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Omicron surge threatens to slow down Australia's economic recovery

Reuters.pngStock MarketsJan 12, 2022 
Omicron surge threatens to slow down Australia's economic recovery© Reuters. A sign at Central Station notes the implementation of new public health regulations from the state of New South Wales, as the city grapples with an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Sydney, Australia, June 23, 2021. REUTERS/Loren Elliott/

By Renju Jose

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia's most populous state, New South Wales, suffered its deadliest day of the pandemic on Wednesday, with surging Omicron infections leading to staff shortages that have disrupted supply chains and hampered the economy's recovery.

Australian businesses are grappling with the growing toll of workers out sick or ordered to isolate for being close contacts. But the virus is also scaring customers away from airlines, entertainment and hospitality sectors, already battered by several lockdowns over the past two years.

"Essentially (small businesses) are in a lockdown ... there is little support out there to help them keep their doors open," Alexi Boyd, head of the Council of Small Business Organisations, told broadcaster ABC on Wednesday.

Australia's daily infections on Wednesday lingered near records with around 100,000 reported so far. Forty-two new deaths were registered, with New South Wales suffering its worst day of the pandemic with 21 deaths.

Labour shortages and caution about being in public places have stifled household spending, ANZ said in a research note, with spending in early January resembling lockdown conditions in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia's largest cities.

Before the Omicron outbreak erupted during the Christmas period, the economy had been making a surprisingly strong recovery. In November, employment levels rose far faster than expected as coronavirus lockdowns were lifted, and retail sales also surged for a second consecutive month.

Amid pressure on supply chains, supermarket chain Coles Group reintroduced purchase limits on toilet paper, some meat products and medicines.

Fielding criticism at the beginning of an election year over his handling of the Omicron outbreak, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has proposed to ease isolation rules https://www.reuters.com/business/healthcare-pharmaceuticals/australia-covid-19-infections-hit-1-million-omicron-drives-record-surge-2022-01-09 for asymptomatic workers ahead of a national cabinet meeting on Thursday.

The head of Melbourne's Chapel Street Precinct, a local marketing body representing around 2,200 commercial entities, said the controversy over tennis superstar Novak Djokovic has "created the perfect distraction" for Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews and Morrison.


"(The Djokovic case) means nowhere near enough attention is being focussed on the absolute decimation of small businesses," General Manager Chrissie Maus said.

An Australian court on Monday quashed the government's decision to cancel Djokovic's visa https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/sports/djokovic-free-australia-deportation-threat-lingers-2022-01-11 over questions of his medical exemption status but he still faces the threat of deportation.

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Germany's COVID-19 cases hit daily record of more than 80,000

Reuters.pngCoronavirusJan 12, 2022 
Germany's COVID-19 cases hit daily record of more than 80,000© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A sign indicates to wear a face mask as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues at Unter den Linden street in Berlin, Germany, December 18, 2020. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany reported 80,430 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, the highest recorded in a single day since the pandemic began, as the contagious Omicron variant rips through a population with lower vaccination rates than some other parts of Europe.

The previous daily record, on Nov. 26, was more than 76,000.

Germany's tally of infections now stands at 7,661,811. The death toll also rose by 384 on Wednesday to reach 114,735.


Just under 75% of the population has had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the latest figures from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious disease show.

The seven-day incidence rate, a key yardstick in deciding coronavirus policy, has ticked up steadily since the start of the year, to stand at 407.5 cases per 100,000 people on Wednesday, versus 387.9 the day before.

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Pandemics are serious but panics and fears get heightened because...

Looking at these two references below sums up what usually the general public does not know or know well enough for application. Professionals in health related fields too miss certain basics and attention is else where with the herd thinking vested interests jostling for a piece of the action. As the various articles nicely pointed out by the administrators show fear and panic is the dominate force overwhelming the professionals or someone pushing the buttons to maintain such a scene.



History has shown over, and over, and over, that good protocols followed by all and following where necessary the vaccines order in our life returns. that means people not being arrogant and follow the protocols. even doctors (& politicians too) need to continue to wear a mask, cleaning hands and other protocols make a big difference. only the arrogant, lazy and the "it can't happen to me" characters flout the basic protocols.

When health professionals are reactive instead of being proactive and act rationally to handle the dramatic scene they spread fear and panic. they know how to set a bad example. governments being ignorant of the technicals of the virus and diseases panic in dispersed ways.

Viruses depend on attaching to a cell and need a protein to breed. there are over 100,000 odd types of proteins in the human body. these are made from  a pool of vitamins, minerals and amino acids. viruses adapt after humans get vaccinated. new type may evolve and we attempt a new vaccine to handle that one.

Amino acids are micronutrients that are involved in the chemical structures of genes, blood, tissue, muscle, collagen, skin, hair, nails, bones, hormones, enzymes, antibodies, neurotransmitters, dna, rna and every chemical processes that makes up the human body. a shortfall in just one essential amino acid from the diet will quickly lead to poor protein synthesis and eventually to a physical disorder and/or death.

A healthy lifestyle starts with nutrition. “we are what we eat” is true in the sense that all nutrients to sustain and regenerate the human body come from our diet. however, in certain situations of stress, fatigue, exhaustion and illness the digestive system may not respond at all or respond quickly enough or there may be inadequate amount of nutrients to provide for the required needs of the body. in these situations a boost of amino acids and short peptides, which are readily absorbed to the blood stream, can compensate for the lack of proper nutrition and normal digestion. Intake of free amino acids can also boost the immune system as documented in several studies.

This is the nutritional know-how in depth  most medical doctors lack  and its applications as they have mostly not studied this in medical school. hence you never hear any professional doctor recommending such alternate solutions. to them it is still an unknown field. if it isn't then how come they do not give alternate solutions, or are they seduced by the big profits and income from the current solution in play?


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

Reuters.pngCoronavirusJan 13, 2022 
Analysis: India's new COVID-19 rules aim to free up resources but carry risks© Reuters. A man walks past a mural on a street, amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Mumbai, India, January 10, 2022. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas

By Krishna N. Das

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - 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.

This week, federal authorities told states to drop mandatory testing for contacts of confirmed cases unless they were old or battling other conditions, while halving the isolation period to a week and advising hospital care only for the seriously ill.

"Contact-tracing has been the most resource-intensive activity since the pandemic began," said Sanjay K. Rai, a professor of community medicine at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, the capital.

"That strategy did not work and wasted resources," he added, saying serological surveys had shown it had detected only a fraction of infections. "The new one will ensure optimum utilisation of what we have got."

