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New Covid-19 infections reach over 50,000 in India

Monitoring desk

The coronavirus pandemic has infected at least 42 million people and claimed over a million lives around the world.

India has reported over 50,000 new daily coronavirus infections.

The Health Ministry said 50,129 new cases have taken the overall tally to nearly 7.9 million. 

It also reported 578 deaths in the past 24 hours, raising total fatalities to 118,534.

The ministry also said India’s active cases were below 700,000 across the country and almost 7.1 million people had recovered.

India is second to the US with the largest outbreak of the coronavirus. 

Last month, India hit a peak of nearly 100,000 cases in a single day, but since then daily cases have fallen by about half and deaths by about a third.

Some experts say the decline in cases suggests that the virus may have finally reached a plateau, but others question the testing methods. 

India is relying heavily on antigen tests, which are faster but less accurate than traditional RT-PCR tests.

Germany’s confirmed cases rise by 11,176 to 429,181

The number of confirmed cases in Germany increased by 11,176 to 429,181, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 29 to 10,032, the tally showed. 

Pence’s top aide tests positive for virus

A spokesman says Vice President Mike Pence will continue with his aggressive campaign schedule after his Chief of Staff, Marc Short, tested positive for the coronavirus.

Pence spokesman Devin O’Malley says Pence and his wife, Karen Pence, both tested negative for the virus and remain in good health.

Short is Pence’s closest aide and the vice president is considered a “close contact” under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. 

O’Malley says that “in consultation with the White House Medical Unit, the Vice President will maintain his schedule in accordance with the CDC guidelines for essential personnel.”

Those guidelines mandate that essential workers exposed to someone with the coronavirus closely monitor for symptoms and wear a mask whenever around other people.

After a day of campaigning Saturday, Pence was seen wearing a mask as he returned to Washington aboard Air Force Two once the news of Short’s diagnosis was made public.

Sri Lanka on partial shut down as cases surge

Sri Lankan authorities have terminated a number of passenger trains and widened the curfew as cases related to a new cluster at a garment factory continue to surge.

The Railway Department canceled at least 16 trains — mostly ran through busy office hours — after the number of commuters declined due to the curfew imposed in many parts of the country.

More than a dozen villages are isolated in densely populated Western province, which includes capital Colombo.

Authorities on Saturday closed at least two fishery harbours and many stalls after a surge of 609 cases linked to the country’s main fish market.

Last week the island’s main fish market on Colombo’s outskirts was closed after 49 traders tested positive.

By Sunday, the number of cases from the fish market went up to nearly 900.

Australia’s epicentre delays lifting of lockdown restrictions 

Victoria state, Australia’s virus hotspot, delayed an eagerly awaited announcement of the removal of lockdown restrictions for cafes, restaurants and pubs in the capital Melbourne because of an outbreak in the city’s northern suburbs.

The restrictions have kept most retail businesses in Melbourne providing online services only since early August and 5 million people living under stay-at-home orders were hoping for an announcement on Sunday.

State premier Daniel Andrews told a media conference the outbreak would likely delay the reopening of retail and hospitality businesses by a few days, as officials preferred to wait for hundreds of test results.

He had planned to announce some restrictions would be lifted from mid-week but preferred to wait until there was more clarity about whether all known infections and expected positive cases from the tests were linked, Andrews said.

“We will get (the test results) today and tomorrow and hopefully we are able to make, not only announcements but to take the big steps safely around the middle of this week.”

The 14-day moving average of new cases in Victoria fell to 4.6, below the threshold of five Andrews had previously set for the next band of restrictions to be lifted.

Australia has recorded nearly 27,500 infections and more than 900 deaths, a fraction of those in some other countries. Victoria accounts for over 90% of lives lost to the virus.

Colombia surpasses one million cases 

Colombia has surpassed the benchmark of one million cases of Covid-19 registered in the country since the beginning of the pandemic.

The last 24 hours saw 8,769 new infections, bringing the total to 1,007,711 since the first case was detected on March 6, the health ministry said.

China reports 15 new cases vs 28 previous day

China has reported 15 new coronavirus cases in the mainland for October 23, down from 28 cases in the previous day, the health commission said.

All 15 of the new infections were imported, according to a statement by the National Health Commission.

