Maintaining Services - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 30th Jun 2022

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Eli Lilly to supply additional doses of COVID antibody drug to U.S.

Eli Lilly and Co said on Wednesday it will supply additional doses of its COVID-19 antibody drug to the U.S. government in order to meet demand through late August. As per the modified supply agreement with the government, Lilly will provide an additional 150,000 doses of bebtelovimab for about $275 million. The drug has also shown effectiveness against the Omicron variant. The FDA authorized the drug earlier this year for emergency use in patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk of progression to severe disease, including hospitalization or death.
29th Jun 2022 - Reuters

Ireland puts army on standby to help at Dublin airport amid COVID surge

Ireland agreed on Tuesday to put the army on standby to help with security at Dublin airport should staffing be hit by a resurgence of COVID-19 during the rest of the busy summer travel period. Ireland's main airport is one of many around Europe that has struggled to hire staff fast enough to deal with a sharp rebound in travel, although it has had relatively few issues since more than 1,000 passengers missed their flights in a single day last month
29th Jun 2022 - Reuters

Kids' vaccines are 'a game changer,' experts say—here's what else needs to happen to end the Covid pandemic

For months, the country has been waiting on a pandemic turning point — and it might be here, in the form of kids under age 5 becoming eligible for Covid vaccines. Just don’t expect it to make Covid disappear overnight, experts say. Covid vaccines for small children are “absolutely a game changer for some families,” Andrew Noymer, an associate professor of population health and disease prevention at the University of California, Irvine, tells CNBC Make It. ”[But] this isn’t the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle, unfortunately.”
29th Jun 2022 - CNBC

Defectors in Seoul send balloons carrying medicine to COVID-19-struck North Korea

A North Korean defector group in Seoul claimed on Tuesday to have launched air balloons carrying medical supplies near the inter-Korean border. The Fighters for Free North Korea, an activist group of North Korean defectors who send anti-propaganda leaflets across the border, said they flew 20 air balloons carrying 50,000 pain relief pills, 30,000 vitamin C and 20,000 N-95 masks. Dispatching unauthorized materials at the border is against the law in South Korea.
29th Jun 2022 - ABC on MSN.com

Maintaining Services - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 29th Jun 2022

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Amref and AstraZeneca launch clinics to support Kenyan COVID-19 vaccinations

The mobile clinics will support communities with limited or no access to vaccines and other health services. Amref Health Africa and AstraZeneca – in collaboration with the Ministry of Health in Kenya – are launching a fleet of mobile vaccination clinics in an effort to protect last-mile communities from the pandemic. Ten movable clinics will bring COVID-19 vaccines and other health services into hard-to-reach communities across Kenya, increasing vaccine access and general uptake in Kenya. As of June 2022, only 31.4% of the adult population in Kenya were fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while Africa’s average vaccination rate is 17.7%, lagging behind other world regions. Each mobile clinic aims to vaccinate 70-100 people every day – reaching up to 1,000 people per day, once all ten mobile clinics are fully operational.
28th Jun 2022 - PharmaTimes

Ireland puts army on standby to help at Dublin airport amid COVID surge

Ireland agreed on Tuesday to put the army on standby to help with security at Dublin airport should staffing be hit by a resurgence of COVID-19 during the rest of the busy summer travel period. Ireland's main airport is one of many around Europe that has struggled to hire staff fast enough to deal with a sharp rebound in travel, although it has had relatively few issues since more than 1,000 passengers missed their flights in a single day last month.
28th Jun 2022 - Reuters

Maintaining Services - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 28th Jun 2022

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COVID-19's sixth wave hits Palestinian Territories

In a press statement sent to The New Arab, the ministry said it reported more than 1,000 new cases infected with the deadly coronavirus in the West Bank in a single day. The Ramallah-based Palestinian Health Ministry announced on Monday that the sixth wave of the coronavirus has hit the region. In a press statement sent to The New Arab, the ministry said it reported more than 1,000 new cases infected with the deadly coronavirus in the West Bank in a single day. Mai al-Kaila, the health minister, expressed her concerns about the current health situation, urging the public to immediately receive booster vaccinations and abide by precautionary and preventive measures. The Palestinian minister warned that its ministry may call on local authorities to impose several strict measures to curb the virus's spread.
27th Jun 2022 - The New Arab

Peru facing fourth wave of COVID-19: government

Peru's government on Sunday declared that a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections had begun to hit the country, which has one of the highest mortality rates from the virus in the world. "We are currently in a fourth wave, as we have seen the increase (of cases)... in different provinces of our country, such as Junin, Arequipa, Cusco and the capital," Health Minister Jorge Lopez told local broadcaster RPP radio. According to official figures, infections increased from 1,800 per week at the beginning of the month to more than 11,000 in the last week.
27th Jun 2022 - Medical Xpress

US Covid-19 vaccine rollout for under-fives must overcome hesitancy

For some American families, it was a much-anticipated and badly needed victory: Covid vaccines for children under five began rolling out in the US last week. “I’ve already been waiting a year and a half since I got my first dose, and that’s been intolerable,” says Dr Roby Bhattacharyya, an infectious diseases doctor at Massachusetts general hospital and parent of a four-year-old who received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Tuesday. But others still have questions as America’s problem with vaccine hesitancy has not gone away. Less than one in five families want to get their children vaccinated as soon as possible, while the majority say they want to “wait and see” first. Only 18% of parents plan to have their children under five vaccinated right away, while 38% want to see how the vaccine rollout goes, according to an April survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). Another 11% say they will only get their kids vaccinated if they are required to, while 27% say they definitely won’t do it
27th Jun 2022 - The Guardian

Maintaining Services - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 27th Jun 2022

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Shanghai businesses struggle to get back on their feet after Covid-19 lockdown

SHANGHAI - Weeks after emerging from a two-month lockdown, Shanghai's small and medium businesses have a lot of catching up to do. But some are still wary about ordering workers back to the office, fearing that the emergence of a Covid-19 cluster would result in lengthy quarantines and more business disruptions.
27th Jun 2022 - The Straits Times

Hong Kong’s Struggle to Lure Bankers Dims Its Role as a Global Finance Hub

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the Hong Kong Sevens rugby tournament was for years a highlight on Asia’s networking calendar for global bankers and their clients. Now, organizers are pushing for a downsized version of the event this fall, reflecting the challenge the city faces to maintain its status as Asia’s leading financial hub. The Hong Kong Rugby Union is still waiting for government approval for its proposed “closed loop” for the 16 teams and support staff, modeled on the system used at the Beijing Winter Olympics earlier this year that sealed off athletes and other participants from the public, said Robbie McRobbie, its chief executive. With seven days of quarantine for all arrivals, organizers are resigned to holding this year’s tournament while missing the thousands of overseas visitors who in years past thronged the three-day event, which coincided with major business conferences and meetings.
27th Jun 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

Maintaining Services - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 24th Jun 2022

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Biden team launches all-out push to vaccinate youngest children

The Biden administration pushed American families to immunize infants and small children for COVID-19 on Thursday, deploying ads intended to tug at heartstrings as it contends with Republicans and parents who are leery or outright opposed to shots for children as young as 6 months. The Department of Health and Human Services released a 30-second ad urging parents to protect children 4 and younger, who became eligible for shots this week, while the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said COVID-19 has been one of the top five causes of death in children since the start of the pandemic.
23rd Jun 2022 - Washington Times

COVID-19 vaccine scheme for world's poorest pushes for delivery slowdown

Leaders of the global scheme aiming to get COVID-19 vaccines to the world's poorest are pushing manufacturers including Pfizer and Moderna to cut or slow deliveries of about half a billion shots so doses are not wasted. COVAX, the World Health Organization-led scheme, wants between 400 and 600 million fewer vaccines doses than initially contracted from six pharmaceutical companies, according to internal documents seen by Reuters.
23rd Jun 2022 - Reuters

Maintaining Services - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 23rd Jun 2022

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Universal Beijing Resort to reopen on June 25 as COVID cases drop

The Universal Beijing Resort said on Wednesday it will reopen on June 25 after being closed for nearly two months, as the number of new COVID-19 cases in the Chinese capital falls. The resort said on its official WeChat account that after it reopens, all visitors must show a negative PCR test taken within the past 72 hours and wear masks at all times.
22nd Jun 2022 - Reuters

Beijing city reports three local COVID cases on Wednesday as of 3 p.m.

Chinese capital Beijing reported three new local COVID-19 cases on Wednesday as of 3 p.m., all found during community screening, a local health official said. Uncertainty over Beijing city's COVID prevention and control situation has increased with new community cases emerging continuously, Liu Xiaofeng, deputy director at Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control, told a news briefing. The three infections were found in the city's economic-technological development zone, Liu said.
22nd Jun 2022 - Reuters

Parents Struggle to Secure Covid-19 Vaccine Appointments for Young Kids

Anna Carvill had one thing on top of her to-do list this week: get a Covid-19 vaccine appointment for her 2-year-old son. She managed to get an appointment for Thursday at a mobile clinic in downtown Boulder, Colo. Vaccines became available Monday. She is one of millions of parents and caregivers who are seeking to get their children under 5 vaccinated against Covid-19. “We want him to be as protected as he can as soon as possible,” Ms. Carvill said. Federal health authorities on Saturday recommended Moderna Inc.’s two-dose vaccine as well as a three-dose regimen by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE for children as young as 6 months. It was a moment some parents and caregivers had been eagerly awaiting, yet some of them haven’t managed to book appointments for their children, while others are holding off.
22nd Jun 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

COVID-19: Infections rise by nearly half a million in a week

COVID-19 cases have surged by nearly half in a week, official figures show. Last week, an estimated 1,415,600 people had coronavirus in the UK, up 425,800 or 43%. This is the highest estimate for infections since the start of May, but is still well below the record high of 4.9 million at the end of March. Cases rose in all four nations of the UK - and increased across all age groups. In England, around one in 50 people had the virus, according to the coronavirus infection survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
22nd Jun 2022 - Yahoo UK & Ireland

New York City Lowers Covid-19 Risk Level to Medium as Cases Drop

New York City Mayor Eric Adams and health officials lowered the city’s Covid-19 alert level to medium from high Tuesday, citing declining case counts and hospitalization rates. The shift comes a little more than a month after the city moved the Covid-19 alert level to high as a wave of new cases spread throughout the city. “Day after day, New Yorkers are stepping up and doing their part, and because of our collective efforts we are winning the fight against Covid-19,” Adams and City Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan said in a joint statement.
22nd Jun 2022 - Bloomberg

Maintaining Services - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 22nd Jun 2022

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U.S. COVID vaccines start to roll out for young children

The United States has begun distributing COVID vaccines for children as young as six months around the country, and availability of the shots will improve in the coming days, according to White House COVID-19 response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha. U.S. regulators authorized Moderna Inc's two-dose vaccine for children aged six months to five years and the Pfizer-BioNTech three-shot regimen for children aged six months to four years late last week.
22nd Jun 2022 - Reuters

U.S. COVID vaccine rollout for young children will pick up pace

The United States has begun distributing COVID vaccines for children as young as six months around the country, and availability of the shots will improve in the coming days, according to White House COVID-19 response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha. U.S. regulators authorized Moderna Inc's (MRNA.O) two-dose vaccine for children aged six months to five years and the Pfizer (PFE.N)-BioNTech (22UAy.DE) three-shot regimen for children aged six months to four years late last week.
21st Jun 2022 - Reuters

Covid surges across Europe as experts warn not let guard down

Multiple European countries are experiencing a significant surge in new Covid-19 infections, as experts warn that with almost all restrictions lifted and booster take-up often low, cases could soar throughout the summer leading to more deaths. According to the Our World in Data scientific aggregator, the rolling seven-day average of confirmed new cases per million inhabitants is on the rise in countries including Portugal, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece, the Netherlands and Denmark. Portugal has experienced the most dramatic wave, with infections per million remaining at a seven-day average of 2,043 on Monday – the second highest new case rate in the world, although down somewhat from an early June high of 2,878.
21st Jun 2022 - The Guardian

Covid hospitalisations in England up 24 per cent from last week

Coronavirus hospitalisations in England have surged by almost 25 per cent in the last week, as cases spread like wildfire once more across the globe. New figures released by the NHS this week highlight 5,726 beds occupied by Covid patients as of 20 June, up from 4,602 on the previous Monday. The spike in cases represents a 24 per cent increase in England, as the virus once more rears its ahead around the world. There was also a major spike in cases following the Platinum Jubilee half term break, and as the weather heats up, and Brits enjoy more socialising.
21st Jun 2022 - City AM

Maintaining Services - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 21st Jun 2022

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Europe looks to next wave of COVID with coordinated supply plan

Following the adoption of a critical list of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, European Union member states and pharma companies will communicate to ensure sufficient supply to meet evolving demand.
20th Jun 2022 - BioPharma-Reporter

China Outbreaks Shift to South With Shenzhen, Macau on Alert

China’s Covid-19 outbreak is shifting to its south coast, with a flareup in technology hub Shenzhen triggering mass testing and a lockdown of some neighborhoods, while gambling enclave Macau -- an hour’s drive away -- is racing to stop its first outbreak in eight months. The new cases come as China’s two most important cities, Beijing and Shanghai, look to be subduing the virus after months of strict curbs and repeated testing. Shanghai reported nine local cases on Tuesday, while Beijing reported five. Nationwide, China posted 34 new infections on Tuesday.
21st Jun 2022 - Bloomberg

Covid Cases Surge, but Deaths Stay Near Lows

For two years, the coronavirus killed Americans on a brutal, predictable schedule: A few weeks after infections climbed so did deaths, cutting an unforgiving path across the country. But that pattern appears to have changed. Nearly three months since an ultra-contagious set of new Omicron variants launched a springtime resurgence of cases, people are nonetheless dying from Covid at a rate close to the lowest of the pandemic. The spread of the virus and the number of deaths in its wake, two measures that were once yoked together, have diverged more than ever before, epidemiologists said. Deaths have ticked up slowly in the northeastern United States, where the latest wave began, and are likely to do the same nationally as the surge pushes across the South and West.
20th Jun 2022 - The New York Times

New Omicron wave growing fast: 'We were wrong to think Covid was over and vaccination is not enough'

Covid-19 inflection rates in the UK and hospitalisations across Europe are on the rise. Meanwhile, new omicron sub-variants are growing more prevalent. Therefore, the Government’s panglossian messaging has undermined the public health response to a potential new Covid-19 wave, experts warn today. Dr Chris Papadopoulos, Principal Lecturer in Public Health at the University of Bedfordshire told City A.M. this morning that “in recent months the government has pushed the idea that we are past Covid-19 and that it isn’t something to be concerned about anymore, especially if we have been vaccinated.
20th Jun 2022 - City A.M.

British Ryanair pilots accept post-COVID pay restoration deal- union

In July 2020 BALPA members voted overwhelmingly to accept temporary pay cuts in order to avoid jobs losses due to COVID-19 groundings. Chief Executive Michael O'Leary in January then said that management had begun discussions with unions across its network about accelerating pay restoration in a deal he said might result in the extension pay agreements by a year or two. Asked how many pilots had accepted deals covering post-COVID pay restoration, a Ryanair spokesperson said over 70% of its pilots are covered by "newly renegotiated agreements". There are pay agreements in place for all pilots, the airline said.
20th Jun 2022 - Reuters

Maintaining Services - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 20th Jun 2022

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Can We Develop a Covid-19 Vaccine That Lasts?

Though most vaccines take years to develop, the Covid shots now in use were created in record time—in a matter of months. For health authorities and a public desperate for tools to deal with the pandemic, their speedy arrival provided a huge lift, preventing hospitalizations and deaths while helping people to escape lockdowns and return to work, school and many other aspects of pre-Covid life. But the Covid vaccines don’t last nearly as long as shots given for other viral illnesses such as polio, mumps and hepatitis, which remain effective for years or decades. Even more worrisome to some scientists and public health officials, the current vaccines don’t fully protect against infections, which hurts their overall effectiveness and gives the virus an opportunity to mutate into more contagious and lethal strains.
18th Jun 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

West Australian aged care visitor limits expected to remain for some time, despite COVID-19 restrictions easing

Aged care visitor limits are among the last remaining COVID restrictions. Visitors are capped at two people each day, impacting larger families. A major aged care provider expects the limits will be in place for a while longer
18th Jun 2022 - Australian Broadcasting Corporation

COVID-19: Infections rise by nearly half a million in a week

COVID-19 cases have surged by nearly half in a week, official figures show. Last week, an estimated 1,415,600 people had coronavirus in the UK, up 425,800 or 43%. This is the highest estimate for infections since the start of May, but is still well below the record high of 4.9 million at the end of March. Cases rose in all four nations of the UK - and increased across all age groups. In England, around one in 50 people had the virus, according to the coronavirus infection survey by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
17th Jun 2022 - Sky News

Maintaining Services - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 17th Jun 2022

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Trends are shifting, but Covid-19 and its effects are still not equitable

Through the many phases of the Covid-19 pandemic -- nearly a dozen variants, the introduction of vaccines, the dropping of prevention measures and more -- one thing has remained constant: The virus and its effects are not one-size-fits-all. Over the past few months, two unique trends have emerged: For the first time in the pandemic, Covid-19 case rates in the United States are higher among Asian people, and death rates are higher among White people than any other racial or ethnic group. These trends are a marked shift among groups that, data suggests, have tended to fare better overall during the pandemic. But there are critical limitations in federal data that mask persistent inequities, experts say.
16th Jun 2022 - CNN

Covid care home restrictions in Scotland caused harm, says report

Severe restrictions imposed on care home residents in Scotland during the Covid pandemic caused "harm and distress" and may have contributed to some deaths, academics have said. A 143-page report has been produced by Edinburgh Napier University. It had been commissioned by the independent inquiry into the country's handling of the pandemic. The report says that the legal basis for confining residents to their rooms and banning visitors was "unclear". And it said care home residents were arguably discriminated against compared to other citizens.
16th Jun 2022 - BBC News

Maintaining Services - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 16th Jun 2022

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Europe's medicines watchdog publishes new report identifying COVID-19 lessons learned

In 2021, the European Commission, Parliament and Council gave the EMA greater tools enabling it to both support innovation and respond to emergencies, in an acknowledgement of the agency’s vital role in tackling the pandemic. The EMA approved five treatments and four new vaccines against COVID-19. It also passed regulation on medical devices—a year later than planned because of the pandemic—and took steps towards developing an information network designed to generate data about health patterns across the continent, called the Data Analysis and Real World Interrogation Network (DARWIN EU).
15th Jun 2022 - Healthcare IT News

UK to Roll Out Drugs From Pfizer, Shionogi to Fight Superbugs

England is rolling out a pair of antibiotics from Pfizer Inc. and Shionogi & Co. as part of a pioneering program aimed at stimulating a broken market and taking on the rising threat of superbugs. Under the deal announced Wednesday by the National Health Service, the drug companies will receive a fixed annual fee for their antibiotics. The payments in the program, the first of its kind, will be as much as £10 million ($12 million) a year for up to 10 years. About 1,700 patients a year with severe bacterial infections will be eligible for the drugs. With germs becoming increasingly resistant to current antibiotics, the NHS said the drugs will provide a lifeline to patients with life-threatening infections like sepsis or hospital or ventilator pneumonia.
15th Jun 2022 - Bloomberg

North Korea COVID-19 Vaccination Plan Facing Challenges

As North Korea faces a rising number of COVID-19 cases, simply having vaccines may be insufficient to roll out a countrywide immunization process that experts say needs to be accompanied by adequate cold storage units and trained medical and technical staff that the nation lacks. Pyongyang announced on Tuesday that "more than 32,810 fevered cases" were detected in the country from June 12 to 13, through its state media Korea Central News Agency (KCNA). The total, "since late April," surged past 4.5 million as of June 14, added the KCNA.
15th Jun 2022 - VOA Asia

How long is your COVID vaccine good for? You can soon find out, thanks to a new test that informs patients of their immunity’s ‘magnitude and duration’

Until recently, it’s been nearly impossible to say. Immunity, whether from vaccine or prior infection, is thought to wane after three or four months, but it varies by person. That knowledge is based on what’s known about typical antibody response—but antibodies are only half of the picture. The other half: T-cell response, which hasn’t been examined in patients nearly as often owing to technical challenges. Now that response can be tested affordably and en masse, researchers at Mount Sinai Health System in New York say. Along with researchers at Duke-NUS Medical School in Singapore, they developed a rapid blood test called the dqTACT assay that measures the activation of such cells in response to COVID. The test will allow for mass monitoring of the population’s immunity and effectiveness of vaccines new and old, they said in a study published Tuesday in Nature Biotechnology.
14th Jun 2022 - Fortune

Maintaining Services - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 15th Jun 2022

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Moderna COVID-19 vaccine's safety slightly bests Pfizer's

An observational study today in JAMA Internal Medicine reports a slightly better safety profile for the Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccine than for the Pfizer/BioNTech version in US veterans, but both vaccines had very good safety profiles. A team led by Harvard University researchers reviewed the electronic health records of 433,672 US Department of Veterans Affairs patients across the country who received their first dose of the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from Jan 4 to Sep 20, 2021, with a second dose scheduled for 21 to 28 days later, depending on the vaccine. Median patient age was 69 years, 93% were men, 20% were Black, and 8% were Hispanic. Median follow-up was 223 days.
14th Jun 2022 - CIDRAP

Moderna to invest 500 mln euros in Spain, PM Sanchez says

Moderna plans to invest around 500 million euros ($520.60 million) in a new laboratory in Spain to boost its production of vaccines, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Tuesday. Sanchez wrote on his Twitter account that he had a meeting with Moderna vice president, Dan Staner, and heard about the drugmaker's expansion plans in the country. Spanish pharmaceutical group Rovi agreed early in the year a 10-year extension to its deal with Moderna to manufacture future drugs developed with the mRNA technology used for the U.S. company's coronavirus vaccine.
14th Jun 2022 - Reuters

The next virus pandemic threat (and what the experts are doing about it)

Two years ago the first human trials of the University of Oxford’s game-changing Covid-19 vaccine were just under way, only five months after the pandemic virus was identified. Bill Gates has hailed this super-rapid progress as “miraculous”. The scientists responsible prefer to put it down to preparation. Back then no one was even sure that a vaccine against Covid-19 could work. Now, having succeeded in creating several of them, the knowledge accrued when developing such drugs is being put to good use on new projects. In America, for instance, scientists in collaboration with BioNTech, the German firm behind the Pfizer coronavirus jab, are trialling a vaccine to treat pancreatic cancer, the deadliest common cancer, using the same mRNA technology as was used in Covid jabs.
14th Jun 2022 - The Times

Two-thirds of hospital patients with Covid-19 there because of the virus, amid heavy demand

The number of people in hospital with Covid-19 continues to be about twice as high as what was modelled – roughly two-thirds of whom are in hospital with the virus as the primary cause, officials say. It comes as respiratory viruses are putting a “very significant burden” on not just the country’s hospitals, but also primary care. The rate of reported Covid-19 cases continues to decrease, to 8.3 per 1000 people this week, down from 9.3 the week before. As of Tuesday, 377 people are in hospital with the virus, including seven in intensive care.
14th Jun 2022 - Stuff

UK pubs giant takes on insurer trio in $1.2 bln COVID trial

Britain's biggest pubs group Stonegate, which is suing Zurich Insurance and two peers for 1 billion pounds ($1.2 billion) over lockdown losses, battled the COVID-19 pandemic "day by day, venue by venue", a London trial heard on Monday. Ben Lynch, a lawyer for Stonegate, said the company's 760 insured pubs, bars and night clubs at the centre of the case had each faced separate challenges, opening and shutting at differing times according to regional rules - and seeing business drop by up to 90% below projections.
14th Jun 2022 - Reuters

Maintaining Services - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 14th Jun 2022

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Bank of England to drop post-COVID capital buffer rule

The Bank of England said on Monday that it would remove a post-COVID capital buffer adjustment now that risks from the pandemic had subsided. "Removing a temporary capital adjustment that is no longer necessary aims to achieve simplicity and enhances proportionality, thereby facilitating effective competition," the BoE said in a statement. In July 2020, the BoE's Prudential Regulation Authority (PRA) announced the temporary increase of the buffer for all firms that received a Pillar 2A reduction under its PS15/20 policy to reconcile capital requirements and macroprudential buffers
14th Jun 2022 - Reuters

‘Covid not over yet, increase vaccinations for schoolkids': Mandaviya to states

Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya interacted with health ministers of states and Union territories and urged them to focus on increasing Covid-19 vaccination coverage for schoolchildren, precaution dose for the elderly and strengthening genome sequencing, the health ministry said. “Covid-19 is not over yet. With rising Covid-19 cases in some states, it is important to be alert and not to forget Covid-appropriate behaviour,” Mandaviya told the states at the review meeting. Highlighting increased case positivity in some districts and states and reduced Covid-19 testing, Mandaviya said increased and timely testing will enable early identification of cases and help to curb the spread of the infection among the community. “He urged states/UTs to continue and strengthen the surveillance and focus on genome sequencing for identifying new mutants/variants in the country. He stated that the five-fold strategy of test, track, treat, vaccination and adherence to Covid Appropriate Behavior (CAB) needs to be continued and monitored by States/UTs,” the ministry said in a statement.
13th Jun 2022 - Hindustan Times

Japan Has Fewest Covid-19 Deaths Per Capita in OECD, New Data Show

Japan has the lowest number of Covid-19 deaths per capita among wealthy nations, according to new data, with health experts citing the country’s mask habit and low obesity rate as possible reasons. As of Sunday, Japan’s cumulative Covid-19 deaths per million population stood at 245, according to Our World in Data, a website that tallies Covid-19 statistics. That is the lowest figure among the 38 member states in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, a club of wealthy nations that includes the U.S. and most of Europe. The Japanese rate compares with 2,469 Covid-19 deaths per million people in Europe and 3,038 per million in the U.S., which has the highest rate in the OECD. While the reasons for the U.S. rate aren’t well-understood, widespread obesity, less mask-wearing, disparities in access to healthcare and a lower vaccination rate than some other OECD countries likely played a role, public-health specialists have said.
13th Jun 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

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Canada to suspend random COVID testing to reduce airport wait times

Canada is suspending random COVID-19 testing at all its airports for the rest of June to ease the long wait times that travelers have encountered in recent weeks, a government statement said on Friday. The random testing will be discontinued from Saturday and will resume "off-site" on July 1, the statement said. Random testing was blamed by some industry officials for lengthening already long wait times at airports. Toronto's Pearson airport has had planes stuck at gates and hours-long security lines because of staffing shortages.
12th Jun 2022 - Reuters

Ontario planning COVID-19 boosters for fall, most mask mandates ending Saturday

After years of daily COVID-19 data reporting from the province, Public Health Ontario (PHO) is moving to a weekly reporting system. In a news release issued late Friday afternoon, the province announced the change comes into effect as of June 11. Ontario will publish the latest COVID-19 data each Thursday, starting on June 16. "PHO will continue to monitor trends and determine if any additional changes to reporting are needed, including to frequency and content, in the coming weeks and months," the statement reads. Data will still be available through the province's Open Data Catalog, it notes, but it will not be on the provincial website.
10th Jun 2022 - CBC.ca

Maintaining Services - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 10th Jun 2022

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New vaccine may be option for troops with religious concerns

A COVID-19 vaccine that could soon win federal authorization may offer a boost for the U.S. military: an opportunity to get shots into some of the thousands of service members who have refused other coronavirus vaccines for religious reasons. At least 175 active duty and reserve service members have already received the Novavax vaccine, some even traveling overseas at their own expense to get it. The vaccine meets Defense Department requirements because it has the World Health Organization’s emergency use approval and is used in Europe and other regions. The Food and Drug Administration is considering giving it emergency use authorization in the U.S.
9th Jun 2022 - The Associated Press

BioNTech to soon start mRNA vaccine factory construction in Rwanda

COVID-19 vaccine maker BioNTech said construction of an mRNA vaccine factory to enable African nations to jump-start their own manufacturing network would start on June 23 in Rwanda. The groundbreaking ceremony in the capital city of Kigali is to be attended by Rwanda's President Paul Kagame, further heads of African states, as well as representatives from the European Union and the World Health Organization, the biotech firm said in a statement on Thursday. The German company's modular factory elements, to be assembled in Africa to so-called BioNTainers, would be delivered to the Kigali construction site by the end of 2022, it added. The company, which developed the western world's most widely used COVID-19 shot with U.S. partner Pfizer, earlier this year mapped out a plan to enable African countries to produce its Comirnaty-branded shot under BioNTech's supervision
10th Jun 2022 - Reuters

Black and Asian frontline staff faced racial harassment during Covid-19 pandemic, watchdog finds

Lower-paid health and social care workers, who played a pivotal front-line role during the Covid-19 pandemic, experienced bullying, racism and harassment at work according to their evidence to an inquiry conducted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). Poor data collection by their employers could also be masking the extent of discrimination against them, the watchdog also found. Job insecurity in the health and adult social care sectors caused fear of victimisation among low-paid ethnic minority staff, particularly if they were to raise concerns, according to the inquiry which was launched in November 2020.
9th Jun 2022 - The Independent

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What are the entry requirements for France?

On 31 March 2022, the French government relaxed Covid border restrictions to allow unvaccinated travellers entry to the country for leisure and work purposes. Previously, only vaccinated travellers were permitted entry for leisure and work, while unjabbed travellers could only visit the country if they had a compelling reason. Unvaccinated travellers should provide proof of a negative PCR test, taken no more than 72 hours prior to arrival in France, or an antigen test taken no more than 48 hours before arrival. They will no longer need to quarantine for seven days on entering the country. Rules for vaccinated travellers were also relaxed. They no longer need to submit a sworn declaration form stating that they show no Covid symptoms. They are only required to present proof of vaccination.
9th Jun 2022 - Evening Standard

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French medics protest hospital crisis, deepened by COVID

Health workers protested Tuesday around France to demand more hiring and better salaries in public hospitals, after years of cost cuts that left medics submerged when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and are now forcing emergency rooms to cut services. Nine unions and collectives organized a day of protest, including a demonstration outside the Health Ministry in Paris and in dozens of other towns and cities, to call the government’s attention to growing concerns about staff shortages. President Emmanuel Macron has promised a rethink of the public hospital system and commissioned an urgent review by July 1. Protesters hope to pressure the government as France heads into two rounds of legislative elections starting Sunday.
8th Jun 2022 - The Independent

Flu cases rise in Canada amid eased COVID-19 restrictions

The easing of public health restrictions that were aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 has lead to a surge in cases of another virus, experts say. Since the start of April, Canada has seen a sharp increase in cases of influenza, something not typically seen in the spring. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada's (PHAC) most recent FluWatch report, there were 1,580 laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu between May 22 and May 28. This is down from the peak of 2,121 flu cases seen during the week of May 8 to 14, but PHAC warns that the number of flu cases "remains above the epidemic threshold." Last year, the period between May 23 and June 19 saw just one laboratory-confirmed flu case. Prior to the pandemic, a five-week period in May and June 2019 saw 864 laboratory-confirmed cases, an average of 172.8 cases per week.
7th Jun 2022 - CTV News

Washington hospitals again strained by COVID-19 spread

Hospital officials in Washington are warning that facilities are heading toward another COVID-19 case peak amid high spread in the community. Washington State Hospital Association CEO Cassie Sauer on Monday said at the end of last week, almost 600 people with COVID-19 were in hospitals across the state with about 20-25 patients a day on ventilators, The News Tribune reported. That compares with an average of around 230 hospitalized cases in the daily census in April and 1,700 in February during the Omicron wave. In response to the rising hospitalizations, officials on a media briefing call Monday implored people to wear high-quality masks indoors in crowded, public spaces, and to get COVID-19 booster shots on top of vaccinations. "It’s still something you don’t want to get and we want to urge you to do everything you can to protect yourself,” said Cassie Sauer, Washington State Hospital Association CEO. Community spread is also affecting health care workers and straining hospital staffing levels, officials said.
7th Jun 2022 - The Associated Press

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Pfizer to spend $120 mln to boost U.S. COVID pill manufacturing

Pfizer Inc said on Monday it would spend $120 million to expand manufacturing of its COVID-19 antiviral treatment at its Michigan plant, as demand ramps up. Use of the pill, Paxlovid, authorized to treat newly infected, at-risk people to prevent severe illness, has soared recently as infections rise. Biden administration officials have pushed for the wider use of Paxlovid, which the government distributes for free
6th Jun 2022 - Reuters

Beijing reopens restaurants as new COVID-19 cases drop

Diners returned to restaurants in most of Beijing for the first time in more than a month Monday as authorities further eased pandemic-related restrictions after largely eradicating a small COVID-19 outbreak in the capital under China's strict “zero-COVID” approach. Museums, cinemas and gyms were allowed to operate at up to 75% of capacity and delivery drivers could once again bring packages to a customer's door, rather than leave them to be picked up at the entrances to apartment compounds. The return to near-normal applied everywhere in Beijing except for one district and part of another, where the outbreak lingered. Schools, which partially reopened earlier, will fully do so on June 13, followed by kindergartens on June 20. Authorities conducted multiple rounds of mass testing and locked down buildings and complexes when infections were discovered to stamp out an outbreak that infected about 1,800 people over six weeks in a city of 22 million. The number of new cases dropped to six on Sunday. The ruling Communist Party remains wedded to a “zero-COVID” strategy that exacts an economic cost and inconveniences millions of people, even as many other countries adopt a more relaxed approach as vaccination rates rise and treatments become more widely available.
6th Jun 2022 - The Independent

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Beijing to allow indoor dining, further easing COVID curbs

Beijing will further relax COVID-19 curbs by allowing indoor dining, as China's capital steadily returns to normal with inflections falling, state media said on Sunday. Beijing and the commercial hub Shanghai have been returning to normal in recent days after two months of painful lockdowns to crush outbreaks of the Omicron variant. Dine-in service in Beijing will resume on Monday, except for the Fengtai district and some parts of the Changping district, the Beijing Daily said. Restaurants and bars have been restricted to takeaway since early May.
5th Jun 2022 - Reuters

Airlines step up push to get U.S. to drop international COVID-19 testing rule

American Airlines Chief Executive Robert Isom said on Friday at a conference the testing requirements were "nonsensical" and were "depressing" leisure and business travel. Airlines say many Americans are not traveling internationally because of concerns they will test positive and be stranded abroad. International U.S. air travel remains down about 14% from pre-pandemic levels. Isom, who met with politicians in Washington on Thursday to discuss the issue, said 75% of countries American serves do not have testing requirements. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requires travelers to test negative within one day before flights to the United States.
4th Jun 2022 - Reuters

Special Olympics Lifts Covid-19 Vaccine Mandate After Facing Fine

Special Olympics Inc. reversed course and dropped its Covid-19 vaccine requirement for staff and athletes attending the coming games in Orlando, Fla., after state officials there threatened the nonprofit with a $27.5 million fine. Florida’s health department said SOI would be fined $5,000 for every individual asked to provide proof of vaccination as a condition of attending, a Special Olympics spokeswoman said. The group had previously required proof. Its USA Games kick off Sunday and run through June 12. Roughly 5,500 people are expected to attend. Florida passed legislation last year banning businesses and agencies from mandating vaccines. Last October, the health department fined Leon County $3.57 million for requiring county staff to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
3rd Jun 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

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After Ontario's COVID-19 school closures, a responsive recovery plan is critical

Three years into the pandemic, it’s clear that Canada’s provinces have been hampered by a lack of a comparative cross-Canada analysis of school closures and the effects on students. What we do know about the disruptive impact of school closures on Ontario and other provinces comes largely from a June 2021 Ontario Science Table study documenting the extent of school closures from province-to-province.
31st May 2022 - The Conversation

As UK Covid cases fall to lowest level for a year, what could the future look like?

