Hygiene Helpers - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 30th Jun 2022

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Which COVID-19 Vaccine Should Your Young Kid Get? That Depends, Doctors Say

COVID-19 vaccines for some of the youngest children in the U.S. are now rolling out, and parents are faced with a new question: Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech? Both of the mRNA shots—which are now authorized for kids ages 6 months and up—are effective at preventing severe illness, and they both help prevent symptomatic infections. They offer vital protection in this age group, even for kids who have already recovered from COVID-19. The vaccines “provide protection against a broader variety of variants than [a previous] infection, which generally provides protection mostly against the variant that you had,” says Dr. Alissa Kahn, a pediatric hematologist and oncologist in Paterson, N.J.
29th Jun 2022 - TIME

Doctors treat first UK patient in Covid ‘super donor’ blood trial

Doctors have treated the first UK patient in a reopened clinical trial that will explore whether blood plasma from “super donors” can help fight Covid in those with weakened immune systems. Super donors produce exceptionally high levels of antibodies after infection and vaccination, and there are hopes that transfusions of their blood plasma can wipe out the virus in people whose own immune systems are compromised. While two landmark trials known as Recovery and Remap-Cap found that convalescent plasma from people who recovered from Covid did not benefit other patients, a closer look at the Remap-Cap data showed that plasma with the highest levels of antibodies might help the immunosuppressed. The findings prompted doctors to reopen the plasma arm of the Remap-Cap trial to investigate specifically whether donated plasma with extremely high levels of antibodies can save the lives of people with weakened immune systems and reduce the amount of time they spend in intensive care.
30th Jun 2022 - The Guardian

Covid: Face masks brought back at Nottinghamshire hospital sites

Face masks have been reintroduced at some Nottinghamshire hospitals just two weeks after they were dropped. Mask policy had been relaxed in all but high-risk areas of Sherwood Forest Hospitals' three sites as part of a phased return to pre-pandemic policies. But a rise in covid cases among staff and patients at King's Mill, Newark and Mansfield Community hospitals has led to the decision being reversed. Bosses said they would keep face mask and visiting requirements under review.
29th Jun 2022 - BBC News

Hygiene Helpers - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 29th Jun 2022

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EnGeneIC’s second generation COVID-19 vaccine protects against all variants

The world’s first COVID-19 vaccine to offer immunity against all variants is one step closer. Clinical trials have shown the novel vaccine works by stimulating a completely different immune pathway from other vaccines, producing “high affinity” antibodies that neutralise all COVID-19 variants. Australian Biopharma company EnGeneIC is currently conducting trials of its groundbreaking vaccine in Sydney and Melbourne. Thirty-two healthy participants received two doses, three weeks apart. Of those, 27 have passed the 28-day safety assessment with no side effects. Critically, they all have high affinity antibodies capable of neutralising all COVID-19 mutants, including Omicron.
28th Jun 2022 - The Associated Press

EU countries prolong COVID-19 certificates amid rising cases

European Union countries approved Tuesday extending the use of COVID-19 certificates by one year until the end of June 2023 as cases of the deadly virus start to grow again ahead of the summer holiday season. Aimed at facilitating travel across the 27-nation bloc during the pandemic, the certificates entered into force in July last year and have been a successful tool to help EU citizens move in the region in coronavirus times without restrictions such as quarantines. EU countries have issued nearly 2 billion certificates. The document attests that a person has been vaccinated against coronavirus or that they have a recent negative test result or have recovered from the infection. The European Council said the regulation can be lifted earlier. But after most EU countries removed coronavirus restrictions over the past months in light of the improved health situation, a recent increase in infections fueled by new variants is leading governments to rethink their strategies.
28th Jun 2022 - The Associated Press

Covid-19: Rise in cases prompts 'stay home if unwell' advice

People are asked to stay home if unwell because of suspected rises in Covid-19 cases. Health bosses in Devon and Cornwall say official data suggests between 2.2% and 2.7% of people in the counties have the virus. People are being reminded to protect themselves and others, and remember the virus "is very much still here"
28th Jun 2022 - BBC News

Covid pandemic not over warns Northamptonshire health experts

Health experts have warned the Covid-19 pandemic "isn't over", as a county saw cases rise by 20% in a week and an increase in people going to hospital. In the week to 22 June, Northamptonshire has 886 cases, up from 736 in the previous week. The county's two councils said two new subvariants of Omicron appeared to be more infectious than other variants. Sally Burns, interim director of Public Health for West Northamptonshire, said people should "take precautions". Both North Northamptonshire and West Northamptonshire councils said there was an increase in hospital admissions from the rise in cases. Northampton General has 16 people in hospital with Covid-19 - an increase from 13 in the previous week, and Kettering General has 21 in hospital - a rise from 17.
28th Jun 2022 - BBC News

Pfizer, Moderna to be ready with BA.1-specific COVID boosters

Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc said on Tuesday they will be ready with COVID-19 vaccines designed to combat the BA.1 Omicron variant that was dominant last winter earlier than those designed to target currently dominant subvariants. Moderna said it would be ready with a "couple of hundred million" of bivalent vaccines designed to combat BA.1 by September, but it would be late October or early November if the vaccine maker needed to design a vaccine to combat the currently dominant BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants.
29th Jun 2022 - Reuters

How do I know if I've had COVID-19, and what else can antibody blood tests tell us about past infection?

Antibody blood tests can tell you if you've had COVID-19, but there are some caveats. COVID-19 antibodies naturally dwindle over time, so if they turn up in your blood test, their levels can't tell you exactly how long ago you were infected — just that you were infected sometime in the past few months. "We think now [the test] is a useful marker of fairly recent infection, as opposed to whether you've ever been infected," Dr Machalek says.
28th Jun 2022 - ABC News

Hygiene Helpers - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 28th Jun 2022

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Should you get a COVID-19 booster shot now or wait until fall? Two immunologists help weigh the options

While COVID-19 vaccines continue to be highly effective at preventing hospitalization and death, it has become clear that the protection offered by the current vaccines wanes over time. This necessitates the use of booster shots that are safe and effective in enhancing the immune response against the virus and extending protection. But when to get a first or second booster, and which shot to choose, are open questions. Many people find themselves unsure whether to wait on new, updated formulations of the COVID-19 vaccines or to mix and match combinations of the original vaccine strains. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, uses its knob-shaped spike protein to gain entry into cells and to cause infection. Each of the existing and upcoming vaccines relies on emulating the spike protein to trigger the immune response. However, each vaccine type presents the spike protein to the immune system in different ways.
27th Jun 2022 - The Conversation

Children to get free flu vaccines, second Covid-19 booster eligibility expanded

Health Minister Andrew Little said the government was expanding access to the flu vaccine after noticing an increase in pre-schoolers hospitalised with the illness. "We're making free flu shots available to another 800,000 New Zealanders, including children, more of whom are having to go to hospital," Little said. "Free flu shots are already available for everyone over the age of 65 and those at risk of becoming seriously ill or who have underlying conditions. "This season we ordered 40 per cent more vaccines. We've already seen more than one million New Zealanders get a flu shot, but with significant pressure on our health system we're ramping up efforts to get as many people vaccinated as possible."
27th Jun 2022 - RNZ

Kuwait mulls optional fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine

Kuwait is expected to soon introduce an optional fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine. According to local newspapers, the Ministry of Health is set to make an official statement on the availability of the fourth dose of the vaccine. The fourth dose, in accordance with regulations, will be provided to groups most vulnerable to infection, who are suffering from chronic diseases, elderly. The dose will be for those who wish to be vaccinated. The booster dose is given to avoid complications when infected. It is important to follow precautionary measures and continue to adhere to health instructionsm, the ministry reminded. The government in May announced the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions. Travellers to the country are no longer needed to take a PCR test or provide proof of vaccination.
27th Jun 2022 - Gulf News

More free COVID-19 rapid tests for kids to be handed out in July

The government will provide more free COVID-19 rapid antigen tests in July for children under the age of 7 years, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Monday. Starting July 1, families with children born on or after Sept. 2, 2015 will be eligible to collect the free tests at any of the approximately 5,000 designated pharmacies participating in the government's rapid test rationing program. Five free rapid tests will be allocated for each child in the under-7 age category, the CECC said, adding that parents must show the child's health insurance (NHI) card at the pharmacy. In the first round of free test distribution in June, some 780,000 families with children under the age of 7 years received free rapid test kits, accounting for 60 percent of the eligible age group, according to the CECC.
27th Jun 2022 - Focus Taiwan News Channel

Covid-19: Hong Kong extends social distancing rules to July 13, as experts call for border restrictions to be eased

Hong Kong’s current social distancing rules will be extended until July 13, the government has announced. “In view of the latest epidemic trend and given that the effective period of the measures in the coming cycle will span to the next government term, having consulted the Chief Executive-elect’s Office and with its consent, the Government decided to extend the existing social distancing measures for 14 days with effect from June 30,” the government said in a press release on Monday.
27th Jun 2022 - Hong Kong Free Press

Casino hub Macau launches third round of COVID testing as infections rise

Macau launched a third round of mandatory COVID-19 testing for its more than 600,000 residents on Monday, in a push to curb a rise in infections in the world's biggest gambling hub. Authorities in Macau have locked down multiple buildings and put more than 5,000 people in quarantine in the past few days, the city's government said. Health authorities said 38 new COVID cases were recorded on Sunday, taking the total number of infections to 299 in the latest outbreak.
27th Jun 2022 - Reuters

Pakistan orders masks on domestic flights as COVID numbers rise

Pakistan’s aviation regulator has made masks mandatory on domestic flights given a gradual rise in the number of COVID-19 cases across the country, it said a statement. The order comes a day after Pakistan's biggest city, Karachi, reported that its COVID-19 positivity ratio, or the rate of positive cases out of all tests conducted, rose to 21% compared with a national rate of 2.8%. "With immediate effect, mask wearing will be mandatory onboard domestic flights,” the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) said in the statement late on Sunday.
27th Jun 2022 - Reuters

COVID-19: People in France 'should wear masks again on public transport' as new coronavirus wave hits nation

People in France should wear masks again in crowded areas, particularly if they are on public transport, to help tackle a new COVID-19 wave, according to the country's health minister. The increase in coronavirus cases is being fuelled by new variants, with 17,601 fresh infections over the past 24 hours - the highest Monday figure since 18 April. It comes as the number of people in England's hospitals who have tested positive for COVID jumped by more than a third in a week.
27th Jun 2022 - Sky News

Covid-booster response hope for most vulnerable

More than a million vulnerable people could improve their protection against Covid by taking a short break from medication after a booster jab, a trial suggests. It found stopping the common immune-suppressing drug methotrexate for two weeks doubled spike antibody levels for up to 12 weeks. Some people experienced disease flare-ups but no impact on quality of life. Research is needed to find out if a similar approach works for other drugs. Patients should always consult their doctor or specialist hospital team before pausing their medication, scientists writing in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine said.
27th Jun 2022 - BBC News

Hygiene Helpers - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 27th Jun 2022

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Thais 'willing' to wear masks in public

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has expressed satisfaction over news that most Thais are voluntarily wearing masks for protection against Covid-19 despite the mask mandate being lifted on Thursday. Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, government spokesman, on Saturday said the PM expressed concern about the health of the public as coronavirus infection risks remained. The Department of Disease Control (DDC) recommends that people with underlying conditions, the elderly and pregnant women who have yet to get boosters keep wearing masks.
26th Jun 2022 - ฺBangkok Post

Coronavirus work from home warning as spring boosters 'drop off'

Coronavirus has been branded ‘concerning’ again in Manchester amid soaring case numbers ‘across all ages’, according to public health chiefs. The rise comes as there has been a significant ‘dropoff’ of eligible people coming forward to get spring Covid-19 vaccination booster jabs. The health bosses warned that people should work from home and children should stay at home from school if they have symptoms to prevent the spread. Greater Manchester doctors have also sounded alarms that another Covid wave could be hitting the region, saying 'next Covid wave inbound? Staff, patients, colleagues, friends, family, neighbours all succumbing again'.
25th Jun 2022 - Manchester Evening News

Argentines not too keen on taking Covid-19 booster shots

Argentine health authorities have reported that. although the COVID-19 pandemic is not over yet, fewer people showed up for their boosted dose of vaccine, due to a false low-risk perception which makes coverage not sufficient. While over 82% of the population has taken a full two-shot scheme, additional jabs have been skipped persistently despite the increase in the number of cases during May. Scientists insist these injections are the best way to prevent infection, severe symptoms, and possible death. “The low compliance of the population to get the fourth dose has a lot to do with the messages that have been installed in relation to covid during these last months.
25th Jun 2022 - Uruguay News

Expert on why you need your covid booster jab now to keep safe this winter

England’s leading NHS medic is urging those eligible for a spring booster but yet to come forward to take up the offer as soon as possible as a quarter of a million reminders go out before the end of the month. The largest and fastest vaccination programme in NHS history has now invited everyone eligible for a spring booster and more than four in five people have already had their jab. The NHS has invited more than five million people in total to get their spring booster in line with JCVI guidance as part of the world-leading NHS Covid-19 vaccination programme. It is urging anyone yet to come forward for a spring dose to do so as soon as practically possible. More than four million people and around 86% of those aged 75 and over have already had their spring dose. Those who are eligible include older adult care home residents, people aged 75 and over and those who are immunosuppressed.
25th Jun 2022 - Daily Post Wales

UK prepares to include over-50s in autumn Covid booster campaign

The UK government is getting ready to roll out Covid-19 booster jabs to all adults aged over 50, in a broader autumn campaign than its vaccine advisers had previously suggested. Under provisional guidance issued last month, only care home residents, the over-65s, frontline health and social workers and vulnerable younger people would be eligible for the next round of vaccines. But Sajid Javid, health and social care secretary, told the Financial Times that he had asked his team “to be ready for it to be over-50s and above."
25th Jun 2022 - Financial Times

Some Chinese cities relax COVID testing mandates

Several Chinese cities have scrapped or relaxed their COVID-19 testing mandates after China emerged from its worst regional outbreaks, with officials told not to cause too much disruption to people's lives while staying vigilant about the virus.
24th Jun 2022 - Reuters

Covid Resurgence Across UK, Europe Driven by Omicron Subvariants

Covid infection rates are rising again in the UK and across much of Europe, driven by newer versions of the omicron variant, amid concerns that another wave will disrupt businesses and add to pressure on health systems. In England, the estimated number of people testing positive for Covid-19 climbed to almost 1.4 million -- about 1 in 40 people -- in the week ending June 18, according to an Office for National Statistics report published Friday. That compares with around 1 in 50 people in the prior week. In Scotland, the estimate in the latest week increased to around 1 in 20 people.
24th Jun 2022 - Bloomberg

Hygiene Helpers - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 24th Jun 2022

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Scientists probe Japan's remarkable COVID success in hunt for new vaccine to protect some of the most vulnerable

Japan's notable coronavirus pandemic resilience has generated scores of possible explanations, from the country's preference for going shoeless indoors, to the purportedly low-aerosol-generating nature of Japan's quiet conversation, to its citizens' beneficial gut bacteria. Even irreligiousness — said to have spared the Japanese from exposure to crowded houses of worship — has been touted as a virtue in the age of COVID-19. Despite having the world's oldest population, with almost one in three residents 65 or older, Japan has had fewer COVID fatalities per capita than almost any other developed nation.
23rd Jun 2022 - CBS News

Omicron-specific COVID vaccines on the horizon, Pfizer chief says

COVID-19 vaccines that specifically target the Omicron and other variants are under development, Pfizer Inc's (PFE.N) chief executive said on Wednesday, adding that the company will be able to quickly adapt shots as the novel coronavirus mutates. While the ultimate approval decisions rest with U.S. regulatos, "we are ready for that," the drugmaker's CEO Albert Bourla told MSNBC in an interview, noting that the Food and Drug Administration is convening a meeting later this month.
23rd Jun 2022 - Reuters.com

Eric Adams Stopped Enforcing Covid Vaccine Mandate for NYC Businesses

Mayor Eric Adams of New York City has not enforced the city’s coronavirus vaccine mandate for employees at private businesses, and has no plans to begin inspecting businesses or begin fining those that are not in compliance. Newsday first reported on the lack of enforcement of the vaccine mandate for private employers. “We have been focused on prioritizing education instead of enforcement when it comes to the private sector mandate, which is how we’ve been able to get more than 87 percent of all New Yorkers with their first dose to date,” Fabien Levy, a spokesman for New York City Mayor Eric Adams, said in an email. Former Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a vaccine mandate for employees at private businesses in December, the most far-reaching local measure in the United States at the time. The mandate applied to around 184,000 businesses of all sizes with employees who work on-site in New York City.
23rd Jun 2022 - The New York Times

Over-60s urged to coronavirus vaccine top-up as new cases mount

Healthcare minister Ernst Kuipers has called on the general public to stick to the basic coronavirus rules and urged the over-60s who have not yet had a second booster vaccination to come forward. So far, just 40% to 59% of people entitled to a fourth vaccination (herhaalprik) have taken up the offer, depending on where they live. Extra measures to control the spread of the virus are not yet needed, the minister told reporters after a meeting of cabinet ministers which was called to discuss the rising infection rate.
23rd Jun 2022 - DutchNews.nl

Austria scraps COVID vaccine mandate, says it split society

Austria’s health minister announced Thursday that the country is scrapping a dormant coronavirus vaccine mandate, saying the measure risked polarizing society and could even lead to fewer people getting the shot. The government announced plans last year requiring all people aged 18 and over to get vaccinated against COVID-19, the first country in Europe to do so. The law took effect in February but lawmakers suspended the mandate before police were due to enforce it in mid-March. Health Minister Johannes Rauch said the rise of new virus variants had changed citizens’ perception of the effectiveness and necessity of a vaccination, even among those willing to get the shot. This could deter them from voluntarily getting booster shots that will help curb the outbreak in the fall, he said. “The vaccine mandate hinders some people who are generally willing to get the shot from taking the booster, the idea being: I’m not going to be told what to do,” said Rauch.
23rd Jun 2022 - The Associated Press

Denmark to offer fourth COVID vaccine dose to people over 50 years

Denmark plans to offer a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose in the autumn to those who are over 50 years old, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said on Wednesday as she announced a strategy to curb the spread of the disease over the coming months. Although COVID infections are still at low levels, Denmark has seen an increase in the number of cases after the new BA.5 subvariant of Omicron, which seems to spread more quickly than other variants, became dominant in the Nordic country.
23rd Jun 2022 - Reuters

South Africa repeals COVID rules as fifth wave fades

South Africa has repealed COVID-19 rules that made masks mandatory in indoor public spaces, limited the size of gatherings and imposed entry requirements at its borders, the health minister said on Thursday. South Africa has recorded the most coronavirus cases and deaths on the African continent, with over 3.9 million confirmed infections and more than 101,000 deaths. Minister Joe Phaahla said authorities had noted a decline in cases, hospitalisations and reported deaths and concluded that a limited fifth wave was dissipating.
23rd Jun 2022 - Reuters

Covid-19 Vaccines Prevented 20 Million Deaths in One Year: Study

Covid vaccines that were developed in record time saved an estimated 20 million lives in the first year of the rollout, more than half of them in wealthier countries, according to the first study of its kind to quantify the impact. While more than 7 million deaths were likely averted in countries covered by Covax, the World Health Organization-backed distribution program, the research nonetheless highlights the devastation caused by uneven access. About one in five lives lost due to Covid in poorer countries could have been prevented if WHO targets had been reached, data published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal show.
23rd Jun 2022 - Bloomberg

Hygiene Helpers - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 23rd Jun 2022

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Manitoba government launches survey on COVID-19 immunization plans for children under 5

Manitoba is seeking input on its plans to vaccinate children under the age of five against COVID-19. Vaccines for children aged six months to four years old could be approved by Health Canada this summer. In anticipation of this, the province has launched a survey asking for feedback on how the rollout should look, particularly from parents with children in this age group, says a news release form the province.
22nd Jun 2022 - MSN.com

Covid-19: Risk of mutated variants among immunocompromised patients, new study shows

Immunocompromised patients tend to develop chronic coronavirus infections, leading to highly mutated variants that bear multiple antibody-resistant mutations, according to a new study carried out by a research team at Tel Aviv University, Israel. The study involved an examination of chronic COVID-19 patients at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center (“Ichilov Hospital”) and was published this week in Nature Medicine. The researchers found that a weakened antibody response, particular in the lower airways of these chronic patients, may prevent full recovery from the virus and drive the virus to mutate many times during a lengthy infection. They explained that the virus’ ability to survive and reproduce in the immunosuppressed patient’s body without restriction leads to the evolution of many variants.
22nd Jun 2022 - The Brussels Times

US babies, toddlers get their first COVID-19 shots

Babies and toddlers began getting the COVID-19 vaccine in thighs and arms across the United States on Tuesday, in many cases in front of cameras and a masked cheering audience.
22nd Jun 2022 - Reuters

Moderna CEO: COVID variant vaccine to be ready for shipping in August

Moderna's COVID-19 variant vaccine will be ready to ship in August as the company has been making shots ahead of approval, Chief Executive Stephane Bancel told Reuters on Wednesday, adding that the only bottleneck to supply was a regulatory one. "Our goal is as early as August given we're going to file all the data in June, by the end of June... hopefully in the August timeframe, the vaccine is authorised," Bancel said in an interview.
22nd Jun 2022 - Reuters

Denmark to offer fourth COVID vaccine dose to people over 50 years

Denmark plans to offer a fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose in the autumn to those who are over 50 years old, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said on Wednesday as she announced a strategy to curb the spread of the disease over the coming months. Although COVID infections are still at low levels, Denmark has seen an increase in the number of cases after the new BA.5 subvariant of Omicron, which seems to spread more quickly than other variants, became dominant in the Nordic country.
22nd Jun 2022 - Reuters

France is facing a new COVID-19 wave - French vaccination chief

France is facing a new wave of COVID-19 infections fuelled by new variants of the disease, French vaccination chief Alain Fischer said on Wednesday, as daily new cases reached an almost two-month peak the day before at more than 95,000. Speaking on France 2 television, he said there was no doubt there was once again an upsurge of the pandemic in the country, adding he was personally in favour of reinstating mandatory face mask wearing on public transport.
22nd Jun 2022 - Reuters

Hygiene Helpers - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 22nd Jun 2022

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Wrist-worn trackers can detect Covid before symptoms, study finds

Health trackers worn on the wrist could be used to spot Covid-19 days before any symptoms appear, according to researchers. Growing numbers of people worldwide use the devices to monitor changes in skin temperature, heart and breathing rates. Now a new study shows that this data could be combined with artificial intelligence (AI) to diagnose Covid-19 even before the first tell-tale signs of the disease appear. “Wearable sensor technology can enable Covid-19 detection during the presymptomatic period,” the researchers concluded. The findings were published in the journal BMJ Open. The discovery could lead to health trackers being adapted with AI to detect Covid-19 early, simply by spotting basic physiological changes.
22nd Jun 2022 - The Guardian

Indonesia Tightens Screening at Large Events as Covid Cases Rise

Indonesia is tightening guidelines around organizing large-scale events to minimize the spread of Covid-19 virus as new cases increased to a two-month high. Participants should be fully vaccinated in order to attend events involving 1,000 people or more, while unvaccinated children are discouraged from joining, Covid-19 Task Force Spokesman Wiku Adisasmito said in a briefing Tuesday. The new directive takes effect immediately, and a regulation detailing all the measures will be issued shortly. “The rise in infections is unavoidable as people’s mobility increases, regardless of the variants,” Adisasmito said.
21st Jun 2022 - Bloomberg

'Should all Koreans receive 4th Covid-19 vaccine shot?'

The quarantine authorities are considering expanding the fourth Covid-19 vaccine shots to all people based on domestic quarantine situations and research results at home and abroad, officials said Tuesday. "If the immunity level falls quickly, a virus resurge can also come quickly. However, we could put off the resurge depending on the immunity level," said Lim Sook-young, a senior official at the Central Disease Control Headquarters (CDCH). "I think the strategy for vaccination is very important." In preparation for strains that may become prevalent in the second half of the year, the government will respond and prepare by focusing on how to implement vaccination, inject therapeutic agents at the right time, and develop strategies to strengthen surveillance for new variants, Lim added. The authorities confirmed a positive antibody rate of 94.9 percent through a survey but expected the immune effect to decline in the fall, making additional vaccination inevitable.
21st Jun 2022 - KBR

U.S. to begin vaccinating young children against covid

Eighteen months after a New York nurse received the first U.S. coronavirus vaccination, immunizations became available Tuesday for about 19 million children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years, the last group of Americans to be afforded that protection. Pediatricians, drugstores, hospitals and community vaccination centers began to administer first doses of two vaccines to children: the Pfizer-BioNTech product to children ages 6 months through 4 years; and the Moderna vaccine to children 6 months through 5 years old.
21st Jun 2022 - The Washington Post

Afrigen, Univercells Team Up to Develop African Covid Vaccine

South African biotech company Afrigen Biologics will work with a Belgian partner to develop the first African-owned Covid-19 shot as part of a broader effort to reduce the continent’s reliance on other regions for vaccines. Afrigen and the Univercells Group aim to build on expertise developed through the World Health Organization’s messenger RNA vaccine hub, the companies said in a statement Tuesday. Afrigen, based in Cape Town, said it’s working to facilitate the production of mRNA vaccines at more than 15 manufacturing sites in low- and middle-income nations across the world. Africa, which imports about 99% of all the shots it needs, was left far behind wealthier nations in securing shots during the pandemic with manufacturing concentrated in just a handful of countries. The partners said they’ll seek to develop vaccines that are cheaper to produce and easier to store and distribute in rural and remote locations where few people have been vaccinated.
21st Jun 2022 - Bloomberg

Ainos COVID-19 Antigen Self-Test Receives Approval for Sale in Taiwan

Ainos, Inc. a diversified medtech company focused on the development of novel point-of-care testing, low-dose interferon therapeutics, and synthetic RNA-driven preventative medicine, today announced that the Company has begun marketing the Ainos SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Self-Test (“COVID-19 Antigen Self-Test Kit” or “the Test”) under an Emergency Use Authorization (“EUA”) issued by the Taiwan Food and Drug Administration (“TFDA”) on June 13, 2022 to Taiwan Carbon Nano Technology Corporation (“TCNT”), the manufacturer and product co-developer of the Test in conjunction with Ainos. Ainos is the exclusive master sales and marketing agent for the COVID-19 Antigen Self-Test Kit.
21st Jun 2022 - The Associated Press

UK scientists urge higher uptake of Covid boosters among elderly

Around a fifth of people aged 75 and over in England have yet to have a fourth Covid jab, data suggests, leading to calls for a renewed push for vaccination of the vulnerable amid rising infections and hospitalisations. According to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), in the week ending 11 June an estimated one in 50 people in England had Covid – about 1.13 million people – a rise from 1 in 70 the week before. Upticks have also been seen in the rest of the UK, while hospitalisations are also rising. The resurgence is thought to be down to a rise in Omicron variants including BA.4 and BA.5, although scientists say other factors may also be at play, including a return to pre-pandemic behaviour, and waning immunity.
21st Jun 2022 - The Guardian

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How common is long COVID? Why studies give different answers

Clinical epidemiologist Ziyad Al-Aly has access to a treasure trove that many researchers can only dream of: millions of sets of electronic medical records from the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which provides health care for the country’s military veterans. With this data in hand, Al-Aly, who is based at the VA St. Louis Healthcare System in Missouri, and his colleagues have delved into the long-term effects of COVID-19, from cardiovascular illness1 to diabetes2. They have also undertaken the challenge of studying long COVID — a condition in which people experience symptoms months after an acute SARS-CoV-2 infection seems to have resolved — and recently published findings3 that surprised some researchers.
20th Jun 2022 - Nature

Singapore Urges Elderly to Take Boosters as New Covid Wave Looms

Singapore is expecting a fresh wave of Covid-19 cases in the next one to two months, its health minister reiterated, urging thousands of elderly to get their booster shots to avoid the risk of serious illness. About 80,000 people aged 60 years and above had not yet taken their boosters, Ong Ye Kung said in a video posted on Facebook Monday, adding that the third shot drastically reduced the chances of needing intensive care or dying among seniors. “You need to take your boosters. So don’t delay anymore,” Ong said.
20th Jun 2022 - Bloomberg

Over-75s urged to get Covid booster jab as cases rise

Over-75s and people at high risk have been urged to get a Covid booster vaccine, amid warnings of a new wave of infections in Scotland. The spring booster jab is available until 30 June to everyone in the older age group and people over 12 if they have a weakened immune system. About a third of Scots in the immunosuppressed group have not yet come forward for an additional vaccine.
20th Jun 2022 - BBC News

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German health minister pushes fourth COVID shot ahead of autumn wave

There will not be another attempt to make COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory, said German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, while making the case for more people to get a second booster shot. Anyone who is often in contact with others and wants to protect themselves and others should consider a fourth shot, regardless of age, said Lauterbach. Some 80% of Germany's over-60s have not had their fourth COVID-19 shot, he added.
18th Jun 2022 - Reuters

Over-75s urged to get Covid booster jab as cases rise

Over-75s and people at high risk have been urged to get a Covid booster vaccine, amid warnings of a new wave of infections in Scotland. The spring booster jab is available until 30 June to everyone in the older age group and people over 12 if they have a weakened immune system. About a third of Scots in the immunosuppressed group have not yet come forward for an additional vaccine. Latest data estimates that around one in 30 people in Scotland has Covid. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates that 176,900 people have the virus - about 3.36% of the population.
19th Jun 2022 - BBC News

Canada seeing rise in COVID-19 subvariants. Could this lead to a summer surge?

Canada is seeing an increase in several fast-spreading COVID-19 variants that have been fuelling new outbreaks in the United States and Europe, Canada’s top doctors said Friday. The BA.4 and BA.5 strains of the virus, which are subvariants of Omicron, have been detected in Canada since May, and the BA.2.12 subvariant has been showing growth in the country since March. On Friday, Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, made note of the rise in the number of these cases in the country and said that these subvariants have “demonstrated a growth advantage and additional immune escape” over Omicron and other strains of the virus. “COVID-19 has shown us over the past few years that there may be more surprises ahead,” Tam said during the briefing.
18th Jun 2022 - Global News

How Japan achieved one of the worlds lowest Covid-19 death rates

Article reports that Japan’s Covid-19 death rate is the lowest among the world’s wealthiest nations, with health experts pointing to continued mask wearing, extensive vaccination and an already healthy population as the core factors behind its success. The population has continued to adhere to basic infection control measures, including avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated venues, as other parts of the world grapple with pandemic fatigue. And Japan’s measures have been bolstered by a robust vaccination program and free medical care
18th Jun 2022 - Business Standard

Can China revive its COVID-hit economy?

The Chinese government has announced a 33-point stimulus plan to put the economy back on track. China has been the biggest source of global economic growth for the past 20 years. And it has long defied predictions it would soon hit a wall. But, strict COVID lockdowns, a crackdown on tech companies and a real estate slump are challenging the world’s second-largest economy’s expansion. Many financial institutions predict growth will fall well short of Beijing’s target of about 5.5 percent this year, for the first time in decades. Elsewhere, the United Kingdom plans to scrap parts of the post-Brexit trade deal with the European Union. But, can it do so? And how will businesses be affected?
19th Jun 2022 - Al Jazeera English

The covid waves continue to come

We are just over five months into 2022 and have already seen two record highs of coronavirus infection in England, with population prevalence peaking at 7% in early January (omicron BA.1) and 8% in late March (omicron BA.2).1 After eight weeks of declining prevalence, infections have started to increase again with the rise of yet another set of omicron variants. Instead of just one new variant, we currently have four: BA.2.12.1 (dominant in the US), BA.4 and BA.5 (dominant in South Africa), and BA.5.1 (dominant in Portugal). Together, these four variants became dominant in England in early June,2 and it looks as if BA.5 and BA.5.1 will likely win out to become the overall dominant variants.3 So what does this mean for the shorter and longer term? In the short term, we will see another wave of infections here, likely peaking at the end of June/early July. South Africa’s BA.4/5 wave has now passed, with fewer hospital admissions and deaths than in their BA.1 wave in December.
18th Jun 2022 - The BMJ

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More South Australians now able to test for different viruses at COVID drive-through sites

More vulnerable South Australians will now be able to test for 12 different viruses, such as influenza, alongside their COVID-19 tests. The test can detect a dozen viruses including COVID, influenza and respiratory syncytial virus. Flu cases are skyrocketing in SA. The multi-virus tests take about 24 hours to process SA Pathology has doubled its multi-virus testing from 500 to 1,000 a day to support doctors to give early diagnosis and treatment to at-risk patients. Tests are available at drive-through testing clinics and at private pathologies with a GP referral, which can also be obtained via telehealth. Health Minister Chris Picton said multi-virus testing has been available since the start of the pandemic, but spiking flu cases have prompted health authorities to provide more testing.
17th Jun 2022 - ABC News

China top Covid-19 fighter calls for all-in-one data portal like Europe’s EpiPulse

Two-and-a-half years after China's first Covid-19 cases, leading epidemiologist Liang Wannian has proposed the setting up of an EU-like integrated monitoring and early reporting system for a speedy response to future outbreaks. The current data collection process is "complex and fragmented", said Liang, head of China's Covid-19 response team, as he called for the different monitoring systems to be rolled into an all-in-one network. This would cover not only human health data but also animal farm and waste water monitoring inputs, to help identify novel pathogens and provide seamless access to data on a single platform.
16th Jun 2022 - MSN.com

WHO: COVID-19 deaths rise, reversing a 5-week decline

After five weeks of declining coronavirus deaths, the number of fatalities reported globally increased by 4% last week, according to the World Health Organization. In its weekly assessment of the pandemic issued on Thursday, the U.N. health agency said there were 8,700 COVID-19 deaths last week, with a 21% jump in the Americas and a 17% increase in the Western Pacific. WHO said coronavirus cases continued to fall, with about 3.2 million new cases reported last week, extending a decline in COVID-19 infections since the peak in January. Still, there were significant spikes of infection in some regions, with the Middle East and Southeast Asia reporting increases of 58% and 33% respectively.
16th Jun 2022 - The Associated Press

Shanghai orders mass COVID testing each weekend until end-July

Shanghai will require all of its 16 districts to organise mass COVID testing for residents every weekend until the end of July, a city official said on Wednesday. Zhao Dandan said that said that all districts will organise "community screenings" each weekend. Should a district find any community transmission during the week, it will be required to conduct a full screening during which all residents will be subjected to "closed management" movement restrictions until testing is over, he added.
16th Jun 2022 - Reuters

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Vaccine makers claims efficacy against Omicron variant of Covid-19

With Omicron and its sub-variants spreading rapidly across the globe, vaccine makers have started claiming efficacy of their Covid-19 vaccines against this Sars-CoV-2 variant.
15th Jun 2022 - Business Standard

Hong Kong RAT proof nothing to get hungover about

Try as Hong Kong might, the number of daily Covid-19 cases remains stubbornly high. In an effort to reduce them in time for celebrations of the city’s 25th anniversary of its return to Chinese sovereignty on July 1, patrons of pubs, bars and clubs are from Thursday required to show proof of a negative rapid antigen test (RAT) result. It is an understandable move given such places are behind half a dozen recent clusters in entertainment districts involving hundreds of people. Random raids by police of numerous premises have led to dozens of fines and temporary closures for the violation of rules. Authorities have opted for the RAT strategy rather than rolling back a phased reopening of social and economic activity. The last of three stages remains to be implemented, but outgoing Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor contends circumstances are not right for that to happen before July 1.
16th Jun 2022 - South China Morning Post

Shanghai to Mass Test Whole City Every Weekend Till End July

Shanghai, which reported just 16 Covid cases for Wednesday, will conduct mass testing drives every weekend until the end of July in the latest display of the lengths authorities are going to in order to adhere to nation’s zero tolerance approach to the virus. A temporary lockdown will also be imposed on residential complexes where a Covid case is detected in the week leading up to the weekend testing, Zhao Dandan, an official with the Shanghai Municipal Health Commission said at a briefing Wednesday. The lockdown will be lifted once everyone in the compound has been tested, he said. In an effort to detect cases early and break transmission chains, the city’s residents will need to take nucleic acid tests at least once a week until the end of July, with workers at supermarkets, barbers, drugstores, shopping malls and restaurants required to undergo daily testing.
16th Jun 2022 - Bloomberg

