to Britain after it was approved by UK regulators. Vaccine will be distributed at hospitals first, and then GPs and city hubs in stadiums and conference centres. The UK has ordered 40million doses in total, with 10m due by the end of 2020 and the rest coming next year
2nd Dec 2020 - Daily Mail

Berlin plans six mass COVID-19 vaccination centres handling 4000 people a day

Berlin is racing to open six mass vaccination centres capable of handling up to 4000 people per day by mid-December, the project co-ordinator says, as the city waits for authorities to approve the first vaccines. An empty trade fair hall, two airport terminals, a concert arena, a velodrome and an ice rink will be turned into six vaccination centres where city officials plan to administer up to 900,000 shots against the coronavirus in the first three months.
27th Nov 2020 - The Sydney Morning Herald


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Lawmakers introduce bipartisan COVID-19 relief proposal with uncertain future in Congress

In the U.S., negotiations restarted Tuesday and lawmakers introduced coronavirus relief proposals in the latest effort to break the logjam and reach a deal in the few remaining weeks a divided Congress has left in session. The day started with a bipartisan group of lawmakers introducing a roughly $908 billion proposal intended as a temporary package that would run until April. It ended with two additional proposals, one offered privately by Democratic leaders to Republicans and a third that Republicans have approved with the White House and could be voted on by the Senate.
1st Dec 2020 - USA Today

Tomelloso: Battered in first wave, Spanish town emerges scarred but safer

Although Spain was struggling with one of Europe's most deadly outbreaks, Tomelloso was particularly hard-hit, losing almost one percent of its 36,000 residents in the first wave. During the second wave, it has been a completely different story, with the figures significantly lower, although memories of the earlier nightmare remain all too fresh. "Around 300 people were buried in the local cemetery" in the first wave, Mayor Inmaculada Jimenez told AFP. Every day, they were burying 10, 11 or 12 people, it was incredibly hard." These days, as Spain and Europe grapple with a second wave, Tomelloso has stayed well out of the headlines, with just 13 deaths between May and September.
1st Dec 2020 - RTL Today

Spain appeals for Covid 'common sense' after shopping crowd scenes

The Spanish government has called on people to behave responsibly and use their “common sense” after pictures over the weekend showed the streets of Madrid and other big cities heaving with crowds despite the country’s ongoing struggle with the second wave of the coronavirus. Spain has been in a state of emergency since the end of October and is subject to an overnight curfew. The prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has asked people to drastically curtail their social lives and limit their movements for the common good. However, a combination of Black Friday, seasonal shopping and the switching on of Christmas lights appears to have brought large numbers of people out on to the streets of Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Málaga over the weekend.
1st Dec 2020 - The Guardian

France's Macron warns against going skiing in Switzerland

France will apply restrictions to prevent vacationers from going to Swiss ski resorts, and French slopes will remain closed during the Christmas period amid the coronavirus pandemic, President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday. “If there are countries ... which maintain their ski resorts open, we will have to take control measures" to dissuade people to go to these areas and to be fair toward French ski resorts, Macron said. France has started relaxing lockdown measures on Saturday, but bars and restaurants will remain closed at least until Jan. 20.
1st Dec 2020 - ABC news

OECD warns Australia not to withdraw economic support too early in pandemic recovery

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development has warned Australia not to withdraw fiscal and monetary policy support before the recovery from the economic shock associated with the coronavirus pandemic is “well entrenched”. The new outlook published on Tuesday night notes the planned unwinding of Australia’s “strong” fiscal support rolled out during the first wave of the pandemic “will be a headwind to higher GDP growth in the second half of 2021”.
1st Dec 2020 - The Guardian

Tradition of an eight-hour day five days a week will come to an end, report claims

Britain's workers are unlikely to return to the traditional nine to five ever again and lockdown habits such as stockpiling could also become 'the new normal' once the pandemic is over, a new reports claims. In her report, titled Zoomsday Predictions, author and cultural commentator Marian Salzman said staff will continue to work the same hours but in a way that combines their personal and professional lifestyles - with many moving to a four-day week.
1st Dec 2020 - Daily Mail

Hospitals catch up with Covid-19 lockdown cancer backlog, Cancer Control Agency says

In New Zealand, the country's hospitals have caught up with the cancer backlog caused by the Covid-19 lockdown in March and April, Te Aho o Te Kahu Cancer Control Agency chief executive Diana Sarfati says. Diagnostic services and cancer screening programmes stopped during lockdown as the health service prepared for the pandemic, and the Cancer Society in June warned 400 people could die if hospitals didn’t act quickly. But unpublished figures for September show the number of people diagnosed with cancer mirrors that of last year, indicating hospitals have worked through the backlog, Sarfati said.
1st Dec 2020 - Stuff.co.nz

Analysis: Could COVID knock out flu in Europe this winter?

As Europeans brace for a grim winter with the threat of rising COVID-19 infections, minimal numbers of flu cases recorded so far point to a possible silver lining. Data available for Europe since the beginning of October, when flu case numbers usually start to ramp up, mirror shallow figures seen in the Southern Hemisphere earlier this year and in the United States where the flu season has also just begun. Some doctors say a combination of lockdowns, mask wearing and handwashing appear to have hampered transmission of the flu, while warning that the data should be treated with caution because the peak of the season is weeks or even months away. According to Flu News Europe, a joint monitoring platform of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the World Health Organization which collects samples in 54 European regions, only one person was diagnosed with flu out of 4,433 sentinel tests during Sept. 28-Nov. 22.
1st Dec 2020 - Reuters UK


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The Wuhan files

That same day, Chinese authorities reported 2,478 new confirmed cases -- raising the total global number to more than 40,000, with fewer than 400 cases occurring outside of mainland China. Yet CNN can now reveal how official documents circulated internally show that this was only part of the picture. In a report marked "internal document, please keep confidential," local health authorities in the province of Hubei, where the virus was first detected, list a total of 5,918 newly detected cases on February 10, more than double the official public number of confirmed cases, breaking down the total into a variety of subcategories. This larger figure was never fully revealed at that time, as China's accounting system seemed, in the tumult of the early weeks of the pandemic, to downplay the severity of the outbreak. The previously undisclosed figure is among a string of revelations contained within 117 pages of leaked documents from the Hubei Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention, shared with and verified by CNN.
1st Dec 2020 - CNN

Italy Green-lights New Anti-Covid Stimulus Package

Italy's government said Monday it had approved a new stimulus package to shore up businesses affected by the latest round of anti-coronavirus restrictions in the eurozone's third-largest economy. The aid package, the fourth since the pandemic gripped the country in March, is worth eight billion euros ($9.6 billion) and delays tax deadlines for companies in areas subject to harsh lockdown measures. It also offers a 1,000-euro lump sum to workers in tourism, the arts, sports and leisure -- as well as setting aside funds for the conventions sector and a boosted police presence to ensure anti-coronavirus measures are respected.
30th Nov 2020 - Barron's

Japan and South Korea see surge of suicides among young women, raising new questions about pandemic stress

Suicide rates among young women have increased notably in Japan and South Korea, raising possible links to the prolonged coronavirus pandemic as it amplifies stress levels, worsens economic woes and aggravates feelings of loneliness and isolation. No comprehensive global studies are yet available on whether the pandemic has caused higher suicide numbers or how it may have affected different age groups and genders. But Japan and South Korea are among the few countries to issue current data on suicides, with most nations taking a year or two to issue their numbers. Experts worry that the emerging trends in the two countries could be an early warning for the rest of the world as the pandemic and lockdowns take a toll on mental health.
30th Nov 2020 - The Washington Post

South Australia now open to Victoria once again

As of midnight, South Australia is rolling out a list of changes to COVID-19 restrictions, after the state recorded zero new cases yesterday. Since 12.01am, the border with Victoria has finally been reopened, allowing travel between the two states. Victorians entering South Australia are still required to fill in an online permit form, to get pre-approval. Masks are also mandatory for people in allied health and residential care, and the state is rolling out its QR code mandatory check-in system for businesses and venues. But also, stand-up drinking is returning to pubs and weddings, and patron caps on businesses are now removed.
30th Nov 2020 - 9News.com.au

International students arrive in Australia after 9 months of COVID lockdown

The first international students to arrive in Australia since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic have landed in Darwin, signalling another change for the country’s locked-down border. Students from China, Hong Kong, Japan, Vietnam and Indonesia have arrived at Darwin International Airport on a charter SilkAir flight from Singapore as part of a pilot program to return international tourists to Australia. The 63 students who landed this morning were to be transferred straight to the Howard Springs Quarantine Facility east of Darwin for 14 days of quarantine, the ABC reported.
30th Nov 2020 - NEWS.com.au

Pandemic Motors: Europeans snap up old cars to avoid public transport

Want a cheap used car to nip around town without running the gauntlet of coronavirus on public transport? Welcome to Pandemic Motors, we have just what you need. Across Europe, people are snapping up old bangers, clunkers, Klapperkasten, tacots and catorci, desperate to avoid buses and trains but wary of splashing out on a shiny new motor in uncertain economic times. “Public transportation is terrific here, but with the COVID and all that, it’s better to avoid it,” said Robert Perez, who recently moved to Spain’s capital Madrid from Argentina.
30th Nov 2020 - Reuters UK

How the COVID-19 recession will forever impact Gen Z

The coronavirus pandemic has brought much of the world’s economies into a recession, affecting every sector of the global population. But one demographic – Generation Z, those born between 1997 and 2012 – may never recover. From a lack of socialisation to not being able to start their careers, we are examining how Gen Z’ers from ages eight to 23 will have to manage these unprecedented challenges.
30th Nov 2020 - AlJazeera


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Malaria gains at risk from COVID-19 pandemic: WHO

Funding shortfalls and disruptions to treatment in sub-Saharan Africa as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic risk tens of thousands more lives being lost to malaria, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned in its annual report on the mosquito-borne disease on Monday. The UN’s health agency said it was concerned that even moderate disruptions in access to treatment could lead to a “considerable loss of life”. A 10-percent disruption in access to effective anti-malarial treatment in sub-Saharan Africa could lead to 19,000 additional deaths, the report found. That number rose to 46,000 with a 25-percent disruption in access and 100,000 at 50-percent disruption. “Progress has stalled,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “COVID-19 threatens to further derail our efforts to overcome malaria, particularly treating people with the disease. Despite the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on African economies, international partners and countries need to do more to ensure that the resources are there to expand malaria programmes which are making such a difference in people’s lives.”
29th Nov 2020 - AlJazeera

South Korea bans year-end parties, some music lessons, as virus spikes again

South Korean authorities announced a ban on year-end parties and some music lessons on Sunday and said public saunas and some cafes must also close after coronavirus infections surged at their fastest pace since the early days of the pandemic. South Korea has been one of the world’s coronavirus mitigation success stories but spikes in infections have reappeared relentlessly, triggering alarm in Asia’s fourth-largest economy. Authorities reported 450 new infections on Sunday after more than 500 cases were recorded for three days in a row, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said. What authorities are calling a third wave of infections is spreading at the fastest rate in nearly nine months, driven by outbreaks at military facilities, a sauna, a high school and churches.
30th Nov 2020 - Reuters UK