India's tally of infections crossed 36 million on Thursday, with 247,417 new cases, although daily testing has stayed well below the capacity of more than 2 million.

Four Indian epidemiologists echoed Rai's view, saying it was better to monitor the numbers of those in hospital, rather than infections, while targeting crowded spaces such as workplaces, dormitories and barracks with rapid testing.

They added that the guidelines on shorter isolation and hospital admissions were in line with global practice, as most Omicron sufferers recover quicker, although they spread the virus faster.

But some experts say the new rules could lull people into taking infections lightly until it is too late, especially in the rural areas home to two-thirds of the population, where few seek tests unless directed by authorities.

"This new strategy will affect data from rural India or certain states in a disproportionate way," said Bhramar Mukherjee, an epidemiology professor at the University of Michigan.

"It will be harder to predict upcoming hotspots and epicentres," she added, which would leave authorities less time to marshal resources against the disease.

It would also affect the tracking of COVID-19 deaths, an effort Mukherjee said was "already highly imperfect and under-reported".

Health experts say India massively undercounts infections, with its death toll outstripping the official figure of about 485,000, as few victims of earlier waves, chiefly in rural areas, learnt of their condition until the last moment.


India's best healthcare facilities are clustered in major cities, while poor people across vast swathes of the country have to rely on dilapidated government networks.

For example, government-run district hospitals in the sprawling mineral-rich state of Bihar struggle with one of India's worst ratios of medical staff to patients, while New Delhi is staffed at more than twice the national average.

The health ministry and the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

There was no shortage of test kits, with thousands of people having bought home test kits in the past week, ICMR chief Balram Bhargava said on Wednesday, but did not say if rural areas were as well supplied as urban areas.

Some Indian states have decided to ignore the new testing guidelines since they are not bound by them.

Karnataka, home to the southern technology hub of Bengaluru, has reported India's third-highest tally of infections, and plans to continue tests for close contacts of the infected.

A survey published this week by New Delhi-based website LocalCircles found that 15% of respondents knew of one or more of their family and friends who did not get tested, despite showing symptoms similar to COVID-19 in the past month.

It said the gap between actual and reported daily cases would widen when the virus reaches smaller towns and villages.


South Asian nations with less than half their people fully vaccinated, such as India, run a greater risk of severe illness that requires hospital stays, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said.

"As we are seeing new variants, we must not be complacent in adhering to public health measures," said Abhishek Rimal, an Asia-Pacific official of the humanitarian

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Covid’s omicron variant is currently tearing through the U.S. and the rest of the world at a record-breaking pace — but Bill Gates sees hope on the horizon.

Once the current surge abates, countries can expect to see “far fewer cases” through the rest of 2022, Gates wrote on Tuesday during a Twitter Q&A with Devi Sridhar, chair of global public health at the University of Edinburgh. Once that happens, Gates continued, Covid can most likely “be treated more like seasonal flu.”


The Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist — an outspoken public health advocate who regularly weighs in on the Covid pandemic response — isn’t the first to make similar predictions. Some experts say omicron’s rapid spread, while certainly dangerous, could imbue enough people with so-called “natural immunity” to help steer the Covid pandemic into a much less severe “endemic” phase.

Gates touched on that scenario in his Twitter Q&A, predicting that “omicron will create a lot of immunity, at least for the next year.” The timing matters: If enough of the country can maintain some level of simultaneous immunity against Covid, whether vaccine-induced or otherwise, the virus’ circulation could slow down long enough to transition the pandemic into that endemic phase.

Once Covid eventually becomes endemic, Gates added, “we may have to take yearly shots for Covid for some time” — much like annual flu shots.

The U.S. reported a record 1.5 million new Covid cases on Monday, while also posting a new record for hospitalizations. But Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s top medical advisor, has projected that the current wave of omicron cases will peak in the U.S. by the end of January. And last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it expects a “precipitous decline” in cases once omicron passes.


Omicron is still likely to wreak havoc on the U.S. health care system between now and then. In his online conversation with Sridhar, Gates noted that until omicron recedes, unvaccinated people will continue to experience “the most severe cases” of Covid. He also predicted that health systems across the world will continue to be “challenged” by omicron’s extremely high transmissibility.

Gates’ relatively optimistic outlook could also be dashed by a new Covid variant emerging on omicron’s heels, especially if it’s more severe or transmissible than any other variant to date. The billionaire wrote that the scenario is perhaps improbable — but certainly not impossible.

“A more transmissive variant is not likely,” Gates said on Twitter, “but we have been surprised a lot during this pandemic.”


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New data finds AstraZeneca booster generates higher antibodies against Omicron

Reuters.pngCoronavirusJan 13, 2022 
New data finds AstraZeneca booster generates higher antibodies against Omicron© Reuters. A nurse prepares a dose of the AstraZeneca coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, in Mexicali, Mexico January 11, 2022. REUTERS/Victor Medina

(Reuters) - AstraZeneca (NASDAQ:AZN) said on Thursday preliminary data from a trial it conducted on its COVID-19 shot, Vaxzevria, showed it generated a higher antibody response against the Omicron variant and others, including Beta, Delta, Alpha and Gamma, when given as a third booster dose.

The increased response was seen in people who were previously vaccinated with either Vaxzevria or an mRNA vaccine, the drugmaker said, adding that it would submit this data to regulators worldwide given the urgent need for boosters.

AstraZeneca has developed the vaccine with researchers from the University of Oxford, and lab studies last month found a three-dose course of Vaxzevria was effective against the rapidly spreading new variant.

The data is the first released by the company from its trials into boosters of its vaccine.

The company said it adds to the growing evidence that supports a third dose of its vaccine irrespective of the primary vaccination schedule.

"These important studies show that a third dose of Vaxzevria after two initial doses of the same vaccine, or after mRNA or inactivated vaccines, strongly boosts immunity against COVID-19," Oxford Vaccine Group chief Andrew Pollard said in a statement.


A major British trial in December found that AstraZeneca's shot increased antibodies when given as a booster after initial vaccination with its own shot or Pfizer (NYSE:PFE)'s, which is based on mRNA technology.

However, the study concluded that mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA) gave the biggest boost to antibodies when given as a booster dose.