Full COVID-19 vaccination still required for Hajj, says ministry

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah said that full immunization with one of the approved COVID19- vaccines is still required for those planning to perform Hajj this year. The confirmation comes less than 24 hours after the Saudi authorities announced the lifting of various COVID-19 preventative measures, including the requirement to wear face masks in closed places. The ministry reaffirmed that all those intending to perform Hajj this year must have completed their immunization program with one of the COVID-19 vaccines approved by the Public Health Authority. This vaccine requirement is listed on the electronic registration portal for this year’s Hajj, which will accommodate 1 million pilgrims.
15th Jun 2022 - Arab News

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Israel offers third COVID vaccine for children 5 to 11

Only a small percentage of children aged 5 to 11 will actually be eligible to receive the additional dose, as 76 percent of children this age have not been vaccinated at all. In addition, among those who were vaccinated, many have received the second dose in the last three months. Children from 5 to 11 have the lowest vaccination rate among the Israeli population, much more so than children age 12 to 15 – of which 42 percent have yet to be vaccinated. Among teenagers aged 16 to 19, 22 percent are unvaccinated.
14th Jun 2022 - Haaretz

FDA advisers to weigh expanding Covid-19 vaccines to younger children

Several months after older children became eligible to get vaccinated against Covid-19, the United States might be just days away from offering vaccines to those younger than 5. The US Food and Drug Administration's independent Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee is set to meet Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss amending the emergency use authorization (EUA) of Moderna's and Pfizer/BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccines to include younger ages. Children under 5 -- about 18 million people -- are the only US age group that isn't eligible to get a Covid-19 vaccine.
14th Jun 2022 - CNN

To save global health, we need vaccine patent waivers now

Global health is on its deathbed. For almost two years, a handful of rich countries have resisted a life-saving proposal tabled by India and South Africa that could speed up global COVID-19 vaccination, but the new vaccine patent waiver proposal pushed by the European Union and the head of the World Trade Organization is worse than no deal at all, says Hugo López-Gatell.
14th Jun 2022 - Al Jazeera English

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Covid-19: Patients without respiratory symptoms no longer have to wear a face mask in GP surgeries

Patients who enter general practices in England no longer have to wear a face mask unless they have respiratory symptoms, NHS England and NHS Improvement says. But the updated guidance also underlines the importance of local risk assessments and says that increased measures can be used when deemed necessary. A letter sent to clinical commissioning groups and trusts set out the changes to infection prevention and control measures following updates from the UK Health Security Agency.1 It said that health and care staff should continue to wear face masks as part of personal protective equipment when working with patients with suspected or confirmed covid-19, including untriaged patients in primary care and emergency departments.
13th Jun 2022 - The BMJ

Don’t be complacent, another Covid wave is coming. Here’s how we can manage it

As we move into summer, more than two years since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, the words “new wave” are probably the last thing anyone wants to hear. Yet it is true that recent UK data (as well as data from Florida and other places) indicates that sublineages of the Omicron variant, BA.4 and BA.5, are kicking off a new wave of cases. With the pandemic no longer dominating the news in the way it once did, it’s worth taking stock of where we are and what needs to be done. After all, these variations on Omicron are not more severe, but they do have the capacity to reinfect people, even those who have had a previous version of Omicron. This is further evidence that reaching “herd immunity” (where enough people are vaccinated or infected to stop further circulation) against Covid-19 is probably impossible.
13th Jun 2022 - The Guardian

Philippine officials, governor clash over face mask policy

Philippine officials warned Monday that people can face arrest if they defy a presidential order to wear face masks in public to protect against the coronavirus even in a province where the governor has declared they are optional. Officials asked Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia of central Cebu province to cooperate with President Rodrigo Duterte’s order, but she insisted Monday that her decision to allow people to decide whether to wear masks in public in her province has legal grounds because provincial officials can decide on health issues.
13th Jun 2022 - The Associated Press

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Covid-19 vaccine in prison: a not-to-be-missed opportunity to promote access to vaccination in adolescents

Covid-19 vaccination campaigns for adolescents have been taking place in many countries for some months. The WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on immunisation have called for vaccine prioritisation within countries to take into account the needs of those groups that, due to underlying social, ethnic, geographic, or biomedical factors, are at greater risk of getting infected or suffering most severe consequences from covid-19. Since the risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is considerably higher in prisons and detention facilities than elsewhere, adolescents who are detained in juvenile institutions should be prioritised for vaccination. Detained adolescents often come from marginalised groups of society with a considerable burden of ill health rooted in poverty and discrimination, and with limited access to healthcare. The benefits of vaccinating adolescents in juvenile institutions include the direct benefits to their health and the indirect benefit of reducing onward transmission of SARS-CoV-2 within the prison community, including among prison staff, and in the community they belong. Furthermore, the implementation of the covid-19 vaccine in juvenile institutions is essential to upholding the principle of equity of care and to guarantee the right to health for those deprived of liberty, leaving no one behind
10th Jun 2022 - The BMJ

US lifts COVID-19 test requirement for international travel

The Biden administration is lifting its requirement that international air travelers to the U.S. take a COVID-19 test within a day before boarding their flights, easing one of the last remaining government mandates meant to contain the spread of the coronavirus .
10th Jun 2022 - The Associated Press

Capacity limits, COVID-19 tests no longer needed at nightlife establishments from Jun 14

Nightlife establishments with dancing among patrons will no longer be subjected to a capacity limit from Jun 14. Patrons will also no longer need to obtain a negative antigen rapid test (ART) result to enter the venue, said the Ministry of Health (MOH) on Friday (Jun 10), adding that this move will "rationalise the rules" for nightspots with other social settings. However, vaccination-differentiated safe management measures will continue to apply, with operators still required to conduct such checks to ensure that only fully-vaccinated people enter these settings. Enforcement officers may carry out random checks to ensure that operators comply, said MOH.
10th Jun 2022 - CNA

People aged 50 and above may get second COVID-19 booster at vaccination centres with mRNA shots: MOH

People aged 50 to 59 who want to get their second COVID-19 booster shot may do so from Friday (Jun 10) by walking into any vaccination centre offering mRNA vaccines, said the Ministry of Health (MOH). This is an expansion from the 60-79 age group that the ministry previously offered second booster shots to. The expert committee on COVID-19 vaccination has since assessed that people aged 50 to 59 who wish to take their second booster may also do so about five months after their first booster shot. “This is in view of data indicating that the risk of severe COVID-19 increases in the age group of 50 to 59 as well,” said MOH. "This is also around the age when chronic diseases start to set in."
10th Jun 2022 - CNA

Covid infections on the rise in England and Northern Ireland

The UK may be entering its third wave of coronavirus this year, researchers warn, as official figures show infections are on the rise again in England and Northern Ireland. The Office for National Statistics said its latest analysis of swabs from households across Britain revealed a mixed picture with a “small increase” in positive tests in England and Northern Ireland, while the trend in Wales and Scotland remained unclear. The ONS data, which give the most reliable picture of the state of the UK outbreak, suggest that the steady fall in infections over recent months may have gone into reverse as cases are driven up by the more transmissible BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants.
10th Jun 2022 - The Guardian

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Trials of new Covid vaccine raise hopes of once-a-year booster

The vaccine is the first “bivalent” formulation to combine protection against Omicron and the original strain of coronavirus, and is the company’s leading candidate for upcoming autumn booster programmes. Dr Paul Burton, Moderna’s chief medical officer, said the new vaccine raised antibody levels to such a degree that one booster a year could be enough, unless a substantially different variant calls for the vaccine to be redesigned again. “The data we show today are really important because we get a really strong antibody response against Omicron,” he said. “For the first time, we could really be looking at the potential for just once-yearly boosting, because we can get people to such a high level that they will take longer to decay.” The new vaccine, called mRNA1273.214, combines 25 micrograms of the original Moderna Covid vaccine with 25 micrograms of vaccine specifically targeted at the Omicron variant. In the phase 2/3 trial, the 50mcg shots were given to 437 people who had already received two primary jabs and a booster of the original Moderna vaccine earlier in the pandemic.
9th Jun 2022 - The Guardian

Shanghai faces unexpected round of COVID testing for most residents

A round of mass COVID-19 testing for most residents this weekend - just 10 days after a city-wide lockdown was lifted - unsettling residents and raising concerns about the impact on business. Shanghai officials on Thursday said seven of the city's 16 districts would carry out PCR testing for all residents over the weekend due to the discovery of a few cases in the community, saying they wanted to prevent a renewed outbreak
10th Jun 2022 - Reuters

U.S. Orders Millions of COVID-19 Vaccines for Youngest Children

Millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses have been ordered for small children in anticipation of possible federal authorization next week, White House officials say. The government allowed pharmacies and states to start placing orders last week, with 5 million doses initially available—half of them shots made by Pfizer and the other half the vaccine produced by Moderna, senior administration officials said. As of this week, about 1.45 million of the 2.5 million available doses of Pfizer have been ordered, and about 850,000 of available Moderna shots have been ordered, officials said. More orders are expected in the coming days.
9th Jun 2022 - Time

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Moderna says updated Covid-19 vaccine booster shows stronger antibody response against Omicron

Moderna said on Wednesday its bivalent Covid-19 vaccine booster that contained a vaccine targeting the Omicron variant showed a stronger immune response against the variant.
8th Jun 2022 - CNN on MSN.com

COVID-19 information on Victorian government websites was often inaccessible, study finds

An education level of year 10 or above would have been required to understand much of the material, the study found. About half of the Australian population reads at an education level of year 10 or below. The state government defended its public health messages, which it said had been critical in reaching high levels of vaccination coverage
8th Jun 2022 - ABC News

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Japan to open to tourists after COVID, with masks, insurance and chaperones required

Foreign tourists visiting Japan will be required to wear masks, take out private medical insurance and be chaperoned throughout their stay, the government said on Tuesday, as it plans a gradual opening from two years of COVID-19 restrictions. Only visitors on package tours will be allowed in during the first phase of reopening, from June 10, the Japan Tourism Agency (JTA) said, adding that travel agency guides accompanying visitors will have to ensure they wear their masks. "Tour guides should frequently remind tour participants of necessary infection prevention measures, including wearing and removing masks, at each stage of the tour," the JTA said in its guidelines.
7th Jun 2022 - Reuters

Long Covid patients face lottery over treatment

Patients with long Covid are facing a postcode lottery across the UK when it comes to getting care, nurses say. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) said treatment varied hugely with some services treating it as a physical condition, but others as psychological. The union also highlighted long waits in parts of England, which has a network of specialist clinics. It warned that patients in Scotland and Wales may be missing out because of a lack of dedicated clinics. But officials there say patients are getting support via core NHS services.
7th Jun 2022 - BBC News

U.S. CDC removes mask recommendation from monkeypox travel notice to avoid confusion

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Tuesday it had removed a mask recommendation from its monkeypox travel notice to avoid "confusion" over the disease, which primarily spreads through direct contact. "Late yesterday, CDC removed the mask recommendation from the monkeypox Travel Health Notice because it caused confusion," a CDC spokesperson said on Tuesday. The agency had earlier suggested that travellers wear masks as it can help protect against "many diseases, including monkeypox"
7th Jun 2022 - Reuters

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Covid-19: Hong Kong steps up checks on bars and restaurants as cases linked to nightlife area rise

Hong Kong has seen an uptick in Covid-19 infections amid the recent easing of social distancing rules, with clusters linked to a number of bars in Central. In the seven-day period from last Monday to Sunday, authorities confirmed an average of 153 positive nucleic acid tests per day, up from 103.9 the week before.
6th Jun 2022 - Hong Kong Free Press

XpresSpa and Ginkgo Bioworks Are Hunting For New Covid Variants at Airports

As the pandemic engulfed the world in March 2020, no one was thinking much about getting a manicure. So XpresSpa Group Inc., an airport chain that offers mani-pedis and massages to travelers, closed all 50 of its locations. To survive the next two years, it would have to pivot. It turned to the most obvious next market: Covid testing. Through a partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and synthetic biology firm Ginkgo Bioworks Inc., XpresSpa launched a surveillance operation to hunt for new and emerging Covid variants among international travelers. Over the last eight months, the trio has tested tens of thousands of passengers arriving from more than 15 countries around the globe
6th Jun 2022 - Bloomberg

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Pfizer Submits Covid Shot for Kids Under 5 for FDA Authorization

Pfizer Inc. asked U.S. regulators to clear its Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use in children under age 5, an effort to extend protection against the virus to the country’s youngest. The drugmaker and BioNTech SE finalized their rolling application to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency-use authorization of their vaccine in kids ages 6 months through 4 years old, the companies said in a statement on Wednesday. The vaccine partners began the submission process in February. Pfizer and BioNTech announced in late May that a three-shot regimen was highly effective and prompted a strong immune response in children under age 5, based on early results from a highly anticipated trial that is likely to pave the way for infants and toddlers to get immunized.
1st Jun 2022 - Bloomberg

White House: 1st shots for kids under 5 possible by June 21

The Biden administration said Thursday that children under 5 may be able to get their first COVID-19 vaccination doses as soon as June 21, if federal regulators authorize shots for the age group, as expected. White House COVID-19 coordinator Ashish Jha outlined the administration’s planning for the last remaining ineligible age group to get shots. He said the Food and Drug Administration’s outside panel of advisers will meet on June 14-15 to evaluate the Pfizer and Moderna shots for younger kids. Shipments to doctors’ offices and pediatric care facilities would begin soon after FDA authorization, with the first shots possible the following week. Jha said states can begin placing orders for pediatric vaccines on Friday, and said the administration has an initial supply of 10 million doses available. He said it may take a few days for the vaccines to arrive across the country and vaccine appointments to be widespread.
3rd Jun 2022 - The Associated Press

UAE achieves 100% COVID vaccination target -state news agency

The United Arab Emirates has vaccinated all those who must be vaccinated against COVID-19 in the oil-rich Gulf Arab state, state news agency WAM reported on Thursday. The UAE "announces that 100% of the targeted categories have been vaccinated," it said.
3rd Jun 2022 - Reuters

China Plans for Years of Covid Zero Strategy With Tests on Every Corner

After a bruising lockdown in Shanghai and severe curbs in Beijing were needed to halt the spread of Covid-19, China is doubling down on mass-testing in a move that’s dashing hopes for a shift away from its costly Covid Zero strategy. A network of tens of thousands of lab testing booths are being set up across the country’s largest and most economically vital cities, with the goal of having residents always just a 15 minute walk away from a swabbing point. The infrastructure will allow cities like Beijing, Shanghai, tech hub Shenzhen and e-commerce heartland Hangzhou to require tests as often as every 48 hours, with negative results needed to get on the subway or even enter a store.
31st May 2022 - Bloomberg

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COVID-19 border measures to stay until at least end of June: PHAC

The Public Health Agency of Canada says COVID-19 restrictions at the border will remain in place for at least another month. The agency made the announcement on Twitter, the day after Parliament voted down a Conservative opposition motion to revert to pre-pandemic rules for travel. Several pandemic restrictions are in place at Canadian airports and land borders, including vaccine mandates, random COVID-19 tests and the requirement that international travellers answer pandemic-related questions on the ArriveCan app.
31st May 2022 - Global News

Italy Scraps COVID-19 Entry Rules For Travellers As Cases Drop

Italy said it was dropping the requirement to show proof of coronavirus vaccination, recent recovery or a negative test before entering the country. The health ministry announced that the requirement to show a so-called "Green Pass" to enter Italy "will not be extended" when it expires on May 31. Italy was the first European country hit by coronavirus in early 2020 and has had some of the toughest restrictions, including requiring all workers to show a Green Pass.
31st May 2022 - NDTV

Cuba lifts mask mandate as vaccination rate soars and deaths plummet

Cuba on Tuesday lifted a mask mandate in place for two years following a successful vaccination drive that health officials say has contributed to a sharp drop in cases and nearly three weeks without a single death from COVID-19. The island, whose communist government has long sought to stand out by providing a free healthcare system that focuses on preventative treatment such as vaccinations, developed its own COVID vaccines and became the first country in the world to begin the mass vaccination of kids as young as age 2. rge Luis Banos/Pool via REUTERS HAVANA, May 31 (Reuters) - Cuba on Tuesday lifted a mask mandate in place for two years following a successful vaccination drive that health officials say has contributed to a sharp drop in cases and nearly three weeks without a single death from COVID-19. The island, whose communist government has long sought to stand out by providing a free healthcare system that focuses on preventative treatment such as vaccinations, developed its own COVID vaccines and became the first country in the world to begin the mass vaccination of kids as young as age 2. Cuba has since vaccinated 94% of its population with at least one dose of its home-grown vaccines, according to a Reuters tally. Health minister José Ángel Portal said the wide-ranging vaccination program had led to a "radical change" in contagion and health risks and prompted the decision to do away with masks in most scenarios.
1st Jun 2022 - Reuters

Shanghai Unveils 50-Point Plan to Return to Normalcy

Banks will be asked to renew SME loans; asset managers are asked to set up global or regional investment management centres in Shanghai. Shanghai has unveiled a comprehensive 50-point plan to reopen the city and its economy in stages, with the goal of restoring normalcy to business and daily life following the two-month-long lockdown. Last week, Premier Li Keqiang called for efforts to be made to stabilise the economy and restore investor confidence. New Covid-19 cases in Shanghai have also fallen fell to their lowest levels since mid-March. The 50-point plan to reopen the city covers measures to help enterprises reduce their operating costs, incentives to prevent job losses, and broader reopening measures. Companies will no longer need to be on a “whitelist” to resume production starting from 1 June. Under the existing whitelist system, about 6,000 companies are allowed to resume production provided they adhere to certain pandemic prevention guidelines.
31st May 2022 - Regulation Asia

Push to get more people fully vaccinated against Covid over half term holiday

Health bosses in Leicestershire are urging families to use the half term holiday to go and get jabbed together. The schools in both the city and the county are off his week and alongside the fun days out, people are being urged to make sure they get fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Clinics across the county are still open - although the Platinum Jubilee bank holidays mean Thursday and Friday will see them close again.
31st May 2022 - Leicestershire Live

WA's mandatory COVID-19 vaccination rules set to stay as experts see no reason to change

Throughout the ebb and flow of WA's various COVID restrictions, one rule has remained steady for months now — workplace vaccination requirements. Since late last year, about 60 per cent of WA workers have been required to be vaccinated to continue working and from today, this cohort will need to have had their third booster shot. But with WA achieving world-leading vaccination rates and about a quarter of people having some level of immunity from having recently had the virus, questions have been raised about the utility of those mandates. However, experts and the government say there should be little change, at least in the short term.
31st May 2022 - ABC.Net.au

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Why Africa's first Covid vaccine factory struggles to find customers

The signing of a licensing deal late last year for South Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare to bottle and sell the Johnson and Johnson Covid-19 vaccine across Africa was hailed as a lifeline for a continent that lost out in the rush for jabs early in the pandemic. But six months later, the factory is on the brink of closure because of lack of demand. In South Africa, only 5 per cent of people have received a booster shot and just under a third of the 60mn population are double vaccinated. It is part of a broader trend across Africa that helps to explain why the future of the continent’s biggest vaccine manufacturing plant is in doubt.
30th May 2022 - Financial Times

Taiwan to set up 6 COVID-19 vaccination sites for children aged 5-11

Taiwan's six special municipalities will each set up a large-scale walk-in vaccination site where COVID-19 vaccine shots for children aged 5-11 will be administered starting June 1, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Monday. In order to ensure children acquire immunity against COVID-19 as soon as possible, the CECC has worked together with the municipal governments of Taipei, New Taipei, Taoyuan, Taichung, Tainan, and Kaohsiung to set up walk-in vaccination sites for children. The sites are located at Taipei Liberty Square, New Taipei Banqiao Station, Taoyuan Arena, Taichung National Museum of Natural Science, Tainan Public Library, and Kaohsiung Exhibition Center, according to the CECC.
30th May 2022 - Focus Taiwan News Channel

Nasal COVID-19 vaccines help the body prepare for infection right where it starts—in your nose and throat

Imagine inhaling just a few drops of liquid or mist to get protected from COVID-19. That is the idea behind nasal COVID-19 vaccines, and they have been getting a lot of attention recently as a spray or liquid. These nasal vaccines would be based on the same technology as normal vaccines given by injection. But as Mayuresh Abhyankar, a University of Virginia researcher who studies infectious diseases and works on nasal vaccines, explains, vaccinating someone right where the coronavirus is likely to start its attack comes with many immunological benefits.
30th May 2022 - Medical Xpress

CT chest scans reveal fewer cases of pneumonia in breakthrough COVID-19 infections

CT chest scans in patients with breakthrough COVID-19 infections show lower levels of pneumonia compared to scans of unvaccinated patients. A significantly higher proportion of CT chest scans in fully vaccinated patients who experience a breakthrough infection showed no signs of pneumonia during their stay in hospital, according to a study by Korean researchers. COVID-19 vaccination across the globe has led to a protection against both symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID-19 as well as severe disease, hospitalisation and death. Although a CT chest scan has been described as an indispensable diagnostic tool in COVID-19, no studies have reported on using this imaging modality to examine the features associated with breakthrough infections that are generally less severe.
30th May 2022 - Hospital Healthcare Europe

Paxlovid Becomes Household Name for Covid-19 Patients

Pfizer’s antiviral drug, called Paxlovid, totaled more than 412,000 prescriptions through May 6, compared with about 110,000 prescriptions of molnupiravir, an antiviral from Merck & Co. and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP, according to drug-data firm Iqvia Holdings Inc. Both pills were cleared for use in high-risk individuals early in the course of their disease in December by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, to keep people from becoming hospitalized.
30th May 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

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Covid-19 and mRNA technology are helping Africa fix its vaccine problems

After the disastrous effect of vaccine nationalism on access in Africa, boosting local production is key to preventing a repeat in future pandemics. WHO’s new mRNA vaccine hub is at the forefront, report Emma Bryce and Sandy Ong In June 2021, the World Health Organization selected South African biotech company Afrigen to be part of the “hub” where mRNA technology—which underpins the most effective covid-19 vaccines—would be developed and shared with other lower and middle income countries.1 More than 15 manufacturers (“spokes”) have been named so far, almost half located in Africa.2 For the world’s second largest continent, by size and population, this initiative has come not a moment too soon. Africa uses one quarter of global vaccines but produces just 1%3—a shortage that left it wrong footed as covid-19 swept the globe and rich nations hoarded vaccine supplies.
28th May 2022 - The BMJ

North Korea tests rivers, air, garbage as anti-COVID efforts gather steam

North Korean health officials are testing rivers, lakes, the air and household wastewater and garbage for the coronavirus as the country intensifies its fight against its first outbreak, state media said on Friday. The isolated country has been in a heated battle against an unprecedented COVID wave since declaring a state of emergency and imposing a nationwide lockdown this month, fuelling concerns about a lack of vaccines, medical supplies and food shortages.
28th May 2022 - Reuters

Nasal COVID-19 vaccines help the body prepare for infection right where it starts – in your nose and throat

Imagine inhaling just a few drops of liquid or mist to get protected from COVID-19. That is the idea behind nasal COVID-19 vaccines, and they have been getting a lot of attention recently as a spray or liquid. These nasal vaccines would be based on the same technology as normal vaccines given by injection. But as Mayuresh Abhyankar, a University of Virginia researcher who studies infectious diseases and works on nasal vaccines, explains, vaccinating someone right where the coronavirus is likely to start its attack comes with many immunological benefits.
28th May 2022 - The Conversation

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Newcastle's QuantuMDx Group launches rapid COVID-19 and flu test

A life sciences firm has unveiled new technology it says can identify COVID-19, flu and respiratory illnesses in minutes. Newcastle-based QuantuMDx Group says its Q-POC equipment provides “differential diagnosis” and will enable “rapid triage and effective treatment strategies, particularly in at-risk groups of patients”. Bosses say it will help identify co-infection earlier, which will shorten treatment and patient hospital stays, with test results returned in 35 minutes. Jonathan O’Halloran, chief executive [pictured above], said: “The recent COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for rapid, high-quality PCR panels to accurately diagnose infectious diseases, and so I am pleased to announce the launch of this new respiratory panel. “With the coming winter likely to bring parallel pressure from these viruses, on-demand rapid accurate PCR testing has the potential to provide clinicians with an optimum solution for respiratory infection control.
26th May 2022 - North East Times

Covid-19 Deaths Hover Near Lows, but Older Americans at Risk Even With Boosters

Covid-19 deaths in the U.S. are hovering near the lowest levels since the pandemic hit, showing how a population with built-up immune protection is less at risk of severe outcomes even as another wave of infections flows through the country. The nearly 300 deaths reported daily are again more concentrated among older people, underscoring hazards for the more vulnerable while the overall population appears less at risk. Particularly vulnerable people, such as those who are older and immunocompromised, will likely always have some risk of death from a Covid-19 infection, doctors and public-health experts said. Increasing booster rates and access to treatments, in addition to taking certain precautions, can help lower the threat presented by the virus, they said.
27th May 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

Children urged to come forward for Covid booster trial in these ten areas

Children aged between 12 and 15 are being urged to volunteer for a new study exploring different options for a third Covid booster vaccine. The University of Oxford-led Com-COV 3 study aims to recruit 380 volunteers across 10 UK sites, including Oxford's Churchill Hospital. Those taking part will need to have received two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, at least three months before joining. Researchers will then deliver a third dose as part of the study.
26th May 2022 - ITV News

How important is the COVID-19 booster shot for 5-to-11-year-olds? 5 questions answered

COVID-19 case numbers are rising again in the U.S. – including among children. In mid-May 2022, the Food and Drug Administration authorized a booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine for U.S. children ages 5 to 11, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention followed by recommending a booster shot for this age group. Naturally, many parents are wondering about the importance and safety of a booster shot for their school-age children. Debbie-Ann Shirley, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Virginia, answers some common questions about COVID-19 and booster shots in kids that she hears in her practice and explains the research behind why booster shots are recommended for children ages 5 to 11.
26th May 2022 - The Conversation

Long COVID affects more older adults; shots don’t prevent it

New U.S. research on long COVID-19 provides fresh evidence that it can happen even after breakthrough infections in vaccinated people, and that older adults face higher risks for the long-term effects. In a study of veterans published Wednesday, about one-third who had breakthrough infections showed signs of long COVID. A separate report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that up to a year after an initial coronavirus infection, 1 in 4 adults aged 65 and older had at least one potential long COVID health problem, compared with 1 in 5 younger adults. Long COVID refers to any of more than two dozens symptoms that linger, recur or first appear at least one month after a coronavirus infection. These can affect all parts of the body and may include fatigue, shortness of breath, brain fog and blood clots.
26th May 2022 - The Associated Press

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Vaccines bring optimism as COVID cases soar in South America

After a reprieve of months, confirmed cases of COVID-19 are surging in the southern tip of South America. But officials in Argentina, Chile and Uruguay hope high vaccination rates mean this latest wave will not be as deadly as previous ones. At the same time, there is concern that many people are not ready to once again take on the prevention measures that authorities say are needed to ensure cases remain manageable. Cases have been steadily increasing for weeks, largely fueled by the BA.2 version of the omicron variant. In Chile, the number of weekly confirmed cases more than doubled by late May when compared to the beginning of the month. In Argentina, cases rose 146 percent in the same period, while in Uruguay, the increase was almost 200 percent.
25th May 2022 - Yahoo News UK

COVID nasal sprays could offer advantages over traditional vaccines – a virologist explains how they work

As new waves of omicron infections continue to hit around the world, it’s becoming clearer that COVID is here to stay. As such, in the years to come, vaccination – both first courses and booster doses – will likely remain necessary to brace global communities against the worst health outcomes wrought by the virus. But what if the current crop of vaccines could be improved? Recent advances in vaccine technology and delivery systems suggest there could be gains to be made. In particular, scientists are working on vaccines that activate your “mucosal” immune system, which may be better able to prevent infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19
25th May 2022 - The Conversation

French health body backs new COVID vaccine booster campaign for this autumn

France's Haute Autorite de Sante (HAS) health authority recommended preparing for a new vaccination campaign this autumn to give people aged 65 and older, and those with special health risks or conditions, access to a COVID-19 "booster" jab. The French government typically follows the recommendations of the country's health authority body.
25th May 2022 - Reuters

High-risk people eligible for second Covid booster vaccine under new Australian guidelines

People with medical conditions or disabilities that increase the risk of severe Covid-19 will be eligible for a fourth vaccine dose after updated advice by Australian health authorities. From 30 May about 1.5 million more people aged 16 to 64 will be eligible for the fourth dose, the interim health minister, Katy Gallagher, announced on Wednesday. However, the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (Atagi) has not given the green light for healthy people who do not have a risk factor for severe disease to receive a second booster. This includes healthcare workers and pregnant women who do not have other risk factors.
25th May 2022 - The Guardian

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Why the Gym is Risky for COVID-19, and Tips for Keeping Safe

Now a new experiment has given us a more exact sense of just how many aerosols a single person can spew during an intense workout—and the results aren’t pretty. According to research by scientists in Germany published in PNAS on May 23, people emit about 132 times as many aerosols per minute during high intensity exercise than when they’re at rest, which the researchers warn raises the risk of a person infected with COVID-19 setting off a superspreader event. At rest, people emitted an average of 580 particles each minute, but during maximal exercise—in which researchers gradually increased intensity until the subjects were exhausted—people emitted an average of 76,200 particles a minute.
23rd May 2022 - TIME

Sweden: 5th COVID-19 shot to people over 65, pregnant women

Sweden is recommending a fifth COVID-19 vaccine dose for people with an increased risk of becoming seriously ill, including pregnant women and anyone aged 65 and over, authorities said Tuesday, adding that the country must "be prepared for an increased spread during the upcoming autumn and winter season.” “The vaccine is our strongest tool for preventing serious illness and death,” Swedish Social Affairs Minister Lena Hallengren said, adding the pandemic is not over. As of Sept. 1, Sweden recommends that another booster shot is given to people aged 65 and older and people over 18 in the risk groups.
24th May 2022 - ABC News

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Three Doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 Vaccine 80% Effective in Young Children, Company Says

Three doses of the Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE Covid-19 vaccine were 80% effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19 and generated a robust immune response in children ages 6 months to 5 years old, the companies said. The vaccine was also found to be safe and well-tolerated among the children in the study, the companies said Monday. Many of the children had received at least some of their shots during the Omicron wave, suggesting that the three-dose series worked well against the highly contagious variant after the two doses produced mixed results. “We have a big problem called Omicron, and I think we have a good solution,” Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla said in an interview. The companies reported the findings without much detail via press release based on an early analysis of study results.
24th May 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

California coronavirus spread significantly worsens, with cases doubling in some areas

The number of coronavirus cases in California significantly worsened last week, hitting a level not seen since the winter’s omicron surge and raising concerns about the possibility of a big jump in infections this summer. Weekly coronavirus cases roughly doubled across wide swaths of California, including Riverside and Santa Barbara counties, as well as the Central Valley and Silicon Valley. They rose by roughly 85% in Orange, San Bernardino and Ventura counties. Statewide, the increase was 63%, bringing the case rate to 231 for every 100,000 residents. A rate of 100 and above is considered a high rate of transmission.
23rd May 2022 - Seattle Times

Two cases of new Covid-19 variant of concern confirmed in Ireland

Two cases of a newly classified Covid-19 variant of concern have been confirmed in Ireland. On May 12 the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control reclassified two sub-lineages of the Omicron variant of Covid-19, BA.4 and BA.5, from variants of interest to variants of concern. In the chief medical officer’s latest weekly report on Covid-19 to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, he says that two cases of BA.4 have been identified as of the week beginning May 7. Dr Tony Holohan said: “In the context of the international situation in relation to these variants, it should be noted that, as of week 18 2022 (May 7), two cases of BA.4 and no cases of BA.5 have been identified in Ireland.”
23rd May 2022 - Belfast Telegraph

Drugmakers propose swift pandemic response benefiting poorer countries

Global drugmakers are lobbying for wealthy nations to fund a supply mechanism that would secure vaccines for low-income countries without delay in case of a new pandemic, but said the proposal was contingent on free cross-border trade. The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA) said in a statement on Monday that global pandemic vaccine distribution needs to be put on a new footing because the world’s poorest countries were forced to wait for shots during the current pandemic.
23rd May 2022 - Reuters

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At least 25m people in UK to be offered Covid booster this autumn

Millions of people in the UK will be offered further Covid booster shots in the autumn under draft guidance published by the government’s vaccine watchdog. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation said another round of jabs would help protect the most vulnerable adults and frontline social care and health workers against severe Covid in the winter. Despite “considerable uncertainty” over the likelihood, timing and severity of any future wave of Covid in the country, the committee said the threat from the virus would be greatest in the winter months.
20th May 2022 - The Guardian

North Korea shuns outside help as COVID catastrophe looms

Like no other country, North Korea could do with help against COVID-19. The country’s population is unvaccinated and susceptible to disease due to chronic malnourishment. Its dilapidated healthcare system lacks supplies of basic drugs and equipment. But even as North Korea faces the prospect of a humanitarian catastrophe amid its first officially confirmed coronavirus outbreak, Pyongyang is steadfastly refusing offers of international assistance. The United States and South Korea have not received a response to offers to help tackle the outbreak, including by sending aid, according to South Korean officials. The World Health Organization, which is “deeply concerned at the risk of further spread”, said the country had not responded to requests for information about the outbreak.
21st May 2022 - Al Jazeera English

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Coronavirus vaccine could have saved 319,000 people in U.S., study says

About a third of the 1 million lives lost to COVID-19 could have been saved with vaccines, a new analysis shows. Researchers at the Brown School of Public Health, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Microsoft AI for Health analyzed data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and The New York Times and came up with not only 319,000 needless deaths but also a state-by-state breakdown of where they could have been prevented. Between January 2021 and April 2022, about every second person who died from COVID-19 since vaccines became available might have lived if they had gotten the shots, the researchers found. Nationwide, about half of the 641,000 people who have died since vaccines became available could have lived if every single eligible adult had gotten jabbed.
19th May 2022 - The Seattle Times

It's happening again: COVID-19 cases are back on the rise. There are 3 main reasons why.

COVID-19 infections continue to rise, driven by new and more infectious omicron subvariants, waning immunity from both vaccines and previous infections and fewer people masking up, health officials said at a White House briefing Wednesday. About a third of Americans now live in an area with medium or high COVID-19 rates, with reported cases up 26% from last week, said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control an Prevention. On average, about 3,000 Americans are being hospitalized per day and 275 are dying. Walensky urged people in communities with higher infection and hospitalization rates to protect themselves by masking in indoor public places and to get a booster shot if vaccinated and to get vaccinated if they're not.
19th May 2022 - USA TODAY

China removes some COVID test rules on travellers from U.S.

China has removed some COVID-19 test requirements for people flying in from countries such as the United States and shortened the pre-departure quarantine for some inbound travellers, as it fine-tunes measures to cope with the Omicron variant. From Friday, travellers from the United States will no longer need an RT-PCR test seven days before flying, according to notices from the Chinese embassy and consulates in the United States. Requirements for antibody tests have also been scrapped. Those travellers will still need to do two RT-PCR tests within 48 or 24 hours of their flights - depending on which airport they are flying out of - plus another pre-flight antigen test, the notices said.
19th May 2022 - Reuters on MSN.com

A third of US should be considering masks, officials say

COVID-19 cases are increasing in the United States — and could get even worse over the coming months, federal health officials warned Wednesday in urging areas hardest hit to consider reissuing calls for indoor masking. Increasing numbers of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are putting more of the country under guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that call for masking and other infection precautions. Right now, about a third of the U.S. population lives in areas that are considered at higher risk — mostly in the Northeast and Midwest. Those are areas where people should already be considering wearing masks indoors — but Americans elsewhere should also take notice, officials said.
18th May 2022 - Associated Press

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A third of US should be considering masks, officials say

COVID-19 cases are increasing in the United States — and could get even worse over the coming months, federal health officials warned Wednesday in urging areas hardest hit to consider reissuing calls for indoor masking. Increasing numbers of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are putting more of the country under guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that call for masking and other infection precautions. Right now, about a third of the U.S. population lives in areas that are considered at higher risk — mostly in the Northeast and Midwest. Those are areas where people should already be considering wearing masks indoors — but Americans elsewhere should also take notice, officials said.
19th May 2022 - The Associated Press

China is going big on Covid testing, so why not include vaccination too?