After enduring record-breaking levels of Covid in the past six months, Britain has seen cases fall to their lowest for a year. But as the country eases back into a life more normal, will the disease remain in the background – or is another resurgence on its way? Science editor Ian Sample explains how the virus is changing – and why one expert thinks infection rates “are not going to get down to very low numbers again in our lifetimes”.
31st May 2022 - The Guardian

Covid-19 weekly deaths lowest since last summer

The number of deaths involving coronavirus registered each week in England and Wales has fallen to its lowest level for nine months. A total of 547 deaths registered in the seven days to May 20 mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This is down 24% on the previous week and is the lowest total since early August 2021. It is the third week in a row that deaths have decreased, which suggests the figures are now on a downwards trend. There have been similarly sharp falls in recent months in the number of Covid-19 infections and patients in hospital with the virus. Infections in both England and Wales hit an all-time high at the end of March, but in England they have dropped to levels last seen in November 2021 and in Wales they are back to where they were in September.
31st May 2022 - Wales Online

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FTSE 100 CEOs Salaries Rebound to Pre-Covid Levels in 2021

Top UK bosses are earning as much as they were before the pandemic after pay packages rebounded from a Covid-driven lull. Overall pay for chief executive officers in the FTSE 100 rose to a median average of £3.6 million ($4.6 million) in 2021, according to research by Deloitte LLP. The revival in higher pay packages was spurred by an increase in annual bonuses and stronger incentives for staff.
30th May 2022 - Bloomberg

China donates 10 mln COVID-19 vaccine doses to Myanmar

The Chinese embassy handed them over to Myanmar's Ministry of Health at the Yangon International Airport on Sunday. The China-donated COVID-19 vaccines and syringes arrived in Myanmar in separate batches starting from May 18 to May 29. China has been continuously providing medical supplies to Myanmar in fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic, and has helped Myanmar in filling and packing COVID-19 vaccines to boost the country's vaccination rate, Chinese Ambassador to Myanmar Chen Hai said at the handover ceremony.
30th May 2022 - CCTV

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U.S. doctors reconsider Pfizer's Paxlovid for lower-risk COVID patients

Use of Pfizer Inc's COVID-19 antiviral Paxlovid spiked this week, but some doctors are reconsidering the pills for lower-risk patients after a U.S. public health agency warned that symptoms can recur after people complete a course of the drug, and that they should then isolate a second time. More quarantine time "is not a crowd-pleaser," Dr. Sandra Kemmerly, an infectious disease specialist at Ochsner Health in New Orleans, told Reuters. "For those people who really aren't at risk ... I would recommend that they not take it."
28th May 2022 - Reuters

JBS U.S. units to adopt pandemic response plans after COVID outbreaks

Subsidiaries of meat processor JBS USA LLC have agreed to implement infectious disease preparedness plans at seven U.S. plants, in the wake of a U.S. congressional report finding that the industry largely failed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among workers. The agreement was announced on Friday by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which said the companies will work with teams of outside experts to develop and implement new policies on engineering, ventilation, visitor screening, cleaning, and personal protective equipment.
27th May 2022 - Reuters

Beijing city offers elderly COVID shot-related health insurance to ease hesitancy

China's capital is offering elderly residents state-backed insurance for "medical accidents" linked to COVID-19 shots to ease vaccination hesitancy among those most vulnerable, as Beijing ramps up inoculations during its worst outbreak. Chinese officials have pointed to relatively lower vaccination rates among the elderly as a key weakness in its "dynamic zero-COVID" strategy. The city of 22 million people had fully inoculated 97.7% of its adult residents as of September last year, but only 80.6% of people aged 60 and over had received their first dose by mid-April this year, according to city officials.
27th May 2022 - Reuters

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Japan starts 4th COVID vaccine shots for seniors, at-risk groups

Japan began offering fourth coronavirus vaccine shots Wednesday to older people, and those with underlying medical conditions. People eligible for fourth inoculations are those aged 60 and older as well as individuals between 18 and 59 with chronic health conditions, such as respiratory illnesses or heart conditions, or at high risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms if infected with the coronavirus, according to the health ministry. The ministry suggests people receive the booster shots at least five months after receiving their third inoculation. The majority of seniors began getting third shots in January, meaning that the fourth round of shots is expected to be in full swing from June onward.
26th May 2022 - Kyodo News Plus

Hospitals are exploring a way to pay for uninsured Covid-19 care

The federal health department shut down a program that paid hospitals and clinics for caring for uninsured Covid-19 patients, but some hospitals are now eyeing a backdoor option to get those costs paid for. Throughout much of the pandemic, the costs of testing, vaccinating, and treating uninsured patients were mostly funneled to a multi-billion-dollar program run by the Health Resources and Services Administration, but that program ran out of money and shut down in April. The program paid out more than $1 billion per month, which means its closure was a big hit for some facilities that serve large numbers of uninsured patients.
26th May 2022 - STAT News

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Covid Lockdown Costs Shanghai Its China Currency Trading Crown

The fallout of China’s Covid Zero policy is starting to show in Shanghai’s financial markets, with the city losing its top currency trading hub title for the first time. Shanghai handled fewer currency deals than Beijing in April, to rank second among China’s 36 provinces and municipalities, according to the State Administration of Foreign Exchange. The decline points to another consequence of strict lockdowns and may serve as a case study for the possible implications of movement curbs in major Chinese cities, including Beijing, as Covid cases climb. Traders volunteering to stay in the office, sleeping on trading floors, did little keep up currency volumes. Settlement and sales by banks for their clients, dropped 30% from March to $61.8 billion. That’s 15% of the national tally, compared with a steady share of around 20% before the lockdown, as per data going back to 2019.
26th May 2022 - Bloomberg

‘They were laughing at us’: Covid families’ fury at revelations in Sue Gray report

In Britain, families bereaved by Covid-19 have said they are “sickened” by the revelations in Sue Gray’s Partygate report, and have accused Boris Johnson and his staff of “laughing at us”. A group of 4,000 families who lost loved ones from Covid-19 have hit out at the prime minister after his government was guilty of “a serious failure” to abide by the “standards expected of the entire British population”
25th May 2022 - The Independent

Platinum Jubilee celebrations could increase Covid infections by 50 per cent in summer spike, scientists warn

Covid infections will jump by up to 50 per cent following the Jubilee celebrations after falling by two-thirds in the past two months, leading scientists have warned. New symptomatic infections have tumbled from a record 349,011 a day on 31 March to an estimated 117,136 cases today – with cases relatively stable over the past fortnight, according to the ZOE Covid study app. But Professor Tim Spector, who runs the ZOE app, believes greater social mixing over the extended bank holiday weekend, alongside waning immunity, will see infections rise sharply from their current level of 1 in 37 people across the UK.
25th May 2022 - iNews

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Covid-19 Vaccine and Drug Sales, Once Booming, Plateau

The gold rush for drugmakers making Covid-19 vaccines and treatments might be over, as demand plateaus, supplies turn ample and the pandemic evolves. Merck & Co. and Johnson & Johnson are among the companies cutting sales expectations for pandemic products this year as they assess the outlook. Analysts, meantime, are lowering sales estimates for Covid-19 drugs such as Pfizer Inc.’s antiviral Paxlovid, citing softening demand and few new supply deals. The situation marks a new phase in the pandemic, according to analysts, one without the record sales that certain companies such as Pfizer and Moderna Inc. notched just a few months ago.
25th May 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

Retailer Selloff Leaves Covid Slump in the Dust as Rout Widens

The darkest days of the pandemic might be long gone, but for chain stores and other merchants, it’s March 2020 all over again. And it’s getting worse. A selloff in Target Corp. and Walmart Inc. shares has pushed the SPDR S&P Retail exchange-traded fund (ticker XRT) down 44% from its November record high, outpacing the fund’s 41% rout during the pandemic. The $484 million ETF’s 16% slump in May would be the second-worst month since 2009, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Rising costs on everything from transportation to labor are eating into the profit margins of some of America’s best known retailers, stoking concerns over whether companies will be able to pass on the increased expenses to consumers.
25th May 2022 - Bloomberg

New York School Vaccine Mandate Survives as Supreme Court Rejects Appeal

The US Supreme Court turned away a challenge to New York’s requirement that schoolchildren be vaccinated against serious diseases, refusing to question the state’s 2019 repeal of its longstanding exemption for families with religious objections. The justices without comment left in place a state court ruling that said New York wasn’t targeting religion when it eliminated the exemption after the worst measles outbreak in a quarter century. The vaccine requirement applies to children under 18 in both public and private schools.
24th May 2022 - Bloomberg

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Indian vaccine giant Serum plans African plant in global expansion

"It's never been a better time to be a vaccine manufacturer. I'm looking at expanding our manufacturing across the globe," SII Chief Executive Adar Poonawalla said during an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos. "There are some great countries out there: South Africa, Rwanda, you know, to name a few that we're looking at." Poonawalla said he was meeting some African officials in Davos to discuss his plans. Asked about possible investments, he said such projects typically required at least around $300 million.
24th May 2022 - Reuters

COVID: On the road with the 'vaccine convoys' critical to keeping up the fight against coronavirus

It is difficult to know what COVID is doing to the people of Africa. The World Health Organization (WHO) says the death toll has been vastly undercounted in much of the world, but poor data collection in most African countries makes it difficult to assess the true impact on the continent. Evidence on COVID-related deaths in South Africa suggests there are serious grounds for concern. Experts at South Africa’s Medical Research Council believe hundreds of thousands of deaths have been lost in the paperwork. The real death toll is thought to be three times the official number of 101,000.
23rd May 2022 - Sky News

Monkeypox in Europe: Officials Call on Nations to Boost Efforts

As monkeypox cases climb in the UK, European health officials are calling on countries to review the availability of vaccines and step up efforts to identify and report new infections. Countries should check on supplies of smallpox vaccines, antiviral therapies and protective equipment for health workers, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control said Monday. The recommendations come as England reported that cases almost tripled to 56 from 20. The cousin of the smallpox virus has previously been mostly confined to regions in Africa, but health authorities are concerned about cases ticking up in Europe and North America. The World Health Organization had said that 92 cases and 28 suspected cases had been identified in 12 countries outside of those African nations where it is endemic as of May 21.
23rd May 2022 - Bloomberg

Smallpox Vaccine Enters Wider Production Amid Monkeypox Outbreak

Danish vaccine maker Bavarian Nordic A/S is making more of a smallpox vaccine typically stockpiled in case of biological warfare, as governments seek doses that also offer protection against monkeypox amid an unusual outbreak around the world. Monkeypox, a viral illness that is only rarely detected outside of Africa, has been reported in recent weeks in at least 17 countries including the U.S., U.K., Spain, Portugal and Australia, according to nonprofit data platform Global.health. In the U.S., a case was confirmed in Massachusetts and at least five more are suspected—one each in Florida, New York and Washington and two in Utah, state officials and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday.
23rd May 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

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Apple Looks to Boost Production Outside China

Apple Inc. has told some of its contract manufacturers that it wants to boost production outside China, citing Beijing’s strict anti-Covid policy among other reasons, people involved in the discussions said. India and Vietnam, already sites for a small portion of Apple’s global production, are among the countries getting a closer look from the company as alternatives to China, the people said.
22nd May 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

Senior, Nursing Homes Rocked By Covid Costs Struggle to Escape Closure

That’s a huge difference from the strongest financially performing nursing homes that saw up to 10% returns before the pandemic, said John Tishler, who specializes in transactions involving distressed and bankrupt health-care facilities at Nashville law firm Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis. The pandemic revealed and amplified long-existing shortcomings at the more than 15,000 nursing homes in the US, such as inadequate staffing, poor infection control and regulatory failures, according to an April report from the National Academy of Sciences. As of last month, more than 150,000 nursing home residents and 2,362 workers had died from Covid-19, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.
22nd May 2022 - Bloomberg

COVID-19 alert level in UK reduced - as Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 reclassified as variants of concern

The UK's coronavirus alert level has been reduced - as two rare types of Omicron have been reclassified as variants of concern. The level has moved from four to three after advice from the four nations' chief medical officers and the NHS England medical director. They said that "the current BA.2 driven Omicron wave is subsiding" and "direct COVID-19 healthcare pressures continue to decrease in all nations". Their statement added: "Whilst it is reasonable to expect the number of cases to increase due to BA.4, BA.5 or BA2.12.1, it is unlikely in the immediate future to lead to significant direct COVID pressures." The alert level was last raised on 12 December as Omicron spread rapidly.
21st May 2022 - Sky News

Shanghai economy hit on all sides in April by COVID lockdown

China's commercial hub of Shanghai reported on Friday a broad decline in its economy last month when a city-wide COVID lockdown shut factories and kept residents at home, sparking concerns among foreign firms over their presence in the country. Output of Shanghai's industries, located at the heart of manufacturing in the Yangtze River Delta, shrank 61.5% in April from a year earlier, the local statistics bureau said.
21st May 2022 - Reuters

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China's zero-COVID policy dashes global hopes for quick economic return to normal

A sharp slowdown in China's economy caused by its strict zero-COVID rules and Beijing's shift away from a traditional reliance on external demand have cast doubts over how much the country will contribute to future global trade and investment. While China staged a remarkably quick recovery from its initial pandemic slump, thanks to bumper exports and factory production, analysts expect the current downturn will be harder to shake off than the one seen in early 2020
19th May 2022 - Reuters

Tea and infomercials: N. Korea fights COVID with few tools

“North Koreans know so many people around the world have died because of COVID-19, so they have fear that some of them could die, too,” said Kang Mi-jin, a North Korean defector, citing her phone calls with contacts in the northern North Korean city of Hyesan. She said people who can afford it are buying traditional medicine to deal with their anxieties. Since admitting what it called its first domestic COVID-19 outbreak one week ago, North Korea has been fighting to handle a soaring health crisis that has intensified public anxiety over a virus it previously claimed to have kept at bay.
20th May 2022 - The Associated Press

China's international schools hit by exodus of teachers dejected by COVID curbs

After teaching for three years at an international school in Shanghai, Michael is preparing to break his contract and leave, worn down by stringent measures against the coronavirus. Following two years of nearly-shut borders, onerous health checks and quarantine norms, a decision at the beginning of April to lock down China’s commercial centre proved the last straw for the 35-year-old. "It has reached a point where the economic benefits of working here don’t make up for the lack of freedom to come and go," the science teacher said, declining to give his full name for reasons of privacy.
20th May 2022 - Reuters

Uzbekistan produces over 6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine

Uzbekistan has produced 6.172 million doses of ZF-UZ-VAC 2001 coronavirus vaccine. Since start of coronavirus pandemic, Uzbekistan received 69.7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, including: - 2.6 million doses of AstraZeneca; - 48.1 million doses of ZF-UZ-VAC 2001; - 1.34 million doses of Sputnik V; - 10.68 million doses of Moderna; - 4.62 million doses of Pfizer/BioNTech; - 1.97 million doses of Sinovac; - 343,000 doses of Sputnik Light. More than 53 million doses of coronavirus vaccines were administered in Uzbekistan in total so far. 16.2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines remain available.
19th May 2022 - AKIpress

On-campus COVID-19 measures couldn't contain Omicron

A study assessing Cornell University's COVID-19 surveillance and vaccination programs during the Omicron variant surge suggests that vaccination protected against severe infection, but it and other mitigation measures—including mass testing—didn't prevent rapid viral transmission. The study, published today in JAMA Network Open, describes the outcomes of the university's SARS-CoV-2 transmission-prevention programs implemented after the campus reopened for in-person instruction in fall 2021. Steps included mandatory vaccination for students, urging of vaccination for employees, and an on-campus mask requirement. In addition, isolation and contact tracing took place within hours of all COVID-19–positive tests.
19th May 2022 - CIDRAP

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Pandemic science hub will develop drugs for lung infections such as Covid-19

A new pandemic science hub is being created to develop treatments for lung infections such as Covid-19. The hub at the University of Edinburgh will use translational genomics – following clues from the human genome to identify and rapidly test new treatments – along with experimental medicine methods to quickly evaluate and develop drugs for lung inflammation and injury caused by infection. Independent investment partnership Baillie Gifford is supporting the launch with a philanthropic gift of £14.7 million and the university aims to secure £100 million worth of investment in total. As well as accelerating discoveries of treatments for Covid-19 and other human lung diseases, the Baillie Gifford Pandemic Science Hub aims to help prepare for future pandemics.
18th May 2022 - The Independent

Where to Find Paxlovid Once You've Tested Positive for Covid

As Covid-19 again surges across the US, many people are going without time-sensitive therapeutics like Paxlovid because doctors worried about shortages are reluctant to prescribe the drugs. But the situation has changed and supplies are now abundant. Paxlovid, a combination of pills taken for five days, cuts the risk of hospitalization by nearly 90%, according to the manufacturer, Pfizer Inc. But to be effective, it must be taken within five days of the onset of symptoms—which include everything from a scratchy throat, runny nose, cough and chills to fever, body aches, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing and loss of taste or smell. The Food and Drug Administration has issued emergency-use authorizations for the drug to treat mild to moderate Covid-19 in people who are at high risk.
19th May 2022 - Bloomberg

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

Covid-19 wastewater surveillance is promising tool, but critical challenges remain

Covid-19 surveillance is at a crossroads in the United States. With at-home tests now outnumbering those done in laboratories, official case counts are more incomplete than ever as the nation -- and world -- faces down increasingly transmissible coronavirus variants. Wastewater surveillance is poised to fill in the gaps and help avoid the threats that an invisible wave of the virus could bring. This surveillance can help identify trends in transmission a week or two earlier than clinical testing, giving public health leaders the chance to focus messaging and resources. It can be used as a tool to sequence the virus and find new variants sooner, too. But eagerness to use this tool is stifled by uncertainty about exactly how to do so, along with a lack of resources and support to learn. Testing sewage for virus particles can provide early warning signs of increased transmission in a community, capturing even those who have asymptomatic infections or aren't being tested.
18th May 2022 - CNN

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China’s Economic Distress Deepens as Lockdowns Drag On

China’s economy descended deeper into a Covid-19-induced doldrums last month, raising questions about whether Beijing’s planned stimulus measures can prevent a prolonged downturn. Consumer spending and factory output tumbled in April, while growth in infrastructure investment—which Beijing has been counting on to prop up growth this year—slowed sharply, China’s National Bureau of Statistics reported Monday.
18th May 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

Pfizer, BioNTech COVID vaccine deliveries delayed in Europe

As the EU gears up for a COVID-19 booster campaign this fall, the bloc has delayed vaccine deliveries from Pfizer and BioNTech. The change creates time for officials to secure potential variant-adapted shots that could score authorization in the months to come. Pfizer and BioNTech—which last year pledged to supply Europe with up to 1.8 billion doses of their mRNA vaccine Comirnaty through 2023—are pushing back deliveries scheduled for June through August by three months. The unspecified number of doses is now pegged to arrive in the EU starting in September through the fourth quarter of 2022, Pfizer and BioNTech said Monday. The delivery update shouldn’t crimp Pfizer and BioNTech’s 2022 revenue guidance or full-year delivery commitments to Europe, the companies said.
17th May 2022 - FiercePharma

Sniffer dogs detect coronavirus as effectively as PCR tests

Airport sniffer dogs are highly adept at detecting the coronavirus, according to the first published results from a trial in Finland. Researchers said that in future pandemics dogs could be used “as the sole testing method when other approaches are not yet available”. A team of dogs at an airport in Helsinki were able to match the results of PCR tests 98 per cent of the time. The team behind the study, published in the online journal BMJ Global Health, said it showed sniffer dogs could “provide a valuable tool to contain the pandemic”.
17th May 2022 - The Times

North Korean planes pick up medical supplies in China, media report

North Korea has sent aircraft to China to pick up medical supplies days after it confirmed its first COVID-19 outbreak, media reported on Tuesday. In some of its first international flights since the coronavirus pandemic began more than two years ago, three Air Koryo planes from North Korea flew to the Chinese city of Shenyang on Monday, and flew back with medical supplies later in the day, South Korea's Yonhap news agency said, citing unidentified sources.
17th May 2022 - Reuters

Beijing's retail, industry upended by COVID restrictions

The economy of China's capital Beijing took a hit in April as authorities wrestled with a new COVID outbreak, telling residents to avoid going out or work from home and halting many businesses. Retail sales in the city of nearly 22 million people, a key gauge of consumption, shrank 16.05% in April from a year earlier, according to Reuters calculations based on January-April data released by the city's statistics bureau on Tuesday, outpacing the nation's 11.1% contraction.
17th May 2022 - Reuters

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Jersey's digital Covid vaccine certificates to show more doses and last longer

Jersey's digital Covid vaccine certificates have been upgraded. They will now show up to five doses rather than three and last for six months instead of one. The display has also been simplified for travel purposes to only include a single QR code showing the most recent vaccine.
16th May 2022 - ITV News

Tesla delays plan to restore Shanghai output to pre-lockdown levels

Tesla Inc has delayed a plan to restore production at its Shanghai plant to levels before the city's COVID-19 lockdown by at least a week, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters. The U.S. electric car maker originally aimed to increase output at its Shanghai plant to 2,600 cars a day from May 16, Reuters reported earlier this month citing another memo. But the latest memo said that it plans to stick to one shift for its Shanghai plant for the current week with a daily output of around 1,200 units. It also said that it would now aim to increase output to 2,600 units per day from May 23.
16th May 2022 - Reuters

Omicron Is Turning Out to Be a Weak Vaccine

With each new variant, that period of protection keeps getting shorter. In the past few weeks, studies out of South Africa, the US, and China have revealed that Omicron subvariants BA.2.12.1, BA.4 and BA.5 are alarmingly good at escaping immunity from a previous Omicron infection. In practical terms, this means that for the large swath of the US population that was first infected with Covid over the winter, the post-infection honeymoon may be over. Those people might wonder how safe it is to travel, attend large gatherings and have dinner with vulnerable friends and relatives. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. “People want it to be, ‘Am I safe or not?,’” says Abraar Karan, an epidemiologist at Stanford University. But risk is a continuum.
16th May 2022 - Bloomberg

Dalian iron ore rebounds on supply woes, easing of China COVID curbs

Chinese iron ore futures rose on Monday, supported by supply concerns and shrinking portside inventories of the steelmaking ingredient, while the easing of some COVID-19 curbs in the world's top steel producer also lifted trader sentiment. The most-traded September iron ore contract on China's Dalian Commodity Exchange ended daytime trade 3.9% higher at 834.50 yuan ($122.80) a tonne, after posting its biggest weekly loss in nearly three months on Friday.
16th May 2022 - Reuters

North Korea Covid Surge Accelerates as Unvaccinated Population Keeps Working

North Korea reported its biggest daily surge in fever cases during a nationwide outbreak of Covid-19 but didn’t respond to a South Korean offer of vaccines even as the North’s leader Kim Jong Un berated officials for failing to contain the disease. At the inter-Korean border, people could be seen walking around villages on the northern side Monday without face masks and working in groups in fields during the rice planting season, showing how unvaccinated North Korea is far from a strict lockdown that some nations have used to stop the spread of Covid.
16th May 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

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The Next Big COVID-Vaccine Gamble

Up here in the Northern Hemisphere, the spring weather’s just barely warming, but regulators in the United States are already wringing their hands over a tricksy fall brew: the contents of the COVID shot that vaccine makers are prepping for autumn, when all eligible Americans may be asked to dose up yet again (if, that is, Congress coughs up the money to actually buy the vaccines). In a recent advisory meeting convened by the FDA, Peter Marks, the director of the agency’s Center of Biologics Evaluation and Research, acknowledged the “very compressed time frame” in which experts will need to finalize the inoculation’s ingredients—probably, he said, by the end of June. Which is, for the record, right around the corner. A big choice is looming. And whatever version of the virus that scientists select for America’s next jab is “probably going to be the wrong one,” says Allie Greaney, who studies the push and pull between viruses and the immune system at the University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center.
13th May 2022 - The Atlantic

1000 people could be in hospital with Covid-19 daily during winter peak – Govt

Thousands of people could be hospitalised with respiratory illnesses daily over winter, including more than 1000 at a time with Covid-19 at what could potentially be a “quite high” peak, the Government is warning. On Friday, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield outlined modelling around planning for winter. It was expected Aotearoa would see a resurgence of Covid-19, alongside influenza and RSV outbreaks. New data showed while the Southern region was seeing the highest number of cases per 1000 people (particularly in Canterbury and Dunedin) and the seven-day rolling average remains steady overall, case numbers were “creeping up again” in Auckland.
13th May 2022 - Stuff.co.nz

Generic drugmakers to sell Pfizer's Paxlovid for $25 or less in low-income countries

Several generic drugmakers that will produce versions of Pfizer's (PFE.N) COVID-19 antiviral treatment Paxlovid have agreed to sell the medicine in low- and middle-income countries for $25 a course or less, the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) said on Thursday. CHAI said it could not disclose the names of the manufacturers who have agreed to the price ceiling, because they are still in the early stage of product development and have not received regulatory approval.
13th May 2022 - Reuters

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Number of Covid-19 hospital patients in England lowest since Christmas

The number of people with Covid-19 in hospital in England has fallen to its lowest level since last Christmas, new figures show. A total of 7,034 patients were in hospital as of 8am on May 11, down 21% week-on-week, according to NHS England. This is the lowest figure since December 21 2021, when it stood at 6,902. It was in late December that patient numbers started to rise sharply, driven by the spread of the original Omicron variant of coronavirus. They peaked at 17,120 on January 10 2022, then fell back – only to rise again due to the subsequent wave of infections caused by Omicron BA.2, hitting a slightly lower peak of 16,600 on April 7. Numbers have been dropping for the past month, with all regions of England now showing a steady decline. In south-east England, they have fallen to levels last seen in mid-October 2021. The trend reflects the large drop in the prevalence of the virus in recent weeks, as reported by the Office for National Statistics in its regular infection survey.
12th May 2022 - Wales Online

WHO: COVID-19 falling everywhere, except Americas and Africa

The number of new coronavirus cases reported worldwide has continued to fall except in the Americas and Africa, the World Health Organization said in its latest assessment of the pandemic. The decline comes as Europe marked a COVID-19 death milestone: 2 million on the continent. In its weekly pandemic report released late Tuesday, the U.N. health agency said about 3.5 million new cases and more than 25,000 deaths were reported globally, which respectively represent decreases of 12% and 25%.
12th May 2022 - The Associated Press

South African firm says it may close its COVID vaccine plant

The first factory to produce COVID-19 vaccines in Africa says it has not received enough orders and may stop production within weeks, in what a senior World Health Organization official described Thursday as a “failure” in efforts to achieve vaccine equity. South Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare said that it cannot let its large-scale sterile manufacturing facilities sit idle, and will return instead to making anesthetics. At the outset of the COVID pandemic, the company shifted its production and achieved capacity to produce more than 200 million doses annually of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. “It was widely hailed as a great achievement for Africa, a game-changer for the continent. But it has not been followed up with orders. We have not received any orders from the big multilateral agencies,” Stavros Nicolaou, senior executive for strategic trade development at Aspen Pharmacare, told The Associated Press Thursday.
12th May 2022 - The Associated Press

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Africa's COVID vaccine production line in jeopardy

A year ago, South Africa celebrated the opening of the continent's first COVID-19 vaccine production line. Now it's at risk of being shut down due to low demand. About 40% of adult South Africans are fully vaccinated. On the whole continent, just 15%. The World Health Organization has set a target of 70% coverage for all countries by June 2022. So far, only Mauritius and Seychelles reached that number in Africa. Most countries will likely miss it.
11th May 2022 - DW (English)

Emergent destroyed up to 400M COVID-19 vaccines, far more than previously known: report

Emergent's manufacturing setbacks forced the company to toss vaccine materials equivalent to nearly 400 million doses, according to a Tuesday report from the House of Representatives' Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. That's much more than the 85 million doses the company and U.S. officials previously disclosed, The Wall Street Journal reports. The report says Emergent had to toss 240 million doses in late 2020 and early 2021—before its COVID vaccine production issues became public knowledge. After Emergent's production pause in April 2021 through July 2021, the company tossed another 90 million doses. Expirations have forced the company to discard another 60 million doses, the report says.
11th May 2022 - FiercePharma

How China's lockdowns are taking a toll on global companies

International brands are revealing the damage to their bottom lines from China's "zero Covid" policy, where tens of millions of people remain in lockdown and almost every major business has been disrupted. In recent weeks, dozens of mainland Chinese cities, including the financial hub of Shanghai, have been locked down as authorities work to stamp out the coronavirus. For industries ranging from Big Tech to consumer goods, that's destroying both supply and demand — and giving executives another major headache. Many companies had just run up millions, or billions, of dollars in losses due to the war in Ukraine, which led to a massive — and costly — corporate exodus from Russia.
11th May 2022 - CNN

Untapped Global Vaccine Stash Raises Risks of New Covid Variants

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. Shots that were once rare are now piling up and even expiring, a problem on the agenda of a second global Covid-19 summit the US is co-hosting on Thursday. President Joe Biden kicked off the first summit eight months ago by announcing the US would donate another 500 million doses to the international vaccination campaign, nearly doubling its total pledge. But now, vaccine makers are idling production or face shutdowns as demand for shots wanes, even with the world still far from a target of inoculating 70% of humanity. Republicans in Congress have so far blocked additional funding for the US and international vaccination campaigns.
11th May 2022 - Bloomberg

Lucid CEO concerned about chip supplies from China due to COVID-19

The chief executive of Lucid Group Inc on Wednesday expressed concern about chip supplies from China due to COVID-19 pandemic-related lockdowns, adding that the U.S. electric vehicle startup is taking measures to mitigate the impact. "My biggest concern probably is semiconductors from China and the impact of COVID in that part of the world," Lucid CEO Peter Rawlinson said at a conference held by the Financial Times.
11th May 2022 - Reuters

Telehealth aims to crack open Paxlovid’s prescription bottleneck

After months of shortages, pharmacies across the United States are being stocked with drugs to treat Covid-19. Now, the bottleneck has shifted to getting a prescription — and patients and public health agencies are looking to telehealth for help. Last week, Massachusetts launched free televisits for state residents who have tested positive for Covid-19, including home delivery of Paxlovid, Pfizer’s oral antiviral, if prescribed. New York City has filled more than 16,000 courses of the drug through its home delivery program, 2,100 of which started with a free telehealth visit with NYC Health + Hospitals. And a growing number of virtual care companies are promoting televisits as a first-line resource for patients who have tested positive, advertising against Google searches for “Paxlovid” and partnering with testing companies that route patients to their providers.
10th May 2022 - STAT News

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Employers requiring job applicants to have a Covid-19 vaccine is declining, study finds

The share of job ads that require candidates to have a Covid-19 vaccine seems to be on the decline. About 6.7% of U.S. job listings cited vaccination as a necessity for applicants as of April 29, according to a new analysis by AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist at Indeed, a job site. The share has slowly fallen since March 12, when it touched a pandemic-era peak of 7.1%.
10th May 2022 - CNBC

South Africa Cuts Back Covid Vaccine Drive Amid Citizen Apathy

South Africa is scaling back its Covid-19 vaccination drive and may have to destroy doses because of a lack of demand from citizens even as the country heads into a fifth wave of infections. Take up has slowed to the point where keeping some sites running is unaffordable, said Nicholas Crisp, deputy director-general at the department of health and the person in charge of the program. Covid-19 vaccinations will need to be incorporated into South Africa’s standard medical programs, which means these specific shots will be less accessible, he said.
10th May 2022 - Bloomberg

Why a Covid Vaccine Mandate for N.Y.C. Schoolchildren Is Unlikely Soon

Teachers at New York City public schools are required to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Children involved in after-school activities that have a higher risk of spreading the virus — including many sports, as well as chorus and band — must be vaccinated, too. But while New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York Gov. Kathy Hochul have both said they support making Covid vaccination for all public school children mandatory, that does not necessarily mean it is happening soon. Momentum on the issue, both in New York and across the country, has stalled, lawmakers and experts say. In part, this is because the F.D.A. has not yet granted full approval to a Covid-19 vaccine for children under 16. Another problem is the disappointing efficacy of the current Pfizer vaccine against preventing infection in children under 12. (The F.D.A. has granted emergency authorization for children 5 to 16.)
10th May 2022 - The New York Times

Emergent Hid Evidence of Covid Vaccine Problems at Plant, Report Says

Emergent BioSolutions, a longtime government contractor hired to produce hundreds of millions of coronavirus vaccine doses, hid evidence of quality control problems from Food and Drug Administration inspectors in February 2021 — six weeks before it alerted federal officials that 15 million doses had been contaminated. The disclosure came in a report released Tuesday by House Democrats, who said that all told, nearly 400 million doses of coronavirus vaccine manufactured by Emergent had to be destroyed “due to poor quality control.” Previous estimates of lost vaccine were far lower; no contaminated doses were ever released to the public. The report, issued jointly by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, is the product of an investigation that began last year, after The New York Times documented months of problems at Emergent’s troubled Bayview plant in Baltimore.
10th May 2022 - The New York Times

High-risk COVID-19 patients can now get two antiviral prescription drugs — but some are still missing out

For Australians at high risk of developing severe COVID-19, getting access to potentially lifesaving treatment recently became easier — but experts say some are still missing out. On May 1, COVID-19 antiviral drug Paxlovid — the most effective oral treatment to date — was listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), which means it can now be prescribed by a GP or nurse and dispensed at a community pharmacy. It's the second antiviral drug to be listed on the PBS for people at high risk of severe COVID-19, following the addition of molnupiravir (also known as "Lagevrio") back in March.
10th May 2022 - ABC.Net.au

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Pandemic pushes Spanish workers out of the shadows

For decades, a cash-filled envelope - or "sobre" - was how hundreds of thousands of Spaniards working without legal contracts in tourism, agriculture or construction collected their salaries. COVID-19, however, may finally be putting paid to the "sobre", economic data and workers' experiences suggest - accelerating a six-year-long crackdown in Spain on the shadow economy and providing a welcome boost to the country's public finances.
9th May 2022 - Reuters

Aptiv Shanghai plant suspends some shipments after COVID cases - sources

Aptiv stopped shipping over the weekend some parts from a Shanghai plant that supplies Tesla Inc and General Motors Co after COVID-19 infections were found among its workers, two people familiar with the matter said on Monday. The suspension of shipments from Aptiv could represent a setback to Tesla, which had planned to bring output in Shanghai back to the levels before the city locked down to control a wave of infections and forced a shutdown through much of April.
9th May 2022 - Reuters

China's April exports slow, imports unchanged amid expanding virus curbs

Article reports that China's export growth slowed to single digits, the weakest in almost two years, while imports barely changed in April as tighter and wider COVID-19 curbs halted factory production and crimped domestic demand, adding to wider economic woes. Exports in dollar terms grew 3.9% in April from a year earlier, dropping sharply from the 14.7% growth reported in March although slightly better than analysts' forecast of 3.2%. It was the slowest pace since June 2020. Imports were broadly stable year-on-year, improving slightly from a 0.1% fall in March and a bit better than the 3.0% contraction tipped by the Reuters poll.
9th May 2022 - Reuters

Covid-19 guidance changes announced for universities and colleges

The Welsh Government has formally removed the Infection Control Framework for Higher and Further Education institutions from today. The change will bring higher and further education into line with the wider public health guidance followed by businesses, employers and event organisers. The advice covers control measures that could be implemented to reduce the risk of transmission of the most common communicable diseases, including Coronavirus, flu and norovirus.
9th May 2022 - Wales 247

Chaos at Apple supplier shows strains of Shanghai COVID lockdown

Quanta Shanghai Manufacturing City would seem like an ideal site to implement China's "closed-loop" management system to prevent the spread of COVID that requires staff to live and work on-site in a secure bubble. Sprawled over land the size of 20 football fields, the campus houses factories, living quarters for 40,000 workers, some living 12 per room, and even a supermarket. But as COVID-19 breeched Quanta's defences, the system broke down into chaos. Videos posted online showed more than a hundred Quanta workers physically overwhelming security guards in hazmat suits and vaulting over factory gates to escape being trapped inside the factory amid rumours that workers on the floor that day tested positive for COVID.
9th May 2022 - Reuters

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Wisconsin is experiencing an increase in COVID-19 deaths, hospitalizations and cases

The state is experiencing an uptick in new reported deaths, hospitalizations and cases as new data analysis shows that this is not just a pandemic of the unvaccinated. The pandemic’s toll is no longer falling almost exclusively on those who chose not to or could not get shots, a Washington Post analysis that was published late last month found. During the omicron variant surge, the vaccinated made up 42% of deaths in January and February, compared with 23% of the dead in September, the peak of the delta wave, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
8th May 2022 - Yahoo

Pent-up demand prompts European travel recovery as COVID curbs ease

"There is a lot of pent-up demand. People want to see their families and travel again," said Phil Seymour, president of IBA Group, a UK-based consultancy and aircraft valuation firm. That echoes soaring domestic demand in the United States. "The big overlay is that air travel demand is back and it is back in a massive way," Sean Egan, Chief Executive of the Egan-Jones Ratings Company, told the Airfinance Journal conference. Challenges remain in the form of rising costs and staff shortages causing flights to be cancelled. Some airlines have promised more than they can deliver this summer, delegates warned.
8th May 2022 - Reuters

Covid in Africa: Why the continent's only vaccine plant is struggling

Some experts blame concerns over the safety and efficacy of Covid vaccines for the slow uptake in many African countries. However others argue that after struggling to get vaccines, Africa experienced a glut of supply which was difficult to use in the required time,
7th May 2022 - BBC News

Universities Have Returned in Person, But Some Disabled Students Don't Want to Go Back

Mya Pol said it takes her about 30 minutes to get from her dorm at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst to her communications class. The trip across campus would take most of her peers less than half that time, she said. Ms. Pol, a 21-year-old senior communications major, uses a wheelchair. She said that every day she wonders how different her college experience would have been if she could have attended classes remotely, as she has during most of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Disabled people have been asking for remote access to work and education forever,” Ms. Pol said. “That sprung up pretty quickly with Covid and was fantastic. It created a lot more access for individuals who couldn’t make the class.”
7th May 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

War in Europe and China’s Battle With Covid Boost U.S.’s Business Appeal

European businesses are stepping up U.S. investment as executives search for growth and stability amid turbulence caused by the war in Ukraine and tough Covid-19 lockdowns in China. The U.S. economy has emerged strong from the pandemic, while Europe’s recovery prospects have been cast into doubt by the Ukraine war. Plus Beijing's stringent zero-Covid policy and regulatory crackdowns on technology companies and debt problems at large real estate businesses have raised questions about its commitment to economic growth. Exposure to the Chinese market has provided enormous growth and profits for European companies over the past decades. Few European executives are considering a wholesale withdrawal from China, but as its economy creaks, businesses are rethinking their investment strategies.
7th May 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

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Travel industry, airlines urge end to COVID testing to enter U.S.