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India’s third wave of Covid infections is expected to blunt growth in the near term

Saheli Roy Choudhury
  • India reported 247,417 new infections over a 24-hour period on Thursday, according to government data.
  • The sharp rise in cases have led economists to become more cautious about the January-March quarter outlook, but they also expect less severe impact than before.
  • Citi economists revised down their growth projections for India: The estimated GDP for fiscal 2022 was revised by 80 basis points to 9%.

Covid lab technicians in India on Friday Jan. 7, 2022.

Covid lab technicians in India on Friday Jan. 7, 2022.
Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

India is experiencing a third wave of Covid infections — while its overall impact is expected to be less disruptive than previous waves, some economists are predicting slower growth in the near term.

The economic impact of the new wave could be relatively less severe in the first three months of 2022, Citi economists Samiran Chakraborty and Baqar M Zaidi wrote in a Jan. 9 note.


But they pointed out that the momentum for India’s economic activity between October and December fell below expectations, even before the third wave hit.

That led the Citi economists to revise down their inflation-adjusted GDP estimates for India for fiscal year 2022. Growth is predicted to fall by 80 basis points from 9.8% year-on-year to 9% largely due to weaker economic activity in the October-December quarter, Chakraborty and Zaidi said.

Consequently, they also revised down their fiscal 2023 growth estimates from 8.7% year-on-year to 8.3%.

India’s fiscal year 2022 ends in March, and its fiscal year 2023 starts on April 1 and ends Mar. 31 next year. CNBC

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What Delta Air Lines predicts for business travel after the omicron variant

Eric Rosenbaum, CNBC
  • Delta executives predict that corporate travel will return in the spring at a similar level to where it had rebounded before the omicron variant.
  • It’s wait-and-see right now, but 80% of corporate travel survey respondents thought they would travel the same or more in the first quarter than they did in fourth quarter, before office reopening delays pushed that out.
  • “When we get to spring and summer, that we’ll see a robust demand for business travel,” said Delta president Glen Hauenstein on its earnings call Thursday.


Delta Air Lines jets are seen on a taxiway at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. December 22, 2021.

Delta Air Lines jets are seen on a taxiway at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. December 22, 2021.
Elijah Nouvelage | Reuters

For Delta Air Lines, the Covid situation isn’t as grim as it could be. Its outlook on Thursday issued along with its fourth quarter 2021 earnings report calls for a profit of roughly $400 million for the second half of this year, and its CEO Ed Bastian noted that would make Delta “the only major U.S. airline to achieve second-half profitability.”

Delta still expects to lose money in the first quarter, but Q1 to be the only loss-making quarter of 2022. “We’re confident that we’ll generate a meaningful profit for the full year of 2022 as the recovery resumes and accelerates in the spring and the summer,” Bastian said on the earnings call.

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UK economy finally bigger than before pandemic in November

Reuters.pngEconomic IndicatorsJan 14, 2022 
UK economy finally bigger than before pandemic in November© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People queue at Westminster Bridge to receive COVID-19 vaccine and booster doses, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, at a walk-in vaccination centre at Saint Thomas' Hospital in London, Britain, December 14, 2021. R

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's economy grew by a much stronger-than-expected 0.9% in November, finally taking it above its size just before the country went into its first COVID-19 lockdown, the Office for National Statistics said on Friday.

The world's fifth-biggest economy was 0.7% bigger than it was in February 2020, the ONS said.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast monthly gross domestic product growth of 0.4% for November.

"It's amazing to see the size of the economy back to pre-pandemic levels in November – a testament to the grit and determination of the British people," finance minister Rishi Sunak said.

Other economies have already recovered their pre-COVID size, chief among them the United States.

Despite November's growth acceleration, GDP probably took a hit in December when the Omicron coronavirus variant swept Europe, and the loss of momentum is likely to have stretched into January with many firms reporting severe staff absences and consumers still wary of going out.

But health officials think the Omicron infections wave has now peaked in Britain and analysts say the hit to the economy is likely to be short-lived, allowing the Bank of England to continue raising interest rates this year.

The ONS said, data revisions aside, GDP in quarterly terms would reach or surpass its pre-coronavirus level in the October-December period of last year, as long as economic output does not fall by more than 0.2% in December.

The ONS said architects, retailers, couriers and accountants had a bumper month in November and construction recovered from several weak months as raw materials became easier to source after problems in global supply chains.


Britain's economy will still face challenges in the months ahead, even once coronavirus restrictions are relaxed.

"While the UK economy should rebound once Plan B measures are lifted, surging inflation and persistent supply chain disruption may mean that the UK's economic growth prospects remain under pressure for much of 2022," Suren Thiru, head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce, said.

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COVID review for England could come this week, early next - source

Reuters.pngCoronavirusJan 17, 2022 
COVID review for England could come this week, early next - source© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves Downing Street 10 to meet with Oman's Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, in London, Britain December 16, 2021. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - A review of "Plan B" measures to tackle the spread of COVID-19 in England could take place this week or early next, a senior government source said on Monday, part of efforts to move attention away from lockdown-breaking events at Downing Street.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson hopes to reset his agenda after coming under fire for attending a gathering in the garden of his Downing Street office and residence in May 2020, when strict COVID-19 rules forbade almost all socialising.

He has apologised for attending, but the growing reports of alcohol-fuelled gatherings at the heart of government have prompted calls for his resignation, including from some in his governing Conservative Party.

The removal of "Plan B" measures - an order for people to work from home when they can, to wear masks in public places and use COVID-19 passes to enter some venues - would please many in his party who want to return to something more akin to normal life.

The senior government source said the review could come this week, but possibly early next week.

The measures are currently set in place until at least Jan. 26 after they were introduced in December to try to curb the spread of the Omicron variant.

Education minister Nadhim Zahawi said earlier that infections and hospitalisations from the variant looked to be "plateauing", raising hopes that some of the measures could be removed.


"I'm confident that when we review this on the 26th of January, as we said we would do, then we'll be in a much better place to lift some of these restrictions," he told Sky News.

Asked about the questions over Johnson's future, Zahawi said the prime minister "understands the level of hurt in the country".

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UK employers add record number of jobs despite Omicron

Reuters.pngEconomic IndicatorsJan 18, 2022 
UK employers add record number of jobs despite Omicron© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A woman looks towards the City of London financial district from Parliament Hill in north London March 31, 2015. REUTERS/Toby Melville

By David Milliken

LONDON (Reuters) -British employers added a record 184,000 staff to their payrolls in December, showing little impact from the Omicron variant of coronavirus, while job vacancies hit a new record high, potentially fuelling the Bank of England's inflation worries.