In the past two weeks, nucleic acid test booths have sprung up in big cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, part of China’s plan to make tests routine and require residents to show negative Covid-19 test results when they go to work, school or use public transport. It involves enormous resources. These test booths are open long hours and there are many because the authorities want to ensure every citizen has access within a 15-minute walk. Ma Xiaowei, head of National Health Commission (NHC), wrote in Qiushi journal this week the government planned to set up separate teams to do nucleic acid tests so healthcare workers would not be called on to do the task, but it would take time to form the teams.
18th May 2022 - South China Morning Post

From storage to transport, hurdles to getting COVID vaccine to North Koreans

As North Korea battles its first known COVID outbreak, a lack of storage, chronic power shortages and inadequately trained medical staff pose acute challenges to inoculating its 25 million people - even with outside help, analysts said. North Korea has not responded to offers of aid from South Korea and international vaccine-sharing programmes, but prefers U.S.-made Moderna and Pfizer over China's Sinovac or British-Swedish Astrazeneca shots, according to South Korean officials.
18th May 2022 - Reuters

What to do if you test positive for Covid-19 now

Covid-19 infections are on the rise, with most US states reporting an increase in cases. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the highly contagious BA.2.1.21 subvariant of Omicron is now the dominant strain of coronavirus nationwide. Two years into the pandemic, many aren't sure what to do after testing positive for Covid-19. Should they isolate, and if so, for how long? How important is it to see a doctor? What therapies are available, and who is eligible? To help answer these and other questions, I spoke with CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. She is also author of "Lifelines: A Doctor's Journey in the Fight for Public Health" and the mother of two young children.
18th May 2022 - CNN

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N.Y.C. urges people to wear masks indoors, but stops short of requiring it.

Citing high community transmission and rising hospitalizations from a fifth wave of coronavirus cases, New York City health officials on Monday strongly recommended that all individuals wear medical-grade masks in offices, grocery stores and other public indoor settings citywide. The new recommendations, issued in a health advisory by the city health commissioner, came as the city approached the orange, or “high” alert level for Covid-19, a benchmark it expects to hit in the coming days. The new advisory also called on those who are at increased risk for severe illness, including unvaccinated children under 5 and people over 65, to avoid nonessential indoor gatherings and crowded settings.
17th May 2022 - The New York Times

China's Covid Exit Hinges on Seniors Who Don't Want Vaccines

As its Covid Zero lockdowns have become harsher and more economically disruptive, China has repeatedly invoked the specter of millions of vulnerable elderly people dying as justification for its strict virus approach. What remains unaddressed is why, with an abundant supply of homegrown vaccines and vast enforcement power, so many of China’s over-60s remain unvaccinated more than a year after shots became available. China is now paying a price for this vulnerability, with its economy struggling under the weight of chaotic lockdowns and increasingly unpredictable measures aimed at snuffing out all cases and shielding the community.
17th May 2022 - Bloomberg

COVID-19 vaccine study focuses on young and immunosuppressed

The team at Imperial College London will now expand the MELODY study to include immunosuppressed young people who have had an organ transplant, to assess the levels of protection the vaccines offer to immunosuppressed people across age groups. Dr Michelle Willicombe, the study lead at Imperial College London, commented: “Information on how young, immunosuppressed people have responded to vaccination and the protection it affords them from infection is currently lacking, so we are delighted for the additional support so we can include children in MELODY to provide ongoing evidence. “If we can understand more about how this group of people respond to vaccines, then this will inform future vaccination strategies and also identify those young people who are most at risk of catching COVID-19.”
17th May 2022 - PharmaTimes

COVID-19: Dogs can be trained in weeks to detect infection

Dogs can be trained within weeks to detect a COVID-19 infection, with a degree of accuracy comparable to a nose and throat swab test, according to new research. Four dogs were trained to sniff out the virus in spring 2020 as part of a study led by the University of Helsinki in Finland. The animals, previously trained to detect drugs, dangerous goods, or cancer, each sniffed skin samples from 114 people who had tested positive for the virus and from 306 who tested negative. They were able to detect the virus with 92% accuracy, the study found. The dogs also participated in a trial where they sniffed the samples of 303 incoming passengers at Helsinki-Vantaa International Airport between September 2020 and April 2021.
17th May 2022 - Sky News

North Korea on brink of Covid-19 catastrophe, say experts

North Korea stands on the brink of a Covid-19 catastrophe unless swift action is taken to provide vaccines and drug treatments, experts have said, as the number of people reported to have fallen ill rose to almost 1.5 million. The isolated country reported another big rise in new cases of what it continues to refer to as “fever” on Tuesday, days after it admitted it had identified Covid-19 infections for the first time since the start of the global pandemic. It recorded 269,510 additional cases and six more deaths, bringing the total number killed to 56 since late last month. About 1.48 million people have become ill with the virus since the first case was reported last Thursday and at least 663,910 people were in quarantine, according to official figures. The outbreak is almost certainly greater than the official tally, given a lack of tests and resources to monitor and treat the sick.
17th May 2022 - The Guardian

Indonesia to drop outdoor mask mandate as COVID infections drop

Indonesia will drop requirements for people to mask up outdoors and for vaccinated travellers to show negative pre-departure tests, officials said on Tuesday, as COVID-19 infections decline in the Southeast Asian country. Masks are no longer required outdoors as "the pandemic is getting more and more controlled", President Joko Widodo said in a statement streamed online. But masks must still be worn indoors and on public transportation, he said
17th May 2022 - Reuters.com

Biden offering additional 8 free COVID-19 tests to public

The government website for people to request free COVID-19 at-home tests from the U.S. government is now accepting a third round of orders. The White House announced Tuesday that U.S. households can request an additional eight free at-home tests to be shipped by the U.S. Postal Service. The announcement comes as coronavirus cases are rising again in some areas of the country.
17th May 2022 - Associated Press

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We need a definitive exit from our Covid-19 pandemic. Here’s the roadmap

As the virus accelerates its evolution, the humans capitulate. For two and a half years, the virus has been outrunning our response, getting progressively more and more transmissible, reaching a level of infectiousness that few pathogens have ever attained. Instead of taking a stance of getting ahead of the virus, and out-smarting it, people have succumbed. In recent months, we experienced a striking jump in transmissibility when the Omicron (BA.1) variant became dominant with at least a three-fold increase in reproductive number beyond Delta. Despite the hope that this might be reaching the upper limit of the virus’s spread ability, we quickly transitioned to a BA.2 wave with at least another jump of about 30% transmissibility, and now we are heading, in the United States, to a dominant subvariant known as BA.2.12.1, which is another 25% more transmissible than BA.2 and already accounting for close to 50% of new cases.
16th May 2022 - The Guardian

Covid-19 news: Just 7 per cent of 5 to 11-year-olds in England jabbed

Six weeks into the vaccine roll-out for this age group, fewer than one in 10 children aged 5 to 11 have received their first dose. The 7 per cent figure compares with the 24 per cent of 12 to 15-year-olds in England who received a first dose in the six weeks after they became eligible for the vaccine in September 2021. Children rarely become seriously ill with SARS-CoV-2 virus, however, testing positive can disrupt their schooling or put them at risk of long covid. Speaking of 5 to 11 year olds, Russell Viner at University College London told The Guardian: “It’s a vaccination that probably isn’t particularly beneficial for this age group. “However, it has a very, very good safety profile. And given that we remain in a pandemic, there’s an argument that for individual parents, the balance of risks would appear to be towards vaccination.”
16th May 2022 - New Scientist

Detroit Three automakers reinstate mask mandate at some Michigan facilities

General Motors, Ford and Chrysler parent Stellantis are reinstating a requirement that employees wear masks in southeastern Michigan where there are high levels of COVID-19. The Detroit Three automakers said in early March they would allow auto workers to stop wearing masks at workplaces where U.S. health officials said it was safe to do so
16th May 2022 - Reuters

New York City Officials Say People Should Wear Masks Inside Again

New York City officials are recommending residents wear masks in indoor public spaces amid climbing Covid-19 cases in an effort to curb the spread of the virus. New York City Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan issued the advisory Monday, requesting New Yorkers over the age of two years old wear masks in indoor public spaces such as grocery stores and offices.
16th May 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

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China's Covid-Zero Policy Is Producing a Deluge of Waste

China’s lockdowns and restrictions to battle the nation’s biggest Covid outbreak since the early days of the pandemic are causing a massive increase in garbage in its biggest cities. Waste related to Covid prevention, including those from hospitals, fever clinics and isolation facilities, has increased 4.5 times to 1,400 tons a day in Shanghai from 308 tons before the current outbreak began in March. The city of 25 million residents has been in lockdown for five weeks, and daily household waste related to Covid reached 3,300 tons this month, compared with only 73 tons a day in February, according to People’s Daily.
14th May 2022 - Bloomberg

Taiwan to roll out fourth COVID-19 vaccine doses next week: CECC

People aged 65 and above, or those over 60 who are immunocompromised will be able to receive a fourth dose of a COVID-19 vaccine beginning next week at the earliest, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Friday. Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥), deputy head of Taiwan's Centers for Disease Control and CECC spokesman, said individuals must wait at least five months after receiving their third dose before getting a fourth. The vaccination schedule for eligible individuals will be announced soon, Chuang said at a press briefing. According to the CECC, the decision to roll out a fourth COVID-19 jab was made during an Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) meeting at the end of April.
13th May 2022 - Focus Taiwan News Channel

England's COVID prevalence falls again - ONS survey

The prevalence of COVID-19 infections in England fell to 1 in 45 people in the week ending May 7, the Office for National Statistics' Infection Survey said, down from an estimated 1 in 35 people who had the infection the previous week.
13th May 2022 - Reuters

Mass Covid Testing, Already a Familiar Ritual, Becomes China’s New Normal

China is doubling down on mass testing as a key weapon against Covid-19 even as costs mount and the highly infectious Omicron variant exposes challenges with the strategy. Mass testing has become a part of daily life across the country. Similar to how many people in the West have had to show a vaccine pass to dine out, enter the office or get on a plane, in China, the thing not to leave home without is a negative Covid test. In many cities, a test taken within the past 48 or 72 hours is required for any facet of public life, such as grocery shopping or taking public transportation. The government is setting up thousands of stationary PCR-testing stations across the country as part of an official campaign to institutionalize testing. In some cities, the goal is to have one within a 15-minute walking distance of any resident.
13th May 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

How air pollution can affect covid-19 risks

Research has shown that being unvaccinated raises a person’s risk of becoming infected with the coronavirus, while being older, overweight or immunocompromised can increase the severity of the disease. Now scientists think there is another risk factor that may increase the likelihood of contracting the coronavirus and the possibility that it will lead to a poor outcome: exposure to air pollution. A growing body of evidence suggests links between breathing polluted air and the chances of being infected by the coronavirus, developing a severe illness or dying of covid-19. While many of these studies focused on long-term exposure to air pollution, experts say there is also building evidence that even short-term exposures may have negative effects.
13th May 2022 - The Washington Post

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Covid-19 deaths in the United States: Reinforcing the notion of ‘two Americas’

The notion of Covid-19 causing two Americas was on many minds in the summer of 2021. The Washington Post and LA Times both wrote about it; Dr. Anthony Fauci mentioned it in an interview. One America had high demand for Covid-19 vaccines, the other had widespread vaccine hesitancy and opposition to mask and vaccine mandates. This narrative helped shape the understanding of what happened as well as what the country should be doing now to control the pandemic. But Covid has been dividing the nation since the start of the pandemic. Our recent analysis of Covid-19 deaths by region, published in PLoS One, supports the two Americas idea.
12th May 2022 - STAT News

U.S. will share COVID-19 vaccine technology, Biden tells global summit,

The United States will share technologies used to make COVID-19 vaccines through the World Health Organization and is working to expand rapid testing and antiviral treatments for hard-to-reach populations, President Joe Biden said on Thursday. Speaking at the second global COVID-19 summit, Biden called on Congress to provide additional funds so that the U.S. may contribute more to the global pandemic response. "We are making available health technologies that are owned by the United States government, including stabilized spike protein that is used in many COVID-19 vaccines," Biden said in his opening speech.
12th May 2022 - Reuters

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Covid: EU lifts face mask requirement for air travel as pandemic ebbs

The European Union will no longer require masks to be worn at airports and on planes starting next week amid the easing of coronavirus restrictions across the bloc, authorities said.
12th May 2022 - The Scotsman

Lifting zero-Covid policies in China could risk 1.6m deaths, says study

The lifting of zero-Covid policies in China would see a “tsunami” of infections and almost 1.6 million deaths, a study claims, citing in part China’s low vaccination rate of elderly residents. China’s government remains committed to a zero-Covid policy, employing resource intensive mass testing and case surveillance, and enforcing lockdowns, strict quarantine and isolation. A speech last week by the president, Xi Jinping, reaffirmed the commitment, despite the challenge posed by the Omicron variant which has already overwhelmed other countries’ zero-Covid policies. The peer reviewed study by Shanghai’s Fudan University, published in the Nature journal, said a decision by Chinese authorities to lift such measures could see more than 112 million symptomatic cases of Covid-19, five million hospitalisations, and 1.55 million deaths.
11th May 2022 - The Guardian

Failure to address a global surplus of COVID vaccines raises the risk of new variants emerging, health experts warn

The world finds itself awash in COVID-19 vaccines, but governments can’t get them into arms fast enough, as hesitancy and logistical hurdles threaten to indefinitely extend the pandemic. Advocates for widespread inoculation say participants at the second global COVID-19 summit need to come up with a plan to shift focus from producing vaccines to administering shots. They warn that failure raises the risk of new variants arising, potentially with the ability to evade vaccine immunity and spark yet another wave of infections and deaths.
11th May 2022 - Fortune

Some with positive rapid test results to be counted as COVID-19 cases

The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) on Wednesday released more details on a new policy that will allow certain individuals in Taiwan who receive a positive result from a COVID-19 rapid antigen test to be counted as a confirmed case without having to undergo a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. Previously, all individuals in Taiwan were only listed as a COVID-19 case after a positive PCR test result. The new policy, which will be launched Thursday, applies only to people who are following the "3+4" isolation protocol for close contacts of people who test positive for COVID-19, as well as travelers who are in quarantine after arriving in Taiwan, the CECC said.
11th May 2022 - Focus Taiwan News Channel

WHO: Subvariants fueling COVID rises in more than 50 countries

At a briefing today, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, the WHO's director-general, said the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants are driving South Africa's surge, with the BA.2 subvariant dominant across the world and COVID-19 cases rising in more than 50 nations. Relatively high population immunity from vaccination or previous infection are so far keeping hospitalizations and deaths at a lower levels than previous surges. "But this is not guaranteed for places where vaccination coverage is low." He said South African scientists are pushing more vaccination to blunt the impact of the next pandemic wave. Along with saving lives and protecting health systems, immunization has the potential to minimize long COVID, which can be devastating for individuals, communities, and economies, Tedros added.
10th May 2022 - CIDRAP

The ‘five pandemics’ driving 1 million U.S. Covid deaths

Officially, the U.S. will almost certainly reach an awful milestone in the next two weeks: its one millionth recorded Covid-19 death. In reality, this milestone was likely unofficially crossed days or weeks ago, and we’ll never know the exact toll or the identity of the pandemic’s actual millionth victim. Nor are humans well-equipped to fully grasp loss on this scale, let alone the magnitude of a global toll estimated to be as high as 14.9 million. One way to start understanding how a country as advanced as the U.S. lost so many people is to look at the ocean of public health data that was gathered as 1 million individual tragedies rippled through civic life.
10th May 2022 - STAT News

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Canada must focus on global vaccine access to curb COVID-19, expert warns MPs

Canada needs to turn its COVID-19 aid attention to expanding vaccine production everywhere or the virus will continue to run wild, mutate and bring new waves of disease, says a prominent expert. Dr. Madhukar Pai, a Canada Research Chair in epidemiology and global health at McGill University, told the House of Commons foreign affairs committee he doesn’t think rich countries like Canada have learned a thing from the first two years of the pandemic. “The selfishness, greed and myopia of the richest countries in the world that we have seen the naked display of in the last two years, I’m 100 per cent convinced in the next crisis, we will behave the exact same way,” he said Monday.
10th May 2022 - Global News

China risks Omicron 'tsunami' and 1.6mn deaths if it abandons zero-Covid strategy, study shows

The head of the World Health Organization has warned that China’s zero-Covid strategy is unsustainable, as new modelling showed the country risked unleashing a “tsunami” of coronavirus infections and causing 1.6mn deaths if it abandons the policy. “As we all know, the virus is evolving, changing its behaviours, becoming more transmissible. With that changing behaviour, changing your measures will be very important. When we talk about the zero-Covid strategy, we don’t think it’s sustainable,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said on Tuesday. He said the WHO had discussed the issue with Chinese experts, adding that “considering the behaviour of the virus I think a shift [in China’s strategy] will be very important”.
10th May 2022 - Financial Times

Analysis: Test, test, test? Scientists question costly mass COVID checks

For many people worldwide, having cotton swabs thrust up their nose or down their throat to test for COVID-19 has become a routine and familiar annoyance. But two years into the pandemic, health officials in some countries are questioning the merits of repeated, mass testing when it comes to containing infections, particularly considering the billions it costs. Chief among them is Denmark, which championed one of the world's most prolific COVID testing regimes early on. Lawmakers are now demanding a close study of whether that policy was effective.
10th May 2022 - Reuters

Pandemic gets tougher to track as COVID testing plunges

Testing for COVID-19 has plummeted across the globe, making it much tougher for scientists to track the course of the pandemic and spot new, worrisome viral mutants as they emerge and spread. Experts say testing has dropped by 70 to 90% worldwide from the first to the second quarter of this year — the opposite of what they say should be happening with new omicron variants on the rise in places such as the United States and South Africa. “We’re not testing anywhere near where we might need to,” said Dr. Krishna Udayakumar, who directs the Duke Global Health Innovation Center at Duke University. “We need the ability to ramp up testing as we’re seeing the emergence of new waves or surges to track what’s happening” and respond.
10th May 2022 - Associated Press

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Affordable Covid drugs kept out of reach by sluggish WTO

There is still a long way to go before South Africa and other developing countries can manufacture Covid vaccines and treatments quickly and without paying the huge charges demanded by the big US and European drug companies. Last week, the World Trade Organization (WTO) announced that the 180-member trade forum had taken a step towards a patent waiver that would allow developing countries to make the drugs they need – including vaccines, tests, and treatments – for as long as five years, without payments to pharma giants such as Pfizer. The EU, India, South Africa and the US, known as the Quad, claimed to have come to an agreement on the Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (Trips) waiver proposal, with China also expected to vote in favour.
9th May 2022 - The Guardian

How Hong Kong's vaccination missteps led to the world's highest covid-19 death rate

Hong Kong’s strict guidelines on social distancing and its restrictions on travel ensured months of low infection rates for covid-19, until the omicron variant hit the city in February 2022. Before that, Hong Kong had reported 212 deaths related to covid-19; around 9000 people have since died from the virus in the city’s fifth wave of infection. As of late April, more than 70% of deaths were in patients aged 80 or older, 73% of whom were unvaccinated. The hospital system has been overwhelmed, with patients occupying hospital beds in parking lots, bodies kept in hospital corridors and in patient rooms, and morgues overflowing. This is despite vaccines being readily available in the city since February 2021. Hong Kong had procured enough doses of the Pfizer and Sinovac vaccines for its population of seven million, and both vaccines were made available at community vaccination centres and private clinics across the city within weeks of the rollout. Older citizens were given priority access to vaccination.
9th May 2022 - The BMJ

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Beijing kicks off fresh round of COVID tests as Shanghai postpones crucial exams

China's capital Beijing kicked off a fresh round of mass testing for COVID-19 on Saturday and shut more bus routes and metro stations, as it seeks to avert the fate of Shanghai, where millions of residents have been locked down for over a month. The draconian movement curbs on Shanghai, an economic and financial hub, have caused frustration among its 25 million residents and triggered rare protests over issues such as access to food and medical care, loss of income and crowded as well as unsanitary conditions at central quarantine centres.
7th May 2022 - Reuters

Beijing District Shuts Gyms, Movie Theaters to Halt Covid Spread

A key district in China’s capital has ordered some businesses providing non-essential services such as gyms and movie theaters to close to prevent the spread of Covid infections after President Xi Jinping reaffirmed his stringent Covid Zero policy. Beijing’s eastern Chaoyang district, home to embassies and offices of multinationals including Apple Inc. and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., ordered companies “providing services other than those supporting residents’ livelihoods” to be closed until further notice, an official said at a briefing on Friday evening. Businesses ordered closed include karaoke bars, internet cafes, museums and art galleries, said Yang Beibei, deputy director of Chaoyang district.
7th May 2022 - Bloomberg

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New York City could bring back Covid mask mandate, vaccine checks if hospitals come under pressure

New York City could bring back mask mandates and proof of vaccination status to go to restaurants, bars and other venues if Covid hospitalizations rise to a concerning level, according to the city’s top health official. The city increased its Covid alert level from low to medium earlier this week as infections surpassed a rate of 200 per 100,000 people, driven by the more contagious omicron BA.2 subvariant. For now, health officials are asking residents to exercise increased caution by voluntarily masking indoors and getting tested before and after gatherings. However, Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan said New York might reinstate mandatory masking and vaccine checks if the city raises its Covid alert level to high.
5th May 2022 - CNBC

Western Australia could hit fresh COVID-19 peak as AMA remains nervous over removal of mask mandate

After Western Australia removed almost all of its COVID-19 rules last week, yesterday's new peak of 9,782 daily cases was pretty much expected. And with case numbers tending to be higher on Thursdays, it's possible today's tally will be another record. The Chief Health Officer warned this would likely happen, and it was a consequence of easing restrictions accepted by both Premier Mark McGowan and the Health Minister, Amber-Jade Sanderson. Asked about the rise yesterday, Ms Sanderson reiterated the key statistics are hospitalisations and intensive care admissions, which have remained relatively consistent.
5th May 2022 - ABC.Net.au

Does the World Still Need New Covid-19 Vaccines?

Our mandate remains to develop the best tools to prevent the emergence of new variants of concern and control the health and socioeconomic fallout from new surges. The decision by representatives of the African region to establish a network of six mRNA technology hubs10 is a sign that countries and regions are motivated to build local and regional capacity and expand self-sufficiency not only in planning and participating in key clinical trials but also in designing and manufacturing vaccines to better meet the needs of their populations during pandemic threats. Such technology hubs will need to embrace technologies beyond the mRNA approach.
5th May 2022 - Nejm.org

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U.S. CDC says travelers should still wear masks on airplanes

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday recommended travelers continue to wear masks in airplanes, trains and airports despite a judge's April 18 order declaring the 14-month-old transportation mask mandate unlawful. The CDC said it based its recommendation on current COVID-19 conditions and spread as well as the protective value of masks.
4th May 2022 - Reuters.com

Hong Kong to Open Up as Shanghai, Beijing Stick to China's Covid Zero Plan

Article reports that as Chinese cities such as Shanghai and Beijing stick ever more closely to Covid Zero principles, no matter the economic cost, Hong Kong is methodically moving toward opening up to the rest of the world. On Tuesday, the government brought forward a plan to ease social distancing rules, allowing people to go mask-free when exercising outdoors and doubling the maximum number of diners per table to eight. That came two days after Hong Kong ended a two-year ban on visits by all non-residents and eased some restrictions on inbound flights. The moves reflect a broader push by influential figures in the city to focus on retaining Hong Kong’s appeal as an international financial hub, particularly as President Xi Jinping’s rigid Covid Zero strategy leaves little prospect of opening the land border with the mainland.
4th May 2022 - Bloomberg

Three new Covid Omicron subvariants detected in Australia

Three new Omicron subvariants have reached Australia and health authorities say people who contract the virus should wait three months before getting their next Covid-19 vaccination. Assoc Prof Stuart Turville from the University of New South Wales’ Kirby Institute says Omicron subvariants BA.2.12.1, BA.4 and BA.5 have been detected in the country. Authorities are warning this winter season is likely to see a spike in Covid-19 cases and flu as restrictions which have suppressed the circulation of both viruses are phased out.
4th May 2022 - The Guardian

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CDC restates recommendation for masks on planes, trains

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended on Tuesday that Americans age two and older wear masks while on planes, trains and buses. It comes after the Department of Justice filed an appeal at the request of the CDC over a Florida judge's decision to strike down the mandate on April 18. The CDC's recommendation does not have to be enforced after many airlines opted to drop the masking and let passengers and employees do as they please. United Airlines said it would not reimpose its masking requirements following the CDC's latest recommendation. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg suggested on Tuesday that the administration may not want to bring back the mask mandate
3rd May 2022 - Daily Mail

NHS to consider closing hundreds of COVID-19 vaccination sites

NHS commissioners will consider closing or 'pausing' hundreds of COVID-19 vaccination sites across England as the pandemic jab programme winds down.
3rd May 2022 - GP online

CDC moves tourism hot spot out of 'high' risk level for Covid-19

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lowered the Covid-19 travel risk for one of the most popular destinations in the Western Hemisphere. Mexico was moved down a level on the CDC's scale from "high" risk to "moderate" risk on May 2, along with four other places around the world. Tourism is an important segment of the nation's economy, and Mexico has had some of the world's loosest border restrictions throughout the pandemic. There are no vaccination or testing requirements to visit.
3rd May 2022 - CNN

Costa Rica to roll out fourth COVID shot for some

Costa Rica will offer a fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to the immunocompromised and to those over 50, the country's Health Ministry said. The fourth dose will be optional and can be applied three months after the third shot, said Dr. Roberto Arroba, secretary of the National Commission for Vaccination and Epidemiology at the Ministry of Health. More than 85% of the Central American country's population has received at least one shot, while 79% have had two doses, and 41% have received a third vaccine, according to official data.
3rd May 2022 - Reuters

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Beijing, Shanghai Outbreaks Renew Debate Over China’s Covid-19 Strategy

With Beijing and Shanghai struggling to control Covid-19 outbreaks, China’s pandemic strategy faces a moment of truth. The highly infectious Omicron variant of the coronavirus has shut down Shanghai for more than a month. Its threat to do the same to the country’s capital is fueling debate over whether China needs to shift its zero-tolerance approach. Most of Shanghai’s 25 million residents remain confined to their homes, with little expectation of a quick return to normal life. Daily new infections have fallen in recent days, but public-health experts say any loosening of control measures could prompt a resurgence, overwhelming the healthcare system and exacting an unacceptably high toll on the elderly and unvaccinated.
2nd May 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

Italy, Greece Relax Covid Restrictions, Open to Tourists

For travellers heading to Europe, summer vacations just got a whole lot easier. Italy and Greece relaxed some COVID-19 restrictions on Sunday before Europe's peak summer tourist season, in a sign that life was increasingly returning to normal. Greece’s civil aviation authority announced that it was lifting all COVID-19 rules for international and domestic flights except for the wearing of face masks during flights and at airports. Previously, air travelers were required to show proof of vaccination, a negative test or a recent recovery from the disease. As of Sunday, visitors to Italy no longer have to fill out the EU passenger locator form, a complicated online ordeal required at airport check-in.
1st May 2022 - Bloomberg

China’s Covid-19 Defenses Have a Missing Piece: Vaccinating the Elderly

In its fervor to fight Covid-19, China has gone all out with a now-familiar protocol of mass testing and lockdowns. It now has to catch up on a missing piece in its defense: Many of the country’s elderly and most vulnerable citizens haven’t gotten vaccinated. While about 88% of Chinese people had received two doses of Covid-19 vaccines as of mid-March, the ratio among those over 80—those most at risk of severe illness and death from an infection—was just 51%. Fewer than one in five people over 80 had received a booster as of mid-March, according to government data. In Shanghai, that figure is 15%. Among Chinese over 60, 50 million people remain entirely unvaccinated.
30th Apr 2022 - Wall Street Journal

Ecuador lifts indoor and outdoor mask mandates

Ecuador will immediately lift mask mandates for both indoor and outdoor spaces thanks to significant gains made against coronavirus, President Guillermo Lasso said on Thursday. The decision is based on vaccination figures of 87% for those aged 3 and over and COVID-19 test positivity rates of just 5%, he said, as well as an effort to give second booster shots to adults.
30th Apr 2022 - Reuters

Hong Kong's mandatory COVID testing in schools fuels plastic waste woes

A Hong Kong government rule that all school students and staff take daily COVID-19 tests will add massively to the city's plastic waste problem, environmental activists say, with some 20 million kits a month set to be dumped at bursting landfills. The mandatory rapid antigen tests (RAT), and their plastic accessories are expected to worsen marine and land pollution in the financial hub of 7.4 million people where some beaches and hiking trails are already awash with microplastics.
30th Apr 2022 - Reuters

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S.Korea to lift outdoor mask mandate starting next week

South Korea said on Friday it will lift an outdoor face mask mandate next week in the country's latest step to ease COVID-19 restrictions, despite opposition from the incoming government which labelled the decision "premature". Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum said the decision was made as the government could "no longer look away" from the inconveniences experienced by its citizens when the country's virus situation was stabilising.
29th Apr 2022 - Reuters

Italy orders mask wearing for some indoor venues until mid-June

Face masks will remain compulsory in Italy on public transport and in some indoor venues until June 15, the health minister said on Thursday, as one of the country's hardest hit by COVID delayed an end to pandemic restrictions. Masks will still be required to access cinemas, theatres, indoor events and to enter hospitals, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said, adding that the government intends to be cautious in lifting the remaining measures. "We have decided to keep in place for a while, at least until June 15, an element of caution that I believe is necessary," Speranza said at an event organised by a medical doctors' union.
28th Apr 2022 - Reuters

Denmark becomes the first country to "pause" its Covid vaccination program

Denmark has become the first country to halt its Covid vaccination program, saying it is doing so because the virus has been brought under control. “Spring has arrived, vaccine coverage in the Danish population is high, and the epidemic has reversed,” Danish Health Authority said in a statement Wednesday announcing the move. Far from scrapping its vaccination program altogether, however, the Danish Health and Medicines Authority said there will probably be a need to vaccinate against Covid-19 again in the fall.
28th Apr 2022 - CNBC

The benefits of large scale covid-19 vaccination

New evidence confirms that fewer people die in better vaccinated communities - The first covid-19 vaccines were administered under emergency use authorisation in December 2020, just one year into the pandemic, a “miracle” of pharmaceutical innovation that has saved an estimated million lives or more in the US alone.12 The authorisation was given on the basis of safety and efficacy in randomised controlled trials, which found that immunisation with Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines protected a remarkably high percentage (>90%) of recipients from developing symptomatic infection and, to a lesser extent, from asymptomatic infection too. In other words, when tested against the SARS-CoV-2 variants prevailing in 2020 and early 2021, these novel covid-19 vaccines could stop the great majority of infections from causing illness and help to prevent transmission of SARS-CoV-2. But could vaccination prevent infection and illness on a large scale, outside the controlled environment of clinical trials? A linked study by Suthar and colleagues (doi:10.1136/bmj-2021-069317) adds to the evidence that it can, across the US
28th Apr 2022 - The BMJ

Shanghai's focus shifts to vaccination of elderly as new cases decline

The COVID-hit city of Shanghai is making more resources available to improve vaccination rates among the elderly as daily case numbers decline and it looks for a way out of four weeks of stringent lockdown restrictions. The city, battling China's biggest ever coronavirus outbreak, saw new asymptomatic cases fall to 9,330 on April 27, down 22% from a day earlier and its lowest rate in 24 days, with symptomatic infections also down by almost a fifth.
28th Apr 2022 - Reuters

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Turkey ready to lift all COVID-19 measures, Erdogan says

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that Turkey is ready to lift all measures against the coronavirus, adding that mask wearing will no longer be obligatory indoors. Speaking after the final meeting of the advisory science council, Erdogan said masks will still be mandated on public transport and in medical institutions until daily new cases drop below 1,000. Turkey had previously lifted the requirement to wear masks outdoors and in indoor areas with good ventilation.
27th Apr 2022 - Reuters

Malaysia to lift more COVID curbs, eases mask mandate

Malaysia will ease more COVID-19 curbs from the start of next month, including lifting restrictions on those who are not vaccinated against the coronavirus and scrapping the need to wear masks outdoors, its health minister said. The Southeast Asian nation has seen some of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the region, but infection surges have since subsided amid a ramped up vaccination programme. Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said on Wednesday people will now be able to enter public premises regardless of their vaccination status, except those who have tested positive for COVID-19 or unvaccinated travellers undergoing quarantine.
27th Apr 2022 - Reuters

China's Hangzhou, Home to Alibaba, to Start Mass Covid Testing

The Chinese city of Hangzhou, home to tech giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., will start mass testing for Covid-19, while cases in Shanghai fell for a fifth day. The testing drive will cover most of Hangzhou’s downtown area, with 10,000 free test sites to be set up, the municipal government said in a statement late Wednesday. It urged residents to get tested every 48 hours. Just a short train ride from Shanghai, the city of around 12 million people is home to a small but notable network of tech companies, including games maker NetEase Inc. and video-surveillance product company Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co.
28th Apr 2022 - Bloomberg

England Covid-19 Cases: 70% of Country Has Been Infected

Around seven in 10 people in England are likely to have had coronavirus since the early months of the pandemic, new figures suggest. An estimated 38.5 million people in private households - or 70.7% of the population - have had at least one infection since the end of April 2020. The figures have been compiled by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) using data from its long-running Covid-19 infection survey. The survey began in England on April 27 2020, which means the estimates do not cover most of the initial wave of the virus that began in early March.
28th Apr 2022 - Bloomberg

EU estimates up to 80% of population has had COVID

The European Commission said that between 60% and 80% of the EU population was estimated to have been infected with COVID-19, as the bloc enters a post-emergency phase in which mass reporting of cases was no longer necessary. In preparing for this less acute phase, European Union governments should ramp up COVID-19 immunisations of children, the bloc's executive body said, signallingit was considering plans to develop antivirals.
28th Apr 2022 - Reuters

Japan to limit scope of fourth jabs to older people and those at higher risk

In Japan, the health ministry adopted a plan Wednesday to limit eligibility for fourth doses of COVID-19 vaccines to those age 60 or over, as well as those who are age 18 or over with underlying conditions. Arrangements for fourth doses, positioned as part of a publicly funded emergency vaccination program, are aimed at preventing people from developing severe COVID-19 symptoms. Under the program, those age 60 or older will be obliged to make efforts to receive fourth vaccine shots.
27th Apr 2022 - The Japan Times

Australians urged to get flu shots as Covid deaths rise and winter sets in

Australians have been urged to get their flu vaccinations to help hospitals cope in the months ahead as they deal with a rise in Covid-19 cases, and as some states experience double-digit daily death tolls. At least 42 coronavirus deaths were recorded on Wednesday in Australia, with 10 in New South Wales, 13 in Victoria, 10 in Western Australia and nine in Queensland. There were 4,027 Covid deaths nationally in the first quarter of 2022, data from the Actuaries Institute shows, including 1,668 in January, 1,520 in February and 839 in March. So far in April there have been 770 deaths.
27th Apr 2022 - The Guardian

Hangzhou Starts Mass Covid Tests; Shanghai Cases Drop

The Chinese city of Hangzhou, home to tech giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., will start mass testing for Covid-19, while cases in Shanghai fell for a fifth day. The testing drive will cover most of Hangzhou’s downtown area, with 10,000 free test sites to be set up, the municipal government said in a statement late Wednesday. It urged residents to get tested every 48 hours. Just a short train ride from Shanghai, the city of around 12 million people is home to a small but notable network of tech companies, including games maker NetEase Inc. and video-surveillance product company Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology Co.
27th Apr 2022 - Bloomberg

Shanghai seeks ‘societal zero COVID’ with rounds of testing

Shanghai city authorities said Wednesday they will start rounds of COVID-19 testing over the next few days to determine which neighborhoods can safely be allowed a limited amount of freedom of movement, as residents in Beijing watch carefully on word for whether the capital city will lock down. On Wednesday, China reported 14,222 new cases, the vast majority of which were asymptomatic. The country is battling its largest outbreak since the pandemic was first reported in Wuhan in late December 2019. Shanghai’s vice head of its health committee, Zhao Dandan, announced Wednesday that the city would begin another round of testing for city residents over the next few days to determine which districts were lower risk.
27th Apr 2022 - The Associated Press

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Relief, revival as Singapore scraps its COVID curbs

Strict limits on workplaces and gatherings were no more on Tuesday, with employees lingering outside workplaces and public transport teeming with commuters eager for normalcy after two years of containment. "Almost full office today, first time in quite a while," said Slava Nikitin, 34, a product manager. "There were queues for elevators this morning, even though we have six elevators." Singapore has been lauded for its speed and success in its vaccine rollout, with 93% of the population inoculated, one of the highest rates in the world, helping to limit COVID fatalities to just 1,331.
26th Apr 2022 - Reuters

Turkey ready to lift all COVID-19 measures, Erdogan says

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that Turkey is ready to lift all measures against the coronavirus, adding that mask wearing will no longer be obligatory indoors. Speaking after the final meeting of the advisory science council, Erdogan said masks will still be mandated on public transport and in medical institutions until daily new cases drop below 1,000. Turkey had previously lifted the requirement to wear masks outdoors and in indoor areas with good ventilation.
26th Apr 2022 - Reuters

Albania to end virus restrictions before summer vacations

Albanian authorities have decided to lift all remaining COVID-19 restrictions before the summer vacation season. The Technical Committee of Experts, the country’s highest executive body during the pandemic, said Tuesday that coronavirus-related measures will end in Albania as of May 1. The decision means masks no longer will be required indoors and nightclubs won’t be subject to an 11 p.m. curfew Proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test for the virus won’t be needed at border crossings.
26th Apr 2022 - Associated Press

WA announces major overhaul to mask, proof of vaccination COVID-19 rules

West Australians will finally be able to ditch their face masks in most indoor settings, as the state prepares to ease a swathe of public health measures. From 12.01am Friday, people aged 12 and over will only be required to wear masks will in hospitals, aged care, disability care facilities and on public transport, taxis and rideshares. Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson announced proof of vaccination requirements will also be scrapped except at hospitals and residential aged care facilities.
26th Apr 2022 - 7news.com,au

Mexico to enable COVID vaccination of all children aged 12 and above

Mexico will let all children aged over 12 be registered for COVID-19 vaccination from Thursday, Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell said. Lopez-Gatell, the country's coronavirus czar, was speaking at a regular government news conference on Tuesday.
26th Apr 2022 - Reuters

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Covid-19: Karnataka to make wearing masks mandatory again

Karnataka Health Department on Monday said that wearing facemasks is mandatory as a preventive step to control the surge of Covid-19 cases.
25th Apr 2022 - India Times

Millions of COVID-19 shots set to go to waste, as vaccine rollout slows

While top U.S. health officials are urging some Americans to get yet another coronavirus booster shot, local health departments across the country are grappling with a growing dilemma -- how to address a declining demand for vaccines, while minimizing the waste of unused millions of doses currently in state stockpiles and at risk of expiring. Since the emergency use authorization of the first COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. last winter, federal data shows that states received a staggering 720 million doses, and more than 570 million of those shots have been administered.
25th Apr 2022 - ABC News

Can you use an expired at-home Covid-19 test?

