The new coronavirus has been detected over two years ago. And, since that point, we are living in a new reality: working remotely, wearing masks everywhere outside our homes, sanitizing our hands a dozen times per day, seeing our families via video mainly, refusing cross-border trips, and so on. Still, the pandemic lasts on and keeps on setting new challenges to our doctors and pharmacists.
Below, let us tell you about the latest related news you must know about:
China is going through a new outbreak and taking decisive measures
The local authorities report that the number of people infected with the virus continues growing because of the spread of the Omicron variant. Due to strict discipline and 90% vaccination, in this country, the situation is not as critical as in others. Yet, a week ago, the authorities reported about 200 cases per day, and now that number exceeds 1500.
Thus, Shanghai has decided to switch to online schooling for kids to take the spread of the disease under control. Furthermore, two mayors — from Jilin City and the Jiutai district of the city of Changchun— got fired. It looks like they failed to suppress the corresponding local breaks. As of now, this country is following the approach, which allows a small number of cases in a city or town but assumes local authorities to eliminate any further cases. Nevertheless, due to the fact that the Omicron variant is heavily infectious, this scheme does not work anymore. The virus has already spread over the bigger part of the provinces.
Thus, the country has introduced new quarantine measures, like body temperature checking at public places, obligatory testing in case of a fever, asking people to stay at home except for going to the store once per two days.
But the problem is that about 70% of cases registered are people without any symptoms (again about 90% of local citizens are vaccinated and have a mild form of the disease) and finding them is really hard.
The WHO warns that the pandemic is not overcome yet
Two years ago, everyone accused the WHO of being too slow to announce the global pandemic of the new coronavirus. Indeed, this organization prefers a well-weighed and deliberate approach. They avoid hasty steps and decisions.
And, now, the situation is similar — they claim that most countries rush to announce the pandemic to be over while it is not. They insist that it is too soon to cancel lockdown restrictions and decrease testing as Omicron is building up its strength.
Furthermore, the WHO has changed its opinion on booster vaccination. Not so long ago, this organization called wealthy countries to take a pause with a third dose to leave more doses for poorer countries where the level of vaccination is insufficient so far. Yet, now, they promote booster vaccination as an effective means against Omicron.
Another essential method of controlling the pandemic is mass testing. Obviously, not all infected people get tested especially when that requires additional costs. That is why the WHO supports spreading self-testing kits which are much more affordable.
The organization highlights that the pandemic will be over only when the virus is eliminated in every country, including poor ones.
Queen Elizabeth will not visit the Commonwealth Day service due to the recent coronavirus infection
The United Kingdom is currently facing a dramatic Covid outburst (the number of cases raised by about 40% compared to the figures registered two weeks ago), which is likely to be connected to the BA.2 subvariant of Omicron.
At the same time, Queen Elizabeth, who has recovered from the coronavirus recently, decides to skip one of the most important events of a year — the Commonwealth Day service. Sure, Prince Charles and other members of the royal family will represent her instead.
Meanwhile, she continues performing other easier duties like working with papers. Besides, only a week ago, she had an in-person meeting with Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada.
Millions of people around the world go to the streets to demand canceling patents for vaccines and other anti-Covid technologies
The global People’s Vaccine Alliance calls US and European authorities to share rights for Covid vaccines and treatments. They claim that the pandemic is still out of control and it is high time to accelerate vaccination in poorer countries.
According to statistics, in low-income regions, only about 14% of people have received at least a single dose while in wealthy countries that figure is over 79%.
The representatives of the alliance believe that the fact that the formulas of Covid vaccines are protected with patents suppresses the speed of such immunization.
The BA.2 subvariant is a new threat to keep an eye on
The BA.1 subvariant of Omicron seems to vanish out and give way to the new BA.2 subvariant. At the moment, it does not look like it is in power to give rise to a new wave, still, experts are watching it closely, to prevent and fight any unpleasant surprises.
Here are the key facts discovered as of now:
- It is more infectious than the previous subvariant of Omicron — BA.1.
- It was circulating for some time before, but its prevalence was lower.
- It is unlikely to cause a heavy outburst as it is vulnerable to both vaccines and immunity after the BA.1 subvariant.
- It does not increase the level of hospitalization.