It also reported 19 new asymptomatic patients, compared with 27 a day earlier.

According to a statement issued by the health commission in China’s northwestern region Xinjiang on Saturday, one local asymptomatic case was detected in Kashgar city, China’s first local detected case since October 14.

As of Saturday, mainland China had 85,790 confirmed coronavirus cases, the health authority said. The Covid-19 death toll stands at 4,634. 

Mexico reports 6,025 new cases, 431 more deaths

Mexico’s health ministry has reported 6,025 additional cases of the novel coronavirus and 431 more deaths in the country, bringing the official number of cases to 886,800 and the death toll to 88,743.

Health officials have said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

Beaches in Panama reopen after months of closure

After seven months of confinement in which it was prohibited to go to the beach in Panama for recreational purposes, small groups of people arrived on Saturday at beaches to bathe in the waters of the Caribbean and the Pacific.

Veracruz is one of the most popular beaches in Panama because of its proximity to the capital, only 18 kilometres to the west.

It attracts tourists and Panamanians throughout the year, but like all the beaches in the country, it was closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.  

In Veracruz there are about twenty restaurants and other attractions such as small boats or horse rides on the sand, sales of handicrafts.

Tourism is one of the main sectors of the Panamanian economy.

Panama announced this week the opening of its beaches to the public as of Saturday and the lifting of the absolute quarantine on Sundays, in effect since last March.

North Carolina church ordered to close

A North Carolina health official jas ordered a large church to close its doors temporarily because of concerns it is helping spread the coronavirus by disregarding social distancing measures.

Mecklenburg County Health Director Gibbie Harris ordered the United House of Prayer for All People to close all of its buildings and said the church has not cooperated with efforts to stem the virus’s spread, the Charlotte Observer reported.

Harris said at least three deaths and more than 121 confirmed cases of the virus have been linked to the church, which held a weeklong church event earlier this month.

The county said the church has continued to hold large gatherings despite recommendations not to do so and has failed to implement social distancing measures. The church did not immediately return a request for comment.

Courtesy: TRT World

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How movement spread COVID-19

Monitoring Desk

BERLIN: A recent study found countries with certain international travel restrictions have suffered fewer COVID-19 deaths.

Why it matters: Before the novel coronavirus, most experts believed border closures weren’t effective in slowing the spread of a pandemic. But it’s become clear that addressing how people move is key to controlling a disease, even if closures come with serious costs.

What’s happening: Researchers in Germany studied the effect of entry bans and mandatory quarantines on COVID-19 mortality, and found the earlier such measures were implemented, the greater the effect they had on limiting deaths.

Countries that put in place travel restrictions in early March had morality rates 62% less than countries that implemented them after mid-March, or not at all.

Of note: The study found mandatory quarantines for incoming travelers were more effective than outright entry bans, largely because such bans often exempted citizens and permanent residents, while quarantines usually applied to everyone.

That was the case with the U.S. ban on travel from China, which was applied a month after China first reported COVID-19 outbreaks and which exempted citizens and permanent residents.

The U.S. lost track of at least 1,600 people flying in from China in just the first few days after the ban went into effect, according to reporting from the AP.

Border controls are of little use if governments don’t track and quarantine travelers coming from infected areas.

Between the lines: Travel within a country — which is much harder to restrict than international movement — clearly spread the virus as well.

A recent paper from researchers at New York University found “urban flight” — people fleeing large cities that hosted some of the first major outbreaks of the novel coronavirus — led to greater COVID-19 case growth in the regions they arrived in.

The bottom line: A virus only moves with its host. One lesson we should learn for future pandemics is that restricting that movement is key to controlling a new pathogen, even though the costs of such controls will only grow in a globalized world.

Courtesy: (Axios)

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America’s poor health is jeopardizing its future

Monitoring Desk

WASHINGTON: From high levels of obesity and opioid addiction to inequities in access to care, America’s pre-existing conditions make the country an easy target for COVID-19 and future pandemics that could cripple the United States for decades to come.

Why it matters: COVID-19 won’t be the last infectious disease pandemic the U.S. faces, and one of the best ways the country can prepare for future threats — and boost its economy — is to improve Americans’ overall health.

What’s happening: An analysis published this week by researchers at Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness found at least 130,000 of America’s 212,000 COVID-19 deaths so far would have been avoidable had the U.S. response been in line with that of other wealthy countries.