Rapid antigen Covid-19 tests, better known as home tests, have become more common in households across the country as supplies have increased. These tests are designed to give you results in less than 30 minutes from the comfort of your own home. But if you have several boxes of them stored away, perhaps left over from winter's Omicron surge or from the federal program that sends up to eight free tests to US households, you might wonder whether they're safe and accurate to use beyond the expiration date on the package.
25th Apr 2022 - CNN

Americans back flexible approach on masks, but eager to move on from COVID-Reuters/Ipsos

Most Americans support a flexible approach to the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, with cities reimposing mask mandates when cases surge, even as a growing number are eager to get on with their lives, a Reuters/Ipsos poll completed on Friday found. The results of the two-day poll illustrate the balancing act facing U.S. officials - particularly President Joe Biden's Democrats - as they navigate a health crisis that will not go away. Sixty-four percent of U.S. adults - including 83% of Democrats and 46% of Republicans - said cities and states should impose mask mandates for indoor public places if there is a resurgence of COVID-19 in their area, the poll found.
25th Apr 2022 - Reuters

Beijing's biggest district begins COVID mass testing

Beijing residents snapped up food and other supplies as the city's biggest district began mass COVID-19 testing of all residents on Monday, prompting fears of a Shanghai-style lockdown after dozens of cases in the capital in recent days. Authorities in Chaoyang, home to 3.45 million people, late on Sunday ordered residents and those who work there to be tested three times this week as Beijing warned the virus had "stealthily" spread in the city for about a week before being detected.
25th Apr 2022 - Reuters

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Covid-19 Restrictions in Israel: Indoor Mask Mandate Dropped

Israel has lifted an indoor mask mandate in place for nearly a year as the country’s new cases of coronavirus continue to drop. The end of the masking requirement took effect Saturday night. Masks remain mandatory in hospitals, elderly care facilities and on international flights. Israel has seen new cases of COVID-19 drop since the peak of the latest wave of infections in January. Serious cases of coronavirus have plummeted from a high of over 1,200 during the omicron variant outbreak to around 200. Since the start of the pandemic two years ago, Israel has recorded over 4 million cases of coronavirus and at least 10,658 deaths — over one-fifth of them since January, according to the Health Ministry
24th Apr 2022 - Bloomberg

People who live, work in Beijing's Chaoyang will have to take 3 COVID tests in coming week

Beijing's Chaoyang district will require people who live and work in the district to undergo three coronavirus tests this coming week, the city government of Beijing said on Sunday. Chaoyang is the biggest district in Beijing and is home to 3.45 million people. The city government's requirement comes after Beijing reported 22 new coronavirus cases on Saturday.
24th Apr 2022 - Reuters

No Covid tests on arrival for vaccinated travellers from May 1

The Test & Go process for foreign arrivals will be terminated at the end of the month and vaccinated travellers will be only advised to do self-antigen tests for Covid-19 from May 1, to stimulate tourism and the economy, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said on Friday. "Tourism is recovering and antigen tests will be more convenient and faster for visitors," Gen Prayut said after chairing a meeting of the Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) at Government House. "Many countries are relaxing travel restrictions significantly and our country depends considerably on tourism to support our economy," the prime minister said.
23rd Apr 2022 - ฺBangkok Post

Mask mandates return to US college campuses as cases rise

The final weeks of the college school year have been disrupted yet again by COVID-19 as universities bring back mask mandates, switch to online classes and scale back large gatherings in response to upticks in coronavirus infections. Colleges in Washington, D.C., New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Texas have reimposed a range of virus measures, with Howard University moving to remote learning amid a surge in cases in the nation’s capital. This is the third straight academic year that has been upended by COVID-19, meaning soon-to-be seniors have yet to experience a normal college year.
23rd Apr 2022 - The Associated Press

Mask Mandate Is Gone, but Turbulence Remains for Airlines, Fliers

For two years, masks were a fraught issue for airlines, comforting some passengers, angering others and making flight attendants into enforcers. Now, the masks are gone—but the friction is set to continue. Airlines are hopeful that easing mask rules will tamp down on in-flight conflicts, after a federal judge in Florida this week struck down the Biden administration’s Covid-19 mask mandate for public transportation. The Justice Department has said it would appeal that decision, but in the meantime, the mandate isn’t being enforced and U.S. carriers have said masks are optional for passengers and staff. It has also left airlines to decide what to do with thousands of passengers who broke mask rules during the pandemic, and earned bans. United Airlines Holdings Inc. President Brett Hart said the Chicago-based airline is getting back in touch with people who were banned from United flights over the course of the pandemic.
23rd Apr 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

Singapore Phases Out the Use of a Controversial Covid Contact Tracing App

Singapore will move away from a key Covid-19 contact tracing app that previously attracted controversy due to government disclosures about its use for criminal investigations, but retain the data under a previously passed law. The health ministry on Friday said most venues will no longer require the public to check in using the TraceTogether program from April 26, a mobile application and device used by authorities for identifying the close contacts and locations visited by infected persons.
23rd Apr 2022 - Bloomberg

Philadelphia Lifts Indoor Mask Mandate

Philadelphia lifted its citywide indoor mask mandate just days after becoming the first major U.S. city to reimpose such a requirement, officials said. Officials lifted the mandate Friday after the city’s Board of Health voted Thursday evening to rescind it, citing improvements in local Covid-19 data. The city also said it is changing how it looks at metrics such as new Covid-19 cases, that triggered the reinstatement of the mask mandate this month. It would no longer use the system of responses that imposed various measures such as mask mandates based on data. Officials said strong recommendations are adequate at this stage of the pandemic for changing people’s behavior.
22nd Apr 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

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Incoming S.Korean leader's team to review lifting of COVID curbs

South Korean president-elect Yoon Suk-yeol is at odds with a decision by the outgoing government to lift nearly all coronavirus curbs this week, vowing to reconsider a plan to exempt all patients from quarantine requirements from May. In a major step this week towards a return to normal life, the government of President Moon Jae-in lifted almost all its social distancing curbs, such as midnight curfew for restaurants and a ban on gatherings of more than 10 people.
21st Apr 2022 - Reuters.com

UK patient had COVID-19 for 505 days straight, study shows

A U.K. patient with a severely weakened immune system had COVID-19 for almost a year and a half, scientists reported, underscoring the importance of protecting vulnerable people from the coronavirus. There’s no way to know for sure whether it was the longest-lasting COVID-19 infection because not everyone gets tested, especially on a regular basis like this case. But at 505 days, “it certainly seems to be the longest reported infection,” said Dr. Luke Blagdon Snell, an infectious disease expert at the Guy’s & St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. Snell’s team plans to present several “persistent” COVID-19 cases at an infectious diseases meeting in Portugal this weekend. Their study investigated which mutations arise — and whether variants evolve — in people with super long infections.
22nd Apr 2022 - The Associated Press

Boston urges masks as battle brews over transit rule

Boston urged people to start wearing masks Thursday and the Biden administration weighed its next legal step in what is shaping up to be a high-stakes court fight over the abrupt end of the national mask mandate on airplanes and mass transit. The Boston Public Health Commission noted a rise in hospitalizations, as well as a 65% increase in cases and an even larger spike in COVID-19 levels in local wastewater samples. It also stressed that the guidance was merely a recommendation, not an order. The country is wrestling with how to deal with the next phase of the pandemic and find the right balance in enacting health measures at a time when many Americans are ready to move on after two exhausting years.
21st Apr 2022 - The Associated Press

How to Avoid Getting Covid in a Mostly Mask-Free World

This week’s lifting of mask requirements on airplanes and, in many parts of the country, on public transportation is a major turning point in the U.S. pandemic response. From now on, it seems, avoiding or minimizing Covid-19 infection will be a personal endeavor, not a societal one. This is for some people a welcome shift toward normalcy and for others a cause for anxiety and confusion. Many occupy an awkward middle space between not wanting to throw in the towel and also wanting to break free of some restrictions. About 42% of adults in the U.S. have gone back to some but not all of their pre-pandemic activities, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll.
21st Apr 2022 - Bloomberg

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Should I still wear a mask on a plane?

The abrupt end of the federal mask mandate for public transportation and an uptick in coronavirus cases across the country have left some Americans wondering: Should I still wear a mask in certain situations or places? The confusion comes after a federal judge struck down the transportation mandate, prompting airlines and transportation agencies to lift their mask rules just as cases are starting to tick up again. Most states and cities that still had indoor mask mandates lifted them weeks ago. President Biden said Tuesday that people should decide for themselves if they want to wear masks or not. Here’s what we know about the science of masking to help you make decisions about if, when and where to cover your face.
20th Apr 2022 - The Washington Post

COVID-19: Social distancing requirement scrapped in hospital and GP waiting rooms in England

Social distancing rules in the NHS have been scrapped, according to new guidance issued by the health service. Patients in England will no longer need to be distanced from one another in GP and hospital waiting rooms. NHS organisations have been told to return to "pre-pandemic physical distancing in all areas", but people will still be encouraged to wear face coverings. The new guidance covers "all areas" including emergency departments and other hospital settings, ambulances, patient transport services and GP surgeries.
20th Apr 2022 - Sky News

Delhi makes masks mandatory again after COVID cases rise

New Delhi authorities on Wednesday made the wearing of masks compulsory again after COVID-19 infections rose in the Indian capital in recent days. "In view of the rise in COVID positive cases recently and as advised by the experts, it was decided to enhance testing, focus on vaccination coverage of targeted population and ensure strict enforcement of COVID appropriate behaviour," Delhi's Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal said on Twitter.
20th Apr 2022 - Reuters

Uber, Lyft and Disney end mask mandates as COVID cases fall

Uber and Lyft have scrapped face mask mandates for their riders and drivers in the United States, the ride-hailing companies said on Tuesday, as COVID cases have fallen sharply from their January peak. Walt Disney also said that wearing masks would be optional for fully vaccinated visitors at its indoor and outdoor locations and transport facilities. It recommended guests who are not fully vaccinated to continue wearing face coverings at all indoor locations and enclosed transportation
20th Apr 2022 - Reuters.com

U.S. Justice Department appeals transportation mask ruling

The U.S. Justice Department on Wednesday appealed a judge's ruling ending a mask mandate on public transportation and airplanes, a spokesman said, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the measure was still needed. A U.S. district judge ruled on Monday that the mandates, which apply to planes, trains and other public transportation, were unlawful. The Justice Department said it would appeal the ruling if the CDC determined the 14-month-old mandate was still needed.
20th Apr 2022 - Reuters

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Rise in at-home testing means we could be undercounting Covid-19 cases even more than before

As the number of Covid-19 cases grows in the United States, experts wonder if the country fully understands the current threat from the pandemic. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that only 7% of positive Covid-19 cases in the US are being detected, meaning case rates are actually 14.5 times higher than officially reported. The last time the infection detection rate was this low was at the outset of the pandemic, in March 2020. "It's a dynamic situation, and things are changing fast," said Ali Mokdad, a professor and chief strategy officer of population health at the institute.
19th Apr 2022 - CNN

Italy averted 150000 COVID-19 deaths due to vaccinations

Infections, hospitalisations and deaths associated with COVID-19 could have been much higher without the help of vaccinations in Italy, a recent report published by the National Institute of Health (ISS) has found. The COVID-19 vaccination campaign has avoided about eight million cases, over 500,000 hospitalisations, 55,000 intensive care stays and about 150,000 deaths in Italy, according to the data. The estimate refers to the period between 27 December 2020, when the campaign started, and 31 January 2022. As of 18 April, Italy registered 162,000 COVID-19-related deaths.
19th Apr 2022 - EURACTIV

COVID-19: Face masks no longer needed on public transport in the US after judge voids national mandate

People are no longer required to wear a mask on public transport in the US after a federal judge voided a national mandate, in a decision that has been described as "disappointing" by the White House. The judge, in Tampa, Florida, ruled that the national mask mandate, which covered airlines, airports, mass transit and taxis, was unlawful. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) failed to justify its decision to extend the rule until 3 May and did not follow proper law making.
19th Apr 2022 - Sky News

Moderna says dual variant booster with Beta more effective vs Omicron than current shot

Moderna Inc on Tuesday said a COVID-19 booster designed to target the Beta variant as well as the original coronavirus generated a better immune response against a number of virus variants including Omicron. Moderna said the results were a good sign for the company's plans for future shots targeting two COVID-19 variants. Dr. Jacqueline Miller, a top Moderna scientist, said the company had no immediate plans to file for authorization of the bivalent vaccine including the Beta variant. It will submit the data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in order to lay the groundwork for a future bivalent vaccine candidate that includes the Omicron variant as a target.
19th Apr 2022 - Reuters

Uber scraps mask requirement for riders, drivers as COVID cases fall

Uber has scrapped mandatory face masks for its riders and drivers in the United States, the ride-hailing company said on Tuesday, adding that riders have the option to cancel their trip if they feel uncomfortable with its move. The company introduced mask mandates for its drivers, riders and delivery workers around the world in May 2020 as COVID-19 cases rose.
19th Apr 2022 - Reuters

Canada to keep mask mandate after judge strikes down U.S. rule

Canada's government said on Tuesday it has no plans to stop requiring masks on planes after a Florida judge struck down a U.S. version of the law. "We are taking a layered approach to keeping travelers safe, and masks remain an incredibly useful tool in our arsenal against COVID-19," a spokesperson for Canada's Transport Minister wrote in an email. The spokesperson confirmed masks will be required on Canadian airlines and on flights that depart from or arrive in Canada. The federal government also requires travelers to wear masks and track close contacts for 14 days after arriving in Canada.
19th Apr 2022 - Reuters

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Mask Mandate Overturned for Planes, Public Transportation by Florida Judge

A federal judge overturned the U.S. government mask mandate on airplanes, trains and other public transportation, dealing a blow to the Biden administration as fights continue nationwide over policies tied to the Covid-19 pandemic. U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle in Tampa, Florida, vacated the mask requirement nationwide and directed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to reverse the policy put in place in February 2021. The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the Health Freedom Defense Fund. Mizelle, an appointee of former president Donald Trump, ruled that the CDC had incorrectly described the mask mandate as a form of “sanitation” to justify its authority in the matter.
18th Apr 2022 - Bloomberg

WHO warns coronavirus is far from settling into endemic situation

COVID-19 is far from becoming an endemic disease and could still trigger large outbreaks around the globe, the World Health Organization (WHO) said. WHO Health Emergencies Programme Director Michael Ryan said on Thursday that it was wrong to think that if COVID-19 settles down and becomes endemic, it will mean the end of the problem. “I certainly do not believe we’ve reached anything close to an endemic situation with this virus,” Ryan told a question-and-answer session on the WHO’s social media channels. “That is not an endemic disease yet,” he said.
15th Apr 2022 - Al Jazeera English

Pfizer, Moderna, J&J See Respiratory Virus RSV as Next Vaccine Target

After Covid-19, vaccine makers’ next big target is a respiratory virus that kills up to 500 children a year nationwide and has been among the leading causes of U.S. hospitalizations for decades. The respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, infects nearly everyone at some point, causing mild, cold-like symptoms for most people. But it can lead to serious health problems such as difficulty breathing and pneumonia for infants and older adults. The virus has for decades eluded efforts to develop a vaccine, including a major setback in the 1960s when an experimental shot harmed some children in testing. RSV is one of the last remaining childhood diseases without an approved vaccine.
15th Apr 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

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Vaccines have halved Italy's COVID-19 death toll, study shows

Vaccines against COVID-19 have roughly halved the death toll from the disease in Italy, preventing some 150,000 fatalities and 8 million cases last year, the National Health Institute (ISS) estimated on Wednesday. The ISS study, which ran from the start of 2021 until the end of January this year, concluded the inoculation campaign also prevented more than 500,000 hospitalisations and over 55,000 admissions to intensive care. Italy has registered 161,032 deaths linked to COVID-19 since its outbreak emerged in February 2020, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the eighth highest in the world.
13th Apr 2022 - Reuters

Transportation Mask Mandate to Be Extended 15 Days

Passengers will be required to wear masks on airplanes and other forms of transportation through May 3 as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looks to evaluate whether rising Covid-19 case numbers will lead to more hospitalizations, the CDC said. The Transportation Security Administration’s directive requiring masks was set to expire after April 18 but is being extended another 15 days. The recent rise in newly reported Covid-19 cases in parts of the country, fueled by the Omicron BA.2 variant, has complicated efforts to topple one of the most visible and persistent remnants of pandemic restrictions. The extension will give additional time for the CDC to learn more about BA.2, the latest Covid-19 variant, and make an informed decision, the CDC said. Since early April, there have been increases in the seven-day moving average of cases in the U.S. and the extension will help the CDC assess the potential impact of the uptick on severe disease, including hospitalizations and deaths, and healthcare-system capacity, the CDC said.
14th Apr 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

Study finds a consistent temporal association between mask use and COVID-19 vaccination status

The CRP study was carried out from April 2020 to June 2021 and is a prospective, multi-site cohort syndromic COVID-19 surveillance study of participants from ten healthcare settings in the mid-Atlantic and south-eastern USA. Participants were contacted via email or text and provided with surveys regarding their exposure to COVID-19, any COVID-19-related symptoms, and mask use. “Yes,” “No,” or “No interactions” were used to report the participant’s mask use. The study inclusion criteria consisted of: 18 years or older, enrolled by December 2020, and daily surveys needed to be completed ≥ 5 times a month. In this study, for a participant to be considered vaccinated, they needed to have received at least one dose of vaccine by August 31st, 2021.
13th Apr 2022 - News-Medical.Net

COVID-19: Shanghai firefighters use drones to deliver medicine to people in lockdown

Amid a lockdown in China's most populous city, firefighters have used drones to deliver medicines to people in contactless fashion. Around 25,000 new cases were reported in the city on Monday.
13th Apr 2022 - Sky News

The CDC’s new Covid-19 guidelines are facing their first test

In late February, the CDC made big changes to its recommendations for monitoring and responding to Covid-19 surges. Now, as US cases are once more on the rise, these recommendations face their first test. But how will we know if they are working? The hard truth, several public health experts tell Vox, is that determining whether they are effective will be difficult. Even in the best-case scenario, where institutions follow the guidelines and the latest wave recedes, it would be hard to prove that the CDC’s framework deserves the credit.
13th Apr 2022 - Vox.com

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MU researchers receive grant to increase confidence about COVID-19 vaccine among nurses

As an assistant teaching professor in the MU Sinclair School of Nursing, Stefanie Birk knows there are nursing students unsure of how to talk with people hesitant about getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Being a public health nurse herself, Birk has been in similar situations and is passionate about equipping the next generation of nurses with the knowledge and confidence they need to have conversations that ultimately promote public health. To help increase knowledge and confidence about the COVID-19 vaccine among nurses and the communities they serve, Birk and an interdisciplinary team of educators and researchers at the University of Missouri have earned a grant from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) with funding through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "We want to prepare our nursing students as they get ready to graduate and go on to become nurses serving our communities," said Birk, who teaches public health classes to hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students in the MU Sinclair School of Nursing. "By incorporating these lessons into their current curriculum, they will be better prepared going forward to have effective conversations with people who may be feeling hesitant about the COVID-19 vaccine."
12th Apr 2022 - News-Medical.Net

Researchers outline need for new approach to COVID-19 vaccine testing

The commentary by bioethicist Nir Eyal and epidemiologists Tobias Gerhard and Brian Strom (the latter is chancellor of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences) – published in Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety – examines how this parallel approach to vaccine trials can lead to faster and more accurate vaccine assessment and more effective pandemic response. The researchers say that further vaccine testing could help settle remaining questions about how effective the shots are at blocking infection against old and new virus strains. It could also reveal the most effective dosing and timing between shots, the level of protection compared to natural immunity and how well vaccines work in groups that were underrepresented in initial trials. While some researchers proposed at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic that challenge trials take place, others argued that too little was known about the virus and that conducting the trials would be too dangerous. They were not used for the studies that led to approval of the major COVID-19 vaccines but are now being used in testing.
12th Apr 2022 - EurekAlert!

Thailand Ramps Up Vaccinations as Festival Seen Fueling Covid

Thailand is rushing to vaccinate its elderly citizens and other vulnerable groups ahead of the local New Year celebrations as the festivities are seen fueling a surge in Covid cases and deaths, potentially derailing a tentative economic and tourism recovery. Millions of Thais will travel to their hometowns this week from cities such as Bangkok to join families in celebrating Songkran, the first time they can do so without any travel curbs since the outbreak of the pandemic. That’s prompted the Health Ministry to warn new daily cases could jump to as high as 100,000 a day from almost 20,000 on Tuesday.
12th Apr 2022 - Bloomberg

UN official urges acceleration in coronavirus vaccinations

The U.N. official spearheading global vaccination efforts against the coronavirus said Monday the number of countries where 10% or less of the population has been vaccinated dropped from 34 to 18 since January and called for accelerated progress to end the pandemic. Assistant Secretary-General Ted Chaiban told the U.N. Security Council that with over 6 million lives lost to COVID-19 and just over 1 million new coronavirus infections reported to the World Health Organization in the last 24 hours, it is urgent to increase vaccinations in countries where it wasn't possible to boost rates in 2021.
12th Apr 2022 - Medical Xpress

COVID vaccines: why second boosters are being offered to vulnerable people in the UK – but not young and healthy people yet

Until recently, the UK government limited a fourth dose of the COVID vaccine to people with severely weakened immune systems over the age of 16. But, following a resurgence of COVID cases in the UK, the government has followed some other countries such as Israel, Germany and Sweden, and expanded the eligibility for a second booster shot. People aged 12 and over who have a weakened immune system, care home residents and people aged 75 and over are now eligible. But if you’re young and healthy you may be wondering whether you are going to be offered a fourth dose, and indeed, if a fourth dose is necessary for you. Let’s take a look at what we know so far
12th Apr 2022 - The Conversation

Philadelphia to restore indoor mask mandate as cases rise

Philadelphia became the first major U.S. city to reinstate its indoor mask mandate on Monday after reporting a sharp increase in coronavirus infections, with the city’s top health official saying she wanted to forestall a potential new wave driven by an omicron subvariant. Confirmed COVID-19 cases have risen more than 50% in 10 days, the threshold at which the city’s guidelines call for people to wear masks indoors, said Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, the health commissioner. Health officials believe the recent spike is being driven by the highly transmissible BA.2 subvariant of omicron, which has spread rapidly throughout Europe and Asia, and has become dominant in the U.S. in recent weeks.
12th Apr 2022 - The Associated Press

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This invisible Covid-19 mitigation measure is finally getting the attention it deserves

Two-plus years into the Covid-19 pandemic, you probably know the basics of protection: vaccines, boosters, proper handwashing and masks. But one of the most powerful tools against the coronavirus is one that experts believe is just starting to get the attention it deserves: ventilation.
11th Apr 2022 - CNN

Which Cities Have Mask Mandates? Philadelphia Reinstates Indoor Requirement

Philadelphia’s return to a masking mandate is unlikely to catch on in other U.S. cities, highlighting a split among public health officials over how to contain future outbreaks of the virus. The City of Brotherly Love will make masks a requirement again in indoor settings starting on April 18, but Philadelphia is unique in breaking from guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC shifted its recommendations earlier this year to emphasize hospitalizations over case counts, with universal masking only suggested at its highest risk level. The change has allowed many local government officials to continue reopening and relax restrictions even as the virus rebounds across some parts of the country, since hospitalizations remain low in most places. Indeed, by the CDC’s measurements, Philadelphia County remains low-risk. But the city made a commitment when it lifted mask mandates that it would reinstate them if another wave hit.
11th Apr 2022 - Bloomberg

U.S. seeks to resume enforcing federal employee vaccine mandate

The U.S. Justice Department on Monday asked a federal appeals court to allow the Biden administration to resume enforcing a federal employee vaccine mandate that had been blocked by a lower-court judge in January. A 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel on Thursday reinstated President Joe Biden's executive order mandating that federal civilian employees be vaccinated against COVID-19.
11th Apr 2022 - Reuters

Japan's Low-Key Covid Campaign Is More Sustainable Than China's All-Out Efforts

Shanghai is locked down and some of its residents are running out of food. As China battles its largest-ever Covid outbreak, the discourse swings between two extremes: The country must accept Covid Zero and sporadic, disruptive lockdowns; or it must live with the virus western-style — and endure all deaths that ensue. For Chinese authorities, the former may no longer work but the latter is unacceptable. But there’s an alternative: China should look to what can be learned from its neighbor Japan. Japan conducted a largely low-tech, unshowy campaign against the virus and rarely makes the list of top-performing countries. Yet among the 38 OECD members, only one has seen fewer deaths per capita than Japan — and that’s New Zealand, a nation that endured some of the world’s strictest lockdowns
11th Apr 2022 - Bloomberg

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Second Covid Booster Vaccines: Are Fourth Shots Effective?

Everyone agrees that more coronavirus variants are likely. But how much the virus will evolve and how long existing vaccines will continue protecting against severe cases of Covid-19 remains uncertain. That’s led a short list of countries to recommend second boosters of existing vaccines for the especially vulnerable. These doses -- often referred to as a fourth shot, though it will be the third for those who initially got the single-dose immunization made by Johnson & Johnson -- are essentially a stopgap measure. Longer term, many researchers believe the vaccines will need to be periodically updated to counteract new strains, just as flu shots are tweaked annually.
9th Apr 2022 - Bloomberg

Airlines that dropped mask requirements are now suffering staff shortages due to COVID-19

Overseas airlines are having to cancel hundreds of flights as they grapple with coronavirus-related staffing shortages weeks after they ditched rules requiring passengers and staff to mask up in the air. The disruptions also come as the CEOs of leading U.S. airlines urge the Biden administration to roll back a federal rule requiring that masks be worn in the sky. Masks have not been required on flights operated by budget-friendly, Swiss airline EasyJet since March 27, the airline said in a statement. The move came after the UK removed all travel restrictions earlier in March.
9th Apr 2022 - CBS News

India to widen COVID booster effort to all adults from Sunday

India will offer booster doses of COVID-19 vaccine to all adults from Sunday, although free third doses will be limited to frontline workers and those older than 60 who get them at government centres. The country has given 1.85 billion vaccine doses among its population of 1.35 billion. Of these, 82% are the AstraZeneca dose made domestically and called Covishield. Those older than 18 who received a second dose nine months ago will be eligible for the "precaution" dose, the health ministry said, using the government's term for boosters.
9th Apr 2022 - Reuters

Omicron spawns U.S. search for better kids' masks, new standard

The fast-spreading Omicron variant stoked U.S. interest in better masks for children to ward off COVID-19, and that is adding fuel to an effort that could set the stage for domestic oversight of their quality.
9th Apr 2022 - Reuters

Covid-19: Ending free testing is a mistake

In light of escalating rates of infection, hospital admissions, and rising sickness absence rates, the UK government should reconsider the end to free covid-19 testing. Helpfully, in the UK, we now have nine more “official” symptoms to consider when deciding if we might have covid-19. What we do not have is universally free testing so many people are left to make up their own minds about whether they have a cold, hay fever, normal aches and pains, or indeed covid-19. If they can afford to, and can find stocks, they can buy a lateral flow test. On the day that free testing finished, we saw one of the highest infection rates of the pandemic so far, with one in 13 of us infected with covid-19.1 We have now got the highest number of people with covid-19 being admitted to hospital, each week, since the pandemic began, and covid-19-related deaths reaching a level not seen for a while. The UK government’s strategy for “Living with covid-19” clearly means potentially living with chaos. This chaos is typified by the woeful communications that surround the government’s decisions. How will this new state of being affect the public, NHS staff, and those who are clinically extremely vulnerable—and what should be done about it?
9th Apr 2022 - The BMJ

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How many Americans are actually vaccinated against covid-19?

Millions of Americans are now eligible for a second covid-19 booster shot. By all accounts, efforts to vaccinate older people in many states have gone well — unbelievably well, in fact. According to official Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) counts of vaccinations among those above age 65 as compared with census data, 117 percent of those in that demographic in Massachusetts have had at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine. New Hampshire would show that no less than 140 percent of that group are vaccinated. Buried deeper in the CDC website is an explanation of why the figures are so weird: Sometimes the data that the CDC has access to fail to link individuals to doses. This means that first doses are overestimated, because second and third doses are attributed as being a first dose for someone else. These reporting challenges will only get worse as people line up for a second booster shot. Very likely, the CDC’s underlying figures will soon show that more than 100 percent of those above age 65 across every U.S. state have had at least one shot. The bigger issue here is that all the data we have on U.S. vaccinations are subject to these distortions.
7th Apr 2022 - The Washington Post

German parliament rejects mandatory coronavirus vaccination

The German parliament on Thursday rejected a draft bill that would have made coronavirus vaccination compulsory from the age of 60 in a defeat for Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his attempt to build a cross-party consensus on the issue. Of the 683 who voted on the bill, 378 rejected it and only 296 supported it, among them Scholz and Health Minister Karl Lauterbach, who looked visibly disappointed when the result was announced in the plenary.
7th Apr 2022 - POLITICO Europe

Airlines cancel hundreds of flights due to COVID-19 after dropping mask rules

Overseas airlines are having to cancel hundreds of flights as they grapple with coronavirus-related staffing shortages weeks after they ditched rules requiring passengers and staff to mask up in the air. The disruptions also come as the CEOs of leading U.S. airlines urge the Biden administration to roll back a federal rule requiring that masks be worn in the sky.
7th Apr 2022 - CBS News

Taiwan aims for zero serious COVID cases as infections edge up

Taiwan is aiming for zero serious COVID-19 infections and an "effective" control of the virus, President Tsai Ing-wen said on Wednesday, responding to a gradual increase in the number of domestic cases as it pledges to keep its reopening on track. Unlike large parts of the rest of the world, Taiwan has kept the pandemic well under control with strict and early control measures, including an efficient contact tracing system and largely closing its borders. Since the beginning of this year, Taiwan has reported 2,061 domestic cases, with only five people classified as being seriously ill and just one death.
7th Apr 2022 - Reuters

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Irish people aged 65 and over to receive fourth dose of Covid-19 vaccine

Irish people aged 65 and over should receive a fourth dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, the Republic of Ireland's National Immunisation Advisory Committee has said. Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has accepted the recommendation. Those aged 12 and older, who are immunocompromised, will also receive another booster.
6th Apr 2022 - The Irish News

Ontarians 60+ to be eligible for 4th COVID-19 vaccine doses starting Thursday

Ontario is opening up eligibility for fourth COVID-19 vaccine doses to those aged 60 and older as wastewater data suggests the number of infections are almost as high as in early January, when Omicron was at its peak. Ontarians 60 and up, as well as all Indigenous residents and their non-Indigenous household members aged 18 or older, will be able to book their second booster shot through the province's online portal starting Thursday at 8 a.m, the province said.
6th Apr 2022 - CBC.ca

More Australians are reporting catching COVID-19 twice, but there's limited data on reinfections

A growing number of Australians are catching COVID-19 for a second time as the country grapples with another surge in infections, but a lack of official data makes it hard to pinpoint exactly who is getting it twice. Raelene Roede is a 50-year-old kindergarten teacher from Geelong, south-west of Melbourne, who caught COVID-19 for the first time after New Year's Eve in January. After an extended bout of isolation – made longer due to January's infamous testing delays – and a week spent feeling pretty sick, Ms Roede made a full recovery and returned to her daily gym routine.
6th Apr 2022 - ABC News

Spain to mostly ditch indoor mask wearing from April 20

Spain will lift a requirement to wear face masks indoors except on public transport and in hospitals and retirement homes from April 20, Health Minister Carolina Darias said on Wednesday. Since the Omicron variant of the coronavirus drove up infections to record highs in January the caseload has receded sharply and COVID patients now account for just 3.5% of hospital occupation. She said advisers have recommended lifting the obligation after the Easter long weekend.
6th Apr 2022 - Reuters

Quebec extends mask mandate as new COVID wave spreads in Canada

Quebec will require masks to be worn in indoor public spaces for all of April, delaying a plan to relax the measure by the middle of the month as it and other Canadian provinces face a new COVID-19 wave, a top public health official said on Tuesday. The province, the second most populous in Canada, will become one of the last parts of North America to continue a mask mandate in public indoor places like stores, with health officials projecting a rise in cases and hospitalizations. "We do not expect the mask will be needed after the month of April," Dr. Luc Boileau, the province's interim public health director, told reporters.
6th Apr 2022 - Reuters

China's COVID outbreak will improve if existing policies implemented better - expert

"The duration of this epidemic depends on our prevention and control strategies, and how strong we implement our prevention and control measures," said Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the China Center for Disease Control and Prevention. China's "zero-COVID" stance, known as "dynamic clearance", has come under growing scrutiny in recent weeks after the lockdown of the country's most populous city of Shanghai amid an outbreak of the highly contagious Omicron variant.
6th Apr 2022 - Reuters

Global groups propose strategy to tackle ongoing COVID risks

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and three global health partners today proposed a strategy to manage future risk from COVID, factoring in different scenarios on how the pandemic could evolve and setting ambitious price tags that would enable key policies to take shape.
5th Apr 2022 - CIDRAP

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An equitable roadmap for ending the COVID-19 pandemic

Many governments are rolling back restrictions, but the pandemic will end only with a renewed focus on equitable distribution of vaccines and therapeutics, responsive public health plans, and policies to protect the vulnerable. More than 2 years into the COVID-19 pandemic, it remains unclear when and how it will end. The global outcome is dependent on multiple factors: the level of cooperation between governments; equitable access to vaccines, testing and therapeutics; local government action and the response of citizens; and competing outbreaks, conflicts or natural disasters. Ending the pandemic will also require a focus on the elderly and other vulnerable populations, as well as those in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs)
5th Apr 2022 - Nature

Quebec extends mask mandate to end of April as COVID hospitalizations rise

Quebec will require masks to be worn in indoor public spaces for all of April, delaying a plan to relax the measure by the middle of the month as it and other Canadian provinces face a new COVID-19 wave, a top public health official said on Tuesday. The province, the second most populous in Canada, will become one of the last parts of North America to continue a mask mandate in public indoor places like stores, with health officials projecting a rise in cases and hospitalizations.
5th Apr 2022 - Reuters

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China Variants and Omicron XE Put Fresh Focus on Covid Mutations

The disclosure of new Covid variants emerging in China and the rise of a potentially more transmissible strain in the U.K. has recast the spotlight on the ongoing risk of the virus, even as health experts say there’s no reason to panic. The World Health Organization said a hybrid of two omicron strains -- BA.1 and BA.2 -- that was first detected in the U.K. and dubbed XE could be the most transmissible variant yet. It is estimated to spread 10% more easily than BA.2, which itself was more transmissible than the original omicron famous for its ease of penetration. Meanwhile in China, which is experiencing its biggest outbreak since Wuhan, authorities have disclosed two novel omicron subvariants that don’t match any existing sequences. It’s unclear if the infections were one-off events of little significance, or if they may be a sign of problems ahead.
4th Apr 2022 - Bloomberg

More than 8 million people reject offer of Covid-19 booster despite record infections

More than eight million people have turned down the offer of a booster vaccine against Covid-19 despite the UK’s infection rate hitting its highest ever level last week. The Government is under pressure to ramp up its efforts to persuade more people to come forward for a third jab, at the same time as encouraging over-75s to accept a second booster. On Monday NHS England will start vaccinating children aged five to 11 with some centres fitted out with games and pets to make young children feel comfortable.
4th Apr 2022 - iNews

Sweden to offer fourth COVID vaccine jab to people aged 65 and above

Sweden will give a fourth shot of COVID-19 vaccine to people aged 65 and above to boost their defences against the disease, the health agency said on Monday. "For people aged 65 and over, it is now four months since the previous vaccine dose, and the protective effect of the vaccine diminishes over time," the Health Agency said in a statement. Sweden had previously offered a fourth jab to people aged 80 or older.
4th Apr 2022 - Reuters

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I Just Had Covid. Should I Wait to Get Boosted?