The broader unemployment rate for the three months to the end of November fell to 4.1%, the Office for National Statistics said on Tuesday, below economists' forecasts in a Reuters poll for it to hold at 4.2% and its lowest since June 2020.

"Today's figures are proof that the jobs market is thriving, with employee numbers rising to record levels, and redundancy notifications at their lowest levels since 2006 in December," British finance minister Rishi Sunak said.

Concern about possible labour shortages and pay pressures over the medium term was a major reason why the Bank of England raised interest rates last month for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Financial markets see a greater than 80% chance that the BoE will raise rates again on Feb. 3 after its next meeting.

Britain's job market performed more strongly than the BoE expected late last year, as unemployment fell despite the end of a government job subsidy programme which was supporting more than 1 million workers in September.

More recently, a surge of COVID-19 cases linked to the Omicron variant of coronavirus has caused widespread staff absence and hammered demand in the hospitality sector. But most economists expect the ill-effects to be short-lived.

Tuesday's data showed that average earnings in the three months to November were 4.2% higher than a year earlier - in line with economists' forecasts - while job vacancies in the three months to December hit a record 1.247 million.

The ONS said it believed temporary factors which had distorted pay growth higher earlier in 2021 had now largely dissipated.

In nominal terms, pay growth is well above the 2-3% range seen before the pandemic, and a potential inflation concern for the BoE given weak underlying productivity growth.


But fast-rising inflation is eroding the benefit of higher pay for workers. Pay excluding bonuses was flat in inflation-adjusted terms in the three months to November, its weakest performance since July 2020.

"Few businesses appear to be hiking wages substantially in order to retain their staff," said Pantheon Macroeconomics's Samuel Tombs, who forecasts pay growth of 3.5% for 2022, well below his expectation of near-5% inflation.

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Children who have recovered from Covid-19 may experience a distorted sense of smell afterwards which could affect the foods they will eat, according to experts in the U.K.

“Parosmia” — when people experience strange and often unpleasant smell distortions — is relatively common after a Covid infection, with 250,000 adults in the U.K. estimated to have suffered parosmia as a result of having the coronavirus.

Experts say it could be a reason why children who have recovered from Covid might find it hard to eat foods they once loved.

Instead of smelling a lemon, for example, someone suffering from parosmia may smell rotting cabbage, or chocolate may smell like gasoline.

Leading U.K. smell expert Carl Philpott, a professor at the University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School, and charity Fifth Sense released guidance on Tuesday to help parents and healthcare professionals better recognize the disorder and distinguish it from “fussy eating.”

“Parosmia is thought to be a product of having less smell receptors working which leads to only being able to pick up some of the components of a smell mixture,’” Philpott commented Tuesday.

“We know that an estimated 250,000 adults in the U.K. have suffered parosmia as a result of a Covid infection but in the last few months, particularly since Covid started sweeping through classrooms last September, we’ve become more and more aware that it’s affecting children too.”

He added: “In many cases the condition is putting children off their food, and many may be finding it difficult to eat at all.”

I’m hoping this is the transition variant, says Dr. Ashish Jha

Philpot noted that the condition hadn’t really been recognized by medical professionals until now, with many assuming that children were being difficult eaters without realizing there is an underlying problem.

“For some children - and particularly those who already had issues with food, or with other conditions such as autism – it can be really difficult. I expect there are a lot of parents at their wits end and really worried,” he said.

Fifth Sense Chairman and founder Duncan Boak said the charity had received anecdotal evidence from parents that children are “really struggling” with their food after Covid.

“We’ve heard from some parents whose children are suffering nutritional problems and have lost weight, but doctors have put this down to just fussy eating.  We’re really keen to share more information on this issue with the healthcare profession so they’re aware that there is a wider problem here,” Boak said. CNBC

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Analysis-With Omicron, global economy spots chance to push past COVID

Reuters.pngEconomyan 18, 2022 
Analysis-With Omicron, global economy spots chance to push past COVID

By Mark John and Howard Schneider

(Reuters) - Governments worldwide are easing quarantine rules, reviewing coronavirus curbs and dialling back pandemic-era emergency support as they bid to launch their economies back into some version of normality.

The moves, motivated by the lower severity of the Omicron variant and the need to keep workers in work and the global recovery on track, have generated a whiff of optimism that has lifted oil and stock prices.

Health experts say the variant's rapid spread may yet herald a turning point in the pandemic.

However, they add, much depends on how authorities manage ongoing vaccination rollouts and balance other health measures still needed, while persuading their citizens not to throw caution to the wind.

"We are taking a big step and that also means we're taking a big risk," Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said last week before stores, hairdressers and gyms reopened in a partial lifting of a lockdown despite record numbers of new cases.

That lockdown was already something of a rarity, with most western countries well past that stage and focussed on how to safely open up further.

Around half a dozen have cut quarantine times from 10 to five days, citing Omicron's faster infection cycle as grounds to loosen rules that have led to a wave of worker absences hitting businesses.

Britain and Israel have eased requirements for follow-up PCR tests after a lateral flow result as Omicron's soaring infection rates overload laboratories. Local media say Britain could announce further easing of restrictions later this month.

Omicron's ability to rifle quickly through a population without causing a proportionate rise in hospitalisations and deaths even prompted Spain's prime minister to suggest it be treated akin to an endemic illness like flu.


While few are using that specific word, policymakers whose priority now is to wean economies off the cheap money fuelling inflation have started to depict the coronavirus as something businesses and households must learn to live with.

"What we are seeing is an economy that functions right through these waves of COVID," U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said last week.

"If the experts are right and Omicron is going to go through really quickly and peak perhaps within a month and come down after that, I think it is likely you will see lower hiring and perhaps a pause in growth, but it should be short-lived."

Such a scenario would facilitate the Fed's full-on turn towards normalising policy this year with as many as three interest rate hikes. Other central banks also looking to wind back stimulus share that view.

"It (Omicron) is proving very contagious but less deadly, so economies will live with it," one European Central Bank policymaker told Reuters, adding the bank's baseline scenario assumed a "continued resolution of the health crisis in 2022".

Similarly the Bank of Japan, while listing Omicron as a risk, is seen sticking to its view that the local economy will pursue a recovery driven by robust exports and massive state spending.

If that upbeat outlook materialises, governments would also be able to start winding back the emergency fiscal support which, according to the International Monetary Fund, led to the largest one-year surge in global debt since World War II.

In October, the Fund forecast global economic growth of 4.9% this year, while underscoring uncertainty posed by the coronavirus. It postponed the release of its latest outlook to Jan. 25 to factor in latest Omicron developments.