Major U.S. airlines, business and travel groups and other companies urged the White House on Thursday to abandon COVID-19 pre-departure testing requirements for vaccinated international passengers traveling to the United States. "Given the slow economic recovery of the business and international travel sectors, and in light of medical advancements and the improved public health metrics in the U.S., we encourage you to immediately remove the inbound testing requirement for vaccinated air travelers," said the letter signed by American Airlines, Carnival Corp, Marriott International, Walt Disney Co's Disney Parks, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Travel Association and others.
5th May 2022 - Reuters

Spain's tourist arrivals jump 8-fold in March, edge toward pre-COVID levels

Spain received 4 million tourists in March, more than eight times as many as in the same month last year, after most pandemic-related restrictions were lifted, data from the National Institute of Statistics (INE) showed on Thursday. Foreign tourists spent 5.07 billion euros ($5.37 billion) while on holiday in the country in March, up from a mere 544 million euros a year earlier, the data showed. "Spain closes this first quarter with good data on arrivals and tourist spending, a trend that we hope will intensify in the summer period," Tourist Minister Reyes Maroto said on her Twitter account.
5th May 2022 - Reuters.com

COVID-hit Beijing returns to work after subdued Labour Day break

Beijing residents tentatively returned to work on Thursday after a muted five-day Labour Day holiday devoid of the usual trips across the country or lavish family dinners, as China pledged to fight any criticism of its uncompromising "zero-COVID" policy. The long break is usually one of the most lucrative times of the year for restaurants, hotels and other businesses in China. This year, travellers spent 43% less than in 2021, data showed on Thursday
5th May 2022 - Reuters.com

S.Africa's Aspen to slash COVID vaccine capacity within 6 weeks if no orders - CEO

Aspen Pharmacare will switch about half of its COVID-19 vaccine production capacity onto other products if demand doesn't pick up within six weeks, its CEO warned, as South Africa's president and health officials urged more Africans to take up the shots. Aspen completed a deal in March to package, sell and distribute Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine in what was considered a game-changing moment for an under-vaccinated continent frustrated by sluggish Western handouts.
5th May 2022 - Reuters.com

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China's Big Pledges Set to Test Covid-Weary Markets in Reopening

Article reports that Chinese markets will return to action Thursday after a three-day break, putting to test whether Beijing has done enough to convince investors that strict Covid lockdowns won’t hamper efforts to boost economic growth and pledges to go gentle on Big Tech are genuine. Stocks may come under pressure following losses in Hong Kong shares earlier this week, a reversal of Friday’s rally after Chinese leaders vowed to spur a faltering economy and signaled a softening stance toward private enterprise. Economic pessimism means the yuan will likely continue to struggle and bonds may be supported, although the outcome of a key Federal Reserve meeting Wednesday also will help shape their directions.
4th May 2022 - Bloomberg

Covid 19 Omicron outbreak: Siouxsie Wiles - what we know about BA.4 and BA.5 variants

BA.4 and BA.5 are responsible for a new wave of Covid-19 cases in South Africa. At least one of them has arrived on our shores. So what does the science tell us about these new Omicron variants? While most countries are winding down their testing and sequencing efforts, South Africa has been doing an absolutely stellar job of detecting new Covid-19 virus variants. It was the country that first identified the three original Omicron lineages (BA.1, BA.2, and BA.3) back in November last year. Once other countries started to look, they found Omicron everywhere. BA.1 started the initial global Omicron wave, followed by the more infectious BA.2. In South Africa they only had one large BA.1 wave. Here in New Zealand, BA.1 and BA.2 arrived and seeded into the community very close together, so we had both at the same time – though BA.2 became the dominant lineage. BA.3 never really took off anywhere.
4th May 2022 - New Zealand Herald

Taiwan's Foxconn says no change to production in China's COVID-hit Zhengzhou

Major Taiwanese Apple Inc supplier Foxconn said on Wednesday that it is continuing production in China's Zhengzhou, which announced on Tuesday it would impose new COVID-19-related movement curbs for May 4-10. "Our park has maintained production unchanged," it said in a statement, referring to the industrial area where its facilities are located in the central Chinese city.
4th May 2022 - Reuters

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Beijing 'preparing 1000-bed hospital for new Covid spike'

Beijing is preparing thousands of hospital beds to deal with a spike in Covid-19 cases, according to local reports. A 1,000-bed hospital at Xiaotangshan in the northeastern suburbs, built for the 2003 Sars outbreak, has been refurbished in case it is needed,
4th May 2022 - The Independent

ACT to drop COVID-19 vaccine mandates for healthcare workers, teachers in Canberra

Workers in healthcare and education settings across Canberra will soon no longer be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19, the ACT Health Minister has announced. Speaking in the ACT Legislative Assembly, Rachel Stephen-Smith flagged the changes would come into place on May 13, and would no longer require healthcare workers or teachers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. She said the move was based on advice provided by Chief Health Officer Kerryn Coleman. But Ms Stephen-Smith said the mandatory vaccination requirements would still remain in place for workers in aged care and disability settings.
3rd May 2022 - ABC.Net.au

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New York City Raises Covid-19 Alert Level to 'Medium' as Case Numbers Rise

The recent uptick in Covid cases across New York City has prompted increased caution from the city. The city has moved to a “medium” alert level from “low” as new cases per 100,000 people over the last seven days has surpassed 200. The latest figure of 209.02 cases per 100,000 is the highest since early February. New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Ashwin Vasan and Mayor Eric Adams said they’ve seen an increase in hospitalizations from the latest wave. At an unrelated press conference on Monday, they repeated calls for vaccinations, boosters, indoor masking to help the city curb the rise in virus cases.
2nd May 2022 - Bloomberg

Covid Testing Stations to Disappear in Oslo as City Moves On

Norway’s capital is gradually closing its municipal testing stations as it removes a general recommendation for the city’s residents to test for Covid-19. May 9 will be the last day that people can test at the public stations, the Oslo municipality said in a statement on its website. People wishing to get checked before traveling internationally will need to use private providers, it said. Norway ranked first for a second month in Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking in April. The Nordic nation is among a growing group that no longer have Covid-related travel curbs in place, and has even scrapped a requirement to self-isolate after a positive result.
2nd May 2022 - Bloomberg

COVID threatens new U.S. Senate delays for Biden's Fed, FTC nominees

An effort by U.S. Senate Democrats to move forward on President Joe Biden's nominees for the Federal Reserve and Federal Trade Commission appeared headed for a second week of delay on Monday, after another Democratic lawmaker tested positive for COVID-19. Senator Michael Bennet of Colorado said on Twitter that he tested positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 on Sunday, adding that he would quarantine at home in Denver for the week. "I'm experiencing minor, cold-like symptoms and plan to work virtually," Bennet said.
2nd May 2022 - Reuters

South Africa's Aspen COVID-19 vaccine plant risks closure after no orders, executive says

Africa's first COVID-19 vaccination plant, touted last year as a trailblazer for an under-vaccinated continent frustrated by sluggish Western handouts, risks shutting down after receiving not a single order, a company executive said on Saturday. South Africa's Aspen Pharmacare negotiated a licensing deal in November to package and sell Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine and distribute it across Africa. The World Health Organization (WHO) called the deal a "transformative moment" in the drive towards levelling stark inequalities in access to COVID vaccines.
2nd May 2022 - Reuters

China Contagion Threatens to Derail the World’s Emerging Markets

A widespread selloff in China is rippling through emerging markets, threatening to snuff out growth and drag down everything from stocks to currencies and bonds. Fresh Covid outbreaks -- and the government’s stringent policy to contain them -- are spooking global investors who fear shutdowns in China will echo across the world by lowering demand and disrupting supply chains. That’s pushing them to sell not just China’s currency, bonds and stocks but the assets of any developing nation which relies heavily on trade with the second-biggest economy. The result is the sharpest slide in emerging markets in two years, not unlike the meltdown in 2015 when China’s woes led to a rout in their bonds and currencies, besides wiping out $2 trillion from equity values. Since then, the country’s influence on the global economy has only grown: It’s now the largest buyer of commodities, meaning its slump may impact exporters of raw materials and their markets more than ever.
2nd May 2022 - Bloomberg

Chinese Omicron-specific mRNA COVID vaccine candidate to be trialed in UAE

China's Suzhou Abogen Biosciences Co said its COVID-19 vaccine candidate using the messenger RNA (mRNA) technology and targeting the Omicron variant has obtained clinical trial approval in the United Arab Emirates. With Friday's announcement, Abogen joins Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna in trialing candidates modified specifically against Omicron, a highly transmissible variant with increased resistance to antibodies elicited by existing shots.
1st May 2022 - Reuters

Shanghai factories scramble to reopen as COVID lockdown lingers

Companies reopening factories in locked-down Shanghai are booking hotel rooms to house workers and turning vacant workshops into on-site isolation facilities as authorities urge them to resume work while complying with tough COVID-19 curbs. Hundreds of companies including multinationals Tesla and 3M have reopened factories in the Chinese economic hub under local guidelines requiring them to isolate workers inside a "closed-loop".
30th Apr 2022 - Reuters

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A fight over coronavirus safety at journalists' gala event

More than 2,000 journalists, celebrities and politicians, including President Biden, are set to descend on the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner this weekend in what is shaping up to be a major test of whether large gatherings can be safely held at this stage of the pandemic. Organizers say they are committed to holding an event that significantly reduces the risk of coronavirus infections, pointing to vaccine and testing requirements that were strengthened after a dinner hosted by Washington’s Gridiron Club this month was linked to at least 85 infections that sickened Cabinet members, reporters and other guests. Yet some White House officials and experts worry that those measures are insufficient and that this weekend’s events may become another high-profile superspreader event, said three administration officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue. Behind the scenes, one prominent coronavirus expert is scrapping with party organizers hesitant to install devices that disinfect the air using ultraviolet light because of concerns the devices might interfere with the program.
28th Apr 2022 - The Washington Post

Nearly 60,000 COVID-19 rapid test kits sold in 2 hours

Nearly 60,000 COVID-19 rapid test kits were sold in two hours across Taiwan as the government launched its rapid test kit rationing scheme on Thursday. As of 9 a.m. on Thursday, 59,214 test kits had been sold at 2,323 stores and health centers, Director-General of the National Health Insurance Administration (NHIA) Lee Po-chang said.
28th Apr 2022 - Focus Taiwan News Channel

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U.S. to widen COVID antiviral pill distribution

Pfizer's COVID-19 pill Paxlovid is packaged in Ascoli. U.S. President Joe Biden's administration is aiming to expand access to COVID-19 oral antiviral treatments like Pfizer Inc's Paxlovid by doubling the number of locations at which they are available, the White House said on Tuesday. Pharmacies participating in the federal pharmacy program for distributing antiviral treatments will be able to order the free treatments directly from the U.S. government starting this week. Currently, pharmacies depend on states to obtain the pills. The government sends the treatments to select pharmacies, as well as directly to states and community centers. Under the current system, the treatments are available in around 20,000 locations. The administration expects to boost their direct distribution to more than 30,000 locations soon and reach 40,000 sites over the coming weeks, the White House said. "Treatments are really the next phase of this pandemic, where we have to make the treatments, these highly effective treatments, widely available," Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, said in an interview on CNN. Demand for Paxlovid has been unexpectedly light due to complicated eligibility requirements, reduced COVID testing, and potential for drug interactions.
27th Apr 2022 - Reuters

Satellite Data Show Extent of China's Crippling Lockdowns

Chinese port activity fell below levels seen during the first coronavirus outbreak in 2020 and construction has plummeted, satellite data show, suggesting official economic figures will likely worsen as Covid lockdowns spread. Satellite images are becoming an important real-time data tool to measure the impact of China’s worst coronavirus outbreak since 2020. Official numbers are released only monthly, and are increasingly coming under scrutiny as Beijing sticks to its ambitious growth target of about 5.5% even though its Covid Zero approach has forced major hubs like Shanghai to shut down. New York-based SpaceKnow, which tracks activity at more than 1,300 factories from space, said manufacturing output remained strong through the lockdowns in March and early April, although inventories are building up. That’s likely a sign of logistical snarls as coronavirus restrictions cause major disruptions and shortages of trucks able to move goods to ports and around the country.
26th Apr 2022 - Bloomberg

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China's Covid Crisis Threatens Global Supply Chain Chaos for Summer 2022

China’s stringent rules to curb Covid-19 are about to unleash another wave of summer chaos on supply chains between Asia, the U.S. and Europe. Beijing’s zero-tolerance approach amid an escalating virus outbreak brings the pandemic full circle, more than two years after its emergence in Wuhan upended the global economy. Shipping congestion at Chinese ports, combined with Russia’s war in Ukraine, risks a one-two punch that threatens to derail the recovery, already buffeted by inflation pressures and headwinds to growth. Even if the virus is reined in, the disruptions will ripple globally — and extend through the year — as bunched-up cargo vessels start sailing again.
26th Apr 2022 - Bloomberg

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World's Biggest Vaccine Maker Serum Halts Production Over Millions of Unused Doses

Serum Institute of India Ltd., the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer and a key supplier of Covid-19 inoculations to developing countries, has stopped making fresh batches of shots after its stockpile grew to 200 million doses amid a global supply glut. “We have got 200 million doses of stock. We had to shut down production in December,” Serum’s chief executive officer Adar Poonawalla said at the India Economic Conclave organized by Times Network on Friday, saying he was worried about wastage if the shots expired. “I have even offered to give free donations to whoever wanted to take it.”
25th Apr 2022 - Bloomberg

Vaccine effectiveness against COVID-19 infection and related hospitalization

In the present study, the researchers estimated the effectiveness of two and three doses of COVID-19 messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 Alpha, Delta, and Omicron variant infection and related hospitalization. The study population comprised Denmark residents aged 12 years or older in a time period where either the Alpha, Delta, or Omicron variants were dominant. The team included only the first SARS-CoV-2 positive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test of a participant. They obtained information on all laboratory-confirmed positive reverse transcription-PCR (RT-PCR) results from the Danish microbiology database (MiBa). COVID-19-related hospitalization was defined as a new hospital admission lasting at least 12 hours, occurring within two days prior to or 14 days after the diagnosis with either the SARS-CoV-2 Alpha, Delta, or Omicron variant infection.
25th Apr 2022 - News-Medical.Net

Covid-19 data reporting is becoming less frequent, making trends harder to track

Many states are scaling back on how often they report key Covid-19 statistics, a shift that some experts worry might hinder efforts to mitigate outbreaks and negative effects of the coronavirus. A year ago, all 50 states were reporting new Covid-19 cases on a daily basis. But that has gradually trailed off. This week, Pennsylvania will be the latest state to switch from daily to weekly updates, leaving just six states that will still be reporting new Covid-19 cases every day of the week. About half of states now report just once a week, with Florida down to every two weeks.
25th Apr 2022 - CNN

China Covid Shock Sees Beijing Consider Risky Debt Option Again

China has signaled a willingness to allow local governments to increase off-balance sheet debt again after a crackdown in recent years to bring it under control. The People’s Bank of China said last week that banks should meet the “reasonable funding needs” of local government financing vehicles, or LGFVs, and not “blindly” suspend or withdraw loans from the companies. The measures were one of 23 listed by the central bank to help boost lending and support industries battered by Covid outbreaks and lockdowns. While Beijing still remains committed to debt control, the economy’s slump is forcing policy makers to ease up on some restrictions. To bolster growth, local governments have been instructed to boost investment in infrastructure, but since they face a cash crunch because of a property market slump, many will need financial help from LGFVs.
25th Apr 2022 - Bloomberg

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Beijing on alert after COVID-19 cases discovered in school

Beijing is on alert after 10 middle school students tested positive for COVID-19, in what city officials said was an initial round of testing. City officials suspended classes in the school for a week following the positive test results on Friday. The Chinese capital also reported four other confirmed cases that day that were counted separately. Mainland China reported 24,326 new community-transmitted infections on Saturday, with the vast majority of them asymptomatic cases in Shanghai, where enforcement of a strict “zero-COVID” strategy has drawn global attention. China has doubled down on the approach even in face of the highly transmissible omicron variant.
24th Apr 2022 - The Associated Press

NYC Suspends School Staff for Allegedly Using Fake Vaccine IDs

The New York City Department of Education suspended about 70 employees for allegedly using fake vaccination cards, the teachers’ union said. The department placed the employees on unpaid leave with benefits, effective April 25, and the Special Commissioner of Investigation for the New York City School District and law enforcement agencies are investigating the incident. “Fraudulent vaccination cards are not only illegal, they also undermine the best line of protection our schools have against Covid-19 – universal adult vaccination,” said Nathaniel Styer, a spokesperson for the DOE. It wasn’t immediately clear how the department discovered the alleged fake cards.
23rd Apr 2022 - Bloomberg

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A prolonged China slowdown raises risks for global economy, IMF chief says

A prolonged slowdown in China would have substantial global spillovers, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said on Thursday, but added that Beijing has room to adjust policy to provide support. The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday cut its growth forecast for China this year to 4.4%, well below Beijing's target of around 5.5%, on the risks of widespread COVID-19 lockdowns and supply chain disruptions. In a video speech to the annual Boao Forum for Asia, Georgieva said China's actions to counter its economic slowdown are vital for the global recovery.
21st Apr 2022 - Reuters

Aspen In Talks With African Leaders on Low Covid Vaccine Orders

Article reports that Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Ltd. is in talks with African leaders about how to raise demand for Covid-19 vaccines after the continent’s biggest drugmaker warned a lack of orders may force it to stop making the shots. Discussions are “underway and I assure you it’s been elevated to the highest level on the continent,” John Nkengasong, director of Africa CDC, said at a briefing on Thursday. “I’m sure more details will be provided in coming days, once we have more details from Africa’s political leadership.” Nkengasong last week appealed to African countries to place orders with local manufacturers including Durban, South Africa-based Aspen, which makes doses on behalf of Johnson & Johnson and in March said it agreed to make the shots under its own brand.
21st Apr 2022 - Bloomberg

Coronavirus Northern Ireland: Health bosses take action due to poor uptake of vaccine in young kids

Only 1.39% of children aged five to 11 in Northern Ireland have been vaccinated against Covid-19, health bosses have said. The Public Health Agency (PHA) has created a vaccination toolkit to support uptake as it said safety concerns may be a driving factor for the low uptake in youngsters here. The vaccine has been available to children deemed to be at risk from the virus and those who live with someone who is immunocompromised since December but was opened up to all five to 11 year olds in February.
21st Apr 2022 - Belfast Telegraph

After rejecting COVID rule, Arizona could lose oversight of workplace safety

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration on Wednesday moved to revoke Arizona's ability to police workplace safety within the state after it refused to adopt a federal rule requiring COVID-19 protections for healthcare workers. OSHA in a proposal published in the Federal Register said Arizona's failure to enforce the emergency COVID-19 rule last year was the latest in a decade-long series of instances where the state shirked its duty to adopt safety standards at least as strict as comparable federal requirements.
21st Apr 2022 - Reuters.com

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Brazil meat exporters face hurdles shipping product via COVID-hit Shanghai -lobby group

Brazil's ABPA, a lobby group representing large pork and chicken processors like JBS SA and BRF SA, said on Wednesday its member companies are facing difficulties shipping products through the Port of Shanghai. The statement, sent in response to a question from Reuters about the effects of the COVID lockdown in the Chinese city, said cargoes are being redirected to other ports, such as Yantian. "There are no reports of suspension of sales," the statement said, referring to rumors about potential contract cancellations.
21st Apr 2022 - Reuters

Awash in Covid Vaccines, Romania Faces Storage Headache

Romania is struggling to find storage for millions of Covid vaccine doses it hasn’t used, even as more are slated to arrive this year. More than two years into the pandemic, the country remains one of the European Union’s least vaccinated. Now the government is asking the EU for help and trying to sell or donate doses from Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. to resolve a storage headache that’s set to worsen while avoiding wasting the shots. About 6.5 million doses delivered in January and February have been sold to Germany and Hungary, but another 39 million are scheduled to arrive this year and next, according to Health Minister Alexandru Rafila. One country was offered 1.1 million doses for free and has “yet to show interest in picking them up.”
20th Apr 2022 - Bloomberg

Hong Kong launches new platform for recovered Covid-19 patients

From April 19, people who've recovered from Covid-19 can now download a QR code issued by the government via the Covid-19 Electronic Vaccination and Testing Record System and use the electronic record when entering designated premises like restaurants, shopping malls, and supermarkets instead of the vaccine pass. The QR code is valid within six months from the date of recovery. Downloading the recovery record QR code will require recovered Covid-19 patients to provide the number and date of issue of their Hong Kong identity card, discharge date from the hospital, or positive test result for identification. The recovery QR code may also be downloaded using the iAM Smart app and the latest version of the eHealth app. Those who received isolation orders issued by the Department of Health (DH) will instantly get the recovery record QR code. The QR code may be saved in the LeaveHomeSafe mobile application to facilitate scanning when entering a Vaccine Pass premises.
20th Apr 2022 - Time Out

North Wales company to stop producing Covid-19 Vaccine

A pharmaceutical company that has helped in the production of the Covid-19 vaccine will 'right size' business as the wide-scale rollout comes to an end. Wockhardt, based on the Wrexham Industrial Estate, is a global pharmaceutical and biotechnology organisation that had a contract with the UK Government to help produce Covid- 19 vaccines during the mass roll-out. Now, the rollout is coming to an end, and the company will be scaling back the work, leading to job losses. A spokesperson for the company said: “Wockhardt is incredibly proud to have played a vital role in mitigating the global impact of COVID-19.
20th Apr 2022 - North Wales Chronicle

Taiwan firms in China hub make uneven restart from COVID curbs

Taiwan firms making chip and electronic components reported a mixed picture on Wednesday on work resumption in the eastern Chinese city of Kunshan after COVID-19 curbs, with some warning deliveries would be postponed until next month. China has put Shanghai under a tight lockdown since late March and neighbouring Kunshan has also tightened curbs to control the country's biggest COVID-19 outbreak since the coronavirus was discovered in late 2019 in the city of Wuhan
20th Apr 2022 - Reuters.com

In Shanghai lockdown, Carrefour staff sleeps at store to keep residents supplied

To prepare the 3,000-plus orders of vegetables, meat and essentials her Carrefour supermarket sends out every day to locked-in Shanghai residents, manager Zhang Wei wakes at 5 a.m. after a night in a sleeping bag on her office floor. Zhang and 43 colleagues have been hunkered down inside the store in Shanghai's western Xujing suburb since April 1, isolated from the outside world while working long days to fill online orders from neighbouring housing compounds. Her Carrefour branch is one of more than 1,000 grocery stores open during Shanghai's lockdown, albeit under stringent requirements to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The city government is trying to increase the number of stores open.
20th Apr 2022 - Reuters

IMF's Georgieva says China should stimulate consumption as lockdowns mount

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said on Wednesday that China should use fiscal space to stimulate consumption as it faces an economic slowdown prompted by renewed COVID-19 lockdowns. Georgieva said that China had ample fiscal and monetary policy space to counteract this, but it would be better to stimulate consumption. "What we see in China is that consumption is falling short, it is not recovering as strongly as necessary," Georgieva told a news conference at the International Monetary Fund and World Bank spring meetings.
20th Apr 2022 - Reuters

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Analysis: Demand for Pfizer's COVID pills lags around the world

Worldwide demand for Pfizer's oral COVID-19 antiviral treatment Paxlovid has been unexpectedly light due to complicated eligibility requirements, reduced testing, and potential for drug interactions, a Reuters review of data and interviews with experts has found. Demand also has been hampered by the perception that Omicron infections are not that severe. Paxlovid was expected to be a major tool in the fight against COVID after it reduced hospitalizations or deaths in high-risk patients by around 90% in a clinical trial.
19th Apr 2022 - Reuters

J&J pulls COVID vaccine sales forecast due to low demand, supply glut

Johnson & Johnson on Tuesday rescinded its forecast for sales of its COVID-19 vaccine, as hesitancy in low income countries has led to a glut of supply of a shot once hoped to be the inoculation of choice for the developing world. The company had previously predicted as much as $3.5 billion in 2022 sales from the single-dose vaccine, but demand has withered. Still, the company reported strong results for its medical devices business and raised its dividend, driving shares up around 3%.
20th Apr 2022 - Reuters

Taiwan faces tough choices as COVID-19 cases hit record levels

Last Tuesday, Taiwan’s health minister said the island could see 1,000 local COVID-19 cases a day by the end of the month. It hit that level just three days later, and must now choose between living with the virus like New Zealand or sticking with elimination strategies like in Hong Kong. Local cases hit a new record of 1,390 on Monday and have averaged 1,176 over the past five days. The surge rattled many of the island’s 23 million people, which has seen just 854 COVID-19 deaths from local infection over the entire pandemic. “The scale of the pandemic right now is very large,” Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said at a briefing Friday, adding Taiwan may one day see tens of thousands — or even millions — of cases. “The point is not about the case counts, but about whether we can prevent a disastrous impact.”
19th Apr 2022 - The Japan Times

Cairo's Ramadan street feasts return after coronavirus suspension

Communal meals in which hundreds of people pack around long tables to break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan have returned to Egypt's streets after being widely suspended for the past two years due to COVID-19 restrictions. Egypt has been hit by successive waves of COVID-19 infections and imposed a nighttime curfew that coincided with Ramadan in 2020. Most restrictions have now been lifted.
19th Apr 2022 - Reuters

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Small Businesses Object to Rerouting of Covid-19 Aid

Small-business owners are bristling over a congressional proposal that would redirect unspent money from Covid-19 programs to provide $10 billion for the federal government’s pandemic health response, including vaccines and therapeutics. At issue is about $5 billion that Congress allocated for three small-business aid programs but which hasn’t yet been spent. Some lawmakers want to repurpose those existing funds for healthcare, rather than allocate new money, because they are increasingly focused on reining in the federal deficit and spending amid a surge in inflation, which is at a 40-year high. The debate underscores the struggle to fulfill requests made by the Biden administration to address pandemic needs, while also accommodating Republican demands to not spend new money.
18th Apr 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

Australia's Pandemic-Era Ban on Cruise Ships Comes to an End

Australia’s two-year long ban on cruise ships expires on Sunday, another step toward the rehabilitation of tourism from the damage wrought by the pandemic. The ban on foreign cruise ships -- imposed in March 2020 after a Covid outbreak aboard the Ruby Princess spilled into Sydney once the vessel docked -- cost the Australian economy more than A$10 billion ($7.4 billion), the Cruise Lines International Association estimates. Operators “are preparing for a carefully managed resumption of operations in a sector that previously supported more than 18,000 Australian jobs,” the association said in a statement ahead of the ban’s expiry.
18th Apr 2022 - Bloomberg

Bangladesh, Nepal celebrate new years after pandemic pause

After a two-year break, thousands of people in Bangladesh and Nepal on Thursday celebrated their respective new years with colorful processions and musical soirees as the coronavirus pandemic eased and life swung back to normal. In Bangladesh’s capital, Dhaka, people clad in the traditional red attire ushered in the Bengali year 1429. They marched, sang and danced at a prominent arts college on the Dhaka University campus and in historic Ramna Park. Similar processions were organized in other parts of Dhaka and elsewhere in the country, but the celebration was subdued as the Muslim-majority Bangladesh was also observing the fasting month of Ramadan amid scorching heat.
15th Apr 2022 - The Associated Press

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Diversifying supply chains from China 'probably good for everyone' -World Bank chief

Countries around the world are working to diversify their supply chains and reduce their dependence on China, which is "probably good for everyone," World Bank President David Malpass said on Tuesday. Malpass said cross-border trade would remain important to the global economy, and China - already the world's second largest economy and likely to become the largest - had a big role to play as both a consumer and producer of goods. But, speaking at an event in Warsaw, he said China also needed to be part of a value system shared by other countries in the global trading system, and added, "I don't know that that will happen."
14th Apr 2022 - Reuters

Mexico plans vaccinations for more children, presses for COVAX doses

Mexico will vaccinate more children against COVID-19, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Wednesday, urging global health authorities to deliver the doses it had ordered for the purpose. Mexico last year began inoculating some at-risk children, and children with disabilities, but has so far held back from rolling out a broader vaccination program for minors. Lopez Obrador said he was awaiting doses under the COVAX program, run by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI).
14th Apr 2022 - Reuters

Fourth dose of a COVID-19 vaccine available in the NT, as testing rules ease for those recovering from the virus

In Australia, a fourth dose of a COVID-19 vaccine is now available to eligible Territorians, Northern Territory Health Minister Natasha Fyles has announced. The dose is recommended as an extra booster shot for vulnerable people who are at greatest risk of severe illness from the coronavirus.
13th Apr 2022 - ABC.Net.au

Coronavirus: Pupil Covid absence rate falls to lowest level

In Northern Ireland, the number of school pupils absent due to Covid-19 has fallen to its lowest level of the 2021/22 school year. That is according to attendance data provided by schools and published by the Department of Education (DE). In the last full week before most schools broke up for Easter only 1 in every 200 pupils (0.5%) was off sick with Covid-19. However, pupil absences for other reasons are higher than they were pre-pandemic.
13th Apr 2022 - BBC News

How accurate are COVID-19 rapid antigen tests, and when is the best time to use them?

Rapid antigen tests, better known as RATs, have become an important tool in Australia's arsenal against COVID-19. While PCR tests are still available, many of us have turned to rapid tests out of convenience or as part of a requirement to return to work or school. RATs can provide results within minutes, but they also have their limitations: they're less accurate, cost money (unlike PCRs, which are free), and can provide false negative or false positive results.
13th Apr 2022 - ABC.Net.au

More Taiwan firms suspend production in China as COVID spreads

More than 30 Taiwan companies, many making electronics parts, said on Wednesday that government COVID-19 control measures in eastern China had led them to suspend production until at least next week, as disruption from the measures spreads. China has put Shanghai under a tight lockdown since late March and neighbouring Kunshan has also tightened curbs to control the country's biggest COVID-19 outbreak since the coronavirus was discovered in late 2019 in the city of Wuhan. Global companies, from mobile phone to chip makers, are highly dependent on China and Southeast Asia for production and have been diversifying their supply chains after the pandemic caused havoc.
13th Apr 2022 - Reuters

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Japan, US to exclude Russian COVID vaccines over Ukraine invasion

Japan and the United States are set to exclude Russian COVID-19 vaccines from a list of items subject to financial assistance when manufactured in developing countries, sources familiar with the plan said Tuesday. The move, which comes as Western nations step up sanctions against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, is especially aimed at dissuading India from fulfilling an agreement to produce Russian vaccines under the funding support scheme, the sources said. India has built close relations with Russia, including cooperation in the fields of energy and military technology. Japan and the United States are planning to gain India's understanding and make necessary arrangements ahead of a summit of the Quad nations, also involving Australia, according to the sources. Japan will host the summit, possibly in May.
12th Apr 2022 - Kyodo News Plus

U.S. Supreme Court to stop public access in April as COVID cases rise

The United States Supreme Court said on Monday it will stop allowing the public to attend courtroom sessions in person during the month of April as coronavirus cases rise in the District of Columbia. Despite infections remaining relatively flat nationwide, a number of high-profile political figures in Washington D.C. have tested positive for COVID-19 recently, including members of President Joe Biden's Cabinet and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
12th Apr 2022 - Reuters

Canada's Ontario in sixth COVID wave, hospitalizations likely to rise -official

Ontario is in the sixth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic driven by the highly transmissible BA.2 sub-variant of the Omicron coronavirus and hospitalizations are likely to rise over the coming weeks, the most populous Canadian province's top doctor said on Monday. "In the last few weeks we have seen an increase in the percent positivity and upward trend in wastewater surveillance and a rise in hospitalizations. These trends are likely to continue for the next several weeks," Ontario's chief medical officer Kieran Moore said at a briefing.
12th Apr 2022 - Reuters

French COVID-19 hospitalisations at a peak since early March

French health authorities said on Monday the number of patients hospitalised for COVID-19 over the past 24 hours jumped by 579 to 24,205, the highest level since March 1, as new cases are picking up again. On a week-on-week basis, daily COVID-19 infections have been rising again in the last three days after declining during the six previous days, prompting Health Minister Olivier Veran to say last week the current pandemic wave was past its peak. Most of the country's COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in early March.
12th Apr 2022 - Reuters

With aid to spend, schools look for students who need help

Schools across America are racing to make up for time they lost during the pandemic by budgeting billions of dollars for tutoring, summer camps and longer school days and trying to untangle which students need help most urgently after two years of disruptions. Many schools saw large numbers of students fall under the radar when learning went online for the pandemic. Many skipped class, tests and homework. Record numbers of families opted out of annual standardized tests, leaving some districts with little evidence of how students were doing in reading and math. Now districts are trying to address that lack of information by adding new tests, training teachers to spot learning gaps and exploring new ways to identify students who need help. In many districts, the findings are being used to guide the spending of billions of dollars in federal relief that’s meant to address learning loss and can be used in myriad ways.
12th Apr 2022 - The Associated Press

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Heathrow, Gatwick Flight Status: Dozens Canceled Over Staff Shortages

Dozens of UK flights were cancelled on Monday as airlines continue to struggle with staff shortages. British Airways axed at least 64 domestic or European flights to or from Heathrow. Affected UK routes were between the west London airport and Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Manchester and Newcastle. Among the international routes affected were services to and from Berlin, Dublin, Geneva, Paris and Stockholm. British Airways said passengers were given advanced warning of the cancellations.
11th Apr 2022 - Bloomberg

China Banks Allow Shanghai Mortgage Delay as Covid Outbreak Worsens

China’s largest banks are allowing residents in Shanghai to delay their mortgage payments as part of the nation’s broader efforts to support the financial hub in its Covid fight. Lenders including Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. and Bank of Communications Co. are offering Shanghai clients a payment holiday on their mortgage loans for as long as three months. China Construction Bank Corp. allowed clients to delay their payment on both mortgage and consumer loans for up to 28 days while Bank of China Ltd. said any records of overdue payment due to the pandemic will be removed.
11th Apr 2022 - Bloomberg

Battery Giant CATL Isolates Workers to Avoid Covid Shutdown

Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd., the world’s biggest maker of electric-vehicle batteries, has implemented a so-called closed loop for workers at its main factory in China in a bid to avoid the kind of Covid-19 shutdowns hurting Tesla Inc. and Volkswagen AG. Workers will be shuttled between their dormitories and the factory in Ningde, where an outbreak of Covid cases has prompted the local government to tighten prevention and control measures, the company, better known as CATL, said in a statement Sunday. “To ensure market supply to the best of our capabilities, we have adopted strict grid management measures for the orderly operation of the Ningde production base,” the company said.
11th Apr 2022 - Bloomberg

Covid-19: Hospital and ambulance services struggle with huge demand and staff illness