Raab: There is a risk of third coronavirus wave

Britain is at risk of suffering a third wave of coronavirus infections if it does not get the approach to lockdown restrictions right in the coming weeks, foreign minister Dominic Raab said on Sunday. “There’s a risk of that (if) we don’t get the balance right,” Raab told the BBC when asked about a possible ‘third wave’ resurgence of cases in January and February. He said the government was doing everything it could to avoid another national lockdown.
30th Nov 2020 - Reuters UK

South Australia and NSW record new Covid-19 cases as Victoria passes elimination benchmark

A casual contact of a Covid-19 case is among two people newly diagnosed with coronavirus in South Australia, while New South Wales has announced eight new cases, all in hotel quarantine. Meanwhile, the ACT has recorded one new case in a returned traveller and Victoria has surpassed the benchmark for eliminating coronavirus, recording a 29th straight day without a single new infection.
28th Nov 2020 - The Guardian

More shops open as France starts easing virus lockdown measures

France and other parts of Europe reopen "non-essential" stores on Saturday in time for the holiday season after progress in containing the coronavirus pandemic. Most countries hope to ease their virus rules for Christmas and New Year, allowing families a respite before bracing for what the world hopes is one last wave of restrictions until a clutch of promising new vaccines kick in. Stores selling non-essential goods will lift their shutters in France on Saturday, though bars and restaurants will remain shut until early next year.
28th Nov 2020 - FRANCE 24

Shops reopen in France as national lockdown eases

Queues formed outside hairdressers’ shops and department stores sold gifts and Christmas decorations on Saturday as France partially reopened after a month-long lockdown. Shops selling non-essential goods, such as shoes, clothes and toys, reopened in the first easing of national restrictions since 30 October. Bars and restaurants remain closed until 20 January. As a condition for reopening, the government reduced the number of people allowed in shops. Many small business owners complained it was hard to operate under the new rules
28th Nov 2020 - The Guardian

How 'Dictator Dan' Defied a Dangerous Murdoch Media and Led Australia to COVID Victory

Australia is on the verge of eliminating the Coronavirus now that the epicentre of its second wave – Melbourne – has recorded its twenty-eighth consecutive day of no new cases. It is a milestone epidemiologists say signals the elimination of COVID-19 in the community, leaving the city of five million residents now without a single active case. The land of Down Under has become the world’s benchmark for managing the pandemic: following the science, placing faith in bona fide public health experts and rejecting the kind of unthinking, know-nothing, right-wing populism pushed by Rupert Murdoch-employed pundits in the media and members of the country’s right-wing Government, the Liberal Party.
28th Nov 2020 - Byline Times

Queues at barber shops as France eases coronavirus lockdown

People eager to get a haircut stood in line outside barber shops and department stores selling gifts and Christmas decorations were busy on Saturday as France partially reopened following a month-long lockdown. Shops selling non-essential goods such as shoes, clothes and toys reopened in the first easing of a nationwide lockdown that started on Oct. 30 and will remain in place until Dec. 15. Bars and restaurants remain closed till Jan. 20,
28th Nov 2020 - Reuters UK

India’s Economy Shrinks Sharply as Covid-19 Slams Small Businesses

The latest data firmly establishes India’s position among the worst-performing major economies, despite government spending meant to blunt the pandemic’s impact.
27th Nov 2020 - The New York Times

India falls into recession as pandemic weighs on output

India’s economy contracted 7.5 per cent year-on-year in the quarter ending September, taking it into a technical recession as strict lockdown measures to deal with the coronavirus pandemic continued to weigh on output. The performance was better than many analysts had forecast but still reflected the heavy blow the pandemic has delivered to what was recently the world’s fastest-growing large economy. India’s output contracted by a record 24 per cent year-on-year in the April to June quarter, when much of the economy was shuttered by a strict lockdown, but activity has since picked up somewhat after businesses and industry were allowed to reopen. A recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth.
27th Nov 2020 - Financial Times


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WHO's Ryan sees progressive control of COVID-19 in 2021, cautions on Christmas

The World Health Organization's top emergency expert said on Thursday the introduction of a COVID-19 vaccine should allow the world to gain progressive control over the disease next year. "Life as we used to know it, I think that's very, very possible but we will have to continue with the hygiene, physical distancing. Vaccines do not equal zero COVID. Adding vaccines to our current measures will allow us to really crush the curve, avoid lockdowns and gain progressive control over the disease," Mike Ryan told RTE television in his native Ireland. "We need to be absolutely aware that we need to reduce the chance that we could infect someone else in just organising households carefully around the Christmas festivities. The usual thing in Ireland of 15 people in the kitchen peeling potatoes and basting turkeys, that's not what we should be doing."
26th Nov 2020 - Reuters

Queensland police officers forced to isolate after contact with Covid-infected man at hotel

Almost a dozen Queensland police officers have been forced into Covid-19 isolation after they came into close contact with an infected man in hotel quarantine. The incident happened at the Rydges Hotel in South Brisbane on Sunday when police were called to check on a 41-year-old-man’s welfare, police say. The man was later tested for the virus and returned a positive result, a spokeswoman said. All 11 officers are in either home isolation or hotel quarantine and have tested negative for the virus.
26th Nov 2020 - The Guardian

Coronavirus spread to a teenager picking up a pizza — so why isn't SA back in lockdown?

South Australia went into a brief but drastic lockdown last week over fears a medi-hotel worker had contracted coronavirus merely by picking up takeaway at a suburban pizza shop. On Thursday a similar scenario was revealed as the likely cause of one of the state's two new COVID-19 cases, both of which are part of a growing cluster. SA Health suspects a year 9 student picked up a pizza from the shop 12 days ago, on Saturday, November 14. Authorities were quizzed about why the girl's case had not triggered a wider lockdown like last week's, and replied that circumstances were different, with SA better placed to respond.
26th Nov 2020 - abc.net.au

EasyJet says domestic bookings rise as England lockdown ends

British airline easyJet said domestic bookings for December had risen significantly this week compared to last week after news that some COVID-19 restrictions in its home market would be eased. England’s current lockdown bans most international travel, but when it ends on Dec. 2 people will be free to go abroad. Over Christmas, COVID-19 restrictions across the UK will be relaxed to allow families to mix for five days.
26th Nov 2020 - Reuters UK

Cleaning up: COVID-19 vaccine will not derail disinfectants market, industry exec says

Vaccines against COVID-19 will take some steam out of the market for hygiene products, but demand will remain above pre-pandemic levels as frequent hand-cleaning is here to stay, an executive at Ecolab, a leading firm in the sector, said on Thursday.
26th Nov 2020 - Reuters UK

Rapid COVID-19 tests provide lifeline for London orchestra

Maxine Kwok, a violinist in London’s oldest symphony orchestra, is delighted that rehearsals have resumed thanks to a rapid, lab-free COVID-19 test that gives the musicians the confidence to work together again. “It was so difficult not to play for months,” Kwok, a member of the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO), said after being tested. “But the moment that we were able to have this kind of testing at this regularity, meaning we could just come back to work and feel comfortable and safe, really made a huge difference for us,” Kwok told Reuters. “I was so thrilled. I can’t describe it really,” she added ahead of a rehearsal attended by around 40 musicians, all masked and still observing social distancing rules.
26th Nov 2020 - Reuters


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Britain to detail post-lockdown restrictions in England

The British government on Thursday will set out which COVID-19 restrictions each local authority in England will face when a national lockdown ends next week allowing businesses to reopen in areas where infection rates are lower. Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered England into a month-long lockdown in early November after coronavirus cases and deaths started to rise again, angering businesses and some of his own political party over the economic consequences. He set out new measures on Monday to replace the lockdown from Dec. 2, reinforcing a previous regional approach and warning that some areas would move into a higher alert level than the one they were in before.
26th Nov 2020 - Reuters UK

COVID-19: Mystery as coronavirus is found in sewage in major Queensland city

Seventeen suburbs on high alert after traces of COVID-19 were found in sewage Cairns, Far North Queensland, has not had a case of coronavirus for months People in the area urged to get tested if they experience COVID-19 symptoms
25th Nov 2020 - Daily Mail

UK Covid lockdown scientist 'hopeful' of booking spring holiday

Professor Neil Ferguson, whose modelling led to a complete shutdown in March and April, said he was confident vaccinations would lead to social distancing being lifted. He told a symposium yesterday hosted by the Abdul Latif Jameel Institute for Disease and Emergency Analytics (J-IDEA) at Imperial College, where he works: "I think it will vary from place to place, but in the UK or much of Europe, I think we will see a very difficult two or three months ahead as we go through winter.
25th Nov 2020 - The Scotsman

‘Relocation of the nation’ expected to spike next month

They were once the cities people would move to for work but the coronavirus pandemic has made things look dramatically different now. While people have anecdotally shared stories of people moving from Melbourne after the Victoria’s harsh lockdown restrictions, new data shows just how true that is. But Melburnians don’t want to move to Sydney either, with the city being snubbed for Brisbane. South Australians are also heading to the sunshine state, according to Muval, a national online removalist booking platform.
25th Nov 2020 - NEWS.com.au

How Australia succeeded in lowering COVID-19 cases to near-zero

Unlike other nations, including Canada, which have aimed to maintain new infections at a level that won't overwhelm the medical system, Australia set out to virtually eliminate the virus from its shores. When Australia was hit with a surge of COVID-19 cases in late July just weeks after declaring victory against the first wave, it prompted one of the world's longest lockdowns in Melbourne, for example, closing virtually everything that wasn't a grocery store or hospital for nearly four months. In many cities, roadblocks were established to ensure people stayed home. Even when restrictions were eased there was a nightly curfew, and in the initial lockdown people weren't allowed to be more than five kilometres away from home in certain regions. Break a rule, and you could face a fine of $1,300.
25th Nov 2020 - CBC.ca

UK spent 849 million pounds on COVID dining subsidy

Britain’s government spent almost twice as much as expected on encouraging people to eat in restaurants, cafes and pubs during what proved to be a temporary lull in COVID-19 cases in August. Official figures released on Wednesday ahead of new spending plans from finance minister Rishi Sunak showed his Eat Out to Help Out scheme cost 849 million pounds, much more than an initial government estimate of 500 million pounds.
25th Nov 2020 - Reuters UK

Coronavirus pandemic: Germany seeks EU deal to close ski resorts

Germany is seeking an agreement with EU countries to keep ski resorts closed until early January, in an attempt to curb the spread of coronavirus. "I will say this openly that it won't be easy, but we will try," Chancellor Angela Merkel said after speaking to Germany's regional leaders on Tuesday. The news came as the country extended its partial lockdown until 20 December. Some of the early European coronavirus hotspots were at ski resorts, helping spread infections across the continent.
25th Nov 2020 - BBC

Coronavirus: Domestic abuse offences increased during pandemic

The number of domestic abuse offences recorded by police in England and Wales has increased during the pandemic. But the Office for National Statistics said such offences gradually rose in recent years so it cannot be determined if it was related to the pandemic. Police recorded 259,324 domestic abuse offences between March and June - 7% up on the same period in 2019. During and after the first lockdown in April, May and June, roughly one-fifth of offences involved domestic abuse.
25th Nov 2020 - BBC

‘Zero infection’ unlikely without drastic action to curb Covid-19

Beijing has agreed to set aside some vaccine supplies for Hong Kong if needed, Carrie Lam says. Experts say lack of public support makes it hard to implement lockdown, compulsory testing
25th Nov 2020 - South China Morning Post