The rosy economic picture is also predicated on vaccination campaigns at sufficient levels to limit serious illness.

That means ramping up access to shots in the developing world as wealthier countries focus on the boosters that widespread evidence, including hard data from Italy and Germany, shows offer significant protection against the risk of hospitalisation, intensive care and death.

Dutch COVID-19 hospitalisations, for instance, while off all-time pandemic peaks around 2,000, remain above 900.

That is impacting workplace absences and acute care for other conditions, and the government is hoping to quickly increase a booster shot coverage rate of around 50% of adults, relatively low by euro zone standards.

Another fly in the ointment for any early return to normal may prove to be China's resolve to pursue a strict "COVID-zero" strategy likely to lead to shutdowns hitting supply chains and therefore its trade partners.

And while the belief that the global recovery can live with Omicron may be expedient, it may yet run up against the hard facts of epidemiology.

Lawrence Young, Professor of Molecular Oncology, University of Warwick, said U.S. and Japanese studies showing that more than 30% of cases remain highly infectious after five days suggest moves to relax quarantine rules could backfire.

"This is a policy decision ...based on the need to get people back to work," he said. "...Returning people after five days risks highly infectious people returning to work or school."

He and other experts said those risks could be mitigated by strict enforcement of lateral flow testing, mask-wearing and contact-limiting - a tricky health message for authorities perceived to be easing up on some rules.

"There's a big sense that we're coming out of all of this," said Young. "But I think it's an interesting, dangerous period if people are too complacent about it."

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Infectious disease experts have warned that it’s too soon for the public to stop taking steps to avoid Covid-19 infection, despite health officials claiming it’s inevitable most people will catch the seemingly milder omicron variant.

Many countries now have few or no Covid-related restrictions remaining, as surging case numbers are weighed against vaccination rates. The leaders of some European countries have called for the coronavirus crisis to begin its shift from pandemic to endemic, and be treated like the seasonal flu.

In the U.K., where new cases are beginning to ease from record-high levels after a December surge, the government is reportedly drawing up plans to completely scrap its emergency Covid laws, including self-isolation requirements, according to The Telegraph.

Official data published on Monday showed that around 98% of the U.K. population now has antibody protection against the virus, either through vaccination or infection. Just over 80% of the country’s population has received two doses of a Covid vaccine. CNBC

image.pngsource: our world in data

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Betting Omicron has peaked, British PM Johnson set to lift COVID rules

Reuters.pngCoronavirusJan 19, 2022 
Betting Omicron has peaked, British PM Johnson set to lift COVID rules

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to end most COVID-19 measures introduced to curb the rapid spread of the Omicron variant in England as he looks to live with the virus and fully reopen the economy after an apparent peak in cases.

Britain was the first country to limit international travel over the Omicron variant, raising alarm bells about its mutations, and in December introduced work at home advice, more mask-wearing and vaccine passes to slow its spread.

But while cases soared to record highs, hospitalisations and deaths have not risen by the same extent, in part due to Britain's booster rollout and the variant's lesser severity.

Health minister Sajid Javid said on Tuesday Britain had likely reached the peak in both cases and hospitalisations, with the so-called Plan B measures due to expire in a week.

"I'm cautiously optimistic that we'll be able to substantially reduce measures next week," Javid said in parliament.

Johnson will address parliament on Wednesday on next steps for Plan B and hopes to reset his agenda following furore over the lockdown gatherings at his office, which has some in his party plotting to remove him.

Johnson admitted he attended a gathering in the garden of his Downing Street office and residence in May 2020 while social mixing was banned.

The lifting of Plan B measures, along with Johnson's navigation of Omicron without resorting to stringent lockdown, could help him appease vocal opponents of restrictions in his own party amid the party unrest.

"Decisions on the next steps remain finely balanced," a government spokesperson said.

"The Omicron variant continues to pose a significant threat and the pandemic is not over. Infections remain high but the latest data is encouraging, with cases beginning to fall."

Johnson has faced criticism for his handling of the pandemic overall, and Britain has reported 152,513 deaths, the seventh highest total globally.

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Omicron has not increased hospitalisation of elderly, UK COVID advisers say

Reuters.pngCoronavirusJan 20, 2022 
Omicron has not increased hospitalisation of elderly, UK COVID advisers say© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing a face mask walks past a closed shop, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Preston, Britain, January 11, 2022. REUTERS/Phil Noble

LONDON (Reuters) - A wave of Omicron coronavirus cases has not led to an increase in the hospitalisation of the elderly that was expected despite there being more cases in that age group, Britain's science advisers said in advice published on Thursday.


"The increase in hospitalisations, which is anticipated following the observed increase in cases in older age groups, has not been seen so far," minutes from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) meeting on Jan. 13 said.

"This may be due to higher vaccine levels of protection against hospitalisation, slower waning of vaccine protection, or the impact of precautionary behaviours amongst the most vulnerable and those around them."

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China’s zero-Covid policy and broader economic circumstances could be weighing on currencies that should be reaping the benefits of higher commodity prices, strategists at BMO Capital Markets have suggested.

Although commodity prices have soared so far in 2022, with Brent crude on Wednesday notching its highest price since October 2014, commodity-based currencies such as the Norwegian krone and Australian, New Zealand and Canadian dollars have been relatively subdued.


As at Friday morning in Europe, the Aussie dollar was down 0.9% and the kiwi by 1.45% against the greenback year-to-date. The Canadian dollar was also down 0.9% year-to-date, while the U.S. dollar had gained 0.55% against the Norwegian krone. Full article: CNBC


China’s zero-Covid policy now looks like a ‘burden’ and it needs to reassess, IMF says

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Beijing introduces more Covid measures as cases mount before Olympics

  • Nine locally transmitted cases were found in Beijing on Jan. 22, the National Health Commission said on Sunday, of which six were in the city’s Fengtai district.
  • Fengtai will organize nucleic acid tests for COVID-19 for all of its residents on Sunday, district health authorities said.
  • Authorities have asked residents of “risky areas,” including a neighborhood of Fengtai, to not leave the city.

People walk past the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics logo at the Shougang Park in Beijing on December 1, 2021.

People walk past the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics logo at the Shougang Park in Beijing on December 1, 2021.
Noel Celis | AFP | Getty Images

Beijing’s city government on Sunday introduced new measures to contain a recent outbreak of Covid-19, as China’s capital continued to report new local cases of the virus less than two weeks before it hosts the Winter Olympic Games.