Hospitals and ambulance services in England are facing “extreme pressures” and a high volume of staff absences, forcing some to declare critical incidents and others to warn of 12 hour waits for patients in hospital emergency departments. Portsmouth’s Queen Alexandra Hospital and South Central Ambulance Service both declared critical incidents on 6 April, with the hospital warning, “Our beds are full and our emergency department remains full with patients requiring admission . . . We are only able to treat patients with life threatening conditions and injuries.”1 The ambulance service reported a “large volume of calls being received throughout the day and into the night and increased challenges in releasing some of our ambulances from busy acute hospitals
11th Apr 2022 - The BMJ

GM develops continuity plan amid China's COVID-19 outbreak

General Motors Co said it has developed a global continuity plan with its partners and suppliers to mitigate the uncertainty faced by the auto industry following China's COVID-19 outbreak. The Detroit-based automaker said it was on track to launch more than 20 new and refreshed models in the world's biggest auto market despite the pandemic's impact. The COVID-19 curbs introduced in China to fight the worst outbreak in two years caused auto sales in the country to plunge in March, with automakers like Tesla Inc feeling the pain of limits on production.
11th Apr 2022 - Reuters

Germany may have to junk 3 million COVID shots by late June

Germany’s health ministry said that the country may have to discard 3 million doses of expired COVID-19 vaccine by the end of June. Ministry spokesman Hanno Kautz told reporters in Berlin that “not many doses” have been destroyed so far, though he couldn’t give an exact figure. But Kautz said that “we have more vaccine available at the moment than is being used and than we can donate.” He added that the U.N.-backed program to distribute shots to poorer countries, COVAX, isn’t currently accepting donations.
11th Apr 2022 - Associated Press

India extends COVID-19 boosters to all adults; some must pay

India began offering booster doses of COVID-19 vaccine to all adults on Sunday but limited free shots at government centers to front-line workers and people over age 60. The doses, which India is calling a “precautionary” shot instead of a booster, are available to people nine months after they receive their second jab, the Health Ministry said in a statement Friday. Those outside the two priority categories will need to pay for the shots at privately run facilities, the ministry said.
11th Apr 2022 - Associated Press

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China’s Covid Lockdowns Hit Supplies to Companies Like Apple and Tesla

Manufacturers are struggling to keep some of their China operations going as extended and widening Covid-19 lockdowns choke off supplies and clog up truck routes and ports, heaping more pressure on the stretched global supply chain. Stringent government measures to contain the country’s Covid-19 outbreak, the worst in more than two years, are locking down tens of millions of people, mostly in and around the industrial heartland of Shanghai. The curbs are keeping many workers at home, restricting output at some factories and closing others, including component makers for Apple Inc. and Tesla Inc. Tesla, which suspended work at its factory in Shanghai on March 28, still hasn’t set a date for restarting production, according to people familiar with the matter. The electric-vehicle giant said it is implementing Covid-19 control requirements and setting work arrangements according to government policies.
9th Apr 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

Covid Could Be Surging in the U.S. Right Now and We Might Not Even Know It

The rise of Covid cases in some regions of the U.S., just as testing efforts wane, has raised the specter that the next major wave of the virus may be difficult to detect. In fact, the country could be in the midst of a surge right now and we might not even know it. Testing and viral sequencing are critical to responding quickly to new outbreaks of Covid. And yet, as the country tries to move on from the pandemic, demand for lab-based testing has declined and federal funding priorities have shifted. The change has forced some testing centers to shutter while others have hiked up prices in response to the end of government-subsidized testing programs. People are increasingly relying on at-home rapid tests if they decide to test at all. But those results are rarely reported, giving public health officials little insight into how widespread the virus truly is.
10th Apr 2022 - Bloomberg

COVID: Vulnerable coronavirus patients getting at-home treatment which improves symptoms 'within hours'

More than 32,000 vulnerable COVID patients in England have been treated with "cutting-edge" antiviral drugs which improve symptoms "within hours", the NHS has said. The health service has procured nearly five million doses of Pfizer's Paxlovid and other antivirals, such as Molnupiravir, via a deal struck by the government. Paxlovid was found in trials to cut coronavirus hospital admissions and deaths by 88% and has been given to more than 6,000 patients already - 1,400 in the last seven days alone. Molnupiravir, which clinical trials suggest reduces the risk of hospital admission or death by 30%, was approved in November 2021 and has been used as an at-home treatment since December.
9th Apr 2022 - Sky News

Saudi Arabia expands Haj to 1 mln pilgrims, easing COVID curbs

Saudi Arabia will let up to 1 million people join the Haj pilgrimage this year, greatly expanding the key event to participants from outside the kingdom after two years of tight COVID restrictions, state media said on Saturday. Pilgrims to Mecca this year must be under age 65 and fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, the ministry of Hajj and Umrah said in a statement carried by the SPA news agency. Participants from abroad will be allowed this year but must present a recent negative COVID PCR test, and health precautions will be observed, it said.
9th Apr 2022 - Reuters

Maintaining Services - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 8th Apr 2022

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COVID-19 health workers suffer combat-type moral trauma

A Duke University study shows that, amid COVID-19, US healthcare workers (HCWs) had similar rates of potential moral injury (PMI)—a type of trauma-induced wound to the psyche—as military combat veterans. The study, published yesterday in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, surveyed 2,099 HCWs in 2020 and 2021 and 618 military veterans deployed to a combat zone after the Sep 11, 2001, US terrorist attacks about PMIs they may have experienced. PMI is a distressing reaction to exposure to traumatic events that may have psychological, behavioral, social, and spiritual effects.
6th Apr 2022 - CIDRAP

Shanghai Racing to Build Hundreds of Thousands of Isolation Beds

Shanghai is transforming conference centers and conscripting neighboring provinces to create isolation facilities for hundreds of thousands of people, a sign of its commitment to a zero tolerance approach to Covid-19 amid China’s worst outbreak to date. The Chinese financial hub is adding tens of thousands of beds to what are already some of the world’s biggest isolation sites as it sticks to a policy of quarantining all those positive for the virus, regardless of severity, plus everyone they interacted with while infected. Nearly 150,000 people have been identified as close contacts and put into isolation. More than 100,000 others are considered secondary contacts and are being monitored, according to the government. It’s a strategy that grew out of the original outbreak in Wuhan, which China successfully quelled, but is proving more challenging to maintain in the face of ongoing outbreaks and more transmissible variants.
8th Apr 2022 - Bloomberg

French hospital system not in danger as current COVID-19 wave reached peak - Veran

The current COVID-19 wave hitting France has now reached its peak, which means the country's hospital system is not in danger, Health Minister Olivier Veran said in an interview with RTL radio on Thursday. "We are still at a high level, with 150,000 new cases per day, but the trend is going down since five days," Veran said.
7th Apr 2022 - Reuters

Cyprus to lift COVID-19 travel conditions from April 18

Cyprus will lift COVID-19 conditions for travel to the island from April 18, authorities said on Thursday, ending two years of rules imposed by the pandemic. The island said it was scrapping a colour-coded assessment of other countries based on epidemiological risk, an inbound flight permission to travel and PCR or rapid lateral flow tests for those who were fully vaccinated against COVID-19. People who have not been vaccinated, or not completed their booster shots would still need a PCR test or a lateral flow test, the transport ministry said
7th Apr 2022 - Reuters

NHS under huge strain as A&Es turn away ambulances

Hospitals are under "enormous strain", with growing numbers so busy they are having to divert ambulances to other sites because they are unable to cope. Over the past week, 20 NHS Accident and Emergency departments in England issued diverts, with patients taken elsewhere. Those A&E departments still taking new patients have seen long delays, with more than 25% of ambulances waiting at least 30 minutes to handover patients. Hospital bosses said they were "very concerned" about the situation. All areas of the country are facing huge pressures, but NHS bosses in West Yorkshire and the south central area of England - covering Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Oxfordshire and Berkshire - have reported particularly severe strain.
7th Apr 2022 - BBC News

Maintaining Services - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 7th Apr 2022

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Sanctioned Oil Piling Up Off China as Virus Outbreak Worsens

Tankers carrying 22 million barrels of Russian, Iranian and Venezuelan oil are piling up off China, according to Kpler, as the country battles a virus outbreak that’s sapping demand and causing logistics problems. China has been one of the only buyers of sanctioned Iranian and Venezuelan oil over the last few years. The world’s largest crude importer is also still taking Russian supplies that are being largely shunned since the invasion of Ukraine. The trade in the discounted oil is now being disrupted by the country’s worsening virus outbreak, with waiting times to unload ships increasing.
6th Apr 2022 - Bloomberg

China's widening COVID curbs exact mounting economic toll

China's top European business group warned on Wednesday that its "zero-COVID" strategy was harming the attractiveness of Shanghai as a financial hub, echoing analysts voicing caution over the mounting economic toll of the country's coronavirus curbs. China has for the past month been tackling multiple outbreaks with an elimination strategy that seeks to test, trace and centrally quarantine all positive COVID-19 cases. Nomura estimated on Tuesday that a total of 23 Chinese cities have implemented either full or partial lockdowns, which collectively are home to an estimated 193 million people and contribute to 22% of China's GDP. The European Union Chamber of Commerce in China said that the strategy was causing growing difficulties transporting goods across provinces and through ports, harming factory output.
6th Apr 2022 - Reuters on MSN.com

Worries of more school disruptions are rising alongside COVID-19 cases

As the spring weather improves, Montrealer Doug Bentley understands people feeling a pent-up desire to return to pre-pandemic normalcy. Still, as a parent with two kids attending elementary school, he remains "ill at ease" about classrooms amid COVID-19. "I don't feel particularly comfortable about the situation in the schools," he said. "There's a lot of denial going on about the sixth wave that has started." With capacity limits, mask mandates and other restrictions lingering in some areas but gone in others, Canadian regions remain in varying stages of easing pandemic mitigation measures. Yet as health experts warn again of rising new COVID-19 infection and hospitalization rates in parts of the country, parents and school officials are bracing for what a sixth wave may bring to classrooms.
6th Apr 2022 - CBC.ca

Maintaining Services - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 6th Apr 2022

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Biden orders push on long COVID, pandemic’s shadowy mystery

Confronting the pandemic’s lasting shadow, President Joe Biden on Tuesday ordered a new national research push on long COVID, while also directing federal agencies to support patients dealing with the mysterious and debilitating condition. Biden assigned the Department of Health and Human Services to coordinate an urgent new initiative across federal agencies, building on research already under way at the National Institutes of Health. He also directed federal agencies to support patients and doctors by providing science-based best practices for treating long COVID, maintaining access to insurance coverage, and protecting the rights of workers coping with the uncertainties of the malaise. Of particular concern are effects on mental health.
6th Apr 2022 - The Associated Press

Prior COVID vaccination induces a more robust antibody response to Omicron

A recent study posted to the medRxiv* preprint server assessed the impact of prior severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) vaccination on the human immune response against SARS-CoV-2 Omicron infection. Various studies have reported lower susceptibility of the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant against neutralizing antibodies. Therefore, it is necessary to understand the potential of previous SARS-CoV-2 infections in modifying the human immune response against the novel Omicron variant.
5th Apr 2022 - News-Medical.Net

Maintaining Services - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 5th Apr 2022

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China joins race to build a better Covid-19 vaccine with circRNA tech

China has joined the race to build a better Covid-19 vaccine using engineered circular RNA, a form of biotechnology that scientists hope can lead to cheaper and more effective shots. A group of scientists from Peking University, the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College in Beijing have been testing a circular RNA (circRNA) vaccine candidate targeting the tip of the coronavirus’s spike protein, which the virus uses to dock with the body’s receptors and cause infection. The team have released a preprint paper of the results of laboratory tests and animal trials and the study is being reviewed by scientific journal Cell. Companies and scientists are exploring the vaccine potential in transforming linear RNA into a circular shape.
4th Apr 2022 - South China Morning Post

How to book a Covid vaccine for children with 5 to 11-year-olds now eligible

The Covid-19 vaccine is being extended to children aged between 5 and 11, giving five million more Britons access to the jab. It comes with case numbers across the UK extremely high, due to the spread of the highly infectious BA.2 offshoot of the Omicron variant. The children will be given a dose of Pfizer a third of the size of that given to those aged 12 and over. There will be a follow-up jab 12 weeks later. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation approved the jab for under-12s in February, but the NHS has been prioritising fourth doses for the clinically vulnerable and over-75s.
4th Apr 2022 - iNews

Covid had devastating toll on poor and low-income communities in US

The devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on poor and low-income communities across America is laid bare in a new report released on Monday that concludes that while the virus did not discriminate between rich and poor, society and government did. As the US draws close to the terrible landmark of 1 million deaths from coronavirus, the glaringly disproportionate human toll that has been exacted is exposed by the Poor People’s Pandemic Report. Based on a data analysis of more than 3,000 counties across the US, it finds that people in poorer counties have died overall at almost twice the rate of those in richer counties. Looking at the most deadly surges of the virus, the disparity in death rates grows even more pronounced.
4th Apr 2022 - The Guardian

COVID-19: Despite the end of free testing, the virus is stronger than ever

You'd be forgiven for thinking the COVID pandemic was on its way out. But today's data show that, from the virus' perspective at least, it's stronger than ever. On the same day free COVID testing comes to an end in England, infection levels have reached the highest ever recorded.
4th Apr 2022 - Sky News

Maintaining Services - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 4th Apr 2022

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China's farmers face fertiliser crunch as COVID measures hamper deliveries

China's COVID-19 curbs are disrupting the supply of fertiliser to the country's northeastern bread basket just a month away from spring planting, threatening this year's corn and soybean crops if not resolved soon. Farmers typically have fertiliser prepared in early April before applying to fields later in the month during planting. But China's worst outbreak of COVID since the pandemic began two years ago have triggered strict controls on movement of people and goods, sharply slowing deliveries. Fertiliser producers, dealers, analysts and associations said rules requiring truck drivers to take COVID tests every 24 hours, a need to obtain special passes to deliver goods and factory suspensions due to local COVID cases are all contributing to tight supplies.
1st Apr 2022 - Reuters

Rising Covid infections pile pressure on hospitals

Surging coronavirus infections are putting hospitals across the UK under mounting pressure and undermining efforts to get on top of waiting lists more than two years after the start of the pandemic. Several NHS trusts across England have been forced to declare critical incidents in recent weeks as the number of Covid-19 cases has increased. Ambulance services are reporting widespread delays at hospitals and in reaching those dialling 999.
4th Apr 2022 - The Times

‘One per cent of UK population’ newly infected with Covid-19 every day

Around one in every 100 people in the UK is likely to have been newly infected with Covid-19 per day during the current surge of the virus, figures suggest. Infections are estimated to have climbed as high as 657,300 every day by March 16, according to new modelling published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). This is the equivalent of roughly 1% of the population. It is also more than double the number of daily infections that were occurring at the end of February. The figures suggest that by mid-March the virus was circulating at levels higher even than those reached during the Omicron-led surge at the start of the year.
2nd Apr 2022 - Evening Standard

Number of COVID patients in US hospitals reaches record low

COVID-19 hospitalization numbers have plunged to their lowest levels since the early days of the pandemic, offering a much needed break to health care workers and patients alike following the omicron surge. The number of patients hospitalized with the coronavirus has fallen more than 90% in more than two months, and some hospitals are going days without a single COVID-19 patient in the ICU for the first time since early 2020. The freed up beds are expected to help U.S. hospitals retain exhausted staff, treat non-COVID-19 patients more quickly and cut down on inflated costs. More family members can visit loved ones. And doctors hope to see a correction to the slide in pediatric visits, yearly checkups and cancer screenings.
2nd Apr 2022 - The Associated Press

Maintaining Services - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 1st Apr 2022

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Rokote Laboratories selects Exothera for GMP manufacturing of its second-generation coronavirus vaccine FINCoVac 2.0.

Rokote Laboratories Finland Ltd., a vaccine development company focussing on a second-generation COVID-19 vaccine, and Exothera S.A. will collaborate to bring the intranasal coronavirus vaccine FINCoVac 2.0 to clinical Phase I/II trials. Exothera will finetune the industrialization of the FINCOVAC 2.0 process and manufacture clinical material for Phase I/II trials. FINCoVac 2.0 is designed to address the most critical current coronavirus variants and it is based on adenoviral vector gene transfer technology. The FINCoVac vaccine is designed to program the nasopharyngeal cells to produce an immune response-inducing modified SARS-CoV-2-viral spike protein. FINCoVac 2.0 represents an easy-to-administer booster for those who are already fully vaccinated with other coronavirus vaccines.
31st Mar 2022 - BioSpace

Biden gets second booster shot, pushes for more COVID funding

U.S. President Joe Biden rolled up his sleeve for a second COVID-19 booster shot on Wednesday as his administration rolled out efforts to help Americans live with the coronavirus, including a new website and a renewed push for vaccinations and funding. "If we fail to invest, we leave ourselves vulnerable if another wave hits," Biden said in remarks at the White House to launch COVID.gov, a clearinghouse of information aimed at helping people manage the virus as they seek a return to normalcy.
31st Mar 2022 - Reuters

Global COVID cases ebb amid testing blind-spot worries

The world's COVID-19 cases dropped 14% last week, compared to the week before, with decreases seen across all of the WHO's regions. However, deaths rose 45%, primarily due to changes in how some countries define COVID deaths and retrospective adjustments from others. Overall, about 10 million cases were reported to the WHO last week. The five countries reporting the most cases were South Korea, Germany, Vietnam, France, and Italy. The WHO noted that recent case rises earlier this month occurred despite reduced testing in many countries, which it says is a sign that the virus is still circulating at very high levels. It warned that a decline in testing could lead to less robust data that makes it harder to track the virus and how it is spreading and evolving. The situation could impair how quickly countries can respond with targeted control measures to reduce hospitalizations and deaths. In its weekly report, the WHO said the Omicron variant makes up 99.5% of sequenced samples. Officials added that they're monitoring recombinant viruses, including a BA.1-BA.2 version that was first observed in the United Kingdom and appears to be about 10% more transmissible than the Omicron's BA.2 subvariant.
30th Mar 2022 - CIDRAP

Maintaining Services - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 31st Mar 2022

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U.K. Hospitalizations Rise After Covid Cases Edge Back Up

Covid-19 infections in the U.K. have edged back up following the easing of restrictions and rapid spread of a more-transmissible subvariant of omicron. In the U.K. more than 574,000 people have tested positive and about 15,530 hospitalized in the last week. Still, this wave may be close to peaking, according to Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance. While omicron has proven to be more mild in general compared to previous strains, it would be wrong to assume that the coronavirus will continue evolving into a less severe infection, Vallance told the Science and Technology parliamentary committee on Wednesday.
30th Mar 2022 - Bloomberg

NYC Covid Cases Are Rising Again, Mostly Among Those 25 to 34

New York City Covid-19 cases are rising again, particularly among people 25 to 34 years old, according to city officials. The surge appears to be concentrated in Manhattan, the most vaccinated borough. In an unusual move, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene posted a warning on Twitter on Wednesday, saying they “strongly recommend” New Yorkers mask-up indoors and get booster shots. The warning came in contrast to the city’s Covid alert system, which identifies the Covid alert level as ‘low risk.’
30th Mar 2022 - Bloomberg

Ghana to start producing own Covid-19 vaccines in January 2024

Ghana will start producing its own COVID-19 vaccines in January 2024, President Nana Akufo-Addo said on Wednesday in his State of the Nation Address in parliament. A National Vaccine Institute would be established to lay out a strategy for the West African country to begin the first phase of commercial production for the jabs, he said without providing further details. "A bill will shortly be brought to you, in this House, for your support and approval for the establishment of the National Vaccine Institute," he said. So far Ghana has fully vaccinated around 21.4% of its 30-million-odd inhabitants against coronavirus, according to Reuters data.
30th Mar 2022 - Reuters

People with cancer ‘risk being left behind’ under new Covid-19 testing guidance

Some cancer patients are at risk of being “left behind” under new guidance which sets out who is eligible for free Covid-19 tests, a charity has warned. Macmillan Cancer Support said it was welcome that people with symptoms of Covid-19 who are vulnerable to the effects of the disease will still be eligible for free tests. But it urged minister to extend the offer of free testing to include immunocompromised people without symptoms.
30th Mar 2022 - The Independent

Indonesia seeks longer shelf life donations as 19 mln COVID shots expired

Nineteen million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in Indonesia's national stockpile have expired this year and 1.5 million more are set to expire next month, as donated shots arrive with a short shelf life, a health official said on Wednesday. Indonesia and many other developing nations are ramping up their vaccination campaign, aided by donations from wealthy countries, but they have been calling for donations with a longer shelf life.
30th Mar 2022 - Reuters

Britain may be wasting nearly 3 billion pounds on COVID gear

Britain may be wasting nearly 3 billion pounds ($3.94 billion) on contracts for COVID-19 gear that have not given value for money, with millions spent each month storing unneeded and sometimes out-of-date kit, a watchdog said on Wednesday. The report by the parliament-supervised National Audit Office (NAO) will fuel opposition claims that Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government was wasteful and nepotistic in its allocation of huge contracts during the two-year pandemic.
30th Mar 2022 - Reuters

Maintaining Services - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 30th Mar 2022

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West Lothian’s Valneva factory ‘could provide UK with Covid vaccines for years to come’

A state-of-the-art vaccine manufacturing facility in West Lothian could play a key role if the UK needs annual vaccines against coronavirus. The chief executive of Valneva, which is commissioning the site in Livingston, said he still hopes to supply the immunisation despite a UK Government contract for one hundred million doses being terminated last year. Thomas Lingelbach says it is one of only a handful worldwide able to make what are called ‘inactivated whole virus vaccines’. The CEO is now keeping a close eye on developments at the plant and told STV News this could be vital as covid evolves into the post pandemic era.
29th Mar 2022 - STV News

Virtual reality helps reduce COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy

Vaccine hesitancy can be affected by several factors such as lack of confidence in health authorities and experts who have developed the vaccine, constraints, complacency, the degree to which the personal costs and benefits of the vaccine are weighted, lack of compliance, lack of collective responsibility, and fake news regarding vaccines. However, informing people about community immunity has occasionally been shown to increase intentions for vaccination. Thus, using novel technologies that can help people understand the benefit of vaccination, as well as the impact of vaccination on other vulnerable individuals, can assist in reducing vaccine hesitancy. A new Scientific Reports study investigates whether intention for vaccination is increased by a gamified immersive virtual reality (VR) experience that shows how community immunity works.
29th Mar 2022 - News-Medical.Net

Covid-19 spring booster vaccination to begin in coming days

The Covid-19 spring booster vaccination is to begin in Northern Ireland in the coming days. People aged 75 years and over, residents in care homes for older people, and those aged 12 years and over with weakened immune systems will be offered a booster dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. The Public Health Agency (PHA) said the spring booster should be offered around six months after an individual received their first booster dose. The agency is now urging those eligible to book an appointment
29th Mar 2022 - The Irish News

Specialist nurse appointed for rare Covid-19 condition affecting children

A hospital in London has become one of the first in the UK to appoint a dedicated nurse for a rare inflammatory condition in children linked to Covid-19. Evelina London Children's Hospital has recruited Michael Bell into the role of clinical nurse specialist for paediatric cases
29th Mar 2022 - Nursing Times

Covid-19: Oxygen shortages two years into pandemic highlight pre-covid failures, says WHO

Two years into the covid-19 pandemic, access to oxygen is still a major problem in low and middle income countries, health leaders have warned. The shortages have highlighted the “abject failure” of the global community to develop and build up primary healthcare and universal health coverage over the past 20 years, said Michael Ryan, the World Health Organization’s health emergencies programme executive director. “Covid didn’t cause this, covid uncovered this. Covid laid bare, tore away the bandages from, some very, very old wounds,” Ryan told an Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator briefing. “No one was interested in oxygen,” he said, despite it being vital for the treatment of patients with covid-19 in the early stages of the pandemic. “I went to meeting after meeting and I spoke about oxygen, and nobody was listening because oxygen wasn’t sexy. It wasn’t new. It wasn’t some technological advance that could be delivered to the world. Oxygen was boring, oxygen was old,” Ryan said.
29th Mar 2022 - The BMJ

Capital of China's Jilin province apologises for food shortages due to COVID curbs

The Chinese city of Changchun, capital of the COVID-hit northeastern province of Jilin, on Tuesday apologised to its 8.5 million residents for food shortages related to shutdowns and disruption caused by COVID containment measures. Due to COVID-19, two major wholesale food markets in Changchun have shuttered, leading to a shortfall in food supply, said the city's deputy Communist Party secretary, Liu Renyuan, a problem aggravated by a shortage of workers that has delayed deliveries to homes.
29th Mar 2022 - Reuters

Maintaining Services - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 29th Mar 2022

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End of free Covid testing could put vulnerable at risk, say UK experts

Come the end of March, the lights will dim on the UK’s Covid epidemic. Despite infection levels rising, cases will plummet, as free lateral flow and PCR tests are stopped for the majority of people in England, with other countries in the UK also set to reduce free testing in the coming weeks and months. But while the government has argued it is time to manage Covid as we do other infectious diseases such as flu, scientists have warned ending community testing could put vulnerable people at risk and undermine efforts to understand the virus.
28th Mar 2022 - The Guardian

The ‘zero-Covid’ approach got bad press, but it worked – and it could work again

Many people thought No-Covid was impossible, but the handful of places that embraced it proved them wrong. Now that some of those places are themselves shifting to a reduction or mitigation strategy, countries that opted for mitigation from the beginning are enjoying a “we told you so” moment. But No-Covid’s early champions had to shift in part because other countries let the virus rip. Even if their strategy didn’t remain the optimal one, it bought them time to prepare others. It’s important that we remember that when the next pandemic sidles along.
28th Mar 2022 - The Guardian

Scottish Covid-19 patient numbers increase again to another record high

Article reports that the number of coronavirus patients in Scotland’s hospitals has reached another record high – for the sixth time in the past eight days.Scottish Government figures showed that on Sunday there were 2,360 people with recently confirmed Covid-19 in hospital, the highest number since the start of the pandemic. The latest peak in hospital numbers comes after a slight fall in the total.
28th Mar 2022 - Evening Standard

Covid-19: 'Huge stress' on health system as number in hospital tops 1600

Article reports that the Minister for Health has said the extra transmissibility of the BA.2 variant means “quite extreme measures” would be needed to contain it. Stephen Donnelly is understood to have told an online meeting of Fianna Fáil members on Monday night that there are likely several hundred thousand cases of Covid every week, with daily numbers several times higher than those being tracked by PCR and antigen tests. Sources indicated that Mr Donnelly told the meeting said that the current transmissibility of the variant meant that extremely restrictive measures would be needed, and said that he is told by the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) that extra restrictions of this level are not currently advised.
28th Mar 2022 - The Irish Times

G20 chair Indonesia seeks standardised health requirements for travel

Group of 20 major economies (G20) chair Indonesia has started talks with members on standardising health protocols for travel, its health minister said, stressing the importance of harmonising rules and technology as global travel resumes. An aide to Indonesia's health minister, Setiaji, said countries were getting ready to roll out a global website to scan and verify travellers' vaccination status. All G20 members support the rollout, but China will not participate yet "due to technical reasons," he said without giving further details.
28th Mar 2022 - Reuters

UK study to test Pfizer's COVID pill in hospitalised patients

Pfizer's oral COVID-19 therapy will be evaluated as a potential treatment for patients hospitalised with the illness in a major British trial, scientists said on Monday, as cases rise in some parts of the world. The world's largest randomised study of potential medicines for COVID-19, dubbed the RECOVERY trial, will assess Paxlovid across hospitals in Britain, which has already approved the drug for early-stage treatment. "Paxlovid is a promising oral antiviral drug but we don't know if it can improve survival of patients with severe COVID-19," said Peter Horby, a professor at the University of Oxford and joint chief investigator of the RECOVERY trial.
28th Mar 2022 - Reuters

Maintaining Services - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 28th Mar 2022

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Australian Medical Association reveals full strain on the nation’s hospital system

Australia’s hospital system is “showing cracks” under the weight of increased demand and underfunding, according to the country’s peak professional body. The Australian Medical Association’s annual public health system report card has revealed just how dire the situation is nationwide, as emergency departments have buckled under the pressure of the Covid-19 pandemic. More than one in three people have waited longer than the clinically-recommended 30 minutes to receive urgent care. AMA president Omar Khorshid said only 63 per cent of patients had been seen within the recommended period in the past year. “One in three people who present to an ED will wait longer than four hours to be either discharged or admitted,” Dr Khorshid said.
27th Mar 2022 - Perth Now

Premier calls for pre-Songkran vaccine drive

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has ordered authorities to speed up inoculation of vulnerable groups ahead of the Songkran festival next month, a spokesman says. Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, government spokesman, said Gen Prayut has ordered state agencies to encourage people aged 60 and over, those suffering from underlying illnesses and pregnant women to receive their shots against Covid-19 before the holidays as a precautionary measure. The goal is to offer booster jabs to at least 70% of the elderly who have already been vaccinated at least twice, he said. The Songkran festival marks an important time when families return home and pay respects to the elderly.
27th Mar 2022 - ฺBangkok Post

Persistent cough 'may be TB rather than Covid' - and cases are on the rise

UK health leaders fear cases of tuberculosis (TB) are slipping under the radar. The potentially dangerous bacterial infection begins as a persistent cough, similar to many people’s experience of Covid-19. Incidents of TB have been falling since 2019 but appear to be on the rise once again, fuelling fears people may be dismissing the symptom as the coronavirus. Now anyone with a cough is being warned not to assume their illness is definitely caused by Covid-19.
27th Mar 2022 - Metro.co.uk

Costs of going unvaccinated in America are mounting for workers and companies

Nearly a year after COVID vaccines became freely available in the U.S., one fourth of American adults remain unvaccinated, and a picture of the economic cost of vaccine hesitancy is emerging. It points to financial risk for individuals, companies and publicly funded programs. Vaccine hesitancy likely already accounts for tens of billions of dollars in preventable U.S. hospitalization costs and up to hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths, say public health experts. For individuals forgoing vaccination, the risks can include layoffs and ineligibility to collect unemployment, higher insurance premiums, growing out-of-pocket medical costs or loss of academic scholarships.
25th Mar 2022 - Reuters

Maintaining Services - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 25th Mar 2022

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COVID-19: More elderly people being admitted to hospital with coronavirus than at peak of Omicron wave, latest data shows

More elderly people are now being admitted to hospital with COVID than they were at the peak of the Omicron wave, according to the latest official data. The statistics from the UK Health Security Agency will add urgency to the new drive to vaccinate the over-75s with a "spring booster". Figures from the Weekly Flu and COVID Surveillance Report show that the admission rate in England for every 100,000 people over the age of 85 was 178.29 in the week to 20 March, compared with 158.43 at the turn of the year. The rate in people aged between 75 and 84 was 74.34 per 100,000 last week. At the beginning of January, it was 70.3. Although hospitalisation rates in younger patients are also rising, they are still below the level of the original Omicron surge.
25th Mar 2022 - Sky News

A fourth COVID-19 vaccine dose is on the horizon, but Victoria's booster rate remains stubbornly low

Experts have raised concerns about the "disappointing" rate at which Victorians are getting their booster COVID-19 vaccine doses, as the possibility of a fourth dose is considered. More than 93.7 per cent of eligible Victorians have had two doses of the vaccine, but the latest figures from the health department show 64 per cent of people aged 18 and up have now received three vaccine doses. That figure has risen by less than seven percentage points in a month — it stood at 57.1 per cent on February 23.
24th Mar 2022 - ABC News

One million Scots have not had a booster vaccine amid warnings over waning immunity

Figures from Public Health Scotland (PHS) show 983,875 adults have not received a third dose or booster, six months after the programme began. More than 500,000 of these are at least 12 weeks on from their second dose. The Scottish Government admitted fewer appointments had taken place than expected, after PHS reported that 21,000 vaccine doses were thrown away in February after reaching their expiry dates.
24th Mar 2022 - The Scotsman

Rich countries getting new COVID vaccine before poorer ones

The company behind a COVID-19 vaccine touted as a key tool for the developing world has sent tens of millions of doses to wealthy nations but provided none yet to the U.N.-backed effort to supply poorer countries, a sign that inequity persists in the global response to the pandemic. COVAX had planned to make available 250 million doses from Novavax by March, but the U.N. agency in charge of deliveries says the first shipments now likely won't be made until April or May.
24th Mar 2022 - The Independent

Two years on from UK's first Covid lockdown, cases may be rising but deaths remain low

Two years on from the start of the UK’s first Covid lockdown, when cases were rising rapidly and there was no timeline for a vaccine, the threat of the virus has changed significantly in the UK. Prime Minister Boris Johnson marked the milestone by paying tribute to the “heroic efforts” of the NHS on Wednesday, while giving sympathies to the families of those who died from Covid, and said Britain’s 187,000 coronavirus casualties “will never be out of our hearts and minds”. The UK is now one of the few places globally with nearly zero Covid restrictions in place despite a recent rise in cases driven by the Omicron variant, but Health Secretary Sajid Javid has insisted there is “no particular cause for concern”, with the “wall of defence” from vaccines keeping the situation stable.
24th Mar 2022 - iNews

Covid-19: Free PCR tests to end for most in April

In Northern Ireland, most people will no longer be able to access a free PCR test from 22 April, the health minister has said. Lateral flow tests (LFTs) will continue to be free, but only for people displaying Covid-19 symptoms and this policy continues to be reviewed. Routine contact tracing is also set to be phased out between the middle of April and the end of June. Health Minister Robin Swann said the changes reflected the "new realities of the pandemic".
24th Mar 2022 - BBC News

Australia to roll out fourth COVID vaccine shot ahead of winter

Australia will roll out a fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccines to its most vulnerable population starting next month, authorities said on Friday, as the country looks to limit fresh outbreaks ahead of winter. The decision comes amid a steady rise in cases fuelled by the highly contagious BA.2 sub-variant of the Omicron strain and concerns of co-circulation of COVID-19 and flu viruses during colder months as most social distancing restrictions end. A second booster shot will be offered from April 4 to people who had their previous booster shot at least four months ago and are over 65 years, Indigenous Australians over 50, people with disability or severely immunocompromised, Health Minister Greg Hunt said during a media briefing.
24th Mar 2022 - Reuters

Global COVID-19 cases climb for second week in a row

Last week marked a turnaround in a 5-week decline in cases. In the continued rise this week, cases were up 7% compared to the week before, the WHO said. Cases were up 21% in the Western Pacific region, an area that includes locations experiencing surges, including South Korea, Vietnam, and Hong Kong. The European region's cases remained steady, while levels declined in the Eastern Mediterranean, Africa, South East Asia, and Americas regions. Deaths overall declined 23% compared to the week before, though they were up 5% in the Western Pacific region. The WHO received reports of 12 million cases last week. Countries reporting the most cases were South Korea, Vietnam, Germany, France, and Australia. Also, there were 33,000 deaths across the globe, with Russia nudging ahead of the United States in reporting the most weekly fatalities.
23rd Mar 2022 - CIDRAP

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Hong Kong schools need 90 per cent student jab rate to resume full-day classes

Schools must ensure 90 per cent of their students have received at least two vaccine shots against Covid-19 if they hope to resume whole-day lessons in the classroom next month, Hong Kong’s education minister has announced. Confirming a previous Post report, Secretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung also said that all teachers and school staff must have received at least two vaccine doses before returning to campus, unless they had a valid medical exemption.
23rd Mar 2022 - South China Morning Post

Ministers urged to ensure Covid-19 testing remains free for NHS staff

The NHS Confederation is leading a call for ministers to provide clarity over Covid-19 testing requirements for NHS staff and for access to free tests to remain in place for the workforce, especially for those who are patient-facing. The concerns from organisations representing NHS staff come as Covid-19 rates across the UK continue to spike, with hospital admissions also on the rise.
23rd Mar 2022 - Nursing Times

WHO: COVID-19 cases rise for 2nd straight week, deaths fall

Article reports that the number of new coronavirus cases globally increased by 7% in the last week, driven by rising infections in the Western Pacific, even as reported deaths from COVID-19 fell, the World Health Organization said. There were more than 12 million new weekly cases and just under 33,000 deaths, a 23% decline in mortality, according to the U.N. health agency’s report on the pandemic issued late Tuesday. Confirmed cases of the virus had been falling steadily worldwide since January but rose again last week, due to the more infectious omicron variant and the suspension of COVID-19 protocols in numerous countries in Europe, North America and elsewhere. Health officials have said repeatedly that omicron causes milder disease than previous versions of the coronavirus and that vaccination, including a booster, appears highly protective.
23rd Mar 2022 - The Independent

COVID-19: Soaring virus-related absences in England's state schools could 'seriously damage' exam grades, headteachers say