That failure is even more glaring when you consider that just last year the U.S. was ranked as the country most prepared for a pandemic, according to the Global Health Security Index.

What that index didn’t take into account — and what has compounded months of governmental failures — is that even before COVID-19 arrived on its shores, the U.S. was an unusually sick country for its level of wealth and development.

By the numbers: That much was shown by the Global Burden of Disease project, a massive database of what kills and sickens people around the world, which published its latest figures for 2019 in The Lancet last week.

Mortality for mothers and children under 5 is 6.5 per 1,000 live births in the U.S., compared to 4.9 for other wealthy countries.

Healthy life expectancy — the number of years people can expect to live without disability — is 65.5 years in the U.S., more than two decades fewer than in Japan.

65,700 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2019, more than double the number in 2010. Those deaths account for more than half of all drug overdose fatalities worldwide and held down life expectancy in the U.S.

High blood pressure, obesity and metabolic disorders are all on the rise in the U.S.

Context: Lancet Editor-in-Chief Richard Horton has called COVID-19 a “syndemic” — a synergistic epidemic of a new and deadly infectious disease and numerous underlying health problems. The U.S. is squarely in the heart of that syndemic.

A study published in August found cardiovascular disease can double a patient’s risk of dying from COVID-19, while diabetics — who number more than 30 million in the U.S. — are 1.5 times more likely to die.

All in all, more than 40% of American adults have a pre-existing health condition that puts them at higher risk of severe COVID-19.

Those conditions are particularly prevalent in minority communities with unequal health care access that have disproportionately suffered from COVID-19.

Be smart: Improving overall public health is an investment worth making.

A report from McKinsey earlier this month estimated that poor health costs the U.S. economy about $3.2 trillion a year, but by deploying existing approaches to improve health and prevent disease, the U.S. could cut its disease burden by one-third by 2040.

For every $1 invested in targeting population health, the U.S. stands to gain almost $4 in economic benefit, and altogether health improvements could add up to a 10% boost to U.S. GDP by 2040.

Without dedicated interventions, the overall U.S. disease burden is expected to increase by 20% as an older population becomes more vulnerable to age- and lifestyle-related diseases.

The bottom line: There is no excuse for the way the U.S. has mishandled COVID-19, but the seeds of this catastrophe were planted well before the novel coronavirus arrived on American shores.

Courtesy: (Axios)

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Fauci says soon it will be mandated for people to wear masks, it they don’t wear themselves

Monitoring desk

NIAID director Anthony Fauci told CNN on Friday evening that if “people are not wearing masks, then maybe we should be mandating it.”

Why it matters: Fauci made the comments the same day the U.S. hit its highest daily COVID-19 case count since the pandemic began.

What he’s saying: The infectious disease expert said in September that a national mask mandate “probably would not work,” citing difficulties with enforcement.

He again noted to CNN on Friday that “there’s going to be a difficulty enforcing it, but if everyone agrees that this is something that’s important and they mandate it and everybody pulls together and says, you know, we’re going to mandate it, but let’s just do it, I think that would be a great idea to have everybody do it uniformly.”

  • Fauci added that the U.S. must “double down” on measures like mask-wearing and social distancing as the country heads into the cooler winter months.
  • “They sounds very simple. But we’re not uniformly doing that and that’s one of the reasons we’re seeing these surges,” Fauci said.

The big picture: Former VPJoe Biden has called for a national mask mandate, saying such a measure is needed to save tens of thousands of lives.

  • Trump, on the other hand, has rarely worn a mask in public and often downplayed the usefulness of face coverings.

Courtesy: Axios

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Chinese yellow dust could bring Covid-19 into the North Korea

Monitoring desk

North Korean authorities urged its citizens to stay indoors and avoid the yellow dust blowing in from China.

North Korea claims it has “zero cases of Covid-19″ and to maintain that record, it has urged people to stay indoors because “yellow dust” coming from China could potentially “carry the novel coronavirus into the country.”

As the North Korean state media made that claim during a weather program, which included the details of the Chinese yellow dust containing ‘coronavirus, pathogenic microorganisms and toxic materials’,  the streets of its capital city Pyongyang were reportedly empty following the warning.  