General: COVID-19 vaccines will be ready for delivery 24 hours after FDA authorization

Gen. Gustave Perna, who is leading Operation Warp Speed's effort to distribute coronavirus vaccines nationwide, told ABC News he is confident that vaccines will be "on the street" and headed to communities just 24 hours after being authorized by the Food and Drug Administration. While the first two vaccines to be distributed will likely be from Pfizer and Moderna, Alex Azar, the U.S. secretary of health and human affairs, described the news from Astra Zeneca's clinical trials as "very promising" and noted that the company's vaccine is already being produced in the country so it too can be ready for distribution once authorized by the FDA. Perna and Azar made their comments in exclusive interviews with ABC News' correspondent Bob Woodruff during a visit to Operation Warp Speed's offices at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
25th Nov 2020 - ABC News


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Special Report: 50,000 COVID-19 deaths and rising. How Britain failed to stop the second wave

Faced with one of the highest death tolls from the first wave of the coronavirus, Boris Johnson pledged a “world-beating” test-and-trace system to prevent a resurgence this winter. A Reuters investigation reveals how that promise came unstuck.
24th Nov 2020 - Reuters

Melbourne's brutal coronavirus lockdown does job

It was a grim, lifeless mid-winter in shuttered Melbourne — Australia’s second largest city and the nation’s cultural and gastronomic capital. As a second coronavirus outbreak took hold, triggered by lapses in the city’s mandatory hotel quarantine system for returning overseas travellers, the southern state of Victoria and its capital entered another lockdown, one of the West’s harshest.
24th Nov 2020 - The Times

UK's four nations will relax COVID restrictions to save Christmas

The four nations of the United Kingdom have agreed to relax COVID-19 restrictions for Christmas to allow up to three households to meet at home for five days. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have taken differing approaches to handling the pandemic so far but the leaders of the devolved nations reached agreement with London on Tuesday on rules governing the festive period. Three households will be able to form a “Christmas bubble”, allowing them to meet up at home, places of worship and in outdoor public places but not at indoor hospitality or entertainment venues from Dec. 23 until Dec. 27 under the plans.
24th Nov 2020 - Reuters UK

Hong Kong to shut bars, nightclubs for the third time as new COVID-19 cases jump

Hong Kong will close bars, nightclubs and other entertainment venues for the third time this year, Health Secretary Sophia Chan said on Tuesday (Nov 24) as authorities scramble to tackle a renewed rise in COVID-19 cases. Authorities are also reopening a temporary COVID-19 treatment hall near the city's airport. On Tuesday, Hong Kong reported 80 new coronavirus cases, taking the total since late January to 5,782 COVID-19 infections and 108 deaths. The financial hub has so far managed to avoid the widespread outbreak of the disease seen in many major cities across the world, with numbers on a daily basis mostly in single digits or low double digits in the weeks prior to the spike.
24th Nov 2020 - Channel NewsAsia

Coronavirus vaccine boss says 'dosing error' led to 90% success rate discovery

Mene Pangalos, head of AstraZeneca's non-oncology research and development, said a dosing mistake during late-stage trials for the Oxford University vaccine got the team over the line
24th Nov 2020 - Mirror Online

Vaccine Expert: Once A COVID Vaccine Is Available, 'Don't Overthink It. Don't Wait'

As coronavirus cases continue to surge both in the U.S. and around the world, there's promising news on the vaccine front. Pharmaceutical companies Pfizer, Moderna and, more recently, AstraZeneca have all announced that their vaccines have shown better-than-expected results. Dr. Peter Hotez, co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children's Hospital, says that a vaccine release could begin for selected populations by the middle of December — and that a broader vaccination effort could soon follow. "By the early part of next year, we're going to move pretty quickly, I think, in vaccinating a significant percentage of the [U.S.] population," Hotez says.
24th Nov 2020 - NPR

Coronavirus vaccine: Transport staff and teachers should be prioritised

Key workers including transport staff and people from deprived areas should be among those included in the priority list for the Covid-19 vaccine, experts involved in health inequalities have said. Nicola Sturgeon this week set out the Scottish Government’s plan to vaccinate 4.4million Scots over the age of 18. There are hopes that around 1million people could receive the jag before the end of January. Frontline health and social care staff, care home residents and staff and all those aged 80 and over will be the first to receive the vaccine.
24th Nov 2020 - HeraldScotland

Oxford coronavirus vaccine volunteer explains minimal side effect from injection

A volunteer who took part in the Oxford coronavirus vaccine trial has opened up about what it was like to take the injection and said that he noticed a very limited amount of side effects. Appearing on Lorraine today, volunteer Jack Sommers spoke about his experience on the trial. On Monday, it was revealed that the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine was revealed to have 70% efficacy. Speaking to host Lorraine Kelly via video link from Shropshire, Jack opened up about the minimal side effects he had experienced from the injection.
24th Nov 2020 - The Mirror on MSN.com

Moderna's chief scientist says its vaccine prevents coronavirus from making people sick - but the shot may NOT stop you from spreading the virus

Moderna's chief medical officer Tal Zaks told Axios the firm does not have data that shows whether their vaccine prevents people from spreading the virus. Moderna announced earlier this month its shot is 94.5% effective at preventing people from getting sick or severely ill from coronavirus in trials. But because the company did not test asymptomatic participants it doesn't know whether vaccinated people can be silent carriers and spreaders, Zaks said. He added that he believes the vaccine should prevent viral spread - but doesn't have the data to prove it
24th Nov 2020 - Daily Mail

Nursing homes will be first to get COVID-19 vaccine in Spain

Elderly residents and staff in nursing homes will be the first to get vaccinated against the coronavirus in Spain, starting as early as January, Health Minister Salvador Illa said on Tuesday, unveiling a national vaccination plan. Other healthcare workers will be next in line, with a total of 18 groups of citizens being, one after the other, allowed to get the vaccine in one of 13,000 local public health centers. Spain expects to cover a substantial part of the population within the first six months of 2021. “The COVID-19 vaccine will be free,” Illa told a news conference, adding vaccination would not be compulsory. “We’re convinced that a vaccine is better accepted if it’s voluntary.”
24th Nov 2020 - Reuters

Covid-19 vaccine: 'My son shouldn't miss school over my vulnerability'

A father with motor neurone disease is calling for the government to prioritise those with clinical vulnerabilities for the roll-out of the vaccine. Shaan has motor neurone disease and has been shielding with his family since March, meaning his five-year-old son has not been able to go to school or socialise with his friends. Shaan and his wife Jessica, from Walthamstow in east London, are calling on the government to prioritise people who are clinically vulnerable in the roll-out of any future Covid-19 vaccination programme.
24th Nov 2020 - BBC

Ford snaps up freezers to store COVID-19 vaccine for autoworkers

Workers at automotive assembly plants are considered essential in most US states, but are not at the top of the list for early vaccine distribution. Ford Motor Co said on Tuesday that it has ordered a dozen ultra-cold freezers that can safely store Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine, a move aimed at ensuring the United States automaker’s workers have access to vaccines when they are rolled out nationally. Ford’s purchase mirrors efforts by US states and cities to buy equipment to store millions of doses of Pfizer’s vaccine at temperatures of -70C (-94F), significantly below the standard for vaccines of 2-8C (36-46F).
24th Nov 2020 - AlJazeera

'It's a great day': Oxford coronavirus vaccine volunteers on trial data

Dan McAteer describes his reaction more as a sense of relief than elation when his phone pinged on Monday morning with a push alert reporting that the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine has up to 90% efficacy. Several months on from becoming one of thousands of volunteers in trials of the Covid-19 vaccine, the 23-year-old student is trying to comprehend the news that people could be vaccinated as early as next month
23rd Nov 2020 - The Guardian

Hackers 'try to steal Covid vaccine secrets in intellectual property war'

State-sponsored hackers from China, Russia, Iran and North Korea are engaged in concerted attempts to steal coronavirus vaccine secrets in what security experts describe as “an intellectual property war”. They accuse hostile-state hackers of trying to obtain trial results early and seize sensitive information about mass production of drugs, at a time when a range of vaccines are close to being approved for the public. Previously the hackers’ primary intention was to steal the secrets behind the design of a vaccine, with hundreds of drug companies, research labs and health organisations from around the world targeted at any one time.
22nd Nov 2020 - The Guardian


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 24th Nov 2020

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England to use testing to shorten quarantine for incoming passengers

England will introduce a new system on Dec. 15 allowing passengers arriving from high-risk countries to take a COVID-19 test after five days of quarantine and to be released from any further self-isolation if they test negative. Airlines and other companies in the travel and tourism industries had been calling for such a scheme for months, having suffered devastating consequences from a 14-day quarantine rule that has deterred people from travelling. “The move will give passengers the confidence to book international trips in the knowledge that they can return home and isolate for a shorter period if they have received a negative test,” the government said in a statement on Tuesday.
24th Nov 2020 - Reuters UK

India’s top court slams states for COVID surge

India’s Supreme Court has excoriated regional governments, including Delhi’s, over the surge in COVID-19 cases and warned the situation could worsen further if authorities did not effectively deal with the pandemic. The court, which took up the issue on its own, is seeking status reports from New Delhi, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Assam, which have recorded a spike in cases, about the management of patients and steps taken to ease the situation. “We are hearing of a huge spike in the current month. We want a latest status report from all states. Worse things may happen in December if states aren’t well prepared,” the three-judge bench said, according to broadcaster NDTV. The judges were particularly concerned about Delhi, which has been topping India in the number of infections and deaths. “What extra efforts are you taking? … Delhi has to answer a lot of things,” the judges told Delhi government lawyers in court.
23rd Nov 2020 - AlJazeera

Covid: Australia state reopens border after Covid cases plummet

The Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) has reopened its border with neighbouring Victoria for the first time since July after coronavirus cases there fell to zero. Victoria, which imposed a tough lockdown after a surge in cases, has reported no new infections since the beginning of November. The state is also relaxing its rules on wearing face masks. Australia has recorded about 900 deaths and 28,000 infections in total.
23rd Nov 2020 - BBC

Covid-19 lockdown recovery sees record increase in retail sales for September quarter

Data released by Stats NZ today shows retail sales values have seen the highest jump year-on-year in the three months to September since at least 1995, when records began. But, the rise didn’t make up for the historic fall of 15 per cent ($3.6 billion) in the June 2020 quarter, which was affected by the pandemic. “While Auckland recorded the largest dollar value increase, in percentage terms the increase was lower than that for other main regions, partially due to a further lockdown period,” retail statistics manager Sue Chapman said.
23rd Nov 2020 - 1News

Singapore upgrades Q3 GDP as lockdown measures ease

Singapore’s economy contracted less than initially estimated in the third quarter due to gradual easing of COVID-19 lockdown measures, official data showed on Monday. Gross domestic product (GDP) fell 5.8% year-on-year in the third quarter, the ministry of trade and industry said on Monday, versus the 7% drop seen in the government’s advance estimate.
23rd Nov 2020 - Reuters UK

Gaza declares COVID-19 disaster with health system near collapse

A rapid rise in coronavirus infections in the Gaza Strip has reached a “catastrophic stage”, with the blockaded Palestinian enclave’s medical system likely to collapse soon, health officials warn. COVID is spreading exponentially in Gaza – one of the most crowded places on Earth – especially in refugee camps, and the health ministry has warned of “disastrous” implications.
23rd Nov 2020 - AlJazeera