Nine locally transmitted cases were found in Beijing on Jan. 22, the National Health Commission said on Sunday, of which six were in the city’s Fengtai district.


Fengtai will organize nucleic acid tests for Covid-19 for all of its residents on Sunday, district health authorities said.

Authorities have asked residents of “risky areas,” including a neighborhood of Fengtai, to not leave the city, a local government spokesman said at a Sunday news conference, adding that Fengtai residents have been asked to avoid mass gatherings.

Beijing city has also asked residents to proactively conduct nucleic acid tests if they find themselves with Covid-19-like symptoms within 14 days of receiving any deliveries from overseas, local authorities said in a statement dated Saturday.

Authorities have suggested Beijing’s first case of the Omicron variant of the novel coronavirus could have arrived via a package from Canada.

In Fengtai, some kindergartens have told parents that children who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19 will not be able to attend, two parents told Reuters.


Reuters could not determine whether the requirement is a government regulation or the kindergartens’ own rules.

A mother surnamed Wang, whose child attends at a private kindergarten in Fengtai, said a teacher told her on Friday that unvaccinated children will not be allowed to return from Monday citing new government regulations, without providing Wang any official documents.

“This is not on a voluntary basis. This is coercion,” Wang told Reuters. She said she has filed a complaint with authorities in the hope of having the requirement removed.

Reuters could not reach local authorities for comment on a non-business day.

Mainland China reported 56 new Covid-19 cases on Jan. 22, down from 63 a day earlier, the National Health Commission said.

Of the new cases, 19 were locally transmitted, versus 23 a day earlier, it said.

The number of new asymptomatic cases, which China does not classify as confirmed cases, fell to 34 from 43.

There were no new fatalities, leaving the death toll at 4,636.

As of Jan. 22, mainland China had confirmed 105,603 cases.


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Britain says 6,000 more people needed for trial of Merck COVID pill

Reuters.pngStock MarketsJan 25, 2022 
Britain says 6,000 more people needed for trial of Merck COVID pill© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An experimental COVID-19 treatment pill, called molnupiravir and being developed by Merck & Co Inc and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics LP, is seen in this undated handout photo released by Merck & Co Inc and obtained by Reuters on October 26, 2021.

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain said on Tuesday it needed to recruit 6,000 more people onto a trial of Merck's COVID-19 antiviral pill molnupiravir to inform how the drug can be rolled out more widely.

Britain's MHRA medicine regulator approved the pill, made by Merck and Ridgeback Therapeutics, in November, and the government launched a national study to establish the best way to use the drug.

The health ministry said that while 4,500 trial participants had signed up, thousands more were needed to gather the data needed.

The study, called Panoramic, was launched to assess how the antiviral should be used in a largely vaccinated population, given it was assessed in clinical trials on unvaccinated people.

"Antivirals are a hugely important addition to our response to COVID-19," said Eddie Gray, chair of the UK's Antivirals Taskforce.

"Getting people enrolled onto this study is vital, not just in protecting the most vulnerable now, but in ensuring we can deploy these medicines more widely as soon as possible."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week said he would ditch mask mandates, work from home guidance and compulsory COVID passes in England, citing Britain's purchase of antivirals as well as the booster rollout and the lower severity of the Omicron coronavirus variant.

The health ministry said it had bought 2.23 million courses of the Merck drug, as well as 2.75 million courses of an antiviral pill developed by Pfizer Inc (NYSE:PFE) which it has not yet started to deploy.


Merck's pill was shown to reduce hospitalisations and deaths by around 30% in a clinical trial of high-risk individuals early in the course of the illness.

The government said that over-50s and those with an underlying medical condition who had tested positive for COVID-19 on a PCR test or who were unwell with COVID symptoms in the last five days could sign up for the Panoramic study.

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Pfizer and BioNTech on Tuesday launched a clinical study to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of a vaccine that targets the Covid omicron variant, as concerns grow that the current shots aren’t holding up against infections and mild illness caused by the strain discovered just over two months ago.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC earlier this month that the company will have a vaccine that targets omicron ready by March. The vaccine will also target the other Covid variants that are circulating, Bourla said.

BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said there’s growing data indicating that the efficacy of the current vaccine against infection and mild-to-moderate disease from omicron is waning more rapidly compared to prior strains of the virus. The goal is to develop a vaccine that provides durable protection against omicron, Sahin said in a statement Tuesday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found in a study published last week that a booster dose of Pfizer’s vaccine was 90% effective at preventing hospitalization from omicron 14 days after the third shot was administered.

Booster doses are also up to 75% effective at preventing symptomatic infection from omicron two to four weeks after the third shot, according to data from the U.K. Health Security Agency published earlier this month. However, the study found that boosters weaken substantially after about 10 weeks, providing 45% to 50% protection against symptomatic infection.

“While current research and real-world data show that boosters continue to provide a high level of protection against severe disease and hospitalization with omicron, we recognize the need to be prepared in the event this protection wanes over time and to potentially help address omicron and new variants in the future,” Kathrin Jansen, the head of vaccine development at Pfizer, said in a statement.

Pfizer and BioNTech’s clinical study will evaluate up to 1,420 participants.

Bourla told CNBC earlier this month he doesn’t know if an omicron specific vaccine is needed right now or how it would be used. However, Pfizer will have the vaccine ready as many countries are asking for it as soon as possible, he said.

“The hope is that we will achieve something that will have way, way better protection — particularly against infections,” Bourla said.

The omicron variant has dozens of mutations, many of them on the spike protein that the virus uses to invade human cells. The current vaccines, developed in 2020 against the original virus strain, target the spike. It becomes more difficult for vaccine-induced antibodies to block the virus as the spike mutates further and further from the original strain detected in Wuhan, China.

Omicron, first detected in Botswana and South Africa in November, has spread faster than earlier variants, causing an unprecedented wave of infection around the world.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday there have been more than 80 million Covid cases reported to WHO since the omicron variant was identified just nine weeks ago — more than were reported in all of 2020.

However, people generally don’t get as sick from omicron compared with the delta variant. But because omicron has mutated so far away from the original strain vaccines were developed to fight, it’s causing more mild breakthrough infections, raising concern that it will result in disruptions to essential services as many people call out sick.

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Covid vaccine skepticism may be fueling ‘worrisome’ rise in wider anti-vax sentiment, doctors say

PUBLISHED WED, JAN 26 2022 by Chloe Taylor CNBC



  • In the late 1990s, claims that vaccines caused autism “turned tens of thousands of parents around the world against the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine,” according to the Lancet medical journal.