A handful of people were seen outside wearing raincoats in the absence of any rainfall, the sources told NK News.

The socialist state is said to have maximised coronavirus measures since January. It imposed strict border closures and restriction of movement within the country.

On Thursday, the Russian Embassy in Pyongyang posted a statement from its Facebookaccount, saying it “highly recommends” people to stay inside.

“As we were told, these measures are due to the fact that COVID-19 can be introduced to the territory of the DPRK along with the ‘yellow dust’ particles,” the embassy continued.

Furthermore, the embassy also said such a warning has been delivered to Russia’s consulate in Chongjin and workers at RasonConTrans, a joint venture by two countries. 

According to Korean Central News Television(KCTV), construction workers were banned from labouring outdoors yesterday. The ban also affects urgent construction projects, including the sites razed by typhoons and floods in some parts of the country.

Will Covid-19 be transferred by dust clouds?

North Korean officials believe the coronavirus can be transmitted by dust.

An article published in the state-run Rodong Sinmunnewspaper said that “ the data that malignant viruses can be transferred by air, etc., the necessity to deal with the yellow dust phenomenon consciously and to take thorough measures is becoming more prominent.”

It also said: “all workers… must clearly recognise the danger of invading malicious viruses.” 

Despite articles suggesting the coronavirus could be transmitted via dust, experts say that it is “impossible” for the virus to travel thousands of kilometres in dry yellow dust.

The US Centre for Disease Control(CDC) also said the virus can travel in the air for hours. However, being infected by the virus in this way is extremely rare, the CDC says.

The main ways that the virus spreads are through coughs, sneezes or talking to and therefore being in the close vicinity of an infected person.

On the other hand, the BBCsays that officials in Turkmenistan has told its citizens to wear face masks to avoid virus-laden dust.

Despite claiming there are no cases, analysts believe that it is highly unlikely that North Korea is actually in this position.

Courtesy: TRT World

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For first time Czech Republic’s daily coronavirus tally tops 15,000

Monitoring desk

The global coronavirus pandemic has infected over 42 million people and claimed over a million lives. Here are updates for October 24:

Czech Republic’s daily tally tops 15,000 for first time

The Czech Republic reported 15,252 new cases for October 23, its highest daily tally, as the country faces Europe’s fastest spread of the infection.

The total number of cases rose to 238,323 in the country of 10.7 million, with 126 new deaths taking that total to 1,971.

French Open winner Swiatek will quarantine after contact

French Open winner Iga Swiatek said she feels good, but will quarantine, after she met Polish President Andrzej Duda who subsequently tested positive for the virus.

“Neither I nor members of my team have symptoms of coronavirus. We carry out tests regularly. We will quarantine ourselves in accordance with current procedures,” the 19-year-old tennis star said said in a Twitter post.

Indonesia reports 4,070 new infections, 128 new deaths

Indonesia reported 4,070 new infections, taking the total number of cases to 385,980, official data from the country’s task force showed.

It also reported 128 new deaths, taking the total number of fatalities to 13,205.

4,119 more people recovered from the virus, bringing the total number of recovered cases to 309,219. 

Philippines reports 2,057 new cases, 19 more deaths

The Philippines’ health ministry recorded 2,057 new infections and 19 additional deaths.

In a bulletin, the ministry said total confirmed cases have increased to 367,819 while deaths have reached 6,934.

The Philippines has the second-highest number of cases and deaths in Southeast Asia after Indonesia. 

Slovenian foreign minister tests positive

Slovenia’s Foreign Minister Anze Logar has tested positive for the virus.

The Foreign Ministry says Logar has displayed no symptoms of the disease and is self-isolating in the next 10 days.

The official STA news agency says Logar was on a tour of the Baltics earlier this week and attended a session of European Union foreign ministers in Luxembourg earlier this month.

He is the highest-ranking Slovenian official to have contracted the virus. Slovenia has faced a surge in new cases that have soared beyond 1,500 infections per day in the countr y of 2 million people.

Non-essential shops, kindergartens and hotels closed down on Saturday after authorities had already imposed an overnight curfew in an effort to curb the virus spread.

Russia reports 16,521 new cases

Russia reported 16,521 new cases after hitting a record high of over 17,300 the previous day.