I'm over 50, triple-vaxxed with Moderna and I had Covid-19 in late February. Should I get a booster shot now or wait three or four months? The booster-timing game is one a lot of us have been playing. I’ve had friends tell me they’ve delayed getting boosters not just after a case of Covid, but also to lessen their risk of catching the virus before a big vacation or a wedding. It’s just the latest iteration of pandemic-risk roulette. We’re all trying to figure out how to get the most bang out of our booster. This past week, the Food and Drug Administration gave the green light for an additional booster — a fourth shot — for those over age 50. But many Americans still haven’t gotten their first booster shot — or any shot. If you’ve had Covid since January or February, says Jessica Justman, an infectious disease specialist and epidemiologist at Columbia University Medical Center, it makes sense to hold off on a booster, no matter how old you are.
3rd Apr 2022 - Bloomberg

Covid experts call for return of free tests as UK cases hit new high

Covid has hit an all-time high across the UK, with almost 5 million people – one in 13 of the population – estimated to have the virus, according to the most recent official data, prompting experts to call for the return of free testing. The figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) came on the day the government ended free rapid tests for most people in England and as tens of thousands of people were hoping to embark on Easter holidays. Many will have to pay for a test to find out if they are infected, whether they are symptomatic or not. While UK hospitalisations and deaths are also rising, these are not in line with the spike in infections, and scientists said they expect levels to fall sharply again in April and May.
2nd Apr 2022 - The Guardian

NYC to keep school mask rule for kids aged 2 to 4 in place

With COVID-19 cases rising once again, New York City is keeping a mask mandate for children under 5 in place and will appeal a judge’s ruling that struck it down, Mayor Eric Adams announced Friday. City health officials are recommending that everyone cover their faces in indoor public settings and will continue to require masks for children aged 2 to 4 in schools and daycare centers, Adams said. Adams had said previously that the mask mandate for young children would be lifted on April 4 if coronavirus numbers remained low. New York City is now averaging just under 1,300 new cases of COVID-19 per day, more than twice the number on the average day in early March.
2nd Apr 2022 - The Associated Press

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Covid-19 news: Omicron's reinfection risk 10 times higher than delta's

In the UK, the risk of being reinfected with SARS-CoV-2 virus is 10 times higher with omicron than delta. The Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) Covid-19 Infection Survey estimates the number of reinfections that occurred in the UK between July 2020 and 20 March 2022. From 20 December 2021 to 20 March 2022, when omicron was the dominant variant, the risk of reinfection was about 10 times greater than when delta dominated, defined as mid-May 2021 to 19 December. Reinfection definitions vary. The ONS defines it as a positive PCR test result after a number of negative results, following an initial infection. The specific number of negative results required between infections depends on when the reinfection occurred, as definitions have changed over time. Covid-19 immunity, whether naturally acquired or via vaccines, wanes over time, leaving people more vulnerable to reinfection. Omicron has also evolved to better evade immunity.
31st Mar 2022 - New Scientist

German panel recommends booster for recipients of 4 vaccines

Germany’s independent vaccination advisory panel is recommending a booster shot with a messenger RNA vaccine for people who have had a full course of four Chinese, Indian and Russian COVID-19 vaccines that aren’t currently approved for use in the European Union. In a draft recommendation Thursday, the panel, known by its German acronym STIKO, said the advice applies to people given a full course and also a booster of the Chinese Sinovac and Sinopharm vaccines, the Indian-made Covaxin and Russia’s Sputnik V.
31st Mar 2022 - Associated Press

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CDC: If you got J&J's vaccine and booster, consider an mRNA shot now

The nearly 17 million Americans who received the one-shot Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine are less protected against serious illness and hospitalizations than those who got the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots, according to federal data released Tuesday. The latest data suggest Johnson & Johnson recipients should get a booster with one of the messenger RNA vaccines, if they haven’t already done so — and even consider a second messenger RNA booster for the greatest protection. The data come from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that analyzed the results of mix-and-match vaccine-and-booster combinations during a four-month period when the highly transmissible omicron variant was dominant.
30th Mar 2022 - The Washington Post

Who is eligible for fourth Covid vaccine in Scotland? How to book 'spring booster' jab

A second Covid booster dose is now being offered to high risk groups of people across Scotland. Coronavirus infection can be more serious for those who are older as well as those with a weakened immune system, meaning it is important to ensure protection levels remain high. To help ensure this, a fourth dose of the vaccine is being offered as a precaution to those who are deemed to be at higher risk. This dose - which is a second booster - is being given to reduce your risk of getting seriously ill from coronavirus, requiring hospital treatment or even dying if you become ill with coronavirus.
30th Mar 2022 - Daily Record

Decline of testing, sequencing could hinder search for future COVID-19 variants, experts warn

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, disease surveillance efforts that rely on testing and variant sequencing have been critical tools in the global efforts to fight the virus. Without these tools, experts said, the spread of COVID-19 could have been exponentially greater, potentially resulting in many more deaths. "Testing and sequencing have been critical to understanding where the virus is and how it is evolving. This is critical information for response and mitigation efforts," Dr. Rebecca Katz, professor and director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University, told ABC News. Surveillance tools have helped health officials make important recommendations throughout the pandemic -- including the decision to green light booster doses for extra protection, and decision to pull back on some monoclonal antibody treatments authorized for COVID-19, following concerns that it was not effective against certain variants.
30th Mar 2022 - ABC News

Covid-19: Americans who are over 50 or immunocompromised are advised to have second booster

Second booster doses against covid-19 for Americans aged over 50 and for certain immunocompromised people aged over 12, using either the Pfizer-BioNTech or the Moderna vaccine, may become available as early as later this week after they were authorised in the US. The new recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)1 and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)2 come as the BA.2 omicron variant spreads rapidly in the US and is responsible for about 55% of new infections. The variant seems to be more contagious but does not cause more severe infections. Peter Marks, director of the CDC’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said on 29 March, “Current evidence suggests some waning of protection over time against serious outcomes from covid-19 in older and immunocompromised individuals. Based on an analysis of emerging data, a second booster dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna covid-19 vaccine could help increase protection levels for these high risk individuals
30th Mar 2022 - The BMJ

EU health ministers call for common approach to 2nd boosters for elderly

European health ministers urged the bloc's executive on Tuesday to back a fourth COVID-19 shot for people over the age of 60 to boost immunity in the absence of vaccines that specifically protect against the Omicron variant. Pointing to data from Israel, minister Karl Lauterbach said a recommendation was "urgently necessary" to reduce the risk of death from an infection. He raised the issue at a meeting of health ministers in Brussels on Tuesday and said most of them supported the idea of harmonising European vaccination strategies
30th Mar 2022 - Reuters

UK says healthcare workers, vulnerable will still get free COVID tests

Britain said on Tuesday that healthcare workers, social care staff and the most vulnerable will still get COVID-19 tests without any charge when it ends free testing for the general public next month. When he announced all coronavirus restrictions would be scrapped in February, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said free tests would end on April 1, saying the country could not afford their cost
30th Mar 2022 - Reuters UK

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Moderna's Covid Booster Shot Will Be Offered to South African Health Workers

Moderna Inc.’s coronavirus vaccine will be offered as a booster to some South African health workers, who received either one or two shots of Johnson & Johnson’s inoculation as part of a vaccine trial involving almost half a million people. The Moderna shot will be offered to 10,000 health workers in a trial known as Sherpa that is likely to start in the second half of April, Glenda Gray, the co-lead of J&J’s vaccine trials in South Africa and president of the South African Medical Research Council. The aim of the study, which will target participants in the earlier Sisonke trial, is to compare how well the Moderna shot works in comparison to Pfizer Inc.’s shot as a boost, Gray said in an interview on Monday.
29th Mar 2022 - Bloomberg

EULAR takes 'precautionary position' in support of third, booster COVID-19 vaccine doses

Citing a lack of available data and time, EULAR has taken a “precautionary position” in support of third and booster COVID-19 vaccine doses for patients with rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases. “There are concerns that individuals on certain immunosuppressive or immunomodulatory drugs may not mount an adequate protective response to COVID-19 vaccination,” Robert B.M. Landewé, MD, PhD, of Amsterdam UMC, and colleagues wrote in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. “Data are not currently available to reliably identify who might, or might not, benefit from a third primary dose of a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. Taking a precautionary position, third primary doses are being recommended by some authorities in selected groups of individuals and EULAR supports this approach.”
29th Mar 2022 - Healio

The world's refugees remain last in line for covid-19 vaccines

Two years into the pandemic, 34.7% of the world’s population have not had a single dose of vaccine. For vulnerable groups such as refugees and internally displaced persons—85% of whom are hosted in low and middle income countries—the disparity in comparison with the citizens of the countries they live in is stark. India, for example, has 500 million unvaccinated people, one of the world’s highest numbers. Many of these unvaccinated people are the nation’s most marginalised (57% of the eligible population are fully vaccinated).
29th Mar 2022 - The BMJ

Germany speaks out against COVID-19 vaccine patent waiver

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he did not agree with a planned intellectual property waiver for COVID-19 vaccines as patents are a crucial way of encouraging companies to continue pushing ahead with new research. The waiver drafted by the United States, European Union, India and South Africa earlier in March would need formal approval from the WTO's 164 member countries, including Germany, before being adopted
29th Mar 2022 - Reuters

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COVID-19 booster essential, even among individuals previously infected

A long-term, cohort study led by researchers at the Azrieli Faculty of Medicine of Bar-Ilan University and Ziv Medical Center in Safed has produced further insight regarding the interplay between COVID-19 infection and vaccination in providing protection over time. Seven to nine months after the second dose of the vaccine, antibody levels throughout the cohort dropped and were comparable in all groups including among young people and those infected before vaccination. The booster, however, led to antibody levels ten times higher than after the second dose in all groups within the cohort. The study, recently published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, further showed that all individuals, including those with hybrid immunity (infected and vaccinated) require subsequent boosters beyond the two initial COVID-19 vaccine doses.
28th Mar 2022 - Arutz Sheva

COVID-19: 600,000 people to be invited for spring booster jabs next week

More than 600,000 people in England will be invited for a COVID-19 booster jab next week. Since the beginning of the spring booster programme last week, NHS England said more than 470,000 people have already come forward for a jab. Around 5.5 million people in England aged over 75 or immunosuppressed will be eligible for a spring booster over the coming weeks and months.
28th Mar 2022 - Sky News

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Many in Malaysia to lose fully-vaccinated status if they don't get Covid-19 booster

Some two million recipients of the Covid-19 vaccine by Sinovac are set to lose their fully vaccinated status if they do not receive their boosters by April 1, said Malaysia's Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin. "Based on the latest data, about 2.09 million recipients of the Sinovac vaccine for their primary series have yet to get their booster shots," he told a press conference in Parliament on Thursday (March 24). "They will stand to lose their fully vaccinated status when the deadline ends." The deadline for adult primary recipients of CoronaVac - the vaccine produced by China's Sinovac Biotech - is March 31, after it was extended from Feb 28. Mr Khairy also said that those who had yet to get their Sinovac booster would be deemed "not fully vaccinated" by Singapore.
26th Mar 2022 - The Straits Times

German health minister urges people at risk to get second COVID booster

Germany's health minister on Friday urged people over age 60 with risk factors such as high blood pressure or a weak heart to get a second booster shot against COVID-19 to reduce their risk of getting seriously ill. Karl Lauterbach said he had asked the STIKO vaccine authority to adjust its current recommendation for a second booster to include a bigger group of people. STIKO currently recommends second boosters for people aged 70 and above, and for people belonging to particularly high risk groups. Only 10% of those have received it so far, Lauterbach told a news conference.
25th Mar 2022 - Reuters

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Simple home oxygen monitors signal when to seek COVID care

COVID-19 patients can safely use inexpensive pulse oximeters at home to watch for a drop in blood oxygen that signals they need to seek advanced care, according to a systematic review published yesterday in The Lancet Digital Health. Pulse oximeters are small devices that shine light through a patient's finger to measure his or her blood oxygen saturation. They can be used alone or as part of a remote patient monitoring (RPM) package. Imperial College London researchers analyzed 13 observational studies involving 2,908 participants in five countries using pulse oximetry to monitor their blood oxygen levels from when the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020 to Apr 15, 2021. Some RPM programs had participants monitor their own oxygen levels, while others developed a mobile app or website for patients to report their readings. Participants included older people with more than one underlying illness, young people, and pregnant and postpartum women. All participants had COVID-19 except for 12 controls in one study.
23rd Mar 2022 - CIDRAP

COVID booster provides protection for over-65s after 15 weeks -UK data

A booster dose of vaccine against COVID-19 continues to provide robust protection against hospitalisation for older people nearly four months after getting the third dose, new data from the UK's Health Security Agency on Thursday showed. Vaccine effectiveness against hospitalisation for people aged over 65, 15 weeks after a booster, was 85%, down from 91% two weeks after getting the third dose, the latest vaccine surveillance report from the agency estimated. The data is the first released by the UK on the longer term durability of boosters. The UK is administering fourth doses to vulnerable age groups, joining a number of other countries including Israel as the world fights the more infectious Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
25th Mar 2022 - Reuters

Japan to Start Preparations for 4th COVID-19 Vaccine Shots

The Japanese health ministry on Thursday decided to start preparations for administrating fourth shots of novel coronavirus vaccines. The ministry plans to administer the fourth shots as "temporary vaccinations," like the first, second and third shots. It assumes the use of Pfizer Inc.'s or Moderna Inc.'s vaccine for the fourth shots. The timing to start giving the fourth shots and the interval between the third and fourth shots will continue to be discussed.
24th Mar 2022 - Nippon.com

Virtusa Delivers COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker

Virtusa Corporation today announced that its Virtusa Vax Manager is available to provide businesses with an easy way to track employee vaccination status. The COVID-19 vaccine tracker and return to office capabilities of Virtusa Vax Manager can be built rapidly, and is easily configurable on technology from Pegasystems, the software company that crushes business complexity, to help companies stay compliant with emerging regulations, while ensuring the wellbeing of all employees and easing the burden on HR staff.
24th Mar 2022 - The Korea Bizwire

Covid-19: Less than 2% of young kids in NI vaccinated as health professor warns of 'serious' long Covid risk

Only 2,483 doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered to children in Northern Ireland between the ages of five and 11. Less than 2% of the cohort has received a dose despite the fact that the vaccine was made available to all children in the age group over a month ago.
24th Mar 2022 - Belfast Telegraph

COVID-19: Pandemic can't be beaten without easy access to testing, warns WHO envoy Dr David Nabarro

People must continue to have "easy access" to testing with "still an awful lot of people getting sick and dying" from COVID, the World Health Organisation has told Sky News. Speaking on the second anniversary of the first UK national lockdown, Dr David Nabarro, the WHO's special envoy on the virus, appealed for people to remember it is "still nasty" - and that without mass testing it is difficult to monitor "where the virus is". From 1 April, lateral flow tests will no longer be freely available, the government has said.
24th Mar 2022 - Sky News

Zimbabwe renews COVID vaccination drive, targets schoolkids

Zimbabwe has launched a new COVID-19 vaccination campaign that includes jabbing children aged 12 and above to rescue a drive faltering due to vaccine hesitancy and complacency. This week schools in the southern African country have become vaccination zones with children in school uniforms lining up to get the injections. Many parents say they support the vaccination drive to prevent schools from becoming centers of infection, although others remain skeptical.
24th Mar 2022 - Associated Press

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WHO blames rising Covid cases in Europe on curbs lifted too soon

Several European countries lifted their coronavirus restrictions too soon, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said, and as a result are now witnessing sharp rises in infections probably linked to the new, more transmissible BA2 subvariant. Hans Kluge, director of the WHO’s Europe region, said countries including Germany, France, Italy and Britain had lifted their Covid curbs “brutally – from too much to too few”. Infections are rising in 18 out of the region’s 53 countries, he said. Kluge told journalists in Moldova on Tuesday that more than 5.1 million new cases – often linked to the BA2 variant, which experts say is about 30% more contagious – and 12,496 deaths have been reported in the region over the past seven days.
23rd Mar 2022 - The Guardian

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Italian study shows ventilation can cut school COVID cases by 82%

An Italian study published on Tuesday suggests that efficient ventilation systems can reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in schools by more than 80%. An experiment overseen by the Hume foundation think-tank compared coronavirus contagion in 10,441 classrooms in Italy's central Marche region. COVID infections were steeply lower in the 316 classrooms that had mechanical ventilation systems, with the reduction in cases more marked according to the strength of the systems. With applications guaranteeing a complete replacement of the air in a classroom 2.4 times in an hour, infections were reduced by 40%.
22nd Mar 2022 - Reuters

Hong Kong Data Show Benefit to Third Shot of Sinovac in Preventing Omicron Deaths

New study of the city’s continuing Covid-19 outbreak underscores the importance of booster shots for the Chinese vaccine
22nd Mar 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

Covid-19: Fourth vaccine dose potentially on the cards for health workers, at-risk people

Officials are looking into the possibility of rolling out a fourth dose of Covid-19 vaccine for vulnerable and high risk groups. Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield announced he would this week receive advice on a fourth shot specifically for those at highest risk of Covid-19 illness: older people, and those with pre-existing conditions. He said he also asked whether the offer should be extended to other groups, such as the health workforce, who were among the first to receive boosters
22nd Mar 2022 - Stuff.co.nz

Clues to Covid-19’s Next Moves Come From Sewers

At a sewage treatment plant on a sliver of land in Boston Harbor, trickles of wastewater are pumped into a plastic jug every 15 minutes. Samples from the jugs, analyzed at a lab in nearby Cambridge, Mass., are part of the growing effort to monitor the Covid-19 virus in wastewater across the U.S. On Deer Island in Boston, readings from the system covering 2.4 million people have recently shown virus readings leveling off after a steep decline from this winter’s Omicron-driven rise. In some areas, levels of the virus may be edging higher.
22nd Mar 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

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With Covid cases surging across Australia will a fourth vaccine dose be required?

The government has yet to commit to a second booster rollout. However, it is expected older Australians will be the first to be eligible when it does begin. Earlier in March the federal health minister, Greg Hunt, said advice from Australia’s vaccine advisory group was due by the end of the month on whether a fourth dose would be recommended for people aged 65 and over. Hunt said it was more likely than not a fourth dose would be needed for some groups of the population ahead of winter, when a spike in both Covid and flu infections is forecast.
21st Mar 2022 - The Guardian

Why China's Covid-Zero Policy Has Found Success While Hong Kong's Falters

Hong Kong appears to have accepted defeat. On Monday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam set out a blueprint for undoing the stringent social distancing measures and border curbs that severely curtailed residents’ daily lives for the past two years. Despite the government’s Covid-zero measures, 3.6 million of the city’s 7.3 million residents may have been infected. The statistic reflects badly on Hong Kong. But that doesn’t mean that the same policy in China has failed. To most of the world, there is a simple reason for why Hong Kong is a pandemic shambles: The territory is acting on guidance from Beijing. But the mainland has been far more clever and dynamic with the implementation of its Covid-zero agenda. While the territory has been reactive and prone to slapping down panicky measures, the mainland’s economically important metropolises, such as Shanghai and Shenzhen, have been efficient and resilient.
21st Mar 2022 - Bloomberg

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Public health measures are key to curbing Covid in UK, say scientists

Stopping the spread of Covid-19 through public health measures remains vital to curbing the pandemic, one of Britain’s most senior scientific figures has warned. On the eve of the second anniversary of the lockdown that began the UK’s Covid response, Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust, called for investment in next-generation vaccines and better access to vaccinations for poorer countries. Farrar joined several of the UK’s most eminent scientists in praising the extraordinary response to the pandemic by the clinicians, researchers and business leaders. But with Covid infections and hospital admissions rising across the UK, measures such as masks, social distancing and ventilation are key.
20th Mar 2022 - The Guardian

Toronto to hold 24 pop-up COVID-19 vaccine clinics in new spring campaign

The City of Toronto will be holding 24 pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinics around the city through its new ‘Vax and Spring’ campaign. In a press release issued Sunday, the city said the campaign is part of the city’s “continued equity-focused, hyper-local mobile strategy to make COVID-19 vaccines as accessible and convenient as possible” to help “bring COVID-19 vaccine clinics to many locations across Toronto.” The city said 24 pop-up vaccine clinics will be held in 22 locations over seven days, beginning on March 20.
20th Mar 2022 - Global News

Austria reintroduces face masks as coronavirus cases surge

People in Austria will be required to wear FFP2 face masks indoors again as COVID-19 cases are rising once more, the country's Health Minister Johannes Rauch said. "I don't like doing that," Rauch said during a press conference Friday evening, adding that the new rule will apply from Wednesday and that isolation rules will be revised too. He said details about the reviewed restrictions will come "over the weekend." Rauch conceded that easing restriction measures had come too early. Austria is the first country in the EU to reintroduce tougher constraints during the current wave. The number of COVID-19 cases has been increasing in the country during the past two weeks.
20th Mar 2022 - POLITICO Europe

COVID-19: Spring booster jabs to be offered to millions of vulnerable people in England

Millions of vulnerable people in England will be offered a fourth COVID vaccine in a bid to top up protection against the coronavirus. Spring booster jabs will be available to care home residents, people who are 75 and over, and the immunosuppressed aged 12 and over. A total of around five million people are expected to be given the jab, with around 600,000 invited to book their dose this week, the NHS says.
20th Mar 2022 - Sky News

HK’s Immunized Who Died of Covid Mainly Got Sinovac: Ming Pao

Almost 87% of Hong Kongers who died from Covid after getting at least one dose of vaccine received Sinovac Biotech Ltd.’s shot, Ming Pao reported, though most deaths occurred among those who weren’t immunized. The newspaper said it analyzed data from the Hospital Authority involving 5,167 of the city’s Covid fatalities, without disclosing its sources or additional information. It found that 71% of those who died were unvaccinated. Of the 1,486 who died after receiving at least one dose, 1,292 -- or 87% -- had gotten Sinovac, Ming Pao reported. Most deaths in Hong Kong have occurred among under-vaccinated senior citizens, particularly those living in elderly care homes.
20th Mar 2022 - Bloomberg

Chinese officials urge elderly to get COVID vaccine, cite lesson of Hong Kong

Older people in China should get vaccinated against COVID-19, senior Chinese health officials said on Friday, adding that deaths among the elderly in the latest wave to hit Hong Kong serve as a lesson for the mainland. "The outbreak in Hong Kong is a particularly profound lesson for us, an example that if the vaccination rate for the elderly is low, the rate of severe cases and deaths will be high," Wang Hesheng, deputy director of the National Health Commission, told a news briefing. "We must not regret when it is too late," he said.
20th Mar 2022 - Reuters

Shanghai pushes ahead with mass COVID tests as new cases spike

The Chinese commercial hub of Shanghai is pushing ahead with a mass testing initiative as it tries to curb a new spike in COVID-19 infections, but some districts were easing lockdown rules in an effort to minimise disruptions. The city, home to about 25 million people, saw symptomatic local community infections hit 57 on March 17, with another 203 domestically transmitted asymptomatic cases, up from eight and 150 respectively a day earlier.
20th Mar 2022 - Reuters

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How One Country Is Beating Covid Despite 600000 New Cases a Day

South Korea has reached two seemingly contradictory pandemic milestones: It recorded more than 600,000 new Covid-19 infections on Thursday, the most of anywhere in the world. At the same time, the country has one of the lowest virus death rates globally. While anywhere else an infection surge of this size would signal an out-of-control outbreak soon to be followed by a spike in fatalities, in South Korea -- which is about the size of Indiana -- the picture is more complex. The sky-high caseload reflects the nation’s consistent deployment of mass testing, largely abandoned by many places as Covid becomes endemic but a key reason behind Korea’s sliding death rate, according to its virus fighters.
17th Mar 2022 - Bloomberg

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WHO expert says Covid-19 comes in waves of four months

The Department of Health has reported 5,452 PCR-confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 8,644 positive antigen tests recorded through the HSE portal. As of 8am today, 1,081 Covid-19 patients were in hospital, with 44 being treated in ICU. In Northern Ireland, five more people who had previously tested positive for Covid-19 have died, the Department of Health said. Another 2,391 confirmed cases of the virus have also been notified in the last 24-hour reporting period. This morning, there were 515 Covid-19 patients in hospital, with four in intensive care. Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said there is concern about the increase in Covid-19 cases.
16th Mar 2022 - RTE.ie

Europe thought it was done with Covid-19. But the virus isn't done with Europe

It has been two years since the Covid-19 pandemic became a reality for millions of people in Europe and many of the region's leaders now believe it is time to move on. But as countries shed restrictions, cases and hospitalizations are slowly inching up and public health experts are worried about the consequences. Covid-19 cases are rising in Britain just two weeks after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson lifted most mitigation measures. Infections were 48% higher last week compared with the one before and hospitalizations were up 17% over the same period, CNN's Brenda Goodman and Deidre McPhillips report. The country's daily case rate -- about 55,000 a day -- is still less than a third of what it was during the Omicron peak, but cases are rising as fast as they were falling just two weeks earlier, when self-isolation rules for infected people ended in the UK.
16th Mar 2022 - CNN

Even with omicron, coronavirus vaccines have been enormously effective

The good news is that Hong Kong’s spike in coronavirus cases has begun to fade. The bad news is that, before it did, Hong Kong had one of the highest population-adjusted death tolls seen anywhere in the world since the pandemic began. In a remarkable series of tweets Monday, the Financial Times’s John Burn-Murdoch illustrated the dire situation in Hong Kong since the beginning of February. He contrasted its spike in cases with a similar increase in New Zealand — but then pointed out the wide divergence in the number of those cases that resulted in death. (Notice that he shifted the case totals to align with the increase in deaths, so his graphs depict cases still rising.)
16th Mar 2022 - Washington Post

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Novavax Covid vaccine now available in Netherlands

The Novavax protein-based vaccine against the coronavirus is now available in the Netherlands. "The Novavax vaccine can be an alternative for people who are hesitant about inoculation with an mRNA or vector vaccine," public health institute RIVM said on its website. People who want to get a Novavax shot can make an appointment with the GGD at telephone number 0800-0174. The Novavax vaccine contains tiny particles with the coronavirus' spike protein, which was counterfeited in the laboratory. It also contains an adjuvant that enhances the body's immune response to this protein. The body will produce antibodies against the spike protein after injection. If the body later comes into contact with SARS-CoV-2, the immune system will recognize the spike protein and produce antibodies to fight it, according to the RIVM.
15th Mar 2022 - NL Times

The Guardian view on rising rates of Covid: there’s no plan beyond vaccines

Last month, Boris Johnson argued that the downward trends in Covid cases and hospitalisations meant that it was time to scrap restrictions. Now both are rising. But the government is ending testing and most surveillance studies. Sajid Javid, the health secretary, said that the rise was “to be expected” – though this foresight did not extend to having a plan to deal with the increase in infections. Instead, he dismissed the concern about the new Deltacron variant. The health secretary seemed nonchalant about the threat the virus now posed. Mr Javid may be right that the country has weathered the worst of the pandemic, but Covid is not yet in retreat. The Treasury’s penny-pinching means that the UK is abandoning essential defences.
15th Mar 2022 - The Guardian

In Africa, a Mix of Shots Drives an Uncertain Covid Vaccination Push

In the tumbledown concrete room that has been commandeered as this sleepy African trading center’s Covid-19 vaccination headquarters, a battered freezer holds stacks of boxes with dozens of small glass vials. Stuffed among shots for rotavirus and measles are four brands of Covid vaccines. The vaccination team gives Sinopharm, donated from China, to the youngest and healthiest people because they’ve been told it’s the least effective of the vaccines, said Abdulai Conteh, who runs the operation. AstraZeneca, in which they have more faith, is normally just for people with underlying medical conditions. But the town recently received a big shipment that will expire soon, so the health workers are rushing to use it all up. Johnson & Johnson is given mostly to teachers, as a single shot.
15th Mar 2022 - The New York Times

Will ‘open-source’ vaccines narrow the inequality gap exposed by Covid?

Over the past two years, global health authorities have consistently warned of iniquitous access to tools to help counter the pandemic. High-income nations such as the UK, the US and those in Europe began their vaccine rollouts in December 2020, having reached substantial proportions of vulnerable groups by February 2021. The first shipment of vaccines — 600,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca version — delivered by Covax, only arrived in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, in late February 2021. Since then mRNA manufacturers, such as BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna, have booked record-breaking revenues and become key players in business and geopolitics. Yet, more than three-quarters of people in low-income countries aged 12 and over have still to receive a single dose, compared with 10 per cent in high-income countries. The Cape Town initiative is part of a new push by global health authorities, academics and philanthropists to address that and promote alternatives to “Big Pharma’s” business model, which relies on legally enforceable patent protections to raise investment to fund new drugs.
15th Mar 2022 - Financial Times

Europe Is Getting Caught by a Covid Resurgence After Rushed Exit

Europe tried to leave Covid-19 behind, but the rush to unwind restrictions is now setting the stage for a revival of pandemic risks. Accelerated by the emergence of BA.2 -- a more-transmissible strain of the omicron variant -- the virus has spread rapidly. Germany on Tuesday set a fresh record for infection rates for the four straight day. Austria has also reached new highs, while cases in the Netherlands have doubled since lifting curbs on Feb. 25. Most authorities have shrugged off the surge, showing little appetite to re-impose curbs after easing measures just a few weeks ago. But the virus threatens to cause problems anyway, with businesses and schools disrupted as people call in sick.
15th Mar 2022 - Bloomberg

U.S. Senate votes to overturn transit mask mandate; Biden vows veto

The U.S. Senate voted 57 to 40 on Tuesday to overturn a 13-month-old public health order requiring masks on airplanes and other forms of public transportation, drawing a quick veto threat from President Joe Biden. Last week, the White House said it would extend the current COVID-19 mask requirements at airports, train stations, ride share vehicles and other transit modes through April 18 but pledged a new review. The order was set to expire on Friday. The mandate has drawn significant opposition from Republicans who note that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said last week that 98% of Americans live in places where it is safe to ditch indoor masks.
15th Mar 2022 - Reuters

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How Australia's Swift Bid to Crush Covid Saved Lives

When the world was confronted with the coronavirus in early 2020, Australia responded hard and fast with what would be—at first—one of the most successful efforts to combat the pandemic. On this episode of Storylines, we recount how Australia leveraged its geography and strict travel rules to quickly become an example for holding Covid-19 at bay. But a lack of diligence on the vaccine front coupled with the arrival of the delta variant would upend this Covid-zero strategy.
15th Mar 2022 - Bloomberg

Novavax's COVID vaccine rollout in EU off to a slow start

Demand for the COVID-19 vaccine produced by Novavax has been underwhelming in the EU's main countries in the early rollout, so far undermining hopes that it could convince vaccine sceptics to get a shot. Over 85% of adults in the 27-country EU bloc have received at least one dose and nearly two-thirds of them have also had a booster, but tens of millions remain unvaccinated. The Novavax vaccine, the latest to receive the EU regulators' approval under the trade name of Nuvaxovid, was expected to persuade some sceptics because it is based on a more conventional technology than the other four vaccines authorised so far in the EU.
14th Mar 2022 - Reuters

Covid-19 vaccination teams to visit ‘all Hong Kong care homes by Friday’

Covid-19 vaccination teams will visit all care facilities in Hong Kong by Friday in a bid to push inoculation among the elderly, while at-home jabs will also be offered to residents with mobility issues, the city’s civil service chief has said. Secretary for the Civil Service Patrick Nip Tak-kuen, who is responsible for the local vaccination campaign, said on Sunday that 52 per cent of residents at 1,096 elderly care homes had received at least one vaccine dose.
14th Mar 2022 - South China Morning Post

Lack of Covid-19 testing and reporting worries Kiwi vaccinators

In New Zealand, Iwi collective Te Ranga Tupua says the reason Whanganui, Rangitīkei, South Taranaki and the Waimarino regions have not seen an explosion in Covid-19 cases could be down to people "going bush". Te Ranga Tupua has been sending mobile clinics into the least vaccinated areas of the four regions since early December in an effort to lift Māori vaccination rates. But now it's raising concerns that people are either not getting tests or failing to report rapid antigen test (RAT) results.
14th Mar 2022 - RNZ

Australians told to get boosters amid COVID threat from new Omicron strain

Australian authorities warned the slow rollout of COVID-19 vaccine booster shots could unleash a new wave of infections amid the threat from the highly contagious BA.2 sub-variant of the Omicron coronavirus strain. Australia battled record cases and hospitalisation rates during the initial Omicron wave, but they have steadied over the past six weeks. Most states have been easing social distancing rules, with mask requirements being rolled back at indoor venues and businesses asking staff to return to offices.
14th Mar 2022 - Reuters

India to start vaccinating 12- to 14-year-olds against COVID-19

India will start administering COVID-19 vaccinations to 12- to 14-year-olds from March 16, the country's health ministry said on Monday, as schools reopen across the country with standard restrictions amid a significant fall in cases. The government also decided to remove the condition of co-morbidity for people above 60 years to receive a booster shot, the ministry said
14th Mar 2022 - Reuters

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98% of U.S. population can ditch masks as COVID eases -CDC

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said some 98% of the U.S. population live in locations where COVID-19 levels are low enough that people do not need to wear masks indoors. The CDC on Feb. 25 dramatically eased its COVID-19 guidelines for when Americans should wear masks indoors, saying they could drop them in counties experiencing what it described as low or medium COVID-19 levels
12th Mar 2022 - Reuters

France to launch fourth COVID shot for over-80s, PM says

France is to start offering a fourth COVID-19 vaccination shot to people over 80 years old who had their previous booster dose more than three months ago, French Prime Minister Jean Castex told daily Le Parisien in an interview published on Saturday. The prime minister had said in January that France was ready to launch a campaign for fourth vaccine shots, or second booster, as soon as health authorities gave the green light.
12th Mar 2022 - Reuters

