May 25, 2022

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COVID digest: EU says boosters could limit hospital cases

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Booster shots could cut hospitalization rates in Europe by at least half a million, the European Union’s public health agency said on Thursday, even as the Omicron variant spreads at an unprecedented pace.

“The current uptake of a booster dose achieved by early January may reduce future Omicron hospital admissions by 500,000 – 800,000” in Europe, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said.

ECDC director Andrea Ammon said that member states’ first goal should be to get all eligible citizens to complete a full course of vaccination “in order to successfully transition into what may be a post-acute phase of the pandemic.”

“Despite the very high intensity of virus circulation in the community, countries with very high vaccination coverage are experiencing comparatively less impact in terms of intensive care need and mortality than in earlier waves. This highlights the impact that COVID-19 vaccines are having on preventing severe COVID-19 cases and deaths,” Ammon said.

Here’s the latest on coronavirus from across the globe:

Europe

England lifted most of its coronavirus restrictions on Thursday, including mandatory face masks and COVID passes for nightclubs and other large venues. The move is being dubbed as ‘Freedom Day 2.0,’ since the last time Britain lifted restrictions in July 2021 was known as ‘Freedom Day.’

The British government said its vaccine booster rollout had been a success in reducing severe illness and hospitalizations due to the virus. Hospital admissions and the number of people in intensive care units have stabilized or fallen, and daily cases have fallen as well. 

Health minister Sajid Javid said the government’s vaccine and testing strategy were “some of the strongest defenses in Europe.” He also added that “as we learn to live with COVID, we need to be clear eyed that this virus is not going away.”

Germany saw a record high of 203,136 new confirmed cases in the past 24 hours, with 188 deaths reported.

The incidence rate per 100,000 people was 1017.4, said the Robert Koch Institute. Last week, the rate was 638.8.

Two members of Norway’s women’s cross-country ski team have tested positive for the coronavirus ahead of next month’s Beijing Olympics.

Among other Olympians infected are Swiss hockey players, Russian bobsledders and German skeleton sliders. With the rise in cases, many countries are waiting to see whether infected athletes can recover in time for the games. 

Asia Pacific

With less than 10 days left for the Beijing Olympics to begin, city authorities have restricted the movement of people in China’s capital to curb the spread of coronavirus. 

Residents in the Fengtai district have been asked to not leave their residential compounds unless necessary.

Olympic authorities reported 23 new cases, out of which 15 were airport arrivals. The others were already in the closed loop COVID management bubble.

The Philippines recorded a 5.6% growth in their GDP in 2021, after a slump of 9.6% in the previous year.

Lifting of COVID restrictions, and employees returning to workplaces seem to have fueled this growth in the economy. Consumer spending and construction increased in the second half of the year, as the number of infections dropped.

Americas

Healthcare workers in almost half the states of the USA face a deadline on Thursday to get the first dose of their COVID vaccine, as per a mandate by the Biden administration. Other states are expected to follow in the coming weeks.

The mandate has been a divisive topic in public debate, and in some Republican-led states that have taken a stand against vaccine mandates, hospitals and nursing homes could find themselves caught between conflicting state and federal demands.

Global

American pharmaceutical company Moderna has begun clinical trials of an omicron-specific vaccine booster. The trials involve 600 adults, and the dose is being tested as either the third or fourth booster

The company also added that six months after the booster injection currently being given, the levels of neutralizing antibodies against omicron were reduced by six times from the peak observed 29 days after the injection. 

es, tg/msh (dpa, AP, Reuters)

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