This brings Russia’s national tally of cases to 1,497,167 in total. Authorities said 296 people had died  in the last 24 hours, raising the official death toll to 25,821.

Polish President Duda infected

Polish President Andrzej Duda has tested positive but is feeling good, presidential minister Blazej Spychalski announced on Twitter.

“The president yesterday was tested for the presence of coronavirus. The result turned out to be positive. The president is fine. We are in constant contact with the relevant medical services,” Spychalski said. 

Thailand reports one more local infection

Thailand reported one more locally transmitted case, after confirming five domestic infections last week.

The new patient is a 57-year-old French woman in the southern province of Surat Thani who tested positive for the virus a few days after completing a 14-day quarantine, the country’s coronavirus taskforce said.

The patient’s husband and child tested negative, health officials said.

Before the six cases, Thailand reported its first confirmed local transmission in over 100 days on September 3. In total, Thailand has reported 3,731 cases of the virus and 59 deaths.

N.Korea says China dust could spread Covid-19

North Korea has warned its citizens to stay indoors, saying seasonal yellow dust blowing in from China might carry the new virus into the country.

“As the new coronavirus infections continue to spread around the world, the need to deal with the yellow dust and take thorough measures has become more critical,” North Korea’s official party newspaper Rodong Sinmun said on Thursday.

The claim that the virus that causes Covid-19 could spread to North Korea from the Gobi desert, 1,900 km (1,200 miles) away, appears unsupported. 

The North Korean newspaper said citizens should refrain from outdoor activities and must follow prevention guidelines such as wearing masks when they go outside.

North Korea has reported no confirmed cases of the coronavirus, a claim that health experts question. 

Pyongyang has imposed strict border controls and quarantine measures to prevent an outbreak. Analysts say an outbreak could be devastating for the economically and politically isolated country.

India’s Covid-19 cases pass 7.8M

India has reported 53,370 new cases in the past 24 hours, taking the overall tally past 7.8 million.

The Health Ministry also reported 650 deaths, driving the country’s toll to 117,956.

The highest number of new infections is coming from Maharashtra, Kerala and Karnataka states. They’re also reporting the maximum number of daily recoveries.

Last month, India hit a peak of nearly 100,000 cases in a single day, but since then daily infections have fallen by about half and deaths by about a third, even as testing has remained consistent.

India is still adding more than 50,000 cases a day as the country prepares for a festival season when large crowds gather. Health officials have warned about the potential for the virus to spread.

Hundreds clash with Naples police over virus curfew

Hundreds of protesters in Naples threw projectiles at police and set rubbish bins on fire late on Friday during a demonstration against restrictions in the southern Italian city.

Calls were issued on social media to challenge a curfew that took effect in the Campania region ahead of the weekend, enacted in response to a spiralling second wave of infections that saw nearly 20,000 new cases detected in the last 24 hours.

Italy was the first European country to be badly hit by the virus.
It has now registered nearly 500,000 cases and 37,000 deaths, according to health ministry figures.

Sri Lanka closes harbours after 609 test positive

Authorities in Sri Lanka closed at least two fishery harbours and many stalls after a surge of 609 cases linked to the country’s main fish market.

The government also widened the curfew in parts of Colombo. At least 11 villages were isolated in the densely populated Western province, which includes the capital.

Health authorities on Wednesday temporarily closed the fish market on Colombo’s outskirts after 49 traders tested positive for the coronavirus. By Saturday, the number of cases went up to 609.

Hundreds of traders and fishermen are being tested.

Authorities say the outbreak is related to a cluster in a garment factory early this month, which has grown to 3,426 cases, almost half the country’s total of 6,287. It broke a two-month lull in infections.

Several thousand people have been asked to quarantine at home. Schools and key public offices are closed, gatherings banned and restrictions imposed on public transport.

Sri Lanka has had 14 deaths since March.

Malaysia’s king to consult with rulers amid talk of emergency

Malaysia’s King Sultan Abdullah will consult with other rulers to discuss proposals by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, the palace said, after sources told Reuters the premier had asked the king to declare a state of emergency.

Muhyiddin met with the king on Friday to present the emergency proposal that includes a suspension of parliament, sources said – a move that opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim denounced as an attempt by the premier to cling to power amid a power struggle.