Call to offer more people fourth jab as Covid rises in England

Ministers should consider extending the plan to give a fourth dose of Covid vaccines to older people because of evidence of waning immunity, scientists say. The number of people being admitted to hospital with Covid began rising last week, and on 9 March 1,521 were admitted in England – the highest number since the end of January. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that one in 25 people, or 3.8% of England’s population, was infected on 5 March, and research by the React-1 study indicated that cases are rising in those aged 55 and over.
12th Mar 2022 - The Guardian

Two years of COVID: The battle to accept airborne transmission

For Catherine Noakes, a scientist who studies how pathogens move in the built environment, the first few months of the coronavirus pandemic were punctuated with a foreboding sense of frustration. That frustration was rooted in the readily accepted assumption that COVID-19 was not spreading through the air via microscopic particles called aerosols, but predominantly through larger respiratory droplets expelled among people in close proximity and falling quickly on nearby surfaces. The World Health Organization (WHO) — which sets the tone for many nations — early on denied COVID-19 was spreading through these tiny aerosols suspended in air. As evidence mounted, alongside pressure from scientists like Noakes, the agency eventually acknowledged the possibility of airborne transmission — but continued to downplay its significance in favour of droplets, placing a heavy emphasis on handwashing and disinfecting surfaces instead of more stringent measures. Then as evidence suggesting the virus behind COVID-19 was primarily airborne grew to be overwhelming, the agency finally admitted in December 2021 that the virus could indeed be spreading via aerosols.
11th Mar 2022 - Al Jazeera English

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Masking In K-12 Schools Significantly Reduces Covid-19 Among Staff And Students

The US is breathing a collective sigh of relief as the Covid-19 Omicron wave has largely subsided. The latest CDC data show most of the country to be experiencing either “low” (green) or “medium” (yellow) levels of transmission — levels at which CDC’s new recommendations don’t require most people to wear face masks most of the time. Even though I am hopeful that we are witnessing Covid-19’s final denouement, it is important to remain vigilant about the possibility of future waves of transmission. If another high transmission variant does appear, we should remember that the protective benefits of wearing face masks are now well documented. A new study from Arkansas adds to this evidence. The new data enabled epidemiologists to measure the effectiveness of mask requirements in K-12 schools during the Delta wave of Covid-19 from August to October, 2021.
10th Mar 2022 - Forbes

U.S. to extend airplane, transit mask mandate through April 18

President Joe Biden's administration will extend requirements for travelers to wear masks on airplanes, trains and in transit hubs through April 18 as public health authorities review when mask requirements should be dropped, the White House confirmed. The move extends the current requirements that were set to expire March 18 by a month.
11th Mar 2022 - Reuters

98% of U.S. population can ditch masks as COVID eases -CDC

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) late on Thursday said some 98% of the U.S. population live in locations where COVID-19 levels are low enough that people do not need to wear masks indoors. The CDC on Feb. 25 dramatically eased its COVID-19 guidelines for when Americans should wear masks indoors, saying they could drop them in counties experiencing what it described as low or medium COVID-19 levels. Last month, the CDC initially said 70% of counties covering 72% of Americans could drop masks. The latest update says 98% of Americans who live in 94% of U.S. counties can ditch masks.
11th Mar 2022 - Reuters

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Hong Kong’s Covid-19 Death Rate Is the World’s Highest Because of Unvaccinated Elderly

Almost a year ago, Rio Ling decided to hold off on vaccinating his 86-year-old father against the coronavirus because he was more worried about possible side effects than the virus itself, given that Hong Kong had kept cases low under its “Zero-Covid” policy. By the time he gave the go-ahead in January, after the Omicron variant had broken through the city’s defenses, it was too late. A few hours after finally receiving the inoculation in late February, Mr. Ling’s dad, who has high blood pressure and dementia, tested positive for Covid-19. Half a million people over 70 weren’t vaccinated when Omicron began surging through the city. Like other places, Hong Kong gave its elderly priority to get their shots, but persistent fears about vaccine safety, fueled by local media reports about deaths following vaccinations, and Hong Kong’s low case count led many to delay.
9th Mar 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

Ignoring behavioral and social sciences undermines the U.S. response to Covid-19

The U.S. has bungled many of its efforts to rein in the Covid-19 pandemic. Francis S. Collins, the former director of the National Institutes of Health, perfectly captured the country’s fundamental flaw: “Maybe we underinvested in research on human behavior,” he said on PBS NewsHour. “I never imagined a year ago, when those vaccines were just proving to be fantastically safe and effective, that we would still have 60 million people who had not taken advantage of them because of misinformation and disinformation that somehow dominated all of the ways in which people were getting their answers.” In just 60 words, Collins captured the limitations of the nation’s biomedicine-centric coronavirus response strategy, which has grossly underutilized insights and expertise from the behavioral and social sciences that might have bolstered the likelihood that the country’s single best tool — effective vaccines — would achieve their potential to stop a highly contagious, rapidly evolving respiratory virus in its tracks.
9th Mar 2022 - STAT News

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Moderna to share vaccine tech, commits to never enforce COVID-19 jab patents

Moderna has pledged never to enforce its coronavirus vaccine patents in selected low- and middle-income countries and is launching a new initiative to give external researchers access to its technology. The announcement comes amid increasing pressure on the U.S. biotech firm, which pulled in more than $12 billion in 2021, to share its technology with initiatives aimed at increasing vaccine manufacturing capacity in low- and middle-income countries. “It’s a very big announcement,” CEO Stéphane Bancel told POLITICO in an interview. Bancel was visibly excited when he explained that for years his team been working on various infectious diseases but as a small company they had been limited in what they could do. The runaway success of their mRNA coronavirus vaccine has opened new doors. “We want to make sure that we have all the tools to provide the world with a much better response, if God forbid something happens again,” said Bancel.
8th Mar 2022 - POLITICO Europe

Puerto Rico to lift mask mandate as COVID-19 cases ease

Puerto Rico’s governor announced that he is ending a requirement for mask use indoors for the second time since the pandemic began as the number of cases and hospitalizations ease. The change will take effect Thursday with a few exceptions. Face masks will still be required in health facilities and nursing homes. In addition, starting March 10, domestic travelers will no longer have to present proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test or fill out a currently required form.
8th Mar 2022 - The Independent

WHO says COVID boosters needed, reversing previous call

An expert group convened by the World Health Organization said Tuesday it “strongly supports urgent and broad access” to booster doses amid the global spread of omicron, in a reversal of the U.N. agency’s insistence last year that boosters weren’t necessary and contributed to vaccine inequity. In a statement, WHO said its expert group concluded that immunization with authorized COVID-19 vaccines provide high levels of protection against severe disease and death amid the continuing spread of the hugely contagious omicron variant. WHO said in January that boosters were recommended once countries had adequate supplies and after protecting their most vulnerable.
8th Mar 2022 - Associated Press

Rio relaxes the use of masks as pandemic wanes in Brazil

Rio de Janeiro is relaxing the use of masks as the COVID-19 pandemic wanes in Brazil. “Following the determinations of our scientific committee we will have a decree tomorrow to end the mandatory use of masks indoors and outdoors,” Rio Mayor Eduardo Paes said on Twitter on Monday. Earlier, data from Johns Hopkins University showed the global death toll of the virus surpassed 6 million people. Brazil is one of the hardest-hit nations, counting more than 650,000 confirmed deaths, the second most after the United States.
8th Mar 2022 - Associated Press

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Public health experts sketch a roadmap to get from the Covid pandemic to the ‘next normal’

A new report released Monday charts a path for the transition out of the Covid-19 pandemic, one that outlines both how the country can deal with the challenge of endemic Covid disease and how to prepare for future biosecurity threats. The report plots a course to what its authors call the “next normal” — living with the SARS-CoV-2 virus as a continuing threat that needs to be managed. Doing so will require improvements on a number of fronts, from better surveillance for Covid and other pathogens to keeping tabs on how taxed hospitals are; and from efforts to address the air quality in buildings to continued investment in antiviral drugs and better vaccines. The authors also call for offering people sick with respiratory symptoms easy access to testing and, if they are positive for Covid or influenza, a quick prescription for the relevant antiviral drug.
7th Mar 2022 - STAT News

Covid Scotland: Spring booster marks new era in vaccine programme

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) describes the Spring booster as a “precautionary” measure, and has already hinted at plans for another round in Autumn 2022. It will remain to be seen what effect this has on vaccine uptake. There may be none, given the only groups currently invited are most at risk, either through age or immunity. But these are the same invited each year for the flu vaccine, which has a lower uptake.
7th Mar 2022 - The Scotsman

Exploring the ethics of genetic prioritisation for COVID-19 vaccines

There is evidence to suggest that host genomic factors may account for disease response variability in COVID-19 infection. In this paper, we consider if and how host genomics should influence decisions about vaccine allocation. Three potential host genetic factors are explored: vulnerability to infection, resistance to infection, and increased infectivity. We argue for the prioritisation of the genetically vulnerable in vaccination schemes, and evaluate the potential for ethical de-prioritisation of individuals with genetic markers for resistance. Lastly, we discuss ethical prioritisation of individuals with genetic markers for increased infectivity (those more likely to spread COVID-19).
7th Mar 2022 - Nature

COVID-19: Experts warn against waiting for Omicron vaccines

Following the emergence of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, several pharmaceutical companies have announced that they will be manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines that specifically target the latest variant of concern. In January, Pfizer and its partner, BioNTech, announced that studies were being done to compare its original COVID-19 vaccine with doses designed to match Omicron. At the beginning of the year, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said the redesigned vaccine could be ready to launch as soon as March. Moderna made a similar announcement, revealing that the company has begun testing its own Omicron-specific vaccine and that clinical data should be available by March as well.
7th Mar 2022 - CTV News

Vaccination disparity still significant as official COVID-19 death toll hits 6 million globally

The official global death toll from COVID-19 eclipsed six million on Monday — underscoring that the pandemic, which officially enters its third year at the end of this week, is far from over. The milestone, recorded by Johns Hopkins University, is the latest tragic reminder of the unrelenting nature of the pandemic even as people are shedding masks, travel is resuming and businesses are reopening around the globe. As death rates remain high in Poland, Hungary, Romania and other eastern European countries, the region has seen more than 1.5 million refugees arrive from war-torn Ukraine, a country with poor vaccination coverage and high rates of cases and deaths. Meanwhile, despite its wealth and vaccine availability, the United States will hit one million reported deaths sometime this spring.
7th Mar 2022 - CBC.ca

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Why are vaccination rates still low in some countries?

Why are COVID-19 vaccination rates still low in some countries? Limited supplies remain a problem, but experts say other challenges now include unpredictable deliveries, weak health care systems and vaccine hesitancy. Most countries with low vaccination rates are in Africa. As of late February, 13 countries in Africa have fully vaccinated less than 5% of their populations, according to Phionah Atuhebwe, an officer for the World Health Organization’s regional office for Africa. Other countries with extremely low vaccination rates include Yemen, Syria, Haiti and Papua New Guinea. For most of last year, developing nations were plagued by a lack of supplies. Rich countries were hoarding doses and many countries didn’t have the facilities to make their own vaccines. COVAX — an initiative to distribute vaccines equally around the world — faltered in delivering shots.
3rd Mar 2022 - The Associated Press

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Why are COVID vaccination rates still low in some countries?

Why are COVID-19 vaccination rates still low in some countries? Limited supplies remain a problem, but experts say other challenges now include unpredictable deliveries, weak health care systems and vaccine hesitancy. Most countries with low vaccination rates are in Africa. As of late February, 13 countries in Africa have fully vaccinated less than 5% of their populations, according to Phionah Atuhebwe, an officer for the World Health Organization's regional office for Africa. Many rich countries had planned to donate doses once their own populations were vaccinated, but the emergence of the delta and omicron variants spurred booster campaigns that further delayed those plans. Vaccine makers have largely declined to share their formulas or technology, further restricting production.
3rd Mar 2022 - The Independent

Covid News: C.D.C. Drops Contact Tracing Recommendation

Almost two years after the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called for 100,000 contact tracers to contain the coronavirus, the C.D.C. said this week that it no longer recommends universal case investigation and contact tracing. Instead it encourages health departments to focus those practices on high-risk settings. The turning point comes as the national outlook continues to improve rapidly, with new cases, hospitalizations and deaths all continuing to fall even as the path out of the pandemic remains complicated. It also reflects the reality that contact-tracing programs in about half of U.S. states have been eliminated.
3rd Mar 2022 - The New York Times

Turkey relaxes mask mandate amid drop in COVID-19 cases

Turkey relaxed its mask mandate on Wednesday and is also scrapping the use of codes assigned to citizens that allowed authorities to track those who have been in contact with infected people. Turkey relaxed its mask mandate on Wednesday, allowing people to ditch them in open-air spaces and in places with sufficient ventilation and where social distancing can be maintained. In a news conference following a meeting of the country’s Covid-19 advisory council, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said people would be required to continue wearing masks in planes, buses, theatres, cinemas, hospitals and classrooms. In other steps, Turkey will no longer close down classes where two or more students have tested positive for the virus, the minister said.
3rd Mar 2022 - The New Arab

Greece lifts mask-wearing outdoors as COVID infections recede

Greece will lift its requirement of mask-wearing outdoors from Saturday, its health minister said on Wednesday, as COVID-19 infections are trending lower. The advisory committee of infectious disease experts recommended the lifting and the government accepted the recommendation, Health Minister Thanos Plevris said. "But it is highly recommended to wear masks outdoors when there is a lot of crowding," he said. The move comes after the lifting of curbs that barred standing customers at bars and night entertainment establishments earlier this month and the resumption of school excursions.
3rd Mar 2022 - Reuters

As Omicron recedes, White House shifts to a more targeted Covid strategy

The threat of the Omicron variant is receding and cities around the country are lifting their mask mandates, but the Biden administration isn’t ready to declare an end to the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead, the White House is out with a new plan focused on continued, commonsense public health measures like expanding access to coronavirus therapies and improving ventilation in indoor spaces. While the new strategy is largely a continuation of existing efforts, it represents a shift from policies aimed at preventing the spread of Covid and toward more targeted efforts to prevent society’s most vulnerable from becoming severely ill. The overarching goal is to move to a world in which the government allows life to proceed as normal, while keeping a watchful eye for new outbreaks or viral variants.
2nd Mar 2022 - STAT News

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Higher education min. announces clinical trials for 2nd Egyptian COVID-19 vaccine 'EgyVax' begin Tuesday

Higher Education Minister Khaled Abdel Ghaffar will hold a press conference on Tuesday to announce the start of clinical trials for "EgyVax", the second homemade COVID-19 vaccine. The press conference will be attended by Agriculture and Land Reclamation Minister El Sayyed el-Quseir, Head of the Egyptian Drug Authority (EDA) Tamer Essam, Secretary General of University Hospitals Hossam Abdel Ghaffar, as well as representatives of a number of stakeholders. On November 14, the higher education minister announced that the start of the first stage of clinical trials for the first domestically-made coronavirus vaccine "COVI VAX".
2nd Mar 2022 - Egypt Today

Covid-19 mandates lifted even as cases climb

Numerous states and countries have begun lifting Covid-19 mandates even though there are more deaths due to the virus now than there were during the majority of the pandemic. For the past month, there have been more than 2,000 Covid-19 related deaths a day in the US reported, which has been the highest count since the first winter Covid-19 surge before vaccines were available. At present, Covid is attributed to 20% of all deaths worldwide. The demographics have now changed to younger and unvaccinated individuals dying, compared with older individuals who accounted for most of the casualties before vaccines were available.
2nd Mar 2022 - Pharmaceutical Technology

FDA warns against use of certain unauthorized COVID antigen tests

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday warned people against the use of unauthorized versions of certain COVID-19 rapid antigen tests currently being marketed in the United States. These tests have not been authorized, cleared or approved by the FDA for distribution or use in the United States, the health agency said, adding that they may show false results. The warning was issued against unauthorized versions of Celltrion USA Inc's DiaTrust COVID-19 Ag Rapid Tests, SD Biosensor Inc's STANDARD Q COVID-19 Ag Home Test, and ACON Laboratories' Flowflex SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Test.
2nd Mar 2022 - Reuters

Britain revokes mandatory COVID shots for health workers

Britain confirmed that a requirement for health workers to have a COVID-19 vaccination would no longer be introduced in April and care home workers would no longer be required to have the shots from March 15. Health minister Sajid Javid in January said that the government intended to revoke the regulations, subject to consultation. On Tuesday the health ministry said that following the consultation, the requirement would be dropped
2nd Mar 2022 - Reuters UK

Germany wipes its list of COVID ‘high-risk areas’ clean

Germany is removing all countries currently on its list of “high-risk areas” as part of a rethink of its coronavirus travel rules that will take effect on Thursday. The country’s disease control center, the Robert Koch Institute, said that from now on Germany’s list will only include places where high infection rates are linked to variants of COVID-19 that are more virulent than the currently dominant omicron variant, which in many cases leads to relatively mild illness. That change will result in the current list of “high-risk areas,” which contains dozens of countries and territories, being wiped clean from Thursday on.
2nd Mar 2022 - Associated Press

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Covid-19: Incomplete lists of vulnerable patients left many unprotected, desperate, and afraid

Up-to-date registers of clinically vulnerable patients must be created to ensure that those who are most at risk during covid-19 and any future pandemics are protected and can access the support they need, a report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Vulnerable Groups to Pandemics has recommended. The report considered vulnerable people’s experiences during the pandemic and makes 16 recommendations on what the government and the health service can do better to plan and prioritise extremely vulnerable patients during further covid-19 outbreaks and future pandemics. These tackle the format and content of information and guidance; access to medical services such as mental health support to help people deal with anxiety, fear, and isolation; provision of practical support such as food and finance when isolating; and the need for more research into how medical conditions make people more vulnerable to a threat and vaccines less protective.
1st Mar 2022 - The BMJ

U.S. parents still divided over school COVID masking rules -survey

As public schools around the United States lift COVID-19 mask mandates, parents are divided over the issue, with nearly 43% saying face covering requirements should remain in place to prevent virus transmission, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). Most parents who responded also expressed concern about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines for children under age 5, saying they do not have enough information, according to the KFF survey of 1,502 adults conducted between Feb. 9 and 21.
1st Mar 2022 - Reuters

California, Oregon, Washington to drop school mask mandates

Schoolchildren in California, Oregon and Washington will no longer be required to wear masks as part of new indoor mask policies the Democratic governors of all three states announced jointly on Monday. “With declining case rates and hospitalizations across the West, California, Oregon and Washington are moving together to update their masking guidance,” the governors said in a statement. There are more than 7.5 million school-age children across the three states, which have had some of the strictest coronavirus safety measures during the pandemic. The new guidance will make face coverings strongly recommended rather than a requirement at most indoor places in California starting Tuesday and at schools on March 12, regardless of vaccination status.
1st Mar 2022 - The Associated Press

Malaysia Will Exempt Some Travelers From Covid Tests

Malaysia will relax coronavirus testing requirements for some travelers starting Thursday, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said in a statement late on Monday. The exemption applies to those arriving in Malaysia via the vaccinated travel lane with Singapore, the Langkawi travel bubble, and short term business travel via one-stop centers, he said.
1st Mar 2022 - Bloomberg

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Covid-19: Lagging vaccination leaves the Caribbean vulnerable, says PAHO

The sluggish pace of covid-19 vaccination in the Caribbean is leaving the region vulnerable to current and future outbreaks of the disease, senior Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) officials have warned. Unlike much of Latin America, where vaccination campaigns started slowly but ramped up quickly through 2021 when more doses became available, vaccination coverage across the Caribbean remains low. Of the 13 countries in the Americas that are yet to reach the World Health Organization’s 2021 goal of 40% vaccination coverage, 10 are in the Caribbean. Only regional outliers Cuba—which produces its own vaccines—and the Dominican Republic have fully vaccinated more than half of their population. Haiti, which has been hit by natural disasters and political turmoil, has fully vaccinated less than 1% of its citizens against covid-19.
28th Feb 2022 - The BMJ

Vaccination reduces risk of long-COVID

Post-acute sequelae of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection is estimated to affect about 2% of the population in the United Kingdom (UK). These long-term symptoms of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), also called post-acute COVID-19 syndrome, post-COVID-19 syndrome, long COVID, or post-COVID condition, cause functional impairment in the majority of those affected. COVID-19 vaccines have been successful in reducing the rate of incidence of long COVID by lowering the rate of occurrence of SARS-CoV-2 infection. However, the risk for these sequelae post-breakthrough infection remains obscure. Until the end of January 2022, nearly 16% of the UK population were not fully vaccinated despite being eligible for the second vaccination dose. In addition, most ethnic minorities and deprived communities show lower vaccination coverage; these groups also record the highest infection rates.
28th Feb 2022 - News-Medical.Net

Covid-19: Republic of Ireland removes mask rules

The legal requirement to wear face masks in some public settings in the Republic of Ireland has been removed. It has been replaced with public health advice that masks should still be worn while on public transportation and in healthcare settings.
28th Feb 2022 - BBC News

Nearly half of Biden’s 500M free COVID tests still unclaimed

Nearly half of the 500 million free COVID-19 tests the Biden administration recently made available to the public still have not been claimed as virus cases plummet and people feel less urgency to test. Wild demand swings have been a subplot in the pandemic, from vaccines to hand sanitizer, along with tests. On the first day of the White House test giveaway in January, COVIDtests.gov received over 45 million orders. Now officials say fewer than 100,000 orders a day are coming in for the packages of four free rapid tests per household, delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.
27th Feb 2022 - Associated Press

CDC eases COVID-19 mask guidance, adds metrics for future use

As expected and amid a steadily declining Omicron surge, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today updated its indoor masking guidance, which would ease indoor use for most parts of the country, according to new baseline measures. The CDC urges states and cities to still look at COVID-19 caseloads when considering masking. But it adds two new metrics for assessing whether to trigger the measure: hospitalization levels and hospital capacity. Most states have already dropped their mask mandates, reflecting a transition to voluntary use in people who want to lower their risk of spreading or contracting the virus. Hawaii as the only state with mandates still in place.
25th Feb 2022 - CIDRAP

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Wastewater data shows early signs of 'resurgence' of COVID-19 viral load in Ontario, expert says

Wastewater surveillance data suggests that there are "early signs of a resurgence" of COVID-19 viral load across Ontario, says a member of the province's COVID-19 science advisory table. Dr. Peter Juni, scientific director of the science advisory table, says that means it's vital for residents to get third doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. Juni is also a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Toronto. He said wastewater analysis shows that Ontario has reached the bottom of the trough, or valley, in terms of COVID-19 infections but there is a slight upward trend in the concentration of viral prevalence in wastewater across the province. "What we are seeing basically is the early signs of a resurgence," Juni told CBC Toronto on Saturday.
26th Feb 2022 - CBC.ca on MSN.com

CDC Eases Mask Guidelines, Reflecting Covid-19’s Retreat

Federal officials eased their guidelines on Covid-19 masking, including at schools, in a shift that reflects decreased risks from the Omicron variant, a steep drop in cases and mitigation efforts nationwide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday changed the metrics it uses to assess Covid-19 risk by county across the U.S. Risk will now be assessed based on three factors, the CDC said: new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 residents in the past seven days; new Covid-19-related hospital admissions; and the percentage of hospital beds occupied by Covid-19 patients. Before Friday, the CDC sorted counties into one of four risk categories based on Covid-19 case numbers and test positivity rates. Now, the agency is breaking counties down into three different groups: high, medium or low local Covid-19 risk. The CDC’s assessment of Covid-19 levels by county will be available on the agency’s website.
26th Feb 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

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Hong Kong rolls out vaccine passport and tighter COVID measures

Hong Kong rolls out a vaccine passport on Thursday that requires people aged 12 and above to have at least one COVID-19 vaccination and also tightened restrictions in a city that already has some of the most stringent rules in the world. Residents will have to show their vaccine record to access venues including supermarkets, malls and restaurants. They will also have to wear masks for all outdoor exercise and will not be allowed to remove masks to eat or drink on public transport
24th Feb 2022 - Reuters

Swiss to donate up to 15 million COVID-19 vaccine doses

Switzerland will donate up to 15 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to other countries by the middle of this year, having secured more than enough to cover its own population of around 8.7 million, the government said on Wednesday. Around 34 million doses of vaccine will be available to Switzerland in 2022 - 20 million in the first half of the year and 14 million in the second, the cabinet said.
24th Feb 2022 - Reuters

Covid-19: what’s the evidence for vaccinating kids?

When the announcement came last week that all children aged five to 11 in England will be offered a Covid vaccine, emphasis was placed on parental decision-making. But with factors to consider including disease severity, transmission, long Covid and vaccine side-effects, for many parents and guardians this may not be an easy choice. Ian Sample speaks to Prof Adam Finn about how the evidence stacks up, and what parents should be thinking about when deciding whether to vaccinate their five- to 11-year-olds against Covid-19
24th Feb 2022 - The Guardian

Colombia will not require face masks outdoors in areas with 70% COVID vaccination

Colombia's government will no longer require the use of face masks outdoors in areas where more than 70% of the population has been vaccinated against COVID-19, President Ivan Duque said. The move is a further softening of measures adopted by the country to curb the spread of the coronavirus, as well as an incentive for people to get vaccinated. Colombia is aiming to vaccinate at least 80% of its 50 million inhabitants
24th Feb 2022 - Reuters Canada

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Reduced testing is concerning, WHO official says

A World Health Organization official on Tuesday expressed concern about reduced testing and surveillance of the coronavirus in countries around the world, saying monitoring remains critical. “We need to be strategic about this, but we cannot abandon it,” said WHO epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove during an online question-and-answer session. “And what we do not want to see is the dismantling of these surveillance systems that have been put in place for covid-19.”
23rd Feb 2022 - The Washington Post

Scotland Covid restrictions: Face mask rules and vaccine passports to end but tests will remain free for now

Wearing a face mask in shops, on public transport and in other shared indoor spaces in Scotland will no longer be a legal requirement after 21 March. All other legal restrictions designed to protect the public from Covid will also be scrapped from that date, with a greater emphasis placed on individual responsibility. Scotland’s vaccine passport scheme, which was previously used to gain entry to nightclubs and big sporting events, will also be scrapped from Monday 28 February.
23rd Feb 2022 - iNews

Cambodia vaccinates children aged three to five against COVID

Cambodia started vaccinating children as young as three against COVID-19 on Wednesday, becoming one of the first countries to cover the age group of those below five. The Southeast Asian nation has vaccinated more than 90% of its population of 16 million, for one of the highest rates in the region, official data show. In January, it started rolling out a fourth dose for high-risk groups.
23rd Feb 2022 - Reuters

COVID vaccine supply for global programme outstrips demand for first time

The global project to share COVID-19 vaccines is struggling to place more than 300 million doses in the latest sign the problem with vaccinating the world is now more about demand than supply. Last year, wealthy nations snapped most of the available shots to inoculate their own citizens first, meaning less than a third of people in low-income countries have been vaccinated so far compared with more than 70% in richer nations. As supply and donations have ramped up, however, poorer nations are facing hurdles such as gaps in cold-chain shortage, vaccine hesitancy and a lack of money to support distribution networks, public health officials told Reuters.
23rd Feb 2022 - Reuters

Fast-Spreading Covid-19 Omicron Type Revives Questions About Opening Up

A more infectious type of the Omicron variant has surged to account for more than a third of global Covid-19 cases sequenced recently, adding to the debate about whether countries are ready for full reopening. Health authorities are examining whether the subvariant of Omicron, known as BA.2, could extend the length of Covid-19 waves that have peaked recently in Europe, Japan and some other places. “We’re looking not only at how quickly those peaks go up, but how they come down,” World Health Organization epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove said. “And as the decline in cases occurs…we also need to look at: Is there a slowing of that decline? Or will we start to see an increase again?”
23rd Feb 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

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Coronavirus booster Scotland: Scots over-75s and the most vulnerable to receive fourth Covid vaccine dose

Appointments for the spring booster dose will be offered to those aged 75 and over, as will as those living in care homes for older people, and those aged 12 and above who are immunosuppressed. The vaccinations will be given at least 24 weeks after their most recent jag, with the first appointments to take place in the second week of March
22nd Feb 2022 - The Scotsman

Hong Kong confirms over 7,500 Covid-19 cases, vaccine pass to launch in days

Hong Kong is expected to tighten Covid-19 social-distancing rules further as it prepares to launch a so-called vaccine pass on Thursday limiting entry to venues based on inoculation status. As infection numbers continued to climb on Monday, reaching a new record of more than 7,500 cases, an 11-month-old baby became the city’s youngest coronavirus-related fatality, the third such death of young children in the past fortnight. On the social-distancing front, all restaurants would be limited to just two diners per table, unlike currently where some venues could have up to four people seated together, the Post learned.
22nd Feb 2022 - South China Morning Post

Europe entry requirements: EU to scrap Covid tests for fully vaccinated with uniform travel rules by Easter

Covid tests for fully vaccinated arrivals are to be scrapped across the EU in time for the Easter holidays. As part of a new protocol, approved by the European Council on Tuesday 22 February, unvaccinated children aged six to 17 will also be allowed to enter any EU country with proof of a pre-departure PCR test. Unvaccinated adults who can provide proof of a recent Covid infection within the past 180 days may also enter, although they may be required to test before arrival.
22nd Feb 2022 - iNews

Covid-19: Rethink end to free Covid tests, Naomi Long urges

It is "crucial" the government rethinks its decision to end free Covid-19 testing in England from April, Northern Ireland's justice minister has said. Naomi Long said it was important that people are supported financially to test and self-isolate if required.
22nd Feb 2022 - BBC News

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Coronavirus Daily: Tracking in the UK Works. So Why Stop It?

These days in Europe, it seems as though the pandemic is behind us. An increasing number of countries are ditching the use of certificates to enter indoor venues like restaurants or gyms and abandoning quarantine rules. And more people are going bare-faced, which reflects a certain level of regained normalcy. The U.K. was one of the first nations to accelerate that return to normal. Now, concerns are mounting that it may be getting ready to go a step further and scrap the weekly Covid-19 survey by the Office for National Statistics. While the U.K. Health Security Agency opened a new laboratory last week that will test new Covid vaccines, gather research and assess variants, the ONS weekly survey helps the government keep on top of infection rates and antibody levels across the country. It is less prone to fluctuations because it studies the same households, and can detect Covid in people who might not get tested, or in those who don’t know they’re infected as well as asymptomatic cases.
21st Feb 2022 - Bloomberg

UK Second Booster: Most Vulnerable to Get Fourth Dose of Vaccine in Spring

Britain’s most vulnerable people will be offered another Covid-19 booster shot this spring to bolster their protection as the country prepares to abandon all pandemic restrictions. The shot will be offered to adults aged 75 and older, care home residents, and those over the age of 12 who are immuno-suppressed and at much higher risk of severe Covid, U.K. Health Secretary Sajid Javid said in a statement Monday. The booster is advised for around six months after a previous dose and is seen as a bridge before another, potentially broader, booster campaign this fall.
21st Feb 2022 - Bloomberg

Germany hopes protein-based Covid vaccine will sway sceptics

Germany will offer its population a new protein-based Covid-19 vaccine comparable to conventional flu jabs this week, in the hope of swaying a sizeable minority that remains sceptical of the novel mRNA technology used in the most commonly used vaccines. About 1.4m doses of the Nuvaxovid vaccine developed by the US biotech company Novavax are to arrive in Germany this week, the country’s health minister, Karl Lauterbach, confirmed last Friday. A further million doses are to arrive the week after, with the German government’s total order for the year 2022 amounting to 34m doses. Novavax’s product has until now been used only in Indonesia and the Philippines, but it was permitted for use in the EU last December. It is still awaiting authorisation in the US, as some concerns about the company’s production capacity persist.
21st Feb 2022 - The Guardian

Six African countries selected to kick off Covid-19 jab production

The World Health Organization (WHO) has selected the first six African countries to receive the technology needed to produce mRNA vaccines, a move aimed at ramping up production and countering vaccine inequity. Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia will gain access to technology and training to enable them to design and manufacture their own Covid jabs, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “No other event like the Covid-19 pandemic has shown that reliance on a few companies to supply global public goods is limiting, and dangerous,” said Tedros. “The best way to address health emergencies and reach universal health coverage is to significantly increase the capacity of all regions to manufacture the health products they need.”
21st Feb 2022 - Evening Standard

Hong Kong maps terms of COVID vaccine pass amid record high cases

Hong Kong will expand its vaccine bubble to include shopping malls and supermarkets, authorities confirmed on Monday, but added there would be exemptions and random inspections in some places, as they battle a new record surge in COVID-19 cases. The outbreak has overwhelmed healthcare facilities in the global financial hub, with a new daily high of 7,533 infections and 13 deaths, among them an 11-month-old child, building pressure on the government. As most major cities learn to live with the virus, Hong Kong has imposed its toughest curbs yet, with Chinese President Xi Jinping saying that reining in the disease is the city's "overriding mission".
21st Feb 2022 - Reuters

S.Africa changes COVID vaccination rules to try to boost uptake

South Africa's health department said on Monday that it was changing COVID-19 vaccination rules to try to increase uptake, as inoculations have slowed and the country has ample vaccine stocks. The government is shortening the interval between the first and second doses of the Pfizer vaccine from 42 to 21 days and will allow people who have received two doses of Pfizer to get a booster dose three months after their second shot as opposed to six months previously. It will also offer the option of "mixing and matching" booster jabs, with adults who were given one dose of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine being offered either a J&J or Pfizer booster two months after their J&J shot.
21st Feb 2022 - Reuters

Hong Kong’s Contact Tracing App Now Flags Unvaccinated Users

Hong Kong’s Covid contact-tracing app has begun flagging users who haven’t uploaded vaccination records, as the city struggles to contain a resurgent outbreak that’s taxing its health system. The LeaveHomeSafe app -- mandatory for entrance to many restaurants and other public venues -- was updated over the weekend and now flashes a red QR code on its check-in page for users that haven’t linked to an official immunization record.
21st Feb 2022 - Bloomberg

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'Fortress Australia' to welcome tourists for first time under COVID

Australia will welcome international tourists on Monday after nearly two years of sealing its borders, relying on high COVID-19 vaccination rates to live with the pandemic as infections decline. "The wait is over," Prime Minister Scott Morrison told a Sunday briefing at the Melbourne International Airport. Australia's opening to tourists is the clearest example yet of the government's shift from a strict zero-COVID approach to living with the virus and vaccinating the public to minimise deaths and severe illness.
20th Feb 2022 - Reuters

Hong Kong Considers Citywide Testing as Omicron Overwhelms Defenses

Officials are considering citywide coronavirus testing in Hong Kong, adopting a strategy used in mainland China after Beijing demanded more be done to control an Omicron surge that has quickly overrun the city’s health system. Under the plan, all 7.4 million residents would be tested from early March with Chinese authorities sending health experts and medical workers to help carry out the mammoth task, people familiar with the matter said. Some tests would be sent across the border to Shenzhen for results to be processed quickly, one person said. A day after Chinese leader Xi Jinping called on the city to bring the outbreak to heel, mainland authorities have begun stepping up plans to send help to the city. Hong Kong has quickly become the center of the worst outbreak in Chinese territory since the coronavirus emerged in Wuhan more than two years ago, presenting a major test for the country’s so-called dynamic clearing policy, which aims to eliminate clusters whenever they appear.
18th Feb 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

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China’s ‘Zero-Covid’ Policy Holds Lessons for Other Nations

Ever since China adopted its policy of stamping out every Covid-19 infection, outsiders have wondered whether it could last. With each new, more infectious variant, “zero Covid” has required more vigilant and frequent crackdowns on daily activity. And yet it has lasted. And seen from inside China, the results are remarkable. Foreigners in Beijing for the Olympics may be confined to a dystopian bubble in constant fear of being quarantined. But outside the bubble, life in the city looks close to normal with stores, museums and offices operating and subway and road traffic in line with this time of year in 2019. Americans only now are moving on from the coronavirus. Most Chinese did so back in 2020.
17th Feb 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

Rapid COVID-19 home tests surge in India, experts flag risks

On New Year’s Eve, the Indian government wrote to states encouraging them to promote the use of COVID-19 home tests, especially for people who are experiencing symptoms, in a bid to avoid straining local health systems. During last year's delta-driven surge, an explosion in cases overwhelmed hospitals and testing labs. But last month, as new infections fueled by the omicron variant skyrocketed, so did the number of people testing themselves at home across India. In the first 20 days of January, around 200,000 people shared their test results with India’s health agency – a 66-fold increase compared to all of 2021. The strategy apparently worked. Those testing positive with speedy, though less accurate tests were told to self-isolate at home, allowing hospital beds to remain available for the most vulnerable.
17th Feb 2022 - The Independent