Levels of COVID-related pupil absences in state schools in England have more than tripled, leading to concerns over how it may impact grades. In total, 201,600 pupils were off for COVID-related reasons on 17 March, up from 45,100 on 3 March, the latest government figures show. The rate of COVID-linked absences rose to 2.5% of students on 17 March, up from 0.7% on 3 March. The rising COVID cases have prompted concerns from headteachers about the potential impact absences will have on grades.
23rd Mar 2022 - Sky News

Covid-19: 'Vaccine tracers' brought in as county Covid rate trebles

A team of "vaccine tracers" have been brought in as the number of Covid infections in a county almost trebled in three weeks. Latest data shows more than 11,045 cases were recorded in Hertfordshire in the seven days to 16 March, representing a rate of 923.7 per 100,000 of the population. It is almost three times the 328.6 case rate recorded on 28 February. The new team aims to boost vaccination levels across the county. Hertfordshire's director of public health Jim McManus warned that the case rate had changed "quite dramatically" in recent weeks, with cases increasing in most age groups, including the more vulnerable over-60s, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.
23rd Mar 2022 - BBC News

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France sees biggest jump in COVID cases since early February

France saw the biggest jump in new COVID-19 cases since February, health ministry data showed on Tuesday, with 180,777 new infections over 24 hours, and hospital numbers also rose for the third consecutive day. The new cases brought the cumulative number of registered infections to 24.3 million as the resumption of classes following two weeks of school holidays marked a sharp resurgence of the epidemic. The seven-day moving average of new cases rose further to just under 99,000, where it had been from end-December till mid-February, driven by the contagious Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus.
22nd Mar 2022 - Reuters

SA Premier says COVID-19 case numbers to jump in a 'significant way' with elective surgeries already cancelled

South Australian health officials quietly reintroduced a pause on some elective surgeries just one day before last Saturday's election, new Premier Peter Malinauskas has revealed. The ban was introduced but not announced amid a rise in the state's COVID numbers, with Mr Malinauskas warning new government modelling showed cases were set to "escalate in a rather significant way". He said the elective surgery ban impacted all non-urgent overnight elective surgery in public hospitals. "Needless to say, I was rather disappointed and somewhat shocked to learn that an elective surgery ban has now been reinstated in some instances here in South Australia," he said.
22nd Mar 2022 - ABC News

Covid school absences triple in two weeks as 202,000 pupils off sick or isolating in England

The number of pupils missing school in England because of Covid-19 has more than tripled in two weeks. Figures from the Department for Education show that last Thursday, 202,000 state school pupils were not in class because of reasons related to Covid, up from 58,000 pupils on 3 March. Among these students, there were 16,000 pupils with a suspected Covid case and 159,000 with a confirmed case.
22nd Mar 2022 - iNews

Covid-19 update: 'Risky to assume that the pandemic is over' - McKee

Europe faces a revival of a revival of virus risks as cases spread rapidly, accelerated by the emergence of the more-transmissible BA.2 Omicron strain. Germany is now setting fresh records for infection rates almost daily, while Austria has also reached new highs and cases in the Netherlands have doubled since lifting curbs on Feb. 25. “The messaging from politicians is encouraging many people who were taking precautions to mix with others,” says Martin McKee, professor of public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “It does seem very courageous, and indeed risky, to assume that the pandemic is over.”
22nd Mar 2022 - Pharmaceutical Technology

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India considers widening COVID booster effort to all adults, sources say

Article reports that India is considering making all adults eligible for booster doses of COVID-19 vaccine, two sources with knowledge of the matter said on Monday, as infections grow in some countries and some Indians find it hard to travel abroad without a third dose. Only frontline workers and those older than 60 are currently allowed to take booster doses in India, whether free in government centres or paid for in private hospitals. The government is debating whether to provide boosters to other groups for free, said one of the sources, who both sought anonymity as the government has yet to make a decision.
21st Mar 2022 - Reuters

Spring Covid-19 booster campaign to get underway in a matter of weeks

Northern Ireland's spring Covid booster campaign is set to get underway within a matter of weeks. A further dose of the vaccine is to be made available to over 75s, immunosuppressed over the age of 12 and care home residents. Community pharmacies are due to administer the vaccine to care home residents, trusts will run clinics for immunocompromised patients and GP surgeries will run clinics for all patients over the age of 75. While appointments have not yet opened to the public, they are to coincide with the same timetable across the UK.
21st Mar 2022 - Belfast Telegraph

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Ukraine’s World-Class Drug-Molecule Industry Imperiled by Russia Invasion

Article reports that Russian attacks are endangering Ukraine’s world-leading medicinal chemistry industry, which supplies scientists across the globe with molecular building blocks needed for early drug development. Ukraine’s dominance in medicinal chemistry is little known beyond drug developers, who fine-tune a drug’s molecular design to give it the best chance of hitting the desired biological target in the body. Kyiv-based Enamine Ltd. has become a go-to supplier for drug-discovery scientists at academic laboratories and the largest pharmaceutical companies. “It’s a bit like Amazon for chemistry,” said Ed Griffen, a U.K.-based medicinal chemist working with closely held Enamine on a low-cost Covid-19 antiviral pill.
20th Mar 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

Shanghai's Disney resort shut amid record daily local COVID infections

China's financial hub of Shanghai reported on Monday a record daily surge in local COVID-19 infections as authorities scrambled to test residents and rein in the Omicron variant, while closing its Disney (DIS.N) resort until further notice. Until recent weeks relatively unscathed by coronavirus, Shanghai reported 24 new domestically transmitted COVID cases with confirmed symptoms for Sunday and 734 local asymptomatic infections, official data showed on Monday. It is the fourth consecutive day that Shanghai's local asymptomatic infections have increased.
21st Mar 2022 - Reuters

Covid: Rise in UK infections driven by BA.2 Omicron variant

Covid cases have continued to rise in the UK, with an estimated one in every 20 people infected, figures from the Office for National Statistic suggest. All age groups are affected, including the 75s and over, who are due a spring booster jab to top up protection. Hospital cases are also rising, but vaccines are still helping to stop many severe cases, say experts. An easily spread sub-variant of Omicron, called BA.2, is now causing most cases. Recent easing of restrictions and waning immunity from the vaccines could be factors behind the rise too.
20th Mar 2022 - BBC News

Life During Hong Kong's Worst Covid-19 Outbreak: Full Hospitals, Quiet Streets

Hong Kong has faced a record surge in Covid-19 cases and the world’s highest death rate, prompting authorities to impose strict restrictions. WSJ’s Diana Chan reports on how everyday life has changed in the city, from panic buying to an exodus of residents
20th Mar 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

Covid restrictions easing across Europe despite surge in cases

In Germany most pandemic controls will be lifted on Sunday after a heated parliamentary debate on Friday which led to both houses of parliament voting in favour. That was despite cases in Germany reaching a new daily record of almost 300,000 on Friday – a seven-day incidence rate of 1,706 cases per 100,000 residents – and a majority of the population expressing concern that the relaxations were coming too soon. Germany has been recording daily deaths of over 200 for several weeks.
20th Mar 2022 - The Guardian

China's factories opt for isolation bubbles to beat COVID curbs and keep running

To keep factory lines open in the face of COVID curbs Chinese firms are asking workers to eat, sleep and work in bubbles isolated from the wider world, sterilising premises as often as three times a day and testing for COVID daily. Dubbed "closed-loop management", this approach has been part of China's efforts over the past two years to keep local transmission extremely low by global standards. It was used for example at the Winter Olympics in Beijing to seal event personnel off from the public.
20th Mar 2022 - Reuters

EU health body recommends free COVID tests, vaccines for Ukrainian refugees

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said on Friday that countries should provide free COVID-19 testing for refugees from Ukraine to avoid outbreaks as more than three million people flee their war-stricken homeland. Infectious diseases and conflict often go hand-in-hand, and the risk of infections spreading could be further exacerbated as COVID vaccination rates in Ukraine have been low overall at 35% versus the EU average of 71.7%. Those fleeing the country should be offered a full course of COVID-19 vaccines, and booster doses, if they do not have proof of prior inoculation, with an emphasis on those at greater risk of severe COVID-19, the ECDC said.
20th Mar 2022 - Reuters

WHO says global rise in COVID cases is 'tip of the iceberg'

Figures showing a global rise in COVID-19 cases could herald a much bigger problem as some countries also report a drop in testing rates, the WHO said on Tuesday, warning nations to remain vigilant against the virus. After more than a month of decline, COVID cases started to increase around the world last week, the WHO said, with lockdowns in Asia and China's Jilin province battling to contain an outbreak. A combination of factors was causing the increases, including the highly transmissible Omicron variant and its BA.2 sublineage, and the lifting of public health and social measures, the WHO said.
19th Mar 2022 - Reuters

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Rising Covid cases mean we need to stay vigilant, but vaccines mean we don't need to panic

You’d think, now that there’s a war on, that we’ve had enough of pestilence. One horseman of the apocalypse at a time, please. But, inconsiderately, it appears that Covid-19 cases in the UK are on the rise again. Not anywhere near the levels of the Omicron peak two months ago, when about 200,000 new cases were being detected a day, but we are seeing as many cases as we did during the second wave in January 2021, and numbers are still going up. It’s reasonable to worry about it, and we should definitely keep an eye on it. But we don’t need to panic.
17th Mar 2022 - iNews

Scientists fear U.K. is easing coronavirus testing and monitoring too soon

After dropping nearly all coronavirus restrictions last month, Britain is now ending some of its most widespread testing and monitoring programs, a move some scientists fear will complicate efforts to track the virus and detect worrisome new variants. Officials have largely dismissed those concerns, despite a recent uptick in cases across Europe, insisting that high immunization rates will help dampen future waves of disease. Based on how quickly new variants have arisen, some experts suggest the next one could arrive as early as May. They warn that U.K. authorities should be using the time to prepare, rather than winding down their pandemic defenses. Mark Woolhouse, an epidemiologist at the University of Edinburgh, called it “an unfortunate pattern” that has been seen repeatedly throughout the outbreak.
17th Mar 2022 - The New York Times

Generic drugmakers sign on to make cheap version of Pfizer COVID pill

Thirty five generic drugmakers around the world will make cheap versions of Pfizer Inc's highly effective COVID-19 oral antiviral Paxlovid to supply the treatment in 95 poorer countries, the U.N.-backed Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) said on Thursday. Pfizer struck a deal last year with the group to allow generic drugmakers to make the pills for 95 low- and middle-income countries. They have been working since then to select the drugmakers they will license. Paxlovid is expected to be an important tool in the fight against COVID-19 after it reduced hospitalizations in high-risk patients by around 90% in a clinical trial. The results were significantly better than those for Merck & Co's rival antiviral pill molnupiravir in its clinical trial.
17th Mar 2022 - Reuters

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In Kharkiv, critical COVID patients at the mercy of Russian bombardment

In Kharkiv's regional infectious diseases hospital, doctors escort those COVID-19 patients they can down to the bomb shelter in the basement when the air raid sirens sound. But the most seriously ill, needing constant oxygen supply, cannot be moved, even if this means leaving them vulnerable to Russian bombardment. "The ones in critical condition remain in their rooms. If we bring them down here they will simply die," said Pavlo Nartov, the hospital's director. "Most of our patients are on oxygen supply all the time. They can't be cut off from the oxygen."
17th Mar 2022 - Reuters

Covid Scotland: 27000 doses of vaccine wasted in a single month as expiry dates reached

Some 13 per cent of doses given were wasted, compared to an average of just 1.5 per cent from September to January. Just half of those aged 18 to 29 have received a booster jag, while the figure for all adults is 78 per cent, below the Scottish Government benchmark of 80 per cent. In response to a “significant” increase in Covid patients, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has banned all but essential visiting in several wards at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary and Royal Alexandra Hospital from Thursday. NHS Lanarkshire has already taken this step. The majority of vaccine doses wasted in February – around 21,000 – were due to passing expiry dates, according to a new report from Public Health Scotland (PHS).
16th Mar 2022 - The Scotsman

Germany hits record Covid infection rate since start of pandemic

Germany has recorded its highest rate of Covid-19 infections since the start of the pandemic, as mask-wearing mandates in shops, restaurants and schools will come to an end in many parts of the country this weekend. The country’s disease control agency on Wednesday reported a record incidence rate of 1,607 new infections per 100,000 people over the past seven days, one of the highest in Europe. Germany’s Robert Koch Institute has recorded a total of 262,593 confirmed new cases and 269 new deaths over the past 24 hours. Experts say the true number of cases could be even higher as testing facilities have reached full capacity and those who test positive with a lateral flow test are no longer required to carry out a PCR test that would show up in the statistics.
16th Mar 2022 - The Guardian

India rolls out COVID vaccine doses for children aged 12-14

India on Wednesday started administering doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to young people aged 12 to 14 as public and private schools re-opened. The government aims to swiftly expand vaccine coverage by also dropping a restriction on booster doses for those older than 60 only if they had a co-morbidity condition. "Today is an important day in India's efforts to vaccinate our citizens," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter. The children, estimated by the government to number 50 million, will receive the Corbevax vaccine, made by Biological E, a domestic firm that secured emergency approval for its use in children.
16th Mar 2022 - Reuters

COVID curbs bite at Chinese ports, threatening global supply chains

The queues of container ships outside major Chinese ports are lengthening by the day as COVID-19 outbreaks in manufacturing export hubs threaten to unleash a fresh wave of global supply chain shocks, ship owners, logistics firms and analysts say. China is experiencing its biggest spike in COVID-19 infections since an initial outbreak in the central city of Wuhan was contained in early 2020. The spread of the highly-infectious Omicron variant this month has led to movement controls across China, including in key manufacturing hubs of Shenzhen and Dongguan, paralysing factories making goods from flash drives to car parts
16th Mar 2022 - Reuters

WHO: New COVID deaths fell 17% last week, but cases rising

The number of new coronavirus deaths reported worldwide fell by 17% in the last week while COVID-19 infections rose, reversing a decline in cases that first began in January, according to the World Health Organization. In the U.N. health agency’s weekly report on the pandemic issued late Tuesday, WHO said there were more than 11 million new COVID-19 infections last week - about an 8% rise - and 43,000 new deaths. The number of COVID-19 deaths globally has been dropping for the past three weeks. The biggest increase in cases were seen in the Western Pacific and Africa, where infections rose by 29% and 12% respectively. Elsewhere, cases dropped by more than 20% in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and the Americas. In Europe, cases inched up by about 2%.
16th Mar 2022 - The Associated Press

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Doctors should not fear liability for recommending Covid-19 vaccine

Medical practitioners in Hong Kong have been reluctant to recommend Covid-19 vaccines to patients with chronic health conditions for fear of the risk of adverse events. Significant numbers of doctors have also been hesitant about openly discussing or recommending vaccination even for those with no relevant health issues. These are the conclusions from a study by the Chinese University of Hong Kong that received little attention when published last November. The findings, which should have raised alarm bells, offer an explanation for the city’s stubbornly low vaccination rate among the elderly.
15th Mar 2022 - South China Morning Post

GP vaccine sites offering 'value for money' to continue Covid jabs until September

GP-led Covid vaccination sites will be able to continue delivering jabs until September if they have ‘sufficient capacity’, NHS England has said. But some may be asked to suspend the service if they are not delivering ‘value for money’, it added. The enhanced service was due to expire at the end of this month, but NHS England had indicated it was expected to be extended until September – as long as delivery did not impact on ‘core’ GP services.
15th Mar 2022 - Pulse

Scientists call for immediate rollout of Covid jab for UK primary school children

Scientists are calling for the immediate rollout of Covid vaccines to primary-aged children in the UK, as new data suggests that even a single dose of the Pfizer jab helps to prevent older children against infection, and shortens the duration and severity of symptoms if they do get infected. According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics, 2- to 11-year-olds have the highest rate of infections of any UK age group, with 4.2% testing positive during the week ending 5 March. Secondary-aged children (up to Year 11) have the lowest rate of infections, with 2.4% testing positive.
15th Mar 2022 - The Guardian

Mexico to uphold existing agreements for Russian COVID vaccine

Mexico will uphold its existing agreements with Russia for its Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, as well as those made with other countries, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Monday. Speaking at a regular news conference, Lopez Obrador said he expected Mexico to have sufficient vaccines going forward, and reiterated that Mexico would not participate in sanctions against Russia over the war in Ukraine.
15th Mar 2022 - Reuters

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Covid-19 Outbreak Shuts Down Some China Factories, Including Apple Supplier

A surge in Covid-19 cases led Chinese manufacturing hubs Shenzhen and Changchun to lock down in recent days, halting production at many electronics and auto factories in the latest threat to the world’s battered supply chain. A number of manufacturers including Foxconn, Technology Group, a major assembler of Apple Inc.’s AAPL, iPhones, said they were halting operations in Shenzhen in compliance with the local government’s policy. The government placed the city into lockdown for at least a week and said everyone in the city would have to undergo three rounds of testing after 86 new cases of domestic Covid-19 infections were detected Sunday.
15th Mar 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

U.S. seeks to expand Trump-era COVID data collection under CDC

The Biden administration wants to expand a federal COVID-19 tracking system created during the pandemic to provide a more detailed view of how respiratory and other infectious diseases are affecting patients and hospital resources, according to a draft of proposed rules reviewed by Reuters. The plan would build upon a hospital data collection system designed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the Trump administration. Management of the program was transferred last month to HHS's lead public health agency, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
14th Mar 2022 - Reuters

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French COVID-19 infections again up 25% week-on-week, trend upward again

New COVID-19 infections in France rose by more than 25% on Friday compared to a week ago after rising more than 24% on Thursday, as a downward trend that had started late January reversed. The health ministry registered 72,399 new infections on Friday, while the seven-day moving average of new infections also rose, for the fourth day in a row, by nearly 16% to more than 60,000. New hospitalisations with COVID-19 - which tend to lag new cases by about two weeks - continued falling, by 7% to just over 21,000.
12th Mar 2022 - Reuters

Covid cases and hospital admissions rising in England, data suggests

One in 25 people in England had Covid last week, figures show, causing a rise in the rates of hospital admissions. The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, based on swabs from randomly selected households, reveal an estimated 2,073,900 people in the community in England had Covid in the week ending 5 March, equating to 3.8% of the population or about one in 25 people. The week before, the figure was about one in 30. In Scotland, the latest ONS figures suggest about one in 18 had Covid in the most recent week – continuing a rise in prevalence – while in Northern Ireland and Wales it was one in 13 and one in 30 respectively, suggesting infection levels are increasing in all countries in the UK.
11th Mar 2022 - The Guardian

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Australia leaders to meet amid Omicron sub-variant concerns, flood damage

Australia's national cabinet will meet on Friday against a backdrop of concerns about the spread of the new sub-variant of the Omicron strain of the coronavirus, while eastern states battle to clear tonnes of debris after devastating floods.
11th Mar 2022 - Reuters

UK Covid cases rising among those aged 55 and over

Covid cases appear to be rising in older people as increased socialising, waning immunity and a more transmissible version of the Omicron variant threaten to fuel a resurgence of the virus. Tests on nearly 100,000 swabs from homes across England reveal that, while infections have fallen overall since the January peak, one in 35 people tested positive between 8 February and 1 March, with cases either level or rising in those aged 55 and over. Scientists on Imperial College’s React-1 study said the R value – the average number of people an infected person passes the virus to – remained below 1 for those aged 54 and under, meaning cases were in decline. But for those aged 55 and over, R stood at 1.04. The suspected uptick has raised concerns as older people are more prone to severe Covid and have had more time for their immunity to wane, as many had their booster vaccines several months ago.
10th Mar 2022 - The Guardian

People Are Getting COVID Shots Despite Hesitation

It is easy to assume that most people who get the COVID-19 vaccine do so without a shred of trepidation, while those who are hesitant about it choose never to get vaccinated. But a recent set of findings blows up this binary and provides insights that could make vaccination campaigns more successful.The studies cut through toxic public discourse about the vaccine and focus on a significant group that is often overlooked by researchers, policy makers and the media: so-called hesitant adopters. Such people get vaccinated and report afterward that they felt some degree of hesitation about doing so. To look into this group, scientists at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Northwest (UAMS Northwest) and their colleagues surveyed 1,475 adults at more than 30 COVID-19 vaccination sites in the state as they sat out their 15-minute wait time after receiving the shot.
10th Mar 2022 - Scientific American

Health Workers Plan for Years of Covid-19 Vaccine Outreach to Black People

Community health workers are redoubling their efforts to sustain Covid-19 vaccine coverage among Black people, saying that gaps remain between willingness to get the shots and the ability of some people to find them conveniently. Early in the U.S. vaccination drive, some Black people said they doubted the safety of the shots or couldn’t get to inoculation sites easily, and their coverage rate lagged that of the general population. Outreach and public-information campaigns helped close the gap by September, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, which found in a survey of 1,519 adults that month that the share of Black adults who said they had gotten an initial vaccination matched the rate for white adults.
10th Mar 2022 - Wall Street Journal

United Airlines to let unvaccinated workers return - WSJ

United Airlines will allow workers who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 for religious or medical reasons to return at the end of this month, the Wall Street Journal reported. The move permits staffers with exemptions from the carrier's vaccination requirement for its U.S. employees to return from unpaid leave or from the non-customer-facing roles they were allowed to apply for as an alternative to their regular jobs, the report said.
10th Mar 2022 - Reuters

Ukraine Covid Pill Development Project Disrupted by Russian Invasion

The night before Russia invaded Ukraine, chemist Tetiana Matviyuk worked late into the night at her Kyiv office. By 10:30 p.m., she had wrapped up after a Zoom meeting with a global team of scientists working on a new, experimental Covid-19 treatment. The day before, she had shipped crucial compounds to colleagues in the U.K. Her team was closing in on the project’s finish line and their moment of Champagne celebration. But instead of euphoria, Matviyuk was filled with dread. She called her husband on her drive home. “I said, ‘I’m feeling that something bad can happen,’” says Matviyuk, 35, principal scientist in medicinal chemistry and computer drug design at contract research group Enamine Ltd. “He was just laughing at me, that I’m crazy and too nervous, and keep calm, everything will be fine.”
10th Mar 2022 - Bloomberg

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U.S. leaning toward ending COVID-era expulsions of migrants at Mexico border - sources

President Joe Biden's administration is leaning toward ending a COVID-era order that has blocked more than a million migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to two U.S. officials familiar with the matter, a major policy shift that would restore the U.S. asylum system but could provoke backlash from Republicans. A third official said the policy was being actively debated and a decision could come within weeks, though the outcome was not yet clear. All three requested anonymity to provide details on internal conversations. The discussions, which have not been previously reported, were prompted by recent U.S. court decisions that complicate the implementation of the so-called "Title 42" border order coupled with major moves by U.S. public health officials to loosen pandemic restrictions across the United States, the officials said
10th Mar 2022 - Reuters

First Covid-19 case arrives in Aiutaki

The case is an Aitutaki resident, and the person is isolating at home. Household contacts are currently being identified and are asked to quarantine. Like Rarotonga, the population on Aitutaki is highly vaccinated and Prime Minister Mark Brown said they are prepared for this. Over the weekend 24 new cases were confirmed, bringing the total number to 130. R-A-T tests will be used to diagnose new cases in the Cook islands as is occurring in New Zealand. No additional PCR test will be required except for clinical reasons.
9th Mar 2022 - RNZ

Shanghai steps up defences against wave of asymptomatic COVID cases

The Chinese financial hub of Shanghai is moving quickly to halt the spread of COVID-19 amid a rising wave of local symptomless cases, testing tens of thousands of people, delaying dozens of concerts and exhibitions and shutting some public venues. Shanghai reported 62 domestically transmitted asymptomatic infections for Tuesday, the seventh consecutive day of increases in such cases, official data showed on Wednesday. That was the highest daily count for the city since China started in late March 2020 to classify symptomless infections separately from confirmed cases.
9th Mar 2022 - Reuters

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Covid disappointments spur Africa’s homegrown vaccine makers

African countries had hoped the Covax vaccine-sharing scheme would guarantee them timely access to jabs, but a lack of regional vaccine production and a bidding war with richer, western nations meant much of the continent has been last in line for doses. According to the FT’s vaccine tracker, 73 per cent of EU residents have been fully vaccinated against Covid, compared with 13 per cent in Africa. Health authorities and scientific institutions in Africa have now set themselves a different target. By 2040 they want 60 per cent of all vaccines given on the continent to be manufactured in Africa, up from 1 per cent now.
8th Mar 2022 - Financial Times

Covid-19 cases creating burden on hospitals - minister

The number of people with Covid-19 in hospitals around the country has risen by over 30% in the last week. There were 803 Covid patients in hospital as of 8am this morning, with 51 of those in ICU. That figure is an increase of 187 compared to last Tuesday. However, it is down five on the same time yesterday, which is the first daily reduction in 10 days. The 808 people with the coronavirus in hospital on Monday, represented the highest level in six weeks, since 824 on 25 January.
8th Mar 2022 - RTE.ie

Unvaccinated Elderly Send Hong Kong’s Covid-19 Death Rate to World’s Highest

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.
8th Mar 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

Experts map out 'new normal' as US enters third pandemic year

As America enters the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic and approaches the 2-year anniversary of business and school shutdowns put in place when little was known about the novel coronavirus, a group of public health experts have published a new roadmap laying out how the country can enter the "new normal" stage of the pandemic and manage the virus without eliminating it. The roadmap recommends against future school closings, suggests the United States will need to manufacture 1 billion at-home COVID-19 tests per month, and says the nation can lift pandemic restrictions when it is tallying 165 or fewer deaths per day from the virus.
7th Mar 2022 - CIDRAP

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Hard for China to Exit Covid Zero With Unprepared Hospitals

When Covid-19 flared in the northern Chinese border region of Ejin late last year, it revealed a key impediment to the country charting an exit from its zero-tolerance pandemic strategy. The healthcare system is so unprepared that any major shift away from Covid Zero -- which in China has meant frequent mass testing, swift quarantines, lockdowns and sealed international borders -- risks a public health crisis. In Ejin, home to about 30,000 in the Chinese province that borders Mongolia, several dozen infections in mid-October quickly overwhelmed the two local hospitals. Authorities had to transfer more than 140 patients by train to the provincial capital of Hohhot, over 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) away, according to local media.
8th Mar 2022 - Bloomberg

Omicron infections contagious for at least 6 days; Takeda drug shows promise as COVID treatment

The following is a summary of some recent studies on COVID-19. They include research that warrants further study to corroborate the findings and that has yet to be certified by peer review. Omicron infections are contagious for at least 6 days Patients infected with the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 remain contagious for just as long as patients infected with earlier variants, according to a small study. Researchers took blood samples from 56 newly-diagnosed patients, including 37 with Delta infections and 19 with Omicron infections. All were mildly ill, such as with flu-like symptoms, but none were hospitalized. Regardless of which variant or whether or not they had been vaccinated or boosted, study participants "shed live virus for, on average, about 6 days after symptoms (began), and... about one in four people shed live virus for over 8 days," said Dr. Amy Barczak of the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, who coauthored a report posted on medRxiv ahead of peer review.
8th Mar 2022 - Reuters

COVID-19 vaccine rollout worsened existing health inequalities, study finds

The wide inequalities in COVID-19 vaccine uptake between people from ethnic minority groups and White British people are far greater than for the pre-pandemic flu jab, a study by University of Manchester health researchers has found. The findings, published in PLOS Medicine, overturns the prevailing view that ethnic inequalities in COVID-19 vaccine uptake simply follow previous trends in people's willingness to take up vaccination. Instead, the researchers suggest, the COVID-19 vaccination program has created additional and different inequalities beyond pre-existing inequalities in vaccine uptake.
7th Mar 2022 - Medical Xpress

COVID-only Minnesota hospitals had lower death rates

A Minnesota health system that established two COVID-19 patient-only hospitals early in the pandemic had lower rates of coronavirus-related death than hospitals with mixed patient cohorts, according to a study published yesterday in JAMA Network Open. University of Minnesota at Minneapolis researchers studied the outcomes of 5,504 adult COVID-19 patients treated at M Health Fairview from Mar 1, 2020, to Jun 30, 2021, from 11 hospitals, including 2 reserved for the treatment of COVID-19 patients. Median patient age in the entire cohort was 62.5 years, and 51.9% were women. Of the 5,504 patients, 2,077 (37.7%) were treated at one of the two dedicated hospitals in St. Paul, and 3,427 (62.3%) were cared for at the other hospitals.
4th Mar 2022 - CIDRAP

Maintaining Services - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 7th Mar 2022

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Hong Kong retail chains ration staples to curb COVID panic buying

Two of Hong Kong's largest consumer retail chains started rationing some food and drug items on Friday to curb panic buying that has plagued the city over the past week amid fears of a citywide lockdown as COVID-19 cases soar. Health authorities reported 52,523 new COVID-19 cases on Friday and 136 deaths. This compares with about 100 infections at the start of February and a clean three-month streak of zero cases before the end of December.
6th Mar 2022 - Reuters

Ministry of Health urges caution over dropping Covid-19 case numbers

In New Zealand, there were 15,161 new community cases today, more than 3500 fewer than yesterday's total of 18,833. On Friday, it was 22,527. It is the third day running that case numbers have fallen. Covid-19 Modelling Aotearoa project leader Dion O'Neale said the shift to Rapid Antigen Tests and focus on personal reponsibility in reporting cases could be throwing numbers off. Urging caution, the ministry said: "The variation in reporting numbers each day means that the rolling average of cases gives a more reliable indicator of testing trends. The seven-day rolling average of cases is today 17,272, up from 16,687 yesterday".
6th Mar 2022 - RNZ

Hong Kong Mortuaries Bring in Mobile Fridges as Deaths Surge

Hong Kong’s mortuaries are so overwhelmed they’re deploying mobile refrigeration units to store bodies, as scenes reminiscent of the early days of the pandemic play out amid the city’s worst Covid-19 wave yet. Photos taken at the Fu Shan Public Mortuary show four refrigerated units in a car park. Nearby, bags of ice are stacked next to an empty coffin. Hong Kong’s resources are straining under the pressure of a record outbreak that’s pushed its death rate to one of the highest in the world. Fatalities have been concentrated in the under-vaccinated elderly, and the spread of the virus to more than 750 care facilities – including those that are home to disabled residents – has sparked concerns of worse to come.
5th Mar 2022 - Bloomberg

Maintaining Services - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 4th Mar 2022

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Brazil Is Now Producing Its Own Covid-19 Vaccine Doses

On Valentine’s Day, scientists in Brazil produced a special gift: the first Covid-19 vaccine doses produced fully within the country. These used active pharmaceutical ingredients from Brazil, drew on a technology-transfer agreement with AstraZeneca, and were produced in a new vaccine production facility run by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) and the Immunobiological Technology Institute (Instituto de Tecnologia em Imunobiológicos, or Bio-Manguinhos). The new lab expects to produce 120 million Covid-19 doses by the middle of 2022. This would allow for one dose each for over half of Brazil’s population
3rd Mar 2022 - Forbes

Additional doses of covid-19 vaccine recommended for immunocompromised patients

Additional doses of covid-19 vaccine are recommended for immunocompromised patients, especially for organ transplant recipients who are least able to make antibodies to fight off coronavirus, say experts in The BMJ today. The findings reinforce the importance of additional doses of covid-19 vaccine to protect people with a weakened immune system. It is already known that after vaccination, people with a weakened immune system (immunocompromised) are less able to make antibodies to fight off viruses, such as influenza, than people with a healthy immune system (immunocompetent). But less is known about the response to covid-19 vaccines, particularly mRNA vaccines.
3rd Mar 2022 - News-Medical.Net

COVID-19: How ventilation, filtration, humidity prevent transmission

Researchers from the University of Oregon measured the amount of virus particles that 11 students with COVID-19 released during certain activities. The research team found higher ventilation, filtration, and humidity levels decreased the amount of virus particles in the air. Scientists believe their findings can assist building operators with creating safer indoor environments.
3rd Mar 2022 - Medical News Today

Regeneron must face patent lawsuit over COVID-19 treatment

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc on Wednesday failed to persuade a federal judge in New York to throw out a lawsuit over its alleged misuse of a patented protein to test its breakthrough COVID-19 treatment. U.S. District Judge Philip Halpern said during an oral argument that he could not grant Regeneron's request at an early stage of the case to find it immune from Allele Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals Inc's infringement claims.
3rd Mar 2022 - Reuters

WHO sees little impact on COVID-19 vaccine supplies to Africa from Ukraine war

The World Health Organization does not expect any immediate impact on vaccine supply to Africa from Russia's invasion of Ukraine, senior officials on the continent said on Thursday. Russia's Sputnik vaccines are part of an effort by wealthier countries to plug the COVID-19 vaccine gap in Africa, but so far they remain a minimal component of imports to the continent. Russia's invasion entered its second week on Thursday and there are concerns that the focus on the war could interrupt vaccine shipments to Africa.
3rd Mar 2022 - Reuters

Why formally ending the pandemic is going to be a huge headache for the entire health care system

President Biden made it clear this week he wants to transition toward a new phase of the Covid-19 pandemic — one where people are “moving forward safely, back to more normal routines,” as he said this week.
3rd Mar 2022 - STAT News

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Americans can order another round of free at-home Covid-19 tests next week

Americans can order additional free at-home Covid-19 tests supplied by the US government starting next week. "If you already ordered free tests, tonight, I'm announcing you can order another group of tests. Go to Covidtest.gov starting next week and you can get more tests," President Joe Biden said during his Tuesday State of the Union address. In January, the government launched its effort to provide free rapid antigen tests to any household that requested them through that website or by calling 800-232-0233. There was a limit of four tests per residential address.
2nd Mar 2022 - CNN

COVID-19 hospitalizations, cases and deaths start to plateau as provinces lift measures

The decline of COVID-19 cases, deaths and hospitalizations across Canada has led many provinces to aggressively lift public health restrictions — yet data shows those declines have begun to plateau. Ontario, Alberta and Manitoba ended several measures on Tuesday, including vaccination requirements for businesses and capacity limits. Other provinces, including Quebec, and Atlantic Canada, eased restrictions a day earlier, with Saskatchewan ending them entirely on Monday.
2nd Mar 2022 - Global News

India's output, exports of Russia's Sputnik vaccine at risk due to Ukraine crisis

India's production and exports of Russia's Sputnik COVID-19 vaccines are expected to slow further following U.S. sanctions on Russia's sovereign wealth fund that promotes the shot globally, three Indian pharmaceutical industry sources told Reuters. The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) had billed India as one of Sputnik's biggest production hubs and markets, though local sales have stagnated at 1.2 million doses out of 1.8 billion doses of various vaccines administered in the country.
2nd Mar 2022 - Reuters

Hong Kong government urges residents spooked by citywide lockdown not to panic

Hong Kong's government said any decision to impose a COVID-19 lockdown would take into account the global financial hub's status and ensure basic needs such as food and urged anxious residents who raided supermarkets this week not to panic. The government said it was still planning and "refining" details for a compulsory mass COVID testing scheme and would announce details once they had been confirmed. The government statement, released late on Tuesday, comes amid widespread confusion and chaos with many residents fatigued and frustrated by the mixed messaging and almost daily tweaking of coronavirus rules.
2nd Mar 2022 - Reuters

Merck's Covid Antiviral Gets WHO Backing for High-Risk Patients

Merck & Co.’s Covid-19 antiviral pill was endorsed by a World Health Organization panel for patients in the early stages of disease who face high risk of hospitalization. The WHO panel of international experts, which looked at data from six randomized clinical trials involving more than 4,000 patients, found a moderate certainty that Merck’s molnupiravir reduces the risk of hospital admission and recovery time. The effect on mortality wasn’t so clear. The decision was published Thursday in the BMJ medical journal. Merck’s pill is used in the U.S. and U.K. to treat Covid patients at high risk of severe illness, but its mechanism of action and lesser efficacy have prompted a shift toward Pfizer Inc.’s Paxlovid and other drugs. U.S. National Institutes of Health guidelines specify that molnupiravir should be used only when other medications for outpatients can’t be given.
2nd Mar 2022 - Bloomberg

Maintaining Services - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 2nd Mar 2022

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Pfizer’s Covid-19 Vaccine Protected Kids During Omicron, CDC Study Finds

The Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and partner BioNTech SE was highly effective at reducing the risk of severe disease in children 17 years and younger during the Omicron surge but didn’t work as well at preventing infection, according to a new government study. The two-dose vaccine reduced the risk of Covid-19 hospitalization in children 5 to 11 years by 74% and by 92% or higher in children 12 to 17, according to the study published Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, the vaccine was 51% effective at reducing the risk of infection among 5- to 11-year-olds, while Omicron was predominant, and between 34% and 45% effective in children 12 to 17 years, depending on the age, for the first five months after the second dose, according to the study. The vaccine was 90.7% effective at preventing symptomatic disease in the pivotal study that led to authorization. That study was conducted before Omicron emerged.
1st Mar 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

1 million Sputnik coronavirus vaccines expire in Guatemala

Health authorities in Guatemala say over a million doses of the Russian Sputnik coronavirus vaccine have expired, because nobody wanted to take the shot. Francisco Coma, the country’s health minister, said Monday that there was a “rejection” among the population toward the vaccine, even though a lot of Guatemalans remain unvaccinated.
1st Mar 2022 - ABC News

Hong Kong mortuaries hit capacity as Covid-19 deaths climb

Facilities for storing dead bodies at hospitals and public mortuaries in Hong Kong are at maximum capacity due to a record number of Covid-19 fatalities, the Hospital Authority said on Monday, as officials battle to control a surge in cases. The global financial hub reported a daily record high of 34,466 new coronavirus infections and 87 deaths on Monday, health authorities said. Separately, the city’s Education Secretary said international schools could maintain their original term dates, after widespread confusion over summer school holidays.
1st Mar 2022 - CNBC

Fears of medical shortages and disease in Ukraine after Russian invasion

Ukraine is running low on critical medical supplies and has had to halt urgent efforts to curb a polio outbreak since Russia invaded the country last week, public health experts say. Medical needs are already acute, with the World Health Organization warning on Sunday that oxygen supplies were running out. read more On Tuesday, WHO told a briefing that some facilities already had no oxygen left. Fears of a wider public health crisis are growing as people flee their homes, health services are interrupted and supplies fail to reach Ukraine, which has also been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic
1st Mar 2022 - Reuters

Indonesia extends AstraZeneca vaccine shelf life as 6 mln doses near expiry

Indonesia has extended the shelf life of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine to nine months, as nearly six million doses it received in donations approached their expiration dates, a health ministry spokesperson told Reuters. The decision underscores the challenges many developing countries face in their slow inoculation campaigns, as vaccines donated by wealthy countries arrive with a relatively short shelf life of just a few months or weeks
1st Mar 2022 - Reuters

Study: 90% of young ECMO-eligible COVID patients at a US hospital died amid rationing

Nearly 90% of adult COVID-19 patients who were eligible for—but didn't receive—extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) during the height of the pandemic died in the hospital owing to a lack of resources, even though they were young and had few underlying health issues, according to a natural experiment published late last week in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
28th Feb 2022 - CIDRAP

Maintaining Services - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 1st Mar 2022

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S. Korea drops proof of vaccine, test to aid virus response

South Korea will no longer require people to show proof of vaccination or negative tests to enter any indoor space starting Tuesday, removing a key preventive measure during a fast-developing omicron surge that’s elevating hospitalizations and deaths. The Health Ministry’s announcement on Monday came as the country set another one-day record in COVID-19 deaths with 114, breaking the previous high of 112 set on Saturday. More than 710 COVID-19 patients were in critical or serious conditions, up from 200-300 in mid-February, while nearly half of the country’s intensive care units designated for COVID-19 were occupied. Park Hyang, a senior health ministry official, said rescinding the “anti-epidemic pass” would free more health workers to help monitor nearly 800,000 virus patients with mild or moderate symptoms who have been asked to isolate at home to save hospital space.
1st Mar 2022 - The Associated Press

Nearly third more Covid deaths among England’s poorest since turn of the year

At least 30 per cent more coronavirus deaths have occurred in the most deprived areas of England since the turn of the year, data shows, reinforcing concern that the poorest communities will carry the greatest burden of disease under the government’s plans for “living with Covid”. Of the 7,053 deaths registered in the six weeks after 1 January, 1,589 (22.5 per cent) were from the most deprived 20 per cent of the country, compared to 1,188 (16.8 per cent) in the least deprived 20 per cent. Ministers have been warned that these disparities will only widen as the government scales back free testing and mandated isolation, and removes sick payments for those ill with Covid.
1st Mar 2022 - The Independent

USAID boosts Jamaica's push to get COVID-19 vaccines to private health facilities

In Jamaica, eight private entities in the health sector have signed grants totalling US$600,000 with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to continue the roll-out of the health ministry's outsourcing of COVID-19 vaccines. The ministry is trying to administer 75,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines through private entities. So far, approximately 17,000 doses have been given outside of the public health system, state minister for health Juliet Cuthbert Flynn noted during a signing ceremony
28th Feb 2022 - The Jamaica Observer

Vaccination very essential, will help combat 4th Covid wave, UNICEF advisor says

Though the chances of severity in children infected with Covid-19 is very low, vaccination is very essential and it would help combat the fourth wave, said Dr Mrudula Phadke, senior advisor to Government of Maharashtra and UNICEF on Child Health. Speaking about Multiple Inflammatory Syndrome of Children, a syndrome that affects almost every organ, she said “Only 1 in 10,000 children may experience severe disease on being infected with Covid-19. But there is a condition called MIS-C, where almost every organ is affected. Hence our children should be vaccinated,” she insisted.
28th Feb 2022 - Deccan Herald

Covid-19 pills will ‘allow UK to fully reopen economy’ as pandemic impacts weigh

Landmark Covid-19 pills will “allow the UK to fully reopen its economy”, according to analysts, as the impacts of the pandemic continue to weigh on the economy. Companies including famed vaccine maker Pfizer, which has won regulatory approval for its Paxlovid pill, and Merck, have revolutionized the global immunisation process with antiviral pills. “The acceleration of the roll out of new accessible medications against Covid-19 is expected to have a meaningful impact in terms of our ability to move beyond the pandemic and will help us to learn to live with the disease in the background,” Manx Financial Group CEO Douglas Grant told Business Matters. “Easy-to-take medication will be a catalyst for the return to business as usual and help remove these damaging blockages, unleashing a sector that is desperate to grow.” Grant added that it is “particularly good news for the UK’s SMEs” who have been disproportionately hit by the pandemic, and its longer-lasting impacts of rising costs of goods, utilities and labour, as inflation teeters on a 30-year high.
28th Feb 2022 - Business Matters

Agong encourages people to take Covid-19 booster shots

The process of transitioning Malaysia from the Covid-19 pandemic stage into endemicity must be made carefully although the country is increasingly ready to make such a transition. Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah cited several indicators which show that the country is ready to transition into the endemic phase. Among the indicators include the Nikkei Asia Covid-19 Recovery Index which ranked Malaysia at 13th spot out of 122 countries around the world. Al-Sultan Abdullah also noted that the Covid-19 National Immunisation Programme (NIP) has helped to inoculate 98 per cent of the adult population in the country.
28th Feb 2022 - New Straits Times

Covid-19: Is the government dismantling pandemic systems too hastily?

A last minute row over funding for free covid testing between the Treasury and the Department of Health and Social Care for England nearly derailed the government’s “living with covid” strategy launch last week.1 But the Cabinet eventually signed off drastic cuts to the estimated £15.7bn (€18.7bn; $21bn) testing budget as a key plank of the prime minister’s plan to scrap all remaining covid regulations in England. Duncan Robertson, a policy and strategy analytics academic at Loughborough University, told The BMJ that the latest row over ending restrictions showed that the “false equivalence of the virus versus the economy” was still rearing its head almost two years into the pandemic, even though it is known that “once people are infected, they can’t go to work, and the economy suffers.” It remains to be seen whether the right balance has now been struck and whether the short term gains to the exchequer from letting the public shoulder more responsibility for fighting SARS-CoV-2 are going to pay off, with long term benefits to health and society as a whole.
28th Feb 2022 - The BMJ

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Arizona health agency reduces frequency of pandemic updates

Arizona’s public health agency on Saturday provided its last planned daily update of the state’s coronavirus dashboard of pandemic data such as additional COVID-19 cases, new deaths and hospitalization levels. The state Department of Health Services announced Feb. 18 that it would switch to weekly dashboard updates starting next Wednesday because the outbreak is slowing and to be consistent with other infectious disease that are reported. “It also will provide a clearer view of COVID-19 trends by smoothing the variability in daily reporting by labs and other sources,” the department’s announcement said.
27th Feb 2022 - Associated Press

How covid-19 has exposed the weaknesses in rural healthcare

Rural regions made vulnerable by limited healthcare infrastructure, lower rates of vaccination, and opposition to government policies are the new frontlines in the pandemic. Yet support systems have not adjusted to the growing rural needs for health education, testing, vaccination, and treatment. Michael Forster Rothbart, Kata Karáth, and Lungelo Ndhlovu report from the US, Ecuador, and Zimbabwe
25th Feb 2022 - The BMJ

Maintaining Services - Connecting Communities for COVID19 News - 25th Feb 2022

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Africa CDC Urges Vaccine Donors to Stagger Deliveries of Shots

The African Union’s public health agency urged Covid-19 vaccine donors to help ensure that the distribution of shots is aligned with take-up so that all of them are used. “We have not asked them to pause the donations, but to coordinate with us so that the new donations arrive in a way so that countries can use them,” John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a webinar Thursday. “This is very different from saying don’t donate at all.”
24th Feb 2022 - Bloomberg

Novavax starts shipping COVID vaccine to EU states

Novavax Inc said on Wednesday it had started shipping doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to European Union member states, with France, Austria and Germany expected to be the first to receive the shots in the coming days. Shipments of Nuvaxovid to additional EU member states from the company's Netherlands distribution center are expected to quickly follow, adding to the stockpile of the region as it struggles with a surge in infections due to the Omicron variant.
24th Feb 2022 - Reuters

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WHO plans second hub for training countries to make COVID vaccines

The World Health Organization said on Wednesday it has set up a hub in South Korea to train low- and middle-income countries to produce their own vaccines and therapies, and is expanding its COVID-19 vaccine project to a further five nations. The new training hub comes after the U.N. agency set up a technology transfer hub in Cape Town, South Africa, last year to give companies from poor and middle-income countries the know-how to produce COVID-19 vaccines based on mRNA technology. The new hub outside Seoul will provide workforce training to all countries wishing to produce products such as vaccines, insulin, monoclonal antibodies, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a press briefing.
23rd Feb 2022 - Reuters

Moderna, Thermo Fisher partner to manufacture COVID vaccine, other drugs

Moderna Inc has entered into a long-term agreement with Thermo Fisher Scientific for the manufacturing of its COVID-19 vaccine and other experimental medicines based on mRNA technology, the companies said on Wednesday. Thermo Fisher had already partnered with Moderna last year to help scale up production of its COVID vaccine, branded as Spikevax. As a part of the 15-year expanded deal, Thermo Fisher would provide dedicated manufacturing capacity in the United States for fill/finish services as well as labeling and packaging services for Spikevax and other mRNA drugs in Moderna's pipeline.
23rd Feb 2022 - Reuters

Deutsche Telekom to build global COVID vaccine verification app for WHO

The World Health Organization has signed a contract with Deutsche Telekom subsidiary T-Systems to build a software solution for global electronic verification of coronavirus vaccination certificates, the telecoms company said. The QR code-based software solution will be used for other vaccinations as well, such as polio or yellow fever, T-Systems said in a statement on Wednesday, adding that the WHO would support its 194 member states in building national and regional verification technology. The financial details of the transaction were not disclosed. "Health is a strategic growth area for T-Systems," said T-Systems Chief Executive Officer Adel Al-Saleh.
23rd Feb 2022 - Reuters

EU countries agree to admit travellers vaccinated with WHO-approved shots

European Union countries agreed on Tuesday to open their borders to travellers from outside the bloc who have had shots against COVID-19 authorised by the World Health Organization, easing restrictions on those who received Indian and Chinese vaccines. The EU has so far authorised vaccines produced by Pfizer-BionTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca (when produced in Europe), Johnson & Johnson and Novavax. In addition to these shots, the WHO has also approved the vaccines produced by Chinese makers Sinopharm and Sinovac and by Indian company Bharat Biotech
23rd Feb 2022 - Reuters

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Covid cost-cutting will put blinkers on our best Covid research

After a bruising two years in which the UK failed to prove its resilience to a pandemic, the government hopes to re-cast the nation as a scientific superpower: a country that has built on the lessons of the crisis to deliver better research, more precision healthcare, and a more streamlined pathway to new drugs and vaccines. But the government’s decision to substantially cut back on free Covid testing, as part of Boris Johnson’s “living with Covid” strategy, already threatens to undermine pioneering trials and coronavirus surveillance that are the envy of other nations. Together, they are crucial for understanding how drugs keep patients out of hospital, how immunity is holding up in vulnerable care homes and hospitals and how the epidemic is unfolding around us.
22nd Feb 2022 - The Guardian

Parents of kids under 5 anxiously await coronavirus vaccine

In the US, parents of children younger than 5 say they feel forgotten and left behind, watching others reclaim normalcy while they stay home with kids who are too young to be vaccinated and have to quarantine when there is an exposure to the coronavirus at day care or school. Parents are now dealing with another twist in a two-year roller-coaster ride after a coronavirus vaccine for the youngest children was further delayed this month. The Food and Drug Administration said it would wait to make a decision on authorizing the vaccine until data on a third dose becomes available — opening up a host of new questions and concerns.
22nd Feb 2022 - The Washington Post

Britain to offer further COVID-19 boosters to elderly and immunosuppressed

Britain said it would offer further COVID-19 booster shots to the elderly, care home residents and immunosuppressed people as part of a plan to learn to live with the disease without legal restrictions. Britain's health minister Sajid Javid said he would accept the recommendation of the country's vaccine advisers, and said that all four nations of the United Kingdom would offer the extra shots.
22nd Feb 2022 - Reuters UK

State legislatures renew the push to roll back Covid-related public health measures

State legislators are mobilizing anew to roll back public health measures meant to contain the spread of Covid-19. They are introducing bills in both liberal and conservative states that target measures like vaccine and mask requirements, which have become political lightning rods throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. Several state lawmakers are also pushing legislation that would prevent hospitals and nursing homes from restricting visitors during outbreaks. The legislative blitz comes on the heels of a similar push last year, when over half of U.S. states took some action to roll back public health powers
22nd Feb 2022 - STAT News

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UK needs 'early warning system' for new Covid variants says vaccine expert

The UK needs an 'early warning system' to track new variants when Covid restrictions are lifted, a leading vaccine expert has said. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to announce his living with Covid plan today (Monday, February 21) which will see the scrapping of regulations put in place to control the pandemic. Professor Sir Andrew Pollard told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme there is a need to monitor variants to see if they are more dangerous than Omicron. The director of the Oxford Vaccine Group at the University of Oxford said: “One of the key things is, whenever we do reduce restrictions, we need to have a number of measures in place for that period, and one of the most critical is surveillance for the virus, an early warning system if you like, which tells us about new variants emerging and gives an ability to monitor whether those new variants are indeed causing more severe disease than Omicron did.
21st Feb 2022 - Wales Online

Staff shortage concerns challenge Germany's vaccine mandate

Frank Vogel, a 64-year-old local politician from the eastern German Erzgebirge region, has been scrambling to find ways to keep nursing homes open when a vaccine mandate for healthcare workers takes effect next month. His region near the Czech border has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Germany. With only 57% of healthcare workers there having received two shots against the coronavirus, implementing the mandate would result in staff shortages that would force facilities to shut. "In the end, you have the question: How do you then deal with the people being cared for in these facilities?" Vogel told Reuters.
21st Feb 2022 - Reuters

Children aged 12-15 to be offered a booster dose of Covid-19 vaccine

Children aged 12 to 15 years are to be offered a booster dose of Covid-19 vaccine in a bid to reduce infection rates among this age group. The move follows a recommendation by the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (Niac), which has been accepted by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly. The go-ahead was given by Niac despite the lack of authorisation by the European Medicines Agency for boosters doses for this age group. The EMA is currently assessing an application by Pfizer/BioNTech for use of its booster vaccine in adolescents from 12 years. Because off-licence use is being allowed in Ireland, Mr Donnelly said special attention would be paid to the provision of support and guidance information as part of the informed consent process for children and young people and their parents.
21st Feb 2022 - The Irish Times

The Novavax vaccine is here. So who was waiting for it?

During the push last year to vaccinate the state against coronavirus, staff at Bay Centre Medical at Byron Bay, an area known for its lower vaccination rates, lost count of the number of patients “waiting for Novavax”. So, when their first order of 100 doses arrived last week, the practice’s doctors started calling around. They made a total of 10 bookings. “I don’t think we’ll order it again, really,” said practice manager Karina Masterson, adding unvaccinated people were now more commonly asking for vaccine exemption certificates because they caught the virus over summer. Monday marked the official first day of the Novavax coronavirus vaccine being available in Australia, the fourth brand of shot now obtainable, and the vaccine cited by a number of otherwise hesitant people as their entry to the rollout. (Some GPs and pharmacies started giving the shots last week after receiving shipments early.)
21st Feb 2022 - Sydney Morning Herald

Valneva receives 12.5 million pound COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing grant in Scotland

The Scottish unit of French vaccine maker Valneva (VLS.PA) has received a grant of up to 20 million pounds ($27 million) to partly fund the research and development (R&D) of manufacturing its COVID-19 vaccine VLA2001, the company said on Monday. Valneva will receive the funds from Scotland's national economic development agencyScottish Enterprise, which it has been in talks with since December. The funding will come in two tranches. The first grant of up to 12.5 million pounds will support the company's efforts on the VLA2001, its inactivated, whole virus COVID-19 vaccine candidate. The second round of up to 7.5 million pounds will be used for Valneva's other vaccines.
21st Feb 2022 - Reuters

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FDA to allow export of AstraZeneca COVID vaccine lots made at Emergent plant

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Friday it had found four batches of AstraZeneca Plc's (AZN.L) COVID-19 vaccine manufactured at the troubled Emergent BioSolutions facility that were fit to be shipped outside the United States. The health agency said it does not, however, expect to make any more decisions on the remaining lots of the vaccine manufactured at Emergent's Baltimore facility. Last year, the FDA halted operations at the plant, which was producing vaccines for AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N), following a discovery that one vaccine was contaminated with material used in the other. There have been concerns over the shelf life of AstraZeneca's vaccines reaching the world's poorest nations for distribution, Reuters reported on Wednesday.
19th Feb 2022 - Reuters

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Covid-19 news: 5-to-11-year-olds in England to get vaccines from April

Children aged between five and 11 in England will be able to get a covid jab. All five to 11-year-olds in England will be offered a low-dose Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine. It follows months of deliberations by the Joint Committee on Vaccines and Immunisation (JCVI). The JCVI reportedly decided that vaccinating children in this age group is beneficial, but of less benefit than for older age groups. This is partly because children are less likely to become severely ill from covid-19 and also because many children have already caught the virus. However, vaccinating children soon should prevent a certain number from developing severe illness in future waves of infection. The JCVI estimates that vaccinating one million children will prevent 98 hospitalisations if the next covid wave is severe, and about 17 hospitalisations if the next wave is relatively mild like omicron.
17th Feb 2022 - New Scientist

'Game-Changer' Pfizer Pill Is Easier to Find as Omicron Fades Away

As the omicron wave peaked in the U.S. last month, the first-line treatment for high-risk patients with early Covid dangled out of reach for most. Only a trickle of the new Paxlovid pill from Pfizer Inc. was reaching hospitals and pharmacies. Now, as cases plummet nationwide and the company continues to deliver hundreds of thousands of doses ordered by the federal government to pharmacies, Paxlovid is starting to look downright plentiful. Doctors and health officials in New York, Boston, Colorado and other areas where the omicron wave has receded report that supply seems to be meeting the softening demand. “We’ve seen such a rapid decline in Covid cases that it’s not as needed anymore,” said Asif Merchant, who chairs the Massachusetts Medical Society’s committee on geriatrics. “Having the availability three or four weeks ago would have made a tremendous amount of difference.”
17th Feb 2022 - Bloomberg

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Covid: How new drugs are finally taming the virus

"Two years ago we had nothing,'" says Dr Matthias Schmid, head of infectious diseases at the RVI, who treated the UK's first Covid patient at the end of January 2020. "Now we have a range of treatments available which reduce the severity and prevent death in a huge number of patients." They include the cheap anti-inflammatory steroid dexamethasone, the first drug proven to save the lives of people seriously ill with Covid, which was discovered through a ground-breaking NHS trial. "It's feeling more normal for us," says Dr Miriam Baruch, intensive care medicine consultant. "It's really nice that we can train our doctors for the variety of patients that we get."
16th Feb 2022 - BBC News

Child Covid-19 hospitalizations rose amid Omicron, especially among children too young to be vaccinated

Covid-19 hospitalization rates among children increased as Omicron replaced Delta as the predominant coronavirus variant in the United States, especially among those under 5, who are not eligible to be vaccinated, according to a study published Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At their peak, weekly pediatric Covid-19 hospitalization rates were four times higher during a period of Omicron dominance than during a period of Delta dominance. Children younger than 5 saw the largest increase, with hospitalization rates that were more than five times higher during Omicron than during Delta.
16th Feb 2022 - CNN

Clinically extremely vulnerable will no longer be offered Covid guidance by Government as restrictions end

The Government is set to end all guidance for millions of people previously considered “clinically extremely vulnerable” as part of plans to start living with Covid, i has learned. Around 3.7 million people in England were identified as clinically extremely vulnerable at the start of the pandemic and told to “shield” themselves from the heightened risk of Covid infection. People on the shielding list were offered specific guidance telling them to stay at home and avoid face-to-face contact during the first wave of coronavirus infections and subsequent national lockdowns
16th Feb 2022 - iNews

BioNTech plans modular vaccine factories in Africa

German vaccine maker BioNTech, which developed the first widely approved shot against COVID-19 together with Pfizer, unveiled plans Wednesday to establish manufacturing facilities in Africa that would boost the availability of much-needed medicines on the continent. The modular design presented at a ceremony in Marburg, Germany, consists of shipping containers fitted with the equipment necessary to make the company’s mRNA-based vaccine, save for the final step of putting doses into bottles, a process known as fill and finish. “Our goal is to enable mRNA production on all continents,” BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin told The Associated Press. BioNTech has been criticized by some campaign groups for refusing to suspend its vaccine patents and let rivals manufacture the shots as part of an effort to make them more widely available, especially in poor countries. The company argues that the process of making mRNA vaccines is difficult and it prefers to work with local partners to ensure consistent quality of the shots worldwide.
16th Feb 2022 - The Associated Press

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‘Panicking’ Hong Kong parents rush to book Covid-19 shots for young children

Covid-19 vaccinations for children have risen sharply amid Hong Kong’s worsening fifth wave of coronavirus cases, with bookings boosted by an earlier government decision to lower the eligibility age for Sinovac shots to three years from Tuesday. Family doctors and paediatric experts have reported a surge in vaccinations for children, with one medical professional suggesting the recent coronavirus-related death of a four-year-old boy could have been a contributing factor. Paediatrician Dr Alvin Chan Yee-shing, co-chairman of the Medical Association’s advisory committee on communicable diseases, said parents had gone into “panic” mode.
15th Feb 2022 - South China Morning Post

COVID-19: Provision of free lateral flow tests under review as reports say they are due to end

The government has said it is keeping its provision of free lateral flow tests under review as reports say they are due to end. It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to announce the end of all coronavirus restrictions in England. Ministers hope plans to wind down COVID testing and payments for isolation will save more than £10bn, according to reports in The Guardian and The Times.
15th Feb 2022 - Sky News

Israel to offer AstraZeneca's Evusheld to immunocompromised people

Israel will start offering AstraZeneca's (AZN.L) antibody cocktail Evusheld, which is used to prevent COVID-19, to people with compromised immune systems who did not get a sufficient antibody boost from vaccines. Evusheld has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and has proven to be 83% effective in preventing serious illness and death from COVID-19, the Health Ministry said on Tuesday. It is not a treatment for those already sick or a prevention for those already exposed to the virus, it said. Evusheld will be made available for people 12 and older who weigh more than 40 kg (88 lb), according to a Health Ministry statement.
15th Feb 2022 - Reuters

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New Covid jabs ad campaign aimed at unvaccinated Brits amid fears they are vulnerable to fresh waves of virus

The Government has launched a new advertising campaign aimed at convincing unvaccinated people to get a Covid-19 jab amid fears they may be vulnerable in future waves of coronavirus. Covid cases, hospitalisations and deaths have all been declining rapidly in the past week with the figures returning to levels seen before the start of the Omicron wave. However, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) has warned that if more people return to normal life, infections could soar again in the coming months.
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

Mainland China to help overwhelmed Hong Kong with COVID fight

China will help Hong Kong to cope with an expanding COVID-19 outbreak by providing testing, treatment and quarantine capacity, Chief Secretary John Lee said on Saturday, adding that there were no plans for a mainland-style lockdown for now. Hong Kong and mainland China are among few places in the world still aiming to suppress every COVID-19 outbreak, but the Omicron variant has proven tough to keep under control. Lee, Health Secretary Sophia Chan and Security Chief Chris Tang were part of a delegation who visited neighbouring Shenzhen on Friday and Saturday to discuss support measures with mainland Chinese officials.
14th Feb 2022 - Reuters

Police filter Brussels traffic to dilute trucker protests

Plans for a major trucker virus protest near the European Union headquarters in Brussels fizzled Monday, with police filtering traffic during the morning rush hour to leave only a few scattered demonstrators on foot instead. Police narrowed some highways and imposed go-slow traffic early Monday in and around the Belgian capital to keep control of what it feared could turn into a choking protest like those by horn-honking truckers in Canada. Early indications didn’t show a groundswell of support for the protest but police took extensive precautions. “We don’t actually think that Brussels has been paralyzed. Anyone who wanted to enter Brussels with good intentions was able to do so — with some delay, of course,” said federal police spokeswoman An Berger.
14th Feb 2022 - The Associated Press

Moderna eyes UK for next leg of mRNA vaccine manufacturing journey: report

Moderna has already seized domestic manufacturing opportunities in Canada, Australia and Africa. Now, the mRNA pioneer is setting its sights on the U.K.'s "Golden Triangle" for the next leg of its vaccine journey, the Financial Times reports. The company is in late-stage talks with the U.K. to invest in local research and manufacturing, the publication said Sunday. Under the deal, Moderna would also team up with the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) for clinical trial work, the FT added. The plan would see Moderna hire staffers to run clinical trials with the NHS, the FT says. Additionally, the biotech would help bolster the U.K.’s pandemic preparedness by building out a manufacturing facility that could swiftly pivot to tackle emerging health threats, the publication noted.
14th Feb 2022 - FiercePharma

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While 99% of NYC Workers Comply With Covid-19 Vaccine Rules, 3,000 Face Cuts

About 3,000 New York City workers are set to lose their jobs for not complying with Covid-19 vaccinate requirements for city employees, representing about 0.8% of a roughly 370,000-person workforce. The vaccine requirement—which encompassed the city’s teachers, police officers and firefighters—mandated that all new city workers as of Aug. 2, 2021, be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. The policy went into effect under then-Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration. City agencies were told Monday that new hires who joined after that date had until Friday to show proof they received a second vaccine dose. About 3,000 employees were on leave without pay as of the end of January due to being unvaccinated. They were told they would be let go on Friday unless they got vaccinated.
12th Feb 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

Beijing's ambitious Olympic COVID bubble: So far, so good

For a country determined to keep out the virus that first emerged within its borders, bringing in more than 15,000 people from all corners of the world was a serious gamble. It appears to be working. One week into the 17-day event, China seems to be meeting its formidable COVID-19 Olympic challenge with a so-called “bubble” that allows Beijing Games participants to skip quarantine but tightly restricts their movement so they don’t come in contact with the general population. There have been 490 confirmed cases — many of them positive tests on symptomless visitors — and no reports of any leaking out to date. Inside the bubble, Olympic organizers are employing a version of the government’s zero-tolerance approach. Everyone is tested daily for the virus, and anyone who tests positive is rapidly isolated to prevent any spread. Athletes and others are required to wear N95 face masks when not competing.
12th Feb 2022 - The Associated Press

COVID-19: Children over 12 can visit Spain without being fully vaccinated after rule scrapped

Children over 12 from non-EU countries will no longer have to be fully vaccinated against coronavirus to enter Spain. The country is scrapping the rule from Monday to line up with UK half term. Children aged 12 to 17 will now be able to visit by showing a negative PCR test taken in the past three days. It will make holidays easier for many families, some of whom had to cancel plans because of the rule. Adults must still be fully vaccinated to go to Spain (the NHS COVID pass is acceptable) and travellers must also fill in a health control form before departure.
11th Feb 2022 - Sky News

Hong Kong's zero-COVID quest pushes medical facilities to the brink

Hong Kong's stubborn pursuit of zero COVID infections has stretched hospital and quarantine facilities nearly to their limit in the global financial hub, raising the near-term prospect of changes to admissions and isolation policies. Chinese-ruled Hong Kong is also grappling with the overload on doctors and nurses as it follows mainland authorities' strategy of curbing outbreaks as soon as possible, in contrast with many other places that aim to "live with COVID".
11th Feb 2022 - Reuters

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South Korea to roll out Novavax COVID-19 vaccine next week

South Korea will begin offering Novavax Inc.'s COVID-19 vaccine at hospitals, nursing homes and public health centers next week, officials said, adding another tool to fight a fast-developing omicron surge. The country reported a record 54,122 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency, a 12-fold increase from daily levels seen in mid-January, when omicron first became the country’s dominant strain. But officials are expressing cautious hope that the country’s high vaccination rate will prevent an explosion in serious illnesses and deaths. As of Thursday, 86% of South Koreans were fully vaccinated and 56% had received booster shots under a mass immunization program that has been mainly dependent on Pfizer and Moderna’s mRNA vaccines.
10th Feb 2022 - The Independent

Vietnam warns of hospitals strain as COVID-19 cases spike after holiday

Vietnam warned on Thursday that its healthcare system could become overloaded, after seeing a surge in new daily coronavirus infections following its week-long Lunar New Year holiday. The Southeast Asian country reported nearly 24,000 new cases on Wednesday, compared to about 15,000 per day in the week before the annual holiday, when millions of people travelled to their rural homes and to tourist hotspots. "Increased travelling will lead to the risk of more infections among the community, including the risk of spreading the Omicron variant," the health ministry said in a statement.
10th Feb 2022 - Reuters

U.S. plans to roll out COVID-19 shots for children under 5 years in February

The U.S. government is planning to roll out COVID-19 shots for children under the age of 5 as soon as Feb. 21, according to a document from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering authorizing the use of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine in the age group even though it did not meet a key target in a clinical trial of two- to four-year-olds.
10th Feb 2022 - Reuters

Palestinian authorities step up COVID measures as hospitals fill up

Palestinian authorities have ramped up COVID-19 testing and vaccinations in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip and warned that public indifference to their calls for masking and social distancing is hampering efforts to fight the pandemic. The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry said the total number of active cases of COVID-19 in the two territories stood at 64,000 on Wednesday due to the highly infectious Omicron variant. "Three weeks ago we were recording up to 300 infections daily, but in the last few days we crossed the 11,000 mark," said Mahdi Rashed, director of health services in Ramallah. "It's clear this is a result of the Omicron variant spreading."
10th Feb 2022 - Reuters

India's pandemic recovery is in awkward full swing

Article reports that India’s cities are bustling and economic growth is humming along once more, thanks to officials taking a pragmatic approach to managing the recent wave of Covid-19. It’s a sharp contrast to China’s rigid approach. Still, rising impatience from bond markets over the government’s debt hangover puts the giant emerging market on an awkward trudge back to normality.
10th Feb 2022 - Reuters

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Second doses of Covid-19 vaccine to be rolled out in Jersey secondary schools

In Jersey, second doses of the Covid-19 vaccine will be delivered in secondary schools in a bid to boost the levels of vaccination in the community. From Friday 11 February, children will be able to receive their first, second and booster doses in a school setting. Letters and leaflets are being sent to parents of all eligible students aged 12-18 about the programme. Health officials hope the move will encourage a higher take-up of the vaccine, with figures showing only around half of 12-15 year olds have had their first dose.
9th Feb 2022 - ITV News

Hospitals begin to limp out of the latest COVID-19 surge

As omicron numbers drop at Denver Health, Dr. Anuj Mehta is reminded of the scene in the 1980 comedy “The Blues Brothers” when John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd pile out of a battered car after a police chase. Suddenly, all the doors pop off the hinges, the front wheels fall off and smoke pours from the engine. “And that’s my fear,” said Mehta, a pulmonary and critical care physician. “I’m worried that as soon as we stop, everything’s just going to fall apart.” Across the U.S., the number of people in the hospital with COVID-19 has tumbled more than 28% over the past three weeks to about 105,000 on average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the ebbing of the omicron surge has left in its wake postponed surgeries, exhausted staff members and uncertainty over whether this is the last big wave or whether another one lies ahead.
9th Feb 2022 - The Associated Press

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Travel Nurses Make Twice as Much as They Did Pre-Covid-19

Hospitals and lawmakers are pressing the Biden administration to review federal pandemic-relief programs that they say have distorted pay rates for travel nurses. Many nurses are making twice what they did before the pandemic or more on assignments at hospitals paying top dollar to fill big holes in their workforces. Some hospitals are using federal Covid-19 relief funds to cover part of the difference between rates for travel nurses and staff salaries. Health-industry trade groups and some members of Congress say staffing agencies matching workers with hospitals are capitalizing on a tight labor market, as many nurses have left during the pandemic, often because of burnout and fatigue.
9th Feb 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

They knocked on strangers' doors and persuaded naysayers to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Here are their tips

When Armani Nightengale waited in the car last March to get vaccinated against COVID-19 at Chicago's United Center, her husband was more nervous than she was. Over the next couple of weeks, he carefully checked her arm to make sure nothing looked wrong. Then, the conversation shifted to when he would get the shot. That's when things got more "combative," Nightengale said, as she began asking why he was reluctant, especially given that they had three young children. Her husband, on the other hand, felt unsure about how signing up for the vaccine would affect his immigration status.
8th Feb 2022 - Medical Xpress

Social Media Is Wired to Spread Misinformation on Covid-19 and Everything Else

The right and left may not agree on what constitutes misinformation, but both would like to see less of it on social media. And as the world faces the third year of the Covid-19 pandemic, the threat medical misinformation poses to public health remains real. Companies like Twitter and Facebook have a stake in cleaning up their platforms — without relying on censoring or fact-checking. Censoring can engender distrust when social media companies expunge posts or delete accounts without explanation. It can even raise the profile of those who’ve been “canceled.” And fact-checking isn’t a good solution for complex scientific concepts. That’s because science is not a set of immutable facts, but a system of inquiry that constructs provisional theories based on imperfect data.
8th Feb 2022 - Bloomberg

Quarter of UK employers cite long COVID as driving absences - survey

A quarter of British employers have cited long COVID as a main cause of long-term sickness absences, a survey by a professional body found on Tuesday, adding that it raised questions over how workers with the condition were being supported in their jobs. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is leading a strategy for the country to live with COVID, lifting restrictions as booster shots and the lower severity of the Omicron variant weaken the link between cases and death.
8th Feb 2022 - Reuters

N. Korea increases virus budget after partial border opening

North Korea plans to increase its government spending on pandemic measures by one-third this year to carry out leader Kim Jong Un’s calls for a more “advanced and people-oriented” virus response, state media said Tuesday. The budget plans were passed during a session of Pyongyang’s rubber-stamp parliament on Sunday and Monday, which came weeks after the North tentatively restarted its railroad freight traffic with China following two years of extreme border closures and economic decay. Kim had hinted at broader changes to the country’s pandemic response during a political conference in December, when he called for a transition toward advanced anti-virus measures based on a “scientific foundation.”
8th Feb 2022 - The Associated Press

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Philippines shifts election battle to social media as COVID-19 curbs campaigning

Campaigning for the Philippines' general election gets underway officially on Tuesday, with COVID-19 curtailing the traditional fanfare and big rallies and turning the focus to social media as the key battleground for the May 9 contest. As with the 2016 polls that catapulted Rodrigo Duterte to the presidency, social media will be crucial in the three-month election buildup, while platforms will be under pressure to combat the rampant misinformation that has intensified in the Philippines in recent years, driving hate campaigns and deepening social divisions.
7th Feb 2022 - Reuters

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No large fluctuations in Olympics COVID cases expected, organisers say