Doctors say CDC should warn people the side effects from Covid vaccine shots won't be 'a walk in the park'

The CDC must be transparent about the side effects people may experience after getting their first shot of a coronavirus vaccine, doctors urged during a meeting Monday with CDC advisors. Dr. Sandra Fryhofer said that both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccines require two doses and she worries whether her patients will come back for a second dose because of potentially unpleasant side effects after the first shot. Both companies acknowledged that their vaccines could induce side effects that are similar to symptoms associated with mild Covid-19, such as muscle pain, chills and headache.
23rd Nov 2020 - CNBC

England gets new set of restrictions for end of COVID-19 lockdown

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out new measures on Monday to replace a COVID-19 lockdown in England from Dec. 2, reinforcing a previous regional approach to try to reopen businesses in areas where infection rates are lower. Just over two weeks after Johnson introduced a national lockdown in England to try to tame a spiralling increase in new coronavirus cases, he said the measures had reduced COVID infection rates and would be eased on Dec. 2 as promised. Johnson has been under pressure to scrap the lockdown from lawmakers in his Conservative Party, where many have threatened to vote against any new restrictions without more evidence of their effect in stemming infections.
23rd Nov 2020 - Reuters UK


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 23rd Nov 2020

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Christmas in lockdown preferred by UK public over new restrictions in January

Most of the public would rather have a locked-down Christmas than have a new lockdown imposed in January, a new poll suggests. With the government considering the extent to which restrictions should be lifted to limit the impact on Christmas family gatherings, the latest Opinium poll for the Observer found that the public opted for a locked-down Christmas over new January restrictions by a margin of 54% to 33%. This split is almost identical across all party groups and demographics, with older voters in particular preferring to lock down over Christmas rather than in January. There was also strong support for banning people from posting conspiracy theories about the vaccine online, with 64% supporting the idea.
21st Nov 2020 - The Guardian

HSE deploying resources to reduce Covid-19 threat at Kerry nursing home 'in chaos'

The HSE is doing everything it can to minimise the impact of Covid-19 on a Kerry nursing home. The executive took control of the Oaklands nursing home in Listowel yesterday after a district court hearing was told it was 'a centre in chaos' where there was a 'serious risk to life.' The HSE is making alternative arrangements for its elderly residents on foot of an order sought at short notice in court. HSE director general Paul Reid has said that the HSE is doing everything that needs to be done at the Oaklands nursing home in Kerry, control of which was taken over by the executive on Thursday.
20th Nov 2020 - Irish Examiner

Britons could start to receive coronavirus vaccine next month

The NHS could start immunising Britons against coronavirus as soon as next month, if regulators approve a Covid-19 vaccine, health secretary Matt Hancock said on Friday. People are due to be vaccinated at special centres across the UK, and also by general practitioners, under the NHS plans. Mr Hancock’s statement came as new data suggested a levelling-off in the rate at which coronavirus is spreading across the country, raising hopes that families might be able to mix at Christmas if social restrictions are eased. The UK government will next week hold discussions with the devolved administrations to try to agree a unified approach to restrictions during the Christmas period.
20th Nov 2020 - Financial Times

NHS assembles army of staff for mass coronavirus vaccinations

The NHS is bringing together an army of retired doctors, health visitors and physiotherapists to embark on the country’s biggest ever mass vaccination programme, the Guardian has learned. The extraordinary effort in England will also include district nurses and high street chemists alongside GPs in the drive to immunise 22 million vulnerable adults, followed by the rest of the population. NHS documents seen by the Guardian show the rollout will rely in part on “inexperienced staff” who will have undergone two hours of online training before starting work. The slides also reveal codenames for two of the most promising vaccines in development: the Pfizer/BioNTech version is called “Courageous” and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is known as “Talent”.
20th Nov 2020 - The Guardian

Covid vaccine: US military ready to deliver 40 million doses once FDA approves

A US general said the military is prepared to deliver Pfizer and Moderna's coronavirus vaccines as soon as they receive emergency use authorisation from the government. US General Gustave Perna, chief operations officer for Operation Warp Speed, told ABC News Friday that the military is ready to deliver millions of vaccine doses once the US Food and Drug Administration grants them emergency use authorisation. Pfizer submitted its vaccine to the US FDA today. Moderna will submit its vaccine later this month. The companies said they expect to produce 50 million doses in 2020 and up to 1.3bn doses by the end of 2021.
20th Nov 2020 - The Independent

COVID-19: Vaccination site location revealed as council building identified

A council building in Leicestershire has been identified as a vaccination site, with the UK gearing up to roll out widespread coronavirus jabs if safety regulators give the go-ahead. Charnwood Borough Council has told Sky News that an area of its offices will be handed over to Ministry of Defence teams by mid-December "for at least nine months".
20th Nov 2020 - Sky News


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 20th Nov 2020

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California orders nightly COVID-19 curfew on gatherings, non-essential activities

California’s governor on Thursday ordered a curfew placed on all indoor social gatherings and non-essential activities outside the home across most of the state in a major escalation of measures to curb an alarming surge in coronavirus infections. The limited stay-at-home restrictions will go into effect from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. each day, starting Saturday night and ending the morning of Dec. 21, covering 41 counties representing over 94% of the state’s population, Governor Gavin Newsom said. “The virus is spreading at a pace we haven’t seen since the start of this pandemic, and the next several days and weeks will be critical to stop the surge,” Newsom said in a statement announcing the measure.
20th Nov 2020 - Reuters UK

The year of the pandemic: a view from South Korea

In the global coronavirus pandemic, South Koreans should be dropping like flies. But they aren’t. Perched on the edge of China, the country is small, about the size of Indiana, though given that 70% of the land is uninhabitable, the realistic comparison is West Virginia. Packed into that space are 51 million people, the populations of Texas and Florida combined. The country should have been decimated after the first infected passenger off the three-hour flight from Wuhan, China, sneezed.
19th Nov 2020 - STAT News

China expands its arsenal in COVID battle

Stringent monitoring of cold-chain food imports and the fine-tuning of lockdown and testing strategies are China's latest weapons in the battle against COVID-19 as the country braces for possible outbreaks this winter. While local transmission of the novel coronavirus has been under control for months, public health experts in China have highlighted the risk of new outbreaks linked to the virus hitching a ride on imports of frozen foods. As domestic life and production return to normal, experts have hailed local governments' efforts to replace blanket lockdowns and citywide tests with more targeted and economical measures to reduce disruption to socioeconomic development.
19th Nov 2020 - China Daily

Graduate international students locked out of New Zealand plead for exemption

Recent graduates who spent thousands on their education in New Zealand are questioning why they were left out of a border exemption to get them back to their homes and jobs. After months of being locked out of New Zealand, many say they feel abandoned by the government after years of living here and paying taxes. Protests have been held around India, including 150 people at a demonstration in Delhi this week bearing banners of #Migrantlivesmatter, and another is planned for Monday. In September, the government announced that immigrants holding work-to-residence, essential skills or entrepreneur visas would be allowed to travel to New Zealand.
19th Nov 2020 - RNZ

Covid could change our tolerance of flu deaths

Another, more lethal seasonal risk is the flu — in a bad year, as many as 25,000 people die from the virus in England alone. Yet this year, thanks in large part to lockdowns, flu cases are way down across the world and are likely to stay that way. That’s because the habits we’ve adopted to limit the spread of coronavirus — handwashing, mask-wearing and distancing — are effective for other respiratory pathogens too. “The measures we’re taking are enough to essentially eliminate flu,” says David Spiegelhalter, chair of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at Cambridge University. A study by the US Centers for Disease Control has found huge falls in flu activity both in the southern hemisphere’s winter and in the US summer season.
19th Nov 2020 - Financial Times

Europe is seeing one Covid death every 17 seconds, with 29,000 fatalities last week – an 18 per cent rise - WHO warns

Europe is once again the global epicentre for the coronavirus, the WHO warned WHO's European director said Europe accounts for 28 percent of global cases Hans Kluge said lockdowns were 'avoidable' and should be seen as a 'last resort' He said primary schools should stay open as they are in UK, France and Germany Glimmer of hope seen as cases fell this week for the first time in three months Dr Kluge emphasised the importance of mask wearing and social distancing
19th Nov 2020 - Daily Mail

Sweden finds coronavirus in mink industry workers

Sweden’s health agency said on Thursday a number of people who work in the mink industry had tested positive for the coronavirus. Authorities are analysing virus from the infected people and from infected minks to see if there is a link between the strains, the health agency said in a statement. It did not specify how many people had tested positive. Neighbouring Denmark earlier on Thursday said a new, mutated strain of the coronavirus stemming from mink farms in the country was “most likely” extinct.
19th Nov 2020 - Reuters India

UK will set up dozens of mass vaccination centres as soon as vaccines are available - the Telegraph

Britain will set up dozens of mass vaccination centres to immunize people against coronavirus as soon as vaccines are available, the Telegraph reported. One of the first locations for administering Pfizer Inc vaccine from mid-December has been confirmed as being in Derby, the newspaper added.
19th Nov 2020 - Reuters UK

Coronavirus cases in Africa cross two million mark: AU tally

Total coronavirus cases in Africa have surpassed the two million mark despite a slow addition of reported infections compared with other regions around the world, the African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said. With the African Union’s health body reporting 2,013,388 cases on Thursday, the continent now represents less than 4 percent of the world’s total cases, which many experts believe to be an undercount. They believe many COVID-19 infections and related deaths in Africa are likely being missed as testing rates in the continent of about 1.3 billion people are among the lowest in the world, and many deaths of all types go unrecorded. Africa has reported less than 48,000 coronavirus deaths so far.
19th Nov 2020 - AlJazeera


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 19th Nov 2020

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Covid vaccines should not be seen as 'unicorn' solution, says WHO chief – video

Michael Ryan, the head of the World Health Organization’s emergencies programme, has said that while vaccines are effective tools, they are not the lone solution to ending the coronavirus pandemic. ‘Some people think that vaccines will be, in a sense, the solution, the unicorn we’ve all been chasing,’ he said during a virtual briefing in Geneva on Wednesday, warning other measures such as social distancing needed to be maintained. It comes after positive efficacy results from late-stage trials of two potential Covid-19 vaccines
19th Nov 2020 - The Guardian

Covid 19 coronavirus: Three new cases in managed isolation

In New Zealand, there are three new cases of Covid-19 all detected in recent returnees in managed isolation. There are no new community cases today. Of the recent returnees who have tested positive for Covid-19: One person arrived from the United Kingdom via Dubai on November 14, two people arrived from Dubai on November 14. All three people tested positive during routine testing around day 3 of their time in managed isolation.
18th Nov 2020 - New Zealand Herald

'Where there's a will there's a way' as English doctors prepare COVID vaccine roll-out

English doctors are grappling with the prospect of seven-day service, -75 degree Celsius freezers and vaccines known as “Talent” and “Courageous” as they prepare for an unprecedented logistical challenge: the roll-out of COVID-19 vaccinations. Health minister Matt Hancock has set a target for England’s National Health Service that it should be ready to administer vaccines by Dec. 1, although he has said his central expectation is for the bulk of the roll-out to happen next year. Any distribution of vaccines would also require approval from the country’s medical watchdog, the MHRA. On Wednesday, NHS England medical director Stephen Powis confirmed that general practitioners (GPs), pharmacies and large-scale inoculation centres could all be involved in the vaccine roll-out, adding more details would be given in the coming days
18th Nov 2020 - Reuters UK