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Omicron surge was more deadly in Japan after booster delay, critics say

A Japanese government delay in rolling out COVID-19 booster shots left it more vulnerable than other rich countries when the Omicron variant brought a surge of deaths, say experts, local governments and a former vaccine czar. The issue could mean political trouble for Prime Minister Fumio Kishida as nearly 30% of the population is aged 65 or older, and so at greater risk from the coronavirus without the protection of the booster. Kishida's predecessor stepped down after widespread criticism of his handling of the pandemic and the prime minister's ruling party faces an important test with an upper house election this year.
16th Feb 2022 - Reuters

UK health agency says long COVID less common in the vaccinated

Long COVID is less likely to affect vaccinated people than unvaccinated people, a new review of 15 studies by the UK Health Security Agency released on Tuesday has concluded. UKHSA said the people who received two doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, , AstraZeneca or Moderna vaccine, or one dose of the single-shot J&J vaccine, were around half as likely to develop symptoms of long COVID compared to the unvaccinated. "These studies add to the potential benefits of receiving a full course of the COVID-19 vaccination," said Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at UKHSA.
16th Feb 2022 - Reuters

Scotland to offer COVID vaccines to all 5-11 year olds

Britain said on Wednesday it would offer COVID-19 vaccines to all 5-11 year olds, widening the rollout of vaccines in children in a decision that has been taken more slowly than in some other countries. Announcing the move, health minister Sajid Javid said he had accepted advice from experts who argued that vaccinating young children would help protect against future waves of the coronavirus. Britain has offered COVID-19 shots to vulnerable children, but has been slower than the likes of the United States, Canada, Ireland and Israel in making a broad offer of shots to all 5- to 11-year-olds.
16th Feb 2022 - Reuters

S. Korea to give out rapid tests as omicron shatters record

South Korea will distribute free coronavirus rapid test kits at schools and senior care facilities starting next week as it weathers an unprecedented wave of infections driven by the fast-moving omicron variant. Health officials on Wednesday reported its highest daily jump in coronavirus infections with 90,443 new cases, shattering the previous one-day record set on Tuesday by more than 33,000 cases. The figure represents more than a 20-fold increase from the levels seen in mid-January, when omicron emerged as the country’s dominant strain, and some experts say the country could see daily cases of around 200,000 in March. While experts say omicron appears less likely to cause serious illness or death compared to the delta variant, which rattled the country in December and early January, hospitalizations have been creeping up amid the greater scale of outbreak.
16th Feb 2022 - The Associated Press

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Exercise right after Covid or flu vaccination may give an antibody boost, study finds

About 90 minutes of light- to moderate-intensity exercise directly after a flu or Covid shot could provide an extra immune boost, suggests a new study. Researchers at Iowa State University found participants who cycled on a stationary bike or took a brisk walk for an hour-and-a-half after getting a jab produced more antibodies in the following four weeks compared to those who sat or continued with their daily routine post-vaccination. The study, published last week in the journal Brain Behavior and Immunity, found similar results after an experiment with mice and treadmills. “Our preliminary results are the first to demonstrate a specific amount of time can enhance the body’s antibody response to the Pfizer-BioNtech Covid-19 vaccine and two vaccines for influenza,” Marian Kohut, lead author of the study, said in a statement.
15th Feb 2022 - The Independent

Covid-19 booster shot uptake is at all-time low in the US, CNN analysis finds

The pace of people getting Covid-19 vaccine booster shots in the United States has dropped to the lowest it has ever been, and many public health experts are concerned. As of Monday, about 64% of the US population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19 with at least their initial two-dose series, and 28% have received a booster shot. But the pace of booster doses going into arms is the lowest it has been in months -- since the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first recommended boosters for seniors and other at-risk adults in September, according to a CNN analysis of CDC data.
15th Feb 2022 - CNN

DC to drop coronavirus vaccine requirement to enter businesses

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser is dropping the city’s requirement that people show proof of coronavirus vaccination before entering many businesses in the city, as coronavirus transmission continues to trend downward throughout the region. The District’s requirement for residents to show proof of vaccination to enter most businesses — announced in December — will cease Tuesday, said Bowser (D). She also said she’s allowing the city’s mandate to wear masks in all indoor public spaces to be lifted starting March 1. Bowser had rescinded the indoor masking mandate in November before the surging omicron variant spurred her to bring it back.
15th Feb 2022 - The Washington Post

Covid-19: Show us evidence for lifting restrictions, doctors tell Johnson

Doctors and scientists have warned the prime minister that SARS-CoV-2, and not politics, should dictate the pace at which the UK lifts measures to contain the pandemic. They expressed their concern after Boris Johnson’s announcement during prime minister’s questions in parliament on 9 February that he intended to end all remaining restrictions four weeks early if “encouraging trends” continued. The move would see the restrictions, including the current legal requirement to self-isolate after a positive test result, ending as early as 24 February. The BMA responded by calling for the government to provide evidence for its position. Penelope Toff, chair of the association’s public health medicine committee, said, “With case rates still incredibly high and hundreds of deaths each day, the suggestion that self-isolation may be removed this month runs contrary to good public health practice. We must question on what scientific basis this decision is being made, and the government needs to show the evidence behind its proposals.”
15th Feb 2022 - The BMJ

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China’s Approval of Pfizer Pill Opens Door to Ending Covid Zero

China’s surprise decision to clear Pfizer Inc.’s coronavirus pill for use offers rare insight into how Beijing may be planning to move beyond the Covid Zero strategy that’s leaving it increasingly isolated. Paxlovid’s conditional approval over the weekend makes it the first foreign pharmaceutical product China has endorsed for Covid-19, with the country until now sticking steadfastly to domestically developed vaccines and therapeutics, even withholding approval for the highly potent mRNA shot co-produced by Pfizer and BioNTech SE. Pfizer’s pill will serve a strategic purpose, said Zeng Guang, a former chief scientist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention who advised Beijing on Covid control, told investors in a briefing organized by Sealand Securities Co. on Saturday, hours after the approval was announced.
15th Feb 2022 - Bloomberg

Three Covid vaccines give ‘substantial’ extra protection against serious illness compared to two doses

Three jabs are better than two, according to a new study which finds that people are better protected against Covid after their booster than they are after their second dose. Researchers compared the protection conferred by second and third Pfizer jabs and found the boost gave a better defence against both infection and serious illness. Three doses gave 88 per cent protection against any kind of infection, from asymptomatic to very serious, rising to 97 per cent defence against hospitalisation during the first 3 months after vaccination. But unlike nine months ago, when the Delta variant was spreading through a mostly unvaccinated population, now millions of factory workers have been fully vaccinated and the Omicron variant is proving less severe, the government said. "The risk of widespread lockdowns is very low this year as Vietnam has successfully carried out its COVID-19 vaccination campaign," Dang Duc Anh, director of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology, told Reuters.
14th Feb 2022 - iNews

Sweden recommends fourth COVID-19 jab for the elderly

Sweden's Health Agency recommended on Monday that people aged 80 or above should receive a second booster shot of COVID-19 vaccine, the fourth jab in total, to ward off waning immunity amid the rampant spread of the Omicron variant. The recommendation also covered all people living in nursing homes or who receive assisted living services at home. The second booster shot should be administered at least four months after the first booster jab, the agency said in a statement. Sweden hit record levels of infections earlier this year as Omicron spread rapidly across the country.
14th Feb 2022 - Reuters

Hong Kong to vaccinate 3-year-olds amid new COVID-19 surge

Hong Kong plans to offer COVID-19 vaccines to children as young as 3 as infections rage through the semi-autonomous Chinese city. The announcement late Sunday came ahead of another surge in cases. The city reported a record 2,071 new cases on Monday, with that number expected to double the next day with more than 4,500 preliminary positives identified. Hong Kong schools extended a suspension of in-class teaching for two weeks to March 6, The wave blamed on the omicron variant has already prompted new restrictions limiting in-person gatherings to no more than two households. Hong Kong residents have been rushing to grocery stories to stock up on vegetables and to hair salons to get haircuts.
14th Feb 2022 - The Associated Press

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UK Treasury pushes to end most free Covid testing despite experts’ warnings

The Treasury is pushing for most free Covid testing to end as soon as next month to save billions despite warnings from public health experts and scientists. Several sources told the Guardian that Rishi Sunak’s department wants to end most PCR testing for people with Covid symptoms, possibly by the end of March. The exception would be those in hospitals, high-risk settings and for the 1.3m extremely vulnerable people who are eligible for antivirals if they contract Covid. Under the plans, everyone else with symptoms would be either given some free lateral flow tests or no testing at all. A third option would be restricting the offer of lateral flows to symptomatic people over 50 and the clinically vulnerable. The advice for people without symptoms to take routine lateral flow tests is expected to be scrapped entirely.
12th Feb 2022 - The Guardian

COVID pandemic’s ‘acute phase’ could end by midyear: WHO

The head of the World Health Organization has said the acute phase of the pandemic could end this year, if about 70 percent of the world gets vaccinated. “Our expectation is that the acute phase of this pandemic will end this year, of course with one condition, the 70 percent vaccination [target is achieved] by mid this year around June, July,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told reporters in South Africa on Friday. “If that is to be done, the acute phase can really end, and that is what we are expecting. It’s in our hands. It’s not a matter of chance. It’s a matter of choice.” He was speaking during a visit to Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, which has produced the first mRNA COVID vaccine made in Africa using Moderna’s sequence.
12th Feb 2022 - Al Jazeera English

Australians told to get COVID boosters to be considered fully vaccinated

Australian residents will need to receive booster shots to be considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19, although authorities said foreign travellers will continue to need only two shots to enter the country. Australia's national cabinet late on Thursday endorsed the revised guidance from the country's vaccination advisory group to classify "up-to-date" inoculations as including boosters. A person's vaccination status will be considered "overdue" if they have not received a booster within six months of their second dose, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
11th Feb 2022 - Reuters

German court rules coronavirus vaccine mandate for health workers can proceed

The mandate requires all employees in nursing homes, hospitals, doctors' offices and outpatient clinics to prove they are vaccinated against COVID-19. An emergency motion had attempted to delay its enforcement. Germany's Constitutional Court on Friday ruled that a mandate requiring health care workers to present proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 or recovery from the disease should go into force as planned. Opponents of the mandate had petitioned the court to postpone its application. The mandate is due to begin on March 15. Friday's ruling was on whether the mandate could be enforced ahead of a final decision on whether the move is constitutional under German law.
11th Feb 2022 - Deutsche Welle on MSN.com

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Unions and scientists claim Boris is moving 'too far, too soon'

Mr Johnson has declared that all coronavirus rules including self-isolation set to go from end of the month. Unison boss warned 'Covid risks haven't disappeared' and the PM's plans are 'going too far, ​way too soon.' And SAGE member said No10's scientists haven't discussed the move, cautioning that they bring 'dangers.' A top epidemiologist warned relaxing curbs is a 'political type of statement rather than a scientific one.' YouGov poll shows 75% believe self-isolation requirement should be in place for at least the next few months Nicola Sturgeon's may now extend emergency Covid curbs until September - but will axe masks in classrooms
10th Feb 2022 - Daily Mail

Global coronavirus vaccine rollout: Half the world is now fully vaccinated

About a year after wealthier nations began rolling out coronavirus vaccines, more than half the world’s population has been fully vaccinated — a logistical feat without precedent in human history. But the global rollout remains uneven, with poor countries reporting much lower vaccination rates than rich countries. Public health experts have been warning that vaccine inequity is helping prolong the pandemic, as the focus of those seeking to speed up global vaccine coverage begins to shift from resolving a shortfall of supply to distributing doses and persuading people to get them.
10th Feb 2022 - The Washington Post

Sweden stops mass COVID-19 PCR testing as symptomatic people are urged to stay home

Sweden has halted wide-scale testing for COVID-19 even among people showing symptoms of an infection, putting an end to the mobile city-square tent sites, drive-in swab centres and home-delivered tests. The move puts the Scandinavian nation at odds with most of Europe, but some experts say it could become the norm as costly testing yields fewer benefits with the easily transmissible but milder Omicron variant.
10th Feb 2022 - ABC News

New York eases COVID-19 rules, Massachusetts to drop school mask mandate

The governors of New York and Massachusetts announced on Wednesday that they would end certain mask mandates in their states, joining a growing list of U.S. state leaders planning to lift face-covering rules as the latest COVID-19 surge eases. New York Governor Kathy Hochul said her state would stop requiring people to wear a mask or prove they had received a COVID-19 vaccine when entering most indoor public places, starting on Thursday, thanks to a decrease in COVID cases and hospitalizations.
9th Feb 2022 - Reuters

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New York Gov. Hochul lifts her mask mandate for most indoor public places

New York Governor Kathy Hochul said on Wednesday her state will end its mandate requiring people to wear a mask or prove they have received a COVID-19 vaccine when they are inside most indoor public places, starting on Thursday.
9th Feb 2022 - Reuters

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New York considers making outdoor dining a permanent fixture

The New York City Council held a hearing on Tuesday to consider a plan to make sidewalk dining - first allowed in 2020 as a temporary measure to help blunt economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic - part of the new normal. The plan to give permanent status to thousands of "streateries" outside of restaurants and bars has the support of Mayor Eric Adams and the New York Hospitality Alliance, an industry association. Opponents say outside dining has created unsanitary conditions, helped draw more rats to sidewalks, drawn noise complaints in some neighborhoods and reduced the number of available parking spaces.
8th Feb 2022 - Reuters

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These COVID vaccines will get you into Australia when the international border reopens

With the countdown now on in Australia until the international border reopens to everyone for the first time since 2020, no doubt some people are starting to make travel plans. The only rule that's different this time around is you need to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Vaccines used in other countries can be quite different to the ones in Australia, and only certain jabs are recognised by the government for entry into the country. Here's which ones will get you past passport control.
7th Feb 2022 - ABC.Net.au

With superheroes and puppets, Philippines boosts child vaccination drive

Ironman, Captain America, puppeteers and performers on stilts entertained children at a vaccination centre in the Philippines on Monday, part of a drive to boost its COVID-19 inoculation campaign among its youngest citizens. Artists made swords and models from balloons as "superheroes" posed for pictures with children age 5 to 11 after they received their shots in the capital Manila. The Philippines has vaccinated about half of its 110-million population, but many areas outside urban centres are still lagging far behind, complicating efforts to suppress fresh outbreaks of the novel coronavirus.
7th Feb 2022 - Reuters

Australia to open borders to vaccinated travelers on Feb. 21

Australia will open its borders to all vaccinated tourists and business travelers from Feb. 21 in a further relaxation of pandemic restrictions announced Monday. Australia imposed some of the world’s toughest travel restrictions on its citizens and permanent residents in March 2020 to prevent them from bringing COVID-19 home. When the border restrictions were relaxed in November in response to an increasing vaccination rate among the Australian population, international students and skilled migrants were prioritized over tourists in being welcomed back to Australia.
7th Feb 2022 - Associated Press

Germany eyes easing COVID rules; pharmacies to offer shots

The German government is working on plans to relax coronavirus restrictions after the peak in new cases has passed, likely by the end of February. Unlike some of its European neighbors, Germany still has many pandemic restrictions in place that exclude unvaccinated people from restaurants, public venues and some stores. “Perspectives for opening are being developed,” government spokeswoman Christiane Hoffmann told reporters Monday in Berlin. She said the measures would be discussed at a meeting of federal and state officials on Feb. 16, but would only take effect when authorities can be sure that Germany’s health system won’t be overwhelmed.
7th Feb 2022 - Associated Press

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Booster campaign stalls as ‘partygate’ undermines trust in official advice

The Covid booster campaign has stalled, and declining trust in the prime minister is part of the problem, say scientists. Only 26,875 people in England had a third dose or booster on 1 February, the latest complete figures available, and 6 million people are at least six weeks overdue for their shot. Behavioural scientists, including government advisers, and public health leaders say the huge drop in take-up in just one month is fuelled by the widespread belief that Boris Johnson flouted his own Covid rules. Although Omicron is less deadly than previous variants, it remains a significant health risk to the estimated 5.1 million unvaccinated people aged over 12 in the UK, and the rolling seven-day average of deaths in Britain is above 240.
6th Feb 2022 - The Guardian

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Saudi Arabia requires citizens to take COVID booster shot to travel abroad starting Feb. 9

Saudi Arabia said on Thursday that citizens will be required to take the COVID-19 booster shot to be able to travel abroad starting Feb. 9, state media reported. The kingdom is also requiring visitors to present a negative PCR result before entry.
3rd Feb 2022 - Reuters

Medicare opens up access to free at-home COVID-19 tests

The Biden administration, seeking to fill a frustrating gap in COVID-19 testing coverage, announced on Thursday that people with Medicare will be able to get free over-the-counter tests much more easily in the coming weeks. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said Medicare will cover up to eight free tests per month, starting in early spring. The tests will be handed out at participating pharmacies and other locations. They’ll be available to people who have Medicare’s “Part B” outpatient benefit, which about 9 in 10 enrollees sign up for. Last month, the administration directed private insurers to cover up to eight free tests a month for people on their plans. Officials said at the time they were still trying to figure out what to do about Medicare, which covers more than 60 million people, most of them age 65 or older and more vulnerable to severe illness from coronavirus infection.
3rd Feb 2022 - The Associated Press

S. Korea expands rapid testing amid record COVID infections

South Korea on Thursday began enforcing a new coronavirus testing policy centered on rapid testing as health officials reported a record number of new infections following the Lunar New Year holiday. The 22,907 new cases reported by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency marked a second straight day of over 20,000 new infections and about a five-fold increase from daily cases seen in mid-January, when the highly contagious omicron variant first became the country’s dominant strain. Long lines snaked around testing stations in the capital Seoul and other major cities, where most people were provided rapid antigen test kits to use under the supervision of health workers, who then approved lab tests for anyone who tested positive.
3rd Feb 2022 - The Associated Press

Study: One-third of students in each class will be infected with COVID-19

A group of researchers from the Technion and Rambam Hospital on Wednesday published a model of the new quarantine outline in the Israeli education system. According to a report on Kan 11 News, the researchers said that a third of the students in each class will be infected with COVID-19 under the current outline which includes two COVID-19 tests per day. The model was presented to researchers at a conference of the Israel National Institute for Health Policy Research. According to the model, in a format of two tests per week, cases will be missed and 30% of students in each class will be infected. The researchers said that if an additional test per week is added and three tests are carried out per week, the morbidity in each class will drop to 20%. They added that performing a test every day would lower the rate of infection in each class to 10%.
3rd Feb 2022 - Arutz Sheva

Guernsey to offer Covid booster jabs to 16 and 17 year olds

All 16 and 17 year olds in Guernsey will be offered a booster dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine. The move brings the Bailiwick in line with the UK, following advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). Third jabs will be offered three months after the second dose, the Committee for Health and Social Care (HSC) said.
3rd Feb 2022 - BBC News

S. Korea expands rapid testing amid record COVID infections

South Korea on Thursday began enforcing a new coronavirus testing policy centered on rapid testing as health officials reported a record number of new infections following the Lunar New Year holiday. The 22,907 new cases reported by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency marked a second straight day of over 20,000 new infections and about a five-fold increase from daily cases seen in mid-January, when the highly contagious omicron variant first became the country’s dominant strain.
3rd Feb 2022 - Associated Press

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Beijing says COVID-19 situation 'controllable,' 'safe'

Beijing reported three new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday as officials said the virus situation was under control with the Olympic Games set to open later in the week. The three cases reported in the 24-hour period from Tuesday to Wednesday all involved people under some sort of quarantine. “The current pandemic situation in the capital is overall controllable and it's headed in a good direction,” said Xu Hejian, a spokesman for the city government, at a daily press briefing. “Beijing is safe.” The Chinese capital has been on high-alert as it prepares to host the Winter Olympics starting Friday. Since Jan. 15, Beijing has reported a total of 115 locally transmitted cases of COVID-19, including six cases of the highly contagious omicron variant. In response, the city has mass tested millions of people and sealed off several neighborhoods in different parts of the city while avoiding a strict lockdown for the entire capital.
2nd Feb 2022 - The Independent

The cognitive bias that tripped us up during the pandemic

The issues with COVID communication are not limited to the statistics describing the spread and prevalence of the pandemic or the safe distance we should keep from others. Initially, we were told that “herd immunity” appears once 60%-70% of the population has gained immunity either through infection or vaccination. Later, with more studies and analysis this number was more accurately predicted to be around 90%-95%, which is meaningfully larger than the initial number. However, as shown in our study, the role of that initial number can be profound and a simple update wasn’t enough to remove it from people’s minds.
2nd Feb 2022 - The Conversation UK

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NHS begins vaccinating vulnerable children against COVID-19

Around 500,000 children in England are expected to be eligible for the vaccine, which covers those in a clinical at-risk group and children who are household contacts of someone who is immunosuppressed. All GP practices have been asked to identify eligible children on their lists and vaccinations will be delivred at GP-led sites and hospital hubs. Parents and guardians have been told to wait until their are contacted by the site for their child's vaccination. Eligible children will receive two 10 microgram doses of the Pfizer vaccine, eight weeks apart. The paediatric dose of the vaccine is a third of the 30 microgram dose given to those aged over 12.
1st Feb 2022 - GP online

Austria’s mandatory Covid vaccine rule comes into force

A national coronavirus vaccine mandate has come into force in Austria, with the unjabbed facing large fines if they refuse to comply. The new law, which applies to all over-18s except pregnant women and those who are medically exempt, makes Austria the first country in Europe to compel all its adult citizens to be immunised against Covid-19. Other nations including Germany could soon follow suit. People living in Austria face penalties of up to €3,600 (£3,000) if they do not receive the necessary shots. The government has acknowledged that the measure is not universally popular, as sizeable anti-vaxx protests continue. But its insists the step is needed in the interests of public health
1st Feb 2022 - The Independent

Covid-19 news: Mandatory vaccines scrapped for NHS workers in England

Vaccinations will not be a condition of employment for NHS workers in England. NHS staff in England will not be required to have coronavirus vaccinations, health secretary Sajid Javid announced yesterday. The move will be subject to a government consultation. Regulations for mandatory vaccines were due to come into effect for NHS staff on 1 April which would have made 3 Feb the last day an unvaccinated worker could start a course of vaccinations. Javid says mandatory vaccines are now less important because omicron, which is currently the dominant variant, appears to be more transmissible and less severe than the earlier delta variant. “It’s only right that our policy on vaccination as a condition of deployment is reviewed,” Javid said.
1st Feb 2022 - New Scientist

“Lab-in-a-backpack” Covid-19 test could help vaccine-poor communities

Researchers in London have developed a Covid-19 testing lab that fits into a backpack, which they say could offer poorer nations and remote communities a cheap and accessible way of detecting the virus. In a new study in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, scientists from Queen Mary University of London show that their lab-in-a-backpack approach is as effective as PCR tests at detecting Covid infections. The cost price of each test is just $3.50 (£2.60), said Stoyan Smoukov, Professor of Chemical Engineering at Queen Mary University of London. If scaled up, the backpack kits could not only slash the price of commercial testing for travel but could also help poor communities where vaccine rates are low and testing is inaccessible or too expensive.
1st Feb 2022 - Evening Standard

COVID cases within 'controllable range', says Games organiser

The COVID-19 situation at the Beijing Winter Olympics is within the "expected controllable range" despite increasing positive cases being detected, a senior official at China's Olympics Pandemic Prevention and Control Office said on Tuesday. The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Organising Committee has reported 200 COVID cases since Jan. 23 among airport arrivals and those in the Games "closed loop" bubble that separates all event personnel, including athletes, from the public. "As more people are entering China the imported COVID-19 cases are increasing," Huang Chun, deputy director general of the committee's Pandemic Prevention and Control Office, told a news briefing.
1st Feb 2022 - Reuters

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England plans to revoke mandatory COVID jabs for health workers

The British government plans to revoke its decision to make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for health workers in England after warnings that an already-stretched service could face serious staff shortages. The policy would have required employees in the state-run National Health Service and social care workers to be fully vaccinated by April 1. This means they would have to receive their first shot this week to meet that deadline.
31st Jan 2022 - Reuters

Australia offers aged care labour incentive amid COVID crisis

Australia's federal government will offer extra payments to aged care staff as over 1,200 nursing homes deal with COVID-19 outbreaks that have caused hundreds of deaths of elderly residents this year and staff shortages. There is growing concern over the impact of the Omicron variant outbreak on elderly Australians living in residential care homes, as the pandemic in the wider community peaks. On Sunday, 31 out of 52 deaths from the virus reported by New South Wales, were aged care residents.
31st Jan 2022 - Reuters

Clinics in Moscow now offering Sputnik M vaccines to 12-17s

The Russian capital on Monday has started offering a domestically developed coronavirus vaccine to children in the 12-17 age group amid the country’s biggest infection surge yet due to the spread of the highly contagious omicron variant.
31st Jan 2022 - The Associated Press

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T-Mobile to terminate corporate employees who aren't vaccinated by April -memo

T-Mobile US Inc will fire corporate employees who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by April 2, according to an internal company memo posted on the independent blog TMOnews.com. The blog said T-Mobile's new policy was announced on Friday in an email from its human resource chief to all staff. It follows a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Jan. 13 that blocked President Joe Biden's COVID-19 vaccination-or-testing mandate for large businesses. "Employees who have not yet taken action to receive their first dose and upload proof by February 21 will be placed on unpaid leave," the blog quoted the memo as saying.
30th Jan 2022 - Reuters

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Covid vaccines for 5 to 11-year-olds set to start by next Monday but parents criticise lack of guidance

The official roll-out of Covid jabs for vulnerable five to 11-year-olds is set to start by next Monday but parents have complained about a lack of information. NHS England told i that the roll-out would begin by the end of the month but refused to specify a date. Paediatric doses are still unavailable across England,despite the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommending them for vulnerable five to 11-year-olds or those living with someone who is immunosuppressed.
27th Jan 2022 - iNews

Vaccine mandate to kick in for first wave of health workers

Health care workers in about half the states face a Thursday deadline to get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine under a Biden administration mandate that will be rolled out across the rest of the country in the coming weeks. While the requirement is welcomed by some, others fear it will worsen already serious staff shortages if employees quit rather than comply. And in some Republican-led states that have taken a stand against vaccine mandates, hospitals and nursing homes could find themselves caught between conflicting state and federal demands. “We would like to see staff vaccinated. We think that it’s the safest option for residents, which is our biggest concern,” said Marjorie Moore, executive director of VOYCE, a St. Louis County, Missouri, nonprofit that works on behalf of nursing home residents.
27th Jan 2022 - The Associated Press

Hospitals are denying transplants for patients who aren’t vaccinated against Covid, with backing from ethicists

Boston hospital’s denial of a heart transplant to a man who is unvaccinated for Covid-19 has generated national attention, but experts say mandating vaccines is in keeping with other long-standing requirements that patients have to meet to receive an organ — including getting other shots. In this case, Brigham and Women’s Hospital dropped a 31-year-old man named DJ Ferguson from its transplant waitlist, his family said. Ferguson was concerned about side effects and the speed with which the vaccines were developed, his mother told WCVB. This is not the first such case to make headlines. Last year, both the Cleveland Clinic and University of Colorado Hospital refused to perform organ transplants for recipients who hadn’t been vaccinated.
27th Jan 2022 - STAT News

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Where Is the Operation Warp Speed for Covid Testing?

The U.S. is awash in vaccine doses, but the availability of tests has been a problem throughout the most intense surges of the Covid-19 crisis. That’s because while there was an Operation Warp Speed to create vaccines, there hasn’t been a comparable initiative for tests. In response to the omicron wave, the administration of President Joe Biden has stepped up its investments in testing.
26th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Covid-19: Vaccine passports scrapped as coronavirus rules ease

Proof of Covid-19 status to enter bars, restaurants and cinemas has been scrapped in Northern Ireland. The change took effect at 12:00 GMT following a decision by Stormont ministers last week. Nightclubs - which were forced to close on 26 December - can now also reopen, along with the return of indoor standing events. Vaccine passports will still be required to access nightclubs and large events.
26th Jan 2022 - BBC News

China to mass test millions for Covid ahead of 2022 Winter Olympics

China is trying to squash any coronavirus outbreaks by repeatedly mass testing citizens before fans start arriving for the Winter Olympics next month. Beijing’s Fengtai district announced it would start testing its two million people on Tuesday, making it the third time the capital’s residents are getting tested since last weekend. The spectacle is set to start in just nine days – on February 4 – and officials are taking extremely careful measures to make sure Covid does not ruin any plans. Anyone in China who buys headache, fever or other cold medicine will be forced to get tested within 72 hours of doing so.
26th Jan 2022 - Metro

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Vaccines will always be our best weapon against Covid – here’s how to deploy them

Since the pandemic began almost two years ago, the monster that is Covid-19 has visited every corner of Earth, killing more than 5.5 million people. But we have fought back with astounding speed and vigour, and the situation today is very different from that in early 2020. Ten billion vaccine doses will have been administered worldwide by early February. The Covax scheme has delivered 1bn vaccines to lower-income countries. As a result, global daily deaths from the virus are at their lowest point in more than a year. So, is the monster slain? No. Covid-19 will not just disappear. Only one human infectious disease has been eradicated from the planet – smallpox – and that took nearly 200 years. Polio is near to extinction, but it has taken a 70-year campaign.
25th Jan 2022 - The Guardian

Does the world need more COVID-19 vaccines? These companies think there's still room for improvement

The ultimate COVID-19 vaccine will be able to tackle all emerging coronavirus strains, easy to store and quick to manufacture. And yes, there's still time for the stragglers who were beaten to the punch by Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna—at least according to the companies still trying to get in line. Not to mention, just 60% of the world has been vaccinated, according to the University of Oxford’s Our World in Data database. The rates are higher in richer regions like the U.S. and EU, while the need is great in less developed nations. But the window to contribute to the vaccine fight is closing. A new report from Morningstar sees demand for boosters remaining heavy in 2022 but dissipating over 2023. If a company isn't already filing for authorization, they'd better get on it. Jean-Francois Toussaint, Ph.D., head of research and development for Sanofi Pasteur, said 20 billion doses of existing vaccines are expected to be available this year. So where does that leave remaining companies, like Toussaint’s, that have shots in the pipeline?
24th Jan 2022 - FierceBiotech

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WHO chief says world at 'critical juncture' in COVID pandemic

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Monday that it was dangerous to assume the Omicron variant would herald the end of COVID-19's acutest phase, exhorting nations to stay focused to beat the pandemic. "It’s dangerous to assume that Omicron will be the last variant and that we are in the end game," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a WHO executive board meeting of the two-year pandemic that has killed nearly 6 million people. "On the contrary, globally the conditions are ideal for more variants to emerge."
24th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Europe could be headed for pandemic 'endgame': WHO

The Omicron variant has moved the Covid-19 pandemic into a new phase and could bring it to an end in Europe, the WHO Europe director said Sunday. "It's plausible that the region is moving towards a kind of pandemic endgame," Hans Kluge told AFP in an interview, adding that Omicron could infect 60 percent of Europeans by March. Once the current surge of Omicron sweeping across Europe subsides, "there will be for quite some weeks and months a global immunity, either thanks to the vaccine or because people have immunity due to the infection, and also lowering seasonality". "We anticipate that there will be a period of quiet before Covid-19 may come back towards the end of the year, but not necessarily the pandemic coming back," Kluge said. Top US scientist Anthony Fauci expressed similar optimism on Sunday, telling ABC News talk show "This Week" that with Covid-19 cases coming down "rather sharply" in parts of the United States, "things are looking good".
24th Jan 2022 - IBTimes UK

Thailand Offers 4th Covid Shot in Tourist Spots Before Borders Reopen

Thailand is ramping up the rollout of fourth Covid-19 shots to residents in its tourism-dependent regions as the nation gears up for border reopening next month. Authorities are offering AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines in Bangkok, Phuket, Krabi and seven other provinces to those who have received their third dose at least three months ago, the health ministry said. The Southeast Asian nation has already administered more than 800,000 fourth doses, mostly to healthcare workers and those in high-risk groups, official data showed.
24th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

France bars unvaccinated from restaurants, sports venues

People who aren’t vaccinated against COVID-19 are no longer allowed in France’s restaurants, bars, tourist sites and sports venues unless they recently recovered from the virus. The new law came into effect Monday requiring a “vaccine pass” that is central to the government’s anti-virus strategy. France is registering Europe’s highest-ever daily coronavirus infection numbers, and hospitals are continuing to fill up with virus patients, though the number of people in intensive care units has dropped in recent days.
24th Jan 2022 - Associated Press

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Beijing introduces more COVID measures as cases mount before Olympics

Beijing's city government on Sunday introduced new measures to contain a recent outbreak of COVID-19, as China's capital continued to report new local cases of the virus less than two weeks before it hosts the Winter Olympic Games. Nine locally transmitted cases were found in Beijing on Jan. 22, the National Health Commission said on Sunday, of which six were in the city's Fengtai district. Fengtai will organise nucleic acid tests for COVID-19 for all of its residents on Sunday, district health authorities said.
23rd Jan 2022 - Reuters

Australia to Allow Overseas Arrivals With Rapid Antigen Test

Australia will allow international air travelers to enter the country if they provide results from a rapid antigen test taken within 24 hours of departure. A RAT must be undertaken by or under the supervision of a medical practitioner that includes pharmacists or trained personnel at an authorized airport testing station, the Ministry of Health said on its website Saturday in Sydney. The change is effective from 1 a.m. Sunday. Until now any incoming traveler needed to provide a negative PCR test within three days of departure, creating the risk a person may get infected after the test and before embarking. In addition, the global spread of omicron has dramatically increased demand for PCR testing which has impacted access for those wanting pre-departure certification.
22nd Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Covid: NHS in push to vaccinate the final four million

More than four million adults in the UK have not yet had a first Covid jab and 16 million have not had their booster. This winter, NHS vaccine teams have been out on the streets trying to win over those hard-to-reach groups who might have struggled to access health services in the past. Carole Phillips, an NHS clinical director in Portsmouth, is best described as a straight talker. A former army medic who served in Afghanistan, she is now running outreach programmes in the city - trying to get the Covid vaccine to the most vulnerable. "In Portsmouth, we have still got a large percentage of the population - 20% - who haven't had their first jab," she says. "We have to reach out to these people, regardless of their lifestyle, to protect all of us in the end."
21st Jan 2022 - BBC News

France's Consitutional Council approves Macron's vaccine pass

France's Constitutional Council on Friday approved - with conditions - the country's new COVID-19 vaccine pass, which will require people aged 16 and above to show proof of vaccination to enter public places like bars, restaurants and cinemas. The new pass is part of President Emmanuel Macron's drive to make life difficult enough for the small minority of unvaccinated people that they are compelled to get COVID shots. The Council's ruling paves the way for the vaccine pass to take effect on Jan. 24, replacing a health pass that showed proof of vaccination, a recent negative test or past infection.
21st Jan 2022 - Reuters

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U.S. to require COVID vaccines for essential workers crossing borders

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is announcing Thursday it is requiring that non-U.S. essential workers such as truck drivers and nurses who are crossing land borders be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, effective Saturday. The Biden administration first announced in October that effective Nov. 8 it would again allow non-essential foreign visitors to travel from Canada and Mexico into the U.S. across land borders if they were vaccinated. The U.S. land borders with Canada and Mexico had been closed to non-essential travel for 20 months because of COVID-19 concerns.
21st Jan 2022 - Reuters

Austria set to make COVID shots compulsory after bill clears parliament

Austria's lower house of parliament passed a bill on Thursday making COVID-19 vaccinations compulsory for adults as of Feb. 1, bringing Austria closer to introducing the first such sweeping coronavirus vaccine mandate in the European Union. Faced with a stubbornly high number of vaccine holdouts and a surge in infections, the government said in November it was planning the mandate. Since then it has raised the age as of which the mandate will apply, to 18 from 14.
21st Jan 2022 - Reuters