  • In 2010, the journal retracted a 12-year-old article linking vaccines to autism, and studies have proven vaccines do not cause Autism Spectrum Disorder.


  • In the U.K. last year, 90.3% of two-year-olds were vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella. A year earlier, 90.6% of children of the same age had been given the vaccine.

Skepticism toward Covid-19 vaccines could be fueling a “worrisome” rise in broader anti-vax sentiment, doctors have said.

Professor Liam Smeeth, a physician and director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told CNBC he was concerned that vaccine hesitancy around Covid was “creeping into” sentiment toward other vaccines.

“I’m concerned it’s making people think: ‘oh, well, maybe the measles vaccine isn’t great either, and maybe these other vaccines aren’t great,’” Smeeth said in a phone call. “And we don’t have to see much of a drop in measles vaccine coverage in the U.K. to get measles outbreaks.”

He noted that there had been outbreaks of the disease when vaccination rates dropped in Britain in the 1990s and early 2000s.

In the late 1990s, claims that vaccines caused autism “turned tens of thousands of parents around the world against the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine,” according to the Lancet medical journal. In 2010, the journal retracted a 12-year-old article linking vaccines to autism, and studies have proven vaccines do not cause Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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PODCAST: Is Covid largely over or is the biotech sector ripe for more upside?

Investments in the biotech, pharmaceutical and life science sectors have seen some good returns since Covid struck.

While it is true that much of the initial gains have been retraced, Dr Navid Malik, a medically trained specialist who is now a life sciences, pharma and biotech analyst, says there is more to come as the sector prepares for more vaccines to combat new variants, and also brings the illusive Covid pill to the market.

ig group podcasts.PNG

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As Omicron ebbs, England revives Plan A: living with COVID

Reuters.pngStock MarketsJan 27, 2022
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A man walks past the Soho Pharmacy, Handsworth, Birmingham, Britain, January 10, 2022. REUTERS/Carl Recine/File Photo© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A man walks past the Soho Pharmacy, Handsworth, Birmingham, Britain, January 10, 2022. REUTERS/Carl Recine/File Photo

By Alistair Smout and Elizabeth Piper

LONDON (Reuters) - After an uncomfortable but relatively brief return to coronavirus restrictions triggered by the Omicron variant, England is going back to "Plan A" - learning to live with a disease that is probably here to stay.

The bet is that booster jabs, antiviral pills and Omicron's lower severity will enable the government to manage outbreaks of a virus that cannot be shut out. Other countries equally keen to unshackle business and personal freedom will be watching.

Work-from-home guidance ended last week, and measures such as mask mandates and COVID passes, also introduced in England last month, lapsed on Thursday, returning the rules to where they were last July.

The UK Health Security Agency is preparing to switch focus to supporting vulnerable individuals rather than imposing national rules, according to a draft policy seen by Reuters.

"As we evolve to move to living with COVID, UKHSA's COVID-19 response will move from a whole nation approach to a targeted response, focused on protecting the vulnerable," read the paper, titled "UKHSA COVID-19 Vision - DRAFT".

"We will ensure that our future response is more streamlined, flexible, and convenient for citizens and delivers value for money."

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has presided over a death toll of 150,000 that ranks seventh in the world, was forced in December to introduce the "Plan B" restrictions, angering some of his own lawmakers. He now has a strong political imperative to scrap them.

As police investigate gatherings at his offices during COVID lockdowns, in apparent violation of laws he had himself imposed, he faces the biggest crisis of his career, while many of his members of parliament are determined that he must return life to near-normal.

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Moderna started a clinical trial to study the safety and effectiveness of a booster shot that specifically targets the omicron Covid variant, the company announced Wednesday.

The first participant in the phase two trial has already received a dose of the omicron-specific booster shot, according to the company.


Moderna expects to enroll about 600 adult participants ages 18 and over split equally between two groups. Participants in the first group will have previously received two-doses of Moderna’s original vaccine, and participants in the second group will have previously received the two-dose vaccine and the currently authorized booster shot.

Participants in both groups will receive a single dose of the omicron specific booster. Full article on CNBC

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Back to reality at last? Covid rules are being dropped in Europe despite high omicron spread.

PUBLISHED THU, JAN 27 2022 by Holly Ellyatt, CNBC


  • From the re-opening of bars and restaurants to the dropping of legal requirements for masks, many of Europe’s biggest economies are now relaxing Covid rules and restrictions.
  • Governments in the region are desperate to salvage their economies that have been hard-hit by further restrictions.
  • Relaxations of restrictions are coming in spite of high levels of Covid infections across Europe.


LONDON — From the re-opening of bars and restaurants to the dropping of legal requirements for masks, many of Europe’s biggest economies are now relaxing Covid-19 rules and restrictions in a bid to salvage their economies.

This is in spite of high levels of infections across Europe, largely caused by the spread of the omicron variant. But many governments are now impatient to reopen their societies, particularly as it has become clearer that the new variant causes fewer hospitalizations than previous strains, and as booster Covid vaccine shots continue to be rolled out.

Many citizens in continental Europe have become increasingly frustrated and angry at restrictions, especially when seeing other countries like the U.K. faring relatively well after it opted against tighter restrictions amid the omicron wave.

On Thursday, England brought an end to the legal requirement for face coverings and Covid passes to access certain venues as the government relaxed its so-called “Plan B” measures that were enacted before Christmas.


Our world in data


Our world in data

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The latest Covid variant is 1.5 times more contagious than omicron and already circulating in almost half of U.S. states

PUBLISHED FRI, JAN 28 2022 by Spencer Kimball CNBC


  • The omicron subvariant, known as BA.2, is 1.5 times more transmissible than the original omicron strain, according to Danish scientists.
  • The U.K. Health Security Agency on Friday said BA.2 has a “substantial” growth advantage over the original omicron, known as BA.1.
  • Nearly half of U.S. states have confirmed the presence of BA.2 with at least 127 known cases nationwide as of Friday.

There are already dozens of cases across almost half of the U.S. of a new Covid subvariant that’s even more contagious than the already highly transmissible omicron variant.

Nearly half of U.S. states have confirmed the presence of BA.2 with at least 127 known cases nationwide as of Friday, according to a global data base that tracks Covid variants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a statement Friday, said although BA.2 has increased in proportion to the original omicron strain in some countries, it is currently circulating at a low level in the U.S.