England will need five days of lockdown for each day relaxed at Christmas: adviser

England will need five extra days of lockdown measures to stop COVID-19 infections spreading for each day they are relaxed over the Christmas period to allow people to see their families, a senior government health adviser has warned. Susan Hopkins, deputy director of the national infections service at Public Health England, told reporters on Wednesday that the advice from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies would mean two days of tighter restrictions.
18th Nov 2020 - Reuters UK

Japan to monitor virus cases, hospitals before any emergency declaration decision

Japan will not immediately declare a health emergency following a record rise in coronavirus cases, and will continue to monitor infection rates and the capacity of hospitals to cope, the government’s chief spokesman said on Thursday. “We will respond appropriately based on conditions,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato told a regular press briefing. Coronavirus infections in Japan hit a record daily high of 2,201 cases on Wednesday, public broadcaster NHK reported. Almost a quarter of those were in Tokyo, which is expected to raise its pandemic alert level on Thursday, according to local media reports.
18th Nov 2020 - Reuters UK

Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine deliveries could start 'before Christmas'

Pfizer Inc PFE.N and BioNTech 22UAy.DE could secure emergency U.S. and European authorization for their COVID-19 vaccine next month after final trial results showed it had a 95% success rate and no serious side effects, the drugmakers said on Wednesday. The vaccine’s efficacy was found to be consistent across different ages and ethnicities - a promising sign given the disease has disproportionately hurt the elderly and certain groups including Black people. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration could grant emergency-use by the middle of December, BioNTech Chief Executive Ugur Sahin told Reuters TV. Conditional approval in the European Union could be secured in the second half of December, he added.
18th Nov 2020 - Reuters

U.S. surpasses 250,000 coronavirus deaths as virus mortality rate surges

The United States has recorded a quarter-million Covid-19 deaths, the latest NBC News numbers showed Wednesday, and the death rate has been accelerating in recent weeks as cases have been surging across the country. The 250,000th death was logged Wednesday morning, the data revealed. In the last four weeks there has been a 42 percent increase in the number of fatalities, from a weekly average of 821 per day in early October to last week’s average of 1,167 per day, according to an NBC News analysis of the available data.
18th Nov 2020 - NBC News

Covid: Plaid Cymru calls for extra support for infection hotspots

People self-isolating in Covid hotspots should be given a "topped-up" grant of £800, Plaid Cymru has said. It wants a package of extra support for ex-industrial areas with high infection rates, such as Merthyr Tydfil, Blaenau Gwent and Rhondda Cynon Taf. These areas, the party said, should be prioritised for mass testing, with more resources for test and trace teams. Ministers said they had put national support measures in place and provided an extra £15.7m for contact tracing. Anyone in Wales is able to claim £500 if they have to stay off work due to coronavirus.
18th Nov 2020 - BBC


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 18th Nov 2020

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China clamps down on frozen food over coronavirus fears

China is zeroing in on cold chain goods to prevent any outbreaks of Covid-19 after packaging of frozen Argentine beef, German pork and Indian cuttlefish tested positive for the virus. Cities across China, the world’s largest importer of beef and pork, have pledged to strengthen screening and sterilisation of imports. The latest campaign to safeguard China’s borders against any reintroduction of Covid-19 began after officials in the north-eastern city of Tianjin, one of the country’s largest ports, tied an infection of a worker in a warehouse to frozen pork imports from Germany last week. In the following days, food packaging tested positive for coronavirus in cities ranging from eastern Jining to southern Xiamen and central Zhengzhou.
17th Nov 2020 - Financial Times

Wash hands, use the app and avoid a Christmas lockdown

As 2020’s finishing post shuffles into view, a casual query among friends about what they fear the most in the lead up to Christmas elicits a unanimous, reflexive response. Lockdown. A regional or nationwide Level 3 or 4 plunge, right on the holiday doorstep, knocking the stuffing out of your Christmas turkey. Hopefully, the spectre of such bad tidings won’t play out, but it’s clear that we still have many months of maintaining our heightened defensive posture in repelling the menace of this pandemic from taking root in the community.
17th Nov 2020 - Stuff.co.nz

Insurers are trying to escape COVID-19 liability, watchdog tells UK Supreme Court

Insurers are trying to escape liability for pandemic-related business losses with counter-intuitive arguments that go against the essential purpose of insurance, Britain’s markets watchdog told the UK Supreme Court on Tuesday. A lawyer for the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which brought a test case against insurers on behalf of policyholders, said insurers had reached an “extraordinary conclusion” that business losses were largely uncovered during the coronavirus pandemic because of the widespread havoc it has caused. “(Insurers) are saying: ‘We insure perils but not ones that are going to cost us a huge amount of money. We never contemplated that’. Well, that isn’t an answer,” Colin Edelman, the FCA’s lawyer, told the second day of a four-day appeal, watched by thousands of businesses brought to their knees during the pandemic.
17th Nov 2020 - Reuters

Watchdog criticises UK government for COVID procurement amid 'chumocracy' claims

The British government did not properly document key decisions nor was it open enough about billions of pounds of contracts handed out during the COVID-19 pandemic, its spending watchdog has said, as critics accuse ministers of running a “chumocracy”. The National Audit Office (NAO) said on Wednesday there had been a lack of transparency and a failure to explain why certain suppliers were chosen, or how any conflict of interest was dealt with, over 18 billion pounds in procurement deals made between March and the end of July, often with no competition. The report comes amid growing criticism some multi-million pound contracts were awarded during the coronavirus crisis to companies with links to ministers, lawmakers and officials. “While we recognise that these were exceptional circumstances, it remains essential that decisions are properly documented and made transparent if government is to maintain public trust that taxpayers’ money is being spent appropriately and fairly,” NAO head Gareth Davies said.
17th Nov 2020 - Reuters

How bad is Russia's Covid crisis? Packed morgues and excess deaths tell a darker story than official numbers suggest

The limbs of a lifeless body hang off a stretcher in a hospital ward as coronavirus patients battle for their lives just a few feet away. An elderly woman gasps for breath, her desperate panting a grim soundtrack to one of many disturbing cell-phone videos emerging from hospitals across Russia. "This is how our nights look: horrifying," says a male voice narrating the footage, given to CNN by a prominent opposition-linked Russian doctors' union, "Doctors' Alliance," which says it was recorded in mid-October by a hospital staff member in Ulyanovsk, a city around 500 miles east of Moscow. "Two more down in our ward," he says, while filming a corpse. "This is how Covid-19 is killing everybody."
17th Nov 2020 - CNN


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 17th Nov 2020

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COVID-19 vaccine: UK orders five million doses of new Moderna jab by spring next year

Five million doses of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine have been ordered by the UK, the health secretary has announced. Matt Hancock said preliminary trials showing it to be 94.5% effective were "excellent news" and that, if it proves safe, the jabs can start to be rolled out across the country by spring 2021. "We can see the candle of hope," he declared, but cautioned that people must keep following COVID-19 restrictions.
17th Nov 2020 - Sky News

'There is no money left': southern Italy's poor pummelled by Covid

For the past 30 years, Grazia Santangelo has made a living selling books and jewellery from a stall at the Ballarò street market in Palermo. It is one of the oldest and liveliest markets in southern Italy — but now it is almost deserted. Because of the coronavirus crisis, 62-year-old Ms Santangelo has lost almost all of her clients and is struggling to pay for basic necessities such as food and medicine. Now that a second round of restrictions has come into force, she says she is lucky to earn €3 a day.
16th Nov 2020 - Financial Times

Morrison government looks at allowing extra flights home as Australians locked out due to COVID-19

Australians trying to flee coronavirus-riddled Europe struggling to secure flights Demand outstripping supply despite overseas arrival cap rising to 6,000 a week Government looking at more flights for citizens and then international students Education Minister Dan Tehan said country becoming 'victim of its own success' States and territories are asked to make a plan to allow in more overseas arrivals
16th Nov 2020 - Daily Mail

Using contact tracing app 'strongest form of defence' against another lockdown - Shaun Hendy

Speaking on TVNZ1's Breakfast the University of Auckland data modelling expert warned a potential two week period of new community cases of the coronavirus, which authorities can't get on top of, could put New Zealand into lockdown. Hendy said he believed Auckland particularly had become complacent before a woman who lives, studies and works in the central city was confirmed as having Covid-19 last week - a case of community transmission. The woman has been linked to the Defence Force cluster and one of her close contacts was confirmed as having contracted the virus yesterday.
16th Nov 2020 - 1News

Israel economy strikes back in third-quarter after first lockdown lifted

Israel’s economy put on a blistering burst of growth in the third quarter, expanding an annualised 37.9% as consumer spending, exports and investment took off after being hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic in the first half of the year. The preliminary gross domestic product (GDP) growth figure for July-September over the previous three months issued by the Central Bureau of Statistics was well above the 24% consensus forecast in a Reuters poll of economists. “The Israeli economy has been resilient due to strong hi-tech sectors and lack of flights, which pushed private spending up sharply,” said Leader Capital Markets Chief Economist Jonathan Katz, who expects a return to contraction in the fourth quarter.
16th Nov 2020 - Reuters

Packed crowds and euphoric leaders: Australia revels in Covid-free days

When the premier of Queensland held her regular Covid-19 update on Friday she couldn’t help letting a smile creep across her face. “Now, here’s a good one,” Annastacia Palaszczuk told reporters. “I think all Queenslanders are going to be happy about it.” She went on to announce that Brisbane’s Suncorp stadium would host a capacity 52,500 crowd for the forthcoming State of Origin rugby league decider against New South Wales next week. “The cauldron can be filled to 100% capacity,” she said.
15th Nov 2020 - The Guardian

Japan’s Economy Surges as Covid-19 Limits Ease

Japan became the latest major economy to bounce back from the devastation of the coronavirus, as lockdowns eased and pent-up demand led to surging domestic consumption and a rebound in exports. But the recovery is unlikely to be long-lived, analysts warn, as a surge in new virus cases has led to a second round of lockdowns in the United States and Europe and threatens to dampen sentiment at home. Japan’s economy, the world’s third largest, surged 5 percent during the July-to-September period, for an annualized growth rate of 21.4 percent, after three straight quarters of contraction.
15th Nov 2020 - The New York Times


Lockdown Exit - COVID-19 Lockdown Exit Analysis - 16th Nov 2020

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Covid-19: politicisation, “corruption,” and suppression of science

Politicians and governments are suppressing science. They do so in the public interest, they say, to accelerate availability of diagnostics and treatments. They do so to support innovation, to bring products to market at unprecedented speed. Both of these reasons are partly plausible; the greatest deceptions are founded in a grain of truth. But the underlying behaviour is troubling. Science is being suppressed for political and financial gain. Covid-19 has unleashed state corruption on a grand scale, and it is harmful to public health.1 Politicians and industry are responsible for this opportunistic embezzlement. So too are scientists and health experts. The pandemic has revealed how the medical-political complex can be manipulated in an emergency—a time when it is even more important to safeguard science. The UK’s pandemic response provides at least four examples of suppression of science or scientists. First, the membership, research, and deliberations of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) were initially secret until a press leak forced transparency.2 The leak revealed inappropriate involvement of government advisers in SAGE, while exposing under-representation from public health, clinical care, women, and ethnic minorities. Indeed, the government was also recently ordered to release a 2016 report on deficiencies in pandemic preparedness, Operation Cygnus, following a verdict from the Information Commissioner’s Office.
15th Nov 2020 - The BMJ