US begins offering 1B free COVID tests, but many more needed

For the first time, people across the U.S. can log on to a government website and order free, at-home COVID-19 tests. But the White House push may do little to ease the omicron surge, and experts say Washington will have to do a lot more to fix the country’s long-troubled testing system. The website, COVIDTests.gov, allows people to order four at-home tests per household, regardless of citizenship status, and have them delivered by mail. But the tests won’t arrive for seven to 12 days, after omicron cases are expected to peak in many parts of the country. The White House also announced Wednesday that it will begin making 400 million N95 masks available for free at pharmacies and community health centers.
20th Jan 2022 - Associated Press

Taiwan to mandate COVID vaccination proof for entertainment venues

Taiwan will mandate the use of passes that provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination for entry into entertainment venues, the government said on Thursday, as it seeks to reduce infection risks while tackling a small rise in domestic Omicron cases. The Central Epidemic Command Centre said that from Friday entry into venues including bars and night clubs would require proof of full vaccination, either by showing a physical vaccine card or a new digital card.
20th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Wearing a mask on planes DOES cut risk of COVID spreading, study finds

Study used simulation to test how far virus-laden droplets could travel and infect They then compared it to real world flights where passengers had caught Covid Their model was 80 per cent right in predicting who did and didn't get the virus In one flight, the team found masks would have cut Covid infections from 12 to 1
20th Jan 2022 - Daily Mail

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Report outlines 8 steps for current, future pandemics

A new report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) comments on the "ineffectual and fragmented" US COVID-19 pandemic responses thus far and recommends eight steps to manage the ongoing crisis amid variant fatigue, inflation, and supply chain disruptions. CSIS, a bipartisan, nonprofit policy research organization based in Washington, DC, said it issued the recommendations to secure US global leadership in the next phase of the pandemic response. Among the steps recommended in the "2022 is the year of decision" report are to launch a US international pandemic readiness project and to appoint a presidential global health security envoy.
19th Jan 2022 - CIDRAP

Greece imposes rolling fines to push COVID-19 vaccinations in older people

Greece has begun imposing recurring fines on those over the age of 60 who are unvaccinated against COVID-19 to try to boost inoculation in the most vulnerable age group even as infection rates from the fast-spreading Omicron variant are slowing. After hitting an all-time high of 50,126 registered coronavirus infections on Jan. 4, mainly driven by the spread of the Omicron variant over the Christmas holidays, cases have been falling in recent days
19th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Airlines Step Up Hygiene to Keep Covid Out of the Air

In that long-ago time before the pandemic, most travelers chose an airline based on a single, straightforward factor: price. And those who didn’t grab the cheapest fare typically steered their business toward a carrier where they had frequent-flyer miles. Cleanliness, by contrast, barely registered. These days, hygiene is the most important factor in choosing a travel company for almost 60% of Americans, according to a survey by aerospace products manufacturer Honeywell International Inc. That tracks with International Air Transport Association data showing that passengers worry about boarding planes, with 42% of them uncomfortable using lavatories and more than a third concerned about breathing recirculated cabin air. “We know that our customers are more conscious than ever about hygiene,” says Anil Jain, engineering chief at Air India Express, which has introduced robots to clean its planes. “We need to be proactive.”
19th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

China's Zero Covid, Vaccine Program Leaves It With Omicron Whack-a-Mole

The U.S. recently passed the grim marker of 850,000 deaths from Covid-19. By contrast, China has recorded 4,636 Covid-related deaths since the pandemic began. And yet the policies that were so successful for Beijing over the past two years have now become something of a trap. On the face of it, China has changed its policy to reflect its high rate of vaccination. Beijing recently replaced “Zero Covid,” an approach that kept infections and deaths extremely low while allowing the economy to grow, with what it calls “dynamic clearing.” The new policy accepts that infections will happen and empowers local regions to deal with them.
19th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Starbucks suspends vaccine, test requirement after U.S. court ruling

Starbucks Corp suspended COVID-19 vaccine-or-test requirement for U.S. employees that had been mandated by the government, according to a memo sent to workers on Tuesday, following an adverse U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The coffee giant had said earlier this month it would require its around 220,000 U.S. employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing. The U.S. Supreme Court last week struck down Joe Biden administration's vaccination-or-testing mandate for large businesses, ruling that the policy overstepped executive authority.
19th Jan 2022 - Reuters

U.S. to make 400 million N95 masks available for free to fight COVID-19 pandemic -official

The U.S. government will make 400 million non-surgical N95 masks from its strategic national stockpile available for free to the public starting next week, a White House official said, marking the Biden administration's latest effort to help curb the COVID-19 pandemic. The face masks will be shipped to pharmacies and community health centers this week, the official said, and available for pickup late next week.
19th Jan 2022 - Reuters

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Britain preparing for end-June switch to paid COVID tests - document

British health officials are aiming to be ready to start charging Britons for COVID-19 tests that are currently free at the end of June, a document seen by Reuters shows, in what could be a risky gambit for the government. Britain has been increasingly dependent on rapid testing to try to tackle the more-transmissible Omicron variant, which has spread rapidly through the population but is less severe. The government has previously said it will end the universal free provision of easy-to-use lateral flow devices (LFDs) at a "later stage", with individuals and businesses bearing the cost.
18th Jan 2022 - Reuters

U.S. website to order free COVID-19 tests up and running

The U.S. government's new COVIDTests.gov website, set up for American households to order four free COVID-19 tests amid the Omicron variant surge, is up and running ahead of its official launch on Wednesday, the White House said. U.S. households can secure four tests at no cost when ordering from the website, with shipping expected within seven to 12 days of ordering, the White House said on Friday. President Joe Biden has pledged to procure 1 billion free tests for Americans, and more may be ordered in the future.
18th Jan 2022 - Reuters

2,000 hamsters to be culled in Hong Kong over fears of animal-to-human Covid-19 link

Hong Kong authorities have asked pet shops and owners to hand over about 2,000 hamsters for a mass cull and temporarily suspended imports of small animals after finding evidence of the first possible animal-to-human transmission of Covid-19 in the city. Officials on Tuesday also ordered all 34 licensed pet stores that sell hamsters to suspend operations and about 150 customers who had visited the Little Boss shop in Causeway Bay since January 7 to enter quarantine. Pet owners whose hamsters test positive must also be isolated as well. While animal welfare groups expressed shock at the “drastic action”, authorities and health experts stressed the risks to public health made the cull necessary. Two people tied to the Little Boss shop have been confirmed as infected and another is listed as a suspected case, while 11 hamsters from the store were categorised as preliminary-positive.
18th Jan 2022 - South China Morning Post

Abu Dhabi requires booster shots to enter the emirate

Facing a nationwide surge in coronavirus cases fueled by the spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant, Abu Dhabi is requiring people entering the city to show proof of booster shots. The government’s health app said earlier this week that people entering the capital of the United Arab Emirates must show a “green pass,” confirming their vaccination status. The app says that visitors are no longer considered fully vaccinated unless they have received a booster at least six months after their second dose. Those wishing to enter Abu Dhabi also must have have tested negative for the virus within the last two weeks to maintain their “green” status.
18th Jan 2022 - Associated Press

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CDC Director Aims to Improve Covid-19 Messaging, Data Collection

One year into her tenure as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rochelle Walensky acknowledged that she hasn’t been clear enough with the American public. She says the pandemic threw curveballs that she should have anticipated. She thinks she should have made it clearer to the public that new rules and guidelines were subject to change if the nature of the fight against Covid-19 shifted again. “I think what I have not conveyed is the uncertainty in a lot of these situations,” Dr. Walensky said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. The CDC director has come under fire from public-health experts for the way she has communicated pandemic guidelines from mask wearing to isolation requirements. Some Biden administration officials said the CDC’s explanations of new and amended guidelines can sometimes be hard to grasp.
18th Jan 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

Return of the flu: EU faces threat of prolonged 'twindemic'

Influenza has returned to Europe at a faster-than-expected rate this winter after almost disappearing last year, raising concerns about a prolonged "twindemic" with COVID-19 amid some doubts about the effectiveness of flu vaccines. Lockdowns, mask-wearing and social distancing that have become the norm in Europe during the COVID-19 pandemic knocked out flu last winter, temporarily eradicating a virus that globally kills about 650,000 a year, according to EU figures.
18th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Apple makes Covid-19 booster shots mandatory for all employees

Amid the surge in Omicron cases in the US, Apple is making booster vaccines mandatory for all its employees. Apple employees must submit proof of Covid-19 boosters or be required to take tests to enter stores and offices from February 15. ‘Due to waning efficacy of the primary series of Covid-19 vaccines and the emergence of highly transmissible variants such as Omicron, a booster shot is now part of staying up to date with your Covid-19 vaccination to protect against severe disease,’ according to an internal memo
17th Jan 2022 - Metro

Which Mask Is Best for Covid N95, KN95 or Cloth? Understanding 2022 Guidance

Advice from U.S. authorities on the need for face masks has flipped back and forth since Covid-19 took hold in 2020. In May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said immunized Americans could ditch their masks in most settings. It reversed course in July amid a rise in cases caused by the more transmissible delta variant. Now, with the quickly spreading omicron variant causing a surge in infections, the agency is urging wider use of medical-grade masks in the general public. It revised earlier guidelines that had discouraged the use of gold-standard N95 masks in order to reserve them for medical workers.
17th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Masks reintroduced as WA records five new local COVID-19 cases amid Omicron spread in Perth

Western Australia has reintroduced a mask mandate for all indoor public areas in Perth and Peel after Premier Mark McGowan revealed three new local COVID-19 cases had been recorded in addition to two earlier-announced cases, bringing the total number to five. Masks will be required from 6:00pm Sunday in all indoor public places in Perth and the Peel region, but will not be required to be worn in homes. Anyone who has been in Perth or the Peel region from January 6 will be required to wear a mask indoors if they have travelled to another region.
17th Jan 2022 - ABC News

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Italy's sewers will give early alert for future COVID spikes

Italy will use the nation's sewage to predict future coronavirus spreads and to alert authorities to rising cases and new variants before they appear in testing and hospitals, a senior official said, announcing a project to be launched in coming months. The new tool will be rolled out as governments look for new ways to track the virus to inform public health policy and to decide whether they have to take unpopular measures like restrictions that disrupt people's lives and economies. It could also be useful amid concerns about shortages of testing kits and labs being overwhelmed as the more infectious Omicron variant sweeps the world. Like many other countries, Italy is seeing surging cases.
15th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Google mandates weekly COVID-19 tests for people entering U.S. offices

Alphabet Inc's Google is temporarily mandating weekly COVID-19 tests for any person entering Google offices or facilities in the United States, the tech giant said on Friday. Anyone who comes into Google's U.S. work sites will require a negative test and be required to wear surgical-grade masks while at the office, the company said. "To help prevent the further spread of COVID-19 during this period of heightened risk, we’re implementing new temporary health and safety measures for anyone accessing our sites in the U.S.," a Google spokesperson said.
15th Jan 2022 - Reuters

U.S. CDC recommends Americans wear 'most protective mask you can'

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) late on Friday revised its guidance for Americans on wearing masks, recommending wearing "the most protective mask you can," although the agency stopped short of calling for nationwide N95 usage.
15th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Zhuhai in coronavirus mass testing mode after Zhongshan reports case

The southern Chinese city of Zhuhai reported seven cases of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 on Friday, as citywide mass screening of its 2.4 million people got under way. One of the cases was a 53-year-old woman living in the township of Nanping and she was transferred to a designated hospital for treatment, Zhuhai health authorities said. Authorities announced on Friday that all residents would be tested within the day at designated areas, advising the public to not leave Zhuhai unless absolutely necessary. Those who travel will need to show a negative nucleic test result taken within the previous 24 hours.
14th Jan 2022 - South China Morning Post

Covid-19 Home Tests Pose Accessibility Problems for People With Disabilities

“We need to look at the Covid testing process, break it down into component parts of the process and figure out how to make those more inclusively designed,” Ms. Fleet said in an interview. That can range from examining test prices to gauging the legibility of their instructions, she added. At-home Covid-19 tests have been in high demand since December, as infections rose and people sought them ahead of holiday gatherings. Home test kits are particularly important for people who cannot stand in long lines for public testing sites or cannot reach them, accessibility advocates say.
14th Jan 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

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Why Cuba's extraordinary Covid vaccine success could provide the best hope for low-income countries

Cuba’s prestigious biotech sector has developed five different Covid vaccines to date, including Abdala, Soberana 02 and Soberana Plus — all of which Cuba has said provide upwards of 90% protection against symptomatic Covid when administered in three doses. The country of roughly 11 million remains the only country in Latin America and the Caribbean to have produced a homegrown shot for Covid. The WHO’s potential approval of Cuba’s nationally produced Covid vaccines would carry “enormous significance” for low-income nations, John Kirk, professor emeritus at the Latin America program of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, said
13th Jan 2022 - CNBC

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Spain doctors win suit for lack of protection from COVID-19

Spain’s medical community has scored a victory after a court ordered that a regional government must compensate doctors with up to 49,000 euros ($56,000) for having to work without personal protection suits during the devastating early months of the pandemic. The lawsuit brought by a doctor’s union is the first of its kind to be won in Spain, whose health care system was pushed to the brink when COVID-19 first struck. “This ruling is groundbreaking in Spain,” doctor Víctor Pedrera, secretary general of the Doctors’ Union of Valencia CESM-CV that filed the suit, told The Associated Press by phone on Wednesday. Pedrera, a family doctor, said that he got ill with the coronavirus shortly after it hit Spain in March 2020 and spent two months at home “quite badly off and with no idea of what was being done for treatment.”
12th Jan 2022 - The Independent

Central American bank funds Cuban COVID-19 vaccine drive

The Central American Bank for Economic Integration said it would give Cuba a loan of 46.7 million euros ($53.1 million) to help bolster the communist-run country's COVID-19 vaccine program as it seeks to ramp up production for both domestic use and export. The fresh funds will underwrite the production of 200 million additional shots, according to a statement from the bank on Monday. Cuba, a poor Caribbean island nation hard hit by the pandemic, has nonetheless already vaccinated more of its citizens against COVID-19 than most of the world's largest and richest nations.
12th Jan 2022 - Reuters

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Are Throat Swabs Better at Detecting Omicron in Covid-19 Rapid Tests?

A growing debate surrounds whether people testing for Omicron should swab their throats. Most people in the U.S. have been doing Covid-19 rapid tests with nasal swabs. That is what the Food and Drug Administration endorses and what rapid tests sold in the U.S. instruct. But some scientists say a throat swab may be more effective at detecting Omicron. Some are calling on the FDA and test manufacturers to better study throat swabs, saying that the reliance on nasal swabs may be one reason why rapid tests seem to be less sensitive in detecting Omicron than previous variants.
11th Jan 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

COVID-19: Heathrow demands all testing is dropped after 600,000 passengers cancelled Christmas flights

Heathrow Airport has called for all coronavirus testing to be dropped for fully-vaccinated people while revealing that "at least" 600,000 passengers cancelled flights during the key holiday month of December. The UK's largest airport said "swiftly imposed" action during the month to tackle the Omicron variant in the run-up to the festive season prompted uncertainty among travellers who faced additional bills for costly PCR tests.
11th Jan 2022 - Sky News

WHO says more research needed on vaccine efficacy against Omicron

A World Health Organization technical body said on Tuesday that current COVID-19 vaccines may need to be reworked to ensure they are effective against Omicron and future variants of the coronavirus. The technical group, made up of independent experts, said it would consider a change in vaccination composition and stressed that shots needed to be more effective in protecting against infection. "The composition of current COVID-19 vaccines may need to be updated to ensure that COVID-19 vaccines continue to provide WHO-recommended levels of protection against infection and disease by VOCs (variants of concern), including Omicron and future variants," the technical body, tasked with making recommendations to the WHO, said in a statement.
11th Jan 2022 - Reuters

U.S. CDC may recommend better masks against Omicron

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is considering updating its mask guidance because of an increase in the number of Omicron-related coronavirus cases, the Washington Post reported on Monday. The agency will likely advise people opt for the highly protective N95 or KN95 masks worn by healthcare personnel, if they can do so consistently, the newspaper reported, citing an official close to the deliberations. The CDC guidance is expected to say that if people can "tolerate wearing a KN95 or N95 mask all day, you should," the report said.
11th Jan 2022 - Reuters

U.S. insurers must cover eight at-home COVID tests per person monthly -White House

Insurance companies will be required to cover eight over-the-counter at-home coronavirus tests per person each month starting Saturday, the Biden administration said, expanding access to highly sought-after kits as Americans grapple with a surge in coronavirus cases. The White House also said on Monday that there is no limit to the number of COVID-19 tests, including at-home tests, that insurers must cover if they are ordered or administered by a health care provider.
11th Jan 2022 - Reuters

No vax, pay tax, says Canada's Quebec as health system struggles

Quebec, Canada's second most populous province, is planning to force adults refusing to get COVID-19 vaccinated pay a "health contribution" in a move likely to spur a debate about individual rights and social responsibility. Premier Francois Legault told reporters at a briefing on Tuesday that the proposal, details of which were still being finalised, would not apply to those who cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons.
11th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Indonesia to kick off booster campaign, but most will have to pay

Indonesia officially kicks off its vaccine booster programme on Wednesday, with free jabs for the elderly and those without the means to pay, according to the Ministry of Health. But the decision to make the majority of Indonesia’s 270 million inhabitants pay for the boosters out of their own pockets has fuelled controversy. “Why has the government suddenly come up with the idea of boosters? If it is because the government is worried about waning antibodies, then it is OK as that is relative to the pandemic,” Pandu Riono, an epidemiologist and professor at the University of Indonesia, told Al Jazeera. “But if it is related to the pandemic, then the vaccines should be free.”
11th Jan 2022 - AlJazeera

Biden wants U.S. agencies to mandate COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated employees by Feb 15

The Biden administration said on Tuesday that federal agencies should require weekly COVID-19 testing by Feb. 15 for unvaccinated government employees who are working on-site or interacting with the public. A vaccine mandate imposed by President Joe Biden in September covers about 3.5 million federal workers and required them to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 22 or face potential discipline or even termination.
11th Jan 2022 - Reuters

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Swab throat too when using rapid COVID test, Israel's Health Ministry says

Israel's Health Ministry on Monday instructed people self-testing for COVID-19 to swab their throat as well as their nose when using rapid antigen kits to increase the chances of detecting the Omicron variant. The recommendation goes against the advice of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has said manufacturers' instructions should still be followed and that incorrect use of throat swabs could pose a safety risk. On Israeli Army Radio, Sharon Alroy-Preis, Israel's public health chief, said antigen tests, used widely in the country, are less sensitive than PCR tests in detecting illness.
10th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Chile, a vaccine front-runner, launches fourth COVID dose

Chile, one of the world's fastest movers on COVID-19 vaccines, started its campaign to give fourth doses on Monday to immunocompromised people, a regional first, as infections rise driven by the fast spread of the Omicron variant. The South American country has seen daily infections rise to over 4,000, doubling over the last week, government data show, a reflection of soaring infections globally, despite hopes over data suggesting Omicron may be less fatal, if more contagious. "This vaccine, this fourth dose or second booster dose, will be available to everyone
10th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Pfizer CEO predicts omicron vaccine will be ready in March

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla on Monday said that his company is aiming to have a vaccine that targets the omicron variant as well as other COVID-19 variants ready in March. “This vaccine will be ready in March,” Bourla said in an appearance on CNBC’s "Squawk Box." “We [are] already starting manufacturing some of these quantities at risk,” he added. Pfizer will produce the doses to be ready in case countries want the shots, but Bourla noted that it was unclear if a vaccine targeting variants was necessary or how exactly it would be used. “The hope is that we will achieve something that will have way, way better protection particularly against infections, because the protection against the hospitalizations and the severe disease — it is reasonable right now with the current vaccines as long as you are having let’s say the third dose,” Bourla said.
10th Jan 2022 - The Hill

Spain set to limit retail price of COVID-19 antigen tests

Spain's government is working on rules to limit the retail price of antigen tests for COVID-19, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Monday, after shortages were reported in many pharmacies across the country last month. Price rises during the surge in Omicron cases and the scarcity of tests in pharmacies have raised protests from opposition politicians and consumer groups, many of whom are calling for tests to be sold in supermarkets.
10th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Million Indians get COVID vaccine boosters, hospitalisation low

More than 1 million Indians received their third COVID-19 vaccine dose on Monday as the country rolled out boosters for frontline workers and vulnerable elderly, with the Omicron variant fuelling an eight-fold rise in infections in 10 days. The health ministry said only 5% to 10% of the infected have sought hospitalisation, compared with 20% to 23% during the Delta-driven last wave that peaked in May. Authorities say most people have shown no or only minor symptoms and have recovered quickly at home. "The situation is dynamic and evolving, therefore, the need for hospitalisation may also change rapidly," Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan wrote in a letter to state authorities asking them to regularly review staffing levels
10th Jan 2022 - Reuters India

Europe loosens COVID policies as Omicron takes out key workers

The Czech Republic said on Monday it would allow critical workers such as doctors and teachers to go to work after a positive COVID-19 test, the latest European country to ease restrictions to keep services running as cases surge. As the much more contagious Omicron variant becomes dominant and forces hundreds of thousands to isolate, the pressure is growing on health workers, police and firefighters, with teachers set to follow as schools resume after Christmas holidays.
10th Jan 2022 - Reuters

China Reports Nation's First Community Spread of Omicron

China saw its first omicron cases in the community, igniting a mass testing blitz in the northern city of Tianjin as the country strives to maintain its zero-tolerance approach to Covid in the face of more transmissible variants. The two cases in the port city were confirmed as being omicron by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, after its local branch completed the genome sequencing, CCTV reported. The infections were from the same transmission chain but officials have yet to establish if the strain is the same as imported omicron cases reported earlier in Tianjin, according to the report. China’s commitment to its Covid Zero policy has seen it restrict movements and implement mass testing and other measures in cities spread across the country. Further outbreaks raise the risk of new lockdown measures that could disrupt production and shipping in an economy already battling weak consumption and a property market slump.
10th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Labs Limit Covid-19 Test Access as Demand Soars

Escalating demand for Covid-19 tests is prompting some laboratories to ration access, giving priority to people with symptoms or other health concerns as the Omicron variant quickly spreads. Triaging who is eligible for Covid-19 tests can help ensure that patients who need a test the most get results fast enough to isolate or get treatment, pathologists and public-health experts say. The strategy, however, risks perpetuating the virus’s spread if some people get turned away from testing altogether. “What we don’t want is for people to not be able to get tested in the community and then show up at the ER to get testing,” said Melissa Miller, director of the University of North Carolina’s microbiology lab. “But there is a maximum amount that you can collect in a day.”
10th Jan 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

Relying on more home COVID tests, Israel looks to lower costs

Israel sought on Sunday to ease access to home COVID-19 tests after a decision to allow most vaccinated people to use the kits to decide whether or not to quarantine led to shortages in shops and complaints about high prices. "We are mindful of the public's distress," Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said at the weekly cabinet meeting, announcing that every child in kindergarten or elementary school in Israel would be issued will three free kits in the coming days. The government was also negotiating price reductions with major pharmacy chains, Bennett said, adding: "In any event, costs will come down in the near future because the market will be flooded with millions of kits that will arrive in Israel."
10th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Covid in Scotland: Wrongheaded to stop free lateral flow tests, says Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon has insisted it would be “utterly wrongheaded” to halt the free availability of lateral flow tests as her health secretary dismissed the idea of following England and reducing quarantine to five days. Under plans reportedly being considered by UK officials, the tests could soon be made available only in “high-risk” settings such as care homes, hospitals and schools. A Whitehall source told The Sunday Times: “I don’t think we are in a world where we can continue to hand out free lateral flow tests to everybody forevermore. It’s likely we will move to a scenario where there is less testing but where we have a capacity to ramp it up if necessary, such as in the winter.”
10th Jan 2022 - The Times

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Government ‘failing’ on classroom ventilation as thousands will not get air purifiers

The government's plan to provide 7,000 air purifiers to schools falls thousands short of what is needed to ensure adequate ventilation in every classroom, according to a survey of teachers. The Department for Education said ventilation in classrooms was key to reducing the spread of Covid-19 among schoolchildren but many teachers report that they have been left unable to even monitor the quality of their air. Labour said the government was providing “just a fraction” of the ventilation support that schools need. A survey of nearly 2,000 teachers by Nasuwt, the teachers' union, found that more than half (56 per cent) did not have access to a CO2 monitor despite a commitment by ministers to provide all schools and colleges with them at the start of the school year.
7th Jan 2022 - The Independent

Moderna CEO expects a second COVID booster will be needed later this year

Moderna Inc.’s CEO expects fully vaccinated people to need an additional COVID-19 booster shot later this year, as the efficacy of the first booster wanes over time. Speaking Thursday at a virtual conference of health-care CEOs held by Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Moderna MRNA, Chief Executive Stephane Bancel said the current booster should be enough to protect people through the winter omicron surge. However, “I will be surprised when we get that data in the coming weeks that it’s holding nicely over time — I would expect that it’s not gonna hold great,” Bancel said in reference to the booster’s strength. “I still believe we’re going to need boosters in the fall of ’22 and forward.” “We have been saying that we believe first this virus is not going away,” Bancel said. “We’re going to have to live with it.” Bancel said the United Kingdom and South Korea have already submitted orders for a second round of boosters.
7th Jan 2022 - MarketWatch

Some Families Shell Out for Covid-19 Tests as Officials Race to Offer More

Some families say they are spending hundreds of dollars on Covid-19 testing during the surge in cases across the country, as efforts by the Biden administration and local officials to distribute free tests lag behind the Omicron variant’s rapid spread. Facing hourslong lines at free testing sites, some people have turned to companies that sell more-convenient laboratory testing options, in some cases at prices of more than $200. And until the Biden administration begins making free Covid-19 testing more widely available, some people say they will continue to pay $20 or more for over-the-counter, at-home tests. The tab for using over-the-counter rapid tests effectively, with tests over many days, can stretch past $100, creating a disincentive for people to test, public-health and policy experts say.
7th Jan 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

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Covid-19: Hundreds of maskless London Underground passengers fined

Hundreds of passengers have been issued fines for not wearing face coverings on London's transport network since it was made mandatory. Compulsory face coverings were reinstated amid rising concerns about the Omicron variant of Covid-19. Penalty notices up to £200 were issued to 536 people between 30 November and 21 December, the Mayor of London said. Figures showed a further 287 passengers have penalties being processed by Transport for London (TfL).
6th Jan 2022 - BBC News

Covid ‘vaccination doubt line’ receiving up to 1,000 calls a day in Netherlands

A “vaccination doubt line” set up by doctors in the Netherlands is receiving up to 1,000 calls a day from people who are still unsure whether or not they should get jabbed against the coronavirus. The helpline, originally launched as a local service in November by Robin Peeters, an endocrinologist at the Erasmus medical centre in Rotterdam, and Shakib Sana, a GP, was given a national number last month and has been inundated with inquiries. Staffed mainly by volunteer medical students from rooms made available in the university hospitals of Utrecht, Amsterdam, Nijmegen, Maastricht and Rotterdam, the service has met “an extraordinary response”, Peeters said.
6th Jan 2022 - The Guardian

Italy makes Covid vaccinations compulsory for over-50s

Italy has made it obligatory for people aged 50 or more to be vaccinated against Covid-19 as the country scrambles to ease pressure on hospitals and reduce deaths amid a dramatic surge in infections. The measure is among the toughest vaccine mandates in Europe and takes effect immediately. The move was unanimously supported by ministers despite divisions between the parties that make up prime minister Mario Draghi’s broad coalition before the cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
6th Jan 2022 - The Guardian

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Cuba’s vaccine success story sails past mark set by rich world’s Covid efforts

The island nation struggles to keep the lights on but has inoculated 90% of population with home-developed vaccines General Máximo Gómez, a key figure in Cuba’s 19th-century wars of independence against Spain once said: “Cubans either don’t meet the mark – or go way past it.” A century and a half later, the aphorism rings true. This downtrodden island struggles to keep the lights on, but has now vaccinated more of its citizens against Covid-19 than any of the world’s major nations. More than 90% of the population has been vaccinated with at least one dose of Cuba’s homegrown vaccines, while 83% have been fully inoculated. Of countries with populations of over a million, only the United Arab Emirates has a stronger vaccination record.
5th Jan 2022 - The Guardian

Covid-19: Demand for lateral flow tests 'outstrips supply'

People in Northern Ireland who get a positive lateral flow test no longer need a PCR test to confirm that result. The Department of Health has said those who receive a positive lateral flow test should assume that they have Covid-19 and self-isolate immediately. It comes amid business closures and health service pressures due to staff absences caused by self-isolation. Pharmacists have warned the demand for lateral flow tests in Northern Ireland is outstripping supply. Northern Ireland has reported 12% of its total number of positive Covid-19 cases since in the start of the pandemic in just the last seven days.
5th Jan 2022 - BBC News

Israel earmarks COVID PCRs for high-risk groups, expands home-testing

Israel changed its COVID-19 quarantine and testing policy on Wednesday as part of efforts to husband resources and ensure continued protection for vulnerable people amid a surge in infections fueled by the Omicron variant. PCR tests will be earmarked for people aged 60 and over or with weak immune systems, while those at lower risk will be checked with rapid antigen tests, the health ministry said.
5th Jan 2022 - Reuters

England to suspend PCR confirmation of positive rapid COVID tests

People who test positive for COVID-19 on rapid lateral flow tests will not need to confirm their results with a follow-up PCR test if they are not showing symptoms, the UK Health Security Agency said on Wednesday. Britain is reporting record daily case numbers, and the UKHSA said that the high prevalence meant the chance of a false positive from a lateral flow device (LFD) was low. The move could also reduce the burden on the testing system, and reduce confusion if the test results contradict each other. At current levels of prevalence, officials say a positive LFD result is likely to be accurate, even if a follow-up PCR were negative.
5th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Ireland to drop COVID-19 test requirement for vaccinated arrivals

Ireland will drop its requirement for vaccinated arrivals to have proof of a negative COVID-19 test and return to seeking a proof of vaccination or recent infection upon entry, Prime Minister Micheál Martin said on Wednesday. Ireland introduced the measure a month ago to slow the spread of the new Omicron coronavirus variant. Omicron now accounts for almost all Irish infections, which have rocketed to record levels in the last two weeks. Martin also said he believed Ireland's current restrictions to slow the spread of infection are effective and that it remained to be seen whether health chiefs will suggest any changes later this week.
5th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Italy to Require Covid Shots for Those Over 50 to Blunt Record Cases

Italy made vaccination compulsory for people over 50 and further reduced what the unvaccinated can do in its latest bid to fight the surge in Covid-19 cases. “We want to slow down the growth of the contagion curve and push Italians who still aren’t vaccinated to do so,” Prime Minister Mario Draghi said during the cabinet meeting, according to a statement. “We are acting in particular on age groups that are most at risk of hospitalization, to reduce pressure on hospitals and save lives.”
5th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Hygiene Helpers - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 5th Jan 2022

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50-second Covid test designed for use in schools and airports submitted to UK regulator for approval

A 50-second Covid-19 test that has been designed for use in schools, airports and at entertainment events has been submitted to the UK’s medicines regulator for approval, i has learned. The testing device, which is portable and around the size of a desktop-computer, is able to detect Covid infected particles in saliva samples in under a minute, according to creator Kidod Science and Technology. The firm claims it can provide results comparable to a PCR test and that it could be approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) within weeks.
4th Jan 2022 - iNews

Parents can now register children aged five to 11 for Covid-19 vaccine

Parents can now register children aged five to 11 for Covid-19 vaccines, with the rollout set to begin imminently. Registration can be done online, and parents will receive a text message confirming their appointment. The HSE has urged the public to consider bringing their children forward for vaccination. “Clinical trials showed that this vaccine was highly effective at preventing Covid-19 in children,” a statement said.
4th Jan 2022 - The Independent

Covid-19 testing system to remain under pressure for weeks, health official says

The Covid-19 testing system in Ireland is expected to remain under major pressure in the coming days, a senior health official has said. The comment comes as one teaching union has called for a re-think on the full reopening of schools, ahead of a meeting with Education Minister Norma Foley. The Government’s party leaders will on Tuesday discuss the ongoing Covid-19 situation.
4th Jan 2022 - The Independent

South Korea court exempts private schools from vaccine passes

A South Korean court ordered that private educational facilities, including cram schools, should be temporarily excluded from government COVID-19 vaccine pass mandates, the health ministry said on Tuesday. The injunction is one of the first legal obstacles to South Korea's vaccine mandates, which require passes or testing for entry to facilities including restaurants, cafes, gyms, and bars, as well as privately-run schools. A Seoul administrative court ruled that the mandate at private education facilities such as tuition centres, libraries and study cafes should be blocked while it considers a legal challenge filed against the Ministry of Health by federations of private education and parents' groups, the ministry said.
4th Jan 2022 - Reuters

France vows to go ahead with vaccine pass despite parliamentary glitch

French government officials on Tuesday vowed to enact by mid-January as planned a law to block unvaccinated people from hospitality venues, despite the legislation hitting a procedural hitch in parliament overnight. "January 15 remains our goal," for the law coming into force, European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune told LCI television. Until now France has enforced a COVID-19 health pass, which means in order to get into restaurants, cafes or cinemas or board trains, people need to either show a fresh negative test, or proof of vaccination. The legislation will remove the option of showing a negative test, effectively barring unvaccinated people from hospitality venues or trains.
4th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Israeli study finds fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose boosts antibodies five-fold, PM says

A fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccine boosts antibodies five-fold a week after the shot is administered, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said on Tuesday, citing preliminary findings of an Israeli study. "A week into the fourth dose, we know to a higher degree of certainty that the fourth dose is safe," Bennett said at Sheba Medical Center, which is giving second booster shots in a trial among its staff amid a nationwide surge in Omicron variant infections. "The second piece of news: We know that a week after administration of a fourth dose, we see a five-fold increase in the number of antibodies in the vaccinated person," he told reporters.
4th Jan 2022 - Reuters

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Omicron Cases Are Hitting Highs, But New Data Puts End in Sight

A string of new studies has confirmed the silver lining of the omicron variant: Even as case numbers soar to records, the numbers of severe cases and hospitalizations have not. The data, some scientists say, signal a new, less worrying chapter of the pandemic. “We’re now in a totally different phase,” said Monica Gandhi, an immunologist at the University of California, San Francisco. “The virus is always going to be with us, but my hope is this variant causes so much immunity that it will quell the pandemic.”
3rd Jan 2022 - Bloomberg on MSN.com

Israel Gives Fourth 4th Shot of Covid Vaccine

Israel will start offering a fourth dose of the coronavirus vaccine to people aged 60 and over, becoming the first country in the world to widely disseminate the extra jab to fight off the omicron strain. The fourth dose will also be made available to medical staff who had their last jab at least four months ago, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said in a press conference on Sunday. Last week, Israel approved the extra shot for people who are immunocompromised, as well as residents of nursing homes and patients in geriatric wards. New daily cases, which topped 5,000 last week in the country of 9.5 million, are expected to quadruple by the end of the week, Bennett said. The caseload could reach as many as 50,000 cases a day, he said, or nearly five times the previous peak. Critical cases remain well below previous records but have started to creep up over the past week.
2nd Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Omicron dampens worldwide New Year celebrations, but London throws party on TV

The Omicron coronavirus variant dampened New Year festivities around much of the world, with Paris cancelling its fireworks show, London relegating its to television, and New York City scaling down its famous ball drop celebration in Times Square. The illuminated ball made of Waterford crystal panels slid down its pole at the midnight hour in Times Square, but only 15,000 spectators were allowed into the official viewing area instead of the usual 58,000.
1st Jan 2022 - Reuters

Key workers and vulnerable people to be prioritised for Covid-19 tests if necessary, health chiefs say

Key workers and vulnerable people will be able to jump the queue for Covid-19 tests if necessary, health authorities have said. Amid shortages of instant Lateral Flow Devices (LFD) and delays processing PCR lab tests, health chiefs said they were prepared to prioritise supplies for “critical workforces”. Ministers previously faced calls to ring-fence tests for NHS workers to ensure patient safety and prevent staff shortages due to unnecessary isolation.
31st Dec 2021 - iNews

Hygiene Helpers - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 30th Dec 2021

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UK's Johnson warns of hospital risk for unvaccinated

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned on Wednesday that the overwhelming majority of patients ending up in intensive care with COVID-19 had not received their booster vaccine, as he urged people to get their jabs. Johnson, on a visit to a vaccine centre, said he had been told by some doctors that up to 90% of patients with COVID-19 in intensive care had not received their booste