A sharp drop in COVID-19 cases on Feb. 5 among Beijing Olympics-related personnel was due to fewer arrivals at the airport and organisers said on Sunday that they did not expect any more large fluctuations in infection numbers. China detected 10 new COVID cases among Olympic Games-related personnel on Feb. 5, the organising committee of the Games said. That was down from Feb. 4's 45 cases - the second highest daily tally since arrivals commenced last month.
6th Feb 2022 - Reuters

Health minister on gatherings, vaccine mandates and the end of masks in South Africa

In a media briefing on Friday (4 February), Phaahla said this is in line with previous trends, with vaccinations still seen as the country’s best form of protection. He added that the country could see an increase in cases earlier than expected should they be driven by a new Covid variant. South Africa has seen a plateau in the decline of new Covid-19 cases in the last two weeks, with an increase in infections reported in the Free State, Gauteng and Mpumalanga. Phaahla said this plateau can be linked to the opening of schools, with more people under 20 testing positive in recent weeks. It is also possible that increased movement after the December holidays has also contributed.
5th Feb 2022 - BusinessTech

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S Africa’s Afrigen makes mRNA COVID vaccine using Moderna data

South Africa’s Afrigen Biologics has used the publicly available sequence of Moderna’s COVID-19 mRNA vaccine to make its own version of the shot, which could be tested in humans before the end of this year, Afrigen’s top executive said on Thursday. The vaccine candidate would be the first to be made based on a widely used vaccine without the assistance and approval of the developer. It is also the first mRNA vaccine designed, developed and produced at lab scale on the African continent. The White House declined to comment. Airlines for America, which represents American Airlines, Delta Air Lines Inc, United Airlines Holdings and others said as of last week international air travel was down 38% over 2019 levels. In December, the Biden administration imposed tougher new rules requiring international air travelers arriving in the United States to obtain a negative COVID-19 test within one day of travel.
3rd Feb 2022 - Al Jazeera English

Strained US hospitals seek foreign nurses amid visa windfall

With American hospitals facing a dire shortage of nurses amid a slogging pandemic, many are looking abroad for health care workers. And it could be just in time. There’s an unusually high number of green cards available this year for foreign professionals, including nurses, who want to move to the United States — twice as many as just a few years ago. That’s because U.S. consulates shut down during the coronavirus pandemic weren’t issuing visas to relatives of American citizens, and, by law, these unused slots now get transferred to eligible workers. Amy L. Erlbacher-Anderson, an immigration attorney in Omaha, Nebraska, said she has seen more demand for foreign nurses in two years than the rest of her 18-year career. And this year, she said, it’s more likely they’ll get approved to come, so long as U.S. consular offices can process all the applications.
3rd Feb 2022 - The Associated Press

Schools seek volunteer teachers amid COVID staffing crunch

The answer around the U.S. could be a local police officer, National Guard soldier, state budget analyst, parent or recent high school graduate — nearly anyone willing to help keep schools’ doors open through the omicron-driven staffing crunch. States have been loosening teaching requirements to give schools more flexibility on hiring as coronavirus exposures, illness and quarantines add to strains on schools that also have been tapping librarians, custodians and support staff to help cover classrooms during the pandemic. Brian McKinney, a parent with students in second and 10th grade in Hays County, Texas, spent part of this week as a substitute, helping sixth graders through a social studies assignment that had them writing essays about the Soviet Union. A former teacher, he decided he could help as he waited out a cold snap that has slowed business at the World War II-themed miniature golf course he and his wife now own.
3rd Feb 2022 - The Associated Press

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

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Fighting COVID will help economy recover faster, lower inflation -IMF's Georgieva

The COVID-19 pandemic remains the biggest risk to the global economy, and is contributing to rising inflation in many countries, International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva said on Wednesday. Georgieva urged redoubled efforts to boost vaccinations and beef up defenses against the coronavirus, saying such moves -- coupled with interest rate increases now being eyed or executed by central banks -- would help ease supply chain disruptions and combat inflation. "Pandemic policy is economic policy," the IMF chief said. "The biggest risk for the performance of the world economy remains this year COVID and the disruption it causes."
2nd Feb 2022 - Reuters

Many countries yet to see peak in Omicron wave, should ease curbs slowly -WHO

Many countries have not reached their peak in cases of the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the coronavirus and measures imposed to curb its spread should be eased slowly, the World Health Organization's technical lead on COVID-19 said on Tuesday. "We are urging caution because many countries have not gone through the peak of Omicron yet. Many countries have low levels of vaccination coverage with very vulnerable individuals within their populations," Maria Van Kerkhove told an online briefing. "And so now is not the time to lift everything all at once. We have always urged, always (be) very cautious, in applying interventions as well as lifting those interventions in a steady and in a slow way, piece by piece
2nd Feb 2022 - Reuters

Omicron Sub-Variant May Cause New Surge of Infections in Current Wave

A sub-variant of the omicron coronavirus strain, known as BA.2, is spreading rapidly in South Africa and may cause a second surge of infections in the current wave, one of the country’s top scientists said. BA.2 is causing concern as studies show that it appears to be more transmissible than the original omicron strain, the discovery of which was announced by South Africa and Botswana in November. Research also shows that getting a mild infection with either of the two strains may not give a robust enough immune response to protect against another omicron infection. There’s no indication that the sub-variant causes more severe disease from infection surges seen in Denmark and the U.K. The omicron wave of infections “may end up like a camel,” Tulio de Oliveira, a bio-informatics professor who runs gene-sequencing institutions and advises the government on the pandemic, said at a presentation at Stellenbosch University on Wednesday. “A wave with another hump.”
2nd Feb 2022 - Bloomberg

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Gilead COVID drug takes top spot for U.S. hospital spending -report

Gilead Sciences Inc's COVID-19 drug remdesivir last year overtook AbbVie Inc's 20-year-old arthritis drug Humira as the medicine that U.S. hospitals spent the most on, according to Vizient Inc, a purchasing group used by about half the nation's hospitals. Remdesivir, an intravenous antiviral approved early in the pandemic for hospitalized COVID patients and authorized last month for high-risk outpatients, could retain the top spot through mid-2023, according to Vizient's projections. The group purchasing organization said Gilead's drug, sold as Veklury, made up 3.42% of total member spending on pharmaceuticals during October 2020 to September 2021.
1st Feb 2022 - Reuters

NHS vaccine mandate: Nurse who faced sack over staff Covid jab rules welcomes Government U-turn

A nurse who faced losing her job because she is not vaccinated against Covid-19 has welcomed the Government’s U-turn on mandatory jabs for frontline NHS staff. Concerns about the impact that dismissing about 80,000 unvaccinated NHS employees would have on an already stretched health service contributed to Health Secretary Sajid Javid’s policy change on Monday. The Government had previously set a 1 April deadline for double vaccination, meaning anyone in a patient-facing role who had not received their first dose by 3 February would be notified of their impending dismissal.
1st Feb 2022 - iNews

Covid-19: ‘Highest risk’ patients to get faster access to NHS treatment after testing rule change

Cancer patients and others at highest risk of dying from Covid-19 will have quicker access to life-saving antibody and antiviral treatments on the NHS after the Government quietly altered the rules over PCR tests. It comes after i revealed thousands of cancer and other patients with severely compromised immune systems fear they will die from the virus because delays and bureaucratic chaos is stopping them from getting fast-acting drugs in time for them to work. Around 1.3 million people the Government has classified as most at risk from Covid should have received a rapid PCR test and eligibility letter about the targeted NHS treatment programme by January 10, but charity helplines have been flooded with people complaining they have been left out.
1st Feb 2022 - iNews

Tokyo COVID hospitalisations mount, cross closely watched 50% threshold

More than half of Tokyo's hospital beds set aside for COVID-19 patients were occupied on Tuesday, a level that officials have previously flagged as a criterion for requesting a state of emergency. The capital and most of Japan are now under curbs to contain record coronavirus cases driven by the contagious Omicron variant. Tokyo has set aside almost 7,000 hospital beds for COVID patients, and admissions have risen sharply this month, reaching 50.7% on Tuesday. New infections numbered 14,445.
1st Feb 2022 - Reuters

As Israel learns to live with COVID, hospitals struggle to cope

A global leader in vaccine rollout during early waves of the coronavirus, Israel's government has adopted "Living with COVID" as its mantra since a few months before Omicron arrived. The variant is milder than previous incarnations of the virus, but that's scant consolation to the medics and nurses staffing COVID-19 wards whose workloads have soared again in parallel with case numbers. "The staff are exhausted," said Yoram Weiss, acting director general of Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem. "It's not like we're starting the first outbreak where everybody was full of energy."
1st Feb 2022 - Reuters

Huge volumes of COVID hospital waste threaten health - WHO

Discarded syringes, used test kits and old vaccine bottles from the COVID-19 pandemic have piled up to create tens of thousands of tonnes of medical waste, threatening human health and the environment, a World Health Organization report said on Tuesday. The material potentially exposes health workers to burns, needle-stick injuries and disease-causing germs, the report said. "We found that COVID-19 has increased healthcare waste loads in facilities to up to 10 times," Maggie Montgomery, a WHO technical officer, told Geneva-based journalists. She said the biggest risk for affected communities was air pollution caused by burning waste at insufficiently high temperatures leading to the release of carcinogens.
1st Feb 2022 - Reuters

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China punishes cold-chain managers for 'obstructing' COVID prevention

Investigations into China's cold-chain sector have led to several managers, officials and business owners being punished for failing to meet COVID-19 prevention standards, the country's corruption watchdog said in a notice. The Beijing branch of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) accused several people involved in the cold storage business of management and supervisory failures when it came to controlling COVID-19. It accused one manager in an industrial park in southwest Beijing of "poor leadership and non-standard management that led to the spread of the epidemic".
31st Jan 2022 - Reuters

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Morocco starts construction of COVID vaccine plant

Morocco has inaugurated the construction of a COVID vaccine manufacturing plant in partnership with Swedish firm Recipharm, as the country also announced it would end a flight ban that has been in place since last November. The factory, to be known as Sensyo Pharmatech, will produce vaccines against coronavirus and other diseases, with production expected to reach 116 million units in 2024, the official news agency MAP reported on Thursday.
29th Jan 2022 - Al Jazeera English

U.S. orders 100 million additional COVID-19 tests to give out

The United States government has procured more than 100 million additional COVID-19 tests from testmaker iHealth Lab Inc. as part of the White House's plan to distribute 500 million free at-home tests across the country, the Department of Defense said Friday. Starting in January, the U.S. government has been allowing households to order four free at-home COVID-19 tests from the website COVIDTests.gov with shipping expected within seven to 12 days of ordering. The batch of free tests are aimed at easing a shortage of tests across the country amid increased demand during the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.
29th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Britain to start rolling out Pfizer COVID pill next month

Britain will start rolling out Pfizer's COVID-19 pill to vulnerable people next month, the health ministry said on Friday, targeting the treatment at people with compromised immune systems for whom the vaccine can be less effective. The health ministry said that Pfizer's antiviral treatment Paxlovid, a combination of Pfizer's pill with an older antiviral ritonavir, will be made available to thousands of people from Feb. 10. "It is fantastic news that this new treatment, the latest cutting-edge drug that the NHS is rolling out through new COVID-19 medicine delivery units, will now be available to help those at highest risk of COVID-19," National Health Service medical director Stephen Powis said.
28th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Omicron Pushes Some Companies Back to Virtual Shareholder Meetings

Some companies are switching to virtual shareholder meetings again as the Omicron variant continues to spread through the U.S. and businesses take precautions to limit infections. Many companies shifted to meeting with their investors remotely as Covid-19 cases first surged in the U.S. in the spring of 2020—a trend that continued in 2021, when 65%, or 3,316, of shareholder meetings by publicly traded U.S. businesses were conducted remotely, according to Wall Street Horizon, a data provider. So far, about 400 listed U.S. companies have announced a date for their 2022 shareholder meeting, and of those, 68% are planning to host an in-person event, Wall Street Horizon said. But, in recent weeks, large corporations including meat producer Tyson Foods Inc. and medical technology company Becton Dickinson & Co. have altered their plans and moved to an online-only event, which some corporate advisers say is the prudent thing to do.
27th Jan 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

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COVID-19: Sainsbury's and Waitrose advise shoppers and staff to keep wearing face coverings

Supermarket chains Sainsbury's and Waitrose will be asking people to continue to wear a face covering in their stores when restrictions ease in England on Thursday. Mandatory wearing of face masks is being scrapped as part of the lifting of Plan B measures - with work from home guidance and COVID passports also being dropped. Sainsbury's told Sky News it will continue to have a number of safety measures in its stores in an effort to keep customers and staff safe. Its guidance will also apply to Argos and Habitat stores, which are part of the Sainsbury's business group. A spokesperson for Sainsbury's said: "Safety remains our highest priority.
27th Jan 2022 - Sky News

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Lufthansa Bans Freight From Transiting Frankfurt Due to Omicron

Deutsche Lufthansa banned cargo from moving through its Frankfurt hub due to surging Covid-19 infections and related staff shortages in the German city. The move will impact goods arriving from other parts of Germany, the rest of Europe and North America. Direct deliveries to Frankfurt -- a major transport hub for coronavirus vaccines -- are still possible, Lufthansa said.
26th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

COVID-19 booster drive is faltering in the US

The COVID-19 booster drive in the U.S. is losing steam, worrying health experts who have pleaded with Americans to get an extra shot to shore up their protection against the highly contagious omicron variant. Just 40% of fully vaccinated Americans have received a booster dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention And the average number of booster shots dispensed per day in the U.S. has plummeted from a peak of 1 million in early December to about 490,000 as of last week. Also, a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that Americans are more likely to see the initial vaccinations — rather than a booster — as essential.
26th Jan 2022 - The Independent

Schools Struggle With Omicron-Fueled Teacher Shortages

A wave of Covid-19-related school staffing issues has led some states to take drastic steps to keep schools open, including enlisting state employees, retirees and National Guard members to fill in as substitute teachers.
26th Jan 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

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Novavax Covid-19 vaccine to be rolled out in Australia from next month

Australia’s health minister has announced that Novavax’s Covid-19 vaccine will be rolled out across the country from February 21. The news comes just days after the Australian drugs regulator Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) provisionally approved the jab,
25th Jan 2022 - Pharmaceutical Technology

Student nurses urged to have Covid-19 jab or risk ability to join register

Nursing students who have not been double vaccinated against Covid-19 by April will not be able to undertake clinical placements, risking their ability to complete their studies and join the register. New guidance published by Health Education England (HEE) on 21 January offers answers to frequently asked questions around what the upcoming change in vaccination rules will mean for the nursing student population. All patient-facing health and care workers in England, unless medically exempt, will be required to have two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine by April, or they risk being redeployed or losing their jobs altogether. Unvaccinated staff and students will need to have had their first dose by 3 February in order to meet the requirements. In recent weeks, nursing leaders have called for the government’s new mandate to be delayed amid concerns over the impact it will have on the workforce.
25th Jan 2022 - Nursing Times

Mandatory COVID shots could deepen German nurse shortage, say care companies

As Germany gears up to make COVID-19 vaccination compulsory in the healthcare sector, the industry fears that resistance among some workers will exacerbate staffing shortages and leave many families reliant on carers in the lurch. Around 90% of medical staff in Germany are vaccinated, compared to about 70% in the general population, but that still leaves hundreds of thousands not vaccinated. Institutions and families that are heavily reliant on workers from eastern Europe where vaccination rates are lower have particular reason to be worried, said Daniel Schloer, the owner of the SunaCare GmbH agency that matches German families with Polish carers looking for work abroad.
25th Jan 2022 - Reuters

German firms fear supply chain pain from China's battle with Omicron

German companies doing business in China are worried the Omicron coronavirus variant will trigger more strict lockdown measures from Beijing that could exacerbate supply chain problems, the DIHK Chamber of Commerce said on Tuesday. "The Chinese strategy with targeted lockdowns has been very efficient so far," Jens Hildebrandt, DIHK's executive board member in China, told Reuters in an interview. But the more contagious Omicron variant could challenge the zero-COVID approach by Chinese authorities, especially as more Chinese citizens will travel across the country due to the upcoming holiday season, Hildebrandt said.
25th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Hospitals Ask Congress for $25 Billion Amid Omicron's Onslaught

Hospitals are asking Congress to give them another $25 billion and hand out all previously allotted funds to shore up facilities ravaged by the omicron outbreak. The money would pay for training and extra security as hospitals cope with staff shortages, higher costs and lost revenue, the American Hospital Association said in a letter to congressional leaders. “We are now in need of additional immediate support from Congress and the administration in order to continue standing strong and to be able to provide timely access to life-saving health care to your constituents,” AHA Executive Vice President Stacey Hughes wrote in a letter dated Jan. 20. “The current surge has impacted hospitals in ways not seen previously.”
25th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Covid Outbreak Hits Australian Ship Heading to Virus-Free Tonga

Almost two dozen crew on board an Australian Navy ship on its way to provide relief to the Pacific island of Tonga have been diagnosed with coronavirus, potentially hampering aid efforts to the Covid-free nation. Australia’s Defence Minister Peter Dutton said 23 personnel on the HMAS Adelaide had been infected, in an interview on Sky News on Tuesday. The ship left from Brisbane on Friday with a 600-strong crew as well as humanitarian and medical supplies to assist Tonga in the wake of a volcanic eruption.
25th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

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Vaccine distribution is creating a new kind of vaccine inequality

As vaccine shipments finally surge into poorer countries, the world is in danger of trading in one form of vaccine inequality for another, with disparities in access replaced by disparities in the ability to distribute them on the ground. After a trying period of vaccine hoarding by wealthy countries, the last 40 days of 2021 saw more doses shipped to countries in need through the U.N.-backed Covax program than in the rest of last year combined, according to the World Health Organization’s vaccine director. But distribution campaigns on the ground can take months to ramp up, even in rich nations, and a host of developing countries now receiving shipments are facing a combination of rollout challenges.
24th Jan 2022 - The Washington Post

UK to begin testing Merck's COVID pill for hospitalised patients

British scientists will begin testing Merck (MRK.N) and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics' antiviral pill molnupiravir as a possible treatment for patients hospitalised with COVID-19, amid the worldwide spread of the Omicron variant. The pill is approved in Britain for use in people with mild to moderate COVID-19, but it is not known whether it would work in patients hospitalised with severe illness, researchers of the RECOVERY trial said on Monday. The study will compare 800 mg doses of molnupiravir, given twice daily for five days, with standard care for adult patients in hospitals because of COVID-19.
24th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Rich countries' access to foreign nurses during Omicron raises ethical concerns, group says

The Omicron-fuelled wave of COVID-19 infections has led wealthy countries to intensify their recruitment of nurses from poorer parts of the world, worsening dire staffing shortages in overstretched workforces there, the International Council of Nurses said. Sickness, burnout and staff departures amid surging Omicron cases have driven absentee rates to levels not yet seen during the two-year pandemic, said Howard Catton, CEO of the Geneva-based group that represents 27 million nurses and 130 national organisations. To plug the gap, Western countries have responded by hiring army personnel as well as volunteers and retirees but many have also stepped up international recruitment as part of a trend that is worsening health inequity, he continued.
24th Jan 2022 - Reuters

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In Hospital Strained by Omicron, Weary Nurses Treat Too Many Patients

The fast-moving Omicron variant is straining U.S. hospitals on a scale not seen before in the two-year-old pandemic. The facilities are confronting record or near-record levels of patients while staff struggle with burnout and call in sick in large numbers due to the virus. Even hospitals in regions where the Omicron wave has begun easing say they couldn’t keep up, forcing them to make agonizing decisions about which desperate patients they can admit and which must wait, risking more severe illness. “With 1,100 new positive cases in our employees last week, you have no choice,” Ms. Schwartz said early this month while Houston Methodist Hospital was closing about 140 beds a day on average, more than one-tenth of its capacity, largely because of staffing.
23rd Jan 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

Two Australian states to test school students twice weekly for COVID

Australia reported 58 deaths from COVID-19 on Sunday, as the two most populous states, New South Wales (NSW) and Victoria, said students would be tested twice weekly for the Omicron variant when classes resume next week. NSW reported 34 deaths of patients with COVID-19, while Victoria state saw 14 deaths, and Queensland reported 10 deaths. Health officials said they believe an Omicron outbreak has peaked in NSW and Victoria, which reported 20,324 and 13,091 new cases respectively on Sunday
23rd Jan 2022 - Reuters

FDA expands use of remdesivir to patients with high risk of hospitalization

The U.S. health regulator on Friday expanded its approval for the use of Gilead Sciences' (GILD.O) antiviral drug remdesivir to treat non-hospitalized patients 12 years and older for the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 disease with high risk of hospitalization. Previously, the use of Veklury was limited to patients requiring hospitalization.
22nd Jan 2022 - Reuters

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Hong Kong to shut secondary schools from Monday over COVID fears

Hong Kong will suspend face-to-face teaching in secondary schools from Monday until after the approaching Lunar New Year, authorities said, because of a rising number of coronavirus infections in several schools in the Chinese-ruled territory. The government halted classes in primary schools and kindergartens early this month, and imposed curbs, such as a ban on restaurant dining after 6 p.m. and the closure of venues such as gyms, cinemas and beauty salons.
20th Jan 2022 - Reuters

France to unveil timetable for easing COVID restrictions

France will unveil a timetable for easing COVID-19 restrictions later on Thursday, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said, though he cautioned the wave of Omicron infections tearing through the country had not reached its peak. Attal said France's new vaccine pass rules would help allow a softening of rules even as the incidence rate of infections continues to increase.
20th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Ontario schools reopening amid calls for more COVID measures

Schoolchildren in Canada’s most populous province are going back to their classrooms this week, after many parents said they were left scrambling to respond to the Ontario government’s decision earlier this month to delay in-person learning. Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced on January 3 that the province would push back the planned return to in-person classes from January 5 to January 17 due to rising COVID-19 infections and hospitalisations linked to the Omicron variant.
20th Jan 2022 - Al Jazeera

A Million Vaccine Shots Tossed in Indonesia on Short Expiry Date

More than a million Covid-19 vaccine shots expired in Indonesia before they could be given out, as most of them were donated with a short shelf life. Of the 1.1 million doses that were thrown out, about 98% were donated just one to three months away from expiry, Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said in parliament.
20th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

New Mexico asks National Guard to teach as COVID shuts schools

New Mexico asked National Guard members and state employees to volunteer as substitute teachers to keep schools and daycare centers open during a surge in COVID-19 infections. State employees and Guard members who take up the call to teach will get their usual pay and be considered on administrative leave or active duty, respectively, according to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham.
20th Jan 2022 - Reuters

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UnitedHealth says Omicron-driven cost impact cushioned by healthcare deferrals

UnitedHealth Group Inc said added costs of testing and treatment related to the recent surge in COVID-19 cases are being offset by postponements of non-urgent healthcare procedures, and the health insurer maintained its 2022 profit forecast. The comments should help allay investor concerns that the steep rise in COVID infections and hospitalizations driven by the Omicron variant of the virus in recent weeks would significantly drive up medical costs for health insurers. Adding to those concerns was a Biden administration initiative requiring insurers to reimburse Americans for up to eight at-home rapid COVID-19 tests per month, while setting no limit for tests, including at-home tests, that insurers must cover if they are ordered or administered by a healthcare provider.
19th Jan 2022 - Reuters

U.S. to distribute 400 million free N95 masks at CVS, Walgreens in COVID fight

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, as the Biden administration tries to curb the COVID-19 pandemic. Snug-fitting N95 face masks, so-called because they filter at least 95% of particulate matter from the air, will be shipped to pharmacies and community health centers this week, the official said, and will be available for pickup late next week. The U.S. government is leveraging the "federal retail pharmacy program" it used for vaccines, the White House said, as well as federally funded health clinics that serve minority groups hit hard by COVID infections and deaths.
19th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Surgeries fear an exodus of GPs as deadline for staff Covid jabs nears

GPs say an exodus of staff due to mandatory coronavirus vaccination is “a significant concern”, with the deadline for health workers to have a first jab just over a fortnight away. From April 1 everyone working in health or social care who has direct contact with patients must have had two doses of a coronavirus vaccine. In order to meet the deadline they must have received a first dose by February 3. Vaccination figures for NHS staff working in community settings such as GP surgeries have not been published, but figures based on trusts show that more than 10 per cent of staff in some areas are yet to receive a first dose. Across England 5.7 per cent of staff are unvaccinated.
19th Jan 2022 - The Times

Merck-Ridgeback to supply courses of Covid-19 oral antiviral to UNICEF

Merck (MSD) and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics have entered a supply agreement with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to aid in wider worldwide access for investigational oral antiviral, molnupiravir, for Covid-19. According to the long-term deal, Merck will allocate up to three million courses of the oral antiviral to UNICEF for supply in over 100 low and middle-income nations during the first half of this year on obtaining regulatory authorisations.
19th Jan 2022 - Pharmaceutical Technology

To Help Battle Covid-19, a Hospital Borrows Tactics From Combat Veterans

At Rush University Medical Center, nurses still talk about their feelings of guilt from the early months of treating Covid-19 patients. How they hadn’t known how to best treat desperate patients. How worried they were about bringing Covid-19 home to their families. Except now they report having more mental and emotional tools at their disposal than they did at the beginning of the pandemic, thanks in large part to the work of Mark Schimmelpfennig, a hospital chaplain who is also an Army veteran. Mr. Schimmelpfennig months ago noticed that phrases nurses were using in conversation sounded like what he had heard from troops who had served in combat zones. The same techniques veterans use to wrestle with combat trauma also could be used by the healthcare profession, he said.
19th Jan 2022 - Wall Street Journal

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COVID-19 concerns force U.N. to prepare tsunami-hit Tonga relief aid at a distance

The United Nations is preparing for distanced relief operations in Tonga to avoid a COVID-19 outbreak in the Pacific island nation that is reeling under the impact of a volcanic eruption and tsunami, an official said on Wednesday. All the homes on one of Tonga's small outer islands have been destroyed and three people have so far been confirmed dead, the government said in its first statement after Saturday's devastating eruption. With communications badly hampered by the severing of an undersea cable, information on the scale of the devastation so far has mostly come from reconnaissance aircraft.
18th Jan 2022 - Reuters

French Covid Infections Hit Record as Patients Fill Up Hospitals

France registered a record number of daily Covid-19 infections as the omicron variant spreads across the country, sending a growing number of patients to hospitals. New cases totaled 464,769 Tuesday, according to data from the public health office. That far surpassed the previous high of 368,149 recorded a week ago. The surge comes as France is poised to require a complete vaccination regimen for many public activities -- from eating in restaurants to attending the theater or getting on an airplane -- saying a recent negative test isn’t good enough anymore
18th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Covid-19 Infected Lions Prompt Variant Warning in South Africa

Lions and pumas at a zoo in the South African capital of Pretoria got severe Covid-19 from asymptomatic zoo handlers, raising concerns that new variants could emerge from animal reservoirs of the disease,
18th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

South American health networks struggling as Omicron cases rise

The rapid spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant has prompted dire warnings from healthcare workers across South America, as pressure builds at hospitals whose employees are taking sick leave, leaving facilities understaffed to cope with COVID-19. A major hospital in Bolivia’s largest city stopped admitting new patients due to a lack of personnel. One of Brazil’s most populous states cancelled scheduled surgeries for a month. And Argentina’s federation of private healthcare providers told the Associated Press news agency that it estimates about 15 percent of its health workers currently have the virus.
18th Jan 2022 - Al Jazeera

Rising Omicron Infections May Force Idaho to Return to Hospital Rationing

Rising Covid-19 omicron infections could force Idaho to start rationing hospital care again as health care workers fall ill, the state’s top health official warned Tuesday. If the trend continues, “it is likely Idaho will enter crisis of standards of care for a second time,” Dave Jeppesen, director of the state Department of Health and Welfare, said during an online briefing. The state ended rationing Dec. 20. One in four people tested for Covid-19 in Idaho are receiving positive results, the highest statewide positivity rate of the pandemic, Jeppesen said.
18th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

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Omicron Fuels Fresh Surge, Threatening India’s Hospitals Anew

With less than half of India’s population fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and Omicron-variant infections rising rapidly, public-health experts warn that the healthcare system is again vulnerable—months after being overwhelmed by a surge of cases. India reported 141,986 new cases on Saturday, more than six times the number a week earlier. That official Covid-19 case count, like the government’s death tally—which stands at about 480,000—is a vast undercounting, many health experts say. The reproduction rate of the virus—the number of new infections caused by a single contagious person—recently hit 2.69, exceeding last year’s peak of 1.69, a government adviser said Wednesday. The official case count is expected surpass its daily record of 414,000, set in May, before the surge peaks in February.
18th Jan 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

French COVID hospitalisations see biggest jump since Nov 2020

The number of people with COVID-19 in French hospitals rose by 888 to 25,775, the health ministry said on Monday, the biggest one-day increase since early November 2020 - before the start of the country's vaccination campaign. The last time the number of COVID patients was over 25,000 was on Dec. 17, 2020. Health ministry data on Monday also showed that the number of people with COVID-19 in intensive care units rose by 61 to 3,913, after being flat to stable for four days.
18th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Analysis: China's 'zero-COVID' campaign under strain as Omicron surges

China is doubling down on its "zero-COVID" strategy, saying the spread of the potentially milder Omicron variant is no reason to lower its guard amid warnings of economic disruptions and even public unrest as lockdowns drag into a third year. As other countries talk about a transition from "pandemic" to "endemic", China has stepped up policies to stamp out any new outbreak as soon as it arises, sealing off cities, shutting transport links and launching mass testing programmes.
18th Jan 2022 - Reuters on MSN.com

US Covid-19 hospitalizations expected to substantially increase from an already record-high over the coming weeks, expert says

Areas that were among the first to get hit hard by the Omicron variant are starting to see their Covid-19 numbers level off or even improve. But that's not the case for much of the country, US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said. "There are parts of the country -- New York, in particular, and other parts of the Northeast -- where we are starting to see a plateau, and in some cases, an early decline in cases," Murthy told CNN on Sunday.
18th Jan 2022 - CNN

Covid-19 news: Falling cases in UK suggests omicron wave has peaked

A fall in coronavirus cases and plateau in hospital admissions across the UK is ‘cautiously good news’ A fall in new coronavirus cases in the UK suggests the wave triggered by the highly-transmissible omicron variant may have passed its peak. On Sunday, 70,924 people in the UK tested positive for coronavirus, according to UK government data. Within the past seven days, 754,054 new cases have been reported – a decrease of 463,043 on the previous seven days. “It does look like across the whole of the country cases do seem to be falling,” Mike Tildesley of the University of Warwick told BBC Breakfast today. “We have had… very, very high case numbers throughout late December and early January – we peaked above 200,000 at one point. We do now seem to be a little bit beyond that,” he said.
17th Jan 2022 - New Scientist

1st kids’ Omicron ward opens with classes, clowns, and doctors bracing for ‘war’

Preparing themselves for an influx of kids battling COVID-19, Israeli doctors have opened the country’s first pediatric Omicron unit. With Omicron spreading fast in schools and other places where kids mix, significant hospitalizations are inevitable, according to Dr. Moshe Ashkenazi, director of the new ward at Sheba Medical Center. “Omicron appears to be less virulent than other variants, but the sheer numbers being infected will mean children being hospitalized,” Ashkenazi told The Times of Israel, adding that the current spiraling numbers bring back vivid memories of the first wave in early 2020. “We have a sense of deja vu from the first wave, and we’re preparing ourselves for a war, just as we did in the first wave,” he said.
17th Jan 2022 - The Times of Israel

Hospital admissions climb as virus spreads - Cayman Islands

Public Health officials said that there are now nine patients in hospital as a result of COVID-19 after three more people were admitted over the last day, reflecting the anticipated knock-on effect from the continued uncontrolled spread of the virus through the community. Another 357 positive tests emerged during the latest results, and officials said that over 5% of the population is now infected with SARS-CoV-2. Interim Chief Medical Officer Dr Autilia Newton reported that eleven of the latest positive cases were among travellers and of the 346 community cases, 19 were in the Sister Islands. Rumours circulated on social media Wednesday of an islandwide lockdown for Cayman Brac because of the recent spike in cases, but officials said these were false.
17th Jan 2022 - Cayman News Service

Fighting Covid-19 in Kibera, one of Africa’s largest informal settlements

Nearly 10 months after a grandmother in England became the first person in the world to get vaccinated against Covid-19 outside of a clinical trial, we were finally able to start vaccinating residents of Kibera, one of Africa’s largest informal settlements. That first jab was a long time coming. In March 2021, the Kenyan government prioritized vaccination as one of the key measures to contain the spread of Covid-19, reduce community transmission, severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths. The informal employment sector had significantly closed, four out of five residents of Kibera and other informal settlements had lost their income, and a majority of households were facing hunger
17th Jan 2022 - STAT News

Australia regulator flags 'significant concerns' of price hike in COVID-19 antigen tests

Australia's competition regulator on Monday said it had "significant concerns" about reports of price gouging of COVID-19 rapid antigen tests and sought information from suppliers, retailers and pharmacy chains about rising costs. Australia is facing a shortage of at-home rapid antigen test kits after authorities urged asymptomatic close contacts to bypass government-funded testing hubs, where high volumes delayed results, and take their own tests. "In the middle of a significant outbreak of COVID-19 in a pandemic, the excessive pricing of rapid antigen tests required to diagnose the illness and protect other members of the public, is of significant concern," the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Chair Rod Sims said.
17th Jan 2022 - Reuters

COVID deaths and cases are rising again at US nursing homes

COVID-19 infections are soaring again at U.S. nursing homes because of the omicron wave, and deaths are climbing too, leading to new restrictions on family visits and a renewed push to get more residents and staff members vaccinated and boosted. Nursing homes were the lethal epicenter of the pandemic early on, before the vaccine allowed many of them to reopen to visitors last year. But the wildly contagious variant has dealt them a setback. Nursing homes reported a near-record of about 32,000 COVID-19 cases among residents in the week ending Jan. 9, an almost sevenfold increase from a month earlier, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
17th Jan 2022 - The Associated Press

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Omicron hits Beijing: City records first local case of the highly transmissible variant

An Omicron case has been detected in Beijing, officials in the Chinese capital said Saturday, as the country battles multiple outbreaks of the highly transmissible coronavirus variant ahead of the Winter Olympics. Lab testing found 'mutations specific to the Omicron variant' in the person, Pang Xinghuo, an official at the city's disease control authority, told a news briefing. Officials have sealed up the infected person's residential compound and workplace, and collected 2,430 samples for testing from people linked to the two locations, a Haidian district official said.
16th Jan 2022 - Daily Mail

Exhausted parents navigate a patchwork of U.S. school COVID-19 policies

Jennifer Pierre speaks for millions of American parents when she sums up how it feels to navigate a patchwork of school COVID-19 policies as the pandemic enters a third year. "It's so exhausting," the Sacramento, California, mother said this week. She is happy to see her 13-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son back in their classrooms after the long months of remote learning that hindered their social development. But even with her school district's strict safety protocols, she worries about whether the surging Omicron variant will lead to further closures and on what grounds those will be decided.
15th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Brazil reels as COVID-19 cases soar; hospitals, economy under pressure

Brazil is suffering a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases as the Omicron variant spreads through the country, putting pressure on health services and weighing on an already sputtering economy. Insufficient testing and a data blackout caused by hackers have made it harder for experts to track the spread of the highly contagious variant in Brazil, but there are increasingly clear signs it is hitting Latin America's largest nation hard. Confirmed cases have almost doubled since last week, with the rolling average for the past seven days surging to 52,500, from 27,267 last Wednesday.
15th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Number of French COVID-19 ICU patients falls, despite record infections

The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units in France has fallen for the second day in a row, despite a record infection rate, health ministry data showed on Friday. France reported 3,895 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care units on Friday, 44 fewer than Thursday, and the second consecutive fall, despite the seven-day moving average of new infections reaching a new high of nearly 294,000 on Thursday. The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 rose by 357 to 24,511, but the week-on-week increase of 13.5% was the lowest since the start of the year.
15th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Australia's worst-hit state says COVID-19 hospitalisations may plateau next week

COVID-19 hospitalisation rates in Australia's most populous state of New South Wales could plateau next week, a top health official said on Friday, as the state suffered record deaths from the virus for a third day. Pressure on hospitals will likely remain for "the next few weeks", the state's health deputy secretary, Susan Pearce, said, though hospitalisation numbers were tracking better than the best-case scenario in an official modelling a week ago. "That is pleasing, but that plateauing is obviously still at a relatively high level of COVID patients in our hospitals and in our (intensive care)," Pearce told a media briefing in Sydney, the state capital.
15th Jan 2022 - Reuters