Shock new figures fuel fears of more lockdown domestic abuse killings in UK

Calls to the UK’s largest domestic abuse helpline are rising “week on week” as new figures reveal that almost 50 suspected killings may have occurred during the first lockdown. The charity Refuge, which runs the National Domestic Abuse helpline, said it was “very concerned” by the continuing upward trend in demand for its services, with England a little over a week into its second lockdown. Separate data from Counting Dead Women, a project that records the killing of women by men in the UK, identified 35 murders, with another 12 strongly suspected cases between 23 March and the start of July, when Covid restrictions were largely lifted. The rate of killings, conspicuously steep in the opening period of the first lockdown, gradually lowers to levels similar to those recorded in previous years.
15th Nov 2020 - The Guardian

Fauci Says Pfizer Vaccine’s Trial Success May Boost Acceptance

The success of Pfizer Inc.’s Covid-19 vaccine trial may help persuade more people to get inoculated amid a surge in new coronavirus cases, according to Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious-disease doctor. Pfizer’s vaccine, developed in collaboration with Germany’s BioNTech SE, has “an extraordinarily high degree of efficacy -- more than 90%, close to 95%,” Fauci said in an interview. That could be a key factor in overcoming reluctance to take pandemic vaccines that have been developed at top speed.
15th Nov 2020 - Bloomberg

Schoolcations Are All the Rage, Here's How to Take One

The pandemic has turned many parents into teachers, making remote learning challenging for the entire family. It’s especially tough for those who may still be going into their office and can’t be home to supervise, or if the homeschooling responsibility lies on the shoulders of one parent who may also be juggling working from home. The stress is tremendous. A new national poll of the U.S. workforce by Eagle Hill Research found that 65 percent of employees with children in remote learning situations are feeling burnout. Mom and dad need more than a “Calgon take me away” relaxing bath moment. Parents looking to exhale are finding relief with “schoolcations.” Families are loading up backpacks with school supplies, packing the laptop and hitting the road. Online learning can be done anywhere.
15th Nov 2020 - Daily Beast

Dame Sally Davies: obesity scourge led to 50000 Covid death toll

Thousands of coronavirus deaths could have been avoided if ministers had tackled the obesity crisis, England’s former chief medical officer says today. Professor Dame Sally Davies blames the country’s high death toll on “a structural environment” that enabled junk food makers to encourage consumption. The UK has one of the highest rates of obesity in the world and the second highest in Europe, with nearly one in three adults obese. Obesity, defined as a body mass index greater than 30, raises the risk of dying of Covid-19 by 48%. Last week Britain became the first country in Europe to pass a grim milestone, reaching more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus on official figures.
15th Nov 2020 - The Times

'Just hugging was amazing': joy and tears as Victorian families reunite after Melbourne lockdown

As Mel McNamara drove from the Victorian mainland over the Phillip Island bridge, her eyes filled with tears. “My daughter, she asked me why I was crying,” Mel says. “I had to tell her that these are happy tears – I was just so grateful to be by the sea and going to see my family.” It had been four months since Mel last saw her mother Julie and stepdad Damian, both residents on the island. Victoria’s “ring of steel” had kept them apart, with the threat of a $5,000 fine for any Melburnian who tried to escape the confines of the city. Mel burst into tears again when she finally saw her mum.
14th Nov 2020 - The Guardian

Covid 19 coronavirus: Why has mandatory mask wearing taken so long?

The masks are coming. New Zealand's hard and early response to Covid-19 is finally adopting widespread mask use outside of lockdown. Justin Giovannetti writes about what changed in the halls of parliament to make it happen. Masks will become mandatory on Auckland transit and domestic flights next week following months of criticism by leading epidemiologists that New Zealand has been avoiding a simple measure to lessen the risk of new outbreaks. Chris Hipkins, the country's Covid-19 minister, was shying away from a mask mandate as recently as Thursday afternoon. The Government was relying on "goodwill" that people would follow suggestions and wear masks while also scanning QR codes diligently. Most people didn't heed the suggestion
14th Nov 2020 - New Zealand Herald

Australia may see first week of no local COVID-19 transmissions

Australia’s three most populous states on Saturday recorded at least a week with no local transmissions of the new coronavirus, boding well for the country’s recovery from the pandemic after a flare-up marred an impressive early response. Victoria, the epicentre of the resurgence of the virus in recent months, recorded its 15th consecutive day of no new infections and no related deaths, two weeks after the state emerged from one of the world’s longest and strictest lockdowns. The second-most populous state’s deputy chief health officer, Allen Cheng, told a news conference that the run of zero cases was “about as good as it can get”.
14th Nov 2020 - Reuters

How to reinvent cities for the post-pandemic world

The once mighty financial capitals of the world have been reduced to ghost towns as they suffer the effects of COVID-19. For more than a century, cities have been magnets for millions of people seeking work opportunities and the promise of a better life. But the COVID-19 pandemic is rewriting the way we live and work. City centres have been turned into ghost towns as people work from home. It could potentially leave lasting scars with shops, restaurants and services that cater to commuters being decimated.
14th Nov 2020 - Aljazeera

How Australia brought the coronavirus pandemic under control

Kim Laurie worked as a florist for a quarter of a century before opening her own shop in Melbourne in July, just before the city was engulfed by a second wave of Covid-19 cases. Within weeks, Australia’s second-biggest city was reporting 700 new cases a day and Victoria’s state government imposed a second lockdown. “It was really devastating as I had no choice but to close the doors of the business for several weeks,” said Ms Laurie. Her flower shop is one of thousands of businesses hit hard by home confinement and nightly curfews, which lasted 112-days and have become hallmarks of Australia’s hardline approach to combating the pandemic. Corporate leaders have criticised the measures as too strict and economically damaging. But the zero tolerance strategy worked: no new locally transmitted cases have been reported in Victoria since the lockdown was lifted two weeks ago.
13th Nov 2020 - Financial Times


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How China claimed victory over the coronavirus

Millions have been tested in response to recent outbreaks and Chinese infections are well below many other countries. Lockdowns and mass testing are China’s main weapons in the fight against the pandemic
12th Nov 2020 - South China Morning Post

Families make the dash across SA to be re-united with loved ones in Western Australia

Campers and caravans are on the move in South Australia as the WA hard border is set to come down early on Saturday morning. For some families, it's been an emotional trek to reunite with their loved ones. Newcastle couple Pete and Kim Mackie haven't seen their children and grandchildren in Perth for 11 months, and said they've skipped the sightseeing through South Australia to take the direct route to be with their family.
12th Nov 2020 - ABC News

England: 'shocking' decline in primary pupils' attainment after lockdown

There has been a “shocking” decline in primary school pupils’ levels of attainment in England after lockdown, testing has revealed, with younger children and those from disadvantaged backgrounds worst affected. The results provide the first detailed insight into the impact of the pandemic on academic attainment among young children and show an average decline in performance of between 5% and 15% on previous years. The biggest drop was in maths scores, and overall seven-year-olds were the most impacted. The data, shared exclusively with the Guardian, is based on standardised tests sat by a quarter of a million pupils earlier this term. Researchers said they expected attainment to drop after more than five months out of school for most pupils, but were surprised at the scale of decline.
11th Nov 2020 - The Guardian


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Will Gen Z ever recover from the COVID-19 recession?

The global economy has been brought to its knees by COVID-19 and one generation may never fully bounce back from the beating: Generation Z. Born between 1997 and 2012, some Gen Zers – teens and college students – are entering the labour market for the first time during an unprecedented economic crisis caused by a once-in-a-century pandemic. United States unemployment for workers aged 16 to 24 tripled from 2019 to 2020, hitting 24.4 percent this spring, according to an October report by the Economic Policy Institute, a progressive-leaning think-tank based in Washington, DC. Like every aspect of the coronavirus recession, it is affecting communities of colour more. Unemployment rates were higher for young workers of colour – including Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (29.7 percent), African Americans (29.6 percent) and Latinos (27.5 percent), EPI found. And that blow to their livelihoods may not be temporary. Gen Z workers could feel the effects of the pandemic-related recession for decades to come as the current situation affects everything from their ability to advance in careers, buy a house or afford to raise children.
12th Nov 2020 - AlJazeera

Road to recovery for rural India post-pandemic; how skilled migrant workers can boost hinterland’s growth

As a measure to contain the virus, India declared a lockdown on 24 March 2020 for 1.3 billion people with the prime minister calling for joint action by people, not-for-profits, corporates, and governments. The complete lockdown in the country significantly impacted the quality of life and livelihoods of people. Considering that there has been a historical divide between rural and urban India with regard to the essential infrastructure for Health, Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH), supply chains, and other important services, the impact of COVID-19 was far more alarming for the rural community.
11th Nov 2020 - The Financial Express

Melbourne counts economic cost of coronavirus lockdown, offering harsh lesson to other cities

The lockdown cost US$71 million a day and resulted in a daily average of 1,200 jobs being lost across the state in August and September. Business leaders say it may take years for Melbourne – which was last year ranked as the world’s second-most liveable city – to recover.
11th Nov 2020 - South China Morning Post

West Indies cricket squad stripped of training rights due to New Zealand COVID-19 protocol breach

The West Indies cricket squad has been stripped of the right to train while in managed isolation after players were found to have breached rules around their 14-day quarantine. New Zealand’s Ministry of Health said CCTV footage from the team’s Christchurch hotel showed players mingling in hallways and sharing food in violation of managed isolation regulations. The ministry said all incidents occurred within the hotel and there was no danger to the public. The West Indies squad, which has completed 12 of its scheduled 14 days of isolation under COVID-19 regulations, will not be able to train again until its full managed isolation period has been completed. The isolation period might be extended if any further concerns arise, the ministry said. West Indies Cricket chief executive Johnny Grave told New Zealand media it is “hugely disappointing that players that knew the protocol completely broke that.”
11th Nov 2020 - The West Australian

Digital misogyny: Online abuse of women surges during COVID

Women bear the brunt of increasing digital abuse – threatened with rape and exploited for porn – as the coronavirus pandemic drives ever more people online, media experts said on Wednesday. Through salacious claims and viral memes, Brazilian journalist Patricia Campos Mello said she has repeatedly faced attack online for reporting on the Brazil government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis. “Thousands of memes have circulated on the internet which my face appears in pornographic montages,” Mello told the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s annual event, Trust Conference, held online this year due to the pandemic. “[People] calling me a prostitute and saying that I offer sex in exchange for stories. I get messages from people saying I deserve to be raped.” Women’s rights campaigners worldwide have warned of an increase in online abuse, such as revenge porn, as COVID-19 has confined many people inside, in front of a screen. Girls as young as eight have also been subject to abuse, with one in five young women quitting or reducing their use of social media, according to a recent survey by girls’ rights group Plan International.
11th Nov 2020 - AlJazeera

Vanuatu records first COVID-19 case in man who returned from US

Vanuatu has officially recorded its first case of COVID-19, health officials announced on Wednesday, ending the Pacific nation’s status as one of the few countries in the world to remain virus-free. Len Tarivonda, the director of Vanuatu Public Health, said the 23-year-old man had recently returned from the United States and was confirmed to have the virus on Tuesday after being tested on the fifth day of his quarantine. “A case detected in quarantine is considered a border case and not an outbreak,” the department said in a statement, adding that health protocols were in place to contain the virus. It added that the asymptomatic man, had been isolated from other passengers during his flight to Vanuatu because he had been in a high-risk location. He had transited in Auckland, New Zealand.
11th Nov 2020 - AlJazeera


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CDC now says masks protect both the wearers and those around them from Covid-19

Wearing a mask can help protect you, not just those around you, from coronavirus transmission, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in new guidance Tuesday. The statement was an update to previous guidance suggesting the main benefit of mask wearing was to help prevent infected people from spreading the virus to others. Cloth masks act as "source control" to block virus particles exhaled by the wearer and provide "filtration for personal protection" by blocking incoming infectious droplets from others, the CDC said in its new guidance.
11th Nov 2020 - CNN

What will happen after lockdown in England?