The proposal comes as Malaysia sees a resurgence in coronavirus cases and as Muhyiddin faces a leadership challenge from Anwar, who last month said he had majority support in parliament to oust the premier.

The palace did not identify the recommendations made by Muhyiddin, and said the king will soon hold the consultation with other Malay rulers.

Germany’s confirmed cases rise by 14,714 to 418,005

The number of confirmed cases in Germany increased by 14,714 to 418,005, data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases showed.

The reported death toll rose by 49 to 10,003, the tally showed.

Victoria shuts down two Melbourne schools

All staff and students from two schools in northeast Melbourne have been told to immediately get tested for Covid-19 after the emergence of seven new cases on Saturday. 

There were no deaths.

Both schools will be closed for the next two weeks. Already about 800 residents in Melbourne’s northern suburbs have been isolating because of the school outbreak. 

Warnings have been circulated to workers, including taxi drivers, who might have visited the area.

The state’s death toll remained at 817 on Saturday and the national figure at 905, with only one death in the past week.

South Korea’s to test Seoul hospitals

South Korea has reported 77 new cases, mostly from the greater capital area where officials are scrambling to stem transmissions at hospitals and nursing homes. 

Figures released by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency on Saturday brought the country’s caseload to 25,775, including 457 deaths.

Among the 1,484 active cases, 60 are in serious condition. 

Fifty-nine of the new cases were reported from densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, which has emerged as the epicenter of the outbreak since summer. 

Hundreds of cases have been linked to a handful of hospitals and nursing homes. Officials are testing thousands of medical workers to stem infections. 

Eleven of the new cases were tied to international arrivals, including passengers from the United States, the Philippines and India. 

AstraZeneca, J&J resume US tests of vaccines

Two drugmakers have announced the resumption of US testing of their Covid-19 vaccine candidates.

Testing of AstraZeneca’s vaccine candidate had been halted since early September, while Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine study was paused at the beginning of last week. Each company had a study volunteer develop a serious health issue, requiring a review of safety data.

The two coronavirus vaccines are among several candidates in final-stage testing, the last step before seeking regulatory approval.

The drugmakers said they got the go-ahead on Friday from the Food and Drug Administration to restart tests in the US.

Such temporary halts of drug and vaccine testing are relatively common: In research involving thousands of participants, some are likely to fall ill. Pausing a study allows researchers to investigate whether an illness is a side effect or a coincidence.

Testing of the AstraZeneca vaccine, developed with Oxford University, has already resumed in the United Kingdom, Brazil, South Africa and Japan.

AstraZeneca’s study involves 30,000 people in the US, with some getting the vaccine and others a dummy shot.

Johnson & Johnson said it’s preparing to resume recruitment soon for its US vaccine study. 

The company added that it’s in talks with other regulators around the world to resume testing in their countries.

South Africa records 1,897 new cases, 48 deaths

South Africa has recorded 1,897 new cases, bringing the nationwide number to 712,412, according to its health minister.

“Regrettably, we report 48 Covid-19 related deaths today. This brings the total number of Covid-19 related deaths to 18,891,” Zweli Mkhize said at a daily update.

The top health official said of the 48 deaths, seven occurred in the past 48 hours.

The country’s recovery rate now stands at 90 percent, which is equivalent to 643,523 people.

South Africa has the highest number of Covid-19 cases on the African continent and is the 12th most affected country in the world after the UK, Mexico and Peru reported higher numbers.

Mexico reports 6,604 new cases, 418 more deaths

Mexico’s health ministry has reported 6,604 additional cases of and 418 more deaths in the country, bringing the official number of cases to 880,775 and the death toll to 88,312.

Health officials have said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

Brazil reports 30,026 new cases, 571 deaths

Brazil recorded 30,026 additional confirmed cases in the past 24 hours, and 571 deaths, the Health Ministry said.

Brazil has registered more than 5.3 million cases of the virus since the pandemic began, while the official death toll has risen to 156,471, according to ministry data.

Brazil okays import of 6M doses of Sinovac vaccine

Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa has authorised Sao Paulo’s Butantan Institute biomedical centre to import 6 million doses of a vaccine candidate developed by China’s Sinovac.

The vaccine, known as CoronaVac, is still in phase 3clinical trials in Brazil and has not been registered for wider use in Brazil, Anvisa said.