The subvariant is 1.5 times more transmissible than the original omicron strain, referred to by scientists as BA.1, according to Statens Serum Institut, which conducts infectious disease surveillance for Denmark.

The new sublineage doesn’t appear to further reduce the effectiveness of vaccines against symptomatic infection, according to the U.K. Health Security Agency.

“Currently there is no evidence that the BA.2 lineage is more severe than the BA.1 lineage,” CDC spokesperson Kristen Nordlund said.

BA.2 overtook the original omicron as the dominant variant in Denmark over the course of a few weeks, said Troels Lillebaek, the chairman of the Scandinavian nation’s committee that conducts surveillance of Covid variants.

BA.1 and BA.2 have many differences in their mutations in the most important areas. In fact, the difference between BA.1 and BA.2 is greater than the difference between the original “wild strain” and the Alpha variant, which was the first major mutation to take root across the world.

The BA.2 variant has five unique mutations on a key part of the spike protein the virus uses to attach to human cells and invade them, Lillebaek told CNBC. Mutations on this part of the spike, known as the receptor binding domain, are often associated with higher transmissibility.

The U.K. Health Security Agency on Friday said BA.2 has a “substantial” growth advantage over the original omicron. The sister variant spread faster than the original omicron in all regions of England where there were enough cases to conduct an analysis, according to the agency.

However, a preliminary assessment found that BA.2 doesn’t appear to reduce the effectiveness of vaccines any more than the original omicron. A booster dose was 70% effective at preventing symptomatic illness from BA.2 two weeks after receiving the shot, compared with 63% effectiveness for the original omicron strain.

The World Health Organization has not labeled BA.2 a variant of concern. However, WHO officials have repeatedly warned that new variants will arise as omicron spreads across the world at an unprecedented rate. Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead, warned on Tuesday that the next Covid will variant be more transmissible.

“The next variant of concern will be more fit, and what we mean by that is it will be more transmissible because it will have to overtake what is currently circulating,” Van Kerkhove said. “The big question is whether or not future variants will be more or less severe.”

Lillebaek said there is not enough data yet to determine whether BA.2 is able to reinfect people who caught the original omicron. However, prior infection would likely provide some crossover immunity to BA.2.

Pfizer and Moderna started clinical trials this week on omicron-specific shots amid growing concern that new variants will emerge as immunity induced by the original vaccines wanes.

New Covid cases are increasing in Denmark, with more than 50,000 new infections reported on Friday in a country of 5.8 million people, according to the country’s health ministry. Lillebaek said it’s safe to assume that BA.2 is driving the increase of new infections in Denmark right now.

New hospital admissions in Denmark rose by 12 for a total of 967 patients who are Covid positive. Lillebaek said this increase is likely within the limits of what the health system can manage. However, he noted that 80% of Danes are fully vaccinated and 60% have received booster shots.

“If you are in a community or living in a country where you have a low vaccination rate, then you will have for sure more admissions to hospital and more severe cases and then more going to ICU,” he said.

In the U.S., about 67% of those eligible are fully vaccinated, according to data from the CDC.

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UK could change mandatory COVID vaccination for health staff - minister

Reuters.pngSportJan 31, 2022 
UK could change mandatory COVID vaccination for health staff - minister© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Staff members make preparations ahead of the opening of a NHS mass coronavirus vaccination centre at Epsom Race Course in Epsom, Surrey, Britain January 11, 2021. Dominic Lipinski/Pool via REUTERS


LONDON (Reuters) -Britain is looking at possibly changing rules on mandatory vaccination for health service staff, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke said on Monday.

"We do recognise those realities and that does open a space where we can look at this again," Clarke told Sky.

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Covid-19 will never become an endemic illness and will always behave like an epidemic virus, an expert in biosecurity has warned.

Raina MacIntyre, a professor of global biosecurity at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, told CNBC that although endemic disease can occur in very large numbers, the number of cases does not change rapidly as seen with the coronavirus.

“If case numbers do change [with an endemic disease], it is slowly, typically over years,” she said via email. “Epidemic diseases, on the other hand, rise rapidly over periods of days to weeks.”

Scientists use a mathematical equation, the so-called R naught (or R0), to assess how quickly a disease is spreading. The R0 indicates how many people will catch a disease from an infected person, with experts at Imperial College London estimating omicron’s could be higher than 3.  

If a disease’s R0 is greater than 1, growth is exponential, meaning the virus is becoming more prevalent and the conditions for an epidemic are present, MacIntyre said.

“The public health goal is to keep the effective R — which is R0 modified by interventions such as vaccines, masks or other mitigations — below 1,” she told CNBC. “But if the R0 is higher than 1, we typically see recurrent epidemic waves for respiratory transmitted epidemic infections.”

MacIntyre noted that this is the pattern that was seen with smallpox for centuries and is still seen with measles and influenza. It’s also the pattern unfolding with Covid, she added, for which we have seen four major waves in the past two years. 

“Covid will not magically turn into a malaria-like endemic infection where levels stay constant for long periods,” she argued. “It will keep causing epidemic waves, driven by waning vaccine immunity, new variants that escape vaccine protection, unvaccinated pockets, births and migration.” Full article on CNBC

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World's 1st trial deliberating infecting young adults with COVID found to be safe

Reuters.pngStock MarketsFeb 02, 2022 
World's 1st trial deliberating infecting young adults with COVID found to be safe© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Test tube with Coronavirus label is seen in this illustration taken on January 29, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

LONDON (Reuters) -The world's first human challenge trial in which volunteers were deliberately exposed to COVID-19 to advance research into the disease was found to be safe in healthy young adults, one of the companies running the study said on Wednesday.

The data supports the safety of this model which could theoretically provide a "plug and play" platform for testing therapies and vaccines using the original COVID-19 strain as well as variants of the virus, Open Orphan, which carried out the study, said in a statement.

Open Orphan is running the project, launched a year ago, with Imperial College London, the UK government's vaccines task force and the clinical company  hVIVO.

The trial infected 36 healthy male and female volunteers aged 18-29 years with the original SARS-CoV-2 strain of the virus and closely monitored them in a controlled quarantined setting. They will be followed up for 12 months after discharge from the quarantine facility.


No serious adverse events occurred, and the human challenge study model was shown to be safe and well tolerated in healthy young adults, the company said.

With the model established, it said it should be able to contract or conduct COVID-19 human challenge studies in 2022, subject to individual ethics and regulatory approvals.

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