England is currently in its second lockdown of the year as a second wave of coronavirus continues to grip the country. It came into force last Thursday, with non-essential retail once again forced to close, along with businesses such as hair salons and gyms – while pubs and restaurants can only provide a takeaway and delivery service. The lockdown, which replaced the tier system of restrictions in England, is intended to last for four weeks, ending on December 2 – but what will happen after that? And is there a possibility it could be extended if it fails to impact on the current infection rate?
10th Nov 2020 - Metro.co.uk

‘Naked in the face of this crisis’: Spain’s Latin American workers suffer

José, a 40-year-old former graphic designer from Colombia, is on the front line of Europe’s coronavirus-driven economic crisis: as an immigrant in Spain, he is one of the most vulnerable group of people in the EU’s worst-affected major economy. In March he fell ill with Covid-19, like thousands of others in Madrid; in April he was admitted to hospital; in May he lost his job as a doorman. Now, months later, he is still looking for a job. “Initially my boss did not believe I was infected and I had to keep working,” said José, who did not want his full name to be published. “But then my symptoms got worse and I was replaced by someone else. I was on a temporary contract, so that was it for that job.” His is a story that is all too common.
10th Nov 2020 - The Financial Times

Swaths of European firms risk collapse despite subsidies, ECB warns

One in seven Spanish workers are in businesses at risk of collapse, according to new research by the European Central Bank, excluding those who work for financial companies. This is the highest rate of all large eurozone economies, and comes despite the country’s national furlough scheme. It compares with about 8 per cent of employees in Germany and France and 10 per cent in Italy, also taking into account the use of subsidies to keep people in work, the ECB found. Companies at risk of collapse are defined as having negative working capital and high debt levels.
10th Nov 2020 - Financial Times

From schoolboy to tea seller: Covid poverty forces India’s children into work

The pandemic has pushed millions of urban poor into crisis – and left children struggling to help their families survive. Subhan Shaikh used to start the day with a cup of cinnamon-flavoured tea, brought to him by his mother, Sitara, before he got ready for school. But the lockdown in March brought her salary as a school bus attendant to an end, and providing food – never mind tea – for Subhan, 14, and his two younger sisters, became a challenge. Today, life for Subhan revolves around tea, which has become a lifeline for his family. After seeing his mother struggle, Subhan decided to do something and became a tea seller on the streets of Mumbai.
10th Nov 2020 - The Guardian

Coronavirus doctor's diary: 'We are first-hand witnesses of this devastation'

The second coronavirus wave has already put many hospitals under great pressure, and it's nurses and physios who bear the brunt of it, writes Dr John Wright of Bradford Royal Infirmary (BRI). Here he introduces four nurses, who describe the strain they are now under. Work. Sleep. Repeat. Our doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and support staff have settled in to a weary routine. The hospital is nearly full. The patients we admit were infected a fortnight beforehand. The patients who are dying were infected a month ago - when the government's scientific advisory group, Sage, was recommending a circuit break. The virus has used this time to great effect. In Yorkshire, one in 37 people tested positive in the last week of October - almost 3% of the population. This is a prevalence figure beyond our comprehension.
10th Nov 2020 - BBC

Covid-19: 'Lockdown' declared Collins Dictionary word of the year

"Lockdown" has been declared the word of the year for 2020 by Collins Dictionary, after a sharp rise in its usage during the pandemic. It "encapsulates the shared experience of billions of people", Collins said. Lexicographers registered more than 250,000 usages of "lockdown" during 2020, up from just 4,000 last year. Other pandemic-linked terms on the 10-strong list include "furlough", "key worker", "self-isolate" and "social distancing" as well as "coronavirus". According to the dictionary, lockdown is defined as "the imposition of stringent restrictions on travel, social interaction, and access to public spaces".
10th Nov 2020 - BBC

Collins Dictionary names ‘lockdown’ its word of the year for 2020


10th Nov 2020 - ITV News


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Covid 'raises new psychiatric disorders risk'

One in every 17 people who have had Covid-19 could be diagnosed with anxiety, depression or insomnia for the first time, a study of millions of US patient health records suggests. That is about double the risk from other illnesses, the researchers say. Unexpectedly, they also found existing psychiatric patients were 65% more likely to be diagnosed with Covid-19. This could be linked to their physical health or drugs prescribed to treat disorders, the researchers speculated. They should be given appropriate care, the Oxford team said. But they stopped short of asking psychiatric patients to shield or think of themselves as extremely vulnerable.
10th Nov 2020 - BBC

Israelis may be infected with new coronavirus strain from Denmark minks

Three Israelis who returned from Denmark and were confirmed as infected with the novel coronavirus may have been infected with the new strain discovered among minks in the country recently, according to KAN news. The new strain may have decreased sensitivity to antibodies, which could impact future vaccines, although studies are still being conducted to verify this.
10th Nov 2020 - The Jerusalem Post

Colombia implemented a six-month lockdown to control coronavirus but there was a steep price to pay

With her beaming smile, jovial manner and contagious air of enthusiasm, it's difficult to imagine Gloria Zuluaga ever losing her optimism. Yet in May, as COVID-19 cases began to surge in Colombia, the 52-year-old restaurant owner found herself helpless and fearing the worst. Standing outside a hospital in Bogota under one of the capital's infamous tropical downpours, she pleaded with hospital staff for help. She felt faint, her airways closed up and she choked for breath. "I was sweating, choking and I started shaking like I had epilepsy," Zuluaga recalls. "I felt so vulnerable." As she suspected, the symptoms were diagnosed as having been caused by the novel coronavirus — though not directly.
9th Nov 2020 - ABC News

Coronavirus: Should New Zealand copy Taiwan's leading COVID-19 response?

The Detail is a daily news podcast produced for RNZ by Newsroom and is published on Newshub with permission. Click on this link to subscribe to the podcast. Taiwan is held up as best in class when it comes to controlling coronavirus and calls are getting louder for New Zealand to follow its lead and end the disruptive lockdowns that are so damaging to the economy. Today The Detail's Sharon Brettkelly looks at how this country of nearly 24 million people on an island a third the size of the South Island, tops the world with around 568 cases and just seven deaths compared with New Zealand's 1973-odd cases and 25 deaths. Taiwan-based New Zealander Ron Hanson talks to Sharon Brettkelly about the similarities and differences between the two countries' strategies
9th Nov 2020 - Newshub

World is running out of time on climate, experts warn

World leaders are running out of time to forge a green recovery from the Covid-19 crisis, with only a year to go before a crunch UN summit that will decide the future of the global climate, leading experts have warned. Progress on a green recovery, which would reduce emissions while repairing the damage from the pandemic, has been hampered by the need for an emergency rescue of stricken economies around the world and the resurgence of the coronavirus in Europe, the US and some other countries. But with global heating showing no sign of slowing, and the danger signals of climate breakdown increasingly evident – from the Arctic ice to American wildfires – the race is on to build the global economy back better.
9th Nov 2020 - The Guardian

Behind Pfizer's vaccine, an understated husband-and-wife 'dream team'

Positive data on BioNTech and U.S. partner Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine is an unlikely success for the married couple behind the German biotech firm, who have devoted their lives to harnessing the immune system against cancer.Pfizer said on Monday said its experimental vaccine was more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 based on initial data from a large study
9th Nov 2020 - Reuters

COVID-19 cases top 10 million in US as Biden sets up task force

President-elect Biden set to announce a 12-member task force to deal with pandemic as US becomes first country to cross 10 million cases. The development on Sunday came as global coronavirus cases exceeded 50 million.
9th Nov 2020 - AlJazeera

Lockdown in paradise: Antigua’s plea for visitors

Osmilta Prince sits on a rock beneath a palm tree, her homemade mask covering her face. By her feet, is a basket of handmade shell bracelets and calabash bowls. Close by, a laminated sign reads: “Stay Apart 6 feet – or 9½ coconuts”. By this time of day, the 48-year-old single mother will have ordinarily sold enough curios to put food on the table to feed her four sons. But today, the sun-loungers on this usually popular beach are mostly empty. “It’s scary to realise that this could go on for another year,” she says, taking in the quiet beach. “This is my income, and the modest savings I have won’t last. I don’t want to go and beg. Everything I earn now goes on food because there hasn’t been a chance to save since we reopened.”
8th Nov 2020 - AlJazeera


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Covid: Lack of medical supplies 'hits' disabled people

A hospital trust has declared a major incident as demand for oxygen surges among coronavirus patients. Grimsby and Scunthorpe hospital Trust has seen a surge in coronavirus patients admitted as one of the worst affected areas in the country. As of this morning, there were 106 Covid-positive patients being treated in the Trust's three hospitals - 56 at Grimsby's Diana, Princess of Wales Hospital, 47 at Scunthorpe General Hospital and three at Goole. There are six people in ICU in each of the Grimsby and Scunthorpe hospitals, reports the Grimsby Telegraph. Additional nursing staff have been called in to work extra shifts as the virus continues to take its toll on staff.
9th Nov 2020 - BBC

UK and others look for lessons from Slovakia's Covid mass-testing project

Authorities in Slovakia say they hope a nationwide programme in which two-thirds of the country’s population were tested for Covid-19 in just two days last weekend will halve the number of cases of the virus in the country. The Slovak testing programme has drawn interest from across Europe, as debates continue about whether or not blanket testing is the best way to fight coronavirus. A Downing Street team travelled to Slovakia last weekend to witness the testing, keen to draw lessons before a mass testing programme due to be launched in Liverpool this weekend. Slovak officials said the team included two Downing Street advisers and two people responsible for arranging the UK’s large-scale testing programme in Liverpool.
8th Nov 2020 - The Guardian

How Biden navigated pandemic politics to win the White House

Joe Biden was fresh off winning the Michigan primary and effectively capturing the Democratic presidential nomination, a prize he’d sought for the better part of three decades. Instead of plotting a strategy to build momentum, he was contemplating an abrupt halt. He gathered his senior team in a conference room on the 19th floor of his campaign’s Philadelphia headquarters, the type of in-person meeting that would soon be deemed a public health risk. A former surgeon general and Food and Drug Administration commissioner joined on speakerphone.
8th Nov 2020 - The Associated Press

NHS England suspends one-to-one nursing for critically ill Covid patients

Nurses will be allowed to look after two critically ill Covid-19 patients at the same time after NHS bosses relaxed the rule requiring one-to-one treatment in intensive care as hospitals come under intense strain. NHS England has decided to temporarily suspend the 1:1 rule as the number of people who are in hospital very sick with Covid has soared to 11,514, of whom 986 are on a ventilator. The move comes amid concern that intensive care units, which went into the pandemic already short of nurses, are being hit by staff being off sick or isolating as a result of Covid. It follows a warning last week by Prof Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, that the Covid resurgence could overwhelm the NHS.
8th Nov 2020 - The Guardian

Coronavirus: Parents hit hardest by lockdown energy costs in UK

UK families are the hardest hit by coronavirus lockdown energy costs, according to new research from Credit Karma. School closures during lockdown cost parents a total of £368m ($481m) a month in extra energy costs, with each family facing an average £68 spike in inflated energy bills since the UK went into lockdown. This is more than double the rise in energy bills suffered by the average UK household, as the extra energy used by the average household due to lockdown equated to an additional monthly cost of £32.31, according to a Populus poll. As England goes into a second national lockdown set to last until at least 2 December, families are bracing themselves for rising energy bills, with many unsure on how they’ll afford them.
7th Nov 2020 - YAHOO!