Turkey sees 2nd Covid-19 peak in Anatolian region

Turkey is seeing a second Covid-19 peak in the Anatolian heartland region, with a dangerous rise in the number of patients, the country’s Health Ministry said.

“The pandemic is in its second peak in Anatolia. We are facing a risky increase,” Fahrettin Koca told a news conference following a meeting with local officials.

Koca also offered good news, saying that Turkey expects to have some 5 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine – possibly one from China or from the drug company Pfizer – with few side effects ready by December.

“In line with our expectations, in December if immunity levels are well developed, we think this vaccine will be applied in Turkey,” he said.

But Koca again urged continued measures to stem the virus’ spread.

“We must minimize the time we spend outside. Let’s stay at home except for our occupations and obligations,” he said.

If people neglect protective measures, “winter will be a period of defeat for all of us with the effect of indoor environments,” he added.

Looking ahead to flu season, Koca said Turkey is currently acquiring two times more influenza vaccine than it did last year, adding: “We are working to increase the number to 3 million or even more.”

Courtesy: TRT World

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Covid-19 vaccine trials in US by AstraZeneca, J&J resume most promising

Monitoring desk

Covid-19 has now killed more than 223,000 Americans, and the health crisis is a top issue in the presidential election pitting incumbent Donald Trump against Joe Biden.

Two major clinical trials for experimental Covid-19 vaccines got back on track in the United States, providing a glimmer of hope as the number of cases skyrocket across the country.

Covid-19 has now killed more than 223,000 Americans, and the health crisis is a top issue in the presidential election pitting incumbent Donald Trump against Joe Biden.

AstraZeneca announced that the trial of its vaccine candidate, developed with Britain’s University of Oxford, has resumed in the US, the only country where it remained suspended following a participant’s illness six weeks ago.

“The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today authorised the restart in the US, following the resumption of trials in other countries in recent weeks,” the drugmaker said.

The trial was suspended worldwide on September 6, but resumed shortly thereafter in Britain, and in the following weeks in South Africa, Brazil and Japan, with authorities determining the illness was not apparently linked to the vaccine.

“The FDA reviewed all safety data from trials globally and concluded it was safe to resume the trial,” AstraZeneca said.

The company added it was hoping to have results later this year, “depending on the rate of infection within the communities where the clinical trials are being conducted.”

The AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine project is one of the most promising and advanced in the world to combat the global pandemic, which has now claimed the lives of 1.1 million people.

It is one of 10 vaccine candidates being tested on tens of thousands of people in so-called phase 3 trials.

In the United States, the two top candidates vying to get a green light from the FDA are those made by Pfizer and Moderna. Both expect to request approval next month.

Many countries are counting on using the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine to inoculate their populations.

The drugmaker pre-sold hundreds of millions of doses on several continents, and signed partnership deals with other producers to ensure the doses could be made locally.

‘No evidence’ vaccine to blame’

Shortly after AstraZeneca’s announcement, Johnson & Johnson said it was preparing to resume recruitment for its parallel trial, which was suspended last week after a volunteer fell ill.

“After a thorough evaluation of a serious medical event experienced by one study participant, no clear cause has been identified,” the group said in a statement.

“The company has found no evidence that the vaccine candidate caused the event.”

Just before Friday’s announcements, a top US official involved with Operation Warp Speed, the government’s vaccine initiative, said he expected the J&J trial to resume quickly.

Paul Mango, from the US Department of Health and Human Services, also said he expected the country to have enough doses on hand to vaccinate the “most vulnerable” Americans before year’s end.

“By the end of January, we believe we’ll be able to vaccinate all seniors,” Mango said, adding that by March or April, “we believe we’ll be able to vaccinate any American who desires a vaccination.”

Courtesy: TRT World

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Ethical dilemma of vaccine trials: Placebo volunteers and inoculations

Monitoring Desk

WASHINGTON: If a coronavirus vaccine is authorised in the United States before the end of the year, will trial participants who received a placebo rush out to get vaccinated?

While the question hasn’t received much attention among the general public, it’s one that worries health experts and pharmaceutical manufacturers.

Currently, tens of thousands of people in the US and other countries are participating as volunteers in what are known as phase three clinical trials.

The aim of giving a placebo to half of trial groups is to observe over the course of months how many people in each group naturally contract the virus and fall ill from Covid-19.