- There were certain problems with testing and detecting it, but they are already solved.
Hong Kong hospitals are so overloaded that their personnel is forced to leave those who died in the same wards where alive patients are lying
Such a situation is a shock, but local doctors just do not have any other way out. The figures reached over 600,000 cases and over 3,000 deaths so far, and the local system of mortuaries cannot cope with such a rapid outburst. For almost two years, the infection rate in this city was minimal, and, at the moment, the local fatality rate is among the highest on a global scale.
Still, local officials assure that the situation is already taken under control and ask the public for understanding in such extreme circumstances.
US Congress failed to approve a new $15.6 package for overcoming Covid
They passed a $1.5 trillion spending measure, but it did not include a package for the President’s pandemic program. Republicans do not agree to invest additional money in Covid fighting and propose to find alternative funding sources like withdrawing money from other expenditure articles.
The representatives of the White House insist that, if Congress does not approve additional funding, authorities will have to cut testing volumes as soon as in March. More to the point, as soon as in April, they will lack resources for treating those Covid patients who do not have insurance (i.e. tens of millions of citizens).
US local communities struggle to choose the most effective methods of spending the Covid aid
Hundreds of cities and towns all around the US are facing an unexpected challenge — they have been provided with hefty aid from the government for overcoming problems associated with the pandemic and now must reach common ground on how to spend it.
Opinions differ dramatically. For example, in New York’s Hudson Valley, Republicans and Democrats cannot agree on how to invest $57 million. Democrats call for addressing such issues as poverty, narcotic drug abuse, and alike, but they are a minority. In the end, as of now, it is decided to invest $12.5 million in the renovation of the stadium for the Hudson Valley Renegades. This situation has clearly revealed the priorities of every community.
President Biden highlights that each community has obtained generous funding and, now, it is up to them to decide how to benefit from it.
How did the US spend $5 trillion stimulus funds?
These funds were meant to provide people with resources to buy essentials and to preserve a decent financial state under severe economic conditions. Experts’ opinions on this step vary: some of them believe that it helped to prevent a long-lasting recession, others object and claim that the funding was excessive and boosted inflation.
So, how were these funds used?
- about 30% were sent directly to varied categories of citizens via stimulus checks, unemployment aid, child care help, and so on;
- another 30% were invested to support airlines, restaurants, and other affected businesses;
- one more significant expenditure item — local and nation-wide assistance;
- besides, they were utilized to support the operation of the healthcare system and medical research on Covid treatments, vaccines, as well as diversified disaster, housing, educational, and agricultural initiatives.
The High Court in Great Britain decided that it was illegal to prohibit a vigil for a woman who was killed by a policeman last year
At that point, the local police announced via mass media that such a meeting would be illegal due to the lockdown restrictions. The recent decision of the High Court is a victory for activists who were forced to keep silent last March. It proved that the actions of the police were a violation of people’s rights to freedom of speech and assembly. By the way, despite the official prohibition, a group of people still gathered and was dispersed by police. And some of the officers acted violently.
According to New York’s statistics on booster vaccination, there are significant inequalities based on race and neighborhood
Like in most other cities both in the US and other countries, New York’s authorities are currently calling their citizens to administer a booster shot of a Covid vaccine. As of today, only 36% of people followed this recommendation (while 77% of residents have completed a basic Covid vaccination course). Meanwhile, the level of booster vaccination varies from one neighborhood to another. So, in Manhattan, it reaches 45%, while in Bronx — 27%. Besides, there are disparities by race: among Asian and Native Americans, the level of booster vaccination is over 50%, while among Black and Latino residents — two times lower.
The USA starts to ease certain mask-wearing rules
So, in many public schools, students are allowed to put masks off. Although, in some cities, for example, in Chicago, such a decision is met with caution. At the same time, in public transport, including buses, trains, and airplanes, as well as at transit stations, passengers are still required to wear masks.
In New York, certain restaurants continue serving vaccinated guests only and provoke protests among customers
The local authorities allowed restaurant owners to decide on their own whether to request their guests to show vaccination certificates or not. And some businesses decided to keep vaccination limitations to protect their clients and personnel.
In some cases, that resulted in protests and conflicts. The police were called.
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