Coronavirus: Greece reintroduce SMS authorisation for movement as country enters second lockdown

Residents in Greece will need to obtain permission before leaving their homes as the country's second lockdown comes into force. Similar to measures adopted during the first lockdown, people will be required to send a text message to a five-digit number, providing their name, address and the reason why they need to leave their house. The country's digital governance minister announced the permissible reasons on Thursday.
7th Nov 2020 - Sky News

New Zealand Inc reaps benefit of hard and fast Covid lockdown

When Covid-19 struck New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern’s government quickly closed the nation’s borders and imposed one of the world’s strictest lockdowns in a bid to eliminate the spread of the virus. The decision in late March plunged businesses into crisis, with many forced to implement radical strategic changes to survive. Air New Zealand was an early casualty, requiring a NZ$900m ($610.4m) bailout from Wellington. But with most restrictions now removed and the virus apparently under control, business confidence is coming back. Many corporate leaders — in industries from tourism to agriculture — hope that Wellington’s decision to prioritise health over keeping its economy open will prove fruitful in the long term.
6th Nov 2020 - Financial Times

Coronavirus lockdown England: Internet usage surges on night one

Lockdown 2.0 yesterday came into force with shops and bars closed As a result people were stayed at home and many streamed and went online At 9:10pm internet usage surged to a peak of 6.46 Terabytes per second
6th Nov 2020 - Daily Mail


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Sweden and Germany removed from England's travel corridors

Britain said on Thursday it was removing Germany and Sweden from its list of countries where travellers would not have to quarantine on arrival in England. “From 4 a.m. Saturday 7th November, if you arrive into the UK from these destinations you will need to self-isolate,” transport minister Grant Shapps said on Twitter. He added no countries were being added to the list of travel corridors. England entered a second countrywide lockdown on Thursday meaning people must stay at home, barring a limited number of exceptions.
6th Nov 2020 - Reuters UK

How lockdown is killing restaurants, cafes and bars a second time

Hospitality industry suffering a staff shortage due to lack of international visitors Catering Australia CEO Wes Lambert said issue was pronounced in Melbourne He said backpackers or international students filled most jobs prior to COVID-19
5th Nov 2020 - Daily Mail

New South Wales to open border to Victoria, New Zealand

After months of remaining closed to Victorian residents, NSW will drop its border restrictions in just three weeks. On Wednesday NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian revealed the border would open on November 23. That is about a month after her Victorian counterpart Daniel Andrews put an end to Melbourne’s tough stage 4 lockdown. The southern state has since recorded five consecutive days of zero cases while NSW announced three new local cases on Wednesday. “As long as a state can demonstrate it can get on top of cases, we are OK with that,” Ms Berejiklian told reporters. “I’m confident other states will have that capacity … they’ve certainly had enough time to prepare for this.”
5th Nov 2020 - Newstalk ZB

Australia has almost eliminated the coronavirus — by putting faith in science

The Sydney Opera House has reopened. Almost 40,000 spectators attended the city's rugby league grand final. Workers are being urged to return to their offices. Australia has become a pandemic success story. The nation of 26 million is close to eliminating community transmission of the coronavirus, having defeated a second wave just as infections surge again in Europe and the United States. No new cases were reported on the island continent Thursday, and only seven since Saturday, besides travelers in hotel quarantine. Eighteen patients are hospitalized with covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. One is in an intensive care unit. Melbourne, the main hotbed of Australia's outbreak that recently emerged from lockdown, has not reported a case since Oct. 30.
5th Nov 2020 - The Washington Post

Mexico's health ministry confirms 544 new coronavirus deaths

Mexico’s health ministry reported on Thursday 5,567 additional coronavirus cases and 544 more deaths, bringing the official number of cases to 949,197 and the death toll to 93,772. Health officials have said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.
5th Nov 2020 - Reuters


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When COVID Hit: America’s Nursing Home Nightmare

We report on how an elder care system already in crisis imploded under the weight of the coronavirus pandemic. When the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States, nursing homes became ground zero. By November, more than 60,000 nursing home residents had died of COVID-19, accounting for roughly a quarter of all fatalities nationwide.
5th Nov 2020 - AlJazeera

Australia's Victoria reports no COVID-19 cases for fifth straight day

Australia's coronavirus hot spot of Victoria state on Wednesday reported zero COVID-19 cases for the fifth straight day as states began easing regional border restrictions, raising prospects of a faster return to normal. South Australia on Tuesday said it would reopen its border with Victoria in two weeks, while the country's most populous state of New South Wales is expected to take a decision on border restrictions later in the day. Victoria last week ago allowed restaurants and cafes in state capital Melbourne - home to 5 million people - to reopen after more than three months under a stringent lockdown but gatherings remain under tight control.
4th Nov 2020 - YAHOO!

Will Melbourne ever be the same again post COVID lockdown?

Will Melbourne bounce back once it has conquered the coronavirus pandemic, or will COVID-19 leave lasting scars on the city, just as the virus appears to do on many of the people who survive it? On Wednesday, Victoria recorded its fifth straight day of no new cases of coronavirus and no deaths after Melburnians spent their first weekend out of lockdown. The pressure is now on for economic recovery, with businesses and the city hoping that people will now be confident to head back into the CBD.
4th Nov 2020 - ABC News

Corporate New Zealand's quick to return to air travel providing massive boost to travel industry

Zoom may have been one of the buzzwords of 2020, but more and more New Zealand businesses are returning to a different kind of zooming: flying. Research from travel management company FCM Travel Solutions - which is part of the Flight Centre Travel Group - shows a staggering 56 percent of New Zealand businesses have employees and executives flying as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on internationally. That puts Aotearoa's rate six percent above the global average. Nick Queale, General Manager Flight Centre Corporate says FCM bookings show that after the first period of national lockdown and compared to the same time last year, travel bookings returned to 11 percent within one week, and 24 percent within five weeks.
4th Nov 2020 - Newshub

Australia records one local COVID-19 case, New Zealand quarantine worker tests positive

Australia reported on Tuesday one locally acquired case of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, while New Zealand registered its first community transmissions in more than two weeks, after two workers at a quarantine facility tested positive. Australia's most populous state of New South Wales reported the single case, although it and northeastern Queensland state said there were six infections among people returning from overseas and in quarantine. The result means that the southeastern state of Victoria, the epicentre of Australia's outbreak, has now gone four days without any new infections detected. With infections curtailed, South Australia said it would reopen the border with Victoria in two weeks. Anyone travelling from Victoria will have to quarantine for two weeks after arrival, said South Australian Premier Steven Marshall.
4th Nov 2020 - Reuters on MSN.com


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China changes school curriculum to reflect Beijing's positive Covid narrative

Chinese government-endorsed content about the pandemic and the “fighting spirit” of the country’s response will be added to school curriculum, the country’s ministry of education has said, in a move to enshrine the country’s narrative of success against the virus. The content will be added to elementary and middle school classes in biology, health and physical education, history, and literature, and will “help students understand the basic fact that the Party and the state always put the life and safety of its people first”, the ministry said on Wednesday. “Students will learn about key figures and deeds which emerged during the epidemic prevention and control efforts. They will learn to foster public awareness and dedication, to enrich knowledge about the advantages of the socialist system with Chinese characteristics,” the ministry said.
3rd Nov 2020 - The Guardian

Covid-19: The country's response to community cases hasn't relaxed, the system is just 'more sophisticated'

The official response to new Covid-19 community cases might appear more relaxed than previous outbreaks. But the lack of intensity is simply a reflection of the strides made to improve the public health system, one expert says. Two new community cases – both workers stationed at the Sudima Hotel isolation facility in Christchurch – have not prompted localised lockdowns, as happened in Auckland after the August cluster emerged. “This is another example of the system working well to protect our border,” Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said at Tuesday’s Covid-19 update.
3rd Nov 2020 - Stuff.co.nz

Coronavirus: Christchurch not facing lockdown after new community case - Jacinda Ardern

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed Christchurch isn't facing an imminent alert level move after a community COVID-19 case was detected in the Garden City on Monday. On Monday night, the Ministry of Health released a statement saying a staff member at a Christchurch managed isolation facility had contracted COVID-19. While they had tested negative during routine testing on Thursday, they became unwell over the weekend and sought out another test, which came back positive. While the individual is now in isolation, they did visit a Countdown supermarket on Colombo St in the Christchurch suburb of Sydenham on Sunday. That store has now been deep-cleaned and will reopen on Tuesday.
3rd Nov 2020 - Newshub

Halloween parade in Wuhan draws huge crowd as city continues to recover from Covid-19 lockdown

Halloween revellers in the central Chinese city of Wuhan flocked to the Happy Valley amusement park to watch a parade on October 29, 2020. The celebrations took place months after the city that was the initial epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic continues to recover from a strict lockdown to fight the spread of the coronavirus that causes the disease.
2nd Nov 2020 - South China Morning Post

Europe is locking down a second time. But what is its long-term plan?

Shortly before 11 p.m. yesterday, a waitress passed out paper cups to the customers crowded around the tables outside Luzia, a bar in the lively Kreuzberg district here. “I’m sorry, but you all have to leave,” she said. “God, in 2 minutes it’s going to be lockdown,” a woman at one table said, as guests poured the remainder of their cocktails into the cups. The fun was over: For the second time this year, Luzia had to close on the German government’s orders. All restaurants, bars, gyms, and theaters in Europe’s largest economy will remain shut until at least the end of the month in a new bid to halt the spread of COVID-19. Hotels are no longer allowed to host tourists. Residents have been asked to meet people from only one other household. Florent, the manager at Luzia, took some hope from the fact that Germany was locking down while cases were still lower than in neighboring countries. “Hopefully we’ll reopen in a month,” he said.
2nd Nov 2020 - Science Magazine


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Manchester ambulance service declares 'major incident' over volume of calls

The ambulance service in northwest England, one of the areas worst-hit by COVID-19, declared a major incident on Monday over an exceptionally high volume of calls, especially in the Greater Manchester area. The service said it had received 2,266 emergency calls in eight hours, an increase of 36% compared with the s