UK seven-day COVID-19 infections down 33% on week before

The United Kingdom reported 81,713 new cases of COVID-19 on Saturday, leaving the seven-day tally down by nearly 33% on the previous week. It reported 287 deaths of people who had tested positive for the disease within the previous 28 days. The seven-day total for deaths was up 45% on the week before, following a record spike in infections in recent weeks.
15th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Omicron Slows in Early U.S. Hot Spots, Offering First Hopes of a Peak

The steep rise in new daily Covid-19 cases fueled by the Omicron variant is starting to slow in some early U.S. hot spots, including New York and Chicago, sparking some optimism that a record-breaking spike in cases may be plateauing. Public officials are viewing the data cautiously and aren’t yet declaring victory. Still, some are noting that the trend is appearing to follow similar trajectories that have played out in South Africa and the U.K., where Omicron hit earlier. “There seems to be a slowing down in the major cities that were most initially impacted by the Omicron variant,” said Enbal Shacham, an epidemiologist and associate director of the Geospatial Institute at St. Louis University. “This pattern is similar to what we saw in South Africa and what we were all kind of hoping to see.”
15th Jan 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

Stretched Hospitals, Nursing Homes Fear Losing More Staff Over Vaccine Mandate

Strained hospitals and nursing homes said they fear losing workers but would require Covid-19 vaccinations for employees after the Supreme Court allowed federal officials to mandate the shots in healthcare. As the highly transmissible Omicron variant spreads across the U.S., sickening patients and workers alike, hospitals and nursing homes have struggled to maintain the staffing levels they need. The vaccination mandate could complicate those efforts if facilities are forced to let go of workers who don’t comply, said healthcare industry officials, who asked for some enforcement leniency to prevent staffing losses during the crunch. Hospitals will now work to balance the vaccine mandate with their staffing needs, said Rick Pollack, chief executive of the American Hospital Association, which is urging regulators to use enforcement discretion.
15th Jan 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

Burned by COVID supply crunch, hospitals invest in U.S. mask-making

Two days before Christmas, a cargo ship left Mumbai with a mask-making machine bound for Illinois-based OSF HealthCare, which will use the equipment to make its own N95 masks. It isn't the hospital group's first foray into manufacturing. After COVID-19 border closures in early 2020 choked shipments from Asia, producer of about 80% of the world's medical masks and protective gear, OSF and some other hospital groups started investing in U.S. production of key supplies including masks, gowns and critical pharmaceuticals.
14th Jan 2022 - Reuters

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NHS leaders call for delay to mandatory Covid vaccine law

The most senior nurses and midwives in England have called for the government to delay its deadline for all NHS staff to be vaccinated against Covid, over fears it could “backfire”. From 1 April 2022 all NHS staff will be required by law to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, meaning all those who have yet to have a first dose will need to have it by February. The government has previously predicted the NHS could lose up to 73,000 staff following the jab deadline and, in an assessment published in December, warned patient care could be impacted.
13th Jan 2022 - The Independent

Hundreds of Millions of Covid Vaccine Doses Risk Going to Waste

Hundreds of millions of Covid-19 vaccine doses purchased by wealthy countries are at risk of going to waste, a new analysis shows, while large parts of the world remain unprotected amid the spread of the omicron variant. About 240 million doses purchased by the U.S., U.K., Japan, Canada and the European Union are expected to go unused and expire by March, London-based analytics firm Airfinity Ltd. said Thursday in a report. The number of potentially wasted doses could climb to 500 million by that point if other countries receiving donated doses don’t have enough time to administer them, it said. “Even after successful booster rollouts, there are surplus doses available that risk going to waste if not shared very soon,” Rasmus Bech Hansen,
13th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Britain's Next cuts sick pay for unvaccinated staff forced to self-isolate

British fashion retailer Next has cut sick pay for unvaccinated staff who must self-isolate due to exposure to COVID-19, it said on Thursday. "It's highly emotive but we have to balance the needs of the business with those of workers and shareholders," said a spokesperson for the group. He said unvaccinated workers who test positive will still receive Next's full rate of sick pay. Next's move follows a similar one by furniture retailer Ikea.
13th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Analysis: India's new COVID-19 rules aim to free up resources but carry risks

India has eased its COVID-19 rules on testing, quarantine and hospital admissions in a bid to free up resources for its neediest people, a strategy hailed by experts even though it carries the risk of a heavy undercount of infections and deaths. The moves will offer a breathing space for healthcare facilities, often overstretched in a far-flung nation of 1.4 billion, as they battle a 33-fold surge in infections over the past month from the highly contagious Omicron variant.
13th Jan 2022 - Reuters

First new COVID-19 tests to arrive in schools week of Jan. 24 - White House

U.S. schools should receive the first additional COVID-19 rapid tests being made available by the federal government in about two weeks, a White House official said, as Washington races to keep classes open amid a record-setting Omicron surge. The new tests must be ordered through state governments, but the White House is also making available lab capacity to support five million monthly PCR tests that schools can order themselves if their states are not being helpful, the official said. Those should arrive in seven to 10 days.
13th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Poorer nations dump millions of close-to-expiry COVID-19 vaccines - UNICEF

Poorer nations last month rejected more than 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines distributed by the global programme COVAX, mainly due to their rapid expiry date, a UNICEF official said on Thursday. The big figure shows the difficulties of vaccinating the world despite growing supplies of shots, with COVAX getting closer to delivering 1 billion doses to a total of nearly 150 countries. "More than a 100 million have been rejected just in December alone," Etleva Kadilli, director of Supply Division at U.N. agency UNICEF told lawmakers at the European Parliament. The main reason for rejection was the delivery of doses with a short shelf-life, she said.
13th Jan 2022 - Reuters

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Omicron Is Dominant US Variant, Hospitals Face Dark Days as Covid Cases Soar

The highly infectious omicron variant has flushed out the delta strain across the U.S., but the ascendance of the purportedly milder form of Covid-19 has done nothing so far to ease the burden on stretched hospitals. The omicron variant represents about 98% of cases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday. That number is based on data for the week ending Jan. 8 and is a significant increase from just two weeks prior, when omicron accounted for 71.3% of cases. Omicron’s heightened transmissibility coupled with the immunity some have built to combat the delta through vaccination and exposure, have made conditions favor the “more mild” variant, said David Wohl, a professor at the Institute of Global Health and Infectious Diseases at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. But experts warn that for those who remain unvaccinated or who suffer from other health concerns, infection from any Covid-19 variant is a major concern.
13th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

'Community Champions' are key to increasing Covid vaccine uptake says minister

As areas of Newcastle city centre continue to see low vaccine uptake, the Government minister in charge of the Covid-19 jabs programme has said she hopes investing in "community champions" can help reach people who've previously been hesitant. Speaking to ChronicleLive, Maggie Throup MP - vaccines minister at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) - said the Government was aware of "disparities" in vaccine uptake. She said: "We know there are areas of huge disparity across the country - and also in local geographical areas as well. This is why we have been investing in community champions to go out into their communities and give people advice from someone they can relate to.
12th Jan 2022 - Chronicle Live

Europe Slowly Starts to Consider Treating Covid Like the Flu

Spain is calling for Covid-19 to be treated as an endemic disease, like the flu, becoming the first major European nation to explicitly suggest that people live with it. The idea has gradually been gaining traction and could prompt a re-evaluation of government strategies on dealing with the virus. British Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi on Sunday told the BBC that the U.K. is “on a path towards transitioning from pandemic to endemic.” The omicron variant’s lower hospitalization and death rates despite record infections prompted Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to hold out the tantalizing prospect of Europe moving beyond pandemic-style restrictions on normal life.
12th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

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Vaccination in Africa: Countries Struggle to Give Shots Despite Improved Doses

As shipments of Covid shots ramp up for billions of people left behind last year, and new vaccines make their way to the public, dozens of countries are struggling to turn supplies into inoculations. A dearth of immunization sites in Cameroon, weak communication and Covid denial in the Democratic Republic of Congo and a syringe shortfall in Kenya are among the hurdles complicating rollouts. In Zimbabwe, which initially raced ahead of many peers, complacency and a perception of omicron as less serious have slowed the campaign. Starved for vaccines for most of last year, Covax, the World Health Organization-backed program that aims to tackle vaccine inequity, is now approaching 1 billion doses in shipments. As the focus shifts to increasing immunization in poorer countries, officials worry the rapid spread of the omicron variant could spur the emergence of more shot-evading variants.
12th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Covid-19 hospitalizations reach record high, HHS data shows

The number of US patients hospitalized with Covid-19 has hit a record high, adding strain to health care networks and pushing states toward emergency staffing and other measures as they struggle to cope. More than 145,900 people were in US hospitals with Covid-19 as of Tuesday -- a number that surpasses the previous peak from mid-January 2021 (142,246), and is almost twice what it was two weeks ago, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. The hospitalization record comes amid a surge in cases fueled by the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
11th Jan 2022 - CNN

Australia swamped by Omicron surge as pressure grows on hospitals

Australia's COVID-19 infections hovered near record levels on Tuesday as a surge of infections caused by the Omicron variant put a strain on hospitals already stretched by staff isolating after being exposed to the virus. After successfully containing the coronavirus for most of the pandemic, Australia has been swamped by the rapid spread of the Omicron variant after authorities eased mitigation measures as high vaccination rates were reached. Australia has reported about 1.1 million cases since the pandemic began, with more than half of those in the last two weeks, including nearly 86,000 cases on Tuesday, with two states due to report later.
11th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Omicron surge sweeps through US hospital staff

As COVID-19 cases in the United States soar in the wake of the holidays, led by the highly transmissible Omicron (B.1.1.529) variant, nearly a quarter of hospitals are reporting critical staffing shortages due to workers being sick or off work for quarantine. Meanwhile, federal and states are expanding vaccination activities and policies to protect more people.
11th Jan 2022 - CIDRAP

Health officials let COVID-infected staff stay on the job

Health authorities around the U.S. are increasingly taking the extraordinary step of allowing nurses and other workers infected with the coronavirus to stay on the job if they have mild symptoms or none at all. The move is a reaction to the severe hospital staffing shortages and crushing caseloads that the omicron variant is causing. California health authorities announced over the weekend that hospital staff members who test positive but are symptom-free can continue working. Some hospitals in Rhode Island and Arizona have likewise told employees they can stay on the job if they have no symptoms or just mild ones. The highly contagious omicron variant has sent new cases of COVID-19 exploding to over 700,000 a day in the U.S. on average, obliterating the record set a year ago. The number of Americans in the hospital with the virus is running at about 110,000, just short of the peak of 124,000 last January.
11th Jan 2022 - The Associated Press

From ambulance delays to transit disruptions, COVID-19 absences hit Canada's public services

From delayed ambulances to police shortages, Canadian public agencies hit hard by COVID-19 worker absences have cut back on service, rearranged staff or warned the public that emergency responses may be disrupted. Over the weekend, paramedics in Toronto, Canada's largest city, said there were briefly no ambulances available to respond to emergencies. The city said about 12.8% of its "essential and critical services" staff were off due to COVID-19 as of Monday.
10th Jan 2022 - Reuters

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U.S. Covid-19 Cases Set to Triple Pre-Omicron Record

The seven-day average of newly reported Covid-19 infections in the U.S. is on track to triple the pre-Omicron record set a year ago, when America saw a quarter million daily cases, as concerns grow over access to and reliability of testing both in the U.S. and Europe, where the highly transmissible Omicron variant has also taken root. Growing demand for tests has led some laboratories to ration access, giving priority to people exhibiting symptoms or who have other underlying health concerns. The University of North Carolina’s microbiology lab, for instance, is restricting tests to those showing Covid-19 symptoms, employees and patients who need a test before undergoing surgery. The University of Washington temporarily closed some of its testing sites last week and is giving appointment priority to people with Covid-19 symptoms or a known exposure, amid growing demand, though health experts worry that asymptomatic people might continue to spread the virus if they are unable to access testing.
10th Jan 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

Draghi Says Keeping Schools Open Is Italy's Pandemic Priority

Prime Minister Mario Draghi said the Italian government’s priority is to avoid closing schools and blamed those yet to get vaccinated against Covid-19 for the nation’s pandemic woes. “Most of the problems we have today stem from the fact that there are people who are not vaccinated,” Draghi said at a press conference in Rome on Monday. “It doesn’t make sense to close schools before everything else.” The government successfully challenged in court a decision by the southern Campania region to keep schools closed after the Christmas vacation amid rising infections. Italy recorded more than 100,000 new cases and over 700 new hospitalizations on Monday.
10th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

London hospital boss says he may lose 1000 staff over Covid vaccine mandate

A London hospital leader has said he may lose 1,000 staff to the Covid vaccination mandate, but hopes admissions from the Omicron wave have peaked in in the capital. The chief executive of King’s College hospital NHS trust, Prof Clive Kay, told the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme that his organisation was working urgently to encourage staff to come forward for vaccination to avoid redeploying or losing them.
10th Jan 2022 - The Guardian

Hospitals Cut Beds as Nurses Call In Sick With Covid-19

Rising numbers of nurses and other critical healthcare workers are calling in sick across the U.S. due to Covid-19, forcing hospitals to cut capacity just as the Omicron variant sends them more patients, industry officials say. The hospitals are leaving beds empty because the facilities don’t have enough staffers to safely care for the patients, and a tight labor market has made finding replacements difficult. Staff shortages prompted the Mass General Brigham hospital system in Boston to keep 83 beds empty on Friday. The University Hospitals system in Ohio has closed as many as 16% of its intensive-care beds recently, while Parkland Health & Hospital System in Dallas has shut 30 of 900 beds. “It’s definitely a brutal situation,” said Dr. Joseph Chang, chief medical officer at Parkland, which had more than 500 out of 14,000 employees out sick one recent day.
10th Jan 2022 - The Wall Street Journal

Britain puts private health firms on high alert as Omicron threatens NHS

Britain on Monday put the biggest private health companies on high alert to deliver crucial treatments such as cancer surgery should Omicron overwhelm National Health Service hospitals in England. The United Kingdom's death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic stands at 150,154, the world's seventh worst official COVID toll after the United States, Brazil, India, Russia, Mexico and Peru. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has bet on refraining from lockdowns to deal with the Omicron variant which in recent weeks has swept across the United Kingdom, albeit with death rates significantly lower than previous waves.
10th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Schools return amid Omicron havoc, but hopes flicker

European governments are relaxing COVID-19 rules to keep hospitals, schools and emergency services going as the much more contagious but less lethal Omicron variant changes their approach to the pandemic. Even though a record surge in infections has yet to peak in Europe, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said the time was right to start evaluating the disease's evolution "with different parameters". The mass return of children to school after the Christmas holidays is evidence that few wish to see a return to the online-only learning that marked some of the early waves of infection. Even as France registered a record seven-day average of almost 270,000 cases a day, it eased testing protocols for schoolchildren, saying too many classes were closed
10th Jan 2022 - Reuters

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HUNDREDS of cars wait for up to three hours for covid tests in Arizona

Arizona citizens are waiting in three or more hour lines for COVID-19 testing. Nearly three in 10 tests are coming back positive statewide this wide, a pandemic high. Before, it has never reached over 20 per cent . Lines are so long that some citizens cannot access their neighborhoods and are being told to find other testing sites
8th Jan 2022 - Daily Mail

COVID: Record number of children admitted to hospital in a single day

A record number of children in England were admitted to hospital with COVID on 3 January, according to government data. Some 157 children were admitted on the Bank Holiday Monday, 110 of whom were aged 5 or younger. The figure surpasses the previous record on 145 admissions on 28 December. In the last seven days, a total of 567 children have been admitted to hospital with COVID.
8th Jan 2022 - Yahoo News UK

CDC reports record number of child COVID-19 hospitalizations

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky reported Friday that there have been a record number of pediatric hospitalizations due to COVID-19 and announced new isolation guidelines for students, staff and teachers to preserve in-person learning in schools. During a media briefing, Walensky cautioned that pediatric hospitalizations are at the highest point they have ever been during the pandemic, even though they are much lower when compared to adults. She said it’s still not clear if the increase is due to a greater burden of disease in children's communities or their lower rates of vaccination. The increase was seen most in children younger than 4, who are ineligible for vaccination, and the data include those admitted to hospitals for reasons other than COVID-19 who then tested positive.
8th Jan 2022 - The Hill

Omicron pushes U.S. COVID hospitalizations toward record high

COVID-19 hospitalizations in the United States are poised to hit a new high as early as Friday, according to a Reuters tally, surpassing the record set in January of last year as the highly contagious Omicron variant fuels a surge in the number of cases. Hospitalizations have increased steadily since late December as Omicron quickly overtook Delta as the dominant strain of the coronavirus in the United States, although experts say Omicron will likely prove less deadly than prior variants.
7th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Sweden COVID cases hit new record, pile pressure on healthcare

Sweden set a new daily record for COVID-19 cases for the third time this week, registering 23,877 cases on Jan. 5, health agency data showed on Friday, as a fourth wave swept the country and piled pressure on its healthcare system. The mounting wave of COVID-19 cases is increasingly driven by the more contagious Omicron variant and has seen hospitalisations rise rapidly in many parts of the country, although deaths have remained relatively stable so far.
7th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Covid absences put pressure on England's hospitals

Covid-related staff absences at hospitals in England have risen sharply since Omicron took hold last month, latest figures show. The number of workers off sick for Covid reasons trebled from the beginning of December. The Royal College of Nursing said growing absences meant the situation was "simply not safe." NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said staff were under pressure but were "stepping up". Downing Street said Boris Johnson saw no need for further restrictions despite the staff absences, as England's current measures were "balanced and proportionate". Earlier this week, the prime minister said he hoped England could "ride out" the Omicron wave without more restrictions.
7th Jan 2022 - BBC News

COVID-19: Military medics drafted into London hospitals as NHS grapples with staff shortages

The Royal College of Nursing says the deployment means the government can no longer deny there is a "staffing crisis" within the NHS. Two major incidents have been declared in England because of pressures caused by the spread of COVID-19 - after the Ministry of Defence said Armed Forces personnel would be deployed in London to help in hospitals. Some 200 Armed Forces personnel are being sent to support the NHS in London as hospitals grapple with staff shortages. Military medics will assist NHS doctors and nurses with patient care, while general duty personnel will help fill gaps caused by other absences. And now two major incidents have been declared in England with emergency services saying there is a civil emergency in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent.
7th Jan 2022 - Sky News

Record numbers of NHS staff quit as frontline medics battle Covid pandemic trauma

More than 27,000 people voluntarily resigned from the NHS from July to September last year, the highest number on record. NHS medics have been quitting in record numbers as staff warned of burnout among an overwhelmed workforce. One worker revealed he battled PTSD and had to quit as an intensive care nurse last year after the trauma of working on Covid wards, with others left in tears due to the strains of the job. Meanwhile, NHS Million, a campaigning website that supports NHS staff said it is receiving a “constant flood” of “disturbing” messages from workers who have spent almost two years working during the pandemic.
7th Jan 2022 - iNews

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An 'awful' month of Covid-19 lies ahead, doctor says, but preventative measures will still be key

While the highly transmissible Omicron variant continues to drive up Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations -- and the numbers are likely to get worse before they get better -- health experts say it's critical Americans continue safe practices to prevent infections. "I don't buy the idea that we are all going to get Omicron and, therefore, just give up trying. I think that's wrong," Dr. Robert Wachter, chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, told CNN's Erin Burnett on Wednesday. It's likely that "the next month is going to be awful," he said. But this does not mean that everyone should assume they will catch the virus, he said, noting the pattern of Omicron infections in the UK and South Africa.
6th Jan 2022 - CNN

Australia suffers record COVID cases, straining businesses and supply chains

Fuelled by the highly transmissible Omicron variant, Australia's daily coronavirus infections soared to a fresh peak on Thursday, overwhelming hospitals, while isolation rules caused labour shortages, putting a strain on businesses and supply chains. With Thursday's count still incomplete, Australia so far has reported 72,392 new infections easily exceeding the high of 64,774 set a day earlier. Western Australia is due to post its new cases later. Prime Minister Scott Morrison, facing a federal election before May, is under pressure over his handling of the Omicron outbreak due to stock shortages of antigen tests and hours-long wait times at testing centres.
6th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Staffing Crisis Threatens Plan to Clear U.K. Hospital Backlogs

England’s National Health Service faces an “unquantifiable” challenge to clear a record backlog of patients as a result of the pandemic, rising pressure on emergency departments, and a failure to hire and train enough staff, a committee of U.K. lawmakers said. Close to 6 million patients are waiting for elective care -- a figure that could double by 2025 -- as the crisis caused by Covid-19 weighs heavily on the NHS, according to a report published Thursday by Parliament’s Health and Social Care Committee. Waiting times in emergency departments have also hit the worst levels since records began, with one in four patients waiting longer than four hours to be admitted, transferred, or discharged in October. That’s despite about 4,800 extra doctors and 1,200 more nurses working in the NHS in October 2021 compared to the previous year, according to the latest NHS workforce statistics.
6th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

Spike in California virus cases hitting hospitals, schools

California is struggling to staff hospitals and classrooms as an astonishing spike in coronavirus infections sweeps through the state. The fast-spreading omicron variant of COVID-19 is sidelining exposed or infected health care workers even as hospital beds fill with patients and “some facilities are going to be strapped,” Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said Wednesday. Some 40% of hospitals are expecting to face critical staff shortages and some are reporting as much as one quarter of their staff out for virus-related reasons, said Kiyomi Burchill of the California Hospital Association. In Fresno County, more than 300 workers at area hospitals were either isolating because of exposure or recovering, said Dan Lynch, the county’s emergency medical services director.
5th Jan 2022 - The Associated Press

US hospitals seeing different kind of COVID surge this time

Hospitals across the U.S. are feeling the wrath of the omicron variant and getting thrown into disarray that is different from earlier COVID-19 surges. This time, they are dealing with serious staff shortages because so many health care workers are getting sick with the fast-spreading variant. People are showing up at emergency rooms in large numbers in hopes of getting tested for COVID-19, putting more strain on the system. And a surprising share of patients — two-thirds in some places — are testing positive while in the hospital for other reasons. At the same time, hospitals say the patients aren’t as sick as those who came in during the last surge. Intensive care units aren’t as full, and ventilators aren’t needed as much as they were before. The pressures are neverthless prompting hospitals to scale back non-emergency surgeries and close wards, while National Guard troops have been sent in in several states to help at medical centers and testing sites.
5th Jan 2022 - The Associated Press

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Scarce At-Home Covid Tests Leave Some Consumers Paying $40 a Pop

High prices for at-home Covid-19 tests are hitting the wallets of U.S. families who need them to get back to school and work — if they can find any to buy at all. One restaurant worker in New York said she paid an acquaintance double the retail price in a sidewalk exchange for a test kit. A mom in Missouri said she’s rationing her last two-pack for if her kids show serious symptoms. Another parent is keeping her daughter home from school, where tests are required before returning after the holiday, until an in-person appointment later this week because the $80 price tag she saw in online community groups was too steep.
5th Jan 2022 - Bloomberg

COVID case counts may be losing importance amid omicron

The explosive increase in U.S. coronavirus case counts is raising alarm, but some experts believe the focus should instead be on COVID-19 hospital admissions. And those aren’t climbing as fast. Dr. Anthony Fauci, for one, said Sunday on ABC that with many infections causing few or no symptoms, “it is much more relevant to focus on the hospitalizations as opposed to the total number of cases.” Other experts argue that case counts still have value. As the super-contagious omicron variant rages across the U.S., new COVID-19 cases per day have more than tripled over the past two weeks, reaching a record-shattering average of 480,000. Schools, hospitals and airlines are struggling as infected workers go into isolation.
5th Jan 2022 - The Associated Press

China reports major drop in virus cases in locked-down Xi’an

China on Wednesday reported a major drop in COVID-19 infections in the northern city of Xi’an, which has been under a tight lockdown for the past two weeks that has sharply disrupted the lives of its 13 million residents. The National Health Commission announced just 35 new cases in Xi’an, home to the famed Terracotta Warriors statues along with major industries, down from 95 the day before. Health officials said they have basically achieved the goal of halting community transmission because the new cases were among people already quarantined.
5th Jan 2022 - The Associated Press

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More than 100,000 people hospitalized with Covid-19 in US for first time in nearly four months

More than 103,000 people are currently hospitalized with Covid-19, the first time the total has reached six figures in nearly four months, according to the latest data from the US Department of Health and Human Services. Covid-19 hospitalizations reached a record high of more than 142,000 about a year ago, on January 14, 2021, and last topped 100,000 on September 11. The total fell to about 45,000 hospitalizations in early November, but increased steadily since then, and surged in the last week. Just last Monday, HHS reported 71,000 Covid-19 hospitalizations.
4th Jan 2022 - CNN

Australia regulator to review price hike in COVID-19 antigen tests

Australia's antitrust regulator said on Tuesday it has contacted suppliers of COVID-19 rapid antigen test kits to examine pricing pressures in the market, as calls grow louder for the government to make the tests free amid a severe shortage of the kits. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said it will review information received from suppliers, retailers and the public to determine any potential misconduct. Australia approved more than a dozen rapid antigen test kits and a majority of them are from China.
4th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Dutch to reopen schools despite high infection rates

The Netherlands, under a strict COVID-19 lockdown for the past two weeks, will reopen primary and secondary schools on Jan. 10 despite coronavirus infections remaining high, the government announced on Monday. The government stressed that hospital admissions were down considerably since the country went into a lockdown in December, which included schools closing a week earlier than planned for winter holidays. "This is good news for students and it's important for their development and their mental well-being that they can go to school," Education Minister Arie Slob said at a press conference.
4th Jan 2022 - Reuters

UK government seeks to mitigate workforce disruption from Omicron

The British government has asked public sector managers to test their contingency plans against a worst-case scenario of 25% staff absence as part of efforts to minimise disruption from the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. With daily infection numbers at a record high and people who test positive required to self-isolate for at least seven days, the government expects businesses and public services to face disruption in the coming weeks, it said in a statement.
4th Jan 2022 - Reuters

Spanish students to go back to school after Christmas break, despite Omicron

Students at Spanish schools and universities will return to class in-person when the new term begins on Jan. 10, the Health Minister said on Tuesday, ending speculation that record COVID-19 infections might trigger a return to distance learning. Cases have hit new highs since the highly contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus was detected. Omicron accounted for around 43% of cases in the week before Christmas, Spanish health authorities said on Monday. The nationwide infection rate as measured over the past 14 days rose to a new record of 2,433 cases per 100,000 people on Tuesday, a more than 10-fold increase since the beginning of December
4th Jan 2022 - Reuters

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U.S. schools delay openings as Omicron pushes pandemic to record highs

Thousands of U.S. schools delayed this week's scheduled return to classrooms following the holiday break or switched to remote learning as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus pushed COVID-19 cases to record levels. In other school districts, officials pressed on with plans to reopen, including in hard-hit New York City, where one of every three COVID-19 tests over the last week was positive for the virus, according to city data released on Monday. Nationwide, the country is averaging 18% of tests coming back positive, according to the Mayo Clinic.
3rd Jan 2022 - Reuters

English school children to wear masks to tackle Omicron surge

Children in secondary schools in England will be told to wear face coverings when they return after the Christmas holiday next week to tackle a surge in cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said on Sunday. "We want to maximise the number of children in school and college for the maximum amount of time," he said in an article in the Sunday Telegraph. "One of the additional, temporary measures that will help achieve this in light of the omicron surge is recommending face coverings are worn in secondary school classrooms and teaching spaces for the coming weeks – although not for longer than they are needed."
3rd Jan 2022 - Reuters

South Africa Says Its Omicron Wave Has Passed With No Big Spike in Deaths

The South African government said Thursday that data from its health department suggested that the country had passed its Omicron peak without a major spike in deaths, offering cautious hope to other countries grappling with the variant. “The speed with which the Omicron-driven fourth wave rose, peaked and then declined has been staggering,” said Fareed Abdullah of the South African Medical Research Council. “Peak in four weeks and precipitous decline in another two. This Omicron wave is over in the city of Tshwane. It was a flash flood more than a wave.” The rise in deaths over the period was small, and in the last week, officials said, “marginal.”
30th Dec 2021 - The New York Times

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U.S. COVID-19 deaths, hospitalizations 'comparatively' low despite Omicron surge, CDC director says

COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations are "comparatively" low as the highly infectious Omicron variant of the coronavirus spreads, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky said on Wednesday as cases in the United States reached a record high. "In a few short weeks Omicron has rapidly increased across the country, and we expect will continue to circulate in the coming weeks. While cases have substantially increased from last week, hospitalizations and deaths remain comparatively low right now," she said, referring to overall cases.
29th Dec 2021 - Reuters

In under-vaccinated Congo, fourth COVID-19 wave fills hospitals

At the St Joseph COVID Treatment Centre in Kinshasa, patients lie in ramshackle rooms breathing oxygen from old tanks. The clinic has 38 beds, and all but one are occupied. In a backyard littered with medical equipment, tents are needed to cope with the overflow. Democratic Republic of Congo is the least vaccinated country against COVID-19 in the world. Now a fourth wave of the coronavirus threatens to put greater pressure on its rickety health system than at any time during the pandemic. "We have experienced the three previous waves gradually, but in the fourth wave cases have jumped overnight," said Francois Kajingulu, the head of St Joseph. "On Monday we had 5-6 cases and on Saturday we went straight from 30 to 36."
29th Dec 2021 - Reuters

New Omicron variant fills up children's hospitals

A five-fold increase in pediatric admissions in New York City this month. Close to double the numbers admitted in Washington, DC. And nationwide, on average, pediatric hospitalizations are up 48% in just the past week. The highly transmissible Omicron variant is teaming up with the busy holiday season to infect more children across the United States than ever before, and children's hospitals are bracing for it to get even worse. "I think we are going to see more numbers now than we have ever seen," Dr. Stanley Spinner, who is chief medical officer and vice president at Texas Children's Pediatrics & Urgent Care in Houston, told CNN.
29th Dec 2021 - CNN

COVID-19: PCR and lateral flow tests could 'run out' temporarily amid surge in demand, say health officials

Coronavirus tests could be temporarily unavailable to order due to "exceptionally high demand", the UK Health Security Agency has warned. Demand is surging as the more transmissible Omicron variant pushes cases numbers to record levels. Lateral flow and PCR tests were both unavailable for home delivery across the UK via the government website on Wednesday morning.
29th Dec 2021 - Sky News

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Undertakers, rabbis join global fight promoting COVID shots

In Germany, Lutheran pastors are offering COVID-19 shots inside churches. In Israel’s science-skeptical ultra-Orthodox community, trusted rabbis are trying to change minds. And in South Africa, undertakers are taking to the streets to spread the word. The funeral directors' message: “We’re burying too many people.’’ A year after the COVID-19 vaccine became available, traditional public health campaigns promoting vaccination are often going unheeded. So an unconventional cadre of people has joined the effort. They are opening sanctuaries and going door to door and village to village, touting the benefits of the vaccines and sometimes offering shots on the spot.
28th Dec 2021 - Associated Press on MSN.com

U.S. CDC investigating nearly 70 cruise ships hit by COVID-19 cases

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Monday it was investigating nearly 70 cruise ships after reports of COVID-19 cases on board, as the Omicron variant upended holiday travel over the Christmas weekend. The CDC said COVID-19 cases on 68 ships had met its threshold for an investigation.
27th Dec 2021 - Reuters

Pre-Christmas Omicron surge leads to record new British COVID cases

Britain recorded a record number of new coronavirus cases on Thursday as the Omicron variant swept across the country, with the daily tally reaching 119,789 from 106,122 a day earlier. Many industries and transport networks are struggling with staff shortages as sick workers self-isolate, while hospitals in Britain have warned of the risk of an impact on patient safety. Omicron's rapid advance has driven a surge in cases in Britain over the last seven days, with the total rising by 678,165, government data showed.
23rd Dec 2021 - Reuters

Overwhelmed U.S. Midwest hospitals prepare for worst with Omicron

The rapid spread of Omicron infections has hospitals in the U.S. Midwest "preparing for the worst," with their intensive care units and medical personnel already severely strained from a wave of the potent Delta variant of COVID-19. Indiana, Ohio and Michigan have been hit harder in recent weeks by the virus than any other states. About one in four of their hospital beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data. The impact is even greater in their intensive care units, where COVID-19 patients now account for one-third or more of the beds, according to HHS.
23rd Dec 2021 - Reuters

French kids line up to get vaccine shots as omicron spreads

French schoolchildren clung nervously to their parents as they entered a vast vaccine center west of Paris on Wednesday — then walked excitedly away with a decorated “vaccination diploma,” as France kicked off mass COVID-19 inoculations for children age 5 to 11. It’s not a moment too soon for the French government, which is facing the highest recorded infection rates since the pandemic began but trying to avoid a new lockdown. The health minister said Wednesday that the swiftly-spreading omicron variant is expected to be dominant in France by next week, but ruled out additional restrictions on public life for now. Officials are hoping that a surge in vaccinations will be enough to limit the mounting pressure on hospitals, where COVID-19 patients occupy more than 60% of beds.
22nd Dec 2021 - The Associated Press

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Germany says FOURTH Covid shot needed to tackle Omicron as health minister backs vaccine mandate

Germany has warned a fourth Covid vaccine will be needed to stop the spread of the contagious Omicron variant. Health minister Karl Lauterbach, who has thrown his support behind a vaccine mandate, has ordered 80million doses of a Biontech vaccine which targets Omicron and should arrive in Germany by May. He has also ordered 4million doses of the newly approved vaccine Novavax - seen as more acceptable to vaccine sceptics - and 11million doses of the new Valneva shot, which is waiting for marketing authorisation.
22nd Dec 2021 - Daily Mail

Australian PM says no Xmas lockdown as hospitals coping with rising Omicron

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday ruled out a Christmas lockdown, saying hospitals were coping well with a record surge in COVID-19 cases fuelled by the Omicron variant. Australia is grappling with the more transmissible Omicron variant of the coronavirus as restrictions ease ahead of the Christmas holidays after higher vaccination levels were reached. "Despite these rising cases, hospitals and health systems remain in a strong position but of course they will be tested," Morrison told reporters in Canberra after an emergency Cabinet meeting.
22nd Dec 2021 - Reuters

U.K. on Edge Heading Into Christmas Overshadowed by Omicron

Boris Johnson has given Britons the Christmas he has long promised -- some light-touch pandemic restrictions but with no limits on family gatherings. The big question is over what comes next. When the U.K. prime minister ruled out tighter restrictions in the coming days, he also urged Britons to be cautious and warned tougher curbs may yet be needed after Dec. 25 if an omicron-fueled wave of Covid-19 infections threatens to overwhelm the National Health Service.
22nd Dec 2021 - Bloomberg

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America’s Mixed Response to the Omicron Variant Comes Down to Geography

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious-disease expert, said Sunday on ABC News that he doesn’t anticipate the U.S. moving toward broad shutdowns, even as some European countries have imposed new restrictions. He also said vaccinated Americans who have received booster shots can feel comfortable traveling this month to see family. The U.S. is now averaging more than 125,000 new Covid-19 cases a day, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The seven-day average for Covid-19 hospital admissions fell 4.8% in the week ended Dec. 18 to 7,501 a day, but hospitalizations are up 49% from a recent low in early November, CDC data show. Deaths increased to a seven-day average of 1,182 a day as of Dec. 17, up 3.6% versus the previous week.
21st Dec 2021 - The Wall Street Journal

Biden to pledge 500M free COVID-19 tests to counter omicron

Fighting the omicron variant surging through the country, President Joe Biden announced the government will provide 500 million free rapid home-testing kits, increase support for hospitals under strain and redouble vaccination and boosting efforts. At the White House on Tuesday, Biden detailed major changes to his COVID-19 winter plan, his hand forced by the fast-spreading variant, whose properties are not yet fully understood by scientists. Yet his message was clear that the winter holidays could be close to normal for the vaccinated while potentially dangerous for the unvaccinated. His pleas are not political, he emphasized. He noted that former President Donald Trump has gotten his booster shot, and he said it’s Americans’ “patriotic duty” to get vaccinated.
21st Dec 2021 - The Associated Press

Covid-19 Relief Drives Largest Federal-Grant Increase to States Since 2009

A surge in emergency Covid-19 funds contributed to the largest increase in federal grants to U.S. states since 2009, when Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Federal grants to states rose 37% in fiscal 2020 from the prior year, outpacing the average annual increase of 4% in the prior half-decade, according to a report by The Pew Charitable Trusts. Re