If the number of vaccinated participants contracting Covid-19 is at least 50 percent lower than in the placebo group, US drug authority FDA can grant it emergency use authorisation.

But for a permanent authorisation, the FDA requires a longer period of study, generally six months.

The aim is to confirm the safety of the vaccine since certain rare side-effects may not be detected during the two-month period currently scheduled for emergency use approval.

The problem is that, generally, for ethical reasons, once a medicine or vaccine is authorised, participants who received a placebo in a clinical trial are informed of it.

They could then understandably ask for the real vaccine or seek it out themselves, but that would decrease the placebo group.

Doing so would prevent a long-term comparison between the placebo group and those who were initially vaccinated.

The risk is even greater for dozens of trials not yet at the large-scale stage: Who would take the risk of receiving a placebo if a vaccine is available publicly?

The issue was discussed Thursday at an FDA advisory committee meeting on vaccines, but no real solution was reached.

‘Ethical responsibility’

Doran Fink of the FDA’s vaccines division noted that trials could continue among populations for which no vaccine has yet been authorised or for those without available doses.

But the dilemma is real for the majority.

“We do acknowledge that situations will likely arise where it is no longer ethically permissible and therefore no longer feasible to continue placebo-controlled follow-ups in an ongoing trial or to initiate a placebo-controlled trial,” Fink said Thursday.

“I don’t have any specific remedies to offer. At this time, we have asked the vaccine manufacturers and the other government agencies who are involved in conducting these trials to think carefully about how they would ensure clinical trial retention.”

One of the two companies hoping to request emergency use authorisation by the end of November in the United States, Moderna (the other is Pfizer), has asked for instructions from authorities.

“Those participants are beginning to ask when they will know if they receive study vaccine, or placebo,” said Moderna’s Jacqueline Miller, who spoke at the same meeting.

Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have written a letter to the FDA saying that they have “an ethical responsibility” to inform members of the placebo group and called on the agency to be open to other methods to evaluate the vaccines.

For now, the FDA has only one instruction: Continue the trials for as long as it remains feasible.

Courtesy: AFP

Posted on

Big school districts start to reopen

Monitoring Desk

FLORIDA: There’s a new trend across the country toward more in-person school, the WashPost reports on today’s front page:

“Of the 50 biggest school districts, 24 have resumed in-person classes for large groups of students, and 11 others plan to in the coming weeks.”

Why it matters: “It’s a major shift from the start of the year, when almost every big school system began fully online,” The Post notes.

Many of the reopened schools are in Florida and Texas, “where Republican governors are requiring in-person classes, but schools are also open in New York City [and] Greenville, S.C. … Returns are planned in Charlotte, Baltimore and Denver.”

“Just 11 of the largest 50 school districts are still fully remote, with no immediate plans to change that.”

Courtesy: (Axios)

Posted on

Schools haven’t become COVID hotspots

Monitoring Desk

NEW YORK: Reopened schools generally have not experienced large coronavirus outbreaks, an early sign that they may not be the super-spreaders some experts had feared.

Why it matters: Data so far suggest that schools can be safely reopened, alleviating one of the biggest and most sensitive tensions of the pandemic.

By the numbers: In a Brown University study of about 227,000 kids in all 50 states, the infection rate was just 0.14% among students and 0.25% percent among staff. Even in high-risk areas of the U.S., the student rates were under 0.5%.

New York City Public Schools found 18 positive cases out of about 10,600 tests, after nearly three weeks of an in-person school year, the New York Times reports.

A separate study of more than 57,000 open day care providers showed that day care was safe as long as basic safety measures, including small groups and mask-wearing, are in place.

What they’re saying: “I hope that more schools and districts will see these data, and others, and perhaps start to think about how reopening might work. We do not want to be cavalier or put people at risk. But by not opening, we are putting people at risk, too,” Brown University economist Emily Oster told The Atlantic.

Yes, but: The data, however encouraging, is still limited to smaller school districts, as most of the largest districts opened with fully remote learning.

Managing the logistics of mitigation strategies while juggling budget cuts, staffing and student reliance on public transit is a major challenge, Noelle Ellerson Ng, associate executive director at the AASA, the School Superintendents Association, told Axios.

Courtesy: (Axios)